Saturday, September 30, 2006

Getting ready to drop

The last bit of waiting is always the hardest for me. Fortunately, I have a lot to fill my time. I'm officially launching a line of children's hats at this upcoming Pandora's Trunk, and afterwards will be hop-stepping it over to Ruby Gallery and Miranda to drop them off for retail sale. No pictures yet but the felty bear ear hats will be joined by tiny felty bear ear hats as well as a whole new line of children's and adults' hats sewn from vintage fabrics and trims. Here is an overhead shot from last time, to whet your appetite!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pandora's Trunk comes round again

Bi-monthly doesn't sound like very often, but I'm finding it the perfect frequency for this event. I'm tucking in loose ends and corners right now, trying to figure out exactly where to put everyone and all the stuff. I'm trying, simultaneously, to get out of building anything new. We'll see if that works out...

Pandora's Trunk - San Francisco Fashion & Arts Party

Your socks came from a sweatshop – come get your shirt from us.
Our indie artists are here to show you how they do. Get yourself some art and wears fresh from the hands of the people that made them, all while drinking like a proper artist: on a Saturday afternoon. In conjunction with SF Open Studios.
Saturday October 7
1-7 pm
916 Natoma St
South of Market, San Francisco

free admission
live music & free drinks

Space age dress-up, clothing and accessories for sale.
Live gonzo millinery by our own Rachel Hospodar,
fashion available from Medium Reality, Miranda Caroligne, and Bad Unkl Sista.
Extreme professional makeup pieces for your evening at the club from Spa Dee Dah.
art art and more art(portable, consumable, grand and meek), including live art by Dave Crosland of Hired Meat, a pro illustrator most recently working on the upcoming Scarface comic.
Cello/viola tag team, massage, and of course chocolates and free sangria.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

American Apparel Re-examined

I happened upon this three-article reaming of American Apparel in the indie press the other day… It starts off with a pretty strident tone but mostly backs it up with facts. I’m not saying I agree with every point but it’s certainly interesting reading.

the third article mentions another company, No Sweat Apparel,
whose products *are* union-made, and come with charts that show you the cost of rice and vision care charted against the wages of the worker.

Some highlights:

‘Postmodern Paternalism’
Not only is the company’s clothing “Made in Downtown L.A.” as the billboard says, but the predominantly immigrant workforce of thousands earns $12 an hour on average, according to American Apparel. In an industry that is shifting production to places where workers earn well under a dollar an hour, at a time when 97 percent of apparel sold in the U.S. is made in other countries, Charney’s company stands the business model on its head. Indeed, with perks ranging from a health care plan to English classes to free massages, as well as its “one big family” √©lan and charismatic patron, American Apparel’s factory (now the largest sewn-garments facility remaining in the United States) hearkens back to a bygone, paternalistic era of textile manufacture in the United States.
Ever since a general strike of textile workers in 1934, employers in garment factories have been at such pains to keep their workers from forming unions that they would create a family-like, miniature welfare state, providing employees housing or Christmas dinners and, in more recent times, sports leagues or night classes. This old-school management emphasizes workers’ status as the children in a family with the employer as a benevolent father figure who provides a good life but expects obedience. The idea was that spending money – on more-than-minimum wages and parties and classes for workers – in order to make much more money, would be far cheaper than the costs that would accrue if the workers were to organize and make their own gains through collective bargaining. If workers in these paternalistic enterprises did attempt to organize, however, the carrot of good benefits could quickly be swapped with with the stick of real employer power. Indeed, workers attempting to unionize in textile plants usually face harassment, intimidation, firings, threats to close the plant, and all manner of manipulation or creation of division among and between workers and their organization.

According to signed affidavits in an unfair-labor-practices charge filed by the union and settled by American Apparel, the company’s management campaign included surveillance of employees, captive-audience anti-union meetings, interrogation of workers about their support for the union, and a campaign of misleading information and intimidation. But the true blow came when workers were made to attend, on paid time, an anti-union rally that management staged for reporters in the building’s parking lot. Charney, however, saw the beauty of workers’ self-organization in the scene: “Workers organized other workers to write letters to the union, sign a petition and demonstrate against the union in front of our building,” Charney wrote in a letter to the Nation magazine in September 2004.

Those quotes are all from the first article. Go on, it’s good reading.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fuzzy Bear Ear Whiplash

A week ago I had my first on-location photo shoot with models. it went very well - the models were all friends of mine and were without exception cheery and willing subjects. I'm taking this opportunity to show you two of the shots before their proper release to enter into this month's Whiplash competition. The subject is hats - how perfect for me? It's my first entry, and it's in the Design category.

Several years ago, a software developer friend lived with some other software developer types in a charming Victorian apartment, with hardwood floors and high ceilings and a vicious echo from all the hard, sonically reflective surfaces. I knew they needed fibers to absorb the sounds, but there wasn’t so much as a rug. I bought a bunch of wool roving, having never felted before, determined to make my friend a stellar and useful birthday gift.

Months went by. The birthday came and went. I moved apartments, and the friend became a roommate in a non-echoey location. In the corner somewhere, a giant pile of wool mocked me. So, I tought myself how to make hats. I didn’t have any foam forms so I needle-felted loosely, almost sculpting as i went, on a glass head that happened to be laying around in the house.

Fast forward a few years. I slowly perfected a method of needle-felting and then wet-felting hats that maximized loft and durability without taking too many hours to make. The hats I make now are all lined in silk with an inch-and-a-half wide grosgrain ribbon inside to help them keep their shape.

What’s the difference between needle-felting and wet-felting? Needle-felting is accomplished with tiny notched needles, wickedly sharp, that slowly intertangle the fibers as you poke them over and over and over. This produces a felt that has a wonderful loft and lightness to it, but is time-consuming if you want to produce a really durable product. Wet-felting is done by saturating the fibers in hot, soapy water and agitating them. The heat and friction cause the fibers to crinkle up and intertangle. The soap helps the scales on the fiber (just like in shampoo commercials!) open up long enough for the fibers to grab on to each other.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Displaying and Selling at Events.

Doing events, craft fairs, trunk shows, and similar one-off or monthly sales events, is really useful in a number of ways. They usually cost a nominal fee to do, and eat up a day or two or three in really high-intensity people interaction - but are invaluable. Fairs and events are a great way to introduce new product lines - listing something on a website or getting it into stores is a greater leap. If you want to try out a new product all you've got to do is whip up a couple iterations and then wait and see how people respond. It's like a pressure-cooker to see people interacting with your stuff so constantly throughout the day. A clever observer of humanity can glean a lot of information about how people respond to products, pricing, display, and information throughout a day of presenting them.
They are good for a quick infusion of cash, although even good products presented poorly or at an event that's lightly attended will not do well. In using people's reactions to gauge which products will sell and which will not, it's necessary to compare what has happened to the event at large. Talk to other vendors, keep an eye on the crowd - it's all about learning the things that nobody would tell you.

So how do you find events to do and then choose which ones to go for? There are lots of different types of events that would be viable places for artisans to sell their wares - but each event will have a different slice of humanity attending, with a different goal in their minds when they walked out their front door. Some events are simply not filled with shoppers, and your sales will reflect that. Craft fairs, street fairs, and neighborhood street events and block parties are all great - it's important to keep in mind that some medium-scale events have still not come forward into the information age, and will be hard if not impossible to find on the internet. Talk to your friends and acquaintances about events they've heard about or seen in their neighborhood. I've often found myself chasing down an internet clue trail to decide whether or not to do an event - the event itself won't have a proper website (or will have one where all the text is a giant .jpg, so you can't find it by searching...) but there will be mentions of it on forums and event listing websites.
Other types of events that might have you are trunk shows, sample sales, designer sales, fashion and style events, fundraisers, sometimes even concerts. Events that you can sell at can be called so many things that it's useful to search and re-search different phrases to find things near you. A by no means comprehensive list of events can be found here: Craft Fair Links - I compile them as I come across them but haven't made a huge effort to add too much to the list. If you'd like to leave a comment with events you think i should know about, or tag something for me on, i'd be delighted!

Some quick display pointers:
Don't bring too many mixed products. Variety is good, especially variety across price ranges, but if you have too much of a hodgepodge all that will read is visual noise. If everything is made from the same fabrics or is otherwise across the same color family, it will hang together better and you can get away with more variety.

Take a moment to step back and look at your display - squint your eyes a little and try to imagine you are just seeing it for the first time. look at the displays around you and try to see what is different, better, worse. You can learn now not only from your mistakes but from other people's too.

Try to make it light and portable. Hauling this stuff around will quickly make you hate that mannequin bust, as you freak out about crushing its face each and every time you put it into the car or pull it out again. What about screens, gates, latticework? Vintage goodwill finds will often, with a new coat of paint, be great free display stands for all your scarves or mittens.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Just a quick post to point out a profile just published on a Bay Area arts blog: Rachel Hospodar on Bay Arts News. I'm excited!

Monday, September 04, 2006


I took last week off from blogging here because I was at Burning Man and hiking - we left the festival Thursday and during its culmination Saturday night were camped lakeside in Shasta wilderness. We arrived at Burning Man before the event officially started, and got to build a city up from the ground. This part is always the best for me, that and watching huge art pieces take form out of nothingness. Right before I left for the festival I heard that a friend of mine had spotted my woolen spike hair ties on a girl in the financial district of San Francisco; then, at Burning Man, I saw a hat of mine on the head of a total stranger. I complimented her on it and she told me it was a felt hat; I suspect she bought it at Miranda Caroligne.

The frenzy of getting ready for the event was for me all about getting my business ready for me to abandon it. I put the trusty Sarah at the helm of the website and cranked out as many felty bits of love as i could before taking off - my last day in town I dropped some merchandise in the mail to go up at Evarize fashion cafe in Berkeley and some to go to Toronto for a street fair there on Sept. 23rd. I also dropped a wad of felt off at Ruby Gallery on Haight St. - The woman who runs it called me in with some hats and hairpieces the previous day to show her my work in person, and she was so taken with the hats that she practically grabbed them out of my hands to show them in the window of the store - a few doors down from Haight and Ashbury! Not too shabby - I wonder how they've sold while I've been gone. Three permanent retail locations and counting.

We've also listed some new purses on the website - they are high-priced but top-end leather goods. I hope I can bring in the kind of customers they are aimed at.

Next up on the horizon is a photo shoot I've scheduled Friday with a few willing friends for models and a bang-up photographer who is constantly challenging me to step it up a notch. The next day after that is Maven Fair, the first in a series of monthly events in a great foot-traffic location - cross your fingers for me! Between these two things and the preparation for them, I expect to spend sunday fast asleep recovering.