Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sam Maloof

"Ray Charles couldn't see my furniture," Sam Maloof told a reporter. "But he said he could feel that it had soul. When he asked about my rocker [at a friend's house], his host told him, 'That's a chair made by Sam Maloof.' Ray ran his hands over the wood shouting, 'I know this man! I know this man!' On his next visit, the first thing Ray Charles said was, 'I'd like to touch that furniture again that Sam Maloof made.' "

I was fortunate to meet Sam Maloof about 9 years ago. My Dad headed the project to move Sam's house from it's original location (in the path of a freeway) to a new location after his house was declared eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. Sam Maloof spent over 40 years hand-crafting his house. A beam made from the limb of an avocado tree he planted himself when it was only just a sapling, a hand carved wooden spiral staircase, furniture built to fit in special niches, hand carved door handles and latches - it's a house that tells a story. (Oh, and not to be forgotton were the incredible collections of Native American art that is enough to send a former Art History student like myself into a tailspin!) Now, all these years later, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have visited his home, on it's original parcel, before the move began. The house meandered and molded itself to fit the landscape. Groves of citrus and avocado determined the path of Sam's expansions. And somehow, the house was moved piece by piece and reconstructed exactly as it was - flaws and brilliance in tact.

This is the real deal, guys. Here was a craftsman. This is a real life example of a craftsman who was able to make a living from his CRAFT, and it all began from a set of furniture he built for his newlywed wife from plywood and fruit crates. Years later, his hand-carved chairs would sit in the White House, he would meet with Hollywood's high profile celebrities for custom projects and he would sell rocking chairs for thousands of dollars. And yet... and yet... he would continue to support the local artists in his community. What I remember most about wandering through his house was the art (and craft) that was on display. And from the stories I heard, there were long evenings of cooking and stories shared with artisans in his and his late-wife, Alfreda's, kitchen as they laughed and explored creative possibilities together.

I could write on and on about Sam. But so many others have written far more eloquently than I ever could. (Jonathan Fairbanks, Larry Harnisch, Janet Eastman) I only wish that something I say could inspire you to dig deeper into this life that a little man named Sam Maloof created for himself. This was a time long before Etsy. This was a time where mass-produced furnishings were introduced. And yet... and yet... his work shined through. He was and will always be a true inspiration to me.

Sam Maloof passed away at the beautiful age of 93 in his beautiful home on Thursday. He called himself a Woodworker. With a legacy like his that I'm sure will continue to live on, I'm certain he will be remembered as much, much more.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

not just for the birds

I've been a little obsessed with birdcages lately. I have this vision of little flying elephants and giraffes in a decorative birdcage. I did a Google image search and found a slew of birdcages in all different shapes, sizes, materials and functions. Yes, functions. Apparently, birdcages are not just for the birds anymore. For example, check out this birdcage handbag by Maximilian’s Pet Shop:
And I don't pretend to be the first person whose ever thought of drawing birdcages. What is it about all those lines on a birdcage? I'm drawn to them. I want to sketch them and construct them. This print by Jenny Bowers and this fiber art by Tamar Mogendorff are so precious and give me so much inspiration.
Maybe I might even have to pick up an ornate birdcage of my own to fill with stuffed Buzzing Boggies. But there are so many to choose from! I love the hand constructed bamboo ones in the shape of beehives from China. But there is also something lovely and modern about these colorful metal cages from Rose and Radish:
Of course I could always just opt for some wall art like this eye popping piece from Wall Sticker Shop. As much as I love the idea of having sweet chirping birds in the house, I remember the mess they can make. And by the time you do all you can to keep the birdseed contained inside the birdcage, your lovely imported, hand-crafted, bamboo cage from Vietnam is all covered up. I think the only way to go would be a large outdoor cage in the garden. I think the birds would rather prefer the fresh air too.
Now I'm off to the drawing board (or sketchbook). But as is always my problem, too many ideas - too little time. I've been warned by the 5-year old that a mess has been made by the 2-year old while I've been sitting here daydreaming about birdcages. I suspect that dresser drawers have been emptied... his new favorite trick. So, before I can open that sketchbook I'll have to assess the damage and quite possibly spend the next hour sorting through clothes and putting them all back where they belong. But maybe I'm expecting worse than it is. Let's hope it's not as bad as I suspect. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

craft of the day!

I'm so honored to be a Martha Craft of the Day !

I want to take this opportunity to say "hello" to all the new people visiting my blog for the first time. I've been getting a lot of e-mail today and it's wonderful to hear from everyone. To answer the most frequently asked question... Yes, I will be offering my fabric again really soon in my Etsy Shop. (by the end of the month) But I'd also like to tell you about a wonderful relatively-new company that will print your images/designs/drawings onto fabric for a very reasonable price. The company is called Spoonflower. So if you like the concept of making personalized fabric bibs but aren't too sure about tackling the technique I demonstrated on Martha, visit Spoonflower and have them make your fabric for you. Happy sewing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

grow green with me: weeks 1-2

I've got big plans for a vegetable garden this summer. It seems to be the trend, right? I've got everything started - all my organic seeds are soaking up water and sun and finally starting to poke through. I've discovered that the only way to grow seeds properly is to use a good seed starting mix. I have no idea what's in this stuff, but it soaks up the water like a sponge and keeps these seedlings damp all day. I don't know why it took me this long to figure that out. (if you're going to do something, do it right, correct?)

Here we were at Week ONE:

For some, it didn't take long at all (corn, watermelon, zuccini). Others are still working (basil, carrots, peppers) and I suspect my pumpkin seeds might have expired because I would have expected to see some green from them by now. As you can see, it's just about time for me to get my ground ready...


In the spirit of water conservation, I'm going to place raised beds in strategic areas on the lawn where the sprinklers don't quite make it and I find myself watering by hand all summer long. So we'll have corn in the front of the house, watermelon on the side lawn, most of the kitchen veggies (stuff I'll pick as I need it) conveniently located in my backyard planting area and pumpkins growing on our front bank where we need some ground cover anyway but aren't going to tackle during a water shortage. This will be our sixth summer in our house. It only took six summers for me to finally grow my own vegetables. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Are you in Southern California? If so, consider visiting the wonderful women of the Oceanside Craft Mafia this Saturday at Craft*Topia. I apologize for my lack of posting the past couple weeks. I've had a lot of things brewing - yes, I'll call it that because though it may be true that I should be busy making things for Craft*Topia, I've been spending most of my mind brainstorming. And even now, with just a few days left, I'm surprisingly calm. I'll get it done... somehow... I always do. I'm PRAYING that I get my shipment of fabric from Spoonflower this week. Because then, if all other creativity fails, I can sell fabric. Fingers crossed!