The Tinderbox is Transitioning

With the change of the year, and the arrival of a new baby, so comes a big change for The Tinderbox. After an amazing couple of years, we are going into hibernation mode and putting a hold on continuing operations at our brick & mortar studio/shop in Mid-Main after this weekend. Although we are temporarily closing the physical site of our business, we will continue to host seasonal craft Markets and collaborate with other Houston independent businesses to bring you craft + DIY classes throughout the year while we pursue other creative opportunities.

The idea for the studio sparked in Ren’s head over 5 years ago and it’s been a long and hugely rewarding journey toward realizing our vision of a space where people came to learn, share, create, and shop from a variety of local artists year-round. We’ve been fulfilled beyond belief throwing some memorable craft parties, offering a unique variety of workshops, fostering the development of many independent designers, and meeting so many amazing, creative, and inspirational makers. We have also loved being a part of Mid-Main, a cohort of small business owners and like-minded developers slowly reinvigorating a once-neglected block. It feels like family here, and we will continue to stay connected to this special place.

The end of one venture often signals the start of something new…the beginning of the next exciting journey is already in the works, and we can’t wait to announce our next project soon (wink wink)! We are thinking hard (and objectively) about repackaging and moving our current setup and catering to the needs of Houston makers and shoppers looking for unique and handmade products. We hope you’ll continue to follow this path with us and stay connected through FacebookInstagram, &/or Twitter.

Forever in our Hearts
Forever in our Hearts

Houston Makerspace

A few weeks ago I took a field trip to Houston Makerspace and got a wonderful tour of this incredible facility. I’ve been to ADX in Portland, and was excited to hear that fellow crafter and business lady Maclean Smyth was bringing the same type of facility to Houston around the time we opened The Tinderbox. To see it come to fruition and currently building momentum is great-from Culture Map’s Lane Lynch:

“Maclean Smyth, the founder and operator of Houston Makerspace, is working to pioneer a maker revival in the Bayou City by installing a large co-working, craft warehouse called Houston Makerspace — the first of its kind in the Bayou City. The forthcoming workshop will provide members with access to the tools, equipment, classes and co-working space they need to create, craft and collaborate with fellow artisans. Smyth believes the city has a deep-seated, untapped resource of capable, committed crafters that would greatly benefit from working together and learning from each other’s trades and skills.”

IMG_5626

The first thing that struck me was the size of the warehouse and the opportunities that come with 20,000+ square feet. My head was spinning with the possibilities of classes and educational opportunities that we cannot facilitate at The Tinderbox. Take a tour through pictures below of the jewelry fabrication space, screen printing setup, laser cutter, 3D printer, carpentry area, metalwork space, sewing and textile room, photo room, and classroom.

IMG_5633

IMG_5644

IMG_5642

IMG_5643

IMG_5640

IMG_5634

IMG_5632

IMG_5631

IMG_5646

IMG_5630

“I believe that creativity aspires innovation and ambition in our culture,” Smyth says. “With this space, we can build a society of makers right here in Houston.” That is exactly what we wanted to create at The Tinderbox, so I am happy that the same attitude is being fostered elsewhere in the city. To finally see the space in person was really exciting, and I encourage everyone to go check it out, take a class, and most importantly invest in the businesses and opportunities in Houston that make it a much better place to live and work. 

 

Bayou City Art Festival

We were excited to partner with the Bayou City Art Festival and host the “Adult Creative Zone” for the 2nd year in a row. The festival took place Oct. 11-12 at Sam Houston Park. During the previous year’s festivities we got rained out, but the weather cooperated this year and we helped more than 400 adults stamp leather keychains, decorate totes, and create origami birds for the Peace Crane Project. It is always fun to see adults act shy and tepid around anything labeled “creative” or “DIY,” but everyone had a great time, and we were happy to further our mission of connecting people to projects that use their hands and allow them to open up the creativity inside of us all. A huge thank you to all of our volunteers and especially my family who came out and helped make this event happen (my sister is seriously the best). Oh, and thank you KHOU and Great Day Houston for the lovely news segment the Friday morning before on The Tinderbox-we are so proud to be woven continuously through the ever-changing fabric of Houston. 

IMG_5364

The leather stamping station was a big hit; participants stamped a personal message or phrase into a beautifully handcrafted leather keychain made exclusively for this event:

IMG_5367

                      IMG_5441                     IMG_5442

The “decorate your own tote” activity station took on a path of its own with people thinking outside of the box and creating impressive designs with the stamps and inks provided. The bags were a hit because it provided a way for people to carry some of the goodies they were buying at the festival! 

IMG_5385

IMG_5421          IMG_5376

IMG_5370

For the last project we tag-teamed with the “Kid’s Creative Zone” and asked participants to create origami cranes in hopes of making 1001 by the end of the festival. The Peace Crane Project is a worldwide effort to connect people through the arts. 

IMG_5378

IMG_5446IMG_5386

The Market @ Mid-Main

We began hosting an outdoor market this Spring called “The Market @ Mid-Main” and our 2nd market is this Sunday from 11-4pm! Who doesn’t love a good outdoor market, with live music, things for the kiddos to do, and lots of great vendors to shop from? Come hang out with us this Sunday in the Art Garden (right across the street) from 11-4pm. Local singer/songwriter Paul DeFatta will play at noon, What’s Up Cupcake will be here, and the kiddos can make piñatas to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at The Tinderbox.

My niece Avery (shop ambassador) enjoyed the festivities
My niece Avery (shop ambassador) enjoyed the festivities

We are happy to have an extension of the shop for more vendors to have access to the great Mid-Main block and the space of the Art Garden to do more things for and with the community. It is a great block to spend a Sunday afternoon on, drinking $2 mimosas at Natachee’s Supper N Punch, browsing records at Sig’s Lagoon, and of course sipping a strong espresso from Double Trouble. Check out some shots of vendors at the March Market:

IMG_3055
Linda from The Silver Acorn
IMG_3056
Chris from Pampered Sisters
IMG_3061
TIC Jewelry
IMG_3064
Eridu Modern furniture and vintage finds
IMG_3076
Urban Izzy Fashion Truck

Texas Style Council

Okay, so I have put off writing about my experience at Texas Style Council which happened last weekend in Austin. Just like I felt going into it, I still have mixed emotions about this “lifestyle blogging” craze and how I as a person, a brand, and a business can even fit into this world. On one side, you have women dressed to impress (mostly with clothes their “sponsors” provide) who seem to be doing things just for the sake of writing about them later. Then you have the group of women who aspire to be in that circle, still snapping pictures of their outfits in the middle of the street and desperately handing out their business cards with their witty blog titles and tag lines. Then there’s me; I have a blog, and a business that fits directly into this “new domesticity” wave of style, DIY, homemaking, and child-rearing. Spoiler alert! I found myself wanting to get to know these women in all categories, and I love reading most of their blogs! I think it is nice to notice the small beauties of life, and how cool is it that they make a living at it? I want to make a living owning a DIY makers space and shop. I am going to post a picture of the cutest garage apartment, a fantastic cocktail I enjoyed, and I do hope a few people notice, so I am really no different. But where does the line of authenticity get crossed?  I actually really enjoyed my time at the conference, learned a few good tips, but was terribly out of my comfort zone for 3 days straight, and the preconceived notions I held about this alternate world were mostly confirmed. So this is my attempt to stay authentic: a break down of my time in Austin, along with my evolving thoughts about this microcosm of sweet and simple lifestyle blogging.

I got in on Friday and met with a few potential and current artists we have in the shop. (I am going to feature my visits to Son of a Sailor, Bee Amour, Satchel & Sage, and Little Low in upcoming posts, plus the trip to my store crush, Nannie Inez!) Then I got to the garage apartment I found through Airbnb, and it was perfect! I enjoyed the quiet alone time in the trees the apartment offered, and it offered me the opportunity to shamelessly watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix. The apartment had so much charm (look at that bath tub!), the host was really sweet, and it was under a $5 cab ride to get anywhere.

DSC_6367

DSC_6288

DSC_6285

After checking in, there was a clothing and book swap at Lulus. This was one of my least favorite parts of the conference; there were way too many people crammed into a small space, and it was a bit uncomfortable (plus most of the clothes were for tiny people). I did run into an old friend of mine, Abby, who now blogs at A Geek Tragedy so that was a nice surprise. But the anxiety of being around a lot of really beautiful and fashionable women brought out the introvert in me, and I even shied away when a woman asked me about the book I was holding. Looking back, I am mad at myself for not engaging in a conversation, especially about books, and introducing myself, talking about my brand, etc. I got more comfortable with this as the weekend progressed, but it was surprising to feel a bit inadequate, when on a daily basis I am fairly outspoken and lively. I did end up going to dinner with my friend Abby, and new acquaintances Meg and Amy as we finished the night out on 6th Street. It was a good start to a very interesting yet trying weekend.

My new friends Meg, Abby, & Amy © Peter Tung
My new friends Meg, Abby, & Amy © Peter Tung

Saturday it was “back to school” at the conference, and in the morning sessions I attended iPhoneography 101 led by Carli fron Inked Fingers and eCommerce 101 led by Tasha from Imperfect Concepts. It was interesting to hear from Carli-mostly the tools and apps she uses, and how she built her business. I was intrigued that both sessions were filled and everyone seemed really engaged: taking notes and asking questions. It was nice to be around women wanting to learn from each other and taking the sessions seriously. But it was still a bit strange to be around these rockstars of the blog and social media world.  We as a society have this peculiar obsession with being able to peer into someone else’s life. I am no exclusion. I secretly love seeing pictures of people with their new families, wedding photos, recipes they are trying, and I also secretly hope they are paying a little bit of attention to me, my hottie husband, and my new business. But then it gets a little bit crazy, when you see the image of these neat, bright, and effortless lives splashed all over these blogs.  As Holly points out in a 2012 article in Frontier,  “How is it possible that so many women and their toddlers spent their Saturdays in blanket forts made from vintage quilts found at a swap meet? And does the world really need more Instagram shots of early-morning trips to the flower market?” I thought that this conference would dispel the myth of this perfection, and that just didn’t really happen for me.  I thought some of the information was really generic, and nobody got into the struggle in maintaining this online life, sponsors, and the risks (family, financial, personal) that go along with this lifestyle of putting yourself out there. “These women don’t just maintain squeaky-clean, camera-ready homes and adorable families, they also run independent businesses, wear perfect outfits, rock exquisitely styled hair—and find the time to blog about it.” I think it is all really amazing, but I wish I saw a bit more authenticity throughout the weekend. Bottom line, it’s a weird way of becoming famous. But it’s happening, and I support these women over other ways of gaining celebrity status. (And I found myself in awe most of the weekend.) “There’s something ineffably appealing about perfectly puffed pie crusts, pigeon-toed fashion shoots, and sweet, uncomplicated musings on vintage hairclips.” I am still in a state of heightened awareness as I peruse these blogs, read about their experiences at TXSC, and sort out my feelings about it all. In the meantime, here are some shots of Austin and the “classroom” from the Hyatt Regency.

DSC_6292

DSC_6332

DSC_6291

Saturday afternoon was filled with a thrift field trip to Savers with Jentine of My Edit and a resale shop tour at Moss and Ragalicious with a pop-up shop from Janette of Fashion Loves People. I had a great time, found some fantastic clothes, a purse, and a vintage Singer sewing machine (which led me to be nominated for “Best Treasure Hunter” at Prom, haha), and appreciated that this was a part of the conference. It was nice seeing trend-setters talking about how you can gain a modern stylish look with well-made clothes from our past. The only session I was able to attend Sunday was Purchasing with Purpose led by Janette and Merl of Clyde’s Rebirth which continued this conversation of conscientious consumerism. I was so happy to have this part of the larger conversation, and will devote an entire future blog post to it. Here are some shots of our outing, and of the session with Merl & Janette.

DSC_6331

DSC_6317

DSC_6316

DSC_6315

DSC_6312

DSC_6308

DSC_6304

DSC_6397

Holly goes on to say, “It’s not surprising that as a blog becomes more popular, its authenticity becomes more circumscribed. And for bloggers with an eye on leveraging their work into bigger, more mainstream venues, the balance of professionalism with authenticity means less critical discussion, fewer acknowledgments of bad days or insecurities, and less humor. And because the lifestyle blogs that receive the most attention (and opportunities for more revenue) reflect the most limiting vision of traditional femininity (conventionally attractive, straight, happy white women with beautiful homes, playful children, and quirky recipes), it isn’t surprising that this formula tends to be the most emulated one within the world of lifestyle blogging.” I wonder how authentic the bloggers at the conference were, and I never really got to find out. There seemed a large disconnect between the power bloggers and the rest of us, but the bloggers that I met were really genuine. Here is a snapshot of some of us at lunch, and of course everyone was on their phones tweeting, blogging, texting, instagramming, and whatever else. It was quite comical, and yet really nice to meet other women and hear about what they do. My favorite was Hilary from Our Style Stories (pictured on the left in the middle). She was so sweet and told the story of how her car broke down on the way to Austin. I loved her style, her personality, her genuineness, and I am totally going to start reading her blog! This peer to peer contact was the most useful for me, and I wish I had dedicated more time to reaching out to other conference attendees.

DSC_6340

DSC_6337

I’ve been back in Houston and at the shop this week and lots of people have asked me about the trip and the conference. I stumble through the good and the bad, because I think it is important for me to communicate how I feel about it all. Will there always be a disconnect for me? I own a craft studio, started blogging, and do have an interest in the resurgence of domesticity that lends itself to this life of making and baking and taking notes on how to raise an independent child. But I am a late twenty-something, “childless and overeducated” female, and it would be silly of me to compare my life to these heavily mediated and “carefully arranged” lives you see on these blogs. But the basic message seems to be to enjoy the small beauties in life, to embrace womanhood and motherhood, and I am down with that. In fact I think it is quite lovely. In a 2011 Salon article, writer Emily Matchar describes this mood as “very romantic, soft-focused, aesthetically pleasing images of home life, that is very DIY, very home-oriented and nostalgic.” And I agree with Emily, there IS something vaguely uplifting about these blogs. I have a lot of respect for women who can portray this life, that counters the tough work-life balance the rest of up seem to be struggling with. So as I am falling a little in love with these well put-together women we get to the Sunday convocation by Elsie and Emma from A Beautiful Mess and their “What We’ve Learned from Blogging” speech.  I like these girls, and think what they do for a living is pretty dan gum awesome (and there are a lot of connections, they own a small boutique, online store, etc). But then it happened. Elsie suggested an example of getting over a hurdle was trying on a color you didn’t think you looked good in. I was hoping for a little financial distress, a death in the family, even a spat with a sponsor, anything worthy of “a major obstacle.” not “I don’t think I look good in chartreuse.” [Insert disconnect.] But I did get to see behind the veil a bit, and understand that these women are not trying to make it seem like they live larger than life in fabulous attire with perfectly coifed hair. They have just been good enough at it to get noticed, and now get paid for it. That’s great. I think women should look to these blogs for inspiration, book recommendations, recipes, whatever, but not get caught up in comparing their lives with what is portrayed in the these blogs. I would also encourage bloggers, especially the power players, and especially at conferences, to keep in mind their authenticity and letting their walls down a bit. I will definitely attend again next year, and I have a better sense of what to expect. I enjoyed talking about my brand and the shop, and did learn that personal style is an extension of you. I also learned that I can only do what I can with what I have, and that is okay! I think the topic of authenticity should be one of the sessions next year; I think it is something all brands, bloggers, and businesses all need to revisit continuously.

DSC_6394

DSC_6352