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:

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

Calle Feria

Calle Feria

The broad avenue leading to Calle Feria begins to crowd with people. The sun is bright and the birds are loud. Everyone is on foot, smoking cigarettes, carrying children or baskets with colorful food, fabric, and other goods. This motley crew is ambling towards Calle Feria, site of the El Jueves market, a centuries-old bazaar in the middle of Sevilla, Spain that is held every afternoon on Jueves. An always unwieldy crowd comes to this street market looking to barter, buy, and sell anything from old electronics to American baseball cards. Miles of tables line the narrow cobblestone streets and men are yelling and waving their hands, enticing onlookers with promises of fine silver and jewelry. I am astonished by the site, and take my time as I side-step around broken typewriters and oriental lamps.

I move along slowly trying to take everything in, to find a special something to take back to America with me—the excitement of telling people I bought something at a gypsy market in Spain already building. I browse a table with antique bronzed door knobs and second-hand toys. I pick up a harshly used doll, wondering about the child who could have hugged that doll so much one side of the doll’s plastic face was dented in, not allowing that particular eye to look in the same direction as the other. As I broke my gaze away from the doll it was met by a somber man staring right at me wearing faded blue jeans and a Ralph Lauren polo shirt two sizes too small. I think he was expecting me to pay for that frightful thing. I sheepishly put the doll down and move away from the table, quickly, and so American-like.

At the next table, I spot a pair of boxing gloves, with a homemade cardboard sign reading, “Objetos perdidos. Al no encontrarse el dueño, los vendo” (Lost objects. As the owner cannot be found, I am selling them). I thought this was so intriguing I asked the man behind the table if I could just buy the sign from him. He looked at me peculiarly, and sternly said no; something must have been lost in translation. I had to settle for just taking a picture of the sign, because I could not afford the 15 euros he was asking for the objectos perdidos.

Sitting down on a small piece of concrete jutting from a 115 sq foot indoor bakery, I watch the colorful women barter for kitchen utensils, and a scruffy man selling whiskey flasks with someone else’s initials engraved on them. I watch an escalating argument between two men concerning a television that was bought under the pretenses that it worked. The wide-eyed seller began screaming “no refunds” in Spanish, but the hot tempered buyer was not ready to back down. After throwing the nonrefundable television on the ground, the buyer proceeded to aggressively charge the man behind the table. I suddenly had a flashback to the bullfight I witnessed earlier in the week while the smell of churros con chocolate intoxicate. It has happened. I am smitten with Spain.

Photo credit: secretolivo.com
Photo credit: secretolivo.com

Dots

Dots

A line is really just a number of dots that become a line. Eyes scan along lines, which provide direction and movement—a crease of a mouth, a bent knee. Different types of lines can create alternate feelings and responses due to the enhancement of perspective and depth—an arm around a waist, chin tilted. A shape then is just a space enclosed by lines, a nose hungrily pressed against a cheek. Shapes that are perceived as having depth create forms, like two bodies naturally intertwined. Therefore, forms are just shapes in relation to each other, next to each other perhaps, whispering.

Staring at a photograph, you can dissect it by forms, then divide by their shapes, narrow in on the lines, and it all just becomes a cluster of dots. Until you zoom out almost out of focus, or blink. You recognize the figure, against the background, and the dots are now a complete visual space, transporting you back to those beautiful teeth and sturdy jaw. You feel it in your gut, a neurochemical attack. You notice the contrast and the relationship of different elements. Harmonious and expected, like those jello molds with the chunky fruit. You cannot decide whether to focus on the darkness or the lightness. Is it fruit with jello, or jello with fruit?

Those elements are the building blocks of the tone. Color gradients are clustered meticulously—or haphazardly—pink lips on a cuff. Some colors can have the same tone, and like colors can have different tones, skin on skin, world beneath world. Colors create responses, connect, yet some are hard to look at, or get ignored. Like the distant lights through the window, proving there was life outside of that embrace. Texture is also important. Texture is the character of the forms-a rumpled blouse, or socks gathering in a native scrunch around the ankle. Different textures allow for distinctive looks and feels, like the unruliness of freshly washed hair. There is also a certain practicality of texture—revealing certain intentions.

Then there is this idea of hierarchy, of the various dominance of shapes and colors. The shadow on the wall, a block of a figure forming a monstrous pinky in the air, filled with power and want. The inclusion of or the lack of symmetry—arm above the head, body exposed—is also telling. Exposed but not untaken, a strong palm burrowing into a ribcage. The abstract, almost hidden details are captivating. Then you blink again, out of habit, and puff your cheeks with a robust sigh. The perception of the image changes, a different discourse has begun. Intimate assumptions have transpired into a patient endurance of forgetting. A chair may still be a chair with or without anybody in it, but you never even noticed that the couch was plaid.

That strangely flattened face, eyes set curiously close together, has a different meaning now. Observing from a new angle, and more importantly from a fresh time, you renounce the claim. Sparse and well used, the photograph you stare at may be all you have left, once reminiscent of robust laughter and fleeting amusement. What is that saying? that we gain control by letting go, or we win through surrender. So life goes on, diffidently, and you choose to see just a series of dots and stuff the photo back into its hiding place. Until something moves you to confront the dots again.

Date a Girl Who Reads

Date A Girl Who Reads
by Rosemarie Urquico

“Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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