Monday, December 29, 2008

sunshine, fresh air and exercise

Its such a beautiful day here - even though its cold, the sun is shining.  I already met my mother-in-law for a bike ride this morning (which included a stop for coffee).  

I'm finally getting to go out and use my new bike and I'm in a better mood than I've been in months.  Yesterday I rode halfway up a mountain and I'm still feeling the buzz.  

Last night we were over at my parents house, where my mother got a Wii Fit for Christmas.  While I'm in favor of anything that gets people to exercise (and it is pretty fun), it certainly doesn't give you the satisfaction of getting in a quality run or a nice challenging bike ride.  (Both of which I did yesterday.)

I'm so happy to be back on my feet - I'm a much happier person when I'm getting in regular exercise.  (And Grizzly's much happier now that he gets to go for runs again too.)

Since New Year's is always the time when people set fitness goals, I thought I'd share my plans for 2009.  No half or full marathons in the works (I'd like to stay injury free this year) but I'm going to do a 5k every month.  (I didn't do any last year, and I miss them.)  I'll be doing the Mt. Gretna triathlon again in May, and my mother-in-law and I are planning a three day bike trip on the C & O Canal in June (with our reluctant husbands in tow).  

Anyone else have any fun fitness goals for 2009?

happy holidays + giveaway

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday.  I've certainly enjoyed taking a break from work to spend time with my family.

After all the stress about gift giving, I decided to give an additional gift to some of my family.  I ordered these fantastic, recycled soda bottle bags from Enviro-Tote and hand drew this design on them.  Giving out a reusable shopping bag seemed to be a great way to start the new year.  Of course, I kept one for myself, and I love how roomy and sturdy it is.

So, I've decided to give one away here on my blog.  Just leave a comment on this post between now and Friday, and I'll draw one lucky winner and send them a bag (with some goodies inside for an extra surprise).  

Have a good holiday and safe and happy new year!

Monday, December 22, 2008


More paper models - I can't help it, I'm a little addicted.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

my brother's Etsy shop

I've posted about my brother Tim's videos before (you can check them out on YouTube) but I'm excited to announce that he's opened an Etsy shop selling his digital prints!  You can check it out right here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

laser samples

Thanks for all your encouraging comments on my last post!  It's good to hear that I'm not the only one struggling with these issues, and I think its important to keep the discussion going.  Its something I'm going to continue thinking and writing about as I prep my new collection for New York Gift.  

There's a lot of value and importance to making things by hand, and I love doing so, but I don't think that everyone can make a living that way.   I'm struggling to find a balance between the values of handmade and the practicality of manufacturing as both a designer and a teacher. So for my new collection, I'm also exploring small, local manufacturing options like laser cutting. 

And speaking of, I picked these up from my laser cutter this afternoon:

They're just the start of the objects in my new collection.  (And no, I'm still not telling you what they are.) 

Monday, December 15, 2008

the trouble with buying handmade

Last year, along with ten thousand other people, I happily signed the Buy Handmade pledge. Then came the stress and the guilt. Some of my family made following the rules easy. I gave my jewelry or jewelry made by friends to my mother, sister, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law. My brother Tim was easy - I had planned on getting him one of Tina Seamonster's "sometimes I worry about zombies" t-shirts since I first saw them. More challenging were my 17-year-old, soccer obsessed brother, my dad, my father-in-law, and of course, my husband. I scoured Etsy for hours, worried about it at every craft show I was at last season, and in the end only bought handmade for one of the four. I felt like a horrible person. A horrible person who gave my family members gifts they really wanted and used.

I've never really liked Christmas much. I find the entire gift giving (and receiving) process stressful enough without imposing a vague but strict rule on the whole thing. So this year, I swung the other direction. Like someone on a restricted calorie diet who finally gives up and eats the entire chocolate cake in one sitting, I bought an assortment of mass-produced goods. The process was relatively easy and stress free. And once again I feel like a horrible person. A horrible person who is going to give my family members gifts they want and will actually use.

After a year of running a business making things by hand, I'm tired. I'm frustrated by this rosy facade the handmade community is hiding behind. Making stuff by hand is a hard way to make a living. Don't let anyone tell you it isn't. If it wasn't hard, we never would have had the Industrial Revolution. I'm not exactly living the dream here - I work in a garage with no heat, I'm broke, and I'm stressed. And I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

I'm tired of the blatant copying. Artists work hard to develop a signature style or design, and if you're lucky enough to be a successful Etsy seller, there are twenty people waiting in the wings to rip you off. And every blogger who showcases one of these copycats and every person who buys from them is just making the problem worse.

I'm tired of people looking to handmade as a place to score a bargain. Making things by hand isn't cheap. If it was, we never would have had the Industrial Revolution. And I understand that everyone is feeling the pinch of the economy right now. But you shouldn't expect to get things more cheaply because they are handmade. The next time you think of something as expensive, imagine how long it would take you to make that. And what you would want to get paid for your time while making it. Plus, what its going to cost you to pay the mortgage, heat, electric, and your student loans. Suddenly that item probably seems cheap. Perhaps you should offer to pay more for it. If money's tight, but you still want to gift handmade, make something yourself.

"Handmade” is a slippery term to define anyway. In The Nature and Art of Workmanship, Dave Pye asks, “Is anything really made by hand?” All he comes up with are baskets and coil-built pots. Everything else requires a tool of some sort – whether that tool is a crochet hook or a power saw. Is my jewelry not really "handmade" because I use tools? And what about a computer and a laser cutter? Where do they fall on the handmade continuum? Today's technology blurs the line between handmade and manufactured. And its getting fuzzier everyday.

Instead of handmade, I think small is a better criteria. Items produced in small numbers - by hand, tool, or machine. Items purchased from local sources. With original designs and quality materials. Where the artist receives a fair price for her work. And if you can't afford any of that, than making things might just be the solution.

So for next year I'm thinking about starting my own pledge. The Buy Small/Local/ResponsiblySourced/OriginallyDesigned/FairPriced or Make it Yourself pledge. It doesn't roll off the tongue like Buy Handmade, but perhaps I'll get through Christmas without feeling like a horrible person.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the creative process

There's nothing nicer than a Sunday afternoon by the fire making paper models.  Especially with Grizzly lending a paw (or sitting on top of my work).

I've been using the computer to design a lot of new (non-jewelry) pieces for 2009, but making models is still an important part of my process.  It helps me get a feel for scale, proportion, etc.  Plus, its just fun.

Saturday in the city

Yesterday, along with my mom, brother, and my brother's girlfriend, I took a bus to New York City for the day.  I had originally planned to go to MAD, but after the bus arrived two hours later than expected, I decided to shelve that plan until I'm back in January.

After unsuccessfully trying to find what is supposed to be a really cool flea market, we walked down Broadway towards Union Square.  On the way we stopped in DWR, where as usual I dreamed about one day having enough money to own a Barcelona chair.  

From there we wandered into Fishs Eddy.  I'd never heard of this store, but it was amazing.  Dish-ware of every shape and size was piled from floor to ceiling.  But instead of looking cluttered, the displays were amazingly detailed and stunning.  Clearly a lot of thought goes into the arrangement of those plates.

After stopping in the Virgin Megastore (at Union Square, we weren't stupid enough to attempt the one in Times Square this close to Christmas) we headed to my destination of choice, Strand Books.  Can you believe I'd never been there before?  I could have spent all day just browsing and exploring.  But for everyone else's sake, I tried to reign myself in, and left with only six books (two by William Zinsser) and a new tote bag.

Finally, we took the subway up to Rockefeller Plaza.  The crowds were insane, but I did love this amazing display in Anthropologie.  After that we grabbed some coffee and hopped back on the bus heading for home.

I can't wait to go back in January for the Gift Fair, when hopefully I'll have more time to see things (without having to fight the holiday crowds!).

what I'm (re)reading: writing to learn

Its no secret that I wish I was a writer.  (Partly because then I could devote more time a day to reading.)  I have a few favorite books about writing that I like to re-read from time to time, and anything by William Zinsser tops the list.  If you want a classic guide on clear and precise writing, I highly recommend Zinsser's On Writing Well.  (I own two copies.)  Currently I'm reading Writing to Learn.

In Writing to Learn, Zinsser explores the idea that any subject can be made accessible through good writing, and that those with a fear of writing can be taught to overcome that fear by writing about subjects they love.  This certainly makes the book a must read for any teacher.

What I love most about Zinsser is that he clearly loves to read, and Writing to Learn is filled with examples by excellent authors.  I added many of these authors to my holiday book wish list, including John Muir and Rachel Carson.  In fact, my favorite chapter in the book wasn't the one on art, rather it was Earth, Sea, and Sky - the chapter on the environment and ecology. 

Which got me thinking, I'll happily read a book on any subject if the author is good.  I would count Sarah Vowell among my favorite authors.  Even though I don't have any particular interest in Presidential assassinations or Puritan society, I know I'm going to enjoy the story.  The same goes for Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, or Annie Dillard.  (Or, of course, William Zinsser.)

Sadly, I often find myself ordering books because the topic is interesting to me (such as craft theory or alternative transportation) only to find myself struggling to get through the book.  In Writing to Learn, Zinsser is heavily against jargon and academic speak, and the craft theory books I've been reading lately are some of the worst offenders.  As is the case with many craft academics, there's a strong desire to show just how smart you are.  Yawn.  I wish someone would read Writing to Learn before setting out to write the next craft theory book.

Hmmm, maybe that someone could be me...

Monday, December 8, 2008

jewelry + ornament

I've decided to run a little special - from now until December 18, if you order any piece of jewelry from my Etsy shop, I'll send you one of my pressed metal ornaments, FREE!  That's right, something to give and something to keep.  Or something to give and something else to give.  Or two things to keep.  Whatever works for you!

But I only have a limited number of ornaments left, so order soon!

PS.  You can also buy ornaments at my other Etsy shop - megan auman home.

a good weekend

On Friday, I went to my doctor and got some really great news.  (Don't get too excited, it was my FOOT doctor.)  Not only is my foot healing well, but he cleared me to run!!!  So on Friday night, I picked up a new pair of running shoes, and on Saturday morning, I took Grizzly for a short run!

Also on Saturday, we finally got our fireplace up and running.  It made the house so nice and toasty.  I could get used to that.

Now its back to work... on my new computer!  (I picked that up on Friday too, and have been working away on it ever since.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

blogging evangelist

One of the best parts about working from home is that you can watch The Daily Show in the middle of the day.  For those of you who may have missed it, enjoy this little clip of Arianna Huffington and Jon Stewart discussing blogging.