Shopping: Portland Trading Co.

We stopped in Portland, Maine for a few days and I wandered into a relatively new shop, Portland Trading Co. Kazeem, the proprietor, is stylish in all the right ways. Which is to say he is totally current without being a snob. He was so engaging I could have talked at him for a long while, but fortunately for him some regular customers came in and rescued him from my enthusiasm. The aspect of the Portland Trading Co. that intrigued me the most, beyond the well-edited selection, is that Kazeem buys across several categories — the place is like a general store for the modern man — and yet it all hangs together in an entirely cohesive way, from clothes to jewelry to textiles to vintage items to food. He even manages to incorporate elements from Africa, and the colors and pieces he brings in look amazing juxtaposed against American-made, regional goods he sources.

Find the Portland Trading Co. on facebook¬†or in the real world the next time you’re traveling up the coast of Maine. An online store is in the works too, just in case a jaunt to Maine isn’t in your immediate future (but if not, it should be…)

Old Display counter

Canvas bags

The long view of the counter

Display

Vintage Crate Display
Great magazine selection

Clothing racks

Rolled ties

Handmade goods from D Mfg
Leather boots & more
Goods up close
Pillows on sofa
Vintage typewriters
Food
Old Photos
Chesterfield & textiles
Handmade sign with logo

Resources: Block Printed Textiles

Julia Garrison lives and works in the town I live in, beautiful Rockport, Massachusetts. She’s one of those all-around creative people — I’ve tasted delicious homemade fish chowder that she made so I know she makes a mean meal among other things — who, when she’s not off painting on a movie set, is working in her studio as a block printer. Julia’s has a line of goods ranging from block-printed cards to pillows to aprons, all sold online and from the Sarah Elizabeth Shop in Rockport, which doubles as her studio. She inherited the use of an antique acorn press, as well as the rights to print archived designs from Sarah Elizabeth Holloran, the shop’s namesake and founder, and Isabel Natti, who worked closely with Sarah Elizabeth for years and owned the shop before Julia.

Sarah Elizabeth Holloran was a member of the Folly Cove Designers, a collective which existed until 1969 (and is well worth discovering if you don’t know about their work already) and it is fascinating to realize that Julia’s shop and studio space is a link of sorts to the region’s strong heritage of block printing. Stop by the Sarah Elizabeth Shop to see Julia’s work and check out the studio and shop space, which she just refreshed with great industrial pieces that complement the acorn press, a look that is perfect for the 21st century — a time when we appreciate handprinted textiles once again, but now we can buy them via an iPhone app. And if you can’t make it to Rockport, you can see Julia’s line at www.sarah-elizabeth-shop.com

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

T-shirts

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Curatorial: The Dollar Store

I don’t know if curatorial is really a word (and if I’m too lazy to even look it up online I don’t deserve to know), but if not, it should be. Because we are all curators now. Has anyone else noticed the explosion in use of the word “curate”? Every blog and business has some things being curated by someone or another. So I’m joining in. I’m a curator of the Dollar Store. Unfortunately they won’t actually let me officially curate the place — for some reason they want to carry inventory of more than 14 items — but I curate in my head. We are all curators now. In our imaginations.

Why curate the Dollar Store, or, a better question, why enter the Dollar Store? Because, dear reader, the Dollar Store is an amazing place. I’m not much of a consumer, in fact, I actively avoid purchasing anything to the point of being downwardly mobile. I’m just about to lose my status as an official member of the middle class. But ideally, when I do purchase I buy handmade, organic, local, sustainable stuff made with deep etsy love. But let’s be real: there is the ideal and then there are cheap imports. It is very difficult to be a purist in a world where nearly every single functional item, from clothes to couches, is made in China or her cheaper sisters. The thing I love about the Dollar Store, besides the obvious fact that everything is a DOLLAR, is the fact that the cheapness of every single item is in sharp relief. The poor quality and low standards aren’t masked by a sort of aesthetic gloss, the way the same items are presented at Target and Pottery Barn. Those places give the consumer the illusion that she is participating in a better, more meaningful transaction than the one that is actually taking place: buying poorly made disposable junk on the cheap. I don’t care if John Derian designed that melamine plate for Target (and John Derian is the best, the BEST, so this is not about him), the reality is that it’s a junky plate made in China. At the Dollar Store there are no capsule collections or collaborations with designers. I’m not fooled into thinking I’m buying into something fabulous. I’m at the Dollar Store, where, if you ever wanted to know what carcinogens smell like, just take a deep breath. That, my friends, is the smell of toxic materials waiting to destroy your first world happiness. But in the meantime, every thing is ONE DOLLAR!

So when I can’t buy handmade, organic, et al, I head to the Dollar Store. Prepare to read this explanation at the beginning of all my Dollar Store posts. And yes, there will be more than one. In this post I curate…

The Dollar Store 4th of July Party

Charming gingham paper plates & napkins

Paper goods up close. Put some fried chicken (an organic, happy chicken fried in sunflower oil) and coleslaw on that plate!!!

Tri-colored crepe paper!!! Very 19th century.

Baskets to hold all those charming paper goods and those homemade whatevers you will be serving your guests.

Attractive plastic serving pieces, for those times when you can’t bring yourself to use real service.

Charming little 6 oz retro glasses. Perfect for serving miniature root beer floats. Or ginger beer floats if you’re trend oriented.

Can you believe it? So cute, and ONE DOLLAR!

one…dollar…

Party favors!

Kazoo parade!!!

Little ruffled navy blue baby sun hat. (one.dollar.)

Child’s sunglasses.

Sun hat is far too big for Francie. Should I buy it and save it for her to wear two summers from now? No, because two summers from now there will be another wonderful thing for her to wear on her cute little head, from THE DOLLAR STORE!

The Golden Age of Man

It may seem as though we Americans don’t make anything anymore, buying all our stuff from places where labor is cheap and standards are cheaper, but this holds true only when you look at mass market consumption. If you examine what goes on among the people — most of them young — who inhabit our creative subculture, you’ll find they are producing like mad, creating all sorts of cool stuff for all sorts of niche markets. And it’s not just hipster women knitting trendy items like cowels and fingerless gloves; the men are on the forefront of this movement as well. And they have expanded their enterprises far beyond beer-making and pickling and into areas of light manufacturing, making things like hatchets and tweed caps.

And then there’s my own husband. A teacher by trade, he has always, always made stuff. I met him when we were just 18. Which, upon reflection, seems like a lifetime ago. But then again, it seems like just yesterday, because he is much the same person, possessing the same sort of energy that he had when he was not much more than a kid, ready to attack a piece of wood with a sharp implement just to see what he could make of it. When we were 19 I bought him an antique draw knife at a flea market as a Christmas present. This is the sort of romance we had. Practical and impractical, all at the same time.

Today is our anniversary. I’ve now been with him nearly as long as I was without him, and in honor of this fact, and the fact that he is coming into his own in this era of Men Who Make Things, I wanted to create a wish list of gifts for this very cool man, my husband. These are the things he deserves, things made by like-minded fellows, even if they aren’t what he will actually receive.

image: Secret Forts

1. Tweed Cap: A limited run of 45 created by Secret Forts in collaboration with FairEnds. This cap is a tweed version of a blue wool cap my husband wore when I first met him. He looked pretty amazing in that cap. The day that it disappeared was a day of minor mourning. As though our shared youth was over.

Image: Best Made Company

2. An Axe. Is it pretentious to have a handcrafted axe named “Courage”? Not for a man who is both obsessed with chopping firewood and in possession of a MA in Philosophy. This axe is from Best Made Company. (Whose entire product line is basically my husband, broken into streamlined bits of modern interpretations of vintage manhood, available for purchase.)

Image: Best Made Co.

3. Boot Oil. My husband is a man interested in leather. And in products to treat leather. I believe he must find something soothing in taking on a pair of cracked boots in an attempt to restore them to their original state. (Maybe this is the 19th-century-minded man’s version of talk therapy?) And along those lines, he’s also the only one in our household who regularly makes repairs using thread and needle, patching everything in sight. But I stop short of buying him a sewing kit. That’s too practical, even for me. (The boot oil is also found at Best Made Co.)

Image: Hickoree's

4. Journal Cover. The design of this piece hovers in the space between handcrafted and homemade. From its hearty looks, I’m sure it would last as a cover for successive notebooks, enough for a lifetime. From Hickoree’s.


Image: Hickoree's

5. Slingshot. This one is a bit of a cheat, as my husband has already made more than a few of these. But I thought he might appreciate a break and enjoy someone else’s handiwork the next time he feels like shooting at rocks in the woods. From Hickoree’s.

Image: The Shoe Mart

6. Alden Men’s Indy Workboot. Like everything else in this list, the Alden Indy Boot is American-made. Unlike everything else, however, Alden has been manufacturing great footwear since 1858. No boot could be more tried-and-true than this classic. Just like the man himself, my husband. May he prosper as long as the Alden Workboot. And just like the very best boot leather, I can testify that he is wearing well, and if I may say, has broken in very much to my liking.

This is dedicated to the one l love. Happy Anniversary!

Projects: The Dollhouse

In my ongoing hate affair with my Dollhouse Project (or “Little House Project” which I call it when I am trying to make it seem more dignified), I came to a realization which has allowed my hate to morph into love. My revelation? The simple truth: a perfectly executed miniature world, where I bring every room up to standards suitable for the pages of House Beautiful, is just not going to happen. It’s just not in me. I can’t even be trusted to bring my people-sized house up to a certain standard. So why would I create a miniature house that forces me to transcend my lack of thoroughness? I just want to make the house interesting, not perfect. Some people are capable of accomplishing both, but one of those people is definitely not me.

Now that I’ve realized this, now that I’ve fallen back in love with my project, like any love-sick fool I am a bit obsessed, working out the scheme for each of the house’s little rooms with a view toward the details. Only in my case, the details run more along the lines of an episode of Hoarders. Or more along the lines of an episode of Eccentrics, if such a show existed (why doesn’t such a show exist? It should. It would be a lot more enjoyable than Hoarders, which crosses a line into intense sadness. I always want to take some sort of medication that can eradicate sad images after I talk myself into watching a segment).

The inhabitant (yes, an imaginary inhabitant) of my little house is a reclusive artist. The type of artist who has never sold a painting in his life, yet manages to eke out a living, Grey Gardens style, by buying cans of pate on a small trust fund. This is a photo of his studio, stage one (the room has since acquired a lot more detritus).

Early stages of the art studio

The project is coming along nicely and will debut at our upcoming Home (re)Cycled Show at the Tusinski Gallery in April. Meanwhile I’ll try to tamp down my enthusiasm and avoid inundating you with progress reports.

And for a small taste of perfectionism, you have to check out the Thorne Miniature Rooms housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Unbelievable. Mrs. James Ward Thorne, a woman with an obsession and loads of money, recreated period rooms so perfect your eyes will bleed if you stare long enough. These rooms give all of us a view into, not only American interiors circa the past, but craftsmanship in the service of detail that is truly a marvel.

Mrs. James Ward Thorne’s collection: Tennessee Entrance Hall, 1835, (built c.1940)

Mrs. James Ward Thorne’s collection: Shaker Living Room, 1800 (built c.1940).

Resources: Glorious Destruction

image: Valerie Hegarty

Having experienced the strange annihilation of a house fire, the work of artist Valerie Hegarty in this show at Guild & Greyshkul really resonates. The weird negative space left after a fire — suddenly there is no there there — is only compounded by encountering the bits that are left, many of them altered into versions of themselves that still manage to be recognizable. The same, yet absolutely different.

The pieces in this show function as a sort of symbol of what happens to us after we undergo a transformative experience. As a culture, we may try to psychologize our way into understanding life-altering moments by giving our post-whatever selves a diagnosis and a whole lot of pills, but ultimately, we just choose between moving forward or not. You may not be able to fix any of the pieces in this exhibit of Valerie Hegarty’s work , but you can’t stop marveling at them, because they are so beautiful.

image: Valerie Hegarty

image: Valerie Hegarty