12.27.2011

Housing, living, and charcoal colored glasses

A dream house::



Credit: Kate Edwards at http://www.edwardsecobuilding.com

Cob, cob, cob!
Yup, I'm finally buying a house. But by saying 'buying', what I really mean is I'm procuring space for a cottage made of dirt- Cob! My partner and I qualified for lending for a traditional house and we were actually searching and ready to sit down to the task of spending the next thirty years working just to pay for living when something snapped in my head and I decided I didn't want to participate in the bullshit parade anymore. Living in debt, buying manufactured goods, living in a house filled with toxic chemicals, and all that crap offers no appeal to me. As a long time lover of tiny houses and cob building, I always wanted to retreat somewhere lovely and fend for myself and figured maybe I could after retirement. Somewhere amazing like Victoria out in the forest. It was a good dream, but an expensive, complicated one.

We're going to buy a piece of property and live in a tiny house, cob house, or even *gasp* a tiny cob house :3



Credit: Jen's House at Mud Girls


Laws on housing, as anyone interested in alternative building can attest, are complicated. It may not be an easy decision to make.

Considering that, we were aiming for 200 square feet for a living space- meaning sleeping, bathing, and cooking in that 200. We want another 200 square foot building or two smaller outbuildings that will be a den/hang out area and one for my studio. One of the reasons for building so small is that keeping a building 200 square feet or under is sometimes a way of dealing with local permit complications. Another reason is I always had a bit of a fantasy of living in a tiny village of cottages. That'd be pretty badass. We have some other friends and family who want the same and we plan on having a go at it together. Our own pocket neighborhood, if you will.

We'll be making the most out of the outside space for living and enjoying. My mom's and sister's eyes about popped out of their heads when I said 200 square feet, but people certainly live happily in smaller spaces. Honestly, I can't wait to shed nearly everything and move in. We've already started peeling things off the walls and filling up boxes to sell things off. Purses, shoes, couches, cookie cutters, books, I don't want any of it. I just want to breathe again.


The tiny house movement, urban homesteading, and privilege::

"None of us really having farmed before, we had too many opinions about how to do it and about what was stoned. [...] It got a lot heavier when we started treating farming like a real adult vocation instead of some sort of mystical hobby." - Stephen Gaskin in "Hey Beatnik!"

Farming, urban and  modern homesteading, and all the DIY old-school stuff is definitely on a popularity rise which is kind of cool and also kind of frustrating when I reflect on it. On the one hand, I feel like it's awesome so many people are putting their own hands into taking care of themselves. I feel like it brings us closer to what it is to be human and empowers others to start questioning the status quo. But it also bothers me when I look at attitudes surrounding reclaiming homesteading- including mine- because it's kind of Antoinetty, if you will. Marie Antoinette was so damn bored sometimes with having so much luxury that she craved some of the 'slow life' and would play pretend in a pretty and controlled mock village at being poor in only as much as it suited her. It's at once a bit astounding how being removed from labor and nature can numb us as a species, but also kind of ridiculous how easy it is for we, the privileged, to look at getting back to 'our roots' as something to improve our lives when they become too dry and demanding when so many others live that way every day of their lives and we call it poverty.

What can I say? Modern-Revival Homesteading is so, so very FirstWorldProblems sometimes.



In any case, I am very eager to reclaim what feels like a human right that's been pretty much lost in America of being able to carve out a home and living off of the land around you without being indebted to a structured system of paperwork and banks. I also, like many, want to feel like I do honest, human work that I can better relate to than what I do now. I want to try to provide a more natural and health conscious lifestyle that I don't feel modern manufacturing offers and stop supporting the abuses of underpaid slave labor in other countries for the convenience of shopping nations. I think it's what a lot of us want, may have wanted as long as we can remember, and I can definitely understand how excited people get to talk about their experiences in doing so. But I'm also very consciously of the fact that, as a middle class person in a developed nation, I can make a choice how I want to live my life and that not everyone can. That puts me in the distinct position requiring humility, I think. I'm not really sure how to express it, but I definitely feel it.


I'm so excited. The truth is I feel terribly alienated from life and the people around me who enjoy life as it is. I'm not sure I know how to work very hard yet, because I've certainly never had to. Not hard like millions of people work every day, in any case. But I feel like I want to be worthy of the body I have and I feel that life and living is a really amazing thing that I squander most of right now. I want to be more conscious of the experience of living and I do feel like the preoccupation with 'things' and working for intangible concepts like money instead of something more palpable leaves me feeling like I've got a void to fill. I know that, to some people, the idea of selling everything and moving into a cottage and breaking your back trying to till soil with no idea what you're doing may not sound like the way to fill it, but I bet there are people that will get it.

12.24.2011

Opening a new shop + Santa and Gilly Claus Gifts

My brother has been going back and forth on wanting to be a Montessori teacher which I think is really cool. I find the process of education really interesting and the Montessori method is my favorite. I even briefly considered the idea of getting the education to be a Montessori teacher too, but after some reflection I realised I'm the most interested in the process of education and developing activities that other people can apply or do with their kids or students than being the teacher.

I've had positive feedback about educational activity projects I make for Flora or decorative items I've made for gifts. I'll get asked if I sell them and the answer has always been no, but because of that, I decided to open another shop that's for educational project kits and imaginative and fantasy themed gifts. I'm waiting until after December is decently over before I start uploading items, as the retail market currently needs to heal a bit before you can expect much sales. There's no point in sitting on stock for months for things to pick up. 

(Like Flora's flower cutting and drawing kit- albeit a bit fancier, so as to impress the potential customers.)

That means, so far, all I have is the name, which is Pretty-Clever, though it'll be on Etsy under PrettyCleverShop. It's a minor play on words, being comprised of Pretty & Clever, as well as the descriptive "pretty clever", in reference to both my interest in education and my art aesthetic which is unarguably fancy and lacy. The demographic will be 3 (or particularly focused 2 year olds) to 5 or 6, depending on a child's interest. It will be a combination of new and repurposed components, with likely the bulk of the education kits being comprised of second-hand materials. I think that there's a market for educational kits and materials made up of second-hand goods as more people become aware of the amount of pollution and waste involved in making new products when we already have so many good items we can reuse in our thrift and antique stores or yard sales. Lightly used dishes, tools, and other items for educational play are also much more inexpensive than new items, and while Montessori is an amazing educational system, many of the supply kits are not in many peoples' budgets.


(Sorry for the crappy photograph examples. I didn't expect I'd be making a project pitch when I took them to text to my mom. XD)

The concept of a kit will be a selection of matching or complimentary second-hand and new goods that kids can use to explore adult activities in ways that help them learn independence and practice motor skills, logic, cause and effect, and other important ideas. In accordance with Montessori order, they'll include a tray, basket, work mat, or some other item that helps define the area and contain the materials. I'll be limiting my selections to items that are safely sanitized and in like-new condition (obvious things like no stuffed toys, chipped items, etc.) and may customize items with new paint jobs, silk screening, and more- but keeping a budget in mind. It's my hope that items can be absorbed into normal household use after their educational use is fulfilled. I'm thinking primarily of the home schooling or Unschooling family, or anyone who  would prefer to buy a 'toys' for their kids that foster learning and independence.


On the pretty side, I'm hoping to include hair clips, diorama jars, room decorations, play or dress up toys, adventure bags, and maybe even craft kits, with a similar aesthetic to my Meandrous line.


Items like my dressed up bridal umbrella,


and this matching set of hair clips, gloves, and bracelets do use pretty exclusively new materials, but unlike comparable dress up kits from big box stores that are flimsy, itchy, and shoddily made, mine will command better quality construction and more attention to detail while still aiming for a reasonable price point that falls somewhere above cheap poly rag from Fascist Mart but definitely below something like Oilily's or Flora and Henri's (admittedly totally gorgeous) high end lines.

I also plan on including a color range that's more inclusive than simply pink and purple and to include models of both genders, if I can get the opportunity. I may love to make frilly things, but that doesn't mean I'm out to promote the gender binary.


WELL!
On that note... 


Santa and Gilly Claus Gifts

(Why is year one missing? >.>;)

Santa and Gilly were busy in the workshop this year. Flora has been carrying around a small straw doll hat and sometimes insisting to sleep with it clutched in her hands so I decided Santa and Gilly would like to hear the news that Flora wants a crazy fancy hat.


She picked out all the decorations. Because she's not that old yet, I didn't think it would spoil anything but that it might help her be more excited to see it on Christmas morning if I knew it was things she found interesting in the first place. Lucky for my OCD need for everything to be JUST RIGHT she picked out yellow flowers and yellow-ish fruits. It was themed fairly well.


Even though the crappy grapes she found in the bin had seen better days... But she wanted them and it's her Yulemas present. 



E600 glue is smelly and takes a long time to dry, but it really, really sticks stuff together. Flora always tries to peel everything apart which is fine in a sense that it's her stuff and if she likes to do that... eh. But when I spend a long time on it I really.... really like E600 glue. It foils her every time.



Flora's not too into dolls, but when she does it's not a mommy play kind of thing. Ruby gets regarded as a real person when she chooses to play with her so I decided to include Ruby in the gift giving, getting her two doll outfits and making sure Santa and Gilly would include a hat for Ruby as well.




I don't know if they have this stuff at craft stores on the mainland, but it's a few bundles of stretchy stuff like nylon knee-highs without the toes or support band. It comes in tons of colors and you use it for making flower petals. It's wrapped around wire armatures kind of the way you do nylon fairy wings.


Ruby models her headband!


Glue onto the hat...


Done!

And back to Flora's hat!



Even though the sunflowers were a nice touch with the crazy plastic fruit, they were really too big to do much with so I mostly cut and rolled them.


The one sunflower I -did- try to place couldn't snug in well and the petals were all jacked up.





WEE!! A fruit and flower explosion! This beast is pretty heavy, but I don't think it'll be too heavy. Fancy Nancy would be proud.




Of course, Santa and Gilly love to throw in a few extra details and Gilly had some time to help design one more gift before she had to get back to the mechanic team to give the sleigh its five-point inspection.


I really should have done the gluing in steps, but I was trying to get it all done in one setting and had to use clips and things to keep bits from dropping off while it set.


ALL FINISHED! : D








.......But...





Happy YulChristmaHanuKwanzukkah!