Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lake Michigan at sunset, Chicago Illinois

While waiting for my son to finish his soccer practice I took a few pictures of Lake Michigan at sunset. Beautiful lake it is!

Lake Michigan at sunset

This place is called Montrose beach at Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan at sunset

They have a small space designeted as a nature area with birds and insects one will not see in other places.

Lake Michigan at sunset

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Needle felted toys, mini birds and animals by Natasha Belova

Amazing needle felted miniature birds and animals by Natasha Belova. Each felted animal is a brooch and could be pinned to a jacket or a coat. The colors are amazing and the craftsmanship is of the highest order. All these pins and brooches could be great small gifts for your loved ones. In addition to pins Natasha makes toys. Each toy is needle felted of wool and other natural fibers and has a personality of its own.

Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Natasha and I live in a small city Zhukovsky in Russia. I work as a graphic designer in a local company. I've always loved to create with my hands. When I was in my twenties I used to sew and paint. I've discovered the magical world of felting many years ago and have been experimenting with felting ever since. I've started hand making small needle felted toys and pins about three years ago. They were small gifts for dear friends at first. Later, I began selling my felted animals at shows and through local shops.

In 2014 I've finally decided to open my Etsy shop znmystery. When I have free time (mostly after work) I make miniature bird and animal pins and brooches.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

I always get inspired by nature that offers such a wide variety of species in all shapes and colors. Nothing can compare to the world around us! My owls, finches, hedgehogs, rabbits have all been modeled on amazing birds and animals that live in nature. I try to spend as such time outside as possible. I love to travel, to take strolls in local forests and parks. I'm into mushroom picking that is quite popular in my region. I use only natural and organic materials for my pins, brooches and toys. Wool, silk, cotton, linen are an integral part of nature. By using them I try to pass a small part of nature on to whoever buys my birds and animals.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Montrose Bog beach in Chicago

Just discovered this nice dog beach in Chicago. One can tell how much fun all these dogs have running around the beach. It's located next to Montrose Beach on lake Michigan and is supported by an non-profit organization. Volunteers keep it clean and neat. The beach is listed as one of the best dog parks in the country.

Montrose dog beach

Inspired by the cool breeze and nice weather I came home and created a pale blue and gray hand felted scarf. Since I leave not too far from the lake now it looks like it will be my prime source of inspiration.

Blue Gray hand felted sacrf

Monday, November 25, 2013

Virginia 2nd Annual Christkindlmarket

We had wonderful time at the 2nd Annual Christkindlmarket at Travelers Rest Farm in Virginia. The market was set up in an old barn and had a very distinctive European feel. A traditional Christkindlmarket is basically a holiday market set up in a typical European village with its timber houses, decorated Christmas trees and snow. Virginia 2nd Annual Christkindlmarket was very much a traditional festive event. We didn't have snow this time around though.

The list of all the vendors can be located at Christkindlmarket Virginia 2nd Annual.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DIY Cute Pumpkins for Halloween

We will felt a few cute pumpkins for Halloween. Our pumpkins could be great gifts for friends and family. They will look wonderful in your living room or your kitchen as signs of beautiful Autumn and approaching Halloween.

We will need some orange felting wool, a glass of water and a piece of soap, black thread and a needle. We will felt our pumpkins with water and soap so it makes sense to do it on surfaces that don't get damaged by water. A kitchen table should be a good place once it's covered with a water resistant tablecloth. You won't need too much space. The amount of water you will use is minimal.

Take a piece of orange wool and form a ball in your hands. Water your wool and add some soap to it. Now gently squeeze the piece of wool a few times. Start rolling it between your palms. Keep rolling for 5 to 10 minutes adding water and soap if needed.

Once your ball has become somewhat firm and solid rinse it well and let it dry. The goal is to make the ball not too firm so that you will be able to get a needle through it once it's dry.

Once your orange ball is dry it's time to turn it into a pumpkin. Take a black thread and a needle. Start in the middle of the orange ball adding loops around it. Six loops should be OK. At the end it makes sense to add an extra loop to serve as a hanging thread.

It's an easy DIY project that produces a great result. You will have bright and cute pumpkins made of natural materials. They could serve as small Halloween gifts for your friends.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweet Cheeks sensitive skin natural products

I had a chance to interview Vanessa Mccauley of Sweet Cheeks who lives in Richmond, VA and makes unique all-natural skin care products for adults and children.

How did you start? Trial and error really. I found a recipe online to make body butter. It was okay but not great, so I tweaked it. Over time, I learned the balance. How to get the consistency of feel I wanted. I did it at home for years before I started selling it.

Why did you start? It started with my son. He had terrible eczema. I tried all the drug store lotions the doctor told me to try to no avail. Finally the doctor wanted to put him on steroidal cream. That scared me. So I came home and started researching. I found out mineral oil is horrible for eczema. Every single cream the doctor recommended had mineral oil. So I set out to make a lotion for my son that would help.

Where do you make your items? At home. However, our plan is to convert our detached garage into a workshop because Sweet Cheeks has taken over the house.

Where did you learn how to make your skin care products? Partially online partially by making a lot of mistakes. Sadly, often I had to find out lots of what did NOT work to get to what did. My solid lotion bar probably saw 10-15 fails before I ever got it close to what I wanted. Then it was just small tweaks. However, I suspect now, it is even easier to find recipes and instructional videos on the web.

Is it hard to find a good supplier of the ingredients? For the most part I have one supplier I use for most of my raw ingredients that I love. The quality of what I get is amazing, they are easy to work with, and have a good supply. The thing I have the biggest issue with is essential oil. The price can fluctuate greatly sometimes as can the quality. So I stick with a supplier that has a very consistent quality but that limits the oils I have access to. There are other oils I would love to work with but have not found a supplier that can give me a consistency that I need. I would love if there was a local shop that I could smell the oils that also allowed me to purchase in bulk.

Did you have to obtain any certificates? No and no. I vacillate on regulating the beauty industry. On one hand, what goes into products that go on your skin is so important. Companies have been allowed to put toxic things in products for too long. On the other hand I don't know if regulation will do more to protect consumers than what the FDA's organic labeling did. It is a cost prohibitive stamp that is impracticable for small farms and does little to really produce the cleaner farming practices consumers want. So I don't know what the answer is other then, know the company. What are the company values? Are they transparent in their practices. Look at ingredients. Contact them with questions. A good company should always be thrilled to tell you why they did what they do and how.

Where do you sell your products ? I sell on line and at local shops. My products are available at a few Local Richmond shops such as Nest Antiques, Re Funk It and Orange.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Christmas gift ideas

We will make a Christmas gift that is an easy and simple DIY project.

We will need a wooden bracelet, a few nail polishes and a roll of masking tape. The wooden bracelet should be plain wood. Such bracelets could be purchased on-line or in craft shops. I suggest you try it on before starting a project. It would be a disappointment if once you finish painting your bracelet won't fit.

Look at your nail polish collection and select a few nail polishes that match. We will use them as our paint. They are very durable and have a nice luster. Masking tape will help us paint the pattern we design.

To start apply masking tape to the bracelet. Make sure the tape is adhered well to the wooden bracelet. Otherwise you will have paint spills and the bracelet will look messy. I will paint a pattern of stripes on my bracelet, thus, I'll apply the tape so that there are stripes of untreated wood. I'll leave 4 or 5 untreated wood stripes on my bracelet. Now color wooden stripes with the same hue of nail polish.

Once the polish is dry slowly remove the masking tape. You will see nice colored stripes on the bracelet. Now apply a new set of masking tape to color the bracelet with a new nail polish shade. Repeat as many times as nail polish colors you have. Make sure the nail polish is dry and the masking tape is adhered well.

I like to mix colors without any rule or pattern, thus, a dark red color may be followed by a golden hue and then by a dark purple one. Then I change the order. I change stripe sizes as well to make my bracelet look special and creative.