Stop! Whoa yes, wait a minute Mr. Postman

The Dexter Mailbox - Classic

I used to love that old song.  I always thought it was written by the Carpenters, but like so many of my youthful assumptions, I would be proven wrong.  Apparently it was first performed by the Marvelettes and shortly thereafter by the young Beatles.  (I must not have been the only one who got caught up in the catchy hooks.)  To my childish ears, it was like candy – a wee fluff of cotton candy on a warm summer day.  I didn’t try to delve too deeply into the angst-filled words of the singer, who was hoping for ‘just a card, or just a letter… saying that he’s coming home to me!’

I am thinking about mail more and more lately though, and not because it’s summer or I’m craving cotton candy.  No, I am not awaiting some long-lost suitor either.  It’s the weighty issue of locating the *perfect* mailbox for our newly constructed front yard/fence/driveway combo.  When we moved in over a year ago, we were well aware that the little tiny old-fashioned mailbox someone had installed was not only silly and unsuitably styled for the house, it was woafully small and inadequate for the vast quantities of junk mail we seem to generate.  (disclaimer: the majority of catalogs we now get are the result of forwarding my mother-in-law’s mail to our house.  She was a huge fan of catague shopping.)  So now that we installed a cool courtyard enclosure, the idea is to save the mail person a few steps and put in a new, improved model of mailbox.  One that not only fits the modern style we are trying to go for, but has some vast tracts of land associated with it… enough at least to support the amount of future recycling we’ll be receiving. 

Contenders included these lovelies:

mailbox blue

Let’s face it, a mailbox is like the ‘earrings’ of a house.  It’s the little sparkly thing we get to choose that actually says something about our tastes that is semi-affordable and do-able, unlike a new swimming pool or fountain with Bellagio-style timing.  Although… that would be pretty cool.mailbox teak

This one is a work of art by a gal on Etsy… she uses real teak and lovingly joins wood to wood to create a smooth pull-out box that is a joy to behold.  Too bad ours is going to be under full sun and rain.  This one needs protection from elements.

We liked this next one for the simplicity…but ultimately it lacked the ‘it factor’ that the last one did, which we are planning on ordering from the manufacturer in Austin, TX!

Stainless Steel Mailbox - Standard - Vertical Style

And the winner is….

The Gibson Mailbox - Classic

STeel mailbox winnerSo the Gibson Mailbox by AustinDecor/ Steelworks is customizable, with space for our address letters where the word “POST” is on the first photo.

What do you think?  It’s heavy and strong and should hold up to the elements pretty well.  Very modern but also has a slightly crunchy artisan feel to it.  Large enough, but not out of control.  Not least of all, we won’t be feeling as bad for the poor post-person, forever trying to wedge our mail into that tiny old box outside the door!

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Sssssssooo…. how’s about them snakes?

Steve and I found a snake today in our backyard.  He was rather predicatably hiding under my sandbox (meant for castings but not used much since I found out how hard it was to make anything that looked half way decent). We had to move his happy place over a few feet in order to mow the lawn.  Steve went to find a stick and when he came back, neither of us could locate our new-found friend.  We can only hope he slithered to a better (read: underground) space before Steve got after the yard with the lawnmower.  He didn’t look much like this one, but I couldnt’ resist:

silver snake ring emerald

Seeing the small brown grass-snake reminded me of a post I had wanted to write a few weeks ago.  About snakes.  I tend to obsess a little bit about trends (although you could never tell that by looking at me), and I think I am seeing one toward snakes… which makes me happy.  Why?  Well maybe I’m strange (or worked too many years at the zoo), but I think they are beautiful.  Plus, it *is* the Chinese year of the Snake.  And I was born in the year of the snake… maybe that has something to do with my fascination. 

At any rate, it’s very fitting that they should be featured in jewelry and decorative goods.  Back in the turn of the century, the Art Nouveau movement captured them to great effect in staircase railings, necklaces, rings, tiaras, chandeliers, light fixtures, etc.  But what I find so interesting is just how far back our fascination with snakes has gone.  Of course there were the regal cobras featured in the headdresses of the pharoahs of Egypt, but the trend for snakes of all backgrounds and species existed even throughout the early and middle ages, from the heydays of the Greeks and Romans on through the dark ages.  Found in tombs and sacred sites all over Britain and the north countries were fairly large numbers of arm circlets, neck torques, and finger rings making reference to that particular reptile.  

In fact, much like my friend in the yard, snakes really never went away. They just slithered somewhere and hid out for a bit, until another civilization picked up on their simple, graphic beauty. 

These simple snake rings from Etsy are lovely. 

snake crossover ring etsy

The Celts were known well for the cladaugh design of the heart and hands, but did you know about the much more ancient symbol of the orobouros?  This ring design was found in many tombs across the pictish areas of what is now Norway, Finland, Scotland and Ireland.  The rings are being reinterpreted by modern jewelry artists in the same spirit.  Just look at this design; graphic and simple and kind of creepy.  But beautiful.

snake ring silver

Wow.

And this is why we love succulents…

…they come in all sizes, shapes, and forms.  Oh, the forms!  How can one doubt that whether by creation or evolution, the cosmic forces were having a good laugh when they came up with these:

penis crop large

…and you say, “But Chris, get your mind out of the gutter.  Clearly they resemble pickles.”  To which I say, “There’s only one kind of pickle these resemble, and Vlasic does not make them.”  I’m just saying.  Hiariously, along with the vertical part there were also two rather bulbous parts growing in almost all of these pots (you can find them now at Redenta’s on Skillman).  With spikes.  Long, scary spikes emerging from them.  As much as I wanted to include them in one of my pots for mother’s day, the spikes did deter my enthusiasm.  I know mom would have laughed, so that’s enough for me.  Would you like to see a closeup of these?  Of course you would. 

penis crop2

Wow, I bet you’re thinking, ‘that’s huge, get that out of my face!’  But just try to look away, I dare you.  It’s like a trainwreck.

And for those of you who might be actually wondering what they are called, I must say I am going to have to make a return trip to find out… I was too busy laughing the first time around.  Enjoy the spring,  Chris

 

The Head and the Hand… or

…..a succulent in the hand is worth two in the bush?  Either way, there’s been more movement in the blogosphere about concrete anatomy parts that it bears my saying something, or at least sharing some pretty pictures.  For instance, these amazing hand molds are actually quite simple to make, or so they say, using surgical gloves as molds in which to stuff your hypertufa mush solution.  Am wondering if they are hard to peel off between the fingers?  At any rate, you just KNOW I am going to be trying this at my first opportunity:  (the first picture was reproduced from a great site called drought-smart-plants.com.  Lots of neat advice and commentary there.

hand planters

hand with succulents

I have received a few requests now to try and make lifesize adult human head molds, but lack the ability to mix this much concrete in one go, nor also to make a big enough mold in one pour.  So it remains on my bucket list of  crafts.  Till that magic day when Steve and I rent a concrete truck, I’d say that folks who really want these will do well to do a general search for ‘concrete head planters.’  Here is what I found using that phrase:

Does-anyone-know-to-make-concrete-or-like-material

Those are some craaaaazy updo’s, ladies!  Love the red one especially! 

Still and all, my world of hypertufa is kind of focused on the affordable small, gift-able plant in a container that will easily fit on a kitchen windowsill.  I was tickled last week in fact to hear one smart-ass young man come up to our booth at White Rock Local Market, carefully peruse our wares (while still wearing his giant 1970’s rock star sunglasses) and proclaim, “gee, these are nice, but I just don’t think they are SMALL enough!”  I laughed and laughed.  That was a kid to my own heart.  Snarky but sincere.

And to sign off, let’s take a quick visit beyond the head and go to the other parts of the human anatomy, like hands, feet, etc.  As immortalized by some fast-food chicken ad campaign once a few years back, “Parts is parts!”    Right?  Nuf said.

baby parts

Why are babies so creepy?

They are supposedly so cute and cuddly, so why do faux babies (otherwise known as dolls) creep us out so much?  I blame the movie industry for jading us.  Then again, I wasn’t ever a fan of the dolls even as a young girl.  They seemed very limited in the amount of creative play one could get out of them.  Now give me some wooden blocks, some Leggos, and a chunck of PlayDoh and it’s game on!

pudge baby succulent 3.4 view

Nevertheless, to quell the growing interest in them as planters and objects of interest around the house, I have created a second baby doll concrete head for you to consider.  We’ll have a few at our next show (Lakewood White Rock Local, April 6) but you can order them here https://www.etsy.com/listing/128116354/concrete-hypertufa-baby-head-planter-tea and prepay and I can either deliver or mail them to you. (there is a charge to mail)  The ones you buy online won’t have any plants, but you can request a metal floral frog or a tealight candle at no extra charge.  Tillandsia will soon be on offer (air plants) but these can also be potted up with small succulents or cactus, like this guy.  Love the side view; looks like he’s rocking a faux-hawk.  What a cool kid.  pudge baby and silver bowl

pudge baby faux hawk side view

It’s the Glamorous Life for Us at Concrete Notions!

….and to celebrate what all the omens point to a great year for us Fish peeps, we’ve decided to rename our venture Concrete Notions!  It’s official too, and Chris cannot change her mind.  Why?  Because Steve already crafted this very cool metal table signage with the intials “CN” during one of his recent metal working classes.  Neat!

CN logo with bromeliad

We’re busy as beavers (cold beavers) crafting new pots back in the super-chic, uber-neat workshop.  This is the workshop:  our neighbors who get to enjoy this view could not be more pleased, we’re sure… Yeah, that’s a picnic table and a box full of what looks from this distance like garbage…. but look closer and you’ll see solid gold!  Golden resin, that is.  These are some new molds created using two-part rubber mix poured around custom-crafted models.  We’ve got some cool new pots coming out of these molds  Did we mention that?!  Oh yeah, well that’s the whole point of this exercise.

outdoor viewoutdoor table

There is even a new baby head, a bit fatter in the jowls and more cartoon-y that the previous baby, who was delicate and sweet in her features.  She’ll still be on the menu however.  Had to make another mold for her however, since her old mold gave out the ghost.  We’ve had to change the type of resin we were using for the molds – apparently concrete is very tough on silicone rubber and dries it out. 

outdoor potting tableAnd this is where all the magic happens… the potting table.  Isn’t it super glamorous, just like you imagined it?  Just exactly like Martha Stewart, if she didn’t employ a cast of hundreds to do all her work for her.  Anyway, you can see some of the new pots waiting to be matched with their perfect ‘forever partner plant.’  Awww.  That’s really the most fun part of the process. There is an artistic aspect to considering color, form, dimension, and scale that seems to be what will make our creations different from anything else.  Not always better, just different. 

Here’s a happy little family of freaks waiting to be picked up by someone just like you!  See how they are all very different, and yet sort of maintain a sense of like-a-tude?  That’s like a real family.  There’s always the good one, the trouble maker, the silly one, the troubadour… the one that ran away in a VW van and surfed all summer… I think it’s easy to see which one that one was (to the left, with the crazy surf hair). 
CN Family plants

Come see us this weekend at White Rock Local Market at the Green Spot!  It might be cool so bring your fleece and mittens.  See ya then! – Steve and Chris

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Ethics in Design: when is it okay to ‘go there’?

pyramid time capsule

For some reason lately, I’ve become more concerned about stuff I’ve been seeing in the places and spaces I like to go for inspiration, joy, revival, and solace.  Many of these show up in the form of shops on Etsy, or in other blogs, in stores and indeed all media. 

Lately I’ve noticed an uptick in the use of natural items in some of my favorite designers’ work.  This intrigues me, because I really do find myself attracted to the look of nature within art;  whether encapsulated in a glass paperweight, stored forever in resin, or stuck ‘part time’ into a rock or shell. Here is a nice example: tillandsia urchins three

So, you say, “what’s your problem?” Welllll, this example is great, because air plants (tillandsia) don’t have a problem living in a cramped environment. None at all. And the designer left these free to be removed so they can be properly bathed in water once a week, which is what they need. The sea urchin might have died and fed a hungry Japanese family; or so I have to hope. This could have all ended well. But there are some much less clear cut examples, where my ethics antlers start to quiver.
Like this one; the butterfly wings used for this project are from an unknown source.

butterfly wing in tube

When we buy butterfly or other insect parts from suppliers online, we are often told they were ‘collected naturally’ from the forest floor. Friends and neighbors, I spent a year volunteering at a butterfly house in Dallas.  Butterflies died everyday there (that’s about their lifespan actually; one day…let’s give them some respect) and yes, I’ll admit to sneaking around behind the bushes and picking up a number of gorgeous wings.  But by the time they died, they had lost much of the luster and brightness we associate with them.  They were literally faded, just like humans.  The truth is, when we buy living creatures on the net, we run the risk of being duped (best case scenario) or even downright defrauded (worst case), in which the animals were removed from native habitats, poached, slaughtered, and are now adorning our jewelry or clothes, leaving a gap in the forest that another species will be hardpressed to fill.  Yes, sometimes they are ‘farmed’ for these purposes, and as such put some much needed cash in the pockets of the small time farmers in south America, Africa, Polynesia, India, etc.  But I wonder if the carnage is worth it?  And when we complicate the equasion with bird feathers taken from Parrots?!  Yes, that makes me downright pissed off.  Almost all parrots are known to be endangered in most countries.  Plus, on top of being nature’s best advertisement for beauty and a rival to any Pantone color swatch combo, are some of the most intelligent, fast, noble, loyal, and longest lived species of birds on the planet.  Can’t we offer them more respect and be content to enjoy them in the wild, or even in zoos? 

If you go back to the top picture for a second, I’ll tell you a short story.  This gizmo I made by soldering triangular glass bezels together holds what I called a time capsule of our lives (Steve and I) when we were living on Daytonia in Little Forest Hills. When we first moved in, we dug around alot in the soil, planting roses, lilies (what, you say.. in Dallas?!  Fools!), hyacinth bean vine, trumpet vine, and any number of things that mostly died soon thereafter.  But we dislodged some fun stuff too, like a chunk of old bottle glass from Dr. Pepper, circa 60’s, when the logo looked like this.  And a wasp nest.  And a tiny brown speckled egg casing (assuming the baby bird got out alive!), among other stuff… but my favorite piece in here is the feather from a roseate spoonbill.  It represents one of my favorite jobs over the years;  those beautiful orangey pinky red and white birds were housed just over the creek from my office.  One day at lunch over in Bird Valley (as it was called) I spotted a flash of pink outside the cage caught in a bush and picked it up.  That little dude is now forever captured in my time capsule.  I would like to think all feathers were collected that way; passively, purposefully, and lovingly. But as this next photo attests:  such is obviously not the case.  What do we say?  How should we react?  Crafters must stick together and support each other.  But should Etsy and other merchant/suppliers have a policy in place to help protect species, even if they are not considered strictly illegal to buy and sell?   Just maybe un-ethical….

butterfly and beetle wings