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Buy Once, Buy Well II

I have been coveting this amazing lumbar pillow from The Citizenry.  If you don't know about them, hop on over and take a look.  Not only do they carry amazing hand made goods from around the world, but they have a business model even The Pope would approve of.  (Disclaimer - I claim no religion, just really digging that guy right now.)  In their words "Country by country, we partner with master artisans, blending our modern style with their time-tested techniques...With fair trade standards, our artisan partners are given the best prices for their skills."  The lumbar pillow is fairly priced at $195.  It is handwoven from naturally dyed sheep wool and takes 3 days to make by a fair trade cooperative of Zapotec women in Oaxaca.  3 days!!  Totally worth it, right?

the citizenry

Then today, I fall down the rabbit hole that is Instagram - and I find this pillow...

urban outfitters

...from Urban Outfitters.  For only $69.  "Imported."  Which at first I was pretty excited about.  But then a return to our Ethos:  Buy Once, Buy Well.  I feel like we should also tack on Buy With Purpose.  The purpose in this case being to employ people who have honed their craft over generations and produce a spectacular product.  People who produce with care and love and deserved to get paid for a job bloody well done!  So I'm saving my coins and waiting to buy the amazing hand made lumbar pillow from The Citizenry.  And when I finally get it, I will love that pillow and I will feel good about my purchase.  More than a "oh wow!  That pillow looks amazing" way.  In that way you feel when someone makes you a cake from scratch, or knits you a scarf.  Or the way you feel when you have waited for something for so long and it's finally yours and worth every second of the wait.  Wouldn't it be great if every purchase felt like that?  Yep.  I'm pretty sure The Pope would agree.

In this 1966 photo released by the El Salvador School, Argentine seminarian Jorge Mario Bergoglio smiles for a portrait at the El Salvador school where he taught literature and psychology in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio was elected pope on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, making him the first pope ever from the Americas.  Bergoglio, who was born in 1936, chose the name Pope Francis. (AP Photo/El Salvador School)

xoxo

e·thos

e·thos

noun
  1. the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.
    synonyms: spirit, character, atmosphere, climate, mood, feeling, essence.

 

Buy Once, Buy Well.  This ethos is the backbone of everything we make and everything we are drawn to at Pennyroyal.  We celebrate craftsmanship.  We love hand made.  For me, personally, I would rather spend my money on one really lovely, well made, classic item than on a bunch of cheap goods I am only going to use or love for a minute or two.  Slow Fashion, my friends.

So, in that spirit, a series of blog posts on my favorite hand made, well made, Buy Once, Buy Well goods.

The Chiapas Net Bag

I found these lovely hand woven bags in Tulum on our last trip there.  They are traditional carrying bags from the highland Maya of Chiapas.

 

pennyroyal design netting bag

The fiber for these bags is from the Maguey plant - a member of the agave family.  The process is long and labor intensive and done entirely by hand.  The fibers are stripped from the plant using a machete and then rolled between the thigh and the palm of the hand and little by little, more is added to the length forming a tightly twisted cord.  The finished cord is netted into a super strong, expandable bag.  Each bag takes 3 months to make.  3 months!  They should cost a million dollars.  The ones I have are made using a smoked fiber, which gives it its lovely brown color and a slight smoky sent.

 

beautiful hands weaving

IMG_5063

I use mine in combination with my Market Tote for the perfect non-disposable shopping bag combination.

pennyroyal design shopping bags

 

I hunted down a couple sources for these bags.  The General Store, and Beatrice Valensuela.

Until next time,

xoxo

Road trip!

Road trip!

You have to say that like a frat boy.  Loud and with glee.

Every year we take a trip to somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  This year we decided on Idaho and Montana.  The yearly trips are mandatory.  We need to get out and be surrounded by nature.  Surrounded by silence.  It hits the recharge button and makes us whole again.  It helps remind of us of what is important.  We get so caught up in the minutia of our daily lives that sometimes we forget to look at each other and say "hello."  Which is just what we were able to do while we were away.  I got to cuddle with the kids - now 15 and 11! - in the back of the car for hours while we toured Yellowstone.  Their heads heavy with sleep on my shoulders and their minds quiet with the vastness outside the windows.

  I am 100% sure I need a house there.  A small old farm house on lots of acres with a creek and horses.  And my lovely little family.

xoxo

Yellowstone 2

Yellowstone

hiking in Montana

 

Yellowstone 4

MIA Project and Remodelista LA Market

Remodelista LA Market The MIA Project has been asked to attend the Los Angeles Remoldelista holiday market - and MIA was kind enough to ask me to make some bags for the show.  And naturally, I said "oh my goodness, YES!!!"  So if you are anywhere near LA on December 6th, do stop on by and take a peek at all the amazing artisans.  You can find all the information here.

New "about" page and other goodness.

I have updated my "about" page.  I had enough people ask me about myself to feel the need to actually write it down. You can also now find Pennyroyal Design bags at Mill Valley Mercantile in Mill Valley, and Virginia Carol in Healdsburg.  I am so incredibly happy have such amazing shops carry my bags it kind of blows me away.

I also wanted to introduce you to my favorite market bag combination.  With the plastic bag ban in Sonoma County just around the corner, it seemed like a good time to get together a stylish and functional way to get all your goods home.  I get a lot of compliments on my market bag combination!  It includes the Pennyroyal Design market tote, an Ambatalia furoshiki for all my soft fruit and veggies, and a hand crocheted and naturally dyed bag from Enhabiten that I added a leather strap to.  I plan on carrying the complete set in my shop soon.

favorite market bag comboEnjoy your weekend.  Get out side with someone you love and give them a big cuddle!

xoxo

A peek inside the studio.

I am a very lucky woman.  Not only do I have an amazing best friend, she also happens to be an incredible photographer.  She came over to my studio this week and took some studio shots and portraits.  Here is a little peek inside my work world.  My studio is not spotless.  It's not even tidy most of the time.  It's the old fireplace room in our home in Penngrove.  In this little space I make things I love.  And my little business is growing.  Biiiiiig smile. The photographer's name is Debbie Wilson.  You can see some of her work here.

xoxo

 

studio portrait 9

spool

studio 6

work

good chair

studio portrait 3

studio 2

thread

my favorite spot

 

beautiful paintings

I used to keep these two beautiful little paintings as part of my display at Ethical Clothing in Petaluma.  People kept asking to purchase them and I finally took them down because I was afraid someone was going to pinch them.  I love their sweetness and authenticity.  And they just plain make me happy.  Which is why, I suppose, everyone is drawn to them.  I asked the artist if she wouldn't be kind enough to paint some more that I could put in my little shop - and she did!  Her name is Phoebe Brookes.  I think she is an amazing artist.  And I am biased, because she is also my beautiful sister.  Here is a sample of what is available here.

Until next time...xoxostill life with roses

English countryside number 2

Blenheim Palace number 1

still life

Keep it together!

This is my new mantra.  "I just have to keep it together."  As in, I just have to not loose my mind, not freak out, and not throw in the proverbial towel.  Keep it together. I said this to my husband on Friday.  Things are moving along.  I just have to keep it together.  And then Saturday, I lost my mind.  I totally, completely, 100% freaked the hell out.  Over what?  Business.  Money.  The usual.  But for some reason, on that day it all felt like too much.  Like maybe this little company of mine could not make it.  Or more accurately, I could not make it.  Like maybe I had made one too many mistakes to rebound from, and the stress was so great that I couldn't take it anymore.  "Throw in the towel" actually came out of my mouth.  But worse than uttering those words (gasp!), I believed it.  So I sobbed.  And sobbed.  And sobbed.

Then I called Siri Hansdotter.  Who is an amazingly talented woman who makes beautiful things.  And I respect her as a business woman.  She screwed my head back on straight.  Her advice:  Sometimes things suck.  And you go through it, and you keep swinging the axe.  Just keep moving.  Clean your studio.  Clean the windows and let the sunlight it.  So I did.  At times like that I think it is best to take the advice that is offered to me.  Because clearly, I can be my own worst enemy and I can get myself into such a state that I can not think my way out of a paper bag.

Like all the important things in life, sometimes they suck.  Period.  But you keep moving forward.  Because, really, what is the alternative?  Give up?  Oh no.  We can't do that.  Go to bed?  Well, maybe for a while.  Call our friends and get back on track?  Yes.  Best move.

Today, I am back on track.  And as an added bonus, I found out my lovely bags will be sold in two oh-so-beautiful stores.  Both Souchi stores.  One in Aspen and the other, Lincoln Park, Chicago.  So that is a pretty big reward for "keeping it together."

out in the air

Letting some sunlight in.

Birthdays, birthday cakes and careers.

Yesterday was my youngest's 10th birthday.  And I love him so much my heart aches.  Looking at him now, all big and big and bigger, I see how quickly time passes. Before I had my daughter, I had a career.  One I loved.  One I was so good at, it was like I was born to do it.  But once she was born, I wanted to stay home more.  I wanted to work part-time.  But my career was not set up like that, so I hired an amazing nanny and all in all, I was MOSTLY happy with the set up.  Then came Rowan.  And I couldn't do it.  I couldn't miss out anymore.  So I quit.  I quit my job, left my career.  Let it all go to embark on the wild adventures of stay at home motherhood.  Which for years was fantastic.  Those first years were the cake years.

I used to make cakes.  Birthday cakes.  Big ones.  There was a castle sitting on a hill, both carved entirely out of cake, a beautiful heart shaped cake covered with roses from the garden, a fireman cake decorated with bright orange and red flames, a construction site cake complete with a little wooded bulldozer and a steam shovel moving around a mound of "dirt" made from icing and coco powder.  None of them tasted very good because really, I am not a baker.  But they were fantastic.  And then, things changed.

At some point, all those wonderful things I used to do for and with my children began to feel like chores.   Giving all my time and energy to two little people began to take its toll.  I was drained.  I was cranky more often than not.  And I began to hate baking cakes.  I continued to do it because I felt like I had to, but I just pushed though the process putting more resentment and irritation into those cakes than love.  And what I realize now, looking back, is that I needed a career again.

Which leads to my business now.  Again, I have a job I love.  At the end of the day when I think about it, I am satisfied and I can curl up and fall asleep happy and content.  However, it also takes so much time and so much energy.  And in the background my children are growing up and turning 10.  And I am missing it.  Again.  And again, there is a part of me that wants to stay home and watch my children grow.

Yesterday I took the day off and baked a birthday cake.  I made it with love.  And it was amazing.  I was one hundred percent content.  I didn't feel like I was sacrificing my time.  I felt like I used to in the beginning when the kids were little.  I felt like baking that cake was a privilege.

So the million dollar question is, what happens now?  I am not giving up on my career again.  I don't need to.  My children are older.  More self-sufficient.  However, perhaps I will step back more often and watch my kids.  Be with them without thinking about the orders that need to be in the mail.  Take afternoons off to go to the park again like we did when they were little.  Eat ice cream together.   Just be with them and witness their lives.  And the job, perhaps I will learn to be satisfied with the small amounts I can do in between being a mum.  Perhaps I will learn to be happy with my little company and not feel resentment that I don't have to time to grow it bigger.  And the birthday cakes, well, those are definitely back on the schedule!

 

DSC_0322

not facebook ready.

DSC_0288

My "picture perfect" shell and bead necklace made for me by my son for our overnight trip to Fort Ross.

I have begun the next big step in my business - a business blueprint.  The questionnaire I have been given asks a lot of questions about social media.  One of them being, do I have a weekly social media calendar, and if not, why?

Why?  I'll tell you why.  Because my life is not set up for social media.  I do not spend my days walking through forests collecting wild mushrooms for a picture perfect mushroom pie that I will later share with 6 of the most gorgeous people I know seated around a rustic yet sophisticated table that is set out on a porch decorated with twinkle lights and candles.  No.  That is not my life.  I do not have a well maintained studio with lots of natural light to show off my collection of antique tools-of-my-trade.  I just don't have the life that lends itself well to social media.  My life is messy.

I live in a ranch house that was built in the 70s.  And believe me, I would love it if it were the type of ranch house you are thinking about right now.  It will be...one day.  But as of yet, we don't have base boards.  Our kitchen was remodeled by the previous owner - badly.  Very, very badly.  Our vegetable garden is a mess and probably won't get planted this season.  We live with a gigantic pile of laundry that holds its position on an otherwise beautiful chair in our living room.  Our couch has little tiny greasy finger marks all over it.  That is the truth of my life.   I spend my days driving, and cleaning, and cooking.  And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I work at the job I have waited my entire life to do.  I design.  Beautiful things.  And I make.  Beautiful things.  Those things I photograph and post.  But those moments are just punctuation marks in an otherwise very unkempt existence.

My perfect moments are probably more normal and more tangible to you all than those in Kinfolk - but believe me, I would love to have a life that pretty.  My picture perfect moments are personal.  Listening to my older daughter teaching her brother to cook in the kitchen.  My youngest boy crawling into bed with me in the morning to cuddle - at the age of 9.  Watching my daughter learn to walk through life with confidence and grace.  Laughing at my husband's dry and sometimes inappropriate humor.  These moments can not be photographed.  And if they were, no one would understand the meaning behind them.  They would just be snap shots of my family.  My wonderful, messy family.

So when the question arises, why do I not have an active social media life, I think "why the hell would I?  Who wants to see this mess?"  But perhaps I should be honest.  Post what is real in my life.  After all, I design everything to be used by someone like me.  Someone whose life is far from perfect.  Because in the midst of all the chaos and mess that is life, it is essential that we have at least one beautiful item.  Just for ourselves.  Something that elevates us when we use it.  At least one item that, even when we are far from well-groomed and very far from picture perfect, we can pick up and see that all is not lost.

wabi sabi

"Pared down to its barest essence, wabi sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all.  It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind." On our living room floor lays the most beautiful antique kilim rug.  Its pattern is more intricate than most and the colors are just the right.  My mother gave it to me when she moved to another country and for that reason alone, it has special meaning to me.  We also have this beautiful little dog.  And I love her so much.  When we brought her home from the pound she liked to chew.  A lot.  One night we were watching a movie and in the back ground a small chewing noise began, but it was so subtle and faint that we barely noticed it.  The sound grew louder very slowly.  So slowly, in fact, that it took us all a while to ask what that sound was.  It was my beautiful little dog.  Chewing a rather sizable hole in my beautiful kilim rug.  My first response was to absolutely one hundred percent completely loose my mind.  And scream.  Loudly.  And kick my dog into the cold back yard.  And to yell at her.  A lot.  In the midst of my rage came a moment of clarity.  Like a splash of cool water.  "When your beautiful little dog is gone, you will always remember her when you look at that hole in the rug."  And it is true.  I will.  I will forever look at that as of yet un-mended rug and think of how much I loved my dog.  How I loved her little face and the way she would greet me every morning at the side of my bed putting her front paws up as high as they would go.  Trying so hard to touch me.  And it will be like she is always reminding me that she was here.  Wabi sabi.  Celebrating the cracks and crevices - and in this case, chewed holes - that loving use leaves behind.

The Pennyroyal Market bag is designed with this philosophy in mind.  The leather will patina.  And it will stain.  When your child's sippy cup leaks in the bottom of your bag, it will leave an indelible mark.  But my hope is that by seeing that ring, you will always remember the day in the car with your little ones.  Perhaps it is just my poor memory, but all the little marks left behind bring back floods of memory.  And I fear without all those little marks, I would not remember the tiny sweetness of the everyday.  Because really, at the end of our short crazy lives, it is all the little moments that we breeze through without notice that make up our time here.  They occupy the space in between the big events.  In between birthdays and family dinners are hours of simple daily activities.  And I want to remember them.  I want to remember them all.  But I will settle for the ones that are recorded like so many homework assignments on the dining room table - and since no one can ever seem to remember to put a blotter under their paper, the little letters remain embedded forever in the old wood.  The wood that I will never, ever sand.

 

sippy cup bw

My Market bag.  Emblazoned with the wonderful memory of my last trip to Twain Harte with my kids, my most loved sister and her daughter.  My niece's sippy cup leaked in my bag.  Every time I see the mark, I remember that amazing car ride as we watched the enormous plume of smoke rising into the sky from the Rim Fire.  Pulling over and wondering if we should turn back.  But since we were crazy or careless or just plain desperate for a vacation, we continued on.

New postcards.

ImageImage

 

Two new Pennyroyal postcards.  Painted by the amazingly talented Phoebe Brooks and carried at Ethical Clothing in Petaluma.  They are approximately 5x7 and printed on a beautiful Italian paper with the rough edges that I am so fond of.  They are beautiful enough to hang on your wall!

 

Martha, Martha, Martha!!

As some of you know, I have been nominated for the Martha Stewart American Made awards.

Martha Stewart - American Made 2013 - Nominee Badge

Which is fantastic!!

I am also now a maker for Madesmith.  Which is even more fantastic, because as I have written before, being accepted as one of their makers was my blueprint goal for feeling successful.  I do not have a profile on their home page yet, but believe you me, as soon as it is there you will know.  I will probably remind you over and over and over.  Now I need a new blueprint goal.  But, I digress.

Back to the competition...people can vote 6 times per day.  Either for one maker, or break it up among different makers.  There are 10 makers from our group - I still can't believe I get to say that!!! - that are nominated.  So, here are our profile pages.  I would love it if you would take a look at the pages, see if there is anything you love, and then vote for us.  It would be so amazing to be in the running for the grand prize!!!  Makes my feet tingle to even think about it.  And I get all giddy and start to smile really big.  Like a kid.  Anyway, here are the links:

PENNYROYAL DESIGN
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/79804

SHELTER
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/80320

CANOE
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/82581

SKT Ceramics
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/80768

MFEO
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/83039

SON OF A SAILOR
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/82819

HEDLEY & BENNET
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/81258

CARAVAN PACIFIC
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/81802

MABO CHILDREN'S CLOTHIER
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/82058

FLUX
http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/81438

I will start working on my new blueprint for success soon.  Hmmmmm...any suggestions?

Love,
Jennifer
xoxoxoxoxo

What the hell do I really want???

I know.  It sounds like a mid life crisis.  It is not.  Mid-business-life crisis, maybe. So I have been writing applications to be a maker for this amazing group, Madesmith, and for the Martha Stewart American Made competition.  And sending e-mails to shops in the hopes that someone will actually open an email and like what they see and maybe, just maybe, place an order.  And following up those emails with phone calls.  Or, at least planning on following up those emails with phone calls.  And taking an online class in retail marketing and line sheets.  And looking into Trade Shows in L.A. - strangely, I have been loving L.A. lately - and N.Y. and Las Vegas.  And as I was looking at all the huge trade shows, I began to wonder, is this what I want?  Is this what I am striving for?  What part of all of this feels authentic, for lack of a better word?

I have always believed in writing down what you want.  That way, it focuses you.  Gives you a bullseye, so to speak.  But actually sitting down and pinpointing your exact endpoint with a project is very, very difficult.

I want to be recognized for my design.  Of course.  But how much?  By how many people?  6?  66?  600?  I don't know.  At what point would it feel satisfying.  And of course I want to earn money.  But how much?  Enough for holidays?  Of course.  Enough to send the kids to college?  Of course.  And enough to not sweat the bills?  Of course!  But above that, I don't know.  Should I know?  Should I actually be able to decide now how much money is enough?  And won't I end up spending whatever I make anyway?  Probably.  So I don't think money is a good indicator.  More like chasing your own tail.

So how will I know when I am successful?  Here is my first blue print:

I will feel successful when I have enough orders coming in to keep my small shop of people who sew for me busy year-round (except for 6 weeks mandatory vacation.)  There. That would feel successful.  If I didn't have to check the damn work email all the damn time to see if anything - please, ANYTHING - was happening with my business life.  That would feel successful and amazing because I am so sick of it I could gag.  And, when I didn't feel like I was a beginner at absolutely every facet of my business life.  That would be absolutely more than splendid.  Splendiforous.  All these are great.  But, this week, or month, if I get chosen to be a maker for Madesmith, I would actually feel as if I were moving in the right direction.  You know?  Like I would be validated as a maker and a designer.  Like someone out there, who wasn't my friend, actually thought my goods and my ethics and my hard work were worth something.  Like they were important.  Like my work was worth investing in.  Now that...that would feel like success.  

So there you have it.  My idea of success.  For now.  For today.  This is a working document.  Maybe tomorrow morning I will sit back down with my big cup of tea and write and new draft.  Just for tomorrow.

xoxo

pennyroyal_076_img0288