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Souvenirs From the Beach

I am home from Maine, unpacking my suitcase (only to pack it again for this week's trip to Chicago and the CREATE retreat, but that's another story).  And since I'm unpacking, I figured I'd share what I brought home from my week on the beach.  It's not what you think, nary a seashell nor a rock.  Nothing stolen from nature.  I made four purchases while in Maine, and they happen to all be artist-made goods.

We saw the signs for an art show as we drove along the ocean, and decided to stop.  Two things happened at the 56th Annual Kennebunk River Club Art Exhibit: (1) I stood mere inches from Laura Bush, and (2) I fell in love with the frame around this cute little bird.

The artist's name is Claudia Hopf and I chatted with her and she told me that her art is a family affair.  She draws the images.  Her son then cuts out all the images.  She then paints them and mounts them on black paper.  Finally her husband makes the gorgeous frames.  I love the way it almost looks like the decoration on the frame could be in the grain of the wood rather than painted.

Claudia doesn't seem to have a website, but I did find this bio for her and she has written two books on Papercutting or Scherenshnitte: Papercutting Pattern Book and Papercutting: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Learning the Craft.

I went searching for more info on her husband Caroll Hopf, because I just loved all the frames he made more than I can possibly express.  But I could find very little about him.  Alas.

My next purchase was also spotted from the car.  We drove past a little shop and I cried out, "Oh My God!  Did you see that bag?"  Hanging outside of Benoits Portside was the most glorious bag.  We couldn't stop then, but later I dragged my Mom back to the store and once I put it on my shoulder I knew it was coming home with me.  The bag reminded me of the beautiful handicrafts I had seen in Thailand many many years ago.  

The bag is huge by the way.  It looks kind of dainty in this photo, but it's covering almost the entire top of that dresser.

We chatted with the store owner and he pointed us toward the maker of the bag: JADETribe. According to their website JADETribe was started by Kimberly Hartman.  She had worked in the fashion industry for a long time and...

"It was when she was standing in a rural village in Laos watching the women dye and weave these truly remarkable textiles, it all came together for her, the love of travel, the love of fashion and the love of people. She realized she could do everything she loved and in the process, help these women by buying their textiles directly from them for a fair price. And then help other women by hiring them at a fair wage to sew these handmade textiles into some really fierce bags, which in turn helps women with boring handbags everywhere.

A little bit beach-y, a little bit bohemian jet set, and 100 percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe is the true embodiment of fashion with a conscience. Whether it’s the handbag repurposed from hand embroidered baby carrier cloths, the hand braided jewelry that jingles or the organically dyed, hand loomed textiles, each element of JADEtribe carries a piece of Kimberly’s heart and the hearts of the women whose lives have improved by making it."

I exchanged tweets with Kimberly (including a photo of my bag) and she tweeted back at me: "...[T]he Brigitte bag you purchased is from a one of a kind handmade baby carrier textile from South China, enjoy!!!"  Pretty cool to know that information, isn't it?

I love gallery-type stores that gather a bunch of interesting handmade goodies from artists to sell them and my third purchase was made at such a place.  We spent a very long time in Abacus in Kennebunkport, poking through the jewelry and all the fun eye candy.  After trying on earrings and debating the merits of some of the pottery, I ended up with a pair of fingerless gloves by a company called baabaazuzu

According to baabaazuzu's website Sue Burns' husband accidentally shrunk some of her favorite sweaters.  So she made the best of a bad situation and stitched the shrunken sweaters into some jackets and hats for her kids.  People loved them!  So she decided to start a company.  And with lots of hard work and a great idea the business really took off!

"Today, Sue employs 20 people within her production facility and outsources most of the sewing side of the process, utilizing the skills of home school moms in her area of northern Michigan, as well as those of seamstresses who were left out of a job after a local body armor manufacturer went out of business.

In 2008, baabaazuzu was recognized as a Michigan 50 Company to Watch and in 2009, the company hit a major turning point when it achieved over $1 million in sales....

....Just like snowflakes, no two pieces of baabaazuzu are ever alike. Each is lovingly handcrafted of 100% vintage wool, reclaimed and transformed into a beautiful and oh-so-cozy wearable. Every piece is an inspired original. Just like the person who wears it."

Isn't that a great story?  And I love that the company uses neglected sweaters that are headed for a landfill to make their fabulous clothes, bags, hats, and gloves!

For my final purchase we were heading to Ben&Jerry's for ice cream, but ended up wandering into Minka instead.  What a darling little boutique filled with treasures!  Christopher was behind the counter and he was lovely and kind.  He and his wife, Michelle, own Minka.  He makes the art they sell and she makes the jewelry, skin care items, and planters.  According to their website:

"Owners Michelle and Christopher Larochelle use natural, sustainable and renewable products when possible and support local vendors and suppliers. All products, accessories and art is geared toward healing the mind, body and spirit.

minka: Translated directly from the Japanese, minka means 'peoples' house.' Minka are built with local materials and techniques, and are perfectly suited to the local climate and traditional lifestyles. Minka are well-known in Japan as both works of art and as masterpieces of traditional engineering and craftsmanship."

I bought two pairs of Michelle's beautiful earrings:

Not only do I love all of my purchases, but I feel so glad to have supported a variety of artists in my purchasing!  Making a living selling things that you make isn't an easy path.  I'm so pleased to be able to share a few success stories with you today!  And I hope that you feel as inspired as I do by their success, their drive, their commitment, and their artistry.

Thanks for stopping by!