Celebrating Womanhood–UWIB April Blog Hop

I have been thinking a lot lately about about womanhood–how to interpret it and what it means to me. In about a month I will be entering a new kind of life as a woman. My first baby is due on May 27 and from his birth forward I will be not only a woman, but also a mother. Having spent two years in a PhD program in Women’s Studies, I am wary of essentialist definitions of womanhood, and particularly any definition of Woman that revolves around her role as a mother. Yet I agree with Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, that “birth is a women’s issue, birth is a power issue; therefore birth is a feminist issue” (page 8). Yet it is an issue that American feminists have largely ignored. I am fortunate to live in a place with multiple options for birth and prenatal care, to be able to work with midwives who celebrate womanhood by trusting  women’s bodies to be strong enough to birth babies without unnecessary medical intervention, and trusting women’s brains to be smart enough to decide which medical interventions are necessary for her.

And while I’ve been ruminating over the political implications of my transformations–both the physical transformations of pregnancy, and the social transformation of motherhood–I’ve been getting back into some of my non-millinery related art practices to help me celebrate my womanhood:

Pregnancy, by Celeste Bocchicchio-Chaudhri

This was a spontaneous self-portrait painted in acrylics on handmade paper left over from making my wedding invitations.

For more musings on Celebrating Womanhood, be sure to check out the other participants in the April Unique Women in Business Blog Hop!

Rita Wetzel: www.RitasCreativeNest.com
Audrey Fetterhoff: www.AudreyGardenLady.blogspot.com
Linda Stranger: www.capecodjewel.blogspot.com
Judy Woodley: www.WellspringCreations.blogspot.com
Janet Bocciardi: http://honeyfromthebee.com
Ann Rinkenberger: www.harvestmoonbyhand.blogspot.com
Celeste Bocchicchio-Chaudhri: www.ElephunksTrunk.blogspot.com
Wendy Kelly: http://blog.vintageday.com
Cory Trusty: www.aquarianbath.blogspot.com
Karen Terry/McDuffie: www.jmjcreations.blogspot.com


Weekly Wishlist–Mother Earth

Earth Day is right around the corner, so today I’m browsing wonderful eco-friendly and recycled handmade goodies. While there is a whole world of brand new, sparkly craft supplies out there (and I confess I have very little will power in craft stores), these wonderful artists have created their treasures from what others might mistake for trash.

Reclaimed wood MP3 player stand by fromMarz

This fun dragster style MP3 player stand is made entirely of reclaimed wood scraps. This stand is also great for cell phones or for holding business cards. James of fromMarz rescues discarded fence wood before it can make it to a landfill and uses it for all his woodworking projects. Scraps from larger projects become small treasures like this one.

Recycled paper earrings by shearmoresheep

Once upon a time  the paper in these earrings made up the pictures and pages of National Geographic and Time magazine. Monica of shearmoresheep preserves the beauty of the paper in these gorgeous swirly earrings. Her packaging is also made from recycled materials so her customers can be sure of an eco-friendly shopping experience.

Eco-Ninja Plushie by EcoWeaver

And if you don’t do your best to conserve our resources, you might just find this Eco-Ninja standing over your bed. Except you won’t find him there, because he’s a Ninja, and you’ll never see him coming. This delightful plushie is made from Eco-felt, a fun new form of felt made from recycled plastic bottles. Trinity of ecoweaver sources all of her beads and embellishments from fair trade sources, seeking to have a positive impact on the world.

For more Earth Day finds, check out my “Love your Mother” Treasury:

Fabric Origami–an experiment

Ever since I started my peace crane line of hair accessories, people have asked me if I have plans to make origami cranes out of fabric instead of paper. After all, common wisdom says that fabric is more durable than paper, especially if unexpectedly caught in the rain. This is, generally speaking, true. The problem is, when you try to make a paper crane out of a square of fabric,  you get something that looks like this:

It looks kind of…..flaccid. Fabric just doesn’t do crisp folds the way paper does, even when the creases are ironed. Unless, of course, you can stiffen the fabric so that it has the feel of paper. So I hunted around the internet for options to stiffen fabric. I tried one home-made recipe: equal parts water and white glue, and one “professional” version: gelatin millinery stiffener (the stuff I use when blocking hats). Both made much nicer cranes:

glue and water stiffener
Gelatin hat stiffener

However, neither solved the initial problem. I put the stiffened fabric cranes, along with a paper crane, in the bathtub and ran the shower on them to simulate a rain storm. Because both glue and gelatin are water soluble, the shower caused the stiffener to unstiffen.

glue and water


When the cranes dried, they restiffened and I am sure the careful application of an iron would have them looking great again. But I don’t want you to have to iron your cranes every time they get wet!  The paper crane, on the other hand, held up surprisingly well:

There are some commercially available fabric stiffeners that claim to be water resistant. I’ll try those next.

Weekly Wishlist–Is it Spring yet?

This time last  year I was still living in sunny Hotlanta, wearing tank tops and skirts and walking barefoot in my backyard. This year, in Boston spring is creeping up a bit more tenuously. A few days ago I was out in a skirt and no jacket. This weekend we are supposed to get a frost. So in an effort to entice spring to get a tighter grip on New England, I offer you some dreamy handmade spring picks:

Spring Dress by Pinkmouse

Things like this beautiful spring dress from Pinkmouse make me not-so-secretly wish I was having a little girl. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally excited about the upcoming birth of my son, but there just isn’t as much awesome stuff for little boys on etsy as there is for little girls. I love the bright green skirt on this dress, and the billowing sleeves. Come to think of it, maybe I should just see if she could make one in my size!

Gabon Ebony Hairstick by Grah-Toe Studio

I keep thinking about getting my hair cut, and then changing my mind at the last minute.Things like this beautiful calla lily hair stick from Grah-Toe Studio call out to me, and then I want to grow my hair out even longer so I can wear them. I adore lilies of all sorts, and calla lilies are particularly sensual. I can’t imagine anything more springy then sitting on my back porch, reading a book, with one of these tucked into my hair.

Flowers in Blue from Artbygeorgia

A few years ago I bought my mother some paintings by Georgia Pistolis for mother’s day (or was it her birthday? I don’t remember) and I have wanted to get some for myself ever since. I love the simplicity of this watercolor painting. Georgia captures the image of these flowers beautifully, without getting mired in the details. The colors are bright and vibrant. What better for spring than some lovely flowers?

New product line–Peace hats and hair accessories

I’ve been folding origami paper cranes on and off since I was in elementary school. Cranes are the first origami I learned to do, and pretty much the only one I ever remember. Sometimes I make them out of napkins at restaurants, bits of receipts, anything I can get my hands on. I like to keep my hands busy.

Long thought to grant wishes, origami cranes became associated with peace after twelve-year-old Sadako Sasaki tried to stave of her own death from leukemia by folding 1000 paper cranes. She had been two years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, about a mile from her home. 

About a year ago, I put one on a cocktail hat in my shop. I liked that hat, and have always intended to make more like it. This week I decided to start an entire line of hats and hair accessories featuring paper cranes. I started by folding a bunch of cranes.

I spent the rest of yesterday wrapping metal hair combs in ribbons and gluing the cranes to the combs. The first Peace Crane hair comb is now available in my etsy shop:

I will be adding the rest of the hair combs, as well as some fancier hats over the course of the week.

Eventually I would like to donate some of the proceeds from the sale of the Peace Line to an organization working for peace in the world. However, since it is against Etsy TOU to publicly state that proceeds go to charity unless the seller has contacted the organization and received permission, I want to wait and see how well these sell. I don’t want to contact an organization, receive permission to publicly announce that I am donating to them, and then end up raising a whopping $5.00 or something. Should the line take off, I will keep you posted on what organization I will be donating to.

Sarah Baartman

Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a BiographySara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography by Clifton Crais

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus is a book as much about the impossibility of uncovering historical truth as it is the story of a Khoekhoe woman brought from South Africa to Europe in the 1800s. While Crais and Scully do uncover much that was previously unknown about Sara Baartman–the task they ostensibly set out to do–they also discovered the myriad ways in which persona, myth, performance, and politics shade into each other.

View all my reviews

Work in Progress–Ancient Greek Inspiration

I draw the inspiration for my hats from all sorts of places, but I find historical head wear to be one of the richest sources of ideas. I would like, at some point, to start making historically accurate reproductions. Right now, however, I am enjoying taking inspiration from historical fashions and making something entirely new.

Currently I am working on a hat inspired by head pieces worn by women in Ancient Greece, like this one:

 I imagine from this picture that this is more like a head band or a bandana than a hat with a firm structure, and I have experimented with the style in that form for my personal collection. You can see me wearing in this picture of my enormously pregnant belly:

I thought it would be interesting to make a similar design with a buckram and wire interior structure. The end result will probably not look Greek at all, but that is fine by me. So far I have completed the buckram base. I plan to cover it with brocade fabric and millinery flowers.