House Visit - Chelsea Dicksion

Chelsea Dicksion lives with her husband Chris and their young son Coleman in a sweet cabin on the outskirts of Sebastopol, California.  The cabin, hand built in the 1970's sits on a hill among dawn redwoods. Their bedroom on the second floor has windows on three sides of their bed, giving the effect that you're in the trees.  Outside, they have a large sunny plot to garden, with a small studio up the hill they are using for storage that has remnants of the past tenants ceramic tile studio.  I spent a recent spring morning with them in their cozy West County cabin eating Chelsea's warm focattica bread and drinking fresh lemon balm tea. 

How long have you lived in your house?  We've lived in our little cabin since late 2012 when we were farming a one acre piece of land for our small CSA, Furlong Forest Farm. We first moved to Sebastopol and lived in a different house about 5 minutes away from the farm, but we got lucky when the couple who lived here were going to move and we leapt at the chance to rent this sweet cabin surrounded by willows and oak trees. It was a really wonderful 30 second commute to the farm property. We had to let go of our farm dream once our son arrived in the summer of 2015 since farming was no longer something we could manage with a baby and continue to make a living. But, we still live in this sweet space. 

What makes a house a home for you? A house is a home when you love adding the daily details to it such as tidying up a particular corner, or adding a tiny floral and foliage bouquet on a windowsill, or making it smell delicious with fresh bread or a home cooked meal. 

How would you describe your style? I'm not sure if we technically have a "style" to our home since we are renting the space and I never feel the freedom to do what I really want within it. I'd love to hang more art, I'd love to simplify our "stuff", and I'd love to put in more time to our garden spaces. 

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house? My favorite features of our cabin are the inviting red front door, the angular shape of the eaves, and the cozy "sleeping among the trees" feeling in the upstairs bedroom. I also really love our old Wedgewood stove and it's the best I've ever cooked upon. You can see more angles and views of our home on Instagram under the hashtag #ourfrontdoorisred

How has motherhood changed the rhythm of your house? Or new rituals you do? Motherhood has really brought about a slow patience to everything I do in our home. My son and I have, overtime, created a daily rhythm that involves his favorite household chores like vacuuming and cleaning up our messes, we often take a walk down the road, always spend a lot or a little bit of time outdoors in the sun or rain depending on the season with multiple baths depending on how dirty we get, and lots of book reading and some toy play. We also try to do something creative everyday. Our creative time could be something simple like crayon play on paper, chalk outdoors on the back porch, or something more elaborate like watercoloring a collaborative painting, or collecting plant materials for our dye pot for natural dye projects. I also enjoy our recent collaborations in the kitchen through chopping vegetables and adding them to the pot, stirring cake batter or cutting cookies with heart shaped cookie cutters. 

What projects do you have on the horizon? I'm working toward bringing my watercolor back into practice. It's been tough to dedicate much time to focusing on my art since my son was born. Currently, we are collaborating on a 30 day journaling creative practice and my hope is that it breaks my insecurities on perfection and brings on more play in my artwork. With more play and forgiveness on imperfection, I hope to release some new territory within me creatively as a mom artist. I'm also working on an idea to create various nature journals for kids. I have a lot of complicated knowledge on plants that I'd like to simplify for family friendly learning. 

As a plant person, what are the most important things for you to grow?  I absolutely love growing our own garden fruits and vegetables. There's nothing better than going out and picking peas to munch on or cutting a head of lettuce or eating that first tomato. But, my heart lies with growing anything native to where I live. I've always been drawn to the plants that grow nearby, even as a young girl. As a former nursery manager for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, I will always be looking to add natives to my garden, even if I no longer grow them myself. 

What are some of your favorite places to go in West County?  I feel like we definitely need to get out and explore more in West County. We spend so much of our time at home if we aren't in town doing errands. It's a good thing we love our backyard! Some of the places I've loved taking our son have been Bodega Bay, Ragle Park, a secret not- so-secret loop trail in our neighborhood, and any park in Sebastopol. We clearly need to do a bit more exploring in our future! 

Follow Chelsea on Instagram @furlongforestfamily, for more of her artwork @watercolorpaper and @colorsofourown for a community of creative parents.

You can also purchase her watercolors here.

 

Studio Visit - Kimberly Rose

Napa Valley native, Kimberly Rose runs her floral design business from a home-based studio behind a sweet 1930's house in Napa she shares with her husband, David (who also works from home) and their two young sons, Emmett and Marlon.   Recently, I spent a lovely sunny morning in her studio.

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How did you get your start in floral design?  I used to work at a store in San Francisco that would get amazing florals delivered every week and I was so intrigued by them.  Having a background in art, I thought the idea of being able to use my hands to  create sculptural floral designs would be a good fit.  I decided to apply to different floral designers looking for help.  An SF based florist took me on and taught me so much.  I eventually started working for other people around the Bay Area and then eventually created my own business.

How would you describe your style?  Textural, somewhat structured.  I like to try different things to keep things interesting.  I hope that my designs are always evolving.

What is your favorite time of year and what materials do you like to work with during that season?  I love spring.  Flowering branches are so pretty (I love working with branches) and there are so many different varieties of delicate flowers to choose from at that time.

What do you find easiest and hardest about having a home-based studio?  It's great to be able to walk out of my house and right into my studio, no travel time.  Another thing I enjoy, is to be able to take a lunch break with my family and get quick visits from them throughout the day.  I actually love having a home-based studio for the same reason it can be hard.  It can be challenging when my kids/husband come in and visit while I'm working because it can be hard to get things done with the distraction of my family.

How has motherhood changed your approach to design and your business?  I have come to realize that my time is very important to me and where I put that time and energy is important.  I now only take on business/jobs that I really enjoy the look of and have fun making.  Having the opportunity to be creative while supporting my family is such a gift.  I want to make sure I am spending my time doing what I love, otherwise it's not worth it to me.

Some of Kim's artwork in her living room.

what are some of your favorite places to visit in Napa?  We live pretty close to the Oxbow so we end up going there a lot.  They have a lot of affordable good quality food options and can be quick and easy at the same time.  I've also started doing a lot of kid friendly things lately like going to Connelly Ranch to see the animals with my kids or going for walks and to different parks around Napa.

House & Garden Visit - Kathy Hoffman

Kathy Hoffman of Napa, California is truly one of the very best floral designers of all time. Her design ability, aesthetics and attention to detail go far beyond flowers.  She is creative in all facets of her life.  She comes from an incredibly talented family and is a legend in her own right.  Kathy's parents started The French Laundry in Yountville and she worked with them for many years.  After selling the famed restaurant to Thomas Keller, Kathy continued to be the in-house florist up until her retirement this year .  She and her husband, Bill Hoffman, a well-known gardener in Napa Valley are enjoying their house and garden that they have cherished for almost forty years before venturing out for a simpler life in Oregon where they are planning construction on their new house.

How did you get your start in floral design?  When I worked with my family in the restaurant business (mostly at The French Laundry) it fell to me to help my mom make the spaces feel welcoming.  We did that by changing the dining room on a weekly basis, looking to the garden for the week's color palette.  Then we would choose from our linen collection we owned, I would pull containers out and the foraging in the garden would begin.  So I really truly learned from the ground up - didn't know what a flower market was - it had to be growing in The French Laundry garden, my parent's garden next door, my garden or if were were hitting bottom, a neighbor's garden or an empty field.  I did that for sixteen years.  It was an incredible training ground.  Learning day-by-day, making mistakes and hopefully moving forward and learning what not to do the next time.  If I cut something at the wrong stage of growth or in the wrong weather conditions it hurt - we didn't have a lot of extra to waste.  Then when my parents decided to sell and move on to their apple farm project I had to decide to stay in the food and service business or take a leap and start a flower business - by that time you could say I was pretty hooked - it was all about the pleasures of picking, arranging, and transforming a space into something beautiful...

Her parents apple farm project is The Apple Farm in Philo, California now run by Kathy's sister Karen and her family.

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What are your favorite times of year in the garden?  Some of your favorite flowers and plants?  Each season brings its own beauty and certain goodies - I'm always ready for that next change.  Again, it's my mood that decides my favorites - whether I crave a good dose of color, decadence in a full fat bloom, or just beautiful branches and foliages.  In the spring I love white dogwood, ranunculus, gold peonies, floppy open parrot tulips, the first of the late spring fragrant cabbage roses, green hellebores...   Summer it's all about bright flowers with blooming herbs, vegetables and fruit (I love all the endless combinations).  I'm always ready for fall - to ditch all the flowers in favor of beautiful colored leaves - Bradford pear, viburnum, maple, etc. with all the rose hips, berries and acorns I can get my hands on.  It's all about the textures.  Winter brings the pleasure of just enjoying the form of beautiful bare branches against a wall - hazelnut, birch, colored dogwood branches - I crave the simplicity of them in the winter.  But then that branch sits in a warm house in water long enough and those tiny little leaves start to come and I'm ready for spring all over again!!!  I have to admit that spring is my favorite - it's all about the thrill of watching spring come about, leaf by leaf - there's so much promise in that - of new beginnings... All those shades of green just do it for me.  The sheer vitality of it energizes me like no vitamins ever could...

How long have you lived in your house?  Since 1978 - which adds up to an amazing 38 years - hard to believe!

What makes a house a home for you?  I've always been a nester, started as a child with my room - watched my mom who I owe so much of how I walk through life to - as she has always had such a good eye.  Our houses growing up were so personal and lived in.  I've learned from her to fill your house with the things that make you happy - I love color, texture, form, organic things that bring the outside in - and it's got to be in a light filled space.  I get immense pleasure in handling and touching beautiful things in daily life, whether it's a blanket to cuddle in, a special glass to drink from, a spoon that feels good to stir with.  I see no reason to have something just to get the job done when I can have those objects also give me pleasure to handle and look at.  Our house has evolved throughout the years as our tastes and needs changed, our family grew, my business took off. "My stuff" as Bill has labeled it is part of my life - he is stuck with it beacue it is part of who I am.  Nothing makes me happier than making vignettes in the house - stirring up new combinations really just to please my eyes.  It's really all about feeling good in the spaces you live in...

Ceramic faces made by Troyce, the youngest of Kathy's three sons when he was a child. 

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house?  The open, light-filled rooms with a garden view out every window and door.  Our second floor space that we designed just for us with our bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom with my tub to soak in...it feels like a treehouse - it's cozy and spacious at the same time, with the views of the tops of the trees and that different perspective you get from looking down on things.  Outside, my studio is just a few steps away which I love - no commutes to work!  And, of course the garden, which has been a total work in progress as the growth of the trees and shrubs through the years has changed the things I can grow.  Many of the sunny spots have changed over to dappled and deeper shade, but that has given us the privacy and actually made it a fairly easy garden to care for.  So the garden has evolved.  My idea of a favorite day is to put my cell phone aside, escape to the garden and just do whatever calls to me - sometimes there are specific tasks, or I will start something and end up totally immersed in hours later, totally exhausted but in a good way.. It's so satisfying and stress reducing.  Then there are all the sitting areas and spots in the garden I can go to rest and recoup - a hammock, a comfy chair, my book or a snooze... and lastly, our dinner deck "in the woods" that has seen many good times - just the two of us or a rocking table of family and friends - I feel like I've gone somewhere when we eat up there, like time away...

Kathy's studio seen through the side garden.

How would you describe your style?  I go a lot of directions with that, depending on my mood.  I can be very simple and minimalistic, happy with three stems of weeds in a vase against a certain wall or I can crave lots of texture and layers and groups of objects.  My house is full of color, but all mostly in warm tones - they make me happy.  But, I also get in the mood for all layered neutrals and I never tire of all shades of green - its so energizing and calming at the same time.  I thinks that's the fun of it, having no real barriers, I'll see something that stimulates my imagination and I'm off and running.  I've learned through the years to just let it come, trust myself and not overthink it - the best things happen that way!  I had a lot of art training early on in life and in college - that gave me a foundation to build with.  I used to feel a little disappointed with myself that I did not pursue that more, but to tell the truth I now feel that I'm in my best medium - living and organic things are three dimensional with texture, smell etc. - so much better than a painting or drawing.. I can always return to that and I will in my new life in Oregon.  My new surroundings will be great stimulation for being creative in new ways I hope...

What projects do you have on the horizon?  We are just about to start a whole new life with our upcoming move to the southern Oregon property we have owned for 15 years.  To leave California and our life here is a big deal for both of us but it's a leap we have been working toward for awhile now.   It's been such an amazing process, one with so many decisions that constantly make us think and reflect on what makes us feel good in a home.  It's a chance to make a statement on who we are at this point in our lives - this time around fitting it into a new natural landscape so different than what we are coming from.  I have had to come to terms with the fact I'll never have a garden like I've had here for 38 years - but that it's ok, it will be different and a step back to a simpler life.  We are going to work hard at embellishing nature without leaving too much of a stamp on it.  We've been nurturing the forest and meadow for the last 15 years - it's been so satisfying to watch it become stronger, more diverse, wildflowers and native grasses coming back strong, the constant surprises of all of that.  Being custodians of a forest is an amazing new challenge!

House Visit - Mel McCallum

I met Mel and her husband, Jeff on a recent evening at their sweet waterfront home in Vallejo.  Built in 1924, there are plenty of original details with a newer kitchen and bathroom done by Mel and Jeff who is a builder and metal fabricator.  Their two story house is filled with abundant light and touches of collected vintage, family art and furniture made by Jeff.  This industrious couple has made their house feel so loved and lived in with great energy.

Their beautiful Persian rug that Mel snagged second-hand for a great deal.  Cool metal coffee table made by Jeff.

Their dining table made by Jeff is paired with vintage Danish chairs that Mel reupholstered.  Tillandsia and coral decorate the table.  

Sweet Cathrineholm teapot.

One of Mel's beautiful metal wall hangings next to the stairway.

Simple white subway tiles continued from the kitchen into the bathroom.

Mel's studio is a sweet light-filled room at the end of the hall with a view of her growing garden below.  She sells her beautiful metal wall hangings in her online shop, Post Alchemy.

In addition to their two cats, Cali and Marty-Pants, the neighbor's cat is a regular visitor seen here.

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An avid skater, Jeff built a skate ramp in the larger of their two garages.

How long have you lived in your house?  We've lived in our house for almost 6 years.  When we moved here in October 2010 we discovered dozens of pumpkins growing in our new yard.   So, as a way to get to know our neighbors we offered fresh pumpkins to neighbors as they passed by.  We were also struck by our view of the stars from our new neighborhood, which has limited street lighting.  Prior to this house, we lived in an apartment in the Mission District in San Francisco that had a bright view alright, but of a 24-hour grocery store.  This new to us, unencumbered view of the night sky is one thing that inspired me to start making metal moon mobiles.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house?  I am grateful for all of the windows, and the light that pours through them.  We enjoy our views of the water, where the Napa River meets the San Pablo Bay, and the view of Mount Tam.  On a clear day we can see the Golden Gate Bridge.  All of this to say I love all the visual reminders that we are in the Bay Area.  When Jeff and I began house hunting I felt a little ping of anxiety when we drove through neighborhoods that didn't have the immediate sense of place.  I'm also really grateful for our uniquely-shaped corner lot -- there are no houses right next to ours which gives us privacy in an urban area, which allows us to play loud music and skate the ramp without bothering our neighbors.

What are some of the biggest changes you've made to your house?  The biggest changes we've made to the inside of our house all happened in the kitchen.  When we moved here the kitchen was tricked out with a faux green marble linoleum tile floor, matching Formica countertops, a Giant with a capital "G" fridge, and cabinets that had jagged edges where they'd been cut apparently with a chainsaw to make way for the fridge...you get the picture.  We've had a lot of fun modifying the little kitchen ourselves, on a budget, and it's now a room that we enjoy spending time in!  We added eco-friendly cork flooring, modified, painted and moved around existing cabinets, added open shelving, painted the walls, added butcher block countertops using wood given to us by a friend and lots of other little things.  

The biggest changes we've made to the outside area include removing a 6 foot retaining wall, and a 6 foot plastic dividing wall, we terraced the hill, put in a gate (made from skateboards) off the driveway, just to name a few things.  Of course we continue to add plants, trees and flowers.

How would you describe your style?  My style is easily described as vintage eclectic--I collect things that have stories, histories, and hold meaning.  For instance my card catalog once lived in a library at UC Berkeley and I like knowing it was once used as a learning tool by thousands of students; my vintage green tables and chest of drawers set were used by medics during a war!  Jeff's grandpa's 1960's portrait hangs in our living room; my late step mom's ceramics honor her memory; our bedroom nightstand was built by my late father when he was in hight school; and the theatre chairs were, you guessed it, once sat on by theatre goers.  As a librarian, I love stories, in books and about vintage and sentimental objects.  Also, we've filled our house with things we've made ourselves like our coffee table, dining table, art, vases, chairs we've reupholstered, and so on.  To sum it up, I'd say my style is story-filled vintage eclectic and equal parts self-made.  

What are some of your favorite places in Vallejo or the Baby Area?  Mare Island Brewing Company is a favorite destination in Vallejo, the waterfront taproom is easy-going, and the beer is great.  Vallejo's own Moschetti coffee hosts free coffee tastings on the weekends.  The owner is nice, and the selection is crazy big.  I like to hunt for treasures at Indian Alley and Yesteryear's antique shops on Georgia Street, and on the same street there's ValleJOYoga, the best yoga studio.  My friend and I both have garden boxes at a local community garden and sometimes we meet there.

The ferry from Vallejo to San Francisco makes it easy to get to the city without fighting traffic or hunting for parking, and as an added bonus there's a bar on the ferry.  Recently, thousands of Bay Area people flocked to Vallejo's waterfront area not far from our house for the Bernie Sanders rally, which was amazing, and that grassy area on the water hosts tons of various events throughout the year.  Since I work near Albany I like to go to Flowerland on my lunch breaks, and on my days off I enjoy hiking new trails throughout the Bay Area, and eating good vegetarian/vegan food in Oakland and Berkeley.  The "meatball" sandwich at The Butcher's Son on Univeristy Avenue is so freakin' delicious!

House Visit - Michelle Pattee

Photographer Michelle Pattee lives in Sebastopol, California with her husband and two children.  She and her husband, Bill a contractor, have lovingly revitalized their early 1900‘s farmhouse. Keeping things simple for easy country living with bright white walls, warm reclaimed wood and salvaged fixtures.  It’s no wonder their property is a popular location for photo shoots.

Michelle has also created West County California, a lifestyle blog about life in West Sonoma County with features on interesting locals.

After giving up a bedroom in the house for a larger bathroom, they got creative with space, converting an existing chicken coop into a slumber party room for the kids.

 photo: Michelle Pattee

photo: Michelle Pattee

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How long have you lived in your house?  9 years

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house and property?  The majestic walnut tree. The constant backdrop sounds of horses, sheep, chickens, coyotes and hawks. The farmhouse has a solid sense of history, something lacking in newer construction.

After buying your house, what were the biggest changes you and your husband made to it?  Tore out a cluster of little rooms to create one large kitchen. Sacrificed a bedroom to create the house’s single bathroom. Replaced exisiting wood floor (made from thinner beams) with wide plank beautiful reclaimed Doug Fir. There’s so much happening within the wood floor, yet it’s subtle in the overall effect. Replaced all the windows - big investment because we chose wood windows, but worth it. Added a staircase to connect the two floors. Previously, the upstairs room could only be accessed by a ladder. Kind of a man cave, filled with bullets and whisky bottles.

How would you describe your style?  My style is eclectic, a mix of urban, country, minimal, abundant, vintage and modern. Many of my favorite pieces I purchased cheap years ago, before the clamoring began for farm tables, stoneware, industrial, patina, etc..

What drew you to become a photographer?  I liked the immediacy of the medium. Besides the darkroom hours (I learned on film), I could tell a story quickly with a single image. I do miss prints. They’re such an afterthought now. I also love the grace of black and white, stripping down to the bare essentials. 

Do you feel that being a photographer has changed how you view your living space?  I think my visual sensibility is reflected in everything I approach - photography, interiors. It gets a little out of hand. I’m seriously aesthetically sensitive. I can’t relax in a disheveled space, can’t get comfortable against synthetic fabrics, can’t linger in rooms painted off colors. I decant breakfast cereal or anything else that's packaged offensively. The list goes on. I used to apologize, but #sorrynotsorry.  

What are your secrets for keeping your house so clutter-free?  Don’t buy often. Filter media messages attempting to sell me things I don’t need. Reject damaging feelings of envy, keeping up on a material level with others. Curate. Possessions often require maintenance. Maintenance requires time. I’m old enough to be more mindful, question how I want to spend my time.

How would you describe the West County Lifestyle?  The West County Lifestyle is a life without much intentional focus on style. It’s authentic bohemian, an alternative culture. You can still feel the influence of the New Age Movement from the 70’s. It’s evolved, but there’s a throwback attitude. Our cars and boots are muddy, lots of dirty denim. During harvest, everyone seems to smell like weed, even if you’re not a grower. There’s a smugness, a sense of pride in not washing your hair for a week. I’ve seen the best hats up here, took me awhile to figure out. We wear thrashed outdoor gear. West County is gorgeous country, and we're engaged in the environment, for recreational and practical intentions. The lifestyle is slower. There’s miles of open space lacking cell towers, so it’s easy to find yourself among community who aren’t focused on their phones. 

House Visit - Tristan Lane Collinsworth

I spent a recent rainy morning with Tristan Lane Collinsworth in her cozy victorian apartment.  Tristan is studying history and has a penchant for collecting vintage clothing and clogs.  She also makes the coolest embroideries.  We spent much of the morning going through her closet to find some of her favorite pieces.  Every piece had a great story behind it.  Her great aunt was married to a member of Steppenwolf who styled and sewed pieces for them. She has given Tristan some really great clothes from that time, including a cobra skin jacket.   

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Questions with Tristan;

When did you start embroidering?  I began embroidering at the age of 9 when my great-aunt (a powerhouse talented artist of many mediums) taught me. That very first project I made was a cross-stitched ladybug on a handkerchief, very sloppy and loose but she treasured it. I lost touch with embroidery for years until two summers ago--my heart was broken and I was lost in need of something to keep my hands busy and my feet on the ground. I already had sewing supplies at my parents’ house, leftovers from childhood craft projects as well as the near-constant mending of my vintage clothing so my exploration of embroidery happened very naturally. What had once been frustrating as a child seemed intuitive in those first few months, almost pre-programmed in my hands and I couldn’t stop myself from doodling. 

What elements do you find most fulfilling about it? And most frustrating?  When I’m embroidering my brain relaxes, my body loosens up and I decompress from all the other stress I might be experiencing. Embroidery is such an ancient, traditionally female practice and there’s something so comforting and purposeful about putting a needle and thread through fabric like millions of women before me. I draw a lot of inspiration from the artistic women in my family who preceded me with sewing and embroidery: my great-great grandma Frances, great-grandma Mary, and great-aunt Sharon. I like to think our work is connected by common threads; that I am continuing their legacies in some small way.

Rarely do I find myself frustrated by my work. At first it irked me how long it took to execute some of my more elaborate plans, since I can be really impatient sometimes. But gradually embroidering has made me more patient and more forgiving of myself.

As someone who collects a lot of vintage clothing, what do you look for in pieces?  I’ve been fascinated by fabric for as long as I can remember.  I’m really attracted to unusual textures, like nubby woven wools but I’m absolutely in love with rayon, gabardine, linen and cotton which are all very smooth, wearable fabrics. When I’m shopping for myself I’m drawn to clean, classic lines found in silhouettes from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s although recently I’ve startedto throw some ‘60s and ‘70s into my closet. In the past I would buy any random vintage dress I found at a goodwill and I’d plan to alter it or make something new but there’s not enough time in the world for all the projects I’ve taken on so now I look for items in good condition, although if something has an amazing print or fabric texture I have no problem patching up a small hole or replacing missing buttons. I’m a stickler for metal zippers on everything (modern zippers have nylon teeth) and am currently obsessed with abstract prints from the 1940s and the color green.

If you could be your age now in another decade, which one would you choose?  And why?  There have been times in my life where I wished I was born in another decade or century just for aesthetic purposes but the world we live in is where I was meant to be. The past affords us the perspective of history and while the modern world is far from perfect, I would prefer to live in it because at no other time in history have women been free to do as much as they can now. If time travel were possible I’d take a short trip to another time period to see whatit was like on a quiet afternoon but I’d want to return to the present.

What projects do you have on the horizon?  I’m currently working on a series of larger, abstract experiments in texture using a method called crewel work. I’m also in the process of building frames for my pieces with the guidance of my grandfather who is teaching me how to mill reclaimed redwood. 

While I love to use handwork as a solitary self-care practice it’s also a great way to interact with other people so I’m trying to plan a small handful of workshops for the near future and create a mending/ quilting circle with friends where we can make magic as a collective.

 

House Visit - Lisbeth Hansen

My mother, Lisbeth is one of the happiest and most creative people I know.  After a quarter century with three businesses and raising her children on an 1880's farm, she now lives in a sweet little cottage built in 1949.  She has always blazed her own trail and worked for herself.  She was a cut flower grower and designer long before any "farmer florist" hashtag became cool.  She doesn't follow trends and can't stand pretense.

As an avid collector of antiques and furniture, she had to find an outlet for her antiques moving from a large farm to a small house.  Since then has been selling antiques, textiles and her own handmade goods at Summer Cottage, in Petaluma.  

Growing up in Denmark, sewing and knitting is a normal part of childhood and done in school from an early age.  Before buying the farm, Lisbeth and a friend where thinking of opening a fabric shop in St. Helena.  Paths changed and she gave up sewing in her thirties to nurture the growing family businesses and her family.  Decades later, she has come back to her love of sewing.  She is constantly busy with her projects and is currently working on her website.

Questions with Lisbeth:

How long have you lived in your house?  I have lived in my sweet little house for eight years.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house?  This is the first house I've chosen by myself for myself . I like it because it is small and very sweet, like a little nest . I like that it is compact, well built and solid. I love the original vintage kitchen that I just improved upon. It is cozy and was very loved by the family who lived here. I bought it from an older woman who inherited it from her parents. They bought it from a doctor when it was 1 year old. She moved into the house with her two children in 1961 and lived here withher parents and took care of them until they died. She lived in it for many, many years. Houses become imprinted with the energy of their owners so I feel it is important for me to live in a house that is well loved.  I like that I know the story of the house.

As a Dane, could you describe with Hygge means?  What does it mean to you?  Hygge is hard describe as it is a feeling . I can say that I feel that my house is hyggeligt and Danes say that too about it! It means that you feel good when you are here. Some of the elements of hygge are lots of candles, flowers, a fire and good company. Having something good to eat and drink and good company. I think it is a concept that originated in Denmark during the long and dark winter. People burn a lot of candles to bring in light and I always burn candles because I find it hyggeligt!

How would you describe your style?  I would describe my style as very personal and eclectic. I like to come into someone's home and see who the people are who live there. A house should tell a story about who live in the house.  Where you come from, what is important to you. I don't like houses that are decorated and just reflect a style. It is very impersonal and not hyggeligt! I like to see who lives there. Houses also have personality of their own and that has to be a match for the owner!  My style changes but some things are constant. I love light colors , wooden floors and good windows with plenty of natural light. I like airiness and not a lot of clutter. I don't like houses that are done but houses that are a loving container for the people who live in them.  I think the best houses just evolve and become living - breathing and dynamic .

You have lived in some great houses.  What are the most important things for you to call a house a home?  I think that the most important things for me to call a house a home is my emotional investment in the house. I have to feel a connection to it or it is just a house. I have to live the house for a while and have a relationship with it before it truly becomes my home.

You have had a very full and creative life and tend to forge your own path.  What keeps you motivated?  I guess what keeps me motivated is that I love to make things. It is very satisfying to me to make something that I or other people enjoy and use.  I am constantly inspired and love to try out new things. I especially love beautiful textiles and sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the things I want to make and all the beautiful and inspiring people and things I see.  I guess my motivation is that I want to continue to grow and change as a person and I look for beauty in everything. I look for beauty!

As a creative person, what are you working on now?  How would you describe your work at this time?  I am working on making "my making" a small home based business that works for me. I am mostly focused on making simple, beautiful and timeless garments that you can wear everyday and everywhere. Clothes you feel great in, look good in and don't have to think about. I feel clothes should just be the backdrop for the person wearing them. They should not take anything away from the person.

Anything else you'd like to add?  I am a graduate of the Western School of Feng Shui.  That I am a proud and happy grandmother.

House & Garden Visit - Brooke Harrington

Brooke and her boyfriend, Dan live in a beautiful oasis filled with plants, chickens, dogs and a cat in a 1930's house in Vallejo.  She is an avid gardener, covering nearly every bit of ground with plants, fruit trees, vegetables and vines.  After filling her own garden, she joined a community garden to grow more vegetables and talk to other gardeners.  Her garden is so inspiring as it is free and wild, and so well loved with bees and birds in mind, including a massive passion vine filled with hatching butterfly chrysalises.  There were bees and butterflies flying all about when I visited her earlier this week along with my mom and son who had a great time picking and eating strawberries, raspberries and peaches.  When Brooke is not in her garden, she is busy doing flowers with her mom Polly in their Napa based floral design studio, Valley Flora.  

Questions with Brooke;

How long have you lived in your house?  I have lived here since july 2011! So around 4 years.

What are some of your favorite things about your house?  When I bought my house the garden was depressing, the entire back yard was covered in crabgrass and had some dying pittosporum.  It took me close to a year to slowly cover and kill all the crabgrass which is highly invasive. I used black plastic, then sheet mulched everything to build up the soil and to help amend the dense clay. 

What was the garden like when you bought your house?  Right now the favorite parts of my garden are the ones I have to look after the least! I have several passion vines that thrive on neglect, they provide me with privacy and are great hosts for the gulf fritillary butterfly.  I really cherish my Michelia or banana shrub. When it blooms you can smell it a block away in the evenings. My other favorites are the mod lodge of succulents everywhere and when the mock orange is in bloom! I go through stages so this list will change next month!

What are some of your favorite parts of your garden?  My source for gardening advice starts with my mom. She got me hooked as a young child, so I always ask her first. After that I watch A lot of youtube videos, garden blogs, books and fellow garden nerd friends.  I have a love affair with watching all things about gardening on the BBC UK gardening channel. I could watch that shit all day.

Where do you look for gardening advice?  I pretty much don't like to follow any rules when it comes to gardening. I like to plant things that are pleasing to my eye, and look good with others. Kinda like a living flower arrangement.  If they don't work in one position I will move them. I have ripped out plants and changed color schemes many times! Since my yard is small, when I plant something it has to have multiple purposes. My main factors in this are, is it edible...can I use it as a cut flower, is it beneficial for insects,  will it bloom multiple times, fast growing, and if its fragrant all the better!  Its all trial and error, there is no right or wrong way as far as I'm concerned. I have plants that are labeled full sun, that are thriving in shade. My main goal with my garden is to make it my sanctuary. There is nothing better for me then coming home to something I've worked my ass off to create. Where I can sit, listen to birds, watch bees and bugs,  zone out and clear my mind, it is priceless.

What is your favorite (or favorites) time of the year in the garden?  I'm pretty sure that would be spring. I love when all the fresh new leaves start greening everything up. The light in spring is great too, it just makes you want to stay out in the garden as long as you can! I always forget how fast things grow, I love to watch everything evolve,  the garden will look different every day.

Laura Miller, Floral Studio Visit

Laura is an Oakland based floral designer who specializes in weddings and special events.  She was kind enough to open her adorable house and studio to me this past weekend, which she shares with her dog Parker and cat Cleo.  With nearly two decades in the floral industry, Laura describes her design style as "inspired by nature, the way plants grown naturally, with layers of texture and dimension.  And as an avid gardener, I include unique blooms from my own garden into my designs whenever possible".  She has an awesome garden and a massive love for clematis and succulents.  Laura is also a collector of vintage ceramics and has wonderful vignettes displayed throughout her house.

Questions with Laura;

How long have you lived in your house?  Eight and a half years.

What are some of your favorite things about living in your house?  I've always been drawn towards older home and feel in love with it's character and charm, along with the garden space, at first site.  It's small, but has everything I need wrapped into a perfect package.  I love the diversity of Oakland, and the fact that it's so centrally located to many different areas allows me to work in areas outside Oakland.

When did you start your floral design business?  I started working in a flower shop in Los Angeles as a bookkeeper, quickly I was drawn into the "floral" environment, being a gardener at a young age in made sense. I worked in a few retail florists and gift shops as a sales person learning the ins and outs of the business, then I landed a job where I learned design, and that ended in my purchasing an existing business 16 years ago.

What are you favorite elements to design for a wedding?  Lately I'm enjoy creating centerpieces more and more, but I've always loved making bouquets and boutonnieres.

What would be your ideal setting and florals for a wedding?  Outdoors in a natural setting. Being a lover of nature and gardens, I've always been more attracted to including a wide array of elements in my designs.  Including textural foliages along with different sized and shaped floral blooms to create what we see in nature. I'm a sucker for a cool vessel.

What do you find easiest and hardest about having a home-based studio?  The easiest thing is NO commute traffic to deal with ever. The most difficult is motivating myself to get things done every day, to keep on top of the future work. When I do have a job I have a difficult time saying good night and not going back outside to work on something else after hours. 

You have a lot of collections and vignettes around your house.  What are some of your favorite pieces?  My doll parts and pottery collection are the overall favorites. I love the floral prints above my desk and the old sheers, but the current favorite is a wooden box vignette in my room.

What are some of your favorite places to go in Oakland and the East Bay?  Tail of the Yak (ribbons), Urban Indigo (gifts), Bocanova (food/drinks), Redwood Regional Park (hiking with Parker), Dona Tomas (food/drinks), Tattoo 13 (tattoos),  Esqueleto (jewels), The Fox Theatre (music venue), Farmer Joe's  (grocery store)

Roy & Rachel

Brother and sister duo, Rachel and Roy Blodgett started Serpent & Bow which they describe as “The serpent and the bow are both fluid symbols, used to describe our wish for the collective to bend and contort, accommodating an entity that will be forever changing with the curiosities and whims of various artistic visions as well as our collective ambitions."   

I visited them at Roy’s house, where Rachel has been staying this summer as she relocates back to California from Rhode Island.  They both have a love for vintage and a strong relationship with the handmade, their father is a goldsmith and they have both worked (Roy currently) in their family's jewelry shop which specializes in estate and antique jewelry.  Their styles are their own but compliment one another well.   

Questions with Roy;

How long have you lived in your place?  I have lived on the general property since July of 2012, but only moved into my current space upon its completion in late December of 2013. Before that I had been living in the primary two-bedroom house at the western side of the lot, while my landlord was building the structure in which I currently reside. I didn't have the intention of moving out of the main house until the second structure was nearly complete and I realized all of the potential it had for a home and workshop space. 

What are your favorite things about living in this house?  The light in the second level is really wonderful, with windows on all sides, and I enjoy the way the room changes throughout the day based on the natural light flooding in. I also really enjoy the use of salvaged materials throughout the house, as they give the space a soul and character all its own and soften the sharp, shiny edges that usually come with a recent home. Perhaps most of all, I like how open and efficiently everything is laid out, with the upper level essentially a single room that serves as kitchen, bedroom, and living space - it's very comfortable, given that I live by my lonesome. 

You have a lot of collections displayed.  What are your favorite things?  Well, I try not to collect anymore just for the sake of collecting, as I don't want to clutter my space with anything I don't need or use - but  almost everything I have in my home has one glaring attribute in common: they're all well made and serve a function. Starting at age eighteen, I began outfitting my home and wardrobe with an emphasis on quality. I don't want to buy anything twice, and I try to be the most considerate consumer I can. I'm very fortunate to come from a family of craftsmen and women that both recognize and value quality workmanship, and I inherited those values double-fold. My favorite things are those rare items that blend quality, function, and beauty; an old Swiss military backpack I've used everyday for years comes to mind. 

Your house is pretty great, but what would your perfect space look like?  Or, what kind of "improvements" would you make to your current place (if you could)?  I suppose my perfect home would be one of my own making. Like many of my generation, I dream of owning land and building my own small home, and I'd really like to take that to an extreme and make every aspect of that home myself - from framing, all the way to hinges and fixtures. I'd like to grow and learn alongside my home. Aesthetically, my taste is heavily influenced by Japanese architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. I envision exposed beams, stone, iron, copper, natural light, wood heat, and maximization of usable space. Everything with an intention to guide it.   As for improving my current place, I'm beginning to focus on the lower level of my home, which has been largely neglected these first many months. I intend to convert the space into a general workshop where I can pursue my interests in various arts and crafts, from etching to drawing to woodworking, leatherworking, metalworking - most of which I've only had the space and time to pursue at a very basic level thus far. If all goes as hoped, this next year will see a lot more time spent wearing in the space and investigating these pursuits further. I yearn for a more meaningful connection between my efforts and the results they produce, and it seems there's no better way to address that longing than to work with my hands and make mistakes and successes in equal measure. 

You collect and sell vintage clothing and wear a lot of Native American jewelry.  What do you think about men's fashion and what do you see changing as American men become more interested (in general) of men's style?  My own take on men's fashion is based on the principle of function over form. I have a basic wardrobe comprised of only a few items that are very well made and tend to to work well together in a number of permutations. I catch some flak once in a while for wearing the same items all the time, but they are items which have truly moulded to my form and become part of my character, and I don't see anything wrong with having less and meaning more. I used to care a lot more what people might think about what I was wearing, but it's become a non-issue as my values have changed. I also struggled for a long time to find sources for a style that felt like it represented my character and ideals, but with the trending surge of interest in 'heritage quality' goods, scores of brands have come up, most notably out of Japan and the USA, such that finding ethically-made, quality clothing is a lot easier than it has been in recent decades. It's no longer out of reach for the average Joe to find a his niche amid the fray.  I also really like to accent my wardrobe with small details that I feel have a certain mystical quality. I have a few vintage items I feel that way about, and my Native American jewelry definitely falls into that sentiment. On that subject, wearing it is something I've considered and reconsidered many times over. As a representative of a very privileged minority, being a twenty-something white guy in California, I feel it's extremely important to have reverence, intention, and understanding of cultural importance when wearing such pieces. It's too easy to simply buy a turquoise cuff with no idea of where it came from, or what it means, or why it's important. I try to research and educate myself on these matters. I don't think of these items as accessories, so much as talismans with significance and power. 

Questions with Rachel;

How did you find Indigo?  And what drew you to it?  I started using Indigo when I was a student at California College of the Arts. At first, I was not really excited about it because I figured it was just a single color and it would get boring, but very quickly I became addicted to the process and the mythology surrounding Indigo as a color and as a dye, historically. It is one of the oldest dyes and so it has collected a lot of symbolic meaning as well as technical variation within the different cultures that have used it. Lately I am especially excited about Indigo as a medium that connects me to other makers throughout history. The genealogy of a color.

What is your favorite part of the process?  I love the ritual aspect of indigo as it requires daily care. Working with an Indigo vat is an intimate relationship that evolves a lot over time. I am still learning about the little cues that the dye vat is always giving me, teaching me how to care for it. It is also really magical to watch the color shift from neon yellow to cobalt blue as a piece of cloth oxidizes before your eyes!

Who do you want to wear your clothes?  The process of designing the clothing is very personal; usually a way of physically manifesting my own desire for a certain garment. I consider most of the clothing to function as talisman, carrying a symbolic meaning that brings strength or helps to visualize a specific intention for their wearer. I have personally struggled with a lot of health issues over the past year, and have been making myself a custom underwear each month as a way to mark time and depict the changes I have gone through spiritually and mentally. I would hope that my level of care and intention is recognized by whoever wants to wear the clothing; I hope it makes them feel empowered. I think that treating yourself to handmade underwear is an incredibly empowering thing to do.

What is your ideal studio situation or studio/living situation?  I feel really grateful for the space that I have been occupying (at Roy's). I love that I have easy indoor-outdoor access. I am in town but the space feels like a rural sanctuary. I think the most important aspect of a studio for me is access to the outdoors because I prefer to keep the indigo vat outside, and I love to do the painting outside.

You are leaving Roy's at the end of the month.  What are your plans?  For the months of September and October, I will be subletting my friend Kate Klingbeil's storefront space in Oakland, with Catherine Sieck. Catherine and I are organizing some workshops and events (including dye days!) and we will also have open hours for shoppers to come in and see our work. I am really looking forward to being able to make something and immediately place it on a rack in the storefront to display and possibly sell. Beyond that, I am hoping to wind up back in Sonoma County. Santa Rosa has felt like a cornucopia. I am really grateful for the community of friends and family in this area, and excited to be a part of it. 

See more of Roy here and more of Rachel here and here

Also, this post from when my brother, Julian was working with them creating beautiful batik.