A Peaceful Abode In Brooklyn

One of my favorite things to read about on design and craft blogs is interior design. I am so interested in learning about how people live, and different ways to create a space that is simultaneously stylish, cozy, and inviting. One of the first times Anne and I ever hung out together, we studied for a psychology exam we drew up blueprints of our respective dorm rooms, and talked endlessly about the best furniture configurations for our spaces. I kid you not!

So, this week we are taking a closer look at my dear friends’ Brooklyn apartment. Brooklyn is special to me, and Heather and Maggie’s apartment is very much on my list of reasons why. They moved in together this past fall, and have been making their apartment a home ever since.

The photos and story below are from Heather, who is simply an all-around artist in my opinion. Her photographs do a wonderful job of capturing the tranquility and creativity that seems to flow freely from her and Maggie’s home. They are both actresses, and Heather is also a beautiful drawer, painter, writer, and baker. Her blog, See, Sort, File, is an incredible archive of her musings on daily life. (I especially like this post.) Anne calls her “a young Lorrie Moore by way of Walt Whitman.”

Below is Heather and Maggie’s story. I hope that you enjoy it, and that these two inspire you to do something creative this week!

From Heather: Maggie and I met when we were eighteen at NYU, where we both studied acting. In keeping with the nomadic New York City lifestyle, we’ve each moved six times in our eight years of living here. Sixth time’s the charm, because this past November we landed a home we both love (and our first home together!) in Bed-Stuy. These days we work as actresses and waitresses, and spend our time at home chatting endlessly, cooking, and moving the couch around. I hope to never, ever move again. (Wish me luck.)

Our new place is actually two blocks away from Maggie’s old apartment. It’s a beautiful thing to move within a neighborhood you know. Signing a lease can feel like a huge leap of faith, like opening a box that will be half full of what you ordered, and half full of something completely different (i.e. a roach problem and a crazy upstairs neighbor), so we were very happy to eliminate any possible unknowns.

We love Bed-Stuy. We’re a five-minute walk away from a yoga studio that Maggie loves, a bakery where we buy foccacia and cacio e pepe sourdough, our favorite pizza restaurant, and a bar where you can usually get a seat and can always get a good drink. It’s an area filled with people of all ages and all ethnicities, with block associations and community gardens and a YMCA. I’ve always said that Brooklyn made me love New York. This neighborhood sealed the deal.

So. Our house! Decorating this place has been all about synthesizing our design sensibilities, which actually just means going through all of our belongings and figuring out what at least one of us really, really liked. We ended up furnishing our whole place with stuff we already had. Much of our furniture is actually from parents, grandparents, or families that I babysit for (!)–hand-me-downs acquired gradually over the past four years. I think the only piece of furniture we bought upon moving was our couch.

Our apartment is on the top floor of a brownstone. It is a 1.5 bedroom, which means that we have a little extra room attached to our bedroom to use as an office and guest room. (This arrangement was a bit de facto… Neither one of us wanted to sell our bed!) Hopefully our guests like very small spaces filled with office furniture.

The thing I think about the most when setting up a living space is how I want to feel inside each room. The living room should be conducive to socializing, the bedroom should be calm and peaceful, the kitchen should be warm and convenient. That, and displaying the items that just make us feel great, are the lines of thought that have driven our space. Maggie has a blanket from her dad that we keep on the couch. We have a little radio that we basically carry from room to room. I have a desk from my parents’ house that I sit at to write. I really believe that if your space makes you feel good, then that’s all that matters.

These things make our space feel like home:

One of the wildest things about our apartment is our view. Even though we’re smack in the middle of Brooklyn, we’re high enough up to see the Manhattan skyline. The sight of the Empire State Building, which towered above our acting studio in college, made this move feel like it completed a circle. These buildings have been with us all the while, and now they continue to accompany us as we change and grow, lighting up the sky with that same strange city magic.

Heather (left) and Maggie (right)

All photos taken by Heather Thiry

In The Studio With: Early Bird Designs

Today, I am so excited to introduce you to the second business owner in my small business profile series. Her name is Jill J. Burns, and she is the founder of Early Bird Designs, a stunning line of fine handmade porcelain wares. Jill is based in Worcester, MA, and happens to be the mother of one Elaine Burns — who taught us how to prepare our own floral arrangements a few weeks back!

Jill works out of a community ceramics studio that she founded called The Fire Works. Fittingly, it is located in a repurposed factory building known as the Sprinkler Factory. When this factory was up and running long ago, it manufactured sprinkler heads and other fire suppression equipment. Thanks to Jill’s creative vision and entrepreneurial spirit, today The Fire Works houses an eclectic mix of artists and small businesses. How thrilling!

Below is an interview I conducted with Jill via email. She has also shared photographs of her work. You can find Jill’s porcelain wares for sale on Etsy and ScoutMob. (For a full list on where to find her work, visit her website.) As you’ll see, her aesthetic is incredibly beautiful!

Tell me about your journey with ceramic arts.  How did you originally become interested in it? Is this what you went to school for?

I did go to art school, but I studied painting. I never even took a ceramics class in college. As newlyweds, my husband and I moved to Worcester, and I took a class in ceramics at the Worcester Center for Crafts. But, I have to say that from the beginning I was hooked on the potential of clay – expressive and functional. I worked in wheel-thrown stoneware using atmospheric firings for a long time, and it was not until recently that I changed the direction of my work.

Tell me how your work changed. Do you have a favorite material to work with?

Now I work exclusively in porcelain and most of the pieces are slab-built. I have a love/hate relationship with porcelain. It can be persnickety but, like all relationships, you get used to the quirks. The bonus of porcelain is the smooth white surface it provides. I use a slip inlay technique that allows me to draw directly on the clay. The lines are actually carved and inlaid with dark clay, so the illustration is integral to the piece. Many commercial ceramics use decals to add design elements that lie on the surface. This technique adds a depth that is a hallmark of handmade.

Your designs are incredibly beautiful.  What, or who, inspires your work the most?

The imagery evokes many kinds of flora and fauna. I look to 18th and 19th century botanical and animal engravings for sources. I want the drawings themselves to have a naïve quality – sort of a casual vintage aesthetic. It is impetrative that the pieces are functional, too. I want my customers to feel they can use my pieces every day; that the mug feels good in their hand so they select it first out of the cupboard. For that, I look to many ceramic artists and designers.

Could you tell me a little bit about the group studio you opened, The Fire Works?

About ten years ago, I was finishing an artist-in-residency at the Worcester Center for Crafts. To continue with ceramics at that point I was going to need a studio. There wasn’t anything in my community, so I built one. I figured there were others like myself–artists who have really reached the end of guided classroom instruction but needed space and equipment. An added benefit was the community it created. Artists often work in isolation, but a group studio allows for needed exchange and camaraderie. I recently passed the torch to two members. I am still a member of the Fire Works, but they now do the day-to-day management. It has allowed me to focus on my business.

What are some things that you love about having a creative business?

The best thing by far is that you are the captain of your own ship. You make all creative decisions, good or bad. I can go from a sketch to a fully realized product, as well as maintain control of my brand.

What are some things that you don’t enjoy about having a creative business?

When you run a small business, you have to wear many hats. Creative Director, Craftsman, Accountant, Web Designer, Marketing Director… You get the picture. For some aspects of this, there is a steep learning curve, which can sometimes take more time than you’d like. This is precious time that you might otherwise spend in the studio.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a creative entrepreneur?

Be sure you are treating it as a business, not a hobby that recoups some material costs. Consider not only material costs, but also your time invested, overhead, and yes, even profit! It took me a while before I reached the conclusion that artists should be paid for their time and talent. You are worth it.

All photos taken by Jill J. Burns

Picking Favorites On Etsy

It’s officially Valentine’s season, and I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s been one of my favorite holidays ever since I was little.  You may see a nod to Valentine’s Day in my posts for the next few weeks, but I’ll try not to be too overbearing.  Try.

This week’s Picking Favorites looks a bit different from previous installments.  No collage images, for one.  And second, all of my picked favorites hail from Etsy.  With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I thought it might be nice to offer some items that have gifting potential.  The items in this post don’t have to be given, though, as you can just read this as a few things that have been inspiring me lately!

I’ve broken down these ten items into three categories.  All photos were taken by the original artists, and links to all of their Etsy shops are below.

For the Homemaker

Where to begin with Cotton & Flax…  I’ve been following Erin’s Instagram feed for a while now, and find her design and aesthetic to be so beautiful.  These handmade printed napkins would make a great gift for a loved one or for a dinner party host.  (Click here to see her website, too.)

Anne and I have recently been interested in experimenting with more cocktail-making at home.  Her parents gave her two great copper mugs for Christmas this year, and they’ve settled in nicely on our bar cart (tour coming soon!).  The copper mugs above are from Etsy shop Custom Copper Mugs.  I can almost feel summer now, and yet we’ve found they are equally tasty in winter!

This walnut cutting board by Robert at Foodiebords is exquisite.  It would pair nicely with cheese knives or a pretty dish towel.  There are few greater gifts than a well-crafted cutting board, as it’s both versatile and long-lasting.

Pretty As A Print is near and dear to me.  My friend and fellow creative arts therapist Julia runs this Etsy shop, and it’s filled with wonderful art.  The print above is of the Philly skyline, and it brings me joy!

For the Leaf Lover

The ceramic pieces in Avesha Michael‘s Etsy shop are incredible!  This mini vase, with its matte cream color and brown speckled glaze, is definitely my favorite.  There is so much texture within its three-inch height!

Red Bird Ink has a lovely Etsy shop filled with letterpress paper goods and custom printed items.  These letterpress paper coasters each have a different green plant on them.  The coaster on top here is of a maidenhair fern, one of the cutest plants around town.  While this set is mix-and-match greenery, other sets can be of all one plant or design.

Speaking of plants, the Sensitive Plant is uh-mazing.  It has a genetic mutation that causes the plant to close if touched, moved, or shaken.  It also closes at night.  I saw this plant when I was in Jamaica nearly four years ago, and didn’t know what it was called or if I’d ever see it again.  Now I might just have to buy this kit from JPants4Sale.  You will NOT stop touching it!  (See it in action on YouTube.)

For the Accessorizer

These waxed canvas travel bags from Lifetime Travel Co. are delicious.  I’m not sure I could ever choose just one color.  They could be used for toiletries, jewelry, makeup, or pretty much anything else when you’re on the move.  All of the items in their Etsy shop are incredible, though — this just skims the surface!

I’m a sucker for jewelry.  Anyone who knows me well knows that.  But when it comes to earrings, I typically want something that I can wear with 99.99% of my wardrobe.  These studs from Lunai Jewelry look like they’d do just the trick.  I love that the jewelry on her Etsy shop has a simple, very functional design and feel.

Last but not least, this infinity plaid scarf from Freckle Face Monday would look good on just about anyone.  Angie and Kay’s shop is chock-full of seriously good-looking plaid scarves.  They’ve got one for practically every skin tone and hair color.  Go check them out!

And there you have it!  Do you have a favorite item from the selection above?  Are you thinking about potential Valentine’s Day gifts, either for yourself (let’s be real) or someone else?

PS) Don’t forget to enter into the Sticky9 GIVEAWAY by this Friday!!!

Picking Favorites

Last week, Scissors & Sage was featured on Paper Source’s blog (*GASP!).  I could hardly believe it.  They posted a picture of my DIY Advent Calendar that uses their text-weight paper and mini clothes pins.  Also last week, I updated all of the recipes I’ve ever posted here on Scissors & Sage to now include that recipe view “print” button.  Check them out here!

I’ve got Christmas on the mind, so this installment of Picking Favorites definitely has a festive feel to it.  (By the way, are you all enjoying Picking Favorites?  I’ve been writing these posts, where I share current inspirations from other blogs, once a month since October.  You can find all of the Picking Favorites posts under “more” in the menu up top.)

The color palette of the three pictures above is very inspiring.  This seed stitch scarf from The Purl Bee looks so cozy.  I wish that I had the patience to make a big project like that!  There must be thousands of stitches in there.  And those soaps from Suki over at Varpunen? I’m not sure I could ever choose a favorite color.  Photographer Eric at Brb-Syd captured this rooftop picture in Reykjavik, Iceland.  I find it breathtaking.  I often think of summer as being the time to travel, but winter excursions bring out a different side of places, don’t they?

Hanging lights in tree formation against black siding is such an inventive way to gear up for the holidays.  It’s a nice change of pace from the usual wreaths and greenery, especially with that metal bench.  (Nicole Balch wrote about this DIY project for Babble.)  I wasn’t able to find the original source of the beautiful outfit on the right, however I did come across it here.  Let me know if anyone out there knows who took this photo or where it came from.  The long pleated skirt in combination with the denim shirt is very cute!

To the kitchen we go… These Pretty Package Almond Sugar Cookies from Better Homes and Gardens bring me holiday cheer!  I’ve never tried intricate icing like this ribbon before, but I would be interested in giving it a whirl someday.  The root vegetables above come from blogger Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper.  Don’t they look just divine?  I could probably eat the whole plate in one sitting, maybe with the help of my veggie-loving sister and cousins.

And finally, this DIY chalkboard fridge from Conan and Katherine of Keep Smiling has me all excited.  Anne and I have that same fridge in our apartment, and I would just LOVE to give it a head-to-toe makeover (do fridges have heads and toes?).  If only our landlord allowed it… The project seems very doable and, according to Katherine, holds up quite well over the years.  Maybe one day!

Project Roundup: Holiday Inspiration!

I have to confess that I did not pre-plan a blog post for today.  I practically forgot that today is Monday.  Anne and I had a wonderful weekend together, as we celebrated our 6-year anniversary! We purchased our very first Christmas tree — a little guy, about 2.5 feet tall — that fits perfectly in our apartment, and enjoyed a delicious dinner at probably our favorite restaurant in Philly.

In conclusion: I didn’t write a blog post.  So, today I have for you a nice roundup of a few giftable projects I’ve created here on Scissors & Sage.  I hope that they inspire you to make something special for a loved one this holiday season.  And if they don’t inspire you — well, let me make it for you!

EDIBLE

These Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies really are perfect.  If you don’t believe me, make them yourself and find out!

Make Quick & Simple Fudge for your holiday hosts, family members, or friends.  It makes a big batch that can be distributed among many.

These Chewy Chocolate Jumbles are delicious, and can be customized with all kinds of added ingredients like nuts or dried fruit.

NON-EDIBLE

Make someone happy with this Honey Citrus Hand Scrub.  It smells incredible, and leaves your hands feeling very soft.  Easily gift it in a small jar.

This DIY Stencil Pillow is a labor of love.  There’s still plenty of time to begin working on lengthy DIY holiday gifts!  (This was also, believe it or not, the first project I ever posted on Scissors & Sage!)

Learn to make these Mirror, Mirror bathroom signs that are only readable when viewed through the mirror.  Check out the first installment of Mirror, Mirror here, too!

Feel like knitting?  This Cowl Me Crazy project has you covered.

These DIY Pencil Eraser Stamps require few materials and yield great results.  Use these stamps to create a matching set of custom stationery for a friend or loved one.  Need envelope inspiration?  Look here, and be sure to use old December issues.

Do you know someone who loves cooking or baking?  Give them the gift of a curated recipe box.  First, find a beautiful recipe box.  Second, learn to create custom dividers (see link).  Third, add recipes you think your gift recipient will enjoy — perhaps recipes that are important to you!

These DIY Dragonfly Earrings are cute and simple for the nature lovers in your life.

Make a statement with this Oscar Wilde Stencil Art.  It’s easily customizable if you know your gift recipient loves a specific quote.

I hope you enjoyed this roundup.  Be sure to let me know if you make any of these projects!  Share your creations using #scissorsandsage on Instagram and Twitter.