Monday, February 25, 2008

The incredible EXPLODING sewing machine!

So I posted earlier how excited I was to get a good deal on a sewing machine for my birthday. It finally came on Saturday, with a big box of needles and other goodies and a pamphlet straight out of the 70s. The sewing machine was rather simple; none of the fancy stitches that the one I use in my course has. But it was easy to use and I want something basic to start out with anyhow. If the sewing thing really takes off, then I will invest in a fancier machine. Anyway, I used it for about 5 minutes, trying out the different stitches and was having a grand old time. The motor sounded kind of loud, but it's an older machine I figured. But then my baby started crying and I had to go lay her down. When I did, I heard a POP POP POP. "What the was that?" My husband shouted from the other room. We both rushed into the living room to see a smoking sewing machine that had exploded. Anyway, that was pretty much a killer for the rest of my Saturday, anger, disappointment, etc. I tried to contact the seller but she didn't answer. I was tempted to give her a bad review (I mean, there is no guarantee on ebay but you DO expect the products to work longer than 5 minutes!!)but thought I'd wait until Monday. Today she finally wrote, very apologetic and offered to give me half of the money back which should hopefully be enough to get it fixed so fair enough. Anyway, I'll keep you posted on any further explosions or eruptions and there consequences!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The huntress

I've always loved hunting for vintage treasures. There is nothing like wading through a thrift store or pages of ebay offers for just that one perfect thing. Even the negative sides of thrift stores, like that "smell" (what IS it exactly? Decaying fabric I suppose because it always the same....), the occasional crazies or how jammed packed they are with mostly trash is somehow (almost) endearing. Perhaps I merely like the bragging that goes something like "Wow, I love your knee-high vintage boots/folkloric skirt/gold lame Dries van Noten dress." "Thanks! I got it at Goodwill for 5.99!" Because you have to work for it, it also seems like you've earned it. You can't just waltz into The Salvation Army and find the most amazing handbag of your life, you have to stay a while, browse through the rack, let it sink in. I impressed my husband two years ago in Santa Barbara. We went to the Goodwill there that I already knew about but he was instantly overwhelmed. He wandered, a little lost, for a half an hour, sure he didn't want anything whereas in that time I not only found a few great things for myself, but also two shirts and a sweater for him plus a pair of shoes which are now one of his most favorite. Still, I am nothing compared to my sister. If you told my sister I need a black dress to wear to a party with a v-neck and a hem line of 18 inches by a well known designer or brand she will be able to find it for you in under ten minutes. I swear! A natural talent, she has also had plenty of oppurtunity to hone her skills. A few years ago she did an advertising job for the San Francisco Examiner in a pretty ghetto part of the city. Since it was ghetto, there was no where to really spend her lunch hour and like hell was she spending it in the office. She soon discovered that there was a Goodwill in the shopping center next door, started going there to pass the time, and soon a love was born. No one ever asked her why she often came back from her lunch break with a big plastic bag full of clothes, but then her co-workers sounded pretty strange themselves. Later, after she had quit the job and started studying psychology, she discovered Goodwill's flagship San Francisco store, on Mission and Van Ness (or maybe South Van Ness.) San Francisco is famous for a lot of things, but not everyone knows that it is really full of a lot of rich people. Rich, spendaholic women who cast away great clothes and shoes they only wore once if not at all. My sister loves to pick up their leavings, as do I. About 75% of my wardrobe is from trips to that Goodwill I make when I visit my family in California. I've been having a lot of fun doing it here in Berlin. I'm starting to offer vintage items in my shop (actually, I'm even thinking of opening a new shop specialized in vintage)and find that Berlin also has so many treasures. People here are also traditionally more into crafts (for example, it is not at all uncommon to meet someone relatively young who cans preserves)so a lot of the pieces are hand sewn which is really cool. Then they are truly one of a kind. Anyway, here is a slide show of some of the pieces I have now. I will be adding a lot more in the weeks to come. As I stated in an earlier post, I also plan to start altering vintage. (The dress I added the buttons to turned out cool, but I ended up giving it to a friend!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I love Berlin/I hate Berlin

Anyone who has been to my Etsy shop probably has figured out by now that the city where I live, Berlin, inspires me. It has been the subject of several collages and will come into play creatively now and again I'm sure. Berlin has been my home for almost ten years now. I once heard from a fellow (aging) ex-pat that 10 years is the cut off date. If you are still in Berlin at that point there is no going back. I will always love California and miss my family and the Pacific Ocean everyday, but Berlin has my heart. Berlin is where you can still find a studio apartment for 200 Euros and so what if it has coal heating and is in Neukölln: you can concentrate on your art and what and who you love. Berlin is where no one cares what you are doing so go ahead and do whatever you want. In Berlin, everyone is from somewhere else. This morning I heard a familiar sound out my window. It was the roaming gypsy band who makes their appearance every 6 months or so. The stroll down the street and play their instruments hoping that people will toss money from their windows. Where else do things like this happen?

But I also hate Berlin. Berlin is where I can't count on people opening doors and asking me if I need help as I'm struggling with the baby buggy. Berlin is where I have literally gotten bruises from people who slammed into me and then, as usual didn't apologize or say excuse me. It is where no one smiles at or chats nicely with a stranger; strangers are your mortal enemies, not to be trusted until they have, by trial of fire, proved otherwise. Berliners speak a language where there is no word for "anal" because the word they use is "normal". Perhaps there is no such thing as paradise....

Monday, February 18, 2008

The story behind Light and Longing

Yesterday I made a collage with one of the Light and Longing self-portraits, part of the poem printed on its surface. There is a story behind both the pictures and the poem which I thought I would post here. (Originally I posted it on my blog on MySpace.) Here it is:

Light and Longing

This is not about me and it's not about you,
these words are not written by my hand.
It's about the us that never was and always is
because, at its heart, memory is a very personal fiction.

How could I not love your valleys and summits
as they love me? Endlessly, I taste and touch
though we remain lost in namelessness.

But our story has a name. Our love is told
in the heart of an eagle and on the breath of
a lion. Longing is programmed in our cells.

With their every death and division we expand
beyond the borders of our countries until we know,
as he knew, that no one, not even the rain,
has such small hands.

But there is no us. We had no then, we have no
now. In the light of memory we may shine and pulse
like the hottest star, but to give in would only
push us farther apart.

If you believed you took these pictures and I knew
I wrote these lines together we would tumble
from the heart's hidden chamber transforming longing
with the light of love.

Hush. Turn. Listen. Call me, and know that I will come.


I wrote this piece for Jasper before we were together. What happened was this: I

knew him for a while because we were in an astrology class together (his brother is an

astrologer.) Though a nice guy, I wasn't particularly

interested in him and besides, I was living with my boyfriend at the time but then we

somewhat unexpectedly broke up in the summer and I was single again. I still wasn't

thinking much about Jasper as a romantic possibility until one day in October. On that

day everyone in the course went out to a beer garden afterward. I remember that

Jasper was sitting across from me talking about his job I think (he's a criminal defense

lawyer.) In the middle of his story I had the irrisistable urge to reach across the table

and take his hand in mine. Of course I didn't as we were in a group and it would have

been very, very strange but still, the whole thing struck me like a thunderbolt. Soon

after I started having all these dreams with him in them. Usually something pretty

horrible would happen, like I was forced to live in this house that wasn't safe, but at

some point he would always show up and hold me or take my hand and it always felt so

comfortable, so loving, so intimate. None of these feelings matched our relationship in

real life. In fact, we hardly ever even talked at all, just saw each every other weekend

in astrology class. But I asked myself how could I be having these re-occuring dreams

that were so intense if it really, truly had nothing to do with real life? Then in late

November I got a three-day job in Hannover teaching English to people who work for

the German railway (I did this in several German cities to help prepare them for the

World Cup and was in Hannover four times.) Hannover has got to be one of the most

boring cities in the world but on that particular trip the weather was so stormy and the

light so beautiful that I took a lot of pictures on my time off, several of which I put on

my profile in the category "Stormy Weather." When I got to my hotel room the light

continued to be beautiful and I felt inspired to take the series of self-portraits that are

rotating on the cube above. What's amazing about those pictures to me is that all of

them are very different and none of them really look like me, and yet something about

them captures how I often feel inside. When I looked at those pictures and thought

about Jasper it occured to me: Aren't dreams as real, in there own way, as concrete

reality? Here was this person with whom who I had an intense connection only in my

dreams but how did that have any less value? Wasn't it a separate world where we

would always be together but constantly apart? And so I wrote the poem and made a

book later where I wrote the stanzas across each picture in gold ink. A few months

later Jasper and I did get together, though I wasn't really expecting it. Four months ago

we had our first child. I guess my dreams were right.


To make the collage I took a 4 by 6 copy of the photograph with added effects and mounted it on cardboard, adding a ribbon for easy hanging. I then put tracing paper over the picture and wrote a section of the poem around my face. I coated the collage with matte lacquer and, once it had dried, added black ribbon as a border. I love using earlier inspiration for new inspiration! Below is a slide show of the photograph in all its incarnations.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me....

So today is my 34th birthday. It's been pretty low key. I hung out in bed and read with my baby Mia beside me while my husband brought me breakfast, cake and flowers. I don't think I got up before 2 o'clock which is impressive even for me, the queen of loungers. Sleep last night wasn't so great. Mia (and hubby Jasper) both have colds which means that she was restless and he snored. I also was hyped up, as I sometimes get, with thousands of ideas for a story I'm working on, stuff I want to make, stuff I want to add to my Etsy shop. Etsy is so addictive and I know I'm not alone! Anyway, we (hubby and I)wanted to go out to a restaurant tonight, maybe spontaneously invite a few friends, but the Austrian place I was dying to go to was all booked out and he really isn't feeling well, so we are doing the celebrating tomorrow. You'd think I would be bummed, but actually I feel great because my birthday wish came true: I got a sewing machine!! Originally I wanted to pick one up in my old neighborhood, the shabby, ill-famed Neukölln. There is a sewing machine shop near where I used to live and, since the area is very far from being posh, I figured the prices would be ok. The prices were good (I could have gotten a good beginners machine for about 163 Euros) but the shop closed at 1 o'clock (or 13 Uhr as they say here)and I didn't get there until 4. Damn you Germany with your archaic early closing hours on Saturdays!! Determined, I came home and started doing some Internet research. From what I gathered, some of the machines and manufacturers are iffy, but you can't go wrong with a Pfaff. I went on Ebay and saw several for sale. One of them, an older model, belonged to a Deutsche Oma (German grandmother.) German grandmas are amazing for their one most distinct features: analness in preserving things. That is why there are so many fabulous antiques here that you can buy for next to nothing. Thank you Deutsche Oma, for your industriousness and cleanliness! Anyway, because it belonged to a German grandma I could rely on the fact that it would be in mint condition. Even better, it came with a box of needles, thread, bobbins, the works. 13 people had already bid on it, but they didn't know that I, the queen of Ebay was watching (nearly all the furniture in my current and former apartment was bought on Ebay, cool 50s and 60s stuff that I got at a bargain!) I swept in at the last minute and got it for 76 Euros, which was exactly what I wanted to pay. My mother gave me 80 Euros for my birthday and I'm pretty broke right now, so it would have been unwise and frivilous (two very un-German traits!)to spend more than that. I can't wait to try it out! Besides altering vintage I also want to add hand sewn recycled bags and purses to my Etsy shop. I am taking a sewing class right now at the adult school and have learned two things: 1. I am very, very, very slow (slower than basically everyone in the class) 2. I am also very accurate. I have a knack for sewing and have wanted to do it pretty much ever since I can remember. And, in about a week when the sewing machine gets delivered, I finally can as much as I want. Hoorah! Happy birthday to me!!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Behind the scenes: The making of the collage

When I was a little girl I loved to read. I read all sorts of books, but what I especially loved were fairy tales. The Grimm's Brothers stories were a bit too gruesome, with crows picking out people's eyes and Cinderella's stepsisters cutting off pieces of their feet (much different than the cleaned up Disney version!!) What I really loved were the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, sad stories, but also so beautiful. But I remember the pictures mattered just as much as the text. There were certain books I never liked just because I found the illustrations not so great. Ever since my daughter was born last April, I have started returning to loves of the past. One of these loves is vintage fairy tale illustration, another is poetry, and yet another, collage. You can find so many wonderful vintage illustrations on the Internet and nearly all of them are in the public domain. I started collecting them and adding digital effects so they felt more like they were "mine." Poetry came soon afterwards. I wrote a lot of poetry in my late teens and early 20s, but stopped for some reason at about 25 when I focussed more on prose. Sometime in the summer, poetry came back. I started posting them all on my blog on MySpace and had a few published in a literary magazine. Collage was also something I loved in my early 20s. I once made my (now) ex-husband a book of collage and poems, a different one on 37 pages. But, like the poetry, at some point the interest faded away. Now, thanks to my baby's inspiration, I like to combine all three on occasion. My newest collage, They are ALL of us is an example. I found the beautiful illustration of a prince and princess (so I assume) in the woods and added effects to round off the image and give it a canvas so that it looked like an oil painting. Recently I had it printed as a photograph, not sure what I would ultimately do with it. A few days ago I started thinking about what I have already written here, how much I loved to read fairy tales as a child. I came up with the text: When I was a child I read fairy tales every Saturday on the bathroom floor, locking the door so no one could come in. What I didn't know then was I AM the stories. WE are the stories. They are ALL of us. Not exactly a poem, the text has a poetic feel. And I do feel that way about fairy tales. There is something so universal about them, the same sorts of stories showing up in every culture. At this point I knew I wanted to make a collage, but I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to organize it. I never plan out my collages, just let them happen as I go along. This is not always the greatest thing; I have ruined several by adding something I didn't like and then the paper ripped when I tried to remove it or by adding sealant when I should have known it was ill-advised; but I love the spontaneity of the creativity even if it doesn't always work out. Anyway, I added the text, but the collage was still missing something. I looked at the woman and realized she had something more of a queen about her than a princess. The man seems to almost be bowing to her, in awe. Maybe she has been enchanted and forced to work for a witch in the forest (hence the hatchet and fire wood.) Thus, I added a golden crown to bring out her queenliness. Color was still lacking , so I brought out my box of scraps and added a piece of green and hot pink felt and two pieces of thin black ribbon. And now the collage is finished. I'm pleased with the result. Take a look at the slide show, presenting the story of a collage and then, if you wish, come and visit my Etsy shop where it can be purchased!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

This is the graffitti in my neighborhood....

It's amazing how easy it is to find inspiration out on the streets. I've always been a fan of graffitti. I don't mean tags, which are annoying and sometimes gang related (though I suspect a lot of them here are just done by bored teenagers.) Mural, like the kind done in San Francisco by muralistas are amazing, but they are too official to be graffitti and too amazingly done. But graffitti art, simple, sometimes impressive, I love. It is the work of an anonymous artist who is viewed by so many, often ignored and who never receive credit for what they have done. There is so much cool graffitti on my street- Mittenwalder Strasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg 61. Kreuzberg 61 is like the San Francisco neighborhoods The Mission and Noe Valley got together and had a love child. It's got a bit of the organic food loving, yuppie side like Noe Valley but is also filled with hipsters and is Multi-Kulti like the Mission (only with Arabs and Turks, not Mexicans.) It's also a bit on the pricey side for Berlin, though anyone who lives in New York, San Francisco or London would scoff at the word "pricey." For example, my husband and I live in a beautiful three bedroom flat with a huge living room, parquet floors and vaulted ceilings and we only pay 900 Euros a month (and again, for Berlin this is a bit on the expensive side!) Anyway, I love this area and I love my street and I love some of the graffitti art that is on it. I took pictures yesterday when I went out for a walk of some of my favorite stuff, like Pete the Frog King, Edwin the shy ghost and Ralf the angry worm (names I, of course, thought up myself!) Take a look at the slide show underneath to see the different works. I'm planning on doing something with them for my etsy shop, schaufenster ( What exactly I don't know yet. Maybe magnets or a book? We'll see where inspiration guides me!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Re-vamping Vintage

I really like that my blog is often also personal, with little tidbits about my life. I've read the blogs from other Etsy users and they seem to usually be rather impersonal and business orientated, like "I made this really great new necklace. It has rose quartz and a skeleton carved out of my grandma's bone. What a great piece of work! Come take a look at!" We already have our product description, it seems like blogs should give us more than that. Ok, that was my soap box for this evening. Things are going pretty good here in Berlin. I went out to the Turkish market on Maybachufer today to buy some cloth. We are making a cool purse thing tomorrow and sewing class and I chose purple and gray jersey to make it with. I can't wait to get a sewing machine. Not much money in my bank account right now, but my birthday is on Saturday, and my mom said she would contribute some money towards one, so if I can find a good deal I will get one at the beginning of next week. I'm not really that ambitious about making my own clothes yet. It seems like a lot of work not to mention pricey and I'm wondering whether I'd have the patience. I know I'll make some bags and things and I'm going to make a green dress as my final "project" for the class (that way I will know if I like it or not...") But what I really want to do, what I've dreamed about for years, is re-vamping vintage. I love vintage clothes, cloth and patterns from the 60s and 70s. But there is a problem. Occasionally you can find a piece; a dress, a skirt, a sweater; that is cool to wear but often they are just simply too dated. The neckline is too high, the color too pointy, the skirt too long. Maybe some people can get away with it, but if I were to wear stuff like that I would feel like I were going to a Brady Bunch themed costume party! But if you just made some adjustments, changed hemlines and necklines, added stuff, etc. you could create really amazing pieces, old stuff meets new inspiration. Anyway, I'll be updating how things are going along. Right now I'm already doing something with a vintage floral dress I bought on ebay earlier this year. Here it is:

It is ok really, just somewhat boring and a tad too grandma. I've had it in a bag of things I want to give away for a few months, but recently I pulled it out and was inspired. The biggest problem with the dress is that it lacks pep. For example, the buttons are simply dull- dark purple, cheap.

Luckily, the most amazing shop in the world, Knopf Paul (Button Paul)is right around the corner from me. They sell only buttons there, thousands upon thousands of modern and vintage buttons made of glass, plastic, metal, bone wood....I took the dress there for inspiration and wound up coming home with these.

Cute little vintage babies, are they not? Anyway, that was a few days ago and I've been busy with other things and have not yet attached them. When I do I will be sure to have a photo session with the results. Ok, off to bed.....
p.s. I love these photographs. They totally remind me of spending childhood days in Arizona!
Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Monday, February 11, 2008

The woman's curse.....

God was really cruel when he thought up PMS. Women already have to bleed once a month from 12 to 50s and put up with the pain and, let's be honest, bloating and gas that go along with it. They have to give birth to children which, by the way, hurts like a fucking bitch. And, as if that wasn't enough they also have PMS....I don't always have PMS that bad, but since getting my period again (you don't get it the first six months if you breast feed)it has been especially bad. One week before aunt flo comes for a visit I'm sure my life is falling apart. This time it was guilt and worrying about money. My husband is the bread winner these days (though I still get money from the German government until April. 800 Euros a month Elterngeld (parent money)which all parents get the first year of their child's life, 68% of your income)and I can tell it is wearing him out a little. He is a freelance lawyer and has good times and bad times when it comes to getting clients. Our plan was that I get to stay home, raise our daughter (and baby x when he or she comes) do my writing and my art(and hopefully start getting some recognition), teach and do proofreading a little for extra cash. But life is damn expensive, even here in Berlin, the cheapest of cheap cities. My father was always bitching and moaning about money. He earned a really good salary but lived in the ultra expensive Bay Area with four kids and wasn't very good at handling his finances (though this last one he would never admit to, but it's true. He's simply bad with money but thinks he's some stock market genius!) "If it weren't for you kids I'd be a rich man," I heard over and over growing up. Because of this I think I am especially sensitive to financial strain and stress. Parents and future parents who might read this, DO NOT EVER SAY TO YOUR CHILDREN WHAT MY FATHER SAID TO US!!! You can't imagine the guilt and shame it creates. You feel guilty for simply having needs. Not good! Anyway, the PMS blew it all out of proportion and I got really pissed off at my hubby. Feeling better now, except my baby is finally getting teeth and is crabby! She is so cute though. Here she is:

On a lighter note, I made a really cute bracelet on Etsy that I am proud of. Vintage flower buttons and a brass chain. I would like to find this one a home, but I will definitely make one for myself. There is the coolest button store one street over called Knopf Paul (button paul). I have also added some photographs to my site, including the main one to my blog here Schaufensterbabe. Only up one day and it's already been looked at 42 times. Alright!

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feeling better...

So I'm feeling much better now though it was another sleepless night. I also had a dream yesterday afternoon (during a nap with Mia)that disturbed me. In the dream I put some animals (pets I had at various times in my life)down in the basement while I worked on re-doing the kitchen. I told my dog Buster that it would only be for a little while. I just didn't have time for them during the renovations therefore they had to stay in the down there. I got distracted, kept working on the kitchen and neglected bringing up my pets. Suddenly I realized that they must have died. I went down to the basement with Jasper and knew Buster was gone. He (Jasper)came out with a bag of small animals who were all dead. My rat Hope who I had as a teenager was there. I felt terrible and didn't even want to open it but then I did and saw that the snake Janet Jackson was still alive (I never had a snake named Janet Jackson, but I did have one named Jorge!) She must be starving I thought. I had to get her something to eat. I would take her to the pet store and get some advice on what to feed her. But then I realized I didn't have a license for her and I could get in big trouble (case of dream logic there.) She looked like a gopher snake so I figured pinkie mice would be good but I wasn't sure how many. If I got her four and she only ate two then more animals would die (they were too young for me to take care of)and I didn't want that. I woke up soon afterwards and felt creeped out and a little depressed. Maybe it doesn't sound like much of a nightmare, but the thing is, it is a variation on a theme I often dream about: neglecting animals for some reason or another. But this was the first time they ever died in a dream. Normally I remember them and somehow they are miraculously alive (bunnies in a cage I forgot to feed for six months, etc.) The fact that this time it was too late to rescue them was somehow really disturbing....
On a lighter note, I made some cool stuff last night for Etsy. Going back on a jewelry kick which was cool after making all the collages for a while. I also got some photos printed which I will have blown up and add later. I love my eclectic mix! Sewing class also went well. I made a cute little bag and can't wait until I have a little extra cash to buy a sewing machine. It's so much fun and I've learned that if you go extra slow and measure everything anally it goes really well even for a novice klutz like me! Anyway, here is a slideshow of the jewelry I made plus some better pictures of older stuff.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tired but inspired....

Man, I am so tired right now. It is actually a lot of work trying to get my work out there and viewed. I spent some time on the Etsy Forums today to try and find like minded people. I always kill threads though. Still, I did find a cool dress someone else made. Check it out:
Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Birds. Just my thing. It would look hideous on me though. A few of my items got favorited and I am up to 30 hearts. No sales though. I just uploaded some pictures onto Flickr but didn't have the patience to add tags and what not. I would love to update my weekend, what's been going on (a lot) my nightmare about the tsunami, but I am just too damn tired to do much of anything. Besides, no one is probably reading this blog anyway. It is just my little virtual diary and it will just have to wait until I spill out all my secrets. One thing that isn't a secret: I am totally obsessed with collages. Here are the most recent ones I made. Cool!
Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cool, creative weekend...

Well, I had great weekend (with plenty of sleep I might add.) I would love to write all about it here but I'm just too damn tired. Here is a slide show with some of the collages I made over the weekend. Enjoy! Be back later.

Friday, February 1, 2008


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