Category Archives: spotlights

cooking spotlights

Spotlight: Lucid Food Author, Louisa Shafia!

I love cooking, but I rarely follow recipes to the tee.  If I want to find out how to make something, I usually scan the ingredients list, close the cookbook and just wing it.  Last Christmas one of my gifts was Louisa Shafia’s cookbook, Lucid Food.  It is one of the first cookbooks I actually read and actually followed all the directions.  Food is personal and her cookbook tells a story through her appreciation of food.  She has had the honor of cooking at Millenium and Roxanne’s in San Fransisco and Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit in New York City.  Her love for food and eco-friendly practices resulted in the start of her catering business, Lucid Food in 2004. Her cookbook features seasonal recipes that draw from a variety of cuisines.  Indonesian Corn Fritters, Seven Vegetable Miso Soup, Crispy Yuba Rolls, Watermelon/Apple/Lime Shake, Dungesness Crab w/ Fennel & Orange, Poached Quince in Orange Blossom Water … is your mouth watering yet???  A wide range of delicious food peppered with eco-conscious tips and earth friendly alternatives – and it’s all pretty easy to make.  Cooking good food doesn’t have to be complicated and Louisa’s food is a testament to simple & sophisticated dishes.

lucidfood

After featuring her recipe for Cucumber & Pomegranate Salad on my blog, Louisa sent me a thank you email [much to my surprise] and gladly obliged to answer a few questions for the blog.  Through our email conversations, I learned that she lives in my old home of Williamsburg [Brooklyn] – which made me like her even more!  Here is what she had to say ….

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spotlights

Spotlight: Heidi Crawford of HMC Designs

I first became familiar with HMC Designs during an Etsy search for all things teddy bear [for my post, “Please Bear with Me“].  It was hard not to fall in love with the adorable designs of Australian Artist, Heidi Crawford.

hmc

The product list includes gift cards, badges [buttons], magnets, colorful plushies, hair bobbles, and baby bibs – all hand crafted and some are even customizable!  HMC Designs started in 2005 and quickly grew from selling at local market stands to a booming retail and online business.  With the recent birth of her daughter, I just had to find out how Heidi finds the time to do it all [because there are days I can hardly find the time to shower!].  I also wanted to know more about her business and motivation …. here’s the Q & A:

How do you balance being a new mom and running your business?

“I try to find a good balance between looking after my daughter, my home and finally my business! I do a lot of my design work when she is napping during the day and after she has gone to bed at night.  I am very lucky to have a wonderful partner and a close knit family who are always available any time I need help or someone to baby sit  for a few hours when I need to fill an order or spend time at a market.
I think the key to running my business successfully is making sure that I am really organized and set achievable goals. This means lots of  “To Do” lists!  There’s nothing better than ticking the “Done” box after you have successfully completed something.”

What is your best selling item?

“My best selling item would have to be my Wedding and Graduation cards.   weddinggrad

I have found that people really love the option to customize the faces so they look like the recipient. This feature makes the card that little bit more special when compared to the generic wedding card you may find in your local store.”

Where do you get the inspiration for all of the cute little characters?


“Currently, I am finding a lot of inspiration in children’s picture books, but I have always been fascinated with imagery from Japanese Pop culture.  As a child I practised my drawing by copying Sanrio characters and cute illustrations found in Japanese magazines.  From here I became interested in Anime and Pop Art in general.  For a few years now I have been collecting lots of colourful and interesting images, figurines and treasures.  All of these provide me with endless amounts of inspiration to continue designing and creating.”

Any plans to bring the products to US stores?

“Up until quite recently I have only been selling my products online and at local art markets.  I have just started approaching stores here and so far I have been getting a really positive response.  So once I have tackled the Australian market I hope to venture overseas to the US.  Having said that, if any overseas wholesaling opportunities pop up in the meantime I will definitely consider them.”

What makes you laugh?

“I love this super cute comic strip called “Patchesâ” –  It never fails to make me laugh.”

What is your favorite home decor item?
roca
“My partner and I purchased some amazing outdoor “Roca” chairs from a fellow stallholder [Carey Potter] at an Artists’ Market here in Melbourne.  They have a really grungy, weathered feel – they don’t look it, but they are really comfortable!
When I have a spare moment, I love to sit out in my backyard on my Roca and relax.”

[Heidi, I just might have to come to Melbourne to get one of these chairs!  I LOVE THEM!!]

Have you been selling the baby bibs [they are adorable!] for awhile or was this something that came about when you found out you were going to be a mom?

bub

“I started making the baby bibs after my daughter was born. I had a lot of trouble finding good quality cotton bibs that not only did its job but also looked good too.  I gave a few as gifts to friends who had recently had babies and after receiving a lot of positive feedback from them and after my own extensive testing with my own baby, I decided that they would definitely become part of my product range.”

Thank you, Heidi!!!  Can’t wait to see your stuff in the shops, but for now I am content with buying from your Etsy store!

fashion spotlights

Spotlight: Tammy Wilson of Earth Lover

Back in June I featured the Batik diaper bag from Earth Lover.  A few weeks later I received a lovely email from the owner, Tammy Wilson, thanking me for including this item.  We wrote back and forth a few times and it became apparent to me that this shop was something special and I wanted to know more.  We set up a ‘phone date’ and talked our heads off about everything under the sun.  In her sweet southern drawl, Tammy told me all about her wonderful family and the journey through life that eventually gave rise to Earth Lover.  “Sometimes you just work your way to a place. It is not a lightening bolt. Not really a sudden brilliant idea- just a place that you find yourself on your personal journey, and then it evolves from there.”

Fourteen years ago, Tammy retired from a long career as a Respiratory Therapist.  Since then she owned and sold several small business – all of them born out of passion for the things she loves.  She took a few years off when her son started high school, but fears of an ’empty nest’ and a need to give back to the world won Tammy over in 2008 when Earth Lover was founded.  Her daughter, Micah Elaine, is working on her Masters in Teaching in Atlanta and her son, Spencer Ryan, has been working on restoring a ’67 VW Microbus [his recycling project] and plans to attend MIT after high school.  These amazing children were part of Tammy’s inspiration, as she wanted to set an example for them as they go out into the world and choose their roles in society.  Since she had experience importing goods and a love for handmade, starting a green business and working with Fair Trade products seemed like the perfect fit.  With the support of her architect husband, Tammy got busy searching for goods from all over the world, “that not only bring joy into the lives of the recipient, but give back so much to the world and the beautiful people struggling to live in many parts of it”.

Tammy calls Earth Lover an alternative shopping experience.  It’s a place to shop, to learn, and to give.  “If my site can make my customers think about how simple it can be to help others through a small purchase of a beautiful product, then maybe they will begin to think about ALL of their purchases and one tiny step at a time we can make a difference.”

You can find earth-friendly products at Earth Lover for your home, your pets, your children, yourself, and your friends.  Like these handmade Fair Trade Christmas Stockings – perfect for the upcoming holidays!  Handmade in Guatemala and Armenia, the stocking on the left is made from recycled burlap coffee bags and the stocking on the right is 100% cotton with a fluffy wool top!

Click on images for more info.

coffeestockingarmenianstocking

Wrap yourself up on those cold winter nights in the comfort of a Swazi Blanket.  Handmade from 100% cotton by the lovely women of Swaziland and made available in the USA through Creative Women [a Fair Trade organization based in Vermont].

Click image for more info.swaziblanket

Q & A

Tammy Wilson of Earth Lover [You wouldn’t believe how shy she was about sending me a pic!  For a while I thought she might have one eye, a warted nose, and horns! – LOL.  Soooo not the case – great picture, Tammy – thank you!]

tammyearthlover

What is your best selling item right now and why do you think it’s so popular?

jutebag“Right this VERY MINUTE my best selling product is the Recycled Jute Backpack– it is CUTE , colorful, unique, and a great price. It is starting to slow down, now that back to school has settled in, but still quite popular. Right behind that would be my Cruelty Free leather backpacks, messengers, and the Hemp Messengers. They are just great products, unisex, and really hard to find in cruelty free leather. I have a hard time keeping them in stock, as the Fair Trade makers in Nepal have limited production, and I ALWAYS sell out!”

Where do you find the products you sell?

“EVERYWHERE! I have products from Fair Trade members, local artists, small US companies, Non- profits. And I have NEVER been to a wholesale market!! (I KNOW!!)  SO much of what I have is found by web searching for hours on end, late into the night- and from networking. People involved in Eco products, and Fair Trade tend to be very open and helpful, so it is not uncommon at all to be working with one group or person, and they share with me about another – I love that!

What is your favorite way to relax?

“Can you define that word, I am not familiar….. I am only 5’2” – and I frequently remind my friends and family that I am actually about 6’ Tall- I am just wound very tightly!! Haha! I do quilt- by hand- I know, who DOES this any more- but it is very relaxing. And I cook. Too Much. (Not too often, just too much- can you say LEFTOVER?) In the spring I grow vegetables.  Organic, of course.  I can totally chill in the garden for hours picking weeds.”

Why do you think people should buy eco-friendly and fair trade goods?

“Why WOULDN”T you??? Maybe I am naive, but I really believe that if people are educated about their choices, it is just not a choice any more!  If I ask anyone if they would rather have this handbag, or flower vase, from a sweatshop somewhere in the world, or a filthy polluting factory- or this other product from a Fair Trade Co-op that is supporting the welfare of people and making products in a way that considers the impact on our environment…Really, WHO is going to say, “Oh. I really Prefer the Sweat shop, thank you!” I really do believe it is just a matter of OFFERING an option, and educating the shopper. Maybe I am just a True Believer- but I really do believe that people are inherently Good, and would much prefer to choose Good when it is effectively offered!”

What’s something silly that most people don’t know about you?

“I talk too much to have any secrets. Really!  Ha! I don’t know…I am a vegetarian (no surprise really).   I am terrified to fly.  So I may never see many of the places that I work so hard to support – how sad is that?  Maybe someday…but I am REALLY terrified.  I have flown- lots of times- but it is hardly worth the trauma and I am getting more terrified every year.
I also like to sing stupid made up spontaneous songs during any time of great stress for my loved ones.  Yea, they REALLY appreciate this.  I recently had a Greatest Hits  involving the SAT!  It is REALLY silly, but it does relieve stress when someone is making a complete fool of themselves on your behalf.  Shannon, that may be way too silly for ANYONE to know!!” –
Tammy, you are not alone.  I sing about diapers, going to the grocery store, taking a bath, and a few other things I won’t mention.

BIG THANKS to Tammy Wilson of Earth Lover!!! This shop is definitely one to watch!

XO!



fashion spotlights

Spotlight: Anna Butler of Custom Made

In 2004, designer Anna Butler launched Custom Made out of her love for handcrafting, accessories, and all things adorable.  Anna grew up in Oxford in the UK, where she inherited the sewing gene from her “mum and gram”.  [My mom bought me a sewing machine that sits in the back of my closet taunting me.  I’m lucky if I can stitch a button back on … and so is my mom for that matter!]  A friend of mine in London tipped me off to Anna’s goods and I raved about the Tweet Brooches and French Daisy Necklace in one of my previous posts.  Anna creates some of the most darling handcrafted items I have seen in awhile … and with a sense of humor!  Check out this awesome “Beware of the Yeti” Brooch – guys can wear this too!

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cooking spotlights

Spotlight: Sunny Gandara of NY’s Fork and Glass

I first met Sunny at J Records where we worked together in the International Department.  In fact, she spent nearly a decade in the music industry before realizing it was time to take a chance on her true passion – food.

Sunny is a Norwegian native and came to New York, by way of Rome, Paris, and San Francisco, 14 years ago.  She graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2005 and also holds a diploma from the WSET [Wine & Spirits Education Trust], as well as several certified credentials from the Society of Wine Educators.  She currently has a totally awesome job as a mixologist and lead educator for Heavy Water [an ultra premium vodka brand from Scandinavia].  Sunny met her husband, [then Executive Sous Chef] Mark Gandara, while working the front of the house at the 3-star Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit, in mid-town Manhattan.  How cute is that?!  Mark is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has over 10 years experience working in several high profile Manhattan restaurants [such as Union Square Cafe, Alto, and the Russian Tea Room] and with celebrity chefs from across the country.

forkandglass

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