it has been raining in maine for the past week. at least... and the forecast for the next 7 days is not looking promising. i was in boston this morning and got to eat brunch and go for a walk in the sun and for that 4 hours i thought i had died and gone to heaven (no rapture pun intended). driving home on 95 north we just hit this wall of fog and rain and dreary weather and just like that my vitamin d heaven was gone. it's may 21st. it should be sunny everyday. it should be above 55 degrees everyday. this week is my last official week of work until summer vacation. it doesn't feel like it. so in honor of summer vacation and the lack of summer weather i've had, i've decided to blog about a series of photographs by one of my favorite photographers.
the photos appear to have been taken from directly above the subject when in fact all of them were taken from the same high rise balcony in hawaii. taken in the days following the september 11th attacks, misrach eliminated all references to the sky and horizon line to increase the sense of solitude and even digitally removed people from some photos to heighten the sense of isolation. he titled the exhibit "on the beach" after the 1957 Nevil Shute novelabout life after a nuclear holocaust.
"I was drawn to the fragility and grace of the human figure in the landscape, My thinking about this work was influenced by the events of 9/11, particularly by the images of individuals and couples falling from the World Trade Towers, as well as by the 1950's Cold War novel and film, On the Beach. Paradise has become an uneasy dwelling place; the sublime sea frames our vulnerability, the precarious nature of life itself."
awhile back i stumbled across this flickr group. immediately i started drooling over all these awesome photos and wanted in on the technique, i googled "through the viewfinder" and found this you tube video....
this guy explains the entire process in an abbie friendly way so onward i went...
next stop, ebay to find myself a vintage kodak duaflex. there are TONS of these cameras listed and they are super inexpensive. after i purchased one on ebay i found one at an estate sale for $1, so definitely check out local thrift stores and estate sales as well.
here are my babies. the one on the left is the one i got for a buck, it's an ansco admiral and on the right is a kodak duaflex III that i purchased from ebay for about $20.
unfortunately i lost my ghetto rigged tubing that attaches to the top of the camera but i just used a dark colored paper shopping bag and taped it up with black electrical tape. i wish i had a photo of it because it was pretty sweet. basically anything goes as long as it's dark and doesn't leak light.
another thing that is essential for this project is a macro lens. i used a micro-nikkor 60mm f/2.8d and also an editing program such as photoshop
after you got your cameras, tube and lens, you're on your way... the photos below were taken at acadia national park here in maine, i got plenty of curious looks as i toted around 2 cameras, one of which was ancient with a jimmy rigged tube attached to it. it's also quite frustrating to not only hold the duaflex with one hand but to also hold and focus your dslr with the other. it takes definitely takes some practice! so without further ado, here are some of my first attempts at through the viewfinder:)
the next set of photos were taken on cathedral ledge in north conway, new hampshire and in the old port and east end in portland, maine.
these days the kids are cheating with iphone apps (myself included) but if you have the time and patience, this is definitely worth learning!
I stumbled upon Kelly Bergin's blog "The Adventures and Misadventures of One Miss Kelly P. Bergin" about a month ago through a mutual friend on Twitter. The first post I read was "How I'm in the Hospital Again, Part One" and I immediately fell in love with this girl's sense of humor, desire to plow through her trials and her amazing way of putting her life into words that make you feel and understand as best as you possibly can without living it yourself. I emailed Kelly right away and asked her if she'd be willing to do a guest post, she wrote back almost instantly, from her hospital bed, and agreed to write up a special post. Kelly is a Cancer Survivor and a Lupus Trooper and an all around awe inspiring gal. I promise if you read her blog she'll have you laughing, crying and grateful to be alive. Thank you Kelly for being a guest, your stories are always welcome here:)
I'm sure I'd see some awesome creatures and take some neat pics, but the animals would probably snuff out the bag of Honey Nut Cheerios I keep on my person for snacking (like a toddler) and take a chomp out of Bergin.
I might turn into brunch for the brutes but--I would probably survive.
I want to do these things. I want to live life in the extreme.
I want to work hard. Eat lobster till I puke. Drink vodka and swim in the ocean at 4 am. Run for six miles without breaking a sweat. Write for twenty-four hours straight. Drink coffee!
I want to fight. Battle. Hard. Against lupus. Against cancer. Against the odds.
I want to get drunk and forget that this is my life. I want to stay sober, write and remember.
I want to live past the boundaries of illness and time. Swim where no lifeguards sit.
I want to do everything and then nothing. Nothing and then everything.
But, as I age (six months until twenty-five), I find the resistance band is pulling. I have to choose now. I have to decide which way to go.
Fuck it all. Or be better.
And I think that to choose would be more extreme than every other thing on my list.
So I say "I don't know. Wait. Give me some time. I'm young. I'm FINE."
But I’m not fine. I’m in and out of hospitals and beds and bars and dreams. I am happy. I am wavering. I am unsure.
So maybe I choose this, and maybe I will live like this.
I will do better. Do better a little bit more, every day. Until I don't drink 100 proof vodka and I don't eat McDonald’s and I don't flip out over seemingly insignificant things. Until I can step up on a curb without my body hurting.
And even if that day doesn't come-- even if nothing changes:
I will still try to be better. Until I care less about the stupid stuff that consumes us and more about what matters in life. Passion. Writing. Family. Friends. Doing good things for others.
I had the most amazing privilege of meeting two of the kindest people on this planet. Jonathan and Naomi contacted me about their wedding and as soon as I heard the details of their special day, I knew it was my dream job. Their wedding took place at The Barn on Walnut Hill in North Yarmouth. This space was absolutely perfect and the spots to take photos were unlimited. What a great location! Jonathan and Naomi recently moved to Maine so a majority of their friends and families traveled in from all over the country. As the day went on I saw how truly blessed they are to not only have each other but to have such a fantastic, loving, supportive group of people in their lives. One of the greatest details of this wedding was that everything was local. The flowers, veggies and fruits were purchased that morning from the local farmer's market. The pork that was served was from a locally owned business and the sauces were made by Jonathan himself, who is a chef. They had local live music playing during the ceremony and cocktail hour. The day went off without a hitch except for a little bit of rain sprinkles during the outdoor ceremony, no worries though, as the guests started feeling drops of water falling upon them, Naomi yelled out mid ceremony, "Rain is good luck!!" With or without rain, I wish Jonathan and Naomi a wonderful life together, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your day:)
I discovered Freckled Nest through a blog I read frequently that she actually designed. I inquired about Leigh-Ann designing this blog back in the early winter, I had a lot of questions, a lot of concerns and "LA" walked me through the entire process. I wanted this blog to mainly feature my photography and my work, I wanted it to portray my bliss and my passions. Leigh-Ann and I spent hours collaborating and designing and discussing the perfect blog. During that time we became fast friends. Many hours were spent not only working but bonding, sharing and laughing over so much. I am so happy to introduce Leigh-Ann for this week's "Inspire(d)" feature, she's is half the brains behind the launch of this blog. Leigh-Ann, thank you for your patience, hard work and friendship. You are my BFFCBWSLITS;)
Abbie: So, you are Leigh-Ann Keffer of Freckled Nest and Winnipeg, Canada. Leigh-Ann: I am, hi! :) Abbie: What are you wearing? Leigh-Ann: A T-shirt about ketchup, aqua pajama pants and a black cardigan (it's 10pm) and my new Spin Pin hair accessory. Abbie: I love the ketchup tee. Leigh-Ann:hehe. Abbie: Okay, so we're gonna talk about your business, Freckled Nest Leigh-Ann: eek, cool! Abbie: Where did the name come from? Leigh-Ann: It's a cute story :) I like the letter F, so I opened the dictionary and found "Freckles"... which I love because I like natural beauty, I was telling my friend how I needed to develop the name more, she asked me what else I love...I said, I love forts, nature, animals--- I like birds so much I've let them nest in the eve of my house for the last 3 years... it clicked together and I shouted out "FRECKLED NEST!" I've loved it ever since. It's gathered beauty. And then I punned it up with my tag line, "Hatching Inspiration; Moments in Flight" Abbie:hmm...I wish my blog name clicked like that. It only took me 2 months to figure it out. Leigh-Ann:hehe, you're so great :) Abbie: I like the tag line. Leigh-Ann: Thanks Abbie. Abbie: When I just look at it, it doesn't make sense but, knowing what you do it makes complete sense. Leigh-Ann: Is it confusing? Abbie: No. Well, yes, at first. Then I got what you do and it makes sense. Leigh-Ann: It's more of my blogs feel than my business, like, my motto. Abbie: It's good though, not everyone thinks like me. Leigh-Ann: To inspire and soar. Abbie: Yes. Then its perfect Leigh-Ann: Thanks.
Abbie: How do feel about the pussycat doll winning Dancing With the Stars? Leigh-Ann: Oh, you almost got me excited! I thought you were talking about that Pussycat Reality Show that was on a few years ago, with Robin Anton...she always said, "Find your inner Doll" ;) Abbie: Oh, I couldn't watch that, just that quote makes me want to puke. Leigh-Ann:Umm, I actually quit watching Dancing with the Stars when KGo (Kate Gosselin) got kicked off. It wasn't good/bad anymore. Abbie:bahaha!! I agree. Leigh-Ann:Lol, it was actually a really fun show! It's where the band "girlicious" came from (but I just liked the show, and all reality TV) Abbie: I need to catch up on that MTV show you told me to watch about doing something you want to do and then helping someone do something they want to do...what was it called? Leigh-Ann: Buried Life! ---it's SO good! Abbie: Yes! I watched only a few episodes... Leigh-Ann: It's inspiring :) Abbie:oooohhh..I'm a huge fan of inspiring. Maybe i could interview them. Leigh-Ann: Hence the blog name. Abbie: Exactly.
Smile and Wave Rachel Denbow's blog designed by Leigh-Ann (also how I discovered Leigh-Ann)
Abbie: So, what made you want to start designing blogs? Leigh-Ann: I started by doing my own... and a few people asked me to do their blog banners. I really liked it so I developed a few packages and it took off. I love doing the same thing over and over in a different way each time, so it's perfect for me. Abbie: It must be fun to collaborate with different people and their styles.. Leigh-Ann: TOTALLY! Each person is amazingly different! I love getting to know my clients and discovering what they dream of as their perfect blog space, I dork out seeing their joy when it comes to life! Abbie: Do you bond over reality TV star train wrecks with all of your clients? Leigh-Ann:Hmmm, not exactly... but I do seem to bond over something with each person. I think it's because I'm myself when we correspond, I feel weird being ultra professional... so fun details come out on both sides.....Like with us buddy! Abbie: I loved that about you. We were x-in and o-in and buddy-ing and doing America trivia in no time. Leigh-Ann: Remember when we talked about what States look like weird shapes? You were training me for when I move to the USA in August. Abbie: Yes, and you kept telling me I was wrong. I remember. Leigh-Ann: Oops, sorry ;)
Abbie: Are you getting excited about the move?? Leigh-Ann: I AM! I'm moving in just over 2 months, I can't wait to get to Missouri... it doesn't feel real yet. Abbie: Can we talk about what you're moving for or is it still a secret? Leigh-Ann: It's public. Abbie: So let's discuss...you were offered a job.... Leigh-Ann: Yes, Elsie Flannigan offered me a job as her personal assistant and Red Velvet Art manager. DREEEEEAM! Abbie: So you'll manage the RVA store? Leigh-Ann: When the new store opens, I'll manage the employees and a few other aspects of the company (in partnership with Elsie) Abbie: And what will become of Freckled Nest? Leigh-Ann: I'm scaling it back a lot but it's still my baby. I'll continue blogging and would like to teach an online class each year. I've hired Kyla Roma and Jaelynn Gonzalez to join my design team. They have great style and I think they'll fit the Freckled Nest family really well! So while I live in the USA, Freckled Nest customers can choose from 3 designers, myself, Kyla or Jaelynn...whoever suits their style best, it's gonna be great, we're growing! Abbie: That's awesome! Are the girls in the us or Canada? Leigh-Ann: Kyla lives in Winnipeg like me and Jae lives in California. I admire them both so much, I was so excited at the opportunity to have them join Freckled Nest. They accepted and I'm delighted! Abbie: That's so awesome, I'm excited for you! Leigh-Ann: Thank you :) Abbie: You're also doing an online workshop this summer too? With Elsie and Rachel? Leigh-Ann: I'm contributing to Red Velvet Summer Camp. And in August, I'm teaching an Online Skills Class ALL ABOUT learning to sew! It's going to be so fun and take the confusion out of sewing... building skills through 30 Projects meant for beginners! Abbie: Where do you find the time for all of this? Leigh-Ann: It's my passion, my current career and what I do for fun :)
Abbie: What is your current obsession? Leigh-Ann: I have a few... Shopping for vintage dresses for my new job, sandwiches, staying up late, the City and yellow & orange Abbie: What kind of sandwiches? Leigh-Ann: Almost every kind. The one I'm eating right now is a homemade sub sandwich (late supper). With a cola and a grapefruit. Leigh-Ann: What's your favorite kind Abbie? Abbie:oooh...I'm gonna have to go with this one called "The Ploughman's Lunch" from a local market.... It's turkey, swiss, mango chutney, lettuce and mayo. So so so delicious. Leigh-Ann: Sounds good!! Abbie: I want one now. Leigh-Ann: I love market sandwiches a lot. Abbie: I like markets a lot. What do Canadians call grocery stores? Leigh-Ann: We call them...Grocery Stores :) Abbie: Clever. Leigh-Ann: I'm not from Persia here, we're not far away ;) Abbie: Well, my college roommate called them ''markets" and she's from New England but, a market to me is more fresh and locally owned and operated, not a chain store Leigh-Ann: Like, vendors coming together with fresh stuff and paper bags and smiles :) Abbie: I have a friend that calls a shopping cart a "buggy" Leigh-Ann:hehe, that's like how people have a lot of different names for 'tv remotes' my grandpa calls it the 'clicker' Abbie: I was just gonna say clicker... Leigh-Ann: "zapper"...is this part of the interview? Abbie:ahhhh..yes! This is the fun part...."zapper" that's new
Leigh-Ann:lol, oh- hi everyone :) I thought me and Abbie were just rambling to each other like we always do... Abbie: We do tend to get off topic quite a bit, like the night i was almost 2 hours late to meet friends because you were trying to tell me Alaska was a little state. Leigh-Ann: and you were 'pre-gaming' ;) and i didn't say Alaska was small... I thought you did? Abbie: No, I said it was like, half the size of the country Leigh-Ann: But it's not, is it? Abbie: I think it is... it's big. Ask Sarah Palin Leigh-Ann: Oh Maverick ;) Leigh-Ann: Are you enjoying your new blog? Abbie: I am. It's very time consuming...posting, that is....but I love it Leigh-Ann: It's a labor of love hey? :) Abbie: For sure. Leigh-Ann: You'll get faster at it eventually. Takes practice :) Abbie: I've gotten a lot of great feedback so I'm pretty stoked. It's amazing how fast it spreads. Leigh-Ann: super! You deserve it :) Abbie: Aw, shucks pal ;) Leigh-Ann:hehe, punches shoulder ;) Abbie: *slaps the back of your head* Leigh-Ann: ha! Abbie: Okay, so to wrap it up, you love your job, you love working with people like me and you'll be a US citizen soon and we're gonna go to NYC together and eat sandwiches from the market. Leigh-Ann:lol, Pretty much ;) Thanks for featuring me Abbie!! Abbie: Thank you for being part of the feature Leigh-Ann!!
For this week's Inspire(d) post I am so very pleased to introduce to you one of my super amazing friends, Jess and her delicious soap business, Chase Street Soap Co.
Jess and I lived in bordering towns here in Maine before she relocated to New Jersey. Her soap making adventure started one snowy winter, I specifically remembering her telling me over the phone about this idea she had. I saw her very first loaves of soap covering her dining room table and I even got one of the first bars, lilac scented:) Over the past few years Jess has jumped into this venture feet first all while being an amazing wife and wonderful mother of 2 beautiful children. I am so proud of my friend for following her passion and turning every obstacle into an opportunity. Jess, you are a true inspiration. xo.
What inspired you to begin your soap making adventure?
I am a stay at home mom and while living in Maine, I was in our local health food store waiting for a sandwich order when I saw a book on soap making. I started thumbing through it and pretty instantly knew that I wanted to have a company, not just a hobby, of making soaps. I knew exactly what I wanted the name to be, how I wanted the packaging to look, what I wanted the product to be and stand for, it was one of those 'ah-ha' moments I guess. And I knew it could do it while still devoting my attention to raising my daughter. Also, on a personal note, I am a huge Fight Club fanatic. When I started looking through the soap book, I thought, 'Huh, they make soap in Fight Club, I could do this-only not with human fat'.
What was Chase Street Soap Co. like in the very beginning?
In the very beginning it was: dark, choppy, messy, a bit disorganized, and a huge learning process. I made everything at night, after the baby was asleep, so I would be working by dim porch light mixing the lye outside and then hoping the mixer wouldn't wake anyone up. Sometimes I would be up until 2am, then turning around and getting up at 6am. Also at that time my soaps were not uniformly cut, so getting the wrappers to fit nicely was hard, I made everything in my kitchen, so it was a lot of thorough cleaning every night when I finished up, I locked all materials and supplies in a cabinet to keep safe from my daughter so it was a lot of unpacking and repacking things away after each soap making session, making the process of setting up and breaking down longer than actually doing any soap creating. It also took me some time to figure out what I needed for supplies and how often to order ingredients. I felt like I was constantly out of one thing or another.
I have always been a lover of the sea, pirates, adventures and the dark creatures below. When I had my epiphany in the health food store, a men's line centered around some of my most favorite things was immediate. I thought of my husband, a carpenter, and what he might be willing to use. Most handmade soaps I had seen which were marketed for men still seemed rather sissy and dull. I couldn't imagine my husband wanting to use a bar of soap wrapped in pretty paper and scented like lavender or vanilla. I wanted my guys soaps to be rough and tough, as well as edgy and a bit tongue and cheek. Soaps plus a rowdy sea faring theme just seemed to fit.
You sell your soaps through Etsy, in local stores and farmer's markets, what are the pros and cons of each?
The overall pro is that the more places I sell in, the more noticed the soaps get.
On Etsy, its taken a while to get out there, but since January, things have been taking off and I went from shipping out one or two occasional orders within 24 hours of payment to shipping 5-15 orders out once a week. I love that my soaps are frequently picked for the front page and for the treasuries and still, after over 2 years of soap making, I am still very unique and original. There have been some imitators, but I take that as flattery- that I am doing something interesting enough to copy. CONS: I don't like paying fees, and everything associated with Etsy/Paypal etc. takes a little bit. I keep my prices the same, from the website, to the market and so on, but I take in less on my internet sales because of those little bites. I also get discouraged by some customers intense NEED to have something immediately. In a world where people hate waiting and so many things are instantaneous I think they sometimes overlook the fact that these items are hand crafted and that doesn't just happen in a blink of an eye.
Local stores offer me yet another outlet to be seen and while I may not be there selling it myself, my wholesale customers are very supportive, like my products and market them well to their customers. It is also a much steadier form of income versus the internet, which is kind of hit or miss and timing. The CON: When a wholesale customer decides to not order from me anymore, (which unfortunately has happened with the downturn of the economy in the past year,) but they fail to mention it. Yes, I don't like losing a customer, but I hate the lack of communication more.
At the farmers market I am becoming known as 'The Soap Lady (or Girl)' I have many loyal customers who bring friends, family and, my favorite, their husbands (who vow never to use regular soap again after trying one of the bars of Salty Dogs) to my table week after week. I like seeing faces, I like talking to the customers and hearing what they like, and what they don't like about what I am doing. I enjoy the reactions when they realize that I do this all myself, and raise a family to boot. The face to face keeps it small, intimate and interesting. The CON: When I am slicing up a bright blue loaf of soap to keep myself busy and someone comes over and asks me what kind of cheese I make. Seriously this happens, A LOT. I don't know about you, but I've never seen teal colored cheese, nor would I want to. I also wouldn't want to take a bite out of what I'm slicing.
Chase Street Soap Co. at the Atlantic Highlands Farmer's Market in New Jersey.
What advice do you have for those who want to make their home/hand made creations reality?
My advise would be to make sure you get all the materials that you need, and nothing that you don't. I don't even know how much money I have spent when I first started on little things that I think would work for this or that or the brainstorms I come up with while in the craft store but never have the time to carry out. Its great to have new ideas and try different things, but sometimes its too much and it takes away from the overall goal. Think of the message you are sending with your creations. Put yourself and your beliefs into your work. Do as much as you can on your own for as long as you can. Don't sink yourself in the costs of having someone else do the work for you. Also, packaging and photos are HUGE if selling on line. Again, as previously mentioned, some people not having time for things, I have found that a majority go for the most pleasing to the eye first, then read the ingredients.
My artwork for the labels comes from 2 places. The main logo for Chase Street Soaps is a sea monster from a 15th century Spanish map. I altered 'him' slightly, in the always amazing Photoshop and use a pirate style font for my lettering. The Salty Dog labels are artwork from an American artist by the name of Howard Pyle. He drew and painted amazing pieces, not only on the sea rovers and buccaneers of the 17th century, but all sorts of historical and fairy-tale type people as well as wrote short stories which the pictures coincided with. One of my most prized possessions (and I am not one for attachment to 'stuff') is a first edition book printing of his paintings and stories of pirates. Its tattered and the binding is bad, but I love it. All of the Salty Dog labels feature a note on the back about each pictures title and date of original publishing.
Salty Dog label artwork by Howard Pyle.
What is it about your soaps that appeal to so many people?
I think (and hope) that people like many aspects of my soap. First being that going green has been in the forefront for some time now, and its growing more and more. My soaps are biodegradable, natural, animal friendly (I only use vegetable oils from sustainable harvest-no lard, tallow or, human fats) and I recycle and reuse whatever I can in my creating process. I offer DIY kits, where the crafty folks can make their own soap from the cuttings generated when I square bars off. I make natural laundry soap from these cuttings too, packaged in muslin bags. All the paper packaging is printed on recycled paper, I use the margins for the thin strips that hold the labels on and they are fully biodegradable and the plastic jars and tubes can go in the recycling bin as well. Second, the simplicity of hand crafted goods (although there is nothing simple about the process of making this stuff) is becoming popular too. People are appreciating the fine quality and attention to detail that 'handmade' means. Third, once you go to handmade soaps, you will never want to use a nasty old bar of grocery store soap again. Going back to selling to husbands and "mans man" type guys, they are the ones I like converting the most. So many times I have had a wife buy a bar for her husband, skeptical that he will notice or care what it is and within a few weeks, the husband returns to the market, hunting the soap table down for that bar his wife bought because he just wont use anything else.
You recently ventured into the land of body care products, pet soap and even laundry soap, what inspired you to do this?
As with any business, you need to grow, try new ideas, come out with new products and since I have the soap portion of it pretty dialed in, I figured I would give it a shot, see how it went and keep what worked. Many items and ideas have come and gone and I will constantly have that ebb and flow while my brain keeps ticking out ideas. The Filthy Mutt™ Dog soap was the first addition, since it is merely my same basic recipe, just with an essential oil blend that benefits a four legged friend. Pets are like children to some, they want only the best for them. The next was scrubs, lotions, lip balms and solid perfumes. Most of these items require just a few extra ingredients outside of what I all ready work with so it was an easy addition. I am still refining my packaging and labels, I am a horrid perfectionist, but I am pretty pleased with where they are at now. Lastly the laundry soap, which I wished I had thought of sooner, has been a great way to use up my soap pieces. Now I make so much soap, but still refuse to waste the pieces I needed to come up with a better solution for using them up. Enter a cheese grater and some muslin bags and you get laundry soap. Its been a great seller for me, customers really like the recycling, the natural packaging and the kicker-discounted refills!
Up next for me is streamlining. I did this (and still do this) with the soaps. I try a bunch of scents or varieties, see what sells, trim what doesn't. I am going through that phase now with the new products, cutting back to a few of the best scents and most popular items so that I don't have so much to choose from that the customers head spins. (I like simple myself) I hope to expand to more wholesale customers and I would also like to grow the portion of monogrammed bridal/baby shower or wedding favors that I do. I also want to get rid of the plastic packaging all together. I will be converting over to metal tins for the lip balms and glass jars for the lotions. Its a bit more expensive, but I think our earth is worth every penny.