Saturday, June 18, 2011


So remember in March when I said I was obsessed with making shoes? Well, I finally did it!!

I didn't make them entirely from scratch, but I did make some serious improvements on some sandals I bought in Spain (2 years ago!) by cutting up a purse I got at Goodwill yesterday, and reassigning various parts of the purse to new and improved functions for my shoes!

The problem with these wonderful sandals was that once I got the leather totally broken in and molded to my feet, they no longer fit, because I could slide further into the toe box once it was all stretched out. I buckled the slingback straps as tight as they would go, but invariably, one or both shoes would always fall off at the worst times-- like when I was sprinting across Barcelona to get to class. Lemme tell ya-- I had some pretty freaky halts (think Fred Flintstone putting on the breaks in his prehistoric car, but with no prehistoric seatbelt) due to that issue. So, my solution was to get a couple of skinny hair rubberbands and knot them onto the straps that went behind my heel, so that I could have a makeshift ankle strap to hold everything together. This worked well enough, but was a bit janky; namely, because one of the rubberbands wasn't very big, so I made a loop out of a plastic twistie to attach the rubberband to the shoe. This bit of plastic and metal poking me in the ankle was not always very comfortable.

Here is a diagram of the ghetto-ness:

Finally, when I was at a haunted house in Spain, some girl who was way too freaked out was literally right on my heels (I guess she thought I could protect her from the terrible acting?) when she stepped right on my shoe, and my super-soft leather just tore right then and there. The tear didn't render the shoes unwearable, but it did make them more floppy and now more seriously in need of repair.

So today, I finally did it! I should have taken pictures during the whole process, but I was to excited about diving into the project to want to stop for Kodak moments. But that's ok, because the photos of my final results are pretty dang exciting!! Special thanks to Bryan for getting me a hardcore sewing machine that can fly through leather!

Here's a crappy photo of what my shoes looked like before I started hacking up a purse and using lots of contact cement:

And here are the lovely "after" photos!

And finally, here's a funny cat video that has absolutely nothing to do with this post:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

my latest obsession


I have a tendency to get really attached to a certain clothing item until I've literally worn holes through it, and then I don't know what to do without said awesome piece! In the last couple of years, I've had three pair of incredibly comfortable flats that I wore EVERYWHERE (two of which I found on DSW clearance racks).

The first pair was handmade in Spain out of black nubuck; and I never even had to "wear them in." They were blister-free from the first day I put them on! As Linda Richmond (Mike Meyers) would say, "They wuh like buttah!" I also loved them because they were unusually dainty for being made of nubuck: The hand stitching was evident and lovely, and the cute little pointed toes caused me to sometimes refer to them as my "elf shoes." I wore them so much that they got holes the size of nickles in the soles, allowing lots of dust and grit to get between my toes, but I wore them anyway... at least until the rainy season was in full swing.

The second pair I haven't yet allowed myself to toss, I guess, because the holes in them are still pretty small. However, with spring CLEARLY THINKING about coming soon, I am very eagerly anticipating wearing shoes that allow my ankles to be free again. Knowing that I walk in Boston a lot more than I did in Texas, I just know my brown Dollhouse flats aren't going to make it through another year. The reasons I love them so much are because they have this neat detail across the toe that has 3 layers of different shades of tan/orange/marigold leather, making them really versatile; and the shape of the toe box feels like they were custom designed for my fairly triangular feet.

Pair number three is the black patent, hand-tooled Italian leather driving moccasins made by Sesto Meucci that I got off ebay 2 springs ago. My sister and I refer to them as my "foot-gasms" because they are just so amazingly well-made. I ran (and danced) all over Europe and Texas in them, and the beautiful, lacey uppers on them have now stretched to the point of the shoes just about falling off my feet when I wear them. I've also managed to bust one of my pinky toes completely through the paisley-patterned perforated leather. Retiring my "foot-gasms" seems unfathomable, but the time has come.

I have searched high and low for replacements for these shoes, but nothing quite does them justice. Sesto Meucci is still making incredibly beautiful and comfortable shoes, but the ones that really make me swoon cost around $200 retail. Even ebay doesn't have any of the pretty ones anymore--just the clearly-comfortable-but-kinda-weird-looking ones for about $50-75. As for my black nubuck and brown artsy flats? Nothing quite does them justice, either. Most shoes made of nubuck look really sporty, or like they only belong on the feet of someone shuffling around a nursing home. Sure, there are brown flats all over the internet, but the ones with pointy toes have no space in the toe box for ACTUAL TOES. Case in point: BC Footwear's Hovercraft flats in Whiskey. Maybe they don't have orange and marigold on them, but they do have two tones of brown, and they are slick, yet feminine. They come so close to being acceptable replacements for my Dollhouse wonders, but then I read the reviews, and everyone says "beauty is pain." This is a sentiment I refuse to adopt.

So, now, of course, I'm obsessed with learning about shoemaking. I know, I know--at Christmas I asked everyone for hatmaking supplies, and most of you were smart enough to steer clear. It's not like grad school and three jobs allow you much time to fiddle with totally unfamiliar supplies/tools that could potentially cost an arm and a leg and make a huge mess. And yet, I persisted. I watched tons of instructional videos on YouTube; I inhaled 100-year-old illustrated millinery guides on Google Books; I dug through hundreds of ebay searches looking for the right kind of felt and glue and needles; I daydreamed about how to make my own (affordable) custom hat blocks so I could invent awesome designs to hug my head! Somehow, I never got sick of it! I am a self-diagnosed "research-aholic," and anyone whose met me wouldn't dare disagree.

I've been posting my YouTube finds on Facebook, but that doesn't seem the appropriate place for cataloging all of these gems. I must blog about the wonders of research.

Blogs about people learning to make shoes are really exciting for us craft-nerds. I have found two that are pretty good: Nori's Stuff and Green Couple. The folks who wrote Green Couple actually went on their honeymoon in the backwoods of Virginia just so they could spend a week learning about shoemaking. Cannot imagine talking a certain someone into that sort of "romantic getaway," but maybe I could get a coupon for a local class next birthday! There are actually quite a few traditional artisan cobblers/shoe repair guys in Boston that it's entirely possible I could charm my way into some sort of summer/weekend apprenticeship. It would be so fun to learn from someone in real life, rather than just online! But I digress. Nori's Stuff is a really great blog that is much less overwhelming than Green Couple's incredibly detailed (but somewhat poorly photographed) endeavors. Thanks to blogs like these, I've learned how to make your own shoemaking last (a copy of your foot that you can use for stretching/hammering/gluing leather into the right shape), how to make a flexible steel leather needle out of guitar string, how people in Budapest make really fancy men's dress shoes from scratch while listening to techno music, and so much more!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stuff on the internet that gives me abs of steel

Exhibit A: Mybusters is the awesomest show of all time; however, despite my love for the show, there are still episodes that have not yet entertained me. Case in point, (to quote the person who posted this on YouTube) "Do elephants afraid of mice?"

Exhibit B: ...And then there was Charlie Sheen. This guy has been spewing some seriously hilarious, and nutty stuff lately, and true to form, the tube-dwellers of the internets have spoofed him in a myriad of enjoyable ways. Personal favorite? BuzzFeed's Charlie Sheen quotes inserted into New Yorker cartoons. My runner-ups (runners up?) have to be similar mash-ups ala LOLCats. Take your pick of cats (duh) or baby sloths quoting the self-proclaimed winner. Also, today on Twitter, the top trending hashtag was #TigerBlood. Even the Red Cross found a way to work it in!

In other news, I just found out that Tom Hanks is a lot of animals.

Exhibit C: Combine with bad grammar, and I just laugh my smarty britches right off. Ok, well, not off, but you get the idea.

Exhibit D: The funniest web comic ever in the whole wide universe is definitely Hyperbole And A Half. It's written like a really long children's book, and illustrated like a fidgety crack head found a crayon and decided to draw his entire childhood. With stories of UNFATHOMABLE desires for birthday cake, bear-snake-bats that live under the bed and a smattering of temper tantrums, this blog frequently causes me to burst into laughter/tears/silent shaking (from trying to hold the tears and laughter inside because I'm in a public place!!!).

Exhibit E: A lot of people already know about this website, but somehow, it never gets old. now has an entire section dedicated just to the weird people who go shopping at 3 a.m. in Texas. (FYI-- other than these links, the rest of the site is prooooobably not totally work-safe).

Exhibit F: This website makes me laugh so hard that I tend to cry and then choke on my tears...every time!! You know when your smart phone isn't so smart--and the autocorrect in text messages goes horribly, horribly wrong? Yeah, it happens to everyone, not just you (dad).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

no flying without molestation

in case you haven't heard, TSA's new policies with regard to airport screening has gotten a bit out of hand. one security officer (whose job it was to repeatedly grope randomly selected folks who didn't want to go through the backscatter x-ray machines that show off your naked body) actually said that when you buy a plane ticket, you are giving up a lot of your civil liberties. to find out more about the experience of one guy who preferred the metal detector, but was refused access, read here.

here's my idea for how to let the big wigs know that we aren't down for this bullshit. in the spirit of improv everywhere's annual no-pants subway ride, we should just keep on strippin' when they say we have to take off our coats, shoes and belts.

step 1: do the usual selection of line and tray(s) for your stuff.
step 2: when you have to lose the belt and coat and shoes, keep taking your stuff off, with a straight face and casual demeanor.
step 3: when you're down to your skivvies (or less, if you're so inclined), stroll up to the metal detector, instead of the friggin giant x-ray box machine. if you are stopped, or redirected to the x-ray machine, continue to step 4.
step 4: try again to go through the metal detector, explaining that you wish not to expose yourself to the radiation. if necessary, explain also that they don't need to send you through the x-ray, because you have assisted them by showing them what they would see anyway. try to keep this conversation public, rather than letting them drag you off to the private booths where they practically get away with murder (legalized sexual assault). this is about raising awareness and concern, so it's important that the other (ahem, clothed) passengers see/hear what's going on.

maybe if this catches on, and a certain day/week/month is proposed so that lots of people can do this en masse, we can get someone's attention and let them know that buying a plane ticket should NOT equate to giving up your civil liberties.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

jewelery designers with whom i am falling in love

These are in no particular order. I can't rank one above another, because I love them all, sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes for very different reasons. You wouldn't say you had a favorite pet, or a favorite child, would you?

#1 Edward Everett Oakes.

Bio: Born in Massachusetts in 1891, Oakes was a second-generation Arts & Crafts master who had the good fortune to study with two beacons of the movement -- Frank Gardner Hale and Josephine Shaw.

In 1923, the year he won a Medal at the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Oakes was pleased to learn that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had acquired a pendant of his for its permanent collection ("the first such purchase made from a living American craftsman" according to Edith Alpers in the British Jewellery Studies, Vol. 3). This was a source of pride -- in a small catalog of wedding rings that he issued, the last page included a photograph of the object with the caption "A MASTERPIECE BY EDWARD EVERETT OAKES IN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART."

Why I'm in Love: His love for all forms organic, asymmetrical and whimsical totally woos me. Also, he frequently bezel sets his stones, which to me gives the pieces a feeling of delicate sturdiness, and a lack of pretentiousness, which is needed for something you'll love so much you'd wear it every day. If his stones aren't bezel-set, you might find them peeking out of what seems to be a bouquet of leaves (a more romantic image than what first came to mind, ET's face poking out of a pile of stuffed animals) floating in the form of what it seems magically collided into a piece of jewelry. Can't get much more lovely than that.

#2 Joanne Cooper.

Bio: Joanne is an expressionist painter. A sculptor. A jewelry designer. And somewhat of a Renaissance woman. Her work is alive and bold, full of pure energy and raw emotion. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of a noted Professor of Marketing and Economics, Ms. Cooper initially followed her father’s lead and studied economics at Northwestern University. But ultimately she moved to New York to follow her passion as an artist. Studying painting at the Art Student’s League, she was soon exhibiting her artwork in shows throughout the Northeast; winning National Competitions in juried shows at the National Academy of Design, Newport Festival of the Artist; and one-woman shows in galleries in New York, Chicago, East Hampton and throughout the East Coast.

Ms. Cooper started her career as a young painter back in the pre-feminist mid-60’s trying to balance her creative vision with her responsibilities as a young wife and mother of two. Painting 5-6 hours a day while her children were off at school, she stole time in her studio between preparing meals, doing homework and managing a family and household.

Moving between painting and sculpture, Joanne eventually applied the movement and flow of expressionism to the ornamental medium of jewelry design. During a successful 20 plus year career creating what she calls “Body Sculpture” working with semi-precious stones, silver and gold.

Why I'm in love: What's not to love? I'm a sucker for leaves, and it seems, so is Ms. Cooper. This cuff bracelet rocks a personality that I imagine to belong to a ballerina on an archaeological dig. It's bold, beautiful, soft and intricate. It looks like it was made in a similar fashion to that ceramic pot in the movie, Ghost-- a mystical spirit guided the artist's hands through a sexy art-making moment of zen. Oo! Sign me up!

#3 James Meyer.

Bio: Mr. Meyer got started making jewelry "relatively late in life" in his thirties. After diligently studying classical languages and history at Haverford College, he decided not to go to law school (as he had been encouraged to do) but went instead to the wonderful Rhode Island School of Design to study sculpture and drawing. He married in 1962 and after some twists and turns (a Fulbright Scholarship to study art at Athens Polytechneion and some college teaching) he came to jewelry as the way to fulfill his artistic desire and make a living. For almost 30 years, he had a retail shop in Williamsport, PA, specializing in his own jewelry and selling other American Craft items. He says it was a truly amazing period in American history in which crafts were revived and were supported by a wonderfully enthusiastic public. In his shop, a staff of about seven people made production jewelry based on Meyer's own designs for sale to other stores as well as their own; they also made countless one-of-a-kind pieces for the shop.

Around the turn of the century, he had a feeling of wanting to simplify his days and have fewer responsibilities, so he had a big sale (“to the bare walls”) and closed the shop. Since 1999 he has worked on his own in my studio in Bastress Township, about 10 miles from Williamsport, doing one-of-a-kind and custom order pieces only.

Why I'm in love: Milgrain! Asymmetry! Patina! Swirly shapes and organic lines! Oh my! I totally love everything about James Meyer's work. He is also unique in his use of green gold (Wikipedia says fourteen and eighteen carat gold alloys with silver alone appear greenish-yellow and are referred to as green gold) and his interplay of different metals (or colors of gold) in a single piece. He has an incredibly delicate hand in his work, but it never looks flimsy. He's definitely a fan of the bezel setting of stones, but his use of playful and nature-inspired shapes, as well as minute details, breathe life into compositions that could come off as otherwise too cold or modern.

#4 Constance Wicklund Gildea

Bio: I actually can't find anything about her yet. Still digging.

Why I'm in love: What's not to love about this carved gold ring! It has just about all the qualities I've listed above, plus it's hand-carved (the wax from which its mold was made, not the actual gold) and it looks like the sort of ring a fairy queen might wear! I especially enjoy the fact that it has a matte finish, making it look even more like it was plucked right out of a garden, rather than off a velvet tray.

#5 Charles Perrella.

Bio: Charles Perrella joined his brother Genaro in 1928 at age fifteen to master the jewelry trade. Charles continued after his brother's passing and became a Master Jewelry and Designer and later a budding entrepreneur. Perrella has always valued hand-made work and the integrity of jewelry construction. He patented his shop after the European factories where people mastered various aspects in the creation of jewelry. He enjoys working with 14k, 18k, and platinum gold to present the highest quality in jewelry. The careful combination of quality metals and stones results in an inspired collection of timeless sensibility.

Why I'm in love: duh. all of the above.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This stuff is really gross. I can't believe I paid 2 bucks for it just now. Granted, I may have nuked it about 30 seconds longer than the directions I didn't bother to read advised, but I still think that's no reason for it to taste like a cat ate burnt rubber bands and then puked them into a bowl. God, even the smell is starting to interfere with my workplace productivity (which I was trying to improve by eating this crap in the first place!!) As much as my disdain for high fructose corn syrup can often be blamed for the cause of convenient foods being less edible than those your grandmother slaved over for hours... I'd have to say I'm letting the diabetes-inducing goop that is the basis of most American foods off the hook this time: Thanks mom, for never letting us eat Chef Boyardee when we were kids. Gross.
So, I guess I'm kind of a big deal... who knew?

As you may recall, I got paid a whopping $200 to blog several times a month for 4 months last year, and people came out of the woodwork responding to my posts. Apparently, kids were choosing to study in Barcelona simply because I made it sound so cool. Go me! A year later, IES is still psyched about my work; I just got this email from them (sans details not needing to be published here):

Hello Brynn,

I wanted to contact you about a new feature on the IES Abroad blog site. The new spotlight feature is titled “A Year Later” details what our former bloggers are up to and how studying abroad has affected their lives one year or more after completing their semester abroad. Based on the high quality of your past contributions to the site, I would like to ask you to share an update.

If you would be willing please share a few (3-4) paragraphs about how your life, attitude, world view, career goals, or future plans have changed because of your experiences abroad. You do not need to worry about logging back into the blog site, you can simple respond to this email with your update and I will be post it on your behalf. Once provided, your update will be featured prominently on the blogs homepage as well as the locations list in the right hand menu.

Thank you for your participation,

IES Abroad