Friday, September 30, 2011

The making of: star ornaments.

I have been working now for a while on my range of porcelain ornaments and after getting some real great feedback on my snowflake edition I have been looking for a while to find more interesting motifs to create a new series. Et voila - on one of my treasure hunts I came across some vintage lace pieces that inspired me to make 'une collection franc̨aise' and I am looking forward to see what people will say about it.

But I have also been thinking about producing a very minimalistic version. No snowflakes. No lace. Only pure form. But it is a very thin line between beautiful purism and plain old uninteresting nakedness of things. I decided to go for a rather simple shape, a star, and make it light and delicate. I started to test how thin I could go with my raw porcelain.
I came down to almost 1mm.
Atelier work @LaNiqueHome
Now as you can imagine the minimised thickness bares a very increased fragility. Working with soft porcelain at this stage becomes a work of precision and very, very slow moves. 
The 'casualties' are high on this road of success. Many stars tear when not handles carefully enough during the production. Others crack if I haven't worked the material well enough or I dry then too quickly. And even when all this went well, the polishing stages and too much pressure can finish the last bit. I think it is safe to say that only about 1/5 of my stars make it in the end. But those that do - the are so gorgeous! 
And as you can see in the picture above, it becomes impossible to make those ornaments flat. Giving them a parabolic shape increases the stiffness of the final product. And once painted nicely in a pearl color on the inner side, the delicate light reflections are simply like in a fairytale.

Thinking now in business terms I came to realize that I would have to charge a tiny fortune because the manufacturing time simply takes sooo long. And how would I ship them to my customers?
I keep thinking of taking an egg carton and and bed the stars in soft, white, fluffy cotton. As "shabby-chic" as this solution is: I think it would convey just perfectly how delicate the actual really product is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I am a child of the IKEA generation! (Part1)

I have recently been asked if I would like to be featured with my Etsy Shop on someone else's blog. Well, OF CAUSE I do!
So I got sent the little interview with some neat clear instructions and a short description of how the blogger will present it later on their site. 10 short and clean questions that I wanted to answer just as crispy clear, but....
It is not that easy. My thoughts come to me as short brackets of words, that immediately come with another association of these words and at the end of this almost endless chain of words and thoughts and meanings I realized: I am a child of the IKEA generation!
Now that sounds strong doesn't it? You read it and are impressed (at least I was), but you don't know what that means. At first you see the brand name and then the word generation and think: oh oh! That can't be good. A secret society covered by an enterprise appearance slowly taking over world power. Waaaahhhhh!
But then I thought: “Wait a minute. If I now now where I came from, maybe that's a chance for me to see where I want to go to?!”

But let me first reconstruct roughly how I came to my conclusion in the first place.

So two of the questions were: tell us a bit about yourself AND how did you come about to open an Etsy shop? So digging in my personal history I thought:
My shop is about little home decorational elements that make your home more YOU. More special, more unique, more personal. And since I am the maker of things, they will have a bit of me in them, so what is MY life about?
My life is marked by my many many moves, school changes and later in young adulthood by country and even continent hopping. In the last 10 years I have lived (on 3continents, with 4languages and 5 countries) nowhere longer than 2,5 years. And even in those 2,5 years I moved 3times inside the same city.
Moving is never easy. Not as a child and certainly not as an adult. It is hard work, stress and very exhausting. In my case it always meant “Take what is important. Take what you can carry. And if you can't carry it, it can't be that important” As a result I learnt very well to distinguish between what is necessary, what is unnecessary (and can therefore be thrown away without second thought) and what is replaceable. In the end we always kept your
  • furniture (cause it was an investment too expensive to throw)
  • housewares (but even that got replaced rather often)
  • family memories (like photo albums)
  • and some of our cloths, I say “some” cause as I was a kid and was growing quickly out of stuff, many things got left behind as well.
Seeing my first friends having kids now, I noticed that I have nothing left from my childhood days to pass on to my future children. No funky 80's cloths, no toys, no books, no school stuff. Hmmmm, not even a place I can show and say: this is where your mommy grew up. Sounds sad, I know, but I guess the world is my home, so to say. And I can pass on A LOT of cultural knowledge and awareness. YES, that last point makes things sound a lot more positive, hu?!

When I decided to keep this life style going into my adulthood I got even more drastic. I managed to dissolve an entire household (and life so to say) in 10days. Leaving me literally with 2suitcases.
My definition of home is connected with the words ownership and time and comfort. Ownership over time gives comfort and equals a sensation of “being home”. Simple equation.
So how did I get to open a home decoration shop without having a real home? I never own anything very long.
Well, as I said, I got good at distinguishing different levels of importances. I will not buy an entire new wardrobe, just because I move. I take what's nice the rest gets left behind.
That's the difference between necessary and unnecessary.
But the really interesting things are the replaceables. Swap nice new modern German architecture and environment for a bit gothic victorian style Edinburgh, it's all new and exciting and wow. But once you are past the sensation of new and you will at some point wish to have some of the 'old', the known the steadiness of your old life back. You go and find the German baker, the Polish delicatessen and buy the design items you recognize. In my case IKEA.

I remember that my parents wanted to get me finally new furniture by the time I was 15, cause the old was old and battered by so many moves and I was too old to live in a childrens' room. But I happened to disagree in style expectations and my mother ended up gritting her teeth saying: “If don't like what I offer you to buy. You will have to buy the things you like with your own money!” I had none at 15. But I found a job in a supermarket after school and for my 16th birthday I bought myself a whole new bedroom from my own money. From IKEA!
I had my will and I had my style. A cheap version, but hey! 'Fake it, till you make it'!!!

I admit to be a fan of IKEA. I am in general a fan of Scandinavian design and architecture. And IKEA items are very true to their Scandinavian roots. Never too overcharged. Crisp, clean lines in their forms and here and there a splatter of rich color and/or pattern. They do their design job well and when it comes to design engineering they even better. Building furniture deals with a many-piece-construction that has to have stability. And producing stuff that any child can assemble takes a lot of brain work and planning beforehand. 
Naturally if you push limits of affordability up, something else might have to lower, most likely quality. But all in all, all realists know what they buy when you buy from IKEA. And because the brand is what it is, it is replaceable. That's where it's popularity roots. You don't have to invest for life. And many many of my friends have taken the same path and we are almost all children of the IKEA generation.
I am a fan – stylewise.
Becoming older and thinking more about quality and more importantly: Sustainability issues. Not so much a fan of this brand.

I was told once that it is a common phenomenon that people that find themselves far from what they call home (or home environment) get an appreciation for so called “non-places”. Supermarkets, train stations, even churches for some. That's because the atmosphere and the protocol of how to behave and move is known. The concept of all these places is more or less the same in every region or country. It is comforting.

Nowadays, when I get to see my friends who moved in together, or bought a house and I get to 'admire' this new new achievement and I see again and again and again Billy, Iktrop, Poäng or Lack if feel like being in one of those non-places. Known, constantly 'new' (cause it has been replaced by same thing just newer version) and in the end very very monotone.

So why did I open a home décor shop? Cause I want to bring some individuality and quality, as in 'made with love', into all those homes of IKEA children.

X Nic*

P.S.: If you really made it down the whole post: WOW. you got any case, thanks for reading through!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why is handmade so expensive?

Trying to make a living from products that you manufacture yourself is though tough business. And in times of economic crisis it is natural that we all take a closer look to our expenses. So if you can buy a t-shirt at H&M for €4.99 why would you spend for a similar one €40.00???
The answer is: cause it is NOTHING like the one from the big brand.
If you buy from a page like Etsy or Dawanda you go for a treasure hunt. You browse through stores, read profiles and discover items that you would NEVER find in a big store.
Why not?
Cause they are made with love.

Yes, LOVE!

You find a shirt, pants, jacket, bowl, mobile, piece of jewelery etc. and you get into contact with the person on the other side of the screen. You can ask questions, you can make alterations, you can customise and then you get it send. This thing you buy, someone will sit down and make just for you. And most times you can honestly say: there is no second one like this!

Voila, that is why you are willing to pay more. But that doens't answer the question why it is so expensive, does it?!

Well, if you have a minute or two and really want to know in detail how our prices are composed, have a look here:

A wonderful, passionate little discourse about the daily life of a microbusiness.
Or as my lovely Etsy collegue WimscalWinston put it: "When you buy from a handmade artist you should feel proud to support real people." 
Amen to that!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The story behind: the white butterfly mobile.

Mobile, 18white butterflies, fabrics and ceramic

It is a warm, sunny late summer day and I am enjoying the warm temperatures of the Mediterranean here in the south of France.
It is peaceful and it is the day after the 10year anniversary of 9/11.
I remember where I was this day this morning. 19years old, the little babyboy of my American host family on my arm I picked up the phone and I had my host mum on the line. Frantic noises in the background and her trying not to sound too freaked out she tells me: "Nicole, things are going mad! We are under attack. America is being attacked. They will try...." And I remember being confused and only wondering how come she is calling us, she is supposed to be on the plane, a business trip.....
My host dad took the phone from me, trying to calm his wife down who was crying by now. Trying to get some more information from her he only got only as confused as I was. WHAT WAS SHE TALKING ABOUT? The connection broke down and the three of us were left starring at each other not understanding what was going on there.
We decided to walk into the living room and turn on the TV. And there it was. World-Trade-Centre/NYC. One tower damaged and smoking....headlines saying something about an airplane crash. We stood there in awe, in our PJ's. With the baby on my hip and I said: "Wow. Look at that! Hollywood is getting truly amazing. It looks sooo real!" and my host dad just nodded. Then we saw live the second airplane crashing into the second tower and the trance we were in fell of with a BANG!

This was not Hollywood.
These were no special effects.
This was no animation.
This was happening for real!
My host dad turned and kissing the baby he said: "Mommy loves you, son!"

10years later I live in France. 29years old, I sit in the garden in the sun. It is peaceful. And I am just grateful.
"A brilliant day! I will be productive today. I will be creative and make something that is as quiet and lovely as this day."

>>>and I start working!
Here the results: