Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fairness For All

This issue of fairness, in regards to design, came up recently in my office lunchroom, when a group of us were admiring some handmade knits, made by a local Vancouver designer, in a magazine. We all drooled over the chunky brown shawl, and coveted it for our own, but when the $160 price tag was mentioned, it was quickly deemed ‘ridiculous!’ to be asked, as the consumer, to pay so much. At first I was nodding my head in agreement – I mean I can knit too, right? How dare she deem her knitting more valuable than mine? Until I realized, this designer is right.

Why shouldn’t she be asking for so much? Sure, wool isn’t that expensive, but there is her time to consider, overhead business costs, not to mention that the design is her art. Now how can you place a value on the passion, devotion and creativity that went into designing each handmade item? From afar that scarf may look like the one you saw at the mall last week, but trust me – it’s not. And as a jewelry designer myself, I felt ashamed for having discounted the value of this designer’s work. When I put myself in her shoes, I realize that is exactly how much she should ask for. Why? Because it’s fair.

Now trust me – I love a bargain. And I am definitely not advocating price gouging my customers! I just think that with all things considered in these poor economic conditions, we need to put our dollars in the right places. Victoria business owner, Trish Tacoma - owner of Smoking Lily - says it right: “It’s training your customers to understand that no, you’re not gonna get that $10 T-shirt because there’s no possible way that you can produce that $10 T-shirt ethically. It’s just not gonna happen. It’s training people to see that the sewers and printers are worth paying a decent wage too,” she says. “But I think people appreciate that the person buying the same groceries at the grocery store has made the dress they’re wearing. I think people really like that . . . buying local keeps the local economy going and keeps the money in the community.”

Life is about choices, and that includes the choices we make as consumers. I think it is so important to be armed with information about your buying choices, because there isn’t a single product or service out there without someone’s livelihood being on the line behind it. A conscious consumer should be aware of the difference between a bargain, and a steal.

Buying handmade is like buying a piece of art. You can guarantee that the designer has put a lot of thought, care, and attention into every single detail. The product has been produced under favourable and fair working conditions and quality is guaranteed. Most designers, including myself, have a lot of pride for their work and are happy to do repairs at any point in the item's life.

Luckily, resources like Ethical Consumer (an online directory of ethical Canadian businesses) make it easy to stay connected and informed about businesses in your community that do make a difference. This holiday season, more than other years, will be about making every dollar count in the most meaningful way. Buying handmade, while supporting fair trade business is the reason this season.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pretty, yet Practical!

I spent the weekend creating a project that I've had in my head for awhile. Using a 2'x4' sheet of pegboard, I fancied myself a bulletin board/tool organizer that is both functional and adorable!

I started by heading out to Home Depot and getting my materials. Now I must be completely honest and tell you that I was ashamed of myself, as most of these things would have been available at my local recycling center. I urge you to go this route if you are inspired to make your own board, as it would be a lot cheaper and more eco-friendly! Since I am now a pedestrian in this world, my choices were limited to what was available along the Translink bus route!

1 sheet pegboard
1.5m of fabric
Cotton batting (sold in rolls at any fabric store)
Framing (I used uncut trim)
Package of various pegs

Staple Gun
Electric Screwdriver

1. I layout my batting and fabric on the top 1/2 of the board. I flip the board over, staple first the batting, and then the fabric and I trim it all once it is stapled. Now really, it did not happen this simply, so to save you my mistakes - staple before trimming, and don't underestimate the length of staple that you need. I didn't take into account the wad of fabric/batting before the staple sinks into the board and cheaped out on the small staples! Staple the batting first, doing each side, the top, and finally the middle, pulling it taut each time before stapling. When you do the fabric on the front, pull it over the batting, even though you will cover the whole middle seam with a length of trim.

2. I cut 5 pieces of trim. 4 to frame the entire board, and one to cover the seam between the bulletin and tool boards. The frame pieces are measured to the length of the board and (after cutting) I used my protractor to measure and cut 45 degree angles at the corners. Okay, actually I realized I'm not smarter than a 5th Grader, and asked my lovely fiancé how does one make angles again? Being so resourceful, he printed a protractor off the Internet for me (?!!) and did the measuring for me!

3. I hammered the frame to the board. Here, I got a bit hasty and the nails were longer than expected. They went through the frame, through the board and halted abruptly at the tile floors. I would highly recommend accurately estimating the length of your nails, or maybe drilling small nuts attached with a bolt?

4. I lay out four spots on the wall where my board will be secured, which line up evenly and exactly to holes in the pegboard. Anchors are drilled into the wall and the board is screwed into the anchors, seamlessly and pleasantly. After we spent a frustrating hour attempting to attach wood beams to the wall, to which we would secure the board, only to learn we purchased faulty screws/anchors. But all was well in the end attaching directly to the wall, and as any home do-it-yourselfer can tell you, these hiccups are just the joy of D.I.Y!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Make a Necklace Organizer from a Cutlery Tray

I am always keeping an eye out for fun and creative DIY projects around the house! Sure it takes a bit more time and some creativity, but when people ask where you got that super cool (fill in the blank as it could be anything!) - you can say, "oh this, you ask? I made it!". Trust me, it is a much better conversation starter than, "I got it at Ikea."

I get my ideas from checking out what other creative bloggers are doing, or reading magazines such as Craft or Do It Yourself magazine. Even better is that these projects usually start by recycling something! In this case, I found a project for turning a wooden cutlery tray in a necklace organizer - perfect for storing your ecocessories jewelry!

See the instructions here at Laughing Daisies.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An Eco Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching and I got into the spooky spirit last night with my fiancé by carving a pumpkin! All those pumpkin guts got me thinking about the spirit of Halloween, and if there is anything we can do as participants to make the fun a bit more environmentally friendly.

Sure enough, I found this wicked video from Threadbanger that teaches you how to make your own eco-friendly Halloween make-up! If you aren't into that, it also suggests some great places to buy organic make-up. Because let's face it - our skin absorbs 60% of the ingredients put on it into the bloodstream in 15 minutes... AND commercial make-up contains over 1500 carcinogenic ingredients!! How's that for scary...

P.S. I got to review my new website live on the internet this week! It TOTALLY rocks, and I am SO excited to launch it. But it still needs some tweaking, so I am hoping possibly by November 1st? I'll be sending out an e-newsletter as soon as the launch date is finalized, so be sure to join!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ethical Consumer

I have been listed with an organization called the Ethical Consumer. The team is putting together a directory of green businesses across Canada, to allow consumers to search within their area for companies that practice sustainable business in their products and/or services!

Check out ecocessories' listing and see what else is listed in your hometown. This is a great resource to find green businesses to support as you start your holiday shopping!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What's trendy for Fall 2008

I've been studying what's hot for Fall 2008 lately, and finally had a very satisfying shopping trip yesterday to update my fall wardrobe! I also was feeling like a bit of a frump, because I was wearing this great ecocessories jewelery and I just didn't think my fashion lived up to my various pieces!

So what's in this fall? Well jewel tones are the must colours for Fall fashion 2008, adding warmth and a splash of colour to all those greys and blacks from last season. My favourites are peacock blue, plum purple, emerald green and red currant. These colours are best worn in an accessory item, paired with neutral colours, to give a classic, but fashionable look. In a few weeks, when my new website is launched, my fall line, made from recycled jewelry, will be inspired by these colours!

For accessories, the statement necklace is in fashion for Fall 2008. Check out this article from that discusses the trend and when you feel inspired, come back here to find that perfect statement necklace for your Fall 2008 wardrobe!