Posts Tagged crafts

Highlights from the 2009 Smithsonian Craft Show


Glowing pottery from Rossheim/Marrinson Studios at the 2009 Smithsonian Craft Show.

I was fortunate to make it down to the Smithsonian Craft Show on Sunday, a yearly event featuring the work of American’s best craft artists. Sponsored by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, the juried show featured the work of 120 artists in the areas of basketry, ceramics, decorative fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, wearable art, and wood.

While most of the people at the show seemed to be there to shop, I headed down for inspiration. After all, as an amateur crafter, it’s always good to see what some of the best people in the country are producing. And I was not disappointed.

Here were some of my favorite exhibits at the show.

Danielle Gori-Montanelli
1046 Oldfield Rd.
Fairfield, CT 06824
(203) 548-9025


A felt collar from Danielle Gori-Montanelli

I was drawn to the bright colors and fun shapes of Danielle Gori-Montanelli’s booth. Her hand-sewn felt pieces, which ranged from necklaces to collars to brooches, were absolutely stunning. Her pieces are simple – constructed from just felt and thread – but the way she plays with height, depth, pattern, and color is expertly done.


A stacked felt brooch.

You purchase Gori-Montanelli’s work on her web site, and learn more about her creative process.

Jessica Beels
1781 Lanier Place, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 361-2609


You would never guess that this jewlery is made from paper.

These pieces by Jessica Beels caught my eye because they were so delicate and subtle, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the translucent covering was made of. So imagine my surprise when I found out they were made from paper! Beels, a DC local, makes her jewelry out of her home studio in Adams Morgan. She has a description of how she makes her paper pieces on her Web site; she starts with a metal armature and covers them with strips of homemade  paper. The paper shrinks as it dries, creating a taunt and delicate structure.


One of Beel's paper sculptures.

You can purchase Beels’ products and learn more about her work on her web site.

Rossheim/Marrinson Studios
PO Box 78
Starksboror, VT 05487
(802) 453-4887


This pottery seems to glow.

I am a sucker for a beautiful pottery. But the bowls in the Rossheim-Marrinson Studios booth were more than just beautiful forms – they literally seemed to c0llect light. Emily Rossheim developed a technique where the unglazed pottery glows when placed under direct light. I loved the bright colors and organic shapes of the pieces as well.


I loved the bright colors.

Rossheim/Marrinson Studios’ pottery sells in galleries all over the country. Email them at for more information.

Ann Brauer
Quilt Studio
2 Conway St.
Shelburne Ma 01370
(413) 625-8605


A quilt that's more like a fabric painting.

What would a craft show be without quilts? But, as you can see, these quilts by Ann Brauer are more than just ordinary quilts – they’re fabric works of art. I love how the pieces play with light and color. I asked Brauer how long a piece takes to construct, but she couldn’t give an estimate – although she did say that choosing and placing the fabrics takes much longer than the actual sewing.  You can learn more about her work on her Web site.


A close up of one of Brauer's pieces.


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Peeptown Cupcake is a Semi-Finalist!

Peeptown Cupcake - A line Out the Door!

"Peeptown Cupcake," my ticket to Peeps fame.

It’s official folks, “Peeptown Cupcake” is a semi-finalist in the Washington Post Peeps Diorama contest! I didn’t win, but my Peeps will be in the online photo gallery that should be up this weekend. When the gallery goes live this weekend, you can see it here.

Post readers can vote for their favorite diorama, so please vote for me this weekend. I’ll do another post when the gallery is online as a reminder, but I want to spread the word early.

Thanks for everyone’s comments and kudos on the diorama – I’m flattered and greatful for your support. Special thanks to a certain Wonk the Plank, who exhibited amazing patience during the stressful and near-hytserical peeps diorama construction process. He is truly the best of all Planks.

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Peeptown Cupcake

Peeps 3

The line goes out the door!

First of all, just a note that the Weekly Roundup is going to move to Fridays, so please look for it then.

So I did it, people. I submitted an entry for the Washington Post Peeps contest yesterday. It only took 28 hours of hard labor, $40 in supplies, and all of my available energy. Our apartment was so messy that Wonk the Plank and I could barely walk through the living room without stepping on foam-core board. And I almost bit poor Wonk’s head off when he scheduled us to go see a play on Saturday night – taking away from valuable Peep preparation time.

It took at least a day of brainstorming before I hit on my final concept. I went through lot of options – the Inauguration, the We are One Concert, a scene from a classic children’s book. But the concept I got the most excited about was recreating a local DC scene: Georgetown Cupcake on a winter afternoon. Wonk also decided to create a classic scene from The Watchmen.

I would go further into detail about its creation, but I’m just so exhausted. So without further ado I present: Peeptown Cupcake!

Peeps 2

Peeptown Cupcake on a busy Saturday.

Peeps 4

You can just make out the Washington Post article on the right, annoucing that Peeptown Cupcake won the WaPo Cupcake Wars.

Peeps close up

Another close up of the store.

Wonk the Plank went darker with his Watchmen peeps (check out the original scene here).

Peeps Watchmen

The photo shoot. Can you tell I don’t have any real photography equipment? I’m amazed I didn’t burn the couch down. And the original background I made didn’t work out, so I imrpovised a backdrop using the only thing large enough in our apartment – the couch slipcover.

Living Room

The peep photo shoot. Our apartment was a disaster zone.

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Christmas on the Cheap: Gingerbread Ornaments

Ornaments 2

Gingerbread Ornaments, Pre-String Phase

Wonktheplank insisted on getting a really big Christmas tree this year—so big, in fact, we rearranged our living room furniture just to make room for it. The tree does look lovely, but I was faced with a decorating dilemma.  I needed to supplement the paper decorations I created for last year’s table-top tree, but I had neither the money nor the inclination to go and buy a bunch of ornaments.

So I decided that the most cost-effective, yet festive, way to trim the tree was with gingerbread cookie ornaments. After all, I had almost all the cookie ingredients on hand (I had to replenish our stock of molasses). And all I had to do was pick up some string at the hardware store for hanging the ornaments.

Ornament on Tree 4

A finished ornament. I really got into stripes this year.

I used an old-school gingerbread recipe from my old copy of Martha Stewart’s Christmas, which I stole from home a few years back. While the recipe doesn’t call for chilling the dough, I ended up in a time crunch and stuck it in the fridge overnight. Be warned—if you do chill the dough you have to let it sit out at room temperature for a long, long time before you can roll it out. I let the dough sit out for half and hour and it was still like rolling out a hockey puck.

I was worried that the cookies wouldn’t rise because of the long chilling time and because this recipe uses baking soda as a leavener. You’re supposed to bake cookies and cakes with baking soda right after mixing, because the baking soda is activated when it comes into contact with liquid. But in spite of my worries, these baked up just fine. In fact, I rolled out my first batch too thick and I had the opposite problem—the cookies rose so much that their surfaces split open.

While I thought that, all-in-all, the cookies made fine ornaments, I wouldn’t make them for eating. I can’t tell if the chilling time was the main culprit, but I thought these cookies were flavorless (although adding 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the dough could help bring out the flavor of the molasses and the spices). But I’d much rather make Mary Todd Lincoln’s Gingerbread Cookies, which tasted wonderful and rolled out like a dream.

I decorated the cookies with white and green royal icing (I used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s ratio of one egg white to 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar). Also, I misread the recipe and poked holes in the ornaments before baking, which closed shut as the cookies rose. You’re actually supposed to poke holes through the ornaments right after the cookies come out of the oven. Still, I had no problem re-poking the holes with a large needle, even several days after I made the cookies. The dough is strong without being brittle, making this recipe ideal for ornament making.

Ornament on Tree

More stripes! I wish I could figure out how to make cleaner ends to my stripes.

Gingerbread Ornament Recipe

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Gingerbread Houses at the House of Sweden!

Empire State Building

It's not a gingerbread house, it's a gingerbread Empire State Building!

It’s officially the holiday season, and I thought I’d bring you some holiday cheer with, what else, gingerbread houses!

Wonktheplank and I visited the Swedish Embassy’s Swedish Christmas Bazaar at the House of Sweden last Saturday, which featured beautiful decorations, crafts, and food. But I was really there because of the gingerbread house contest—I want to make my own gingerbread house this year, and wanted to get some inspiration.

While I was there, I was lucky enough to talk to six and half year-old Nils, who made the stunning Empire State Building gingerbread house pictured above (with a little help from his mom).

Niels with House

Nils, with his entry, a gingerbread Empire State Building.

Nils told me that he decided on the Empire State Building because his family recently took a trip to New York, where they got to see the real Empire State Building. When his mother, who works at the embassy, heard about the contest, it seemed like a natural fit. I couldn’t agree more and I think they did a great job.

I also got to speak with the winner of the contest, Karin Wheedon, who created a gingerbread Noah’s Arc. I loved her entry, especially the blue waves in the front and the pairs of animals walking up the ramp. 

Gingerbread Arc

The winning gingerbread house was actually an arc.

Karin is an accomplished gingerbread architect; she makes a gingerbread house every year with her kids for Christmas, and her creations have included a gingerbread castle, a gingerbread igloo, and even a gingerbread train. Part of her inspiration for the arc was her plethora animal cookie cutters; she designed the template herself.

Gingebread House Winner

Karin Weedon wins first prize in the gingerbread house contest.

While I didn’t get to speak with the other two contestants, I certainly liked their entries. One of the houses had a rainbow candy roof, complete with powdered sugar snow, which I thought was a nice touch.

Gingerbread - Rainbow House

A rainbow gingerbread house.

I liked the landscaping on the final entry, especially the gingerbread trees.

Gingerbread House

A gingerbread house built for two.

I was definitely glad I went to the baazar, as I got some good ideas for my own gingerbread house, and got to be around some holiday cheer. We even walked through the snow (well, the snow flurries) on our way back to Georgetown, which was very festive and a perfect way to end the evening.

Snow at House of Sweden

You can barely see the snow on the boardwalk, but it felt very festive and Christmas-y at the time.

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Happy Halloween!

Halloween Table

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween ModernDomestic readers! I hope that everyone will be out doing something to celebrate the holiday tonight. I plan on sitting outside our apartment building and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters with my coworker and Wonktheplank (later, we’ll possibly be checking out the insanity that will be Adams Morgan, mostly to see which drunk 22-year-old has the sluttiest outfit. We’ll see how we feel).

We had a couple people over last weekend to watch Rosemary’s Baby, eat cupcakes, and drink some Octoberfest brews. Wonktheplank and I had an awesome time putting together Halloween decorations for our apartment. In fact, I’m so proud of our little projects that I had to share them with you.

Wonktheplank watched about 10 minutes of Saw II last weekend on cable, and was inspired to create an elaborate torture device for my stuffed hippo out of kitchen utensils. It involved ice dripping through a strainer, which collected in a container, which rested on a see-saw, which (when it was heavy enough), flipped a trap door, which the hippo fell through and hung himself. It wasn’t even funny how much Wonktheplank enjoyed coming up with this creation, although I felt bad for my poor hippo, who never did anything to deserve such a fate.

Hippo Torture Device

Hippo awaits his doom in the Saw-inspired torture device.

More decorations (less savage than this one).

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How To Make An Egg Carton Jewelry Box (That You Can Actually Display To the Public)

Finished Box on the Dresser

The finished box, out on the dresser.

Buying a real jewelry box has never been high on my list of priorities—mostly because I don’t own very nice jewelry (the one exception is a necklace that wonktheplank bought me for Christmas last year that I just adore). So while it makes sense to invest in a heavy, velvet-lined case for one’s diamonds and pearls, there is no such need for my sterling silver and plastic.

But recently, my makeshift system of jewelry storage—heaping piles of jewelry into little bowls—started driving me crazy. The necklaces got all tangled up, I could never find what I was looking for, they gathered dust like you would not believe, and my shelf was starting to look really cluttered.

At first I contemplated storing my jewelry in egg cartons, as they already have built-in compartments, and some friends reported that they were happy with that method. It sounded like a reasonable idea, except that I live in a pretty small space, and I didn’t want to have the egg cartons sitting out on my dresser—it’s an even worse aesthetic choice than the little heaping jewelry bowls.

So I decided to go the craft route and make myself a jewelry box. I bought a box from Paper Source the last time I was in Georgetown, and bought some awesome bee-themed paper to wrap it up in.

The Bee Paper

I adore this bee paper!

Next: The Completed Box

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