Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aligning My Nose With My Values

Photo Credit: Alienmeatsack on Flickr

It’s no secret that I love hankies.

Granted, I used to think they were tremendously un-cool. My only positive hanky experience was my friend Denise. She carried them in her purse all during high school and didn’t suffer any diminution of coolness. Somehow she made them coordinate with her platform shoes and micro minis (it was the 70’s).

Photo Credit: KellyandApril on Flickr

But to me, hankies were for grandmothers, or really old people. To many of the people currently at Dancing Rabbit, I qualify for the latter, but I digress.

Seven reasons I love hankies:
  1. I have allergies and so always seem to need one
  2. Paper tissues have a tendency to shred after one little blow. Euuwww.
  3. If I accidentally leave a paper tissue in a pocket of something that goes through the wash, ALL of the clothes in that load are covered with a plethora of little white fibers.
  4. Puppies, movies, and a perfect crème brulee make me cry. It is good to be prepared (I was a girl scout, after all).
  5. Hankies are way more eco than blowing one’s nose on trees.
  6. When you hang a hanky outside to dry after laundering, you get to inhale the smell of sunshine the next time you use it.
  7. Men shouldn't get to have all the fun!

Photo Credit: Vanigliavvelenata_two on Flickr

What brought on this current hanky rant? The Milkweed Mercantile is debuting our own line of Organic Cotton Flannel Hankies. Unable to find any reasonably-priced organic cotton hankies, I decided that it was time for the sisters to do it for ourselves. So our Artisan Co-op purchased fabric, a serger and now we’re in business. Meadow has become Mighty Queen of the Serger, and we’re all quite pleased with ourselves. Our hankies are not machine-perfect; they are hand-guided through a serger by a real live person (in this case, Meadow), and may reflect an occasional less-than-precise corner. However, we consider this part of their charm; we think you will, too.

Soft, organic hanky, available only from the Milkweed Mercantile

Meadow makin' hanky magic

So check ‘em out. And if you don't want to buy hankies, you can easily make your own - all you need is some soft fabric and a sewing machine to zig-zag around the edges. Heck, if you're not fussy, you don't even need a sewing machine!

Please consider using fabric hankies instead of paper tissues. The trees and your grandmother would approve.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Art of Kelsey Viola

Rooted Hands by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen
All rights reserved
fabric stretched on wood bars
21 1/2" x 38"

One of the great joys of running the Mercantile is getting to know folks like Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen. Kelsey is a good friend of Rabbit Mary Beth; when MB approached me and said "my friend Kelsey has some cool art you might like" I eagerly agreed to take a look. I am so happy that I did - not only is her art amazing, but Kelsey is herself a delight.

We currently have two of Kelsey's "paintings" up in the Mercantile. The most awe-inspiring thing is that they're not paintings at all - they are entirely done in fabric and thread. Kelsey "paints" with her sewing machine. It is really fun, when someone says "oh, what a beautiful painting" to encourage them to go take a closer look, and then listen to the gasps of astonishment.

Single Hand by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen
All rights reserved fabric stretched on wood bars
34" x 22"


detail of above

Reaching Hands by Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen
All rights reserved fabric stretched on wood bars
34" x 22"

private collection

We will be having a show of many more of Kelsey's pieces in November. Included will be a series of native prairie plants made out of fabric, including some morel mushrooms. Monsanto wanted to purchase the mushrooms and commission Kelsey to do a series of their plants - she politely declined. All this talent and ethics, too!

Morel Mushrooms
Price TBD in November

If you are interested in receiving an announcement of the opening, please sign up for the Mercantile's Once-In-a-Blue-Moon Newsletter here.

Kelsey at her BFA presentation at Truman State in Kirksville, MO.

If you are an artist with work that might be appropriate for a future Milkweed Mercantile show - nature, prairie, ecology or other themes - please contact me at alline at milkweedmercantile dot com - I'd love to chat!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Math School I Attended

I don't really enjoy math. Perhaps if I were in school today, where girls are encouraged to be good in math, it might be different. But I came of age in the innovative 60's in California, and was part of several experimental programs, including the very dreadful "new math."

I went on to flunk high school algebra twice - I just did not understand how, if "Y" could be anything, one came up with the correct answers. And "X" plus "Y"? What was "X"? What was "Y"? It was just too nebulous, surreal, and annoying for me. It was as if Salvador Dali had created a system of thinking; one which made no sense and gave one a stomach ache.

This is one of the reasons I find it very amusing to be in business. I love the creative aspects, but the actual business-y stuff? I'm dreadful to the point of hysteria. I take great comfort in my BFFs Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Lou's arguments make perfect sense to me!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Calling Your Business Green Doesn't Make It So

A bad photograph of my beautiful business cards.

The Milkweed Mercantile is a proud member of Green America. Someday, when we get all components of the business up and running, we'll have that little Green America icon on our home page. Until then, I pay my annual dues, read the material, and follow along on the Green America Green Business Network email posts.

A recent post was a request for a green printer. I am happy for this opportunity to sing the praises of a truly green printer, to cheer on those who are striving to "do it right" and to vent about a huge pet peeve.

I have a lot of "green" friends, who are doing their darndest to run "green" businesses. But it always strikes me as odd when they ask me for a "cheap green printer" or, even worse, a "cheap" printer. As in, "My green values are important until it comes to my wallet, and if no one knows that I used a cheap (i.e. non-union, non-ecologically sound) printer, well, that's OK!"

When I was a kid my mom used to tell me "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well." At the time I rolled my eyes, but I think she was on to something. We'll never change the world by taking shortcuts on the things that might not show.

When it came time to have business materials for the Mercantile printed, I chose to go with Consolidated Printing in Chicago (another Green America member). On the back of my card I requested a union bug, a women owned business logo, and a Printed Green logo. It is important to me that those I do business with are clear about my standards and hopefully, my integrity.

Consolidated was a breeze to work with - we are located in rural Northeast Missouri, and handled all transactions easily by phone and internet. The jobs were printed beautifully and delivered early. I may not always get it right, but in this instance, I think I did. Here's to Green America and its members, working hard to change the world by changing the way the world does business!

September 15th Addendum: Thanks to all of those who emailed regarding green printers. There are a number of EXCELLENT green printers everywhere, doing fine printing work and ecological activism. If you are in the Rochester, New York area, I recommend calling Monroe Litho - they really walk their talk! They are the first SGP (Sustainable Green Printer) in the Northeast and belong to FSC, SFI. They run on 100% wind power and constantly strive to make their"foot print" smaller and recycle everything. Yay!

Havin' Some Fun Now! The Mercantile Adventure Continues...

The fireplace, the gorgeous woodwork, Kelsey's artwork and some prairie wildflowers.

Oh, we're having so much fun at the Mercantile! The store is open for business, and as we cycle through some of the older merchandise (purchased last year when I got way ahead of myself!) new exciting stuff is coming in. As soon as it's up on the website I'll talk about it here. In the meantime, be sure to check the Sale section of the Mercantile online store - we're marking stuff down in a serious way and are adding new items every week.

When in doubt, improvise. This is our BYOBag display, featuring bags made of recycled cotton, organic cotton, recycled plastic bags, recycled plastic bottles, and hemp.
What's not to love?

And the work on the upstairs is so, so beautiful. Tom has refinished and varnished all of the floors, and Bob, Kurt and French are crafting the most beautiful stairway, with balusters, newel posts and all kinds of things I never ever considered before. I mean, who really looks at staircases? You go up, you go down, you try not to fall. But now, we've become obsessed. When Kurt and I are watching movies on DVD, we often have to rewind because we're so busy looking at staircases in the scenes that we miss the dialog. Sheesh.

The staircase, still in progress. On the right, under the stairs, is Innkeeper Amy's Harry Potter-esque office. All of the woodwork was hand-crafted - no kits from Home Despot or Lowe's...

View from the landing, newel posts and plinths (oooh, there's another good word!) under construction.

One of my favorite parts of the building is the downstairs bathroom door. Like much of the building, it has a story. Kurt's late dad, Clyde, used to always call the bathroom "the library." As in "I'm going to the library for a few minutes." So when I found this door shoved behind a pile of chairs at the Ewing School auction, I knew that I had to take it home. We got it for $1. Once polished it will be as good as new. We will, of course, construct a curtain for privacy. And the Clyde Kessner Memorial Bathroom will then be open for guests, librarians and otherwise.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In Support of Van Jones

(NOTE: While searching for information other than my own experience, I found Greening The Ghetto by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker . Italicized text below is from this article.)

In 2007 I had the opportunity to hear Van Jones speak at Co-op America (now Green America) Green Business Conference in Chicago. He spoke of his goal of bringing environmental principles to the rescue of urban communities – have you ever noticed how dirty, polluting industries are often located in the “poor” (i.e. black, Hispanic & immigrant) parts of cities? That “job training” programs train young people for these same toxic and polluting industries (which are also being out-sourced in record numbers)?

I also appreciated when he pointed out that the green movement will not succeed if it is only affluent white people (98% of the room was white). If we don’t bring people of color along with us, as equals, the green movement is doomed. As green entrepreneurs we had a responsibility and an opportunity to really make a difference.

He spoke of his time at Yale, Jones saw a lot of things that disturbed him. One was the video of the Rodney King beating, which took place during his second semester. Another was crime. “I was seeing kids at Yale do drugs and talk about it openly, and have nothing happen to them or, if anything, get sent to rehab,” he said. “And then I was seeing kids three blocks away, in the housing projects, doing the same drugs, in smaller amounts, go to prison.”

I was absolutely mesmerized. Articulate, insightful, charismatic and absolutely right on, I was on my feet at the end of his talk.

Fox News has suddenly discovered Van Jones, and is determined to bring him down. He is not saying what Fox News wants to hear. He is the antithesis of everything Fox stands for. He is an educated Black man, who speaks his mind, intelligently. He is working to bring all of us together, to flatten inequities, to change the planet. I am really disheartened by all of the hate speech surrounding him now, and the ecstatic crowing now that he has resigned from his White House appointment. I resent that racist Fox News and their followers lack the clarity and insight to see beyond their fears.

Yes Magazine, in Stand with Van Jones, a Real Patriot, has this to say:
"Van Jones has resigned, and the Obama administration has accepted his resignation. It's an extraordinary moment. Van was not accused of breaking the law, flouting the Constitution of the United States, accepting bribes, condoning torture or other violations of international law, or going on tax-payer funded junkets to conduct adulterous affairs. No, Van was brought down for a couple of things he later regretted saying over the course of an otherwise remarkable career.

Were the attacks really about the Color of Change petition to get advertisers to stop sponsoring Glenn Beck's program on Fox? Was it a case of taking down a rising star who had the audacity to lead while black? Or was it the opening round of the battle to come over clean energy/climate legislation? In any case, it's a sad day for America and for the Obama administration."

Since when is being a revolutionary in America a BAD thing? Seems to me our country was founded by revolutionaries...

The modern environmental movement is sometimes said to have begun in the eighteen-nineties, when John Muir founded the Sierra Club, and sometimes in the nineteen-sixties, when Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring.” Muir and Carson saw themselves fighting narrow, private interests on behalf of the public in the broadest possible sense—all people, including those who had not been born. But stop by a meeting of any of the major environmental groups, and you will see that the broad American public has yet to join up. Chances are that most of the attendees will be white, and the few who aren’t will be affluent and middle-aged. A 2006 study commissioned by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental-law group, found that the “ecological base”—defined as Americans who report the environment as being central to their concerns—is “nearly ninety percent white, mostly college-educated, higher-income, and over thirty-five.”

“Your goal has to be to get the greenest solutions to the poorest people,” Jones told me. “That’s the only goal that’s morally compelling enough to generate enough energy to pull this transition off. The challenge is making this an everybody movement, so your main icons are Joe Six-Pack—Joe the Plumber—becoming Joe the Solar Guy, or that kid on the street corner putting down his handgun, picking up a caulk gun.”

“I think Van Jones is a big part of the future of environmentalism,” Gus Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. “He, more than anyone else, is bringing together a concern about the environment and a concern about social justice. And, if I had just one thing to say, it is that we in the environmental movement cannot fail Van Jones.”

But don’t take my word for it. Make your own decision.

The Re:Visionary Project – Van Jones from Urban ReVision on Vimeo