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Blog of the Week: Meet A Bird in the Hand

After scouring the web for what felt like hours, I decided to locate a crafty blogger for the blog of the week because I wanted to find someone that actually creates beautiful things for the home, especially since decor8 is a design blog focused on interiors. When I discovered A Bird in the Hand, I was instantly drawn in because I liked her work and really enjoyed her informal blog and how tied into other blogs she seems to be, which I’m a big fan of because to me, building a strong blogging community is a beautiful thing.

Lisa Congdon is the blogger behind A Bird in the Hand. She holds down a full-time career by day and creates beautiful art, pillows, birds and even manages her own online shop on nights and weekends. Somehow she even fits in a swim each day. Yup. A modern day wonder woman. Would you like to meet her?

decor8: Hi Lisa, so happy you agreed to do an interview here on decor8. I’m sure many readers will comment (hint hint) to cheer you on because we all love our indie craftsters. Can you tell us about you and your blog?

lisa: Of course! My name is Lisa Congdon, 38 years old, and I’m a self-taught artist and craftsperson. I moved to San Francisco when I was 22, and I have lived here ever since. I work full time at a progressive non-profit education consulting organization, but I spend most evenings and many weekends in my studio (which is a small room in my four-room flat) making stuff. I also try to make time for friends and competitive swimming, two other aspects of my life that are intensely important to me.

Wow, that’s great. You’re a busy lady! How did you get started as a blogger?

lisa: About a year and a half ago, I was so inspired by my sister, who has the amazing blog, Little Birds, that I ventured out into cyberspace and began my own blog, A Bird in the Hand. I started sharing my creative process and thoughts about everyday life. And what started slowly and tentatively has become one of the greatest joys of my life. Through my blog, I have had the opportunity to connect with many other creative women (and a few men) from around the world. In this community of crafters and artists, we share our work, critique, affirm, and befriend. It’s awesome.

decor8: I agree! You mentioned that you’ve been in San Francisco since you were 22, where did your life take you prior to that?

lisa: I was born in upstate New York, but my family moved to California when I was 8 years old. Except for a short stint as a congressional intern at 21, I have lived in California ever since. I went to college here and moved to San Francisco when I was 22 and I have never left. I love San Francisco, and sometimes think if I ever left it would be like losing a limb. But sometimes I am tempted to move closer to my parents and my sister and her family. They all live in Portland, which is also a great city. So who knows. Maybe someday I will end up there.

You’ve mentioned this already, but can you tell us more about what you do for a living (your day job)?

lisa: I work as the Director of Program Development at a San Francisco-based non-profit organization. We work in struggling public schools in big, urban districts to help them improve teaching and learning. I love my job. It’s hard work and sometimes it feels completely daunting. But after almost 16 years of working in public education (for the first 7 years I taught 1st grade in an inner city school) I have learned to leave my work at the door without guilt.

decor8: Can you describe a typical work day?

Let’s see… I get up at about 7:30 every morning and do my usual morning business, which starts with reading the comments that have been posted on my blog. I eat, get ready for work and head out the door. I spend 9 or 10 hours a day at the office or in the field at schools or district offices, mostly writing, in meetings, developing workshops or facilitating teacher trainings. I try to sneak in some blog reading at work when I can!! When I get off work, I usually go straight to the gym, which includes a long swim and some dry land training as well. Then I head home at about 7:45 p.m. for some dinner, a glass of wine and some work in my studio. Somewhere in there I post to my blog and talk to friends on the phone. Then I go to bed and start all over the next day! I have a good life.

decor8: Wow, that’s quite a schedule. Good for you. What is the best thing about being an indie artist in addition to your career?

lisa: The sweet things people say about my work. That people love what I make.

decor8: What is the hardest part about it, what do you struggle with?

lisa: Wanting to make art and craft more than in the evenings and on the weekends…wanting to work part time and craft part time, but knowing it would be hard financially to do that and live so comfortably in San Francisco. I love it here, but it’s expensive to live here on an artist’s income.

decor8: Sadly, that’s the case in most cities these days, which is driving many artist’s out to the burbs and beyond. Okay, so let’s pretend there’s this neat class coming up at the local university that you’re dying to take. What is it and why are you so eager?

lisa: Right now I am really into the idea of learning letterpress. Letterpress artist, Maria Vettese, from port2port press has become a close friend (through our blogs) and I went to visit her in Maine this past Spring and we collaborated on a card while I was there. It was such a wonderful experience to make these cards that had an image I designed on them plus beautiful color and texture. I am so happy that letterpress is so popular now. I love to go card and poster shopping!

decor8: Where can your items be purchased?

lisa: Right now I have about 80 pieces of artwork on exhibit at a place called Edo here in San Francisco. That show is up until July 31. I think over half of the pieces have sold, but there are lots still available. I also have an online shop on my blog, which right now only has two things in it! That will close at the end of July when I open an “official” online shop on my new website ( which launches August 1st. I also have several pieces at the awesome Reform School in Echo Park in LA, and The Candy Store, a super cool, hip shop here in San Francisco.

decor8: Do you participate in craft shows? If so, which ones?

lisa: If I didn’t have that full time job I would!! Last year I was asked to participate in the ReadyMade Magazine Craft show here in San Francisco and that was super fun. I think I will do it again this year. I love the idea of craft shows and if I had more time I would even travel around the country and do lots of ‘em.

decor8: Do you think where you grew up influenced your design style, and if so, how?

lisa: I am a child of the 70’s and 80’s. I grew up in suburbia, right at the dawn of the Hello Kitty/Sanrio craze, the preppy craze and the surfing craze. All of those things, including cool mod 70’s style, have influenced me. My mom is a textile artist, so I grew up with fabric everywhere and a big loom in the house. We were always going out of suburbia to the city to museums and craft fairs. Making stuff was a big part of my life growing up.

decor8: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

lisa: My mind is always filled with ideas. I have a number of small notebooks in my purse on which I make sketches and lists of ideas. I seem to collect purses, so I can’t keep track of all of the notebooks, but I am never at a loss for what to make. I just don?t have the time or money for supplies or the technical skill to execute all of my ideas. I get inspired by a lot of things, all the time. I am a very visual person who notices every minute detail in very ordinary things. So it might be a crack in the wall or the way colors are painted on the side of a building. It’s not unusual for me to take my camera around with me as I run errands in my neighborhood to capture colors and shapes and contrasts that inspire me. But the usual things also inspire me: nature (I love bird and tree and wood imagery); poetry; and certainly other people?s art. I also love fashion and bold graphic design. Living in an urban area rich with different cultures and an abundance of art?both in the street and in galleries?makes for never-ending inspiration.

decor8: Does blogging help you in the creative process at all?

lisa: Absolutely!! Because of my blog I am motivated everyday to make something new: take a new photograph; try a new pillow design; share a new collage; create a new drawing and then to share it with 1,000 other people. And that has kept me more alive than I have ever been.

decor8: What is your dream job?

lisa: Uggh, that is a hard question because I’d rather be able to stay awake all the time and work constantly at different things than choose one thing to do (not that I don’t love sleep). I think it is the diversity of things I manage to pack into a day that makes me happy–working toward change and social justice in my day job, swimming, making stuff in my studio, hanging out with my friends. I love it all. And I want to keep doing it all. Maybe just less time at the office and more time in my studio. That would be a dream. And I am thinking about how to make it happen.

decor8: You must have some favorite designers that you look to for inspiration. Tell us, who inspires you and why?

lisa: I am so inspired by many artist/craftspeople–Camilla Engman. Lisa Solomon and my sister, Stephanie Barnes, are three of my favorites. I love Japanese and Scandinavian design. I love the work of so many visual artists (there are more than I can name), but Jim Houser and Margaret Kilgallen are two of my favorites. I also find great inspiration from vintage children’s book illustrators Evaline Ness and Alice and Martin Provensen. All of the people and movements I have mentioned have an amazing sense of color and line and balance and emotion in their work.

decor8: When you’re in a bookstore, what is the first section you head for and why?

lisa: The magazines! I am addicted to design and fashion magazines.

decor8: What are you listening to these days?

lisa: The Ditty Bops. Andrew Bird. I will always listen to Radiohead.

decor8: What is the best way to spend a Saturday where you live?

lisa: When I am not in my studio, I love to just walk around my neighborhood and go to thrift stores with my friend Nathalie. We are both thrifting addicts. And fortunately she is skinnier than I am so we don’t fight over clothes. And have some coffee and some of the good food that abounds here. There is never a shortage of weekend activities here in San Francisco. You could sit on the street corner and be entertained.

decor8: What are your top ten indulgences?

lisa: Dark chocolate, wine, fabric, designer shoes, bags/purses, clothes in general, Bumble and Bumble hair products, cameras, little useless things from art and office supply stores and mid-century vintage stuff for my apartment.

Thank you Lisa for telling all of us about your blog and letting us into your life for a quick tour of what you do and what you love. We’re very grateful that we had this chance to ‘meet’ you, so thanks again.

Look for the opening of in August!

My goal is to update the Blog of the Week on Thursdays going forward, so if you have a blog or know of one that you’d love to nominate, please email me at decor8blog {at} yahoo {dot} com.

(images from bird in the hand)

Posted in blogs, interviews on July 07, 2006

Blog of the Week: atelier455

I stumbled upon yet another fabulous blog this week, atelier455. Have you heard of it? If not, you’re about to learn all about the blog + the cool artist, Joanna Tidball, behind it. Joanna and I had a good chat, so grab a cup of tea, relax, and take a peek at our conversation below.

decor8: Hello and thank you so much for letting decor8 readers into a little bit of your life. We’re excited to get to know you and your blog, Joanna. Can you tell us where you live and whether you’re a native or transplant there?
a455: Sure, and thanks for having me. I live in Sevenoaks which is located in Kent, England. I guess I’m a returnee native – I grew up here and recently moved back following several years in London, and before that I was at University in Manchester.

decor8: A London girl… I should have known. I’m always drawn in by all things British. So, what do you like about Kent?
a455: I’m surrounded by beautiful countryside – there’s a lovely stately home with a deer park close to my house – but I’m still within easy reach of London for work and shopping. Moving into the countryside has given me more time and space to pursue my interest in design and art.

decor8: Many find that moving to the country can provide much inspiration. Let’s chat about your amazing blog. Why did you call it atelier455?
a455: atelier455 is the name of my small business where I make artworks from vintage materials. The ‘atelier’ is taken from the lovely ateliers I’ve seen in Paris and Amsterdam. There’s no real rhyme or reason behind the ‘455’ – I just liked the sound of it! On my blog, I write about designs and designers I like as well as the work I produce myself.

decor8: Lovely connection to your travels, I like that. Why and when did you start blogging?
a455: I wanted to connect with other bloggers and share my thoughts on design – the obvious way to do this was to start a blog myself, which I did in March of this year.

decor8: What are some of your favorite blogs?
a455: As well as decor8 I read Karin’s Style Blog, design*sponge, Little Birds, Oh Joy! and many more – my blogroll has more links. I’m also a fan of Dooce and Go Fug Yourself.

decor8: Oh gosh, isn’t Go Fug Yourself the funniest ever? My friend and I read it together and burst into tears every single time. I’ve not heard of Little Birds, I must check that one out. So, with so many blogs out there, what kind of blog would you love to stumble upon that you’ve not yet seen?
a455: Anything vintage makes me happy, so I’d love to find more blogs which concentrate on vintage design and vintage finds.

decor8: With such a nice blog, I’m dying to know… What do you do for a living?
a455: I’m a freelance website consultant, currently working for a charity in London. The atelier455 work is mainly an evening and weekend project for now.

decor8: What would you rather do for a living?
a455: My dream job would involve travelling the world to source interesting vintage art, furniture and other interesting objects.

decor8: Yes, that would be an amazing gig to land, huh? Just imagine what you’d find. Perhaps you’ll get there someday! Tell us a bit more about your background…
a455: Sure. I’m 26 years old and I’m half Greek and half English. After secondary school I studied at art school for a year and then completed a degree in English. I worked in PR after university, before specialising in online communications which led me into website consultancy. I got married in summer 2004.

decor8: Wow, for 26, you have accomplished a lot in life, you even found the love of your life. :) I can’t wait to see what you accomplish before you’re 30 at this rate! Let’s chat about your home for a moment, what do you love about it and do you have a favorite room?
a455: I’ve only been a homeowner for a few months so I love everything about my home. My favourite room is probably the dining room, where we’ve combined old features, like a 16th century woodcut print, with modern features like bright pink chairs from Purves + Purves. The eclectic style works really well.

decor8: Sounds nice. Where do you get your inspiration?
a455: My work focuses on vintage objects and designs, so I find a lot of inspiration rifling through dusty corners of antique shops and thrift stores. I like to find unusual or overlooked items that could become interesting artworks.

decor8: Ah, so you try to find the mundane to transform into something lovely. What objects do you find yourself going back to?
a455: I think small, everyday items like stamps and buttons can be really beautiful.

decor8: Who are some of your favorite designers/artists and why?
a455: Svenskt Tenn, Orla Kiely and Cath Kidston for their wonderful prints. Karin Eriksson creates wonderfully simple and stylish ceramics and CJ O’Neill is another ceramic designer who produces beautiful work.

decor8: Kiely and Kidston are up there on my list, too. I’m not too familiar with Tenn or O’Neill, I’ll have to look them up – I’m glad you mentioned them. Okay, let’s wrap up our interview. I always love to ask about travel first, and then the top 10 things you just can’t live without. Ready?
a455: Yes.

decor8: Okay, Top 5 travel destinations that you’ve either visited or would like to visit someday…
a455: I’ve wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand for ages and my husband and I are finally making the trip at the end of this year – I can’t wait! Stockholm and New York are two cities I’d love to visit. Italy is probably my top travel destination overall.

decor8: Nice picks! And finally, what are the top ten things that you just can’t live without?
a455: In no particular order…white chocolate, the internet, molton brown bath oils, Jeanette Winterson’s books, weekends, Liberty’s in London, sunshine, a digital camera, my VW Polo and my garden shed (my studio!).

Thank you Joanna for introducing yourself, and your blog, to all of us here at decor8. We look forward to following your blog and hope to hear all about your upcoming vacation to Australia and New Zealand in the months to come.

If you’re interested in viewing Joanna’s work (it’s for sale!), click here.

If you have a blog about art or design, and you’d like to spread the word to decor8 readers, please email me, Holly Becker, at decor8[at]yahoo[dot]com. Include your blog link, too!

(image from joanna tidball)

Posted in blogs, interviews on June 01, 2006

Blog of the Week: Print + Pattern

A decor8 reader who goes by the name of bowiestyle is actually a blogger herself. I first started reading Print + Pattern in April, I’ll never forget how I felt when I sat before my monitor, scrolling down Print + Pattern, loving everything I saw. Eye-candy overload. All of her posts are just beautiful. I knew it would soon become a daily destination since I’m a total textile addict and this girl has a great eye for design. When I came across her Orla Kiely post, I had to show it to decor8 readers (april 27) because it was then that I realized Print + Pattern is actually a London-based blogger who, in addition to her addiction to prints, also loves to snap photos of storefronts like I do.

I decided that this week, after all the rain we’ve had (at least here in the northeast), that Print + Pattern would add just the right dose sunshine and rainbows to brighten the week to come. That is why this is our blog of the week. It’s soon to be one of your favorites, I’m certain. I caught up with blogger, bowiestyle, to chat about her blog with hopes that you’ll make Print + Pattern your daily destination as well.

decor8: I’m so happy that we have a moment to chat. First of all, can you tell decor8 readers a little bit about your blogging name and your blog?
p+p: Sure. My blogging name is bowiestyle after my fave style icon David Bowie. I use a pseudonym because I want to stay anonymous so I can report on trends and take sneaky spy photos in stores. My blog is called Print + Pattern – which sums up the kind of work I’m interested in, surface pattern design on fabrics, tableware, cards + wrap, stationary, bags, etc.

decor8: I know you’re based in London, are you from London or a transplant?
p+p: Yes, I live in London, but I’m not from here. I was born in Hampshire located about 55 miles southwest of London.

decor8: What do you do for work?
p+p: At the moment I’m working as a textile and surface pattern designer for a UK homewares company.

decor8: That’s a dream job for many, how impressive. When you design on the job, where do you find inspiration for your designs?
p+p: I look at anything that features a pattern or print of some kind. It could be home textiles, fashion prints from catwalks, graphic design, style magazines, basically a similar kind of thing to that covered on the blog.

decor8: Since you work for a company, do you have a lot of room for creative expression or do you have to stay within fixed guidelines or a certain style? How does this work?
p+p: There are two sides to it, I have chances to design exactly what I want based on trends, but I also get given briefs by customers, these can be really tight or very vague. Its quite a nice mix between the two.

decor8: When was it that you decided to do this for a living? (textile design)
p+p: I started out wanting to do graphic design but soon realised that it was too boring and restrictive.

decor8: As a designer, you must have some favorite designers that you look to for inspiration. Tell us, who inspires you and why?
p+p: My fave designers are Orla Kiely, Angela Adams, Tricia Guild, and Cath Kidston. I like Orla and Angela for their strong graphic style, its closest to my own work. Tricia Guild because she was my first design hero and the original colour guru, and then Cath Kidston not only for the great prints, but because she is living the dream – putting her own designs onto products and selling them in her own shops. How I wish that were me!

decor8: Great picks. I’m sure that with your eye for design and your passion, you would succeed as a small business owner. Okay, now back to blogs. What gave you the idea to start Print + Pattern?
p+p: I started in March this year – I discovered lots of great blogs but couldn’t find any that addressed exactly what I was into. You find coffee tables and sinks etc. mixed in between patterns on a lot of design blogs and I’m not at all interested in 3D design.

decor8: Makes sense. You needed to carve out your own creative space. With so many design and art blogs out there, what seems to be missing that you’d like to see?
p+p: More on the designing of fabrics rather than on the sewing side of things.

decor8: Oh yes, that would be absolutely wonderful. Maybe there’s a textile teacher or designer reading this that will get the idea and start one up. Okay, let’s move from blogs and careers and talk about other things you enjoy. Being based in London, I’d like to see what your perfect Saturday would include… Can you share?
p+p: Going shopping, eating Italian food, and then going to the theatre. I’m a big fan of musicals, I’ve already done 8 this year so far and it’s only May. I try to go at least once a month.

decor8: I like that day, a satisfaction of all the senses. I enjoy London theatre too, although I’ve only seen Les Mis there twice. (I was such a geek, I bought a t-shirt and everything.) I read that they’re actually bringing Les Mis back to Broadway in October… Let’s wrap things up with your top 10 things that you just can’t live without, it’s how I like to end most of my interviews.
p+p: Music, patterns, cats, cakes, Italy, theatre, Adobe Illustrator, shopping, I know that’s only 8 but I’m not a greedy person.

Not, you’re definitely not – you share with us your many prints + patterns each day and for that, we’re all very appreciative. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Readers: Please remember to spread the love to bowiestyle and make sure you say hello in the comments section below.


Posted in blogs, interviews on May 23, 2006

coffee + cre8tive {may 23 ’06}

Did you see Cally’s collection of buttons on her blog? You’ll just love them. For a quick mini project, I decided to look for glass jars with metal lids. I found some at target in clear glass with metal screw top lids that are absolute perfection. My plan is to display them on the shelf above my desk… Filling them with pretty + colorful things that make me happy.

The first jar will contain buttons. Old, new, all shapes and sizes. The second, vintage spools of thread, you know the kind on the off-white thin spools that you can tell have been used? And the third, maybe used stamps that I’ve collected from Europe dated between the 30s and the 60s. I’ve also thought about filling it with torn samples of my favorite wallpaper patterns or little rolls of my favorite fabric samples tied like scrolls with a thin ribbon around each.

What would you fill your jars with?

(image from the super ms. cally)

Posted in blogs, diy, tips on May 23, 2006


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