Purchase a Basket Bag and Support The Johns Town Women's Sewing and Craft Cooperative in Jamaica

Introducing the Basket Bag, for a Limited Time Only!

For $85 (plus tax and shipping) you will not only be supporting a good cause but you will receive a one of a kind Fabric Horse Basket Bag. All proceeds from the Basket Bag will support The Johns Town Women's Sewing and Craft Cooperative located at The Source Farm in St. Thomas, Jamaica.

The Basket Bag came to life in November of 2006 when I visited my friend, Yune Lee who was doing Peace Corps in Cameroon, Africa. I stayed with Yune in her house out in the bush, but we also did quite a bit of traveling. The trip was an eye opening experience as we traveled the country meeting people and absorbing the country’s beauty. I met several people who worked very hard to maintain a sustainable life in hopes to provide more for their children. There was one single mother I met who ran her own bar working diligently so her daughter might have the chance one day to study here in the states. It is quite humbling when you get a chance to visit such an impoverished country. I have enormous amounts of respect for those who can fight their oppression by using their skills and natural talent to live sustainable and fulfilling lives.

While there I purchased a plastic woven tote bag with a hand made wooden bottom and plastic rope for handles. Yune had an identical bag and used it every time she walked to the market. She claimed it was the best thing for carrying produce and was excited about not smashing her tomatoes. What I did not realize at the time was that the bag fit flawlessly into the basket on my single speed road bike and I began using it daily. Not only is it great for commuting around town on the bicycle, it is also handy for packing picnics for those summer trips to the beach. I found so much use for this little guy that I knew other people needed it in their lives as well.

The Fabric Horse Basket Bag is made from 90% recycled materials, vinyl donated by the Design Trust for Public Space, and seat belts from junked cars.

The wooden bottom and sturdy vinyl structure is finished with seat belt webbing and rivets.

Last fall I received an email from Brian Hawkins who worked for a fabrication company located in Brooklyn. He had been working on a project with the Design Trust for Public Space, a not-for-profit organization committed to improving New York City's parks, plazas, streets, and public buildings. The design project held an open, international ideas competition specifically for reinventing the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. The top 30 visionary plans were on view in a free, outdoor, public exhibit throughout the center of the Plaza. These top proposals were digitally printed on large sheets of heavy weight vinyl.

Knowing that Fabric Horse recycles and reuses materials, Brian contacted us in hopes that we would want these sheets of vinyl after the exhibit came down. Upon receiving these sheets I realized the digital printing was quite spectacular and instantly saw the possibilities of creating beautiful bags from it.

While working out the production plans for the basket bag I thought these amazing materials would be perfect for the project.

For the past year I have been in contact with Nicola Shirley-Phillips, the former owner of Philadelphia's Jamaican Jerk Hut. I met Nicola a few years back at a fabric swap held by the Philadelphia Sewing Collective. She spotted me from across the room and saw the utility belt I was wearing, she soon thereafter contacted me to customize one for herself. Nicola was selling her business and moving back to Jamaica with her husband where they were planning on doing contract work on land they had recently purchased. Little did I know at the time that she was working towards building an Ecovillage on her land with a group of other talented folks. On top of harvesting sustainable agriculture, and working on inventing the Earthbag House, she has also spearheaded The Johns Town Women's Sewing and Craft Cooperative (JTWSCC). All this is located at The Source Farm, a multi-cultural, intergenerational eco-village, located in Johns Town, in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica. Their "...ecological mission and vision is to respect Natural life, its systems and processes - preserving wildlife and botanical habitat, and creating a life-style that regenerates, rather than diminishes the integrity of The Source Farm environment."

The Johns Town Women's Sewing and Craft Cooperative (JTWCC) was founded in 2007 by a group of talented community women who joined together in their mission to increase their sewing skills in order to generate income for themselves and their families. Nicola contacted me hoping that I could visit their cooperative and help them build their skills as strong stitchers and creative designers. Knowing that money needed to be raised in order to fund a trip to Jamaica I decided the Basket Bag was the perfect new product launch to do so. All proceeds from the Basket Bag will go towards the trip including travel, food and expenses while in Jamaica working with JTWCC.

If you are unable to purchase a Basket Bag but still would like to support this venture you can donate anywhere from $5 and up, just scroll to the top of the blog to find the Donate button. Each $5 increment of your donation will buy you a raffle ticket to win a Basket Bag, a customized Utility Belt or Seatbelt Bag from Fabric Horse. This is your chance to help a great cause and possibly win one of your very own one-of-a-kind Fabric Horse bags.

If you have clothing, fabric, buttons, zippers, thread, etc. lying around that you would like to donate to the cooperative you can send it to our studio:
Fabric Horse
319A N. 11th St.
3rd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

For more information please email us at info@fabrichorse.com or call 215.694.9034.
Thank you for all your support!
Carrie Collins
Fabric Horse


New Halfbelts and Superheros

We just uploaded several new Halfbelt and Superhero Utility Belts in our online store go check them out.


We Love Him

We do! We love Seiya so much that he gets two mentions on this blog in the same week. Not only is he a good customer but he's also a great person, whose goodness is remembered by almost everyone I know who's ever met him. He's like a cycle-messiah, "Have you heard? Seiya's coming!" Er...maybe more like a cycle-saint.

In any case, he starred in an episode of Working, a series of short films by Tramnesia, documenting his shop, Depot. As told by the filmmakers:

WORKING is a series of short videos profiling the practices of small, owner-operated businesses. Inspired by Studs Terkel's landmark oral history of working people in the early 1970's, WORKING interviews individuals who have rejected the idea of working for others, instead setting up businesses in order to work for themselves. If Terkel's study triumphed the survival of the human spirit against the daily humiliation of the Job, the individuals presented here update that theme with personal examples of autonomy against the economies of scale that perpetuate the demoralized workplace.

WORKING attempts to highlight the successes of these individuals in carving out ways to live, of tailoring a "work" situation that "works" for them, offering up business models that value independence over financial and/or material preoccupations. Terkel, quoting a union leader: "Once we accept the concept of work as something meaningful -- not just as the source of a buck -- you don't have to worry about finding enough jobs."

WORKING seeks to learn about the actual practice and challenges of running a business by asking specific questions of how things are done. WORKING tries not only to look behind-the-scenes but also to consider self-assessments regarding the successes and failures of the respective business practice. Ultimately, we hope the profiles inspire you to do it yourself.

Pretty good idea, eh? We really thought so. And Seiya's shop is a perfect example. Go check out Tramnesia's written profile of Depot and then watch the movie. There will be a smile stretching across your face by the end of it. Promise.


Scholarly Vice

Most of you have doubtless noticed that Vice is no longer just for R-rated fashion insights and snarky social critique. Over the last year or so, their photojournalism has significantly upped the ante, drawing attention to things wholly absent from traditional news sources. This month's Vice Magazine has a heartbreaking piece in it about the state of Detroit's public schools. Though I've often mentioned my affinity for exploring spaces of urban decay and abandoned buildings, public schools are not places that qualify as romantically desolate.
Photo by James Griffieon for Vice Magazine

James Griffieon, the author, frames his photos of decaying classrooms and abandoned art supplies within the larger narrative of Detroit's tragic modern history: white flight that has depleted the urban tax base and pervasive bureaucratic corruption and contracts that defy logic. The combination has produced a grim landscape for the city's school system, leaving half the city's residents illiterate and undermining any chance for urban renewal. Griffieon's brief introduction opens the curtain for his telling photos, the young victims of failed urbanism in Detroit and its sad stuff.
Photo by James Griffieon for Vice Magazine

Check out the article and some of the commentary. There's some real crazy racist bull being slung about who's to blame, though little of it very thoughtful. It's obviously a multifaceted issue, spun together over the last fifty years by the course of history as orchestrated by some very powerful people. Reading the book Middlesex a couple of years ago first opened my eyes about the tumultuous course of history in that very American motor city, and this article further feeds that interest. And weigh in! The commentary could use some more thoughtful, well-balanced response.


Good Old Diamond Gusset

I'm happy to learn of a company that is still making their product in the United States. I'm sometimes even more impressed when that company is a large scale manufacturing operation, making things for a mass market. Because much as making things by hand and staying local is a challenge for our small model, we're not exactly competing with hundreds, or thousands of other companies making something like blue jeans. And you know, it takes all kinds, not just bright and beautiful and bicycle riding to make the case for Buy Local.

I ran across this American company, Diamond Gusset that makes heavy duty, regular old pants at their factory in Blue Ridge, Georgia. They have a commercial on their website showing how they make their pants and it showcases all these champion ladies in their fantastic fifties manning mega-industrial machines. Tough stuff.

The jeans themselves aren't much my style, though they'd be great for riding a bicycle. (They have a patented "diamond crotch" reinforcement system happening.) They also seem targeted to the rancher, farmer, heavy duty lifestyler. The point is, good for them, I say. Good for them for staying put and keeping these ladies in their jobs.


Seriously, Stupidity

I will be showing some work in a big group show opening this Wednesday at a new gallery space above Kung Fu Necktie in Old Kensington. Stop by, check it out. Also, Jamie Dillon will be playing the Jamaican tunes on the first floor so bring some dancing shoes.

Shadow's Space
1248 N Front Street (above KFN)
Philadelphia, PA 19122

+++ Opening Wedensday March 18, 2009, 6-10 PM

Kung Fu Necktie, a new nightlife entertainment venue opened in Fishtown for the local arts community announces the grand opening of a new gallery for the Philadelphia art scene- Shadow’s Space. Operating in tandem with Kung Fu Necktie’s ongoing program of live music, performance and DJ events, Shadow’s Space will be an alternative venue for regional, national and contemporary art.

The premier exhibition at Shadow’s Space, Seriously Stupididity, curated by two of Philly’s most beloved aesthetic savants Adam Wallacavage and Damian Weinkrantz, features a veritable lexicon of emerging and established artists who have come to define this town as one of the great bastions of cultural production in America today.

A counterpoint of the divergent tendencies that make contemporary art simultaneously brilliant and brutal, Seriously Stupid brings together a broad range of visual provocateurs from the multivarious fields of comics, conceptualism, painting, sculpture and skate culture. By contrasting and collapsing the problematic boundaries by which we separate the intellectual and intentionally moronic tendencies inherent in picture-making today, we understand that both are legitimate responses to the complexities of our modern world, and each offers some quotient of sympathy and understanding for the dysfunction of our collapsing empire. For the super-smart and inebriate alike, this is art to get in a brawl over for no other reason than the make-up sex after will be the best you ever had.

Participating Artists Include:
Shelley Spector
Charles Burns
Drew Leshko
David Dunn
Danny Perez
Spencer Wunder
Mary Deevy
Manuel Dominguez, Jr.
Jessica Roberts
Gloria Joan Haag
Brieann Robyn Tracey
Carrie Collins
Jason Goldberg
Issac Lin
Kelly Turso
Adam Crawford
Aryon Hoselton
Andrew Jefferey Wright
Ken Sigafoos
Ben Woodward
Judith Schaechter
Amber Lynn Thompson
Crystal Stokowski
Matt Leines
Jim Houser
Jayson Musson
Andrew Clark
Plankton art co.
Erich Weiss
Dan Tag
Dave Fox
Nick Paparone


What a Wingnut

In some FH unrelated research I've been conducting, I came across this funny guy in Texas who's building houses a la Habitat for Humanity out of recycled everythings. They're a little kooky and he's a little kooky, but the idea is decent.

On the one hand, I'm not sure low-income people should be living in aesthetically seperate, some-might-call-crazy-looking houses and on the other I think it's a very personal and empowering way to usher in homeownership...one of those things that stupid sociology majors will tell you is crucial to narrowing the wealth gap and pulling families out of poverty. And then too, who says normal looking houses are any good anyway? What do you think?


Handmade Nation Hits Theaters

Wednesday night I saw the SF premiere of Faythe Levine's long anticipated craft documentary Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY Art, Craft & Design, courtesy of SF360Film+Club. And I wasn't the only one. That place was PACKED.

This film has been looong in the making, it seems, and it came out just under an hour, but nicely organized, with a catchy soundtrack and great opening/closing credit animation.

It opens with a great sequence of heavy-hitters in the craft world, the stars of Handmade Nation, talking about the cult of craft; they define, describe and depict their own relationships to making, and in doing explain why craft has come to be so important to the community of people doing it right now. This is the stuff that always gets me, the composite definitions people come up with for this seemingly innocuous pastime that are compelling and powerful reactions to modernity. As one such craft-lebrity, Sabrina Gschwandtner puts it, "Being a crafter is a way to slow down."

The film was fun to watch, looking for faces and spaces that you recognize, hearing familiar accounts of craft fair culture and learning more about companies you've seen on the circuit. It's a proud film, in a good way, because it takes it back to the more emotional roots of craft's new wave and effectively separates out the business of it all. It reminded me of the time back in college when my bestie Mary Wegmann and I fawned over issues of craft zines that we had to order in the mail and craft was so romantic and subversive and GOOD.

And now we all know craft is a little different, more money-making and less rough around the edges, but Handmade Nation really transports you back to that time when it was relatively new. Lots of the crafters show how they make their work, without much proprietary concern about other people copying them--craft in the beginning was after all, about sharing resources and getting as many people interested as possible in making things.

It's a celebration of a film, for sure, and poses great questions about the future of a movement that has reached critical mass in many ways. The same real, hard bound book deals, pattern and fabric lines for craft chain stores and craft fairs that trump malls for holiday shopping destinations, while signs of the movements success are also challenges to the very anti-corporate, d.i.y. roots of it all. Keeping with tradition, there were crafters set up vending things before and after the film itself:

Faythe Levine wasn't there for the screening (which I thought was a real tragedy!) and so she wasn't available to discuss the questions she poses at the end of the film surrounding all these issues of cultural negotiation and the future. Many people see craft as a direct challenge to mass production and too, a challenge to capital itself. But when craft gets HUGE, crafters are faced with the same decisions as capitalists. And the collective decision the community makes in the next five years about whether to go big or go home, will be an important one. The movement has gotten big enough now that there are many conflicting ideas about what the future of craft will look like, and this film doesn't show that conflict as much as I would have expected. That's probably my only criticism. Though there was a fine panel after the screening, the panelists' discussion wasn't about the film specifically, but more about their experiences in the d.i.y. community.

As a document of an historic movement, the film hit its mark. Sorry for the long post! But really, my heart just swelled watching it.


Biggest Wholesale Order To Date

For those of you lovers who live Japan-side of the Pacific, we're shipping out our largest order yet to Depot Cycle Recycle. Thanks Seiya! It's always nice when a buddy with an awesome shop can help buffer the recession with a large order. See?

Of course, Seiya's store stocks the best of the best in fun bicycle related things and we are only too honored to be among them. If you live in Japan, April might be the time to plan a special trip...hint...hint...


Oh Geode!

Eliza Fernand's show billow/ripple opened last weekend in Oakland's Fort gallery among sizable crowds and music. I happened to stumble in, having heard little about its substance beforehand, and immediately noted their similarity to Carrie's costumes and gallery pieces. In a good way. Both ladies' creations could happily live in a village together and subscribe to the same set of neighborhood association's member guidelines. What I mean is, their art shares the same wild palette and fantastical tactility. Eliza makes crocheted neon stalactites to Carrie's french fry bouquet.

A little crazy, sure. But fun! The gallery blurb describes Eliza's work: "craft infused abstractions...These installations are crafted with familiar materials and familiar forms, but the scenes are fantasy...each room in the gallery sets a mottled scene of contradictions—composed and organic, material and immaterial, intimate and encompassing."

I love sewn gallery pieces: no matter how sterile the vacuum environment, the art begs to be touched. Mostly, I enjoyed Eliza's large scale, landscaped objects that reference a family quilt, puppetry, geodes and caves at the same time. And I was impressed with the many different mediums incorporated into her pieces; any one person who can equally sew, crochet, knit AND use a hammer is a talented lady in my book.

**more pictures (and arguably BETTER pictures) of eliza's show here.


Warsaw Made

A new label out of Philadelphia by our friend Elsa, formerly a Black Floor lady, who set out on her own as of February of this year to make a line of things inspired bywell-made goods of the past.
She's called it Warsaw Made.

With a decidedly antique look and feel, her bags could easily transport their wearer to another time and place. And they're all handmade in town, by one visionary lady with an eye for romance. Don't be fooled; though beautiful, each piece is tough as nails and made by hand to endure the ages. There are even quilt references, if you're paying attention. She certainly has her bases covered.

See for yourself.



To Bilenky Cycleworks, our hometown framebuilding outfit! They won best tandem last weekend at the NAHBS in Indianapolis. If there were ONE prize worth winning, best tandem is probably it. In my mind, the gold medal of gold medals. Those bicycles built-for-two are just the most fun.

And such a lovely shade of red...


Gerik Is Our Buddy and He Likes To Draw

Gerik does all kinds of drawings, usually good ones, and he just started a smart little blog to keep track. It's more functional than your everyday, ordinary blog because it's called Caption Please. The comments are the captions, get it?

We like them, untitled or titled.


Social Design

Social21 is a social design network, whose mission is to inspire social activism through design. We connect people who want to explore ways design can positively impact our many worlds, and who want to create change here, now.

We heard of them through a piece on Treehugger which discussed one of the products to come out of a competition they held in 2008 called Power to the Pedal, which asked for designs that could enhance the biking experience. The brief reads:

Promoting bicycle use also means enabling it; local governments are being
tasked to improve infrastructure to create more convenient and safer routes as
well as incentives for biking... This competition calls for a biking accessory or add-on for existing bikes that would improve the bicycling experience and encourage more people to make biking their primary means of transport – more convenient, more enjoyable, safer and more integrated into daily lifestyles – whether it's for commuting, working, shopping, transporting, leisure or all of the above.

They received TONS of submissions over the duration of the competition, which closed last May. Finalists & winners were chosen through public voting through the Social21 website and a jury process, and three awards were given. The top prize went to a power cell that runs from riding a bicycle, but submissions ranged from handmade helmet covers to trailers to folding handlebars to a concept that blows bubbles through your rotating wheel, which in turn scatters seeds throughout the city, like Johnny Appleseed. Or this, which turns your bike into a wind instrument:

I still can't believe that this whole business eluded the FH radar screen...obviously we might have had something to say about it. But I'd say go check out what designers dreamed up for those of us on two wheels, there's some crazy stuff. I mean...we like crazy.


Rainy Day Brigade: Bike Kitchen on the Move

I would like to rally some cheers and admiration for the Bike Kitchen and their heroic move last weekend, all by BICYCLE and in the rain. It's not an easy thing to stand firm on your principles in inclement weather, for crying out loud, and cheers to their admirable determination! Hoorah!

All photos borrowed gratefully from Dustin Jensen, locally talented photographer and blogger, under a Creative Commons license.

The Bike Kitchen is a community bicycle project in San Francisco, of course, that aims to facilitate greater sharing of knowledge and access to the freedom inherent in traveling by bicycle. With a staff of volunteer mechanics on hand to answer questions and lend a hand, it's a great resource to expert and novice cyclists alike. They're still settling in, but plan to reopen March 3 at their fancy new, old 650H Florida Street Address. Happy Housewarming you all.