Box v. Indie

Joanna Mendocina

I’m sure you’ve seen Joanna Mendocino‘s work popping up on various blogs and print magazines since last fall. Her ‘crafty modern’ ceramics are insanely cute in every picture I’ve seen, and as I learned this weekend, they’re even cuter in person.

My husband and I were driving back from the hardware store (we’re trying to sell our condo, which means doing some upgrades–and I wanted to collect paint chips to make into boxes), and on a whim I asked him to drive through the Berkeley arts district and stop at the first open studio we saw.

He did, and we ended up in the shared studio space of several potters. We walked through their gallery, and as we got to the back, these familiar little birds peeped out from around the corner. I couldn’t believe it! It was like meeting someone famous.

Unfortunately, Joanna was not there, but now that I know she is, I’m going to have to go back. The other potters in the studio said that her creations are a perfect match for her personality–this is a woman I want to meet!

There’s a little bird vase on her website that has become my new obsession. I want to put him next to my bed so his funny little face is the first thing I see in the morning. I also saw a few things in the works, not pictured on her website, including a shelf full of yet-unglazed little bunnies. Not sure if they’ll be offered for sale, but I recommend checking her site periodically. Whatever she comes up with next is bound to please.



The convergence of Spring and one of Jenn’s posts over on Popwheel recently got me itching to clean out my house. Of course, my response wasn’t to get cleaning, it was to go out and buy a book. I got one on Feng Shui.

The first chapter in the book talks about the way all the objects in our home evoke emotions. Artwork, in particular, can have a strong influence on how we feel and think, and thus on the turns our life takes.

Since reading that, I’ve been on the hunt for art that makes me happy. I think I’ve found in it LauraGeorge‘s prints, illustrations and paintings. I’m totally smitten with the little guy with the hangers, but it’s not just the art that makes me happy.

The artist, too, makes me smile. She says in her profile:

I like to make things that comfort me, in whatever way…I hope they make you feel something good. I think we should all feel good, don’t you?

I do.

If you want to buy prints from a large retailer, there’s always, but with artists like Laura selling adorable prints and affordable originals, why would you want to?

For those of you who missed it in the comments, Doree from PinkQuartzMinerals added some great information to yesterday’s post about handmade mineral makeup.

She says:

Hi, thank you for including my company! I do care about my customer’s health! When choosing a mineral makeup, it is vital to check ALL ingredients. If a website or company does not list ingredients, pass by it because chances are they are not using only minerals.

It is also important to check for any ingredients that give the product a “shelf life”. The most common is cornstarch (zea mays), which is a food derived product, and therefore is not a good ingredient for mineral makeup as it can become contaminated, and go “bad”. Because cosmetics manufacturers are not required by law to put shelf life labels on cosmetic products, the consumer must be an informed buyer.

We offer mineral makeup samples at $1.00 each, and a great sample kit with larger samples! We also will custom mix your shade if you find after sampling that two or three shades mixed is your match! We don’t require you to buy every other month like some companies, and we want you to be happy with your products.

My samples are already on the way!  Which gives me an idea:

If you try these or any other indie cosmetics, and you’re so inclined, please email me a little review and maybe some before and after shots.  If I get enough replies, I’ll post another follow up on the blog with a special thanks to the reviewers.  Feel free to email me for details.

Mineral Makeup on Etsy

According to‘s Skin Deep:

…the [U.S.] government cannot mandate safety studies of cosmetics, and only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients FDA has documented in products have been assessed for safety by the cosmetic industry’s review panel.

To help consumers better understand what they’re putting on (and ultimately into) their bodies, Skin Deep has created a searchable database of cosmetics, rated for health and safety, based on known and suspected toxic ingredients.

No surprise: the mega-retail brands don’t fare well. Among the worst rated brands are those marketed as fresh and healthy: Philosophy, Prescriptives, even Physicians Formula scores moderately-high on the warning scale.

But indie has a happy answer: mineral makeup. These products are completely free of the cosmetic industry’s top ten offending ingredients. The most common ingredients in handmade mineral makeup, as rated by Skin Deep, are: Iron oxide and titanium dioxide, which have a low toxicity rating, and zinc oxide and mica, rated low-moderate.

These Etsy sellers seem worth checking out; unlike the large cosmetic corporations, they actually seem to care about their customers’ health. Products include powder, foundation, eyeshadow and bronzer, among other things, and many sellers offer sample sizes so you can find your best shade.

Divine Nature

Have you tried these? Other indie brands? Has your skin improved since switching? If so, please leave a comment and let us know!

For more information on the healthy beauty movement, visit:

It’s hard to walk into Anthropologie and not start drooling. The store is full of clothing, accessories and home decor perfectly tuned to the indie shopper’s tastes. Their prices are through the roof, but sometimes a little splurge is worth it. My question, however, isn’t the value of a splurge. What I want to know is this: is Anthropologie good for Indie at all?

The CEO’s politics aside, this daughter company to Urban Outfitters does not advertise and prides itself on offering unique and often handmade products. According to this article, the ‘chief product anthropologist’ scours the world looking for the next best thing. But “the ultimate find is not only a one-of-a-kind object that Anthropologie can sell in the store (found objects make up a small percentage of home sales, which comprise 35% of total sales), but also one that inspires a new in-house design.”

That’s right: inspires a new design. Many would say this amounts to ripping off indie designers.

The trouble is, it’s hard to know. Their website gives little away in terms of an item’s origin. Often, an item’s description will say ‘handmade in the United States’, or simply ‘USA’ or ‘Imported’. I want to know who made it. I want to know under what conditions.

In yesterday’s interview, Sarah said that within the next five years she hopes to see Indie designers selling their items through larger retail outlets (she mentioned Target–I asked them about this; see their response here). If this comes to pass (if it’s happening already!) I want to know about it. One of my biggest gripes with box stores is their lack of communication with customers, and Anthropologie is no different.

If you’re supporting Indie, make it clear. Otherwise, it feels a bit like mockery, even scam to dangle these earrings, bags and dresses in front of my eyes. Granted I’m not in the target market (of women age 30-40 earning $200,000 a year), but a little openness could go a long way in attracting new customers. Until then, I’m going back to Etsy.







Want to get more from your indie shopping experience? Here are 5 things you might not have tried.

Image from

1- Take advantage of offers for custom made. I had such a fabulous experience ordering my custom mug from Phenix Pottery. I got exactly what I wanted, with love, and it cost less than buying the next-best mug from the large retailer. Many independent sellers will make custom orders; if you’d like a body product in a different scent, a piece of jewelry with a different stone or metal, a shirt in a different size, etc., I highly recommend asking for it. Most sellers will be happy to do it!

2- Attend craft shows and visit indie boutiques. This is obviously easier in some areas than others, but if you do make it out to San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and many other urban areas, attending fairs and visiting boutiques is a great way to see, touch and smell things in person before you buy. There are so many of these wonderful places, and I’d like to list them all. If there’s one you love, please email me, or leave it in a comment to this post!

3- Sign up for sellers’ newsletters, check out indie gift guides. Newsletters rarely come more than once a month, so they won’t clog your inbox, and they’re often ripe with discounts, deals and even samples that sellers offer only to newsletter readers. Gift guides often have similar deals–you just have to seek them out.

4- Participate in giveaways and swaps. Perhaps these two should be separate, as they really are distinct. Giveaways, like those on Happily Handmade and Modish require you only to sign up to be entered to win a large prize. Swaps can range from the Spring Genie going on right now at SBS (kind of like Secret Santa for tea–you must sign up on the forums to participate), to bartering on Etsy. I even have an offer from my Qigong teacher to trade a sound healing session for jewelry! People are often open to this, even if they don’t explicitly say so. All you have to do is ask.

5- Give gift certificates. Increasingly more indie sellers are offering gift certificates for sale, but many still do not explicitly do so. I received several gift cards for Christmas last year, all from larger retailers, and while I appreciated the gifts, I would have loved one from an indie seller so much more! A gift certificate from an indie seller has a much more personal, thoughtful feel than a plastic card you can buy at the Grocery store. It’s also a great way to promote the indie community. Give it a try! And I encourage you, if the seller doesn’t explicitly offer it, to ask anyway. They may love you for the idea.

What unusual things have you done to enhance your indie shopping experience?

Oceana End Table

How do we distinguish furniture from art? In every line of this table, I can envision an artist at work: the inspiration that hit him as he walked along the beach, the hours of sketching and revising to get it right, the weeks spent shaping the wood, caressing it with a gentle touch of his tools.

The best furniture is art, and Indie furniture is often the best. That’s certainly the case for this end table Paulus has for sale on Etsy. It costs $1,590 (good art’s not cheap). But wow is it gorgeous–and functional, though I might be afraid to use it!

Pottery Barn TableA box store comparison isn’t really fair. At $399, this table from Pottery Barn is less expensive, but if you consider the amount of time that went into designing and crafting the it, compared to the Oceana, you’ll find that Pottery Barn shoppers are overpaying! And if, at the end of the day, they still want fine art in their homes, they’re going to have to keep looking.

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