Sunday, May 30, 2010

Grateful. Big Bad Collars.

Memorial Day.

Too few understand that the job of a soldier is to protect human life.

They stand tall so that we may walk free.  They show humanity in places where there is none.

It is our job to protect their memories.

Wounded Warrior Project 

Packages from Home

Military Working Dog cooling vest donations

Any Soldier


Friday, May 28, 2010

A Brief Interruption. Big Bad Collars.

Wednesday evening I was forced to take a break from the monotonous work of entering collars into etsy, attempting to learn what "buttons" even are and what is html code anyway?  A sub lingual group of Klingon?

Yesterday was the end of the school year for us here is Arizona.  The summer heat puts us on little bit different schedule (I have always thought the sunbelt states really should go opposite:  the big break in winter when the weather is great.  Summer is when the cabin fever epidemic hits here.)  I wanted to throw this out there since I know most out there are still a couple weeks from the end...and I am really proud of how things turned out!

It was time for the kids to make their end of the year gifts.  Of course there are kid projects of all different levels.  As usual, I like to make things that are useful.  Since there are always limitations when it comes to construction for the kids, I like for the kids do the planning and design as much as possible...(when in I actually start before midnight the night before...cough cough...).  This year we did fancy pens for the teachers.  The girls went to Hobby Lobby and chose everything out themselves: feathers, matching ribbon and of course the silver and gold pens were the bomb!  It is great way to see their developing aesthetics!

It is a great hands on project that the kids can do with you every step.  My five year old slowly and tediously wrapped each pen with me (she had four to do), reminding me each time to add the feather (I kept forgetting).  She wanted each pen different so the teachers could choose.

On the third pen she thought of a way to wrap more quickly, and it worked...too well.  We wrapped so quickly that the hot glue caught her baby finger tip.  She cried out, ran and got an ice cube for her finger and climbed back into the chair and continued by dictating to me how to finish the pen, choosing the location of each stone and butterfly.  With that pen done, I checked her finger.  I felt TERRIBLE.  I had no clue how bad her little tip had burned from the glue. She was so tough and determined to finish her project, I didn't imagine that there was a burn blister there.  I made an ice bath for the injured finger, called my husband who was visiting at his brother's to cut some aloe and bring it home (in a landscaping rage I had pulled all of ours grows like a weed here and if it gets water it will take over the yard...and was) ...and continued.  My little general gave explicit instructions on how to finish the pen while I was simply manual labor.

Then came the eight year old.  While working on the other pens, my 2 year old was playing quietly and happily beside the table...with the remaining feathers in the dog water.  Sigh.  So I pulled out replacement supplies from a work room that is the bane of my husbands existence.  You see I have an affliction...I hoard craft supplies...but you never know when a two year old will steal your ostrich feathers and swirl them in the dog water...this was just the emergency one must be prepared for!  So out came the box...

My older daughter also gave shopping bags / purses she had proudly designed for me to sew.

In the end it wasn't quite the budget saving project I had hoped.  $6 in ruined ostrich feathers, $10 a yard peacock trim,  swarovsky crystals...but...

It was a success.  The girls had gifts they had designed and constructed themselves and were proud to give.

And a PS.  I was not the creator of this, only the manual labor, but I thought it was such a great idea I wanted to throw it out there too.  One of the other moms at the pre-school bought aprons and fabric that represented each teacher.  She put names on each, had me sew pockets on, and then had the all the kids sneakily sign the aprons.  They turned out so cute and meaningful.

PPS.  The pens were not my original idea.  I had bought a couple of a similar concept at an art fair for prizes for the girls.  Sadly, the stationary store I bought them from did not survive the economic collapse here.  Support your downtown.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Big Moment. Big Bad Collars.


 Brickles would like to remind everyone to stop once in while and enjoy the little things in life.  He recommends checking out how awesome the "Now Available" page is looking!  It's little now...but it is growing as fast as Brickles! (woohoo, woohoo, victory dance...yes I am enjoying this moment greatly!  It may be one tiny step for the rest of mankind...but this crash course on computers has been one ginormous leap for me!  I have finally entered the 20th century!  I will work on the 21st century at some undisclosed point in the future...)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The New Southwest. Big Bad Collars.

The New Southwest.
I have felt that for a while it is time the for resurgence of the West.  My obsession began with cowhides and then moved on to cow skulls.  What could I do with a cow skull that would be new and unique?  This got me pondering.

You see, I am not from the Southwest.  I was forcibly relocated here from the Northwest (don't get me started...)  But the fact is I am a seems to be where ever I am.  (Marcus Aurelius was right:  "wherever you go, there you are".)  I grow weary of the washed out '80s Southwest.  It simply does not make sense.  It does not inspire.  This is not the place I know.  The colors here are bold and vibrant.  This is a place for only the tough.  Wimpy washed out pastels can't survive the desert sun.  Rocks are red, cactus are rich greens, wildflowers are deep purples and bright oranges and yellows.  Sunsets flame.

Beautiful needs to be useful too.  What purpose does it serve to have a pretty thing that can't be used for its purpose.  Useful has its own inherent beauty.  I use only Latigo leather for a reason.  It is tough and can handle what you throw at it.  And it is beautifully textured, naturally.  Increased age only means increased character to it.  Most my supplies are horse tack because it is made to work:  endure wild, unrestrained stress.  If it can handle the work of taming the west, a cowboy's work, then a working dog fits right in.  Natural elements survive the elements.  And look good doing it.  Having been raised in a farming community, living in the desert, you see the beauty in practicality.  To me, much of what is considered Southwest fashion fails this.  It represents none of the vitality I see.

So it's time.

Time to quit wallowing in washed out colors of a washed out time.  Time to return to the Old Southwest:  a dynamic time, a tough time, a vibrant time.  Time to return to the values that make us hardy and useful.  It is time to see the beauty and life in the desert.  Time to use everything we have.  In this time we will live beautifully.


So you see my obsessions.  I hate to feel washed out, useless, is how too many of us feel these days.  It is all about utility and sense of purpose.  If what we surround ourselves with is vibrant and useful, with an intent for purpose, we will feel that way too.  I also believe you use what you have in its entirety.  We are serious meat eaters around here, but also, out of respect to the animal, I believe you use the whole animal, every piece.  (My dogs' chew treats are  We'll just leave it at that.)

So I come back to cow skulls.

The symbol of the Southwest.  The staple of Southwest fashion and decor.  Finding inherent beauty.  I wanted to do something new and unique.  Reinvent the Southwest using its own inherent elements, the inspiration within its own past.

(Editor's note:  Considering the abuse the woman suffers at my hands, I owe this one to Gail.  The last time she walked into my house, before she could even set her purse down, she had an apron thrown at her, a tasting sample shoved into her mouth and was told to start stuffing hors d'oeuvres.  Therefore:  In her defense and as she pointed out to me, she never actually said she hated the old card.  She is far too well mannered and gentle to have done such a thing.  But, not to worry, the others all did!  The business card just caused her eye to twitch convulsively!  Wow...I am just like the New York Times now:  complete with retractions and editor's notes!  I feel very significant and accomplished now.)  (PS:  A congratulations too!  To see more of Gail's work, please see the article on container gardening:  Latter-Day Woman-Spring 2010 )

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unveiling. Big Bad Card.

Unveiling the new look of  Big Bad Collars.

A little while back I asked my friend Gail if she could possibly snap a shot of one my collars with her super-awesome camera so I could make a new business card.

You see I felt this was only fair since Gail was one of the main detractors of the old business card.  To say she hated it was to put it politely. husband hated it.  His best friend hated it.  My mother hated it.  And being so supportive, they all reassured me often of how much they hated it.

My 5 year old liked it.

I liked it at 4 in the morning when I put in the panicked order so that it would arrive in time for my first Arts Festival.  As Tim Gunn put it, "be careful of decisions made at 3 in the morning".  I figured I was safe:  this was 4 in the morning.

So after an eternity of mockery, I broke down and gave up the teenage rebellious defense of THE card...everyone was aware of what I was capable of when left to my own means...and asked for help (really it is a cute picture... and he is big...  and he was very, very bad...  it was the day the puppy Brickles ate my the ground...  and it made perfect sense in my addled sleep deprived brain...).

When Gail said she was willing to shoot some more pictures of more collars...I humbly asked if she could slip in some shots of my decorated Cow Skulls.  (Oh who I am trying to kid, the fact is I have become such a leech upon Gail that I don't even know where my own camera is most days.  Every time I have to do shots from my worktable it's a 20 minute or longer search...I always generously offer to carry her water when we go hiking...cough she is free to carry her gear...)

One morning it simply appeared.  With a simple tag line such as 'finally got it done' or some such nonsense....And followed with a matching banner...matching blog...

(She is only encouraging bad behavior on my part...)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Inspiration. Big Bad Collars.

I have been looking and searching for a way to properly launch this blog. A simple hello didn’t seem good enough (especially since a good friend had worked so hard to make it a happy place to be…). It just needed something to do the hard work and the moment justice.

As Mother’s Day was upon its eve and I made mental preparations to NOT FORGET TO CALL MY MOTHER ON MOTHERS DAY!, it came to me…


It came to me from the very source it so often has throughout my life.

So I will simply start at the very beginning (they say it’s a very good place to start…).

Once upon a time there was a young woman in West Germany. It was a very dynamic time; the whole world was rebuilding and redefining itself. This young woman was poised, she was educated, she was social. And she was an only child.

Everyday she walked to her father’s office to meet him and walk home with him.

On one occasion, an associate of her father, a diplomat, asked if this teenage daughter would like a dog. This man loved his very high maintenance, eccentric dog that had been a gift from his last assignment; however, he was being reassigned to a new post and the dog would not be allowed into this new country. He thought this would be a good match: a good home and a teenage daughter that could use the companion and guardian.

And so this young woman met Dinah. The Afghan. Little did that man know that one day Dinah would save this young woman’s life (such a story must be saved for a later date). Dinah became her best companion and possibly had a greater social calendar than her owner.

In all the stories, over all the years, this young woman, my mother, never once mentioned Dinah uttering a single bark. She would sit stoically in the front window that looked out on the street from their apartment in Schwabing, Munich. Beside her, Schatze the Miniature Schnauzer would sit unseen and ferociously snarl and bark, warning off all passersby on the street. People would look up to the much too nearby window and jump in alarm to see the unusually large and exotic beast looming just above... sounding warning of certain doom.

My mother eventually began modeling. Word got out that this certain model owned a very elegant and exotic hound. My mother often said that the dog got more shoots that she did. And was often better dressed. A designer in the city renowned for his belts…and his much too spoiled little dogs… learned of the exotic hound. He fashioned an entire line of belts and matching collars for the young model and her dog.

Eventually this young woman would finish her university degree in American Studies hoping for a job translating in the United Nations. But, as I like to say, life interrupts life.

Through mutual friends she would meet a young Air force officer, who drove an Austin Healy. (That one day would be dropped by the crane into the Port of New Orleans just as the young woman and her best girlfriend arrived to witness the splash…) They were married and off to France for his next station.

Dinah hardly went long without notice, or rather, without getting herself noticed.

There once was a maid that suffered a love-hate relationship with Dinah. She hated Dinah and Dinah loved to terrify her. Outside the kitchen in deliberate ambush, silently Dinah would wait for the maid to fill her hands, then she would approach behind the maid without a sound and scrape her claws against the tile floor. Dinah would gleefully saunter out of the room as the maid shrieked in terror and flung whatever was in her hands into the air. Sadly, not much of the wedding crystal survived that first year.

Unfortunately, rumors came to my mother that would disconcert any young bride. My father had been seen driving through town with an elegant, thin blond with a page-boy cut (the height of the fashion rage at the time). My mother really couldn’t think who this woman could possibly be, let alone when there would be opportunity. If my father was not on duty or flying, he was with her. One morning, standing on the porch waving my father off to errands in the town, my mother saw her. The page-boy cut. Sitting there next to my father in the Austin Healy with the top down. Dinah sat tall and erect in the passenger seat. She sat so elegantly that the fur on her ears curled perfectly under to appear to be a fetching blond page-boy when seen from behind.

But this was not the sole reason everyone on base knew Dinah.

Family housing for airmen unfortunately was also well known to the more ill-intentioned local populations of the world. Husbands were gone flying for extended periods. Wives would be robbed at knife point by pretend delivery men at the kitchen door, sometimes handing over whole paychecks. Until the thieves met Dinah.

Then one evening, my mother stood at the porch while Dinah exercised her legs. She took off faster than usual. Within moments there were bloodcurdling screams. Husbands came from every home. Dinah was found silently holding a screaming man pinned to a home exterior wall. The deviant had climbed behind the bushes to watch a woman showering through the window. The harassment of their families was too much for the airmen. The man was lucky for the quick arrival of the MPs.

Eventually, Dinah was reposted.

This time it was America. My father was assigned to fly-in the new base commander on the same flight that was carrying Dinah. The base commander was also transporting his family dachshund that flight. Dinah had issues with dachshunds…and apparently base commanders too. The base commander decided it would be best for all if he simply slept with the little dog in his arms. Silently as ever, using just the very tips of her front teeth, Dinah would gently draw the blanket off… Needless to say, it was a very long flight for all parties involved.

Despite her arrogance, Dinah could not stave off the vagaries of time. She would succumb to the illnesses of age.

Over time, that young woman had five children of her own. Always well guarded by their canine companions. Many years later, the cosmopolitan model would find herself resurrecting a historic farmhouse in Eastern Washington. My father was wonderfully happy with the farm, but unfortunately was still pulled away by flight duties. He sought to repopulate the old farm with animals. And my mother did her best to keep them all… alive.

One evening coyotes got into the sheep. She called one of the local old farmers for help. He answered “wonderful, we’ll have mutton for dinner”. The young mother sobbed into the phone that he can’t eat these sheep! Grumbling and mumbling he later came down the basement steps where she had moved the sheep, with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. My mother learned to tend drunken injured sheep.

It was on that farm that I was raised. The animal population was greatly reduced to a more manageable size by the time I came around. When I was young, we had one of those pesky economic downturns. My mother was one of the first women real estate brokers in our town. Here in Arizona we all know a little too well what happens to real estate in economic downturns.

Crafty and craftily, my mother simply made more and more of what was needed, culminating even in authentic chaps for my sister in Western show (pretty phenomenal considering that that woman still can’t really sew to this day). I grew up in a house where if you can’t find it or can’t afford it, you make it (and if you wanted to use the toilet, you learned to fix the toilet too…).  Eventually, those skills lead my mother to her arts business that supported our family for many years.

Many more years later, my own children have their own guardian companions. Of course, like every other girl in the family, Briar Rose (named for the wild roses where I grew up) needed pretty clothes to wear. Sadly, they do not make feminine canine wear in robust sizes. And very little that is useful as well.

Inspired by my mother’s determination, Dinah’s elegance and the practicality of the environment I was raised in, I simply decided to make my own collars to meet our own dogs’ personalities. The moment I walked into the leather shop, I was six again. The scent of memories came rushing back to me of getting supplies for show. I had to call my mother the moment I got home. Later I met a rusty old saddle-maker who taught me not only what to make, but how to make it strong and useful.

And we find ourselves in yet another economic downtown. And we all seek a little inspiration to muscle through.

And Big Bad Collars was born.