Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beads, Buttons and Baubles

French General owns a collection of over a ton of beads, which I have been buying slowly for the past 20 years. It amazes me the amount of old stock that is still hidden in basements. The staggering quantity of costume jewelry that was manufactured and sold is staggering. I designed jewelry for ten years and much of the old materials I used are from this stock of goods. You can read more about this and get a peak at some jewelry designs in our book French-Inspired Jewelry.

Over the years I have saved one full tin of almost every bead I have ever bought. I tell Sofia this is her inheritance. Someday she will take this collection to a flea market and sell it all for a song - but meanwhile, I like to think this is a special collection that has been hand-picked by me and will be appreciated in years to come. Really I like the way that I have organized all of the colors together - all shades of coral, cranberry or cherry glass beads - each has their own box - their own palette.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Beautiful Bougainvilla

I planted this bougainvilla vine 5 years ago when we moved into the little Spanish bungalow which houses French General. It has grown out of control - in a good way - almost growing over the front door. It has also grown over the French General logo which was painted onto the house. I used to have a gardener, named Anselmo who would come and trim away the vines so that there was a quaint floral entryway - but Anselmo quit almost a year ago and no one has trimmed the vine since! Sooner or later we will have no front door.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Number 21

My favorite number is 21. Maybe because I was born on the twenty-first or maybe because it's the number of spots on a die (1+2+3+4+5+6= 21) or maybe because the Twenty-first Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment thereby ending Prohibition. Whatever the reason - I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


My sister and I were talking last night about the craft world...and how we feel like there is this enormous buzz about craft - the organic form of doing something we love and making it into a product- and eventually, taking control of our own lives - working when we want and actually earning a living at it.

"The craft world now has rock stars" said Molly. Rockstars ='s like what happened to models in the late seventies: models became supermodels.

I feel lucky to be able to craft with old materials everyday - which is what French General is all about. To be able to sit and work in one's workspace or even a small corner of the kitchen table and work with one's hands creating something beautiful (and hopefully useful) everyday.

Right now here's what I like working with:

old red fabric that has faded to the shade of cranberry - a color that is so hard to reproduce, just as the color was 300 years ago.
old hemp thread - the kind used to make fishing nets
mother of pearl etched buttons
old embedded wire flowers

My interest now is in the process of old materials: how they were made, who made them, and what kind of stock did they sell that so much of it still exists today. It's all about the process - right?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Uncovering Gold

I'm going to start digging more. I have a funny feeling some of my favorite things are becoming scarce. I should take a year off and roam France in an old Citron. I'd stop at all the flea markets, vide greniers and brocantes to load up on a few of my favorite things.....

French fabrics - red floral and ticking stripes
Ironstone cups without handles
Millinery feathers and flowers
Botanical glass beads
Pink lustreware
Butterflies, insects and medicinal tools
Sewing notions
Paper labels

After I drive from Paris to Toulouse and find my treasures, I'd come back to Los Angeles and set up an old warehouse filled with the inspiration of rural France, the embellishments of 18th century Paris, and the atmosphere of a grand old chateau. I would charge people a dollar to come inside just to be inspired. I wouldn't sell a thing - ok maybe in the gift shop I would sell kits - kits that inspired creativity.
I'd hire people like Molly and Melissa and John - and Bob and Dominique and Johnny - Helen and Ryan. My mom and dad would run the gift shop and my brothers would serve lunch in the organic cafe from 11-2. We'd be open by chance.
Yeah - that's what I'm going to do.