Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nina Bagley is Coming to Town!

Ten years ago, my good friend Holly from Key West called and said she was headed to Montreal to take a workshop with an artist named Nina Bagely.  My first response was "You're going do what...with who?" And then she told me she was going to take Molly Meng with her for the week....
Back then, living in New York, owning French General on Crosby Street,  I didn't know anyone teaching workshops - except the local art center or knitting store.  But Holly was a visionary and knew that there were artists out there that were extremely talented and were sharing their work in intensive workshops.  Molly and Holly came home form Montreal with a whole new set of techniques and ideas....they just sucked up the creativity that Nina was offering and their artistic talent and eyes flourished.  
Last summer, while we were in France and I was learning all about Instagram...Nina's name popped up....again.  I hadn't heard about her in years, other than Molly constantly saying "Oh I learned this in Nina's workshop -  and I learned that from Nina in Montreal - oh and that little trick...I learned it from Nina."  Who was this woman?  So, I wrote to Nina (rhymes with China) and asked her if she would ever consider coming out to Los Angeles to teach at French General.
To my surprise....Nina wrote back in a flash and said she would love to teach at French General!  Quick panic set in as I didn't really know what Nina would teach!  But within days, Nina had sent me not one, but two wonderful workshop ideas.  Using her metal and charm techniques, Nina will teach two jewelry workshops - and although each workshop can stand alone - both will build on each other.  
Nina's first workshop, will be an evening of fun, on Thursday, October 17th from 6-9.  Nina will focus on teaching us how to build and layer vintage charms and amulets.  Techniques include: learning how to coil wrap wire, drill mother of pearl and build a birds nest using wire and pearls.  All materials and tools will be provided, but you are encouraged to bring any old bits and pieces that you would like to turn into a jewelry charm...old mother of pearl buttons or buckles, beads or broken bits to precious to live without.
The second workshop, on Saturday, October 19th will be a full day of learning.  We will gather at 10 in the morning and spend the whole day creating a multi-wrap choker or bracelet.  Filled with Nina's own unique techniques, this workshop will allow you to use all sorts of vintage buttons, beads, textiles and leather to design a richly detailed jewelry wrap.

Both workshops will have a limited amount of seats so that students have the opportunity to get up close and personal with Nina.  This is a special opportunity and we hope you will be able to join us.

Thursday, October 17th from 6-9

Saturday, October 19th from 10-4

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Down and Dirty Indigo Dyeing

I've really taken to natural dyeing over the past few years and I am excited to finally teach a workshop at French General this summer.  As well as building up indigo vats in the back alley at French General,  we will be learning classic Japanese Shibori techniques, like twisting, binding and tying, to create resist patterns on fabric.  

After building the vats in the morning, we will spend a couple of hours sewing and clamping our patterns onto summer hemp cloth and silk scarves.  At noon, we will break for lunch and then in the afternoon, head out back to dip our fabric into the vats.  

Simple enough for everyone, down and dirty indigo dying is really a very simple technique that allows you to experiment with different fibers and see how they react to the indigo dye...I am always pleasantly surprised when I see my work after spending time creating the pattern.

If you would like to spend the day learning about this exciting process, please sign up here or call the shop, we still have a few spots open!  We provide everything you need for the workshop, just be sure to wear your blues!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Teaching at French General.....

I love a good teacher.  And for the past ten years, all of the teachers at French General have been women.  I'm not sure why or how or even when...but somehow, when we began the process of building the workshops at  French General, we connected with women that were skilled at their craft and willing to teach in a remote area of Los Angeles.

We've had some of the best come through these doors to teach...including Charlotte Lyons, Pam Garrison, Rebecca Sower, Arlene Baker, Molly Meng, Jenny Hart, KC Willis, Shea Fragoso and Debbie Murray, Pam Keravouri, Evelyn Neily, Denise Lambert...just to name a few!  Coming soon are Ulla Milbrath, Brenda Walton, Nina Bagley and Amy Butler...just to name a few more!

Robert Mahar walked into French General one day and changed the was this extremely talented man that wanted to teach at French General...and we wanted to have him teach!  I met Robert at a Family Dinner - a monthly gathering planned at a local Eastside restaurant by a talented 'unnamed stitcher' - although Robert claims we met years earlier at a party at French matter.....we met!  Robert is a master of craft and can almost do anything he puts his mind to!

Robert has brought his craft of precise detail and impeccable taste to French General with his crepe paper flower workshop....which he is offering once again this Saturday, July 13th.  If you know Robert or are curious about his creative style...join us for his summer workshop....and you too will enjoy the charm!

Meanwhile....if you are a talented woman or MAN that would like to teach a workshop at French General...please be in touch!  We are a retail shop, which offers a creative workshop every Saturday...except when we are in France!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Jewelry Making at Quilt Festival!

A couple of years ago at The Creative Connection in Minneapolis, I met a wonderful women named Judy Murrah who convinced me to come and teach at the International Quilt Festival.  At first, I thought...why would I teach at a quilt festival....I don't quilt!  But what I have come to realize over the years, is that quilters just don't quilt...they do paper arts, they make jewelry, they knit, they even love to dye with indigo!  So, I jumped in, had a wonderful experience meeting women from all over the country.....and once again, I will be back teaching at the Quilt Festival in Long Beach this summer!  

I'll be teaching two different workshops - both jewelry and both easy enough for someone that has never made jewelry before.  The Button Jewelry Workshop uses handfuls of old mother of pearl buttons and vintage crystals to create beautiful button cuff bracelets as well as an eyeglass holder...something more and more of us need these days!

 The Embellished Cuff Workshop, uses over a yard of chain and 72 beads, buttons and charms to create a weighty cuff bracelet filled with treasures.  I will be offering this workshop in a variety of colors...russet red, turquoise blue and natural linen....something for everyone!  

In our classroom, we will be setting up a French General petite market where you will be able to buy our latest Moda collection, Josephine, as well as a handful of new jewelry kits, paper art kits and even pieces of our document fabric collection.

If you are in the area or happen to be coming to the Quilt Festival in Long Beach, please join us for one or both of our workshops...sign ups are open for another couple of weeks through the Quilt Festival Website.  See you in Long Beach!

Friday, July 05, 2013

The France I Know....

After taking women to France for the past five years, I have come to know a side of France that is all together different than what I used to know.  I used to be intimidated by the French, worried that they saw me as a tourist...or worse...someone who was unable to communicate with them and therefor, they were not willing to communicate with me!

But now, after showing over 150 women the France I know, I have become very comfortable and see France as a second home.  I love walking through the markets with women who have never been to a French farmer's market - seeing it through their eyes for the very first time.  Exploring all of the spices, vegetables, fruit and cheeses...everything has a unique smell and a texture and everything is fresh.

The French market baskets are another favorite highlight of the market...everyone needs at least one in their life...but many seem to need a handful!  All hand-made, these baskets are sold by the men and women that weave them and are a staple at every market.

Our trips would not be complete without the daily visits to the brocantes or vide greniers...the second hand shopping of France!  Over the years, we have gotten to know many of the dealers and they now open up early for us or even pay a special visit to the chateau to sell their wares.

Some of my favorite finds are not the ones that are priced out of my budget, but the small forgotten pieces of the past...a porcelain tart dish, a well-worn straw covered flask, a hank of chanvre, a strand of hand-knotted mother of pearl beads, or a repaired grain bag from Paris....

When we returned this week from France, a couple of us actually thought we had lost that even possible!?  I think it's from eating so well - everyday!  All of our food is made fresh from local, organic ingredients - nothing processed or really does make a difference!

Although I am always happy to return back home to California, I try to hold onto the simple life that I have enjoyed on our Chateau Getaway month.  Planned a whole year in advance, we are already taking sign-ups for our 2014 summer trip....maybe you will join us one day!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Just in Case You Missed the Sunflowers in France....

Five years ago, we started taking groups of women to the South of France to learn to live like a rural Frenchwoman...while living in a 17th century chateau!  We have just returned from our month in France with Amy Butler who was our guest artist for the month of June.  Everything was going according to plan, except for the sunflowers...who were barely visible...due to all of the rain in France this past winter and spring.  A highlight of our summer trips, the sunflowers were sorely missed!  To make up for our lost beauties, Arlene Baker, the master flower maker, will be joining us at French General this Saturday, July 6th for her Ribbon Sunflower Workshop.  Sign up soon to reserve your spot..this class is not to be missed!
More soon on our trip to France..including some of our beautiful found treasures that will be listed in our petite brocante at