Nominations Needed for Great Non-Profit Organizations!

 

Nominations needed

Know of a Non-Profit organization that you think everyone needs to know on a first-name basis? Do you volunteer for an organization that’s doing good and deserves to be in the spotlight? When you hear the phrase “making a difference” does a special group instantly come to mind?

Then nominate them for a spot in my Non-Profits to Love: 2018 Edition. (You can read about last year’s featured non-profits here.)

I’m looking for Baltimore and Maryland non-profit organizations of all types, focuses, and missions to showcase in February’s special feature. It’s an annual post that gives locals a different way to show love in the season of hearts and cupids. The only qualifications for nominations are as follows:

  • MUST be a Not-for-Profit Organization
  • Be Baltimore or Maryland based

To nominate your non-profit simply answer the following questions:

  1. What is the name of the awesome non-profit you think should be featured?
  2. What do they do that makes them so special?

You can answer in the comments below or or email me at justbmore@gmail.com. Who knows? Maybe they’ll get a little extra love this season!

What could just ‘B’ more thoughtful?

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Fun Things in Mighty Packages: An Interview with ‘mightyPigeon’

Mighty Pigeon - Trio of Monsters

PC: mightyPigeon

As the holiday season nears and the year comes to an end, there is no one I would rather feature than the mighty imaginative Danamarie Hosler of mightyPigeon. I mean it — spending time with her will inspire you and make you smile! With creative monsters, an open minded way at looking at unfamiliar creatures and an uplifting spirit, Danamarie’s energy and animals will get you in gear to take on anything 2018 throws at you!

Mighty Pigeon - Girl and Pigeon

PC: mightyPigeon

Just B More: So how did you get started in the making of monsters, Under Appreciated Animals cards and other imaginative finds? Have you always been making fantasy products or did you have another artistic outlet before this?

Danamarie Hosler: Professionally, I started out as a Children’s Book Illustrator & Muralist, but I actually started making my dolls back when I was a sophomore in college. I went to MICA and was fascinated by this girl in my Art History class who used to knit socks during the lectures. I’m from Miami, so the whole concept of wool socks was new to me in general, but also that she could come to class with a ball of yarn and leave each day with an entire sock was just… whoa.

So I taught myself to knit and it turned out that socks were kinda boring for me, but I had these silly little paintings I was doing of happy big-nosed creatures with little horns and cats with one big eye and teeny little feet, and one day I just decided I needed to know what one of them would feel like to hug, so I set to work knitting it. I called them Knitimals and the rest is kinda history. I don’t really knit the dolls anymore, but I’ve since expanded my line to include a number of new “species” of creature (all of them have the same sort of design style, which originates from the way I drew faces when I was little) and that keeps me on my toes.

In general, my work is about making childhoods happier, brighter, smarter, more imaginative & more representative. I want kids to look at my stuff and feel inspired by it, excited by it, to see themselves in my characters and see faces that look like theirs. And I want all those same feelings to reach grown-ups too, and tap into their inner child and feel connected to that part of themselves again. So, having all these different outlets and imprints/collections helps me do that.

 

Mighty Pigeon Underappreciated Animals

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JBM: I adore your Under Appreciated Animals line! Where in the world did you come up with that line of merchandise?

DH: The Under Appreciated Animals project actually started as something I was just going to make for my son. When he was two, his favorite animals at the zoo were the Okapi and the Dik-dik and he asked me one day, while going through one of his many ABC books, how come they weren’t in any of them.

I was just going to draw them and stick them over the O & D pages, but then realized that EVERY kid should know what those animals are and there’s no reason to keep giving kids the same animals over and over again. As an educator and with my Children’s Book background, it was something I knew I could (and should!) pursue. Once the cards came out, the rest of the merchandise grew out of customer response and request, believe it or not.

JBM: How long have you been in business?

DH: I officially launched my business in 2000 when I graduated, and used to balance other full-time/part-time work alongside it… and that got old fast. I wasn’t able to fully commit to my work and myself and eventually had to make the choice to just strike out on my own and see what I could do. I’ve been happily working for myself full-time since 2006.

JBM: Why the name mightyPigeon? (It’s adorable!)

DH: I LOVE PIGEONS.

My business is actually twofold; the plush side is called *might and the Illustration side is mightyPigeon. *might is a play on the double meaning of the word — possibility and strength, which is what I think of when I think of my younger audience. Little kids have so much amazing potential and possibility, and I think if we give them the right tools, they can be fortified and grow up strong & resilient and ready to take on the world!

mightyPigeon is who I am… the grown up version of the *might kid. I’ve still got the possibility in me, but I’ve already been fortified and I AM taking on the world! I relate very strongly to pigeons. They’re actually incredibly smart and skillful birds with rich histories & cultural importance all over the world… but they’re deeply misunderstood and taken at just face value, you assume you know everything you need to know about them (and a lot of it is actually false). People tend to see pigeons as a cluster, as opposed to each individual bird as unique and special. I want to change that! I want my art to make people pause and reflect. And for people to see their own value & strength — the mighty pigeons they are.

Mighty Pigeon - Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse

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JBM: Your creatures are so whimsical and unique. Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces? 

DH: I’m inspired by a lot of things. Color is a big one for me; color is so emotive and sometimes I’ll just lay a bunch of fabric out on the desk and see what combinations occur naturally and pull my eye to them, or I’ll just let myself paint and move colors around the paper until something starts to look like something. I love patterns and repetitive shapes and designs. I’m inspired by my kids and the things that get their attentions or seem to be interesting them. I love seeing the world through their eyes — the perfect way they draw, without rules and restriction, the connections they make, the words they use to tell stories.

I’m inspired by current events too — though, most of the time these days, what I’m trying to do is make work that can brighten a dark day, give voice to the voiceless, draw attention to an issue that needs addressing, or simply say, “I see you. I hear you. I value you.” Its hard to stay positive all the time, but if I can find one thing to make me smile each day, that helps and sometimes I need to be the one to make that thing exist for myself.

JBM: So I have to know, do you have a favorite collection? 

DH: A favorite?!?!?! DONT MAKE ME CHOOSE!! I don’t think I can pick favorites. I love them all for different reasons. There, that’s my “mom” answer for you.

Mighty Pigeon - Megacon 2017

PC: mightyPigeon

JBM: Do you have any fun stories from the business?

DH: My work has traveled far more than I have. In fact, I have sent work to every continent on Earth, which is a pretty fun claim to fame.

I did MegaCon, a convention in Orlando, FL last year though and it was SUPER fun. I’d never done a con before so I was anxious and had no idea what to expect, and then the doors opened and whoaaaaa! It was SO crowded, SO fast. And EVERYONE was so incredibly kind and patient and passionate, it touched my heart every day since.

I LOVED seeing all the cosplay and how people would stop and pose for pictures with strangers of all ages — and the cosplay was so detailed and intense; people clearly put so much pride into their work and then would stop by the table and buy something from me and tell me that they wished they had my talent. Meanwhile my jaw is in my lap because I’m gawking at this larger-than-life, fully functioning, robo-exoskeleton something-or-other that they’re wearing like it’s nothing. I don’t know… I just loved that experience so much. I love geekery. I love seeing the things people are REALLY into… because, like, I get really into stuff and geek out about it and have to collect the heck out of whatever it is and can talk to people about whatever it is for hours on end, so to have an entire convention center full of people with all these various but often overlapping fandoms, and to see them all connecting over it, it was kinda beautiful.

It was clearly an environment without judgment and there were people of all ages mixing and mingling. It was all a really nice reminder of how lovely the world can actually be.

Mighty Pigeon - Monster

PC: mightyPigeon

JBM: You’re such a joyous person and you seem to absolutely love what you do! What do you love most about mightyPigeon? Is this your forever job?

DH: This is absolutely my forever job. I will probably continue to ebb and flow, add products, do less sewing and more drawing and then come up with some great new idea for a new doll design and go back to doing more making than painting, but I will be an artist and will run my own business forever and ever and ever and ever.

I love the freedom it affords me, both in terms of actual physical freedom (hello working in my pajamas!) and mental freedom (I just don’t feel like doing anything today… so I won’t). I love that I can homeschool my kids and still work — that I can prioritize without having either side of my life suffer. I love that if and when I have some nagging idea that has to be acted on, I can just go and do it and I don’t have to wait until I finally get that vacation time I’ve been accruing, like when I was managing another full-time job.

But mostly, I love that I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do, ever since I was little. And its not easy… at all. And money is very often tight. And I am very much at the mercy of other people’s tastes and budgets and gift-giving lists (all of which I completely understand). BUT I am also very lucky to have found and cultivated a wonderful following of supportive art lovers, who appreciate what I do and have made room for it in their lives. And I love that about my job too. I’ve met incredible people and knowing that other people are out there loving my work as much as I do is just the coolest thing.

JBM: I’m thinking that people should all own at least one of your creatures to give them some of your positive spirit. It’s hard not to smile when you look at them. How can people get in touch?

DH: Follow me on Instagram for (nearly) daily posts — sneak peeks at works in progress, studio scenes, inspiration and more — @mightypigeon_art.

Shop online at SHOPdanamariehosler.tictail.com and email me knitimal@gmail.com for commissions or custom work, or to be added to my mailing list for coupons and announcements.

JBM: Thank you so much for your time. This was a delight!

DH: THANK YOU!!

Mighty Pigeon -Pigeons

PC: mightyPigeon

 

Breaking Dishes this Holiday: An Interview with ‘The Broken Plate’

Matyland

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

Many people have the urge to break things from time to time, maybe even more so during the holiday season. But did you ever think of making a living by breaking dishes?

The unbelievably creative Juliet Ames of The Broken Plate did and she’s been breaking plates since 2006. That’s quite the run for a job that doubles as fun stress relief. Here we discussed with Julia how breaking a plate to make a mosaic turned into a creative small jewelry business.

Teacups  Jewelry

Photo credit Juliet Ames

Just B More: So how in the world did you get the fantastic idea to break plates for a living and then turn it into jewelry? Did you make other jewelry before or was this your first go?

Juliet Ames: I started as a photography major in community college but when my credits didn’t transfer (because of the death of the darkroom) I realized that my quickest path to graduation was by getting an Interdisciplinary Craft Degree from Towson University. I took an odd mix of classes to learn all sorts of different materials such as glass, paper, ceramics and metals. I spent most of my time in the metals studio. Upon graduation, I didn’t make anything for about six months when the creative bug struck and I spent a weekend in the basement, manically making myself a mosaic mailbox out of an old plate that I bought at Goodwill. When the project was complete, I still had so many pretty shards leftover that I decided to make them necklaces. The rest, they say, is history. 

JBM: So how long has this been your small business? Have you always been a small business owner?

JA: This company began in 2006, but I have been making and selling my own jewelry and photography since high school. I even managed to earn the “Most Likely to be a Millionaire” superlative in high school, but unfortunately I don’t think selling jewelry is the path to that. Maybe my next business. 

Before and after The Broken Plate

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

JBM: Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces? Do you have a favorite collection? (Mine is of course the Pyrex!)

JA: I’m usually inspired by the pattern of the plate, but lately I have been really enjoying just using simple stained glass. Since I make so much jewelry, I am finding most pleasure in making some self-indulgent art with my shards, like the map of the US or animal shapes. 

JBM: Do you have any fun stories from the business?

JA: I was honored to be invited to have a solo show in Hong Kong last year. I initially thought the invite had to be a prank, but I took a chance and traveled across the world to show my work. It was an incredible experience to be treated like a pop star for a few days. They even built me a plate breaking stage and massive broken teacup for photo ops. 

JBM: What do you love most about what you do?

JA: I love the creative process and assembling all of my pieces.

The Broken Plate Jewelry

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

JBM: Do you think this will be your “forever job” or do you see something else on the horizon?

JA: This is my forever job for now. I will never get rich doing this, but I can work in my pajamas and be there for my boy after school. They only other thing I am half qualified for is maybe being a line cook, but even that would probably kick my ass. 

JBM: Now that you mention it, don’t you have a cookbook?

JA: Yes, I made a cookbook last year.  Will have some at Holiday Heap and in my Etsy shop.

JBM: It’s the holiday season, how can people get their hands on some plate jewelry for gifts (or to treat themselves)?

JA: Email is best for me.juliet@ibreakplates.com 

My Etsy shop is www.thebrokenplate.etsy.com

My only holiday show is Holiday Heap with the Charm City Craft Mafia on December 16th at 2640 St Paul Street. 

Art on display at Silver Queen Cafe until January.

Studio visits by appointment.

JBM: Thanks so much for speaking with us!
JA: Thanks for the opportunity!

cookbook

Photo credit: Juliet Ames

Baltimore Small Business: Three Local Women to Support this Season

Presnt

What’s in here?!?

It’s the holiday season and here at just B more blog I believe in keeping it local. That’s why each Wednesday for the next three weeks I’ll be featuring a local artist whose wares are sure to be a hit on any holiday shopping list.

Whether you need something for a hostess gift, a special present for the child in your life or would like to treat yourself, these ladies will have something for you to gift wrap.

That’s right—ladies. I’m featuring three local women because their talent is fantastic and they represent what local business in Baltimore is all about: heart, creativity and quirk.

So check back here on Wednesday, December 6, to meet the first of three seriously creative small business women from right here in Charm City!

What could just ‘B’ more festive?

 

Giving Thanks to Mongolia

 

 

Flaming Cliffs

Flaming Cliffs and I

In this time of giving thanks for all that we have, I can’t help but focus on the incredible trip I took this past summer to the planetary middle of nowhere. It was one of those trips that hits everything on a traveler’s to do list and then some. And while I call Baltimore home, this begins the season of home being where you heart is, and my heart is now scattered all over the world thanks to this land called Mongolia.

 

gers

I say that my heart is scattered and not left in Mongolia because this trip opened more of the world up to me than my previous travels, and I have traveled a LOT. I’ve hosteled my way through Europe, snorkeled reefs at home and abroad, and spent more hours of my life than I care to count in airports. But this trip was different than the rest. Sure, I saw the incredible landscapes of the steppes, drank hot milk tea and marveled at the music of throat singers—and I do not want to belittle those experiences. Trust me, never say “No” to the chance to visit the land of the blue sky. But for me, the thing that made all the difference was the people I met and lived with along the way.

Travel means meeting new people and seeing new ways of life, but honestly how often does it mean new friends? With all the travel that I have done I can’t honestly say that I’ve collected a ton of friends along the way. Yes, I’ve broken bread or swapped a social media handle, but rarely have I made a connection with anyone that turned into true friendship. That changed in Mongolia, where making friends seems to be the unofficial national sport.

Mongolia Crew

#mongoliasquad

In a land where you can literally drive up to anyone’s ger, knock on the door and be treated like family, making friends was the norm. By the end of my two weeks, I realized that the people I spent this time with squashed in Soviet vans, waiting out dust storms and counting lichen on rocks, had become my international family. These were the people I never thought I needed to know but now couldn’t fathom my life without. When we went our separate ways to our true homes in different parts of the world, my heart went with each of them and I knew it would stay that way.

I’m so thankful for that trip because it gave me more to be thankful for than food, electricity and travel. It gave me an international family to follow and love and proof that no matter where you go you will never truly be alone—there will always be an open door.

What could just ‘B’ more great?

Cat Squad

Gotta Rep the Cat Ears

Farmers Market Season Starts with BUGS

 

With the opening of the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar two weeks ago, you can safely say that the city’s farmers market season has officially started. While I love the tried and true markets, I wanted to give a shout out to a smaller, less-known one that’s big on heart, as well as food.

This Saturday, May 6, 2017, be sure to check out the  BUGS Farmers’ Market on Living Classrooms’ campus. This one day market is run by the BUGS students who worked all school year to grow the food, make the crafts and wares, and plan the entertainment. It’s kid planned, kid grown, and kid powered! Not only can you fill your bags with delicious locally grown produce, but you can feel great knowing that all the proceeds go right back into the BUGS program. Trust me, this is one program you want to support.

Finishing up its 22nd year, the BUGS program is one of Living Classrooms Foundation’s outreach programs that works to give under-served Baltimore City elementary students academic, social and dietary help. Currently, the program works with 60 students from Commodore John Rodgers Elementary School and offers a unique support system that includes help with homework, a healthy dinner, and the opportunity to learn skills not often found in the traditional education setting. With five areas of study: gardening, cooking, art, dance and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), students in grades 2 through 5 are able to learn a variety of things, like healthy eating, chicken raising, dance routine creation and ice cream making. Working after school all year, students create or grow the wares and food that will be on sale at this year’s market.

BUGS Farmers Artists 2016

The BUGS Farmers’ Market itself is in its 21st year and is a staple of the community that surrounds Living Classrooms’ campus. It’s the must-attend event of the spring with seasoned patrons arriving early to snag a sought after tomato plant, bowl of freshly made ice cream or, the crowd favorite, money soap. (Seriously, this soap has $1, $5 or $10 hidden inside!) Along with other traditional favorites like scented soaps, herbs, and perennial flowers, this year’s market will also sell kid-made pillows, recycled handbags, slime and the very on-trend succulents.

Want to get a little more hands on? BUGS wouldn’t say no to some adult volunteers —  simply contact Erin Myers at emyers@livingclassroomfoundation.org.

After you peruse the stands, fill your bags (and empty your wallets) swing by the face painting, say hello to the chickens and watch the dance performance. It’s a morning at the market like no other.

The BUGS market is open on May 6, 2017, from 10 am until 2 pm at 802 S. Caroline Street and will be well worth the visit. Then, put it on your calendar for next year. Program Director, Algernon Campbell, gave me the scoop about 2018:

“Next year: Ponies.”

What could ‘B’ more fantastic?

BUGS Farmers Table

 

I’m sensing a pattern here: A sit down with MICA graduate Steph Stilwell

pattern play

I took one look at the Charm City pillow on thebaltimorecreatives Instagram feed and thought: I. Must. Have. That. The picture of bright blue and purple row homes in a throw pillow perfect square was meant to be on my couch. Sale at Caravanserai on the Avenue in Hampden when I wasn’t in town – unacceptable. So, being resourceful, I joined others who were clamoring to find out how else to get these delightful pillows of perfection.

Enter MICA artist, Steph Stilwell. She happily directed me to a solution to my conundrum and pictures of her entire line of pillows. Scratch the Charm City row homes, I had to have the Baltimore crab and the Maryland postcard. I mean, it has a diamondback terrapin on it, what’s not to love? She also excitedly accepted an invite to be featured on my humble blog. So on a Saturday afternoon in the unassuming, but ever hip Red Emma’s, we meet for hummus, iced coffee and a chat about MICA, Delaware, and art.

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Artist Steph Stilwell

The first thing you should know about Steph is that as a graduate fresh out of MICA, she has honed a unique voice and style all her own. Her doodles and sketches are simply delightful. She creates characters and illustrations that dance around the page. In a style that she describes as “50% food, 50% animals” she uses patterns to solve problems – like how to make a cactus footstool.

Steph hails from Middletown, Delaware where she started drawing at an early age. Her father was an artist by hobby and her mom likes to say she sacrificed her own artistic ability so Steph could inherit all of it. Fed on a steady stream of art supplies at Christmas and plenty of doodle time, Steph spent the weekends redrawing cartoons and comics instead of actually watching them. This naturally progressed to doodling during high school classes, cumulating in an independent high school project and landing her at MICA. 

MICA was my dream school. For art school, it’s a very collaborative, tight knit community…it makes you want to be as good as the people you admire.” Plus she wanted to live in a city, and Bmore was the place for her. “I wanted somewhere I could assimilate. Baltimore isn’t NYC, I like the environment. I  think there’s a lot of great things happening here.”

cactus footstool

For her it was really all about the patterns.

“It kinda just fell into place. I went into MICA and I didn’t really know what ‘Illustrator’ meant. But I think I was drawn to it because I was redrawing illustrations.

I took the patterns course… I was trying so hard to be what graphic design is, but I took that patterns course and I kept using patterns in other assignments. It’s funny, looking back, that I use patterns so much in my assignments, it was sorta foreshadowing what was happening later.”

If she had her way she would stay here in Baltimore, but there’s not a lot of work for illustrators and designers like her in the area. While her own gallery and studio would be nice one day, right now she’s focusing on expanding her portfolio and style. While I may argue that her style needs no tweaking, she’s got her eyes on bigger things. Her main goal right now is to work for a company where she can collaborate with other artists. While you might think of illustrators as people hunched over a desk drawing away by the light of a lamp, she’s quick to dispel that stereotype. The back and forth creativity that fed her passion and education at MICA is not something she’s ready to part with just yet.

piggies

Currently she’s shopping Hallmark, Greetings and Readings, and even Target. While she doesn’t have any bites yet, she’s hopeful that the right company will come along. I offered my two cents that Mod Cloth and her would be the perfect fit. (I’m also the first to admit, what do I know?)

But I do know that at this point you are thinking: “I love her stuff! I can’t wait for Target to wake up! Where can I get my own cactus footstool?

While she was mum on current projects (“There’s one in particular I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about yet.”), she is currently freelancing while working the typical post-college desk job to help make ends meet. (Oh, the life of the starving artist.) You can find samples of her work on her website stephstilwell.com and request your own custom work. Or you can stop at Caravanserai and grab one of her pillows – before they’re all gone.

Bmore crab and postcard