Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31: Agnes Wozniak, Agnes' Antiques

Agnes Wozniak, Agnes' Antiques
Those of you who know me, or who have read my blog, have seen this photo before in the NOCC post. Today, on the final day of my blog series, I want to tell you a little bit more about my Bubbie, Agnes Wozniak, and just one of the many things that made her special.

Agnes opened up her little shop, Agnes' Antiques, in Pitcairn, PA in the early 1990s. As a child, I had the incredible fortune of living right up the street (5-6 houses up) from her shop, so every day she was open I got to run down and "play". As an adult, I now know the value of the closeness and time we had together. It was within the walls of that little shop that I observed some of the finest examples of how to live a good life, how to treat others, and how to become an excellent businesswoman.

Agnes' Antiques quickly became a landmark of sorts in the little town of Pitcairn, PA. Her storefront was small, maybe 300-400 square feet at the most. In it, you could find wonderful treasures that she had uncovered in her travels...pretty teacups from Turtle Creek, crystal beads from L.A., and many, many beautiful lamps, linens, and trinkets from some of her closest neighbors in Pitcairn. Agnes knew her customers and what they liked, but more importantly, Agnes' customers liked her.

Making a stop at Agnes' Antiques wasn't always about buying or selling something. When you walked through the door, you would often find Agnes sitting at her pretty little desk enjoying a fresh cup of coffee and reading Country Living or the local paper. She always had at least one other seat in the shop open, and in hindsight she probably could have charged admission for the privilege of time spent in that seat. She received visitors from near and far who sought out her advice not only about antiques or valuables, but about decor, personal style, social concerns, event planning, family, medical issues, spirituality, and anything else that they needed an expert ear to hear and advise upon. 

When people asked, "how do you choose what to put in your shop?" her response was simple: "I buy what I like." Oh, and what an eye she had. If I wasn't in school and Bubbie was going to look at some things to purchase for the shop, she would often take me with her. It was during these trips I learned what turned out to be some of the most valuable business lessons I know. I've summarized these into ten simple statements, which I will now put forth to you as Agnes' Rules of Engagement:

Treat people fairly. 
Don't pay any more than what you feel an item is worth. 
Buy only what you love. 
Dirty does not mean bad shape. 
Don't be afraid to dig.
Sometimes, silence is the loudest statement. 
Carry cash.
Let people think they know more than you; you'll always get the better deal.
Listen to what people have to say; you will always learn something you didn't know.
If it doesn't feel right, don't do it.

As you may or may not know, we lost Agnes to ovarian cancer on June 18, 2011. Every day, I am reminded of just how much I learned from her and how those lessons have shaped who I am today. In my art, I believe that my gift with color combinations, texture, and originality come from her. At school, my patience and love of children comes from the care and respect she always showed to me, even as a child. In my business, the application of Agnes' Rules of Engagement have helped to bring me success that I could have never imagined.

So friends, it is this tribute I leave you with on the final day of my 31 Days, 31 Friends blog series. I hope you were able to learn things, connect with people, and reflect upon the fantastic friends YOU all have in your lives. Thanks for following!

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 28, 29, & 30: Family and Friends

Well friends, my 31 Days, 31 Friends blog has hit an unexpected bump in the road! Seems like I've come down with pneumonia, bringing pretty much everything in my world to a halt. Sad to say it, but for me it seems to take a true catastrophic event to make me slow down and take a moment for myself!

Over the past few days, I have truly been the sickest I have ever been in my life. During this time, I have received countless messages, emails, and calls asking me how I am doing, if I need company, or if there is anything I need. What is impressive about that, though, is that I know each and every one of those offers was genuine and real. Not just a "hey, call me if you want to talk for a minute" kind of thing, but a real "yes, I WILL make you homemade organic chicken soup, and I'll also bake you bread and bring it all to your door." Those are the kinds of people I know, and man oh man, am I blessed.

One evening, one of my dearest friends brought me ginger ale, popsicles, balloons, and rubbed my terribly achy legs. My aunt spent a very long night on my (unfortunately dog-scented) couch motoring my temperature, my medication, and my comfort, and my best friend made sure that I was comfortable and entertained when I was well enough to make it out onto the aforementioned couch.

What is the importance of all of this? Well...to the general public, probably nothing. To me, though, this is a (thankfully) rare opportunity to reflect on the people who truly love me and to express my gratitude and thanks. I can't wait to be rid of this illness and return to my normal self, but I know that my many friends and family will be all around me every step of the way. This, my friends, is a note of thanks to all of the people who I am fortunate enough to have in my very blessed life. I love you all.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27: East End Fashion Magazine

Take a peek at the fantastically fabulous East End Fashion Magazine, and you'll find fashion, style, advice, and everything chic and stylish. Pretty standard for a fashion magazine, right? Well, what you don't know is that all of this loveliness is produced right here in Pittsburgh! Abby Gleason and Cassie Rusnak, two local chicks with an eye for design, have been producing this online magazine since Spring 2011 and they haven't looked back. bel monili was contacted by EEFM this past summer, and we are pleased to announce that you will be able to see fantastic new bel monili pieces in the February 2012 issue of EEFM!

The idea of EEFM developed between two friends with common passions for local and independent businesses, fashion and photography. Wanting to have a fun way to create beautiful pictures and involve other Pittsburghers of the same mind, Abby Gleason and Cassie Kay Rusnak developed a concept that is now developing here, as you see it, as East End Fashion Magazine.

East End Fashion Magazine serves the Pittsburgh, PA area with focus on the neighborhoods in the East End. EEFM believes in local and independent and will support those businesses by getting the word out through fashion photo spreads, a directory listing, advertisements and social events. By existing only online, EEFM is able to add and update photos and content more often than a print magazine, is easily accessible to everyone, and is better for the environment.
Shirt, Garbella, Bike Chain Bracelets, Erra Creations January 2012 Issue
EEFM is always looking for new people and businesses to join its passion whether it is aspiring or experienced models, photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, fashion designers and stylists, boutiques, locations for shoots and events, and collaborators. If you would like to be considered as new talent, or have a place you think would be awesome for a shoot, please contact us!

Make sure you check out EEFM online, follow them on Twitter,  and "like" them on facebook so that you can keep up with what's happening in style and trends right here in the 'Burgh!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26: Propelle

If there's one thing I know, it's that us girls have to stick together! I am fortunate to have many wonderful people (male and female) in my life, but it's the strong women who have really been the backbone and inspiration to me and my business.

Carrie, Emily, & Kate of Propelle
Imagine three of the most inspiring, intelligent, cool, artistic people you know come together to form an organization to help other women succeed in business...and that's Propelle. They often fantasized about having mentors, women who had blazed a trail ahead of them and could share their secrets.
Launch Party, October 11, 2011

That’s what Propelle was created to do. To let you in on those secrets. To help you look fear in the face and use it to your advantage. To help you tap into your passions so you can launch your business into the next stratosphere. To find your voice. To connect with your target market. To be the most successful woman entrepreneur you can possibly be.

Networking Happy Hour
Carrie (I Made It! Market & Carrie Nardini Creative) is a communicator, connector, organizer, and all around swell chick. She's also crafty to the core.  Emily (Emily Levenson, Health Coach) is a coach, confidante, creator, and collaborator. She also loves to cook healthy meals. Kate (Yinzpiration) is a massage therapist, digital strategist and blogger. She's inspired by everyone she meets.

Propelle  offers services to women entrepreneurs of all levels; whether you are brand new to the busines world or you are looking to move to the next level, Propelle will be the (literal) wind beneath your wings. Make sure you visit them online, follow them on Twitter, sign up to receive their emails, and "like" then on Facebook so that you know when the next Propelle flight is taking off!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25: Angela Todd, AngelLeighDesigns

As a member of the Steel Town Etsy team, I have had the great opportunity to meet some of the most amazing artists and crafters in our city. Much to my good fortune, that is how I made acquaintances with Angela Todd of AngelLeighDesigns. During a regular monthly online team chat Angela had brought up the idea of flyering somewhere to promote small businesses and local handmade products. Seemed like there were no takers...except bel monili! Angela and I shared discussion, and a few weeks later she and I were together pounding the pavement in a local neighborhood. I had never done anything like that before and, to be honest, really haven't done it since, but it was a fantastic experience. The day was cold, so we did a little bit of walking but quite a bit more driving. I had a fantastic time walking, talking, laughing, and learning all about Angela and her amazing story. I'm not sure how much business I earned from my efforts, but I am so happy to say that I definitely gained a friend. 
Angela, adorable in one of her creations!
 Angela says that she is old enough that her rural Maine potato farm family did all this DIY stuff before it was a movement!  But, Angela's politics followed her background, and decades later in this urban setting it hurts her to see some of the wasteful habits we're all in.  Angela is an old leftie, and feels strongly about handmade products in two ways.  First, about the items themselves: the waste that bothers her comes from mass production -- we don't treat handmade items so casually.  In addition, handmade items, with their individuality and sometimes quirkiness, encourage real self-expression and thinking new thoughts.  Handmade objects come from practices of recycle upcycle reuse – further spurning commodity culture and its waste. They come from history, tradition, and human hands.
What WOULD Yoda Do? $25, Etsy
Second, Angela feels strongly about the theories behind handmade, and about social conditions around consumption: with handmade items, producers get the power of production and creative control. Consumers are offered not just the illusion of choices (Smucker’s or Welch’s grape jelly), but real choices (homemade mango jam).  Societies benefit with engaged producers, somewhat leveled playing fields, less dominance more engagement and hopefully less waste. Angela's purchases feed artists and families, not corporations.
Mnamana Tee, $25 Etsy
But, her actual shop started thanks to Angela's library job at a major university.  After years of wage freeze, Angela decided to follow the farmwife tradition of starting a little side endeavor. AngelLeighDesigns will be two years old in May 2012!  The shop has taken Angela to places she never thought she'd go -- craft shows mainly.  She has meet some really great people through Steel Town Etsy, the Travelling Pittsburgh Craft-a-tron Machine, the Rivers of Steel Heritage Center, Handmade Arcade, and I Made It! Markets.  But, it has also helped Angela to hone her real skills and lofty ideas.  It was lovely to discover how happy handmade items make people.  Whether it's a gentleman buying a hat for that woman with the beautiful voice at his church, or a new mother-in-law buying a pair of tees for her son and new DIL.  Angela was surprised by other folks' giddy joy, and it feeds her!  Angela's kids do some modeling and lots of free consulting. Angela's SigOther, Cliff Gearhart, and she have collaborated on the tee shirts in the shop, which has been a fun shared endeavour. 
Women's hat with upcycled vintage tie band $40, Etsy
Angela plans to return to the Rivers of Steel Heritage Center market at the Pump House in Homestead (at the Waterfront) this summer, and encourages folks to come on down to check out local artists, but also to contemplate Pittsburgh's industrial history.

You can find some of Angela's fantastic items online and in her Etsy shop. Make sure you "like" her on Facebook to keep up with what's new at AngelLeighDesigns!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24: David & Leigh-Anne Weiss, Airheads Balloon Art

Dear friends, you have NO IDEA what a balloon could do until you've seen the amazing handiwork of David Weiss and the talented twisters at Airheads Balloon Art.  I have had the fantastic joy of knowing David and Leigh-Anne (featured earlier this month, Leigh-Anne Weiss, Madison Handbags) since I was in high school a hundred years ago (ok...it was ~1998).  David is an amazingly talented artist, a savvy businessman, a fantastic husband and father, and an all around awesome guy. Check his date book and you're sure to find exciting events, time with his kids, or some wonderful surprise he's planning for Leigh-Anne. David and the Airheads team are experts in their field of fun, joy, and truly awesome event decor.

The Weiss Family (at their fabulous Spy Kids themed party)
So, you might wonder what you could need balloons for other than a birthday party. My friends, while I do have my way with words, this is something that can truly only be conveyed accurately with pictures. Here are some of the most amazing works of balloon art I have ever seen:
Alice in Wonderland: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb

The Grinch
ok...love this but I am admittedly terrified of clowns

Leigh-Anne with a "balloon monster"....how does he DO that?
Yup, that's a balloon bikini and chopper, featuring David Weiss (resident balloon badass)
balloon Stillers!
Airheads Balloon Art was founded in 1999 by David Weiss and a fellow balloon artist. At the time Mr. Weiss had over 10 years of experience in balloon sculpture and was the former owner of A&D Party Performers, a costumed-entertainment company. His colleague was an award-winning balloon artist and professional clown. They decided to combine their artistic and entrepreneurial talents to form Airheads Balloon Art!

In 2002, after his partner chose to pursue another career, Mr. Weiss enlisted the help of his multi-talented wife, Leigh-Anne, and excelled the growth of Airheads Balloon Art by purchasing Balloons Over Pittsburgh ( Pittsburgh’s 1st and oldest balloon company).

Committed to excellence, Mr. Weiss is a Certified Balloon Artist achieving the most respected certification in the balloon industry and has served as President of the Western PA Qualatex Balloon Network. As a charter member of BalloonPlanet.com, Airheads Balloon Art has moved beyond the Pittsburgh region as a part of a global network of balloon professionals, providing decorating and balloon delivery services worldwide.

The next time you or your business is having an event, make sure you keep Airheads on the top of your list to create a uniquely special atmosphere. Check them out online, "like" them on Facebook, subscribe on YouTube, and follow them on Twitter to find out where they'll be twisting next!

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 23: Kate Stoltzfus, Yinzpiration

photo by Mandy Jay Photography

Chances are, if you are from Pittsburgh and you are connected to the social media world, you have heard of Kate Stolzfus and Yinzpiration. I first met Kate a few months ago at a Propelle networking event, where we had a brief opportunity to talk about business and general Pittsburgh awesome-ness. I would go as far as to say that Kate is officially "Pittsburgh Famous"; to be written about by her is to truly achieve Steeltown greatness.

Kate Stoltzfus, Photo by Mandy Jay Photography

Inspired by the positive energy of the Steel City and a presentation by Nicole Crimaldi, Kate has set a goal to interview 100 Pittsburghers. Ms. Crimaldi challenged her class at PodCamp Pittsburgh 5 to have coffee with someone new every week. So, Kate decided to start an interview blog, and Yinzpiration.com was born (thanks to the help of Nik, her web developer husband). Make sure you return to Yinzpiration to read what she has learned over the next 100 cups of coffee... or tea, her drink of choice.

Kate grew up in Goshen, IN, a town of 30,000 people. After graduating with an art major and business minor from Goshen College, she joined her then-boyfriend Nik in Pittsburgh and began her new life as a volunteer with PULSE: Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience. It didn’t take long for Kate to fall in love with the city and the people who live here—so she decided to stay.

In addition to managing all things social at Plumb Media, Kate is co-pilot at Propelle, and a business coach. Where will you find Kate in Pittsburgh? Walking in Highland Park, shopping at Ambiance Boutique(s) and noshing at her favorite restaurant, People’s.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22: Robin Cepikoff, Flirt Boutique

I had the good fortune to meet Robin last year through a mutual business friend, and shortly thereafter Flirt Boutique began to carry bel monili items. Today, Flirt Boutique carries a wide variety of items from local designers to famous European design houses.

Robin and Lisa, the brains behind Flirt Boutique
Robin Cepikoff of Flirt Boutique has been right on the edge of the fashion and style since opening the doors in November 2009. This sweet little shop is truly the gem of the Monroeville area, offering stylish, affordable women's accessories that are trendy, chic, and unique. Flirt Boutique hosts events and specials often, making it your go-to for fashion AND fun. If you are a fan Flirt Boutique on Facebook, you will find that they have fantastic web-only offers that you can cash in on when you stop by to shop!

Looking for info on the latest trends? Make sure to like Flirt Boutique on Facebook to see what is new and exciting in the shop!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 21: Carrie Nardini Creative

Carrie Nardini, one of the creative geniuses behind the I Made It! Market, wears many hats. One of my favorites is the "small business coach", which you can try on with her small business service Carrie Nardini Creative Visioning.
Carrie Nardini
I have had the first-hand enjoyment of working with Carrie Nardini as a small business coach and mentor. During our meetings, Carrie shared with me things that truly blew me away. Three hours later, Carrie had completely schooled me in the ways of Facebook, Twitter, and email marketing. I walked away from our session truly educated, and my business has grown because of her.

Creativity in communication comes in many forms, newsletters, web copy, and other formats like social media and publicity. One package does not fit every creative business’ needs but one thing is clear, as a creative business, in order to seek out the attention you deserve, the key is to create personalized, well written materials that convey the message of your mission, your product’s benefit, your personality as the brains behind the product or service.

Carrie's services include: developing a marketing plan, event planning, developing a publicity plan, copywriting, collateral materials, web copy, newsletter and e-newsletter creation, email marketing, press releases, media relations, identity and branding, social media plans and strategy, and coaching.

If you are an artist, crafter, small business owner, or just someone who wants to learn about how to creatively market yourself or your business, make sure you call Carrie and you will not be disappointed. Check out Carrie Nardini Creative online, "like", follow her on Twitter and on her blog, and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20: Nina Marie Barbuto, assemble

Looking for a really cool thing to do? Look no further, Nina Barbuto has brought to Pittsburgh one of the most interesting ideas I have ever seen: assemble!
Nina Marie Barbuto
I initially met Nina when I joined the I Made It! Market last year, when I first joined as an artist at WYEP's Rock the Block. Although I had never met her before, I knew that there was something special about Nina. She was the only girl I had ever seen wearing yellow stirrup pants with that level of confidence and poise. Nina approached me with the warmth and kindness of an old friend, and continues to do so to this day. That's what you get when you interact with her: kindness, genuine goodness, and colorful inspiration.
A project at Assemble
assemble, a new venue in the Penn Ave Arts District, is a place where one can engage their intrigue through hands on activities about art and technology.  Physical and nonphysical social and creative connections are fostered through film screenings, happenings, workshops, lectures, and community activities.  assemble will activate the community with the contributions and presence of the audience and makers. With specific times for young and old makers alike, learning or making does not have to end when the work or school bell rings, it can become integrated into every aspect of life and time in the day. Founded on the concepts of sustainability, community, science, architecture, new media, and lowtech/hightech art, assemble will be a place for CREATION!

A maker/instigator/learner, Nina moved back to PGH from LA where she was running around from desert to beach. Nina has a M.arch from Sciarc from the MediaScapes program. She wants to grow buildings and make things happen. 
Nina and Carrie Nardini started I Made It! Market before she ran away to grad school in LA. Nina came back to PGH, one thing led to another...and Assemble came to be!  Assemble is a community space for arts and technology, located at 5125 Penn Avenue in the heart of the Penn Avenue Arts District. Their programs include monthly openings during the Unblurred gallery crawls, as well as workshops, lectures and community activities with a focus on providing quality creative programming for the children of our neighborhood.
This is what it looks like to make a difference in a community
 Assemble will activate the community with the contributions and presence of the audience and makers. Assemble is a not-for-profit organization with an active, contributing board. Email Assemble at assemblepgh@gmail.com; they are looking for a weekend program manager! Check them out online, "like" them on Facebook, and follow on Twitter to ensure you are up to date on what's new and exciting.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19: KoolKat Designs

KoolKat Designs has had its home on Washington Road in Mt Lebanon for the past 5 years, giving local artists and crafters a home where we can sell our wares. Owner and founder Kate McGrady started KoolKat as a consignment store for local jewelry artists; today it is a gorgeous collection of locally hand-crafted jewelry, purses, scarves, stationary, and other original art. 
earrings, Designs by Samantha
Interestingly enough, most of the artists represented at KoolKat are women, making it one of my very favorite places to buy and sell my wares. KoolKat began selling bel monili items in October 2011, after a meeting with Paula Nettleship. I was honored to be added as an artist at this prestigious location, and I am looking forward to a long and rewarding relationship with Kate, Paula, and the other artists at KoolKat
Felted wrap with brooch, Gelme Vaitkuniene
Their model is simple: bring in local artists and sell quality, handmade wares. You'll be impressed as soon as you walk in the door; it's a virtual wonderland of handmade goodness. A few of the artists you'll find at KoolKat are bel monili by l.marlanedesigns2C, WakulaWorks, 19 Moons, On the Rocks, Xmittens, Red Robot Creative, Studio Wagle, Huffalo, and many, many more!

The next time you are in the Mt. Lebanon area, make sure you stop by at KoolKat Designs, 691 Washington Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15228. Follow them on Facebook to keep up on the latest news and event announcements!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18: Greta Falvo, SOYIL

You know, when I am writing these blogs and taking stock of who I know and how I know them, I have been continually surprised at the facts. Greta Falvo of SOYIL is an excellent example.

I met Greta while I was an undergraduate student at Duquesne University. She and I had some friends in common, and after graduation, we each went our own way and lived out happy little lives. I would see her from time to time when a mutual friend of ours would visit or have an event, but Greta lived out of town and I was back in graduate school.
SOYIL hand-poured soy candles
In September 2011, I went to an event in Sewickley to support my friends at Spoiled Chics the Boutique. The event was a street fair of sorts, focused on pets and pet products. As I walked up the street, I kept noticing a surprisingly fantastic smell. It was noticeable because it was so pleasant, and also so unexpected for an event centered around animals. As I strolled past the booths, I spotted a tent with beautiful candles and a clean, fresh display and made my way over. I was so enthralled by the scent that I hadn't taken the time to look at the person behind the table...it was Greta! We chatted for awhile, caught up on life and business, and then exchanged information so that we could be sure to keep in touch. I walked away with a gorgeous new candle, happy to have reconnected with an old friend.

Today, Greta and I play "Facebook tag" and share ideas and questions about being small business entrepreneurs. I enjoy following her many successes, and my only complaint is that I cannot seem to catch up with her long enough to snag another one of those candles!
SOYIL collection
Greta first fell in love with soy candles a few years ago and has been hooked ever since! There are many benefits of burning soy candles but overall it’s just a nicer, cleaner burn, and soy candles do not release toxins in the air that have been known to kill small animals in the household! Soy candles last longer than paraffin candles. Soy wax is made from soy beans so it helps support our local US farmers, which is another awesome reason to use Soyil candles. Unlike paraffin, soy is a biodegradable resource. Soy is also much easier to clean and has far less black soot than a paraffin candle. Soy is simply better for you, your family and your environment. 

Greta started hand making candles for fun and as a hobby, then all of a sudden she had this huge demand for her Almond and Cozy Home (my personal favorite) scents that it eventually became a business! She wasn’t really sure where she was going with it and is still not completely sure as she loves to get creative! See how/what Greta can create that is completely brand new and exciting in the candle word. After seeing all of the ugly jars and labels out there, Greta knew exactly how she envisioned her product and SOYIL brand---Clean, Eco-friendly, affordable and fabulous! She wanted to create a simple, chic and style friendly candle that would look fabulous in any d├ęcor. There are so many candles out there that you buy at the store to bring home and burn and it has no smell. Greta tests each and every one of her scents to make sure they are strong and true to scent. If one is a dud or doesn’t get great feedback, she removes it from her collection.There are a ton of candles out there, but finding a quality candle like a SOYIL candle is unusual. Besides dull scent, most of the candles out there are covered in tacky labeling and unflattering jars, so Greta wanted to make a stylish, soy candle that was actually affordable. 
Custom created SOYIL favors
You can purchase SOYIL candles in a variety of sizes, shapes, and scents at these fine locations:
Alexa’s Salon Off Grandview  www.salonpittsburgh.com
Loova www.loova.com
Gifted Hands www.giftedhands.com
Jacqueline’s Salon www.jacquelinesnews.com

Custom order SOYIL candles for showers, weddings, or other special occasions. Follow SOYIL on Twitter and "like" them on Facebook to keep up with new products, events, and exciting opportunities!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17: Kathleen Stevans, Pure Hokum

I had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen Stevans at the NOCC Walk to Break the Silence on Sunday, September 11, 2011. I was there as a vendor with the I Made It! Market and as a supporter of the cause. Kathleen was there in support of a neighbor. A few weeks later, Kathleen ordered a few more items from me on Etsy and we had some conversation; today I am thrilled to be able to call her a friend. Kathleen is one of the most supportive people I have ever me; she almost always comes to my shows (and usually finds at least one bel monili item to purchase!) and is more than generous with her resources by sharing bel monili's information with her family and friends.
Kathleen Stevans
Kathleen has been an artist for over 20 years and has an incredible story to tell. She began by creating greeting cards that were sold at Nordstrom, then moved on to tabletop items and watercolors. Her business name, Pure Hokum, came from her beloved dog Hokum (meaning "mawkish sentimentality").  Now, Kathleen donates a portion of her profits from Pure Hokum to the local Humane Society in Hokum's memory.
This is actually HAND PAINTED!
Today, Kathleen hand-paints items such as dishes, mugs, glasses, platters, and pretty much anything you can think of. Her work is impressive to say the least; I found myself spending hours scrolling through her past work saying to myself, "ooh! I want that!".
Custom-created item in memory of my grandmother
I am thrilled to be able to say that I am the proud owner of a few Pure Hokum items. I came across a picture of a plate Kathleen had painted that depicted a woman drinking a glass of wine, and the character's name was Agnes (my grandmother's name). I asked Kathleen if she could re-create this item with some customized details, and in just a few short weeks I had 4 beautiful hand-painted plates that are so special to me and my family. For Christmas, I again asked Kathleen if she could custom create an item; this time I needed a jewelry dish for my younger sister who is going to college in the fall. I told Kathleen that my sister loves Lady Gaga, hot pink, and leopard, and the result was stunning.
Kathleen can take any idea you give her and turn it into a masterpiece. Pure Hokum items are the ideal gift choice; her prices are reasonable, her products are stunning, and I can promise you will never find anything quite like it. Visit Pure Hokum online, like them on Facebook, or email Kathleen with your custom request!

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16: Mike Yanchak: Mike Why: One Man Band Without The Band

Chances are, if you have lived in Pittsburgh for any length of time (or if you have at least visited here), you have crossed paths with Mike Yanchak. Mike has been one of the great loves of my life since 1999, when I met him during my orientation at Duquesne University. As part of the orientation program, each student at Duquesne is given a "big brother" or "big sister", and Mike was my big brother. He took the role very seriously; in fact, I still have the letter he sent me before school started. Mike even went as far as to help me move in; something that none of my other friends experiences. Throughout my years at Duquesne and for many years since, Mike has been a best friend, a role model, and an inspiration to me. To put it simply, he is a man to love.
Mike and I on my 30th birthday
It comes as no surprise to me that Mike has been a champion supporter of my many adventures, including bel monili by l.marlane. For my birthday this year, Mike even gave me my web domain name and gave me suggestion for how I could use it to help my business. If you want to see someone who does what they love and excels at it, look no further than Mike Yanchak. Mike loves singing, ultimate frisbee, traveling, and being social, and at any given time, you will find him doing at least one of those things.
Mike Why's debut show at Shadow Lounge, August 11, 2011
Since 2006, Mike has served as the rhythm, backbeat, and foundation of Pittsburgh's Award-Winning All-Vocal Band, DoubleShot! (www.OnlyTheVoice.com).
In 2010, a Christmas present from his sisters (a looping kit) inspired Mike to take the microphone he loved to play and use it to create every sound he could make. At the same time. The results have been addictive: a combination of authentic drum sounds, rich bass, emulated instruments, and passionate vocals that present energetic, unique interpretations to his audience.

In August 2011, Mike began a one-man vocal live looping project -- Mike Why: One Man Band Without the Band.  He layers his voice live to create full songs onstage for the audience.  No effects or processing are used, only Mike's voice creates every sound and effect including the sound of drums, horns, harmonica, guitar, etc.   The project is new but doing very well and he is having a lot of fun with it!  I first had the opportunity to see Mike perform his "One Man Band Without the Band" show at Club Cafe in October 2011. I was there to support him and his new venture, but to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen Mike perform with DoubleShot! a few times and knew that he was very talented, so I thought that this show would be similar. When the lights went down and the show started, I can honestly say I almost fell off of my stool. I saw Mike is a totally new light: he was confident, smooth, talented, and downright sexy singing up there on the stage all by himself. I could never accurately describe what it was he did, except to say that he used a little machine that made him sound like he was really 6 or 7 people singing and playing instruments.

Mike has become a regular part of the AcoustiCafe at Club Cafe (he'll be hosting this Monday, January 16th) and that included a featured performance at their stage at the August Wilson Center as part of Highmark First Night.  Mike will also be at The Smiling Moose on Saturday, January 21st opening for his friends Royal Benson

Make sure you visit Mike Why on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, see some of his performances on You Tube, and visit his website for the most up to date information on where he will be.