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My Funny Valentine

January 28, 2015

Sappy cards are for, well, saps. I prefer to tell those I love just how much I love them in a cheeky way. Here are a few of my favorite silly cards to give your Valentine this February.

My Funny Valentinethere is nobody else | you’re my everything (bagel)

spooning you > winning the lottery  | thanks for the hickey | let’s make out so hard

i’m so glad i swiped right | you make me go weak at the patellas

Just for fun, I will be sending out Valentine postcards to anyone who wants a little extra love! If you’d like to be my valentine this year, just give me your info by February 5th and i’ll drop you a card in the mail!

Jess Signature

Portenzo: love your craft, craft your love.

January 27, 2015

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A conversation with Darin Murray about Portenzo and the many products coming out of the workshop. 

Kicked back in a chair, still donning his Knife + Flag apron, Darin told me the story behind Portenzo just before I toured the workshop complete with sewing rooms, a monogram station, and a very large collection of leather. Portenzo has been around for 4 years, but Darin has been crafting goods of various sorts for much longer. Founded on an idea of quality goods made with love, the iPad case was the first product and remains one of the core goods Portenzo produces.

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How did Portenzo come to be?

I have had several businesses before Portenzo, many of which involved making (high end cabinets, concrete countertops, rehabbing and remodeling, furniture), and some which involved computer work (professional illustrator, web developer.) When the iPad first came out, a friend of mine ordered a popular product and said “dude, you should be able to do this”. At the time i wasn’t interested in getting into manufacturing.

When his case finally came, it was already broken and falling apart.It was put together with haste, and was not high quality. It was not made with any love what-so-ever. There was no packing slip, no label on it, nothing. Just a shipping address on a box. I thought, if people are buying this, I can definitely make something that people would enjoy.

Portenzo started out with the iPad cases. I was just tinkering in the garage in the beginning. Two weeks later we had a website and orders coming in from all over the world.

When did you stray from the iPad cases into other leather goods?

A few months after we started, we added a leather iPad case which became the Alano Collection. The first ones were made on my dining room floor with a cut mat. It was time consuming, so it kept being put on the back burner. Demand continued to grow for it. We added the lasering and embossing capabilities so we were able to do some really cool designs and the Alano collection kind of grew from there.

What is your favorite thing about Portenzo?

Making something quality. Making a product I can look at when i’m done and it doesn’t look homemade, even thought it is handmade.

What have been some of your favorite partnerships or products?

The Alano iPad case is made out of one single super thick piece of leather. It’s very unique. There is nothing like that out there.

I’m also extremely proud of the bag line that we haven’t put out to the public yet. Those bags represent me in every way that I could want them to.

I like being able to have such a full, diverse shop that allows me to have an idea, sketch some things out and have it made that day with all the resources in the shop.

Tell me about the Lumberjack Leather line.

The Lumberjack Leather line was born out of necessity to have some super durable, high quality leather goods that stand out from your average stuff. Lumberjack is meant to have that rugged, course detail distinction. It’s meant for work in the field. It’s all for on-the-go working.

Where did the name Portenzo come from?

It was the name of an invisible childhood friend.

Does your personal style influence the products you put out?

100%. I don’t want to make anything I don’t like and wouldn’t carry.

From whom do you draw inspiration?

Tom Huck. He’s not in leather work – he’s actually a printmaker – but he’s inspirational in the detail of his work and the quality and commitment he puts in it. Also, because you look at his work and can recognize that it’s Tom.

I really like the principle behind Saddleback Leather. He came up with stuff out of necessity and happenstance. It really spoke to him and he committed to it. Their stuff is made for lifetime use. Their motto is “ your kids will fight over it when you’re dead”.

Speaking of mottos, does Portenzo have one?

Love your craft, craft your love.

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[All photos by Jarred Gastreich.] 

Jess Signature

florals // 01

January 22, 2015

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22 days into the new year, i’ve finally come up with a mix of resolutions and goals for 2015.

+ work : write more

+ wellness : yoga, running

+ creativity : take a class, work on my puns

+ lifestyle : defining my style, more gatherings, more trips

+ relationships : resolve, foster

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And, with a new year, comes a new feature! Expect things to smell a lot better ’round here.

City in a Jar has teamed up with The Crimson Petal to feature gorgeous florals every month. With a theme of fresh starts, Kelly created an arrangement filled with fresh white florals.

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Roses (purity, starting the new year clean), cedar (cleanses the negative), eucalyptus (for a spiritual connection), and hydrangeas (to say thank you to the past).

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I’m sure, unlike my procrastinating self, you have all made resolutions/goals on time. Tell me what you’ve set yourself up for this year in the comments.

[All photos by Abby Gillardi.] 

Jess Signature

Tucson, Arizona

January 13, 2015

Three weeks ago, I tossed a sleeping bag and some clothes into the trunk of Kelsey’s Honda. With a thermos of hot coffee and an atlas we barely used, we hit the road heading south. Our 8 day trip took us through five states, including a stop in Marfa, Texas – thanks for that recommendation, Collective Quarterly. We spent the majority of our time in Tuscon, Arizona, where a friend of ours recently moved, hence the road trip. Together we explored what I think are the best spots in the city.

The Southwest was unlike any place i’d been before. I loved the mountain views surrounding the city and consumed more salsa than I thought possible. And the Saguaros, oh the Saguaros! I compiled a list (and accompanying illustration) of places to check out should you find yourself in Tucson, Arizona.

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Romero Pools.

Located in Catalina State Park, this 5.8 mile round trip hike is worth the pools that await. The uphill climb is a 900 ft elevation increase, which wore me out and it turns out the pools were way too cold to dip in during December. Nevertheless, the hike itself is beautiful and justified out the mass amounts of tacos I ate later that day.

Saguaro National Park.

Nothing on this trip excited me more than seeing these tall, old, beautiful cacti. Head to Saguaro National Park to take in thousands of Saguaros. Some fun facts about Saguaros: the name is pronounced “sah-war-ro”, they can live to be 200 years old, and if you damage one it’s considered a class four felony. So, while you are imitating your favorite plant, just be sure not to topple into it. (Which besides the felony, is promised to be a painful experience.)

Sabino Canyon.

Mountains on mountains on mountains. As part of the Santa Catalina mountain range, the Sabino Canyon Trail is the best way to see the mountains up close if you’d like to skip the hiking. A $8 tram ride up the trail will let you take in the beauty of the Coronado National Forest without all that pesky walking. If you don’t mind the walking, hop off at the last tram stop, and hike your way through the mountains to a tram stop a few miles down. The views are incredible.

Dragoon Brewing Co.

This Arizona based brewery has a newly expanded tap room in West Tucson. Typical of tap rooms, Dragoon Brewing Co. has 9 of their own brews on tap and stacks of board games for you to plat while you enjoy the beers. Rumor has it, there is a secret ping pong table in the back, but maybe that’s just for the folks who actually brew the beers. If you like craft brews, it’s worth a visit.

El Guero Canelo.

I wouldn’t say i’m a connoisseur of hot dogs, but i’m not not a connoisseur of hot dogs. Topping my list is the Sonoran dog; a bacon wrapped hot dog, in a bun that is more like a soft bread boat, topped with tomatoes, beans, grilled onions, mayonnaise, mustard, and a jalapeño sauce. Pair it with a Mexican Coke and call it a meal. But don’t just get one anywhere. Make your way to El Guero Canelo for the best!

BOCA Tacos Y Tequila.

BOCA has a salsa platter to put all other salsa platters to shame. I can’t remember the names of the 7 different salsa’s we tried, but I can remember liking every single one of them. I also don’t remember reading the ‘fire roasted anaheim’ part of the description on the Rajas taco I ordered. Holy. Hot. But too damn good to stop eating. Everything we had there was amazing. If you’re in the mood for tacos don’t even think about going anywhere but BOCA.

4th Ave. 

On 4th Avenue, you’ll find a handful of bars, including the original Plush (now named The Flycatcher) and a sprinkling of shopping spots. Among the collection of presents I picked up for friends, I snagged a gorgeous blanket and a couple new pieces for my closet. 4th Avenue is good spot to wander around, grab a drink, and spend a little money.

Gates Pass at Tuscon Mountain Park.

If you’re not into the whole tram and tour guide combo offered at Sabino Canyon, Gates Pass is a gorgeous alternative. Take a drive into the Tuscon Mountains and stop at any of the scenic lookouts. Get out and wander up one of the hills to take in the vast landscape. While I didn’t personally witness a sunset here, I hear they are pretty dang swell at Gates Pass.

Exo Roast Co.

With such a long list of excellent things to do in Tucson, it’s understandable that you’d need a little caffeine to keep you going. I recommend Exo Roast Co. for the laid back, hip atmosphere and the top notch single origin roasts processed in the vintage German roaster sitting in the back of the shop.

Hotel Congress.

I don’t know how I survived 25 years of life without eating Huevos Rancheros. After discovering them our first day in Tucson at Cup Cafe inside Hotel Congress, I was hooked. After numerous attempts elsewhere, I’m convinced Cup Cafe has the best Huevos Rancheros in the city. Besides having their breakfast/brunch game down (hi, build-your-own bloody mary bar), Hotel Congress is a landmark hotel that boasts the capturing of John Dillinger back in the 1930’s. The late night dance parties at Club Congress weren’t too shabby, either.

Tap + Bottle.

If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere, good beer and/or wine, and bartenders who know their shit, hit Tap + Bottle. They’ve got a whopping 20 beers on tap and 6 wines by the glass which will satisfy almost all who belly up to the bar. And if there’s nothing on the draft list that really appeals to you, the entire back half of the place is a bottle shop. Pick a bottle of booze, be it beer or wine, and they’ll pop it open for you to enjoy!

Jess Signature

step inside the live catalog that is Future Ancestor

January 12, 2015

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Brian and Julia are the husband-and-wife duo behind Future Ancestor. Julia and I met at Foam to chat about their new shop on Cherokee Street. 

In the cozy home decor shop you’ll find a collection of mid-centry modern furniture with an eclectic mix of goods ranging from the latest issue of Kinfolk to Pendleton blankets refashioned into throw pillows. Hailing from Chicago, the couple moved to the St. Louis area not long ago with a goal to turn their Etsy shop into a brick and mortar business.

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How did Future Ancestor come about?

A few years ago we started buying a lot of furniture. We had a tiny apartment and thought “let’s try to sell some of this stuff we have on Etsy.” We posted a couple listings and it just went crazy – we sold stuff all the time. We kept buying stuff and rotated out the furniture that we lived with and the furniture that we were selling.

The idea behind Future Ancestor is sort of a live catalog. You can go into a lot of antique stores and everything is sort of piled together and you really have to dig for things, which is fun. But our shop is more about showing people how to set things up and how they can actually visualize it in their space. We want people to sit down, relax and feel it out.

Have there been any pieces that you’ve bought and never parted with?

There are things that we just love too much, and yes, we hold on to those things.

How often have you completely turned over your apartment?

About 5 times. We do it every 6 months or so.

There are certain things from family members we’ve held onto that we couldn’t possibly get rid of.

Why St. Louis for the shop?

We had our first baby in January, 2014. We are from southern Illinois, and decided to move home to be closer to family. In May we decided to take the plunge. We’ve been long time fans of cherokee street. An add for the space popped up on craigslist, and within a week, we had the keys.

Our philosophy on job security is kind of like – you can put everything in somebody else, or you can put everything in yourself. We believe in ourselves and trust we can make it happen and we’ve been doing this part time for a while, so we’re giving it full time effort. We said “see ya later” to chicago and are giving Future Ancestor a shot in St. Louis.

What has been your favorite part of opening Future Ancestor?

Seeing our vision come to life. We’ve been talking about doing this for years, we’ve been talking about being our own bosses forever. Here we are and it’s working, I think.

It’s also amazing how supportive everyone is on Cherokee Street.

Does your personal style influence the pieces in the shop?

I would definitely say the shop is all our style.

We like to say that we are redefining modern. A lot of people see or hear the word modern and the think of the atomic century style, or super shiny. We like a little bit of that, but we also like to mix it with the worn stuff and handmade things. We like things that are sustainable, which is why we like the second hand stuff – there is all that great stuff out there, why buy something new. We’re all about the mix and match. The shop has all things that we would live with, do live with, or have lived with.

Do you carry local makers?

We have handmade ceramics, screen printed tea towels from San Francisco, and candles from Brooklyn. We eventually would like it to feature all St. Louis makers.

When are you the happiest?

The moments when we realize it’s actually working.

Who/what are your sources of inspiration?

Humboldt House in Chicago and Homestead in Seattle.

Where did the name Future Ancestor come from?

Brian came up with it one day. It was the name of our Etsy shop. When we decided to open a brick and mortar shop, we thought we needed a different name, but realized Future Ancestor already works.

What is the Future Ancestor motto?

An example, and source, of modern living.

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Visit Future Ancestor at 2617 Cherokee Street in St. Louis.

[All photos by Abby Gillardi.] 

Jess Signature

pink coats and plaid shirts

January 6, 2015

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This coat, you guys. I’ve coveted this lovely pink lady from afar for many seasons, but never pulled the purchase trigger. As if by magic, someone was selling the beauty on instagram. I bought it, and haven’t taken it off since. I’m also living in plaid shirts this time of year. This one hails from the closet of Grace, and has electric pink lines pulsing through it. Cheers to borrowed tops and like-new coats when my closet has gone into hibernation and all the leaves have fallen off my money tree.

Side note, when are you too old to snag things from a friends closet? Because i’m sort of feeling like I will never to too old to take a really cute pair of boots from Sarah’s shoe rack.

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[All photos by Abby Gillardi.]

See the rest of the style column here.

Jess Signature

a little rough around the edges: Made Supply Co.

November 24, 2014

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Tucked neatly into a corner of his clayton home is the Made Supply Co. headquarters, where Greg Lewis creates beautiful leather goods by hand. Making up his workspace are tables filled with hand tools and various colors of thread. Stacked rolls of leather bring an earthy scent into the room, slightly over shadowed by the coffee brewing in the kitchen. The tour of the room dubbed Made Supply Co. headquarters is quick – a couple work tables and an American flag. I dig into the history behind Made Supply Co. Which, as it turns out, isn’t quite the saga I was expecting. Having been in the leather goods business a little more than eight weeks Greg has amassed a product line and following i’d expect from someone more worn.

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With twenty years carpentry experience behind him, Greg took to leather work at the suggestion of his wife, Angie. “I started watching some YouTube videos and really did it overnight,” he recalls. “With carpentry, everything is lines and angles and cutting and everything has to fit and fasten. It’s kind of along the same lines, and was pretty easy for me to pick up.” Within a week of deciding he could start a home based business in leather work, Made Supply Co. was up and running.

Everything Greg makes is done sans machines. The cutting, the distressing, and stitching is all done by hand. “It’s all hand tools,” says Greg. “Punches, scribes, and needles. I break a lot of needles.” He’s breaking a lot of those needles perfecting the saddle stitch, the oldest method of hand-stitching, found on products like The Dempsey, The Kate, and The Eastwood. Once in a while, Greg will pull out a dremel to sand the edges of a product, but he assures me that’s a rarity.

Greg’s personal style is reflected in each of the products he creates – describing it as a minimal and utilitarian style. “It’s a little rough around the edges,” he explains. “It’s not perfect. I don’t like perfection.” Spezzatura comes up, or as Greg refers to it, Sprezz. An Italian word for “a certain nonchalance” and the essence behind the collection of goods Greg has created. “More than anything, I like to start with a bucket of junk and make it into something. I love a finished product. I like to stand back and look at something and go “damn, I made that”, that’s pretty cool.”

Greg’s parting words, “Keep it simple. Be true to yourself,” serve as his motto for Made Supply Co., and is certainly echoed throughout his collection of simple, beautiful leather goods.

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The Kate was featured in the recent shop St. Louis: local gift guide.

[All photos by Abby Gillardi.]

Jess Signature

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