Thursday, March 2, 2017

Meet the Maker: On the Cusp Pottery

I got the chance to chat with Sara, the maker behind On the Cusp Pottery. She creates those beautiful tree mugs and bowls colorfully scattered about Bona Fide Green Goods. Here's what Sara had to say:

Maddie: Tell us a little bit about your business.

Sara: On the Cusp Pottery is my studio name for my line of limited production wheel-thrown functional wares handmade in my barn in Loudon, NH. I am inspired by nature and naturally occurring patterns. I use a glazing process which I feel gives the work a natural warmth that honors the integrity of the clay but also incorporates splashes of rich color. I am a one woman operation; I do it all from wedging the clay all the way through to packing things to send off to shops.

Maddie: How did you get started with pottery?

Sara: I started 27 years ago when I decided to take a pottery class at a local co-op. I loved it! It wasn’t until I was a student at Mass Art that I started to create functional work to sell at local fairs and festivals so that I could make extra money and work around my class schedule.

Maddie: Do you consider your work "green" and, if so, how?

Sara: I wouldn’t consider my work particularly green because of the energy used in production...That being, said it is green in the sense that pottery is, of course, entirely reusable and can last for a lifetime under the right conditions.

Maddie: And you're local, which we love! What are some of your favorite things to create?

Sara: I love to make mugs and vases!

Maddie: Anything else you'd like us to know?

Sara: I’d like to thank Bona Fide Green Goods and their customers for supporting my work.

When not at her home studio, Sara can be spotted around Concord at the Kimball Jenkins or at Arts Market!

A moment captured while visiting Sara's barn studio in Loudon, NH back in the summer of 2013.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Somethin's Brewing in Downtown Concord

Last Saturday, I swung on down the street for a pre-dinner brew from the hottest, new place in town -Concord Craft Brewing. I was thrilled to be greeted by brick walls, industrial-legged stools, and a bright red barn-style door. It's that old-world-meets-modern-convenience aesthetic; there's nothing I like more. Couple that with the shiny brewing gear out back, and these brew-masters have a recipe for success!

Naturally, I wanted to try everything. My friends and I spit a flight of the six beers they had on tap: Kapitol Kolsch, 4 Rivers Red, Town Pound Porter, NH House Session IPA, Old School IPA, and Granite State Chocolate Stout. We were impressed by how light and fresh everything tasted. The hop lovers of the group were thoroughly pleased with the balanced flavors of the Old School IPA and all agreed that the Four Rivers Red was a smooth, and delightfully easy drink. We plan to return when the double IPA goes on tap in a few weeks, if not sooner!

I caught up with Founder Dennis and he assured me that his team prioritizes local and organic ingredients. He emphasized how they use only whole grain barely malt instead of pre-processed malt extract. A home-brewing wannabe, I pushed Dennis for the inside tips and tricks so I too could make awesome beer. He stressed the importance of cleanliness throughout the process, especially when bottling.

If you aren't up to the home-brewing challenge, thats a-okay! You can bring Concord Craft beers home with you. My favorite beer container is the growler. Growlers are typically a 32-64oz glass/stainless steel/ceramic container with an air-tight lid to seal in that beery freshness. You can purchase them at most brew pubs, fill them up with beer on tap that will be good for several days, and return to re-fill them for a discounted price! It's a reusable alternative to buying one-time-use bottles or cans. You can purchase a growler from Concord Craft or bring your own (so long as it doesn't have a label*).

 *Current alcohol regulations do not allow breweries to fill growlers that are from other breweries. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

DIY: No-Sew Upcycled T-Shirt Bag

If you're anything like me, you have an abundance of old t-shirts and ten minutes to spare. So here's an easy, no-sew, DIY project that will put those old t's to good use -- the reusable t-shirt bag! Why is it important to use reusable bags you might ask? Check out this post to find out about the dangers of plastic bags.

  • Old t-shirt
  • Scissors 
  • Marker
  • Ruler/Yard Stick

1) Pick out the t-shirt you'd like to use. I chose this one because it's a lil big and I love the illustration.

2) Cut off the sleeves. Some of you may prefer to fold the t-shirt in half, aligning the sleeves, so you only need to make one cut. That's up to you. It's helpful to use sharp scissors.

3) Cut off the neckline. Now you've created the handles to your reusable bag! 

4) Lay your ruler/yard stick across the shirt about 4-6 inches from the bottom. Using a marker, draw a straight line along the measuring device. This will become the bottom of your bag.

5) Cut a series of approximately 1 inch strips from the bottom of the shirt, stopping at the line you've just drawn. Make sure you cut the front and back together because it's important the strips align.

6) Tie the front and back strips together in square knots (right over left, left over right). You're securing the bottom of the bag so you want the knots to be tight. Continue tying knots until all strips are knotted. The bottom of your bag will look fringy and beautiful! If you don't like the fringe look, tie the knots to the inside of the t-shirt and cut off any excess material.

7) Once all the knots are tied, all you have left to do is use your cute, new bag! You're basically an upcycling pro now. Remember to bring it with you when you go shopping!

Bring Your Own Bags

Yesterday, concerned NH citizens gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Concord to testify in support of HB481- a bill focused on giving municipalities the option to regulate plastic bags in their town. It is the first step taken in NH to ban plastic bags and I don't know about you all, but I'm sick of them. I did some research, and came up with these facts regarding plastic bag use in the United States:
  • According to the EPA, over 280 billion plastic bags/sacks/wraps are consumed each year
  • The Wall Street Journal estimates that we go through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually 
  • 4 out of 5 grocery bags are plastic 
  • In just 4 trips to the grocery store, the average family accumulates 60 plastic bags
Why should we care? Well, we know that plastic doesn't biodegrade. Instead, it breaks down into tiny toxic pieces. One plastic bag can take between 400-1000 years to breakdown, and as it's doing so, it contaminates our soil and water, entering into the animal food chain through accidental ingestion, among other horrific means. The sad truth: plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animal deaths every year. Here's a lil illustration from Medasset, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving marine and coastal habitats. 
[image description: plastic bags floating with jellyfish in the ocean]
[caption: "you see the difference. a turtle does not."]
Now let's not get too depressed; let's take action! Other than contacting your local government, there is one practical, daily step you can take to reduce plastic bag consumption. Think of the mantra: "bring your own!" Bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store, farmers' market, or to any retail shop. Bona Fide Green Goods in Concord carries reusable bags for general shopping as well as two options for produce: natural fiber or mesh. Think about the turtles you'll save! 

[image description: turtle about to ingest plastic bag]
[caption: "plastic bags are killing our marine life. its time to ban the bag."]
PS: If you like to get crafty, and have a bunch of old t-shirts hangin' around, you can turn those into reusable shopping bags. Follow this super easy tutorial.

(Above information was collected from the websites of Conserving Now, an organization working to educate about the environmental harms of plastic pollution, Medasset, and GreenPeace.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

An Easy, Three-Step Guide to Sustainable Shopping

When going shopping, there are three easy things you can do to make your experience more sustainable for the earth. And who doesn't want that?

1) Do Your Research

It's one thing to make your shopping list, but another to know who and what's behind what you're buying. Do your research! What companies are you supporting? Do their values align with yours? Can you find a local alternative? Shopping locally keeps money in your own communities. Take the time to get to know the workers and small business owners. Conversations go a long way. Not only will you find that they're likely your neighbors, but that they're willing to do just about anything to help you get what you need! If they don't have it, they probably know someone who does. And give what they have in stock a chance. Perhaps you don't really need to have that certain color? Smaller shops can't support the large inventories of major companies, but think about it, a blue water bottle works just as well as a purple one, right?

2) Plan Ahead

Optimize your shopping trip by planning your route ahead of time. No need to drive back and forth; if you map out your stops you'll be more efficient and save on gas (and therefore lower your carbon footprint)! Alternately, you could do all your shopping downtown. Parking and/or walking (or biking) to shops is the most earth-friendly way and I guarantee the fresh air and movement will do your body and spirits some good.

3) Be Prepared

Inevitably you'll need a bag to carry your purchases and, of course, someone will get hungry. Here are some key items to bring with you to insure happiness levels stay in check. Oh, and they'll keep you from needing to use disposable paper/plastic goods while you're out! Win!
  • Reusable Snack Bag: Ditch those plastic bags for a cuter, reusable option! Easy to clean, you can just throw these snack-sized bags in the dish washer. Did I mention that they also come in sandwich bag size?
  • Badger Lip Balm: My current favorite is the Tea Tree & Lemon flavor. The primary ingredients are cocoa butter, olive oil, and beeswax. Plus, the Badger Company is right here in NH! Their Hardworking Hands balm is awesome too...
  • Stainless Steel Insulated Tumbler: Keep your hot beverages warm for hours AND avoid adding yet another disposable cup to some landfill. Coffee shops will often give you a discount for bringing your own mug...
  • Stainless Steel Water Bottle: How is it that plastic water bottles are still a thing? Bring your own water bottle and fill it up for free. It's a no-brainer. 
  • Reusable Napkin: People Towels makes some super cute, organic cotton towels that are small enough to fit in a purse. Use that instead of a paper napkin or towel, throw it in the wash after a few uses, and repeat! 
  • Bamboo Utensils: Purchased lunch while you were out? Use your own reusable utensils instead of the plastic ones offered. Think about how much less waste we'd create if everyone did this!
  • Chico Bag: Reusable shopping bags are the way to go. Clip this one to your coat pocket or purse and you'll never forget it "in the back of the car." 
  • Hemp Backpack: Hemp is awesome because it's easily grown without the use of harmful/toxic pesticides, and among other beneficial factors, it's one of the strongest/most insulating/absorbent of the naturally occurring fibers. 

Rainbow in My Own Backyard

Women Wed NH State House

rainbow sign at Capitol Center for the Arts
"Congrats Newlyweds Pam & Maddie"
marquee at the Capitol Center for the Arts 
At 1:33pm on the 15th of January 2017, I was officially pronounced married to my best friend, Pam. We wed on the State House lawn in the cold of winter, because following the November election we worried we might not have the privilege to marry in the future. But also because we wanted a reason to bring people together. Concord has been a welcoming home to us. It' the supportive community where I began my first business venture. And, having grown up in the neighboring town of Bow, its a place full of meaningful lifelong connections. So Pam and I put our heads together to quickly reimagine the local wedding of our dreams, inviting everyone with whom we were acquainted. We called it our “Big Nasty Lesbian Jewish Wedding.” Here’s what we wrote on the public Facebook invitation:

Don we now our gay (warmest) apparel! Pam and Maddie are getting married on the NH State House Lawn! We invite you all to join us for our BIG NASTY LESBIAN JEWISH WEDDING! Come bearing rainbow flags, peaceful signs, and most importantly, GLITTER!

Come one! Come all - family, friends, neighbors, and community members alike! We welcome you to join us for this public ceremony of love, commitment, and community. Why get married in the dead of winter, you may ask? We never pictured our wedding in the winter, but we never pictured a lot of things that happened this year. In light of recent events, we decided we all needed a reason to come together in love, not hatred. 
If you, or someone you know, needs a reason to celebrate, we welcome you! If you, or someone you know, feels scared or isolated, we welcome you! If you, or someone you know, wants to attend the gayest of gay weddings, we welcome you! If you, or someone you know, has nothing better to do on January 15th, 2017, we welcome you! So please, know us or not, join us on this beautiful day! All we ask is that you RSVP to this Facebook event so we can plan for enough food/beverages. 

Jewish Wedding under chuppah
Married under the chuppah
at the NH State House
Reflecting on this day, I am warmed by all the love and support. People from all walks of life came together. Rabbi Robin Nafshi and Cantor Shira Nafshi from our Temple Beth Jacob community officiated our ceremony under the chuppah while many in the congregation held rainbow signs. Our chuppah was decorated with beautiful greens from Hannah Roberts at Sorella Flower Company in Hopkinton. She also provided the much gawked at bridal bouquet later in the evening. My Granite State Roller Derby community could not be missed with their sparkle, love and cheers. Former teachers, current business associates, family, and even my mother’s book group came in support. What an outpouring!

After the ceremony Pam and I walked down Main Street, past my shop, to the Capitol Center for the Arts where we held our community reception. Guests followed along and cheered amid supportive “honks” from passing cars and random congratulatory shouts from strangers.

Rainbow signs love is love
"I can't keep a straight face"
and "love is love" signs
Paula Dill, event planner for the Capitol Center, greeted our party. From the moment we contacted her through the actual wedding day, she created a seamless, beautiful reception. The young at heart and the young of age took turns in the photo booth provided by Katie Baca Photography and Crust and Crumb desserts were gobbled up by all.

After our community reception, we continued the celebration in the Kimball House, the victorian “mansion” attached to the Capitol Center. There we were well fed by caterers of The Granite restaurant and Sarah, the bartender at the Capitol Center, who handled one hundred people without even breaking a sweat.

My sister, Becky sang for us the timeless classic, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Her crisp and melodious voice stirred a sense of harmony in my heart. I feel grateful for my community, and this simple life Pam and I have built. Like Dorothy waking from a dream, I think "if I ever go looking for my hearts desire, I won’t look any further than my own back yard, because if it isn’t there, then I never really lost it to begin with."
Pam and Maddie Newlywed

newlywed couple picture at fireplacebouquet of flowers on state house steps