Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Seven Essentials

Be sure to check out The Dainty Dish, a lovely new blog who asked me to do this guest post as part of their "Essentials" series.
xo, m

Essentials:  Smart. Sustainable. Style.'s Melissa Baswell

When Dainty Dish goddess Sutton approached me about doing a guest post on the topic of essentials, I was thrilled. I’m quite fond of making lists, and when I find something that I really like, I tend to become slightly obsessed. (Marginally off topic, but as I write this, I can’t get “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music out of my head. I had to sing it for a musical theatre class in college, and, well, let’s just say there’s good reason as to why I’m not a professional singer).

Admittedly, I’m quick to change my mind about which things fascinate me on a given day, but there is undeniably a distinct group of (at least semi-permanent) essentials that I just can’t see to live without. And  here they are…

1. Tea Tree Oil: When I traveled to Australia with my boyfriend’s band last spring, we discovered a lake surrounded by Melaleuca trees. The tannins from the trees leach into the water, literally creating a natural tea tree lake, and everyone was astounded at how incredible their skin felt after a dip. Tea tree oil is naturally antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal and has endless uses. I use it on cuts and scrapes, add a few drops to the bath, and mix it with my moisturizer. You can find tea tree oil at almost any drug store or natural food shop.
2. Blackberry 9700: I hesitated about putting this on my list, because who wants to admit they’re unhealthily attached to their smart phone? Like it or not, my BlackBerry is never more than two feet away from my fingers (better known as texting machines). I’m not a fan of the monthly bill, but life becomes much easier when you can check email, create documents, quickly search the internet, listen to music, and waste time on Facebook anytime, anywhere. Oh yeah, and you can make phone calls with it too, which comes in handy when your boyfriend lives on a traveling tour bus half the year. My favorite part of the 9700 is that the enormously annoying trackball of my past BlackBerries is gone, and a nice (non-sticking) little track pad exists in its place. Get your very own electronic leash at your nearest wireless store.
3. Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque: This simple, affordable mask is truly the best skin product I’ve ever tried. I use it as a full mask a few times a month to unclogs pore, and regularly as a spot treatment if I have a zit. A tube of it costs around $4 and lasts for months. You can find it at most drug stores and beauty supply shops.
4. Coconut Water: I could easily create an entire blog devoted to this delicious nectar from the heavens. Made from the pure water found inside young green coconuts, it’s packed full of electrolytes, potassium, and other goodness, and with no added sugar, is a million times healthier than sports drinks. O.N.E. and Vita brands both use eco-friendly packaging and are really, really yummy. Many grocery stores have yet to catch on to the blissful amazing-ness of coconut water, so it can be tricky to find, but Whole Foods carries it, as do most larger supermarkets.
5. Earthshoe Boots: I bought these gems about 6 years ago at a tiny shoe store in Indianapolis, and wear them at least twice a week from September to April. My pair is a bit haggard from being worn so often, but they still look very chic paired with a dress or skinny jeans. In addition to the fact that they’re physically lovely, they’re designed with a slight incline that positions the toes higher than the heels (picture your bare feet stepping into warm sand on a sunny beach), making them exceedingly comfortable. You can find a list of Earthshoe retailers here.
6. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: My new favorite band as of last winter, Edward Sharpe plays incessantly in my studio, car, and at home. Their music is upbeat, ethereal, and refreshing. Get it on itunes or at your favorite local music store.
7. Mountains of the Moon Audrey Dress: My friends tend to make fun of the fact that I rarely wear clothing I’ve designed. My response is always something along the lines of “Look, if I didn’t love the clothing I make, I wouldn’t make it, but sometimes when you work on something for 40-60 hours every week, you just want a break from it during your free time, thank you very much.” The Audrey Dress, however, is a major exception for me, and is probably my #1 wardrobe staple year-round. Made from a soft hemp/organic cotton knit, it has a pull-over mock wrap style (versus a traditional full wrap dress) that is flattering and comfortable. It’s more casual than the other dresses in my collections, but can be easily dressed up. I have it both cream (in photo) and black, but the cream is my go-to piece. Get your very own at
8. Comfortflex Dog Harness: Any owner of an old dog can attest to the fact that it can be difficult to find the right products for an aging fur baby. Considering that I use this pretty red harness 7 to 8 times per day, I’d classify it as one of my most essential essentials. My nearly 15 year-old Lab/Chow mix Leary had surgery for Laryngeal Paralysis a little over a year ago and isn’t able to wear a regular collar, but I found that traditional dog harnesses are not only a major pain to get on your pet, they also look to be terribly uncomfortable. The ComfortFlex Harness has a lightly padded nylon design that protects sensitive areas like the neck and underarms, and a simple Velcro strap and safety snap make it quite easy to get on. They offer a wide variety of colors (Leary looks simply dashing in the red), are available in 7 different sizes, and cost around $25. You can find them at most local pet supply stores or online here.

Be sure to check out all of Melissa’s creative projects. She is *so* talented:
Eco-Friendly Clothing and more:
Etsy Store:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The 4th Annual Green Weekend Sale is HERE, Hurray!

*Green Friday Sale Details: To redeem, enter code GREENFRIDAY10 in coupon code box at 30% will automatically be deducted from your order, and 10% of profits from your purchase will be donated to the National Wildlife Federation's Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund. Good today through Monday 11/29/2010 only. Coupon not valid toward purchase of gift certificates, and may not be used with payments made by gift certificates or store credits. Must be entered at check-out to redeem.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bubby and Bean is (Freaking FINALLY) Here!

After months of work, I'm so excited to announce that my new line of art (and new blog), Bubby and Bean, has finally arrived! 

Although I've been creating art since I was first able to hold a crayon, Bubby and Bean (both the business and the blog, which will be a little different than Smart. Sustainable. Style.) is a new venture for me. 
As I posted here this summer, the tragic loss of one of my oldest and closest friends forced me to take some time away from my workaholic lifestyle, drop everything, and re-learn how to follow my bliss.  From this, Bubby and Bean was born.

I decided to create the Bubby and Bean blog as my special little place on the web to share not just my art and business adventures, but also a variety of inspirations, my favorite things, random pictures and musings, and whatever else pops into my head on any given day. Smart. Sustainable. Style. will, of course, continue to focus on eco-friendly fashion, Mountains of the Moon, and a behind the scenes glimpse into running a sustainable business in the fashion industry. For more about the concept behind Bubby and Bean and my personal bio, read on below...

BUBBY and BEAN is a unique line of art and gifts created by artist/designer Melissa Baswell, and inspired by a rather extraordinary old dog. You can view and purchase Bubby and Bean goods at Mountains of the Moon, or in our Etsy Shop.

An almost-15-year-old rescue dog named Leary, who was given the nickname “Bubby” when he was just a pup, serves as Bubby and Bean's official muse. Bubby has lived a remarkable life, defied all odds, baffled vets, impressed countless strangers, and though gray-muzzled and a bit slow in his old age, delights in showing affection and kindness to everyone he meets. Always by Melissa’s side, his love and loyalty provide daily fuel for her creative process. “Bean” is the nickname of Leary’s friend and “cousin” Isis, also a very special old dog who grows more and more distinguished with age. 


BUBBY and BEAN ART features illustrations, photographs, paintings, greeting cards, mixed media collages and other intriguing handmade trinkets inspired by many wonderful things (including but not limited to: the adventures of Leary and Isis, old dogs/new dogs, nature/the big city, vintage findings/shiny new discoveries, music/silence, jet-setting across the globe/the comforts of home).  As with Mountains of the Moon, Bubby and Bean art is crafted using a sustainable approach, and special care is taken to use eco-friendly and recycled materials as much as possible in each piece.

is a Chicago-based artist and sustainable fashion designer. When not in a fetal-style ball on the floor of her studio creating art for Bubby and Bean, Melissa can be found at her other gig, designing contemporary women’s wear for the eco-friendly clothing label Mountains of the Moon. Melissa’s work has been shown at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, in Chicago and Portland Fashion Weeks, in local galleries and boutiques worldwide, and in fine publications like Women’s Wear Daily, Boho Magazine, Business Week, Discovery Channel's and others. When outside of her art bubble, Melissa may or not be dancing to live music (her boyfriend is the Stage Manager for a touring band), exploring vintage shops and estate sales, roaming Costa Rica in search of monkeys and/or Australia in search of koalas, drinking coconut water and/or soy chais, or petting Leary. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tying the Eco-Friendly Knot, In Style

Note from Melissa: This guest post was contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topic of top online colleges. She welcomes your comments:

Organic Cotton and Hemp Blend
'Annie Dress' by Mountains
of the Moon
We all know that living “green” has both good and bad connotations. While it’s worthwhile because it lessens the negative impact on the environment, there are also some who view it as the antithesis of luxury. As Smart. Sustainable. Style. teaches us, living green does not mean giving up lavishness for a granola lifestyle. In fact, you can make being green a truly posh lifestyle change, and nowhere is this more evident than in the concept of a stylish, eco-friendly wedding!

A wedding is typically an expensive affair, both financially and environmentally. Guests are flown or driven in from across the country, which racks up carbon usage, and all of the things that weddings include (favors, food, etc.) can come from carbon-spewing factories as well (not to mention the toll it takes to ship them to the wedding destination!) Check out our ideas for ways to green your wedding without sacrificing an ounce of chic.

1. Keep it Local. One easy way to make a wedding more eco-friendly is to have it in a local area so that guests won’t have to travel too far to attend, instantly cutting back carbon emissions. In many towns and cities, there are loads of idyllic places in which to host a wedding. Take a tour around your city, or to nearby rural areas if you prefer a quaint and quiet wedding. If you and your partner have particularly fond memories of a certain diner, have a wedding party there to celebrate the union, which is much more cost-effective than renting out a typical large banquet hall as well.

2. Stay Small/Handmade. Sourcing all of your wedding needs from local sources or small eco-friendly companies will help to lessen your environmental impact as well. Smaller businesses tend to produce less waste because they are run on a smaller scale than larger factories. As an added plus, you’ll likely receive more one-on-one attention from business owners. Commission your wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses from a local or independent designer instead of a large, faceless clothing chain.  (MotM's Edie and Coco Dresses are both fun bridesmaid dress choices, and you can rest easy knowing that they are produced with luxurious eco-friendly fabrics and packaged and shipped in reused or otherwise sustainable boxes). Also look to communities like Etsy for handmade wedding items.

3. Go Organic. The same mentalities (choosing small, local suppliers) can be applied to food. A great way to serve up delicious, sustainable food is to choose ingredients from local or organic farms. Produce and livestock from local and organic sources typically have a much better flavor anyway, so in addition to protecting mother earth, you’d be serving your guest the most mouth-watering of dishes on your big day!

Do-It-Yourself Floral Heart Wreath
4. Do It Yourself.  Another wonderful way to make your wedding more eco-friendly is to DIY it. There are many aspects of your wedding that you can have fun tackling yourself, like making your own floral arrangements, boutonnieres, party favors, and wedding cake. With a DIY project, you’ll have more control over the sustainability of the end product. For example, if you make your own floral arrangements, opt for locally grown and in-season flowers rather than having blooms shipped in. You can also opt for beautiful wildflowers or flowers from a friend’s garden to make the perfect bouquets and center pieces. With a DIY wedding cake, you can use the suggestion for #3 (above) to ensure that the ingredients are organic and/or local. When it comes to DIY, the possibilities are endless, so use your imagine and experiment.

For more inspiration on greening your wedding and DIY wedding projects, check out these links:
- An Eco-Chic Chicago Wedding
- A Charming DIY Wedding in Maryland

Sunday, November 14, 2010

you know you're on facebook right now... while you're already there, why not become a fan of Mountains of the Moon?

We promise lots of goodness, like contests, exclusive coupons, and occasionally even a bad joke or two.  We'll meet you there:  Mountains of the Moon on Facebook.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

wonderful picture of the day

I just had to post this wonderful picture that my sister Morgan texted me this morning from her Florida vacation.  (Morgan, who is 31 years old, decided to accompany her husband on a business trip to Orlando with the motto "Disney World or bust!" Last I heard she was getting ready to hop on a roller coaster, which is just plain awesome). 

Audrey Hepburn's handprints outside of Disney World may seemingly have little to do with sustainable fashion, but it's no secret that the lovely Miss Audrey is a great inspiration in my design work.  Apparently Disney-MGM held a press conference on April 29th, 1989 with several celebrities, including Hepburn, who left her handprints and signature on the courtyard of The Great Movie Ride. 

And with that bit of daily trivia for you, I head back to the studio.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

so easily distracted

It's been rather hectic around here lately, preparing Mountains of the Moon for the holiday rush and launching another small business, working on new art, hosting out of town guests, making holiday plans, taking care of sweet Leary (aka my child in the form of a nearly 15 year-old lab/chow mix), and dealing with other daily forms of madness. When I'm not asleep, it's go go go.

I started wondering this morning if I'd have a little more free time with better time management skills.  I've never claimed to be an organized person (you should see my studio), but I do feel confident in my abilities to plan each day in the form of a nice little to do list.  After several minutes of pondering, I suddenly realized that ultimately my problem is this: all the pretty distractions.

I think every designer/artist/creative person who owns a business can relate to what I'm saying here.  It's not easy for us to focus on business-y things like bookkeeping software, marketing plans, and accounts payable when there's what I like to call "inspiration providers" all around us.  Maybe it's a particularly blue sky out of the window, the most lovely necklace you've ever seen on page 47 of your favorite fashion magazine, a pretty postcard tacked to your wall...  All I know is that I am constantly distracted by an influx of inspiration providers that make me want to grab all of my sewing and art supplies and run away to an island where the only rule is to create, madly, all day. 

Since I need to figure out how to win the lottery before I jet set off to Creativity Isle, I'll leave you with a few of the many pretty things that have distracted me thusfar today.  Enjoy.

Beautiful vintage fluter (from 1866!) I found at an estate sale

Pretty yellow mum plant on my desk.  Slightly obsessed with yellow flowers.

Ridiculously adorable dog asleep in my office.  Look at the tail covering the face. 


Friday, November 5, 2010

vintage fashion = sustainable halloween fun

I just had to share with you all a little snapshot (taken with my blackberry, but good enough kids) of my friend Annie and myself, who dressed up as "Bunny and Cher" for Halloween this year.  (Quick explanation: our significant others are part of a band who, every year on Halloween, plays incredible collections of their original songs "mashed up" with cover tunes.  In this tradition, the band and fans also get creative with mashed up costumes; hence, Bunny and Cher.)

Back in my carefree days when I had more of this thing called free time, I used to make my costumes from sustainable fabrics.  These days, I'm lucky to find 5 minutes mid-day to scarf down a banana for lunch, and the glorious day of Halloween costume design fun are long gone.  And the possibility of finding an eco-friendly costume at one of those chain style pop-up Halloween shops is nonexistent, of course.  Well thank sweet goodness for vintage.  Finding a 70s era Cher dress at a vintage shop doesn't exactly require an abundance of creativity, but because I tend to border on unhealthy on the perfectionist scale, it had to, ya know, be just right.  I have to admit, I think I did good with this dress and the accessories (both real-live/official 1970s gear).  I actually kind of can't wait to wear it again.

P.S. We sang "I Got You Babe" repeatedly until we annoyed people.  Then we sang it again.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

taking it further...

In case you missed July's Confessions of a Recovering Workaholic post, after a devastating and tragic loss this summer, I decided it was about time to (at least partially) surrender to the flow, give up the 80-hour work weeks, and start focusing a little more on "following my bliss."  This led to lots of travel, lots of introspection, and lots of art projects.

Yes, art projects.

With roots based in illustration and mixed media art, I found myself delving back into drawing, creating collages from recycled findings, photography, greeting card and invitation design, and a whole heap of random projects fueled by, well, following my bliss. 

I am a fashion designer.  I love the process of designing a garment from the first spark of an idea for a new design to finished project.  But my favorite part, by far, has always been those first steps of putting the initial design on "paper" - the mood board, the sketch, the completed fashion illustration.  It seemed like it was time to focus on this favorite part of my career, and take it further...

As friend and colleagues saw my heaps of art-based creations, I was prompted to start a new sub-business, where I could display and sell this art.  After some thought, I chose the name Bubby & Bean, an idea inspired by a couple of sweet old dogs and their ability to appreciate the simplest of life's pleasures.  Bubby & Bean will launch in the next week or so, so stay tuned for more details and fun facts in the coming days.

And in the meantime, remember this.  Cliche or otherwise, life is short.  If you are lucky and, like me, love what you do, don't be afraid to take it a little further.  You might be surprised by the refueled passions you discover.