Chick-Lit Designs - Michelle Wolett


Chick-Lit Designs is an online Etsy store that sells beautifully designed book covers as clutch bags! Not only does the designer (Michelle Wolett) create adorable clutch bags, she also designs tablet cases and shoes. Don't believe me? Check out the shop here: www.chicklitdesigns.etsy.com

I came across the Etsy store and I was blown away by the variety of clutches there are, I simply couldn't decide which one was my favourite due to my varied interests in classic and graphic novels. While observing the detail of each of the books I simply had to know more about the process and inspiration behind the collection. Speaking with Michelle Wolett, she shares her creative craft.

What was the inspiration behind Chick Lit Designs?
My parents were going through a tough time several years ago and they were about to lose the house that my father had built with his own hands.  I wanted to create a side business where I could send them money so they wouldn't lose their home.  I have always been into repurposing old items into something different when I thought I could make a book into a handbag!  And so my shop was created.  After a few years my parents told me to stop sending them money and I couldn't pull myself away from my shop- so I spent some time revamping my line and product and brand and opened a new shop now known as Chick Lit Designs. I’m inspired every day by vintage items, bookstores, colors and patterns. Just looking at an interesting pattern can really drive my creativity.

Have you always been into DIY crafts? 
Handmade is my life. It’s where I came from, it will always be a part of who I am. Growing up, I remember my father making everything. We would get handmade gifts for Christmas. If my mother wanted something from the store, my dad would simply make it for her instead. My brothers and I were always coming up with new paintings or clay sculptures.  I actually won several awards in high school for some of my artwork! Even today, I hand make all of my Christmas and birthday gifts for people.  I now have a 1 year old daughter that already has many handmade dolls and dresses from me. 






Are there any muses that influence your work?
James Plumb Studio. These two individuals make the most amazing items out of old vintage finds. They have made dressers from old suitcases and a chandelier from old vintage lamp shades. It’s amazing what they think of!

Your book clutches and tablet covers have been a huge hit with your customers, did you expect them to do so well?
When I started designing my items I knew they were unique because they were not only original, but timeless.  However, I was not expecting all of the publicity that I would get from making them!  This year alone I was featured on E! Network's TV show"The Fabulist" as one of the hottest new trends, and my Fashion Dictionary book clutch is in the current issue of British Vogue magazine!  A couple of months ago I was hired by Lois Lowry's editor to create a book purse of "The Giver" for the famous author!  Just the thought of her carrying one of my designs is thrilling!  I just quit my day job to do this full time and couldn't be happier!




Do you have any upcoming products that you will be listing in your store?
I'm actually booked to sell at Ventura, California's Comic Con next month- so I'm currently working on adding a lot of Sci-Fi, Comic and Horror books to my store.  I'm also working on a "Fashion" line that I'm hoping to launch in the next few months.

What advise can you give to someone looking to experiment with DIY crafts?
Start with something small that you can handle and work your way up. It's definitely a learning process and people can get frustrated very easily. But once you get the hang of it, you will start to feel inspired; and the excitement and pride that comes along with creating something from your hands is indescribable! 

Images of Chick-Lit Designs










For more information follow the links below:

Timothy Knight - Life as a Prison Officer

When we think of life in prison we instantly think of the typical crime movies - Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. We have no idea what happens in prison but we stick to our assumption on how prison lifestyle should be and as a result prison taboo is not often covered by the media. Although it seems we learn what we know from the movies, retired prison officer, Timothy Knight, shares the reality of prison life during the seventies and eighties.

In 1974, at the age of 23 Timothy Knight first joined Lewes prison after deciding he wanted a better life for him and his family. Nevertheless, Knight explains how prison is secretive and nobody knows what to expect.

“I had to start at the very bottom and I would have menial tasks to do. I spent day after day just patrolling the grounds with a radio just in case something was happening on the ward or grounds. A prison officer could have been patrolling for 15/16 hours a day, it was absolutely mind-numbing.”

After day to day working in and around the prison Knight applied for photographer job within the prison, allowing him to try something new and different.

“It was a job that came up and they asked for volunteers to go off on a training course to take prison mug shots and so I went to Brixton prison for a week to train as a prison photographer. Alternatively, it was back to basic photography where the camera was set focus. The camera was on a tripod and I would put the black cape over my head to look through and see the prisoner upside down in the picture. Once it was set up I had to take the pictures on plates, after I would then develop them in the dark room and then contact print the photographs when I was finished.”

During a clear out in the prison, Knight discovered boxes of wet plates and paper work from years before he started at the prison.

“While I was tidying I came across a huge box of glass negatives, so the next time I was in the dark room I thought I would try developing the negatives. I contact printed several of the negatives and discovered the pictures were from 1890’s right through to the 1940’s/1950’s. Until I found them I don’t think anyone had looked at them or found them interesting.

“I also found little bits and pieces that were in use when I first joined but then went out of use so I plundered them to put it in a polite way. It was all being thrown away into skips, and I thought it was such a shame to let all this stuff go to waste. I have paper work from the old days and I have a few artefacts like old keys, hangmen’s ankle straps and a body belt. The prison was being modernised and we were told to chuck out all this rubbish; it had been about for hundreds of years and it was all chucked out, even the glass negatives were thrown away.”

Ankle straps

Body Belt



With the prison entering a modern era Knight was promoted in the prison. He discussed what makes an efficient prison officer.

“I worked at the prison for 28 years but I did all of my service in one prison which is quite unusual but because of the time I joined and things were beginning to changed I managed promotion from officer to senior officer to principle officer in the same establishment. One of the things that make makes you a good prison officer is being able to identify the name and number of each prisoner. Just by sight I could tell the name and last three numbers of every prisoner and we had over 500 up there”.

Talking about Knight’s roles in the prison, he shares the drug and violent problems that occurred within the prison and disputes he had with prisoners.

“Stuff has always been able to smuggle into prison and will always be because in Britain we allow physical contact on a visit, you’ll never stop having things passed. At one point we had quite a big drug problem in Lewes and we knew it was happening on visits; it was the only way it could come in. We would stop and search, not just the young women that were coming in to see their boyfriends but somebody’s grandma as well. You would be surprised how many times we caught 80 year old women visiting with a huge lump of cannabis resin in their knickers but in somewhere else as well.

"Cleverly, during the engineer workshop prisoners would make aluminium bonds that would screw together, they would then shove it up their backside and then pass it to their girlfriend; she’d then fill the bond with heroin, coke or cannabis and screw it back up. You know where she was hiding it when she came back in to visit...She would manage to squeeze the bond out on her visit and pass it to the prisoner. We twigged after a while and he would unpick the crotch of his trousers so we knew if they got it through to their trousers and it looked a bit flappy we would have the camera focused on him.
We used to call this plugging and we had a trick for this; at the end of the visit we were allowed to pick so many prisoners for a strip search but they were not completely naked. If they were suspected of plugging they would have to be feet wide apart, hands on hips, then they squat 3 times and whatever they were hiding it would come squirting out. If it was successful there would be a big fight to who could dive on the floor and catch it first. If someone else grabbed it they would swallow it, if we grabbed it we had the evidence.

Drugs were not the only issue prison officers had to deal with; violence was a large aspect of prison and Knight explains some of the gory cases he had seen and dealt with.

“I had a few nasty incidents. I have seen people with their throats cut, I have seen people hanging and I have had to cut them down dead or alive. I have seen their arteries in their groin and wrists cut, I have also seen their heads caved in.

Consequently, some of the weapons used were simple like a Pool ball or radio battery in a sock to knock someone senseless; however, if the prisoners managed to get into the staffs toilets they would stick bits of razor or glass into the soap.”

Knight continues to talk about the violence in the prison, but by contrast he talks about one notorious prisoner he was acquainted with, Reggie Kray.

“Reggie Kray was on my wing, I remember when he first turned up to Lewes I worked in the reception area where I dealt with the prisoners personal belongs and records. He had a van to bring his personal kit to the prison. He ended up having 14 or 15 boxes in storage but he was only allowed so many possessions in his cell, and because he was doing a life sentence he was allowed a duvet cover, photographs and books, but he was continually wanting to swap stuff and he was a very arrogant little man.

When I met him in the eighties, he was going deaf but he had an arrogant attitude and whenever he was at the reception desk I would have to deal with him; I would firstly ask for his name and number, he would never give it so I would never deal with him and we would always have a blazing row every Saturday afternoon. He promised me he acquired a contract on my legs and as you can see I still have my legs and he’s not here anymore. Although, Reggie Kray was idolised in prison and because of his reputation, he had a lot of money which he made from crime and he still had access to it. Reggie bought friends in prison, he made sure their families were looked after and they made sure he was looked after.”


Despite what we acquire from crime movies and the media, talking with Timothy Knight opened a whole other world. Knight was happy to open an old chapter of his life and talk about Lewes prison. Interestingly, he was open about a completely different lifestyle and shares all his surreal experiences; from the roles he played in the prison, to the drugs smuggled in and the violence in prison. Even though, Knight was sad to retire in 2002 and said he missed the macho confrontations. He finishes explaining that he never judged the prisoners for what crimes they committed and said they were “just people”.  

Photographs from 1890s to 1940









       









Photos taken by: Diana Mote

Monokini 2.0 - Who says you need two?

Inspiration: Elina Halttunen

Finnish Designers have come together to create an innovative new swimwear collection for women that have undergone mastectomy. The beautifully designed collection has had people looking twice with admiring glances at the uniquely designed swimwear. This brilliant project is called Monokini 2.0 and their aim is to challenge societies view of the woman’s ideal appearance.

A group of models who have experienced breast cancer are modelling the new collection to show that having a healthy body is beautiful. The social art project highlights the fight against cancer and beauty but the swimwear collection is to inspire women that have had breast cancer and wish to embrace their new bodies without having reconstructive surgery.

Founder of the project, Elina Halttunen is one of the models that have had a mastectomy. The inspiration behind the project came from Elina and her love for swimming. Elina wants to change the idea of what true beauty is and with her statement for the press release she shares some inspirational words:

“I was a bit surprised at the augmentation of breast cancer operated women in Norway protesting about the long waiting time for breast reconstruction. They said that they felt like “half a woman”, “mutilated” and “not fully treated for their illness” without surgery. I have also been operated for breast cancer and must admit that I got a bit provoked.

I think everybody who wants a reconstruction should get one as soon as possible. I am also aware that breasts are powerful symbols of womanhood, sexuality and nurture, and that they are important for the self-image of many woman. But I also think we are getting quite fixated in what we consider beautiful, healthy and normal.

I still feel like a whole, healthy woman even without my left breast. I don´t think my value as a woman is reduced because I now have a little less fat, glands and skin than before my operation. I also think my scar is beautiful. It reminds me of the second chance at life I got in exchange. As I am now thankfully cured for cancer, I also consider myself healthy, and finished with my treatment. Getting a plastic operation to restore my looks would be treating something else than cancer.

But I do know that I do not look normal. I get reminded of that every time I am naked, especially if I am naked among other people at the swimming pool. I get stared at. And I think I get stared at because we do not see breast cancer operated women anywhere. I have never seen another operated woman in public pools or on public beaches during my whole life, and I have been swimming actively in many countries, pools and beaches. I think it is quite surprising, as there are 1.8 million women operated for breast cancer each year globally, and in most cases the treatment is the removal of the breast. This means that there must be millions of operated women hiding themselves from the public eye. I think that is sad, and I want to do something about it.

I do not want to hide, I do not want to stop swimming, I do not want to undergo extensive plastic surgery operations, and I do not want to be forced to use the uncomfortable prosthesis on the beach. I want to feel as free and active as I did before my cancer, and I am pretty sure that there are others out there like me. Therefore, I came up with the idea of the Monokini 2.0 swimwear.

Elina is not the only woman that feels this way and the models - Kristiina, Marjaana, Camilla, Katja, Virve, Solja, Sirpa, Milsse, and Reeta that accompany Elina want to show that there is life after cancer and regardless of what someone looks like they shouldn't have to change their bodies based on what people think is beautiful.

Nutty Tarts (Vilma and Katriina Tärähtäneet ämmät) are the artist directors of Monokini 2.0. Vilma and Katriina share there thoughts and hopes for the project. 



- What made you want to join the project? 

We (artistic duo Tärähtäneet ämmät / Nutty Tarts: Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri) started this when miss Elina Halttunen contacted us 2 years ago. She needed a suitable swimming costume to wear as she her other breast removed 10 years ago due to breast cancer and she did not want to have a reconstruction operation. She knew about the thematic in our work as artists, and asked if we could do help with the dilemma.

As artists we (Tärähtäneet ämmät / Nutty Tarts) had been dealing with the questions of gender, sexuality and social norms also in our former art projects; for example in "The Hairy Underwear Collection" project and "Hate Couture -collection", we focused  on bodily features that generally are considered disgusting and shameful. 

- Your art work deals with cultural norms and social concepts - What did you both offer to the project?

We (Tärähtäneet ämmät / Nutty Tarts) worked as artistic directors and planned the contents and visuals of the project and the goal for the whole process. We had conversations with Elina Halttunen (the mother of the idea and original need for monokini) and the whole core team to ensure shared objectives for Monokini 2.0. We have been executing many different social art projects earlier, so we 
already had the skills to research the perspectives from all the participating people and making it work for everybody; the models, the designers, Elina and the whole team! Our role was to get women and designers to participate and be the motivators during the photo shoots - keeping the spirit up! 

- Was it difficult finding women to model?

We met the first model, Sirpa through Finnish Breast Cancer Association, and after her picture went viral, women were contacting us. 

- The project is being spoken about by celebrities and news organizations, what outcomes would you like for the project?

Monokini 2.0 is a project that re-examines popular culture’s narrow idea about woman’s ideal appearance. We strive to expand what is accepted and considered beautiful. The most powerful effect is faced at the photo shootings, after women see their photos. Some of them came in wearing wigs but left the wigs to the studio after the shootings, not having anymore the need to cover their lost hair. We hope that our crowd funding campaign succeeds so that we can really start to produce these swimming suits for anybody to buy. We open it May 30th in Kickstarter. 


Team Monokini 2.0
Models
Kristiina



Sirpa



Marjanna



Milsse



Katja



Reetta



Camilla



Virve



Solja


Photographs taken by: Pinja Valja

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Blogger of the Month - Chronically Vintage


Chronically Vintage is a fashion and lifestyle blog with just over 2000 followers. The blog has been going for over five years and which has been featured in Her vintage Life and voted top vintage blog. The face behind the blog is Jessica Cangiano, she is a full time blogger, photographer, freelance writer as well as an online shop owner. Jessica's blog posts vary from recipes to must see places to factual historical features. Her interests lay in early/mid twentieth century fashion, beauty and lifestyle (1920’s -1950’s) which she certainly shows in her blog. Chronically Vintage is a great place to get inspiration to learn tips and tricks to having iconic beauty and hairstyles. 

Jessicas's inspiration for starting a blog came about in April 2009, she was unfortunately having a rough spell with numerous health issues, so to take her mind off her condition Jessica decided to setup a vintage blog (and we are grateful that she did). Speaking with Jessica she shares her love for vintage and explains what it takes to be a fashion blogger.

- What is it about vintage fashion do you love the most?

My initial gut response is to say, quite frankly, "everything", but that may be oversimplifying things a tad. I'm drawn to vintage fashion, history, home decor, movies, music, and myriad other things because I've always, no joke, as far back as I have memories, felt a tremendously deep and powerful - one might even say intrinsic - pull towards periods in time that came before me. I love the present world for so many things and am a million miles away from being a Luddite, but I also appreciate and strive to surround myself with elements of the past, such as vintage fashion from the 1940s and 50s, that brings me an unending amount of joy and a sense of connection with those who came before me.

- What is your favourite vintage item?

Unquestionably the small number of late 1930s through to early 1960s vintage clothing and accessory items that I received from a relative which have all been in our family since those very years. They're the only vintage clothing that has been handed down to me (and possibly the only, baring the items at my house that exists amongst my relatives these days) and are all invaluably important heirlooms to me.




- Why did you setup a vintage blog? 

My blog, Chronically Vintage, came about in April 2009, more than five years ago now, because at the time I was going through a horrendously rough spell on the health front (I'm severely chronically ill with a multitude of different conditions) and needed something to focus (at least some of) my thoughts and attention on other than my health. I'd had a longstanding love of history, mid-century fashion, and the vintage scene since I was a young child, and had already been following some of the early vintage blogs, so I knew in my heart of heart that was what I wanted to launch a site devoted to. Little did I know back then, though I will freely admit to hoping as much, that it would grow into the world famous site (amongst the vintage community) that is is today, in addition to transforming into my full-time career and an immensely important and much loved part of my life. I'm so grateful for my blog and adore seeing it continue to grow, transform and become even more enjoyable for me - and I very much for hope for my readers, too - as time goes on.

- What is your favourite era?

My favourite decades, though I'm the first to readily acknowledge that they were fraught with all kinds of problems on social, political, civil rights, etc fronts and I have no desire to revive those negative elements of them, are the 1940s and 1950s. In particular, due largely to the fact that I flat out adore the clothing and accessories of that era, I especially love the years spanning 1947 (which ushered in Dior's now wildly iconic New Look) and 1957.


- Is it difficult being a full time blogger? (for example coming up with original ideas or is it time consuming)

It is time consuming often, yes, but blogging - now coupled with running an online vintage store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChronicallyVintage) that I just opened earlier this month - is my full time job, so it's only natural that it takes up several (or more) hours of my workdays. In terms of coming up with post ideas, that's rarely been an issue for me as I find creativity begets creativity and in my case that usually means that for every post I write, I come up with two or more further ideas for future ones (I have a hefty Word document chalked full of nothing but possible future ideas that I turn, and add, to often). I find that inspiration really is everywhere and I never know what, be it vintage related or otherwise, is going to light that distinct fuse in my soul and set me practically running to write a new post.




- Has blogging helped your writing career in terms of doing freelance writing for magazines and showing off your tips and tricks?

Interestingly, while I did do some freelance and ghost writing in my early 20s, I've not opted to use my blog as a catalyst for such types of writing so far. It (my blog) is my focus most days when it comes to writing and as touched on above, as it's my job, too, I don't have a lot of time to devote to pursuing other writing avenues. Though, that said, I would truly love to write a book (vintage related or otherwise) one day and am sure that the many years of blogging writing experience I now have under my belt will come in handy when that awesome dream materializes one day.


- Living in Canada are there many vintage communities and events? Or do you find online is the best research for vintage recipes, fashion and lifestyle tips?

Generally speaking, no, there are not a lot of vintage related events of communities of likeminded folks in this country. Those of us with a passion for the past seem too often be spread out and the lone wolves, so to speak, or very nearly so, in our respective corners of Canada. There are, in some of the largest cities (such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Edmonton) groups of vintage lovers that get together throughout the year and Toronto has it's lovely Vintage Society, but again, by and large, compared to other similar countries like the UK and US, there aren't a lot of vintage events, people, shops or the like in this vast, beautiful country of mine. I find that I use both real world and online resources to further my knowledge of the past and to garner inspiration from on the wardrobe front. Old photos, library books and books I've purchased over the years, discussions with elderly people, watching old movies, hunting for vintage clothes, etc mingle marvellously with the resources that are available for one and all to avail of online. It's not an all or nothing situation for me, but rather a wonderful blend of the two awesome sources of vintage related information.

- Would you say blogging is a good way to socialise with other writers that love vintage? 

Massively, yes! Assuming of course that one opts to interact with fellow vintage bloggers, which is most commonly done through blog comments and on various social media sites. For many of us, myself included, our online vintage friends are the only ones (vintage friends that is) that we may have, if we live in an area where we're the sole vintage wearing/blogging person. I've made some amazing online friendships with fellow vintage fans online over the years and cherish those relationships as much as though I knew those folks in person. I find that, by and large, the vintage community (online and off) is a warm, welcoming, friendly place and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it via my blog, social media accounts, and most recently my brand new Etsy shop.

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