Sunday, May 26, 2013

My New Haircut!

       I'd been in need of a trim for a while, my split ends were horrible and my ombre colored tips that I dyed last summer were dull and dry. I decided that my trip to the hair salon would be a good opportunity to switch things up. Months ago, I'd torn out a couple pictures from a Boden catalog of a hairstyle I really liked. I didn't think I would have the courage to cut my hair that short but I surprised myself Friday. I brought the pictures into the salon and fearlessly cut off 11 inches of my hair.

       Right after it was cut I loved it. It was styled perfectly and had that silky feeling of rejuvenation after years of neglect. However, within the last 24 hours I've gotten a bit frustrated with it. I have never blow dried my hair with a round brush so I didn't get the same results as the hairstylist had given me. Over the course of the day my bangs began to flatten and get in my eyes. Needless to say, I've formed a love-hate relationship with my new do.

       Overall, I like it and have gotten positive feedback from friends and family. It just feels so different right now that it's going to take a while before I'm completely comfortable with it. I'm glad I took a risk though. My hair feels so much lighter now that I chopped most of it off and it's much easier to brush because it barely gets tangled. All I need is to find my inner Karlie Kloss so I can rock my look with confidence.

My hairdo inspiration - Freja Beha Erichsen, Karlie Kloss, Kate Moss, and the pages I tore out for my original style.

This is just a fraction of the hair I chopped off. The other 11 inches were sent away to Locks of Love.

Friday, May 24, 2013

All in the Details - Organizing Jewelry

     I'm sort of an organization freak, so even though I knew I'd only be home for a month before I returned to Boston, I designed a new arrangement for my jewelry. I love the jewelry box that my dad made for me, but my jewelry collection has grown a lot since my 16th birthday. I came up with a few additional storage ideas that double as a beautiful display for my dresser.

      Presentation has always been important to me. When I walk into my room I want to be surrounded by the things that represent who I am and I'm very particular about how I decorate. From books and pictures, to nick-knacks and pencils, every bit of my room is strategically arranged.

     Teacups have accidentally become a part of my collections, simply because I've gotten one here or there and find them too pretty not to put on display. These were my first solution to storing my jewelry. They are great for holding earrings, especially if you hang dangly ones from the edge of the cup. Not to forget the saucers, I used one to keep my pendant necklaces with very thin chains from getting tangled. 

      I've always kept my bangles in a large fishbowl. I don't remember where I got the idea, but it was probably from a Pottery Barn catalog that I used to rip pages from. I have so many bangles that it's really the only way I can store them. It's also a great display piece because no matter what side is facing out you'll always see colorful, interesting bangles.

      In addition to the fishbowl, I have a bunch of glass jars and vases that I use for organization. One of them is a tiny little vase that's perfect for the few brooches I have.

       The decor of my room is ocean inspired so I keep a lot of seashells around. When I watched Aquamarine for the first time, one of the girls used a shell to keep small earrings in and I've been copying that idea ever since. 

        I used to keep all my rings together but have found it a pain to find the small ones when they're jumbled up with all the big ones. So I separated my small rings into a starfish dish and kept the big ones in a round box with a pretty oriental print.

       Before the big jewelry box, my dad made me a smaller one in the shape of an octagon. My favorite part about it is that the lid only goes on a couple ways so you have to turn it until it fits into the bottom like a puzzle piece. This box is the perfect size for all the bracelets that I layer together.  

       The dress form jewelry hanger is a piece I haven't used for a while, mainly because it wasn't practical for college. But I decided it was time to dust it off and found it a good place for special bracelets that I want separated from the rest, as well as a few more dangly earrings.

       My last storage piece is the smallest. It's a little china container intricately painted with a scene of a man and a woman in a garden. This was perfect to hold something equally delicate, so I use it for a few thin, gold and silver chain bracelets.

       On my wall, I've hung a bulletin board to tack up all my bigger necklaces that are a nightmare to untangle. A lot of these are ones I've made, so it's also kind of like a display for my creations. It's filling up fast though! I may invest in a bigger, fancier one at some point or create my own out of a big frame. 

       Lastly, I have my inspiration board hung above my dresser. This is the board I made for spring, including shirt dresses, colored pants, cardigans, and pink lipstick among my season essentials.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Brooks Brothers Collaborates with The Great Gatsby Film

      As I listen to The Great Gatsby soundtrack for the third time, I'm beginning to warm up to the tracks. It isn't as completely awesome as I expected it to be. I totally thought "No Church in the Wild" would be on there, along with a really great song from Jay Z, but his song "$100 Bill" is sub par. However, my favorites Florence and the Machine, Sia, and The xx make up a few stellar tracks. I don't always like all of Lana Del Rey's music but her song "Young and Beautiful" is surprisingly catchy.

     Regardless of the soundtrack, I am still very excited to see the movie. My film major boyfriend keeps telling me it's going to be terrible, but I have faith in Baz Luhrmann. His movies Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge are among my favorites. He has a very extravagant, theatrical style that's almost always entertaining...I can't say I was thrilled by Australia though. Of course, the most exciting part for me is the costume design. I find 20s fashion endlessly inspiring and a massive amount of creative costumes is guaranteed to be in this movie. Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin did extensive research to recreate styles from the Roaring Twenties. She won an Oscar for her costumes in Moulin Rouge and I fully expect her to get another for this film, even if Luhrmann doesn't receive one.

      Martin's research led her to a collaboration with Brooks Brothers. While every fashion magazine has been focusing on the women's clothing from this era, it's refreshing to see someone including menswear in this  trend craze. I was walking down Newbury Street one night and stopped immediately when I saw the Brooks Brothers window displays of Gatsby inspired suits and separates.

      According to the Brooks Brothers' website, their clothing was a staple in Fitzgerald's wardrobe. Martin thought it was only appropriate to incorporate their clothes into the movie. She researched their archives to ensure her interpretations were accurate. Brooks Brothers then collaborated with Martin to create an exclusive menswear collection.

      The pieces are timeless versions of the company's old styles. From full suits and cardigans, to white wingtips and onyx cuff links, men can achieve Gatsby style in many different ways. With all these options, a guy can go head to toe 20s or just add a touch of it with one piece.

      Check out this behind the scenes video below to see Catherine Martin explain more about her designing process and the Brooks Brothers collaboration.

Visit the Brooks Brothers' website here to shop the collection. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Paint Bars - A New Way to Socialize

This was an article that I wrote for my Feature Writing class final, but I figured it would be a great blog post as well! 

          A new store on Newbury Street has just opened and every weekend night curious shoppers peer into its windows to observe a strange sight. This shop looks more like a studio, with exposed brick walls and canvases set up on easels. White shelves display a wall full of amateur paintings and a bar sits on the opposite side of the room. By 7 p.m., over 20 people are painting the canvases, intently watching the instructor in front of them. But this isn’t a serious painting class. The atmosphere is lively, social, and sometimes, a little drunk.

          This place is called Paint Bar, or what Sean McGrail describes as a “paint and sip location.” McGrail is the co-founder and co-owner of Paint Nite, a business that brings paint instruction to local bars and restaurants. He came up with the idea after he went to a friend’s party at the first Paint Bar location in Newton, Mass. Since they have expanded to their second location on 248 Newbury St., the Paint Bar has over 10,000 likes on their Facebook page. Their online calendar has an event going on every night of the week and most get booked weeks in advance.

           However, this business wasn’t always in high demand. Co-owners and mother daughter duo, Jill and Jackie Schon had trouble when they first opened their store in November 2010. Their friends and family doubted that people would want to attend their events. “Our first night in business we had three customers. Then our following Friday we had zero,” said Jill. After five months, it wasn’t until a feature on Chronicle and a Boston Globe article later, when they acquired a steady amount of customers. “Those two things happened at very critical times,” she said.

         They began to see their classes fill up with both new and regular customers. At the beginning of every class, they ask their “addicted painters” to raise their hands. There are more than a handful each night who keep coming back. “More than 300 people have come back more than five times,” said Jill.

Steven Hayes is one of these addicts. “I was actually one of their first customers in West Newton. They didn’t even have a bar at the time,” he said. His fourth time at Paint Bar, he brought his date Laura Ferraro to the Newbury location. In his forties, he shows his mother all the paintings he’s done with just as much pride as a little kid.  “Whatever painting I do I give my mom for Christmas,” he said.

Paint Bar caters to children with special parties and family events. Jill says they love the experience, “They’re less fearful. Adults haven’t painted since they were kids, so kids don’t see what the big deal is.” For new customers and children, a painting event costs $25. For returning customers it’s $35 and for private parties, it’s $45 a person.

The Schons brought this trend to New England after a friend told Jill of a place where “you paint and drink.” After some research, they discovered this painting bar phenomenon started in the South. They traveled to Georgia to see it for themselves, then came back to discover no one had caught on up North.  “We weren’t looking to work together, we just happened upon a good idea,” said Jill. They trademarked the name “Paint Bar” when they began and now it’s gaining popularity. “We came up with this name, and now it seems to be the name that everyone is using,” she said.

While Jill handles the business side of their store, daughter Jackie is the artist who instructs most of the classes. However, she wasn’t a painter in college. She got her Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography and her professors always told her, “You’ll make no money as a painter.” Yet she is grateful in the path she took. “Now I have two skills and we couldn’t have opened if I didn’t have the money to support myself through that business,” she said.

A typical paint instruction starts with a pristine set up. Each person gets a 16x20 inch canvas on an easel, a paper plate with paint, a cup of water, and five different brushes. Jackie puts on her headset and steps onto her stage in the back of the room, as if she is about to put on a show. Everyone takes a seat after grabbing a drink at the bar and she begins her instruction. She starts by telling all the “type-A painters,” to be “type-J” painters. “Which means when I tell you to take your brushes and dip them into multiple colors at a time, nobody’s going to freak out at me, or start crying and run for the door!” she explains. “No stress,” she continues, “That is why we have a bar!”

Then, she tells everyone to take the rubber bands off their brushes so she can show them what each one is for. “Notice that the people who have already taken their rubber bands off are probably in the type-A category!” she says. Before she goes on, she tells everyone that it’s important to have fun. “Nobody likes negativity. It’s a buzz kill to the room,” she says. She warns that anyone who makes a negative comment about their painting will have to get on stage and show off their creation.

            She begins the first steps of the painting clear and simple, demonstrating movements slowly and using fun analogies like, “Scoop it like you’re dipping a nacho Tostitos scoop chip into guacamole.” Between each step she turns on music and walks around to help anyone who may be struggling. After almost an hour, everyone takes a break to grab food from nearby restaurants while the backgrounds of their paintings dry.

             By the second half of the class, they start to paint bottles on their canvases and the tipsy giggling sets in. While being able to serve alcohol is a main attraction for their 21 plus crowd, it’s also the part of the business Jill likes the least. They are cautious with their liquor license and it can be tough when they have to be strict. They card everyone before they serve them and carefully examine every ID. For instance, Jackie noticed an out-of-state license looked a bit suspicious and asked for another form of ID. “I had a fake ID in college once,” she told the blushing young lady.  At one point, Jill stopped serving a man wine after he’d had four glasses. Their biggest concern is to be responsible because they don’t want a fun night to end up in something more serious.

This is where McGrail comes in. He and Dan Hermann started Paint Nite to offer an alternative approach to this pastime. “We thought it was a great concept,” said McGrail. But they wanted to improve upon this idea by making it more accessible. So they bring the paint instruction to bars and restaurants that already have liquor licenses. This way, there are several locations to choose from, customer don’t have to travel far, and there’s no studio to pay rent or get a liquor license for. Their first event in March 2012 sold out to friends and family and by their third week they had regularly sold out events. Their events cost $45 and sometimes they have special wine tastings that cost $55.

The public’s response to their franchise has been overwhelming positive said McGrail. They post pictures of each “paint nite” on their Facebook page. People see their family and friends tagged in the pictures, and then their page gets more hype from all the comments. “I don’t think this business could have existed five years ago,” said McGrail, attributing their success to the advances of social media.

As social media is such a major part of everyday life, McGrail says Paint Nite offers a great way for friends to meet up and actually talk in person. It was recently named “Best Friend Date” in New York Magazine.

Since there are 35 participating locations in Boston, they can hold many events a week. They’ve recently expanded to New York City, have plans to reach Miami this month, and will get to multiple cities in California by late June.  “We do see it as a plan that’s going to sweep the nation,” said McGrail.

While McGrail and Hermann’s goal is to grow rapidly, the Schons plan to stay local. “We have no interest in becoming a national franchise. We just want to run a good business in Boston,” said Jill. Instead, they work on keeping things interesting at their two locations. “You have to come up with new and different ideas,” she said. Jackie creates unique paintings to keep up with their returning customers. “She’ll probably have five or six new paintings this month,” said Jill. They feel confident that this trend will last a while. “I don’t think it will go away anytime soon,” she said.

Whether this phenomenon of painting and drinking is here to stay or will fade out along with rollerblading and drive-ins, it’s guaranteed to be a fun social outing. It could be a unique date, a new place to go with friends, or even a way to meet new people. Paint Bar’s slogan is “Mix it up and paint!” This is surely one great way to way to mix up your life.