I've always loved animals. When I was a kid I would walk to the pet store closest to my house to visit the animals that I wasn't allowed to have (my dad was allergic) - mostly cats, since dogs were always out of the question during my childhood. Sometimes the owner would let me play with the kittens, or hold some of the smaller animals. I could have spent hours there, and I think some days I did, just watching the kittens. They were always my favorite.
The pet store that I would walk to was Animal Talk - it wasn't until I was an adult that I learned that they are actually a no-kill shelter, and all the adorable cats and kittens that they had were rescued. Over the years I have had many rescued kittens, and Oliver himself was actually "rescued" though he didn't come from a shelter, he just showed up one day on my front porch, lonely and hungry (how could I say no?). So, in loving memory of El Guapo, Oliver and I have decided to donate 50% of sales this week (March 21-27, 2011) to Animal Talk to help other kitties in need. Yep, that's right, half of every dollar you spend at Moxie and Oliver this week will go directly to help the kitties. So here are some ways to shop: Moxie and Oliver
To further honor the memory of Guapo, I've decided to plant some Tiger Lilies in the yard (the picture above is Guapo helping me garden in summer '10). Guapo was a plant eater, and they were the reason for his first (and thankfully his only) trip to the kitty ER. For the last three years we couldn't have any flowers in the house. Right now we have a vase of tulips on the table, and every time I walk past I look for bite marks.
Sweet dreams, and happy shopping - remember it's for a good cause! C
I am not entirely certain if the shock is wearing off or settling in - I can't believe Guapo is gone. Oliver is having a very hard time with it, too. Before we got Guapo he used to howl every night when we went to sleep (super annoying, but you get used to it). I always said that it was because he was an only cat, looking for kitty friends. It turns out that I was right. He started howling again the night that Guapo died.
That is one of the first photos I have of the two of them together. Oliver not looking too happy after this little kitten cuddled up on him, but he got used to it, and grew to love the relentless love from El Guapo.
As for myself, I grew to love the fact that he was constantly in my face when I was trying to work. Attacking scissors while I was cutting leather, biting my pencil, chewing on my string, climbing inside the hides if I left them somewhere tempting. Everything that I made for three years probably had Guapo fur in the stitching - luckily Siberians are hypoallergenic!
I remember so clearly the day we brought him home. My husband picked me up from work with this tiny kitten in the car (I'm sure I got nothing done that day in anticipation of the new arrival), and I picked him up out of his little carrier. He looked into my eyes and seemed to ask "Are you going to take care of me? To love me? And protect me?" And I promised him I would. In the end, I know that he was so well loved, by me, by my husband, by our baby, by our dogs, and of course by Oliver. He had a good three years here, and we enjoyed every moment with him.
Oliver is, of course, now sitting on my desk, nudging my face and hands, covering me in drool and making it impossible to type. He's a charming old man, and needs a little extra love at the moment, which I am happy to give him.
Orders and life as we know it will experience a little delay this week. Today we had to say goodbye to El Guapo, our three-year-old Siberian Forest Cat. He passed this morning, after chasing plastic Easter eggs, in the sunbeams in our front room. Apparently there was some thickening of the walls of his heart (cardiomyopathy) and it gave out.
Thank you, Guapo, for being in our lives. For stealing dog treats to feed to the dogs, for making it so that we could never have fresh flowers in the house. Thank you for letting our daughter pull on your fur, and smack you in the face, and for loving every minute of it. Thank you for playing fetch, rough-housing with our two large dogs, and for your general species confusion. Thank you for warming up the stroller, the car seat, the bouncy chair, and the highchair for our baby, and always staying out of her crib. Thank you for your visits to us in the bathtub - and the shower. You were an amazing cat, and a wonderful and truly unforgettable presence in our lives. We were blessed to have you, and will remember you every time we put flowers on the dining room table, or pass a paper bag, box, or basket that is not full of cat. You were as crafty and intelligent as you were handsome, and you kept us both amused and on our toes. I will miss you in the studio with me, and the way you were always on my lap when I was trying to work. I will also miss the way that you always came to me when I was sad and needed comfort. Guapo, what I wouldn't give now to hear the sound of your meow, to feel your purr, and to hold you in my lap just one more time. My baby kitty, I hope you loved every minute of your life. You have made an incredible impact on ours, and we will carry you in our hearts always. We love you, El Guapo, and we miss you.
We got a call from the vet today. Hubby took the kitties to the vet on Saturday (both in the same carrier - hilarious) and they did bloodwork on Oliver. Turns out that he has kidney disease. We've known for a few years. When he first showed up on the porch we got him up to about 15lbs - a healthy weight for his size. He's been at 10.8 for a few years now. Scary, when you take away all the fur, how skinny he is. But he's not losing more weight, and the vet says we are doing all the right things.
It was sad to hear that he definitely does have kidney disease. We don't know how old he is because he was a stray, but my guess is about 14 or so (I've had him for eight years). The good news is that is progressing slowly, and he seems happy for a cranky old man. He really is the sweetest kitty. He puts up with the rest of our zoo, and all he wants in return is water from the tap in the bathroom.
Sweet boy. If I could make him a new kidney I would. For now, I'll just keep feeding him the crap food he wants to eat (really? Friskies over the expensive stuff? Well, at least it's not poop.) and letting the water in the bathroom drip all day...
Wintergrass got me thinking about the durability of leather again this year. Last year, a guy named Arthur brought me two pieces. First, he came up to my booth with a guitar strap that a friend of his made him in the 1970s. Though the guitar strap probably didn't look just the same as the day he got it (apparently it started out a deep red/burgundy) it was clearly nowhere near giving up. He asked me to make him a guitar strap, the same as the one he had, but new. I looked at it, and said okay.
Then he came back with a belt. It was a brown crackly sort of color. Apparently it had started out black. The belt was also from the 1970's, and had clearly gotten a lot of use since. I agreed to make a belt as well.
The guitar strap was a little harder than I anticipated. It was two sections of what is called a "magic braid" where you take a strip of leather and slice the middle. The ends stay connected, then you weave the strips in and out of each other to form a braid. I remember recruiting my husband when I was trying to figure it out. It took weeks before the mathematical part of my brain kicked back in and I finally got it, and could do it consistently. Anyway, here is the result: I did dye the leather a darker color after this, but for some strange reason didn't photograph it. Must have been pregnancy brain kicking in. Anyway, he came back with the strap this year and it still looks great. Seeing pieces out of the same materials that I use that have lasted generations already, with so little signs of wear, just makes me happy. My philosophy has always been to buy it once, buy it for life. Yeah I know someone has a slogan similar to that (Kohler? I can't remember) but what I mean is basically that it makes more sense, from an economic, environment, etc., standpoint to buy the thing you really want, that is good quality, and built to last, the first time, rather than compromising on your initial purchase when it will just result in a) you breaking down and buying the other thing later, or b) the thing that you bought breaking down and needing to be replaced. After all, part of the reason that I started making leather goods in the first place was that I burned through three vinyl bags in one year! And since the big hole in them couldn't be repaired, off to the dump they went.
This past month, the first messenger bag I made for myself turned four:
and she's still going strong. Looks as great as ever - made the daily commute with me on the bus for years, now doubles as a smaller diaper bag for shorter outings. No worse for wear, either. Someone said recently that the bag just looks better with age - it develops a patina all it's own. Just think, if I had been buying synthetic messenger bags this entire time I would have gone through 12!
Off to bed, so I can make new iPhone cases in the morning. And yes, I am sure the case will last longer than the phone :)
So the new site is up, and so far I've been able to fulfill one request from the Wintergrass wishlist - Mandolin straps without buckles.
Easy enough, right? All my mando straps are now being offered in lengths from 35-47" (two inch increments, it seemed reasonable) as well as adjustable. Best way to find your strap length is to measure your current strap. All of my mandolin straps come with a bit of leather lace (no, it's not lace, it's more like a really thick leather cord, sorry for the years of confusion) to attach it to the instrument, so it's best to order shorter if you are between two lengths.
Oh, and I can't say how many times people asked me if the straps were "splits". They're not, they are made from tooling leather hides, which is a full-grain leather. And what is a "split" you might ask? Well, if you have seen my work in person you know that the leather that I use is quite thick. It is possible to litterally split the hide into layers. A split is one of the inner layers that has been split apart from the top layer, or the grain layer. The grain layer is the strongest, and splits are much weaker (split is what is used to make suede).
I hope that makes sense! One more listing on the new site then it is off to bed.