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I just discovered amazing family (and pet!) portraitist Mimi Vang Olsen via a great story in Remodelista about the home of two writers I love, Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon (their Craftsman home in Berkeley looks just as writerly and enviable as you’d imagine, without being at all over-the-top). I love how this very detailed portrait includes pictures of all their books as well as so many decorative elements from their home (look at the detail on that rug and sofa!) Truly a portrait of a whole life, not just a family. Looking for more about the artist, I came across this great profile of her in the NY Times and the many famous people she’s painted. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to be able to commission her to paint your family? But now it seems she is focused almost exclusively on dog and pet portraits! She has a small storefront on a charming stretch of Hudson St. in NYC. I look forward to checking it out. 

Coasting Along

The NYT recently had a fun feature on the resurgent popularity of coasters, which they attribute to the cocktail culture converging with the artisan/maker movement, with coasters offering the perfect mini-canvas.  

They included our clever new Coastline Coasters by Reed Wilson: 

But we also have a LOT of other fabulous coasters, many of which can be custom-designed and personalized for a fantastic gift.

1. For example, woodworker Brad Weckesser’s wood map coasters can be laser-cut into the shape of any state or country, then they’ll etch a heart by your favorite city, and even add a date or name at the bottom if you’d like. These would make a fun wedding favor or a great gift for anyone:

2. Or create a completely custom set of 50 letterpress coasters in the shape, design, monogram or text, and color of your choice—a glamorous housewarming gift!

3. Jazz up the patterns and colors with this custom set of 4 reusable hard-backed coasters:

4. Help guests keep track of their drinks at a party with these "Hello My Name Is" coasters that you can write on with a dry-erase marker, and then wipe clean after the party:

5. Or have some fun with these pick-up line coasters: 

6. The list goes on and on, but if you’re itching for spring, an effortlessly elegant hostess gift are our letterpress Flower Coasters, fetchingly packaged in a clear box tied up in ribbon and ready to gift. 

The Art of Mapping—Old and New

We’re excited to introduce the work of artist/engineer Dan Linden, who creates modern-day city maps through laser-cutting or etching stainless steel, as well as foam and wood to create 3-D maps that trace city streets, rivers and parks in intricate detail. In shimmering stainless steel against a matte black mat and frame, they have bold graphic impact. And the 5” x 7” framed maps are only $32. 

Dan hails from Columbus, Ohio—and that’s also where Anne Holman is from. Anne’s our featured artisan whose draws on her prodigious collection of antique and vintage maps from all over the world to create beautiful custom sterling silver map jewelry. Coincidence? Perhaps not … Dan says he was inspired not only by his hometown, but also its thriving art scene. As he explains, “There is something extremely strong in the connection between people and their hometowns. When friends looked at the Columbus Cut Map, they were intrigued and curious about the strange intersecting lines and spaces, but when I look at it I know almost every road.” 

Dan also takes custom order requests for any city in his larger map sizes of 18” x 24” high-density black EVA foam or 34” x 36” wood. 

If you’re a rabid fan …

I kind of love the idea behind this new site, Slater Zorn—clothing and accessories that are color-keyed to your favorite college team! More sophisticated than you’d think. Yes,  you’d have to be a pretty rabid fan, but remember, I’m married to a man from Alabama … Roll Tide is not tossed around casually in our house! 


We’ve always loved art and items that are about a specific place—where you’re from, where you live, where you love to visit—such as maps and place names. MoMA has just curated their Destination: NYC colllection, and it’s pretty cool (things made in NYC, not just things that say New York). Lots of great stuff here, but we’re betting everyone in the rest of the country is pretty sick of everything always being about NY and how cool Brooklyn thinks it is. So come to Bespoke to have whatever place you call home celebrated! BTW, we found some fantastic new letterpress maps based on old city maps at the National Stationery Show yesterday—you’re going to love them! (There’s a lot of stuff based on states—all 50 of them—out there right now too.) 

Bronx magnet. NYC Graffiti Lucite Bangle from Alexis Bittar

Reaching out in tough times

A beautiful and important post by Grace Bonney on DesignSponge about the importance of reaching out to friends who are experiencing a death, serious illness, divorce or other difficult situation in their families. Good suggestions both in the post and in the comments, which led me to this excellent post from The Podge Files on “What to say when you don’t know what to say.” Whether it’s a handwritten note (not a “like” on Facebook!), a meal, or helpful gesture or small gift, it means so much to know your friends are there to support you. 


Photo by Jen Huang

Wow, the art of the love letter is still alive … . Take inspiration from this smitten, talented fellow at Terrain

I can reveal this because my dad doesn’t read Tumblr: For his birthday, I’m having a wooden puzzle custom-made by Liberty Puzzles from this beautiful photo he took in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this past year. My folks have really gotten into wooden puzzles, but you can also have regular cardboard jigsaw puzzles made of your pix (or say, your kids’ artwork) by sites like Shutterfly for much less money (about $20; the custom wooden puzzles are $115-$145). 

My name is Jill, and I’m an over-gifter.

I can’t help it. I see something that would be SO perfect for my lit-major niece, my gourmet cook husband, my fantastic sister, my entire writers’ group … I have to buy it for them. Even if I have already bought them several gifts already. If it’s someone close to me, I might pick up gifts for them all year long as I find them, and then not remember come Christmas just how much I’ve accumulated (got that trait from my Nana) or remember where they are at all.  Better is to give someone a gift when I find it, “just because”—and anyway, aren’t those unexpected gifts the best ones of all? I love finding the “perfect” gift for someone—and even if it’s not, well, it gave me a lot of pleasure! When those boxes arrive, if it’s as if I’ve gotten a gift myself. 


When friends are going through a tough time, I often make them some variation of this CD/playlist. You can access it on itunes here (and feel free to use my cover art, above!): 

Things are Gonna Get Better

Better Things by Dar Williams
Breathe (2AM) by Anna Nalick
Bright Side of the Road  by Van Morrison
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall
Sydney (I’ll Come Running) by Brett Dennen
Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson
Sweet Inspiration by The Derek Trucks Band
In the Sun by Michael Stipe and Coldplay
I Don’t Ever Give Up by Patty Griffin
I Release You by Niki Haris
Another Day by Jamie Lidell
There’s Hope by India.Arie
Instant Karma by U2
Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine

How about you, what are your favorite pick-me-up songs, or ways to help a friend going through a really tough time?  

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