OK, we’re back in Paris. My first stop, after dropping my stuff off at the hotel, was the Louvre Museum. I’ve wanted to go there for years, and a museum seemed like the perfect place to start my vacation. Not too stressful, lots of art, maybe a little meal. Nothing too crazy. Meanwhile the place is 8 miles long, I had no map and I was late to pick up my audioguide. They were nice and gave me one anyway? But for the life of me I could not figure it out. So I just walked around, headphones around my neck, completely lost. I don’t think was the only one, a lot of people were wandering around with the headphones off.
After getting lost in the Egyptian section, then finding myself in the basement viewing the medieval stones that are the museum’s foundation, I finally found my way to the painting galleries. The walls are filled with landscapes and religious iconography. There are small canvasses tiled on walls and paintings so large that they fully occupy walls that are longer than my studio apartment. It is an onslaught of artistic endeavor. I tried to find the Mona Lisa, but I got turned around and found a hall of Objets d’Art and from there I somehow found Napoleon Bonaparte’s apartments.
Red velvelt and gold everywhere. Crystal chandeliers, and paintings of cherubs on the ceiling. It’s garish and unbelievably tacky, but also sumptuous, luxurious and outlandishly royal. What’s wild is now understanding what was in my mom’s head when she decorated. A lot of people are copying this oplulent style unconsciously. I remember going to the homes of relatives and seeing elements of this and now here it was in front of me. The whole thing made me sad about my lack of pillars and corniches and gilded flourishes. Don’t get me started about the dining room.
I got there at about 4pm and they close at six, so it was a sprint. Next time I’m downloading a map and prepping before I get there, but for a first time I feel good with how much I saw. It definitely lived up to the hype. It was also the first time that I used my Nikon dslr since I bought it two years ago, and I got some lovely images. It was my first time going to the little Maxim’s shop in the lower level and my first cannelle. My first day in Paris and I ended up sitting on a bench with the sun beaming down on me just being grateful for being there.
Three days back and still a mess. I am still not properly unpacked, my bed is half made. I didn’t get it together to make a proper dinner until yesterday, and now I will be eating jollof inspired saucy rice with chicken deep into next year because guess who used three cups of rice for no reason?
Me. I made a massive pot of rice.
Anyway, I didn’t want to leave my blog empty until next Saturday, so here are some photos from my day tour to Giverny to see the home and gardens of Claude Monet.
But first, this is the first floral dress that I’ve ever liked enough to wear. Long dresses are commonplace on the stylish streets of Paris, and the floral was to honor the theme of this viator booked tour of the countryside. I loved wearing this dress. It felt very fresh and feminine.
I’m going to work on an outline for next week’s post and actually post it on Saturday. I learned a lot, every day was a revelation.
It’s funny how people get information. I live in New York, and I follow a few people from my city and yet no one was posting about the lemon themed oasis called Citrovia. There’s basically a whole lemon art installation on 9th Avenue and 33rd. I only found out because I randomly picked up a free newspaper.
Since I have open time in the afternoons, I decided to head over after work. It was one of those hellishly hot days where you start to question whether or not New York is a hell mouth (it is, but we hide it better in the winter), and a shady, citrusy park seemed like heaven. It’s sort of interactive, but you can’t walk on the grass or step on the huge lemon discs spread all over the front lawn, so no selfies lying on them.
It’s kind of wild. Why lemons?
I love lemons, but I’m also partial to limes and oranges, and all three colors of fruit together would have been pretty interesting. Why not strawberries? I love red. Or kiwis because they’re so weird. Ooooh! A watermelon park because it’s THE summer fruit!
I almost forgot to blog today! Which is sad because I have a nice little post to share. I went to the Museum of Modern Art here in New York for a vacation day. I haven’t gone anywhere for pleasure in a full year. I go to work, the grocery store and then home. Every so often I vary it up, but it’s a slight variation, like getting off the train to shop at CB2 one day… but then I got right back on the train, so it wasn’t really anything. Just a blip.
I woke upon Wednesday morning and as I was getting ready for work I decided to go to MoMA. I just felt like it. I bought a $25 ticket online and that was it. I went off to a victorious workday where I got everything I wanted and got everything done and then I hustled to the museum. In addition to being the first outside plan that I’ve executed, it’s also the first time in a few years that I’ve desperately wanted to see some art. Especially art that wasn’t on a screen being shared for likes with comments under it.
I spent three hours working my way through galleries full of the self expression of world changing artists and thought about how precious it is to just walk around freely. There were other people, properly masked and there was social distancing and it was extraordinary. It wasn’t a trip to Florida to twerk in the street, but it was something.
Way back in the mists of time I studied photography and at the time I already felt like I wasn’t going to make a lot of money taking pictures, so I took graphic design, public speaking and book and paper making to give myself a fall back plan just in case. As we all know, just in case is happening right now.
Book and Papermaking actually made me really happy, and I loved making books. For a little while I was actually selling my handmade blank books at Quimby’s in Chicago (apparently they moved to Brooklyn, too), which let me know that if I were willing to put in the work, making books and paper could be a real hustle. Unfortunately I let it fall by the wayside as I chased a photography career and it’s been years since I even thought of making paper or books.
Enter the pandemic!
When it became obvious that this quarantine was going to be a long haul thing, I racked my brains for ways to stay busy and creative and make money. My job is retail adjacent so I wasn’t optimistic about going back full time. With unemployment kicking in an extra $600 I bought supplies for all of my creative endeavors so when the money ran out I would have everything I needed to sustain my efforts. One thing I bought was a papermaking kit. One sunny day I ripped up about two cups of printer paper and some Starbucks napkins and got started making my first sheets of paper in a decade. And it calmed me down.
Once you get started, it’s like riding a bike; you just get in and start creating. And since I can never just leave stuff alone, I started experimenting. Using water color paint to color pulp or paint on finished sheets, layering in found objects, and finding new ways to recycle paper scraps. I spent some time tie dying and saved the paper towels that I had laid down to soak up excess dye during the process. When I ended up with excess pulp, I put it in baggies an popped it in the freezer. It’s a zero waste kind of hobby.
I used one of my little cards as packaging for my first custom soap order. I think I’m going to make cards with envelopes to start with, because I’m really liking the process. Of corse I posted everything on instagram, as one does these days, and I was approached to create a papermaking tutorial video for Creative Sunday, which is going to be a new app and marketplace for creative makers. Much respect to bloggers, because I found making a video to be a monumental pain. I shot in little steps and over the course of a week figured out iMovie and realized that you need a compression app to make the movie small enough to email.
But check out my reward… and since I was curious, I did a little interview with Creative Sunday founder, Lauren Michaels.
Creative Sunday interview:
SEBMARKETBK: What is Creative Sunday?
Lauren Michaels: We are a new app to get crafty! Creative Sunday was made to help anyone create and shop their craft, whatever that may be. With thousands of supplies, that next project (big or small) is just a checkout away. You’ll be able to peek at projects from other makers and share what you’re doing too. 🙂
SEBMARKETBK: What inspired you to do this?
Lauren Michaels: I always loved making (drawing actually, but I’m not very good!). It is pure joy and gives me comfort. But, starting a new project is sometimes really overwhelming for me. Plus, I found myself shopping materials from multiple places and always wanting to see how others do their craft along the way, so that’s when I realized there might be a way to bring this all together. And, here we are! With a great team, we are creating a new app to bring ease and fun to your next project.
SEBMARKETBK: When do you launch?
Lauren Michaels: We are hustling and building away! The team is making strides each day and hope to have this coming your way soon.
SEBMARKETBK: How can makers participate?
Lauren Michaels: I absolutely love meeting new makers (like you, Faith!). It’s the highlight of my day. 🙂 Our Instagram celebrates the process of creating—messy, colorful and all. We love highlighting amazing creations from all types of makers, so just use the hashtag #creativesunday, to show us your project for a potential feature. And, please feel free to DM us anytime—we would love to hear from you and do something fun together!
You can follow Creative Sunday on ig until they get their app built and watch my papermaking tutorial here. Keep checking my etsy for paper products to drop in the next few months. handmade holiday cards! (Or thank you cards, I’m leaving them blank). here’s a list of Papermaking Resources on Amazon if you’re interested in trying to make paper yourself.
I don’t usually feature other photographers, but I have a soft spot for perfection and I had to do a post about an amazing woman who makes art out of old clothes, bedsheets and her gorgeous daughters Jayla, Jada and Ella. I’m usually super jealous… but her work is so good that I had to get over myself.
I started following Alissa Bertrand’s page during quarantine and it kept me engaged with the old. I started waiting for Alissa’s posts. They’re like a portal to a fairy tale world where all the princesses are black with beautiful natural hair. Her work reminds me of old Ralph Lauren ads, or Sally Mann’s revealing body of work that starred her pre-pubescent children. Every image is stunning. The lighting is soft, the girls are self aware and graceful, and the clothing is everything a girl or woman wants in her wardrobe.
I studied photography at Parsons and Columbia College Chicago, and I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such a cohesive body of work or such consistent excellence. Enter the fact that she is doing all of the styling with clothing that she designed, and all of the hairstyling and grooming for the girls and you have a one woman fashion army. If she decided to sell prints, I’d buy them. And I wouldn’t mind a grownup version of this stunning white cotton dress with eyelet lace, either.
I got Alissa to answer a few questions about her images and her plans for the future.
The Jabella Fleur interview:
SEBMARKETBK: What inspired the photographs that you take of your daughters? Was there an artist or designer or magazine that informed your distinctive photography style?
Alissa Bertrand: What inspires the photographs I take of my girls is just simply trying to capture them and the clothing I make for them! It’s also a way for them to have some really amazing pictures of themselves as children, to look back upon and remeber all the times we spent together along with all the fun adventurous stories too. I don’t look to others to inspire what I do. I’m a vintage fanatic and I love vintage aesthetics, so a big part of my look is evoking that style.
SEBMARKETBK: Did you study photography or take any lessons?
Alissa Bertrand: I’ve never studied photography! I wish I had some more knowledge in photography. I simply know the basics of what I like and what I want to capture along with the feeling.
SEBMARKETBK: When did you start designing clothing? Do you remember your first garment?
Alissa Bertrand: I started sewing from the 8th grade, and designing and repurposing about 10 years ago! The first garment was a maxi dress for the girls.
SEBMARKETBK: Do your daughters take pictures or create clothing like you?
Alissa Bertrand: My daughters don’t take pictures. They’re just my mini-muses. They do enjoy sewing and creating little things.
SEBMARKETBK: Where do you see your artwork taking you? Are you interested in being in galleries or museums?
Alissa Bertrand: I see my fashion and photography taking me to the next level in fashion. I’m currently working on a fashion collection for girls, hopefully coming out SS21! I hope my work will end up in magazines and introduce myself and designs to the world!
So as a way to thank Alissa for helping me hold onto sanity during the horrible weeks of quarantine and then the first weeks of the protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, I’m doing this blog post. She reminded me that art has the power to heal, and that consistency is key in creating a successful art process. Her work reminds me to look towards my family for inspiration and savor the small pleasures and victories available to me.
Please follow Alissa and her girls on @jabellafleur (and tell others!) so that she’ll be a mega-success and I’ll get the coffee table book I keep begging her for. Any requests for collabs or publication should be directed to her on instagram.
The one where I bought some chicken feathers and I had this denim jacket. Trying to get some use out of that time in art school that I’m still in debt for.
I won a contest and got $100 to go shopping, I saw a plain, Old Navy denim jacket and I got so happy because I had a bunch of paint in colors that I never use ,plus some gold glitter that I got at Micheal’s. With Labor Day coming I was thinking that I wanted something that expressed that part of my culture (my family is from Guyana) without me having to wear anything that caused my bottom half to be exposed to all the world.
Prudish Yankee. I know. I don’t whine up and I can’t twerk. My soul is now bare.
I saw some feathers at the fabric store and the wheels started turning and I was like Eureka! or Irie…or whatever and even though I have no experience putting feathers on anything I knew my moment had come. It was time.
The fields of color are inspired by one of my favorite painters, Mark Rothko. It’s funny what the eye and heart will respond to. I went to a school where I was outnumbered and learned about artists who didn’t share my gender or race, but there you go. I love Rothko’s glowing, living fiends of dreamy saturated color. The idea of the color itself being the art, to force you to just contemplate the meaning and feel of a shade or hue is very powerful to me. This jacket needed gradations of tropical, vibrant shades that blend into each other like a layered frozen cocktail.
Once the paint was dry I added two rows of feathers for the win. Like the feathers on beautiful mas costumes worn by goddesses from places like Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, etc. Gold glitter is dusted across the shoulders and feathers like highlighter on brown skin. It’s the whole West Indian Day Parade and Carnival and Cropover in one upcycled jacket. I thought about adding rhinestones or big fake jewels but I liked it this way. Business in the front, bacchanal in the back.
White guy art meets black female immigrant culture. It’s so fetch.
Shop the blog:
Handpainted denim jacket with feathers, size XL
Hand painted rainbow jacket with feathers. Lightwash, classic construction. 100% cotton. Front is plain, with distress area. Back is painted from shoulders to waistband. Shoulders are painted. A double row of feathers runs across the back, dusted with gold glitter. Basically a birthday party in jacket form. Measures 24 inches from shoulder to hem. 22 inches from armpit to armpit. 23.5 inch long sleeves. *Free shipping *Only ships in the US.
Crystal ear cuff
Giant crystal ear cuff. Big rectangular faceted crystals outline the curve of the ear, with an underline of tiny crystals running underneath. Cuff has a clip for the top of the ear to hold it on. *Free shipping. *Ships only in the US.
Topshop jeweled faux leather minidress, size 4
80s style strapless black faux leather minidress with sweetheart neckline. Large acrylic jewels are set into the surface like a glittering net. The back is plain. Buttery soft leather like polyester, fully lined. Top is boned to provide support and a perfect fit. Pleats at the waist. Zips up the back. Brand new with tags, never worn. 25 inches from bust to hem. 12.5 inches across the waist. 17 across the hips. 18 inches across the hem, so leg opening is 36" circumference. *Free shipping. *Ships only in the US.
Steve Madden spiked stilletos, size 10
Steve Madden party heels. Matte black velvety spike heeled covered with metal points. Cutout on the sides. Worn once for a photo shoots, soles are lightly scuffed. Shoes are true to size. Heels are 4.5 inches high. *Free shipping *Ships in the US only
I was unexpectedly catapulted back into retail last year and I was bored. I was trying to think of a way to get a promotion while extending my job into something more creative, so I jumped on the Continuing Ed page at Fashion Institute of Technology‘s website to see if there was anything that I could turn into a bigger paycheck. I used to be a photographer, and have done some styling but I have no interest in doing photo shoots, so I had to find something that tied retail to art. Enter DE101 15A Prin D&E Dsgn – Small Scale Spring 2019 (a.k.a. Visual Merchandising)! I spent every Monday evening from February to May learning about why store displays look the way they look.
We had to build a foamcore shadowbox and every week there was a new assignment to create a contained display that expressed ideas and creativity without using words or being too obvious. This was the first assignment, white on white. Inspired by Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
The next week was a black and white assignment where I painted sheets of paper with fast drying acrylic paint (neatly referencing the previous week’s cotton balls in the white on black paint splatters) and using these awesome Steve Madden Harpir boots. It’s amazing how much fun you can have being creative when you’re just taking one class and it’s not causing you to take out crippling loans!
This one was about selling health & beauty products, so I chose my fave perfume and did a presentation inspired by Magritte’s The Banquet, a painting that features a huge red sun. I feel like I could have done the roses on the side walls a little better, but I was trying to invoke a sort of 70s vibe, and infuse my presentation with the spirit of both disco and tango. So…yeah.
We did the holidays (my family is from Guyana and I live near Eastern Parkway so I just drew on my own Caribbean culture for this one.), accessories and famous personalities (can you guess who I did for my personality presentation?). We had to make everything in class so that the instructor could see our thought process, so it meant packing up my art supplies and lugging my big bag of foamcore box parts from Brooklyn to Manhattan,making a ritual out of stopping at the Starbucks across the street from school.
For this one I painted the backdrop to evoke water, like the water you soak your feet in for pedicures. Blue is such a spa color to me. We had to take an element of the product and repeat it throughout the design. I sat in the class tracing a foot-shaped cardboard piece that came with some socks I bought. I just sat there cutting out construction paper feet and stamping them with a round sponge brush. Good times.
This was my final project. I was thinking to do something grand, but then I found out all we had to do was design a presentation with fruit as the product. We couldn’t cut the fruit, put holes in it, paint or carve it… I was a little disappointed, because I thought it would be something more sophisticated. I decided to make mine about lemons because I have an actual lemon plant that came out of a seed that I planted. Just pretend it’s a warm summer day and you’re relaxing and anticipating a tall, cool glass of lemonade form the giant lemons that came off of your tree.
I know, what a boring post!
What I took away from this class is that creativity never leaves you, and that having to build a presentation on the spot every Monday was a great exercise in discipline. I really like looking back at my shadowbox creations, and I can always use what I learned to improve my online stores or maybe go back to styling… Maybe. I’m definitely thinking of taking the large scale class where you dress mannequins. And I passed with an A, so I felt pretty darned accomplished.
Handpainted PUNK denim jacket by SEB Market BK, $150
This adorable jacket went from worst to first with some handpainting, embroidered patches, safety pins and sweet punk rock stars.
It's an extra small, and measures 20 inches from shoulder to hem, 17 inches from armpit to armpit. 14 inches across the back. Sleeves are 24.5 inches long. Jacket comes with a pouch of extra stars for you to play with. *Domestic, American shipping only.
So while I was gone from blogging I started selling pre-loved and vintage clothes on platforms like ebay, depop and etsy. At first it was just straightforward selling, like I wasn’t altering the pieces, just posting them. Then one day I rescued a Coach bag that had worn patches on the front and a busted strap, but was perfect on the back and interior. I messed with it and it ended up selling on ebay. Then I played with a thrifted red leather vintage 80s crossbody that I had in my inventory for about 2 years. Then I sold a sweatshirt. So now I’m a fashion designer with my own label. Why fight fate?
The PUNK jacket started life as a mass produced item treated to look like an authentic punk rockers jacket. Soft, distressed lightwash denim with a screenprinted band poster on the back. Originally created by Bethany Mota, I saw it and knew that I could do better.
I decided to punch up the faded colors on the back panel with acrylic paint, and then adding a silver leather star I got at the fabric store. I used black paint to emphasize lines and to punk up the PUNK lettering. I used gold and black to create a frame, and then put a safety pin at each corner (because punk rock). I chose silver stars instead of pyramid studs for a girly touch. Recently I painted the arms and inside of the cuffs for more edge.
What I love about is that it reminds me of movies like She’s Gotta Have It and Desperately Seeking Susan, 80s films with cool downtown heroines that whipped up fashion frenzy in every scene. You can wear it with sparkles or dress it down with jorts. Layer it over a hoodie in the cooler months to keep that Nancy Spungeon look going.
Shop the look!
Jay x Jay Godfrey sequinned black dress, size 0
Halter style with spaghetti straps. Open back, side pockets in the skirt. Measures 34 inches from shoulder to hem, 16 from armpit to armpit, 14 across the waist. Brand new, never worn.
*Domestic, American shipping only.
Converse All Stars white low tops, women’s size 8
Classic low-tops, already broken in. Measures 10.75 inches from toe to heel, 3.5 inches across the widest part of the foot. Can fit men's size 6. Shipping included in price. *Domestic, American shipping only.
Comes with detachable brass chain strap. Looks like vintage, some wear at top of flap. Measures 12.5 x 7, 19 in strap drop. *Domestic, American shipping only.
Red tank top, size S
Ribbed cotton/poly. 24 inches from shoulder to hem, 13 inches from armpit to armpit. Brand new, never worn. *Domestic, American shipping only.
SEB Market BK handpainted jorts, size 28″
Hand cut and handpainted denim shorts with one embroidered patch. They are folden in this photo to show the front and back paint colors (white, pastels). Super comfy premium cotton denim, perfect for summer days or wear with tights and combats in the cooler months. 28" waist, 12 inches ling from waist to hem in front, 13 in back. Waistband sits at waist. *Domestic, American shipping only.
Manas Designs leather motorcycle boots, size 41
Soft Italian leather boots with zipper trim. Round toes, lug soles, chink heel and side zipper. The type of boot that looks incredible with a sundress. Fits women's US 9.5/10. Price includes shipping. *Domestic, American shipping only.
I was attempting to clean up the desk I never work at and found this vision book that I started back in Chicago. I haven’t looked at it since I moved in here 3 years ago. I think I put it on the desk with the intention of working in it and then it just became a huge dust magnet.
This was basically how I plotted for fashion shoots, styling, or just thinking what I would get if I had unlimited cash. Or at least a few hundred to throw away. On whatever.
It was so weird to see these photo business cards I got from moo, to promote my fashion photography thing. I can never tell if I have talent or not. Sometimes I think I rock, and sometimes I worry that I’ll be flipping burgers at 65 years old.
The visionbook makes a great photo backdrop. I went on a job interview Friday, and bought these sequinned notecards at Target to send a thank-you note. I went through the whole rack and these reminded me of champagne bubbles floating up in the glass and I’m hoping that sending this to the person that interviewed me will get me back into the creative arena IRL. Fingers crossed.
The summer beach layout. I made this collage in 2010, and this page still pops. Sandals, bikini, see through coverups… timeless summer inspiration pages.