Flying Solo at Ky Wool Fest

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HippieArtChick has been doing art shows and festivals forever, so it with tremendous gratitude that I have attached myself to her this year and said, “Teach me, O Wise One”

And so she has. From setup and breakdown, to adapting to different crowds and booth zhushing 101 – I have been a sponge.  But October 2016 will go down in the annals of HippieDoodle history as the month I flew solo.

Hippie was running crazy with a ridiculous number of art and pottery shows and other commitments in September.  Then, just a few days before Kentucky Wool Fest in Falmouth, KY, she wrenched her back and blew out her knee. Muscle relaxers and painkillers were her new BFFs. Princess Drool will see you now… Nope, she won’t be seeing anyone for awhile.

A few quick calls later, and I had some new traveling buddies: Ashley, owner of Neely’s Knits, and Val, our shared designated ‘floater’ (ensuring biological breaks when our eyeballs started floating).

Kentucky Wool Fest

DIRECTIONS: Take one of the main roads in Northern Ky, and then turn left onto one of the ‘back roads’. Drive until you see the combo fire station/town hall/post office, a Shell station, and the Family Dollar. Turn right and then right again when you see that big tree Billy Earl hit with his tractor back in ’84. Then take your motion sickness meds, cinch up your seat belt, and hang on for the ride of your life. Lose your lunch at the stop sign, turn left and go another 700 feet. Your destination is on the left!

 

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A beautiful fall day in Falmouth. In addition to The Wool Tent, there were tons of other craft and food vendors.

 

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A stroll through The Wool Tent shows a good crowd and a nice selection of vendors.

 

Late night excursion to the Family Dollar for booth decor with Ashley and Val. Because you can never have too many skeleton-on-the-john door covers.

Late night excursion to the Family Dollar for booth decor with Ashley and Val. Because you can never have too many skeleton-on-the-john door covers.

 

Busy busy booth! I nearly ran out of rolags and had to start making more!

Busy busy booth! I nearly ran out of rolags and had to start making more!

Rolags and fauxlags - nearly ran out! I taught a bunch of folks to spin that weekend and had to keep making more!

Rolags and fauxlags – nearly ran out! I taught a bunch of folks to spin that weekend and had to keep making more!

Next, memories from SAFF!

Musings of a festival rookie

I suspect the words “Stay tuned for my next post!” are the beginning of the end for many new blogs.

Such innocent words, full of hope and promise, yet capable of squashing creativity and muse under the weight of obligation.

“Today,” I say to myself, “I am going to write about…”

Crickets.

"Nuthin' in my noggin..." --Dory (Finding Nemo)

“Nuthin’ in my noggin…”
–Dory (Finding Nemo)

 

That said, I think my radio silence is not so much a lack of topics, but a lack of time. Hippie and I have a very very busy few months ahead. Festivals, two trunk shows, demos, classes -something nearly every weekend. I’m a rookie, so every event is packed full of lessons. There’s just so much to learn!

So, let’s just talk about that. Let’s talk about what I’m learning this year.

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Our most recent 10×10 outdoor setup. Yellow Springs was the 3rd time we have set up as Hippie Doodle. Coming up: October 7-9 Kentucky Wool Festival, Falmouth KY; October 28-30 SAFF Asheville, NC / BARN F

Lesson 1: Boothing is hard work

Our last booth setup was A Wool Gathering in the very fun and funky Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was hot and rainy, but a total hoot.

I gave lots of free spinning lessons and worked the front of the booth like a carnival barker, while Hippie… what was she doing? Oh yeah, pretty much everything else. She did all the driving, all the mathing, most of the lugging of heavy things, and was the exclusive Reacher Upper and Getter of the Tall Things (she’s 5’10”, I’m 5’nuthin”). So basically, all the work. And yet I was exhausted.

My lesson? Step up your game, Doodle. Start working out. Hike up your big girl panties, and get in shape. Boothing is not for wussies.

Lesson 2: SCIENCE!

Zhuzhing verb. As in “needs more zhuzhing”. Tiny little adjustments to make a design perfect.
(Source: Mike West, as quoted in The Urban Dictionary of Design Slang, www.fastcodesign.com.)

You can’t put everything at the front of the booth, but where and how you display your wares matters. I won’t delve into the science of marketing and optimizing product displays (’cause I could), but I will say I think we did a much better job this time around. Our new layout worked well for a 10 x 10. It created a welcoming space that flowed well.

That said, we suspect the batts and bags fell under some sort of invisibility spell. Nobody looked at them. Not in a ‘meh, not interested’ sort of way, but in a ‘bags? there were bags?’ sort of way. Like they weren’t.even.there. We zhuzhed that side of the booth a few times trying to build interest, but eventually, I started turning my batts into the little fauxlags that were actually selling.

The Ladder of Invisibility. Where bags and batts go to live out their lives in peace and obscurity.

The Ladder of Invisibility. Bags and batts come here to live out their lives in peace and obscurity.

Isn’t it interesting where the Shopping Faerie chooses to wave her magical wand of fancy? This crowd was all about yarn, spindles, and rolags. The next crowd may be interested in batts, batiks, and felting.

My lesson? Keep zhuzhing. Every event is different and those tiny adjustments are part of the job.

Lesson 3: Keep channeling my inner carny

Let’s talk about Ray. Ray is a babydoll southdown (BDSD) sheep who lives on Four Hills Farm just around the corner from my house.

This is not Ray. This is a method actor I hired to play Ray. I like where he's going with his portrayal, but he is rather a diva. I borrowed his headshot from his agent's website.

This is not Ray. This is a method actor I hired to play Ray. I like where he’s going with his portrayal, but I question his wardrobe choices. I borrowed his headshot without permission from his agent’s website at www.nabssar.com (Homepage of the North American Babydoll Southdown Sheep Association).

Last year, I blended Ray’s fleece with some nylon and with his GGF Jeannie’s long luscious mohair locks (GGF = goat girl friend. That’s all I will say as the family asked me not to mention their rather awkward love affair).

I love BDSD. I tell everyone how much I love BDSD. I love it so much, I have a standing order for Ray’s fleece. I love it so much, that one fleece is not enough. I have a standing order for the fleece of Lilly, a lovely white BDSD ewe who is part of the Bergamascos’ Babydoll Brigade® in Scott County, Kentucky. I love BDSD so much, I am convinced that everyone else should love it too! Surely, people know. Surely, they will clamor for it.

Right? Don’t you just clamor for it? People?

No?

O.K. Lemme ‘splain. BDSD wool resists felting. Blended with mohair (what knitters used in socks before nylon), it becomes virtually indestructible! Like the Superman of wool blends. I blended it, spun it, knitted one beautiful sock, washed it in the washing machine, and air dried it (because I’m not handknit-sock-in-the-dryer brave). Then I waited. That sock was perfect. It didn’t shrink, it didn’t felt. I was pretty sure I was about to knock the proverbial socks off the fiber festival industry. Stand back folks, it’s about to get crazy up in here.

“See the Amazing Sock!” I barked. “Marvel at it’s unfelted glory! No more shrunken socks! No more holes worn through! Behold, Mother Nature’s Superwash!!”

I told everyone who came within ten feet of me at Yellow Springs. “Did you know? Has anyone told you? Are you aware?” And I sold one 4oz bag. That brings my total for the year to two.

Two people got excited enough to buy a bag of wool. Huh.

My lesson? Not sure yet. Perhaps I should give up. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is, no one wants your blend, Doodle. Suck it up and move along. Leave the BDSD at home and use that booth space to sell more sparklies and art batts. That’s one way of looking at it.

Or, perhaps it’s just because people don’t know. Yeah… maybe that’s it. They don’t know how incredible this wool is. They don’t know about the amazing feets (see what I did there?) of the mighty BDSD sheep. They probably don’t even know they want to spin sock yarn! And if they did, they probably wouldn’t know which wool to choose! Perhaps all they need is knowledge. The Magical Knowing.

What's it going to take, People? What sort of sheep and pony show is it going to take to get folks interested in Ray??

What’s it going to take, People? For the love of Ray, what sort of sheep and pony show is it going to take to get folks interested in this wool??

I’m not giving up. Not yet.

I will continue to wax lyrical about the super-powers of this sweet-faced little sheep. I am the Lois Lane of the BDSD Super-sheep. The Johnny Appleseed of sock spinning. If you see me at an upcoming event, and I don’t mention BDSD, pinch me. And then say, “So, I was wondering. What fiber would you recommend for spinning my own sock yarn?”

Then stand back, because it’s going to get crazy up in here.

Stay tuned for my next po… Wait. Nevermind.

 

 

Fiber and Clay and Mandalas

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Hippie art chick here…

While perusing the tubes the other day, I ran across the Mandala Madness CAL 2016…how could I NOT do this!!! I’m on part 5 of 18 and it’s already almost 2 feet across! Finished size is around 6 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m usually a knitter, but crocheting was my first yarn-love. And I’m totally into mandalas. I even put it on my pottery.

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I really like putting them on large serving platters, like this one; it’s about 16 inches. I didn’t manage to get a finished pic as it was a wedding gift and I was running behind. I basically took it straight out of the kiln and handed it to them.

I’ll post more pics as the mandala progresses…and if I get some finished pics of my mandala pottery. Thanks for stopping in!

Why Gandhi is to blame for my spindle shopping spree

I know. It seems lame to blame Mahatma Gandhi, the spiritual Father of a modern, economically independent India, for my lack of will power. But hear me out.

If you knew Gandhi like I knew Gandhi

I will admit that most of what I know about Gandhi comes from the 1982 biopic movie starring Ben Kingsley. It’s not just a good movie; it’s a great movie. Kingsley brings Gandhi and his epic struggle to life. Like most people who watched the movie, I was educated, humbled, and moved. By the movie’s end, I felt as if I had walked with the man and understood the Hindu beliefs on which he acted.

Aside from some random research, however, and a brief period of religious ‘window-shopping’, I really have not expanded on that body of knowledge. So, I beg forgiveness for my irreverent generalizations when I tell you that recently, I have noticed an ‘all-things-India’ theme running rampant through my life. Because I sometimes parlay random occurrences into a complete obsession, I have started to ‘geek out’ on India. I hate to admit it may not be just a personal theme, but a pop-culture trend. Popular media references to India have surged, perhaps influenced by ‘deep-thinking’ hipsters longing to connect to something ancient and mystical. Or perhaps a trend toward tolerance has made it safe for folks to be curious about alternate belief systems. With the adult coloring book craze, even Christian crafters have gotten their Hindu on. Mandalas are popping up online and in grocery end-cap displays everywhere.  Whether it’s just me or I am merely one of the barely enlightened masses, I have started to ‘hyper-notice’ the India theme. I compile imaginary, seemingly insignificant lists of unrelated happenings, make random connections, and sometimes act accordingly. Here are a few happenings that lead me to purchase a new tahkli spindle and then blame Gandhi, the great Bapu, for my weakness.

There it is, in all it's cottony glory, seeds and all. Compared to more fabulous and exotic fibers, it is decidedly not sexy.

There it is, in all it’s cottony glory, seeds and all. Compared to more fabulous and exotic fibers, it is humble, and decidedly not sexy.

Baa Baa black sheep. Have you any… cotton?

I love spinning fancy-schmancy fibers. Life is too short for blah fibers, and sadly, cotton just never made my heart sing.  I wear cotton clothing, almost exclusively, but spinning cotton just never seemed like something I would want to do. Not only is it difficult because of the short staple, but it lacks the tactile payback of the luxury fibers. When the Universe gave me cotton twice in one week, I noticed.

The first bag arrived just after Tour de Fleece 2016. I spun for several TdF teams, including the Kromski Owners Group and Yarn Therapy Zone (YTZ), whose monthly Spin Cycles support indie-spindle makers. I won 8oz. of natural cotton sliver from KnityGirl! Then last week, Singingfran, a badass little 70-something knitter and spinner, gave me a big wad of white and blue cotton sliver.

So now I had cotton, just sitting there willing me to spin it, and it occurred to me that Gandhi spun cotton. He was a big fan. Huge. He waged a campaign of passive resistance against the British Empire, who exported Indian cotton, milled it in England, then sold it back to Indian citizens. Gandhi invited everyone to spin in public (before that was even a thing), make and wear their own khadi (Indian woven cotton fabric), and boycott British cotton fabric. It worked. His efforts led to a quiet revolution and economic independence for India. So there’s that.

Happenstance or karma?

Hindu’s believe what goes around comes around. Karma can bestow you with many blessings or be a real bitch. Desire triggers thought. Thought triggers actions. Actions shape Destiny. The Universe runs a tab and eventually you get the bill. Coincidence may actually be a nod from karma-in-action, busy in the background making things happen, but it’s really about payback.

Nothing says "We love chicken masala" like a mandala. Design and artwork by HippieArtChick.

Nothing says “We loves us some chicken masala” like a mandala. Design and artwork by HippieArtChick.

Here’s a coincidence. Just before the Universe gave me a small pile of Gandhi’s chosen fiber, HippieArtChick and I introduced a new logo – our own mandala. My brainchild, her design. Something we can use individually, or together when we collaborate. Two halves of the mandala form the whole when we hang our proverbial banners side-by-side.

Hindus, Buddhists, and hipster-bohemian types use the intricately drawn wheels to symbolize the circle of life and a deep spiritual connection to all things. Hippie and I used it to symbolize… something.  To be honest, we chose a mandala because it looks really cool and we could pull it together before our next festival. Our deep spiritual connection is a mutual appreciation of Indian cuisine and Apple Pencil, but that really didn’t translate well to logo form.

Ultimately, the mandala appealed to us both. The circle reminded us that true friendship always brings us back around. Our mandala needed to be simple, but unique. It should capture her Hippie spirit in a doodle. A hippie-doodle.

I think she did a bang up job.

My contribution to the Indian Wedding themed August PhatFiber Sampler Box: Rolags or rovings. Super soft merino, Tussah and Eri silk, Bamboo, and some bling. With or without recycled Sari silk threads.

My contribution to the Indian Wedding themed August PhatFiber Sampler Box: Rolags or rovings. Super soft merino, Tussah and Eri silk, Bamboo, and some bling. With or without recycled Sari silk threads.

 

My big phat Indian wedding and a temple in the countryside

Here’s another coincidence. The good folks at PhatFiber, declared the August theme for their fiber and yarn sampler boxes would be “Indian Wedding”. Inspired by the vibrant silks and rich pigments of India, Phat fiber artists and contributors like me  jumped on that opportunity with both henna-tattooed feet. If you get a chance, check out their Facebook page. The boxes sell out fast, so if you want one, act fast. Diehard Phatties will snatch these up in a hurry.

The last coincidence? This weekend, in a field not one mile from my home, some lovely folks will break ground for a new Hindu temple. I’m not saying that Kentucky does not have free-thinkers who open their minds and hearts to other religions, but the reality is I live in the second or third notch of the Christian Bible Belt. When I moved to Winchester from Lexington, the local Welcome Wagon info packet boasted 76 churches in the greater Clark County area. Not one of them was Hindu.  Richmond is a college town, and possibly a bit more progressive,  but a Hindu temple, on my doorstep no less, is something to take note of and celebrate.

Not to overstate the obvious, but it was pretty clear the Universe was telling this mostly Protestant chick from the suburbs, “Be more like Gandhi. Seize the moment and learn to spin that cotton.”

What then must we do?

Spinning cotton requires highly specialized tools.  Portable, book-sized spinning wheels, called charkhas, helped Gandhi teach the masses of India how to make quick work of a valuable Indian resource.  Tiny spindles, often just a thin metal shaft and a coin sized whorl, allowed Indians to spin anywhere. My quick half-hearted attempt to spin the cotton on my wheel and spindles told me what I already knew in my spinner’s heart. I needed a tahkli, an affordable fast spinning spindle made especially for spinning short cotton fibers. Maybe it was my deep spiritual connection with Ben Kingsley, or maybe I sensed a message from the fiber gods, or maybe I just needed an excuse to buy stuff. Either way, I got busy shopping.

My Etsy-finger was itching, so it didn’t take me long to find this little baby. Guilt? Absolutely not. It’s what Gandhi would have wanted and the Universe had spoken.

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John Galen designs and makes these stunning spindles. He also responds at 1:30am when you simply cannot wait to buy the blue one, but the Cyber-Gremlins won’t let you. You can find his little works of art at JohnGalen.com or etsy.com/shop/johnGalenDesigns.

Next blog, I came. I made punis. I spun cotton. Right now, I’m off to see if Gandhi is on Netflix.

 

 

 

Supported spindling is MORE

Sitting in front of our booth at the Berea Quilt and Fiber Extravaganza this past weekend, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. If I was knitting or chatting with a friend, people just kept walking. When I picked up a supported spindle and started spinning, they stopped and watched.

When the nice boy from the Berea Tourism Council says "Smile, and make like you're spinning," this happens.

When the nice boy from the Berea Tourism Council says “Smile, and make like you’re spinning,” this happens.

“Hello,” I would say. “I’m making yarn on a supported spindle.” Their expressions might vary from confusion to suspicion, but always with healthy side of curiosity. Women would stare a bit, then politely smile. ‘That’s nice’. Men would cross their arms and scowl. They were working out the mechanics  (the wood tinkerers of the bunch thinking, ‘I could totally make that.’) Head cocked, one man finally asked the million-dollar question. “Why?”

See, his significant other is a spinner so this is not his first goat and sheep rodeo. When the spinner he loves says, “Honey, hold my bags,” he knows they’re going elbow-deep in the big bin of Gotland fleece. He knows that 3-4oz of wool fills a standard bobbin to bursting, which is why God gave us the jumbo flyer. He knows that a pound of yak-silk blend is better than 4oz of darn-near anything. He knows that the first wheel, and the current wheel, are no comparison to the next wheel. He knows one simple truth. MORE is more.

Talk about more!! Shrek successfully avoided the shearers for 6 years in the wilds of New Zealand. That's 60+lbs of wool! Source: http://franthony.com/the-story-of-shrek-the-sheep/

Talk about more!! Shrek successfully avoided the shearers for 6 years in the wilds of New Zealand. That’s 60+lbs of wool! Source: http://franthony.com/the-story-of-shrek-the-sheep/

Which is why what I’m doing puzzles him. It defies the laws of the known world. Why, he ponders, would someone make yarn on a tiny little stick when they could pull out the big guns and knock that job right out? MORE makes sense. Bigger = better. Everyone knows that.

My answer is simple. It’s not about MORE.

Making yarn on a supported spindle, or any spindle for that matter, is about the experience of creating. It’s about watching that juncture between the fiber supply and the singles where the twist just barely starts to sneak it’s way into the drafting zone. It’s about making a beautiful thing slowly. If I have 2 ounces of luxurious, beautifully prepped merino and silk, I don’t want it to fly through my hand and wind-on my bobbin lickety-split. I want to touch it and feel the soft hand and see the fibers meld together. I want it to last forever.

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Luscious merino silk and my FW Aussie acorn spindle. I stretched this project out for a solid year using several support spindles and never tired of it.

It’s about using a simple tool in a simple way. If I have a spindle, handmade by an artisan who painstakingly turned the shaft until it formed the perfect taper; who carefully balanced a whorl made from a piece of 5000 year-old bog wood or the fallen antler of a Maine moose; I want to get my hands on it and spin it for a good long while.

Every now and then, how much yarn I make and how fast I make it, should not even enter my mind. It’s not a competition. If I want to make a sweater, I can spin my yarn on a wheel, or buy beautiful yarn from many talented yarn makers. If I want to escape from the cares of the world though, and experience a calm most often compared to prayer or meditation, there’s nothing like a spindle.

Take to spinning to find peace of mind. Mahatma Gandhi

Here are some other things I like about spindles, specifically, supported spindles:

  • They are perfect for travel.
    • Portable and small, a supported spindle tucks in a bag or a shoe box.
    • ROAD TRIP! Spin in the car (passenger side, of course!) without banging your spindle on your knees, the dashboard, or the driver.

      I learned to spin supported spindle on a seven-hour road trip. I also discovered that a plastic reusable cup from a certain coffee shop makes a good travel bowl.

      I learned to spin supported spindle on a seven-hour road trip. I also discovered that a plastic reusable cup from a certain coffee shop makes a good travel bowl.

    • Take a spindle when you have to be on the road, but you absolutely, positively cannot miss a day of spinning (such as Spinzilla and Tour de Fleece!)
    • No wheel to schlep around. Even lightweight wheels are difficult to pack while hiking, sitting in a waiting room, or in the pickup line at school.
  • You can sit! Suffer from back, neck, or shoulder pain? Supporting your spindle in a spinning bowl keeps the action right in front of you without the need to stand or stretch your arms too high.
  • Spindles are amazing little works of art! I mean have you seen some of these??? I know some folks who have 100 or more and each one is special to them. The fiber industry, more so than most, depends on our support of artisans and indie-dyers. In a future post, I will delve into some of my favorite spindle makers.

    My precious Glasspin by Mingo Asho. True joy is finding one of these little beauties under the tree.

    My precious Glasspin by Mingo Asho. True joy is finding one of these little beauties under the tree.

  • No need to stop and wind-on when the spindle reaches the floor. For a short-legged chick like me, that means more time making yarn and less winding on.
  • Great for spinning lace-weight yarn and shorter fibers (the yarn does not have to support the weight of the spindle).

For dedicated wheel spinners, and the bag holders who love them, this is where supported spindling starts to make sense. This is the lightbulb moment. MORE time with the fiber. MORE control over twist. MORE hypnotic spinning whorls. MORE tactile feels.

If you haven’t tried spinning on a spindle, particularly a supported spindle, consider it. After some initial awkwardness (remember, it takes practice and muscle memory), you might decide that spindling is just what your soul has been craving.

You might decide that supported spindles are indeed MORE.

I am Spinner, hear me blog!!

Oh, great. Another blog. “Doodle,” you say, “Please, blather on about the minutia of your life. We need to know if you are feeding your family organic gluten-free tree-bark and kale muffins or making your own BPA-free shampoo/floor cleaner from used peach pits.” Trust me, I am not.

What I am doing, is spinning.

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Every single chance I get. When I’m not spinning, I am thinking about spinning. When I’m not thinking about spinning, I am making stuff to spin. When I’m not making… you get the picture. If I am not doing any of those things, I am probably hacking away at some Life Obstacle, so I can get back to spinning.

 

 

If you spin, you get it. If you have some other pursuit that consumes your life, you get it. “Why,” they ask, “would you ______ when you can just go to Walm–” Yeah, yeah. Blah blah blah. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one. Don’t expend too much energy trying to explain it to those people. They mostly mean well, but they will never get it.

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So, another blog. What’s so special about this one? Honestly, I don’t know. I will NOT use this space as a Joy/Rant Journal, but I can’t promise I won’t occasionally wax philosophical. It will NOT be another ‘Isn’t my life so fabulous and don’t I do cool things’ Facebooky thing, but I might throw out a few Pinterest worthy photos and how-to videos. I have a knack for completely geeking-out over whatever shiny squirrel runs in front of me, so prepare to be dazzled with some incredibly detailed randomness. For example, did you know that spinning fiber into yarn may have been a precursor to the invention of the wheel? Not dazzled? Well, did you know that giraffes clean their ears with their 18-inch tongues and saying a cuss word when you stub your toe actually decreases the sensation of pain? BOOM! You’re dazzled.

 

My partner-in-crime, my buddy-for-life, the tall and beaming SUNFLOWER to my left, is HippieArtChick (but you can call her Hippie.) For twenty some-odd years, we have been zapping each other with this sizzling, melt-your-brain, just-stand-back, sort of carpet-shuffling-finger-touching lightning-bolt every time we get within 10 feet of each other. It motivates us. We ‘muse’ each other. Hippie-Doodle is just our way of trying to capture that energy for good, not evil (OK, maybe just a little evil.)

Well, that about wraps it up. Our maiden blog post. We swing it like Thor’s hammer and fling it into the Universe to wreak it’s havoc. Fly, Hippie-Doodle, fly!!!

we’re live!!!

yah, we’re live!!! hippie art chick here. doodle is the real brains behind the blogging, so i’m sure she’ll be adding something really interesting soon!