Posts tagged: designer

A Chicago Mom’s Journey From Trading to Policing Naps

By , May 3, 2010 10:42 am

Cynthia talks to us about blogs, web design, and family

From living the life of a Chicago trader to becoming a full time Nap Warden, Cynthia talks to funsherpa about raising her kids, blogging, and running her web design business. If you’d like to know her secret of juggling so many activities, chores, and tasks, read on. Also, if you’ve seen our Mother’s Day gift guide, and still haven’t got a clue what to give Mom – Cynthia shares her perfect Mother’s Day when her husband and kids give her the day off. It’s a simple and thoughtful solution that will surely rejuvenate any Mom!

F: How did the title of your blog, Nap Warden, arise?

C: I started blogging while living in a high-rise with two tiny babies. I spent all my time trying to get them on the same nap schedule. Seemed all I did was police naps:/ Had I known it was going to follow me around for my blogging career, I might have given it more thought;)

F: What do your kids think about you writing a blog? Do they play any editorial roles?

C: My kiddos are really too young to understand what blogging is. They do look at the blogs Mommy is working on, and like the pictures. I’m not sure how I will handle that as they get older.

F: Aside from blogging, you also do web design – how do you balance blogging, designing, and being a parent?

C: I don’t sleep! Seriously, I take whatever time I can when I get a break to try to work. My biggest fear is that it takes away from time with my Husband. I try really hard to turn off the computer. It isn’t easy when I put so many demands on myself. It is a tight rope walk.

F: How would you describe your transition from a professional to a mother of two? Anything similar/different?

C: Similar, it’s hard work…and I had no idea what I was getting into. It has been a hard transition. It used to be when I met folks/walked into a room, they asked what I did. When I worked, I was a trader on the floor. That commanded respect, and folks were impressed.

As a mom, I believe since folks know what that is, they just say “oh” and move on to the next person. It’s really easy to not feel important any more. I wrestle with it a lot. I know this is the most important job I’ll ever do, but it’s really hard to keep your esteem up. I love staying home with my kiddos. I have really wrestled with no longer earning a big paycheck. That was the hardest transition of all 😛

F: Any advice to new parents in Chicago to ensure their kids get to appreciate the city they live in?

C: Take them out every day, rain or shine, or snow. There is so much to do. We belong to a couple museums; we go to the zoo all the time. Check out the free days (all the museums have them) I think it’s a misconception that everything is too expensive in the city.

I take my kiddos to the zoo, parks and museums every week. It’s my favorite thing about raising them in the city.

F: What are your ‘go-to’ restaurants in Chicago? Which ones are the most kid friendly?

C: I’m not much of a restaurant person. If I take the kiddos out, I like Frances Deli on Clark. I also really like The Athenian Room on Webster.

F: What have some of your best experiences on Mother’s Day been? What would make your perfect Mother’s Day holiday?

C: Is it awful to admit that the best thing my Husband did with the kiddos for Mother’s Day was give me a day off? He took the kids to his mothers for the day and gave me an entire day to myself…It was heavenly:)

I’ve only had a handful of Mother’s Days as an actual Mom, but that ranks way up there;)

F: Any special message you’d like to share with other Moms this upcoming Mother’s Day?

C: We/I had a really tough time actually becoming a mother. I was so stressed that I had “missed the boat” on motherhood by waiting too long to have kiddos. I suppose I’d share a message with other women in that boat. It’s something that I wish I could go back and tell myself…”Relax, the more stressed out and whipped up you get yourself, the harder you make things on your body.”

It’s something my doctors told me all the time, and it completely never registered. Now that I’m on the other side, I really wish I could have calmed down through all that.

Defining Millinery with Local Chicago Artist Tonya Gross

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By , September 15, 2009 8:00 am

Millner Tonya Talks About Her Hats

Millner Tonya Talks About Her Hats

With summer slowly trickling away, funsherpa digs into the Chicago fashion scene to rediscover the city’s top talent.  We sit down with milliner, sculptor, and pescatarian Tonya Gross to understand her artful inspirations and current design concoctions.  In this feature, Tonya also discusses potential hat designs for famous Chicagoans and Jon Gosselin.

F: Do you remember the first hat you ever owned?  What did it look like?

T: My first hat was a vintage piece I found at a thrift store.  I saw it as a project, a blank canvas to inject some personal style.  It was a pillbox with netting.  I added a brooch and wore it over my Aquanet-superhold-unscented-Robert-Smith-inspired hair sculpture.  Thank you Molly Ringwald, Morrissey and Cabaret Voltaire.

F: What inspires your designs?  Any particular design of yours you like the most?

T: I tend to let the material dictate what it wants to be and then give it a little nudge.  Music or an old movie inspires the personality of each piece too.  I like to crank Yma Sumac when I am blocking a hat and old Bette Davis or Ingrid Bergman films while hand sewing it.  It infuses the character of the hat…and the hat’s name.  Right now, I am working on a hat for a friend inspired by Myrna Loy’s character in the Thin Man movies.  It’s a chocolate brown felt with embellishments that include suede, a vintage bird wing and curled quills.

Inspiration to honor the integrity of couture sewing comes from the true couturiers like Chanel, Dior, Schiaparelli and Yves St Laurent.  Millinery heroes:  Raymond Hudd, Bes-Ben, Paulette, Ann Albrizio, Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones and my mentor, Eia Radosavljevic.

I think my most successful pieces are honest to the materials.  One of my favorites was a rolled banana leaf trilby.  Pure torture to stitch and block.  I took on the challenge of sewing living materials for my portfolio to get into art school.  It worked; then it dried and crumbled.  Back to the earth, as they say…

F: What is the most important thing you’ve learned from millinery school?

T: I attended a conceptual art school- not a millinery school- as a “developed adult”, shall we say.  I had many lives before deciding to go to art school which translated into a real earnestness to make the most of the resources while I had them. I connected with my instructors more than other students.  Fellow Gen X-ers, man.  You are my people.

My takeaways?  An unprecedented opportunity:  Total freedom to develop concepts and explore new materials.  I developed a deeper connection to ideas and materials, learned to trust myself and forged relationships with people I admire very much.

F: Can you describe a typical client of yours? Where do they wear these hats to?  It’s not very common that you see someone walking down the street with a fancy hat.

T: My typical client?  I design for fashion designers for the runway as well as a broad range of cancer patients, ladies who lunch, hipster boys, brides and nay-sayers who think their head is too big.  Custom millinery allows everyone- even those with larger beans- to indulge in head wear fantasies.

He or she has to be confident and have a sense of humor.  Confident because the reality is that Chicago is not London or Paris.  You stand out in a hat and people are going to look at you.  I like the risk takers.  The humor is in the details.

F: How did you end up designing hats?  What did you do prior to this?  What do you enjoy about the work that you do now?

T: Millinery is the perfect marriage of traditional method and art form that is open to modern interpretation through material usage, technology and environment.  I am turning 40 next week.  A late bloomer!  I rejoice in finally immersing all of my passion into one thing:  *My* business.  I always knew I wanted to own a business creating work out of a studio in or near my home.  I get inspiration at weird hours and like to squeeze the juice out of the day.

I like being a jack(ie) of all trades and taking on new challenges.  I am incorporating wood carving, sculpture, management, marketing and design into what I do.  All things I have picked up along the journey.  My business tagline is:  from hedge fund to head wear…hats for individuals who think outside the (hat) box…in a previous life, it was all left brain.  Now, life is a little more balanced.

F: Lets talk about imaginary hats for famous people – can you describe what hats you’d design for: Jennifer Hudson? Michelle Obama? Jon Gosselin?

Tonya's Black Hat Black Heart

Tonya's Black Hat Black Heart from her Spring 2010 collection. Photo By David Leslie Anthony

T: Dita Von Teese and Lady GaGa are more my aesthetic but I will play along!  Jennifer Hudson is lovely and see her wearing a traditional hat silhouette with broad brim and shorter crown.  But really, she needs a sexy fascinator to go with those eyes!  Michelle Obama?  I would love to make her a modern pillbox in a bold-colored leather in a not-so-Jackie-O sort of way.  I don’t know much about Jon Gosselin but first thought is an asshat and whatever that might look like.  Latex and baby powder.

My next collection will be dedicated to my group of friends, dubbed the Chicago 7.  Sipsters, the older, more worldly sisters of hipsters.  Bawdy and brilliant ladies, each and every one.  They are my inspiration and my family.  Each hat will be based on a personality.  Sure to be over the top.  Naughty and delicious.

F: How long have you lived in Chicago?  Have you ever thought about leaving?  Why?

T: I grew up in the wilds of northern Michigan and moved to Chicago about 14 years ago.  I label myself “urban crunchy”.  I love the outdoors- canoeing, climbing and camping- but enjoy the vitality of the city too.  I have always wanted to move west and learn to surf and find Moondoggie but Chicago has so much going for it:  Great live music, restaurants…a beautiful lake… dear friends.  Chicago is trying really hard to be fashion forward but we are in the Midwest and sadly, hats are about utility and less about fashion.  Problematic.

F: What are your favorite fashion boutiques in Chicago? How about secret source for affordable fashion?

T: I have a voracious appetite for thrifting so my haunts are off the grid.  I mix vintage pieces from Howard Brown and Salvation Army with the new from local designers carried by Wolfbait & b-Girls boutique in Logan Square and Habit in my hood.  Being in the fashion business, I get to meet some great clothing designers.  I try to buy locally as much as possible.

F: What neighborhood do you live in?  What are your favorite things to do around there?

T: I live in Ukranian Village a couple of miles west of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago.  It’s about beer, coffee and chocolate (not necessarily in that order) in this hood.  The beer garden at Happy Village…the cigars, T & T’s and people watching at Matchbox…Atomix café for delightful joe…and Sweet Cakes (which used to be my loft space before it went retail!) for chocolate goodness and some wild memories.

F: Can you share your favorite restaurants with us and what you order from them?

I am a pescetarian and thankfully Chicago restaurateurs are good to us!  I would be a bad Chicagoan if I didn’t say how much I love our pizza options.  The harmony of perfect thin crust and sauce is at Pequod’s on Clybourn.  I think about falafel sandwiches at least once a day and have one of the best right around the corner from me at Chickpea on Chicago Ave.  Sentimental favorite is La Creperie on Clark Street for Crepe Suzette and coffee in the garden.  I lived in Japan and am always searching for good sushi too!  Sashimi onegaishimasu!  We have Matsushita on Thome on the north side for authentic Japanese dining, thank goodness.

Mixing green drinks and new ideas with Peter Nicholson

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By , July 8, 2009 8:00 am

Peter Nicholson staring down the next wave of environmental solutions

Peter Nicholson staring down our generation's environmental issues

Always in search for the answers to unchartered environmental issues, Peter Nicholson shares his thoughts on the current state of the environmental movement, easy lifestyle changes to lower your carbon footprint, and places to see in Lincoln Square.  Aside from running a design consulting firm, Peter is also the host of Chicago’s green drinks – a mixer that incorporates both a panel to discuss environmental issues and an opportunity to network with the movers and shakers in the green industry.  If you don’t know anything about sustainability, or even if know everything about it, you should definitely stop by Green Drinks and pick Peter’s brain about the next big idea!

F: How did you get involved in the sustainability movement?

P: I came to it through design.  I didn’t just wake up one day and want to become an environmentalist.  When I knew that I wanted to pursue design, I asked myself what the interesting challenges and barriers were worth addressing with this approach.  As I became more involved, I realized that I was more compelled by those issues that emphasized empowering people to lead more meaningful and fulfilled lives rather than those focused on creating more stuff to be consumed.

F: Has your work evolved much since you first started getting into the sustainability movement?

P: Definitely.  I started getting into Sustainability and Sustainable Design in the mid to late 90s when few people were talking about it. As my understanding has developed, we’ve tried to incorporate more into our projects.  For awhile, it was primarily about environmental concerns, but now we’re striving to incorporate social and economic concerns into our work as well.  Step by step we are getting there.

F: What are some of your favorite design projects at Foresight Design?

P: It is always the next one – the one that we’re not doing yet!  I like to do things that I don’t know the answer for. For me, the most exciting projects are those that are in the realm of the unknown and we have to figure it out.  The sustainability world provides plenty of opportunities. There is no set roadmap for the problems we face, it is all new.

F: Are you ever worried about being able to find an answer for these unknown problems?

P: Oh every time! Yeah, there’s an element of terror, but it is also that fear that motivates you to push you ahead and think creatively. I take that emotion to drive the answer forward.  If the answer is out there, then we won’t have any clients.

F: How has the sustainability movement changed since you first started green drinks in 2003?

P: There are a lot more people involved with it right now!  When I started there were relatively few of us. Now there are all these people involved with diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Also, the culture awareness has definitely risen.  While we haven’t reached the tipping point yet by any means, I am now able to mention the word sustainability and not necessarily get blank looks in return.

F: Can you talk to us about how the economy has affected the green movement?

P: It has slowed things down in terms of people investing in new ideas and initiatives.  But  there is also great opportunity to change and do things differently. The economic downturn we are in, offers a chance to find a better way of doing things, whatever it is.

When the economy is down, a part of us wants to “recover” and go back to where we . Another side, however may question that and seek to let go, evolve and explore new ground, to recover differently. These two impulses compete with each other.  There is a security in the familiar even though at a certain level we know it is broken and corrupt – we shouldn’t be afraid of changing and moving towards an unknown direction.

F: You once said “Green should be the mass market norm, not the high-end alternative”…can you share some examples of any green mass market norms we can inject into our lives?

P: In general, sustainability shouldn’t cost more money.  Of course anytime you do something new, you don’t have the economies of scale yet and it is going to cost more.  But how about, not driving? How about buying a bike and selling your car? Or not buying a car, and joining a car sharing program instead.  That saves a ton of money.  It is these types of choices that can save us money and allow us to live healthier lives rather than continuing down a pollution generating or carbon generating path.

To do this, though, we really need a city with the infrastructure to support those behavioral changes. Thankfully in Chicago, we have a pretty robust car sharing system, and we have made progress on bike issues. The public transit system is ok, but really needs to be improved.  It is really these kinds of things that give you both greater quality of life at potentially lower cost.

F: What is your favorite technological invention so far?

P: I just bought a Wii and I think that is pretty cool, but when I was taking it out of the box I was like, that’s a lot of packaging!  I think my bike is great, especially with the gel seat that makes riding my bike so much better.  In reality, though, to me the solutions I really enjoy aren’t necessarily technological.  Take something like a green building.  It is not necessarily about putting solar panels all over the building, but more about designing it smarter. I’m not anti-technology, but sometimes the answer is just better thinking.

F: If you were President of the world, what are the first 3 things you would do?

Wow that’s a big question.  First, I would draft a law that says until everyone has enough food to eat and clean water to drink, investments into things such as heated car seats should not occur.  There is a certain injustice in how much time, energy, and intelligence we put into things that are on the verge of ridiculous when there are a lot of people with unmet basic needs.

Number 2, is that we institute Bhutan’s idea of gross national happiness. It is a concept that we consider development in terms of how it contributes to the well-being and contentment of as many people as possible, versus creating things just to make money. It is a very different paradigm than we’re used to.

Third, I would travel a lot…while offsetting the carbon footprint. Purely self-indulgent.

F: We enjoy traveling too! Where are your favorite destinations?

P: I have this habit of going back to the same places, like the Netherlands and the UK, to see some of my friends and sustainability colleagues.  The Pacific Northwest is great to visit because my family is there and because of the sustainability movement is going strong in that area.  New York is also a great place that I use to recharge and get inspired…it is a city that fuels my creative energy.

F: Can you describe your life out in Lincoln Square?

P: Besides taking advantage of the many modes of transportation here, there are some great restaurants, like Bistro Campagne, Spacca Napoli, and Garcias, and several independently owned coffee stores like the Perfect Cup, which we call our conference room. I also love walking around the neighborhood because of the tree lined streets and many residences have converted their lawns to gardens.  There is this Dutch word, gezellig, that I like to use to describe Lincoln Square – it basically means a warm, cozy and comfortable place.

F: We like the idea of green drinks – where do you guys host it?

P: We host green drinks at Jefferson Tap and Grill (325 N Jefferson). We’ve had it there for 2-3 years.  It is near the Green Line and Union Station so it is equally inconvenient for everybody.

You guys should definitely come and check out green drinks!  It is a meeting and educational hub where you can learn something from the panel discussion.  Also, people can join our email list to learn about what we do and how to get involved.  We want people to get beyond the awareness phase into being action driven.  That’s what we are here to do in a fun and meaningful way.

F: Any green buildings you recommend we check out?

P: One place to start is the Chicago Center for Green Technology.  It is a city owned LEED platinum building. Also, right behind it, is Rancho Verde, the headquarters of Christy Webber Landscaping, which is housed in a LEED platinum building.  With regards to high rises, definitely check out Jeanne Gang’s building called the Aqua.  It is near Randolph and Columbus, right behind the Blue Cross Blue Shield building.

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