mea culpa

Posted by Mara on October 18, 2012

I have not blogged in over a month!  I am sorry to be away.  I like blogging.

But I’m not sorry about the reasons for my long absence…which is primarily that most all my spare (by “spare” I basically mean baby-free) moments (and they are few, undeniably few) have been devoted to DRAWING.  Since that is why we hired me, it is good that I am doing my job!  We got a few really exciting custom projects in the last month–including a house portrait, a pet portrait, and even a couple humans.

Since my last post, in which I spent a lot of language on a sweet paean to my one-year-old son (see how smart I am, that’s my second Latin word in this post, and I’m only 2 paragraphs in), I also had a birthday.  I turned 38.  I had a wonderful night out with my love, my “baby daddy” Mateo.  We went to a restaurant with no sign that’s outside under a tree, very LA and very romantic!  And then we popped into a local hipster tavern for a drink after.  Super fun date!  Matt and Quinn gave me cupcakes with candles and sang Happy Birthday!  And I got a gift certificate to a lingerie boutique where I bought myself some lovely selections with the help of my awesome girlfriend, Jen.  Perfect birthday.  Until…the whole family caught some dreadful bug and got sick for a week!

Anyway, excuses, excuses, those are mine.  But I did want to just jump on and let everyone who is near St. Louis know to come visit us this weekend at the:

Tower Grove Fall Festival Farmer’s Market Extravaganza!  Saturday, 10/20 from 8-2!!

I’ll close for now.  But I’ll be back for more soon…


what she said

Posted by Mara on August 29, 2012

If you look in the blog archives to the right there under June 2011, you’ll find a blog called “Happy Birthday, Giovanni!” that Felicity wrote for Giovanni’s first birthday.  It is the best blog she’s ever written, probably dare I say the best blog WE’VE ever written, truly inspired, it makes me cry every time I read it.

When she wrote that a little over a year ago, I was way pregnant and looking forward to the day when I would write such a lovely homage to my one-year-old.  Two and half months later, I delivered said baby o’ mine, and this past weekend we celebrated Quinn’s first birthday.

When we began the process of birthing Quinn, it was because my water broke, not because I felt anything like a contraction–this happens to like 10% of women.  Furthermore, the young Mr. Ford sucks his thumb.  Or should I say thumbS, I guess some babies choose a dominant thumb, but Quinn sucks both.  Is he ambidextrous?  Only like one in a hundred people are, but we’ll see.  AND he is FINALLY, at one year, getting a tooth!  Most babies get their first teeth like 6 months ago.  And mooost babies get their bottom teeth first.  Quinny is now cutting a lovely little snaggle, his upper left front tooth.  From these stats, I conclude that our baby is special and unique!  Quoting Felicity, “And I am not at all biased.”

Felicity goes on to say that as a parent she finds herself feeling a lot of things that seem cliche.  I agree, so strongly in fact that henceforth I shall defer to her blog, because if I didn’t I’d write all the same stuff anyway.  Our neighbor, a sort of hard-edged Vegas comedian, said upon meeting Quinn, “Yeah, kids are amazing, eh?  All the cliches are true.”  He’s right.

Felicity quotes the old poem about children born on various days of the week, you know..?  She may have referenced this because Giovanni was born on a Sunday, and in the poem that’s kind of the best day!  Although Quinny was born on a Tuesday, he got off way better than if he’d been born one day later on Wednesday, as Wednesday’s child is evidently “full of woe”!  Tuesday’s child is “full of grace”.  It’s a little hard to judge a one-year-old’s natural grace, cuz I’m pretty sure they’re all a bit clumsy at this age!  But I will tell you this, Quinn is walking pretty darn well these days.  He still likes to hold a hand for long distances (like more than about 4 feet) and for running, which is his preference.  But he’s definitely on the go!  Hence his birthday present from his doting parents, some cool blue converse tennis shoes!

Quinn was born on Tuesday, August 23rd 2011 at 12:16am.  Maybe he is so “fair of face” because he was so close to being born on a Monday, made it to Tuesday by only 16 minutes.  Not sure, but in any case, he’s a looker.  Especially right at the moment because he’s got a pretty fab mullet going!  He’s tall and blonde like his daddy and has deep brown eyes.  He got the brown from my Italian side, but the depth might be his own.  His eyes are darker than mine or Matt’s, a color that’s not exactly brown, it’s almost black, with a hint of green, but lucid–his eyes are like the surface of a lake at night.

And with that, he is decidedly focused.  He’ll go and look you right in the eye.  Take a moment.  And then (usually) bust out with the most melt-your-heart smile you’ve ever seen.  Occasionally he doesn’t like somebody, and that’s almost always a dude, because this baby really likes the ladies.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard “flirt” or “heart-breaker” or “ladies man” or simply “watch out”.  But our pediatrician pointed to this quality yesterday at Quinny’s one-year-old doc’s visit, and he said, “One thing you can’t teach is charm, you either got it or you don’t, and he’s got it!”

Okay, okay, I’ve just gushed for a long time, though I intended to just be like, “what she said” and call it good.  But the whole dang parenting thing is such a trip!  We just have to keep talking about it because…”because the soul cannot contain such beauty.”  (Don’t know whose line that is, not mine or even Felicity’s.)

“Who will you be in 1, 5, 10, or 20 years, [Quinn Ford]?  I can’t wait to find out…but please don’t let it come too fast.  I love you.  Happy Birthday!”

Oh, I do with all my heart!  Happy Day.


personal and quality assured

Posted by Mara on August 9, 2012

Hey y’all.  It’s another beautiful day in sunny Southern California!  It’s gotten “hot” this week.  I’m complaining because it’s like in the 80′s…meanwhile my family in St.Louis is STILL enduring 100 degree temps.  Oh, the joys of living in LA.  I have to gloat about these things a little bit, because as any resident would likely tell you, they come with a price.  Like the traffic, of course, or the fact that we couldn’t find a decent place to have some lunch the other day because every place had a line out the front door.  And there’s always the fact that my Mom is pretty sure we could buy a house in St.Louis for what we pay in 6 months rent out here..!

BUT that is not what I am blogging about today.  I’m actually trying to tell you this:

A nice lady  recently asked us where Hand Drawn gets our printing done.  And we were like, um…Felicity’s living room.  And the nice lady was like, WHAT?  She assumed–as it has since occurred to us that many people might–that we outsourced all that printing and folding and stuff.  But I am here to tell you that we do not.  We literally do everything by hand.

Here’s our process, a rare look behind the scenes at Hand Drawn By Mara:  I draw a picture here, in LA, in my home studio, with my pens and colored pencils.  I scan it through the computer to Felicity.  In San Francisco.  She prints it on card stock using our fancy printer that we invested in.  Then she scores and folds all the cards, packages them in the pretty paper and box and ties the bow.

Additionally, Emily now does a bunch of other stuff.  And we have only conscripted child laborers once or twice when Emily’s daughter, Sophia, helped her put cards in sleeves for stores.  Her comment: “Mom, it’s so great that you can do something fun for work when you grow up!”

So basically, we do love our work, we are part of it every step of the way, so it’s personal and quality assured.


nick cave and the magic city

Posted by Mara on July 24, 2012

It’s 10:30pm on a Saturday night, and I’m blogging.  Time was I’d be out…having fun.  Instead I’m at home, drinking an Emergen-C, and writing about having fun.  Ah, parenthood.

I’ve been meaning to share some of the brilliant insights about art and life that occurred to me while I was in St.Louis and I went to see my brother’s band play.  ’Tis writ herein…

Adam Hesed, my younger brother, has been a rocker and a roller pretty much since he’s had volition.  I can remember when he was in high school, Adam arguing to me that Bob Dylan is the only contemporary rock musician who never sold out, and I argued that no one doesn’t sell out–but I kinda think now that he was right.  Very recently he asserted that Tom Petty is the most classically inspired rocker of our times.  And at this particular concert, he told me to go home and read Nick Cave’s lecture on the love song.  So this gives you a cursory sense, perhaps, of the sort of artist my brother is.  I have seen him play in many, many bands across the years, some of them quite good even, but I must say this current incarnation, Magic City, is by far the best.  I’ve seen them twice now, both times they were excellent, but this time was sort of revelatory.

Matt and I, having built-in baby-sitters in St.Louis, went to the bar after a long, HOT day.  And I didn’t want to go, I just wanted to curl up with the dumb book I picked up at the airport and go to sleep.  Maybe you know how when you live a few states away from where you grew up, you go home to visit twice a year, if you’re really devoted, and the trip is always too long and at the same time not long enough.  Some family member, a parent usually, but anyone really, especially if you come from a family of 7+ like us, someone will inevitably do something to push an old button that sends you right back to your 13 year old, angst-ridden self and you find yourself crying in the bathroom.  I had had one of those days.

So when we arrived at the show, Adam let us in, and the first order of business was to get myself a whiskey from the barkeep.  Then the music started and conversation ceased–because this music is LOOOOOUUUD.  But I, feeling vulnerable and dysfunctional, just let myself give into it.  My regressed self was like a sponge to the rock ‘n roll, totally absorbing it.  I felt like I understood this art form viscerally for the first time and feeling bad was my way in.

I was telling this to Adam afterward, that’s when he gave me the Nick Cave reading assignment, and he offered the word Duende.  I was familiar with this slippery term from my grad school days:

“Thus duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist say: ‘Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.’ Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action.”

It’s that thing, everyone feels it but it’s difficult to describe.  There is a darkness inherent in Duende, it’s sometimes translated as a demon or a “black sound”.  Everything we know and try to avoid knowing about the human condition.  Duende is when an artistic experience can pull up all the loss and sadness buried in the depths of our common humanity, and drive it into your heart, so you say Yes, I get that, I too have felt pain and seen beauty.

This is what was happening to me as I listened to the really loud music.

This was a sort of farewell concert for Magic City’s drummer who is moving to Kentucky.  And we think (read “hope”) Quinny is showing some aptitude for percussion!  And I was thinking how the Magic City drummer is somebody’s son like Quinn is mine.  And how I’m going to be my Mom someday and then Quinny is going to be in a rock ‘n roll band (maybe), and I’ll probably drive him crazy the way my Mom drives me crazy.  And it’s just because we love each other so much and know ultimately how finite it all is.  And this is what makes life so dreadfully beautiful.

Well, I finally did do the homework Adam gave me tonight.  Better late than never.  And indeed Nick Cave’s words resonated with crystalline clarity:

“…through [music], one sits and dines with loss and longing, madness and melancholy ecstasy, magic, joy and love with equal measures of respect and gratitude.”

Thanks, Adam.  Thanks, Nick.


almost postmortem

Posted by Mara on July 18, 2012

Hi, back in LA now, I’m posting a postmortem on the Farmer’s Market where we vended in St. Louis a couple weekends ago…

In theatre school, we always had “postmortem” after a production closed.  It was a chance to sit around and discuss what about the show worked and what maybe didn’t go so well.  I just looked this word up in the dic however, and evidently it refers to death and failure!  In that case, this is almost a postmortem, but I am happy to report no one died and it wasn’t a failure.

The Farmer’s Market was NOT a failure in that we sold a few things and met a lot of super “cool” people.  (I put that word in quotes because I’m using it ironically.)  There was almost “mortem”, though fortunately we survived through blood, sweat and tears–but mostly sweat!  My Dad was reading a thing online that I will quote not quite verbatim:

The hottest July 1 on record in St.Louis, MO was in 1946;  July 2 – hottest on record was 1983;  July 3 – hottest on record 2012;  July 4 – hottest 2012;  July 5 – hottest 2012;  July 6 – hottest 2012;  July 7 (The Day We Did The Farmer’s Market!!) – hottest on record in St.Louis, MO was in 2012!!!

Needless to say, in my last blog post when I humorously wrote that I remember St.Louis summers being rather warm…I had NO IDEA.

It was over 100 degrees, yes.  The good thing about Farmer’s Market day being in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave was that people actually did leave their air conditioned houses to attend.  I imagine if it hadn’t already been going on for 5 days, no one would’ve come out.  But at some point you have to just go on with your life.  And everybody looked crazed and drenched in sweat, so no one could judge me for my bedraggled appearance.  In fact the environmental challenge seemed to bring us all closer together.

So I guess that’s the up side of global warming.

Meanwhile we had to send Felicity home due to her delicate condition.  I think (since I’m allowed to now) this is as good a time as any to announce:  Felicity is PREGNANT with Baby #2!!!

So in the final analysis, I’d say things are looking good.  Not only did we not perish in the heat, but our production worked AND Felicity is growing a new little life!

farmer’s market

Posted by Mara on July 6, 2012

Hey y’all!!  Emphatic reminder: Come visit us at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market!!  We’ll be there this Saturday, July 7th from 8:30am to 12:30pm.  The market is located West of the Pool Pavilion in the center of Tower Grove Park.  (Which is located in lovely Shaw Neighborhood in beautiful St. Louis, MO.  Our ol’ home town.)

We’ll have all kinds of cool product to sell you.  And of course we are always in for a custom job too.

You’ll recognize us, because we’ll be the ones who look SUPER excited to be there!

The boys will have the babies for the day–and if I remember anything about St. Louis weather–they’ll probably be spending their time in the wading pool next door to the market.

So you may spot some super cool Dads and their babies too!

(The little blonde one trying to keep up with his older cousin will be Quinn.)

We can’t wait to meet you in St. Louie at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market!!!!!!



tri-city tour

Posted by Mara on June 27, 2012

This weekend begins Summer Vacation!  Summer vacation is kind of a lot of work for our little family, though I guess most vacations worth taking require effort.  We’ll be doing our usual tri-city tour from LA to Seattle to St. Louis to LA.  With our 10-month old, who is, for the record, getting squirmier and more mobile by the second.  The last time he flew, he slept the whole way.  I wonder if we’ll get so lucky this time..?

We have 2 parties planned for the 3 days we’re in Seattle.  Matt’s parents, in their retirement, have become Host and Hostess Extraordinaire.  They’re throwing Quinny his first first birthday (his actual first birthday isn’t until August 23rd–but one can’t have too many birthday parties I always say!)  And they’re having a 4th of July bash that is rumored to include some illegal pyrotechnics..!

Then we’ll be off to St. Louis where Hand Drawn by Mara is going to have a booth at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market onSaturday, July 7th!

We’re super excited about this!!  Our newest, most awesome member of the Hand Drawn team, Emily, set it all up.  And we can’t wait because it is the only time (so far) that Felicity and I have sold our cards to actual people, live, face-to-face.

Aside from the fact that we’ll have 1 night that we’re all actually in the same city to prep our booth for the next morning, there is also some emotional effort involved in this tour of duty.  It feels very high stakes to me because it is my work, my drawings on display.  What if no one wants to buy my cards??  Eeek!  I’m scared!  I hate it!  But it must be done.  And the bottom line is that I’m really proud of our product.  I like my drawings, but I especially like the finished cards that Felicity builds out of them.  She’s the one who fits the image, prints it and cuts and folds and packages each individual card.  And they are really beautiful when she’s done.  Even more beautiful live than in the computer.

Summer vacation is always taxing–the time you take away from your regular routine, the money you spend.  And it is always challenging emotionally.  Because at the end of the trip, we always have to say Good Bye.  But it is ALWAYS worth it.  And surely this trip, events and all, will be no exception!

[We'll remind you again about the Farmer's Market next week so y'all can come out and say Hello....]


crazy, heart-exploding, unimaginable, inexplicable

Posted by Mara on June 16, 2012

Father’s Day coming right up!  Fortunately, we made some cards for the occasion.

My Dad said, when asked what it’s like having all his children grown, “It’s great–my kids are my favorite people!”  And I’m finding what happens is you love them more and more as they grow.  (I don’t know, maybe this stops somewhere around age 13..?)  

This moves me because if my parents felt about me what Matt and I feel for Quinn, AND if that feeling keeps growing with the years, then those guys really adore me.  I don’t think one can fully understand how one’s parents love one, until one has had children of one’s own.  It’s such a crazy, heart-exploding, unimaginable, inexplicable feeling how you feel about your progeny.  And it’s so amazing to think that someone feels that same way about you.

Well, it’s a lot.  A lot to take in.

My parents and I were laughing on Mother’s Day because they were recounting the homily that the (Irish, naturally) priest at their church gave.  He told the following story:

Queen?  Saint?  Somebody had a baby boy who took ill with some medieval and terribly contagious disease.  The lady was already frail, and the doctor cautioned her that if she didn’t keep her distance from the sick child, she too would become deathly ill.  She obeyed doctor’s orders and kept out of the baby’s room.  But she stayed nearby to keep watch.  One day she overheard her son saying to the Nurse, “Why doesn’t my Mama give me hugs anymore?  Have I done something wrong?”  This broke the Mama’s heart, and she immediately ran in and swooped the baby up in her arms.  She stayed with him after that.  And a few weeks later…the Mama and the son were buried together.

My (Irish) Dad retold this story in a perfectly solemn tone, and then we all busted out laughing because what a depressing story to tell on Mother’s Day!  They said you could hear a pin drop in the congregation after that bomb dropped.  I guess it’s kind of a good story, but it’s a little bit duh, that’s what any mother would do.  Or father, I assume.

Though I’m interested to hear what Fr. O’Toole comes up with this Sunday..?

As for MY beautiful Irishman, the Father of my child, my partner in loving, and my beloved.  I cannot divulge what Q and I have planned in his honor.  But I will say this much: it involves lasagna.


the 2 Q’s

Posted by Mara on June 4, 2012

We really need to update our website.  Boy, time flies.

A lady at a cafe (who I happened to be talking to because she was admiring my beautiful baby!) said that for a new Mom “a day feels like a lifetime, but a lifetime seems like a day”.  She’s right.  Quinn is 9 months already!

A lot of the stuff on our website is not even true any more, mostly the stuff on the Our Story page.  For one thing, Quinn is here on the planet rockin’ it.  And Giovanni is not really a baby anymore, as he will be turning the big TWO this Wednesday!

Also, while I do still reside blissfully with my Mateo, we no longer live half a block from the Pacific Ocean.  I’m glad I got to spend a couple years in Venice, but the first thing we did when we found out we were pregnant was move.  Did I mention that our apartment was tiiiiny..?  Well, cozy.  But no place for a baby–good place to conceive a baby, terrible place to raise a baby.  We now live in Silver Lake, and we love our place here.  One of the very special things about our house is that it is on a street, a “Place” really, that is quiet and has terrific neighbors.  This is rare in Los Angeles.

For instance, today we spent the afternoon with our neighbors Cassie and Russell celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

This is not something that would be anywhere near my radar if they hadn’t invited us to celebrate with them.  Russell is from England, needless to say, where Queen Elizabeth has now ruled for 60 years.  No one, since Queen Victoria, has held the throne this long.

Well, even to us Americans, this seemed like right cause to celebrate!  So we met our friends at a nearby pub to raise a pint in honor of the Queen.  When we arrived they already had the flag with the picture of Queen Elizabeth displayed in our booth.  The only disappointment was that the pub wasn’t actually serving the fish ‘n chips that were sort of the reason we went there.  But we had lots of good fun!

And Quinny got a cool new toy to celebrate the occasion.  This is the first toy we bought our son (he has lots of toys, but they’re all hand-me-downs.)  This toy is a “lawn mower” type thing, which we decided was really more of a “scooty ride”, though he doesn’t ride it he pushes it…

Quinn, at 9 months old, is very anxious to walk.  He will have nothing to do with crawling.  And he’s so funny–you know like on the muppets how when they show their legs it’s weird?  Because it’s dubious that they would be able to walk, that’s like what Quinny looks like!  But the child is doggedly determined to become uprightly mobile.

And let me tell you something right now, it was pure parental pleasure watching that little baby laugh and squeal with delight as he chased Dada around the house pushing his brand new scooty ride.

God save the 2 Q’s!  Quinny and the Queen!!


Posted by Mara on May 30, 2012

Sooo…I was just checking out the Yahoo news feed.  Which is typically about how much brain power I have left at this time of day.

Just enough for articles about the old couple who’ve been wearing matching outfits for 35 years–well, that’s actually pretty great reporting.  But there’s also the trash, like who’s wearing what plunging neckline or horrendous fashion faux pas.  Some people are drawn to dumb stories about pets, I personally like the ones about dresses.  I sit down to do work, and then my eye gets drawn to some beautiful lady or catchy headline, and I’m off.  I am the dream of the internet brain suck.  I am a literate, thinking humanoid who is absolutely powerless against glittery, shiny internet smut!

Tonight, as I set down to send a few emails before getting to work on the important things I have to draw, I caught sight of an article itemizing 5 egregious mark-ups that savvy shoppers should always avoid.  One was pre-cut veggies.  Well, obviously somebody/thing had to cut them.  Duh.  Another was brand-name pharmaceuticals, mark up of 3,000 percent.  Double duh.  Another was mini-bar snacks..!  Who, I ask you, doesn’t know not to eat the mini-bar snacks??  And another was celebrity perfume.  Geesh.

It was the 5th one though that gave me pause: Greeting Cards.  They’re claiming 200% mark-up.  And advocating for Paperless Post.

So sad to me.  I mean whoever is reading this and thinking it’s news, and thinking “..the best way for me to cut costs and make ends meet is going to be to NOT buy greeting cards!” obviously isn’t our target audience anyway.  But it’s still unpleasant having a finger pointed in our general direction in this way.  And I would just like to say, in a highly indignant tone, that we at Hand Drawn by Mara work our bottoms off to make these cards!  And, to our minds, they’re not just a product, they are these beautiful trinkets, these tangible, little, tiny pieces of art, or something like it, that are special and earnest and unique, and are meant to be a conduit for human emotions, a special little thing that carries love, a communication of love, from one sincere person to another.  And you know, I like Paperless Post and stuff, but it’s just not the same.  Especially as full paper post is becoming less and less the way.  I would like our cards to be in a line up, not next to movie popcorn and brand-name sunglasses, but with artisan cheese and vintage clothing.

Things you pay for because they are worth it.  To be sure, we are not making money off our mark ups.  We are doing it because it’s worth it.

Final note, maybe better than the Yahoo articles themselves are the comments by the yahoos afterward.  My fave for this particular article:  ”I swear sometimes I just want to become a hippie!”

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