Featured Artist: Lesley Haas

Lesley Haas was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has made her home in Heidelberg, Germany from 1988 until 1996 and from 1999 – 2000. Since 2006, she is again living in Philadelphia.

She developed an interest in handmade paper after viewing a comprehensive exhibit in which the artworks were made with paper in New York City. Her technique and style has been influenced over the years both by ongoing studio and by coursework with well-known paper artists. She is an active member of the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA). The signature of her work is the use of natural fibers and pigments from various parts of the world to blend the characteristics of the fibers with different elements of style. As an extension of her papermaking she has created numerous objects from vegetable papyrus. Digital collage and prints can be found in her portfolio and the newer work consists of all types of recycled papers.

Job Description: Paper Artist / Personal Assistant

Upcoming projects/exhibitions:

PAPER: A Deckled Edge The Paper Artwork of Lesley Haas -UPenn,Van Pelt-Dietrich Library thru February 15, 2013.

Also Transfixed will be showing at the Library of Life exhibit, in collaboration with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Art Gallery of City Hall/ NE Corner/ Philadelphia, PA 19107/ Exhibition dates: March 11 – May 24, 2013, Reception: March 14, 5-7 pm.

Select links: http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/lesleyhaas.html

Habitat fro Humanity Upcycle Challenge auction…



What themes and concepts does your work generally revolve around? 

For years I delved into the fashion world which influenced my work. In recent years, I’ve created a series of paper scrolls, decoupaged frames and small paper art objects.

What are you currently working on?

I recently re-finished a large mirror for the Habitat for Humanity Upcycle Challenge, at the 2013 Philadelphia Home Show, which will be at their Booth in Hall A, between February 2-10.  Public voting: http://www.phillyhomeshow.com/PHS/AtTheShow/Ultimate_Upcycle_Challenge_286.aspx

What’s your background / how did you first get involved with art?

It took me years to launch my studio career, since I’m self-trained. My mother was a fashion editor and publicist in Philadelphia, and was very active with Fashion Group International, so she was always coming home with the latest trends.


What’s been happening in your life/ what’s next for you? 

I’m participating in the Habitat for Humanity and Home Decor Upcycle event. On from there, I’ve been accepted to participate in the European Cultural Capital of 2013 – South of France and I’ll have a table at the Chestnut Hill Home Show in May.

Any exhibits coming up:
PAPER: A Deckled Edge The Paper Artwork of Lesley Haas – September 4, 2012 – February 15, 2013- UPENN Kamin Gallery, VanPelt Dietrich Library, 3420 Walnut St. (entrance on Locust Walk)

Hours: Monday -Friday : 9am-6pm
Passes required for Weekends: can be requested on the day of visit – please call reference desk: 215 898.7555


Is any of your work political? 

Occasionally it comes through…

Has the meaning of your work changed over time?

Yes, it has. After creating representational pieces for entry into Edible Paper and my paper dresses, I realized I wanted to try and focus on more abstract art.

How do you choose your subject matter?

Usually it’s the material I have on hand. For example, a friend gave me some base materials, which sat in the back of my car for months, which Ifinally turned into the scrolls series.


Are you involved with any organizations/  Is there a group you feel affinity with/ do you collaborate with other artists?  

Yes, I am an active member of The International Association of Paper Makers and Paper Artists – IAPMA. On occasion I will collaborate with other artists.

What are some misconceptions people often have about you? 

No one has shared such info with me. You’d have to ask others.

What were you like as a kid? Gregarious and unkempt

Favorite writers? Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lalita Tademy, G.R.R. Martin, Barbara Kingsolver

Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels? Fantastic Four – Marvel Comics

What are you reading? Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


What are you listening to these days? WXPN

What are a few of your favorite spots in Philly/ elsewhere: 

Philadelphia Free Library, Magic Gardens, Wissahickon Forbidden Drive, Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, Italy, Weststadt, Heidelberg, Germany

Favorite artists and why?

Ben Franke – pristine photography, Inez Fritschy – I enjoy how she mixes media in creating her original objects, Josephine Tabbert – her use of home grown Esparto grass to use exclusively in her wonderful paper art, Alan Shields – he was sewing on paper and his work influenced me greatly! I met him in his latter years and mentioned this and he didn’t even seem to notice he had started a trend! Brad Holland – his illustrations sing to me!

What was the last exhibit you attended?

Society of Illustrators, NYC

haas_she whsipers

What was the first piece of artwork you bought/ do you buy a lot of artwork?  It was a silkscreen print. I’d purchase more if the money flowed freely!

What’s your idea of happiness?  A healthy and happy son! And selling my work!!

If you weren’t an artist what would you be? In the theatre 🙂

Your website(s): http://www.lesleyhaas.com


Handmade Philly: This Saturday at Philly Swap!

As mentioned a few weeks back, some of the folks from Handmade Philly will be holding workshops at Philly Swap this weekend. We will be leading a workshop on how to Make Fabric Necklaces from T-Shirts and we will be leading another workshop on Printmaking/ Stenciling.

Philly Swap will be held at the Broad Street Ministry on Saturday, May 12 from noon to 5 pm. This will be Handmade Philly’s 4th year leading a workshop at this event. So come on out, and don’t forget to bring those clothes you no longer want! Whether you leave with a sack full of goodies, or just one or two special treasures, you’re also bound to leave having gained some new insight on reusing clothes and textiles.

To give you an idea of what we’ll be working on, here are some pics of us making necklaces from t-shirts:

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So, what is Philly Swap? It’s a huge clothing swap complete with sewing machines and workshops, so that you can embellish and re-create all those fabulous finds.

Here’s the back story: In 2005, the Swap-O-Rama-Rama was created as an event to offer alternatives to consumerism.  Its creator and founder, Wendy Tremayne, saw an opportunity to showcase the creative talents of local artists and DIY specialists through recycling clothing and textiles while addressing consumerism head on.  Since then Swap-O-Rama-Rama has reached an international level with clothing swaps happening in cities like Istanbul, Jerusalem, Panama City, and hundreds of others.  Through the sponsorship from the New York Foundation of the Arts the program obtained its status as a 501.3C giving it a non-profit status.  A Creative Commons License protects the Swap-O-Rama-Rama while allowing the event to continue to be affordable and open to the public.

For three years (2008-2010) the Philadelphia Sewing Collective held the Philly Swap here in Philadelphia.  New producers have now stepped forward to relaunch the Philly Swap in Spring of 2012.

A Visit to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Oaks, PA

Sugarloaf Crafts produces several festivals every year in the Northeast.  This November I attended the show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center.   When arriving with my Friday ticket, I received another ticket for entrance on Saturday or Sunday, which I thought was nice.  The show is huge, and one might not see everything on the first visit.   There are over 260 booths, so you might want to economize your energy by seeking out your favorite booths first and then doing your general browsing.    The event was wheelchair accessible.   If walking, wear comfortable shoes for the cement floors are hard on feet.  I’m including a few highlights here, and the photos should become larger with clicking.

Susan Wechsler Designs, Chester, NJ

Susan creates hand built, high fired, sculpted porcelain and stoneware.   Her works have dimension, texture, and use a rich palette of colors.  Much of her work is inspired by nature, as you can see with the shapes of leaves on many pieces.   Her red maple leaf line really picks up the actual colors of autumn.   She has an extensive line of cheese plates with coordinating knives, which would make a pleasing gift for just about anyone.

JMN Creations, Pittsburgh, PA

Joseph Lavrich was an experienced cabinet maker before directing his talents to wood turning.  He uses domestic woods to make his lovely creations.  He knows the characteristics of each type of wood, and uses this knowledge to make pieces of varying smoothness, color, and pattern.  He told me that although he might start off with a certain design in mind, he allows the wood itself to tell him how the design will actually “turn” out.

Simon Xianwen Zeng, Flushing, NY

Simon paints in acrylics and oils, and also has giclee prints of his originals for sale.  His works show lively colors in landscapes and nature, among other subjects.   In addition to brilliant, popping colors, his paintings’ subjects are clear and artfully succinct.   I especially enjoyed the painting of the autumn red tree, perfectly colored for fall, the leaves represented by even swirls.

Light Painter Photography, Stroudsburg, PA

Dan Mohr’s specialty is fine art nature photography.  He showed many works of the beautiful countryside of the Poconos.   He explained to me the high quality of the inks that are used in his giclee prints, and that they can last for 50 years or longer, depending on display and storage.   His works are printed on canvas wrapped frames, making an actual frame unnecessary if so desired.  The image detail and colors can have you reliving your last trip to the Poconos, or wishing you were planning such a visit.

Olevano, Wilmington  DE

Olevano gets its olives from their family farms in southern Italy, and produces their oils, cosmetics, and soaps in Wilmington.  I can attest to the tastiness of their lemon infused olive oil, and there are many other flavors such as red pepper and white truffle.  Their soaps are lovely and are made in a variety of fragrances.  They seem to be able to do anything and everything that one can do with olive oil.  I thought the design of their honeycomb olive oil soap was just darling.

Add the above mentioned artists to another 255, and you have yourself a very full day, and perhaps a very full weekend.   The next Sugarloaf show will be in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the weekend of  November 18th.  They will be back in Philadelphia on the weekend of March 16, 2012.

—  Written by Diane Olivia

Design Curator: Simply Clutch

It’s Labor Day! The end of summer and the start of fall. Why not get a clutch for your re-emerging fall outfits? As the design curator, I’ve talked about simplicity, timelessness, and uniqueness in design. A clutch is a timeless fashion accessory in and of itself, but when Karina from Simply Clutch sets her hands to work her designs also have a beautiful simplicity in them; making the finished product strong.

One of my personal favorites from Karina’s shop is the Blush Silk Clutch with Black Lace. How can you get more timeless than black lace? Another personal favorite of mine is the Black Silk Clutch with Hot Pink and Aqua Chevron. This clutch retains a timeless factor, while keeping simple lines, appealing to trends, and using color blocking.

I was able to interview Karina from Simply Clutch before Labor Day weekend:

How did you get started making clutches? Why clutches?

First of all, I have always had a special obsession for clutches and purses. The holiday season had just passed and I was disappointed in myself for not thinking of a unique gift for my friends. It was January at this time and I set out to learn how to make clutches for my friends for the following holidays. It took me about 5 months of trial and error to learn how to make the clutches the way I wanted them. From there I spent the next few months making them to give out for Christmas.

How did you come up with the idea for Simply Clutch?

After the Christmas that I gave my friends their clutches they were obsessed with them and really urged me to consider selling them. I thought about it and decided that I would give it a try and see if people responded to my style outside my supportive group of friends.

What is the inspiration for your designs?

Colors and lines. Sometimes I see color combinations and think that it would make a great clutch. Even just walking through the fabric store inspires me!

Is there a specific kind of aesthetic you’re going for? If so, what?

Elegant and fun! I am a simply classic person with my tastes and I think that’s reflected in my clutches.

How do you find inspiration for developing new ideas?

Again it depends… sometimes different color palettes, fashion magazines, and also just life!

What is your favorite clutch in your shop and why?

This is a hard question! I like all my clutches for different reasons. For a formal or dressy event, I would pick the cobalt blue clutch with the large flower on the side, but maybe in red instead. For fun, the black chevron clutch with hot pink and aqua.

What kind of materials do you typically work with?

For my store I mainly use raw silk. I love it and it’s really versatile. At home, I’ll make cotton printed clutches but I would love to start using vinyl and leather too. Also, for most of my frames I use a nickel-free frame with a silver coating. Many times frames are made from nickel but people tend to have allergies to it.

So far on my monthly posts for Handmade Philly I’ve talked about 3 different aspects or categories of design: simplicity, timelessness, and uniqueness. What aspect or category of design would you place yourself in? Why?

Despite my store’s name I would pick timelessness. I certainly hope that my pieces will transcend trends and be used for years.

Elizabeth Wann ~ Writer & Designer

Giving Hope Style: NEL and Covenant Mercies

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Roselyn who wasn’t living a fairy tale. Roselyn inherited syphilis from childbirth. Her mother died of AIDS and her father abandoned her; she lived with her grandmother. Syphilis had given her sores on her scalp and created an odor so strong other children couldn’t tolerate being around her, so she couldn’t go to school. With one simple treatment Roselyn could be cured, and the price of the cure? One venti skinny latte from Starbucks.

What does this story have to do with Philadelphia? Well, a non-profit just outside the city in Glen Mills, called Covenant Mercies, was able to pay the small sum for Roselyn’s cure through sponsorship money. Covenant Mercies is a non-profit organization, which extends compassion and support to orphans in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zambia.

Covenant Mercies vision for orphans in these countries are as follows:

  • Enabling extended families of orphans to provide effective care through the Orphan Sponsorship Program
  • Building orphans’ homes
  • Providing adoptive homes for orphaned children
  • Providing Adoption Assistance grants for qualified families through the Orphans Fund

This vision is accomplished through the Orphan’s Initiatives program. The program consists of the orphan sponsorship program and orphan’s homes. The Orphan Sponsorship program is made possible by people who sponsor an orphaned child for $30 a month by filling out the Orphan Sponsorship Pledge form. The money goes towards medical, nutritional, and educational needs.

So, what is NEL and what does it have to do with this non-profit? NEL is my jewelry line, which incorporates only a couple materials to achieve varying creativity. The NEL design aesthetic is based upon simplicity and classic elegance combined with edge. NEL is not just about creating jewelry designs, but about raising awareness and support for non-profits. Now people like you can support this non-profit and in turn help children like Roselyn.

I’ve made a limited number of Hope bracelets for Covenant Mercies, and have priced them at a minimum of $15 with $5 of every purchase going to Covenant Mercies. Each order is packaged with either a tan or red burlap pouch tied with rope and comes with a Hope bookmark as a token of Covenant Mercies.

 But…you can donate more to the non-profit. The minimum amount you pay is $15, but you can set your purchase amount higher than $15; every additional dollar you pay for the bracelet goes fully to Covenant Mercies.
Send me a message on Etsy or email me if you would like to set your purchase amount higher for donations to Covenant Mercies. I will set up a special order for you.

{Order your bracelet here}

{Have a question? Email me here}

-Elizabeth Wann {Writer & Designer}

Design Curator: Simplicity

Simplicity goes a long way; especially when it comes to design. Think about when you’ve finished creating any of the following: a painting, a sketch, a film, a photograph, a piece of furniture, clothing or jewelry. Ask yourself one question, “What can I take away?”  A well-known designer asked herself this question in the early 20th century. Her name was Coco Chanel.

Cumbersome victorian fashion.

In Chanel’s day women were bred by Victorian fashion. Women were still stuck in corsets, skirts that encircled their legs with multi-layers of fabric and undergarments, and huge wide-brimmed hats weighing down their heads. Chanel never did succumb to the constricting styles of her time, but instead asked, “What can I take away?” She took away a lot and came away with a living legacy to her design philosophy.

Look in your closet. Do you have anything made with Jersey? Do you have a little black dress? Do you have a blazer? Have you ever worn a belt over a cardigan? What about an A-line skirt? All of this is Chanel.

 Her designs revolutionized women’s fashion and have remained a classic staple today and will continue into the future. Granted there will always be variations on each design, but the basic design idea was Chanel.  The cliché proverbial phrase, “Less is More,” applies to Chanel and her philosophy of simplicity. She used less, but received much more in sales and history.

Coco Chanel (left) defied frilly fashions and introduced simplicity.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Take a look at your newest creation and see what you can take away; be a revolutionary like Chanel. Go against busy and crowded design sometimes and take the simple road. It will be a new diversion for your art.


I’ll be here the 5th of every month giving you new design tips and design profiles. I’ll be your design curator. See you next time!

-Elizabeth Wann (Freelance Writer and Designer)

Conversation with Joanne

This is a repost of an interview I did with Tara Gentile who at the time was writing the Handmade PA blog.  She has since moved on to Scoutie Girl.  If you have not read her blogs I suggest you do.  She is very bright and has a passion for hand craft.


Originally posted on August 18th, 2009

IMG_2925What is your training in art & design?

I have a degree in Textile Design from The Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. Dennis has a degree in Art from Tyler.

When & how did you begin Steel Pony?

Our actual start year was 1992. I had been a Design Director for a Large Company and had been traveling something like 8 months out of the year and was very burnt out so I left to start an small import company doing private label programs. While I was building that I met Dennis and he was looking to do something creative. We started as a t-shirt company doing screen prints of our paintings and quickly ran out of money so we started hand painting other people’s shirts. Since my background was design it was a natural progression. For me working with Fiber is not a choice but a necessity. It is truly my passion so I am constantly trying new techniques.


What signifigance does the name “Steel Pony” have?

In the old days a Steel Pony was another way of saying a sewing machine. Because they were made of Steel and they had to work like a horse.

Describe the woman you envision wearing Steel Pony clothing.

Our Clothing has always been more a lifestyle and a state of mind rather then an age oriented product. Generally our customers are creative themselves, they are other artists, people who work in the arts in some way. They are women who are very individualistic and secure in who they are.

steelponyoutfitWhat are you goals for the future of Steel Pony?

Goals are a hard thing to define. We have never had a business plan and kind of always had a go with the flow attitude. We will continue to experiment with new techniques and reach out to all age groups. The Pony Project is a particular passion for me right now. It is the most creative part of my work and my assistants work. My goal there is to spread the word on that so it will grow and blossom into something really worthwile.

If you weren’t creating & designing full-time, what other passion would you pursue full-time?

That is a really good question and I ask myself that on a daily basis but I keep coming back to working with fiber. I guess I would be running around to do workshops on fiber and traveling to the places I have not yet been.

I have been doing interviews for Handmade Philly and would love to profile you.  Please e-mail me if you would like to be featured at joanne@steelpony.com

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