the new doonyaya shop

screen printed pillow // doonyaya.com

The online Doonyaya shop is (quietly) re-opening October 9th. It will feature pillows, pillows and more pillows. Actually, only a few pillows at first, with the mother-load coming in the next few weeks.

I’ve decided to focus on pillows because we all love pillows. And here’s why: pillows are the easiest way to add style to a room – and make you want to lie down even more, which I think is really important in our work ’til you drop culture. So make where you drop a soft and stylish landing.

Speaking of soft, most of my research has gone into making the pillows both comfortable and fabulous looking at the same time – a challenge of epic proportions. For example, I was having trouble with the white ink because there’s an additive that makes it more opaque, but it also makes it feel like rubber. One customer had to return their pillows because they didn’t want rubbery pillows. Go figure. I mean, I’m always on the lookout for pillows that feel like tires.

I also wanted the insert to be squishy – but not too squishy. Kind of like down but without the poky, crunchy feeling of real feathers (which also make me sad for geese and I don’t like feeling sad for geese when I lean against a pillow). And after months of pillow trials, I finally found it – the perfect insert. Everyone who picks up a pillow comments on how good the weight and squish feels. Plus I can say, “no geese were harmed in the making of my pillows.”

Another improvement has been the sizing of the pillows to make them a little tighter on the insert. Linen softens with age which can make the pillows look a bit saggy with time (like us all). So I solved this problem by having them sewn slightly smaller than the insert. Like botox for pillows.

Also, my special, top of the line pillows now include the softest fabric of all…drum roll…velvet. I love velvet on its own, but combined with linen it’s like the rolls royce of pillows. They elevate the most neglected, depressing couches to high profile, red carpet status. In short, it’s the easiest way to pretty up the junkyard.

So check out the new offerings and consider updating your digs with some fabulous pillows.

making an orchid planter

pottery project // doonyaya.com

Yep, I did it, I bought an orchid from IKEA. For $9.99. I had pretty low expectations of it surviving, because I don’t think quality when I think IKEA. I think streamlined. And orchids are anything but streamlined. They’re more like high-maintenance supermodels with needs like endless supplies of cocaine and cash. But if I had a gorgeous supermodel girlfriend, how could I possibly say no to anything she “needed”? So I took my high-maintenance orchid home. And immediately realized that it had needs. Like a very specific pot with vent holes for its roots that like to be damp – yet aired.

So like anyone would, I put everything else aside to make the perfect pot for its perfect roots. Because my orchid was going to be happy with me – forever and ever.

Plus, time was of the essence. My orchid was definitely not going to wait around for me to mess around with design considerations. It wanted what it wanted. Yesterday. So I scribbled an idea on a piece of paper and got to work: I rolled a slab, formed the shape around a bucket, then poked the air holes with the handle of a pen-tool. Done.

I’m actually happy with the results because it’s, well, streamlined. And best of all, it should keep my orchid happy . . . As long as I provide the proper humidity, keep the daytime temperature between 65 and 75 degrees and the nighttime temperature a few degrees cooler, keep it in the sun, but not too much sun, make sure it has gentle air circulation and proper fertilization, and don’t forget that it prefers ice in its water . . .

So where’s that supermodel girlfriend?

handmade orchid planter // doonyaya.compottery project // doonyaya.com


ink tests // doonyaya.com

I used to think that if I made something ugly or if things went wrong with my materials that it meant  a) I’m not talented enough and b) I should give up and do something else. I called it the “bail factor.” Because this outlook made me bail. All. The. Time. I didn’t realize that becoming an expert at something took time. And patience. And commitment. And not giving up – especially when things go wrong.

The only way to fail is to give up

About a month ago I came up against a problem that normally would have set off the “bail factor.” I couldn’t find the solution quickly enough for my self-defeating thoughts to tell me “this is too hard . . . forget trying to support yourself making things . . . just get a real job . . .” In retrospect the problem was small, but at the time it was insurmountable and overwhelming.

Here’s what it was: the white ink I was using felt too stiff for napkins. It was perfect for pillows because most people aren’t putting pillows on their face. But I wanted my napkins to be soft, which was one of the reasons I chose European linen to begin with. Linen softens over time and becomes broken in with washings. And the white ink was ruining all that.

But this time, instead of bailing I decided to run a series of tests. Because that’s what experts do. They take a scientific approach instead of an emotional one. They eliminate the problems through trial and error. And they stick with it. No. Matter. What.

So I tried various dilutions of ink to print paste, as well as different washing times and temperatures. I logged my results and eliminated the variables. I tested and re-tested, over and over until I finally had the perfect result: soft, white ink . . and another step closer to becoming an expert.

a day of screen printing

doonyaya • screen-printing

Truth be told, I don’t often have an entire day to screen print, focused and uninterrupted. So when I do, you can bet that I take full advantage of my time. Which, to this self-diagnosed ADD-er means running around like a decapitated chicken trying to get every possible idea formulated, all unfinished projects tied up, and a whole new line of products made and ready to launch.

At the same time.

Which is kind of impossible.

But whatever. That’s how I roll.

So I want to give you a glimpse into what goes on when I’m in my high-octane production mode.

First up is working on the designs, which are currently all about irregular geometric shapes. This is the most obsessive part of the process because it entails cutting up small, irregular shapes out of tape and sticking them onto clear acetate in ways that I hope will be amazingly awesome.

So after a while of working on this (like five minutes), I waddle on over to the washout station and “reclaim” some old screens. This essentially means taking a shower with a power washer.

doonyaya • screen-printing

As a side note, most of the photos of myself are in black and white because I just think I look better that way.

Next, I start work on a new repeat pattern, which means I have to get everything lined up perfectly. I’m a firm believer in doing this without the help from any fancy fandangled computer program like photoshop and its high-tech, easy to make straight line “guides.” In my low-tech world, making a repeat pattern is hard to do. Like really hard. Plus, I’m trying to insert a second color into the repeat, so it will be really obvious if things are even a little bit off-kilter. It had better work, that’s all I’m saying.

doonyaya • screen-printing

As another side note, I am always smiling when I’m screen printing because, for those of you that don’t know it, screen printing is really fun. I didn’t smoke anything funny beforehand.

While the ink is drying on my two-color repeat pattern, I start printing my new brick design onto linen, to be made into a beautiful pillow or cool napkins. This requires loud music of course.

doonyaya • screen-printing

As another side note, I’m printing at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY. It’s a community printing space where I can rent time to print until my sink is installed in my garage/studio space at home. Every day they hold a potluck lunch which is a great way for the resident artists and local printers to hang out. 

doonyaya • screen-printing

After lunch it’s back to taping irregular geometric shapes onto acetate. I’m trying to create another two-colored pattern with my triangle design. And it’s going to be awesome, but trying to figure out where the repeat should go and how to line everything up is hurting my brain. As a side note, I’m not smiling anymore.

And the rest of the day goes pretty much the same way as described above: Design. Rinse. Print. Repeat.

Lucky for me I get to go back tomorrow for another whole day of uninterrupted printing.

I should definitely be able to launch that new product line…

getting back to screen printing

screen-printing // doonyaya.com

It was a beautiful day of screen-printing. In fact, screen-printing never felt so good. Probably because I’ve had a few hiccups in my creative life over the last few years – like moving from Maine to New York with a ten-month-old, selling my business in Maine and starting a new business in New York, having my art supplies in storage for two years, renovating our farm house so we could live in it, moving out of our apartment in Hudson, moving into our almost-renovated farmhouse, moving into a new studio space, moving out of that new studio space because the landlord couldn’t seem to fix the leaking roof, putting my art supplies in storage again, throwing away all my screen-printing inks that expired while in said storage, working from a small table in my living room, using the laundry room as my office, struggling with issues over the fabric I had purchased, not knowing what to make without access to a screen-printing studio, re-designing and stream-lining my business, and oh, keeping our son alive for the first three years of his life – which made me appreciate an uninterrupted day of creativity. Let’s just say that getting back to “work” felt really good.

screen-printing // doonyaya.com

screen-printing // doonyaya.comAnd despite the set-backs, I’m even more focussed, productive and inspired about my work than ever – what’s up with that?! What kind of weird and slightly disturbing magic is mixed into the brew of life’s challenges? Maybe it’s the Universe’s little bonus for getting through difficulty – we’re thrown a bone of appreciating what we have and inspiration for what we do.

Creative challenges make me appreciate the successes even more — I see how much is possible with so little

The truth is, I resist creative challenges even though they give me so much. Having any limitation, whether imposed by myself or others, makes me panic. I feel boxed in and tied down. I tell myself I can’t work without full expression, all of my tools at hand, wide open spaces . . .

screen-printing // doonyaya.comBut the biggest lesson of these past few years has been that creative challenges help me be more creative. It’s an anomaly that I’m actually more productive when I have less to work with. Limitations make me hone in on what matters. When I’m forced to “narrow the focus”, as my coach Kathleen says, my creative mojo kicks in and I become ninja-maker: completely unstoppable with a single sword (or pen) and my own two hands. I get all: “who needs a studio? Who needs an office? Look what I can do with a laundry room and a pad of paper!”

And then when I do have access to a full studio with all the tools I could possibly need, it’s nothing less than total creative happiness.

And that is definitely worth a few challenges along the way.

latest drawings for cat-owls

cat-owl drawings

Here they are: the first drawings for my new line of Cat-Owls. Seeing them on paper makes it easier for me to spot common themes or the overall look of the line. It also makes it easier to edit and choose the ones to expand on, until I have a fabulous batch of Cat-Owls ready for handmade production.

cat-owl drawings // doonyaya.comI’m particularly fond of the triangular pattern and can just about guarantee seeing this pattern in full screen-printed glory in the near future. I also think the polka-dots and stripes are fun, although I’m debating whether the stripes are too plain. Maybe larger, bolder stripes? And lastly, I experimented with the “fish-scales” and have decided to keep them as the loopy pattern, but will also be trying other variations to spice things up.

As for their “pants,” the solid colors will be narrowed down to five options: grey, orange, dark teal, royal blue, light turquoise and apple green. Wait, that’s six … I can work with that.

And then there is choosing the background fabric colors for their “shirts.” The only color I’m certain about is pink because pink and orange should never be apart. And light grey because it looks good with everything. The rest of the color options need more investigating and experimenting to materialize into final decisions.

So, until then it’s back to the drawing board.

screen-printed napkins tested

screenprinted napkins // doonyaya.com

We spent a whole luxurious week at our new beach bungalow in Maine. That’s if you consider waking up at 5:00 a.m. with an energetic toddler luxurious.

But that’s not the point. The point is I got to try out the new napkins I made.

And they worked. Like napkins.

Not only are they stunningly, graphically cool, they are also functional. Which is all anyone could hope for in a napkin.

So, as a result of this “Homemade Home Challenge,” I have stumbled upon something I would like to make more of, and not just for my own family, but for your family as well: napkins. Lots and lots of napkins.

. . . and pillows. Because who can stop at napkins?

new designs: going old-school

design process // doonyaya.com

I spent most of this week cutting little triangles out of contact paper and sticking them onto velum. In a beautiful pattern, of course. I’m designing a new line of napkins and I wanted to add a creative challenge (because designing a new product isn’t challenging enough). Here were my guidelines: 1) only using simple tools to make the patterns 2) not relying on a computer for any part of the process.

But why not use the computer? And have perfectly uniform triangles to “copy and paste,” enabling me to whip out designs inside of an hour instead of a week?

A valid question. I happened to ask myself that every five minutes of tirelessly peeling off sticky-backs and trying not to crumple the thin contact paper that is better suited for big rectangle drawers than tiny triangles for napkin designs.

The answer is that I’m creatively stubborn. I’m determined to prove to my imaginary audience that watches my every creative move, that I don’t need a high-tech tool for a low-tech skill. And screen-printing is lo-tech, for those of you that might be intimidated by it. Monkeys can screen-print. Stoners can screen-print. Moms can screen-print. And we all do. Except maybe the monkeys.

Because what I love about screen-printing is that I get to use my hands to be creative, that I can literally feel my work being made. It’s a messy, tactile medium. Unlike computers.

Handmade shows something about the artist that can’t be translated in mass-produced products — and that makes it even more meaningful to me

I love the look of handmade where “mistakes” actually add character. For me, designs that are super slick and have no rough edges become dull and bland. I thrive on random “accidents” that come with creativity. Any time that I make a “bad” cut and the lines don’t match perfectly, I get a little internal thrill because I know that the design just got better.

So, keeping it old-school has delivered on all it promised: I have proven to myself (and my imaginary audience) that creativity is not generated from high-tech tools. That something beautiful or inspired can come from materials that are right in front of us. That the act of making can happen right now, with whatever is at hand.

I couldn’t ask for more from a roll of contact paper.

handmade screen-printed napkins

handmade napkins // doonyaya.comhandmade napkins // doonyaya.com

Oh my – aren’t my new screen-printed napkins beautiful? Not to boast (much), but I’m loving the stark simplicity. And I bet you couldn’t tell that the design was created from duct tape strips. That’s some fancy technology and skill.


The napkins are part of my creative challenge to make as much as I can for our beach bungalow in Maine. The idea: a handmade home filled with creative inspiration, passion projects and homespun goodness.

And since we had no napkins I thought it would be a good idea to make some.

Immediately. Because it’s never good to go without napkins if there’s a messy three-year-old boy in the house.

I already had some vintage white linens that I had picked up at a flea market and put aside for the “perfect” project (I know I’m not the only creative soul with a-thousand-and-fifty-two projects on the shelf – my next creative challenge: finishing every project before starting a new one), and I also had some duct tape lying around (who doesn’t?) and thought to myself: perfect napkin project.

Down to a-thousand-and-fifty-one projects.

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