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Archive for "Aunties"

Babes of Marimekko: VUOKKO NURMESNIEMI

2 September 2014
Cassie McGettigan

VUOKKO NURMESNIEMI portrait by Juliana HarkkiPortrait of Vuokko by Juliana Harkki.

for Marimekko is what is best known by most. In 1953, the year she joined the company, she designed the stripe “Piccolo.” The print is comprised of one or two passes of stripes that can overlap to form a third color. This approach takes brilliant advantage of large-scale silkscreen printing, which she helped Marimekko to develop (and we now do, too). Smart minimalism and flexibility of design have been at the center of her work since.

Vuokko’s stripes were an immediate sensation. In 1956, Marimekko introduced the iconic Jokapoika (“Everyboy”) shirt as their first garment for men. Over the years, Vuokko has designed more than 300 colorways for “Piccolo” to be used for the shirts, from her original Mediterranean-inspired palette to black on white and everything in between. 


Armi Ratia wearing Jokapoika

On the right here is Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko, in the late 1960s, out playing the model in one of the zillions of Jokapoika striped shirts she made. She, like many ladies, had no trouble borrowing from the men’s department. Though “Piccolo” was also used for garments intended for women, such as the Kivijalkamekko dress, designed by Vuokko and shown here with Ilmari Tapiovaara’s egg sculpture in 1957.


Bouffanted visitors to scorched mediterranean locales who still always pack an umbrella, grumpy teenagers also expecting rain, kiddos–everybody!–got a great striped something.

Vuokko umbrella

Vuokko raincoat and kiddo

Here is Vuokko completing an installation of Marimekko goods at a gallery in Stockholm, in heels, in 1958. Bang story!

Vuokko in shop

Vuokko designed other patterns and shapes for Marimekko as well, including–I was surprised to learn–Iloinen takki, that dress with patch pockets that Marimekko first made in 1960 and still makes and adult women still wear. Vuokko intended the wee pockets to hold surprise gifts for the wearer’s beau, and that’s about the extent of adult sexiness I can imagine associated with this garment.

VUOKKO Iloinen takkiHowever, her signature spare, geometric style were evident from the beginning, as you can see in her split color wool blouse of 1956 and her Ritsa apron with “Raituli” stripes of 1959. And now, these are  questionably sexy body obsfucating garments I can stand behind, absolutely.

Vuokko dress 1

Vuokko sweater

In 1964, Vuokko left Marimekko to found her own company, Vuokko Oy, which she ran until 1988 and still runs a version of today. Left to her own devices, the body obliteration + spare geometry were turned up to full force and the vibe got super hot!







and office/studio in Helsinki was designed from top to bottom in 1970 by her late husband Antii Nurmesniemi (who also designed, for example, the Wärtsilä coffee pot for Arabia). It is open except for the bedroom with big views of the sea. Four mezzanines, including the swimming pool level which I have not seen a picture of but would love to see a picture of, stacks of Vuokko’s floor pillows and a heated floor = heavenplace.





(those glasses)

VUOKKO NURMESNIEMI portraitPortrait with plants by Anna Huovinen.

-We stock the Marimekko book at the shop, and it includes a bunch of images and information about Vuokko and Marimekko overall. It is, hands-down, the book we consult most when trying to forge through a new design.

-Apartamento ran a wonderful profile of Vuokko in Issue #07, featuring an interview with her and shots from her home, including the first two I posted in the series, and “I got rid of most of the seams and pleats. The Japanese say ‘Vuokko set women free.’ See, my design always starts from the fabric. I want to give the patterns a lot of solid surface, which often affects the shape of the final dress, loosening it up” and other gems. Track it down!


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Climb On!

25 February 2014
Holly Samuelsen

The focus of this video is the off the wall climbing prowess of Catherine Destivelle and her short shorts, but please take note of the excellent textile moves of the Dogon tribespeople. The baobab bark rope twining and indigo dyed skirts and head wraps are a fine example of some advanced textile know how. Thanks for the link Dr. Coplin!

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Lady Power Knitters

5 September 2012
Cassie McGettigan

Shit. Ok, just southeast of the beard, is that? Could it be?

Yep, that’s definitely a lady power fist motif among the torch bearing devils, sly foxes, and arcade game fellas adorning these incredible Swedish ladies’ sweaters. I know it, you know, they’re willing to stand in the mud all day to defend it:

Yeah, life looks good on their farm.

Note the dachshund in all this. Also, they seem to enjoy nice tropical vacations, where the heat don’t stop them.

Then, after very careful consideration, the ladies decided to allow men among them. All they had to do was wear awesome knits and like it. They knew how good they had it.

To enjoy seeing another powerful, unafraid of the cold Swedish lady taking control, look to Lukas Moodysson’s film Tillsammans  (which in the US was called Together). This bit doesn’t have subtitles going, but former residents of Bolinas and even those unfamiliar with radical group living should be able to follow the well worn conflict happening here.

All these awesome images are from Hönsestrik – ett sätt att sticka fritt by Kirsten Hofstätter, published in 1975. Stockholm used book stores, watch out!


17 July 2012
Em Gift

Today at our weekly morning lady pow-wow I was reminded of these three lovely ladies. I am overjoyed that Dolly, Emmylou and Linda managed to meet and collaborate in their lifetimes, which has allowed them to internet serenade me all-the-shop-day-long. I will also go so far as to draw a parallel to three other wonderful women whom I know to collaborate and continuously bear luscious fruits of labor that allows for me to be serenaded by Dolly, Emmy and Lindy all-the-shop-day-long.

In full celebratory mode and with my big boss lady power, I here declare July 17th, 2012 the first international


This day is for all the trios that be, all the goddess triangulations that makes things right and for all those illumi-naughty lady groups that meet, make and create. You know who you are.

Namaste Goddesses

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Ina May Gaskin

23 May 2012
Cassie McGettigan

INA MAY in the NYT!
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth in our web shop.

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Pregnant & Crafty Tuesdays

1 April 2012
Cassie McGettigan

This Tuesday, we’re delighted to get started with an ongoing crafty evening for mamas at the shop. We invite pregnant and freshly minted mamas to come sit and craft with one another from 7 to 9 pm on the first and third Tuesday of the month, so for now, that’s 4/17, 5/1, 5/15, etc…. We’ll provide the tea and gossip, you provide the projects.

Illustration by Barbara Nessim, from one of my favorite books on the subject, Birth by Caterine Milinaire, 1971.

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Vestirsi è facile

28 March 2012
Cassie McGettigan

1972, Italy, architects, all still concerned with simple clothing systems. And now, there’s a kit for that:

A kit! You shouldn’t have, Archizoom! But is this diagram nightmare really necessary to start making simple clothes at home?

Yes because it’s worth it:

Vestirsi è facile, or, Dressing Is Easy, was another tantalizing clothing system made by Archizoom Associati. I have no idea why the absurd aesthetic of the earlier Nearest Habitat System gave us American Apparels on every corner, but this system, which is to me infinitely more stylish and actually adaptable, seems to be available to us now only through limited supply chains such as Miyake Plantation, Kenzo Jap, Flax (kind of), and certain more discerning purveyors of world beat trimmer garb.

Please, allow me to present that for you again:

Assumed here as a basic element is a square piece of cloth. This first logical use of the raw material eliminates waste, enabling one to operate on a geometrically defined element with which one can plan, rejecting imitative operations of any anthropometrical importance.

Indeed, it is only by abandoning traditional sartorial methods still so ubiquitous in industrial production that we shall be able to cope with and correctly utilize productive technologies and methods, drawing planning criteria directly from the nature of the productive process.

In this case the first fundamental operation is to consider the fabric and the cloth to be like a continuous ribbon of unvarying width, and not an indefinite surface from which portions are haphazardly cut out.

And so forth, and so on, published in Casabella, December 1973, and Zaaaaang.

The best news is that there is also a film for this, also called “Vestirsi è facile”. A film! But I can’t seem to manage a way to view it….And I’m having trouble finding sufficient information. This deal is so rad. I came across mention of it in a book,  Italian New Wave Design, by Andrea Branzi, 1984, one I recommend. So this is a shout out–if anyone has some more information, please share it!

Nearest Habitat System

27 March 2012
Cassie McGettigan

OK, the year is still 1971. You are now a group of Florentine architects who began with a focus on radical architecture and urban research, and you have lately taken up an interest in clothes.

Cuuuute. Despite your day to day choice of sensible tweed suits and slouchey knits for your own body coverage, your idea for others is to make a simple clothing system based on slimfitting bodystockings over which decorated overalls could be worn.

You sketch it out, see that such a system would look nice in empty corridors on your own, in pairs. It would work with bald men with bushy beards, with haired men with bushy beards. It would probably work when you cast a shadow against a wall. Or when you visit skyscrapers, when you do yoga, when you play a stringed instrument.

You think to yourself, This idea works. Let’s test it out on some handsome neighbors. Sure enough:


Ka-blam! Sans understocking.

Hot damn. This last picture is from 1972, boys and girls. Nineteen Seventy-Two. And so, the American Apparel problem was born, never to look so very fine again. Oh man, oh man.

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Peanut Gets a New Name

17 February 2012
Lisa Foti-Straus

We Aunties welcome Oliver Brooke Halsey Murch into our flock of well loved, overly-much-kissed boys.

Our dear Bronwen gave birth to Oliver on the morning of January 22nd in the same room where elder brother Arlo arrived, in the same house where Papa Mickey was born on their family farm up north. Nice start little one.

Glad you’re here Love!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Midwife

31 January 2012
Nile Nash

Ladies and Gentlemen of my lovely community,

I, Nile Nash, am one of the three ladies that own this wonderful shop, Gravel & Gold. I am also a certified nurse midwife, a nurse practitioner of women’s health, and a registered nurse. So much of our intention with Gravel & Gold is to create community around our passions. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is seeing mamas and babies in the shop, or getting to hold wee ones while mama tries on clothes, or recommending any book by Ina May. And Gravel & Gold, both the shop space and you as a community, have always been a support to me on my path of becoming a midwife and starting my own practice.

So, I’d like to share with you that I’ve launched a fundraising campaign to help raise money for my new practice, Mama Lion Midwifery! I’m providing home birth and well woman GYN care to the community of San Francisco. Help me raise money for supplies like a microscope, speculums, and other goodies, rent, and a pro bono home birth for one lucky family. The campaign runs until the spring equinox on March 20th, when the day and night are finally equal and the light continues to grow. Think of all the lovely witchy metaphors that abound when you DONATE to my campaign!

Tell your friends and family:


P.S. Nilie caught all three of these beautiful babies in one week! Hazah!

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