Artist Profile // Xiaotong Duan

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This morning we’re thrilled to feature one of our closest friends and talented artist, Xiao. Ceramicist, photographer, and just all over awesome person, this little lady is making some beautiful work, and we knew we just had to share it with you all.

Xiao and I (Reg) go way back to college, where our soul-sister-ship blossomed over a bowl of pesto tortellini while watching Saved! in her massive wrap-around porch home in rural Coventry, CT. The first of many movies and meals we were bound to share together, the two of us soon became roomies, and now both live in the Boston area.

This little dumpling’s ceramics have been blowing up all over the Etsy stratosphere and the local Boston scene, she’s had a recent pop-up shop at West Elm, and she just re-launched her brand through a newly updated website and logo (which Christa got to design!).

Check out Xiao Crafted and her Etsy page to see some more of her stunning handmade custom pieces.


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You went to school for photography, did you take ceramics classes throughout college as well? Or was that something you got into after?
It’s totally interesting to compare the journey we take through learning and what our lil’ paper degree says. I got into ceramics in college a little late in the game or else I think I probably would have focused on ceramics. My good friend/ex-roommate took a ceramics class and she would bring back to the apartment all the cool things she made. I enrolled the following semester because I also wanted to make cool things.

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Obviously you love the animals. A lot of your chosen animals aren’t just your average woodland creature – you have everything from praying mantis to big mouth bass, where do you get your inspiration for some of the quirkier ones?
Honestly? Mostly from Nat Geo’s Instagram. I love the way they tend to tell a story alongside each image, it totally activates my inner naturalist. There’s just so many interesting species that I really like to explore beyond the more commonly know creatures. Like did you know that sometimes fruit bats are called flying foxes?

How long does it usually take to create one piece from beginning to end?
Oh man, I have no idea. If I had to guess i would say 10 days if the stars aligned perfectly. Clay requires a lot of patience because there is just a ton of steps involved in its journey from this squishy formless ball to something functional and beautiful. Usually I throw a batch of work on the wheel and then let it set up so that I can trim it within a couple of days. After that, everything is hand painted and left out to dry completely before entering the first kiln firing, called  a bisque. It takes a full day for everything to “cook” in the kiln so that it is solid and porous enough for the glaze. Then I take a day to glaze my work and then back into the kiln it goes for the final firing. The glaze kiln runs for a full day as well. Long story short, if this was a race, ceramics would be going at a slow and steady pace.
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So ceramics can be a pretty time consuming craft (pun intended), any scheduling tips for someone looking to take on a new art?
Just be patient. Ceramics will never provide “instant gratification” but it is an awesome feeling to take a lil’ lump of clay and make something out of it. For people starting out it’s actually a really good 1x/week kind of craft because how the background time involved with letting work set up and firing in the kiln. Just be warned, you may get addicted and just be constantly making cool stuff!
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What are some of your favorite shapes to throw? Anything that is still a tough one you’re trying to tackle?
Recently i’ve really gotten into making planters. Just in time for Spring! The forms are really simple but I love trimming lil’ feet on the bottom to give it a little height and negative space. I don’t really make a lot of tea pots because there are so many parts and spouts are always so challenging. Definitely something I strive to work on.
We noticed that you started taking on custom work, have any of these projects sparked an idea for a new line, or new piece? Or do you try to keep them separate?
My custom work totally inspires me! It helps me explore new themes and surface treatment methods for clay. Recently I did a platter that had my first human being. It was a cowboy on a horse set to the backdrop of the American West. I really loved integrating a background and foreground visual and I’ve created some new work that follows the framework from that original custom order.
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What was the first ceramic you ever made?
It was large hand built candle holder in the shape of a star with little moons cut out on each arm of the star. So cheesy. I see it every time I visit my parents and wish that the cat was strong enough to knock it off the end table.
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Who are some of your artist inspirations?
Ayumi Horie, Chotsani Dean, Diana Fayt, Polly Fern, Molly Hatch, Julia Rothman. Lady creators represent!
You recently had a popup shop at West Elm (congrats, btw!), do you have any other goals or dreams you’re reaching for with your work?
This year I’ve really been trying to make the push to establish myself as a small business artist. (Eeep!) I’ve been doing a lot more pop up shops and sharing my work with the people. I’m hoping to just continue to develop my work and continue to add to my portfolio. I would like to do some residencies and be able to continue to explore the medium.
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Go to late-night junk food?
Grillo’s Pickles
Night owl or morning bird?
Morning bird

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Espresso Con Panna

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When I made the heart shaped waffles a few weeks ago, I ended up with a big ol’ can of whipped cream. And while I’m not mad about it, I do want to actually use it – those things have a habit of lingering in your fridge for ages. I got to talking with Curtis, and next thing I know, I’m googling adorable espresso cups because he started talking about a drink he had seen in Europe – espresso with whipped cream on the top.


 

Other adorable espresso cups I almost bought, here, here & here


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It turns out, that the espresso with whipped cream drink is called an Espresso Con Panna, and it’s amazing!

After picking our our espresso cups, and grabbing the Reddi-wip, we broke out the Moka pot. I had gotten Curtis this Moka pot a couple years ago, but it hadn’t been used in awhile, so we made sure to refer to the experts over at Stumptown for a detailed explanation of how to brew espresso. Easily enough, we filled the filter basket, heated up our water and brewed some delicious espresso!

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The most fun (and delicious part) of this little concoction is mixing in the whipped cream (not seen in these photos because it isn’t super pretty). The richness of the whipped cream pairs perfectly with the bitterness of the espresso, almost bringing out a chocolatey flavor!

So get with your European-self and indulge with a mini cup of espresso con panna 🙂 Happy drinking!

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1 Shelf, 3 Ways

Happy Monday, loves! Hope you all had a nice weekend and were able to relax a bit!

Recently in the blog hemisphere we’ve been noticing a whole lot of posts for “one item, several ways,” be if for clothing or decor. In particular, one of our favorite little lady designers, Emily Henderson, has been all about showcasing a staple piece styled four ways, like with this credenza. We were feeling inspired by her ideas and decided to give it a go!

Below is a ladder shelf that I picked up from good ‘ol Walmart a couple of years ago to add a little more storage to my tiny kitchen — it’s proven to be very helpful for the bits and bobbles that we’ve run out of room for. We decided to give it three key looks that could work for your kitchen — the bar, a baking station, and the miscellaneous items.

Shelf: 

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With a big blank slate like this, it’s all about the layering. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to pretty little trinkets, so the layering thing was pretty easy to accomplish. 🙂

01. Baking

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The great thing about this ladder shelf is that it has some room for over sized items like mixing bowls and baskets, as well as the tiny knickknacks like butter dishes and mixing cups. Another crucial component to styling this guy was height and greenery. Cutting boards and vases are a great way to give the shelf the height you’re looking for, and some big leafy plants look awesome in mason jars, like this dried eucalyptus.

When making a baking station, you’ll definitely need your essentials. Hide your flours and sugars in pretty canisters, while tucking away baking powder and such in baskets. Showcase some of your fancier items like your good vanilla, and don’t be afraid to display items with some character, as we did with the aged baking pans. We also draped an apron over the edge of the shelf for a little bit of flair.

02. Bar

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This is a fun one to set up, because it makes you feel like an actual *gasp* adult. We’ve collected some pretty old empties for our top row, but it definitely would feel a little more impactful if you have an actual collection to show off. Throw in some of your good liquors, as well as the tools you’ll be needing, like openers, shakers, napkins, and glasses. We also made things colorful with a bowl filled with essential citrus fruits, and an aloe plant for a pop of green.

03. Everyday 

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So this is helpful if you’re kitchen is like mine, with a whole lot of little things in need of a home. Pots and pans will stack nicely on the bottom, as well as linens and cookbooks. Display your favorite tea boxes and layer with nice cutting boards. It’s great for the random things you have lying around, like my scallion-growing science project, and Christmas gifts from Christa like a DIY cheese-making kit.

Hope these looks were helpful for you guys, and you’re feeling inspired to get a head start on the spring cleaning! If you liked any of the above items, check out below to see where we got some of the key pieces!

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Look 1:
cutting boards, Home Goods
porcelain milk dish, H&M
fox cookie jar, Target
cake stand, Home Goods
cookbooks, Anthropologie & vintage
red canisters & utensil holder, vintage
flour canister & dish towels, IKEA
wire baskets, Pier 1

Look 2:
cocktail shakers, vintage and Crate & Barrel
brass bottle opener, vintage
copper mugs, Sur La Table
etched highball glasses, Anthropologie
deer antler, vintage
porcelain juicer, West Elm

Look 3:
DIY mozzarella kit, Etsy
garlic bowl, H&M
fruit bowl, handmade
etched glasses, cutting boards, baskets (see above)


For Your Valentines & Galentines

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February is here, and it’s time to start planning those little somethings for whoever it may be in your life. We’ve curated a few pieces that we think could be a perfect thoughtful trinket to let that person know they’re in your heart and mind – be it guy or gal!


Valentine
Red Velvet Pancake Mix
Timex Watch
Talisker
JCrew Factory Gingham Shirt
Garden State Vinyl
iPhone 6 Armband

Galentine
Ban.do Heart Weekender
JCrew Factory Drop Earrings
Tocca Roller Perfume
West Elm Heart-Dot Mug
Ban.do Drink Sleeve
“You Had Me at Merlot” Sweatshirt
Abercrombie & Fitch Sleep Shorts


Getting Organized // For the Home

Nearly everyone has “get organized” on their New Years resolution list…there’s just such a great feeling about starting the new year off feeling clean, collected and organized! It’s sort of like the precursor to Spring Cleaning. And since we live in apartments with one or more other people, the idea of personal space and organization is extra important. We’ve gathered a couple of our favorite ways to quickly spruce up your space and stay on top of things as possible!


01. Shelving

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Adding shelving can do a lot to a space, whether you add it directly to the wall, or in the form of some sort of furniture. We’ve had the best luck with wall shelving from Ikea, which also allows for a ton of DIY and personalization. Shelves are perfect for finding a home for those small meaningful items that you just can’t give up, showing off personal items you might accidentally tuck away in some drawer. They add visual interest to your walls, all while adding more storage to your space. If your space is small, just work upwards!


Our favorite shelving items: The EKBY JÄRPEN from Ikea, pretty much anything from West Elm, and the Emerson Shelving from World Market are all life savers.


 

02. Hooks & Rods

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Hooks are helpful for all sorts of things! Necklaces, scarves, jackets (obviously…), and even pots & pans. It’s a little nuts how much space you can clear up just by putting a few hooks or rods on the walls. Have empty space above your stove? Hang up your cookware! Jewelry always tangled? Display it on your walls by your vanity!


For some awesome hooks: Check out Crate & Barrel’s Sheesham Hooks, this classic look from Target, or Ikea’s LEKSVIK. We’ve also had some great luck at flea markets and thrift stores finding some old iron hooks.

As for rods: Add some more hanging space to your closet with Ikea’s MULIG clothes bar, and change your life with this pot rack and these s-hooks in your kitchen.


 

03. Baskets

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If you want to hide clutter, baskets are the way to go — they’re probably the easiest way to do a quick sweep in your apartment. Get some big canvas ones for blankets, towels, and linens, and some small wicker ones for random toiletries, magazines, and any other random bits. Reg’s kitchen has a wire basket for fruit, so you can always see what you have.


Great basket finds: Home Goods always has a plethora to choose from, or check out H&M’s home section, and of course, the almighty Ikea.


 

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“For yah Motha” Gift Guide

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Moms can be a little tough to buy for, because anything they want/need tends to be a new kitchen appliance or cashmere, which can definitely burn a hole in your wallet. While we REALLY wish we could buy it for them, more often than not we just can’t quite tackle it on your own. Our families often go in on group gifts for when Mom wants something pricey, but if you’re looking to get her something meaningful just from you (and with a smaller price tag), we have some ideas! Our go-tos usually include cozy knits, kitchen items, and pretty everyday accessories:

Knit Infinity Scarf // Candle Holder // Salad Utensils // Small Gold Hoops // Cutting Board // Card Holder // Seasonal Produce Calendar // Glass Tea Infuser // Everyday Tote

Love Want Need // Patio Chair & Cocktail Glass

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For us, summer time means a whole lot of what we like to call mega porch hang. Coined in the summer of 2013, the verb involves the act of lounging on a porch, patio, lawn, beach, etc, indefinitely. Often associated with hotdogs, cocktails, and sunglasses, mega porch hanging has become a fan favorite amongst millennials alike.

In order to achieve this high-level of lounging properly, one must do so in style. Thank goodness for retailers who help us so greatly with our endeavors!

LoveChair // Glass

Want Chair // Glass

NeedChair // Glass

 

Room Refresh // Minimal Bedroom

We’re spinnin’ off of our minimal living room feature from a while back with the bedroom version today! In case you forgot the basics, the key elements to this look are white on top of white, with some beige and wood grain, and more white. But you definitely can add a splash of color here and there if you’re feeling a little saucy. The root of this look focuses on stripping down from the unnecessary, and honing in on the lines and beauty of the individual statement pieces. The best part about this look? Fewer knick-knacks = fewer items for dust to build up on – yayy!

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Loving on this simple look? Here are some pieces we found to help break into the minimal bedroom scheme:

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// Lamp // Greenery // Poster // Throw // Wooden Boxes // Dipped Side Table // Inkblot Pillow // Patterned Pillow //

 

Room Refresh // Eclectic Bedroom

Hey all! In case you weren’t around last month or have forgotten, we started a new series at G&M called Room Refresh, where we took 4 themes (eclectic, minimal, global and masculine) as a basis to refresh your living rooms. Since we enjoyed it so much, we’ve decided to keep the series thriving and apply these themes in your bedrooms!

Behold, the eclectic bedroom! In case you don’t remember the basics to an eclectic room, it pretty much involves bright pops of color & prints, counteracted by neutral backdrops. Christa and I were big fans of watching What Not To Wear back in the day (may it rest in peace), and as Stacey and Clinton once said “it doesn’t have to match, it just has to go!” Here’s some inspiration to get you started:

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If you love the eclectic look like we do and are looking to add a little spice to your boudoir, here are some pieces to rev your engines:

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Bedspread // Yellow Pillow // Brown Pillow // Recycled-Glass Vase // Pendant Lamp // Nightstand // Geo-print Rug