Wind In Your Fox Fur: you can never truly escape where you’re from
Hey, loves. I have officially been in Ohio for almost two months. I haven’t really disclosed my whereabouts or talked openly about where I am and my sabbatical until now. It’s been hard to slow down. Needless to say I keep thinking about the “outside” world and how absolutely isolated I feel, disconnected from my life in ways that have truly challenged my sanity, my resolve, and my style. It’s good for us to be here. Leo pup loves to have a big yard to run around in, freshly fallen leaves to play in, and snowflakes to lick as they drop from the sky. He’s basically happy. I should be basically happy. I didn’t even pack a pair of socks.
Hibernating in Ohio has been a challenge. I miss the sun. And fashion. To ease my boredom, and sartorial deprivation, I’ve been eating ice cream (hello, Graeters!), watching drag queen makeup tutorials on YouTube (Hi, Jeffree Star! Hi Miss Fame!), doing crazy nail art shit with my nails, and pulling some much needed creative energy from emerging South African and indie designers (more about that later because there are so many new-to-me artists I want to feature in future columns). To my own surprise, I even did a photo shoot here. It’s all been very “make it work.” And maybe that’s what I needed. To take a break from my habits and routines. To stop re-creating the wheel. To acknowledge this period in my life. Which is truly humbling.
So, yeah, I need to figure some things out. I need to stop giving the same people different opportunities to disappoint me. I need to buy some socks. My beautiful friend and drag performer, Cody Burly (aka Kim Burly), has been such a gem. I think about the things he’s said to me all the time since I’ve been here in the hinterlands. About being an artist and having an eye and accessing oneself as a creative being. Use what you’ve got. Scar into art. Shit into sugar. We all need to have faith. Not necessarily in anyone or anything, but in our own creative power, in ourselves. Foxes, shit is hard. Do it anyway.
truth and sequins.
I’ve always done some of my best vintage shopping in my mother’s closets. This time, I went for blingy treasures. I really wanted to find her sequined tops and jackets from the eighties. Not a total fail, but the wildly colorful Lichtenstein-esque piece that was the impetus for the haul seems to have grown legs and walked away. There were, however, some pieces that were just *too* eighties and some that neither of us were ever going wear, so those, my vintage-hunting honeys, will be going up on eBay. More importantly, the more items I pulled, the more I thought about how I grew up in this house. What I walked away with and used in real life. All I can say is, I got it honest. I got it from my mama.
Speaking of being honest. I was really down in the dumps and ambivalent about shooting the jewels from Custom Peace to include with this column. It had nothing to do with the amazing work that I’ve been privileged to wear by designer Cliff Lefevre but more to do with the fact that I started questioning my faith in fashion and art and what I was putting out into the world. Long story short: I got dick pic’d, ya’ll. By someone I thought respected me and was a friend. By a well-liked and well-known musician who apparently admired and used some of my more provocative public photos for his own, um, pleasure. (Seriously, who sends an unsolicited dick pic. To a woman. Who is also a writer. With the caption. “Our secret”?) That kind of stuff really fucks with your sense of purpose and being, creative or otherwise. So, I really had no desire to touch, shoot, or otherwise deal with my own art let alone anyone else’s. I’m glad that I did, though. Because the lesson here is sometimes kings don’t have any character. Sometimes you have to protect your spirit as well as your art. Beauty is beauty and the resulting shots speak to a place of beauty I had long forgotten. And they’re Miss Kim Burly approved. #metoo
late last last last last last minute gifts.
A little something for everyone you left off (ok, forgot) on your list.
Stephanie Inagaki Kitty Pins – so much gorgeous kitty Goth, so little time.
Happy Socks – dots, stripes, doodles, eighties, psychedelic, swirl, metallic, mesh, spaceships, leopard, cow, zebra, birds, paws, abstract art, guitars, ice cream, ladybugs, hearts, diamonds, fruit, paisley, palm trees, lollipops, neon, cable knit, hounds tooth, basket weave, zigzag, cotton, wool, limited edition designs from Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, Iris Apfel, Billionaire Boys Club, and The Beatles…seriously, if they don’t have a sock for you then you are a sad sad adult person.
Books – say it with someone else’s words. mary wants to be a superwoman, by me, duh (Third Man Books); The Soluble Hour by Hillary Gravendyk (Omnidawn); Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (FSG Classics); A Life of Style: Fashion, Home, Entertaining by Rebecca Moses (The Monacelli Press); It’s a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson (Back Bay Books); Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey (Octopus Books); Heaven is All Goodbyes by Tongo Eisen-Martin (City Lights).
Paddywax Candles Apothecary Collection – heaven and earth in a jar with a wick.
Jack and Stish blankets and scarves – swaddle, snuggle, sigh, repeat.
The Thin Man –old movie buffs already know this: Turner Classic Movie collections are the bomb. William Powell and Myrna Loy (and Asta) will make you swoon, laugh, and want to dress up like everyday is a cocktail party circa 1932.
Ashley Longshore beaded bags – because crying in Chanel is not very Beyoncé. This super funny, uber-talented artist gives me so much life! We even have the same favorite word (“fuck”)!
I came to jewelry designer Cliff Lefevre as a Native American woman looking to represent my heritage while on a 10-city book tour for mary wants to be a superwoman, which details my family’s journey from The Trail of Tears to now. Though I’ve never hidden my heritage, I had also never talked about it in such an upfront manner as I do in the book. I wanted people to “get it” right away, and when I came upon Custom Peace (literally, on Instagram) and the work that Cliff Lefvere was doing with Native American-inspired jewelry, I knew that I had to wear his pieces as part of the tour and in other public parts of my life.
When we started talking details about creating breastplates for the mary wants to be a superwoman tour, I realized very quickly that Lefevre was a hometown guy, meaning, he was also from Ohio. I also realized that he was young, and white, which I found quite interesting because he was creating these amazing pieces that truly and deeply reflected another culture, authentically and creatively. I came to his work as a half-breed that wanted to draw attention to my Cherokee heritage, especially when traveling through the South and into the eye of where it all began for my family, Oklahoma. I knew that he was part of telling this story.
“I’m from a small suburb of Columbus and have lived in the area my whole life,” Lefevre offered. “I had a pretty standard childhood growing up. I was in the Boy Scouts and participated in a United Methodist church. I was lucky to have 2 amazing parents that raised me with the right amount of pushing me to do things but also giving me freedom to choose. That manifested in my learning to play drums…and performing…[so] Growing up I was always interested in fashion and looking “sharp.” I asked him about his initial interest and inspiration behind his jewelry. “My dad was interested in Native American history and culture and took me to pow wows and in the Boy Scouts we would have lessons from American Indians about the histories and experiences in different camp settings.”
What I found most intriguing about Lefevre is the reason that I was drawn to his work is also the reason that he has received some unwarranted negative attention, most ironically, and disturbingly, from artists within his own artisan community. “I have had two specific experiences where someone has come to my booth during a [craft] show and told me and my friend (who makes and sells completely different art) that what I was doing was wrong. From the experiences I had as a kid, and my dad being knowledgeable in the Native American Indian experience, I knew that American tribal culture was just as important as any world culture and should be respected. Also, culture should be shared and celebrated! In both experiences, I was met with negativity and vitriol.”
Continued Lefevre, “I am the type of person to, regardless of situation, exist in positivity and love. In the first experience, I was able to express my knowledge of where the art came from, Cherokee and Lakota, and how I made it using only repurposed materials and kind of talk this person out of [their] state of negativity and out of the idea that I was using this medium because it was ‘cool’ and popular. After that experience I emailed the Professor of Native American Studies at Ohio State University, who is Cherokee, to ask her about my work and if it was okay to be making it. She told me that as long as I don’t claim to be Cherokee then I was good, legally and ethically. Continued Lefevre, “The second time was more recent… [It] happened last year at a [craft] show and I feel like I have to step back and see if there is a good way to settle things with people like that right then and there. I feel like I need to learn more about and maybe try to reach out to the Cherokee and Lakota somehow….Like, I have the [Native American breastplate] pieces but I don’t even feel comfortable putting them together because I [don’t want to be] on edge wondering if someone is going to come up to me in a negative state.”
Success and finding his niche in the fashion and accessories world has been the subject of many a conversation with Lefevre. That conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: “You know I’m part Cherokee, right? And I specifically wanted to wear your breastplate on my book tour about being black, white and Native American across the US because of how you navigated the culture and the materials. You don’t need my ok or the professor’s ok. People are always going to have something to say. Always. It’s how you navigate or don’t navigate the negativity.”
Also me: “You know, you have to think about what matters most. Those people throwing negative things out to you. Do they pay your bills? Do they sell your jewelry? Do they have any impact on who you are, fundamentally, as a person? Jealousy rears its head in many shapes. Lots of people have lots of opinions about lots of things and they’re going to share those with you because they can’t do what you do. They cannot do. What. You. Do. I’m mad now.”
His response was simple. “I’m just trying to be me…I also like to adhere to the Buddhist teaching of ‘want leads to suffering’ and that helps me stay grounded in what my ‘wants’ are.”
About his own personal style Lefevre says, “style is awesome, but it’s kind of like music. I can’t really hate on anyone for liking what they like, but I might not be apt to wear it. I think of style as another blank canvas in life that you can paint [however] you want… I like street wear right now, but am also down for prep classic 80’s throwbacks, off the wall one of a kind thrift finds…I just feel like pursuing my own style and then putting it in to my work. Spreading awareness of waste and individuality, and supporting those that do.”
His art definitely extends into how he lives his life. “I feel like every aspect of our lives can be seen as art, so yes, my style is an extension of my art…my whole goal is to get people to not support big business and to grow and support local endeavors. I wear things that get people to say, ‘I wouldn’t wear that, but you’re pulling it off.’ If I can get people to accept things outside of their comfort zone, then I feel like I’m undermining the popular belief of what fashion is.”
At least we agree on the power of fashion. “I feel like fashion can give us life! I feel like what I like to see visually is translated and given life in my work.” Lefevre feels like he was “drawn to fashion as a form of expression,” and concedes that, “perhaps earlier in my life fashion was more of a ‘participate in the trends to be part of the crowd’ thing, but now it has become an avenue to and for my self definition…I felt that over the last year I was working heavily on the breastplate and neck plate designs and got in kind of a rut. Also, I had a lot of leftover jewelry pieces that I felt weren’t in my fashion zone. In the spirit of no waste, I’m trying to use materials that I thought were unusable and force myself to expand.”
I have seen Custom Peace necklaces on some of the most fashionable women in Columbus and they are carried in some of the coolest shops in town. No matter what, Lefevre maintains that “the whole reason I started making jewelry was to give myself a one of a kind option in a world of sameness, and I am still working on that goal…I feel that what I make is special. I want people to have something that they can say is theirs and theirs only…A lot of people feel that they can’t make things or aren’t creative. We are all creators. I would like readers to know that anyone can cultivate their creativity, and if they believe they can, they can make and do anything.”
So what brings Lefevre joy? “I am content to sit at home and play drums and make music and jewelry and fashion for myself and be happy. We live in a society that says only the best creations are acceptable and that makes a lot of people feel inadequate. So here I am, making things and showing people and trying to find ways to lift up the world community.”
What’s next for the Ohio jewelry designer? “What’s next for me is to keep working on pieces and expanding my design styles while branching out into designing other forms of repurposed items. I make planters out of [upcycled] containers and I’m working on making plant stands out of old wood materials. I want to do more photo shoots and shows in places that I haven’t been to yet (looking at you, Nashville and Austin!). I want to keep searching for ways to show people that they can create and be and do anything they want and that giving and living a life of positivity is a beautiful thing. I want to [reach] people who don’t want to participate in a consumption society and show people that we don’t have to do things the way we’ve been doing them just because that’s how we’ve been doing [them]. I want people to find their Custom Peace, not what society at large says peace is.”
Oh, honey, it’s all so beautiful.
Up next: You can soon find Custom Peace accessories in Nashville at Black by Maria Silver (BBMS). Lefevre will also be at the Columbus Winter Flea in February. Follow him on Instagram @custom_peace. See something you like? Holler at him directly. He’s the nicest guy in the world and will holler back.
miss coco says.
“I’m just going to sit here and wait for you to get your shit together…you can’t go down with the ship.”
Sometimes Ohio is Ohio.
You know. If you ever want to visit.
1215 Coffee Bar and Wine Lab – great assortment of wine with daily happy hour pour specials, and, the reason I’ve made it my office away from home, free live jazz on Thursday nights and the yummiest giant mugs of hot cocoa and Kahlua. And their spicy blood mary. Dear lord. Sure, it draws a fair share of students from the nearby colleges, and, yes, it is in a part of Cincinnati that used to be, um, really effing scary but is now almost unrecognizably gentrified, but all I can say is this cozy Over the Rhine spot has an amazing (and knowledgeable) staff (had my first glass of sparkling red here) and the music is dope af.
O Pie O – mmm, Honey Vinegar pie. That is all.
Cincinnati Museum of Art – Free. Every. Single. Day. Located in Eden Park, the museum is open late on Thursdays when admittance includes access to special exhibitions. In a day and age where museums in major cities no longer consider the people that could most benefit from having free access to major works of art and pieces of history (it costs almost as much to get a family into a major art museum as it does to get into Disneyland or Universal Studios, but at least you get to ride the rides there), I give credit where credit is due. Kudos to Cincinnati for keeping it real. Must sees for me include the Middle Eastern and Contemporary art wings, and the Miró mural. The samurai armor exhibit (now gone) was freaking epic.
The Comet – every city has its dive bar where all the artists hang out. The owner of this local pub set out to duplicate San Francisco style burritos after a trip to the Bay Area. He did more than succeed. I always look forward to hanging out with a fellow poet or two, having a Johnny Walker Black (neat), and insanely good, cheap food (the guac is to die for). There’s occasional live music (truly hit or miss) but he free jukebox is stocked with rad selections of vintage rock, jazz, blues, and soul. Did I mention the guac is to die for?
Oil slick nail art
Troentorp metallic clogs with socks
Palo Santo wood sticks
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with the “mother”) cocktails
Maybelline Color Sensational Matte Metallic Lipstick in “Gunmetal”
End of an Era.
Being a furrier is a dying art and Harvey Camins is a true artist. After 42 years of owning one of Cincinnati’s premiere furriers, and more than 97 years in business, Fettner-Friedman Furs, Harvey’s showroom and workshop, is closing its doors. Harvey likes to remind me whenever I’m in town and stop by the store that he knew me before I was born. It’s true. He’s known my mother and my family *that* long. My mother and her sisters all had fur coats. My first coat from Harvey was a little rabbit bomber jacket when I was in the second or third grade. Getting a fur from Harvey was basically a right of passage.
I grew up going to Fettner-Friedman’s. To this day, nothing about the place has changed. You walk in and it’s like time stood still, in fact, the store still has the same exact plush velvet couches and dim studio lighting it had when I was a child wandering in and out of the racks of furs. As an adult, I went through a long period of absolutely hating fur. I refused to touch it and freaked the fuck out when my mother accidentally brushed me in one of hers. The horror of all horrors was when she came to visit me in San Francisco wearing a full-length mink. I didn’t want it in my home and kept encountering (i.e. touching) it by mistake. I’m still surprised that she actually made it to my house without someone splattering red paint on her.
I bristle at the idea of “new” fur, but I understand the history, tradition and, at times, the necessity, of wearing it. My first adult fur from Fettner-Friedman was vintage. My second is a legacy piece worn by two very special women in my life who have since passed on to that stylish runway in the sky. Their names are stitched into the lining, right above mine.
There is a lot of history here. A lot of craftsmanship. I mean, Harvey actually *made* coats. The last time I paid a visit to the shop, he basically resized, cut, fit, pinned, and sewed the legacy piece right on me as we chatted about my mom. No one does that anymore. Thanks for the memories, “Baldy.” Love, “The Fat Lady” and her daughter.
Until next month, loves. Happy New Year and please take care of each other.
Stay foxy – e.
follow the fashion: @ericalewisfinein
How did you stay sane during the holidaze? Pic or it didn’t happen: #windinyourfoxfur