The team of people that makes Blue Buddha work is a multi-talented one (for proof – check out our B3 Talent Show from last year’s employee retreat!) While our web guy Matt is best known around here for making our website work (a very important role for an online business!) and even more well known by some as being the man behind Graveyards of Illinois, only a close few may be aware of his culinary talents.
Part of Rebeca’s weekly dinner group, Matt is known for taking on some epic ideas when it becomes his turn to host the meal. This month however, he took it to a whole new level recreating the first class dinner from the Titanic to honor the 100 year anniversary.
I’ve always liked the Victorian/Edwardian aesthetic – mainly because of my explorations of graveyards and architecture from that period. This year, I’ve been watching Downton Abbey, which put that time period, and that style, back in mind again. With the 100th anniversary coming up, it seemed a natural choice, and I didn’t want to let such an occasion pass without doing something to commemorate it.
Thankfully, others have done the research for me, so I had only to follow directions. There’s a book, Last Dinner on the Titanic, with all the recipes required, photos of the ship’s interior, and plenty of logistical suggestions. There are also blog posts, with photos, from others who have cooked this menu in the past. I started planning it in February, a few days after the previous occasion where I’d hosted for the group.
Menus from all three classes of accommodations survived from the last day – some of the survivors or victims had put them in their pockets earlier. I ordered the book, and used the menu images I found online to make my own menus. My menu uses items from the first-class menu, but the letterhead and typography of the second-class menu – visually, it was more interesting. (click on the image to the left for a larger view of one.)
To the Edwardians, the four basic food groups were meat, fish, cream, and alcohol – not a fresh vegetable in sight! Fortunately, the menu was extensive enough that I had plenty of items to choose from. The original first-class menu had twenty-four items on it (not counting sauces and garnishes), and I chose only about half of those – eliminating the meat dishes entirely, but accurately reproducing the fish dishes, with a few minor substitutions: Earth Balance instead of butter, almond milk in the place of cream, mushrooms or mushroom broth in the place of meat.
The mousseline sauce for salmon, for example, is a hollandaise with whipped cream folded in. I made the hollandaise as usual but then used almond milk instead of whipped cream, which gave an entirely different texture, but probably tasted close enough to the original. I used that same substitution for the minty green pea timbales (pureed pea and mint baked in custard cups) and there it made even less of a difference. For the sauteed chicken, I used Quorn, an artificial meat substitute that has the texture of chicken, and a similar mild taste. And making “pâté de foie gras” out of shiitake mushrooms and walnuts instead of goose liver is both considerably healthier and much less cruel.
One dish I wanted to do was “Vegetable Marrow Farcie” – marrows (zucchini) hollowed out and stuffed with their own cubed flesh, rice, mushrooms, cheese and herbs. It turned out to be impossible to find zucchini of the right size this time of year in Chicago – none were more than an inch and a quarter in diameter. So, I ended up dropping that item at the last minute, resulting in a very fish-heavy menu, with shrimp, oysters, scallops, and salmon.
Consommé Olga. Several pounds of mushrooms were reduced to a few cups of broth, which was also flavoured with imitation beef bullion, wine, bell pepper, celery and parsley; the broth was wonderfully complex, rich, and aromatic. It was then served with a scallop and other garnishes, providing a contrasting taste and texture. (Matt was generous enough to share his recipe for this dish – check it out at the end of this post!)
A week before the event, I mailed reproductions of a Titanic first-class ticket to the guests – copies of the only surviving ticket, that of a vicar who missed the boarding because his wife was ill. Guests were encouraged to dress in Edwardian fashion, and several wore long dresses, lace, ruffles, or elaborate feathered hats. I myself wore an approximation of a gentleman’s evening dress, with white vest, white bow tie, and black suit jacket (though, more properly, it should be a tailcoat, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune).
When the guests arrived, the 1958 movie A Night to Remember was playing on the television, and a 20-inch wooden model of the ship stood at the center of the table, flanked by bronze candelabra. Each place setting featured a napkin folded in the same style used in the Titanic’s dining room (as shown in a photo from that era) and a printed menu, with the letterhead and typography imitating that of the ship’s actual menus. During the meal we listened to an album of music that had been played aboard the ship, such as “Orpheus in the Underworld” and Scott Joplin’s work. We drank a toast to the shipbuilding company’s chief designer and naval architect, Thomas Andrews, who went down with his ship; he was last seen standing sorrowfully at the fireplace in the room to which the passengers had retired after this dinner was originally served.
No idea; it’ll probably be another year before I do something as complex as this. I’ll be hosting again for the same group of friends some time in May, but I’ll take it easy next time. Sushi, maybe, as that always goes over well, and there’s not as much washing-up to do.
The Consommé was a hybrid of two recipes – the broth came from The New Now and Zen Epicure, a vegan cookbook by Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner; the solid bits came from Last Dinner on the Titanic, by Archbold & McCauley.
Consommé recipe, abbreviated:
To serve (as “Consommé Olga”):
Here’s a little bit of Friday Fun that brightened up our chilly winter morning.
Which B3 staff member is this?
If you guessed Blue Buddha founder Rebeca, then you are correct!
She was thrilled when her dear friend Anna Goldberger presented her with this sock monkey, complete with mini Wubbers pliers and her cats Apollo and Zeela. “I tied a piece a string on an angle here,” Anna explained, pointing to the chest area, “for you to take off and replace with a piece of chainmaille. I thought it would be appropriate that the chainmaille go over the heart since you love it so much.” Awww! Rebeca just about melted.
And of course, she whipped out her pliers and started making the mini Jens Pind necklace* right away. No doubt, this is one of the coolest gifts ever.
* Because someone is bound to ask – the necklace uses size B20 Niobium (20ga AWG 3/32″ / 2.8 mm)
So many of our customers create chainmaille jewelry pieces to sell in online shops through Etsy, ArtFire, IndieMade and many more. The holidays are of course a great time of year to sell your work to folks looking to buy unique handmade gifts, but it can be difficult to turn browsers into buyers and compete against larger retail stores (and their massive blowout sales) when your customers can’t touch and feel you product. That said, there are some things Internet sellers can do even more easily than stores to make holiday sales fun, exciting, and fulfilling for their customers.
1. Change your shop banner and/or product images to reflect the season. Adding in some holiday spirit to your shop/website banner or your most “gifty” product images is your online shop’s way of decking the halls. Show your model drinking hot chocolate, hanging an ornament or toasting the new year. Have your product being unwrapped by someone in pajamas, or just add in some wintery colors or Christmas lights. It will be totally affective and a heck of a lot easier (and less expensive) than decorating an entire store!
2. Rearrange your merchandise, putting the best gift items at the top. Retailers move their merchandise around all the time to highlight what they think you should buy, so why not do the same thing with your shop. People around the holidays are looking to pick up gifts and you can help them figure out just what the perfect gift is. Don’t make them hunt for something on page 6 of your shop; put the heavy hitters up front!
3. Edit your product categories to be gift-oriented. People love having recommendations and it can be even easier to give them online where people are reading than in a shop where people are “Just looking, thanks.” Create categories like “For Her”, “For Friends”, “For Mom” and/or price point categories “Gifts under $10″ and so on. You can also make categories unique to your brand “For Their Inner Rock Star” or “For Glamour Girls” to tailor the shopping experience even more.
4. Edit your product descriptions. This can be another great place to sneak in a gift recommendation and paint a picture of what it will be like to give or receive your product. Use language that fits your brand. Are you fun and funky or elegant and sophisticated? Chances are the people who love your products are a lot like you – what would you feel if you received your product as a gift? Tell them how great it will be.
5. Highlight customer feedback and testimonials. Don’t assume your shopper will go looking for your feedback to decide if they want to buy from you and don’t make them leave the product page to be convinced (they might not come back!) The holidays are a great time to attract new customers, but if they are new, they won’t know how great you are yet. Include appropriate feedback and testimonials right in the product descriptions to make them click that buy button right then and there!
6. Offer gift wrapping – and show them what to expect! Make sure to take a picture of what the gift wrapping will look like as well as what the product looks like in the gift box. You can offer this service for free or as an add-on to make a little extra money. Make sure the gift wrapping represents your brand and is not holiday specific (i.e. – Don’t choose Santa wrapping paper, it limits your clients.) Choose paper and other packaging that matches your brand’s colors and style.
7. Offer gift certificates. Make sure to offer them at different price points and make them look nice and represent your brand (put your logo on them!) Come up with a nice way to package them and show the buyer how it will look when it arrives. Make sure to ask the buyer to put the recipient’s name in the notes on their purchase so you can write that in for them and make it look beautiful.
8. Run special discounts/sales that coincide with in-store big shopping days. The number of shoppers that stay in and shop online on big sale days grows every year. Make the most of this fact by offering special discounts or bonuses on those days. Use outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and email to let people know you’ll be running this deal and make sure to tease it on your shop page too!
9. Include a special holiday note in each order with incentives to come back and shop again. This can be as simple as creating a small amount of business cards with your branding and a holiday theme on them, or even buying simple holiday cards or postcards to include with each order. Take the time to write a handwritten note on them, offering a discount code or free shipping on their next order. The holidays can attract a lot of new customers and it’s a great opportunity to turn them into returning customers during off-times.
10. Create a mailing list – start now! Once again, this is a great time of year to collect new customers so make sure you create a way to stay in touch with them during in the year and for the next holiday season. Set up a free account using MailChimp and start collecting email addresses now. After the holidays are over, send them something thanking them for supporting your business and offering them an incentive to come back and shop.
Stephanie Anne – “Master of Deception”
A couple months ago, our Inventory Coordinator, Jen sent around an image of a piece by Stephanie, a long-time friend of B3. (Stephanie was actually the first intern we ever had and is one of the main reasons why we even have an internship program, and she still continues to be a part of the team behind the scenes.) The squid form is composed of felted wool, sterling wire, and Swarovski crystals. The scales you see in the image were all handmade by Stephanie! They are all hand-pierced copper that she silver-foiled and enameled. Something tells me the images does not do this piece justice and if you were lucky enough to attend the SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) Conference this past spring, you got to see this piece up close and personal and frankly, we’re jealous.
Learn more about this artist and check our her artist statement here: http://stephanieannedesigns.weebly.com/
Mary Ellen Croteau – “Close”
Some of you may have seen this artist when we posted about her incredible piece on our page on Facebook a couple months ago. Rebeca shared her work with us (Mary Ellen is actually Rebeca’s friend’s mom!) and we were all absolutely blown away! As the title suggests, this eight-foot tall self-portrait was inspired by the work of painter Chuck Close. However, it’s Mary Ellen’s twist on materials that is perhaps most astonishing in this instance. The piece is composed entirely of reused caps (about 7,000 to be exact!) from sources such as beverages, cleaners, and personal grooming products. The color variation is achieved solely through layering the original color of the caps themselves. All of us here have a certain level of patience probably above average but this even floored us!
Learn more about this artist and check out her artist statement here: http://maryellencroteau.net/
Lisa Rosenberg – “Wrist Corset”
Lisa is one of our B3 team members and recently shared this piece she created in her silversmithing class with me. Needless to say, I was drooling. The piece which she calls “The Wrist Corset” is copper trimmed in sterling silver with sterling silver grommets and chain. She does not currently have an online shop where you could buy your own wrist corset (yeah, you know I asked!) but stay tuned – she may set one up soon! In the meantime, if she has you inspired to learn how to make your own work like this (and you live in Illinois) check out the class she took in Carol Stream at the Many Hands Studio – contact Kathryn Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Joshua Diliberto – Chainmaille/Cosmology/Drawing
Rebeca was recently contacted by this artist/B3 Customer when he realized that they both love two very specific things – chainmaille and cosmology! Upon visiting his website, she also discovered that he was an incredibly talented drawer. His highly detailed drawings are stunning and we just had to share them. We also really liked this quote on the home page of his website: “BE AN ARTIST IN WHATEVER YOU DO. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR THOUGHTS AND BODY WHILE HAVING COMPASSION FOR OTHERS AND THE WORLD AROUND YOU. LIVE AND THINK DELIBERATELY, INTENTIONALLY, AND DO NOT LET LIFE HAPPEN TO YOU.” -JOSHUA DILIBERTO
Learn more about this artist and check out his artist statement here: http://www.joshuadiliberto.com/index.html
I’m just settling back from a great weekend in Pennsylvania at Bead Fest Wire 2011 by Interweave Press. Here’s a quick wrap-up of the folks I met there, along with some of their projects. Enjoy!
Joe and Anat Silvera with Joe’s recently released book – Soldering Made Simple: Easy techniques for the kitchen-table jeweler, currently on the best-seller’s list on Amazon!
And of course, chainmailler Sue Ripsch, long-time instructor at this show and author of her own best-seller, Classic Chain Mail Jewelry: A treasury of weaves.
Instructor Kaska Firor was new to me. Her chainmaille designs caught my eye (obviously) but really, I completely fell in love with her wirework, in particular the Ocean Waves Necklace (shown on her website, and also visible in the center bottom of the photo below). Pictured is Kaska on the left and her daughter on the right.
The final chainmailler at the Meet the Teacher’s reception was John Fetvedt. I bought one of his instructional CDs, and if I like it, you might just see Blue Buddha carrying them! (Unfortunately, they are only available for PCs….and being a Mac/Linux fan myself, well, you know. *grin*) If you know you’d be interested in the CD, leave a comment–that’ll also help us determine if we want to stock ‘em!
A major highlight of the weekend was meeting some customers face-to-face, especially those I’d never met before. Here is a long-time customer wearing a scale necklace she made (using plain aluminum and iridescent gunmetal scales). Of course, I spotted the scales before I spotted the person. heh.
Another highlight was talking with Denise Peck, editor of Step by Step Wire Jewelry. We brainstormed ways to make the chainmaille projects in the magazine even better….and came up with some great ideas. Stay tuned for more info–and submission requests, because I know a lot of you have some awesome projects that really should be in the magazine! In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment with any chainmaille-related requests you have for magazine projects or topics.
And finally, the person who touched me the most over the weekend was Maryann Corey, founder of The Portable Playhouse. I saw her at Bead&Button last year, but we didn’t get a chance to talk, so I didn’t get to find out exactly how cool of a lady she is. The Portable Playhouse is a non-profit organization dedicated to art therapy. As a fundraiser, she is working on the worlds largest necklace (shown below). Please visit LongestBeadedNecklace.com for more info and to make a donation. For only $1, you can have a bead added to the necklace and help raise funds and awareness for her amazing organization. So yes, you really can make the world a better place one bead at a time.