Each week I work with a theme to kinda tie things together here and in the studio – helps me focus. This week’s theme is Earthday, which is actually Monday April 22. I love Earthday! For me it is all about honoring the magic of our biosphere and taking a day to nurture, give back, and spread environmental awareness. If you have been following me around these parts for a while you know that I am a die-hard environmentalist committed to bringing awareness and creativity to the mountains of textile waste in the world. In addition, it is my life’s work to teach creative reuse and empower people to understand the impact each and everyone of us has in the world. Are you interested in working together to solve a few of the environmental problems staring us humans in the face?
Back in 1990 I invented the first ever Potholder Rug. It was a creative epiphany where my hands and head were working together in silence addressing an issue of material waste that was piling up in my production studio where 40 people worked to bring my designs to life. There was a substantial percentage of used clothing coming to us in bales purchased for production that was not suitable for any of my product lines. As the piles of this discarded material grew, I was motivated to turn that material into something marketable. Since the day of the first Potholder Rug (which I still have and use!) I have made and sold thousands of them. They are made in custom sizes, custom colors and are the most amazing cushiony floorgasmy rugs I have ever experienced. To walk barefoot on one of these babies is to find foot joy – a virtual foot massage in every step!
As my teaching career is now front and center stage my Potholder Rug Intensive is my all time best selling class. Up until this year all my classes have happened in person in different settings but always in person. I have taught extensive 4 or 5 days workshops at yoga retreat centers, weekend workshops in the heart of County Galway Ireland and 40 minute quick lessons to my sister’s kindergarten class.
Somewhere in that mix people have told me that they plan to use the technique to make rugs and sell them to raise money for their daughter’s friend who lost everything in a fire. I have had a wedding party come to the studio to make a large rug for their bride and groom using materials collected from wedding invitees. I have seen my rugs change lives by offering stay at home moms a source of income (and pride). Career paths have changed, inspired by the simple making of a beautiful rug as students have gone on to start their own creative businesses. When my son was little we made a rug in his classroom using a discarded piece of clothing from each child. The rug was beautiful! A woven collage of the children and their energy turned tangible. That rug inspired my Community Rug Weaves.
All of this is important information if you are looking to contribute to the solution to the ever-growing global textile waste conundrum. With fast-fashion being the norm these days, not only are there mountains of used and discarded clothing gumming up our landfills, there are literally mountains of cutting room scrap waste in the third world countries where all this disposable clothing is manufactured.
There are a few things that each of us can do to turn the tide of excessive textile consumption. First, think about how much clothing you actually need and buy quality, made-to-last, brands using natural fiber. Before you buy new, check the used clothing shops in your area for the pieces you are seeking. Generally good quality clothing is resaleable and the super junky stuff doesn’t make it to the sales rack. Commit to taking good care of the clothing you have, mending holes, reaffixing buttons, and the like. I have a growing library of free tutorials if you need help getting started. You can also recycle household textile waste by turning worn out t-shirts, sheets, and towels into rags reducing the need for disposable paper towels.
And, for those of you who are interested in stepping up your household textile recycling you can learn to make Potholder Rugs! We are working on making that possible right here in the coming weeks. Stay tuned as we put the pieces in place for a super fun hands-on online class!
While we are over here figuring out how to make this all work, scroll down and leave a comment. Share with me any recycling tips and tricks you have or let me know if you are interested in my Potholder Rug class. If so how will you use the finished rug/s?
This week our theme is Cleanse and I am taking this super literally today!
Today I want to let you in on one of my trade secrets while assisting you to cleanse your household of a few toxins in the process!
I talk a lot about being an avid environmentalist and do my best to utilize environmentally friendly living practices. I joke about needing a 12-step program for recycling, like it is ok to throw things away sometimes! I do not have to devise a new use for each and EVERY disposable thing that passes through my hands (but honestly, I do feel compelled to try).
Back when I was a kid in elementary school we watched a movie about the Great Lakes and Erie Canal. One of the lakes had actually caught fire. It was a festering pool of plastic waste, industrial sludge and household toxins that had turned the once pristine lake into something so unnatural that it was on fire. Astounding!
That same viewing pointed out the soapy-ness of the lakes with enormous iceberg impersonators that were actually giant floating soap bubble blobs that covered the surface of the lake. Horrifying!
The Great Lakes are looking a whole lot cleaner today but those childhood images stuck with me and planted a seed that grew! It seems like from that day on that I would do anything in my power to keep my impact on our natural environment to a minimum. It was clear that my simple decisions had an impact – like what kind of soap to use, what kind of containers to use, how to steer clear of single-use plastic. As a kid, this stuff all just seemed so simple to me. Not surprising that I have spent my life’s focus on creating ways for people to recycle all manner of discarded materials.
A few years ago I sat down and calculated how many pounds of clothing my production company kept from the landfill and it was mind-boggling! We kept over 1,000,000 (that is ONE MILLION!) pounds of discarded textiles out of the waste stream just in our own production! It is impossible to figure how much waste my teaching and students have added to that solid number but it is a lot and I am so proud! It is my passion and business to encourage easy and creative textile waste recycling.
A million pounds of used clothing and textile waste is a whole lot of laundry! We have carefully laundered every single item that we have recycled – which uses a lot of water and laundry soap.
Tons of research went into the decision to use Bio-Pac laundry soap and I have been using it for years for my family and business.
Not only is the product free of petroleum distillates, dyes, perfumes and chlorine, it really cleans, AND their company philosophy really resonates with me. True Eco Warriors! You can learn all about them here. Learn all about all of their products and think carefully about the cleaning agents you use. Your choices do make a difference.
Do you have an environmentally kind cleaning product or method for household cleaning? Scroll down and share it in the comments. The more the merrier!
Hi my name is Crispina ffrench - which by now, I’m sure you all know - but HEY! That’s just how I introduce myself. I consider myself an empowerment, motivation, and goal chasing teacher, textile recycler, screen-printer, mom, wife, sister, and friend.
One of the questions I am most often asked is about the history of my name.
See I was born in Ireland. My parents were both artists; my mom, Primm Turner ffrench was an accomplished painter from Virginia and John ffrench, my father, was an Irish ceramicist of notoriety. They met while studying art in Florence, Italy while they were both engaged to other people. Best friends for 10 years, when the time was finally right, they fell in love. They married and had three kids and were living in Ireland sort of a world away from the whole hippie nation here. Nevertheless, they went a little crazy with their kids names. My elder sister is Johanna Felicitas ffrench. She was always called, Felicitas, by family. I’m next in line born Teodora Crispina ffrench, and always called Crispina. Funny, my younger sister, Sofie who’s is my business partner for The Dolphin Studio and dear friend, got the super short end of the stick in the name department. She was named Dorcas Sofia ffrench – and we called her Dorcas – Dorky for short. It was a good thing that we went to the same school from Kindergarten through 12th grade so by the time Dorcas made it to about 4th grade all the kids had had their fill of making fun of her. Her middle name is Sofia – after our dad’s mom. What a beautiful name and person our sweet Granny Sofia Bramilla was! As an adult Sofia decided to use her middle name and I am so glad she did, no more lengthy explanations! No more cringes when asked her name. It was truly a very difficult aspect of her childhood.
So, my parents were roman-catholic church-going artists who felt compelled to find the most esoteric yet meaningful saints to name their kids. It was all cool within their community as these strange names were, after all, saints names. And maybe in Ireland people are more used to names they are not immediately familiar with. Over there saints are big! Dorcas is the patron saint of seamtresses – which is so super cool! Too bad the name just sucks.
I was named for an empress named Teodora who died in 548 AD. She was an early champion of women’s rights and is featured in a famous mosaic housed in San Vitale Basilica in Ravenna Italy. Crispina was a an Italian empress in the year 178, and Saint Crispina died in 304 AD, was from northern Africa and was sainted 300 years before St. Crispin. She was a martyr and was beheaded – Arg! God, what a way to go!
Johanna Felicitas was named for our parents’ best friends. Johannes and Fe Sagesser of Bern Switzerland. Remembering the fun summer nights we spent together on the shores of the beautiful lake right outside their door. These dearhearts had an impact on me that surpasses the disloyalty that unfolded and kinda changed everything around. They were my parents’ homies – their dearhearts. I mean John and Primm named their first born child for them.
The ffrench part is a whole, ‘nother story. The ffrenches are one of the ’14 tribes’ of Co. Galway, Ireland. Castle ffrench, where my father grew up still stands in a little town called Ahasgragh in the central rolling hills of Co. Galway. No longer the family house, it is owned my Americans who are in the equine industry and run it as a bed and breakfast. My eldest cousin, and last male ffrench descendant, lives near-by so we go and visit the grounds every couple of years.
Apparently, the ffrenches were originally from Normandy. They settled on the west coast of Ireland in the year 1169. Around that time, the rest of Europe and the Roman Alphabet using cultures were toying around with the use of a capital alphabet to signify proper nouns and the use of surnames was on the upswing to help clarify heritage. The idea caught on and spread across globe with the exception of Ireland and parts of the uk that were under Viking occupation. So, we kept spelling our name with two lower case Fs. If you go to Ireland you see this type of unusual spelling with other names too. A lot of families have co-opted their spellings to assimilate by using a capital and then a lower case character. (Think Aaron and Lloyd). At any rate, it is a bear to have some computer systems to be able to correctly spell my name. Data entry peeps often ‘incorrect’ my first and last names to Christina French. I always thank my lucky stars that I am not a stutterer.
Oh, and I get it, who would want to tell a Viking what to do?!
I am sitting here in my little office working on my computer for the first time in a week - trying to catch up with you online peeps. This move has been taking all of my attention. I’m feeling negligent of you guys and I’d say that I am sorry to leave you hanging but that doesn’t feel right – it doesn’t feel good to be sorry. It feels good to be in touch now. Part of the issue is that our new home has been completely off-line and today we will be connected via dish. YAY!
You might not know that we moved both my studio and our family home. Our new studio should be ready for working by the end of the month. Brooke and I will now be focusing on staying in much better touch with y’all while Leslie, Kerry, Kip, and Michelle bust the move adding a fresh coat of paint all around this super cute cabin studio.
Our online focus is exciting yet it is challenging for me to stay put at the computer when there are vacuums vacuuming, sanders sanding, cleaners cleaning right out side my tiny office door. It feels strange to be sitting on my butt typing when everyone else is out there working physically hard. My team is strong. Able to manage this project without my input, helping me overcome this challenge. It is a great lesson for me to stay focused and appreciate the capable, hardworking people around me.
I feel thankful for each one of you out there on this journey with me. Knowing you are there moves me forward. Here I sit. Wondering what is realistic timing on the completion of all this mayhem – then my thoughts are interrupted by the realization that we are completing a giant transition to a place of great comfort and many blessings. This preparation of our workspace is instrumental to the future I am building. This work is the manifestation of the last year of my work. Thank you universe!
Thinking that through helps me feel positive – de-stresses me and allows for me to enjoy the process. Writing, journaling, getting thoughts out is a great way to find comfort and let go of expectation. Do you have a technique for de-stressing that helps you find joy? There are a few techniques in my practice. I found this way recently while listening to Abraham. Are you familiar with Abraham Hicks? Amazing sage of all manner of best living practices through the law of attraction who lectures and has a podcast.
So for now, I am working on staying focused on the all the amazing alignments that have come together to bring us to this place together. Again, Thank You Universe.
One of the things that nurtures us, as humans, is storytelling, sharing, listening, responding, and caring about each others experience brings us close and nurtures connection when we are able to relate to an experience shared by another. Today, I want to do just that, share with you a little bit about how we are here together, we would love to hear your slice of the story too so once you’ve had a chance to read through, please scroll down and let me know how you found me here.
A year ago I was in a dark place feeling overwhelmed, unheard, living in financial and physical chaos. From the outside it might have looked different but in my head, my life felt completely out of my control.
Today things are really different.
I’ve found a path that helps me clarify my mission, understand what brings me joy, identify my life’s work and communicate all of this clearly. I’ve realized amazing potential in all of my awesome online relationships with like-minded change-makers, coaches, mentors, students, and YOU. My mindset has changed to one of clarity, compassion, self-love, empowerment and action. My focus is to connect, collaborate and share with you all the amazing resources gathered along the way . I am looking forward to learning your struggles, challenges and triumphs so together we can use this platform to inspire each other, keep each other accountable, allow each other to be vulnerable, and show support as we collectively work toward our best most dreamy futures.
A year ago, I sat crying in the grocery store parking lot after my first, online business coach interview in my quest for the perfect professional to help me out of the darkness and into a new season. During the interview I spent most of the 30 minute conversation finger pointing, frustrated, and angrily blaming others for the place I found myself. My life was in financial and physical chaos, my health was suffering, the despair I felt had control of my thoughts most of the time and the conversation I had with this interview made me see clearly how I had limited my own ability to be successful. When I hung up I felt overcome with embarrassment. What was I even thinking? How could all the sadness and chaos in my life be someone else’s fault? I had been spiraling downward and that first conversation, that interview with the coach I wound up hiring, slapped me in the face. That slap made me realize that my future held potential. I could change my path.
In addition to that parking lot awakening, and the work that followed with Agnes Kowalski, you know what saved me?
Books and Podcasts.
The first book that opened my eyes to owning the power to change my situation was You Are A Badass At Making Money, by Jen Sincero. I had stumbled across her by accident in December 2017 – my morning travel groove had changed from riding my ebike to and from work to commuting with my daughter to her new school. While I really missed my morning ride the school situation far outweighed that loss – and the drive allowed me to get caught up on all the latest top-40 hits with my daughter as DJ AND to listen to books – as I was dashing out the door from work one afternoon I opened Overdrive (a free audio book app) to download something new to listen to and one of the ‘suggestions’ was her book. Without really looking at it – and just finding the humor in her title – I hit the download button, gathered my things, and hopping in the car to listen while I drove to pick up. By the time Violet landed shot-gun, I was transfixed! It is true to say that this book changed my life. Suddenly there was a flicker of hope in the thoughts whirling around my head! Violet had to take a break from her DJ-ing as I actively listened – straight through.
Have you had such an epiphany, when you just know that the change of course is right for you?
In addition to being super funny, Jen Sincero, stands out to me. She’s not a millennial like other online mentors I have found. She is my age, very entertaining, a great writer, and we share similarities in our upbringing and history. Jen allowed me to believe that if she could make great shift happen in her life that I could do the same. She inspired my self-care ritual in journaling, meditation, mantras, and my yoga practice. Once I was able to see beyond my suffering, beyond the chaos, ill health, self-doubt, and despair, things began to shift. That shift has continued and grown. Here I am one year later, in a place of exciting growth, wonderful new connections, contentedness and heartfelt gratitude. I mean – holy shit! Thinking back as I write this - the distance I have traveled is huge.
In the last 15 months I have manifested the sale of the ‘albatross’ building where my studio was housed that we had on the market for 5 years. The building we literally couldn’t GIVE away.
I changed the way I see my future, the way I see money and how to communicate with heartfelt authenticity here online. The resulting growing online community of like-minded, creative thinking, craft artists is blowing me away! (high-fives all around!)
My amazing professional team, of creative-thinking doers, helps me run my company and build my cohesive brand that encompasses each aspect of my life’s work – (making, teaching, recycling, empowering)
Each day presents opportunities to help me be more woke and create a super fun, exciting, fulfilling, nourishing, finically viable life. Scroll down and leave a comment – tell me something that has helped you out of the dark, or ask me a question that might prompt a future post here.
Now, back to cleaning, organizing, and setting up our new studio. More on that another day.
Take a look at my entire reading list HERE.
There are so many ways to upcyle random items, items that you use frequently that wear down over time, and just things you probably shouldn’t have purchased in the first place. Yoga mats contribute to your overall wellbeing by acting as the foundation of your meditative yoga practice. BUT - they are made of plastic, making them hard on the environment when they wear down and are thrown away. They are not biodegradable in the least. Keeping that in mind, here is a curated list of things you can do with old, worn out yoga mats!
Use as Cat and Dog Food Bowl Holders - You can cut your yoga mats to size and place them underneath your dog and cat food and water bowls. It keeps them from slipping around, and is the perfect thing to catch any stray food from your little furry messy eaters.
Use as Cabinet Liners - As long as you clean them well enough, you can use your old yoga mat as a cabinet liner. If you have one of the thicker mats that may be tricky, but the less expensive thin mats that tend to get worn down are perfect for your spice cabinet or the cabinet that holds your dinnerware because it’ll keep things from slipping around!
Rug Gripper - You can cut your yoga mat into squares and use it underneath a large rug. If it’s a smaller rug, you may not have to cut it at all!
Use It as a Protector For Your Car - Whether you’re taking your dogs, or your kids, on a hike, your car can become an absolute mess. Place old yoga mats on the floor and hose off after! If your dog is hopping in, you can drape an old mat across the seats. Hose off later, air dry, and you’re good to go for next time.
Use as a Crafting Mat - If you tend to get a little messy while painting, crafting, using glue, etc… you can place this underneath your work surface so you don’t stain up your nice wood table. If you have kids, you can place this beneath them on any days of paint or play dough to keep your carpet and tables clean!
There are 5 super simple ways to upcycle old yoga mats. Reuse, and they don’t end up in the landfill like everything else! Here are some awesome eco-friendly yoga mats for consideration once your old one wears out.
Yoloha Mats - ($119) - Yoloha Mats use recycled cork as a healthier, eco-friendly alternative to a traditional plastic mat.
Jade Yoga Mats - ($39 - $179) - Jade Yoga mats are made in a sustainable manner with natural rubber tapped from rubber trees - which is a renewable resource. Also - Jade plants a tree for every yoga mat sold!
Manduka Mats - ($64) - Manduka mats are made from tree rubber, and no toxic chemicals have gone into them. They also use natural cotton fibers for reinforcement.
Barefoot Yoga - ($90) - The Original eco-mat is made from all natural rubber and jute fiber. Their website says it might actually feel like you are walking barefoot on the Earth.
Dragonfly TPE Lite Yoga Mat - ($43) - This mat is made from TPE and is biodegradable, non-toxic, and recyclable!
My team is an amazing carefully selected handful of magic-makers! I love to acknowledge their skill, encourage their passion and share with you what they bring to Team Crispinaffrench. It is always so nice to have a name and a face that match up with the interactions we share here. My goal to share behind the scenes, real-life business acumen begins with team introductions – there is just no way I could be where I am today without the amazing talents of these special people! Today we kick off a new feature, introducing each team member here. So, my friends, fans, followers and family, this is Brooke Bridges! She started with me as my Visual Communications Manager and has morphed into much more than that. While you delve into learning all about what Brooke brings to the table, let me ponder an appropriate title for this gorgeous powerhouse!
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Hi All! My name is Brooke Bridges. I do quite a lot over here at CRISPINA, and I think one of the reasons I resonate so greatly with Crispina and her work is due to what I accomplish and the dreams I have in my own life.
I am originally from Los Angeles California and I moved to the Berkshires in October of 2017. I moved here because I needed a change. Los Angeles just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. From the traffic, to the fast-paced lifestyle… I felt like I needed to slow down to truly get in touch with myself. The Berkshires is the perfect place for that. My mother grew up in Lee, and had moved back a couple years prior and had been trying to get me out this way ever since. Being in the entertainment industry I didn’t want to leave it behind; but finally I obliged.
The year that I got here was incredibly difficult for me. The major shift in environment, in people, and in career was shocking to my system. I started off at Canyon Ranch because I have years of hospitality industry experience, and after a year of being there I knew it was time to leave.
That’s when I met Crispina! I was doing a photoshoot for Braiseworthy - a meal prep food company based in Pittsfield, as I am also a photographer, and Crispina walked in to try some of the food. That’s when she asked me
“Hey photographer girl, can you shoot anything other than food?”
And I could, so I applied for the open position, and here I am.
Now, my main focus in my life is mental health. Like I previously mentioned about getting here, and the shock to my system, it was also quite the downward spiral for me. I went into a deep depression in the middle of winter, and didn’t think I’d make it out. I realized at a certain point that it was do or die - I had to decide whether or not I could survive. I know that sounds dramatic, but when you’re in the depths of depression, anxiety, hopelessness…nothing makes sense anymore.
I decided that day that I’d take the 2.5 hour trip to Belmont and check myself in to a 2-week residential treatment facility. I had been given a diagnosis, and I took that and ran with it - finding a way to heal myself so that I can live the life I’ve always wanted to. That’s also when I started knitting. Knitting was the mindfulness practice I decided to use during our quiet mindfulness practice times at the residential center. That’s also when I realized that crafting and making with your hands is about much more than just making. It’s about mindfulness and connection to your center. It’s a meditative practice.
From there, I built up a toolbox of clinical skills, spiritual practices, health + wellness skills, and I paid a lot of attention to my diet and my nutritional needs. I am also a personal chef at Your In-Home Chef, where I focus more on the whole person, rather than simply the food in order to lose a couple of pounds. Our mental health is truly the only thing we need to focus on. When that is taken care of, everything else seems to fall into place.
Now, I am also a mental health speaker. I speak primarily to children aged 11-17, or middle school and high school, and their parents, teachers, athletic directors, school nurses, etc. through an organization called Minding Your Mind.
Crispina and I share many of the same practices such as meditation, yoga and fitness, healthy eating, intentional living, and crafting. Those are things I resonate with deeply that have helped me survive the battle that mental illness presents in one’s life. With those skills I share my story in hopes that what I’ve learned and the darkness I have gone through will help others avoid that same darkness, and utilize skills that will truly benefit them in the long run!
If you know of any schools or organizations either in New England, or in California (I will be living bicoastal) that could benefit from these presentations, please let me know! I am always seeking to speak more, to share my knowledge, and to help others improve their quality of life by gaining access to valuable resources.
Take a look at my speaking website here:
Hello my Peeps!
Sorry for the long lapses between posts. We are in the throes of a studio/home reconfiguration so things are a little out of kilter. I am super excited to settle in to my new studio which will soon be located just 2 doors down our super heavenly dirt road in the heart of the Massachusetts hilltowns. Right now my kitchen is full of cardboard boxes and plastic totes full of all our belongings ready to move down the road. The pod will be delivered tomorrow morning at the current studio so we can load it full of our print shop first followed by the recycled textile studio materials, machinery and fixtures. This is all super fricken exciting! It is work, surely, but considering the outcome makes each task a pleasure.
My hubby who likes to hang back from all things social media related, is a masterful craftsman. He is a super smart, honest, artful, conservation-minded master plumber, building contractor, and all around able tradesman. He is heading up the whole renovation project that is our new house. As this post is written he is down the road ‘babysitting’ the brand new high-efficiency heating system he fired up today for the first time. Tomorrow very possibly could be our first sleepover in our new home!
Funny how once it starts in earnest, life affirming beauty sort of circles together spiraling out into all facets of life. While this move is nirvanic for me my business has undergone an outstandingly similar metamorphosis in the last 15 months. The changes I have seen in business are due to my recent awareness of the importance of open communication and the ability to make true human connection online. The gratitude I feel for each piece of this magical realization and all the rest of this season of life is deep. In response to all the listening and learning, all of your speaking, sharing and teaching, I have put together a subscription, or maybe it’s better called a membership for those interest in more connection - Circle.
Circle is part accountability group, part creative inspiration and part motivation to kick your ass into the perfect place to live the life of your dreams! You will feel supported, encouraged, and motivated to identify your desired outcome and journey in a positive direction toward that destiny. Each month I’ll send you a snail mailing with a frame-worthy original, signed and numbered, meaningful, handmade screenprint along with this short list of motivators. I am super excited to be launching Circle this month! If you are interested in joining the Circle waiting list, here is a link. We will be adding members in the coming months as it is clear that we are making positive shift happen together. I am so inspired to rock this Circle and can’t wait to have you in it! Together we can make this Circle one of greatness – of blissful empowerment, creative inspiration, with a healthy dollop of high-jinx! You ready?
Wow you guys! Life is a whirlwind of awesomeness! I cannot believe that this move is really happening. Our project, Shire City Sanctuary, in Pittsfield was overwhelming from the very beginning and got more and more overwhelming as the days, months, and years ticked by. Now that big long chapter is coming to a close. I have amazing gratitude in my heart for all the wonderful people, events, and lessons learned while in the throes of it all. That gratitude is grounded in the freshness of less - less stuff, less space, less expenses, less responsibilities, less stress. Phew! We had a great run and now onto something much more manageable.
On Sunday the 24th I’ll be hosting a pay-what-you-can studio-purge sale from 3-5pm. There are tables, chairs, dress forms, display pieces, materials, fixtures, rolling racks, shelving, lumber, buckets, tools and so much more! Please come by and wish us well and let us help you load up on some awesome recycling for cheap!