While you might know her best for her recent articles on the sexual appetites of big-bellied men and frenemy break-ups, MNN lifestyle columnist Starre Vartan is also a talented photographer, enthusiastic nature lover (natch), and seasoned sustainable style expert.
For her latest endeavor, a tabletop textile line called Dogwood & Hastings, Starre melds these three passions while employing the very best aspects of small-scale American design and manufacturing: earth-friendly materials, local production, no-waste packaging, nonprofit partnerships, and fair wages for all involved. Consisting of three photo-print organic cotton tablecloths and four napkins with more to come Dogwood & Hastings brings the rugged and mysterious beauty of the great outdoors into a more civilized domestic setting: the dining room table.
If you’re familiar with Starre’s journalistic work for MNN and other outlets including her long-running green fashion and beauty blog, Eco-Chick, you’re probably aware that she has herself a wicked case of wanderlust and a deep respect for the natural world. Each piece in the Dogwood & Hastings collection features an all-over print of a "minimally manipulated" nature photograph captured by Starre while exploring at both home (a former Connecticut resident who grew up in Australia and New York’s Hudson Valley, Starre now resides in Corvallis, Oregon) and abroad. The resulting printed linens are vibrantly colored, evocative, alive. Joyous and bold with a rich, almost kaleidoscopic quality, Starre's designs set the mood and then some.
Given that each piece in the Dogwood & Hastings collection depicts the natural beauty of a distinct place, Starre has partnered with four conservation-minded nonprofit groups. Ten percent of profits from Dogwood & Hastings will go back to the locations — New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and Mexico — where each of the original photographs for the prints were taken.
Sales of the Manhattan Bedrock (tablecloth) print support New York’s fantastic Riverkeeper; sales from Winged Decay and Yankee Orange (napkins) support Wildlife in Crisis, a Connecticut-based wildlife rehab organization; Eternal Flight (napkins) and Pink Sherbert (tablecloth) both go toward Grupo Ecologica de la Costa Verde, a sea turtle protection program based in Mexico; and, last but not least, 10 percent of sales from November Mushrooms (tablecloth) and Pink Urchiness (napkins) will go to Oregon Wild.
I asked Starre about her personal connections to each of these nonprofit groups. Here’s what she had to say:
I interned at Riverkeeper when I was 21, and I grew up on the Hudson River (where the organization started, although there are now Riverkeepers on all the major rivers in the United States) and have seen first-hand all the good that the organization does. The both monitor water quality and take polluters to court when necessary. Wildlife in Crisis is an organization in Connecticut that I had brought injured birds to several times when I lived there; they take any animal free of charge, and nurse them back to health in a professional looks-like-a-vet's-office setting. I have seen possums, many types of songbirds, foxes, and once a fawn with a broken leg being cared for there.
When I recently moved to Oregon, I came in contact with so many groups doing great environmental and animal-protection work, it was actually hard to choose who to give to. I chose Oregon Wild because they have been working in Oregon for over 40 years and can be credited with at least some of the reason that state has been developed so intelligently. They also fight for old-growth forests, a particular love of mine, since I got the chance to hike in so many of them when I was there.
Sea turtle preservation is another particular love of mine, as the giant turtles always seem to find me when I'm out ocean-swimming! The threats to turtles are numerous but they actually can coexist quite well with people if their needs are taken into account. Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde works to protect nesting habitat for turtles, and in 20 years, the number of nests in the area of the Nayarit coastline in Mexico has quintupled (this while many new hotels and resorts were built). A proven track-record!
As for the table linens, they’re designed, finished, and sewn in Oregon; printing is handled by Durham, North Carolina-based Spoonflower using nontoxic dyes and, as mentioned, high-quality organic sateen cotton.
By now, you may be wondering how you can get your hands on Starre's lovely creations. For that, head on over to Kickstarter where Starre has launched a crowdfunding campaign that will help bring Dogwood & Hastings into full-on production mode. Various pledges comes with various perks, namely items from the Dogwood & Hastings collection at 20 percent less than their eventual retail prices.
Kickstarter backers will be able to choose which exact prints they want gracing their dining room tables via a Pledge Reward Survey that will be sent out once the campaign is funded. The estimated ship date is November — just in time for the holidays. The Yankee Orange print is a shoo-in for fall entertaining if I ever saw one while the summery Eternal Flight napkins add pop to a patio party or picnic at the beach.
Gorgeous stuff all around. And as noted by Starre, it's also potentially therapeutic stuff as the inspiration behind Dogwood & Hastings comes, in part, from her own struggles with Nature Deficit Disorder.
Finding that spending some QT with Mother Nature was an effective, pharmaceutical-free method of eliminating anxiety in her own life, Starre hopes that her super-naturalistic housewares line will have a similarly calming effect on others: “Now, we don't always have the ability to go into the woods (or the ocean, or the garden) when we are feeling nervous, but natural patterns help replicate that and remind of nature, and they calm me. I have a feeling this might work for other people too.”
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