Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Le noir n'est pas si noir...

If you've been into Blackmail, you've seen this quote on my wall.  It's by Paul Valery - one of my favorite French poets that I read many moons ago in graduate school, before my life as a clothing designer.  "Le noir n'est pas si noir"... directly translated could mean:  the black isn't so black.  But I prefer what I think he was trying to express: "It's not so dark in the dark."  I penned it on the wall of my shop a good ten years ago and the reality is beginning to take hold. 
I have been in this retail business for 13 years now.  I have been designing for over twenty.  The past five years have been a struggle but there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. Personal life has to be included when you're a small, independent business owner - it is intertwined with everyday on the job, with your customers, with your product, with your environment.  So when my kids were born very ill, the economy was tanking, my sister and my mom and I all got breast cancer and my dad died, the time had come to make the change.  Each day I would wake up and ask myself: what makes me happy? What do I value?  How can I be a creative, productive individual in life, give to my family and add to my community? And it hit get back to my create, to sew on a small, still independent scale.  
So, we cleared out half of my shop - the wonderful old 1889 building on South Congress in Austin, Texas - and we moved in the sewing machines, the shredded dress forms, the vintage steel cutting tables, the restored dental cabinets that hold the notions, my collection of old plaster mannequins and doll heads.  We put up our inspiration boards, dusted off our favorite books on design, and unraveled our yards of stored fabric.  Boxes of Victorian beading, pieces of salvaged lace, new yardage carefully selected from Paris: all live together in the Blackmail atelier.  I come to work every morning and am happy to be here.  I flit from one project to the next.  Gillian comes in to help sew and Aaron stops by to hand stitch and learn, Elise toils at the computer designing this blog among other things and tells our story to the clients that wander in off the street. Not everyone gets it, not everyone has my particular sensibility of design or style - and that's ok. But when a customer gets it, there's a celebration.  They walk out with an original, handmade piece, unique in every way.

Welcome to the Blackmail Boutique and Atelier Design Blog - we'll be posting photos, sharing our world of all things "noir", telling stories, and hopefully we'll all learn something. So, sit back and join us on our creative's not so dark in the dark...


  1. i love this, and you, more.


  2. Gail -
    You are always such an inspiration -
    Merci !!!
    XO - Shayna

  3. this is fantastic! can't wait to see you guys and the shop again.


  4. I LOVE this! And I love your interpretation, "It's not so dark in the dark." I SO hope to get to visit your boutique one day, AND to be a proud owner of one of your creations!

  5. Gail, this is perfect. So perfect. I can see it without having to see it. bisous. Layne

  6. did I know when I visited Blackmail two years ago (visited in an understatement:split my time in Austin over the period of a week between the San Jose and Blackmail!) that the woman behind this startling vision that spoke to every pore in my body would share a similar "story" to mine? I am a designer (one-of-a-kind jewelry), lover of ALL things black, mother of twins, one born with congenital hydrocephalus and blind in her left eye, in my early 50's, and a serial flitter from one project to happy you have all of your treasures under one roof now and I am looking forward to visiting soon. Your photo is now in my studio and all great energy coming your (and your children, mom and sister's) way. Thank you to Refueled & Stash and their blogs for sending me this way...thank you for what you do and for telling your story. Best, Pam 2E