Spruce Street Harbor Park Opening 

Fri, May 22, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Cheese Making 101

Sat., May 23, 12 to 2 p.m.

Wild Edibles Walk

Wed., May 27, 6 to 8:30 p.m.





Entries in community (129)


Bold Prints: Smak Parlour celebrates 10 years in business with a locally-inspired and manufactured collection

Fan Dancers dress with print by street artist Joe Boruchow

by Claire Margheim

Abby Kessler and Katie Lubieski of Smak Parlour debuted their street art-inspired The Cut & Sew Collection on March 20 at their Old City storefront. It’s their first collection of originals since 2010, but that isn’t because they’ve been slacking off.

In addition to keeping their retail boutique open seven days a week, in 2013 they launched their retail-on-wheels Smak Parlour Fashion Truck, a 22-foot box truck outfitted with vintage furniture, hardwood floors, track lighting, a skylight and a dressing room. 

Smak Parlour began as a sewing parlor for the friends’ in-house label “Smak” in 2005, before evolving into a retail outlet featuring chic, affordable women’s clothing and accessories from a variety of brands.

“We are celebrating our tenth birthday by getting back to our roots,” Kessler says. “After all, sometimes looking to the past is the best way to move into the future.” 

The duo has created a truly made-in-Philly line, working with a manufacturer in Hatboro for the printing and sourcing of a new generation of spandex, and using Sewing Solutions in Bedford for cutting and sewing. They also partnered with three Philadelphia artists to create the prints: graphic designer Dave Holley, street artist Joe Boruchow and Smak Parlour employee Chelsea Goich.

“Having designed the graphics on our fashion truck, Holley was a no-brainer,” says Lubieski. “And we saw Boruchow’s fan lady image on a mailbox years prior. We had it in our minds from then on that we needed to work together.”  

Kessler and Lubieski looked to their own staff for the third inspiration. After finding Goich’s sketches in the margins of their register tapes, they felt she was sending them a message. So, they turned her hand-drawn polka dots, strawberries and watermelon halves into prints.

The combination of these diverse artists produces a surprisingly balanced collection: bold repeat prints on burlesque-inspired dresses; classic black-and-white patterned skater skirts; and whimsical peplum tops.

So, what’s next for Smak Parlour? “We hope to wholesale our Smak Parlour collection,” Lubieski says. “The bold prints would be perfect for so many fabulous shops!”


Following A Pattern: Mother and daughter team design and manufacture kids’ clothes in Port Richmond 

Chau Tran, left, and Thao To, right, pose in their Port Richmond workshop. | photo by Jared Gruenwald

Thao To, the designer and manufacturer behind ToT, a new line of locally-made girls clothing, may seem an unlikely textile entrepreneur. The daughter of a Vietnamese couple who immigrated in 1986, To was an academic overachiever who planned to become a doctor. She graduated in 2005 from George Washington University with a major in Biology. 

But Chau Tran, To’s mother, says her daughter’s plans to become a pediatrician were derailed by a simple realization. “She loved the kids, but the kids don’t love the doctor.” 

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A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings

Can recycled art at the Philadelphia Zoo help protect habitat and change habits?

by Heather Shayne BlakesleeNine-foot-tall recycled-cardboard gorilla sculpture created by Canadian artist Laurence Vallieres for the Philadelphia Zoo’s Second Nature: Junk Rethunk exhibit.

The newest animals at the Philadelphia Zoo aren’t in cages, although some of them—including a life-sized alligator sculpted from bubblegum—will remain safely behind glass. Second Nature: Junk Rethunk, an exhibit of whimsical sculptures made from recycled and salvaged materials, features the work of a dozen artists and artist collaboratives from around the world. Among the menagerie is a 900-pound gorilla made from recycled car steel, delicate miniature mechanical birds forged from used machine parts and cast-off electronics, and a majestic silver rhinoceros crafted from old serving ware and dinner plates, created by Philadelphia’s own Leo Sewell. 

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History in the Making

Activist scholar documents, and helps defend, West Philadelphia neighborhood

Patrick Grossi stands in front of the Philip B. Lindy House on Drexel University’s campus. Where he works to preserve history and increase political voice.

Patrick Grossi wields an unusual tool to help solve social problems: history.

The 33-year-old doctoral student of Temple University’s History program specializes in what he calls Public History, explaining that it goes beyond the “walls of academia.”

His interest in history led him to one of  West Philadelphia’s most hotly contested neighborhoods: Mantua, in West Philadelphia. Grossi has studied the neighborhood’s history, from its beginnings as what he describes as a “speculative real estate venture, a peripheral suburb almost,” in the mid-19th century, to its importance as one of Philadelphia’s predominantly black neighborhoods nearly a century later.

What happens next, he says, still resonates with Mantuans today.

“Longtime residents have a memory of what happened in the 1960s, when all three major universities were orchestrating expansion projects,” Grossi says. “UPenn gets the most heat because they did displace a lot of residents from the Black Bottom neighborhood, where University City is now.”

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Craft Fairs Round-up

Philadelphia has a long history of creative artists and crafters (don’t think that whole key-tied-to-a-kite thing was all for science). Craft fairs, which are extensions of that creativity, function on two levels—as a supportive forum for artists, and as a community event that brings people together.

Here's a round-up of highlights from two prominent Philadelphia craft fairs going on this weekend: Go West! Craft Fest in West Philadelphia and South Philadelphia’s Crafty Balboa.


Go West! Craft Fest


Old Blood Jewelry & Wears

Since Morgan Jamison was a child, she's been taking treasures from the ground and turning them into jewelry. She carried that fascination  with found art with her through studies at the University of the Arts Jewelrey/Metals program, and the launch of Old Blood Jewelry & Wears in 2012. 

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