The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Made in Chicago: Petit Oiseau

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on May 30, 2008 6:45PM


You may have noticed that we're suckers for bright colors—in our wardrobe, our homes and our jewelry. So when we saw PetitOiseau's miniature Bakelite picture frames (pictured), we fell in love. The small size is perfect for a coin or stamp or doodle.

PetitOiseau means "little bird" in French and is run by Heather Goldberg, 34. Heather's been a Chicagoan on and off for eight years now, but she's still a Canuck at heart, and says she misses her native Toronto. She first fell in love with bakelite as a kid and started making her own creations as a side gig to her more serious career as a consultant in the health intelligence field.

We spoke with Heather about modern versus vintage, green coiled nostrils, and the dangers of "fakelite."

Chicagoist: How do you make your art stand out from everything else out there?

Heather: The handmade jewelry scene is definitely crowded. I think my jewelry stands out due to the materials I use. I try to incorporate vintage (1940s, 1950s) materials, primarily Bakelite, in my designs while keeping new materials to a minimum. I'll use newer findings to ensure durability, but I like to use older, less frequently seen materials to ensure a bit of originality. Although the materials are vintage, my aesthetic is thoroughly modern so it's a fun challenge to come up with new designs.

C: Where do you want to go with your art? Where do you see yourself in five years?

H: Currently, I sell only from my etsy website, as this is all time permits. Right now, I don't have time to expand much, but in five years? I'd like to have my jewelry available in a few boutiques and I've always wanted to do some art/craft fairs.

C: How did you start making stuff?

H: I think one of the first things I remember making (or maybe I remember it because I have a picture of it) is a brown paper bag puppet of a man's head with big green coils springing out of his nostrils.

C: Why is the sky blue?

H: Because if it were green we wouldn't know which way was up.

C: What does your process look like?

H: Each step of the process takes place in a small, slightly claustrophobic, closet-less room where I design, craft, fulfill orders, and store everything. So things get pretty messy. I can't remember the last time my boyfriend Patrick even stepped foot in there. He is very neat and organized and when he even peeks into that room I can see the beads of sweat start to form on his forehead.

C: What's the best thing about PetitOiseau?

H: Vintage materials, modern design. Carefully made, but affordable enough to buy for all your friends. Made with love in nest of crafty chaos. Packaged to incite uncontrollable anticipation.

C: Tell us a secret. . .

H: Beware of "fakelite." The genuine thing can be sensed through smell, touch and sight. Nothing can replicate the satisfying, chunky sound of two bakelite pieces being clinked together, or its distinctive, slightly chemical-like scent of days long past. That’s not really a secret, though, is it? More like a little known fact.

C: What's the Chicago art scene look like for you?

H: Like that tiny, closet-less room I described earlier. I don't really venture into Chicago's art scene as a contributor (yet), although I’d like to change that. I do explore as a buyer, however – and from that perspective, it looks pretty good!

C: Where do you see that culture going?

H: I think Chicago will always be a center for artistic innovation. I think my little corner of that culture is particularly well supported, with a movement toward appreciating the work of smaller scale jewelry designers.

C: Any advice for beginners wanting to sell their stuff?

H: Create your own vision. While it's perfectly fine to look to others for inspiration, do your own thing. People will notice your originality.

Want to be featured in Made in Chicago? Tell us: MadeinChicago[at]chicagoist[dot]com