rescue dogs

The Lily Spindle + Rita Earl Blackwell photoshoot

We knew it was time to recreate our website. A lot had happened with Lily Spindle in nearly three years and I was like, "jeez, my hair is so much shorter now" and Deb was like, "yeah, my hair is so much blonder now" and, of MUCH greater importance than our respective coiffures, Lily Spindle had new/different projects we wanted to share! A vital element of the reboot was in finding a photographer in Los Angeles who was able to snap photographs of us, our dogs, and us WITH our dogs. The photographer would need to be 100% comfortable around multiple dogs of varying sizes and mixed breeds, would be able to capture the relationship of said dogs with their people, and would need to be gifted in snapping portraits in which the subject didn't appear strained or awkward (and, in my personal case, not looking like a strangely gesticulating, raging lunatic). Deb and I threw a few names around - all photographers we adore and revere, each of them gifted and talented and incredible. But one particular photographer's name kept coming up - Rita Earl Blackwell.

Here's a bit of scoop on Rita Earl Blackwell:
A native New Yorker, she's lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, but her accent is so strong people have a difficult time placing it (seriously - I overheard someone ask her if she was Australian). She says she's had a camera in her hand for as long as she can remember. A devoted animal lover and advocate (as well as a senior dog mom and hospice dog foster), Rita rescued her first dog in California back in 2006 and soon realized there was a way in which she could give back to the rescue community ("without adopting them all," she jokes). Thusly, she donates her photography services to "shelters, rescue groups, and any animal in need." Oh, and this is how gorgeous and sweet she is with the (now deceased) fur babes, Jujubee and Fiona:


I was familiar with Rita's photography namely because I'd seen RITA EARL PHOTOGRAPHY watermarked on countless fabulous photos of adoptable dogs and cats available at various Southern California-based shelters and animal rescues (Angel City Pit Bulls among them - they're awesome!). Deb met her when Rita was photographing for Dawg Squad and Deb was handling a new Dawg Squad addition - South LA Shelter dog named Darwin (formerly Frankie). And, last month, I'd seen Rita's handiwork myself at an A Purposeful Rescue adoption event. In short, the two of us knew Rita's way with animals is truly magical. But her way with humans is pretty magical, too. Lively, carefree, enthusiastic, with what borders on Job-like patience...

Fast forward to now...and here are a few snaps from our shoot! It was madness. Hilarious madness. We were scurrying around in 4" heels and dresses, herding seven dogs (go here to see our respective crews!), sweating our chimichangas off in an oppressive heatwave, gulping champagne, and trying not to appear crazed and anything more than intentionally "dewy." Our husbands, by the way, were on hand to help handle the dogs, but mostly they sat together sipping beers, discussing art and surf. (Love you guys.)

Rita was amazing through it all.
Lovely. Joyous. Persistent. Unflappable. And every one of our dogs immediately adored her, of course. 

This fantastic woman deserves a medal.
Or some kind of shiny trophy.
Or a stone bench in Los Angeles's Grand Park extolling her gifts and altruism.

(PSSSTTTTT . . . you can contact her right here for your very own unforgettable, sweet, and hilarious photo session!)

And, as a tribute to our usual SHAPERS' q+a features, here's a lickety split rapid fire round of just a few questions:

LS: Who are your top three all-time favorite photographers?
Rita: Inspired by and in awe of: Amanda Jones, Kristie Lee, and Sophie Gamand.

LS: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Rita: My dogs make me a morning person. ;)

LS: Could you share one special trick for getting an excellent pet portrait?
Rita: There's a few, but just one would have to be having soft + smelly treats on hand. And lots of 'em!

LS: Describe the traits of an elderly dog that makes them especially amazing. 
Rita: Their ability to chill and enjoy every minute of it. 



Custom sofa surfin' in the City of Angels

Sometime last year, I purchased a vintage, tufted, gold velvet sofa from a woman in Long Beach and lashed the sucker into my beater Toyota truck (now driven by my husband's son) and drove back to Venice, where I then left it outdoors for several days because: cigarette smoke + Febreeze. Long Beach Lady, you weren't fooling anyone with that disgusting nonsense. 

Once finally aired out and tolerable, the vintage velvet became the anchor of our living room. My dogs licked it, rolled on it, slept on it, played on it, jumped on it, and within a year, it was toast. Sofa toast. Not structurally, mind you. But the velvet, mostly due to that aforementioned LICKING, was crusty and discolored and dear god, trust me when I tell you that no amount of lemon juice and baking soda can remove that deeply-entrenched grossness seeped into velvet and no throws or sheepskins can wholly shroud what I knew was lurking underneath. After the new year had commenced, I grabbed the other half of Lily Spindle and we visited with my dear, dear, dear, hilarious and wonderful friend Steve, the owner of Living Room Home in Highland Park (previously on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake for many years and, fun fact, MY FIRST JOB IN LOS ANGELES UPON MOVING HERE IN 2007!) 

Not only does Steve have a quirky and eclectic eye for vintage furniture (and a disturbingly extensive collection of clown paintings), but he knows his shit. He's been in this biz for a LONG time, as managing partner at Civilization on Venice Blvd from 1990 to 2006, opening his 8000-square-foot Living Room Home on Sunset in 2007, and, within the last year, relocating and downsizing into his darling Highland Park space on York Blvd. While he now does a helluva lot of seriously good home staging as part of his business, he continues to understand the function and design specificities of furniture instinctively. All that being said, when I wanted to make a custom sofa for myself, I knew he was my dude.  He knows me super well, I trust him completely, and he's funny as hell, so his company is always A++. 

My living room is a logistical nightmare, really. A designer's horror show. There are windows and doorways, antiquated heating units and slanted walls foiling my desires at every turn. It's a fairly long room, but riddled with layout complications. Consequently, there's only one wall along which to place my sofa and that limits its length to 80 inches. I'm on the taller side and since my sofa will inevitably be shared with a brood of pooches and a 6'2" husband, I knew I wanted it to be 36" deep from front to back, with a seating depth alone of at least two feet.

Bench seat with poly-fill to avoid getting too mushy? Check.
Two back cushions with down fill and down wrap? Check.
Relatively skinny arms to maximize the seating width? Check.
Made locally? Check. 

Ah, and finally, the upholstery . . . I actually looked to our Instagram followers for feedback on this. And many of them so thoughtfully and kindly shared their opinions on the very hearty and substantial fabrics I'd pulled together as viable options. (#3 in the image below was the winner, fwiw.)

How many greys and versions of brown can one woman gather as upholstery options? Answer: Too many. 

How many greys and versions of brown can one woman gather as upholstery options?
Answer: Too many. 

But, this is the trickery of textiles (much like paint color) in relation to light and hue - these fabrics looked depressing as all get-out in my living room. I was going for neutral with the ability to bring in color with pillows and throws but what I was actually getting was the drabbest dentist's office circa 1987. These particular fabrics were beautiful elsewhere, but ghastly in my living room. I spent a week thinking about it off and on, revisited the swatch books a zillion times, and then texted a photo of the teal version of one of the original options to some friends and they were all like YESSSSSSS. AND HERE IT IS! 

I couldn't be happier, really. It's fresh and cheerful and just the right infusion of mid-century modern in our home. And this upholstery, for all its beauty, is virtually bulletproof. I can vacuum and scrub it when needed and it is seemingly impervious to the daily ins and outs of life with animals. As you can see, my knucklehead quadrupeds are pretty goddamn thrilled with this new addition, too. 

On all kinds of personal and professional levels, I've got massive amounts of gratitude and respect for Mr. Living Room, the one and only Steve Melendrez. Lily Spindle cannot recommend him enough for all things vintage and fun,  in addition to producing custom furniture creations right here in Los Angeles. (He throws a mean party, to boot, so you ought to check out one of his future Highland Park art opening fetes!)

Hefty thanks to my friends, IG followers, husband, and, of course, my Lily Spindle partner, Deb, for enduring this process with me and weighing in (repeatedly) when I needed an extra dose of wisdom and levity. This beautiful + oceanic blue end result has quite literally changed the way that I live, work, relax, and play in my own home and isn't that what it's all about? 

xx - Rebecca


Strolling through the massive Art Los Angeles Contemporary show earlier this year, we spotted (and Instagrammed) one of Meg Cranston's incredible dog portraits and we immediately knew we had to feature her in SHAPERS. Currently the chair of the Fine Arts Department at Otis College of Art and Design, her sculpture, paintings, and video/performance work have earned her international accolades and she's exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, The Getty Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, The Carnegie Museum, K21 Museum, Dusseldorf, and the ICA, London, to name just a few.

Also, she has a super cute pooch named Jenkins and began a shelter dog photography project back in the mid-2000s, which ultimately helped to increase the number of dog adoptions, and we are always and forever 100% fans of that kind of altruism and creativity! 

Many,  many thanks to Meg for so intelligently and thoughtfully tackling this SHAPERS q+a! Enjoy!  

Can you tell us about your project photographing shelter dogs back in 2008? What was the experience like, what inspired the project, what was the endgame artistically or otherwise and how did it affect you/your work?

I was looking to get a dog and spending some time on the shelter websites. I decided to try to photograph all the dogs in LA shelters over a one month period. I tried to photograph them myself but quickly realized it isn't that easy to photograph a dog. So I partnered with the various shelters to get their photographs. That was a bit tricky because it involved working with the Chief of animal control. He was suspicious at first because he had to make sure I wasn't creating an expose on the shelters but then was happy to help. The most interesting thing was the quality of the photographs from different shelters varied a lot. At one shelter, the worker taking the photographs was careful to "art direct" the images. He posed the dogs in green settings even with some fake flowers arranged. He had the dogs standing in action poses so they looked lively and happy.

Compared to other shelters ,were the dogs were photographed in cages or on leashes, those animals looked highly adoptable. That shelter in fact did have higher rates of adoptions.

Because people primarily look at shelter dogs on websites, being photogenic is a life or death issue. 

The paintings I did of the shelter dogs takes that a bit further. Historically there are many dogs in paintings though typically they are high status dogs - hunting dogs or pets of wealthy people. The paintings of George Stubbs would be an example. I decided to do rather monumental portraits of ordinary dogs - shelter dogs who would not typically be painted.

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 

Meg Cranston, "Corgi," 2014. 

Meg + Jenkins. 

Meg + Jenkins. 

What's your favorite thing about living in California?
I like the attitude of people in California. Theyhave a relaxed confidence that's easy to be around. The artists in Los Angeles aren't freighted with a lot of rules. They do whatever they want. Europeans especially admire that. 


How does teaching art influence your own artwork?
Besides paying the bills? I love teaching because in my courses, I have to write lectures about new topics all the time. If I didn't teach I doubt I would read as much or stay as current. Also there is a part of me that's a performer. Giving lectures is a kind of performance. It's fun. Of course the students are all fantastic. I have said many times, I have never had a bad student.

Art students are the best and most interesting students one can teach.

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014

Meg Cranston, "Poodle Mix," Installation view, Michael Janssen, Berlin, 2014

Which decade resonates most poignantly with you - 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s? I admire art of the 1960's for its clarity and optimism, art of the 1970's for its intellectual rigor, art of the 1980's for its focus on recasting artistic values as political. 

Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for  Made in L.A. , 2012.

Meg Cranston's "California" and "Fireplace 12" at the Hammer Museum for Made in L.A., 2012.

The scariest thing you've ever done?
I do stand up comedy. That's pretty scary especially for the audience.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a night owl who has to get up at 6am. It's a dilemma.

Name three of your favorite sculptors/3-dimensional artists and use a single word to describe each.

Alberto Giacometti  -  armature
Brancusi  -   base
Franz West  -  scale

What books are currently on your bedside table?
Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School


*Lily Spindle’s SHAPERS profiles the people whom we consider to be remarkable movers and shakers, doers and dreamers, trailblazers and big thinkers, the people who are doing things a little bit differently and unconventionally, with immense heart, passion, and authenticity in what they do. Artists, designers, writers, philanthropists, iconoclasts, artisans, heroines, voyagers, and all kinds of extraordinary extraordinaires will be interviewed in our SHAPERS series.

7 Tips to Living Well with Our Beloved Beasts

In Lily Spindle's opinion, life is bigger, kinder, funnier, more compassionate and selfless when it's shared with our furry friends. But, let's admit it - life with animals is also messier, hairier, and smellier. We make concessions in order to share our lives and homes, sofas and beds with these cozy, stinky creatures we've deemed irreplaceable members of our family, so here are seven quick tips to living well with our beloved beasts, from the right kind of rugs to the very best all-organic odor eliminator I always keep on hand.

And feel free to share your own tips with us at! 

xx - Rebecca

image source: flickr/rachelmargaret

image source: flickr/rachelmargaret

I know there are mixed opinions as to whether or not we should let our darling, hairy quadrupeds sleep in our beds with us, but, hey, we're not ones to argue against it. Some are able to train their pets to, at the very least, sleep on top of the covers, at the foot of the bed. I've no idea what that's like, personally, but bravo to them! Washable cotton sheets are best, especially if they've got a bit of a pattern to hide the pet hair. Duvet covers are excellent, as you can keep your comforter protected and just keep washing up the duvet, but I personally swear by a cotton coverlet with texture and color, as it's usually super durable and can withstand not only countless washings but the day in/day out of pet life! I had a gorgeous one from Matteo, but it conked out after less than a year; Pine Cone Hill's matelasses are awesome, however, as are Area Home's 

image source: Getty

image source: Getty

Forego the silks, satins, and velvets and err on the side of caution and durability when it comes to upholstery. Leather (or pleather) is truly the hardiest, but I've been told many, many times over that microfiber is a miraculous fabric. That said, I've yet to find one I love, but never say never! With cotton/poly/linen mix upholsteries, gravitate towards the tightly woven, more dense fabrics, preferably with texture and pattern to camouflage the hair accumulation and inevitable accidents. William Wegman created a line of dog-proof Crypton fabrics I've heard are incredible, too, and if the king of the Weimaraners says his upholstery is dog-proof, it most likely is! 

PRO TIP: I am absolutely in love with the Clean and Green Odor Eliminator Spray. The opposite of Febreez, which makes me gag forever and ever, this stuff is toxin-free and simply REMOVES the scent of pups, kitties, et cetera. Your furniture will smell like NOTHING after you've sprayed it - no cover-up scent and no poisonous chemicals! I buy mine at Rainbow Acres in Culver City, though they're oftentimes sold out, so you can get it online here

image source:  LA Dog Co

image source: LA Dog Co

I think it's clear that wall-to-wall carpeting is a bad idea pretty muchall of the time, but it's most regrettable when animals are involved. Hardwood floors are best, as they're timeless, warm, and easy to adorn with accent rugs; concrete is good,as well, and terrazzo and brick is pretty spectacular; cork is lovely, too, but is vulnerable to the tearing and ripping from the claws of both cats and dogs. Ceramic tile is totally impervious to animal life - easy to wash up and animals love it, as it's always cooler in temperature. 

#4 - SUCK IT UP :: 
Get a vacuum you love so that it doesn't feel like an irritating hassle of a chore because having pets means lots of vacuuming - it's that simple. Your vacuum should be powerful, fast, and simple to navigate around your pad. I love our Dyson Ball, but have heard a zillion good things about the Dyson Animal. And it can't hurt to get an air purifier to collect all those allergens, pollutants, and animal dander. 

Our clients' own adorables, Mack and Baxter, perched by their new dining room kilim, patiently watching and waiting for their Mum to get home.  

Our clients' own adorables, Mack and Baxter, perched by their new dining room kilim, patiently watching and waiting for their Mum to get home.  

#5 - RUGGIN' IT ::
Cowhides are pretty much the easiest, most durable things to adorn your hardwood floor, but we have lots of vegan clients who understandably can't imagine throwing animal hides on their floors, so your next best bet is a low-pile wool kilim -- you can shake 'em out, vacuum them up, and spot-cleaning is a breeze. Sisals and jutes are challenging, as they're quite porous and break down quickly (and have you ever tried to clean cat vomit from the grip of a jute rug? It's impossible!). The newfangled synthetic sisals and seagrasses are totally stain-resistant, can be scrubbed with most household cleaners, and are able to be steam-cleaned, to boot!

image source: Pinterest/Bloglovin'

image source: Pinterest/Bloglovin'

Our friend in real life and on Instagram, @harperleescorcese, shares her own well-honed hound tip: "Cotton toddler blankets from Restoration Hardware, for example, can be thrown in the wash repeatedly and are excellent for protecting chairs, sofa arms, et cetera. Really great in the car, too. You can just shake out the dog hair." Bonus points on this tip? When they're on their last leg and are in need of replacing, bring those bad boys down to your local shelter - blankets and towels are a hugely appreciated and much-needed donation. 

                    Harper on her pile of blankets, freshly laundered and folded. 

                    Harper on her pile of blankets, freshly laundered and folded. 

#7 - GROOM THOSE GREMLINS :: Get your hounds groomed on the regular!  Easier to scrub those furry bodies and trim those nails than to roll up your Persian rug and bring it to the cleaners or steam clean your sofas and chairs every other week, right? 

image source: JESS RONA GROOMING - she's spectacular and you can  read all about her in last month's SHAPER interview ! 

image source: JESS RONA GROOMING - she's spectacular and you can read all about her in last month's SHAPER interview




Mid-Mod JT Getaway

When you've got more dogs than humans in your house, it's a massive undertaking to take them with you on a road trip. And my man and I LOVE a good road trip. A few years back, when we were 50% less dog, we traveled for days with Lucie and Fred in tow, stopping off to visit friends (and drink amazing, smoky, dangerously delicious mezcal made by Ron Cooper) in Taos and Sante Fe, taking our time on long, aimless walks with the dogs, watching them frolic in their first (and only) snowfall, running into Paul Ruscha serendipitously and having an incredible brunch with him the next morning. 

Since we've doubled our in-house rescue dog population, it's been a challenge to take our knuckleheads with us on trips in the 4-Runner. We're also fairly picky in where we'd like to stay (I cannot abide wall-to-wall carpeting, bedskirt ruffles, or pink carnation wallpaper -- and, yes, these things continue to exist in the 21st century) and we don't want to put the dogs through an epic trip wherein most of the time is spent in the truck, en route. And so, we head to JOSHUA TREE! A mere two-hour drive to arrive at the quiet, calm, and transcendent beauty of the desert. There's nothing quite like it and I've been mad for the desert since my first introduction to it eight years ago. 

In serious need of this getaway weekend, we managed to, by nothing short of a miracle, find an incredible, mid-century modern ranch house on AirBnb that accepted dogs (!!) and had fenced in acreage (!!) and could fit our three-day stay into their booking schedule (!!). We were psyched, and even more psyched upon arrival. Not only were our hosts, Colleena and Nathan, two of the nicest humans I've ever met, but they were super cool, to boot. The ranch's record collection included Love and Rockets, REM, the Rolling Stones, Donovan, the Killers, Chrissie Hynde, David Bowie, and more. We played records while making lunch, eating dinner, and pretty much every moment we weren't just sitting outside on the patio, breathing deeply, reading the paper, and watching our pups romp gleefully and safely within the sandy confines of the fenced yard.

Donut, taking a load off after many, many hours worth of sun and sand-filled fun. 

Donut, taking a load off after many, many hours worth of sun and sand-filled fun. 

The wonderfully designed, super comfortable and dog-friendly house is just a few minutes from Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum (now returned to the desert since its LACMA exhibition earlier this year) and a hop, skip, and a jump from Yucca Valley's hip shops and restaurants. We were in seventh heaven. As were the dogs, who managed to have so much damn fun that they were falling asleep sitting up (photo evidence included in this post. see below.). 

Frederick: TOO....MUCH...FUN....zzzzzzzz

Frederick: TOO....MUCH...FUN....zzzzzzzz

Heads up, all my design-loving and dog-adoring friends! Check out this magnificent spot in the magical, restorative high desert. Go. Relax. Romp. Nap. Eat. Stroll. Boogie. Breathe. Get outta the city and into the ineffable quiet of endless sands and yucca trees. It'll do your soul some good. And at the very least, you'll finish that book you've been reading. 


Exploring Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum for the second time in several years. Incredible sculptures from a restless and imaginative mind...

Exploring Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Art Museum for the second time in several years. Incredible sculptures from a restless and imaginative mind...

Colleena's creating this mosaic masterpiece on the exterior wall of the recording studio, which looks onto the backside of the main house. 

Colleena's creating this mosaic masterpiece on the exterior wall of the recording studio, which looks onto the backside of the main house. 

Hello, new year

Donut, Greta, Fred, + Lucie wishing you a healthy + creative + fun + beautiful 2016.

Donut, Greta, Fred, + Lucie wishing you a healthy + creative + fun + beautiful 2016.

It's 2016!

My husband and I stayed in last night, of course, as so many of us with animals do on these bacchanalian holidays, and endured a panting, pacing, panicking shepherd mix twisting her head maniacally towards the celebratory explosions in the sky until around 2 AM. Yay! Kablamo! Happy new year! Crikey.

OK, all that wild, inconsolable canine terror aside, a new year invites the very real opportunity to loosen the grip of whatever (or whoever) isn't serving you well and to create your own damn future, filled with much more of what you love, much less of what you loathe, and an expansion of this thing we're all in together.

I read this recently on Instagram and, heck yeah, it sounds hokey as shit, but it can be enlightening + powerful, seeing the disparity in those things and recognizing that you have the power to make changes in your world.


with love from me and Deb and the rest of the Lily Spindle cohorts.
xx - Rebecca

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
― Neil Gaiman

Rubies for Rescues!

For the entire month of December, we're giving 20% of the profits of these gorgeous little limited edition 14K g/f A Stones Throw ruby necklaces to L.A.'s rescue group A Purposeful Rescue, helping to fund their veterinary bills, foster care expenses, and to save dogs from the many Southern California shelters where they are at the very real risk of never making their way out and finding loving and adoring, kind and caring homes.

Why rubies? Not just because they're dang pretty, but because the ruby is incredibly protective of the wearer's home, possessions, children, and it provides psychic protection. Warding off unhappiness, it can decrease anxiety and doubt, providing incredible inner courage and strength.  Oh yeah, it also has the ability to increase passion, bring and increase romantic love and can ameliorate heart chakra issues. Not bad, eh?


Happy HOWL-a-weeeen!

From our resident pink dahlia, Kirby, to our Russian grandma/babushka/Bulgarian scullery maid Donut, we wish you and yours a happy + spooky Halloween!

Don't forget to keep your pups and kitties safe tonight and away from the front door. Because you know what's REALLY scary? Strangers coming to your door every five to ten minutes, dressed as ghouls and goblins and witches and Donald Trumps (sorry. had to.) and hollering for candy. It can be a bit much for our quadrupeds to handle!

With that, happy howl-a-ween, Spindlers!

xx - Rebecca