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Friday, October 2, 2009

Designer Spotlight: Acanthus Apparel

Here is a past article from the April edition of the Vitae newsletter. It was written by Julie Punelli about Acanthus Apparel.

Acanthus Apparel is a very high profile line here at Vitae and in the independent fashion scene. Husband and wife, Joshua and Alyssa Bowers, are the team behind the label. The two met at Iowa State where both persued fine arts degrees. Josh is in high demand as a tattoo artist and his work is recognized globally for its stark beauty and deep, murky symbolism. Alyssa brings his designs to life through very wearable cotton pieces for men and women by a process of hand dying, screen print, and distressing.

Photo: Erin O'Grady

Their clothing line has a very loyal following. Since each piece is a work of art, many look forward to acquiring a 'copy' in some form of every new design and often seek to fill in their collections with work from previous seasons,though they are for the most part limited runs. Their work speaks for itself, but there's so much more that they bring to the table. Alyssa has a keen analytical nature and puts it to work to bring our collective and many artists endeavors to fruition with amazing grace and vision. As a team they bring their unique perspective to the world as a kind of starting place for discussion as if all kinds of possibilities and impossibilities are lined up to become possible. The dichotomy of the dark, haunting imagery and the unassuming almost playful presentation are engaging to a wide range of people.

Photo: Gen X Visuals

Acanthus apparel defies typecasts and opens up boundaries from the deepest corners of the soul and exposes them to the light of day. Joshua seems to possess the ability to stir up the ancient sea beds and abandoned, forgotten promises and lies and hands them all a daisy from tomorrow.

Western Gateway (the 1700 block of Grand Ave)

...and now we are 5...yup, count em! There are now 5 small businesses in the Western Gateway (Art and Fashion District). The Robert Spellman Gallery was first (way to go, Rob!), followed by Dorothea's Closet Vintage, then along came Vitae. Jaded Lotus Tattoo and Piercing opened up in August and were SUPER excited to welcome Erin Bollman's, Finders Creepers, to the fold. Set to open this Halloween! Stay tuned for deets!

-from the Vitae October Newsletter

Vitae is 1!

Thanks to all who came out for the Art Stop/1 year anniversary party on Sept. 11! BIG THANKS to our sponsor, Fashion Alliance of Des Moines. The turn out was great and it was a swell time. We can't say enough about how grateful we are to be here doing what we love. Thanks, Des Moines! Here's some stills from the evening. Check out more candids on the vitae blog!

Everyone having a jolly time!


Chief PBR Old Style Stop Action breaking it down!

-Article from the Vitae September newsletter.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I saw this wonderful spectacle on my way to pick up some dinner the other night, yes the sign says, " chocolate covered bacon"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Swap O' Rama Rama

Swap O' Rama Rama comes to Des Moines!
Swap O Rama Rama (SORR) is a clothing swap and do-it-yourself extravaganza that has been making the rounds internationally since the 1990's. The event is being put on locally by artists Kelsey Blessman (Kelsey Cliche) and Stephanie Bracelin, with the help of many D.I.Yers. Just bring $10. and a bag of unwanted clothes and wearables to trade and up-cycle on site. There will be stations set up for sewing, screenprinting, beading and otherwise embellishing and re-designing your new-found items. If you have ideas and skills (and materials) you'd like to share - they're open to it! There will also be an informal "show us what you made" fashion show that will also feature works of local Independent designers. Everyone leaves with a bag of finds, lots of crafty new friends and a big dose of empowerment for living the thrifty life more creatively! Tickets are only $8.00 in advance and are available at Mars Cafe and Vitae Design Collective. Please visit for more info and volunteer opportunities. Let's do this! SORR will be held at the Des Moines Social Club, 1408 locust on Sat. August 1st from 11am to 3pm.

- Article from the Vitae July newsletter

Designer Spotlight

Designer Spotlight: Rock 'N Reconstruct

Vitae has not one, but TWO Sarah Johnsons! We figure this Collective's big enough for the both of 'em. This month's featured designer is the Sarah Johnson of Rock 'N Reconstruct - a local legend in Indie design. This bold and seriously flattering line has demanded international attention and continues to push forward with innovative twists on the vintage look. Like many of us Rip & Stitchers, she was a longtime thrift store shopper and began by modifying her finds to suit her personal taste. When she moved from the tall corn state to L.A. upon graduating college, she took a job with a designer while looking for a job in her field. What had always been a passion quickly became the career as she was noticed by other designers and west coast shoppers alike. R 'N R dresses have been spotted on celebrities and in magazines.

photo by: mG Photography

With her line established in boutiques in California & across the country, she's recently decided to make Iowa her home base once again. Some of you may know that it was Sarah who put together the first Indie Design showcase a few years back, doing much of the coordination long distance. Iowa Fashion Week, a series of style shows and fundraiser was the mama of Vitae's Runway Revue. Sarah's efforts, which she proclaimed to be a "Thank You" to Iowa, really opened a door for the local D.I.Y. community. We at Vitae are thankful to her for that, and have been happily paying it forward ever since.

-This article is from the Vitae July newsletter and written by Julie Punelli

Emergence Fashion Show

Emergence Fashion Show

Emergence, a fashion show & silent auction event to benefit the Ruth Harbor House, will be at the Des Moines Social Club on Saturday, July 11 at 8pm.  

The Ruth Harbor house offers shelter and support to young mothers and their babes. The auction will feature some fashions from the show. 
The show features pin-up style designs by Acanthus (this is a first for me), Magpie, Rok:her:roots, Jae Anonyma, Pink Revolver, and Rock n' Reconstruct.
$5 gets you in to the fashion show; VIP seats & after party tickets are $25. Available at the door or on!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Iron Heart is now open!

The grand opening is over, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't stop down and check out the shop.  


Joshua is taking a printmaking class at the Des Moines Art Center.  Here is the first in a series of prints that he will be making.  These prints will be available at Iron Heart Tattoo in Des Moines. I am also planning on printing these designs on some apparel.

Events in Des Moines

This is a great week to enjoy some art in Des Moines.  The Des Moines Art Festival starts this Friday and goes through Sunday.  When you're at the festival stop into The Instinct Gallery on Locust and check out the munny toy that Joshua designed as well as some other amazing artwork. Also stop into Vitae and look at the artwork from our Female Trouble show, featuring 7 talented ladies and purchase some apparel from local designers.  Acanthus has some fun tank tops and dresses.
A couple of other events that you don't want to miss... 80/35 music festival on July 3rd and 4th, where Art Noir and Vitae will have booths, and St. Vitus and the Taxi Dancers will be performing! On July 11th the Vitae ladies and some friends will be the designers in a pin-up themed show titled Emergence at the Des Moines Social Club.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Acanthus dress from Femme Fatale

Here is the first dress made by Acanthus Apparel. It was displayed at the Femme Fatale show at the Instinct Gallery. Check the Acanthus myspace,, soon for more pics. I will also have dresses for sale at Vitae towards the end of April.

DIY Nights

If you like crafting then you will love D.I.Y. Nights. Every other Tuesday Leslie features a new craft. For more information go to

We'll see you there!

Alter Egos and Alias's

Stop into Vitae on April 10th from 7-10pm to see some amazing work by some very talented tattoo artists!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Femme Fatale at the Instinct Gallery

Femme Fatale

The First All-Woman Art Show at the Instinct Gallery

March 2, 2009 – March 27, 2009
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 7, from 7pm-Midnight
1408 Locust Street - Des Moines, IA

Come view the latest works from local and regional artists:
Rachel Buse - Kelsey Cliche - Susan Czechowski - Lee Ann Conlan - Rudy Fig - Shannon Gallagher - Michelle Holley - Amanda Jo Johanson - Tonya Kehoe - Jenny Knavel - Katt Mahr - CL Martin - Molly Murphy - Chelsea Pickett - Jessie Ramey - Whitney Warne - Emily Svec Body Decor - Murals by Caspa D Ghost

St. Vitus and the Taxi Dancers

Fire & Hoops:
Ashley Bertling & Liz Niec

Jillian Noah - Beati Paoli - The Honeybees

Vitae Design Collective featuring
rok:her:roots - Magpie - Pink Revolver - Acanthus Apparel - Barbarella

Located at the Instinct Gallery
1408 Locust Street
Des Moines, IA

Kill The Profits

This piece is titled "Kill The Profits". It is oil on wood and over a foot tall. The driving idea comes from the phrase, " Don't kill the Messenger".  The piece is created with a fair amount of irony since it is human nature to do just that, even to ourselves. The more we try to climb our soap box to be heard, the more vulnerable we are to falling. 
It will be displayed at Vitae Design Collective in early march along with work by fellow DSM tattooers; Paul Nycz, Mike Diamond, and Budha.  Come check the show out March 18th at the Art Noir open house.


I just finished this machine. It's a shorty bulldog frame I named "Daphne" after my adorable but ferocious female chihuahua. It's the first shorty frame that I have made and I am excited to make more.  It's petite and light, very easy on the wrist. The coil tops are salvaged vintage ivory, and I made a bezel and fixed a false tooth in, a gift from a customer of mine who makes false teeth. Truly one of my best machines, I will be holding on to this one for a while.