Every time I go to a thrift store, I seem to look at the same stuff. Broken-in khakis, vintage sweaters, plates that match the pattern I've been collecting for years. But I always forget to look at other stuff, stuff than you can actually "do something" with.
Here are some of those things:
The other day I found, crammed between a textbook called "C++ for Professionals" and a syrupy looking novel called "Love's Wicked Ways", a slim paperback entitled "Easy Sew-Ups and Appliques". Apparently somebody thought sewing was no longer hip. Shame on them.
Inevitably at most any thrift store there will be an entire shelf of ugly christmas cookie tins. Why is this a good thing? Because tins make great shrines. Why make a shrine? Why not! Idolize photos of you cats, your boyfriend (or ex!) or whatever you feel deserves worship. I made a shrine to the almighty pistachio. The tin is covered in shell halves and when you open it, the inside has a single, perfect nut up on a little pedestal with birthday candles around it. I light them when I feel hungry. Tins are also great for homemade cookies or other treats. Cut a slit in 'em and make a kleenex dispenser (fold over sharp edges!). Spraypaint 'em, decoupage 'em, embellish 'em, whatever moves you. Just remember to use glue that'll stick to metal.
8. Coffee Tables.
The greatest coffee tables come from thrift stores. And sometimes, they come in the shape of beat up suitcases or trunks or old tables that need their legs cut down. My parents have a little coffee table that once was an antique sewing machine table. Those little side drawers are great for their 4 remote controls.
Make 'em into skirts (okay, this is kinda passé), quilts (this is not!), backpackes, potholders, or whatever. Just buy the cool ones, not to polyester ones with stains on them.
6. Record albums.
These have so many uses, I don't even know where to start. Decorate your walls with old vinyl. Hang 'em up as room dividers. Heat 'em up and make bowls. Use the jackets for book covers, folders, cards, postcards, framed art, CD holders, decoupage, or shower curtains. Darn, these things are useful.
5. Double Boilers.
Back in the day when your mom or your mom's mom used to make dinner every night, a double boiler must have came in handy. As evidenced by the plethora of them residing on the pots-n-pans shelf waiting for a new home. This is great for a crafter because if you're going to screw up a pot trying to pour your own candles (or soap), make your own chocolate or melt plastic for a variety of fun reasons, it's best to do it in a pot that you only paid a couple of bucks for.
Two words. Rag rugs. They're easy, they're fun (they're also terribly time-consuming, but who's counting hours?) and they're affordable, thanks to the once-fashionable, now-affordable Tapered Jean. Start tearing up those Gloria Vanderbilts and starting braiding my friends!
Not for hanging, usually, (though consider yourself lucky if you find a set that actually fits your windows AND your decor) but old drapery fabric makes great new pillow fabric. Or table runners. Little cloth bags. You get the idea.
2. Board Games.
I think the question is, what CAN'T you do with an old board game? Missing pieces are no problem if you plan to cut up the boards anyway. In case you never noticed, game boards are about as thick as a book cover. Hmmm... Also good for portfolios, sturdy little boxes, room dividers (hey you can't divide enough rooms in my book), etc.
1. Wool Sweaters.
For anyone who hasn't read the getcrafty article on felting, you can also use scraps of old ugly sweaters to make scarves, mittens, slippers, anything warm. It's wool after all. Look for ones with stains you can work around and then bargain with the salespeople.
I know the feeling. You're at the thrift store. The sign says 50% off everything. Everything. Your imagination can barely contain itself. But buyers beware. There are a few things that one should never be tempted to purchase at a thrift store. Even if it is 50% off.
Furniture. Before you all start bombarding the glitterboards with testimonials about how the *most awesome* piece of furniture you *ever found* was at a thrift store, I just want to tell you a little story a beautiful brown, wooden scandanavian style chair with cushions that I found at the local Council of the Blind that had FLEAS. Which, of course, led to my 4 cats having FLEAS. And me having FLEAS. And a litany of over-the-counter-FLEA treatments, and ultimately a very expensive extermination visit. That's all I'm going to say.
Cosmetics. I was in line behind a woman the other day who was about to buy a bunch of tubes of outdated sunscreen and some Bain De Soleil self-tanning lotion. That stuff just doesn't work after about a year. Well, actually the self-tanner will probably turn her orange. I may sound like a broken record but there's a reason that stuff ended up on the thrift store shelves. And as far as makeup, nobody enjoys a bout of pinkeye. Buy some cheap NEW shades from Jane or Wet-N-Wild that you can toss once you realize hot pink eyeshadow makes you look like a junkie.
Swimsuits. Hey, if you're so cash-strapped that you are in the market for a used swimsuit try wearing a pair of old shorts and a running bra instead.
Slippers. I have to admit, I've never been at a thrift store and fallen in love with an old pair of slippers. I mean, by the time they hit the thrift circuit, they're usually not very appealing. But if that isn't enough to deter you, I have an old book I found at an estate sale once called "Atlas of Foot Diseases". Complete with illustrations. You'd be amazed at what can grow on a foot. If you really need new slippers, try making your own.
Lingerie. In case you're tempted, I urge you to take a breather. Put it back on the rack. It's underwear for pete's sake.
Mattresses. For those of you who didn't see the 20/20 episode where they actually ran a used mattress through some sort of detector and found like 200 different kinds of microbes and germs and stuff on it, consider this a warning. Used mattresses are not healthy. Stained, used mattresses are not even an option.
Caroline Huth is an artist and graphic designer. You can see her work here.
In New York and San Francisco, people are gathering. In private places and public spaces they arrive with bags of yarn and scraps of plastic and implements of construction. They are people who own glue guns and bedazzlers, and who often look like they could or do make their own clothes. They look like artists and office managers and writers and designers. They look like you and me, in fact, I am one of them. We are the members of The Church of Craft.
The Church of Craft could be seen as a giant piece of art. Performance art of the very best kind, where the people involved don’t always know that they are making art. The kind of art that is endless and endlessly meaningful, that generates discussion and prompts action. Art that is deeply personal and yet rooted in the world. And if you see the Church that way I wouldn’t argue with you, and neither would many of its members or, indeed, its ministers. But the Church is also real—the kind of real that doesn’t need quotes or capital letters. The Church of Craft is, without irony or disclaimer, a church.
The trusted servants (and co-founders) of the Church are the Very Esteemed Callie Janoff (of the New York congregation) and the Reverend Trismegista (Tristy) Taylor (of San Francisco). On each coast, Church meets once a month in the form of a Craft-on.
In addition, on the east coast there are regular study groups (such as yarn study where people can learn to knit and crochet as well as deepen their practice of the fiber arts) and occasional special workshops (such as felting with Scott Bodenner and dyeing with Diane Bromberg)
Many members speak of the church as a haven from judgement and anti-craft attitudes. The Church is a place that allows people to make things without thinking about either utility or artistic value. Says Johanna Burke, " When I hobby-craft (knit,doodle, beads, other) I feel totally free and love the feeling of not being judged for what I make. Often times my artwork and work-work feel too public, so the crafting feels liberating…[Crafting is] a chance to take risks and innovate." The art v. craft tension is present in many of the Church’s members’ lives, and the Church seeks to be a space where that tension can be released. Diane Bromberg, in New York, testifies that she loves the Church because it is a "safe place" a place where there is "no judgement" about being someone who crafts. For Callie, the line between art and non-art represents ‘one of those gray areas that I find magic," while for Tristy "Art is craft and craft is art. I don’t care what the art schools say. Making things is making things. The act of creation is valid whether you are making a bird house or an abstract painting."
I’ve come to the Church late. And I’ve needed it. I nearly lost my life to academia, and I understand alienation. I understand the theory and I’ve lived the reality. I’ve written about technology and modernity, and I’ve debated postmodern theology. I’ve taught students the works of Marx, and I’ve used the pun "dead as Adorno." And through it all I have struggled to live rather than just survive. I wish it weren’t a struggle, and I entertain the fantasy of uprooting myself and moving to an unknown place, where I would live without conflict or exploitation, where the weather would be perfect every day and visitors would show up at convenient intervals, presenting me with everything I would ever need in the way of stimulation, communication and consumer goods. Maybe somewhere in Tennessee or Vietnam.
Meanwhile, I re-read the words written by my dear friend Paige Baty (in the posthumously published E-mail Trouble): "People need to get out more often and talk to each other. Not on phones, not at conferences, not using computers, but on summer lawns moistened with the dew of the evening or is it the morning, lying on our backs and watching the clouds and reading poetry for no reason at all and drinking a nice Chardonnay and just sitting there. People who make you want to picnic are a blessing: do not overlook them in these tired times." The community of the Church of Craft are people who not only make you want to picnic, they are people who picnic, and who make of picnicking an art form.
The Craft-ons began, informally, in the Bay Area in the spring of 2000: "I was having friends over and I would do a sermon and we would make stuff" recalls Tristy. Meanwhile, Callie had been asked to officiate at the wedding ceremonies of three couples with whom she was friends, and had become ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church in order to do so. All through the spring and summer leading up to the weddings she thought of her actions as performance art. She thought this way until the moment that the ceremony began. At that point "it was happening and it was the most real and intense thing I had ever experienced…It was so devoid of irony…there was no artistic abstraction whatsoever." Discussing this experience with a wedding guest after the ceremony, the words "Church of Craft" were first spoken. Callie knew right away that this could be a major act of creation—to foster an emotional and spiritual haven for people to make things and feel powerful and vibrant in their making.
The Church of Craft was officially born in October 2000, when Johanna Burke brought Tristy and Callie together. According to Tristy "the two of us, talking together in Johanna’s pink boudoir hatched the Church of Craft idea, and Callie immediately took me down to the basement and ordained me over the Internet. It couldn’t have happened the way it did, without both our ideas and thoughts and vision. I really do feel that the ‘gestation’ occurred over our entire lives, in that we wouldn’t be who we are without all the experiences we’ve had and books we’ve read and art making we have done. And I think our soul connection with each other and our desire to gather and make a community really helped this idea come together."It is ironic that the Church would not exist without the Internet and could not go on without email. Whether or not these "times" are tired, certainly everyone I know is exhausted. Overworked and overstimulated and overcommitted. News of the church arrives in my in-box, a welcome change from meeting minutes and offers of viagra. The Church, for me, fulfills the promise of the Internet. It brings people together. Not online, but in person.
The Church is as much about community as it is about crafting. But if you are at a craft on and you are not crafting, Callie is likely to pull an EZ craft out of her bag of tricks—such as a leather purse kit, or a lanyard. She does this because she believes that it is more fun to be making things at a Craft-on. But she is also drawing people into the power of craft. Crafting doesn’t have to be spiritual—but it can be. About the SF congregation, Tristy notes: "Some folks are really into the spiritual side of making things, and others just come for the nice atmosphere and crafty vibe." Callie again: "So much of our lives is about consumption, about amassing. It’s easy to get lost….At Church you are surrounded by a community of people who have similar values. You can be led or taught by someone who is committed to your spiritual betterment."
After growing up surrounded by artists (children who not only made things but made things well) I came to believe that I was a thinker, that the only thing I could put into the world were ideas and energy. That I could be a prime mover but not a creator. When I contemplated what would be asked of me, in the utopia after the revolution ("From each according to his means, to each according to his needs.") I believed that I would be asked for ideas and more ideas, and that I would be given the (grateful) minions to carry out my plans, to make things actually happen. Meanwhile, however, I was left to my own devices, to think and talk and write things down. And to live in limbo.
Diane, who considers herself an artist, says that for her there is not always a distinction between art and craft, but when there is, it is a line that is sometimes about utility (this is a toaster cover while that the function of that piece of sculpture is much less clear), and sometimes about portability: craft is something you can take with you and work with on the subway. This distinction reminds me of the distinction that someone once made between poetry and novels: that poetry is a literary form open to the poor and the oppressed. It can be written on scraps of paper and carved into stone, it can be remembered with the help of rhythm and rhyme, it can be spoken on the street to passersby. Novels, on the other hand, require vast resources including space, time and energy, to create, to distribute and to consume.
For some, the decision to write a poem or a novel is a personal aesthetic choice. And perhaps in some future utopia, it will be this way for everyone. So too with art and craft.
For me, craft is meditative and rewarding in and of itself, but it is also, paradoxically, about multitasking. Don’t just watch the tv, craft. And although I talk to strangers when they ask about my crochet—what I’m making, why I’m making, how long does it take, how did I learn, I also find that often I have my head down and my eyes on the project at hand rather than on my fellow subway riders. Craft opens lines of communication and community, but it also allows you to build a world of your own—to make your world.
When I was in L.A. I found it very disturbing that people kept saying that you could build your own world, that the city was only what you made of it. I found it even more disturbing when a friend referred to la la land as "a city of interiors." To me, the city is the polis and the agora—the public spaces, the meeting places. And as much as the interior of my home is important to me (and it is very important), I am rejuvenated by the city, by seeing the people on the streets, and the beauty of the buildings, and the miracle of urban life. I go home to prepare myself for going out, for being a citizen.
I am at the Craft-on. It is mother’s day, but it is not only the motherless who have shown up today. There are knitters and crocheters and quilters. There is also clothing design and feng shui planning and writing. Callie is wearing her satin jacket and matching apron, both festooned with the Church of Craft logo. She moves from group to group, offering encouragement. New York, and my world, just for the moment, is as beautiful as I know it can be.
Question: Do you think there is a relationship between crafting and changing the world?
Kirsten Hudson is a member of the Church of Craft, an editor of SuperNaturale, and an avid seeker of cheap thrills.
War is on, and there are so many things to talk about. We discuss the pros and cons at home, work and school, and some attend protests. For many, this is a hard time because we feel so distant from the many people around the world who are in danger because of political conflict.
As bombs exploded on my TV screen, I set my mind to remembering a training course I did at, of all places, the Police Department in Providence, RI, where I was working as a community organizer a few years ago.
The cops said they all used nonviolence to try to talk out conflicts on the job, both in the department and out on the street. The red-cheeked young cops with their thick New England accents quoting Gandhi managed to get me over a lot of my initial skepticism.
Nonviolence is a philosophy that contributes to a more peaceful and just world every day. It can help us get through arguments with our best friends, quibbles with our bosses, or anger at our government. Nonviolent resistance helped Mahatma Gandhi and his followers reject British colonial rule, and it helped Martin Luther King, Jr., and other African-Americans change racist policies in the U.S.
A lot of people think nonviolence is simply “not violence,” abstaining when others pull punches or fire guns. Nonviolence is an active struggle against violent forces: for example, using words instead of force, or using bodies to fight without harming anyone else, like sit-ins, hunger strikes, or marches. Of course, violence is not just punches and guns, it is also hurting ourselves or others by injustice, rejection, or just plain meanness.
Nonviolence can affect the way you feel about yourself and the people you meet every day, as well as national and international conflicts.
Here are a few ways to apply nonviolence to your daily life.
I’m all that. Nonviolence can start with the way you see yourself. Being angry with yourself or judging yourself makes it easier for others to hurt you, and for you to hurt others. Remind yourself regularly how great you are, being as specific as possible (some suggestions from my own repertoire: “I file like a champion”; “My apple tart makes Julia Child jealous”).
Smile. If your high school health teacher didn’t tell you it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, I’m telling you now. It is very unlikely that smiling will cause violence.
Avoid the bad stuff. Violence is a part of our lives, so it shows up in a lot of art and music. You have to make your own decision about how much you watch or listen to this kind of violence. A woman I know whose sister was killed by her abusive husband never watches movies that have any kind of violence because it makes violence entertaining, even if the overall message is that violence is a bad thing. Others just avoid movies and music that promote violence or hatred of women, gay people, or anyone else. It’s your call—just being aware of the violence we see and hear about every day can be a commitment to looking for alternatives.
Count to 10 before reacting to something you hear or see. Those few seconds will help you handle your frustration or anger in a way that doesn’t hurt you or another person. If the conversation still makes you mad, ask yourself: “Will arguing back really help me?” Maybe walking away is the best answer.
Get crafty Most people who read this site already know that being creative is a good way to feel better about yourself and the world. Cooking a great meal, sewing a fabulous outfit or decoupaging an old cookie tin can teach the forces of negativity not to mess with you, and fortify you when you face struggles.
Be nice Talking behind peoples’ backs, and clique-ishness seem pretty benign compared to military action, but quitting is also a lot easier than foreign policy. For starters, opt out of gossip and “did you see what she was wearing?” for a week. Then, next week, think about someone who might like to hang out with your crew, and invite him/her along to your next fun outing. If any of your friends look at you funny, flash them the peace sign.
Give stuff away, literally; give your friend that rainbow sweater she’s been coveting. Carry some fruit or granola bars in your bag to give hungry people. Better yet, give stuff away, figuratively. Give praise, like telling your friend she looks hotter in that sweater than you did, or give forgiveness, whether it’s a beef you’ve had for years or annoyance that someone forgot your birthday. Let someone ahead of you onto the subway, or pretend not to notice if someone has 11 items in the express lane. Generosity fights violence because it offers something positive with nothing expected in return—the opposite of “an eye for an eye.”
Be angry Being nonviolent doesn’t mean you’ll never be angry. Express your anger in a way that doesn’t hurt other people, like through art or writing, or, as the Six Principles say, by working to eliminate evil, not the evil-doer. That means not being angry at a person, but at the circumstances that allow that person to hurt others. Politically, that means fighting injustice, not individual people.
Tell people about your commitment to nonviolence, and ask for help when you have trouble applying the principles of nonviolence to your own problems. Tell your friends how they can find out more about nonviolence, and stick with it even if some question your decision. Find out more yourself by checking out the sidebar of this article. Speak up and be courageous.
Bess Williamson writes about design and the environment when she’s not getting crafty in Brooklyn
This no-nonsense crochet bikini pattern should get you to the beach or pool in no time. This is an intermediate level pattern so crochet at your own risk.
Since all bodies are different, I recommend you use the pattern as a guide while checking the size and shape against a favorite pair of underwear/bra or other bikini that fits or your own body. The initial panty shape should be about an inch smaller than your ideal finished dimension all the way around. I found that for some parts I was a "small" for some a "large."
Don't be afraid to rip out what doesn't fit just right, the guage is so large that it will be quick to re-do! Elastic can also be added in the waistband if desired by crocheting a length under the last row of CC. When finished try on and adjust elastic, then sew in place. Another option is to line your 'kini with a light cotton or synthetic knit jersey. Lay out panties and bra flat and cut out fabric about 3/8" smaller than finished shapes (don't bother with the straps and ties). Hand stitch raw edge with a whipstitch to inside of panties and bra cups 3/8" from edge. This pattern makes a very low-rider panty that will just barely cover both your front and back privates.
First Cup: Beg at lower edge, with MC, ch 21 (23-25). Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across--20 (22-24) sc. Ch 1, turn each row.
Rows 2-6 (next 4 rows): Sc in each sc across.
Row 7: Sk first sc, sc in next sc and in each sc to within last 2 sc, sk next sc, sc in last sc-2 sc dec. Repeat last row 8 (9-10) times--2 sc remain. Do not turn; continue to work sc down one side of. cup to lower edge. Ch 1, turn.
Next Row: Sc in each sc to upper edge, make ch 12" long for strap . Turn.
Next Row: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch, sc down other side of cup to lower edge. End off.
Make 2nd cup same as first cup, until 2 sc remain. Sl st in 2 sc and continue as for first cup.
Join Cups and Ties: With MC, make 13" ch , sc along lower edge of first cup, pulling in slightly, ch 2 , sc across 2nd cup, pulling in slightly, make ch 13" long. Turn.
Next Row: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch and sc across. End off. With CC, work 1 row sc around outer edge. End off. Sew shoulder straps to side straps.
Beg at front waistline with MC, ch 35 (37-39).
Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across--34 (36-38) sc. Ch 1, turn each row. Check gauge; row should measure 9-3/4" (10-1/4" - 10-3/4") wide.
Row 2: Working in back lp (see Note), sk first sc, sc in next sc and in each sc to within last 2 sc, sk next sc, sc in last sc--2 sc dec. Repeat row 2, until 6 sc remain. Work even for 8 (9-10) rows.
Next Row: Work in sc, working 2 sc in first and last sc--2 sc inc. Repeat last row until row contains-54 (57-60) sc. End off.
With MC, work 2 rows sc around each leg.
Waistband and Ties: With MC, ch 20, sc in back lp of each st on last row on back of panties pulling in slightly, ch 21. Turn.
Next Row: Sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch, pulling in slightly, and sc across. End off. Work in same way across front starting ch without pulling in. With CC, work 1 row sc around entire outer edge of panties. End off.
ch - chain stitch, as for starting chain
sc - single crochet
work in back lp - instead of inserting hook under both loops at the top of a stitch, insert hook only under the back loop of stitch. This will give a raised look to every other row.
sk - skip as to skip a stitch to decrease the number of stitches in a row.
inc - increase as to make two stitches into one loop of the previous row.
pulling in - decrease by a few stitches across the length of the edge to create a slightly gathered effect - more or less stitches as necessary to fit your shape.
end off - break yarn with at least 3 inches and pull loop on hook free. Tighten to fasten.
weave in ends - ends can be crocheted over as you go to eliminate most weaving in. Hold loose end over last row as you crochet over end and into back loops. Final weaving in can be accomplished with a tapestry needle or hook and should follow a strand as invisibly as possible.
gauge - always crochet a sample swatch and check your gauge, if you crochet loosely you may need to use a smaller hook - tightly, use a larger hook.
From Needlework & Crafts, Spring-Summer, 1970
Adapted by Callie Janoff
The Very Esteemed Callie Janoff is a founding Minister of the Church of Craft. She runs the New York City Chapter. She makes everything she can get her mitts on.
If your experience of felt is limited to kindergarden art projects, or if you think that felt is something that is sold by the square in craft stores, prepare to have your mind blown. Felting is a process, requiring only knit woolens and a washing machine, and once you get started, you too may become a felting devotee.
What is this stuff you call felt?
The primary colored easy-craft staple is one kind of felt, another is an industrial material, used for insulation and other hard core non-craft purposes. But the stuff that we are interested here is an evolution of knit fabrics.
Knit fabrics have the benefit of tremendous give and bias. Felting causes the yarn’s fibers to mesh together so they maintain their properties, but will not unravel when cut. You can turn anything woolen (including cashmere and alpaca but not acrylic) into felt. So if you have multiple sweaters made by your grandmother who thinks you are 9 feet tall, or if you can’t resist buying beautiful thrift store woolens no matter how badly they fit, or if you have a huge pile of knit test swatches, felting is the magical solution to your problems. Here we’ll outline the basic techniques and show a few projects. From there you can take felting wherever you can imagine.
How It Works
When you felt a knit fabric, what happens is that the temperature changes and agitation cause the curly barbed wool fibers to straighten out and then spring back and lock together, so they get all tangled up. This means that you get a tighter, sturdier piece of fabric.
How to Do It
The easiest method of felting is to throw sweaters into a washing machine for a normal cycle (hot or warm wash, cold rinse). A small amount of soap (try 1/8 of what you might normally use) will also aid in felting. In the washing machine, hot water felts more than warm water. Similarly, a long cycle felts more than a short cycle.
Controlling the Process
If sweaters aren't felted to your desired thickness or smallness, they may require multiple washings, but be careful. The first wash may not seem to do much. Then with the second wash your old XXXL fits your 9-year old niece.
So, if you are shrinking a baggy sweater and it is sort of close to what you’d like, stop before it gets way too small.
Arms often become too short during felting. One solution is to wrap them in a 3" wide strip of a non-wool material. Looping, and knotting each loop seems to work best since it won’t come undone in the machine. This technique is similar to tie dying, so you could choose areas you want to pucker out and not felt, tie them off and throw that into the wash.
What to do with your felt
Felting gives you freedom because exposed edges won't unravel. You can tie them with loops of yarn, or crochet them together, or sew them with a machine or by hand. My favorite method involves a latch hook or knitting machine needle. With this you can create seams that have give like the knit.
The magic of felt is now your own mighty saber to wield at unruly wool-based fabrics. Shrink and re-shape away! Felted material can now be cut and sewn into new garments, quilts, rugs, hats, potholders, toilet seat covers, anything requiring the durability, flexibility, density, and dangerous beauty of felt.
Make sure the sweaters don’t matter too much to you since felting is something of a voodoo art, and there is always a chance of over felting.
Patterns: A sweater with a graphic multicolor pattern may look bad from the front, but becomes lines of color on the back. These might fuzz together and become beautiful during felting.
Color Bleeding: Sweaters often bleed so make sure that you combine colors that will look good if they tint each other.
Shrinkage: Shrinkage occurs more in the length than the width of a knit. Ribbing, at the bottom and sleeves of a sweater, tends to felt less and sewn seams often don’t felt at all. (See more at Controlling the Process)
This was written by Scott Bodenner with help from Callie Janoff. Scott is a weaver living in Brooklyn and a devout follower of the Church of Craft.
Who has the time to sit down and embroider anything? Just the word sounds painstaking, time-consuming, intimidating. But this is a deceptively simple activity. Embroidery is a perennial favorite on home furnishing, clothing, accessories... we pay big bucks for that extra-threaded touch and even more if it's done by hand. But why shell out extra for the handiwork that you can do yourself? "It looks so hard to do". Pshaw. Embroidery is easy, relaxing, and one of the least expensive crafts you can take up. Anything through which you can pass a needle and thread is game.
The easiest thing to start with is a tea-towel. You can buy finished, blank tea-towels at any craft store, which are made specifically to be embroidered. Or, if you want to make your own towel, just hem the edges of an 18" x 24" piece of 100% cotton pique (pronounced "pick-ay"), diaper cloth, monk's cloth, muslin or flour-sack cloth. If you're feeling extra crafty, make some smaller napkins to go with your towel. Some of these fabrics have a fringed, "selvage" edge that works well along the bottom edge of your towel, which does not need to be hemmed.
Pattern for Your Towel
The first step, the real secret of getting started, is having a pattern to follow. There are numerous ways to get a pattern on your towel before you embroider it. Lines can be drawn directly on the cloth with chalk or pencil, you can trace a pattern using dressmaker's carbon paper, or you can simply use some fancy stitches along the edge. If you want dancing glassware or tiki drinks adorning your linens, the easiest way to go is with an iron-on transfer pattern. Known to every homemaker in the first half of the 20th century, iron-on transfers offered a wide variety of pretty patterns that could be transferred onto aprons, curtains, linens and of course, tea-towels to then be embroidered. I suggest using these nifty patterns to start. They're made with a special ink so they can be used more than once, allowing you to combine them in your own unique way.
If you have a design of your own, or from a pattern book that you want to transfer to cloth here are two easy ways of doing this:
1. Transfer Pencil: Photocopy the image and trace it with a transfer pencil, then use the pattern like an iron-on. This won't work for any images with lettering though, since the pattern will be reversed.
2. Dressmaker's Carbon Paper: Trace your image onto the cloth with a sheet of dressmaker's carbon paper, face down, between the image and the cloth. Available at any craft or fabric store, carbon paper colors come in red, blue, and even white for working on dark fabrics.
Of course, you can take a decorative stitch and use it without a pattern. Use a hidden or blanket stitch in white floss along the hem of a black skirt, for example. No pattern needed!
Putting Your Fabric on the Hoop
Separate the two embroidery hoops from each other. Lay the imprinted cloth across the non-adjustable hoop so that the pattern is within the hoop. Now place the adjustable hoop over these and press down. Make sure the top hoop is not too tight, or you may tear the fabric. Before tightening the screw, gently pull your fabric taut, like a drum-head. Once your fabric is pulled evenly acorss the hoop, tighten the screw. You may need to re-tighten the fabric and hoop as you work on them. When not embroidering, loosen the adjustable hoop to avoid distortion of the fabric.
Cut a length of floss or thread about 12-13" long (the length of your thumb and forefinger to your elbow). Thread the needle, and make a knot at one end (there is no need to make a knot at the needle end, just pull it through enough so it won't slip through the eye while you're working). With your fabric ready on the hoop, start by bringing your needle up from under the fabric until you hit the knot. Now, bring the needle back down through, and you've made a stitch! Now what!?
Before you pick up that History of a Million Needlework Stitches and run screaming from the library or bookstore, here are some good stitches to start with:
1. Split Stitch - For a continuous, running line. Make a small stitch (1-2), and bring the needle up for the next stitch through the center of the previous stitch (3), 'splitting' the threads. If you keep your stitches short, it will resemble a chain stitch.
2. Blanket Stitch - This is used for edges. Work from left to right. Make a diagonal stitch (1-2), then when you bring your needle up (3) to make the next stitch, come up under the first one, pulling the floss down to make a right angle. Repeat.
3. Star or 'Smyrna' Stitch - To make stars and little accents. Stitch length can be varied. Start with a 'plus' sign, and then stitch an 'x' across the top. For larger stars, finish with a tiny stitch across the center to prevent snagging.
4. Hidden Stitch - This is the broken dash stitch. Just run your needle through several folds of fabric at once to work quickly, or leave a space in-between stitches as you make them.
5. Chain Stitch - Pull floss up through fabric and reinsert next to where the needle just exited. Without pulling completely through, leave a small loop of loose floss instead of making a stitch. Now come back up under to make your next stitch, bringing the needle up through the loop of the previous. Repeat along your pattern line.
There are hundreds of variations and other stitches: French Knot, Lazy Daisy, Feather Stitch, Satin Stitch, just to name a few. For starting out, stitches like the split and blanket will give plenty of diversity to your designs.
Once you've gotten the hang of some stitches, you are ready to wield your fancy needlework on vintage clothing (western shirts are perfect!), skirts, pillowcases, tea-towels, cloth napkins, curtains...anything you dare!
1. Make sure you work in a place that is comfortable, and well-lit!
2. Don't place your pattern too close to the edge of the fabric; leave room to fit on the hoop.
3. Pre-shrink your fabrics in the wash before you emroider them, or be sure to wash only in cold water once they're embroidered, to avoid distortion of your needlework.
4. If your floss is snagging, becoming difficult to pull, or tangling, let your needle dangle allowing the floss to unwind. Or start with a new length.
After you get the hang of embroidering a towel, you can use your new-found skills to fancy up: vintage clothing, hand-made pillows, curatains, purses, toaster cozies, card tablecloths, pillowcases, guest towels, toilet-seat covers, cell-phone cases, lampshades, dashboard covers....you get the idea. Now get to it, and do it!
Jenny Hart is an embroidery artist and the owner of Sublime Stitching. Her embroidery work has appeared in BUST magazine Venus Zine. She launched Sublime Stitching to provide updated needlework patterns and hand-made goods for contemporary crafters who don't dig coutry-cutesy. When not embroidering, Jenny can be seen driving her brick-patterned Volvo around Austin, performing with her band The Hidden Persuaders or playing Mah Jong for quarters
I know you've got them, lurking in drawers, the back of the closet, in the "giveaway" pile: those T-shirts that are, for various reasons, both unwearable and indispensable. They are too small, too big, too short, have a stain, a hole, or some other flaw, and yet you cannot bear to part with them.
I took my old t-shirts and gave them new life. They were reincarnated as underwear.
My first pair came about because of an ill-shapen tee with a great air-brushed-style kitty face on the front. The shape of the shirt was all wrong, boxy, cropped, and yet – oh! that kitty! I couldn't part with her. I knew she'd be good for something, just hadn't figured out what exactly.
Late one night I was folding laundry. As I held up my favorite pair of undies, marveling at their keen shape, low waist, and full butt, I realized the true destiny of my kitty shirt. I grabbed my best scissors and went to work making a pattern, and within a few hours I had brand new undies. The kitty face found its place on the butt and there was plenty of material left for the front.
It's true that, as an undergarment, not many people will ever see this creation. But those that do will appreciate it all the more. I like to make these for friends because they are all unique, and you can't buy them. But good luck getting your friend's hip size without her/him noticing.
Check out the pattern PDF. Take your hip measurement (measure around at the widest point), divide by 2 and add one inch. That's how wide the pattern should be across, halfway down the sides from the waist. (if your material stretches more, make adjustments as you see fit) You can print out the pattern and enlarge it to the right size, or you can just eyeball it and copy the shape onto your own paper. I recommend making a pattern because then you can make more easily and you have a record of what you did.
Find a clean (if you care) shirt that strikes your fancy. I have used shirts with printed pictures or words, anything I thought would look good on my butt. You might not want to use your prized material possession if it's your first time. Figure out if you have enough material for underwear (see item 1 above), and cut out the two main pattern pieces. You can cut the crotch piece out of the same material, or you can use a new fresh T-shirt or whatever. (I keep a few Hanes white undershirts on hand.)
SEW THE MAJOR SEAMS
First take your crotch piece, and hem the wider end, folding the edge over either once or twice. Then line up the front and back sections, rights sides together, and lay butt-side-up on a flat surface. Place the crotch piece wrong-side up on the butt, mirroring the front piece on the other side. Pin the three layers together at the crotch, and pin the sides. Double stitch the sides. For the crotch, sew all three layers together along the lower edge, leaving about 1/3 inch seam allowance.
Fold crotch piece around to the front, so that it lines up nicely with the front section, and pin it in place. The point of all this is so the bottom inside seam is covered over. Nice, eh? so now you have something resembling underwear, with a crotch piece folded around and matched up with the front. Lovely, right?
Now would be a good time to try on the underwear, if it's for you. It should be quite loose around the leg holes and waist, but the hips should be snug. If they are not, now is the time to sew the side seams again to make the hips smaller.
Sew with a zigzag stitch around the leg holes and the waist, without folding any edges over. Sew along the crotch piece as if it is just part of the front piece. Don't worry about the opening at the top of the crotch piece, as it will be sewn down on the sides.
Then fold the edges over about 1/3 inch, right-side-out, and zigzag sew around all three holes again.
Then do it AGAIN, making sure to fold over enough material to leave a sleeve for your elastic to run through. Also, leave about 3/4 inch of the leg holes unsewn at the hips and leave a bit unsewn at the back of the waist. So now you have a slim sleeve of fabric around each hole and an opening in each sleeve through which to feed the elastic.
Cut your elastic cord into three pieces, one piece to go around each leg hole and the waist. Leave extra length on each. Feed each cord through a corresponding sleeve, leaving the ends sticking out of the the openings. It may help to use a safety pin at the front end of the feeding cord. Try on the undies on, cinch up the elastic, and safety pin the elastic where it should be sewn. Then just sew the elastic ends together, cut off remaining elastic, and sew up those remaining seams.
With any luck, you've got yourself some fancy new one-of-a-kind underwear. If it's not what you expected, don't be discouraged! Try it again! My second attempts usually go much more according to plan.
Since T-shirt material varies greatly, sometimes you'll get a stretchier product. Sometimes my undies turn out tight and slim, sometimes they are more like bloomers, but I like them either way. I just try to go with the flow of the fabric and make small adjustments based on what it seems like it wants to do.
Logan Billingham likes to make apparel out of all sorts of materials. She is studying to be an architect.
Through titles alone Learning to Love You More, Everyday Sunshine, The Sound We Make Together and People in Real Life one could imagine that Portland-based artist Harrell Fletcher embraces socialist ideas about the way we could live. One could also infer that he works with groups of people that might not consider themselves artists.
Similar to Beuys, Gonzalez-Torres, and Laderman Ukeles, Fletcher extends the genre of collaborative public art. In practice, he creates, and even assigns, projects to specific communities (TSWMT) and to the general public (LTLYM). During a time in which the art world is mainly interested in gothic, psychedelic, and apocalyptic themes, Fletcher's practice stands out like a sore thumb. In the midst of war, increasing poverty, and political mudslinging, his art materializes as a white flag signaling for more peaceful times.
In general, his work is an invitation to learn about strangers, neighbors and ourselves. Assignment #14 on learningtoloveyoumore.com, a website created by Fletcher, with artists Miranda July and Yuri Ono, requests life stories written in less than a day. All submissions that follow the rules are published on the site, and at times recycled into other assignments, such as #20 where we are asked to create an object from one particularly interesting story. Fletcher notes that with varying levels of skill, anyone can contribute to the site "through simple, specific instructions." Following this idea, he compares his level of
involvement to that of a "yoga instructor explaining poses to a class."
Other works do not have a participatory element, but still carry activist sentiment. Some People From Around Here, was an installation along Interstate 80 that allowed drivers passing by Fairfield, CA to view 8'x8' painted portraits of its residents. In the following year (1998), Fletcher used found objects instead of illustrative representations to continue his interests in area studies. Wanderings and Observations was a site-specific show about Walnut Creek, in which Fletcher exhibited the debris and wildlife of the city in a local gallery. By equally engaging with all aspects of a community and reflecting on its history, Fletcher's version of public art suggests how we can build stronger relationships within our local scenery.
Fletcher has said that as an adolescent he was "extremely shy and preferred to stay clear of most people." Through many of his works he is able to do so because the only visible aspects are made or performed by others. In The Sound We Make Together, Fletcher displaced dog walkers, choir singers, and workout classes onto a gallery space to perform their normal activities. He has also created a projects based on the socialization of just one person, such as Anthony, an exhibit about a SFAI student displayed in the school's gallery. Through various mediums exposing Anthony's tastes, Fletcher introduced the audience to a part of the student population and extended the possibility of friendship to the community.
Fletcher's art also expands into the terrain of relational aesthetics. Relational aesthetics is a term used to describe works that are collective activities or art about social relationships. Similarly, art that issues a challenge to specialization, or artists who act as producer instead of sole creator (such as Yoko Ono) also comprise the expanding field of relational aesthetics. Engagement is at the core of relational aesthetics, and as Fletcher has said, it is "a requirement" for pieces to be successful.
The built-in assumption in the title of Learning to Love You More is that love between the participants exists prior to the posting of assignments. So its love, or at least sincerity that fuels the assignments in which creative expression occurs, relationships are formed, and communities organize. The formulation of new contexts and social environments is once of the most radical aspects of Fletcher's work. More radical (during present times), is that Fletcher shows us how easy it is to work together, how it only takes a few minutes to meet a stranger, and how simple it is to be sincerely interested in details that usually go unnoticed.
Lauren O'Neill-Butler frequently has dreams about collaboration, technology, and
art (but in no particular order).
Whether it's yard sales, thrift shops, flea markets, estate sales or antique shops - the opportunity for price-haggling exists throughout the entire second-hand world . Yet many people choose not to exercise their right to "talk price." Whether due to embarrassment or simple lack of know-how, there are folks paying every cent scribbled on a piece of masking tape stuck to antique dishes, old novels, or strange campy records. And that, my friends, is a travesty. Therefore, after numerous interviews with pros in the field, I have compiled a series of steps to make even the meekest consumer feel comfortable executing their power to effectively and confidently price haggle.
1. Know Your Arena
Use common sense. The more casual the venue, the more appropriate to talk price. I suggest sticking to yard, stoop, and garage sales, outdoor bazaars and flea markets. In organized craft shows and thrift stores, use discretion. Some people believe that damaged retail goods are easy pickings for a discount. If you plan to go that route, make sure the damage is significant and that it is the last available item. Then, ask for a manager.
2. Survey the Area
Thoroughly browse all item tables. Take a good look at merchandise you are interested in, making sure it is in an acceptable condition. As you walk, keep a mental list of items you would potentially buy. That way, if you're drawn to a few pieces you'll know what kind of offer to make when you engage the seller.
3. Make Your Approach
Select the item you desire and have a rough figure in your mind of a target price. Then, get the seller's attention. Wear your best poker face--if they know that you'll die to have it, then they'll make you pay.
4. Make an Offer
Avoid specific numbers at first. To gage how eager the seller is, ask, "Is this the best you can do?" Some might respond with "It's still early in the day," while others could give you a figure immediately. If the price isn't where you want it to be, try offering half of what you'd like to pay. You'll inevitably work your way up to a happy medium. Finally, it might be worthwhile to offer purchasing something else you are interested in. If the seller sees that you will take two items off their hands, they might be more inclined to go a bit lower then before.
5. The Ultimate Decision
If a seller refuses to match the price you desire, it's your decision whether or not to walk. You could try returning to the sale a bit later in the afternoon, but you risk losing out to another customer. If the seller has gone down quite a ways in price for you, but you're still not in your original target area, be flexible. It might be worth the extra dollar to have the item in your hands
Siobhan Vivian is a bargain seeker and a children's author.
Chai is a fragrant spice mix combined with black tea and warm milk originally from India. I first had it in hippy coffee shops on the West Coast, and now rely on it as my morning wake-me-up. It is easier on the brain and body than coffee. Rather than leaving you frantic and twitchy on course to crash and burn the way coffee does, chai leaves you feeling alert and ready for a pleasant, flowery day of understanding and accomplishment.
After dumping coffee entirely for teas I found myself disheartened over the lame assortment of chai mixes available in Big Apple markets. Boxed mixes, sometimes with soy already in them, are way too sweet and offensively spendy. Or maybe you have tried to make a cup from a stale tea-bagged variety? I have tried them all, my only success coming from some crunchy bulk chai mix that looked like forest floor found in worldly San Francisco.
When that ran out, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. After a little research and a pleasant trip to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, I am now liberated from my chai woes and am happy to share this recipe with you. The SF hippy variety is the inspiration for the following recipe. Chai can be more simple (using powdered spices or fewer spices) but I find the complexity of this recipe worth the trouble and there is enough to share with your friends.
3 Tbsp Whole coriander
3 Tbsp Cinnamon stick, broken up into 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tbsp Cardamom pods, whole (best) or seeds can be used
1.5 Tbsp Cloves, whole
1.5 Tbsp Nutmeg, powdered
2 Tbsp Whole Star anise, or seeds can be used
2 Tbsp Allspice whole, 1.5 tbsp if ground
2 Tbsp Whole peppercorns (black or white can be used)
3-4 Tbsp Dried orange peel, 1/2 inch pieces (equals one orange)
2 Tbsp Ginger, fresh (preferred) cut into slivers, or powdered
1-3 vanilla bean
This makes about 2 cups.
You will also need
Loose Darjeeling tea or unperfumed black tea
Milk or soy (rice and oat milks both separated when heated)
Honey, sugar, or stevia
And 1 Pot
Sometime Before Prepare The Spice Mix:
Place all spice in a jar and shake up well. Use the vanilla bean whole to flavor the mix. It can be reused and will live in the jar for the lifespan of your mix. If you use fresh orange peel and/or fresh ginger chop up and let dry in slow oven or over night on a cookie sheet before adding to mix.
When You Want Chai Do This:
Add 2 spoonfuls of the spice mix + 2 c. water to a sauce pan
Bring to boil. Cover pot and boil for at least 10 minutes, 15 minutes is best.
Mix should be a light brown and your kitchen will smell very fragrant.
Turn off heat and add a hefty spoonful of tea leaves.
Cover and let steep for 3 minutes
Add a spoonful of honey or preferred sweetener to mix (only 5-10 drops if stevia!).
Add 1 cup of milk/soy or other similar beverage.
Stir and reheat mix, taking caution to not boil over.
Strain and serve.
Adjust proportion of milk, spice, and sweetener depending on your taste and temperament.
Any unused portion can be strained, refrigerated and reheated.
Ms. Burke is an editor of SuperNaturale, charter member of the Brooklyn Ladies Social Club and regular attendee of the Church of Craft.
A long and bitter winter has come to an end. Temperatures are rising, photosynthesis and pheromones igniting. But before you can join the seasonal celebrations, my crafty Cinderellas, you must do your chores.
It's time to clean house - spring style!
What differentiates a "spring clean" from your average weekend tidying? A whole mess of tedious chores usually avoided at all costs - that's what! For some, the concept is on par with "If a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one around to hear it, will it make a sound?" Simply put, even the most diligent taskmasters may have a difficult time grasping the expanse of this annual to-do.
To help clear the mental cobwebs, I've formulated a plan of attack for the indispensable elements to this rite of sanitation passage. There's also a list of slackass deviations and hazards to be wary of.
So, get that vintage apron tied nice and tight and spread your elbow grease plenty thick. Hopefully, you'll be out before midnight.
With all the gorgeous fresh produce headed for your refrigerator, it might be time to empty the sucker out and washed away the gelatinous remains of Thanksgiving, no?
Sort through and toss any foodstuff that is over a healthy expiration date. A general rule - if you haven't used something in over six months, pitch it for the sake of your taste buds.
If your freezer resembles a snow cone on steroids, unplug it, place a pot of boiling water inside (on a trivet!) and get your melt on. You'll be amazed at how much better things taste after the great thaw.
There's no better way to spring-up a room than flooding it with sweet fresh air. That is, unless you have windowsills filled with grime, screens caked in dust and dingy curtains. Follow these steps and you'll be proud to pull your curtains back.
• Remove screens entirely and submerge them in a soapy tub. Let soak for a few minutes.
• Spray clean with a garden hose and pat dry with a cotton towel or rag.
• Wipe down the entire window casing as well as the window pane.
• Strip any window treatment down for laundering.
Nothing points the finger at your lack of winter dusting like a little natural light. Get a damp rag and wipe down every surface, including:
• Door frames
• Ceiling fans
• Knickknacks and display cases
• Books and shelving
Be extra gentle with televisions, stereos and other electronics. They attract dust like nobody's business but deserve extra TLC.
Your sofa has probably endured quite a bit of winter loafing. To keep things cozy (not crunchy!):
• Strip off the cushions and vacuum up all the crumbs, change and undefined filth lurking at the bottom of your upholstery.
• Launder slipcovers covers and throws.
• Treat any minor stains with a damp rag and a smidge of gentle laundry soap.
• Give the raw cushions a good pounding in the great outdoors.
You want to look your spring cutest - and who could blame you? But, doing so shouldn't come at the expense of your winter savings. It's hard not to get caught up in spring fashion madness. Here's a few tips on maximizing what you already have before any hard-earned pennies disappear into the cash register.
STEP ONE: Size Winter Up
• Take stock of everything you've acquired during winter.
• Separate any items that you didn't wear once during the season.
• Recycle pieces that are stained and/or grungy.
• Dry clean / launder / repair all items that you plan to keep.
• Pack winter clothes away in a dry, protected space for next season.
• Keep a few transitional pieces handy for unpredictable weather.
STEP TWO: Reevaluate Your Existing Spring Wardrobe
• Open that trunk wide and spill the contents. It's time to refresh your memory.
• Try on every piece of clothing again. Separate what doesn't fit to a reasonable degree. (Hell, we've still got another 9 months for that resolution!)
• Toss anything stained, yellowed, or in a general state of yuck. Better yet, tear it up into a new cleaning rag!
STEP THREE: Maximize
• One lady's trash is another's treasure. Throw a spring-theme Naked Lady Party.
• Mix choice spring pieces into the winter garb for maximum potential. Replace a sweater with a tank and jean jacket.
• You should be able to avoid the initial spring sales rush! By the time you actually NEED some new pieces, they should be on sale.
As you've astutely noticed, spring cleaning can be quite a task - one easily derailed by distraction. Here are some deadly pratfalls to avoid at all costs.
• Keep your eyes on the prize. Don't start a new task if you are already in the middle of one. • Try not to open any magazines, photo albums, CD collections, etc. You'll get easily sidetracked with a stroll down memory lane.
• Don't attempt to do all your spring cleaning in one do-or-die weekend. Beside the obvious sadomasochism, you'll burn out faster than a match and leave behind a plethora of half-assed and unfinished chores.
• Science 101: never EVER mix ammonia with bleach!
Siobhan Vivian is not a neat freak. She is a childern's book author.
It's tough being a grease monkey in New York City. I dream of a garage, a good space where I can keep my tools and spread out my oily motorcycle parts. My friend Andrew Anderson, a Scottish New Yorker, does not let space constraints dictate his passion for British motorcycles. He spent a good 6 months building a 1955 Triton in his three floor walk-up in Brooklyn.
In simple terms, a Triton is a combination of a Norton frame and a Triumph engine – the best of both worlds from two classic British bikes. Andrew used an engine from a 1955 Triumph Thunderbird, also known as a 6T. The frame is the famous Rex McCandles Wideline also from 1955, made for Norton. Andrew wanted to build the ultimate Cafe Racer; an expression originated in London during the sixties when bikers would race their customized motorcycles between cafes. A typical Cafe Racer should have rear sets (special kind of foot pegs) and clip-on bars or Ace bars (really low handle bars) to create a low, racy riding position. The bike should also be cleared of any unnecessary elements. Much like today's race bikes, speed before comfort is the golden rule.
The project started with a rolling chassis; frame, engine, wheels and some other parts. Many elements were missing and the bike didn't run, but he had a basic skeleton to build on. Since Andrew does not own a garage, he decided to do the whole thing in his 750 sq ft apartment in Prospect Heights. The first thing he did was to disassemble everything. Sort out what he had and figured out what else he needed in order to build a working motorcycle. He made sure to photograph every step of the process, to have a reference point when he put it back together. He soon ended up with old and new parts taking up his whole living space (man, it helps being a bachelor).
Andrew didn't fancy the original frame finish;
"I removed the stove enamel and repainted it", Andrew says.
"I think there is only a very small palette of colors that look right on an old cafe racer, black being my favorite."
The engine needed new piston rings, he cleaned and reassembled the head, renovated and re jetted the carburetors. Andrew has got a bit of a polishing fetish, but sometimes you got to know when to stop;
"The first thing I renovated was the Amal carbs. Spent about a week cleaning and polishing them, they came up really nice, great surface shine. Put them in a box safe until the rebuild. When I opened the box 3 months later they looked like they did before I started work on them. The alloy used by Amal is quite cheap it would appear and it oxidizes very quickly, last time I ever spend a week polishing a carb."
He had better luck with the gas tank which was sanded then polished on his buffing wheel, he'd since let oxidize naturally to a dull alloy shine. It looks fantastic.
The original seat was vinyl and a big mess. After months of suffering the agony of desire, Andrew caved and paid $300 for a beautiful suede seat from Unity Equipe. He niftily cut out a part of its alloy hump and inserted a tail light, all in the name of clean lines and simplicity. The electric wiring was pretty straight forward since the bike does not have a battery system.
Any advice for an aspiring apartment-bike-builder?
"Grinding, buffing, painting, polishing and wrenching is a messy business. You want to be able to contain the airborne dust as much as possible so a separate room is a big help.
Be very methodical about taking things apart and keeping all the related bits in the same box or bag. Become friends with someone who knows much more about bikes than you do."
And what else?
"Never wash your hands with citrus based cleaner if you are sitting in the bath."
Apparently hand cleaner can have a pretty strong reaction on the rest of your body, especially your most sensitive areas. What about the neighbors? Andrew didn't get any complaints, even when he started up the bike in his kitchen. But, you should probably take that into account if you want to start your own project.
Six months and $7000 later the bike was ready for a road test. With the help of 3 strong bodies, Andrew got the bike down the stairs to the street. It started up and is still running great.
Petter Ringbom is a partner in Flat, part laplander and full time British bike enthusiast.
One late night last winter break after a hard day of hanging out and doing the dishes, I decided the time had come. All of my random crazy “artwork” and rants about James Bond needed to find a home, a place where they could be content in photocopied glory. I needed something to break up the mundane days of junior year of school. And so it happened—my zine, WANTED, was born. Zine: a vehicle for whatever needs to be shown to the world. It’s cheap, easy, and fun because you can make your zine into whatever you want. Making a zine is also great for the power thrill you get thinking, Ha, I don’t want to write an introduction…I’m not going to.
Now, how to make one
1. The best advice I ever read was to assemble your content before you make your zine. If you want to give the world a zine full of recipes and top ten movie lists, get them together over a period of time. Just start collecting them. You don’t want to get bogged down in the feeling that you MUST come up with something if you can’t. If you’re not inspired or your recipes aren’t working, let it go and come back to it later.
2. Once you get what you want to put in the zine together, think about how you want the finished product to look. There are about 8 billion ways to do it. Mine, for instance, is three pieces of paper folded in half and stapled in the middle (a half-size zine) , but I’ve seen zines that are quarter-size (folded twice and cut to make twice as many pages) and even 8th-size (folded three times). The most important thing to think about is what you have…zines are an unadulterated expression of you, so if you have a pile of shiny empty newsprint in the basement, use that and fold it sixteen times and make a new zine genre—16th size. Keep in mind that if you want a million copies, it’s probably easiest to make your zine on standard sized paper, but there are buckets of options at the copy shop, and most copy guys and gals are more than happy to accommodate freakish paper.
3. Put it together! One fabulous thing about zines is that you don’t have to worry about your audience. It’s a break from the usual routine. Because zines are free (or close to it) no one is going to demand their money back if your writing disappoints or your cartoons aren’t funny. Assemble a dummy copy of your zine. I like to put my three pages together, glue the “articles” onto each page, toss in some pictures or collage-ish work, and take the pages apart again to copy. It’s easy to do it this way because then you don’t have to worry about lining the pages up or making sure things match. Remember to number the pages, especially if you do front and back or complicated folding. It makes stapling easy.
4. Head to the copy shop and make friends with the machine. When in doubt, ask, and pay the 2 cents extra to get them to do it. How many copies to make? This is when you have to think about your audience. My first zine I made 50 copies because I was psyched and handed nearly all of them out at school. My second and third I only made about ten copies because it was summer and I only felt like giving it to my friends.
If you are looking to "distro your zine" (have a kind soul distribute it to strangers over the internet or via a catalogue; this person is called a distro), most distros will ask for a minimum of about four or five copies. Be sure to keep a copy on hand or at least your original because you never know when you’re going to need some underground media.
5. Money and price are rather simple; zines are generally not profit-making. I charge 50 cents for my zine online to make up for the ones I give out for free at home. I keep track of my costs well enough to know that I haven’t broke even yet. No matter. When I get low on cash, I make less copies, when I’m doing well, I make more.
6. Distroing my zine has been all around an excellent experience for me. Here’s the gist of how it works—you send zines to someone working out of their house, apartment, or dorm, and they send you either money or trades (in the form of other zines, patches, mix tapes, or whatever their distro supports).
If you distro on consignment, the compensation comes as your zine gets sold; wholesale means the pay comes upfront. Most zines operate on concealed cash but some use Paypal. I like to trade for other zines because it’s easy to make an equal trade for a zine of the same size and because otherwise, I wouldn’t get to read any. Look around on the internet for a distro close to you and make sure it distros your kind of zine (or at least doesn’t NOT support it).
“Perzines” are personal zines and some distros only like to have a couple of these because they cater to a somewhat limited audience (alright, this is sort of the pot calling the kettle black…all zines cater to a somewhat limited audience—that’s why they are zines and not shiny, commercialized publications). Other types of zines include art and punk zines.
If your zine doesn’t fit into a genre, more power to you because most don’t, or if they do, they fit loosely. Look at the submissions page on the distro’s site to see if they want you to email and/or send a sample zine for possible distro-ification (I realize the real word is distribution…oh, well) and make sure to be really nice to whoever runs it. These people are just like you, in that they like creativity and most definitely are making no money off this operation. Most are happy to offer advice and answer any questions you’ve got.
7. Bask in your coolness. You can now say “I am a self-published and starving artist” with pride..
Alicia de los Reyes is the writer & stapler of Wanted, a 10 page zine that has included a pop out shrine to Frida Kahlo. She aspires to be a writer and to own a Scotty dog.
I met this woman at the New York Public Library. She was in the picture library wearing the most fantastic hat. I had to compliment her. Then I found out that she made these beautiful hand stitched and blocked cloches. We got into a deep conversation about Myrna Loy and how great her hats were in the Thin Man. I almost fell in love. Jasmin sells her hats but also teaches workshops in her technique. She is currently living in San Francisco.
I have a habit of quickly distributing all that I make before I get a chance to critique it, copy it, or photograph it. In this case I wanted to capture a moment of satisfaction before the littermates went their separate ways. Hence, the photo.
I think it's quite thrilling to create, and creating value is extra special. This sweater had little value - $2.00 at a thrift store - and with just a bit of snipping and sewing: voila, it has worth. Emotional worth symbolic worth, monetary worth, whatever kind of worth you want.
The Exchange is like a pen pal system but in instead of sending letters we sent clothes and instead of writing we are sewing. I first proposed the idea to a friend of a friend in Portland, OR. Through our email correspondence Tanya Sakurai and I realized that we both knew lots of people who were doing exciting things with clothes and we wanted to create a way to connect our two communities. So I suggest a swap. I was leading a sewing workshop at Soo Visual Arts in Minneapolis at the time so I used that as my platform to launch from. Tanya was involved with a boutique in Portland called Sea Plane and that became her home base. I gathered 15 or so people to give me a piece of clothing each and we sent everything off to the Portland gang and vise versa. The clothing was redistributed, tagged with the original owner's name and email address (in case the maker's wanted to communicate with each other). We all went off and worked on cutting things up, putting them back together and embellishing to varying degrees. We met a couple times during the month to work together at the gallery, however most of the work was done away from the group.
When the deadline came I collected everything to send off to Portland. It was very exciting to see what everyone did. We had a broad range of skills at work. Some participants were experts when it came to sewing while other's had not sewn much before and came up with less conventional ways of approaching the project. Before sending everything off to Tanya and Co. I documented the finished work. A week or so later I received the box of goods form Portland. We had an informal exhibition of the finished work and makers came to the gallery to pick up their newly transformed garments. This of course was very exciting and made all of the scheduling and deadline headaches well worth the effort. Everyone was excited and asking when the next exchange would be. I set out to find a new sister city and decided NY would be the next step.
I ended up meeting the Very Esteemed Callie Janoff of the Church of Craft who readily signed on as the NY coordinator. The second time around things went more smoothly and we asked people to pay a small registration fee to cover the cost of shipping and documentation. This allowed me to create a very comprehensive record of all of the clothes in the before‚ and after‚ states. In addition to their re-made garment, each participant received thumbnail images of all garments re-made in the exchange as well as larger photos of the garment they had re-made and returned to its owner.
I have recently moved to San Francisco and am currently talking with a woman here who runs Muse Sewing Workshop about doing a third exchange. We are hoping to do it with two groups who are not located so far from each other (say Oakland and San Francisco) so that the makers can meet each other at some point during the exchange.
I find that this exchange brings out something unique in the participants. Each individual is given the challenge of making something for some one they don't know. There is a certain vulnerability in that as well as the sharing of skills and ideas. As an artist, I am looking to create social situations in which the participants feel they have given something authentic of themselves and received something imbued with generosity.
Tw0-twenty made this fabulous object. How can something so cute be so wrong? Who has this much time on their hands? How much can we really say about this? It's quite self explanatory. If you want to see the how to on this enter at your own risk!
I'm a sculptor, mother and crafter. As part of my art I has made these crochet skulls that fit in the palm of your hand as well as 5' skulls created from nautical rope and crocheted with a giant crochet hook I whittled.
You know those magic objects that get fused in your memory and you wonder if you ever truly saw them? So it is for me and these lovely knit bricks. And the only proof I have of their existence is the photo I took of them on my phone.
I was walking down the street in Norwich (an old English market town whose biggest claim to fame is a pub for every day of the week and a church for every Sunday. It has more medieval churches than any town in the UK—not because the folks were all that pious but it was a way of people proving their wealth) and there on a crumbling brick wall were these l bricks with knit (or correct me if I’m wrong, those more crafty than I) crocheted covers. I mean what, why, how? Was it some Situationist fantasy, some May 68 thing? A tiny intervention in the urban world? An experiment to see if anyone would take them?
Put simply, they seduced me. I shot a picture and walked on, feeling foolish after standing there for 15 minutes gaping. No one else seemed to take any notice of me or the bricks though. They all scurried past mesmerized by their end of workday hurry home to cats and kids and dinner and telly. But I couldn’t forget the bricks. Tantalized, I had to go back to see them. Only two hours later they were gone. I’d wanted to hold them, touch one, maybe, maybe, even kidnap it. And go knocking on doors looking for their creator. Had I not taken a picture of them, I might have doubted they’d ever been there in the first place. Now I am just left desperate to find out who made them, who takes the trouble to take a brick from a collapsing wall, make a cover for it and replace it?
The only thing I’ve seen close to it is Janet Morgan’s piece at the Crafts Council in London for a show called Knit 2 together. Her piece, a TV on a stand with a plant –all knit—approaches that same beautiful banality made splendid. Only she lives in Canada. My mystery remains. Though no doubt it makes the bricks all the more unforgettable.
La Voleuse has made ballet flats with T.Rex and Smiths Lyrics on them. Perfection.
See the site.
Modernism gone terribly wrong? Observe Sian Cook's cheeky take on the classic Barcelona chair. There's nothing you can't do with some yarn and tinfoil.
I began cutting tiny couture clothes out of scraps of fabric because I had a lot of scraps of fabric and no money to buy couture clothes. I also can't really sew and this requires no sewing just scissors and scotch tape. I am currently working on a Prada coat.
See the site
One smart Brooklyn mother started her own sweet line of hand dyed and embroidered baby clothes. That's putting your mommy energy to good use.
See the site
This is a series of flash based Public Service Announcements. Combining a School House Rocks sensibility with a Blank Panther aesthetic the PSAs tackle complex subjects like voting reform, ergonomics and light pollution.
One Person, Two Votes
Interactive design for democracy or: "How I learned to stop worrying and love the butterfly ballot."
Did you know that this magical box you are staring at contains 8 lbs of lead? Ever wonder what that does when it leeches into the ground water at your local dump? Read on.
Don't be afraid of the dark
Light pollution is ruining our view of the heavens, killing off fireflies and worst of all, it has not decreased the amount of alien abductions.
Computer Is Bad
AKA: Ouch my wrists hurt. Why weren't ergonomics an issue until the injured became white collar workers?
The Paperless Office
Do you remember how computers were going to green the modern office by cutting out paper waste? Say hello to rolling blackouts.
What is Design Good for Anyway?
Is it to sell stuff? Is it utilitarian? Can it change the world? We did this for Voice2: AIGA National Design Conference 2002.
What Do the Trees Want?
A special Xmas treat. If trees have consciousness do they want to be chopped down for the holidays? By the way, the lumber industry is destroying public trust lands.
Riding motorcycles in New York has it's highs and lows, riding in Chernobyl is heaven and hell all at one. My weekend rides go to Jersey and upstate New York, Elena takes her bike through a deadly ghost town with a geiger counter as her constant companion.
When this was originaly posted Elena's site went down, rumors circulated that the whole thing was a hoax and Angelfire bombarded her site with pop-up ads. Her story can now be found here. True or not? You be the judge.
In the movie Pump up the Volume the main character, Mark Hunter, used an old radio transmitter to start his own underground radio show. He transformed himself into shock-jock Happy Harry Hardon and became popular among his high school peers and infamous in his small town. The Internet was just a baby when he told his faithful listeners, "Our voices our powerful, and we should be shouting with them from mountaintops, over the airways, on the web...wherever."
Almost everyone has some sort of presence on the Internet whether it's a weblog, a livejournal, or a plain ol' home page. It's hard to imagine what the Internet must've been like before everyone had access to it, when having a personal site was new and revolutionary, and when what you were doing hadn't already been done before by hundreds of other people. With so many personal sites on the web, the idea of self-expression through technology seems to have lost its luster, but that's only because all aspects of Internet technology haven't been tapped into.
Streaming radio has been around since the Internet itself, but it hasn't been used to it's fullest potential. The most appealing aspect of Internet self-publishing is the freedom to do whatever you choose, and you can do the same with a web-based radio show, except you'll be one radio host in fifty rather than one blogger in a million. This handy guide to creating and broadcasting a web-based radio show will help get you on the road to becoming the first web celeb of Internet radio.
Before televisions were a staple in homes and long before everyone had computers, people were entertained by their favorite radio shows. Families sat around and listened to weekly broadcasts of comedy shows like Abbott and Costello and thrillers like the Avenger as well as hundreds of others. Although two main formats of radio have persisted - news and music, the rest have almost vanished into the airwaves.
National Public Radio (NPR) has kept the tradition of entertaining listeners with broadcasts like All Things Considered and Fresh Air, shows which feature a mixture of news and commentaries. This American Life is another NPR show becoming popular among non-NPR listeners because of its blend of personal stories, interviews, and unique observations about everyday life. Radio Diaries, also a NPR show, gives regular people tape recorders to document their lives by keeping an audio journal and conducting interviews with family and friends. In Canada, a show called Outfront has a similar theme of giving people a chance to tell their stories.
With Internet radio, you can take this concept to the next level by creating your very own prerecorded radio show without having producers looking over your shoulder. All it takes is a little technical savvy, a little bit of cash to invest in the right equipment, and a lot of creative energy.
Create a Show. Radio can be a very personal form of communication because your thoughts aren't merely expressed through words but through your voice and the sounds of life around you. And since radio is such an overlooked medium of self-expression, the possibilities are endless. You don't have to become the next Rush Limbaugh if you don't like to talk politics; you don't have to be a misogynist shock jock like Howard Stern, and you don't have to stoop to grade school humor like those local morning show hosts.
If you're a writer, you can create a show based on your short stories. If you have a group of people interested in participating, you can even create your own weekly drama with reoccurring characters and regular story lines. If you're interested in telling other people's stories, you can interview locals. If you're a music fan, you can blend music and interviews of unknown artists or play your own original music. Or you can just combine everything you're interested in and create a talk variety show about your life, your culture, and everything in general. That's what a personal web site is all about, but with radio you can create something different from the rest of the Internet crowd.
Find a Format. The first thing you'll need to do is sketch out a format. Decide on the length of the show, and if you want to have different segments or one long show without breaks. Regular radio shows are divided up by local news broadcasts, commercials, and station identification promotions. This American Life has a brief introduction and three to four acts that are separated by snippets of songs. Because this is your show you can do it however you like, but consider the listener's attention span before you decide to spend an hour reading the first three chapters of your novel. Listen to your local radio stations and notice the length of time during blocks of songs and take note of your favorite segments of talk radio shows because this can help you set the groundwork for your show. Check the sidebar for a few segment ideas.
Get Content. With your format ideas in hand, you'll need to decide how to get content for each segment. If you plan to record away from your computer's microphone, you'll need to use a small tape recorder. The price of a new one starts at around $25 and can go into the hundreds, but ask friends if they have one you can borrow before you invest in one. Make sure it plays back without headphones, and make sure that it has a headphone outlet so you can connect it to your computer.
If you're running a one women show, decide how to incorporate other elements that will keep listeners interested. If you want to make a personal documentary, interview family and friends or record a day in your life by keeping an audio diary. Record yourself singing in the car as you drive to work or record the sounds of your daily activities, like cooking or working at your computer. You can also use these as sound bytes to break up different segments of the program.
If you're planning to have guests on your show, you'll need to arrange interviews. If you can't interview someone in person, you can email the questions and ask him or her to record the answers as if he or she is talking to you directly and have them emailed to you as a wav file or sent to you on a cassette tape. The only tricky part is that you won't know what the sound quality is like until you hear it.
When you're recording an interview or a conversation in person, try to do it in a location free of background noise, and do a sound check to make sure you can hear yourself and your participant clearly. Also make sure the person knows you are recording them; it's illegal to do otherwise.
If you are planning to use music in your show, whether you play full songs or use snippets as sound bytes, you'll have to consider the legal repercussions of using copyrighted music. Instead of putting yourself at risk with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), use your own original music or ask unsigned local musicians for permission to use their music. They'll be thankful for the exposure and you can promote music that probably deserves to be heard more than that new Justin Timberlake single. Also check out the web sites of some of your favorite independent labels; you may be able to contact them about using their bands' music.
Transfer & Edit Files. After you have gathered your interviews, sound bytes and music, you'll need to get everything in one place on your computer's hard drive. Create a new folder for all of your files and transfer any wavs or mp3s into it. In order to get the recordings you have on tape to your computer, you'll need a cable to connect the audio input (line-in) of your computer's sound card to the audio output of your tape recorder. You can buy this nifty device at an audio equipment store. Radio Shack has a 6-foot audio cable with 1/8" stereo mini plugs on each end for $5. Take your recorder with you to make sure it will fit.
Plug one end of the cord into the line-in audio plug on the back of your computer. It should be under the outlet for the computer speakers. Now plug the other end into the headphone outlet on your tape recorder. When you hit play on your recorder, you should be able to hear it through your computer speakers. Turn up the volume to a medium setting on the tape recorder for better quality, especially if your recording is a bit muffled. The way it sounds coming through your speakers is the way it will sound when it's recorded, so adjust the levels on the tape recorder. You may have to open your computer's volume control settings and look under options to make sure the line-in volume control options is checked. You can adjust the volume there accordingly.
See below and the sidebar to understand how to edit your files.
Broadcast the Show. Now that you've got your show ready for an audience, you'll need to place the file on the Internet. If you already have a web site with a host that supports Real Audio, all you'll need to do is create an HTML file that points to your audio file and then link it from your site. Open Notepad and type the URL for where your file will be.
Then save it as a .ram file, like radioshow.ram. Upload the actual audio file and the HTML file to your web site server then link the ram file from your page.
Example: <a href =http://www.yoursitename.com/yourdirectory/radioshow.ram > Listen to my new show</a>
When visitors click the link, it will open Real Audio on their computer and stream the file to them.
To allow people to download the mp3, just upload the file into your directory and link it from your site.
If listeners have QuickTime or Windows Media Player, it's likely that it will automatically play from whichever is their default audio program, but they will also be able to right click and save it to their computer. If you plan to create more than one show, you may want to go with the Real Audio option because the files are smaller than mp3s.
Be sure to keep an eye on the amount of bandwidth you're using to broadcast your show. If you go over the limit allowed in your web-hosting plan, you'll be charged extra for all of the activity your show is producing. If your show becomes a hit, you may have to cut back on bandwidth usage by only allowing your show to be downloaded on certain days, or you may have to consider upgrading your hosting plan.
Find an Audience. Once you're satisfied with your first show, you need to find listeners. If you already have a steady group of visitors to your site, you shouldn't have a problem gathering an audience. If you're involved with other web sites or visit forums regularly, mention it in mailing list discussions or start a thread about it. Most people don't mind a little self-promotion if you're earnest and sincere. If you have guests on your show, they'll also help promote it because they'll want all of their friends to listen to their interview or newest songs. If you're really serious about your show, you can make flyers to hang in local stores, or place an ad in the arts and entertainment section of the newspaper or in your in favorite independent magazine.
Don't get discouraged if your first few shows aren't as clear and seamless as you would've liked. Keep recording, experimenting with formats, and testing different audio editing programs. No one becomes a professional, or a celebrity, on the first try.
To actually record the information from the tapes onto your computer's hard drive, you'll need an audio-editing program.
You can download a free program called Audacity here: http://audacity.sourceforge.net
The help file that comes with Audacity has lots of information for beginners and easy to understand tutorials. Unfortunately, the software seems a little buggy and will occasionally shut down for no reason. Since it's the only free audio editing software I've found I'd still recommend it, especially until you decide if you want to make more than a couple of radio shows. There are hundreds of others editors available but you have to purchase them in order to use all of their functions. The following is just a quick guide to using Audacity. The more you use it, the more you can do with it.
Download, install and open Audacity. Find the beginning of your segment on the tape recorder and hit pause. Click the red button on Audacity to record then unpause your tape player. When you get to the end of the recording, click stop on Audacity then stop the tape recorder. Now you have your first recording. It should look similar to the screenshot below.
There's a long selection tool that you can move anywhere within the recording. Click at the beginning and hit the play button and you'll be able to listen to what you just recorded. If you have a little extra at the end that you didn't mean to record, highlight it with your mouse and go up to Edit and click Delete. You can delete anything within the sound file, just listen to it several times first to make sure you know what you're deleting. Now go to up to File > Save it so you won't lose what you've done so far.
To use a file already on your computer, such as a recording you created with your computer's microphone, go up to Project > Import Audio. The track will open up below your original track. You can listen to it and cut out unnecessary parts as needed. In order to get it up to your original recording, highlight the part you want and go to Edit > Cut then click in your original track and go to File > Paste. You can also add silence between segments by clicking in the area, then clicking File > Insert Silence. If you want a song to fade out into the next segment, highlight the appropriate area and use the effect menu. There are many other options in the software but as you practice, read the tutorials, and try new things you'll discover how to use them.
Your first few attempts will need a lot of tweaking in order to make the show sound seamless. Play around with Audacity's effects menu and if possible, re-record the audio from your tape recordings if the quality is poor. Once you're happy with the way it sounds, you'll need to export the file. Audacity saves what you've done as a project file that is unique to the program. You can't do anything with it until you export it is as an actual audio file. You'll have to decide whether to export it as a mp3 or a wav file depending on how you want to present it to listeners.
If you're going to use streaming radio through Real Audio and allow your audience to listen without actually saving the file to their computers, then you'll need to export the file as a wav. Go to File > Export as WAV and save the new file.
Cindy Whitt is a college student living in Danville, Virginia. She’d like to be an art teacher, but she doesn’t know how to draw.
yesterday was a friend's 31st birthday, and i found this in the kitchen where the party was. his grandma can't stop knitting, she's like a machine. there were more, an apple, carrots, a lemon, a pepper, a banana...but my favourites were there, the pineapple, the cauliflower (cauliflower!), the watermelon (she used two shades of green, and three shades of pink!) and of course, the corn.
If you're anything like me, you're not happy unless you have at least three crafty projects on the go. Watching television, sitting in the park and long train trips are dissatisfying as activities unto themselves: my fingers must be kept busy by knitting or knotting, sewing or snipping. A bonus is that I'm making something new and useful out of materials that would otherwise have ended up in the dustbin. The artful reincarnation of trash is a trend that actually supports sound ecological values. One craft that has long been embraced by frugal busybodies like myself is rug hooking, a highly addictive, quite portable pursuit deserving of more attention.
Andrea Belcham lives in Montreal; when not crafting, she's an editor.
Susanna Conaway is a rebelious crafter living in DC. She specializes in stained glass. She obviously has a heavy metal mouth:
"These two pieces are part of the “happy homemaker” series. As for the “welcome sign” stained glass, I thought it was funny to follow in traditional stained glass script lettering, using “girly” pinks and purples of iridized glass, to express a not so cute and sweet message. People see this piece and often think it is pretty before realizing what it says. I like that allure and then the shock of truth.
The cozy was my first crochet project. A friend showed me the ropes in a farmhouse in Delaware late into the night between glasses of wine. My project first looked like a Barbie hat but emerged into a cozy after a day of sitting quietly on the couch. I liked working in a medium that was gentle and peaceful and in the tradition of women and home crafts, but where the end result wasn’t quiet or subtle. I like the link between quiet and sweet and sexy and confident."
See the site www.inbetweenspace.com
A few years ago I got a fellowship to a posh British university, and one of the perks was that my laundry was done for me; all I had to do was put it in a bag and walk it across the lawn. Believe it or not, I missed doing laundry during those years. I appreciated the service, but I wanted more control--I was always a little anxious about my clothing just before I opened the bag. Currently, I live in New York, and in this city, a lot of people (including my friends), drop off their laundry at the laundrette, where it is washed, dried, and folded, for a not-that-bad price per pound. I do my own. So, basically, what I'm saying is that there are reasons to do your own laundry, and that doing your own laundry, and paying attention to the process, has many a benefit beyond the bottom line:
Your clothes will last longer, and be in better shape;
Your colors will stay brighter and your whites whiter;
You will have fewer incidents of bleeding, shrinking, etc.
I myself learned to do laundry at a very early age. When I was still so small that I needed a stool to reach the controls, my parents put up a diagram of how the dials and buttons should look, and a measuring cup that held the right amount of soap. I don't think that I resented them for this, but I did write a novel when I was 11 that featured a girl whose parents were killed by a falling bookcase while she was doing laundry. It also featured time travel.
You may not have been so lucky. So here I offer a barebones how-to guide to getting clothes clean.
(Note: for the purpose of this article, I will be assuming that everyone is going to the laundrette.)
1. Sort your clothing into piles of various colors. This will give you a sense of how much you have of each, and allow you to make the best combinations. You can separate colors in a way that makes sense for you. I divide my laundry into red/orange/browns, black/greys, whites, and blue/greens. These vary occasionally. Do this before you leave the house.
2. While you are sorting colors, turn socks and t-shirts, etc. right side out. This will make folding easier.
3. You can pre-treat stains at this time. You can use an all-purpose stain treater (like Zout!) or you can use a little bit of detergent, or you can get into much more detail. I recommend the articles on laundry in Money Stretcher and Learn2 for details on treating specific stains. The latter also has much more extensive step-by-step laundry instructions.
4. Set aside clothing that cannot go in the machine. Look for labels that say "dry clean only" and "hand wash only." (More on these later.) Remove your bras and other dainties from the clothing going to the laundrette. Bras, etc. need to be handwashed. I recommend that you also hand wash stockings (and tights). They will last longer and look better. This is not a myth. See handwashing section below.
5. Take note of those that recommend hanging dry or say "dry flat." These will not be put in the dryer. Dainties never go in the dryer.
6. To get to the laundrette, I put everything in a shopping cart with big wheels (easier to get up and down stairs).
1. Claim your machines. If you are a laundry novice, do not go at a popular time. You want to be able to get the right machines, and have time to think, and move stuff around if need be. Generally there are 3-4 sizes of machine. The really, really big one is only for giants and winter bedding. Choose a machine that you can put your clothing in loosely. Don't pack it in. Though it should take up at least half of the space of the barrel, you don't want your load to be too big.
2. Set your machines.
Hot: Only white clothing gets hot water. There is probably a setting for "whites." If there isn't, it's hot/warm.
Warm/Cold: Colored clothing gets cold or warm (old clothes that are done shrinking and running can get warm, newer ones are safer with cold.
Options: I tend to use the extra spin option. Theoretically it cuts down on the amount of drying time needed, but I have no proof of this. I don't use anything else (prewash, etc.).
3. Add your detergent.
In general, use less than the manufacturer recommends.
This is the way that I do it: I put a little bit into the first section (usually labeled detergent, or occasionally numbered (but watch out, because often #1 is for special prewash stuff). Read the machine's instructions carefully (either on the machine or on the wall) because they vary. Then I hit start. This starts the water wooshing. It will fill the machine and wash out the little detergent area. When the water has stopped rinsing out that area, I put in the remainder.
4. At this point you can sit back. When the machine kicks into the wash cycle, the rest of the detergent will be added to the machine.
5. Bleach. Only bleach whites. And only add bleach once the clothes are wet. In other words, wait for the wash cycle to start, and then add a full cup of bleach. Don't add later, because it won't rinse out enough.
Don't put anything in the dryer that might shrink. Better safe than sorry. In addition, I don't put old fragile t-shirts into the dryer. Your dryer loads should be evenly balanced. Initially, I start all the machines with about 20 minutes. After that time I check them, and take out stuff that is done (sheets dry quickly for example). You can then run each dryer for either 10 or 20 more minutes, depending on how wet stuff seems.
Note: Check for filter lint. Sometimes you are responsible for cleaning out filters on commercial machines. If this is the case, make sure you do it, because it will make your drying time a lot shorter.
Do not overlook the power of handwashing. It really does not take much time, and it will keep your stuff much nicer. And many, many things that seem to require dry-cleaning really just want handwashing. Silk shirts, for example. The way I do it is that anything that I believe is safe to iron (and often the label will tell you if this is the case) is ok to handwash. But don't hold me to that. If you can afford dry cleaning, go right ahead. Even tho it is terrible for the environment. Do not dry clean cotton. It is very bad for it and will cause your cotton clothing to wear out faster. (Note: this may be a myth.)
This is the way I handwash: I use a bucket in the sink. A big red bucket. I run cool water in it and put in less than a capful of Ecover's delicate clothing soap while the water is running. I fill the bucket about 2/3-3/4 full. Then I put the laundry in. About 2 pairs of tights, 2-3 bras, or one shirt can go at a time. Squish it around. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Dump out the water. Lightly squeeze the clothing. Fill the bucket. Splosh the clothing in the water--you can make like a olden-days laundress by lifting each item out of the water and then plunging it back in. I'm convinced that this is a good rinsing method. Dump the water. Lightly squeeze the clothing. Repeat. Essentially, you want to do 3 rinses. Do more if the water is still soapy.
Hang your stuff up. You can use a drying rack (I use a plastic one that fits in the bathtub). You can hang stuff on your towel rack. Wring out tights/stockings. Don't wring out silk shirts and the like (makes more ironing work). Put newspaper on the floor if stuff is really drippy.
As you are planning your wedding, inevitably a well meaning friend will give you a book—or worse—a bridal magazine, and soon you will find yourself picking out wedding colors (you only get 2!) and a bouquet freeze-drying package complete with glass dome before you have even thought about what you want out of your wedding.
Weddings come with lots of baggage. Balancing the expectations, traditions, and dreams of others can become so overwhelming that your own dreams get lost. So I am here to remind you—your wedding should be like YOU. Not like your sister’s wedding, or Martha Stewart’s, but reflecting your taste, your interests, your values.
A crafty wedding is personal, manageable, affordable and very special.
A note about the WEDDING INDUSTRY
The wedding industry is a racket, pure and simple. Put the word “wedding” before any service and you can expect the price to be increased by at least 25%. There are also “rules” that people in the wedding industry want you to live by, that may be inspired by the etiquette of yore, but do not have to be your rules. BEWARE the wedding industry. Question the experts. Pay a fair price for things, even trying to get quotes without using the word “wedding” (i.e. I need catering for a large party, etc.).
A note about MUSIC
If, like me, music is a meaningful part of any gathering for you, be very careful with your choice of a DJ or band. Traditional wedding DJs tend to overpower a party, inflicting their version of “fun” on your gathering. I am thinking, in particular, of dancing one evening with a good natured bride who told me through her gritted smile “I told them absolutely no Chicken Dance” as she flapped her “wings” and shook her big white butt. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who can DJ, that is ideal, but if not, do like my friends Diane and Josh, who made terrific mix-tapes of music they loved. This meant that they loved every song that came on, and they knew they wouldn’t be leading a conga line unless they wanted to be.
For as long as I can remember my mom went to yard sales every Saturday morning, but it wasn't until I moved out on my own that I started going with her. I had a big apartment with very little furniture and I couldn't afford to buy new items, so I asked if I could tag along one morning. One Saturday turned into every Saturday and over the course of six months I furnished my apartment with inexpensive chairs, tables, paintings, and lots of other items. It satisfied my need to shop, everything I bought fell well within my budget, and I had lots of items that I wouldn't be able to find in a retail store.
I learned a lot about yard sales that summer, so I think it qualifies me as somewhat of a yard sale connoisseur. I noticed a few things that people planning yard sales should avoid as well as things that will help potential sellers have a successful venture. So, if you're planning a yard sale this season, keep these tips handy.
1. Check your local newspaper to see what their deadlines are for yard sales classified ads and purchase one the week before your sale. Be sure it will be in the Saturday edition because most people use that as a guide for their yard sale outings. List the time you plan to start, your address and any big items you have for sale like furniture, appliances, or specialty items like collector's dolls or costume jewelry. A lot of shoppers go looking for specific items and if they see you have what they want, they'll stop by and maybe even find something they didn't know they wanted.
2. Location is key in real estate and it also helps in having a successful yard sale. If you live miles away from town, consider asking a friend who lives in a busy area if you can have it at her house. Put up signs leading to the house so people unfamiliar with the neighborhood will be able to find you. If you place an ad in the local newspaper, most will give you a package that includes yard sale signs that are permissible for hanging in certain areas. But be sure to check your local laws to see where you can hang your signs before stapling them up to telephone poles.
3. Plan to start your sale at around 8 a.m. Watch out for the early birds, though; they may show up half an hour early and try to look through your stuff before you even get it out. Most people start closing up at around noon, but you can keep selling as long as you have shoppers.
4. Most people don't like having to dig through boxes to see what you have, so borrow tables and clothing racks so you can display your items. If you can't get your hands on tables, throw down some old blankets or buy a couple of cheap plastic tablecloths and organize your items on those. If you have lots of stuff, separate it into different sections - have a table of baby items, a rack of kid's clothes, a table of household items and a rack of adult clothes. Your customers can go straight for what they want without giving up midway because they were tired of looking at the stuff they aren't interested in.
5. Price your items the night before. You don't have to tag every single item, but at least have an idea of how much everything will cost instead of making someone wait while you run ask your sister how much she wants for her Duran Duran cassette tape. How much to price? If you live in a mid-sized city or smaller, most of your shoppers are going to expect low prices. You can probably ask for more in larger cities, but regardless of where you live don't expect to get a lot of money for your items. Set reasonable prices but be willing to go lower if you haven't sold much two hours later. A good guideline is to go lower than prices at your favorite thrift store.
6. Beware of the price hagglers. Some people are always going to try to get you to go lower than your asking price. Most of those people are just trying to get a good deal, but some of them are buying to resell. You can never tell the difference between these people, so stand firm if you believe that vintage lamp really is worth $5 because it's likely someone else will come along and happily pay your asking price for it.
7. You can sell almost anything at a yard sale but there are some things you should probably just throw away. It should be pretty obvious, but never try to sell things like used underwear and socks, worn out bed linens, half empty containers of health and beauty products, or any kind of medicine.
8. All those plastic grocery bags you save because you feel guilty throwing them away? Take 'em out of the kitchen cabinet and have them on hand for those shoppers who buy lots of stuff from you.
9. Many people don't think to bring their own change to yard sales, so have lots of one dollar bills, fives and quarters on hand for those people who only have a twenty and want to buy something that costs 50 cents.
10. More than likely you're not going to sell everything. Decide beforehand if you want to keep it for another yard sale or if you want to get rid of it. If you're going to keep it, box or bag it up and put in it a dry place in your house. There's no reason to keep it if it'll just get ruined before your next sale. If you don't want to keep it, and the stuff really has value, call a local homeless shelter or a thrift store. Many will come and haul the stuff away for you in exchange for your donation, and you'll be free up to count all the money you've made.
Cindy Whitt lives in Virginia and is currently planning her own blow out yard sale.
I love a good picnic with friends. It is a lovely way to spend time. Proper preparation is essential for the success of picnics. The time to start is now. The way to prepare to hostess an event like this is to dream of it. Dream your picnic. Imagine the sun filtering through a canopy of leaves speckling your blankets, friends, and food with light so glittery that everything looks and feels magical.
Next, imagine that it is not like that at all — because the most important key to success in picnicking is to make room for the spontaneous and unexpected. You can plan for months and have every detail arranged and something may go wrong — it might rain, your guests might not show up, stinky winos might decide to be your best friends or thousands of other factors might rain on your parade or, on the other hand, they might just make the whole thing the most wonderful event of the season. Unpredictability is your compadre. That said, there is a lot you can do to make your picnic day the best it can be.
There is no better stress-reliever than good, old-fashioned ranting. After a long day at work or a fight with a friend, whom do you vent to? Some people call their mother, their best friend, or their partner. I vent to a LiveJournal client and 90 of my nearest and dearest friends, not to mention the entire Internet community. Welcome to the world of "blogging".
Easier than filling a composition notebook and more stylish than sending an e-mail, blogging is the new black of the Internet world. Simply type up a recount of your day, a "to do" list, post quiz results, or fill out a survey and publish it to the internet in minutes. Make your autobiography or poetry available to whoever wishes to read it and get some stress out the easy way.
The word blog, as a noun, is a shortened form of web log. To blog is the act of keeping a web log. As with paper journals, there is no specific way one can blog. You may integrate a news feature into your website or create a website simply for journaling purposes. For the less technically savvy, or the community-friendly there are many sites specifically created for the purpose of blogging. These sites generally have basic template designs for each blog and web-based text boxes you may put your entries into. Upon completion and submission, they are applied to your selected template. Some sites even have file transfer clients you can download to your desktop which will publish your entries to your journal without you even needing to log into the website.
LiveJournal or LJ, as it’s affectionately known, is one of the most popular blog sites. It is an award winning site used by thousands of people worldwide. Other blog sites such as Blogger, DeadJournal, and Blurty have a similar set up based off of LiveJournal. These sites are very user-friendly and provide much room for customization. You may provide some contact information, a biography, and even a series of links. Your entries are archived in a calendar function, and the option for comments on each entry is available. You may even designate a list of your interests that you may then use to search for similar users. You also get a series of user icons — 3 for free accounts and up to 15 for paid account. Paid accounts have other benefits, such as easy to use polls in which you provide the content and code is returned to copy and paste into your entries. You may also imbed your journal in your website or redirect a domain name to your journal site.
These sites also have a highly advanced community system in which you may add "friends" or journals you like to read and join "communities", which are shared journals based upon common interests. Included with the “friend” options are various levels of security. Your entries may be designated as "friends only", which means they are only available for viewing by those whom you list as "friends." You may also create friend-groups or filters and have entries specific to certain users on your friends list. Private entries are also available. Unless you share your password, the worry of your mother finding your journal between the bedsprings and mattress is eradicated.
The option of security is a welcome one in the blog world. As with anything available on the Internet, there is always the risk of information being read by the wrong party. Be wary of whom you add to your list and which entries you make available to the public. Revealing too much personal information may cause unwelcome attention. While sharing your screen name or e-mail seems safe, you may choose to make this information available to friends only on the aforementioned platforms. Try to avoid publishing your full name, address, or telephone number to the web. Also be careful about publishing comments about your job, there are numerous cases of people being fired because of this. Be courteous and don't mention any personal information about your offline friends, either.
Another setback of blogging sites is that, for the lazy, they tend to become the primary means of communication among friends. While it's nice to have a daily update on your friend’s life, nothing says impersonal like communicating solely via blog entries. In the age of technology, it's still preferable to get a phone call, letter, or visit now and then. Don’t allow simplicity and ease to replace personal connections.
Online journals, or blogs, are a great way to hone your writing skills, vent, and communicate with a large number of people. You need not worry about your lack of HTML skills, and long distance calls to friends far away are cut in cost drastically. Journaling has come a long way from marble composition notebooks with "KEEP OUT" scrawled across the front in sharpie.
Amy Lukashunas still has her 2nd grade Lisa Frank diary.
Erin Johnson is a recent graduate of the fibre program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She created this magnificent helium and plastic bag sculpture called "I Love You to Death" which she set loose on unsuspecting downtown Chicago. Simple and effervescent, I wish I had seen it in person.
We know nothing about these except that they are made by a guy named Norm Gusscott who lives in New Zeland and his email no longer works. We think that he is either an industrial designer or an 87 year old morse code enthusiast by googling him. He calls his crochet product Carlesie. Please help us find him so we can see more of his beautiful stuff!
A fairly recent lover of all things edible, I’ve spent the better part of my young adulthood trying out different foodstyles (the word I use to describe the way somebody eats). Messages about the “right” choices are all over the place, but in the name of DIY, I say, eat what tastes good to you and what makes sense to your life. Use this primer to co-opt existing foodstyles and create unique foodprints – meals and snacks and foods that make you healthy and happy.
Basically, no animal flesh is consumed. If you are a pesco-veg, you eat plants and fish, a lacto-veg, plants + milk, or an ovo-veg, plants + eggs. Of course, you can combine any of these or make up your own (for example, my boyfriend and I eat all of the above, plus honey, turkey, and chicken – but not beef or pork).
Try it – Blend canned black beans, chopped cilantro, and a Chipotle pepper (canned or dried and rehydrated) in a food processor or mush together with a potato masher. Eat with pita triangles or rice crackers or spread on a sammie for a protein-packed lunch.
Strict vegetarians are called “vegans”; they do not consume animal products of any kind, and probably don’t wear leather or wool. Even their cosmetics, toiletries, and other consumables must be free of any type of animal product or by-product – all in the names of ethics and ecology.
Try it—For great recipes take a look at The Angelica Home Kitchen cookbook written by the owner of the fantastic Angelica's Kitchen in New York City.
“Part-time” vegetarians; adherents eat meat only occasionally, and mostly adhere to a healthful, vegetarian diet. Popular especially among twenty-somethings, this diet appeals to health-aware eaters who don’t want to give up meat entirely.
Try it – Substitute tamari soy burgers for regular hams on the grill this summer, or scramble tofu, sunflower sprouts, and feta together for a high-energy hangover breakfast.
Freegan are another ethical lot; in order to reduce consumption, thereby leaving a smaller footprint on the earth, these crazy kids thrive on stuff that has been thrown out by someone else. The foodies of dumpster diving, freegans frequent restaurant trash bins and the back entrances of grocery stores to get their vittles.
Try it — First, stay far away from discarded meat, eggs, dairy, and bulging cans – they’ll make you sick. Instead, start by scamming day-old bread and pastries from local bakeries, and potatoes, bell peppers, apples, and pears from restaurant waste areas.
To preserve precious digestion-promoting enzymes, rawists eat primarily “living foods”: uncooked fruits and vegetables, nuts soaked in water, and sprouted seeds and grains. No food is consumed that has been heated to over 116 degrees, and a balanced raw foods diet typically contains fermented cabbages, dehydrated crackers, fresh juices, sprouts, and greens.
Try it – Mash a couple of avocados with a fork, add finely chopped onion, garlic, and sweet red pepper and stir in a splash of lime. Fresh, raw guac!
A complicated diet inspired by Chinese medicine, MB dieters rely on whole grains (50% of total diet), certain veggies (additional 25%), and plant proteins, soups, fermented foods, nuts, seeds, and fruits for their nutrients. Strict no-no’s include meat, eggs, cheese, sugar, spices, coffee, and alcohol.
Try it – Without totally committing to the macrobiotic lifestyle, you can derive some health and taste benefits simply by adding more cruciferous veg (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli) to yr diet and snacking on raw nuts and miso soup.
“International movement opposing fast food and promoting dining as a source of pleasure.” www.slowfood.com. Slow foodists emphasize the social aspects of eating, such as the family meal, and advocate cooking stuff from scratch and buying local, fresh ingredients. On a larger scale, the movement works to protect plants, wildlife, consumers, and traditional food production and processing techniques.
Try it – Remember your mother’s crockpot roast beef? Well, dig that monster out of the garage, and fill it with barley, chopped carrots, potatoes, and celery. Set the timer, go off to work, invite your posse after work. Eat together. Laugh at crockpots, microwaves, crimpers, and other vintage tech. But, secretly love the crockpot.
High in nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and soy. Processed foods, including most baked and canned goods, chips, and even are avoided. Instead, whole foodists eat steel-cut oats, raw and cooked whole fruits and veggies, air popped popcorn, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs. An extreme version of this foodstyle are the ape diet, which emphasizes only raw, whole legumes, grains, and leafy greens.
Try it – Go slowly if you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber to avoid cramping and other unpleasant digestion-action. Try adding sliced tomato, shredded carrot, and fresh avocado to your cheese sandwich or a handful of berries to your cereal.
Foods that have been grown or raised without chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides can be considered organic, as long as they meet strict USDA specifications. Supporters of organic foods cite increased health and higher quality as reasons to eschew chemical-ridden noshes. In addition, if your own body isn't that important to you, you might be swayed by going organic to help out the environment since pesticides and fertilizers effect all of us in the food chain. It should be noted that what UDSA organic certification has done to small farmers and if it is an effective program is an ongoing debate in the farming community.
Try it – Check out local farmer’s markets and roadside stands for great deals on organic fruits, veggies, and cheese, go for organic strawberries and tomatoes first, as their non-org peers tend to soak up the most pesticides in the field. For motivation, watch online film “Grocery Store Wars”, at .www.storewars.org/flash, a food-action parody with an organic twist.
Whether you’re a hard-core carnivore for whom veggies are yuck, a breatharian (a form of religious asceticism in which one lives only on air), or a recovering milkaholic, the most benefit is derived from food when you’re not stressed about what you’re eating. The philosophy of DIY-eating is experiencing a revival through the persistence of artsy eaters like Cindy Deachman, creator of Burnt Toast magazine, who believes that food doesn’t have to be perfect; it should be messy and a lot of fun. So choose foods that give you both energy and warm fuzzies.
Riva Soucie is dedicated to consuming as much pink lemonade and leftover birthday cake as possible in her lifetime. She is a Registered Nutritional Consultant Practitioner, a graduate student in sociology, and a genuine Canadian.
At the age of ten I realized my cousin Tito was the coolest guy on the face of the earth. He listened to the Smiths and the Sex Pistols and Elvis; he was cute and funny; but most importantly, his wardrobe was impeccably hip. In his repertoire were London Fog trench coats, a black beret, geeky shirts from the late fifties/early sixties, sharkskin pants, well-tailored blazers... I longed to throw myself into his closet to absorb his fabulous taste through osmosis. I no longer recall the superfly shirt he was wearing the day I asked him where he got his clothes, but his reply? "Salvation Army," he said nonchalantly, and a passion was born in me that has persevered for fourteen years. I suspect, with apologies to my as-yet-unconcieved children, that it shall continue on into the twilight years of my life.
Yes, it’s been a long and winding road, chickies, but after much trial-and-error I have fashioned a few guidelines that reduce the anxiety and indecision often involved in picking through stranger’s castoffs, leaving more room for the thrill of the hunt. Follow along then, and as you do, keep the all-important Big Rule in mind: rules don’t matter if you’ve found something you can’t live without. Obviously your pocketbook restrictions apply ad nauseaum, but short of that, who cares how lame, even by kitsch standards, something is? You love it; end of story. And now, the nitty-gritty details to help you along your scavenging way.
nFelt is a line of felted accessories made by Nad Thitadilaka. Nad is a textile designer originally from Phuket, Thailand where there is no wool or snow. She lived in Chicago for a number of years and became fascinated with this stuff called wool. The felting began when she threw a knit hat into a hot washing machine and was surprisingly happy with the results.
Her brooches and necklaces are made with wool roving and glass beads but the results are totally divine. Who knew that simple felting could yield such visually rich objects. Seeing the layers in the spherical brooches is just amazing.
She is now working in Thailand as a textile designer for the non-profit organization called the Doi Tung Development Project (www.doitung.org). Doi Tung helps create sustainable economies for northern Thai people by supporting textile and handicraft skills as an alternative to illicit opium farming.
For more info go to www.nfelt.com.
I often feel that when news reaches us it is very removed from what actually happened. Thomas Demand does too.
Demand is concerned with the artificial nature of the photographic record. His dioramas are taken from press photos and recreated entirely of paper. They are made life sized, photographed and then the paper constructions are destroyed. In the end, all we see are large saturated color photos.
His works portrays important historical moments. Shown here are Saddam Hussein’s underground hideaway in Kitchen and the 2000 USA presidential election in Poll. Both re-present occurrences that had an impact on our society, but happened without our presence at the key moment, and very few sources for the event's retelling. Poll also contains one of the ever-sincere Johanna Burke’s favorite details - paper stacks of paper.
He also chooses more personal things. Staircase is from the art school he attended. The works are stunningly devoid of people.
For me these photos become a haunting reminder of where each of us lies in the chain of media distillation. Somewhere at the far end.
Also that paper is pretty.
He just had a big show at MOMA. They have published a great book. He is also available on Ebay
Jean Loscalzo, 33, may not have x-ray vision, or be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but she is still a superhero of sorts. The company that she started in 2000, Supercreator, is in the business of making everything. Yes, you heard right: everything. And this made her the perfect victim for my first interview.
Having been forewarned by a mutual friend about her great sense of style and her warm personality, I visited Jean at her charming Brooklyn live/work space. We talked over mint tea, while her dog rallied for attention.
What does Supercreator do?
We make everything. The way the company’s structured is that I design everything, but then the people that work with me are individual contractors that have special skills. So if a client comes to me and, say, they need metal curtains… I design them, then I call the welder I work with and say, "What do you think about this?" and we consult, collaborate, and deliver the finished product. That’s how we can make everything.
What are things that you know how to make yourself?
Well, I know how to make a lot of things. I can make costumes. I can do special effects, like make-up effects. I can do molds of special effects. I can do set design. I can build—I know how to use all kinds of power tools. I can do carpentry work, like cabinets and stuff like that. I can weld a little bit. I can sew, so I can do pillows, or whatever you need for home life, and I can do mural painting and decorative painting. I can do fake finishes on anything, like if you wanted a saloon from 1920, I can make that. That’s kind of why I started the company, because I like to do all different kinds of things. I didn’t want to have to focus on one thing. It was a way for me to be able to use all the skills I learned, and also expand on them, and learn new things.
So the things that you do, or even the design—where did you learn how to do them?
I studied fine art and exhibit design. I graduated from FIT. I wanted originally to do zoo design, but I ended up getting a job at Barneys, and they hired me to do stuff for their Christmas windows, and I loved it. I was in college and we were always making these crazy things out of the most bizarre materials possible. I was learning so much, I was just like a sponge. I stayed with [Barneys], and I started designing for their Chelsea Passage windows. I was with them a total of six years—three years as a freelance artist, and three years as a designer. When I left, I kept doing windows. I worked for Bergdorf [Goodman]… they were like, "Here’s some yarn," and [they would] leave you in a window and you had to make something out of it.
Then I wanted to use more power tools, so I hooked up with Ralph Lauren, and I was hired as their set designer, and I designed and built all the sets for their three New York stores. That was heavy carpentry work, more like scenic building, because eventually I wanted to go into movies, so I wanted to learn how to build sets. And the thing that was great about Ralph Lauren is they had really good budgets and everything had to be authentic, so we used all the right kinds of wood. There was a little more research involved, and it was more finished work, and it was a totally different aesthetic from all the other places I had worked before. Then I got bored there, and I got hired on a film—my first production design job—for Troma Films, which does B cult movies. That was an amazing, incredible experience. Basically, when you see a movie, everything you see is designed by the production designer, down to what the people are wearing, and all the environments, the props, the cups they’re drinking out of…you know, anything… so that was my job. And that was what I wanted to do. I mean, of course it was applied to this really bizarre, freaky movie. But that’s where I learned all my special effects, because for that job, I did everything. It was just like, "Do it," and I did.
Then I did some fashion shows. Ultimately I like making environments for people. I love that there will be people interacting in the spaces I design. So I designed all the sets for three Diane Von Furstenberg shows. They would have a party and that was the show, instead of a runway. That led me to do some more events. I would do big parties, like we did something for the Disney Channel… an amazing budget; we could do whatever we wanted. And it was for kids, [which] was cool because it was very colorful, just outrageous, and a two-hour party. I think our budget was like $600,000, so that was the biggest job that I had done, up to that point. Then I started doing more parties. So a little bit of this, a little bit of that.
On your web site you have some pretty big names that you’ve worked for. How do you get connected to people like Disney?
Well, the window stuff was all word of mouth, just people that I’d worked with who liked working with me. That was pretty much how I got all my jobs, up until maybe… I dunno, I’m still a little bit not so diligent about taking meetings. Lately I’ve been trying to meet more people, and get an agent, stuff like that, because I’ve started doing some fashion prop stuff. But the majority of my body of work was word of mouth.
Mostly in New York or do you travel for work?
I haven’t done a lot of traveling. I curated a show in Philly, and some work in L.A., but not really.
Do you want to keep doing everything, or is this a way for you to find something that fits you best, like say, only fashion shows…
No, I just like doing everything.
So you plan to do this for a long time?
Hopefully yeah, until I’m too old and I can’t get up and down the ladder. Hopefully the company will get big enough that I’ll just be designing and running it, and there will be people eventually working for me full time. So that’s another reason why I started it, because I wanted to have something to survive on in the future.
Would you say you have a style that’s recognizable in your work, or is each project very different?
Well, lately I’ve been trying to define that a little bit more, but I’ve been having trouble because I’ve worked for so many different people, and they all have different tastes, and I try to tailor my work to what their needs are. But I like outrageous, colorful things. If I can use glitter, I’m gonna use glitter. I try to push things a little further, like maybe that makes people a little more uncomfortable, but in the end ultimately they’re happy. I got bored pretty quickly at Ralph Lauren—it was very, you know, traditional. It was good to learn, but ultimately I’d rather do Cirque du Soleil or something.
What sorts of things inspire you?
People in general inspire me, and cultures inspire me. Fashion is inspirational to me because it’s so outrageous. Nature is a big inspiration for me. And color—I like toys; I like things that are more colorful, sparkly. [And] historical things, things like ancient tradition.
What are some of your favorite materials or tools to work with?
I love a lot of tools. I don’t know which one I like the best… let me think. I like my pneumatic air gun because it gets me through the job really fast. And I like my chop saw because I can just make anything with it. I love little Dremel tools. And table saws. As for materials… Lately I’ve been working with more fabric. But it’s hard because materials are also an inspiration to me, like I’ll see something and I’ll want to make something out of it. Um, I just wanted to say rhinestones, but that’s because I was just making something out of rhinestones…
So kind of whatever you’re working on at the moment…
Yeah, it becomes my favorite thing. I don’t like cement any more.
Did you have a bad experience with cement?
Well, I’ll try anything once, definitely, for sure. And we decided to do a tile floor for a bathroom, but we wanted to make all the tiles ourselves. So we mixed all the concrete, tinted it, poured it into frames that we built, and then scored it so we had big pieces. And I cut all these diamonds out on a diamond saw, and I think I cut about 700 tiles and I never wanted to work with concrete ever again. That was it! The floor was gorgeous, but never again.
So you do things for people’s homes as well?
Yeah. I’ve been more interested in doing dwellings. I feel like I’m moving into more of an architectural place. I recently installed a permanant exhibit of artwork up at 100 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge New York. It's a collection of 9 works, and it's the first installation of a 25 peice permanent exhibit curated and created by Supercreator for Tritec Development Corp. I worked directly with the Vanderblit Museum. The exhibit uses historical photographs and documention and recreates them using a modern approach, fitting perfectly within this building's 1990 style architecture. I love that it’s in a public space. People will see it every day when the elevator opens up and it’s going to touch them in a certain kind of way.
What skills do you have that you think make you good at this job?
I think I try to think about people and how it’s going to affect them, whatever I’m doing. Like if I’m working on a film or I’m making a costume, I want to get inside the character’s mind—"What would the character like?" Almost like what actors do in a way, to be their character. I get really attached to projects. Each one is like a special little person, and I think that shows in my work. I also give people things that they might not have necessarily thought about… like, "Oh, I didn’t think that would have been translated that way." So I think my translation then becomes something unique, a little more complex. Because it’s individualized for people, and it’s really personal.
What kinds of work have you done before this that’s not really directly related to what you’re doing now?
Oh gosh, I put myself through college, so I had a lot of jobs. I sold makeup at the Lancome counter at the old A&S Plaza--I was one of those perfume spray people. I was a janitor. I worked at an OTB as a cocktail waitress. I worked at the Shoetown. I worked at a Pancake Cottage. I worked at the mall for quite a few years. I worked on an organic farm, I was a farmer. I think the weirdest job was probably the OTB—kinda depressing, good tips. I worked at nightclubs; I would get people to sign the guest list—that was a job that supported my social life. I was an R.A. I worked in the housing office at the school when the democratic convention was there.
I guess describing your typical workday is probably impossible. But are you working every week, or is there a lot of downtime and then huge insane working times?
There are definitely seasons that are more busy than others. It does vary per project. But with that Disney job I worked a forty-two hour shift—that was the longest shift I’ve ever worked. But once I get a job or prospect, I’m thinking about it all the time so I’m working on it constantly. But it’s very up and down. Sometimes I’m really busy, sometimes I’m not. But then I’m busy with the company, like balancing out the books, pursuing other clients… So there’s always something to do, but it might not necessarily be design.
Do you have anything in the public eye now that people could go see?
Yeah, in addition to the 100 Motor Parkway exhibit, one of my clients from last year is an architecture firm that designed the banks for Citizens Bank. They’re really cool banks, and they want to change the concept of them every six months to a year, and right now the concept is "grow." You see that little grow pot up there? [pointing to a plant in a pot up on a shelf] We make all the props for the banks that coincide with the design—stuff that goes on the employees’ desks, in the lobby, and in the windows. So now there are banks all over the place that have stuff made by Supercreator because they have, like, forty-five banks or something.
Do you have any future projects you’re looking towards, or a goal of things you’d like to work on?
I'm looking forward to using my creativity working with at risk children in art programs within the city. I'm also looking forward to creating more environments for fashion photograhers. The concept of making "custom rooms" for peoples homes is a new venture I'm in the process of launching.
I try not to look too far in advance because then I [start thinking], "What am I doing?" It doesn’t fit with what I like to do. I like to do so many different things, and that sometimes affects me emotionally, like I’m not moving in one direction. So I think I might get places a little bit slower, because I’m going here, then here. But ultimately it would be great to just always be working and not have to seek anybody out [laughs]. If there’s a future goal that would be it.
Ah, spring! When trees begin to shyly offer forth tender buds of crisp green potential, plants begin to peek unfurled heads timidly from the earth, and tightly bound blooms hold the mere promises of bursting flowers, and cooks everywhere admire nature’s miraculous regeneration… and immediately long to eat it. After a long, cold season of dense winter crops or deadened hothouse produce, nothing tempts quite as much as crisp, fresh, lively springtime fruits and vegetables. It may be in spring that a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, but it is absolutely in spring that a young cook’s fancy desperately turns to thoughts of salad.
To best satisfy springtime salad lust, rely on the freshest produce available. After all, is there a disappointment worse that finally having the opportunity to sate one’s need for fresh fruits and veggies and biting into a fiberboard berry or wilted lettuce that’s given up the ghost? Of course there isn’t. So, this means that the old mantra of buy local, buy seasonal, and buy direct applies now more than ever. If you’ve got access to a farmer’s market, by all means make use of it. If not, be choosy and buy in-season salad fixin’s.
Depending on where you live, springtime means the ripening of asparagus, basil, fiddleheads (tightly coiled fern babies), parsley, peas, rhubarb, Romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and tomatoes, among other goodies. Here are a few salads to get you started on celebrating Spring in the crunchiest, juiciest, and liveliest ways, but finding out what’s freshly harvested in your area and making the most of local produce is always a good idea.
Spinach & Strawberry Salad
You want a big nutritional bang for your buck? You got it right here. By combining your leafy greens with berries, you get a huge antioxidant kick as well as a shot of iron in the spinach that’s better absorbed thanks to the Vitamin C in the berries. Plus, it’s just damn good. Serves 6-8 hungry people.
What you need:
10 cups or so baby spinach leaves (torn grown-up spinach is fine, but not nearly as tender and spring-y as the sweet green infant variety)
3 cups of hulled and sliced strawberries
1/3 cup of green onions
1/3 cup of salad oil
3 tablespoons of lemon juice, or more for taste (I like my salads tart, like my women)
1 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
What to do:
Combine oil and lemon juice. Whisk if you feel a pressing need, but shaking it together in a closed container works just as well. Chill this mixture well and whisk or shake again just before pouring.
While chilling, combine the spinach, berries, onions, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl. Let the salad sit, covered, in the fridge for a while so that the berries’ sticky red juices seep ever so appealingly onto the spinach as a kind of pre-dressing. Pour dressing over top. Add black pepper, a strawberry’s rarely acknowledged best friend, and salt to taste.
This is better than franks-n-beans, I promise, and still has enough protein to serve as a main dish for vegans, vegetarians, and fellow travelers alike. Check your farmers’ market for fresh fiddleheads. Of course, you can make this with frozen fiddleheads should fresh be impossible to come by, but, in honor of spring, I’m designating them as fresh here. Serves 6-8 people.
What you need:
1 pound fresh fiddleheads
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 chopped garlic clove
½ cup sliced celery
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 15 ounce can lima beans, drained
1 15 ounce can white beans, drained
1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained
What to do:
Slice away any dark ends from your fiddleheads and blanch them in boiling salted water for about three minutes. Shock them immediately in a bowl of ice water to maintain the crispness of your tight green fiddlehead curls. As your fronds chill, mix together your oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic in a large bowl. Drain your fiddleheads. Add these, the celery, onion, and drained beans to your dressing. Toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to marinate the salad, stirring occasionally to coat the salad well with dressing. Eat out of big bowls accompanied by hot crusty bread.
I can think of very few sensory experiences more pleasant than plunging one’s nose into a bunch of fresh springtime basil and inhaling deeply. Please do this as much as necessary before dismantling your herbal nosegay for incorporation into the salad. Serves 4.
What you need:
2 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
½ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 cup fresh whole basil leaves
Good quality extra virgin olive oil, about ¼ cup
coarse salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
What to do:
However you choose to combine the above ingredients will make a wonderful salad, but the prettiest presentation I’ve seen is to layer the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves in an overlapping ring design around a platter. Alternate tomato slices, mozzarella slices, and 1 or 2 fresh basil leaves around the edge of a pretty plate until you’re out of tomatoes, cheese, and basil. Put either more layers of tomatoes, cheese, and basil or a bunch of beautiful basil leaves in the middle of your ring. Drizzle your salad liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with a few torn basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Then, with dainty tongs or a cake server, serve each person a few tomato/cheese/basil stacks until the platter is empty. Aren’t you the elegant one!
Tired of your dog’s droopy face when you bake chocolate chips cookies? Making dog biscuits for your furry friend is easier than you think. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way because I bet your best friend won’t even notice. Here are some steps and recipes to get you started:
1) Don’t use raisins in the biscuits. They can be toxic to dogs when ingested in large quantities.
2) Don't use chocolate in the biscuits. Chocolate isn’t dog-friendly either so don’t throw any chocolate chips in the batter either.
3) Do use your usual cookie recipe... with some substitutions. Many cookie recipes meant for people can be altered to work for dogs. Substitute beef or chicken broth for vanilla, and reduce the sugar and add ginger or cinnamon for flavor.
4) Do sow some wild oats. If the recipe calls for a large amount of flour, try alternating half flour with half oatmeal. Oatmeal is very good for the skin and is packed with nutrients.
Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
What you need:
¼c. peanut butter (all-natural is best)
½c. whole wheat flour
What to do:
Put all the ingredients in the food processor and process until crumbly. Add enough water to create a dough. Roll out to ¼in. thickness and cut into desired shapes. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350° F until cookies are hard and brown. Makes about a baker's dozen.
What you need:
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ c. grated cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. olive oil
What to do:
Put the whole wheat flour, baking powder and the grated cheeses together in the food processor. Process until crumbly. Mix together the egg and the olive oil in a measuring cup and add enough warm water to make about ½c. With the processor running, dribble the liquid through the funnel and continue until the dough forms a ball. (You may need more water.) Remove the dough from the machine and knead a few times. Divide into 3 parts.
Roll the dough out to about ½in. thickness and, with a sharp knife, cut the dough into ½in. wide slices. Cut these into 2in. lengths. Twist each piece a couple of times and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes or until slightly browned and crispy. Make 2 ½ dozen.
Doggie Birthday Cake!
What you need:
2 c. cooked oatmeal
½ c. chopped raw chicken or turkey
¼ c. chicken broth
½ c. – ¾ c. chopped raw meat
What to do:
Mix 2 cups of cooked oatmeal, ½ cup chopped raw chicken or turkey, and ¼ cup of chicken broth together. Form it into little squares, add a sprig of parsley to the top, and set out to dry and harden. Just before serving, sprinkle pieces of meat on top. Your dog will positively adore you!
Nedra Rezinas runs Nedra Made It, a site dedicated to all things dog craft. You can sign up there for her super cute Augie newsletter.
I had the luck to have a business trip that took me to Thailand. The work part was fun and surprising. It seems that talking in front of 150 people is not so scary after all. Strangely I was a little more articulate than usual. My travel companion was charming, and among other things, was able to secure very fancy hotel rooms, and you know- hotels aren’t so horrible when they have fine linens that are embroidered.
For the last week I was on my own in Chiang Mai — a city renowned for its craft traditions. These include lacquer ware, basketry, celadon pottery, jewelry and textile production. The people I met were fantastically gracious. While I was there it was very, very hot, dry and dusty. This should have made for an unpleasant trip, but for the beauty at every turn. I am a fabric fetishist, so my trip centered on silk weaving.
Silk we know, is beautiful. Its luster and supple lightness have historically had more value and prestige than gold. Thai silk has been famous in the US since its iridescent color play was introduced to the US in the 1950’s by interior textile guru jack Lenore Larsen and his friend Jim Thompson.
Before there was an export market, silk weaving was done by farmers in the offseason. These fabrics were used only in ceremonial dress. Export has helped broaden not only the market presence, but also it’s uses.
Not for Vegans or Vegetarians the process is as gruesome as the product is gorgeous.
Silk is extruded by silk worms as they make their cocoon in preparation for become moths. The nasty little guys eat mulberry leaves continuously for 2 weeks before forming their cocoon.
From my explorations I have found three types of Thai silk.
The simplest, most famous, and to me most sublime is just a simple plain weave. The warp and weft are often different and contrasting colors which causes the light to catch one color more dominantly depending on the angle of the fabric. This iridescent effect is known as changeant- which is really just pretentious French for change-y.
Thai silks have maintained their beauty without being adversely affected by modernization. Their beauty is constant and ethereal, even when the fabrics are heavy and solid.
In Thailand one enjoys a feast for the senses- food, fabric, architecture, and orchids just growing here and there. Please also enjoy my new favorite fruit, the Mangosteen. The purple outside flesh is not eatable and is really bitter, but the white inside is so tasty- a flavor I can’t really describe. I’m told that they won’t grow on North America and can’t be imported because of trade laws.
Podcasting is catching on and spreading like wildfire. But what the heck is it? Well, the best way to explain podcasting is to start with a little story: imagine a radio station that plays whatever you want to listen to, whenever you want to hear it.
One with no advertising and no annoying deejays. One you could listen to at home or on the go. Oh, and by the way, one that’s absolutely free. How cool would that be?
Podcasting is very cool indeed. A “podcast” is a little radio show, usually recorded by someone just like you and me, and saved as an MP3 file. You can listen to podcasts on your computer, or download them to your iPod (or other portable device) to take with you.
There were upwards of 8,000 podcasts in existence as of mid-2005, with new ones being born every day. You can find podcasts about nearly any topic you like: astronomy, current events, knitting, Frank Sinatra, religion, technology, running a small business, and so on. A great many podcasts also focus on playing independent music by unsigned bands. It’s an incredible DIY universe.
In order to get you properly addicted, let’s get you started listening to some podcasts. If your computer can play mp3 files (and most can), you’re in business. If yours can’t, just download a free program like Real Player.
Now, visit some podcast directories and find some podcasts that interest you. Podcast Alley is the mac-daddy of the directories these days, but you may find Podcast Pickle and Podcasting News a bit easier to navigate. And by the end of July, Apple’s iTunes will also contain a directory of podcasts.
When you find a podcast you’d like to hear, just locate the button on the site marked “listen,” give it a click, and the show will play right on your computer.
Spend some time listening to various podcasts. It’s a different experience than radio, because podcasts are made by hobbyists rather than professionals. Podcasts are not perfect – you’ll hear people cough, or flub a word, or say “um...” a lot. But podcasting is unique and personal, and listening to people’s podcasts makes you feel delightfully connected to the human community. This connection tends to overshadow any little audio flaws.
When you find a few podcasts you really love, you can subscribe to them the same way you subscribe to people’s blogs. That way, every time the podcaster records a new show, you’ll be notified automatically.
To subscribe to a podcast, you’ll need two things: the “feed URL” for the podcast, and an “aggregator” of some kind. Let’s explain those separately.
A “feed” is an internet broadcasting tool. All podcasts (and blogs, too) have a feed of some kind. You may be familiar with the terms RSS, or XML, or Atom – and if you’re not, it’s not a big deal. These are just different types of feeds. They all work the same way: they bring you the freshest content from any website or podcast you’ve subscribed to.
A feed looks just like a web address -- hence the name, “feed URL.”
Here’s a sample one: http://www.slackerastronomy.org/slack-live.xml
To subscribe to this feed, you’d also need an “aggregator.” This is simply a software program that reads updates from all the feeds you subscribe to. You can download plenty of free ones – iPodder is simple to use if you’re new to podcasting. If you already have an account on Bloglines to help you keep up with your favorite blogs, you can also use it to subscribe to podcast feeds. And if you have iTunes, stay tuned for their new podcast aggregator, coming in July.
So, subscribing is just a matter of taking that feed URL and pasting it into your aggregator program. Voila! You’ve subscribed to a podcast! Now every time you use your aggregator to check the feed, you’ll get the most updated shows from that podcast.
After you’ve been listening for a bit, you just might get the urge to make your own podcast. And good for you! It’s easy to do, and it’s easy to get the tools you need. While this part of the article might sound a little techie, just take it step-by-step and you’ll be podcasting in no time.
First, check to see if your computer has an internal microphone. (Most models built after 2000 tend to have one.) If not, you’ll need to figure out how to connect a microphone to your computer. Now all you need is some recording software. I recommend downloading Audacity, a free and easy-to-use program that will record and mix your audio, and then convert it to MP3.
Great, now you’re ready to get busy recording! There’s no right or wrong way to make a podcast. You can make your show sound like anything you want. The only guideline I’ll offer you is this: give some thought to how much time you want to spend on your podcast on an ongoing basis. If you decide to make a daily podcast, you can be sure it will take over a big part of your life. A weekly or monthly podcast gives you more lead time. I produce a podcast every week, and they generally take about four hours each, including research, writing the material, recording, and mixing the audio. But podcasts can also be biweekly, or monthly, or just “whenever you feel like it.” That’s the beauty of podcasting--there are no rules.
You can add music to your podcast if you like-–just remember that playing RIAA-licensed music in your podcast is illegal. Instead, visit GarageBand.com for a whole slew of “podsafe” tunes you can use. Or, if you or your friends have a band, this is a great way to gain some exposure.
When you’ve recorded your podcast and converted it to MP3, it’s time to share it with the world. You’ll want to list it on several podcast directories so people can find and listen to it. In order to do that, you’ll need to create your own feed.
It’s very easy to make a feed. Just go to Feedburner.com and set up a free account. Feedburner will then give you your very own feed URL. (Another nifty thing about Feedburner is that they track the number of subscribers your podcast has, so you can tell how many people are listening.)
Once you have a feed, you’ll need a server to host your MP3 files. Don’t worry, this is much easier than it sounds. Just go to OurMedia.org, and sign up for a free account. You can now upload your podcasts to the OurMedia archive, where they’ll be hosted for free and the world can access them.
Now you can go to several podcast directories and submit your podcast. (Again, Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle, and Podcasting News are good ones.) Most of the directory sites will ask for your feed URL, your email address, and a short description of your podcast. Then, they do a quick check to make sure your feed is working properly, and then notify you when your listing is completed.
Keep in mind, too, that if you already have a blog, you can post your podcasts as blog entries. This is nice to do, because it allows you to write some “show notes” for your podcasts. Show notes are usually a little summary of what the podcast it about, plus links to any websites you might have mentioned in the show. If you don’t have a blog, you might want to start one for your podcast. With your free account on OurMedia.org, you also get a free blog -- how easy is that?
If you get stuck anywhere along the way, you can always visit the forums on Podcasting News or OurMedia.org to ask questions and get help from experienced podcasters. The podcasting community is very friendly and very tech-savvy, so you’re bound to find good help.
Once you’ve listed your podcast, congratulations! The world will be able to listen to your shows, and subscribe to your feed. The only other thing there is for you to do now is this: participate in the community! If you like a podcast, be sure to let the creator know, and be sure to tell your friends about it. One of the nicest things about being part of the podcasting community is making friends with other people who make media--that and saving the world from corporatized media, one podcast at a time.
The Renegade Alternative Craft Fair in Brooklyn was hot in every sense of the word: it was 95 degrees and the fair was hopping. Put together twice a year in Chicago and Brooklyn, it represents many of the great new makers in the alt crafting scene. I love seeing people out there creating great stuff and trying to make a living with it. It is so inspirational.
It was at least 4 times bigger than I had anticipated, so there was so much I got to see and so much I missed. It was such a delight seeing makers in the flesh for the first time and finding great new stuff I didn't know about. Here is my photo rich, misguided tour. Sorry to the booths that I missed! Wish you were here with me!
We think this project is so cool, we couldn’t pass it up.
Inspired by the perseverance of nature reclaiming its space, Helen Nodding, of London, has come up with one cool way of using nature as art. Living art, if you will.
Having lived in London for six years surrounded by steel, glass and concrete, she is constantly inspired by those little bits of nature that pop up in the city. “I’m always cheered up when I see weeds pushing through a crack in a paving stone, or grass growing somewhere where nobody had planned for it to be,” she says. Helen became increasingly fascinated with moss, which is not surprising; it really is such amazing stuff. She searched the internet high and low, and came across many horticultural sites which had recipes for growing moss on walls, and from there it was an obvious step for her to try to write or draw with it. And thus, moss graffiti was born, natural graffiti, if you like, and an awesome alternative to spray paint.
Can you imagine the possibilities? Reclaim your neighborhood concrete walls with some moss graffiti, and spread the word, the natural way.
The flourishing script on the side of a boxcar, a lamppost, or a litter-strewn doorway has long been seen as an act of vandalism by some, a welcome glimpse of street art by others, an act of defiance and self-expression by the creators. Thanks to grafedia.net and its creator, John Geraci, "tagging" can now be something more.
The website defines grafedia as "words written anywhere, then linked to images, video, or sound files online." A word--penned, chalked, painted on any surface, underlined in blue--becomes a hyperlink that you can text message from your cellphone and receive a response. Grafedia is an innovatively subversive way of further breaking down the barrier between our notions of the "real" world and the virtual one, a way of interweaving the two.
A project that turns a sidewalk into a webpage? Who’s behind this? I e-mailed John Geraci to see what he had to say for himself.
Who are you? What is your background?
"I’m John Geraci, I live in Brooklyn and am from San Francisco. I just graduated from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, which is where I created Grafedia, for an independent study. Before ITP, I lived in SF and did internet stuff and took art classes at CCA on the side. I studied American Studies in my undergrad at University of California, so all of my tech work has a sort of anthropological/cultural strain to it."
What is your aim in creating Grafedia.net?
"I was in an environment at school where everyone was creating interactive tech projects that could exist only in galleries, or on
stage, or in some other controlled environment. It seemed so limiting. I wanted to create something that could be done anywhere, by anyone, without consent from others. I wanted to bring interactive art to the outdoors, to an uncontrolled environment. All of my projects now have that element to them. By doing things outdoors, out of the control of the gallery or school or whatever, a project is more explosive--you turn it loose on the public and you have no idea where people will go with it. Much more exciting than doing something with an interactive video screen.
I also, for Grafedia, wanted to combine the highest, most advanced form of technology (personal mobile devices) with the most basic, primal form of technology (writing on walls with chalk/pen/pencil). The basic rhetoric to Grafedia, though, is that it’s "turning walls into webpages" and extending the boundaries of the internet to include physical space. Those are the ideas I was playing with at the time."
What inspires you?
"Walking around the streets. I get all of my ideas walking around, popping into some cafe or taco store, dodging into an alleyway, riding a crowded subway. I need to be looking at people and places to get ideas. I hate looking at a computer all day long. Also music, in particular certain albums that catch everyone off guard and totally change the music scene. I love albums where you can actually hear the shock of the people who first heard it. That’s so great when that happens."
Coffee drinking, fossil & handbag collecting artist Natasha Quam is the founder of l’ange atelier, a studio specializing in one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, and purses crafted from found and recycled materials. Never having met a storm cloud she didn’t like, Natasha is currently on sabbatical in Northeast Iowa, exploring her roots and praying for tornadoes.
More apples than you know what to do with? Drowning in berries? Why not try home canning? It's fun, great to do with a posse, and perfect for both hoarding and gift giving. These recipes are not only delicious, they're sweetly sugar free. And once you learn how to avoid botulism, you can can just about anything (chutney! cranberry sauce! gooseberry syrup!).
Sterilization: Sterilization procedures for non-fruit canning vary. See some of the listed links if you are thinking about canning vegetables or meat products.
Glass: Jars can break during the boiling process. Make sure that
children keep their distance.
A. (For Apple Butter)
1. Wash apples
2. Quarter apples (no need to core or peel)
3. Place apples in pot with a couple of inches of mixed cider and water (just water is okay as well)
4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all apples are soft. This will take about 30 minutes. If the apples are sticking at the bottom turn down the heat.
5. Strain apples (here's where a food mill comes in handy)
6. Put apples back on the stove
7. Season to your liking (I used cinnamon, cloves, ginger, lemon zest and vanilla)
8. Cook down. If your apple butter is getting dense but the texture is not as smooth as you like, remove from the stove, blend and then return to the stove.
B. (For Loose Berry Jam)
1. Boil the berries, apple, juice and maple syrup until thick.
2. Take some of the liquid and mix with cornstarch. Return to berry
mixure. Repeat until thick enough for your taste.
1. Wash jars and lids
2. Sterilize jars (not lids) by boiling for 10 minutes. If you have a double-boiler or some kind of rack, use it; if not try and make sure that the jars don't touch while they are boiling. Remove from boiling water with tongs and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Fill jars (leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top).
4. Wipe tops of jars (so that there is no jam where the lid will be
5. Screw on lids (tightly).
6. Boil filled jars for 10 minutes.
7. Set aside to cool upright for at least 12 hours. During this time the lids of the jars will seal. If the lid still pops then the seal hasn't set properly and you should probably just eat that jar sooner rather than later.
8. Decorate jars.
Special thanks to the Church of Craft for help with this article.
Andrea Zittel is a contemporary artist living in the high desert of California. Her work blurs the line between art and everyday life. With a slightly distopic and fantastic view of existence she has done things like breed chickens, make modular living environments and create a 44-ton floating island off the coast of Denmark. She graciously let SuperNaturale interview her about her work, her thoughts about art versus craft and her deep love of felting.
This interview was originally conducted in 2002, for Ten by Ten magazine. Many thanks to Ten by Ten and Andrea Zittel for allowing us to publish this special SuperNaturale version of the article.
It’s interesting to be doing this interview with you for SuperNaturale right now, because after years of working in the margins between design and art - now I’m working on a trinity to combine design, craft and art.
Since graduate school I’ve been interested in the idea of craft. But every time I brought it up in school people would discourage it. Craft is sort of a scary area for a lot of artists. So I’ve been trying to think about why there is this prejudice against craft – and have realized that it is primarily seen as a regressive gesture. So the question that follows this is: how can craft, in some way, become progressive? Or another approach is to think about how it can actually be made relevant to a contemporary lifestyle.
And do you mean the making or the having?
In my mind it’s more about making it. For me the definition of craft is that it is an individual form of production as opposed to mass production, and also that a crafted item usually be made by the same person who would wind up using it.
If craft is individual production, what is the difference between art and craft?
Well that similarity is probably what scares most artists. But for me the function of art is more to do with facilitating new forms of perception. Art helps us to perceive things in a different way. Then I see design as a pursuit to shape the way that these things look and function in a more practical sense... and craft delves into production and the way in which they are made. I think that all three areas can be components of a single object – in fact, perhaps we should always be thinking about this trilogy when we bring a new object into the world.
So craft can be the process by which you arrive at art.
It can be part of the process, but I feel that it hasn’t been an important part of artistic production for a while now. The thing is that after several decades of artists challenging the conventions of authorship by not producing their own work, it has now become the hallmark of an important artist to have a large crew of fabricators who make their work for them.
It seems to me that there is a gap there somehow--presumably when most artists are starting out they would need to do it themselves, and contracting it out would be a bit of a leap.
There are some artists who do that DIY thing really well but when I follow a lot of younger artists I see that when many of them start showing, they immediately aspire to start working with assistants and studios. Personally I find it really stressful to work with assistants and until this last year I never had a studio...
So it sounds to me like you have been crafting since art school, that you have always been very involved in the making of your art.
Sure. And I paid my way through art school by doing bronze casting and welding and woodworking for other artists - so I’m pretty good at doing those things even though it hasn’t been part of the content of my work.
I find making things for myself enormously empowering and I have this intuitive feeling that craft could still be really important in people’s lives. All of my work keeps coming back to the idea of individual empowerment. Like when I made design it was very much anti-design, and anti-architecture, it was more about how to be an empowered consumer and to be your own ultimate authority. So with craft there’s another form of this idea that you can be doing things for yourself.
Have you always made your own clothes, or have you ever had them made?
Well, in the early 90’s when I was wearing 6-month uniforms, I would have a tailor make them because I wanted them to be really perfect and I don’t sew that well. But the Personal Panels and Crocheted Dresses I make myself. I’m better at crocheting and felting than at sewing.
Are you not doing the 6-month uniforms anymore?
Well when I started doing this style [felting] I got really excited about testing all of the variations that I could achieve with the process - so I kept making new dresses to test out. I guess now there are more like four to six dresses a season – though if I can figure out the perfect pattern, I will gladly settle down into a uniform again.
So how long have you been doing the felting?
Since the spring of 2002.
What’s been the progression in your clothing?
[It began with] Six Month Uniforms, then starting to make up rules.The first rule was that everything had to be made from a rectangle, and there were almost 5 years of having all these different garments that were made out of rectangles. The reason for the rectangle was that it was the most pure manifestation of the fabric; you could just rip it from the bolt. But then I realized that it would be even more pure to use the unwoven strand... and crocheting became an even more direct way to make my dresses. That was the second manifestation of the rules. Eventually I knew that it was all building up to the fiber, but I couldn’t figure out how to make a dress out of pure fiber, until I learned how to felt.
Felt’s so amazing. I can make a dress in 8 hours, but crocheting a dress takes 6 weeks. When you think about normal production, everything from taking the wool and making it into thread and weaving it and cutting it and sewing it, in comparison this is so efficient. It’s one step.
Felting and Fulling
Instructions with photos
And what’s your relationship to the process v. the product?
Well, since I’m the one making the things that I use, I think that process and product are totally interrelated and integral to each other. Perhaps these two facets aren’t as connected in everyone’s lives – but I think that labor can be incredibly fulfilling and even empowering. So realizing that, I guess that the next step for me is to find a way to make the production of my work as much of a creative gesture as the end product.
Homemade hooch backyard style: keep an eye on your little brother
On the day that I found out, I think I was about 9 years old. Callie, my older sister by about 3 years, burst into my room, ripped the comic book out of my hands, grabbed me by the shirt, and exclaimed, “Dude with, like, grapes you can, like, make wine!”
I think her scheme at the time had been to make wine with raisins
instead of grapes, the logic being that this would somehow take a stage out of the fermentation process and therefore yield booze that much faster. (I think it was Monday, and she had wanted to have the stuff ready to go for a party on Saturday.) I don’t recall now whether her bathtub winery got busted or she simply realized shoplifting a bottle was much quicker and easier. Whatever the case, the wine never got made, and this valley kid never caught his preteen buzz.
And maybe that’s why when I moved into the apartment I live in now and saw the grapevines growing in the backyard, I exclaimed, “Dude,
there’s, like, grapes. I’m gonna make some, like, wine!”
While grownups are welcome to try out the following approach to winemaking, it’s really intended more for the underage set, the kids who want to make the stuff on an allowance-driven budget, need a low-profile method that will avoid detection, and want the vino ASAP. This, little Callie, is for you.
Sweet. Now let’s make some hooch.
8-10 pounds of grapes. You can use any kind of fruit really, but grapes are the best bet for the teen, presenting fewer variables. You can also skip the fruit altogether and just buy a comparable amount of juice, so long as it’s pure, with no sugars or additives mixed in.
6 pounds of sugar. The sugar is turned into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the yeast. The gas is allowed to escape while the alcohol remains. It’s, like, science, but not that lame kind. Normal household granulated sugar is fine.
6 lemons or oranges. The juice will ensure that the acid level is high enough for the fermentation to work properly.
Yeast. Winemaking yeast is cheap, and you only use 3 teaspoons per batch. Specialty yeasts are available for different types of wine, but a general purpose wine yeast is fine. Baking yeast can be used, but its inconsistency can be risky.
Campden tablets. They’ve got something called sodium metabisulphite in them that works as a sterilizer on your fruit through the various stages. They can also be used for sterilizing equipment, but you’re better off using…
Sterilizing powder or liquid. It’s cheap and a little goes a long way. Which is good, because you have to sterilize the shit out of just about everything that touches your wine at each stage. You can also use bleach, but be careful, especially if you’re a moron.
First, sterilize everything. Everything that touches your grapes and wine at each stage will have to be sterilized before you use it. Follow the directions on the container of whatever sterilizing product you bought.
Once everything is sterile, put the grapes into a (sterilized) sink
and pour over 12 pints of water that has been boiled and allowed to
cool. Then, drop the grapes into the pantyhose and squeeze the shit out of them, letting the juice fall into the plastic bucket while the pulp remains in the pantyhose.
Once you’ve de-juiced all of your grapes, it’s time to sterilize your juice, to rid it of whatever wild yeasts, molds, or bacteria your fruit might have been carrying. Dissolve 3 campden tablets in a little warm water and mix this into the juice. Cover with some plastic wrap and hide it for 24 hours.
The next day, boil 9 pints of water and remove from the heat. Add the sugar and the juice from the lemons or oranges. Stir well to ensure the sugar is fully dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, mix this into the bucket containing the grape juice. Then sprinkle in 3 teaspoons of yeast.
Re-cover the bucket and hide it for five or six days, stirring well
each day. After the first day you should see a foam forming on the top of the mix. This means that the fermentation has begun. This is going to stink for a little while, so you might want to throw on a few extra plug-ins or comparable air-fresheners to throw off the folks.
After the five or six days, use the funnel and pour the juice into the water cooler bottle. Fit the airlock onto the bottle and leave it in a place that has a reasonably constant temperature around 70°F, but not in direct sunlight.
Choose this place thoughtfully kids, because it’s going to need to
stay hidden there over the course of the next few months. Your best bet is the basement, if it doesn’t get too cold down there and doesn’t get too much traffic. Your closet is also a good choice too, especially if it stinks, which will help to mask the heady bouquet of mid-stage fermentation.
Right away, you’ll notice the bubbling gas from the wine escaping
through the airlock. In some cases, the force of the gas is enough to pop out the cork for your airlock. To be safe, I’d secure the cork in place with some duct tape.
After a few months the bubbling will gradually slow and eventually
stop altogether. Which means it’s time to get rid of the sediment
that’s been forming at the bottom of the bottle. Funnel (or siphon for better results) the wine into your bucket, being careful not to disturb the sediment.
Rinse the sediment out of the bottle, re-sterilize the bottle, and
pour the wine back in. Leave it for another couple of weeks to be sure that it has finished fermenting. Because it’s possible for the wine to start fermenting again some time later, avoid this by adding another two dissolved campden tablets to the wine as you transfer it back to the bottle.
After the couple of weeks are up (the pros would probably wait for a whole month, but I know you’re getting antsy), and everything looks stable, you’re ready to bottle the wine. Once the bottles are
sterilized, siphon or funnel the wine into the bottles, all the way up to the middle of the bottle necks. Cork ‘em!
You can now label your bottles with some picture that’d piss off your parents (if only they knew, dude) and then store the bottles away in a cool place. And make sure to store them on their sides, to keep the corks from getting dry.
The wine will be ready for drinking after a couple of weeks and will improve with age. It’s best to give it between three and twelve months to mature. But you and I both know that ain’t gonna happen. So go ahead and drink up, youngster! You’ve earned it.
At age 17, Daniel Janoff got his first paid writing job as a ghost
writer for America’s Most Wanted. After that, he decided he definitely wanted to write for a living. He lives in New York and is a hell of a good listener. This article has been provided through the generosity of the Church of Craft.
We are currently in the midst of a renaissance of lo-fi psychedelic aesthetics. From music packaging and posters to art galleries to fashion, new psychedelia is popping up everywhere. Simultaneously informed by electronica and handmade DIY graphics and illustration, neo-psychedelia references sixties and seventies posters, album art and lighting effects while injecting a modern pop sensibility cultivated by a generation raised on Nintendo, the internet, and mass media.
Much new psychedelia, like the old stuff, draws from an imaginary world populated with vibrant colors, unusual creatures, insane patterns, and imagery from nature. It is unabashedly optimistic, sometimes strangely spiritual, usually either forcefully overwhelming or subtly contemplative. This emerging pyschic landscape ranges from the acidic, drippy, trippy cartoonish installations of collectives Dearraindrop and Paper Rad to the earthy, Eastern-inspired illustrations of freak-folk king Devendra Banhart. A lot of this new art comes from outside of a traditional high art background - much of it is made by musicians, filmmakers, comic artists, graphic designers and illustrators, sometimes even tattoo artists (as in the case of Daniel Higgs, for example). In the tradition of visionary and outsider art and the trained artists that emulate it, the new psychedelia is highly personal, presenting surreal utopian visions.
As evidenced in the back-to-school Boho style of celebs like Mary Kate, DIY culture is one of the hottest trends around. In July 03, British music magazine The Wire ran a cover story called “New, Weird America”, referring to a new generation of "freak-folk" musicians. Among those noted are Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Six Organs of Admittance, etc. A press frenzy ensued. This experimental form of folk music has become extremely ubiquitous over the last two or three years.
What's so experimental about it? Before the most recent folk revival there were such things as Anti-Folk, Daniel Johnston, and Beck, who experimented with lo-fi recording techniques and pushed the limits of genre boundaries, but recently the current of Purism has been diverted by maxed out cross pollination. The limitations of music genres are breaking down, as are any walls left between visual arts, music, film, and writing. Artists are using any and all media to explore cohesive and diverse visions. This sense of openness may explain why art and music have been so intertwined (and so captivating) and why the lineup for a rock show may now include a revivalist bluegrass guitar player, distorted transistor drone music, Fahey-esque guitar duos accompanied by saw-playing and fuzzed-out vocals, and thrashing noisy rock guitars. Musicians are willing to explore totally new directions, switching back and forth between acoustic and electronic media to find something new. The success of bands such as Animal Collective and Lightning Bolt, and the mere existence of people like Josephine Foster and Feathers proves that right now, it's ok to stay undefined.
Harry Smith spawned the folk revival of the sixties by curating the Anthology of American Folk Music, which "brought virtually unknown parts of America's musical landscape to the public's attention."
"American Folk" by Greil Marcus (Granta)
"The Old Weird America" and Lipstick Traces,
(books by Greil Marcus that deal with American Folk music)
The Art of the Fillmore: The Poster Series 1966-1971 (book)
An interesting look at 90s era Lo-Fi
Fort Thunder, a utopia for weird artsy gutter punks in the 1990s. See also doublenegative.org
American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore! Shaker Drawings! The Library of Congress's William Blake Archive!
Freak Folk Flies High: A new generation of flower children keeps psychedelic folk alive (SF Gate)
An Overview of Freak Folk (Thus Spake Drake)
Don’t call it a scene—some Baltimore indie rockers just want to sing rather than scream (City Paper)
Folk Music's New Genre Benders (Utne Reader)
Antony & the Johnsons
Golden Apples of the Sun and other downloads on Bastet, Arthur magazine's label
Need New Body
Textile designer Sabine Gartner and carpenter Helmut Oesting had the chance to buy a 20 square meter cottage on the Baltic Sea. It is idyllic and they have been able to join the lucky few that can live here. The limitation is that one cannot exceed the square footage of the original 1920’s structures. This is a small amount of space for not only Helmut and Sabine but also their lovely children, Rosa and Mathilde.
The challenge then is finding a way to carve the space so that all four can comfortably sleep without filling the space with beds.
The couple’s solution is to build a tower of beds, cleverly vertically stacking the beds. After the girls go to sleep, a sheer curtain surrounds the bed with antique linens sewn strategically to shield the girls from the light still enjoyed by their parents and friends.
Karin is a textile designer working for Boller Textile and Manfred is an engineer at PLANFORUM specializing in ecologically sound heating systems. These two just made their dream house in a small Swiss town with their architecht Baenninger + Partner. Together their house is a dreamy testament to the rare combination of good and responsible design.
Their goal is to make a home that draws the least resources possible. Their steps toward achieving this: reducing water consumption, reducing necessary heating of air and of water.
Rainwater is collected from the roof in a tank that can store 3,000 liters. This water is used for clothes washing and flushing toilets.
The house is two stories. The first floor is cast concrete. The second floor is built from prefab parts. In Switzerland the dream of highly flexible, high quality prefab building is very real. To the prefab walls and ceiling Manfred and Karin added even more insulation- giving the walls a total thickness of just over 2 feet. Manfred’s firm calculated the perfect relation ship between having windows large enough to act as passive solar collectors but not too large as to lose heat unnecessarily. Together these this means that the house has very little heat leakage.
Next to the second floor windows are two solar water heaters. Their captured heat is used both to heat water and to heat air.
The air for the house is circulated underground around the house before it enters. This means that in both summer and winter it reaches a temperature of around 60 degrees. From here the air is brought to a heat exchange were it is mixed with interior air which is in constant circulation and also draws stored solar heat from the water.
Switzerland is cold. I visited in August. While Brooklyn was still steamy with summer, I sometimes had to wear a sweater at Karin and Manfred’s. In winter it really lives up to the cliché of an alpine snow filled environment. Last winter they have only had to fire up their wood burning stove for 4 hours every third day.
The air is constantly circulating and not dried out by a furnace. The result is pleasant and humane. This is a world free of hangnails and dry noses.
Now on top of all this eco tech stuff they have used a rich material palette of black slate, light wood floors, concrete, and walls that are either white or a rich red used by Le Corbusier. The Corbi red has lots more pigment than the average paint and has a warmth and depth that balances raw concrete walls perfectly.
Karin and Manfred have built not only a great home for themselves, but also a testament to well designed, beautiful and ecologically sound homes that respect not only the environment, but also the needs and tastes of their occupants.
(Wo)man cannot live on craft alone. Breaking even from homemade craft can be hard enough; let alone earning a regular income. Many of us dream of knitting/crocheting/crafting for a living, without bosses, offices or early morning commutes! Yet this dream can potentially fraud well meaning crafters from their livelihoods, leaving them out of pocket and seriously pissed off.
You’re probably familiar with job advertisements that look like this: “We are looking for honest workers to assemble quality craft products from home. Make serious $$$$ making cute animal magnets/jewellery/children’s toys! Act immediately to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write ScamCraft Unlimited P.O. Box 00 Fraudster Town 97899”
Sound too good to be true? That’s because the majority of crafting-from-home schemes are nothing more than Big Fat Nasty Frauds.
This is a hypothetical scenario of how home assembly fraud works: a well meaning crafty lady (lets call her Betty) needs money while recovering from an accident. In good faith, Betty applies to make mouse magnets, believing she’ll earn $500-700+ p/w. After paying a
registration fee, she dishes out fifty dollars for a starter kit that consists of second rate materials and broken tools. Betty can’t make heads nor tails of it. After hours of work, she sends two hundred magnets back to the company, with another fifty dollar
“inspection fee”. The company rejects Betty’s work for “failing to meet quality standards”, leaving Betty with no income for her labor. She’s also lost her $100 investment and possesses 200 mouse magnets she can’t sell.
Last year, over 30,000 Bettys suffered home assembly fraud from one company alone. In February this year, the Federal Trade Commission launched major criminal and civil action against work-from-home businesses on behalf of angry consumers like Betty. The imaginatively titled “Project Biz Opp Flop” investigated two hundred ‘work-from-home’ offices, finding them responsible for over $100 million in consumer losses. Ouch.
Detecting scams can be difficult as cheating crafters out of labor and money is an increasingly complex and sneaky business. Illegal home-biz companies cover their bases very carefully, such as employing actors (known as “shills’) posing as happy consumers offering complimentary references.
There are legitimate businesses offering small compensation for crafting at home, yet these opportunities are few and far between. Research the company as thoroughly as possible and go with your gut feeling. If the company promises extravagant earnings, has no phone book listing, or asks for an initial ‘deposit’, the scam radar should be glowing.
If you suspect a scam, or would like to lodge a complaint against a work-from-home business, contact the Federal Trade Commission or your local Better Business Bureau.
You’ve got a literal world of foods at your supermarket. So why should you bother with local foods? Well, you’ve heard of “Think Globally, Act Locally.” One of the best ways to do it is with your belly!
Consuming food that comes from local sources boosts your local economy. You help protect small farms and companies, as well as provide local jobs. When you don’t buy your food from local suppliers, that just means your money is being shot out of your local economy. You may not be able to recreate bloggers Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon’s attempt at a 100 Mile Diet, but even purchasing 10% of your food locally would make a large impact.
Freshness is a key reason for eating locally. Those exotic fruits you got from MegaCorpMart may be enticing, but are they really as fresh as they should be? Probably not, considering they were picked before they were ripe and cold-shipped across the globe. Buying local food means you’re getting the absolute freshest product available. Have you noticed hot new restaurants boasting that they feature local foods menus? There’s a reason for that. Top chefs know that besides supporting local economy, they’re providing their customers with top quality food.
Sustainable agriculture revolves around 3 basic tenants: making farming profitable, bringing together farming communities, and taking care of the environment. The idea is to be able to farm continuously with as little outside resources as possible. Sustainable farms aim to use fewer outside resources, such as purchased fertilizers, gas to run machinery, or complex irrigation systems. They rely on the sun and the rain, labor instead of giant machines, crop rotation, and creating their own fertilizing agents.
As a consumer there are several ways to help out with sustainable agriculture and get the freshest, tastiest local foods around.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s basically like chipping in with a bunch of people in your area to get fresh, regional produce every week during harvest season. CSAs may sound new and hot, but it’s been around for a while. Started by Japanese women in the 1960s, the idea spread to North America and Europe during the 1980s. There are over 1,000 CSAs in the US, most being in the Northeast. Different CSAs operate in different ways. Some require you to come out and work the land, others just want a way to share the product from their sustainable farm and charge a fee. They use the fees to purchase supplies and seed, pay workers, and distribute the food. Each year you take a bit of a gamble in joining a CSA. You aren’t guaranteed the same amount or variety of produce each year, due to weather and other factors. All CSAs require payment upfront, and costs can range from $150-$600 depending on the size of “share” you purchase. Generally, a full share produces enough to feed 2 or 3 vegetarians. The average season lasts 18-20 weeks and offers a variety of produce. Find out about CSAs near you.
Farmers Markets are springing up in cities and towns everywhere these days. They’re a great way to see what’s available in your area and provide an important link from the farms to the cities. You can find everything from fresh produce to locally made breads, cheeses, and other gourmet food items. Sometimes you can find fresh, local meats and fish, too. You can be almost certain that everything you buy at a farmers market has been grown, baked, caught, and produced locally. Find your local farmer’s market.
Roadside farm stands offer a variety of produce that has just been picked. Some are just shacks along the side of a country road that boast beautiful fresh produce and some are more permanent and fancy affairs that also offer jams, wines, gift baskets, and more. You’ll have the best luck finding farm stands off the interstate and closer to farmland. Take a side trip along a rural route and you’re sure to hit one during the summer months.
What’s better than a crisp fall afternoon picking apples… and eating them all? Pick-Your-Own Farms are gaining popularity again. Spend the afternoon with friends foraging goodies. Most Pick-Your-Owns have stands to sell hot apple cider, pies, and jams when you’re done. You can pick everything from peas to strawberries to flowers depending on what’s in season and what grows where you live. It’s often best to call ahead to find out what they have available to pick that day. Pick-Your-Own lists farms by state, along with crop availability and harvest schedules.
For those of us who live in cities but want to get our hands dirty, community gardens are a great way to dig in. Community Gardens make empty lots brighter and bring neighbors together. Some gardens focus on growing just flowers or food. Fees for joining a Community Garden are generally low, often free, and are generally priced by the size of plot you use a year. Check out the American Community Gardening Association.
Heather Humble lives in Cambridge, MA and likes to create delectable treats with local food from her CSA share and farmers markets.
Above the doorway of the main entrance to the Black Forest Inn, a German Restaurant in Minneapolis, hangs a painting of a stag. Apparently a symbol of Teutonic pride, the stag stands filling most of the frame of the painting, with a misty, mountainous landscape behind it. The image is profoundly romantic, with its evocation of the power of nature, the untamed freedom of the wild and suggestion of nationalist associations with landscape. It fits well with the dark wood and rosemaling of the bar, yet is so familiar as to be kitsch. The painting was made in 1984, by Twin Cities artist and set designer Jack Birkla, to be hung in the Black Forest’s sister restaurant, Lorelei. It is a copy of “The Monarch of the Glen,” a nineteenth century oil painting by Sir Edwin Landseer. How did this image get to be so familiar, and how did a painting of a Scottish scene by an English painter come to represent a romantic view of Germany?
Born in London in 1803, Edwin Landseer was the son of John Landseer, a painter, engraver and an author. (Proctor) Five of the family’s seven children became artists, though Edwin was the most gifted and successful. (Hermann) The young Landseer was precocious, reaching a high level of skill and sophistication in his drawing and painting before the age of ten, and attended the Royal Academy at the age of fourteen. Even at a young age, he was especially interested in animal studies, which would become his great claim to fame. A celebrity and critical success in his lifetime, Landseer was considered one of the greatest painters of his day. According to the painter William Frith, “before he was twenty-one, Landseer had astonished the world.”
A favorite painter of the Victorians, Landseer was especially well known for his anthropomorphic depictions of animals, which were often filled with heroism or pathos. In paintings such as “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner,” depicting a collie dolefully leaning on its master’s coffin, Landseer ascribed human emotions to his animal subjects, as did his literary contemporaries Scott and Dickens. (Treuherz) This was perfectly in keeping with the aesthetics of the time, and Landseer claimed he genuinely wished to display evidence of natural goodness through these images. The critic John Ruskin wrote of “The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner” that it was “one of the most perfect poems or pictures… which modern times have seen.” (Lambourne) Landseer’s paintings managed to depict universal ideas and concerns, and in a universally approachable manner.
Knighted in 1850, Landseer had a long friendship with the Royal family, and painted their portraits as well as those of their pets. Queen Victoria herself owned 39 of his paintings, as well as many drawings. (Lambourne) He also instructed the royals in painting and drawing. “Queen Victoria Sketching at Loch Laggan,” Landseer’s first painting of the Royal Family in Scotland, depicts his student taking a break from her work. In addition to the portraits, Victoria commissioned works by Landseer, including several with a Highland theme. “Highlander and Eagle” and “Highland Lassie Crossing a Stream” were painted from the Queen’s instructions, and she gave them as Christmas gifts to Prince Albert in 1849. Her wishes were explicit, for the “Highland Lassie…” to be “peace and sunshine” and for the “Highlander…” to represent the “spirit of the highlands.” (Pringle) A general interest in Scottish culture flourished in the Victorian era, due in part to the novels of Sir Walter Scott, some of which were illustrated by Landseer. Landseer shared with Queen Victoria this fascination with Scottish history and landscape, which he first visited in 1824, and returned to frequently. (Treuherz) His first visit to the royal estate at Balmoral was in 1850, when he received his largest royal commission. Once again, the Queen’s wishes were explicit:
It is to be thus: I, stepping out of the boat at Loch Muich, Albert in his Highland dress, assisting me out, & I am looking at a stag which he is supposed to have just killed. Bertie is on the deer pony with McDonald… standing behind, with rifles and plaids on his shoulder. In the water, holding the boat, are several of the men in their kilts, - salmon are also lying on the ground. The picture is meant to represent me meeting Albert, who has been stalking, whilst I have been fishing, & the whole is quite consonant with the truth. The solitude, the sport, the Highlanders and the water, &c will be… a beautiful exemplification of peaceful times, & of the independent life we lead in the dear Highlands. It is quite a new conception… It will tell a great deal, & it is beautiful. (Pringle)
The resultant painting, “Queen Victoria Meeting the Prince Consort on his Return from Deer Stalking in the Year 1850,” fulfilled all of the Queen’s wishes, and despite being exhibited to unfavourable reviews, went on to be produced as a popular etching. (Pringle)
There is a great irony to Victoria’s wish to depict the Highlands as a serene world of peace and beauty. Just one hundred years previously, this same landscape had seen two Jacobite rebellions and, despite the Prince Consort’s Scots dress, Georgian statutes forbidding Highland apparel had only been revoked in 1780. The Royal Family were not always so comfortable in this landscape. This mythologised landscape also turns a blind eye to the pain of the Highland clearances and the abject poverty and squalor of the newly industrialised cities. The Highlands of myth thus serve to sever the present from history and to suggest that the current order is timeless. (Pringle) In a further irony, this landscape, stripped of historical referent, allowed for greater projection of romantic notions of Nationality. As the rise of urbanization and the clearances both broke traditional ties to the land, the land came more and more to represent an idealised Scottish nation. Emptied of any specificity, landscape can become a symbol, but that symbol becomes free-floating, appropriated to many ends. Images of the Highland myth served Scottish national pride and the Crown in England equally well. In fact, divorced from political specificity, the images float so free of referent that they can come to embody generalised nature, generalised sport, and even other nations.
Starting in the 1840’s, Landseer created a series of stag paintings based on his trips to the Highlands. These highly romanticised images depict the animals
fighting, challenged by each other, reaching safety across a lake, hunted or shot dead; their bodies are painted with incomparable accuracy and the landscapes are superbly handled… they bring to animal painting the epic and heroic qualities of high art. …the stags seem to represent forces of nature, free yet doomed.”(Treuherz)
Commissioned as part of a series of three panels to hang in the Refreshment Rooms of the House of Lords, “The Monarch of the Glen” was painted in 1851. (Ormond) The roughly five foot square oil painting depicts a ‘royal’ stag, with twelve point antlers, meticulously rendered, standing as though slightly above the viewer. The stag’s body is seen nearly in profile, with its head turned to look out beyond the viewer at an unseen vista. The stag is clearly standing on a mountaintop, and behind it, in the distance, are more mountains, engulfed in mist. The painting presents a romanticised view of the Scottish Highlands, while simultaneously seeming to represent the “glory of Victorian Britain at the height of the Empire.”(National Museum of Scotland) While the expenditure for the Refreshment Room commission was turned down by the House of Commons, “The Monarch of the Glen” was sold privately and went on to become one of Landseer’s most well known images, and one of the most well known paintings of the 19th century.
Landseer’s images of deer became very popular. Paintings such as “Stag at Bay,” “The Challenge,” “The Drive,” “ Scene in Braemar,” and of course, “The Monarch of the Glen” all became well known through editions of prints. (Ormond) Prior to the 19th century most works of art gained fame through their display in a church, a museum, or in the collection of a wealthy owner. An image could only be known as an original object. Reproductions of images were only available in monochromatic prints; true to the drawing of an image, perhaps, but not the color and texture. During Landseer’s life, however, steel engraving plates and chromolithography brought prints within the grasp of a wider section of the populace. (Hughes) While Landseer never charged high prices for his paintings, he made a large fortune from prints, which sometimes were engraved by his father or brother. (Proctor) Landseer also created some works specifically for the print market. An album of twenty prints of deer, entitled “The Forest,” was published from his chalk drawings in 1868. (Ormond) The technology of color printing was not the only factor in allowing a wider dissemination of his work. At the same time as the steel engraving plate made famous artworks affordable, the framing costs for works on paper dropped due to the repeal of the tax on glass. (Hughes) Suddenly “high” art was a part of the general population’s daily lives.
This new market for reproductions of artworks had an interesting effect on the Victorian art market. Often, the reproduction rights to a work of art were included in its sale price. Paintings were worth much more if they were sold along with their reproduction rights, and conversely, works which would reproduce well were worth more. Luckily, the Victorian audience “valued exactly those features of the picture which could survive reproduction – the story, the moral, the iconographic detail, the close attention to Nature.” (Hughes) In a strangely democratic twist, this meant that popular taste drove the high art market.
Corporations began to take an interest in art at about this same time, perhaps due to the prestige associating with art brought to their name, and perhaps due to the money to be made through reproduction. Furthermore, the abolishment of the advertising duty in 1853 led to an explosion in advertising, and a greater demand for imagery. The expansion of advertising and commercial imagery continued with the end of the newspaper stamp in 1855. Newspapers became more readily affordable, and a new market for pictorial magazines developed, especially those aimed at women. (Nevett) One of the first companies to seize on these marketing opportunities was the A. & F. Pears soap company, whose co-founder Thomas J. Barratt was one of the founders of modern advertising. One of Barratt’s most famous forays into the art world was the purchase of the reproduction rights to “Bubbles,” a painting of a child gazing at a floating soap bubble, by the renowned Victorian painter Sir John Everett Millais. The image promptly became an advertisement for the soap, as well as a corporate logo. Barratt also produced millions of individual reproductions of the image, which soon became a favorite print in people’s homes. From 1891 to 1920 Barratt produced the Pears Annual, a publication featuring fiction, illustrations, advertisements for Pears soaps, and at least two large prints for framing. Having been purchased by Pears, “The Monarch of the Glen” appeared as a color plate in the 1916 Pears annual, similarly finding its way into millions of homes. (bubbles.org)
A. & F. Pears had links with John Dewar and Sons distillery, to whom the painting was sold, and it is with Dewar’s that the painting of “The Monarch of the Glen” became most closely associated. Whisky was not widely known or available until the early nineteenth century, when industrial advances allowed for greater production and quality control. Even then, the drink was considered rough and ungentlemanly; it was a rural curiosity. By the late nineteenth century, however, whisky advertising was widespread. These advertisements often traded on the broadest caricatures of Scots, but frequently associated whisky drinking with wealth and refinement in order to alter societal perceptions of the drink. Dewar’s took this idea even further. Rather than simply using illustrations of high-class drinkers, their advertisements suggested refinement by using ‘high art’ in their advertising images. (Murray) Having purchased “The Monarch of the Glen,” and its reproduction rights, Dewar’s quickly put the painting to work. The image itself became the trademark of the company, was reproduced in advertisements as well as collectibles such as a Royal Doulton ceramic flagon, which featured an illustration of the painting. (Dewars email) The painting signified both mythic Scotland and high culture, perfectly embodying the necessary associations for Dewar’s. Prints of the painting became common in pubs. Through these reproductions the image was further disseminated, and further dissociated with the world of fine art.
The official Dewar’s logo changed over time and Dewar’s advertising later concentrated on the image of the Dewar’s Highlander. Dewar’s, however, was not the only whisky to use the “Monarch of the Glen” as its logo. The image of the stag was especially apt for Glenfiddich distillery, whose name comes from the Gaelic for “valley of the deer.” The stag image remains the logo and advertising identity of Glenfiddich, and has appeared on bottles, decanters, water jugs, print ads, key-chains, glasses, mirrors, bar mats and even a recent television ad campaign. The company claims the stag image embodies their latest tagline, “the independent spirit,” a pun referring to the whisky itself as well as “the continued family ownership of the brand.” (glenfiddich.co.uk)
In the United States “The Monarch of the Glen” was further disseminated by yet another corporation, the Hartford Fire Insurance Company. Starting in 1861, a mere ten years after the painting’s completion, the Hartford began using a stag as its logo. The original design, while based upon Landseer’s “Monarch,” depicted the stag by a stream, creating a visual pun on the words ‘hart; and ‘ford.’ However, by 1875 this background had given way to the original’s mountaintop perch. Divorced from any initial meanings regarding the Scottish nation or Victorian rule, the stag now came to represent strength, reliability and trustworthiness. As their British counterparts had, the Hartford used popular interest in prints as a marketing tool. In 1890 the John A. Lowell Company was hired to create a steel engraving of Landseer’s painting, which was distributed across the country. (Hartford representative) Throughout the years since the Hartford has used the image in countless ways. In addition to the Lowell Company’s engraving, the image has appeared on signs, plaques, cufflinks, pendants, children’s badges, and modernised posters, all serving the Hartford’s brand. Beginning in 1974 the company even used the image in television ads, created by McCaffrey-McCall, with a trained elk named Lawrence wandering through the commercials, while an announcer discussed the company. At the end of the ad, Lawrence struck the familiar pose of the original painting and then morphed into the company’s logo. (website)
This new meaning, strength, reliability and trustworthiness, was apparently widespread in America. The image appeared in other corporate logos, as if to certify that a product was of high quality. Most interesting of all, little over a decade after the painting’s completion, the “Monarch” appears on currency. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln convinced Congress to pass the National Banking Act, establishing a National banking system. These banks were to issue their own US paper currency, with US government securities backing the notes. At least two such banks, the Bank of Michigan and Allen’s College Bank in Pennsylvania, issued notes which featured an engraving of the “Monarch of the Glen,” distributing its likeness more widely than ever before.
As photography and full color reproduction blossomed at the end of the nineteenth century, the artistic avant-garde moved away from naturalistic depictions of narrative, and towards a fascination with those aspects of a painting which didn’t survive reproduction: texture, the artist’s touch, the ‘aura.’ As Impressionists, Fauves and Cubists experimented with the formal elements of artistic construction, a work like “The Monarch of the Glen,” barely a generation old, began to look antiquated. An image which, at the time of its creation, seemed like the apogee of 19th century painting started to look maudlin, old fashioned and out of touch. The painting, if it was discussed at all, was known as an icon of kitsch. Perhaps, though, familiarity simply breeds contempt. An image which has had other meanings successfully superimposed over its original content comes to seem empty of meaning. Do all of these iterations drain an image of its power? Does the image’s ubiquity prevent us from seeing it with fresh eyes? Or, does it simply become an entirely blank slate, upon which any meaning can be projected?
Kitsch or fine art, the popularity of Landseer’s painting as a print and icon continues to this day, with a search on Google turning up 141,000 hits for the phrase “Monarch of the Glen.” Many of these websites are devoted to Landseer and his work, but not all. Far more sites are selling posters or prints, often associated with sporting and hunting goods. There is even a recent BBC television series titled “The Monarch of the Glen,” a name which was presumably already familiar to its viewers. “The Monarch of the Glen” has become a free-floating sign, which can be attached to any referent, from nations, to whisky, to fire insurance and currency, and whose continued popularity may stem from both its strength as an image and its malleability as a symbol.
You pride yourself on not being like your parents. (Don’t we all?) Your wardrobe is eclectic – some stuff on sale, some hand-me-overs from friends, some interesting vintage pieces, and the occasional splurge on something new whose price tag you’d rather not discuss. But you’re not spending the equivalent of a third-world country’s GNP on your closet or your humble home. That is definitely NOT who you are.
Yet as soon as the EPT kit shows positive, the desire to conspicuously consume consumes you. Yeah, it’s part of nesting. But do you really need to nest courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids, Garnet Hill, Anthropologie, and – oh my god, you can’t be serious? That is NOT a Hanna Andersson catalog in the mailbox!
You’ll be showered (pun intended) with cute and trendy and oh-so-gender specific clothing, and all of it will be outgrown within six months. That’s when the real work of motherhood begins.
1. Indoctrinate – lay the foundation
You’re not here to ensure they stay cute and cuddly in things you wouldn’t dress your worst enemy in. You’re here to ensure they leave “cute” behind after the first year of life.
You’re not here to baby them, but to indoctrinate them. They’re too young to know whether it’s new from Lord & Taylor or whether you re-purposed your too-small (now that you’re breastfeeding) t-shirt from the first concert you ever went to, and – with some simple sewing and snap-buttons – turned it into a onesie that really rocks the cradle.
They won’t argue about their attire anytime soon. So lay the foundation NOW. Patch and shred those hideous Osh-Kosh overalls somebody’s foisted on your baby. (They’re the “fruitcake” of children’s apparel – nobody wants them.) Spray paint and reconstruct. And don’t feel non-maternal if you choose a black diaper bag. Better yet, go down to the army navy store and grab something that involves camouflage and re-purpose that as well.
2. Document – capture their childhood
Take lots of photos so that there’s a visual record of who they are before they become who they will be – or who they think they want to be - for a while.
Because no matter how well you indoctrinate them, you’re going to lose them to the industrial retail complex and the siren song of “new.”
3. Acquiesce – let them choose
Very soon - sooner than you expect - they’ll see that not everybody hits the rummage sales, the thrift and vintage clothing stores, or their friends’ kids’ closets in lieu of the mall for back-to-school shopping. (When my pediatrician commented on the multi-colored cotton tights my five-year-old was wearing, asking, “Are those from Hanna Andersson?” my daughter shook her head and said, “No, they’re from Chelsea Delmonico.”)
When they start turning their noses up at what you bring home without a recognizable store price-tag, acquiesce for a while. Shop at the Gap or Old Navy. Let them dress like the other kids. But don’t change your own shopping and buying habits, and bring them along if they’re willing.
4. Educate – illustrate by example
Explain why you buy what you buy where you buy it. (I tell my kids, “I don’t buy my jeans anywhere else but the Salvation Army for two reasons – one, they’re already broken in and fit better. And two – I always gain and lose weight from winter to summer, so I just donate the ones that don’t fit and then I don’t feel guilty about the money or the weight.”)
I also tell them that I can buy better quality clothing at consignment shops and thrift stores, and they’re the same labels and brands you’ll find at the mall or online, but for much less money. And I explain that even though our society insists that we all should crave brand new things, there’s nothing wrong with something that’s gently worn if it’s something you like. New does not mean better.
5. Anticipate – practice patience until the change
Give them a few years. They won’t fully understand where you’re coming from until they’re old enough to shrug off the influence of media and friends and really start thinking on their own. And earning money on their own. It’ll take time. But one day, the seeds you planted in infancy will take root.
One day, it’ll happen. You’ll be shopping at Hollister or Abercrombie and your 13-year-old will wince in disgust as she holds up a pair of jeans. “Mom, it’s stupid to spend $48 on one pair of jeans when you can get 6 pairs at the Salvation Army for the same price,” is what my older daughter said to me one day. Since then, hitting the thrift stores has become a shared shopping ritual.
6. Relate – share with each other
Now when I head out to the “secondary market,” I always invite my daughter. We go for good labels and ooh and aah over what we find and how much we’ve saved. We eyeball imperfections and keep in mind that - with fabric, embellishments and trims we have at home – we can sew and alter and paint and make something borderline into something bodacious. And we take risks on bizarre stuff that maybe we wouldn’t buy for $80, but we’d be willing to try for $8.
Thrift-store shopping has developed my daughter’s sense of style and shown her that what you wear can be playful, theatrical, or whimsical. And you don’t have to be the same person every single day. Some days she wears pleated plaid skirts with candy-striped tights (Hanna Andersson meets Bad-Ass Catholic School Girl). Other days it’s peasant skirts and logos tees under a denim jacket – or a fishnet sweater over layered tanks with sleeves that run past her fingers. She mixes new with used, doesn’t care how her friends dress, wears Converse high-tops and gets mad when other kids copy her.
7. Respect – keep your mouth shut
Like the budding writer/journalist that she is, she doesn’t reveal her sources when asked where she gets her funky clothing. And out of respect for her and her need to not be seen as “too weird” by her friends, I don’t reveal our shopping sprees at the Salvation Army/consignment shops/thrift store/rummage sales, even though I used to get in everyone’s face with my “can you believe where I got this and how much it cost me?” routine. She’s taught me that bragging about how much you haven’t paid is just as bad as the reverse, and that the fun is actually in the chase.
Lin Dada is a talk-show host and television producer who routinely dodges questions about what she wears and where she shops.
Change your perception; Crochet = Cool, or to paraphrase Gloria Steinem: "This is what crochet looks like".*
Like so much of what we think we know, many of the ideas we have about crochet are simply outdated, innacurate and/or not based on the evidence of vibrant examples in our world, if we would but notice.
If we more accurately perceived our bodies and our world, we would be saying mind/body as opposed to simply "body", because of Dr. Candace Pert's research into how emotions affect our bodies. We "know" that the 400 year old Mercator projection maps shown in schoolrooms for so many years do not represent our world well. But maps such as the Peters Projection maps and Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion maps, which show more "realistic pictures" of the world are not widely used, so we grow up with distorted views of the earth in our mind's eye. I won't even go into all the misperceptions that seeing the world in that way leads to! As a last example of such thinking, how many of us learned about quantum physics when attending school? Most often, we're still taught classical physics, which doesn't reflect all of the discoveries and new ideas that have been pondered since Einstein was the big news.
So let's finish the "holy war between knitting and crochet" as I've seen it recently referred to, and wake up to the idea that there are many roads to using yarn/rope/fibers, whatever the material, beautifully and expressively. We haven't apprehended the whole picture of crochet, but there is no longer any excuse to live in darkness. We are all cool in the eyes of the yarn goddess. What follows are some references to help you perceive, more accurately, the variety and splendor that is crochet now.
Of course there are all the crocheted body elements. The internet is alive with crocheted breasts, penises (crocheted willie warmer) and vaginas.
Monsters, plush animals and crocheted sushi are also well represented in crochet. Plush and Amigurumi animals are, perhaps, poised to take over the world. Some examples:
Veggies from monster crochet.
Mermaids, pirates + monkey feet from monster crochet.
An amigurumi-along and Camilla Engman's little creatures(click on "shop") and more amigurumi.
The runways and fashion catalogs have done a lot of playing with crochet. Here is a Fashion Telegraph article (click on "In pictures: get the crochet look") cooing over crochet. Fashion magazines have shown us works by Missoni, Stella McCartney, Stephen Jones' hats for John Galliano, Marc Jacobs' crocheted shoes, Lorenza Gandaglia's crocheted bags, scarves and more from Domakaya.
The range of materials able to be used in crochet are wonderfully varied. Yarn, wire, plastic trash bags, fiberglass strands, string, paper, rags, cord, raffia, leather, shoelaces, rubber tubing, and rope are just some of the possibilities. There is probably an endless array of shapes and forms that may be created through crochet. And depending on tools and materials, one can crochet things that are practically microscopic to gigantic. (That's BIG.)
Below are some other artists who use crochet in their work. Sometimes crochet is an essential part of their art, sometimes it is the medium through which the artist is exploring other ideas. Each artist has his/her own reasons for including crochet in the process, ranging from looking with fresh eyes at "women's work", studying the potentially obsessive, repetitive and/or meditative qualities of crochet, or noticing the attention to the moment often entailed in crocheting.
From huge indoor and outdoor installations to intimate wall pieces, they are all creating engaging work. This is but a small sampling of contemporary crochet - informed art that is able to be seen today. If you get a chance to see it in place, great, but most of the pieces are also very thoroughly and well documented on the web.
Zenobia Bailey and more
Tracy Krumm and more: available work, show
Norma Minkowitz and more
Hildur Bjarnadóttir (click on "untitled 1999")
Knitty article on Hildur
Patricia Waller Website
Article on Patricia
Bea Camacho Interview
Video of "enclose"
Agata Olek Oleksiak: some more on Agata
Photos from "Mulysa" A dance piece which incorporated a giant crochet installation. "500 lbs of crochet". Another photo
Ming Yi Sung and more by Ming
Marianne Midelburg's coral reef
Yvette Kaiser Smith: crocheted fiberglass
Mathematician Daina Taimina's models
Eleven Eleven Gallery Show: Not the Knitting You Know
*when someone commented to Ms. Steinem on her 40th birthday that she didn't look 40, she responded, "This is what 40 looks like!"
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Look at that gorgeous frock! Would you believe that the whole garment is one big crochet piece?
That foxy looking lady standing in the background is none other than crochet extraordinare, Mona McDonald. This crochet queen has launched her own handmade clothing line, named “Mona”: for women “seeking elegance and sophistication in hand-crochet/knit clothing.” Mona and her sisters form the hands and brains behind the Portland based Soul Chain Boutique (get it- Soul as in soul of the city + chain as in crochet chain, eh?).
As a featured project maker (Assignment 26#) at LearningtoLoveYouMore.com. Mona’s fine interpretations
of customer designs are clearly where she shines. As the diverse requests on the LearningtoLoveYouMore.com list testifies, Mona has a creative knack for transforming her clients wacky sketches into fully realized pieces. From peter pan collars to duck hats, Mona’s capable hands testify to the fact crochet is no longer the poor-cousin-from-the-country of handicrafts.
Soul Chain Boutique sells soft and lovely crochet items online. For custom designs, ask for Mona at
Belle Hann is a Sydney based freelance writer. She
knits, sews and hopes to write a book on thrifty
living one day.
I shall never complain that I am too busy after discovering Ana Voog. Performance artist, writer, musician, blogger and crochet goddess; Voog still finds time to crochet some of the most original and sassy hats I’ve ever seen.
Ana’s sophisticated and colorful creations bear witness to an evolving, experimental approach to her art: extending the notion of pure artistic practice to the simple and humble medium of crochet. Ana claims “I do not knit, I freeform crochet” and her yarn fuelled improvisations brings life and movement to her hat designs (or lack of design should that be?). Some hats grow out of the crown of the head and spurt down the body like the bright orange “Pumpkin Jellyfish hat”. One hat can also be worn as a scarf, belt or legwarmer, another hat sits snugly round the head like a flapper hat. My personal favorite is the stripey legged “Octopus” hat that can transform into different shapes and designs just like your own hair.
Going beyond standard threads and wool, Ana indulges in a diverse pool of textiles like recycled yarn, flax, toys, copper wire - even poodle fur! Ana’s candy store of colorful hats showcases humor, joy and joie de vive: qualities I seldom expect to see from contemporary art, let alone crochet!
Belle Hann is a Sydney based freelance writer. She knits, sews and hopes to write a book on thrifty living one day.
See Ana's site anacam.com/hats
It seems you can't turn around anymore these days without coming face to (furry) face with the visage of some cute animal. They grace sweatshirts, totebags, even the flyers for the latest indie rock club
and proliferate everywhere in the stuffed form. But Brooklyn-based Jennifer Muskopf's Clive and Sunshine collection are not your run of the mill monster plushie.
She creates each little lifelike animal by hand using new and vintage fabrics, playing with patterns and color, as a way of extending her painting ideas; explorations of aspects of the human psyche cast onto animal forms ranging from hippopotami to buffalo.
The Clive and Sunshine line has been exhibited in the Triton Cafe in Kobe, Japan and captured in line-drawing form for a coloring book for the Branch Gallery; and is available regionally in a handful of boutiques. For a complete list of where you can get your own (Myself, I have a crush on a hot-pink sea otter) visit cliveandsunshine.com
For the last seven years Glitter has created a winter hat and scarf drive. We donate these items to Sanctuary for Families. They are an awesome organization dedicated to the safety, healing, and self-sufficiency of battered women and their children. They offer an array of services including shelter, legal assistance, and counseling.
Please join our eighth annual scarf drive. Get your knitting needles and crochet hooks out and knit up some warm, washable hats and scarves to donate to people who need them. Send them in by December 10th, 2009 so we can get them to people in time for the holidays.
391 Broadway, 3rd Fl
NY NY 10013
Please stop shopping. We know it's hard with all the peer pressure and everything but think about this- are you buying that person a gift because they truly need something, or because you need to buy them something? If your friend/husband/colleague/sister needs a sweater then bless you for doing it. Otherwise, just stop.
OK, so we know you won't stop shopping. It is not realistic. You will shop. You can't help it. Fine. We still love you. And we have a few ideas about spending or not spending your money this Christmakkah that we hope help you out.
Bake something. Try cookies. Who doesn't like cookies? You can make them beautiful, you can make them gluten and sugar free. You can wrap them up nice. There is nothing better than home baked cookies. It's hard to mess them up and you can do them in big batches. Much easier than souffles.
Give the gift of time. Make a friend a book of IOU coupons for things like a back rub, a home cooked meal, a movie, a drink, a date night, a walk in the park- whatever you want to do with and for them. They can cash them in all year.
Buy local and handmade. Support your local artisans and small businesses- it can be anything from a hand knit scarf to artisanal cheese. Food is a good gift. There are many awesome holiday craft sales. Look around on Glitter , Ask around where you live. They need your cash.
Gift cards rock. Let the person pick their own gift. Dang you can even do an e-gift card to something like I Tunes or Amazon. Of course you could always just buy these books by SuperNaturale Editors: 52 Projects by Jeff Yamaguchi or Super Crafty by Susan Beal (It's a shameless plug, we know).
Java logs. Duraflame-like logs for the fireplace made out of recycled coffee.
Give to charity on behalf of someone. There has been so many terrible natural disasters over the last years giving generously is in our opinion the best kind of gift. Some of our favorite organizations are Heifer International , Habitat for Humanityand of course The Church of Craft.
And have a great holiday. OK we said it, happy?
This hat was made with the kind of simplicity that makes the head reel. Julia explains the utter ease of her project:
“Well all I did to make the hat was take a teddy bear that had a head about the size of mine. The bear was about 2 1/2 feet tall. I cut the seam around the neck and cinched the sides because that bear had some big cheeks.
Next I just cut the face out and sewed some ribbon onto the
inside of the ear flaps so I could tie it up. [To finish] the inside, I took a smallish ski/skull hat and sewed it in with just a few points on the top and sides. Super simple, almost ridiculously so...”
And pure genius. I am now looking for a blond, fuzzy teddy probably around 4 feet tall- if anyone finds one let me know. Or for that matter, a settled blond fuzzy bear in his mid thirties, maybe taller than 4 feet.
There are so many crafts my fingers are just itching to get into – decoupage, beadwork, embroidery, crochet, origami. Holidays should be the perfect excuse to wander around the craft store for hours, eat dinner hunkered over the kitchen table surrounded by glue sticks, and waste away Sunday morning attached to my sewing machine, but this Christmas I‘ve come to a nasty realization. My hopelessly modern, Italian-American family is petrified of what handmade tokens of my love I might bestow on them this year.
When I told my mom, “I have to downsize Christmas this year,” she quickly replied “don’t worry, please don’t give us anything.” My dad asked where I was going one afternoon and when I told him “to get supplies for my Christmas gifts,” he simply said “uh-oh.” When I explained my handmade present plans to my grandma, she sweetly sighed, “you’re so cute.” To be fair, it’s not that they don’t appreciate my lovingly handcrafted concoctions, they just remember the time in high school when I painted a plaster angel for my friend Rachel. I painted it, sponged it, painted it, wiped it and painted it again. It was the early 90s, so I distressed the hell out of it. Then my family watched in awe as I glued on a penny, glitter, sand, the ends of Q-tips, crumpled bits of newspaper, even a lock of my own hair, before I declared it finished. They tried to convince me to start over, even offered to buy another plaster angel. But I proudly gave it to my friend, who I suspect promptly tossed it, because I never saw it again.
This Christmas I’ll open the seemingly endless fleet of impeccably wrapped boxes under my family tree and I’ll find designer sweaters, fancy kitchen gadgets and maybe an electronic thing or two. If money, and reality, were no concern, what would I give them in return? An extra hour to sleep in on Saturday, a month-long tour of Italy, time to read, a workshop for all their hobbies, self-maintaining kittens and puppies for the kids, and daily hugs for everyone. Back in the real world, my found-object creations don't exactly look right on the mantle next to the Swarovski’s. And no matter how many button magnets I make, they just slide off of both my parents’ non-magnet-friendly refrigerators. I fear the clutch I made out of a placemat for my aunt last year ended up in her good will bin; and since my machine won’t do leather I can forget about purses for the girls.
I suppose I could score some small cheap gifts but this is not a purely economical situation. Scaling down Christmas is also an attempt to regain some sanity in December, consider more carefully what and why I give, and fight the power of those sentiment fabricators like Hallmark. I can’t convince myself to deal with cranky shoppers, obnoxious signage and the weird commercial drive aroused by all those products, for a pair of socks, or a scarf, or a plastic piece of junk. So how can I overcome my meager resources and flagging gift-giving confidence, still give meaningfully and make everyone happy? Food and booze.
Delicious treats will be my defense against the holiday madness and my pathetic bank account. Lime Meltaways and Earl Grey Tea cookies (thank you Martha), pickled beets, pickled green chilies (thank you Madhur Jaffrey), squid ceviche, and veggie burger mixes (thank you anonymous web poster) – all neatly packaged, jarred and labeled. And what Italian can resist homemade lemon liqueur modeled after the one made famous by the Amalfi coast of Italy? None, I tell you. Although I have a soft spot (clearly not a genetic one) for sentimental handmade trinkets, I must admit the universal power of tasty goodness. From my heart to their stomachs, these nourishing presents will tease their tongues, warm their bellies, and render them a bit tipsy. This year I’ll get to play mad scientist in the kitchen and still indulge my crafty fantasies, all the while restoring the old school kindergarten faith that truthfully, my family will be thrilled by whatever I dream up for them. This year edibles…next year finger-painted portraits of the family pets.
The secret to my holiday gifting success: get them drunk
I’m new to homemade alcohol production, but it seems Lemoncello is one of the easiest to pull off. I first tasted it at a friend’s when I spotted the gorgeously frosted Italian glass bottle in her freezer. Recently we received a homemade bottle as a gift and discovered we preferred the home brew. It’s a simple concoction of pure alcohol, lemon peels, sugar and water. Although I’m not a fan of sweet and syrupy, I find Lemoncello refreshing and highly drinkable. I always keep some hidden in the freezer.
-1 liter grain alcohol
-10 medium to large lemons (I snuck in a few extra for added lemon power. Also, try to get unwaxed organic lemons. Since it’s the rinds you need, you’ll have to wash the outside a whole lot if you get regular supermarket variety. Not only are they waxed, they’re subjected to lots of harmful chemicals.)
-1 1/2 liters of water
-3 lbs. of sugar
-a few jars or bottles
I didn’t get organic lemons as prescribed so we had to wash the lemons quite a few times to remove the white stuff, using a sponge and hot water. Peel each lemon, but be careful to remove only the yellow skin, not the white pith underneath. (The white will produce bitter results. We were meticulous but not obsessive about this.) Put the rinds and the alcohol (we used Everclear) in a jar, or jars. (We used a few mason jars and the empty alcohol bottles. If you do it that way, be careful to divide the rinds up appropriately.) Let the mixture sit for at least 10 days, out of direct sunlight. (You could let it stew longer but I wouldn’t try shorter, you’ll lose the lemony kick. I found one recipe that even called for 4 weeks.)
After 10 days, strain the alcohol from the rinds and particles using a very fine sieve or cloth. Next make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a pot. Let it simmer for 15 minutes until the sugar completely and thoroughly dissolves. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and combine with the alcohol. Divide into bottles again for storing or simply drink away. For our presents we’ll be using Groltsch bottles, because they reseal and look pretty. This recipe should fill about seven 12 oz. bottles.
I’ve heard you can also follow this recipe using oranges - arancello. Our next attempt will be with limes or grapefruit. Beware of using vodka in place of the grain alcohol. If you do use vodka the alcohol and rinds will have to sit for much longer and the resulting liqueur seems to lack punch and take on a particularly vodka-ey flavor.
Visit Heather Menicucci's website potluckcraft.com for more great ideas.
So the holidays are pretty much over. Not all of them, no, but definitely the most commercial, cash-sucking ones. And while you can DIY your way out of festive debt in a lot of ways – homemade lunches, knitted mitts and toques, honey and lemon for sore throats – when it comes right down to it, you probably need some actual money to pay for rent, heat, raw food ingredients, doctor’s visits, yoga classes, and booze (although my brother has a wicked recipe for homemade Kahlua). At least you think you have to pay for all these things with boring, government-issued cash (which frankly has many drawbacks). It’s hard to get, for one, and you can’t get much for it either.
DIY exchange isn’t exactly new. For example, there are LETS (local exchange trading systems) communities worldwide (www.gmlets.u-net.com/) that hook members up to “buy” and “sell” goods and services at a local “store” which is usually online. You don’t use money, but another unit of exchange (often called “salties” but varies between systems). To get salties you sell stuff: services (e.g. housecleaning, party planning, bookkeeping, child or elder care), or goods like homemade dinners or hand-sewn pillowcases, or even the use of your goods (power tools, juicer, etc.). To cash in, you use your salties to buy whatever others have on offer that you want.
Time banks (e.g., US-based www.timedollar.org), widely used by low-earners and members of marginalized groups, work in similar ways, except users exchange one hour of their time for an hour of someone else’s. Typically, everybody’s services are exchanged in one-hour time blocks regardless of whether that hour is a massage from an RMT, squeegeeing windows, or doing somebody’s taxes.
Also noteworthy are freecycle communities (www.freecycle.org), which deal strictly with goods, providing an online forum for people to exchange stuff they already own but are ready to pitch. You can get, for example, used bike parts, VCRs, microwaves, vintage clothes, and computer accessories. Like LETS and time banks, freecycle is active in several countries.
But measure alternative exchange in terms of sexiness, rather than effectiveness, and my money’s on Noney (www.noney.net). The sultry creation of Rhode Island’s Obadiah Eelcut (you know this is gonna be hot with a name like that), Noney is a form of “cultural tender” (it’s also been called “artistic currency”). Each note depicts a comely design by Obadiah and is hand-printed, signed, and numbered. Instead of dead presidents, Noney is faced with portraits of different Rhode Island residents with their favorite bird and their favorite fruit or vegetable. In 2003, Obadiah set a few hundred notes into circulation and his website is full of stories from unsuspecting people who’ve since been happily conscripted into using them.
Here’s how it works: you basically barter for some goods or services in exchange for Noney. The person with the stuff you want will look at you skeptically, and you’ll explain that you’re totally on the level, but also idealistic and maybe a bit “touched”. If it works, the seller just might give you something in exchange for a couple of cool bills. Smooth, right?
Noney is slick stuff. It forces the people who use it to interact with each other, often on uncomfortable footing. It lets you determine the worth of whatever you’re getting and even the value of Noney itself (each bill has a denomination of zero). And it’s fun, dammit! You can’t say that about paying your credit card bill.
Want some for yourself? You’ve got to barter, baby. Offer Obadiah some loot – I sent him some Canadian Tire money (funny money a Cdn hardware chain gives out with purchases) and a poem about my favorite bird and vegetable (parrot and cucumber respectively). He’s got a wish list if you can’t think of anything good to send.
Obadiah’s located in Providence. And well, that seems about right to me.
Riva Soucie is small, dark, and handsome. She likes organizing her kitchen cupboards and getting crafts in the mail.
We have entered the age of beautiful and smart craft guides. I am very happy this future has arrived.
Ellen Lupton is a prolific and smart writer, curator, teacher, cultural commentator and in this case editor. She, her colleagues, and her class at the Maryland Institute College of Art have collaborated to make a how-to guide on all things graphic.
The book’s projects range from bookbinding, cd packaging and t-shirt making to branding, stationary and giving solid presentations. The instructions are clear and the ‘good design’ guidelines are hard to fault.
The book has a horn rim and cardigan swagger with quotes like “Self publishers are digital cowboys” and “We are the barbarians, the bastard children of fine arts.” The writers also have the charming belief that graphic work that is made at home can help us all to rage against the machine of our consumer world. (Odd they don’t realize the road to Utopia is paved with yarn and thread.)
The focus is tight. It is clearly the product of a graphics class. The corporation busting theory that goes on to explain how to become a well branded baby corporation is a little confusing- - but that dialogue has to start somewhere.
Another draw back is the reliance on fancy tools. The self-publishing projects need a fancy printer and the t-shirt embroidery relies on a programmable Bernina embroidering sewing machine, which in tern needs a PC hook up. I personally dream about this sewing machine but it remains sadly out of reach for me.
Right when you want to start hating, it turns out you can buy the book, or download it! Turns out this crew puts their money where their consumer culture hating mouth is.
D.I.Y. is a great guide to 2-D design sensibility with projects to do and learn. If only there were books this clear on every class desired but not taken.
One crafty superhero is mighty, but four are unstoppable. Witness as Portland Super Crafty, a creative business collective in Portland, OR, sets out to save the world from mass production.
Here’s the Super Crafty lineup:
* Susan Beal (makes A-line skirts in the blink of an eye)
* Torie Nguyen (stitches handbags faster than the eye can see)
* Rachel O’Rourke (drills dice and dominoes at bionic speed)
* Cathy Pitters (applies glitter at the speed of light)
These four crafty entrepreneurs banded together in 2003, initially with commiseration in mind. They met monthly for dinner and story-swapping, and soon discovered that they had complementary strengths. They began exploring ways to work together to cross-promote their individual businesses, and then started participating in local events as a group. Before long, they were approached by Sasquatch Publishing to write a book.
That’s where the just-published Super Crafty: Saving the World from Mass-Production comes info the picture. It’s a combination of crafty how-to book, and manifesto on living a crafty life.
First, the how-to’s: Super Crafty offers a wide range of techniques to sample, including applique, tin-snipping, shrink art, paper crafting, decoupage, sewing, gluing, painting, aromatherapy, and jewelry-making, to name a few. Better still, many of these projects follow the Portland Super Crafty philosophy ot “reducing, reusing, and re-sparkling,” incorporating materials from your local thrift store, or lying around your house.
These are, by the way, projects you’re unlikely to see in other craft books. You can make your own flower-covered bike helmet, for example, or a set of legwarmers for your dog. There’s a superhero slip and boxer set for your favorite dynamic duo to wear. And there are pasties -- yes, THOSE kind of pasties. Which are, surprisingly, extremely fun and satisfying to make.
Look beyond all the crafty projects, and you’ll find a series of thought-provoking essays on the many permutations of living a crafty life. The four Super Crafty women write about growing up creative and learning from mothers and grandmothers, about ways to turn crafts into social activism, and about their own crafty disasters. Their varying perspectives and backgrounds make for rich reading.
Which brings us back to Portland Super Crafty, the collective. With more crafters than ever before striking out into entrepreneurial waters, business groups like Super Crafty are springing up all over. And with good reason: a group of creative like-minds can accomplish so much more than any one of them can manage individually.
From a practical standpoint, the Super Crafty women are able to send each other’s business cards out with their orders, and they can share the costs of advertising in print and online publications like BUST, Venus, and Get Crafty. They can fan out and cover more craft events, each one selling everyone’s merchandise. And, they can share their contacts and networks with each other, so everyone gains more reach in the marketplace.
In hopes of reaching out to the world of business-minded creative people, Portland Super Crafty has also created a website, pdxsupercrafty.com. They’ve added a library of tips on getting a small business off the ground, and resources for licensing, taxes, trademarks, and patents. There’s a list of ways to participate in craft activism in your community. And still to come: project how-to’s, and a photo gallery of projects made by Super Crafty readers.
But there are personal benefits to banding together as well. Portland Super Crafty and other alliances like it are creating supportive communities in which small crafty businesses can flourish, learning from each other’s mistakes and sharing each other’s triumphs. Running your own company is a grand but scary adventure. Why go though it alone?
To learn more, visit:
Portland Super Crafty.com
Craft Mafia: another crafty collective resource
Score your own copy of Super Crafty: Saving the World from Mass-Production
According to feng shui, your home can be divided into 9 areas: children/creativity, helpful people/travel, career, wisdom, family, money, fame, health and love. To find your love area stand in your doorway (the door to your home, your apartment, your room if you share a household). The love area is the furthest most rightest corner. In addition to the main love area for your home (on the ground floor if you have more than one), each room has its own love area (found by standing in the door and finding the furthest most rightest corner of that room). In addition to the main love area of your home, it is good idea to pay some attention to the love area of your bedroom.
Natasha St. Michael lives in Montreal and works with beads. The inspiration for her current work is cellular development, growth, aging and decay. She collects images of pathogens and cellular clusters as source material.
The first step is making small 3 dimensional bead sketches to create the stages of cellular change that she will use in a piece. Once those are honed, she goes into production of those bead units.
The units are made with small lengths of thread to ensure that if one is damaged the whole piece is safe and can be mended.
Once she has generated what she needs, construction the finished work begins. A finished piece may take as much as five months of devoted long days of beading.
Her work speaks of the connectedness and interreliance of cells as they coexist in nature. This helps to remind us that we too are parts of many larger structures in our world.
Thanks to the proliferation of Starbucks, local coffee shops, and local coffee shops that sell Starbucks, you probably know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino. But when it comes to tea, you know there’s green tea and something called a Chai latte. So sit down, I’ll put the kettle on and let you steep yourself in tea knowledge.
Black: Black tea leaves sit out and are allowed to wither before processing. After they are sufficiently limp, they are rolled and allowed to sit somewhere humid for a few hours (this is when the leaves ferment and are no longer green). Last, the leaf is fired (usually by a large oven) to stop fermentation. It’s here that black tea achieves its identifiable smell. Liquid is usually a strong brown with varying degrees of transparency.
Oolong: In between black and green sits oolong. First leaves are sun dried and tossed about in a basket. After that, the drying stage occurs until the leaves begin to yellow (usually a couple hours). Oolong tea is only allowed a partial fermentation; they are fired sooner than black tea, which ends the fermentation earlier. Liquid is usually an orange to brown color.
Green: Fresh leaves dry and are fired before they can ferment at all. Usually roasted, they are sometimes steamed to dry completely after a short period in the sun. After one short roasting (under five minutes) the leaves are rolled into balls before being roasted again. A few hours after the second roasting the leaves are in their final state, ready for packing and shipping. Liquid varies from vibrant to pale yellow.
White: Tea leave buds are picked before opening and are allowed to wither. After drying, the curling buds turn a silver color. Liquid is usually a light yellow color.
Black, green, and oolong teas can all be blended, scented, and flavored. Plantation teas vary in taste from year to year because of environmental affects. Blending a variety of teas from different plantations creates a mixture for tea bags that has a more reliable flavor. Some of the most popular blends are listed below.
Earl Grey: Chinese or Chinese-Indian based tea leaves that have been tainted with oil from a bergamot (like an orange). Different brands use different amounts of bergamot and therein lies the largest difference in flavor variation. Too little bergamot makes Earl Grey lose its unique taste but too much can make it taste like it’s been flavored with dish soap. Earl Grey works well for teatime with sweets or with foods like fish and strong cheeses.
English Breakfast: Indian based Ceylon and African teas mixed in different quantities depending on brand. As the name implies, this tea is recommended for breakfast. However, keep in mind that a typical British breakfast is usually heartier than a bowl of cereal and includes hot food like bacon and eggs.
Irish Breakfast: Assam based tea leaves blended with African leaves. Stronger than British breakfast tea, Irish breakfast is for those who desire a cup of tea that is more kin to coffee. Again ideal for hearty breakfasts or a hot lunch.
Afternoon Blend: China based Darjeeling and Ceylon leaves sometimes flavored lightly. This tea is usually a mellower companion to foods than breakfast varieties, which makes it ideal for lighter foods or a post meal conversation.
Flavored Tea: White, Green or Black tea that has been mixed with spices, fruit oil, or flowers just before packaging. One example is Jasmine tea: Chinese green oolong or black tea is intermixed with blooming jasmine flowers, set out for hours, and then re-fired to remove moisture. Some varieties of jasmine tea do not contain actual jasmine flowers. The blooming jasmine is instead set next to the tea leaves for a few hours. This can be repeated for three to seven days depending on the amount of jasmine flavor desired.
Tea can be purchased pre bagged or loose-leaf and there are boons and busts to both options. Tea bags let you conveniently brew one cup at a time with minimal effort. Afterwards, cleanup is also quicker and easier as there are no extra components to brewing. Conversely, it is also more convenient when brewing a large quantity of tea. While the smaller leaf parts used in tea bags usually impart a flavor stronger than loose leaf tea, the more subtle flavors are lost in the strength. Tea bags only have a shelf life of about six months; loose leaf tea can stay usable for just under 2 years.
However, most consumers of loose leaf tea rarely experience the benefit of shelf longevity; they drink tea more often and it’s not hard to see why. For one, the difference in taste between bagged tea and loose leaf is comparable to a drip coffee brew against a French press (sorry to all the non coffee drinkers); the more complex flavors come out only when brewed loose leaf. There are many tools to help you make loose leaf tea without getting the leaf pieces stuck to your lip when drinking. The most common are the muslin infuser, teaball infuser, and spring handled infuser. A muslin infuser is a reusable cloth teabag with a drawstring. The metal equivalent is the teaball infuser; it can be mesh or metal with holes bored into it. After it is dropped into the boiling liquid, it can be removed with an attached chain. Spring handled and spoon infusers are again mesh or metal with holes, but instead of a chain they have a handle to remove the tea leaves after the brew reaches the right strength. Some teapots have an infuser and plunger built in for more seamless brewing. A cautionary note: infusers made for one cup of tea sometimes do not brew properly since the tea leaves do not have space to expand and suitably infuse. Remember the downside to a more complicated brew, besides the time required, is the cleanup afterwards.
The Basic Procedure: Your kettle’s on the stove but don’t slosh all that water into your pot just yet. Before adding all of your hot water to the teapot from the kettle, first swish some around your teapot to warm the interior surface. Then add one teaspoon loose-leaf tea to your infuser for every 8oz or so of water (or 1 bag per 8oz). Now pour in hot or boiling water depending on tea type: black and oolong teas require boiling water but white and green teas should only have hot water added. After a few minutes (this depends on your tastes as well as your tea) the leaves should be removed.
Water: Soft and filtered water works best because any impurity in the water (hard water contains calcium carbonate) comes through in the tea quality.
Teapots: Cast iron, pewter, and silver teapots are ideal for stronger teas and porcelain is more suitable for lighter and green teas. A Chinese Yixing (stoneware) teapot has been touted by tea devotees but should be reserved for use with only one type of tea since the porous body will absorb tea elements. Much like cast iron cookware, a fine teapot should never be washed with soap or dried by hand on the inside. If you really need to clean away deposits (you heavy tea drinker) use a baking soda and boiling water soak.
Milk: Milk in tea has traditionally been a British convention. It is not recommended in many cases; ideally limit milk use to stronger black teas. Pouring milk in first follows the tradition of British milk use in tea and also supposedly avoids scalding the milk. However, until you are sure of a milk to tea ratio that suites your taste, it may be better to add milk to the tea.
Sugar: Again supposedly British in origin, adding sugar to tea is purely a matter of personal preference. Tea enthusiasts will normally refuse sugar as they would milk to avoid impurities in tea taste, yet sweet tea in America as well as Britain has almost always been socially acceptable.
Iced Tea: Start with a Ceylon, Green or infused and mild black tea (usually most infusions work but it’s probably best to stay away from strong black teas even when flavored). Brew tea at roughly double strength (i.e. 1 teaspoon or bag of tea for every 4 or so oz.), sweeten if desired, and put in the refrigerator until cool. Serve over a full cup of ice or dilute by half and serve over half cups of ice. Adding lemons or oranges either directly or on the edge of glasses can make your tea more flavorful as can fresh mint leaves.
Storing Tea: Tea, like coffee, should be stored in a fairly airtight container at about room temperature. Traditionally the Chinese have used jars and bottles, which the British at first used before turning to tea chests and caddys. Caddy, in its original translation, meant 1lb 5, but soon the term caddy and tea chest were used interchangeably. Sometimes a caddy would have different compartments for storing sugar and a variety of teas. Almost all were lockable in an era where tea commanded a much higher price than today. Various shapes, styles, and materials were used; from highly polished wooden boxes to rare tortoiseshell creations no material was too fine for holding tea. As tea devalued, locks were less common and the occurrence of cheaper varieties, including tins, was increasingly common.
I am not interested in flowers, or gardening, or long afternoons weeding; I would prefer to nap. I am however fascinated with the alchemical process that turns food scraps into dirt- composting. When I lived in the city I brought my vegatable waste to the local green market to be composted and once I moved to the country my big fantasy of the compost pile could finally become a reality.
As I looked over my backyard proudly ready to get busy making dirt I had a terrible realization- I am still a city girl. I do not want to turn a stinky pile of garbage over, in fact I do not enjoy physical labour. In this regard I am basically lazy. And everyone knows that composting is not a lazy person's task. So what was I to do? I began to research and found a great way for lazy people to compost- it is called the lasagne method and it is a no turn compost.
The lasagna method is simple. The idea is to create alternate layers of green and brown matter. Green matter is the fruit and vegatable waste from your house (avoid baked goods, dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry, seriously), weeds, and grass clippings- it is nitrogen rich. Brown matter is carbon rich and can be decomposing fall leaves, sawdust, wood chips, sticks and brown paper. By creating these layers you can avoid turning the compost and instead it will do the work on its own. Sorta. Take it from me, the brown layer is really important.
Now before you begin, a few caveats. You still need to deal with your compost. You need to actually do what they tell you with the layers. Otherwise you will have a rotting stink pile that the animals like to get into and roll around.
If these animals would do this during the day at least I could watch and laugh but as they are nocturnal I only get to see the mess the day after. And it is just like throwing a party and cleaning up beer bottles filled with cigarette butts the next morning. No fun.
With this method it is best to put it far away from your house because you will probably forget to do it and it will stink. If you can live with the shame then read on.
1. Pick a spot far from your house but still within easy access of the kitchen
2. Don your work gloves, cut your chicken wire and create a 10 ft diameter circle of chicken wire, cover the ends with duct tape to avoid snagging. Connect the ends with zip ties. Put upright.
3. Create a big layer of sticks ( so there is alot of aeration on the bottom) and then some brown matter.
4. Begin layering with green matter in the middle of the pile. When you reach about an inch of green matter create another inch or so layer of brown matter that goes all the way to the sides. No food should show, only brown matter- this will deter pests.
5. When the pile is fully decomposed you can cut open the zip ties and you have a big ole pile of compost.
It's SuperNaturale the book. "CRAFTIVITY— 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle" by Tsia Carson features forty projects plus dozens of showcases representing the best minds of the alt craft scene. Nylon mag called it "wistful and inspiring" and DesignSponge said it's "the best design/craft book i’ve seen in years." It is gigantic, GORGEOUS, and chock full of information. Want to know how to crochet a skull? Want to spin yarn or felt? Want to make your own money? Well, this is the book for you. Get it now!
"i think it’s quite possibly the best design/craft book i’ve seen in years" (Design Sponge)
“Unusually elegant compared with most crafting books...a wistful and inspiring read.” (Nylon Magazine )
“Sophisticated, imaginative and broad in scope…offers a fresh perspective of what crafts can encompass.” (Julie Jackson, founder of subversivecrossstitch.com and author of Subversive Cross Stitch )
“Anyone who loves to make, modify, and invent their own stuff will want to read Craftivity from cover to cover.” (Ellen Lupton, author of D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself )
“The 40 offbeat, engaging projects will lead to a heightened sense and enlightened view of the creative flair within you.” (Jeffrey Yamaguchi, author of 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity and publisher of 52projects.com )
“With its fabulous ideas and gorgeous projects, this will be a well-used source of inspiration on my (recycled) bookshelf .” (Danny Seo, author of Simply Green Parties & Simply Green Giving )
“A welcome, thoughtful addition to the expanding universe of DIY books...recipes for beautiful, unusual objects.” (Bust Magazine )
- 40 how to projects made by the brightest stars on the alt D.I.Y. scene
- Easy to follow, step-by-step instructions and photos.
- Lots of projects for the beginner as well as the seasoned maker.
- Projects are actually fun to make.
- Detailed explanation of techniques used—like knitting, stitching, woodworking, slip mold casting.
- Showcases of inspirational work that expands the idea of D.I.Y.
- Smartly designed and stunningly visual with photography and illustration throughout.
Craftivity is published by HarperCollins.
There's no shortage of crafty content in the world. At the click of a mouse, you can dive into a whole sea of craft websites. Flip on the DIY Network or HGTV, and you can simmer in crafty demo shows. And your local Barnes & Noble is brimming with glossy craft books.
So does the world really need a craft zine? YES, it does. And thankfully, such a zine exists in the form of CROQ - an independent, slightly eccentric, and highly relevant voice in the crafty universe.
CROQ is the brainchild of a group of crafty people, many of whom are also entrepreneurs. They met online when they were participants in The Sampler, that delightful monthly subscription to crafty goodies. After some online discussion, they decided to band together and produce a craft zine. . . and so, in June 2005, CROQ was born.
The name is actually an acronym, standing for “Craft Review On Quarter,” as CROQ was originally a quarterly publication. But its founders also like the name’s ambiguousness -- like the zine, it can mean just about anything. And it lends so well to the cute crocodile logo.
CROQ’s founders shared a common frustration with the mainstream world of online, print, and television craft journalism -- it just wasn't independent or original enough. As eloquently put by CROQ co-founder Betsy Greer:
“Why isn’t anyone writing about the importance of what we’re doing? . . .We wanted to see a real print and paper zine that we would actually read. With strong online as well as real-life networks, we are entering a new era never before seen. By combining the power of the internet with the power of personal creativity, we are proving that things do not have to be mass-produced, that we can be our own stylists, that there is strength in mastering the sewing machine or the knitting needles or the silkscreen. We’re about not only recognizing the past legacy and the future possibilities of craft, but about reminding you, the reader, that you’re not alone. Some say that the bubble has already burst, that craft has reached its apex and is destined to plummet. We say bring it on.”
In that spirit, CROQ covers crafting and DIY from as many angles as possible. Here's just a sampling of topics in the first five issues:
- An interview with Renegade Craft Fair founders Sue Blatt and Kathleen Habbley.
- Recipes for crock-pot cookery, DIY sushi, and a Very Vegan Thanksgiving.
- Tutorials for funky retro crafts like Friendship Bracelets and plastic canvas iPod holders.
- Tips for protecting your work on the internet.
- Tips for avoiding craft burnout.
- Thoughts on being a crafty stay-at-home mom.
- How-to's for making your own craft fair, podcast, wedding, and dreadlocks.
CROQ has more than doubled in size since its inaugural issue, from 32 pages to 64. To manage this wildfire growth, the zine will soon become a bi-monthly publication.
- Heather Mann makes and sells handmade lipbalms and soaps. She's the master-coordinator for CROQ contributors, in addition to handling layout and marketing duties.
- Stephanie Scarborough runs an online zine distro and cool, crazy button shop. She's CROQ's copy editor.
- Dayna Manowski is a real scientist by day, who makes and sells handmade catnip toys, totes, jewelry and other goodies by night. She and Betsy Greer serve as story editors and idea-generators.
- Betsy Greer writes about the intersection between crafting and activism on her website.
-Mary Bajika knits and sews the world's most unique bags. She's the final proofreader for each issue before it's printed.
Interestingly, these women have never spoken on the phone, and only a couple of them have met in person. Every issue of CROQ evolves entirely online, until it eventually emerges as a real-world, ink-and-paper zine.
There's an important distinction here. Although the CROQ-eteers use online teamwork to make their zine happen, they love the idea of a tangible paper publication. Because online and TV crafting coverage, compelling as it all is, tends to keep you fairly isolated in your home. But an ink-and-paper zine can travel with you to your local cafe, or craft circle, or yarn store, where you can share it with real, live people -- sparking great conversations. No matter how much crafty content we take in, the real magic happens when people connect.
. . . And this is where you come in. Would you like to participate in CROQ? Visit this website to learn more about their submission guidelines, and get involved in the growing community of CROQ-o-philes.
You can (and really should) find copies of CROQ through its Etsy shop, or fine zine distributors like Whammy Industries and Sweet Candy Distro.
Philadelphia is a city full of makers. In Northern Liberties, community-minded artists/crafters Megan Brewster and Erin Waxman run Art Star, a boutique / gallery that features handmade works by artists, designers, and crafters.
On June 2nd and 3rd they organized the third year of the Art Star Craft Bazaar. It rained on Saturday, so Art Star is holding a raindate Craft Bazaar sequel on Saturday June 24th, which coincides with the rescheduled Northern Liberties Music Festival. See some of the returning 70+ exhibitors while hearing local bands play all day at the recently rejuevenated park next door.
Ah, that's the Philly I love.
You see it in recycle bins, in dumpsters, on the side of the road in forlorn piles, waterlogged, unwanted and unloved. It serves its purpose bravely, carrying everything from office paper to family heirlooms, yet at the end of the day, there it is at the curb, discarded, alone. What is it, you ask? It is cardboard.
Of all the crafting materials available, cardboard is probably the least appreciated. People cite all sorts of reasons: It’s an ugly color, it deteriorates, it smells kind of funny. But think of the perks – it’s cheap, it’s cheap, and sometimes, it’s even free.
Then there are the qualities not so visible to the eye (or the wallet). For one thing, it can support a ton of weight. Corrugated cardboard, like wood, has a grain. When you look at a piece of cardboard, you can usually see little wavy things sandwiched in between two pieces of thin paper. Those little wavy things are corrugations, made by a layer of cardboard folded like an accordion between two flat pieces of board. The effect is that cardboard has columns. When you apply weight vertically to these columns, the cardboard holds its own. When you flip it on its side and apply pressure, it crumples.
I got started on the cardboard craze in my second year of college, when my design teacher asked our class to build a fully functional chair or stool using only corrugated cardboard – no glue, tape, or staples allowed! With only the laws of physics and those little corrugations at our disposal, we had to be creative. The results were diverse and dazzling. Some people took the Frank Gehry approach and squashed together layer upon layer of cardboard until they had a material dense enough to be used like plywood. Others, myself among them, took a few basic principles of physics – the column effect, plus the notion that a bent object will struggle to return to its original shape – and constructed a simple internal mechanism of support over which countless creative embellishments could be layered.
Design firm Purves & Purves took this concept a step further by combining cardboard’s natural strength advantage with its traditional disadvantage: its tendency to break down in water. Using these two qualities, the firm created the ultimate lawn chair – literally, a chair built into your lawn. You take a basic cardboard chair, plop it on your lawn, fill in the spaces with soil, add seeds, water it, then sit back and watch it grow. Kind of like a chia pet that you can sit on.
But cardboard isn’t just a material for chairs. You can also use it for shelves, tables, painting canvas, penholders, picture frames, room dividers, or earthquake shelters. And I hear it makes excellent insulation.
So what are you waiting for? Dive in a dumpster, pluck out some cardboard, and get crafty!
Maggie McGinnis is finishing up her last year at Carnegie Mellon University in the undergrad English department. She is a self-proclaimed cardboard addict and can often be spotted raiding garbage cans for free boxes. Don’t laugh – she’ll come raid yours.
The STUMP project began in 1999 on the sidewalks of New York City — the sidewalk plots where there are tree stumps are generally neglected spaces left to collect debris. The tree stumps reminded me of the childhood story, The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein, in which a tree has given of herself to the point of being diminished to a stump, but selflessly perks herself up to give to the last, by providing a seat for the beloved boy who is now an aged man. To upholster the sidewalk stump was a way to honor that which had been diminished, and bring it back into relationship with the neighborhood. I am interested by what happens in a public space when I demonstrate care for something which is not “mine”. I am still motivated to respond to the world in this way and am frequently nursing sick street dogs. To kneel down to the disparaged has been a tremendous opportunity for opening the heart. And it addresses the displaced and reductive state of our relationship to nature in an urban environment, or any so called civilized society. Wherever upholstering a tree stump is sited, it speaks to our relationship with what has been cast off and it is an activation and sublimation of dejected forms and neglected spaces.
In cities frequently there are stumps along the sidewalks, trees that have been cut down due to disease or vehicular damage, or nearby development. Once you begin looking I think you will find them ubiquitous, in city or countryside. And once a tree stump is upholstered, stump awareness begins to flourish. This is why I need your help, there are too many tree stumps for me to upholster single handedly. I would love to collect documentation of your work so as to compile a website of upholstered stumps from all corners of the globe. This really began as unauthorized public art, and is not intended as something to have, but rather as a gesture to give. The street stumps are anchored and framed with firm roots and city masonry as they are, and what we do is contribute, care, and dignify that which has been diminished thus giving vitality again to spaces usually below the pedestrian radar. Working in the urban areas is quite easy because these small sidewalk plots, where the tree stumps are found, have an ambiguous jurisdiction and allow for engaged activity without provoking upset, only occasional curiosity. I tend to act spontaneously and from a perspective that where something is obviously blighted, one shouldn’t have to ask permission to care, nor sponsorship to make and exhibit art. So it’s best to work in places that its quite obvious that no one is taking responsibility for the care of the space or tree stump. Engaging to care for something in public space is a radical gesture indeed; it changes our measurement of responsibility into simply, the ability to respond.
1. First locate a tree stump in your neighborhood. Look low and around, they will appear. Measure the piece to be upholstered by taking a rubbing – laying paper over the top of the stump and rubbing a dark color crayon around it edges to get a proper outline of the shape; this will be the working pattern.
2. Do most of the preparation at home so as to arrive prepared at the site in order to make the piece in one sitting. Application on site can take from a half hour to two hours depending on the size of the piece and how many conversations you get involved in with onlookers. That it is work that doesn’t define itself as art expands the implications and possibilities of its purpose.
3. Cut out the pattern and place over the foam, mark 1/2 inch around the circumference of the pattern for the foam piece. Cut with scissors or foam cutting blade. If I use batting instead of foam often I will stack two pieces, as it lacks the density of foam.
4. Lay the pattern face down on the backside of the vinyl and give a generous border around the pattern of 2 –3 inches; this will be cut away after it has been attached to the stump. For more flexibility when stretching the vinyl, I make a 1/2” zig zag edge.
5. Cut the length of gimp generously and prepare the gimp by applying rubber cement to the back and letting it dry, this will adhere on site when applied to another surface with rubber cement, as it is a contact cement.
6. Bring all tools and materials to the site and begin by laying the cut out foam over the surface of the stump you want to cushion.
7. Lay the vinyl evenly on top and using the staple gun, cautiously, tack the vinyl into place from north to south then east to west, tacking only one or two staples at each pole and pulling the vinyl taught before each staple is added. Staples should enter the wood parallel to the seat and remain consistently 1/2” down from the flat cut surface of the stump or just under the foam where it fold over the side.
8. Now there are four points holding the vinyl evenly in place. To get a smooth taught surface, work as you would to stretch a canvas. Staple the vinyl into place by working in quadrants. After completing one quadrant, move to its opposite, stapling in the same direction within each quadrant. Try to keep the line of staples evenly 1/2 inch down from the edge. Where there are errors you can remove staples with needle nose pliers or screwdriver. Once it looks even and desirable, hammer in the staples that might be raised from the surface.
9. Now cut the vinyl and padding as close to the staples as you can and apply rubber cement over the stapled edge in a 1/2” border, and let dry.
10. Adhere the gimp/ribbon to this edge, overlapping the last inch of gimp. Now the trimming is held into place and can be finished with upholstery tacks. The gimp usually has a pattern you can use as a guide for spacing the tacks evenly.
11. Space and hammer the tacks into place and the upholstered stump is finished.
The STUMP Project is being used to activate spaces that have been under neglect. It is a way of participating with what is signified in a tree stump, a beloved life form that has been diminished. Upholstering stumps is a gesture of caring and a posture of respect toward what is beneath our feet. This project has much larger ramifications and begins a dialogue. Where jurisdiction is ambiguous, and responsibility obviously shrugged - there lies an opportunity for an art intervention. I don’t believe one's impetus to care should be censored for lack of permissions.
This is motivated by a personal wish to exhibit care in a public space by honoring that which has been blighted or neglected. An Upholstered tree stump engages the community around the work with visual provocation. It also encourages dialogue and between artists -which manifests in other gestures in response around the neighborhood. Your contribution, participation in this project would be beautiful and part of its development. I would love if people doing this anywhere would document their work and send me a picture for use on a forthcoming website on the Stump Project.
Madelon Galland is an artist currently living in India.
I imagine most people have seen these fantastic photos of a person dressed as different animals, the costumes created from items normally found in the back of the closet—they have been making the email rounds. They are the work of Geoffrey Cottenceau, as his thesis work at ecal.ch, a Swiss design school located in Lausanne. You can see more of his work at gneborg.org where he makes magic out of Bernhard Willhelm's frocks.
A friend of a friend named Kendra found this wonder in an Ohio thrift store.
It is a normal folding chair frame—the kind we see discarded all the time. Cheap and plentiful acrylic yarn has been woven back and forth and knotted at the edges. Acrylic yarn is almost free, strong and water resistant. Kendra has left this chair outside all summer for 2 years.
The reports say that the chair is comfortable and doesn't sag. Now I know what to make at the beach house!
Logan Billingham is a crafter par excellence. She is working toward a degree in architecture. She sews and makes things, all with an unusual crafting clarity. She is responsible for the t-shirt underwear featured here on Supernaturale and in Craftivity. We caught up with her to get a snapshot of what goes on in this maker's head.
Everyone agrees your t-shirt underwear project is really genius. I have a fantasy that inspirations like this one occur frequently in your life. Is this true? Could you share any ideas with us—actualized or not?
I am not sure exactly which aspect of the project is genius, but I certainly do have inspirations frequently—far more frequently than I have actualization. Usually the thought process is something like, "I have this, but I don't have that. So let me make this into that. Or, better yet, let me just reevaluate whether THAT is really what I want." Sometimes it's just obvious. Like what do you do when you run out of yarn and your scarf is only a foot and a half long? You find a big button or kilt pin, and you have yourself a "shortie scarf." Great for traveling because it takes up less room. Great for windy days because it stays put.
I see a thread of thriftiness in your making. Where did this come from?
I am definitely thrifty by nature. My mother is the same way, but I can't say it was actually how I was raised. My brother is the opposite. I don't know if my knack for working on the cheap has allowed me to pursue my starving-artist-type conditions, or my so-called career choices have just enforced a continuation of my thrifty habits. I thought I was changing my ways when I traded art for architecture, but then I found out that architects don't make any money either. In many cases, the motivation behind recycling materials is not about using less or saving money. It has to do with being inspired by what's immediately on hand—and within grabbing distance from the sewing machine. So maybe thriftiness is part laziness?
Have you always been a maker or did it come on you as an adult?
As far back as I can remember I liked to make marks and manipulate materials. Drawing and pottery and stacking wooden blocks as a tot eventually manifested as an art major in college. In 6th grade I learned to use the sewing machine because I wanted to make myself a party dress. After that I made my little brother's Halloween costumes, and I made a lot of "improvements" to my clothes in high school. In college I designed and made clothes, but I never made a pattern. It was more like sculpting. It was always the perfect thing to do to when I was stuck on a painting or avoiding a research paper.
I always wonder about how creatively engaged individuals make these distinctions between "work" and "play.” Do you differentiate between the intimate projects you do, and what you've done professionally, or what you are studying? Do you feel like one is more important than the other? Or do you even separate them?
I have thought about this a lot, and the truth is that I will tend to appreciate "play" when I am procrastinating "work," so there is no play without work! Work could be anything, and play could be lots of things. It just so happens that I have let the craft side of things—the types of projects featured in this book—take the space of play, and I decided to make work something else. The few times that I have been obligated to do something crafty, it was rather hard to accomplish. It turned into work. Maybe, for me, work is about solving other people's problems, and play is solving my own.
I know you've lived in a number of places. Does where you live affect how much stuff or the kind of stuff you make?
Where I live has a strong effect on the types of things I tend to make, for sure. I lived in Houston for a year and I could not bring myself to knit. But I made a raincoat. It's a lot about practicality I guess. I tend to slow down in the summer in general, and Houston is like permanent summer! In New York, as with Boston and Ohio, fall and winter are serious influences. Making seems to be correlated with nesting behaviors, as the urge is stronger in the fall and winter. Plus, I just love fuzzy things and fuzzy things make the most sense in the cold.
Danny Seo is an interesting fellow. At the tender age of 29, he’s accomplished more than most people will tackle in a lifetime: radio and television host, environmental activist, eco-stylist to the stars, environmental consultant for the Kimpton Hotel Group, editor-at-large for Country Home Magazine. And national spokesman for cell-phone and battery recycling. And denizen of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” list.
Whew. And, I just guiltily fished a bunch of used envelopes out of my wastebasket and put them in the recycling bin.
Seo has also penned three books, two of which are being released this year as companion volumes to his radio and television shows, both called “Simply Green.” Simply Green Parties, published in June, offers six plans for creative celebrations -- incorporating recycled and reclaimed materials, and recommending organic alternatives to the usual food and drink.
The second volume, Simply Green Giving, arrives in September. It’s based on a single idea: gift wrap, ribbons, and gift tags are decidedly eco-unfriendly, but that doesn’t change the fact that a gift should be stylishly presented.
In both books, Seo presents a perfectly lovely and ordered universe, frankly reminiscent of Martha Stewart, but one based on making creative re-use of cast-off items. There’s a fairly genius gift-wrap design in Simply Green Giving, for example, that uses old VHS tape as shiny, black ribbon (curls just like the real thing) on a gift box. And in Simply Green Parties, used wine corks are recycled into a functional trivet. Along the way, there are also essays on such topics as detoxifying your home, sourcing organic wine and shade-grown coffee, shopping in thrift stores, and using bamboo as a sustainable alternative to hardwood.
Seo, by the way, comes complete with a great back-story. Born on Earth Day 1977, he founded a grassroots environmental organization called Earth 2000 on his 12th birthday. By his 18th birthday, it was the country's largest teenage activist group, boasting over 20,000 members. He went on to blend his environmentalist ideals with the seemingly-divergent worlds of fashion, entertaining, and home design.
To quote USA Today, "Say 'environment' to Danny Seo, and it's as if you've punched the word into Google: out roars an avalanche of ideas and references that threatens to scramble your brain.”
Indeed, there are a great mny good ideas contained in these two volumes. A personal favorite: in Simply Green Parties, the sewing of cast-off knit scarves into a cozy throw or quilt. Oh -- and the wonderful incense kit, built in a small, tastefully-covered matchbox, to carry with you or give away.
It’s all great fun, but admittedly, there are projects in both Simply Green books that might give a more crunchy-style environmentalist pause. As much as I love the gift wrap idea that incorporates kraft paper grocery bags, used dryer sheets, and evergreen clippings, a tiny voice in the back of my head can’t help saying, “But nobody should be using dryer sheets! They release toxic chemicals!” And then there’s the “Ribbon Memory Balls” project in Simply Green Giving, which involves pinning scraps of saved ribbon to styrofoam balls, thereby creating a keepsake out of cast-offs. (“Styrofoam!?” says my little voice, even though the ribbon balls are very cute.)
But to be fair, styrofoam balls (and maybe, used dryer sheets) can be found in many thrift stores, and it’s far better to re-use such items than to toss them in a landfill. The world of eco-friendly living is nothing if not slippery: for every well-intentioned action, there can be any number of unintended bad consequences.
Despite the occasional questionable idea, what Seo is striving to do in these two books is commendable. He is bringing a reduce-reuse-recycle sensibility into the mainstream, and making it all stylish enough that it seems like great fun. He isn’t preaching our responsibility as much as creative thinking: what’s in your trash? And how can you do something cool with it? While the DIY set may already be schooled in this concept, it’s a message that the mainstream could really use.
Both Simply Green Parties and Simply Green Giving are published by Harper Collins Publishers.
Jenny Hart is familiar to anyone on the alt craft scene as the powerhouse behind Sublime Stitching. She has singlehandedly made embroidery culturally relevant again through her patterns, kits, and exquisite portraits. We caught up with her to talk about her work.
Many people are familiar with your business side, but I want to talk to you a bit about your artwork. I just saw your new piece, Oh Unicorn, and it really blew me away. Had you been thinking about using human hair for a while before this piece came about?
I do actually spend a lot of time thinking about my work before I find the time to execute it. Embroidering with human hair was one of those ideas I'd had on my list for a while. It was really important to me that it be human hair, and not synthetic from a wig. I searched wig stores until I found one that had human hair extensions. As I was working on the piece, I discovered my own hair was long enough to work with. The hair in the piece is actually my own. Only a single strand would pass through the leather at a time, so each line of stitches is a single strand of hair. If I pulled too hard, the hair would break. It felt like embroidering with air. I couldn't feel it. It was very, very delicate work. Another aspect of it is if you run your fingers over the surface, the leather is very soft and the hair is wiry.
You really seem to think about embroidery in the expanded field. You are always thinking about new materials to stitch with and on. What attracts you about stitching as opposed to other craft or art forms?
I like that embroidery serves no function. It's unlike knitting, crochet or sewing in that regard. Embroidery is pure embellishment. It's the frosting of needle arts, but it's almost always secondary to a functional object. It decorates something useful like a jacket, a tea-cozy, a pillowcase. It was really important to me to present embroidered works on their own, without serving a purposeful object. Occasionally, I like to pin the unfinished embroidered fabric directly to the wall for exhibitions. And I don't like to frame the works under glass. Even though in a gallery setting you might not be allowed to touch them, I want the invitation and that possibility to remain.
I love the idea of combining seemingly disparate materials together through embroidery. Some of it seems so simple to me—like the human hair and leather piece. I'll always love to do portraits, but there are still so many different ways embroidery can be executed that are rarely explored. There are such extremely limited and strong-held ideas about what embroidery can and can't be. Its value and its purpose remain largely unchanged. This is also why I no longer accept commissions. A person requesting a commission will only ask me to do more of what they've already seen me do, and I wanted to regain the time to do my own work again.
Whenever I look at your portrait work, it reminds me a lot of Karen Kilimnik's magazine drawings. Were you drawing a lot before you started using embroidery? Did you study drawing? Are you a doodler?
Yes. I'm a doodler and I love to draw. Drawing has been my first love since I was a child. I don't know why, but my greatest goal since childhood was to truly master the ability to draw. I think it's because a beautiful drawing is what moves me the most. Not just an ability to reproduce an image, or draw photo-realistically, but to be expressive and informed with line. I think drawing well means you observe well. Really understanding gesture, expression and line has been a goal since childhood, and I'm still working on it. I was extremely lucky to have parents who encouraged creative pursuits. I studied drawing independently or took lessons from childhood through studio work in college. But, I'm an art-school dropout who completed a degree in French instead. I was really unhappy in art school.
An equal part of my education was that I grew up reading independent comics and never questioned the value of comics as art. My drawing education owes as much to comics by greats like Crumb, Liberatore, Moebius, the Hernandez Bros, Herriman, Capp et al. That's why I was so drawn to embroidery, because it is illustrative. I had no sewing or needlework experience, so learning that I enjoyed the stitching part was the marriage of two things that I love.
Do you think you will be using this medium in ten years or do you think you might move into other arenas? Just curious.
I think I'll always work in embroidery in some way, but there are many other media I'd love to explore. For years I've been fantasizing about working with leather, but I don't have the time. Yet. And again, it's what I've never seen done with various media that I'm curious about.
"In a Digital Age where instant gratification is the norm, there's something refreshing about a book that celebrates the handmade touch. With its fabulous ideas and gorgeous projects, this will be a well-used source of inspiration on my (recycled) bookshelf at home."
—Danny Seo, Author of Simply Green Parties & Simply Green Giving
"Assembled by indie design goddess Tsia Carson, this eye-popping book overflows with surprising ideas and hardcore information for crafters at every skill level. Anyone who loves to make, modify, and invent their own stuff will want to read Craftivity from cover to cover."
—Ellen Lupton, author of D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself
"Sophisticated, imaginative and broad in scope, Craftivity presents projects that are truly original and worlds away from the typical craft genre. It offers a fresh perspective of what crafts can encompass."
—Julie Jackson, founder of subversivecrossstitch.com and author of Subversive Cross Stitch
"Craftivity is a tricked out, funkified, glittery and gasp-worthy collection of art projects for the edgy and daring do-it-yourselfer. This book is a must-have for any crafter who dares to walk on the wild side of the measuring tape!"
—Kathy Cano Murillo, national craft columnist, founder of CraftyChica.com and author of Crafty Chica's Art de la Soul: Glittery Ideas to Liven Up Your Life
"Craftivity will trigger original, DIY-spirited project-making, along with fresh ideas, new ways of looking at materials, and a revitalized outlook on the concept of craft. The 40 offbeat, engaging projects will not only lead to ever more project ideas, but to a heightened sense and enlightened view of the creative flair within you."
—Jeffrey Yamaguchi, author of 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity and publisher of 52projects.com.
Here are all the patterns from Craftivity in printable pdf format as well as a few extra goodies. Just click on the image to download.
Doesn’t matter how big your loft is or how much light you’ve got, every so often, you probably get a hankering for something a little more organic.
Tom Chudleigh’s rock-a-bye shelters should feed your need. Inspired by shipbuilding design, the spherical tree houses are built from either cedar strips or fiberglass, and are roughly the size of a 12 by 12 room. And like a boat, the interior of the sphere is conveniently fitted with a small platform in the middle to make it easier for bipeds to maneuver.
From the outside, they look like giant eyeballs. But suspend one of these babies from a few trees and you’ve got your very own bird’s nest, high above the clamor and clatter of the city. Add a DIY suspension bridge and staircase for easy access to your house and you can kiss renting good-bye forever.
The spheres aren’t outfitted with separate rooms, so privacy is at a minimum, but Chudleigh has included a loft, living area, kitchen, portholes, and working front door. The spheres are also equipped with standard power connections to run a microwave, blender, space heater or whatever else you simply can’t live without.
Hung in the old growth forests of Vancouver Island, Chudleigh’s prototypes accommodate weary travelers looking for a place to hang their hats. The “free spirit spheres” are light, but their shells as tough as nuts. So even though you’ll sway as the treetops do, you’ll be safer than a squirrel. And don’t worry about seasickness. The ropes you’re swinging on will absorb most of the movement.
Bio-mimicry that works with nature and human bodies. Space-saving design as cute and convenient as European studios.
Sounds like pretty good reasons not to cut all those old trees down.
Need to build a custom low rider, produce an album, or start your own fashion label all in one place? Head to Houston, Texas . . .
Workshop Houston is a non-profit located in the Third Ward, a Houston neighborhood known for its extreme poverty. In 2003 Seth Capron, Katy Goodman, Benjy Mason and Zach Moser founded the Third Ward Bike Shop to provide quality do-it-yourself bike repair. It has become an important community resource for the Third Ward. Building on its success, the Bike Shop expanded to become Workshop Houston, a hands-on project space that supplies artistic, technical, and academic resources for the youth of the Third Ward. Workshop Houston now has four shops. The Chopper Shop – where students learn to design and build their own high quality and custom choppers and low riders. The Style Shop – where students create a fashion line and learn to market and sell their products. And the Beat Shop – where students create and produce a hip-hop album. The founders of Workshop Houston gave us some insight on what makes effective youth programming and how educators can utilize the design process to empower students.
Why did you choose bikes as your initial medium?
We all learned to fix bikes in the Bike Co-op in college, where there wasn’t anyone to teach us so we pretty much taught each other and ourselves. It was a real process of discovery and was very empowering. We realized the power of working like that and began to extend those ideas outside of fixing bikes. It tied in really well with our interests in community organizing and public art projects. We began to create new projects that had the same elements of self-empowerment, learning, and collaboration built into the process.
When we finished school we wanted to continue working together and we thought that bikes, as the place that we started, could be a good way to reach other people. The underlying principle in all of our work is to ground theory in concrete activities that people can get involved with on their own terms. We knew that the process of learning to fix a bike had this power embedded in it. From the start we were thinking of other activities that had the same power.
So what do you think are the most important things participants get out of the programs?
We are trying to create situations that encourage self-empowerment and collaboration. As we began to focus more on programming for teenagers we started to refine these goals further. Our programs, though they teach practical skills, are not vocational. We plan the Clubs so that the benefits students can get out of participating are much broader than just learning welding or screen-printing. Our first goal in this process is to help students with their self-esteem and learning motivation, as well as encouraging the formation of positive peer groups. With these areas of focus, we think the most important thing students gain in our programs is a sense of control over their own lives. We want our students to know that they have options.
Tell me a bit about the chopper club and all the clubs?
We started the Chopper Club our first winter in Houston. It was our first after-school program specifically aimed at junior high and high school students. It was based on a program that we had been doing in Ohio, where we were teaching kids how to weld, and how to design and build their own custom bikes. It went really well, but there were a lot of kids, especially girls, who weren’t that interested in the subject matter. We tried to do things to reach out more – we had a girls-only chopper club that was actually really fun – but we really weren’t about trying to make everyone like building bikes.
How do the students respond to working in a different process--welding isn't really taught in middle school?
We’ve been so impressed at how well they respond to the structure and material we are offering and the quality of the work they are producing. It isn’t just that we are offering new processes. We are also working in an environment that is totally different from school, and offering a totally different learning model. It’s shocking to see how many of the kids who are extremely smart and motivated and do great work with us are failing most of their classes at school when they first come to the shop.
When initially designing their choppers, do students sketch ideas that make sense? How much control do they have over their designs?
We get a wide range of ideas that range from the totally impossible to the designs ready to build. In general it is really important to all of us that the students have as much control over and stake in their designs as possible. On the flip side, a lot of the kids we work with have very few places in their lives where they can be successful. As instructors we do everything we can to make sure that they feel really in control of an idea, but that the idea can also work.
Where do you get your materials?
Wherever we can. Kind souls and sponsors donate lots of it. Some of it we scavenge. Some of it we buy. We don’t steal materials, but everything short of that.
What has been your favorite student built chopper/low rider?
There have been so many good ones. This summer one of our students built a really awesome speaker trike. He planned the project and we helped him with the wiring and the carpentry. He then salvaged parts from friends’ car stereos and electric scooters and built a beautiful speaker box with a 300 watt sound system that mounted on the back of an adult tricycle: all for maybe $25. But there have been a lot of really cool projects in all the shops.
Tell more about the other programs?
We started seeing the 12 and 13 year olds who we had met through the bike shop get into gangs and drugs and some were starting to go to jail. We saw a real need to provide a way for these kids to get through this time in their lives with positive opportunities rather than a criminal record. There were programs in the neighborhood for little kids, and programs for adults, but no one was focusing on working with middle and high school students. It seemed like one of the most pressing needs to us.
We decided to start two new shops, each of which hosts a Teen Club: The Beat Shop, which is a hip hop production studio, and the Style Shop, which is a fashion design and screen printing studio. We wanted to take things that kids were already interested in and build programs around them. Built into the new programs from the start was an idea that as kids progress they would get to learn more technical skills and produce more exciting stuff. Also, because so many of the students we work with are under real pressure to be out making money, we added an entrepreneurial component to the programs.
What types of students are most attracted to the Clubs?
The students that are attracted to shop are the ones cruising around the neighborhood looking for something constructive to do. We get the most awesome kids through this. We’re so consistently amazed at how cool they all are and the quality of the work they are producing.
Do you find that students are more creative/experimental when they are familiar with the material or when they are just beginning to learn the process?
We’ve had students that work in both ways. Sometimes awesome ideas come from kids who have no idea what is and isn’t possible. Their projects are representative of them trying to create their vision any way they can. Sometimes it takes a while to get comfortable, and work through the potential of the materials, and for people to be comfortable with their ideas. We have set up the shops to deal with both approaches.
What is in store for the future of Workshop Houston?
In the immediate future we are moving into the new buildings that we are in the process of buying. We’re really excited to have our own space and we are about to start renovating the new spots. We are expanding the Shops to be community resources like the Bike Shop. Some day we’ll have after school programs for teenagers in every shop on every day and classes and open studio time for everyone else at night and on weekends.
How do you want the Workshop Houston's programming/classes to affect a larger educational system?
We see our programs as building a new educational model. But we don’t think we are ready to apply it as a franchiseable model or to make vast changes in the educational system yet. But as our programs continue to work and as we continue to improve them, we would love to be able to share our thoughts and processes on a larger scale.
How can people support Workshop Houston?
We are always looking for new corporate sponsors for all the shops. We are also interested in talking to people in the music/fashion/design/custom bike/car industries who might be willing to help with any of the programs. We also always need money. You can go to our website and become a member. Or if you know anyone who has $220,000 to put towards our new buildings that would be really great too.
Recently, I was on a trip and carried all my essential electronics in a re-used 10x12 paper envelope folded over with a rubber band. I realized that this just would not do. Upon returning, I took matters into my own hands and created a vinyl pouch.
This pouch was for my friend Randy’s birthday. It is a little larger than a standard business envelope. First, I chose images I thought were appropriate for Randy. On the street in Zurich, I was lucky enough to find a great astronomy book; it was being given away because the binding was broken. Naturally I couldn’t let that opportunity go by – I do love space and exotic thrift. I selected an image of a couple standing together in front of the night sky. The sky looks very much like a painting of Randy’s I like a lot.
To make the pouch:
Make a template out of an old Fed Ex envelope. Be sure to include seam allowance.
Arrange the cut-out book images in a composition that covers the area of the template.
Next, lay a section of clear vinyl larger than the template out on the table, paper side up. Remove the backing on the corners and tape the vinyl to the table. In a smooth motion, pull the backing off.
Transfer the arrangement of cut-out sections onto the vinyl. Once an image is down do not try to move it. It will rip.
Place another piece of sticky vinyl over the images. It is possible to do this step alone, but it is so much easier with two people. Start in a corner and slowly make the two sticky sides seal together. Once they adhere to one another, burnish the whole things with a wooden spatula. This makes the sticky vinyl really cling to the pictures and helps to work out any air bubbles.
Using the template, trace the shape onto the vinyl and cut. Next, make the folds, again using the wooden spatula to crease the plastic. Making the two side seams is quick and easy.
Next sew on buttons as needed. I put small buttons on the backside to ensure the whole thing is secure.
Luisa Cevese’s Riedizioni informed this projects aesthetics. She is a lovely lady who recycles fabric, yarn and leather by fusing it to melted plastic sheeting. Her technique allows one side of the fabric to keep its texture. I think her work is a new approach to piece work in quilting. This and other work of hers continues to explore and push the boundries of textiles. She once printed white silk by allowing nails to rust on its surface.
Her work is available all over. It has been used by Comme des Garcons, Paul Smith, Romeo Gigli, Maharam, Moss and Chanel. Girl friend has it going on.
Though my technique does not support something as thick as fabric, nor does it have the stability of Luisa’s work, it is pretty strong and durable. The pouch gives new use to images that might otherwise be thrown away. Books whose lives are ready to chance can be found many places. I also imagine using this technique to preserve paper souvenirs from a trip, event, or special memory.
Wearing Propaganda is an exhibtion of World War II textiles from Japan, the UK and the USA. This exquisite travelling collection, curated by Jacquie Atkins, will open at the Allentown Art Museum on the 8th of October, 2006.
The show’s fabrics certainly elucidate patriotism, but also ways of dealing with life in wartime. One print that made me teary eyed was an English scarf that had the cloud bubbles with wish fulfillment statements like “Coffee? Would you like 1 pound or 2?” or “Eggs? Here’s a dozen, just in from the farm.” But then I have a soft spot such things.
Curator Jacquie Atkins tells me that assembling the Japanese textiles was complex. These fabrics are seen as skeletons in the closet. Apparently it took long friendships with the owners before they would even show Jackie the works. Then convincing the owners that these things should travel to the USA was an even larger hurdle.
It is stunning to see three perspectives of nationalism. English iconography stresses working together for the cause, while the American message is more straight forward patriotic. Japan's imagery idealizes fighting machines as beautiful and modern and the children's cloths naturalized war.
In terms of technique, the English and American fabrics are straight forward prints and jacquards. The Japanese textiles pull from a huge range of techniques: ikait, jacquard with tapestry inlay, stencil and hand painting sometimes on ikait or jacquard grounds. The combination of modern machine imagery and old world technology makes an almost anachronistic combination.
My pal Jesse pointed out that the design logic of several fabrics are clear precedents for the aesthetics of Anime.
The show is timely as we are a nation at war. It does set up a comparison that allows us to reflect how our culture is responding with t-shirts and magnets and stickers on cars. I am very excited to have another chance to see this powerful and poignant installation.
My pals Betsey, Eric and Henry took me to the Walker Rock Garden on my last trip to Seattle. This site was built by Boeing mechanic Milton Walker and his wife Florence over 20 years. It is located in what was their back yard in a fairly humdrum neighborhood and from the street is almost impossible to see. Even as our car stopped and we all piled out I had no inkling what was in store.
The garden is made of rock and concrete. These simple materials form a central volcano fountain with jagged walls that shoots water and fills rivers and a lake in a miniature mountain scene with tiny roads, houses and bridges. There is also an 18-foot high lacy tower, arches and walls and winding paths we can walk around in and explore. There are also large stone mosaic butterflies and at least 100 geodes and slabs of polished petrified wood. Worked into the surfaces
The place is awe inspiring and a reminder to me of just how much we can shape our environment with the power of making.
Perhaps you have heard of the free store phenomenon sprouting up in cities across the country. When I first read the phrase “free store” I very thoughtlessly asked, “Sounds neat, but exactly what is a free store?” Simply put, a free store is a shop where people exchange goods without a pricing system.
Baltimore, Maryland is home to two established free stores: a free bookstore known as the Book Thing, and the Baltimore Free Store which offers a variety of goods presented to the community in an open and free market. Matt Warfield, a founder of the Baltimore Free Store, kindly gave us insight into why Baltimore fosters strong support for an alternative marketplace, and how community activism is the cornerstone for the Baltimore Free Store. He also offers advice for those who want to start a free store of their own.
How did the Free Store begin?
The Free Store originated in early 2000 with a group of activists caught up in the anti-globalization movement that was so rampant at the time. We took the “Think Globally, Act Locally” idea to heart. We were overflowing with dumpster-dived goodies and started to give them out for free. During college, a group of us opened a free school supply area in the basement of our house for friends and other people who were also in college. We took that idea and organized a few sporadic Free Stores consisting mostly of dumpster-dived items.
In late 2004, we decided to take the loosely-organized concept of the Free Store in Baltimore and turn it into a solid professional non-profit organization that could provide Free Items and promote other ideas to a wider audience throughout Baltimore City. I developed a basic mission statement and future growth plan, sent out an email announcement to the various list serves, and posted to the local Indy Media site to see who else was interested. In October of '04 I started collecting items for a Free Market to be held prior to the Holiday Season in December. A local Salvation Army had untouched donations that filled a tractor trailer size dumpster on a weekly basis. I would pack my small Geo Prizsm with items after work and store them in the basement of my apartment. On December 18 2004, we held the first free store. I had accumulated enough stuff to pack a 1,500 square foot space with items for free.
From there we formed a collective of involved individuals and slowly grew. We did it all volunteer, working full-time jobs, being a parent, mostly doing things on the weekend. Two of us stored items in our basements. I started advertising that people could drop donations off at my apartment, and I would pick them up after work. By March of '05 we moved into one garage closer to the center of the city and started collecting donations every Saturday for 5-hour periods. By June, I moved to the same area and we used the garage attached to my house to store more donations. By August, we rented another garage. We were taking donations on Tuesdays and Saturdays for 5-hour periods and stored items in the 3 garages. That summer I sold my Geo and purchased a '98 dodge caravan. I took out the seats, and used it like a cargo van to haul stuff around.
During this time, I applied for a fellowship grant with the Baltimore Open Society Institute. We were informed in October of '05 that I received the fellowship grant. By December of '05 we had received the first installment of the money. In January of '06 we rented an 8,000 square foot warehouse and began taking donations on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. We are currently operating out of the warehouse and have a solid 3,000 square feet of space packed full with donations ready to go out to the Free Markets.
We started collective involvement (time, money, stress, burnout, etc.), but the operation of the organization whittled down to mostly just me. Slowly things are coming back around to be more of a board-run, group effort. We have plenty of volunteers that sort donations and help out at the Free Markets. Most of the volunteers have come from the neighborhoods where we have held Free Markets.
To date, we have held 28 Free Markets since December of 2004. On average a Free Market will provide items to 150 plus people who are often times shopping for many individuals in their family. In short, we have helped give free items to well over 5,000 people throughout Baltimore City.
How do people react to everything being free?
Reaction to the idea that everything is free varies. Most people just dive right in and start looking for what they want. Some people feel kind of awkward and offer up a donation for the stuff they are taking. One thing you have to keep in mind is how we operate - we do not have a storefront but establish one-day temporary free markets in low-income neighborhoods throughout the city. So the events are somewhat festive, involve a lot more than just giving out free stuff, as neighbors will see each other for the first time in like 5 years. People get so wrapped up in their own lives and trapped in their own situations that they often times never stop to look around them. The Free Markets create a community event where people interact. I imagine when we do establish a storefront that will change a bit.
Also, Baltimore is a VERY poor city. In recent years all the working-class jobs that provided people with a decent middle-class income have gone away: the steel plant, the GM plant, and many other industries have moved out. Like most cities, everything has turned to service sector work catering to extremely wealthy executive types who live far outside of the cities where they work. In addition, Baltimore has become the home of many people who work in Washington DC; their incomes are much higher, but the cost of living in Baltimore is much lower. It's kind of like a play-land for people who don't work here or have any real roots here. So, with that in mind, Baltimore has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the country. Drug addiction, homelessness, murders, crime, and STDs are rampant. Many people are in such desperate need that they don't really stop to question the free idea.
Sometimes people are expecting a hand out, which is a sad side-effect of a large population dependent upon government and social support to survive. We have encountered a very slight bit of hostility from that. Overall there is a great reaction from the communities. In the beginning, we had to search for Free Market locations. Now we get invited. Plus, about 90% of the volunteers who help are people from within the community. They come out early and help set up, help keeps things picked up, interact with other people there, help people haul off their finds, help people find things, and stick around to help clean up. It really is a great representation of what people will do to help each other if just given the opportunity and not pushed through a process where they are just a number in a line at some sort of social program.
Do customers create their own rules of conduct when there are no limits to what you can take?
Yes. The Free Store grew from a group of activists who had a base in anarchist ideals. This means we believe in the ability for people to self govern through voluntary mutual relationships. When you are dealing with severely drug-addicted individuals who have an illness this doesn't always work. As an organizer, my part is to run the warehouse, make sure the bills are paid, get out advertising, collect and sort donations, and take all items to a free market. Then I step back and let it unfold. The community almost always takes ownership and starts rolling forward. If someone is being greedy, people speak up. If someone is being a jerk, people speak up. Out of the 28 Free Markets we have held we have NEVER had any problems with people fighting, or arguing, or had to ask or physically remove someone from the area. There is more than enough stuff to go around and that helps things as well.
Our long-term goal is to establish permanent Free Stores though out the city that is operated by the community. We just act as the start-up, the financial backer, and supply the stuff for as long as needed.
How does the Baltimore Free Store support itself?
Right now we are supported through the Fellowship with the Baltimore Open Society Institute. In addition we sell less than 1% of luxury donations that come in. We also sell some books like textbooks and things along those lines. For example - if we get donated a wind sail we will sale that. Or if we get in a complete pure Silver ornate dining set from the early 1900's we will sell it (And yes, someone actually donated that). We are slowly increasing the sale of those items as we learn what is valuable and what is not.
We are also supported through individual private donations. We are nowhere near being self-sustaining and the money that comes in really only is enough to cover expenses. Without the grant I would not be able to do this full time and get paid.
We are applying for more grants as well as thinking of other ways to generate income such as starting up businesses that would support the free store (i.e., a moving and hauling business).
If you could give advice for people who wanted to open their own free store, what would it be?
This is probably the hardest question because really I don't know. There is no simple solution and I am still learning. We are adjusting, and we are changing constantly. We started extremely grass roots with a collective of 4 people. We had the bare minimum: no external support, no real contacts, funded by money I made at my full-time job. Today we have a volunteer base of over 150 people, around 10 volunteers who put in at least 20 hours a week. We have made many contacts with many organizations through out the city. Our name is out there and really we didn't try at all to get it out there. We never approached the press; we were contacted for the articles that have been written about us. It all happened word of mouth.
We also try to stay away from any institution as much as possible. We do not associate with any one religion or governmental structure. If given the opportunity to be taken under the wing of any religious or governmental institution that had large funding, we would probably decline. We want this to be open and community involved as much as possible.
For example, there is a similar program in Baltimore County that is run through the Social Services department. They have a few rooms in their office building with free stuff, and they often times buy new items like coats and backpacks to give to people for free. They have a budget of around $1 million a year. We have done all of this with a budget around $40,000. But we are empowering people to be involved whereas they are just giving handouts. Ok, so I shouldn't knock them so much, but still, $1 million to do what they are doing? To think where we would be with $1 million. Wal-Mart would be running scared.
So to give straightforward advice -
Decide how you want to operate. Are you going to be more of a charity? Are you going to be a community-building organization? What are your core values? Do you just want to give stuff away for free, or is there more than that?
For us, the Free Stuff is just a catalyst. We want systematic change here and providing Free Stuff is an avenue to bring people together. By providing some basic support, we show people that working together you can solve many of your problems without relying upon outside help such as a governmental institution. So for that reason we organize in this way.
Also - are you going to rotate around like us? Are you going to have a storefront? Are you going to work through an organization like a church?
You can either start a Free Store that is loosely organized; I believe there was one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that recently shut down. Or you can try and make it as organized and long lasting as possible. For that you need support.
So start by seeing who else is interested, talk with community organizations, try to find some space, get people involved, figure out a future plan for financial support, etc. You should get all that done before you take in your first donation. Then start taking donations and let the free stuff roll.
Maybe I am not the best to ask that question because when it comes to business I am absolutely horrible. I know how to organize. I know how to empower. I know how to work hard and I know how to make ideas I have happen. But dealing with the business end of things, not so great. So you must have someone who is good at that if you want to grow and last. This is running a business. You give stuff away for free, but bills have to be paid. You have to develop an image. You have to have a business plan. You need to be able to support yourself, etc.
Also, anticipate burnout. The hardest part I have come to grasp is what I never expected. I am not just giving out free stuff, but am having to really take on a lot of the situations and problems that the people in the communities are facing. I have to be a friend, a source of hope, a counselor, and a financial supporter to the volunteers who come from the communities. I really get to know them on a personal level. That is what has affected me the most.
What can people do to help?
Money. Sounds lame, I suppose. But especially from a distance, monetary donations - which are tax deductible - are the best way they can help. This all costs money even though we do it on a shoestring budget. The more money we have, the more we can accomplish.
It's that time of year again when enforced giving reigns supreme. But just because you have to give your loved ones (and not so loved ones) presents doesn’t mean that you should wait outside a Best Buy at 5 AM to "get a deal." Here are some ideas that may be a little less horrible.
Don’t craft for everybody silly! Think you have run out of time to craft things? Think again.Pick out 3-5 people you are very close with and know well. Think about what would really make them happy. Actualize it.
Shop in January. Seriously, make a date with someone you care about and go shopping with them when the prices are low. Be fashionably late.
Find a maker you really love and ask for a commission piece for someone. One of my favorite makers is Ana Voog. Shop local!
Share knowledge . Instead of buying something make a booklet that shares some special knowledge you have. My friend Johanna did this for the trimmings district in NYC. Maybe you know about the local plant life, maybe you have some great recipes, maybe you love Battlestar Galactica, or maybe you can make a grease car. Write it up! I would love to have a resource guide for being in a 150-mile club. That means that you only buy and eat food that comes from within a 150-mile radius of where you live.
Be kind . Holidays bring out the worst in people. Expectations are unrealistically high. Recognize it, shelve the family drama and get Zen about it. It will soon be over.
Buy Craftivity . Come on, we had to plug our book, it's the bestest present ever.
For many more good ideas see our last years Gift Guide. That is why this one can be so blessedly short.
Richard Saja uses embroidery and familiar textiles to create decorative cushions. His designs draw attention to time-honored needlework techniques, but he employs these hand-stitched elements to destabilize traditional images. I have been a fan of his work for a while.
Saja talked with us about his work, process and inspiration.
When did you begin using hand-stitching in your work?
I began embroidering four years ago in order to incorporate handwork into my line of machine embroidered cushions. I found that both my clients and I loved the handwork so much more. I quickly dropped the machine embellished cushions and now hand-embroider the entire line.
Why did you choose to work with toile?
I knew that toile prints were a perfect canvas for hand embroidery: the black line of the print begging to be made more alive through the vibrancy of color, texture and technique afforded by hand embroidery. By wedding traditional toile prints to embroidery I found I had developed something easily accessible to modern tastes: tattoos are now accompanied by rabbit ears on children, cigars in dog’s mouths, nipples, gold chains and mohawks on monkeys.
How do you come up with your designs? What inspires you?
When beginning a piece, I never set out with a clear destination in mind. Rather, I prefer to allow the embroidery to suggest what comes next—whatever occurs to me at the time. I am inspired by the spontaneity of imagination.
What was your earliest inspiration?
I remember spending many hours as a child with a pack of iron-on transfer crayons and an old t-shirt laboriously constructing a replica of Starboy’s costume—my then-favorite superhero.
Do you create all of your cushions yourself?
One other person embroiders with me. We met on the subway when I heard her talking about embroidery to a friend. I approached her about working with me and we quickly became friends. I don’t dictate what she is to embroider."
Jesse, his wife and parents went to the Art Basel fair in Miami. They got to stay in the now empty home of a family friend’s late mother.
She is gone, but her legacy is vibrant and could not be more inspiring.
There is a lawn and garden revolution currently taking place in the heartland. “Garden," as we know it, typically conjures up images of a private, enclosed space - a protected visual oasis - a patchworked quilt of cultivated herbs and seasonal vegetables. “Lawn”, for most, has less romantic connotations, though its origins, “laund”, suggests a wide open plain or plowed meadow, which over time became ye olde word, “mawan”, or the verb, “mow”, as we know it today.
Garden or lawn need not equal mow, though.
The green-thumbed architect, Fritz Haeg, might finally have a solution for our fixation with the lawn as ego and suburbia as a vapid showcase for increasingly archaic landscaping strategies coupled with the weekly Olympic mowing events.
Haeg’s Edible Estates project is reseeding our ideas about personal turf, the suburban lawn, and an “in-your-neighbor’s-face” food production plan. Haeg, who lives, creates, gardens, and teaches in and around his multi-purpose geodesic dome complex in Los Angeles, recently visited NYC as a guest speaker at The Whitney’s Architectural Dialogue Series. That same day he also served as the chief propagator of a Dancing 9-to-5 movement-a-thon held at the Altria’s public atrium on 42nd Street.
During his talk at the Altria, Haeg openly broadcasted the fact that his conception of Edible Estates was essentially a reaction to the outcome of the 2004 presidential elections. As a practicing architect and founder of the Sundown Salon and its subsequent Sundown Schoolhouse, Fritz became concerned post-elections about the bald-spots of democracy and the thinning, bio-regional diversity that was becoming prevalent in our heartland. He wanted to initiate a hands-on project that not only penetrated the red state/blue state map, but also might provide alternative methods for addressing monoculture in the American landscape, foodscape, and privatized mind.
Fritz Haeg outlines how suburban lawns have been pervasive in America for more than fifty years. Our love affair with the lawn began with the English manor house and the overt display of one’s “spread” via a rather non-utilitarian use of the green paddock out front. These vast estate lawns often included an idyllic exhibition of grazing livestock as well. Vegetable gardens were typically hidden, out of sight, behind the manor house. Even Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello followed this rule of thumb by concealing vegetable and herb gardens from the estate s approach or main entrance.
The suburban communities of Levittown and Lakewood, CA followed suit in the aftermath of World War II rebuilding efforts, as an entire nation settled in to the idea of manicured lawn usage, replicable, shrinking plots, paved connectivity, and the glamour of food stuffs being manufactured and shipped in from the non-local sources.
What exactly is the Minnesota-raised Fritz Haeg up to then with Edible Estates and his desire to penetrate the grassy comforts of suburban ideology? It is conceivable that lawns converted into lush, edible gardens might prevail in a sunny, feel-good state like California, but how might one export this idea to regions of the country where social engagement, the fabric of community, and the rules of the neighborhood are generally not to be uprooted?
Consider then Haeg’s first Edible Estates Project launched with input from The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. The heartland of Kansas was an ideal testing ground for both Haeg’s ideas as well at the Land Institute’s ongoing efforts to address the reintroduction of native plants species and a re-examination of prairie agriculture and soil conservation. Edible Estates #01: The Priti Cox Residence was initiated on July 4, 2005 in the front yard of Priti and Stan Cox and was commissioned by the Salina Art Center in conjunction with their 2005 exhibit “Eating: Exploring What, How, & Why We Eat.”
Less than a year later in 2006, after the well-publicized success of this first project, Edible Estates #02: The Foti Residence project was initiated over Memorial Day weekend in Lakewood, California (land of the cul-de-sac) and completed on June 24, 2006 with invaluable input from The Foti Family and a dedicated volunteer landscaping and gardening team.
Both Edible Estate projects surely had their sceptics and the host families were in turn under a lot of (self-imposed) pressure to insure that these ideas took root as a garden laboratory and test model for future sites. Haeg has subsequently gained enough steam to migrate east to launch his next Edible Estates Project in New York. He is specifically looking for a suburban neighborhood or community that exhibits many of the challenges presented in the previous two projects. (Haeg encourages those who are interested in proposing a site, to review the previous projects and guidelines posted on his website).
In a conversation with Haeg before he traveled on from NYC to lecture at ICA in Philadelphia and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, I asked the gardening architect whether there are DIY guidelines for creating one s own Edible Estate in places like NYC or any (sub) urban environment for that matter. Haeg emphatically stated, “yes”, and that it was perhaps a matter of how one approaches the three-part symbiotic relationship between ECOLOGY, COMMUNITY, and (experience-related) POETRY that frees one to invent and adapt organically to any situation or locale. Given that Haeg refers to architecture as “a reconciling membrane between inside and out”, the Edible Estates model does indeed seem to have rich applications beyond the lawn and neighborhood as we know it.
The following are some comments harvested during a conversation with Fritz Haeg, though the my cell phone connection was not ideal, so some paraphrasing occurs:
AD: What are the relationships, from your experience, between architectural, movement, and gardening practice?
FH: In working with my students I am helping them to not only define a practice for themselves (whatever that medium might ultimately be) but also to work with a specific project, to create a meaningful piece that has a certain resonance that, in turn, might ultimately create a path for a student or group of students. This might ultimately lead to one s working in architecture or design, or another related field whose practice necessitates a shift in thinking and the traditional use of materials. As with creating a garden, once must acknowledge where in the plot "succulents" should be planted or where another species might thrive or successfully take root.
AD: Is finding one’s “intelligent edge” a new form of ecological or sustainable design practice and/or methodology? That is, are there instances where not building, designing, and/or making more “stuff” might be the more responsible or sound design decision?
FH: Sustainability can be a dangerously over-used, almost non-productive term. I prefer, in general, the idea of "remediation" to the term "sustainability".
AD: Yes, sustainability, as a term or catch phrase, is perhaps all too vague and more damaging than we realize at this juncture.
Haeg will be hosting and conducting the following programs as part of his Sundown Schoolhouse course offerings for 2007:
For Spring 2007, the theme is “Planet of the Humans."
For Fall 2007, the theme is “People to People."
Information on the course offerings appears on Fritz Haeg s website.
“Let architects sing of aesthetics that bring
Rich clients in hordes to their knees;
Just give me a home, in a great circle dome
Where stresses and strains are at ease.”
Deborah Margo is a Canadian artist whose show, Castings, just finished. I came upon these partially dissolved candies in a room of the gallery where Deborah and her daughter had arranged them all over the floor. Alive with layers and organic-looking growths, they immediately beg to be handled. Luckily, I was with one of Margo's friends who said, "You're allowed to touch them, you know."
Too bad I couldn't figure out what they were. "Jawbreakers!," my friend cried triumphantly. Seems Margo placed several giant Okeydokes in a bowl of water and left it on top of her fridge for a while. The result? Toothsome, palm-sized pieces of art.
By Hand is a survey of artists using crafting in their work. The works are varied and exciting. This grouping is inspiring, delightful and visually stunning.
The selection criteria is refreshingly open- from sculptures and pictures made of textiles and threads to hand printed books.
Hung and Magliaro focus on work where one clearly sees the maker’s hand in a more clear way and process that takes time to complete. The book is beautiful and is a great addition to the library of any maker of things.
The book is careful to avoid the annoying question of art vs craft in its verbal content, but to my mind takes it head on visually. It reminds us that such a subjective division of class is problematic, and today’s art scene has been soaking in stitching and collage. I think the art/ craft dialogue allows one to avoid more difficult questions of quality such as content, sincerity, or historical context.
And dude- I totally want one of those crystal light installations.
The Seed Project is an experiment in "seed as potential" or "form follows growth". Simple packets of wheatgrass seeds were distributed to artists and cultivars worldwide as a means to test how each individual would craft a dialogue with the same organic building blocks, though in varying growing conditions and regions globally. The project was conceived by David Cohen, a Brooklyn-based artist and social activist, who views The Seed Project as being transformative "social sculpture" for the digital age. The Virtual Field of images that resulted from the project yielded a quilted patchwork of sprouted plant forms that became pixels of connectivity between artists, crafters, and their real-live work.
One of the great things about this project were the myriad ways that the distributed seeds took root in the lives and varying surroundings of participants everywhere. Not only was each stage of the process very much about personal choices and chosen locations, but the results often highlighted an under-recognized or under-utilized domestic object or an abandoned zone that took on new life with the mere presence of a patch of grass. The restrictions for the project were such that the plants could be grown freely in any configuration the cultivar chose, and the documentation of the resulting growth must somehow reflect the individuality of the grower and his/her ideas. Artists were also advised to set up scenarios where plant growth would be non-spreading, non-invasive, and grown legally.
This spring's Phase 2 of The Seed Project involves a transition to Flickr.com and a virtual community garden where participants will be able to more easily share their personal projects and images. The Seed Project is featured in the current issue of Art World Digest , available online , at The New Museum bookstore in Chelsea, or at MoMA's PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens. Basil seeds will be the focus of the next distribution wave, and Wholefoods Markets have signed on to help distribute the seed packets. Which begs me to ask, is socialized, free-form, seed swapping and gardening about to go mainstream?
In America, the fast food backlash has begun. We are increasingly suspicious of hormones, trans fats and foods concocted in the laboratory. Food scares and lawsuits make us wary of pre-washed, pre-packaged, pre-probed foods. We are finding ways of incorporating organic or farmer’s market produce, meat and eggs into our diets. We are enjoying the rituals of inspecting produce, talking with the people who grow our food, staying in tune with the seasons, and discovering what tastes yummiest when.
We are meanwhile reminding ourselves that food isn’t just a way to stoke our engines. Every meal has the potential to be a social occasion. In caveman days, men would hunt together and women would cook together because it was efficient, but historically humans have also eaten together because it’s just more fun. A combination of fear and nostalgia is encouraging the growth of a slow food movement in the United States.
The term “slow food” comes from an organization began in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Slow Food International concerns itself with sustainable agriculture, cultural diversity in our food, and the innate integrity/dignity/value in cultivating, cooking and enjoying food. It is popular in Europe, where the specter of E.U. homogenization has combined with a natural interest in green movements and local food pride to produce a thriving movement.
In America it is catching on, both through official local “convivia” where Slow Foodies can come together, and as a mindset. Buy local. Know where your food comes from. Take pride in your culinary heritage. Eat what’s in season. Turn off the TV and eat with your friends or your thoughts.
In high school Sandy Calin cooked an 8-layer Hungarian dobos torte for her classmates. It was her first really complicated dish, and the time and care she took to make it is certainly part of why friends still remember the cake and talk about it. Now an attorney, former baker, Synagogue president and single mom, Sandy still manages to have a “slow” relationship with food.
Sandy’s story weaves many slow food threads. She makes strudel like her grandmother. She helps with synagogue cook-offs and flips pancakes at fundraisers. She demonstrates making apple challah at the local farmer’s market. She used to sell biscotti and matzo brei granola at markets. “I’ve never bought a breadmaker,” she says of the single mom-professional’s home food secret.
But she talks about her relationship with food in an unpretentious way. She’s figured out how to blend food into her life, keeping things fresh and immediate, and planning meals around what’s in her cupboard. She cooks to relax, and now her daughter does too.
Arthur Greenwald, who chairs a Slow Food convivium in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, describes slowing down as sometimes as simple as refusing to multitask while you eat. Put the Chinese takeout on a plate, use a cloth napkin, and sit at a table. Have a glass of wine if you like. Think about the way the food smells, the way it feels in your mouth. Observe your taste buds reacting to the flavor story that your mouthful tells as you bite, chew, swallow, rest. Gourmands particularly appreciate a slower approach to food, but others can benefit as well. “Dieters shouldn’t do other things while eating,” he says, echoing the common sense advice from the recent bestseller French Women Don’t Get Fat: pay attention and you enjoy what you’re eating, pay attention and you will not stuff yourself.
As far as making time for home cooking, one of Arthur’s standbys is an artisan bread recipe that doesn’t require kneading. He prepares it the day before, and bakes it while he works. Slowing down can also be cultivating a garden, enjoying this process, but also cooking with the successes in your kitchen.
One of the reasons to go to Cafe Carolina in Encino, California is to eat the cremaschi. Owner Giuseppe Dossi grew up the town of Crema near Milan, where his birthday treat was ravioli filled—intriguingly—with a local cookie specialty. This birthday tradition created another, day-after tradition: Giuseppe’s race to beat his brother down the stairs to scarf down the leftovers.
When Giuseppe opened his restaurant, he wanted to personalize his place, to bring his interest in local organic growers in, and to tell the story behind his food. He named the restaurant after his daughter, and a special gnocchi after his son. He joined a local farm, where membership meant a bag of seasonal produce once a month that helped inspire the seasonal direction of his menu. He took steps to become a green restaurateur. He also set out to recreate the cremaschi out of California ingredients…raisins, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg, Marsala, and citron. His childhood is part of the dish, and it’s a unique taste not available in many places outside of Italy. You certainly won’t find cremaschi at the Olive Garden.
Robert Spano, audio engineer by day and semipro chocolatier by accident, came to chocolate not through its taste but from his love for the story behind it. He concocted a university class on the history of chocolate, and became a sort of self-taught expert on chocolate and its history in the process. Whenever his busy schedule permits, he makes chocolates for special events, and makes truffles for the Studio City’s Artisan Cheese Gallery. Each customer who purchases a sandwich there gets a truffle to seal the deal: “a little bagatelle, a joke that plays in your mouth.”
He points out that Ecuadorian chocolate makes a nice filling, its fruity acidity working well with the flavorings and delicious inside a full-bodied Venezuelan chocolate coating. He tweaks his fillings to be quirky and complex (a maple caramel cream with hints of tangerine or passion fruit) and uses butter as a base because its chemistry allows the tiny chocolate to have a little flavor timeline as you bite, chew, savor, swallow and remember.
He never forgets that—above all—chocolate should taste like chocolate. This sentiment is the heart of slow food. Food needs to taste like food.
People who enjoy a slow food lifestyle do it for a number of reasons, because it’s eco-conscious, because it keeps our food heritage lively for another generation, and because it allows them to take time out—several times a day—to live in the present, and enjoy something for the taste and the ritual. But it all comes down to the quality of the food experience, from cultivation to digestion. Carol Penn-Romine, another Slow Food member, puts it simply: “It’s not so much that I want to do it slow as that I want to do it good.”
Juliane Crump, who was tickled to discover that her home territory of the San Fernando Valley, world-famous for its single-origin traffic and sustainable porn industry, has a budding Slow Food ecosystem of its own.
With winter over, I’ve long finished the organic potatoes and apples my father sent me from his massive garden in Eastern Canada. I grew up in a farmhouse with a delightfully creepy root cellar. It was perfect for packing away bushels of Yukon Golds, Cortland apples, bunches of fat carrots, and low-hanging bags of onions. But even if you don’t have a cold-floor basement with dirt walls, you can still store fresh produce over the winter.
Your makeshift cellar needs to have three key features:
1. It has to be cool (or preferably, cold).
2. It has to be dry.
3. It must be dark.
Heat, moisture, and light are the enemies of proper food storage. Always keep your stuff cold, dry, and in the dark.
I live in an apartment on the fifth floor of a low-rise. My first instinct for storing vegetables in the city has been to keep them in my basement storage locker. It is not heated and it’s fairly easy to access. Not every building has storage though. So look around for a suitable space under a stairwell, or in a cool corner of the laundry room, basement, or garage. Similarly, if you live in a house, try an unheated garage, furnace room, basement, or shed.
You want the temperature in the space to be above freezing, but it doesn’t need to be much colder than a refrigerator. Some moisture in the room where you’re storing your produce is fine, and it is probably inevitable since cool places tend to be a little damp. Basically, you want to be sure to keep the goods from getting wet.
Certain foods store better than others. When in doubt, fill your root cellar with root vegetables. Anything that grows underground will store well underground (or in a cold place).
Potatoes need plenty of air circulation. Keep them loosely packed in a wooden or cardboard box. If the box is airtight, poke or drill a couple holes in the side or top. They also should be almost completely in the dark. Cover them with a few layers of newspaper before closing the box. You’ll need to move them around probably once a week to once a month, depending on your storage conditions. Just stir them up a little, turn a couple over, shake the dirt out of the box, and replace the newspaper with fresh sheets. You’ll soon be able to tell how often you need to tend to them by monitoring their rate of decay (i.e., softening, puckering, sprouting, bad spots, and funky smells).
Carrots also store very well, but there is a bit of a trick that will help them from drying out. Again, get a large wooden or cardboard box, but this time, fill it part way up with sand. Make sure the box is sealed on all sides (except the top), so the sand doesn’t leak. You can line the box with a paper bag, but avoid plastic, as this will hold moisture. Then, just poke your carrots into the sand, one by one (but some can be touching) and cover them up. Like the potatoes, you should check them out every so often, but they’re less likely to rot or sprout.
Turnips will store a fairly long time – either in a dark box or in your carrot sand. Try different methods and see what works best because every root cellar is different. Beets last a little less time because of their higher sugar content. If you cut off the stems, you can keep them for a week or two in a dark place. You can even store cabbage heads for a week or maybe two.
Onions store best off the ground. That means you want somewhere to hang them. Put them in a loose mesh bag. Hang it from a nail in your root cellar or even in your pantry. They’ll keep longer in the dark. Whole garlic bulbs also last a really long time if you stick them in a paper bag and keep them dry and in the dark.
Apples break down relatively easy if they are not properly stored. If you’re just beginning or don’t have access to the best storage, you might want to stick to McIntosh, Granny Smith, or other firm, sour varieties, which are less susceptible to decay. With the right conditions you can store even varieties with soft, sugary flesh. They should be loosely packed in a box (cardboard or wooden) that has a lot of air circulation. They should be dry and clean. Dirt on the surface of the skin promotes rot.
The very easiest way to make a rough-and-ready root cellar is just to toss your potatoes, onions, or apples in a paper bag or cardboard box before putting them in the pantry. This keeps them dry and away from light. They’ll keep longer and be fresher, crisper and juicer when you use them. Always, always get rid of rotten produce immediately. You know what they say about bad apples…
Riva Soucie is wrestling with an addiction to processed foods even though she feeds her cat an all-organic diet.
Shawn Quinlan knows the value of a good story. By day, he is a video editor at a television station, with all of the attendant stress that comes with the job. Workdays filled with creating compelling narratives out of gunshot victims, car accidents, and human tragedy takes its toll. Fortunately, craft stepped into the breach. The gift of a sewing machine in the early 90's turned into a "eureka" moment that helped Quinlan tie all of the loose threads of his interests and talents into one handy package. In addition to serving as a stress reliever, Shawn's story (not to mention his crazy-great quilts) has garnered attention from exhibitions, newspapers, and television shows across the country.
Quinlan's work is methodically crafted, with attention to detail that allows him to confidently show in quilt shows (My mother is a quilter--I've seen how merciless they can be). His raw material is taken from wall hangings and oddball commercial fabrics--not just from the piles of fat quarters and skeins of cow fabric that everybody uses. There is an archaeological quality to his work that is immensely appealing. Recently, the fine art world has started to pay attention, bringing him solo shows as well as a couple of group shows at the Andy Warhol Museum in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
There is also an improvisational quality at work in his quilts--something only rarely seen in a scene that is obsessed with order and pattern. This is underscored by a video that Quinlan keeps on his MySpace site of him piecing a quilt in stop motion. Boys will be boys, and Shawn Quinlan fills his work with his unique sensibility, then sends it out into the world to influence others.
Face it; air conditioning is an unholy abomination. While we all have some point in the summer where we can do nothing more than hug our air conditioning units in gratitude, most of the time, provided we do not live in Arizona, we can do without it. We keep our houses at walk in freezer temperatures while we spend the day at work, making power grids crash on the hottest days. There are plenty of ways around having air conditioning. I speak to you as a veteran and apostle.
Find a well-sited abode. Next time you are looking for a place to live ask yourself, does this house or apartment get a cross breeze? Does it have ceiling fans? Is there a way to keep this place cool with curtains? That is the place you want to live.
Get screens and fans. Your goal is to create a wind tunnel like effect in your house or apartment.
Stock the freezer. Keep a 3/4 bottle of water in the freezer and use it during the day as your ice water. Always good to stay hydrated. Make popsicles. Get some extra ice trays. Make ice tea.
Cook outside. In ye olden days houses would have separate "summer kitchens" to keep the main house cooler during the day. Now we have barbeques. Use that grill, eat cold foods or eat out.
Dress appropriately. Wear a sun hat, get sunglasses. Dress in light colors. Keep yourself cool with your apparel.
Embrace siesta. Hot weather makes you tired for a reason. Slow down. Change your mindset. Try to schedule your summer around the weather. Run errands early in the morning or in the early evening. Try to lay low for the afternoon. Don’t fight the hot.
Stay wet. Run cold water over your feet. Carry a spray bottle. Wet your hair. It all helps.
Shower in your underwear. I take a shower in my underwear before going to bed and the cold wet underwear would be unpleasant under other circumstances is great for the dog days of summer.
Freeze your pillowcases. I don’t actually do this but I have heard that nothing is sweeter than falling asleep on a cold pillowcase.
Go to the movies. When all else fails a few hours in a movie theater will revive you.
I have never been to the Minnesota state fair, but I hear it’s awesome.
In the past I have heard of a beauty pageant that elects the Butter Queen, who then has her portrait carved in butter.
My buddy Ritch has just introduced me to another food based craft wonder from the homeland- Crop Art. These are his photos of seed pictures and sculptures.
I know very little about this. I only know the names of the creators of this work if their names were in the picture. Lillian Colton seems to be the hero of Crop Art and may be the reason the genre is so well executed. Here is some work of past years by many makers.
Not since Callie told me about quinoa have I been so excited about grains.
By Julie Jackson
Half art, half craft, and all snark. For those aching to just tell it like it is, Subversive Cross-Stitch offers the inspiration and guidance to transform what might have remained an internal monologue into an open statement to the world. Jackson’s shtick is taking the traditional medium of cross stitch and injecting a whole new vocabulary into the canvas. Personal favorites are “Kiss my grits,” “Too bad, so sad,” and the ever-pithy “Bite me.” Jackson provides a grid and alphabet, as well as basic technique information making this book great for beginners and those who are ready to stitch out on their own, emblazoning signature lines. Extremely clear and large, color diagrams will make learning this craft and following Subversive Cross Stitch patterns very enjoyable. Jackson responds to emptiness in the craft world, where cross stitch is only used for very boring and pious samplers, and then uses that to her advantage. She is not redesigning all the elaborate borders and motifs familiar in cross stitch, instead she suggests using those kits and re-contextualizing everything. This last part is what offers a true artistic element to the book, and presents a method for re-interpreting the pre-packaged, mass-produced craft supplies among us.
My father just celebrated his 80th birthday. He spent a long time in the Navy. 32 years brought him from an enlisted man to a lieutenant commander. This time took him away from his small town farm life in beautiful but limiting northern Wisconsin and allowed him to live in Europe, see Asia and South America - and well- become cosmopolitan.
I spent a measly 3 years in Germany. It shaped my life so much that 10 years later I still talk about it all the time. Similarly, my father’s time in the Navy frames how he relates to the world. Finding a gift for this man that I can make and will relate to him is always difficult.
To celebrate his birthday, my family and I gave him two hand made objects- the first a neon portrait of the Ranger, the aircraft carrier he served on made by my friend Matt’s neon workshop.
For the second gift, I was able to get a yard of the ribbon from each of the medals that dad earned during his career. I sewed them in correct order parallel to each other on a sheet of muslin. Were I to do this again I would have used dark cloth that would have not been so visible in the spots where my sewing wasn’t as good as I’d like.
The panel became the bar code of my father’s career, as each ribbon has a specific meaning: World war two victory, Vietnam, UN involvement, and UN presidential Citation, Korean war presidential citation. For me, there is nothing like handling each commendation embodied in a codified silk moiré stripe.
The abstraction from his ribbons into large horizontal stripes is pretty extreme. As Dad unwrapped this gift, for the first 30 seconds he was looking at this with an expression that said “why is my family giving me a bunch of stripes?” Then he said, “Those are service ribbons” with a little crack in his voice.
It was framed beautifully by the fancy and worth it Mad Matter.
The last couple of years has seen a huge increase in the number of social networking sites available. As with any evolution, the trend has been toward specifics and newer sites cater more and more to niches. Lucky for crafters, soon we will have a whole new site to play with: Ravelry. Ravelry is a great site for organizing project, showing of your stash, networing with local yarn shops, finding wholesale outlets and as the founders Jess and Casey say, "fiber voyears." Recently I got to exchanging emails with Jess and Casey.
For those who don't get to play with Ravelry yet, just how much fun are we going to have?
I think that most people will have a lot of fun :) Ravelry is multi-faceted and we've found that everyone's favorite part of Ravelry is different. If you love organizing, you'll probably really enjoy your Ravelry notebook, where you can keep track of your projects, stash and tools. Do you like wandering around the web and checking out people's projects and patterns on their personal blogs and sites? Ravelry is perfect for fiber voyeurs. Really love forums and online communities? There are plenty of options out there but we think that our community is something special because there is that extra substance behind (and all around) the chatting. Fun is the whole point!
What has surprised you so far about the ways people are using their Ravelry abilities?
I guess the biggest surprise is how quickly people are finding one another. We just love hearing from independent designers who have been found by local yarn store owners because they want to stock their patterns, new independent dyers and spinners who are getting wholesale orders for their yarns for the first time, people starting up new Stitch'n Bitch groups in their area...all happening already, before we have even opened the site for real!
What role do you think community plays in the crafting world? Knitting in particular.
I often giggle to myself when Casey and I talk about Ravelry to people who are not knitters or crocheters. Often they just don't understand that there is a huge online community of crafters already and that we don't actually have to build all of those connections from the ground up. We are just providing a fun and concise way to find others who share your interests or live near you.
Obviously, communities centered around crafting is not anything new- sewing circles and groups at local stores have been happening for a long time. I think what is different now is that it is possible to connect with people from all over the world and even find local people that you might not have met otherwise.
I know that I learned to knit by myself, from a book, and I didn't know anyone who knit or crocheted until I started my blog. After a while, I was knitting pretty much every day and it was just so fun to do something creative after I got home from work, sitting in front of a computer all day. I really wanted to meet people who shared my love for knitting and, even in a city like Boston, it was a bit challenging to meet new people. I think online communities make that initial meeting a lot less stressful and more comfortable. After you have been chatting with someone on your blog or on Ravelry, you feel like you know them a bit and you can skip all the 'getting to know you' chitchat and actually hang out. I have met people through the blogging community that I consider my real friends.
One of the reasons that we created Ravelry in the first place was that the online crafting community was such a wealth of information and ingenuity but there was not a way to really search and find what you were looking for--besides googling for hours on end. Over the past year, we just noticed that there were so many new indie designers and yarn dyers and spinners--with etsy stores and their own websites--but there are only a handful
of ways to get the word out about your stuff (profiles with bigger bloggers, knitty, crochetme, etc). We are hoping that Ravelry helps people to find their audience as well has helps crafters find new and interesting ways to express themselves.
It's fair to say social networking sites have had a significant impact on both the music and crafting communities. How do you think it has worked out differently for both communities? How do you think they influence the way crafters market themselves, conduct business, show off? I mean are we more showey-offy?
Here is our music parallel :) Online communities allow everyone to share their art with the world. The Internet (and especially blogs and community sites) has given talented crafters and musicians a way to find fans and customers themselves. You don't need a big marketing budget and you don't have to wait to be discovered by an industry. You can be discovered by the people instead.
We're very excited about all of the independent designers, dyers, and spinners that are using Ravelry. We really want to help these amazing people (and they really are amazing!) showcase their work, find their audience, and promote their businesses. Community is an extremely important part of small and independent business (businesses of any size, but the bigger guys often miss the point). People aren't only shopping small because they like things that are handmade or locally produced; we consumers are beginning to want a more real connection with the creators that we support.
This really means a lot to us. We want to help people do what they love for a living.
Marie Rounsavell is a knitter extroidinaire. Her blog Marimello is a new space to highlight off beat crafting and discuss the how and why of crafting's resurgence. She heads up the Witch Fire Project to benefit fire victims in Southern California
The holidays are upon us and those of us who have not been making stuff will have to buy handmade this year. Read through our list of books, fairs and sales and get started. Chanukah comes early this year.
Here are some of the brilliant books that SNatch Editors have authored and would make fantastic holiday gifts:
Bead Simple by Susan Beal
Pin Up Grrls by Maria Buszek
Craftivity by Tsia Carson
Knit Knit by Sabrina Gschwandtner
Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart
Subversive Cross Stitch by Julie Jackson
The Craftster Guide by Leah Kramer
The New Crewel by Katherine Shaughnessy
Working for the Man by Jeffrey Yamaguchi
Meet all our editors. Buy the stuff they make.
Here is our running list of holiday sales (We know we already missed some!). To let me know about what is going on in your area email hello AT supernaturale DOT com and I will post it up.
Marimello | Marie Rounsavell
Marimello has put together a craft sale to benefit charities to help victims of the recent wildfires in southern CA.
Smockshop was created by artist Andrea Zittel. A smock is a simple double wraparound garment designed by Andrea Zittel. Each garment is one of a kind, and is sewn by an artist who reinterprets the original design based on their individual skill sets, tastes and interests. The smockshop generates income for artists who’s work is either non-commercial, or not yet self sustaining.
Saturday December 15 11-4pm
633 North Almont Drive
Los Angeles CA 90069
Sunday December 16 11-4pm
747 North Avenue 50
Los Angeles CA 90042
ReadyMade Winter Ball and Indie Craft Fair
Thursday Dec. 6th, 6:30-11pm
The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA
Holiday Craft Craze hosted by Pleasanton Craft Mafia
Dec. 15/16, noon-4pm
1152 Crellin Rd., Pleasanton, CA
Even More Bazaar Holiday Show hosted by Million Fishes
Saturday, December 1st, 2 pm - 11 pm (Art show opening in the evening, with DJ's & bar)
Sunday, December 2nd, 12 pm - 5 pm
Million Fishes gallery, 2501 Bryant St, SF, CA
Stockings and Stilettos hosted by Appel & Frank
Thurs, Dec. 6th, 5:00-9:00pm
The Regency Center, Sutter Room, 1270 Sutter St, SF, CA
Holiday Hit List, San Diego
The North Park Craft Mafia is so very excited to be hosting our very first event! The Holiday Hit List will be held on Saturday, December 8, at the Bar Pink Elephant in North Park, San Diego. It promises to be the most fantastic shopping extravaganza; a modern twist of the average craft fair.
Renegade Craft Fair
The 2nd Annual Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale is almost here! The event will take place December 8 + 9 at Pulaski Park Auditorium at 1419 W. Blackhawk in Chicago. We will have 100 vendors in 3 rooms, plus food and music! http://www.renegadecraft.com/holiday/index.html
Crafted Market http://www.craftedmarket.com/
Feel | Erin Kaleel
Beautiful handmade woven felt rugs, handbags and pillows. 25% discount on any Handbag or Pillow. www.trunkt.org/feeldesign
One fun craft show…
Sunday December 9, 2007
The Cyclorama (Boston Center for the Arts)
539 Tremont St in the South End of Boston
12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
St. Louis, MO, December 8-9, 2007 - The Rock N Roll Craft Show’s fourth annual weekend-long event will be this winter at the Mad Art Gallery in the historic Soulard neighborhood. Rock N Roll Craft Show 4—Holiday Extravaganza will feature over 80 crafters as well as more than 12 local bands, and will once again prove to be this city’s hottest art event!
New York (New York City)
Greenjeans| Shoe Mine | Rare Device/Sodafine
Thursday, November 29, from 6-9 pm for a Wish List Party!
While you're here, jot down the items you hope to receive as a gift. We'll keep your wish list on file so when your loved ones come in to shop for you they can be confident they're purchasing exactly what you want. GJ is offering 10% off most items during the party. http://www.greenjeansbrooklyn.com/
449 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Callieco | Callie Janoff
(Craftivity Contriubutor and SNatch Editor)
Beautiful handmade bags. Take a preview or pre-purchase:
Saturday December 1, 1-6pm
40 West 22nd Street, 12th Floor
The Wild Unknown | Kim Krans
Calendars and cards. Please visit my online store at
www.thewildunknown.com and do a little holiday shopping. the new 2008 calendars are here!
ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15 IN WILLIAMSBURG:
gift on grand @ secret project robot
210 kent street at metropolitan
11am - 7pm
ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16 IN MANHATTAN:
holiday craft sale @ divine studio
21 east 4th street at lafayette
KleinReid's Holiday Sample Sale
Saturday December 8th & 15th, Noon to 5pm
51-02 21st St. 7th floor, Long Island CIty, NY 11101
Corner of Borden Ave / 2 blocks from PS1
painted hands and mesh jewelry
398 van brunt street
december 1st & 2nd~saturday and sunday, 11:00 to 4:00
She-Weld is opening its newly renovated blacksmithing studio for the holidays for a unique shopping experience.
November 29- December 23; Thursdays-Sundays
151 Van Dyke Street, between Van Brunt and Conover,
Red Hook, Brooklyn. Phone: 917-482-4721
With over 200 vendors, DJs, dancing, food, and drinks, we can’t wait to see you at the best shop n’ party around! We are especially excited to announce that Amy Sedaris will be participating as a vendor, signing her book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, and selling some of her handmade goods!!!
Saturday, December 8, 2007 from 10 am to 8 pm
The Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City, 125 West 18th Street.
Crafty wonderland- Sunday December 16th
The Urban Street Bazaar will be at Dallas Market Hall on Sat. Dec. 1st from 11am-9pm with live music, demos, and fashion shows.
Deck The Halls will be at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum on Sun., Dec. 2nd from 11am-9pm, hosted by the Texas Tarts and Armhole
A local elementary school has a successful craft fair every year called Winter Art Fair at Alex Sanger Elementaryon Saturday, Dec. 8th at 8310 San Leandro Drive, Dallas, TX 75218 from 10am-8pm.
I Heart Rummage - Sunday December 16th
Art vs Craft Dec 8 http://artvscraft.com/
Rare is the how to book that opens one mind. The simply titled How to Make Books by EK Smith is just one of those books. With its elegant letterpress cover, its warm and eccentric first person narrative, and its elegant photographs and illustrations, it's clear you have a gem in your hot little hands. Banished is the standard fare of overly precious scrap books covered in leather and lace, visually busy covers with its obligatory grid of projects and "snappy" subtitle, complimented by lousy typography and incomprehensible instructions.
Now let me make it clear: generally I hate making books, I hate little arty books, and I hate books about making books. So it was with some skepticism when I received a note from the illustrator Lindsay Stadig that this was a perfect book for SuperNaturale. After years of receiving press releases that tell me that "scrapbooking" ( that's not a word, by the way) is really "hot" I figured this was yet another mediocre title trying to revive craft born out of nostalgia and practiced with stunted cookie cutter creativity.
However my good friend Karen gave me a copy of How to Make Books for Christmas exclaiming "I love this book!" From the minute you feel the chipboard cover and crack it open you know you have a different kind of book on your hands. I was enthralled from the first "Instant Book" chapter which tells you how to make a book out of a single sheet of copier paper to the last chapter on coptic binding. There is not false note in this book. Heavily illustrated with perfectly photographed examples you can see that this book is a true labor of love.
Smith's text clearly explains how to do these book projects while never losing her unique take on things. Like a memoir she introduces each technique with a personal story that contextualizes how she acquired each new skill. Smith designs at Purgatory Pie Press in New York City and a book arts teacher. Her teaching background shines through in this book, making it a pleasure to read.
And one of my favorite aspects is how she acknowledges the team of people who put this book together: herself, Dikko Faust, Purgatory Press Pie founder and typographer, Lindsay Stadig, the illustrator, David Michael Zimmerman, the photographer and Kathleen Phelps, the designer. How refreshing.
We started Compai clothing a few years ago while living in Italy. Our clothing closely reflects where we live. At the time in Italy, ballerina styles and off the shoulder styles were in fashion, and many of the T-shirt designs in the book we wrote reflected that. Then we moved to New York last November... and the trans-Atlantic move is reflected in our designs. We call this top the "Chaos T," the textures, and the shapes are like the towering skyscrapers. The result, like the big city, is chaotic, yet beautiful.
1. Take a large T-shirt and lay it down flat.
2. Fold the T-shirt in half lengthwise and mark the front, center with a pin on the collar.
3. Pinch a fold in the center of the shirt, about 1 inch deep creating a pleat. Pin the pleat vertically (from the collar to the hemline) so that it stays in place.
4. Repeat until you have 4 pleats in the front, center of the t-shirt.
5. Starting from the bottom hem of the T-shirt, sew a horizontal line from right to left, sewing over the pleats so that they are facing the left.
6. Four inches above that line, sew another horizontal line, this time from left to right, sewing the pleats down so that they are facing the right.
7. Repeat the horizontal lines until reaching the collar of the shirt.
8. Okay…almost done! Now, using a zigzag stitch sew two large “S” shapes, starting from the collar, down to the hemline, feeding the t-shirt fabric into the stitches to create tiny gathered pleats into the stitches.
9. Now, if you like the look of this top as a tank, cut off the sleeves around the sleeve hemline to get this edgy look.
Justina and Faith Blakeney and Ellen Schultz are the designers behind
Compai, a crafty design studio and clothing label. With a focus on
eco-design and DIY, Compai has authored 3 books, collaborated with
companies like Artemide and Elio Fiorucci, and has been seen on the
pages of Vogue Italia, Sportswear International, The San Fransisco
Chronicle and on NBC's The Today Show.
Unfortunately for me, my brain works faster than my hands. So, I tend to be better at thinking-it-myself than actually doing it. As a result, I’ve spent the last few years reading everything I can about DIY and alternative modes of production, consumption and exchange. Books are expensive, but usually worth it. I’ve reviewed these, so you can decide whether or not to unload the dough.
Women and Craft
Elinor, Gillian, Su Richardson, Sue Scott, Angharad Thomas and Kate Walker (1987)
Virago Press Ltd. 191 pp.
This anthology is a valuable artifact of the previous generation. Most crafters profiled in it learned from their mothers and grandmothers; many 20 and 30-something crafters today learn from books, the Internet, and each other. The debate over whether or not traditional domestic crafts could be considered art was contentious in the 1980s; now, craft often enjoys the same status as ‘high art’ and is shown in galleries, written about in journals, and taught in fine arts programs. But what remains timeless is women’s love of craft. The pieces in this collection range from analytical (“Housewives, leisure crafts, and ideology”) to biographical (“Knitting Performances”) to historical (“Potters of the 1920s). They are also at times humorous, feminist, socialist, instructive, informative, and performative. An ode to handmade culture and a beautifully-written precursor to DIY as we are now living it.
Simple Living: One Couple’s Search for a Better Life
Levering, Frank and Wanda Urbanska (1992)
Penguin Books. 272 pp.
This is the mother of all DIY books. Well, it’s heavily weighted toward simple living, but that’s the one of the movements that started it all. Simple Living is a first-person account of one couple’s journey from smoggy LA where they had agents, fax machines, and expensive dinner parties to the Levering family orchard in southwestern Virginia. The pair found that the former was beginning to take its toll – without offering much in the way of reward, so they ‘gave it all up’ to become apple farmers in a small town where they lived in and renovated an old farmhouse. The best part is that they felt and continue to feel conflicted about their shift to simple living. This book is about what can happen – the good and the difficult - when two people decide to live creatively and purposefully.
Hoff, Al (1997)
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 260 pp.
Thrift Score is the most fun I’ve had reading in a long time, and Al Hoff sounds like the coolest thrifter since my mother. Hoff wastes no time in getting moving; she has you heading to the thrift store by Chapter 3. Before that though, she gives readers a quick and concise primer on the art of thrifting. Among her suggestions: go often with several things in mind; thrift to gift; don’t take friends – they are competition; don’t seem too ‘in the know’ or you will attract ‘followers’ – more competition; don’t leave your cart or basket unattended; and don’t collect bad thrift karma (that means no price swapping, stealing, or poaching). Hoff also suggests holding swap parties with friends, reclaiming or reconstructing thrift finds; and wearing a long, loose skirt so you can try things on in the aisle without showing your underwear. Lastly, she takes readers through an entire house – room by room – decked out in second-hand style. This book is full of it – history of so-called ‘designer jeans,’ info on assessing quality, and stories of great finds. Best – and you’re gonna need to know this if you catch the bug – the pages are filled with loads of great ideas for what to do with all your new toys.
Buying Time and Getting By: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement
Grigsby, Mary (2004)
State University of New York Press. 224 pp.
Written by an assistant professor of rural sociology, this is nonetheless a totally accessible account of the voluntary simplicity movement and the ‘simple livers’ who comprise it. Grigsby’s expertise is the result of hours of participant observation in ‘simplicity circle’ meetings and workshops, interviews with members, and analysis of popular literature on simple living. I like that she does a class/gender/race analysis, showing that we make lifestyle choices in contexts of constraint; not everyone can quit her job, move to the country, and eat a lot of peaches. But mostly she shows how ‘simple livers’ derive pleasure from getting off the hamster wheel and how they are heartbreakingly optimistic that simple living can transform the nature and consequences of capitalism. If www.timeday.org is on your list of favorites, this book will really blow up your skirt.
DIY: The Rise of Low-fi Culture
Spencer, Amy (2005)
Marion Boyers Publishers Ltd. 377 pp.
Mostly about the roots of DIY in UK, this thick paperback is a also spunky ride through the underbelly of punk/post-punk/new wave/grunge music, queer culture, zines, Riot Grrrl, and independent labels. I was disappointed by Spencer’s lack of emphasis DIY crafting, but that’s just because she weighted different forms of DIY according to the time period she was writing about. Plus, it’s good to pay homage to those who came before us. Without them, we’d be working out an entirely different counter-culture. Spencer’s writing is clear and youthful. Book highlights include: an interview with Lisa Jervis of Bitch magazine; twelve pages of black and white DIY artwork; an overview of early DIY music; intelligent; political, cultural and sociological analysis; a two-page Q&A with craftster.com’s Leah Kramer; and a slightly cultish enthusiasm.
Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping
Levine, Judith (2006)
Free Press. 274 pp.
Not Buying It is a twelve-chapter (organized by month) diary of spending, saving, shopping, and making. After a typical holiday season of gorging and maxing out credit cards, Levine decided to take matters into her own hands, vowing to spend only on ‘necessary’ purchases for an entire year. So, she and her partner, Paul, could buy groceries, medicine for their cat, and gas for their car, but no clothes, books, CDs, magazine subscriptions, gifts, movie tickets, or museum admissions. Her writing is overly-confessional, which gets annoying pretty fast, but the general intent is intriguing. I’m sure it didn’t hurt the experiment that between the two of them, Levine and Paul already owned two properties and three vehicles by the time they stopped shopping. I am not a fan of the ‘lifestyle confessional,’ but with a few tweaks (e.g., perhaps local shopping would be allowed), a year without shopping could be the perfect way to slow down spending and figure out if the best things in life really are free.
Riva Soucie lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and spends more money at thrift stores than she saves. She purchased two of the books on this list from thrift stores and borrowed two more from the library.
Before the Mortgage began life as a zine produced by two writers who were making the rocky transition from studenthood to adulthood. Shortly after graduating from college, Christina Amini and Rachel Hutton moved to New York to live out their plans for becoming bona-fide adults. After two years of what they describe as “living in apartments with more roommates than bedrooms,” they fled back to their respective hometowns, and moved into the homes of their respective parents. During that time, while figuring out their next moves, they wrote, edited, and illustrated a zine called “Before the Mortgage.”
Now Before the Mortgage has been released in book form with essays by some well-loved young writers: Shoshana Berger, Sarah Vowell, Joel Stein, Pagan Kennedy. Their tales of not-quite-adulthood will have you laughing out loud . . . with a groan of recognition.
What does a book like this have to do with SuperNaturale and DIY living? Plenty. Before the Mortgage explores the uncertainty of that period between school and career, when the culture’s rosy picture of adulthood rarely matches your day-to-day reality. Amini and Hutton wrote about roommate pet peeves, awkward first dates and job interviews (as they put it: “How different are they, really?”), and working all kinds of truly odd jobs to make ends meet.
The thing about all this tribulation is that it's endlessly entertaining. For so many of us trying to pursue our creative dreams, transition seems to be a permanent state. This can easily lead to putting off the whole mortgage/marriage/kids/career package -- or parts of it -- indefinitely. A creative life can be filled with uncertainty and, on good days, with excitement. Before the Mortgage speaks to our continuing travels outside the mainstream, and it reminds us that we’re not alone as we feel our way along a different path.
Let’s conclude with an excerpt of a few of their worthwhile suggestions on “Budget Living”:
• Eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a glass of water, for lunch every single weekday for several years running (and no lunch on weekends).
• I ask cab drivers to let me off a few blocks early to save fifty cents or so.
• Drink on an empty stomach.
• I temped at a huge arbitration/mediation firm in San Francisco, where the judge would order these individually wrapped sandwiches for the lawyers and clients. One time I clandestinely took like nine of the leftover sandwiches home with me and put them in the fridge. I was living with my girlfriend’s grandparents at the time.
A new magazine / podcast / blog for the thoroughly modern crafter.
Sometime in early 2005, crafters with a slightly geeky mindset began getting excited about something called MAKE. Taglined “Technology on Your Time,” MAKE was (and is still) a magazine, blog, and thriving online community that celebrated the creative process in a whole new way.
Granted, much of the DIY from MAKE involved more techy projects, like building your own paper shredder or making a vinegar and baking soda grenade. But not infrequently, you could also find truly wonderful crafty stuff. MAKE featured amazing tutorials for, among other things, the duct tape wallet, a bra made from a pair of tighty whities, printing photographic images onto wood, and making your own pumpadums. Ideas you’d likely never find in the mainstream craft mags -- which was what what made them so compelling.
Clearly, the folks at MAKE appreciated the world of craft, and so, late last summer, they decided to produce a special craft issue of MAKE Magazine. But, like so many craft projects, this one grew arms and legs and took on a life of its own. Faced with far more projects and ideas than would ever fit in a single issue, the MAKE team decided to make something: a whole new magazine devoted to the world of craft.
Enter CRAFT—a magazine, podcast, and blog juggernaut that’s poised to build deep roots in the crafty community.
“I see the current crafty community as a growing group of highly creative crafters who don't want to be spoonfed what mass culture is offering,” says Editor in Chief Carla Sinclair. “Instead, they are using their creativity, crafty skills and DIY spirit to make things that are unique and that reflect who they are. Not only does crafting offer them a way to show off their individuality, but this new crafting community allows crafters to buy and sell their wares like never before, thanks to the internet.”
Like its parent publication MAKE, CRAFT Magazine blends traditional craft techniques with creative re-purposing and a hint of technology. It’s also one of the very few print craft publications written for the crafty generalist.
“There are a lot of magazines out there that just cover one kind of craft,” says Associate Editor Natalie Zee. “But we see crafters everywhere who combine their knitting with sewing and beading and so on, trying a little of everything. Plus, our team gets inspired by all kinds of different things, so we wanted to cover a really wide variety of topics.” Speaking of variety, in the first issue alone, CRAFT looks at: making your own chain mail, sewing and programming an LED-lit tank top, learning to silkscreen, knitting your own boots, and tricking out a kiddy car with fabric and fringe. If there was ever a magazine to nudge readers out of their crafty comfort zones, this is it.
CRAFT also veers from the mainstream magazine pack in that it’s heavily influenced by the ever-evolving world of the crafty internet. In fact, CRAFT Magazine is just one of several content streams produced by the CRAFT team. There’s also the constantly-updated CRAFT blog (http:// www.craftzine,com), edited by Zee, which presents a huge variety of interesting projects, websites, and innovative crafters. Perhaps you’d like to suggest a topic?
CRAFT is also the first magazine -- really, the first anything -- to use podcast technology to deliver free patterns. In a partnership with Fitz Patterns, CRAFT has a podcast feed on iTunes that brings subscribers a new pattern (with sewing instructions) each week. All you to need to do is download the free iTunes software, and then subscribe to the feed..
And if you prefer podcasts of the audio variety, never fear. CRAFT has one of those as well, produced by Bre Pettis, who also helms the MAKE podcast. The CRAFT show features interviews with creative folk, and also takes phone calls from listeners. “Bre is like the crafty Larry King,” jokes Zee.
And, since the crafty world so dearly loves Flickr, CRAFT has a vibrant group there, in which devotees share pictures of their latest creations.
So many content streams equals so many ways for the crafty community to participate in the CRAFT universe. And, by the way, you are cordially invited to participate.
“We have a blog with new projects and craft news daily. And we accept writing assignments from crafters who have never written before,” says Sinclair. “It's a back and forth thing - crafters can come to our site or magazine to share what they know with us or to learn something new from us (and that's how it is with most crafting blogs and sites). The new craft movement is all about exchanging ideas and supporting one another, and I think that's what we're promoting with CRAFT, whether its through our blog, magazine or podcast.”
So, suggest a crafty idea for the blog. Call into the podcast. Get your photos together and post them on the Flickr group. Or, go all out and submit an article. While you’re at it, support CRAFT by subscribing, advertising, or picking up a copy at the newsstand. After all, it’s not every day that an emissary from the world of print journalism comes along and speaks our language.
Kathy Cano Murillo, everyone's favorite Crafty Chica, has just released her fifth craft book, Crafty Chica's Art De La Soul: Glittery Ideas to Liven Up Your Life. In it, she shares a gorgeous collection of craft projects you can wear, brighten a room with, plant, eat, and share with loved ones. Just a taste for you: Corazon Candles, a Tin Flower Mirror, and some Fantastico Fantasy Paper Lights.
But Art de la Soul goes beyond the projects, to offer Kathy's thoughts on life, love and spirit, and how creativity runs through them all like a bright red ribbon edged in glitter. You'll find musings on creating family bonding time, building a backyard sanctuary, and using good karma to light up your life. You'll find funny and moving stories from Kathy's own crafty life, as well as lessons she's learned along the way. And you'll find a warm, generous spirit that makes you want to craft up every corner of your life.
If by some chance you haven't fallen under the Crafty Chica spell yet, here are some things to know about Kathy. She's a nationally-syndicated craft columnist, and author of craft books including Making Shadow Boxes and Shrines, and La Casa Loca: Latina Style Comes Home. She makes weekly television appearances, sharing craft with the people of her hometown, Phoenix. She maintains one very crafty website, blog, and podcast at www.craftychica.com. She's recently finished her first novel. And somehow, she manages to find time to be an entertainment and crafts reporter for the Arizona Republic, and a mother of two. I might go so far as to call her the patron saint of multi-tasking.
I talked to Kathy recently about her newest release....
Can you tell us more about the "Soul" aspect of this book?
My motivation came from witnessing so many women (and men too) juggle a bundle of responsibilities - motherhood, jobs, finances, chores, etc. and accidentally lose sight of who they are as a person. It's so easy to fall into a cycle of producing and churning out task after task for everyone else but you. "Hello??? What about you?", I say! This book is a way of chillaxin so people can have fun and goof around for a bit. I want it to nudge them to celebrate their quirks and dwell on the things that make them happy. It's like nourishment for the spirit, or soul. Make a statement by using art to express themselves and leave a mark on the world that they were here. It feels so good inside and out to accomplish something creative - something that doesn't have a paycheck or deadline, or any real purpose except to make you smile. Some people, many people, even me! - need a reminder of that.
Why did you want to write a craft book with life lessons and advice?
To me, life is one big craft project. It's not cut and dry. There are lots of ingredients to choose from, and the outcome can either be crisp and cool - or as sticky and unsatisfying as uncured resin. But next time, you know better! People who craft are of a certain breed. We can practically smell each other out from a large crowd, or a MySpace friends page. Being crafty is a lifestyle, we all have stories and advice to share. This is how I wanted to share mine. Plus, I wanted it to be more than just a craft book. I wanted it to be timeless in spirit, even if the projects eventually become outdated. And most of all I wanted the readers to feel me, to know that I'm right there with them when it comes to being passionate about all things handmade!
Your work has always drawn on your Latino heritage. What do these cultural influences bring to your art?
Two things: the first - I used to deny the Mexican side of me because I grew up in Anglo schools and neighborhoods. I hadn't even tasted Mexican food, even though my parents made it several times a week! It wasn't until I met Patrick (my now husband) that I was converted. He was a pachuco zoot-suiter back then and on our first date he made me try a chimichanga. I haven't been the same since! I dived into all things Mexicana as a way to make up for my ignorance and snobbishness. The other reason is that I got tired of not finding any cool books or products with hip Latino influence. Yes, I have my fair share of Frida Kahlo stamps, but there is so much more to the culture than that. Many of us who want to decorate our houses with Latino flair, we often have the SAME accessories because there isn't much out there. So to make my own home stand out, I started making my own line of accessories and it caught on. My book allows me to share those ideas so other people can do the same.
I love that you've shared your crafty disaster stories in this book! They're so funny, and they helped me see that these things happen to everyone. What role do disasters play in creativity?
They are your battle scars that you wear with pride. They are the dues you pay. They are symbols of humbleness to remind you that you aren't all that, and still have a way to grow. They are the ways we find out what works and what doesn't. They are signals from the universe that it's time to put down the glue gun and take a break. Most of all, they are great topics for craft group conversation!
I think this book embodies something many people love about you; you're all about generosity and building connections. How do you maintain this outlook?
I wouldn't even know how to answer! It's just how I am. I think it might come from being a middle child and having a super-smart older brother and a super-cute little sister. I always felt like I had to work hard to get noticed and be loved. Of course, I always was noticed and loved, but it's just classic Jan Brady Syndrome. Instead of wearing a big afro wig and strutting down the street, I like to make things for people.
Your husband, Patrick Murillo, illustrated this book. Tell us a little about his creative life.
We've been married 15 years and my stomach still does the flip-floppy thing! He is so talented. He writes music and sings and plays keyboards in his band. He is a rastachicano, a Mexican-American guy with long dreads. I crochet his tams! He is a painter and I knew when I got this book deal that I wanted him to do my illos to bring the book to life. I'm so proud of him! We are truly living an artful life, which is what we vowed to do on our wedding night!
I have to ask about my favorite project in the book: your Loca Ropa Quilt, which makes use of all your family's cast-off T-shirts. How in the world did you come up with that?
OK, here is how I show my affection for Patrick. One night when he was performing at a gig, I got this grand idea to make a fabric collage quilt. Smoke came out of my sewing machine as I whipped up 20 panels. I wanted to make it bigger but ran out of fabric. Instead of waiting until the next day to go to the fabric store, I insisted on finishing the facing of the quilt THAT NIGHT. So, um...I went into his closet and got all his Latin themed t-shirts and cut them up to use them for the quilt. When he came home, it was about 2:30 am and I was all bright-eyed and buzzed on coffee and I made him close his eyes and then I surprised him. At first he was impressed but then he took a closer look and said, "Those are all my favorite t-shirts!" It was like closure that I included it in the book. It hangs as a headboard above our bed. The idea to use cast off shirts, that was just my Crafty Chica twist to have it go in the family chapter.
What's next on your horizon?
Whew! A lot. I have a line of rubber stamps coming out, a line of glitters, and I'm signing a 12 month contract with a television production company to develop a Crafty Chica TV show. I'm still tinkering with my novel before I submit it to my agent for submission. I have more crafty books coming up. The biggest thing? I have the Crafty Chica Creativity Cruise coming up on Carnival Cruise lines! It's the last week of September. It's all about Latino crafting. We visit the Museum of Latin American Art, see a movie, go to Ensenada, Mexico and craft, craft, craft via workshops.
How the heck do you keep all these projects up?
It's hard sometimes. But I just get so excited at all the opportunities and feel blessed by the crafty gods that they come my way!
Making Stuff: An Alternative Craft Book
Edited by Ziggy Hanaor
Seemingly dozens of artists contributed projects to Making Stuff, (including some favorite past and present glitterati). And the result is that nearly every craft frontier is explored in a way that makes you feel like you are back in high school, with the best art teacher ever and plenty of time on your hands. After some basic introductory material, the projects are categorized by function: clothing, jewelry, home, children, and “the random bits that fill in the gaps.” There really is something for everyone in here, and projects are so open to your own inspiration that the result can be as campy or sophisticated as you want. Making Stuff features a great layout, and projects often include schematics and large photos, though the photos sometimes appear fuzzy or dark.
I loved many of the sewing projects – making an awesome, wide bow belt from a small amount of fabric, recycled silk tie purses, and a smocked dress that works for an adult or child. Adorable Steiner dolls and a passport holder made of paint chips also stood out to me. One or two projects may be too bizarre for most, such as a tiara constructed from plastic toys, and several projects have definitely been available in various forms for years – there was nothing new to me about crocheting a shopping bag, making hemp necklaces, or rolled beeswax candles. However, that’s not quite the critique it sounds like, because I can still find inspiration in these projects. After seeing a picture of a bathmat knit on giant needles from old concert t-shirts, I immediately reached into my closet, and a cotton sundress that I wore to my high school graduation a million years ago became reborn that very night as a bathmat. I knew there was a reason I couldn’t get rid of it. Making Stuff would be a great foundation book for a craft library, especially if you have friends of the younger set to craft with you.
Jeffrey Yamaguchi is, among many other things, the author of the outstanding new book "52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity." When he is not writing, or working on his site 52 Projects, he is an editor here at SuperNaturale. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his new book, his life, and his preference for pie.
So for those unfamiliar with 52 projects can you explain how and why you started it?
52 Projects, the book, is a collection of offbeat, exploratory, artistic projects. There are writing projects, photo projects, mail art projects, one that involves key lime pie, another that encourages experiments to make the perfect margarita. The idea of the book is not for the reader to re-create these projects exactly - because following something to the letter is never fun. There are no step 1, step 2, step 3 instructions, no pictures of finished projects. My hope for the book is that it inspires the impulse to create and share in each person's own, unique way.
I started the 52 Projects project as a simple website; a list of projects. I think why I started it is two-fold one. I have always seen my creative efforts as projects. I wanted to throw a party at midnight and serve waffles - that was a project. I had a birthday party for someone, and I got it in my head to make her a seven layer cake - again, I saw that as a project. Buttons for a zine I used to publish - again, a project. So to create the list of projects I had either done or wanted to do, that is the first part of the why. The second part involves how project-making has helped me navigate the day to day; has helped me get through tough times and deal with the sometimes unbearable weight of just life in general. In particular, and this is something I write about in the book, my jobs have not always been ideal. And I don't mean to sound like a complainer or a whiner, but my point is to say that I have certainly gotten disgruntled and felt miserable. Well, one of the ways I've dealt with this is to make projects - to be creative on my own terms. Making projects really fuels me, inspires me, and the energy it generates seeps into areas that need a jumpstart. So that is also part of the why - to celebrate and show the positive impact that making projects can have on all areas of the day to day. Making projects will impact each person uniquely, of course, but it's guaranteed to be energizing and inspiring.
It’s almost as if doing these projects has a perhaps unintended air of civic duty about them, as if they contribute to society as a whole to make our culture richer. Do you see this?
Let's see. That is some serious weight you are giving to these projects. I think at the core, the projects address each person's own, unique creativity. And the book tries to make the point that being creative and engaging in project-making, of projects both big and small, can have a strong, positive impact on the day to day. Everybody is living a full life, whether they think they are or not, and everybody is being constantly creative, whether they think they are a creative person or not. But the projects in the book sort of force the issue in terms of documenting that full life, or peering into it with a project-makers eye, as well as harnessing all that inherent creativity flowing through each person's life in the form of specific, personal projects. The argument I make in the book is that making projects can be an energizing, inspirational force - one that impacts all aspects of your life. It's something that grows bigger and stronger the more you cycle through the process. A process that inspires not only yourself, but most likely and hopefully others around you.
It seems to me that projects have an innate goodness and generosity about them; they feel like they fulfill a spiritual need. Do you think this is true, and if so, why?
Many of the projects do involve sharing, getting in touch with old friends, making a point of connecting with the important people in your life, and of course just doing things for people you don't know at all. I do believe that there is an underlying theme in the book that emphasizes how making projects with others in mind can have a very positive impact on both you as the project-make, and also on whoever you involve or give your project to. It instills a nice round of goodwill that has a way of making its way beyond just the giver and the receiver of the project. I think that certainly, yes, it can be spiritual, but it can also just be something that puts a smile on someone's face.
There is a chapter in the book on making projects as gifts, and I think that addresses your question best. To make a project for someone and give it to them, or involve them in it, you can really make that person feel special; you can really uplift their spirits. It does not have to be some elaborate painting, or some project that takes years to make - it can be a simple as Project #1, photocopying your old letters from a good friend and them mailing them to that person. And you, as the project-maker, get something out of the deal as well. It's an electric feeling to give a gift, especially if it is a project of your own creation, made special for a particular person; a one of a kind creation for a one of a kind person. It's a way to keep yourself energized and inspired and feeling good about yourself and maintaining a healthy, positive attitude. I was told long ago that if you’re depressed or feeling sorry for yourself, then go out and do something nice for someone else and you will feel better. I prescribe that effort for myself all the time, and more often than not it does the trick and pulls me out of the doldrums.
I feel like your work is akin to those “Learning To Love You More” guys, as if you were the literary version. Do you feel like this is a zeitgeist kind of thing? Are there people out there working who you feel a particular kinship with?
A ways back, a reader of the 52projects.com website told me about the learningtoloveyoumore.com site and I checked it out and just loved it. I emailed Harrell Fletcher, one of the people behind that site, to tell him that and to let him know about my sites. And he contributed a project to the whatsyourproject.com site - a very cool one that made me run out and find Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral." I also did a couple of the learningtoloveyoumore.com assignments, one of which ended up on “The Next Big Thing radio show” (an argument with my wife, acted out by actors).
Another aside is that Miranda July is one of the people behind the learningtoloveyoumore.com site, and about 8 years ago I saw her do a performance at this small venue in Berkeley, CA, and she was handling all her equipment and selling her tapes during the intermission. I remember her saying something like, “Someday, I'll maybe have some help running these shows,” and boy, she probably does now. She's really made it.
Anyway, the web has really made it easier to see and learn about and connect with other project-makers, writers, photographers, crafters, artists, etc., and I'm really thankful for that. I find it all very inspiring, I really do. I think project-making has always been going on to the degree that it is now and that the zeitgeist is more about project-makers using the web and certain types of online tools like photo-sharing and blogs and message boards to connect and build community. It's been very important to me to be able to see the work of others, to make connections with other project-makers, and to participate in the projects of others.
What is the weirdest feedback you've gotten from 52 projects?
You know, probably my wife's feedback when I was just starting to write the projects; when I really did not yet know how the 52 Projects project overall would evolve. My biggest fan was not a fan of 52 Projects. At all. I write about it in the acknowledgements section of the book.
Have you seen/heard/read anything recently that really inspired you creatively?
Let's see. I was really inspired by a film I just rented on DVD, Fear and Trembling. I popped it in well after midnight, thinking I would just watch a little, but kept on watching because I could not stop watching.
Today I was just at a new store in Park Slope, Rare Device, run by Rena Tom. I was inspired by the store itself and pretty much everything in it. In particular, on the shelf was a new book (The Heart Is Also A Furnace by Magdalen Powers) from Future Tense Books, and I bought it and thought of Kevin Sampsell, who runs Future Tense, and was reminded of how much his work inspires me.
400 Words was also on the shelf, from Katherine Sharpe. It's a collection of writings that are each 400 words contributed by people from all over. Katherine had submitted a project to whatsyourproject.com about her 400 Words project - it inspired me then, and seeing the book (which I have and think is wonderful) on the shelf at the store inspired me.
I was inspired by how good the new Battlestar Galactica series is. I just rented the first set of DVDs a couple weekends ago, and that was pretty much all I did that weekend. Merlin Mann's 43folders.com, the poetry site NoTellMotel.org, all the crafter sites, the photos at yourwaitress.com, a zine I just got in the mail, Issue #9 of The Hungover Gourmet. These things all just inspire me. I never feel at a loss in terms of finding people doing amazing, cool stuff, and their energy and projects really do inspire me.
Now that your book is done what do you think you will be working on next?
I'm always working on projects! Hey, that's what 52 Projects is all about - to always engage in both big and small projects. So I better answer this question right, right? But in terms of longer-term projects I am working on a few books, which is always a little dangerous, because it means none are ever going to get done. But whereas I used to need something to happen from start to finish very fast, I'm allowing for a lengthier time to work on these projects. I did something similar with 52 Projects. I worked on it over time, while at the same time writing a novel. A lesson learned was that 52 Projects definitely went somewhere (both the website and the book), whereas the novel is in a drawer. I think, hope, but hmmm, wherever it is, that's probably where it will stay. So I'm still learning how to work it, but I am always working.
Which do you prefer cake or pie, and why?
If I'm at the office and someone is serving cake - and isn't someone always serving cake because it's always someone's birthday? - I make sure to get there. Even though I hate the small talk that goes on at those office gatherings, I'll suffer through it for a piece of cake. If I'm at a party and there is both a cake and a pie on the table, I'll have small slice of both (and if one is really good, you know, of course I'll go back and have more).
But forced with a choice, I'm going to say pie. I think this goes back to the memories of family gatherings - those home cooked pies laid out after dinner and how good they always tasted. And then there is that image of Agent Cooper, from the Twin Peaks show, always ordering a slice of Cherry Pie. And every time he takes that first bite, his eyes just light up. That always made me want to run out to the local diner and get a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. There's also just the nature of the pie itself - the way it's really difficult to make a good crust, and all the endless fillings, from apple to pumpkin to berry to banana cream. But perhaps most of all it's because everyone has a secret pie recipe, a specialty, something that they have mastered and become known for in their circle of family and friends. Thinking about this has really made me want a damn good slice of pie.
It used to be that if you wanted to buy something handmade, there was no better place to look than an urban Saturday Market or a mothball-scented church basement.
But as new generations infiltrated the crafts industry, bringing hipster influences to traditional arts like knitting, it seemed only natural that the new craft crowd would move online.
Since 2005, Etsy has been the online destination of choice for crafters looking to peddle their wares. Etsy currently boasts 650,000 registered users, and the number climbs daily.
More intriguing than the site's numbers is what those numbers mean. With startling success, the young dot-com has helped launch a new breed of entrepreneurs on the world. And in doing so, a love affair has developed between a tech-savvy, profit-based business and people who have an unusual appreciation for glue guns and sharp scissors.
Anything but eBay
Etsy is sometimes compared to eBay, but Etsy is to eBay as your local independent bookstore is to Borders. You can maybe find the same things, but the experience is totally different.
Matthew Stinchcomb, vice president of communications at Etsy, said his company was able to learn from eBay's successes and failures. The biggest lesson was the realization that if they could build a thriving community, a thriving business would follow.
Etsy dived in. The company hosts book clubs, forums, workshops and its own newsletter.
The success of the site is determined by the success of the users, so Etsy does what it can to give crafters the business tools they need, like sponsoring workshops on topics like Global Microbranding that are webcast.
"Our goal as a company, one of our guiding principles, is to help people make a living making things," Stinchcomb said. "We want to provide them with all the information they need to achieve that goal to support themselves with their art."
Don't believe him? Check out the YouTube video he posted on how to buy & sell on Etsy.
Too much of a good thing
Ryan McAbery, 33, is a poster child for Stinchcomb's message. A veteran of the Saturday Market scene in Portland, McAbery once walked store-to-store in the Oregon rain trying to sell her wares. EBay was an option, but like other 21st Century artisans, she didn't feel right selling her painstakingly made items on what she called "the Wal-mart of craft sales."
Then she found Etsy. Within a short period of time, her problem morphed from how to make a living at her art to what to do once you've made it.
"It's very hard to run a business and be an artist at the same time," says McAbery, owner of Little Put Books. "Etsy helped bring me to a point where I'm actually running a business. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to balance everything."
That challenges isn't unique to McAbery. Antonio Gould, who taught the Global Microbranding workshop, noticed that most of the participants started off selling their crafts as a hobby, but the reach of Etsy meant they suddenly faced more demand for their items than they could produce.
Whereas their pre-Etsy sales may have been limited to craft fairs here and there, sellers now have the need for knowledge about things like insurance and commercial photography.
The sense of community and creativity on Etsy inspires her. "It drives that sense of artistic ego, in a good way," she says.
They like it when you hurt them
Not everyone is high on Etsy all the time. The site's forums include critical threads (like "Please let us have a shipping calculator!!!" and a petition to bring back page view counters).
To manage the complaints, suggestions and general gripes, Etsy has hired full-time employees who essentially monitor what members are thinking and saying about the site.
"If we do something wrong, it's actually their business so they're going to be vocal about it," Stinchcomb says. "We keep very meticulous notes on everything that people are asking for."
Don't look for them at halftime
Still, some sellers have criticized Etsy's marketing efforts as insufficient. But Stinchcomb says that the staff is happy with the results they've been getting and the way they've been getting them. Strategic partnerships– like holding a sewing contest in conjunction with Instructables– are one piece of the site's marketing plan. Etsy also sponsors events, such as New York's Renegade Craft Fair, and hosts regional street teams, members who get together to promote their wares and Etsy.
"We find these grassroots things are better than a $4 million advertising campaign," Stinchcomb says. "One, we don't have that kind of money, and two, I think it would be bad for our brand."
It's almost easier for him to say what the Etsy marketing strategy is not: a Super Bowl ad. "I can't see anything more antithecal to what we're about than that," he said.
Word-of-mouth is the crux of Etsy's notoriety. Stinchcomb estimates that about 80 percent of Etsy members learned of the site through word-of-mouth, and the site attracts 1,500-2,000 more members daily.
"A big ad doesn't yield as many results or as fruitful results as being out there and talking to people," Stinchcomb said.
Make money on the internet!
The beauty of the whole enterprise is that everyone stands to gain: Etsy wins when sellers promote their goods through the site, sellers gain when buyers like the site, and buyers win when they realize they can buy organic goat's milk soap from an artisan on the other side of the globe.
The genius of it isn't lost on McAbery. "It's the perfect pyramid scheme without being a pyramid scheme at all," she notes. Etsy "resonates with everyone who's involved with it," McAbery says. "(The employees) really love what they're doing."
Keep on keepin' on
The reason that Etsy is marketed and that people knows about it is that it's better than everything else," Gould says. "It's that simple."
Founder Rob Kalin recently said that the venture-financed site is "almost break-even" in profits, but with everything they've got in mind for Etsy, the money is going right back into the work. In January, Etsy announced it had secured $27 million in investments, a nice start on addressing more of those user-generated improvements.
There's more to come, Stinchcomb says. The site recently launched The Storque, a newsletter of sorts that includes everything from upcoming classes at the Etsy "labs" in Brooklyn to craft contests. Stinchcomb also coyly mentions that the Etsy team is working on site ventures involving music, film and publishing.
McAbery says it's that kind of vision that drives users to the site, and keeps them there. "I don't think that they have a ceiling," she said. "It's completely limitless because it's open to people who are creative and creative people are always coming up with new ideas."
Stinchcomb, sounding more like an activist and less like an entreprenuer, thinks it's not just the ideas but the conviction to bring them to life that is key. "I've always just been a firm believer in being true and honest to yourself," he says, "and it'll pay off in the end."
Rachel Tomlinson is a writer with a degree in Sociology and an unofficial minor in crafting. She spends far too much time in front of a computer, usually either trolling Etsy or adding objects of desire to her blog, World is Good.
Contrary to popular imagination, community service is not an “alternative sentence” if Paris is caught littering, pot smoking, or not cleaning up after her dog. Nor is it a “civic duty” for uncreative, earnest, and holier than thou people who criticize your paper towel usage. And it certainly isn’t part of the so-called "new era of volunteerism"; a thinly veiled way for the U.S. government to shift the burden of social services onto citizens so they could spend our tax money on war.
It’s time to redefine community service and shake off the tired old Peace Corps image. Here are a few organizations that expand and illuminate this field. This is community service in its most inspired form. Here's a new definition: community service is sharing what we know in a way we love with strangers. Ask yourself, now what can I do?
Tim Rollins and KOS
Tim Rollins has perhaps singlehandedly changed the concept of what teaching art can be. Since 1980 he has worked collaboratively with "learning disabled" students from the South Bronx in NY to make art that is shown at contemporary art centers in the U.S. and Europe. Rollins and KOS (Kids of Survival) states succinctly: "What we're doing changes people's conception about who can make art, how art is made, who can learn and what's possible, because a lot of these kids had been written off by the school system. This is our revenge."
The process begins innocently enough. Rollins selects a work of literature to focus on for a semester. The sources are diverse: Brecht, Burroughs, Shakespeare, comic books, Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X have all been starting points. He brings the text into class and reads it aloud. His students draw what it brings to mind. They bring their work together, collaboratively choose a few resonant visual motifs, and build the work collaboratively from there. The final work may present itself as prints, large-scale murals, and collages. Sometimes figurative, sometimes abstract: always an unmediated response to the work itself rather than some prescribed notion of how the work "should" be illustrated or what art is. See more...
The Icarus Project
The Icarus Project is a radical health collective that "envisions a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of 'mental illness' rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework." The often-stigmatizing medical model advocates pathologizing, suppressing and elimination as the answer to mental health issues. The Icarus Project sees possibilities through a more holistic enterprise of education, participation and dialogue to understand this difference, a model where western medicine is one component of a larger solution.
It is a grassroots organization with local groups supported by a small national staff. Begun by Ashley and Sascha (the founders chose to only use their first names) in 2002, both of who are bipolar and were frustrated with being treated as having a "disease" that needed to be "cured." They wrote the original mission statement in an old tree in Northern California on Halloween. The Icarus Project has been present to help with the aftermath of Virginia Tech, have published books and established a thriving web community.
The Edible Schoolyard
The Edible Schoolyard is a non-profit gardening and cooking program at the Martin Luther King Junior Middle School in Berkeley, California. The program is integrated into the life of the school where the "gardening classroom" is a hands-on lesson in ecology and the "kitchen classroom" transforms the raw organic seasonal produce into, well, lunch. It brings cooking back into the picture as a social and vital part of life. And it brings awareness to the importance of the cycle of food. The program is available to every child at King Middle School.
This program began in 1994, growing out of a conversation between renowned chef Alice Waters and King Middle School Principal Neil Smith who then collaborated with teachers and community members. Students and teachers transformed an old parking lot by removing asphalt, weeds, and debris and then planting a soil-enriching cover crop.
It is held as the model for programs nationally that attempts to replicate this program for students within their local ecosystem and begin to return to a raw direct experience of food. It's an elegant strategy to fight back against processed foods' stranglehold on children's diets that has led to an explosion of previously unheard of levels of childhood health issues such as obesity and diabetes.
Crochet is usually relegated to the domain of hats, scarves, and potscrubbers-frankly, a damn shame given its enormous sculptural potential.
The primary quality that recommends crochet as three dimensional medium is the fact that crochet stitches are not unlike pixels - discrete units that combine to facet the surface of a form. The size of those stitches, and the number of their neighbors in the rows above and below, determines the shape of the work. As such, your design can be quantified as a pattern and easily shared with others. Aside from certain intangibles – tension of the working yarn principal among them – a piece produced faithfully from a pattern will be identical to the original. If you like, you can think of a crochet pattern as a program for highly individual human fabbers.
In addition to this great reproducibility, the fact that only one stitch is worked at a time in crochet leads to fantastic opportunities for improvisation. You don't need to really plan ahead to make your form branch, or squeeze down to a point, or begin to crenelate. Experimentation will show you how to manifest these changes, but it might be helpful to look at how small, repeated changes (stitch height, number, loop worked in, etc) influence the finished product.
So, I made a cabinet to explore the crochet stitch parameter-space. If you are new to crochet, it might be fun to follow the instructions below to make your own "specimens" to give you a feel for how certain stitches can be used to make shapes you want.
The pieces are divided into subgroups, each of which explores a certain variable. All pieces here are worked "in the round" except for the hyperbolic examples. There are two ways to begin working in the round...
Making these branching forms simply requires you to start working a second piece of yarn into a hole created by chaining for several stitches instead of single crocheting. At the conclusion of the chain, you simply start single crocheting in the stitch that you would work in if you had been single crocheting instead of chaining. In other words, you generally skip the same number of stitches that you chain, though you can play around with chaining or skipping more or less.
Stitch height is produced by pulling more loops through each other before moving on to the next stitch. If you are working a flat piece, using a certain height produces work that has a distinct texture, but I think they're most useful for creating curved shapes (as described in the last example). There are far clearer explanations of the techniques here and in various books and videos, and I have heard of many variations. For my purposes, the main goal is to have in the repertoire a tall stitch, a normal-height stitch, and a short stitch. In order from left to right:
There are two loops you can work as you crochet: the “front” (when working in the round, these are facing the hollow part, or the inside of the work) and the “back” (which face the outside). You can work in either one or in both.
From a ring start of 6 stitches, increase until there are 15 stitches, then decrease again. This is a great opportunity to play with the rate of increasing and decreasing required to make a smooth curve. The ball is made of 6 rows.
The Hard Turn
From a chain start of 15 stitches, crochet in the back loops. At row 6, decrease in each stitch in the front loops. This produces a hard “edge” which might be useful for modeling mechanical shapes.
The Curve + Decrease
To make this “octopus leg,” begin with a chain of 8 stitches. While using tall stitches on one side and short on the other, also decrease in every other row or so to your taste.
As you work, you'll get a sense of what kind of stitch is called for to achieve your desired shape. A simple exercise you can do to demonstrate this is to try to make a more or less flat circle, beginning with a ring start and lots of increases (once in every stitch, in the first row). As you enlarge the circle, you will need to make fewer and fewer increases. Pay attention to the angle of the stitch your hook is in. A line drawn from the hook to the base of the stitch should intersect with the center of your piece. If it looks like your new line of stitches is “lagging behind,” make an increase. By keeping an eye on this, and on the curvature (or lack thereof) if your work, you can make an object of relatively precise shape without a pattern - simply by taking cues from the work as you make it.
Interpreting this kind of feedback will allow you to sculpt forms naturally and with little effort. Don't be shy of frogging - if what you've made doesn't please you, just pull the working end of the yarn until you're back to where things started to go wrong - you'll make up the difference rapidly. Even with error-correction, I find this method of free-form crocheting to be much faster - and more fun - than counting stitches.
It's around this time of year that many of us in the northern hemisphere begin to feel the pull of rising temperatures and sunny skies coaxing us outdoors after months of winter hibernation. For food lovers, picnics are a way to enjoy both food and the environment that ultimately begets much of what we eat.
Environmentally-friendly picnics don't require new gadgets, gear, and supplies. Neither must they employ the all-or-nothing principle. By thinking about just one aspect of the sustainability of your picnic, you can do something good for the planet and enjoy a new food experience, too.
Stay close to home
You needn't jump in the car to find a great picnic location. Picnics offer instant entertainment in places you might not have had reason to explore before. Walk or bike to a local park, landmark, or community sports field. Take your time, be observant, and enjoy the journey as well as the destination. You'll get some exercise, too, so don't forget to pack extra water to drink on your trek.
Discover new foods in new places
Let your taste buds be your guide. Find a farmers' market and explore a new place through its local foods. If you gather the food for your picnic there, you'll be supporting producers from the region as well.
Out-of-season produce, often readily available at the supermarket, may have been shipped long distances. Challenge yourself to create a seasonal feast for your picnic. Think asparagus in May, blueberries in July, apples in September. Growing seasons vary between regions; what you learn about local harvest dates in preparing for your picnic can help you seek out seasonal foods when grocery shopping as well.
Work for your meal
What better landscape for a picnic than acres of produce at a "pick-your-own" farm? By picking your own produce you can support a farm of your choice and may enjoy greater gratitude for nature's bounty. Many farms will have picnic tables available and lunchtime fare for sale; if you're there to pick, they'll probably welcome you and your picnic packed at home at their tables, too. But the fruits of your labors, eaten after a productive morning of picking, may be the best meal of all.
Conscientious foraging can be a hands-on education in ecology and conservation. Invest some time first in learning about collecting plants safely and responsibly. It also doesn't hurt to consult an experienced forager or go on a guided foraging expedition. Your foraging picnic could be as simple as harvesting and preparing dandelion greens from your own backyard.
It's true that you can purchase recycled, recyclable, biodegradable, and otherwise environmentally-friendly tableware, but you can also be mindful of the waste your picnic creates without spending more money. Seek out foods without a lot of extraneous packaging and those that can be eaten sans tableware. Think shish-ka-bobs instead of steak. Grill panini of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on ciabatta bread instead of serving a Caprese salad.
Respect your surroundings: grilling away from home or cooking over an open fire feels resourceful, but doing so unaware of the local rules is playing with fire.
Pack out what you pack in: if you can't prepare it without leaving something behind—including food scraps—don't take it.
Pack out only what you pack in: nature doesn't make souvenirs.
Know where you're going: don't get lost, and don't trespass—even accidentally.
Laura Troyer also writes at Eating Well Anywhere.
Kiera Coffee is a writer and creator of ideas. I have been in her presence as she effortlessly rattled off 5 stunning magazine story ideas. She is also someone with who seems to effortlessly acquire beautiful things. Unlike myself she also makes sure to keep only what she needs.
Recently she sent out this email:
Hello everyone I like,
My birthday is coming up on August 31st, and I have this idea that I'd like everyone to send me a really nice envelope in the mail around that time.
By nice I mean anything you like: decorated or plain, drawn on, glittered, painted, stamped, embossed, licked, muddied, crocheted, singed, whatever. You can put a note or card inside but I will consider the envelope (even without words on it) my card. I think in fact that I won't open these envelopes, so anything inside will be a time capsule in the end.
Ok thanks, I'm excited. And if this doesn't seem fun to any of you don't worry, I know you like me and you don't have to participate.
It seems the post office enjoyed the project- Kiera’s landlady's grandson lives downstairs and works at the post office. His co-worker who sorts her region, kept coming over to him to show him the amazing envelopes Kiera kept getting. Every day when she came home he would say "Did you see the one with all the stamps?" or "Did you see the one today with the xyz?"
Kiera’s great project allowed reveling in her friend’s creativity and love and all that love still fits in a small box. These are the envelopes that arrived. A few didn’t make it. If the post office can deliver a god’s eye, I cannot imagine what they can’t deliver!
So, most likely, you like your holidays handmade. In fact, you might have even signed the Handmade Pledge!
If you're going to buy someone else's handmade things this holiday season, please consider checking out the Crafty Fundraisers over at Etsy. You can browse what people are selling this season to help others here, for starters.
There's one fundraiser in particular I want to mention, Hope for Jasenn, which is being spearheaded by Linda Permann. This fundraiser is an effort to help raise money for her brother-in-law Jasenn, who at 34, was recently diagnosed with Stage IV kidney cancer.
100% of the proceeds will go to Jasenn and his family.
This holiday season, consider doubling up on your 'do good' efforts by buying something handmade that gives back. Not only will you be gifting crafty goodness, but you will also be making the world a kinder place.
I don't know how to knit.
In eight grade, my friend's mom cast on some knitting for me, showed me a basic stitch (knit or purl I can't recall), and away I went...for about a dozen rows. Then I got bored or lost the needles. Or something.
But by the time I graduated from university, crafting was in. In and getting bigger every year.
As a graduate student, I was on the outside watching what was fast becoming a worldwide crafting movement, wondering how I could merge my two interests -- social inquiry and DIY. Asking myself what social inquiry can tell us about contemporary crafting. Wishing I knew how to call serious attention to the social benefits of 'making our lives'.
Then I heard about Betsy Greer.
Finally...here was someone who not only believed in the revolutionary power of DIY, she actually wrote a Master's thesis on it and runs a website devoted to the discussion of what she calls 'craftivism' (craft + activism). And what's more, Greer has recently wrapped her warm, straightforward philosophies into a motivating soft-cover book called Knitting for Good! A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change, Stitch by Stitch. In it, she makes a case for using knitting (and other kinds of craftwork and DIY) as a practical, tactile, effective way to make the world a little bit nicer for everyone.
Chockablock full of accessible, readable stories about knitting, DIY, activism, and social connectedness, this book is also a friendly pedagogue, offering how-tos on everything from knitted cushion covers to dog baskets to cozy silk socks. Thanks to Betsy, DIYers can now cite almost a dozen good reasons to craft (eg., building community, expressing emotion, making statements, reaching out to others, and supporting microeconomies). Readers will also learn more about the history of knitting, buying local, caring for pets, how to knit through grief, upcycling and repurposing, transient lifestyles, making home, and doing your part.
The best of this book, however, is Betsy. Her openness and generosity comes across in the book's conversational narrative and in the intuitive progression of its three sections (Knitting for: Yourself, Your Community, The World). It's plain that Betsy wants offer you the benefit of her experience, and it easy to take what she is giving you. Reading Knitting for Good! is a bit like getting a pep talk from your BFF. You know, the rare friend who says what she means, always offers perfectly-timed anecdotes, and introduces you to all her fabulous friends when you first move into town. This book literally accomplishes the latter with contributions from nine women DIYers.
So, while I can't knit (yet), I do share Betsy's sense of pride in 'honoring and taking back the domestic' (18) and the great meaning she attaches to such activity. This book is an honest celebration of the everyday, the mundane, the invisible, and the handmade. I rarely come across an author with such a unique aptitude for knitting together the personal, the political, and the practical.
I have only managed to keep a sketch book/ journal a few times in my life. This era of financial upheaval and personal growth- apparently with growing pains seems like a great time to start again.
In looking at my successful diaries of the past they have been small and written over an old book. This appeals to both the recycler in me and my love of layering contexts.
A while ago my pal Kiera gave me a book of furrier patterns. I’m not sure this is how she’s hope it would be used, but I decided to have it cut down into 2 sketch books and 2 stacks of scratch paper.
The very charming Doug Morris of South Side Design and Build was willing to make the cuts for me. 10 minutes of his time and we have a perfectly scaled new book. Eat your heart out William McDonough.
Southside is your goto for fancy museum display design and installation as well as roof garden stuff that Bowie and Iman like.
Legion of Superheroes that is. A pal of mine saw this lady on the train. She was listening to death metal and wearing Doc Martins.
He slyly took her picture but didn’t talk to her-
I mean what’s he gonna say? “Excuse me, yer so awesome!”
I guess I might have said “Hi. Are you going to save our culture?”
Feng Shui is an ancient, venerated art form whose practitioners study with masters for years to perfect their understanding. Punk Fui is something that I made up by reading a book on Feng Shui in a weekend and trying out some experiments. I mean no disrespect to actual Feng Shui practitioners by putting forward this DIY approach. Nor in any way do I want to suggest that I understand the deep and time-honored science of Feng Shui.