Sunday, February 28, 2010

Handmade Nation

I am totally going to see a screening of this at Columbia on Thursday.

So excited.


March 4 - 3:30 pm (Please note earlier time)

Faythe Levine & Betsy Greer

"Craftivism" Documentary Film Screening of Handmade Nation with Lecture/Discussion

Faythe Levine is an artist, photographer, filmmaker and curator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the director of the film Handmade Nation and co-author of the book Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft & Design (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008). In 2004, Levine founded the alternative craft fair Art vs. Craft and in 2005 opened Paper Boat Boutique & Gallery which closed in 2009. Her work has been shown in internationally and reviewed in many publications including the New York Times Magazine, Adorn, Venus and American Craft Magazine. She is currently in production with her new documentary about sign painters and opening a new gallery in Milwaukee in 2010.

Betsy Greer is a writer, researcher and maker from North Carolina and author of Knitting for Good (Trumpeter, 2008). After developing a fascination with the relationship between craft and activism, in 2003, she started as a sociology experiment wondering, What happens when you unleash a new term on the Internet? After years of studying the indie craft movement predominantly in the English speaking world, she is branching out into a broader range of histories, cultures and customs. Now working around themes of war, craft and creativity, she hopes to keep uncovering the connections between these constructs to further unpack why and how they have shaped our lives.


Stay Cool

I had one of those nothing-can-go-my-way weekends.

And I surprised myself by staying totally calm, cool, and collected. Most of you don't know that I am the sensitive type, my days easily ruined by the silliest, mundane reason. But, I've been working on it. And all I could do was giggle at the ridiculous nature of my misfortune.

It all started with a boot.
A yellow immobilizer I found on my car late Friday night.
Not unlike this one here:
Now, you have to understand, it's mostly my fault. Yes, Chicago is one of the worst cities for parking tickets, as they've completely privatized parking, but I could have dealt with my pile before it came to the boot. Anyway, I won't state the exact sum I had to pay to get the boot off of my car, but just know, it's up there, like, way up there.

Then, my craft project failed.
Actually, it started out really strong. I was impressed at how well I was doing for my first intricately layered screen print. I got a little over zealous, and when I added the last layer, which should have been a lighter color than the rest, I added a dark green, because it was the only paint I owned that I hadn't yet used. I was excited, okay? I just wanted to finish it!

So, it's not TERRIBLE, but the color scheme was all thrown off because of that damn green. Plus, I forgot his teeth. You really can't get a sense of how good I was doing before the green because, in this picture, it sticks out like a ... sore (green) thumb? Eventually, when I open an Etsy, I want to include customizable, screen-printed portraits. This WILL NOT suffice as an example. Try, try again.

If anyone is interested in letting me use a photograph of someone special to them to create more of these for practice, I will totally do it, FOR FREE (for a limited time, only), and send it to you as a gift!



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snail Mail

I love snail mail (when it's not bills I'm receiving).

I miss the good old days, when I'd exchange letters and pictures with my cousins in Minnesota and friends who had moved. And how lovely it was to be given pen pals in school, to learn about far away people and places through an envelope. To peek in the mailbox everyday, anticipating, imagining its magical contents.

I received a postcard last week, from a friend only a few miles away.
And it totally made my day.

Last summer, a couch surfer left me a postcard he made (titled Unic-horn) and a cute note in thanks! I saw him again when I visited Portland at the end of the summer. What a wonderful character. Bem.

I decided that these fellows deserve snail mail in return.
Really, who doesn't?

And so, I created a postcard to send into the wild.
It's so gaudy, but still, I love it.

This picture makes the colors look a little funny.
It's a bit darker in real life.

Furthermore, what is this man doing selling cotton candy with snow on the ground?


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time Travel

Chicago has been my home for three years.
And I was desperate to leave yesterday (and by yesterday, I mean, a year ago).

In this regard, I am like my mother, who couldn't sit still until she was well into middle age. Truly, it feels like a sickness to me, a complete inability to be happy and stable in one place for very long. Luckily, there's a treatment.

My First Round of Treatment

In 2007, I visited India and Nepal.

Since feminist activism and social work are my passions, I could not be merely a tourist. While I was in India, I volunteered for an organization called Udayan Care and lived in a girl's home for two months serving as a mentor, tutor, and librarian. I always say, I went from being an only child, to having forty sisters. Oh, I miss these girls so much it hurts.

That's me on the left, with Kajal. <3

Being there, with such resilient, young girls and women, completely changed my life. I took hundreds of pictures while I was in India, but unfortunately, lost nearly all of them when my computer crashed back in the States. These are some of my favorites from those that were saved. No matter, I review my experience in India all of the time, in my mind, and in my dreams.

My Second Round of Treatment

I've been thinking about it a lot lately, since I've started to stir, and ache to work abroad again. My lease is up this August and I've already started searching for another organization with which I can volunteer for at least six months.

In South America.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!

For those of you that don't know me, I am an atheist.
(Please don't run away!)

I've been this way for as long as I can remember. Like many people are influenced into Christianity by their family, surely I was influenced into non-belief by mine. Of course, they gave me the freedom to attend church and develop spiritually, and I tried. But, those experiences only pushed me further into atheism.

When I was in middle school, a good friend invited me to a church lock-in. The name alone sounds terrifyingly like a grounding by your parents, but really, I had no idea into what I had gotten myself.

Fright Fest 1999.

Children were breaking down, their arms lifted up towards the spit-balled ceiling, faces beet red and stained with tears, begging for forgiveness. Think Jesus Camp. And I was effing scared. And I didn't know for what I had to be sorry.

We joined hands in a circle and the preacher asked, "Have you been saved?", like it was a threat. I thought to myself, "Saved? Saved from what?" He went on to explain, fire and brimstone, the sins of men, yadda yadda, blah blah. The preacher encouraged everyone who had been saved to leave the circle. I froze, too scared to leave the circle, too afraid to be caught in a lie.
That night, I was saved.

And I haven't gone back.

I realize that this doesn't happen everywhere. Although, nowadays, my reasons for being a non-believer/anti-religion are based on more than an emotional reaction. They're based on science, rationality, and a human rights perspective.

So, I recently decided I was going to read the Bible, just for fun.
Say what? What jew say, girl?

Yup, lately I've been studyin' good ol' Genesis. You know, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, the Tower of Babel, all of the classics!

For those of you who find the Bible to be as dry and repetitive as I do, I would recommend reading Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein in conjunction, as I am. Pure hilarity!

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Goldstein's retelling of the classics listed above. If you don't know these Bible stories, it won't be as funny. Each title is a link to the story's Wiki page, if you're interested.

Adam and Eve

Looking down at Adam, God must have felt a bit weird about the whole thing. It must have been something like eating at a cafeteria table all by yourself when a stranger suddenly sits down opposite of you, but it is a stranger you have created, and he is eating macaroni salad that you have also created, and you have been sitting at the table all by yourself for over a hundred billion years; and yet still, you have nothing to talk about (p. 13-14).

Cain and Abel

Back in those first days, things changed very quickly. A new person being born meant there was a giant spike in the population. For Cain, it made the planet feel lopsided. He watched Eve bounce the newborn [Abel] in her lap and as she cooed it, he felt the Earth's gravity tilt in their direction. It pulled at the insides of his stomach and made him seasick (p. 29).

Noah and the Ark

From what Ham had heard about God, He was a lot like his father [Noah]--tough, stubborn, and prone to yelling right in your face for pretty much no reason. A flood didn't seem that out of the question, and God would have chosen his father because his father felt just like He did: he hated his kids and was to teach them the meaning of righteousness by killing them dead. If there was going to be someone God was going to get in touch with, to Ham, Noah seemed like an obvious choice (p. 54).

The Tower of Babel

"Ut-whay e-thay ell-hay is-way oing-gay on-way?" he cried. It was as though there was a hand in his mouth, bending and curving his tongue against his will. For a long while, none of the men dared speak. For Mibzar, it was the first time in his life that his mouth felt like an enemy. The men all stood staring at one another, not knowing what to do. Finally, Mibzar broke the silence. Looking into the heavens, he said in a very quiet voice, "Od-Gay, ou-yay in-way." (p. 76-77)

If you would prefer to hear Adam and Eve read by the author, Jonathan Goldstein, listen to this episode of This American Life called Starting from Scratch.

What a joy!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Fused Plastic Grocery Bags Grocery Bag

Uh-huh, the title sounds redundant, but for real, I made a grocery bag out of fused plastic grocery bags!

Perhaps, you follow Freckled Nest? Well, I used the same technique to fuse the plastic as LA! Unfortunately, I did not have bags of different colors. My bag is less fashion, more function. I will no longer need to use a plastic bag from the grocery store again! Hoorah for being green!

After fusing a bunch of plastic bags, I trimmed the edges of each rectangular piece so they were straight and saved the trimmings (including the handles and bottoms of the bags I cut off in the beginning), which I will use for a future craft project. Don't you throw them away! Think of all the things they can stuff (hint, hint)!

After trimming all of the pieces to near the same size, I started sewing them together using a zig-zag stitch (just cause I like it). This was really a wing-it kind of project. Once I had sewed together enough pieces to form one bag-sized side, I sewed more pieces to create the other side, which I measured against the first side for length and width. They turned out relatively the same. Heh.

To create the straps, I cut strips from plastic I had already fused, doubled it over for strength, and sewed the edges together.

With two sides and straps, all that's left is to sew those sections together to create the tote!

Oh, dear. I apologize for the pictureless tutorial! And I am a visual learner, too! I will make up for it next time, lovelies! Forgive?


Friday, February 19, 2010


Attended my friend Joshua's Fluxus art show this weekend.

I know very little about Fluxus (1962 - 1978, or 1962 - Present, depending on who you talk to), but from what I gather, it's an art movement influenced by the spirit of dada. The same anti-art, DIY attitude that pokes fun at the pretentious world of art. This attitude, I dig.

I was late for the main performance (common to Fluxus) , but it appeared to be a blast as I searched for a parking spot. I was able to witness Fluxus boxes, an art form closely associated to the movement. The fluxus boxes at the gallery were small, wooden boxes filled with word clippings from magazines and newspapers. The idea is that you would put the words together to build your own sentences, in this case, your own obituaries. Traditional fluxus boxes often include games, cards, and ideas.


Really, I was most impressed by the gallery space.

A stamp museum/manufacturer called Stampland!

Tables and walls lined with gorgeous, in-store made stamps! Wowee, some of these stamps were amazingly detailed. The line work flabbergasted me so totally that I, of course, needed to receive an explanation of the process of making stamps! William "Picasso" Gaglione, the owner of Stampland, made it sound so simple.

The process, from top (the beginning) to bottom (the product).

Basically and without technical terms, Picasso uses the metal plate on the left, which is made with the image elsewhere, but requested by Picasso, to print the image on the brown, linoleum-like plate in the middle using the machine (heat source) you see below (which is made with a car jack?!). Next, Picasso uses recycled rubber pressed against the brown, linoleum-like plate to create the stamp you see on the right. Afterwards, Picasso cuts away the excess rubber, stamps the top of a wood block and allows it to dry for near twenty-four hours. And finally, using a double-sided, adhesive material, Picasso attaches the rubber stamp to the wooden block.

Michael and I wandered around, with our jaws on the floor, browsing stamps the entire time we were there. There were so many, it's overwhelming!

Can you blame us?
Fluxus who, what?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

o <--- Pluto




Winter Blues

Winter crampin' your style?
Mine, too.

View of last week's Chicago blizzard from my front door. Did you know that there was snow in every state at the same time this year?

What do you miss?
I miss bicycle rides that require no more than my epidermis.
I miss strolling down slush-free side walks whistling a tune.
I miss laying in the grass cross-legged, squinting with the sun in my eyes.
I miss when I could walk into a building and still see through my glasses.
I miss curb sitting in front of my favorite cafe with a coffee.
I miss craft projects best (and most easily) done outdoors.
I miss sweating so hard you feel purified.
I miss summer festivals.
I miss exposed toes.
I miss vitamin D.

My poor bike that I neglected to bring in before the storm. The damage is done. How sad. I call it my bikecicle.

Don't get me wrong.
I also totally adore winter.

It is gorgeous, for about .2 seconds in the city, before the cars and pollution and people turn the snow brown.
I can comfortably wear color-coordinating cardigans and tights with everything.

I get to make puns like "abominable snow van" when vehicles become buried.
I get to throw things at people without offending them much.
I can hibernate in my living room under a blanket, drinking herbal tea and reading, for hours without feeling a bit of guilt for being a hermit.

Really, winter is quite magical.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gifts from Gramps

Visited my gee-pah a couple of weekends ago.

Michael joined me for the first time. We drank wine all night and talked history and politics in the sun room. I felt so warm and comfortable and happy to be with them. My grandpa is full of stories that I'd like to remember forever, even when he's gone (as a child, I always thought he was invincible and that he'd outlive us all). He's the clingy type, too, saving odds and ends, magazine clippings, vintage art, and photographs (about which I will be writing a completely separate post), and I love him for it.

The sun room.

Sometimes it takes some coaxing, but my grandfather is very generous despite his attachment to his possessions. While I was there, Michael and I explored the house and found some beautiful items my grandfather had stored away unused. Of course, with a couple of pokes, he handed them over to moi. I am very excited to share these gifts here, as well as to have them at all!

Stained glass, antique lamp. AHHH!, isn't it gorgeous? I absolutely could not believe he gave this up. The base weighs an effin' ton and the shade is really fragile! Actually, one of the stained glass panes broke awhile back, but my grandfather saved all of the (itty-bitty) broken pieces to be glued together. This is my project.

What kind of glue do you think I should use?

In high school, I decided my favorite word was cacophony. This poster is the source.

My grandpa had it sitting on his bathroom counter, silly man! I had to have it, it being a bit of my linguistic history. Toad Hollow is a brand of wine and this is a poster of the label for Cacophony, it's Zinfandel. Pretty jazzy, too. I am a wine and jazz sort of gal. It reminds me of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, an animated film featuring Bing Crosby as the narrator that I adored as a child.

And, the finale!

Ooooooo, aaaaahhhh.
A Canon AE-1 SLR in mint(ish) condition! An old I-don't-know-what-kind-of flash! A nameless, cloudy zoom lens! To be frank, I don't know very much about cameras, but I like taking pictures, so I am truly looking forward to exploring the city to experiment! So exciting! Michael challenged me to a pitcha-takin' contest and I've totally got it won.

Sharing is caring.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Dangers of an Unattended Laundry Bin

I have better things to do than laundry, thank you very much!
But, what a disaster. My clothes are piling high in my closet nowadays and I am doing the sniff test on everything just to get by this week. Seriously, dirty clothing avalanches, dirty clothing tornadoes, dirty clothing flooding my house. What's a girl to do?


Michael and I went on a bit of a shopping spree this past weekend, at which point I picked up some interesting fabric from Jo-Ann's:

And with the recent clothing crisis I'm experiencing, I decided to make a skirt. The first piece of clothing I have ever made in my entire life, mind you, no kidding!

I am new to the whole self-timer, self-portrait process, and terribly uncomfortable in front of cameras, so don't mind the slightly blasé look on my face. The skirt looks uneven, it isn't, I'm just standing with one of my knees bent. Just your standard knee-length A-line, with some felt pocket embellishments in the front. Honestly, I would have liked to embellish the skirt more, but I needed to wear it to work today! What do you think? The only issue I have is the way it lays on my tummy and lower back. Because I used elastic for the waistband, it has just a bit of unflattering poofiness in those areas, which I will manage to avoid once I learn how to sew a damn zipper (Vogue Fabric sewing classes starting March 7th, yay).

I will leave you with something I bought at SalvArmy during our shopping spree, as well. Framed pressed flowers for two dolla, dolla bills, ya'll.

Pretty, pretty.