Receive this blog. Enter email here and Blogger will send you a confirmation email.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Walk and Roll (May 30, 2011)

It's Memorial Day today. Thank you to those who died while working in the US military.

Today we went to a parade. I hadn't been to one in ages and it was a lot of fun. There were vintage cars, dancers and floats. The parade included groups walking dogs, people waving from convertibles, and kids on bikes and unicycles (this amazes me as it seems like unicycle-riding would be very tricky to learn).

All kinds of fun costumes, too. This dog wasn't part of the parade but was dressed to celebrate.

Here's my favorite photo. What it has to do with Memorial Day I don't know. But it gave me a very good laugh!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Downsizing to a Condo (May 27, 2011)

So I’m on a downsizing mission. In theory.

But I had a few minutes to kill the other day and popped into a thrift store in a funky neighborhood near where I lived in my single days. I asked at the front if they had buttons for my wearable art projects. ‘Though they had no buttons, I decided to browse. I’d forgotten how big this thrift store is and it was fun to wander through. I told myself to be very selective. After all, I’m on a downsizing mission. Immediately I saw an interesting wooden something. You could call it a shelf or a knickknack holder. But I saw its potential right away. It was clear to me that I was looking at a plant condo.

(Side note: Miriam Webster’s people will be calling soon to ask for my thumbs-up on including “plant condo” in the next edition. I haven’t heard the term before but it just seems to fit the structure I was looking at that day. It has little shelves to hold little potted plants, and would look completely cool outside. I’m not into collecting knickknacks/tchotchkes/brick-a-brack, but the little sections seemed perfect for plant display! As in condominium living, there are neighbors next door, above and below, and they all live together, but in their own area. Voila! It’s a plant condo!)

I could tell this piece had been made by a person rather than by a complicated and efficient machine somewhere overseas. That personal touch appealed to me. At $3 it was the perfect price and although I’m on a downsizing mission (really, I am!), certain things are just meant to go home with me. Shopping and accumulating just to amass more…mass—well, that does not appeal to me. But getting a great price on a handmade piece that will bring me happiness every day when I see it holding my plants—that’s different from simply adding to your stockpile.

I painted the piece brown, which contrasts with the cheery yellow of our house. I’ve installed the plant condo on the side of our garage, which is near our front door, and every time I leave the house I will see it. From my big collection of succulents, I chose a few pots to display in the condo. Two sit in tea cups (also from thrift stores), which is just plain fun.

And yes, if you want to be technical, I have added to what I own. But I just brought another two bags of stuff I don’t need any more to the thrift store yesterday, so my overall amount of stuff is diminishing. Because, in case you haven’t heard, I really am on a downsizing mission!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Button Overdose? (May 24, 2011)

If overdosing is dangerous, would an overindulgence in buttons be bad? Impossible!

A few days ago I met up with the owner of a custom clothing store, went into the adjacent storage building, and pored over buttons. Thousands of them. And it was awesome.

The owner is closing his business after twenty years to pursue another one. So he has buttons he doesn’t need. Buttons I need.

“Need,” you say? Well, yes. It’s not a need like water, food or medicine. But I need to feel artistically inspired, and let me tell you, in a nondescript warehouse, surrounded by bags and boxes full of buttons, I was inspired. Lately I’ve been experimenting with fabric and buttons, creating wearable art, and so this button surplus came across my radar at the perfect time.

He’s selling buttons at a great price and I left with one hundred or so. Some are part of a set and others are not matched. I have ideas for both types.

The selection was dominated by white plastic and gray metal buttons. Although I’m obsessed with color, I really liked the designs on the buttons and decided that white or metal buttons would contrast well against the bright colors I will use in my designs.

Some have amazing detail, like this squirrel button. The dime shows how small these buttons are, yet they are so full of detail.

On a philosophical note, you know what’s cool about buttons? Buttons are so ordinary, so easily overlooked. We use them every day but probably don’t think about them once our clothes are fastened. But they have the potential to be amazing decorative features, adding a great finishing touch to a piece of clothing or to a piece of art. As an artist, I think it’s fun to see what can be done with ordinary objects from daily life. Look around you. The things you never think about, the things that seem merely functional—these are art projects, just waiting to be discovered…

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dressed for Spring (May 14, 2011)

This is a brooch I made yesterday. (Note: the word 'brooch" seems too old-fashioned for the 21st century but maybe that's a topic unto itself and deserves its own blog entry.) I realized recently how many talented crafters exist. Blogger alone has an enormous number of people posting their imaginative crafts. I felt inspired and decided to make a flamingo pin out of felt and beads and feathers. This pin is approximately 4 inches tall and very lightweight, unlike a lot of brooches. Flamingos are my favorite animal and it was really fun creating one out of fabric. I may post photos of how it looked in its various stages but for now, here is the star of the day, the playful, colorful, always fashionable flamingo!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Dangers of Downsizing (May 14, 2011)

Downsizing can be great. You’re parting with what you don’t need any more, getting back to basics, giving away rather than receiving.

However, there is a problem with downsizing, at least for me.

My intentions were so good. I spent parts of the last two days going through things in my art studio/storage room/baby room, finding things I hadn’t seen in years. I started a bag for donation and today I drove five items to the nearby thrift store. I actually donate there a few times a month, often bringing only a few things. This may seem weird to some but it’s less than a mile out of my way and it works better than storing tons of stuff and making one big annual donation. There’s no room to store donations here, which is part of why I’m donating: because there’s not even enough room for stuff I don’t want to donate!

Today I dropped my bag of stuff at the thrift store and that’s where the trouble began.

Sometimes I drop and dash but today I brought and browsed, and therein lays the problem. Browsing can lead to buying, and that’s just what I did.

I should pause a moment and say that I am not one of those women who loves to shop. I sometimes go many, many months without buying something new. But I am an artist, I want to look different and wear clothes that feel like art, and this is where the magic of thrift stores comes in. Recently I’ve been more interested in vintage items, but I’ve always been drawn toward color and pattern and fun-looking clothes. I can hand-sew interesting details on them, or alter them to look how I want. In thrift stores there aren’t racks of the same item in various sizes. Finding something you love, and that fits, is like a treasure hunt. You also may find things that have history and you don’t find that in regular stores.

In my defense, the number of things I bought (three) is less than the number I donated (five), and the overall mass of what I bought is much less than that of which I donated. It may appear that I’m rationalizing, but actually I’m just explaining. You see, rationalizing involves denial and I’m not in denial. I know that there is a teensy problem with the notion of downsizing and immediately restocking. But I’m not yet a candidate for the reality show “Hoarders” so for now I’ll simply focus on the positive:

· Donating frees my home of stuff I don’t need.
· Donating allows the new owner to get something at low cost, which is helpful in a recession.
· Donating helps the local thrift stores make profit, which helps the community.

At the thrift store today I bought a sweater with a vintage feel (empire waist and ¾-length sleeves) as well as two t-shirts to use for my ongoing experiment with batik (see my entry from May 3), all for less than $10. But the issue remains that my downsizing is hitting a speed bump. So maybe I can use today’s spontaneous purchases as incentive to search through my stuff again and make another donation soon. Now, if I donate ten items, how many am I allowed to get? Just kidding. But the next time I donate I may leave my cash at home, just in case…

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Let's Play Dress-Up (May 8, 2011)

A few nights ago I put clothes on fruit. This is not particularly weird, given that I put paint on vegetables.

Recently I blogged about doing batik in the shape of a pineapple (see “Aloha” from May 3) and I joked about a Mr. Pineapple Head toy. But later that night I realized that there might be some real opportunity in the concept. I felt compelled to see what a pineapple would look like wearing clothes and accessories.

No, I do not have too much time on my hands! It’s quite the opposite. When you have a lot of responsibilities, it’s important to take a little time to do things that just make you laugh.

If Hasbro can accessorize a potato and make a zillion dollars off it, I certainly think Pineapple People has a shot! Here are the creations I came up with:

Ms. Pineapple Head

Wall Street Pineapple Head

Rock Star Pineapple Head

Officer Pineapple Head

Snowboarder Pineapple Head

Hippie Pineapple Head

Tropical Vacation Pineapple Head

Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Not Slow. Just Not Rushed. (May 3, 2011)

Just last week I made the radical claim that snails are cool. (See my Spring Critters piece from 4/26.)

I’m a gardener, so you might think I detest snails.

Not so.

I think they’re groovy. I like that they carry their house on their back. I’m intrigued by how much they meander to get from point A to point B. They nearly go in circles. Did they not take Geometry? Do they not know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? Maybe their refusal to do things the fastest, most efficient way is one reason I like them. They take the scenic route.

My son showed me a Lego snail his friend gave him recently. Yes, Lego now makes snails. You heard it here. It’s pretty cute.

Last week while searching online for snail photos, I stumbled across some fun pictures of art work by Slinkachu, a London-based graffiti artist. Slinkachu has painted and played with snail shells for his series ‘Inner City Snail – a slow-moving street art project'. The artist used non-toxic paints, and what I presume was a very narrow detail brush. But I must ask this: how do you ask a snail to stay still during his make-over? Do you paint only when he’s asleep? How do you know when he’s asleep? How do you know if he feels okay with your artistic concept? Did he crawl across the contract, leaving a dotted line of assent instead of a signature, giving his slime of approval to the project?

I must admit that my recent interest in snails includes only what I have observed about them, and I have no knowledge of why they leave the dotted trail. Is it an homage to Hansel and Gretel? Please hold while I do some research.

I’m back with snail trivia. Come on. You know you want to know this! Things I learned:

· It turns out that the goo you see behind snails actually helps them to move.
· The goo is a sticky mucous, which allows them to climb walls.
· They travel at the speed of 50 yards per hour (less slow than I would have guessed!).
· Snails reach maturity in one to two years.

One of these days I may do some snail art (not painting their actual shells but painting their likenesses). Of course, I have a long to do list these days, so this project may take a snail’s pace.

Aloha! (May 3, 2011)

After my first happy success with batik, I was excited to do more practice projects on smaller pieces of fabric before advancing to batiking actual clothing.

A few days ago I waxed and painted this image of a pineapple and was really happy with the result until I rinsed it. What I realized too late was that a lot of dye comes out of the fabric when you boil it to remove the wax, so the finished product did not have the intensity of color I thought it would. Next time I’ll use darker dye. I also will crumple the fabric more so that the wax breaks up more, leaving tiny lines of color between the waxed areas. Even if it’s not 100% how I wanted it, I still like how it turned out, and I love the new technique I’m learning.

I liked the surprises that emerged at the end. There’s always an element of unpredictability when you work with dye, which is part of the fun for me. I like the accidental drops of wax that fell on the stem of the pineapple. These imperfections make it more interesting to look at.

Why a pineapple? I’ve always liked the taste of it, but it was only a few years ago when I realized how much I like it as a symbol. I like that it signifies welcome, a positive message. But mostly I love how it looks! Pineapples are yellow, which is one of my favorite colors because it is so cheerful. The skin of the pineapple has such unusual texture, too. There is so much detail in its skin—the geometric shapes and pattern, the various colors on the outside. Even the stem fascinates me. If a pineapple’s golden oval shape is a face, the spiky green stem is its hair, a fun punk-rocker mohawk. This fruit is a lot more playful-looking than most fruits. I dig that. Maybe Hasbro should make a Mr. Pineapple Head toy.

Fiber Arts (May 3, 2011)

Did you paint your vegetables today?

I did.

Some Napa cabbage I had in the veggie drawer didn’t make it. We ate at least half of it but I forgot the other half was there and I discovered that something was growing on it. Off to the composter. But wait! Eureka! I realized that I needed to dip my toe further into the vegetable painting world. (I’d experimented with using cabbage stems and celery stalk stems as stamps before but there was more experimenting to be done.)

If you’ve ever really looked at vegetable stems, you’ve noticed the stem is packed with fun shapes. The parts closest to the stem are the densest parts, and there are twists and turns and squiggles and rosettes as the stalk becomes a leaf.

I found it fascinating how intricate the folds and twists of the stem are.

The paint shows how many parts are within the stem. I experimented with stamping the bigger parts of the stem, as well as the small parts, which created rosettes half an inch wide.

Remember your parents telling you not to play with your food? Well, this project is proof that playing with food is okay! Maybe if kids dipped a cross-section of cabbage into pasta sauce and made prints on their plate, they would be more excited about eating their vegetables. See, kids? Fiber is fun!

Wax On, Wax Off (May 3, 2011)

Who can resist a reference to 1980s films? If this one passed you by, I’m referencing Ralph Macchio’s karate instructions in Karate Kid. Poor guy. He had to wax a whole fleet of cars, all in the name of learning karate moves. Semi circle with the left hand (wax on), semi circle with the right (wax off.)

But folks, I’m really here to talk to you about batik. Even if you didn’t know what it was called, you’ve seen batik. It’s a technique of creating art using fabric, dye and hot wax. I’m fascinated by it.

If you want to learn to batik, go to:

On their site I learned a little about the history of batik:
“It is thought that the word batik has been derived from the word ‘ambatik,’ which translates as‘cloth with little dots’. It is a method of applying designs onto waxing the parts that are to remain without dye…Examples of batik can be traced back over 1,500 years to Egypt and the Middle East. Samples have also been found from previous centuries in India, Japan, Turkey and China.”

For six months or more, “teach self to batik” was on my 2011 to do list. A few days ago I finally did it.

Well, if we’re being honest here (and why share your personal thoughts and experiences in a blog if you’re not going to be honest?!), there was one other attempt about a month ago. It was not what I’d call successful. Technically, I did apply hot wax to fabric, followed by a soak of dye. And technically, there is a pattern on the fabric. But the design is barely visible and it was kind of disappointing. Once I found the Newcastle tutorial, I realized that the first website I’d checked out had left out three important tips. Now armed with the essential tips, I was on to Take Two. Much more satisfying!

First I experimented by creating a large-ish paisley shape and I just had fun with it. This was on a sample piece of cotton (1 foot by 1 foot in size), to get the hang of it. Next week I’m going to batik two shirts that have been waiting in my closet for the last month. Wax is cheap and once you know what to do, it’s not hard. It’s fun and as an artist, I love learning techniques, especially ones that make my wardrobe a collection of wearable art. The removal of the wax is a little less exciting (and more tedious) than applying it, but it’s exciting to see the results.

My “wax on, wax off” reference is very timely, actually. I’m learning to batik at the same time that Ralph Macchio is competing on my favorite tv show, Dancing with the Stars. He works hard and I like that dude. (Please hold while I research something. I’m back.) Adding further to the symbolism of the connection between Ralph and batik is this: I know some Italian but didn’t know what “Macchio” meant. (It should be pronounced “MAH-key-oh” but this isn’t the first time in history that names have been butchered or mispronounced.) I knew it derived from “macchiare,” and the online dictionary I consulted says this means “to mark or stain.” Hello! Batik involves staining fabric! Is this a sign? Maybe I should batik a karate headband for Ralph as a good luck charm on the show…