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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Color Popping up Everywhere (March 31, 2012)

In the last few days I’ve come across more of Bryan’s stop sign flowers. But I’ve also spotted other flowers grown for public enjoyment. They are not made of yarn but of fabric, and I’ve seen three of them in two local parks. The colors are bright and the patterns are playful. I have an idea of who is behind them, but if a flower grows and no one sees it happen, who can say for sure?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Secrets of a Mall Bunny (March 29, 2012)

Among the jobs I’ve held over the years one standout provides a good story. I was a 25-year-old artist who needed a financial booster shot before the next scheduled painting gig. My salvation came under the category of “Seasonal Work” in the Reader’s employment section. It was early spring and the listing was for a photographer at the Easter Bunny Booth at Parkway Plaza mall. I suppose the photography angle made the job seem more artistic than flipping burgers or selling socks. I liked kids and the gig fit my need for short-term work: for 3 or 4 weekends leading up to Easter I would snap photos of kids as they sat with the real Easter Bunny!

The logistics of getting The Easter Bunny from the dressing room to the booth were a team effort. We Bunny Helpers changed into our pastel shirts in a vacant store, while the Easter Bunny straightened his ears and cleaned his whiskers. We escorted the bunny to the booth and if kids approached us we’d explain that Bunny didn’t talk but could wave hello, do High-Fives and hug. We corrected the teens that told kids that there was a person in the bunny suit. I’ll let you in on a Bunny Booth secret, but only if you promise not to tell anyone under the age of twelve. Here it is: yes, our bunny actually was a person in a bunny suit. Obviously, the real Easter Bunny was busy at Bunny Headquarters, overseeing the egg-painting, candy-making, and basket assembly. He sent a representative out instead, but let’s keep this secret from the kids.

The reality of the photography gig was a little lacking. There were long stretches of time when no kids came. I was bored. These were the days before digital cameras and our Polaroid-type camera malfunctioned a lot, producing blurry photos. The re-circulated mall air was stuffy. And did I mention that a lot of kids are downright petrified of a 6-foot tall bunny? Kids would cry, scream and run away from the bunny as frazzled parents coaxed, cajoled and pleaded with them to sit for just a minute! Babies were tricky. To get their attention, I’d wave a toy with one hand while rying to operate the camera with the other as I called to the babies to look at me. “This way! Right here! Coochie-Coo! Please?”

One day things got a little more interesting for me. The lady in the bunny suit started feeling dizzy. She was on a diet drug that didn’t agree with the 110-degree sauna inside the white fur suit. I volunteered to finish her shift as Bunny, upgrading a teen-aged Bunny Helper to replace me as the Big-Shot Photographer. In our fluorescent-lit Bunny Changing Room I pulled on the fuzzy white jumpsuit and removed my shoes to slip on fur flippers. Bunny’s head was as big as the spherical noggin in the Jack-in-the-Box commercials. Bunny wasn’t supposed to talk but its smiling mouth had a dark screen I could see out of. Welcome to Show Biz! We set out toward center stage and I took my Oath of Silence. I was already sweating but there were kids who needed their Easter Photos. The show must go on!

My time as Bunny was only an hour or two but I remember it clearly even today, thirteen Easters later. Maybe some of the kids I sat with remember our meeting too. The ones who weren’t scared really liked posing for photos. I think a few might have kissed me. When the booth closed that afternoon, I walked back to the Bunny Dressing Room, because Easter Bunnies don’t hop. I removed the oversized head and cool air hit my red, damp face. Ahhhhhhh. Relief. My brief character career was fun but it was time to retire from Bunnyhood. A year later the photography company contacted me to reprise my role in the booth but I politely declined. After all, a lady bunny always knows when to leave.

Easter Tree (March 29, 2012)

As you may know, I can’t resist an opportunity to decorate out front. Easter is coming and I needed to bring some fun color to the yard. Do the neighborhood dogs (and their owners) notice all the accessories I put in our tree as they walk by? (It’s said that dogs don’t see the range of color humans do so they probably wouldn’t feel excited about happy-colored plastic eggs.) Either way, I get a kick out of it, the kids like it, and if it brightens the neighborhood, that’s great too. Being obsessed with color, I love that plastic eggs are intense shades. So armed with some yarn, $5 worth of eggs and my trusty hot-glue gun, I got to work.

Here are a few photos of the front of our house.

This next photo is not of our place. Over the weekend I drove by a house with big, festive decorations on the lawn. I did a u-turn and went back to take photos. Were they piƱatas? The eggs were as big as beach balls. The lawn ornaments were the size of kids! Such gusto. These are my people!
I know that Easter is about much more than bunnies and eggs. But I also think it’s great to enjoy the more playful side of it. If it brings smiles to faces, how can that be wrong? Spring is rebirth in all kinds of ways. If I can bring color and enthusiasm to my neighborhood, that feels good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love Thy Neighborhood (Mar. 27, 2012)

Two days ago I saw this groovy trailer parked in a driveway a few blocks away. I had my camera with me, since you never know when you’ll spot something surprising, and I took a photo. The trailer hadn’t been there before. Or maybe it had. Maybe its cheery paint job was new. I tend to notice cars and trailers from that era because I like their shapes. I love the individuality expressed in the swirls of bright colors. Moments like this make me really love my neighborhood. It’s a mix. Some houses could really use a makeover by HGTV’s Curb Appeal. But that’s okay. I like that we’re not 100% polished around here. Our funkiness shows and I embrace it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hall Pass? (March 23, 2012)

It’s coming. I’ve known it was coming for a while and I had mixed feelings, to be honest. I speak of my 20th high school reunion.

(Side note: I’m not even sure if I truly want to blog about this. I’m not as Bare It All in my blogging as my friend Ed is, and I’m not sure if this is a topic meant more for my own internal archeologist: sifting through the contents, discarding what is moot, and examining what may have meaning. But who knows? Maybe musing about this in public is even better. All humans have certain things in common and for many of us, reunions present a tricky juggle. Perhaps an honest chat about it is just what is needed…)

I’m always curious about why people (me included) feel what they feel. I’m also interested in what ties people together, uniting us despite all our many potential differences. Hesitation about reunions seems to be one of these nearly-universal issues. The numbers alone seem to suggest this. A small percentage of graduates go to reunions. Is this because the majority of the class doesn’t care to step back into those days, in any way? Obviously, some people live too far away to attend. (But Hubby’s classmate traveled overseas to attend their 20th, so distance isn’t always a
deal-breaker.) Others may not have the means to travel, can’t get the time off work, or are
recovering from surgery. But among those who live close enough to attend, and who have the time and ability, why do so few graduates go to reunions? Is it that high school can be a bittersweet memory? It was hard enough to get through those gawky years. Perhaps people don’t want to return to the scene of the crime. Is it fear of judgment? No one wants to be judged. I can relate to that. One reason I felt nervous about going to our reunion is because my career has hit a slow patch (and by slow patch I mean pot-holed, unpaved road covered with vines, filled with hidden quicksand patches. That kind of slow patch. Hey, I understand that people aren’t calling me to paint murals for them while everyone is feeling their way our of this recession. But it’s still hard on my ego!). Reunions will include a lot of conversations starting with this phrase: “What do you do?” It’s hard enough to be in a career slump without having to answer questions about it all night long.

About six months ago I hoped I could breath enough life into my career so that I’d have something good to say about it at the reunion. Well, at some point I decided not to waste too much energy on that. I decided instead to go anyway, and realized that being honest about my career slump could be a way to bond with others. Take the pressure of competition away and it’s easier to connect with people.

Somehow I found myself volunteering to email our class about the reunion. I’ve sent a few emails and several people are interested. I feel more excited. The connection with people from those days is playing louder than any doubts I had. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Under Cover of Darkness (March 21, 2012)

They grow overnight, these magic flowers. Within two days I saw three of these giant beauties sprout within blocks of our place. They seemed to be everywhere. They are green yarn creations, transforming stop signs into cheerful seven-foot flowers. I wondered who was behind them, and whether s/he lived nearby.

A year ago I became aware of a similar flower growing out of a corner, and I learned the name of this phenomenon: yarn bombing. Some call it urban knitting. Apparently it is a movement that has grown all around the world in the six years since its seeds were planted. The phenomenon began when Magda Sayek, founder of Knitta Please, brought together knitters in the fall of 2005 to experiment with yarn bombing. Sometimes the bombing is a small gesture that brightens the faces of a few people, like Magda’s first piece, which covered a doorknob. Other times something large is yarn bombed in a big metropolitan city, where thousands see it and its photo is transmitted all over the world. One notable example happened in October 2011 in the middle of the night, because the element of surprise creates more impact. It happened in Manhatten. She came under cover of darkness, armed with materials for change. Artist Olek visited the Astor Place Cube, dressing it in this crochet coat.

(photo courtesy of The Village Voice)

One thing I find intriguing about Olek's choice of the cube as muse is that it is so hard-edged, and there’s a captivating contrast when dark, square-cornered steel meets soft, multicolored yarn. Wrapping it with yarn simultaneously softens the pointy corners of the cube and enunciates them.

Reasons I like the idea of yarn-bombing popping up around the world:

It’s colorful.
It’s playful, and not too serious.
It’s funky.
It’s imaginative.
It’s interactive.
It’s inexpensive public art available for all to enjoy.
It’s art you can touch. No velvet ropes to keep viewers away.
It’s a new take on things we see everyday.
There's thought-provoking contrast between an old-fashioned practice (knitting) and a modern setting (the world at large).

Putting material in unexpected places is not a completely new phenomenon. Remember Christo’s use of fabric to transform hillsides, palaces and even islands all over the world? Among many other international projects, Christo’s Surrounding Islands (1980-3) installation involved the use of floating pink woven polypropylene fabric in the Biscayne Bay off Miami:
Christo and his wife-collaborator (the late Jean-Claude) are environmental artists. Each of the works is designed specifically in reference to the site of installation. Bright colors often have been used against a neutral- or dark-colored backdrop (building or landscape), producing a pop of

Many artists install art outdoors but most pieces have a more permanent construction. Christo’s pieces were intended to be temporary, just as yarn-bombed objects will not keep their knitted coats forever. They cannot have the 2000-year lifespan of sequoia trees. The elements cause them to fray and so they are like beautiful flowers you enjoy for a season. Christo had to go through rigorous planning and approval processes in bringing about his giant installations. This is in contrast to yarn bombing, which largely is not a pre-approved project, and which seems to spring up overnight.

The more I thought about the stop-sign flowers growing in my neighborhood, the more curious I became about them. After a little online sleuthing I learned that a local guy named Bryan (“Knitting Guy”) is their creator. He grew up locally and wants to add a little color to the rows of
tract houses that characterize this part of town. He has made forty of them in the last year, with plans to “grow” twenty more with the help of donations. (If I staked out Michael’s craft store long enough, would I figure out who this mystery man is? First I’d analyze the men coming out of Michael’s, since they are a small group as it is. When I had a suspect, I’d peek in his bags for
large amounts of green yarn, and then I’d make my move. Being the quick ninja I am, I’d grab his yarn, tie his arms to his sides with it, and demand to know whether he’s the Knitting Guy. But staking out a yarn junkie sounds time-consuming, so instead I’ll simply appreciate his works and possibly bump into him at Target someday.)

Today I spotted more of Bryan’s creations. I’ll be on the lookout for other treats for the public to enjoy, and I’ll keep you posted.

For now, I’ll share a few photos of creative yarn bombing I found online (if you have several weeks with nothing to do there’s a treasure trove of pictures to check out). Enjoy!

Tree cozy by Carol Hummel:
Smart Car (maybe yarn-wrapped engines stay extra warm and are even more fuel-efficient):

This bus stop is outdoors 24/7 and clearly needed some warmth:
If your bus stop has been yarn bombed, you need a yarn-covered bus to go with it:
Bus was yarn bombed by Magda Sayeg in Mexico City.
(photo courtesy of BNPS The Telegraph)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Time, Y'all! (March 20, 2012)

The calender says it's the first official day of spring. Flowers and new leaves have been peeking out of their hiding places for a month or so, as seen in this photo of a neighbor's front garden. Having the calender confirm spring's arrival makes me feel extra happy that this season is here. It's so full of life, newness, color and light. Spring is a free wonder-drug, courtesy of Mama Nature!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shamrockin' and Rollin' (March 17, 2012)

You know me. Any excuse to make a costume. It's St. Patrick's Day and I didn't need much of a nudge to get crazy with the shamrocks. Way fun, and now I have a shirt to wear every March 17. It's ridiculously easy. Get some felt (very inexpensive and does not fray, plus it comes in a bazillion different colors). Snip, snip. Sew. Repeat. (This could be done with fabric glue if one prefers.) Best done when one has lots of boring chores to put off in the name of creating a costume!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lady Bug Jane (March 3, 2012)

Lady Bug Jane
Limerick #5

Jane decorates cakes in all shades of the rainbow.
She’s thirty-three and grew up in Idaho.
She left for New Orleans with what fit in her jeep
And speaks with a Southern drawl in her sleep.
Jane has fifty-four ladybugs tattooed from head to toe.

Thus concludes my mini-series of five limericks. They were fun to create, although some were trickier than others. There’s the challenge of rhyming certain lines, as well as fitting in the five phrases I chose randomly for the limerick. A good brain exercise, although I’ll admit it’s a relief to be able to get back to the kind of blogging I usually do: chatting about whatever crosses my mind rather than fulfilling an assignment. After all, isn’t my blog intended to be a refuge from the parts of my life that are less flexible? My blog is supposed to be an antidote for the rules (self-imposed or otherwise) that apply to most of my life. So it’s back to blogging about this-and-that, posing questions into the blogosphere, and rambling about my creative ideas. I think the next one will be extra random!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Candy Land (March 2, 2012)

For more than a month spring has been tiptoeing into Southern California, and now it is swirling all around. Colors are everywhere and each morning I noticing more growth. I’ve been dropped into Candy Land, where trees aren’t brown and green; they are bright shades of colors so intense
you want to eat them. I feel like a kid staring at a world made of sparkly, translucent candy. Here’s a tree that glittered like rock candy:
One bright morning I was nearly blinded by the glow off a flowering pear tree. It was a cloud of dazzling white snowflakes.
In the early morning sunshine, someone's lemons flashed and twinkled like baseball-sized jewels.
Sun shone through my neighbor's lavender blossoms, turning them into a bouquet of glossy purple lollipops.
Spring is awesome.