Sunday, April 7, 2019

Installation: Souvenirs of the Bay Area Housing Crisis

Installation in news stand, Oakland, CA

I don't know how people are faring in your part of the world, but here in the San Francisco Bay Area we have an acute housing crisis, with locals being pushed out and homeless camps growing larger every day. Thus this little installation piece in an empty newsstand.

The first step was to create a living room suite. Regarding the dollhouse furniture, I've found you can learn to make anything if you Google it and believe you can.

Creating a little living room suite

The "rug" is from a fabric sample book, the lampshade is from a wallpaper sample book, the table is driftwood. The lamp base is a tiny urn and the table below is a circle of scrap wood atop an old spool of thread. The base supports for table, chair and couch are beads from a sandlewood necklace. The pillows are stuffed with sand so that they have weight and slump more naturally atop the furniture.




Battery-operated tea light inside of lamp

Driftwood table

I am aware that once installed, this piece will probably be picked apart in short order. I decided to go with the flow on the spontaneous destruction of the piece by the viewing public, and placed a label under every piece of furniture and even the rug, so that the take-away carries a little message.

I also made a  real estate promo sign for the top of the newsstand.

Promo sign for top of news stand

The Installation:

The newsstand I picked is one not yet obscured by graffiti on the front plastic panel, located in a heavily trafficked neighborhood on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland, right in front of Peets and across the street from Arizmendi. This SF Weekly newsstand is stocked every Thursday, but is usually out of papers by Friday afternoon, leaving it temptingly empty and ready for action the rest of the week.

The newsstand in an ideal location

Installation complete

A view through the front window

With the door open


And when we are done installing? Why we just walk away.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Fused Plastic Chinese Lantern Restoration

Antique lantern with fused plastic panels

Welcome back to what is apparently a lifelong project: creative restoration of an antique Chinese lantern. To see and read more about earlier versions of this lantern, see Chinese Lantern Backstory. To see a range of pieces I've done by ironing recycled plastic bags together, see Fused Plastic.

Originally pieced together from a crate of broken pieces salvaged from an Asian arts store, the lantern is delicate and a bit rickety. This is the third time since I've owned it that I have had to replace all of the panels. The panels from the last rendition, also fused plastic, had faded from vivid colors to a dull milky white.  Below, the repair begins. You can see the old, faded panels still on the lantern.

Under repair
The next series of photos offer a revolving view of the latest restoration and the new fused plastic panels.

Restored - View A

Restored - View B

Restored - View C

Restored - View D

At this point, you may be sated and should feel free to wander away. For those intrigued by what you can do by fusing plastic bags together with a little judiciously applied heat from your iron, stick around. Below are details of each of the panels.

Bottom 1

Bottom 2

Bottom 3

Bottom 4

Bottom 5
And here are some top panel details.

Top panel 1

Top panel 2

Top panel 3

Top panel 4

Add caption

For those who have waded through all of these images, here is a quickie, dead-simple tutorial on making your own fused plastic:

1. Collect colorful, interesting plastic bags, plastic wrappings, plastic whatever. But save the plain plastic too; you'll need it for your bottom layers.

2. You will need a minimum of four layers of plastic for the panel to have any strength. Throw extra decorations on top.

3. Set iron to fairly high, no steam. 

4. Lay out a plain sheet of paper on your work table.  Assemble your plastic panel on that sheet of paper. Lay another plain sheet of paper on top. Iron, pressing firmly. How long? I don't know - hum to yourself for a while.

5. When done, peel away the top and bottom layers of plain paper. Sometimes the plastic sticks to the paper. If so, pat it back down and iron a little more. Sometimes the paper sticks to the plastic and tears away. If so, take the plastic to the sink and use water and your fingers to rub away the paper.

And if I am still around in seven years, you will get to see an entirely new rendition of this lantern.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Seabed Quilt

Detail: brown paper bags, tea bags, thread

Once you start stitching the ocean it becomes a happy compulsion. The original four panels of stitched wave patterns featured in an earlier post (Stitching the Ocean) expanded to eight new panels, and now they have merged together into a quilt. 

Seabed quilt

The recycled brown paper bags, once washed, crumpled and dried, take on a seductive texture, one that lends itself beautifully to stitching. As noted in the earlier post, the patterns are inspired by a turn-of-the-century Japanese book on wave and ripple designs (Hamonshu), and all thread ends are left dangling from the front of the piece because I love the end effect.

The only drawback to this piece is that the quilt as a whole is very tough to photograph. Enjoy the following detail photos.




Full quilt (2' x 2.75')


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

La Primavera: Garden in a Tin

Two secret gardens

This is being posted on the first day of spring, but the inspiration for these gardens came a few weeks ago, during the type of downpour they now call an "atmospheric river." While sheltering under a tree I looked down and saw a large chunk of moss that had been kicked up and was now lying on the sidewalk. I promptly bent over, scooped it up, put it in my pocket, and went home and made these lovely little moss gardens. See end of post for how-to suggestions for making some of your own.

Secret Garden
Materials: Recycled little sweets tin; old Persian image, downloaded and transferred onto scrap of silk; rescued moss.  

The garden enclosed in a tin

The garden revealed

The garden on a sill in the sun

Alhambra Garden
Materials: old mysterious medallion with image of Arab woman; upcycled scrap from a fabric sample book; mirror-cloth stitching to secure medallion; recycled little screwtop sweets tin.

 A mysterious woman's hidden garden

The garden revealed

Garden in the sun

How-to Suggestions:

• Collect any and all little containers and tins that might make lovely little garden containers.  Scrape off old labels.

• Use downloaded, non-copyright images, interesting cloth, paint, or whatever comes to mind to decorate the lid.

• Collect moss to compose your garden. Moss will require spritzing with water every day.

• Alternate idea: use potting soil and a few seeds and actually plant a little garden in the tin. Make the tin lovely. Give as a gift, with instructions to open tin, water, and watch the wonder grow.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Stitching the Ocean

What do you do when you have the flu? Apparently I stitch waves and ripples and droplets and foam. All inspired by Hamonshu: A Book of Wave and Ripple Designs (1903), from the wonderful folks at the Public Domain Review. And here you go. I have left thread ends emerging from the front of the piece because I think it contributes to the general ocean spray/wet/chaos effect. Click on any piece to enlarge.

Spray (brown paper bag, thread)

Waves (brown paper bag, tea bags, thread)

Ripples (brown paper bag, thread)

Droplets (brown paper bag, tea bags, thread)

I am tagging this "false artifacts" as well as "textiles" because these pieces look like they came from somewhere and some time other than here and now.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Archetypal Word Images: The Crow, The Rabbit, and Mr. Kikkith

Never, never, never - Advice from my mother

Where these came from I do not know and where I am going with them remains to be seen. This is a departure from my heavy emphasis on textile and installation art over the past few years, but immediately feels like a deeply familiar flow zone, where words and images combine. This art safari started as most of mine do; with an experiment. I cut open, crumpled up, soaked, dried, and ironed a brown paper bag. And then...

This first piece is called Never, never never, based on advice from an anxious, fearful woman who did her best to impart warnings and wisdom about life. That advice ranged from never eat on the toilet seat, to never trust any advice from a woman friend. 

Crumpled brown paper bag, water color, pen, colored pencils


The next piece is titled Crows as Evidence of a Parallel Universe. There are lots of crows where I live. Every time I see them crying out and tumbling through the sky my heart wants to leap out of my chest.

Crows as Evidence of a Parallel Universe


And finally (for now) we have The Day Mr. Kikkith Floated Out to Sea. Here I experienced another revelation: when activities are happening in parallel, the narrative needn't be linear. It doesn't matter in which order you read the words on this page. And from another angle there is no need to read them at all.

The Day Mr. Kikkith Floated Out to Sea




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