Sunday, July 24, 2016

Creative Obliteration of Corporate Logos

Enough with all of the branding, a misbegotten idea that works very well for the businesses involved but a sadly humiliating prospect for human beings who are reduced to little more than ambulatory billboards. And let's not even discuss the type of branding that sends the signal to everyone else: "I have lots and lots of money as indicated by the logo appearing prominently on this item of clothing."

It is time to obliterate corporate logos and stand proud as the raw, unlabeled human beings we were meant to be. I have played with this idea before in an earlier post: Geek Chic: QR Code Patches (click for a complete how-to). There the idea was to take advantage of all of those wonderful nearly-new men's shirts at thrift stores that are sadly marred by logos (often of failed software start-ups here in the Bay Area). Simply cover the logos over with QR code patches that you create yourself to send whatever message you want. I believe the one below, if scanned with a smartphone, will say, "Eat the Rich."

QR code patch: "Eat the Rich"

The person for whom I converted a lot of those QR code shirts has clearly gotten the message. Or rather, he has gotten the message and now considers logos distasteful. He recently handed me a Smith & Hawken vest, purchased new, with the request that I cover the logo somehow.

Patching in progress over brand logo

I leafed through a packet of random iron-on images I had created in the past, and decided to go with the following, found in an old Scientific American magazine at a thrift store.

Three ways of tying your shoes

I cropped the image and converted it to sepia tone and then printed it onto iron-on paper (remembering, of course, to reverse the image before printing so that, when ironed, the words read correctly).

A little bit of stitching, and Smith & Hawken was no more.

Sewing on patch with iron-on image

The recipient of this handiwork is currently hiking around Yosemite, happy in the knowledge that he is not a walking advertisement for a clothing company.

Time for you to go out and start obliterating a few logos on your own.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just Passing Through: Installation Art with Found Materials

Weekend picnickers and partiers at Lake Merritt in Oakland often employ folding metal gazebos — the kind you see vendors using at farmers markets. When I saw this gazebo-gone-wrong lying abandoned on the lawn of the park a few doors down from my apartment building my first reaction was annoyance. Clearly someone couldn't figure out how to fold the damn thing back up again so they trashed it and left it behind.

Folding picnic gazebo gone wrong

Then, while sitting at a bus stop across the street from the metal wreck I thought, gee, that shape is really kind of interesting.

The lines are so intriguing it actually looks sculptural. So... I decided to embellish it just a bit to create an installation piece that was already 95% installed.

I had recently collected a bunch of feathers left on the ground around the lake from the annual Canada Geese molting season. I decided to use an old Ohlone technique for working with feathers. They used them to create skirts and capes. I used them to embellish the metal structure. The feathers and how-to regarding the Ohlone technique are shown below.

Feathers ready for hanging

Ohlone technique for creating a hanging loop on a feather

Finished loop with string tied on

The concept behind this installation is expressed in the title, "Just Passing Through," as explained in the signage below.

Sign printed on card stock, attached to metal limb of piece

Sign wording

The final step was to tie the Canada Geese feathers to the metal limbs of the piece, creating a kinetic sculpture.

Any day when you can turn an annoyance into art is a very good day indeed. And... the entire thing vanished a day later, presumably carted off by city workers or the Parks Department, turning the whole thing from an installation into a very short-lived performance piece. Do I mind? No. Like all the components involved, it was just passing through.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ex-Voto for the Miracle of a Kind Tree

Embroidered ex voto

I have been inspired in the past by Mexican retablos - folk-art images painted on tin or wood thanking Catholic holy figures for miracles received - and by the embroidered version of these ex-votos (offerings of gratitude), from San Miguel de Allende called milagros. See earlier work I've done along these lines by following this link: Ex-Votos.

Recently, while in Chiapas, I received via email the details of a miracle experienced by a little girl I know on her seventh birthday. According to her account, she was climbing a tree when she slipped and thought she was "falling to her death." The tree reached out its arms and saved her. A companion who witnessed the event testified, "I knew it was a peaceful tree."

Thus this embroidered retablo, recounting the event and offering thanks to the tree. The words on the pillow say: "Many thanks to the kind tree for opening its branches and saving me from falling to my death." 

Close-up detail

Close-up detail

And here is the little girl who was saved by the tree, with her embroidered ex voto pillow.

Still alive, thanks to a peaceful tree

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mended Fruits: Avocado

Mended avocado

Part of the Mended Produce series, a sewer's response to objects torn asunder and in seeming need of repair. (And yes, an avocado is indeed a fruit.) 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mended Vegetables: Fava Beans

Mending may start as a practical necessity, but throughout history and around the world we see it evolve into a tradition, an art form, a way of life, a mode of meditation. While shelling a pound of early spring fava beans a few days ago, the urge became irresistible. So here you have some mended favas, which I may (or may not) lead to a forthcoming series of mended fruits and vegetables depending on how the mood strikes me. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Seasonal Boro Mending with Gingko Leaves: Year Three

In preparation for the first of May, I have just completed the third year of seasonal sashiko stitching and boro mending on a set of hand-crafted Japanese-style garments. To see years one and two of this project, follow these links: Year One (Happi Coat)Year One (Kimono)Year Two.

This is a piece of process art and, as with my beloved Thread Cupcake, either you get it or you don't. Each subsequent year of this seasonal boro project gets more delicate and difficult, as the leaves from earlier years become more brittle. The focus and attention required are all-absorbing.

Happi Coat front with leaf color code

Happi Coat back

Stitching detail

Kimono front

Kimono back

Stitching detail

Monday, April 25, 2016

Repurposed Men's Shirts #s 27 - 31 (and a little upcycling math)

How many men's shirts do you need to create one dress for a seven-year-old? A hell of a lot more than I would have thought. The 3-layered skirt of this adapted New Look pattern (#6319) requires volumes and volumes of fabric. Luckily, my local thrift store has daily color-coded sales with the lowest coded price set at just one dollar, so total materials price for this creation was $5.

Dress front

This is a moderately challenging jigsaw-puzzle-type project that can be used when recycling old garments for use in any pattern. You simply need to study, turn, and twist your original garments, cutting them open as needed, to come up with fabric for your new project. The voluminous circle skirt layers required for this dress meant having to piece and stitch together fabric from the shirts before cutting out the pattern.

Hidden pocket

One adaptation was a hidden pocket underneath the first circle skirt layer, addressing that perpetual problem I have with the fact that garments for little girls always lack pockets...and pockets are power!

Shirt back

Other adaptations included dropping the waist a bit more than was called for in the original pattern, and substituting a shirt placket with buttons from one of the original garments for use as a back closure instead of the zipper called for in the pattern.

I liked the 7-year-old version so much, I decided to make one for her 5-year-old sister as well. Just repeat the upcycle math above: 5 shirts for one dress at the cost of $5.

Dress front

Piecing together the jigsaw for this dress involved using one of the shirt fronts, positioned sideways, for the front of the dress. Because I didn't want this set of buttons to open, I sewed the placket closed about an inch and a half down from the edge. This dress, unlike the one above, does not have a dropped waist.

Added polkadots

Because I found the finished dress a little somber and boring, I added some stitched on polka dots.

Hidden pocket

And again, a garment for a little girl that has no pockets is no garment of mine. A hidden pocket was positioned underneath the first layer of ruffles.

Dress back

Once again, the original placket and buttons from one of the men's shirts serves as a handy back opening.

Now the question: What to put in those hidden pockets? I decided to put a little gift package inside each of the hidden pockets, and each package contains...a coyote toe bone. This seems like a useful talisman for the child who wants to invoke some general, all-around spirit magic. These were purchased at Paxton Gates on Valencia in San Francisco, and I'm going to assume the coyotes in question had a good life and a peaceful death.

Wrapping up the bones

Coyote toe bone

And there you have it — upcycled couture for two little girls skipping into the 21st century, with a small measure of magic thrown into the mix.

21st century children's couture

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