Monday, July 29, 2019

All the Rage: Snowflake Shirt

The snowflake shirt - front view

This hand-stitched, heavily embroidered shirt is the latest in the "All the Rage" series of political protest couture, accessories, and tchotchkes. It is also a move to take back the language and make words like "liberal" and "snowflake" accolades instead of insults.

Close-up of front

Yes folks, I am a snowflake. To me, that means having compassion for my fellow man — for women and children kept in cages at the border, for the six-year-old gunned down at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, for the homeless living under freeway overpasses, for all of the noncombatants we have killed and wounded in the many, many wars we continue to wage. Yep, I have feelings, and I consider it a source of pride that I have retained my humanity as the US and the world at large careens down a very dark road.

Thus, the snowflake shirt.

Shirt back

Snowflake 1

Snowflake 2

Snowflake 3

Snowflake 4

Snowflake 5

This would be a good time to let your heart melt a little.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Making Friends with Crows: the Paper Bag Tapestry

For the past year or so I have been attempting to make friends with the crows in my neighborhood, based on the idea that if I leave them peanuts they will in turn leave me an assortment of bright, shiny stuff they have found or stolen.  I have big plans for that bright, shiny stuff, including assemblage and jewelry making, but so far the crows haven't brought me a damn thing. 

To while away the time while I wait, I stitched this paper bag tapestry called (unsurprisingly) "Making Friends with Crows."

I have grown very fond of crumpling, washing, and stitching used paper bags, with an occasional tea bag paper or candy wrapper thrown in. The texture of the paper bags is wonderful. For this piece I have left all threads emerging from the front of the piece, unfinished and unknotted. I think the flyaway pieces of random thread somehow capture the feel and movement of the crows' feathers.

The Tapestry
Note the peanut finials at either end of the rod used to hang the tapestry.

Peanut finials at either end of rod.

And now...

I continue to await the generosity of the crows.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Power Cuffs: Warding Off Monsters

An elegant solution to all of life's ugly problems

I have been making one-of-a-kind wrist cuffs for a while now, and have dubbed them "Power Cuffs." Follow the link if you want to see the back story and basic how-to tips.

This latest pair of cuffs are particularly special because of an added power: the ability to ward off monsters. If I think I'm going to have a particularly difficult day, I just arm myself with a pair and I am ready for the worst. Both sets of cuffs are made of red vinyl. 

Little Monsters

This first pair is embellished with hand-embroidered little monsters (and victims). The monsters were drawn by my two favorite little girls, then copied onto the vinyl using tracing paper, then stitched. The buttons used for the closures are antique European carved coral rimmed in silver.

The lining for these cuffs was made from scraps of fabric from Guatemala.

And here we have one on:

The second set of cuffs utilize the spiral as a snare for evil spirits, familiar as a classic spirit trap in a range of different cultures.

Spiral spirit-snare cuffs

These cuffs are lined with scraps from a man's recycled shirt, and employ vintage buttons from Paris.

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.

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