Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Souvenir Handkerchief No. 2 Coronavirus Series


A lovely little pandemic souvenir

 Here is the second in a series of souvenir handkerchiefs. My fingers went their own way on this one as my mind drifted in pandemic fashion, I have no idea what that thing in the middle is, but it looks sort of like a Petri dish so let’s say it’s all about vaccine research.

Click on image to enlarge

The quote - “Please scream inside your head” - is actually a misprint. A long, slow, stitched mistake. The original quote - “Please scream inside your heart” - is something I have been using a lot and originates with a sign on a Japanese rollercoaster early in the pandemic, encouraging people to keep their mouths closed and not spray the virus everywhere. But who can keep track of where we are screaming inside of ourselves these days? Scream wherever inside yourself you want, just don’t spread it around.

If you have time on your hands and would like to delve into the history of souvenir handkerchiefs and handkerchiefs in general, try this link - Handkerchief Heroes.

And for fellow stitchers, a view from the back of the behind-the-scenes view.

Flip side stitching detail

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Coronavirus 2020 Souvenir Handkerchief


A lovely souvenir

Souvenir handkerchiefs have a long, colorful, cornball history, with the fad hitting its peak when automobiles hit the road and tourists returned from their adventures in places like Pocatello, Idaho with delicate little squares of cloth embroidered with potatoes.

Certainly our current adventures in the surrealistic realm of 2029 warrants its own commemorative hankie. I have actually been working on three. Whiling away the time stitching tiny dots onto sheer cotton makes me less nervous about the wildfires raging in my state, the toxic smoke outside, and the virus floating in the air. Happily, amongst by bags of fabrics and finding I have an assortment of vintage handkerchiefs that have found a new purpose in this project.

Here is the first in the series, completed circa month three of the ongoing sheltering in place. Back when toilet paper was an issue. Expand the image to appreciate the obsessive detail.


Back, revealing stitching

Stay tuned for more in this souvenir series in coming weeks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Corona Playing Cards Collaborative Project


The Elephant Hearts Suit
Elephant Hearts Suit

Here is an absorbing and ambitious project to get you through at least a month or two of pandemic ennui. Better yet, you get to engage in this with three other people of your choice. You may form a quartet of far-flung family members, friends, members of a book or gardening group, or a gaggle of artists. As I pitched the idea to my nine and eleven-year-old grand nieces and my older sister, think history, think rare historical artifact, think about your own grandchildren having this heirloom passed down from the global pandemic of 2020. Each person ends up with a complete 52-card deck created by four different makers. A perfect endeavor for thosw who find themselves isolating alone for the duration, who will be able to avail themselves of this wildly creative personal deck to play a very artful game of solitaire.

Each person commits to creating a full deck of 52 cards. I suggest that you think in terms of a different theme for each suit, which helps maintain interest and variety. All participants use the same card template and agree on using the same card stock in their printers (we used index card weight card stock). Here is a link to the blank card template - Blank Card Template.

The only cautionary rule is that everyone must, in whatever fashion, be sure to include the number or rank of the card along with the suit symbol in the appropriate corners.

A must: identifying numbers and symbols placed correctly

We would check in with each other about once a week during our Zoom maker sessions. After completion of each suit, each participant mails select cards from that suit to the other three participants, which means everyone gets four delightful art mailings as part of the project. It took some serious brain wrestling to come up with this distribution scheme (you may also click on this link to download a PDF of distribution instruction - Distribution Instructions):

Distribution Instructions
Distribution Instructions

The four suits I created include the following:

Elephant suit - hearts

Fish suit - spades

Ginkgo leaf prints and bug silhouettes - clubs

And one of my favorites, which features both fertile turtles and flying turtles as well as some coronavirus symbols.

Turtles - diamonds

Not an artist? No worries! My sister came up with the idea of using "focus words to get us through the pandemic" for one of her suits. One of my nieces, currently obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, used symbols from that game for a suit. You could use quotes you like instead of artwork to decorate your cards. Though I think this opportunity for self-declared non-artists to stretch themselves a bit can pay off, and I love the pictures of plants and birds my sister used for other suits.

Of course, you will need a box to contain your precious historical artifact, and have I got a template for you! 

Box template

Just download and print the PDF Box Template to print directly from your computer onto cardstock. Decorate the blank template yourself in any way you wish. Some samples are offered below. 

Hand-decorated boxes

I have also included a JPEG Option for the box template. It is the same blank template, but you can manipulate the JPEG in any graphics program to create a slicker looking box using computer graphics, which is what I did for our quartet's box.

Box graphics created using Photoshop and InDesign

Box back (and lovely little sea bird card by my sister)

It all sounds very ambitious doesn't it? If we could pull it off with a distracted children via Zoom sessions during the pandemic in a chaotic effort that included the nine-year-old losing all of her cards half-way through, so can you. And the payoff is pretty fantastic. Here is my final Corona card deck with artful contributions from three loved ones, displayed in all their glory during a game of solitaire.

Playing solitaire

One of my very favorite cards is displayed in the lower left corner above - a hummingbird doing a split - created by the nine-year-old (who eventually found her cards).

As a final icing on the cake, I also created labels for the backs of the cards because we experienced some bleed-through in the card stock onto the back of the cards. Here is a blank Label Template you may use to create labels for the backs of your cards if you wish (hey, if the pandemic is still going on you'd be surprised how far you can carry this project). They incidentally can also offer an entirely different game that can be played with the same deck of cards.

Back label templates

Simply draw or paint or collage a picture across all nine labels on the one-page template sheet. Once you have cut them up into individual labels and glued them randomly onto the backs of your cards, you have created a fun graphic puzzle. If you get tired of solitaire, you can play at putting together graphic puzzles instead.

Labels glued onto the backs of cards

And that is it for today from this obsessive little corner of the world. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Corona Couture: A Blouse that Screams

Pandemic Solo Fashion Show

A few weeks ago I came across a news clipping from Japan, where they had opened up an amusement park but in an attempt to reduce coronavirus risks, they also posted a sign saying: "Please scream inside your heart." To me, this seemed like a poetic encapsulation of the entire pandemic experience as well as a meditative mantra. As you get more tense and irritable during the isolation with restrictions and flat-out jerks who aren't following any health recommendations, best to scream inside your heart instead of at other people.

I took a blouse I never much wore or liked and did an all-around upcycle. My new pandemic mantra is now embroidered around the lower edge of the shirt. I top-stitched the shoulder seams using the same red embroidery thread. The gorgeous buttons are from a visit to my favorite button vendor on Portobello Road in London.

"please scream..." 

"...inside your heart."

Embroidery detail

Shouder detail

Fashion for a fragmented reality

Fashion postscript: I hand-stitched the pants early in the pandemic using fabric on hand (Kayla Kennington Designer Patterns, Perennial Pants Collection).

Sunday, July 26, 2020

All in All = The Wall

Pandemic-era wall treatment

Time for another chapter in the ongoing, seemingly endless Corona Chronicles. Getting bored during the pandemic? Grab some garbage and scraps of this and that and redecorate your house!

In this segment we feature a wall that happily consumed at least the first two months of the 2020 pandemic. My dining room has a faux paint treatment that makes it look sort of like a rotting Italian villa. However, this portion of the wall was a total fail that I have lived with for years. Because of extensive water damage, layers of the wall were exposed, and the happy solution was to make it look like a portion of the Italian villa's under-wall had rotted away as well. Unfortunately, the under-layer involved using a really unfortunate clay color.

What better time to work on reimagining a wall than while sheltering in place during a pandemic. I worked, of course, primarily with materials on hand, though I did encounter a world-wide ModgePodge shortage in the process.

By happy accident, the song I use to assure that I lather up my hands for the approved 20 seconds is Pink Floyd's, "The Wall," so I hummed that a lot during the project.

Here is a partial overview of the materials use in this annotated photo of the wall.

Wall ingredients (click on photo to enlarge)

Those materials include:

Ginkgo leaves painted gold

Ginkgo leaf prints on paper bags

Used tea bags

Gold leaf, and lots and lots of washed paper bags

Additional ingredients included: bits of rusted metal found along the railroad tracks; coins flattened on the tracks; bits of broken jewelry and watches.

About the paper bags: I have gotten addicted to working with paper bags. I cut them open into a rectangle and remove the seam. I then scrub them under water, wadding and unwadding them several times, then slap them on the side of my refrigerator where they dry flat. I know they're almost "done" when they fall off the refrigerator. There is many a night during this pandemic while I have watched TV to the background gentle shushing of leaves of paper falling off my refrigerator. This method produces a texture and softness I like.

To glue the paper onto the wall I used ModgePodge and also used it as a top coat sealant. At one point as I was making ginkgo leaf prints to add to the wall I thought, Huh, these leaves look so pretty themselves, I wonder if I could use real leaves on the wall as well. So I did, and attached them with gluestick. For heavier bits like watch parts and rust, I used clear silocone as the glue.

Here are a few final shots of the wall. It is almost impossible to photograph and looks very different based on angle and light. I have been living with the finished version for a few weeks now. I love it.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

An Infestation of Memories

World Traveling Mouse

These were completed on day 60 of the Covid-19 shelter-in-place orders. Has anyone else noticed that, given unlimited time, your mind has been wandering through the back alleyways and hidden caverns of your memories, surfacing vivid incidents, smells, sights, conversations or places you haven't thought about in years?

These "memory mice" were inspired by the posting just prior to this one, Cardboard Pets to Keep You Company. It occurred to me while making those little cardboard creatures that my memories during this long interlude of isolation are like mice—skittering around my apartment, seen in fleeting glimpses in my peripheral vision. So I decided to make some memory mice to scatter around my apartment in unexpected places.

The framed memory: page from my address book circa 1970

I created mice out of scraps of copper sheeting and assorted junk from my stash of rubble including: rust pieces found on the railroad tracks, tin can lids, old keys, pop-top tabs, broken jewelry, crumpled lightbulb bases, and more.  Each "memory," whether a photograph or scrap of paper, is framed using an old tin can lid and incorporated into the mouse structure.

This first mouse contains the page from an old address book that includes the location of the East African center and the Indian center of an international experimental college I attended in the twilight of the 1960s, an experience that profoundly changed to course of my life.

The Margot Mouse

The piece above is called the "Margot Mouse" after my grandmother, who was one cool character. That is her eye you see in the tin can frame, and the framed eye itself is a discard from an earlier project, Fiddling Around with Mrs. Fitzherbert's Eye (inspired by an interesting scrap of English history that focuses on intrigue and forbidden romance).

Detail of mouse head

Margot's eye

The final piece is called the Warthog Mouse because that's the way I kept referring to it while making it. It features a photo of me at around age 30, and if you take a close look at the expression on my face you will see how this piece got its name. The women in my family were all trained to deliver perfectly executed looks that could kill, and here you see my version at its finest. I still remember the top I was wearing, fast-forward fashion purchased in Bangkok (see—skittering memories).

Warthog Mouse

A look that could kill

Thus ends, for now, the saga of the three little memory mice. I may make more, though in all likelihood my attention will now drift on to something else—like gluing paper bags to my dining room wall.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cardboard Pets to Keep You Company

Three insanely abstract mice

I have been doing projects via Zoom with my grand-nieces during the Covid-19 shelter-in-place, and our most recent project involved working with recycled cardboard (and we all have a lot of delivery boxes to dispose of, right?). The images that sparked this project were posted by someone on Facebook, but sadly lacked attribution. If anyone knows the creative brain behind these cardboard masks, let me know and I will post a link here.

Cardboard masks

I decided that instead of making a huge face or mask, I would create a pet to keep me company during isolation. While originally thinking in terms of a zany cat or dog, it turns out I am no more capable of assuming responsibility for a fantasy pet than I am a real pet. So instead my thoughts turned to mice. I have had mice in my apartment before. They feed themselves, they entertain themselves, they let themselves in and out; they are the perfect pets for a self-absorbed, absent-minded artist type. 

Here are my mice. Materials include cardboard, metallic paint, puffy paint, wire, and beads. I plan on installing them down near the baseboards, peeking out from behind the furniture.

Mouse one

Mouse two

Mouse three (we call him "Gordito")

Grab some cardboard and create your own menagerie.

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