Monday, August 30, 2010

Bird Bowling

Birds, bowling and Sandy Hook—what a combination! This hand-stitched shirt features vintage buttons on the front and serves as a uniform for the Sandy Hook Bird Bowling team.

Sandy Hook is a hotspot for birders (including teams from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology), and when it comes to bird bowling, there simply is no better venue.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

String People

Over the years as people get to know you, they start to give you stuff they think you'd like. In my case that would be interesting garbage, scrap metal, odd organic detritus and, apparently, body parts. The heads in these assemblages were given to me by two different benefactors. One used to be rotting in a garden on an island off Washington state and the other came from who knows where via Berkeley. It took a while, but finally they became string people and found each other.

While both now have string innards, the base of the Asian lady is street pebbles and the base of the baby doll is broken auto glass, also scooped up from the street.

The baby doll head, surprisingly heavy, is made of solid stone.

The string people in situ. Note the other body parts strewn about, fashioned from wax, lead, and clay.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What About the Cow Dress

This could just as easily be called "The Farmer in the Dell" dress. The basic dress was handstitched using a simple bandanna dress concept (Google "bandanna dress" and you'll find loads of online instructions for this simple concept). Click on this link to see other "What About the Cow" creations, which essentially tackle a religious quandry that is largely absent from this particular project.

Three pockets were added to the front of the dress. Animal images were printed onto fabric transfer paper and used to make little stuffed pillows. The pillows are attached to ribbon, and the end of the ribbons are sewn securely into the bottom of the pockets.

Here we have Aleida enjoying the interactive couture outfit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Smoking Shirt

In the tradition of the smoking jackets of yore, this is a smoking shirt, handstitched using a revised Calvin Klein pattern. An artist friend, Chris Carroll, sketched the lady smoker, which I then embroidered onto the pocket (perfectly sized to carry a pack of cigarettes and book of matches). A vintage button completes the look.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Charmed Rubble

This charm bracelet is made from recycled chains, an old watch face filled with dried rose petals, and bits of rusted metal picked up along the railroad tracks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rara Rat

When traveling, the compulsive maker turns to events and materials at hand. At the start of a trip to Rara Avis, a remote ecoreserve in Costa Rica where the trails are so slippery the experience has been described as "swimming upstream in a river of mud," the simple sleeveless cotton top I'd made to wear in the heat was strictly utilitarian.

In my cabin at the end of the trail (where golden sloths could be spotted from the porch) I was awakened the first night and each night thereafter by scrabbling sounds that were too close for comfort. In the morning I'd find half my bar of soap gone, with a perfect set of jagged teeth imprints left behind. In the open air dining hall (next to a crumbling building where a tapir had taken up residence) I found a book on mammals of Central America and learned that my visitor was a rare species of rat found only in the vicinity of Rara Avis.

I promptly embroidered both the rat and the text from the reference book (along with the citation) onto my shirt.

A young Costa Rican woman visiting Rara Avis watched me embroider for a while, then went off into the jungle and came back with what looked like a hunk of okra. It was part of an orchid that makes an instant and permanent eco-print on fabric. We finished off the Rara Avis top by stamping a couple of orchid prints above the rat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dim Lighting and Traveling Doll

This post focuses on the solution to a lighting problem in a dim hallway, but on the way there we pass the Oaxaca wall. Has anyone else ever read "Hitty, Her First Hundred Years"? It's a book from the late 1800s with beautiful color plates about a doll that travels the world and at one point ends up as a goddess to a troupe of monkeys on a tropical island. This is my version of Hitty. The doll was a gift from a friend of my great-grandmother's and dates back to the Civil War.  For about ten years she has been a "bruja" (Spanish for "witch"), collecting lots of charms and magic amulets about her.

Now we turn the corner to confront the lighting problem. This is an Alhambra-style apartment building dating back to the 1920s. For some inexplicable reason, the long entry hallway has no light fixtures and no electrical outlets. Because it is a rental, rewiring isn't an option. The solution? A string of Christmas lights framing the top and the bottom of the hallway, powered by an extension cord that runs into the bathroom (all very neatly tucked into corners).

As shades for the Christmas tree lights I used a roll of copper and created cone shapes out of the copper after tooling designs into the metal and punching holes. Soft copper is extremely easy to work with and can be bought by the roll from large arts suppliers.

The cord is attached to the wall with copper tape, which I discovered at a local hardware store. I have no idea why others use copper tape or what its normal purpose is, but it certainly came in handy here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Found: Moses

Found a few years ago on a sidewalk in Berkeley. I believe this freaky little hand puppet is supposed to be Moses, created in a Sunday school or synagogue class and subsequently lost or discarded by some careless child who is no doubt headed straight for hell.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tea in the House of Wings

Four objects that found each other over a period of time and remain together for the moment.

Click on image to see larger version.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pins and Fish

To see the context for these design ideas, go to the post "Observation Challenge."  Here are the final two design ideas from the challenge.

I don't know how you'd replicate this idea unless a department store goes out of business somewhere near you, but these days that may be more likely than not. When a department store folded in downtown Oakland, I was there the day they sold off all the furnishings and scored this sign frame stand for about a buck. It's original purpose was to stand on a counter top and announce items or sales and the like. You could switch out the message by sliding the cardboard sign out of the top of the frame. I covered the cardboard with cloth and use it as a pin storage display stand.

Floating Fish:
This was the trickiest thing to spot in the original challenge because you could only see one of these reflected in the dresser mirror. Years ago I read a factoid that said the only reason fish die when they're out of water is because gravity presses their gills closed. I immediately thought about fish in a gravity-free environment happily floating around. Imagine a pet goldfish swimming swishing its little tail to navigate around the space station. Later, a curator from the Monterey Bay Aquarium told me my original factoid was wrong, but who cares? Facts are often just a bummer. I recreated my vision of fish in space by making light papiér-mâche fish that swim about in the breezes of my bedroom.

Bonus Idea:
A Chinese paper umbrella ($5-$10 in Chinatown) with its handle cut short has been turned upside down and employed as a ceiling lampshade.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coats and Clocks

To see the context of these design ideas, go to the post "Observation Challenge."  Because I haven't posted for a few days I'm including two answers to the challenge instead of just one.

Old Fashioned Coat Brooches
Remember when your grandma (or great-grandma in my case) used to wear a different sort of brooch on the lapel of her coat? These remind me of those circa 1950s' brooches. Go to any good hobby shop or flower outlet and pick out some likely looking fake fruit or vegetables along with a little foliage. Sew together as needed, and also sew a pin backing onto the brooch. Affix it to the lapel of your coat or jacket and ankle around town like your own grandma.

Collage Clock
Buy a clock kit at any good hobby store (as I remember cost was under $10). Note the clock hands in the lower right quadrant of the collage below. Cut a stiff piece of cardboard or foamcore the size and shape you'd like for your collage. And then...collage it. Attach the front (the hands) and the back (mechanism and batteries) of the clock as per your clock kit instructions. Wake up to something beautiful. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bangle Bracelet Holders

To see the context of this design strategy, go to the post "Observation Challenge." This simple trick involves using paper towel holders to store and display your bracelets—in my case a lot of Bakelite bangles.

Save and use the cardboard tube from your paper towels. Here, I've painted the tubes with copper paint. I suppose you could paint the towel holders also, but I like the turquoise against the yellow wall. When and if a cardboard tube begins to give out, as seems to be happening with the top tube here, replace it with a new one.

Bowling Trophy Dresser Pulls

To see the context of this design strategy, go to the post "Observation Challenge." Below, the knobs on a dresser have been replaced with bowling trophy figurines.

MAKE: It turns out that trophy figurines come with a thick screw at the bottom, which is used to attach the figurine to the trophy base. Simply unscrew the figurine from the trophy base. Remove dresser knobs. The screws on all of these figurines fit easily into the holes that were already in the dresser for knobs. Use a nut inside of the drawer to secure each screw in place.

About snagging trophy figurines: Trophies can be found at yard sales, flea markets, etc. What you want to get are the older trophies made out of real metal. Newer trophies are made out of plastic and painted with metallic paint and look and feel cheap and synthetic on close inspection. I set a price limit of $2 U.S. on a trophy, and that's for a very good/unusual trophy. 

Safety warning: If you go back to the original challenge picture, you'll note something off about the lower right drawer pull. One day, walking past the dresser too fast while the bottom drawer was slightly ajar, I managed to snap off a heavy metal figurine with my shin.  These figurines are sharp and they protrude into the room. Be prepared to suffer for your decor. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Observation Challenge

My junior-year high school English teacher, Miss O'Conner, was passionate about making her students hone their powers of observation. In homage to Miss O'Conner I offer the challenge below: my bedroom dresser. I will be highlighting six distinct design ideas that appear in this picture in subsequent posts. Can you spot them in advance? A hint: it's not the painted chair, which is too mundane to mention.

And the Answer Is:
Click on links below to see the answers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lost Toy

I get a lot of notes on my art car. This one, left under my windshield wiper yesterday, was an absolute winner and a total mystery. Did someone find this and pass it along thinking I would like it (they were right)? Did a child make it and donate it to the car (children at a nearby daycare center have made up a song about the car called "Silly Car")? Whatever its origin, it is charming.

Me and the car, awaiting more messages

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bird in the Hand

Lamp base and shade from broken pottery, doll parts, and a recycled vintage birding pamphlet. My favorite part of this piece: the scrap of pottery with text on the bird's tail.

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