Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sixth Extinction Decor: Homage to Martha

The homage: a passenger pigeon armchair

This upcycle and latest addition to my decor is part of the Sixth Extinction series (see Sixth Extinction Couture: Passenger Pigeons), which focuses on the fact that we are currently in the sixth and most devastating planet-wide species extinction in history, courtesy of homo sapiens. September 1 of this year marked the 100 year anniversary of the death of Martha, the last of the passenger pigeons, once the most abundant bird species on the planet. Turning a tattered old thrift store armchair into an homage to Martha seemed like the least one could do.

The starting point: a $10 thrift store chair

Before: In use in its uninspired state

After: reborn (unlike the poor passenger pigeon)

Close-up, chair back

Close-up, chair arm

Before: chair side


Side close-up

Before: Chair back



Materials: Remaindered upholstery fabric, downloaded vintage passenger pigeon portraits, iron-on transfer to scrap cotton.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Advent Calendar: Beribboned Bonbons

Section of bonbon garland

This is the fourth in a series of adamantly secular advent calendars created over the past several years. Past creations have ranged from stuffed walnuts to evolving outsider couture. This year's idea was suggested by my friend, designer Pam O'Connell. Should these how-to instructions reach you too late for this year's festivities, not to worry. This extravaganza requires lots and lots of recycled ribbon, so your task this holiday season is to collect every scrap of ribbon in sight and recycle it as you make the calendar next year.

Two garlands in progress

As you can see, this project not only meets your advent needs, it also serves as instant holiday decor, taking over your whole house as you drape the garland(s) over a mantel, around a stair bannister, or ever around your tree.

How it works: cut off one bonbon per day

Here you see two garlands, one for a five-year-old and one for her three-year-old sister, with each numbered bonbon holding absolutely identical contents to avoid unseemly holiday squabbles. Materials include fabric (gold lamé, tulle, plaid glittery scraps) that you'll need to keep adding to as you go along. When you start to run out of fabric as you're making the garland, just stitch on another long narrow stretch of fabric the same width. Objects inside each bonbon are wrapped in a bundle of tissue paper. Scraps of ribbon are tied around each bonbon. You will need 48 to 50 scraps of ribbon, each long enough to tie into a bow, depending on whether your calendar runs through the 24th or 25th of December. There is a length of fabric between bonbons which an adult with scissors will snip through each day to release another bonbon. Copper and gold puffy fabric paint was used to write numbers on the bonbons.

A bonbon after being cut from the garland

You can fill your bonbons with anything you want. I always include a foil-wrapped chocolate coin each day, and a little, very inexpensive gift every few days. Last year (Advent Calendar Haute Couture) all the little gifts were mouse-themed. This year the theme is chickens, and all of the little gifts are souvenirs (including an outsider art fabric chicken) bought from street vendors during a month-long visit to Chiapas.

Tag at start of bonbon garland

The gold lamé garland

The tulle and plaid garland

This project is an ideal use for recycled ribbon, and I'm encouraging the young recipients to save all the ribbon in a bag as they open each bonbon for use in their own maker projects, so it will be thrice-cycled.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Seaweed Sampler: An exercise in stitchery

sampler book of dried seaweed

Here is the final entry in the latest round of experiments in stitching seaweed (see Seaweed for earlier creations) and it is so damn adorable I think it may be my favorite.

view of closed sampler

Various types of seaweed were cut to a uniform shape and then stitched to small anchoring panels of cloth while still wet and supple. They were then pressed and dried for a period of time. The sampler book was assembled using the prepared seaweed panels, fabric from an upholstery sample book, a vintage button, and a piece of "ribbon" cut from cloth. Edges of the book are bound with blanket stitching, and the inner panels and outer cover are secured together at the edge with a running stitch.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Stitched Seaweed Bowl

Seaweed bowl catching the light

The experiments with seaweed continue with this stitched seaweed bowl (for earlier experiments see Seaweed Experiment: Stitching Seaweed, and Stitching Seaweed: A Luminaria). What I learned in the course of stitching, molding, and drying this piece provides valuable information for ongoing experiments, though I think the result here is rather lovely on its own.

Seaweed bowl: the art shot



From above

In use: holding a collection of exotic seeds

Here is a final photo of the wet, slippery process.

Working wet

A final piece from this round of seaweed experiments will appear in a few days. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stitching Seaweed: A Luminaria

Seaweed luminaria (votive candle holder)

My early experiments with stitching seaweed began over a year ago (see Seaweed Experiment: Stitching Seaweed) and addressed a very basic question: Can you stitch seaweed? Continuing the process has depended on securing seaweed from the beaches of Monterey Bay, which has required learning about seaweed season, tides, and transport and storage issues. This round of experiments involved a steep learning curve; some things worked, some things didn't. This post offers a look at the first of two seaweed creations I'd like to share.

View from above


With votive inside

Working Wet

A final photo below shows the piece in progress. While stitching wet seaweed is slippery and challenging, the drying process is even more challenging. As it dries seaweed shrinks and has a mind of its own regarding what form it would like to shrink into. As a result, the drying process requires constant vigilance and ongoing tweaking.

Working wet

What I need is a shack by a seaweed-rich bay for a month so I could do these experiments uninterrupted and continue the learning process. The experiments that didn't work during this round taught me more than those that did, and I'm itching to get my hands on more raw materials.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grief Bacon: A Poster Series

Click to enlarge

Every once in a while I come across a word I fall in love with, and there is no nation on earth that creates more imaginative, utterly apt, incredibly evocative words than the Germans, who brought us "schadenfreude" (come on, you know you've felt it), "zeitgeist," and so much more.

When I first heard the word "kummerspeck" a few weeks ago it provoked the poster series you see here. They all print out nicely onto 8.5" x 11" paper. As we enter the season of overeating and start to pack on our own "grief bacon," feel free to download and print out any or all of these complimentary posters. I hope you end up loving this word as much as I do. 

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Enjoy, and go ahead and shake that bacon this holiday season.
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