Friday, December 31, 2021

Beaux Pet = Beautiful Farts: Herbal Pillows and Holiday Crackers

Beaux Pet holiday crackers

Mad inventions are born in the most quotidian moments. The idea for these Beaux Pet pillows inspired by a mild spat between the ten-year-old and 12-year-old grandnieces during one of our weekly zoom maker sessions. The younger sister was allegedly repeatedly farting while sitting on her older sister's bed, leading to accusations of malicious contamination. 

It got me thinking...and the Beaux Pet pillow was born. Beaux pet translates from the French into "beautiful farts."  The idea is that by quilting herbs into small, approximately 6" x7" pillows, the person enjoying excess gas can take this foldable, compact little pillow from pocket or purse, discretely tuck it under their bottom, and utterly relax. Instead of tensing up or fighting Mother Nature, the aim becomes to go happily and enthusiastically with Mother Nature and do your best to force a blast of air through the pillow, producing a beautiful, rich herbal scent. Thus the Beaux Pet slogan: "Each fart a fragrant bouquet."

I produced one pillow for each of the other members of the maker session, the styles varying depending on fabric scraps from my stash. I also played with different techniques for getting the Beaux Pet label on each pillow, from hand-printing directly onto the pillow, to stitching a hand-printed label on, to embroidering onto the pillow fabric.

The Empress model

Close-up of Empress label

The Gingko

The Provence

Each little square in the cross-hatched stitching pattern has a loose teaspoonful or so of a combination of herbs: rosemary, thyme and lavender. Harkening back to a project I did decades ago that involved researching Medieval beliefs regarding the power of herbs, this particular combo should enable those who smell it to see fairies.

As noted, the pillows are quite portable and flexible, and I decided to roll them up and tuck them into recycled paper towel cardboard cores along with a strip from an English traditional Christmas cracker store that actually explodes when the strip is grabbed by the opposite ends sticking out of the cracker and pulled. The final package, shipped off before New Year 2022, is shown below.

The Beaux Pet holiday cracker

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Control Freak Merit Badge


Another merit badge!

The Awards Jacket, inspired by a memorable, albeit brief, stint in the Girl Scouts, has been an immensely satisfying ongoing project which involves inventing and bestowing upon myself an assortment of accolades. My merit badges are devoted to things like being able to use chopsticks, having a belly that makes me an excellent lazy floater, etc. Three recent badges (two self-awarded, one hand-embroidered by a grandniece) relate to surviving the pandemic.

My latest medal may be my favorite so far. Inspired by a vintage medallion gifted to me by a friend who knows me well, this may be my crowning achievement — an award for being an intrepid control freak. As one old boyfriend noted, "What would all of us do without you ordering us around and telling us what to do? How would the world go on?" I couldn't agree more.

In truth, however, I realize how much easier life would be if I didn't have to carry the burden of knowing so very much more than everyone else about what should be done in every circumstance (even those in which I lack all practical knowledge, which I have never found a deterrent). I wear the medal as much as a reminder to check those impulses as to acknowledge myself unabashedly as the control freak that I am.

Medal front

Medal back

The original medal gifted to me is from a "young birds" pigeon race in Stafford, England in 1936. What better symbol of control than to successfully order a bunch of pigeons about? However, 1936 is a particularly poignant year in the annals of pigeons and human history, with one incident in particular pointing to the perils of trying to control a flock of twitchy birds prone to hysteria. During the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, 25,000 pigeons were released. Unfortunately, a cannon was fired at the same time, causing all of the pigeons to release their bowels in utter panic. One athlete, Louis Zamerini, a distance runner, describes the scene: " could hear the pitter patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair."

Control gone wrong. It happens far too often. To create my medal I added a bit of chain and used some ribbon stitched over a cardboard base to give it a bit of a military swagger and added a pin backing.

The control freak medal

The final result has now been installed on my awards jacket, which really should have a soundtrack of Beatles-type honky tonk music as I wear it out and about.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Advent Calendar 2021: Life is a Giant Puzzle

The advent mystery bags: Which day is which?

This year's advent calendar for two young Colorado girls layers mystery upon mystery and puzzle upon puzzle. The calendar arrives as 24 sealed and decorated bags, and a long length of recycled lace for use as the advent garland. The bags attach to the garland using the glittery pipe cleaners that seal each bag.

The garland fixings.

But wait a minute!

There are no numbers on the front of the bags indicating the day of the month. What is going on? The puzzle starts at assembly and the first round involves a game for the whole family.


Note the little triangular tab labeled "clues" on the front of each bag. If you pull on the "clues" tab, a long strip of paper emerges with a set of clues that will help you figure out what day of the month to write on the bag. The clues start with difficult to "weirdly difficult," and proceed to get easier and easier as you continue to pull on the tab. Once you have figured out the correct number, you write it on the front of the bag.

The clues revealed!

Maker tip: Note that replicating this idea is far easier than it looks. Decorate 24 bags any way you wish. Cut a horizontal slit about a third of the way down on the front of the bag, the same width as your long question strip. Glue a triangular piece of paper with the word "clues" written on it to the end of the strip that contains the most difficult questions. Feed the other end of the strip into the slit on the bag, and fold the "clues" triangle down so it rests flush against the bag. To save you hours and yours of obsessive-compulsive computer time, I have created a PDF of all of the question strips that you are free to use. The link: Advent 2021 Question Strips.

Sample clue sheet (click to enlarge)

But at this point the fun has just begun. Once the numbers game is over and all of your bags have the correct day of the month and have been attached in order to the lace garland, participants are instructed to turn all of the bags over so the back of the bag is facing outward.

Whoa, a secret message!

A secret message is revealed! In this case the message reads: "When you have figured out these puzzles and think that you are done, you will learn to your amazement: The games have just begun." And yes folks, that is exactly twenty-four words, one word on the back of each bag.

So what is inside? Puzzles! Turns out that buying batches of puzzles online is very affordable. I alternated between 3-d wood puzzles, 3-d metal puzzles, and blank jigsaw puzzles they may embellish with their own artwork.

Inside the bags: more puzzles!

And more puzzles...

...and more puzzles.

And of course, each bag also contains a small piece of candy for each girl each day.

But wait, there's more...

Just to completely wow my little audience of two, I decided to throw in a few rounds of mail art, which will arrive throughout the month of December. Using the book, "Tricks and Puzzles," by Silver Dog Press, 1973, I used their muddy, black and white images of old German picture puzzle postcards from the turn of the century and recreated them at full postcard size by recreating the images using water colors. (Note I have searched far and wide on the internet for examples of these puzzles but so far my only source is this book, which is available used on Amazon). The idea is to randomly send one postcard every few days from an assortment of four different picture puzzles so that the recipients have to guess what the total picture will eventually look like and which postcard fits into which puzzle. I offer just one example below.

Sample puzzle postcard: What could it be?

The answer becomes apparent when you receive all four of the postcards that are part of this picture postcard puzzle.

Full set of four postcards

And that wraps up the 2021 version of the advent calendar.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

You Deserve a Medal

Medals for valiant children

Every once in a while life throws you a scary curve ball that requires true grit. I believe those life moments warrant some sort of acknowledgement and recognition. I have offered various options for entertaining medals over the years, including medals for myself stitched to my ongoing Awards Jacket, and the funky delight of making medals out of recycled ribbon and scrap in the post, Recycled Ribbon Awards

This time around, the medals go out to my two grand-nieces who have just been uprooted from the town and school and friends they have known their entire lives to move to a new town and new school. Of necessity, everything happened very fast, they found out about the move a week before school was to start in August, and the family had not yet found a house in the new location. As a result, they started a new school and plunged into the great unknown during an interim stay in a Quality Inn. Now that is tough. And that deserves a medal. I proceeded to make some and sent each of them an awards presentation package in the mail.

Label on each custom-made award box

Before the move, the girls and I had been discussing the concept of multiple dimensions, parallel universes, and those critical moments in life where one move or one decision or one seemingly trivial even sends you down an alternate life path. The twelve-year-old began to refer to these as the great "what ifs."

The awards were accompanied by the following documentation:

The medals incorporate old chains and salvaged jewelry findings and bits of broken jewelry. They also each include a small copper charm with the letters "Aug." on them because they entered a parallel dimension when they moved in August. Note that I just happen to have an entire small bag of these copper "August" charms purchased as a scrap find. This is the first time since I found them over thirty years ago that I have had occasion to use them.  The medals also incorporate a feature piece — a vintage piece of French theatrical costume appliqué, purchased from the collection of French opera and theater costumery at the store Tinsel in Berkeley, California. They may be worn as a necklace or hung on a wall.

Medal for a 12-year-old entering an alien middle school

Medal for a 10-year-old entering a new elementary school

Let's face it, times are tough. And sometimes you deserve a medal.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Weave Yourself a Metaphor


Weave Yourself a Metaphor

This assemblage combines scraps and elements from a range of different projects: native grass roots and the chiffon ribbon and broken jewelry bits the roots were supposed to miraculously and organically turn into jewelry (but didn't); knitted strips of eco-dyed cloth; and strips of paper dyed with coffee containing notes from the spiritual window shopping I have been doing over the last several months.


Broken Bird

A gift from a friend who knows my inner nature.

Broken porcelain chick

Roots, Ribbons and Jewelry Bits

Technically, this is part of the ongoing Roots project. Here we see the native grass roots, chiffon ribbon, and broken jewelry bits in situ. The idea was that this stage of the project would give the roots agency and they would assume control of the jewelry-making process. That didn't happen — the roots did not bond and intertwine with the ribbon as envisioned. So...they have been recycled into this assemblage.

Native grass roots trying to fashion jewelry

Eco-Dyed Recycled Cloth

Scraps from an eco-dyeing session, cut into long strips, knotted together, and then knitted.

Cutting cloth into long strips

Knitting cloth strips

Paper Scraps with Notes

The notes contain ideas that captured my attention in recent months, like: "An ideology is one's imaginary relationship to reality." To encourage the notepaper to blend better with the rest of the elements, I dunked the notes in a cup of coffee and then let them dry. No photo - use your imagination.

The Assemblage

When this piece began, I was focusing on the poor little chick's plight and was using the working title, "Broken." As the work evolved, it transformed into "Weave Yourself a Metaphor," which, as far as I can see, is what we are all doing every morning when we wake up.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Roots Project: Passive Jewelry Piece #3


Strand of assorted root beads

This third passive jewelry piece in the ongoing Roots Project is, perhaps, my favorite. Note that "passive jewelry" involves the roots doing nothing more than growing. I then harvest them and use them to make jewelry. In the upcoming collaborative jewelry series, the roots play a more active role in actually creating the piece.

The grasses growing hydroponically in my front windows

These root beads began as a byproduct of earlier roots jewelry making. When I had scraps of roots left over I couldn't bear to discard them and started rolling them up into beads—which is more challenging than it sounds. As I grew fond of the beads themselves, I started to harvest root batches more intentionally to create more, and my beading technique grew more refined.

Lovely, lovely root beads

What I found particularly intriguing is how distinctly different each type of root appears in bead form.

Root beads and root strands

The final necklace includes an assortment of all of the types of native grass roots I have been growing.

Root types

Artifact from a culture that never existed

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Roots Project: Passive Jewelry Piece #2


Courier necklace made with Reed Manna roots

For background on the greater, ongoing project, which involves various art experiments with native grass roots, see Roots Project. I have come to think of this second passive jewelry piece as an ephemeral courier necklace - an artifact from a nonexistent culture. I envision lithe, delicately limbed messengers wearing these fragile neckpieces running hither and yon, delivering the messages written within the rolled up paper beads.

The native grass root used here is Reed Mann, the roots carefully teased apart into long separate strands. The beads are made from Chinese good fortune paper.

Artifact from an unknown civilization

One more passive jewelry piece will be posted shortly. Then, with any luck, the active jewelry collaborations in which the roots have control and creative agency will enter their harvest phase.

At this point in the project, I realized I was on the right track when I woke up one morning with the urgent thought: I need to grow a pair of earrings!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Roots Project: Passive Jewelry Piece #1

Bamboo root, Reed Manna root, bone

This Passive Jewelry series is the second stage in a series of experiments involving native grass roots (see The Roots Project). I have used the term "passive" to distinguish this series from a collaborative series currently in progress. In this passive series the roots are simply serving as materials; they play no active role in working collaboratively to create the jewelry.

This first piece was one of those happy accidents, introducing Lucky Bamboo (dracaena) root to the mix. I realized one of my Lucky Bamboo stalks had become root-bound in its container of water. I experimented, cut the lower portion of the stalk with the roots off entirely, and put the old stalk back in a fresh container of water (where it is surviving happily and madly sending off fresh roots). So - it turns out you can sustainably harvest Lucky Bamboo roots!

Lucky Bamboo (left), and Reed Manna 

The first step involved carefully teasing apart the Reed Manna clump into separate strands.

Reed Manna root

The Lucky Bamboo root had grown into a swirling circle in the confines of its water container, and this shape triggered the inspiration for the rest of the piece.

Lucky Bamboo root

Below, you can see the longest, strongest  Reed Manna roots teased out into workable strands. The ball, which was formed from shorter, weaker roots, was set aside for a later piece of jewelry. 

Necklace materials

It was possible to thread long strands of Reed Manna root onto an embroidery needle and stitch/loop it through the bamboo from either side, and then string on little tiny beads made out of bone, picked up long ago, somewhere or other.

Close-up: Roots and bone

And that brings us to the end of our narrative on this first root jewelry piece. Stay tuned.

The first root necklace

Related Posts with Thumbnails