Monday, March 25, 2024

Gritty Urban Interactive Wear: Alarmed!


Does this woman look alarmed?

Well she is!

This fashion statement was inspired by a little gadget called "She's Birdie," a personal safety alarm (pull the ring out and you have a 130 decibel siren and a flashing strobe light). If you've read the news about Oakland, California lately you know that we are teetering on the brink of civil collapse and in a state of lawlessness that rivals those old Westerns we all grew up on. However, the weather is nice and I can't imagine living anywhere else. I decided on a whim to invest in this little budget safety alarm and while I have no idea whether or not it would actually deter a thief I figured it could easily become part of an ambulatory interactive piece.

The Birdie

The first step was converting a prime thrift store find: a gray linen jacket with wonderful pockets but lacking any front closure. I snipped some fabric out of the back side of one pocket (replacing the missing section with scrap fabric) and stitched plackets onto the top front of the jacket to support buttonholes for a pair of vintage buttons.

Jacket front 

The next step was creating a template for the back lettering. I chose Bookman Old Style Font at 188pt, and printed out the letters and punctuation I needed on one 8.5x11 sheet.

Bookman Old Style 188pt

The printed letters were used as a cutting pattern on crafting felt, and the felt letters were then stitched onto the back of the jacket.

Jacket back

Stitched felt letters

More stitched felt letters!

My hopes and dreams for this piece may be overly ambitious. I envision a conversation with one of the many strangers I encounter on my ramblings about town.

Them: You are alarmed? What are you alarmed about?

Me: No, no, this is not a philosophical or political or emotional statement - although I would say if you are not alarmed about the current global situation you would have to be brain dead. This is a simple statement of fact. I am literally alarmed!

I then wave the Birdie dangling from my neck and a good laugh is had by all. Sometimes I even imagine having this conversation with an armed mugger wearing a hoodie. We will see how it goes.

Heading out...

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Stitching Tea and Roots


Stitched roots on tea-dyed paper

The title of these two pieces says it all: "The feeling I think you're supposed to get when drinking tea...but I don't." 

For some reason, for decades people seem to assume that I love tea. As a result, whenever a gift-giving occasion comes along I usually end up with at least one gift pack of specialty teas and have even scored a teapot or two along the way. The tea always goes into a large brown shopping bag labeled "tea" that is stored in the dark recesses of my walk-in art closet. I have herbal teas, smoky English teas, gift packs of tea from Taiwan, and curative teas.  In one of those 2 a.m. idle moments the thought occurred that it might be interesting to see if they could be used as dyes. 

Experimenting with tea dyeing

After kicking off a round of experimental dyeing using strips of paper towels and an endless variety of teas, I turned to the other key ingredient in this project: bamboo and wild grass roots. (See Roots Project for earlier experiments with roots.)

Bamboo and native grass roots

A first step was separating and organizing the roots in preparation for stitching.

Organized roots!

Close-up of roots

Thence ensued a blissful interlude of stitching. The results are below and perfectly capture the original theme — that elusive, zen-like feeling I uneasily suspect you are supposed to experience while drinking tea.

Panel One (11" x 11")

Panel One detail

Panel One detail

Panel Two (11" x 11")

Panel Two detail

Panel Two detail

As a beverage, the point of tea continues to elude me. As a dye, however, it holds enough possibilities that my battered old bag of teas will remain in the art closet. And in future, when gifted with yet another gift pack of teas, my enthusiasm may be marginally less false.
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