Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Whole New World (of tartar)

We got a new camera. A whole lot of new camera. It's baffling in its capacity. I feel like this littlest matryoshka, gazing a little stunned upon a new land of possibility.

Nesting dolls from my mother. I love them madly. The littlest here is about the size of a quarter. Good heavens.

I strongly advise my mother to stop reading here. Along with anyone else who has a stronger than usual aversion to rodents.

And this is the tarter on mouse teeth. No, serious. I found this gorgeous tiny skull in the garden. Here is the whole mandible (at least that's what I think it's called... and I think it's a mouse...I'm not really much of a biologist though):
And skull:
Love the tiny fur detail. Scott took the mousey pics, but clearly I no longer have an excuse in lack of camera-power.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Contemporary Art

Just what does my husband do in the service of Contemporary Art? This is a succinct 45 second summation, filmed Sunday after Tada.

How I love him!

Video by PICA's own Brian Costello

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Adventures With Sharp Needles

Men are so hard to sew for. Many of them don't have a finely attuned sense of the transcendently adorable. But one does persist in making them gifts. For my father's birthday I made him this bag out of black duck (that's a heavy cotton fabric) with a leather pocket and bird. The bird is legit; he will probably use the bag for bird-watching. I learned quite a bit about sewing with leather, namely that I don't know how to do it. As I sewed, it stretched dramatically. The pocket began as a rectangle and ended up trapezoidal. I kept trimming and re-sewing, and it got wonkier each time. It finally ended up acceptably, but I'm going to have to work on it more, because I really like leather, and there's plenty of it out there to reclaim.
Here Shanga poses with the bag, suggesting they go for a walk immediately. Isn't she beautiful?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I don't know. I really love this photo. I always was quite vain about my ears.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quick Touch

I have neglected you, little blog. I am preoccupied by family and sunshine. I hope you are too, and your readers.

Photo by Scott, naturally.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oops... More Deer and Eggs

Nothing says crafty godparent like softscupture. At least that was the case in my childhood and I've taken up the cause with these eggs for my Olive. They aren't quite as, well, egg-like as I intended, a little flat-bottomed, in fact. I don't know why. I'll have to work on it. How cute is that fabric?
The background betrays yet more deer in my decor. I feel a little sheepish. But it also shows another terrarium, one that has flourished after all. It's the only fully closed one I have. I wonder if there are different rules for those that aren't a closed eco-system. Probably. Anybody know them?
My issue with fully closed terraria, besides the difficulty of finding bell jars, is that it rains all the time on this poor little deer. And, yeah, it's cool that there's a little water system in there. But poor deer. I'm ready for it to have some sun. And the rest of us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Plea

Potholder set commissioned by my mother for a friend...

And more importantly, a request: One feature of craft blogs (and I would like to work my way into that world--my plan is to become a famous craft blogger and retire) is how-tos, instructables, tutorials, the like. Now, the only people I know read my blog are the people who comment; and most of you don't spend a lot of time sewing. But one or two of you have some crafty inclinations, and maybe some of my other friends are lurking silently... So what I'm wondering if there's anything I know how to do ("know") that you're interested in having me provide directions for? I want to practice. A project here, something else I've made that you've seen in real life, or even something you want to learn how to make that I could perhaps figure out as an assignment? Mom, you want an instructable for cloth grocery bags? Don't limit yourself to sewing. I have broad but shallow knowledge. But if you all want to learn how to make a successful terrarium, Lisa will have to guest blog.

Come on--brainstorm.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Faux Bois

As far as I'm concerned, the only thing Easter really has going for it is the accessories. As a child, I received a new dress, bonnet, and gloves every year in addition to the all important Easter basket. When I have a daughter of my own she will no doubt refuse to wear anything that doesn't have Hannah Montana or the Nike logo on it, so in the meantime I'm plaguing other people's children. These Easter baskets are for my niece and nephew who we are visiting in Spokane this weekend. They are really big, but then it turned out we had a lot of things to give them, including an Easter tambourine and an Easter bug catching kit. I am obsessed with ticking right now. That's the stripy stuff, used for mattresses in days of old. I just can't get enough of it. It feels especially right for children, a little old fashioned, a little sweetie, but very plain and hardy also.
And then there's this--faux bois. What is it about faux bois? I love it. But damn it, Portland, so do the rest of you. I always feel bitter when my enthusiasms coincide with other people's. I mean, I saw this coming, what with the Doug Fir and all. Scott and I were several years ago contemplating my oh so trendy swallow tattoo and wondering what little animal would be the next trend, and realized it was bound to be the deer. Indeed. And it's brought with it faux bois. Thank you, deer. But I can barely stand not to buy this fabric and then feel so trendy when I do. So I only use it for children.

PS Aren't eggs gorgeous? Since the little bird phase has passed, I no longer feel angst about celebrating eggs. I only wish I had some of Emily's to model my baskets for me.

PPS Ah, what the hell...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bunny Inspiration, Bunny Plagiarism (or Hotchpotch, Farrago, Jumble)

Spoiler alert: Olive, stop reading here.

Besides they irrepressible Flopsy at my preschool, this is my favorite rabbit in the world.
Somebody was painting it around and about in our old neighborhood in southeast a year or so ago. I fell in love with the design and stole it.

I used it for Oopsie's tea party invitations. Or I should say rather for the shower for the impending Olive.

I exacto-ed it onto some Ikea window film for the bathroom. Terrible stuff to work with, all sticky and difficult.

And watch out, parents of small children, I have more plans for it in the coming spring months.
In this pillow for Olive, it turned out pixelated, which I like. (On a side note, I've really been digging printable fabric lately... you just have to figure out what the hell to print on it that's not super lame and creepy... no photos of departed pets or grandmas).

But... It's somebody else's bunny. And that somebody else probably even lives here in town. I think the verb I used above is accurate--I stole the design.

But what we would call derivative in the academy, or really straight up plagiarism in a comp class, is called "inspired by" in the craft world. If I make a softie just like somebody else's softie but with some inovations, I'm encouraged to post it in their flickr group and am congratulated on what I made. If I write a poem just like somebody else's poem but with different fabric and longer ears, I am summarily dismissed. Unless maybe I can convince everyone that it's some kind of postmodern statement. I'm thinking of MV's cover stories, fellow MFA-ers.

There's definitely something postmodern going on here, yeah? A good opportunity to use the wonderful bi-labially plosive term "postmodern pastiche". I like wikipedia's definition of pastiche better than the one I ususally come up with in front of a classroom on the fly: "...a work is called pastiche if it is cobbled together in imitation of several original works. As the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, a pastiche in this sense is 'a medley of various ingredients; a hotchpotch, farrago, jumble.' This meaning accords with etymology: pastiche is the French version of the greco-Roman dish pastitsio or pasticcio, which designated a kind of pie made of many different ingredients." I always think of TS Eliot, "shoring fragments against our ruin" (perhaps I shouldn't use quote marks when I am paraphrasing, or more specifically, misquoting). So... is there something fundamentally postmodern in the current craft movement? High art and its notions of originality be damned. Hell, the auteur notion of art be damned?

And then street art, too, which is by its nature public art, the vandal artist both leaving his mark and stealing secretly away. This calls further notice to issue of originality, authorship, and venue. Until, of course, MOMA buys it. Graffiti is not copyrighted per se until it turns up in the halls of high art, right? But what if it's somebody like Banksy?
You come across this on the streets of New Orleans, as we did, and you know it's him, and you know it's art. And it's also graffiti and it's illegal. But let's just say Urban Outfitters wanted to use it on a tee-shirt. They like that kind of thing. I think they couldn't. I think there's some kind of implied intellectual property there. What if the artist is unknown?

As for my bunny, I think I would be crossing a line if I were to attempt to sell stuff printed with it. Is that where the line falls? At commerce? Ethically that seems satisfactory, but philosophically, there's more to parse out.

Especially in the days of stenciling and wheat-pasting, everything a copy...

I did study folklore for awhile in college, and I believe one of the definitional differences between folk art and high art is that in folk art the basic pattern must have arisen from a cultural group of people (though of course there is individual variance) while high art must be attributable to a single progenitor. Graffiti, however, was then considered folk art and not high art. It's been fifteen years. I wonder if ideas have changed.

And sewing and so forth stands on this wavering line, an interesting wavering line. There are fiber artists, and there are crafters. What's the difference? I feel quite strongly about the depreciation of craft. Even Terry Tempest Williams said this the other night "I thought mosaic was just a craft--I was wrong. It's not a craft; it's an art form." Really, Terry? What then does qualify as "just a craft?" But I digress...

While we as a culture figure this one out, I think I'm going to go on being "inspired by" street art. My husband does take such wonderful photographs of it. And so if you know who made this bunny, umm... don't tell them. Unless they're really collaborative-minded.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Very Easy Life of Jane's Thimble

(Elizabeth took up some needlework and was sufficiently amused Part 2--See Part 3 here.)

Penelope Bryde's "pamphlet" was brought out in a new edition in 2008 amid Jane-inspired madness--under a new title that ignores the needlework section entirely. And, indeed, that section is a mere 15 small pages. I learned that ladies of the era were no longer making lace, as it had just begun to be mass-produced by machine. They were likely, however, to have worked white embroidery on their own white muslin dresses, which is why they would hide their work in their baskets when gentlemen approached. I did not figure out what tambour is though I read a page-long description. I learned that knitting was only for the old or the desperate (Mrs. Smith in Persuasion who makes money by her needlework). And I learned that Bryde considers Austen to have been herself a truly accomplished domestic artist--even by Caroline Bingley's strict definition of the term. The hottest trend was apparently satin-stitch embroidery of which she created some of the finest surviving examples from the era. And how she found the time for it all? I suppose all those hours in the parlour when she couldn't be writing could be filled with listening as long as her hands were busy. But honestly, she sure got a lot done. "I wish I could help you in your Needlework," she wrote to Cassandra. "I have two hands & a new Thimble that lead a very easy life."

But I am mid-way through Sense and Sensibility and I am befuddled by a filigree basket that Elinor helps Lucy Steele to work by rolling paper for her. What could this be?