Friday, October 31, 2008

school day part two: the hallowe'enening.

in an earlier post, i had teased about a great plan we had for halowe'en in brooklyn. well, i have had no time to announce these plans, but today they were set into action nonetheless.

the big exciting deal was that our friend melissa invited us into her 4th grade class in brooklyn to make buttons and do unflattering portraits with the kids. at first, i was trying to dissuade her from the unflattering portrait aspect of her plan, thinking it would release some kind of disaster upon the classroom. how wrong i was. the kids were totally excited to draw ugly pictures of one another and (unless they were pulling one over on us) totally uncruel in doing them.

melissa, you may remember, is someone we met years ago when she got a portrait done at renegade brooklyn. her class has all seen this portrait and, inspired by it, some of them had already tried their own. one young man has even compiled an entire book of his own portraits. we have been promised a photocopy.

there was so much fun to be had, and so much art made that i had to make and entire flickr set to house all the pictures. hopefully melissa and/or her students can help me remember who drew everything. getting credit is an important lesson for any aspiring artist.

later in the evening, we all (me, aitor and melissa) went into manhattan to witness the insanity of the parade in the village. or should i say, the colonel, beckylope and melissa?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

home cooked food and crafts.

the above photos are from the downstairs foyer at my friend dory's place in brooklyn. the hallways there are clearly suffering from some horrible blights.

tonight we were invited over to dory's for dinner (which she cooked for us). pasta, cauliflower, salad. it was a delight! we drank beers from toronto and talked about all kinds of things - crafts, new york city, glass museums, envelopes. ah yes, while in brooklyn, dory has been feeding my gluttony for security envelopes. this evening she unearthed some old british specimens she had had tucked away. i am probably going to make them into buttons right away to cool my nerves.

after dinner, we all retired to the living room to make crafts. aitor was drawing note cards, dory was picking out fabrics for a new baby quilt and i was (unsuccessfully) trying to work on my hallowe'en costume. i might have given up on it. i'm not sure yet. my current state of brain fuzziness has made it a bit easier to give up on things...or, to not bother bothering...not just now, anyway.

regardless of any failures in decorating myself for the best day of the year, it was so great to have an evening that felt normal. homemade dinner and crafts on the living room floor? there is little i could find more comforting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

my father.

today i learned that my father passed away yesterday.

i don't know if a blog is an appropriate place to commemorate people, but i figure it is as good as anywhere - especially if it makes me feel any small amount of better.

among myriad things, my father has always been unendingly supportive of me, my creative endeavors, my choices in life and my freewheeling lifestyle. he had actually been following this blog for quite a while while i travelled. my dad (both my parents, in fact) put my happiness before any pressure for me to achieve fame or fortune. he supported even some of my wildest creative ideas. he let me push him beyond things he had considered before - being interviewed for trampoline hall lectures about my family in the spring, coming to queer film festivals to see movies i was in. my father was very central in letting me feel permission to be who i am, do what i do and live how i live. he was proud of me for artistic undertakings that other parents could understandably have found pointless and confounding. for all these things i am hugely thankful.

above is possibly the last picture i took of him. it was from this past july when aitor and i went to visit. he has purchased some fake colour contacts and went through a phase of switching the eye he would wear one in to confuse acquaintances on the island where he lived. i think it's pretty clear that his legacy lives on in me.

bye, teejay. i miss you already. i wish we could go fishing again together, even if we didn't catch anything.

Monday, October 27, 2008

fleas and friends in brooklyn.

yesterday we spent a great day at the big ol' brooklyn flea. i liked it there. the event has a good vibe, the vendors are nice, the passersby chatty and today the weather was sublime. after a number of hours sitting around, it seemed like none of the friends we had alerted to our visit were going to materialize. new yorkers do have busy lives, after all.

then out of the blue, some friends from atlanta show up - john and travis (pictured above) were there for some flea bargains and unflattering portraits. megan showed up in an act of total surprise (to us). and newly-transplanted canadian pal, dory, also came by to say hi and bring me some security envelopes in person! this makes her the first person to collect on my call for envelopes bargain (although i do have some tantalizing mail submissions coming in...) dory even brought me one i have never seen before!

we also got to spend the evening in the charming company of travis and john, sipping boozy apple cider, eating indian food and chatting.

then, when we got home, aitor had this waiting for him in his email box...

photo by michael dibugnara

...a contribution by one of the day's patrons of the arts who snapped up one of the specialty company's vintage framed limited edition prints. one can only get such gems from the misanthropes in person at fairs, in case you needed a reason to leave your home for some human contact.

it's nice to know we have left some good pieces of us in loving homes in new york.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

new york museum night.

look at that grumpy face up there. it couldn't possibly be the face of a young misanthrope about to launch himself into the big city night for some museum browsing, could it?

discovering that friday evenings are free at both the moma and the american folk art museum (the latter has been on our list of places to go on this trip on account of their collection of henry darger's works), we hopped a subway and went into the big bustling city. i am usually not much for big bustling crowds, but it was actually exciting to feel so out on the town after our recent stays in more rural climes. i feel like an even bigger bumpkin that usual and i like that. feelings of wonder can be elusive as one gets older.

we actually arrived at the folk art museum early (a feat i don't think i have ever previously achieved in new york) so we decided to look at some stuff at the moma.

hey, look who got happy fast. we actually didn't go into the moma. it was far too teeming with humanity and felt insurmountable. but there was an outdoor exhibition (well, the second half of an exhibition) about experiments in architecture that we wandered through. there was some neat stuff but we both agreed that we liked this 'house for new orleans' project the best.

i wish i knew more about the designers. i didn't take home any brochures in an attempt to save a tree but couldn't find much in the way of specifics on the moma website (everyone i spoke to there seemed really disinterested, too). what i do remember is that the entire structure is laser cut out of interlocking pieces that can be assembled with only a rubber mallet. these houses are designed to be 'shotgun dwellings' that could be installed quickly in the wake of disaster. unlike the other homes in the installation, this one took place and history into account. i think that is what resonated with aitor and myself. we're a sentimental pair. and the crushing of oldness by newness is acutely evident in new york. they call it evolution but it makes me sad.

from there we were ready for the american folk art museum, next door. it is full of the kind of stuff that aitor and i both get excited about (in respective areas of interest) - quilts, shaker boxes, tooth-shaped trade signs, scrimshaw. but the crowning jewel (to our minds) of their collection is the largest assmbly of the works of a mr. henry darger in the world.

i can leave most of darger's biography to further research on your part. the short story is that he was a man who lived in chicago (and elsewhere in illinois) until the 1970's. he painted compulsively as a way to enrich the huge fantasy world he spent a lifetime creating for himself to spend time in. to this end, he also wrote a 15,000+ page manuscript (that nobody has ever read in its entirely, though two people have tried) called the story of the vivian girls, in what is known as the realms of the unreal, of the glandeco-angelinian war storm caused by the child slave rebellion. darger also kept a weather journal (comparing weather forecasts to actuality) for exactly a decade and wrote a 5,000+ page autobiography.

during our visit, we were fortunate enough to get to talk to the show's curator, brooke anderson, who offered us a bunch of the details and information above (which i hope i didn't confuse). she is also actively looking for a phd student to write their dissertation on darger, as much is still unknown about him and his work. again, nobody has read any of his tomes in their entirety to date.

after surveying their website, i also found this exhibition at their satellite location. hmmm, looks like hallowe'en afternoon is becoming quite full, indeed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

back to the biggest city.

it finally came time to shove off from our motel digs and reenter the land of living. today we drove from our temporary pennsylvania home to the raging wilds of brooklyn. it is stressful to me to even think about a trip to new york. this is mostly because i drive there and it can be a real nightmare to anybody no accustomed to the aggressive flow/anti-flow of traffic.

leaving this strange pastoral town behind us, we were treated to the even more bucolic sights of southern pennsylvania. we even stumbled upon 'roadside america,' a miniature museum that had come highly recommended to us by our friend devil in athen, georgia. sadly, it was just closing as we got there so we had to settle for a visit to the neighbouring pennsylvanis dutch gift shop.

i picked up a few books on topics like witchcraft, superstitions and hex signs, all of which look greatly appealing. i also scored a vintage amish apron. i wonder what i am ever going to do with all these old aprons i keep collecting. whenever i see an interesting design at an affordable price, i can't help myself. maybe if i work on my pattern drafting i can make some reproductions. there are some pretty kick-ass patterns out there.

we finally got to brooklyn and our friends, marc and dominica's place. they are currently touring europe and should be back before we leave. i was totally charmed to be greeted by their tour plottings on the back of their front door when we arrived (pictured above). maybe i should be using a similar sytem of thought bubbles to plan our tours. but ours would have to roll up...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

brooklyn flea, etc.

photographer unknown

get ready, new york. we are coming back to your area and will be bobbing around there over the next few weeks. on sunday, we will participate in our first brooklyn flea. i'll be there with buttons galore and aitor will be on hand with both prints and unflattering portraits done live (get there early for those, though; he starts to take a list if demand is high and tires easily). this weekly brooklyn event came highly recommended by fellow crafties, sarah and charlie. well, look for us there, guys, and all of our friends in the area - come on down and say hi!

we will also be kicking around until hallowe'en when we are going to see our friends/toronto downstairs neighbours, nadja, rock out before they go away for a year and we miss them like crazy.

speaking of nadja, aitor designed their latest album (or one of their latest, anyway. they are fairly prolific). here is the cover but i really should try to photograph the whole thing because it's all pretty swank (minus some odd choices the label made regarding layout - sorry whoever you are, i'm a stickler for these things).

it looks like we will be back through the big apple for the november 9th edition of brooklyn flea, too. and there is plenty more activity thrown in during those weeks, including jaunts to philadelphia and baltimore for more excitement. but more on that later. for now, we should be packing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

spooky times in pennsylvania.

hallowe'en must be fast approaching. look that the spooky hand print that appeared in our pile of new linens at our motel. you can call it filth, but i call it a haunting. i noticed it last night, right before we went to do our laundry in town.

while our clothes were drying, the lady at the laundromat took us out back to listen to a weird screaming she has been hearing late every night. um...i have to say, it was pretty scary.

today when we went into town, aitor got a haircut. he said it ended with his entire head being vacuumed. i wasn't there to witness this, so i can't corroborate, but he looked pretty shaken.

as we were walking around the shops and antiqueries of the main drag, we also stumbled upon this:

terrifying stuff. just who is filling this town with so much grease, anyway? in truth, bedford is a very nice and pretty little town. i failed to get good pictures of their amazing gulf station, but i will see why i can do tomorrow. until then...

we even visited a small independent office supply store a couple of days ago and scored a big haul of old dymo tapes. they had a whole bunch of old office stuff that has clearly been sitting there since the 50's - 70's. my kind of dream.

but back to the bathroom (or as we like to call it, "the kitchen"). i will leave you with an image below of the tools we are toting in an attempt to avoid destroying the entire planet in our wake. i will say, trying to be ecologically minded is a profound challenge when living as leeches off gas station food.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


i like things fitting into sets. as i've had this little bit of time to catch up on my work, i've also been catching up on my documentation and archiving. the image above is from my flickr account. i made a set for all the neck warmers i had crocheted and saw this whole grid of the 42 finished pieces today as i was busily sorting. last year, i hoped to make 100 but had to stop when i realized i was spending all my time crocheting and not getting other things done. it's hard to get out of the habit when one picks up the hook.

i also spent some time today trying to document the security envelopes buttons i have become so enthralled in making. after my big score of envelopes in st. louis, i have really had to rein in my desire to make more and more of these buttons. every once in a while, i allow myself to make 100 and just stare at them for a moment...or ten moments.

after some serious field studying last night, i am pretty confident in the identification of at least eighty different designs in a host of harmonizing colourways (do they plan this? or are the colours of security just inherently harmonious?)

i have been toying with notions of translating this unstoppable obsession from crafty goodness into larger more art-world installations. i get scared of 'big art' (well, making it, not viewing it) but think that i finally found a project that excites me and makes sense to my art-brain. to this end (ramping up and feeding my obsession to artistic ends), i am now willing to offer you some free gifts in exchange for used security envelopes. that's right, i will send you a set of security envelopes buttons in exchange for a contribution of old security envelopes from you. if anyone from overseas reads this, i am particularly interested in what wild foreign envelopes might be out there and especially implore you to send me some.

if this strikes your fancy, just email me for shipping info and we can get rolling!

it's a pretty good deal, eh? you send me garbage and i send you other non-garbage stuff.

some rules (for what is life without them?):
1. only used or otherwise unusable (ie. pre-addressed) envelopes. this is a project of reuse.
2. no logos or words. i have found some companies put their logo inside their envelopes. i have deemed these unacceptable for this project.

[edit: december 6, 2008: i have reached my 100 respondent limit and suspended this call for submissions. there is a collecting phase two coming, though. read more here.]

Monday, October 20, 2008

hotel canzine and my broken pencil pictorial profile.

this just in from broken pencil headquarters in toronto: an little interview i did a while back has been translated into the back page pictorial profile in the upcoming issue of the magazine.

this issue, by the way, is being released on sunday in concurrence with broken pencil's annual hotel canzine, a zinester assault that descends of toronto like no other indie lit event. they take over the bulk of the galdstone hotel for a day and cram every possible inch with indie fun. this year's event also includes comedy performances by some real talents like levi macdougall and kathleen phillips.

this year's fall issue focuses on the canadian indie comedy scene (my erstwhile home turf), so the issue is full of articles and interviews about/with some of my favorite people. i have no idea what the pictorial will be like except that it has been done by a woman named claire manning. after perusing her website, i think i am in good hands. now i just have to hope that i didn't say a bunch of stupid things.

lindsay (broken pencil's editor) says that the pictorial will be up on their website sunday but feel free to report back on you impression if you see it beofre i do. and get off your tushies and go down to canzine. i am so sad i can't attend this year. it's the most overwhelming fun you'll ever have.

oh, yes...the front counter at the gladstone also houses a little gallery of goods from the souvenir shop. you can see if my confusion corner buttons are there and/or peruse the other earthly good on display.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

thrift america.

photos by rev. aitor

so, up there is my attempt to collude with my sweetie to take pictures of the quilt top i got for $5 in south carolina. it was my big score of the trip. i am going to have to consult with my friend jen on fabric dating (i think dirty 30's, but she can set me right). oh, yes - these photos were also designed to tap into jen's fabric fetishist jealousies (but not too hard). it's kind of a weird quilt. or rather, it's a normal one with two extra rows sloppily added to one end, the top in this photo. i've been trying to figure out what to do with it. some compatriots of mine pull these apart to make smaller things for the lovely fabrics. but i am a little clingy about old things, so i think i am going to take those extra rows off, use the fabrics for other things and actually quilt up the rest. here is a detail of some of the fabrics used:

i'm pretty excited about the possibilities.

we actually left the motel today to do some getting out. we did visit a local thrift shop where we encountered (but - shockingly - did not purchase) this little gem:

if you look closely, you will note that the hotdog is full of little holes. we tried to figure out it's clearly specific function. there's only a small hole in the bottom so it can't be packed full of much; it could house incense sticks, but that didn't seem to match the themes (or related themes) of hotdogs or america, - it would also be a lot of incense; and then it occurred to me - sparklers! what could make your picnic more patriotic than a hotdog shooting a million sparks? god bless america. pass the beer mustard.

speaking of beer mustard, this is a new product we discovered at this discount grocery (and canned goods) store we found in town here. it is a penny pincher's godsend if navigated correctly (read the labels - how can frozen crab cakes contain 'less than 2% crab meat'?) that said, i did find myself totally confounded when i stumbled into the soda aisle today...


there's a huge version here, if you want to explore all the glory. but bunch? crisp? mountain holler? dr. pop? patch? tubz? have any of you heard of any of these? it felt like i had stepped into a twilight zone reality where only one thing was different and nobody much cared.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

tending shop from a pennsylvania motel room.

with our little factory in full swing - packaging orders, answering belated emails, putting stock together for craftland, making some new stuff for sister missy - i have managed to release some new stuff to you, the internet.

those toofs buttons up there are now lighting up my etsy shop. one's white, one's gold and one's wooden! i feel a little chuffed with the gold one because it sparkles. that's pretty cutting edge in my tiny world view.

now that i am on a shop keeping tear, i should probably also mention the blue house and my shop therein. come to think of it, there are a few reasons i should be directing interested parties there instead of the etsy shop for purchasing my goods.
1) it's toronto-based and dripping with local indie culture.
2) item listings maintain their urls, so the links don't die when something sells.
3) i don't pay fees there and thus more pennies come into my grubby paws.

for the record, the trampoline hall comic zine can be found there, the toofs buttons and plenty more. and those links will stay good until i run out of stock entirely. i will be working to get my corner of the blue house tidied up over this week. as i do, i suggest you poke around the rest of the site. it's full of neat-o stuff, a lot of which is made by people i know and condone. the webmaster/designer, shaw-han, has also brilliantly integrated mp3 uploads into the music listings. fairly singular, i say.

okay, enough bragging and chatting about myself and how you can give me money. off to make more buttons and watch television shows about forensic pathologists.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

homeless housekeeping.

photo by dusty parr

well, i've had some major catching up to do. i'd also like to send some blanket apologies out to anyone i have disappeared on in the past week and a bit. i've had some personal stuff on the go that has really diverted a lot of my energies. hopefully all will be well and mellow out as we really get into the crazy-manic holiday season.

but back to the updates; pictured above are my mainstay mores buttons, which have been selected by brand new online shop madison belle to be featured in their accessory section. it's a pretty time burgling online shop and i would like to wish its proprietress, brooke, the deepest of congratulations for her big grand opening.

as our little handmade world grows and grows up, i am finding it very nice to watch these various niches being carved out of the online ether (check out other online pals, goodegg, souvenir shop, and shana logic to see the scope of where craftiness can take a person). there is also talk among the bulrushes that renegade handmade is fixin' to launch an online version of their store. i, for one, am pretty stoked about that as they have one of the best collections of art prints i have ever encountered in one my taste, anyway.

after just a few days shy of a year, i also managed to get a listing up in my etsy shop for the trampoline hall comic zine. this 66 page tome was drawn in an evening by a whole heap of top notch comix artists in an attempt to document an evening at toronto-based lecture series trampoline hall through comics. i then printed and assembled everything in one week for last year's hotel canzine. i will not be able to attend canzine this year (although i am possibly interviewed in their upcoming issue), so this online zine offering will have to suffice. and really, i only put it together and did some stamping and doodles. i'm much more in awe of the artists who contributed. see...

(in order, art by rev. aitor; kathryn & stuart immonen; and shannon gerard)