Saturday, February 28, 2009

back on the horse.

now that the dead months are almost behind us, custom orders have started coming across my desk again. if you would like something, actually, now would not be a bad time (for me) to hammer it out. i am in the early stages of trying to put a couple new small tours together so it seems like i should just put the wheels in motion to amass any seed money i can. spring has to be around the corner, right? does your store need restocking? does your fabulous project need 1" buttons? i don't normally ask, but i thought i would just put this out there this time.

above are some very special brushed steel buttons made (using a process of pure magic) for my friends crumbs from winnipeg. the boys are planning their own spring getaway, an annual tour through europe. it begs an obvious question - when are you guys finally going to take me with you? i may not be some hotshot dj, but i can provide your shows with ovaries. let's go to berlin!

Friday, February 27, 2009


i finished the first of my two shame projects today for the crafty slacker's get 'er done giveaway (which you should check out if you haven't yet).

the length was finally love-interest-approved (adding about another foot) and a fringe added. the whole thing is now about eight and a half feet long. i think aitor could uncoil it and sleep under it in a pinch. and just in time for another cold snap.

thank you for motivating me, jen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

heart cake.

today aitor improvised a cake, having never made one before. he got mad at me when i laughed at the idea of improvising a cake but that is only because i thought it was impossible. i was wrong. it is yummy and has strawberries in it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

small displays of excess.

...the collection of hyperbolic beasts grows. this one is a double spiral made from some weirdo mystery yarn that karyn gave me from the workroom vaults. double spirals are a lot of laughs! they can sit in many different poses, including spiraling tubes and flat-wormesque convolutions.

also, after some back room whisperings, it looks like a toronto reef is in the works. as with all coral reefs, it will take a while to establish itself and will grow slowly over time. but i do foresee a great bloom at a yet-to-be-determined point in the future. stay tuned for news. but until big plans present themselves, feel free to take a look at the growths that have grown out of one of our living room chairs (sorry, sweetie)...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

i neglected to mention...

...that the entire security envelope collection (my personal one) is currently on display in the window of the workroom on toronto's queen street west. it's a simple display, using the button boards by tara broderick. i had big plans to sew all kinds of envelope strips together to display as a big curtain behind the boards. given my time constraints, this amounted to two ten foot long strips - not my original vision, but also not altogether unappealing.

things are pretty fluid with me and the workroom, so i am not sure how long this display will stay there. you'd better just go soon and check it out. there are all kinds of great events going on there all the time. for instance, i stopped in on today's quilt sunday. the next chance to loaf around there should be a stitch 'n' bitch in a couple of weeks. maybe you should go.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

witness my shame.

above is a scarf begun for aitor in (i think) late 2006 that still sits unfinished in the back of a dresser drawer.

slacker journal

this here is my dream yarn cataloging system that never fully bloomed. the latter was begun around a year ago when i bought an amazing vintage cathode tube manual (the pages from which were used for this). because of the manual's unique size, i need to cut all the pages by hand and similarly punch a strange array of holes into them.

so why am i publicly shaming myself with this sad display of failed projects? it is in an (hopeful) attempt to motivate these projects into completion. i am not alone in this venture, either; the toronto craft alert has put together a pretty hefty giveaway to celebrate the launch of their new site design. entering involves (among other things) completing abadoned projects and sharing the process with the internet. the heap of loot to be won is pretty amazing - a veritable smorgasbord of toronto craft output (including...ahem...some goodies from my own coffers). of course, i would love to win it. but i am not sure that i qualify as both a contributor to the swag and the blog (from time to time). regardless of my eligibilty, it's nice to feel a collective push to get some monkeys off my back. you also don't have to live in toronto to enter or win.

the full contest details are here. i would recommend reading through them very carefully. this contest has more levels too it than most and, judging from the flickr pool, this seems to be confusing people. attentiveness may not have made the cut to be a bona fide virtue, but it is rarely a bad idea.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

thread bares all.

my puns are deteriorating.

the strength of my jokes notwithstanding, today was a semi-unintentional foray into clothing and meaning. aitor and i are entertaining a friend from brooklyn so we got out into the blustery city. our guest had suggested the bata shoe museum (to which we had never been) so we decided to start with a trip to honest ed's. visitors always freak out about honest ed's. plus, it reveals itself so perfectly from the bathurst subway station. i had almost forgotten about honest threads, an installation tucked away on the second floor that displays the clothing of toronto citizens and the stories attached to them. conceived by german-born artist iris häussler, the little boutique serves not only as a gallery of clothing but also as a clothing lending library! you can borrow the clothes of strangers and see what it feels like to be them. you can even borrow honest ed's shoes.

after some picking around, reading the wall-mounted stories attached to the clothes and pawing through the racks, i discovered the above dress - a white synthetic gown with a strange quote machine-embroidered onto it. it came with a beige threadbare acrylic cardigan, which made the whole outfit look exactly like something i would have worn, especially in my grunge-era pacific northwest youth. that said, the cardigan and dress combo is a staple of my performances with iron cobra. for me, the collection of blue dresses i have worn on stage was a very deliberate choice and a direct rip from the uniform of the earliest second city casts in chicago. i saw a picture of the post-compass second city cast and (although some of the female performers might have resented their uniforms then) it really seemed to resonate with me. i like that it looked like a uniform without being devoid of gender. that said, i usually wear a cardigan so that graham doesn't have to deal with the fact that i have boobs (which always seems to make him uncomfortable). the cardigan strips me of sexuality which feeds well into the needs of an improvised comedy duo. and yet i don't have to hide the fact that i am a woman. plus, dressing like a novice nun allows me some major leeway with crass material. am i revealing too many trade secrets?

i tried on the dress/cardigan combo and, although tight around my ribcage, i decided to check it out for a few days. as luck would have it, graham and i are hosting a big show tomorrow night to launch steve fisher's toronto performance blog, gracing the stage. let's see what dressing in a stranger's clothes does to my hosting/comedy skills. interestingly enough, this outfit had no story on the wall of the gallery. and it is so intriguing. what kind of stranger am i even going to feel like?

wow, serah-marie. i did it. i thought about fashion! i guess ms. häussler is onto something with this project.

i should also say that the bata show museum was a strange surprise. although shoe history is a little beyond my ample areas of interest, i really loved the current exhibit on native american footwear. everything was so beautiful and practical and meticulously crafted. i am not sure when this exhibit ends (perhaps it is indefinite) but i may, in fact, have to go back for a lengthier visit with the moccasins.

just look at this one! it features tufted moose hair details made with techniques taught to indigenous peoples by ursuline nuns. many of the pieces in the exhibit display markings of this tumultuous time of western intervention. it kind of makes all the bead work into the saddest kind of beautiful. the craft of it is absolutely incredible, but we all know where glass beads came from and what they brought with them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

new sea creatures.

i have a guest in town, so my writing is falling by the wayside. but here are some new creatures (some for the plastic bag project and some for something beyond).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

more plastic bags and sea life.

i came home from the plastic bag yarn ball so itching to see how it would crochet that i stayed up half the night working on some new sea creatures that i have been thinking of.

here is an image of the product of my mad crochet fury. it's kind of more like a deep sea tube worm than a coral reef inhabitant. actually, i need to do a little more research into coral reef shapes in general. anybody have any faves they would like to share?

oh, and here is another product of furious crochet. that plastic is rough to work with. immediately after seeing this, i mosturized my hands. this new project is giving me crone hands!

Monday, February 16, 2009

plastic bags and movie tickets.

the bulk of my outdoor time today was spent balling up plastic bag yarn at the knit cafe. it was a great way to spend a late afternoon. as with all gatherings of crafty folk, the conversation veered to all sorts of places - plastics and the garbage patch, dog know...crafty lady stuff.

actually, discussion about dog crap came out of the notion that plastic bags are made for groceries and then we are encouraged to put them in other plastic made for garbage. then other plastic bags are made for poop. in some cases, these latter bags are not plastic and make some kind of sense (ie. they are compostable). but still, why did my under-the-sink garbage basket thing come with its own new bags and warn me that it might not function properly if i reused grocery bags in it? like the fear that my warranty would be invalidated on a five dollar object. being convinced of that is like being convinced that the water from the bathroom tap is worse to drink than that from the kitchen.

as a side note (which i have been meaning to share for a while), i came across some plastic bags from target during our great american adventure that listed on them tips for being more eco-friendly by reusing bags. among earth-moving suggestions like using them as garbage bags, one of the items on the potential-reuse list was water balloons. water balloons? aside from the fact that a shopping bag from target would make a terrible water balloon, there are levels upon levels ecological ill in that idea.

for my part, i am just excited to get crocheting with the yarn we made. plastics boast really crazy colour options and a petroleum-based sheen that i rarely get to work with. i have some big visions about what to make for the project.

oh, and word to the wise: jen and i finished making the handmade nation tickets tonight. they go on sale at the ontario crafts council gallery on queen west when their doors open at 11:00am tomorrow. i suggest getting there soon if you'd like one.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

a love letter to crochet.

up there is a brand new white heart i got from shannon yesterday. i love it so much, shan! so much, in fact, that i continue to wear it over my heart even the day after valentine's day. it looks like a deformity under my coat and also reflects my current feelings about the world. i have a friend who used to work in biotech doing something with pig hearts. i wonder if they blanch when devoid of blood. i will have to ask her. i know shannon also consulted an expert in updating the design for her crocheted hearts - a medical illustrator, no less. karyn wrote all about it in a recent interview with shannon here.

as for me and my hooking, i just wrapped up a super fast hyperbolic model over the last couple of days.

after reading about the institute for figuring's various hyperbolic sub-reefs (the toxic reef, the ghostly bleached reef, et al), i felt motivated to get over my personal fibre snobberies and dive into some weirdo yarns i had kicking around. although i usually lean towards working with natural materials (and took a more stark mathmatical approach of only making hyperbolic models out of solid colours), the arguments for crocheting out of discarded materials seemed to me (in a lesser way) to seep into the shameful stash of acrylic and novelty yearns that i never use. i have collected this stuff over years to make soft toys and hats for vegans but my interest in both undertakings has steadily waned. over time, i have developed a pronounced distaste for synthetic yarns, likening their content to that of garbage bags - a non-biodegradable, spun fossil fuel that i didn't want to interact with anymore. now that my crochet adventures have brought me full-circle to crocheting with actual plastic bags, it seemed time to revisit my shame stash - or at least the stuff that didn't sell at the trunk show.

i have to admit that this latest model looks more like a sea creature than any of my self-imposed purist hyperbolics. the plastic makes it luminous and the bizarre loft of this yarn gives it a loamy, spongy feel. it also measures 10 inches across and only took a few hours to make. score a few for synthetics. it will also last forever and survive moth attacks.

i am now working on another model out of what seems to be a mix of cotton and fiberglass. i might even edge it in eyelash yarn. crazy.

i am not saying that i am about to go out and buy a bunch of new crazy yarns, but i certainly feel inspired to go through what i have and possibly acquire more if it is used and free. but i don't entirely know what i am going to do with all these models. my overbearing aesthetics (and kindly life partner) probably won't allow for keeping these as part of my home's decor. i am considering shipping them off to join the reefs maintained by the institute for figuring. but i could also be coerced into beginning a collective toronto reef, if anyone else is interested (global coral proliferation is a peripheral goal of the iff). who is interested? and what should we do?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

touch me (or adventures in love, longing, crafts, design, ideas and erotica).

implant paper weights by emma gerard

for valentine's day, i was awakened to a very special treat - east indian sweets and russian tea, my favorite!

the reverend and i finally got ourselves out of the house (i fully admit to being the sole hindrance) and ambled down to the erotic arts and crafts fair at the gladstone hotel. this fair has been running annually for three years now (by the good folks at come as you are) but has historically fallen on the weekend before valentine's day when city of craft has historically done an annual trunk show, too, so i have never been able to go. it was really exciting to check it out.

first of all, shannon gerard was there. that's her lap full of heart parts up there. and even further above that is a collection of implant paper weights by glass artist (and shannon counsin), emma gerard. emma's implant project is pretty incredible - terrifying, even. and it's no easy task to deal with issues of health and body image in manners that are both clear and engaging. i was also pretty into shannon's collection of 1" buttons - boobs, dinks and quotes from when harry met sally.

another entirely fascinating project was lisa murphy's tactile mind, a book project that blends both relief sculpture and braille to present erotica for the blind.

the thing that really struck me about her project is how far she takes it beyond the basic concept. the works presented throughout the book display a greater aesthetic than mere erotica, it is her own. it also made me wonder very obvious things like how blind people experience representational relief through their fingers. a simple thing to ponder, but i probably will never know the answer. i wish i could have stayed longer to learn more about the themes that she is working from (as she/the project don't have a website as of yet) but the room was getting crowded and i started to feel the crunch to move on.

we also encountered these playing card lamps by wild card. although aitor made some apt comparison to key cutters (one of his valentine's gifts was a smutty deck for his collection), i was just happy that the lady let me take pictures of the backs of the cards which i found enthralling...

after perusing the craft fair, aitor and i went trolling around for the other things we've been meaning to check out at the gladstone (well, i have, anyway). first was the brand new penny smash project by souvenir masterminds, motherbrand. when i heard of this project i felt foiled in a life-long dream (that i was probably never going to actualize) of making my own penny squisher design. well, now it has been done by these guys and it has been done well. the $2.01 price tag per penny is pretty steep by penny squisher standards, but part of the dough goes to sketch so you can justify the indulgence that way. i hardly needed justification. i settled on a design my marian banjes (about whom i currently know nothing but will undoubtedly soon research). it narrowly beat out douglas copeland's contributions because i was in the mood for bold emotion above political humour today. but all the designs are pretty grand.

we finished our gladstone day trip with a jaunt up to the third and fourth floors where wish you were here, a postcard collection curated by katharine mulherin, is tucked into every little nook and open space. the quantity of work and artists is impressive and there is very much to like - even too many personal stand-outs to mention - so i will leave you with two contributions of personal interest. in order, they are a) a foil stamped collection by sandy plotnikoff and b) a surprising postcard from a scary place by seth scriver. really, you should go check it out. it's up until the end of march!

Friday, February 13, 2009

how moths can devour the fabric of the universe.

is it just me, or is toronto entirely crawling with moths?

i finally unpacked my hyperbolic models only to find some familiar wormy cocoons in their folds. the damage was not severe (and could have been much worse) but it certainly conjured up notions of time-space wormholes. i wish my brain was capable of more than notions. this is why i crochet.

the unpacking was motivated by many factors - a desire to have an unpacked home, the upcoming hyperbolics i have committed to crocheting and a hyperbolic crochet class i am teaching at the knit cafe in april. it was time to dust these puppies off and contemplate them once again. it's the impending spring, i guess. a time when the desire for thaw turns a woman's fancy to the frilly lettuce of advanced mathematics.

the universe being what it is (perfectly ordered by a process of infinite luck), my friend leah just mentioned a fantastically generous hyperbolic quest she has been on while touring in the baltics. there is no need for gifts, little wayfarer. but i won't lie; that would have been an amazing surprise.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

a plastic yarn ball, some love from the void and a stolen picture.

there is no way to make cohesive sense out of today's activities even though they were not complicated activities. regardless, a pattern is not emerging from the fuzz. so...

a) a date has been set for the plastic bag yarn ball, and you are invited! next monday at the knit cafe of toronto. be there or be elsewhere!

b) today i received some reciprocal internet appreciation from summer at ottoman. thank you, summer.

c) i stole that picture from karyn. it's from the trunk show.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


canadian stamp

thank you, jill.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

handmade, nation.

image courtesy sublime stitching

the crew at city of craft is very happy to be teaming up with the ontario crafts council and the toronto craft alert to present a very intimate canadian premier of handmade nation, faythe levine's brand new documentary about the indie craft movement throughout america. i meant to announce this before last thursday when the film saw its world premier (in faythe's home town of milwaukee, naturally) but then got distracted with the diwhy opening and trunk show and didn't do it. regardless of my tardy timing, faythe deserves a big huge pat on the back for her accomplishment, and i don't even have to see the film to know that.

i first met faythe in 2006 when she was shooting her first round of footage for the movie. it was the first craft tour that aitor i did (at a humble three months) so we were all converging at just about every event. i think i ran into faythe and michaela (who was behind the camera) in cities from chicago to austin. i shot some interviews with her (which, i believe are now on the cutting room floor) and mostly marveled at the massive surge of independece that was swelling up all around us. it was a recent but different time when things still seemed possible and growth was in the air.

i am hugely thankful to faythe for taking the time (not to mention the physical, emotional and debt-amassing financial commitments) it took to make a document of the craft movement we are now experiencing.

i have also been asked to introduce the film, which will be followed by an informal discussion about whatever strikes our collective fancy (hopefully crafts).

you can visit the webpage we made for the event here. jen and i are meeting up to make tickets on monday so that in-person presales can start up to the ontario crafts council gallery tuesday morning. if you can, i strongly recommend geting tickets in advance as the gallery we are screening in is pretty small and it's hard to say when you might have another chance to see this movie...especially with a group of your fellow toronto crafties.

Monday, February 9, 2009

a felted stone gathers some moss.

lichen stone

...well, lichen.

look what the postie brought me today! a brilliantly composed felted stone with french knot lichen by ottoman (aka oregonian fibre artist, summer hamel). she sells these as pin cushions, but i am going to keep mine just as is. i think it has a sculptural loveliness about it that i just want to stare at. hopefully the lavender in it will keep the moths at bay, too.

with the covered stone i just got from resurrection fern, the mushroom terrarium i got from holly procktor and some little assemblages of my own makings, i am accumulating quite a little natural history display (or unnatural? quasi-natural?)

as for my own real-life lichen collection, some molds have taken hold to the ones i put under glass. does anyone have any suggested cures before i haul out the fungicide that will also kill any mushroom spores that may be hiding in the moss of my terraria? i am glad i did not give the small ones to my most plant-insecure friends. they would have blamed themselves. but, no. it's not you. it's me. and now we all know for sure.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

love and rummage trunk show, after the fact.

love and rummage trunk show
heart garland by girl number twenty

another february, another crazy trunk show at the workroom. this time, we got a massive amount of press. big thanks go to the toronto star (and tabassum), toronto life, cbc metro morning, the national post and all the blogs that hyped the show up. it was non-stop for the first couple of hours with ravenous rummage-hunters scooping up all kinds of deals on fabric, paper, trim, yarn & other crafty surplus. as per usual, i wished i had more time to look around. it made me extra thankful for my mother's assistance at the big december city of craft show. i might seek out a helper for the first hour or so of the next trunk show (which is already percolating in the group mind of me and karyn). i was also kind of hit-and-miss when it came to photographing everyone's display. amid all the photographers present, i think we catalogued just about everything, though - especially marnie's daughter who was very good at entertaining herself for the entire five hours of the show (okay, with some help from her dad).

here's a sampling:

more stuff should begin pooling up here as everyone recovers and starts to go through their pictures.

although i missed a lot of key rummaging, i did end up going home with one of margie's coveted covered stones and two choice pieces of fabric from jen's stash. all in all, a totally satisfying haul. it was also really satisfying to send so many of the vintage things i have been clinging to into new, loving homes. i hope to do even more getting-rid-of next time around. but i always hope to do more next time.

photo by the workroom

the end.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

famous day!

star article

karyn and i were interviewed about the love and rummage trunk show for the toronto star and it came out today. i have to say, i don't know those quotes about domesticity should really be attributed to me (i think it was karyn), but i don't disagree.

also, look what i found on the very opposite page (aitor says i make that face a lot, but i have never seen it before):

family circus incredulity

the caption reads:
"We don't put prices on our drawings, Billy."
how is billy supposed to pay his rent?

speaking of putting prices on things, i will be spending this evening at the ontario crafts council gallery for the opening reception of diwhy? the security envelope installation that i have in the show is the most expensive thing i have ever offered up into the world (which is not saying very much). i feel for billy's awkward situation. it is hard to attribute value to one's art. for my part, i based my pricing mostly on math (since i have a pricing basis for the buttons to begin with). but had i arrived at a less articulate sum, i would be thankful to any curator who didn't scold me. i wonder if billy even knows the woman shaming him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

late night screen prints.

i spent last evening happily finishing off the city of craft print run with the always lovely shannon. she hates when i take pictures of her but i thought that one up there was funny. it's not really funny - she had ripped part of her lip off with some packing tape. okay, that's a little funny. but it really bled a lot. see? crafts are risky business. i can't even count how many metal shavings i have pulled out of my fingers from the buttons. tough stuff.

we hammered out the rest of the shirts which will be available this sunday at the love and rummage trunk show (their real world debut) as well as the shiny new city of craft etsy shop.

if you have any particular shirt size requests, feel free to let me know. i can't pormise we will be able to fulfill all wishes know...knowledge is power.