Monday, June 29, 2009

radio silence.

photo by art star philly

so, i have been keeping my internet yap shut for a few days. it's not that i have been inactive - quite to the contrary; i have put my craft life to sleep for a weekend while i perform, teach and observe things at an improv festival in minneapolis.

so instead of doing or saying anything productive, my only craft related activity has been replying to pressing emails and finding weird mentions of our travels on the internet.

above is a picture taken by the lovelies at art star from our booth at the craft bazaar last month. at the time of exposure, i am probably at the peak of an allergy attack that burgled most of my second day at the show. do not let my weirdness fool you. this was an otherwise splendid day.

don't fret, soon we will be back to business as unusual. we have to make it from here to los angeles. i am sure there are a few things between here and there. we'll see.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

improbabilities on the highways of wisconsin.

who knew as we awoke in our luxurious madison side-of-the-highway motel room what a string of unlikely events lay between us and our destination of minneapolis. not us. and, probably, not you.

we took some time getting organized, finishing some little jobs and piecing the car contents back together like a tetris game. then we hit the road - a new scenic byway i had never taken before. on faythe's advice, we had planned out some roadside programming on the way to minneapolis (i am performing there, but that is another story/life of mine). wisconsin, it would seem, is full of roadside extravagances that we have never experienced. this, in spite of the fact that i have been through this whole corridor numerous times. but i used to be younger and i would drive endlessly without stopping. now, in my advancing years, i bother to look at things if only to give my aching back a break from the car.

sadly, the house on the rock did not figure into our plans although it was on the route. the collections there sounds thrilling but it apparently merits an entire day's exploration. it is also slicker (read: pricier) than our current mothy purses can allow. we managed to find plenty of cheap/free roadside mania to partake in, nonetheless.

on faythe's suggestion, we hunted down dr. evermor's forevertron, an entire art park of massive metal sculputres centred around the forevertron, a guinness book record-holding scrap sculpture of immense size. we wandered around the opening to the park, snapping photos and marveling.

then things got weird. as walked towards the entrance to the park proper a couple of other visitors came out and told us to take as many pictures as we could as fast as we could because the entire park was being shut down by "the government." when we tried to enter to snap said hasty photos we were turned away by a lady who said she ran the place. she was flanked by police officers and seemed quite demanding about our departure. while leaving, the other tourists informed us that a live bomb had been discovered among either the sculptures or materials on site and that officials were scouring the place for contaminants of some kind. one of these visitors also told us that a ufo sculpture on site was made out of a flammable metal. weird.

we took a few more pictures around the front of the space before being shooed out by the lady who worked there. this lady confirmed some of the rumours. a live bomb had apparently been discovered there by some visitors a couple of weeks ago and all sorts of police, government and health officials had descended on the place since. it just so happens we had arrived at a critical moment when the decision to close the park had come down.

"dr. evermor's negligence with materials," she said. "i've got to go eat at the welfare...just kidding."

so we left.

onwards towards baraboo. we had seen signs for a circus museum but got distracted by a saint vincent depaul before we even got there. we have been going pretty nuts with thrifts over the past few days. there is a big list of things to pick up and even more things by which to be distracted. but my mind was entirely blown by this discovery:

no big deal, right? just some weird tacky wall thing, right? only, if you look carefully, you will note that is it a souvenir from bruno, saskatchewan! possibly, you might remember our visit there last year. as far as we know, there is little in bruno other than 500 people, all citizens, tyler, serena (sometimes), a religious school, a grain elevator and the usual trappings of a rural town (grocery, bar, pharmacy, bank, insurance, senior's centre...) i mean, it's not nothing. it's a fantastic place. but it's a tiny place, and one that we have a slim but tenacious connection to. and to find such a strange souvenir of it here, in wisconsin. and what are we even doing here, in this small off-the-freeway place? and why did we stop to go to this particular shop? we drank more water and hoped we weren't hallucinating.

we plan on passing through bruno later in this trip so we have to wrestle with the final home of this object until then. we both kind of want to cling to it as a reminder of the difference between impossibility and improbability (a clear difference when living out in the world as we are). but possibly it deserves to be brought back home. tyler and serena, will you cry if we don't leave this with you? let's work it out. we are troubled and dehydrated.

after all of this excitement and confusion, the circus museum seemed pointless. and our drive through the wisconsin dells was entirely too overwhelming to digest. my god, that place is incredible. this is about as much of it as we could actually absorb in our saturated states:

...and there is so much more where that came from. maybe on the way back (with any luck). i kind of want to sleep in an elephant's trunk, or under a water slide, or in an upside down house. why didn't i listen to dr. dave when he told me to go here years ago?

now onward into minnesota to find graham. wisconsin, you have more than piqued our curiosity; you have challenged its limits.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

goofing on the flattening land.

we kicked around milwaukee this morning, taking advantage of the comforts of faythe's home, doing work and making plans. in the early afternoon, we made our way back to west bend to revisit usa buttons (i have an impending announcement to make about that visit, but not quite yet). we took our time, didn't rush (a habit of mine) and did some needful thrifting. we always have a wish list on the go and, due to budget limitations, usually have to wait until we happen upon the perfect thing (aitor's portable percolator and eye glass frames come to mind). in spite of her pleading/condeming gaze, this little lady did not find her way home with us:

we ended the day very early (and not very far from milwaukee) at a motel in madison, wisconsin. sometimes the added work time is better than driving all night. also, this place boasted a pool. it's a billion degrees (so much so that the highways around here are buckling) so we took it. we had to do a good resorting of the car, anyway. the skies are really starting to open up. i love that part of driving west.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

america's drinking hole.

milwaukee has the best nickname. after rolling in this evening, though, we did not have much drinking in us. we had been sweating profusely for hours as we tried to escape chicago in blistering heat with no air conditioning.

before leaving chicago, i did manage to go visit jamie at clothes optional and stock the shop up with lots of new buttons. i also bought a skirt and wore it out the door. those jeans were threatening to extinguish my will to live.

but back to milwaukee. we arrived to find faythe outside, trying to cool down. the beautiful mural had just been painted over at paper boat (or now, i guess, what used to be paper boat) and it just looked like a big empty space. bittersweet, said faythe. bittersweet.

we went out to a bar where the photobooth is polaroid and aitor made himself look fat. me, i just got a headache immediately and drank gallons of water. too pooped to really party, we all walked back to faythe's through a park with a pond then settled into a quiet evening of making friendship bracelets and rehydrating on coconut milk. making friendship bracelets took me back to my arts and crafts days at summer camp. all my skillz were still there! and faythe and i imagined grown-up versions of them since we are now very serious adults who think big.

i love faythe's home; it's so easy to slip into. the walls are covered with beautiful things. faythe excels at many things, but complicted curation is surley one of them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

coming to port without a coast.

look at the care with which reba displayed my secret messages at no coast. the shop is closed today, but i have been fortunate enough to sneak in and set up office for the entire day. chicagoans (and other itinerants), did you know that you can rent this space and use its silkscreening facilities for something crazy like $50/week? it's such a deal for getting projects done.

for my part, i dug myself out of an email hole (well, partly) and managed to get the city of craft applications up online today! this year we have a swanky new online form which i am very proud of. i owe big thanks to graeme bunton for helping me through the process. now get on down to applying, citizens.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

a day in a window (and a little more).

photo by fuzzy gerdes

today was my day to sit on display for an entire work day. i have to say, i quite enjoyed the experience. i got to uncle fun a little early to set up my tiny cross-legged office and settled into the hard work of going through the security envelope submissions i accumulated while on the last leg of this year's tour.

first i got to go through a great package from erin dollar, a portland-based artist and beard maker:

her collection contained some old favorites and a couple of new discoveries. i don't think i had that diamond-zigzag one. hopefully, it is not some corporate branding sneaking its way into my project. those corporations are nothing if not sneaky. the cross-hatch with the orange/yellow background is also a new discovery, for sure.

next, i went through a package from renee. renee and i arranged a swap a while back after i saw her beautiful security envelope pendants and spied a few new patterns in the mix. as it turns out, she has decided to decorate her wedding entirely in flowers made from the blue patterns so i offered her some surplus (there is more coming, renee, don't you worry). here is her package to me:

there were so many new patterns in this batch - lots of new background colours and this amazing bird and letter abstract that i did not get a good picture of. of course, i also loved that so many of the scraps came to me die cut and pre-punched with flower and gift tag shapes. it made me feel like part of a big aesthetic assembly line of reuse.

speaking of reuse, my scraps get set aside for st. louis artist, bruce burton. i don't know what he plans to do with them but a lot of his art is based on collections and arrangements of things, so i am sure something interesting is in the works. and i apologize to shannah for sending more clutter to your pretty home.

and that was that for an entire day in the window - two packages sorted. it's good to realize how labour intensive this particular project is. at home there are always distractions to distract me from staying on track. in spite of a bit of chatting today, i realize that this really does take a lot of time. thank you, uncle fun! i had a veritable blast. even more so when we got to go upstairs for a circuit bending workshop...

what fun! they do this sort of thing from time to time, so you should probably find a way to get on their mailing list and stay informed. uncle fun is the best.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

on display.

there's a little gem from the 1940's that i picked up at a thrift shop on the way out of ann arbor yesterday. perhaps it holds all the secrets of my dream retirement in which i run a shop in the 1940's. it does have a "retailers wheel of fortune" and other great charts throughout. yes, a wise investment. speaking of merchandising, aitor is currently taking the concept to a whole new level in the window of local novelty shop extraordinaire, uncle fun. billy (the manager) has launched an artist-in-the-window series that has become so popular its monthly slots are booked up until forever now. we managed to squeeze in by taking an off weekend and trying to spread the word ourselves. oh yes, i will be in the window tomorrow. a taste of things to come:

aitor is unflattering people (starting with a child today) but i will just be installed making security envelope buttons all day. if you want in on that picky/insane process feel free to come ogle. then you can go inside and buy some rubber vomit.

Friday, June 19, 2009

a new leg.

we are back on the road again. it is real. not that we were ever really not on the road. we just happened to be in toronto for two weeks. but now we have reemerged into the gothic wilds of michigan once again. soft rubble, flat a's, wild bunnies. it's a pleasure to be back.

i remember stephanie once talking about how sad it felt sometimes to live in a place about which nobody would ever write anything that was 100% nice. seattle, she said, could have flowery travel pieces in glossy magazines; detroit's virtues were always "in spite of." well clearly i am proving her right at the moment - hopefully in a relatively gentle way. my comments about rubble should not belie my true affection for the motor city. i always have a good time there and am very glad to have gotten to know it if even just a little bit.

today we went to some favorite haunts just outside of the city - a craft supply store about which i have been sworn to internet secrecy and an antique mall. aitor made a pretty awesome investment at the antique mall. i think i need to wait on its reveal until i have a good enough picture. it's worth a picture.

it's too bad we didn't have much time to dally. i really like hanging out with stephanie - chatting, laughing and talkin' craft. but we had to make it to chicago by night and wanted to make a quick stop in a nearby town where i have never been - ann arbor. but why?

right there is the unassuming non-storefront of online retail genius, shana logic (well, the shop is called shana logic, the genius is just called shana). i "met" shana years ago when i was just a young buck trolling around on craftster. i was one of her early vendors and she was one of my first retail outlets. almost everyone else i went into business with around that time ripped me off. it was a bad scene that taught me a lot about running my own operation. shana, though, has been a totally different story through and through. she focuses on her business with such keen vision, she is hugely respectful of her artists (and tolerant from my spinny experience) and she has badass skills when it comes to design.

of the many things i learned on our brief warehouse visit, the most shocking was that i have been silently mispronouncing shana's name in my head for years. it's hard to deprogram. i also learned that shana rarely shows off her office space for fear that its windowless brick walls do nothing to express the intense cuteness of her site and approach to graphic design. me, i am impressed with a streamlined business hub...or anything with a devoted shipping centre, for that matter. at sweetie pie headquarters, the shipping centre is an impossibly cluttered secretariat that also serves as fabric and button part storage. colour me impressed, shana. it was so lovely to get to meet you in person for the second time in our five year stranger-friendship.

oh, that? that box up there is my in-warehouse avatar. my crate defines who i am in the great logic of shana. swe, yo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

how could i forget...

upon returning home, we discovered that the big fern that reuben gave us (for fear that it might attack his infant) had invaded our kitchen curtain during our leave of the city. i wanted to cut it back and restore order to our nook but instead kept leaving it one more day to ponder the tenacity of nature. now i can't cut it. so instead, an argument between organics and plastics is playing out across our window. or maybe i am being a pessimist. maybe they are mating. or canoodling.

i wish my pictures did it the right kind of justice.

Monday, June 15, 2009

window dressing.

photo by massdistraction

i am not ashamed to announce that i will be coming out of my button making shell this sunday when i will find myself on delicate display in the window of one of my favorite chicagoland stores, uncle fun. i will be there making buttons for your amusement and fascination (and my own stamina challenging). since many people make buttons (chicago is not wanting for button prodigies by any stretch), i have decided to do more than just make buttons. instead, i am focusing on a redoubling of efforts in the security envelope department. were i seven different people, security envelope button production would never have slowed. but i am one person and there is sometimes rent to pay.

workroom window display

regardless of any of that, this sunday will see me turing a big heap of envelope guts into a smaller (but still impressive) heap of 1" buttons. marvel at the calming monotomy! wonder at the smallness of modern day factory manufacture! watch garbage become accessories! press your faces against the window and weird me out!

saturday will also see aitor doing unflattering portraits in the very same window. just sayin'. at the time of posting, there are still appointments left. scoop 'em up!