Tuesday, September 30, 2008

leaving st. louis (or thereabouts).

it has been inexpressibly wonderful to have spent the past few days living in the middle of a family here in belleville, illinois. but as with all of our passing homes, it quickly comes time to move on and follow our own travelling circus elsewhere. besides, we are like most house guests and begin to stink if kept around for too long. so today we push on into indiana. but before leaving, we had to make a couple of stops.

stop #1 - circa.
circa boutique is belleville's answer to handmade shopping. the owner, andrea, was a vendor at strange folk and makes an impressive effort to bring handmade stuff from all over the globe into her well tended corner of belleville's main street.

stop #2 - senior citizen warehouse.
in spite of images the name may suggest, this is actually a thrift shop that came highly recommended by our hosts (well, by bruce who seems to enjoy hoarding more than shannah). after picking out a few things, we took them to the counter and were told "four dollars". bruce says you can also wheel and deal there. but why would you need to when the folks there do it for you. also (and this is very important to any local readers this blog may have), the furniture section of the store boasted no less than a half dozen vintage built-in table sewing machines...for three dollars each! pardon my screaming, but if you live in the area and need a sewing machine you really have little excuse not to go get one of these. from my perfunctory inspections, they seemed to be in good shape. oh yes, and they are three dollars.

well, enough yelling. indiana calls.

Monday, September 29, 2008

getting schooled.

this morning, i accompanied shannah to her school to do a guest artist visit with her sixth grade class. shannah is the art specialist at a school in st. louis that focuses on multiple intelligence education. it's pretty interesting stuff. for my part, i came in, talked about myself/my art, and took some questions. the first question was, "do we get to make buttons?"

so we got down to it.

i have a great appreciation for what shannah does. trying to shove a lesson and project into 50 minutes is no small feat. we got into themes of found materials, beauty in the mundane, pattern, thinking small and the reframing of imagery. in the end, the kids ended up making a first wave of mostly garfield buttons (a theme which i a no stranger to), but then automatically got into their own drawings, slogans, and even abstracts of found materials.

in the afternoon, i had the bruce and shannah's whole house to myself. it was great. i made a big mess on the dining room table, making a new rubber stamp, stamping paper bags, folding up target bags, and sorting through the huge score of security envelopes that i got from bruce last night. i had to prepare the envelopes for future button making by cutting out the plastic windows and cutting them down to be more easily packable. this process reminded me of cleaning fish, something i used to be quite proficient at. cutting up these envelopes really does have similar rhythms.

it's hard for me to express the depths of joy that i got from picking through security envelopes. we decided that i had acquired at least 30 new patterns from bruce's collection. my first purple! waves! knots! we even took to naming some of the designs - the drunkard's weave, harlequin, riverbed. i have a larger personal application planned for all of these designs. but more on that when it materializes. until then, i have some project runway to yell at...

Friday, September 26, 2008

happy 30th birthday, reverend aitor.

that's about all i have to say.

and i love you.

eat that cake, already! and read that card.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

motor city madness.

today we laid into some hardcore tourism in what i like to think of as toronto's sister city, detroit. this mad day of outings was inspired by suggestions made to us by all of stephanie, shannon and jim.

we started our travels with a visit to hamtramck disneyland, a very special back alley folk art installation in a residential neighbourhood. it was constricted in the 1990's by ukrainian émigré, dmytro szylak. i actually guess there isn't much to say about it except that the place is a marvellous sight to behold.

after this, we drove north to see marvin's magnificent mechanical museum (which stephanie had suggested), an over-crammed stroefront full of automata, old animatronics, peepshow booths, gags and various other coin-operated marvels. we were blown away (and you would be in heaven, melissa).

i got my fortune read by zelda (the sign said she was from coney island so i like to think this was the same machine from the movie big). amid the nouveau photo-sticker machines were all sorts of sixty-plus-year-old machines and newer automata (some of which looks like the work of paul spooner, which it may well be - i just didn't see his name). aitor went all out by consuming a box of neon orange stale popcorn and i threw caution to my bladder with a cherry coke. when in rome, i figured. my only complaint: no penny squishers. don't worry, i will be sharing my collection of squished pennies with the internet at some point later. seriously, don't worry.

what they lack in deformed lincolns, they do make up for in advanced foot revitalizing technology. on the way out of marvin's, we got a call from stephanie to meet her at the bookstore. we had a date with her, some coupons, and faythe levine's brand spanking new book, handmade nation (it is designed to accompany her forthcoming documentary). i haven't gtten too deep yet but am brimming with friendly pride and congratulation to faythe and her book cohort, cortney.

tomorrow we shove off. i am going to miss this place. but there's that little michigan mitten sachet that stephanie gave us waving goodbye and reminding us that we should return. don't worry. we will. you'll hardy even have time to miss us, motor city.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

movie night.

reba lives this charmed life where she works really hard but also has weekly movie nights outside her apartment. it is inspiring. we did not stay for this week's installment because we had a date with one of my oldest and dearest friends, noah lepawsky, who has just moved here to find fame and fortune and love and his american heritage.

i guess it is also worth stating that we are headed to detroit this weekend (assuming we finally manage to extricate ourselves from this place) for the first annual diy street fair in ferndale. it looks like it should be a lot of fun. also, detroit rocks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

bless the children of pilsen.

it has come time to give great thanks to the two very special people who have housed us during our arduous time in chicago (okay, semi-arduous) - reba and bob. no only have they been living with two exhausted loafers on their couch but, since the car incident and ensuing garage visits, they have also been living with all our crap in their home. like, all of it. and it's an impressive amount.

in other somewhat related territory, i must report of today's visit to no coast, a new collective and storefront that reba is involved with. aside from soaking in the general excitement of a shop/workspace on the verge of opening, i also dropped off some button there for their grand opening coming up next week. it's next thursday if you feel like partying hard with them to launch this cool new space in the heart of pilsen, a neighbourhood i have grown to quite enjoy. what can i say, i'm a sucker for kids playing in the streets.

it's exciting to see the shop all buzzing with activity and smelling of paint. who knows where things will go over the next week? maybe we will make it back for the launch. oh, and those awesome display racks above are made from old art shipping crates. pretty smart, huh?

Monday, September 15, 2008

and then life gets even more surreal (or aitor gets interviewed for cbs sunday morning).

this all began a few months back while we were in winnipeg. aitor had received an email from a producer at cbs sunday morning saying that they were working on a piece about the beauty of ugliness and had found out about his unflattering portrait project through a piece written about aitor a while back on martha stewart's bluelines blog. they wanted to do an interview, have aitor do an unflattering rendition of their logo, and do a live unflattering portrait of the correspondent, mo rocca.

they emailed back and forth about our crazy tour schedule and then we heard nothing for months and figured we were just too complicated to deal with. then, while we were in atlanta, aitor got a message that they would like to meet up in chicago and everything became real.

as a spectator, i have to say how deeply entertained i was. everyone was very nice and the conversations both on and off camera were interesting, fun and thoughtful. i know aitor's interview is part of a bigger piece and felt very lucky to get to watch the extended version. my pride in him is totally overwhelming and embarrassing!

we don't yet know when the piece is scheduled to air but will update the world here when we find out.

from the interview, i went to renegade handmade to drop off some new stuff of mine and the misanthrope specialty company's. the place was covered in drying things from the weekend and everyone was as weary as i so i felt sort of normal there. also, if you wanted something of ours from the fair and failed to get it, it's worth giving a check into the store. i mean, it's worth going there if you are in chicago, anyway.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

seriously? really, seriously?

so here's how last night went down after we packed it in from the raining craft fair:

after a bit of drying out and trying to get some work done, aitor went outside for a smoke and got stung in the hand by a wasp. calamity #1.

we watched a few episodes of the office (from reba's awesome dvd collection) while i made more buttons on her living room floor and then went to bed around 2:30am. not long after settling into bed, we heard a huge crash from the street and ran to the window only to see a white suv pulling away from boris (our station wagon) and lurching around the corner. i threw my gum boots on and ran out into the street in the pouring rain wearing basically underwear and a shirt. the charming suv driver has actually parked around the corner and was busily slurring and telling me it wasn't him and that gangs had run into my car. all the while his back tail light lay in a pile of glass on my soaking wet driver's seat and his bumper was covered in glass from my windshield. eventually, our new weird drunk friend told us he'd fix the car if we came and drank tequila with him. we already had all his insurance information, so we declined and waited for the police to arrive. boring boring boring...we filled our forms, they were nice but they refused to talk with this inebriated driver or do anything about him. after the police departed, we were left with a gaping wide hole in the car that was quickly filling with water. the door was too based in to open. there was glass everywhere. it was probably around 5:00am.

aitor, prince that he is, volunteered to unload the car into reba's place. this was no small job. also, while he was doing this he got two more wasp stings.

after bandaging aitor up and finally getting to sleep, it was about 6:30am. i got up at 9:00 to drive around and find an auto glass place. thankfully, the car still moves. the charming dudes there hammered on my door until it would open again, vacuumed the glass out of everywhere and set me on my way with a brand new rain-repelling window. they were real champs and i felt almost stable again. the door is no so full of holes, though, that it fills with water in the rain and sloshes when opened or closed. i wish i had pictures of what boris looked like before these guys did their job. it was sad. but taking pictures was not on my mind in the middle of the night in the middle of the road.

now being rained on at craft fairs seemed the least of our concerns and sitting through a few hours of downpour was nothing to our exhausted, stung, tattered selves. by just before sunset, the clouds had parted and there was actually sunshine. everything dried out, the bands played and chicagoans came out in droves. we didn't even have to put a wet tent in the car (one of my least favorite things - not that it would have mattered much in the soggy state the car was in).

the car now smells like an old wet sandwich and my hands are covered in little cuts i didn't know i was getting from leftover broken glass, but all in all i feel kind of fortunate. if calamity is going to strike (and when one spends six months living the way we are, one should expect some amount of calamity) we are lucky to both be alive and (mostly) well. it is hard for aitor to draw portraits with his hands covered in stings. hopefully that will abate a bit by tomorrow morning. but that's a story for another day...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

how to sell crafts in the rain (or renegade craft fair, day one).

being from vancouver, one would think i might know how to operate in the rain. and while i used to be fine with living life in a constant state of dampness, my advanced age and curmudgeonliness have made me a very cranky customer when it comes to selling crafts in the rain. well, this time i swore would be different. we knew the weather reports well in advance (it was even pouring as we drove into town last night) so i had time to psychologically prepare myself. i resolved to stay positive and figure out solutions to our situation that would keep us happy, safe and dry.

first of, we do now have a new better tent that we got on sale at home depot. it's not perfectly rain-proof but pretty rad.

the one big flaw we discovered is that since the seams are stitched, the rain-proofing along them is all full of tiny holes and tends to leak quickly. and since the seams run above the uppermost poles of the tent, this sends a little series of drips down the four ceiling poles. as a fix for this problem, i had the major brainwave to simply tie yarn along the poles from the point of the highest drip. this doesn't patch the holes, or stop the leaks from happening but it does divert the drips down the yarn in a path-of-least-resistance approach to keeping the rain away from our stuff. it worked like a charm!

i know this is a pretty niche problem for my first how-to but i was just so shamelessly proud of myself for figuring out such an easy do-it-yourself fix to a problem at least a few of you may face in the future. and it all kept working through a whole day of torrential rains!

we also pulled the mats off the floor boards of the car to keep our under-table stuff from getting wet on the bottom. this also worked like magic.

after hours of fussing and mussing and adjusting and trying to stay dry and positive, i looked out of the tent and saw this on the curb:

i guess choosing to find things fun makes them fun. also, kids are more waterproof than balloons. who knew?

Friday, September 12, 2008

why louisville loves me.

okay, i don't know why louisville loves me, or even if it does. but i do know that i have a bit of a love-on for this town, although this affection is also somewhat inexplicable. i've only ever spent a total of eight hours in the city (because holing up in a peripheral motel and making the mess pictured above does not count). there's just something i feel here. call me stupid, if you must. aitor does.

we started our last day in louisville (and only actual day of venturing into the city) with a visit to my biggest retailer there - dot fox clothing culture. i have to say that the proprietress, one miss sally bird, is a true southern sweetie. she is always so kind and supportive and has a really good eye for style. the shop makes me feel like i could possibly manage to dress myself respectably with little effort. that was, if i was so inclined/able. it also has lots of neat art and things.

next up, we made a purely tourist stop at why louisville, a self-professed "fan club for the city." they only work with local artists and thus won't even look at our stuff (a respectable choice). they do, however, seem to make one exception to the louisville-only rule and that is when it comes to merchandise praising/quoting/celebrating/exalting the big lebowski.

yes, it is true. this is because one of the shop's owners is also a founder of lebowski fest, a festival of all things big lebowski that started in louisville and has since expanded all over the world. clearly, this shop is amazing.

i allowed myself to buy one new shirt. a recent stroll through pictures of my appearances at improv festivals spanning the last few years taught me that i haven't been acquiring new casual stage clothes for...five years. the new shirt is blue and covered in yellow horseshoes - a great memento of the town i love so much. i still don't know if i will wear it on stage. i guess i'll stick with my distractions shirt and emma's old hand-me-down jeans. again.

and now we head off to chicago for what looks to be a very wet and soggy renegade craft fair. speaking of rain, check out this rain-drop-bedazzled care package i got from leah and jen back home.

they are the new gocco printed business cards for our collective, city of craft. it was actually a nice group effort, even from afar. well, insomuch as i sent the digital files. they really did most of the work. it made me feel a little bit of home while on the road. now i have to stop myself from just hoarding them all for myself..

Thursday, September 11, 2008


well, some time holed up in louisville has paid off. i have finally managed to list my worksite accidents print diptych on etsy. thanks to the people i met at craft fairs who harassed me to do so. it's alive!

i have also managed to get the pin pals sets live on etsy (even though their designer, miss sara guindon, has had them in her shop for a while now).

and i got some buttons in the mail for long-time custom button clients, baroque ensemble i furiosi. these new designs are merch for a concert on monday celebrating their tenth anniversary. i am so happy to have been able to make them into the rock stars they button form. look how badass they look. that's some sexy baroque. congratulations on ten years, guys!