Saturday, November 29, 2008


oh, montreal.

we arrived last night and were taken into the loving and hospitable arms of aitor's brother. it was nice. really nice.

we then spent all of today so swamped with happy zinesters at montreal's big huge zine and indie culture event, expozine, that i barely got a chance to breathe. i am going to make a concerted effort to actually look around tomorrow. but regardless of my lack of exciting news about all the incredible exhibitors there, it's safe to say that the expozine organizers know how to do things right.

i also felt happy to be back in canada in so many ways today. there were things i forgot. women hold doors for men and don't even think about it. people say sorry (i hear it now) when you run into them. and there's more.

sleep now, for there is much exploring to do tomorrow.

Friday, November 28, 2008


def: the happiness that comes from perfect things.

it has finally arrived, a heavy package in the mail from hoboken, new jersey. even though i was waiting by the buzzer for a delivery i really needed (and i mean really really...all my button set packaging for this weekend in montreal), i was infinitely more joyful to have the postie hand this over.

enter into my life my very first storyboard.

storyboards are the brainchild of one miss tara of the button collective. they are magnet-infused acrylic/masonite boards with perfectly cut-out grids of circles in which to house your 1" buttons. conceived for those who see pinback buttons as design elements before fashion accessories, these clean displays have been on my mind since i first found them on etsy a year or two back. okay, tara found me. she is an avid button collector who was my customer before i graduated to being hers. she's also a button collector who confesses to never actually wearing her pins. hence these brilliant displays.

i should mention that my new board is actually faced with white acrylic. the brown paper facing pictured is the acrylic's protective sticker. it just looked so lovely with its top corner suggestively pulled down that i felt i needed to photograph its coy entrance into my life first. then i had to shove a bunch of security envelope buttons all over it. this security pattern project is, of course, the big undertaking that finally allowed me to justify the purchase. i thought the board would be helpful in sorting and archiving patterns and that the project itself demanded such a regal display (if only for my own studio). this was also back when identifying 100 patterns seemed an impossible dream. given where this project is headed (i am confident that i will break 200 if not far more), it looks like tara is going to have a repeat customer on her hands. if i didn't need concrete excuses (and rent money) i would probably order another one tomorrow. the actual construction of the board is far beyond my expectations - impeccable, even. it's meticulously made and sturdy and arrived incredibly well packaged for shipping. in case there were any doubts about tara's attention to detail, her instructions for use are equally well thought out. no t uncrossed.

this new arrival brings me to another little announcement in the life of the envelope project. although it is not yet the big project i have been working towards, i can now use my new acquisition for the security envelope project's first public outing. that's right; if you live in the toronto area you can come out and see a collection of 100 unique security patterns in button form at city of craft in two weeks. i will once again be taking over the theatre centre's coveted broom closet for a secret hidden installation. come find it! if i get extra crafty, i may even make an envelope curtain to fill the closet. we'll see.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

a few updates before montreal.

up there are a couple of envelopes that came my way via licia in florida. the collection she sent in came from the home of an elderly couple that she was cleaning out and brings me that second orange pattern up there and the lighter one (which is from brazil). i have had to tear myself away from this project for a few days to make things for expozine and work on city of craft. but i will leave you, internet with one more new pattern. this one came from susanne in my very own city as is a design i have never seen before.

it makes very nice buttons. which reminds me, i found the first pattern that i hate. i'm not going to tell you what it is. you will have to guess if you ever the larger incarnations of this project. i feel really bad about hating it but just can't help it. it doesn't agree with me. i didn't think this would happen.

oh, and i am now at a whopping 186 patterns and counting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

zine dream.

with expozine right around the corner, i have been pulling my zine catalogue out of storage and dusting it off. i usually tour with zines, but this past tour was so long and potentially rainy, that i left most printed matter at home.

now that i am home, too, we are all happily reunited and i have managed to relist all my available publications in the etsy shop.

for those who don't know, it was zines that started the sweetie pie press (hence the otherwise confounding use for the word 'press' in my company name).

that up there is a cette dame #1. it is the first in what is (thus far) a trilogy of very very short fiction. i find the writing funny, myself. or that is how it was intended, anyway. but such things are always so hard to pitch to potential readers. well, i can tell you a few things these little books have going for them - you won't have to invest nearly as much money or time as many other pieces of writing. and you could sleep happy in the knowledge that you have contributed towards my gas money to montreal and back.

i don't usually shill this hard.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

crosshatches, stripes and points between.

that up there is the pattern used in the security envelopes that come from hydro quebec. i had never seen it before and was very excited when i got a whole stash from sarah in ottawa. although, i was informed that my brother-in-commonlaw must have an unopened stack of them somewhere in his montreal apartment. but that's another story, entirely.

these ones come from kara in california. i have found that at this point, going through north american submissions has been all about picking out subtle differences. i think all those patterns are new to me and yet they are similar to many i already have. it's picky work to look through them all for differences but i am excited about how these similar patterns might eventually look together en masse.

in other security roundup news, i have been meaning to share the work of henrietta swift, which i found through notcot. although her security project is only prototypical, she still demonstrates a particularly british respect for such subtle design work...and for envelopes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

on the road again...even if it's only queen west.

look at the two new display racks that have been loaned to me indefinitely by the inimitable jola at the good catch general store. i have been loading them up and imagining them in multiple uses for some upcoming fairs.

speaking of which, i really should be doing some holiday shopping roundups right about now. there are a few places you can find me over the next month.

1. expozine
aitor and i go this weekend to montreal's biggest, hugest and craziest exposition of zines and indie culture. i will be there with my entire zine catalogues as well the trampoline hall zine and an ample collection of buttons.

2. craftland
though i will not actually be able to attend, the month-long handmade department store, craftland, opens its doors to the masses of providence, rhode island a week from friday. the sweetie pie press is well represented there with our full catalogue of artist sets up for purchase.

3. sassy little craft show
for two days at the victory cafe's upsatirs bar, crafters intermingle with cocktails for your shopping/drinking delight. i've done these shows before and always have a great time. plus, it's the only show i am doing in the annex (this is all toronto, by the way).

4. city of craft
i will soon start into my shameless campaign of city of craft promotion. in the name of full disclosure, this is the annual fair i co-coordinate. on top of my own presence there, aitor will be there, too, as well as an amazing roster of other fine vendors. like, really stupendous. i will leave you with an image from tara bursey who always bests me with her conceptual buttons. if i weren't so allergic to garlic and onions, i'd be wishing i thought of this first...

Onion Skin Pins

Sunday, November 23, 2008

security down under.

today's collection of contributions are all from oceania.

first off, manu sent in the beautiful palette pictured above from australia. i have to admit, that the purple and brown diamond weaves in this collection were ones i had seen in this collection and was hoping to receive. this grouping seems to harmonize so perfectly together.

next is a kiwi collection from miss millie (who also included some unrequired but very appreciated gifts). i especially like the wavy ones on the far right which are also new to my collection. millie also pointed out the ubiquity of the small blobby dots pattern in new zealand. in fact, it seems pervasive throughout australia, too. how can it be that i have come to amass such specific knowledge in my brain?

finally, a meticulous collection from autralian paper hound, kate. this collection held a lot of little surprises like that diamond spiral pattern (which i had seen before but had not yet come into my life) and the squiggly plaid. i had recently found a similar pattern in my home (yes, my place is so choatic that things like this are still unearthed) and thought they were the same. as it turns out they are quite different.

although i am not able to make any definite proclamations yet, my one-of-each jar now hold 150 buttons - and that's before even counting any of these new designs from the other end of the commonwealth. when i set out on this project, i was hoping to identify 100 patterns. now it seems that 200 would not be at all out the question. of course, there is still much squinty scrutinizing to do. there are myriad slight variations in the crosshatch/loose weave patterns alone. and don't even get me started on the stripes. i am expecting a little something in mail that should help with this process, though...

i will just leave it at that for the moment.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

son of security envelopes.

pictured here are some of the envelopes sent in by jake. the zigzags are new to me but so is the envelope in the front, which is covered in overlapping numbers. such designs bring up an interesting (to me) dilemma. when i first set out on this project, i was drawn to the abstract nature of the designs inside envelopes and wanted to highlight their beauty. but patterns like this (or some beautiful ones that say 'air mail' in various languages, 'thank you' or other similar messages) challenge the parameters of the project in my mind. they are not disqualified for being corporate, and yet they present recognizable symbols which are at odds with my initial vision for the project. i do recognize this distinction as being purely aesthetic and not at all ideological, so it seems wrong to punish these plucky envelopes simply for being more populist. the solution i have come up with, is to retain these designs for a second, later release of sets with words and symbols on them. to me, this makes them an even more special, rarefied collection and will hopefully give this project and eventual second wind. thank you for suffering my struggles, folks.

but back to questions of corporate interference in artistic life...i have received more than a few envelopes with tiling logos inside them. not to say that i am ungrateful for the contributions i have received, they just find a way of slipping in. some have come in large contributions, masterfully camouflaging themselves in bulk; some sport logos so simple as to look abstract when tiled; and some just look cool to begin with (the uk passport office logo jumps to mind). but even more insidious (and something i have just decided to incorporate into my project) is colour branding. that orange in the stack above is associated with come british company; a certain courier service has its own purple (which i quite like); there is a burgundy associated with another company (which i can't remember - sorry, your branding is less effective. i remember the colour but not you). and i bet there are even more branded colours that i haven't noticed. it's pretty tricky stuff. and it worked. i really wanted this project to promote the idea of (mostly) nameless designers and their subtle effects on our lives. instead, some stock patterns have been given a new colour that was, in some instances, agreed upon by rooms upon rooms of people. i guess being a corporate shill is much more inescapable than i had originally understood. at least this sneaky corporate intervention has provided my project a wider colour palette. sigh.

in cheerier, more forward-moving news, you may notice a recipe box in this last photo. this is where i am housing my burgeoning security envelope swatch collection. i hope to use this to scan patterns for online dissemination, scrutinize new submissions against the current collection and maybe even do things i have yet to think of. the future is now.

Friday, November 21, 2008

bride of security envelopes.

are you sick of this stuff yet? please let me know, dear reader, if you do become ill from my minute ramblings. i will take your feedback into account. although i may ignore it, at least i can progress to knowing ignorance. but i digress.

above is a collection of inside out security envelopes sent to me by laura. a few people reported doing this as a way of reusing all the junk envelopes they receive. they are awfully pretty, too. so pretty, in fact, that i am reluctant to cut them up and turn them into buttons. so far, i have only cut one up - the new pattern in the bunch which i have nicknamed 'edelweiss'. other than that, i am hoping i collect enough of the other patterns to be able to retain the remaining insideouters for future use. they seem like they take some amount of effort to make, too. i tried just turning and envelope inside out myself. this was misguided and i didn't get very far. upon closer inspection of laura's contributions, it seems clear that the envelopes must be loosened apart at the seams and then reglued back together inside out. another reason i don't want to cut them all up. this project of reuse, however, is something i plan to adopt into my future on a personal level - it seems to work especially well with all the 'reply to' envelopes that companies send out because their sticky part hasn't even been used yet. and if this project of mine grows to the place i am hoping, i think i can use many of laura's contributions (the patterns other have sent in) to package press releases. what could be better?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

security envelopes and general homecoming activity.

above are pictured the envelope contributions from paul paoletti. he was one of the magical beings who reported working a high-snail-mail day job at a law firm and sent me an absolute heap of stuff (don't worry undisclosed law firm, your stellar employee never told me who you were and removed all trace of your business from said contributions). pictured above are only the ones i didn't have yet. paul and i actually exchanged emails from only a few miles apart when i was staying with friends in philadelphia. we never did make it to the mutter museum, paul, and i can hardly believe it.

in more torontonian news, i went for my first walk along my little slice of queen street yesterday - all the way from my place to the workroom. i visited the good catch general store (which is now all stocked with neck warmers for your blustery toronto needs). the place is as amazing as ever and little leon is running around now. i also noticed that studio brilliantine has relocated to our end of queen. welcome to the edge of toronto, guys. it's okay here. the workroom is also still in great form with a whole new row of fabric shelving for those textile hounds among us. i was a bit exhausted when i got there and probably need to go back to peruse the bolts at my leisure but the new stuff looks great.

this evening, by contrast, was spent indoors. our friends jen and mike stopped by and even gave us welcome home gifts. maple cookies, canadian club whiskey, sweetie pie tea from tealish and some pipes and junk for aitor. i felt fully welcomed home by this evening.

i also got t fulfill my dream of getting jen to 'make threes' (picking sets of three from the multitudes of security envelope patterns). jen has a knack for/obsession with matching so i knew she'd do a good job. mostly, it was just nice to be back home and working on the living room floor again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

security envelopes glut and reporting.

okay, it has become clear to me that this blog is going to have to spend a while documenting the contributions of envelopes that are currently pouring into my apartment from all over the world. when i got home on monday night, i was greeted by a veritable heap of care packages. i am now slowly going through the process of looking through the treasures and documenting them properly. the envelopes pictured above were sent in by jane ashby, a british illustrator/animator who confessed to amassing envelopes for years in the hopes that she would use them in her own work. she had yet to get around to using them and sent me a big stash, including (but not limited to) the new-to-me patterns pictured above. i am very happy to announce the first orange in my collection (but not the last; i have been doing some peeking through other contributions). i am also really excited by the basket weave and zig zags, which i had also never seen before. i'm going to be buttoning like mad in the coming weeks. thank you very much, jane, for parting with your collection.

oh man, does this mean i am going to be writing ninety posts about ninety contributors? i just feel so thankful and beholden to you all. i just hope to do your gifts justice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

home! toronto. but how can this be?

it is true.

we are home.

but what is home after being away for almost six months? it's a big empty place for one thing. and little ribbon (my cat) was waiting to at the door to love me and hate aitor. ahhh...comfort.

we got in late last night after getting the a-ok from randy and all the other lovely people at b&b collision in royal oak michigan. i highly recommend their services. randy really went above and beyond to work out some residual issues from our drunk driver attack in chicago (which remains unresolved, by the way).

the driving was dicey (and even treacherous through london) but the skies cleared and we made it back to toronto and arrived at the comedy bar just as catch23 was letting out. it was like a parade of favorite people - graham , ken, textbook, anne, dusty, mark, alana, kayla, brendan, peter, pat, other pat, was just what i needed and wanted. and gary has done an amazing job with the space. there's a big sign made of lights and a fake fireplace with a remote control!

i can't believe we are home.

oh yes, and aitor welcomed a new boar's head into his life, a belated birthday gift from his cowgirl friend heidi who always does things like that better than i.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

first snow, and what to do with it.

well, we have been away from home for almost six months and (other than a very light dusting last night) this is the first snow we have seen. it's hard to look back on our baking august in the arizona desert and imagine that we are now here in detroit with this sort of view out the window. it's not bad yet. i just hope the weather doesn't conspire against us in light of our return home tomorrow.

things here are not so bad, though. stephanie came over and we have been packing/crafting/chatting for most of the blustery day. we also got to talking (as does happen) about security envelopes. stephanie brought me over a collection she had been saving for my current project and shared with me the competitive desire to find something new for me. stephanie is not alone in this feeling. i have also been receiving emails to this affect and lish backed her up, too. i am coming to realize that i will have to really document my contributions and let people know the rarities they have found. i can't wait to see the heap of envelopes that await me at home!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

detroit urban craft fair, the third.

today was so hectic and full of madness (and snow) that i didn't get a lot of pictures from the fair. that said, i did manage to snap those magical gems above of my across-the-way neighbour, owly shadow puppets, when the lighting rig was lowered during load-in. it was like they planned that fixture to illuminate her shadow theatre perfectly.

the fair was as wonderful as always and left me totally weak and exhausted.

congratulations, detroit folks. you always do such a fantastic job with your events.

oh yes, this year's fair also featured a big hairy monster full of goodies that could be extracted for a dollar. here it is moving in:

Friday, November 14, 2008

pittsburgh morning, detroit night

although we woke up in pittsburgh (where we have been enjoying the wonderful company of our hosts, al and pat) we had to get hustling early. we got a bit of grub at quiet storm, where we always seem to eat when we pass through, and then got going. we did mange to see this mossyrock sticker in the bathroom before leaving, though:

(they are our friends from brooklyn). it's nice to know that the big world is keeping things cyclical and closed-circuit enough for us to feel almost at home anywhere we land.

today was mostly boring, mostly driving. we got into our friend mike's place relatively early and made ourselves swiftly at home. i had a few things to assemble still for tomorrow's detroit urban craft fair and mike had some good dv's to dive into. here is a photo essay aitor compiled of my activities while watching a dirty shame:

i am a pioneer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

security update.

image courtesy kristi dominelli

i would first like to say that the response to my security envelope button project and related call to arms for envelope rescuers has been overwhelming. i owe a big thanks to all the bloggers who have been so central in getting the word out - the toronto craft alert, something's hiding in here,, make something, and many more. i hope i managed to find all the links. i am little if not a record keeper.

through the beginnings of this project, i have also been directed towards previous postal obsessions of other artists. tara sent me links to kristiina lahde's meticulous security envelope cuts and spheres; dory told me about the postal hijinks of harriet russell (look under books/envelopes). and i even discovered this flickr pool that catalogues the patterns worldwide. it seems a bit inactive, but i am considering scanning my collection and submitting to it for the greater good (as if i need to add any more steps to my already weirdly codified processes). mostly, though, i just scanned through the pool hoping some of those patterns were in the mail and on their way to my grubby mitts.

speaking of offer-taker, the number of respondents is now topping eighty, from places as far-flung as singapore, the united kingdom, germany, south africa, new zealand, australia, lithuania and indonesia, to name a few. i think i may have to cap reward send-outs at 100 sets so that me, aitor and the cat don't have to spend the winter in a cardboard box, but i'm pretty hooked on the publicness this project has taken on. i have gotten emails about people's penchants for mundane design, compulsive hoardings, mysterious collections and more than a couple had said they had never before looked inside the envelopes their bills came in. i have even gotten a couple of replies from people who work in accounts receivable or mail rooms promising huge stashes of foreign design. i feel like a glutton.

i am sure i will be parceling out updates as contributions arrive, in which i will get to talk a bit more about the people contributing and what they do. but for now, i just look forward to monday's return home (after almost six months) and the packages of other people's beautiful trash that sit there awaiting my love and affections.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

roadside america, pennsylvania style.

holy crow, does the lincoln highway know how to do roadside weirdness. at the suggestion of devlin from athen, georgia, we stopped by roadside america today. it's a not-so-little miniature village in the heart of pannsylvania dutch country. we came by just around closing on our way to new york and vowed to make a real visit before this big trip was through. roadside america does not disappoint in spite of the hype.

clearly, someone's massive labour of love, this miniature marvel presents an interesting selection of educational side notes, while at the same time putting very little emphasis on uniform scale. this latter element is what i found most marvelous. it sort of presents the idea that giants and normals coexisted together in harmony from pioneer times through the 1950's; that ducks and people can be the same size. but in all of this, spectators are also taught valuable lessons about coal mining, the development of america and the dangers of children playing with fire, among many other things. and you get to push buttons and make things move!

we arrived just in time for the half-hourly night time pageant wherein the sun sets on this tiny collection of towns and then something that involves jesus and america happens.

i don't think it's possible for these pictures to spoil the fun of actually experiencing this yourself. you should go. i got the feeling that i might be in the purest place on earth.

i almost don't want to sully the sanctity of roadside america with our next stop, but it is a place aitor and i have had a mild obsession with since our last tour. in the mountains, a few miles outside of breezewood, pennsylvania, is the creepiest looking clapboard srtip club one could imagine. aitor saw it out the window on our last tour but couldn't remember where...and then we drove by it again on our way out of ligonier a few weeks ago. this time we finally had the nerve to stop and take pictures.

we assume it to be called 'artistry in motion' but can't be entirely sure. we momentarily debated staying until it opened, but i was getting a real black lodge feeling about the place and for some reason passing cars were honking at us wildly. one does have to wonder what goes on in those outlying shacks, though. i probably don't want to know, anyway.