Saturday, January 31, 2009

artists' flea market, part the second.

aitor and i spent another day in katharine mulherin's lovely gallery space today hocking our wares and meeting new folks. it was less bitter cold than last week, and there was certainly more bustle about.

it's been a pretty sweet four-week experiment (with its terminus next sunday). i really get excited about art and craft interminglings. katharine also has big things planned for next weekend's wrap-up. as i said last time, these events are small but very worth checking out. there is a feeling of undiscoveredness all around, be it rifling through people's old stuff or encountering new artists. i also really like the revelatory nature of displaying one's art alongside one's cast-offs. it really reveals a lot about the artists in a way that never occurred to me at other flea markets. maybe the gallery just inspires such contemplation. but speaking of discovering things,...

today i was extra excited to encounter the personage and work of one sarah mcneil, a recent toronto transplant from australia. her work certainly spans the art/craft gap with an aesthetic and sense of humour that both appeal to me greatly.

i purchased one of her zines and read it to myself on the short streetcar ride home. it was the perfect length to take me stop-to-stop which reminded of how the time it takes to get from the land of point to the pointless forest is directly proportional to the time it takes to sing a song (big props if you get that allusion - it also means we shared a part of our childhoods).

just look at that table of contents. how could i not be smitten? after my chance encounter with mia nolting in portland and with ray fenwick's hall of best knowledge on my bedside table, i am beginning to feel surrounded by a comforting swirl of lists and charts and text as art. and i will tell you something: it feels good.

Friday, January 30, 2009

issues of security in america's new dawn.

envelopes are still trickling in from collection phase one. it's nice. the pace is easier to keep up with and the security envelope project has gone back to being a loving process to me (i react poorly to being beholden).

above is the new pattern i found in a contribution from frank in indiana. i have seen this pattern before but never in red. i love it!

in a recent letter, my friend melissa brought up the idea that i should bring this project to the states, what with the connotations of security there these days. of course, i had considered these themes before but they were not central in my artistic motivations for this project. regardless of that, she's right; security seems to be on everyone's minds these days in one way or another (american or not). i like the notion that these scraps of paper could keep us all safe. i think it's working for me. there is a security in being focused on a project or goal. well, it's one of the best kinds of security i have come upon in my creative life, at any rate.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

happenings far away (that i have a light involvement in).

trampoline hall pie by margaux williamson

A few things have been piling up in my inbox and mind - things to which i have vague allegiances or have subtle involvements in, but all things happening outside of toronto that i will not be able to attend.

firstly, i am busily hammering out buttons for the vancouver installment (premiere?) of the trampoline hall lectures. misha is flying out there to do a one-night-only presentation of the show, curated by veda hillie, as part of the push festival. my old frined johnny b will be manning the merch table, with buttons made especially for the event and trampoline hall's ubiquitous comic book zine. go say hi! the information is kind of hidden on the push website, so i recommend checking out the facebook event for details.

little mountain crest by ehren salazar

on february 13, avncouver's little mountain studios will be putting on their first off-site event with a night of the hidden agenda variety show at the waterfront theatre. my involvement in the birth of hidden agenda is so convoluted that i won't even go into it. but i can say that i have looked over the line-up and it seems pretty awesome. in my opinion, you should never miss a chance to see ehren salazar do anything. the creaking planks (who i just saw perform on my last visit to vancouver) are also a sight to behold. and the waterfront is such a lovely venue. it's one of my favorites in vancouver.

berner/wiseman poster by tyler brett

and finally, coming up in march, is an amazing little show in bruno, saskatchewan, that i am allowed to claim some kind of involvement in. i didn't really do anything to make this show happen, but did serve as the connective tissue between bob and the good folks at all citizens. aside from looking like it will be an amazing show, this event also gets to serve the added purpose of fulfilling mr. wiseman's lifelong dream of performing in bruno. although i do not know mr. berner (or i don't think i do), i have long been a fan of his music and have even read his book on accordion playing which is very funny and will make you a genius.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

city of craft snowstorm t-shirt party.

i already used the best camus humour i could muster on the city of craft blog so i am not exactly sure what existentialist sales pitch is left for me and these shirts. i was hoping to convince the world that our new merch could protect a body from frostbite and hypothermia...or feelings of disillusionment. what do i need to say to convince you of that? or will these pictures work?

with the snow mageddoning down again today, i decided it was high time to drag my life partner out into the fray to take some pictures of these brand spanking new tees, fresh off shannon gerard's able squeegee. the image comes to us courtesy of caitlyn murphy, up-and-coming illustrator to the stars, who orginally made the design for our 2008 city of craft show programs. we decided it was lovely enough to merit a slightly less ephemeral now you can wear it on your chest! you will also be able to wear it under your arm, but i don't have pictures of the new tote bags yet. they look pretty swank, though (hemp and cotton blends have really grown up).

these will be making their real world debuts at the love and rummage trunk show in a week and a bit, so you can ogle and molest them there. there is some chatter that city of craft may also be launching a humble etsy shop, too. well, i made one. now we just need to sort out the logistics of filling it with goodies. out of curiosity, would anyone here be interested in such a thing?

thanks to caitlyn, shan and aitor for being so helpful with this project. hopefully this will keep all of toronto stylish and crafty at the same time. unless life is meaningless, that is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

your heart may be cold, but your neck will be warm.

i have just finished and photographed a veritable heap of crocheted neck warmers. if you are the type of person who likes to peruse woolens on the internet, you can ogle here.

these tracheal cozies will be available at the upcoming love and rummage trunk show, next saturday's artists' flea market (just confirmed) and then at the good catch general store in toronto. if you live out of town, and one of these guys catches your fancy, feel free to get in touch. i can provide you with things like measurements, fibre contents (they are all natural) and shipping quotes.

what better way to say i love you in the middle of winter that by warming a throat? it sure beats candy hearts and stuffed bears with glossy hearts sewn to their hands.

also, i know that katharine is still looking for a few vendors for next sunday's flea market. perhaps you are interested?

Monday, January 26, 2009

parting the curtains and singing of love.

above are some very special one-off versions of the love porn buttons by emma segal that i made for the very special folks at worn fashion journal.

these bad boys (and girls) will be slipping their way into the swag bags being handed out to the first twenty five attendees of worn's heartbreak karaoke fundraiser being held at the cameron house on valentine's day proper.

i don't know that i will be in attendance, as valentine's day is my birthday and i prefer to hide under a rock and avoid the panic and forced whimsy of a day i have complicated feelings about.

i will be turning 75 this year, so condolences and funeral wreaths are being accepted as of now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

artists' flea market.

for me and the reverend, today's major activity was the artists' flea market at katherine mulherin contemporary art projects. i am not going to lie to you, potential participants, it was a rather slow day. but i didn't feel the day was wasted, by any means. i completed 25 neck warmers while there (i love to crochet and hate to sew buttons) and made some good connection with people who don't normally interact with the craft scene.

also, katherine has an incredible curatorial ability (obviously) and access to artists that most events of this format will not have. she plans to continue these events every satuday and sunday through february 8th, with a different line-up every time.

will i do it again? i am not sure. but i will definitely make a point of attending as much of the rest of the series as i can, and encourage you to do the same. there are some astronomical art deals to be had, and it's all being sold alongside the artists' used gloves. it's a nice situation all around. and katherine has mulled cider on hand, to boot.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

weekend roundup (around the house and journeys beyond).

first of all, i would like to introduce my second button board (made by the impeccable tara broderick). i also finally bit the bullet and put them on the wall. i had been waiting to get my office together (the last frontier of organization at the homestead) but decided these needed to be on a wall now. the one i already had was taking up valuable kitchen chair space, and the living room wall is a less invasive use of common space that the kitchen table.

i am still using the boards to sort the security envelope buttons (the collection of which has bloated to a hefty 309). they look so pretty on display and magically tend to harmonize with our blue walls. also, we love kentucky.

after home puttering, i went on a little walk today out into the world and visited the artists' flea market being hosted by board of directors at katherine mulherin's 1086 queen west gallery. aitor and i will be there tomorrow from 10:00am - 6:00pm, trying to see what the art community thinks of our stuff. in the spirit of a flea market, we are also going to bring a small sampling of thrifty goodies set aside for the love and rummage trunk show the weekend after next.

it's funny that so many people have rummage on their minds. or maybe it's not funny and recession just has everyone in a panic. either way, you should be able to find lots of thrifty gift options for your sweeties this valentine's day. oh, and i should also direct your attention to make something - the blog of my trunk show co-conspirator, karyn. aside from being a great place to learn things, get inspired and spy on karyn, it will also be host to a series of interviews with trunk show vendors in the coming weeks. we have a bunch of new vendors this time around and, as always, toronto craft folks are up to some exciting new things. i'm looking forward to hiding from the cold, sipping tea and getting to know my fellow vendors through cyber-stalking. that way i can be extra creepy when i meet everyone in person next weekend.

Friday, January 23, 2009

experiments in terraria.

the moss plate was threatening to dry out. i knew this would happen. so yesterday, aitor and i had a brief outing on the hunt for the last couple of materials we needed to make a terrarium or two (namely charcoal and sphagnum moss).

i have been dreaming up terraria for while - actually, ever since aitor went on a plant splitting spree and gave me a small butterwort. he still has two thriving in his big wardian case while mine was pluckily struggling on our bathroom windowsill. so i started looking around for appropriate containers. that's when i found the one above, which was a serious thrift score. of course, you can't just plop a lone carnivorous plant into a big jar like that all alone. so a hatched a plan to collect some mosses out west (which also acted as a bid to bring a small part of the farm home with me). well, that plan snowballed, as plans are often wont to do, and i ended up with quite a bit of mossy materials.

in the end, the butterwort didn't end up figuring into the big glass jar at all. it's very easy to overcrowd these things and my maximalism really comes out in these situations. this little guy might be a lot to take in for the tastes of others, but i just see a million things to stare at. those stringy red things dance around when misted, which i can never get over.

with the remaining smaller bits and the butterwort, i put together these three smaller containers.

i imagine they are intended for some kind of wild alcoholic beverage (if you know, please fill me in) but they make perfect tiny terraria. i had orginally intended to give these ones to friends, but i think i need to hang onto them for at least a little while. after all, this is all experimental for me so i would it would serve me to observe the trials and successes of these little ecosystems.

after just one night, i can already see condensation on the glasses, the moss has perked up and the lichen have reverted to the softer forms that they had when i met them in british columbia; they had taken on a much more rigid demeanour when just lying around in the open of our dry apartment. the butterwort even ate some bugs that crawled out of the moss! let's hope it starts to look more like its happier brethren soon.

also, if anyone in the city has another large glass-topped jar or container that they feel like getting rid of, i would give it a good home. i have one big chunk of moss left with a couple of ferns growing in it and am trying desperately to keep it happy and healthy. my recent thrift store outings have yielded nothing of use. such is the plight of the impoverished artist who takes on opulent victorian hobbies.

although there is more extensive information on building your own terrarium elsewhere on the web, i will quickly run down what i did to make these:

a) washed and sterilized the glass containers.

b) filled the bottom with loose river rocks.

c) mixed in charcoal (i found it keeps the dust down if you rinse it first and lay it into the glass wet).

d) soaked the dried sphagnum moss and applied a healthy layer over the rocks.

e) placed moss samples in with gentle downward squeezes.

f) laid lichen-encrusted twigs and little pine/alder/cedar cones on top.

g) watered.

h) replaced lid.

i) marveled.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

of cats and yarn.

...if you make it into yarn, will your cat be convinced?

in the case of my cat, the results are misleading. she has always had a disconcerting penchant for plastic bags and generally (with a few wild exceptions) stays away from my exposed yarn stash.

so why am i making yarn from plastic bags? well, my friend angelune is planning an earth day project to be displayed in the window of the knit cafe this spring and it involves both hyperbolic crochet and trashy materials...just my style. although i find it to be a very unpleasant material to crochet with, this is a pretty interesting 'fibre' to work. the end product certainly has a unique tenacity about it. if you are interested in trying it out yourself, angelune forwarded us this tutorial to use as a yarn-making guide. helle jorgensen's entire blog is worth poking around on, too. she has really taken work with crochet and plastic bags to a few new levels.

it's not like i'm done, or anything.

just because the security envelope project is currently experiencing its first public outing, does not mean the project has reached an end point. far from it. in fact, i am still receiving contributions from a few stragglers (no derision intended, the time off has been much appreciated).

above are some highlights from joanne, who is my first south african contributor. as hoped, south africa offered me all sorts of new and exotic patterns. those thirteen above are all new for sure. the two at the far right are very exciting, indeed, as the gray one features a very very subtle grid pattern (which is hard to see in photographs) and the blue one has a very large repeat on it.

oh, and here is a picture joanne sent earlier to entice my senses:

yes, yes. there is still much security to explore. and i am steadily scanning patterns in preparation for collection phase two (the quickening). in phase two i will be rewarding folks for finding new patterns only. this will both make the project more like a treasure hunt and hopefully keep me from going broke and having to live in a hole (from which blogging would become impaired).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

gifts from afar.

hey, look what i got from my friend missy and raoul at racho cocoa in athens, georgia. actually, that is just a sampling on the generous care package missy put together for me. there are postcards, missy's note pads, foreign candies, never-ending eight-hour shift zines (who wrote that?), a wooden tofu baby pendant, a triangular pouch and (our shared loved) a squished penny! the cup of tea was not in the package, but i'm sure if missy could find a way it would have been. there was also a vintage shirt (now in the wash) and a pile of security envelopes.

this package was waiting for me when i got back from vancouver and so was another surprise package from our little leah in berlin.

apparently the flea markets there are pretty amazing. i wish i could teleport to germany and spend a week wandering around with leah. she also included some brilliantly creepy glass jars with the names of chemical compounds taped to them (just our style around here) and a metal pin of a local folk hero. leah will have to explain the latter further, as history confuses me. i really love the washe bag, by the way and am just thinking about how to properly display/use it.

even though i currently feel overwhelmed with stuff, i was so nice to come home to care package from some far reaches and favorite people. thank you guys. what's in toronto that you babes want? all dressed chips? kit kat bars? codeine?

actually, i can't remember what chocolate bars are specific to canada. coffee crisp? who knows? but i remember those ones with puffed rice in them being strictly american.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

it's alive! (or the security envelope project has its coming out party).

well, world. it has finally happened. the security envelope project i have be obsessing over has come into being with its first gallery showing. the piece pictured above is a 17 x 17 (289) button grid installed with nails and magnets at the ontario crafts council as part of the group show, diwhy?

the show opens today and runs through march 1st at the crafts council gallery (990 queen street west). aitor and i went today to drop off a spinning rack of button sets - yes you can buy the sets of three themselves for $6 at the gallery for the duration of the run. this gave us a great chance to poke around. i'm really into the whole thing. i was especially excited to get to put the first few stitches in miriam grenville's lovely diy wall paper.

you should go see it all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

putting 289 buttons on 289 nails (or how to drive yourself crazy in four easy hours).

today i installed my piece (affectionately titled 'the security envelope project') at the ontario crafts council for the diwhy? exhibition that opens tomorrow. as a result, i will show you how i did it in case you ever get the urge to display 289 1" buttons on a wall somewhere. oh yes, i should apologize for the photos in advance. the lighting was not great and my photography skills have some holes in them so they are petty grainy.

step #1 - do math
i did this in my head and thus couldn't take pictures. in this case, the buttons'centres will be spaced 1.5 inches apart (leaving .5 inches between each button) and will be arranged in a grid of 17 squared (the highest square number i could muster out of my current collection).

step #2 - make a centre dot on the wall.

step #3 - apply a horizontal piece of masking tape over this dot, extending the width of your intended display. this part can be eyeballed. the level will come in later.

step #4 - measure out a leveled series of dots (at your predetermined intervals and quantity).

step #5 - place a new piece of masking tape vertically using the centre dot as a guide.

sep #6 - repeat step #4 on the vertical axis.

step #7 - start applying lines of tape (eyeballing their levelness), using this centre axis as a guide. part way through, your grid should look like the one above. when you are finished this step, it should look like this:

step #8 - draw levelled lines through your central axis of dots. this should be done with some amount of care.

...see how my eyeball lines and leveled lines vary considerably? i even had to add tape in a few places so as not to draw on the wall (which i was trying to avoid).

step # 9 - nails!

i used 2 inch common nails with a nice flat head. although i started by placing two in the middle, i quickly realized that right-handed people should start in the upper right corner. i would imagine that the reverse is true for lefties but have yet to test this theory.

step #10 - keep it up! don't loose focus and just go for a coffee/tea.

step # 11 - finish nailing and feel a warm sense of accomplishment. after all, this is the most stressful part of the process. if you mess up, you risk making the holes loose and having your nails fall out. i am very proud to report that i hammered in 289 nails without bending one, loosening a hole (well, that's debatable), or hitting a finger. my dad would have been so proud.

step #12 - remove tape. i find that this process is greatly aided by having shannon gerard idling in the vicinity. if you are lucky enough to find yourself in this situation, you will see how much faster she is than you at picking masking tape off a wall.

this is also a good time to start marvelling at the shadows that a big grid of nails casts.

step #13 - apply a single magnet to the end of each nail. i chose the rare earth magnets at a diameter of 1/16 of an inch. these magically fit the nail heads perfectly with no math or effort on my part. when applying magnets to the nail heads, you will also notice that shannon is faster than you.

step #14 - apply your 1" buttons to the magnets. i found that you have a better chance of getting them close to centered if you open the pinbacks. i did not take any pictures of this step because i could not bear the resulting images given the low light. but fear not, i will be back tomorrow and will take some pictures when the sun is shining.

step #15 - be proud of your accomplishment. you actually did something today!

- gallery walls are full of patched holes. you should have spackle and paint on hand to deal with the chips and cracks your nails will create.
- tape is hard to peel off walls. i actually may have to think of a better system for future installations, but this was a first stab and worked out exceptionally well.
- accept the irregularities of doing it by hand. it is nearly impossible (for me) to make this grid all sit on the exact same plane. also, there are so many layers of variable (measuring, nailing precision, magnetism, button/pinback cooperation...) that inconsistencies are bound to present themselves. i have decided that these elements make the piece more organic. besides, a show about the diy movement can't possibly want to install the craziness like an automaton, right? like what is this...readymade?

thanks for reading (if you did). is anyone else actually going to try to do this somewhere? let me know, if you are. i am thinking of selling do-it-yourself kits in my etsy shop (of various grid dimensions) but i am holding off until i have perfected the instructions. please let me know what you think of that idea, too.

and go to the show! it opens tomorrow with a reception on february 5th.