Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Up With Grubs!

Here's the gigantic knitted yellow grub I made for Silas this Christmas. I got tons of funny looks knitting this one on the subway, let me tell you! Silas kinda loves it, and so does his grandma, which makes me really happy.

Godparenting stories that go with it:

Silas, like his whole neighborhood of shorties, is ridiculously obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. But the Thomas stories are kinda depressing lessons in you-are-a-cog-in-the-wheel - Sir Topham Hat is the boss of all the trains, and they cross rickety bridges, broken tracks and gigantical hills to bring him his payload on time. Then he says "You have been very useful." Before he could read them himself, I told the stories to Si so that the trains go on strike. "Down with Topham Hat! Up with Trains!" On Saturday he tossed the grub into the air shouting "Up with Grubs! Up with Grubs!"

The other grub story:

What's a baby cat? a kitten.
What's a baby kangaroo? a joey.
What's a baby human? a baby.
What's a baby bug? a grub!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Smashed Pennies

I'm hard at work at some stuff I can't show, so here instead is my smashed penny collection! I just added another one from a trip upstate, so here's the bunch of them before I put them all away. Sorry for my wack photo skills - it's hard to get them to come out legible! Clockwise from the farthest left with the middle one last:

Generic "You Are Special to Me" from the Cheesequake Travel Plaza, smashed after the Ride for Autism on my birthday last year (New Jersey just isn't that scenic - the only one with a place on it was for the World Trade Center); Mount Washington Auto Road, from the top of mount Washington; Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, from a trip to DC last year to see the Joseph Cornell show and geek out on rocks; The Bronx Zoo, from when the bug carousel was new; "Adirondacks", from the Modena Travel Plaza on the Northway. It wasn't really a trip to the Adirondacks, but I've been there, and I didn't want to get West Point, which we were closer to; Mount Saint Helens - from the summer of 2003 when it started gushing forth again - I had to see it before I moved back to NYC; Ausable Chasm, from my bike trip last summer; and in the middle is Astroland from last summer, probably but hopefully not the final summer of its existence.

Lost, chucked into the ocean, or "somewhere in this house" as Si would say, are Virginia Beach from a visit to my sis; the Jubitz truckstop, from a bike ride in Portland; and Multnomah Falls, also from a ride in Portland.

Wow, the places I've been.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Word of the Day: Feuderal

Feuderal, n. (pron: like funeral, if you have a cold): a funeral at which family members of the deceased refuse to speak to each other, often for arcane reasons. See also: folderol.

Take my new word. It's yours.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Crafting Protest, a Tank Cosy, Notion Nanny, and Another Urchin Reference!

Knitted tank cosy by Marianne Joergensen (or here)...and here's another one by Jerilea Zempel.

On my way up to the Crafting Protest talk at the New School, we passed a crowd of people waiting in line to get into the Outsider Art Fair at the Puck Building. I've always loved the Puck because it has a light up sidewalk, and I always associate it with Balthazar around the corner, with its ostentatious red curtains. Those curtains always make me feel like some sort of urchin peering inside to see where the bread is kept.

Which is my way of setting up the whole high/low, artist/artisan, museum/craft shop, studio/kitchen table, craft-economies-in-an-era-of-globalization discussion that the talk was about for me. In terms of "protest" content, though, Crafting Protest was sort of a dud. I was hoping to see more inherently political work, like Marianne Joergensen and Jerilea Zempel's tank cosies, or like Gooseflesh's rubbish vortex, or like the crochet coral reef project. This was politics in the sense of lefty art-makers doing and trying and thinking about political things, yes, but subtler politics in the sense of "queering the binaries" between all those slashes more than bringing about direct political change.

For me the most overtly political part of the discussion was at the end, when the audience asked about money - how do you get the funding to do this kind of stuff? Best answer goes to Liz Collins: Um, I have a job that supports me so I can do this other stuff that doesn't make any money. Runner up to (I think it was) Sabrina Gschwandtner Cat Mazza: Student loans.

Which brings me kind of backwardly to my new fascination with Allison Smith's Notion Nanny project. Inspired by Victorian peddler dolls, Smith cast herself as the peddler, setting out to as an itinerant apprentice, seeking out all manner of traditional craft-makers to teach her the tricks to make things to add to Notion Nanny's basket. Here's the art-speak blurb from her site as to what it's all about -
Distributing handbills "door-to-door" and making contacts through word-of-mouth, Smith, as Notion Nanny, seeks to engage self-described traditional makers in a dialogue about their relationship to political and social histories of making. Thus, the doll and her basket stand side-by-side with Smith’s own activity, offering up larger metaphors and questioning assumed "notions" about art and craft in contemporary life. As the re-imagined personification of a village character type, Notion Nanny tells the anthropological folktale of the contemporary artist, "post-studio," peddling ideas and objects as well as crossing borders and advancing dialogue in a global art market.
I find all of this incredibly juicy - Allison is consciously navigating the artist/artisan slash as an interloper from the world of high art. Take this example: Allison gets a residency from the Wordsworth Trust and begins her Notion Nanny journey tromping through the Lakes District. She meets Owen Jones, the current "last in the line" of traditional swill basket makers. Owen has special permission to fence off a small area of the forest for his basket making, and he's all about being a traditional maker instead of an artist. She's an artist supported by her residency, and he's an artisan quietly doing his thing in the country. They barter - Allison stacks wood for a day and Owen teaches her how to make a basket. Yum!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sheldon Brown

I fired up my blog reader tonight to hear from six different bike-blogging heroes across the country that Sheldon Brown has died - the gleeful know-it-all, tinkerer, bike mechanic extraordinaire, and keeper of the esoterica at sheldonbrown.com. Even though I never met him, I'm feeling, like a lot of people are I'm sure, like I've lost a teacher.

He taught me, among other things I can think of off the top of my head - how to turn a 10-speed into a fixie, how to overhaul a headset, how to lace and build a wheel, how to lace a wheel four leading four trailing, how to lace a wheel half-radial, what parts would fit my wacky old french bike, why i needed to to put a un-72 bottom bracket into phil retaining rings to keep my old Raleigh going, how to pull my stronglight cranks, how to unstick a stuck bottom bracket fixed cup with just a carriage bolt and some nuts, how to figure out bike gearing in gear inches or in gain ratios....

And his umpteen personal bikes are an inspiration for tinkerers and why-the-hell-notters of all stripes everywhere. In high school, I stuck two bikes together into a tandem with some rope, but that didn't work, so I found somebody with a welding torch. I set this one up as a three-speed fixed gear, and I put the crank on goofyfoot, just because. This one has fifty-seven speeds. This one has two sets of handlebars, with brakes on each. Yes, do try this at home!

The world will be smaller without him.