Crafty Goodness

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Over the years, I’ve created PowerPoints for many deeply unsavory reasons – to push pharmacological products using sketchy ‘data’ published by the parent company, as part of half-assed attempts on educators’ parts to get hip with technology and liven up rote classroom presentation (one of the few chunks of high school, along with forced learning to type without looking at our hands, that actually had real-world applications), to reinforce big business mentalities I did not believe in. Each of which falls under the standard use of PowerPoint, a program designed with the twofold goal of ‘snappy corporate presentations’ and ‘useability by the computer illiterate’.

In spite of, or rather because of the inherent weirdness at this intersection of Business and Flair, the program’s potential for pure art has been explored by several artists, most notably David Byrne’s E.E.E.I tour. I was going to say ‘accidental’ or ‘ironic’ art, but all that’s ever needed to turn something practical into art is to remove the practicality.

Which brings me to my recent, happier experiences with PowerPoint – created for a friend’s yearly salon of presentations on whatever we wanted, far from the boundaries of desks or logic, these slides were fun to create. No templates! The pure joy of random transitions! Finally using all the sound effects your supervisor expressly forbad! Unfortunately after the small gathering was over, the presentations languished on my computer. No more! I finally figured out how to time slides and export to a movie file, so that you, The Reader, may benefit from my research.

Admittedly quite a bit is lost in translation – no transitions, only one audio track and no sound effects, no me rambling on about a particular subject while accidentally skipping three slides ahead – but I’ve tried to make up for it with a dip into my recently acquired well of 50s instrumental tracks. Enjoy!

Mary Maxim: A Wearable (Mostly Canadian) History from Rarer Borealis on Vimeo.

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The wild reaction to Jeremy Scott’s Bart sweater set said less about enthusiasm for his aesthetic (which appears to be the brain of a 1995-era 13-year-old looking at a Delia’s catalogue, made real) and more about the still-rampant popularity of the Simpsons. The current ’90s’ obsession (and I say this in quotes as the younger set has somehow blinded themselves to the time’s prevalence of JNCOs and waffle knits)  and fondness for the Simpsons resulted in a perfect storm of want.

Bootlegs of the Jeremy Scott design likely hit the market seconds after its debut, and with Simpsons bootlegs themselves a time-honored tradition, it’s hard to begrudge their existence. Where formerly Simpsons bootlegs were 50/50 underrepresented groups using Bart as voice and icon/Chinese manufacturers seeking to capitalize any sudden burst of popularity with little understanding of the symbolism, today it’s a small sliver of all-too conscious designers carefully manipulating Bart’s odd combination of major corporate mascot and bad-boy outsider status to bolster their own credibility, and a LOT more of the Chinese-random-stuff-algorithm churning out goods in response to response.

A slight digression – it’s interesting to note the new wave of designers capitalizing on the Simpsons and what they’ve meant still hew mostly to Bart designs, with a few Homers and Milhouses thrown in. Homer’s too much of an adult for ‘the kids’ to appreciate his utter lack of responsibility to anything tied to being an adult (a later development in what Dead Homer Society refers to as ‘Jerkass Homer’). Milhouse makes sense as a newer development – he’s the outsider’s outsider even within the Simpsons world – second banana to Bart, too much of a nerd to be an underachiever, too much of a loser to join the other nerds. Still no focus on Lisa or Marge, as they represent the moral core of the show (pretty much the opposite of  beloved male irresponsibility fantasy stand-ins like Homer, Peter Griffin, Cartman, etc.), but I’m surprised there’s not more Maggie, as she would’ve been the age of many of the whippersnappers currently sporting this gear, was always somewhat of an enigma, and certainly in her Harpo way was another rebellious badass in the family.

Anyway. This is all a long-winded way of saying now that the Jeremy Scott sweater hype’s had a year or two to stew, the strange permutation bootlegs are finally coming up – copies of copies of copies made with no reference to the original, weird evolutions of imagery put out into the world. Behold:

Here’s a photo that I believe was used for reference, taken at an odd angle of the Bartman logo translated to knitwear…

Bart Sweater B

 

This photo from a magazine shows a bootleg of the bootleg, with jagged lettering and weird perspective…

bart sweater A

Note the wonkiness in the eyes…

Bart Sweater A

 

This same photo from earlier was used in ANOTHER sweater post, claiming THIS….

Bart Sweater B

 

…is the same sweater as THIS:

Bart Sweater C

 

Don’t get me wrong, this sweater certainly has its own weird charm, plus it looks like a drawing from Hyperbole and a Half. But it is DEFINITELY not a straight-up Bartman sweater. I can only wonder where the next mutation will go.

Bart Sweater C

 

Ned's New Master Bedroom

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Too far away from the previous weekend to warrant proper revelry, not close enough to the next weekend to justify celebrating post-actual holiday, Thursday Halloweens are the most neglected Halloweens. Do your small part to help by wearing costume no matter what your day entails. And with this handy last minute guide, there’s no excuse not to dress up for the office, school, or whatever cramped underlit area you while away your days in.

 

The Monolith from ’2001: A Space Odyssey’

full_frontal_monolith

 

What you’ll need:

Large cardboard box (check IKEA or any place that sells refrigerators or flat-pack furniture)

Matte black spray paint

Black pantyhose

Glue gun/stapler

Duct tape

Random takeout containers &/or soda caps, or foam balls

Portable music device & portable speakers

1. Accept this will be a physically awkward costume. You will not be able to sit or walk very easily, but it will be worth it for the sheer weirdness of having a giant alien monolith in the middle of a party. Or room. Or daycare center.

2. Try on the box. Mark your eye level. Cut off the flaps by your feet.

3. Cut a small rectangular slit out at eye level. You can do the same on the box sides as well, if you care about peripheral vision. I don’t. Cut out a rectangle or two near the top of the box, either at the very top or on the sides (this is for the sound to come through).

4. Cut two thick strips from the bottom cardboard flaps – these will be your internal hand holds. Glue or staple the top part of the strip to the side wall, and repeat on the bottom, leaving room for your hand to grip the rest of the strip between.

5. Spray paint the box a fine matte black, including inside the eyeholes.

You won’t be able to spray-paint it the mattest black of the actual monolith though – turns out our blackest blacks are classified by the government! No joke – the U.S. Air Force pays good money to companies who can come up with ever-blacker blacks, as a paint that would prevent visibility either through radar or visual spectrum would be VERY USEFUL to use on satellites and plane underbellies that one might want to go undetected.

6. Cut out bits of the pantyhose larger than the eyehole and other holes cut. You may need more than one layer. Stretch and glue/staple the pantyhose to the INSIDE of the box.

7. Put ‘Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra‘ and ‘Atmospheres’ on your music device. I recommend taping the speakers near your speaker-holes using duct-tape, but if another configuration works for you, go for it.

8. Tah-dah! You’re ready to join the party! Get your pal to go as the Star Child or Dave for a couples costume, or if you have kids, get them to dress up as little apes. For extra fun, read this extensive theory on the Monolith as Movie Screen and the enlightenment of the viewer/Dave.

 

Talking Head

thoial

 

What you’ll need:

Cardboard box big enough to fit around your head

spray paint (likely black, or purple if you want a Simpsons TV)

Boxcutter/X-Acto/Scissors

Coat hanger/wire

Moderate drawing skills/printer

Glue gun/tape

 

1. Cut a hole at the bottom of the box big enough to squeeze your head through, but not so big it wobbles all around. If necessary cut bigger and once the box is on tape the hole smaller.

2. Draw a TV on the front of the box (either old-style with the knobs on the side and rounded corners, or ultra-sleek and modern with just a thin border and the name brand at the bottom. If the latter, make sure your box is ‘widescreen format’ (16:9) instead of traditional 3:4 ratio.

Here’s a nice vector image of the Simpsons’ tv to give you an idea of what you’re going for:

free-vector-the-simpsons-tv_029933_the-simpsons-tv

3. Cut out the ‘screen’ portion of your TV.

4. Spray paint the set the color of your choice.

5. Draw in any details. Use whatever vaguely dome-like objects at hand (half a tennis ball, take out container, cat food can) and glue it to the top of your TV. Glue smaller objects on the side (liter soda caps, buttons, whatever)

6. Depending on what kind of TV show you’re going for, draw or print out a picture to go behind your head. Action sequence, car chase, news outlet – might I recommend finding a dangerous situation (like a car burning, a bank robbery in progress) and going as local Tri-State news anchor and trouble magnet Ti-Hua Chang?

7. Unbend the wire and re-bend into classic rabbit ears (or skip this step if you’ve gone for the heartless modern variant).

8. Dress to match your chosen genre, and pop on your TV head.

 

Ralph Wiggum as Idahotumblr_lcj55pVdCk1qztjn5o1_500

What you’ll need:

Collared blue shirt

Matching pants

Piece of paper

Tape

 

I am not even going to dignify this with instructions, as it is truly the lazy man’s costume. If you happen to have foamcore about (or just an old mattress pad), you could just as easily whip up Lisa’s ‘Floreda’ costume.

 

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As mentioned previously, due to thievery I’m no longer sharing patterns from my personal stash. Fortunately for all of us, we live in a magical world of instant availability, where entire archives mouldering in damp basements dying unmourned deaths now get to see the light of day! I can just picture these anthropomorphized little booklets, rubbing their wee squinted eyes at the blinding sunlight shining down upon them, a joyous smile breaking across their faces as a new day dawns and they can finally reveal their particular brand of weird to the world.

The designs and cuts below come from that awkward period in the late teens – not yet a flapper, but no longer wasp-waisted. The overall shape has moved away from the Gibson Girl’s poofiness and fluff towards the tubular androgyny soon to be everywhere, yet retains the length and excessive decor of the previous years. These patterns could work well in a modern wardrobe if done in the spirit of androgyny coming from a number of Japanese designers (like Arts and Science) or by going extra-bright and bold with color for a Finnish style (a la Marimekko).

NEEDS MORE BUTTONS

dangly sides

dotty

These three patterns, along with many others, can be found in the Utopia Yarn Book, available free online.

…and then there’s this hat. The kid’s expression speaks for itself, but should you find your wardrobe missing some crocheted Dutch elf bonnet flair, you can always turn to the Columbia Book of Yarns.
that hat

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Over the weekend I finished a test project. I’ve been exploring the limits cheap, cruddy, readily available materials can be be pushed – this weekend, it was pony beads. For those who did not attend day camp or raves, pony beads are large, garish plastic beads used to make horrible keychain fobs or PLUR bracelets. They’re clunky, in the way of materials geared for preschoolers still developing motor skills. They are useless decorative units churned out by the millions to encourage the creation of larger, useless objects (as assumed from the ‘lizard keychain’ pattern on the back of most bags). And yet, I hold out hope something good can come from this medium.

I wanted to start quickly and focus on potential color combinations while learning the very useful ‘square stitch’ technique – basically loom beading without the loom, and more flexible in terms of little bits hanging off here and there. Working with a material I’d not handled as much since day camp days, my thoughts turned to something else I hadn’t seen much since then – no, not Jurassic Park, though now that I think about it….but no. DOOM, the video game. Voila! Sprites are already cordoned into small squares, so I grabbed one for a Lost Soul and got to work.

 

Before:

 

lost soul screencap

 

After:
 

flaming lost soul

 

I got about 4 beads to the inch, making this about 8 x 10 inches. It’s quite flexible, floppy but with some structure and body. I have absolutely no idea what to do with it (aside from making more and turning my living room into the Deimos Anomaly).

Here’s an animation of me putting it together. I think the table grain gives a better sense of scale:

skull-build

 

After spending a good chunk of the weekend completing this, I asked the question haunting me since hearing it at a Silent Series event years ago  - what’s the difference between this and my grandma crocheting from a kit?

The question was asked by a perplexed young man who, faced with a panel of young artists  at the New Museum’s ‘Craft Hackers’ panel talking about how they utilized craft technique in their work, wanted clarification on the difference between what they did, and what his grandma, who apparently enjoyed buying kits to make things, did. The first and only response, echoed by the other panelists was this gem of a dodge: “(looooooooooooong silence) You know, that question is so important, I don’t think I can answer it.”  Hah!

The short answer might be, they intentionally utilized the medium to get their ideas across, while his grandma didn’t bring a concept or agenda and simply wanted to enjoy the process. Still, what about something like my project, where I plucked a sprite created by someone else and reworked the color scheme in a completely different physical medium? Does it look boss? Of course it does, it’s a giant flaming horned skull. Does it mean anything? Nothing other than I thought this was an appropriate way to spend a weekend.

Two other thoughts come to mind – ‘Ghostworld’s ‘tampon in a teacup’ scene where, when asked what her painting of Don Knotts ‘means’, Enid says she doesn’t know, followed by an overeager classmate spinning absolute BS about her found-object sculpture consisting of a tampon in a teacup. I loathe the latter, spouting nonsense and creating meaning where none was intended. A classic example is the interview where a reporter asks Gus Van Sant if his Handsome Boy Gun School movie ‘Elephant’ was named because “no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room”. You can SEE his eyes light up as he says “Yeaaaaaaaaaah!” That’s it, that’s the ticket! But in an art world where Idea trumps Craft (does Jeff Koons even touch his own canvases any more?) what happens when an object is created just for the sake of creating? Just because it looks ‘neat’? Several months ago on a craft board, I came across an enormous cross stitch someone had done of a picture of their favorite band. It was absolutely photorealistic, in that they’d taken a photo and translated it into pixels and as close a floss color as could be matched. It sickened me, to think of the time and effort expended on recreating something that already existed with nothing added. So now you have a cross-stitch of a picture of your favorite band. What does this offer that the photo didn’t? The same thing I might say about my project, perhap, that it became a tangible, physical object.

I’ve nearly always defended Craft when it comes to the Arts vs. Craft – the personally involved, hands-on, tactile element that can be utilized to create art, but can also create serviceable, functional objects. It’s been said there isn’t any purpose to art, that’s why it’s Art. But if there is no idea behind it, does that qualify? Clearly repurposing work done by others ‘counts’ as art, as can be seen in any gallery today. But if something is just Craft, pure doing for doing’s sake, even if done well….

Well, that’s part of the reason I wanted to explore ‘crappy’ materials (so called by me). The Michael’s and Jo-Anne Fabrics are supposedly a world apart from the New Museums. Why is that? Is it just the materials? The environment they exist in? Spending any time in a ‘craft store’ the creeping sense of creativity gone horribly wrong surrounds you. So many kits and plastic gewgaws and seasonal merchandise made of the cheapest possible materials, all prepackaged and sold to you to earn your ‘creative genius’ badge by the same repetitive actions an assembly line robot does. Does that devalue the final product? Is it terrible that young man’s grandma gave him latch-hook rugs from kits? It’s just that the human involvement is at such a low level, robots took over this work except in situations where people voluntarily pay for the privilege of doing it themselves. While it’s true a kit has yet to come out to make your very own flaming demon skull (hmmmm….), is my taking an existing image and translating it via basic technique any different?

The next step of the project is to use the technique to create my own pattern, possibly as a wearable object, possibly just as a large wall hanging. I went to see the Gravity and Grace exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum this past weekend, and it was comforting to see the beauty that came out of simple repetition, basic materials, and sheer persistence (anything involving small units takes forever to put together, or at least feels like it). I’m not sure how I feel about art and craft at the moment, but I’m hoping just the act of willing something good (or at least visually/texturally interesting) to come from base materials helps clarify.

 

 

 

 

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