The Boyfriend is Recording a Show and I’m Reading Crafty Stuffs…

Just as the title says. I’m trying to be all nice and quiet while my boyfriend and his friend record an episode of their wrestling podcast (www.untitledwrestlingshow.podbean.com if you’re interested, and the boyfriend also has a sports show I actually listen to every week called Not Another Sports Show, which is also on podbean and iTunes. I don’t plug him just because he’s my boyfriend, I plug him because I believe in him AND because he’s my boyfriend!) and so I’m perusing the internets.

With all this wrestling chat in my ear, I decided to try looking for wrestling inspired patterns on Ravelry. Christmas may be over, but it’s never too early to get a jump start on the next gift giving season (given that I’m still trying to finish the man’s xmas gift for _this_ year, that really couldn’t be truer, heh) and besides, I just know he’d smother me with praise and hugs if I knitted him his own Zack Ryder inspired tight pant wrestling style skivvies. And those 2 minutes are what motivate me to try to make it happen. Well, surprisingly (perhaps not), all I found was a luchador inspired ski mask. Eh, not quite what I was looking for. So, Google steered me in a better direction: Lixie Makes It.

It was everything I could do to stifle my laughter, especially when I saw the Cena shorts. Yes, I’ve already forwarded it to the boyfriend, yes, I’ve already told him I’m going to make him a pair. ::giggles uncontrollably::

Switching topics a little, the boyfriend also sent me a news feed about some WWII POW cross stitch. Here is the complete article: Craftzine – Subversive Finds. This really is a worth while read and I’m totally fascinated. Aside from having a love for crafts, I’ve also got a minor obsession with cryptology. Morse code and stegonography in cross stitch?? ::explodey!::

On that note, I’m going to end here, as the boyfriend has finished his recording. I hope to update again here in the next week or so with a post-holiday “what I’ve been up to” entry.

A Showcase of Local Art

I wanted to share with you some local artwork that has really captured my attention recently. Whenever I can, I love to go art shows. I’d travel all over going to art shows around the country if I had someone to foot the travel expenses. (Attention art and travel magazines/shows! I’m your girl!) I’ve come across a few pieces over the last couple of months that hold a particular fascination for me that I felt I needed to share.

Katherine Pippin Pauley

  This piece, entitled Yin Yang, was on display at Springfield, IL’s Gallery II back in September of this year (2011). I’ve seen Katherine’s work before at 3T, some steam punk inspired arm bands to be precise, and I loved her attention to detail then. When I saw this piece, I couldn’t help but fawn over the way the bettas were intricately put together. I love when quilting takes on a realism in the imagery. I was also intrigued by the way the edges of the pieces weren’t tucked under. They were raw. Rule breaking. I like that.

Terra Anderson

Last month, I attended a small art show in Urbana, IL called GREEN.art.show. Held at H2O Salon, this was a small local show dedicated to art from recycled materials. My favorite piece here was a dress made from leaves. Yes, leaves. With a cocklebur trim.

I wonder, is that dress wearable? Perhaps not. I love the idea of it though.

Mary Tumulty and Ryan Sponsler

Also last month, The Pharmacy Gallery in Springfield, IL held it’s opening show. To quote their Facebook page, “The Pharmacy is an artist run co-op, gallery and community center…” I already know most of the artists from doing the 3T shows before. Wonderfully talented lot, all of them. Yet, I have to give my personal best of show to this piece which was a Mary Tumulty/ Ryan Sponsler collaboration.
I swear, this photo does not do it justice. I studied this piece over and over. I must have circled through the place a dozen times, but I always came back to this. I love the disturbed chaos, the red and black splattered across the canvas. Like the soul of a human being tormented by life… the hands and face dirty from years of hard work, the mind scarred and changed by tragedy and pain. And the stitches! These stitches were Tumulty’s doing. They make this. Haphazzard and tangled in places, these stitches physically warp and alter the terrain of the canvas. So, not only do you have the years of pain, the tears and sweat and blood that have been sent sprawling across, but here we can see all the effort to heal. This is everyone trying to survive, trying to pull themselves together, mending themselves in whatever way they can so they can continue to function in society. This is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Plush Brains and Procrastination

Recently, I checked out a copy of Invasion of the Plush Monsters! by Veronika Alice Gunter. It’s somewhat funny and worth checking out. She introduces each creature as though it were part of some B movie trailer or War of the Worlds news coverage of space aliens.

I have a lot of old clothes I want to use up, so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trying to make some manner of plush creatures and/or sock monsters. As I posted on almost all of my social networking statuses (we should change the pluralization to “statii” – it sounds cooler), the wrong side of sweatshirt material provides a cheap alternative to buying fleece or fur for these little creatures. These are small projects that use up old material and don’t require a lot of time. Plus, they’re just really awesome and I’m dying to make some.

My problem is, as magnificent as Gunter’s creations are, there is something in me that prevents me from making them. It’s as though I feel I should be creating my own little creatures, which, is all well and good, but that my mind starts churning and spewing out this great deluge of large, detailed creatures that are more like works of art in their own right than just funny little creatures. I don’t have time for that, nor is it what I’m shooting for. But, as with almost everything, my imagination doesn’t want to lay complacent to something so simple. “But look!”, my mind tells me, “You’ve already seen what these creatures look like.. we need to do something bigger and better!” After  which, all productivity comes to a standstill as I procrastinate and wait for my mind to make itself up as to what I really want to do.

T-shirt Memes, Humor, and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.

I was scrolling through my Facebook this morning and came across a link one of my friends had posted about a former TV star speaking out against certain t-shirt JC Penney had been selling a few months ago (they have since stopped). Here is the link if you’d like to read it yourself: Former “Blossom” Star Speaks Out About Controversial T-shirts

This is not the first I’d heard about these shirts, and it really isn’t just JC Penney. I can remember, maybe a year ago, while sorting through clothes at the second hand store that is my current day job, I came across a woman’s t-shirt reading “Why do I need brains when I have THESE?” written across the chest. I couldn’t tell you where it originated, but it could honestly have come from any number of stores.

The T-Shirt Meme

It wasn’t until after WWII and into the the 1950’s that t-shirts as we know them really came onto the scene. Before that, the t-shirt was really nothing more than underwear. They started off rather plain and nondescript. While I don’t know exactly when, I can peg it to sometime in the 60’s when these simple pieces of clothing started to evolve into the forms of art and expression we know them to be. Tie-dye, the iconic Happy Face and a wide range of other designs were to be found.

”]Amid all this decoration and corporate advertising over the last half century, it’s really hard to truly pinpoint when we started designing these shirts more to be read than just gawked at. Some pages claim it was the 80’s, some the later part of the 90’s. Having been a child in the 80’s, I can remember wearing shirts and dresses with slogans on them, band tees and Disney characters with the occasional adorable caption. I also remember a lot of home-made fabric paint/ applique artwork as a child. Applique ::shudders::
I didn’t really start noticing t-shirts with no other designs aside from the one-liner until I was in High School (of course, I wasn’t yet working and thus able to actually shop for myself before then). Whenever they began, it seems to me that we are becoming increasingly hooked on all these encompassing one-liners (and the occasional paragraph). Our t-shirts are reflections of ourselves, our personalities, our beliefs and convictions. They make bold statements about political issues or just make us laugh with witty remarks on everyday miscellany.

What’s So Funny?

The biggest question that Mayim Bialik is trying to ask in her statement is why do we find this phrase to be humorous? Indeed, when we try to actually understand why we find a thing funny, we are learning about ourselves and our society. There was actually an entire section on this subject in one of my Linguistic Anthropology classes at UIUC, and I suddenly find myself wishing I had kept those textbooks. We use humor to make statements about our world and how we fit into it.  We use jokes to address difficult subject matter in a way that connects us to others and helps us cope. Comedians look to culture and society to find their material and similarly, we can turn the mirror around. So when we read the phrase, “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me”, why would we find this even remotely funny? Our cultural history has long placed women and girls as these creatures who are valued by their beauty.
You find it in artwork hundreds of years old, in the traditional archetypes. Women are glorified as chaste and beautiful goddesses or maidens, or chastised for their tempestuous sexuality, or mocked for their lack of physical beauty. It has only really been within the last 30-40 years that we’ve started to see women entering the workforce and daring to do jobs traditionally assigned to men. Before that, if a woman hoped for a relatively well to do life, she needed to find and charm a successful man to marry her. The idea being that if you’re attractive, you’re more likely to have a better life. For men, the jobs that brought about more prestige and more money were those jobs that utilized their brain-power more than their brawn. (Your classic blue-collar/ white-collar distinction). So, the successful man was intelligent and clever while the successful woman was physically appealing. Even once we started seeing more “smart women” archetypes, they tended to be dowdy or plain and usually single. (Note Daphne vs Velma from Scooby Doo)  The idea here is that, pretty women don’t have to resort to using their brains because they can find a successful man to provide for her. We still see this idea as a driving force in our popular culture today. (Hello, Desperate Housewives?)

Despite advances women have made in Western society to be considered equal to a man, we’re still living in a half-changed world. It is this tipping back into lingering archetypes and gender roles that makes the shirt both funny and offensive. Some would even argue that it’s funnier _because_ it’s offensive – a resistance to change and a satire of the recent cultural conscience and awakening.
While I am glad to see JC Penny has removed the shirts, I know that this is the tip of a large iceberg.

Some of my t-shirts

Fitting for the tone of this post...

Now 10 years old and falling apart, I bought this shirt with my first paycheck at age 16.

From CafePress.com, this is my first internet only tee.

Made by the artist, Mary Tumulty.

 

What I’ve been up to: The Rag Rug

Working on the rag rug

Where does all the time go? Is it really near the end of September already? This month has seemed to just fly by me. While I have been keeping myself busy this past month catching up on reading, spending time with family that came to visit and other endeavors to stay social offline, I hate to admit I haven’t done much in the way of crafting or creating. Oh, I’ve worked some on this project or that, but not enough for me to really feel I’ve been productive. Having said that, here is a glimpse at one of the projects I currently have underway:

Each warp is made from 4 strands of yarn, tied to the pole in the middle, making the warps 8 strands thick. There are in the neighborhood of 60-70ish warps.

I would say this is my major project right now. For those of you who know me on Facebook, you’re already familiar with it. For the rest of you, this is new info.
I’ve had the book Twined Rag Rugs by Bobbie Irwin in my possession for a few years now,  and, part wanting to experiment with something different and part needing a rug for my living room anyway, I decided to begin this project.
I don’t have any kind of a loom frame, and I don’t have the tools, space or woodworking know-how to create the kind of frame Irwin uses. I went to a hardward store and purchased an 8ft wooden closet pole. To this pole I tied long strings of yarn.
For the wefts, I cut strips of fabric about 3 inches wide. I wanted to start of using what I already had. This includes an old satin bed sheet set that I’ve been keeping for a few years. I admit, I’m a bit of a fabric hoarder – some of my fabric I have been toting around since I was in middle school, never sure what to do with it, but feeling I could do _something_ with it. However, I didn’t quite have enough black and red fabric to complete the rug, so I did have to acquire more, which I got from secondhand sources. Not being able to find enough of what I needed, I attempted to dye strips of white using Rit. Epic Fail. Rit sucks.
To create the repeating design pattern I made use of another book sitting unused on my reference shelf – Gold and Silver Needlepoint by Maggie Lane. I bought it at The Book Rack in Springfield, IL a couple of years ago. (support local/independent sellers!) I took one of her repeating designs used in a section of background and expanded it. Not so secret Secret: Any design that uses graph paper can be used for knitting, crochet, weaving, or needlepoint.
The weaving technique I am using is called taaniko, sometimes spelled with only one “a”. Irwin introduces in on page 64. This is a twined weaving technique perfected by the Maori in New Zealand.

After the completion of 5 rows...

As beautiful as taaniko work is, this was almost a lost art only 20-30 years ago. Indeed, twining in general is a craft trying to survive. Considering that it takes considerable time (each row on my rug has taken me approximately an hour), I can see how some might be dissuaded from even attempting it. To quote a good friend of mine from a comment she wrote on my Facebook, “…just sayin, there’s easier ways to do those things…”. Indeed, in this day and age there are faster, easier ways to do a great many crafts. Sewing machines have become increasingly computerized, most of your store-bought knitted items use a knitting machine, and some weeks back I rented a DVD on fused art quilts (essentially making use of fusible web to bond fabrics together). While I’m certainly not about to knock any of these things, I kind of have this love and respect for the old traditions of craft. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me… but, when I do this kind of labor intensive work, I feel a sense of connection to all the people who have gone before me. I love feeling like I’m helping to preserve methodology, or bring something back from the dead.

JC Penney Needs to Step Up

Back in March, in my entry, Triangle Remembered, I mentioned the horrible fire that took place in Bangladesh last December. According to a Change.org article,  JC Penney has not honored their promise to compensate the families of those workers who have died. That’s right, 30 human lives were lost in an accident that could have been prevented if the companies gave a damn about safe working conditions (a couple of the other companies whose clothes were made at the factory are GAP and Abercrombie & Fitch). If this pisses you off (and it should),  at the bottom of the article is a link to a petition you can sign to help get the message across to JC Penney that they need to step up and do what is right. I’ve also included a link to the petition HERE.

 

How to Make Rope from Rags

I was doing laundry this morning and decided I wanted to try to save some money by drying my clothes on a clothesline. I had two major problems. 1) I didn’t have rope to use as a clothesline. 2) I currently live in an apartment and an outside clothesline just isn’t possible. So, after surveying my pad, looking for places to secure a line to that would be level and could withstand the weight of wet clothing, I set out to solve problem number 1. Rather than get in my car and drive all the way out to some store to fork over hard earned money on more rope than I actually needed, I decided to use resources I had at home already and make my own rope.

I have a lot of fabric laying around, so I had plenty to chose from, but I certainly didn’t want to use my good cotton for such a project. What I used was a old shower curtain I’d picked up from Freecycle in a bulk fabric box some time ago. It’s a fabric shower curtain, not a plastic or vinyl. Of course, you could use just about any old fabric. Old sheets, old clothes, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty because this is strictly a utilitarian project.

I cut the curtain into strips of fabric. Starting with 3 strips, tie them together at the top in a knot. You can now begin braiding the strips together.

Once you’ve braided to about 2 or 3 inches from the loose end, it’s time to start joining in the next strips. What I did was lay each new strip on top of an existing strip, so that as I continued braiding, I was braiding with 3 double strands (6 strips). Because this causes the rope to suddenly become thicker, I gradated the new strips so the new thickness wasn’t as sharp.

As you can see, I have the 3 loose ends of the new strips hanging out from the rope where I began joining them in. These loose ends can be cut off later.

I would like to note that while this homemade rope may not have industrial strength, and I cannot vouch for just how strong it is, it is sufficient for the vast majority of the everyday tasks most of us would require rope for.

In the end, my rope was a success. My jerry-rigged clothesline however, not so much. As I don’t seem to have the space to adequately dry a full load of laundry in my apartment, I may need to rethink this afterall…

Trojan T-Shirts

I was playing around on facebook today, when I came across a Gizmodo article entitled Free T-Shirts Given to Neo-Nazis Revealed a Secret Message After Being Washed. You can read the entire article here.

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Now, I am head over heals in love with this entire concept. From a social standpoint, I adore the message of peace and tolerance that the shirt conveys. As a crypto-buff, I admire the use of steganography (the art/ science of hiding messages). But most important, for the purposes of this blog, I am intrigued by the technical process. In other words, I see this and have to ask, “How did they DO that?”

While I don’t know too much about more complicated dying processes (yet), I know there are 2 basic elements to dying or printing: dyes and resists. Dyes are the what actually penetrate the fabric and create colors. Resists stop the dyes from penetrating into the fiber either in part or in full, this is how all manner of batiks and marbleized effects are done. According to the article, the top image washes out in the first wash. The top image could possibly have been created using some kind of resist, which would not stick to the fabric when washed. However, looking closer at the image of the shirt after washing, you can see that the black of the t-shirt isn’t as dark, in fact it seems that the top layer has broken up into fine particles and dispersed throughout. This might be a resist used in combination with some other paint or dye.  In the commentary to another article on the same shirts, a commentator called Phisrow suggested that “…a starch-binder adhesive mixed with titanium dioxide or a similar pigment powder…” would most likely account for the effect.

Sadly, I do not have an answer as yet as to how they pulled it off, even after spending the last 2 hours searching for an answer on teh internetz. However, this just makes me all the more in awe.

Emulation: Part 2

What is a furry?

Trying to define exactly what is furry is actually quite an undertaking, despite my familiarity with the subject. You see, furries and the furry fandom are quite complex. From a very basic standpoint, a furry is an anthropomorphic animal, either a human dressed as an animal or an artistic representation of an animal taking on somewhat human characteristics (sometimes –but not always – bipedalism, speech, primate-like hands, etc). From this definition, Mickey Mouse would be considered a furry, as would the guy dressed as the Easter Bunny in the mall every spring. However, it’s not quite that simple. The furry fandom (the over-arching community of people who consider themselves furry, or who appreciate furry art) isn’t even in total agreement as to exactly just what constitutes a “furry” and what is just some guy in a bunny suit.

The Costume

When you look into the wardrobe of the furry community, you’ll find a wide range of selections from a fursuit that covers the entire body and face, to a simple collar. As aspects of furry culture enter the mainstream culture (mostly by way of anime), it is becoming more common to see people wearing mittens that look like paws or hats with ears on them. (In fact, I believe one of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch books has a pattern for knitted cat ear hats.) However, as these elements become more acceptable and more mainstream, is it still “furry”?

My friend, Emily, in a knitted hat with cat ears. Yes, she made that 🙂

A Shared Culture

It seems to me, that what really sets apart a furry from a mall employee in a bunny suit, is a shared culture or sub-culture. Tygerwolfe, the author of Furry Logic (source 5), did some Freshman level ethnography of sorts on “Prancing Skiltaire” furries. Noting the demographics, she found most of the group (whose human forms could be visibly observed) were Caucasian and males predominated. In asking some of the furries why they chose to become furries, the responses were along the lines of respect for/ wanting to emulate their chosen animal and wanting to not be human for awhile. Indeed, being a furry allows for actions such as nuzzling or grooming which are inappropriate as a human, but are perfectly acceptable while one is “in character”. I can definitely see the allure of this… even as humans we have a need to feel loved and accepted, and physical closeness/ touch can be hard to find in everyday life sometimes. Several of the furries she interviewed also stated that they dressed as their chosen animal to feel closer to it somehow.

Mental Shifts

A mental shift is simply what the name implies, your mind shifts focus.  As Vexen Crabtree (author of source 3) points out, a mental shift itself is a normal thing, “Rugby players performing a dance before a game are enticing a mental shift. Some football fans hype themselves up to the extent that they undergo a mental shift whilst attending a game. Certain forms of martial art train and entice adherents to perform mental shifts during meditation or training…” In this context, the shift is from the human self to the animal (furry) self. There is a large overlap of furries and therians (people who feel such a deep connection to their animal that the animal is a part of who they are, or that they harness the animal’s spirit or power – similar in concept to having a spirit guide, but slightly different) and so, for some, becoming furry can be a near spiritual exercise.

In Closing/ Food for Thought

I first became acquainted with the term “furry” around 2005. I was looking up pictures of foxes (I’ve always been fascinated with them… they’re just gorgeous creatures) and chanced upon the artwork of Justin Pearce. Though, in a sense, I’ve been drawn to furries since I was a small child, long before I even really knew what they were. I can remember, as a very little girl, pretending I was cat. I used to try to curl up and sleep on the arm or back of the couch like our cats did. I would lick the back of my hand to wash my face and try to have conversations in cat-speak with our cats, as if I had some inter-special link to them that no one else had. Many children, actually, mimic animals as part of play. Even as adults, animals still hold importance and power for us. The Ranting Gryphon (source 4) wrote an interesting post that discusses the use of animals as symbols/ communication/ language. He cites company and team names incorporating animals in the names:

Without our animal symbols, the Miami Dolphins would be the Miami Intelligent-Yet-Very-Quick-And-Elegants. You would no longer own a Ford Mustang. It would be a Ford Wild-Majestic-And-Powerful. We use animals to capture the essence of their character in our communication, and in doing so, we add a fanciful and whimsical flair to our society and our human world.

He has a good point. Animals do carry cultural significance and symbolism/ connotations, so many that we would come up lacking if we erased them from our lives. It also makes sense considering how important animals have been to us in the past. Animals were the central subject matter of cave paintings, some of the earliest gods were animals, or part animal-part human. From a certain standpoint, furry-ism, if you will, is really just a re-boot of some very old concepts.

Sources

1) Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furry_fandom

2) PeterCat’s Furry InfoPage.  http://www.tigerden.com/~infopage/furry/

3) An Intimate Exploration of Furry Fandom.  http://www.humantruth.info/furry.html

4) The Ranting Gryphon. http://ranting-gryphon.com/Information/whatisfurry.htm

5) Anthropology 100 – Furry Logic. http://www.tygerwolfe.com/?page_id=344

6) Furry Psychology 101: Types of Furry. http://skuffcoyote.livejournal.com/70336.html