The Smell of Melted Plastic in the Morning…

On a day when my energy is all but drained and my uterus is waging war on me, this is how I manage to maintain some semblance of productivity. Hello again, long abandoned reader! Tell me in the comments how you’ve managed to survive without me over the past month – I promise I’ll read it, but I’ll likely make one of the dolls respond. Let me know who your favorite dolly is and I’ll tape them to the laptop with the hair dryer pointed at them until they write back to you.

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Now… updates. I survived my first semester of grad school – I even aced both of the courses I took. I don’t really feel the least bit celebratory about it, though. I’ve been out of school for some years and I’ve never held a 4.0 before. You’d think I’d be ecstatic. I think I’m too busy looking at the 5 classes I’ll have to juggle starting a week from tomorrow. If I come out of that in December with the same success, then I’ll let myself acknowledge it.

I’ve been doing my best to make the most use of these two weeks between semesters: I took a trip to visit friends and family for a couple of days last week, I spent another couple of days doing a major purge of clothes I’ve been hoarding in my closet for 6 years, and I’ve been working on filming videos for Youtube that I can hold onto for when I inevitably get too bogged down with homework to create during the coming semester.

I recently collaborated with the Volunteer Superviser from the Books to Prisoners program I’m involved with to create a couple of videos. The first of these videos serves to break down how the Books to Prisoners program works overall and how to go about connecting inmates to them. The second of these videos, which I’ve just publicly released today, discusses what volunteers do and how to get involved.

Despite having been working with them for over a year, this was a learning experience for me as well. For the most part, the role I play, important as it is, can sometimes feel disconnected from the everyday workings of the organization.

I don’t have a coherent ending to this, so, here are some photos of dolls:

A Transition and A Shameless Plug

     A couple of fairly significant changes have taken place over the last few weeks. 10 days ago I officially started Graduate School. I knew this was coming, I’ve done my best to ready myself for entering into full time school again after getting my BA 7 years ago, but I am admittedly still scrambling a bit. My first paper was due yesterday morning and I only managed to finish it 8 minutes before class started. (I may recycle some of my homework here if I ever find myself in need of subject matter >:)  )
I also handed in my resignation letter and left the full time job I’d had for 3 years on the same day. I had intended on continuing to work full time, but, about a week and a half before my (former) co-workers and I were all handed letters saying that the shelter would be closing and we were to be reassigned within the agency. I chose to leave rather than chance jeopardizing school with an uncertain but likely fluctuating schedule.  I am a day-walker once more.

     Fortunately I was eligible for student loans, so as long as I stick to a budget, I will be able to survive. However, being loans, I will have to pay them back eventually. I don’t even want to do the math on what my student loan debt is going to be when I’ve finished this program. Why is higher education in the United States so damn expensive?
Thankfully, I’m still generating some kind of income from my gig with Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners. The downside however, is that I can’t budget it as there is no way of knowing how many books I will sell from one month to the next. So, if you’re reading this, whether you’re a regular reader or someone that happened across this one post, consider buying a book from my Amazon store, AikiFox Books, and helping to support both myself and this pretty cool non-profit. Especially now since this is now my primary income source. I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything (totally a guilt trip)  😉

And for all of you that haven’t followed me on Youtube yet (what are you even waiting for? Go subscribe to me, damnit!) here is a video from earlier in the month (perhaps a week before finding out about the shelter closing) that shows you what is pretty much a typical night at B2P:

Re-Use Art Show: The New IDEA Store Event Space

Above: Classic photo recursivity – me taking a picture of Melissa Mitchell taking a picture of me taking a picture of her…

Long time readers of this blog will recall both my love of art and my previous posts about The IDEA Store and creative re-use art. On two separate occasions I participated in the Hatch Art Show. Recently, The IDEA Store expanded to include a new classroom as well as event space. This past weekend, on May 20th, 2016 to be specific, they held their grand opening of said event space. My camera and I were in attendance.

Before I get to the actual art, I’d like to share this photo of area artists Cindy Sampson and Melissa Mitchell. I don’t think I can fully express just how wonderful these two women are and how much they inspire me. Not only are they talented artists but they are good, kindhearted people and great friends. While I had taken a couple of standard photos of these two together, I managed to snap this shot in the midst of genuine laughter and storytelling.

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And now, on to the art! These are only a small representation of the works currently on display at the IDEA Store gallery – my understanding is that they’ll be on display through at least June 3, 2016.

 

 

David Spears, “Conundrum”

I just thought this was a really interesting and clever way to use all the stray puzzle pieces that end up scattered about.

Christina Nordholm, “Dance Club”

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Christina Nordholm, “Ready to Burn”

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I particularly like the way she incorporates tree bark into these pieces. I really enjoy the texture. Of the two, I prefer “Ready to Burn” because I personally enjoy the energy coming from it. I’m not sure whether it’s more like looking into the heart of a bonfire or Hell itself. Either way, I like it.

Grace Savina, “Paintings Past”

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I’m not quite sure what it is I’m looking at, but I kind of like that she managed to find a way to use old paint scraps. They almost look like little islands.

Grace Savina, “Dualities of Being”

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Again, not sure what the artist intended for these to be, but, to me, they look like really colorful intestines. Like someone gutted a unicorn. Or it exploded and this was just a section of gut splatter. I kind of doubt this is what she was going for, but this is where my warped mind took it.

Barry Land, “Love is Dead”

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I always get a kick of out this kind of artwork. I have absolutely NO skill for it myself, but scrap-metal sculptures always make me smile. This one also makes me sad, though.

Barry Land, “Untitled”

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Perhaps “Ode to Johnny 5” would have been copyright infringement? And yeah, he also looks like Wall-E. But we all know Wall-E was just a rip off of Johnny 5. If you don’t know who Johnny 5 is, I feel sorry for you, bro.

Jason Rackow, “Untitled”

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Jason Rackow, “Sentience”

This is one of those pieces I would totally hang in my apartment, provided I had the money and the space. I don’t really have anything profound to say here, this piece is just Cool. As. F**k. Look that the close-up shots of that texture. Who knew all those little bits and pieces scattered about the garage could look like this?

Cindy Sampson, “Landscape”

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Cindy Sampson, “Lone Tree”

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I wish I could have gotten a better shot of this one. This was actually my favorite piece of the show and I couldn’t even really capture why. Because I’m too short and it was hanging too high for me to get a head on shot. The glare from the lighting at this angle does this piece a serious injustice.  I’m sure you can make out the main tree of in the painting. It seems to stand amidst a field of ghost trees. What you cannot see well in this photo, is that the paperwork underneath has faded building plans printed on it. To me, it seems to say suggest that this tree lost all of it’s friends and family to ever increasing urban expansion.The fruit and rust stains have the look of blood to me. Yeah, my mind is dark. I am very drawn to artwork like this where I can find and this kind of haunting meaning in it. It’s the kind of art the speaks to me on some deeper level.

 

 

 

Random Facts About Me

It was my intention to post another Youtube video yesterday (Friday) but I was unable to find the time. One bit of advice that I frequently come across about Youtubing (and blogging for that matter) is to post consistently – whether that is every day, every Monday, or every other Wednesday. The idea is to have a reliable pattern for viewers.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t been shooting footage, I had. But I hadn’t had the time to edit everything or really tie everything I’d shot together. In the end, I decided to take my camera out for another walk and try to shoot a “10 Things About Me” video that turned out to only be 7 things between not being able to think of other things offhand and the video already running long.   It is my goal in the future to stay within 5 minutes as attention spans often are not very long.

It is certainly a learning process.

 

No More Excuses/ Garden of Doll Heads

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I am not above using scare tactics to keep my dolls in line. “This is what happens when you use my fabric scissors to cut paper”

I feel like I should be writing something. I also feel like I should be getting around to actually making some videos. I’ve been saying for awhile (over a year, while not necessarily always in this blog) that I want to start making Youtube videos.
-I invested the time and the money into decorating the walls in my craft room because I felt like I couldn’t start doing it unless I had a good background.

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$75+ and over a week invested in decorating these walls.

-Then I needed a camera, because I felt my point and shoot wasn’t good enough.
-Then I needed a tripod.
Then I needed quality editing software.
-Then I needed a computer.

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The new computer. I have yet to justify buying it.

-Lately I’ve been concerned because of an acne flare up and not wanting to be ugly on camera. (Seriously, how am I still getting acne in my 30s? This is not fair)

Enough excuses. I will be making a Youtube debut before the end of the day on Friday of next week (4/15/2016). Maybe it will be crappy. But I need to stop talking about it and just *do it already*.

I’m also fully aware that I really need to finish the next segment of The Mission as well. I’m going to make sure I get that done before April is over. No more excuses. The start of grad school is only 2 months away. I need to utilize this time while I still have it.

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Earlier this weekend, I went out to ACME Elfworks – my friend Melissa Mitchell’s studio -for the Annual Boneyard Arts festival. She’s a super cool re-use artist that uses a lot of found objects in her artwork. Many of her pieces incorporate dolls or various doll body parts. Her artwork is often whimsical, but can also be kind of creepy – and I love that. I first met her whilst I was involved with the HATCH art show about 3 years ago. I just happened to have my camera with me and have decided to share some of these photos with you all.

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❤ the cart full of rats

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Reminds me of Sid’s creation from the original Toy Story movie.

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In case you were curious what became of Charlie Horse. He couldn’t cope after Lamb Chop’s Play Along ended – his heart was broken after he caught Lamb in bed with Hush Puppy and turned to drugs and gambling. Sherry Lewis attempted an intervention once before her death, but Charlie refused rehab. Unable to pay his debts one night, he was taken into a back alley where he was beaten to death. His lifeless body was thrown into a dumpster. I believe this is where Melissa found his little pony corpse. Not entirely sure what she did with the rest of the body. It’s possible her cats ate it.

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A lush garden of doll heads. Melissa hacks off their scalps and uses them as macabre planters. This is a thing I shall someday do when I have a garden of my own.

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I love the way her lifeless eyes are glazed over. Even in death, Barbie continues to smile.

What Day is it Anyhow?

When you work overnight shifts, sometimes your days blur and merge. When I woke up this evening, I had no concept of time let alone what day it was. I had to go back and look up previous posts to figure out that this is post 21.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t want to write this today. I didn’t sleep much yesterday and spent all of last night (my night off from Job 1) sorting through and packing boxes of books for Job 2. I was so tired I actually fell asleep sitting in my chair with a barcode scanner in my hand for about an hour. For anyone who is a facebook friend, you’re already aware of this as I had been posting about it at various stages. But, this has pretty much been my day. Nothing glamorous, don’t have time for a think piece, just a factual report of the day.

And some photos from Job 2:

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I start off with boxes like these. I sort through to see what I will sell and what will go on to the community book sale.

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This is where I determine which books will be sold on Amazon, which will be sold to other vendors, and which go on to the community sales.

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These lower shelves are filled with books already listed on Amazon. This is also where I keep my bubble mailers.

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More books listed on Amazon waiting to be ordered. I currently have over 1,300 active listings in my store.

But, it’s not all work and no play. A few months ago, my friend Mike came over and helped me construct this book tower in response to a challenge Hank Green put forward on Youtube. I didn’t win, but I had a lot of fun 🙂

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Please consider picking up something for yourself or a friend over at my Amazon store, AikiFox Books. 50% of the proceeds go to support the Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners program which gives free books to prisoners throughout the state of Illinois.