Books! Dolls! Prisoners! Um… What?!

GEAbout a month and a half ago, I got involved with the Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners project (B2P for short) and took up a second job as an online seller to help bring in funding for this awesome not-for-profit. One of the many programs within the Independent Media Center here in my wonderful dual-town, the B2P has been providing Illinois inmates with free books since 2004. From their Facebook page, here is a rundown of what they’re about:

UC Books to Prisoners is an Urbana, IL based project providing books to Illinois inmates at no cost. We offer books by mail to all Illinois inmates and operate lending libraries in our two local county jails.

We are an all volunteer organization with a number of easy ways for you to get involved. Whether you have an hour a month or would like to volunteer more often, you are invited to to work with us. We interact with inmates by reading their letters, selecting books from our collection of donated materials and shipping the books directly to the inmates.

Our volunteers also staff lending libraries in the Champaign County jails. If you would prefer to work behind the scenes, we need help managing, soliciting and coordinating book donations as well as raising funds to pay for this work.

Mission: * to provide books to inmates in Illinois by recycling donated books * to facilitate a quality volunteer experience * to offer a venue for inmates to tell their own stories * to educate ourselves and our community about prisons

Basically, what I do is I take all of the books that aren’t sent to prisoners (they get priority for anything that comes in, I am stage 2) and make what I can in online sales – sometimes I am selling to 3rd party vendors, sometimes I am selling through my B2P Amazon store, AikiFox Books ( www.amazon.com/shops/AikiFox_Books )   I only make a percentage of what we bring in and the rest goes back into B2P to help them cover overhead/ operational expenses. As I type this, there are 352 books for sale at AikiFox Books. Most are around $3 plus shipping and cover a variety of topics and genres, both fiction and non-fiction. The girls each picked out their personal favorites that are on sale as of this writing:

GEOpal’s pick: “Antique’, ‘vintage’, ‘previously owned’, ‘gently used’, ‘cast-off’ ñ the world of second hand encompasses as many attitudes as there are names for it. The popular perception is that second- hand shops are largely full of junk, yet the rise of vintage fashion and the increasing desire for consumer individuality show that second hand shopping is also very much about style. Drawing on six years of original research, Second-Hand Cultures explores what happens when the often contradictory motivations behind style and survival strategies are brought together. What does second hand buying and selling tell us about the state of contemporary consumption? How do items that begin life as new get recycled and reclaimed? How do second hand goods challenge the future of retail consumption and what do the unique shopping environments in which they are found tell us about the social relations of exchange? (from Amazon Summary)

GEHouda’s pick: This book studies the acquisition, loss and re-acquisition of Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Hebrew, the first languages of this writer’s son. It applies the results of current work in the areas of psycholinguistics, bilingualism, and applied linguistics to the study of language development in one multilingual child, Noam, from birth to age 17. The acquisition, loss, and re-acquisition of four languages by Noam also is compared with that of other children studied by the author and others. This book uncovers linguistic, cognitive, psychological, and social mechanisms of language acquisition, loss, and re-acquisition and documents the child’s increasing, decreasing, and, in turn, increasing proficiency in four languages. This book applies Dromi’s guidelines for qualitative case-study research to the study of language development in one multilingual child (Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, English), Noam, from birth to age seventeen. In addition, the results of Noam’s case study are compared with other case studies conducted by this author as well as by other researchers. (Amazon summary)

GEMitsuko’s pick: In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in her mother’s American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken’s neck for dinner. Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this graceful, beautifully realized portrait of a child who “was a north-south collision, a New World fusion. An American Chica.” (from Amazon summary)

GEMorrigan’s pick: The author shows how Irish women developed the political skills required to represent women’s interests to government effectively leading to the dismantling of a range of discriminatory policies against women and the accommodation of a feminist agenda within the political system. (Amazon’s summary)

If you like what I write (when I get around to it) and want to help support me (and help support a great non-profit in the process!), please consider buying some of the books I have for sale. Again, that site is: www.amazon.com/shops/AikiFox_Books
I’m also still running my Etsy site as well, if you’d prefer to go that route and pick up some nifty handmade items for a dolly friend. You can find that shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AClothTheWorld
Broke but still want to support? Share with people who might be interested! 🙂 Spread the love!


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I Am Creating…. Something

Has it been forever again? I believe it has! When last we met, I was in the middle of packing. I have since moved, finished unpacking, and have started to settle into my new home. And hey, check it out, I have actual sewing/crafting space again!

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I can make a giant mess in the throws of creativity and come back to it as it was and not have to spend an hour just trying to figure out what I was in the middle of doing! 😀 It’s wonderful!And check out the storage space!

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And now that I am settled in, I am reminded that there is a Hatch 2015 deadline coming up.. soon. So, I am creating.. something. I don’t really know what yet. This is one art baby that I won’t know what it is destined to be until it decides to show me. So far, I’m working with last year’s wall-calendar, double-sided fusible web, and an old lace curtain I picked up a few years back.

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Free to a Good Home!

So, I’m moving again in about a month. I’m steadily working on getting all of my stuff packed up. I’ve been sorting through all of my yarn, fabric, and general arty and crafty stuff. Some of it I am keeping, some of it I will be donating to local second hand stores, like The I.D.E.A. Store.

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So, quick and dirty — How many of you remember The Rag Rug? I spent over a year on it, I blogged about it: Here, Here, and Here. I only managed to get several months of use out of it before I moved into this place (where I have no room for it) and, now, the apartment I am going to be moving into is carpeted and I won’t need it there. I spent a long time and a lot of effort on this rug and I don’t want to just get rid of it, BUT, I don’t really need it. And I’m a big enough pack rat as it is. Therefore, if there is anyone out there interested in having this rug, you’re welcome to it for whatever the cost is of getting it to you. If you’re local, it’s free. If you’re halfway around the world, it’s going to cost you some money as the rug is pretty hefty. It measures 3 feet x 7 feet 3 inches.

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If you’re interested, email me at foxchic85@yahoo.com with “Rug” as a header. First come, first serve.

—————– UPDATE——————

The rug has found itself a new home. Thank you to everyone that expressed interest.

 

Revisiting An Old Project: Laptop Bag

A couple years ago, my boyfriend emailed me a link he’d seen on making laptop bags out of men’s suit jackets (and strongly hinted that he wanted one). The pattern and instructions are over at Instructables. If you’re interested in making one, I suggest clicking that link, as I’m not going to be redundant here. 🙂

One of the things I would recommend if you’re going to make one would be to use some upholstery grade thread and denim or leather needles, as you’ll eventually end up pushing very thick layers of material through your machine. My poor little machine was crying for mercy when I made one of these bags for Neil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      O

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that I’m gearing up for this weekend’s Race Street Bash, I’ve decided to create more of these laptop bags, using the original Instructables pattern as a basis from which I will variate. Come back tomorrow evening for the first of these variations!

What I Get For Thinking

From this point forward, no more promises… I promise.

So, I’m still not quite ready to show you all the completed jacket. After I finished installing the back panel and tacked on the new cuffs, I noticed something…

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… The outer edge of the cuffs, and on the wrist along the bottom of the cuff, are more spots that are fraying too badly for me to just ignore. The entire reason I am doing this creative upcycle is prolong the life of this jacket for my friend. If I don’t do anything with these worn spots, they will eventually get worse. Well, even without those spots, the jacket will still eventually wear down, but I’m aiming for later rather than sooner.

As a result of this problem, I’ve been experimenting with different ideas on how to reinforce these weak zones without just throwing more patches on them. So, I had one crazy idea that I spent way too much time on only to fizzle out on me. I thought that perhaps I could use a decoratively cut strip of contrasting denim to cover those areas – providing the needed reinforcement while at the same time looking interesting.

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If you notice, while the band fits well at the cuff, it’s too short on the other side as the arm of the jacket begins to expand out. If I secure this band onto the jacket, it will cause bulging and puckering. So, now I need to come up with another idea. In the meantime here are some photos of the jacket showing the completed back panel replacement.

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In other news, I have about a week before I am set to share a table with another friend, Julia, at C4A’s Race Street Bash in Urbana, Illinois. This means the jacket is going on the back burner while I finish making things for that event. Given that the temperature has been in the 80’s this past week, I don’t think Melissa will be needing her jacket back just yet. Besides, as I’ve been experimenting on it, I’ve decided there are a couple more things I want to do, for the sake of aesthetics. 🙂

The End of a Journey; Post Art Show Reflection

As quickly as the Boneyard Arts Festival came upon me, and I rushed to complete my artworks, it flew by even quicker. After a month of hard work and pushing myself, it is both soothing and weird to be able to just lay back and relax. My brain is still scouring for the next urgent “to-do” and it feels lost and somewhat panicky, as though I’ve forgotten something. This past week has been especially stressful, as I had to pull all-nighters to finish my work on time alongside dealing with some pressure from my day job. I actually went to work Wednesday on not more than 90 minutes of sleep. I did it, though. I pulled through and each piece was a success, as was my live demo. If you’d like to follow this particular journey from the beginning, see my earlier posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Community Center for the Arts (C4A):

C4A is largely a space for music, but they are starting to become a space for visual art as well. They provide various music lessons for a variety of instruments and ages and many of their members are talented musicians on their own. I had 3 pieces on display here, and they will be on display through the rest of the week.

Acid Tears
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I originally created this piece for the Hatch show I participated in the early part of March, however it didn’t muster jury approval. Perhaps proof that the opinions of a jury aren’t the most important and that having a piece rejected isn’t the final word, this piece actually sold before it was hung for Boneyard, based on a photo that circulated. Even if it hadn’t, I would have still been very proud of it. I put many hours of blood, sweat, and tears into it. It is this piece in particular that deeply reflects my own struggles and how the echos of the past can color the present.

Silent Screams
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This was the piece I started with and it was the piece I finished with. This is the piece that I am perhaps most critical of, because I know that it does not match what I had in my mind. Despite all of the flaws that *I* see, the feedback I have had from others who have viewed my piece has been positive. We are always our own worst critics. We have to realize that what we give birth to as artists will not always mirror the image in our minds, and it may grow into it’s own. There is also no law that says any artwork cannot be improved upon just because it’s been shown.

The Cycle
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Perhaps the most powerful of these three works, at least for me, this one captured my attentions and my focus from the minute I began to work on it. As I mentioned to a friend on Facebook, this is my art-incarnate fetal self. It is my mother, my grandmother, it is the any-woman. A spiral that carries with it all the hopes and fears through time and generations, asking the ages old questions about fate and free will.

Of course, I was not the only artist to display here. These are my 2 favorite pieces.

From Carmen A. Egolf:

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From Sarah Keenan-Jones:

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Habitat for Humanity of Champaign:

This was especially fun for me. I was asked to do a live demo for 4 hours and, at first, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With limitless possibilities of activities to choose from, it was hard for me to narrow it down. Since I still had several balls of tshirt yarn left over from when I did that knitting workshop about a year and a half ago, I decided to do something with tshirt yarn. Wanting to be able to teach something new to passersby, I anticipated questions and brought enough supplies for others to join in if they wanted. For 4 hours I sat at the little table that the ReStore staff graciously let me pick out, with crochet hook in hand, and proceeded to craft a beautiful little flower as store patrons looked on and asked questions. Aside from my friend and fellow textile artist, Rachel Suntop, no one took up hook or needle alongside me, but I had a number of interested onlookers, including a little boy of perhaps 7 that exclaimed, “I want to learn how to do that when I grow up!”. You have no idea how much that really made my day. I hope I sparked an interest that sticks. It would be so nice if that little boy eventually grew into a man that could work wonders with hook and yarn!  I will likely never know, but it’s a happy daydream all the same.

Some photos of me working the demo, thanks to The News-Gazette and photographer, Heather Coit.

Photo by Heather Coit from The News-Gazette

Photo by Heather Coit from The News-Gazette

Crunch Time – The Stressful Step on the Journey from Concept to Art

So, the Boneyard Art Festival is now only a week out. Despite my best intentions and efforts, I am behind schedule. This, however, is normal. Over the course of the next day or two I will metamorphose into a crazed superwoman that somehow puts it all together,  just in the nick of time,  with a crazed expression and excessively large bags under her eyes from stress and lack of sleep.

Anyhow, this post is going to be short and sweet so I can get back to doing what I do. How about some pictures!

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Outlining the vocal apparatus.

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Trying to quilt as I go.

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Starting to think this would have been easier if I have worked from the edge and gone outward…

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…Because trying to *smoothly* connect all these haphazardly angled sections was a real pain!

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The bright pink basting stitches were an eyesore. Hand quilting the layers together. Have I mentioned this is the *background* for one of the pieces?

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Try to ignore the ugly pink basting stitches. See that swirl pattern? That is freehand quilting… by hand! I’m such a glutton for punishment…

This is why I need a studio! And, fyi, I do much of my work hunched over on the floor because I don't have a big table.

This is why I need a studio! And, fyi, I do much of my work hunched over on the floor because I don’t have a big table.

As a reminder, in case you haven’t read my previous posts, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.