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!


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. 🙂

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.

Reflecting on Hatch

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I was gearing up to work on entries for the Hatch show and I’ve been MIA since. Hatch was this past weekend and it was fantastic. Now that it is over, I want to get back into the blogosphere. What better way to jump in than to share with you all of my wonderful experiences from this event?

What is Hatch?

Hatch was a creative-reuse art happening in Champaign, Illinois that was put on through the I.D.E.A. Store. There were 2 components to this show: the Art Exhibit and the Art Fair. Please see the official Hatch page for the full list of participants and their contact info! The exhibit is hosted at Indi-go Artist Co-op and will be on display through March 17, 2013. The fair was a one day event that featured over a dozen vendors.

The Art Fair – Highlights

I was only able to attend the art fair for the last hour, as I had to work most of the day. I wasn’t able to take it all in in such a short time. However, from what I saw, it was a good show. These were some of my favorites-

Phyllis Hughes
Phyllis was such an interesting person to talk to. I loved her crazy quilts and the Indian batik work she had brought with her from her time spent in India. She lived there for 2 years. I’m entirely jealous.
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Sheila Daniels
Sheila makes jewelry from various odds and ends. Her work is exquisitely beautiful *and* she’s a fan of Doctor Who! You can’t go wrong!

This Image from Cheeky Magpie

Vintage Karma
Based in Tuscola, Vintage Karma sells handmade items from a variety of local artisans. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos here.

Karen Pritchett
Karen doesn’t have much of a web presence, but she does have a Facebook and is based in Columbia, Missouri. She makes really cute and upcycled outfits.
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The Art Exhibit – Highlights

So much amazing artwork at this exhibit. Michelle Stitzlein came in from Ohio with a couple of pieces from her Moth series as the “Artist-in-Residence”. She held a slideshow Friday night during the opening reception and it was pretty awesome. She even went to one of the local elementary schools to work with kids on making murals with bottle caps.

Some of my favorite works on display:

Melissa Mitchell
Melissa, not only an artist, but one of the volunteers that helped to make the event happen, works with assemblage art. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her studio before. There isn’t much she creates that isn’t interesting. And wacky. And sometimes just very, very wrong (but in a good way)!
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Cindy Blair Sampson
While she claims she disconnects herself from her artwork, she manages to create some very moving pieces. I found this work in particular to be very deep and moving. When you open the book, you find a key pressed into beeswax. As she said during the gallery talk, she feels the uterus to be the center of the universe. Also, the boob turns. Seriously. Interactive art!! +5 points!
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Laura Wennstrom
I will never look at security envelopes the same way again. She created a “quilt” from envelopes. I have to admit, when I first saw this piece, I was unimpressed. However, after hearing her talk about her piece and looking closer at the patterns stamped into these envelopes that we routinely ignore, I have to give her credit. You’ve opened my eyes to something new, Laura. And now I want to make knitting charts that resemble security envelope designs.
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Lawrence Agnello
While I didn’t really get the chance to meet him, I was impressed by his work. As the work holds it’s own, I give it to you with no further commentary.
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Deborah Fell
Another artist I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to, but her artwork was too cool for me to overlook. I have no intelligent words or critiques here. I just simply find them interesting and captivating.
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Fabric of Society and My First Juried Show

This show was also a very big deal for me, personally, as it was my very first juried show. I entered into the fair and 2 pieces for the exhibition. One of those pieces I stayed awake for over 35 hours working on. Only 1 piece was accepted (not the one I lost sleep over, haha). However, I feel thrilled that I even made it in at all… I heard that there were over a hundred applicants. I was able to participate in a gallery talk on Sunday, where artists were spotlighted and able to discuss their artwork and answer questions. I had a lot of fun with that. I even managed to sell my artwork that afternoon, and in talking to the people who purchased my artwork, I am overjoyed that it will be going to someone that truly appreciates and *gets* the concept.
I suppose you’d like to see the piece? I call it “Fabric of Society”. I’d shown it previously at 3T: Third Thursday Art Show, and I have to credit Adam Perschbacher for the initial photos that I used for the application. I honestly think his photos made a difference in getting accepted.
FabricofSociety FabricofSoceity1

This is me trying to sound smart while talking about my artwork.

This is me trying to sound smart while talking about my artwork.

I spun strips of newspaper into yarn and knitted this placard, which, when looked at closely, reads “TRUTH?”
The artist’s statement underneath reads:

The News. We count on reporters to give us facts and report the truth. Based on this information we make a myriad of important decisions… some personal, some public and having important effects upon others. We’d like to believe that we can trust the journalists and reporters to be objective, most of us know better. We are, after all, only human and so we are prone to biases. Whether intentional or not, what we claim to be factual and true ends up twisted and distorted, spun to serve some purpose or other. Like fiber spun into yarn. It is these twisted truths that are knitted up, unrecognizable, to create this fabric of society. And we wrap ourselves up in it, like a blanket, for comfort and warmth. But what is truth? Could we Recognize it if we saw it? Can you?

Eldritch Things

Before I get too far into this post, I want to let all my readers know that you have another opportunity to see this amazing exhibition!  I just found out last night that there will be an encore showing on March 14th from 6-8pm! So, if you’re reading this, make plans to go to Jacksonville, IL that evening!

The show is hosted at the Asa Talcott House (859 Grove Street, Jacksonville, IL) by The Imagine Foundation, who provide access to the arts for communities in Jacksonville and the surrounding area. The house also gives a nice aesthetic to the show, and I think, for the level of intimacy within Mary’s artwork and writings, the location is really suitable. It helps to set the mood and the tone.

When I first walked into the house this past Saturday, I was confronted with the following note hanging from the ceiling (click to enlarge):

While there were numerous paintings around the house, all wonderful, she also put forth effort to make the show fun and interactive. All throughout the house were hidden 41 little 2-inch doodles, one of those doodles was a “king doodle” that won the finder a free pack of stickers. I found about 5 or 6 doodles, but only took 2 of them so as to let others have some fun too. As perhaps a testament to her personality, art wasn’t just found on the walls, but it was tacked to the ceiling, some hung suspended from the ceiling, sometimes upside down.

Skeleton keys hanging from the ceiling. Reminds me of rain, or tears… Could unleashing your pain, your tears, rather than suppressing them help unlock your happiness?

The thing I really love about Mary Tumulty’s work is that she really puts herself into it. Most artists take life events and put them into their art, but with Mary, her life really is in her art and vice verse. There seems to be this blur between life and art and the one feeds off the other. With particularly personal pieces, she will place little pages to the side, like a page from a diary, that puts the observer into her place.

One of my favorites. Colorful yet dark at the same time. Notice how she incorporates photos, receipts, other objects into the painting. What I see: Life. The large circle seems to be like a womb…

…and look! Here are the sperm!

If you recall, I’ve written about Mary’s work before. Back in November, I talked about her use of random embroidery and stitches in her paintings. Thread made an appearance in her artwork here as well:

From a distance…

A close-up. Look at the nails pounded into the painting! The tear in the canvas! The way the string is wrapped around the nails.. kind of like a web or a nest. This is a love it or hate it piece, I think. Myself, I like the way she abuses the canvas.

There was one room upstairs that was kind of sectioned off and hidden away. Much darker than the rest of the exhibit, this room housed the most intrusive and intimate artwork. If the house were a layout of Mary’s mind, this is would be the back of it – that little corner reserved for fears and worries, for all of those secrets and wishes that are too damaging to normalcy and decency to be unrestrained. This is where Mary bared all and let the world judge her naked soul. This is where, for the first time ever, she showed “The Book.”

These pages, snaking through the room and dangling from the ceiling like bodies from trees, whisper out Mary’s story to anyone willing to listen…

And now, it’s time to take you on my journey into Eldritch Things…

For more information on Mary and her work, visit http://www.marytumulty.com Like any of the artwork you see? Support an artist and buy a painting.  (I am the proud owner of a Mary Tumulty “On the Rag” tee)

Like my writing style? You can also become a fan of my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/ACloth-the-World/194022420703365, where I post exclusive content, including more pictures from this show!

Eldritch Things: A Sneak Peek…

Last night, Mary Tumulty had a one night solo exhibition at the Asa Talcott House in Jacksonville, Illinois. I was blown away… and I tried to capture it. While I have dozens of photos and some video footage (yes, video) to go through before I can take you on this journey, I wanted to at least give you a snippet of what’s to come…

The tortured beauty of Tumulty’s work pierces souls…

Her words and images pull her into you as she puts herself out, naked and exposed to the judgment of the world…

If you haven’t yet, subscribe to the blog and make sure you don’t miss the full exposure. On our Facebook page, I will also be posting some photos from the event that won’t be posted here (so become a fan!) and you can use #acloththeworld or #MaryTumulty on Twitter to discuss this blog or this amazing artist.

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.