Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Repurposed Christmas

Guys! A project!

Bottom Drawer Art sells %100 repurposed cards. For every purchase you make, I will send a card* to a person in need**. I am borrowing the Toms model ( ).

*Faith is important to many of us. That is why the card I send will be religiously neutral. You know. Otherwise it just gets emotionally messy.

**I've chosen to send cards to patients in Harrisburg hospitals, because being in a hospital is depressing, and, I live in Harrisburg.

To view cards and order, click here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards

The project: an alternative Christmas tree.
The materials: a castaway and broken lamp stand; one twig, steel wire, ornaments
from youth.
The source: I found the lamp stand sticking up out of the dumpster on James Street.

The story: My goal in this project was to indulge my seasonal sensibilities. Yes I want to be listening to this. Yes I want to be drinking this. Yes I want a gaudy centerpiece that involves wires and birds and baubles (see future blog post). And this blog post's yes takes the shape of a Christmas tree. (Sidenote: During algebra tests in middle school, my gross friend Trevor would always dare me to Christmas tree the test, which meant to zigzag the answers all the way down the Scantron page.
This was only one reason why I took algebra twice.) As I'm getting older, it's becoming dearer and dearer to me to make intentional choices for simplicity. I love Christmas trees and am happy that you have one, and I would like to come see it. But it doesn't make much sense for me to buy one this year. We have limited space, no dollars, and a small habit of being clumsy (mostly in the form of walking into whatever is in the room. The combined forces of Liz and Actual Tree will only end in a zany and tangled mess.) I knew I valued the symbol more than the traditional shape, and that led me here.

The How-To-Do-It:
1. Find a base you don't think is ugly. This year it was a lamp stand. In years past, I have used elegant, fussy vases. The only difference really is that this year's tree is free standing.
2. Find a twig on the ground. It will be there.
3. Assemble your tree. If you're using a lamp stand, you will likely have to whittle the twig's end down so as to make it fit into whichever groove you've chosen for it. This will be easy and fun. Everyone loves a whittle.
4. Look in your basement, your drawers, your trash for a few ornaments. They will be there. When you discover that you have ALMOST enough ornaments,
5. Tangle together some steel wire, add a loop, and hang them from your branches.

The cost: $0 (castaway lamp shade) + $0 (twig) + $0 (ornaments from youth) + $0 (found steel wire and borrowed pliers) = $0

Saturday, June 5, 2010

her cup of tea, she would admit to no one (belle and sebastian)

The materials: Sundry china pieces, mostly ugly and mismatched.
The source: The local Catholic thrift store (the dollar shelf).
The story: This chapter of my life will be called Sorry, I Can't Do That Because I Am Going To A Wedding Then. Find me one single, unmarrying friend in this city! I dare you! (To be read with a knowing chuckle as well as the overwhelming certainty that I mean all of my marrying friends only rest and joy and peace.)
All of this means that homegirl owes lots of ladies lots of bridal shower gifts. Having finally finished and put to rest the life chapter of Nah, I'll Just Eat This Out Of The Bag, I am growing in my awareness of wanting to own pretty things off of which to serve vegan muffins or quinoa stirfry or cheeze-itz. So, the end result of this project was a handful of dainty serving platters, completely unique and ladylike. (AND I learned recently that these are also called "salvers", which comes from the Spanish "salva", or "to save." And THAT comes from the custom of tasting the food and libations of the King before he could eat lest he die in a poisonous mess.)

The How To Do It:
1. Go to any salvage or thrift shop.
2. Test out combinations of various china pieces to the chagrin of the clerks behind the counter.
3. Secure some strong glue from The Guy From the Local Hardware Store Who Looks Like Ben Franklin.
4. Glue those suckers together. (When I did this, I left myself ten minutes for the glue to dry before having to arrive at the bridal shower. Don't do that.)
The cost:
$8 (eight pieces of discount china) + $.30 (amount of glue used) = $8.30

And now welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me, in which I catch wind of someone doing excellent work and would like to tell you about them. Today's guest is Tegan Brozyna. We were pals in college, and I was always struck with her whimsy and how that was expressed in the form of art. Working from Philly now, Tegan is part of the Church Studios community of artists and is creating lovelythings.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

thinned newfragile yellows (e.e.cummings)

The material: Scrap stained glass pieces
The source: The stained
The story: Doggies, I still live in an I Can't Paint These Walls world. In an attempt to get around that, I have been trying to splice color into odd spots all around. This stove-side window in my kitchen overlooks things like gravel, the Broadstreet Market (when you careen your neck), and a Honda (always). I am against being able to see two out of three of those things, but I am also insistent on a house full of light through its windows. Stained glass exists for this very reason, and so one evening, my favoriteprofessorandnowdearfriend Helen Walker and I held a thousand squares of color to the light to find our favorites. I picked two to fit my kitchen window in colors that would pick up the table, the cups, and NOT the gravel/Honda. These days, I am obsessed with the yellow-to-green-to-brown spectrum. Be prepared for that when you come visit. The house is smashedfull with it.

The How To Do It:
1. Spend years making jewelry, and you will have acquired a wealth of very thin-gauged wire by the time you want to do this project.
2. Wrap wire four or five times around the center of the glass pane, and then back onto itself toward the top to get rid of dastardly stray wire ends.
3. Form a hoop of wire at the top out of the excess.
4. Make the hoop longer for the second pane of glass to allow for staggered hanging.
5. Use any old fixture you want to hang the panes from. I used a standard wall hook that I found rolling around in the utensil drawer.
The cost:$6 (scrap pane of glass) + $6 (scrap pane of glass) + $0 (wire from forever ago) +0 (wall hook, undoubtedly once belonging to my roommate) = $12.

And now welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me, in which I catch wind of someone doing excellent work and would like to tell you about them. Today's guest is Matthew Murray. His jam is to photograph abandoned structures to both document their downfall and dignify their beauty, specializing in asylums and churches. One thing in particular that I appreciate about his pieces is how carefully and eye-wrinklingly titled they are. Matt's work is excellent and has inspired me to enter dangerous buildings to photograph them. He can be blamed for my death.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Perks of Being Drywall

It turns out, the perks are few. This post details one of the messiest and crumbliest projects these old eyes have ever seen.

The material: Drywall.
The source: An around-the-corner-construction-site-recycling-bin.
The story: I have been making coasters in the style seen in the backsplash project for years and years, always with procured bathroom tiles. These coasters are great, and I have sold something like 900 jillion of them between the Hodgepodgery, Mantis Collective craft fairs, blah blah blah. Hilariously, we began noticing water rings on the trunk in our living room because we weren't actually in possession of any. YET. And while I knew ready-made bathroom tiles would work, I didn't have any on hand. But I did have an elusive and growing stack of scrap drywall, so I tried to be the Mother of Invention or the Necessity of A Mother or the Invention of Necessity or something.

The How To Do It:
1. Measure out a standard coaster size directly onto the drywall.
2. Using a straight edge and a utility knife, score the drywall as deeply and safely as you can. The drywall should snap easily along the cut. I made six coasters and three cuts on my hand.
3. Those edges will be BEAT, homegirl. Sand and scrape the edges. I had to peel the base cardboard off as well. The inexactness of it all meant that each square was unique and imperfect. Some people will like that, and some people won't. OH WELL.
4. Prime those suckers. Drywall won't stand up to moisture as it is, so I used the same primer as I did for the table map project to prepare them. This was difficult, actually. The drywall was pretty crumbly, and I am pretty impatient, so I ended up doing a lot of breathing exercises.

5. While they're drying, make some Aesthetic Decisions. I knew that I wanted these coasters to be straightforward and unironic, unlike most of my crafts. But at the same time, I wanted them to be innovative, distinct, and bitchin. I ended up using some scrap wallpaper pieces that the cerealously lovely Aly Lehman had given me. I picked my colors based mostly on the old-time-stripey gold sofa that Betsy Claar had given me.
6. Drench the (dry)wallpaper in modpodge, smear onto the drywall tiles, and let dry(wall).
7 Spray with clear acrylic finish.
8. Reinforce the backs with cork or whathaveyou. (I recommend the sheet cork as opposed to actual corkS. But you are very smart and will make a good choice either way.)
9. Display on your windowsill next to the old-time-stripey gold sofa that Betsy Claar gave you.

The cost: $0 (scrap drywall) + $0 (scrap wallpaper) +$0 (scrap cork) + $.50 (the combined cost of the Modpodge and Acrylic Finish I used) = $.50

And now welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me, in which I catch wind of someone doing excellent work and would like to tell you about them. Today's guest is Benjamin Thorpe, one of my most good friends and an intimidation to each facet of my creativity. His work is studied and quiet. I am compelled by this in particular. You can see Ben's work this July at the Midtown Scholar's Yellow Wall Gallery (they are letting him show his work even though he doesn't even live in this town).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

stand in the place that you are (rem)

A development: In honor of Ollie Mikse and his compulsively articulated wishes, I will begin endorsing correct capitalization rules as laid out by the MLA in these blog posts. WHATEVER.

The item: A forgettable bookshelf
The source: A trash heap on Kelker Street
The story: A contextual aside to this story is that I no longer live in a house that has a washing machine, which means that The Laundromat has rumbled back into my life. A few nights ago, Joy and I shouldered everything we each own to whatever-that-place-is-called on 2nd Street and sat in the grass along the river between loads (and waited for a certain recently discovered singing citizen to walk past. You'll recognize him by his practice of walking around Harrisburg singing. Loudly.) On the way back from the river, we found the pictured forgettable bookshelf on the sidewalk junk pile.

Back at the ranch, I formed a plan. And by formed a plan, I mean that I did nearly all of this with zero forethought. I first decided to fill the lame-o holes with whatever spackle-style-substance I could find in the basement. I found industrial sheet rock, which I still feel funny about, but which worked just fine. As an afterthought, I decided to add a little visual interest and texture to the top. I did this by spreading industrial sheet rock, which I still feel funny about, over the top and then scraping out a quoted poem (I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floor of silent seas) with my finger. I then painted it with one of the scrap leftover cans of paint crowding the closet in hopes of using it up. BAM, new bedstand. (In honor of this Mother's Day, let me also tell you that the photo on display on the new bedstand is my OWN mother in the Cloisters on her first date with dad.)

The cost: $0 (reclaimed forgettable bookshelf) + $0 (found industrial sheet rock, which i still feel funny about) +0 (the remains of an old can of paint) = $0

And now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which I catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and I want to tell you about them. Today's guest is Luke Eshelman, a OnceUponATime coworker at the Midtown Scholar Warehouse and an incredible photographer (unbeknownst to me until quite recently). Luke, now situated in DC, is gaining a lot of recognition for his craft, and I have been especially impressed by his unique wedding shots. This is my favorite wedding he shot. (AT THE ZOO?!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

get back(splash)

backsplashes are the new black, guys!

the items: standard size tiles donated by a lovely woman i don't know very well, blueprints from a paddleboat, a love of poetry, and a thousand corks donated by walter diehl approximately 30 years ago.

the story: this project is a marriage of lots of odd pieces i didn't quite know what to do with. the tiles are high quality, and the blueprints and corks are unique. but they all hung around in corners and boxes for years, always one-upped by other supplies. UNTIL TODAY, when i made a back splash for the area of wall behind my stove. the process for this was very easy since i have been in the habit of making tile coasters for years.

it goes like this: 1. find paper that will fit the size of your tile (in this case, effing blueprints. i garnered these from a part-time job awhile ago in which i worked for a riverboat, and these were in the trash. i modified the blueprints slightly by adding part of fishing on the susquehanna in the middle)
2. cut to fit.
3. drench in modpodge.
4. afix to tile, rubbing out all air bubbles. (i can not stress enough how mad you will be if it dries and you find an air bubble in the middle. you will be incensed.)

5. let dry.
6. seal with polyurethane, lacquer, or what have you. (the sixth step was particularly important in this project since the tiles will be SPLASHED UPON by delicious cooking things.)
7. IN THE EVENT that you have a landlord, as i do, and don't want to run the risk of making her sad by affixing subversive blueprints to the wall, superglue corks to the back. they essentially sit ON the stove and rest against the wall. easy, breezy.

the cost: $0 (donated tiles) + $0 (reclaimed blueprints) + $0 (donated corks) + $.30 (the amount worth of mod podge i used) = $.30

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them. today's guest is walter diehl, the donor of aforementioned corks. walter holds the disctinction of being my first roommate in harrisburg (for the span of a full week) as well as one of the most generous people i know. he specializes in abstract acrylics, curating, and networking the bejeezus out of the art world in central pa. his pursuit of art has taken him all over, and he was recently the subject of an article in the Central Penn Jorunal for having supplied a HUGE load of paintings to furnish the new lofts at 909. also notably, he is the co-owner of Progressive Galleries in Lancaster. you can visit the gallery tomorrow night for their First Friday show.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

oh, say say say (the yeah yeah yeahs)

the item: kitchen table
the story: i have, at last, finished the kitchen table. (and when i say finished, i mean i still need to paint over a few mistakes and then seal it to protect from the underside of the cup of tea you will sip with me soon. also to come: i am inscribing the poem what we need is here along the outside rim when i get home from work today.)

to make your own strange, aslant map, i'd recommend a rough draft first.

then, tape out the streets so that you can get a healthy grid. (i centered the map on my house.)

also, feel free to measure proportions with your protractor from third grade.

i decided to draw a vastly incomplete map of harrisburg, as disproportionate as most bodies, and as strangely colored as my selection of paint would allow (the street color matches the mugs hanging from the door). it has some of my friends' houses (because lots of my friends live in houses i don't know about) and some of my favorite places to go. it's also the sort of scene that can be added to. while we're sipping tea, i'll hand you a sharpie, and you can help fill in the blanks.

the cost: $0 (kitchen table donated from favorite Roxy's waitress) +$17 (primer from the man who looks like benjamin franklin to allow for painting on crappy, verneer wood) + $0 (donated paint) + $3 (protractor and ruler set from the grocery store) = $20

and now, welcome to a segment we call These Persons Have Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them. today's guest is tributary, the combined efforts of my co-baristas-and-worthy-adversaries beth and kinsey rice. the Rice Style is very intentionally reminiscent of the soft folds of cabin life, irreparably nature-centered, and whimsical. you can see their work at local craft fairs and currently at the employee art show at the midtown scholar (next to mine!) this is my favorite design.

Friday, April 30, 2010

mis en scene

which means: starting the story somewhere in the middle. the story I'M in the middle of is my dastardly kitchen table. it was blessedly and adorably bequeathed to us by elizabeth, one of our favorite waitresses at roxy's. what makes it dastardly is its pressboard-looking-ways.

keep in mind that people LOVE to tell you that painting a veneer finish will last for about a half hour before it peels off. (i am usually the sort of person who gambles with temporal fixes. for example, i have a temporary fake front tooth from the tender age of sixteen and no dental insurance.) but it's true, and they're right, so be prepared for these comments and for addressing the Veneer Situation. when i consulted the man who looks like benjamin franklin (WHOSE NAME I LEARNED TODAY IS FRANK) at the hardware story, he told me that all i need is a special sort of primer to cover the veneer before painting. he directed me to this guy, and i bought it. i know $17 is a little steep for this blog, and i'm sorry. but i did it for us all.

i have applied the first coat of primer to the table, and now i am in the midst of deciding on a design i can stand. i have thought about doing something geometric or colloquial, but in the end i would love to incorporate some poetry into this project.maybe something from one of these:

from fishing on the susquhanna (billy collins)

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one --
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table --
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

from stones (charles simic)

I have seen sparks fly out
when two stones are rubbed,
so perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
perhaps there is a moon shining
from somewhere, as though behind a hill--
just enough light to make out
the strange writings, the star-charts
on the inner walls.

from i carry your heart (e.e. cummings)

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
igher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart.

what we need is here (wendell berry)

geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. and we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. what we need is here.

(also, i am really opinionated, but i am always interested in suggestions. i am putty in your hands.)

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them. today's guest is tim hoover, a gentle and brilliant soul working at lancaster's infantree gallery. tim's prints are poetic, thought-provoking, and still. this is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

after the cups, the marmalade, the tea (t.s. eliot)

before the usual Dog and Pony Show, let me first redirect you to this, the best idea ever. (essentially, the five boroughs of new york have begun compiling business and enterprise waste into a giant warehouse for re-purposing by artists and organizations without the funds to buy supplies themselves. it's good for the artist, obviously, and it benefits the businesses to tax-deduct donations AND save on costs of trash hauling. if anyone in the harrisburg area has it in their heart/budget to help me make this happen, i will, oh i dunno, blog about you or something.) end plug for AN INCREDIBLE DISPLAY OF HUMANITY. now onto my bland kitchen:

the item: wooden door
the source: the green street dumpster
the story: we have a sunny kitchen, but it is pasty. in this Renting Situation, there's only so much you can do to the walls till the landlord notices. AND SO, i screwed hooks into this old, heavy-as-a-heart door so that i could hang garish, chartreuse flower pot mugs within easy reach of the tea drinkers at my table. it was a simple task, but it offers six tiny splashes of color. (stay tuned for the post when i tell you what i finally end up doing with that ridiculously ugly table in the foreground.)
the cost: $0 (reclaimed wooden door) + $5.50 (six brass hooks from the hardware store run by a man who looks like benjamin franklin) = $5.50

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them. today's guest is tara chickey, a local artist who is quickly becoming incredibly inspirational to me. i first saw tara's work hanging from local poles in the form of show posters, and then later learned her connection to the mantis collective. (if you live in harrisburg, you will want to know about the mantis collective.) tara is on my list both for her work and for her insistance in providing space for other artists (including myself, and thanks for all those times i forgot to bring a table to the oddones craft fairs and you let me sell crafts anyway SORRY).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

i had nothing better to do than listen. i mean this seriously. (mary oliver)

the items: a recovered window shade; a household's collection of earrings
the source: the decrepit basement of the sycamore house; the wealth of three girls
the story: a straightforward tale. i saw the screen beneath stacks of dust, and i saw my earrings awry on my dresser, clinging like crabs in a bucket to each other. so i put them together like slant rhyme. it helps me adorn my ears, and having handsome ears helps me listen.
the price: $0 (window shade) + $Years of Collected Pairs of Earrings = $Sorta 0

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them.

today's guest is justin arawjo, one of my very favorite local artists AND people. his screenprint designs are at once bizarre and familiar, and his style is recognizable from across the room. here is my favorite design of his.

Monday, April 26, 2010

for dappled things (gerard manley hopkins)

the item: an antique type set box
the location: a garage sale during college
the story: this is less about innovation and seeing-for-what-isn't-obvious as much as it is about seeing-what-is-and-remembering-why. inhabiting a reality of knick knack nostalgia, and also wanting to keep a clean home and an eye for beauty, i came to store smallwonderfulthings in this old box and keep it on the living room table. not only does it provide an interesting conversation piece (as in, when you have totally exhausted all topics, you can at least say something like "what the- why in the h is this here?"), but now i know exactly where to go in my house if i need A Haitian Gourdes or A Pendant That I Made With Some Fifth Graders at Danzante Art Center or A Flower Pressed Between Two Glass Slides That My Sister Bought For Me Ten Years Ago In New Orleans From A VooDoo Priest And Which Had Since Been Crushed Beneath The Haughty Heels Of A Fellow Restaurant Worker That Summer Before College When I Lived In A Beach House With Twenty Europeans And No Mother, etc.

The cost: $3 (type set box) + $Years of Nostalgia = $3

Sunday, April 25, 2010

we'll be all right. we have our looks. (the national)

welcome to the second project.

the items: oversized window; pile of ties
the sources: green street; a lady from my church's husband's closet
the story: i'm the sort of person that people unload their Unwanted Things on, easily my favorite trait about myself. sometimes, the end goal is way ambiguous (for example, i have a stack of x-rays and a huge bag of corks, and every idea i've tried to use them for has bombed. TELL ME YOUR IDEAS), but sometimes they hang around my studio for about a minute until i decide how to use them. this time, it was the latter. lynn, my friend and aforementioned church lady, gave me a pile of her husband's ties from the middle of the century To Do With What I Would. i also had an oversized window like those mentioned in previous blog posts.

the process was simple. i cut the ties to size, arranged them according to optimal clever pattern sequencing, and nailed them to the frame. (keep in mind: when you are using old windows, there is often a lot of crumbling paint and grout to deal with. i had to sweep a ton after this project.)

when you put that crap together and hang it in your art studio, it looks like this:

(i only used about 2/3 of each tie for this project, and my plans are to make a smaller scale version of it to give back to lynn. DON'T TELL.)

the cost: $0 (oversized window found on green street) + $0 (ties from lynn's husband's closet) = $0.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

the shape of what is made (wendell berry)

welcome to the first project.

the item: a broken section of fence
the location: james street, harrisburg
the story: we began, finally, to start owning pots and pans. we did this, without space to store them. i could tell you the reason for that is because we have an abnormally low amount of cupboard space, but i would be leaving out the truth: my roommate/soulmate, borne out of the goodness in her heart, hoards these huge cups from gas stations with intentions to reuse them. they, in the meanwhile, and in addition to a strange assortment of muffin tins, crowd our shelves and cloud the possibility of pots inhabiting the same space. these things were on my mind when, one fateful day, i was circling the block to find the four oversized windows i had been told were abandoned on green street. IN ADDITION TO THESE, i found this fence in an open lot next to an aquarium (which i did not take. because it had been. used for something.)

the fence, in its original state, had been exposed to the elements for, oh, a jillion years. peel-y paint, general horror, etc. i won't lie to you, dear reader. i showered with that thing to clean it. (it worked.) once it was Not Gross Anymore, i went to the local hardware store, bought some S-hooks from the dude who looks like benjamin franklin, and hung those pesky pots.

it hangs in our kitchen directly below our chalkboard. it looks pretty great.

the cost: $0 (fence) + $0 (pots and pans given to us by megan's mom's attic) + $6 (eight S-hooks from the hardware store owned by a man who looks like benjamin franklin) = $6.


about a year ago, i made a decision that was almost entirely based on not having money. that decision was to use my smarts to make my situation prettier. my volition, combined with not being grossed out by the prospect of getting into dumpsters, has since accounted for every scrap of time i can scrape together. i love trash. now, understand me. i don't love egg shells and cracker wrappers (yet). please don't send me any. what i like are things that i cringe to see laying on the side of the road. windows. doors. drawers. etc. i like the challenge of finding a new way to see them.

which brings me to the title of this post. palimpsests, historically, were pages and scrolls that had been scraped and used again, but with the original text leaking through a bit. when i was in a film class in college, we used the word to describe the jarring experience of watching an actor play a role outside of what we were used to. (john wayne playing anything other than a cowboy? please.) in these designs, it's important to me that the original text is visible despite all the scraping. the Making New, the Redemption part of it only works if you can tell this thing used to be crap. these projects have been good for me to stretch my creativity, to make do with what i have, and to subvert traditional recycling.

speaking of recycling, i will go ahead and attribute this new/old venture to my deardear friend joy bauer. i love her work, and i love her words, and i love that she is stirring up all sorts of trouble with her sewing machine. let this project of mine be as genuine and hearty and sneaky as her's.