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Chicagoans: interactive print show opening on Friday!

March 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I have some work in a print show in Chicago, IL. There’s an opening party tomorrow, Friday March 27th, from 6-9 pm, at the Green Lantern Gallery.

One of my pieces looks something like this: cut-out-able kitchen plans. I think you will be able to cut my prints up yourself & mess with them at the show… I hope!

kitchen kit

The show is called Without You I Am Nothing, has been curated by Anne Elizabeth Moore, and features a number of other weirdos and hotshots from Providence & Chicago, including my colleagues & friends Andrew Oesch & Meg Turner.

Here’s the one-sentence blurb:

Without You I am Nothing: Cultural Democracy from Providence and Chicago is an exhibition of works on paper that are not intended for public consumption but to create small venues for public participation.

and here’s how to get there.

Check it out, or forward to your Chicago friends! I won’t be there, I’m getting work done here in Providence… but the show might travel here, to the 5 Traverse Gallery, in the summer. Cross your fingers!

putting materials together, to make useful things: part 1.

November 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

This past week saw a great burst of work on the kitchen up in Worcester!

Here, Anna and Andrew are dismantling what’s left of the old counter on last Friday morning. The old sink used to be to the left of where Anna is standing…

anna and andrew taking apart the old counter

When the old sink’s plumbing and faucet totally broke down a couple of months ago (after a year+ of malfunction) Andrew and others went ahead and set up the new sink (scavenged from the Cohasset town dump by Nick’s mom) where you can see it in this photo under the window. He had tiled the counter, but because the backsplash tiling didn’t get completed, and the sink didn’t get caulked down, water splashed out over time, and had dislodged the tiles and also wetted the lath and insulation behind the sink… no good. Because of this, and for a couple other reasons (the old counter was 3-4 inches too low, the old plywood was not re-usable because of broken mortar and grout, it protruded awkwardly to the right of the sink, the space underneath it was dingy and gross, the plaster wall behind it was crumbling… etc) we decided to take the whole thing out and build it anew.

Thus the main focus of our work this past week was the sink area, getting it as far as possible along towards having a well-installed, fully-functional, completely-waterproofed sink and counter!

This is where we were at, early Sunday evening:

andrew working on the new counter

In the photo we are gluing and clamping a small piece of plywood onto the edge of the newly installed counter to form the understructure for an overhang and ‘drip edge’. (The crumbling plaster has been replaced with plywood.) Later in the evening (and way into the morning!) we mortared and tiled the plywood surface, using re-purposed tiles in two colors that were, by necessity and choice, cut and arranged into awesome patterns. No pictures of the final stages yet, that’s gonna be part 2!

I came back to Providence Monday evening. Then Thursday morning back to Worcester to do 2 more days of work. Now I’m back to Providence for a while, to work on prints for Craftland. Though I may go back to Worcester for a day or two, to keep the momentum going!

The intensity of the kitchen work kept me from finishing my ‘bread baking’ poster in time for the ‘sustainability art show’. It was actually a good thing I think: I would have been glad to be part of the show, but working on the kitchen, which will actually affect people’s daily lives! is more important to me. Getting to build things: to start with ideas, drawings, and discussion, then to put them into action and construct useful objects, was a crucial reminder of what my purpose in the world is. As far as I can tell!

More photos of last weekend’s work in progress follow: (more…)

fun busy ness

September 6, 2008 at 7:53 pm

“Oh hmm, what would happen if I did… this… or like this… maybe that would be cool. Would that even work?”

…and if you give it a chance, it does, to a certain degree at least, and turns into something relatively rad, or at least something that offers interesting possibilities for the future. I was trying to use up some empty space on a screen… and I thought I needed to come up with an idea for an upcoming printing job. It turned out that I didn’t have to come up with anything for this job, I just need to show up and print something on people’s shirts from an already-prepared screen… so I get to save this idea for myself! I printed these anyways, to test and have some more nifty paper to write notes on, before washing the stencil out. (if you want one of these thingys, write me a letter: po box 244, providence, ri 02901, and I’ll write you back using the print for stationery.) You get extra points if you can tell me how I made the stencil for it!

Everything here has been pretty chaotic: I was out of town for a week, jobs and projects are turning around and changing up on me, our housing situation has been in flux since our new downstairs neighbors turned out to be worse than our old ones (wouldn’t have thought this would be possible, but I guess it is), and… I got a 10th-hour email from Dave Cole‘s gallery asking me to finish printing the Truckmobile posters.

[here, with three colors printed. finally.]

This is exciting, since (more…)

sticky developments

August 7, 2008 at 6:14 am

Out of the incredible ‘one-man’s-trash-is-another’s-treasure’ troves of my friend Rob C. comes this amazing stovetop “Stovey McTop”, which, despite being somewhat grubby-looking in this crummy partial photograph, is functional!

It’s pretty much exactly what we were looking for, for the Forbes St. kitchen project. An old-school, relatively heavy-duty electric stovetop, with coil burners (not the weird glass ones that are easily damageable and can’t heat up as hot…). It not only has a fifth tiny weird burner, as you can see in the upper left of the photo, but it has TWO large burners: important for a household which cooks meals for twelve people everyday in giant pots, and which, for the past two-and-a-half years, has scraped by with only one large burner on their stove. Hurrah!

Here are some drawings of the kneading process for the bread zine: made from photoreference pictures taken by Andrew P. It’s close to being done, now, with about 12 hours to go…

The bread zine is definitely in rough-draft form, even as I’m about to print up a bunch of copies and hand them out at the zine swap. It needs to be tested out by some people other than me; I really want feedback on the instructions and design, if they are clear and legible, and if the recipe works in other kitchens! So there will be a further, more finished edition after this one. I also have the feeling that the text and images from the zine are going to become part of my poster for the Sustainable Poster Show that Meredith Stern is organizing in Providence this winter. We’ll see…!

intermediate kitchen…

April 12, 2008 at 1:07 am

The Forbes St. kitchen is not finished, but of course it is constantly in use, every day. For example: Nick and Max working together on house dinner.

The food was as good as it looks. (note the spice rack in the background — more or less finished!)

Max talks about plans for a folding desk in his room. (Laptop = recipe source)

secret door projects does NOT recommend: hanging cliplights from the kitchen ceiling, plugged in to extension cords (which are precariously stretched out along the ceiling, above the ceiling fan), that are plugged in turn into a surge protector that is loosely attached to the wall, by the switch of which you can turn the hanging lights on and off. Such a solution must only be implemented on a temporary or “mock-up” basis, and as we know, building codes disallow the use of extension cords in any situation.

HOWEVER such cliplights do give really nice direct illumination to work by, and make said kitchen really warm and cozy, as seen in these somewhat fuzzy pictures — and when we will get around to actually re-doing the lighting in here is anybody’s guess.

kitchen kit part 1

March 21, 2008 at 6:12 am

I printed a whole bunch of these “kitchen kits” over the past week. The kitchen in question is, of course, the kitchen at Forbes St. — and these were made specifically for the residents of that house to cut apart and put back together as they choose. (The prints will also be a ‘bonus print’ for print series subscribers, and some will be floating around at my show ! in May.) Making a screenprint with parts that you can cut out & paste together (definitely inspired/spurred on by Jung Il Hong & Brian Chippendale’s silkscreen work in this realm, as well as Meredith Stern’s linocuts) was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and this doesn’t totally fulfill that need, but it’s a start.

It’s also a start in experimenting with how to give people the tools to make drawings, without making them go through 5 years of architecture school training. An architectural drawing is a great way to communicate and transmit information, and even to facilitate a conversation about ideas for space, but access to that medium has always been limited by technology or specialized skills (even in the pre-computer era). How to communicate about design? How to make a tool that people can both use in group discussions, and take back to their rooms and mess around with on their own? How can we have a conversation that will produce a physical artifact that everyone present has had a chance to modify, that can be referred to in the future as evidence of the process or the decision? How to avoid being, once again, the one in the middle of the room holding the only pencil?

So, the kitchen kits are in the classic poster tradition of ‘large expendable multiples’, as well as in the classic dungeons & dragons tradition of ‘a gridded space over which creatures can move and adventures are had, facilitated by the imagination’. After getting done with the printing (and then sleeping) I kind of couldn’t keep my hands off of it and spent yesterday cutting them up & making a couple of different versions of the Forbes kitchen (past, present, possible future). It was a lot of fun. I had had doubts about the grid (which is 6" squares at the 1/2 inch = 1 foot scale), but in the end it functions pretty well as both a ground to denote what is the interior space of the kitchen, and as a instant measurement device: “wait, only 2 feet between this counter and the wall…. that’s not enough for someone to walk through!”, etc. (To all my architecture professors: Yes, it has the scale on it… you can also cut out the graphic scale and use it to measure things on the drawing!)

This, and hopefully more playful, game-like print/building projects to come, are inspired both by game designers like Jane McGonigal (whose work I barely understand but am pretty excited about), and by the book Housing Without Houses, by Nabeel Hamdi.

Here Hamdi talks about trying to make buildings which involve the users in their creation:

If the setting these buildings provided was to be an invitation to users to participate in creating an architecture of cooperation &#8212 a concept only primitively explored in the days of flexible buildings — then the size, position, and organization of space and materials would also have to perform in more than technically rational ways. They had to reference the choices available, promoting spontaneity and discovery, albeit within the constraints of the materials and systems employed and the legal and regulatory structure. The architecture of possibilities, in other words, would need to be legible and opportunistic, and yet remain technically rational.

Housing Without Houses, p.73

“Okay, roll the 20-sided die to see how much resistance you get from Code Enforcement….”

The Forbes kids get their hands on the kits this weekend, we’ll see what they do with them…

sticky-paper sheets printed from the same screens will also become coffee-cup stickers for my friend’s travelling espresso machine coffee shop…. yeah!

a spicerack is born

January 9, 2008 at 2:59 am

In September, the wall on the stove-side of the chimney looked like this:

the forbes kitchen with plaster walls and shelves full of stuff

From almost the same point of view, here is Andrew working on patching the old stovepipe holes in the chimney that was within the wall. (Saturday Jan. 5)

the same wall, minus its shelves, with no plaster and a chimney revealed behind the wall

Sunday morning, Jan. 6 — the studs have been removed (note the props to L & R of the chimney) and the masonry repairs are complete.

the chimney stands alone

Sunday evening — The new wall/spicerack is in place, Kelly puts in screws to secure it to the ceiling joists.

a new wall, of 2x4s and plywood, is being put in in front of the chimney

Sunday night: it is structurally complete — though missing a bunch of smaller shelves.

the new wall has an alcove that will hold shelves for spices

Kelly & Anna demonstrate the sweet (if slightly tight on the right side) fit of the Forbes St. spice jars on the rack.

the bottom shelf of the spice rack holds five jars of spices across...

Anna, Nik, and Kelly are going to add the rest of the shelves for spices — next weekend we work on dismantling and rebuilding the other bearing wall on the opposite (sink-) side of the chimney.

the forbes st. kitchen is happening!

January 8, 2008 at 4:44 am

kelly standing in front of a partially dismantled wall

For two years, I’ve been excited about changing the awkward and hard-to-use layout of the kitchen at the house my friends own in Worcester. Starting this summer, they’ve done a lot of demolition, and now the construction stage of the project is actually starting to happen. It’s super exciting.

The photo above is from September, as the housemates at Forbes St. were working on taking down plaster and moldings around the doors, closets, etc. (Kelly is in the middle of washing dishes.) The picture below is from this past Saturday. You are seeing a lot less plaster, a lot more mess, and part of Andrew working on the chimney. The stud wall in the center of the picture will eventually disappear, being reduced to smaller structural walls that will be part of a ‘box’ surrounding the central chimney.

the same wall, further dismantled

Briefly, we are combining two rooms that contained (and separated) the kitchen functions into one room, adding more work counter space, and building lots and lots of storage. This past weekend we finally took down some real walls, and built a new real wall. It’s small, but it’s structural. It includes an alcove that will become the most heavy-duty spice rack ever built.

The challenges, which are also the things that (already) make the project awesome and extremely rewarding:

  • Instead of having one or two clients, I’m working with 9 to 11 residents/part owners of the house, who all cook and use the kitchen, all are involved in some way in the design process, and all want to help and want to know what’s going on. It can be crazy and frustrating, but in that process of explaining something over and over again, I realize new things or come to new conclusions — and I have that many minds pointing out where something is not going to be right, and contributing that many more awesome ideas to the process.
  • We’re not working in the traditional ‘stages’ of architectural practice, where once signed off on, a design is hard and expensive to change — instead, things are flexible up till they are nailed in; potentially changeable even after that; and, where possible, are designed to be modified and added on to during the process of occupying and using the kitchen, seeing how it works, bumping into the corners, etc.
  • I am leading a loose crew of the people who live in the house in doing the actual building. Some have construction experience, some don’t. Everybody gets a chance to do things. This might take longer than rounding up some more experienced people to come in and do the work after we had finished the drawings, but it means that ideas can get contributed in the middle of building and up to the last minute, and that after the kitchen is ‘finished’, there will be a whole bunch of people living in the house who now know how to use a circular saw, a screw gun, and other tools, and who will be able to fix things around the house, make new things come into existence, and take more initiative in making the space their own.

Basically, it’s a totally revolutionary way to make living spaces, difficult and complicated, incredibly simple, possibly only practicable on a very small scale, but completely fascinating and compelling. I am super excited to have the chance to be involved in this project and this process. I’m writing more, and more in-depth, about the implications of this, and about the specific elements of the process — when that writing is a little bit less rough, it will also be here.

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