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I am not dead

September 28, 2009 at 5:47 am

… and I am slowly getting back to work. I’ve been helping friends with projects, enjoying summer, and swimming a lot. also bike riding. I’ve also been working on a bunch of self-figuring-out, which is ongoing and in progress! Some crazy romantic stuff has gone down. Two of my best friends and project collaborators, Andrew Oesch and Meg Turner, are about to leave town: AO for some epic travels on a balky diesel schoolbus, Meg for an exciting & challenging job in a far-away city where she has always wanted to live. Summer has been awesome, lovely, and really intense — but I haven’t gotten much work done. Now, by necessity (both financial, deadline-wise, and psychologically) it’s time for some work to happen… hopefully I’ll be able to write more here soon about projects in progress.

bucklin street warehouse

I’ve seen this building since forever on one of my often-traveled bike routes through Providence. For as long as I have known it, it has been covered in vertical painted metal sheathing (as seen above, under the cornice), with a smattering of small windows along its length. I had always assumed that it had a metal structure as well. Earlier this month, they started pulling the metal off, revealing insulation, many windows, earlier brick-pattern asphalt shingles, earlier wooden siding, and its original wooden structure. Man, just look at all those windows!!!! (It seems like it’s being renovated, which is a relief — I’m tired of watching buildings disappear.)

A couple of weeks ago I caught it in this great state of semi-dismantlement, as the workers were stripping it down to the original wooden board sheathing. Meg & I returned the next day & peeked inside as well as we could. I was delighted by all the overlapping layers, the history made visible. (Also one of my favorite things is fake brick patterning on anything!) Meg loves the point at which the forces of human action and natural disintegration are in balance upon a building: the time frame between when the building has been neglected to weather and age, but before it collapses — a realm of possibility…

bucklin street warehouse - short end

Looking at these photos now, I feel a strong kinship to this building. Its outer layer is pulled off, and what’s revealed is kind of patchy, not very well fitted together, and possibly a little precarious. However, what is now visible is more true and more real than its former, tacked-on facade was. The insulation and the weatherproofing is gone, so the building is more vulnerable to the elements and to external forces… but the source of its strength is clear. However, it is obviously a work in progress, under construction, and changing constantly even as we speak…

desk finished and in use.

January 27, 2009 at 4:01 am

This all got finished before last Friday, but I just got my act together to take pictures of it now.

new desk (center), and left of it, stair/ladder up to the loft:

overview

continued below are detail pictures of the sweet computer shelves, which was pretty much the whole point of the project > > > > check it out: (more…)

some things are still up in the air…

November 5, 2008 at 4:22 am

… but I think that now I should stop obsessively refreshing the election results pages (mostly here and here) and get back to work. Tonight was good. I biked home from picking up transparencies (and hanging out with S. Reiter!) in Pawtucket feeling optimism in the air, passed the civic center downtown which was lit up with voting booths and lots of activity, stopped at PriceRite where friendly strangers were asking each other if they’d voted yet… it was cool but not cold, perfect biking weather. I made pizza dough while Magic The Gathering was played at our kitchen table, then Scott got home and we made & ate the pizza together, and drank soda (pizza party!) while listening to the returns and speeches on the radio… in mostly quiet except for me occasionally wiggling around and making excited squeaking noises, and S. cracking really tasteless jokes, and then shaking his head and muttering, skeptically, “History… hmm!”

Here is preliminary goings-on for the three small prints I’m making for Craftland sale. I totally can’t seem to keep perspectival construction out of these drawings, despite my intention to make “really simple direct images”. Oh well, just wait, someday I’ll be making blobby abstract stuff & these days can be looked back on as “when she was all uptight” or something like that!

preliminary work for small prints

Thanks to xkcd for summing it all up.

on to the next!

October 3, 2008 at 5:45 am

Bread and Puppet posters are printed, Jim at Black Cat cropped the edges for me, and they are going up around town.

stages:

first color (that horse!)
[that horse!]

second color

third color

finished poster (in a sloppily composited image) after the break. (more…)

counterweight

September 29, 2008 at 7:19 pm

This took less than 45 minutes, was extremely simple, and was all accomplished with stuff I already had around the house.

screen table counterweight setup

It works perfectly: reducing the weight of the screen when I lift it up, and (after I adjusted the amount of water in the bucket) holding it up at an angle so I can get the print out, and don’t have to walk around the table to pull the screen down again.

It is not clear to me why I didn’t do this 2 years ago.

Thanks Mike T. for the practical inspiration.

connection to the screen frame

attachment to the ceiling

counterweight

two ends of the spectrum

September 24, 2008 at 2:12 am

This past weekend, at the Block Party! that Andrew Oesch organized (and I helped with) in Worcester, MA:

blockparty1.png

…and, a couple of days earlier, working on drawing (or rather, desperately trying to figure out how to draw) the display font for what became this poster:

lettering.png

The Block Party was collaborative, temporary, and chaotic. It had no tangible “goal” besides getting a chance to play, offering other people (kids and adults) the chance to play, creating a potentially transformative experience, practicing collaborating and facilitating with Andrew O, taking the chance to do something we had wanted to do since we were little (have an almost infinite number of giant blocks to build with), and maybe getting a little transformed ourselves (I’m pretty sure that’s me in the red shirt):


BONE ZONE at stArt in the street, worcester 2008

Despite its transience, this kind of project is very direct — you can see the results in people’s enjoyment of and immediate narration of the experience (one kid, as his mom pulled him away from jumping on and squashing boxes at the end of the day: “But… this is the BEST PLACE EVER!!!”). I have a bunch of persistent memories from my own childhood (a giant wooden dragon in the children’s section of the public library, walking through a tall maze of translucent plastic at an art fair, building forts in the woods, working on a collaborative clay castle-sculpture at a craft show) which convince me that Sunday’s memory of building giant structures out of boxes will stick with some of these kids for the rest of their lives. Andrew O and I are left with nothing except lots of photos and a couple of sheets of colorful paper — almost all the boxes got smashed and recycled — the experience was the important thing.

A poster like this one (computer-designed, computer-printed) is also temporary. If I’m lucky, someone will put a copy of the poster up on their dorm-room wall, maybe keep it as a reminder of the speaker that influenced their changing ideas; maybe it will go into the departmental archive, but most likely, most of the copies will become part of the massive pile of paper-waste that comes out of any university in any given academic year. Hopefully, it will get some folks to come out to the talk — maybe more people than if it was a simple flyer designed in a word-processing program and printed in black and white… who knows.

billfletcher.jpg

Designing on the computer opens up too many infinite possibilities for me. I like the limits of the physical, of rubylith and of ink drawings; I’m more comfortable with the irregularity, and the permanence, that are built into something you make by hand. Looking at a computer screen, I get wrapped up in minutely adjusting the anchor-points of lines or editing shapes pixel-by-pixel, saving endless versions of things so I can revert to earlier decisions if necessary.

Working on an analog object, if you erased something, that means it is gone (even if you might reach for the command-Z key instinctively) and you have to draw it again, or as close as you can get to it. In the physical world, there’s no perfectability: whatever you make might have problems or issues, but they will result from how it was made and be a part of it — not errors you have overlooked and might have fixed if you had just had another couple of hours to spend in front of the monitor.

[here are two parts of the middle of the “digital/analog battle royale” illustration process for the Labor Studies poster. on paper:]
debate.png
[and on the computer. notice the ink-line tracing of the two politicians, which is in the middle of being re-sized to fit the photo-reference mockup:]
processdigital.png

When I was looking at display fonts to use on the Labor Studies Dept. poster, I couldn’t find a computer font that I liked. I started to draw letters from scratch, but the initial sketches didn’t fit the need or style of the poster, and I didn’t have a lot of time and wasn’t feeling super-inventive at that moment. The letter-pantograph device (seen at the top of this post) was handed down to me by my grandfather, a retired engineer, along with his set of 1970s Rapidograph pens. Using it, I drew the letters above, then scanned them in, enlarged them and printed them out, photocopied them to the right size, and traced their outlines in ink, making them more angular, and changing them somewhat (to differentiate them from the dreaded Comic Sans!). The tracings were scanned again, and photoshoppified into something usable for the graphic title of the poster.

The whole poster involved so much work, so much finicky moving of text and images back and forth, so much consideration and discarding of various fonts, so much attempting towards perfection. I’m mostly happy with it, especially with the illustrations, but I don’t think it has the richness and interest of most of my screen-printed projects… and since I’m not part of the community where the event will take place, it doesn’t have an effect on my life, and I can’t see its effect on other people.

tower1.png

The Block Party! project also involved a huge amount of work (done mostly by AO, though I jumped in at the last minute). Collecting and assembling all the boxes was an almost-infinite task, printing the patterned paper, pasting it on, organizing volunteers, thinking about the philosophy and metaphorical underpinnings of the project. . . However, there was no pretense of perfection: our basic goal was to have enough boxes to really transform the space of the street — beyond that, we had no idea ahead of time of how it would actually turn out, and we knew that we would be figuring out how to do the project along with everybody else who was there that day.

Searching for perfection — ignoring the demand for perfection (even/especially when it comes from within myself). Either of these approaches could be applied to any project, any medium, that one might want to work in. At this point, coming off of these two almost-simultaneous projects, I think I know which of these paths regarding perfection I like being on the most.

However, it’s relatively simple to apply the “chaos is awesome” mentality to projects (like the Block Party) where the chaos is actually unavoidable. It’s somewhat harder to let it creep in to the screenprinting projects I really want to be focusing on, the areas where my meticulousness is more ingrained and more likely to take charge. Additionally, when life is overwhelming (as it usually is for me), it’s easiest to strive for righteousness and certainty, since those seem like the most secure options. One constructive strategy might be to take on less, leave more time for things, don’t put myself in places where I’m so stressed out that perfection seems like the only achievable goal, where I don’t have time to accept complexity and confusion. I know this is possible, because I’ve worked on more and more projects recently where I’ve had to slow down to allow for learning and chaos. . . they are harder and more difficult to approach than the ‘perfectable’ projects. . . . but simply remembering that the harder projects are more fun is a large part of the process. . . .


Here’s Andrew Oesch starring as Sisyphus in Werner Herzog’s new movie about participatory, community-based art projects:

fridgebox.png

… and a good reminder (from fomato.com) about how not to get bogged down by more projects than I actually want:

fomato.jpg

thanks, cute creatures, for your infinite wisdom.

distraction? or project?

August 3, 2008 at 3:32 am

Well, the New Urban Arts zine swap is approaching, and I sideswiped myself into working on a zine about how to make bread. So I’ve been doing that for the last little while. I’ve never laid out a document consisting mainly of blocks of text before, so I’ve been constantly referring to Robert Bringhurst‘s Elements of Typographic Style, which Andrew lent me a while ago. It’s great — if I’d gone to school for graphic design I probably would have found out about it years ago — but I am delighted now to discover the many opportunities for distraction and nerding-out that exist within its covers…

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the computer, which is all right, but I am pretty ready to go back to actually drawing. The bread zine is going to be photocopied on good paper, possibly with a screenprint of some kind on the cover: 24 small pages of just one recipe for delicious homemade bread, that you can vary and adjust to your own taste, usable even by someone who’s never baked anything before. If you want a copy, let me know!

Additionally, I got a large fan, making summer a little sweeter:


(which happens to be the same model fan that inspired this project… hmm, I just realized I never put up any images of how that turned out…)

. . . Andrew brought me a giant jar of the burdock-root kimchi we started earlier in the spring. He and I made some more drawings, including, just yesterday, this one:


(a detail)

. . . and, I picked hundreds of green beans from my garden and made dilly beans, about which I can only say, home canning, though complicated, is easier than it looks, try it, try it, try it!


geographical expansion news: If you’re in or around Portland, Maine, you can now go look at and caress some of my posters and postcards at Eli Phant, a ‘handmade stuff store’ run by old friends, that just opened on the eastern end of Congress St!


I’ve been reading Lilah’s blog

…and I’ve been really psyched about Mickey’s comics. All right!

things fall into place

February 8, 2008 at 5:59 am

initial notes for the next four posters

After a lengthy stretch of time occupied with logistics, being out of town, dead ends, “getting organized”, being sick, preparing, finishing, cleaning up, things not working (including this updates page), and consequent general frustration, this past week some things started to come together.

The results:

  • a more-or-less fully working web site
  • new & reliable web hosting, which was encouraged into existence by Andrew Oesch and the “cooperative not collective” internet project (more on that later)
  • the realization that I already have more than 10 pages of notes and drawings (made in three different notebooks and on scraps of paper) over the course of the past month, about the layout of residential spaces — following that, the realization that I had already started on the thinking work for the next posters in the ‘everyday spaces’ print series…
  • becoming excited about the specifics of those next posters, and how they all fit together…
  • the realization that all the thinking and drawing work I was doing on the forbes kitchen project was already leading directly into the work for the next couple of posters…
  • a large drawing, begun tonight and started very fast, that now takes up my entire desk (the blurry photo above is a detail) that is the first attempt to make those 10+ pages coalesce and cohere, to create the logical backbone of the patterns that deal with common and private, centers and edges, work and relaxing, symmetry and asymmetry, in the spaces from kitchen to bedroom and in between.

So, this page is back, the print series is back (for those who might have been wondering), and I’m back, excited about next steps and possibilities.

nothing as promised

December 28, 2007 at 2:50 am

Well, a lot got done, but nothing got finished, so there was nothing of mine at the Millcraft sale, which was probably okay. Now I’m in another city (holiday and family time), not drawing or printing anything, but reading:

  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (I finished The Golden Compass/Northern Lights in 2.5 days)
  • Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  • Anarchy and Order by Herbert Read, who also wrote a book called Art and Alienation which I obviously need to track down so I don’t re-write it
  • old issues of Wired magazine (1994-1995, 1999) which I saved ‘for some reason’ when I was in high school

Everything is pretty great, and the His Dark Materials series has me fast in its relentless grip, but the old copies of Wired are really the standout. In 1999 there was already ebay, and Wired had already become more consumer-oriented and easy-to-read. In ’94 and ’95, though, it’s like a publication aimed at people involved in a specific trade…. which it was.

The magazine’s graphic design is combative and challenging (but interesting!), each section and article uses a totally different graphic language, the ads are either laid out like those you would see in any other trade magazine (then or today), or are trying to employ something like cutting-edge (ie. really bad and illegible) design. Almost all the ads are for computer or internet related things, jobs, machines, software, etc (notably unlike the Wired magazine of today). Internet service providers are offering Mosaic for looking at images on the World Wide Web, many many interactive CD-ROMs are for sale (the ones made by the Residents get really good reviews), and Disney is putting in quarter-page ads for programmers and computer-type people to come work for them.

It’s fascinating, in the relaxing-in-a-time-warp way that coming back to this house at Christmastime is all about. I’ll put up some pictures tomorrow.

writing html = procrastination

November 30, 2007 at 5:50 am

I went away for the thanksgiving holiday, brought my computer with me, and worked on the web site. Now that I’m back, I’m continuing to work on it… for just a little while.

Website facts:

  • It’s so not done.
  • It is completely distracting me from doing “real work” aka: drawing and printing.
  • I know very little about making websites, and am continually learning in the “figuring it out as you go along” method.
  • It is infinite, fascinating, and could be worked on endlessly.
  • Progress is made very slowly.
  • It is extremely satisfying when something works right (in the phrase of my 9th grade QBasic teacher Matt Zipin, when I was able to tell the computer to do exactly what I wanted it to do).
  • There is nothing more exciting than knowing nothing about something, then five hours later, understanding (more or less) how it works and how to implement it towards your goals. Yeah learning!

screenshot of gallery in progress

Screenshot of new web site format, showing the gallery page (in progress).

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