Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How I missed out on a pair of Bertoia chairs because I hit the snooze button

Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6:45 (unheard of!) to head down to an estate sale in Westport, CT. I'd never been to an estate sale before, but this one looked especially good. The former resident was an artist, and in addition to many (accordingly priced) paintings, sculptures, and photographs, she had amassed a huge collection of midcentury furniture, art books, knick knacks, and sewing and embroidery supplies. They were advertising a pair of Bertoia wire chairs, and while they looked a little beat (like everything else in the house), I was up to the challenge of repairing them if the price was right.

I had intended on arriving at 8 a.m. (the official start time) but didn't actually stroll up until around 8:20--only to see the coveted chairs being carried off by someone else. I was so mad I wanted to leave right then. But luckily, I did not.

While they took the time to price the high-end stuff (the jewelry, the art, the furniture), they didn't care too much about the mountain of books and craft supplies that I carried out--they charged me $18 for everything! I love estate sales!

I picked up a few practical items: a yard stick, embroidery hoop, and needle nosed pliers.

Airmail envelopes, greeting card bearing the message "Joyful New Year 1927", and a shear sharpener in its original packaging.

The mountain of books.

Here we have a typography book, The Human Figure in Motion (on Eadweard Muybridge), Abbie Hoffman's Revolution for the Hell of It, a guide to letterpress and lithography, and a museum catalog on Marcel Duchamp.

I don't know that I'll use the letterpress and lithography guide but I love the illustrations contained within.

I picked up a few paperbacks: Alice's Adventures Underground (which apparently is a facsimile of the manuscript that developed into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Lord of the Flies, The Art of Aubrey Beardsley (I can't believe I got this one for the equivalent of pennies--it's a leatherbound book published in 1918), Flatland, Other Voices Other Rooms, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Almost forgot about this French pamphlet of the works of Paul Klee.

On the way out I grabbed this little sculpture of a bull (it was only ten bucks--as Dave said as we were leaving, next thing you know it'll turn out to be made by Picasso or something).

After I got home I looked up Mary Oppenheimer, the woman to whom all of this amazing stuff once belonged, and to my surprise found that she was only 60 years old. I had been picturing a 90 year old lady who'd had most of this stuff for years, but maybe she was just a flea market shopper too. Everything in the house looked to be more more than 30 years old, down to the spools of thread.

While I was happy to leave with my little treasure trove, I couldn't help feeling a tinge of sadness at the fact that this poor woman spent a lifetime collecting and amassing so many amazing things (which, while they did not look well cared for, I'm sure she cared about them), only to die and have a hoard of strangers ransacking her home two months later. By the time I left (around 10:00) there were books strewn all over the floor and dishes were broken (or at least that's what the crash I heard from a few rooms away sounded like). It was a little heartbreaking--but despite those qualms, I think I've found a new thrifting source.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day trip to North Adams, Mass

On Friday I took the day off and took a drive up to Western Massachusetts to check out the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art--or MASS MoCA, as it is usually called.

One of the most interesting parts about the museum is the site itself, a 13-acre former industrial complex comprised of 26 buildings with interlocking courtyards and bridges.

The site has formerly been occupied (over a period of more than 200 years) by a brick yard, a saw mill, marble works, wagon- and sleigh-makers, an ironworks (which later forged armor plates for the Civil War ship, the Monitor), the Arnold Print Works, Sprague Electric Company, and more--all making for a complex rich in history and visual interest.

Even the bathrooms are cool.

Outside the main entrance is this construction that is part of their KidSpace exhibit. I love that it appears to be growing right out of the second-story window.

It seems they like to grow their trees upside down--pretty amazing!

After leaving the museum we went to the Natural Bridge State Park (although not without nearly an hour of horribly frustrating driving in circles due to Google Maps' inability to actually direct you to the site--which, in their defense, seems oddly hidden away).

This dog kept us company for a few minutes. His friend barked at us a lot though.

Here is the natural bridge, the only naturally formed white marble arch in North America. According to geologists, it is 550 million year old bedrock marble, carved into an arch by the force of glacial melt water more than 13,000 years ago.

And here is some 100+ year-old graffiti. 

Apparently music plays from somewhere in this area at night, an installation set up by MASS MoCA.

While I would have loved to have spent less time angrily driving around looking for it, once we found it the experience paid off.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

House tour: craft room

Well, this is it, the last room of the house to tour (other than the basement, but who wants to see that?). I guess it's more of an attic/storage room, but I have also adopted it as the craft room. Since I am short, I can at least stand up in the middle of the room, and that is enough for me.

I "wallpapered" the back wall by making many color photocopies of one sheet of patterned paper and affixing them to the wall with double sided tape (it comes off quite easily--so easily that it sometimes falls off, which half explains the blank spot below the window--I can't explain, however, why I cannot find that fallen piece. I have searched many times and it seems to have vanished into the ether).

Here is my sewing/printing surface. It is actually a kitchen counter from Ikea but since this house actually has counters, I did not need it for its original purpose.

Here we start to get to the part where I cringe a little bit. I often see images of other people's craft rooms on blogs. They are very neat and organized and pretty. That is not my craft room, and I don't think it ever will be. I am a hoarder, especially with bits of paper and fabric and other random objects that I can't let myself throw away because I might be able to use it for something, someday.

That said, above you see a few of the boxes stored underneath the counter (which contain supplies), a wastebasket full of rolls of paper in the corner, a tacklebox of art supplies, stool filled with sewing supplies, and a blanket I knitted a couple years ago which is now falling apart. I have been meaning to sew it back together but for now it sits here on top of the sewing stool.

Please don't yell at me. This is my supply of fabric. Well, actually, the lower shelf and the tote bag are filled with articles of clothing that I have been meaning to alter (for instance, Dave will go to throw away a pair of pants because there is a hole in the knee, but I'll think, "Wait, I might be able to make a skirt out of that!") The pieces of store-bought fabric are in the wicker boxes (and the plastic bag...ugh). The moral of the story is that I have to actually start sewing more, so that the volume of stashed items dissipates.

In the other half of the room we have my ironing board (everything to the right of it is just storage stuff--luggage, winter clothes, etc). There are always wires scattered about because of unfortunately placed electrical sockets (i.e. none anywhere near the window). The little rug used to be our bathmat, which I made by knitting together scraps of T-shirts. Now it lives up here, not really serving a purpose, but I like it too much to get rid of it.

Dave's mom gave us this old children's desk, in which I've stored my printing supplies. I reupholstered the desk chair sometime last year after the original cushion split open.

Inside the file cabinet are various documents, ephemera, and papers I've cut out of magazines (for collages, cards, fliers, etc). My rubber stamps and ink pads are inside the Milk and Cheese lunchbox. The Pee Wee Herman dolls are just fun. (Probably should have reassembled the fallen figures before taking the photo. Now it looks like Dirty Dog is doing a headstand and Pee Wee #3 has just fainted and fallen out of Chairy.)

Lastly, here is my yarn stash, sorted by colors, with my Daniel Johnston tapes stacked on top. I wish my guitars could stand upright but the slanted roof does not allow for that.

Well, there you have it. I have revealed my secret hoarding tendencies to the world. For emphasis, I should probably mention that these photos were taken right after I spent hours cleaning and throwing things away, though I did not go through the fabric heaps (and, admittedly, a good sorting out is probably in order).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Garden update

Despite the ridiculous amount of rain we have been experiencing over the past few months, the garden has slowly but surely been progressing. If you compare to the way they looked three weeks ago you'll notice quite a difference. (We've also since moved them to an area that gets more sun--well, provided that the sun is actually out!)

All of the plants have been flowering, but no vegetables yet, sadly, due to the lack of sun.

All except for this pepper plant! It was an exciting day when we noticed these peppers growing. Unfortunately it looks like the bugs are getting to it, so I sprayed them with some insecticidal soap (perfectly harmless for humans, I've been assured).

It will be even more exciting when I get to harvest them. Come on, tomatoes!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First printing project, part 4

And now for the final stages.

I turned it inside out and pinned two of the sides together.

After sewing the pinned sides I turned it right side out. (Note to self: do not iron over red embroidery thread if you do not want red streaks on your fabric.)

I stuffed the open side with batting and polyfil.

Then pinned and sewed the opening closed.

Now it's a rather stylish (if I may say so) travel pillow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

First printing project, part 3

The next phase of this project was a bit delayed because I couldn't find any sewing needles (the craft room needed a serious cleaning, which it has received). I was finally able to proceed over the weekend, which entailed sewing various road trip routes inside the outlines of the U.S. I got the idea after my Arizona road trip, when I thought to just do the states of Nevada and Arizona. Then I thought, why not do the whole country, which opened it up to many more possibilities, of crazy imagined routes that no one in their right mind would try, to documenting road trips from literature and film.

From left to right: Salt Lake City, UT, to Fargo, ND, to Louisville, KY, to Portland, ME; Los Angeles, CA, to Detroit, MI, to Mobile, AL; New York, NY, to Austin, TX

From left to right: Butte, MT, to Chicago, IL, to Washington, DC*; New York, NY, to San Francisco, CA; Bisbee, AZ, to Tulsa, OK, to Savannah, GA

I've only actually driven one of these routes: New York to Austin (on the right here). The rest of them were chosen for either purely aesthetic value, routes I'd like to try, or literary reference. I did type all of them into Google maps in an attempt to stitch the actual route that would be taken, though all of them are rough estimates, since it's kind of difficult to tell where anything is without the outlines of states in the design. I think I did a fairly good job though.

*This is the route that T.S. Spivet traveled in The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, which I read recently. It might not be totally accurate, as I didn't check back to see how the rails traveled from Butte to Chicago, but you get the gist.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mix Tape of the Month Club

Dave has recently joined a "mix tape of the month club," wherein 12 people each exchange one tape per month for one year, so that at the end each participant will have twelve tapes from twelve different people and hopefully some new music to check out. Some may ask, why tapes in this day and age? (Sigh) They're just better.

For the first tape Dave sent out, he decided to utilize the chalkboard spraypaint I recently bought (checking to make sure the tape still played before he actually made the whole thing; it did). Now Steve can label the tape whatever he wants, as many times as he wants.

The cover was made from clippings from an old issue of ArtForum.

(This poor guy got dismembered!)

All in all, a pretty cool tape.

Now for the one that Dave received...

This has got to be the most involved packaging I have ever seen.

Not only is the art incredibly detailed, but the construction is rather elaborate.

The plastic tape case is velcroed into an oversized laminated cover.

And then there is another insert inside the plastic case.

Finally, the tape itself is painted a sickly green and brownish-beige. Wow.

I can't wait to see what comes in the mail next month.