A manifesto of making (sort of)

June 29, 2009 at 10:16 am (Uncategorized)

I have this fantasy of someday living in a house I have built and designed myself. The whole thing would be constructed by my own hands, from top to bottom. Inside, it would be furnished with stuff I’d made myself (or in some cases, a close friend had made) specifically with me, my needs, and my space in mind. When something would break or wear down, I could fix it myself. Outside, I would grow my own vegetables and keep a few animals, so that I could produce my own food; in the situation where too much was produced, I would give it away to charity. I would wear clothes I made myself and ride around on a bike made from parts of other bikes I’d found over the years and fixed into one I could use. And of course, I would make lots and lots of art.

This is all fantasy, of course – anyone who is familiar with my building skills knows that I lack the ability to construct anything even close to a house, let alone one that can withstand weather and nature for more than the very shortest of times. But the idea of living in a world where I have made everything (or again, where everything is made either by me or people I personally know) is so appealing. I think so much about the idea of “dropping out” (in that “tune in, turn on, drop out” sort of way) but I don’t ever want to drop out of that which I have a responsibility to, or that I genuinely enjoy. I just want to shed this world of stuff that has never quite suited me, fit me, or understood who I am – nor have I understood really what it is, where it came from, and who made it.

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the possibility of making as much of my world as is reasonably possible.

On of the things I’ve come back to over and over as I’ve been doing the vegan thing, is that the excuse people use to not do it is, “Well, I could never give up cheese (or whatever one particular animal byproduct).” I find this to be such a stubbornly bad reason to not pursue veganism – what happens is, because they can’t give up cheese, they go on eating meat and eggs and putting milk in their coffee and so on; wouldn’t it make much more sense to simply keep the cheese in your diet and eliminate all that other stuff? Sure, you wouldn’t “technically” be vegan, but you would still drastically cut down the amount of animals you consume which I think we can all agree is a good thing.

I think the same sort of thinking has kept me away from making my world as much as I reasonably can. Knowing that I can’t ever build a house somehow keeps me buying clothes when I could be making my own, or that sort of thing. I find it liberating to make things, in a way that purchasing things never feels. Going to a store and buying X always makes me feel as though I’m entering into a contract in some way – with the store, the producer of the good, and with our culture in general. I’ve been thinking that lately, the only sort of contract I want to have is with myself.

So maybe, I won’t ever totally live off-the-grid or in a homemade house or that sort of thing, but I can drop out as much as possible, and constantly keep expanding the idea of what it means to drop out. This, to me, sounds like the way to go.


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New drawing (There is a sense that childhood must be perfect…)

June 28, 2009 at 12:32 pm (art, drawing, painting)

This is a relatively small one, but the bigger ones are proving hard to put into blog format.


It’s based on this:

Hey, new cheap multiple on its way! There are still a few of the cloth books left, but now the cover is khaki (everything else remains the same… there’s a long story there about how the fabric store sent me defective fabric and… ok, never mind). So far the project has gone amazingly well, so there are definitely more projects in the works!

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New drawing (I have this image of myself)

June 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm (art, drawing, life, painting)


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Etsy blog!

June 22, 2009 at 3:26 pm (Uncategorized)

Hey, I’m on the Etsy blog, courtesy the always awesome Katie Armstrong!

Ok, new drawing will be posted tonight… promise. Stay tuned.

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A quick catch up post

June 22, 2009 at 9:40 am (art)

I have new work to post later today, but here are some random things from the last few weeks…

  1. I got mentioned in the Art in America blog, which is pretty hilarious. That’s me and Tom Beale at the Honey Space party, which was way fun. I’m drinking wormwood beer in that pic, yay!
  2. Elbow-toe finished his portrait of me, which is awesome:elbowtoeportrait
  3. My former gallery Bellwether announced they’re closing. I left the gallery about two years ago, so it doesn’t directly affect me… but it’s still weird and upsetting. I had a couple of people ask me if the news made me feel “happy” (?!!??) and erm, no. Not at all, not even for a moment, and actually the question really bothered me that anyone would think to ask it – much to the opposite, the news made me really terribly sad. I just hope everyone associated with the gallery is doing ok. (Also, on a slightly unrelated note: if anyone wants to arrange some kind of fundraiser for the former employees of galleries that are closing – and there have been a slew lately, with probably more to come – I’m in. Many of them are not qualified for unemployment benefits and were living hand-to-mouth anyway. I know there’s a stereotype of a gallery employee as being a trust fund kid, but I worked at galleries for a long time and believe me, there are plenty who are just scraping by. I would love to do something to help, but I have no idea what that is.)

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New drawing (6/14/09) – updated!

June 14, 2009 at 2:00 pm (art, drawing, painting)

I wrote a post this afternoon about the new 22 x 30 drawing I just finished and my frustrations with photographing it in our apartment, but I managed to actually take a few decent shots between using a good camera and pulling apart my scanner so I could do some closeups.

So! Here it is…

This is a full shot, which I know is not so great:


And then two closeups:



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Closeup of a new drawing

June 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm (art)

I’m working on a series of drawings that are quite large for me (30 x 40, or there abouts), and so they’re taking more time to do. But here’s a closeup of one I’ve been working on all afternoon:


It’s not even halfway done… what I’m doing here is layering a collage over a watercolor ground, and it’s very time consuming – but it allows me the ability to work on multiple layers in a way you can’t usually do in watercolor. The section above is small – maybe 8 x 8 inches (again, an estimate). The leaves took no time at all, but carefully cutting and pasting in those stems… well, that’s taking a while. In the end, I think this drawing is going to be rather visually complicated – for now, it’s just an all-over pattern (or the beginnings of one) but soon there will be at least a couple of other layers going on top of this one.

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Books for sale

June 5, 2009 at 6:09 pm (Uncategorized)

My book How Things Work (see post directly below this one) is now officially on sale. For a limited time (I have no idea how limited; I’m still figuring this stuff out) I’m selling them for $40 which includes postage and handling. The price may well go up soon, we’ll have to see how it goes.

To buy one, go here to pay for it via credit card or PayPal account. Just click on the button and then send me your shipping address and the book is yours.

Also! I wrote an FAQ based on actual questions I’ve gotten about the project. Here it is:

What the hell is this?

This is a limited edition accordion-folded book that I have made out of fabric and paper printed from my computer. Unfolded, each is about 12” x 42”. For more information, check out the post on the book.

How many are in this edition?
I have no idea. It is technically an “open” edition, although at some point I will get sick of making them and officially end the project. However many are out there in the world at that point is how big the edition is. As a ballpark: If I make 50 of them, I will be very pleased with myself. I’ll probably only make 30, if we’re being realistic.

Are these books signed?

Are they numbered?

Wow! Did you make these yourself?

Yep. For some reason, there’s this idea floating out there that I have a league of interns helping me… and I don’t. I like making stuff myself.

Is each one exactly the same as the last?
No. I made a couple of really beautiful fine art prints with Diane Villani Editions, which were carefully printed by a master printer and each one checked for irregularities and then handworked and approved by me, signed and numbered. This is a different thing entirely. With How Things Work, I zoomed them through my sewing machine and my printer as quickly as I could to make as many as possible – as a result, each one is a little different. The text is the same, the number of gears is the same, the number of stars is the same… but the exact placement is going to be a little different for each one.

The text on the one I got is slightly crooked. Can I exchange it for another one?
No. The irregularities are part of the work.

Is it archival?
Maybe, but maybe not. I have no idea. This piece, by its nature, is meant to be ephemeral. I suspect that, like most things, if you take good care of it and keep it out of the sunlight and that sort of thing, it will stick around for a long time. If you let your dog chew on it, it probably won’t last a week.

I’m your friend. Can I get one for free?
Erm, no. I often do freebie editions that I give out at art fairs – you’re always welcome to one of those. But I’m putting this out there to make a little extra money and to test my website as a place for selling low end multiples and books, so it kind of defeats the purpose if I give away a bunch for free. Sorry!

I’m your friend. Do I have to buy one? (Ok, no one has asked this, but I swear they’re thinking it.)
Good lord, no. I will not be the least bit offended if you don’t buy one.  Seriously – please don’t feel pressured to buy one unless you actually really want one.

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New book! (Finally!)

June 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm (art, books, drawing, interesting)

Oh my god, after way too long, I am really happy to say that I finally have a new edition of artist’s books!

This is sort of a sneak peak of the project… here’s the deal:

A small number of them will be on sale starting Thursday at the Honey Space benefit party(June 4th, 7-9pm, honey-space.com for address – please come!). I haven’t totally decided on a price yet, but they will definitely be under $50 each. After the benefit, I’m going to sell them here on my blog, but the price is going to go up. Not by too much – the idea is that this is an affordable piece that just about anyone can buy – but by enough that it kicks my butt into getting the whole edition done and mailed out to people who want it.

So stay tuned for all that. But for now, here are some pictures:


How Things Work is an accordion-fold book made out of sewn fabric and collaged paper. This is what the cover looks like. And here I am, opening it:


There is a little tab with a snap on it that keeps it all together. Here I’m opening it more:


Eventually the whole thing opens up and looks like this:


It’s about 41″ long when it’s totally unfolded. Here are some closeups:



The background is all fabric; everything collaged on top of the fabric (don’t know if you can really see it in these pics or not but: the girls, the gears, the stars, and the text) is a print out from my computer which I then stitched to the surface of the book. The text is a conversation I’m having in my head with someone about the way that things work, and the book is a simple scene of a nighttime sky with gears and pulleys taking the place of constellations. At the end of the book, you see the girls are the ones making the machine run by turning a crank.

I’m really happy with how it turned out… I hope these pictures capture it at all – it’s hard with the dark colors and the lighting in my studio. It is an open edition, but I would estimate that I’ll make around 50 of them.

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