Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Pie Diaries: Month 1

I have always considered September the month that actually marks the beginning of the new year. Having spent the majority of my Septembers starting a new year of school, I guess my tendency seems pretty natural. Since finishing school, I find September to be a loaded month, even without the beginning of classes to look forward to: it's the month that ushers in my favorite season (fall) and the month I find myself most susceptable to catching a case of Epic Ennui (what is my place in this life? Le sigh...) So it seems fitting that this September be the start of a new and ongoing project; one that, although serious to some, is intended to... shall we say... lighten the mood a bit. (The mood, perhaps, but not my weight.) Thus, I introduce to you:

The Pie Diaries.

The goals: 1. To make a new pie for every month of the year. 2. To collect a group of reliable, tasty recipes for at least 12 different types of pie. 3. To perfect the art of the gluten-free pie crust.

Yummm. Here we go!

September: Peach Mini Pies

I bought the fruit for my first pie at the Clark Park Farmer's Market: New Jersey Peaches; and I decided to use on online recipe (find it here!). Ok, so I know that using online recipes might be a bit lame but... I guess that's part of the project- to amass a collection of reliable recipes. So I wrote it down.

(Super Hot mixing bowl handmade by Adam Conway!)

Now, for me, the trickiest part of pie is the crust. I've been living gluten-free (ha! who am I kidding? Gluten-lite? Low-gluten? Little-to-no-commitment-ability-even-in-the-face-of-killer-stomach-aches?) for about a year now, so I've had a chance to try more than a few gluten-free pie crust recipes. The low-fat, no butter, rice and vegetable oil crust, albeit healthier than any crust has the right to be, is usually pretty good. But... the Fresh Grocer's on 40th didn't have rice flour so my only choice was to buy a Gluten Free Perfect Pie Crust Mix! (Just to check it out... y'know.) It called for 10tbsp of butter AND 10tbsp butter substitute... But man does it taste delicious.

(My kitchen is tiny! I rigged up this space-saving spice situation: 10 layers of magnetic latex primer, green paint to match the dishes and magnetic spice containers from the Container Store! It makes me happy.)

I had everything all mixed up and ready to go when I realized that, in the craziness that surrounds moving I had completely lost track of my pie pan. ??? There are still so many things I keep forgetting we don't have! At least now we have a decent spatula... trying to flip eggs with the Snowflake Shaped spatula was just a joke. Anyway, I had no choice but to make cup-cake sized pies.

Aren't they the cutest little things you ever did see? Amazing. And tasty! The size-to-crust ratio means that the mini pies are mostly crust but seriously, anything with that much butter pretty much has to be delicious.

I declare the first month of The Pie Diaries a success! A tasty, flakey, peachy success... Stay tuned for October... my guess? Kahlua Pumpkin Pie! (I'll make sure to buy a pie pan by then.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snow Farm Summer 2009!

After one of the best summers at Snow Farm Summer Arts Program for high-schoolers, during which I took (I kid you not) maybe 200 photographs, I managed to accidentally delete all but 4 of them.  !!!!  So, here is a visually truncated description of this year's totally fantastic session.  

(Camp Director Christine with Assistant Director Jocelyn.  Apparently, they were Just 

Almost the entire staff had returned from past summers, so we started the session like a well oiled machine.  The night before all the students arrived, Abigail and I silk screened enough t-shirts to clothe the entire staff!  Unfortunately, however impressive this show of momentum was, as soon as Mike was hit with the first water balloon we were embarrassed to realize that we had used the WRONG kind of printing ink...  washable.  All the shirts were running and staining!  Egads!  So we took all the shirts back and vowed to replace them by the end of the session.  We tried not to get too down about it and started classes with resolve.

(Photo by Abigail Heuss, metalsmith extraordinaire.)

Unlike last year's textile classes, this year we had plenty of students to fill both the morning and the afternoon class!  Plenty of ideas and enthusiasm to go around.  Susannah and I also fiddled with the content and schedule of the class- mixing up the tried and true(ish) schedule of the last two summers.  The newly written course description reads like this:  

The two week summer textiles program examines both the artistic and socio-economic life-cycle of a garment.  Students will not only have the opportunity to design and create their own garment/creation, they will also get a broader view of the global textile market.  The class will move from 2-d design into 3-d:  starting with dyeing and shibori (a highly controlled Japanese resist-dye process similar to tie dye), then adding patterns and images through silk-screening and finishing the session by using the fabrics they have designed/ printed to sew a functional garment or object.  Class conversations focus on the social, economic and ecological implications of fashion-based culture and how each student can start their own revolution by using their ingenuity to redesign their wardrobe.  Although the class is based around garments, individual students are always encouraged to use their new skills to make other things:  stuffed animals, non-functional art pieces, etc.  The more creative the better!  This is a great class for anyone who loves color, imagery, patterns and thinking outside the box.

The socio-economic part of the class was the most exciting new element for me.  I bought a huge map of the world and, as part of our daily class routine, I had the students "map" their clothing by putting a pin into each of their garment's country of origin.  It ended up being a great experiment!  We didn't even know
 where a lot of the countries were,  so it often doubled as a geography review.  It was great to see which countries ended up with the most pins:  China, Mexico, the US, El Salvador....  There were tons and tons in Central America.  Unfortunately, sessions at Snow Farm sort of hurtle to a finish and although I was hoping to be able to do some statistical analysis of our findings, no suck luck.  Oh well, next year!

(I even told them that if anyone complained about being "bored" I'd make them go look up sweatshop conditions in the countries with the most pins.  Nobody complained...)

It was the perfect jumping off point from which to have a conversation about Where Stuff Comes From and Where It Goes when we're done with it.  Our annual trip to the Salvation Army served as a perfect example of the latter part of that equation.  The Salvation Army in Hadley MA is one of the largest thrift stores I've ever been to:  row upon row upon row of perfectly wearable garments, organized by garment type, color, size.  Literally, anything that you could be looking for- no matter how specific your criteria- you can find there.  And no matter how much stuff you buy, there is always more stuff getting hung up.  The life-cycle of a garment is not simply defined by the amount of time that it is in fashion, or even by the amount of time an individual chooses to wear it.  It begins with fiber cultivation- farm to harvest to yarn, moves onto weaving/knitting and then into a factory for garment construction. It's packaged and shipped to a store all before consumers even have access to it.  Hundreds of people have touched each and every
 garment that you wear.  And once we've decided to discard clothes, they don't just disappear:  thousands of pounds of textiles are recycled, donated, and sent to third world countries every year.  

This year's textiles class had a chance to enter into that conversation and were given the opportunity to take control of their own participation on the system through new techniques for designing their own garments.  And they made some really amazing stuff!

(Myself and Jasmine in dresses that we made:  hand dyed fabric, silk screened, and patterned from a dress we bought at the Salvation Army!)

We also FINALLY got the photo emulsion with sun exposure to work this year!  We've been trying every year since I started at Snow Farm so it was so exciting to finally have success!  To celebrate, I had the classes participate in a print swap!  Each student made a screen using the photo emulsion and then printed enough patches for everyone else to get one.  At the end of the session we swapped and everybody got to go home with a piece of art from everyone else. It was awesome! 

(Left to Right.  Top row:  My Gentle Alpaca, Emily, Jasmine, Drew.  Second row:  Juliana, Juliana, Kelsey.  Bottom row:  Eliana, Chelsea.) 

One student, Emily, even decided to use the mapping project as inspiration for her patch!  She drew a picture of the globe and labeled the countries:  the size of the label reflects the ratio of production as reflected by the number of pins in the class' map.  Fantastic.  It reminds me a lot of the WorldMapper,
a project that redraws the earth's continents according to different statistics.  (Definitely play around with it if you have a moment!  It's enlightening, to say the least.)

(A terrible cell phone photo of Emily's print.  Apparently, my scanner isn't working either.  Damn.)

We also had our first male student in class this year who decided to take the class because he was interested in toy design.  He was a 2-d artist who drew these amazing characters and he was hoping to learn how to make them into 3-d stuffed animals.  It was great to try to help his realize that goal!  And he totally did it!  Nope!  I don't have any photos of it!  (Damn damn double damn.  Hopefully, I'll eventually get my hands on some and I'll add them to the bottom of this post, I promise.)  Drew added a wonderful presence to the class and although I was worried that he would feel ostricized by the girls who have a strange but undeniable commitment to listening to Disney music during class, he informed me one day that "what?  Hercules is my favorite movie."  AMAZING!  

(A stuffed monster I made with a teeth-shaped-welt pocket for eating things like the dried up fabric markers.)

Outside of classes, the session was full of fun activities!

Like cardboard robot dance battle fashion shows!

Stealing whole bowls of gluten-free chocolate cupcakes!  (Ok, that one was just me.)

Complaining dramatically about how loud the kids were at night time!

Building a pizza oven!  (Technically that was second session but I'm running out of photos..)

After the session was over and the students had all gone home (or away until second session) we had one of the most prolific silk screening parties of all time.  Seriously,  I silk screened for almost 15 hours straight!  Including!  New and improved (aka NOT washable) staff t-shirts!  

This summer was fantastic.  I'm so thankful to all my co-teachers, art friends and amazing students.  Snow Farm is one of the most fun and satisfying things I do all year long.  Hopefully, nothing will get in my way of coming back next summer!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Craziest Summer EVER. (And a half.)

Gah!!  I can't believe it's actually been, like, 2 full months since I updated my blog!!  Especially since my summer was SOOO full of amazing art-adventures!  Unfortunately, it was also full of super crazy-making moving/ homelessness situations that have prevented me from having the time or peace of mind required to sit down and articulately express the amazingness of the summer.  (See??  Still not really articulate!!)  I sat down about 5 weeks ago to write an entry about Snow Farm (already overdue at the time,) only to discover that all but 4! of the 200! photos I had taken during the session were GONE!!  Totally inexplicably!  Full disclosure:  I'm sure that by "inexplicably," I really mean, "through my own stupidity and lack of proper reflexes" but it's still a blow.  (Don't worry-  I'm still going to throw together an entry from pilfered Facebook photos... of which there are about a million.)

AND! even though I am finally settled in my new place (did I say finally?  I meant finally!!!)  my already bumpy re-entry into the general pattern of my life was made harder when my computer hard drive crashed.  !!!  Even though I had everything backed up... and even though I still had 16 days left on my warrantee...  somehow, getting all my information back has still been ridiculously complicated.  (Stupid cocky bastards at the damn apple store.  They always make it sound so easy!  Liars.)

So... in conclusion... excuses excuses... but STAY TUNED!!  Lots of awesome stories and photos are coming this way soon.  'Cause I gotta get on with my life and I feel like it's on hold.  

But in the meantime, here's an interesting poster that Erin and I came across during one of my multiple over-night stays in Boston.