Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Pie Diaries: Month 2

Community Apple!
(A Culinary Collaboration)

After eating all 12 of last month's Mini Peach Pies by myself I came to the conclusion that an entire months-worth of pie is simple too much to be eaten by one person. So this month, I decided to open the pie community!

The first stage of October's Apple Pie Experience was the procuring of the apples!

(Amy's nose, myself, Elliot, Dexter, Allison, Sarah.)

Every fall a bunch of my friends go apple and pumpkin picking! It's a great time... a chance to get out of the city and commune with nature. (Uhm.. a sort of super cultivated pseudo-nature, anyway.)

(Me: "how many of those small, screaming children do you think we'll have to beat up to get a seat on that hay-ride?" Dexter: "I dunno, but I bet we can take 'em.")

(Me: "What do you mean these pumpkins didn't actually grow here and that they were driven up and scattered in the pumpkin patch?!? Ali: "Who cares?! Pumpkins!")

So... in theory, apple trees are a great place to get apples. But unfortunately, due to an overly rainy fall, the annual trip embarked a little late in the season and all of the apple trees were completely bare! We spent a good 15-20 min wandering the orchard in hopes of stray, abandoned fruit, but to no avail. Fortunately, there was enough decent fruit on the ground (and at the farm stand) to guarantee pie.

I got a little carried away and ended up with quite the harvest. 1 Pumpkin for baking, 1 pumpkin to carve, an acorn squash, a mini pumpkin for decorative purposes, a butternut squash (yum), and assorted pie apples.

And on to pie! I used a basic filling recipe- 10 C. apples, cinnamon, nutmeg- and to soften the apples and get all the good stuff all mixed up, the recipe suggested heating the apple mixture in a pan until everything was almost mushy. It worked like a charm and made my house smell DELICIOUS. For this month's gluten-free crust experiment, I decided to use this recipe. (Thanks, Carrie Ann, for finally giving me some xantham gum!) It worked pretty well, except that the recipe didn't make quite enough crust to fill the pan AND cover the pie... but I made do ok.

(Yum... but I couldn't eat it quite yet...)

With so much conversation about pie going around since the inception of my year long pie-commitment, my friends Mary and Justin suggested we do a collaboration: I'll make pie and they'll use the ice-cream maker they got as a wedding present to make a complimenting ice cream. (A delicious, delicious collaboration... Anyone wanna get married? I'll do it just for the ice cream maker...) Since this month's pie is apple, they provided the most delicious vanilla-cinnamon ice cream and it was AMAZING.

The pie was pretty darn tasty, although I think if this I use this recipe again I'll add another small apple... more filling would have been nice. And the crust was pretty darn tasty, too! Nice and flaky.. not like the usual gluten-free cardboard consistancy. I do suggest, though, that if you're going to use this recipe add a dash of white sugar and salt for a little extra flavor. Mmmmm...

(Lisa, Mary, Justin, Pie, Ice cream. Mmmm, friendship rules.)

Yay! 2 Months down, 10 months to go.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Projects and Announcements!

So... in all that free time I've had lately- what with the full time job, a psuedo-social life, and working on my grad school applications- I've somehow also managed to keep up with my crafting! ("Somehow" meaning that this is how I've been procrastinating from doing all that other stuff.) Here's what I've recently finished working on:

Chunky Braided Scarf!

After the craziness that was the knitting at Haystack, I was sincerely looking forward to starting fall with an easy, fairly thoughtless knitting project. So, I grabbed the handspun I had bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool fest and hit ravelry in search of a super-simple scarf pattern.

The yarn, made by Folktale Fibers in Maryland, was this great combination of cotton and soysilk in brilliant purples and muddy browns. I knew that I probably wouldn't have enough for the entire scarf but, deciding to maintain the integrity of the handspun, I opted to make it a half and half scarf. Also, because the fibers in the original yarn were vegan (not that I am, but, y'know) I decided to hold true to that while choosing my contrastisting finishing yarn. So, the light purple and brown that make up the second half of the scarf are both Blue Sky 100% cotton!

Although the pattern looks complicated to those who aren't used to knitting cables, knitting the scarf was really quite simple. On the first row of cables (3) the cable is knit in front of the work, causing the cables to pull in one direction. The next row (2 cables) is knit in back of the work, causing the cables to pull in the other direction. (Actually, each of the purple and brown stripes are one repeat of the pattern!) When repeated, and knit without a purl border, the work looks like a giant braid. Like challa bread! Remind me to knit up some challa some time.

All cozy and ready for fall! (Any day, now, fall... feel free to get cold any day.)

Spool Swap Quilt!

Since April, I have been participating in a quilt square swap at my local fabric store, Spool! Every month, members of the swap made and exchanged 12 9-blocks measuring 6". Seeing as I already have more than my body weight in tiny Viv Pickle scrap fabric, I decided that I wouldn't buy any new fabric for my squares! So, I only used recycled and salvaged materials. (It meant that some of my squares didn't even really match themselves, which I think made some of the more uptight quilters a little twitchy but, it was an important statement for me to feel like I was making.) We started with an inspiration fabric with the hopes of keeping the fabric selections at least a little cohesive but...

I guess it might not have been such a great choice to pick one of the Kaffe Fasset paperweight collection as inspiration! So many colors! Actually, I loved all the amazing colors and patterns that I was getting every month... and I had a blast laying them out in different arrangements; searching for the perfect chaotic composition. It had seemed obvious to me to put all the colored squares together, medallion style, and work with a border to make up the extra space, but I went through a period of quilt-anxiety after seeing Spools swap quilt. Instead of grey fabric, Laura chose a cream color and bordered each individual square by 2" on all sides. The forthcoming quilt is sooo different from mine! Much cleaner and more proper looking. But... once I was finished I got over my anxiety and really started to love it! (Hopefully we'll get a chance to see how some of the other swap-members decided to design their quilts.)

It's on my bed and Ripley loves sleeping on it as much as I love sleeping under it! Everyone should be so lucky as to have a hand made quilt on their bed. Love love love.

And, because Allison Smith's mom says that you should always sign your quilt somewhere, mine got a signature and date.

Renegade Craft Fair, Chicago 2009!

Ok, so this isn't as much a finished craft as it is a crafting announcement! It is now official: I will be sharing a table at this year's Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago with the illustriate comic artist Lucy Knisely and maker-of-beautiful things, Nellie Kurz! The fair will be held on December 5th and 6th, from 11am- 6pm, in Chicago's Pulaski Park Fieldhouse. I will be selling more of the usual: wallets, belt bags, ipod cases (with belt-loops!), computer cases, and small zippy bags out of a fantastic collection of fabrics. How fantastic, you ask? Well.. here's some of the coool stuff i've collected so far!

Yeah,that's right. That last photo included birds, mermaids, gears, robots, ray-guns AND concession stand snacks! You know you're going to want this year's stuff. Just saying.

I'll also be selling a hilariously ecclectic collection of shrinky-dink buttons and a top secret postcard collection soon to be released.... curious? Yeah, I know you are. I'll send out more information about the craft fair as it gets closer!

Amazing! and busy. Whew! Allright, now I gotta go get some more stuff done. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Haystack '09: Part 2

Haystack has a way of collecting the most interesting teachers, working with the most challenging media. The classes never fail to push the boundaries of their own fields and, in the process, infinitely expand the minds of their students. This summer's 6th session Knitting class fit snugly into that tradition:

Knitting: Wool Equals Bronze/ Time Does Not Equal Money, with artist Janet Morton:

"This workshop will explore hand knitting as a valid and vital sculptural/installation medium and as an alternate means of measuring time. Through a series of slide talks, discussions, and exercises, participants will be encouraged to playfully and critically examine their relationships to the natural world, everyday objects, and equations that link time to “value”. Experimentation with materials, scale, technique, and ideas will be encouraged. Participants will develop personal projects, and will be invited to work collectively on an onsite project."

Members of the class, immediately bound by the desire to eschew the expectations that we would be producing socks and sweaters, dove into assignments that forever altered the way we approach about our craft.

First let me say that working with Janet Morton was an absolute DREAM. As an artist, Janet is incredibly prolific and intelligent... but on a more basic level, she is totally approachable, always ready with a story about "the last time she was in India..." or "that one time I was living in the Canadian Bush planting trees..." I had done a fair amount of research into her work before leaving for the class, but having her there, ready to answer questions and talk about her art/process was hugely enlightening. Each piece I had already fallen in love with ended up being even more epic and smart than I had imagined. And she was fun! Accompanied by her two rambunctious children and her outgoing and comical husband, the whole family brought a feeling of familial whimsy to the studio that was somehow perfectly fitting for a class that was challenging the traditionality that knitting implies.

We started the first day of class with a Never Before Played Surrealist Knitting Game! Here's how to play: The group starts with a large selection of yarns and needles and each participant gets a bag big enough to hide a small project. 1. Cast On! Any wool, any stitch, any number of stitches. After working for 30 min, place your project in the bag and put the bag into the center of the table. Swap bags! 2. Change at least one thing. color, wool, type of stitch, inc or dec, needle size, etc. After another 30 min, swap bags again! 3. Repeat step 2. 4. The fourth collaborator has a whole hour to complete the project and cast off from the needles.

This experiment was a great way to immediately establish that knitting does not always have to be functional, and that even abstracted, bizarre objects can carry as much meaning and importance as a traditional garment. (Maybe even more.) We also learned that knitting takes a long time and a half hour isn't long at all. It was great fun!

Assignment 1: Knit an Object- It's one thing to knit a 3d sock or sweater, but it's another thing entirely to knit... an object... an everyday item that never in the world of normal life be associated with knitting. Each student in the class chose an item to replicate with the option to change it's scale.

My own Sublime Stitching Scissors.

Patty Barnatt's Electrical Cord!

Jennie Caulfield's Tree Bark with Lichen. Amazing replica...

Valerie Shapiro's Nut and Bolt.

Leslie Sudock's Collapsible Cups

Everyone made amazing objects; they're not all here, but some others included wire cutters, a hairbrush, a metal hook with chain, and a couple beautiful seashells. We found that this was an opportunity to knit in a more painterly fashion: less planning, more reacting to color, shape, and size.

Assignment 2: Knit a Word- As an artist who deals a lot with text, I found this assignment especially exciting. So much meaning and association come with the choice of even a single word...

Mine are the giant "personally, " and the tiny "miss you (heart)" postcard at the bottom.

Jeanne Vaccaro's "Cruising Utopia". I believe the "utopia" is handspun.

Assignment 3: Knit a Circle out of Wire- This assignment provided one of the biggest technical challenges of the session. It turns out that knitting a circle is kind of hard. Tubes and hats, fine, but to start with only 3 stitches and then to figure out the right ratio of increases to make a flat plane is downright mathematical. Factor in the use of a totally non-plyable material like copper wire and it verges on downright impossible.

In fact... some people gave up on the flat plane entirely. But what a beautiful outcome!

Assignment 4: Knit a Plastic Enclosure for a Natural Object- Janet provided the class with recycled clear plastic milk bags. (Apparently, Canadians buy their milk in bags. Silly Canadians.) The idea for the assignment was to force the student to deal with the juxtaposition between the human made plastic and the natural world. I had hoped to be able to do a site-specific installation of a knit plastic camping tent for a baby spruce tree, but my TA duties kept me from having the time.

Assignment 5: Giant Knitting Needles

In order to create her giant-sized pieces, Janet has developed these equally giant-sized circular needles! We started with 3/4" wooden dowels and plumbers tube and a few hours of sawing and whittling later, we each had a set with which to work on... drumroll, please...

Assignment 6: Group Project! - We started with a few general ideas: we wanted to create an outdoor, architectural space and the theme of "home and away." Janet had ordered a ton of yarns in the palette of Haystack: natural tones of browns, greens, grays and blues. Trees, moss, clapboard cabins, the sky and the sea. Even without a concrete plan we knew that we were going to need a ton of yardage... so we knit away on our giant needles while we brainstormed.

Let it never be underestimated how difficult a group project can be. To be honest, I think it only gets harder the older we get. Everyone came to the table with different thoughts and worries... some conceptually based and some about logistics. It seemed like we were never going get things figured out: how on earth would we be able to build such a huge structure in just a week? What should it look like? Should there be text? So many things to worry about. But I think our biggest break came when Janet discovered the Deer Isle Dump.

(Brece, Mary Ellen and Janet. All wearing gloves.)

No, really. I said Dump. Janet realized that perhaps the easiest and most appropriate material for the base structure for our piece was Fisherman's Rope... and there was plenty of that to be found at the dump! Unfortunately, the dump smelled absolutely terrible... and so did our new rope collection!

We let the rain and summer sun do most of the cleaning for us. Which actually worked really well...
We took stock of what we had collected by measuring each piece of rope...

Tagging them... and then, because we were all the same kind of nerdy...

Organizing them by color! How very satisfying... With that done, we were ready to start on the architecture.

After getting permission from Haystack's director, Stu, we decided to utilize an unused hexagonal platform as our installation site. The platform had originally been intended as an ampitheater of sorts but, by the time we got there, it was mostly being used as a cell phone station. We thought this might be a better use of the space.

Deb, ultimate fan of knots, looked up the perfect sailors knot to use. It was like macrame-ing a giant lobster pot.

We made sure to keep an entrance (exit?) so that viewers could experience it from the inside as well as the outside. (Also so that we could escape.) And then it was time to combine the knotted structure with the knitted pieces.

(Janet working on attatching my giant-sized version of the Nelly Feather and Fan scarf! Cheers, Nell!)

Utilizing every piece of knitting and stitching them onto the structure with mossy yarn until...

We had created a fully interactive, fully enclosed space. Participants could walk all the way around the fuzzy structure or enter through the door. We all felt it was necessary for the piece to be open and interactive, so we placed a log-seat on the inside and provided giant knitting needles and yarn.

We decided to call the piece I Am From which was the title of a writing excercize we used during the brainstorm and design process. I Am From meant something different to everyone of us that worked on it, but it also represented teamwork. In the face of all the odds- differing opinions, technical logistics and the ever present battle against time- we managed to create something monumental. We surmounted all the obstacles that come with working in a group and created something that we could all revel in. It came from all places: home and away. It was lovely.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Haystack '09: Part 1

(*Note: Ok, in the interest of keeping blog entries down to a reasonably digestible size, I've decided to cover Haystack in two entries; dedicating an entire entry to the class itself. So... consider this part 1!)

On top of all the other incredible experiences I got to have this summer, the season culminated with a session at Haystack Mountain School of Craft which was, as repetitive as it's starting to sound, totally amazing. Two more weeks of new friends, delicious food and astounding artwork. OH man... and the scenery!

(View from the dining hall.)

Haystack is located on the coast of Deer Isle, Maine; one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Driving there was so crazy because I started on 95 and the roads just kept getting smaller and smaller. At one point on a two-lane highway some where in the middle of Maine I passed a nut store with a giant wooden squirrel outside it. (I'm not kidding- that thing had to be at least 15ft tall...)

Because the campus is actually on a island, you have to cross 2 causeways to get there: tiny roads with water on either side. Some days the water was right up next to the pavement and the next time you'd drive by it would be so far out that you couldn't even see it. Tides are awesome.

(So is fog!)

The campus itself is composed of absolutely stunning structures. The architect designed the buildings to have as little contact with the ground as possible, so as to allow as much natural wildife as would be found an undisturbed mountainside. Which translates to an interconnected collection of dorms and classrooms that feel like they are constantly floating just above solid ground: like a New England clapboard treehouse!

(View of the dining hall from the deck of the textiles studio.)

(There were more kinds of lichen than I had ever encountered in my life! They grew everywhere- even between the floor boards.)

(Crazy stairs! Turn around for a view of the ocean...)

(Just to the right of the peninsula and straight out to sea!)

(Especially magical at nighttime: the view from outside my dorm.)

The weather was stunning. 75*- 80* during the day- warm enough to demand a daily ocean swim- and mid 40*'s at night! Perfect sleeping weather! Swimming in the ocean was freezing... most days I had to convince myself to get all the way in. But I was determined! I think I only missed 2 or 3 days out of the entire session!

(Myself and Clair at the beach.)

I could go on forever... but I'll try not to. Suffice it to say: fricken' gorgeous. And full of amazing people! Haystack is signifigantly smaller than Penland so the dynamic is a little different. Whereas I made a couple of instantly close and lasting friends at Penland, I met a ton of different people a little bit less intensely well at Haystack. Which isn't to say that I didn't come away with some (hopefully) life-long penpals and art buddies... but I felt like I met MORE people at Haystack even though there were only half as many than Penland.

(Elizabeth, book arts/pin hole photography; Anna, enameling; Joanna, knitting; Sin Nae, enameling. Ice cream on a day trip to.. uhmm... Stonigton? Some tiny Maine sea town on Deer Isle.)

(Joanna again, Jeanne and Brece: all knitting.)

(Anna, myself and Colin, husband of Janet Morton and publically elected Mayor of Haystack. Yes, I am apparently singing into a beer. ps: thanks to whoever took this photo! It is awesome.)

Although I was scholarship student, as a TA, I was lucky enough to not have to work in the kitchen or do other work study jobs. Which meant that I got to spend a little bit more time with the members of my own class.

(The whole knitting class: this photo will make infinitely more sense once you see the artwork, I promise!)

Other fun stuff we did that wasn't class related:

Went to Nervous Nellie's Jams and Jellies: the totally bizarre (but tasty!) curio and jam shop down the road from campus.

(Sin Nae and Elizabeth.)
Lobster Picnic on the rocks by the ocean!

Hot Shop Dance Parties!

Totally undescribably amazing. But the art will knock you dead. So stay tuned!