Monday, December 27, 2010

Easy Messenger Bag Class at Lill St.

Hi everyone! Nora here; hoping you all had a lovely and relaxing holiday weekend!

Last week marked the end of my first Easy Messenger Bag class, with great success! Even though the class was only three weeks long, the students made some beautiful bags:

Mitzi opted for an upholstery weight flap with a satin exterior and matching fabric handle.

Inside, she has a large pocket on the front and a smaller pocket on the bag. So handy!

Jill got creative with her exterior pockets: each one sized for specific objects and closed with velcro. Her bag is made of corduroy and cotton with a web strap. Beautiful and functional!

I am thinking about proposing an advanced messenger bag class. It would cover basic construction as well as zippers, zip pockets, more velcro, buckles and adjustable straps. Would you guys be interested in that? If you, let me know in the comments or give the Lill St Front Desk a call. Bags from that class might look a little something like this:

(You know you want to make one...)

In the meantime: don't forget to sign up for my Sew Your Own Hooded Sweatshirt class! We'll be learning how to design, pattern and sew your very own hoodie. 'Tis the season for warm layers! See you all there!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sometimes When I'm Down...

Sometimes life can get pretty rough. I've been a bit mopey lately what with the no job and the therefor having no money thing. But when I get down... there are a few things that I KNOW will make me feel better about the world. And one of them? Is wearing this sweater:

(Ripley also clearly loves this sweater!)

Other places to wear this sweater that make excellent disco sparkles?

The truck!
The studio!
In public!
The movies!

Oh, the list goes on and on.... Thanks, Salvation Army! And thanks to you, sparkly sweater of glory!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Was Better On The Hellmouth

We watch a lot of tv here in The Burrow and the fortuitous mash up of this past weeks tv lineup had some enlightening comparisons. So, if you'd allow a little ranting from this angry nerd I'd like to take a moment to juxtapose two of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Glee, and how they dealt with similar issues across the span of 12 years. In fact- there was a single episode of each show that so strikingly mirrored the other that I was PHYSICALLY UNABLE to not rant. (The episodes in question are Buffy's 2nd season's Phases and Glee's 2nd season's Never Been Kissed. *** SPOILER ALERT FOR BOTH SHOWS!***)

I'm not an academic but I am a queer person who loves pop culture and has been wishing and hoping for a show that has as many gay themes as Glee has. I was ecstatic with Kurt's first season coming out episode- especially with the way they are writing his father. As the second season progresses, however, I seem to find myself getting angrier and angrier after each episode.

But somehow I never leave Buffy feeling the same sense of betrayal and disappointment. Let's take a look at the episodes in question and the themes they share.

1.) Closeted Gay Bullies

Both shows feature bullies who, it turns out, are only acting out aggressively to cover their own closeted homosexuality. Both bullies eventually get confronted and end up outing themselves in different ways. Let's take a look:

(Yup, folks, that's a Thumbs Up.)

(Rape Kisssss!!!!! Not Okay!!!!)

Buffy's bully pulls this 24hr 180. The next time we see him he's picking up a girl's dropped schoolbooks and thanking Xander for helping him come to terms with the truth. Ok, so Xander's homophobia is kind of an issue but over all the episode has a positive message. Glee's bully freaks the fuck out, violates poor Kurt and continues being a jerk. Awesome.

2.) Inappropriate Kissing and How to Handle It

Willow wants to kiss Oz- secretly to make Xander jealous- but when she comes on to Oz, he turns her down. Articulately. In Glee? Neither Kurt or coach Beist has been kissed by someone they like. When they confide in Blaine and Mr. Schu respectively, the characters get different responses.

(Willow's face reads: "Wow, I'm so impressed with your able to articulate your feelings."*)

(Kurt's face reads: "Damnit, Blaine, I don't want a sandwich, you jerk. I want you to kiss me already.")

(Mr. Schu's face reads: "I'm gonna have to kiss this woman in order to keep her from quitting and leaving me terribly guilt ridden.")

Oz tells Willow that he wants their first kiss to be perfect- and he says it in a way that diffuses the situation and makes her feel wanted. I think Glee's images speak for themselves.

(*Okay, technically this scene is from the episode "Innocence" but still.)

3.) The Fight for Feminine Identity/Strength

Each show also highlights a female character who's femininity/strength is questioned. Glee's butch football coach, Beist, is made into an anti-sex symbol while Buffy is confronted by an uber-masculine hunter who vocally doubts her ability to defeat a roaming werewolf. (Yeah, the shows are a little different- but the comparisons hold!)

(Buffy beats the hunter's evil shotgun. Superman style.)

(Beist get's a hug. All better!)

After safely capturing the werewolf and proving her abilities, Buffy even gets a chance to show off her strength. Beist gets her femininity (and her JOB) handed back to her by an uncomfortably awkward Mr. Schu and a handful of jacket-clad, pop singing and dancing highschool boys. Uuuuuugh.

In the midst of the "It Get's Better Movement" we are calling on pop culture to help us provide queer youth with alternative images of sexuality and to give them hope for the future. But tv is not getting better. From what we have seen here, it's getting worse. We are too rushed to acclaim anything gay on tv that we often miss what's really going on. Yes, we have more gay characters on television than were available in Buffy's hayday. We had Ellen, we had Will and Grace and yes, we have Kurt. BUT- We need to be having new conversations- not worse and less nuanced versions of the conversations we were having more than 10 years ago. Was the Hellmouth in 1999 really that much better than Ohio is in 2010? Ouch.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

10 Things You Can't Sew Without!

Hi Friends! Here's another blog post I did for the Lill St Textiles blog last week. Enjoy!

* * * * *

There are a few things that, obviously, you can't sew without: fabric, a sewing machine, thread... But there are a few other tools and tricks that make a home sewing studio oh so much more functional. Here are my top 10 (additional) things you can't sew without:

1. Scissors

I have three pairs of scissors: Fabric Scissors, Craft/Paper scissors and snips. It might seem excessive to have so many but... I promise you, they're each useful for different actions.

2. Rulers/ Measuring Tools

Measuring tape: good for measuring the body and fabric that is longer than a normal ruler. Great for measuring anything flexible! Tailors ruler: good to keep by your sewing machine to measure small things like seam allowance. Large clear plastic ruler: Awesome for measuring on a grid and marking with a straight edge.

3. Self Healing Mat/ Rotary Blade
If you're ever sewing anything with straight edges, it's worth investing in one of these! Protects your tables and helps measure your fabric!

4. Fabric Markers
Pencils, Tailors Chalk, Marks-B-Gone... anything that let's you mark up your project in a non-permanent way.

5. Iron/Water
You can't sew without an iron and you can't iron without water!! Irons make everything you're working on look more professional and behave better.

6. Pins/ Needles

Lots of pins. I prefer the "quilting pin" (long body with a yellow plastic top) because they are super long and easy to grip. But any sewing pins will do. I also highly suggest keeping some hand needles around for detail or basting emergencies.

7. Seam Ripper

ESSENTIAL! Being able to take out seams and sew them again takes a lot of the unnecessary stress out of sewing.

8. Sketchbook/ Drawing Tools

Taking notes, drawing plans, remembering ideas for future projects.... Having a sketchbook handy is always a good idea.

9. Q-Tips
Cleaning your machine on a regular basis will help keep it running smoothly. Q-tips are the perfect tool for getting into those dusty little spaces behind your bobbin case, etc.

10. Music!
Because having fun in the studio is the most important part!

* * * * *

Ok, so I wanted to keep the entry (fairly) short but the last two things I would suggest having in a studio are:

Extra Bobbins (keep them filled with standard colors for quick thread changes!)

Hand Sewing Needles (great for basting, finishing and tricky spots!)

Yay! Hope you all enjoyed my rambling... more housekeeping stuff on it's way, I promise!

(ps. also love how sometimes blogger only lets me type in italics. You really want me to mean this stuff, don't you, blogger? Grrrrrowl.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Squiddy Squid vs. Sharky Shark

(This is a repost of a blog entry I did for the Lill St Textiles blog! Which you should probably read because the faculty members there are all awesome! Anyway- enjoy!)

* * * * * *

Halloween is right around the corner and, it being the high holy days of our home studio (The Burrow), my roommate and I have been hard at work creating our costumes!

I decided to multi-task and also prep for my upcoming Hoodie Class (look for it in the Early Winter schedule- available soon!), so the costumes are based on a basic pattern for a hooded sweatshirt. Loosely based:

Lucy's going to be a squid!

(People seem to really like how it turned out. Check out the squid costume on the web! On BoingBoing, Super Punch, and Lucy's flickr stream.)

I am going to be a Hammerhead Shark! My costume is based on the same sweatshirt pattern: with a few alterations...


Oh man- these costumes are so cozy to wear! They're basically a hybrid between comfy sweatshirts and giant stuffed animals!

Sewing is awesome. Are any of you working on stellar halloween costumes? Let's see 'em!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Reflectivity is Magic!

New Products Up On My Etsy!

In what little time I've had in the studio I've been playing around with new designs and materials. Even though my sewing machine is less than stellar, having my own print table and the ability to burn screens at almost a moment's notice has changed the way I design bags. My newest material muse?


Ohmygoodness it is so satisfying. Check out these new bag designs!

Bike Spoke Hip Zip

The hip zips are similar to my past hip zip designs but the front pocket is made of the reflective fabric... making the bag not only beautiful and functional but a safety device, too!

Fish Scale Hip Zip

The hang on your belt. They can be worn as a wristlet, they hold everything you need for a night on the town.

And, gosh-darnit, they just so pretty!

I even have a new shape: a cell phone case that hangs on your belt and is only big enough for your phone, id, credit card and a few bucks cash. Super streamline!

With my (unbelievably expensive) application to the Renegade Craft Fair officially filed, the next two months are going to be a balancing act between money making and crafting. (Not to mention trying to have a social life or making capital-A Art! And seriously?! When will I have time to finish Battlestar Gallactica?!) But I have to admit... I kind of love this kind of pressure.

Wish me luck! And buy my stuff so I can afford to make more of it!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Time Sewing at Lill St Art Center

This week I taught my first class at Lill St Art Center here in Chicago! Aptly enough, the class I'm starting with is first time sewing. The class went GREAT! I have amazing and dedicated students and I can't wait to see what they make throughout the five weeks of our class. No pictures yet, but for now:

(Thanks to Johanna for the image! When are we getting t-shirts?)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Renegade Season in Chicago

This past weekend was Chicago's Summer Renegade Craft Fair! As opposed to the winter fair, at which Lucy and I shared a booth, the summer fair is out-doors. And even though the weather here has been beyond gorgeous and fall like all week, Sunday was determined to be the hottest day known to humans. Despite being sweaty messes, we had a blast- and dropped a fair chunk of change. Seriously, though? Between the heat and the hordes of beer drinking customers, Lucy and I didn't really envy the merchants.

I only walked away with one purchase, but I WANTED to walk away with a lot more! Here are some highlights from from the veritable stack of business cards that came home in my pocket:

1. Handbag with amazing front pockets! By Cut Out And Collect

That's right: those front pockets are like skirt pockets- fully lined, baby!

2. Adorable Charm Necklaces by Michelle Hartney.

3. Skull Dip Bowl by No Tengo Miedo Clay.

(For the Murder Credenza, clearly.)

4. Embroidered Cards by Despina Papadeas.

(An excellent sentiment.)

5. Stitched leather wallets by Robbie Moto.

A friend once told me that she would never vote for a political candidate who hadn't personally shaken her hand. At the time, the notion seemed a little impractical. But it stuck with me and I slowly started thinking that way about things other than politics. There is a lot of stuff in the world and we, as consumers, are so often disconnected from the makers and the designers and, really, any part of the process. Being able to meet and talk to so many prolific artists/designers/craftspeople at an event like the Renegade Craft Fair allowed me to feel connected what I was buying. And I like that.

In a lot of ways I am extremely intimidated by the Indie-craft movement and it would have been very possible to be completely knocked-out by Renegade: there is JUST SO MUCH STUFF. (Not to mention that a lot of it looks really similar...) As a craftsperson trying to make it out there in the carnivorous world, how am I supposed to carve out a place for myself? Should I make objects that are just like everyone else's because the imagery will be automatically popular? Or should I gamble on going in a different direction? Finding a balance between the two has been an elusive task over the past few years.

But instead of coming home, drinking straight from the bottle of Kraken and despair... this year I decided to be energized by the crazy hoards and the boatloads of owls and squids and pennant flags. So, in the words of Voldemort from the Harry Potter Musical,

"Look out world, I'm gonna getcha."

Right after I take a 4 day nap.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Burrow Studio Blog!

That's right, friends... The Burrow Studio- my home sweet home and studio sweet studio- officially has it's own blog. Which will, undoubtedly, be equally if not more awesome than this here blog because it combines the incredible artistic powers of one comic genius Lucy Knisely and my humble self. And guess what! We're gonna update it every sunday! Which is only a couple days away! You should probably go there right now and catch up what you've already missed. (Be sure to click on the links... the photos and comics are SO worth it.)

Sudio Blog!

Go now and be amazed!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Queer Etsy Street Team!

So, apparently the etsy community is a complicated and uber-supportive network. Who knew? Not me! But now that I have nigh-on infinite time to peruse the interweb, I'm discovering all sorts of helpful sites.

Like the Queer Etsy Street Team!

"We are a mutually supportive community inclusive of all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed and Questioning etsy sellers. We're a global team and plan in future, as we grow, to organize regional and national events focused on queer art, crafts and entrepreneurship. We currently operate a team store funded by member donations. 100% of proceeds from our shop (less etsy and Paypal fees) are donated to various charities. If you're queer, here, and etsian, we want to meet you!"

How cool, right? I had to join.

The group has a group store (linked above), a yahoo group with almost constant chatter, and a great blog! This summer they have been doing a series of color themed challenges which focus a rainbow selection of products made by members. The most recent was the Green Challenge... so I contributed my Green Plaid Hip Zip!

(Hot model!)

You can buy any of the Green Challenge products at the Etsy Treasury here!

Very cool, internet... very cool.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Erstwhile Inspiration: from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

I've been thinking a lot about Claes Oldenburg this summer so I was delighted to find book of his sketches on Lucy's shelf. (One of the greatest thing about living with another artist is that I get to look through all of her awesome books!) The collection, put together in collaboration with his wife, Coosje Van Bruggen, is entirely sketches of food.

Banana Split, New York, 1987

And they're amazing! I guess it's unsurprising that he was so focused on food: so many of his sculptures ended up being edible objects. But what I loved about this book was that it not only gave me such clear insight into the sculptors' process but also into how he and Coosje sourced their inspiration.

Apple Core, New York, 1988

Apple Core, (1990) at the Israel Museum of Art, Jerusalem.

At the end of the book there's this very sweet bit of writing by Claes: "Coosje and I have spent thirty years hardly ever apart, operating together as one imagination on whatever comes into view." He goes on to reveal that the reason they started sketching food was that Coosje developed food allergies: "What had been a pleasurable activity became a dangerous one." Unable or unwilling to give up the joys of food, however, Coosje suggested a "displacement of the senses- that which could not be eaten could be consumed by the eyes."

I, too, have been battling with my relationship to food. After years of constant stomach aches, my doctor suggested I stop eating gluten. I wept for the loss of bagels in my life... but I did it (mostly). A year and a half later, I returned to the doctor only to be told that- partially because I had stopped eating wheat- I had developed extreme iron-deficient anemia. So now my food choices are this crazy balancing act: how much gluten have I had today? Am I gonna feel like crap? Was it worth it? Will refusing to eat the bread/pasta/beer at this potluck make me feel too awkward and needy? What happens over time when you have to weigh every eating decision- run it through a rubric of qualifiers- is that eating stops being fun. It takes on this monumentality that is, ironically, all consuming.

I have no way of knowing if Coosje had a similar feelings about her diet... but the knowledge of our shared experiences helps me to see these sculptures in a new way. The scale of the object becomes a metaphor for it's relationship to the human body- a relationship that is especially poignant when you consider that the human body is supposed to consume the food object.

Cake Slice with Cherries, Minneapolis, 1988

The sketches, as well as the sculptures, are without a doubt humorous and comical... but they are also a somewhat threatening: who exactly is in charge here? Is food's proper place in the world to be subjected by the human body? Or is the human body dependent upon food? The food becomes so large that it ends up taking on aspects of architecture.

Chateau Marmont as Caviar/Avocado Mousse, Los Angeles, 1991

From those sketches to the famous installations like this one:

Spoonbridge and Cherry, 1988
Stainless steel and aluminum painted with polyurethane enamel
29 ft. 6 in. x 51 ft. 6 in. x 13 ft. 6 in. (9 x 15.7 x 4.1 m)
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

As I am spending increasing amounts of time in my studio it becomes more and more important for me to gain insight into the inspirational processes of artists I like. Without the structure of academic education, it's becoming harder for me to find my path... to know what to make next and why. I find that my brain is swirling with ideas but none of them seem important enough to be worth following through on. I think it's good for me to see how other aspects of my life- like my relationship to food- are viable sources of artistic inspiration. Thanks, Claes and Coosje!

But most importantly- where's the giant sculpture of this guy??

Langoustine, Paris, 1990


Images a la Carte, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 2004.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Print Table Day!

Check one more thing off my list of things I'd have in my dream studio: Last week, Elisabeth helped my build my very own print table! So much yay!! Pray tell, how did we accomplish such a feat? Well I'll tell you.

Lucy and I had already prepared a table-like structure using a plank of wood measuring 2' x 5' and the build-them-yourself saw horses. A proper print table is slightly higher than a normal desk or eating table so that you don't have to ruin your back bending over while you print. Ours is about 36" high. Because the legs of the sawhorse are at a completely indeterminate angle (shhh) there was some complicated/fuzzy math that happened in Home Depot that completely baffled both ourselves and every single employee we tried to ask for help. (Why is it that everyone who works there seems to be dumb as posts? Maybe it's having to sell posts.) But we succeeded in the long run and scampered home with our wood.

I ordered enough carpet felt to cover the wood table top twice and when it finally arrived in the mail... we got to work!

Step one: trim corners of felt and stretch it around the wood. Secure with staple gun.

The lovely, talented and tireless Ms. Elisabeth Roskos!

Step two: repeat with second layer of felt!

An actual conversation I had with the woman who sold me the felt:
me: "do you know if the felt is made entirely of wool?"
her: "well... it's felt."
me: "right, but I was wondering what the felt was made of."
her: "felt. It's made of felt. Reconstituted, factory leftover felt."
me: "riiiight. Nevermind.

Step Three: Repeat with canvas! In this process, I learned a few things about canvas. Those canvas drop cloths they sell at Home Depot? NOT 100% canvas. We were about to start stretching it onto the table when I noticed a tag that read "warning: FLAMMABLE. Keep away from heat." And I was like hm... on of my favorite things to do on a print table is iron... which seems a bit dangerous if the table is covered in 43% polyester and coated in a flammable coating. Blast! Thank goodness I'd already ordered a bunch of natural 100% canvas for bags! On with the stretching!

Wonky corners. Don't worry, you can't really see them.

Then we placed the newly padded top onto the sawhorse legs! I am now the official owner of a fully functional print table!

That looks a little like an imperial walker.


These cocktails were called "the bee's knees!" They tasted just like summer. It was uncanny.

Out for a quick celebratory dinner at Lula... and then back to the studio, batman! We have printing to do!

I love pinning...

The first print:

Ok, so clearly I get a little nervous and carried away there what with the million passes... but yay! Happy First Print in the Burrow! Huzzah!

Now back to business...

Some seriously Nora-style printing. At least one of those Elisabeth took off her body to print.