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Flat Balloons and Takayama’s Dog Project

July 21, 2010

I’ve always had this dream of creating an art installation in a public space, specifically using recycled materials. I wanted to show the versatility and durability of many of the things we throw away, like newspaper or cardboard. This dream nearly became a reality when I attempted to make 1,000 origami balloons out of newspaper, and planned to place them in random spots all over New York City.

Unfortunately, making 1,000 origami balloons takes a really long time, and I was never able to complete this project. Nonetheless, see the video below that I made to show people how to create their own origami balloon (please note that the blog URL in the end credits is now defunct).

As seen on the fantastic DudeCraft blog, the artist Akane Takayama had a similar dream. Merging art education with art installation, she recruited local students to make 1,000 recycled cardboard dogs, then place them in various London parks. The students are then able to take them home, and are encouraged to photograph their new “pets” in their new environment.

Sounds weird?

I think it’s an awesome way of teaching the universal nature of art; that it doesn’t need to exist within a gallery space or in some affluent person’s home. It also shows the room for creativity lying within things we quickly discard.

What would you think if you saw these dogs? Would the materials used still be seen in the same context of unusable trash? How does the change in shape alter the purpose of these materials?

Seeing this, I just may do my origami balloon project after all ;)

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Hat Monster

July 20, 2010

I spent this past weekend crocheting a new hat. It’s super-long and textured, and was a bit of a surprise as it was not exactly what I originally intended to make. But I like surprises:) For this hat, used a basic half double crochet stitch, with a few super-easy stitch variations.

I used one my favorite, big hooks, size 11.5 mm (US P-15). Whenever I want to make a really quick hat in under a few hours, this is the hook I turn to. I also picked up a paprika-colored skein of cotton yarn, made by Lion Brand.

The initial steps for a simple hat are the same as making any round. The only thing that varies is the number of initial chain stitches you make. This varies according to your gauge, if using a pattern, but since I don’t really follow patterns, I usually just go with what seems right:

  1. For this hat, make a slip stitch and chain 7 (six or seven chains is what I do for most of my hats).
  2. Connect your first stitch made with your last one with a slip stitch.
  3. Chain 2

To make your initial circle wider, you must do a series of increases in each row. Take a look at this tutorial for help on increasing a round in crochet.

Increase your round until it is a little wider than the top of your head. Once you do that, you can then begin to form the sides of your hat. To do this, simply create basic rows of stitches without increasing (one stitch in each chain). Continue this until you reach the length you like. To finish, I like to crochet two rows of single stitches, then tie off and weave in the ends with an embroidery needle.

While you can create a basic hat with the instructions above, there are two very easy variations to the standard half double crochet stitch that can add some interesting texture to your hat.

Add a nice ribbed effect by making a stitch only in the back loops of the previous row.

You could also create more dramatic texture by crocheting in the post (or body) of the stitches within the previous row.

For more help, check out this great tutorial on the anatomy of a crochet stitch by Stitch Diva Studios.

I did these two variations on my hat, then joined the ribbed rows with a single stitch and went over the rows in the post with the same stitch. When it is not completely covering my face, it makes for a pretty cool-looking hat :) It looks a bit like a crocheted turban, no?

Inspiration: African Designs from Traditional Sources

July 16, 2010

I found this book at a library sale a few years ago. It is a collection of over 300 African designs, sourced from items like bracelets, masks, combs, and cloth prints. The author, Geoffrey Williams reproduced them using linocut prints, a technique that involves carving through linoleum to create a type of stamp.

I love African art. It is as emotionally stirring as the rhythmic, percussive music found there. What do you think of these works? How are they different from present-day, “modern” art?

Inspiration: Guerra De La Paz

July 14, 2010

Guerra De La Paz - "Tribute" (2002)

I was surfing on the amazing Booooooom blog (yes, with that many O’s) when I spotted this artist’s amazing work.

I absolutely love excessive yet tasteful uses of the same material in art, especially when there’s bright color involved. His work is so powerful, yet with clear messages and much room for interpretation. What do you think he is trying to say?

"Six Thai Trannies" 2008

"Overflow" (2002)

Here is more of his work, in a dramatically different tone:

"Crawl" (2003)

"Little Atlas" (2008)

I love how he gives so much character to the uniforms above. My mind immediately associates them with a specific personality of a young soldier, with distressed or despaired emotions, and in a specific setting of war. How would a different uniform (i.e. a police uniform or doctor scrubs) make the inferences of the work different?

For more, visit his website.

Restore My Blisses

July 11, 2010

Necklace available at Uchenna.etsy.com

I finally finished my newest necklace, made with a broken crochet hook:

I’m not quite sure how this happened. All I know is that in the middle of a stitch, it sort of bent in a weird way, and when I tried to straighten it, it snapped :( I’m surprised that I was able to finish this at all, but very glad I did.

This necklace is made of recycled wooden beads found on a thrifted seat cushion (see my first wooden bead necklace here). That one seat cushion contained hundreds of beads, which allows me to make more of these type of necklaces in a variety of sizes. I used thin, cotton yarn and found a metallic clasp hidden in my sewing box for the closure.

Taking the pictures for my shop and blog is always a challenge because since I don’t have a backyard (I live in an apartment), I have to go to a public park with my tripod and small, digital camera and take photos. It’s a little embarrassing, but I haven’t experienced any problems yet :) Luckily, I live in a family-friendly area, so people usually stick to their own affairs, save for the occasional quizzical glance.

I’m steadily growing comfortable being known as that guy in the neighborhood who takes random photos of himself, crochets on the subway, wears all types of strange clothes and sings really loud in his apartment. It simply comes with the territory of being me, and I’m o.k. with that :)

This necklace and more is now available in my Etsy Shop!

Simple Foods, Simple Life

July 10, 2010

A peach and water with lemon

Sauteed peppers, spinach and onions, with sesame seeds and other spices.

Sauteed eggplant, peppers, onions and spinach, with sesame seeds, lemon juice, etc.

It’s all too simple: exercise regularly, eat fruits and vegetables, don’t stress out and laugh a lot. This is the key to a healthy life, right? It’s amazing how the simplest ideas can be so difficult to actualize consistently. I am on a never-ending quest to de-clutter, de-stress and be healthy. Societal pressures, internal pressures, family pressures etcetera etcetera all contribute to the challenge in achieving this, but I’m learning to take it day-by-day, one meal, one push-up, one deep breath and one joke at a time.

There’s A Hole In My T-Shirt!

July 9, 2010

One of the challenges of being an avid bargain shopper is that you develop a skewed sense of value. When virtually everything you buy is $20 or less, you find it outrageous that products in high-end or name-brand stores are anything higher, especially considering that many amazing, thrifted finds are no lower in quality.

And when creativity strikes, and you have the sudden urge to rip up, shred and alter your entire wardrobe (or does this just happen to me?), the avid thrifter thinks that everything is fair game, even the high-priced stuff. This urge came to me this morning and, with a nice, name-brand t-shirt in tow, I happily began to indulge in it.

The shirt is from Diesel and admittedly, as a former employee, I didn’t pay a dime for it. Still, its store price was rather expensive, much higher than $20. What better way to recycle an old uniform than to restyle it?

In a past post for my weekly men’s fashion series on the Goodwill Ny/Nj blog, I took a thrifted tank top, punched a few holes and made a few tears to give it some nice, grunge appeal. I gave my Diesel tee the same treatment.

My tools of choice were an awl and my kitchen cutting board. An awl is primarily used for bookbinding¬† to puncture holes in stacks of paper, but I discovered it was perfect for creating nice-sized holes in my shirt. I used the cutting board so I wouldn’t mark up my kitchen counter.

This is an incredibly easy project. I turned my shirt inside out, and punctured holes inside the pattern on it. If you don’t have an awl, I’m sure a pencil would work just fine. You could also use a blunt needle, then stretch the fabric while the needle is through it to create a bigger hole. I did this technique with my awl to create random, bigger holes throughout.

I also decided to distress it further by stretching out the collar, making a few larger holes then hand-stitching them up for a bit of texture, then removing the sleeve hems and sewing an uneven straight stitch around the edges.

And voila! A beautifully distressed and wonderfully ravaged t-shirt :)

I paired it with a thrifted belt, pants I bought on sale at H&M,¬† a huge, thrifted bag (I call it my ‘carpet bag’), and my favorite green shoes from Sebago.

Seeing these results, I’m ready to ruin another perfectly good t-shirt. What are some other ways you would distress a tee? I’d love to know :)