24 May 2010

VIDEO: Portrait Series of Vincent Van Gogh

Image source

Vincent Van Gogh Dutch Artist 1853-1890
"Self Portraits" by Philip Scott Johnson

20 May 2010

COOL BOOK(S): Two Vintage Sewing Machine Manuals

In an earlier post I waxed poetic about the acquisition of two early 20th-century treadle sewing machines and the tender disassembling of the cabinet for one.  I am always impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship of these older machines.  This same respect for machinery (the cutting edge technology of its day) is manifested in the instruction manuals published for the buyers.  

I was able to track down manuals for both my Wheeler and Wilson and Singer machines.  One is a scan of the original.  The other is a re-creation by the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  What makes these 'cool books' is the craftsmanship of the illustrations and the detailed information provided. 

(The Singer manual is a little less cool, however, as only the engraved images are retained.  The typeface and original page layout are missing.  Still eminently serviceable in terms of use; just lacking a certain je ne sais quoi.)


The Wheeler and Wilson Manual was bought from the folks at RELICS. 
The Singer Manual was a free download from the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

19 May 2010

VIDEO: Jane Eyre written by a T-Rex?

How more perfect could this be?  My love of 19th-century British literature combined with dinosaur toys (with a social message to boot!). Awesomeness cubed.

YouTube description: "By Phil Lord and Chris MillerThis was a fake commercial we made in 1998 for a series of educational shorts about action figures based on historical figures. Its educational value was somewhat suspect. It was never aired."

17 May 2010

VIDEO: The Typewriter in Performance and Art

News to me is that the typewriter is a percussion instrument!  Came across the following on YouTube.

"Viennese Percussionist Martin Breinschmid with his version of the "Typewriter" Live at the BASF concert hall Ludwigshafen, Germany 2008, Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna"

And then there is The Boston Typewriter Orchestra

The orchestra's website is here.

The tyewriter has also been used to create images (think ASCII Art).  Here is an 11 minute visual documentary about typewriter artist Paul Smith.

[YouTube description]: "Paul Smith, born in 1921 with severe spastic cerebral palsy, learned to use a standard typewriter to create beautiful pictures that from a distance resemble fine pencil or pastel drawings. Paul died in Roseburg, Oregon in 2007."

15 May 2010

Postcards from the Captain: To The Snorgal Clutch

My brother and I often exchanged fictional postcards.  The summer of 1983, while vacationing out west, he sent me a series of very entertaining items.  I'll post them here periodically.  Here's the first one.

Transcription:  Well, I'll admit it.  I haven't quite got the day and night thing totally in sync here.  It's really a pain to slowly blend them together so I always get that damned rainbow effect.  You got any ideas?  Pluter

10 May 2010

OverHeard OverSeen OverRead

The occasional overheard remark is like a story untold.  Taken out of context - and placed into a context all its own -- one can imagine whole adventures, distinctive people, heretofore unseen places.  The following are a miscellaney of comments I've noted online. 


I will be away around 2/3 weeks
in a seaweed collecting trip.


All animal bone and insect designs
are created with either found objects
or captive raised "farmed" insects.

It’s like I’m finally growing up!
But not really
because I still feel 
 like a 16 year old.
I am going to hang on to that for
as long as I can though.
Not those crappy 16 year olds
that drive like crap and thinks it’s cool
to cuss loudly in public.
One of the cool ones
that likes to play games
and stay up really late.
One of the good ones


"If television's a babysitter,
the Internet is a drunk librarian
who won't shut up."

Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl Volume I)  


"You are a spider": that is a sentence
no proud man wants to hear.


I doubt that the imagination can be suppressed.
If you truly eradicated it in a child,
he would grow up to be an eggplant.

Ursula K. Le Guin


08 May 2010

SENT OUT: Silly & Fictional Postcards

My nephews and I enjoy dinosaurs.  Sent these modified items to them recently.

I also enjoy sending out "imaginary postcards" - cards from fictional people describing their fictional lives.  These were inspired by an item written by Anne Herbert in 1978 about the Amanda Madison Memorial Nonsense BoxAmanda's notes weren't all made up, but most of mine are.

Here's something I sent to friends in Austria.  The postcard image is from a 1959 comic book episode titled The Fantastic Typewriter.  The author/typist is startled to see a horde of barbarians coming his way.  He shouts out: "GREAT SCOTT! THE CREATURES OF MY IMAGINATION HAVE COME TO LIFE!!" 

07 May 2010

How It's Unmade

I'm a big fan of the Science Channel's program How It's Made. When the network recently staged an all-weekend marathon of episodes, I was ecstatic. Of course the quality of individual shows varies. It's very cool to see puffy orange Cheetos or wooden hurling sticks or wax coloring crayons made from their very beginning components. (It's another thing altogether when the episode guide touts something elaborate like all-terrain vehicles or London taxi cabs and the opening narration says something like "first the worker bolts down the chassis." Hey! No fair!! How did that chassis get made?)

I like making and I like to own things that were made with a sense of craftsmanship and pride. I like the history that imbues them -- the hands that made them, the hands that used them. I am especially keen on things that were designed to make other things. Such as wooden spoons - I have two large ceramic jars of wooden cooking and baking utensils (the one jar is actually the pottery pitcher my grandmother used for serving up lemonade back on the farm).

My favorite breadmaking bowl comes from the folks at Clay City Pottery. And while the blue bowl I use for almost all the rest of my baking comes from Dansk, I am rather fond of it because it came from the factory remainders and isn't quite round. Someone mis-set it when it was made or fired.

I especially like typewriters and sewing machines -- and own three of each. The story of the typewriters I wrote of earlier here. The sewing machines in my life have been many; they come and go. I learned to sew on my grandmother's Singer treadle machine. Its legs and wide foot pedal were made of cast iron and it hummed loudly when I sewed. Working it as a young girl, I felt strong and powerful. Later, I used my mother's electric cabinet-Singer. Since then, I've owned or borrowed a small stable of household and industrial machines.

Recently my cousin gave me her mother's early 20th-century Wheeler and Wilson treadle machine. It's in glorious condition though decidedly unglamorous, lacking the brighter-colored decorative decals these machines often wear. The machinery runs smoothly and the oak and oak veneer cabinet are still in reasonable shape.

More recently, I came by a 1910 Singer treadle, a slightly fancier version of the machine I first learned on. It looks good but it hasn't been used in awhile, so the mechanisms feel gummy and uncertain. And the cabinet, of a somewhat spartan design and finished mahogany wood I think, was broken and worn in many places.

I knew I could not keep them both and yet the Singer machine was well-built and could be restored. In the end, I decided to keep the machine head to switch out with the other as needed and decommission its cabinet. That's how I spent the afternoon today.

I removed the machine head and turned the cabinet upside down onto its top. Screw by screw, nail by nail, and piece by piece I disassembled her. It felt strange and precious to be doing it. At one time each of these many screws had been placed by someone's hand. The funny-looking, pinhead-topped nails had been gently tapped into place to hold the narrow wooden strips along side the drawers. The top edges of the wooden drawers were smooth from wear and the open-hinged top piece was worn at the place where the seamstress' wrist rested as she ran her fabric under the needle.

The machine was nearly 100 years old. The person who I got it from spoke of both his mother-in-law and her mother using it. As I slowly removed the different pieces the notion came to my mind that it was like washing the dead. It's a service to do so; one honors the time and duties that person gave while living. So I felt with the treadle machine. She had served; she had made; she was used by many in making for many. A century she lived, will live on as I continue to use her in makings of my own.

I did save the iron base to use to make a table and some of the metal piecings for repurposing: four copper hinges; the heavy iron spring mechanism that held the machine head in place, two narrow; heavy metal bits that held a missing front drawer; and four flat pieces of shaped metal that braced the wooden drawers against the cast iron base. The bits and the flats are oddly shaped. They will, I thought, work well as pendants for jewelry. As soon as I thought that, the personality of this cabinet made one final sigh. Words from a book I'd read came to mind:

"Fair she was who long ago
wore this on her shoulder.
Goldberry shall wear it now
and we will not forget her."

The Fellowship of the Ring. J.R.R. Tolkien. (1954)

06 May 2010

ARTIST: Got Beach?

A 10 min Short Film on the iconic Christchurch artist Peter Donnelly who has etched and raked over 700 works into the New Brighton sands.

05 May 2010

The Lady Has a Point

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."

— Mae West

03 May 2010

Jump Jump Jump

In a previous post I talked about the occasionally oddness that turns up when one clicks on the Next Blog feature of Blogger.  Just for fun, I went blog hopping from this blog.  Here's where I went.

Un fià de mar - a lovely series of well-composed photos.

la fiebrE y la tortugA ("the restless turtle")
A stream of consciousness journal.

 A blog that stopped in November 2009 with a post that describes how
the father of the family killed a 12-point deer that smelled bad.

A collection of miscelleaneous photos with no commentary and
a list of the blogger's other online presences:
"My Blog, My Twitter, My Face, My Space, My Yelp, My Karma."

A blog that won't let me in: "This blog is open to invited readers only." 
With the words hornydog in the blog name, it's just as well.

The blog for a small business of the same name run by a woman in
Leeds, United Kingdom who loves crafting with textiles. 

A San Francisco artist who, as he notes, "does Live paintings,
illustrations, sculpture, Lo-fi book publishing and much more."

The occasional blog of a Singapore software engineer. 
One post describes the day he and his mother went to look for
the grave of his older brother who died young.

Blog of poet and artist Matina Stamatakis. 
In her profile, the random question from Blogger and her answer:
"What did you dream when you ate a spider while sleeping?
That in some horrible twist of fate/the spider in turn ate me."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

01 May 2010

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