Saturday, September 30, 2006

Built By You

Awwww, cute! Built By Wendy's new sewing pattern...

love that inset chest placard! niiiiiiiiiice.

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some thoughts on the C-magazine

I got my advance preview copy of "Craft" magazine (from the same publishers of "Make" magazine), and had a chance to look it over last night. I sort of have mixed thoughts on it, so I guess I'm sort of "reviewing" it in a way.

First off, kudos to the basic gender-neutral premise of the publication. Despite the fact that "craft" and its ilk are feminized in the media (and even when men do craft, it's still pointed out as some weird gender anomaly anyway). There are a good representation of guy contributors and non-fiber-oriented projects, which makes me feel relieved, really. I was dreading an overly "girly" publication that was sickeningly cloying or too cute. Overall, the look and feel of the mag is nice and it's not *too* cute. I found the articles interesting, as well as the spotlights and interviews with particular makers. That's always fun.

That said, I did have to wonder if I (or anyone else, for that matter) would really be interested in making a large-scale wall divider that looks like an oversized ant farm. Or make a giant cardboard catnip castle to hang on the wall for their cat (alright, I know there are a lot of kittie-lovers out there...maybe I'm wrong). Some projects were downright lame, and I don't want to call them out since it wouldn't serve anyone any good.

After reading it from back to front, I'm a bit confused about why Craft magazine is an actual physical magazine as opposed to just a blog. It feels like a printed version of, replete with a mix of wacky, innovative, and also lame projects to accomplish. It *does* have the addition of written articles (as opposed to just how-to projects), which distinguishes it from the free-form posting that happens on I generally like grab-bag magazines--they can be fun and the variety of things can tease the mind with possibilities. But I felt Craft magazine sort of sagged at various moments, and I wondered how the editors were choosing which projects to include.

The blurb that kind of disturbed me was the last paragraph of the intro article "Why Making Stuff is Fashionable Again." Author Jean Railla writes, "(I)ts hard to bemoan the popularity of crafting. What is "selling-out" if you only encourage creativity? Although books, kits, and TV shows can inspire you, at the end of the day, it's you and your craft supplies. The point of crafting is to be in touch with one of the things that make us human--our ability to make stuff. And if this spreads like organic honey on a hot stove, then I'm all for it."

I have a nagging feeling that craft is spreading less like organic honey and more like a melted NutraSweet packet stuck to the bottom of a shopping cart. And that's sort of related to a previous discussion on "Craft/Kraft" posted here about a week ago.

Despite my suspicions and nagging doubts, I want to follow what happens to Craft magazine. Writing this little observation may be oddly like shooting myself in the foot, since I have been approached to write a how-to for it on my Counterfeit Crochet Handbag Project and I do want to do it. My questions for the mag run something like this: what distinguishes you guys from ReadyMade magazine? Why didn't Make Magazine just expand to include this Craft content?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Anti-Factory RESTOCK: Fall Strikes Back!

'Tis done! almost twenty new items in the online store (whew!). Things are flying out the door pretty fast, but I'll probably also be putting a few new items in over the next few days, too, so keep checking in ;)

It's great to be back in the saddle--welcome back to all you repeat store visitors and supporters... i feel so lucky I get to do what I do, and it couldn't happen without you all (big group hug, please!) :D

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

item previews!

yowwee, it's been almost a month since i last put a bunch of new stuff into the store. The start of the school year meant less time for Anti-Factory, but I think things are starting to settle down a bit (ah, i say this now, before i start a new artist residency program and begin a new series of work, of course! famous last words!).

but in the spirit of newness, here's a sneak peak at what i'll be posting sometime tomorrow (monday) night :) do check back or email me at: stephanie (at) to get on my email announcement list...

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Saturday, September 23, 2006


It was so great to hear from folks who posted replies to my last entry on "survival skills" and the idea of archiving dying practices. I wish I had a chance to respond to every single one of you, but Blogger is totally lame in that it won't let me reply to individual posts, ack. But let me stress that it really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that (as valerie says) "there's something in the air"--or maybe the water, even, in terms of people feeling like they want to be proactive about "making" their own lives.

On a related note, hearing everyone's interest in picking up new skills, it definitely seems like there's a renaissance in the amount of online sites, books, and groups that are formed around the idea of contemporary crafting (, the upcoming CRAFT magazine launch, Readymade Mag, etc etc). I wonder, however, if it's just yet another nefarious attempt to market products at a growing market of consumers: buy this book and these types of materials (or a prepackaged kit) and learn how to make stuff. The chainstore Joann Fabrics is especially freaking me out by the fact that they seem to have exploded everywhere and now offer all the "correct" materials for creating "crafts". Don't get me even started on the whole scrapbooking phenomenon, which encourages people to make nostalgically-tinged family mementos using fragmented pre-fab stickers of text or sepia-toned images. I noticed a few years ago Target started their own scrapbooking aisle, with bits of patterned paper and miscellany that you rearrange to make your own "personalized" collage.

The word "craft" has such baggage attached to it. It's overly feminized and makes you think of "unimportant" stuff that women are supposed to do while the menfolk do the real work. The art college I teach at, The California College of Arts (CCA) changed their name from The California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) a few years ago to try to divorce themselves from the stigma associated with the big "C-word". I thought they should have been brave and kept the word, attempting to change the meaning of it as opposed to just dropping it entirely. Like, "we don't DO craft--we make ART."

I like what sites such as Extreme Craft, MicroRevolt, Knitta, Lisa Ann Auerbach, and Craftivism push--alternate visions of making that are based on tradition and craft but then purposefully go beyond the societal limitations posed on them. It's less about buying crap to make more crap, and more about the tenacity and envelope-pushing.

So here's my question to you all who may be interested in semantics like this one:

Does a new word have to be formed entirely to denote the creation of something that is not a "traditional" form of craft, but springs from it and relates to it directly? Like, what if it's called "Kraft" instead? Like how the term "Black" (capital B) was coined by the African-American community as a conscious political and social label, as opposed to the generic term "black".

Or do we revamp and embrace the word "craft," despite all the cutesy and insipid baggage that comes with it, and stay solidly under the same umbrella, asking the word to become more expansive?

I sort of think it would be hilarious to coin a new term (like Betsy Greer's term "crafitivism"), not to try to create divisions between disciplines, but to consciously state that a new direction is being attempted. Not to try to stigmatize or overthrow the validity of weavers, artisans, and other craft-ers, but to give folks a new term to think about and perhaps identify with more readily than just being a crafter. I'm beginning to get annoyed with the word craft, actually.

Just a last note: The one thing that the word "craft" has going for it as opposed to "art," and why I am so fascinated with it right now despite also having one foot firmly entrenched in the fine art world, is that I feel like craft is more deeply rooted in everyday experience and more accepted by society at large as not being threatening or "high-falluting." I like that it can slip under the radar and exist comfortably outside of gallery spaces and be perceived as nonthreatening. Labeling something as "art" automatically puts the thing on a pedestal and takes it out of an everyday and perhaps catalytic framework.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

skill database

Have you ever seen the movie Fahrenheit 451? I'd ask you if you've ever read the book, but alas, I was never required to do so in high school, but I did see the movie a few years ago.

Anyhow, remember when at the end each person had "embodied" a book--memorized a specific book to save the knowledge from dying since all books were burned? Folks were running away from the city and escaping to a woodsy place where they would spend all day reciting books to one another and passing on the words to the next generation.

It struck such a chord in me because I've been entertaining all these ideas about becoming a receptacle for "old world" skills. I've always been a maker in the sense of picking up various craft-like things in general. But also going to art school for sculpture for four years, you learn everything from woodworking to casting, moldmaking, welding, how to form plexiglass, rubbers, latex, concrete, sewing, basic electronics, how to frame a wall, etc. etc. etc. Basically, you learn how to MAKE stuff. All kinds of stuff. And it's totally liberating and exhilarating to begin to understand and become capable of making things that you previously only wondered about and felt mystified on where to even begin to build something like that.

So back to this "old world" skill thing: I've been wanting to become a receptacle for "dying art forms" (or even just obscure ones)--to try to learn things that fewer and fewer people seem to have the skills for. Like caning chairs, upholstering furniture, spinning wool (well, i know lots of people still do this, but hey!). I'm almost feeling a sort of survivalist streak in me when I think about this. So when the whole economic system collapses and we are left to our own devices and no one knows how to actually MAKE anything (or repair anything) anymore, I can pass along the practical and artisinal info that was useful in a bygone era and may yet be useful in the future.

I feel a new art project potentially bubbling to the surface about this. Wouldn't that be the craziest conceptual artwork--to spend the rest of my life absorbing arcane skills in order to be able to "archive" them and pass them along after some horrible thing has happened in the future? It sounds morbid but strangely fascinating. I've bought a few far-out hippie books from the 1970s on how to live off of the land, and it would be wild to jump "off the grid" in preparation for a future without electricity.

I like how crazy this sounds. People would think I'm nuts and abandoning a professional art practice. But behold! Little would they know it was a grand gesture of sorts, a laugh in the face of impending doom and apocalypse, a resuscitating kiss to the dying trade skills.

Pardon me, I'm just having a fun moment. Do you think I'm crazy?


PS--on a completely non-apocalypse-and-doom-craft note, I am completely addicted to lychee martinis. After paying big $$ for them in "asian fusion" restaurants, I have managed to figure out how to accomplish the homemade-and-cheap kind...


--1 shot nice gin (we like *at least* beefeater, preferrably something nicer, but we knows you may be on a budget. and i guess you can do it with vodka if you prefer your martinis that way)
--1/2 shot of lychee syrup (buy a can of lychees in syrup, about $1 at Asian grocery stores)
--2 lychees from said can

Pour the gin and lychee syrup into a martini shaker full of ice. Shake shake shake till nice and super cold. Pour into a martini glass, drop in the 2 lychees for added wonderment, and have a killer cocktail while watching your favorite TV show or something. And a can of lychees goes a long way, so invite some friends. Basically, it's a regular martini recipe only substitute the vermouth with lychee syrup. Yeeeeeee-um!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

blacklabel SF

My friend Rita just launched her new fashion line, Black label SF, and my, did she do a fab job! She's gone fully pro and her website and production values are to die for! She got her degree in fashion but put it aside for art pursuits, and now is 'raring back with a bagful of taste...i tried to copy some images from her website, but damn if she hasn't figured out some way to keep that from happening! So you'll just have to see it here. She's a pro, through and through...

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a fine thread...

Instead of summarizing the discussion, I'm posting a link to an interesting blog entry and ensuing discussion by Purldrop (owner of DIY New York boutique Sodafine) about smallscale production and consumerism in the fashion world. Do go visit and see what you think... Let me know your thoughts, too.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

ahhh. wow.

New to the world of hyperbolic crochet modelling? Well, so was I until I stumbled upon a website dedicated to the study of fractal-like mathematical space modelling using none other than the humble form of hooking:

“In 1997 Cornell University mathematician Daina Taimina finally worked out how to make a physical model of hyperbolic space that allows us to feel, and to tactilely explore, the properties of this unique geometry. The method she used was crochet..." Thank you, Institute for Figuring!

And then lo and behold, a flickr photoset dedicated to the Intitute's hyperbolic crochet cactus garden and kelp bed--even crazier!

On a totally different note I urge anyone to view artist Christian Jankowski's short 6 minute film, "16mm Mystery," 2004, if they EVER see it shown at a local artspace near you. A man is seen walking through an anonymous city carrying a case and equipment of some sort. He enters a highrise building, goes up the elevator, and goes to the roof. Against a skyline of skyscrapers, the sun is beginning to set as he installs a small projection screen and sets up a 16mm projecter. What ensues next I won't give away but it's breathtaking and to the point. I just saw it yesterday as part of a great show, "Prophets of Deceit" at the Wattis Gallery at CCA.


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Monday, September 11, 2006

achey creaky yuck!

Let me tell you, all you spry little dearies out there: some day, unfortunately not too far down the road, you will have odd things that will start to make you feel old like achey backs and such. Yesterday I was moving some boxes in the basement and prolly had the wrong posture lifting one--i rehurt a muscle somewhere in my lower back that's making me feel like an old crone today. lots of duck-walking in the house and I can't even sit in front of the computer on my hard little chair because it makes it hurt--ow! this happens every now and then, ever since ten years ago I threw out my back for almost a week after crazily cranking an industrial roll-up door. Thankfully, when this happens now, it's generally only for a day or two, but there's nothing like being even mildly debilitated ta make ya feel OLD OLD OLD. yeesh! Thus, my day which was supposed to be busy busy busy turned into lying-on-the-couch-solving-sudoku day. wheeee!

uh, but besides all that, there's a little article on my "Village" photo series in the latest "Art On Paper" magazine that I have yet to see but I hear is out right now. Check it out and let me know! Also, last week an article in the San Francisco Chronicle had a nice mention for my installation at the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art ("Everything Must Go" in the "Next/New" exhibition.) Read all about it here, why don'tcha...

Now it's back the the icepack and reading/TV for me! ciao.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

velly velly inneresting...

(i like blogging my titles with a lisp...)

so, cool thing: CRAFT magazine is launching sometime velly velly soon and since it's the same people as does Make magazine, it should be pretty cool. I like Make's nifty small-size booklet format, and the unglossy pages that feel great under my fingertips (ps--a good friend of mine, phil ross, has a featurette on mushroom growing in the latest Make). Somehow I got signed up to be an advance "reviewer" which means they are sending me a copy to peruse before it hits the stands. i think they know that people who blog may write something about it, like I just did. Doh! fell for the viral marketing technique, didn't i? ;) I just wrote an ad about the damn thing!

ALSO, one of the contributers to CRAFT will be none other than Susie Bright, sex-positive extraordinaire and mega-slut (all compliments intended). Seems Ms. Susie is also one crafty lady--there was a link to her blog via CRAFT and she enjoys twirling around in her handmade outfits just as much as she likes to write about her feminist sex adventures. Awesome, is all's I can say!

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respectfulnesseseseses (?)

School has restarted and the week just totally flew by, it's amazing! I was sort of dreading it all last month but now that it's finally here it turned out to be not such a giant headache as I thought it would. Mind you, I love teaching, so it's not that I don't like it, it's just that I get particular about my timeschedule being impinged on by "have to's" and "should do's". But then when it actually rolls around it gets my juices flowing and I wind up getting into it. I'm teaching almost four classes: one junior/senior undergraduate sculpture class ("Connections Workshop"), a senior interdicsiplinary critique seminar that I'm team-teaching with photographer Tammy Rae Carland, working with about 6 grad students on an individual critique basis, and then subbing for a first-year grad student seminar later during the semsester (one of the teachers is going on maternity leave with triplets--yeesh!).

I've been fretting over a few articles in the newspaper today related to the faltering of small businesses in San Francisco. Cody's Books, a venerable Berkeley indie bookseller, had shuttered its flagship store and was struggling to maintain two SF branches. It's just been bought out by a Japanese company that maintains it will keep the focus independent and local, which is good. But the fact remains that book buying habits are changing because of internet sales, so we'll see what happens.

Walter Fong walks through his men's clothing store, Courtoue, on Geary Street. "San Francisco used to dress very well," says Fong, 79.

And then an article on the closing of Courtoue, a 30-year old menswear store specializing in high-end tailored menswear ("Shifting styles spell the end for suitmaker. Master tailor closing up shop after dressing city for decades.").

This last article made me rather sad--here was a 79 year old guy who had four kids who didn't want to follow in their dad's footsteps about learning the tailoring trade. And with styles changing and no one in SF dressing up as much as they did before, down goes the business and all the skills built up. In its heyday he had 20 tailors working fulltime and floors of fine suits. "One day he went to the second floor of his store, the heart of the place, surrounded by racks of expensive men's clothes, and stood there thinking. "I was alone,'' he said. "My tears came.'' He had decided to close the store."

I'm actually tempted to visit before it finally shuts its doors (later this month?) just to take a peek at the end of an era.

It's interesting to think there was a time when all (or most) garments were made locally and in much smaller batches than the current bales of t-shirts and casual wear that gets churned out of overseas factories these days. People used to have clothing tailored or repaired when they were damaged or didn't fit correctly. I think the attention paid to these details of respecting garments--not just for their fashion, but for their "object-hood", for lack of a better term--is slowly slipping away. We treat clothing more like plastic bags, to be used and thrown away, as opposed to respected and cared for. I guess it's just easier to think this way when it costs $7.99 versus $500 for a tailored garment. Sigh.

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