Bike Riding and Garage Saleing

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So I finally got my bike out for the year. I was really patting myself on the back for buying an inner tube patch kit at the store earlier this week, because of course I had some leaks! I was kicking myself for not checking the kit before I started fighting with the tires using spoons to get them off the rims- the kit came with two tire levers!

After a short ride yesterday I decided to go garage saleing this morning, just kind of following the signs around the neighborhood. I live in a tiny town just outside of Ann Arbor, MI, so I only found three sales. The second one was a jackpot though, it was at a horse farm selling used tack and such! They had three boxes of exactly what I had hoped they would have- old reins, straps, girths ext. for $1 each! Needless to say I cleaned them out of their leather!

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A few years ago I helped my mum at a horse show at the Kentucky Horse Park, and after spending some time in the harness shop the shopkeepers let me rummage through their garbage and collect scraps. I’ve been using that leather very sparingly in some of my recent leatherwork, knowing the end of harness leather was close at hand! So this garbage bag full was an awesome find!

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At the same sale they had this deer pelt. The woman’s husband shot the doe during bow season last year. They paid to have the deer processed and the hide cured, and kept the hide thrown over the back of the couch. They decided to sell it because their 12 year old daughter- who helped eat the deer!-thought the hide was gross and sad and all the things little girls who love animals but still love burgers think. I laughed when she told me the story, and told her that I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 10yrs, and was thrilled to be acquiring the hide and that the deer would have the exciting new job of lining armor and being part of awesome costumes.

She was nice and gave me a deal as people at garage sales are apt to do, and I rode safely home with my treasures…. in the 90 degree heat. It was brutal.

Otherwise, since I’ve finally attached a basket to the back of my bike I’m 85% sure the bike shop guys put my basket rack on backwards!

The Surreal Experience of traveling for Art Fairs and Conventions

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Walking into my cheap motel this weekend to see the toilet on a rolly cart in the entryway of the room reminded me of what a bizarre and surreal experience it is to travel on the weekends to sell my work at art fairs and conventions.

I have been selling my work at shows since 2011, and I’ve become accustomed to how things go on these weekends, but it remains a very strange and carnie-esque way to make a living. Most everyone I meet at the show I forget almost immediately when they leave my booth. I am perpetually lost wherever I go. I have on the super on-point artist sales person face for most of the day, then most of the time spend the rest of the night doing things totally alone. On the other hand I do meet awesome artists who I get to connect with at future shows, and crash their couches when I’m in their town. I find badass hole-in-the-wall bars like the one I found in Akron this weekend. The place was a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich bar, and nothing but 80’s new wave played on Pandora both nights. For the most part though almost all people I meet, like the cool bar tender with the Depeche Mode Pandora station or the DJ at the dead club who let me hook my phone up and have a personal dance party, I never see again.

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Another love/hate relationship I have with traveling for shows is the drive. I’ve done shows as close as 15min from home, and as far as 11hrs. Driving to the far ones can be tedious and boring of course, but it is also valuable uninterrupted alone time. It takes me about a half hour to really settle into driving, and by the 2-ish hour mark I’ve kind of thought about everything immediate there is to think about. That’s when I can really start to dig into artistic ideas uninterrupted, and I’ve had some of my best ideas hashed out on the road.

Once I arrive at the venue I usually have little idea of what is going on, and always count on being handled. It’s always worked for me though; show up on time with my stuff and someone will tell me where to go and when. Having the booth set up is pretty rewarding on it’s own. Here you have several tables or a 10×10 space of your work, that up until now you may have only seen in piles or boxes in your studio. I love seeing my cohesive body of work!

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However the show goes it’s always an interesting experience. I stay in dumpy hotels, meet cool people, and get to sell my art. And one other wonderful woman I met this weekend was the bubbly night clerk at the hotel desk. She let me know areas that were safe to walk to alone at night, was a pleasant face getting back from the bar in the evening, and most importantly was very apologetic for the room with the stray toilet and switched me to one with fully functioning accommodations!

 

Bessie the Beast

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I found Bessie on the side of the road in her cabinet on Saturday night. I was on my way home from a friend’s house with my little dog when I saw it. I love sewing cabinets, I even have an empty one in my living room that I refinished a few years ago, so I was pretty interested in it. I pulled up and looked the thing over. It’s in rough shape. It’s probably lived in a garage for at least a few years, and even looks like it was being dripped on. I may not have taken it for just the cabinet, but I reached under to it’s nether regions and felt there was a machine there. I tied the little dog to the front seat and stuffed the beastly thing in the back of my hatchback, no further questions.

When I got her home my fiance helped me carry it in, the cabinet is awkward and weighs close to 40#! Imagine the excitement when I pulled open the top, and this here popped up!! I think I said “No really, this is kind of a big deal” to my fiance more than once.

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I could hardly believe it. An antique cast iron machine in what was looking to be it’s original cabinet. It was fucken beautiful. I didn’t have time to play with it that night, we had a secret map party in the woods that we had to get to, but I had to plug her in and see… Sparks were a’flyin, but this baby ran!

The “secret” map party was cut short by the boys in blue, so I was up bright and early Sunday to play with my new toy. Upon closer inspection, the machine had pretty clearly been neglected for years, if not decades. It ran hard and slugishly, and smoke and sparks flowed from the motor like lies cascading from the lips of politicians… Too much? Maybe.

Dirty girl! The center pic shows the spark while running, of course capturing just a split second of that isn’t as dramatic as the ongoing flow, but you get the idea. I started the clean just straight up with a vacuum, then a toothbrush and down to q-tips. Everything was taken apart, cleaned and oiled. There were a few spots of rust that had to be sanded off, and the entire outside of the hand wheel was rusted.  The motor was the biggest beast, not only was it a mess but the little conductor brushes are worn way down and the motor was full of black carbon dust and hardened black grease. 5hrs total, the whole time was a party.

For now I put the old brushes back in, but I have new ones on the way. The wiring will also have to be re-done, though functional the fabric covering is literally crumbling off. As of now with the cleaning, oiling and old brushes still in she runs much smoother with no smoking, but still small sparks in the motor. Hopefully the new brushes will remedy that.

Playing around with her… the threading seems way more complicated than it needs to be, but hey I’m not an engineer! She does of course only straight stitch with no reverse so as far as costuming goes her usefulness will be limited, but I’ve already got the cabinet set up in the studio as a permanent sewing station. I figure I’ll just use my 1980 Kenmore 10 Stitch (Chester) on top of the cabinet for whatever Bessie can’t do.

So what I found out about the machine is that it’s a White Rotary, dated somewhere in the late 20’s. The cabinet is a Martha Washington, which was original to these machines. The cabinet itself is very cool, even being in rough shape. I haven’t decided if I’m going to try to save the existing finish or re-finish the cabinet, at the very least the top is fer sher going to be re-done.There are little fold-outs and drawers on each side. The only thing left in the cabinet were a few spare feet, some odds and ends, and a set of screw drivers that seem sized to the machine so I assume they came with it. The only reason I think even these things were left is the people getting rid of the machine couldn’t figure out how to open that part of the cabinet, it was kind of stuck!  An interesting tidbit a very knowledgeable (read-garage full of sewing machines) friend told me about the White company is that they had their own forest that they used for fancy woods for the cabinets!

 

I’m of course thrilled with my find, and it’s crazy to me that people would literally put this out in the street (it wasn’t even up on the curb!) after keeping it in a garage for years! Trash and treasure and all that I suppose…

Also worth mentioning, it was strange how her name came to me since I’m usually not one for naming tools (Chester being the exception of course!). When I first sat down with her Sunday morning I turned the hand crank some which was a hard turn, and without much thought my inner voice said, “Geez, Bessie needs some oil!”

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The difficulty that is detailing in Cosplay

This is a classic example of something I agonize over with my costumes constantly. Tiny details and the lack thereof make or break a costume.

Being the costume guru of our group, this afternoon a friend of mine sent me this picture with the comment “zippers haaaaallp!” This is for a vest that she’s making herself to wear to her birthday outing, tonight of course, at a Detroit goth club. She is having trouble making a decision about the color.

My text back was, “first choice brown, second choice purple.” Costume decisions can never be made as easy as that, next she sends me these-

Mind you, this isn’t at the store, she’s already bought all three zippers because she couldn’t make the decision on the spot! In ensuing texts the purple zipper was discarded for the two with the actual metal colored zipper, which we both agreed was preferable.

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Arguments for the first zipper include-she’s going to wear black leggings with the vest, and she likes the silver color better.

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Arguments for the second zipper include-her birthday present from me is a brown leather belt with brass rivets and hardware (she hasn’t seen it yet), which I think she needs to wear tonight. Also, I like the brass color better.

After a quick phone consult with her mother (a seamstress), my friend ultimately decided on the black zipper, because 1)She likes the black better, 2)She won’t always be wearing the belt with the vest, and 3)She feels comfortable mixing black and brown, and silver and brass.

Ultimately the color of the zipper does not matter, like at all. The club we’re going to is dark, even darker (literally and figuratively, haha!) than most clubs because it’s a goth club. Even if it was broad daylight, the only people who would notice the color of the zipper is me and her.

 

The one thing that we both know though, is that it is this level of attention to detail that makes for great costumes even if no one actually notices every detail the overall picture is affected, and the color of a zipper totally merits 3 purchased color choices, 2 outside consults, and an afternoon of indecision!