Sunday, October 11, 2009

Adventures In Spoke Cards

I really love decoupage and I have a healthy supply of Juxtapoz and other art magazines to pull really great images from. So, when Cranksgiving came up, I decided to get my glue stick out and scissors at the ready. I have quite a few friends in Milwaukee who will be doing the alley cat and may want a spoke card, or two, for their wheels.

Now, for those of you who don't know what a spoke care is, it's just a ... well ... CARD, that you put in between the spokes of the bike tire on your bike. They're used by cyclists participating in alley cat races (a race geared for bike messengers where you are given a list of items you must retrieve while racing from point A to point B.) to identify themselves. Traditionally tarot cards were used with the cyclists number written on them, but now days they've become very personalized. Recently, they've also become memorials of fallen cyclists.

Typically they're very card-like. Square or rectangle like this:


But, people do get creative. Like this:


Or even this, haha!:


Really, there is no wrong way to make a spoke card. You just have to make sure you laminate them, so they can stand up to the beating they'll be taking on the streets.

For mine, I found a quote, then a picture that ended up being perfect. "Fuck everything I'm doing at home, I'm going out late at night to have an affair with the streets."




I really love it, but I made a pretty big mistake. I used card stock as the base. It's what I always use for things like this. It gives it strength and really holds up to wet glue, but I didn't even think about having to shove this between the tight spoke wires. Take that thick card stock and pile on a couple layers of magazine grade paper on one side and another layer of paper on the other and you've got a problem. Then I still have to laminate it and then it's only going to be even thicker.

Next time I'll have to use just the magazine paper. I'm nervous, because that paper tends to get wavy when wet with glue and I'm not sure if laminating will fix that. I can experiment with Mod Podge and see if that helps, but I really doubt it.

But, I suppose at the end of the day, as long as it fits in there and people love it, then I'm happy.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Part of That Mentality.

I've gotten almost all my music imported onto my now not so new macbook. I was being lazy. My goal is to get it all in there, back it all up, then sell off all my CDs. I want to be serious about living a greener life and winter is such a tough time to keep this all in perspective. It's so cold, all I can do to keep my sanity is to take long hot showers and use my space heater to warm up my room. So, to keep my thoughts on conservation I'm pushing to rid myself of all my plastic music.

This one is a difficult move to make. For anyone who's a music lover, there is something so wonderful ... so ... holy about having a physical disc in your hands. There's almost a cult sort of obsession around owning physical copies of music and I certainly have been a part of that mentality in the past.

But, honestly. Take a moment to really think about a CD and all the plastic and paper that goes into it. I don't even have a decent stereo in which to listen to my music on, so I end up importing it into iTunes and never using the disc again. It sits there, taking up space and ends up being a waste of money. I could have saved $3-$5 by downloading it on iTunes.

Selling CDs and buying others used is a great way to recycle. I appreciate that process and I will keep shopping used discs. The change will be when I can't find what I'm looking for used, I'll get it from iTunes instead of ordering a copy from Amazon.

It's going to be tough. I'll not feel complete, but it's just a better decision for the long haul. It really is. I truly believe this will help make a difference. Especially if we can start a movement and get artists into it, selling digital downloads instead of CDs.

*crickets*

I know. That'll never happen. Until then, I will do what I can to make a difference and hope that people see it and are inspired to make a sacrifice as big as this one.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Before You Know It.

Well, ladies and gentlemen ... I did get a bike. Finally! A friend had seen a teeny tiny road bike on 24" wheels at the bike collective he volunteers at, so he grabbed it and stopped by my place with it. Turns out it's a perfect fit.

I'm a little afraid of it, HAHA! Just because it's winter and I know I'll need to get on it at some point to give it a test drive, see what parts aren't working and fix them.

The reason I have some trepidation is, I've always ridden a children's bike. First, the handlebars were upright. Second, the seat was always low enough to sit on while you were stopped. With adult bikes, the seat is much higher. You have to hop off the seat when you stop.

Between hopping on and off the seat and having my handlebars be so low AND have snow and ice all over the ground ... I'm a tad nervous about riding.

But, I know it's going to be really great anyway. I'll get use to it and I'll be a riding fiend before I know it.

My NEXT project ... search the internet for fixed wheels in 24". So far ... it's a total no go. But, maybe I'll get lucky, eh?

Let's hope so.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things are going slowly for my bike. I've given up on a road bike. I honestly don't think I'll ever find a 16" road bike. I could have one made for me, but it would be super expensive. Maybe some day. for now, it's a child's 24" cruiser or a 24" BMX.

Until then, here is something that keeps me going:


MACAFRAMA Trailer from MACAFRAMA on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I've Got Work to Do.

So, in light of recent events involving my inability to find a decent bicycle (I do have a lead on a "small road bike" at the local bike collective), I've decided my life will be a life of building bicycles from scratch.

YES.

From scratch.

Someone hand me a blow torch, I've got work to do.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Home Is Where The Heart Is

This is a little late, but better late than never, right? So, a whole week into the new year, I'll take a step back to christmas and the ornaments I made from shrink plastic for my family. We decided not to give gifts this year, due to the poor economy AND because our family of six grown to a whopping fifteen! It gets expensive trying to buy gifts for that many people! We all bought gifts for the little ones and since I had signed a pledge to buy handmade gifts this year, I decided to go ahead and take it to the next level by using up the shrink plastic I had left over and make the rest of the family ornaments. And not just any old ornaments. A homage to Wisconsin and the places we all have spread out to and made our homes in: Madison, Milwaukee and Kenosha. My brother just married Keely, who's from Illinois, so I had to make an extra state for theirs, but luckily it was just illinois and was easy to piece together.

So, here is exactly what I did!

Step One:
Once you draw on shrink plastic, it's hard erase your marks, so you want to make a template or pattern to trace. Since shrink plastic shrinks to 1/3 it's original size, you want to make sure your template is big enough to shrink. I didn't get any measurements for my templates, sorry. It never crossed my mind! I did, however, use up almost an entire sheet of plastic from the RoseArt shrink plastic kit. I put the state of Wisconsin towards the top and there was just enough room to fit the heart.




Step 2:
Once you've got your pattern all drawn out (I started with pencil, then re-traced it with marker, so it was easier to see.), but put your shrink plastic sheet down shiny side DOWN. You need to draw on the rough side and ONLY WITH PENCIL. No markers or crayons on this one. Carefully trace your image working hard not to smear the lead all around. It smears really easily. As a lefty I always fail big time on that.



Step 3:
Carefully cut your image out. My initial vision for these ornaments was that I would use a razor pen to cut them out perfectly, but shrink plastic tears easily and is hard to cut. I had to abandon my original plan in favor of just slowly cutting away at it with regular scissors until i most of the surrounding plastic was gone. I couldn't get a perfect cut, but considering all the times I nearly cut a finger off with the razor, I was happy. Then, using the razor, cut holes into the images. Wisconsin gets two: one at the top to hang it with, one at the bottom to tie the heart on. The heart gets the one while the Illinois gets two as well. Then you color everything. I colored the states first, Wisconsin was sky blue, Illinois grass green, the hearts read. From there you re-trace the outline of the states and heart, making sure the border has a nice dark, defined edge. Then you color in the hearts and write "HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS" in the actual heart.




Step 4:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Now, i'm going to go out on a limb and say it needs to be an OVEN oven, not a toaster oven. My toaster oven, when heated to 350 degrees on the bake setting, didn't get hot at all. I could put my hands in the oven and touch all the metal and not get burned. I tried several different settings, positions and temperatures and got the same results: a)nothing at all, or b) everything curled up and got all melty. SO, maybe my toaster oven is just cheap and an asshole, but I'm going to say it was just the nature of it being a toaster oven. USE A REAL OVEN. As soon as that oven is pre-heated to 350, put your cut outs on a non-greased cookie sheet and put THAT into the oven for THREE MINUTES!!! No more is needed, they'll shrink in that short time. Take them out, they look cute and little, but let them cool!


Step 5:
Whip out your ribbon and tie those lil fuckers together! I used ribbon that had wire ... not such a great idea. I just thought the iridescent glitter went better with the sky blue and grass green colors better than traditional christmas colors. In hindsight, regular ribbon sans a wire would have been much better.


Step 6:
TAH-DAH!

this one is without Illinois ...

... and WITH Illinois


So, there are my ornaments. Between cutting my fingers to hell, then the first ones burning up in the toaster oven they sort of drove me crazy ... and took forever. I was a little bashful when giving them since they look like a 4-yr-old made them, because I'm not so good with my hands. But, everyone loved them and I personally just really love Wisconsin and my family. It made me happy to make them for everyone.

We'll have to see what I think up for next year, huh? Hopefully they look a little nicer!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

33,182

I am one of 33,182 people who made the pledge to buy handmade gifts this christmas season. And I am proud to say that I did just that. I bought all my gifts handmade from etsy and the others are being made myself.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. This year, with the tough economy, we decided only the kids should get gifts, so this made my task a bit easier ... sort of.

I have one nephew and four nieces. Two nieces I don't know very well. One because she's not even two-years-old and the other because she is a step-niece, brand new to the family since October.

First on the list is Michael. He is twelve, in middle school and in that painful 'tween stage of life. He comes from a family of nerds, so he himself is one. He loves video games, D and D and comic books. He's finally become aware of popularity, so he desperately wants to look and be cool. Michael likes clothes with guitars and skateboards on them and has recently discovered the store PacSun and Hot Topic. *shudder* Michael is also an artist with a pure heart and soul. He is empathetic and sensitive. Spends his time coming up with art projects that he never actually does. Be it a drawing, sculpture or story, he doubts himself and his talents. Many of Michael's other friends are avid sketchers themselves, so he compares himself to what they do and has deemed himself useless when it comes to art.

Michael once had an idea to decorate a pair of white chucks with a viking ship. One side would have an empty ship, giant octopus tentacles would be wrapping all around it, crushing it and pulling it under the water. The source of the tentacles could be seen on the other side of the shoe, where the body of the beast would be visible. The other shoe would show a fleet of vikings rowing away from the carnage in little row boats. And there, behind the last little boat would be a single tentacle sticking up out of the water ... waiting for the survivors to row right into it's clutches.

AMAZING! Right? Ahhhh, he never did it! Michael tried and tried and tried to draw it up, but he never liked what he saw. It didn't look realistic enough. I tried to tell him, to teach him, to coach him ... that it's not always about how GOOD it is, but what it's ABOUT! The story that it tells! ACK! He never believed it like I did and so ... He still calls me. He still tells me all of his ideas and he still ... never ... does them. And it still breaks my heart.

One place where you see a lot of art with "character" is in graphic novels and comics, so when I saw that Etsy had a section with independent/homemade comics and zines, I knew right away I would find something for Michael here. And i did! From a seller called Jim 8ball

It's a pack of his five best selling comics and five best selling pins all stuffed into a cute little stocking ($6 w/shipping) . The art is really clean and tight, but I'm still hoping it'll inspire him to make his own comics. He's a smart kid with a big heart and endless imagination. Doing something like this would make him so happy ... if only he could get past his fears.

Next on the list are the two older nieces, Jaime and Riley. Jaime is older, she's eleven. Riley is younger, but those two girls are very close, so I decided to try and do something matching for them ... which in hindsight was ridiculous. They're two completely different little girls!

Jaime is super silly. She'll put on a show for anyone that'll give her two moments of your life. She'll sing and dance and do cartwheels and whatever else she can possibly fit into those brief moments. She's very smart, very clever, loves to draw. She's one of the most giving people I have ever met. I lived with my sister and these kids for seven months and Jaime would do my laundry and rub my back for nothing. She'll do anything to help out. She likes rock and roll things too. Her favorite color may be green, but she loves all the others almost as much. Her sense of humor will blow your mind. She says things most adults wish they could think of while at parties.

Riley is just a sweetheart. She loves horses and chasing my sister's bunny around the house. My brother describes her has girly, though I feel I have never seen this side of her before. Her favorite color is pink and has a notorious sweet tooth.

For them, I decided to knit little "scarflettes" that will be pinned together with little cupcake pins I bought from Bamfkat ($4.50 a piece w/shipping)

They'll go on these scarves ... one of which I still have to finish OH MY!


Next is my seven-year-old niece Julia. Usually she is the easiest on my list for she is QUITE the character. Don't let her sweet name fool you! Julia Rose likes monsters, zombies, bugs, robots, super heroes, comic books and video games. She's very shy and not quick to play with other children. She lives in her own world where she is either the Incredible Hulk, Luke Skywalker, or Nacho Libre. She has a strange obsession with collecting pins, but never does anything with them. Usually I just get her some action figure or a costume (all the better for pretending to be a super hero!) BUT, I made a pledge to buy handmade this year and while people certainly make action figures, you can expect to pay anywhere from $90-$250 for one. I did not have that much money.

So, Julia I found a HILARIOUS tree monster pin I know she'll love from Loveleigh Junk ($6.50 w/shipping).


Then, to go with the pin, I bought her a monster coloring book from Pickled Punk

I splurged on this one. It came to $10.45 w/shipping, but I know she'll love it and I really loved supporting this artist.

My niece Rachel is another hard one. She'll be two on New Year's Eve and is at that age where she doesn't quite play by herself, or really at all. She'll bang on things, but she's still in love with the idea of being mobile, so she runs. a lot. Her favorite thing is to play loud music and dance (yup. she takes after me!) One thing she loves, loves, loves are her stuffed animals. She has a few she loves more than anything and she cannot live with out at least one of them. Her father is obsessed with planes. He works at an airport where he fuels them and is slowly, but surely getting his pilot's license. Every time there is a sky in the plane, Rachel is the first to spot it. She gasps, squeals, says, "DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!" and then makes the buzzing sound of a plane.

So, when looking for a gift for little Rachel, i had wanted to get her a stuffed plane. These are actually pretty rare on etsy and the one that I did find was covered in buttons and very expensive. The store was Yoborobo and while I couldn't get Rachel that plane, I did find Rose.


I fell in love with her immediately and at $18 w/shipping, she was mine.

So, with everyone set with their own gifts, I decided to tie it all together a matching gift for all and Love and Sandwich had the perfect thing for me. I bought each kid one of of the below little monsters:




Michael got the Yetti with the beard, Jaime got the Yetti with the mustache, Riley got the pink Yetti and Julia got the "sad" Sasquatch. He's the one with on the far right.

So. That wraps up the kids. It took me a long time to find things that were affordable and suitable to their tastes and personalities. All in all I spent $87. That's $17.50/child. Not bad, huh?

My next project (besides finishing up that pink scarf for Riley), would be the ornaments I'm making for my Family. While we decided not to exchange gifts, I have a lot of shrink plastic sheets left over, so I thought I'd make some ornaments to give people anyway. It's not like I'm spending any money, right?

So, what do these ornaments look like?

Well, that's for another blog.