Monday, September 30, 2013

Art Swap 2013: Bags with Style

Magnet-clasp cloth bag with single inside pocket.

Bennington alum and Alaska native Rebecca Grabman contributed this series of reusable cloth bags (suitable for both sexes) made from recycled clothes and materials.  The series includes magnet-clasp bags, handles of varying lengths, and bags with buttonhole pockets.  The combination of both wide and thin plaid lines forms an eye-catching clash balanced by the solid handle and bottom, thus putting the typical grocery-store cloth bag to shame.  More photos below:

Finished product.
The shirt-cutting stage.

Rebecca Grabman works and teaches awesome stuff at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.  Her website,, features pics and videos of her many, many fashion and experience-interaction projects, including a computer-interactive obstacle course, a purse that records and plays back audio conversations, and a machine that voices user-generated propaganda.  She also worked on the combination tap dance/light show featured below.  I regret that we never became better friends in college.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Art Swap 2013: The Four Gentlemen

This week's Art Swap spotlights a guest post by Chinese brush painter, Erin Mapes.

I first started learning Chinese brush painting while studying abroad in Hangzhou, China. The university offered the class for international students, and I thought it would be cool to learn a new art form. It was challenging, but I enjoyed it because of how different it was from what I was learning at Bennington. Brush painting is a highly stylized and symbolic art form with a long and rich history. I love the simplicity, the color, the lightness of the strokes, and the difference from my usual artistic process (which is often complicated, full of uncertainty and self-doubt, and incredibly long).

My four subjects are bamboo, plum blossoms, orchids, and chrysanthemums. Together, they are known as “The Four Gentleman,” and each one is thought to have its own unique character:
Orchids ( 兰花,Lánhua) = Spring.  Symbolizes grace, virtue, and purity.
Bamboo ( 竹,Zhú) = Summer.  Symbolizes strength and honesty.
Chrysanthemums (菊花,Júhua) = Autumn.  Symbolizes moral strength and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.
Plum blossoms (梅花,Méihua) = Winter.  Symbolizes perseverance, rejuvenation, and hope.
I hope that gives everyone a new appreciation for this (really cool!) art form, and I'm happy I had the chance to share it with all of you!

Erin Mapes counts fiber art, painting, teaching, and Dr. Mario among her many skills.  You can view examples of her scarves, necklaces, and yarn in her Etsy store (currently on hiatus), or read her thoughts on being an environmentally conscious artist.  She currently lives in Berlin, Germany, in a neighborhood populated by aging hipsters.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New Look, Same Wave

This blog's design has been badly due for an overhaul since 2008, and today I finally gave it one.  I'm in a new state (Nebraska), I'm back to blogging regularly, and this seems as good a time as ever.

It's impossible to pinpoint the exact moment when things in life go stale.  While the process is gradual, initiated changes must come suddenly.  I'll get the timing right someday.

Any and all comments welcome.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Art Swap 2013: The Twentysomething Road Trip

Last spring, Chicago native and podcaster extraordinaire Brad Stasell set out on a birthday road trip through Wisconsin and Minnesota to grow up, go someplace he'd never been, and find out what being twenty-eight was all about.

His Art Swap project was a half-hour long podcast about the experience, the Best-Worst Day of his life, assembled from journal entries and on-the-road video diaries, and featuring music from Metric, Daft Punk, Architcture in Helsinki, Band of Horses, Imagine Dragons, Rihanna, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and lots more. In the spirit of Jack Kerouac, sometimes being on the road gives us the perspective we need to figure out what really matters, and Stasell's trip is no exception.

Plus, there's a hot tub.

Listen to Stasell's road trip podcast here, via streaming or download.

Stasell is also the man with half a plan behind Easily Distracted, a biweekly/monthly/every so often podcast where he and three friends (including fellow Art Swapper Jon Trainor) discuss news, roller coasters, and horror movies, but mostly just make a lot of jokes.  In true Easily Distracted spirit, here's some out of context quotes from the show:
On a scale of one to ten, how naughty were the nurses?

Stasell's definition of being smart is catching herpes.

I always heard that summer camp was a good time for first kisses.  I heard that after I went to camp, though.

So, I had given this stripper a lapdance earlier in the night....
Oh, you like water?  Here's some fire.
Trainor: It's different though, because white people don't have a history of lynching.
Stasell: ...I think you mean a history of being lynched. 
Check out Easily Distracted here, or follow them on Twitter at @distractedeasy.  You won't regret it.

Every Monday for the rest of the year I’ll be highlighting a different project from Art Swap 2013. Interested in sharing something of yours next year? Post in the comments section, or e-mail ianmrogers[at]hotmail[dot]com.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Art Swap 2013: The Many Faces of Nicholas Cage

"I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther." - Painting by Sam Roman
Illustrator, painter, needlepoint artist, and fellow Leighite Samantha Roman's contribution to the Art Swap shows her love of humor, pop culture, and vivid colors.  I'm not sure which is scarier - the bees, or the middle Cage face.  In addition to her illustrations and comics, Sam's also done paintings based on characters from The Simpsons, High School Musical, and The Office.

For those of you interested in having a wild-eyed Cage to call your very own, prints of this painting are available for a mere $25 - which includes shipping!  To get yours e-mail Sam at samantha.k.roman[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit her website.  You won't be disappointed.

You can see more of Sam's paintings, illustrations, and other artwork (including an Adventure Time themed cross-stitch!) on her website, an unmistakable cone of ignorance, or at her art blog, Drawn in a Hat Store

Oh yes, and among Sam's other talents, she's also well-versed in the hats of The Great Gatsby.

Every Monday for the rest of the year I’ll be highlighting a different project from Art Swap 2013. Want to throw in your own metaphorical hat for the event? Post here in the comments section, or e-mail ianmrogers[at]hotmail[dot]com.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Art Swap 2013: Japanese Calligraphy

Every Monday for the rest of the year I’ll be highlighting a different project from Art Swap 2013. Interested in joining next year’s fun? Post in the comments section, or e-mail ianmrogers[at]hotmail[dot]com. 

 I didn’t make this – Yukichi Fukuzawa did.
I’d originally planned on writing a short story for the Art Swap; but wouldn’t it have been more fun to try something new? 

Japanese calligraphy, or shodō, is a Japanese art form dating back over 1600 years, though it’s now practiced mostly by elementary school students as a required course. The country is proud of its calligraphic writing: one sees it inscribed on pottery, hung over restaurant doors, framed in museums, and sold on the street.

When I was in Japan, one of my students gave me a calligraphy set and showed me the basics: air-tracing kanji and hiragana letters over paper, pouring the ink, holding the brush straight over the paper, then, and only then, drawing the strokes that make up the letters. The strokes follow a strict order, and you can lose yourself in the pattern.

In calligraphy, setting up one's work space is an integral part of the process. I’m getting there.
But that was three years ago. Earlier this summer I set out with my ink bottle, instruction book, and plenty of scrap paper to learn enough calligraphy to make an Art Swap project. The strict posture and rigid brush handling feel unnatural at first, but your hand soon becomes used to holding the brush while the other steadies the paper, and, with practice, it soon feels like writing anything else.

I did make this one though. Try to guess whose name it is!
My end result was sixteen names written in katakana (Japan’s special alphabet for foreign words and names – think of it like Japanese italics) for everyone in the swap. They weren’t bad for a first try, though the later names were marred by brush flattening and humid working conditions. To help people decipher their altered Japanese names (mine, for example, is pronounced ian rojāsu), I printed up How-To reading guides to accompany each one. (Not to Art Swappers: There’s still a prize out there for anyone who can solve the final quiz!) 

My first attempt at hiragana.

As a bonus, last weekend I made my own 5x7 card for Bennington’s alumni weekend exhibition, to be hung with the rest of the cards in the Deane Carriage Barn in their yearly alumni project. It occurred to me that this was the first creative thing of any kind I’d done for Bennington since graduating, which gave me the pleasant feeling of contributing to a community that, though it now feels decidedly foreign, once meant a lot to me. And if it not for the Art Swap, I doubt I would have done anything at all.

(Special Note for Bennington Alum: If you’re interested in the 5x7 exhibition, the received-by deadline is this Friday, September 6!)