Tuesday, February 10, 2009

January 31: Goat ATCs

This was a private swap just between me and one other person who wanted to help me out to get all my 31 swaps in by the month-end deadline. Which, I want to reassure you, I did; it's just the blogging that's late. We quickly determined that we both adore goats, who are just like big cats, only not in the big-cats-can-bite-your-head-off way, but in the want-to-sit-on-your-lap-and-explore-things kind of way. She sent me the amazing goat below, which is getting framed and hung on the wall. I got it before I'd even started mine, and I loved it so much I made her two, pictured above.

January 30: Crazy February holidays

Speaking of Groundhog day, February is chock full of weird holidays. For this swap we were supposed to pick five of them and send our partners presents for those five. I chose:
  • National freedom day (February 1, an Independence Hall magnet - I could've done better)
  • Groundhog day, naturally (February 2, the card above - 6 more weeks of winter)
  • Send a card to a friend day (February 7, four one-ounce letter stamps)
  • National chocolate mint day (February 19, Newman's peppermint patties)
  • Love your pet day (February 20, three tiny little "greenies" bones for my partners extra-small dog)

January 29: Groundhog day cards

Happy groundhog day! Belatedly! I realized at midnight on February 2 that groundhog day is my favorite holiday, because, I mean, wtf? Poor Puxatony Phil, held out for all the world like a bloody sheet. And he doesn't know why any more than we do.

Just-in-time realization aside, I signed up to exchange groundhog day cards with two people. I've always projected onto good old Phil a bit and assumed he's not really looking for his shadow, he's checking out the state of the world to see whether he wants to wake up now or go back to sleep for six more weeks. Do groundhogs even hibernate like that? I don't know. But that's my story and I'm sticking with it. The top card is a day when Phil would go back underground, although what's going to be better about that scene by ignoring it a little longer, I can't say. The bottom card is a day when he'd decide it's okay to go about his beesness.

Incoming: Handmade buttons

Remember the buttons I made that I was so happy with? That I sent to three partners? I only got one set back; the other two stood me up. But I'm pretty sure the ones I did get make up for the missing mail. The wooden ones above are from the heartwood of a yew tree that was struck by lighting in the maker's yard; the linen button she threw in (she only had to send four to fulfill the swap) is in a wagon-wheel style made in her hometown as a cottage industry for two centuries. Now I just need to find some equally incredible button-needing thing to which to attach these.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

January 28: Four ATCs of the Apocalypse

Yay! I mean Boo! Apocalypse! I love books about it. I love movies about it. Sometimes I think it's why I'm crafty, so I'll have the useful skill of being able to make things people need out of the piles of consumer goods that will suddenly become so much pointless trash when the infrastructure breaks. For now I also make collages, which don't really do anything but make me laugh.

Here are Conquest:


Famine - that is, being held hostage by industrially farmed monocultures that dictate how we eat and lay wide open the possibility of disease wiping out whole families of fruits, vegetables, animals and grains:

and Death:

January 27: Mini collage

I signed up for a whole bunch of ATC (artist trading card) swaps to give me an excuse to collage, but this swap asked for a collage by name. Here's what I came up with.

Just as this prim couple is about to get down to it, the cat comes along and decides it needs all the attention. Why do they always have to step on your book?

January 26: Home Grown swap

The person who initiated this swap (anyone can on swap-bot, you just write an explanation, wait for people to sign up, then click a button when it's time to assign partners) wrote, as introduction, a diatribe about the wisdom of eating locally-grown foods. How could I not sign up? Being the middle of winter in Philadelphia, I couldn't exactly send a potato or a bunch of kale to San Francisco where my partner lives, but I could send things manufactured here and purchased from the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market, both big players in the burgeoning local foods movement here. I had a really hard time not eating the Pennsylvania Dutch apple butter, Ross' chocolate espresso bar made in Kensington (with Fair Trade chocolate of course), and from the bulk candy guy down the aisle from the Farmstand, Goldberg's Peanut Chews.

Here is a 45-page downloadable pdf booklet on why local foods are better for your body, your mind, the economy, animals, and the planet in so, so many ways.

Incoming: Handmade postcards

Four out of the five of these I anticipate have arrived, and they're all so great I can't wait for the fifth to show them off.

First, a lovely and heart-felt collage:

"I started with a cereal box and went from there," says the back:

This one is entirely hand-drawn, painted, stamped and stitched, and I got it just days after its creator wrote me to say it would be late because her mother had just died:

This one I'm pretty sure had another word after "in a whole ..." which fell off in the mail, but I love it this way: See the world in a whole.

Incoming: Handmade pincushion

This thing is amazing, and so incredibly well-crafted. I can't believe someone made it for me, who she doesn't know from anyone. I am so, so happy to have it. Usually I just drop all the extra little strings on the floor while I'm sewing, intending to sweep them up later. I have little threads on me like other people have pet hair. But this invention keeps a pincushion right where I need it while the cushion's weight (and non-slip foam rubber bottom) keeps a thread catcher dangling next to my knee. I put it to work immediately.

January 25: Fabric postcard

Yes, I know, it's February 5 and I'm still writing about January. I got all my swaps out on time, I just wasn't writing about them in real time. I sorta wish I had, but I didn't, and now even if it takes me another month I'm going to get everything documented here. For the record, and so I don't feel like an ass. Or a half-ass. Plus, I made some things I like that aren't on here yet, and even if no one ever sees them I'd like to at least present an opportunity.

I didn't actually mail this postcard naked; I put it in an envelope. I'm not too good at the free-hand machine quilting, as you can see. But the seaweed was fun.

January 24: Six photos

I cheated at this swap by accident - I was supposed to send photos of places, not people, and hadn't read the swap description closely enough to see the "no people" rule. Two photos of people snuck in, but I've already heard back from all three partners I sent these to (they all got the same six photos) with no complaints. These are some of my favorites from travels over the last several years.

The first two photos are of farmers and their kids in Chiapas, Mexico, taken when I went to visit Fair Trade coffee farms there and in Guatemala. The farmers are members of the Maya Vinic cooperative, which sells its coffee directly to roasters, often members of a buying cooperative themselves, thereby skipping several aggregators and manufacturers who buy low and sell high at the laborers' expense (sometimes at such an expense that farmers sell for less than it cost to harvest, and they lose their land). Taking the photos on a digital camera and showing the subjects their images on the LCD screen was an eye-opener. We'd already established that the farmers earn about $300 per year from coffee, and that's with a Fair Trade price. When one of them asked me how much the camera cost, I thought "more than you earn in an entire year," and said I didn't know, it was a gift. I'm not sure he believed me. The kids loved it though; even the kid on the right smiled a little bit.

It's funny what you can find on the internet: While looking for a good link to Maya Vinic, I found this photo of our wonderful group on that trip. I'm third from the right, in front of the magnificent Bill Harris, founder of Cooperative Coffees.

The rest of these are from Europe. An electric votive stand at a church in not-terribly-religious Holland - drop in a euro and a candle would light up:

A happy bird and an unhappy moth just outside of Edam:

A mama duck feeding her only baby from a plastic bag that blew into the port at Hoorn:

And sheep racing to the Daubensse in the Swiss Oberland Alps, during the annual meeting of Walliser and Berner shepherds on the pass between the two cantons:

Wow, do I miss Europe right now. And Mexico. And just about any place that isn't Philadelphia, love it though I do. I've been in one place too long.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Incoming: No-spend swap

My partner for the no-spend swap, in which we were supposed to go around the house and stuff an envelope full of whatever we thought the recipient might like (see what I sent here), wrote in the accompanying note that she hopes I don't mind if everything in the envelope is handmade. I think it's brilliant. Owly earrings, decorative envelopes and a cool notecard complete the package.

January 23: Kitchen towel

I knew there'd be days when I couldn't find the time to make something, so I gave myself some freebies, like this kitchen towel swap. I found a whole bunch of vintage linen tea towels at the Hartville flea market last time I was visiting my parents, and since they're too awesome to use and hence still in a drawer, I thought I may as well mail one to somebody. Another freebie I gave myself is not bothering to make the photo special. I hear tea towels are really, really hard to catch in an interesting photograph, so I didn't even try. I did take a detail shot of a rooster in a soup tureen sweat bath though:

January 22: Year of the ox ATCs, hither & thither

Have I told you how excited I am about 2009? Officially it's now February 1, which means I'm way behind on posting about fun-a-day (but not behind in the actual project). But it also means I have a whole month of evidence to evaluate whether my faith in 2009 is justified. And the answer so far is yes! (I had a week there where I felt I was losing my grip, and then I figured out that in the grip lies the problem - I don't need a grip, I need to open up and let things happen.)

One of the reasons 2009 is my year is that, by the Chinese zodiac, I'm an Ox. A water ox even, so I'm really in my element. I love the ox attributes (truncated though the are on wikipedia); they are things I either am to the core or aspire to. This being the year of the ox, it seems like the aspirations should be within close reach, and I have the energy to work for them.

Naturally, I joined the Chinese New Year ATC swap! I'm still not keen on ATCs by themselves, but they give me a good excuse to collage, which I am keen on. Partners were supposed to make two ATCs for this swap; one for the ox and one for whatever sign the maker is. I didn't want to send my partner two oxen, so I chose to make a Rat. The year of the Rat will be when the Rats fight back. I think I got the beret wrong (it looked better in the sketches), but the idea is there.

Here are the ones I received (nifty 3D effect of the main elements only slightly detectable in the photos), with a genuine Year of the Ox card I like as much as the ATCs:

Incoming: The last of the 10-postcard swap

The last card to come in from the postcard swap with 10 partners is this orchid from Costa Rica. I lived there for a year in 1989-90, and I think this may be the first postcard I've ever gotten from there since I came back. It's been a long time coming. I thought I'd never want to go back, but now I'm itching to. Who wants to go to Costa Rica with me?

Incoming: Glucksschwein (good luck pig)

I had a lot of hopes for this swap. I love how smart, loving and resourceful pigs are, and this swap was supposed to bring me a year's worth of good luck in the form of a pig. But I'm not certain what to do with either of these things. The sender said she fell in love with the pig when she saw it, and it's nice that she'd send me something she loves. But it doesn't really speak to me (some people might think that's a good thing). It just sits there and looks at me with an accusatory expression.

Maybe it recognizes itself in me a little bit. Maybe it sees my potential to sit and do nothing myself, just collecting dust (it's my job to sweep & mop the common areas of my house, so that can be taken literally). And it's asking me, "Hey, I have thin skin, no guts, and rusty nails for kneeless legs; what's your excuse?" I think it's telling me that luck won't come roll in the mud with me if I don't open open the pig pen for it. No, I still haven't cleaned my room. But when I do I'll put this pig somewhere where it'll remind me every day to use my smarts, love and resourcefulness.

The canned ham recipe I'm definitely not using.

Incoming: Six-word friends & family memoirs

I'll let these speak for themselves: