Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Most Amazing Dress You Will Never Wear

For our projects for the Penland class, we are supposed to make some form of "dress" using non-traditional materials, to talk about an issue or express a point of view. So, of course, I'm making a dress. Out of paper. And it's a wedding dress. With a train. Yes, it is a royal p-i-t-a. Sewing paper isn't necessarily the easiest thing I've ever done, but hey, compared to the MODA show craziness, this is only one dress. And it doesn't have to be done until Thursday morning! I think it's going to look really cool, though. The skirt and train are going to be covered in paper fans in varying sizes, and the bodice is going to be covered in flowers made out of different types of paper. We're all going to be displaying our pieces outside on Thursday (fingers crossed for nice weather!) spread out in a large field adjacent to the school. One of the guys who works in the iron department here is making stands to hold our pieces. One girl is hanging hers from a giant shepherd's crook; mine is going to have an interior stake that it will be wired to so that it looks like it is standing on its own. The point of these pieces is to create the illusion of fabric, creating a piece that tricks the eye. Yet almost every person who has come upstairs to look at our stuff (we're on the third floor) asks if we are going to wear our pieces. Even after my classmate Nicole has finished explaining that her "dress" is actually made out of aluminum screen and rebar tie wire, and that she's spent much of her time here wearing heavy gloves and using tin snips, they look at it, look at her, and then ask if she's going to wear it. "But you could wear it, right?" "No, not really, it would cut you up pretty badly." "But, like, for a fashion show you could wear it, right?" "It's not made to be worn!" "Oh." (Followed by confused looks.) If it looks like a dress, then it must be a dress, therefore it must be wearable, and therefore someone must wear it. Funny how the human mind works; we are always trying to put things we aren't sure about into a better frame of reference, and the dress is a fairly widely recognized item with a clear set of expectations, including wearability. Here's a picture of the start of my dress. I've folded hundreds of paper fans and made dozens of paper flowers; now I'm starting to sew them all on to the lining (made out of old bed sheets). It is extremely tedious. So now I'm going to go work on it a little more. Or maybe just go to bed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Postcard from Penland

Penland is awesome. It is absolutely beautiful up in the mountains here, and for the most part it has been warm and sunny. Basically, why I love this place: the first night I was here, we had an absolute deluge start before dinner. About halfway through dinner, it stopped raining on one side of the building and the sun came out, but it was still raining on the other side of the building. So, of course, EVERYONE gets up to go look for the rainbow. There were actually two, it was pretty spectacular. So far everyone I've met has been nice, and my class is crazy in a good way. I'm taking a class called Couture in Context, and basically we are making a mixed-media sculpture based on the dress. We're working on using non-fabric and non-traditional materials to emulate fabric as well as send a message. Kind of like unwearable wearable art.

I miss all of the PiPN girls, though! My class here is so small; there's none of the absolute and utter silliness we dissolved into over the last week, not to mention the hilarious (and ludicrous) conversations. I keep waiting for someone to say "...that's what SHE said!" I am not missing the endless stream of period movies and the accompanying lectures, though. I hope everyone's internships are going well! Here's everyone dressed up and gorgeous at dinner in Columbus at TNNA. Miss you all...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Really officer, I swear I wasn't drinking!

We presented our final class projects this morning yesterday morning, they were graded and ready to pick up by mid-afternoon, and around 6 pm I hit the road headed for North Carolina. More about the projects later - no pictures right now. To quote Jenn, I can't brain today, I have the dumb.

I have a GPS navigator thingie on loan for this summer, and aside from being rather annoying and load, it has been quite helpful. Before I left, I loaded directions from Akron to Penland on it, and checked online to make sure that they seemed accurate. Well, they weren't. About 15 miles from my actual destination, one of the satellites above decided it had had enough of my travels, and announced that I had reached my final destination. On a winding mountain road across from a ramshackle house with a road sign reading "Pumpkin Patch Lane". It didn't look quite right, so I pulled over to look at the map and try to reload the directions, but it was convinced that the intersection of Fire Mountain Lane and Pumpkin Patch Lane was where I should be. I was certainly out in the middle of nowhere, but other than that, I wasn't really sure of anything. I then noticed that my gas gauge had dropped from a quarter of a tank to the empty light while I had been sitting. I turned around, headed back the way I had come, to see if I had missed a recent turn. I hadn't, and as I went to turn around again to go find gas (and civilization), I backed off the edge of the very narrow road and promptly got my rear wheels wedged between a hidden fence and the 8-inch drop-off from the road. And could not get out. With the front end of my car sticking out most of the way into the traffic lane, where people wouldn't be able to see my car until they came around the corner and slammed into it.

So I look up "help" on the GPS, find the nearest police station, and attempt to call. Of course, since I am in BFE, I have absolutely no signal. I contemplate walking the 3 miles to the station for all of about 3 seconds, and decide the best thing to do is put on my hazards and take a nap until it gets lighter and I can try to flag someone down for help. So, I pull out my blanket and get cozy. (This was around 2:45am). Around 4:30, I wake up to hear someone drive up and then pull over and stop. I'm hoping it's cops, and not someone scary. It is indeed 2 police officers, and I roll down the window to tell them that I'm their stupid tourist story for the weekend - lost, stuck, and nearly out of gas. They give a once-over to the car, wedged in place and stuffed to the gills with boxes and suitcases, and me wrapped up in a blanket, and immediately ask how much I've had to drink. I start laughing, realizing just how ridiculous I must really look. This doesn't help my case. Next up is a game of twenty questions, with me still in the car. "How much have you had to drink tonight?" "Nothing." "Really?" "Yes, really." "Your eyes look really bloodshot." "I'm sure, my contacts are killing me." I explain where I'm going, and the older police officer's eyes get wide and he starts to laugh when I tell him I'm heading to Penland. "Well, ma'am, you're right, this isn't Penland!" They finally seem satisfied that I'm not drunk, and one of them sits on the front of my car so I can get some traction and get out of the ditch. The older one informs me that since I'm such a crappy navigator, they'll escort me to Penland, and we can stop at a gas station first. The younger one is just kind of standing there, shaking his head in amazement at the whole situation. While I'm getting gas, they radio for directions, which turn out to be quite involved from where we are. I then follow them for about 10 miles, through crazy narrow winding roads, and can't help but think that if I really had been drunk, there was no way I would have been able to successfully navigate them without killing myself or at least totaling my car. Random aside, there is abundant wildlife in the area, but the deer here are far less skittish than they are in Michigan. They just kind of lazily look at you as you drive by; none of this crazy darting into the road into oncoming traffic business that they do back home.

We finally get to Penland, and of course it is silent and no one answers the phone. The police officers really don't want to just leave me there, despite my insistence that I will take another nap in my car and be fine. So we walk around and discover that the main building is open, and it has the room assignments and restrooms in it. We chat for a little while longer, and they decide that I will be fine and they can get back to all of the excitement inherent in policing small-town America. I thank them profusely, and tell them I hope they at least get a good story out of this. The older one laughs, the younger one is still shaking his head in amazement. (The ceramic planter sitting on the ledge that looks like the bottom half of a torso, legs hanging over the side, is not helping.) The older cop explains that the younger one is new on the job, and is still getting used to all of the random craziness they see on the job. They wish me luck and head off. I wander around in the dark a little bit, checking out some of the nearby open buildings. It's eerily quite and completely secluded, and I love that everything is just left open, come-as-you-are, use-what-you-need. I can't figure out which spaces in the dorm are unoccupied in the dark, and don't want to wake anyone up, so I go back to my car. I turn on my laptop, discover that I have a faint wi-fi signal, and decide I might as well blog about this craziness.

The Bakersville cops were extremely nice and helpful! They didn't even give me a breathalizer test, but I did wonder what a field sobriety test would be like. I'm betting this was the most excitement they'd had in weeks.

Here's hoping that the rest of my day goes a little more smoothly.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Stitchers

Friday was our field trip, and it was a nice break from sitting in the classroom all day. In the morning we visited Wool and Willow, a needlepoint shop, and Fine Points, a yarn shop, both in Shaker Heights, Ohio. The ladies at Wool and Willow were charming, and talked with us about owning a small business and working in the needle arts business. We then walked down the street to Fine Points, which is absolutely jam-packed and overflowing with yarn. We spent a while exploring the shop, and since we haven't gotten to knitting yet in our classes, most of the students were kind of wandering around in a daze. The visit had the desired effect, though - by the time we left, everyone was eager to learn how to knit.

After that, we headed over to Kent State, where the embroidery exhibit was just beautiful. Several of the pieces dated back to the 1700's, and the most recent piece was a wedding dress from 2006 covered in computerized machine embroidery of the bride's feelings for the groom. It was written in Swedish, so we couldn't read it, but it looked beautiful. My favorite exhibit, though, was of the Kokoon Arts Club, a Cleveland artists' group that, for the first half of the 20th century, explored "new art", traveled, and produced shows, lectures, and classes for its members. It was possibly best known for its annual "bal masque", an elaborate costume ball where would-be attendees were turned away at the door if their costumes were not creative or elaborate enough.

Finally we headed back to Akron to visit Stan Hywet Hall, a ginormous Tudor revival house built in 1915 for the founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The main house is 64,500 square feet and featured, among other things, an indoor pool and gymnasium. We didn't actually get to see much of the house; for that we'd have to go back and pay for an actual tour, which I probably won't get a chance to do before I leave. What we did see was amazing, though, and I did get a nice group picture in front of the manor house. Aren't we cute?

The one thing I didn't get a picture of, that I wish I had, was of when we were actually on the bus - almost all of us were working on some kind of needlework. How often do you see that on a bus?!?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stitchers on the loose...

Wednesday we moved on to the fascinating world of cross-stitch. It was a bit demoralizing to spend over an hour and a half working, and only have this to show for it:

Yes, that is a quarter shown for scale. We spent the rest of the afternoon working on a small flower pattern. There just aren't a whole lot of ways to change up a set flower pattern in cross-stitch. Especially when we were reminded that "leaves are usually green" and to use realistic color combinations. Since flowers made out of little x's are realistic, no? And the little butterfly hovering nearby appears to be leaving a trail of poo as it flies.

Last night was a little more interesting, though: we crashed a knitting group at a local Barnes and Noble. It was a hoot! It was a decent-sized group of regulars, and they didn't seem to mind our joining them at all. In fact, they just kept asking us questions all night! They wanted to know all about the PiPN program, and where we were from, and where our internships were, and what we all did... it was pretty entertaining for all of us. We all had to make all of the various connections - who's on Ravelry, what everyone knits, and of course the requisite small-world moments that just make you shake your head in amazement. Two of the women in the group had graduated from Akron with Home Ec degrees; the had been one of the first classes in the building that we are in now; apparently, the sewing room still has the same chairs, which one of the professors confirmed today. Our group got more than a few amused stares; one guy even asked if he could take a picture to send to his friend who belonged to a knitting group at his college.

Today we moved on to embroidery. Finally! Something that can handle a little creativity...and has more than one basic stitch. We learned a handful of basic stitches in the morning, then in the afternoon the teacher let us loose with a basic pattern design and about a zillion different stitch ideas. Everyone in class was relieved to have moved on to something less regimented and more interesting and creative than the previous assignments. This afternoon's movie was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It was cute but earlier this week we watched 27 Dresses, and I think I am chick-flicked out for a while.

Tomorrow - field trip! We are going to visit two (kind of) local needlepoint and yarn shops, then the embroidery exhibit at Kent State, and then Stan Hywet Hall for their needlework guild display. We all asked if we could get extra credit by working on our needlework on the bus. :-)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Off to a bit of a rocky start...

Well, I made it to Akron! Actually, it's now Wednesday morning and I have finished day two of class. I got here Sunday evening to find that I wasn't in the housing computer system, had no room, and since it was Sunday, there wasn't anyone around who knew anything! But the guys at the front desk were super nice, started calling people, and found someone who could come in and get me a room, keys, and all of that good stuff. I'm in a suite with two other people; we have our own bedrooms and share a common space, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. No one was actually there at all on Sunday, so I didn't get to meet anyone until Monday evening. Fortunately, they are super nice and didn't mind having an unannounced new roommate foisted upon them. (At least if they did, they hid it well!)

Class started Monday at 9 am, and we got to meet all of the professors and get the schedule for the next three weeks. We're going to be spending a day or so on each of several different types of needlework. We started with needlepoint, then move on to cross stitch, embroidery, knitting, and crochet over the course of the next two weeks. Then we spend two days at a major trade show (hosted by TNNA, the organization sponsoring our class), and the last week is spent working on our final project. I'm not sure exactly what the final project entails, but we have to incorporate all of the techniques that we're going to cover. Most of the people in the class are from the University of Akron, and a few of the people have already graduated from other places.

We started with needlepoint, which I have to say is not my favorite technique. A little on the boring, regimented side for me...all little stitches, all neatly slanting in the same direction... I have trouble finishing the patterns I start; I just get bored with them.

Some of the finished projects are amazing, though. Some of the pieces we saw pictures of are so detailed and done in such intricate patterns and fine threads! The history of needlepoint actually dates back to the ancient Egyptians, and has been really popular at several points in time. I just have a hard time picturing Cleopatra and Mary Queen of Scots sitting around stitching little scotty dogs or snowmen with cheesy sayings on wall hangings or coasters... At least today we got to start making up our own designs, which was a little more interesting. Randomly enough, Steve's aunt designs painted needlepoint canvases.

So far we've had a lecture/lesson/demonstration in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day working. 9-5 is kind of a long time to sit at a table with a needle and canvas in your hand, and by lunch today, all of us had developed sore spots on our fingers. But during work time, the teachers so far have been really easygoing, and we just talk and watch movies all afternoon while we stitch, which does feel a little surreal. One of the teachers yesterday vetoed a lot of our movie suggestions, insisting on keeping things basically PG, and suggested period movies for the great costumes. So another teacher brought in a bunch of period dvds today for us to choose from. We ended up watching Elizabeth, which does have great costumes, but it turned out to be a bit more bloody and racy than she intended, much to our amusement.

I still don't have my laptop; my hard drive failed last week and it's at my brother's shop waiting to be fixed. I forget how much I use my computer; being without it feels a little like being without one of my arms. Email, looking stuff up, finding directions, mindless entertainment, hulu... Fortunately, now that all of the administrative crap with the school is taken care of, I can use the computer lab in our building. I can't take the computer back to my room and watch videos on my bed, but at least I can clear out the 80 new junk emails from my inbox.

Also? I miss my dog.