Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. I wish I had enough scarves for everyone. The random number generator picked #113 – Rebecca. Congratulations!
“Architecture is a social act and the material theater of human activity.” Spiro Kostof
It’s almost the end of the year again. That means I’ve been posting here for over 3 years. It truly doesn’t seem that long. Lately though, I have to admit this journal has felt a little stale and I’ve wondered if it has reached it’s end. I find a lot of value in writing about my process and going back over old posts to see how things evolved. I think in general there is a consistency to my work and my process is iterative. It is naturally how I work. But sometimes it’s good to do something different – to introduce a change. This is something I talk to my students about all the time.
In architecture you are never really done with a project. There just comes a point where you need to stop. For me, many ideas and ways of thinking from that project are then carried forward to the next context, with new constraints and forces acting upon it.
I have come to that point with this journal. I’m not done thinking or writing about process, but in this context it is time to stop. So this will be my last post for the year, and the last post here in this space.
To me this space has come to feel a little bit like an architectural space – a social act. I feel overwhelmed when I think of the people I’ve met, friends I’ve made, inspiration I’ve found, conversations I’ve had and opportunities that have arisen all from just writing here. Thank you isn’t really enough, but it’s all I have. So thank you.
I’m still thinking about what the next context will be, and wondering what new constraints and forces will arise. Although my process and thinking and ideas will continue just as they always do, I need to introduce a change. I will share that with you in January.
Wishing you all much happiness and peace in the new year,
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
low water immersion dyed wool leggings
note: I’ve added some more plum wrapped necklace/scarves to the HANDCRAFT shop.
Along with the failed armwarmers, I had planned on making wool leggings for the HANDCRAFT collection. I had these mottled legwarmers last year, which were made out of a mid-weight wool jersey. I made a pair for myself, and wear them all the time. This year I found some lighter weight jersey and wanted to make actual leggings, or tights without feet.
Low water dyeing, the process I use to get a mottled effect, is different and much trickier with wool. The process is fast; about 30 minutes as opposed to several hours for cotton. I dyed up a batch of the light wool jersey and was quite pleased with the result. I was also happy with my simple pattern for the leggings, with one seam per leg.
But then came the waistband. I didn’t want to make a casing and insert the elastic because it just seemed too bulky. What I wanted was an exposed wide elastic waistband like on store purchased tights. Sort of like lingerie elastic, but much wider. I talked to several manufacturers of elastic but they all seemed confused as to what I was talking about. I found something that seemed like it would work except that it was 4″ wide. Not sure what you would use that for….
Hence, the wool leggings didn’t make it into the collection either. I could easily have made a casing at the top and called it a day. But it wasn’t what I wanted so I let it go. I will keep looking for this elusive product and in the meantime probably put a casing in these and wear them myself.
Here are a few links to some do it yourself legwear, along with a couple splurge worthy pieces worth mentioning:
DIY tie dye tights
DIY gradient dip dye tights (I think I’ve linked to this before)
DIY shredded tights (so awesome -wish I could pull this off)
DIY embellished Doo.Ri stockings (these would be perfect for a fancy holiday party)
DIY Rodarte cut out leggings (l o v e -best w/ tights underneath I think)
The ultimate basic: Smartwool tights
Shabd Crystaline leggings (not wool, but stunning).
Hansel from Basel Gargantuan Cable tights.
Isobel & Cleo handknit grape leggings (these are sort of strange…but intriguing)
Friday, November 20th, 2009
ORIGAMI wrap sweater
Thank you all for your sweet comments and emails about HANDCRAFT and to those of you who purchased something in my shop yesterday. It was a fun collection to put together and I’m so glad you liked it.
And now, as promised, I have a gift for you. There were a few things I had planned on for the HANDCRAFT collection that didn’t get realized. One of them was this wrap you see here, which was inspired by origami folding and the cocoon poncho I made for my last holiday collection. Since it didn’t make it into the collection I thought as a gift to you I would offer it as a free pattern. That way you can make one for yourself or for gifts for the holidays. It is super simple to make, even if you don’t have many sewing skills or even a sewing machine. Really. There are 3 seams that are quite short and can be sewn by hand. The most complex thing is figuring out the folding – just like in origami:)
added: I have already had a few questions about fabric. This is for a knit fabric. I used a mid-weight knit that is very drapey without a whole lot of stretch. I think it would work with a variety of knits, from t-shirt weight to something as heavy as a fleece. The weight/thickness and also stretch of your fabric will effect the size so do pin it together before sewing and try it on. In a lighter fabric or more stretchy fabric will make the fit bigger and looser, heavier/less stretch will make it fit closer.
So here it is as a downloadable PDF file. There are two pages, one with photos and instructions and one with some diagrams. Just click on the pages below and it should start the download (each page has to be downloaded separately).
Please let me know if you have questions -I think the diagram looks complex at first, but once you start working with the fabric directly it will make sense. If you make it, I would love to see photos. Maybe if there are a few people who do, I’ll start a flickr group. Oh, and one more little thing: this is a free pattern, and you are welcome to give it out freely to anyone who might like it. But please don’t sell it, or make garments from it to sell.
Thank you all again and enjoy!
ORIGAMI wrap pattern – click on pattern to download
ORIGAMI wrap diagrams – click on diagrams to download
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
asphalt grass denim wool pillow, HANDCRAFT 2009 holiday collection
Thank you to all who placed orders yesterday in my shop! If you emailed about the gossamer scarves and everything bag, I will be making more soon. There are still some of the mottled scarves available.
I wanted to give you a little glimpse of my holiday collection, HANDCRAFT, which I’ve been working on since early fall. This collection came about through a desire of mine to work a little more slowly, focusing on labor intensive processes done by hand, like printing and piecing. I also had in mind using up scraps of fabric and yarn I’ve been saving.
The collection will contain items perfect for gift giving in a range of prices, including pillows (like the one above), totes, scarves, prints t-shirts and wraps.
I’ll show a few more preview images here, and the collection will launch on November 19th.
I also want to thank you all for stopping by here to read and leave comments. I really enjoy hearing from all of you. I’m not the best at replying but I do try to respond in the comments section, and if you subscribe to the comments feed I think you can see the replies.
Friday, October 16th, 2009
One of my favorite parts of design is the time when I test out ideas full scale, with real materials. I love playing with materials to see what will develop. I have boxes filled with little textural fabric swatches where I’ve tried out various techniques and dye processes. It’s fun to go back through them to see what I’ve forgotten.
The above image is a shot I took during the gleaning photoshoot of a parking lot I was especially enamored of. I’ve been experimenting with denim and wool, trying to recreate the texture.
My reading pile of design inspiration is getting quite tall, and I plan to spend some of my weekend going through it. My new issue of Uppercase magazine arrived yesterday and in this issue there is a nice little article written by Heather Smith Jones about me (pg. 14). You can preview the whole issue here.
I’m also still making my way through the NY Times Style magazine from a few Sundays ago. When I opened it I was surprised to see an article about Yestermorrow Design Build school, a school in Vermont that I attended for a summer when I was in Graduate school. That summer had a big impact on the way I thought and continue to think about sustainability. It was the late 90’s, and the whole “green” revolution had barely begun. For everyone practicing and teaching architecture out there, being eco conscious was just a way of life. Simple solutions for problems like solar gain (large overhangs, trees for shade) were the norm, rather than high tech, new fangled “green” products.
I was a little nervous when I arrived and realized I might not quite fit in to the crunchy granola aesthetic that seemed to be the norm. But everyone was friendly and welcoming (if not a little crazy) and didn’t laugh too much at my first lame attempts to swing a hammer. Making buildings at full scale was an amazing learning experience and something that has shaped my working process ever since.
The other thing I am going to do this weekend is of course go see “Where the Wild Things Are” with my sons. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. I just bought the soundtrack a few days ago, and it’s been on constant repeat.
Have a great weekend everyone.
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
marfa print in black
I’ve been enjoying printing on fabric more than I ever thought I would. It’s interesting to me to think about how a print, which is on the surface, can become textural and/or work with a particular shape.
everything bag in marfa print image by Sarah Rubens
When I printed fabric for the everything bag I wanted an overall texture and pre-printed the fabric and then cut it out for the bags. I also wanted to try the print on a dress and decided the funnel neck dress would be a good simple shape to experiment on.
funnel neck dress in marfa print
For the dress I cut out the pieces and then printed them afterwards, considering the shape and line of the dress. I wanted to have less printed area for the dress, but I didn’t want it to stand out as an object on the fabric either. I think this has a nice balance of fabric to print and still remains textural. I also turned the print to emphasize the linearity of the dress.
This Thursday night (10.15.09) there is a jewelry trunkshow at Gallery 360 and Tia from Silvercocoon is the featured designer. Tia has been working with wool felt recently, and has some beautiful new pieces. I will be there with some items from the gleaning collection, along with this marfa print dress. Stop by to say hello if you’re in town. It’s from 6-9 and everything storewide will be 20% off.
funnel neck dress in marfa print + braided jersey belt in black plum
Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul, MN under the Mendota bridge
Sites and space are very important to me. All of my memories are directly connected to a specific space and site. A fond memory I have is of playing under the branches of a huge pine tree outside my grandmother’s house. The tips of the branches touched the ground all around the tree but the branches started up high, so there was a wonderfully large space created underneath. It was my little house, and I spent hours there in the dappled light, reading and thinking and playing. My grandmother lived in a mid-sized city and her house and the tree were right next to a busy street. I liked the contrast of hearing the buses going by while I was hidden away in my little pine forest.
I really like the twin cities, and when I started thinking about a site for the
g l e a n i n g photoshoot I wanted a space that captured what I like most about this place. I think what I connect to here is that same contrast I remember from my grandmother’s house, one between urban and natural features. The twin cities are in the northern part of the United States, and if you drive just a few hours north out of town you will be in the north woods. But there is a bit of that here in the city as well. And the fantastic thing is that when you find these pockets, the urban part of the city is right there, mixing with the rural.
This is the type of site I was looking for. A space where you could see some of the city infrastructure but also a bit of nature. I also had in my head the idea of a field. Maybe because I’ve been thinking so much about the word gleaning or maybe because I like fields. Not a field planted with crops but more of a prairie grass field. I had a few ideas of places to look but none of them were just right. Then Sarah suggested a place she had been to in St. Paul and we set up a time to meet. When I got there I had to drive several miles down this road into what seemed to be a northern Minnesota state park. Except there were these huge power lines and an enormous concrete bridge overhead. And a big prairie grass field underneath.
It was perfect. I walked around and waited for Sarah, but she never showed up. Later we realized that we were at two different places. I had gotten the wrong directions and gone to a completely different place. Neither of us had ever been here before, and it was right here under our noses. It’s always so strange and wonderful to me when things like this happen. It was like I was meant to find it.
I really felt a connection with this site and I hoped that Sarah would too. I was nervous because she didn’t see it until the day of the shoot. But when we showed up the light was just right and everything seemed to fall into place. And I think she did make a connection. I can see it in her photos. There is a certain magic.
I can’t wait for you to see them too. This Friday, October 2nd.
Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul, MN under the Mendota bridge
Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
I have dreamed of having a home studio/workspace since I was young. Really. Ever since I’ve been little I’ve drawn and painted and sewn and done crafts, all on the kitchen or dining room table. Or the floor of my room. I’d see pictures of studios in magazines and think about how great it would be to have a space to leave things in progress out and a place for all of my supplies so I wouldn’t have to search through numerous boxes and bins and cabinets to find stuff, usually not finding it and getting discouraged and giving up.
Now I have that space. It makes me so happy and it feels like a huge luxury. The last few days I’ve been going down and just standing in the space, turning around. I feel proud that I took what was a grim storage room in our basement and turned it into one of my favorite rooms in the house, basically by clearing out and throwing tons of paint at it. In January I wrote about turning our basement storage room into a studio space -painting and cleaning and clearing out and organizing. And now here it is August, and I’m almost done. Even though it has been 7 months, the actual time that I worked on this was probably a week. Life just got in the way between days 3 and 7:)
basement studio plan (formerly storage space) aprox. 13′ x 16′
So many people have told me that they have the same dream too, and it’s really so doable, I thought I would tell you about the process of setting up my space. And if you think you don’t have a place for a studio, look again. Our basement was seriously nasty (and the rest of it still is) but with a lot of cleaning and a lot of paint you can work wonders.
So, here are a few tips about setting up a workspace quickly in less than desirable conditions, without a lot of money:
Do one high impact thing right away
Choose something that will look like you’ve made progress, make you happy and get you motivated to continue. For me that was painting one of the dirty tan concrete block walls white. Once that wall was clean and white, the space was brighter and I could envision what it would all be like. Then I taped up some photographs so I’d have something inspirational to look at every time I entered the room.
Get everything out of the space that doesn’t have to go there
Put everything else into bins, boxes or bags. This was really important for me. It was overwhelming to think about organizing all of my fabric, supplies, books, etc. plus all of the basement items not related to my studio that needed to stay in the room. I just threw everything into plastic bins and baskets and stacked them in the middle of the room. Once the visual clutter was organized I could breathe easier. Each bin might have random stuff inside that still needed to be sorted and put away but that could happen later after the major parts of the room were organized.
Paint is transformative and white is magic.
Paint is relatively cheap and painting a space with a fresh coat will really make it feel clean, bright and new. I’m a big proponent of painting walls, woodwork, shelving, doors, ceilings and floors all the same color, preferably white. Painting over everything, especially in a basement space, will make it feel cohesive, especially when you have a bunch of disparate and not exactly great materials. I painted the concrete block walls, old wood storage shelving, existing peg board walls and dry, cracked window trim. Having it all the same color makes the space seem bigger. Now my eye doesn’t catch on all the nooks and crannies and stains and it feels fresh. Making it all white allows everything you put into the space take a front seat. I want to focus on the work I’m making and bits of art I put in the space, not the old cracked walls. Colorful art and fabric doesn’t have to compete with the background. And white bounces what little light there is around, making it brighter. To this end the tables, desks and cabinets I added are all white as well, and become part of the room.
I draped some fabric on the wall to hide ugly exposed conduit and outlet
make do and make peace with settling for less.
You might remember my masterplan for our basement studio and playspace. Well as I mentioned in January, if I waited for exactly what I wanted I’d still be waiting. So I started thinking about what I really needed, and how I could make that happen with what I could do myself, using things I had or could buy inexpensively. One of the most important things for me is light. I need the space to be bright to work and since it is in the basement that requires electric lighting. Hiring an electrician would be out of my budget but I didn’t want to take the time to learn how to wire up track lighting myself. I started poking around the hardware store and discovered that you can get an adaptor to make track lighting plug in. It took about an hour to screw 3 strips of track to the underside of the joists, attach the plug to the end and snap in the light heads. Then I just stapled the cords to the joists and ran them all to one power strip. Almost instant halogen light that is adjustable to any corner of the room.
There are several spots in the room that have exposed conduit and outlets featured prominently on the middle of walls. I draped some fabric over them and call them art:)
Prioritize and phase things
I painted all the walls but left the floor and ceiling for later. The ceiling (exposed joists, ductwork and conduit) and floor (exposed concrete) will take much longer and be more expensive. I decided that having everything that is at eye level clean and fresh would make the biggest difference.
Use what you have
A few nice items will make all the IKEA/Target/hardware store stuff look better. I shopped our storage and found a mid century chair and dresser that we weren’t using and put them in the space, and now my eye notices the beautiful danish teak first rather than the white coated particle board.
floor to ceiling curtains hide existing built-in storage shelves full of tools and paint
Be flexible and think creatively
There are some existing built in shelves in the space that we have filled with paint cans, tools and various other house things that we really don’t have room for anywhere else. The shelves are ugly and the stuff on them is always jumbled and random. I put up a long floor to ceiling curtain over the front and now I don’t have to see the stuff inside but it’s still easily accessible. It was cheap and easy to put up and I like the added softness and texture of the curtain in the space.
rolls of fabric are stored on high deep wire shelves
You can never have too much storage
Keeping materials off of your work surface keeps the space feeling big and open which will inspire you to want to be in it.
high worktable made out of painted doors on adjustable IKEA legs
The BIG table.
For me the key to having the most efficient and easy to use workspace is a big center work table. If you put a large work surface in the center of a room, you have a large area to lay things out on and you can easily move around it on all sides. The wall surface can become pin up space, or if you have room can accommodate a desk, shelving or other work surface and you can easily move between the two by just turning. Visually the large surface in the center actually makes the space feel bigger. Underneath the table I can store all of those bins full of stuff that I mentioned previously, and it will be there out of sight until I can get to organizing it.
To make a large, inexpensive worktable I took two hollow core doors and added inexpensive IKEA legs. The ones I got are adjustable in height, if you don’t need that option they are even cheaper. Solid doors are more sturdy and would have been preferable, but they were triple the price. On the entrance side of the table I put an IKEA bookcase, to store books and hide all the bins behind. When I walk in I see a pretty shelf full of books, not all the junk under the table.
Some IKEA shopping tips
Of course I wish I could have all of my furniture and cabinets made by my furniture maker friends but this isn’t possible right now. So I turned to IKEA, which is a good option for simple background pieces, as long as you are careful in your selections.
Do a lot of research on their website and look at all of the categories, not just workspace or storage. I originally wanted the EFFEKTIV workspace storage cabinets, but my space was 1 inch too narrow for them to go wall to wall. I really wanted the cabinets to be wall to wall for a sleeker, more built in look. I searched through all of their furniture, and finally came up with a configuration of BESTA media cabinets that fit exactly. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the BESTA cabinets. They seem quite sturdy and went together quickly and seamlessly.
Take advantage of IKEA’s shopping list feature. Once I found the cabinets I wanted, I just added all of the components, accessories and inserts to my shopping list and printed it out. The list tells you the price and which aisle and bin number the item is located in. It only took me an hour to go purchase everything and get back home again.
Friday, July 10th, 2009
The women over at Echoes are focusing on the phrase summer is…. this summer and they’ve invited me to add something to their collaborative journal today that expresses what summer is to me.
For me summer always invokes images of the farm fields surrounding the small Wisconsin town where I grew up. I was a town girl, and farm life seemed foreign and exciting. We would drive the county roads and I loved the lush patchwork of crops in vibrant golds and greens. In college I discovered the aerial photographs of Alex Maclean and was especially drawn to his field photographs, which not only reminded me of the those fields from my childhood but also let me experience them in a completely new way.
Now I live in a city, and while summer isn’t my favorite season, there are a few things I look forward to in the summer. One of those is the Minnesota State Fair, and one of my favorite things to do there is to go see the seed art (they call it crop art). Amazingly detailed scenes all made out of seeds. Again the seed art makes me think of those fields of my youth but I like seeing the seeds from those fields presented in a new way.
For my contribution I gathered plants and seeds from my yard, to develop a field that evokes for me both the past and the present while trying to maintain a balance between object/field.
Thanks for the invitation girls, I really enjoyed this!
Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows that I’ve always disliked the color purple. Some shades, especially those with a lot of white in them (think purple smartees candy) actually make me feel ill. So I was quite surprised the other day to find myself falling hard for a swatch of purple colored jersey in the batch of samples I received from my sustainable fabric supplier. It didn’t hurt that it is super soft and made of soy and organic cotton. And they call the color plum. Much better than purple.
And just like that, I guess I like purple.
and thank you all so much for your thoughts and comments about children’s clothing. It’s so interesting to read everyone’s slightly different take on the subject. I’m going to continue to try to add my thoughts to the comments section on all posts as well. I like that everyone can see the dialogue.