“Scraper” bikes

Via Make Mag, click for more.

Brian comes through with a great tip, something I at least knew nothing about. Evidently this is an Oakland thing: Kids who customize their bikes (as in bicycles) in an aesthetic inspired by “scraper” (basically a kind of low-rider with the sort of styling I’m used to seeing on donks) cars. Thus things like Oreo wrappers get incorporated, if the look is right. This isn’t really mutant-bike stuff (yes, yes, I know there’s been a lot of DIY bike customizing for years), it’s more about the look. Anyway some of these creators showed up at the Maker Faire and there’s a Make Q&A here. There’s more info in this YouTube video, also courtesy of Brian. (So Brian: Thanks!)

The idea of the book, cont’d: DIY book-page wallpaper

Click for more details

This series of posts started with book wallpaper; now Design*Sponge notes this DIY tutorial on how to make your own. Ruche explains: “We picked up some used cheap paper back books at the thrift store. You don’t necessary need old antique books, just books with pages with a yellow tint. (If you’re wondering, we used Secret Garden, 3 Ninjas, and some other one. haha) We used a paint roller to roll “Sta-Fold” (liquid starch that use for iron clothes) all over the wall, stuck old book papers on wall, and rolled another coat of “Sta-fold”. Work one section at a time. Wait for it to dry..and TADA!”

The D*S post notes the use of this look in a fashion shoot for a clothing brand (below).

By Stephanie Williams. Click for more details.

Marketplace of (others’?) ideas, Part two

Okay, then, an update on the recent-sh post, titled The Marketplace of (Other Peoples’?) Ideas. Basically this was me thinking out loud about indie creators who feel their work is getting ripped off by big companies, and what if anything can be done about it. Notably:

A prominent theory of Web-thought is that such exposure [of alleged ripoffs, online] ought to spark some kind of response and ideally resolution of the specific instances — and, you would think, a downtick in the number of such instances. And yet it seems routine.

I had a number of private conversations with various folks about this post after it went up. The upshot is as follows. Read more

Destroyed copy of “Buying In” as a Kindle-holder

Available from BustedTypewriter on Etsy, for $25 — part of his Don’t Judge Me project.

This hardcover copy of “Buying In” by Rob Walker has been sealed and cut by hand to fit Amazon’s Kindle 6″ Wireless Reading Device.

More here. Thanks for the tip, BT. (I think.)


Work, craft, sex

Fast bikes, slow food, and the workplace wars: Kalefa Sannah writes in the NYer: Shop Class as Soulcraft “is, in large part, a treatise on the joys and frustrations of manliness in a post-manly age.”

I was interested to read this, because my reaction to the excerpt was that it had a lot more to do with those issues than it did with the (alleged topic of) joy/satisfaction of working with your hands. I haven’t read the book, but I couldn’t shake the feeling in the essay that Crawford was bent on signaling his fundamental man-ness. It’s interesting to me that some forms of DIYism are positioned in gender terms, and others (like Crawford’s book) are treated as more transcendental statements about American life.

On a related note, I think Sanneh’s very good essay would have been even better if it had somehow worked in Handmade Nation and the considerable subculture (or culture) it represents, and how its participants think about consumption, gender, work, and so on.

“Shape your tools, or you will be shaped by them.”

A 10-minute Youtube video about “the hardware hacking community” in Montreal is now making the rounds on some of the big blogs, so maybe you’ve seen it (though if not, check out here via the Unconsumption blog, where Tom Hosford posted it several days ago). It’s worth a look.

Plus: I have a question:

Toward the end a guy remarks: “I forget who said it, but the philosophy behind it is: Shape your tools, or you will be shaped by them.”

I’m very interested in that, but my Google-fu is evidently not up to the task of figuring out the source. So does anybody know: Who did say it? What’s the reference to?

UPDATE: The answer (see comments) seems to be Marshall McLuhan — sort of. Apparently McLuhan said: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us.” That’s a different sentiment than what I took the hacker/maker to be expressing. But it seems likely that this is more or less what he was thinking of (and he hacked it?). Still accepting counter-evidence or theories if you have them, of course.

Here’s how the video is described, by the by:

“A look into the hardware hacking community in Montreal, including the Foulab collective. Why are more and more hobbyists experimenting with hacks and circuit bends? What relationship does this imply about consumer society and technological advancement? Is this a real-world analog of ‘user generated content’?”

In The New York Times Magazine: Swine flu neckties

A sartorial symbol of conformity gets a subversive twist

At one time or another, most American males must reckon with the necktie. Some embrace it, some grudgingly acquiesce to it and plenty reject it. That the necktie seems to have no practicalpurpose is of course the very source of its potency. Over the past d ecade or two, a rising wave of tech billionaires have made even its absence a powerful signal. This is why a tie pattern that incorporates an image of the swine-flu virus is such a snug fit: while the necktie sounds like an unlikely canvas for dark humor or subversive sentiment, it is actually an ideal one.

“Terminal Illness” is the name of one of the most recent designs from Bethany Shorb, a Detroit artist, and the fact that it has a title is a good indicator that it is not a traditional tie….

Read the column in the May 24, 2009 New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

Indie crafting and the mainstream (cont’d)

As a follow up to this past weekend’s Consumed about Crafty Chica:

The sort of sub-theme of that column was that the mainstream/traditional craft industry seems to be making more of an effort to work with or reach out to (or just sell to) the Handmade 2.0 world. I noted in the column that Kathy Cano-Murillo and Jenny Hart were featured speakers at the most recent Craft & Hobby Association convention — and I also mentioned that some of the material at that trade show describing the indie-craft scene was met with exasperation by at least some actual members of that scene.

In light of all that it’s worth pointing out to those of you who are interested in the crafty movement — which I obviously think is a pretty big deal and pretty interesting, which is why I write about it all the time — might want to check out some follow-up thoughts that post-date my deadline on that column.

Specifically, the most recent episode of CraftyPod deals directly with the issue. Sister Diane interviews Mike Hartnett of Creative Leisure News, a longtime observer of the craft-retail business. If you’re an indie crafter yourself, you might be interested in hearing his observations about how that business has changed and evolved over time — he knows his stuff. (Among other things it’s pretty surprising to hear how relatively recently scrapbooking was sort of marginalized, given how central to the mainstream-retail craft idea it is today.)

That said, I remain more than a little surprised at how belatedly the mainstream craft industry seems to be taking an interest in the indie scene. That comes through in the interview. But it’s to Sister Diane’s credit (and actually this is typical of why I like the crafty crowd) that she did this interview, and then even contributed a piece to Hartnett’s publication.

And it’s to Hartnett’s credit that he asks directly for feedback from Sister Diane’s audience. I’m thinking about emailing myself — maybe let him know about an article and a book and a few posts and columns that I guess he missed.

In The New York Times Magazine: Crafty Chica

How an alt-crafts venture is making its way to the mainstream.

This week in Consumed, Kathy Cano-Murillo, better known to fans as Crafty Chica, as an example of the evolution of the do-it-yourself busines.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that the business of crafting may not be suffering quite so much as the rest of the retail landscape in the current recession. But whatever the state of the economy, the Craft and Hobby Association is largely focused on expanding the sales of its mass-oriented member companies. (Alt-craft aside, the show also included a preview of craft products from, of all people, Paris Hilton.) And it’s fair to say that some indie crafters are skeptical about the attention. CraftyPod, an influential blog and podcast, noted with exasperation that the material at the show described new-wave crafters in the context of “the hippie generation.”

Cano-Murillo is perhaps uniquely situated to bridge this craft gap. She’s widely known in the indie world and has built her own contact list of a few hundred indie stores. But last year she quit her newspaper job to work for Duncan Enterprises, maker of well-known craft products like Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue, and that move made it possible to approach big chains like Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft. …

Read the column in the March 1, 2009, issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

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Dept. of Updates

Quick reminder: There is no Consumed column this weekend. And now some updates.

Above: New(ish) from The Black Apple. (You may remember her from the Handmade 2.0 story.)

Rich Brilliant Willing, whose hypothetical design project Green Cell was the subject of this April 20, 2008 Consumed, get some attention for a more recent project — Russian nesting doll tables — here.

I did a January 27, 2008 column about Kiva. This past I got an email from somebody at BetterLabs about an app the created: If you want to make a loan to a Kiva entrepreneur, but have particular criteria (a particular country, or maybe some particular sort of business) and want to be alerted when there’s a loan-seeker who meets those criteria, then you can try Kiva Alerts.

And in new links on the roll: Adding Yu-Ming Wu’s new blog to the Brand Underground section; Yu-Ming is a very smart guy and someone I like a lot, and appears in Buying In. Also adding The Sound of Young America blog to the Hard to Categorize category.

Craft and “green”

A recent-sh installment of CraftyPod focuses on “Crafting Green.” What does that mean? That question is actually the theme of the episode, and if you’re into the whole handmade/DIYism world, and there’s any kind of consumption-ideology element to your interest, it’s worth a listen. (Especially, now that I think about it, if you have an interest in unconsumption. More on that soon.)

CraftyPodcaster Sister Diane has many useful thoughts on the subject — starting with a bit of skepticism of the overly simple word “green.” She notes that many crafters have been talking about buying fewer new craft supplies this year, and crafting from their existing stashes instead. This actually might be a legitimate example of converting economic reality (saving money in tight times) into something productive: The creative challenge of using what’s on hand. That’s Sister Diane’s take, and she has a point. She’s starting with an inventory of all her craft stuff so she knows what she has.

On the other hand, later in the episode, Sister Diane raises the point that it might make sense to budget a bit for occasional new purchases from retailers you want to support. Anyway, I’m generally a fan of the concept of appreciating — or at least evaluating — what you already have, rather than always seeking something new (including the buying of new “green” products, etc., as a way to participate in concern about sustainability. So I like her rather balanced take on the subject.

Anyway, she also has some interesting examples. At the more extreme end: Futuregirl pledges to “Use What I Have” in 2009 — and in fact is attempting to spend $0 on craft supplies for the year:

We recently shuffled around our apartment and I moved my crafting area into the bedroom.  As I was moving and reorganizing everything, I realized I have TONS of craft supplies that I *really* want to use.  Thanks to my blog, I know exactly when some of them came into my life, too … ugh!  It breaks my heart that so many wonderful supplies have been sitting around ignored FOR YEARS.

This, coupled with the economic downturn, means it’s the perfect time for me to cut back on my crafty spending.  The more I thought about it, the more I started to think that maybe I should try to spend ZERO on craft supplies this year.

Is that going overboard? Well, I’m not sure.

CraftyPod also suggests craft-supply swaps — see the show notes for links — and points out RePlayGround: “We’re recycling fanatics and just love finding new uses for old items. Your scrap is the raw material for our next design project.” Looks like a really interesting little company/design studio. Apparently they do design projects (furniture, packaging, etc.) for cleints, as well as sell kits to anyone interested in doing their own upcycling. Also mentioned: Lee Meredith, also known for making things from other things.

Plus she talks about “the craft potential” tied up in “unfinished craft objects (UFOs).” Perhaps, Sister Diane suggests, it’s time to confront those UFO projects — and consider giving up and reclaiming the materials for something new. Or combine that with a swap gathering. I’m trying to think about parallel behavior for the less-crafty among us.

All in all a very thoughtful discussion, and another example of why,  when I talk to people about the book and they ask me what I’m keeping an eye on this year, I still say it’s this DIYism subculture.

Yes, I know you’re sick of Obama art & products…

535822… but, for reasons that would take too long to explain, I was just on a site called Embroidery.com, and was surprised to see that the “most popular” embroidery pattern on offer was, yes, “President Obama Commemorative Embroidery.” Or “POOBAMA 1,” as the product reference code puts it.

To do in NYC tonight

Handmade Nation onslaught now underway. Summary of NY events on The Storque:

There will also be a panel discussion at the Powerhouse Arena Bookstore in Brooklyn on Wednesday, February 11, 7-9pm EST. Powerhouse is located at 37 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl, co-authors of “Handmade Nation,” join American Craft Editor-in-Chief Andrew Wagner and KnitKnit‘s Sabrina Gschwandtner for a panel on art, craft and design.

Another panel discussion tomorrow night, with Faythe Levine, Mandy Greer, Kate Bingaman-Burt and Callie Janoff, is sold out, but will be videostreamed in Etsy; details here.


PSFK put up a post about “mutant bike clubs” the other day, and I was annoyed with myself, because I hadn’t taken the time to post a link to some pix taken by friend of Murketing Charles R. Franklin, a New Orleans photographer who was was on hand for a recent gathering of these rather impressive customizers in N.O.

His set of images — worth checking out — is here.

Mr. Franklin also passed along a link to B.I.K.E.: The Movie, in multiple parts on YouTube. Lastly: Here is a 2006 Village Voice article (mentioned here at the time) on the mutant-bike thing — opening with an anecdote about Brooklyn Industries outlets getting defaced with “Bike Culture Not For Sale.” The Black Label Bicycle Club is described as “virulently anti-consumerist.” Making them likely targets for sponsorship offers, I assume.


To Do in Savannah: Stitch Spectacular

From Connect:

Stitch Spectacular will feature 41 pieces by artists from as far away as Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Participants were selected by an impressive jury comprising Grace Bonney, founder of design*sponge website; Kate Bingaman-Burt, founder of the Obsessive Consumption website and assistant professor at Portland State University; and Torrey Stifel, studio coordinator at the Jepson Center for the Arts. Learn more about the judges and entries at www.stitchspectacular.com.

Dimensions Gallery
412 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Savannah, GA

January 9 through February 3. Opening reception January 9, 7-10 p.m. Closing reception January 30, 5-8 p.m.