Thursday, April 25, 2013

Geek Chic: Dorky But Cool

It's that time of year again: time for the Robert Kaufman Fabric8 Contest. In this competition, the judges from Robert Kaufman Fabrics and Spoonflower pore over hundreds of designs (one entry from each designer) and choose 100 semi-finalists. Then the general public votes, and the top eight designers then create a collection around the original design. The general public then votes again on the collections to determine a winner, who will be given a contract to work with Robert Kaufman!

The theme for this year's contest is "Geek Chic", so I went back to my '80s roots and focused on fashion and hobbies of the hipster dweeb, naming the collection after the term coined by Judd Nelson's character, John Bender, in the ultimate '80s flick "The Breakfast Club". Using hand-drawn illustrations, as if doodled in a notebook or *gasp!* on a desk, the collection features cameras (perhaps thrifted for 25 cents before the obsession became mainstream), calculators (everyone turned into a nerd when the calculator became a necessity in the trigonometry classroom), record players, Swiss fashion watches, combs we'd put in our back pockets, hi-top sneakers, and of course, "The Cube". All of these things have become "cool" again, perhaps even more so, some 30 years later. The ultimate revenge for those of us who have always been geeks at heart!

The first design shown below, "Make It Snappy!", is the print I'm entering into the contest. It features a collection of vintage and retro cameras, including those resembling the Brownie, Polaroid One Step, Canon Snappy (my first camera)...even a couple inspired by Fisher-Price toy cameras. These may not have been geeky at the time, but collecting them now is all the rage for geeks like me. To me, "Geek Chic" could be defined as "dorky and cool at the same time." And it seems kind of dorky-yet-cool to go back to using analog objects now when digital cameras and apps for processing and sharing are the mainstream.

Make It Snappy!

Cal Q. Lator and High Energy (Gray)

Apple Pi with close-up

Hi-Fi (Black) and All-Stars (Gray)

May the Cube Be With You and Magic Cube

Hi-Fi (White) and High Energy (White)

Geeky Stripes (Black on Grid) and Oh, Goody! (Black)

All-Stars (White) and High Energy (Red)

Hi-Fi (Yellow) and Oh, Goody! (Pinstripe)

Swiss Time and Geeky Stripes (Color)

I've had so much fun working on this collection, not only because the subject matter is so nostalgic, but because it is different from anything I've done with surface pattern design. Doing the drawings and then seeing them come together with color and in patterns...I could get used to this! There are just too many geeky-but-cool things from the '80s--I have a feeling I'll be doing a second collection!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Whiff of Nostalgia

Several years ago I purchased my first issue of Uppercase magazine. It was issue #5, and I read it cover-to-cover that night. I subscribed the next morning, also buying #3 and #4, the only remaining back issues. Every few months the magazine arrives, the inside of the envelope filled with that fabulous fresh ink smell. I had always dreamed of being featured in the magazine, of course for my design work, but recently an opportunity came up for me to contribute in a different way.

Some of you may know that my obsession with collecting (hoarding) includes a passion for vintage stickers from the 1970s and '80s. For the first 10 years of the 2000s, right after I turned 30, I was consumed with finding and buying all the stickers I collected as a kid, replacing all those I had stuck to old notebooks and magnetic photo albums with pristine, unused stickers on their original backings. This included scratch and sniff stickers, which had to be unscratched and still have their smell. And I wasn't the only one--eBay was crawling with avid sticker collectors, especially those who wanted sniff stickers. It was a tense 10 years, watching hundreds if not thousands of listings and usually bidding at the last second to try to win. But my collection is nearly complete, and occasionally I am able to fill in some holes when I get the inkling to check out the eBay listings again.

During this time I was fortunate to collaborate with a fellow collector, bubbledog, writing a book dedicated to scratch and sniff stickers: The Vintage Scratch & Sniff Stickers Collector's Guide. It took us a couple years to compile all the information and images (working on opposite coasts while also having full-tme jobs didn't make it any easier!), but the labor of love has brought me full-circle to the latest issue of Uppercase, #17, in which I am thrilled to have contributed a short article about the stinky pieces of paper!

This issue is the "Special Stationery Issue", so inside you'll also find profiles of 50 stationers, stationery from around the world, a history of the envelope, and so much more--too much to list--on over 100 beautifully-designed pages. Oh, and did I mention the cherry-scented scratch and sniff cover?! If you're not familiar with the magazine, you can check out their website here, and even flip through this issue here. If you decide to subscribe, use the special code "CONTRIBUTOR17" at checkout to get $10 off your subscription!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vintage Fabric Stash...Reorganized!

About a month ago I saw a photo, posted on Instagram by Catherine of the sewing and craft duo cat&vee, showing pieces of her fabric stash organized on little mini bolts. They looked so amazing that I decided I wanted to do the same thing, only with all the vintage fabric I have been hoarding for years.


So I followed the same tutorial Catherine did, which you can find on Terri's Sewfantastic blog, and set off on an ironing spree... I had been warned that there was A LOT of ironing to be done, which there was, but the end result was so fab I didn't mind. The little bolts stack up so nicely, and look so great grouped together by color! After organizing the fabric this way, I was able to get my stash stored in one drawer instead of two, and now am so addicted to the results that I want to buy more fabric just to organize it! Yes, I think I might need help.


What d'ya think? Talk about looking 1000 times better! And now I have an empty drawer that needs filled...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Find & Keep Project #1: DIY Bleached Tee

A couple weeks ago I started reading Beci Orpin's book Find & Keep and, while I've finished the main text of the book (I couldn't put it down!), I have only just started the 26 projects in the book.

For the first project, "Fun with Dyes & Bleach", I decided to use the bleach method to customize a T-shirt for myself, and one for a friend celebrating her 40th birthday. This is a relatively easy project, and only requires a few materials:

  • Plain, dark T-shirt, washed and dried
  • Newspaper or scrap paper
  • Piece of thick cardboard
  • Bleach and a bowl to pour it in
  • Rubber gloves
  • Objects to apply bleach

  • In her book, Beci uses a small paint brush to dot the bleach onto her tee. I decided it might be fun to use some small plastic lids to apply the bleach. I've been saving the lids, which cannot be recycled, so that someday, when I have enough of them, I can use them to make a funky chandelier. So after covering my work table with several large sheets of newsprint, I picked out various sizes of lids. I inserted the piece of cardboard inside the shirt, so that the bleach would not bleed through to the back side of the shirt. Then I put a tiny bit of bleach in a small bowl.

    Next, I started dipping the lids in the bleach and stamped the shirt in a random pattern. I was worried at first that nothing was happening, but slowly the color started to come out. Occasionally I would pull up the shirt and look up through the top from the inside. I could tell by how translucent the rings looked from the inside that it was working.

    Beci says in the book to leave the bleach on only about 20 minutes. It took about an hour for my shirts to really bleach as much as I wanted. I would suggest keeping an eye on your shirt while the bleach is working. Using too much of the bleach, or leaving it on too long, could cause the fibers to disintegrate.

    Let your shirt completely dry. You can then turn the shirt over if you want to do the same thing to the back. Once you're happy with your shirt and it has dried, you can wash and dry it as usual, though I washed mine separately for the first wash, just so no bleach would harm any other clothes.

    Please note that not all fabrics dye the same way, so you might want to test a small drop of bleach on a test spot of your shirt to see how it works.

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    I Wish I Had Done That!

    If you're not familiar with it already, I'd like to introduce you to the work of one of my favorite Spoonflower designers, Tina Vey, a.k.a 'ottomanbrim'. An illustrator based in New York City, Tina worked in the textile industry years ago. I first saw her work appear on Spoonflower about a year ago and each week I am blown away by her contest entries, filing them away in my brain under "I Wish I Had Done That!" Tina is influenced by art and design from the 1920s through the '70s--you might notice some references to Art Deco, Midcentury Modern, and Marimekko. She likes to say that she's just obsessed with drawing circles, but the fact that she remains true to her style is an inspiration to me. I could fill the next couple lines with a stream-of-consciousness of glowing adjectives, but I'll let her work speak for itself. You can view more of Tina's designs, and purchase fabric, in her Spoonflower shop. She also has prints, greeting cards, iPhone cases, throw pillows, and more, available in her Society6 shop.

    LEFT: Mod in America; RIGHT: Cones Descending a Staircase

    LEFT: Candy; RIGHT: I'm a Leo

    LEFT: Bloom; RIGHT: Acacia Pod

    LEFT: Emma; RIGHT: Emu

    LEFT: Sweetheart; RIGHT: Girlfriend

    LEFT: Lions and Lambs—Oh My!; RIGHT: Floral Dots

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    It's All in the Details

    Last month I participated in my first daily Instagram photo project, organized by the folks at Flow Magazine. Using the hashtag #flow31details, participants were asked to take daily photos of details around their homes. I had a great time working on the project, because it was the perfect way to make a commitment to taking at least one photo everyday, and I also found some fun little things happening in my house that I might not have given much thought to otherwise. Below are all 31 of my photos. Hope you like them! I'm looking forward to starting the April project today, which is all about watching your garden grow (#flow30flowers). Happy spring!

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