Friday, June 26, 2009

Interlude: The Shondes @ Black Cat SUNDAY!

Many years ago, at a time in my life when I was absorbing queer culture as though I were an unquenchable sponge, I visited the Charm City Kitty Club at the behest of a close friend. We wound up getting a group of lovely ladies together, dolled ourselves up and joined the hip, indie queer scene in one of my favorite towns. The performances were pretty fantastic, with local troupes and interludes of poetry and other inspirational art. The evening concluded with a band with which I was previously unfamiliar. As the musicians walked onto the stage, I believe I smacked the arm of my not-quite-yet-but-soon-to-be-BFF and let my jaw drop to the floor. To be honest, they could've played Mary Had a Little Lamb and I would've been sold...these people were HAWT. But as they lifted their mics, drumsticks, fiddles and guitars and started to perform, I was solidly convinced that these folks were quite possibly one of the best queer bands I had ever seen...and would ever see.

The Shondes "make dramatic rock music that has been compared to Sleater-Kinney, Patti Smith, and Rasputina." While in many ways I am just naive enough to have little idea what that means, they are skilled musicians who can speak to an audience on many distinct levels. For music connoisseurs, their technique seems to be spot on (I can't even play the recorder, okay, but I know it's true!). For people who love an energetic and visually appealing show, the band puts every ounce of heart and soul contained within their bodies to the stage...jumping, sweating, pounding, ripping fiddle strings to shreds. And for people like me, who require a inspiring lyrical component, generally with a social justice edge, The Shondes do not disappoint.
Their songwriting fuses the various musical traditions of feminist punk, classical, Jewish, and queercore, while their vocal melodies move effortlessly from anthemic to haunting, textured by the distinct qualities of each of their voices.
The Shondes are playing Sunday night at the Black Cat (note: one of the few bars in the city committed to keeping the stupid cast of The Real World DC out...which basically makes them multiple degrees of awesome). Tickets are $10 for the backstage performance, with The Bitter Tears, and the show starts at 9:00pm. I really hope that during this season of Pride and reflection, you support queer/trans-identified artists like The Shondes who continue to push the envelope and inspire us to live with strength, conviction and to always put on one hell of an amazing show.

And I'm telling you folks...they are hot. I mean, look at the picture! Whatever...sometimes it's ok to be a little shallow. Right?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oh Hello: What? I have a real job!

What the hell have I been doing lately?

Well, I'll tell you. I had oral surgery, had some complications from oral surgery, worked through most of it, went to Pride with my awesome and amazing Queer Crafter Collective, pondered the meaning of Etsy and all of my curmudgeonly critiques of the crafter community, made 15 dozen cookies, became re-aquainted with the deliciousness that is homemade iced tea, developed a bit of a cough and worked some more. Y'all, I'm worn out.

There were quite a few comments made in the Ponderings post about Etsy and my recommendation of a disclaimer, and I want to just state for the record that I appreciate every single one of them, and that I'm still considering all of them including my perspectives on things. My feelings and thoughts on the matter are certainly not firmly planted in any sort of negativity or cynicism. I am more than willing to listen and grow and even change my perspective. So thank you for shining light on new points of view and thoughts and trust that I will have more to share and say about the subject soon!

Capital Pride with my Queer Crafter Collective friends was wildly reaffirming. There are moments when I question my ability to be committed to so many things...this blog, my shop, doing the dishes. But being involved in Pride was such a valuable and significant reminder that this is something great. Why do we need a QCC? Well, contrary to popular belief, queer people don't exclusively make things with rainbows embedded in them. Sometimes queer people aren't necessarily visible and this is a group dedicated to bring visibility to queer artists and crafters, because what we do isn't necessarily mainstream. Here's a few pictures from the day.

I've started a new project which I may or may not sell. Mostly, I'm motivated to do it because it excites me and I don't know if I'll be able to part with it. It's a continuation of the little pieces of Cubicle Art I've been making, with a kitchen/culinary theme. I'm going to take relatively similar, somewhat dimensional, pieces of kitchenware and stitch them on various sizes of fabric, framed with embroidery hoops. Each image will also have the word for the item stitched near it. I was telling Em that I was worried my first piece was too morbid, but I thought it'd be easy so I went with it. Trust me! There's a whisk, measuring cups, teakettle and other very sweet and innocent things in the future! What do you guys think?

[Insert: Slasher movie soundtrack here]

And finally, I have a little treat from my mom. She sent me this picture today after I insisted on seeing her latest baked work of art. Every ounce of baking talent and interest I have can be attributed to my mom. I mean, look at this! This is ART.

Seamus says hello to one and all, too. You are more than welcome to check out the pictures and videos we've compiled at his Flickr Stream. He's tried Frosty Paws, had his first Pride and has already gnawed on my beautiful Crate & Barrel leaning bookshelves. Oh, what a cherub.

Happy Weekend.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Etsy Finds: Water Not Required

How much do I love this?! It's a plant, that I don't have to water, with pinking sheered edges and quaint vintage-y yet modern fabric! It comes potted and ready to perch in your home or office! What a very brilliant idea!

Craft Ponderings: Results Not Typical

Before I get started with this post, I'd like to issue a disclaimer: This entire series of "craft ponderings" is just an example, within a niche, of how I am constantly questioning the status quo. I do not endeavor to offend anyone, but I'm well aware that it happens. I do this because I am instinctively compelled and because there is some part of me that believes the world will be a better place for everyone if we lift the veils and remove the blinders that prevent us from living to our full and rewarding potential. You might feel that I sound like a righteous pessimist, but in fact I am the complete opposite. I am an optimist of the highest order and I do this as a means to an end...that being a better world.


The craft world, specifically those tethered in some way to, is all abuzz (or intentionally ignoring) about an article recently published on the online newsmagazine Double X (which appears to be by and for women and simultaneously managed by the overlords of Washington Post/Newsweek/Slate). I say that because I generally find it laughable that women, who are tethered to such enormous news machines, feel like they've founded something novel and new, something devoid of a relationship with or support from the patriarchy. They are all puppets attached to strings, given a platform for entertainment and pseudo-intellectual purposes but still inexplicably connected to a machine (like our government?) who can remove their right to publish at any time (does this sound familiar?). Locally, we have The Sexist. What I'm trying to say is that these online newsmagazines portray themselves in a way that would suggest they are somehow authorities on feminism and modern women's issues, but this is only relevant if you're middle class, 20-40 year old white women who buy into the patriarchy, even accidentally.

Moving on, Double X published an article, which should ignite the craft world and Etsy patrons (sellers and buyers). There are some substantial, frustrating and annoying generalizations/errors/overstatements. I cannot deny that I am tired of white women placing "feminist judgments" on the shoulders of other women, white or not, because they are not acting in a manner that would suggest they care about feminism. Ultimately, nothing about Etsy is about feminism...not in its business/community practices OR in its outcomes. It's capitalism and consumerism in a really, really magical, handmade disguise.

Last night, when I was pondering this article and this conundrum currently plaguing me (don't know about the rest of y'all), a Subway commercial came on television. That insipid marketing plan, with the repetitive melody and brain-snatching hook, is just another way for a big company to convince me that I need what they're selling. In the case of this economy, I need a big sandwich for my buck...I need a $5 footlong so I can still stand in line with the other drones and not get judged for bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to my boring and inspirationless cubicle. And a few years ago, Subway made me feel bad about being fat, and they tried to convince me that if I just went into their store everyday at lunch and bought a sandwich with certain ingredients, I could be just like their venerable spokesman, Jared Fogle. Because wouldn't I love to lose hundreds of pounds eating processed meat, cheese, cheap oil and vinegar and nutritionless iceberg lettuce?! Wouldn't I love to believe that with just a little work and commitment to Subway's suggestions, that I too could be a slim celebrity!?

Kirstie Alley and I are here to tell you what's what.

Etsy is just as much a capitalistic/consumerist machine as Subway is, and they are taking the same shameless approaches to engage you in sugar-coated dreams. The Quit Your Day Job series is one example of how Etsy continues to sell us a dream of virtual impossibility. The cast of characters in the series almost always fits a certain number of requirements: female, heterosexual, married, SAHM/SAHW, white, educated. I know that a number of those descriptors that don’t fit who I am, so I’m inclined to believe that they are also not representative of the diversity that must exist in the sellers and patrons of Etsy. Why does Etsy care if I quit my day job? They care because they will make more money. Yes, yes, of course they can and will tell you that the more people who employ and sustain themselves without the need for corporate involvement, the better…for you and for the world. But their responsibility is to themselves first, and the more sellers clamoring for sales and for the ability to sustain themselves, the better off they will be. When Maria Thomas, CEO of Etsy, says that their number one goal is to bring buyers to sellers don’t be fooled into believing that it’s just for the seller’s benefit. They make money on every sale, too.

Personally, I am not opposed to the concept of quitting my day job. I think it is a noble goal, but I think that Etsy has a lot of work to do if they actually intend to create an entire universe full of self-employed crafters. I think the first responsible move Etsy should make is to label all Quit Your Day Job stories with a disclaimer: Results Not Typical. We demand this of corporations such as Subway and Weight Watchers, and the FTC has entertained the idea of insisting that testimonial results be representative of typical outcomes and not incredible feats of magic and perseverance. Etsy has that same responsibility, in my opinion. The results are not typical when women are financially bolstered by part-time jobs, husbands, trust funds and the like…they are unusual, rare and extraordinary. Painting them as anything else is disingenuous and Etsy should be culpable for this misrepresentation.

Optimism is a fantastic and energizing fuel that a person can engage in order to achieve their dreams, but sadly it is not all we need. I am optimistic that by writing these posts, and speaking out against the potentially corrupt and misleading tactics used by the consumerist machine, that the world can and will change for the better. And when the betterment of the human race is the goal, I am confident that the opportunities for crafters and artists to financially sustain themselves will open up like a sky after a particularly strong summer storm.

Image courtesy

Friday, June 5, 2009

Favorites: Fine Art Gone Felty

One of my favorite Etsy sellers, Stellalola, has integrated a new line of products to her already exciting and adorable selection of products. Stellalola is known, at least to me, for her quirky, tongue-in-cheek, quasi-literal artistic interpretations of common food and object sayings. Pillow fights, Can(ned) Can(ned) Yams, and In The Navy (Beans) are just a few of the fine art canvases that you can pick up to decorate your home for a very, very reasonable price in her shop! She graciously donated a Football Buddies print to my giveaway a few months ago, and I have one of her Cupcake Conga Line prints hanging in my crafty area. She uses simple lines and neutral/pastel colors that fit with a variety of decors, including vintage looks, nursuries and even mid-century modern styles.

I was beyond delighted when she e-mailed me to share her new line with me...hand-stitched felt interpretations of her canvases! I literally screeched with delight.

Priced at $35-$40 each, these ingenius felt creations are honest and clear likenesses of their canvas brethren. While probably not the best gifts for little kids, I can definitely see these perched on a bookshelf or in a curio cabinet in just about any room of the house. One of the best services Stellalola offers, beyond her superior products and fantastic customer service, is the opportunity for her customers to skim through her sold items and special order a previously sold creation. This is excellent news indeed...the Conga Line Cupcake plush is on my list!

Vintage Friday: Buckle Up for Sexy!

I have two gay boyfriends who make it a priority to rock sexy and fierce belt buckles regularly. Some of them are modern designs, shaped like underpants and with suggestive phrases, and others are vintage and filled with fantastic butch imagery like cowboys, trusty steeds and eagles. As an accessory, belt buckles have wandered in and out of popularity, but in many places they are making a resurgence amongst young, urban folks...I believe they are colloquially called "hipsters". Nevertheless, it doesn't take much more than a waist, some pants (or a skirt) and an ironic sense of novelty to draw attention to your mid-line with a fantastic belt buckle. I like to consider them modern-day cod pieces.

Whether you swagger like John Travolta in Urban Cowboy, or John Wayne in any of his movies, or you rock one with skinny jeans and an ironic t-shirt, belt buckles are a fabulous way to accessorize. Vintage belt buckles are especially wonderful and can be dressed up or down depending on the construction and color. Perfect conversation pieces, or homing beacons if the light strikes them just right, the belt buckles I've featured in today's Vintage Friday suit just about every personality type I can imagine. And if you aren't a belt buckle kind of person, consider "upcycling" them into accessories! Belt buckles can be used to embellish bags, turned into jewelry or even home decor.

1. Vintage Wooden Belt Buckle - $16 // 2. Vintage Porcelain Belt Buckle Portrait - $59
3. Vintage Centennial Bedazzled Belt Buckle - $42.50 // 4. Vintage STAN Brass Belt Buckle - $10

Do you need some tips on how to effectively walk with a studly belt buckle? Please fast forward to approximately 3:44 on this clip. It is perhaps the most important tutorial in American cinematic history.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Craft ponderings: We are not exempt

My friend and I were walking just a few moments ago, and he asked me [jokingly], "Meaghan, what's the meaning of life?" I was only half listening to him, and I didn't have an answer, so we kept walking. Honestly, my head was caught in the tangled web of the idea for this post. As someone who is still navigating the entire crafty/DIY scene, I don't necessarily aspire to step on any toes...especially toes that belong to peers and leaders in the movement. At the same time, I would be a disingenuous fool, a liar and a hypocrite if I didn't care about the things that I passionately cared about long before I decide to hitch my wagon to this movement. And with all honesty, as a white person, I could just stay hitched and not care an ounce about what I do care about because it's just that easy.

This, essentially, is what I like to consider my Meaning of Life: to constantly challenge myself, my perceptions, my words, my thoughts and my instincts so as to create world in which I am not a proprietor of hate, bigotry and ignorance. When I let go and engage myself in social justice/anti-oppression work, I actually feel better about myself and the world around me because other people feel better, safer and happier. It's a win/win.

So...with that being said, here's my post. I've about had it up to here with the tokenizing, appropriation and blatant disregard for any degree of social consciousness as it relates to race from many (not all) crafty/Etsy sellers. What really gets my gourd is that not only are these crafters seemingly oblivious to what they are doing, they are simultaneously profitting from it! And people are buying it! Because they think it is cool/hip/funny/ironic/awesome. Here are some examples:

1. "What Up My Knitta?" 2. "Pimp Daddy Santa & His Ho Ho Ho's"
3. "Grillz - Teeth Cap Bronze Necklace" 4. "Fo' Shizzle Welcome to Our Hizzle"

1. "Brother G says: Keep Your Pimp Hand Clean" (Long Island Iced Tea scented) 2. "Ghetto Plate"
3. "Hipsta, Please" 4. Photography Print with the tag "ghetto"

Despite my best efforts to find a sense of humor, this stuff is just not funny. Not only is it appropriative, which crafters seem to detest because I hear perpetual uproars in every possible venue about design and concept thievery, but they are RACIST. Invoking the word "ghetto" as an adjective is racist. Replacing the "n-word" with another more humorous and apropos word and positioning it before a ", please" is racist. Creating a bronze cast of teeth, calling it a "grill" and using stereotypical "G Speak" in order to write a description for it is racist.

It depresses me that we live in a society where this is acceptable. If there is even the question in your mind, "Is this racist?" then you don't need an answer. You just need to not do it. How horrible would your life really be if you couldn't do that thing that may or may not be racist? How stifled would your creative freedom be to just not do it at all? You don't need to have a PhD in Critical Race Theory to wrap your brain around this concept. It boils down to common human decency, Golden Rule kind of logic. And I truly believe that most every human being is capable of that.

This is a really fantastic way to approach these discussions, btw.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wrap Up: Handmade Mart = The Jam

Shortly after the day began, I leaned over to my neighbor Sugar Paperie (who has adorable stuff that you should buy immediately!) and said that I hadn't participated in many craft shows because, frankly, I lack the confidence to think I belong in the circle of crafters that typically fill the booths at these shows. Firstly, my craft has evolved a lot over the years and I've yet to settle on an aesthetic, set of materials, or even a style that I'm prepared to stick with. Secondly, I was always concerned that my table or booth wouldn't be up to snuff. And then there's always just the stress of putting things together, worrying I won't be organized enough to handle the needs of customers or that there won't be any customer at all!

You'll be happy to hear that all of these fears were assuaged with the kind words and support of customers and crafters alike at the Handmade Mart.

Shortly before the day started, I had this lovely woman looking around in my booth, asking me a few questions and complimenting my table design. When she mentioned that she was glad to meet me, I asked who she was as politely as I could, because I had no idea! She said she was the lady behind Rebound Designs and I about passed out. Not only do I consider her local crafter royalty, but she was also one of the instructors at Hello Craft's Summit of Awesome on Craft Show Booth Design. And she was in my booth...complimenting its design! Boy, I felt special. Then out of nowhere, This Chickadee appeared, stole some of my watermelon, and told me that the booth I was sharing with Pretty Little Fings should win the booth of the day award because of its cuteness. Talk about pummeling that lack of confidence to the ground, folks!

Overall, I had a fantastic day. I saw Tweets here and there from other sellers who were having less than stellar sales, but mine were incredible. Best day ever, frankly. I do think that having Seamus around to woo folks might've helped, and Em telling all the ladies (young and old) that they looked lovely was also a plus, but my prices and my product seem to have worked! My favorite parts of the day were the old ladies who toddled in and recalled memories of using the products for which I had lids on my necklace displays..."Oh Franny, don't you remember that face cream?!" I made little vintage bead rings for kids who wandered through my booth, too, and sold (and gave away) a ton of second-hand beads to folks for their own crafty desires. I met some fabulous queers who were excited about an out and proud queer lady on the mainstream craft circuit, too. The icing on the cake was all the friends who wandered by, including old friends who came to support me when I never thought they would and new friends who I knew only through e-channels!

The sprinkles on the icing on the cake was my boothmate, Pang, without whom I would not have had those moments of hilarious relief through laughing and dirty jokes, mutual compliments and good times. We sold each others merchandise with such sincerity and honesty, that it felt like we'd been doing this forever. I could not have done this without her, frankly!

Thanks to the production team behind Handmade Mart too...what an amazing event!

In conclusion - you haven't seen the last of me! Whether I'm solo, with crafty friends, or with my buddies in the QCC, Oh Ginger is ready to navigate the waters of handmade festivals and marts with excitement and confidence!
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