Chakaia Booker’s Art: Where the Rubber Meets the Road, Part 2

One of the surprising success stories in the world of recycling is that of discarded tires. Of the 303.2 million scrap tires generated in 2007 – that’s one for every person living in the United States – nearly 90 percent by weight were recycled, according to the most recent figures from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.

More than half of all reclaimed tires in the U.S. are used to fuel factories. They can also be used to treat wastewater, or made into asphalt, playground equipment, carpet padding, shoes — and more tires.

In the hands of Chakaia Booker, they can also become remarkable sculptures. A preferred medium for this New York-based artist, she deconstructs used tires then cuts, shapes and folds them into massive and highly textured shapes with supports made from steel, wood and other materials, which are hidden from view.

Booker’s work first attracted international notice in 2000, when a 12.5′ x 21′ wall relief of shredded and rewoven automobile tires, inner tubes and cow milking pods titled “It’s So Hard to Be Green” was part of the Whitney Biennial. Since then her sculptures have become part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Akron Museum of Art and NASA, among others. She has participated in both group and solo exhibitions in museums and sculpture gardens throughout the US, Japan and the Netherlands. She has received the Pollock-Krasner Grant in 2002 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005.

It's So Hard to be Green by Chakaia Booker

It’s So Hard to be Green by Chakaia Booker.

Detail: It's So Hard to be Green by Chakaia Booker

Detail: It’s So Hard to be Green by Chakaia Booker.

Working with tires requires special skills. “It takes a lot of body work,” she said when describing how she must first cut through the tires, which each weigh 15 to 20 lbs — and she goes through 1000s of them in her studio, an old laundry facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “The tires com from streets and landfills, from cars, vans and trucks.”

Many of her sculptures are exhibited out of doors. Recently, four of her sculptures have been displayed in the median of a major highway, New York Avenue, outside the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC from March 8, 2012-April, 2014. This unique installation is the result of the museum’s partnership with several public and private agencies to produce and maintain the exhibit for the enjoyment of both drivers and pedestrians. It is the museum’s second exhibit on this median which is the only public art space in the city featuring installations of contemporary works by women. Images from the Booker exhibit on New York Avenue are below.


Picture 1 of 3

Chakaia Booker, Gridlock, 2008; © Chakaia Booker, courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York; Photo credit: Lee Stalsworth.

Booker, is also known for her creative wardrobe and wants her appearance to also be a work of art. She often wears a giant headpiece made from multicolored yarn layered into an oblong mound, colorful fabric or tire rubber that covers all her head but the shape of her face. She said, “When I get up each day, I begin with myself, as far as sculpting myself.” Her sense of unconventional style began early, and goes back to her childhood when she learned to sew and ignored the rules.

Photo of Chakaia Booker by Nelson Tejada.

Photo of Chakaia Booker by Nelson Tejada.

Her online bio is not up-to-date. But you can learn more by watching videos, such as this short talk given in 2008.

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Behind the Scenes: Lost and Found Art Supply Chain

Note from Reena: As a tribute to artists who transform cast-off products into vibrant designs, sometimes enriched with dings and markings of their previous lives, and who often go to great lengths to locate and transport these materials to their studios, we reprint a behind-the-scenes blog we wrote about them in 2011.

Artists who work with found materials recognize the creative potential in discarded materials and transform them into intriguing objects for us to enjoy or use. But finding those materials is not like going to the store to buy a tube of paint. By definition, the supply of found objects depends on the vagaries of nature, both human and environmental.

Like farmers, who despite their best planning and hard work are always at the mercy of the weather, artists recycling or repurposing materials depend on the original owners to throw the objects away in the first place.  Because, here at Eco-Artware we work with designers who create multiples of their original work; we see these market forces at work every day.

Cuff links made with Washington, D.C. Trolley Tokens

Cuff links made with Washington, D.C. Trolley Tokens. Streetcars carried people throughout the city between 1862-1962. They scaled back with the popularity of the automobile and the city eventually switched to buses and a metro system.

For example, old subway and trolley tokens are plentiful when they are discontinued and transit systems first introduce new ones. Once the obsolete ones are snapped up by collectors, the supply dwindles because no more tokens are issued. For instance, we carry cuff links made from Washington, DC trolley tokens which the designers purchased from the D.C. Department of Transportation. But, unlike the Department of Transportation in other cities, they did not purchase old ones from the commuters so the city had no more to sell. Now the designers hunt them from private sources and our supply is uncertain–we just waited for eight months to get a few more pairs in stock.

Boris Bally's Pentatray handmade from a speed limit traffic-sign.

Boris Bally's Pentatray handmade from a speed limit traffic-sign.

Boris Bally's Speed Limit Transit Chair

Boris Bally's Speed Limit Transit Chair.

In the case of Boris Bally’s popular traffic-sign home furnishings, he can only make as many chairs and trays as there are retired signs. If a highway department decides to keep its Speed Limit signs up a little bit longer, Boris has to make them out of, say, directional signs until the Speed Limit signs are finally available to him.

Expandable bracelet made from ostrich shells by Namibian Bushmen with a black accent bead.

Expandable bracelet made from ostrich shells by Namibian Bushmen with a black accent bead.

And now the long arm of the law of supply and demand is reaching into ostrich farms. Namibian farmers used to donate shells from hatched ostrich eggs to local Bushmen (members of the San tribe) who have made jewelry with them for thousands of years.  Their donations provided bushmen with a livelihood and helped them preserve their culture and way of life.

San women making beads from ostrich shells using traditional techniques

San women making beads from ostrich shells using traditional techniques.

Now most farmers have found other uses for the shells and no longer donate them to the bushmen. Until they can find another source of income, missionaries are donating food to these tribes while helping them acquire new skills and adjust to changing times. However, there is a limited supply and we carry their bracelets when available.

Artists who rely on the discards of others face a continuing challenge to collect materials. That’s what makes these objects so dear to us. They are the expression of the artist’s creativity with what’s available. All we need is the long view and patience.

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Holiday Decorating Made Easy and Cheap

By Emily LaMarque

Note from Reena: Emily LaMarque is an interior designer who writes a lively and personal blog, “modern. chic. inspired,” which covers a wide range of topics related to interior design. She gave us permission to reprint her Nov. 27, 2013, blog in which she points out that we can decorate for the holidays with style by easily repurposing elements we can find in our home and garden to save time, money, and materials.

Fact: I might be a designer, but labor-intensive DIY projects, especially around the holidays, make me crazy! It’s not that I don’t have the inspiration or creative ideas, it’s simply because I live in the real world and lack the time, especially now that the holiday season is in full swing. You with me? It’s OK, I’m at peace with it, because I have some simple solutions to decorate using things you probably already have, in your home or yard. Best part is, you don’t have to hoard one more freakish looking elf or bushy strand of garland in your attic. The neat freak in me approves of this big time!

Christmas chandelier

Most of us have extra ornaments and ribbon laying around. Just tie them together, hang from your favorite chandelier, add a strand of beads and voila! Even if you just have the ornaments, you can achieve a similar look by dangling them directly from a lighting fixture. Easy, simple, magical!

Vase and latern filled with ornaments

Still have ‘mas bling? You can easily fill a hurricane vase or lantern with extra ornaments as well.

Alternative Christmas tree

Put those extra Christmas lights to use and fill an empty wall space with an alternative Christmas tree

Mantle with glass candlesticks

I love how the Christmas lights elegantly illuminate these gorgeous glass candlesticks and trees. Candlesticks should have a reason to come out and play when you’re not entertaining, and here they take center stage on the mantle while the lights add that special sparkle and glow that captures their unique facets and texture. Simple and elegant!

And speaking of glass, here are some great natural displays for your home. All you need is a glass container and some outdoor inspiration. If you’re already indulging in holiday treats (guilty as charged) a neighborhood walk does wonders for both the mind and body! So let’s bring a little nature home….

Empty jars used for decorative pine branches

If you prefer a little pop of holiday cheer, here are some colorful natural accents from If you have some empty bottles (vintage a plus!) a few winter berry sprigs go a long way. I love the clever idea of blending red and golden apples with a handful of pine cones too. Seasonal and simple, yet refined!

Bottles and basket used for holiday decorations

Whether you prefer a more glam look to your holiday season, or au naturel, the inspiration is endless. The less time and money spent on these types of projects equals less clutter in your attic, but best of all, it means more quality time with family … which is what the season is all about! I’ll cheers to that!

Emily LaMarque is founder and principal designer of Emily LaMarque Design Studio, a boutique interior design firm based in West Hollywood, California.

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What’s In Your Wine

Note from Reena: It’s difficult to figure out what is in your wine besides grape juice, and not just because labels provide limited information. Most people who work in wine shops don’t have this data, either. Sulfites are the only potential allergen required to be disclosed on labels in the U.S — but only if the wine will be sold across state lines; imported wines vary from country to country. That may change soon, as growing public interest fuels a push for wine labels to become more informative. Until they help us out up front, the following article, reprinted with permission from certified nutritionist Carol Chuang, can help us understand what to look for (beside the price tag) to find wines with fewer additives and great taste to accompany our healthy meals.

Wine bottles

What’s In Your Wine

By Carol Chuang, MS, CNS, CMTA, FDN

Many people love wine. For those who enjoy this beverage, it may be deemed as one of life’s great pleasures. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known production of wine, made by fermenting grapes, took place possibly as early as 6,000 BC.

Most of us have heard that red wine contains a chemical called resveratrol which has cardio protective benefits. We also know that drinking too much can cause cirrhosis of the liver and alcoholism. However, the topic of this article is not about how alcohol affects your health. It is about what you may not know that exists inside your bottle of wine.

No matter whether you are drinking a $200 bottle of French wine or merely a Two-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, has it ever occurred to you that you may be ingesting pesticides, heavy metals, and a whole sleuth of additives? If you are already trying to stay healthy by buying grass-fed meats and organic fruits and vegetables, why would you not worry about what you drink on a regular basis, or several times a week?

Man examining wine bottle

In the following, we will look at some shocking information about what may be present in your wine and how to pick wine that does not contain these unsavory ingredients.

9 Out Of 10 French Wines Contain Pesticides

The wine trade journal, Decanter, reports a recent study of more than 300 French wines that only 10% of those tested were clean of any traces of pesticides and fungicides. Although all of the individual pesticide residues appeared at levels below limits set by the French environmental agency, some samples turned up with as many as 9 separate pesticides!

In France, vineyards represent just 3% of agricultural land but the wine industry accounts for 80% of fungicide use. The most worrying part is that even though individual molecules were below threshold levels of toxicity, there is a lack of research into the long-term accumulation effect and how the molecules may interact with each other – which means, a pesticide mix may be more toxic than the sum of its parts.

Another survey by Pesticide Action Network Europe found similar results. All the conventional wines included in the analysis contained pesticides, with one containing 10 different pesticides!

What about American wines? Unfortunately, there is hardly any study of this sort for domestically produced wines; but like in France, conventional viticulture in the U.S. tends to be fairly pesticide-intensive too.

Additionally, don’t forget that grapes are on the Dirty Dozen list, being one of the top 12 produce with the most pesticide residue. Winemakers generally do not wash the grapes before pulping them, so all the pesticides found on the average grape will likely end up inside your wine glass.

Heavy Metals Found in Wine

Heavy metals are widely dispersed in the environment. The presence of heavy metals in our food chain poses immense problems to health. These metals accumulate in our organs and overtime promote oxidative damage in cells, a key part of chronic inflammation which may lead to cancer and many other degenerative diseases.

In 2008, a study by Kingston University in London analyzed wines from 15 countries throughout Europe, South America, and the Middle East. It found that many wines contain heavy metals up to 200 times the amount considered safe. The metal ions that accounted for most of the contamination were vanadium, copper, and manganese. But four other metals with above safety levels were zinc, nickel, chromium, and lead.

THQ, or Target Hazard Quotient, is a risk assessment system developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed to determine the safe levels of frequent, long-term exposure to various chemicals and compounds. A THQ value of 1 is considered safe. Values over 1 indicate a health risk.

The study found that typical wines have THQs ranging from 50 to 200 per glass, but some wines had THQs exceeding 300. To provide some perspective, seafood considered dangerous usually falls between a THQ of 1 and 5.

The worst wines were from Hungary and Slovakia which had THQs exceeding 350. Wines from France, Austria, Spain, Germany, and Portugal registered THQs over 100. Wines from Italy, Brazil, and Argentina showed safe metal levels.

What about U.S. wines? Again, there is hardly any data available concerning the contamination of domestic wines.

However, a 2011 Consumer Report which tested 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice purchased in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut found that 10% of those samples had total arsenic levels exceeding federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25% had lead levels higher than the 5 ppb limit for bottled water set by the Food and Drug Administration. If heavy metals like arsenic and lead were to be found in apple juice and grape juice, you would have to expect some will probably find their way to the wine too.

Hidden Additives And Allergens In Wine

Most people who are not involved in winemaking may not be aware that the production of wine actually involves a great amount of additives. In the old days, the original intention of using additives was to stabilize the wine and to make it last longer. But nowadays, winemaking is as sophisticated as food processing, whereby a whole arsenal of synthetic chemicals are utilized to correct and manipulate the products of mother nature in good and bad years. Such performance enhancers can improve body and mouth feel, take away the greenness of a wine, mask defects, deepen color, and add flavors.

Warning label on wine bottleAmerican wine producers are not required to list additives in their wines – the only exception issulfites when the level exceeds 10 ppm in the finished wine. Sulfites are used to kill unwanted bacteria and yeasts and help preserve and protect the wine from oxidation. All wines contain at least some levels of sulfites, which occur naturally during winemaking. In spite of that, conventional wines often have artificial sulfites added to them. Most wine has about 150 ppm of sulfites, some as high as 350 ppm.

People with sulfite sensitivity are more likely to be triggered by the high levels of artificial sulfites. Symptoms range from headaches, runny nose, hives, to closing down of the airway, which can become life-threatening.

Other potential allergens in wine include:

Histamines and tannins. Histamines come from grape skins and tannins from grape stems, seeds, and skins. For people who are sensitive, they may produce bad headaches or aggravate seasonal allergies.

Wheat and gluten. The wine itself is gluten-free but the paste of flour and water that is used to seal new oak barrels may be problematic for people who are extremely gluten sensitive.

Egg whites, casein (from milk), and isinglass (a fish derivative). These are fining agents mixed into wine during production, then removed by filtration or sedimentation. Depending on the person’s sensitivity, each of these substances can potentially unleash severe allergies.

Yeast. It is a fungus added to ferment the sugars in wine, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. People who suffer from candidiasis, colitis, or Crohn’s disease should stay away from drinking wine.

Reading Organic Wine Labels

Now that you know what may have gone into the wine that you drink, and if you do enjoy a glass of wine regularly, you should be concerned about the long-term effects of ingesting various toxins. The good news is there are healthier alternatives. That is why many have switched to organic wines. The following explains how to buy organic wines and what the different wine labels mean.

“Made with Organic Grapes” – The wine contains at least 70% organically grown ingredients (the rest is not organic). A vineyard cannot label its grapes organic until it has completed three growing seasons without using chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Sulfites may be added, but it may not go above 100 ppm.

Organic wine bottle label“Organic Wine” – The wine contains at least 95% organically grown ingredients (the rest is not organic). No sulfites are added, but the wine can contain naturally occurring sulfites, usually in amounts ranging from 6 to 40 ppm. The bottle bears the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) organic seal.

“100% Organic Wine” – The wine contains 100% organically grown ingredients. Only organically produced aids can be used. No sulfites are added, but the wine can contain naturally occurring sulfites, usually in amounts ranging from 6 to 40 ppm. The bottle bears the USDA organic seal.

Jack Rabbit Hill wine label“Biodynamic Wine” – This is the best organic wine you can get. Not only is it 100% organic, the vineyard also takes sustainability well beyond shunning pesticides and chemicals. Unlike organic farming, which often simply replaces synthetic fertilizers and herbicides with naturally-derived products, biodynamic farmers build soil fertility and manage pests by encouraging biodiversity among crops and by using specially prepared farm-generated outputs like composted animal manures, plants, and minerals. They also aim to conserve natural resources such as water and soil.

Modern biodynamic farming is based on agricultural principles proposed by Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner in 1924, as a reaction to the declining soil fertility and crop quality due to the adoption of industrial farming techniques like monoculture and synthetic fertilizers. A vineyard cannot legally refer to its farming practices or products as biodynamic without meeting the USDA organic requirements and being certified by the non-profit Demeter Association.

Once the vineyard is certified as biodynamic, its grapes are considered biodynamic. However, the wine cannot be labeled as biodynamic unless it goes through Demeter’s secondary verification program for processed agricultural products. To ensure you are purchasing a biodynamic wine, look for the statement saying that both the vineyard and the wine have been Demeter-certified. Beware that many vineyards may claim to practice biodynamic farming but they have no Demeter certification.

“Natural Wine” – These vineyards cannot back up their eco-friendly claims with federal laws or certification programs. They are usually smaller operations that cannot afford the high cost of achieving organic and biodynamic certifications. Nevertheless, many natural winemakers practice sustainability and process their wine with as little intervention as possible, avoiding additives like sugar, sulfites, and acidifiers, as well as technological manipulations such as spinning cones to remove alcohol and micro-oxygenation to accelerate aging. Check with the vineyard to learn about its natural practices before making your purchase decision.

“Vegan Wine” – Most winemakers use ingredients derived rom animals such as egg whites, caseins, or gelatin from fish bladders or cow and pig hooves to remove solid impurities like grape skins and yeast from the fermentation process. With vegan wines, winemakers usually process the wine manually or use minerals like bentonite or kaolin instead.

“Vin Biologique” – Organic wine from Europe.


Where To Buy Organic And Biodynamic Wine

The obvious places to shop for organic wine are health food stores, speciality markets, and gourmet shops. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both carry a number of organic wines.

Bear in mind that in the world of organic wine there are some fantastic, high quality organic and biodynamic wines being made by passionate organic winemakers. Some are proud to communicate their organic values by labeling their wine organic. Yet, many more do not label their wine organic because they want to compete in the broader wine market purely on taste and without being pigeonholed. For this very reason these unlabeled organic wines will not show up in the organic section.

Demeter Certified BiodynamicTherefore, it is always worthwhile to do some research to find out which vineyards practice such eco-friendly methods. You will be amazed by the growing selection from both the old and new worlds.

The following are the 79 members of Demeter USA (updated in July 2013):

The following are 529 natural and biodynamic wine producers from all over the world. The list was compiled by Fork & Bottle and last updated in Sept. 2009:


© Carol Chuang 2013

Carol Chuang has an MS degree in Nutrition from Huntington College of Health Sciences. She decided to study nutrition because, as a layman, “I was confused about all the contradictory information out there about what to eat,” she said. She wanted to find out for herself and now counsels individuals, writes a monthly nutrition newsletter and conducts seminars about nutrition and wellness. Visit her website for more information.

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Beyond Store Bought: Eco-Chic Gift Wrap

I belong to a group of conservers — environmentalists who hate throwing anything out. An artist friend is known to ask her husband to stop the car when she sees interesting trash on the side of the road. “Art supplies,” she explains.

When I realized that most gift wrap bought in stores was eco-unfriendly, I started exploring ways to wrap gifts in ways that looked good while leaving a light footprint. It was a great way to use up some of the paper and cloth supplies I couldn’t throw away.

Overall, it’s not so easy being green. We’ve all got our own long checklists of things we could (or wish) do: use solar panels, drive a Chevrolet Volt, grow an organic garden, for instance. These are big moves. But something as seemingly inconsequential as gift wrap can have a large impact on the world around us while adding pleasure to the gift-giving experiences for both parties.

Christmas morning

A familiar scene for many — Christmas morning after presents have been unwrapped.

For instance:

  • The U.S. generates an extra 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – 80 percent is wrapping paper and shopping bags.
  • If every American family wrapped three gifts in re-used materials, we’d save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • If every American family reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

And, remember, our landfills are getting full. The Los Angeles Sanitation District closed the Puente Hills Landfill, the largest in the nation on Oct. 31 — it had been operating since 1960. According to our research, the average expected life of landfills in Maryland, Virginia, and Massachusetts is 20 years.

Expanding your wrap repertoire is easy. It doesn’t take much time to do and you can save money on supplies. Here are some ideas.

Gifts wrapped in a wrapping cloth, shirt, scarf, a pillow case, gift bags and a towel.

Gifts wrapped in a wrapping cloth, shirt, scarf, a pillow case, gift bags and a towel.

Use cloth wrap, which can be reused — scarves, towels, pillow cases, shopping bags. Use traditional Japanese and Korean wrapping techniques or just fold the cloth and tie it with ribbon.

Gifts wrapped in Trader Joe's shopping bags, two different scraps of wrapping paper plus bands of scrap papers and old maps.

Gifts wrapped in Trader Joe’s shopping bags, two different scraps of wrapping paper plus bands of scrap papers and old maps.

Reuse last year’s wrapping paper. If wrinkled, press lightly with a cool iron. If one piece of paper doesn’t cover the package, cover one side and use another piece of paper in a different pattern for the opposite side. Or, use paper bags. If they don’t have a good design on the outside, turn them inside out.

Combine used materials if one source won't cover by itself.

Combine used materials if one source won’t cover by itself.

If you want to see additional examples for ideas and inspiration, check out our Eco-Gift Wrap Pinterest Board, which has over 1,000 examples of gift wrap for your reference and convenience.

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New Exhibit says ENOUGH Violence

It seems that we hear news about new murderous attacks with guns daily. In fact, one in 20 U.S. students is directly impacted by violence — either as a victim or an offender.

To grapple with the problem, Pittsburgh’s Society for Contemporary Craft developed a new exhibit, ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out. Through 48 contemporary works by 14 artists from the U.S., Italy and Scotland, it explores how violence affects our lives and asks what we can do to combat it.

The artists, who work in clay, metals, fabric, photography, and found objects, focus on issues of violent crimes, gang violence, war, terrorism, and domestic abuse. Selecting crafts to explore a serious social problem is an unusual idea because most people associate these media with decorative and functional objects. The artists’ reaction to gun crimes expressed in these media provides us unusual and fresh ways to see the problem.

Loaded Menorah, 2013 by Boris Bally.

Loaded Menorah, 2013 by Boris Bally. 12″ wide by 37.5″ long x 11″ tall. Materials: altered hand-guns, gun barrels and silver.

This exhibit contains works by two artists who work with found materials. It contains three pieces by Rhode Island metalsmith Boris Bally, who has been interested in anti-violence art since the early 1990s. In 1997 he curated a show at Carnegie Mellon University that challenged artists to create sculptures out of decommissioned handguns obtained from buyback programs.

“Loaded Menorah” is made entirely of disabled weapons. In it, nine revolver barrels rising from a tangle of weapons have mouths finished in light polished silver cups to receive the Chanukah candles.

“I am reminded of the famous picture of George Harris sticking carnations into gun barrels during a 1967 anti-war demonstration at the Pentagon,” he said.

Brave lll: Necklace, 2013 by Boris Bally.

Brave lll: Necklace, 2013 by Boris Bally. 17″ x 15″ x 1.75″ 100 handgun triggers (steel) mounted on stainless cord. Silver. Gold.

Brave 4: Breast Plate, 2013 by Boris Bally.

Brave 4: Breast Plate, 2013 by Boris Bally. 26″ x 11.5″ x 2″ Gun-triggers, gun-bolts and gun-barrels (steel) and brass shells, mounted on stainless cord. Silver.

Minnesota fiber artist Beth Barron says her work is a monument to the human spirit and a “wish for wholeness.” She created “Implosion” from Band-Aids found in parks, playgrounds and sidewalks. For her, the found Band-Aids become an enigmatic metaphor: Do they represent pain or healing?

Implosion 1, 20009 by Beth Barron.

Implosion 1, 20009 by Beth Barron. 52″ diameter. Hand stitched found band-aids.

While working she said she has time to contemplate how we heal ourselves “…after personal or social devastation, whether our healed scars protect us in some new stronger way, and how fragile or resilient we will be once we have been wounded.”

It took about a year to complete “Implosion.” Barron hand-sewed each Band-Aid to a ground cloth, stiffened on the back with matte acrylic paint “to keep the knots from being untied.” She sometimes spent 10 hours a day working, although she sometimes skipped days before getting back to it.

The exhibit also includes a physical space in The Society’s Drop-In Studio for visitors to create their own personal talisman to take with them. A public Tumblr collection allows people to tell their own stories about their experiences with violence and participate in suggestions for creating a solution.

Visit the Society for Contemporary Craft’s website for more information about the exhibit, which closes March 22, 2014.

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Fit To Be Tied

Scarves and shawls. Style pages are filled with beautiful people wearing them in winter and summer.

Angelina Jolie wearing winter scarves

Angelina Jolie wearing winter scarves.

Helen Mirren, Anne Hathaway and Halle Berry wearing lighter weight scarves.

Helen Mirren, Anne Hathaway and Halle Berry wearing lighter weight scarves.

I treasure wearing winter scarves, especially, because they add color to my black winter coat and lift my spirits during grey days while keeping me warm. Fashion writers point out that a scarf can be the most important accessory needed to add spice to a wardrobe without breaking the bank. Well, that depends on your budget. Even on eBay, some scarves cost as much, if not more, than sweaters by well-known designers.

Video on How to Tie Winter Scarves.

However, if you have time to hunt, you can find excellent scarves at budget prices at clothing swaps, thrift stores, flea markets, church bazaars (especially if you buy something in the last two hours of the event), department store markdowns and street vendors.

How to Tie Scarves for Everyday Use.

How to Tie Your Scarf in 3 Ways

“When you buy a scarf, hold it up to your face and look in a mirror,” advises a friend who wears scarves often and effortlessly and shared her wisdom gained from experience. “It’s important to see how them look with your coloring because they are worn close to your face. Also, look at a few of them. They should make you look and feel wonderful, even if you are not wearing makeup.”

Here are scarf styling suggestions on Pinterest.

Below is one of several videos showing men how to tie scarves, too.

7 Ways to Wear a Scarf for Men.

Once you’ve found the right scarves for you, the internet, Pinterest and YouTube videos offer instruction in learning new ways to wear them. Some techniques work best with silk-like fabrics rather than wool; narrow rather than square; large rather than small. Another friend brought me an ample viscose winter scarf — larger than I usually wear — as a souvenir from her trip to France, and I look forward to checking out YouTube to learn how to wear it.

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Leo Sewell: From Scrounger to Sculptor

Artist Finds His Muse in Refuse

Leo Sewell grew up playing with objects he found in the dump near his home. He pulled them apart for fun until his parents suggested that he try putting them together. He’s been doing just that for over 50 years.

Sewell is considered a Visionary artist, a category reserved for the self-taught, but he is highly educated in other areas. He earned a B.A. in Economics and an M.A. in Art History, writing his master’s thesis on the “Use of the Found Object in Dada and Surrealism.” Then he decided to jump from academic to creator, having taken “one 50-minute art class” in his life. This illustrates his philosophy that “chance is the greatest creative force that can happen.”

Pig by Leo Sewell

No Feeding Required: Pig by Leo Sewell, found object assemblage. 9″ x 16″ x 4″

Sewell creates highly decorated sculptures out of castoffs, assembled with nails, bolts and screws in a process he has evolved over time. Both the frame and surface of each sculpture is made from found materials, with finished pieces ranging in size from a full-grown housecat to a 24-foot-long dinosaur. For some commissions, he includes objects with personal meaning contributed by the person who commissioned the art.

Sewell has plenty of raw materials at hand. His large workshop is packed with art supplies picked from the streets of Philadelphia — 100,000 discarded objects carefully organized into 2,500 categories such as gold-coated sharks’ teeth, corn holders and Fisher-Price people.

Statue of Libery's Arm and Torch by Leo Sewell. This 40' sculpture is made entirely of discarded toys and games is housed in Philadelphia's Please Touch Children's Museum. It is a same size adaptation of the Statue of Liberty's original arm and torch was displayed in 1876 to raise funds for its pedestal.

Statue of Liberty’s Arm and Torch by Leo Sewell.

During his career, Sewell has produced over 4,000 sculptures created from found obects , which are included in over 40 museums worldwide, including several children’s museums, and in both private and corporate collections. To learn more about his work, visit his Wikipedia page, and watch a short video about his January, 2013 exhibit in Old City, Philadelphia.

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The Books of Summer

Curling up with a good book: you are doing it right

I hope you’ve enjoyed a wonderful summer. I loved my “staycation” and took the time to try new experiences that have been on my “to do” list.

I finally took a class at the nearby University of the District of Columbia; I abandoned the world of beauty parlors to find an experienced barber who can cut women’s hair well; and spent some time looking at, and reading about, some quirky birds who live in the nearby National Zoo’s aviary.

I also happened upon three new books that challenge the status quo, ranging from the mild to shake-it-up hot.

I like to cook for most of the week on weekends – “planned-overs” rather than leftovers. Thanks to Kathy Hester, who writes gourmet vegan recipes for slow cookers, I can do surprisingly good dishes in my antique two-speed cooker bought on craigslist. Her first book was written for a 4-quart cooker — enough to feed six people. I always froze several containers of one recipe.

But what if you have a small freezer and or don’t want to be committed to eating one recipe for weeks to come?

Vegan Slow Cooking: For Two, or Just For You Hester, who has 10 slow cookers in different sizes, solved the problem by downsizing some of her recipes. In 2013 she published “Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just for You,” enough to feed one or two with a little left over. I never imagined it was possible to make Eggplant Tapenade, Curried Cider Winter Squash Soup, Black Pepper Portobello and Baked Potato Dinner, Blueberry Lemon Cake, Coconut Hot Chocolate and other imaginative dishes in this wonderful pot that doesn’t need much watching while it creates magic.

Nobody, of course, has to be vegan to enjoy her books — you can always add meat or cheese to the pot or have your lamb chop on the side.

Eating on the Wild Side Jo Robinson’s book, “Eating On the Wild Side” has shaken up the way I buy and prepare food. Robinson says that some fruits and vegetables are better for us than others, and that the difference is in antioxidants, which defend us from free radicals, highly reactive molecules that destroy cell membranes, injure our DNA and give us diseases.

According to Robinson, nutrition research is studying antioxidants as they focus on phytonutrients, chemicals that plants make to ward off insects and protect them from ultraviolet light. If we eat them, we absorb these phytonutrients and they protect us from major diseases, like cancer and diabetes. The idea is that what protects the plants will protect us, too.

However, over thousands of years of agriculture we have bred at least 50 percent of the phytonutrients out of the plants we eat, because we selected plants with milder flavors that happened to be higher in sugar and starch. While we no longer live on wild plants, Robinson suggests we can “eat on the wild side” by choosing varieties of fruits and vegetables that have the most nutritional value. Her book tells us what varieties provide maximum phytonutrients and how to cook them.

The book is filled with surprising practical tips from cover to cover:

  • Many healthful salad vegetables contain bitter-tasting phytonutrients. If that turns you off, she recommends mixing them with some milder lettuce, add avocados or dried or fresh fruit. Honey mustard salad dressing also helps mask the bitterness.
  • Carrots that are cooked whole have more nutrients than carrots sliced before you cook them, because more of the nutrients stay in the vegetable. They also retain more of their natural sweetness. Steaming and sauteing is better than boiling them, and adding some oil or fat can unlock eight times more beta-carotene than eating raw baby carrots.
  • Scientific research now tells us that cooked blueberries have greater antioxidant levels than raw berries. Cooking increases blueberries’ nutritional content because the heat rearranges the phytonutrients’ structure and makes them more bioavailable.

Wanting more nutritional bang for the buck, I am studying the book and listing the newest powerhouses of the plant world in my new tablet. Now, if I’d only remember to pop it into my shopping bag.

Good Life Lab Wendy Jehanara Tremayne’s book, “The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living” is an autobiography about urbanites who become homesteaders.

She and her partner, Mikey Sklar, were young professionals earning good salaries who mostly consumed the objects and experiences that money can buy in New York City. Eventually they left the rat race and moved to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where they bought an old RV park and, through trial and error, built a comfortable home for themselves. These “digital homesteaders” tapped into remote mentors through the internet to guide their education in self-sufficiency and shared their experiences through blogs and videos.

In addition to personal biography and philosophy behind her decomodified life, Tremayne shares concrete lessons learned along the way, as well as a “how to” section. We find disparate information such as how to roast your own coffee beans; how to make mead, tempeh and kombucha; how to locate, store and use medicinal plants to cure common ailments; how to make your own biodiesel fuel; how to turn a shipping container into a building; and how to layer a window with the right curtain materials to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.

For the willing and able, there’s enough information to become creator and not a consumer, at least part of the time.

We’ve added these titles to our Amazon book list. If you’d like to know more about the book, or purchase it, just click on the title.

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Ode to Juicy, Versatile Watermelons

Slide of watermelon with the word Love cut out of itI didn’t want to let this August go by without mentioning that August 3 was National Watermelon Day.

Granted, it shares the date with National Friendship Day, National Sisters Day and National Grab Some Nuts Day, but I think the watermelon is worth an extra slice of attention.

I’ve always loved the cooling taste of watermelon on a hot summer day. And the refreshing fruit is called watermelon for a good reason: Low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, it is 92 percent water. Because it’s such a hydrating treat, my neighbor, a dog walker, prefers to carry bite-size watermelon pieces in a lightweight box over a water bottle when hiking with her canine clients.

No longer an exclusively summer staple, watermelon is now the country’s most popular melon, according to the National Watermelon Association. We can find it, cut in chunks, in many stores year round.

Paleo Watermelon Cake

This Paleo Watermelon Cake is made with seedless watermelon, full-fat coconut milk, vanilla, honey, and almonds or coconut.

Recently, I’ve discovered more recipes showing us new ways to use it in all meal courses, such as cocktails, salad, salsa, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts.

Watermelon varities

We see 50 varieties of watermelon on store shelves, although 300 different kinds are grown in the U.S. and Mexico.

These days watermelons come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from traditional, oblong melons that can be over two feet long and weigh over 50 pounds to newer round varieties, called personal melons, about 6 pounds each–small enough to fit into apartment refrigerators. And 85 percent of all watermelons grown today have no seeds.

As a botanical cousin to the pumpkin, watermelon’s thick outer shell has always been suitable for carving. Beyond party pieces for ship’s banquets, today food and relish sculptors enjoy using the melon’s newly unspotted pulp to create everything from traditional fruit bowls to portraits of Shrek.

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You can learn melon sculpting on your own, but developing skill requires practice. When John Montgomery lost his job at GM at age 20, he went to cooking school to learn a new skill and worked at a country club to help make ends meet. A sous chef who needed help, showed him how to carve a melon in 15 minutes. Montgomery was fascinated and practiced for one hour a day to become a centerpiece sculptor. He now runs his company, BrighterMelon, on the side, because GM’s business picked up enough to rehire him.

If you want to try your hand at sculpting a juicy cucurbit, check out free lessons on YouTube (here’s one for making a basic bowl).

Save the pulp from your project to make some Watermelon Agua Fresca. Mix 5-6 cups of coarsely chopped watermelon, 1/2 cup sugar, the juice of one lime, and a splash of water in a blender. Muddle with mint, basil or cilantro. You can even add some gin. Cheers!

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