Inventing kits at Arts & Scraps

arts & scraps warehouse

On Mondays in January, February, and March this year, I spent a couple of hours in the warehouse of Arts & Scraps, working with and thinking about their materials. Arts & Scraps is a non-profit in Detroit that takes donated/recycled industrial and craft materials and uses those materials to create kits and projects for kids. One use of these kits is in schools (they are available outside of school, too), which is cool because these kinds of activities are getting cut out of the school day for many kids.

I worked on this volunteer project with Barbro, an artist and product designer from Germany who was in Detroit on a residency and looking for something like a job but not a job. Barbro had the project lined up with A&S before her arrival, and I just happened to get in touch with A&S about volunteering at the same time.

Barbro & I in the warehouse

We made samples of existing kits and created new kits based on themes, using the materials from the warehouse. It was fun to wander around the warehouse, which is filled with boxes and boxes and boxes of just stuff, picking up materials, and thinking about how they can be used. We had to keep in mind that the projects have to cover many age groups, have to also be appealing to adults, and that the main goal is not the end product but the experience of creating and challenging kids to think. A lot of the materials are grey and black, so it was a challenge sometimes to work in color. The kits also should be self-sufficient, and come together without the use of glue, tape, etc. (many of the pieces have a sticky side).

Some of my favorite new kits that I came up with were this raincloud kit, for an off-site project under the theme of “spring”:
raincloud kit

And this picnic kit, for an off-site project under the theme of “summer”:
picnic kit

And this racing bird, for a kit under the theme “something that flies” and/or “something that is fast”:
racing bird kit

It was a fun project, and it was great to get to work with some different materials be design-challenged in ways I’m not challenged in my day-to-day work. Our work there is a good example of “creativity within constraints.”

Birthday books & inspiration

birthday books

I bought some books recently as a birthday gift to myself. Most are used, but some are too new to be used. Three are screen printing-related (one hasn’t arrived yet), one is a lovely book about making paper flowers, and the other is a writing style guide.

I’ve been looking at more things out in the wild (which I guess I mean, not on the internet), and I wondered what it would be like if I limited my visual inspiration to things I see in real-life — like in books, museums, galleries, spaces, places, and just out & about…

More drawings of my dog Miguel from the year 2013, compiled into a zine

drawings of miguel zine #2
Last summer, I compiled the first six month’s worth of drawings of my dog Miguel into a zine, and I just finished putting together the year’s second half into another zine. (Both are available in my Etsy shop.)

I really like archiving them in this way, setting them aside from all of the other drawings I make. Miguel-related drawings have become a base of a body of work for me. It’s a personal indulgence, something that’s fun for me, and something I might develop further.

For 2014′s drawings of Miguel, I decided to have a movie theme, and draw Miguel in scenes of the movies I watch this year. I am watching more movies and keeping track of them because of the fiftyfifty.me challenge (read 50 books and watch 50 movies). I got excited about the idea of drawing Miguel as Rocky (and Redman — Miguel’s sidekick — as Mickey), and decided that would be the Miguel-drawings-zine theme for 2014.

Monthly Reports: March 2014

Movies watched: Anchorman 2.5; Thriller — a 3-hour documentary V. made about his brother; Alien vs. Predator; the first 10 minutes of Alien vs. Predator 2 — it was too terrible to go any further; Predators; Rocky; Rocky II; Rocky III; Rocky “mostly just montages” IV

Books read: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; Introducing Screen Printing by Anthony Kinsey; The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown; Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin

Other stuff I saw: “What is Stroker? – Irving Stettner” at Trinosophes; “Desaturated: Abstract Black and White” at 1480 Gratiot Gallery (favorite: Davin Brainard‘s paintings); “Bright Spot on a Cloudy Day” at Ocelot Print Shop; “Per Mr. Handy” by Juliet Hinely & “Holding Still” by Ann Bartges at the Jam Handy; “Cranbrook Scholarship Exhibit” at Detroit Artist’s Market (favorite: Simone Schiffmacher); “Recent Yale MFA Grads” at N’namdi Gallery (favorites: Caroline Wells Chandler and Mark Thomas Gibson); “We Need More ___!” by Cedric Tai at Re:View Gallery

State of the Running: Still running, practicing the 5K. All this time I’d been using a GPS-based app, which it turns out was giving me inaccurate info on my distances and times. I switched to the Nike+ app, which tracks based on body movements, and now know I’m running (and have been running) 5Ks in about 32 to 34 minutes. I’ll probably hover around there until I start running longer distances and/or more times per week. For now I want to focus on running the 5K and getting to a point where it feels a little bit easier.

Personal sewing projects completed: I finished my spring jacket, which was my goal for this month. To be photo’d soon! I’m not sure what I’ve been doing, but I feel behind on everything!

Travel: For my birthday weekend (the 29th – 30th), V. took us to Niagara Falls (Canadian side), which neither of us had been to before. We saw the falls in a wintry state, which was pretty, and ate vegan food at Rise Above in St. Catherines.

Other notable things: I gathered my drawings from the last half of last year and put together a zine, “Drawings of Miguel: July — December 2013″ (available soon); I ate delicious food at Neehee’s; I completed a volunteer project with Arts & Scraps — hope to write that up soon.

Busy doin’ nothin’

Things it’s been hard to make time for lately: blogging, trolling around the internet, keeping up with my RSS feed. I have a hundred TBEL tabs (“to be explored later”), waiting. What I’ve been up to: freelance work, screen printing (mostly tests for various things), running, sewing. Last week I spent a day in Ypsilanti taking care of some things and seeing friends. I’m finishing up on a new zine, “Drawings of Miguel: July – December 2013″ — everything’s printed and just needs to be assembled. I applied for a Knight Arts grant with an idea I’ve had for 12 years. I finished sewing my spring jacket, but I haven’t photographed it yet. Miguel had a vet appointment, which is exhausting for both of us. I started fundraising for the 5K I’m going to run in May for a local humane society. Yep. Stuff.

On screen printing, I’ve been checking old how-to books out from the library, and this was a cool one, from 1967 — Introducing Screen Printing by Anthony Kinsey. It’s interesting to go through these books and see how technology and newer methods have changed the process and look of screen printing. Going by these books, it was so much more about shapes and experimentation back then. Block out a shape (with just newsprint directly on the screen, even), print it, turn the paper, print it again. Print transparent shapes over the first shapes. It is something I’ve been thinking about, in terms of my own work — trying to push myself more into “shapes” and be less reliant on lines. And maybe loosen up a little.

I also liked the design and illustrations in the book:
introducing screen printing by anthony kinsey

introducing screen printing by anthony kinsey

introducing screen printing by anthony kinsey

introducing screen printing by anthony kinsey