Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Package project update 7

As I contemplated my 2011 package project, I started to think about what went into the packages.

Many of my packages were bundles of like objects -- a lot of broken pencils, a lot of strange metal objects, a lot of styrofoam packing forms, a lot of selvages.  These were the easiest bundles to make, because you wander about and notice a bunch of the same thing lying around, and what comes to mind but to put them together.

And to take a lofty critical look, repetition is one of the hallmarks of modern art.  It resonates with our modern mindset of mass production and abundance, and with the modernist sensibility that rejects hierarchy in favor of equality, or perhaps we should say interchangeability.

Often I made rather than found my identical things, cutting up a big piece of plastic or cardboard to make a set of bits that could be bundled together.  This was fun; I like to sit and make fussy little constructions out of a bazillion little pieces, as witness most of my quilts.  I enjoyed the decisions of how to cut and arrange the pieces as well as the actual binding or tying. 

But I didn't always limit my packages to identicals.  Often there would be two sets of objects put together: some metal surrounding some cardboard, or some plastic surrounded by cocktail picks.  The two sets would usually seem to go together because of size: just enough cardboard to fill up the space between the metal brackets, the plastic folded to be the same length as the picks.  I found that matchmaking was a lot of the fun of making these bundles.

Toward the end of the year I put a shoebox on my worktable called "bits for bundles."  When I came upon a little something I would toss it into the box, and eventually the box started to yield collections.  It was like a freshman mixer: guys who arrived forlorn and alone would find friends as time went by.  As a result, I occasionally made a bundle of totally disparate objects that seemed to want to be together.

Maybe this was my favorite bundle of the year:  the beautiful green top of a silicon spatula that divorced from its handle, a piece of a venetian blind slat, some strange screws and bolts, including one in blue.  It's tiny but everything seems to work together.  Hey, just like art!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Camera update

My good old Nikon 6000 is on its way to the service center again -- its fourth trip in the last year -- to see if they'll fix the latch.  On its previous sojourns to be repaired I have used my second-best camera, my old Olympus, which has coped with easy tasks but isn't up to anything serious such as tricky focus.

But this time I decided to buy a new camera instead of just coping.  After 23,000 photos, who knows how much longer the Nikon may hold out.  Kim the world's greatest camera salesperson told me today that camera hardware does sometimes give up the ghost.  In particular, the gears that open the lens and then extend it to the proper focus are subject to wear, and we're talking about many tens of thousands of operations already completed.  And that's not to mention this Nikon's propensity for breaking.

When I looked at new cameras I decided that what I basically wanted was the same thing I already have -- a small camera that will fit in my pocket.  Kim suggested I look at the idiot-proof models guaranteed to survive being dropped, submerged, nuclear-bombed, etc. but none of them zoom more than 5X, and I've been spoiled with the 7X on my Nikon and don't want to trade down.

So we looked at Nikon's next plateau up, the 8200, a little bigger, a little heavier, with a 14X zoom.  But then I wondered whether I might be happy without going up the food chain, and looked at the Nikon 6200, which is basically my old camera in its 2012 guise.  No new bells and whistles, but three improvements over my June 2010 version:  a 10X zoom instead of 7X, a better sensor, and a lower pricetag.

When we put the 8200 side-by-side with the 6200, the choice was easy.  In buying the larger model, I'd pay $75 for a longer zoom, but wouldn't get any more pixels, any better sensor or any fancy new features.  And it would be a bit more cumbersome to shlep around.

So here are the Nikon twins.  On the top, the old Nikon 6000; on the bottom, the new Nikon 6200.  The new one is a hair smaller in size (a plus), better in capacity.  And it's red! 

I hope 6200 will be as good as its brother in terms of photo quality and ease of use.  And I really hope it will never acquire its brother's bad habit of visiting the Nikon service center with every change of season.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sign of the week

right across from the dumpster

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Package project update 6

When you do a long, multi-part project with a couple of constant elements you realize that the way you handle these constants takes on a life of its own.  In my 2011 package project each package or bundle had a label to tell when it was made.  Because the project rules called for at least one package a week, I decided to number the weeks as the primary identifier.  For instance, this package was the third one made in week 23.

This label is what I came to think of as the kissoff style, where I just found a piece of paper and wrote the ID number on it.  I'm not particularly proud of this kind of label.  The ones I like more are those where I used a little imagination.

This one was marginally above kissoff level.

Sometimes I sewed the ID number onto the label.

Sometimes I put the label "under cover."

Here's one I was proud of -- the fabric bolt was printed in white ink with the 2 you see at the right.  I drew the 24 on the left in white pencil, then outlined all the numbers in red. 

Sometimes I turned to found objects for the ID number.

But late in the year I realized the best possible source for found numbers -- the yellow pages, which is a riot of color and every font known to mankind.  And the phone numbers are usually the largest type in the ad!

It's easy to find separate numbers to make up whatever ID you need.

But if you're feeling obsessive compulsive, you can search out phone numbers, complete with hyphen, for the entire ID.

Just when I was really hitting my stride with the labels, the year was over. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sign of the week

the official jewelry of the National Rifle Association

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Package project update 5

A year ago I embarked on a project to make bundles or packages every week.  I had been intrigued by reading about bundles as a popular format for early fiber artists in the 1950s and 60s, and thought it would be interesting to explore this method of working.

My rules were simple: find some stuff lying around, bundle it up, and label the package.  I had to do at least one bundle a week, but more would be OK.  The stuff could be lying around in my own home and studio, or someplace else, such as outdoors.  The only times I incorporated new material were occasionally to cut a length of thread, cord or wire to tie the bundles, although many times I could find preexisting cord lying around to do the job, such as this big wad of tangled fishline (given to me by a frustrated fisherman).

As with any daily or weekly art project, it took a little while to find my rhythm.  Some of the early packages were a bit awkward and self-conscious, but I gave myself permission to move on, knowing that they'd fade away in the large collection of better work. 

There were 53 weeks in 2011, and in 33 of them I made only one package.  In 11 weeks I made two packages.  I did three packages twice, four packages twice, five packages twice, six packages twice, and an impressive eight packages once.  Total for the year was 99 packages.

Of course, themes developed.  Many of my packages were made from packaging materials, testament to our insatiable consumer appetite for stuff, inside of other stuff.  Many packages were made from leftovers from quilts and other fiber art projects -- all those strips of batting and quilting sliced off the quilts in the final square-up, all those selvages sliced away at the start. 

Although my rules allowed stuff lying around outside, I was choosy in what I used for the project.  I didn't want my art to bring bugs and critters into the house, so I rarely used plant materials (once some acorns and maybe a nice bare stick). 

But I found ample supplies in the pencils, plastics and metal bits that litter the streets.

Travel always yields debris that makes neat little bundles.

Now that the project is over I realize I want to think about it more analytically.  I'm taking photos of every bundle, and plan to also photograph theme groupings, and hope to have everything documented and posted soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New year, new camera issues

If you get a lift out of schadenfreude, you've probably enjoyed my recurring tales of woe regarding my Nikon Coolpix camera.  I bought it in June 2009 and it has traveled with me to five of the seven continents and staunchly taken 23,000 photos.  A real trouper -- that is, when it isn't in the shop.

Twice it's been in for repairs when the eyelids failed to retract fully and expose the entire lens.  (It still took pictures, but they had black triangles at northeast and southwest.)  Once it was in for mysterious spots on the lens, which congnoscenti thought were specks of dust on the sensor but actually were serious enough to warrant a new lens.

The last time it came home from the shop I made a wry comment noting that it still had several months to go on its warranty and wondering what might happen next.

Well, here's the answer.

There's a little door on the bottom of the camera that opens up to reveal the battery and memory card.  When you close the door, you slide a button to close the latch.  The latch consists of a metal tongue that slips underneath a thin ledge of plastic.

Except that this morning I found the little ledge of plastic on my desk, right underneath the open door of the camera.

Perhaps if you were designing a camera you would have the latch mechanism made entirely of metal for greater durability, but you obviously didn't design this one.

So here's the camera in its new getup.  Much classier than duct tape, don't you think?

Although it takes pictures just fine, I hate to see those four months of unused warranty go to waste.  One of these days I'll have to visit Kim my favorite camera salesperson and see whether she has the chutzpah to send this back to the Nikon service center yet again.  Or maybe I'll just make lemonade and buy a new camera, one without a jinx.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Photo suite 3 -- women at work

While the tourists gawk, buy souvenirs and get sunburned, the permanent residents of tropical paradises have harder lives.  Here are some of the women I spied hard at work on our recent trip through the Caribbean to Brazil.