Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Giving a Little Lost Sock a Soul

Tsukumogami: little sock with a soul

Anyone who has followed this blog knows I love discovering and transforming found objects. When I learned about the Japanese folk belief that objects have the capacity to become alive and self-aware, it changed the way I relate to the objects I find. Somehow they have already managed to break free and venture out into the world on their own. Now I try to help them discover their soul. Then I release them to continue their journey. To learn more about Tsukumogami, see a past post, Tsukumogami: Objects with Souls. For other past work with found objects, follow this Found link.

Lost by the wayside

This Tsukumogami began with the discovery of a little, lost, blue-striped sock, found on the walking path beside Lake Merritt in Oakland, no doubt tossed from a stroller by a heartless renegade toddler. The first step is to study the object a while, searching for whatever is within yearning to break free.

Communing with lost object

The next step is to animate the object, bringing the hidden pirit of the sock to the fore.

A little worried

A little sad

A little surprised

The next step is to send the Tsukumogami back out into the world to meet whatever fate awaits.
I decided to attach a little tag to the sock so that the people who discover it and help it begin the next stage of its journey have some idea what they are dealing with.


I decided to release the newly awakened spirit sock close to where I had found it, and left it sitting on the base of a light post right by the Lake Merritt walking path.

Little Tsukumogami waiting for its fate


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Upcycled Fourth: Red, White, and a Little Blue

Cannibalizing two shirts for the greater good

Two thrift store men's shirts, each sporting a red and white stripe pattern, are combined together to create one new upcycled shirt. And here's how:

The how-to

Some detail shots:

Detail, top of shirt

Detail, inset pocket (hand-stitched)

Detail: patches covering old shirt logos

Detail: Cuffs reattached at elbow height

And a bonus for the Fourth of July: Since the shirt sports red and white stripes, I decided to add a pin to round out the ensemble for the holiday. The pin is fashioned from an old tin can lid (for more how-to info on tin can pins see Tin Can Frames Tutorial, or enter "tin can pins" in the search window of this blog and see a whole range of past tin can pins).

And yes, the sentiment is both political and emotional.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Home Decor for the Anthropocene

Eking beauty out of the apocalypse

We have entered the Anthropocene, an epoch in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment — leading to the Sixth Extinction,  a sudden and dramatic decline of diversity of life on earth due to those same humans. Thus this addition to home decor, a reflection on our current plight.

This project began with a delicious poke bowl (pronounced po-kay), the Hawaiian food trend sweeping the mainland. I was sitting at home enjoying my to-go order of salmon and tuna poke when I began eyeing the bowl. Here is a food container that would never fly in Berkeley, but is somehow still okay in Oakland — a surprisingly sturdy plastic bowl.

Garbage? Discarded take-out bowl

One thing was instantly clear to me: this bowl should not be discarded. I use bowls as organizing vessels, and this looked like a prime candidate.

Organizing bowls

I scrounged through my supply closet until I came up with my personalized bible, awarded upon graduation from primary Sunday school at the Shrewsbury Presbyterian church. It has been a stand-by for years when I need thin, biblically-themed paper for decoupage or, in a pinch, when I need makeshift rolling papers. The passage I decided to use was apt: the story of Noah from Genesis.

Decoupaging with glue stick and strips of Genesis

Looking down on creation

As an embellishment I added a few gingko leaf prints in copper paint as a complimentary nod to an ancient tree with incredible survival skills that has, so far, managed to survive anything man throws at it. In fact, it is being increasingly used in urban settings because it thrives in polluted conditions. For how-to tips on printing with gingko leaves see an earlier post, Inside-Out Boxes.

Copper gingko print embellishments

Look inside the rim of the bowl in the photo above, and you will see the words "Surviving the Anthropocene" added to the decoupage, printed onto the margins of bible paper using my handy vintage typesetting kit.

Intriguing attitude on the part of god towards creation
And here is the finished piece. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Embroidered Dinoflagellate

Just because...

A winsome one-celled creature

I was attracted to images of dinoflagellates that I found in the Biodiversity Heritage Library and decided to try embroidering one of the over 2,500 different dinoflagellate species. Then I got curious, started investigating, and learned that these single-celled creatures, found in both sea and fresh water, have more DNA content than the human genome. There are also bioluminescent species, and you can keep them as pets (

You never know where that first stitch is going to take you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Exotic Upcycling: Indigo Dreams

Shirt front

I have a friend who lives in London and travels around the world, and she periodically brings me some of her wonderful finds from thrift stores and local markets. This time around she brought me a gorgeous piece of West African indigo-dyed cloth comprised of many individual strips of cloth stitched together to form a checkerboard pattern. The challenge was that there wasn't enough of the indigo fabric on its own to make a garment. The solution? The addition of a man's pajama top from a local thrift store and a tricky process of blending the two together with a relaxed frame of mind so that quirks like ending up with a portion of a pocket on one sleeve caused delight rather than consternation.

Shirt Back

And here is how it all came together...

The how (click on image to enlarge)

More of the how - right sleeve

Left sleeve

And there you have it.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Found: Wandering Rabbit in Search of a Purpose

The amazing flying rabbit chewing gum jar

Here is a quickie, throw-away piece, but an important reminder to keep your eyes open as you roam around the world; you never know what you might find. This rabbit was lying on the floor near the driver on an AC Transit bus in Oakland. I had my eye on it for a couple of stops, and it had clearly been dropped and left behind by someone who was no longer on the bus. As we reached my stop I headed up front, picked it up, showed it to the driver,  and said, "I'm going to take this home and make something out of it." He said, "Great!"

And here it is.

And a final aerial view just because.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Museum of Lost Childhood Beliefs

Here is a make-it-yourself museum complete with four galleries, featuring a theme that teeters on the brink between nostalgia and despair. What begins as a little book slowly unfolds...

Opening the museum

... and the result is a little museum that fits in the palm of your hand.

The fully-open museum

Each gallery in the museum celebrates a particular realm of cherished childhood beliefs — or serves as a bitter testimony to parental lies and betrayal, depending on how you look at it. A peek into the four galleries is offered below.

Wishing Gallery panels

Inside the Wishing Gallery

Fairy Gallery panels

Inside the Fairy Gallery

Boogeyman Gallery panels

Inside the Boogeyman Gallery

Gallery of Benevolent Beings panels

Inside the Benevolent Beings gallery

And for the ultimate interactive museum experience, you get to build a little Museum of Lost Childhood Beliefs yourself! Carry it around in your pocket and whip it out to amaze adults and utterly confuse anyone under ten years of age. Guaranteed to stimulate a lot of questions.

Templates for both a two-inch version (adorable because it fits in the palm of your hand) and a three-inch version (with larger images that make it easier to explore all the subtleties of the museum) can be found at the following link:!topic/stuffyoucanthave-downloads/0-aLO8pJnCw.

2-inch and 3-inch versions

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