Everybody is Frida

Frida Kahlo is one of those historical figures that just about everyone likes. This mass appeal means that as she’s become mainstream, though, it’s easier to forget what a revolutionary she truly was. Like so many other cultural icons, Frida’s story has become sanitized over the years and it’s easy to forget the aspects that truly set her apart–a bisexual, Marxist, woman artist of color working in a time when any of those identities counted you out of the mainstream entirely. Even as big of a fan as I am, it was only last year that someone mentioned was an icon Frida is in the disability community. A survivor of polio and a catastrophic bus accident, it’s rarely mentioned the example she set in engaging so fully in life at a time when disability was not something to be talked about, let alone displayed in public. All these revolutionary aspects of her life get glossed over for the quirky but safe version of Frida we see so often.

It’s exactly Frida’s otherness, though, that draws people into her art and continues to make her story relevant. This revolutionary Frida is the spirit that’s captured in Todos Podem Ser Frida (All Can Be Frida), a photography series from Brazillian artist Camila Fontenele de Miranda. The project features gorgeous photos of people “being” Frida, complete with flowers, brows, and richly-detailed textiles. Featuring models of an array of genders, races, sexual identities, and ages, the series draws power from the revolutionary statement that being a person like Frida continues to be today.Todos Podem Ser FridaTodos Podem Ser Frida Todos Podem Ser FridaTodos Podem Ser FridaTodos Podem Ser Frida Todos Podem Ser FridaTodos Podem Ser Frida Todos Podem Ser FridaVia Bust

David Bowies at Chicago Public Library

On Monday I had the opportunity to teach a puppet-making workshop at the Maker Lab at Harold Washington Library. That morning the news had broken that David Bowie passed away overnight, and it was clearly on everyone’s minds. I had intended on allowing participants to chose their own hero to commemorate as a puppet during the class, but someone suggested early on that the different Bowie eras people had been seeing on social media all morning would make the perfect subjects. So each person set out to select their favorite Bowie, from an eye-patched Ziggy Stardust, to the hairless The Man to Fell to Earth, Aladdin Sane’s iconic lightening bolt, and Labyrinth‘s flamboyant Jareth.

The class would have been fun regardless, but the special subjects turned it into a lovely tribute as well. Not to mention the amazing creations that came out of the event.

Thanks to Harold Washington Library and One Book, One Chicago for having me!

Trippy 70s Moon Maps

It’s tempting to think that science exists apart from the era it’s being conducted in. But like any other field, the times we live in are part of us, and sneak in to color even the most sterile and professional task. Case in point: these trippy moon maps created in the 60s and 70s. Look at this collection of images mapping the craters, highlands and plains of the lunar landscape, and tell me those wacky color combos aren’t reminiscent of a flower power muumuu.

Via Atlas Obscura.

An Old Year, A New Year

Inspired by the Top Nine lists everyone’s been posting on Instagram this week, I decided to take a look back at some of my favorite moments from 2015. Instead of going on just people’s likes on the photos I posted (which, let’s be honest, tended to be an indicator of how well I hashtagged), I created a collage of the personal and professional moments that’ll stick with me most over the past twelve months.
Top Nine of 2015

  1. RBG: My new Ruth Bader Ginsburg puppet was by far my favorite design in years. I’ve already explored some of the many reasons why I love RGB, and it was lovely to know that she’s got plenty of other puppet-loving fans out there besides myself.
  2. Good/Bad: A twofer of possibly my best and worst parent moments of the year– The bad news: My kid got his front tooth knocked out at school. Dang. The good news: An epic Pee Wee Herman Halloween costume.
  3. The King: I love this custom Elvis puppet. It was about time I got to render that famous white suit in felt.
  4. Pride + Victory: This year, the Chicago Pride Parade fortuitiously fell the day after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. To say that the event felt electric would be a bit of an understatement, and I’m so proud we could be there to witness that moment.
  5. Furiosa: My favorite custom puppet of the year– I got to create this Imperator Furiosa based on the badass character from the surprisingly good film, Mad Max: Fury Road. I shared a few months back about my process in getting her signature black make-up just right.
  6. New Views: Probably my biggest personal moment of the year, after a very long search and a lot of false starts and dead ends, this August I got a new job doing pretty much exactly what I dreamed of doing at pretty much exactly the kind of organization I wanted to work for. Oh, and this is the view from the building on Michigan Avenue. Not too shabby.
  7. Jean-Michel: Another fun custom order I completed this year was this Jean-Michel Basquiat. One of my favorite all-time artists, it was great to get the push to finally try out making him 4″ tall.
  8. Roadtrip: Our family vacation to Cape Cod this fall was an epic week of r + r, but the highlight of the trip (and one of my very highest highlights of the year) was the 30+ humpback whales we saw on our whale-watching excursion. It was pure magic to be in the presence of these incredible creatures, literally close enough to be eye to eye and get wet from their spray, and is an experience I’ll never forget.
  9. Furry Friends: This year we decided to volunteer as a foster home for the wonderful dog rescue One Tail at a Time. We hosted four lovely pups over the course of the year, the final one– Sprinks/now Murf– became a “foster fail” when we decided to make him a permanent addition to the family. How could we say no to that face!

There you have it–my 2015 in a nine-part nutshell! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: thank you to you–my readers, customers, and friends–for coming along on this journey, reading what I have to say, and being interested in my finds. I hope 2015 was good to you, and wish for a brighter and kinder 2016 for us all.

DIY Holiday Garlands

Life is crazy at the moment, but I’m counting the days until holiday orders are out and presents are all purchased. If that ever happens, I’ve got big plans to actually decorate for Christmas, and make and cover the house with festive garlands. Till then (or just in case it never happens), I’m coveting these.

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Stuff I Love Right Now

Time for another edition of “Thing I Love Right Now,” a.k.a. “I’m out of other blog ideas/would rather talk about stuff I’m obsessed with instead.” Enjoy!

1. Taylor Swift, 1989
I tend to be late to the mainstream pop culture party. I’m always a little snobby about the thing that everybody else likes, so I hang back and tend to discover about a year late that the rest of the world–gasp!–was totally right. Case in point: I cannot stop listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. It started with the Ryan Adams version, which I could stream on Spotify and loooved. I knew I liked the singles from her album that had been released to the radio, and judging by how obsessed I was becoming with Ryan Adam’s sad-guy versions, I decided to take the iTunes plunge and by the original. Best decision I’ve made all year.

2. Moccasins
Every fall I renew my devotion to moccasins (Minnetonka, usually, but I’m not that picky) and every winter I get a little sad when it gets too wet and I have to put them away. This fall is no different. I even bought a new pair to keep at work (nobody has to know that they’re actually the soft-inside slipper versions– sooo cozy) in the hopes that they’ll stay more presentable and pass as semi-professional for a bit longer.

3. Little Women
The embarrassing truth is that I’ve never actually read Little Women (I know, total girlhood fail), but I could quote just about every line from the 1994 movie version. From Claire Danes always-crying Beth, to Christian Bale’s amazingly luxurious Laurie hair, Marmie’s constant stream of truisms and Kirsten Dunst’s totally bratty Amy, it is a tour de force of warm hearts and Bechdel-tested goodness.

3. My polka dot jacket
jacketI bought this jacket from ModCloth (my other current obsession) a few months back, and in all my years of wearing clothes, I have never gotten as many compliments on an item of clothing as I have about this coat. It’s gotta be one of my wisest purchases to date, and I plan to wear it as far into winter as I possibly can (which is probably like one more week).

4. Matt McGorry’s Twitter
359641-matt-mcgorryMatt McGorry is totally likable as CO Bennett on Orange is the New Black, but it wasn’t until a few month ago that I discovered his really progressive online presence. Whether shamelessly promoting vital discussions about race, or proclaiming the importance of feminism, he’s doing exactly what white dudes should be doing with their privilege– using it for good. It’s really refreshing to see someone embrace their platform to encourage these kind of discussions. He’s definitely worth a follow.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.22.36 PM

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New Swallow Christmas Ornaments

There are times when I feel myself becoming something of a living Portlandia skit, and never more so than when I decided to whip up a batch of swallow ornaments the other day. When in doubt, put a bird on it!These candy-colored avians are inspired by classic tattoo illustrations, and a variation on a brooch design you may remember from years back. Bright and cheery colors like this are sort of my thing, and these birds do their job looking pretty darn cheerful on the tree. Tis the season to deck the halls!

Swallow ornaments are now!