Friday, October 11, 2013

Jessie Hemmons

So they call you the Yarn Bomber. They do. Yes. Did "they" come up with that or did you? No. It's actually a well established term for people that do the work that I do, which started in 2005. I started in 2009. So I'm actually kind of late to the game. There are other Yarn Bombers? Of course, yes. It actually started in Austin, Texas--A group called Knitta Please. Why did you call yourself the Yarn Bomber when I met you? You said, "I'm the Yarn Bomber." In Philadelphia. There aren't others? Not in Philly. Well, there are a couple. There's a woman that does it in Chestnut Hill named Melissa Maddonni Haims. But I feel like her practice is broader than just yarn bombing. I'm specifically yarn bombing. Okay, so what's going on with that? Why are you doing this? What's specifically gratifying about it? It's actually more of a street art for me and less of a fiber art kind of thing. I have a background in political psychology. So I'm actually more interested in community activism and relating to that. I'm putting knitting in the public realm and areas where I feel like people might notice it. But what I really want to do is work with community organizations to make large-scale projects in disenfranchised neighborhoods and things like that...and not on my own as this like imperialistic white girl coming in and assuming I know what neighborhoods want and need. I want to do it with the community. I feel like I need to get a name for myself first, and then I can approach non-profits and work with them to do these projects. How is the yarn itself and that form of expression--on the street, wrapping something, even a tree, which is controversial for some people--how is that accomplishing something? I guess it's kind of multi-faceted. Number one, it's what I'm good at. I can't stencil. I can't paint. I can't do things like that. Knitting is what I'm good at. It's also kind of feminist in a way--mockingly feminine. Street art is very male-dominated. And so, here I am, with the most feminine medium I can work with, working within that very masculine culture. It's making a statement. It's also just simply vibrant and non-permanent, yet non-threatening. I think the threatening aspect speaks to gender stereotypes. Do people think that knitting is non-threatening because women do it or is it because of the knitting itself? In China, supposedly, men sew and women don't. If most men knitted, would people find it non-threatening or no? Most people assume graffiti done with painting is done by men. They find it threatening and criminal and they don't want it in their neighborhood. And you're challenging these stereotypes. It's something I didn't think about until I started seeing people's reactions. The reactions were mostly positive, which is amazing. But is it because I'm a silly girl doing craft projects, or is it because of the knitting itself that makes it positive? I don't know. I feel like that's a question to be answered. I teach restorative justice and a lot of these students are into graffiti. Sometimes they seem more engaged with quilting than with paint markers. When I'm knitting on the subway, I feel like men will get reminded of their aunt or their sister or their grandmother that taught them..."oh, I knew how to crochet when I was a kid. My grandma used to do that on the porch all the time." They come up to me on the subway and talk to me about it, and I feel like it makes this connection for them. Maybe it's subconscious, but they feel some connection to the work and end up looking at it in a positive way. You know, they used to make yarn in this building. The landlord told me that before WWII they were in business because people used to just buy yarn and make their own clothes. Right. I go up to Huntington and Yarn Mill and other places like that to get yarn and the yarn is thin and more for machine knitting than it is for hand-knitted garments. It's generally like Philly at least. I'm trying to develop a way to turn the fabric from cigarette butts into yarn. I'm calling it "Buttressing." Oh really? People are doing all sorts of stuff. There's cat fur yarn out there! If I were able to figure out the buttressing, would you knit with it? I would knit it. I would knit anything. If it can be put into string, i would knit it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Barbara Botting

How did you get to be a stylist who "collages" food for QVC? ...and next week I’ll be doing wardrobe for Sub Zero, the refrigerator and freezer company. Every day and every week is always different - The way I got to do this has been very circuitous and round about. My background is in fine art, so I understand design and composition and how to make things lovely. You got your MFA? I got my MFA in ceramics and sculpture from Tyler. Then I did some teaching, and then segwayed into clothing design. Wait, what? I wanted to test my skills and explore. I had an interest in fashion. So...I pretended that I could design clothes, and I got a job at Urban Outfitters. How do you pretend to design clothes? Well, you just make a portfolio of beautiful things. You pull tears from all these magazines and say, “I think the world should look like this in fashion." What made you think this was a possibility? Most people would say, “I need to go to school for this. I have to work at these other jobs first, etc.” Financially, I needed to make a lateral move, and even though I hadn't gone through the ranks per say in that industry, I felt that I had something relevant and valuable to offer.  I was interested in looking beyond the lines of industrial boundaries and seeing this simply as something creative. For me, this was another collage project - See, you're building and making these books. You're already making books of beautiful images. You juxtapose fashion with color and objects in the world and people go, “Oh, well look at these wonderful connections,” and then say, “Let’s give her a job." Then I got head hunted by the GAP, and so I jumped on it and went to New York and designed for them for awhile. I tripled my salary overnight. Somehow you make me think of Emerson and "Self-Reliance." Oh, no. Really, you seem to have that. Well, I can tell you why. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. There was no Home Depot around the corner. My Dad and I would have to fix things, repair things, make things.  You just use what you have or don’t have and you just make it work. It was beautiful. You had this attitude of being resourceful. "If it’s not there, I can make it." I can make it. Absolutely. I made my own clothes when I was a kid. We did jam and jelly,’s all around you. It's all about making the connection from up here to down here. And now you’re navigating these different industries with this attitude and these skills. Yes. If you were to see me today playing around with this “Cooking Food” from QVC, it was a mess at first. But we made it look so desirable and tasty. It was just beautiful - Because they let me pull from this and that and basically do whatever I needed to do to bring it all together. Even the people from QVC were jumping back and saying, “Woah, that’s amazing!” You managed to be the Joseph Beuys of QVC. Thank you. When you're in Philadelphia, you have to be a generalist. If I were in New York I would either be a "Food Stylist" or a "Wardrobe Stylist" or a "Set Designer." But here, because there are fewer jobs, you have to be good at everything. And because I already love to cook and I already love to sew and I know wardrobe and I've designed clothes, I can make things happen. Like today, for instance, the Art Director said to me, "Can't you just glue that together?" And I was like, "Sure." I had no idea how I was going to glue it. And I don't even think she really knew what she meant when she asked me to do that. But I just smiled and said, "Yes, of course I can," and went over to my tool box and just made this thing happen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spenser Michaels

You’re doing research for a project and being cryptic about it. Yes I am. What can you tell me? Without giving too much away, I have a diverse group of friends I’ve always wanted to paint. And with some of them I've been wanting to create a series of portraits, but take these people who inspire me and put them in a different atmosphere, something out of my mind. It’s fantasy based but I also want to capture their personality through the eyes mostly. It’s going to be nudes on a large scale and some will be portraits. But there’s going to be a twist to it, which I can’t express. You’re taking your friends, these characters in your life, and you’re using them as a jumping off point for fantasy? Do you feel like you’re exploiting your friends? No. Is this masturbatory? No. It's not sexual in nature? Some if it is. Then what’s the fantasy? That’s genius…that’s amazing. Well, some of it is going to be erotic. But there’s going to be a twist. You've owned and run a gallery? Still do, we just don’t have the space. Why the project and why the gallery? Why do both? Right now we’re on hiatus. My business partner, Marco, is a brilliant photographer. The gallery that we had here at the Piazza, Waterbox, was too small. We wanted a bigger space. He’s working on a photography project and I’m working on my project in the meantime before we find another space. A lot of artists just want to do the art. Why do you want to be on the exhibition side? Marco and I thought about this for a while. We want to be able to control the environment. The show I’m doing will be through Waterbox but it’s not going to be a place we own. This is popular in New York now, where people find a space, do a show for two days, and move on to another space. I’m think that’s how my show will be. You're staying fluid. Right, that’s why we’re called Waterbox. It's about not being limited to any space. It could be at someone’s house, outside, anywhere. It can take any shape. Curating and organizing things is an art in itself. Absolutely. That’s what’s exciting about this. It’s not just about the art. It’s going to be an event...I tell myself, “There’s no deadline." I’m taking my time. I’m doing it at my own pace with no pressure. It’s very organic. Rushing is bad. It is bad. Plus, I don’t want to be stressed out. I don’t want a grey hair.

Friday, December 17, 2010

David Jablow

I saw the documentary on R Crumb. Were you inspired by the scene where he and his brother entered a drawing contest. Not so much from the contest. I’m a huge fan of his. A lot of people do draw that comparison with Crumb. It sort of makes me laugh when people say that. They act as if he has this stake on cross hatching. There are a lot of political cartoonist like Thomas Nash and George Cruikshank who were working in the early 1900s, whom Crumb was hugely influenced by. That’s usually how it works. One person is influenced by another. So you don’t identify with Crumb? No. I certainly do. I’m a huge fan of his. I will purchase anything he’s done after 1980. But you like to distinguish yourself from him? When you do cross hatching and black & white it’s really hard not to look like Crumb, especially with all of his subject manner. He's drawn everything. It’s hard not to mimic what he’s done. Yes, there’s a huge Crumb influence. But there are so many other people overlooked, I guess. There’s George Matt who’s another guy who’s a Philadelphia cartoonist, whom I’ve been hugely influenced by. It’s funny, Crumb would draw Big Foot Women. He had a comic strip devoted to Big Foot Women. I thought to myself, “There’s no way you could draw a strip of Big Feet Women.” But maybe we do something similar. Maybe we use the same pen. What's motivating you to focus on this exercise? It’s an excuse to render. I like to draw things and sometimes artists don’t have an image that’s begging to be made. They just want to make something and they’ll find anything to draw. There’s a fine line between creative and farfetched. A friend of mine gave me this doodle pad. It solved that problem of: What do you do? I was struggling with blank pages and white canvases forever. This was the solution. It’s not blank. It’s a launching off point with this woman. The parameters are clearly set. It limits me. I have to do something with her. She’s in this position and there’s only so much room on the page. The ones I wound up choosing dictated what’s plausible for the position the woman is in or how much space is around her. People would come up with ideas like: Have her jump off a diving board. People suggest stuff to you? Oh sure, all of the time. There are people that do their own versions. Do you see this as a collaboration? I didn’t plan it that way but a number of people have found these online and are taking the blank ones, putting them up on blogs and encouraging people to do their own. For example, there’s Someone posted a blank one on there and a bunch of people did their own versions from that. There was a lot of publicity in Russia. I posted a few of them on It’s not something I planned. I’m perfectly happy if people want to do this. But I feel like mine are better. On the one hand it’s a drawing exercise. You just like the activity of drawing. Sure, I like drawing. Are you also trying to communicate something? You’re in a gallery. You took some steps to have an exhibition. Why make it available? Honestly, when I was starting I didn’t think it would end up in a gallery. I thought of it as something that would be collected in a book. That was the plan and still is and I’ve been talking to publishers about that. But then I started making these jpegs and sending them out to galleries. I thought, “Why not get them on walls so my friends can see them?” I started getting positive feedback. I’ve always seen myself as an illustrator or a comic/cartoonist type of guy but I’m perfectly happy with this gallery show. These definitely work well together, greater than the some of their parts so to speak. What do you hope to accomplish with this work? I don’t have a political message behind them. I just try to have fun with each one and not be repetitive. I'd sit down and ask, “What one could be interesting?” Basically, you make a drawing. What it comes down to is: You either have to draw something interesting or draw something in an interesting manner. That’s what I was trying to accomplish here--just come up with a cool scene with something that I would like to look at, or figure out a creative way to deal with a woman in this specific position. There’s only three quarters of space around her that’s blocked out. The only context that you can give to indicate what’s going on is the space immediately below her. It did set up a very specific set of problems that I would have to face 38 different times. I really had to go out on a limb in some cases, where I had to change the woman. I had to break her in half and make her two different women. I tried not to do that too much though. I felt it was cheating in a way. I really just wanted to have fun with it. I would post them on facebook and friends would enjoy them. Is it contributing something culturally? I don’t think so. If it is, great. If it were, what would it be contributing? It's escapism I guess. It’s art. It’s something people can enjoy. Some people attach different meaning. Some people say it’s very feminist. I don’t see that. If people want to take it that way, that’s fine. But I’m just doing 38 different interesting drawings--trying not to be repetitive, and not change the woman in any way. But she changes. That was the hardest thing, not to be repetitive. One was sort of like an old Victorian look, one's like a steam pump, one's more contemporary... Don’t change it but don’t repeat. That's paradoxical. It is. It’s funny. There were a number of rules I had to follow to keep the series going. It made it a lot easier to work with 38 blank sheets of paper. Giving yourself these parameters allows you to say, “Run in this direction.” I definitely hit creative blocks during the process. People ask me, “How long did it take for you to do these?” Most of the time was spent brain storming ideas. But once I had them it was only a matter of 48 hours and actually executing them. Sometimes I would spend a week or two questioning like, “Alright, she’s down on all fours. So she could be doing some kind of tracking but that doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with the bottom half of the page." Or sometimes I would come up with the top half for an idea and then have to sit and wait for another idea for the bottom half. I mean, I don't have a set approach. Each one I start fresh. I do it, set it aside, and move on to the next. Slowly but surely I got 38 of them done.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Peter Rawstron

Why do you host this karaoke jam? It's a long story but I'll try and shorten it up.. I'm a musician. I went to school for music. I enjoy sharing the gift of music with people. It's hard to get paid for it these days though. So I got in touch with a buddy of mine who probably has one of the largest collections of karaoke in the country and I said, 'Look I want to get in on this. I want to keep going around doing music. I like to sing. I like to perform. Please give me a chance to go out and do that.' You see this as a performance? I do. Everyone else is performing but I'm up there too. You join in. I join in and kind of joke around with people from time to time. What do you think about the singing? What is it about that karaoke quality? It seems like most people can't sing, right? No, I agree. That's why I laugh when you say that. You get some people that are amazing. They get up there and sing opera and bring the house down and everyone will stop. Then you get people who are just really into it, really enthusiastic and excited about what they're doing. They're the people who don't have that personal filter, that inhibition. They're just gone. There were a couple people here tonight like that. They'll get up there and sing their hearts out no matter how good they are or how bad they are. They're up there having a good time being silly or not being silly singing their favorite tunes. That makes it a performance. Sure. An example of that would be Gabe. I love the kid. He's not a great singer. But he can perform. He can make a whole crowd get up and sing. He may be the most awkward person in the bar yet he can get any girl to get up and dance with him. Just watch him on any night. What do you think it is about him that does that? It's that letting go.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scooter Guinn

What's it like to go by Scooter? I don't know. You sound like a little kid. That's how I act. You feel like you're regressing? Extending adolescence...Let's try this again and try not to sound contrived and rehearsed. Ok. So let's take this conversation in a totally different direction and let people wonder about the real interview that wasn't actually recorded. Fair enough. You're from Indiana? Lafayette. Why are people in the Midwest ending up in Hollywood and getting famous? Are you guys in like some no-man's land dreaming of something bigger? It's really not that. It's just having the balls to go out and do something. Anyone could come out and do whatever. Do you think that's important, to be afraid of something and do it anyway? What else are you going to do in your life? What are you afraid of? I have to think about it...nothing. Were you afraid of performing at first when you first started? Um, yeah just wondering how it was going to go. I mean I have all the same questions anyone has. You think that's why you scream in people's faces? Well..I have a couple beers before I go on and I just chill out, smoke a cigarette. And when it's time to play, it's time to play. You just go through it and try not to seem too premeditated I guess. I just do it. Some nights it's really great. Some nights it's really bad. That's just the way it is. What do you think of the Baby Huey comment? Oh that's fine. Do you like it? Yeah. It's fun. Is stage presence important to you. Yeah I think a little bit. It just depends on how you come across. I mean I don't know how I really look. I see pictures of myself that look terrible. But whatever. Maybe if I wear a nice white fuckin denim jacket with cut off sleeves it would be cool. But I don't have one. I didn't bring a jacket on this tour. If I design that jacket for you will you wear it? XXL. Yeah I would. You guys are fun. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Elizabeth Rogers

What's your band name? Party Photographers. What's your name? Elizabeth Rogers. Do you like Darby Crash? No. I don't know it. The Germs. Yes. You remind me of the Germs. I like the Germs. What's it feel like playing here? The Ox is my favorite place to play and I'll tell you why. My friend Dan lives here. We played our first show here and we've actually evolved to having a decent crowd. And now you're back? Yea! This is our first show here since the first time we played at Ox. We played here before they had a stage. This is an amazing spot now. Dan Hughes always sets things up and hooks us up. He's a good guy. When I came in here I felt like I was at Warhol's Factory seeing the Velvet Underground. Does that mean anything to you? Of course it does. Do you know what I mean? Sure. Do you think about that when you're playing? No, actually. When you're in a band, you don't think about things like that. You play and you can give a shit. What's that effect on your voice? I was telling my friend, 'these guys are so avant garde, they're lip syncing.' That was probably the worse show for my vocals. I don't normally sing like that. The drunker I get the crazier I get. You got a great scream. It's so uninhibited. If you see me at a show where I don't get drunk, it's minimalist and suppressed. You need to let the demons out. Exactly. Dionysus. That's what happened tonight. I just got wacked. That's the formula. It sounds so horrible but..Whatever works. It worked for Darby Crash. It works for you. Ehn..