Recycled Art Education

Vertical angle of Rain Rug

As you can see, there is progress on the Rain Rug. In the last two weeks, my luck has held out and the various thrift stores have had a variety of sheets in good colors to add to my paintbox. Greens, purple, pink. Maybe we can have a sheet tearing party one of these days in the backyard!

Another, very important event, that will raise money for Art Education outreach in Ypsi, Ann Arbor, and Westland, is a “Studio Workshop” series on creative re-use at FLY Art Center in downtown Ypsi (see the map below!) on July 6 and July 13 at 2:00 pm.  There are other classes and open studio opportunities as well.  It’s a fun thing to do on a summer Saturday, so come on down!

Latest up cycled t-shirt back Tetrahedron floppy rag bag prototype.

The first workshop will feature instructions about how to re-mix a tee-shirt from baggy dad-shirt into fashionable fitted cuteness. It will give students (adults are welcome too!) an opportunity to learn the basics of crochet, and then to work up to the second workshop which will show how to make a small rag-rug project, most likely a coaster or a placemat, but advanced students might try a bag or basket.

I’ve been volunteering with FLY for a little while now, (only 2 events, but who’s counting!) and really enjoy their mission. They go into schools mostly armed with every-day objects and help kids harness their creativity by letting them loose with a theme or problem to solve at the “art buffet” with their cafeteria trays to select their supplies. The students are free to follow the direction or make something new, and always with the support of FLY staff and volunteers.


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Bracelets for Ecoride

Photo of 2 Bracelets

Next Sunday, the 23 of June, is the forty-first annual EcoRide. It has a couple of different loops for local bicyclists that stop at a variety of eco-conscious area sites. Ann Arbor is rife with ecologically conscious farmers, recycling and re-use places, etc, so the EcoRide only stops at a few, but it is nevertheless a fun day.

This year, I’ll be participating in their new pop-up art gallery event in Riverside Park (the ANN ARBOR one, not the Ypsi one), bringing along my rag rug (and maybe some little things) and sharing my skills as a fiber artist to raise awareness about sustainability. Just like the now slightly tarnished “Live Strong” bracelet, participants will be invited to make their own recycled t-shirt bracelets, titled, reCYCLE bracelets. Hopefully it will not only be fun for the young riders, but will inspire others to share what they know about recycling.


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Here’s a video I made for the Ecology Center so they can promote the EcoRide.

In addition, my mother will be at the Leslie Science Center in the Project Grow Garden there. She makes recycled garden sculptures that can be used as trellises, light trees, or scarecrows as well as looking really cool.

Recycled Planter with pink flowers

086:365 The BIG Smokestack

086:365 The BIG Smokestack

When I was in pre-school, a time most people probably don’t remember, there are few things I remember. One of them was that I loved when the carpool/volunteer-for-the-day-at-the-co-op-nursery would drive by the BIG smokestack instead of going through campus.

It used to be that the bottom of the smokestack for the U-M physical plant used to be exposed. It produces hot-water, some electricity, and heat for the university to keep it somewhat isolated from the “grid” and whatever else a “Physical Plant” for a university should do. The details are fuzzy.

Today we went around to various places in Ann Arbor to take pictures of various improvements and disimprovements before the trees get leaves. We could see a wider swath of downtown from the park at the top of Sunset, and we took some pictures to share with our out-of-town acquaintances who remember the A2 of my childhood at newest, but don’t know how many more buildings have taken root on the skyline.

The BIG smokestack was the one sign that Ann Arbor was a big city when I was a kid. I remember walking there past the Power Center (where I scraped my knees) to see the base of the smokestack. We could actually walk up and touch it. Though it was a little too far for my 4 year-old self, and I remember after the time I scraped my knees, we didn’t do it again. It has been covered for a long time, but now, instead of a simple shanty at its base, there is an enormous building, and they built a commons.

So much has changed that sometimes, perhaps because of my long absences from Ann Arbor, I can’t remember what was where the Taubman Biomedical Chemistry Building, or the Potato-Chip in townie speak, is. It was nothing that fancy, though there was a building there.

Change can be good, and I think that much of the space in downtown and on campus is being used to a much livelier degree. Ann Arbor feels alive now. Maybe it always did, and I’ve finally been away long enough to feel like it is a great place.

On a day like today, which Angelinos would take in full winter get-ups, Ann Arborites were running in short-shorts. There is something to be said for seasons. The human body can take hot and cold. Change is good. Spring is here!

075:365 Sweetwater’s on a Snowy Spring Morning

075:365 Sweetwater's on a Snowy Spring Day

This morning, I decided to stop by at Sweetwater’s Cafe in Kerrytown to have a coffee and a croissant. Getting out on the town every once in awhile is nice. People to watch, things to see.

075:365 Sweetwater's on a Snowy Spring Day

But, today was one better. Just as I finished drawing my coffee cup on the beautiful coffee table, someone I knew when I last lived in Ann Arbor came in, and we got to chat a little. She is in residency and has been very busy. She was going to the Farmer’s Market with her family. Incidentally, she shares my initials, AW!

There were lots of people there.

Before I ran into AW, there was a couple sitting in the big chairs next to me. They were talking about food and organizing when they would meet for lunch and who would bring a sandwich to their son. At least I think the absent party was their son. I gathered from their conversation that the woman is in real estate, and the man in some kind of financial business. They kept dropping words like “what’s the role of the blah blah blah,” and “well, we looked at the P and L and the blah blah blah….”
The man reminded me of John Malkovich, sort of mild-mannered and kind, but a little bit pushy underneath. He didn’t really resemble Mr. Malkovich, but had a similar smile.

In person John Malkovich is much nicer than the characters he usually gets cast into. He always seems to play slightly nefarious and annoying bad guys. But in person, he is very nice. He used to shop at the store I worked at in Chicago. He was launching a clothing line and I was the only employee who had experience with costume renderings, so I helped him with paper, watercolors, and pencils, even though they weren’t my official milieu at the store.

In the fourth chair was a man who might have been homeless, he looked like he was falling asleep and he didn’t buy anything. I don’t really know. But the well-to-do couple didn’t buy anything from Sweetwater’s either. They brought in stuff from Starbucks, and bought a sandwich from one of the Kerrytown shops.

Anyway, the man in the fourth chair noticed when I finished my drawing, and asked if what I was drawing with was just crayons. I started to explain to him that they were oil pastels, and that I use them because I work with kids and they’re a good compromise between painterly messiness and crayons that are to hard to make bright bold colors unless you press very hard.

He didn’t really say anything else, but I realized he wasn’t half-asleep. One of his eyes seemed to be permanently closed. I let him look at my sketchbook and feel the texture of the pastels.

The woman asked to see my sketchbook too. I don’t think she’d noticed that I was drawing until the man in the fourth chair asked about the pastels. Then she and the man gave me the third degree about being an artist.

After that couple left, and my friend went off to the Farmer’s Market, a younger couple, maybe a year or two older than me, maybe even younger than me, replaced the older couple. They didn’t want to be social and pulled their chairs closer together, keeping me and the fourth-chair-man out of their conversation.

I guess the man in the fourth chair decided it was time to go. The couple made me feel awkward, but they kept glancing at him like he was going to steal their bags or something. But I didn’t get his story. I don’t know.

Beyond my table, I saw some of the people I now recognize as “regulars” cycling through. I don’t know any of them, but I’ve seen them there on other Saturday mornings.

During the week, Sweetwater’s is full of students from Community High, and their teachers. It’s amazing how different places feel different when there are different people.

Faborit was sort of like that too. During the week at lunchtime, it felt like a busy corporate cafeteria in Chicago. But on the weekends, when it was full of international students, families, and people reading the paper, it felt like an entirely different place. And at night, people wearing trendy clothes sipped iced drinks in mood lighting, while couples meandered in to continue flirtatious chatting.

The ERC on State Street is always full of students with books and laptops, but the ERC on Main Street is more often full of business people during the day and small groups of professionals and families in the evening. They sometimes have live music.

Location means a lot, but so does the hour. Time and Place.

074:365 Hallo, Halo!

074;365 Halo

Yesterday evening, I went out on the town. The University of Michigan Art Museum was having an event that I heard about shortly before deciding to go.

Shadow Portrait, writ large

There’s an exhibit there of works by El Anatsui that I have wanted to see for ages. Plus, although the improvements and addition to the original building have been done for nearly five years, I hadn’t seen the new wing.

For a small local art museum, UMMA has a lot of cool stuff. I found a Turner watercolor squirreled away in one of the prints and drawings drawers. They have never had enough space to show everything at once, probably still don’t put everything out, but now there are more things on display at once than when I was a kid.

The Monet is upstairs now instead of in the first gallery to the right of the main door, which by the way isn’t the entrance anymore!

Anyway, the El Anatsui stuff is amazing, and I plan on going back to see it when there are less people around. Openings and events, despite my hopes to the contrary, are never really the time to see the art. You have to go back when there’s less noise to really get into things.

Suffice to say that I’m impressed! Go Ann Arbor! Go Blue! 😉