Closer Look

Closer Look: Cross-Stitching with Haley Reimer

Fellow readers! I have such a treat for you today... A guest blog post by Haley Reimer, a wonderful friend and craft exchange buddy. I hope you enjoy her insightful story, her facetious gifts and love of cats (especially her own feline, Mishka).

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During the fall of 2010, I was going through a tough breakup, on top of mourning the inevitable end of college and having to make decisions about next steps and life plans. To sum it up, I was a wreck. In an effort to help me tackle problems that seemed too big to deal with, my roommate Kate demanded that I adopt a handicraft. While it seemed inconsequential at the time, I have her to credit for my awesome hobby and, most likely, my sanity. 

Haley cross stitching away! 

Haley cross stitching away! 

Kate tapped into a suggestion that fit right into what I needed at the time, and I picked up cross stitching. The anal-retentive attention to detail directly contradicted the way I was managing all the other decisions in my life, and there was a calming sense of accomplishment when the pattern turned out with all the little x's right in a row, planned and perfect. Sitting on the porch through that fall and spring, with Kate working on her knitting and me on my cross stitch, allowed us to talk through what we wanted out of life, what we hoped for, and what we were planning while keeping our hands occupied. 

Now, I'm a (nearly) 25 year old living in Lincoln, Nebraska (soon to be the great Windy City!) with a cat and a penchant for hipster-stitching. The jokes roll in all too easily about being an old lady before my time, but the key is to use some of the great artists and designers on Etsy to give this old handicraft a face-lift. 

 

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1.Fawn & Squirrel 2.Galaborn Patterns - geometric patterns 3.Mid-Century Maude 4.Bombastitch - Sugar Skulls 5.Grannies Panties - subversive stitching 6.Satsuma Street - incredible little cityscapes of iconic cities 7.Danceneedle 8.Gecko Rogue - for the super ambitious

 

Many of the patterns I've finished over the years have come from these talented artists and, their patterns are now displayed all over the country as I've given finished pieces for weddings, birthdays, new babies and just becauses! I've stitched myself through stressful decisions, cozy fall evenings with a glass of wine and lots of laughs while I've taught friends how to cross stitch themselves. If Jeff can learn, truly anyone can (just check out that excellent cross stitching form!)

A few of Haley's pieces she has completed.... Also, check out her handsome cat Mishka! (Clearly a cross stitch fan)

A few of Haley's pieces she has completed.... Also, check out her handsome cat Mishka! (Clearly a cross stitch fan)

Even if you're someone like me who felt that "art" wasn't in your wheelhouse, the incredible value spending energy on creating something fun, colorful and tangible can't be overlooked. Just keep looking for that "handicraft" and maybe you'll stumble onto something that keeps you sane in a hectic world. 

Haley Reimer is a University of Michigan graduate working for Kenexa, IBM in Lincoln, NE (but will be moving to Chicago, IL in the not too distant future!) She enjoys planning parties with heavy emphasis on adorable paper goods, speaking Spanish, playing Boggle, napping in a sunny spot with her cat Mishka and of course, her favorite hobby, cross stitching. Feel free to follow her cross-stitch board on Pinterest!

Closer Look: Mara Hoffman

Fashion week has been all the buzz on social media, the news and on many people's minds. After combing through photos and runway videos online, I can't help but realize I am drawn to very specific designers.

Mara Hoffman. From her 2013 & 2014 collections.

Mara Hoffman. From her 2013 & 2014 collections.

Let's talk about one of my favorite designers, Mara Hoffman. As you can probably tell by the photos, Mara Hoffman's pieces and collections focus on patterns, and not just any patterns. We are talking about intricate geometric designs with nods to traditional tribal patterns but with a contemporary twist (sound familiar? ) . The juxtaposition of the edgy, detailed lines in her prints against the soft, floating cuts and material of her garments, are her signature. 

Mara Hoffman is a NYC based designer, born in Buffalo, NY. She studied at Parsons School of Design in NY as well as Central Saint Martins in London. Her ready-to-wear line, Circle (2000-2005) was all one of a kind pieces focusing on dying techniques, batik and traditional elements. Circle then evolved into a more brand and sales oriented line and then in 2008 she launched her first swimsuit collection. This is where I learned of Hoffman and began to obsess over her designs and style. 

 

Mara Hoffman. From her 2013 & 2014 collections.

Mara Hoffman. From her 2013 & 2014 collections.

What I find most interesting about her collections are that they doesn't quite fit a trend cycle. She manages to create clothing that are just unique as a whole and while each collection has a specific theme with nature or travel, her work becomes more of a genre than of a seasonal collection. It's funny to say these pieces are "timeless" when really they are of this decade, but that is fashion. We take what we know and what we like, and try to twist it a bit, create a hybrid with other styles, borrow from other cultures or contexts and be creative. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't but these are the types of patterns that inspire me, drive me to keep creating, pushing the envelope and design design design.  

Closer Look: Talia Billig & The Orchard Sessions

Friends, I have a special treat for you! Today, I am bringing you a guest writer!  My dear friend Talia Billig, a sweet, hilarious, talented, curly haired lady I have known since the age of 11. Her voice and music often flow out of my computer speakers while I work on my own prints, patterns and illustrations (especially her project The Orchard Sessions .... oh and her AMAZING 2012 Valentines Day gift that may or may not be on loop right now). It got me thinking about all the collaborating we as artists (visual, musical, theatrical...etc.) end up doing. I keep up with Talia's musical adventures and projects and thought she would be a perfect guest writer. After I had asked her to write a little something about her experience as a musician and singer, her experience with collaboration and moving forward, I crossed my fingers, pet a rabbit foot, held my breath ... and lucky for you all, SHE AGREED!!!

Talia Billig.  Photo Credit: Rob Northway Photography.

Talia Billig.  Photo Credit: Rob Northway Photography.

Hey. Internet. My name’s Talia. Here’s a quick bit about me: I’m a singer-songwriter and I run an online music salon called The Orchard Sessions in my Manhattan Chinatown apartment. Okay. Now that we’ve got that formal stuff out of the way, let’s talk about Gil Scott Heron. There's something in that deep, gritty, no-nonsense prose of his that has been STOPPING ME DEAD in the middle of the NYC street lately. In one of my favorite poems he brilliantly pronounces:

"Because I always feel like running. Not away, because there is no such place. Because if there was I would have found it by now."

I keep saying that sentence to myself over and over again. These days, as any musician in New York City (or the world, dammit), will attest, you feel like running about 95% of the time. This new era of electronic communication is empowering but also supremely exhausting. The Internet and its descendants dismantled the top down record executive/label approach and made it much easier for artists to create/export their product on their own terms (I firmly believe an artist like myself would not have been able to make music twenty years ago). But it also led to artists doing an astronomical amount of work on our own as we shoulder the responsibilities formerly performed by many trained (and very skilled) professionals. We're all happy to put in a hustle. We wouldn't do it if we weren't. But more often than not, this amount of work ends up leading to a commonly experienced burn out. Imagine writing, rehearsing, performing, booking gigs/tours, managing yourself, publicizing (facebook, email, twitter, tumblr, two websites, etc, etc)…. You get the idea.

So here’s what happens: You always feel like running. Not away, because there is no such place. Because if there was, you would have found it by now.

A year ago I was at what felt to be the peak of my burnout. I was surprised to be there, since we had just recorded our first record The Ripple Effect and financed it through an amazing and inspiring Kickstarter Campaign. If anything, I expected to be bounding forward.

But I wasn’t. It was summer of 2012. Old and seemingly rock solid friendships had fallen by the wayside. My band (at the time also some of my best friends and the people who really shaped my music), had come to a sort of resting spot. I was a year out of college and felt unsteady even with an album already behind me. I wasn't making music except for spontaneous jams in my living room, all with people not involved in my band. That summer I began to sweat, and not just from the heat.

I was hanging a lot with my dear friend Beto Vargas at the time (before he swam over to MTV—well done, sir!) He was in a similar place, which we discussed often over rose and/or margaritas. Eventually we just thought: what if we cut out all of that bullshit? What if we just made an honest, one-take, in-the-moment documentation of what our community is doing, in my living room on Orchard Street, with no frills?

That's how we started. The Orchard Sessions grew out of an unparalleled amount of turbulence. As such, they were a joyous rejection of the formal bullshit. The Orchard Sessions were an honest and desperate attempt to recreate my love for music and my own community. We started humble and small. Our first session involved some of my best friends, was completely unrehearsed, and even featured the magnificent Eric Read playing a bowl of rice and my typewriter as percussion.

Fast forward to today. Last month we celebrated our one year birthday. To date we have recorded twelve Orchard Sessions and have many more on deck. Beto has moved on to MTV and I am now blessed with a new videographer, the amazing Sachi Machlachlan. Starting at Camila Meza’s session (#7), we were fortunate to bring Gavin Skal into the fold, who continues to share his brilliant talent mixing and recording our audio. Gavin is able to produce a warm and perfect live sound with NO mics in the shot. In other words: Gavin Skal is a wizard.

I've learned two essential things through The Orchard Sessions. One: Assemble a creative team of your friends and most trusted allies. Beto, Sachi, and Gavin are people I trust unwaveringly and they have brought the sessions to a place I could never have dreamt of. Two: Accept your own creative trajectories, no matter where they lead you, down to each second. That means you live with the negative, the seeming wastes of time. We all have to accept each choice, be mindful, and move forward.

The Orchard Sessions have been about committing to something: feeding it, watering it, and watching it grow. They are about exposing the purest components of music and thus stepping out of our comfort zones. Most importantly, they are about loving and celebrating one's own community.

"Because I always feel like running. Not away, because there is no such place. Because if there was I would have found it by now."

Yes, sometimes I am a runner. I think as artists we all are runners, sometimes. But Gil Scott Heron was right: There is no such "place" as "away." There is only where you are and the people with whom you share your life. Even in my unsteadiest moments, this community has brought me an immense amount of joy and peace. This community is the closest I have to "my such place." I am happy to serve it, to present it, to cultivate it, because every time I go back to it I feel like running just a little bit less.

 

Talia lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Esconced on Canal and Orchard since 2007, she is continuously energized by the history and diversity of her community. In July of 2012 she launched The Orchard Sessions, a bi-monthly online salon captured live and shared online. Each session features a new guest artist performing a spontaneous collaboration with Talia and other artists. Viewers have the unique opportunity to watch as the story and music unfold. She continues to perform as the headlining and opening act in music venues across the United States and Canada. True to her creed, Talia lives a musical life in motion, exciting and inspiring at throughout.

Closer Look: Michael Kerbow

This week I came across this San Francisco based artist Michael Kerbow, specifically his piece "Compulsive Actions", which became a magnet for me. I have been staring at it all week! This piece is a 16 ft wide oil painting and immediately reminded me of the mindset I was in while working on my thesis project, an installation piece focused on hand drawn patterns titled "Over and Over". In a blog post Kerbow wrote in January 2013, he mentions that piece was only supposed to be 8 ft wide and he just felt compelled to make it wider and wider, having it grow. After putting it up in a gallery he said it seemed small to him up on the wall and is considering painting it LARGER!!! I personally hope he does.  

"Compulsive Actions" by Michael Kerbow

"Compulsive Actions" by Michael Kerbow

Closer Look: Kristina Lahde

I recently came across the artwork of Kristina Lahde, a Canadian artist. Her project "Beyond Measure"   was shown at a solo show, in Toronto. My reaction, could be summed up in one phrase - "For the love of tape measures!" The combination of working with this tool on a regular basis with my own work and my obsession with patterns (and optical illusion) had me needing to share this work with you all. 

Metric System (Blue, Green and White)

Metric System (Blue, Green and White)

Metric System (Blue, Green and White)

Metric System (Blue, Green and White)