Thursday, November 27, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Mr.Mr. and I will be joining friends and family up North for the next few days so enjoy the rare radio silence across the webernets as bloggers across the globe soak up some good times and buckle down for the holidays. Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza/Chinese New Year is just a heartbeat away.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting framed

A couple of weeks back it crossed my mind that a smart artist on a limited budget (that's me) would get crafty and learn how to frame their own work. Given my past experience framing some Flatstock posters by Chicago's Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine, I learned the hard way that framing is not cheap. Don't get me wrong- framing is not the easiest thing in the world and using good materials like attractive moulding, ph-neutral matting, and museum glass will never be inexpensive. But- there's definitely another way.

Scouring the interwebs for tutorials, I came across the Portland Free School- one of many community-run organizations dedicated to offering instruction on a variety of subjects, taught locally by people in the know. I don't specifically say, "experts" because pretty much anyone is welcome to "teach" a course through the Free School. Have you mastered the art of macrame plant hangers? You could teach a class. You get the picture. So the downside is that your "teacher" may be the guy from the coffee shop. The upside is that you can meet people and learn new skills that you might otherwise be unable to afford to learn in a traditional setting. I'm a fan thus far.

It was through the Free School that I came across a class being offered at a place called Artery (disclaimer: there's not much on the site yet). This gallery and frame shop aims to offer a more creative solution to framing than your average U-Frame It, and a more affordable alternative to folks in the price-range of say, Museum Quality Framing. Their plan to accomplish this goal is to offer the space and materials for artists (and Joe Public) to choose the bones of their project (frame, mat, & glass), and then guide them along a path to customizing their frame.

For me, this meant that I chose a 5" x 7" unfinished wood frame for $12 and was given free reign to use the brushes, paints, dryer, masking tape, and finishing sprays to create a decorative finish. I began with something resembling an upscale Ikea frame, and finished with this:
It may not look like much but I started with a basic red acrylic, and used a flat brush with a combo of gold and bronze paint to create a vaguely fan-shaped, all-over pattern over the base. Finally I created a black border around the edge of the frame closest to the wall to add interest.

Honestly- I was really pleased. And I get the impression that the possibilities are virtually limitless and entirely dependent on just how much time and money you want to spend. Of course- had I wanted to frame an actual photo or piece of art- the price would have increased with the mat (about $7), the glass (about $7) and the fitting (up to $25). All prices are based on the size of your frame and there's a decent selection of pre-made frames as well as custom materials.

Since the workshop, I've finished another frame at home using my cordless dremel, some black and white acrylic paint, and a satin varnish spray. (I repeated the graduated pattern shown on the opposite side of the frame as well.) At this point, I'm thinking the techniques I learned could prove very valuable in elevating the frames I use for my collage work and that the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Artery are at the ready should I need some additional support in the construction arena.

On December 5th, Artery will host another frame clinic geared toward holiday shoppers looking for creative, affordable gifts. The word is, for $10, you can decorate and frame a photo or other work in a 3" x 3" ornament-style frame with help from Debo Kerr and Artery staff. Space is limited but I've already reserved my spot. If you're interested, follow the link. Cheap is definitely the new black this Christmas/Non-denominational December holiday.

4114 N. Vancouver Ave.
Portland, OR, 97217

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jet setting with Salty (part II)

Okay- I took 73 photos on our second day in San Francisco so you can begin to understand why this post has been so egregiously delayed. Here are the highlights:

Just a visual taste of what dazzling desserts are on offer at Tartine Bakery in the Mission. Having heard a ton about the delicious treats these folks whip up, I asked for the cookbook last year for Christmas. Packed with photos of beautiful tarts, cookies, and cakes- I expected a Willy Wonka-style feast upon arrival. I was slightly underwhelmed by the scale of the bakery in person but I was still impressed by the perfect lemon meringues and sculptural baked goodies.

For lunch, Mr.Mr., his brother and I, and a former co-worker in town for the day, enjoyed a round of sandwiches from their lunch menu. While each was a bit on the oily side and heavy on the carbs with each hefty slice of bread- the fillings were quite good. This particular sandwich was a fresh basil spread with ham and with melted mozzarella. My favorite part by far, was the tiny pickled carrot that accompanied each plate... a perfectly tangy match for the overindulgence of cheese and meat.

This central mural adorns the facade of the Women's Building. Truly the crowning glory of a work that spans the entire building from the pavement to the roof- it shows a female at the center of a huge, colorful, flower-like form- with her pregnant belly exposing a baby in utero. the entire thing was breathtaking and I can't even begin to imagine how long it took to complete. Amazing.

If you're in the market for dead things- Paxton Gate is the place to find them. From taxidermied mice (with or without costumes), to squirrel skulls, penis bones to sea urchins- they've got it all. This place has such a curious collection of oddities that I couldn't resist. I picked up what I believe to be a sort of petrified starfish for three dollars flat and had to resist the urge to buy a collection of leaf fossils and tiny glass vials with rubber stoppers for future use [to be determined, of course]. At first a very creepy shop, Paxton Gate quickly grows on anyone with a sense of history or an appreciation for nature.

And fortunately, the ratio of dead to alive items is balanced out nicely with a collection of plants and containers in the back of the store. If I had $200-300 on me, I might have caved and bought one of their beautiful metal [mini] greenhouses. The detailing on each was very nice and I could see using them both in and outdoors.

Love thy neighbor? This type of city planning combined with residential construction is what I call, "too close for comfort." While the architecture of the city is admirable- I think I would miss the green gardens, grassy yards, and sense of privacy that a five foot buffer between buildings just can't afford.

I spotted this beautiful teal couch at X21 Modern. I think it's what most would call, Hollywood Regency or some such nonsense- but I call it gorgeous. I can just picture it in a room with lush, baroque wallpaper (like this) and a few of those round, glass, bar tables that are edged in silver with rolling feet. "Help me put on my mink stole, won't you, dear? Where's my cigarette holder?"

These over-sized, wooden letters were also on sale at X21. While the scale of our apartment couldn't bear their addition- I really like the weathered look and the shape of the font.

Ahhh- Bi-Rite. Heidi of 101 Cookbooks recommended this market as her go-to destination and I can totally see why. While diminutive in size- Bi-Rite packs a visual punch with its displays of fruits and vegetables cascading out of wooden baskets and offers a smorgasbord of samples for the wary market-goer. I was particularly impressed by the Wall of Cheese. Any shop that dedicates this much square footage to dairy products- gets my vote.

Stem is a cute little boutique on 18th that seems to have joined the ranks of floral/gift shops offering a smart variety of low to mid-priced bits as well as arrangements to order. I found these adorable clay stones with words like, "Grow," "Ponder," and "Belong" stamped into them in a turned wood basket. I think they're made by the same person who made the "Vote" rock featured on a couple of other design blogs around election day.

These tree bark wraps were also appealing (no pun intended) and made for a nice display element with the moss and wrapping paper. The entire aesthetic of Stem was very calm and woodsy-feeling. The dark hardwood floors were a great compliment to the large window front and warm grey tones on the wall.

We had to stop twice at the Bi-Rite Creamery during our five day trip. You know that's a good sign. This small companion shop to the aforementioned market offers about 16 flavors- four or so are traditional, and the rest ratchet up the creativity a bit. The first time around I gorged myself on salted caramel and malted vanilla with chocolate and peanut brittle. I was painfully full for about two hours after the fact and would highly recommend the kiddie size. The Creamery pulls out all the stops when it comes to quality ingredients and amazing flavors. Trust me- you can always go back for more. And I did- but I kept it simple and went with the malted vanilla again... this time in the kiddie size.

The last stop of the day took us over to the Double Punch gallery to see the San Francisco installation of Seattle's original Plush You! show. Double Punch is a cute little space with the top floor dedicated to a cozy gallery space and the bottom floor artfully arranged to capitalize on storage and display of collectible figurines, japanese toys and other gifts. The show's curator, Kristen Rask did a fantastic job bringing together some very talented folks to show SF how plush is done. The above preying mantis was created by Hansigurumi of Seattle, WA.

This delightful "cotton monster" was crafted by Jennifer Strunge of Baltimore, MD. Jennifer also had some pieces in the Seattle show- one of which you could actually put your whole hand into, from it's mouth down to its belly. Very impressive.

Stay tuned for Part III of my San Francisco trip. All I'm going to say is that there will be goats. Lots and lots of goats.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is it just me

Or is anyone else creeped out by those computer ads that show some kid watching tv- then the camera pans left to circle back around- and the kid's head is split in half and open in the back- revealing some sort of band playing INSIDE the kid's head or... or fireworks going off?

It's really friggin' weird and it definitely doesn't make me want to buy anything. It makes me think of robots. Which in turn, makes me just uncomfortable enough to change the channel.

(Imagine me saying that all in one rushed, panting breath.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cleansing the pallet

Take a deep breath with me- all the way down to your belly button. Hold it for the shortest of moments- and release.
I have finished another tiny (2" x 3 5/8") piece of art and damn, does it feel great. Let's hope this is the start of something good.

More on San Francisco, my adventures in framing, and this week's movie to come over the next couple of days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jet setting with Salty (Part I)

Did you miss me? I missed you. But I'm back now from our trip to San Francisco and do I have some treasures to share, or what? No really, I do. Mr.Mr. and I spent five days in the city gallivanting about the various neighborhoods, enjoying food, family, and pretty things. Having never been to San Francisco before, I knew only to expect high quality cuisine, good humored conversation, and plenty of fog. But surprise, surprise, we only had one day of seriously bad weather, and the sun came out in spades every other say... nary a wisp of cloud in sight.

While I took over 150 photos on the trip, I know the average time spent on this site is little more than five minutes. So I've picked only my favorite places and will break it down into days, focusing on the pictures and adding a bit of description for each. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy an in flight beverage.

"Make loaves not war." This is the motto at Arizmendi Bakery in Inner Sunset.

This small, co-op bakery and cafe offers a number of sweet breakfast-y treats, breads, and savory bites like focaccia and pizza. It happens to be a hop, skip, and a jump from Mr.Mr.'s brother's apartment and the friendly staff make conversation when it's not too busy. Traveller's beware- this popular spot has little seating and when the stroller brigade comes through, it gets a little dicey. My advice: dash in, dash out, tip your server with a smile (they don't accept cash or coins as a policy), and enjoy your cherry cornmeal muffin on your walk to to the MUNI.

Or, better yet- take a stroll through the Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum while you nibble on a flaky shortbread cookie. This beautiful place was filled with a massive variety of local and foreign trees, flowers, and plant life. We worked our way through half a mid-morning pizza at the edge of the duck pond and enjoyed the free entertainment provided by a flock of [casually] uniformed school children.

Xanthorrhoea Sp. native to Australia, looks like a modern art installation made entirely of wooden coffee stirrers. Also know as the grass tree, it had an odd, monochromatic progression of living to dead leaves that created a really striking, all-over sort of pattern.

This little jewel has no name- or at least none that I made record of at the time. It reminded me of a sea anemone with its brightly colored spray.

Having travelled at an early hour to make it to San Francisco by mid-morning, Mr.Mr. and I napped for a bit after our walk in the sun and then headed out for dinner to RNM in the Lower Haight. Sadly, I have no pictures to share but suffice to say, it was a fantastic meal. We started with one of their two rotating salads and their charcuterie plate (pâté, duck rillettes, smoked prosciutto, coppa salami, house made andouille, marinated olives, dijon and upland cress) which were both delicious. (I had to remind myself not to think about what pâté is made of a few times, but the taste worked wonders on my mental efforts.) After that, we moved on to split a creamy polenta entree and a braised lamb dish that left us scraping the plate and bowl respectively.

Mr.Mr. and his brother enjoyed martinis made with Junipero gin that earned high marks from both for its uniquely clean flavor. For dessert we enjoyed a lemon panna cotta garnished with blackberries soaked in some sort of potent alcohol. For my part, I would have skipped the garnish as it contrasted the lemon too strongly and detracted from the dish. If I had my druthers, I'd be hitting RNM as often as possible for their prix fixe menu offered Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30pm - 7:30pm. What a steal.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sweets for the sweet

Stopping by Ink & Peat the other day in an effort to reduce the creative sloth setting in and infuse my day with pretty things- I became weak with cravings and bought a small bag of salt caramels from Little Flower Candy Company. Out of Pasadena, California, these clever people have definitely won over my sweet tooth. Wrapped in small rectangles of parchment paper, and packaged sparingly in a cellophane bag, these treats are simply divine. Pam tells me these folks are enjoying a burst of press lately care of at least one daytime food personality so you're sure to see this sweet & salty, buttery combo in a store near you soon (if not already). If you can't make it out, they sell online for $7.00 per 1/4 pound.

Trust me- it's worth the splurge. See photo for proof.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Market fresh

If you live in Portland- tell me... promise me you'll go to the Saturday Farmer's Market down at PSU. Mr.Mr. and I have been enjoying this visual feast for the last two months and I'm convinced it's the best place to be on a Saturday morning- hands down. Having endeavored to make the pilgrimage from Capitol Hill to Ballard Farmer's Market every Sunday when we lived in Seattle, we were die-hard market fans before we moved and have been so happy to find a thriving agricultural outlet locally.

Best of all, there's a congregation of vendors in the center of the square that sell fresh meals in the way of soups, biscuits, sausages, tamales, etc. Our favorites by far are Tastebud's fire roasted bagels with fixin's and Pine State Biscuits with their assortment of sweet and savory toppings. On our last trip, I enjoyed a sesame bagel with plain cream cheese, topped with sliced pears. Crisp and slightly sweet, but definitely second-rate in comparison with my favorite: plain cream cheese, cilantro pesto, and fresh tomato slices. The tomatoes are always so bright and succulent that I can't resist their wet, rubescent glow. ...Ew. Something about that sentence creeps me out. Anyway. I wish tomato season would never end.

So if you want to support local farmers and food producers (lest we forget the bee keepers, vintners, and chocolatiers)- check it out. November through December 20th, the market runs from 9:30am - 2:00pm in the South Park blocks between SW Harrison & Montgomery. Go forth and build that food pyramid.

New school

Exhibit A: New School = (Old School + duct tape)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh yeah

If Seattle is so excited that they break out into spontaneous dancing in the street... that's got to be a good sign. Right?

Care of Mary via Facebook. Thanks!

Good morning, America, How are you?

I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, these, my friends- are good times. I won't say I sprang out of bed this morning renewed with purpose and patriotic vigor. But sometime between brushing my teeth and slipping on my jacket to brave the damp beyond and meet a friend for coffee... when I was awake enough to remember that we elected a new president last night, I smiled. And I felt better than I had the day before.

Now I know that's not saying much given my usual state of unemployed paralysis, but it's a start. I feel really proud, actually. I feel like the scale of Obama's accomplishment is massive. I'm excited by so much of his vision, but most of all that he empowered millions of people to feel a sense of ownership of our country. In some ways I hate to reduce it to business principles, but I have to admit that this is the best example of creating "buy-in" that I've ever seen. He launched an aggressive, multi-generational marketing campaign that left no person behind. He created a web and multi-media presence that spoke to the generation that speaks in txt msgs and uses the newspaper to line the litter box. For those who were coming of voting age, the seamless branding of Obama's campaign was familiar and emblematic like Nike or Ecko... a part of their burgeoning identity. He didn't forget about the moms... and dads, for that matter- that are the new generation of boomers. He tapped into their passion for their children and enlisted them as neighborhood organizers. And in spreading his message, they felt empowered. And throughout his courtship of these younger generations, most importantly, he didn't neglect those that came before us. He spoke to issues that plague the sandwich generation and the elders of our country. His vision gained a foothold with this last, vital group, in its excitement for the future. Speaking in terms that convey promise and longevity, a renewal of our basic goals and ideals, and ultimately a refusal to submit to an "inevitable" future. This empowered the people who had worked forty... fifty years of their lives and weren't prepared to just stop contributing to society because they became eligible for retirement or social security.

This type of comprehensive... holistic approach to seeing America- is what we need. This appreciation for and understanding of diversity is what elected Barack Obama president. And his careful, considerate, and eloquent delivery of his very important message, is what will carry our country, on a sea of raised hands, to a new and inspiring place.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes we did

Republican... Democrat... we made our voices heard at the polls and via mailboxes across the country. And Barack Obama is the next President of the United States of America. For the first time in eight years I feel only pride on November 4th.

I voted

Did you?