How do you make a really big ice cube?

I enjoy telling people that I work in an old peanut butter factory, next door to a paper cup factory, and down the street from a donut factory. So it should be no surprise that I was thrilled to receive an invitation to a party in an old ice house in Brick City.

An ice house, I found out is a place were they used to cut up, store, and redistribute big blocks of ice that were brought down on the railroad from frozen lakes up north before there were such things as electricity, refrigerators, and deep-freezers. Hence the old-fashioned term “ice box” was a wooden cabinet where you put a block of ice below your food to keep it fresh.

For the open house of Marlin Company in their new digs, massive blocks of ice stood like sentinels at doorways and in the front lobby of the third floor of this massive old building. Blocks of ice with words in them.

Begging the question, I don’t know how to make such good-looking ice cubes, but here are a few photos. Not only did they look good, the quotes inside had inspiring themes such as “Build upon a grand Idea, and nothing can tear it down,” and “Creativity is the currency of Tomorrow.”

Marlin Company is a creative agency, and some of the people who work there are also artists. And they support local artists in a big way. The front lobby is full of art.

Here’s some of my friend Stephanie Cramer’s work in situ. I didn’t really know it was hers until I had to walk across the room because I fell in love with that blue bird — and saw her name on the tag.

The big gear coffee table? Made from a gear out of the old elevator shaft of the ice house by Michael Stelzer, president of Marlin Company who creates hand-forged sculpture in an old barn in his spare time.

The flowers were done by the Flower Merchant over on Campbell. Some of the arrangements looked almost like alien beings, and the main centerpiece like a formation of moon and the planets swirling around our solar system. And since Marlin’s specialty is working with national food companies, of course all the food was art!

Click on a thumbnail below to see larger images and captions:

Inspiration at Christine’s Studio

Last weekend we helped out long-time friend Christine Kreamer-Schilling at her studio Mosaica during C-Street Steampunk Loftwalk. Christine has been a working artist for years, doing public art projects, teaching workshops for kids, collaborating with other artists, and making and selling her sculpture and art furniture.

Since she works often with recycled materials, her studio is stuffed to the brim with shelves and tubs full of potential art-making supplies. She has an old building on Commercial Street that she’s slowly turned from a junker to a gem, and everywhere you there are interesting surprises.

I loved the look of these giant letters spelling out “more” down the steps, but wondered what it meant — until I turned around and saw the second part of the installation on the wall behind. JOY.

That pretty much sums up Christine.

In recent years, she’s made several trips out to Burning Man, and that’s brought a lot of new energy into her art. She’s the first one who introduced me to steampunk, and her idea to add a steampunk theme to the C-Street Loftwalk was an inspiration. The mix of Victorian and industrial-tech is a great fit with the electic nature of historic Commercial Street that is being revitalized by artists and art.

Here’s Christine moving a mannequin outside to advertise her open studio at the loftwalk – love the stripy tights and the colorful trim on her building.

The event at her studio was to get the community and other artists involved in a charrette to develop ideas for a steampunk fence she’s planning to build at the entrance of her sculpture lot — you can just barely see the entrance to that lot in the back of the photo.

Here’s an interview with Christine on KY3 and also on the Springfield Public Art blog — a Steampunk loftwalk and design charrette photo gallery.

Photographing Nature

These mornings I try to get up early enough to ride my bike in the neighborhood before work. I started doing it for exercise, and now I’m continuing because it allows me to travel, fast enough so I don’t have an anxiety attack about my to-do list that I’m not currently doing, but slow enough that I can see the grass, trees, cats, and flowers around me. I always feel better the mornings that I ride.

Continue reading Photographing Nature

Inspired by Hand Job: A Catalog of Type

hands-lettersThe other night I got a little crazy with the scissors and whipped up some hand-made letters for the header for the blog. I don’t know if it looks good, but it was fun.

I had been was looking through the book Hand Job: A Catalog of Type to find inspiration for a project I was working on and found much more than I expected.

hands-book

It’s a great book showing the work of graphic designers and artists who prefer using hand-drawn letters instead of digital fonts — packed with sketches and journal entries along side finished drawings, posters and illustrations by 50 talented artists.

“Graphic designer and hand typographer Michael Perry has selected work that represents the full spectrum of design methods and styles. Whether you are looking to invigorate your design work or are just in need of a little offbeat inspiration, Hand Job will have you reaching for your favorite pen.” –Brunswick Street Bookstore

Then I stared seeing hands everywhere I looked…in my studio, in the warehouse, everywhere….

hands-nailbitehands-pamdorahands-tiny-scissorshands-mannequin

P.S. I forgot to say that another reason I really enjoyed this book as because in school as a kid, instead of paying attention in class, I used to spend a lot of time drawing signs and messages in letters that were little cartoons of snakes – each letter had a little head with eyes, vogue, and a mouth.

Stop Making Sense

Thank you David Byrne for reminding me of this. I don’t know if it’s too many committee meetings or the bah-humbugs, but lately I’d been feeling sort of sour on art. Then Friday we watched the 25th anniversary re-release of Stop Making Sense — a theatrical performance and concert movie conceived by Byrne and produced by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia).

I’ve been watching snipets and songs from the dvd every day since then, especially when I work out in the morning and feel so energized about making art again. In his self-interview in the extras section, Byrne asks himself why he named the movie Stop Making Sense to which he answered, “because making music and performing don’t make sense,” and later about the meaning of the big suit — because I wanted my head to look small and my body big, because the body feels it before the head.

DrawingFromLife-DavidByrne

A drawing and discussion of the Big Suit are featured in a great journaling book Drawing From Life: The Journal As Art. There are photos of Byrne’s notebook as he traveled in Japan and was inspired by the flat and larger-than-life Kabuki costumes on the Japanese stage. Besides a simple sketch of the big suit, there are bits of conversation and brief impressions recorded that later would become part of lyrics for songs.

I think what I like about the movie is what Roger Ebert said is “the overwhelming impression throughout Stop Making Sense is of enormous energy, of life being lived at a joyous high…(Byrne) jogs in place with his sidemen; he runs around the stage; he seems so happy to be alive and making music…”

That, and the performace art type visuals on the theatrical stage behind, the big screen images of books, body parts, cryptic words, the fluorescent light bulb nod to artist Dan Flavin… did you know that David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth – founders of the Talking Heads – were alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design?

The idea that Art doesn’t Make Sense works for me. I think it can have meaning, but does it really make sense? Seems when I try to make it make sense — make it too logical and explainable — I kill it. The spirit of the thing anyway. I have to leave some part or elements in a project mysterious and nonsensical, then it seems to have a spirit of it’s own, and I seem to enjoy it more.

And now for no reason, a digital collage from the sign at Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe and the set from the Daily Show….and have a beautiful day!

gailyes-daily-show

Stitch Me a Story

Danny_MansmithClever name for a show, huh? Wish I’d thought of it.

I didn’t — Mary O’Shaughnessy did. You may remember Mary, I mentioned her and Charlie (both artists) in a blog post a couple of years ago when we visited their gallery/studio/workspace/sculpture garden in Chicago.

Mary curated “Stitch Me a Story” for the Noyes Cultural Center and asked me to send her some photos of my quilts. She chose five to exhibit, but honestly, I was more excited about Danny Mansmith‘s contributions to the show than my own.

He’s having waaaay too much fun with clothes pins, if you ask me. And a very prolific artist — I just felt that if I saw his work in person, the energy that he puts into his work would re-invigorate mine.

Danny_Mansmith2

I first read about Danny when he was written up in Fiberarts Magazine a few years ago. Back then I tracked him down on the web to find a wealth of information and photos of his posted on Flickr. That may when I decided to sign up for a Flickr account — possible, since his is the first account that I marked as a contact so I could get Flickr updates on his new postings.

Stitch-PaMdora

Here’s my quilts I shipped up for the exhibit. It looks like Danny’s installation is just next to mine. I had hoped to get up to Chicago in time to see the show and Danny’s work in person, but since it’s over a nine-hour drive and today is the last day of the show, doesn’t look like we’ll make it…

Thanks to Charlie van Gilder for the photos. Here’s Charlie’s website which shows his art and also Mary’s Art Lamps. Charlie gave me a copy of these photos last weekend when he and Mary were driving through Missouri on their way home after Mary’s big solo show at the Jane Sauer Gallery in Santa Fe called “Daughters of Memory.”

Slam Poetry Workshop and Ideas about Art

Not the kind of place you’d expect to attend a Slam Poetry workshop – a little historic Baptist church with vintage neon sign. But the Missouri Literary Festival hosted many events over three days, in a variety of places, and this little church on the edge of campus was saved by Drury University and renamed the Diversity Center.

Drury-diversity-centerI went to the workshop, not knowing anything about it. I was intrigued by the title and thought it might be fun to videotape. I’ve been spending a lot of my creative time this month working with video. I’m better at editing than shooting, so I need the practice. Russ is the great photographer and techie in the family.

In the 90’s we did a lot of video work – documentary type stuff — and am now finding how much fun it is to upload and share videos via our new YouTube channel as compared to having to dupe tapes, design packaging, and figure out how to distribute them. I love video, it’s total immersion into a world of thousands of trillions of single photographic moments smashed together and find myself getting lost in it. But back to poetry.

The workshop was great, amazing — maybe partly because of the environment of the church and the beautiful light that filtered that afternoon through the large stained glass windows. But most definitely because of Joaquín Zihuatanejo. I found out later that he’s really famous – 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, 2009 World Cup of Poetry Slam Champion.

And so kind and generous – with his talent, his spirit, his desire to teach and to share ideas. I made three short videos from the one-hour workshop. This overview of Slam Poetry has pretty much what I think are some universal truths for all art.

The keynote speaker for the MO Literary Festival was Billy Collins, two-time Poet Laureate for the United States. I was pretty excited about hearing him. I thought I was a fan, but he pretty much lost me when he said that all poetry is about death and that someone should tell English majors that when they are starting out.

I was an English major — no one ever told me that, and I wouldn’t have believed them if they did. I’ve always thought that poetry and art were about life, so I’m happy to post this other video of Joaquín Zihuatanejo. He pretty much sums it up in a short minute.

Candy PaMdora on YouTube

pink-octopusTwo Japanese artists visited the studio during their Springfield trip to perform at the Japanese Fall Festival a couple of weeks ago. Candy Miyuki who has taken an old traditional Japanese art of candy sculpture to a new level. She performs at Disney’s Epcot Center, has been on the Rose O’Donnel show, and makes custom candy sculpture for the Tokyo gallery of Yoshitomo Nara.

Here’s a video that Russ took of Candy making a Candy PaMdora at the closing party of the festival. We’ve posted this our new YouTube channel, so you can watch it here, or go to the RuBert Studios channel.

Kuniko Yamamoto also performs at Epcot Center, The Kennedy Center, and at festivals around the world with her wonderfully entertaining stories and magic.

It was fun to have them tour the studio, because Miyuki has just built a new studio, and Kuniko is planning to build a video studio and art center to share with her husband who is a magician and videographer for other magicians.

Here’s some photos from the whole weekend. Click on a thumbnail to see larger.

Powered by Flickr Gallery

3D Neonscapes by Russ RuBert

neontest1.jpg neontest21.jpg

Don’t know why I like these two photos so much. Maybe it’s a little neon yin and yang? Maybe it’s because I just learned that the grill-shapes came from the eyes of Griff’s hamburger guy, who had eyes with hamburger grills in the middle.

Russ has rescued a lot of vintage neon over the years, from old restaurants going out of business or getting demolished. He stores it all, then when an opportunity like the Spiva Center for the Art’s Brave New Art Show comes up, he makes new creations from the old glass neon tubes.

neon_2657.jpg

The old stuff is incredibly fragile. If you handle it carelessly, it may crack, or one of the glass nipples where the glass-blower ended the tube is bumped, the tip can be broken. If any of these things happens, the gas inside will leak out, and it will never again work as a colored light.

Also there are little wires on each end, embedded in the glass. If these break off or are cut too short, there is no way to hook the electricity to the tube — which is what excites the gas and makes the light. I know this stuff, not because I do any of the technical or design stuff, but because I help hold and move the glass!

neon2821.jpg

Like much of Russ’s other art, these pieces are interactive. The glass is all hooked up to motion sensors, and as people move around each piece, the colored light goes on and off — illuminating the room and metal in different vivid colors.

neon2861.jpg

For more photos of the neon, you can visit Russ’s porfolio here. Probably I’m trying to do too much right now, but also trying to edit some video of the installation since it is very three-dimensional and four-dimensional as the different pieces light on and off.