Sunday, September 29, 2013

Seaweed Experiment: Stitching Seaweed

Click to enlarge - see stitching along edges

During a recent foray to Mortuary Beach in Carmel, after oohing and aahing over gorgeous samples of dry and wet seaweed the question occurred: Can you sew seaweed? The answer is a resounding yes.

Black stitching sewing together pieces of wet, rubbery seaweed

Seaweed turns out to be one of the more pleasurable materials to sew. It's soft enough so that your needle pierces the stuff easily, yet has enough rubbery body that there's no danger of your stitches tearing through the material. You can give it a hearty tug and it holds.

Black stitching along fresh, wet seaweed

The problem is that after stitching a few pieces together to create an experimental sample, I placed it on dry paper and set it in the sun to dry and to my dismay it darkened considerably, with the lovely maroon seaweed turning entirely black. At that point the sample piece was hard and durable like plastic. The good news is that the stitching holes did not enlarge when the piece dried as I had feared, potentially loosening or altogether screwing up the stitching. The stitches retained their integrity; the problem was the disappointing darkening and loss of color.

Dried: very organic looking but disappointingly dark

And then a happy discovery—when held up to the light, the original brilliant colors reemerge. The photo at the very beginning of this post is dried seaweed held up to the light, as are the photos below.

Panel of dried, stitched seaweed, held up to the light

Stitched seaweed held up to the light

Panel of stitched seaweed propped in window

Next steps? Lots and lots of experiments including seaweed shoes, seaweed chandeliers, stitched and molded seaweed, and more. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, the piece above is strongly reminiscent of earlier experiments with fused plastic.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Astounding Magic Puppet Shirt

Introducing an innovative technique for upcycling shirts, and this is a twist that packs a lot of punch. At first glance, the shirt below looks absolutely normal—a stylish, over-size, black linen shirt with vintage wine-colored Bakelite buttons. This wouldn't gain a second-glass during a stroll through an airport or international film festival other than, perhaps, the comment, "Nice shirt!"

The shirt in undercover, "Clark Kent mode," with sleeves rolled up

But hark! Do we hear the cry of a fractious toddler or the grating whine of a bored child? Unroll the right sleeve and the shirt reveals its magic super powers, transforming into a mesmerizing interactive entertainment system.

Magic shirt with right sleeve unrolled to reveal puppet

Close-up of the puppet

The human operator wearing the shirt manipulates the puppet, cocking its head, opening and closing its mouth, using its felt tongue to lick anything in sight. The human operator also provides the puppet voice, engaging any children in the vicinity in conversation, jokes, and song. The children are stunned and amazed but depending on their age, not as amazed as one might think. They have not yet learned that all adults are not walking around with a hidden puppet up their sleeve.

The shirt  was upcycled from a very large Indian man's shirt (called a kurta - google it). A friend gives me these oversize kurtas, which come all the way down to mid-calf and have unusually long sleeves. I cut off the bottom of the shirt, making it tunic length, and used some of the salvaged material to sew an inside flap on the right sleeve (think of it as a reverse cuff, on the inside rather than the outside).

Revamping the shirt (click to enlarge)

I also switched out the buttons on the original shirt, substituting the vintage Bakelite buttons.

For the puppet, I used felt to create the ears, tongue, nose, and whiskers, and two vintage buttons to create the eyes.

Once I slid my hand inside the concealed flap and tried to manipulate the sleeve like a puppet, I realized it was too wide and floppy, and needed to be brought in more closely to the size of my hand to work. However, I still wanted to be able to roll up the sleeve so that it would look just like the other rolled-up sleeve. The solution? Two sets of snaps, strategically sewn in place.

View underneath the sleeve, with the two sets of snaps securely shut

How the snaps are placed

View underneath sleeve with both snaps unsnapped

To operate the puppet, you unroll the sleeve, snap the two sets of snaps in place, and insert your hand into the inner flap, with fingers on top and thumb on the bottom.

The puppet

The mild-mannered shirt, sleeves rolled up, ready to head out into the world to stun an unsuspecting public

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Smell-O-Rama!

Another little cranking whatnot (see Cranking Whatnot Prototype for an earlier stab at playing with simple automata and basic how-to instructions). This time, however the little automata is highly functional. It's a hand-cranked Smell-O-Rama, wafting the herbal odor of your choice throughout your environment.

To operate the Smell-O-Rama, you first load the little canister on top of the automata with herbs of your choice (lavendar, thyme, basil, etc.). You then hand-crank the apparatus and the two moving arms wave back and forth through the herbs, releasing their fragrance.

Materials: recycled plastic deli container and recycled toothpick dispenser; wire; broken jewelry; broken autoglass; Chinese joss (good luck) paper.

Close-up of the cranking mechanism

Close-up of arm A

Close-up of arm B

And below is a little YouTube video showing the Smell-O-Rama in action, stocked with herbs (Thyme in this case). The link to the video is:

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