The New York Times
From The New York Times:
Pull Up A Chair, Then Fix It
IT’S hard not to get swept up in the excitement of Design Week in New York, when the newest home furnishings are introduced at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and related events happen all over town.
But what about all the old furnishings: those forlorn, broken-down pieces that are forgotten, cast off and kicked to the curb, seemingly destined for the landfill?
Not everyone, it turns out, has left them for dead.
Last Saturday, as part of a conference called MakeShift, Natalie Chanin, the founder of the fashion label Alabama Chanin, held a workshop to rehabilitate some of these castoffs at Partners & Spade on Great Jones Street. The event, which she called Crafting Design, was dedicated to resurrecting the bent, twisted and broken remnants of what the poet David McFadden has described as “the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment”: the chair.
But with New York’s bed bug scare still going strong, finding enough eligible chairs (more than 20, so that every participant would have at least one to work on) was more challenging than anyone anticipated.
Organizers finally decided that while steel and plastic chairs found on the street were fair game, wooden chairs were too risky, and only those found online were accepted as candidates for rehabilitation. Still, by the morning of the event there was a good-size pile for attendees to pick through outside Partners & Spade.
Amy Devers and Tanya Aguiñiga, Los Angeles-based designers who were in New York for the fair, each found a chair within minutes.
“We do this for a living,” said Ms. Aguiñiga, who specializes in furniture and jewelry design. “We know what we like when we see it.”
Inside, hammers, drills, nails and sandpaper were artfully laid out for participants’ use. The 20 or so people who showed up were given only one instruction: that there were no instructions. Even so, seasoned designers like Ms. Aguiñiga and Ms. Devers and several experienced craftsmen were on hand to offer help and advice.
Cathy Bailey, an owner of Heath Ceramics, grabbed a drill and a plastic knockoff Eames chair and calmly set to work on it, weaving a zigzag pattern into the plastic seat using colorful scraps of T-shirt material provided by Ms. Chanin’s studio.
Ms. Aguiñiga quickly dismantled the weathered seat of her wooden chair. Then she grabbed a handful of T-shirt strips and began weaving them through the back of the chair, creating a soft multicolored backrest. For the seat, she used thin rope to provide structural support and then applied a layer of navy-blue T-shirt material on top.
Ms. Devers, a furniture designer and the star of “Fix This Yard” on A&E, was hammering nails into the seat and back of her old Ikea chair, piling T-shirt scraps on top and carefully threading them through the nail bedding, so that the material began to take on the appearance of a colorful shag rug. One lone, loose piece from the back was left to dangle gracefully to the ground.
Soon, two hours had passed, and it was time to assess the results. All the castoff chairs had been restored to life, and some could have held their own at the furniture fair.
But that was not their destiny. Instead, it was decided that they should be returned to the streets where they came from, to pass on inspiration to whomever found them.
And so, at the end of the day, they were back on the sidewalk. Several of them sat on a corner in Chinatown, beside a pile of trash, where curious passers-by could peruse them.
Perhaps some lucky person took them home.
MAKESHIFT 2012: Human-Textile Wellness Pop-up Clinic
It’s a mouthful. But then, people (especially Southerners) do have an undying love for the complexity of words, stories, and the beauty of textiles.
Last Tuesday night at The Standard, East Village, we were riveted by Jessamyn Hatcher’s stories of processing unwanted clothing in a clinic format. Today in New York City, you have the rare and amazing opportunity to experience Human-Textile Wellness first-hand with a stellar team including Jessamyn, Professor, Global Liberal Studies, NYU; Hanna Astrom, Designer; Sarah Scaturro, Textile Conservator, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (and incoming conservator at the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art); Michelle Zahabian, artist and co-owner of JEM; and the fascinating Emily Spivack, Creator and Editor, Worn Stories (wornstories.com) and Sentimental Value (www.sentimental-value.com).
Run, don’t walk:
You are invited to attend a
HUMAN-TEXTILE WELLNESS POP-UP CLINIC
Sunday, May 20, drop-in from 11am-3pm
@ JEM Fabric Warehouse
355 Broadway, between Franklin and Leonard
BRING A PIECE OF CLOTHING TO REPAIR, ALTER, OR TRANSFORM AND A WORN STORY TO SHARE
The Human-Textile Wellness Center is a research lab run by Jessamyn Hatcher that documents people’s relationships to their clothing, and a place where you can come to repair, alter, and transform your garments, and share stories about textiles that are meaningful to you.
Meridith McNeal, “Palm Portraits” (used with kind permission of the artist)
REVERSE APPLIQUE AS METAPHOR
Our sewing circle at The Standard, East Village was a rich mixture of folk from a range of professions and diverse lives. Cathy Davidson, one of our first time sewers, has written the most beautiful essay about her time with us and created a fantastic example of Reverse Appliqué as metaphor: Reverse Appliqué @alabamachanin or How the Shallow Distracted and Lonely Pundits Miss the Beauty.
Here you can read just a snippet from her observations on the day:
“We sat quite quietly, talking, introducing ourselves, and, in my case and Ken’s, learning how to do things like: thread a needle (you bring the needle to the thread, not the reverse), tie a knot, love the thread (to get out the kinks and align the polymers in the cotton plys).
Here’s the secret: when the world seems too connected, too overwhelming, too full of work, the hand-work of sewing slows it all down.
Here’s the other secret: all those tiresome handwringing pundits, who think that, because young people (and all the rest of us) spend a lot of time online, that means, ipso facto, that we’ve all become shallow, distracted, and lonely: well, those pundits just need to spend more time–a lot more time–with some of the connected, wired people I know: we wired ones also love to make things. We connected learners also love DIY. Those are not contradictions, they are continuous parts of life. Why don’t the tiresome pundits realize this? Why do they make us into stereotypes, automatons, not complex and multi-dimensional human beings, stitched together in all kinds of ways, by all kinds of circumstances.
Think about the possibilities for the handstitched, the handmade that the Web makes possible. Outlets like Etsy allow handwork and handcraft to thrive by providing a vehicle, without intervention of an overseer or price-gauging middle-man, to reach the people who want it, an online bazaar (the original metaphor of the World Wide Web: it’s not a cathedral–with flying buttresses and other stable architecture but a crowd-making, on-the-fly-suited-to-the-needs bazaar). Heath Pottery thrives now online. Alabama Chanin thrives online. And those of us who live so much of our lives online, also know the preciousness of, well, hand sewing, of reverse application, as metaphor and lifestyle.”
Be sure to read the entire essay here: Reverse Appliqué @alabamachanin or How the Shallow Distracted and Lonely Pundits Miss the Beauty and her brilliant new book, titled Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.
Thank you to Cathy and everyone who has added their voice to Makeshift 2012.
Join our growing conversation by contributing in the comments section below and by using your voice in your own community…