A Wonderful Day

I’ve mentioned quilter Leah Day here before, and will mention her again. Leah “e”-teaches me and countless others how to Free Motion Quilt via her online Free Motion Quilting Project. I wrote about her refreshingly open attitude and progressive business model on Techdirt a few months ago. But I’m posting today to bring your attention to her new informational copyright page, which is so beautiful it almost brings a tear to my eye. This is how it’s done, people.

The Free Motion Quilting Project logo

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I am awesome

I was neither prepared nor in a particularly good mood when I did this “webinar” for Agora I/O. It was eerie having a “conversation” in which I could neither see nor hear the other participants. It was just me and my own voice, with questions and comments occasionally popping up in text on another webpage. Because of that, I couldn’t read anyone’s body language and try to pre-emptively smooth things over and “people please”; I could only speak my mind. Which I did. Which, upon reviewing, was a pretty great thing. You may not like me, but I sure do!

The fun starts about 8 minutes in, and gets better as it goes along. If you know about my story and Sita Sings the Blues, you can skip what comes before that, which is a basic recap.

Piecing Water, or Why I’m Going to Make a Proper Pattern Next Time

I finally started the second in my series of “4 Elements” quilted tapestries: Water. Here’s the design:

Now, I’ve been avoiding proper pattern-making. I just print the thing out on multiple sheets of 11×17 paper, which I tape together and trace onto more taped-together sheets of freezer paper. Then I cut those out with a rotary cutter… Continue reading Piecing Water, or Why I’m Going to Make a Proper Pattern Next Time

My second quilt/embroidery experiment

Please keep in mind I’m new at this, and am doing these to learn. I’m sharing “process” more than anything.

OK, so after my first quilt, Eve, I wanted to avoid binding (sewing an additional fabric edge around the quilt) at all costs. Binding is a huge drag and I hated doing it. But after this experiment, I will probably suffer binding again, because it allows more options than what I did here. Which was to first sew the 3 layers together (batting on the bottom) and then turn them inside out, like a pillowcase, so they were all “turned in” rather than raw at the edges when I started. I didn’t photograph that part, sorry.

Then I wanted to try my new pounce, which is an ancient image-transfer method. Unfortunately the stupid pounce wheel I bought was useless on printer paper, so I cut a stencil with an X-Acto blade.

Yes it’s the exact same design I used before. Sue me. I thought this was going to be a quickie experiment that didn’t merit designing something new. I wasn’t planning to spend 3 days on it. Oh well. Also: the back of Eve I was all messed up, and I wanted to see what it looked like if it wasn’t all wrinkled and stuff.

Anyway, the pounced work great on the stencil and the image transferred thusly: Continue reading My second quilt/embroidery experiment

My New Hobby

is sewing/quilting/embroidery/textile arts.

Here’s my first quilt ( a small one, 29″ x 17.5″) which I finished last night. It’s for my Momz, who requested “a nude with all the bells and whistles.”

Everything I learned from teh interwebs, which is full of quilting information and many good videos. I especially like the web site & videos of Leah Day, who makes free motion quilting look much easier than it is. Leah shares her videos and knowledge freely, which works – I’m a fan now, and spent over $250 at her online quilting store. It’s a business model I’m familiar with.

Speaking of business models, there’s an argument made by copyright advocates that no one would do anything creative without monetary (or monopoly) incentives:
Incentive to Create

My past few weeks exploring quilting confirms this is absolutely not true. In less than a month of getting myself set up with a sewing machine, fabric, threads, and other supplies, I’ve probably shelled out $1,000. It started with an inexpensive sewing machine ($250), but then I needed special feet for it, and cutters, and an iron, and pins, and threads, and batting, and fabric, and a sewing table, and IKEA drawers to hold all this stuff, and on and on. And that was being budget-conscious; I could easily spend a lot more. In fact I really, really want a longer machine with more space under the arm; unfortunately those cost about $3,000.

I’m not alone: tens if not hundreds of thousands of Americans pay for the privilege to create, not the other way around. Most quilters are not paid; most actually give their work away, to family, friends and charities. That’s folk art, people: it’s not done for money. And yes, it is art.

It’s very much like filmmaking, which is now a folk art.

“The film business has never been a business. It’s always been a hobby.” –someone whose name I don’t remember at a film conference I attended last year

Even setting aside independent film productions, which are hobbies in business clothing, most people spend more on video cameras and computers than they’ll ever get back selling their work. With the spread of cheap animation software, animation is now a folk art too. With the rise of print-on-demand self-publishing, novel-writing is also becoming folk art (Pirates of Savannah by Tarrin Lupo is what I’d call a folk art novel). All the super-elite arts of the 20th Century are becoming folk art.

Would I still like to make money with this? Yes, I would. But I’ve already spent plenty of money with no promise of monetary return. It’s been worth it so far, because learning has been exhilarating. Hopefully traditional folk arts, like quilting, will continue to gain respect as “real” art, even as “real” arts are adopted by the masses. I confess I would like to sell original pieces, if I keep making them. It’s really up to my Muse.

After the jump are some pictures of the making of “Eve,” which took 3 days (4 if you include the day I designed it):

Continue reading My New Hobby

Spiral In, Spiral Out

I’ve been drawing for so long, I forget what it feels like to learn how to draw. But once in a while, I learn something really basic for the first time. I wanted to write about it before I forget what it feels like.

The topic: spirals. I love ’em. I used ’em for clouds in Sita Sings the Blues:
cloud from Sita Sings the Blues

And for ocean waves in my fake-Moghul-minature style:
Lanka from Sita Sings the Blues

Now, I believe I can draw anything. That doesn’t mean I can just sit down and draw anything off the top of my head. What it really means is I can copy anything. Everything in my drawing memory banks originated from copying one thing or another at one time (notice how I used “originated” and “copying” in the same sentence). Everything I copy is stored somewhere in my head, and my muscles too – actually moving my hand around a shape forms my mind in a way that just looking doesn’t.

I’ve looked at a lot of pictures of Tibetan-style clouds. Some of these showed up in Indian art, in the Adventures of Hamzaa, the beautiful catalogue of which I owned until I left it behind with the bed bugs. Apparently Moghuls imported artists from all over Asia, which is why some Moghul miniatures are beautiful mish-mashes of Persian and Himalayan styles.

I saw the spirals in those cloud designs, so I drew clouds with spirals. They didn’t really look the same, which was fine – I wasn’t copying directly, merely being “influenced.” I made do with the spiral-drawing skills I had.

Fast-forward to today, and my new hobby: sewing. It turns out you can draw with an ordinary sewing machine! It’s called “free motion,” and I only learned it was possible last month. A few weeks ago I bought a machine and fabric and stuff, beginning another kind of spiral that’s taking over my life & apartment (more on that later). Drawing with a sewing machine is different from drawing conventionally in 2 significant ways:

  1. The “pen” stays still and you move the “paper” (fabric) around.
  2. You can’t lift the pen. It stays down the whole time.

#1 is simple in theory, but difficult in practice as I need to retrain my muscles. It’s like holding a pen for the first time, or drawing with my feet. I’m clumsy, for sure.

#2 seems simple – after all, isn’t drawing intricate designs with long meandering continuous lines what every stoned college kid does? Well, I haven’t been a college kid for 23 years, and I don’t get stoned (my few experiences with pot didn’t go very well). I never thought about how much I lift my pen. I usually draw with a lot of short strokes. I had to get in the stoned-doodling-college-kid mindset and keep my pen down.

I thought the cloud designs from SSTB would look nice quilted, so I used one in this, my first Trapunto experiment (more after the jump):
Continue reading Spiral In, Spiral Out

Support Our Möbius Strips

Finally, a cause I can get behind.

If anyone wants to make magnets, let me know.

High Res here.

♡ Copying is an act of love. Please copy and share.

Kult der Originalität

My Cult of Originality essay gets a German translation, courtesy of Thomas Leske.
Creation of Adam

Ein kleiner illustrierter Aufsatz von Nina Paley. Sie lesen weiter.

Continue reading Kult der Originalität

Face-O-Matic

On a lighter note, enjoy this online toy coded by my friend Margo Burns. It is based on “Face-O-Matic” cards I originally designed to teach very inhibited grad students to draw cartoon facial expressions for a visual storytelling class at Parsons. Turns out all ages enjoy it. The drawings are extremely simple, so even people who claim they have no drawing skills can copy them without fear.

Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

Sita Soft SculptureThese aren’t dolls, or toys, or cushions – they’re SOFT SCULPTURES. Why? because regulatory capture means the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally call it a doll are beyond anything we could possibly afford.

ONLY 30 IN EXISTENCE! SIGNED AND NUMBERED. BUY ONE HERE FOR $50.

These limited edition soft sculptures were hand-appliqued, beaded, and embroidered in India by the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work; each unique piece is signed in embroidery by the woman who fashioned it. Because of the cost of registrations, licenses, and fees to legally import them already stuffed, they were sent unstuffed to New York, where I and my colleagues lovingly stuffed each one with polyester fiber-fill and sewed them up by hand.

Bliss Blood, Bill Benzon and Karl Fogel help stuff and sew

That way, if calling them soft sculptures not dolls/toys/cushions, and including this “WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!” is not sufficient to avoid a lawsuit, it is I, Nina Paley, who will accept the liability, rather than Ubuntu at Work.

Stuffin' 'n' sewin'

While stuffing and sewing are exactly the sort of labor the craftswomen of Ubuntu at Work desire, and do efficiently and well and affordably, regulatory capture of stuffed goods in the U.S. ensures they won’t get this work, and established legacy toy corporations with legal teams will hire slave labor to make corporate crap instead. Therefore this is a LIMITED EDITION of only 30 soft sculptures. Each one is also signed and numbered by me, Nina Paley.

Made of cotton fabric; cotton and polyester thread; small glass beads; polyester fiber fill. About 15″” tall.

WARNING! DANGER! NOT FOR CHILDREN! UNREGULATED ITEM MAY CAUSE CHOKING, EXPLOSIONS, OR APOCALYPSE!

Shahjahan, Mubeena, and Saiqa, who sewed, beaded and embroidered the shells, see me finish them. They're in Bangalore and I'm in New York. This evidence of our collaboration kind of blows my mind.

Continue reading Sita Limited Edition Signed Soft Sculptures

♡License to Love

Thanks everyone for your comments on Driving Without a License. Crosbie Fitch’s last comment inspired me to make this notice:

♡ Copying art is an act of love. Please copy.

What’s great about it is it’s plain old text – you can copy and paste that heart. There is no webding for the copyleft symbol. You could also use the filled-in heart instead of the outline:

♥ copying art is an act of love. please copy.

It could be shortened:

♡ Copying is an act of love. Please copy.

and varied:

♡ Copying art is an act of love. Love is not subject to law.

The ♡ could graphically substitute for a ©. For example:

♡ 2010 by Nina Paley. Please copy.

Don’t care about attribution? Keep it simple and mysterious:

♡ 2010

The ♡ can’t be trademarked (I hope), which means it can’t be controlled. That’s fine with me. Other people can, and do, use ♡ to mean all sorts of things. But it has a shared cultural meaning that transcends any use one person could put it to. Its power is that it’s not a license, not a trademark. It’s not subject to law.
Love is not subject to law.

What do you think?

Inspiration (a.k.a. Artist’s Prayer)

Our Idea
Which art in the Ether
That cannot be named;

Thy Vision come
Thy Will be done
On Earth, as it is in Abstraction.

Give us this day our daily Spark
And forgive us our criticisms
As we forgive those who critique against us;

And lead us not into stagnation
But deliver us from Ego;

For Thine is the Vision
And the Power
And the Glory forever.

Amen.

Copying Is Not Theft – Best!

At last, our “official” version of Copying Is Not Theft, with a fab new arrangement by Nik Phelps!

Amazing, Fantastic Books

I’m dazzled by too much brilliance today. First, there’s Graham Rawle’s masterpiece Woman’s World.

51xEA4aPkiL._SL210_It is so good. The whole thing is “written” in collaged snippets of old British women’s magazines. On top of that, the story is moving, suspenseful, and engaging from start to finish, as well as funny, deep and clever. For something that could stand on its own for being technically singular and “meta,” it packs an enormous emotional wallop.

It’s a sad comment on society that this book isn’t more widely famous. Still, I’m grateful just to have read it.

Rawle also has a blog where you can see his latest creations, including the weekly “Bright Ideas“.

Sanjay Patel's RamayanaNo sooner had I finished Woman’s World than I started Sanjay Patel‘s breathtakingly beautiful Ramayana: Divine Loophole. Sanjay and I joined the same Mutual Admiration Society a few years ago, before Sita was even finished. We independently developed graphic 2-D stylings of the Ramayana; his are more intricate and angular, while mine are more rounded and outlined. There’s been a wee bit of confusion among friends and Sita fans which I’d like to put to rest: I love this book, it’s not “edging in” on Sita’s “territory,” and y’all should admire a copy for yourselves. Besides, there is no Sita print book available, and if there were it wouldn’t be this good.

Its publisher, Chronicle Books, has conventionally stingy ideas about sharing images online; Michael Sporn had to scan his review copy himself. Fortunately, Sanjay has more images on his web site. Even if every image were available digitally, they wouldn’t compete with the physical beauty of the printed object. The production values of this thing are extraordinary. You want to touch it and smell it. Every page is printed crisply and perfectly, with color bleeding off each knife-sharp edge. It’s everything a graphic book should be, offering a sensual, immersive experience. Like one reviewer wrote, “I want to physically jump into this book.” It’s a container worthy of its content, restricted or not.

Me at Kripalu April 16-18

Wanna spend a fun weekend with me improvising drawn stories on index cards at a renowned yoga retreat? I sure do!

Nina Paley’s Visual Storytelling Workshop @Kripalu
Friday April 16 – Sunday April 18, 2010
(with a screening of Sita Sings the Blues on the 16th)
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health (in the Berkshires of Western MA)

Register here! Caveat: it costs money.

Me looking kinda yoga-y. I haven't done real yoga in years, unless art counts.

Me looking kinda yoga-y. I haven't done real yoga in years, unless art counts. But I'm looking forward to doing it again! In the Berkshires of Western MA!