After a little over a year and a half, and many interruptions, we finally finished our embroidermated short, Chad Gadya. While we were working on it (actually I was working, Theo was procrastinating) this other embroidered short came out, but there are differences. Thanks to Theodore Gray’s stitchcoding in Mathematica, we weren’t restricted by (invariably crappy) off-the-shelf software. This allowed us to automate beautiful iridescent stitches and preserve them from frame to frame, so the resulting animation really looks like moving embroidery.
“It took a while to get all this code right, but of course it’s crucial that it cover every possible case, because when you’re doing animation, it’s not about getting one frame right, it’s about having an automated process that always gets every frame right, not just once, but every time there is an iteration of the animation requiring a re-render of the frames. We must have generated tens of thousands of frames (just generated the files, not actually stitched them!) before it was all looking good.” Theodore Gray
“This Land Is Mine” pocket square: millennia of violent territorial disputes distilled into a charming, non-violent, 100% silk 13″x13″ pocket square. Square made in France; history made in the Levant. (Alternate video link at vimeo. Note: pocket square does not play video.)
These 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.
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.
“I laughed out loud!…[The Intellectual Pooperty cartoons] are very very funny….however, if you could inform readers that this naive concept doesn’t correspond to the laws that actually exist, it would avoid encouraging them to believe that it does.”
Here’s a photo of the book surrounded by more copies of the book with pages open in seductive poses:
Funny how I have all these Sita Sings the BluesT–shirts, but none with a picture of just Sita herself. I want to remedy that. The question is, what color should the “Sita” shirt blank be? Colors I’m considering are: black, pink (“raspberry,” according to the Bella shirt co.), or creamish-tan. Which color should I choose?
As always, click the thumbnails to see larger images. Also: I put the “Sita Sings the Blues” logo on this design, but I don’t have to. Would you rather have a shirt with the logo, or without? So far none of the shirts I sell have the logo anywhere, making them kind of artsy and mysterious. Should I continue that trend?
Here’s the design superimposed on the photo of a model wearing the Bella scoopneck “raspberry” colored shirt:
In related merch news, I’m finally going to produce some “Shiva Natraj” shirts. These will be blingy gold foil on beautiful shades of purple that I know are awesome: women’s “currant” and men’s “eggplant.”
But do please help me choose a fabric color for the “Sita” shirt. Thanks!
My/QuestionCopyright.org’s Sita PAL DVD is finally available at the Sita Merch Empire!
The PAL format is for European, African, Australian, and many Asian DVD players. (If you’re in North America, stick with NTSC.) Other new PAL distributions are also coming soon in France and Switzerland/Germany via Sita’s distributors in those countries. Stay tuned!
Originally I was going to get something much cheaper, but I was just too enamored with this stupid expensive blank bottle. Now I have to decide: Which design? “Sita Namaste” or “Peacock Phonograph”?
These suckers, should I order them, are stainless steel, BPA-free, and laser engraved. They’ll cost me about $10.50 a pop ($8.29 + $1.20 for the engraving + $50 set up charge, not including shipping), meaning they’ll sell for about $20. Crazy I know, but apparently that’s what people pay for these things.
I’m going for the 18 oz. size because it seems more convenient to stash in a bag and carry around New York on foot than the bigger bottles. My merch philosophy is I only make merch I’d actually want and use, and the smaller bottle fits that bill.
I do bicycle in the warmer months, so I might make a “Sita” silkscreenable design for a 25-oz steel bike bottle too.
You can buy it right now at CDBaby. Soon it will be at the Sita Merch Empire (where we’ll get more profit per sale), but with today’s snow it may take a while for the initial shipment of CDs to reach the order fulfillment warehouse.
In semi-related news, I mention the soundtrack on this podcast interview with the CommandLine. I was all worried about being inarticulate, but actually I said some smart stuff. Thanks to Thomas Gideon/cmdln for asking smart questions, making smart comments, and making a smart show.
Oh, and DC was fun! I spoke at American University. Great audience, great hosts. (And AU’s IP Law Clinic did all the initial legal research on the Annette Hanshaw songs I used in Sita Sings the Blues, for which I am forever grateful.) During my visit, everyone in DC was still talking about their weeks-past “snowpocalypse,” even though the snow was mostly melted, just some patches on the sides of the streets. I thought, “big deal, I wish we’d gotten more snow in New York.” Then I came back to New York just in time for a snowpocalypse here! I have a lot more sympathy for DC now.
“What’s stopping ME from selling ‘Sita’ DVDs and merch?” I usually get this question from slightly shocked artists and filmmakers after Sita Sings the Blues talks. I’m not stopping them, and the law isn’t stopping them. Yet for some reason, they don’t go out and sell Sita merch once they know this. Why?
I can guess the answer, of course:
DVDs & merch already exist & are available
insufficient incentive to compete
have other, more important things to do
When one artist-filmmaker I know well asked the question, I boldly answered, “nothing – but you won’t.” I know she won’t because she has enough trouble merchandising and promoting her own work; and she’s a good artist, so I know she’ll remain more devoted to her own work than to mine.
That said, a few people (other than me and my Endorsed distributors) are selling Sita merch. One such is Drakar, who also distributed Sita on youtube and elsewhere online. He recently created a small CafePress online shop.
He didn’t ask for my permission or Endorsement*, but states, “This shop is not run by Nina but I will be giving her a significant portion of any profits I might make here (…if and when).” I actually prefer that to negotiating an Endorsement for small-scale projects, because it requires no lawyers or signed contracts. For small amounts of money, who wants to waste any of it on transaction costs?
*Full disclosure: he did email me for some design artwork he couldn’t find online, which I supplied, so the store wasn’t a complete surprise.
In general, I would much prefer you bought Sita merch from the Sita Merch Empire than from a CafePress store. Reasons include: I know the Merch Empire merch is high quality, I personally designed and like all the products there, and a much higher % of the money goes to me. CafePress merch tends to be overpriced for the quality, and CafePress takes almost all the profits unless the seller sets prices absurdly high.
That said, Drakar’s store offers Sita merch that doesn’t exist at the Merch Empire. If I offered mugs, mousepads and stickers, he wouldn’t have needed to make a Cafe Press store in the first place. If he actually sells any, it will demonstrate there is demand for such products. Then I can offer the same or similar products at my store. Drakar is essentially providing free market research, as are any other “competitors.” If any of them do exceptionally well, I’ll know what merch I should be selling.
This is why old-school economists say competition is good for businesses. It is. Too bad there’s so little real competition in our supposedly “free market democracy”.
What’s stopping you from selling ‘Sita’ merch? Not me, and not the law. Yet almost no one’s doing it. Why? What really is stopping you?