Ahoy Matey, and Welcome to REPTIRE, an intermittent ‘ship’s blog’, chronicling the slow rise in the South Easterly skies of Reptire Designs; a studio that designs and crafts always artful, and sometimes useful THINGAMABOBS from old Indian Cucachou, aka ReTired Rubber.

Down Below, Ye shall find a permanent 'flagship post' marking the Maiden Voyage of Reptire Designs.

And below that, in the ‘hull’, can be found more recent posts chronicling the daring new adventures of Reptire Designs, dashed with small bits of whimsy, spotted pickerel, local color, and lizard lore..

In fact, on the right, in pale purple, ye shall find the Captain's Log’s Table of Previous Posts, which ye can peruse by year, month, and title to ye hearts content.

If ye haven't gotchyer sea legs yet, My Pretty, Ye can take a gander at our website at www.reptiredesigns.com, to get a proper Landlubber's Introduction.

Thanks for stopping in, I do hope you enjoy your visit aboard this ship! HARHARHARHAR.......

Sincerely, Travius Von Cohnifus

Captain, Founder, Indentured Servant, Rubber Alligator Wrestlor Extraordinaire a' this here ship.

enter the treadknot

On September 26th, 2006, I launched my tire art/design business, Reptire Designs, with a solo exhibition of my artwork in The Green Gallery at The Scrap Exchange Center for Creative Reuse, in Durham, NC. For many reasons, it was a night that I will always remember, and I am grateful to Laxmi (my girlfriend at the time) and Edie (my mother, still) for dutifully documenting while I shmoozed, so that I may now shmare a taste of the evening with anyone who was not able to attend...

On a cool but lively autumn night-before-Center Fest, a stream of friends and curious strangers trickled (like pebbles through a rain stick) through the forest of odds and ends (that roost at night in The Scrap Exchange), out into the warm light of the back savanna, a scene utterly glopped with bizarre rubbery hybrids. Tentative and curious, the visitors craned their necks, nibbled, pecked, stood back, moved in closer. From the walls, glassy mirror eyes gazed back through black unblinking eyelids, while beneath the visitor's feet, in a steamy drainage cistern, a mortal drama unfolded. Primordial forms, with no eyes at all, sat puckered on stoops. A cascade of glittering steal droplets formed a curtain, to which clung a colony of tiny tire knotlettes.

Vito D., a long-time collabator down from the Asheville area, caressed the warming air with his Strange Little Folk music. I bobbed and I flit, and at an increasing clip-someone must have opened the faucet a bit....for soon I was swooning, I just about lost it! As the evening progressed, to my delight and amazement, 'family' from Durham, Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Hillsboro, Siler City, Asheville, and Fresno all made it! From the Cohn Clan to the Steudel Clan to the CFS Clan; from the WWC Clan to the Duke Ac Pub Clan to the SAF Clan; from the Bike Shop Clan to the Ninth St. Clan to the Scrap Clan... and every one in between, guys, they were all appearing before my stunned, blinking eyes. While I spun and I splayed, Vito now played-CHURNED- up a torrent of gritty ditties; while a staff volunteer (Brandon's a photographer, I swear) whipped up pitchers of Mango Lassies. And The 'Scrap Exchange girls' worked the door, the counter, and the floor, going "cha-CHING!", cha-CHING!","cha-CHING!".!.

By the end of the night, hundreds of friends, acquaintances and had-been-strangers had poured in, poured over the work, and partaken in, what was for me and my art, a monumental communal feast. And on top of it all, I got to place many of my preemies in hands that I love and trust, and in several instances, hands that fit them like gloves. What a privilage to be able to connect with people this way. Heading into the turbid seas of small business, I can confidently say that if I drown tomorrow, I am at least blessed today with the memory of (as Vito later put it) one authentically good Durham night.

Thanks to all of you who were there; in body and/or spirit.

Reclaimed-wood Builder and Reptire Collector Howard Staab enjoying magwi knot at the Scrap Exchange

Reclaimed-wood Builder and Reptire Collector Howard Staab enjoying magwi knot at the Scrap Exchange
I can't think of anything more rewarding for an artist than to see someone interacting with their artwork. Photo by Laxmi Haynes

Sammy and Dannette contemplate

Sammy and Dannette contemplate
Photograph by Laxmi Haynes

Cascade Colony of Knotlets

Cascade Colony of Knotlets
They would go with your jacket, would they not Claire?

Laxmi Resplendent

Laxmi Resplendent

Mavis In The Mist

Mavis In The Mist
Photograph by Laxmi Haynes

Tire Amazement

Tire Amazement
Photograph by Edie Cohn

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Visit to Exhibition space for Reuse Conex, at N. Raleigh Hilton

Last Wednesday, I finally got a chance to check out the space we 10 SouthEastern Reclaimed Materials Artists will be showing at, for ReuseConex, our nation's first conference and expo of Reuse!

 I had tried to go out and meet with the organizer and check out the space about 2 months ago, but had mysteriously woken up with a porkchop face, and so had had to go to the ER instead.

I'm glad the organizer MaryEllen, was willing to give us a look. So I drove on out to Raleigh (I hate driving to Raleigh), and brought along some samples. This was to be my chance to 'sell' this sculpture to the organizer, so I brought along a maquette (model), and also a sample section of tireworm, just in case she'd never seen any.

So I stumbled in through the back door, to what turned out to be a very swanky hotel lobby, shouldering a giant jiggling tube of tire, and drainage pipe tied in a knot. I felt like Indiana Jones stumbling in on a jewel laden cavern, and there found MaryEllen Ettiene, the very classy Director of the Reuse Alliance.
There was another Artist there, who turned out to be a real hoot, and who makes awesome belt buckles, and much more, I hear, from found objects. I am very excited to be working with both 
of these people.

So then a few other Artists came, including Ruth Warren, a friend and Hero of the Scrap Exchange, and we embarked to the convention area, to check our digs...

Here's a veiw from the entrance to this convention wing of the hotel, with the registration desk on the right (MaryEllen, the organizer, was very excited about this desk, which looks a lot more excitement-worthy than this photo shows).

Pretty Shwanky, what do you say?

I have to say, while it is not the cool, polished granite kind of environment that I had pictured for some reason, as far as Hilton Hotel Lobbies go, this one is warm and a little funky!  Dig this rug- Knotty Tread!

This is the spot where I am Hoping I can show Tiny Tyrius, Tied:

This would be a sweet spot no doubt, and the organizer seemed to think it would make a good entry way piece, so here's hoping. However, there is an electric socket in the floor down the hall, so if I decide to light him up, I might opt to go down there, as it will be darker also (away from the light of the door).

Lighting the knot up is such a tempting, but forboding option. This piece really is Meant to be lit.
It is meant to Glow. However, lighting it from the inside presents one potent risk.
And that, my friends, is fire...Can you imagine what a disaster it would be if this thing caught on fire?

Mitigating this risk is going to be a major project in itself...If I decide to light it. LED's is a possible solution, but getting my hands enough of these seems unlikely. I could also just unplug the lamps while people are in the conference, allowing them to cool between the 3 viewings per day.

After we all said our goodbyes and left, I decided to double back, and do a more technical survey.
Specifically, I was looking for things to suspend another sculpture from (Atomic Ice Cream). As MaryEllen pointed out though, there is really not much if anything in this environment to use. Just immaculate cielings, with an occasional vent grill....
On the way out, I managed to get a number for the Hotel's engineer, no small task. Would it be nice if I could hang from those vent grills. I am begining to realize that I am maybe a more stubborn person than I knew.

Afterwards, I went to the Scrap Exchange in Durham, for the 1st ever meeting of the brand new NC Chapter of the Reuse Alliance. It was a lively, and intimate group of people, and it was neat to hear what had brought all of us together around this issue, or Reuse. For many of those in my parents' 'Baby Boomer' generation, it was growing up with Their parents, who had lived through the Great Depression. One woman described how her parents' basement had been full of jars, of say nails that her father had pulled from old boards. Many people nodded in recognition. I thought of my own grandparents house, and this did not seem out of line from my own grandpa, from whom I probably enherited some of this thriftiness, through my mother (as my own parents' garage is something like this too). Curious. For them and for her, it was just a way of life, as it probably is for much of the world. Its so easy to forget that in our disposible society, we are the exceptions, not the rule.

Somewhat suprisingly, this was kind of a special meeting. It gave me some fresh perspective on what we are doing here at this conference.

I also had the chance to 'sell' my idea to the Scrap Exchange. They very graciously agreed to let me host a work party there next Tuesday, and to donate the materials to 'encrust' the big guy.
This seemed like a major victory to, and it was nice to get their vote and commitment of support for the project!

However, several people, including the organizer, voted that they liked the sculpture as is, 'without the crust'.   hmmm. Just a matter of taste, or do they have a point? I am still deciding...as Tuesday approaches rapidly.

You know, sometimes less is more. And something that also comes to mind is something Bob Druhan, a very wise CFS science teacher once told me:
"Its takes two people to paint a picture. One to paint it, and another to shoot the painter before he ruins it." Perhaps I should count myself lucky to have merely gotten an shared opinion... (and I do, this was actually valuable feedback).

Also at stake, is that it will be a giant pain in the ass to encrust this thing, and it will be a giant pain in the ass to handle, and reasemble this thing once it is encrusted, and it will be a giant pain in the ass to care for this thing once it is encrusted. Artistic integrity aside, the sleek simplicity of this naked beast becomes more and more appealing....

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Oh wow,
I am sitting downtown in the Courtyard in the cooling air of midnight, a waxy moon above me. All is silent here, save for the churning of a monsterous AC unit, and a tabernacal choir of crickets in the field beyond.

I am totally wooped. My fingers tips are so torn, I can hardly type, and my body in running on gas fumes...
But what a day, what a week, what an evening. What an evening.

Well my peeps done come through for me, in Flying Colors.

Kat brought the beans, home fried tortillas, and big silver bowl of flower juice!
She also brought some major motivation, and industry.

Perrin shown, like a pheonix.

He rose to the challenge. He established himself, as a force of support. He fell into place. Where there was a need, he found it, and he filled it. He put in alot of effort, and as a result, the workshop felt effortless to me. I owe this man considerably.

Stacye, brought Perrin!
(And she sewed some too)

Dorothy lassoed and wrestled down this tire steer...
Ride'm cowgirl!

Jill brought her beautiful beaming self, and our Beaudacious Bud Allen.

Sandra brought her ussual biting Brittish whit, always a welcome addition.

Ben, brought diesel power.A knack for it, a need for speed.

Eddie and Gwen brought calm. They lent themselves to the task, and seemed to truly be enjoying it, and for this I was thankful.

Actual Worm Farmer Maria brought her Expertise de Gusano!

Matt brought Kat, and his chill vibe, and jesus-like-disposition

(at least, that is what I would like to imagine that Jesus was like...!)

The Triplets of Greensboro brought Sweetness and Charm, and cute new stripy number, for our inspiration.

Roger is just the coolest motherfucker I know, and has been so great to work with, so generous, easygoing and layed back about Everything. I am blessed to have his friendship.

And Alexander, who helped me build Tyrius in the first place, back 2008, REally came through for me in this process this evening. He was helpful, gracious and on top of it all, he was Proactive. He really proved himself to me today.

Alex chillin with Stacye after a long evening of preperations

Thank you Alexander.

Steve and Roberta, brought themselves.

Cindy, Leslie, Julia, brought their enthusiasm.

A nice burly bear of a man brought his family up from Bear Creek, said he saw my article in the paper, had never been to the 3rd Friday event before. That felt good.

Katy brought retribution, for helping her load lumber for her house this summer. That was nice of her.
She was a great help at the Haw River Festival this Summer too.

Had a new idea today, while I was madly scrubbing tires.
The sculpture I am building, it is building itself now, as they are wont to do..
Have you ever seen them worms at the beach, that build up a crust around them selves, of odd bits of shell, and debris, from the ocean floor. These guys are scrappin kinfolk, no doubt about it.
 See the more I think about it, the more I think that this tire worm is cool and all. But if the piece is to be a tribute to the concept of Reuse, well I think its fallin alittle short of its mark. Its got the form down pat, no doubt in my little mind. But now, it still NEEDS to BRING THE MUSIC! You know what I'm sayin? All them tires, would be about as bald as can be. This monkey needs some hair! It needs some encrustation! It needs a shaggy rind!
So I am gonna FUNK IT UP!.
And to do this, I'll have to take it to Funk Central, where else but The Scrap Exchange?

These friends of mine, they approached it with real industry. They counted how many, and estimated how many hours it would have taken me, they saved me :) And indeed, according to their calculations, it was about 8 hours of work. Having sewed the last 75 tires, I know that this would have wore my fingers the *&*^&^ out.

I should not be greedy, but I have to wonder if these guys are hungry any for more. Several people commented on how relaxing the sewing task was.
I agree, it is very therapuetic actually. It is begining to wonder, perhaps my artisans coopertaive, is not in Tanzania, or even a local team of Central American imagres. Maybe it is a team of folks that speak my own language, (culturaly, which maybe counts for alot...), and perhaps has a hunger, like I once did, for creatively stimulating work with their hands.

How a bout the Siler City/Durham Worm Works?

The Installation at 233, Roger Person's installation space,
 in the back of which we sewed more worm sections,

(to create the knot pictured above).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Preps for Reconex

So I am Jammin (in 9th gear) to get a website in place for this event. Dane, the Great, is helping with this. What would I do with out this guy. For a very reasonable yearly fee, he will host my site on his very own URL. You can check out the blogs of this truly amazing super hero, next door at http://artanart.blogspot.com/.

What I will show at event:

Well, the primary Foundation will be my booth, using a system which I recently developed to show my work at the festival for the Eno (to learn about its design and construction, please see recent postings in May thru August 2010). But for this show, I am planning to show a slightly different body of work than what I showed at the Eno. For that outdoor festival, I focused on outdoor art, such as planters. and other ornaments for the garden. As my pardner and 3rd eye, Vito DB keenly observed, the look and feel of the bamboo butresses of my booth integrated well with the natural surroundings at the Eno Fest. But what Vito also keenly recognized was that this booth, with its alter ego of the more machine-natured gridwall system, could also be adapted to more urban environments, (which I was pleased that he noticed, as I've had to run a sort of thin line to achieve this adaptability). This line is actually one which runs through much of my tire sculpture.

And indeed, for this show, taking place in a big hotel in urban Raleigh, I would like to try showing more indoor furnishings. So I will be working to assemble some lamps, and lanterns, as well as creating a wired suspension system in my booth to hang these from. (actually, just adding wiring to the existing butresses). This is a major project in itself, and is probably crazy to attempt, with every thing I have to prepare. BUT, "don't you know I'm loco, Ese?"

What else do I need to prepare? Well aside from revamping my booth, launching a website, designing and printing a new hang tag, and maybe new business cards, and hopefully creating some World Fair style, totally oppurtunistic memorobelia, I was also foolish enough to brashly offer the good organizers of this event some Conferrence Hall Bling, to help dress up a rather drab Hilton, and add a little 'ambiance' to the space.

One of the pieces that I am offering to make for the event is a piece that I have actually always dreamed of creating- a Giant Glowing Tire Knot. To me, the event and this piece seem like a perfect pair. I think it would be eye catching and memorable, and hopefully carry the idea of reuse nicely to viewers, evoking the symbol for recycling. At the risk of sounding over the top, to me, this form is almost iconographic of the idea of reuse and recycling, and what better setting for it, than at a prayer tent, 'pitched' to honor Reuse.

I would construct the knot in a similar fashion to that of 'Tyrius the Tire Worm' (in fact, he may be ReUsed, probably temporarily, in the piece). That is to say that I will sew tires together, side by side, creating a long tube, which I will then tie into a knot, and somehow sew together at the end. Then I will light this knot up from the inside, probably using tons of chistmas tree lights which will glow through the yellowy orangey pink, latex rubber side walls, creating stripes of glowering light, and opaque black (from the treads). It would look a little bit like the bottom half of this sculpture:

You can see some of the striping effects
 in the cone of  Atomic Ice Cream, when lit up
 copyright 2009

I am not yet sure if I will let it lie flat on the floor, or will try to prop it up against a wall or something. To get the full sense of the shape, its best seen from the front. (though experiencing it from the side, could also be inspiring).This front view could perhaps be achieved by placing a mirror above it on the ceiling, a strategy I have used to good effect in other pieces.

Another issue is that, as the piece is partly a light sculpture, this aspect is somewhat lost in daylight or a lit conference hall. Hopefully, I can find a place where this thing will shine. Hopefully the organizers and hotel wont suggest the broom closet!...;)

Constructing this knot will involve ALOT of hand sewing together of tires. Were talking probably upwards of  100 tires. And to complete this manmoth task, I am going to have to ask for the help of my community...

So far, so good.
My good buddy Roger Person has been kind enough to let me use his awesome installation space here in Downtown Siler City to work on the project. Jah Bless Roger. He recently opened The Outsider Artist's Gallery here in town, to his some of his more outlandish sculptures, as well as the artwork of the handicapped people he has been working with recently, in what I believe is being called the Inclusive Art Project, with Chatham Trades.

A little help from my friends:
Most days in Siler City, the town shuts down at about 5 oclock. This is traditional working class town, and we have no bars either. BUT every 3rd Friday, we artists,  the Arts Incubator, and many other business in the downtown, open our doors, throw burgers on the grill and light up the town, with openings, live bands on the outdoor stage at the center of town, and vendors, from flowers, to farmers to flat bread. And during this one evening of the month, people come out of the woodwork in Siler City.

Hopefully, this 3rd friday, in about a week, I am going to have something for the more adventurous souls in Siler City to do while they are downtown....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reuse Conex- got accepted to show Tire Art in ReArt Exhibition!

  HERE is one for the blog.
I have recently been accepted, as 1 of 10 Reclaimed Materials Artists from the Southeast, to show my tire art work at the ReArt Exhibition, at Reuse Conex.

What is Reuse Conex? Well it its being billed by its host, the Reuse Alliance, as the first national Reuse conference and expo of reuse!

The event is being put on by the Reuse Alliance, a non profit devoted to promoting the concept and practice of  Reuse, by supporting the Reuse sector, an important but often overlooked facet of the sprouting Green Economy.

You can check it out at: http://reuseconex.org/

So just what is Reuse? Well,
 Renovating an old house or building instead of tearing it down and building a new one, restoring an old car or bicycle, or making a collage out of old magazines, even buying a tshirt at the thrift store, are all examples of Reuse.
This is distinguished from recycling which would, say, melt the car down to make another car. According to Reuse proponets such as the Reuse Alliance, recycling is a more energy intensive (though they have perhaps never tried to flip a tire inside out!... but still, I do see their point). Reuse presents it own host of challenges, which today's artsist / designer quickly warms too.

So basically, the conference will be a chance for businesses like The Scrap Exchange, the Habitat ReStore, and a rainbow of other businesses from across the US, to share our work, learn from each other and possibly forge partnerships for collaborations. Wow, to be honest, I really don't know just what I'll find!...

I do know that I will get  to set up my booth there at the event, to tell people about the work I do with tires in my business, Reptire Designs. Obviously, this is an awesome oppurtunity for an emerging artist like myself. Perhaps I can also sell some of my art there, but to be honest, this is not as high of a priority for this event, as just getting my name out there. I have also offered the organizers of the event the use of some of my larger sculptures for around the event grounds, to help create a memorable atmosphere there at the Raleigh Hilton. Hopefully, they will take me up on them!

Not that the event is lacking in this department. There will also be movies, and a ReFashion show, which I am particularly looking forward to checking out- An artist/designer idol of mine, Atom Cianfarani, who created her own fabric from innertube rubber, and works with another designer to create fashion that is out of this world, seems connected with the Reuse Alliance. I am wondering if I will get to meet her at the event....

I currently have alittle more than month to get ready. Aside from building a giant tire sculpture, refining my booth, and creating smaller sculptures to sell, I am working like mad to pull together a website, (among other promotional materials) which will be a big step for me. This event will be getting national exposure, and thanks to the internet, quite probably international exposure as well. So, to be frank, I have got to be ready to announce my presence to the world.
Here we go!

to learn more about the event, you can check out the web page at www.reuseconex.org

You can learn about the Reuse Alliance at www.reusealliance.org

And also, you can learn about the keynote speaker, Garth Johnson, at his fascinating blog site: Extreme Craft. He is the Author of a newly published book called "1,000 Ideas for Creative Reuse", and a very sharp tack at that.
Should be interesting...

Trip up into to the Mountains

This August, I got to join my relatives from my moms side of the family, in spending a week in the Appalachian Mountains, near Spruce Pines, not too far off the Blue Ridge Parkway. They all live or grew up in Wisconsin, and many of them are either artists or nurses, (which was great for me, because I happened to be an aspiring artist, with some odd symptoms at the moment. Woke up with Bell's Palsy the day before, they all thought maybe Lymes). So inspite of this we had a really wonderful time together up in the mountains. This was also a really nice time for me to sort of catch my breath, spend time with family, and think about where I want to go with all of this. It was definately one of those reminders of the need to step back now and then, reconnect with family, and recharge your batteries. My family is also very supportive of my endeavors, and they listened to me babble endlessly about tires, the portrait of midwestern patience and fortitude if there ever was one (would be grist for Garrison Kiehlor, I'm sure).

  While we were up there, I got to dig on some of that Appalachian Mountain energy, its maybe a little wilder up there in the hills, then here in the sloggy piedment- bigger, more apprehensive fauna, less tiny biting ones, (with out a lick of shyness about them)? One things for sure, it felt about 10 degrees cooler. There is also just a different vibe up there. I got to take a cool relaxing float down a shady mountain river, and found myself thinking about Dolly Parton's Coal Miner's daughter for some reason. I'm no coal miner's daughter, but I did meet a 9th generation Mica Miner!, very interesting 'fella'...didn't meet his daughter though. Also befriended a couple of horses.

I can talk about my experience in the mountains alittle more later,
but I guess I just wanted to make a note, that this place sort of left a mark on me, and since returning, its sort of been lingering with me. I hope to return some day soon, and, actually, to create a body of work up there, in those 'hills.'... I feel like there is some work for me to do up there, hopefully in the next year or two.

Classroom Visit to Jill's Class at the Durham Central Park School!

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Jill, a teacher at Durham Central Park School. She had been refered by the Art Teacher (Extraordinaire) over there, Lucia Marcus, an old friend, (and the owner of the only treadknot pull chain in existance, which she commissioned for her ceiling fan several years ago.)
Jill was interested in having me visit her class to talk about my artwork, as she is leading her class in a project exploring the concept of ReUse!

So we began to plot....

We decided I would bring Tyrius the aformentioned Tire Worm, (who my faithful assistant, Alex, and others, and I had crafted for Paper Hand Puppets' I AM AN INSECT in 08). He was a hit at my first classroom visit, and seemed like if nothing else was, that at least he would be memorable...

To deliver this big baby,  I had hoped to borrow Vito's festive, spray-paint-spotted 'New Mexican Cheetah' station wagon, but alas, this long distance runner had since sprinted off into the sunset, with a new owner, only a few weeks before (would like to meet the guy!..).
So Dane was willing to very kindly let me borrow his station wagon again for this delivery task (see Durham ArtWalk).
I imagined pulling up in front of the school, and cracking the hatch open, and cramped Tyrius sproinging, unfurling into space like a jack in the box.

I want to dress up the visit a bit. I wanted to 'bring the music'. So I also wore my snappy innertube suspenders, a choice striped shirt, and several choice belts. I also wore my found-object spring gasket ring, and my big hulking found sea shell ring. Though this one unfortunately got left in the car at the last second, it did give me a good thought to talk about reuse in nature... Also while I was getting dressed it occured to me that almost everything I wear (and maybe own) is reused! This was kind of an epiphany. Seemed like a good point to bring up, that just wearing hand me downs is a kind of reuse. Its amazing the stuff you'll come up with while you are stuggling to get your pants on, and out the door!

On thursday August 26, at 1:55 pm, I  pulled up in a green Station wagon in front of school. I had decided to wait, and save Tyrius for a treat at end of my presentation, but wanted him to be waiting in place, crouching, as best a giant grub can crouch...(sorry big guy).
So instead, I hauled in several loads of stuff- a few different bodies of work, and at 2:00 pm gave a hello...
And we were off!
Lightening Strikes: 'Taking a 'quiet' hand'.
 Man, I love a well-functioning classroom-
 interested, yet behaved. This is the stuff.

We talked about Reuse, and the distinction between Reuse and Recycling. As an example,  I brought up two critters: the earth worm, who you could say recycles, or BREAKS DOWN, plant material for use in new plants; versus the hermit crab, who ReUses a mullusks shell for a home ('adaptive reuse' actually!).
We had an extended conversation about finding creatures on the beach, which carried on just a hair too long. I missed a good oppurtunity to talk about found object art (where was my magic ring when I need it?!)

I also  talked about how I came to work with tires, about the metaphors involved in art-making, such as the tires and reptiles in my art, who both crawl across the ground, and their bumpy skin.

I quickly found it worked best to introduce a body of work, and then to  pass it around, and let them explore it in their tactile, interactive way; and then collect it again, and talk about the next series. Otherwise they were understandably too distracted to listen. This worked much better.

Finally, at the very end, we went outside, and I brought out big Tyrius.

After they were done, we said our goodbyes, and Lucia and I decided to let him lie around outside for a while after school, in their lovely courtyard, sunning himself, and signing autographs, benevolently tolerating all kinds of poking and prodding (he does like a good scratching).

It was really fun to visit with the class, even though I was burning up in my slacks, and I think my new Bell's Palsied eye was maybe kind of freaky for the kids (understandably- I really should have just explained it from the outset, will next time). Though it doesn't look that bad, the Bell's Palsy also made it difficult to speak clearly. So, to be honest, while it was fun for me to talk with the kids, and Jill was very appreciative, I wasn't really sure what kind of impression I had left on the kids...

Well, the next day, I happened to get a lucky treat. I happened to be down the street, at the Scrap Exchange Center for Creative Reuse, where I frequently do outreach events (I was just dropping off some old materials from my studio for their shop) As I was perusing the show at the Green Gallery, I heard some voices coming from the workshop room, next door. I took a peak inside, and who was seated in a circle around the tables but Mrs. Jill's same class from the day before! I was met with an excited, "It's TRAVIS!". Wow, if there ever was a sweet redemption. Ann later told me that when they first got there, they were all looking around, saying 'where's Travis?! Is Travis here?!"

 (maybe they think I'm some kind of benign Scrap goblin they keep chained at the Scrap Exchange, lurking among the barrels of odds and ends, waiting for people to drop off their scraps, which I scurry out to gather and horde, and devour, pausing occasionaly to leave some strange droppings in the corner..... OK, so not so far from the truth, actually!....)

Actually, I think maybe the reason that they were excited to see me, was that they had a list of questions that they had prepared for me, (as well as a seperate list for Ann, Director of the Scrap Exchange), which they hadn't gotten to ask me yesteday, due to time constraints, and my epic presentation.
So Ann was nice enough to invite me in, and join their discussion, and answer their questions.
They had some really good ones. Like "Why do you make Art out of tire scraps?" And I really enjoyed trying to answer them as best I could. THEN, I had a really cool treat- I got to hear Ann answer her questions, including a great one at the end "Why do you choose to work here?".
And you know, hearing this woman, who I know is an incredible artist and sculptor of many media in her own right, and certainly has the skills, savvy and experience to be captain of just about any ship she would like to be, hearing her answer this question about why she still works at the Scrap Exchange,  (enduring everything from endlessly leaking ceilings, to funding that is probably drying to a puddle on the floor), I must say, was very inspiring...

You can sense, the second you step through the door, that the Scrap Exchange is a very special place. But I never really knew, until Ann answered that question, about all of the many varied populations that the Scrap Exchange serves (children of all colors I knew, but parolees, the elderly, and infirm?, I had no idea.) I can't help but wonder, what effect does entering this environment have on someone who has been convicted and sentenced by the state to do community service? What about someone, tucked away at a nursing home? I can only imagine that the experience is somehow a life affirming one, and a healing one. I feel very greatful to have this Center of Creative Reuse in Durham (the town I grew up in) and know that I owe a lot to it, not just for occasional materials, work, business, and support, but also for a steady stream of inspiration.

I do hope that those curious kids in Jill's class got a whiff of this in their visit.

And thanks, Lucia, The Durham Central Park School, and teacher Jill and her class, for having me in your classroom! It was a pleasure for me to meet you all. And I hope we can do some more work together in the near future...
Teachers Lucia and Jill with Tyrius

...FESTIVAL FOR THE ENO, continued

OK, so I really need to get this post up, as there is alot happening that I need to catch up with!
But there is also alot worth mentioning about this festival So maybe I should spare you a blow by blow of a crafts festival.....
Ha, fat chance!

Getting ready for this show, I put a hefty bit of work into the design and making of my booth, not onlfor the Festival for the Eno, but also for other festivals down the road.

I wanted something that was light, modular, and fitted the feel of my artwork.
I also wanted to be able to suspend works of art from the ceiling of my booth, and my canopy's cross struts just weren't made to bear much weight at all.

So for this job I chose two materials:
Bamboo, of plentiful supply, if you know where to look, and
Gridwall shelving, a set of which I had found on the roadside last year, and found more of at Bed Bath and Beyond, at a greatly discounted rate, as it was going out of production (a big thanks to Kevin, for being so reasonable working with me! a rare quality, these days, You Da Man!)!

I had an elaborate plan to make a much more sculptural tent of my own, and I hope I get to make this happen someday, but for the mean time, I quickly abandoned this fantasy, and chose instead to build onto the vertical support of the tent that I have (using an approach, which I think you could rightly call 'post and beam').

my tent, at lowered position
To to this tent structure, I lashed a grid of 8 10ft bamboo poles, notching them, 

to get them to nest together, and create an even plane from which I could hang sculptures.
 'the flying bamboo butresses'

For the lashings, I used but bicycle tire inner tubes, which are in plentiful supply around here.. they have worked out very well so far, though I am still refining my lashing technique, any volunteers?

Once I'd added the bamboo cross beams, I added the canopy for extra shade, and 'raised the roof', though I was blessed with a very old tree's shade already. 
tent frame standing with canopy and butresses
From the bamboo beams, I hung strip of grid wall panels, creating self standing corner columns, and between these, I strung vertical bands, filling in. This became the 'skin' of what quickly became known as 'the rat cage'.  
from the bamboo beams, I hung strips of grid-wall shelving.
For the floor plan, I had actually laid this thing out in a much more frontal, symetrical, pagoda style, with a front, sides and back,while designing it in my studio. Its was a little more temple like, and slightly forboding, a demeanor which I actually liked. However, when I saw my spot, it didn't take long to see that the space offered a different set of possibilities. So I opted for this corner arrangment, which I think allowed for a much easier, less intimidating flow though the space. Its funny, it was perhaps sort a psychological shift as well for me, one that  I am very glad that I made. (I am also glad that I made my booth so modular, though it is not perfectly so yet), 

Then I just placed my pedestals (I made a nice nesting set from some sauna tubes), 
Pedestals added to mix
add a little sculpture.....
home, sweet home.

I was blessed to have some very good neighbors, kindest of all perhaps being Art and Colleen Heinrich, of Sweet Whispers, true to their name! Art's intricate metal work is amazing, incorporating chrystals and metaphysics that blew me away. He also has an amazing story as a craftsman. They were very kind and helpful through out the show. And to top it all off, Colleen has offered to help connect me with some giant airplane tires! (her brother is a mechanic for Boeing?)... Yowza!

Across the way, Max 'the leatherman' has been doing the festival for years, and was an awesome friend to me in this process, for whose guidance I am greatful. Aside from being a top notch guy, he is also a master craftsman; I have been a big fan of his artful, creatively designed, and well made leather work for many years.

And to my left was the one and only Lisa Perkle, up from GA, who I have to say is true to her name, as she is a woman who is constistantly perky, not in ANY kind of annoying sense at all, No quite to the contrary, she simply had a firmly positive way about her. To be frank, this Southern Lady, is tough as nails. Seems like I am meeting a new breed of woman out here on the road. As she pointed out, doing what she does, alone, show after show, you'd better be. Well my hat is off to you, Ms. Perkle. And thank you for the chicken sandwich!

I would like to share some pictures of my new friends, but you know, its really not cool to show an artist's work on the internet, with out their permission. It could actually have very serious consequences for their business. So out of respect for their labor, I am not posting these.

I didn't really get away from my booth a whole lot, but when I did, I found that I was in some pretty awesome and extraordinary company there at the Eno...

To be honest, At First, it was hard for me to approach this show. For a newbie like me, Its hard to sell your stuff! You like it. Your sculptures are like your kids, you grew with them in a sense. You don't want to sell them. Obviously, this is an obstacle I need to work out, if I want to be in the crafts business!!!
Well after some hand wringing, eventually, something clicked, and I finally came around , remembering what the hell I was doing!

The approach I finally Refound this show was to make things FOR the festival, duh! That is to say, I created for the imaginary patrons of this festival. And Once I moved to this approach, everything flowed much easier. I opened up the flood gates so to speak, and created freely, letting that Eno river, in all of its primordial grace, flow through my minds eye, and what came out of me, hopefully collected a residual petina, from the silts of the ancient mountains collected in those waters...plus maybe a little earwax.

I still showed some of my older pieces, but just as displays, with no price tag. Some one told me that my booth was more like a sculpture exhibit, than a store front, and I think she was right about this, actually, I know she was! So it became sort of a site specific installation, Maybe you could say, along the banks of the river, ok, thats a stretch!

BUT, come time for the festival, I did have a booth laden with tire sculpture.
AND some of those imaginary Festival for the Eno Goers materialized in flesh and bone as:

Kerry, a very sweet woman from Hillsboro was my first customer. (Incidentally, she is also a customer of my mothers! From me whe bought a very nice split motorcycle knot planter with a Chatham red clay tread inlay (igpay atinlay?), a historic precurser to the upcoming Gem Line series. I hope you are enjoying it Kerry!

Tim- a very nice, very tall, fellow, bought a very graceful motorcrossknot for his garden. I happen to remember this tire knot's birth very well, it was gentle and easy all the way through, so supple was this tire; it practically folded and tied itself! Though I don't know Tim nearly as well as the tire, this somehow seemed to match his strong but easy personality. A good fit! Man, I love me a good fit! Doesn't it just look like the thing belongs in his hand? A second, successful delivery! This tire's going places..

Helga- took home a very nice motoknot with a very nice inlay of that good Chatham County orange/red dirt! Ooo, this one was a doozy to behold! And what a doozy Helga was to behold, herself. After she bought the piece, she turned out to be the mother of none other than of a favorite aquaintance of mine, Murial, the Lama Goddess, who runs the Chatham County Waste Program! Alright Helga, I guess we're about 1 for 1 in the world!

Dane let me pick him a piece! With Bennet as its bodyguard, I sent Dane home a great hulking wicked mototreadknot, that I would venture has something of the tire's dinosaur anscestry in it..beware Dane, and remember, DON'T FEED THE treadknot AFTER DARK! (we need to get a picture old buddy, before its to late!)
"Travis, what you're overlooking here is that extended photo shoots bring out
 MY dinosaur ancestry!"

Nice Lady, but I can't remember you name! (please email me, if you see this!) bought the 'Mexicalli Rose' tire planter. Though, it was a little dingy, this hot little pepper of a planter had some serious character, and I am so glad it found a home with someone who saw past the grime of its rough exterior.

Guy with black leather sandles, there was this guy who arrived at the booth, David?, who struck me as a very classy fellow. He had these black leather sandles, from Spain he said I think, jet black hair, mustache, goatee, and a black fidora. But inpite of all this, which might have stuck out in NC, he did not seem ostentatious in the slightest, just sort of stylish, well composed, and different.
If there was ever a time when my sales skills were put to the test at this festival, it was with David. Why? because I really WANTED this guy to have (and to wear!) a treadknot "chaCHING" poet's purse! I know a good  treadknot model, when I see one, and I knew it would just suite him so well.
Eventually, after considerable effort, I managed to convince him of this unmutable fact. And I hope, and am wiling to bet, that he is glad that I did. He later brought his children over to explore my tire artwork, so I must not have been too obnoxious. I think this is one of them?...Who's kid is this?

Best Buddy old pal, Emily got a treadknest, that I made especially for her! (her Man-friend agreed, that with it's lux purple-feather-boa trim, it was indeed tres Wexler).

Towards the end of the event, Herculean Festival Director Greg Bell stopped by to inquire about a certain piece. This was no ordinary piece; I actually had created this one especially for this festival, I had been imagining it for several YEARS! So I am extremely gratified that this piece appearently captured Greg's imagination. (I sort of think of it as a river serpent's/dragon's eye). If I needed any more reassurance that there is a good connection here, seeing Greg NAB that one has sealed the deal for me.

Incidentaly, the piece was made using a baby moon hub cap, that I scavenged from the side of the highway one evening, a couple weeks before the show, traveling back from Artist and Asolare Founder Jim Moon's Birthday party in Lexington, NC. (Thanks for the good Ju Ju Jim!)

Did I miss someone???
If I missed you, Please forgive me. It was three days spent swimming in a river of sweat, and social and business interactions, and really all I have to go by is my mailing list from the festival, and my camera to remind me of what all happened. But if I did miss you on this list, and you don't mind being included, please do leave a comment, or email me at traviscohn@yahoo.com, as I would love to honor you, and your new connection with the Reptire family. Thank you, and thank you all very much for your business. Welcome to the fam!

Commissions and potential collaborations
John dreaming about his sculpture
John Reyes is a young bicyclist who is was pedalling from Texas all the way to Boston, and BACK!!!, Why? To celebrate and excersize the personal freedom that he values, as a way of thanking the service men and women around the world for their work protecting that freedom (paraphrased from John. To hear John talking about the project, in his own words go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RqZLKV8XQ4&feature=related. You can also check out his blog about his trip; just go (next door) to bostonandbackride.blogspot.com).

contemplating the possibilites
To commemorate his journey, he has asked me to make him a commemorative sculpture like the one shown here, using the very bicycle tires, chain and sprocket which 'carried' him on his journey across the US. They must feel like old friends this point!

John really seemed to like the piece, and the idea of fashioning his gear into one. I hope we can make it work for him.

You can check out the YouTube video he posted about his plans for the piece, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3YP5fdyMrM, or just enter 'Reptire' at the youtube prompt. Normally I would be hesitant about such exposure, but Mr. Reyes was very concientious about asking  my permission to post it (all ya gotta do is ask!), and was even thoughtful enough to send people to This blog in his video posting. I really appreciated this gesture.

As of this posting John just made it back to Texas!!! Once he gets settled back in, he says he'll pack his gear in a box, and send it on over to Reptire Design Studios, for its conversion into a new work of art. Congradulations John. I look forward to working with you on this.

 Hopefully his will be a glorious first, to kick off the up and coming Reptire 'Retirement' Program... details to be posted on the upcoming website...

Kurt is also commissioning an atomic tire sphere for a friend who supports his 'biking habit'. I have to say, that Kurt has been Very patient.

Sebastian is a hair 'sculptor', who with his partner run a Green Hair Salon! (they work with other colors of hair too). They are interested in commissioning some art, perhaps we thought, a hanging tire garden for their salon, a concept I have been working on lately. I am very excited about this possibility.

Melissa and Jennifer of Realm Design- Green Interior Designers....! Need I say more?

Buffy from Reciprocities and Revamp makes exquisite wearable art using feathers. I have a design I am working on that could incorporate Just the kind of work she does. So, towards the end of the festival, I gathered up my nuts in my throat and approached the gals down the isle at the Revamp tent. And I am happy to report that artist of a/the feather, Buffy, seemed open to the idea of a collaboration....  (to be continued)...

Also got to talk with both  Sandy Nononi-Smith and Leo Briere, at different time, of the Y.I.K.E.S Recyclique. We have talked in the past about partnering for a project, and I hope some day this comes true! It was good to catch up with each of them. Hopefully I'll get to spend some more time over there soon, as their workshop is really picking up steam. You can check them out at http://yikeslink.blogspot.com/2009/04/wanted-crafters-artists-designing.html

A big thanks to all of you who stopped by, give me a leg stretcher or just to say Hi.

Mama and Papa Bear in da Howse.

      Now I have to fess up to something. I am not often characterized as an ultra competitive person, by any stretch, most people consider me to be generally pretty peacefull and laid back actually. But when it comes to making art, well another person comes outta me. And I tell you, for some reason, for my first Festival for the Eno, I wanted a Best Booth Award! No good reason, I think I just knew I had it in me.

 So I slaved away, day after day, and into the nights, nearly getting messed up the day before set up. But I made it, and on the first day of the festival, this counsel of four wise people appears at my booth, looking around, nodding, scribbling on their clip boards, and then they dissapeared, quickly and mysteriously as they had arrived...

    Well, I am proud to report that Reptire Designs won itself a Best Emerging Artist Award! While I have to admit that it took me a while to get over the fact that it wasn't a Best Booth award, I have slowly, gradually come to realize the gift and honor that has been bestowed upon me, and this artwork. It's nice to know that all of my hard work on that booth paid off, and the fact that the festival judges saw value in the work seems encouraging for the future of Reptire art at the Festival for the Eno.

Furthermore, I was especially impressed that this award was very thoughtfully and STURDILY laminated by these outdoor festival Pros, making it something that should hold up well to the trials of the road, and which I can proudly hang in my booth for years to come. Like the gift of a well made knife, this is really something to be proud of, and treasured out there on that weathered road, all the more so, as it comes from people who clearly know what they are doing! Thanks guys.

But, I would be remiss If I did not pay thanks to the many hands that helped me get though this thing.

Jennifer Sugg, for picking some flowers to brighten up my booth.

Carry Fields for helping me pack up, a misty morning bday present, and for life giving hugs.

Stacye Leanza for an all important pin, reading "Be nice to me, it's my birthday!" God knows what would have happened with out that!, and who also watched my booth for me for a good while, and rearranged my sculptures for me.

Trent, for some good thoughts on merchandizing.

My Momma, Edie Cohn, who challenged me to stick with this thing, helped me make some very handsome placards for my booth, and was just an awesome source of support all the way through.

Maria Stawsky, who lent me the use of her beautiful photograph of mating Anoles.

Tori Mazure for the use of her beautiful photograph of a box turtle on the blueridge parkway.

Jill Truffant and Squiggs, Josh Zaslow, Bennet Finkler, Dane Summers, and Dane's folks, for just being great company.

Vito Di Bona and Lanya Shapiro, for the quenching popsicle.

Ruben 'Cohnzales', for buffing a treadknot. 

Carol Mitchell for lending me her experienced eye

Ana Howard, who shared with me her stainless steel keen perspective, and communed with me about what is art, and what was I doing here at the Festival for the Eno.

Carol Anderson, for taking an interest, 

Greg Bell, for being awesome to work with.

And all of the rest of you, who took an interest, gave me a smile, and helped see me along my way.

Wrapping Up,
So late Sunday evening, I finally got it all packed up, and after bidding my nomadic neighbors happy trails, went down to take a ceremonial dip in the river, the dimming dusky light, before heading to my folk's house, just down the road, to get some shut eye...

For, No rest for the weary...
 Early the next morning, I jumped headfirst, straight into a week of teaching a double load of art camps at the ArtsCenter, and then another week of a normal load. (In rare forsight, l had done the prep for all of these months ahead of time, this is the real reason I was nervous about doing the festival). And then, when that was done, just when I was ready for a rest at long last, I got an email from our friends the giant puppeteers, saying they could use some help painting some sets, and they were willing to pay me...well shit, you don't pass up an invitation like that, from those guys. at least I didn't! So after a day or two of rest, I carried the momentum forward, and jumped into a week of that, and had a blast, turning out some sets that I am really proud of! It was a Real pleasure and an Honor to get to work with those guys, and they were very appreciative. 

Well I got a lot out of this festival. AND

 I did manage to have a good time (on and around my birthday, no less), which I wasn’t counting on, but of course, was hoping for (thanks for all of the sweet help with this!). Ken Crossen (right off a plane from India) took this picture of me on Sunday, and his artful snapshot seems like ‘proof in the pudding’ that all of that hard work paid off, and a good time was had… 

Thank you to all of you who helped to stretch a smile across my face.