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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Diesel Van- Successfully Ushered the Blue Beast to Safety

This past few weeks has been a bit a bit of a challenge, regarding my vans.

As you may or may not know, I have a black Chevy Van that I have lived in/slept in for the past 10 years. Her name is Sofia, and I have her parked in back of my studio, in the parking lot that the Farmer's Alliance owns (they have been VERY gracious to let me stay there).

I also recently inherited a Blue Chevy '83 Diesel Van, from my friend Jennifer Sugg, whose father, David Sugg, recently passed away, leaving her this van which he had cherished in life (she reports that the van is mostly what David talked about!). So it was quite an honor for Jennifer to bestow this vehicle to me..

But as awesome as the gift of a diesel van is, it was also perhaps one which I was a little unprepared to take on, some what like inheriting a baby elephant, that eats 800 pounds of cabbage a day..To be honest, I am not really great at caring for cars with the regularity that they need and deserve, and I have quickly learned, from research in town and in books, that Diesels need a certain kind of loving that I was not sure I was in a place to give. So I have had to really weigh out, if I will be a good new owner to this vehicle, whose care I have been charged with..

Well, in the meantime the starter and batteries went sour, and so did the city's taste for my two broken down vans... as Vito aptly put it when Sofia broke down, there is a big fat line between a running van and a broken down van, and I know that he is so right. It really amazing we have lasted this long..

So, with a sculpture to make, 3 to deliver to a major show in VA, very little money in the bank, to bad batteries and a bad starter in the van, I find an orange Tow sticker stuck to the windshield, saying the City wants me to move it in a week, or they will tow it (of course at my dear expense). The local Diesel Guru Mechanic tells me that year of engine is a total 'dog', and I should just do myself a favor and scrap it.... I am left in a tight pinch.

At David Sugg's funeral, which I attended to learn more of the man, I had promised his friend that I would not scrap the van (he actually explicitly forbade me this option) not that I would scrap a diesel van, no matter the vintage. But, I did wonder, again, if maybe this thing should be someone else's problem...someone that cared passionately about Diesel engines, there is, after-all the Piedmont Biodiesel refinery just down 64 in Pittsboro. Surely there must be someone over there, who gives a damn about this thing. I really didn't want to give it up, but damn, it seemed to be dragging be down.

So, in an act of desperation, I racked my brain, and came up with a few names. I sent out an email to a handful of people who I thought Might be interested, offering to sell, or even better... SHARE the van... Of these, I only heard back from a few, but a couple were interested! First, I  heard back from Moia, a very kind hearted woman who does collections for Piedmont Biofuels, and in keeping with the very strong community orientation that I know of Moia, she was enthusiastic about the idea of a van share! This encouraged and emboldened me to think that maybe this thing was possible! I also heard from Jeremy, who is one of Central Carolina Community College's Bio Diesel Program's first proud graduates! I knew that he had a Chevy Diesel Van of about the same vintage, so I was pleased to get a response that he was interested in either buying or sharing the van, as I know he would know the animal's ins and outs.
I also heard back from Ray, a mechanic at Blue Heron Farm,  who said he Might have an occassional use, and would put out his feelers around the farm for need for it. Living at Blue Heron, a commune of sorts, for lack of a better word, is kind of an expert on sharing I would say, so I thought he would be a good guy to have on the team, in addition to his awesome mechanical skills of course!

So yes, a team was begining to materialize, and with it, the hope of keeping the Blue Beast on the road. Now...I just had to get the thing started....up and out of there... and this was not to be too easy.

You might or might not know that a Diesel engine, and accompanying components, make it a very different animal that a gasoline powered vehicle. For instance, a diesel van requires two batteries, these costing about $100-$120 each. Ow. So when I couldn't start the van, this was what I was faced with. Fortunately, blessedly for me, Jesse Brown, the owner of the Sidewalk Cafe below my studio, is proving to be a wealth of knowledge and reccomendations about caring for diesel trucks. He runs several, to haul his  giant draft horses to festivals. And he has been very generous in sharing his acculated resources. So Jesse told me about a place in Sanford, where I could get rebuilt, and factory reject batteries. I went down there, gave them my two old, dead batteries, and picked up two 'new' ones for $30 each! This was to be my entre into a who new world of automobile part reuse that Jesse Brown has been introducing me too.
  So I plopped the two big lugs into my van, hoping to make off. No such luck. It turned out that not only were the batteries bad, but also the starter. I checked around, and found that this would cost me about $300 to get replaced, including the tow to the shop. OW again! Once again I began to wonder, SHOULD I just scrap this thing? Very knowledgable people were telling me that I should!
But I can be a little stubborn. AND, interestingly, Jesse Brown Down Stairs encouraged me once again not to give up hope...he had Another resource, a place in Burlington that rebuilds starters! He said they swing through town everywednesday, and could even pick up the starter. What did I have to loose? About $170, thats what. So, in the spirit of 7 parts desperatation and 3 parts adventure, I pulled the (massive) starter out from beneath the oil drenched engine, and left it in a cardboard box behind the cafe, per Mr. Brown's instrucutions. I had never removed a starter, and was suprised to find it held on by only one bolt! It seemed a second bolt was missing....

So, begging an extension from the guys down at City Hall, I raced over to Burlington, upon returning from VA, to deliver the sculptures, and picked up the rebuilt starter from a make shift shop in an old brick building. When I got home, I crawled up under my van (parked on a semi busy street), and tried instal the thing. It was not easy! While I was smart enough to wearing googles, bits of grease were falling onto my goggles. And the starter weighed a TON, probably about 25 pounds actually, which I had to support with one arm, while trying to ratchet on with left, all the while trying to keep these cryptic oily shims in place. UGGG. Bolt they gave me was wrong size too short. So zip up road to part store for right size bolt. Crawl back under van, and resume procudure sans forklift. Finally it dawned on me, why this was really not working.... The 2nd bolt that I had presumed missing was not missing because it fell out, it was missing because the shaft had Broken off....leaving the bolt's stock still lodged in the hole! FUCKING HELL. Back to the drawing board. I trudged back to the Downtown Automotive shop behind my studio, for yet more advice (they had also been a wonderful source of councel in this undertaking, which I probably wouldn't have, with out), and also to weigh out, once again, wether this this was really worth toiling with after all. When I told Greg, the mechanic, what I had found, and asked if there was any way out of THIS one, or was my goose finally cooked?, he looked me knowingly in the eye, and taunted "I told what you should do with that Van". "Yeah, yeah, I remember what you told me very well!" (which of course was to scrap it). A man seated in the office, looked down in shook his head, I guess at my stupidity, or the futility of the situation, or both. Greg told me there was in fact a way out, in fact called an "EASY OUT" a special drill bit. Easy out, well I'll be. Sure hadn't expected any easy ways out of this one! Greg and the old man gave me another look and shook their heads, as I trotted out the door towards the hardware store; hope springs eternal in the young, desperate and foolish..
  Well when I arrived at the hardware store, my good friend Herb Handley, accompanied by the requisite old man, quickly disposed me of my glee..."Ha!" Chortled his old grizzled friend, "they call it an easy out, but there ain't nothin easy 'bout it!". Oh, I see.."you've got to drive that thing straight into the eye of that bolt! If you don't, it'll bite it off, and then your stuck with an easy out lodged in there too!" He cackled. Yes, you get all flavors of advice and encouragement in Siler City. And this generation seems to  take particular pleasure in the naive misteps of my own generation...
  So back to the van I trudged, wondering how much thicker I get get myself into this mess?.....No doubt,  probably I good bit...
So I took lunch, and a little power nap. I know I had to be fresh to bore that hole, because it had to be dead on. I only had one chance, and I didn't not have time nor elbow space on my side...
  So eventually, I knew it was now or never, and marched down to the van, to let be what would be. If it didn't work out, I guess I'd just have to get somebody to tow it somewhere, I didn't know where.
   I picked at the bolt with the drill bit I'd bought for the job, it didn't seem to want to catch any where near the center. But it HAD to, so I had to keep trying. eventually I got it to catch somewhere that seemed as close as I could get it, and then adjusted alittle once it had bitten. My drill was right up against the engine block, so in many ways, I was at the mercy of both of these intstruments' casing contours...in many ways it would be a matter of luck, if they would let me get the clear shot I needed. Fortunately, it seemed like they Might just allow it. It seemed to be going in straight, as best I could tell looking behind the drill in the dark, so eventually I had to trust my sense of 'plumb' (not that the van was level), and drive it home. Thunk, the drill bit pierced the back end of the broken bit of bolt, and it was done. I backed out the bit, and squirted some WD-40 in the hole I had just bored, hoping some of it would run down around the threads holding it cemented in place, instead of leaking back out of the hole onto me, as most of it seemed to be doing.  Then came the moment of truth (actually ran back to shop at this point, to make sure I was aware of the main ways to screw this up). So back on my back, I loaded the corkscrewed bit into my drill, and sunk it in. To my total and utter amazement, the slug of bolt metal just SLID out of the hole, and sat there, pierced on the drill bit before my stunned eyes. I could not believe them. It was as if the bush pig, just sort of crawled up and hurled himself on the hunters spear....
My nerves elecrtic, hairs on end, grin impossible to restrain, laughter laughing itself, a ran to the auto shop, spear and impailed trophy in hand, grinning like a fool.

Once I had shared OUR triumph, as I felt like they had pulled a splinter from my paw..
I climbed into the drivers seat, for the second moment of truth of the day. Time to see what its got. Because I knew, that I could just as easily still not start, and I tried to prepare myself for this solomn possiblity, as best I could. I put the key in the ignition.. and got not nothing.    I tried agian, this time a staggering choke, I pumped the gas, and for the first time in months is dispair, the engine ROARED to life again, billowing smoke from its tail pipe, clearly happy to resurected. It was SUCH a happy sound, that, though I hadn't really planned what to do it I DID get it started, I put it into drive, and down the road we slid..right on out to the highway. NO STOPPIN BABY!!! As I pulled onto Hwy 64, a dusky setting sun glowing in my rear view mirror, I gave Stacye a call at Blue Heron, to let her know that a big blue van was headed her way.
   And as I hauled ass down the highway in this old blue van, knowing it was fleeing a fate of certain death and doom and resentment in Siler City, headed to a promised land of biodiesel refineries, and people who like to share things, it strangely began to feel like I was driving a much younger van..It seemed to WANT to get out of there, and to get where it was going! And though it might sound trite to say so, as I drove East across Chatham County on 64, past the various Alston road, through those darkening, cooling fields and woods, I thought of the slaves who had probably, not THAT long ago, run, dashed, through those very same woods, headed North, to Snow Camp, to be ushered to a 'promised land', bearing in their hearts a roaring, burning coal: hope of survival, and a better life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Working on Rain Barrel Edge Design with The Recyclique

2 Sundays ago, I had a product design session with some of the folks down at the Recyclique.
I had an idea of how they could possibly improve the edging of their rain barrels with a tire gasket of sorts. Their barrels are beautifully hand painted, and well constructed, but they are still lacking some refinement in regards to the edges of the misquito netting which guards the opening at the top. Presently, they had a rubber band and sting holding this shut, it did the trick, but I thought a tire could do it with a lot more style. As the barrels top was of course rounded, and just the right size, a mountain bike tire could fit snugly on this edge, and hold the netting in place, also creating a sort of frame for the artwork featured on the barrels.

Sandy, the mother of this coop in the making, was open and receptive to such ideas, and so we set up a meeting with Henry the main builder of the barrels, and any one else who was interested. Ismael, an aspiring designer who had been working with Mark at the Biofuels plant there also joined us, who a good addition. We also had Joanne, a steady force at the Recyclique. Also in attendance was Connie, who's Birthday we had the pleasure to celebrate, and her son. So it was a good crew, generally focused on the task at hand, and so out back amid the falling leaves and railroad tracks, we conviened around the barrels, and their edges, to see what we could do to enhance them.
  They were receptive to exploring this idea, and we had a good time/ work session exploring different options to dress the edges of the misquito netting with bike tires and innertubes. We came up with some interesting stuff!

  I have to admit that I was dissapointed that at the end of the day, they didn't spring for the tire edging, as I think it could provide a really handsome, solid and flexible lip/handle for the netting. The fear was that it would harbor the rainwater and misquito larvae they were trying to avoid with the netting, a problem which I think could easily be worked around with a series of holes. Perhaps I should just work of a mock up model for them to see in the flesh.
   There was also a reluctance to add too much time to the production of the barrels, to maintain low overhead on them, so that they can keep them affordable, something which is pretty central to their mission I think. While I can somewhat appreciate this sentiment, I personally believe this is the wrong approach. If people are going to lay down $60 - $70 anyways, why not strive to create an attractive product, and Then figure out how to bring the production prices down?
  To me this was a somewhat self-defeating attitude, and to be honest, it makes me a little bit weary of partnering with them on my designs. Its seems to me like a step in the wrong direction, almost like reducing value rather than adding it...

Perhaps there is still time to convince them of this, though probably I need to also hear them more about the realities of running their cooperative organization. I am working with them both to offer, and to learn, so why not learn too?

I was pleased though that they did take some of my point about the edging to heart, and we very effectively incorporated some inner tube edging across both the top and bottom edges of the netting.
I don't think this design has yet reached its full potential, but what we accomplished was a good step in the right direction. It was definately a positive developement, and showed promise for the future.

Artists Statement for Spiritual Visions Exhibition

by Travis Cohn
For the Spiritual Visions Exhibition, The Hermitage Museum and Gardens, 2010.

             For me, the leathery, black rubber of an old tire has its own spiritual presence, and in my work, I seek to honor that presence. Imagining the tire turning, over, and over, over so much terrain, I can’t help but think it must become a little bit wise in the process, in this repetitive, constant contact with the road. For me, I guess, tire rubber has become a metaphor for the soul’s experience in the world.
Perhaps it is significant that I started working with tires while I was living in my van in the ‘industrial wasteland’ of W. Oakland, while teaching health and urban gardening, through Americorps, in the grade school’s there. It felt like a tumultuous moment in history; the attacks of 9-11 had just rocked the foundations of the western way of being in the world, and closer to ‘home’, that year there was both a state take over of the Oakland School System, as well as a federal slap-down style take over of the traditionally grassroots-led Americorps program. Massive monoliths seemed to be shifting all around us, and my job seemed to be to protect the tiny tender worts and mosses, growing in the cracks between empires. Have you ever scraped your knee on the pavement, and had to dig the pebbles and asphalt out of your flesh? At night, after work, I would often retire to my van, and spend the night mentally picking pebbles out of my soul; images from the day swimming forward; a young African American student, beaming, seemingly unaware of the telltale yellow pollen dusting her nose. Looking back, I wonder if it was this particularly gritty contact with ‘the road’ that led me to connect with these tires.
            To give voice to, and explore some of these feelings that I project onto this material, I have taken these road worn tires to ‘the mat’, and reworked them. I have wrestled them, bent them, twisted them, tied them, turned them, burned them, chopped them, sliced them, punctured them, carved them, and gently coerced them. And finally I have reconfigured them into (among other objects) a form, which I feel finally does the tires justice, and which I personally find endlessly sublime and transfixing…
            I call this form a ‘treadknot’. It is composed of a single strand of worn tire rubber, which weaves and winds, serpent-like, endlessly over and under itself, struggling with it self, tying itself in a knot, and in this process, ultimately re-finding itself. And the result of this weaving and rejoining of ends, is that this single strand creates not only a knot, but, in so doing, also a vessel, capable of carrying another object, in the empty and still space at it’s center. (Elemental, single-celled, primordial basketry, if you will). Like the ouroboros (or snake swallowing its own tail, of ancient and classical mythology) the treadknot is a form that, in its winding, searching and struggling way, evokes, for me, the arduous, but rewarding process of self-regeneration. This is what I have brought to the tires, or perhaps, more accurately, the place where they have brought, and continue to bring me to.
  I would very much like for my tire artwork to be included as a part of Spiritual Visions. Why? Because in this work, I seek to bring forth the tires’ road worn beauty and wisdom. I believe that its inclusion in the show would honor this work, as well as the tires that are both this work’s material and its subject, its means and its end, its journey and its destination.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pilgrimage to HERMITAGE

    This last weekend, I made the trek up into Virgina, and across its soft, fair land to the coastal city of Norfolk, boarding house of lumbering giant tankers and battle ships, which berth at her shores.
    It is also the home of Hermitage Museum, a small house perched down the shore, in a glady inlet.
And this place was the reason for which I was paying my visit to that fair city.
  In my company, were three deaf mute tire sculptures. Not much for conversation on the trail, but all as well for me, as I was in the employ of the caretakers of the castle, summonded to usher these three to pay a visit, a pilgrimage of sorts.
   When I arrived at around Dusk, I was weary from the road, and eager to deposite my cargo, and find rest from the night. I had hoped to arrive in the area the night before, to roost the night in the Great Dismal Swamp to the west, but rumors of hairy black beasts lurking in those woods disposed me of that notion.
    More over, one of the pilgrims, the one with the single eye, was giving me a hard time, and I had to spend an extra day getting him ready for the journey. As it turned out, the man I used to gather the bandages from (truck tire innertubes), had taken to chopping this precious material into tiny bits, to better fit them into the waste barrel! You can imagine my horror when I discovered this, with dwindling day light leaking away behind the horizon.
    But with my mutton mitts I managed to delve into this juicy, stewy barrel, and haul out several flubbery black fishes, who flopping wet on the pavement. And from this spread, I selected a few that I hoped would do the job, and hauled these back to the workshop, to get to work while there was still any light left at all.
    When I finally got the pilgrim put back together, I had lost a whole day of travel, and so, instead of arriving the day before, to scope out the lay of the land, I arrived at the temple, just moments before the closing of the gate. Not the way i like to arrive at a temple, but I was there with my cargo in tact, and that was the important thing.
  When I passed through the gate, I was struck by both the places antiquity, and upkeep. Every thing seemed both very old, but also very tended too...Lots of old brick, trellises, vines, cast iron, the stuff of legend... I hauled my passengers to the front door which was several giant slabs of oak, bolted together by iron hinges, and gave a knock. No one answered, so I put the big fat one down, and turned the latch, and gave a gentle push...from those old iron hinges, came a wailing shriek....I tightened my grip on my passengers and stepped in.
   There, in a warm, but dimly lit hall, stood a desk, behind which stood a woman. "Can I help you?" she inquired. "Yes, I am Travis, son of Stephen and Edith, Grandson of Ted, Evelyn, Dorrit and Robert, Great Grandson of Caleb, from the toes of the Appalaichans to the South, and I am a sculptor here to drop off some pieces for the Spiritual Visions Exhbition. Is Melissa Ball around?"
"Yes, I will go and summon her" replied the woman, and dissapeared up the stairs..
   Melissa is the Programs Director, who I had been corresponding with for the past several months, in arranging the visit of my three passengers to the Gathering. In my minds eye, Mrs. Ball was a forty year old woman in a black turtle neck, with maybe a few greying hairs, and a cross around her neck (this is just what I imagined the inhabitants of this monestary like institution to look like, though her writing was begining to betray a more spritely and youthful demeanor)...
     A few moments later, down the stairs tumbled a young woman of only 21 at most, and I could only try to fathom that this was Mrs Ball, with whom I had been writing!..
    "Hi, Glad to meet you!" said Melissa. So we went upstairs to deposit my travelers, and she gave me a quick tour of the gallery space, where the artworks would be lodging/showing. They are pretty small rooms, probably the smallest that I will have shown on yet, come to think of it. But this doesn't trouble me at all, as the walls were impeccibly kept, and I think that the small space will provide a more intimate experiencing of all of our works, both individually, and also with each other.  (my bandmate, Joey Howell, recently pointed out that the small stage we just played on gave us the chance for much tighter interactions musically, as a group, and I think he is really right).
   Melissa also gave me a copy of the contract to sign. I have to say that it has been a real pleasure doing business with Melissa and the Hermitage Foundation. There is just a degree of professionalism in working with a museum that I have hither to not yet tasted. All of the paper work is already in order, everything has been thought through long ago, and schedualed well in advance. I just have the general easy sense that 'it is being taken care of'. And I can tell you that, having now tasted this fruit, I'd like more of it please! My appitite is wet for more engagements with institutions such as this fine one.
   At about this time appeared a very well dressed woman, who introduced herself as the Director of the Museum. She told me she was interested in seeing the (vanity) postcards that I had asked the Museum's permission to design, for the purpose of announcing my artworks' inclusion in the show. She also told me she'd like talk with me about an idea she'd had....So, she invited me back into a small room, which used to be the servants quarters, and she and I and Ms. Ball sat down at a large lenolium covered table, to discuss this mysterious business...
  There, around this table, she made to me a proposal for a future engagement with Hermitage Museum and Gardens, which perhaps I will discuss later, as things firm up. In the mean time, they agreed to let me take the contract for the holding of work for the Spiriual Visions Exhibition with me, allowing me to bring it back the next day or mail the next week. While I trust the Museums intensions, as a practice, I never like to sign any contract on the spot, and they were gracious in understanding this.
  Colin, the in-house Art Interpreter, was kind enough to give me directions to good camping spots along the beach, and so we all bid one another good night. I tried to persued Ms. Ball to show me around town, but alas, she had other plans. But she was kind enough to fill me in on where the action was at in town.

   So I headed out into the night, to see what I could find. First I found Doumar's Bar-B-Q and IceCream shop, a drive up and sit down diner. It was just what I needed. There, I tried to hunt up a swing dance. I figured in a port town like Norfolk, they've got to have a swing dance somewhere on a Friday night.
A young couple admitted they had heard of some around, but they didn't know where. Other than that, Zilch. Probably should have tried to pick one up on a wifi radar signal, but it was getting late, so I settled instead for a bar. My first shot was close, but upon entering the establishment, quickly realized it was not the dive I was looking for, but a swanky resteraunt bar. The hostess confided that it used to be more of a dive but had recently gone upscale, and she was then kind enough to direct me to the dive in the sky I was searching for.
   I pulled into the dark parking lot of the Taproom. As I got out of my car, I noticed a man unloading drums from his car onto a small, overloaded dolly. I said, "Sir, I know you don't know me from Adam, but I am a drummer; can I offer you hand bringing your gear in?" Some musicians are fussy about others handling their gear (probably for good reason), and others are greatful to make one less trip out to the car and back. This fellow turned out to be the latter type. "Well actually, sure, here's one you can take right here", he replied. As I took the hi hat stand, and a bag of other stands, I commiserated. "You know, I don't really mind playing for free, but when I play out, some body better pay me to lug all my junk out there and set it up, and break it down again!" at which he laughed in recognition.
  Once inside, he shook my hand in thanks, and I went to find some much longed for brew. Once I had my tasty NewCastle in hand, I took the last available table, next to two pretty salty looking fellows.
Perhaps they read my expression like a book, which probably confessed my disapointment that they were not at all the lasses that I wished they were. They glared back, probably with very similar sentiments.
    But sitting there staring at my beer long enough, I decided it was time to make some friends in a foreign land. So I asked them if they were from Norfolk. The shorter one, who I took to be Phillipino, and a dock worker, from his cap and boots, said he lived here now, but that he was originally from NY city, and that we was infact of more carribean descent.

   The taller, thinner fellow to my right, replied in a thick Gaelic accent, that he was "flom a bit faerther aest 'an 'at."  I asked him what had brought him to Norfolk. He replied that he had sailed across the Atlantic to the east coast, and then had made his way to the West Coast, and was on his way back, when "e' rlubar bloke", he said, rolling the thick rich R's, like peeling the crust off the top of clabbered milk.
   The "rlubr bloke?" Was this some nautical term I wasn't familiar with? I wondered. I thought of another Irish sailor I had met at the Marina in San Francisco. He had proudly shown me the hull of his small skiff, which was soaked in a two inch deep puddle of water. "'at's wot keepsit frm' rottin'" he'd proudly informed me. The next time I saw the poor fellow though, and I asked about his skiff, he glumly shared that it was now sitting on the bottom of the bay, (perhaps well preserved in the sea water, but sadly unavailbe for sailing and admiring by him).  So in my head, I was picturing this guy passing through the locks of the panama canal, when the rubber or tar pitching that sealed his boat started giving way, somehow landing and stranding him in Norfolk, VA. "You say the lubber broke? What's the lubber?" Land lubber?
"Noe.." he said for the 3rd and clearly the last time. Still rolling his R's, but spacing his words out very methodically, and looking me dead in the eye. "The.....RUBbar......BLOKE."
   ....."Aaaah" The Rubber. That Rubber, ah yes, I see.....  so I guess you set down you anchor then did you?" "Yes" he said, "a s'pose 'at a did."
   So he, the moored sailor Milo, and the dock worker Miguel and I shared some beers and some good stories, and I was able to make a tired sailor laugh till he sighed, and I for myself  was glad for their company. Miguel took an interest in my innertube wallet, and asked how he could get one. I whipped out one of my new business cards and gave it  to him, directing him to my site. Then Milo showing me that his belt was made out of recycled tire rubber, but reprocessed, it seemed, I had never seen anything like it!
It turned out that Milo is connected with a crafts festival they have the first week of december. Since he seemed to appreciate crafts, I gave him a card too, and asked if he was a craftsman himself. No, he replied that he was of a more pracical "functional" disposition, but that he liked working the bar at the craft fair. He also informed that Norfolk is THE best sea port in THE WORLD, for a number of very sound sounding reasons. Yes, this guy was a different sort than I, very practicly mindeed indeed.
So eventually, I bid them fair well thanked them for their company, and pushed off, back out 'to sea' to find my camp site under the crisp starry sky...
   The next day, after some more exploring downtown, I returned the contract to the Museum, and got an excellent tour of the Museum's incredible art collection, from Colin, the Museum's Interpreter, an Asian Art expert. There are some truly remarkable pieces of art in this museums collection, including incredibly detailed and imaginative carvings in Walrus and Elephant tusk by ancient Japanese artists, and even a rather startling ritual vessel dated back to neolithic China...

  I was suprised to find when I got back home a couple days later, that Milo, the beleagured sailor, had passed my info onto the organazer of the event, who invited me to apply. I replied that I was already booked for a couple crafts show in Siler City that weekend. But it turned out to be a really neat event, a Fair Trade festival'! So she said I could take a rain check for next year.
  Who knew I would be making friends in foreign lands like this? It was good to get out, and stretch my 'sea legs' a bit.

  The museum has a fascinating story which I may go into another time.
If you would like to learn about it, you can learn a little bit on the Hermitage Museum's website:


Standing in as Pick Up Artist for The Scrap Exchange

A couple weeks ago, I had the honor to be invited on board at the Scrap Exchange, to fill in for Mr. Daniel Bagnel, an old CFS grade school buddy, who has just become a Papa!
 Daniel has some big shoes to fill. Not only does he keep the laberytine ware house space upstairs in order, and the Scrap's vital arterial Collections Program going, he also performs myriad technical and artistic scraprobatics downstairs
Past projects include the Great Wall of Cinema, a VHS tape masonry installation project. He was also the mastermind for the Iron Crafter contest last winter, and the sculptor of the trophies, which I coveted so...
(We'll get back to this soon, as Daniel has invited me to join him in planning the event this year- clearly he want to remove me from the battle field, to give others a fair chance..)

  So, some big shoes to fill, but I did have a barrel of adolescent fun trying them on for size...

Daniel San trained me well.
Basically, you get to drive this big white van all over Eden, searching out the honey pots of scrap through the land. The fatty deposits, thats what were after.
Coffee bean roasters, with their hills of burlapi bean bags...
Sign shops with their files of different substrates...
Advertizing companies with barrels of boring books.

But the high light of my pick up days for the scrap had to be, with out a doubt, my visit to the panty mill.
I mean what guy wouldn't be excited to visit a mythical place, where by some miracle, panty hose materialize in the world? Its the stuff of Legend!

Well I can report, that all the legends are true. Because out in Efland, in a sea of dusty gravel, sits an island of very unremarkable cynderblock. Very misleading, considering the nature of wonders which occur in an ever steady non stop stream with in these grey blocky walls....
  For inside, is a scene that would make any boy reconsider his disavowment of santa clause.
Row upon row of half clad women stand, legs extended as minions bustle about them, pouring on the panty hose solution, which dries upon contact with their bare skin. The little dwarve people then PEEL this membrane off of their bare legs, like a snake shedding its skin. These tubes are then folded, and placed into packeages, which are sealed with a label, and set in a box by the door, ready to be shipped out to working women all over the world.
OK, so I'm full of shit. BUT, what is really inside, is NEARLY if not AS AMAZING!
Because, the dainty stockings of our working girls are in fact spun almost completely by ROBOTS!!!
I can only surmize that it wasn't really working out with the leggy women and the dwarves, maybe somebody got a little frisky, don't know the whole story, but go figure.
So yes, Today is The Day of The Panty Machine.
Rows of boxes. Above them, metalic cranes hold spindles of nylon thread on the beaks, and strands of this nearly invisible floss feeds, dissapears, into these boxes, which steadily hum. Out from behind these boxes, snakes a clear plastic tube, which arches up to end about 4 feet above a basket sitting on the floor below it.
And every once in a rare moment, you hear a ffFFT!, and out poors panty! YES, A single Unit of Panty.
Incredible. You must be very patient and quick on your feet, to catch this on film...
And there are just rows of these machines, spitting out white panty legs onto the floor, all day long.

In the next room, are even more incredible machines, that do all kinds of wierd, unspeakable things to Panties. I promised the owners I would not photograph this part, as it is just too gruesome and perverse to mention,

But...Robots and Panty Hose... the stuff of Isaac Asimov's childhood dreams, no doubt.

Another pick up I did for the Scrap Exchange I will never forget. And that was the closing of Summer Hill Galleries.
It was mayhem; a free for all. Must elaborate later.
In retrospect, I realize that the harsh feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, or your heart, is about witnessing the death of a giant. SummerHill Gallery was THE Gallery in this area. And to see it go down like that leaves you gasping for air a little bit. It leaves a crater the size of the grand canyon.

As I begin to understand what that experience was, I am reminded of a few other similar experiences of death, and horror. I am reminded of a time that I helped a junk yard owner cannibalize a giant rigging semi that had flipped over, and been totalled. Peeling it's cab's scalp forward over its empty eyes, to sever the cords and antifreeze-spewing-hoses, at the base of its cranium, I had felt like an ant, devouring a mighty grass hopper.
     I also thought of my experience with Americorps, teaching in the Oakland Public School System, when there was a State Takeover, and massive firings and layoffs, the blade of Machiavelian politics swinging viscously into play.

And I think of the other people I saw there, Dan Ellison in particular, and I think wow, we are survivors.
This must be something like living through war, watching carnage all around you.

There I saw staff member John DuFort, a sculptor who I had shown with at Scrapel Hill, and who worked at the Gallery and Frame shop for years. He confided that it was odd and difficult to watch the immaculate frame shop, which he had labored to maintain in top notch order for so long, now being torn to shreds (by the likes of me). I am glad that the owners were not there to watch this carnage, as it surely would have been to much to bear.

So it was a little sad, to make this run. But I am very glad that they called us. From the death  of this state of the art frame shop, I managed to harvest, scavenge (like a buzzard), haul off an incridible collection of exotic mat boards, some metailic, some fabric laden. It was very generous of Roy Lee to share these with us.
  I do hope that these materials find appreciative hands in eyes in the ones who find them at the Scrap Exchange.

Yes, working at the Scrap Exchange the last couple weeks was like diving into an underwater cave, encrusted with riches, and populated by mermaids. What I would do, to go back to that place to spend eternity...