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

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: