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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reclamation Preperations Day 3

Hermitage Blog Day 3
This morning I met with Hermitage Museum’s Director, The Programs Coordinator, and the Assistant in my new borrowed work space. It was fun to host them there, around the work table up on the stage, surrounded by a horde of half baked tire shemes.

   The Hermitage staff are all understandably a little bit at their wits edge juggling the new challenges that Hurricane Irene has thrown at them (for instance, a flame broiled fuse box, and still no power, with several on- site wedding coming up this weekend!), so at this point, they are a bit punchy and delirious. While they are actually are holding together impressively well, maybe being around weird art gave them the chance to blow off a little steam. Needless to say, it was a charged and exciting meeting!

Melanie, the Director, liked many of my ideas, which was relief. She is also a professor of Art History, so she has a good sense of art, and where my tire art fits in. She also has a good sense of humor, and appreciates my own, which goes a long ways, I think.

Particularly relieved was I that she was willing to go along with my brand new proposal (as of yesterday), to create a mini-Parlor Diorama in the large ‘display case’ as you approach the gallery. My aim is to recreate some of the ambiance in the parlor downstairs (in the museum), but incorporating rubber tires into many of the furnishings.
There was a suggestion of making a sort of portal/window into this ‘world’. While I think this could diminish its impact on approaching it, it could be interesting…

I made the mistake of showing her a sketch for one of my more ambitious proposals- She loved it…This is a proposal to recreate one of 3 ornate friezes carved into a wall panel in the downstairs area, incedentaly right in the area where they would like me to display some sculptures. When I had stopped by earlier this year, I was taken by the intensity of these designs, made a sketch of two of them, and thought to recreate one as a large (4’ x 8’) shadowbox, of rubber…

This would be new ground for me, and I am really not Sure that I could pull it off, in this time frame. To make it more complicated, and proportionally more awesome, Melanie made the brilliant suggestion to use Plexiglass instead of wood, adding a an element of luminosity, to what already is a very Gothic design….(It would be shown infront of a large window, with the sunset lit bay behind it…) This could be incredible….I suggested that we look at creating it at a later date, after the show…

Towards the end of the meeting,  Jolina, the Grounds Keeper stopped by, which was great timing. I showed her my treadknot planters, which she liked, and she ordered 4 for her plant sale, (which will take place the weekend of our opening)!

Jolina was also excited about the tire screen, or curtain, which I proposed to place in the far edge of the garden, looking out on the bay, so that you could see the bay and the sunset through it. She recommended a few cedar trees, which look like they should do the trick nicely.

A few pieces didn’t make the cut, and they perhaps deserve a requiem.
One was the “String of Pearls”. This would have been the debut of the Great Balls of Tire Series, and a glorious debut it would have been. It would have run above a run of 14  millstones, leading to an arch which overlooks the water. Above each millstone, would have dangled a different Tire Sphere.
While I mourn this loss in some ways, I am not sure that the Great Balls of Tire series is yet ready to meet the world. There were ready to be made, but their sharing with the world can wait.

Also lost on the chopping block, was a trinity of a Silk worm, a caccoon, and a butterfly, to hang below and around a beautiful old magnolia tree, that can only be described as Grand and Matriarchal. This is lamentable, because sculptor Janice Rieves had helped me to create a mock up of the caccoon, and it was really off to a great start. She even did a special ‘Tea-stain’ to the long john fabric, to give it an antique look, which was very effective. The butterfly also had the potential to be quite spectacular. Oh well, their days will come…

Though I was sad to see both of these projects go, at the same time, I really have my work cut out for me. So let this be a good lesson in cutting your losses, and moving forward to "strengthen the things that remain"….(to quote Bob Dylan).

Reclamation Preperation Day 2

Today (Day 2, Tuesday)
Yester, I got set up.
Today, I got to work.
I made a list of all possible sculptures, in preperation for meeting….
Then I met with Melissa, to talk pieces and places.
She showed me a some new spots to utilize in the museum!
One is a little cove/dislplay area, which you see as you approach the gallery
The other is in the downstairs area, at the end of a hall.
They are still interested in me showing in some of the area outside also! Which I am very glad for.

It sounds like we are mostly on the same page. There was some issues about the Reclamation theme. Melanie said just be creative, and do your thing. This is really what I needed to hear. Melissa seemed a little bit hung up on it, but I think we got it figured out.

I am very excited by their offer of both of these spaces, and have some plans for them already!

In the ‘nook’, I am going to propose that I set up a mini diorama, with an arm chair, one which I will place some ‘pillows’.

I would also like to hang a mirror, and maybe throw down a rug, and put Lola the Lampa in there. The idea is to create a lux Parlor environment.

Why? Well part of the idea is to reclaim this museum, for my generation.
Rather than think of it as stuffy, think of the craftsmanship.

After work, I went shopping on the streets of Norfolk, for a few materials.
Mainly I was looking for some door skin, for the backs of some pillow pads, and also the backing of a mirror. I also wanted to hunt up some local sources for tires.
Triumph Motorcycle shop- Bryan, got some good ones.
Custom built bike with MASSIVE beach tire “Bigger Digger”, from CA on rear.
I’d found my moto tire supplier 

Then I stopped by Cycle shop- John showed him Luther. They were getting ready for ride.

Then I decided to explore the coast. Came across pile of doors, in place that we being gutted.
Score I thought! Feeling pretty smug, Until I tried to peel away door skin, and fouind  that of all things, it was made of cardboard.

I remarked to some fellas walking by, and they were like, ‘yeah, where you been?’ I may have lived in a van for 10 years, but look what I was missing!

Eventually, I happened upon the Mount Everest, of scrap. It was actually two giant pile, where the city of Norfolk is accepting A) Tree Debris B) Home Debris in respective piles. From this pile, I harvested several pieces of REAL wooden Doorskin, plus a few odds and ends…dangerous, I know.

I also met a nice transgender person named Jesse, who was cleaning up a destroyed deck from his Grandmother’s home.  (PIC of Jesse tossing last foundation post). Jesse told me that his girlfriend has just gotten into belly dancing, and also mentioned some thing about drum circles. While I had some what absolved to curtain my social activities while I am here, in the name of keeping to task at hand, this might warrant an exception…. 
I also met there a fellow that claimed to have poured the giant cinderblock that is the newish prison in downtown Durham. He told me that they put ground up tires into concrete walls, to help absorb noise from highways. Thats kinda cool!

Dogs and Burgers
After a hard day of hauling, I began the GREAT SEARCH for of a burger…. 

I have decided that a side project is to sample the cheese burgers of Norfolk.
This began, while pitching in to pick up sticks in front of the Hermitage yesterday, when the subject of hamburgers came up, in somewhat of a ravenous revelry. As this happens to be a subject of some considerable importance to me, I had to inquire, where could one find a good burger around here. To this, Collin The Conservator, informed me in, some confidence, that there are several opitions. BUT, one that stands out from the rest, is the Burger at a place around the corner called D’Egg, which will serve you not just a hamburger, but also a fryed egg, at the same time, laying flat up on it! Well, while I didn’t venture my opininion that D’Egg has to take the prize as the All Time Stupidest thing to name a restraunt, I did acknowledge my realization that this could very well alter my life forever.
I am forever searching for debaucherous new ways to increase my cholestoral level, and this Ladies and Gents, smacks of a winner!

Dog n Burger Wins the Prize!
Great service, great burger, I’ll be back!

While eating there, it occured to me, that in this day and age, there needs to be an award for resourcefulness. Like a Pulitzer Peace Prize, but for using your noggin, and your eyeballs, to SEE what is under your nose (not always so easy to do).
Of course, the architype of this virtue is MacGyver, the ingenious hero of that TV show that the Fonz  produced in the 80's. So what I would like to propose is:

The MacGyver Award for Resourcefullness
(Post on Engagerer Blog. Also, post on Reuse Alliance group)

The guy who drank his own piss, and THEN whitled his arm off with a pocket knife gets my first ever MacGiver.

Then comes Piedmont Biofuels, who use rotting corn to make trucks run.

Mohatma Ghandi, who led his countrymen to make salt from the sea (and royally pissing off the Brittish while he was at it) would be an excellent candidate.

Reclamation Preparations Day 1

If you are an asiduouse reader of this blahg, you might recall that,  in November of 2010, when I dropped of my 3 ‘pilgrims’ at the Hermitage Museum, in Norfolk VA, for the Spiritual Visions Exhibition, Executive Director Melanie Mathews, and Public Programs Coordinator, Melissa Ball ushered me into a small, dark meeting room in the 'far reaches' of the museum, where they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…

What they had in mind was a two man-exhibition.
And what they wanted to call it was “RECLAMATION”…

There were no lead filled hoses involved.

BUT, I thought they had a pretty place there, and I had really enjoyed working with Ms. Ball, and so I decided to make a go of it of my own free will.
I knew that I was going to have a busy year; that, in many ways, I needed to turn my attention to my home fires. And that is what I have done. However, I also knew that opportunities like this do not come along everyday..not only was this a Very unique place, in the bigger picture, I also saw this as an opportunity to take a step in an interesting new direction, that I’ve been eying of late..that of visition/Artist in Residence. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to dip my toes in the surf, and get my feet a little wet.

For the Hermitage’s part, I think they are trying to reach out to a younger audience with the Museum, and perhaps I can help them with this a little. All in all, they seem like excellent partners for us both the take this brave step forward, into new territory together with.

So after due Hemming and Hawing, I agreed, we signed a contract, agreeing that I would supply/ create a body of work for they show, and they even very kindly agreed/offered my a stipend, to help with related travel expenses.

That was about 10 months ago. In that time, I have made several trips to Hermitage, to sketch, plan, ferment, boil up an exhibition.
While this was fine and good, I learned something about creating for clients far and way. They are not in your peripheral vision, and a lot of other things are!

So finally, last month, I emailed Melissa, and asked her  if there was any way that I could and set myelf in front of my subject. She agreed.

So now, about 10 months later, about 1 month before the opening,  I’ve finally managed to tear myself away from my busy Siler City life, and have brought myself here to make it happen. Thanks to Hermitage’s generous offering of a space to work, I will be living and working ‘en situ’ (that means ‘on site’, in fancy artist language) and am hoping to give myself over 100% to the task.

To work, I will use a space that once was most recently the site of a summer camp (2 weeks ago). Before that, it was a photo studio (20 years ago), and before that, it was a cow barn (60 years ago?). 

To live while I work, I have borrowed an RV from parents.
I depotised it here about a week ago, stuffed to the gills with Tire Sculpture and materials, taking the 5am grey hound back to Durham.

I spent a long weekend of fretting over images of my folks RV being washed into the bay, and battared with god knows what bludgeons. They had declared a state of emergency, and mandatory evacuation.
"Red at night, Sailors Delight"....don't know about that
But last night, I drove my car up, and found the RV, having survived the wrath of Hurricane Irene, still intact, and quite sleepable.

This morning, I awoke to an eccentric Russian gardner, surveying the damage to the trees “Oh my babies!”, who promptly put me to work sorting nursery pots and picking up fallen branches. As this grounds crew had helped me to safeguard the RV, and I would no doubt have to call on their help in the near future, to install the exhibition, I was happy to help. Hermitage is a small Musuem, with a small tight staff, and I am happy to help them get back on their feet from this blow as much as I can.

However, they have aptly reminded me that my first priority is to get in the studio, and milk those tires! (used to be a cattle barn ironically enough!).

So, today, after a grounds cleanup crew/staff meeting, a morning of work and then a Pizza lunch, I was shown to my ‘quarters’.

The space will do fine. It has a stage, with some cubbies (for Summer camp), which will do very well to hold my various tools and supplies. It also has several tables which I have rearranged to maximum benefilt. It was really to set up shop! I think that I will really be able to make the space work for me.

I have to remind myself, that for all of us, in many ways this is an excercize. For me, it is great to see before me: This is it- This is what I need to create Tire Art. This is my ‘mobile response unit’.

And response is what I am here for. To respond, and to be responded to.

Trip to Wisconsin

Trip to Wisconsin

Last week, I took a trip to the MotherLand, of Wisconsin.

The purpose of my visit was  the Steudel Art Exhibition, a show of 3 generations of artists in my Family. It began with my Grandpa, Ted Roosevelt Steudel. Ted became a painter later in life. While he was always alittle strange, eccentric and slightly artistic (drawing cartoons for his kids, and painting hand lettered signs for his community in New Holstein Wisconsion), he didn’t get into painting until late in life, when my mom, who went away to California, to study art at Haywood Community College, got him into it.
His wife, Evelyn Steudel (my Grandma), was also a bit of an artisan, creating wild rhine stone jewelry from rocks she would tumble.

Also showing their art in the show, was my mother Edie, and her two sisters, Andrea Fenner, and Pamela Pigg. My aunt Andy has really created a business for herself, first as a sign painter/ graphic artists, and now as a scenic/wildlife painter. My aunt Pammy has also found her voice, painting similar subject matter.

For my generation, I was flanked by the art of my cousins, Shannon Fenner and Katy Steudel. Shannon recently discovered her voice in Photography, and I was pleased to see that she has a great eye. And Katy, following in her mother’s Marion’s footsteps, much to my uncle Charlie’s chagrin, has persued a successful career as a graphic artist, studying at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and going on the be a graphic artist of a company which manufactures bicycle components.

It was really neat to see all of our work together. The Plymouth gallery staff did a phenomenal job putting it together on a crunched time line. I also enjoyed to process of writing about our family’s art streak, and also reading my releatives thoughts about it.

But, I tell you what, when it was done, I was glad.
I love my family, as my family.

After the dust settled, I got to enjoy their company again.
My cousin Shannon showed us good time in Madison, taking us to the Zoo (which is downtown, and connected to a park!). She also took us to the Botanical Garden, which I really enjoyed also.
Here are a few pictures of both. Lots of inspiration there!  

Energy Show @ Hotel Hadley Studios

Still playing Catch up!

Newspaper Article in N&O by Diane Daniel.

This needs a place holder. Fill in someday.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Last Supper

What will your last supper be?

I was recently posed this question, while filling out some stupid online profile.

After thinking about it for a moment, I answered (with some chagrin) that the way things are going, chances are I'll be eating a balogne sandwich...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back in Action

So, you may have noticed that I have not posted many pictures in a while.
I dropped my camera a few months ago at the Haw River Festival. I was so bedazzled by the Awesome Pillar of Beauty and Strength that is Charity Alston, that I dropped it, and it plunged 4 feet to its death on the rocks in the asphalt below, withering heights indeed, never to shoot again. Here is the last picture that camera took, see for your self, of the Siren that did it to me).

Pillar of Strength, Charity Alston, still holding strong, at the end of a long day.
Charity, we miss you, and wish you the best in your adventures to come!

So, for a while now, I have been plodding through my roller coaster of a life, grasping in vain at the moments that pass me by, a fisherman on the sea, with out a net. Sigh. I was having a hard time coming to terms with this! (and hated to imagine pages of this book, that might be blowing out in the field..)

Well, a good fairy Reptire Admirer took notice, and decided that this was not to be.
So this week, she left me directions to her secret treasure chest. And inside, what did I find but a camera! And it works like a charm.

Who is this kind benefactor? Tis none but my good friend Amy, a Muse, and a Sister.

Amy has been such a solid pillar of support, and enthusiasm, for Reptire Designs. In fact, Amy is the only person that I KNOW reads this thing at all! (which gives me very good reason to keep writing it).
So, Amy, here's to you, and here comes some more pictures for you!

For the rest of ya, the pictures that you see from here on out (hopefully, for a good long time to come), we can all thank Amy for them.

By the way, we can also thank my mom, Edie, for the pictures you have seen up to this point, as she gave me her old camera, which, as I mentioned, I have tragically just broken.

We can also thank Chana Meeks for kindly lending me her camera recently also, to capture several important studio occurances, and which I did not break! Chana has also been a wonderful and consistant source of support, - beaming face, that is always shining across the street a the Raleigh St. Gallery. And Mom, well I can't begin to say enough...

It is a very fortunate fellow indeed, who is surrounded by such good women as these.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

National Night Out

TAKING BACK THE STREETS, That what I'm talkin' bout.
Gwen Overturf Spangles A Street Pimple!

I have been taking a mini sabatical from Tire Art, this last month.
I just got done teaching a cartoon camp at the Arts Center, which was alot of fun.
And before that I did some painting of puppets and sets for PaperHand Puppet, which was also fun (and looks to be a great show, opens this weekend).
I have also been heavily involved with the Siler City NC STEP Leadership Team, whose work I might describe another time. It has really been exciting and worthwhile to work with this group of people, and we have some really important projects brewing on the horizon.
Now is a very important time, when we choose which projects to persue. It is just a really exciting time to be in Siler City, inSPITE of all of the economic problems we face. It is still a wonderful and diverse community, and in some ways, I think our struggle brings us closer together...

This certainly felt to be the case last Tuesday, when we had our National Night Out.
This is an event put on jointly by the local police force, and (downtown) by a few local nonprofits, namely the El Vinculo Hispano, Chatham County Together! and the Arts Incubator.

We had a really nice blend of a little different folks downtown that night, and I was really pleased with the ease with which all of the groups intermingled, which hasn't always happened here, historically.
Everything was peachfuzz!

My band, Zambamboogee, was going to play, but that didn't quite work out, for better or worse. So we did have some good tunes from Mano, an awesome dance performance by the El Vinculo Youth Group, Face Painting,  Street Painting, Pinata Busting, Fire Hose Showers, and contests, including a cake eating contest, which I contested in for the first time (but was not triumphant, perhaps because, as usual, I wanted to have my cake and eat it too...)
Sitting back to taste the cake.
Mmmmm, chocolaty....

I also got to sit in an do a cameo with the El Vinculo Face Painters, whom I have been working along side for several years now, and was a pleasure as always.

Its funny. Our band could have added something to this event. But, you know, we Really didn't need to!
It was a really nice event, and for me, it WAS very nice to get to 'sit back, and enjoy this cake' that is this community. Amen.

Gimme Cat Beat

So Amos, the Alley Cat, is quickly acclimating to the life of a Tire Studio Artist, how about that.

He's slowly made his way up the stairs, to the landing, which he lounges around on. He acts as if he has died, and now has his own Valhala in the sky, which in many ways he does. He is now a mountain cat, of the High Shteps of Downtown Siler City... and as far as I can tell, he loves it!

And I have been enjoying his company too. Sometimes, I'll come home, and after calling for him, I will hear a rustling coming from the giant heap of tires I keep in an old cart by the door. A few moments later emerges from this blackened hive, a sleepy headed Tire Kitten, ready to gingerly greet me, get fed some food and a little love. What more could a guy ask for?

Amos lounging in his Tire Lair...

Tonight, I decided to introduce him to the drumset, and learned something a little kinda interesting..
I had been playing, and to my suprise this ussually doesn't send him scampering off, as one would think.

In fact, while I was jamming out,  I had looked down, and there he was, at the base of my stool, hanging out.
I reached down and scooped him up, and set him on my right (kickdrum) knee. I tapped the floor tom, and even set him on it, and tapped it, and let him feel the vibes. I'll made a drummer out of this cat, I thought, after my friend Vito, who made sure that his son, little Joshua Sparrow, got a good dose of African Drums in eutero, at the ADF, good forsite from a rhythm loving father I thought.

Well, I don't know what Joshua thought, but Amos seemed pretty non-plused. More than anything, really just utterly puzzled. I moved him back on to my leg, tapped the cymbals, to snare, the high hat, all seemed to arouse suspicion in the little cat. Finally, I started playing a little beat, with a soft touch on the ride cymbal, and a soft boom-Boom on the bass drum...and no sooner had I struck that double beat "boomBOOM", the little cat instantly settled down right in on my leg, sort of flopped over on his side, and strarted purring like a lawnmower!
There we sat for a few minutes, boomBoom, boomBoom, boomBoom. I could tell he didn't want me to stop...so I just held it steady for him for a while.
I guess a cat CAN appreciate the drums. Who knew?! Reminded me of what they can do for people also.