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

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Story Of Craft

            In the course of a long and sordid one-last-night-in-Dublin, I chanced upon a used bookstore in a storefront basement, and there I gleaned a few really choice books to tide me through the next 16 hours of ‘airport living’ (which I was right burnt out on, and happy to escape, by any such means I could find, at that late point in my adventure).

           One little gem that I picked up there was a medium sized hardcover book entitled “The Story Of Craft (The Craftsman’s Role In Society)”, by “the well known poet and art critic” Edward Lucie-Smith.

            Well, I’ve never heard of old Edward either, but I tell you what, the guy really knows his stuff! This book turned out to be every bit as fascinating as I’d hoped, and to my surprise, even more relevant!

            Lucie begins with an ambitious and far reaching survey of crafts people and traditions in different cultures around the world, through out human history. While I am a little bit wary of such sweeping generalization, which he conducts in a typically blaze and confident Brittish manner, he draws some interesting conclusions from this survey…

            I have to admit, I was a little bit surprised and disturbed by his first observation (though Lucie-Smith would not be in the least disturbed or surprised that I was disturbed and surprised, as you shall see…)
And that observation is that craftsmen have been, as a rule, feared and despised in most cultures and societies through out history! An example of this would be the black smith in African cultures, who was seen to have magical powers. In other (mostly agrarian) cultures, to toil with one’s hands was looked down upon.

            This observation sets the groundwork for Lucie’s over-arching point, which he rails on through out the book, namely to debunk the romantic myths and ideals of the craftsman that the Arts and Crafts movements held, and hold so dear. A little bit cynical and even mean spirited, but none the less, a point well worth examining!

            The most interesting point that Lucie draws from in his sweeping survey of all the major cultures of human history, is to identify Japanese culture as perhaps the one culture that stands out as valuing craft, more than any other.  And it here, to Japanese culture, that Lucie deftly traces back the roots of our modern ideal of the craftsman.

            However, even while doing so, he aptly points out that Asian craftspeople were quick to cater their crafts to the tastes of European buyers, even then. The irony that this was as true then as it is now lends some credence to the greater guist of Lucie’s argument.

            And this brings us to Lucie’s larger point, and this is really the guist of his argument. Lucie argues mainly to dubunk the myth that industry and crafts are at odds (an contention which he shows has arisen repeatedly, and in his mind, tiresomely, over he past several hundred years)
            His point, and he argues it pretty convincingly, is that industry has always been a part and parcel of craft. Craft has always been about the work of mass producing items for daily use, and also of finding easier ways to do these tasks!.. 

            He sites the (dis)assembly line schemes in Cleveland slaughterhouses as the origin of mechanization. I don’t know if I would go that far, but interesting analogy.

He ends off with the field of industrial design.

On the whole, true to its subtitle, this is a really fascinating look at the place of crafts production in human society. And I think this book bears a whole lot of relevance to our modern times (the book was published in 1981).

Which leads me to wonder, what are the implications of this book 30 years after it was published, to the second decade of the 21st century?

 In an age of increased globalization? Where the Chinese have progressed from creating netsuke to cater to European tastes, to manufacturing any cheap thing the outer world might ask for, to creating laptop screens, and finally, even mass producing fake Amish quilts!..

Where have we gone since Lucie published this book?
Was he right?

 And what are the implication of this progression for Reptire Designs?