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Harlan Ellison is 75 years old today.  You may not know his name, but you have probably seen something on television or the movie screen that he had a hand in creating.  Google him and be amazed!

I was introduced to his work at a convenience store in Winnipeg, circa 1978.  I was about 14 years old, and a voracious reader.  I bought this book because I was in the mood for something new to read, and the spine was labelled “science fiction”:

clearpulpcover

This was the first time I understood the value of a handmade book cover.  Pulp fiction-style artwork aside, the short stories inside were appealing, and I went on to read as many of his books as I could get my hands on.  He also wrote a great deal of nonfiction, including critical essays about TV shows and movies.  His work had quite an influence on me.  I was raised in a dysfunctional environment, and the moral philosophy that was the undercurrent in Ellison’s writing gave me inspiration that was otherwise absent from my life.

Tomorrow is my 45th birthday, and I’ve been thinking about the people who have inspired me and made my life better than my 14-year-old self could have imagined.  Harlan Ellison is one of those people.  There are three others who deserve my thanks, and I’ll talk about them over the next couple of days.  I had thought of honouring them in the order that they came into my life, but Ellison gets to jump the queue because it’s his birthday…he was number two.  Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the first person who saved my life (literally).

I was browsing some of my favourite blogs today, and came across an opinion piece that made me think.  It was a review of a documentary about the indie craft (or DIY) movement.  I wasn’t so much interested in the review, but the blogger expressed something, somewhat apologetically, that is definitely food for thought.  She wondered why  so much indie craft looks like crap.

Of course, if you look at some of the best of DIY (craftzine.com’s blog shows plenty) you know that there’s some beautiful and inspiring crafting going on out there.  Besides, a big part of the indie/DIY movement revolves around being ecologically responsible–creatively repurposing items to keep trash out of landfills and buy fewer new things.  Maybe these crafts need to be appreciated on those terms, instead of merely on esthetic effect and quality of workmanship.

It occurs to me that it was almost exactly 100 years ago that much of North America was experiencing a revival of the Craftsman style/philosophy popularized by William Morris in the late 1800s.  His motto was that people should “have nothing in (their) houses that is not beautiful or useful”. 

In the early 1900s, you could build your own house from a kit.  They were sold by Sears, among others.  Making your own furniture and embroidering your own household linens was seen as a way for the middle class to have beauty and art in their homes without having to have a large income.  Marie Webster designed beautiful quilts and sold kits to make them. 

I wish I had been around in 1912 or so, in Gustav Stickley’s heyday, to find out whether the traditional artisans of the time thought that Craftsman style was crap.  And I would love to be around in 100 years from now to see what we think of indie craft, in retrospect.

Poor neglected blog.  I’ve been busy with unbloggable projects lately, and there’s not much to show on the knitting front.  I have started the second sock from the Rockin’ Sock Club, and hope to have a completed pair to show next week.  I think I’ve managed a whole 3 rows of Clapotis.
But there’s always a little time to surf, and I saw a link to a fun quiz on Karen’s blog, so I took a minute to answer the questions.  My word:

Your Word is “Peace”


You see life as precious, and you wish everyone was safe, happy, and taken care of.Social justice, human rights, and peace for all nations are all important to you.While you can’t stop war, you try to be as calm and compassionate as possible in your everyday life.You promote harmony and cooperation. You’re always willing to meet someone a little more than halfway.  

Something wonderful is happening at Blue Moon Fiber Arts.  You should check out the sock club blog to see how Tina sticks up for her customers.  Every sock club member who wasn’t happy with their yarn received an immediate replacement, no questions asked (my skein was fine).  And she’s reading the Riot Act to the mill where she gets her base yarn.  In the long run, I believe this kind of customer support pays off.  Sure, she’s spending a lot of money to replace that yarn, but those club members will remember and keep shopping with her.

Apparently, consumers in the US have sharply curtailed their spending in January (this according to a radio news show this morning).  People who sell hobby supplies are going to be selling less, and to fewer customers.  Vendors like Tina will win, I think.

Late last year, I purchased a quilt Block of the Month program from an online fabric shop, which will remain nameless.  When I contacted them this week, politely suggesting that my package might have been lost in the mail, I received a very curt reply.  In short, because they can’t make a lost package claim with USPS for 30 days after shipping, they’re not interested in hearing from me for another week.  I paid them a month ago, and I’ve been a good customer for more than a year, but that apparently counts for nothing.  So, guess where I won’t spend my money next time I want some fabric?

Just a quick note to point to the new issue of CQMagOnline.  If you’re a crazy quilter, this freebie is absolutely full of inspiration and you shouldn’t miss it.  Some of the best-known quilt artists contribute to it, including Pat Winter and Barbara Blankenship.  I am constantly amazed at how many people are willing to share their art and techniques without any monetary compensation.  My gratitude goes out to them and to the people behind the scenes putting this online publication together.  Many thanks!

Thanks to a little tendonitis flare, there’s not much to show on the knitting/quilting front this week, short of posting yet another picture of the Fleece Artist sock in progress (the heel is turned!)

Browsing the blogs this morning, I came across a photo of the perfect, food-stylist ideal fried egg, and it reminded me of something I saw on a cooking show years ago.  The host was in Jamaica, I think, and sampling the local cuisine.  The program also explored some of the local culture, and this show featured a surrealist painter whose subject was fried eggs.  There was one painting of a woman hanging laundry on a line.  The “laundry” was fried eggs.  There was another painting of a rainy scene.  It was raining fried eggs.  Little, perfect, yellow-yolk-in-the-middle fried eggs.  I wish I could remember the artist’s name, because I am dying to recreate one of these scenes in fabric, and I want to give proper credit.  Crazy?  I guess I had better not admit that it wouldn’t be the first time I made a quilt with a fried egg on it.  And bacon. 

While searching for fried egg art on Yahoo!, I found this:

Henk Hofstra’s sculptural breakfast, in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.  See more photos here.

Sunny side up!

That’s right.  The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry County manager of library services has banned arts and crafts groups, including a childrens’ knitting club, from using library facilities.  Why?  They want the library to be more “literacy focused”.  Personally, I thought they pretty much had that covered already, what with filling the place with reading material and all.

Clearly, though, I am out of touch with contemporary library management theory.  I must be, because the library manager’s plan to host video game nights doesn’t strike me as being a brilliant literacy-promotion strategy.  I guess I haven’t been reading enough.

The CBC reports on the story here.

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