Monday, August 29, 2011

Actors in Underwear

One of the academic panels at Renovation was "The Boundary Beneath: A Glimpse at Underwear in Speculative Literature and Film". The presenter was Dr. Sharon D. King, who showed film clips and stills of scenes showing actors in their underwear, and then lectured about what it meant.  According to my notes, actors could be portrayed in their underwear:

1. to titilate 
2. to show loss of status 
3. to show rebirth
4. to show humiliation
5. to show vulnerability

Among famous film "underwear" scenes are:

Sigourney Weaver in white cottons in Alien (1979)
Brad Majors and Janet Weiss being invited to Dr. Frank-N-Furter's laboratory in Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and
Kelly LeBrock's character Lisa in Weird Science (1985) 

I think showing actors in underwear can also represent depravity, or just emphasize the beauty of some human bodies - for example, in Lady Gaga's  Telephone *.

But what can we make of  SpongeBob SquarePants, who lives in Bikini Bottom and who says things like "I'm wearing three pairs of underwear right now."? Maybe "actors in underwear" has become a cliche?


*In which Dr. Stern has a bit part. She is not just an academic. She writes fiction and non-fiction, and she is an actress.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Traveling in Pairs - When You Have Different Interests

A "Game of Thrones" Prop
My husband and I have just returned from Worldcon 2011 - "Renovation".   We like attending Worldcons because we can be together, but we can split up to follow our own interests at times. Before we found out about science fiction conventions it was sometimes hard deciding where to go on vacation.

Because WorldCons are held in a different location every year, they give us a great excuse to travel.  Since 2002, they have been held in San Jose, Toronto, Boston, Glasgow, Anaheim, Yokohama, Denver, Montreal, Melbourne, and this year in Reno.  (We haven't been able to afford all of these).  There are alternate conventions for those who don't want to travel across the United States or out of the country.

We save money on hotels because convention staff does its best to get special Convention rates.

We like Worldcons because they are big enough that you can meet new people, but not so small you keep seeing the same faces. In a way, it is like a big family reunion - if you could choose your family.

We appreciate that local fans provide a lot of information on what to do in the area.  For example, at Renovation there was a panel on What to Do in Reno, another on Casino Gaming, and a wonderful lecture/slideshow by author Kim Stanley Robinson about his travels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fans also published a resource guide with restaurant reviews and retail locations and had an information table where someone was usually available to answer questions.

I like Worldcons because they give me a chance to see and hear some of my favorite science fiction authors.  I can ask them to sign their books while they are in an autograph session. I could even have signed up to have a drink with one of them at a Literary Tea or Beer.

I like the wide number of panel topics and activities.  I often have a hard time choosing what to attend when my husband and I are coordinating our schedules. We seldom go to the same panels - for example, I attended "What's Up With Zombies?" while he went to a panel on "The Arab Spring." I like the dances and parties and music and demonstrations and the Masquerade and the Hugo Awards Ceremonies and the dealers room and the art show and the movies and anime....

Each WorldCon will be different, of course, and programming and participants will vary from year to year depending on what the committee decides, who is available, and local regulations.

You can check out the Renovation site for more information on what happened this year, but every year is different.  If youve never been to a convention like this you can look at the Geek Calendar for something that is near you, or you might find other fans that share your interests and find out where they are going.  Most small conventions are entirely fan-run, so if you really want to get involved you can offer to be a volunteer.  Volunteering can be a lot of fun, but hard work.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Doll-Making Class

Gloria demonstrating a fine point.
Last week I was able to take a three-day doll-making class with Gloria Winer. The class was challenging, but it was worth it. Gloria has many tutorials on her website, and has produced several videos, but there is nothing like watching a master doll-maker at work. Even if I never finish the doll I will have learned a lot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 International Quilt Festival/Long Beach

During the school year I attend a weekly sewing techniques class. During summer break I decided to get my class-fix by attending the Long Beach International Quilt Festival.

This was my first visit to any of the three International Quilt Festivals.

This was also the first time I had taken any classes at a quilt show, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

Thursday July 28th - Preview Night: At 5pm people who had signed up for classes and IQA members had free admission to the exhibit space. I walked past hundreds of booths and marked the floor map so that I could return to those that particularly interested me.  Although there had been a long line waiting outside, the exhibit area was not nearly as crowded on Preview Night as it would be the next three days. I also got a start on viewing the magnificent quilts on display.

At the Make It University demo area I entered a raffle to take a $15 class on mixed media technique taught by Liz Kettle. We made "Silk in the Meadow" - a fiber necklace using image transfer on cloth, strips of torn silk, silk cocoons, embroidery thread, and assorted beads. Later, at 8:15 Pokey Bolton gave away dozens of prizes from Cloth Paper Scissors and I won a DVD!

Long Beach Arena. Not the Aquarium
Friday, July 29th - Friday morning I walked around the Long Beach Arena, where 12,000 Jehovah's Witnesses were having part of their convention. Just about everyone of the men and little boys was wearing suits and the women and little girls were dressed up.  Most wore "Venga tu Reino" (Let God's Kingdom Come) badges. They all seemed to be having a good time.

Friday afternoon I took a class by Marlene Glickman called "Stencil Sensations Sampler"
It was only three hours and I wish it had been longer. It was not just about stencils. She showed us how to use her silk dyes and make our own stencils, and I had a lot of fun. Can't wait to try it at home.

Playing with stencils, stamps, and dyes.

Saturday, July 29th: I took an all-day class with Gyleen Fitzgerald called "Got Fabric? Let's Use Your Stash".  My mistake here was not reading the description of the class carefully enough.  I just saw the statement "you can't go wrong" in the class catalogue and thought it would be more Gwen Marstony. This class turned out to be on how to make Gyleen's new patented "butterfly seam".  Measurement was very important. I was dismayed when she looked at what I had been working on for over half an hour and said "Your pieces are off by at least 1/4" " A hush spread over the room and I kept waiting to hear the sirens of the accuracy police.  I spent the next half an hour un-sewing, re-cutting, and re-sewing.  I guess it won't hurt me to learn to measure. The teacher made sure that everyone got attention. Bernina supplied the sewing machines and had two technicians there to help us, which was great. I should add that Gyleen is an engineer, and also a poet. Anyway, here is a butterfly seam.

Easy if you measure correctly!
Saturday Night Sampler:  A ballroom with 25 teachers stationed at numbered tables. As we waited in line they gave us a large stapled handout which included a page about each booth. The cover listed the instructors, their topics, and the table number.  With only two hours there was no way you could visit everyone, but I was able to visit

Barbara Confer, Fabric Painting With Soy Wax Resist
Jerry Ferguson, Watercolor Effects on Silk (my favorite booth - great hands-on experience) 
Stacy Michell, Riding the Rails
Andy Perejda and Jeanne Surber, Creative Screen Printing
Mary Tabar, Stencil Surprises
Deborah Weir, Laminating Paper to Fabric
Claudia Dallas Gomez, Fantastic Fabrics through Tray Dying (hope she will get a website)

This was a good opportunity to get a little taste of a lot of things, but after a while the room got quite noisy. 

Sunday, July 31st: Sunday Shuffle.  This time the attendees were split into five tracks and each smaller group spent a half hour with each teacher. Each teacher also gave us a small kit to finish later.

Cathy Van Bruggen: Applique the Easy Way - Needle-turn applique
Marlene Glickman - Knot Hard to Dye - I had had this teacher on Friday, but she showed two different techniques for dying silk scarfs
Esterita Austin - Sheer Illusions 
Darlene C. Christopherson - Hand Cutwork Applique - a different technique 
Dawn Farrier - New Sew Patchwork Ornament. A delightful young lady being assisted by her mom.
I added the braid to cover the seams. Don't know what I'll cover the braid with.

My track had only a half-dozen people.  I think the low attendance for Sunday Shuffle was because a lot of people already know some of the techniques being offered.

Last look:

A last look at the quilts, photos and haiku on display.  Spent my last $3 a buying buttons I hadn't been able to find anywhere else, then home.

All in all, a good experience.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Life is like being on a very slow time machine...

and reverse doesn't work.

Calendar pages fluttering off, one by one;  a mannequin in a store window zipping through a succession of costumes: typical views from a time machine.

In reality the only way you can go backwards is through memory.  Arriving at a "certain age" you look back and are surprised how far you've come, how much has changed.

Some of us oldtimers will hold you with a glittering eye and tell you things like "I can remember the first television set in our neighborhood. It was two inches across, and the picture was only black and white.".

When I look back and compare the quilts of my childhood to the quilts I see now I start to wonder "When did everything change?" This is what I found. (I had to look some things up.)

How Technology Changed Quilting: 

The first quilts I knew were handmade.  They might be pieced, appliqued, or embroidered. The fabric was cut with scissors, and usually hand-quilted.   Most quilt patterns were usually a combination of simple shapes, and were copied and acquired new names and variations as they were passed along. They were made to be placed on beds, not hung on the wall.

As I got older new techniques and new tools made quilt making easier. Sewing machines got more complicated.  In the 70's Eleanor Burns started showing us shortcuts so that we could make a quilt in a day.

Then in 1979 Mr. Yoshio Okada of Olfa invented the rotary cutter.  This marvelous invention allowed you to cut through multiple layers of fabric with less effort and more accuracy.

Die-cutting had been around for a long time, but around 1997 Stephen W. Nabity introduced the popular AccuQuilter for home use. This is a roller cutting machine with interchangeable dies which allows you to cut accurate and uniform fabric shapes.

Some sewing machines have automated a lot of hand processes and 'quilter's models' have specialized feet that can give you an accurate 1/4" seam,  machine quilt smaller quilts, or let you "stitch in the ditch". You can buy long-arm machines to machine quilt large quilts, and there are tabletop machines to do machine embroidery. You can even buy computer programs that will let you design and preview a virtual quilt.

What Changed in Our Idea of What A Quilt Is

While the technology for making traditional quilts evolved, so to did the technology for altering fabric in other ways. About forty years ago "art quilts" began to show up. These were quilts that did not fit the usual definition of "quilt" - i.e. "A traditional covering for a bed made of a layer of batting sandwiched between two pieces of cloth fabric and fastened with thread." "Art quilts" were being made of practically any kind of material and few of them were functional as bed coverings.  A lot of them were not even 'pretty'.

Some traditional quilters were not amused. In a documentary called Stitched one of them is interviewed about Randall Cook's quilt "I Remain". She protests "You can't wrap up a baby in that quilt."

These days art quilts are becoming more accepted.  At the recent Long Beach International Quilt Show they offered seventeen classes categorized as "Art Quilt" classes, and many of the quilts on display were non-traditional and incorporated things like photos on fabric, paint, and dyes that would not have been accepted twenty years ago.

An excellent overview and discussion of "art quilts" has been done by Jane Dunnewold at her blog Existential Neighborhood.

I can't wait to see what happens next.