Thursday, April 30, 2009

Liberty Bell Hawk

On the sad occasion of attending my Uncle Michael’s funeral in Philadelphia last year, I had a magical encounter with this hawk.

After visiting The Liberty Bell and while waiting for Peter in the park, this incredible hawk, The Liberty Bell Hawk, landed on a bench within 10 feet of where I stood. He posed. I spent 15 minutes sitting with this hawk and photographing him. He is beautiful, majestic, and observant.

The Liberty Bell Hawk brought a message to assure me that Uncle Mike is at peace and watching over me, protecting me just as he did when he was alive.

Since we began selling this design in our Etsy shop, many people have written about similar encounters with hawks surrounding the death of loved ones. We are so lucky to have these avian companions to help us cope with loss.

This design is dedicated to the memory of my uncle, Michael Andrew Schulcz. He is greatly missed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Good news! The one and only “Tell Your Mama" tee is featured in a threewalls exhibition in Chicago. Dispatch, organized by Shannon Stratton, is “a (small) sampling of the many DIY political T-shirts Americans have been self-producing in reaction to recent politics, and especially in support of favored candidates...”
We developed the “Tell your Mama...” design just after we started screenprinting. We’d been floating a lot of ideas for possible designs. It was before the Primary - March, I think - and still not at all clear how things were going to turn out. But, I guess, like a lot of us - so entrenched in cynicism, bleary-eyed from watching the world snatched from us - an idea was beginning to take hold. We might just hit the lotto with this one. It wasn't an Edwards tee or a Hilary tee. It was Obama.

The first Obama shirt was just a portrait. We were playing around with halftones and it had thick strips across his face, abstract, almost like a Maori tattoo. It wasn't political, it wasn't really meant to be anything but a cool design on a shirt and only ten or so were made.

Later, we refined the design and added the "Tell Your Mama" tag line. At first, it was for a laugh but then, as we saw people respond to it, it became something else: a statement, a campaign, the tiniest effort in a massive movement.

Only the wearers know what impact they had in their communities. We sold a bunch through the octopedalarts shop on Etsy, donated a part of the proceeds back to the campaign and gave shirts to the campaign office here in Santa Fe. They showed up at rallies around the US and, on election night and, at last, at the inauguration in Washington, DC.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wild Carrots: Fiction by J.L. Stennis

In addition to co-running Octopedal Arts, Jennifer is also a writer of fiction -- and holds an MFA in creative writing from New Mexico State University. Here is one of her stories, inspired by Donkey Boy and our summer in Greece:

by J.L. Stennis

If taken after sex, Wild Carrot seed prevents conception by making the uterus too slippery for the fertilized egg to implant. As she lay in bed halfway around the world on a Grecian island the American woman wondered if the seeds had the same effect on the horses munching them in the field below their house.

The horses, Alpha and Omega belonged to George Constantinos.

The heat subsided with the end of August; clouds threatened for the first time all summer. The thyme on the side of the road was scorched and the smell of rosemary that intoxicated in June and July gave over to the cool smell of the sea.

The horses, Alpha and Omega, carried George and a friend down the road to the Americans’ rented house two villages away. They’d offered the field in front of their house for grazing. George knew their landlord didn’t own the field but feigned ignorance could earn him a few free days of feed.

On the first of September the scowling, coffee slurping Athenians who plagued the island every August departed. They’d corrupted the island with their paddle ball games on the beach–thwack, plop–and Marlboro butts stubbed out in the sand and on the rocks. The island and its inhabitants sighed relief.

Alpha and Omega walked on the busy road – a car in front, a bus behind. And when told, they passed on the left or passed on the right.

The cobbled path to the Americans was less than a mile long. The universe cautioned Omega that the path was uneven, narrow, and crowded–but it wasn’t his lot in life to make decisions.

On their right, they passed a donkey who, each week, was charged with clearing a section of his field.

As Alpha started on the path behind Omega she thought about how she hated following and looking at Omega’s backside. She unfocused her eyes and thought about the donkey. He was a mature, handsome grey donkey with an arresting black stripe running the length of his strong back and splitting off down his two front legs. Today he had a great erection. One particularly tasty blade of grass, with the breeze smelling slightly of salt and the pregnant mare clopping by had caused the swelling. Alpha liked donkeys, who were less pretentious than stallions. As they rounded the corner away from the donkey, Omega stopped to relieve himself in the middle of the path.

The sticky smell of over-ripened figs hung over the Americans’ house.

Alpha took in her new situation. From here, on the edge of the village no houses polluted the land leading to the valley: the green low point, contrasting with browning hillsides, lead to the sea. In the valley meandered a small stream that housed a few poisonous snakes and an orchestra of hidden frogs. The green swath of the valley curled past a monastery, and to the sea via a pebbly beach. Alpha believed if she could run fast enough she might be able to take flight over the valley and drift down to dip her hooves in the cool sea.

Omega knew he’d been placed in the field with a job, so he ate as much as he could.

Alpha imagined how the cool sea would feel, like a piece of watermelon amongst hay. Thoughts of the donkey made her dreamy and she lay down.

Later, she awoke disoriented, but looked around to find Omega asleep: he’d eaten a quarter of the field. She rose to walk off her sleepiness and at the edge of the field, instead of turning around to lap like she normally would, she stepped onto the stone wall and down into the adjoining field. She ran alone, finally! She ran toward the valley and thought of the sea air lifting her up -- breaking down the thousand pounds that held her to the ground. She ran fast enough to scare herself.

“Maaa!” a goat bleated and she stopped so that the momentum nearly stole her feet from under her.

Even though he was on his honeymoon, the American man suffered from insomnia. On this particular morning he went outside to water the horses.

The sun wasn’t up but the sky was light and the land rolling toward the sea was dotted with shadows. Stepping outside, the American man looked toward the pasture. He peered into the shadows with his not-so-perfect eyesight and, after a moment, saw one horse in their yard and several fields away, was the mare.

Inside he mumbled something to his sleeping wife about the loose horse. Snuggled tight in the arms of Morpheus, the god of sleep, she could manage no more than, “be careful.”

The man climbed over walls of stones cleared from fields and stacked like a puzzle. He opened closed gates and trekked through crackling bramble: goatsbeard, woundwort, carline thistle, wild carrot. The sun peeked over the sea.

Roosters crowed, dogs barked, and humans stirred. Alpha stood transfixed by the horizon. The man approached, then stood with her. They looked at the sea and sky and a half dozen islands in the distance.

The man and beast walked in silence around the village. They walked by the donkey who was already up eating. The man called, “Good Morning Donkey Boy” and the donkey wagged his tail. The woman heard Alpha’s hooves clop on the walkway, and relieved her husband was okay, shook off thoughts of birth control and jumped from bed to greet him.

©2008 J.L. Stennis

Behind the Design: Donkey Boy

On Sifnos, we lived near an old donkey who ate his way across a field during the summer we were there. We waved at him every day either from the scooter or walking. Sometimes he would look up -- other times not. A few times we brought him carrots or apples. In a way he was a replacement for the pets we had left behind with friends. He became a part of our family, a part of our lives. But he was also completely new and wonderful, somewhat indifferent to our attention and busy at his task of clearing the field. I admire him. I miss him.

We called him Donkey Boy. Every now and again Peter or I will ask the other, "What do you think Donkey Boy is doing? The answer is one of three things, sleeping, eating, or staring into space. This print is taken from a photo we took of Donkey Boy -- we are so proud to be able to share our friend with the world through our design.

On the island there was also the Veggie Donkey, who delivered produce up and down the Steno in Apollonia. If he was blocking the walkway, you had no choice but to wait until his owner returned. He responded only to his owner. One day Peter tried to push him out of the way, he stomped his feet and refused to move. A dedicated donkey with a great work ethic.

We also had a few horses that lived around our house. I wrote a story, Wild Carrots, that was inspired by the animals of Sifnos and particularly Donkey Boy. Read it on the octoblog here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Behind the Design: Caper Flower

Consider if you will, the caper. Take a picture in your mind and tell me what you see. Perhaps a smallish bottle at the back of your fridge -- undisturbed since the Clinton Administration -- half-filled with a murky brine and some smallish, green-brown... things. OK maybe that's overstating it. You last had them at a restaurant. Barely noticed them there glistening hopefully atop your nicoise salad.

Well, like most things amazing, capers (or the ones you buy at the supermarket) have been ruined by mass production and consumption. Did you know that the caper is actually a flower bud that, if not harvested, explodes into a beautiful purple and white firecracker flower? We discovered them, erupting from a stone wall on Sifnos, and were as surprised as any to learn their true identity in a wildflower guide.

That's the story of our caper flower design, taken from this photo we snapped of one growing just off the path.

By the way, the mason jars of harvested, edible capers that we bought on Sifnos were amazing and seriously addictive. They're dried in the sun, soaked and ready to eat in a few months. A final story... we shared a jar with a friend who manages a snooty restaurant in Santa Fe. He was at work and immediately went table to table handing them to guests exclaiming, "Aren't these the most amazing things you've ever eaten?!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Behind the Design: Pomegranate

Our house on Sifnos had a pomegranate tree in the garden - alongside a few massive fig trees and a small grove of olives. The tree did bear pomegranates but, with days upon weeks upon months passing without rain, the fruit dried and split.

Here's something cool I learned later on:

The pomegranate is "not simply an exotic fruit, but may also have been thought to have magical powers. For even when its skin dries up completely, the fruit does not deteriorate with the passage of time, but remains juicy. This quality, combined with the countless number of seeds, and the red color of the juice, which recalls blood, has made the pomegranate a symbol of abundance, life and death, from ancient times to present day." (From Akrotiri on Thera: The excavation of a buried city by Christos Doumas).

Next, I want to do a two color print with the skin of the fruit split and the seeds spilling out. Soon.

Behind the Design: Birdies

These playful swallows first appeared on the Minoan wall painting, Spring Fresco (2000-1500 BC). They were found at the site Akrotiri on Santorini (Thira), Greece and are thought to be the first real landscape painting.

They captivated our hearts during our first trip to Greece in 2005 when we got engaged and not only did they grace our wedding invitations but Peter had a special necklace made for me with their likeness for a wedding gift.

We are so excited to share this design with others. An embodiment of our love, our fascination with Greece, and this dream of becoming our own creative bosses. Oh, and my nickname is Magic Birdie!