As far back as I can remember, I’ve been creatively inspired to make things out of scraps. When I work on hand-stitched fabric projects, I often have several going at one time which means I switch thread colors often. Although there are many needles in my sewing tool stash, I have two or three that are my consistent favorites. Re-threading needles is easy for me since I do it constantly, but it’s a task that still takes time and care and I don’t enjoy doing it more often than necessary. Once I have a needle threaded, I want to use the color all up until the thread is too short to be of any use, even to me!
If I don’t have a project in progress at hand that can use odds and ends of threads, I will often sew semi-random scraps of fabric to scrap pieces of backing fabric to run off the extra thread so that I can quickly switch back to sewing with one of my favorite needles. Over time, I periodically accumulate enough of this new “textile” to make something else with it. Since these types of scrap textiles have a lot of raw edges in them, I won’t use them in something that gets a lot of wear or has to be washed because they would not survive for long. Even with that restriction, I have found good uses for the scrap textiles. Here are some examples!
What will my rainbow piece turn into? I’m not sure, but I have some crazy images in my head involving that piece and some pale yellow, lime green, and electric blue tulle. What will happen?
In 2013 I wrote an article for the first issue of a personal e-newsletter I used to publish. The newsletter was called Carolyn’s Creative Connections. Other than a typo or two that I fixed, I didn’t change anything since I originally wrote it.
“Creativity, Eco-Chic and the New Frugality
As a retailer and business person, it’s not really in my best interests to discuss hard economic times. One would think I’d be more likely to try to persuade you that employment is going to go up and taxes are going to go down and prosperity is just around the corner so you’ll spend money on what I’m selling. I wish I really believed that, it would make the future seem a lot brighter and the daily tasks I need to perform in order to try to grow my business and that of my employer would weigh on me a lot more lightly. The human capacity for creativity has a way of working around obstacles put in our way. I don’t know if there has ever been a more important time to nurture creativity in our society and apply it to issues that we have to deal with.
DIY culture has always been popular in certain segments of society – hippies in the 1960s, punkers in the late 70s and early 80s, zinesters in the grunge era. DIY culture might have to become more mainstream for survival reasons. I hope I’m wrong but all indications point to survival rising by necessity to the top of more and more peoples’ priority lists.
So I find myself as a purveyor of goods and services in 2013 in the paradoxical position of urging people to be more careful with their resources and to consume less! In my opinion the key is not to stop consuming entirely because you can’t do that and remain alive, but to consume more intelligently – and to consume in ways that make you stronger and better able to face the challenges we will have in the future. My personal experience has taught me doing something proactive to alleviate whatever events or conditions that you fear makes you feel stronger and more capable. There are some things in life we can’t control but in some cases I believe people have been brainwashed into believing they are more helpless than they are.
According to Thomas Jefferson, “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.”
If you find yourself unhappily in the position of having no choice but to be frugal, creativity can make your situation a lot more palatable. Loss of income is associated with a loss of status in our culture, but frugal practices are often beneficial for the environment so you can disguise your frugality by being eco-chic, an attitude made fashionable by entertainment elites. In a culture where the appearance of something is as good as the real thing, the celebrities only have to appear to be eco-chic but in your own life being more environmentally aware has real benefits for you. Take control and use eco-friendly practices to gain more autonomy in your life.
Here are a few examples and suggestions:
Frugal and Survival benefits:
High quality nutritious food and herbs filled with vitamins and free of poisons is added to your diet and improves your health.
Improving and caring for your soil helps make up for the choice farmland we’re losing to urban sprawl developments.
Knowledge of how to grow food is preserved to pass on to future generations.
If you open pollinate and seed save, the genetic diversity of seeds may save our lives if something affects monoculture crops.
Good soil and reduced use of chemicals contributes to a healthy life-sustaining water supply.
Physical activity – a stronger body is less prone to injuries in riots, natural disasters, etc.
At least there is a chance of some kind of food supply being available if roads are impassable, there are fuel shortages or there is civil unrest.
Plants reduce erosion and preserve soil.
Plants reduce urban heat sink effect and reduce air conditioning bills.
Contact with nature beneficial for mental health.
Less chance of food contamination and tampering.
Healthful foods more available in areas where there are no grocery stores such as depressed urban areas.
More diverse stock of plants adapted to your specific climate or microclimate conditions will be developed.
Plant stock and seeds can be used as barter if there is currency trouble and food shortages.
Helps sustain wildlife (if you garden organically you will be sharing at least a little of your harvest!).
Not going to the store as much reduces packaging materials and transport fuel consumption.
Less dependent on food produced from genetically modified seeds.
Children who observe you gardening learn about where food comes from and the importance of healthy soil, air and water.
Plants absorb CO2 in photosynthesis if global warming is something you worry about.
Composting reduces waste going to landfills.
Raising a serious amount of food, especially organically, is not an easy task. I myself am in no position to have a self-sustaining garden for all my food needs – I’m not even allowed to grow vegetables in the ground where I live (I can grow them in containers on the deck but don’t have enough sun). But I’ve always believed it’s better to do somthing than nothing, so I have an herb and wildflower garden. I save a lot of money on herbal tea and fresh herbs for cooking, I’m as certain as I can be that my herbs are not contaminated with anything and I’m providing a home for lots of beneficial insects which have reduced the amount of pests in my immediate vicinity – that makes life better for humans and wildlife around me due to the reduced need for chemicals. If you have a yard or even space for a few containers on a porch or windowsill, you can make a difference. Aquaponics and hydroponics are also possible indoors if you can manage the lighting requirements.
Making crafts from repurposed items
Frugal and Survival benefits:
Creative outlet improves mental health.
Gives resources that would otherwise be wasted an economic value.
Better lifestyle for less money.
Cottage industries help provide income for people who have lost their jobs.
Improves hand skills.
Keeps resources out of landfills.
Reduces the need for new goods which these days are often poorly made in countries with environmental laws a lot less stringent than ours (if they have any).
Shows off your committment to recycling and being “green”.
Fewer trips to the store mean less fuel consumed for transport.
Natural products very fashionable.
Refill your own containers and reduce the need for packaging.
Fewer harmful substances go down the drain and end up in water supply.
I used to work at a large retail store and was appalled at what constitutes a celebration of the birth of Jesus in today’s society – waiting in long lines to buy cheap junk made in other countries employing slave labor. Borrowing money to pay for things beyone one’s means – believe it or not after all we’ve learned about the consequences of too much debt you can still hear ads on the radio at Christmastime encouraging people to mortgage their home to buy Christmas gifts. Trampling people to buy cheap junk (yes someone was trampled at the store where I worked but not injured fortunately). Extra security guards on duty – what does that say about the Christmas spirit?
Frugal and Survival benefits:
Creative outlet improves mental health.
Avoid stress of crowded roads and crowded stores.
Avoid disease from being in crowds (yes there will be more diseases rampant as our society deteriorates, for example the current TB outbreak in California).
Improves hand skills.
Fewer trips to the store mean less resources used on packing and less fuel consumed for transport.
Teaches the value of homemade things.
Emphasizes the Eco-chic values that Jesus taught – keeping in mind the welfare of others, not placing too much value on material things, the value of humble and honest labor, the meaning of a gift being the love and caring that went into it and not the monetary value, etc. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, I’m sure you can think of eco-chic ways to enhance your religious and cultural activities.
Cooking meals at home (Some of my favorite recipes)
Frugal and Survival benefits:
Creative outlet improves mental health
Can choose more healthy ingredients
Catch fewer diseases from food preparers, salad bars, buffets, etc.
Families that eat together have healthier relationships
Fewer disposable containers consumed
Can make your own sustainable choices of ingredients
Those headlines sound alarming. No one can predict the future, but if you are concerned and as a result are inspired to grow more food or in some other way become more self-sufficient, here is good news. There is no down side to growing food even if the predicted food shortages don’t happen. You’ll be better off either way, and healthier as a result of the activity. So if you have any interest in growing food or gardening at all, when has there ever been a better time?
If you would like to read all the issues of my old e-newsletter Carolyn’s Creative Connections and it’s predecessor the Carolyn Hasenfratz Design Newsletter, here is a link:
I’m also adding to that page the newsletters of my former employer Webinar Resources that I designed and wrote some of the articles for. Some of the graphics will be missing at first until I can do some fixing. I’m mostly doing this for my own reference since I’m currently dusting off some of my old social media marketing skills and seeing what is still relevant and what has changed. It helps me study marketing techniques.
Today is a good day to put away some of the partly finished projects I have lying around. It’s been almost three months since I broke my foot and toes and bruised up or sprained my shin area so bad it’s still somewhat swollen. I no longer have to sit for long periods of time with my foot elevated every day – it’s healing more and more. And it’s not a big chore to get up and down the stairs any more.
During the last three months I needed to have lots of projects within arms reach so I’d have something creative to work on to pass the time. I have more unfinished projects around than usual because sometimes I’d reach a stopping point where I would have to get up a lot, and instead of getting up I’d temporarily stop that project and start another one.
I do normally like to have projects around in various states of completion, because when I have a certain amount of time available for a work session I’m more productive if I can pick a task that fits the amount of time I have available. But they can’t all be out at one time. Some of it is going to be put away for awhile. To make the task more fun and to help me remember later what I was going to do, today I’m documenting each project before I put it away. I’ll keep adding pics to this page as I work. Enjoy!
WHAT: If you have ordered something from my Etsy store recently, or if you get a Christmas card from me, you will find inside one or both of the following invitations for #12daysoftomsbeard.
These tags are intended for drawing on or decorating, then sending back to me, so that I can hang them on Tom’s beard each day from December 25 to January 6. During that time I will take a crazy picture of the results to put on social media for people to find when they search for the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. Last year Tom and I experimented with different lighting effects, backgrounds and filters to come up with something unusual each day. Last year I tried to group the beard art items, background and filters by color because bright colors usually go far toward cheering and inspiring me.
Here are some examples of tags I decorated last year, a couple that people sent in to me, and a few images that resulted.
WHY: We mostly like to do this because it’s a lot of fun, and it makes us laugh! You should have seen my MIL’s reaction when she saw the orange picture of Tom! “What have you done to my son!!!” We could do this without any participation from others, but we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to join in. It’s an extra creative challenge to use something someone else sent in, and it’s a way to connect with people who are sometimes separated by distance or who I don’t even know in “real life”.
Why do people paint rocks and leave them for others to find? Why do Jeep owners put rubber ducks on random other Jeeps? Why did I put a banana peel on my head earlier this year and have my picture taken with it on? Why did people in Toronto make a memorial display for a dead raccoon and share it on social media? Group activities and performance art projects are a satisfying activity for some reason, for quite a few people. I will probably write more later about the psychological reasons why that is the case.
Earlier this year I started a SWOT analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard to try to use some of what I learned in marketing class to try to increase participation this year. I didn’t finish the analysis yet, but I will keep adding onto it in the future as I finish sections. Here it is if you want to read what I have written so far – SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard.
HOW – One idea I want to try for increasing participation is to provide some more specific instructions. The wording on the invitations reads: “To play, color, glue, punch, stamp or otherwise decorate this tag.” For some people, that will be enough guidance, others might feel comfortable with something more specific.
I am going to suggest techniques to try, and post examples here on this page. Watch this space as I add them! Since I like to use mixed media a lot, it will be a challenge for me to use just one technique at a time, so maybe I’ll try that. Enjoy!
?????????? – What other techniques could be used?
Here is a link to a slideshow of images from the web page of IUOMA – The International Union of Mail Artists. I’ve been uploading the beard pictures to this gallery as I go. Intermixed are images that other people are uploading of conceptual art that they are both sending and receiving. This slide show changes daily as new images get added and older ones drop off. It might give you some ideas! Sometimes I put this slideshow on the screen while I’m working for extra inspiration!
…it’s from St. Nicholas Day! The stocking in this picture is from the 1970s. My Mom made a pair of these one year to put St. Nicholas Day treats in for my brother and I when we were kids. If my memory is correct, we each had a bag of white chocolate covered pretzels and a bag of little plastic toys. Larry had cowboys and Indians (that’s what we called them then!), and I had dinosaurs. I loved the insanely bright colors my dinosaurs came in – loud grass green, super yellow and hot red. Propped up near the stockings was a Chipmunks Christmas album. It’s hard to describe how much fun we had with these items! We played the album to death and I know we had fun with the toys. Decades later some of them would be unearthed from the soil under potted plants that used to stand in for “the jungle” during “adventures”. For some reason that St. Nicholas Day stands out more vividly than almost any other Christmas memory.
I’ve been trying to get my act together to make some new St. Nicholas Day crafts to bring back some of these memories and make new happy memories but I didn’t get on it in time. Like last year, I looked for some Dutch shoe patterns and looked at a Christmas and Winter Crafts Pinterest board I’ve been using to collect ideas for a few years but that’s as far as I got. The meaning of St. Nicholas Day is worth knowing and contemplating.
Tom knows how special these stockings and St. Nicholas Day are for me and he had a treat ready for me in one of them this morning. So now I have a big smile on my face! Thank you Tom! I love you!
I made another item for my Woodland Animals and Accessories retail display project. There are several versions of this project floating around out there, but I got the idea for this tree from a blog called Crafting Cheerfully. The Crafting Cheerfully version is on the left and my version is on the right. I made mine with a hanging loop instead of putting it on a garland because I don’t know how many I’m going to end up making. I do want to make more though, after trying the acorn pattern next.
Here is a link to my Pinterest “Mood Board” where I’m posting finished items and inspirations.
Even though I have a great deal to be thankful for, due to recent bereavement and a frustrating injury that is still a problem I was in a pretty bad mood for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Sewing has been keeping me from feeling a lot worse. Fortunately I’ve been really excited about making craft items to hopefully be used in a retail display someday. If all the parts aren’t done for this year I’m aiming for the next. One of the things I’m learning to get better at as I work on my Master’s degree is merchandising and displays. I wrote a paper in 2020 about some ideas I want to try and this project is an attempt at realizing some of what I wrote about. The professor wanted me to write the project as if it was a company with 50 employees, so I made it pretty ambitious and one person can’t do it overnight! So while some people have asked me if I want to sell these stuffed animals I just made, for now that is not the plan. They are inspiration for a “collection” that is going to have a lot of parts. I did find a person on Etsy who is selling some of the animals from this pattern for a very reasonable price.
I’ve wanted to try the pattern shown in the image above, Simplicity 1549, for awhile so this seemed like a good time. Sometimes I like to design my own patterns but this one was so cute I could not resist! I used all upcycled or leftover fabric for my versions. I didn’t make the owl yet because I think it’s kind of out of scale and I have another owl pattern I like better that I might enlarge a bit and use later. I do have some bird patterns for adding some woodland songbirds eventually as well.
The deer and the fox are harder to sew than the raccoon and the bunny because of their small size. I did make it harder for myself with some of my fabric choices – because I was using upcycled fabric and was initially making my choices based on color and pattern and texture, I didn’t consider the fabric thickness that much and I ended up using upcycled khaki shorts and upholstery fabric for the deer which were thick enough that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to turn all the parts inside out! But somehow I did it. If I ever sew the deer again I’ll enlarge the pattern AND use thinner fabrics so it’s not so difficult.
I’m continuing with my interpretation of a woodland/lodge theme as I make more items. Here are a couple of stockings I made with a pattern that my Mom used circa the late ’70s or early ’80s.
I altered the stocking ornament to make it a bit bigger, and I changed where the top piece was placed to make them a little longer. I used a scrapbooking stencil that my friend Julie gave me a long time ago to trace the leaves out of felt for the fronts. There are going to be more of these, and they will have a hanging loop.
I remember Mom making the tree skirt from this pattern, the ornaments, and I think the wreath. I’m not sure if she made the large stockings or not. I don’t remember seeing them if so. I know Dad still has the tree skirt and ornaments. She also made a matching table runner which Dad still has.
The memories this pattern brings back are intense. It was more exciting than I can say to be a young crafter watching my Mom make all these items (and much more!). And it’s difficult to describe the bittersweet feeling of finding those fabric scraps you see there in the envelope when I was getting out the pattern pieces. There are tears falling and drying on my keyboard as I write this. Mom probably put those scraps in there so she’d know what fabric to get more of if she ran out. They were probably in there for at least 40 years. The awareness of what has happened to our family between then and now is pretty shocking, and I know we are not alone. It’s part of the human condition, and crafting and the arts are great gifts from our creator that are powerful aids in helping us cope.
Each holiday season involves both the past and the future. To turn my thoughts back to the future for now, here is a Pinterest board as I made as kind of a “mood board” for this project. If you find the theme I’m working with inspiring you might want to check it out!
In the fall, I’d rather be spending my weekends camping, hiking, or working in the garden. But because of the recent sprain/break of my foot (x-rays inconclusive), I have to keep my foot elevated most of the day and limit walking. One thing that has helped me keep calm during this frustrating time is sewing! Check out these recently completed projects.
For the triangle pillow, I combined recycled t-shirt fabric (used on the back), upcycled corduroy, a recycled jeans pocket and new flannel fabric to make a pocket pillow that my husband Tom and I gave to our great-nephew. For the pattern, I used a commercial beginner pattern and added a strip across the front to make a bigger pocket to accommodate the stuffed gnome/elf that my husband bought. The finished pillow has two functional pockets.
In the middle is a throw pillow that I made for our cat Leo. I’ve been thinking about making something like this for him since our other cat, Griffin, died in February. They were together for over 20 years and Leo seems lonely sometimes. I don’t know if it really helps him or not, but it turned out cute enough to use as a throw pillow as well. I used upcycled upholstery fabric from a chair that matched our sofa that we are replacing due to wear and other things (Leo was pretty destructive to the chair – perhaps because of frustration or loneliness or both).
I made the cat with a commercial pattern that my Mom used in the early 1980s. The pattern includes six animals and I hope to make more soon. I drew a new face for the embroidery on the cat to give it more attitude than the face design in the original pattern.
I started the felt stocking a few years ago as a sample for one of the classes I was teaching at JoAnn fabrics and crafts. If I ever teach there again, it might be a long time. So I decided to take the extra parts I made and sew this stocking up to finish it. When making my samples for teaching, I typically cut out enough parts to make several so that I could demonstrate the steps for the students during the class. If the classes were popular, I would often teach multiple sessions. When making the samples there was no way to know how many times I’d end up teaching it. The original project had more gluing and less sewing since it was for kids. I used all sewing and no glue this time since it’s unlikely I’ll teach this class again and I no longer have to stick to the project directions exactly. This sure was fun to stitch!
The stocking is now listed for sale on Etsy. Here is the link:
A SWOT Analysis is a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat Analysis. Here I am using an outline partly based on an unpublished paper I wrote for Marketing 5000 class last spring to create a SWOT analysis for the #12daysoftomsbeard project. My unpublished paper, titled “(Name of Fantasy Company) Marketing Plan” was based on an assignment and outline given to us by Webster University professor Dr. John Jinkner.
I’m going to publish a small portion at a time, because it will take some time to write. I hope you enjoy it!
I. Executive Summary
#12daysoftomsbeard is a conceptual art project engaged in by Carolyn (Me) and Tom Winkelmann as part of our annual Christmas tradition. This is a young tradition for us, having been recently practiced for only the second year in a row.
The activity was inspired by several things. I have a long history of engaging in conceptual art through Mail Art, the ‘zine scene, and various art experiments involving photography, handmade books, ephemeral art installations, Pop Art, Dadaism, and more. There are two definitions of conceptual art in an interesting article I found, “If You Don’t Understand Conceptual Art, It’s Not Your Fault”. One definition, the one I gave to my husband off the top of my head while I explained why I wanted to take pictures of him with things in his beard, is that conceptual art is a form of art where the idea is the art and the tangible object created is not considered important. The other definition in the article is that conceptual art is a set of plans or strategies (Kaplan).
Tom has been letting his beard grow more often and is frequently teased about his beard by his family. Last year I decided it would be fun to turn the teasing into humor and art so I showed up at Christmas Day celebrations with colorful paper circles and squares with a few collage elements on them and writing implements for family members to color and draw on to put in Tom’s beard to take pictures of. The idea for hanging paper or art items from a beard is not original with me, there are people who use their beards as mini art galleries and vehicles for Christmas decorations.
I invited family members, many who I know like to paint and color, to use pens and markers to add to the paper pieces, which I then clipped to Tom’s beard with mini clothespins. Then I took photos for Instagram and posted one each day for 12 days, with the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard.
Since I like to art journal as a creative development and self-care activity, when I was done taking pictures of the paper pieces in Tom’s beard the first year we did the project, the 2019-20 season, I mounted them on art journal pages, some of which I planned to exhibit in the then upcoming art show, Back To Our Roots which opened in February 2020 at the historic Arcade building in downtown St. Louis.
II. Environmental Analysis
There were several parts to the #12daysoftomsbeard project as executed in the 2020-21 holiday season. Since I was anticipating only distance Christmas activities due to the pandemic, I decided to send out tags and invite people to alter them and send them back to take picture of in Tom’s beard.
1. I made a black and white version of collages that Tom and I made together to use in our Christmas cards, then had copies printed out on white cardstock. I traced shapes from Christmas cookie cutters onto the back of the cardstock and cut out shaped tags. I made stickers for the backs of the tags that explained the project and featured a QR code so that people could easily check the results of the #12daysoftomsbeard Instagram feed with smartphones if they wanted to.
2. I put tags in most of the Christmas cards we sent out. I also included in many of cards some scrap paper pieces and examples of faux postage that Tom and I made to use in Christmas artwork, for people who might want to join in but don’t have a ready supply of art materials around. Some of the paper scraps were examples of Christmas faux postage that I’ve made on my own and with my husband so if people didn’t end up using them in the project they might want them for some other craft or just something to look at as part of a Christmas greeting. For a few of the people that we hand-delivered cards and gifts to, we punched a hole at the top of a tag, attached a loop of cord for hanging, and put one on their doorknob.
3. I made a graphic to use as a social media header that included the QR code and images from last year’s beard series to raise anticipation and awareness. I also wanted to cheer people up with some bright colors since I knew a lot of people who were feeling sadness over separation from loved ones and the loss of loved ones during the holidays. I know from personal experience that the holidays and winter are often difficult for many people even in more typical years depending on their current situation in life.
4. To help people get started sooner if they were eager, since we weren’t as early as I would have liked getting our cards mailed, I made graphic that people could download and print out that had tag templates on it, instructions and the QR code.
I posted the template graphic in social media for download, and mailed and emailed a few copies to people I thought might be particularly interested.
5. In keeping with the theme of bright rainbow colors I had started, I prepared 12 little collages made from colorful upcycled hardware store paint sample cards so that I would have something to put in Tom’s beard if no one sent me any art pieces to use. On some days I made extra items to fit the color theme of the day and also incorporated found objects if I was inspired. For example, those two guys in the right picture above were cut out from a piece of junk mail. Some of the paper pieces there were parts from older Christmas card designs.
6. When taking the pictures, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different eyeglasses on Tom and taping things to the lenses of my clear protective goggles to make crazy compositions. I installed some new photo filters on my smartphone to make the pictures even more fun and colorful before I posted them to Instagram.
7. Tom and I were feeling lonely over the holidays and thought that since we were staying home, it might be fun to have a New Year’s Eve themed #virtualartparty, an ongoing series of online meetings I started when the pandemic began, with the purpose of cheering people up who were missing out on their usual social activities.
We ended up cancelling the New Year’s Eve edition of #virtualartpary because our cat Griffin was terribly ill that day and we were sure we were going to lose her. Griffin has been with my husband for 21 years and Tom needed my support and attention so he could be with Griffin, and I thought we were going to be dealing with grief on New Year’s Eve and not in the mood for a party. But to our grateful surprise, Griffin recovered and is doing very well now. At her age we know she won’t be around that much longer, but we aren’t eager to lose her any earlier than we have to.
Edit: Griffin passed away in February 2021 and our other cat Leo passed in the summer of 2022. We didn’t get another cat but we did adopt a leopard gecko named GG in 2022.
I had been planning to talk about #12daysoftomsbeard on December 31 as part of the #virtualartparty, the timing made sense since I was taking a daily photo from December 25 through January 6. I made some sequential social media header graphics with colorful beard pictures and the hash tag #virtualartparty to help build interest. I didn’t have time to make a header graphic for each of the 12 days, but maybe next year I should.
A. The Marketing Environment
Even though #12daysoftomsbeard is not a commercial activity, we do need to market the project in order to persuade people to participate.
1. Competitive forces. Other sources of entertainment, amusement or hobby activities are the main competition for the attention and time that potential participants might allow for just understanding what our #12daysoftomsbeard project is, much less time to participate. With the amount of time that people spend in front of a screen or with a smart device in their hand, it is difficult to get anyone’s attention away from anything that isn’t corporate in origin. It concerns me that synthesized culture designed to social engineer us is replacing genuine culture and whenever I can I’m trying to re-inject actual culture back into our lives. As Dr. Jim Taylor lamented in an article for Psychology Today, the nations of the former Soviet Union, Italy, Spain, Germany, nations conquered by the NAZIs, Cuba and North Korea have experienced decades of suffering because aspects of their authentic culture were abusively removed and replaced with a synthesized totalitarian culture (Taylor, “Popular Culture: We…”). I would add China and the United States to that list also. Dr. Taylor’s article reminds us why there are so many organizations throughout the world dedicated to cultural heritage and cultural preservation – it plays a much bigger role in our well being than many realize. I quote Dr. Taylor in this excerpt:
“As individuals, a genuine popular culture instills a sense of ownership and empowerment in our society because each of us knows that we contribute to that culture. We are more likely to act in our society’s best interests because we know that those best interests are also our own. An authentic popular culture also gives us a sense of shared identity, meaning, and purpose that transcends differences in geography, race, ethnicity, religion, or politics. All of these then encourage us to lead a life in accordance with our culture’s values and norms because they are our own (Taylor, ‘Popular Culture: We…’)”
In other words, if we throw away our authentic culture for synthesized corporate culture we should not have to wonder why so many of our citizens have been programmed to serve the interests of large corporations so thoroughly that they are literally waging war on their behalf with people that they formerly were able to co-exist with. Many people trust screens far more than they trust friends, neighbors and even family members that they have known for decades. The manner in which many people experience the world is corporate-based with life beyond a screen regarded as if it is fiction. They allow corporations to tell them what the world outside is like instead of going out and finding out for themselves. People are told that their own judgement is not to be trusted and they need corporate “fact-checkers” to tell them what is ok to read or hear about. I overheard art teachers as far back as the 1980s trying to urge some of my fellow art students to use their own authentic experiences and senses of self to create art instead of just drawing corporate cartoon characters and corporate based entertainment characters and content. I know so many people, who if you removed corporate consumer culture from the topics they could talk or think about, there would be almost nothing there. Teaching art or trying to market an art activity without corporate branding attached to it is inherently very difficult. We know that children can’t distinguish advertising from entertainment, that is widely acknowledged, but I don’t know many people who admit that a lot of adults can’t either. Most people I know aren’t aware that when they are entertained they are actually being marketed to and they are not the end customer for the entertainment – the advertisers are the actual customer.
The #12daysoftomsbeard project is not completely devoid of corporate content because it includes found objects and some clothing with logos. However, by basing it on the universal human experience of personal grooming and running it from December 25 to the Feast of the Epiphany (the day we Catholics observe it, my understanding is it varies depending on tradition), I intended to bring attention to authentic human and authentic Christian culture and away from the corporate way of celebrating Christmas for just a little while, just to give Tom and I and others a break and a reason to look at each other while really seeing and interacting each other. What would my slightly weird Christmas cards look like next to other cards designed by corporations? What do people think when they see the resulting pictures? What did they think about while making an art piece to send back?
Kaplan, Isaac. “f You Don’t Understand Conceptual Art, It’s Not Your Fault.” Artsy, 2016, www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-if-you-don-t-understand-conceptual-art-it-s-not-your-fault. Accessed 22 January 2021.
Mitchell, Grant. “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) Analysis.” Dotdash, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/swot.asp. Accessed 15 January 2020.
Taylor, Dr. Jim. “Popular Culture: Too Much Time On Our Hands.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200909/popular-culture-too-much-time-our-hands. Accessed 15 December 2020.
—. “Popular Culture: We Are What We Consume.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200912/popular-culture-we-are-what-we-consume. Accessed 15 December 2020.
This year I made two Christmas card designs. This first version started out as a mixed media art journal page. I scanned it and used Photoshop to add background shapes, manipulate colors and to add details. I started it two years ago, and got it out again last year, but I just didn’t get it to where I wanted it until the third try. I added in some of the faux postage designs Tom and I made a few weeks ago and that was finally the finishing touch it needed!
As often happens, while scanning in and manipulating the faux postage designs to use as accents, I got another idea and was in the mood for some brighter colors so I made another card design. I had both cards printed and sent one design to half the Christmas card list and the other to the remainder.
Besides the digital manipulation, the art and craft media and techniques that went into this card design consist of the following: rubber stamps, hole punches, collage, stickers, design tape (washi tape), and image transfers.
The picture on the left shows how a lot of our Christmas cards went out. We each made two sheets of faux postage. Tom didn’t care about having color copies made of his or displaying them as full sheets, so I scanned his two faux postage sheets to make black and white versions for coloring. Last year we were able to invite family members to help color in and draw on paper items for Tom’s beard in person but this year we are not doing gatherings in person so we are encouraging people to mail things in for Tom’s beard. We made the black and white shaped tags to give people something to color on in case they are stuck for an idea.
For those who got a little envelope of paper bits, those are for designing and collaging with if you choose, or you can just enjoy them in different paper projects if you have any. I made a Pinterest board on which I collect ideas for things to make with scraps. Scraps and paper ephemera are endlessly inspiring to me.
Tom is a good sport and is having fun thinking of places to take the photos each day and also helping pick out filters. I downloaded a couple of new phone apps that have some crazy filters in them and I’m enjoying using them to help make an art statement.
Here are the results for Day 1. I added a hint of a grunge frame, the hashtag in text and a border in Photoshop after sharing it on a couple of social media sites first. As I get used to how the sharing process works with the new filter apps I’m trying out, this part should run more smoothly.
#12dayoftomsbeard lasts until January 6, so there is still plenty of time if you want to send something in! Some people probably don’t even have their greeting cards yet since I was a bit late getting them out due to school. I’m used to having to throw together holiday themed promotions at the last minute because often when working for a company or clients we would not have much time available to plan so we’d have to wait until client work slowed down right before Christmas to even start. It was and is frustrating to have to hurry through the planning and execution because we could have been so much more effective with more strategy and care. It was good practice for doing things fast though – I had to work fast once again this year because I’m in graduate school and there is very little time between the end of class and Christmas to work with. I don’t have much time to make gifts so a little fun activity and putting some extra work into the cards is the best I can do. I’m having fun with it – I hope other people do too!