There is a bit of a thing among Berlin drawing folk, urban sketchers and life drawing people and so on, of “Unterweg” drawings.They’re the drawings you make on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus or tram, as you’re underway.
I find that I’m using these opportunities to draw regular people going about their day as a place to practise techniques. I can drop on a half-finished drawing and decide to add dark values, or detail, or a second person, in the most relaxed and experimental way.
You get as far as you get with an unterweg, then the person you’re drawing gets off the train, or you do, or they notice you drawing and you have to stop. Often children gather to watch, and adults murmur, “Schon!”
It’s a wonderful way to pass the time, and try new things.
Between Halloween and the Orange Catastrophe, I never posted most of the things I made in October.
And of course I’ve been making more in November, because handwork is my safe place.
I worked on the beaded crazy quilt mantel scarf for quite a while after Halloween, once I finally got my sewing machine working here.
You need a step-up step-down transformer to operate a US sewing machine in Germany.
However my machine is a computerized one with great automatic thread tensioning and I was terrified that the sheer power of European wall current would fry it. Finally I nerved myself up, plugged in the transformer and it was fine. The transformer gives off a bit of a chemical smell as it heats up, but that kind of thing never bothers me.
I’m still a raging helpless amateur on the sewing machine, anything I sew looks like wombat knitting.
Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time around extraordinary couture seamtresses and costumiéres, and I know I’ll never be even a regular competent sewer. But I don’t care. Using the machine makes me feel powerful and capable and it’s just so magic and fun.
My plan is to take the mantel scarf out before Halloween every year and add more beading, embroidery and quilting.
This hat is one of my “Uplift” projects. I found it in a 75% off bin at Michaels the fall before we left, coming apart, and threw it in the “Halloween Crafts on Arrival” box for the shipping container.
I love to carefully glue crappy things, and fix their carelessly made bits, and then add hours of careful crystal decoration and a vintage jet bead. I had these rooster feathers that precisely matched some scraps of sequin in the sequin trim scrap bag I got at Discount Fabrics for $5 years ago. Isn’t that nuts how they match?
I also spent a lot of time adding Swarovski crystals to a deer skull.
And gold leafing another skull. I used this weird star-patterned variegated gold leaf I got at Idée for super cheap; with my usual fingerpainting leafing technique, it didn’t really show.
After I leafed it I varnished it with acrylic glaze, then rubbed the still-tacky glaze with this pure bronze pigment powder. I bought the jar at the art-school art supply store in college in 1990 ’cause it was in a discount bin; I’ve still barely made a dent in it and I have used it for SO MANY THINGS.
Daria thought the black crystal-decorated skull was a little passé. Like, so gothsterday. Ah well, there’s no pleasing the young.
Creepy, right? And I did the first test of using my machine to add passementerie trim to one of my pillows that for some unknown reason, did not already have trim on it.
I had been feeling bad for this poor, undecorated pillow for years.
Also, I got this incredible animatronic talking vintage radio at Target in the US in September, and carefully brought it home.
However, it needed work; both Daria and I felt that the way the lights flashed around the top was overkill and not so nice.
So I painted the white faux-Bakelite strip black, applied varnish, roughly gold-leafed it with the same cheap variegated leaf, then used the bronze powder on it. And then Daria distressed it with more black paint, because she said it was still too glitzy. She was right, of course.
I probably would have made a lot more stuff in October, but I was really busy baking for Halloween.
And in November I was so stressed before the US election and so gutted afterwards that I lost a lot of creative time. And Leonard Cohen died. What the fucking fuck, 2016.