Friday, May 29, 2015

Crazy Crafty: I Si-Si A Souvenir Tote Bag in Your Future

There was a time (a time in which we still might be living) when every American woman visiting Mexico came back with a souvenir photograph of a zebra-painted burro, a tourist jacket, and a straw tote covered in yarn embroidery and palm-leaf appliqué.  Heck, Mary had at least seven of the straw bags in a variety of colors and sizes before she ever even set foot in Mexico.  It isn't that these souvenirs are terribly rare or terribly exotic, quite the opposite; they are rather inexpensive, readily available, and a definite rite of passage - passage across the Mexico-US border in which forgetful tourists begin panic-buying souvenirs for all the folks at home.

Tijuana - 1955
My grandmother (center) with my father beside her.
My uncle is riding the burro.

In sifting through the wacky tacky archives, I found the above photo and one such straw tote bag, purchased at a thrift store.  The body and the handles/hardware were in decent shape but the decorations had certainly experienced much sunnier holidays south of the border.

Looking very much like it had witnessed more than its fair share
of fiestas, this was the sorry state in which we found the bag.

In an effort to make way between the piles of newspapers and stacks of empty tuna fish cans for guests to maneuver through the hoarder's paradise that is wacky tacky headquarters, we are midway through an unprecedented clean-out.  But the options to rid ourselves of this pitiful piece were quite limited - it was either fodder for the local landfill or a one-way ticket back to the thrift store (this would not have been the first time we paid for something at a thrift store only to donate it back again).  The options to overhaul it, however, were limitless!  It was time to break the buying/donating cycle and turn modern medical practice on its ear by taking this literal sad sack north of the border for a fun facelift.

I started by removing the shredded floral clusters and
giving the frayed yarn a well-deserved haircut.

Just happening to have yarn in shades of "close-enough" green and orange,
I grabbed a big needle and began to touch-up the embroidered leaves.

Mid-makeover, I liked the way that the my not-quite-a-color-
match yarn added some variegation and depth to the leaves.

Once the bag and the leaves were stabilized, it was time to complete the makeover; after all, there are serious responsibilities one must consider after deflowering a virgin tote bag.  I suppose I could have tried to resurrect the palm-leaf flowers but they were so trashed, so lifeless, and so...brown; and it just wouldn't be a true "Crazy Crafty" project unless a strong dose of color was injected.

Continuing in my preferred medium of craft store yarn, I made
pom pom flowers in the other two colors I had in the stash.

A minimally invasive facelift with maximum results.

After all the effort of the sad sack makeover, I decided
that a fabric lining would be the perfect finishing touch.

With the tote bag complete, the thought occurred to me that anyone foolish enough to carry a full lamb's-worth of yarn around on a second-hand purse during the summer months might also need some protection from the sun (if not the curious stares of passers-by).

Using the purse as a guide, I embroidered a Put A Lid On It
Sun Hat with the same leaf-and-pom pom-flower motif.

Just like the newly-refurbished tote bag, the hat is also topped by a pom pom. 

As I've mentioned time and again, a matchy-matchy ethos is the backbone of wacky tacky design.  So while the hat may not share a similar provenance to the tote the way a sombrero would, we think that this matching set is perfect for a Puerto Vallarta pool party or a caprice in Cabo San Lucas.

"Pardon me, do you know the way to San Jose?"

With all this talk of south-of-the-border souvenirs, we are in the mood to take a "Tijuana Taxi" for another round of swinging souvenir shopping!!!  So much for our big clean-up and clear-out...

"Tijuana Taxi" - Heb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (Scopitone)


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Crazy Crafty: The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Lamp

Bad taste runs in my family.  For the sake of familial accord at the holidays, however, I'm not naming any names.  But there is a certain relative of my mother's who is notorious for her living room, an unprecedented combination of purple chenille sofas, red-and-orange throw pillows, modernist art in a traditional-southwest palette of peach and turquoise, and reproduction Louis XIV-style chairs upholstered in toile.  It doesn't end there.  Like the shallowing gene pool of European royalty, I am a victim descendant of inbred tackiness.  When my paternal grandparents were alive, they made their home in the desert where "rock lawns" are not an unusual landscape option; they decided to up the ante by covering the rocks in their front yard with a rich, if wholly-unnatural, coat of deep-green, semi-gloss paint - touching up annually or as needed.  Somehow, instead of disdain, I find comfort in my forebears' gifts of eclecticism and spirit of make-do that were certainly a byproduct of Depression-era economics.  wacky tacky courses through my veins.

It should come as no surprise then that I was beside my self with joy when my older brother gifted me a figural lamp in the shape of a woman.  It didn't matter that the lamp came with no harp, no shade, no base, and more than a few nicks and dings.  He couldn't even be bothered to throw down a lightbulb.  No less than ten years later, I have finally made time to give this lady lamp a makeover and allow her to really shine!

This old girl has definitely been around the block.

Fortunately, the wiring was sound, so all she needed was a skirt, a shade, and some TLC.  I had spent portions of the past decade halfheartedly searching for the proper base.  It wasn't until I was making the Put A Lid On It Sun Hat for Mary's Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Matchy-Matchy Rufflekini, that inspiration struck.  I didn't need a factory-issued base; would Grandma have bought new or would she have just made-do?!?!!   All this crazy crafter needed was a sun hat, a glue gun, and a dream!

The chipped paint on her yellowing face and an improper base might turn
some vintage purists away.  I, however, like the character of an imperfect
piece and the challenge of a make-do craft project.

The strapless bodice, opera-length gloves, and hands-behind-the-head posturing all seemed slightly provocative, implying that this was a lamp that could really "turn on."  In researching similar lamps, I found that the earliest examples of this style were really quite demure; the bodies were originally ceramic, affixed on a domed, wire-cage base covered in a fabric skirt (housing another bulb as a secondary light source), and topped with a dainty, ruffled lampshade.

Two views of the lady lamp on Mary Sue's (Reese Witherspoon) dressing table/desk in a
scene from Pleasantville, proving the lamp's provenance goes back at least as far as 1998.

When Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. took over the patent, they 
began producing this and many other  lamps in molded plastic.

A basic sun hat would become the new skirt/base for the lamp.
To accommodate the cord, I cut the point off of the hat and created a
reinforced hole in the lower side panel where a small hole already existed.

I had the lamp.  I had the foundation for the skirt.  What I was lacking was direction.  Should I go authentic "repro" or should I go full wacky tacky?  Well, it took only two seconds before that question answered itself.  But I still needed inspiration...

wacky tacky, for sure...but I just couldn't get past the inherent va-va-va-voom!!!
"Pardon me, I'm undressed!"

Yes, the pose was saucy.  Yes, the extant examples were ladylike.  Was there a wacky tacky way to split the difference?  To quote wacky tacky icon, Carmen Miranda, "Sim, Sim!!!"  "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" would become the Lady in the Tutti Frutti Lamp!

An electrified ode to Ms. Miranda!!!
The skirt's ruffles are made of the same sparkling material from which Mary's most recent Happy Holiday Frock
was made (only in the acid-green colorway).  I strung a cluster of beads in an attempt to recreate Miranda's iconic layered jewelry.  I sewed on the puffed sleeves by hand before digging through my basket of whatnots to find
two fruit clusters that I salvaged from a weird pair of thrift store sandals.

 I added some flowers and leaves and fixed the hip corsage to the gold
rick rack trim.  There was already a lot going on but she still needed a topper.

The only item that I had to purchase for this project was the
least-expensive lamp shade that Ikea had to offer.  I, of course,
had to paint it gold inside and out, add a couple of fabric ruffles
bound by rick rack, and finish it off with the matching fruit cluster.

The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Lamp in action with my 1940s
Carmen Miranda Coloring Book (a special gift).  It just so happens
that we, like a million other Americans, have some of the same mid-
century, French Provincial furniture seen on the set of Pleasantville

I didn't want to permanently secure the lady lamp to the skirt/hat/foundation; just in case I ever got the 
notion to transform her again, I cleverly stabilized her by attaching the two uppermost layers of the skirt 
to each other and putting a sort of gasket inside the hat.  I love the fact that I didn't touch this lamp for
ten years and all of a sudden I think I'm going to need costume changes!!!

Did I mention that bad taste runs in my family?  No sooner had I started this Crazy Crafty project than my younger brother told me that he had the exact lamp in the exact same condition just waiting for Mr. Tiny's Copacabana Makeover.  It might not be too long before the Lady in the Tutti Frutti Lamp has a twin sister!  In fact, rather than a lamp, I might transform the twin into the most glorious toilet paper cozy that ever was!!!  Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi like that very much!

"The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" - Carmen Miranda
from The Gang's All Here (1943)

"Boa Noite e sonhos doces, você wacky tacky gargantas do peru!"


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kitsch-en Kounter: Strawberry Fields Tie-Dye Pie

My mom might have come of age in the "Age of Aquarius," but she was far from a hippie.  Foregoing the flying fringe of suede vests and rainbow swirls of tie-dye apparel, she instead favored looks decidedly-preppy in nature, fitting of her station as the daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army.

Mr. Tiny's Mom - circa '68

As the day draws nigh that we Americans join in the celebration of all that is motherhood, I knew I had to create something that would please my mother as much as last year's "Mama's Macaroni Magic" necklace.  Since the macaroni necklace proved entirely inedible, I began brainstorming for a comestible creation that would elicit some carefree memories for Mom (i.e. her pre-motherhood days of the 1960s) - even if she didn't wear tie dye.

Introducing Tie-Dye Pie: A Kitsch-en Kounter Original 

My brother currently works out of state; home for a short time on holiday, he was going to miss the traditional holiday festivities so he and my sister-in-law decided to come over and pre-game Mother's Day before his return to work.  Bringing over a delicious Armenian feast, they left me in charge of the dessert.  Although desserts are not my forte, I continue to feature them as Kitsch-en Kounter experiments in the hopes that my skills will someday improve - which proves increasingly doubtful with each new entry.

 Tie-Dye Pihas three parts: a graham-cracker crust, a grapefruit custard, and a swirl of strawberry puree.
We happened to have a giant grapefruit in the fruit basket, which is odd because I can't stand grapefruit; the only option for the bitter behemoth was to drown it sugar and make it a dessert.  There was also a pint of strawberries teetering on the verge of extinction that needed to be used before becoming another failed attempt at homemade penicillin.  The strawberry puree is a simple blend of the fruit, a tablespoon of sugar, and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.  I filled the pre-baked crust with the grapefruit mixture, pouring over the strawberry puree before making radial drags from the center of the pie with a skewer. 

Every time I create a pie, a certain friend of mine reminds me that I am an avowed anti-pie guy.  Nevertheless, Kitsch-en Kounter is about creating funny foodstuffs for the people I love; it just so happens that pie, tie-dye and otherwise, comes with the territory.  A quick review of our Kitsch-en Kounter history reveals that I have actually made quite a few pies and might have to change my status to pro-pie.  Sadly, as previously stated, my incompetence in dessert-making remains unchanged.

Of all the skills that I have never mastered in the kitsch-en, piping is at the 
very top of my list of failures.  My only redemption is that the whipped
cream tasted far better than it looked!

A total square, in the very best sense, the pie did not bring back
any acid-induced flashbacks for my mom.  Frankly, I'm not so sure
that she even understood the reference.  I explained to her that it's
totally "pie-chedelic!!!"  She remained more sated than amused.

Do you have a special recipe that you make for your mom on the big day?  Is there a special dessert that she makes for you?  Be prepared when Mother's Day comes.  Give Mom more than pie in the sky, give her pie that is real tie dye!

"Strawberry Fields Forever" - The Beatles (1967)
I don't know how thematically-appropriate this song is but it's 
kind of psychedelic and there were "strawberry fields" in the pie...



Mr. Tiny