Sunday, January 22, 2017

Crazy Crafty: A Living Vintage Valentine

I was the kid who pressed too hard when he borrowed your markers.

It wasn't just your markers, however; when scribbling away with pen in a notebook, one could easily flip ahead at least ten pages and see a clear imprint of what I had previously written.  Oddly enough, I had an unreasonable affinity for written exams but would break an undue amount of pencils in the process, suffering from hand cramps hours after.  I've even endured severe chastisement (and costly remediation) from the dentist for brushing too hard.

Pressing too hard has been a recurring theme in my crafting life as well.  As evidenced by my Statue of Liberty Lime Jell-O, Mama's Macaroni Magic Necklace, and Rootin' Tootin' Cowboy Twine Holder,  I am quite capable of pressing a craft too hard in nearly every way - technically, thematically, and financially.  The inspiration of this year's Valentine's Day craft came from a source that often presses too hard in my favorite area of wordplay - the humble pun.

Vintage valentine cards are universally adored for their charming 
illustrations but the highlight for me is always the written sentiments.

Looking to transcend the two-dimensionality of the printed card, I envisioned a living Valentine that combined the old-timey whimsy of the illustrations with the hokiness of the punny inscription.  Gathering my supplies - and my wits - I struggled to find an original concept.

Supplies included heart-shaped safety pins, washi tape, googly eyes, pipe cleaner, and the omnipresent rick rack.

I finally came up with an idea that reflected my penchant for dad jokes, poorly-executed crafts, and killing weak plant life.  A discount cactus became the perfect foil for my Valentine's Day dream.

"You're Lookin' SHARP, Valentine!

SEW I won't stop NEEDLING you
until you put the "US" in CACTUS!"

Three puns in one sentence, that's a wacky tacky world record!
It wasn't my first instinct to use "cactus," but "succulent" lent itself to some rather unsavory word play.

Like more CUSHION for the PUSHIN'...

I could've sworn that I had at least 1,700 of those tomato pin cushions.
When I could find nary a one, I was forced to make my own
using polka dot remnants and some baker's twine.

I'll STRING ALONG with you!

Okay, baker's twine may have become something of a crafting cliche but on a
vintage wooden spool, it looks way better than plain, old, mercerized cotton.

"I'll String Along With You" - Doris Day in My Dream is Yours (1949)
It was either this or "My PUNNY Valentine."



Mr. Tiny

Sunday, December 25, 2016

All I Want for Christmas is a Sleep-Eating Diary

I have found myself the last two nights awoken by the distinct sensation of something being lodged in my throat.  The first night, in a mild panic, it occurred to me that it was probably one in my yearly allotment of sleep-consumed spiders struggling for survival (after a few determined swallows, he was lost to the history of digestion).  Leave it to me to get fat by sleep-eating spiders.

On the second night, I was struck by the improbability of eating two of my own spiders on two consecutive nights, realizing quickly that the second one was YOUR spider - the one right by your bed, the one you went to massacre with a slipper, convincing yourself that you really smashed it but-good only to examine the bottom of said slipper to see no visible traces of guts or disembodied legs anywhere, leaving you sleepless for wondering if it now lurked among the bedclothes.

Yes, I just slept-ate your spider and that is why you'll see no "traditional present" from me under the tree this year.  In a world caught in the proverbial web of holiday consumerism, I offer you an alternative gift - the gift that keeps on giving, in fact.  Better than buying you a star or planting a tree in your name, I saved your life, your sanity, and your ability to sleep in peace.

I ate your spider.

Merry Christmas.

"The Web of Love" - Joi Lansing


Mr. Tiny

Friday, December 16, 2016

Crazy Crafty: Mrs. Santa's Got A Brand New Hat

At this point, failure should be no surprise to me.  Nevertheless, I am often shocked by my own missteps, feeling particularly disappointed when said failure results from a supposed area of personal expertise (e.g. crazy homemade hats).   Disappointment abounds in Mr. Tiny's Workshop...

Intent on showing off my wacky tacky Tree Toppers to the family, I paraded them through the living room before the hot glue was even dry.  So busy humming "Pomp and Circumstance," I completely misjudged the time it would take to finish the song before explaining my creations.  I had barely uttered the last "duh-dum" when Mary pounced.  Practically wrenching it from my hands, she perched the snow angel atop her head and covetously inquired if it was to be her Christmas hat.

Why hadn't I thought of that?!!  

Really, why?!!  I mean, I have long held the reputation for turning just about anything into a hat - candy containers, placemats, fruit baskets, paper plates, panty hose and whiffle balls, etc.  If I hadn't thought of transforming my dollar-store delights into headpieces then I was fairly certain that my imagination was broken.  I had failed the holiday.  I had failed myself.  The only way to rectify the situation was to make some holiday headware that would sustain Mary throughout a season's worth of parties.  This year, instead of a Christmas dress, Mary would get a Christmas head-dress - with one caveat; I told her that if I made the hat, she had to wear it to at least one holiday party.

It all began in very much the same way as the tree toppers; the usual suspects included glitter tulle, doll head/hands, graduated bells, pipe cleaner, and pompoms.  The red, white, and black tinsel trimmings came from a deconstructed penguin decoration found at the 99 Cents Store.

As I had used the baby doll head for the snow angel, all I had were the face and hands of a sweet, bespectacled old lady (but enough about me).  Using them, I carefully began transforming the flotsam and jetsam of the craft stash into the merriest of Christmas widows, Mrs. Santa.

I gave Mrs. Santa a full makeover (including a touch up of her eyes, lips, and hair).
She wears a mobcap and proffers a miniature Christmas tree from the cake supply store.
The two-tired skirt works as a veil; the white tinsel trim is wired so the veil can be shaped as needed.

As the hat grew in size and scope, it occurred to me that maybe this might be a bet that even I didn't have the nerve to enforce.  But Mary called my bluff.  Not only did she wear the Mrs. Santa hat to a party - she kind of rocked it.

In a bizarre, crazy Christmas way it works, right?
And when it is not in commission as a hat, it can
be employed as a super-festive toilet paper cozy! 

Mary also upped the ante of the bet; at the very last minute (as we were on our way out the door), she dared me to wear a crazy party hat.  With negative time on my hands and no hat, I grabbed a tinsel tree decoration from the side table, quickly wiring on some ornaments and a bit of elastic to make an "aluminum" christmas tree hat.

Leave it to these two weirdos to show up at a fancy, grown-up
holiday party wearing homemade garbage on their heads.

The strange part is that the hats were actually a hit!  As it turns out, having a Christmas tree sitting on your head is quite the ice-breaker; all evening long conversations began by acknowledging the celephant in the room...and the hat on his head.

" eyes are down here."

Even Sage, our host for the evening, approved of the ceiling-scraping millinery.
We're sending a plaster repairman next week. 

To balance the sky-high spectacle on her head, Mary wore all vintage - a black '40s dress in rayon crepe, costume jewelry, and a '40s fur jacket.  In spite of the ebullient holiday cheer inherent in Mrs. Santa, the outfit read as a wartime femme fatale in an unlikely and depressing yuletide movie (see: Christmas Holiday).  And so we say to you...

"Merry Christmas and A Happy Noir Year...'Always!'"

"Always" - Deanna Durbin in Christmas Holiday (1944)


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sew What?! Mexicali Folk Couture Strikes Again

I like to pretend that my refusal to purchase scads of souvenirs is some kind of transcendence into a realm of heightened spirituality like, "I don't need twelve pairs of toy castanets, I'll carry every beautiful moment of this Spanish vacation in my heart."  More likely, it is because I'm cheap and fat, and every penny saved on tchotchkes is a dollar earned toward döner kebabs, fun-flavored Kit Kats, or Croatian pizza.  Don't even get me started on Croatian pizza.   

Yes, I'm cheap, chubby, and, lo theses many years later, I'm still tripping on all the untouched pairs of castanets left all over the house.  Recuerdos de España.

Apparently, my enlightened attitude isn't shared by my sister because, from one of her work trips to Mexico, she returned with an avalanche of souvenirs.  I can just see her, overwhelmed by the splendor of the mercado, eagerly shouting, "I'll take one of everything!"

Quite conscious of my inability to control the sewing urge when handed a pile of interesting fabric, Mary made sure that her purchases included a few yards of a striped Mexican textile in three colorways.  This fabric presented a particular challenge because each length was only eighteen inches wide.  Knowing that some creative piecing would be in order, I started draping the fabric on the dress form. 

My personal design challenge was to incorporate each colorway into the completed ensemble.

After several rounds of pinning, I decided on a poncho with a contrast yoke featuring a large neckline bow.  To balance the volume of the poncho, I made a simple pencil skirt, creating the necessary yardage by joining the fabric at the selvages.

Fast becoming a signature of Mr. Tiny's Mexicali Folk Couture,
the poncho and its bow are trimmed in eighteen handmade pompoms.
I hemmed a remnant of the white fabric to make the headscarf; the hat
is a purchased souvenir.

Envisioning a mid-century counterpart to Mary's overzealous souvenir hound, my concept for a photo shoot involved a classic car full of colorful souvenirs.  Time and finance are usually the fodder for the  epic battle waged between my lofty concepts and meager reality.  Thankfully, Mary's convertible Corvair, a million tissue-paper flowers, and our reliable friend-photographer, Fabian, came to my rescue.

When I told them that I wanted it to look like a sixty-year-old editorial from
Harper's Bazaar or Life Magazine, Mary and Fabian got right down to business.

Fabian always has a deft way of combining fashion and automotive photography.

Mary's shades are themselves a souvenir from our summer adventures in Venice.

"I have no impulse control and I don't care!"

As much as I loved Fabian's photographs, I couldn't help but notice my failings as a stylist; the matching basket purse I made is barely visible in any of the pictures.  And so, I feel compelled to give the purse its due.

The basket purse follows the color blocking on the outfit and, like the poncho, it
is trimmed in yellow pompoms.  If you're keeping score, that makes TWENTY!!! 

As much as I love it, I'm not sure how many opportunities Mary will have to wear this outfit in its entirety; like most of my (mis)adventures in design, it scratched a creative itch, allowing me to move on to the next project.  Thanks to Mary and Fabian for skipping the "Tijuana Taxi" and hitching a ride on the Mr. Tiny bandwagon!

"Tijuana Taxi" - Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (1966)


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Crazy Crafty: wacky tacky Tree Toppers Two Ways

Grandmas are so crafty, spending countless hours leading up to every holiday ping-ponging between their Pfaffs, tangles of yarn and crochet hooks, and shakers full of glitter.  The only thing more comforting than learning the myriad ways in which pom-poms and bits of felt can be transformed into everything from tree skirts to toilet-paper cozies was the warmth of being gathered into the suffocating succor of her bosomy embrace.

This Christmas' Crazy Crafty projects should prove every bit as comforting as granny crafts of yore; but just imagine, instead of a sweet old granny, a large man of equally heavy bosom slinging a glue gun as hot as a two-dollar pistol.  Struggling every year to find the tree topper of my dreams, it finally came time to make one - or two - of my own.

wacky tacky vintage tree topper
Early drafts of potential tree toppers were expected to follow the cone-shaped body of this
angelic Phyllis Diller lookalike.  But Phyllis' stick-straight lines just weren't going to cut
it for the more womanly angel that I had in mind. 

Inspiration struck in the curvy form of a bell!  As per usual, my craft-making ethos is, "If it ain't in the stash or it can't be found at the 99 Cents Store, then it's probably not going to happen."  So, I headed to the mecca of the impecunious crafter, finding among other sundries a set of three graduated, silver bells.  Gathering metallic rickrack, tinsel pipe cleaner, glitter tulle, and the disembodied doll parts that my brother and his wife found in a dark corner of their garage (p.s.  If you think I'm creepy, what does that say about them and their garage), I began to assemble my angel.

My supplies - if it doesn't include a toilet-paper roll, liquid-soap bottle, or
cottage cheese container then it doesn't really count as a granny craft, does it?

"If I were a bell, I'd be ringing!"

I covered the cardboard roll with colored paper and secured it inside the large bell base.
I shrouded a smaller bell in glitter tulle and finished it with a band of rickrack at the
bottom and at the neckline.

I "fleshed out" the upper arms with tinsel pipe cleaner. 

wacky tacky tree topper
You little snow angel!

I fashioned the wings and the silver petal peplum out of a deconstructed Christmas flowers from the 99.
The skirt is several layers of the tulle, gathered and then trimmed in rickrack. 

I won't say that my mom was dismayed exactly; perhaps "confused" is a better word for her mental state when she discovered two of her thirty-something sons excitedly discussing the merits of DIY doll making and the results of such.  Forgetting about the bag of doll parts he had donated to the cause, my brother though that the snow angel was vintage - a compliment indeed!

Maybe she couldn't appreciate it because she hadn't notice how liberally
I applied the half-used packet of sticky-backed rhinestones to the skirt.

Never one to leave tacky enough alone, I spied the one remaining unadorned figural lady lamp among the wacky tacky archives (you may recall from the Crazy Crafty post about "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Lamp" that independently of one another, each of my brother's gave me the same sexy-lady lamp base).  Momentarily angry at myself for heretofore overlooking her obvious holiday charms, I quickly realized that it was not too late to explore her tree-topping potential.

sexy lady lamp
"Merry Christmas, boys!"

Following similar steps to the snow angel tree topper, I made a teal under dress with a full circle skirt and an over dress of teal netting trimmed in iridescent rickrack and rhinestones.

Wanting to disguise the socket, I found among the christmas hoardings a fully-lit, flashing tree topper.
Remembering that there exists such a thing as a socket -to-outlet converter, I hid the wires and plugged it in.

vintage tree topper
I think the tinsel headdress transforms this snow girl into
 a full-on showgirl - an ode to Electra from Gypsy.

Devil or angel?
I even made her stacks of rickrack-and-rhinestone bangles!

wacky tacky tree topper
"I'm electrifyin' and I ain't even tryin'!"

Here shine the two of the wacky-tacky-est tree toppers in all of their glittering, yuletide glory.

Do you ever get the feeling, like you've created a cherished family 
heirloom before you've even had time to share your project?
I do.

As you can kind of see, the snow angel was awarded pride of place rather
than our version of "the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window."
It's a good thing for the runner-up that we have erected two christmas trees this year! 

Have you made any Christmas crafts this year?  If you're not thrilled with who sits atop your tree year after year, remember that granny always said, "Idle hands are the devil's playground;" get those holiday hands busy and make your own wacky tacky tree topper!

"You Gotta Get a Gimmick" from Gypsy (1962)


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Holy Rollin': BOTS Invades Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain is Instagrammer's ecstasy.

A much-revered landmark for IG users, Salvation Mountain is a checklist destination perfectly prohibitive in its desert geography (close enough for social media sojourners to get there and back within a day, distant enough to give every picture pilgrim the appropriate amount of cool cred for making the otherwise desolate journey).  As evidenced by the thousands of carefully-filtered photos bearing the eponymous hashtag, Salvation Mountain is a place for disingenuous youth to affect the poses that have become so subconsciously familiar (those characterized by the subjects' well-studied stare as they regard the horizon with an expert combination of anguish and apathy).  A colorful, if slightly sun-blistered backdrop, Salvation Mountain's unqualified Judeo-Christian ethos can be tolerated in the name of post-ironic photo gathering.  A surefire "heart" magnet, Salvation Mountain elicits envy and scorn in equal measure.  In short, it is Instagram.  The veneer protecting my contempt for social media sociology may seem perilously thin, yet there we were excitedly making the trek to a destination every bit worthy of its celebrity.

Get a load of this!
Music and video by Mary

I refuse to insult anyone's intelligence by pretending that a profundity greater than the average mountain climber's motivated our visit.  Yes, the wacky tacky adventure team, in our quest to storm America's greatest trash castles, was there to document the divinely-inspired folk art of Leonard Knight...but not before procuring some ultra-hip photographic evidence of our own day trip.

Blazing our trail, we began to spitball a few ideas for heightening our experience at Salvation Mountain; as we flew past a discount store, I suggested that it might be fun to arrive in white sweatsuits and drugstore flip flops, giving the appearance of a cult pilgrimage.  Call it pretense, if you must, but I was looking for a way to add a layer of humor to our visit (after all, the ten sexiest Instagram poses lose something in translation when applied to a fat man on the cusp of middle age).  When the elusive white sweat suit became our proverbial white whale; we were forced to settle for the offerings of the paint aisle, leaving the hardware store in crisp, white coveralls and a trio of matching safety goggles.

Introducing BOTS (Brotherhood of Terrestrial Salvation)
Like a mess of meth-making Mike Teavees

Salvation Mountain is the lifework and ministry of Leonard Knight.  What started in the 1970s as a proselytizing mission via homemade hot air balloon (seriously) evolved into an '80s-era devotional of straw, clay, found objects, and countless coats of house paint.  It took two tries and many years for Knight to master his signature mountain-making technique; through it all, his faith, love, and generosity never wavered.  Expansion and maintenance of his passion project continued until his health began to fail in 2011.  In the years since his subsequent death, local volunteers have lovingly preserved Knight's masterpiece.

Love is all you need.  You may quote me.

This legacy of love is the true message of Salvation Mountain.  Christian and nonbeliever alike are reminded at every turn that the purpose of our existence is love.

Just in case anyone missed the literal writing on the wall,
these two BOTS brethren demonstrate how to get a heart on.

It was unclear whether other Knight devotees were feeling the love of the BOTS' presence.  Despite a woeful lack of purpose/planning on our part, many videos and photographs - surreptitious and otherwise - were taken as we silently marched our way up and over the mountain (with un-swinging arms for that authentic touch of cultish weirdness).

She's still wondering if the label on the coveralls was accurate - "One size saves all."

One confused Brit was brave enough to approach me and inquire after our presence; struggling for a clever response, I instead feigned a vow of silence, trying and failing to communicate with meaningless hand gestures.  When the BOTS did speak, it was a practice in improvisational call-and-response between Sister Siusiak's Polish and our semi-Slavic gibberish, punctuated liberally by the Polish slang for wiener.

Starting to question our own bizarre behavior, all we needed was to turn a corner for a loving affirmation.

Things reached a new pinnacle of strange when we formed a human triangle (facing inward with our hands on each other's shoulders) and began to vocalize in unison.  I'm willing to place a generous amount of accountability upon our choice of ensemble; with temperatures upwards of 110 degrees, the internal temperature of our space suits might very well have been delirium inducing.

You could say that we were getting carried away by the spirit of the Man Upstairs...

In the end, we couldn't decide if we were the lighthearted antidote to the hordes of picture pilgrims or ourselves symptomatic of the devolution of weird roadside in America.  As the conflict rages on, we are seriously considering making BOTS official.

We are mobilizing.

And Brother Cyrus says the reaping is nigh.

Resistance is futile.

If you don't want to get left behind, all you must do is "Jump in the Line."

"Jump in the Line" - Harry Belafonte (1961)
This video has been brought to you by Fartco, Inc.

Salvation Mountain
Beal Rd
Niland, CA

Cheers and Amen!

Mr. Tiny
(Brother Diminutata)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sew What?! A Shimmering '60s Minidress???

How often does it happen that you start out with every intention of creating a shimmering, '60s minidress...

Only to end up - after hours of sewing and hand-finishing - with Jane Jetson's housecoat?

Sorry, George...

It probably didn't help that this Mr. Tiny Original was made out of a lightweight upholstery fabric featuring alternating stripes of purple and gold lamé (recognizable from Mary's red Happy Holiday Frock); the metallic fabric sewn into a Star Trekian v-shaped yoke only added to the mid-century, space-age sensibility. 

Yes, Mary was fated to look like a dress-extra from that lesser known sci-fi masterpiece, Mars Needs Matrons.  

I really should have seen this one coming.

As I don't often sew in shades of violet, I was devoid of an appropriate lining
material.  In typical cheapskate make-do fashion, I dove into my stash of remnants,
emerging with this piece of Marimekko's beautiful Tulipunainen print (1960). 

Brainstorming for a way to elevate the humble housecoatery of my creation, I returned to the sewing machine and made a matching pair of fully-lined dance pants.  

Dance pants or decorative diaper cover?  You be the judge.

It was only then I realized that, when paired with the brevity of the hemline, the briefs only served to make the dress look like a '60s babydoll nightie.  Undeterred, Mary took the dress out for its first spin last year at Jonathan Toubin's Soul Clap at Downtown LA's Regent Theater.  So busy dancing were we that, of course, we photo'd not a single op.

Fortunately, representatives from LA Weekly were on hand to catch Mary "Tighten Up."

Truly, the only pictures we have come courtesy of the Weekly's Lena Lecaro.

Languishing among the racks of barely-worn Mr. Tiny creations, this dress came to mind when Mary was deciding on potential outfits for the Brian Wilson "Pet Sounds" concert we attended over the weekend.  As the event was the highlight of California's Mid-State Fair (and the lives of these two California kids), we attempted to make the most of our surroundings by making our way to the midway! 

Armed with only our phones, we did our best to
capture the ambient light provided by the rides.

In honor of the wheel, we call this dress "Bueller."
(brought to you by Spacely's Space Sprockets).

Mary swings with...well, swings!

My favorite ride has always been the carnival swings.
I love the feeling of flying amongst the romantic portraits 
of all those lovely ladies painted on the canopy.

Details of the dress are few in these photos but one is certainly evident.
Like all women who wear dresses, Mary was particularly pleased with the pockets!!!

This dress marks the millionth time I have kidded Mary for rarely/never wearing the clothes I make for her.  After two nights out on the town, I tell myself that I am allowed to count this dress among my successes.  Without any resentment, I am satisfied if the future of this frock is relegated to becoming the futuristic housecoat it was always meant to be...I guess "[It] Just Wasn't Made for These Times."

"I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" - The Beach Boys (1966)


Mr. Tiny