Thoughts, Craft

Hearts and Crafts: Crocker Cards

When I was a boy I collected coffee mugs. And comic books. And trading cards. And seashells, and legos, and coins, and costumes, and when I’m not careful that tendency to hoard invades my adult life and I find myself living with dust covered shame. I knew, as I set out on the Flashdance tour, that I would inadvertently accumulate things along the road. I figured there was no stopping the addiction, but there might be salvation in setting goals.

Instead of eschewing collecting altogether, I gave my greedy brain a purpose: find art for my walls. I’ve spent so many years hopping from apartment to apartment that I’ve become accustomed to blank walls, to clutter as decoration. I vowed to end that rut.

While we performed in Seattle, I spent a number of days eating and wandering Pike Place Market. Much of the art was either not to my liking, or so cheap it exclaimed mass production, but on an inspection of the Market’s lower level, I found a store selling reprints of old advertising posters. I sifted through the pile of food adverts, setting aside those I thought would fit my sensibilities or hopeful color scheme. Just as I had settled on a trio I peaked into the corner of the store and found a collection of unsorted paper junk that was being sold for mere dollars.


Bargain-hound that I am, I set forth flipping through the trash. And then I found gold. A box of Betty Crocker recipe cards from the early ‘70’s, as tacky and tasteless as you might imagine. An odd thing then happened, my new brain kicked in and instead of insisting that I march to the cashier and purchase the entire stack, it suggested that I curate the collection, give it direction and scope.

And so, with a mission in mind, I separated the cards into piles, looking for some ellusive theme. I picked cards with funny titles, “Man Pleasing Appetizers,” “Nutty Nibblers,” but pressed for something more art-worthy. Then, as I laid out my colelction of silly recipes, I saw it. The revolting food styling of the collection oftentimes made for photos that were nearly monochromatic. A strawberry cobbler against a red background, a bowl of snap peas on a green placemat. It was perfect. My fingers flew, flipping the cards, hunting for colors.


I would frame them and spread the colors of the rainbow on my dining wall. From afar, it would be a color piece, up close a hysterical look at how far we’ve come in the kitchen. Once home I wanted to frame the cards individually (far too expensive for such a kitschy collection), but went to Ikea in search of some more affordable plan.

I found a large frame, the Norrlida, perfect for mounting the cards in long lines. I bought four, scrambled home to find some photo-corners and set to work. A little bit of math made straight lines and good spacing, and now the placards to bad cooking hang over my dinner table. Thank you, dear brain, for sticking to the plan these past 6 months and coming home with art, not clutter.

Starting out in a new apartment? Living on a budget? Art doesn’t have to come from galleries, frame things you like, find magazine images, newspaper clippings with meaning. A cheap frame elevates even the slightest scrap. Curate your walls!


Hearts and Crafts

Years ago, presciently predicting my taste in pop art, my parents bought me a set of four Keith Haring coffee table books. Small though they may be, they were packed with pages of his art, and festooned with words from his journals and poetry. I loved them. Once.

I’ve never really understood the appeal of coffee table books. You can look at them once, but then the jig is up. You know the interior. And how often are you sitting on your couch with nothing to do? If they’re for the benefit of your guests, I’ll capitulate a little, but as a gift to a young man, it was a confusing collection. I had no guests, nor significant coffee table to display the books when I received them. So they sat on the blue bookshelf of my boyhood bedroom, spines fading in the sun.

Until now. As I set up my apartment and *gasp* decorate the walls, I thought of those books. I asked my mother to send them, and when they arrived I made the difficult decision to destroy them. Taking a knife to the printed page of any book feels blasphemous, let alone to the art of an idol. But to create anew I had to destroy. The beloved pages were seen by no one kept intact. So I sliced out two of my favorite prints and set forth framing them.

To remove the sheen of the published book, I first varnished the pages with some matt medium, easy to find at any art supply store. The varnishing reduced the glare and added a nice bit of texture from the brush strokes. Once dry and slightly plasticized, I popped open two cheap frames from Ikea and set the art inside.

The two pieces now welcome me as I open my front door, a perfect use for old art. Have any books laying around that you’d rather see daily? Cut out a few pages, varnish them, and frame them. Though the first cut is painful, you’ll love the sight of that sentimental ink on your wall.


Back in the saddle...

I could sit here and type lamentations to my online absence, but that’s a waste of space. I don’t want to apologize and you don’t want to read drivel. Let’s fast forward to the fun part.

I’m moving back into my apartment! Truth be told, I moved in just over a year ago, but after 8 months out of town with various shows I’ve barely decorated at all. It’s time to get crafty and put my stamp on this homestead. First on my list is an update to the oh-so-average ceiling fan hanging in my dining/living room.


I had a simple frosted globe covering the bare bulb, utterly characterless. The cheap solution? A canning jar. I tried a few sizes, wide mouth and narrow (I’ve got experience with all sorts of mouths), and settled on a .5 Liter Quattro Stagioni jar with a 70 millimeter lid. I’m sure Ball makes a jar that fits, but I like the patterning on the Quattro jars. It mottles the light just enough to make a semi-bare bulb tolerable. Loosen the pins holding the globe in place, remove the globe, hold the jar over the bulb and screw the pins back in tightly. Done.

Oh, the relief that comes from scratching an item off my To-Do list! But like the dreaded Hydra, slice off one head and two more spring up in its place. Time to hang art on the walls and use this ice cream maker I’ve got chilling in the freezer. A cold bowl of sweet cream may be the only way to combat NYC’s summer sweat plague.

I’m dripping.