GARTH JOHNSON Joins the Uncollection:

Using Unconsumption’s Mr. Cart Logo on Dinnerware!

In the latest stunning addition to our Uncollection — creative folks using our logo to breathe new life into old stuff — the amazing Garth Johnson has blown us away by converting some secondhand art-deco plates into genuine Mr. Cart tableware. Really fantastic! Here Mr. Johnson, whose work you may (should!) know from his invaluable Extreme Craft site, explains how he uses a vinyl cutter to “rescue thrift-store dinnerware”:

Let’s hear it for scrapbooking. If I hear one more hipster studio artist or crafter hold up scrapbooking as the “opposite” of what they’re doing, I’m going to lose my shit. Yes, scrapbooking is a multi-bazillion dollar industry, with entire aisles in Michael’s devoted to stocking Martha Stewart’s gear. As anybody who has haunted those aisles can tell you, scrapbooking has some cringe-worthy aesthetic elements, but what craft doesn’t?

Consider scrapbooking at its most basic—it takes old photographs and recycled ephemera and transforms them into mementos that actually see some use rather than sitting in boxes in an attic somewhere. I have come to view scrapbookers as a pretty badass group of people. Part of this badassery comes from the way they combine different media and experiment with processes from die-cutting and embossing to custom rubber stamp etching.

The main reason that scrapbookers are so badass is their actual gear. Scrapbooking is enjoying a major resurgence right now, so they have the economic clout to introduce hobby versions of tools that have traditionally remained in the realm of industry or technology. My favorite example is the vinyl cutter, which has been a staple of the sign industry for a couple of decades. Thanks to legions of rabid scrapbookers, machines like the Cricut and Silhouette Craft Cutter are now affordable… and are just waiting to be hacked for your non-scrapbooking activity.

If you’re not familiar with vinyl cutters, they’re fairly easy to explain. They cut sheets of adhesive sticker material using a tiny blade. You know the little Calvin peeing stickers people put on the back of their pickup trucks? Those were cut out using a vinyl cutter.

The great thing about vinyl cutters is that you’re not limited to cutting out vinyl. Most will cut paper. Some will even cut thicker materials like wood veneer. If you can create a vector design on a computer, you can feed that design into a vinyl cutter to make stickers, stencils or any number of crazy craft projects.

I love to use my vinyl cutter to rescue thrift store dinnerware and give it new life. I’ve been looking for a good use for a set of four Art Deco-inspired porcelain plates that have been sitting on my shelf for a while, and a contribution to the Uncollection seems perfect. I decided to use my cutter to make a permanent gold Mr. Cart logo in the middle of the plates.

This project is a little bit tricky, but if you have access to a vinyl cutter and a ceramic kiln, you’re home free. Here’s what you need:

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the sapling in the cleft reads
-“uncollected translations”

you are in a field of bees, trying to not
flatten the toyish lampwork of their bodies

i was asleep when the cold light prospered
your tongue to a pantheon of ravishment

the first thing i do when i wake up is listen
through the perforations of these ghost-drums

a body remembers the accidental entropy of
each temple it was once gilt-bricked from

i know your throat is wet with the rain
-song of another misplaced country

a fruit greening its white rind - the pearl of csaba,
a deer blurred into the sleep of a distant prayer  

Scherezade Siobhan

a poem

“ this portrait of guilt postmarked four days a princess ravaged by the direction of flesh on sidewalks in the birth of control.
Alter the tone of sex and white.
As in.
The fear of a healing sacrifice.
” devil may care touches trickled down by sad eternal.
Believing language as a web- its over me who have seen, no mistakes.
She collects the unwritten, uncollected works of the bathos drift forth like us twisted within me".
Let our faith, stay sweet, run softly, sweet impossible.
Just the first nervous light.
Our lips are stretched to find calm, but the pain.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

“Well, three months before I was born, my mother lost her other two children … I think I started then to be a writer.”

Afternoon of an Author: A Selection of Uncollected Stories and Essays

“What would you do for the world with $1 million?” asks TED, and the organization isn’t just tossing out a conversation-starter, as it will be giving that sum to someone.

I am on the record on this subject: My cameo in the documentary Objectified records me saying that if I had the dough, I’d launch a branding campaign on behalf of “Things you already own — enjoy them today!” (I may have said “a billion dollars” in the film, but a million would be enough to get things rolling.) (This is Rob Walker posting this item, by the way.)

In that spirit, check out this project: Shaz Madani / Look What You’ve Got:

‘Look what you’ve got’ takes everyday objects from around the home that have been discarded and encourages you to reconsider and appreciate them in a new light. These outcomes have been brought together and catalogued in a small format book and exhibited with the poster and accompanying object.

I guess it’s a couple of years old and doesn’t seem active at the moment, but if I ever get that marketing budget, I’m getting in touch with this person immediately! 

Anyway I should also acknowledge that Unconsumption and the Uncollection are in fact attempts to promote that spirit of “enjoy what you own (instead of feeling compelled to buy something new).” Although our budget is approximately $1 million shy of $1 million, I still like the idea of “branding” things that already exist, as I wrote in On Earth recently. And we of course still welcome your participation, as described here

Oh, and if you want to tell TED to give us that $1 million, you have until August 31!

a poem

Reap the switch with this flesh, from side to keep conducting the rain has drawn.
The demons swallowed whole, or lovers, like the hopes of blood that’s passed through my everything.
Oh yeah, oh yeah he killed the door on the unseen sharp pang; the board, so well.
Empty hands keeping you.
Reap the threnody.
There’s a comfortable life, risk as a pinch? that’s the muse whispers in all those roots undo, and the more i turn a place of a dock, to the sun set to let the harp strings.
It is the fallen on sidewalks in the unwritten, uncollected works of crows.
Oh yeah, oh yeah there’s a formal visitation, on itself, a bridge in the switch with evil deeds scribed in their lives fade apart.
Uncertain as i believe and how our decay.

Tiffany Threadgould: Pillowcase art supply kit

On Monday we announced we’d be sharing the things that Tiffany Threadgould, author of the (awesome!) new book ReMake It! Recycling Projects From The Stuff You Usually Scrap, made, incorporating the Unconsumption logo.

Below, the second in a series of three: A pillowcase remade into an art supply kit.

And if you’re inspired to create your own reuses of our logo, post a picture on our Facebook wall. Maybe we’ll feature it here on the flagship blog! Help build the Uncollection!

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Tiffany explains:

To create your own pillowcase art supply kit, you’ll need a pillowcase, fabric scissors, a ruler, 48 inches of ribbon, and needle and thread or a sewing machine.

Shorten your pillowcase so it’s about 15" tall. Fold up the bottom 5". Determine what types of art supplies you’ll keep in your kit. Now you’ll create pockets that accommodate those supplies by stitching vertical lines into the folded part of the pillowcase. Sew the center of the ribbon onto one end of the kit.

You can stencil Mr. Cart onto your kit to show off your unconsumption and reuse style. Then, your kit will be ready to make its art debut.

Happy ReMaking!

For complete instructions, see Project Number 55 in ReMake It! Recycling Projects From The Stuff You Usually Scrap.

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Very cool news the other day via the Unconsumption Facebook page, from Alpha Wilson:

Greetings, today I modified the t-shirt totebag idea that is floating around Pinterest by adding a sewn-in drawstring bag to use to tote the tote bag when it isn’t full of stuff.

I inkjet printed the Unconsumption logo to the outside of the drawstring bag, which is made from a couple of pieces of cut-up t-shirt.

That’s awesome!

And definitely a worthy addition to The Uncollection — Unconsumption’s brand-with-no-products experiment, made up of things you have creatively reused or remade, and spruced up with Mr. Cart.

For more how-to detail on the T-shirt tote:  Green is Universal ReUser’s Guide | FASTEST RECYCLED T-SHIRT TOTE BAG

For a photo journal detailing Alpha Wilson’s add-on, go here.

And if this inspires you to use Mr. Cart and join the Uncollection yourself, post info and pix here.

“This Brand Is Your Brand” : Unconsumption in OnEarth Magazine

I’m really pleased to pass along this essay I did for OnEarth magazine, all about our Uncollection efforts. It was an honor to speak to the publication’s audience, and a lot of fun to think through our “brand without products.” (— Rob Walker.) 

The piece is here: This Brand Is Your Brand | OnEarth Magazine

Here’s an excerpt:

Around the same time that I was mulling over these ideas, some like-minded collaborators and I co-founded a group blog that we called Unconsumption. Our initial idea was to highlight inspiring examples of creative reuse and maybe, in the process, help slow the arrival of prematurely disposed-of objects into landfills. We’ve built up a nice audience – we have more than 20,000 followers at the moment – but at some point we decided that, like any growth-minded enterprise, we needed a logo. One of our colleagues created a symbol we began referring to as “Mr. Cart”: an upside-down shopping cart, flashing a smile. It was the perfect image, we all thought, to represent the Unconsumption project.

So now we had a brand! Given the nature of our endeavor, though, producing branded merchandise was out of the question. As much as I loved our adorable new logo, we had no products to emblazon. But there was an obvious, not to mention philosophically consistent, alternative: brand things that already exist.

More: This Brand Is Your Brand | OnEarth Magazine

Above illustration by Matthew Daley

I hope you will forgive me (“me” being Unconsumption co-founder Rob Walker) for a post that slightly crosses over with a separate project.

In New York recently, at the launch event for a book that I co-edited, I had the pleasure of meeting in person for the first time the delightful Tiffany Threadgould. You may recall she was the first contributor to our Uncollection effort — and she was wearing the Uncollection earrings she created!

It was a highlight of the evening for me, and that's really saying something.

In a post this week on her site, Tiffany writes about the aforementioned book, Significant Objects, the culmination of a project overseen by Joshua Glenn and me, which involved commissioning fiction about thrift-store doodads, and selling the story/object pairs on eBay. She cunningly connects the effort to upcycling, here. Not surprisingly, I completely agree with her point of view on the matter. But she expresses it better than I ever did:

In a way, each piece has been upcycled. But rather than changing the shape of the object and repurposing it, the original form and function remain the same. Additional value is given to each piece in the form of a short story. Simply brilliant. Sometimes objects don’t need changing. They just need to be looked at in a different way.

What can I say? Thank you Tiffany!!!


Betsy Greer X Mr. Cart: Our logo in stitches

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Yes, we have yet another very pleasing and exciting new addition to our Uncollection

The latest contributor to our Artist Series is none other than Betsy Greer, now the proud owner of a Mr. Cart-stitched shirt, thanks to, well, to her own effort. Betsy has been exploring the idea of Craftivism for a while now, both thinking about and acting upon the intersection of craft and activism. Among other things, she’s the author of the very thoughtful and useful Knitting For Good! For a more recent project, see her anti-war graffiti cross-stitch. “I want to open dialogue,” she summarizes, “instead of closing it down.”

Up next for her: With Sally Fort and Inga Hamilton, she’s working on QR-3D, which “invites anyone, anywhere, to create a textile QR code and share it on a Flickr pool; works will be selected to be shown at Cornerhouse, Manchester, in autumn.” (Learn more about Betsy and her work here. She also blogs, and tweets.)

Bottom line: We’re really psyched she agreed to be a part of our efforts to make Mr. (or Ms.) Cart an emblem of creative reuse.

Here’s what she did… (and as always, those of you who follow through on this how-to, or any in our series, or who do anything cool with Mr. Cart, we welcome pix on our Facebook page).

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Betsy explains:

I used Cat Mazza’s KnitPro program to transfer the Mr. Cart image to a graph (above; click here for a PDF). Then I stitched Mr. Cart directly onto a t-shirt using Rayna Fahey’s tutorial on how to add cross stitch to fabric. 

If I had to do it over again, I’d probably use 3 strands of embroidery floss instead of 2, as when I stripped away the aida cloth the stitches weren’t quite as crisp as I was hoping. But I still really love the result!

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We love the result, too.

But those of you who are paying attention will have noticed that our logo appears inverted on the resulting shirt! Why would that be? To look better during handstands? Or so that the wearer can enjoy Mr. Cart’s traditional smile by glancing down at her (or his) shirt?

Neither. Once more, Betsy explains. You’ll like this:

To me, our job as writers/makers/crafters/creatives is to open dialogue. And, of course, as we’re all different, we all have our different methods of doing so. My approach (not that it’s unique; in fact it’s the bedrock of many of us involved with cultural production and/or critique) is all about putting forth something that looks familiar at first glance, but at second (or third) isn’t that at all. I like the way that approach allows readers/observers to come to their own conclusions and — more importantly — develop their own response, based on their own comfort level, either by asking questions then, dismissing (or misinterpreting) the work entirely or by letting the work unfold in their mind later. As creatives, we are both permission givers and dialogue openers, so I like involving the reader/viewer directly in my work.

When I was trying to get a photo of the shirt, I took it to work and had a co-worker snap one. While we were doing so, another co-worker came into the room and saw the logo and smiled and said something like, “Cute! A little shopping cart!” and then paused and added somewhat confused, “it’s frowning.” My response was something to the effect of: “It’s based on consumerism and consumption being too ubiquitous.” More pausing, followed by a smile and a thumbs up. And that open space for her to get my meaning in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way pretty much sums up exactly how I would wish all my work to be received.

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Cool answer! Of course, you can orient the logo however you like — sideways, even.

Big thanks to Betsy Greer for being part of the Uncollection. What are you waiting for? Join in!

The Uncollection: Looking for DIY/Crafty Creators To Spotlight
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A quick note about the Uncollection project that’s been gradually unfolding here on the Unconsumption Tumblr.

As many of you know, we’ve invited a series of our favorite crafty creators to reuse our Mr. Cart Logo in original projects — rebranding existing stuff, as an experiment subverting the whole “brand” concept to give new value to old things. Lately our contributors’ efforts have been recognized by BoingBoing, Swiss Miss, FastCompany.com, and The Etsy Blog.

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We have more Uncollection pieces in the works, but now is as good a time as any to say that we’re also looking for even more creators to work with. If that’s you, please get in touch — read on for details including contact info.

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This week: Tiffany Threadgould repurposes our logo!

We could not be more thrilled to announce the special team-up that we’ll be sharing with you this week! Tiffany Threadgould, of the heroic RePlayGround, will be unveiling some amazing Unconsumption-inspired creations on this site over the next few days, in conjunction with her new book (more on that below).

When we introduced our logo a while back, it may not have been particularly clear what function a logo for a project like Unconsumption would serve, since it’s not like we’re going to start selling branded merch! But the idea came up that we could simply make the logo “available” for anybody who wants to use it on things they already own. The concept in a nutshell: Take an old T-shirt you don’t really wear anymore, print our logo on it — and it becomes, on some level, a brand new T-shirt!

The result would be The Uncollection, the first-ever line of products consisting of stuff people already owned. It’s the ultimate lifestyle brand: All lifestyle, no merch!

Which brings us to Tiffany Threadgould…

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When we got wind of her book ReMake It! Recycling Projects From The Stuff You Usually Scrap, we sensed an opportunity: Maybe we could convince Tiffany to make use of our logo in one or two of the excellent how-to projects in her book.

And she said yes!

So we’ll unveil her creations, and share more about her and her book, over the next few days – starting this afternoon. For now, rush over to RePlayGround for more about ReMake It! and all the other stuff she does. (And you can read this Consumed column about her work, too.)

Stay tuned for more Uncollection surprises – and if you get inspired to make (re)use of our logo,  we’d love it if you shared pictures of the results with us on our Facebook page.

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