Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pottery - the geekiest art!

My backers and friends have been sending me a lot of exciting projects on Kickstarter and elsewhere that are in line with what I'm about. Most of them are girl and women empowering, and quite a few of them have a nerdy flavor to them. One of the things I get really excited about is seeing all the projects out there aimed at getting girls into science and math. I'm glad that the idea that boys are better at these fields is being broken down, and people are working to change the stereotypes.

I was never interested in math until college pre-calc, the very first time I saw it having any practical application. I was going to be a writer or an artist; what did I need algebra for? I often wonder whether I would have taken more of an interest if someone could have shown me women using math in the real world to do things like engineering or astrophysics. Science was always wonderfully interesting to me, but somewhere between junior high and high school, I was convinced that I was bad at math, and therefore would be limited in the sciences, so I focused on my strengths in art and literature. However, I always had a fascination with finding out how things worked, and I think that's why I ended up majoring in ceramics, rather than painting. I feel like it's about the nerdiest art technique you can do; it involves creative problem solving, mechanical engineering, ergonomics, and chemistry just for a start. I was surprised to find that quite a number of professional engineers take up pottery as a hobby, because it seems to fit their skill set and the way their brains work.

When I sit my students down at the wheel, I like to tell them to treat throwing like an experiment. How much force does it take to center the clay on the wheel? What body position gives you the most leverage on the clay with the least amount of effort? What happens when you try to manipulate the clay in different ways? If I want to make a specific form, what is the best way to go about that? If this technique doesn't work, what else can I try? There are no mistakes, just experiments. It's fun to approach a creative activity with curiosity, rather than a desire to make something pretty and perfect. I've been pretty inspired by having a baby, actually. Everything kids do to learn about the world is basically the scientific method; I approach teaching and making the same way.

Here are a few awesome things that I love that are making the world better for girls and women in one way or another, and that are geeky, or math and science minded. I thought I'd share them with you.

"Wollstonecraft - A Snicketesque girl-power adventure featuring Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley at 11 and 14 in 1826 London, for ages 8-12"
This project has already been fully funded (and wow, was it ever successful!), but it's so cool, I have to share it. The bit that gets me pumped is this:
"This is a pro-math, pro-science, pro-history and pro-literature adventure novel for and about girls, who use their education to solve problems and catch a jewel thief."

I cannot wait to see these books come out, read them myself, and share them with Maddy as soon as she's old enough to enjoy them!

"MOLLY DANGER - The world's most powerful 10 year old superhero is comic book superstar Jamal Igle's new creator owned graphic album series."

I know I shouldn't be promoting other Kickstarters when mine is still going, but I really love this, and I want it to succeed! Jamal is a successful and talented comic book artist who has worked on some major books for Marvel and DC. He is also the father of a little girl, and he's working on this book with a young girl protagonist who is, in his words "the most powerful girl in the world, but also the loneliest". I love that a professional in this male dominated industry is making an effort to change the industry for the better, and tell a new kind of story that the major comic companies probably wouldn't touch. I wish you the best, Jamal!

Finally, one of my backers is a programmer, and is planning to teach his daughter programming as she grows, so she can make awesome games too! He sent me a link to a programming language called Scratch, which is a visually based programming language that is easy enough for kids to learn and use. When Maddy gets a bit older, I'm looking forward to sitting down with her and trying to learn it together.

Do you have a geeky or girl power project to share? Post it in the comments! The more people out there doing inspiring things for girls, the better, and I want to know about them! What projects are inspiring you?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Girly stuff

I've got some thoughts on the word girl that I felt like sharing here.

The first thought thread is about the negative connotations associated with the word "girl" or "girly". I'm gonna tell you a little bit about my childhood, so bear with me here.

When I was a kid, I was kind of a tomboy. My parents really wanted to dress me in lots of cute, frilly dresses, and I know I looked totes adorbs in them; I've seen the pictures. I was a damn cute kid. But at some point it occured to little-kid-me that being and dressing like a girl = not getting to have fun. Girls in dresses and skirts were expected to sit "ladylike". They were supposed to stay clean. They were supposed to "play nice". I never thought it was fair that because I was a girl, I was limited to being able to do certain things, if not because I was explicitly told not to, then because of the way I was supposed to dress. My parents must have gotten tired of fighting me on this, or must have been at least somewhat practically minded, because I remember many summers of running around in shorts and t-shirts with no shoes on, running around my neighborhood and getting into stuff. I think I tolerated skirts and dresses for church, or for special occasions, but otherwise, I was pretty much not having it. You cannot collect bugs and dig in the dirt when you're wearing a pretty dress, ok?

The other thing that bugged the shit out of me as a kid was being constantly reminded that girls were bad at things. "You run like a girl" or "you throw/play like a girl" was a pretty common insult, and I heard things like that all the time. Girls are prissy and fussy, they take forever to get ready in the bathroom, they're creeped out by bugs and lizards, they can't fight, etc etc etc. I used to get so angry and frustrated every time I heard these things. They didn't apply to me, and I hated that being a girl was seen as such a bad thing. I didn't want to be a girl; I wanted to be cool. I didn't want to be a boy either, because they were generally jerks, so I figured I was just a different kind of girl. A better kind, one who did not get scared by the boys dangling a lizard in her face ("Oh cool! I love lizards," I'd say, and the boys would be disappointed), and who was not afraid to punch a boy in the face if he was mean to me. With this mindset firmly in place, I got into A LOT of trouble, and wasn't very popular with either boys or girls. They all seemed kinda stupid to me. Luckily, I had a few female friends who were awesome, vulgar, and also willing to punch a boy out, and we were awesome together through elementary school, at least. However, as I got older, this mindset meant I had a hard time identifying with other girls. I always felt awkward and alien around them, and could not for the life of me understand their interests in "girly stuff".

As an adult, I'm beginning to stop judging "girly girls". I realize how much I hated being told what I could or couldn't do, and no one should have to experience that. If you really love lipstick and pink dresses, then rock it the hell out. But it has slowly dawned on me that as women, we can't win. Whatever we choose to do, society will see our interests as either appropriate, and therefore girly and weak and frivilous, or as inappropriate, and therefore we're scary dykes and feminazis, and we're ruining the fabric of society. It is INFURIATING. If you're my facebook friend, you'll occasionally see me going on a mini rant because yet another guy friend made a candid statement about Pinterest (which, OMG, is fully of girly things like flowers and weddings, so it's NO MANS LAND and totally not relevant to my interests), and I get so mad because I'm tired of things for ladies being automatically branded as irrelevant. I'm also tired of feeling ashamed or embarassed when I do happen to like something that is stereotypically girly. As a feminist, I almost feel like I have to apologize for being a stay at home mom, or appreciating the way a killer set of pumps look. Because liking those things makes me look weak, both to society, and to fellow feminists. Girly = weak.

The reason I wanted to write about this, is because I titled my Kickstarter "Girl Stories", and I know that a lot of feminists get riled up when women are called "girls," for the same reason that grown men do not want to be called boys. It seems belittling and patronizing. At the same time, I call myself a girl, or a geek girl, because it's a word I've struggled with my whole life, and because I strongly identify with childish things. I don't feel like an adult - I feel like a giant kid hiding in a woman's body. I know that my interests and favorite things are totally childish, and I'm ok with that; in fact, I love it. Watching Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba BRINGS ME GREAT JOY. So girl just seems to fit; and since my project is especially geared towards young girls, that seemed to fit there too.

So, I'm not writing this to attack my feminist friends, or society at large. These are just my thoughts about the word "girl", and why I get kinda pissed about it. Call it the word of the day, if you will. I'd love it if you all would share your thoughts about this in the comments. Does being called a girl, as opposed to a woman, piss you off if you're female? Does it depend on who says it? Guys, do you worry about having interests that are stereotypically "girly"?

So btw, my Kickstarter has 5 days left. I would LOVE to raise a ton more money, but what I REALLY want is for everyone in the world to see it. Like, EVERYONE. I'm incredibly proud of it; it was a huge accomplishment for me, and it is the beginning of a project that I will be spending the next 6 months working on. Thanks to all of you, it will be successful, but please help me out and keep telling everyone. I don't care if no one donates another cent. I just want the world to know about Girl Stories. Thanks everyone:)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A busy week; a revelation

There is so much going on lately, I can barely keep my head on straight. If I were to blog about it all, we'd be here all night! I did a screenprinting workshop over the past weekend, and had a blast teaching people how to print on clay. (A friend of mine saw this on Facebook and was like "What?!? You can screen print on clay?!?!?" Mwah hahahahaha, this is how I suck you in...) I made a screen of my Picard mug designs, and ended up printing the Star Trek insignia/communicator, which I cut out and plan to make into a brooch. It just so happens that the freakin' enormous gaming convention Gen Con is this weekend, and two amazing actors, Nichelle Nichols(!!!) and Wil Wheaton, will be guests of honor there. I pretty much have to go, wearing my handmade pin, with Maddy in her Star Trek onesie. Do you think it'd be weird if I asked them to autograph my child? But I digress... I've been nerdin' out pretty hard lately, I gotta say;) Between getting to teach clay techniques and making all this Star Trek stuff, I'm pretty much exploding with nerdiness. It's making me pretty happy:D

The Kickstarter is going amazingly well - I'm at $2200 now, which is soooo amazing! I met with a program coordinator with Big Brothers/Big Sisters today, and we're putting together a workshop with 10 littles and their bigs. That's 20 girls and women getting to make awesome art, for free! And it's all thanks to you awesome people! Anyway, I've been hard at work in the studio, in my sketchbook, and on the internet sending out press releases and messages to people. It's exhausting, but exhilarating. I'm just buzzing with energy and ideas! I feel like I could do ANYTHING!

I finally finished painting these two plates I made months and months ago. I kept meaning to sit down and paint them, but I just now got around to it. They are for another show that is in the works with some friends of mine... and I will let you know all about that in the near future. SPOILERS;)

This is a jar somewhat related to the Girl Stories series. I made it before the idea had really crystallized in my head; I was thinking of girls and princess culture at the time, and had just finished reading a poem about feeling like a queen rather than a princess. I liked the connotation of that - power, strength, dignity, respect, wisdom - nothing at all like the pinky-pink princess culture we market to our young ones. The queen here is still not a girl of action, though. She was even mouthless and pale before I began filling her in. The old fairy tale princess tropes creep into my head too, I realize. I gave her a big grin, and made it so she's making the seedlings grow, rather than just wandering through them placidly. She looks a bit like my sis-in-law Mariah now.

On a more serious note, I feel like this Girl Stories project is really making me more conscious of the work I make, and what it's about. I've done a lot of pretty things, without really thinking much about the aesthetic I was referencing, or why I made girls that looked this way or that. I've been thinking a lot about the lack of girls of color in my work. My sister in law is black, and I was inspired in part by her love of nerdy things to do this project. Meanwhile, I was still drawing nothing but little white girls. I realized that just this week, and I was gobsmacked that I hadn't even noticed, or thought about it. I have to keep working to be conscious of my own sense of privilege if I truly want to help promote the voices of all women, not just the white ones.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm only mildly obsessed with Legend of Zelda. It's not a problem.

So, I've been thinking about Legend of Zelda A LOT lately.

My teenage sister-in-law Mariah is volunteering at Gen Con this year in exchange for a four day pass, and she's been flipping out over what costume she wants to wear. While I was putting together my Kickstarter, I was also helping her figure out what she'd need to make a costume herself, and who her favorite video game characters were, since GenCon is a gaming convention. We started by working on a Sora costume from Kingdom Hearts II. Then she saw a Youtube tutorial on making a Link hat from Legend of Zelda, and she felt like that would be an easy project for her to tackle by herself. We've been trying to finish both a Sora costume and a Link costume, and we've been listening to a lot of geeky music while we work, like the DDR soundtrack (don't judge!) and a lot of Lindsay Sterling.

If you're not a gamer or a geek (this is a ceramics blog, after all), I should explain. Legend of Zelda is a video game franchise that's been around since the 80's, and I've been playing it since I was a little girl. Despite the title of the game, the protagonist is actually Link, a little elf looking guy dressed all in green who runs around the forest solving puzzles and fighting monsters in a quest to save the Princess Zelda. It's a really fun series of games, and they're still making new ones to this day.

Lindsay Sterling is a punk rock violinist who does a lot of geeky musical renditions, and my sister Mariah ravenously devours every video she puts out. If you check out her website, her story is an inspiring one! I saw her Legend of Zelda medley a while back on Topless Robot and kinda flipped out. Because yeah, when you played Legend of Zelda as a kid, you never imagined yourself as a boring, sleeping princess. You imagined yourself running through the woods flipping out! I know I did, and I know the same is true for my sis. We loved that game because we could picture ourselves in it, even though Link was a boy character. Just like Lindsay Sterling flipping out on the violin and running around woods and caves.

Thinking about this game and my sister's costume making ventures is a large part of what inspired my Kickstarter. Every costume Mariah was interested in making was male, and I started to think about why that was, and how much I could relate.

Which brings me to an article I saw yesterday on Kotaku about the Olympic gymnast from Mexico who used Lindsay Sterling's Zelda medley for her floor routine. I flipped my shit when I saw this. A hardcore female gymnast representing the best of her country and working hard at her craft, while giving a shout out to gamers everywhere. There's a bit in the Kotaku article where the gymnast, Elsa, talks about hearing Lindsay's music and considering using it for her routine: '"I thought of Link running around through the forest, mountains, caves, and how agile he is, it was funny to think that I was doing something similar but in my own way," Elsa said. "I liked what it reminded me of: the whole concept of never giving up on my quest."' I was like YES! YES! That is it exactly!!! Here I am doing a series of art inspired by this exact thing - girls of action, doing what they love, not just imagining themselves as the hero, but going out there and living it too. My heart just swells with happiness to see all these amazing geeky ladies out there kicking so much ass!

So that's where my head has been at lately, lol. Long story short, my first doll jar has a bit of Legend of Zelda on it, and my first story is going to be inspired by all of this. I'm pretty pumped about it:D

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kickstarter: Day 2

We are nearing the end of the second day of my Kickstarter. If you haven't been following along, I'm proud to say that I woke up this morning to find I'd been fully funded in less than 24 hours. I am still a little bit in shock over that. Now I'm almost $200 over goal, with 28 days left to go. All I can say is WOW! and AWESOME! and THANK YOU! If you haven't seen it yet, you can check it out here, and see what all the fuss is about.

Now that I've met my goal and can make the work I want to make, I want to pay it forward and give something back. My plan now is to use additional funds to start a mentorship program for at risk and underprivileged girls. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I've contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I'm waiting to hear back from them. My plan is to give girls the same opportunity to make art and tell their stories that I've been given. I've been very blessed by all the opportunities that I've had in my life, and certainly having loving and supportive parents gave me a solid foundation. A lot of girls don't have any of that. These are the girls that need to tell their stories most, and need to know that their voices matter.

I have dreams of one day expanding this idea into a fully fledged art program that would help build girl's self esteem, teach them to value their creativity and their experiences, and to help them gain business skills that they can use to go into the world and do awesome things. It would be really cool to be able to bring in other women artists and crafters for workshops too, so they can see strong, inspiring women that are out there doing their thing. It would be AMAZINGLY cool to do something like Girls Rock Indy (which I am so inspired by, btw!), but with art. Right now, I just want to start small. Clay classes for girls, learning to make sculptures that tell their stories. I'm really excited about this idea! I want to get a bunch of girls playing in the mud, getting dirty, and making cool things!

The more money I raise, the more I can do with this. If you can, please donate what you can spare, and share the link everywhere you can!

Anyway, doll jar number one is in the bisque kiln right now. Wish her luck and safe passage through the fire! She's got a lot of work to do!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Kickstarter is live!

I did it! My Kickstarter is live and I am overflowing with happiness, excitement, and gratitude. So many people have supported me in this with advice, kind words, and a whole lot of cheering me on. Now it's happening, and I couldn't be more proud for getting this going.

Please check out my video and support my project if you can. This is something so close to my heart, so your support means a lot to me. Donate if you can (and get cool stuff for helping!) If you can't donate, I understand. You can still help me by sharing the link to my Kickstarter, and telling your friends about Girl Stories. Help me spread the word and tell cool stories about girls!

Thanks for all the love, y'all:)