Monday, September 1, 2014

Mr. Tiny's Wacky Tacky: Mid Century Modern, Costumes, Kitsch, Dinosaurs and More

A dinosaur logo, kitschy paintings on velvet, neon glowing against the night sky, California mid century modern lovingly documented, a gorgeous muse in 100% custom made retro ensembles; this is the world shared by Mr. Tiny on his blog Wacky Tacky. With a rabid love for glittering gaudy goodness and everything Wacky and Tacky I had to learn more about this multi-talented writer. Here's the scoop:

1) May I ask what you and Mary do for a living? You're so talented and I don't believe I saw it anywhere on the blog explicitly:

My kid sister, Mary, is excited to be receiving her wings as a real-life flight attendant; I think she is operating under the assumption that her life will be exactly like Pan-Am circa 1962.  I, Mr. Tiny, am a plus-size model, yacht designer, hat maker, and "Nose" for boutique parfumeries.

2) How about a list of all your plentiful hobbies?

Fortunately, it seems like our hobbies occupy the majority of our time.  I can't imagine life without dancing, singing, cooking, drawing, thrifting, decorating, performing, crafting, writing, adventuring, party-planning, and sewing.

3) You are an amazing illustrator and sewer, how did you learn?

Thank you!  It is so much easier for me to respond to compliments with all of the reasons why the compliments couldn't possibly be true, but I do appreciate it.  Fortunately, both avocations allow for progress and evolution and while practice hasn't quite yet made perfect, I am always striving to improve.

Mr. Tiny designs and sews costumes for his sister, Mary. Photo of Mary above and below by  Alexander Thompson for Ponyboy Magazine

I learned to sew at the feet of my mother and grandmothers.  My mom owned a successful accessory business in the '80s (we were always conscripted into service) and both of my grandmothers were hardcore home seamstresses.  I may not look like the stereotypical homemaker but I love the traditional domestic arts, particularly sewing.

I learned to draw by watching my dad; he was a professional landscape architect and part-time illustrator/painter.  The scope of my skill is very limited, whereas he could draw anything: technical drawings, elevations, cartoons, portraits, animals, landscapes, etc.  Expressing creativity is definitely in the genes.

4) Any favorite resources for what you do to share? 

I use plenty of apps and online resources but the very best resource is the act of exploring.  My favorite activity is just getting in the car (or a boat or plane when time and finances allow) and going on an adventure.  Exploring new cities and looking for their unique charm makes me feel like a treasure hunter - with old movie theaters, historically-significant architecture, and kooky diners being the real gems.  I am certainly not too proud to ask for help and appreciate the the incredibly dynamic folks with whom I am acquainted; they are an endless resource of ideas and inspiration.  Southern California does not have the market cornered on creativity but thankfully, it has always been a hotbed of wacky tacky expression!

5) When did the kitsch and vintage obsession begin?

It has been a lifelong journey.  My paternal grandmother was girl singer in the 1940s so music of that era has always been a huge part of my life.  My paternal grandfather was a major movie nut; consequently, I am a fiend for films from Hollywood's golden age.  Like many of my vintage-loving friends, I must give "I Love Lucy" the lion's share of credit for informing my mid-century sensibilities.  I watched "I Love Lucy" from a very early age, trying to incorporate as much of the aesthetic, the style of dress, and the style of comedy into my life as possible.  An abiding love for classic music, movies, and television combined with an unnatural affinity for "Pee-Wee's Playhouse," resulted in an inevitable obsession with kitsch and vintage.

6) What do you love the most about the atomic/MCM era?

I think there are things to love about every era in history.  I am a sucker for costume dramas.  I love music of all styles and eras.  I am always up for an historical adventure.  I do particularly respond to the mid-20th Century, albeit mostly on a superficial level, but also because it feels like it was the last time in history that there was the excitement and promise of something truly new.  Technology evolves at an astounding rate but at this point it seems much more about refinement than invention.  

Fashion is ever-cyclical but these days it is just a reinterpretation of previous movements.  Bored when it seems like there is nothing new under the sun, I hearken back to a time when everything was new.  Galvanized by the resolution of a world war, the mid-20th Century saw an unprecedented explosion of products, population, and optimism.  The innovative use of new materials was evident in all aspects of life.  The creation of popular culture was disseminated by a burgeoning teenage population.  

Tiki houses in Cali captured by Wacky Tacky. My dream homes, I want a 50s to 70s era home.

The opportunity of achieving the "American Dream" through accessible education, homes, and modern conveniences was becoming a reality.  It was a time when we were collectively reaching (both literally and figuratively) for the stars.  That's exciting!  Oh, and I like the clothes too...

7) Your top 3 muses?

Muses/icons/heroes:  Pee-Wee Herman, My sister Mary, My Grandpa Bob

8) When and why did you start Wacky Tacky?

Wacky Tacky started three-and-a-half years ago because my brother felt I needed a creative outlet that explored all of my interests; without his inspiration and his technical help (I'm worthless when it comes to technology, rarely touching a computer before I started blogging), I don't think I would have ever considered taking to the internet or meeting any of the fantastic people I have through blogging.  The original aim was to focus on architecture and interior design but it quickly became a full lifestyle blog dedicated to design (fashion, architecture, interior), art, music, family, crafts, food, films, icons, performing, collections, restaurant reviews, travel, and vintage adventures.  

9) Have you encountered any challenges with Wacky Tacky?

I figured writing a blog would be a piece of cake; I obviously underestimated the agony and ecstasy every blogger experiences when trying to share his/her passions in an interesting way - all the while hoping to find a receptive audience and anxiously awaiting comments.  I've been told that I'm too wordy and my posts skew lengthy but I write my blog for myself too, and I love to write.  I try my best not to get overly personal on wacky tacky but an unexpected result of creating content for a blog is a fair bit of self-reflection and diary-esque over-sharing.  I tend to be very forgetful, so I am glad to have a record of the fun experiences I've had, fun being the operative word.

10) What's your main ambition for Wacky Tacky?

Basically, our sole motivation at wacky tacky is fun!  Everyday life can be so dreary, mundane, and downright depressing that we seek out every opportunity to focus on the fun that is waiting around every corner. I've never been to a single town that didn't have something quirky, amazing, or inspirational.  I've never visited a vintage/historic home and left without finding a moment of beauty or a vignette reminiscent of my dear grandparents.  I've never met a Jell-O I didn't like.   I've never left a thrift store empty-handed.  I've never met a person who wasn't, even in a small way, nostalgic for an earlier time.  wacky tacky is a way of bringing all of those things together and celebrating the mild absurdity found in our weird, wide, wonderful world.

11) How about sharing your top favorite posts with us?

Among my favorite posts (in no particular order):

Thanks for sharing your Wacky Tacky world with us Mr. Tiny. It's so creative, colorful, and inspiring! I'll always be back to read more!
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let's Discuss: Is Thrifting an Alternative to a Materialistic Mindset? Are We Filling Emotional Voids with Objects?

Last month I wrote 12 Reason to Buy Nothing New. Style, Environmentalism, and Deep Introspection. Reader Raffaella left a question in a comments that beat me to my planned follow-up:

While thrifting is very interesting (I only wish we had thrift stores here!) and I agree with your points, I've always wondered if it really is an alternative to the consumeristic mindset. I mean that buying secondhand is still buying, so still a way to fill an emotional void with material things. What do you think? 
I agree with Raffia. Buying second-hand IS still buying and a way to continue to fill emotional voids with material objects. I took a long break from ALL buying, including second-hand buying, even buying for my business, to examine what I tend to buy and why I buy. These are my thoughts a few months in:

1) We Need to Be Careful About Every Object We Bring Into Our Lives. Free, Thrifted, and Otherwise: Thrifting is environmentally friendly, keeping resources from landfills and helping consumers avoid directly supporting slave labor. Hell, it's fun. But once your in the lifestyle you start to realize how easy it is to obtain wares for free or close to it. You get to know all the best stops, your eyes are glued to curbsides. It becomes too easy to pick up too much leaving you with an unorganized hoarder-mess.

2) You Need a Rule and Organization System: Especially for artists, these free and low-cost supplies are necessary, but you need a strict set of rules on what comes in and out an a detailed organization system in place for everything you bring in. Example: Keep all plywood organized by size, texture, and color in your workshop and remnants for jewelry creating neatly organized in a (thrifted) tackle box.

3) Think of the Legacy You Want to Leave: I often think about the legacy we'll leave behind on a macro and micro level. The macro level looks exactly like the future in Wall-E [above], but that's a story for another day! Let's think about what people would say about our homes and our work after we die. I want them to see a thoughtful, helpful creator who collected with a good eye; not piles of junk.

4) Human's Innately Want. We Crave The New and Novelty: In Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping I read about 19th century economist/sociologist Thorstein Velben and his the phenomenon he calls "aesthetic nausea." It's when what was once fashionable wears out its welcome, the novelty's gone and it's chucked for the latest trend. This has been going on since our first civilization in The Fertile Crescent and in caves before this. The human organism constantly examines and collects, seeking new resources and better chances for survival. It's natural.

5) It's okay to examine the world, collect from it, and re-arrange. Thoughtfully. Make a plan: We choose what to bring in and how to reconstruct it into something new. Think about where you choose to spend your money or what to bring in. Do it wisely and with care.

Also, note: I've happened upon comments on past posts asking detailed questions. I don't often read comments on past posts after that week (you can see the dates at the top left of each post). Please e-mail me and I'll get back to you.

What are your thoughts on thrifting and materialism? Is it still a bad thing?
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

100% Upcycled Project #1: Cacti and Succulent Still Life: Kitschy Planter DIY


I'm starting a new project. Determined to stretch anti-consumerism and art muscles, I'm challenging myself to make something new out of objects and supplies I already own every day.  Using what I already have or can obtain from friends is a fun and money-saving way to make life colorful and creative. Today I unveil Project #1: My my first (and not last) 100% Upcycled Cacti and Succulent mix Planter.

[Photo above is from Instagram. Follow me there to see my creative projects in real-time. ]

Supplies, Pre-Owned: white aquarium gravel, homemade cacti soil mix, purple succulent, grey vintage planter, toy
Supplies, Gifted: Cacti and succulent babies from my mom's grown plants.

The Supply's Previous Sad Lives ]

1) I had perfectly good previous mixed cacti soil mix in a planter covered with gravel on kitchen windowsill! It once housed a plant but after I moved it I just used it to hold up my incense sticks while they burned.
2) More dirt was in a big green planter on the windowsill in my office, holding just one sad little purple succulent! All by himself save for his "plant-type" Pokemon toy-friends (gifts from my friend, Birdie). 3) I noticed the succulents and cacti outgrowing tiny pots/jars they were being rooted in at my mom's house.
4) The gray planter was a $1 (or less) flea market score, sat empty in a merchandise box.

Cacti and Succulent Note ] Cacti and succulents  like sandy, well-draining soil and full sunlight. They're hard to kill and grow slowly, making them good starter plants. They're an interior design favorite because you can even fit them in quirky non-planters, like teacups. Their simple, sculptural shapes are inspiring to a designer's eye. I have a post on how to plant your vintage planters with succulents/cacti without killing your precious plant-children here.

My diminutive still life sits on my computer desk and makes me happy when I glance at it throughout the work day. I'm excited to make more plant compositions in the house- somehow without paying a dime along the way. I adore plants, this casa needs to feel like a jungle since I can't get my ass back to gorgeous Puerto Rico (oh Waterfall, Private Island, and Colorful Neighborhoods, muses, all) I'll make one here. It's so satisfying to use what I have for creative solutions versus rushing to the nearest store for a quick-and-generic fix! As a bonus, my cat no longer tries to dig out my succulents with the sharp cacti there to "protect" them.

Join the 100% Upcycled Project:Let's make amazing transformations out of what we already own. Simply:

1) Use items/supplies you already have in your possession to OR
2) Use what your friends/families have. This is all about avoiding retail and realizing and utilizing the abundant resources and community around us. Curbsides/dived finds work, but no buying from Thrifts.
3) Set a schedule. I'm trying for daily (for now!) Yours can be weekly or monthly.
4) Keep it simple. It can be daily drawings using paper and art supplies you already now or something more ambitious. It can be as easy as making a gallery wall out of dusty framed art in the garage.
5) Have Fun! Share the photos with me via e-mail or social media, or link your posts about the products in the blog posts. I may even blog about your creations, anyone interested in me making a Flickr group or other social media group where we can share projects?

Creativity needs limitations to thrive, otherwise the daunting array of selections keeps you from making. Using what we have is the perfect creative constraint; environment and wallet friendly.

Would you prefer weekly updates on my daily DIY projects? How about just spotlights? Or Both? How about a social media group where we can share our upcycled projects? Let me know!
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.
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