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This was written for my work blog (what are the odds, right?) Read @ MPL.

Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat.A common complaint about cookbooks is there aren’t enough pictures. Boy howdy do I have a cookbook for those complainers! Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat. by Katie Shelly is a graphic cookbook where the recipes are drawn not written. Each recipe features drawings of the ingredients and the process of preparing the dish, with the instructions contained in the drawings. The recipes aren’t strict blueprints for perfect food, but more like a framework to experiment with. Instead of a recipe for tacos, she has “Some Thoughts on Tacos” featuring a huge variety of ingredients that you can combine in any way you want to create your perfect taco. People who are strict recipe followers probably won’t like this; it’s very loosey-goosey. Shelly does finish each recipe with a ribbon across the bottom of each page featuring the measurements and quantities of ingredients, so you aren’t totally out on a limb. If you want a taste of the cookbook (pun intended!), she has posted several preview recipes on her website.

In addition to the yummy food, I am totally smitten with Katie Shelly’s drawings. The lines are beautiful and clean, the colors bold, and the recipes very tempting. Cookbook innovation is pretty infrequent. People stopped trying to change it up once they figured out a standard format. And don’t get me wrong, that format is wonderfully efficient; but not all recipes have to be that way! This cookbook is beautiful, interesting, and delicious. Some cookbooks have a tone of haute cuisine, but Picture Cook is just an artist sharing her favorite recipes.

My absolute favorite part of this recipe is the hands. Mix! Around!

Cover photo via Goodreads.
Recipe photo from

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Allie has
read 2 books toward her goal of 200 books.

I was looking at a gift guide on Miss Moss (whom I lovelovelove. Not to be confused with Swiss Miss, whom I also lovelovelove) and she included this stripes cup from Rennes:

Rennes stripes cup

I was salivating instantly. Look at those stripes! Look at that exposed clay! Look at the speckles! It has so many lovely beautiful things I want/love. Their ceramics collection (pictured below) is beautiful and subtle: matte glazes, simple colors, clear forms. Even though the cups, mugs, and jars are minimal, there is a lot of complexity there too. On the mugs, the handles have squared edges, extending pretty far off the surface and connecting symetrically close to the top and bottom of the form. The speckled matte glazes are another beautiful touch. The speckles let you know that the glaze isn’t uniform, that it doesn’t behave the same way on every cup in every firing. I love the squared off edges of the handles because the glaze doesn’t sit evenly there. It makes a line, emphasizing the curve of that handle, letting a little more of the clay body show through. Boy howdy, do I ever like this collection.

Rennes ceramics

Rennes, I learned, is a design studio based in Boston. They are named for Rennes-le-Château, a chateau in southwestern France that is apparently the center of some conspiracy theories about the Holy Grail! They comically note that they “were into [it] way before the Da Vinci Code.” Their ethos is to make things, close to home, with beautiful details and excellent craftsmanship. Their (too small! Gimme more!) ceramics collection fits right into that. Rennes also means reindeer, and you know how I feel about antlers.

Photos from rennes – Ceramics.

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Allie has
completed her goal of reading 200 books in 2013!

I cannot imagine my brain without Lynda Barry.

In January I started reading Blabber Blabber Blabber Blabber: Everything Vol. 1 Collected and Uncollected Comics from Around 1978-1982 and I LOVED it! My absolute favorites were Rita and Evette, twin sisters who are so totally weird. It’s not just the weird comics, but also how she draws and how her comics started and where they are now. The characters are weird, but also the style is weird and imperfect. I see a lot of beautiful, pristine drawings and comics but what I really love is the weird stuff. The stuff that looks almost like it could be done by anyone, but not quite because there’s this magical sensibility that fits so perfectly and is so lovely and abnormal. Barry fills the backgrounds with patterns, my favorite is bobby pins. Now all I want is some fabric that has bobby pins all over it. I’d make bobby pin dresses and maybe a coat. Definitely some linens too.

The second book of hers I picked up was Picture This. Holy WOW!! It’s part comics and part autobiographical musings on drawing. The near-sighted monkey appears throughout, making a mess in the kitchen and smoking a lot of cigarettes. Arna and Marlys are also all over this one, goofing off and sketching, sometimes hanging out and sometimes antagonizing each other. The book is divided into seasons, my favorite (and the first one in the book – i.e. I fell in love before I knew it was divided by season) is winter. She makes observations that I recognize in myself but I’ve never given a name to before this. Like sometimes in winter you just have to paint everything blue. That happens to me! Not just in winter though. When I get sad, everything in my sketchbook turns blue, almost because it has to. I draw, yes, but my drawings aren’t necessarily governed by me or my conscious brain. This book is so sensitive and perfect. She talks about insecurities about her drawings and her life. She talks about keeping brush to paper because she needs to; maybe because the drawing is keeping her there or because if she’s not drawing then what’s she doing anyways?

100 Demons (also called One! Hundred! Demons!) is up next. OH MY GOD. First, this 100 demons drawing exercise is something I really want to do. My life is governed by a lot of demons, big and small. Lynda Barry said that at first it was really difficult and awful but it became good after a while. Her demons, from girlishness to dancing, were so poignant and relevant to my life. Maybe it’s because she’s a redhead too. She was (is?) a freak loner, I am a freak loner! She draws a lot, I draw a lot! Everything she shares in her books is so honest and raw. These are feelings and demons that might be 30-40 years old but they are still very fresh. While I was reading I thought a lot about how I was (still am sometimes) both bully and victim. Hurt people hurt people is a phrase I first heard in the movie Greenberg, but I think about it all the time. It’s a good summary of how I was raised, and something I have to constantly think about to keep me from continuing the cycle.

The most recent Lynda Barry book I’ve read is called What It Is. This one is about writing like Picture This was about drawing.  There are cluttered parts and clear parts, and so much terrific advice about writing and creativity.  It was definitely my least favorite of these, but seriously I still absolutely love it.  The parts I like best were the autobiographical parts, which were less numerous in this book. The great thing about this one is that there’s an activity portion! It’s at the end of the book and it is a bunch of exercises to help loosen you up and start thinking creatively again. I think every adult could use an activity book like that, be they an office drone or a CEO or a teacher or an artist!

I know I came a little late to the Lynda Barry table, but I can’t imagine my brain without her. Everything she says, everything she draws makes so much sense to me in a way that is indescribable. I am genuinely at a loss for words when talking about her to other people, because I can say all the good stuff I like about her work but the most beautiful perfect thing is stuck in my brain.

You should listen to this interview she did with Talk of the Nation in 2008: Genius At Work: Lynda Barry, AND an interview on Talk of the Nation from 2010 Doodle Your Way Out of Writer’s Block. And a Review, What It Is Plumbs the Depths of Creativity.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Allie has
read 134 books toward her goal of 150 books.

I read about the Smithsonian Folkways radio station just yesterday, and ever since I have been obsessed.  I’ve been a fan of the SF imprint since my Irish fiddling days, and since listening to the radio station I have added so many things to my List Of Things To Buy Once I Get My First Paycheck.

The station plays music spanning tons of genres: songs and ballads from the British Isles, calypso (my new favorite), American folk music, gospel, and native music from the Americas, Asia (including some great throat singing!), and Africa.  The music is instrumental, vocal, a capella, bands, field recordings, percussion, etc.  It covers so much ground!  This isn’t exactly surprising as Smithsonian Folkways recordings have been popular among ethnomusicologists for ages.

My favorite new discovery is Lord Invader, whose song “Crisis in Alabama” is really a treat:

Once more with feeling: the Smithsonian Folkways radio station –!

When heading up to Minnesota a while ago, my mom and I made a stop we had been planning since I started at Carleton (but for many reasons had put off until almost a year after I graduated): visiting the Forevertron.  It’s located in North Freedom, WI, about five or six miles south of Baraboo, near the old Badger munitions plant and sharing land with Delaney’s Surplus.

Some facts about the Forevertron:

  • It’s the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, certified by the Guinness book of world records. [Update: I think it was usurped in 2001 by a stupid sculpture of stupid geese ]
  • It was built by Tom Every as the character Dr. Evermor — a Victorian scientist who sought to launch himself “into the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam.”
  • It is the coolest place I have ever been in my life.

I cannot stress enough how this place is the coolest place I have ever been in my life.  Every single piece of the sculpture is precious and exceptional.  Much of the scrap metal used to create the sculpture is very old and very decorative, and it is all combined beautifully to create something far greater than my imagination could fathom.  I am and have always been a huge fan of roadside attractions, folk art, and odd museums, especially in Wisconsin.  There is something really special about roadside attractions that I can’t quite put my finger on.  The whole place blends history and art, machinery and fantasy , and you find yourself immersed in that world.  This place is special.  I find it funny to me is that at first glance it looks almost steampunk.  What’s funny is that it’s not so much steampunk as it is just steam.

It comes down to this: I want to live there.  My experience there reminded me of that scene in Harriet the Spy where they visit Golly’s friend Mrs. W. who has a garden full of junk creations.  There’s a mobile of glass soda bottles (with soda in them), instruments made out of old kitchen stuff, sculptures made out of old instruments, all kinds of fun things for Harriet, Sport, and Janie to explore.  The Forevertron is a real life, genuine version of that.  You could explore for ages and still only know a small part of the place.  I want to live somewhere like that!  It might be my own creation or someone else’s, but I ache to live someplace where there is wonder and excitement and creativity and lots of stuff.  So if anyone wants to build me a giant machine, give me a holler

If you want to know more about this amazing place, I highly suggest reading the article from the Folk Art Messenger but mostly I suggest visiting it yourself.

Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron [Folk Art Messenger]
An Interview with Tom Every (Doc Evermor) [The Bottlecap]
The Forevertron
[Roadside America]
The Forevertron [PBS’ Off the Road]
The Forevertron [Wikipedia]
The aforementioned clip from Harriet the Spy [On youtube]

Ayumi Horie is one of my favorite ceramic artists ever, and this video of her dry throwing (!!!) makes me love her so much more (as if that’s even possible).


It is no secret that I love science fiction.  I also love music, and I also love paper.  This video, animated by Eric Power, is a summary (ish) of the three original star wars movies set to the tune of “Tatooine” by Jeremy Messersmith.  I like it for several reasons:

  1. Messersmith is a Minneapolis-based musician, and while I am no longer in Minnesota I still have a terrible fondness for the place.
  2. It’s so nerdy.  The song is nerdy, the video is nerdy, it’s all nerdy.  But it’s the really sweet earnest kind of nerdy that I am such a sucker for.
  3. I love cut paper.

I hope you like it as much as I do. (Which is a lot)

I am obsessed with Misty Gamble.

My favorite of her works is the Chanel / Big Hair series.  She makes ceramic sculptures of older-looking women, allsitting in chairs, wearing Chanel suits, and with enormous hair.  They’re beautiful.  Many of her pieces focus on issues of femininity: the Tan Hands series — ceramic hands on a wall, each differently positioned with a ring on a finger; or the Sweet Terror series — 5 sculptures of young girls, each innocent and horrifying in their own way.  In Chanel / Big Hair, Gamble explores the blurred line between youth and age among cosmetically altered high society women.  Their suits are classic and pristine and their hair is extremely well kept, but there’s something strange and terrifying about them.

My favorite piece  by Gamble is a ceramic “stump” (she dicthes the traditional bust or torso and calls them stumps) with a beehive hairdo (pictured at right with the artist).   That’s exactly how I wore my hair to senior prom in high school!  I also love that this particular stump has red hair just like me!  Unfortunately that’s where the similarities end.  The stumps are modeled after dress forms, have skin textured like fabric, and oddly protruding necks.  They are so fascinating.  I love them and I am also jealous of their hair.

On her website she has photos of her working, which I find particularly illuminating.  It is so cool to see artists at work, especially when that artist is coil building enormous hairdos.  I am building some busts of my own for comps.  I tried to coil build one of them, but I think building solid and hollowing out is more suited to my needs.  I had some issues hollowing out the first one (pictured left) and it got kind of wonky when I put it back together again.  It still hasn’t been fired and doesn’t have antlers yet (I am making them separately) but at least it’s something.

For more info on my favorite, Misty Gamble, visit her website at


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