Monthly archives: June, 2011

Dispatches: Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art

Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, photo ©2011, Tom Grotta

Alphonse Mattia, Architect’s Valet Chair, 1989. Museum purchase with Funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Courtesy of Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design

We delivered our aspiring artist (now on Etsy:
) to the pre-college program at RISD last week and had a chance to visit the art museum in the same trip.

The on-going exhibition iof 20th century art and design items from the permanent collection, Subject to Change, was well selected. Highlights during our visit were a weaving of saran monofilament from 1962 by Jack Lenor Larsen, a small but exquisite painting by Agnes Martin, the Architect’s Valet Chair by Alphonse Mattia (a professor at RISD) and the iconic Valentine typewriter by Olivetti. The items are changed continuously; the textiles rotated every five months to protect from light damage.

Furnishing textile, ca. 1939 American linen; plain weave, hand screen‐printed; 35.5″ x 26.25″ Gift of Howard and Schaffer, Inc. Courtesy of the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Cocktail Culture catalog available from risd/works

The Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980 exhibit is a delight. (“Highballs and High Art,” The New York Times dubbed it.)  One of the largest exhibitions in the Museum’s history, it combines more than 200 items — fashion, film, jewelry, fine art, design and commercial fabrics from Prohibition to disco; from Dansk to Dior. You have until the end of July to transport yourself to a more glamorous time — if you can’t make it in person, there’s a slide show at InStyle
and a lavishly illustrated catalog, Cocktail Culture, available from risd/works:

Book Lust: Penguin Books – Threads Deluxe Classics and Tie-ins


We love Penguin Classics.  The collection includes more than 1,000 classic titles from The Adventures and Memoirs of  Sherlock Holmes to Gulliver’s Travels to A Christmas Carol to Middlemarch and Dracula. This October, new versions, Penguins Threads Deluxe Classics, will be released with gloriously embroidered covers by Jillian Tamaki. You can pre-order the three titles commissioned to date, Emma, The Secret Garden and Black Beauty on Amazon now. You can also order a set of

100 Penguin Book Cover Cards from Amazon. And Penguin has released two versions of Book Cover Wrapping Paper. One, a collage of Penguin covers, is available from Bas Bleu, the other, an image of Penguin spines, can be found at Shiny Shack in the UK. Still not enough Penguin? You can obtain the entire line of Penguin Classics in one complete paperback collection, from Renaissance philosophy to the poetry of revolutionary Russia, from the spiritual writings of India to the travel narratives of the early American colonists, from The Complete Pelican Shakespeare to The Portable Sixties Reader, for $13,000+.

Dispatches: See the World’s Largest — or Nearly Largest — Ball of Twine

Who says you can’t learn things from watching television? in In a recent episode of Covert Affairs on USA, CIA operative Annie Walker and her sister discuss the world’s largest ball of yarn located in Lamar, Missouri. Got me wanting more information.  Turns out that the competition for largest twine ball (some call them yarn balls, but apparently, they are mostly really twine balls) is pretty fierce and Missouri has only two of several contenders.

Darwin World Largest Ball of Twine created by 1 man photo by Mykl Roventine


Darwin, Minnesota boasts a ball that weighs 9 tons and is 12-feet wide and was mentioned in Crazy Al Yankovic’s video for the song, White and Nerdy. It was rolled by one man, Francis A. Johnson, between 1950 and 1979  Darwin residents look down on a rival twine ball in Cawker City, Kansas.

Cawker City World Largest Twine Ball



World’s Largest Ball of Twine Cawker City, Kansas By jimmywayne

While it was begun by one man in 1953, it was completed by townspeople in a Twine-a-Thon in 2003 A local artist, Cher Olsen, has integrated the twine ball into her paintings, reworking American Gothic and Mona Lisa and the like and these are on display at the Masterpiece Twine Walk Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin has it’s own contender.

Created by James Frank Kotera who started in 1979, JFK estimates that it weighs 19,336 pounds, which may make it the heaviest twine ball.  Only one entry has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s the one at Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Branson, Missouri that’s 41.5 feet in circumference (Though some say it shouldn’t qualify as it’s made of nylon twine.) As for the one in Lamar, Missouri –I couldn’t find it but there is an attractive multi-colored ball at the Pattee House Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri and reportedly one made of postal string at the American Bowman Restaurant and O’Malley’s Pub in Weston, Missouri.  If you’re vacationing in the Midwest this summer — check ’em out.  You can get hats, start-your-own-twine-ball kits and great We-Were-There photos.


Art into Text: Naomi Kobayashi’s Work Inspires a Plot Twist

KAKU 2000/106 & 104 Naomi Kobayashi, paper and thread, 17” x 13.5” x 2”

William Bayer, author of The Dream of the Broken Horses, Switch, Peregrine and Punish Me With Kisses, among other titles, has woven Naomi Kobayashi’s art into his upcoming novel – working title, In the Weave. Bayer is a collector of Kobayashi’s art work — weavings of thread and strips of washi paper on which she has written calligraphy. For his new book, Bayer envisioned a character with a secret recorded on paper that she protects by cutting the pages into strips and incorporating it into a weaving, which is then unraveled so the paper strips can be steamed and pieced back together to reveal the secret. When contacted for her advice, Kobayashi agreed that a weaving of paper strips and thread could be de-constructed and de-coded as Bayer planned; the paper strips would survive steaming and unraveling, she wrote, because handmade washi paper is strong. She worried, however, that the ink might blur during steaming and suggested that Bayer’s character use oil-based ink. We’ll let you know when the book is ready to hit  bookstore shelves. In the meantime. We’ve gotten Bayer’s permission to share a snippet of what’s to come:

From In the Weave, by William Bayer:

Kate and I are up in the A.I.R. loft. Liv’s weaving is spread out before us, reminding me of that T. S. Eliot line “like a patient etherised upon a table.” In fact, we have set TPR on the apartment dining table, and beside it have set out our instruments: scissors, needles, tweezers. Surgery is about to commence.

Kate smiles. “Nervous?”

How can I not be?

I think you should make the first cut,” she says.

I nod, gaze down at the weaving, so beautifully finely made. And then I take the scissors in hand, and begin.

We’ve discussed this deconstruction process at great length, and though we’re not certain if we’re right, we’ve decided to start by scissoring off the top selvage, snip the cotton warp in numerous places to try and loosen the weave, then pluck out the first several washi paper wefts. It’s our hope that if we steam these wefts, they’ll open up and flatten out. Then and only then will we be able to determine if there’s writing on them. If there is, we’ll repeat the process hundreds of times until we’ve removed and steamed open all the strips, and then try, as puzzle solvers, to reassemble these strips until we’ve reconstructed the original sheet of paper. Only then will we be able to read whatever Liv may have written on it. We know this process  will be laborious, will take us many hours, and may, in the end, come to nothing. In which case we will have destroyed her amazing work of art. But what choice do we have? If Liv did in fact “conceal my pain in the weave,” we must uncover it. And if she didn’t, we’ll be left with nothing but a heap of cotton thread and marked up paper strips, and a tremendous amount of remorse.