Hiking, live poetry, urban revitalization, Quinceaneras, Art Deco architecture and a Hasidic Jewish jazz musician… where might you find all these glorious things? Downtown Santa Ana, CA.

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending Architecture and Design Museum of Los Angeles presents: URBAN HIKES: FORGOTTEN LA. Urban Hikes is a unique series of tours devoted to the exploration and celebration of sometimes-forgotten parts of Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Our tour guide, poet and LA native Mike Sonksen, performed live poetry and provided a cultural, historical, and architectural tour that explored the forgotten and hidden gems of Santa Ana's Arts District.
Starting in the 1870s, Santa Ana was THE Orange County destination for decades…  and then came Disneyland. Poor Santa Ana just couldn’t compete with Mickey Mouse and the city’s popularity steadily declined throughout the 1960s. By the 1970s-80s is was a ghost town. BUT, since the turn of the century, artists and creatives have settled in and are reinventing the downtown arts district.
The Santora Arts Building, with its “Wedding Cake Style” architecture, is stunning. It was built in 1929 and now anchors the revitalized Artist’s Village section of Downtown. Galleries, artists studios, boutiques, restaurants, bars… the building has a little bit of everything.
It isn’t all Spanish Revival, there is lots of Art Deco around town too: the old city hall, W.H. Spurgeon Building and the old clock tower.
Santa Ana also has a vibrant Latino culture. A little girl on the tour was mesmerized by all the Quinceanera and special occasion dresses (I was too).
Just a little typographic study.
My favorite building was the West End Theater. Occasionally we would rest while our tour guide recited poetry (I was leery, but it was actually very poignant). This poem was about Ronald Reagan (or Ray Gun).
The Old Orange County Courthouse is Southern California’s oldest court building. You might have seen it before in the films Catch Me if you Can and Legally Blonde.
With all our Urban Hiking, Cory and I worked up quite an appetite. A nice woman on the tour recommended “Chapter One.” It was a popular Sunday brunch destination with a line out the door. Luckily they had immediate opening for a party of two. I went for the $6 bottomless mimosas, lentil salad and yogurt with fresh berries and mango sauce. Cory got a double IPA and the breakfast burger… from Heart-Attacks-R-Us (bottom to top – donut, turkey burger, bacon, pork chop and an egg with hollandaise sauce).

The best part was the musical entertainment courtesy of Rabbi Blue. He strolled through the restaurant playing a jazz guitar, singing songs we all know with an occasional Yiddish lyric thrown in. Here’s Cory singing, “Somewhere Over the Mazel Tov Rainbow.”

We can’t wait for the next round of Urban Hikes.
Since returning to my roots in sunny Southern California, I’ve been experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock. After 8 years in Charlotte, I had become accustomed to folks wearing shoes and shirts in restaurants, to tea being sweet (not infused with pomegranate) and when someone referred to “The US Open,” they were talking golf or tennis. Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit, ’cause out here, “The US Open” means surf, sand and suntans.

So last Sunday, Cory and I decided to check out what all the hootenanny was about. We rode our bikes (don’t worry – not beach cruisers… soooo impractical) down to Huntington Beach and landed in Hawaiian Tropic’s version of Times Square – wall to wall people reeking of suntan oil and salt.

It was the first weekend of the US Open of Surfing, athletes were in qualifying rounds and the atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed. Most people were taking in the “experience” (visiting vendor booths, buying souvenirs at the Nike Pop-Up Shop, loading up on free stuff, waiting in line to get pros’ autographs or just getting their tan on) and saving the real sport spectating for the next weekend.

We had a great time soaking it all in. The people watching was probably my favorite part, followed closely by the bowl skateboarding arena and Converse shoe tent. Plus, everything is FREE and there is no dresscode. Take that tennis and golf.
On May 8th, 2012 the citizens of North Carolina passed a measure that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and bans any other type of "domestic legal union" such as civil unions and domestic partnerships. I was devastated. Feeling rather helpless, I did the only thing I could think of: make a button.

For more info on Amendment One click here.

I Voted.



Image via Maya Drozdz

When Maya Drozdz (of VisuaLingual) invited me to participate in the Visionaries + Voices project "Autocomplete: A Collaborative Coloring Book Exhibit," I was instantly enthralled.

You see, V+V is a Cincinnati based non-profit whose mission is to provide artistic and cultural opportunities for artists with disabilities. Last summer, Maya, and her fellow Autocomplete curators, solicited over 80 V+V artists to create black-and-white artwork. They later contacted 80+ outside artists and designers to "color in" the V+V pieces using any media of their choice -- colored pencils, markers, paint, fabric, found paper, you name it. And starting Thursday, the finished collaborative works of art will be on display at V+V's Northside Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Here's the V+V piece I received in the mail back in February:
Above: Original artwork by Visionaries and Voices artist, Dale Jackson (orange marker on 11x14 mat board)

"Batman and Robin still alive like us the Batmobile, TWA, Delta, American Airlines, Airport."

Is that sentence awesome or what!? How could I ever do it justice? For two months, I spent more time thinking about Batman, Robin and airlines than a fanboy flight attendant. After much consideration, deliberation, conversation and exploration, here's what I ended up submitting:
Above: "Colored in" completed artwork by Nikki Mueller (vintage imagery, transparencies and metal eyelets)
I can't wait to see how all the collaborations turned out! And I'm anxious to get my hands on the exhibit catalog (100 page, V+V art, coloring book with a unique screen printed cover).

Visionaries + Voices
Autocomplete: A Collaborative Coloring Book Exhibit

May 10th, 2012 - June 29th, 2012
V+V Northside Gallery | 3841 Spring Grove Avenue | Cincinnati, OH 45223
Curated by Maya Drodz, Nick Paddock, Jackie Covert and Matt Distel

Opening Reception
Thursday, May 10th, 5-8pm
Got some much needed retro retail therapy at the Metrolina Flea Market this weekend. I must say, it takes a lot of consumer endurance to shop with me and I have found a shopping soulmate in Keia of The SunnysideUp. Not only does she keep (a snail's) pace with me, she's also got a keen eye for style and picked out the rolling pin apron I bought.

Since it was the Spring Classic there was like quintuple the normal amount of vendors and shoppers. I'd never seen it so crowded before. In fact, I ran into three other friends soaking up the sun and bargains!

While trolling for deals, I managed to pick up a few things on my list: cute hat for Keeneland, more wooden textile spools (not sure what I'll do with them yet... I use my others as hat stands and have seen them used as candle pillars and even wine racks before) and a reasonably priced jadite bowl. Plus, I had a few impulse buys: the tooled leather pouch (I cannot physically resist tooled leather), some lovely colorful trim and an adorable apron (that reminds me of Scandinavian enamelware). All in all, a great day, good weather and excellent company.
Crafty Feast 2012 Poster and Logo designed by Not Made in China!

Indulge your handmade senses at Crafty Feast in Columbia, SC on Saturday, April 28th (part of the 10-day Indie Grits Festival). With 100+ artists on the menu, it's sure to be  creatively quenching. Not Made in China will be serving up one-liners fresh-out-the-oven and Charlotte crafters are representing with a slew of delectable delights: Noelle Munoz Jewelry, Creative Love, Jessica's Jacket, Olive O. Home.

Crafty Feast
Saturday, April 28th
Columbia Convention Center
When Richard Green, of the Time Warner Cable show "Around Carolina," asked to come to my house and film me pressing buttons, I thought he may as well show footage of paint drying. Turns out Richard is a very talented director, producer, video editor, camera man and storyteller. He made me and Not Made in China seem pretty darn interesting.

About Around Carolina
“Around Carolina brings tales of Carolina people, places and the unusual into viewers’ homes. From Manteo to Murphy to Turtle Head Island— “AC” brings viewers stories that celebrate life in the Carolinas. From the small towns to the big cities, from ordinary folks to the most famous, you could see it all on Around Carolina.”
Yes, that is THE Jim Gaffigan holding up an NMiC "I Got My Pork Pulled in North Carolina" shirt! NMiC fans Kathy and Demian (of FanFeet.com) gave the shirt to Jim while he was in Charlotte on his comedy tour. Upon receiving the gift, Jim said, "I can tell this is a high quality tshirt."
Letterpress Fest graphics designed by birdsong gregory

AIGA Charlotte Celebrates the Revival of a Centuries Old Tradition
We're only ONE WEEK out from Letterpress Fest! Over the course of four days (Feb. 13-16), AIGA Charlotte is bringing together nationally renowned speakers to give lectures, participate in panel discussions and run hands-on workshops on an old-fashioned tradition that’s never gone out of style – the art of letterpress.

Though the workshops sold out in 5 minutes, a wide range of additional events are planned for Letterpress Fest, including:
All events will be held at the Chop Shop in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. AIGA members can purchase a pass for $20 to attend all of the week’s events (excluding the workshops), while non-members can purchase the pass for $40. Attendees also have the option of paying for individual events. For a full schedule of Letterpress Fest and to register, click here.