Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Have you ever seen a block like this? I picked up this lone block at the Old Summit Antique Show I went to this weekend ~ I am dying to know what the whole set looks like. The pin shaped block is so unusual ~ I have never seen anything like it before. The graphics are printed on paper that has been applied to the 3/4" wooden block ~ wouldn't you just love to see the complete alphabet? Please leave a comment and/or link if you can provide any more information.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I have never been one to write a journal or a diary ~ I've always found them a bit intimidating ~ but when I saw the beautiful book cover of the Q & A a day Journal, I couldn't resist! Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? ~ in this case I did! Black foil typography and graphic elements contrast with raw kraft paper creating a gorgeous book that feels good in your hands.

The inside of the book is nicely designed as well and is filled with questions or prompts that make it easy to jot down a quick note each day. You can start the journal anytime ~ each page/date has room for five years of entries. Here are a few examples of some of the questions/prompts:
• Write down a problem you solved today.
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
• What's your favorite accessory?
• What's the most creative thing you've done recently?
• Today you got rid of _____.
• What's your hairstyle?

Since this is a 5 year journal ~ I think it will be fun to look back and see how I answered the same questions each day year after year. Doesn't this seem less intimidating than most journals?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

{My Dad, me & my brother amidst the cherry blossoms ~ Spring, 1971}

It being Father's Day today got me to taking a look through a few old albums to see if I could find a photo of me and my dad ~ I have a feeling that all the good photos are in albums at my parents home ~ all I have are awful photos from my Kodak instamatic. It was also difficult to find a photo where I didn't look just downright scary ~ after all, it was the 70's ~ the styles were not flattering!

So, this is a result of my search. . . a photo from one of our family trips to Washington, DC in the spring ~ my Dad would always take off a day around spring break so we could go on a short trip somewhere. My mom must have taken the photo and somehow managed to get us all in (without chopping off any heads) as well as the scenic view. You can tell we were a styling family ~ just look at that floral pantsuit I had on! You can also see my Dad's pocket protector ~ engineers never go anywhere without one!

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there ~ thanks for spending the time to make our childhoods memorable!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hop into your car. Get behind the wheel, start 'er up, and pull away.

You're in control. You're the classic (cliched?) free American, out there on the open road, going where you please, alone with your thoughts or whatever radio program/CD/podcast/app you chose. Yeah, you have to obey the speed limit (sort of) and stop at red lights and stop signs. For the most part, though, you're independent, sovereign, autonomous. Right?

Wrong. Actually, what you are is: government-subsidized.

The car owner, driver, or even passenger is as dependent on government largesse as is the Midwestern grain farmer (and quite a few Vermont dairy farmers) or the welfare recipient. No automobile driver or passenger pays the total cost of his or her ride.

If auto users did pay the full costs of building, maintaining, and protecting roads as well as for what economists call the "externalities" of their transportation system, gas taxes and/or vehicle registration fees would be much higher, or more roads and bridges would charge tolls, or some combination of the above.

This may come as a surprise, but the Vermont Agency of Transportation knows all this, and is thinking about (though not yet proposing) taking some of those steps.

The reason it might be a surprise is that for decades, state transportation departments have been essentially highway departments, singing praises of the highway. Now Vermont's Transportation Agency envisions a state in which "people will have to use their cars less."

So said Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, who acknowledged that one way to get people to use their cars less is to have them pay more for using them. She said the Agency wants more Vermonters to take the bus to work, more kids to walk or bike to school (partly to fight the growth in childhood obesity), and is even "looking at selling roads and bridges to the private sector."

That last one is not about to happen. Neither is charging tolls on the new Champlain Bridge when it opens later this year. But the very fact that Agency officials thought about tolls, and that Minter volunteered the information, indicates that the state's top transportation officials are aware that the status quo of subsidizing car use may not be sustainable.

Not that the status quo is necessarily undesirable. This report is an explanation, not an expose. If there is an "enemy" in this account, "he is us," in the famed words of Walt Kelly's Pogo. Most adults drive, so most taxpayers are subsidizing themselves. Event those who neither drive nor ride buy goods trucked to the store over the public highways. To say that government subsidizes those highways might say nothing more than that government helps organize and pay for our entire economic system.

It does, loath though some are to acknowledge this reality.

Still, if heavily subsidizing auto traffic is not a malicious conspiracy, it is a policy choice, and one peculiar to the United States. In other prosperous countries, the driver/car-owner pays far more for the privilege.

In Germany, for instance, it costs more than $2,000 just to get a drivers license. Applicants first have to complete driving lessons offered by private schools. In Vermont, an adult need only pass a driving and written test. Applicants under 18 do have to take driving lessons, but they are offered – free – in many high schools. German license fees and auto sales taxes are also higher, and gasoline taxes are higher in almost every other "first world" country than in the U.S.

The Germans, according to a 2009 study done for the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, set their policies deliberately to encourage the use of public transportation and discourage driving. It works, according to the study. American policy-makers don't actually say that they follow the opposite path to encourage more auto use. But it seems to work out that way.

In the view of some experts, though, it may not be able to work out that way for long.

"I don't think it's sustainable," said Justine Sears, lead author of the Vermont Transportation Energy Report released annually by the Vermont Clean Cities Coalition and the University of Vermont's Transportation Research Center, where Sears is a research specialist. "It's expenrive. It's inconvenient, and it's the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions."

Sears acknowledged, though, that "there's a tension that exists" in Vermont between her vision of sustainability and many a Vermonter's dream of living "in some farmhouse ten miles from town." But, she said perhaps people who do that "should be paying a truer cost."

The exact true - as opposed to "truer" - cost of the auto subsidy, either in the aggregate or per car-owner, is all but impossible to determine. But in the aggregate it is surely in the tens of billions of dollars nationally. More than 15 years ago, a study by the World Resources Institute, limited only to the cost of highway construction and maintenance, estimated that the general revenue subsidy exceeded $20 billion.

By that standard, Vermont would appear to be a low-subsidizing state. Through user fees - the state gasoline tax and license and registration fees -Vermont drivers pay for the entire cost of building, maintaining, and patrolling the state's highways. In fact, they pay more than the entire cost, also financing the aviation, railroad, and public transportation functions of the Agency of Transportation.

Altogether, the user fees – plus a smidgen from a jet fuel tax and railroad leases – will bring an estimated $273.4 million into the state's "T-Fund" for the coming fiscal year (2012), according to Neil Schickner, the transportation expert at the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office.

From that total, roughly $25 million is transferred to the Education Fund, and another $25 million to the Department of Public Safety. But that doesn't mean motorists are subsidizing schools or cops. Schools spend $53 million on buses, and the Department of Public Safety's State Troopers patrol the highways.

The T-Fund does not send any money to the courts, though a substantial (if uncountable) percentage of the time and expenses of the court system are spent on traffic cases.

But, along with some $322 million from the Federal Government (mostly from the federal gasoline tax), the Fund does finance all the costs of the Agency of Transportation.

So even taking into account the $4 million from the General Fund for the operating expenses of the Interstate rest areas, how does it work out that the general taxpayer is supporting the cars, trucks, and the roads on which they travel? If anything, it would seem to be the motorists who are subsidizing the other modes of transportation.

But only on the state level. Local government in Vermont also spends millions to keep the cars and trucks rolling. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent Census of Governments State and Local Finances, in 2006-07, Vermont's localities spent more than $161.1 million of their own taxpayers money plowing, smoothing, sanding, salting, and clearing roads.

That seems like an awful lot of money. But Steven Jeffrey of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns said it made sense.

"Our municipal property taxes bring in $330 million," he said, "and about 60 percent of town expenses are for roads."

There's a certain amount of equity here. The owner is paying to be able to get to and from his own property. Still, it is general revenue going to support the road system.

Then there are the externalities.

An externality is what economists call a cost which is not covered by the price of a product, and which is borne by people who had nothing to do with making, selling, or buying the product. When it comes to motor vehicles, the biggest externality by far is air pollution. The car buyer, of course, pays the cost of the pollution controls in the car. But beyond that, state and federal government spend billions to reduce air pollution.

Not in Vermont, where not one penny of the cost of controlling air pollution from motor vehicles comes from the General Fund, according to Tom Moye, chief of the Mobile Sources Section of the Department of Environmental Conservation's Air Pollution Division.

But because auto-caused air pollution can only be reduced, not eliminated, another externality is the cost of treating those who get sick from the pollution that oozes through the government regulatory systems, plus the lost productivity stemming from those illnesses.

Trying to figure out exactly how much all this costs is close to impossible. Dr. Austin Sumner, the epidemiologist for Vermont's Health Department, said the most common health consequence of air pollution is asthma. Over the ten-year period ending in 2006, he said, the cost of asthma hospitalizations in Vermont "when asthma was the primary diagnosis," was about $23 million. Where asthma was just part of the diagnosis, it was more than $300 million.

But he said it would be "grossly wrong" to assign all that cost to air pollution in general, much less the percentage of the state's air pollution that comes from auto emissions. The root cause of asthma, he said, may be genetic.

But it would seem to be about as wrong to deny that motor vehicle emissions contribute to the cost of treating asthma. There is a "growing body of evidence," Dr. Sumner said, that "diesel exhausts may actually contribute to the development of asthma."

Then, of course, there is global warming, which has been called "the greatest example of market failure" ever, with incalculable costs to both the public and private sectors. Cars and trucks are not the only cause of greenhouse gas emissions, but Sue Minter said "the transportation sector is the largest contributor."

OK, now pull over and park.

In most of Vermont, parking is free. That means it's subsidized. The driver is using a piece of public property which has a financial value but for which the driver does not pay. The worker who parks for free at her job site enjoys untaxed employee compensation. Back in 1989, a California scholar estimated that failing to tax this benefit cost governments at all levels $85 billion.

In Vermont, even some of the paid parking does not cover its costs. Steve Goodkind, who heads Burlington's city parking operation, said fees at the city garages cover the operating expenses, but not the capital costs of building the garages. The parking fee does not help amortize that capital investment. Taxes do.

Bon voyage.

Monday, June 13, 2011

{love this style of illustration on this powder box}

This past weekend I dropped by the Crown Center Antique Show ~ for a change, the weather was just perfect ~ something the dealers have long deserved! While shopping I managed to take a few shots of some of the things that spoke to me. I guess I was drawn to graphic design this weekend, as the majority of the images I came home with were of nicely designed boxes. Of course, I didn't miss the drawers and cabinets I always lust after ~ it's a good thing I have no room whatsoever for any of these larger pieces, otherwise I would have been tempted to buy either the dentist cabinet or the apothecary drawers ~ both were in wonderful condition.

{tobacco tin humidor}

{nice almanac cover from 1903 ~ such sweet looking children!}

{inside box label for a sharpening stone}

{odd display of santa and seed company label}

{loved the graphics on these two pencil boxes!}

{always partial to these dreamy looking half dolls}

{beautiful metal mesh purse with a unique shape}

{simple stencil on a painted wood hamper}

{great apothecary drawers}

{lovely dentist cabinet with patterned glass windows and cut glass drawer pulls}

Enjoyed myself at the show catching up with friends and shopping! I'll share some images of my purchases in a later post, so check back to see what I came home with!

Friday, June 10, 2011

{thread wrapped wire basket}

After window shopping and visiting the Folk Art Museum, we headed uptown to the Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) which is on Columbus Circle. This being my first trip to MAD, I wasn't sure what to expect ~ the museum isn't huge, there were about 6 floors ~ one of which houses open studios. As we were short on time, we started at the top and worked our way down to the gift store on the street level. Here are a few items I thought worth mentioning:

{wire wrapped leaf sculpture; detail below}

{glass bead and wire wrapped bowl ~ for sale in the gift store}

The piece below is made out of thousands of paper wrapped beads that are hand-wrapped, lacquered and then woven together to form the textile. The paper used for the beads came from recycled materials from the Obama presidential campaign.

{wrapped paper beads wall textile; detail on left}

{wire & bead chandelier}

I can always appreciate when an everyday material or item is used in a different way than it was intended. In this case, yards of ball chain have been fashioned into this elegant chandelier. Even better when the item is inexpensive and yields such an impressive result!

{ball chain chandelier}

Not sure these would be too practical as I work at a computer much of the day, but I thought they have interesting texture and a unique look for a bangle. I have seen dyed gourds in gorgeous colors ~ wouldn't these be even better in a beautiful array of colors?

{natural gourd bangles}

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein: “Freelance Artist—Poet and Sculptor—Innovator—Arrow maker and Plant man—Bone artifacts constructor—Photographer and Architect—Philosopher” is the title of the special exhibit on display at the American Folk Art Museum until October. Quite the mouthful ~ both his name and description of his work!

I wish I had been able to get a photograph of the main display wall of Eugene's photography ~ there were probably about 15-20 photographs, mostly of his wife in various poses and lush backdrops, displayed in a long horizontal line on a wide expanse of vintage wallpaper. The image above shows a similar display only the work is ballpoint pen on scrap paper. I got a few photos before finding out that photography was not allowed in this exhibit - whoops!

These ballpoint drawings were the work I liked best ~ there were many pieces displayed on the walls, but there was also an entire book of drawings adhered to the pages of an old wallpaper book.

Below are a few samples of some of Eugene's photography and ceramic work taken from the American Folk Art Museum's site ~ visit here to read more about the artist and view more of his work. The big leafy patterns and florals seem to work their way into many of his pieces ~ it is interesting to see how it translates across the mediums.

{images above from here}

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In addition to the figural and object folk art I posted about yesterday, the American Folk Art Museum had a lovely collection of quilts on display when I visited. I thought I would share some of my favorites ~ visit here to see more of their quilt collection and read more details about the individual quilts and their history. What are your favorites?

The images above depict a wonderful, very unique crazy quilt ~ each of the inset vignettes show a different horse and rider. I don't know that I have seen a crazy quilt with round motifs used ~ most of those I am familiar with look more like the surrounding background. The stitch work on this piece was just gorgeous.

The next two images are a section and a detail from the same quilt ~ a star pattern with a tiny engraved image in the center of each star. I love the colors and patterns used in the design of this quilt. I wonder where the engraved images came from ~ were they recycled from something else? Were they cut from a piece of patterned cloth or was there a way to apply such an image to cloth? They certainly didn't have ink jet printers and iron on release paper back then!

The following two images are examples of a technique called trapunto ~ the design is created by stitching a pattern on a quilt sandwich (3 layers: quilt top, batting, and the quilt backing), then stuffing the motifs with small amounts of cotton from the back to create a subtle design.

{beautiful white on white trapunto quilt}

{Interesting combination of pieced quilt design and trapunto}

Many of the quilts I saw included typography ~ I find this type of quilt some of the most interesting and meaningful as many quilters included either names of those creating the quilt or names of family members.

{handwritten script that looks like it was applied with a fountain or dip pen}

{names were embroidered on this quilt}

{Tiny appliques applied by 79 year old Maria make up the lettering on this quilt!}

{Image from here}

This beautiful quilt is pieced together using a zillion pieces of colored felt. I couldn't figure out how the pieces fit together so perfectly ~ whether they were attached to a backing or not. The piece was displayed under glass, so it was difficult to get a good photo, but below are a few close ups that show the intricate cut work and stitching on the quilt.

This last quilt is a traditional log cabin design in a just gorgeous color palette ~ the photos don't do it justice! I've only shown a small sample of the American Folk Art Museum's collection ~ if you get the opportunity, do visit yourself ~ it is an inspirational way to spend an afternoon!

If you could have one of these quilts for your own, which would you choose? I don't know if I could just choose one!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When in NYC, a visit to the American Folk Art Museum should definitely be on your list! This was my first visit to this museum ~ while it isn't huge, it is several floors and the exhibits covered many different art forms carefully curated and beautifully displayed. While eating lunch in the small cafe at the museum, we heard that it will be closing at its current location as the Museum of Modern Art has purchased the building. Hopefully the Folk Art Museum will be able to reopen somewhere else ~ in the meantime, if you get the chance, stop in ~ you won't be disappointed! View more of the museum's collection here.

{loved this stylish man!}

Here is a small selection of the variety of figures the museum has in its collection: carved wood, sculpted clay, mosaics of glass, and metal are some of the materials used.

{what an imposing group of relatives}

{this weather vane was huge!}

Below is a small selection of some of the objects on display ~ these were some of my favorites:

{a hand made and illustrated pillow}

{amazing crown of thorns tramp art building}

{fabulous display of tin objects: top hat, glasses, candelabra, bonnet, & fan}

{brightly colored brushwork on this tole ware pot}

{lovely stencil design and color on metal piece}


{cute little painted dog ~ I love the expression on his face!}

I took many photos on this visit, so I thought I would post them in installments ~ Part 2 coming soon!