Monday, November 15, 2010

Electronic Craft Bags

Toting the myriad supply of needles, conductive thread, LEDs, alligator clips, and so on, then distributing it amongst kids' table and toting it back later can be a big pill to say the least. So we bought these bags thanks to a facebook ad that was actually relevant.

Here are scissors, Lilypads, alligator clips, fashion paint, velcro strips, a mini iron, USB drives, conductive thread, and tape all throw together in one bag. And what do we do with the LEDs?
Look at this delight! Six round trays with 6 snap down slots for stowing batteries LEDs. We simply plop two sets on each table and the kids have access to what they need. And it's relatively easy to clean up. We're *really* going to appreciate this when we start using the red, yellow, green, blue, and white LEDs in combo...
(Bags are by Creative Options and I think we ordered them through AC Moore.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Arts & Crafts" Materiality in (and out of) Digital Games

This is from Sara Grime's blog -- please go there for videos etc. Sara also presented on this topic at the DIY Critical Citizenship conference in Toronto, November 2011

©2010 Nintendo, Inc., Kirby Epic Yarn promo materials

This week Nintendo released it's newest installment of the Kirby series, Kirby's Epic Yarn. What piqued my interest about the game is its use of arts & crafts as an aesthetic motif - everything looks like it's made of string, buttons, yarn and zippers. The aesthetic is supplemented by some clever looking game mechanics, which add to the sense of materiality and texture introduced by the game's environments and imagery. For instance, backgrounds contain loose threads that can be pulled, and things made of yarn (including Kirby himself) can change shape. I should add in a d
isclaimer at this point that this description is based on a cursory review of the demo videos (such as the one I've posted below) and early reviews - I haven't actually played it yet:

Of course, this immediately reminded me of LittleBigPlanet, which obviously also applies an "arts & crafts" aesthetic, albeit in a significantly (i.e. stylistically) distinct way. But as I thought about it a little more, I started to list all the other games I've come across that "play" with materiality, textiles and crafts, and realized that there is a small but notable genre emerging here. Nintendo itself has applied a similar "material" or "arts & crafts" aesthetic to a number of games in the past - most notably in the Paper Mario games, but also in the cardboard cut-out environments of Yoshi's Story:

Games like Crayon Physics, And Yet It Moves and Okami might also be included on this list, though more on the arts aspect than crafts. From Majesco, we now have Crafting Mama for the NDS. And there must be just about a million "girl games" or "pink games" that incorporate crafting to some degree - though I suspect this is predominantly in the form of mini-games, rather than on an aesthetic dimension. Searching for more examples, I came across this website for KNiiTTiiNG!!, a game that uses the Wii to simulate and teach knitting. Apparently, the game is still in Beta, but it got some media coverage last year (e.g. Kotaku), and is currently being featured as part of an art exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Again - not quite what I have in mind when I'm thinking of materiality and an "arts & crafts aesthetic" - but worth mentioning nonetheless.

All of which leads me back to the other side of this burgeoning relationship between arts & crafts, materiality and videogames, which manifests as physical objects, crafts, embroidery, etc., that reify (reproduce, remediate?) elements and characters from videogames. Aldo Tolino calls these "ludic artifacts": player-created objects that are inspired by video games, but created outside of the games themselves. Oftentimes, these objects aim to transport game themes or characters into the physical world, thereby extending the game experience into other areas of cultural experience & fan practice.

Gaming community members have long engaged in these practices, which include everything from knitting Metroid Prime dolls, to dressing up asPacman characters and running around the city, to baking the Portalcake (based on a recipe included in the game as an Easter Egg). For Tolino, one of the most important features of "ludic artifacts" is that they are quite often shared online - through pictures, videos, and other digital artifacts - with other members of the game community. There are also online communities that have formed around particular forms of "ludic artifact" production. An example of this is Sprite Stitch, a blog and forum dedicated to "videogame inspired crafts" and the people who make them. The forum community includes over 1200 knitters, embroiderers and other craftmakers who exchange pictures, patterns and advice about making videogame characters into tangible objects. One of the things that interests me most about these practices is how frequently they combine traditionally feminine (or do I mean feminized) craftwork with videogame fandom - baking, knitting, sewing, carpentry and metalworking. The transfer from digital to material and back to digital again (as the objects are photographed and filmed to be shared online) is simply fascinating.

More Examples:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Amy Sedaris offers a how-to book with a wacky twist

Cross Martha Stewart and Groucho Marx, add a dash of Lenny Bruce and a heaping dose of LSD, and you get America's most maniacal domestic diva - Amy Sedaris, author of the magisterial how-to book Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People.

Sedaris' 304-page tome, which she cowrote with Paul Dinello, is a copiously illustrated, funny, tongue-in-cheek idea book for making some of the most out-of-this-world, creepy - albeit cute - handmade home knickknacks in recent memory.

But she wasn't always known as the busy homemaker's patron saint.

A comedian, film star, author, and sister of humorist David Sedaris (a terrific career achievement), she is best known as the creator and star of Comedy Central's surreal comedy of ill manners, Strangers With Candy.

In 2006, she rocked and shocked the best-seller list with I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, a 304-page (whoa!), post-Martha Stewart guide to throwing the baddest (you know, that's baaad as in cool) parties.

Her crafting book, which she will discuss Friday night at the Free Library, includes such simple-to-make, affordable items as the "unable to make ends meet belt" (rolled plastic wrap); "poor man's toffee" (heated and futher-condensed condensed milk); "tampon ghosts" (just add wings); the Dropout Crab Claw Roach Clip (a roach clip stuck to the non-pincer side of a claw saved from dinner); and an entire series of "Crafting for Jesus" crafts, including Moses' Comb Holder, Jesus Sandals, a matchbook cross, and a clothespin Jesus.

Read more:
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