Friday, May 27, 2016

"I'm a mermaid, man."

It's kind of a long story, but the blobfish is my spirit animal.

I made this little sign earlier in the school year, using a photo of a blobfish that I clipped from a discarded book about ocean life.

Not long after I posted this picture to the library's Instagram account, Saturday Night Live featured a skit about three mermaids who rescue some sailors, one of the mermaids being "35% woman, 65% blobfish."

You can watch the skit, if you haven't seen it yet:

So now it's become a running joke. The other day when we were using our library's green screen (for other highly professional purposes) I couldn't resist using it to take a blobfish photo.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Shirts That Launched a War (Someday)

7th grade girl: "I love The Little Mermaid! I have like three Ariel shirts at home!

Me: "I have four."

7th grade girl: "Are you trying to start a Little Mermaid war with me?! Because I'll GO! I mean, not today because I'm, like, really tired, but any other time I'll GO!"

Interactions like this are why I love working in a middle school.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Artist Dumpster Dive

I might have to change the name of this blog to the Dumpster Diving Librarian.

Yup, that's me. Photo credit: Jennifer Moore

I recently participated in the First Annual Artists' Dumpster Dive at the University of New Hampshire.

I already knew that there was an enterprising group of students who would collect all the usable furniture, appliances, books, clothing, etc. that gets discarded during move-out week, store them over the summer, and the sell them right back to the student body at the start of the following year. Not only is it profitable for them, but it cuts down on the immense amount of waste and I think it also raises awareness in the UNH community about how quick we are to put something in the dumpster  just because we don't need it anymore.

I went to the UNH Trash 2 Treasure Move In Sale last August, and saw everything that had been pulled from dumpsters and curbs, and I remember thinking that I wish I'd had a crack at the dumpsters beforehand. Well, Facebook is an amazing thing, and a notification popped up one day about an event that *might* interest me (you know how those things work), and it was for the UNH Artists Dumpster Dive.

Basically, the Trash 2 Treasure members scower the campus during move-out week for usable furniture/carpets/clothing/school supplies/etc. to sell in August. You wouldn't believe all the shower caddy thingies we pulled out, that are going to be sold in August.

I guess it's just more convenient to throw it away, and 
buy a new one at Target the following fall.

However, they come across a TON (actually about 80 tons, according to the program's founder) of other stuff that is not in re-sell condition. That's where people like me come in!

I know to some people, just the idea of picking stuff off the side of the road, or getting inside a dumpster is enough to make them turn green, but it's never bothered me. I've always just figured "Eh, I'm washable." Being in those dumpsters allowed me to imagine myself as Oscar the Grouch for a little while.

He's always been a hero of mine.

I responded to the Facebook invite and was contacted through one of the program's staff members, a very nice girl named Genna, who filled me in on the details. We all met up at the Dairy Bar, and I was psyched to see one of my former co-workers from the Portsmouth Public Library in our group. She also blogs, and hers focuses on sustainable style. You can find her blog here:  . She's also the lady who's credited in these photos.

After listening to Alex, the founder of Trash 2 Treasure, talk a little about the initiative and the history of the program, we all set out. I climbed in the back of a U Haul truck (no light, no seatbelt, with a bunch of other people I didn't know) and then we dug in.

I was pretty happy with the stuff I found!

       a string of light-up letters. Photo credit: Jennifer Moore                 a gumball machine! Photo credit: Jennifer Moore

But I think the best part was connecting with other people in the area who are also passionate about recycled art and upcycling items into new purposes.

I guess I harbor a little bit of imposter syndrome when it comes to art. I don't have an artist statement, or a studio in a renovated historic mill building, and I've never sold a thing. It's a good thing I have an actual job, because I really would be a Starving Artist.

I just see myself as the weird lady who makes wind chimes out of old jewelry, and art journals out of discarded library books. and paints cast-off furniture.

I'm also the weird lady with Velveteen Rabbit syndrome, 
who rescues toys that have been thrown away. This little guy was pulled  out of one of
 the dumpsters, so I brought him home and washed him up. 
As soon as J saw it, he hugged him. 

If you'd like to read more about Trash 2 Treasure, and (PLAN) the Post Landfill Action Network, here's a link to their site:

I also found a bunch of ice cube trays- very convenient since our ice maker recently broke!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson

When I went to the ALA Mid-Winter Meeting in January, I was most excited about getting all the ARC's. Most of the books I picked up were children's/YA but I had to pick up the ARC of Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson. I mean, look at the cover:

Creepy things entice me. Cemeteries, antique dolls, ouija boards, and abandoned asylums, etc.

I finally got around to reading it last night and so far I'm enjoying it:

1. It takes place in England- true Gothic!

2. The main character, Jude, is a librarian.

3. After taking a leave of absence from her usual life, Jude ends up utilizing her skills to organize an old bookstore.

4. There's already been a mention of Jodi Picoult.

I admit that I'm old-fashioned when it comes to my horror reading preferences: I like ghosts who are sad and/or vengeful due to their grisly, untimely deaths and I like characters who catch on to the ghosts' presences quickly. So far I haven't received much horror, but I've been reading on because the characters are so interesting. We have Jude, the runaway librarian. We have the bookshop owner Lowland Glen, who is eccentric and kinda messy, as most used-bookstore owners seem to be. We also have Eddy, who appears out of nowhere and claims that Lowland is her father, and who also appears to be pregnant, although Jude seems to doubt whether Eddy is actually pregnant or developing some hoax.  .  .

I am always a sucker for strong character development.

I'm not sure when the horror will develop more, but McPherson definitely pulled me into the story.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Joker Meme About Dolls?

I've taken my dollhouses to display at the Mini Maker Faire for a couple of years now, and I've also displayed some of them in our school library and in the town's public library.

It goes without fail that some person approaches the booth/display, admires the dollhouses, and then makes a remark like "Oh, I love dollhouses, but I only have sons." It's hard for me to resist saying "So?". 

First of all, I've seen more than a few boys, and full grown men, stop to admire and even play with, the dollhouses I create. Second, our gender does not determine our interests/hobbies.

These sixth grade boys lingered by my Little Mermaid scene for a while- taking in all the details, and watching how the sound mechanism was activated when they'd open the treasure chest in which it's contained.

I know that dollhouses and miniatures aren't everyone's thing, but assumptions about gender dictating interests (girls like doll- boys like trucks- etc.) are toxic to children and hinder our thinking as adults, not to mention how they hold our society back from a deeper understanding, and acceptance, of the virtual kaleidoscope of possible gender variations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Look at this stuff- isn't it neat?"

I've always had a fondness for  love of  obsession with The Little Mermaid. And of course it found its way into my hobby of creating dollhouses based on my favorite books and stories. A few years ago, I thought to myself once while watching the movie "I wish there was a dollhouse of Ariel's grotto" and then I realized that I should just make one myself. I committed to the idea, and I researched some materials and mediums that I thought could work.

I used my February break week to construct the bulk of it. It's alot of styrofoam, floral foam and newspaper, covered with layers of glue, plaster cloth, spackle and paint. It's not really heavy, but it's a pretty big size. Despite its size, and fragility, it gets hauled around and displayed because it often incites the reaction I love from people who see it: the excited"OH MY GOD! LOOK AT THIS!" with the wide eyes.

I love building dollhouses and miniature scenes. I don't do it to make money, I just do it because it makes me happy. And it makes me even happier when I see other people enjoying the work I've done.

This is the dollhouse that's currently on display in the library, and one encounter made it all the labor (of transporting it) carrying it inside, up the stairs, setting up all the stuff, etc.) worth it. One of the 7th grade students started gushing as soon as she saw it, and she said "You don't know how happy this makes me!"

But I think I do, because I was just as happy.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Picky Historian

I'm not picky about what types of history I study, although I do have my specialties; I meant that I enjoy learning about history by picking.

I'm a picker.

I'm one of those people you see on the side of the road, shoving an old chair into my car, or picking through a box of junk that has the word FREE scrawled on it in black Sharpie marker.

When we lived in Maryland I was in picker Heaven with the Crumpton auction  just a short drive away.

There were three fields of STUFF, awaiting the auctioneer as he drove through the aisles on his golf cart. many times, someone would purchase a 'lot', take what they wanted and just leave the rest to languish in the fields. So, a picker like me could really clean up. I'd go after most of the bidding was done, and just roam the fields, looking for all the wonderful treasures that were left behind.

This is a photo of the Crumpton auction I found online.

I found many beautiful, wonderful items that really evoke a sense of time and memories; a few of them I sold but most of them I kept, especially the ones that fed my love of history. I found this antique Singer sewing machine one time:

When I started researching it I found out that Isaac Singer, the inventor who improved the sewing machine designs of the early 19th century and founded the Singer Co., had parents who divorced.  .  .in 1821. That's one of the earliest divorces I'd ever heard of; divorce was not acceptable in society, nor to most courts of law at that time. It's not like I'm ever going to wrote a dissertation on Isaac Singer or the broken home he ran away from at the age of 11 to join a traveling stage show (pretty interesting guy, though, huh?) but this item prompted me to research something I'd never thought much about, and gave me a glimpse into history. 

I got to re-live this scenario just this week. I've had a pretty crappy week and it's been a struggle, but on Tuesday I was driving to pick up J from daycare and I passed by a home that had some stuff outside with the obligatory FREE scrawl on the cardboard. It was like a little gift! Of course, most people wouldn't see a box of old junk as a gift, but I get a thrill at imagining the possibilities inside. Of course I had to turn around and go check it out. I ended up packing a bunch of vintage dishes into my trunk. The ones that first caught my eye were these:

These dishes are mid-century transferware, and one of the sources I consulted said that the little splotches of color are done by hand. I guess that makes sense, because transferware is usually produced with a single color of ink- it made it easy to mass produce them with machines- a token to the increasing industrialization following WWII.

See? I found these cast-off plates on the side of the road, and with just minimal research I've learned about the process of transfer printing, and also put it into a greater context of US history.

The best part is this: This set of dishes has a fairy tale scenario depicted, and the design is called Royal Vista. I think they were destined to end up with me, a children's librarian/historian who has a love for vintage kitchen finds.

The other dishes from that box were also chok full of history: the first thing I noticed about them is the Syracuse China Co. insignia stamped on the bottom. I went to college and earned my master's in History in Oswego, NY, and I knew that the Oneida Silver Co. was founded in Oneida, NY, so it's not difficult to imagine that a china company would also have market in that region.

The dishes I picked up plain white with green markings denoting Loon Lake House. They're pretty heavy-duty too, definitely not fine china, but made to endure many, many uses. So it didn;t take long to figure out that they were made specifically for Loon lake House, a hotel in the Adirondacks that enjoyed the peak of its popularity around the turn of the century. Wealthy Americans, including three Presidents, would  travel up to the mountains, to escape the noise and smog of the cities.

This mug shows the same markings as my two new bowls

Unfortunately, the historic hotel burned to the ground in 1956, but it's kind of cool that I have a little piece of its history in my house.

Some of my other cool finds through the years: a steel penny, old photographs from many eras, including tin types, a vintage baby bassinet, more than a few dolls and stuffed animals, Limoges saucers, and a map of Disneyland which is copyrighted 1966- interesting because Pirates of the Caribbean is shown, but didn't officially open until 1967. 

Speaking of Disney.  .  .

Whenever I think about all my treasures, I can't help but channel my inner Ariel:

I should've been a mermaid.