Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interview: Is Chrissie Miller’s “Club Chrissie” The Face of DIY Television?

The following is an interview I conducted with Chrissie Miller for BUST Magazine online. Available here

There’s always that one friend in the group who has the hangout house. Sophomore clothing designer, Chrissie Miller’s is known as Club Chrissie.  In the beginning of October, Chrissie turned her clubhouse into the site for her new Youtube web series under the same byline. Produced by Pharrell Williams, the series, which is a mix of Pee Wee’s Play House and a Martha Stewart episode, follows Chrissie as she spends lazy days with one of her many cool friends, taking on equally-cool DIY projects. Some of her guests so far have included recording artist, Maxine Ashley, her business partner, Leah Dell, and Paper Magazine editor, Mr. Mickey. Each week, Chrissie invites her friends over to take on craft projects from tie-dying to bedazzling—all while seated on her granny square-covered couch.
Personally, after watching Club Chrissie, I want nothing more than to hang out with her on her couch. Maybe she’ll invite over her old roommates, The Virgins, and we can take on that googly eye project I’ve been meaning to do. Chrissie Miller’s web series  is available for viewing here.
So do you love Club Chrissie as much as I do? If I haven’t convinced you yet, read on for an interview I had with the very rad lady herself.

Chrissie, I am such a big fan of Sophomore. I especially love how you used video to create an aesthetic experience for your brand. One of my favorites was the Spring/Summer 2010 video you shot with Lesley Arfin on Coney Island. What first got you interested in using film to convey your style?
Well thank you! I think that video is like the best thing I’ve ever done. I went to film school, so clothing has always been a part of my life, but I love film a lot. It’s weird; I just always wanted to make little films like that. When we were doing it, maybe we were kind of the first? Or at least the first to do something that was a narrative and not necessarily just a normal photo shoot.

Sophomore Spring 2010 from SophomoreNYC on Vimeo.

Yeah, I always thought that video was such a genius way to get people to look at the clothes as opposed to a “just buy this” lookbook.
Yeah, I think when you’re buying something, you’re buying into the lifestyle. You want to learn more about what that lifestyle is, instead of just having a hired model tell you  about it. And, you know, I’ve always used friends. I never even hired anyone or paid anyone [laughs]. So it was just a cool collaborative thing that I would do. Cass [Bird] obviously is a big part of it. She and I are kind of creative soul mates in that way.

But now, you’re on a break from Sophomore, and working on your web series, Club Chrissie.
I am. I got overwhelmed by Sophomore; it’s a lot of work and there are so many other things I want to do that I felt I couldn’t do because of it. I had just been asked to do a bunch of different projects like [Club Chrissie]. Pharrell and I have known each other for a while, and just on whim I was like, “can I do a show?” and he was like, “yup.” And within a week it started happening.

I’ve watched all of the episodes of Club Chrissie so far, and I love the animated quality of the show. Totally Pee Wee Herman meets Martha Stewart. Did you come up with the theme for the show? Are you a fan of the two at all?
Actually, when I was meeting with the iamOTHER people, they kept saying, you know, “Downtown Martha Stewart.” For me it was more about that I like to make things but I also that I don’t want to make complicated things. I want to make things that are easy and can be made at a night home or with your friends. Sometimes DIYs have a lot of ingredients and take a lot of time. 
But in terms of the Pee Wee thing, I didn’t even really know till I got there what it was going to look like. We had discussed making it more of an instructional Youtube video. But what I brought to the table was that I wanted to have guests, and have a conversation—that’s really what’s most interesting to me. Moving forward, I want to get more and more interesting people to create that sort of talk show vibe while also getting to make something.

Did you do a lot of crafting when you were younger?
My mom has always been making stuff. Everything was always homemade: my Halloween costume, clothes she made for me. I guess I am just one of those people who can never really find exactly what they want. So if I can’t find it, then I find a way to wing it or make it. I do a lot of vintage shopping and then from that, remake clothes. You know, just changing the buttons, and things like that. But I am also not a real Martha Stewart where I decorate the whole house for Thanksgiving [laughs]. Its more just on a fashion level.

Are there any projects you’re looking to do on future episodes that we haven’t seen so far?
I mean, I think I want to make Club Chrissie a little more with stuff you can use in your closet. It would be cool if guests would bring their own stuff and together we could find ways to remake them. Like, for example, I have an ugly brown dress but I dyed it black. We’re in a recession right now so it’s cool to be able to really look in your wardrobe and make things out of what you already have instead of buying more stuff.

I do think that the whole basis of Club Chrissie is very progressive—to me, I see it as part of this DIY television movement. Cable in general today is so expensive, and people are much more readily on their computes anyway. So I think it’s smart that your show is on Youtube.  Is the fact that everything is trending online something that you thought about with Club Chrissie?
TV intimidated me a bit. It’s not something that’s out of the question but I am the biggest Youtube person anyway. Youtube seems more accessible when it’s a DIY thing. I will Youtube how to cook something or how to fix something in my house, I always Youtube instructions, so I think for right now it makes more sense to do this sort of project online. 

Anything else you want to add, anything else you want to cover?
Well, there’s more episodes coming—one with Charlotte Ronson and Pamela Love especially to look forward to. So yeah, stay tuned!

Thanks so much Chrissie! Looking to forward to what's next. 

Images on this post via iamOTHER

Follow me on Twitter @emmaedition

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Handmade Psychedelia

"Handmade Psychedelia" series by Emma Orlow. Colored stills of lava lamp video projection.
In addition to the writing that I do, I also love making art. Not only do I take portfolio at my school, but I also run my school’s art club… which is kind of more of an independent study where my art teachers and I visit different museums or take on different projects and then discuss and debate. But during the past year, I’ve also been working on a body of work for “Handmade Psychedelia,” an ongoing series that explores the feelings, colors, and politics of psychedelic images, without needing any mind-altering substances to do so. Particularly with this series, I am interested in exploring the intersection between synthetics such as psychedelic drugs and optical images when put in domestic environments such as with gardens or buttons to find the imperfections in a man-made substance. I’ve loved working with this series because it’s pushed me to play more with new mediums. I typically work a lot with ink, markers, and paint, but for this series I experimented with video projections, photography, and even weaving, too.  I’ve always been fascinated by 1960’s counter-culture. Aesthetically, I find the 1960’s one of the most appealing decades. I look through life with a kaleidoscopic lens and colors mean the world to me. So, when I look back at clothes, music, and psychedelic imagery of from that time, everything seems to be so saturated and bursting with exclamation points. You'll find a selection of images from the series in this post (or you can check out more on my Flickr.)
Painted flower puzzle by Emma Orlow
"A Lucid Swim" by Emma Orlow. Made with ink, watercolors, and interweaving yarn. 
Decapitated Barbie doll & plastic bug sculpture. 

Since “Handmade Psychedelia” is completely about the vibes, I made a playlist that mixes new and old psychedelic sounds to complement the series. I suggest listening while you peruse the images, for a full funky effect. 

Follow me on Twitter @emmaedition
All artwork on this post was created by Emma Orlow

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Interview: Author Sloane Crosley Talks Sad Stuff On The Street

Nowadays, it’s not enough to just be a writer, typing away your thoughts on a typewriter in the middle of the countryside like a Sylvia Plath type. You must also have a social media presence to validate your existence, making you worthy of even writing a novel, poetry, or what have you. And some of the most successful writers today are not only Google-able, but use their space online to create a real brand for themselves. There are two ways that this personal branding can go: the first, and more likely traveled route, is the shameless self-promotional branding pertaining to all online personalities, not just writers (See: The Kardashians, Charlie Sheen… or even Walt Whitman, who although pre-dates the Internet, knew the importance of mastering the management his public image.), which involves "pimping" oneself in order to get recognition. However, a more rare type of personal branding is the type of branding that helps you really know the person, not put them on a pedestal of celebrity (See: Mindy Kaling, Kathy Griffin, and Lena Dunham).
That’s what I love about authors like Sloane Crosley. They’re hip to the change in pace of writing, but use the new system in a meaningful way. The online projects that Sloane Crosley has taken on (aside from her essay writings) have been fun and witty, while staying true to who she projects in her memoirs. It’s no coincidence that one of my closest friends Lyris first introduced me to her,  as Sloane creates an image for herself that’s so intimate that I really do feel as if I'm sitting with her in her  living room, rehashing details from last night. Although Sloane is surely as famous as other media figures out there, it’s the way that she uses her brand that sets her apart from the pack.

This is an excerpt from a post a wrote for BUST Magazine:

From the moment I saw I Was Told There’d Be Cake on the bookshelf, I knew Sloane Crosley was a girl after my heart and taste buds. As a 17 year-old, I have looked to my fellow New Yorker’s escapades as letters from an imaginary older sister. Although I am interested in a career as a style journalist, I also am very interested in keeping up with all of my mini-essays that I hash out in my own diary.
Sloane herself is part anthropologist, part diarist; she is acutely observant of the people, places, and things, around her....she knows her nouns. In 2011, she started an online project, Sad Stuff On The Street, with her then-partner, Greg Larson, which seeks to tell the stories of sad objects lost on the street. It’s year two of the project, and I caught up with Sloane to talk about how the project began, the saddest things she’s ever found, and what’s next for the project. I am so honored to have been able to interview one of the raddest writers out there—read on below.

When and why was Sad Stuff On The Street started?
My friend Greg and I started it over a year ago. A couple of years before that, we met and I began a long-distance relationship, with him in San Francisco and me in New York. I guess I would say that taking pictures of bittersweet garbage on the street was one way we kept in touch, but we probably would have done it if we lived in the same city. The relations part of the relationship didn't continue. We broke up, but we stayed great friends — I saw him today, actually — and we kept sending each other sad things. There's a detailed and self-indulgent version of this story buried within the site.

On the site there are some serious and hilarious debates as to what constitutes an object as being “sad.” Has there been a consensus?
I think our standards have gone up now that we've had such international sadness exposure and we have so much more material. I'm not trying to elevate a Tumblr here, but it has been really fun to watch. One week will bring us submissions from France, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Yemen, North Korea...we had a month where there was an unusual influx from Russia. Guess who does sad stuff really well? The Russians.
Anyway, sadness is a mood. So what goes on the site is subject to our moods. I know if I see too many decapitated dolls, I have an anti-dolly reaction and will hold off on putting them up. Just because we try to go for something a little more unusually sad. We like funny sad things with heart. I personally like the stuff that's very morbid without being disgusting. So a good exception to the doll rule was a recent submission of a clear plastic bag stuffed with about twenty naked Barbies and ties to a fence. That's creepy-sad and that's for us.
There's no real consensus, though. We both like a post where you're left wondering how the hell the sad thing came to be. We also both have veto power and rarely use it. I would say Greg is slightly less dark — slightly — and has a great eye for the classics. If you see a beautiful, busted rainbow umbrella, drowning in a puddle, that's Greg. Or all the "Depressed Teddy Bear Series" and "Depressed Elmo Series" are Greg.

What is the saddest thing you or Greg ever found on the street? Favorite? Weirdest?
That's really hard. I can look but that feels like cheating. Off the top of my head, there was an elaborate toy pirate ship shipwrecked next to a tree on a street in Paris. That's my own longstanding favorite. There was a mattress that said, "Nothing really mattress." Once Greg found a cardboard box full of "Free Bread Sandwiches." Recently there was a drowning penguin stuffed animal and that is a good example of how context can make a post — he was found on the side of a canal in Venice, Italy.

Do you think there’s a place in heaven for lost objects?
I don't think they're ever lost. They just move.

Do you ever take the objects home with you? Or do you like to leave them there as more of a gift of street art?
Eww, gross, no. But Greg and I take very few of the photos these days. So I'm not in Mexico City to pick up said object. I wish I was.

Has anyone ever contacted you after seeing a post on the site, claiming that that was their missing item?
Not directly. People have posted things on their personal blog. Sometimes we get notes if we leave off or mess up a link to a sumbitter's personal page. Another great side-effect to this is that the photography community seems to have gotten in on it. And we'll sometimes get these stunning photographs from professional photographers who just see it as another space to share work that wouldn't go in a magazine or to a gallery.

Have you found that there is a particular place in the world that has the highest concentration of sad stuff?
Because of how we began, just spreading the word to our friends, the site has the longest legs in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But it's really and truly everywhere. Lots of Austin, Miami, Boston, Chicago. Small towns too. I'm always disappointed that there's not more Las Vegas. Maybe if you're looking down in Las Vegas it's because you lost a bunch of money and/or are about to puke. You're probably in no mood to seek out external sources of melancholy.

What’s next for Sad Stuff On The Street? Do you two have any plans to turn Sad Stuff into an essay series? It would be really cool if there was some sort of meet-up series around the United States, where people could bring in their objects or photos of their objects, and share their stories!
Oh, well, thank you. We do talk about it, about what to do next. We've had some ideas of our own as well as a couple thrown our way. For now we're both just kind of in it for the love of the sadness.

Thanks so much, Sloane! Check out Sad Stuff On The Street here

 Images in this post courtesy of Sad Stuff on The Street

Follow me on Twitter @emmaedition
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