Fantastic Plastic

Blue Record

Lady Soul, Aretha Franklin, 1968

If you know me even a little bit, you know I’m an old soul.  My Brooklyn apartment was built in 1849.  1849!  God only knows how many people walked these floors before me, the ghosts of 5 generations hanging out in my kitchen, drinking their ghost tea.  As my neighbor says, we’re merely caretakers of this building, before the next owners come along.

Deep, I know.  But I digress.  I meant to ruminate on the old soul thing.   I’m a nostalgic person.  I’ve always loved digging through my granny’s things, her albums with pics of my mom as a kid, and our family garage, bursting with my dad’s basketball paraphernalia.  Old stuff just lights me up, so it should come as no surprise that I bought a turntable.
I rented a house with friends in Venice this spring, and the owner had a great Audio Technica system.   We spun records all weekend, rediscovering anthems by The Velvet Underground and Bruce, sounding just like they were meant to.  We actually enjoyed flipping a record when it was time, often in the middle of a conversation.  That part wasn’t annoying, rather the opposite was true.  It reminded us that the music didn’t need to be the background of our evening:  it could be the star.
And it brought me back.  Growing up in the 80’s, my dad belonged to a record-of-the-month club.  As his collection grew, I developed a love for Doo-wop, Motown, early-60s Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.  Sticky Fingers was a favorite.  I remember my confusion with how the “fly” worked on the outer sleeve.  What was behind there?  (We could do a whole separate analysis on that one…another time.)
Fast-forward 30 years and I’m building my own collection, feeling the joy of discovering music.  Yes, we’ve come a long way with Spotify and the like, offering fast access to almost any tune.  But I’ve missed the hunt: digging through tapes and CDs at the Tower Records of my youth, discovering songs on iTunes, it’s all morphed into streaming music from a phone beamed to a speaker.  Convenient?  Yes.  But something is lost.  I miss committing to a full album, getting to know its nuances and its “sleepers”:  the songs that don’t hit you at first, but grow on you slowly until they take root. Pink Record
And lest we forget the physical, records are beautiful.  For someone who strives for a visually appealing space, this is not lost on me.  Take Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin.  When I play it, I get to eye the old Atlantic Records font on the pink and red sticker, and I swoon at how it looks against the curvy white turntable; beautiful.
And by chance, vendors are popping up everywhere.  On Sunday at at Brooklyn Flea, at the base of the Manhattan bridge, you can thumb through a huge assortment, each album marked with a sticker, featuring its own hand-written review by the vendor (“Wonderful; no skips!”)  You have to love that.
So yes, I’m on the bandwagon.  But the great spillover effect?  It’s helping me be more mindful, slowing me down so I can be in the moment and appreciate what I’m listening to, not pushing the forward button too quickly, letting what’s playing just, well, play.
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This is me…still figuring out where to put my turntable

So back to my recent finds: I picked up the below Beach Beats record while on the hunt with my friend Dani, who loves a good troll through the crates as much as I do.  I bought it because it had two 50’s songs I love.  But when I played it, I heard a song by The Coasters I hadn’t heard since hanging out in my 80’s living room.  I suddenly saw my dad jamming to the tune, whistling away, playing his fireplace broom like a guitar.
 Pink RecordWhat a memory.  And for clarity’s sake, my dad may has moved into the 21st century of music, beaming his songs via bluetooth to his wireless speakers (call it a role reversal).  But it does nothing to erase the warm memory I have of that music, its scratchiness, the way it would boom through our house, and the way it felt to do nothing…but listen.

Summertime Throwback

Shell - Edited

They say the things we did for fun at 8 years of age are the things that will – then and now – make us happiest.  I’m not sure where I heard this, but when I did, it struck me.  And it did so again during a recent visit to my parents’ home.

I found this shell on display in a powder room, inscribed with its date of creation:  1988.  I was 10 at the time, and pursuing a budding career in shell painting.  These little studies took up much of my summer afternoons, and I spent hours churning out pieces for friends and family.  (There were many duds, of course: one gem that my sister has since “lost” screamed “Erika’s Room!” in a horrid peach-and-mint-green palette.  Not my best work).

But producing a masterpiece each time wasn’t the point.  I got lost in the blissful act of creation, and loved it.   There was no goal, no deadline; I was creating art for the sake of creating art.

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I thought of this recently when my friend Marley visited me at the shore.  She arrived with handfuls of colorful embroidery floss in tow, and we whiled away the day weaving bracelets, recalling the knots of our youth, muscle memory at its best.

With each new project, I spent an embarrassing amount of time choosing colors and designing my pattern.  Like painting shells, each new design presented me with a limitless combination of colors and an empty slate, the possibilities endless.

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I wove together this number after I got the hang of it (again)

And I realized:  this isn’t too different from dreaming up a concept for a room.  In fact, little creations like these can act as a springboard for new designs: like how a room would look with a with a buttery leather sofa, lavender and orange throw pillows, brass accents, and a patterned rug to bring it all together.

And I guess that’s the point of all of this:  by letting myself get totally wrapped up in something so simple yet so consuming, I not only created something beautiful (to me), but came out of it with renewed inspiration.

On that note, I’m diving more freely into my little creative projects, starting now.  Projects I’m pursuing purely for the joy they bring me.  We all get caught up in the speed and hustle of everyday life – at least I do.  Things may move fast around me, but it doesn’t mean I can’t slow down and find time for the things I love.

So I’m watercoloring more, painting more, sketching more.  And in the spirit of sharing, I’ll be publishing a different sample of work each month, starting with some watercolor studies I’ve been working on.

Hey, what’s old is new again.