Review: Upcycled Spring Flowers

As Earth day 2022 rolls in, with it comes the reminder that the Earth is in trouble. 

 

For my first two years at the University of Michigan, I’ve spent my time as a Program in the Environment major learning all about the overconsumption, the CO2 emissions, and the environmental harm that will lead to humanity’s strife and destruction. Since then, I have switched into Stamps School of Art and Design and have been looking for ways to incorporate sustainability into my art. 

 

This past Wednesday, I attended a reuse craft session with the Planet Blue Student Leaders who were in partnership with Scrap Creative Reuse Center. Twenty other people and myself found ourselves in the Graham Sustainability Institute before the brunt of finals to make zipper flowers out of discarded zippers. It brought an hour of peace, fun, and a little bit of stress as I struggled to thread a needle. 

 

The process of the zipper flower making was simple and most people ended up with cool and sophisticated results. Though, my fumbling fingers did struggle a little with this new process of making. The first step of making the flowers was to split the zipper in half. From there you fold one of the sides into a ribbon in the same style as the breast cancer awareness ribbon. Then you sew where the zipper overlaps into a small felt piece and you continue to make these petal shapes from the remaining length of the zipper. You then incorporate the other half of the zipper into the work by following the same steps as the first zipper. This will result in a flower with a messy center. To cover the middle, you can roll some of the excess zipper into the center to create a rose like appearance. You can then hot glue the felt background of the flower to a button to create your own wearable zipper flower button.

While I made my flower, I admired the texture and contrast that the zipper had. The gold metal of the zipper created a harsh but shiny texture, which would be an interesting addition to a mixed medium 2-dimensional artwork or even a sculpture. Creating these flowers opened my eyes to the possibilities of new material to add into my art practice. 

 

I am glad that I attended this event because it was a reminder that as a creative person, I should continue to look to reuse more items in my practice. It also taught me about Scrap in Ann Arbor which collects donated craft materials in order for them to have a second life. Therefore putting less strain on the environment and letting you craft for cheaper.

PREVIEW: FestiFools

The Festive, Foolish puppet festival is coming back to Ann Arbor after a two-year quarantine!

It’ll be on Sunday, April 3rd, from 4 pm to 5 pm on State Street – South University Avenue to William Street (Please refer to the map for more information!). This event is led by Mark Tucker, the founder of the FestiFools, and the puppets are created by students at the University of Michigan Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, a Michigan Learning Community focused on enhancing creativity by practicing arts and creative writing. I personally had the privilege of taking a peek at the puppets from prior events at Alice Lloyd Hall, and they are fantastic! I can’t wait to see them come to life on the streets. It’s not only the puppets – Street performers including students from the University of Michigan and outside U of M will join to add more fun! Please see this link for more info, this link for the official recap for Festifools 2019, and come out to play this Sunday!

REVIEW: Holi Festival

Today, colorful puffs of clouds arose over Palmer Field.

Hosted by the Student life Multi-ethnic student affairs at the University of Michigan, students celebrated the annual Holi Festival on the afternoon of March 20th. The event went like this: first, students were checked in and were given color powders in Zipper bags. There were orange, yellow, lavender, blue, red, green-all very vibrant colors. The powder was very soft to the touch and felt good-safe to throw at people without worrying that they will get hurt. People were standing as a big group and jumping and singing along to the music. In this big jumble of people, friends courageously showered each other with colored powders while the more polite people would say, “May I?”, wait for the nod or laugh of approval, and gently rub colored powder as they say, “Happy Holi!”. Everyone’s face, hair, clothes, shoes, all parts of their body was covered with the vibrant colors of powders. I was surprised to see that lots of people were actually wearing white, not the most popular color choice when it comes to going to a place you know that your clothes will be stained, but the shirts did look amazing with paints on them. It was a really pretty color combination, fit for the event’s meaning – a celebration of spring: the season of joy and hope. The energy of youth was blazing as people jumped up and down to music, fit for the name of the festival. Click here for more information about the festival

The weather was nice and the puff of colors was pretty, but that was not the only thing that made the scene welcoming and memorable. Everyone was making sure that the other person was not being hurt by their touch and throw of powder, and this could be sensed so easily. It was a colorful, vibrant, and fun event-even shampooing three times afterward until the foam was not green anymore was good fun!

Lastly, some tips for future participants in Holi Festival:

  1. Make sure that you are wearing the clothes can be ruined – if you don’t want more colors on the clothes you are wearing, heavy cycle + warm water combination did the trick for me.
  2. Go empty-handed – I left my bag and jacket about 30 feet away from the festival field but still got some powder on it. I think it might be from the wind or people picking up their things afterward. If you want to make sure that your belongings stay color-free, it’s best not to bring them.
  3. Glass wearers – consider wearing contacts for the event. I did not know this and went with glasses, and people had a bit of difficulty rubbing colored powder on my face. I thus tucked away my glasses in my pocket, which mysteriously vanished by the time that the event was ended. Oh well, it was fun so it’s all good, but it doesn’t that you will also need to offer a glass for the colorful celebration!
  4. Don’t be shy to throw colors at strangers! They will often very likely smile and exclaim ‘happy Holi!’ and shower you with color powders!

REVIEW: 35th Annual Storytelling Festival

I highly recommend attending this event at some point in your life. It’ll be a chance to reflect on the media exposure you are getting and appreciate the art of language.

The event took place in the ark, in front of a stage with blue curtains. Two microphones were there; one for the MC, and one for the teller. The audience was seated surrounding the stage and the tellers exchanged the ‘shower caps’ of microphones every time they took the stage. The room was dimly lit with warm, orange lights. It was a perfect atmosphere to hear a good story-minimal visual distraction so that we could let our imagination run wild and focus on the vibration of air that hit our ears. At this stage, 6 tellers told one story each, the type of stories varied from a revision of an old folk tale (I recalled hearing a story in a similar twist in the Talmud), some point in the border between a joke and real life, and humorous reminiscence of moments just a few days ago or a few decades ago. In all, the tone of stories had humor and drama to them, the two great components that captures our attention. It was a combination, a tasting menu of stories to give the audience a taste of the art of storytelling.

I loved the atmosphere of the event – It was like Youtube, but without any visuals and distractions. I realized that I forgot what it was like to listen to a good story. When you hear a good story from a storyteller, you enter this state of trance where you are running a mental film inside of your head guided by the story you are hearing. This lone light of guidance in the vast night of possibilities is a feeble but powerful one: the teller’s voice and rhythm of speech shape the story yet lead enough room for imagination to fill the gaps. As I listened to the tellers, I realized how distracted I was when I was hearing a story with so many ‘visual aids’ and ‘recommended videos’ in a queue. Words from a life story made the audience focus on every word because we could not go back a few seconds to catch what they missed.

With those chaotic distractions eliminated, finally, the pauses, the tone of voice, speed, and rhythm of speech got the attention it deserved. The language was once again more than just the meaning of the text it conveys, the wisdom we forget so easily in modern life. 90 minutes was enough to provoke all those musings and re-appreciation of language. Curious about the event? You’re in luck: the recording of the event is uploaded in youtube. Also, this is an annual event with a long history! So next winter, when you’re stacking your hot cocoa for the winter, look up the news of this event as well-it’ll make you feel cozy on a winter night, maybe even better than hot chocolate.

Review: Tokyo Godfathers at the Michigan Theater

What would a small town be without its indie theaters? Ann Arbor is blessed to have not only one but two independent theaters showing the likes of Wes Anderson as well as cult favorites like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and cutting documentaries like I Am Not Your Negro. But one of my very favorite things about these theaters is that they introduce foreign films to Ann Arbor. This friday, I saw the classic Christmas anime Tokyo Godfathers at the Michigan Theater. (Highly recommend grabbing some ramen at Tomukun beforehand). Before we even saw the film, my friends and I were amazed by the gorgeous Art Deco interior of the theater which reminded this reviewer of another film, Eyes Wide Shut. The interior is a bit of a labyrinth and it took us a few tries to find our auditorium. The Michigan Theater was built in 1928 and also hosts theater, comedy, and live music.

When we nestled into the velvet seats, I was struck by what a turnout this one night viewing had! There was diverse audience of students and families, as well as Japanese speakers and those of us relying on subtitles. (There was one particular scene in which one of protagonists escapes at gun point with a Spanish-speaking mafioso, made even funnier if you understand Spanish.) Despite being an animated film, Tokyo Godfathers is a dark comedy full of slapstick and physical comedy than anyone of any age or background can enjoy. This film centers on a homeless trio who find a newborn abandoned newborn in a garbage can. The three protagonists are a middle-aged alcoholic named Gin, a transgender woman named Hana, and a dependent teenage runaway named Miyuki. Hana immediately accepts the child and takes her back to their dwelling to play house. They all have varying opinions about what to do with the baby and ultimately decide to find and confront the parents, as she was abandoned with some identifying photographs.

Thus begins their odyssey from Christmas to New Years to find the baby’s parents. Along the way, we learn more about the protagonists and how they became homeless. Despite being  a picaresque comedy, the movie is fairly realistic in its depiction of homelessness. It shows the protagonists’ difficulty finding warm and clean places to bathe the baby and sleep. At one point, they find some money and stay all night at a diner, sleeping in shifts. In a harrowing sequence, Gin is separated from the group and attacked and beaten by a group of young men walking through the park. It’s a grim reminder that although many cities and people fear the homeless or see them as a problem, it is in fact people with out homes who are the most vulnerable and likely to be victimized. Without consistent access to phones or internet, homeless people can also lose touch with each other quite easily and may not know if friends and family are still alive.

 

 

Whenever the movie begins to verge on despair however, the protagonists have a turn of luck or lightheartedness, something they attribute to the baby. In an ironic twist, Gin is saved by a bartender who is part of Hana’s chosen family. Without spoiling too much more, this is a gem of film not to be missed. If you’re looking for a quirky holiday film that celebrates family and will keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend checking out Tokyo Godfathers.

REVIEW: The Moth StorySLAM

At 7:00 PM last Tuesday Night, The Blind Pig in downtown Ann Arbor was bustling with conversation. Red and blue lights illuminated rows of black folding chairs surrounding a small stage. A Moth StorySLAM – a night of spontaneous, intimate, live storytelling – was about to take place!

Half an hour before the show started, the host asked for ten volunteers from the audience to spontaneously sign up to tell a story revolving around the night’s chosen theme: Fortune. After some encouragement and warnings that “the show won’t start until we get ten names in the bag!” there were eleven people signed up.

Before the first storyteller stepped up to the stage, I got a bit nervous. I remembered that the storytellers featured on The Moth podcast got months of coaching on how to engage people with their stories. These people had spontaneously signed up half an hour before! I didn’t know what to expect.

In the end, it was better than the podcast by far.

All kinds of people stepped up to the stage: a Michigan alum whose life was changed by one decision by a football player, a man who started his own consulting firm for nonprofit companies, a woman raised in the backwoods of Alaska and dreamed of moving to Detroit. Most of the storytellers came from walks of life I have never walked before, and yet I felt such a strong connection to each of them. Each one was so genuine and human – they stuttered on stage, they called out to their relatives sitting in the crowd, they sometimes had to take a moment after remembering something triggering.

After each story, the host would get back up and regale the audience with little “story slips” – pieces of paper with short story prompts on them that anonymous audience members had filled out and put in a basket at the front. They were all hilarious to hear. In the meantime, three groups of audience members who served as unofficial judges – the “Fortune Cookies”, the “Fortune Tellers”, and “Serendipity” – decided on a score out of ten to award the storyteller. They held up pieces of paper with numbers on them to whoops and hollers, and the next storyteller stepped up to the stage! It was the coolest combination of intimacy and newness – like sitting around a cozy fireplace with faces I had never seen before.

If you missed out on this event, never fear! Another StorySLAM is happening in Ann Arbor on December 14th, 2021 with the theme: Beginnings.