Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Keeping the Passed Present with Allison Gilbert

I haven't written much in the last year. To be honest, I've been busy at the gym, contributing to global warming by burning off my hibernation reserves. This doesn't mean that I haven't been making and selling things aplenty. I have been a busy, and happy, badger. I'm very happy indeed to talk about a book that my crafts are featured in, twice!

For a Sacramento girl, it's a brave new world indeed to bring me into contact with Emmy-award-winning CNN journalist and writer Allison Gilbert.

I first met Allison at the Wear It, But Don't Bear It fundraiser I put together at Tarrytown's W@tercooler. I just knew her as a generous friend of Jenifer Ross, and one of the many locals who came out to help two girls who lost their mother through domestic violence.

When Allison contacted me again, it was to ask me for help with her new project: a book that listed ways to honor and keep present the spirits of loved ones who have died.

Initially, I feared it would be a grim undertaking. But like Allison herself, the result is a thoughtful, heartfelt, and surprisingly upbeat book of practical tips, crafts, and artists' work.

Buy it on Amazon!
You should really buy the book, if not for you, then for someone you love. For now, I'll show you a little of what I did with Allison to merit two spots in Passed and Present.

Memory Keeper

Allison inherited a collection of her grandmother's recipe notebooks, which were packed with decades of glued-in magazine clippings (sometimes layered one atop the other) and her handwritten favorites, plus critical evaluations written in pen and pencil: "Excellent," "Very good," "So-So"....

I love that "Recipes Of The Stars" card so, sooo much. See those little clippings
at center and bottom? Those are Grandmother's notes, and happily most are
"Very Good" 
Allison wanted a way to see and display her grandmother's favorite recipes and her handwriting. Together, we chose three boxes--two small cigar boxes and one medium-sized, lidded wooden box that used to house some very fine wines. (I didn't drink the wines. I just get the boxes from a neighbor, who is a chef). Then I went to work to decoupage Allison's favorite images and recipes on each. The two small boxes went to Allison and her brother, each with a treasured recipe and Grandmother's handwritten note, "Allison's favorite" and "Jay's favorite" on the lid. The wine box, seen here, is also big enough to carry the rest of the recipe books.

It's covered inside and out with great pictures and handwritten comments.
Film Vases and Bowls

The other commissioned project I made for Allison is a pair of objects made out of her family's old 8mm home movies. I've talked before about making vases and bowls out of film stock and movies that I pick up at tag sales and on eBay.  

Allison made digital copies of all the 8mm movies she inherited--hooray for The Cloud, right?--then handed me the originals.

I had so many reels that I was able to make two pieces for her: one with a piece of redwood burl as the base, and one with a vibrant Greek ceramic coaster. 8mm is too narrow to make very tall pieces, but I think these turned out beautifully.

The bowl is about 10 inches in diameter, and the vase is about 8 inches tall.
I used water-based polyurethane on these, for a matte effect. Folks at
Allison's book tour meetings, called "Memory Bashes," are pretty much
astonished by these, which they keep thinking must be made out of records.
Passed and Present is selling well, and it's getting rave reviews in People Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Thank you, Allison, for this opportunity, and may your Memory Bashes all be awesome!

If you'd like to commission a box, bowl or vase, or pick out a pre-made film vase or decoupaged box (featuring old comics and cultural icons), contact me directly at or via Etsy, through my shop, Happy Badger Industries.

In a year of huge cultural losses, global (including but not at all limited to Bowie and Prince) and local (Tarrytown's Hank's Alley, The Thrifty Squirrel, and beloved W@tercooler all closed this year), I'm glad that I can do something to keep my own lost loves bright, encased in resin, literal and digital.

Till next time!

Copyright 2016, Tanya Monier