Next Stop: Democracy!

Those of us here at Handmade Philly love the idea of art that is…well, “just” art! As in emotive, expressive, purgative…it exists because it must…art! But we also love the idea of art being used to help us plug in…to help us connect…and…wait for it…to help us VOTE!! Because of this, we are showcasing a new project called Next Stop: Democracy! A local group is hiring local artists and makers to create bigger, better, nonpartisan signage for Philly’s polling places! Read on below, to gather more information about this exciting project and its founders.

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1/ Please tell us a bit about your project? 

Can public art increase voter engagement? This is a question that hasn’t been answered, so we’re getting Philadelphia’s best creatives together to help us find out. Election Day should be one of the most exciting days of the year, but to many people, it seems like a chore. Finding your polling place, finding the entrance, and waiting in line can be complicated and frustrating.

Plus, the signage required by the city to identify a polling place is nothing more than a few pieces of paper taped up on the wall outside the door. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t give it a second glance.

It doesn’t have to be this way! What if we could transform Election Day from something frustrating into something fun?

Our idea is simple. Election Day should be an experience. Instead of boring, confusing signs, let’s use bright, vibrant artwork to identify our polling places. Can artists and performers make Election Day in Philadelphia a little more colorful? We vote yes!

By commissioning more than 50 local artists to create large signs that say “Vote Here” in both English and Spanish, we’ll make it easier for people to find their polling places on Election Day. Plus, we’ll be hiring local musicians and performers to dance, sing, and drum at selected polling places. With art, we aim to make the voting process less confusing AND more enjoyable.

2/ Tell us more about yourself. 

Lansie Sylvia is a tornado of curls, sparkles, and great ideas. At HMC, she leads our external communication strategy, works with clients on communication projects, and builds new community partnerships. She also serves as Project Director for Next Stop: Democracy!, HMC’s newest community initiative funded by the Knight Cities Challenge and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Her areas of expertise include nonprofit communication, storytelling, fund development, and millennial engagement strategy. Since 2010, she has held director-level positions in a variety of Philadelphia-based organizations, most recently at the EHL Consulting Group and the Philadelphia Film Society.

Before receiving her M.S. in Leadership for Social Change from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, she completed an AmeriCorps Year of Service in Providence, Rhode Island. An active supporter of the arts, Lansie is the founder of Philly Give & Get, Secretary of the Charlotte Cushman Foundation, Communication Co-Chair at The Spruce Foundation, and a member of the Curtis Crescendo Club. Her go-to karaoke song is “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan.

3/ Will these signs be reused each year? 

Yes! That’s why we are doing a Kickstarter. We don’t want to use cheap, plastic signs that we order off the Internet. To do this right, we want to honor our artists and offer them locally made, sturdy, and durable canvases. Darla Jackson from the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym is ready to build us sign frames that will be functional and beautiful. But these high-quality wooden signs are more expensive than the mass-produced plastic ones.

4/ What is your plan for loss prevention? 

Each sign will be custom-built to include a small lock and chain so that they can be fastened to benches, trees, and fences to make it more difficult for people to walk off with them. Additionally, we are working with a team of field researchers to collect data on the outcomes, and those volunteers will be keeping an eye on the signs as well.

5/ Is your project a non profit or for profit? Where will proceeds from this project be spent?

Our main funding is provided by the Knight Foundation and managed by the Miami Foundation, which is our fiscal sponsor. So technically, I don’t know the project counts as either, legally speaking, but any proceeds are being reinvested in the project. The project is being produced by Here’s My Chance, a small business that works exclusively with nonprofits and socially-responsible businesses.

6/ Will each artist be paid? 

Yes! All of the artists and performers are being paid. We’re really passionate about that.

7/ Additional comments? 

A major city like Philadelphia needs a lot of polling places. 850 of them, to be exact. Every year on Election Day, these locations open on nearly every street corner so that voters can improve the city and make their voices heard…or so that a few of them can.

That’s right. Despite the internet making registration and finding your polling place easier than ever, voter turnout has been dropping year after year. In fact, across the country voter turnout is the lowest its been in 72 years. Here in Philadelphia, during the recent Mayoral primary only 27% of registered voters go out to the polls, which means that 27% of the electorate made a pretty huge decision for the rest of us.

And just like eating 27% of a cheesesteak or running up 27% of the Art Museum steps, that’s just not good enough.

There are many reasons why folks don’t show up to vote on election day. Here’s a big one: polling places can be located in parks, schools, office buildings, churches, and more. The signage required by the city is nothing more than a few pieces of paper taped up on the wall outside the door. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t give it a second glance. Plain, out-of-the-way polling locations combined with puny signage can make finding your way a real pain. It makes voting difficult, when it should be great.

That’s why we started Next Stop: Democracy!, a public art project to improve the voting experience in Philadelphia.


Kickstarter page for this project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/306238411/next-stop-democracy-60-signs-60-artists-1-city 

Melt and Pour Soap-Making: the perfect DIY Holiday project

glycerin soap Looking for a really easy, inexpensive project that will produce a gift nearly everyone loves? Try your hand at melt & pour glycerin soap making. This is distinct from ‘true’ hot process and natural cold process soap-making, which is much more involved and more time consuming. In M&P soaps, you can work on a simple project that will take you a short amount of time. Take advantage of the relative ease and get creative! There are lots of really interesting M&P soapers on Etsy from whom to get some inspiration.  A lot of the fun comes from the molds you choose to use, the scents you add, the addition of botanicals in a clear glaze top, or the creation of fun and interesting designs such as this bacon and egg soap set.

One of the best parts of soap making is the inclusion of natural fragrance. My preference is always to use pure essential oils, which are the natural product of extracting (via steam distillation) the volatile oils from plants. I find synthetic fragrance oils to be cloying and irritating, and often unhealthy because of the addition of chemical fragrance fixatives such as “pthalates”, which have shown endocrine disruption in laboratory testing with mice.

The first step is finding Melt and Pour soap base. And then it’s as simple as that…you melt it and pour it into molds! I prefer to use organic soap base, such as Stephenson’s, as many bases are weighed down with more questionable ingredients such as sulfates, or often irritating chemical foaming agents.

organic melt and pour soap base

organic melt and pour soap base from KandleKaz.com

You will want to use a stainless steel (not aluminum) or enamel coated pot. Put on a double boiler for best results, but I’ve also done fine melting the base over the lowest possible stove-top setting. Just be sure not to walk away too long, as you don’t want the soap to come to a boil.

Stirring melt and pour soap base

Stirring melt and pour soap base

DIY Directions:
1. Melt 2 lb block over low heat. (Stir with a utensil designated for soap making.)
2. Once melted, remove from heat.

Adding essential oil blend to melted soap base

Adding essential oil blend

3. Add fragrance to desired strength. I prefer about 60 – 100 drops essential oil to 2 lbs soap. If you add too much fragrance it will affect the quality of the soap.

Added colorant to soap base

Add colorant to soap base

4. Add some colorant if desired. You can buy soap chips from suppliers or use natural powdered herbs such as turmeric, which creates a lovely butter to deep orange color, depending on how much you use. You can also try regular old food coloring.  Stir well until blended.
4. Pour into molds and allow to cool completely before popping out (an hour or two).
5. Wrap in cellophane to protect the glycerin, which is prone to “sweating” when exposed to humidity. I prefer to shrink wrap soaps, as they are best protected this way!

Variation:
1. Melt clear base in one pot and an opaque base in another. Add fragrance to both when removed from heat.

soap poured into molds

2. Pour a thin, clear layer into your molds and sprinkle some herbs or blossoms on top (lotus, chamomile, calendula, and rose, or lemongrass are all nice choices)
3. Once that is somewhat cooled down, pour the opaque base into the mold.

white base being poured into mold

white base being poured into mold

4. Cool, pop out of molds, and wrap in cellophane.

soap wrapped in celophane

Resources:
From Nature with Love (melt and pour soap, essential oils, fragrance oils)
Essential Wholesale (essential oils)
Bramble Berry Soap Soap Making Supplies (everything, including molds)
Sun Feather Natural Soap Company (everything, including molds)
organic orange soap scented with cardamom and other spices

Post written by Sarah Powell, proprietor of natural bath, body, and herbal product business, Lilith’s Apothecary.

Light Photography

Posted On July 2, 2010

Filed under DO IT YOURSELF
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Lighted Couch

Photography comes from the Greek φῶς (photos) “light” and γραφή (graphé) “drawing,” together they mean “drawing with light.” So what better project could there be than photographing light.  This was an early assignment during my photography classes at Antonelli Institute. Since that time I have, at different times, been inspired to use light in unique ways or just to photograph the light and shadows light creates. 

 In everyday life you see light everywhere.  The light streaming in from a window onto a couch or light streaming in through blinds onto a wall will make you run for your camera anytime. 

Blinds

 Then there are those times when you create the photo.  The photo below was created for rhythm and repetition but also shows light and shadow quite well.  

Cups

 Go outside your door and you can find a million examples of light to inspire you to pick up a camera.  I was visiting my mother in

Blue Frond

Sun and Frond

 Florida and I could not resist the palm tree, since we don’t have these up here in Jersey. One shows the light and shadow on top of the palm frond, which creates a harsher light and shadow, and the other is photographing the light coming through the palm frond creating softer light. 

Another way to photograph with light is to use the light in the subject.  Back in the day when you used film I did a series of photographs of store front windows at night. I shot with 1600 ISO film, with 50mm lens and shot at 1/60 of a second.  Then shot the lighted subjects.  An example of this is below; it was taken on South Street one night after full dark.  Not only did the photo capture the lit lamp but also picked up neon lighting from across the street.

South Street Couch

Creating a portrait of a child is always something amazing. Tricking the camera and the viewer is also fun.  Using light coming in from a large sliding glass door (the best light I have ever used) I took the photo below. The photo was created by laying my niece down in front of the door on a green carpet and not going with the recommended exposure time.   Leaving the lens open longer than recommended changed the color of the background to make it black.

Baby Mine

 In the end, just have fun with the camera and try out different settings and places.  In this day of digital it is a lot easier to try new things and just play.  You no longer have to buy the film or pay for the processing.  But as I was taught don’t erase anything from your camera until you have seen it enlarged! You never know what you might have until you see it bigger. 

Go out and shoot some light and don’t forget to have fun with it.

Wine Anyone?

Heidi Kelly

http://www.phillyart.net/heidifalatek

Thing-a-Day

Thing-a-day is a month long project; each participant commits to make one new thing (project, sketch, etc.) per day and share it on the group blog. Here is a link to the thing-a-day blog. Quite a few members from the Philly Etsy Team are participating. Here are links to their posts: Jen McCleary, Girls Can Tell, Miss Koco, RedRedOrange, MaryJo Rosania, Studio Captura, Sqrl & Bee Studio & Flying Fox Designs.