Monday, September 22, 2008

aging grace

The end of summer always seems to feel as though I am scraping the bottom of the barrel... and every year September manages to become the Great Turnaround Month. I had been working my tail off doing visual merchandising at Terrain for a few weeks, rearranging the store for harvest time, sweating it out under the beating sun, marching back and forth across the acres of property, goring myself on a tree trunk and coming within inches of getting myself a heatstroke... trying to bounce back from months of not working and non-existent print sales. Last year I had a fairly horrific birthday and did not have great hopes that turning 31 would go much smoother.

new growth
new growth © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Shanners and Michael had been acting suspiciously for some weeks and I had a feeling they were plotting something. I had asked Michael if he would get me a new watch for my birthday. Mine had died and I gone through the two amazing-yet-tacky $3 watches I bought online which lasted 5 wearings each on average, prior to self-destructing. A couple days before my birthday he told me the watch we both liked was out of stock so he'd have to think of something else.

peril's comet
peril's comet © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

When I got home from work the night before my birthday, I wandered into the bathroom and noticed the lid of the toilet was open. Because The Magnificent likes to drink out of the toilet, I generally make a point keeping it shut. I thought it was odd, but I had been running late that morning and imagined I might have forgotten. I stepped into the kitchen and immediately all the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end... I spied a sign stuck to the cupboard next to the kitchen sink. It said Open Me!

candle © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

I had the feeling someone was in the apartment. Looking over my shoulder I opened the cupboard a crack, and there was a box, with a note. Lo and behold, Michael had snuck into my apartment while I was at work and hid a box of cupcakes, since he couldn't be there at midnight to be the first to wish me a happy birthday, he wanted to leave a little something for me.

electric © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Before the sun was up I was heading off to my last day of visual merchandising work. I spent the day putting the finishing touches on the harvest section (most of which had been erected while I was away) with Matt.

bay breeze
bay breeze © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Just before it started to rain I was asked to do a quickie shoot for an email blast for harvest.

harvest time at Terrainharvest time at terrain © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Wrapped in the creative director's jean jacket and an unruly poncho, Matt and I filled in displays with hay and pine needle fill in the increasingly monsoon-like weather. I was soaked to the skin and coated in mud and wet hay.

seaside © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

It didn't seem like an ideal way to celebrate but I was in good company all day long... and I headed home to get cleaned up and heave out to dinner with Michael. When I got to his house he was anxious to lay his gift on me. I was rather taken aback to see that he not only gotten me the watch we liked, but he also got me the MiniDigi Rolleiflex I have been pining for for quite some time. It was too adorable... and ridiculously generous. We hustled out to get out super-Mexicans on at the warm and intimate Xochitl in south Philly. It was a totally killer birthday.... little did I know it was nowhere near over.

hair on end
hair on end © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Eager to use my new camera I got up early to make a run to Best Buy to get a new card reader for my new itty bitty toy fire engine red toy. Michael had told me he was picking me up at my house at 11am to take us to brunch. He had been promising to fill my day with excitement including the highly unlikely Ukulele Fest featuring Uke Skywalker and Tuba Fett. I wasn't buying it either.

dried flowers
dried flowers © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

I called Michael to ask him if it was ok if I ran out and got back a couple minutes late. He repeatedly hedged between telling me to stay put and to go quickly until it was too late for me to leave. I had called my mom while waiting for Michael to show up and she sounded uncharacteristically chipper before 11, for someone who doesn't normally awaken before noon (she works night shift). Scooping me up at the stroke of 11, we made our way down to Cafe Estelle... I was sleepy and needed coffee desperately, my normal uncharming morning self. As we stepped out of the car and approached the door, I spotted Shanners just inside the door. Knowing I was about to be surprised I braced myself. A whole bunch of my friends had shown up for brunch... and then not 20 minutes later, my parents appeared. I did not see that one coming at all. A whole lot of love, gifting, coffee and cake mania gathered up together for me... courtesy Shanners, my mom and Michael all tirelessly planning my where and whenabouts for the weekend. It was a really great morning. I planned to meet up with a few other people later that night for drinks. Not having seen most of these people in months, it felt pretty spectacular.

singular © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday morning Michael and I set off to fulfill my very special birthday request... I asked for a house. For some weeks I had been eying up a house I spotted on my way to work. Sitting on a long stretch of road that was lined with abandoned houses, slated for development, at the top of a hill, wildly overgrown and hidden away. I stopped by one night after work to see if there was a way in, sure enough... though it was boarded at the front the back was hanging wide open. It was a huge white house with green trim, missing most of its windows, probably built in the 60s. From what little we found, it appeared to have been abandoned at an unknown date and attempts were made to renovate it and then they just kind of gave up on it. There was very little vandalism, and it didn't appear as though there had been squatters. The last family to reside there left in no hurry, most of their possessions left with them. They were awfully fond of their wallpaper. There were no less than 9 different wild patterns used in the house, most of which was sagging or had fallen completely and was making a paper waterfall down the main staircase. It was a grand house... it made me sad to think someone gave it up. If only I had the money to save it, I would in a heartbeat. I'm sure it was suffering from a bit of rot, but it seemed to be almost entirely stable throughout, aside from the bathrooms which had been pillaged for its copper piping fairly thoroughly. It was a blindingly hot day and we spent a few hours there, climbing over wallpaper and broken glass; I tested out my new camera. It was the most spectacular birthday weekend in memory.

tang © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

A few days after, one of the most-read arts/crafts/design blogs out there, ohjoy!, which happens to be based in Philly, wrote about the constructs. Since then I have seen about 8 other blogs following in her footsteps.... and the etsy sales have been flowing back in after a very long dry spell. The boost has brought incalculable eyes this way and I am very thankful... from what my stats tell me, about 600 hits to my portfolio website, and probably about 200 to my blog (hey I really needed a fresh post, obvs). Thank you so much Joy!!

{A few other equally exciting things led to this point, but until they come together, I will hold my tongue.}

Did I mention I've been beaming non-stop for days?

Yeah a lil bit...

Michael and I had to postpone our camping trip indefinitely, which we were planning for next week, so in lieu of getting earthy, we decided to hunt down Omar Little. We played tourist in B-More for a day this last weekend. I think the aquarium, while still fun, was most amazing in my childhood memories.

diving bell
diving bell © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

No longer are the dolphins out for all to see, hidden behind extra admission, no jellyfish, no bother cleaning up the glass so you can actually see the fish, once you fight your way through the irritable parents and the rowdy children. There were still delights... like a little kid, remembering the unbelievable things I used to know by heart about the more bizarre species on display.

thirds © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

On the advice of just about everyone, we visited the American Visionary Art Museum. Unfortunately they were between rotating exhibits, so they only had a smidgen of what they would normally have on display.

bedazzler © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

One piece in particular really struck me- a mental patient had embroidered her 'last will and testament' on a piece of fabric... what she had written was described as word salade, partially coherent text, mixed up with random words, accusations and names.... which is exactly what I have a prime example of here. To finally have a term for this abstract and otherwise indescribable thing, which apparently is fairly common, not the just language of Violet.

outsiders in
outsiders in © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved. Michael and I at the AVAM.

The next couple weeks hold at least one more exciting shoot, and more extensive explorations near my last conquest. Not to mention more Terrain action to come. Stay tuned.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

the exacta

Despite the heat, the hospital visits, and the lack of shooting, the summer is flying by at a mad clip. It can't have been that long ago I was bemoaning the length of time before my next check-in with The Butcher.... and it's been and past already. I'm plotting another shoot with The Beave and a camping expedition with Michael. Work with my new favorite client is broadening by the day. There is nothing quite like being someone's Everything Girl. I like it.

all terrain days
all-terrain days © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

I could not have imagined such variety in the things I have done and seen in the past short weeks. Every day has been filled to the gills. The Shanners has been cooking on the wedding front, with copious shower action.

adjustments © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Thereafter, I disappeared into the shadows of Lancaster, unearthing the questionable treasures of college art & design classes along with embarrassing journals from high school. As little as I remembered about my social interactions in both college and high school, the things I made I remember clearly still. But reading about the things that happened brought them back with surprising vividness. Much to my wild blushing.

penumbra © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

headstone © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Along the path of our normal let's get lost weekend drives, Michael suggested that we take a detour to the racetracks for a day... to see what stumble across.

leader © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

The Philadelphia Park track is certainly not amongst the grander in the area, but did provide us a slightly unsettling glimpse into the lives of hardcore gamblers and the curious lives and relationships between the jockeys, horses, owners and handlers on the other side. The element of excitement lost out of the creepy grit that laid over the place like the scent of stale cigarette smoke.

gallop © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

The uncharted territory of visual merchandising was stumbled into last week as I began a stint of very hands-on work at Terrain. I had no idea what to expect and though my picture is slightly clearer, I still do not know what to expect for the second week of work. They are in the midst of their Autumn turnover, new product comes in, holes from the summer need to be filled in and re-mingled with new... new displays, replanting, renewing. Now I have always had a soft spot for moss... after lunch on the first day, I embarked on a two and a half day intimate journey with moss, quite unlike anything I have ever worked on. There is a moss wall in the spa-product room that is planted with a few ferns and finished with some orchids.

watering cans
watering cans © Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.

Along with one of the staff display artists, we had to remove almost all the moss section by section, soak it and replace what we could, pitch what did not revive. My time was split between collecting dry moss and working in the mushroom house, submerging, draining, sorting.... and making chicken wire planters lined with sheet moss. Altogether it took us a day and a half to replace the moss, attach the planters, plant the ferns, rearrange the ground plants and water it. The third day we started on a major project, creating a huge wooden arch which would be covered with 40 moss-covered planters. It was not long before I found myself with my same mossing partner elbow deep in giant hunks of chicken wire and huge bags of moss, covering planters. While also wrassling with the design for some cashwrap signage. Weeee!!

pincushion plant
pincushion plant © Laura Kicey for Terrain. All Rights Reserved.

After spending five years working basically alone in an attic I had forgotten how much fun it is working with people. Not only was it nice to be social again, but it was also refreshing to be outside, away from a desk, a computer. It was very physically demanding, every day going home with soil and mysterious organic debris in side my clothes, dirt under my nails and barely able to move from being so stiff. Going home and taking a shower after a ten hour day and flopping down in bed, I haven't felt this accomplished in some time. It was very invigorating. Friday night before Labor Day weekend, we hoped to finish the hothouse refixturing. We stayed extra late and managed to fill it in and erecting the wood arch with planters. We were all sweaty and filthy at the end of it, but it was a very satisfying finish to the week.

for sale by mummyfor sale by mummy © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Following that I didn't think I would be able to muster energy to do much of anything. But I had three shoots lined up nonetheless. I had to complete a photo essay I am doing for a magazine (no details until after release, naturally).

backstroke © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.


grasses in the windgrasses in the wind © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Shanners and Shua were asked by the Shannersmom to produce some engagementy-style photos for her enjoyment. To help a sistah out, Michael and I took them over to Valley Forge Park, in the insanely intense sun and goadded them into being cute together in front of us for an hour or so.

lawn care
lawn care © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Then, ice cream to help everyone get over the heat.

the clothesline
the clothesline © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Holiday Monday was the perfect opportunity for Gwyn, Michael and I to visit a couple of abandoned houses near where developers were actively working on some new McMansions. The first of the two sites was a house that appeared to be built in the 70s. The first story was boarded up but the second story was filled with a lot of of interesting remains of the last families inhabitants.

thinking back
thinking back © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Several photo albums, one dated 1998; love letters from the late 60s from a man in the army, Peter, to his (later) wife, Rita; several sports trophies, dolls, a weight bench, and a bowling ball. The latter appearing to have been used as a wrecking ball on the toilet by squatters who put some holes in the walls, drank lots of terrible beer, played paintball and wrapped themselves in the amazing assortment of crocheted blankets all over the house.

second story
second story © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Though it is not something I normally do, I was drawn to this amazing painting I found in the 'girls room' of a red-haired lady on a green field with flowers. I had to take her home with me.

center stage
center stage © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

Two weeks remain until my 31st birthday. I had to share a phenomenal find today, I was forced to purchase for a birthday present to myself, from etsy's maid of clay, I give you flower child - poppy, © Felicia of MaidOfClay.

from etsy's maid of clay... I bought myself a bday present :)

Just my flavor of bizarre beauty.

Also in the spirit of sharing great things I have stumbled upon, my sweet internets friend meeralee posted this very eloquent and insightful series on sharing yourself on the internets for a Utata project and I think you should check it out.

There are about 4 other adventures I believe I neglected to mention, but I the bedding down hour draws near. 6am is my new hour! Good Night!

etched © Laura Kicey. All Rights Reserved.

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