Monday, March 30, 2009

Part II: The New Millennium

New Years was uneventful. At a party we attended in Brooklyn the building owner shut the power off at midnight as a joke. Everyone laughed and shouted and five seconds later it was New York again.

The following week I started my first official job in the fashion industry. I began as an assistant designer for a very small cashmere knitwear company right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

Here are a few things to know about the fashion district and Midtown, in general: it looks, smells, and feels exactly like you imagine it will based on your perceptions from media depictions of NYC, regardless of what those perceptions are. The stories you hear about every back alley being crammed full of over sized trucks and of having to dodge men running down streets pushing rolling racks full of clothes is all true. Also, it is very likely there are parts of the pavement that have never been struck by direct sunlight.

What is the smell of Midtown Manhattan, by the way? Well in January , it's a combination of roasted nuts, hot dogs, car exhaust, dirty snow, urine, cigarette smoke, and human perspiration.

The line I worked for had a small showroom on the seventh floor somewhere on W. 37th street. There were only four of us in the office everyday; the president of the company, the showroom director, and the two designers. My first day, the president was absent, having taken a personal day; the showroom director sat in her office reading WWD; the other designer stared at her computer screen all day. I knew immediately that I hated this job.

AND NOW, peopleareobjects PROUDLY PRESENTS:

Start with a basic length, long-sleeve, crew neck fine-gauge sweater as your foundation silhouette. This is body number one.
Change the crew neck to a V-neck. Body number two.
Shorten the sleeves to 3-quarter length while keeping the crew neck. Body number three.
Shorten the sleeves to standard short-sleeve length and keep the V-neck. Call it the cashmere T-shirt. Body number four.
Change the original crew neck to a very deep V-neck, open the front and add three buttons. Now you have a basic cardigan. Body number five.
Keep the original crew neck body, open the front, add buttons down the full length, put this over a short-sleeve crew neck body. Now you have a basic twin-set. Body number six.
Change the original crew neck to a V-neck and now do it in a 2x2 rib knit. Body number seven.
Remove the sleeves entirely from your original body and scoop out the neck all around, lower in front than back. Call it the cashmere tank top. Body number eight.
Do this exact one in 2x2 rib knit. Body number nine.
Now keep going until you have at least 30 to forty different bodies to show at ENK and Intermezzo.
Offer all styles in up to 6 to 8 different colors from your seasons color chart.
Offer all styles in black and all but one or two in white.
Just for fun, add beads or sequins to one for the holiday season.

It is also important to understand that none of this is happening to any real sweater you have in front of you. No actual knitting is being done in the design office or showroom, or in New York City, for that matter. What you are doing are technical drawings of the various styles complete with specific measurements for each and every part of each design; the opening of the neck hole; the length of each sleeve; the opening of the sleeve at the wrist; the amount of ease around the waist, bust and hip; the space between each button hole; the height of the rib knit waistband and cuffs; and so forth and so on. Any special instructions are included, along with any sample trim (zippers, lingerie straps, sequins). These "spec" sheets are put together as "tech packs", translated into Chinese (or Vietnamese, Indian, etc.) and sent to the off-shore factory where the samples will be made.

Depending on the complexity of your samples and the number of children the factory employs, you can expect to receive your finished samples back in New York within a month. At this point, the samples are measured and checked against the original spec sheets to see exactly where ten-year old Suchin Lee erred when she got her finger caught in the machine. Corrections are made, angry emails and phone calls are traded, and eventually sweaters are ready to be sent off to a grateful nation.

After four months, I quit. During my tenure there I found out the other designer was a racist. She once commented that Chinese people all suffered from foul body odor and should go "back to China on the rafts they came here on." The showroom director was pregnant during this time and she continued to wear very high heels and remark to us how expensive they were. I once overheard her tell a client in the showroom, "Why would anyone ever go below 14th street?" I was already doing a solid amount of patternmaking as a freelancer, so I decided I didn't need to subject myself to such a cramped and uncomfortable environment. One day in April, I came in early, cleaned out my computer files and desk, and left a note on the presidents desk.

As I stepped out of the building into the cool Spring morning air, I felt free. I was completely unaware I had tipped over the first domino in what would prove to be a long and heavy chain of dominoes that is still falling to this day.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Part I: New York City, 1999 - Arrival

The plane banks right and drops down slightly. We are below Manhattan, circling the borrough on our descent into LaGuardia Airport. It is a bright morning, around 10 AM, a week before Thanksgiving, 1999.

To our immediate right is the entire length of Manhattan, stretching out seemingly without end. The morning sun shines its golden rays across the surface of the island, sparkling and glinting off of the glass and metal angles of the concrete blocks below giving everything the appearance of being carved out of gold; as if a giant Faberge egg has been opened revealing this beautiful strip of jeweled land held aloft as a promise.

The Statue of Liberty, the Twin Towers, Central Park, The Chrysler building, Empire State; all laid out like the miniature tokens of a board game.

The pilot does this on purpose, even announcing the extra pass.

This is my Ellis Island moment.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Attempt at Seriousness That You Should Not Expect Often

I enjoy the relationship between shadow and negative space.

What I don't enjoy is attempting to write or talk about this or anything else related to the work I do.

I'm not exactly sure why I am attracted to the images I choose nor am I exactly sure why I feel the need to devote a massive amount of time, energy and money to produce these images. They exist because I make them exist, and that is enough for me.

However, as I have started to show my work privately in studio, it has come to my attention that many people have questions and that these questions require answers.

Answers are always messy.

I started working with stencils while living in New York City in 2006. I gravitated toward this medium because I saw it as a simple and cost-effective way of transfering prints to textiles for use in a dress group I was designing at the time. As I began proofing the first stencils I discovered I enjoyed the solitary images against the clean white surface of the bristol board. To my eyes they needed nothing else. They were simply the shadows and the negative space, and it was right.

There are several artists working today who use stencils as their means of expression. Most of these artists, if not all, started out on the streets where they lived, utilizing the stencils as a media that allowed for elaborate images to be tagged very quickly, an important consideration when your work is illegal.

What sets my work apart immediately is that it has never (not once) appeared on the side of a public building, on a newspaper kiosk, a sidewalk, or the plywood sheets boarding up a construction site. My work has never been meant to be "graffiti". I have no interest in "tagging" or "bombing" in the middle of the night. With all due respect to graffitti artists, (and there are those who do deserve great respect) I personally see nothing romantic about traipsing around at night in bandanas and "vintage" Nike hightops, eluding the police in order to spray some tragically hip or trite stencil on the side of a post box.

There are two or three prominent stencil artists working in high-profile today. I do not need to mention them as anyone who knows anything about this type of work knows who they are already, and they do not need any more publicity from me. It is impossible to work with stencils, however, and not find oneself compared to them in some way. For me, the stencil is just a medium like oil paints or encaustic. The work may look similar at first glance, but as with anything, closer inspection reveals the true personality and true talent (or lack thereof) of the artist. I am not in competition with any other artist. There existence helps all.

As stated prior, I have no interest in talking about the subjects of my work. I believe they mean whatever it is the viewer wants them to mean. We react naturally and instantly to an image, whatever that image may be and however that image may find its way in front of us. It is a natural and organic reaction that takes place within the viewer, resonating for them based on their make-up, their personal baggage they carry around. It is not my job to interfere with that process.

I enjoy the relationship between shadow and negative space. When I am cutting a stencil I am doing nothing more than carving shadows, sculpting a person or image out of the shadows created by the crevices and bends that form the shape of things. When I place a stencil down on the blank paper or canvas to spray the image, I'm turning the blankness into negative space. This blankness now becomes infused with energy though it has not been altered itself.

I work with images of people. People are so infrequently surrounded by nothing, so dense are our environments and so cluttered our personal spaces. I enjoy pulling people away from their surroundings, taking them out of the framework of their messy lives. This leaves the subject open and raw, without the crutch of context to hold onto or hide behind.

As for the images themselves, I will leave them to be what they are. I will not explain my choices, nor do I feel I am even capable of doing so.

I hope this has answered any questions you may or may not have had.

Thank you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Formal Introduction - Excerpts From 2006 Annual Report

"...peopleareobjects is an experiment. It is an ongoing project started in 2006 in New York City."

"This is an everchanging accident. This is a mistake waiting to happen.When all else has failed, peopleareobjects."

"...peopleareobjects is a community-based, multi-tiered, hyphenate commited to servicing the needs of the community..."

"In previous years peopleareobjects has been associated with many groups with interests rooted deep within the very fabric of the heart of the issues that matter most to the most people."

"Just last year alone peopleareobjects was responsible for more awareness among key demographic sectors than any other solution-based system, when compared using the Ranft-Leemer equation to re-allocate sum totals prior to the most recent inflationary period."



Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prologue: What is all this really?

peopleareobjects is a name I created while living in New York City in 2006.

At one time I had a very interesting story as to the origin of the name and what it meant, but now the story no longer interests me so I don't tell it anymore.

It is also possible that I have no interesting story at all.

I can't remember now.

The idea came to me while I was a freelance stylist in the city. I spent hours working on all kinds of design projects: photo shoots, store displays, showrooms, windows; running around four of the five boroughs shopping, propping, renting, salvaging, painting, building. It was exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but always - at all times - very rewarding.

During this time I was also working on various personal projects, mostly a large stencil art series, as well as a small collection of women's clothing. I would always present any personal work under the moniker "peopleareobjects" as I absolutely hate designers who turn their name into a brand. Signature labels are best left to couturiers, and even then I have reservations.

This blog itself has been through several incarnations and I feel the name is appropriate in that it, too, represents something in constant flux. My life has not ever been stable for more than a few months at a time, so why should these things that represent it be any more stable? This blog and its name, my life and my work, are whatever I need them to be at any given time. peopleareobjects is a brand name without a real tangible product. It is just an idea.

The "it", of course, is whatever this is.

Which brings us back to our original question. What is all this really?

peopleareobjects is a name I created while living in New York City in 2006.

You see where this is going, right? Good.