Awareness of History= Self-Knowledge

“(History) is the best antidote to delusions of omnipotence and omniscience. Self-knowledge is the indispensable prelude to self-control, for the nation as well as for the individual, and history should forever remind us of the limit of our passing perspectives.

–Arthur Schlesinger

Quote from America’s Midlife Crisis: The Future of a Troubled Superpower by Gary R. Weaver and Adam Mendelson

‘Crafty Bastards’ Explain How to Take D.I.Y. Crafting to the Next Level

Although tough decisions whether to dress up as Miley Cyrus from her raunchy MTV VMA performance this year, complete with a foam finger, or a zombie from the successful AMC TV show, “Walking Dead” for Halloween haven’t been decided, buying a $5 day pass to Crafty Bastards Arts & Craft Fair and getting a jump-start on Christmas shopping was a decision definitely worth making over the weekend.

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Photo Credits: http://www.empowernetwork.com and aprew01.wordpress.com

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Crafty Bastards presented by the Washington City Paper for connoisseurs of all things novelty such as monster-inspired historical prints and maps, chic hand-crafted knit accessories, creepy stuffed animals and doggie bling was, “bigger, better, and craftier” than ever.

“If Etsy were a mall, it would be kind of like this,” said festival coordinator, Nikki Caborale.

Only a brisk autumn stroll from the NoMa metro station and in its second year across from Union Market, the fair blossomed into a weekend-long affair with bigger tents housing more independent artisans selling handmade wares.  It also whetted shopper’s appetites with D.C.’s best food trucks and a selection of craft brews at the new Belgium Beer Garden, perfect for shopping breaks.

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Crafty Bastards Entry Signs

Urban and stylish shoppers, young and old, came from across the District and surrounding areas to engage D.I.Y professionals, hailing from all over the U.S., to discover and buy unique handmade goods, the variety that can’t be found in big box stores like Target.

“I like supporting original and individual craftsmen and buying unique things, so I was really excited to check it out and see things that I hadn’t seen before and support the artists,” said Laura McNeil, a shopper who traveled from New York City to attend the fair.

“It’s fun every time and it never disappoints me and it keeps growing and growing. It’s bigger this year, I think,” said repeat shopper, Rachel Wallach, a Los Angeles, Calif. native living in the District.

A lot of hard work goes into organizing Crafty Bastards each year, including a jury selection process that considers each artist’s mission statement, creativity, quality, uniqueness of materials, and decides who out of the 450 applicants will earn a highly-coveted spot to sell their goods in the festival’s 158 booths.

Despite Crafty Bastards’ competitive selection process, many of the vendors have participated in the fair since its inception, originally conceived to make Washington City Paper’s classified section come to life.

Crafters’ products continue to shock, awe, and evolve based on trends and their inspirations. Debbie Lee, 60 bugs owner, who sells products that come in the hand-embroidered variety, and Rania Hassan, goshdarnknit owner who sells Japanese gocco screen printed notebooks, lunch bags, and other knit-inspired items said they return each year to Crafty Bastards, even participating in the selection jury, because it is an event that has turned their hobby into a bonafide business.

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Crafty Bastards Gocco Notebooks

The fair has also fostered an artist community in the process.

“There’s an aesthetic that the creators of Crafty Bastards have tried to instill and it’s a sense of making things from the sheer joy of making things,” said Sean Hennessey, a sculpture artisan who runs self-titled company, Sean Hennessey.

“I think you have to support each other in this community and everyone does and that’s sort of why I think I’m part of it, why I think I like it, and why I’m here,” he said.

Many of the artisans haven’t quit their day jobs, but they craft as a creative outlet and a way to connect with their customers.

“When people identify with and connect with what I’m making and they like it, then it inspires me to make more,” said Tiny Henry of Tina Seamonster that specializes in zombie themed small gift items.

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Crafty Bastards Tina Seamonster Logo

However, getting into the D.I.Y. crafting business isn’t for the faint of heart.

Here’s some advice on how to take your crafting game to the next level:

“Always have passion. Never give it up. Make sure that you love doing it because starting a small business requires a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard work and if you don’t love what you do, then you’re not going to be happy,” says Virginia Arrisueño, a D.C. based full-time crafter and owner of DeNada, a company that sells luxurious knit accessories for men and women.

Crafty Bastards DeNada

Still don’t know where to start?

Henry says don’t be afraid to fail.

“That’s how you learn, that’s how you grow, and that’s how you end up doing something awesome,” she says.

Henry says her company is a product of five failures.

“You have to make a lot of something. The mere fact of making something will inspire you to perfect it, will inspire you to make something better, to make it more unique. You’re not going to find your voice until you make a lot of things. Give it away at first, charge nothing for it. Sell it really cheap,” Hennessey says.

Jeffrey Everett, American University alumnus who majored in design and owner of El Jefe Design, a company that sells fringe culture merchandise, including posters and stationary, offers his wisdom exclusively for AU students.

Crafty Bastards El Jefe

 “When you go out into the real world, make sure that your first job is (one) that you actually want to do and pursue because you’re building on the experience you have. Take classes that are outside of your major. If you’re an artist, take business classes. If you’re a film studies major, take some literature classes. You really need to know all angles of the profession you’re doing. You have to be very broad in what you do and you have to be really smart,” he says.

EYEBROWSEY: Mary-Katherine

“I started plucking because I had my father’s eyebrows, which means they were big, bushy, and weird,” recalls Mary-Katherine a.k.a. M.K., a 27-year-old Washington, D.C.  transplant, originally from Aurora, Ill.

Eyebrowsey Mary-Katherine Ream Collage

Photo Credit: Erin Robertson

She first started plucking her eyebrows at just 12-years-old.

“When (I was) growing up everyone had thin and pristine eye brows, very feminine and dainty. And mine were like these huge Walter Cronkite eyebrows, so I tried to pluck them to look like my mother’s,”  M.K. says.

She remembers plucking her brows extremely thin, so they would resemble her mother’s, reminiscent of Edith Pilaf‘s brows, en vogue in the 1930s.

“I’d plucked them until they looked like that and (it was) horrible for my face, cause that’s not how my face should look, so I’ve learned to embrace the brow,” says Mary-Katherine.

M.K. began to get serious about caring for her brows when she was 25-years-old and in graduate school.

While her eyebrows have considerably thinned since her over-plucked preteen days, their pleasant shape prompted Mary-Katherine to try her hand at D.I.Y. waxing.

She uses Bliss Poetic Wax kit, a name that appeals to her writer’s sensibility.

The kit doesn’t involve strips and it comes with brushes in three different sizes, a preclean, and an oil, which protects the skin from tearing. Using the smallest brush, she applies the easy-to-see blue wax between her brows and above and below her arches.  Mary-Katherine says the ripping off like a Band-Aid part of the waxing process is relatively painless.

M.K. loves the product because it doesn’t upset her super sensitive skin. She does experience slight redness, but it dissipates after only a couple of hours.

Although the kit’s instructions recommend waxing every six weeks, Mary-Katherine gauges when it’s time to do some brow maintenance when she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror illuminated by sunlight. She says natural light is best for spotting newly grown in hairs.

“My body tells me when it needs to be done,” she says.

M.K.  only resorts to using her generic tweezers, purchased at Target, on her brows when she notices an unsightly, dark hair that, “drives her nuts.”

After her first threading experience brought her to tears, she vowed she’d never try that technique again, although it’s the preferred method of her roommate.

Before heading out the door, Mary-Katherine uses a brow shaping kit like Brow Zings in “Dark” by Benefit. M.K. fills in her eyebrows with powder and secures stray hairs with wax.

Eyebrowsey Brow Zings

Photo Credit: Chaz Dean, http://www.sephora.com

Since her brows are light and reddish, M.K. says she encounters a slight challenge selecting the ideal eyebrow tint.

“If you go online at Sephora, for example, there are products available for people who have black hair, people who have blonde hair, and brown hair, but there aren’t a ton of options if you don’t neatly fall into one of those categories. You have to make your eyebrows look like they’re like everybody else’s,” she points out.

Mary-Katherine says her favorite thing about her eyebrows are the way they frame her heart-shaped face.

“Some women won’t leave the house without lip-gloss, others won’t leave the house without mascara. I can leave the house without all of those things, but the one thing that I do is my eyebrows. That’s the one thing that puts me together and makes me feel put together,” she says.

M.K. doesn’t believe that there is an ideal eyebrow shape or type. Just like Walter Cronkite’s ferocious frons helped define his on-air persona, she says you have to develop your personal style by finding an eyebrow shape that complements your face and makes you feel good.

With that philosophy in mind, Mary-Katherine doesn’t admire any celebrity idols, in particular, for their eyebrows; however, she’s a fan of Vogue‘s June 2013 issue spotlighting model, Kate Upton whose pronounced brows, evocative of a budding Brooke Shields, captured her eye.

Eyebrowsey Kate Upton Vogue

Photo Credit: styledarlingonline.wordpress.com

“It was cool to see (Kate Upton) on the cover. She’s like this goddess and they gave her these thicker eyebrows, which are traditionally considered more masculine. And so, I like that they did that because they’re showing that you can still be attractive and have thick, bushy eyebrows like I used to. I wish I had that growing up,” Mary-Katherine says.

H Street Festival Didn’t Let The Rain Reign On Its Parade

On Saturday, residents from across the D.M.V area converged on the revitalized H Street NE Corridor, some for the first time, under threatening gray clouds, for the highly anticipated and popular 4th annual H Street Festival organized by non-profit, H Street Main Street.

The festival sprawled an additional four blocks this year from Fourth to 14th streets, NE and featured over 50 local and visiting artists, 80 performances on 10 stages with music genres ranging from rock, bluegrass, fusion, to gospel as well as a myriad of local, regional, and international cuisine served in food trucks or in stands set up in front of the restaurants that regularly call H Street home.

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As if the competing aromas of barbecued ribs, Korean tacos, or freshly fried donuts weren’t enough to entice the anticipated 100,000 festival-goers, they could also browse over two-hundred booths lining the corridor varying from vendors selling colorful and unique dangling earrings, graphic t-shirts, vintage clothing, and artwork.

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Chickie Brown, a self-described history geek, was among the vendors hoping to increase brand recognition and revenue for her business. She is founder of Chickie Brown M.A.N.- Monarchs and Nomads, a men’s graphic t-shirt line that combines her love of art and history. The graphic t-shirts hallmark pop art, highlighting a blend of historical characters with flashes of intense color that draws the eye.

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Brown explains why she decided to participate in the H Street Festival, “To sell my tees and…be a part of the community. There are a lot of changes and I do really want to be a part of that. They’re kind of bringing this community (together) and making it more vibrant,” Brown said.

Shoppers that visited Brown’s tent reflected the diversity of the crowd, which ranged from young to old and every possible race and ethnicity.

However, H Street did not always lure an assortment of people or engender exuberance.

One festival-goer, Steve Mesker, a Capitol Hill resident since 1999, visited H Street in the 1980s with a friend for breakfast and recalled being the only two white guys on the entire block.

H Street has come a long way not only in terms of diversity, but it has also managed to advance beyond its reputation, once mired in urban decay and defined by its fire-charred and cracked sidewalks and vacant buildings with broken windows, attracting many frequenters.

“You know the eighties was not a great time in some neighborhoods here,” Mesker said referring to H Street. “It’s improved. Just in general, Washington has gotten a lot wealthier.”

Prior to the revitalization effort which has taken place over the past decade, native Washingtonian and Inspire BBQ vendor, Akisha Greene noted, “H Street was messed up during the riots of Martin Luther King Jr., so they burned (it) down, so it was a part of town that D.C. kind of wrote off.”

With the influx of wealth generated by real estate developers, rising property values has forced out some local businesses, paving the way for a number of new businesses that have cropped up along the H Street Corridor over the past few years, a trend that has been impacting the District’s trendiest neighborhoods.

“There wouldn’t be an H Street Festival without gentrification, but the cool thing is, I think they’ve done a good job. As you can see there’s a mix of crowd(s) here, all kinds of different people. That’s cool. I think D.C. still has that and hopefully that will stay,” Mesker said.

Mesker observed that while the festival has grown and was comprised of a mishmash of arts and culture and places to eat and drink, it also flaunted a tamer, corporate element by including kiosks for Ford, ZipCar, Car2Go, Geico, REI, and Arsenio Hall as compared to the funkier street festival held several days earlier in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood.

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Once shopping was no longer on the agenda, revelers could watch small-scale fashion shows, attend educational events, converse with local entrepreneurs, artists, and community organizers, or take their children to have their faces painted.

Additionally, there was a lineup of psychedelic and steam-punk inspired cars and trucks and Burning Man-esque installations that the crowd could meander around and snap photos of.

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Some the attendees became attractions too, for instance, a woman pushing around an electric blue stroller overflowing with four Dachshunds captured the curiosity of onlookers while others fawned over a 9-month-old cat on a leash.

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Despite the weather reports promising a cloudy day, by mid-afternoon the sky opened up and rain poured with a fury, slightly dampening the joviality of the festival.  Attendees caught off-guard without umbrellas scattered to find shelter and their movements throughout the festival appeared to be timed with the intensity of the downpour.

“As soon as I got out onto the street, it started raining and I had to just go and find a place to shelter from the rain, so I didn’t really get a chance to listen to any of the music,” said D’lena Duncan who drove in for the festival from Germantown, Md. and spent 30 minutes locating a parking spot.

It seemed the rain was determined to turn the H Street Festival into the H20 Festival, prompting jokes from the Fanthom Comics booth.

The vendors and festival-goers braved the inclement weather, but eventually with the rain unrelenting, the vendors, one by one, began to pack up prematurely.

Despite the clash between the spirited festivities and the uncooperative weather, the organizers of H Street Festival seemed to have successfully accomplished their goal of attracting people throughout the District and beyond to experience the hidden gems of the new and improved corridor.

“I generally like street fairs. I think it brings out the best in every neighborhood,” said Adar Schneider, a San Francisco native and junior at George Washington University.

All in all, it was a sublime day to sing in the rain on H Street, NE.

6 Things I Learned From Producing My First Video

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**Photo Credit: Jimmy Hicks III

On Tuesday, I showcased my first serious video effort along with my classmates in my Digital Storytelling and Strategic Communication class. The professor only expected that our first videos use cutting in camera, known as the “holy grail of filmmaking,” a technique that involves establishing the storyboard scene by scene and following that framework during the shooting process. However, I think a lot of us got carried away and definitely did more editing for our 2 minute films than the professor required. Most of the films were pretty great for our first attempts and revealed that the only way to learn and get better is to make mistakes. Here are 6 things I learned from my first video project:

  1. Editing Takes A Lot of Time! I learned that it’s necessary to schedule several hours of uninterrupted editing time.  For my first video project, I spent 7 hours editing, but I think once I develop greater familiarity with Final Cut X that amount of time can definitely be reduced by half.  I also learned that a lot of editing time can be mitigated by being attentive when shooting, for example, framing the shot well and controlling for light and sound. Editing can really help the narrative come alive and is only bounded by the editor’s creativity.
  2. Shooting with an iPhone Can Actually Yield Quality Results! I learned that if you invest in a quality film app like Filmic Pro and filming accessories for iPhones such as a Gorillapod, a GLIF– a mount for a tripod, lenses, and an external microphone, you can be well on your way to producing Hollywood cinematic quality videos, but with one caveat, you must develop directorial/cinematic technique.
  3. Controlling for Light, Sound, and Stabilization Can Be Crazy Difficult! While it can be overwhelming to have to think about controlling for light, sound, and stabilization, doing so will save you so much time and frustration in the editing suite.  In my first video, I decided to shoot outside and I noticed that I had to deal with the sunlight, which kept blowing out my takes, bystanders, and ambient sound. For light and sound, I learned that you should try to shoot indoors unless shooting outside truly matters to the story you want to tell. If you do decide to shoot outside, make sure that the sunlight is behind the camera and lighting the subject, but beware that too much sunlight can wreak havoc as well. Having an external microphone attachment can help capture sound better. I learned that the natural environment like a sidewalk or branch of a tree is your friend as well as a book or a tripod all can tremendously help to reduce camera shake, which if not tempered can cause stimulation sickness for viewers.  When worse comes to worse, there are ways to correct those issues during post-production, but you’re much better off controlling for those issues during production.
  4. More is More! I learned that it never hurts to ask your subject for voice-overs or to take more than enough b-roll. When you’re editing you may want to show your subject in action and use the voice-over to coincide with footage of the subject to break up the flow of the story or there may be issues with audio such as overpowering ambient sound that you’ll be grateful you thought to capture your subject’s voice-over and additional footage.
  5.  Don’t Forget to Think About Composition! I noticed when editing my film that I have a tendency to cut too low on my subject, hence giving my subject an inadvertent haircut.  I realized that how you compose a shot says a lot about your technique, but also the emotions you want to invoke in your audience. Apparently, there is the rule of thirds that says when you align your subject according to and along those nine intersections and two horizon lines when composing a shot, you can create more tension, energy, and interest than merely haphazardly placing your subject anywhere in the frame.
  6. Choosing a Dynamic Subject Will Help Make Your Story Come Alive! The subject of my 2 minute film is Amber T. Lee.  I think how she oozes passion when she articulates her story really translates to the viewer in a compelling way. After showing my video, my professor commented that my subject really helped make my storytelling come alive. I realized that featuring a captivating subject can help trump filming inadequacies.

Check out my first video effort and step into the creative world of Amber T. Lee, a 23-year-old bubbly, yet focused and determined self-supported artist: Portrait of Amber T. Lee.