Berkshire Conference On The History Of Women: Reclaiming The Future, by Liza Cowan, Windy City Times, 1990

I wrote the following article in 1990 about two trips I made to The Berkshire Conference on The History of Women, one in 1987 and one in 1990. In it I point out the differences I saw in the two conferences, and my different responses to them, in the pivotal time when Second Wave Feminism was waning and what we now loosely call Third Wave Feminism was on the rise. 

 

I offer it to you at this moment without annotation or commentary. Perhaps later I will add these.

 

Berkshire Conference on the history of women article by liza cowan windy city times 1990
Berkshire Conference on The History of Women. Liza Cowan 1990

 

Liza Cowan

Windy City Times

Thursday, June 28, 1990

 

Three years ago, in June of 1987, The Seventh Berkshire Conference on the History of Women helped save my life by giving me a collective historical past. This year’s Berks left me nervous that academic historians were going to revise my personal/political history beyond my recognition.

 Five months before the ’87 Berks, I had taken the drug Ecstasy and plunged into a state of constant terror. I had enjoyed the drug several times with no bad effects, but this time while I was tripping a cynical and uninformed friend told me that in five years everybody would be dead from AIDS. My mind, in its chemically altered and vulnerable state, believed her literally. My stomach went cold and knotty, darkness closed in on my internal visual field. I took myself home and tried every psychological trick I knew to change my subjective reality. I couldn’t. And as the days passed, it got worse.

 It wasn’t just my personal health that scared me. Sure, I was afraid of getting sick and dying. But the worst part for me was believing that there would be no people in the future. The memory of all our generations since the beginning of our species would disappear - forever.

 On a more personal note there would be no one to remember me, Liza. I had decided when I was 15 years old that I didn’t want to be famous, but I did want to be a legend, and I had structured my life’s work to that end. The word “legend” implies that there will be someone in the future to know about you. Legend implies future. I now believed there would be none. The future was blank. I was stuck in a terror-filled present. At the ’87 Berks, I found my path to healing through the past.

 I am not a historian; I have no academic training at all. The closest I ever came to doing history was when I presented a slide show, “What The Well Dressed Dyke Will Wear, 1900-1976” at the Lesbian History Exploration, a grass-roots lesbian history conference held in California in 1976. My sister, Holly Cowan Shulman, is a historian, and had been been invited to read a paper at the ’87 Berks on “The Image Of Women Presented Over The Voice Of America 1942-1945.” She asked me to go with her; she knows history, I know women

 I found tons of dykes at the Berks, some old friends, many women I didn’t know. I’d say there were several hundred visible/identified lesbians, many more woven throughout the conference. Every session featured at least one lesbian presentation. Joan Schwarz from The Lesbian Herstory Archives charmed us with her slide show on lesbians in Greenwich Village. Del Martin, Phyllis Lyons and Barbara Gittings presented an oral history of The Daughters of Bilitis. Two lesbians came from abroad to discuss “The Transition to Modern Lesbianism in Denmark and Holland.” Dykes packed the hall to hear about “Love and Friendship in the Lesbian Bar Communities in the 1950’s and ’60’s.” In a hot crowded room, we sweated through Tee Corrinne and Flavia Rando’s slide show on Lesbian Art from 1905-1930.” (Lesbians were not given the most luxurious or spacious accommodations.)

 Halfway through the conference, I remembered the summer when I was 10 years old and my mother and older brother took me to the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, a vast place with many varied food stalls. My mom gave me some money and set me off on my own to explore and have lunch. When we regrouped she asked me what I had eaten. “A hot dog,” I told her. She couldn’t believe it. With all the different and new foods available, I’d eaten a hot dog!? Why hadn’t I tried something I’d never had before, she asked, and marched me off to find new taste thrills.

 As much as I love lesbians (and hot dogs) I decided that since I already knew a lot about the lesbian subjects  that were being offered, I should take advantage of the opportunity to explore areas I knew little about.

 I learned from Sarah McMahon of Bodoin College about “The Indescribable Care Devolving Upon a Housewife: The Preparation and Consumption of Food on the Midwestern Frontier, 1800-1860. She compared recollections in women’s, mens and children’s journals from that time. Sally McMurry’s paper on “Women Cheesemakers in Oneida County, New York, 1830-1870” sent me back in time in my imagination to a rural area I had actually lived near. Lori Ann Keen taught me about “The Role of Afro-American Women as Innovators in the Fashion and Cosmetic Industries in the 1920’s,” and my all-time favorite, the one that moves me still, Marilyn Ferris Motz’s paper on “Lucy Keeler: Home and Garden as Metaphor.”

This was what I had wanted all my school years - to know about how women lived. I never cared about wars or presidents or any of that stuff of which man’s history was made. but it touched me profoundly that someone would write her PhD dissertation on the flower garden of a middle-aged spinster in the suburban Midwest at the turn of the century, that designing and maintaining a personal garden, feeding a pioneer family, or the life of a lesbian bar community was as worthy of analysis as, say, founding a railroad, or maintaining a career in Congress. Years before I heard this paper, I was impressed by Alice Walker’s essay, “In Search Of Our Mother’s Gardens” in which she wrote, “What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s day? It is a question with an answer cruel enough to stop the blood.”

The weekend’s revelations revelations suddenly made the past bloom for me. By hearing these papers I regained, as Ann Of Green Gables might say, Scope For The Imagination. In this blossoming the intimate garden of women’s lives, with its twisty paths and shaded groves of leafy rich details, my mind had a place to go to heal.

 Through the past, I eventually regained an image of time that included the future, an image that had disappeared during my five-month drug abyss. (The process of healing from Ecstasy Hell was more complex than I have gone into here. It took a year and a half to fully recover. Please, even if you’ve taken Ecstasy in the past and its been fine, don’t do it again If you've never done it don’t.) My life went on, but the Berks held a special place in my heart. Three years later, when it was held again, I was eager to go.

 Looking through the 1990 program I didn’t see very many of the intimate garden-type papers I’d enjoyed so much the last time, so I decided to concentrate on the lesbians, check out what was happening in the field of lesbian history.

 The conference was far too vast and complex for me to report on as a whole. Even keeping tabs on all the lesbian activities was too much. My experience was quite different this time, knowing I was there to write about the conference. I was far more attuned to the issues and controversies than I had been last time when I was there for my own amusement and healing.

 Lesbian accessibility and visibility are ongoing issues at the Berks. It took true dyke devotion for several hundred of us to hike over to the Lesbian Reception since at the last minute the venue was changed to a gym that was so far away from the main events that it was off the college map. A truly marginalizing experience.

 A Friday evening roundtable discussion “Documenting Third World Lesbian Communities” was bumped from its original location by the last minute scheduling of a talk by Kate Millet. Juanita Ramos and June Chen carried on, and both did excellent presentations, despite being put into a room with inadequate audio-visual equipment. It was a sleight that could not be overlooked. The Lesbian Caucus decided to go to the Sunday Berks business meeting, where it was decided that these issues would be put onto the agenda for the next Berks planning meeting.

 Most of the papers and presentations were given by academics. My overall impression was that the papers were much more abstract than last time, filled with the trendy jargon of deconstructionism. I wished they’d spoken English. I was both bored and annoyed by the rapid-fired droning reading styles of many of the presenters, and I found it very hard to take notes.

 None of the papers I heard thrilled me the was those few had at the last Berks. I enjoyed some. The paper on the “Radical Women of Heterodoxy” inspired me to consider doing biographical research. But when I look back at my experience of the Berks, I see that my focus is concentrated on two panels. I thought about them more than any others, both during the conference and afterward.

 On a hot, muggy Saturday afternoon I went to a panel discussion called, “Will The Real Lesbian Please Stand Up? Questions of theory and Method in Current Historical Research.” Becki Ross, dressed in a black leather jacket, miniskirt and bright red lipstick, read her paper on the “Social Organization of Lesbians in Toronto, 1976 - 1980.” She was talking about LOOT, a Toronto lesbian group. I was having a little trouble following the details because I was trying to remember if they were the Toronto lesbians I had had a big fight with in 1977. (I checked some correspondence when I got home and found out they were, which made it ironic that the more Becki went on about them, the more I identified with them.) She had done interviews with some of the women involved in the LOOT social space and her main point, I think, was that this lesbian community was repressive. They insisted on a conformity of thought and dress - the dress being drab flannel shirts and workboots, the thought being that women-only space was a radical act on its own. Sex work and gay male issues were not represented. As I listened, I began to feel uncomfortable. It had occurred to me that Becki had some agenda, some point of view that she was not expressing overtly, but that she was weaving into the paper. Something about how these lesbians were repressive. Was there a sexual theme to her analysis?

I was a lesbian-separatist activist in the ’70’s. I believed that women-only space was a radical idea. I still do. As I sat listening to Becki, I thought, “She doesn’t understand what we were doing. I don’t think she respects these women she’s talking about.” It was hard to remember that she wasn’t talking about me.

I think it’s too soon to analyze what happened 10 to 15 years ago and to declare it history. We don’t have enough distance on the time, enough perspective. Everything from 15 years ago appears weird. Look at the clothes, hairstyles, furniture. Now they just look stupid. Soon they will look interesting, and later they will be retro-stylish, like things from the 1950’s are now. Fifteen years later is the time to tell stories, ask questions, get oral histories, collect pictures, begin to put the pieces together. But it’s not time to analyze.

When Becki was finished, Julia Creet from the University of California-Santa Cruz read her comments on the papers. She mentioned “sex radicals” and (I wrote this down) “the sexual repression of lesbians in the 1970’s."  When it was time for questions I raised my hand. I said I felt like I’d been living on Mars instead of New York City, but I didn’t know what a “sex radical” was. I didn’t think that lesbians of the ’70’s were sexually repressive and, if we were, I’d like to know how. I was afraid that what they meant by repressive was someone who, like me, had an unfavorable analysis of sado-masochism.

I literally didn’t understand Julia’s answer. I don’t think she ever defined “sex radical” or said how the lesbians of the ’70’s were repressive. I didn’t want to turn it into a dialog so I shut up. But I was uncomfortable. Was “sex radical” about sado-masochism? Could it means something about butch-femme? Transsexuals? I strained my imagination to figure out what it could mean. How come I didn’t know the term, and why could they not explain it to me? If their analysis of of the lesbians of the ’70’s was formed by a “sex radical” perspective as I had a hunch it was, I wanted to know what “sex radical” meant. I never found out.

At another presentation, on another day, I was intrigued by the ideas of naming and self-concept. Lisa Duggan, in her paper on female cross-dressing and the “mannish lesbian” of the late 19th century, told the story of a famous murder case from the 1890’s, in which a young woman killed her lover rather than live without her. Almost as an aside, she spoke about women struggling to create themselves. She insisted that it’s too early to look for “lesbians” in the 1870’s or 1880’s. In this deconstructionist analysis even women who were sexually active with women, women involved in passionate friendships, even passing women, did not have an inner knowing of themselves as “a kind of person with subjectivity of self.” (I think she meant a sense of self as agent, perceiver, active player, rather than object.) A lesbian identity is created, she said. The “mannish woman” at the turn of the century pioneered lesbian subjectivity because her self-presentation took her outside of the female world.

I wonder if we are only lesbian if we have a word for it. Do women loving women in other cultures/times have “subjectivity?” And does that matter. What did they call themselves, and how did they conceive of their love for other women? What should we call women who loved women but didn’t call it anything? Should we give them a different name? Names? How do we discuss them with each other?

I will probably continue to call these women lesbians, but I enjoy thinking about the idea of self-description and and how it changes over time. I wonder how the concept we now call “lesbian” will evolve. I speculate that we are only beginning to be able to know how vast, how powerful, women-centered life can be.  And that’s truly Scope For The Imagination.


The Future Is Female. Now in The Washington Post

The Future Is Female, quote from Liza Cowan
The Future Is Female

I was quoted yesterday in The Washington Post, and they also ran three of my photos, all about the now-famous slogan, t-shirt and button, The Future Is Female. 

I liked that they reposted this quote, which I originally wrote for an interview with Charlotte Cush at i_D magazine in 1975.

The Washington Post article is HERE 

The i_D interview is HERE


When a blog becomes a book.

Technologies change. I like to think of this blog as an eternal resource, but that's probably foolish. While it seems that for now online sources have been able to store information while updating their capabilities, who knows what can happen to any given blog, or any types of technologies?  

seesaw blog becomes seesaw book
Seesaw the blog becomes seesaw the book

 

 In a recent Facebook conversation on this topic, my friend Andrea Humphrey said this:

"On a class tour of the Schlesinger Library in the 90's, an archivist was showing us boxes of Dorothy West's letters and articles. I suggested that archivists would be relieved when all the archives come to them on space-saving floppies.  She said, 'quite the opposite. the technology required for humans to read hard copies will never change," but with the fast high tech innovation cycles and also the ways in which digital archives on discs disintegrate compared to on paper, they were dreading the enormous loss of important historical artifacts that can now occur before we even know whether they are important."

 

The technology required for humans to read hard copies will never change. 

 

I love that! And how nice it is to hold a book in your hands. The reading experience is so different. And how much easier for a brick and mortar archive to put an actual book on the shelf. So now the born-digital posts I've written are in a book. Just one copy, for now, for my own archive. In the future, we'll see. It will probably end up at The Schlesinger Library, too. 

 

Seesaw blog becomes seesaw book liza cowan dorothy I height  wednesdays in mississippi
Seesaw blog becomes seesaw book. Photo of Dr. Dorothy I Height, article about Wednesdays In Mississippi

 

If you blog, you might want to try this. I used a service called Into Real Pages.  Very easy to use. There are others. It was not inexpensive, but the result is priceless. 

 

Seesaw blog becomes seesaw book liza cowan polly cowan
SeeSaw Blog becomes SeeSaw book.

 


Poor Pitiful Pearl magnet

 

poor pitiful pearl refrigerator magnet ©liza cowan
Poor Pitiful Pearl refrigerator magnet from Small Equals

My 2009 post about the doll Poor Pitiful Pearl has been one of the most popular of all my posts. This classic doll, designed in 1958 by author, illustrator William Steig, rests in the memory banks of so many people. I used to keep this Pearl in my gallery, Pine Street Art Works, and I can't tell you how many women of a certain age used to pick her up and tell me stories about their special Pearls. Kids loved her too. 

Now I've made a magnet of my Portrait Of Pearl. I think you might enjoy it. Available at my etsy shop or at smallequals.com


My Digital Downloads on Etsy

I've been meaning to try selling my designs as digital printable downloads for quite some time. No more stocking printed inventory, no more shipping costs. The buyer just pays, gets an immediate download, and takes the file to the printer to have the image made as they like. Pretty cool. And Etsy makes it easy. 

Here are some that are already available:

The Masculine Woman 1905 postcard
The Masculine Woman, 1905 Postcard. Now a digital download.

Isn't she grand? I made a 600 dpi scan of the is card so it can be printed HUGE! Of course, the purchased download does not have a watermark. 

 

Harbells and bees, digital collage, liza cowan, source images japanese matchbox labels
Harbells and Bees. Digital collage by Liza Cowan

 

 I made this collage using images from two different Japanese matchbox labels. It looks great when it is large because the dots from the lithography become even more interesting at large scale. 

Love our mother earth digital collage by liza cowan
Love Your Mother Earth. Digital collage by Liza Cowan



Love Your Mother Earth. A timely and beautiful message. I made this using several images from vintage seed catalogs. How gorgeous would this look printed large, hanging in a living room?

 

Intergalactic women's time, amazons allons-Y, small equals, digital collage by liza cowan
Intergalactic Women's Time. Amazons Allons-Y. Digital collage by Liza Cowan

This one was by request. From the Amazons Allons-Y Series. 

 

 

Red birds and bees, digital collage by Liza Cowan
Red Birds and Bees. ©Liza Cowan. digital download on Etsy

Red Bird and Bees, incorporates a few of the images I use over and over. Birds and bees. Classic. 

 

 

All images, and more at my ETSY SHOP HERE

 


Victorian Trade Cards

trade card smith pratt & herrick Victorian girl with dogs
Victorian Trade Card Girl with Dogs

 

Trade Cards =  Victorian lithographed deliciousness. You know I have huge collections of trade cards from the Burlington, VT company Wells Richardson, but I also have collected some others over the years. 

I've decided to make a few of them available at my Etsy shop. This one is a stock image, I've seen it used for other retailers. 

 

Small equals ephemera trade card smith pratt herrick fine shoes DETAIL
Detail, Victorian Trade Card. Girl and dogs.

 

Here's another beauty. The golden curled little girl talks to her canary. 

 

Small equals ephemera trade card girl with canary
Victorian trade Card. Little girl and canary.

The images didn't have to have anything to do with the product. What was important was having appealing images, which people collected by the millions and put in their scrapbooks. 

 

Small equals trade detail girl with bird
Detail, Victorian Trade Card. Little girl with canary.

 

Hop on over to my ETSY SHOP!

 

 


Pinback buttons by Liza Cowan for Small Equals

A bird in the hand redbird articulated hand wooden hand smallequals.com
Red Bird button. Small Equals. ©Liza Cowan

I have always believed that beautiful things need not be expensive. In fact, I prefer the things I make to be available for not that much money. Sure, sometimes I've put a large price tag on some of my work that is one-of-a-kind like the paintings in my FAKE!™ series. But for the most part, I prefer to make things affordable. 

My new buttons, a series of 12, is pretty cool. I like adornment, a lot, so these buttons are purely decorative. And, following my FAKE!™ aesthetic, some are made to fool the eye. They are not REALLY set into a silver bezel, they just look that way. 

Parrot on crackled green on circle with silver bezel ©Liza Cowan, smallequals.com
Parrot button in silver bezel ,small equals, liza cowan design

 

The watches don't REALLY tell time. They just look like they do. 

WATCH, button,  ritzi SMALLEQUALS.COM
Watch, Ritzi. ©LIza Cowan, small equals

 

I've also remade an old favorite of mine, one I published first in the mid 1980's. American Sign Language, "I love you." 

American Sign Language button pinback button sign "I love You" from Smallequals.com
American Sign Language "I love you" ©Liza Cowan, Small Equals.

You can see the whole series in the sidebar ad right here on the blog. The link takes you to my online store  where you can buy retail OR wholesale. 

But if you prefer shopping at Etsy, I have a shop there, too.  I also sell vintage ephemera from my Etsy shop. 

 


DO YOU SEND BUSINESS EMAILS? USE MAD MIMI

Mad Mimi Email Marketing

CLICK THIS IMAGE TO SIGN UP FOR MAD MIMI

Do you send business email? So many people do. I have been using Mad Mimi for my emails since 2009. I loved them then, and now they are even better. It's ridiculously easy to create your custom emails, and they have the best customer support ever. And tracking, stats, and everything you could need to make gorgeous, effective, and easy emails. 

Take my advice, make friends with Mad Mimi. You won't be sorry. And please, if and when you do decide to give Mimi a spin, please link through the image above. That way I get a kickback through their affiliate program. And you know what? You can become an affiliate too. Just another great thing about Mimi.

Click here for  my latest newsletter.

 

liza cowan small equals newsletter mad mimi
screen shot of small equals mad mimi newsletter - detail

 

Statistics___Mad_Mimi_Email_Marketing_and__1__Thank_you_so_much_to_Liza_Cowan_for_these____-_Toni_Armstrong_Jr_
screen shot of statistics page, mad mimi (emails addresses blurred)

 

Mad Mimi Email Marketing

click the image to check out Mad Mimi. If you sign up this way, I will get the affiliate bonus. Once you have signed up, you can get an affiliate bonus for getting new customers too. AND you will be using the best, easiest, most beautiful, helpful email service in the universe. 


Otherwild, a shop in Los Angeles

Otherwild, Rachel Berks, The Future Is Female, Los Angeles
Otherwild, a shop in Los Angeles

 

Regular readers of this blog will know of my interest in Retail Theater. 

Now from Design*Sponge (one of my favorite blogs) comes this story about the Los Angeles store, Otherwild, and its owner, Rachel Berks. Not only does this give us a glimpse of the process of owning and managing a small shop, a topic which resonates greatly for me, as a former shop owner and manager, but also the piece discusses Otherwild's best selling item, THE FUTURE IS FEMALE t-shirt.


 

 You may know by now that I had a part in the creation of this shirt, and the button. And you probably know how my brains are near bursting with the wild popularity of this shirt, 40 years after Alix Dobkin and I made the photo that it was based on.

 

The future is female alix dobkin photo ©Liza Cowan 1975 copy
The Future Is Female, the original shirt, worn by Alix Dobkin. Photo ©Liza Cowan 1975

 

 


Cowan home decor DIY tips in Nest issue of SevenDaysVermont

 The editor of Vermont's premiere weekly newspaper, SevenDaysVt, follows me on Pinterest, and decided that a feature about my DIY home tips would be of interest to the paper's readers. This is from their quarterly special insert on homes, Nest. 

Regular readers of this blog will find some of these images familiar. I've posted them here on the blog, as well as on Pinterest and Flickr.

Liza Cowan Home DIY tips, decorating on a budget, coordinating patterns, wooden crates for home decor, make curtains with binder clips
Home Eclectic Home, Liza Cowan DIY home decor tips


Read the online version here.

 

 


1960's Russian/Soviet botanical matchbox labels

I must have ordered these 1960's Russian/Soviet botanical match box labels years ago and tucked them away in a little glassine envelope. Rummaging through my boxes of postcards yesterday, I came across them and popped them into the scanner. I can almost read some of the Cyrillic alphabet, but mostly if I am familiar with the word. And I do recognize many flowers, but I'm willing to bet I've made some mistakes in identifying these images.

Please let me know, and enjoy.

 

RUSSIAN botanical matchbox label aster liza cowan ephemera collections
Aster. Russian/Soviet Matchbox label 1960. Liza Cowan Ephemera collections.

 

 

RUSSIAN botanical match box label phlox LIZA COWAN EPHEMERA COLLECTIONS
Russian/Soviet botanical match box label. Phlox. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.



 

 

RUSSIAN botanical match box label carnation liza cowan ephemera collections
Russian/Soviet match box label. Carnations. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
 
 
 

 

RUSSIAN botanical match box label. gladiola
Russian/Soviet botanical match box label. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections. Gladiola.
 
 
 

 

RUSSIAN botanical match box label. tulip LIZA COWAN EPHEMERS COLLECTIONS
Russian/soviet botanical match box label. Tulip. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.
 
 

 

 

Russian botanical match box label. cammomile
Russian/Soviet botanical match box label. Camomile, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

On SeeSaw Facebook this week

SeeSaw is now on facebook, with links from our archives PLUS interesting things I've found around the web. Here's what's been on this week. 

SeeSaw on Facebook here

 

THE NEGRO MOTORIST GREEN-BOOK
THE NEGRO MOTORIST GREEN-BOOK

Source: http://www.theroot.com/…/black_history_road_trip_negro_moto…

"In 1936 a Harlem postal worker and activist named Victor H. Green decided to develop a guide that would help African Americans travel throughout the country in a safe and comfortable manner. The Negro Motorist Green Book (also called The Negro Travelers' Green Book), often simply known as The Green Book, identified places that welcomed black people during an era when Jim Crow laws and de facto segregation made it difficult for them to travel domestically without fear of racial backlash.

The Green Book listed businesses and places of interest such as nightclubs, beauty salons, barbershops, gas stations and garages that catered to black road-trippers. For almost three decades, travelers could request (for just 10 cents' postage) and receive a guide from Green. Eventually the guide expanded to encompass information about Canada and Mexico."

 

Perfection salad and something from the oven Laura Shapiro photo liza cowan
Perfection Salad and Something From The Oven by Laura Shapiro

 

Perfection Salad, and Something From The Oven, two fascinating books by Laura Shapiro. I heard Laura speak at the University Of Vermont last Spring. I first read Perfection Salad when I was doing research on Jell-O. Turns out Laura is also obsessed with Jell-O images, so she is now the proud owner of a set of Jell-O placemats that I made. 

Here's an interesting early article about Perfection Salad. 
http://meaningness.com/perfection-salad

 

perfection salad, jello mold, mid century cooking
Mid Century Cooking from Mid-Century Menu

 

Here's a link to an interview with Ruth Clark who blogs at The Mid-Century Menu. Interview in CollectorsWeekly.com

 

More on Mid-Century Cooking. 
"Today, foodies typically look back on this era with an upturned nose, preferring to mock its foods rather than eat them. So when Ruth Clark took the obvious, and daring, step of actually making these retro recipes for her fascinating website The Mid-Century Menu, it’s not surprising she received a bit of hate mail. Clark typically cooks one vintage meal per week, which she documents through scans of the original recipe, photos of her re-creation, and detailed tasting notes (often featuring amusing photos of her husband, Tom, attempting his first few bites). Her blog is an everyday cook’s version of the Julie & Julia project, featuring the food that real people made in mid-century America.

 

"Clark recently gave us her experienced take on the marvels of mid-century eating, and the lessons contemporary cooks can learn from it."

 


SeeSaw has jumped onto the Facebook train.

Ss blue 2

Join SeeSaw on Facebook. HERE

I'll be posting new material and golden oldies from the SeeSaw vaults. But wait, I'll also be scouting the web for great things  about art, collecting, ephemera, exhibitions, and all kinds of related happenings that are not part of this blog. 

See you there, I hope. 


Digital collage, the "Maybe" series of time- traveling ladies.

Liza Cowan digital collage, vintage Kodak ad, greenhouse photo by Liza Cowan at Horsford Nursury Vermont, time travel

I've been busy making digital collages, mostly using a combination of my own photographs and images from vintage Kodak ads, vintage sewing pattern packets, and old ads or images of 19th century ladies in swimming costumes and bicycles. Finding the images is just the first step. 

I separate the people from the background using Photoshop, which can be tedious, but once I have them done, I save them as PNG files and they are ready to go for the next collage. For the Greenhouse picture I  ran my original photo through the Waterlogue app on my iPhone. I do most of my actual design and composing using PicMonkey because it's much easier than Photoshop for this kind of work. For me, anyway. 

how to make digital collage with photoshop, original photos and waterlogue app

Some more examples. 

digital collage by Liza Cowan. Maybe they visited with girl taking photo of cat. vintage kodak ad. Photo by Liza Cowan

Digital collage by Liza cowan. Maybe they liked to play by the shore. 19th century ladies bathing suits, bathing costumes, photo by Liza Cowan at Shelburne Bay, Vermont

Digital composition by Liza Cowan. Alice Austen, Clear Comfort, Staten Island, vintage ladies bathing suits, bathing costumes

Digital collage. Mabye they took pictures in the garden. Liza Cowan photo. Vintage Kodak ads, pug, seagull

Liza Cowandigital collage. garden party. vintage sewing pattern. 1940's ladies slacks.
digital collage by Liza Cowan. Maybe they biked over for a visit. Photo by Liza Cowan, vintage ladies on bicycles, 19th century bicycles


HOME: Making curtains the easy way

 I love curtains.  I'm lazy and frugal, and I don't have a sewing machine. And I like to change my curtains seasonally. I've never let any of these things stop me. 

In the winter, I like to feel cozy and warm. In the summer, I like my curtains to be light and breezy. 

Orange dupioni silk curtains. pug in window. painting by liza cowan. photo ©liza cowan 2015

Making curtains is easy, though, at least for me. My method: 

Find fabric you love. I shop around in local stores and online. There's always something gorgeous on sale. 

Measure the inside height of your window. My method takes twice the length of the window. Fabric usually should be wider than the window for gathering, or the same width for a tailored modern look. 

Place a tension rod inside the window frame.

Drape fabric over rod until the bottoms meet. 

Use two tiny binder clips or small safety pins at the very top sides, just under the rod. Sometimes you will find you need to use tiny safety pins along the side. 

That's it. And you haven't cut much fabric, so you can use it for other projects when you change your curtains. 

If you hate a ragged bottom edge (I don't) you can make a hem using liquid fabric. Super easy to do. 

Pink Seersucker Curtains Liza cowan photo

I love to use clothing fabric for curtains. For summer, I'm using seersucker in my living room. 

 

Blue seersucker curtains. Painting on mirror by Liza Picasso aka Liza Cowan. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2015

I found this very cheerful plaid fabric for my daughter's room. It's from Waverly. Found on sale, of course. 

Summer plaid curtains. Photo ©Liza Cowan 2015

 You can do it, too! Now you know how. 

Easy no-sew curtains as seen on seesaw

 


Home projects: wooden crate wall, and pink seersucker curtains.

Screened in porch, white curtains, wicker chair, tin dollhouse, wooden crates, may 2015. photo ©Liza Cowan

The screened porch was a deal maker for me when I bought my house. At first, my plan was to build a half-wall around the room, but then I had the brainstorm of modular wall building with wooden boxes. The old owner had left a small cache in the barn, and I had my own collections, so I decided to stack them at one end, and to use some as a small "wall" on the outer deck. That's all I need. And in the Winter, they will go back to the barn because the porch fills with snow. 

My other grand idea was to put in white curtains for beauty, shade, and privacy. I had basic white curtains and tension rods on hand from an earlier project, so that was easy. A cheap and quick project, also removable for the winter months. 

Tin Marx dollhouse from my collections. 

Pink Seersucker Curtains. Lamp by Kileh Friedman. photo © Liza cowan photo

Joanne's Fabrics had seersucker on sale at 50% yesterday so I scooped up 8 yards of pink and white stripe. I love using dressmaking fabric for curtains. My curtain making technique: cut the material to twice the height of the window. Drape over tension rod on inside of window frame. Secure at the top with binder clips or safety pin. If you want to get really fancy, you can hem them. I usually don't, but if I decide to, liquid seam glue works just fine. 

Lamp by Kileh Friedman,  Burlington, VT. Shade from The Lamp Shop, Burlington, VT.


My Rootstein mannequin comes home!

Do any of you remember back when I owned the art gallery, Pine Street Art Works,  and had a bunch of mannequins there? Oh how I loved them. When I closed, back in 2009, I sold three of them, two Maira Kalman children and one Adel Rootstein. I kept three Maira Kalman/Ralph Pucci busts. 

I sold the Rootstein - Diane Dewitt - to someone who was crazy about her, and that made me feel better about losing her, but I found I really missed her. Years later, I heard that the new owner gave her away to a mutual friend. I emailed the friend and said if she ever decided that she didn't want the mannequin anymore, that I'd like her back. 

Lo and behold, the day arrived. Two days ago we were reunited. I rearranged my living room to welcome her and she is home at last! So please expect to see many more images of one of my favorite models. 

Adel rootstein diane dewitt mannequin in home of liza cowan. photo ©liza cowan 2015

Here she is working hard at the shop, selling tableware. Glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals. 

Diane dewitt adel rootstein mannequin helps sell tableware at pine street art works. glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals. photo ©liza cowan


Patriarchy Propaganda: Teach her how to love it.

Patriarchy, Teach her how to love it. Propaganda pamphlet USA circa 1933. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections via Liza Cowan FAKE!™

Advertising is a powerful force for propaganda. Just after World War One, fledgling press agent Edward Bernays returned from The Paris Peace Talks, where he had helped President Woodrow Wilson coin and promote the phrase "Making the world safe for Democracy. Upon his return, he decided to bring his ideas on Mass Persuasion to commerce and then to the US Government. He realized that the term "propaganda" had a negative connotation after the war, so he coined the phrase "Public Relations" and he and his ideas changed the world forever. source

Advertising is propaganda. 


Source material: 1933 Frigidaire advertising booklet, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections. Liza Cowan FAKE!™ Design. 


Home Design: Using trays for organizing.

Photo ©Liza Cowan. use a tray or charger  to organize a coffee table.
Tray/charger for organizing coffee table. Photo ©Liza Cowan

 

I like to use trays to help my organize my home. It's a little trick I learned when I was designing and maintaining retail spaces. I found them so useful for display, and they made cleaning so much easier. 

If you don't have some trays or platters already in your home there are so many wonderful options available. Of course, you can go look in resale or junk shops or at yard sales. You never know what treasures you'll find. Stores like Home Goods and Pier One are really useful too, as well as craft supply stores. I'm lucky that we have all of these stores in my small city. But you can buy online too. For better or for worse, it has never been easier to be a consumer. I try to be reasonable, really. I gave away 3/4 of my stuff when I moved last year and I'm trying not to collect more stuff. But I'm in the midst of huge organizing projects, so I do indulge in objects that make the process both easy and beautiful. Trays are part of that process. 

There is now a huge trend for what are called "chargers" which are basically big plates. They are popular now for what is being called "tablescaping."   When I bought the charger above at Pier One, the saleslady told me I should use it for candles on my dining room table. I'm not big on candles; fire makes me nervous,  and I have so many more useful and interesting things to display. Nevertheless, I was amused to find that "tablescaping" is now a thing. I think its an overblown name, but the concept is not so bad.

I use my trays and chargers to keep all the little things that I need in any given spot. Above is the wooden charger I found at Pier One, also very inexpensive. I keep an eye out for sales, of course.  This is my living room, and I had a pile of remotes to wrangle. I found the round paper container at Home Goods, for a song. One other box, also Home Goods, houses emery boards, nail clippers and nail polish. TV watching time is great for an impromptu manicure or nail repair. The final box is hand letterpress from Brookfield, holding their note paper, because I often find I need to make a note

Also vital for me, a box of tissues, these designed for Kleenex by Issac Mizrahi (I bought a dozen, just in case they stop making them) and a bottle of hand lotion. And my eyeglasses, which I tend to lose. But of course it could hold whatever it is that you find you need in your living room. 

The beauty - other than the visual appeal - is that I can whisk the tray right off the table for a game of Sorry or Monopoly with my neighbor's kids, or to make room to serve food for a party. 


Tray platter on dining table desk
Melamine tray on dining room table. Photo ©Liza Cowan

 

My dining room table also serves as my downstairs desk. I like to sit here next to the window for all kinds of projects, including paying bills, and some craft projects. But I also eat here, and the tray is so easy to remove if I need the whole table to serve guests. This melamine tray is from Pier One. Melamine trays are so hot right now, and the new technologies that allow for printing surface design make almost any look possible. This one mimics a worn ceramic. You know I'm all about FAKE!™ so I love this. 

For my table/office I like to keep pens and pencils in a chipped, old cup I painted, back when we still had a paint your own pottery place. I miss that! I have a ceramic dog dish with my ever handy Sugru, and my checkbook in the folder I designed from my FAKE!™ line of paintings, this one a Liza Leger. The checkbook holder was made for me by Flashbags. And another box of note paper from Brookflied. I used to sell Brookfield hand letterpressed note cards in my stores, and I'm happy to have several boxes left over. So pretty. Paper clips are in a little plastic box from Amac, which I also used to sell, and have managed to keep a few for my own use. 

The gorgeous lamp was made by one of my favorite local potters, Kileh Friedman. The round platter in the background was made by another favorite  potter, Pam Black, Paradise Pottery. On it are some examples of bowls I've been making with Crayola play clay. I used to do this all the time with my kids when they were little. Now my young neighbors enjoy coming over for craft time.

Liza cowan photo shinzi katoh tray as organizer for office desk
Tray by Shinzi Katoh for desk supplies. Photo @Liza Cowan


 This is in my studio office. The tray is from Shinzi Katoh, whose adorable products I used to sell at Pine Street Art Works and at Small Equals. I was smart enough to save one for myself. This hold several lucite boxes with pencils, pens, scrap paper and of course, more hand lotion. It too, can be swooped up to clear my table for large projects. 

Happy tray- scaping.!!

 

Organizing with trays seen on see saw