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February 2008

Food and Art Together? Naturally.

Pink Tulips, photo by Liza Cowan

I'm thrilled to announce that Pine Street Art Works will soon be opening an annex at Healthy Living Natural Foods, on Dorset Street in South Burlington. For those of you who don't live in these parts, Healthy Living is a locally and independently owned, ethically operated, and now rather large, retail provider of food and related products. HL started 20 years ago with a staff of two and now employs over 100 people.

I'm a fussy shopper and HL meets all my criteria. It's locally,independently and ethically owned and operated- by a dynamo of a woman named Katy Lesser. It is beautiful, it sells local organic produce and foods (thereby supporting local agriculture and artisinal food crafters), provides prepared food and baked goods  (I'm a pretty big fan of take out.)  The staff is great, and it functions as a Third Place, with it's restaurant and coffee bar, where people can sit and read the paper or run into old, or new, friends.

Here's the deal with Healthy Living. I will curate shows, small shows, in the store at the information/welcome center lasting up to two months. I estimate that between five to ten pieces can go up for each show. I will choose some of the artists who show at PSAW  but others will be coming in first to Healthy Living, and then maybe ending up later at PSAW.  So far, Cara Barer and Richard Gombar have agreed enthusiastically to showing at HL, which is two for two.

Best of all, this is a win -win -win situation. I get to show and sell my artists work to many more people than show up at my gallery, which is situated in a section of town I fondly call New Siberia.  Shoppers at HL  can view gallery quality art in an enhanced shopping experience. And HL gets to offer this visual treat to their customers. It's kind of the visual equivilent to being served a cup of free  coffee while you shop. This actually happened to me one morning at B*rns and N*ble bookstore a few weeks ago, and it was such an unexpected treat. The fact that they have a St*rbucks cafe in the store was not lost on me, but it didn't diminish my pleasure at being served a coffee. Such is the nature of marketing.

I'm starting the Healthy Living exhibition series with my own Fake! series because it's ready to hang and quite frankly, I can't resist the thrill of seeing my fake Matisses and Legers hanging in a grocery store. I can't even explain why I find this so exciting and amusing.

And here's a funny coincidence. It turns out that I used to live right next door to Katy's sister Elizabeth Lesser, in Woodstock, New York. My dog Alice, a beautiful German Shepard mix, used to trot through the small woods that separated our houses, sneak into Elizabeth's kitchen and steal food off her table. Apparantly Elizabeth isn't a major dog lover, but she was always gracious about it.


I've been a bit too busy to post in the past few days, but I thought I'd put up some great old images from seed packs that I have in my ephemera collection.


Lettuce Seed Packet. COWAN ephemera collections

I think these are from the early part of the 20th Century, and the graphics are so delicious.


Early 20th Century Seed Packs. COWAN ephemera collections.


Burlington's alt weekly, 7Days Vt published a fabulous article about Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth in this weeks issue. It's beautifully written by publisher/editor Pamela Polston with tons of images from the book, and some photos of Nakki by Matthew Thorsen.

Nakki Goranin in one of her vintage photobooths. Photo by Matthew Thorsen for 7DaysVT

The article is too long to reprint here but link on over to 7DaysVT

There's a bonus that you can only get online. Cathy Resmer and  Andrew Sawtell,  from 7Dvt, came over to psaw last week to tape an audio interview with Nakki. It is online, with a photo slide show and you must listen/watch.

And remember, you can buy American Photobooth through my link to Powells Bookstore at the top of the sidebar of this blog. Merci.


Yesterday the new issue of Best Of Burlington Magazine came out. My copies were hand delivered by the publishers, John and Robin Gales.


The cover story is Flashbags!

Ali and Laura, Photo by Rose Murphy, Best Of Burlington Magazine . That's my Liza Leger bottom right.

Here are some scans of details of the pages because this story is not online. (Hint Hint Robin and John.)



To see the whole article you are going to have to subscribe or buy a copy at a news stand. There's also an article about my favorite bookstore, The Flying Pig, in Shelburne, VT, and a wonderful article about Burlington's Architectural Gems.  visit their website :Best Of Burlington Magazine, 802 295 5295

And remember, I have new images for sale on Flashbag products.
Like this:

A delightful checkbook cover with an image from a vintage needle book.


I've just partnered with independent booksellers, Powell's Books, to give you, my dear readers, a chance to see my favorite books and, if you want, to buy them. Or any other books, for that matter. Here are a few selections from my list:

Cover_american_photobooth_2 Some are books by artists who have shown at Pine Street Art Works. You can buy Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth,

Cover_fun_home Or Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

Cover_a_pattern_language Others are some of the books I've loved and learned from over the years.One of my favorites is A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, which has almost a cult following among architects, designers and visionary city planners.

Cover_hollywood_flatlands Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory & the Avant Garde by Esther Leslie,  traces the co-evolution of cartoons and modern art.

Cover_an_orphan_in_history You might be interested in my late brother, Paul Cowan's, An Orphan In History, which traces the roots of our Jewish American family.

Cover_contest_of_meaning If you are interested in photography and critical readings in photography check out The Contest Of Meaning, edited by Richard Bolton or

Coverphotography_on_the_color_line Photography On The Color Line, W.E.B. DuBois, Race and Visual Culture by Shawn Michelle Smith.

Cover_dv For a rollicking good read in fashion, politics, gossip and culture read D.V. by Diana Vreeland,

Cover_palimpsest or Palimpsest: A Memoir by Gore Vidal.

And the other great part of this whole thing is that by buying books through my Powell's booklist, or any other book you click through to on their search engine, you are helping support Pine Street Art Works. Yep, I get a commission on each sale, with no extra cost to you.

Even if you don't want to buy, the list is pretty neat, and you might enjoy it. Just click onto the Powells link on the right sidebar where it says, My Websites.


A lot of people here in Burlington, VT got to see Connie Imboden's photographs when she showed at Pine Street Art Works during Art Hop '07. Actually, about a thousand people came through the gallery during the weekend, and many more during the following month of the show.


Connie is now featured in the Special Collector's Edition of Focus Magazine, Feb. '08. And she has a new blog.

Yay for Connie. Now aren't you sorry you didn't buy a print while she was here!!

Photo by Connie Imboden.


Not that I'm romantic or particularly sentimental, and not that I remembered to stock anything for valentines day presents in the store. But still, I dig heart shapes, so I heart Valentines Day.



Some of you don't read Vending Times. OK, most of you don't. Probably most of you don't regularly read any trade magazines, which is a shame. I became addicted to them when I worked in an ad agency that serviced clients who advertised in Car Wash Times, and Progressive Grocer.


Vending Times,  the newsmonthly  of vending, foodservice, coffee service and coin-Operated Recreational Services pubilshed a thoughtful and insightful review of American Photobooth this month. It was written by the editor Tim Sanford. Here are some excerpts:

"Very fortunate inventions attract the attention of historians like Näkki Goranin, a Vermont photographer and collector of historical photographs. American Photo Booth is the product of a decade’s research which, by the author’s account, she originally had no intention of undertaking. She became interested in the photos dispensed by these booths, plentiful but usually anonymous, and wondered how they were made...

Goränin understands, as many historians of technology do not, that the great inventors were also manufacturing and marketing geniuses who envisioned not only their creations, but the context in which they could be profitable...

The present grows continually out of the past, and anyone interested in the growth of the coin-operated industries will find this book not only uniquely informative, but lively and sympathetic. Entrepreneurs are known for looking ahead, not back – Henry Ford famously said, “history is bunk” – but they deserve their histories, and American Photo Booth is one of the best."


The Boston Globe announced that Polaroid Corp. is shutting down its film manufacturing plants in Massachussets and abandoning the technology that made the company famous. They are interested in licensing their film technology to an outside firm, but if that doesn't happen, the company intends to make only enough film to last into next year. According to the Polaroid website, they have exciting new inkless, ribbonless digital printing technologies to introduce, but as exciting as this might be, it still might mean the end of another great film format. Such is the way of the world.

In light of this, I've dredged up some ancient polaroid images of my own. I took these in 1983 at The Michigan Women's Music Festival. I had a booth (with no tent, so it was actually just a bit of ground)  in the craft area selling the greeting cards and buttons that I manufactured in my business, White Mare, Inc. In addition, I made photo buttons.

Images1 In order to make buttons from Polaroids, you have to use paper-only technology. Not plastic laminated photos. I bought a used Polaroid - maybe a Land 250 or 215. It looked like this one. It was totally manually operated, meaning I had to set the aperture and  shutter speeds, using a hand held light meter. This is something every photographer should know how to do, but in the field like that it was a bit stressful, at least at first. Once the image was processed, which took place outside the camera, the paper parts had to be peeled  apart and then you had to apply a gelatinous fixative. The timing of the peeling operation had to be exact. I spent the day or two before the festival officially opened setting up my outdoor studio. I had to build a backdrop and test the light conditions.

This was in a clearing in the woods. It was hot and dusty by day. Cold and damp by night. I didn't have a tent or awning, and I was using professional grade button makers, which rusted each night. I kept a spiral bound notebook for field notes of camera settings, weather conditions and backgrounds. These images are from that notebook. It blows my mind that they are now almost 25 years old.

Smack dab in the clearing. I didn't have a tent or awning. My graphics were awesome though. This is my 13 year old step daughter, Adrian Hood, the best assistant I've ever had. On the table is an assortment of my wares, including my American Sign Language "I Love You" card and buttons.

This is what a notebook page looked like. This was the beginning of the tests. Still working on the backdrop. This is Jhane, my other assistant. She was great, too.

The backdrop was quite small. This is a later photo, in which I've changed the backdrop to white. 

My backdrop was a yellow and white checked plastic table cloth. This is Alix Dobkin and Bonni Cohen.

Ruthie. with balloon.

Sometimes i'd take the camera out to document what was going on at the craft bazaar. Here is artist and graphic designer Clsuf, with a young friend, Yolanda. No, that's not my mannequin.

At the Red River Menstrual Pad Booth. One of my favorite pix that I've ever shot.

Mask Making.

Bonni Cohen, craft fair director. Wearing a Clsuf Women in Art T-Shirt. I've turned the tablecloth around to have the white backing show. Better for photos.

Adrian Hood wearing one of my American Sign Language "I love you" buttons.


Timothy Morgan. We must have seated her on a tarp for this one.

This was one of the most satisfying photography experiences of my career. The quality of the film was wonderful, the people I took pictures of were excited, happy, curious and radiant.  I learned on the job to  bring some people out of their shells, to overcome their shyness and express themselves in front of the camera, while I was taking care of the technical details of shooting and then cutting the paper and pressing the buttons.  All this fun, and for only a couple of bucks a pin.

Not bad for a rustic photo op.


I'm a huge Maira Kalman fan. I love her childrens' books, her New Yorker covers, and mostly I love her mannequins. I consider myself lucky that I get to live with her art every day because I own five of her mannequins produced by Ralph Pucci International. I put those mannequins to work every day in my display window, on my showroom floor, in 24911502my ads and even on my handmade handbags by Flashbags.
Maira Kalman bag from Barnes & Noble.

Yesterday I was cruising the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble in Williston when I came smack dab upon Maira Kalman tote bags. They're nice enough and they're inexpensive but I really prefer mine. Everything about mine says fun flash design. From the image, to the beautiful stitching, to the cellphone pockets. And I wonder where the B&N bags were made? China? Mine are made in Vermont.

Bag photo and image design copyright Liza Cowan for Pine Street Art Works. Maira Kalman mannequin made by Ralph Pucci International. Bag made in Vermont by Flashbags.

Flashbags are hand made in Winooski VT  (just outside Burlington) by a small group of fabulous women. We have collaborated on many designs. My own art is on some, as well as pieces by artists who have shown at PSAW.

Now they have made me a collection of ephemera bags based on my ephemera collections. Jello, children's readers, needle books and old coloring books form the core of this collection of bags and accessories.



Whoopee! It's Jello Flashbag. Images from PSAW collections by Rose O'Neil, famous for her Kewpie Dolls. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.



Images from chilrden's reader and old coloring book. Collection PSAW. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.


Checkbook cover with image from mid 20th Century Needle Package. PSAW collections. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.

Checkbook cover with Jello illustration. PSAW collections. Made in Vermont by Flashbags.

You can order all my bags and accessories at Or, if you're in the Burlington, VT area, come over to Pine Street Art Works and pick one up here.

Ali Marcheldon and Laura Cheeney of Flashbags sitting on the display steps at psaw a couple of years ago. Image courtesy of SevenDays Vermont.


We had a great opening here at Pine Street Art Works yesterday. Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth made it's official exhibition debut as thousands thronged to get in. Just joking - that only happens at Art Hop. But, despite snowy roads and a host of other Burlington happenings, we enjoyed a full house of friends and art mavens.

Nakki Goranin (right) discusses her work with my friends Alison Bechdel and Holly Rae Taylor while other friends and visitors look at the images.

We sold over forty books in two hours, and that hasn't happened here since Alison Bechdel's launch party for Fun Home. Several people showed up because they had heard the interview with Nakki the night before on Vermont Public Radio.  I couldn't have asked for better publicity.


American Photobooth has made it to People Magazine. That means a shelf life of months if you think about reading it in doctor's waiting rooms or friends' magazine piles. Yea!! for Nakki Goranin and American Photobooth.
American Photobooth in People Magazine, Feb. 18th issue

I wager that this is just the beginning of a flurry of great publicity for this fantastic book.

And remember, if you are in the area, the exhibition based on this book is showing at Pine Street Art Works, 404 Pine Street in Burlington VT. Artist's reception and book signing Saturday, February 9th, from 2-5.


Booklist had this to say about American Photobooth By Nakki Goranin :
Review by Ray Olson

Photobooth_man_and_neck_red_frame Like many other American Inventions, The DIY Photo-portrait machine was the brain-child  of  immigrants, each of whom approached slightly differently the challenge of putting a developing and printing lab, along with a good camera, in the same box with a sitting studio and making the whole shebang percolate at the drop of a quarter. Goranin briefly recaps the careers of those inventions, as well as  notable exploiters of the technology once it was in productions….

…the gallery of photobooth portraits Goranin has amassed and, as a photographer, contributed to, constitute the book’s big attraction. These faces of six decades are everything their autoportraitists could have hoped they would be – silly, joyous, friendly, loving, frank, naughty, honest – and charming besides. Spellbinding.


It's still snowing here in Burlington, Vermont. There was about a foot of the stuff in my driveway this morning. Although I'm not home sewing, I bet plenty of Vermonters are. So here is part two of the needle pack saga.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan

I'm thinking that these could illustrate a rather amusing story. Here, we've gone from a sewing circle to a sewing duet.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan

This one is almost identical, and yet not quite.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

It seems that there is always one gal sewing while the other one kibbitzes.


PSAW ephemera Collections. Made in Japan.

And then we move along to the ones that show solo sewers.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan

And this lovely quilter. I've got more coming, and an assortment of place and product packs to show you as well. Someday soon.


I guess it's a good time for another adventure in collecting. The snow is flying here in Burlington, Vermont,  and winter is always a good time to knit or sew. Or collect. Here are some great images from my collections of vintage needle packs. These were all printed in Japan probably in the 1950's. The earlier ones say "printed in occupied Japan" placing them between 1945 and 1952"


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

Because home sewing is so gendered in this culture, women and children provide a major theme for needle packs. Sewing is also clearly a group activity, enjoyed, so it would seem, by all ages.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

Often the same configuration is done with different clothing, hairstyles and illustration styles.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

Sewing Susan must have been a popular packet,because they are the easiest to find.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

The little girl in this packet is relegated to a tiny portion of the lower left hand corner as the Sweethearts become the more important actors.


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

In a slightly different version they become a sewing circle


PSAW ephemera collections. Made in Japan.

Sometimes the children are replaced with kittens playing with the yarn. Many needle packets didn't feature  people, but exploited themes of place or product. 



Despite an ice storm that pretty much closed down Burlington yesterday, Nakki Goranin and I managed to get the Photobooth Exhibit ready for it's debut. Unfortunately the ice storm prevented us from being open for First Friday, but the good news is that the show is up and ready for visitors this week, and then the big opening is next Saturday afternoon.

photobooth, photobooth exhibit, olive green walls

Pine Street Art Works, Nakki Goranin American Photobooth Exhibit

Meanwhile, I had to show you some pictures of the great show window and some interiors. Nakki has this amazing lilluminated sign from an old photobooth that we hung in the window. It reads, "Photos Lumiere Electronique Photos Son Claires et Precises"


Hand made 20th Century photobooth sign. Photobooth ephemera and American Photobooth Poster

Pine Street Art Works, American Photobooth, show window from inside
The mannaquins are holding enlarged photobooth strips.


There's still some tweaking to do, but the exhibit looks grand and is ready for visitors, so come on over if you're in the neighborhood.