Friday, October 24, 2008

1929 Singer

Under the beautiful domed wooden case tied with a little key on a rotted cord was this 1929 Singer sewing machine, covered in gold swirly ornament and shiny nickel plates. It's deceptively delicate looking with its wasp waist and voluptuous curves. I know this machine can kick ass with its all-metal parts and exterior motor, but to avoid any risk I took it to Newman's sewing machine repair in Springfield, MA before I even tried plugging it in. They say it's converted to electric from a treadle machine and would last me 100 years. She's still there, I can't wait to get her back to see how she runs. 

I was thinking that any machine I kept would have to be functional, but if this one wasn't I'd have a hard time not keeping it. I am most fond of the grape vine engraved in the nickel plate, as our name Wingerter comes from "vineyard" in German. It's a work of art.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The two most intriguing cases from my grandmother's house. I hadn't looked in them since I found them.

My grandmother and me.

Monday, October 20, 2008


A prelude to the 6 sewing machines.

This is my father's mother, Ann, from who most of the sewing machines are from. She and my grandfather Bill started off in Roselle Park, New Jersey where they had my dad. They moved to upstate New York where Ann started a business as a dressmaker and seamstress. She seemed to be busy with work and lived a modest life in a small house after her son and husband passed away. It was unexpected money she left me that allowed me to buy my house and try to make it as an artist.

8 years later I'm trying to save this house by selling off some of her things and taking any jobs I can. The two most recent jobs, synchronistically, were stitching jobs, one with ElizaB, another at Yale. And though I am overcome with guilt for not having done better with the generous gift she left me, while I work at making straight stitches I take pleasure in thinking about how she loved sewing as much as I do, and how pleased she'd be about the skills I've learned. 

Pictures of Ann, Bill and my dad in Roselle Park and at the beach. They were a pretty good looking couple, and impeccably stylish. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

deus ex machina

The things I need to clear out of my attic have caused me a lot of anxiety, not the least of which are these 6 sewing machines I inherited from my mother and grandmothers. Nobody needs 6 machines, certainly, and I should get rid of at least half of them. However looking at them all together in a row is like looking at my maternal ancestry. I love them all as if they were my family. And they are such fine and sturdy machines, lost in a time when good plain mechanics and domestic arts are not nearly as valued as they were when these beauties were born. My whole life right now is revolving around these six as I try to determine their pasts and their futures. 

and then...

...poof, it's gone.

To comfort myself through this traumatic event I went to Vermont to stay with my mom for a few days. We walked to the top of Putney Mountain where there was a good view and about a dozen intensely focused people watching the sky for migrating hawks. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I have to largely empty out my famous attic due to readjustments in living spaces. The biggest task yet was getting my long-collected and beloved fabric and sewing notions under control. That meant throwing out half of it, and categorizing the rest into see-thru plastic bins. It is a tremendous difference from what you might remember in previous posts on the ongoing subject of my chaotic attic (below).

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ophelia's dress

There were but a brief few years that I was a full time illustrator. Since 9/11 cut editorial and textbook work short I've always kept part time jobs on the side. One of my latest was assisting the costume designer of the Elm Shakespeare Company, which happened to be ElizaB. There was a lot of hand sewing and measuring of pants, and some more rare experiences, including one night when Alvin Epstein asked me to tie his bow tie for him before the dress rehearsal. Alvin is a most gracious gentleman and a venerated actor. As I was buttoning his collar with great sense of importance, I had a moment of wondering how I came to be here tying the tie of Alvin Epstein. And the answer is: with the same luck and chance as I've come to do all the other wonderful things I've gotten to do, all generated by the annoying fact I haven't been able to make it on children's books alone.

During that job I also got to help ElizaB distress this shiny new red dress of Ophelia's for Hamlet, which was a damn lot of fun. And both Hamlet and Matchmaker which she designed were beautiful. 

A list of jobs I can remember doing, starting at 9  years old:

motel chambermaid
Paramount Pictures ticket checker
bed & breakfast waitress
movie theater popcorn seller & janitor
gourmet produce store clerk
stage hand
fleamarket waitress
wedding caterer's waitress & prep cook
photographer's assistant
children's theater camp councilor
historical reenactment supply store clerk
library book shelver
gift store clerk
river boat waitress
restaurant hostess
theater sound & light board operator
set painter
dish washer
theatrical house manager & company manager
artist driver
house & pet sitter
fire dancer
puppet builder
theater usher
assistant stage manager
university puppet teacher
high school circus teacher
head shop clerk
elementary school visiting artist
go go dancer
roller disco dancer
community dance residency project manager
assistant costumer (and bow tie tie-er)
costume shop stitcher

If anyone remembers any more let me know. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008


RISD professor and artist Fritz Drury just published a book on drawing and put in a couple of my student pieces. It's crazy to see these self portraits again so many years later. It makes me remember how much pleasure I could get from drawing just for the sake of drawing.

Fritz can explain light and color and paint better then anyone, he is an incredible teacher, and this big fat excellent book is filled with fascinating drawings from masters to students.