Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Speaking with Tapestry Artist Erin M. Riley

Erin at work in her studio (photo by Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts)

The other day I was visiting my friend Cortney in Milwaukee and noticed a rad postcard on her fridge. Amongst the typical refrigerator decor of baby pictures, wedding invites and shopping lists, there was an image of a woven tapestry—featuring a chick sitting on a couch, smoking a bong next to a laptop. Say what!? As it was unlike anything I have seen in this lifetime, I asked Cortney about it, who exclaimed it was by “the lady that does the naked woman tapestries!” She then not only gave me the postcard, but also opened me up to the world of Erin M. Riley, a contemporary tapestry artist, based out of Philadelphia. Upon Cortney’s urging, I contacted Erin to see if she would be interested in sharing with C.L.A.P. her experience as an artist and was totally stoked to hear back from her almost immediately.

Keep reading to find out Erin’s thoughts on utilizing amature internet porn pics for tapestry subject matter, the struggles creative types face and advice for female artists. Be sure to check out our Fall 2012 issue for Erin's complete interview, and for more on what Erin is up to.

Shots (All following photos by Erin M. Riley)
C.L.A.P: Your latest collection is amazing. What kind of reactions did it receive from folks? How did it come about? How does it differ from past work that you've done?

Erin M. Riley: This newest work is the most nude I have ever done. I had been collecting "party girl" pictures for a while but then started getting really disillusioned and was looking for more personal imagery. I have always loved the images women take of themselves to pass along, newage keepsakes or tokens of love that end up on the internet for mass consumption. I can completely relate to taking a photograph in which you think your body looks great, only for a suitor to say, "show me your tits", or "take off your pants". I am completely interested in need for constant updated visual stimulation, which I think is a result of the internet. I am also so so so interested in the trends in pornography that end up in the minds of young men and women and become regular behavior. And that is where the images of girls being cummed on comes from.

C.L.A.P.: How does your creative process work?

EMR: I am constantly thinking of things to weave, so I collect images, take images or search out something specific and print it out. I trace the image, blow it up using an overhead projector and trace it to scale and i I use that as a template when weaving. I am really inspired by everyday stuff, by interactions with lovers, reality tv, life, etc.

C.L.A.P.: What do you think is the biggest misconception when it comes to how people view artists?

EMR: I find lately that young adults think being an artist is easy or because someone has gotten an MFA they deserve something. Being an artist requires a lot of hard work, people skills, business skills, organization, paper work!!, etc. And just because you might make something that is cool, if you never show anyone or apply for anything, you might never get anywhere. I am in my studio every day, from 2pm to 2am sometimes longer, very rarely shorter, but I am in my studio every day.

C.L.A.P.: I read a statement from you in which you attributed going to school for art as a major factor for being able to do what you do. In the face of difficulties getting paid work and dealing with student loans, do you have any advice for people considering going (or returning) to school to follow their passions?

EMR: I think for me, I was really young going to grad school, 21, and it gave me a really hard kick in the butt. It was hard, I had an assistantship at Tyler School of Art, so for the first year I had free tuition and a stipend but I was pretty much working 20-30 hours on top of going to grad school. I napped a lot in the studio. I think it really helped me get into a rhythm of making work despite being busy and having other things to focus on. I do think student loans are something to consider when you are getting any education, for me I make so little income that the IBR program has allowed me to pay very little each month. I may never pay off my student loans, but its manageable and I would rather pay a little each month than work two jobs to pay a huge sum to pay it off. Dont get loans from Sallie Mae if you can avoid it, government loans and try to get low interest loans obviously.

C.L.A.P.: Who are some other female artists you would recommend that people check out?

EMR: I have always loved Louise Bourgeois, Kathy Acker, Sheila Hicks and I am showing with the fantastic painter Pakayla Rae Biehn coming up, I also have a thing for Marisa Sciabarrasi's photograph/video.

C.L.A.P.: What do you have coming up?

EMR: Right now I am working on self portraits, working to keep the backgrounds and dye lots the same so that the colors are matching, trying to create a series of pieces that seem to have been taken on the same day wearing the same clothing, or undergarments. Creating pieces that are body shots, images that I think are flattering and beautiful but also images that are pure presentation. I started a series called Presenting, of images of just the front image of the vagina. The beautiful unique W shape, thinking about how in those images it feels like you're giving away a lot.

I am going to do some diptychs, comparing images. I have so many tapestries to weave, its kind of insane but thats a good thing. Ideas are flowing. I am showing in Los Angeles, Boston, Prague, and Brooklyn coming up and I have a residency at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in October.

C.L.A.P.: What advice do you have for women who want to work professionally as artists?

EMR: I think that all I can say is be authentic and real. Trust your gut and don't let anyone talk down to you or push you around. Get used to rejection, its just part of the life.

For more of Erin's interview, pick up our Fall 2012 "Peace, Love and Happiness" issue, available NOW on our Double Peace Etsy website and soon to come at select awesome vendors in Minneapolis and Iowa City. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall 2012 "Peace, Love and Happiness" Issue Out NOW!!!!

The front (design by Lisa Luck)!

The back (design by Lisa Luck)!
Just in time for last Saturday's Twin Cities Zinefest, we published our Fall 2012 "Peace, Love and Happiness" issue!

In addition to the usual fare (mix tape listing, "Vagina Speak" women's health column, "Dear Sheila" advice column and a creative exercise), this issue features some awesome illustrations, poems, an article on being happy alone, interviews (including one with amazing tapestry artist Erin M. Riley, which we will be featuring on here on the blog as well) and more.

Jen Hughes' Mix Tape listing (featuring illustrations by Molly Butterfoss)

Jen Hughes' hair do (featuring layout by Lisa Luck)

Erin M. Riley interview (stay tuned for more!)
Once again, Titi Phan generously donated her time and talents to layout this issue, and it looks fabulous. The white cardstock cover features the original artwork of Lisa Luck on front and back. Readers can have their choice of three "inside" colors, suited to our theme: green (peace), red (love) and yellow (happiness). A huge thank you is in order, not just to our contributors and designers but to our advice columnist Sheila Frankfurt and Paradigm Copying for putting the final product all together!

For those outside of the Twin Cities (and Iowa City), you can purchase a copy through our Double Peace etsy site. We will also have the issue available at select vendors soon! If you can't wait, swing by our Fall issue release party and erotica writing workshop this Friday, Sept. 28th, to pick one up and to have a really, really good time.

Note: We try our best to always avoid typos but sometimes they slip through. It should be noted that the fabulous drawings that accompany Jen Hughes' mix tap listing are by Molly Butterfoss, not Molly Butterfloss, as the caption on the page suggests. You can also see her drawings in color in this C.L.A.P. blog post. To check out Molly's other work, check out her website. She rules.

Monday, September 24, 2012

More than a Woman: Ms. Lauryn Hill

Every six months, I need Lauryn Hill. I may not recognize that The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is what I need, but it is. That album came out in 1998, when I was nine years old. Somehow now I connect that album to womankind and my woman connection. The timelessness of music amazes me.

I remember thinking she was so pretty when I was kid, Ms. Lauryn Hill --her, RuPaul and David Bowie. They were so beautiful and glamorous. They got me wanting to wear lipstick and eyeliner and cool clothes.

She wasn't over-processed and she had real talent. In an era when boy bands and Britney Spears ruled the airwaves, Lauryn Hill could be found doing her own thing. She won Grammys, NAACP awards.

Above and beyond award committee recognition and album sales, Ms. Hill wrote and sang a perfect album. A perfect album is one that from start to finish leaves naught to want. You can listen to it all the way through, or pick select songs. Either way, you're going to feel satisfied.

There are ballads, soul-crushing ballads, that range in topic from leaving a hurtful lover to a love song for God/Jesus/the Lord. Then there's the smoothest love jam duet with D'Angelo, "Nothing Even Matters". "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and "Everything is Everything" act as the most upbeat tracks, and even those songs have lesson-filled lyrics. The wisdom projected through the lyrics astonish when you remember that at the time, she was only 23 years old.

"To Zion" most wholly reflects Ms. Hill's musical ability and her heartfelt wordsmanship. Close to the beginning of the album, this mid-tempo track addresses Ms. Hill's decision to keep and raise her child, while it demonstrates her vocal range. The emotionally-charged melodies amplify the powerful and personal lyrical message.

Perhaps giving birth to a child made her grow up. Maybe it was the level of success she had already achieved with The Fugees.

However she crafted each song to be her own unique expression, Miseducation is a classic.

Apparently after that point, she appeared on and helped produce Carlos Santana's incredibly successful album Supernatural.

Artist, producer, mother: what can this woman not do? Apparently, make amends with the media or with sections of society.

Three years after her stellar solo debut, Ms. Hill released MTV Unplugged 2.0.

If you've ever been a confused, disheartened, creative, female millennial, and you've spent hours scouring YouTube for live videos of Lauryn Hill, you know what I mean.

The album received varying reviews, and the media started to portray her as a lost student of a strange Christian advisor named Brother Anthony. Now I don't know anything about a Brother Anthony other than what Wikipedia has told me, so maybe he was a crazy cult leader that convinced Ms. Hill of things detrimental and unfounded.

Between then and now, she's released some music and continued to create controversy. And she started touring again.

When February rolled around in 2010, I had almost forgotten that I had tickets to Ms. Hill's First Ave show. It had been so many months prior that I had woken up on a Saturday morning to wait for the online sale to begin. I hadn't done that kind of ticket buying in a long time.

Music is really big in Minneapolis, but we don't get many big acts coming into town. Ok, ok we get Parliament every year and Toots every year. But where's Erykah Badu, or even Prince?

In 2010, Ms. Hill was notoriously late to her U.S. concerts. Although I'd read a couple reviews, I kept an open mind because lord knows, this woman's music got me through being a small-town brown girl. When I couldn't relate anymore to the aggression of bands like The Buzzcocks, or the smarmy croon of Elvis Costello, I needed something real and relatable. Enter Lauryn Hill.

In that time in my life when I was just getting used to "womanhood", I knew little (and still don't know a whole lot), but I knew didn't want to be a quiet, subordinate version of woman. Ms. Hill is a powerful, talented woman that speaks her truth, and still feminine. By feminine, I mean that she never gives up any part of her womanhood to say what she has to say. She was and is a role model for the 21st century feminist.

I waited the two and a half hours in First Ave that February 2010. A room full of people yelled and pushed and grew more and more impatient as the time neared midnight.

Finally at 11:55 PM, she appeared in a fur vest, armfuls of thick bangles and enormous bell-bottoms waisted with a Chanel belt.

The performance covered much of Miseducation and the hits from the Fugees days. She began and ended the show with Bob Marley covers, and awesomely, Rohan Marley --father to five of Ms. Hill's children --showed up.

During several tracks I forgot to breathe. It was therapeutic, like a fast, or staying in a sauna for several hours, might be.

Ms. Hill urged her band through songs, waving her arm for them to keep pace. She kept saying, "Come on. Come on.", looking back at the two drummers, two bass players, three guitarists and several back-up singers.

The energy was incredible, and I couldn't believe I'd seen something so powerful. Although time has taken its toll on Ms. Hill's voice, she still sang like a beautiful bird, directed her band like a young Sly Stone or James Brown; she made every song worth the wait.

It looked a little something like this:

My expectations were nonexistent, honestly. I didn't need new songs, or punctuality. I would've liked to hear something from the Unplugged session, but beggars can't be choosers. Honestly, that's what we are at a certain point: just folks begging an artist to present themselves again so that we may see them, too.

I don't care why Ms. Hill doesn't pay her taxes. I don't even care if she continues touring. She created a masterpiece of human emotion, and all any artist can hope for is just one.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, you are more than a woman to me. You are the reason I keep my head up. You are the reason I believe in who I am, regardless of what anyone else thinks. You are the reason I am proud to be a female musician singer/songwriter. Your music makes me proud to be a woman.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall Issue Sneak Peek: Drawings by Molly Butterfoss

Since we are SO excited about our upcoming Fall 2012 "Peace, Love and Happiness" issue, here is a little taste of what lies ahead...drawings from the fabulously talented Molly Butterfoss. For this issue, Molly contributed these sketches for Jen Hughes' Peace, Love and Happiness mixtape listing. She has also created Hot Roxx sketches for Jen as well (some of which will be featured in the article).As you can see, they are brilliantly colored and we didn't want that to go to waste! You can check out Molly's website here, for more of her creative genius.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's almost Fall...

A sneak peek at Lisa Luck's original design for our Fall 2012 issue cover. Read more about it on Lisa's blog, Hello Lisa.
...and that means our "Peace, Love and Happiness" issue is almost out! In celebration, we are going to be putting up some other "sneak peeks" of what we have in store, including some beautiful illustrations by new C.L.A.P. contributor Molly Butterfloss and a look at our interview with the amazingly talented tapestry-ist Erin M. Riley.

C.L.A.P. contributor Ryn Gibson and I are also going to be featured on this week's Culture Queue on Radio K talking all about C.L.A.P.  and the upcoming issue. You can tune in at 6 pm this coming Sunday, or check it out later once they get it up on the archives. Through the process of doing the interview, I learned that Molly Harrington (now Hilgenberg)'s piece on going braless was a hit, that C.L.A.P. processes typically are connected to getting drunk and that I need to find myself a meaningful, well-paying job (don't we all?).

And THAT means that some of the totally awesome events we have been looking forward to for months are almost here. Events like...

Come check out the unveiling of our Fall issue, get your hands on a copy (hot off the press!) and check out tons of other sweet self-publishers. The event is FREE and takes place from 12-6 at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis this Saturday, September 22nd.

Poster by Lucy Voller

Our Fall Issue Release Party!  Friday, September 28th at Madame!

This one is gonna be a three parter, and it is going to be wild in the best way possible.

First up, from 8-9 p.m. Charge Your Meat: Erotic Beats Get those juices flowin' in an erotic writing workshop with Kat Hargreaves, artistic director for Whole Beast Rag, and Ryn Gibson, C.L.A.P. contributor. To RSVP to the writer workshop, or to find more details about it, check out the invite here.

Next we will have readings from local writers, including Sheila Frankfurt, Marissa Moore, Gregory Scott and Kat Hargreaves from 9-10 p.m. If you are interested in reading, please email!

Finally at 10 p.m.,  IT IS TIME TO PARTY with The BurglarsOn a Clear DayKitten Forever and DJ Fat Tyra. All the details can be found here. If you aren't familiar with Madame, and need the address, just email us at

If you really like to party and also really like to clean and/or help out with events, email us, because we are going to need volunteers to help out with the event, especially with the clean up afterwards. Because, you know, parties get messy and we don't want Mom to find out!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ladies on bikes! Babes in Bikeland 6! YES!

C.L.A.P. is super stoked to be co-sponsoring this year's Babes in Bikeland race! The race, which is the largest women/trans/femme alley cat race in the nation, is in its 6th year, and happens tomorrow at 6 pm! For all the details, you can check out the Facebook event page or the event website, but here are some highlights:

-While pre-registration is now closed, you can sign up the day of at 4 pm. It costs $5 to race, and an additional $10 if you want a Babes in Bikeland shirt. Top quantities are limited, so if you want a tank or t, be sure to get there early!

-The race is set up to be as inviting as possible to all levels of bikers. Those who want to push themselves can do it to compete, and those who just want to have a good time on bikes with awesome women can do that too! Those who complete the race will be entered into a drawing to win a complete BigShot singlespeed, donated by Penn Cycle, however, so it could very well be worth it! PUSH IT GIRL!

-Safety first! Bring your helmet, lights and bike safety skills! For those wanting to brush up on their biking safety, Lee Penn, last years Babes' champ, will be leading a workshop at 3:30 on executing your routes and will throw in some safety tips as well!

-The race starts at Powderhorn park, with the finish line/ awards ceremony/after party at Peacock Grove. We will have a table at the after party, so if you make it, be sure to say 'hi'! There are going to be prizes, free beer from New Belgium for all racers and jams. It is gonna rule!

-It looks like the race is going to be full of radical ladies tomorrow—twice as many racers pre-registered as they expected, so plan on showing up at 4 to register (for both day of registers and pre-registers) and they'll get the race started as close to 6 as possible. Cuz we got a party to get to!

BONUS: I co-wrote an article on WTF biking with C.L.A.P. contributor Sara Blair a couple of years ago for the Twin Cities Runoff and talked a bunch about Babes. You can check out the article here.