Mr X Stitch presents: Beefranck’s Emporium – The Be Nice Project
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I’m Beefranck, Queen of Ironic Stitching and Editor-in-Chief at Mr X Stitch. I know a thing or two about cool stitchery and it’s my pleasure to share my finds with you. So let’s do it!
Hi everybody! This week I wanted to tell you all about Jennifer Hunold. She got in touch with us and I instantly fell in love with her work AND with the project – The Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping.
Without further ado, here’s Jennifer in her own words!
Tell us all about Be Nice. How did it get started? What’s it all about?
Be Nice. is a project I’ve been doing since the fall of 2008. I use blogging and my artwork to communicate my ideas and observations about civility, kindness, being considerate, and about operating in our social landscape with a focus on learning and positivity.
Be Nice. was at first a product of my frustration with living in an urban area. Before moving to Albany, NY I had never lived in a city larger than 70,000. When I relocated to New York from Iowa in 2006 I had a difficult time adjusting to the urban climate there. At first I was off-put when my friendly demeanor was ignored or met with irritation. Then I began to flip between being my friendly self and trying to shut down my nature to “fit in” with my environment. Nothing worked as I grew increasingly lonely. In 2008 the frustration came to a head when I tried to give away a free movie pass at school. My friends had all left for the day, so rather than see the free pass wasted (it expired that night), I tried to give it to a few groups of random students that walked by my building. My offer was met with fear, suspicion, and silence. I got so frustrated at this that I yelled out, “What the f*&# is wrong with people!?” I couldn’t believe I had reacted so impolitely! That’s when I realized just how large my struggle with civility in our culture was.
The following day I was talking with my husband, debating how I could make art about this issue that interested me: niceness. I could wear a shirt that said “Be Nice,” but that would blend in with all the other shirts out there (think “I’m with stupid” or anything on Threadless). I could write a manifesto, but that wasn’t visually interesting to me. Somewhere in that conversation we both realized that making a flier or brochure could be effective since it would be placed in peoples’ hands or in places they might be looking for information, but again the problem was how to make it visually engaging. Up to this point I was working in painting and drawing, but any type of drawing or paper collage would do little to attract viewers I had imagined. That summer, however, I had made a painting where I had embroidered into the surface.
It was one of my most successful works, undoubtedly because of the use of the thread. That was it! I could embroider the pamphlet!
Why did you choose the medium of embroidery to share your message?
The use of embroidery just felt “right” for the project. Imagine all the electrical circuits in your house lighting up at one time, and that is how my brain felt when I decided to embroider the first Be Nice. brochure.
Translating something slow and precious into something fast and ephemeral was a very exciting idea to me. The way the brochure was made embodied the common aspects of our daily lives: slow/fast, analog/digital, personal/impersonal, private/public, domestic/global. I knew that having something mass-produced like a brochure would be infinitely more interesting if it were handmade. Even more so if the process was something that took as long as embroidery. (One of my friends was so inclined to assume it was made with technology, that she wanted to know what computer program I used to make it look embroidered!) I also knew that the “domestic” history of embroidery, and the associations with the matriarchy — which for many of us related to being nurtured by women as children, the very foundation of our moral and social compass — would be something that would draw people into the work.
I realized too that my ideas couldn’t fully be worked into a pamphlet, so I created a blog to expand on the subject. Interestingly enough, blogging and social networking were fairly new to me at the time, so this whole project has been quite a learning experience! The same was the case with embroidery: I had no formal training in the medium, other than an afternoon with my grandma when I was 13 — quickly abandoned for other pursuits. I think that has been an advantage for me though. Not coming to the medium with a knowledge of any rules or detailed history was freeing for me, and I think that is one of the many reasons why embroidery has continued to be a rewarding material with which to work. I feel like my continued discoveries in fiber techniques and history mirrors the nature of the Be Nice. project, which is focused on a journey of learning and discovery.
What are some of the topics you’ve covered on the blog that are near and dear to your heart?
That is a touchy question–I’ve posted around 130 times! But there are a few that mean something to me personally for sure….
“For Muse: Crushes” I just recently posted this article as a request by one of my readers. It is the first time a reader (that I didn’t know) asked me to talk about a subject. I really enjoyed the challenge! I thought about it for a few weeks, silently composing possibilities in my mind. I loved it! I hope I get more requests like this–I’ve always wanted the blog to be a conversation.
“Amicable Allegory #9: Wave goodbye” This post talks about how much a wave goodbye can mean to someone who is leaving the people they love to live far away from them. For me, the way I have been sent off by my loved ones each time I leave Iowa for NY has been so incredibly meaningful–and often all it happened to be was someone waving goodbye. Whether it was Grandma waving from her front yard, or my mom from her workplace as the train passed by, it still never fails to bring me to tears! And apparently–this article has brought a few others to tears too!
“A little about parents on Mother’s Day” Everyone has some story of how their parents let them down. This post is about how good it can be that we have imperfect parents. It talks about how our parents and loved ones can never live up to our expectations, and how we probably had been missing a lot of good stuff while we were obsessing over their “imperfections.”
“Nice your freaking face off, man” Sometimes when someone really pisses me off, I just think, “I’m going to be so f&$#ing nice to them, it’s going to make them sick!” This one’s about being nice to rather rude, uncool people and how being awesomely kind can really kick their butts way better than responding in-kind to their meanness!
Tell us about the project that you’re seeking funding for on Kickstarter.com.
I have made 5 works for the Be Nice. project so far. Two are pamphlets, three are post cards. My newest piece: “Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping” is an 8.5 x 14 inch, two-sided, full color four-fold brochure.
In order to get the work out there and to assist in the printing costs, I created a Kickstarter fundraising project for it. The Kickstarter website works pretty simply: the project creator (me) sets a goal and a deadline, and then people (anybody!) can pop online and pledge to “back” the project for whatever amount they want all the way down to a dollar. For any pledge over 3 bucks, the “backers” may choose a reward I am offering. If I reach or exceed my goal by March 22nd, 2011 I will receive all the funds and begin to process the rewards for my backers. If I don’t reach my goal, no funds are distributed to me and the backers don’t pay what they pledged. It’s a sort of all-or-nothing funding platform for creative projects. Pretty cool!
I set my goal to $300. That amount would pay for the printing of 1000 poo brochures. In the end, approximately 2/3 will go to printing, with the other 1/3 going to distributing the rewards. If I receive over the $300 (which would be awesome!), I will put the money to printing more items, or to future Be Nice. projects (I have quite a few in mind!).
Why pooping and farting? Was there a specific incident that inspired you to create a pamphlet dealing with the topic?
There wasn’t really a specific incident that led me to create this piece. The foundation for my interest in poo came from a couple places though.
First, I was diagnosed with IBS in 2006 (yes, I actually went through ALL the tests! UG!) and so I had spent the last year and a half dealing with my poo: what color, what texture, how often, any pain, any bloating, any gas, what had I eaten, how much?, and so on…. It was a revelation to me how intrinsically linked my digestive system was to my stress-levels, eating habits, and activity level. I lost 65 pounds in 2005 just changing my eating habits, and I’d say in that year 85% of my symptoms receded. Naturally, I became this sort of “born-again” foodie/digestive processes-obsessed person and was eager to share my discoveries with others. That led to fun and fabulous (sometimes disgusting!) poo stories and conversations being exchanged between friends. Pretty soon it became one of my favorite topics! After all, we all talk about sex, politics, religion, relationships–but not poo and we do that every day (hopefully) whether we want to or not! It never fails to make my friends laugh and join in when the topic is brought up, and we’ve learned a lot sharing with one another. I even became best friends with my pal Katie based on our digestive adventures! For her 25th birthday, I bought her the book, “What is your poo telling you?” By far a recommended read for everyone!
And then of course it came from my project. Last year I had been brainstorming another piece for Be Nice. I started a postcard on eating healthy and was satin-stitching the border when my husband pointed out how boring and run-of-the-mill the piece was. I knew he had a very good point. But what could I do instead? When I’m not sure about the next thing I should do, it is best to go with something I’m passionate about.
Lately I had been especially animated when talking about the nasty bathroom habits of my coworkers. They have no idea what is a “courtesy flush,” they assume everyone can hover over a toilet seat and therefore happily leave their pee droppings all over it, and they don’t wash their hands. Everyday I saw or smelled something just plain foul and was totally blown away by it! These people needed a lesson in manners. So I thought, “Why the hell not? Poo it is!”
Beefranck is the Queen of Ironic Stitchery and the binding polymer that holds together the Emergency Pants podcast, the Stitching n Junk podcast and MrXStitch, the best contemporary embroidery and needlework blog around. If you really want to get to know her, she’s usually getting up to shenanigans on Tumblr.