It is the peak of immigration in New York City, at the dawn of the twentieth century. Shouts in dozens of languages whoop through the air and smells from every dish imaginable waft through the streets of the Lower East Side. Tenements, rickety but home, climb the sky, fire escapes snaking down. The streets are crowded with pushcarts and calls. Thus is the setting for The Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
Bella is a young immigrant girl, fresh from Italy and weighted with the daunting task of providing for her family overseas. She is lucky to find a job, though the hours spent hunched over a sewing machine in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory are not quite what she expected.
Yetta has worked at Triangle for months. She lives with her equally rebellious elder sister, and, like Bella, sends most of her earnings home to her family in Russia. She is lively with life and pulsing with her want to change the world, to mean something, to matter. She wants women’s rights and safer conditions at work, shorter hours and higher wages. She is determined and fiery, willing to stand for months in the blistering heat and shivering cold, holding a picket sign and striking for union recognition in factories. Yetta is spirited and intense, gladly giving every bit of herself to her cause.
Jane, lastly, is a society girl with an intellectual spark. She is curious and compassionate, spending time with strikers and at rallies for no gain of her own, and finds herself swept up into this passionate world of striking and working and wanting and hoping. There is more to feel, she finds, outside of her ignorant, sheltered life. And these ardent factory girls so desperate for their cause accept her and love her—she finds a place with them that she cannot find at home.
Uprising is the story of these three girls. It is inspiring and adrenalizing (if that was not previously a word, I now deem it one), making me want to jump up and devote myself to a cause with all of my everything. On the other hand, the book does such a good job of enticing the readers into the world it creates, that it runs the risk of romanticizing poverty to some extent.
However, all in all, I love the way the book was crafted. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory looms ahead for the entire novel. Right from the first chapter, we learn that two of the three best friends will die in the fire, though we do not know which ones they will be. This sets up an interesting dynamic--as I would read and get to know each character better, I would start to root for her to survive, before realizing, dismayed, that the other two would have to perish. It gave the book momentum and a reason for me to keep reading at the few moments the plot lagged.
Furthermore, the author was very skilled at weaving fiction and fact together, creating a story that haunts and perplexes, makes you think about the world and what you can do to change it, but also makes you care deeply for the three main characters. She succeeded in bringing life to a tragedy that occurred almost a hundred years ago. In making us care not only for the girls who died, but for the factory owners and the workers who survived as well. In painting a horrifying picture of flame and sky and the impossible choice—to jump or to burn? In making readers understand that if we want change to we have to fight for it, as the shirtwaist girls did in their months-long strike. The author wrote the story to make us u
Ponoko is a very cool service from New Zealand that takes your designs and laser cuts them on demand into a variety of materials like acrylic, felt, wood, and cardboard. I decided to try out the service with some images from public domain books available on the web to make a variety of acrylic jewelry, keychains, and hair sticks (hey, hair sticks are infinitely useful. You can poke people with them in addition to keeping your hair tied back).
I downloaded their templates for Inkscape, a free vector graphics program that creates .svg files. Then I found a public domain book called Rambles of an Archaeologist Among Old Books and in Old Places by Frederick William Fairholt that had beautiful engravings of old jewelry designs, including a fascinating little Memento Mori ring that I thought would do quite nicely for Halloween.
I figured since I was paying for a full sheet of acrylic, I should probably cram it full of stuff. Plus, it gave me a chance to test the different engraving thicknesses as well as the exactness of sizing - ring sizes are precise to the millimeter, so I created three versions of the Memento Mori ring in ladies’ size 4, 5 and 6 to test. Then I added some images from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series because I thought it would be super cool to have an Oz ornament hanging from our Christmas tree this year.
I uploaded my designs to my Ponoko account, then chose my materials - in this case, white frosted acrylic. The interface of the Ponoko site just makes this process that much more fun. I finalized my order, then sat back to wait for the results.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed! The package showed up five days after my order was completed, and I was very very happy with what arrived - everything was exactly as I’d specified, even the mistake I made on the Oz ornament was fully intact. I quickly tried on the rings, then checked them against a sizing chart, and they were perfect. The engravings are a bit difficult to see on the material I chose, but I brushed India ink over one of the rings to “antique” it and it looks awesome.
Now my head is full of ideas for truly 3D creations, like picture frames and puzzles and lampshades. They’ve added a variety of new materials in the last week, like bamboo, and they have a GREAT blog with links to designers experimenting with laser cutters and custom manufactory.
Since I used public domain images for my designs, I made the .svg files I created available under the same (non) license, so you can download them for free at Ponoko and do whatever you like with them. If you make something with Ponoko, let me know, I’d love to see your work!
I had the most perfect Mother's Day, today! C, Lovely Girl and Handsome Boy took me on a surprise trip to visit The Crayola Factory! Though I am a writer, I love art, too, and have boxes and bins and drawers and shelves full of supplies to feed my habit. It was an especially sweet trip since I love all things Crayola - and have a collection of special edition Crayola Crayon tins to prove it!
If you've never been there, you have to go - whether you have kids or not! As soon as you arrive, they give these neat gold tokens. You can use them throughout the museum in exchange for a marker, or a small pack of crayons, or some Model Magic.
All through the museum, you can make cards or murals or puppets with cut paper, glue and markers; dance in front of a trippy, psychedelic video screen drenched in color that copies your every move; paint with melted crayons; write on clear plexiglass walls; draw on a huge chalkboard on the floor with giant sidewalk chalk; experiment with stop-animation; sculpt; and as you can see from these lovely examples here - paint with watercolors. (Hmmm... can you guess which painting is mine???) It was a blast!
Though the museum isn't attached to the actual factory, they have a small auditorium where they demonstrate how crayons are made. We even got to wrap our own crayon with its label the way they used to do it before the process was automated. (It's not as easy as you might think to wrap those things and keep the label straight and unwrinkled!)
When we had finally done everything we could possibly do (three hours of slightly-messy-but-oh-so-worth-it fun), we went down the street a few feet to The Crayola Store, where they have the World's Largest Crayon on display. It's blue - my favorite color!
Is this just the most awesome thing or what? I know, I'm easily impressed, but seriously - it's a fifteen hundred pound crayon, for crying out loud! How many times in your life can you say you got to see that up close and in person? In my case, just once... so far...
I hope every mom out there had a fantastic Mother's Day. If you did, leave a comment and tell me all about it! I'd love to hear about your day!