Nostalgia is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand it brings back memories, reminds us of our childhood hopes, and serves as an easy way to connect with others. But on the other it can blind us to the problems of the past, trap us in ruts that ultimately disappoint, or stifle movement forward while we endeavor to capture that past. Right now it feels like Millennials are currently going through a collective phase of nostalgia. I'm not sure who thought that we needed to try and capture our childhoods, but it's certainly happening in spades this year. There was the Beauty and the Beast remake this month (which honestly defined my childhood and was therefore a must watch). A Power Rangers movie as well for those who were more Saturday Morning cartoon inclined. They're redoing Duck Tales on Disney XD this year, which certainly caused an uproar of general excitement when that was announced. Netflix also did brief stints of Full House and Gilmore Girls this past year with mixed results. Obviously this tactic works to a degree, we've been living in an age of remakes and reboots for a while now. I just have to wonder for how long they think they can keep it up. I mean you can only pull on our collective nostalgic heartstrings for so long before they snap, right?
I know that there are a couple of stickers on the sign tonight, but there's one that completely captured my attention. Maybe it was just the nostalgic aspect of the sticker's look or simply that it appeals to my slightly warped taste, I just love that skeleton with guts. I wish I could say that I found a really interesting story behind it, it's just rather hard to find a keyword that would bring this up. I mainly got images from the animated movie Inside Out or regular cartoon skeletons during my attempt to find something. But despite the fact that I really didn't find anything on it, I still appreciate the memory it's brought up. I don't know if it was the artist's intent but every time I see this sticker, I am reminded of that short little cartoon Inside Out Boy that would pop up on Nickelodeon between shows. Granted I didn't recall much about the cartoon other than the look of it, although after watching the collection of all of them I can't say that's terribly surprising. If you don't remember it, it was claymation short of a boy that managed to turn himself inside out by going over the top of the swing set. There really isn't much to it after that, he supposedly scares adults since he's not normal and really loves the phrase "I've got guts." Just one of those weird things that kind of explains my generation in the end.
Hmm, another example of a defunct business. It took a little guessing on my part due to the disintegration of the sticker but I'm fairly confident that the company behind it was the The Madness Co. They no longer have an active site but there remains a memory of them on Tumblr, Twitter, and other social media platforms. It seems like they were a company that focused on creating gear and apparel for outdoor activities. While I could rehash the ideas of defunct businesses retaining a presence in the world with their stickers and online memory again, I thought I would instead look at the activities they used to supply products for.
If you look closely at the logo you can see how the M is designed in a way to invoke the idea of a mountain range. So while the name of the company doesn't immediately bring outdoor sporting to mind, there is a hint of it with the logo. Reading over what is left of the descriptions out there of this company, it appears that the idea behind the name was that wanting to leave the comforts of society behind to rough it out in the wilderness is an acceptable form of madness. That their products were for people who were looking to live a simple and adventurous existence. While this is certainly not a terribly unique idea, the Transcendentalists were spouting the need to return to the simplicity of nature back in the 1800s, I think that calling it madness is a bit ridiculous. There's a beauty in being entirely surrounded by nature and a sense of pride to being able to overcome the natural obstacles out there to see it. Just looking through the photos they had posted to their Tumblr is awe inspiring. Having that desire and drive to be able to reach those heights and see those kind of sights is truly impressive.
However, I have to admit that I've never really been an outdoorsy kind of girl. I never saw the appeal of camping out in the woods, if I really wanted to see some trees I just needed to look out a window since our property was mainly woods. I've been climbing a couple of times inside but never been enthralled enough to really attempt rock climbing outside. My one best friend has been telling me for years that she's going to pop my rafting cherry, still waiting for that trip though. It's not that I don't appreciate nature or being outdoors, I quite love going on little hikes in the local parks and getting lost in my surroundings, I've just never felt the need to go all out on a trip. I'm sure one of these days someone will convince me to join them on a trip that will give me the chance to capture breath taking photos of my own but until that day I'll just have to be impressed by others.
Since I discussed the idea of city pride in the last post, I thought I would continue in that same vein tonight. An element of Pittsburgh pride, that I rather purposely left out last time, is the city's pride in their sporting franchises. Obviously there is a strong tie between the fans and the city the team plays in, but there are far more layers involved when it comes to sports fans. Franchises have a history of changing cities when there are far better benefits elsewhere. Fans will start following a team because of their performance during the season rather than the team's location. Generally I find discussions about what sports teams you support to be akin to opening a can of worms. You always end up in an long discussion/debate about why they're great, what needs to happen to move forward, and all sorts stats I don't follow. Although that is mainly because I have never really been a sports fan. Not that I have anything against sports, I do quite enjoy heading to actual games, I've just never had that sort of dedication. But with all of my mild grumbles, I do have to admit that Pittsburgh has some of the most dedicated fans I've met.
I know I've mentioned in the past that while I'm not originally from Pittsburgh, my dad is. So I've always had a very strong connection to the city and its teams. If someone ever asked who I followed in football, baseball, or hockey I would always say Pittsburgh even though I honestly never did. This was because my dad would always have them on so they were the teams I generally knew the most about. Well, when they were available to watch I should say. Since I grew up on the other side of the state, close to the NY border, Pittsburgh teams aren't really ones to get a lot of air time. But that never deterred my dad. When it was available, that game was on the TV. If we had other plans during that time, there was a tape in the VCR so he could watch it later. As the internet became more accessible, he had the Post Gazette's site added to his favorites so he could stay up to date with all of the news and discussions. If someone is playing while he happens to be in the area, he takes full advantage of being able to watch the game whether or not he can actually get tickets to it. He even had that ubiquitous collection of sports tees that would be on regular rotation, depending on the season of course. Since his children have all managed to move out here at this point, there are regular requests for new shirts or a copy of the local paper so he can get the recent win's breakdown. I think he's always been a little disappointed that none of his children really became true fans like himself but I know he takes consolation in the fact that he at least has a couple of people who are willing to watch the game with him.
While I had that exposure of Pittsburgh dedication from an early age, I have to admit that it really didn't prepare me for the level of local dedication. Pretty much everyone has an opinion about how the season is fairing and just need the slightest nudge to share it. Heading to a game, well any event really, you can easily get lost in a sea of black and yellow. (I've always held the belief that the reason all of the Pittsburgh teams have similar colors was so that you could never stick out at a game no matter what shirt you happened to grab.) As I entered the work force I was truly surprised how many people would decorate their desks with some collection of sports paraphernalia. I had a manager at one point who decorated the top of his cubicle with a collection of Pirate bobble heads he had managed to accumulate. There would be contests at work where one of the prizes would be to have the ability to wear your sports tees for a month. The amount of celebration that happens after someone has won a big championship is rather staggering. Granted I have managed to be in the city for some of the bigger wins within the last decade, so I'm sure that's part of it. Even though I really haven't featured many here yet, I constantly find stickers from the various teams all over the city. Some are official ones like this one but others are clearly from a fan who wants to show their pride in the team. No matter where you turn there is always something that promotes Pittsburgh's pride in the Steelers, the Pirates, and the Penguins.
You can find a large amount of personal pride in every city. From museums and art that emphasize the history of the area to the shirts and bumper stickers sold on the street, the love that locals have for their home can be felt in so many ways. I have always found Pittsburgh to be an interesting study in this idea of city pride. There are so many museums and centers that dedicate themselves to sharing a small portion of what makes Pittsburgh interesting. It seems like there is always an event going on that is looking to further major causes or just a small idea to help move the city forward. Over the years an increased emphasis has been placed on developing the technological and artistic pursuits of the city, giving an interesting spin to the area's sense of pride. But despite the drive to move forward, there is also a celebration of the elements that originally defined the city. You can see this mixture of Pittsburgh pride in a lot of the companies and festivals that have started here.
PittsburghMade, the online store behind this logo, is certainly one of the more unique examples of city pride. They are a local brand that sells items that are heavily influenced by the area. You can get a t-shirt with Mister Rogers giving you the bird or one with some pop-art inspired steel workers. A good portion of their products though, use their name and logo to truly emphasize the wearer's roots. What I think sets them apart from many other local companies is the emphasis that they place on the products being made here in Pittsburgh. They buy the base products directly from US warehouses and then use local businesses and designs to support the Pittsburgh community. I'm sure plenty of other local businesses also do their best to support the local economy, but PittsburghMade clearly places a significant amount of effort into it.
If you look closely at the sticker you can just make out the city skyline in the letters of the logo. I find that the combination of the skyline with the classic abbreviation of PGH is such a great representation of some of the elements that make this city unique. It also looks like they change the photo within the logo from time to time, judging by the Facebook page, which I rather like. What I love about this particular find is the fact that I managed to capture the mural behind the logo. It seems like a big part of the rebuilding effort years ago was the renewed interest on increasing the presence of art throughout Pittsburgh. There are so many murals around the city, giving the neighborhoods an interesting pop of color and breath of life. This particular mural is the one on the side of the Beehive and is actually by Shephard Fairey, the one artist I keep featuring rather unintentionally. I might be overstating things a bit, even I think tonight's post sounds rather pompous, but I find this photo to be a rather wonderful example of what continues to fuel my exploration of Pittsburgh.
A big thing that I have really been trying to incorporate with this blog is actually starting conversations with people about the stickers I find. I find it to be an important function of the blog and really interesting to hear others have to say. As you know I've been doing my best to reach out more to some of the local finds, to let the creative individuals behind them share their stories. Luckily for me a lot of the people I've reached out to have been into it, giving me a brief blurb to share with you. Since tonight's stickers is clearly a local piercing shop, I thought I would reach out to see if they would be interested in speaking with me. I actually had a couple of friends get a piercing here our Freshman year during their early rebellious phase. I'm sure you can imagine how excited I was when Tim Girone, the owner of Hot Rod, responded to my email and asked for my contact information so that we could talk. Because we ended up having more of a phone interview, tonight's post is going to be a little different. I thought it would be far more interesting to present this more like a magazine interview than taking a small blurb out and giving my interpretation of the sticker. I did have to dust off my Journalism skills though, so I apologize if things seem a bit off.
How long have you been in piercing?
We've been in business since 1993 and we're still trucking along.
What drew you to piercing originally?
I've always been interested in body art in general. There might have been a National Geographic article that caught my attention as a kid. The problem was that in the late 80s and early 90s there really wasn't a lot of activity or places to go for body piercing or tattoos. I was interested in getting a piercing during this time and ended up having a rather terrible experience. Like I said there really weren't a lot of options of places to go to for piercings or even to learn. I decided that there had to be a better way and went about to figure something out.
Are you originally from the Pittsburgh area?
No, I'm not from Pittsburgh. I moved here back in 1991. I'm originally from Philadelphia.
Have you always been interested in art?
Somewhat, I've always been fairly artistic. I've always loved stickers though. I used to collect them as a kid and still have a shoe box full of them. I used to really be into skateboarding and the other big sticker sports, which meant I was around stickers a lot. Music is also a big industry that uses stickers and I would get them at the concerts that I would go to. My wife is an artist as well, so I'm pretty surrounded by art.
You mentioned in your email that you've created a lot of stickers over the years. What are some of the elements that influence your designs?
I always leave it up to the artist to choose the designs for themselves. I try to use local artists who are familiar with the shop and know what our style is. I put it into their hands for the most part. Occasionally I may give them some direction but generally the goal is to just go with the feeling of things. Are you familiar with Mad Mex?
Yeah I've been there many times.
Well Rich Bach was the artist behind all of the metal sculptures that decorate the restaurants. He is actually a friend and did a lot of our original designs. The local artists find their own way to best represent our shop. I never really create paper stickers though. They never seem to last and quickly fall apart on the street or if you try to move them. Longevity is a big aspect to the stickers that I create. We use durable bases like vinyl to make sure that they last. I actually have a guy, who I really only know as Sticker Ken, who will hand screen our stickers for us. He worked for a big sticker place that would make the stickers that the city uses. This generates a lot of waste and he would take the leftover materials to screen our stickers on. So no two stickers are ever the same, some are on reflective surfaces while others are vinyl bases. And since all of our stickers are hand screen, there can be a lot of bleeding of colors from the different screenings he does. I find this makes the stickers to be rather artistic themselves.
That is really cool.
Yeah, he's been making our stickers for 10 years now. We will give these stickers out to our customers and I do tend to see them everywhere. I will stick them up in places myself sometimes. I usually will add our sticker in places where there are a lot of others. I will usually put them in groups where there are other piercing and tattoo parlors. We've actually had sticker wars in the past, where we would just go around placing our sticker over the others. I was down in Orlando on a business trip and ended up placing one of ours down there. Not that anyone would know who we were.
That's actually one thing I really love about this project, seeing not only the local artists but also what has managed to make it's way here. I actually found one that originally started in Toronto Canada and managed to make it's way to Pittsburgh.
Yeah, I was hiking the other day near my home when I came across a pile of junk deep in the woods. And on this can there was an Obey sticker. The can was pretty beat up but the Obey sticker was looking pretty good. It was rather cold out though so I didn't end up taking my phone out to take a picture of it.
So I know you said that you like to let the artist decide on the design but do you know what the influence was for the Three-eyed Jesus?
I told them that I wanted to do a holier place concept. When people ask me what I do I will respond that I am a Holy man, since I make holes in people. I usually get a chuckle out of it. So I gave them that as the overall concept. In the past we've gone with a lot of hot rod cars using the idea that you are customizing your body. It was actually a coworker's roommate that came up with the holier place design. He kept pitching me these ideas of having a pierced Jesus. I told him that I was cool with whatever as long as he could make it round. There's just something I like about round stickers. When he gave us the final design I don't think we made any changes to it. We're still using it today and we want to make it into a shirt, possibly letting the design kind of grow. It definitely makes you do a double take. Especially with the classic keystone designs on the side, giving it that official feeling.
It certainly caused me to do a double take when I found it at the Waterfront.
Oh you found it at the Waterfront? I may be responsible for that one since I live near there. I always keep a small stash of our stickers though. Especially since they are always so unique, I like to save the really interesting ones. We are in a bit of a sad moment though. The sticker shop that Ken worked in recently shut it's doors, so he is no longer making stickers. I had thought about collecting the equipment that he would need to keep making them for us. Although I could just make them myself at that point. But I'm kind of in a sticker limbo and not sure how to proceed. I could try to go with one of the online stores but they would remain the same since they specialize in doing stickers in bulk.
That's unfortunate to hear. You said that you've seen a lot of your stickers and that you've placed a lot as well. I guess my final question would be what is the weirdest place you've found one of your stickers?
Hmm... the weirdest place I've seen one. I have to admit I'm a bit stumped by this. I've seen a lot in rather random places and out of reach. As for far away places, I did see one on a car on the turnpike. But that's not very weird. I guess if I had to choose an interesting one I did find one on a lift pole at Seven Springs. You know the ski lift that you ride up, someone actually made the effort to lean out into a danger zone so that they could place it there.
I want to send a quick thank you to Tim for taking the time out to speak with me about his stickers. I really enjoyed it and I hope I've managed to capture our conversation to a pretty good extent. Sorry that this ended up being so long but I think that it's worth it. Until next time.
I find trends to be rather fascinating things. I've never been on top of them, being a little too poor and too uninterested to truly keep up, but seeing the rise, the mild decline, and what manages to stick around is always interesting. I think that the trends of the last couple of decades are certainly among the most intriguing. Not because there are truly unique elements to them but because of the cherry picking from the previous decades' trends. There were the bell bottoms and mini skirts from the 60s and 70s in the early 2000s. Neons, statement jewelry, and shoulder pads from the 80s made a brief appearance at one point. It seems like we are currently reliving the 90s grunge and girl bands with the resurgence of flannel and crop tops. Now obviously we have toned things down a bit, in an attempt to make it fresh and new, but you can clearly see where the influences came from.
Tonight's sticker I think exemplifies the one trend that has been captivating and dividing the country, the Hipster. I often wonder if the Hipster is a result of the cherry picking from the previous decades or if the trend really is the counter-culture it claims to be. Since Hipster is often a divisive term I thought I would look it up in the dictionary. Apparently it just means a person who is unusually aware and interested in new and unconventional patterns. This can definitely be seen as a key element to the trend, although it can be taken to the extreme some days. What I found to be truly captivating is that the word actually originated in the 40s. Reading over the Wikipedia page it apparently was used to describe the middle class white youth who wanted to emulate the popular and still underground Jazz culture of the time. Now I can't say how true this is, since it is a Wikipedia article, but I find this to be truly fascinating. A large part of the current Hipster movement is to re-appropriate forgotten elements and vintage trends to exert their unique style. Refusing to conform to what society claims to be cool but at the same time having common style elements that can be grouped together. There is also the fact that along with finding those retro and vintage pieces, Hipsters are generally known for embracing different ethnic influences and gentrification. So if the negative connotation that the Wikipedia article implies is true, today's use of the term certainly keeps up with tradition.
Whether you actually define yourself as a Hipster (which seems unlikely) or despise the trend, Pittsburgh does have one of the bigger congregations of the group. Back in 2014 Pittsburgh's neighborhood Lawrenceville was named as one of the biggest Hipster cities in the world. With the large number of artisan shops and restaurants just along Butler it's not hard to see how it earned its ranking. Obviously the influx of interest in the area brought a much needed revitalization to the neighborhood but I do occasionally have to wonder about what the long term effects will be. Granted there are a fair amount of elements to the Hipster culture that I like; the pieces of the 20s and 50s fashion that have come back into the public eye as well as the influence jazz and soul has had again in music are certainly up my alley. Some of the creative re-purposing of business ideas to create truly unique spaces like Row House Cinema is also a large appeal of the movement for me. But until we see where the trend ultimately heads, it will certainly remain a fairly turbulent journey. Oh and here's the full list of Hipster cities from Business Insider for the curious.
Hip Hip Hooray Folks! While tonight isn't going to be a big discussion of things or an important announcement, it is something that I think deserves some celebration. This post makes 50 total posts on the blog, with a mildly impressive 49 different photos shared. Granted it's not a big number but it does mean that I've managed to successfully post on here twice a week for 25 weeks straight! I find this to be quite the accomplishment considering my typically short attention span. I can't say that everything that's gone up on here has been a winner but I hope that I've managed to at least keep you mildly entertained. So here's to celebrating this little milestone and moving onto to the next one.
I didn't want to let my little celebration distract from an in depth post, so I thought I would reflect on the creative re-purposing of other stickers. I know I've looked at this a little bit before with my Pink elephant post back in December, but this is a pretty big element to the stickers you find on the street. A fair amount of the stickers that I see are hand drawn pieces that the creator has placed around the city. Obviously no two pieces are ever the same, each one exemplifying the artist's particular style, but they often share similar sticker bases. Some use the common name tags/ labels that you see at conventions. Others will use federal labels as the base, giving the drawing another dimension. But the label I see the most is the Post Office's mailing label. Being a free resource and easily available it's not hard to see why it's so common. Some of the first stickers that I recall finding back in college used this label as the base. Just going through my collection, I am constantly surprised by the number of people who have re-purposed this label for their own creative use and how unique each one is.
I was a little disappointed when I didn't find anything on this particular sticker, but not terribly surprised. I can't quite make out the stylized characters along the bottom of the bird. I think there's definitely a 7, an A, and maybe an I but otherwise the handwriting is a little too personalized to truly comprehend. The simple design of the bird, while enjoyable, is lacking a defining quality that would also make it easy to find. However this doesn't diminish the impressive creativity that came up with this piece. A lot of the people who use these mailing labels tend to keep the whole label, filling up the space with their drawing. This obviously leaves the label intact and easy to see what it started off as. The bird above, on the other hand, is cut out making it the sole focus and gives it the ability to truly fit in with the world around it. Looking closely though, you can just make out the To in the wing and the end of the Service up in the head. So while this gives it a little added depth, it doesn't really distract from the simple line design of the bird. They truly make the sticker their own and really show off their unique style.
As a general rule, I can't stand motivational quotes or posters. There really isn't a legitimate reasoning behind my disdain, these types of things have always just felt insincere and arbitrary to me. Probably this is just an off shoot of my general cynical nature in the end, believing that these are a pointless "show" of people attempting to better themselves. I was quite happy when I stumbled across the Onion announcement that the "hang in there" cat fell off his branch from a while ago. Justice. But every once in a while, I do come across a phrase that will cause me to at least pause and ponder before dismissing it.
When I found this sticker I was far more intrigued by the possible angles than the phrase. Upon reviewing my photos later on I decided I didn't completely hate the message and was curious as to group behind it. Unfortunately I wasn't able to come up with a particular group that is attached to this. On the other hand I was rather surprised at the fact that the phrase itself came up rather quickly. At no point before researching it last night did I make any connection to the phrase though, which is probably a ding against my musical fan cred. For those who aren't musical fans, or also haven't made the connection, this is a lyric/ song out of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Granted this is one of the final songs and not a big fan favorite, so my ignorance is a tad justifiable. In the midst of a rather frantic ending, you have this one song that looks to give the audience a message of self-acceptance. Dr. Frank N Furter sings about his distress as a child that he couldn't be as fabulous as his heroes of the silver screen. But rather than be held back or confined by societal norms, he lives his dreams and allows himself to truly be who he is.
While this song and the message behind it is definitely interesting, what makes this sticker unique is the pictures that are juxtaposed with it. There is a group of children and pets happily pulling or riding along in a wagon. This obviously presents the idea of innocence and the future. But then you see the Anarchy symbol on the child's flag. Anarchy is often associated with negative ideas of dystopia and lawlessness however it ultimately is the idea of opposing the traditional forms of government and control. Generally anarchists hold their ideas up as the ideal system of society since it would be run by people volunteering their services and expertise for the good of all, rather than the use of force. So many different ideas and movements tend to fall under this mantel at different times in history. The Big Idea Store, a radical and anarchist bookstore over in Bloomfield, carries a wide variety of subject matters that are looking to create social change. Along with these ideas of creating the future we want to see, whether for the children or for the betterment of society, there is that small detail of the child in the wagon that I can't quite make my mind up about. It seems like the child has horns, which is typically a Satanic association but doesn't quite fit with the rest of the message. Although I could just be misinterpreting that part of the image or the ideas behind this in general. But whether it's a message of hope and acceptance or something that's a little darker, it's certainly one of the better versions of an inspirational quote I've seen.
Admittedly I'm a little premature with tonight's photo. Lent did just start yesterday, so we're still a long way away from Easter but I figured what's the point in waiting. There's also the fact that I haven't had a North Shore photo ready since November and felt this was a good way to break up my usual neighborhoods. I will confess though that I really didn't find anything for this sticker online. I actually manage to confuse Google with my queries, so much so that it asked me to confirm I wasn't a robot. I guess people aren't usually looking for Pittsburgh egg stickers, Yoshi and Pokemon egg graffiti, or black and white egg stickers on a Wednesday night; can't image why not though. I rather doubt that this egg has anything to do with Mario or Pokemon but I figured it was worth a look since it does have a resemblance to both. Although there really is only so much creativity that can go into an egg. Whatever influenced the creation of this egg though, I enjoy the chalkboard feel there is to it and how it fits in with its surroundings.
This literal Easter egg also reminds me a lot of the book Ready Player One. It's a novel that relies heavily on 80's pop culture and geekery, which in many ways was the decade that introduced this idea of the Easter egg. In an Atari game from 1978, a game designer hid his name in a secret level to give himself some deserved credit but it wasn't discovered until 2 years later by a player. This original egg plays a key role in the plot, influencing the characters and the journey they have to go on. Obviously Easter eggs continue to be found in various pieces of technology and entertainment today, even playing a key role in one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who. And yes, if you haven't guessed by this point in the blog, I'm fairly big Geek. Although I've never been tech savvy enough to actual find these kinds of things myself. However the idea of an Easter egg has always been an intriguing one, like an intense I Spy or Where's Waldo that requires far more interaction. (And yes I realize Easter eggs are named after Easter egg hunts but I feel like the amount of work that goes into finding the media ones puts them in a different league.)
Anyway it's the start of a new month, so make sure you check out what's now available on the Society 6 page. I have a couple of ideas rattling inside my noggin of new experiments to try, so be on the look out for those in the coming months. And as always, if you see any stickers you really like on the streets let me know. There's no way I've seen everything that's out there and I'm always open to your tips or suggestions.