Crash Crash Craft: An Interview with Lucy Peterson

Crafts for Drummers, Drummers for Crafts. Crash Crash Craft is a new series in Tom Tom Magazine, spear-headed by Leslie Henkel, that features spectacular crafts made by (and sometimes for) female drummers. Enjoy!

I never thought I’d want 100 Ladies hanging in my house (all that estrogen packed into one small apartment sounds downright dangerous! Hey, who didn’t wash the muffin pan? Who stretched my sweater out?!), but Olympia, WA based artist (and new drummer!) Lucy Peterson has officially changed my mind with her fab “100 Ladies” project, which combines her interests in mid-20th century pulp/sleaze paperbacks, needlework, and feminism. I want every single one of these sassy dames up on my wall! Lucy’s fascination with retro chic with a twist, along with a focus on the shapes of *real* women, influences both her handmade clothing brand, Hissyfit, and the “100 Ladies” form and content.


Tom Tom Magazine: How did the “100 Ladies” project first come to be?

Lucy Peterson: Well, the short answer is that every time that I try to quit smoking, I start a new keep-my-hands-busy project: this is why I’ve taken up drumming, learned to make my own clothes, and decorated my home with piles of weird art.  Embroidery, in particular, is a very soothing, meditative process, one which bored me to tears when I first learned it (age 9 or 10), but which I now really enjoy.  I think of it like very methodical fabric tattooing:  needle in, needle out, needle in, needle out. So, when I went looking for images to embroider, I wanted ones that were a bit odd or kitschy (that’s just my style).  I like Jenny Hart’s work (sublime stitching), and admire her portraits, but I wanted to create images that are less iconographic, less well-defined, and, frankly, sexier. This led me to combine stitching with my other hobby:  collecting 1940’s-1970’s paperbacks & sleaze (magazines, comix, photos, etc.), and the “100 Ladies” were born. What I find interesting about these images is their mixture of overt, raw sexuality and a more covert, mysterious female identity.  Because viewers are expected to fill in the back story for each image, to imagine what’s happening before and after, there’s often some ambiguity and room to counter the normative gender message with my own ideas about what’s sensual, powerful, and feminine.

Tom Tom Magazine: Can you recall which image or paperback inspired lady #100, Hannah?

Lucy Peterson: I’m pretty sure that Hannah was inspired by a picture in a 1950’s magazine (like “Beauty Parade,” “Titter,” “Wink,” or “Eyeful”).  Many of these magazines featured 2 to 5 page “story” spreads with photos of costumed gals “acting” out scenes, sort of comic book -meets- silent film style.  Hannah, I believe, was part of a 4-piece female band performing at a nightclub.  I was drawn to the idea of combining an elaborate costume (fishnets, top hat, spangled bra) with a more traditionally masculine role (drumming in a house band or jazz combo).  Plus, the more I thought about it, the more practical her outfit seemed:  fishnets are nicely ventilated and a sequined bra would be both fun and supportive.  The top hat?  Well, that’s just for style and sass, you know?

Lucy!

TTM: Like Hannah, you’re also a drummer. Can you tell us about why you got into drumming, and your band(s)?

LP: Well, I started to learn the drums about 3 years ago.  I’ve always wanted to (I was a crappy bass player as a teenager), but never had the time and space (now, I have a house with a basement and no roommates, so I can practice just about any time). Since I’m in my mid 30’s, the learning curve has been a bit frustrating (I guess I imagine that if I was in my teens, I’d have more patience, or maybe not realize how spazzy I can be sometimes), but I’ve got a good situation here, since another gal pal took up the bass at the same time and we’ve been playing together for about 8 months now.  Having someone else to learn and commiserate with has been great, especially since we’ve sort of “traded” instruments with our husbands (her hubby is a drummer and mine is a bass player, but both are banned from giving advice–unless we ask for it).  Right now, we’re hunting for a permanent  guitar player and a singer.  In my ideal world, we’d find another woman in her 30’s to play guitar and then front the whole shebang with a young, nubile, male singer… but we’ll see what happens.

TTM: Hotness! Is there any one of the “100 Ladies” who’s you’re favorite, or who do you most identify with?

LP: When I first completed the project, I had one clear favorite (Cicely, #54), mostly because I find her body type and mix of coyness and power alluring.  Now, though, I’ve grown attached to several Ladies.  I really like viewing and thinking of them en masse (which is also why I try to show them in groups of at least 20), because the total meaning (of what’s “sexy” or “feminine”) really is more than a sum of each part. As for which Lady I most identify with, well, that’s a toughie.  I think that there’s a Lady for each part of me, so I tend to see myself most in the Ladies who are more complex or less easy to pin down (as it were):  Ladies like #18 Elsa, #90 Judith, for example.

TTM: Your Etsy profile says that you’re “interested in exploring what is ‘feminine’ and ‘provocative’–as well as who decides this and how context and medium may influence our answers.” Has this project brought you closer to any insights into this exploration?

LP: Yes, actually.  In the process of setting up shows for the Ladies (in Oly, in SF) and selling some to local folks, I’ve been surprised by how different viewers have had very strong and varied reactions to different Ladies.  Clearly, everyone has his/her idea of what’s “sexy” and “feminine,” and this has been born out by which Ladies people are drawn to or find alluring.  But I’ve also noticed that in different contexts–shows at Homo a Go Go in SF, a showing at a local burrito joint–I’ll get both expected reactions (viewers liking the Ladies that I thought they’d dig) and surprising feedback (viewers who really like Ladies that I wouldn’t have expected them to notice).  I think that the medium really surprises some folks, and the embroidery seems to make the Ladies more risque for some viewers, while others find them less “sleazy” because of they’re hand- and home-made. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ladies’ current show, part of the ‘Pin Me Up and Down’ exhibition (Feb 6-27) at Femina Potens gallery in SF, may change my perceptions yet again…

TTM: What’s your favorite thing about living in Olympia? Are you originally from here? If not, when and why did you move here?

LP: I grew up outside of Seattle (Duvall & Redmond, WA), but fled to SF at 17, then lived in Chicago and Germany (grad. school), before returning to the NW.  Honestly, I missed nature (mountains, salt water, forests, yard space for a garden), and I’d had enough big-city time in my 20’s and was ready for some more room and quiet.  Plus, working overtime just to pay (crazy high) rent was killing me.  So, Olympia is kind of perfect, since the cost of living is low, but the quality of life is quite high (lots of art, music, organic food, and free things to do).  The music scene was also a big factor in deciding to move here, since my husband wanted to return to playing music (he took a long break after his last band, Jawbreaker, broke up in ’96) and I grew up putting in the punk scene (in Seattle) and really missed the close-knit community that happens in smaller-town scenes.  Being able to see/hear lots of local bands is important to me too.  Because we both knew Oly music folks (I used to drive down to shows in Oly as a teenager in the late 90’s, hubby used to come through on tours and knew some folks through K), Olympia seemed like a good choice (and it was)


TTM: If you and your hubby were exiled to a planet full of ponies and you could only take one band and 3 items, which band (living, done or dead) and what items?

LP: Whoa, that’s a trippy question!  Okay, I’d have to bring Killdozer to the pony-planet, since they could play covers of some amazing tunes that I think the ponies would really groove on.  The 3 items:  a sewing needle, a never-ending spool of thread, and a giant bottle of india ink; that way, I could keep sewing amazing clothes and art, and, when I got bored, I could stick-and-poke tattoo myself and my pony pals (ah, visions of so many bad, bucking broncos on those poor little ponies… but, where, exactly, should I put the “tramp stamp” on a pony’s body?)

TTM: Just below the saddle! Ok Lucy, sell it! Why should Tom Tom readers come to your site to buy your creations?

LP: Um, because Ladies are rad?  I mean: buy a Lady because, well, you know you want to, right?  (Okay, so I’m really not great at this marketing and selling stuff part, but, trust me, the 100 Ladies are all one-of-kind, hand-made, dyno-mite and out-o’-sight.)  Or, if you’re into wildly-original, retro-fab. clothes, you could check out my other shop: www.hissyfitoly.etsy.com

TTM: Finally, any words of wisdom for ladies just starting out on the drums?

LP: Practice, practice, and practice.  Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask any/every other drummer for specific advice (about technique, equipment, or anything else).  You don’t need to follow this advice, but asking questions has really helped me to get a better feel for *why* drummers do things differently.

TTM: Thanks Lucy! Everybody else, if you’re in the SF Bay Area, check out her show going on now at Femina Potens! Otherwise, stalk her via Etsy!

Interview by Leslie Henkel, proud parent of the Tight Pantsy Drew Mystery zines!

Leslie Henkel: Leslie curates the “Crash-Crash-Craft!” series, mostly because she is nosy and likes crafts/crafty people. This is also  why she is a member of “Bags For The People,” a rad non-profit that hosts bag-sewing workshops all over New York City (and now in Jamaica!), hates Garbage Island, reads your diary when you’re away, and sometimes sews drumstick bags at Tom Tom events just for fun. Leslie also writes a serialized cozy mystery zine set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, starring hipsters, anarchist freegans, “Chad P.”, and super-sleuth Tight Pantsy Drew–who also editorializes over at A Mutual Respect.com!

Photos courtesy of Lucy Peterson

Psst! Are you Crash-Craft-Crafty? Submit an image/description of your work, plus a bio to info@tomtommag.com, and you might be featured…possibly famous. Who knows?

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