Last weekend, in an act of love for my husband, I went to my first Comic Book Convention.
Like all conventions in these modern times, NC Comicon has a heavy focus on connecting with others through social media, but the content coming out of a fan convention has the makings of something rather engaging. The costumes, art, props — just the colors alone make you take a second look.
I know that the average Joe doesn’t know much about comics. If it weren’t for my fanboy spouse, I wouldn’t either, but it’s an artform worth understanding.
My hope in creating a storify around this convention was to draw an outsider into the event, and therefore into the subculture.
The following is a FAQ for my assignment in JOMC 711. I have no affiliation with Spoonflower, Inc., except as a customer, fabric designer, and groupie. You can visit Spoonflower’s real site to get help if you need it.
Frequently Asked Questions for Spoonflower Newbs
Newbs, also known as newbies, newcomers or first-timers, are a real forte for us at Spoonflower. As a start-up, we have a special place in our hearts for the premiere experience, and we want to make it a fun one for you.
Spoonflower is a Durham-based company that prints and sells custom fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap. Customers upload their own files to be printed on a variety of fabrics, or they can choose from hundreds of fabrics from other designers. It’s tech and textiles rolled into one.
If you’ve never used Spoonflower before, you are in for a treat. I’m sure your creative gears are already turning, thinking about all the projects you can bring to life. As you muse, you might have a few questions. Here’s some answers.
For best results, upload a PNG or JPEG at around 150 dpi. We can take vector files (like EPS, AI, and PDFs) but our site will convert them to PNGs upon upload, and some funny stuff could happen. Don’t let your file exceed 40MB, or you may break the internet (or at least get an error from our site).
A couple other pointers: respect other’s intellectual property by only uploading your own work, and get just the right color by purchasing a color guide or color map from our design tools page.
It takes 8-10 business days from the moment your file is uploaded to when we ship to you. The fabric elves are magical, but perfection takes time — even in their capable, tiny hands. We have three shipping options: standard, guaranteed and rush (all are available in domestic and international). Pricing is based on the weight of your order, not yardage.
If it’s damaged or flawed, we will replace or refund. It’s as simple as that. Beyond that, we don’t want you stuck with fabric you can’t use or don’t absolutely love. We’re happy to work with you, so drop us a line.
Down a brick alley between two noisy bars, there’s an open door. The light from inside is welcoming and so are the faces you find there.
But you won’t find any tables or booths, and there aren’t any specials. This small concrete room is filled from floor to ceiling with deconstructed bicycles.
On any given Wednesday night, you can come to this small space on Graham Street in Chapel Hill and learn an unusual skill for an even more unusual price. That’s what The ReCYCLEry is about: teaching bike mechanics for free.
Well, not exactly for free. You’ll earn your keep —and your bike— by giving your time to the shop and those in it.
“Basically, it’s about volunteerism,” says founder Richard Giorgi. “When you exchange money for something, it kind of spoils it a little bit sometimes, if it’s something you love.”
For the love of cycling
It’s an idea founded on friendship and acceptance. Join a community, learn a skill, better your health, get transportation — regardless of whether or not you can afford it.
“It was always meant to be inclusive and never exclusive.” says Giorgi. “That’s the goal. Totally 100% inclusive. That’s why we’ve earned this reputation for teaching slowly and kindly and having fun.”
The idea is not new, but when Giorgi founded the non-profit almost 15 years ago in his own side yard, it was unheard of in this area.
“I was living briefly in Ithaca, where I was mountain biking a little bit. And they had a place that was similar to this called RIBS, Recycle Ithaca’s Bikes. You could go in and you could just do stuff in exchange for bicycles. I thought that was awesome.”
For the love of mechanics
The shop has run the same basic process for years. Originally, the founders developed a system of accountability with volunteer hours using cards and color codes, but it proved too complex.
They moved to an honor system, and that has worked for them ever since.
“We’ve got the parts, we’ve got the tools, we’ve got the expertise, but we don’t do the work for them,” says Giorgi. “It’s not like a free bike shop, but we’ve got everything they need.”
When someone walks in the shop looking for a bike, volunteers send them “out back” to a side yard. Inside a fenced enclosure decorated with murals and brightly-colored wheel rims, there are hundreds of bikes. Most of them missing parts, some decades old. The bikes that have been spoken for wear manila tags with handwritten names — the rest of them are up for grabs.
The visitor brings her selected bike inside the small shop and a volunteer sets her up on one of the stands. This volunteer, in most cases, will work with her one-on-one all day.
Giorgi thinks it’s better this way, “I don’t want the volunteers to feel rushed — I try to reserve that for me.” Fixing the bike is largely up to the visitor, but volunteers are there to point the way, offer parts and tools, and check the finished product for safety.
Community members often bring in donations of bikes, but the real reward is when someone who has received a bike returns to offer up their time. Wednesday nights are Advanced Mechanic Night, where volunteers are certified as mechanics. This is often where the most devoted volunteers come from.
For the kids
For those who are a part of this process, it’s changing lives.
During Christmas 2010, the volunteers came together to give 130 bikes away to local children. “You hand a kid a bike, and it’s the greatest thing ever. It’s freedom for those kids,” says Matt, a volunteer at the ReCYCLEry for the past four years.
A huge part of what the non-profit does is for children, both donating and teaching. Inspired to teach kids to overcome obstacles, the shop holds monthly workshops just for their smallest cyclists.
“We thought if we taught kids something that they didn’t think they could do previously, like fixing a bicycle for themselves, maybe at some point in time when they were dealing with a tough essay or tough math problem, that would carry them through. Like, ‘I could do this,’ ” says Giorgi.
The ReCYCLEry also has a reputation for accepting those who may not find a home elsewhere.
The financially and mechanically challenged are equally welcome. Intimidation is eased away. And that can mean breaking down stereotypes.
Though bike mechanics are almost always male, the shop has graduated 60 mechanics — 43 of which were female.
“You get to build things. I like it because I can come work on other peoples projects, or you can just come and do your own thing.”
Ellen, a student, is a regular at the ReCYCLEry. Two years ago, she took a mechanic’s class, then spent the summer building up her own bike. Now she brings new people in, especially students at UNC.
“It’s usually in their second year, when they’re like ‘I want to get off campus, I want to go do things, but I don’t have a car.’ And I’m like, ‘You could go get a bike. You could go earn your own bike.’ ”
“You can bring people together from disparate backgrounds,” says Giorgi. “Maybe they don’t even speak the same language, or have anything in common besides the fact that they’re working on these bicycles together. And if you get them to work together, maybe they create a bond.”
The nuts and bolts of bike wheels aren’t the only things coming together in this space. A vibrant, surprising and diverse family can be found down the brick alley on Graham street. If you stop by, you’ll ride out with much more than you had when you walked in.
For more information about The ReCYCLEry in Chapel Hill, visit their site recyclery.org or call 919-533-9196
“We draw our lines around these moments of pain, remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.”
In his book American Gods, Gaiman tells a story of an abused captured girl who becomes and abused enslaved woman. He says that “fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.” But in the evening at the Varsity, a presentation was made that begged us not to finished the story unchanged.
The women on the panel and the organizations that brought them painted a painful portrait of the abuse that is surrounds us. They spent the evening, in their words and through the presentation of a film, reminding us how near we are to domestic violence and how we can —and should— do whatever we can to stop it. It was a fitting end to their observance of Domestic Violence Month, a profound way to raise awareness for those of us that, as Gaiman’s metaphor depicts, wrap up our pain in layers of protection like a pearl.
We were called to do more than that. In one of her many impassioned speeches of the night, Gruelle said, “we have to make it a priority, we have to make women and children’s lives the priority. We have to get right to the basics.” This evening challenged me; it asked me to get back to basics. This experience told me to let the suffering of another woman’s life touch me, hurt me and —ultimately— change me.
Question: What legislation is effective? How can an individual influence the legislative system to protect everyone, not a select group?
Ms. Heaney: Heaney says she’d love to see legislators in NC look at is how domestic violence is defined by the law. “Our laws have not kept appace of the realities of our relationships.” She hears people talk about how their relationship is not violent because “he only hit me once,” but financial, emotional abuse is just as poignant. Besides the issue of how we define relationships, Heaney says that people could think about advocacy in the media. She appreciates the role of newspaper in the film. “If there is a murder-suicide in the paper, it is a domestic violence homicide. Call it what it is.” She goes on to talk about what each individual can do to be an advocate. “Have you talked to your pastor about doing a sermon on domestic violence? What are the policies at your workplace? Being proactive is really important.”
Ms Johnson: “How do we change the laws? Engage yourself.” She says that we shouldn’t think we don’t matter, and encourages us to go directly to our legislator. She knows that it takes commitment and organization, but this kind of action works slowly and effectively. “It’s not just the victim’s job or the advocate’s job,” she says. “It’s the community’s job.”
Johnson says she believes that college students often discount their relationships as insignificant, and —at the same time— diminish the importance of seeking help for abuse. can and does happen on college campuses. “A lot of people don’t consider themselves to be a part of domestic partnerships, but this is something that happens to people who are in and out of college. It’s not always physical violence. There are a lot of different ways that people exercise power and control over another person.” What can you do? “Do whatever you think you can, but do something.” says Johnson. “Talk to a friend, a family member, share and article on facebook.” She says a lot of people think it doesn’t matter until it happens to them. She wants to see us affirm that it does matter to us as a community. “Everyone can do something.”
Ms. Gruelle: She breaks the conversation because she feels an important subject hasn’t yet been touched upon; she wants to talk about victim blaming. “We don’t do it with any other crime. If a bank is robbed…when they are done with the investigation, they don’t show up to the bank manager and say ‘Why are you still doing business here?'” On the other hand, Gruelle says, the first thing a community asks an abused woman is why she is still in the relationship. “We have to see the victim as the chief source of intelligence.”
Her advice about how to exercise individual influence on governmental and judicial policy? “Don’t think that the issue is so big that you can’t make a difference because everyone in this room can make a difference.”
At this point, Ms. Gingrich facilitates questions from the audience.
Question: When you said “it’s not getting any better,” do you mean, from a legal standpoint, that laws are not changing? What does it take for laws to change?
Ms. Gruelle: “No, they’re not. Laws are not changing… I’m not even joking around about this. Our courts are driving the get-away car for abusers… We’re still losing the same number of women to misogynistic violence. 52 women a month.”
“Everyone reacts when they see Deanna’s pictures,” she says, referring to the graphic photos featured in the film. You can see some of these photos in the documentary’s trailer. She continues, “they hear the prosecutor ask ‘Are these all soft tissue injuries?’ But it’s not the stuff like Deanna with her face bashed in. It’s the things she does to control her.”
Each speaker is given an opportunity to talk about their role in the local community.
Ms. Gruelle used to serve two local counties as a part of the Orange-Durham Coalition. She says this is an area where it is particularly clear that domestic violence is not limited by class or income. She has worked with many victims from this area who are married to doctors, professors, and lawyers. Women from these families face a unique challenge, she says, simply because people don’t think the abuser is capable of that kind of violence. During her graduate studies in Sociology at Appalachian State, Gruelle encountered a Russian psychology professor who commented on a paper how “in his experience” domestic violence doesn’t touch those outside of low-income homes. This paper and comment is featured prominently in the film — Gruelle has to tape the paper back together to read the comments to the documentarians, after riping it upon initially receiving the feedback. She says that, since this event, she has emailed this professor countless articles that contradicted his assumption. She noted that he has yet to respond.
Ms. Johnson: In response to Gruelle’s comments on the socio-economic climate of domestic violence in the local area, Ms. Johnson says that she has encountered a similar dymanic. She says that when a perpetrator is well-loved by peers, well moneyed, or a part of an organization of prominence, perception of the situation plays out differently.
Ms. Heaney: Ms. Heaney weighs in on the same issue. She states that domestic Violence is about power and control, and unfortunately, the thing that drives a person to accomplish their goals can also be what drives them to have power and dominance over their family or their partner. “If you take anything away from this movie,” Heaney says, “if someone shares with you that they are experiencing violence, believe them.” She believes that domestic violence is enabled in this community when we we allow stereotypes to continue.
After the film’s credits role and the lights come up, four women take the stage. One woman brings along her dog, an old brown lab mix. The woman at the far right remains standing. She says she is Janeen Gingrich, the Campaign Strategist for Private Violence (the website lists her as an Impact Producer), explains the basic gameplan for the Question and Answer portion of the evening. She then introduces the three speakers on the panel.
Cassidy Johnson is a Gender Violence Services Coordinator at the Carolina Women’s Center, was hired last June to be a confidential advocate for University-affiliated survivors. Her goal is to help inform and educate students, faculty and staff about the UNC policy against relationship, sexual violence stalking, and other such offenses.
Cordelia Heaney is the executive director of The Compass Center. She says her foundation offers services to the Chapel Hill community. They are state designated service, including 24-hour hotline, court advocacy, and assistance with domestic violence protection orders. They also offer financial and career services, since “virtually all victims of domestic violence experience financial abuse as well.” They’ve seen a 20% increase in demand for their services in the last year, and though she likes to think that part of that is because the word is getting out, she thinks there may be “more for all of us to do.”
Kit Gruelle is listed on the film’s website as the documentary’s “Special Advisor and Film Subject.” She tells us that she “has been doing this work for a long time,” and the audience laughs and murmurs in agreement. “I’m sorry to say that things are not getting better for women in NC,” she says, showing the same passion she showed on screen. Reflecting on the changes in racial violence she observed as a result of President Obama’s election, she is concerned about the 2016 election, and thinks the potential for violence against women will increase drastically if Hillary Clinton is elected. She concluded these thoughts by saying, “and I’ll shut up. Just whatever.” Her uncompromising zeal is palpable.
What is the Compass Center for Women and Families?
The Compass Center is a local organization funded my the United Way of the Greater Triangle, along with state and local funding and individual donations. Their mission is to help individuals and families prevent and end domestic violence and become self-sufficient by providing: