Bunch of Hooey


Just like that, summer has gone.

This photo takes me back, though, to April. Tim and I ventured over on a nice day to the home of Jill Miller, batik artist extraordinaire and owner of Hooey Batiks, to shoot part of what would eventually become Backyard Industry video #3, “Bunch of Hooey”.

Jill’s work has been a source of local amazement for a long time. Sometime back in the late 1990s, I was driving along Race Street in Urbana, and almost got into an accident because the sight of what seemed to be a zillion jewel-toned garments being hung on a double clothesline by an all-business lady was so incredibly distracting. She lived on the corner of Race and California back then; what better advertising than a living billboard featuring incredible work? I didn’t know her then.

Now she lives a street over from me, in a neighborhood we sometimes refer to as the Lynn-Wabash Nexus or the Pre-Historic East Urbana Neighborhood (PHEUN). We’ve become friends. We’ve made sausage together, we’ve talked about chickens ad nauseam, we’ve cooked for each other here and there (more her for me, sadly). We have a lot in common. Seeds, gardens, food, chickens, cookbooks, dessert. But she’s been making her art all this time, too, and in the last five years (more?), many of her batiked designs have shown off food, animals, plants, and neighborhood activities. Bluebells and morels. Pears. Cherries. Chickens and chicks. Pigs. Weber grills. Corndog fairies. Cornhole boards. When I look at her food-related work, I see conviviality and community and our neighborhood, and I love it.

Here’s why we decided to feature her work in a BYI video: We’re all used to seeing food as art everywhere through all kinds of media. Food has been painted and drawn and sculpted for millennia. Food has been photographed for publication (often regrettably) and now food is Instagrammed. We’re surrounded by images of the food we eat (or that others eat), but often it’s without a discernible personal touch. Jill’s batiked shirts and skirts and table runners and scarves and dresses lend a window into her world that also looks like our world. It’s not aspirational; it’s what’s there, unadorned and unassuming and very important. She does all the work out of her house – the designing, the batiking, the dyeing, the washing, and the hanging out on the line. It’s all personal. Not only has she touched everything she makes – she’s thought about it. The same goes for her corndogs, which are legendary. Here. I’ll show you.

[Did you watch all the way to the end? Bloop bloop.]

One last thing: BYIV3 is dedicated to Violet the Cat, who just wanted a little cheese and maybe some charcuterie from Smoking Goose, that’s all. It’s also dedicated to Fausto the Dog, who was there that day (though is not in the video) and just wanted to sniff everyone’s drink. RIP, friends.

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