Tag Archives: district fray

Lady Octopus Tattoo Shop

My article for District Fray magazine

Jonathan Reed, the co-owner of Lady Octopus Tattoos, is a proud third generation Arlingtonian. In 2016, he was looking for a female tattoo artist to create an homage to South Ivy Street, the street he grew up on.

The first hit on a Google search of “female, tattoo artist, DC” pulled up a picture of Gilda Acosta, standing in front of a shark mural, blowing it a kiss. I guess you could say it was love at first bite because this was the start of a professional and personal relationship that would weather the turbulent ocean of tattooing.

Gilda Acosta graduated from art school in 2003 and went right into tattooing. “Jonathan was looking for new creative outlets and an ivy sleeve tattoo, and I was looking for a partner to help establish a presence in Arlington, VA. An easy friendship ensued, and we became life and business partners over fish tacos and tattoo sessions.”

Gilda is well-known for her delicate, precise line work and colorful, illustrative natural themes. “I love doing botanical designs, birds, and creatures of all types. A love of biology and art marry perfectly in tattooing.” Originally from Panama, she is a rarity as a Latina who co-owns a business in an industry dominated by men.

Lady Octopus Tattoos’ intentional inclusivity draws customers in. “Being a woman in the tattoo industry and seeing how some shops operate and treat vulnerable clients impacted our original vision and commitment to providing safe, inclusive spaces for all.”

Body positivity and professionalism, combined with treating clients like family are another thing that makes Lady Octopus so special.

“I learned early on that an open, friendly approach goes a long way in tattooing. I sincerely enjoy getting to know all my clients, truly enjoy our conversations, and cherish their trust. We can’t help but to have forged life-long friendships, and the shop becomes a place where friends catch up, crack jokes, and vent,” says Gilda.

Despite the fact that the artists at Lady Octopus often book more than 6 months in advance, they respond to customers with great care. “We put care and expense into our shop’s safety–from controlled bio disposables, tattoo before and aftercare education, and over all follow-up on our work. It’s extremely important for us to produce the utmost highest quality of tattoos,” says Jonathan.

Lady Octopus Tattoos recently moved to a location in Clarendon Crossing, right across the street from the very famous/infamous (for dudes with brown flip-flops) Whole Foods in Arlington, VA. In addition to Gilda, James Haun, who has been tattooing since 1996, is another part of the family. James is so beloved that he often books not months but a year in advance. His son, Lance Haun, is currently also an apprentice. Gia Catauro is a resident guest artist from RI.

 

Jonathan is a filmmaker whose documentary,The DC Eagle, Bound by Leather, 40 Years of LGBTQ History in the Nation’s Capital won the NJ LGBTQ QFest Film Festival award in 2017 as Most Original New Subject.  In the coming months, he will film and post video vignettes with the theme of “My tattoo, my story.” These vignettes will offer a unique look at the special friendships that form between the artists and their supporters and the meaning-making behind the process.

 

Lady Octopus Tattoos is a hidden gem in the ocean of tattoo shops in its professionalism, experience, and genuinely positive approach. And their new location in the heart of Clarendon is sure to further their reach.

Texture + Textiles with Tulusa’s Sue Henry

My article for District Fray Magazine

Sue Henry, an Alexandria, Virginia-based artist, started Tulusa six years ago. As a lifelong artist and sculptor, she took the plunge into the textile world by hosting a pop-up shop out of her home studio with hand embroidered block prints that were sewn into pouches and pillows. Her block-printed designs sold out in two days, and she decided to move things online, too. Step by step, Henry has grown Tulusa into a retail and wholesale brand of table linens, home decor, and personal accessories. Locally, you can find Tulusa’s textiles in Old Town at Boxwood and Red Barn Mercantile. In D.C., you’ll find table linens at Shop Made in DC and at other pop-ups around the metro area.

Tulusa’s studio in Del Ray is what Henry calls a “stem to stern studio.” They carve the blocks, mix their own inks and dyes, and stamp the designs on yards and yards of linen. They then cut, hem, and sew the cloth. While printing designs onto fabric most likely originated in China about 4,500 years ago, it was on the Indian subcontinent where hand-blocked fabric really blossomed into an art form with a variety of intricate pattern motifs. Indians had extensive knowledge of natural plant dyes, particularly with mordants (metallic salts that both create color and allow it to adhere to fabric).

In Tulusa’s studio, Henry and two other employees carve and stamp yards of linen, using non-toxic ink and organic heirloom-quality linen. Because of the techniques they use, each one of the pieces has its own character and uniqueness.

For Valentine’s Day, Tulusa has some heart-full designs, including heart sweatshirts with rays emanating from the heart. The ink in the rays has a metallic sheen that makes them shine in the sunlight.

“I want people to buy something that brings them a little bit of joy,” Henry says.

Tulusa crafts her products with materials that can be passed down from one generation to the next, and she wants her pieces to add a little something special to someone’s life. Henry particularly values this aspect of her art.

“Even with our two rowdy boys, we’ve always set the table with linen or cotton napkins,” Henry says. “Linen in particular will last a lifetime or two if it’s taken care of. It’s a little something that we can do to help save natural resources. Plus, when a table is set, it makes every meal feel a little more special.”

This year, Tulusa is also adding table linens and accessories made using a technique called shibori, a Japanese tie-dyeing technique, which produces different patterns on the fabric.

“We have gotten rave reviews on our shibori — it’s bright and colorful, and many of the styles have several layers of color which gives them depth and brilliance.”

Find Tulusa’s work and sign up for her newsletter to find out where she is popping up next by visiting tulusa.com and follow them on Instagram @tulusa.goods.

Shriek-Worthy, Feminist-Friendly Horror Flicks

What exactly is a feminist-friendly horror film? Well, it is no secret the genre has catered to the male gaze for a very long time, with its penchant for big-breasted women who seemingly have never had “The Talk” (you know the one about walking alone in the dark with keys as a makeshift ‘weapon’) and blithely waltz into peril, defying any logic or self-preservation instincts. Then, there are the characters fitting into the promiscuity-hyper-inflated-for-the-male-gaze trope. In other words, girls don’t have sex in the woods because, well, Jason. It seems that the only strong female characters in horror are victims of particularly grisly violence who seek to wreak their revenge.

This low bar notwithstanding, there are plenty of feminist-friendly horror films that eschew these essentialist portrayals to offer much more nuanced imaginary. What fascinates and what horrifies us is very much a social commentary. Feminist-friendly horror films make us question gender, sexual, religious and political givens. They make us wonder who gets to define what is horrific. From the days of the OG Mary Shelley to the present, there are plenty of horror films that tear apart the veil of normalcy to give us a glimpse of something weirdly intriguing. Sometimes, the film between the comical and the serious, between the imagined and the real, is so flimsy as to be imperceptible — this is what makes a good feminist-friendly horror film. Or if not cerebral good, at least entertainment good, like in the original 1978 John Carpenter-helmed “Halloween,” when Laurie Strode uses such staples of domesticity as a knitting needle and a clothing hanger to whip “The Shape” into shape.

The DC Palestinian Film & Arts Festival Returns

Founded in 2011 by three women — Noura Erakat, Huda Asfour, and Nadia Daar — the DC Palestinian Film & Arts Festival showcases Palestinian culture from Palestine and the diaspora.In its eleventh year, this fall’s lineup included a double-feature documentary, play, feature films, shorts and a discussion on the art of tatreez: Palestinian embroidery.

One theme that echoed throughout the films was love and border-crossing, with many works questioning: Can love cross man-made boundaries? Can boundaries prevent people from plying the craft they love? Could we come to take boundaries as so omnipresent that they are a part of our emotional milieu like love is?

In “200 Meters,” the opening feature film, a father is separated from his family by 200 meters and an unscalable wall. In a strange riff on “The Great Gatsby,” he says goodnight to his kids with a light show from his balcony. The film sets a somber tone for the slate of features to follow.

The “Fishless Sea” documents the challenge fishermen in Gaza face in sustaining this age-old tradition in the face of the borders erected during the occupation. It leaves us wondering, How can there be borders in something as boundless as Earth’s waters?

Under the Oslo Agreements, the fishing range for Palestinian fishermen was 20 nautical miles. Over the years, however, the Israeli military dramatically reduced this range simply by harassing and jailing anyone who dared to go past the seemingly arbitrary limit. For a brief period, Israel expanded the range to six miles, only to once again reduce it, ostensibly in response to missile fire coming from the strip.

The fishermen are not allowed to go further than 3-4 nautical miles and that very limited perimeter has them mired in depleted waters, where few sardines remain. Abu Alaa’, the patriarch, poignantly talks about taking out a bank loan so his oldest son can get married. Despite what is clearly economic violence, he and his family remain stoic in the face of it, with the past continuing to live in their hearts, albeit spoken of wistfully. “The sea is all they know,” he says, and he remains anchored there, despite the invisible but stark chains the state has placed in his path.

The Bride Dress,” similarly, is the story of how checkpoints box something as intensely human as marriage in a checkmate. The film captures the journey of two Palestinian brides, Lubna and Sumoud, who share the same wedding dress and the same challenge of having their grooms there for their weddings. A political prisoner, Sumoud’s fiancé watches his engagement party on video from behind bars.

Lubna’s groom, denied an entry permit, has to be smuggled into Nazareth. What could be perhaps shocking to a Western audience is that this situation is not uncommon. Israel currently has a 18-year-old ban on family reunification, known as the Citizenship Law. The family reunification ban was passed in 2003 as a temporary security measure in the wake of the Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada. The law has been renewed every year since. This law keeps some married couples permanently apart. As one of the women in the documentary puts it, “It is easier for me to marry a foreigner than to marry someone from the West Bank or Gaza.” “This is sick, but what can we do?”

In both of these documentaries, we see very little overt pathos or polemics; it is almost as if the characters have internalized these borders and found a way to resist them by holding on to celebrations ever so staunchly and bravely. In a scene where Lubna tries on her wedding dress for the first time, her family invites her fiance Abdallah to take a selfie as it might be the only photo they have from their wedding day if he is not able to come. Lubna’s mother reassures her with “I hope your groom will come, honey,” in a scene so poignant in its banality. Clearly, this is a fate that is felt by others, too.

Both of these documentaries also portray life in occupation in all its surprising normalcy. In The Bride Dress, we are treated to many scenes of the pre-wedding festivities, such as the dolma rolling party and the henna hand-painting, along with the singing of traditional songs. We see the bride and her family going through the same universal trepidations of leaving one’s family and starting on a new chapter of one’s life. The films offer such a rich, engrossing immersion of everyday life behind borders.

Though the festival was October 21-24, you can still stream the films on other platforms, and support the DCPFAF through volunteering and donating.

To learn more about the DC Palestinian Film & Arts Festival, visit dcpfaf.org. Follow the festival on Instagram @dcpfaf.

 

Show Me the Money: Representation of Women + Capital in Media

My article for District Fray Magazine

Shakira sang about she wolves in the closet, which (albeit not) might as well have been a reference to the absence of popular media portrayal of the She Wolves of Wall Street. Kept pent up for far too long, women’s roars are finally falling on some eager ears. 

In reality and on screen, Wall Street has been a boy’s club. Not only are women less represented, but they are also less remunerated. Citi — one of the world’s largest banks– reported in 2019 that its female employees earn 29 percent less than its male employees globally.

But women are wresting the wads away from the dominant grasp in some surprising ways, including starting their own investing clubs and creating new enterprises during the pandemic.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are some bankable portrayals of women and money:

  1. Equity–is a corporate thriller that follows Naomi Bishop, an investment banker working on the IPO launch of a Silicon Valley company. While taut and engaging (and thrilling), it is also a very sophisticated exploration of the power dynamics on Wall Street between and among genders. One of the most memorable lines from the movie is Naomi’s deadpan, “I like money.” Taking a Wall Street opening bell hammer to the groan-inducing gold-digger trope, director Meera Mennon, portrays women as enjoying the competition, the chaos, the hard work of their careers but the perks, too (hello, enviable power wardrobe). And while Naomi’s character has been a caretaker for those around her, she reminds us that “Don’t let money be a dirty word. We can like that, too.”
  2. Drug Short on Netflix’ “Dirty Money”–Dubbed the “femme fatale of short trading,” Fahmi Quadir, a brilliant short seller who left a Ph.D. program in algebraic mathematics for a career on Wall Street, takes on drug behemoth Valeant…and wins.The recent Gamestop kerfuffle and techbro Elon Musk’s relentless Twitter beef has shorted short sellers, portraying them as predatory. Fahmi is a testament to a different kind of a short seller–one who looks to identify corporate malfeasance and (yes) reap the rewards. When she says, “I do my work in the shadows,” she is referring to the fact that short selling is sleuthing and hours of poring over quarterly earnings reports. In other words, you won’t find the kind of information Quadir unearths readily available and even less so revealed by the companies themselves. Short selling is especially male-dominated, so this documentary on a world understood by very few is illuminating: “All short sellers are outsiders. And women are especially outsiders in this world,” says Quadir.
  3. Capital in the 21st Century–”We have a mythology that what’s good for Wall Street is good for Main Street, but that’s really never been true,” says Rana Foroohar, financial journalist associate editor of the Financial Times, in this documentary take on Thomas Piketty’s tome of a book. Foroohar’s commentary features prominently in the film. And her recently-released bookDon’t Be Evil: The Case Against Big Tech” is a searing indictment of the extent to which tech behemoths are monetizing our data.
  4. Bethany McLean’s podcast “Making a Killing” Known for her book “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” journalist and contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, McLean takes issues you may think you understand and complicates them, featuring clever titles like “Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse.” Her more recent 2018 book “Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking and How It’s Changing the World” is also thoroughly engrossing and a must-read for the energy heads out there.

While portrayals of women in finance have been scarce, the tide is certainly turning, as is the cash flow, with more women asserting their seat at the table at this former boys’ bastion.

Decoding Dog Behavior in D.C. Parks

My article for District Fray Magazine

Longtime D.C. resident and fourth-year PhD student in George Washington University’s Department of Anthropology, Courtney Sexton studies the coevolution of humans and dogs. She is particularly interested in nonverbal communication and behavior.

Sexton’s graduate program requires students to undertake an internship in the public understanding of science, promoting how to present scientific information to nonscientific audiences. When her internship project got funded by the D.C. chapter of the Awesome Foundation, she knew she was on to something.

“D.C.’s dogs and dog parks have been a controversial topic,” she says, “less so because of the dogs and more so because of their human guardians.”

She started thinking about the project at a time when the public discourse around dog ownership and public space was particularly contentious. And while many dog owners are aware of their responsibilities to their animal companions, they may perhaps be less aware of what their animal friends are trying to communicate to them.

This is how Decoding Dog Talk was born. Before the start of the pandemic, Courtney planned to host a series of Tail Talk tables at dog parks and recreation areas across the city where residents could get free information, diagrams and mini demos to help them learn basic principles of dog behavior.

“Most humans are not in tune to the subtleties of dogs’ language,” she explains. “Hint: Not all tail wags are created equally. Being armed with even a basic understanding of dog behavior could reduce stress on the animals and increase their quality of life – [which is] always a challenge for city pets – and help to avoid complications and confrontations with neighbors and other members of the community.”

After the fur-ruffling that New York Times article “The Dog Park is Bad, Actually” caused, this sounds like a much-needed thing to yap about. Dog parks are great places for play, but they certainly have downsides as well.

“The reason why I would like to be there for those Tail Talks is it’s hard to give general advice. The context is critical to understanding the body language of the dogs. Not all tail wags are happy. Also, the owners tend to space out while their dogs are constantly looking to them for guidance on how to handle social situations.”

Sexton says the way humans often view social and antisocial behaviors in dogs is quite wrong.

“I hope to impart on folks the importance of the contextual clues in body language and the trigger warnings that hint their dog is about to get into a fight,” she adds.

The fights between dogs can sometimes lead to their learning inappropriate behaviors like bullying – and then repeating those behaviors outside the park. Knowing how to recognize signs of aggression and learning how to control the dogs in that case is especially important. Simple obedience commands are critical in a dog park environment. While Decoding Dog Talk is on hold, learning about dog communication is definitely barking up the right tree. And as Covid restrictions lessen, Sexton plans to starting hosting safe, socially distant Tail Talk Tables.

“I was actually able to host one socially distanced Tail Talk Table at the Virginia Ave Dog Park a couple of weeks ago, and it went great.”

Learn more about Sexton’s project here and listen to her speak on the topic here