Monday, July 28, 2014

Kori Jock's undies business creates a party in your pants

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
July 17, 2015

Kori Jock

Blend a sassy style with lots of cheekiness, and deeply rooted personal values, especially environmental sustainability, and you have the high-energy Kori Jock's La Vie en Orange, which turns T-shirts into hand-made underwear designed to make you happy. 

Everyone today talks about recycling: plastics, glass, metal, compost, paper. But underwear? 

Kori Jock tosses her head, her long brown hair flying, and lets out a long, delicious laugh. She laughs loudly and she laughs often. 

La Vie en Orange is Jock’s business of making recycled underwear, underwear she makes out of favorite old cotton T-shirts. That shirt you’ve been wearing since college, worn as your favorite pajamas, worn while doing yoga or jogging, worn around the house, suffered through stains and a thousand washes, maybe even used as a dust rag--now, in the hands of Kori Jock, can be reborn as your favorite pair of undies. 

Jock has been sitting at a sewing machine since she was 4 years old, carrying on the seamstress tradition of her grandmother. 

"She made underwear for my grandfather and my father," Jock says. "So it’s not so strange to make your own underwear in my family."

A native of the northern suburbs of Detroit, Jock first came to Kalamazoo as a student attending Western Michigan University to work on a fashion design degree in 2000. She fell in love with Kalamazoo, but then left Kalamazoo for Seattle--for another love. 

"My story wingle-wangles," she acknowledges. She moved to Seattle after dating Zac Brownell long distance for a year. "And it was worth it. We got married. But I kind of hated Seattle. I hated the weather. I missed my family. I worked as a fundraiser for a nonprofit for four years. I loved the work, but I didn’t feel like myself there."

To feel herself, Jock needed to tap into her creative side, and she needed to do it in her social-justice-ecological-organic way.

"I was involved in the peace movement in my college years," she says. "I learned about social justice. Working with fashion, I was aware of how the New York fashion world tells people they should buy new clothes every three months. That didn’t go with my values."

During her own financial low points, Jock started to make her own underwear out of necessity. "In what I call my gypsy years, sometimes I had money and sometimes I didn’t, but I still needed underwear. Victoria Secret was too expensive, and you can’t return something if it doesn’t fit. I was an athlete in college, so I had a ba-gillion T-shirts, all cotton."

Snip, snip. Jock got busy. A bit of elastic, a few key measurements, and she had made underwear that fit perfectly. "No more wedgies!" She laughs. 

Jock recalled that underwear nirvana years later, in Seattle, when she became frustrated with her lifestyle in a city that increasingly felt like a bad fit. By April 2010, after discussion with her husband about what they could and could not handle in financial risk, she ...


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bad Dates Turn Into Good Reads: 'Strange Love' By Lisa Lenzo

by Zinta Aistars
Arts and More program interview
WMUK 102.1 FM Radio
Kalamazoo, Michigan's NPR affiliate

Author Lisa Lenzo

"I don't see how you can go out in public with a man who wears a mullet," says Annie Zito's daughter, Marly, in the book Strange Love.
Credit Charlie Schreiner
"It's not a mullet," Annie replies. "He just has a few wispy pieces of hair in the back." 
"That's a mullet, mom," Marly argues. "And a bald guy with a mullet, that's as bad as you can get."
In Lisa Lenzo’s Strange Love, divorcee and mom Annie Zito is always trying to justify her latest bad date. Lenzo, a Saugatuck native, says the story is partially autobiographical. 
"I would come home from a date with somebody and think, 'I've got to write this down," says Lenzo. "This is just hysterical and sad and funny all at once."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Larry and Lina: Busy Chicago Poets In A Digital World

by Zinta Aistars
Arts and More program interview
WMUK 102.1 FM Radio
Kalamazoo, Michigan's NPR affiliate

Larry Sawyer and Lina ramona Vitkauskas of Chicago are busy poets. In addition to publishing numerous poetry books, they helped start the Chicago School of Poetics and are co-editors of milk magazine, one of the first online poetry forums in the late 1990s. You can find their work at Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo. 


LISTEN to the full interview.

LISTEN to Lina read her poetry.

LISTEN to Larry read his poetry.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Bard in the park, on wheels, with Fancy Pants

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
July 10, 2014

Brishen Miller and the Argosy

Shakespeare wrote that all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Fancy Pants Theater want to make sure all local parks are a stage, if not the world (not yet, anyway). Zinta Aistars checks in with the principals of the theater troupe.

With avocado green carpeting and orange chairs, a crocheted multi-colored zig-zag afghan tossed over the couch, the 1978 vintage mobile home called Argosy is a vehicle not only for road travel but also for time travel.

"The Bard would have wanted it this way," says Carol Zombro, executive director of Fancy Pants Theater. After all, Zombro argues, didn’t Shakespeare envision his theater performances under the sun and under the stars, out in the open air?

Argosy takes theater there.

Zombro is wearing a neon yellow T-shirt sporting the black silhouette of William Shakespeare, and with her is Ben Hooper, vice executive director, wearing the same shirt in neon green with matching green sneakers, along with a top hat, squeezed down tight over this curly hair. Brishen Miller, president of the board, is in neon pink and top hat, smoke curling from his lit cigarette. 

These three have been together since their years at Loy Norrix High School. They were already treading boards then. Staying together over the coming decade was only natural, and now, Ben Hooper says with a grin, they are all hitting their 30th birthdays in 2014. "I’ve already fallen," he says.

The threesome shares a sense of values. Money means little. Hooper shrugs. "Just keep me and my dog fed." He and Miller majored in theater arts in college, but Zombro tried a more practical route (a major in business) and hated it (she switched to child development). Practicality suits none of them. Getting creative, even in problem-solving, does.

They needed every bit of those creative problem solving skills when the two other organizations that previously made up Studio 246 on northern-most end of the Kalamazoo Mall decided to go in other directions. Fancy Pants could no longer take care of the upkeep of the theater or afford to pay the rent. They had no theater to call home.

"I was in a meeting with Parks and Recreation people to talk about holding theater classes for kids in parks," recalls Zombro. "We were talking about how Portage Celery Flats had closed and now no one was doing Shakespeare in the park. We should do Shakespeare in EVERY park! I said. That day I came home and starting looking on Craigslist. I found this motorhome that same day."

A vision of a traveling theater in the park blossomed. The Argosy was on sale for $27,000. That was the next problem, because Zombro and Fancy Pants had no money. Ever the optimist, Zombro called the owner and pleaded with him to hold the vehicle for two weeks until Fancy Pants could raise the money for a down payment.

"And then I begged and pleaded on our Facebook page for funding, and in one-and-a-half weeks, we had the entire $27,000," Zombro says.

The three headed out to pick up their new motorhome, cash in hand, sight unseen.

"It had an arthritic transmission," Hooper says. "Wouldn’t make it to Florida, but it’s fine for local."

"And we’ve had only one run-in with the law." Hooper grins.

First trip home to Kalamazoo, they were pulled over "by a cranky cop," Zombro says...


Photographer Erik Holladay, left, at photo shoot with Fancy Pants troupe