repair work


pie + conversation


work table with pie and yellow fabric

Blueberry pie on a Monday morning in an art studio overlooking NE Minneapolis might be the best way to begin a week. We had the pleasure of engaging in a long conversation recently with visual artist Rachel Breen, as part of our ongoing activity, The Pie Project. As with much of our work, these things take time and attention.  Rachel waited months for the pie as we tended other projects in our collaborative; projects that are deceptively obsessive, riddled with quiet details and always, always involve baking.  In one year we had baked an enormous amount of pies and did a series of art actions-our own weird brand of slow, unscripted performance.  So we needed a rest from pies for a bit.  Finally, this autumn The Pie Project came to Rachel’s studio and, true to form, the topics were vast and deep: how to navigate creative collaborations, artistic processes (stalling out, dead ends, redirections), projects that never end, raising teens and repair work, physical and otherwise.

Much of Rachel’s art relates to the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam, or ‘repairing the world’ through human actions. You can see it in her ongoing series of sewn stencil drawings and in her sculptural work of mending fabric around rubble.  And you can see it on her sewing table, a huge pile of fabric scraps hauled back from garment factories in Bangladesh. Last spring Rachel and writer Alison Morse collaborated on “The Price Of Our Clothes,” a research and travel project about the ways in which American consumers are tied to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the garment workers in Bangladesh.  Rachel interviewed workers in the garment district, getting to know this vital community of mostly women, hearing their voices, recording their experiences and taking small, powerful steps to repair the world, one conversation at a time.


Patterns from a garment factory


Rachel Breen, blueberry pie, paintings and drawings


jeans mending rubble






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Benign neglect yields decent results



October sunflowers

In May, our duo threw some sunflower seeds into a couple neglected concrete planters on Dale & University in St. Paul.  After a summer filled with good intentions and no follow through we figured the plants had withered and died without proper care.  But not so.  On a windy day in mid-October, there they stood at the busy intersection, bright and cheerful, windblown and a little past bloom, but hanging on.  While I was loitering around the planters, trimming bent stalks here and there, a man waiting for the bus came over to make sure I wasn’t stealing the flowers that he’d been enjoying all summer.  I said no, explained that our duo, low tech/high joy collaborative had planted them, like it says on the sign. I also admitted that I hadn’t been a very good steward to the sunflowers, but in spite of that they still bloomed.  Then he asked me if I was active in my neighborhood ‘because that’s the only way anything gets done’. I started to say yes but he had moved on to the glories of the light rail and how living in downtown St. Paul is so easy for senior citizens such as himself and that next year I should take better care of his sunflowers. I promised that I would but he didn’t hear it, his bus was coming.


Test Plot #4 Sunflower Revolution 2015 stewardship hosted by low tech/high joy collaborative


Sunflowers facing south down Dale St.

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Between Two Poles

It’s as simple as that.  Send us images of your sunflowers and we’ll post them and thank you for being part of this season’s Sunflower Revolution.  These two lovelies have been saved from mowers, weed whackers, squirrels and the like to bloom for everyone’s pleasure.  Gratitude for being hopeful enough to plant a few seeds between two poles. Carry on!


revolution in SE Mpls

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Here’s a few remnants of last week’s Pie Project Fargo, where we served pie and conversation to visitors at The Plains Art Museum.

We stenciled the sidewalks of downtown Fargo with a washable spray paint, leading folks from the local art fair to us.  The stencils will fade away after a few good rainfalls.

We served ten pies over the course of an afternoon, inviting people to sit together at a large round table and have leisurely conversations. We met artists, educators, researchers, thrift shoppers,two chefs and one rancher.  We discussed pemmican, pie dough recipes and techniques, doilies, local theatre for teens, mincemeat, the dissolution of community meals at cattle brandings, and the ephemeral nature of our collaborative’s artistic practice.

Gratitude for everyone who took a seat with us and carved out some time to talk over pie.  We love you, Fargo.


downtown Fargo stenciling


ready for spraying


no questions, no cops, no problem


Next up is a nectarine coconut crunch pie


conversing with pre-teens


pie remnants in the staging area


going, going, gone

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Road Trip!


tart cherry pits

serviceberry, rhubarb, cherry, blueberry, strawberry, apricot…these are some of the fruits we’ve been busy transforming into pies for our High Plains friends up in Fargo, North Dakota.

Next Thursday, July 16th from 1-5p we’ll be serving pie at The Plains Art Museum, coinciding with a celebration of the Pollinator Garden’s growing season outside The Center for Creativity.

Here’s the details so come join us!

Pie Project Fargo
The Pollinator Party includes a social engagement project by the art duo low tech/high joy collaborative, who use their homemade pies as a centerpiece for conviviality and conversation. Marlaine Cox and Karen Kasel from the Twin Cities were charmed by the pie culture of Fargo-Moorhead and proposed linking pies to the Museum’s Fargo Street Fair events and the Pollinator Garden (fruit for pies need pollinators!). Stop in to see their “pie diorama” in the Steven Berrell Memorial Commons at the Center for Creativity, and (while supplies last) have a free slice of pie and cup of coffee and get to know others who stop in for this afternoon of hospitality and fun.


More reasons to head to Fargo:

The Fargo Street Fair will be happening Thursday, July 16 through Saturday, July 18

Thursday night karaoke at Sons of Norway Kringen Lodge #25

When we aren’t serving pie or singing karaoke we’ll be holding court in the Roof Top Hot Tub at the Hotel Donaldson.


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real and ideal pies


Strawberry Peach Pie with the crumbly top crust looming above


The no-butter crust: beyond the help of tools.

When the dairy-free Peach Pie recipe from a high-80’s American hippie cookbook instructs to ‘roll out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper to prevent crumbling’ you know you’re in trouble.  Add to that a filling recipe with no added sugar and three mealy peaches from the six reserved for the pie and, by executive decision it’s time to improvise.  In goes a scant cup of sugar, a couple handfuls of fresh-picked strawberries replace the lame peaches, the blanched and sliced almonds get 86’d, and cinnamon and lemon zest are added in defiance.  Then easy peasy, the lattice top crust is ready to assemble. Or not. The thing about substituting canola oil & soy milk for butter is that the resulting crust is a shadowy replacement for the thing itself.  Pie dough made with solid fat (butter/shortening/lard) creates a pliable, flaky crust of ideal handling, texture and flavor.

And crumble that crust did, like a saltine cracker. The only thing left to do was slap the whole mess (no loving criss-cross pattern this time) on the fruit filling, peel off the wax paper & throw it in the oven without much confidence.

Then a few hours post-pie delivery, the recipient sends this final pic, all soft-focus pie porn, with tales of its deliciousness. See? Rules are there for breaking.

strawberry peach

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the sound of happiness

Here’s a short video of our duo taking a break from a meeting at Episcopal Homes Senior Communities to play some ping pong. Another discovery: neither of us plays to win.

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