The Art of the Vote!

Takara Gudell of Takara Designs in Chicago, wearing one of her handmade Vote pins.

New pins at the Roadhouse to send a positive message

by Ari Weinzweig

I’m pretty sure that you won’t need me to remind you to vote in early November. My bet is you’re already planning on it. But, still, it can’t hurt to spread the word as you walk around town. Here’s a way to do that, support an amazing artist, and bring a bit of much-needed beauty to the world while you’re doing it.

These lovely pins are made by my friend Takara Gudell. If art is how you think, these pins say a lot. They have color—choose from purple, yellow, red, white, black and more. Clean lines. They look nothing like campaign buttons (which I used to collect back when I was a kid). Instead of small round discs, these are striking, lively, cut outs of the letters that spell out the word “vote.” To my taste, they’re bold, they’re beautiful and their message is about as All-American as it gets. My love for early Bakelite probably prejudices me towards the way they look. And my respect for Takara’s creative thinking and the beauty of her art, definitely biases me her way. But I do believe that they’re pretty amazing pieces, with a simple, colorful, engaging, easy to read, non-partisan, message. We have some in stock at the Roadhouse to sell, and I have a feeling they’re going to go fast.

About Takara Gudell.

Takara and I met at a conference I spoke at about 18 months ago. She bought all the books I’d written before she left, and we exchanged cards. We started emailing shortly thereafter. Two months later, Takara took to the road, driving up from Chicago to come visit Ann Arbor. Since then, we’ve shared stories, sadnesses, inspirations, ideas, articles, art, and aspirations. I put the story of the all too early passing of her brother, Kevin, into the piece I wrote about kindne a few months ago. These “Vote” pins are just one small piece of Takara’s art. Check out her clothing, jewelry, etc. at She, and her work, are amazing. Aside from her art, I’ve learned Takara also has a thing for marionettes, magic, good jazz, good food, meaningful connection, color, great design, interesting traditions, and exotic travel. And Octavia Butler. It’s no surprise, I see now, that we’ve been getting along so well! I’m particularly excited to be able to sell some of her work here in the ZCoB.

From all our conversations, I know that Takara has made her way through many obstacles to get to where she is. She has pushed through it all to become a model of positive creative energy towards which the rest of us—or at least, I—can aspire. I asked Takara why, in her already busy schedule of making art and jewelry, she carved out time to craft these new pins:

After watching the documentary called “All In: The Fight for Democracy” which is playing on Netflix. I’ve constantly gone through my mind about the previous election and how women have the power to support Hillary. I was ashamed to discover that WOMEN were uncomfortable with the idea of a female president. Made a choice not to vote. I believe that women have the power to change the outcome of the vote. It is imperative that ALL women vote! I’m also part of an initiative to get out the FEMALE VOTE! BUT we must REGISTER the VOTER!

About the pins.

In 1902, the year the Deli’s building was built, Carrie Chapman Catt founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance to spread democracy around the globe. Takara’s pins would probably have been a big hit. As Takara says, “It’s time to pass along messages to our youth about the importance of connections, social issues, and the value of human life. The slightest gesture can last a lifetime and help to redefine the life they’re experiencing.” The VOTE pins I would say, do that well. With dignity, no dourness, no finger wagging, no judgement. Just bright lively color and a simple direct statement made with style that can communicate in ways that lectures—even from loved ones—never can. But if you want to remind others about it as you go on your way through the world over the next month or so, here’s an easy, artistic, colorful and creative way to send the message. The role of the artist, James Baldwin said, is “to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are.” I’m guessing Takara can relate.

Takara’s birthday, I happen to know, is coming up on October 3. To honor her and the call to vote I’m going to buy a bunch of the pins and give them out as gifts. The pins alone can’t end the pandemic, racism, hunger or hatred. But they add a bit of meaningful beauty and a more positive message to the daily mix. As Maya Angelou said, “Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” And remember to vote!

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