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  • Writer's pictureRenée Heininger

My grandpa yelled at me 10 years ago so I made a sticker and wrote 2,500 words about it

Get your free sticker and winding but worthwhile tale right here!

It has taken me forever to write this blog. I’ve written and rewritten it at least five times. So I’ll cut to the chase – I made a sticker!

A metallic sticker that reads It's Noise! Just noise. sticks to a guitar case.
My metallic IT’S NOISE! JUST NOISE sticker is great for guitar cases and is endorsed by Sean McVay of King Buffalo, who may or may not be my lover and is therefore required to put this on his road cases!
You can get one for FREE by just emailing me and asking me for one and I’ll send you one, or two or three if that’s what you'd like, just let me know. All I ask in return is that you join my mailing list, which if you’re reading this, you’re probably already on! If you're not, simply scroll to the bottom of this page and sign up. I know I’m giving away these stickers, but just sayin’, these are legit. From the printer: “High resolution, digitally printed stickers, using Greenguard Gold certified, eco-solvent ink. Vibrant, accurate color and photo realistic detail, color-fast print tech, protective laminate, and ultra strong adhesive that will allow your design to last for years, indoors or outdoors, on most surfaces.” 🥵 HOT. They come from Burlington, VT, and were coincidentally being printed when I was only about 30 miles away on vacation in Jeffersonville, VT. Okay synchronicity, we see you! Sure, you could totally stop reading this blog now, and just get some stickers, and that's cool. But I think this one is worth it. So, read on if you'd like to hear more about how and why I made this.

The process
These words – IT’S NOISE! JUST NOISE – have been in my brain for years. It’s something my grandpa yelled at me once, which I’ll get to. But first, the process behind the graphic. Last summer, in July 2023, I took the iconic family phrase and used our handy home label-maker to print out a few versions of it.

Labels that read It's Noise and Just Noise sit on a green background

I grabbed the tiny labels and my scanner and used the slit-scan technique to create a handful of glitchy images. I culled through the scans and once in Photoshop, picked out my favorite renditions of the phrase and ‘shopped them together. At the same time, I was preparing for an anthotype class at Flower City Arts Center. I decided to use this first version of the graphic for a red cabbage anthotype. Below is what that looked like, next to a separate turmeric anthotype, before they were exposed in the sun:

Two anthotypes sit in the sun on top of a fire pit on a patio.
Spicy. Or, cabbagey... (not as sexy). Note the turmeric paper at top featuring a photo taken by my sister on the dock of our family cottage. I'm just realizing now how it's interesting that I made that alongside the IT'S NOISE anthotype. More on the cottage later, in the Grandpa yelling origin story.

To get that swirl effect, I used two red cabbage emulsions – one mixed with vinegar and one with rubbing alcohol, but for the life of me I can't remember which is the more pink version and which is the more blue! I think the blue is the vinegar. Sadly, or maybe not sadly, rain got to my anthotype during the exposure process, and I got wet spots everywhere! This is what the final, swirly and blotchy anthotype scan looked like, without any edits or photoshopping:

An anthotype that is free, blue, and pink and reads It's Noise! Just Noise.
Later on in the summer, I ended up taking this image and printing it on the Risograph digital duplicator at Flower City! I tried a few different color combinations using fluorescent pink, blue, and green inks, and printed the anthotype results on 11x17” cardstock.
Art is pinned to the wall outside a wooden door.
My risograph poster pinned outside the Flower City Arts Center Digital Art Studio where it was printed. Thanks to Kylie for your help with these!
I have a bunch of these posters in varying color combos so if you want one, let me know! They’re free, I just ask that you pay for shipping since posters are a bit more laborious to mail. In hindsight, I wish I had thought to print these postcard size or at biggest, 4-up on the 11x17” instead of so huge, but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re just working through a process without trying to make something into the most perfectly thought-out finished product ever, right? Because they weren’t really meant to be a “product,” just a test of a process. Trust the process, baby! Anyway, they’re cool, just big and shipping is not my favorite task. If you’re in the Greater Rochester area, I’ll deliver for free, if not, just email me and we’ll figure it out! So, that’s basically where this whole IT’S NOISE concept stood up until a few weeks ago: a phrase that turned into a graphic that turned into an anthotype that turned into a riso poster.

It was a Saturday morning in late January 2024, and I was challenged by a book I’m reading to cross something off my list that I would like to do. I loved the IT’S NOISE graphic and knew for forever that I wanted to make it into a sticker, but I also knew the graphic wasn’t in its final form. So I went back to those slit-scans. I knew there was another scan from last summer of the top part – IT’S NOISE – that I really liked. With some more photoshopping, I created a new version of the graphic and was super happy with it. I like the impact of this second version much better than my first version. Once that was done, I knew I wanted the sticker to be metallic, so I did some research and found a company that could do it (and, yay, had a sale going on). I mocked up my 3x3” sticker and uploaded it and ordered it right that morning!

A mockup of the sticker that reads It's Noise Just Noise
My digital mockup of the sticker before I sent it to print.
One thing to note is there’s a lot more negative space at the sides than the top and bottom. I meant for it to be like that. However, I also meant for the graphic in the final product to be much closer to the bottom edge than it turned out. Look at how close the period is to the bottom edge in the mockup above – that's what I was going for. Wonky. Glitchy. Off. But when I received the digital proof back from the printer, the in-house proof crew moved it up a bit and vertically centered the graphic more than I intended. My guess is that the bottom edge was over the “safe line” and would’ve been in danger of being trimmed off. When I got the digital proof to review, I did see that it was moved from where I put it, but I approved it anyway, just because I didn’t want to think TOO HARD about this sticker and instead just get it MADE. Sometimes you just have to stop tinkering, dammit. But in hindsight, I would have done a bit more finagling with the placement myself. I also may have done a bit more processing/messing around in Photoshop with some effects if I were to do it again. But that's the beauty of trying shit and seeing what sticks, right? Ultimately, let’s consider this sticker a limited edition art piece prototype that I’m very happy with and that there may or may not be more in the future! I printed 100 of this batch to start. Again: just email (or text or DM me if we're cool like that) your mailing address if you want some. In exchange I’ll put you on my infrequently-used email list, which you can unsubscribe from anytime, but I think that’s a fair trade, no? I also think this graphic would be really cool on some other things, like a 12" canvas tote! Obviously, you'd have to go record shopping, and then put the records you buy in your perfectly-sized IT'S NOISE tote. What could be more iconic? Gimme ideas in the comments!

BUT WHAT ABOUT GRANDPA? So now, to the origin story of IT’S NOISE! JUST NOISE.

A charcoal drawing of an old man in a notebook.
A charcoal portrait I drew of my grandpa in the fall of 2012. This was a live drawing he sat for (while dozing off a bit). He was 84. I have it in my possession now and need to get a better photo.
Sometime during another summer, about 10 years ago, I was up at my family cottage for the Fourth of July. My grandparents, both now since passed, purchased the cottage in the early 1970s. It was theirs, but also all of ours. A bunch of the family – cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, and yours truly – had gone to the local Independence Day parade together. We took in the sights and sounds of a dozen regional high school marching bands, lots of free candy, classic cars, and rural pageant queens. I can’t say I’ve been to this parade much since; I've aged and the Fourth of July is a fraught holiday (okay, what isn't), but at the time it was a fun thing to do with family on a hot summer morning.

A slit scan of a parade photo.
A slit-scan of a parade photo I took in 2014, of the same parade. I don't think it was the same year as the Grandpa story. Note: I wrote this blog before the events of this past Wednesday, the mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. Awful. Heinous. All the things we keep saying over and over. It's just another coincidence that I'm publishing this now. However I did find, in the same set of 2014 parade photos, one of a man watching the parade in an NRA shirt that reads "FREEDOM." I think I'm going to have to do something with that.

In the car heading back to the cottage – Grandma and Grandpa's cottage, our cottage – we stumbled across Elton John’s “Rocket Man” on the radio. Someone turned it up and we all sang together, buzzing from the excitement of the parade. When we got back to the cottage the song hadn’t ended yet. I ran inside, turned on the radio in the kitchen and found the station we had been listening to – which, yes, means I changed it from North Country Public Radio, but remember, it was OFF anyway – and we resumed celebrating and singing. Now I can’t recall if my grandpa, in his 80s at the time, wasn’t in the room and walked in, or was there and just snapped, but suddenly he yelled at me to change the station back and turn it off, and finished with a stern, “It’s noise! Just noise.” I was SHOCKED. Color drained from my face. I was an adult, mind you! Well out of college and living on my own. And my grandpa YELLED at me. He was normally pretty soft-spoken and mostly kept to himself, reading newspapers quietly in his chair. But this time, in front of everyone, he HOLLERED! For playing Rocket Man?!? Perhaps the tamest song EVER? (For the record, my grandparents thought Sinatra was a "lush" and skiing was "too sexy," so you can see what we're dealing with here). I quickly changed the radio back to the NPR affiliate, turned it off, and walked out of the room. I was floored. The whole scene really threw me off for a few hours. We had all been having such a good time, coming home from the parade together, joyfully singing, and he hadn’t even been listening to the radio when we walked in (I definitely would have NOT changed the station had he been listening to it at the time, can I make that any clearer?). What was I to think? Eventually, my grandpa, the late, great Dr. Clarence G. Heininger, Jr., apologized not to me, but to my parents! Ha! It makes sense, though. This is a man who really loved us, but had a hard time actually saying it. Seriously, he could not say “I love you” back when I said it to him. Instead, he said, “I know,” or, “thank you.” So, the fact that he couldn’t apologize directly to me makes sense. I eventually got over it, after all, I was an adult. On second thought, did I get over it if I’m thinking about it all these years later? Let me know (or don't) 😅 For years “It’s noise! Just noise” has been an inside joke. It's something my boyfriend and I say to each other any chance we get. After my grandpa’s funeral in 2019, we shared stories both funny and touching of him over penne and wine at an Italian restaurant. I told that story. I also told the sweeter story of him helping me study for a chemistry exam when I was in high school. He wasn’t all edge. For a long while, I wanted to make the phrase into something; it’s just so catchy. That’s where my brain was last summer when I was working on it for the anthotype. And maybe I wasn’t so focused on making it a “product” because as much as I love the phrase, something didn’t sit right with me about turning it into a silly consumer item, as if I was making fun of my grandpa. I mean, he knew I was a little punk at times (weren’t we all?), but I loved him and certainly wouldn’t want to be desecrating his memory, or making it seem like this one thing is all I remember about him.
So what changed in January? As I mentioned, I have been reading a book. At some point, when I’m done with the book, I’ll write about it. But it’s been getting me thinking about creative input and creative output. And about how much input I’m allowing into my life every day, and how much output, or creative work, I’m putting out. For example, imagine this day, which we’ll call Day A: you wake up and check your email and text messages. Over coffee, you sit on the couch and scroll social media, or perhaps you turn on the morning news or crack open the daily newspaper, as my grandpa would. On your drive to work, you scan the radio and find something to listen to, or maybe you put on a favorite podcast. At work, you play a go-to album to get through some tasks. Once home after work, you relax in front of the TV. This is an input day. Now imagine this other day, Day B, or an output day: you wake up, get out of bed without checking your phone, and make coffee. You grab your notebook and journal in it for a bit. After journaling, you pick up your phone or camera and head out for a walk, taking photos of things you see along the way. When you get home, you go through your photos and casually sketch a few of them. Later in the day, you cook dinner and even have time to bake some cookies and dance around the kitchen while they bake! I know what you’re thinking: “This Day B person clearly has the perfect life where they don’t have any work or responsibilities and can play all day and just how realistic is that?!” Neither day is totally realistic. Day A, input day, is much more realistic. I’ve had plenty of days just like that. The output day, Day B, sounds more like an idyllic weekend day to me. I don’t want to give the impression that input is all bad. I mean, you chose the podcast and the music to listen to on Day A, and presumably the TV show as well. But what I am trying to get at is that I realized that I was living all my days like full-bore A Days, with pretty much zero output and creative play ever. And what is input, often? IT’S NOISE JUST NOISE Like I said, some of it is good noise! Listening to a favorite band. Catching a movie you’re excited about. Connecting with a dear friend on social media. But when the entire day is NOISE, even if some if it is good noise, it’s exhausting. Especially when you don’t get to pick the noise: when you’re watching a show your kids love but you really hate. Or when you’re overhearing a radio show you don’t want to hear, like that time a neighbor of mine hired a roofing contractor who BLASTED Rush Limbaugh all over the neighborhood. I probably yelled at one point, in his general direction, IT’S NOISE! JUST NOISE. So, I get it now, Grandpa. Sometimes, it’s just noise. My challenge to myself, and to you if you so desire, is to look at the noise in your life. Are we choosing the noise, or is it put upon us? Do you let your own noise out through your own creative energies? This isn’t just for traditional “creatives,” so to speak, but anyone! Your output could be dancing, cooking, baking, singing, crafting, thinking… I could go on.

All of this over a sticker? Yeah. This is just how my brain works. Sure, the sticker is a thing that could exist on its own with no context, like slapped on the wall of a bar bathroom. It surely will be at some point. But for me, the object is inextricably linked with memory and meaning. And I’m finding that every time I think about creating something, I’m more and more interested in creating personal “memorabilia” than just something that looks nice or cool. I guess probably all artists do that in some way, no? Yeah, I know that sometimes we need to just make something that looks good so we can more easily commodify it so we can make money to LIVE in this capitalist Hellscape, and I get totally get that, but man, I just can’t do that most of the time. For me, the juice is in making it personal. Even better if someone else can find meaning in it, and better yet if I can also live off of that meaning-making and meaning-sharing. Does everyone else know this already? Am I late to the party? Too bad because I am INTO IT now. This memorabilia concept is part of a bigger “life theme,” if you will, that I’ve been pondering lately. And maybe it’s an exhibit idea(!) (it absolutely is an exhibit idea). So, stay tuned for more of this concept as I mold it into something. Or stay tuned for me just making things that mostly only mean something to me, but maybe also you, and giving them out, and probably also selling things again soon when I get my shit together on that front. Thanks for reading and letting my little bit of noise into your life today. I’d love to hear your thoughts about any of it. Finally, thank you, Grandpa, for being yourself always. Thanks for delivering a line that will live in infamy forever, and that grows with me as I figure out just what kind of noise I want to let into my life, and what kind of noise I want to let out. And thank you for letting me poke a tiny bit of fun, wrapped in love, at that blasted summer day.
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4 comentarios

17 feb

Excellent storytelling. 💛

This is Rafferty as a guest poster. Subscribing to your newsletter now :)

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Renée Heininger
Renée Heininger
18 feb
Contestando a

Ahh! I am honored! Thank you 😘

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16 feb

I love hearing your thoughts. I can definitely relate to mostly A days but slowly working towards having more B days. Your experience with this helps me to understand these concepts so much better. You are a 💎 gem.

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Renée Heininger
Renée Heininger
17 feb
Contestando a

Thank you for always reading and being so supportive of my work! I still need to make you a "Site Member" patch hehe. YOU are a gem 💎

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