Sarah Frances Kuhn Accessories

Artist & Musician Gina Favano gave me a tour & schooled me about grease-mobiles

By sarah

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simple, yet often forgotten reminders, in the windows as I walked up

Gina Favano is like the cool sister I always dreamed of having ( I grew up with many, many bros). She is a visual artist, badass musician in band called, Come Holy Spirit, and generally one of the most chill people in Pittsburgh.

She offered to take me around the brand new Blumcraft Building and  show me her art studio, which is located there. Her husband, woodworker Gerty Dutchovenmade me a piping hot cup of tumeric tea to take along for the second portion of my tour…thank you Gerty!


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The main floor is teaming with folks doin’ and makin’ up a storm including Just Seeds, Little Idea (the outpost of Big Idea Bookstore),  Glitter Box ( the building’s own theater that features music, yoga and theater such as the 10 minute Play Fest), Accessible Recording, Stone Fruit Community Herbalists, 1 Hood Media, WERK & many more…

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Downstairs there is a whole ‘nother level of stuff goin’ on…from a massive woodshop, to a metal-making zone, guitar-instrument repair shop, robot-machine-making area, a paint library & screen printing shop, a bike repair shop…and finally Gina’s little oasis of an art studio…which is tucked away amidst all of that!

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Gina & her artwork: She is currently working on a commission for a pet hospital, preparing for a solo show in Braddock, PA this fall, & beginning a series of Rock n Roll icons ( Roky Erikson is pictured here).

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Gina’s band, Come Holy Spirit, playing in The Glitter Box and an embroidered sign on her studio door, “that a nun made”. They will be touring this coming fall on the west coast, releasing another album and continuing to rock our worlds!

Listen HERE

Also, I had a few questions for Gina…

She casually mentions in her about page; “she converted a school bus to run on used vegetable oil and incorporated teaching coast-to-coast biofuel workshops into her modus vivendi as a touring musician”. I wanted to know more:

Yeah, I used to give workshops on biofuel – actually, my area of expertise was converting diesel engines to run on straight used veggie grease, but I have taught a few workshops on building bio-diesel processors out of old water heaters.  My first year in PGH, I taught a series of women-only mechanics classes where we covered basic car maintenance, and an intro to veggie-grease mechanics; that was cool.   There were a handful of years (pre-moving to PGH) there where I toured pretty incessantly, and teaching myself about alternative fuels became an important component for me psychologically – to feel like I was doing something to offset the fossil fuel dependency that touring requires.  Like, it didn’t make sense to me to be in a punk band singing about social inequity and environmental devastation, and then afterwards just be like, “ok, let’s get in the bus and drive five hours to the next show!”   Ultimately, it’s not a sustainable alternative for a variety of technical reasons (that’s straight grease, not biodiesel), but it was still time well spent.  There’s something to be said for having to filter by hand every gallon of fuel, and equating that gallon to each mile covered … not to mention challenging traditional gender roles, somehow that’s still a thing …  These days I’m more interested in making sure my vehicles get decent gas mileage, and exploring alternatives at home (like solar, rain barrels, etc.).

Do you still use bio fuel? Is there a way to still do this individually? I think Willie Nelson’s bus runs on this too, ha!
 No, I no longer use biofuel – it requires having a diesel vehicle, currently mine’s gas.  Also I think I just got too old/tired!  It’s really labor intensive.  Willie’s bus runs on biodiesel (or bio-Willie, as he calls it!)  – that means it’s a diesel engine that has not been converted to run on straight grease – rather, the fuel itself has been augmented so it can do in a regular diesel engine.
If you got a diesel car, the options are to leave the engine as-is and just run it on biodiesel (which can be found at many pumps at this point – “back in my day” we had to make it ourselves!) , or convert the engine to run on straight grease – this means, among other things, installing a heater in the fuel tank to make the oil thin enough to pass through the engine.  Although now decent used fryer grease is a hot commodity and hard to come by!  I used to be able to scavenge it for free – actually, on tour I would get up hours before everyone and try to find used grease in whatever town we were in!
I still think alternative fuels are a good idea:  Alternative fuels, yes!  Absolutely vital and necessary!  Straight veggie grease (which is different from biodiesel):  Not so much.  There’s not enough waste oil in the world for everyone to drive a greasemobile.  But it was a really cool boom in the 90s and early 2000s that a lot of us DIY touring musicians helped forge.
If you have a gas car, you can
make sure it gets good mileage, the tires are properly pressurized, etc.
What is your fave herbal drink or tincture? 
Oohh that’s a tough one.  I live with chronic pain, and herbs play a large role in how I cope day-to-day .  I love dandelion in all it’s incarnations; powdered, dried, fresh root, leaf, and flower .. I love it’s tenacity, it’s ability to grow anywhere, and deliver such potent medicine ..  I’ve been calling on the holy trinity of dandelion, burdock, and milk thistle tea for years, that never gets old.  I identify with herbs that thrive in difficult places: yarrow, balms, nettles, st. john’s … As I’ve gotten older, I find myself drawn more to herbs like hawthorn and black cohosh.
What herbs do you use before you sing?
There’s a product called “Singer’s Saving Grace”  that contains yerba mansa and licorice, I usually have that in my back pocket when we’re playing.  Energetically, it helps me knowing that it’s there if I need it.  Anything with slippery elm (like “Throat Coat” tea) is great before/after singing.  And of course yerba mate, I’d be lost without my mate’!
How do I stay limber/focused? 
It’s funny, performing is probably the main thing I do where I’m totally focused, and present .. for someone like me who lives in their head so much of the time, it can feel like I’m calling on all my faculties to bring it, and then afterwards I’m just spent.  Like, eat a big meal, go to bed, don’t talk to anybody the whole next day.  I make time during the week to go to the gym, do some tai chi, stuff like that.  I have to, or everything would just fall apart!
What is your spirit plant? 
Probably burdock.  She’s got those gorgeous, furled leaves, and is so spiky and belligerent on top.  The roots go so deep, and are so nourishing.  I love trees, too.  I love the Empress tree.  Curly willow.
And your Spirit Animal?
I’d have to go with the crow.  Resourceful, intelligent, independent, curious, survivalists.  Most of the qualities I look for in people.

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