little painting for a little neighbor

Lucinda'sbirdMy friend Juli asked me to paint a story her daughter, Lucinda, told when she was 3, and I was struck by both the beauty of the story and the beauty of Juli's desire to hold on to it. One day when Lucinda saw her neighbor across the street lose his balloon, her heart was sad for him...but moments later a spark of hope across her face: "I know what will happen! A bird will catch the balloon with it's beak and fly it back to my friend!"

What a lovely mixture of empathy, hope and creativity in that sweet little one. And what a thoughtful mom to take note, to record the wonder of it like first steps that will eventually be skips, imagination that will one day give her little girl wings to help bring redemption in her own way...of lost balloons and hopes and dignity...

Designers Care

Well.....Howdy! After almost a full year I'm rejoining the blogosphere with a brand spankin' new website! Woohoo! Do you like it? Many, many thanks to my brilliant web coding  aficionado friend, Josh Harbert. If you find yourself needing expert web programing, Josh is your guy. I am so grateful for his thoughtfulness, ingenuity and patience with me through the process!

In other news, I recently got to join a group of talented, big hearted designers who are raising funds for folks who continue to struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Jackie Mangiolino of Believe Notes had the idea to rally her community of fellow designers toward the cause of hurricane relief and the determination to put a whole lota love and hard work into coordinating it all and violá, Designer's Care was born. I just was able to join a couple days ago with my Bear Hug drawing (above), but it's been going strong for a couple weeks and has already raised almost $900 in donations! The cards are all hand stamped or embossed and all the profits go toward the Red Cross's Disaster Relief fund, still very much needed for those rebuilding their lives after the storm.

I have so many favorites from the collection of designs, but here are just a couple... Check out the Esty page for a complete picture of all the indy design awesomeness and to see the different package deals, inks and paper selections to choose from.

"Tweet Thanks" from Melissa Egan of Pistols

"Strong" by Susan Asbill

Left My Heart by Jennifer Wick

Made with Love by Frooted Design


year in pictures

I opted out of the resolution list this year. The process was helpful last year. Though the product was a bit ambitious, I feel like putting desires to words helped me remember my direction, even if it's taking longer to get there. In the last several days I've read some thoughts that hit particularly close to home about the timing of resolutions; I felt free to let go of the need to resolve anything quite yet when Brigitte Lyons reminded me how busy and often emotionally taxing the holidays can be . And when I read Holly Becker's idea of making a list of the year's accomplishments instead of resolutions for the next, that felt spot on for me. Particularly because I process life a bit slowly, taking ample time to remember before deciding how to step forward feels like a relief. At the same time, Sam and I have been in the process of crafting our own traditions for the holidays and in general. Last year we decided on a new one: make a photo album every year around New Years of the previous year. We did ours through iPhoto, and it was such a fun thing to work on together. (of course, we both needed to occasionally express that we were feeling control issues when the other had the track pad/wacom pen for too long, but those are the very conversations that make a relationship strong, right?) And this was the perfect year to start, because it included several trips, so we had plenty of photos. The challenges of the coming year will be to take more photos of every day life, and to take more of family and friends....because evidently it's easier to obnoxiously make your spouse pose for 10 different shots in front of the same cool tree, we tend to have plenty of photos of ourselves, but not nearly enough of other loved ones. We'd like to also remember the good and the hard things pictorially somehow. We did that a bit in this book with an X-ray from one of Sam's bouts in the hospital, images of pages from poetry books that helped, and with a brief introduction before the photos highlighting some of the major happenings of the year. It turns out this year had plenty of intensely good times, but also more than the usual amount of hard times too, and we've been shaped by it all. When I do get to the resolution list (or intention list, as a friend gracefully puts it), I hope to have an better perspective of 2011 through these pictures and reflections. I'm thinking this will happen come spring.

The book had 64 pages total...Here are a few. The photo on the right of us holding hands in the garden was taken by Julianna Boehm. She's incredibly talented.

Our friends Robert and Erin made this vegetable garden in our yard and sold the produce in a neighborhood coop. Neither of us were ever very excited about having a lawn, so we felt so lucky that they turned our very loud weekly chore called grass into something so beautiful, and we were even more lucky that they had an excuse to come to our house often.

Sam got us year passes to the Aquarium for my birthday...

We went to bloody England for Sam's work!

And then Italia, Bella! This had nothing to do with work (other than, of course, the fact the Italy can't help but inspire art). We were already over there, so why not? yay!

Random shots in California (another work trip)


the cartoonist that helped me pray

It's August now but I'm still a little shaky from our July.... I'm thinking most folks who visit here know about this, but in case you don't or if you are new around these parts (welcome! btw) My husband, Sam, spent a week in the hospital and another homebound being treated for bacterial meningitis. We found out recently that he actually had a special kind of viral meningitis that looks like bacterial (tricky bastard). I am unspeakably thankful that my husband is almost completely well. He just went back to work for a full day today (it's been 2 and a half weeks) When we were in the hospital, Sam told me several times I needed to leave (I chose not to be offended!) He really wanted me to take care of myself too. So one evening I ate my dinner outside in the hospital courtyard. It had been days since I'd breathed fresh air and being there was a peculiar kind of peaceful, feeling relieved that Sam seemed to be doing much better, listening to the sound of falling water from a fountain next to me, but with the reminder of frailty still all around, especially when the helicopter landed on the roof of the emergency room transporting another person in desperate need, undoubtedly loved beyond words also.

That evening I had a little book of prayers that good friends let us borrow from the Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig. The book When I Talk to You is a collection of Leunig's images and prayers created for the Sunday Age, a newspaper in Melbourne. Leunig was originally asked to draw cartoons, but he felt as if there was a glut of humor and satire at the time, so instead he took on the challenge of creating a kind of public prayer. In his words:

It seemed to me that newspapers might carry some small spiritual message of consolation as a tiny reparation for the enormous anxiety and distress I believe they create.

The prayers themselves along with Leunig's view of prayer seems open enough to welcome people who aren't  religious, along with folks who are..(sometimes I wonder how much semantics plays into those divisions anyway, as someone whose learned so much about spirit from folks who don't consider themselves religious)...that's a big mountain of worms that I don't want to climb today, but instead, I'd like to share with you some of these beautiful prayers:

I like this one especially because it reminds me of my tool wielding, practicality loving Sam, who also has a deep respect for the intangible:

We give thanks for the invention of the handle. Without it there would be many things we couldn't hold on to. As for the things we can't hold on to anyway, let us gracefully accept their ungraspable nature and celebrate all things elusive, fleeting, and intangible. They mystify us and make us receptive to truth and beauty. We celebrate and give thanks.


We pray for the fragile ecology of the heart and the mind. The sense of meaning. So finely assembled and balanced and so easily overturned. The careful, ongoing construction of love. As painful and exhausting as the struggle for truth and as easily abandoned.

Hard-fought and won are the shifting sands of this sacred ground, this ecology. Easy to desecrate and difficult to defend, this vulnerable joy, this exposed faith, this precious order. This sanity.

We shall be careful. With others and with ourselves.


We give thanks for singers. All types of singers. Popular, concert singers, and tuneless singers in the bath. Whistlers, hummers, and those who sing while they work. Singers of lullabies; singers of nonsense and small scraps of melody. Singers on branches and rooftops. Morning yodelers and evening warblers. Singers in seedy nightclubs, singers in the street; Singers in cathedrals, school halls, grandstands, backyards, paddocks, bedrooms, corridors, stairwells, and places of echo and resonance. We give praise to all those who give some small voice to the every day joy of the soul.


God be with the mother. As she carried her child may she carry her soul. As her child was born, may she give birth and life and form to her own higher truth. As she nourished and protected her child, may she nourish and protect her inner life and her independence. For her soul shall be her most painful birth, her most difficult child, and the dearest sister to her other children.


God bless our contradictions, those parts of us that seem out of character. Let us be boldly and gladly our of character. Let us be creatures of paradox and variety-creatures of contrast; of light and shade; creatures of faith. God be our constant. Let us step out of character into the unknown, to struggle and love and do what we will.


Cumulous Peonies

I made this little collage yesterday from a handful of stories and songs and words and images that have been chasing each other in circles in my brain. Sometimes the best way to stop the chase is to just make something, I think.

It all started when I watched a documentary about gardens of the world hosted by the enchanting Audrey Hepburn. Reading about her afterward, I found out that when it was clear that her cancer was inoperable, because she was unable to fly on a commercial aircraft, Hubert de Givenchy sent a private jet filled with flowers to take Hepburn and her family from LA to their home in Geneva where they could spend their last christmas together before she died.

In the garden documentary, Hepburn quoted Anne Frank:""The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles."

In come the lines of Neutral Milk Hotel's "Aeroplane Over the Sea" about Frank:

What a beautiful face I have found in this place That is circling all round' the sun And when we meet on a cloud I'll be laughing out loud I'll be laughing with everyone I see Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all

And of course, for good measure, I simply must add a Mary Oliver Poem I first read on a lovely friend's blog (as I also remember her own poignant definition of grace):


This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready to break my heart as the sun rises, as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open-- pools of lace, white and pink-- and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes into the curls, craving the sweet sap, taking it away

to their dark, underground cities-- and all day under the shifty wind, as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies, and tip their fragrance to the air, and rise, their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness gladly and lightly, and there it is again-- beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open. Do you love this world? Do you cherish your humble and silky life? Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden, and softly, and exclaiming of their dearness, fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling, their eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are nothing, forever?

That's the big question...

I've been working on this poster in fits and starts for a while. Like so much of what Mary Oliver shares, I thought it to be a good thing to slow down with these words. Here's an extended passage from Long Life, the beautiful build up to the world's big question:

Poets must read and study, but also they must learn to tilt and whisper, shout, or dance, each in his or her own way, or we might just as well copy the old books. But, no, that would never do, for always the new self swimming around in the old world feels itself uniquely verbal. And that is just the point: how the world, moist and bountiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. "Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?"

Mary Oliver from Long Life

What a lovely invitation, don't you think? And one that only you can answer...and me...and everyone else...but only we can take our lives, our perspective, our utterly unique self and craft some kind of creative contribution, some kind of responce... be it poetry or painting or motherhood or engineering or gardening or whatever.

I have a couple more lines of Ms. Oliver's I'd like to interpret, at which time I'll print some posters and make a little package for her. In the mean time, we're facebook friends via her agent. Do you think she's the type to google herself and scour through all the webpages about her until she finds my blog? I think probably not. I'm pretty confident the surprise is safe.

the intersection of pr and spiritual practice

So I rarely write about my work here; in fact, I don't think I've ever written about my design work (!?) Considering this blog is directly connected to my freelance design business, this is a bit ridiculous. And herein lies my love/hate relationship with advertising/promotion....I love to promote the amazing work of other people through compelling design, but when it comes to self promotion, I get a little queasy. I'll spare you the whole psychoanalyses behind this, but I will say that I am working on it...and here's one way:

I signed up for Brigitte Lyons' PR Ideas for busy people newsletter

I've been designing for the amazing Brigitte Lyons, a writer and pr expert (check out her thoughtful blog, Unfettered Ink, that we rolled out this spring (with the programing finesse of Sam Hatchett) and the cards above, letterpressed by DeFrance Printing).  Brigitte's approach to pr/marketing throughout our design conversations has reminded me of what marketing can and should be about: empathy, generosity, consideration, the promotion of Good in the world....all things I want to inform my life anyway, even if I didn't have a business. So of course I signed up for her newsletter, and her very first post was about expressing gratitude to people you don't yet know who are doing work, saying things, crafting lives you admire. Not just thinking that their work is inspiring, not just telling other people about them, but reaching out and thanking them, expressing the finer points of what I appreciate about their efforts and creativity. Who wouldn't want to receive genuine praise from someone who gets and deeply appreciates what they do? Who wouldn't want to give that praise? What an honor to be able to gift someone I admire with an expression of gratitude...Maybe a relationship will form, but even if it doesn't, I get to wholeheartedly say thank you, and that's good for my spirit. And I thought, if this is part of what self promotion looks like, I can do that....


Have you seen Carl Sagan's classic series Cosmos? A couple months ago Sam camped out for a weekend or so and pretty much watched the whole thing. I also enjoyed several episodes, but since I felt like I could chew on the content of each episode for months, I couldn't quite watch them back to back like Sam could. A nice perk to having spent so much time with Sagan was that Sam developed a pretty great impression of his distinct, awkward but endearing speaking should ask him to do his best Sagan if you get a chance.

And speaking of fantastic Carl Sagan impressions, Jen Uman made these paintings; aren't they great? The rest of her work has a similar wit and confident humility about it...a celebrated imperfection that helps me feel at home and relax enough to laugh at myself and ask questions.

I've been chatting with a lot of scientists this week, since I'm with my scientist husband in Palm Springs CA as he presents at a conference on issues in his field of environmental engineering. It turns out that my favorite scientists are really just like my favorite artists: brazenly humble, incessantly inquisitive, and full of wonder.

On that note, I leave you with Carl Sagan's incredibly beautiful reflection on this photo of our home:

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds...

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

intelligence, creativity and androgyny

I read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink recently and continue to mull over his reference to Mihalyi Csikszantmihalyi’s studies on boundary crossing, particularly in relation to gender. Here’s some food for thought:

In Csikszantmihalyi’s research, he found that “when tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.....A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum of opportunities.”

This is a pretty loaded topic for me. I remember debating (as I often did) as a preteen with a male leader in my deeply conservative religious background about the leadership abilities of women....One of his statements, ever more incredulous as time goes by: “perhaps there are a few women capable of the kind of leadership necessary for a Supreme Court appointment, but those women would never be attractive to most men.” I don’t remember the other details of the “conversation” but I know it didn’t get any better. I left feeling utterly defeated because somewhere in the dialogue, my eyes welled up with tears, and I assumed he took that as proving his point: myself, an example of a female clouding logic with emotion.

Fast forward 20 years. I’ve found myself gravitating toward so many boundary crossing individuals, particularly in art school. I’m surrounded by a community of friends who value my varied contributions. I’m married to a man who deeply admires both my sensitivity and my logic. I should feel utterly free to exercise this wide repertoire of responses, depending on what’s most needed in any given situation. And while I’m more free than I’ve ever been, there is certainly still more growth yet for me in this place.

Compelling design (and while we’re at it, a compelling life) takes the ability to listen, empathize, generously also requires courage, assertiveness, and confidence.....wrap all these together into one person, and you’ve got a pretty damn attractive human being, male or female.

And while we’re talking about attractive people, you know you like that suit on David Bowie....

love, rejection, art, and taxes

Crush (cut and shredded love letters)

Rejection Letters

Undergrowth (cut and shredded portfolio of drawings)

1997 Tax File

I first saw this last image of Nava Lubelski's intricate paper sculpture of her 1997 tax documents over at Dude craft about this time last year, and recently revisited her site to see several sculptures in the series.

In her artist statement Lubelshi talks about the reminiscence of tree like cross sections in these works, where the concentric circles reveal the age of the tree and the climate changes through years of it's life. The act of sculpting these pieces becomes, in part, a desperate response to overwhelming waste, an attempt to "repair" the original tree.

I'm drawn to these pieces on so many levels, but I think one of the most exciting aspects about them to me is the way they make tangible a kind of spiritual digestion....the practice of patiently sitting with life, processing it/piecing it apart, and then letting the outcome of that time become the building blocks for new energy, new forms of creativity, the conscientious use of all of life's resources, making something good from what might have begun as "waste."

great food...and design that takes the cake

I just recently heard about Great Food, a new series of  Penguin books coming out April 7th that boasts selections of the "finest food writing from the last 400 years."

If the content of these books is as fantastic as the design, I think they just might be the push that transports me from being someone who tends to read about food prep. out of necessity, to one who could savor the food conversation as much as the meal or the rainbow binding of this set in my kitchen.

Designer, Coralie Bickford-Smith (also the master mind behind the gorgeous new clothbound classics from Penguin) designed the books with inspiration from ceramic tile representative of each era highlighted. She also worked closely with picture editor Samantha Johnson and lettering artist Stephen Raw. Judging from the outcome of this set, they certainly make quite the team.

For more info on the series and to see some books close up, check out creative review's write up .

seriously good new (to me) soup and salad

parsley Once upon I time I posted about the food Sam and I would make for our food coop on a quasi regular basis. I don't do this anymore because 1. it got dark earlier (ie before the food was photographable) 2. I realized that i most wanted to share the whole beautiful thing called of food sharing--not so much what we make every single time...we do our best, but it's not always blog worthy (my food swapping buddies are always gracious though!)

BUT, I want to chime in once more on the topic because I tried two fantastic recipes from two fantastic food bloggers and they were sublime; definitely keepers!

The first: squash, chard, pecan salad was from the lovely Jenny over at cooking with chopin. All the flavors blended so wonderfully but the most glorious and surprizing flavor combo on this for me was butternut squash + orange zest + parsley.

And second: bean soup with yumazing creamy sauce from the talented Deb at Smitten Kitchen. I couldn't get over the cumin seed crema (as you can tell by my portion). YUM. My local grocery store didn't have whole cumin seeds, but luckly I have a master chief neighbor who provided the goods in a pinch.

And a word about food cooping. It's really great. We now have four families in on the fun, and get this: once a month, we get a meal off! Since left overs generally cover at least Monday-Friday and weekends are for eating jellybeans, this means one week a month, we don't even have to cook if we don't want to. (I'm not serious about the jellybean comment, if you are wondering. But it is fun to eat out occasionally on the weekends. My new local favorite: Fork Heart Knife.)

So if you have some gastronomically compatible neighbors, I highly recommend food swapping.

the really big post card in our dining room

Sam and I recently had a post card from the 30's with a painting I've long admired by J.R. Willis printed on fabric via Spoonflower. (I actually found the email address of his grandson on a forum about the painter, wrote him and received the kindest response, sharing a family story and giving us permission to make a copy of the postcard  for our home. I love the internet and nice people!) We're enjoying the results; The painted desert certainly is a good coping mechanism for a native Texan and Floridian to get through the winter! The moire pattern and creases from the card amplified so many times appears like some sort of weave from a distance. And we're liking it with the drawing Sam and I made almost a year ago, when we had more walls than stuff to hang. We thought we would eventually fill in our paint-by-number version of Palo Duro Canyon (one of our first dates), and then had the idea of letting dinner guests paint a section with each turns out I'm too much of a control freak for that and we ended up liking the abstraction of the lines, so we left it alone. Now Willis's painted desert feels like it completes the space.

I remember when I first saw Sam the morning we ventured out to the canyon, he smiled sweetly at my camel brown shirt and his kelly green shirt and said, "Look! We match..." (he's color blind) I'm continually intrigued at the way he sees the world, in so many ways, but color seems to be a good symbol for us of the mystery and wonder of the other's perspective and the beauty of combining our lives in such a way that embraces both ways of seeing, physically and metaphorically. At the end of the date we drove past Ant Farm's Cadillac ranch, but since it was dark and we were in the middle of nowhere Texas (no offense, if anyone is from Amarillo...I think nowhere can be a good thing!), we felt our way through the field until we arrived, and then saw the art via touch (and a cell phone light). I've still not seen it apart from photos. The image here is by Wyatt Mcspadden. (Incidentally, I got that post card at Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center, which happen to be having an Ant Farm show the summer Sam and I dated long distance and "saw" their work.

The rest of the images are other things in our dining room: left over venus de milo candles we made for our wedding guests, our birds' cage, which might be modeled after the Taj Mahal, but it's an iglesia for our purposes where our adopted spice finches, Jesus and Buddy Holly live, and of course, a cactus.

The Disappearing Face of New York

I recently stumbled onto James and Karla Murray's book capturing mom and pop storefronts of New York (i'm slightly embarrassed to admit I found it surfing Amazon, instead of actually at an independent bookstore). On their site, they have a video of the making of Storefront, a project over the course of 10 years, where Karla admits that she was initially drawn to simply the beauty of these signs, the neon, the typography, the worn colors, but as they continued to shoot the stores, they'd get to know the owners, their stories, how they got into the business, it's glory days and now why the stores are closing, with the cultural phenomenon that wraps this point in history together with these lives.

Their progression of discovery reminds me of my friend Laura who memorizes poetry that she finds beautiful, but that she doesn't fully understand, so that as she takes it in, she can grasp it's meaning and relevance over time, internally. It's amazing what you can discover through dedicated looking and listening over time.

Sadly, more than half the shops captured in Storefront's pages have closed. I'm grateful that the Murray's took the time to make these photos and can't wait to study them all with the book in my hands.

the faces of the accused

The last several days for me have been rich with marveling at the work of unknown (at least in their day) photographers. First, the post on Poppytalk about Vivian Maier, the career nanny and secret photographer of breath-taking (often undeveloped in her lifetime) images. An now, the anonymous photographer(s) of the police department in New South Wales, Australia. These were the mugshots of the accused in the 1920s.

The french blog La boite verte shows an amazing collection of these images, taken from Peter Doyle's books Crooks Like Us and City of Shadows. What a difference these photos communicate compared to the common understanding of a mugshot. The photographer's sensitive eye seems to respect the complexity of the person and the poignancy of the moment when their lives will most certainly irrevocably change, either after committing a crime or being falsely accused.

Luc Sante offers his thoughtful perspective on A Very Short List, where I first read about the photos.


Tel Aviv

Berlin and New York

Lausanne and London

I'm late on the scene with this one, but want to share anyway, because Jan Vormann's Dispatchwork is fantastic. What began as patching World War II bomb and shrapnel wounded buildings around Europe with legos bricks, has crossed continents, enlisting volunteers around the world to fill the vacancies of  neglect or trauma in their own towns. I adore the idea of filling reminders of struggle, violence, or simply apathy in our surroundings with this rainbow of creativity, play, and childhood (in essence, the material of hope). You can see images from all the towns in which Vormann has practiced his dispatchwork along with images from volunteers world wide on his site devoted to the project.

via createyu and pinterest