A nice person making cool things

I was recently over at Will Bryant's website and blog after Poppytalk spotlighted his amazing interactive magazine cover. On his blog, I noticed a post about a rip off of his "Nice People.." design a friend saw while at home in India. This was his response:

Typically when your work gets ripped, you’re upset by it. My immediate reaction to seeing this was, “whoaaa rad!,” which shortly turned into “whoaaa, wait a minute.”  This bootleg version of “Nice People” is extremely well done. In fact, so well done that I’m kinda jealous I didn’t overlay a pattern and print the type in in majik foil ink!

So what’s next? Well, Deepak was swift enough to get her email address and I’ve contacted the wearer of the shirt to inquire more about it’s origin. I think I might request to have 100 shirts to sell of my own, haha.

I thought his response was really beautiful and in light of the message of the design, quite fitting. Of course we should all strive to respect the creative work of others by not copying and of course there are measures to take when your work is in fact ripped off, but it's fantastic to see someone so utterly in love with making things himself and the creativity of others that his ego becomes secondary. I'd like to live with that kind of passion more. To see the bootleg version of his design, check out his blog, or for loads of other inspiring work, his website. (which, btw, leads with his mission statement of sorts: "I make stuff because I get sad if I don't")

Spaceships and Diaries

I fell in love with Esther Watson's work after I found her on a link trail a year ago, so when I saw that 20 x 200 was offering one of her paintings in print form recently (Denny's) I had to revisit. Growing up in Texas with a father whose hobby was building space craft machines out of scrap metal, she certainly has some interesting content to mine. She approaches her paintings from an intentionally naive brush, translating pages of her journals into scenes of childhood wonder, "through eyes not yet dimmed by disillusionment" in the words of the LA times. There is both a sweetness and a pang in her paintings, reminding me of the precarious lines between trust and doubt, stability/chaos, hope/despair we've all walked on the path toward adulthood and beyond.

The Layers of a Place

I first became acquainted with the work of Seth Clark when Julia Rothman wrote about his brilliant house flip book on her blog Book by it's Cover. When I clicked over to see the paintings/collages on his site, I was even more impressed. He's explored the idea of the ways buildings, particularly homes, age from several angles, many times maximal with layers upon layers of collaged elements, but sometimes quite minimal and restrained, like his flip book; but he always manages to say something new about the spaces in transition.

I think especially after being a part of two renovation projects his work speaks to me. The connection between space and inhabitants seems more real than it ever has before. As we've renovated our current home, we've collected the stories our neighbors have shared who've been here decades (even generations).

There are the glory day stories; in our case, when the house belonged to a couple named Bud and Ellie who lived here into their nineties after Ellie had been born in the home around 1880. Everyone likes to talk about how meticulous a house keeper Ellie was, sweeping the front porch almost daily at 90 years old (I've got no excuses!), their fancy victorian furniture, and their grape trellised path to the garden. After they died, the house was rented for decades and severely declined. So of course, there are the stories of brokenness, not only shared by neighbors, but clearly evident on every wall of the space itself when we first purchased our home from fanny mae back in 2008. As we proceeded with the renovation, mixed with our hope for our home's renewal, there was also sadness for the adversity the previous inhabitants had obviously felt, and though we never knew them, a hope for healing in those lives too.

For my birthday

I had an overwhelming desire to hug a penguin for my birthday this year, so Sam and I took off work/school yesterday and headed to the Newport Aquarium to indulge my birthday wish. We realized that while petting was clearly advertised as an option, hugging might be taking it a bit far. So we devised a plan for Sam to distract the biologist with his many erudite penguin questions while I went in for the hug. The rules were a bit stiffer than we expected. We weren't allowed to touch the penguins outside the several opportunities the biologist gave us while he held them before us on our allotted turn (and even that was just with two fingers, a far cry from a hug) But, there was no rule at all given to the penguins about touching us, and they certainly were not shy!  As it turns out, our penguins were particularly fond of dark gray tights, red shoes and fringy scarves. Even apart from the penguin birthing photo above, I felt much like their protecting mother bringing them two shiny red fresh pieces of meat for dinner.

Of course we enjoyed all the other animals too. Right after Sam snapped the photo of the big sea turtle above my head, he completely ran into that pole, face first (the turtle, not Sam). I think he must have had some performance anxiety. He recovered his dignity quite admirably and swam on.

Afterward we headed over to York Street Cafe where our host just happen to seat us next to the only aquarium in the house. We ate some amazing food, said goodbye to elvis and the angel and headed home.

PS Hope you don't mind my unprofessional photos. My sentimental self posted them. My professional self had nothing to do with it.

I Love my Hair


I just discovered the blog Treat by the talented designer, Derilyn Chambers. Treat has a thoughtful mix of visual and intellectual inspiration, plus some cultural critique for good measure.  The blog's on going coverage of the natural hair movement among African American women, particularly through the arts has been both educational and incredibly heartening to me.

Several years ago I remember basically accosting a women in the grocery store who had this gorgeous afro. I had to tell her how beautiful I thought her hair was (which is pretty strange when you consider that I'm enormously shy; and was even more so then). But her hair was AMAZING. And she wore it so confidently. I had no idea then about the million dollar industry that markets straighteners to African American women, didn't know about women suffering hair loss and scalp burns from the chemicals, didn't think about how that those straightening products were the outcome of a society that forces folks to look more white in order to get ahead....

Since then I learned about the artwork of Ellen Gallagher offering a critique of those pressures. And now, through Treat, I'm finding all sorts of evidence pointing to the embrace of natural hair in our culture.

The three brilliant illustrations are from the artist Andrea Pippins, also writer of the blog Fly. You can buy prints of her work over at I love my Hair.

The Sesame Street video has made huge waves, and this interview with the writer on CNN shares the interesting and heartwarming back story of the song's origins.

I love hearing about ways our culture is actually getting better; waking up and appreciating (instead of stifling) the many forms of beauty within it. And I love the artists who can show us what is truly beautiful.

Art as play


I love this video from Rex Ray that the extraordinary Pip over at Meet Me at Mikes shared a while back. It seems that for any truly creative work to happen, in any discipline, there's got to be a period of turning off the critique. Certainly there is a time and place for evaluation and that's a crucial step as well, but before that phase, there needs to be a phase of freedom, play, unconditional idea love, if you will.

One way that I'm practicing stepping into this uncritical space is a regiment of creative exploration without a strict agenda, at least once a week. Last week was the first one and it was FANTASTIC. I have to admit though, the decision to take a full day on unbridled creative exploration was a bit scary, but it helps to know that some big names who's bottom lines are just fine do the same kind of thing. Google, for example, pays their employees to pursue their own curiosity 20% of their working hours....one day a week.  That's pretty phenomenal. Stefan Sagmeister chooses to take a year every seven to recharge creatively and therefore professionally. His completely inspiring TED talk shares his rationale and the outcome of his sabbaticals.

Is there a way that you make space for uninhibited creative exploration? I'd love to know.


With the encouragement of the lovely Brigitte via Covet Chicago, I started crafting a personal mission statement. It had been in the works for a while. Sam and I even took a little self help vacation to read Stephen Covey and figure out our lives (and hike in the mountains and pick wild blueberries for pancakes and jump off cliffs into swimming holes...it wasn't all seriousness), but hadn't yet put it to paper. I'm certainly still in the process of refining this mission business, but I think I've got a draft that feels good and used that as the lense through which to envision the big goals of 2011. I say all of this in present tense, but of course, I'm so not there. I hope my life over the years will make these words more and more true.

So here's the mission along with 2011's resolutions, in no particular order:

I receive the present moment with gratitude and honesty Exercise really helps me become aware of the present by reminding me of my body. I'm shooting for 4 days a week

I approach the world with curiosity and wonder I'd like to read at least one book a month. This month is Gilead

I embrace my vulnerability and failures as opportunities for greater insight and deeper expressions of love and contribution I'm going to do something scary, where failure is very possible. Not sure exactly what counts as being my official scary thing yet. I'll let you know.

I practice dedicated rhythms of art making and cultivate artistic community A dear art conrad and I have resolved to spend 1 day a week in the studio together. I'd also like to comment a bit more regularly on blogs that inspire and challenge me.

I create compelling art and design for intangible things (ideas, organizations, stories, philosophies, observations, feelings) that are good (honest, generous, excellent, just) I'll be redesigning my own website to update it with current work, add some user friendliness and much more info. I'm also planning on opening a shop.

I hope for and work toward the redemption of discarded, forgotten stuff, dreams, and people I really like the idea of partnering more with kiva, particularly with the profits from the aforementioned shop, giving to international entrepreneurs as an entrepreneur myself.

I cherish my loved ones and allow them to care for me too Sam and I both want to be better at pursuing our friends, together and individually

I make and enjoy food as a way to care for myself, my loved ones, and the earth We will be achieving said friend pursuit often through feeding them at our house

I create and keep an inspiring, peaceful, and nurturing home environment This is year 3 of our continued renovation of what was once a crack house. 2011: finish floor 3

I leverage my life on the centrality of divine love and choose to embrace hope This seems like the trickiest one to pinpoint, but I think one of my biggest learning curves is expressions of gratitude...positive thinking...counting one's blessings...refraining from peeing on life with my negative outlook...how ever you want to put it

I revel in the gift my partner is to me and the world, and love him in a way that frees him to be more himself everyday More dates that are planned! Thankfully we get to spend a lot of time together, but often the time is on home renovation projects. 2011 will be the year of the hot date.

Phew, that was a lot about me. Do you partake in the resolution ritual? I have some friends who take a retreat every year on their anniversary (because they are friends who are married to each other) and talk through their missions and goals for the next year, all through the context of their marriage. Their partnership is beautifully deep and connected; I can't help but think practices like that have to do with it. And some folks take inventory on their birthdays...I just like to eat cupcakes then.

P.S. the wonderful yellow socked adventurer image belongs to Ivan Terestchenko and I found it via The Clutter.

Happy New Year!

It's Happening Now

Just This Once

Time got away from me before the holidays, and I became a very quiet blogger (I'm working on a New Year's Resolution for that right now!). So if you are back here, reading this, you are so very kind to stick with me! I'm sitting here with Sam, opting for a quiet New Years. Both of us are here on the couch with lap tops in hand, working on our resolutions. I know, that sounds consummately reclusive, but it feels SO GOOD for two introverts after a busier/travel laden/gregarious Christmas. I will share what I come up with later, but I wanted to just take a little break to share these images by Alexis Mackenzie that I saw on her studio visit over at  Fecal Face several months ago. She describes her work on the Beholder (where you can buy originals and prints) like this:

My general intent, throughout all my work, is to portray the world as a flawed thing of beauty - a place that shines brightly, but has a dark side to match.

As I was thinking about how life has been going of late, and how I'd like it to go next year, I thought of these compelling images for their present oriented messages, combined with their frail but beautiful collisions of nature. And now, after reading her intent, it feels even more fitting to ring in the new year with Mackenzie's creations in mind, crafting my resolutions and all the while knowing full well that I walk into 2011 both beautiful and flawed in a world that is the same. May we all revel in the beauty and tread gracefully through the flaws. Happy 2011!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTg6Gl3gD8M Stefan Sagmeister and friends launched their new website and it's brilliant, of course. The intro page is a webcam of their little office, with the navigation buttons actual stickers on the the floor. So we can all monitor their progress. I just checked. They are working now. Click on the video link to see the installation.

I have a special place my heart and my personal pantheon of design heros for Sagmeister. I didn't even know who he was till he spoke at my art school graduation almost 7 years ago. But since then I've shown his TED talks (this one and this one) to several classes I've taught and one gathering in our home....these are the kind of parties we have, where we invite friends over and subject them to our favorite TED talks. We have amazingly gracious friends!

Pretty Maps


New York


Aaron Straup Cope has made a brilliant series of city depictions, simply named, "Pretty Maps."  If I had any connection to Paris at all, that first map would be hanging in our house, it's so gorgeous. The warm translucent colors of these give me the feeling that they could be images from some kind of infra-red thermal camera of the city's life, where the heat from the ever active culture translates into shades of pinks and corals and golds. The aqua roads are an outlier for that metaphor, but they sure are good looking!

Here's what he has to say about the project:

I'd like to generate map tiles that give you that same dizzy feeling you get when you look down at a city at night, from an airplane. We've spent so long fussing over the relentless details in cartography that we've sort of forgotten what things (should) look like at a distance.

This August 2010 version of prettymaps is code-named "Isola" after the Finnish textile designer Maija Isola. At a time when the tools for making custom maps and bespoke cartographies are becoming easier and more accessible it is nice to look back at her work and imagine the maps she might have made if she were alive today.

You can find very affordable prints of this work at 20x200

Partners in life and art

Whenever Sam and I go to Ashville, NC, where my grandparents live, we like to spend a day downtown popping in and out of galleries and shops. A couple years ago we discovered the work of  Signe & Genna Grushovenko at 16 Patton, a husband/wife team who makes these amazing paintings together.

He creates the rich, washy underpaintings,  sometimes plaid-like, giving an impression of some kind of new family tartan. And she, with decisive and confident strokes, interprets moments frozen on paper from their collected and found photos, letting windows of her mate's unbridled abstractions shine through. I adore how their styles blend,  relating their rich layered paintings to our layers upon layers of memory. And I appreciate how their work is open enough for many to see their own family, their own past, in them.

Signe keeps a blog that charts their progress and the artists are offering deep discounts on their already reasonably priced work until February 28, when they move to a new state.

Public Domain Red Velvet Cake

I adore red velvet cake. It's certainly in my top 5 desserts, maybe #1. We made a couple batches of cupcakes last weekend to share from the recipe my mom always uses and added some aqua candy crystals through a snowflake stencil for the tops.  About 10 years ago my dad took the time to scan every old favorite recipe in my mom's accordion file and organized them in a book for my sisters and myself. Pretty thoughtful, huh? Now I can compare my food color stains with my mom's! (I must get my sentimentality from my dad)

After sharing our adventures in cupcakery with my dad on the phone, he told me that mom got her recipe from a friend back in the 60s, who received the cherished instructions in the mail from a fancy restaurant after requesting it...along with a bill for $100. yikes.

The whole story got me thinking about copyright law and wondering particularly if a recipe could be copyright protected. Turns out, according to this article in the Washington Post, it can't*, because instead of an invention, cooking is seen as an evolution. Interesting distinction, huh? I would argue that inventions themselves and any work of art are part of an evolution also. Nobody makes anything, discovers anything, in a vacuum. We're all on the shoulders of giants, right?  Such an interesting topic. (Did you know that fashion also cannot be copyright protected? Johanna Blakley gives a pretty fascinating TED talk on how other industries can benefit both in innovation and sales from fashion's free culture.)

So, I feel a little guilty typing the recipe on my blog since, #1 I don't even know the name of the restaurant to credit them and #2 at least in the 60s, they didn't want people to disseminate their cooking secrets for free.

HOWEVER, I do not feel guilty enough to not share that you can find the same exact recipe here.

*Now the particular way a recipe is communicated can be copyright protected just like a poem, but the actual ingredient list and directions are technically free. How to credit folks and when to share is a question of etiquette.

p.s. notice the thickness of the icing....I'm a maximalist when it comes to butter cream icing

EVERYTHING she eats...

Last spring I was enchanted  by a post over at Hello Sandwich all about art inspired by food, particularly Dawn Tan's devotion of weighing and drawing everything she eats. Now the idea of trying weight watchers and counting calories has been, well, severely unappetizing to me. Not because it would limit my diet, but because it would involve counting and measuring at every meal. But, funny thing, if I would have thought of this glorious idea, I think I would have really enjoyed the process, even with the extra step of weighing all the food before eating. I think this is because it's not at all about regulation (the purpose of weight watchers) but instead about acknowledgement and presence. The practice seems more like a religious ritual to slow down and attain some sort of deeper realization, as opposed to the pragmatic need of fitting into tight jeans. Speaking of religious rituals, Dawn shares on her blog that she even weighed the elements of communion during prayer before she partook. That is dedication.

It feels right to remember the beauty of Dawn's drawing and process as I approach this great big food centric holiday for the US. And on that note, Happy Thanksgiving! May you find yourself completely stuffed with enduring love, pleasantly satiated with really great food and utterly present to fully enjoy it all.

And btw, Dawn makes PRECIOUS illustrated recipes that you might want to buy for someone special this Christmas at her etsy shop

Glamorous Chickens

Ever since my friend forwarded to me the middle photo of a proud Silkie chicken, I've been collecting pictures of glamorous chickens. Isn't that a fun combo: glamor and poultry? This interest has obviously run deep because last week I had a dream that my friend and his wife renewed their wedding vows with a full ceremony, bridesmaids and groomsmen included. Except instead of bouquets the bridesmaids walked down the isle with big beautiful chickens following them. I remember feeling jealous that I hadn't thought of that for our wedding in the dream...

I thought I'd dedicate a post to these beauties, since I just recently found out that my little town is considering allowing coops in urban settings (before, in order to justify owning livestock in town you had to have some sort of physical or emotional need that made said animal(s) essential...and I just couldn't figure out which one of my emotional needs would justify having a chicken, so I'm glad this is changing)

The second two photos were found at my pet chicken (which looks like a great resource for folks interested in raising chickens.) The first photo is from the book Extraordinary Chickens.

Lace Fence

Fence inspired by the historic lace in The Design Center, Philadelphia, PA

image from pattern examples portion of their website

Windows of Nursing home in Zoetermeer, NL

apartments in Hague, Holland

Lace Fence is a company based in the Netherlands that focuses exclusively on transforming the idea and aesthetic of the chain link fence. I love how seamlessly the pairing of opposites works on these, the steal so believably becoming crocheted lace, utility and celebration are one. Pretty darn cool.

The Principles of Uncertainty

I've been gathering images from the web of Maria Kalman's paintings/illustrations for about nine months now, ever since I read about her show last march on Steven Heller's blog. When Design Sponge recently did an interview with her, I knew I needed to buy one of her books...Oh why did I wait?

I completely adore her...her paintings, her voice, her honesty and humor. She's so beautifully vulnerable and opinionated and hilarious.

So when I received The Principals of Uncertainty in the mail last week, I read it twice by myself and then when Sam got home, he kindly let me read it aloud to him, as if I was a first grade teacher and he was in my class. (This took a lot of love, because he was tired and wanted to go to bed, as it was late.) And I adored sharing it with him, just as I adore sharing it with you!

It's delightfully stream of conscious. (I smiled when I read a couple perplexed comments on her TED talk from the extreme linear thinkers in the crowd who didn't quite know how to take her) The book seems to come back to the balance of contemplating pain and loss, while embracing life and beauty, weaving the ordinary together with the extraordinary, personal and communal, tears and laughter, rabbits and fruit plates....it's fantastic. Now I need to buy all her other books.

Friday food share: pear salad

I'm realizing that with the changing light these days, getting a quick picture of our food share goods before we bring them over to our neighbors is getting to be more challenging...hence the absence of a post last week. So I will have to PLAN AHEAD. Truth be told, this is not something that comes naturally to me, especially in the food prep arena. So I will grow to meet the blogging challenge (and ya know, for personal edification and whatnot). And I'm sure my dear food swap buddies will be happy to receive their meals a bit earlier than my usual, ahem, 15ish (sometimes longer) minutes late...(yikes) But the floret on the salad is worth it, right? The deeper your hunger, that greater your enjoyment, right? No more excuses...I will plan ahead!

So this little salad number is not what we delivered for food share (we actually brought goods from a late season grill out, one of our go-too easy peasy meals for busy weeks), but we did take it to a potluck last night where we reunited with some dear friends. The constant of the salad is no 1. GOAT CHEESE and no 2. RIPE AVOCADO and then we mix it up with variations of other tasty morsels. I realize avocado does not sit well with everyone out there (but goat cheese, I can't imagine a non vegan not liking goat cheese...I'm sure there are good folks who don't, I just can't imagine it), but I will tell you that my non avocado eating friends have enjoyed this salad. Something about the combination of ingredients makes it more palatable for those who usually distain avocado green mushiness.

The other ingredients:

greens: in this case, Spinach, but we also use romaine, white heart lettuce, etc

fruit: pears here, but fresh strawberries in the summer are really good, kiwi is a fun (but slightly time consuming) twist, fresh figs, blueberries, etc

roasted nuts: we never used to roast our own nuts until a friend taught us how to make biscotti, but now that we do, oh my gosh, we're not going back. Especially when you get to eat the salad right away with the nuts still warm. yum. We just sprinkle the nuts on a cookie sheet and roast them at 350 until toasty, usually about 10-15 minutes. super easy. Anyway, we have almonds here, but have enjoyed roasted hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts

dried fruit: this salad has dark raisins, but you could do cherries, cranberries, yellow raisins....go wild

So this is pretty much the simplest salad ever. Sometimes we put bits of chicken or salmon in it to make it more filling and a stand alone meal, but mostly eat it sans meat. I actually enjoy this without a dressing, but we've put an olive oil + balsalmic combo on it before, which was tasty. Does anybody have other ideas for dressing? I'd love to be more versed in that realm...making your own dressing still seems pretty fancy and elusive to me.

To do list item: pick flowers

I know it's gotten bad when I need to put "pick flowers" on my to-do list. The last week has been kinda blurry due to loosing a day out sick and work piling up, but if I'm honest, it's more than that...A lesson I am forever learning and forgetting and relearning is the absolute necessity of life giving rhythms. And as I type right now, I'm trying to relearn after a some stressful, non rhythmic days. I remember, probably in one of the many sermons I heard growing up, when someone felt they were too busy to pray, they realized in a time of feeling overwhelmed, they were, in fact, too busy NOT to pray. And isn't it crazy that one of the first signs of stress is impaired breathing? The moments we need it most, something in us freaks out and causes us to deny ourselves what is life giving: whether that be prayer or breathing or picking flowers or whatever. So I'm going to go (and take my little freaked out, over stressed inner child, "come on, hunny" ) and pick some of those mums before our first frost takes them all away. Then I'll come back a little more on beat, good lord willing and the creek don't rise. What is essential to your life rhythm?

TED prize 2011

From The Wrinkles of the City series, Shanghai, China

From the Women are Heroes series, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

From the Women are Heroes series, Slum of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya

From the Women are Heroes series, Slum of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya

From the Women are Heroes series, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

From the Women are Heroes series, Favela Morro Da Providencia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

From the Women are Heroes series, Favela Morro Da Providencia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

From the Women are Heroes series, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Did you hear that 2011's TED prize recipient was chosen to be JR, the first visual artist to have won? I wonder if he's also the first TED prize whose work most always involves breaking the law? (it was funny to hear a Parisian state official interviewed saying something to the effect of, "Of course it beautiful, of course it's poignant, but he has no permit")  And I wonder how he will give his talk and make his wish as an anonymous street artist? It will be interesting to see, won't it?   What I would love to see would be the people who collaborated with him, all over the world, people who became his models and later graced the sides of 5 story buildings or became the eyes on moving trains that periodically met faces on mountaintops, get up and tell their stories and make their wishes. I think that would be the best fit for his work, where the beauty and strength comes from often ignored dignity, now visually shouted from tops of mountains and throughout town squares. Thank you, JR, for noticing such dignity and translating the heroes you met through your photographs and placement in a such a breath-taking way that the world can now also see.

For a little background on his Women are Heroes project, this video is tragic beyond words, truthfully intense and deeply beautiful....