I have precisely 15 minutes to push out this missive, so I’m just going for it! Here’s what happened in the last month.
Chad & I went to Minnesota to hang out with my fam and do some co-working at Loose Cubes. But we also got a really stellar behind-the-scenes tour of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Designer Dante Carlos showed us their incredible library, archives, design offices, and introduced us to the rest of their design team. It was so incredible! I could have spent the whole afternoon pawing aroung in their library. Dante had the librarian pull some handmade pop-up books by one of my long time favorite artists, Tauba Auerbach. Wow, right? We even made the Walker blog too!
+ I started working with Aeolidia, I’m designing websites with them on the reg now.
+ Personal milestone: I turned 30! Pie-themed party (with requisite pie-eating contest, of course) was held at my co-working space Rational Park. (Semi-related, also designed & built Rational Park’s website with my super hero studiomates this month. Adding this ‘un to my portfolio, yepper.) Even though I’m thrilled to be 30 and enjoyed the heck out of my birthday, this milestone hasn’t come without some challenges, not going to lie. Growing pains as I spent these weeks not only evaluating myself but every aspect of my business, my process. Checking myself trying to make sure I’ve got my goals in focus. It’s exhausting, but man, so worth it. This is definitely to blame for my hard fall off the social media train too. And once you break the habit it’s really hard to get back into it, so I’m a bit breathless as if I were taking up running again. Plus, for the first time I noticed I had stage fright about what to post, which I admit is suuuuper lame, but there you have it. Blogger identity crisis. Progress is being made though, starting in five days, when I’ll be presenting about this exact process, on stage in front of several hundred people at WMC Fest. Either way I’m putting myself out there then, so I might as well bring it to this space too you know?
+ Randomizer.org picked entrant number 8, Brendan Beale from Australia, as the winner of the Sonnenzimmer poster! Congrats, Brendan! Sonnenzimmer & I are so grateful to all who entered.
+ What it Means to be a Geek offers the freedom to devour your interests with all the enthusiasm you can muster. Screw cool, care instead. I wish I’d read this when I was in high school or college.
+ Had a chuckle over the World’s Longest Invoice that’s been making the rounds this week. Currently the deadbeat clients of the world owe over 10 million to the freelancers who worked with them.
+ 37signals founder Jason Fried wrote an excellent article for Inc. Magazine on why most business writing is awful. Finally someone is stepping up to the plate and explaining the difference between compelling business writing and the watered down jargon-y crap we’re so used to seeing. Also makes an excellent case for using a more informal, conversational tone for online writing, thank goodness, I’ve been pushing for this for years.
+ MOXIE Conference tomorrow! I’m hitting the stage to do a mock-negotiation scenario with financial advisor Linda McCauley on how to wheel and deal like a boss. If you’re going, please say hello!!
Happy weekend! On the dock for next week: co-working tales & behind-the-scenes tour of ze Walker Art Center.
I’ve been wanting to explore Detroit for ages and finally there were enough reasons and planning to make it happen two weeks ago over Easter.
At the outset it’s hard to prepare for Detroit’s massive abandonment, decay, and poverty, even though I knew to expect it. To fresh eyes, large swaths of the city look, no jokes, like the leavings of a war zone. It’s pervasive, you can’t go more than a block or two before encountering it. Once opulently designed & crafted buildings are now windowless skeletons, sunken and rotting like forgotten jack-o-lanterns, scrappers having come and gone long ago. A particular image that won’t be leaving my head easily is the sight of the former Packard Motor plant. It’s a carcass that goes on for literal blocks. When Christina from printmaking shop Perfect Laughter showed us around her brand-new printmaking studio in the Corktown neighborhood she told us of the rubberneckers on the hunt for “ruin porn” documenting as if Michigan Central Station were the Acropolis or the Coliseum in Rome. And I can certainly understand that pastime, though it’s not my particular style, because the ruins really are a breathtaking sight to see.
Yet it’s undeniable that there are just as many marvelous things happening despite the sad parts of the city. Everyone we met in Detroit is doing something or working for something, their efforts beautifully poignant in the face of the city’s hard edges.
Culture is also on the rise in Detroit too. Chicagoans would not believe the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) rivals our Art Institute, but you’d be wrong there. It’s every bit as good, if not better. MOCAD, the contemporary art museum, is consistently one of the most creative and innovative contemporary spaces out there. Every visit it’s completely remade new and you can expect to be surprised, that’s for sure. This time around we enjoyed an incredible installation by Joshua White & Gary Panter’s Light Show. The best way I can think of to describe it as a modern fun house, a huge echoing space vibrating with psychedelic rhythm and sound. So intense it’s almost repellent at first, but then little surprises and funny things start appearing and then it’s all smiles if you hang out awhile. It’s like a little mini vacation, and a pretty perfect metaphor for how the city is itself.
We stayed at the adorably rustic yet modern inn, Honor & Folly, run by Meghan McEwen of Designtripper. The space was filled with plenty of handmade and thoughtful cozy touches, just as I imagined when I posted about it before. We made good use of the full kitchen and even hosted a meal with our families who hiked in from the suburbs to hangout.
Every place comes with a story in Detroit. At the Peacock Room, a little boutique near the DIA, the shop owner told me how she tore down the drywall in her space, only to discover it was hiding a 1920’s ballroom with mirrored walls, marble columns and tin ceilings. Talk about hidden treasure, eh? Or Café D’Mongo’s, a former speakeasy which is a feast of 1920’s nostalgia. It only reopened recently, pretty much intact from it’s original heydays. The charming & feisty older lady running the joint seems like she came back to life with the bar too.
We ate really well, plenty of BBQ and soul food, as well as fresh picks from the open air Eastern Market. Lafayette or American for Coney Island Dogs, though I can’t say I can tell the difference between the two places. Maybe the joy of a boiled hot dog in a white bun with chili and mustard is lost on me though. There was also plenty of music, we saw live shows almost everywhere without even trying. Detroit’s got Motown in its blood and that influence is clear. If there wasn’t live music at a venue there was a fatty juke box instead – the real kind – not the cheesy wall-mounted electronic ones with the same 20 songs that are popular in Chicago pubs. One place we went to (The Bronx) even has a bench thoughtfully placed by the juke box so you can get comfy while you rifle through the extensive collection.
The Heidelberg Project, while not exactly new (it’s a non-profit art installation that’s been evolving since the 1970’s), is a totally unexpected response to the city’s downfall. There is color and brightness on every possible surface, with bizarre objects in not normal places, it’s like Dr. Seuss came and built landscape with trash. Here it’s okay if nothing makes sense, it’s a nice reminder that chaos can also have beauty and meaning.
For next time: bookbinding classes at Signal Return that come with home-cooked farm-to-table dinner, another visit to the DIA, Belle Isle Park, a closer look at the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. I’m sure there’s plenty else to do and see, I just hope I get to come back for it soon!
Giveaways aren’t something I’m really all that excited about most of the time, but occasionally it’s just too good to pass up. Someone out there needs to have this gorgeous 18″ x 24″ screenprinted poster, with seven glorious layers of texture and color. By Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi, aka prodigy poster duo Sonnenzimmer. No one does gig poster design quite like Sonnenzimmer, not even close, which is impressive alone, but of course they don’t really stop there. What’s so brilliant about their work is the process doesn’t change much in any of the media they use. Whether it’s a print, a painting, installation, or even music, the project is structured around a system or concept, and then the ensuing visuals or sounds for the most part get to happen accidentally. That’s a decision that I have heaps of respect for, because it takes major guts to just go with whatever comes out of you, as it happens. And the outcome manages to be technically well-founded, elegant, and some how effortless all at once. Plus, Nick & Nadine are so gracious to be around, the types who just show up and get to work, sans bullshit. They’ve been a solid foundation of support in Chicago’s creative faction for years it’s only fair I should give them their due.
Further if you’re into jazz you can buy Free Jazz Bitmaps Vol. 1 and get a free copy of the poster with purchase. This album is a brand-new collaboration, a perfect little capsule of Chicago’s jazz scene right now. Have a listen here.
How to enter the giveaway:
1. Leave a comment.
2. Like Pitch on Facebook
3. Tweet it on the twitters, but make sure you @reply me.
You can enter up to two times! The giveaway will be open until April the 25th at 12am and I will announce the randomly drawn winner on Thursday of next week.
We’ll also be celebrating Sonnenzimmer’s new works and the album release on Friday, May 4th from 6 – 9pm at Saki. Live music by Nick Butcher, Katherine Young, Jenna Lyle, & Joann Cho. Free, as usual.