I should just write. I should. Stop over-thinking it. Just….do….it. Okay, go. Now. I’m going. I’m starting, picking up the thread not knowing where exactly I left off or how to start or fill you in. Life doesn’t follow such a tidy narrative though, so I guess it’s okay if blogs don’t either. In an email from my friend Kate Singleton of Buy Some Damn Art / Art Hound said, any blog posts are good. Even if they are sputtering and sporadic.
I came down with shingles in August, with my recovery lasting well into September. The only explanation for why, in my case, was months of prolonged stress. While the virus wasn’t terribly painful – I was lucky in that respect, but it did cause 4 days of temporary blindness in my right eye, many doctors visits (thank goodness I have insurance), medicines, and strict orders to take it easy. Very easy. Okay message received, universe: clearly it’s time to make some changes. What changes exactly, I’m still thinking about, but I’m happy to report that I’m physically back-to-normal. After taking a significant break from maintaining any kind of personal work – ie this blog or anything else, I’m finding my way back to it. I get some flickers of inspiration here and there, lukewarm at best, so I know I’m not totally broken. But I knew travel would speed things up, and it just so happened that Chad & I had booked crazy discounted tickets to San Francisco way back in the spring so the timing was perfect.
The biggest reason for the trip was Tony & Kat’s wedding, but there were also self-assigned work: museums, galleries, literature, hiking, a golden visit to the Pacific ocean, a tour of artist Lisa Congdon’s studio, and coffee with Makeshift Society owner, the masterful Rena Tom. Our adventures took us all over the Bay area, on Bart, MUNI, ferry, car, bicycle, streetcar, taxi, and of course on foot. We saw more organic produce at the Berkeley Bowl than I’ve ever seen in one place before (Whole Foods included), drove legendary Highway 1 at sunset, noshed on a late night In-N-Out burger – animal style, dove into rich gourmet bowls of mac ‘n cheese at Homeroom, desserted at Tartine, and marveled at the highly technical event that is parallel parking on SF’s steep hills. And so much art – art, and people doing interesting things it was a feast for my brains too.
Thank you, California friends, new and old. The way you brought us so generously into your lives was all of the soul fuel I could’ve asked for. I’m looking for all the reasons I can to make my return and see some more of you soon.
1. Muir Beach Lookout. 2. Awesome logo on a Bay Ferry boat. 3. San Francisco’s literary festival, LitQuake plays hosts to comedian/novelists, David Handler and Andrew Sean Greer. Recap of the event here by my friend Margaret Edith Maggie who also kindly lodged us for a few nights. 4. I got chills seeing this couple unknowingly mimicking a massive Margaret Kilgallen painting at SFMOMA. 5. Woodland elf? Nope, it’s photographer Ben Speckmann in Muir Woods! 6. Lisa Congdon fans my already major lust for Scandianvia with tales her three week solo trip to Iceland, Sweden, and Copenhagen, and how it’s inspired her work. 7 & 8. Lettering inspiration dialed up to 11 at highly traditional custom sign-painting shop Golden West Sign Arts in Berkeley. 9. The ocean was so cold my toenails turned blue! Ah!!! Okay, not really. Just seeing if you were still paying attention.
All photos by me or Chad on iPhones or the Canon S100.
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?
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!
Okay, go go gadget blog post. Finally. Doing it. Noting the time, even: 1:41am. I’m not sure I’ve gone this long without posting before and it’s equally freeing and guiltifying. It’s been really tough to find reasons to post here, to be honest. And sometimes participating in the whole rest of the social media world totally usurps anything else I would’ve shared. It happens. I get over it and find myself back here. Hopefully you do as well!
In the meantime, I have been working on some extracurriculars though, with the likes of some awesomely talented people like Peculiar Bliss magazine and… Design Sponge! Really excited for the day when I can finally show off the fruits of these. And for photos, here’s some instagrams of my weekend inspiration trip to Milwaukee, ganked from my tumblr.