January 27, 2013

Moving on up

Hi. Even though it's been eons since I've posted, I'm always surprised to see people are still stopping by. As of today, you can visit me at my new blog, Jen von Williams.  I promise there will be more posts about the marvelous Duane Michals.

October 21, 2011

modern burl

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Modern Burl, coming soon to a downtown location near you. "Near you" that is if you happen to live in the Yukon Territory. If you're further afield, don't despair - visit us online at http://www.modernburl.com

September 14, 2011

coming soon!

It's been a busy couple of months. Work on the Eames inspired living room addition continues. and continues. sigh.

So does the scheming and planning for a wee venture involving a few of my favourite things and favourite peeps. Stay tuned.

July 10, 2011

urban dog stick

The Urban Dog Stick by Paul Gort. (Shown in walnut. Contact for other options.) For the dog lover who has (almost) everything.

Listed in the Canadian Design Resource. A commentary on the appalling lack of good sticks in the inner city. As Gort puts it "would you let your best friend chew on something he found just lying on the ground"?

May 15, 2011

at last!

After years of scheming, dreaming and anticipating, the "Great house addition of 2011" kicks off tomorrow. As planned, the new living space will be modeled after the Eames house with a few rather significant modifications for the realities of life north of 60.

charles and ray hanging from the rafters

charles eames: what is a house?

April 17, 2011

steal like an artist

I hesitated to post this since it's been making the rounds so heavily, but there are some gems in here. Austin Kleon's "how to steal like an artist and 9 other things nobody told me" can be found here. I really like most of his observations with the exception of "fake it til you make it". I've always hated that expression. Of course most of us, especially artists, walk around feeling like phonies. That's part and parcel of the human condition. I'd argue, if you don't feel like a phony at least part of the time, then you need to have a good long talk with yourself. But the idea of deliberately putting on a big fake face and pretending to be somebody you aren't or to know something you don't is really unappealing to me.

Here's #9 and #10 stolen from the artist himself. Check it out in its entirety.Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done

9. Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done.

As Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

I’m a boring guy with a 9-5 job who lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog.

That whole romantic image of the bohemian artist doing drugs and running around and sleeping with everyone is played out. It’s for the superhuman and the people who want to die young.

The thing is: art takes a lot of energy to make. You don’t have that energy if you waste it on other stuff.

Some things that have worked for me:

Take care of yourself.

Eat breakfast, do some pushups, get some sleep. Remember what I said earlier about good art coming from the body?

Stay out of debt.

Live on the cheap. Pinch pennies. Freedom from monetary stress means freedom in your art.

Get a day job and keep it.

A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Parkinson’s law: work expands to fill the time allotted. I work a 9-5 and I get about as as much art done now as I did when I worked part-time.

Marry well.

It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make.

And marry well doesn’t just mean your life partner — it also means who you do business with, who you befriend, who you choose to be around.

creativity is subtraction

10. Creativity is subtraction.

It’s often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. What isn’t shown vs. what is.

In this age of information overload and abundance, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what’s important to them.

Devoting yourself to something means shutting out other things.

What makes you interesting isn’t just what you’ve experienced, but also what you haven’t experienced.

The same is true when you make art: you must embrace your limitations and keep moving.

Creativity isn’t just the things we chose to put in, it’s also the things we chose to leave out. Or black out.

April 8, 2011

Iggy Peck, Architect

The perfect marriage of style and rhyme - Iggy Peck, Architect is a must have for art and design enthusiasts of any age.

Things are going pretty well for Iggy Peck, young architect until he hits the 2nd grade where teacher Miss Lila Greer makes it known:
"Gothic or Romanesque, I couldn't care less
about buildings - ancient or new."
She said in her lecture about architecture
that it had no place in grade two.
Miss Greer has her reasons as we soon learn but she comes around in the end after Iggy's skills save the class from certain doom when a field trip picnic goes terribly terribly awry. Clever clever clever story by Andrea Beaty and super cool illustrations by David Roberts. More please!

February 28, 2011

euro trash

Some might think it strange to covet a garbage bin. Those people have probably never seen a Vipp.

I first laid eyes on one, the Vipp 13 to be precise, in the bathroom of our rented apartment in Copenhagen. A thing of beauty that came with its own special roll of Vipp 13 liner bags, I knew at once that this was no ordinary trash can.

The first Vipp was designed in 1939 by Holger Nielsen for his wife Marie to use in her hair salon. Today, the family owned company is still going strong and has also branched off into kitchen tools and the like but it's that simple pedal bin that has earned them a place among the icons of Danish design.

February 12, 2011

evil people in modernist homes

I think it's a crying shame that modernism has become synonymous in popular culture with cold, clinical and minimalist to the point of monastic. Why is it that the evil, cold-hearted movie villain/pharmaceutical exec/global arms trader always resides in an uber-cool modernist pad while America's sweetheart would never be caught dead in a home boasting fewer than 3 shingle-clad dormers? Ben Critton writes about the phenomenon in "Evil People in Modernist Homes". Get your copy here.

It's lovely when a book comes along that showcases the humanist face of modernism. Leslie Williamson's Handcrafted Modern offers a peek into the homes of over a dozen seminal mid-century architects and designers. I was really happy to see new (to me) pictures of the Eames' upper rooms and found inspiration in the images of private work spaces and studios. I think my favourite picture is the one of George Nakashima's humble yet so perfect front door.

January 21, 2011

cool is just conservative fear dressed in black

I love a good manifesto. Yesterday I happened upon an interview on CBC Radio's "Tapestry" with industrial design guru/architect-of- the-creative, Bruce Mau, in which he expounded on his highly inspirational Incomplete Manifesto For Growth. Read it in its incomplete entirety here.

Reading through it last night, one of the tenets sounded bells and alarms in my mind, causing rusty dusty synapses to start firing and jolting me out of my (literal and creative) hibernation. Let's see where it leads.
A few selections:

1. Allow events to change you.
You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

9. Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

14. Don’t be cool.
Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

29. Think with your mind.
Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

December 27, 2010

FSA christmas

It's not popular to admit, but I'm not always drawn to documentary photography. There's often a perception that labeling a photograph as "documentary" automatically makes it truthful and without bias, ulterior motive or specific intent. I tend to feel quite the opposite about many "documentary" images - particularly in photography's current age of digital capture and easy accessibility.

I don't feel that way about photographs from the Farm Security Administration project. A few months ago, the marvelous and uber-talented Candice @ Sea of Tea posted some beautiful colour photographs from the FSA project database. This one has really stayed with me - there's something so pure and simple about it.

children asleep on a bed during a square dance

I spent a few minutes searching the collection the other day and found these pictures documenting Christmas scenes. The colour images are beautifully nostalgic - I like to imagine (fantasize) that it was a less commercial and more magical time. The austerity of the black and white images have a certain beauty about them though my heart aches at the thought of those families then and so many today who struggle to provide their children with the most basic of necessities.

December 22, 2010

have yourself a modernist little christmas

Growing up, gingerbread houses always featured prominently in our holiday traditions and lately I've been thinking about resurrecting the tradition for my household. Wouldn't it be great, I thought, to make a modernist version? A brief internet search revealed that many many others have been similarly inspired - with remarkable results.

Check out this phenomenal Eames house version found on Raymond Adams flickr page

And these fantastic submissions to a charity auction sponsored by Vancouver's Creative Room. In their words "... a candy-filled homage to The Case Study House Program organized by Arts and Architecture Magazine from 1945 to 1964. We asked the entrants to do away with ubiquitous veneer of jujubes and smarties in an effort to re-interpret the gingerbread house within a modern context."

Along with a few other random grabs. Stay tuned to this site next year for a Yukon modern version...

December 20, 2010

it's the most wonderful time of the year

With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings when friends come to call. It's the hap-happiest season of all.

Martin Parr, have I told you lately that I love you?

December 10, 2010

santa school

Whether you like it or not dear Readers (if you've been here before in December, you'll know that I surely do) the holiday mayhem is upon us.

Having trouble getting into the spirit of the season? Here are a few of my favourites from Diane Arbus to help put some stuff in your stocking and jingle in your bells.

Santas at the Santa Claus School, Albion, N.Y. 1964

Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, LI, 1963

October 24, 2010

stahl house

The tell-tale markings of winter have been upon us for some weeks now but it doesn't get me down because very soon we'll be California-bound again. We're trying to line up as many art and design adventures as can be allowed while still accommodating for pesky nap times. One I'm most looking forward to - in fact I get downright giddy at the thought - is a tour of the one and only Stahl House aka Case Study House #22. Perched high in the Hollywood hills, the home was designed by renowned mid-century architect Pierre Koenig (though reading this article, one wonders whether Buck Stahl himself doesn't deserve at least a co-credit). Even if you haven't heard it referred to as the Stahl House, it's likely you'll know it by that oh so iconic photo (see below) taken by Julius Shulman, the godfather of architectural photography. Case study house #22 is viewed by many as the pinnacle example of mid-century California modernism.

Here's that most famous photo along with one of the master himself at work.

I'm not at all fond of the term "bucket list" but I must say the chance to tour both the grounds and the interior of the Stahl house next month certainly ticks a major must do off my proverbial life list!

August 20, 2010

post cerealism

Today's bees knees award goes to the clever, the witty, the oh-so-magically-delicious Ernie Button. Even his name is cool.

Some images from his cerealism series. (Visit his site to see them all.)

(french toast canyon)

(cheeramids #3)

August 18, 2010

mossy delight

Got an email this week announcing that the long awaited moss bath rug by designer Nguyen La Chanh has finally gone into production. Normally the mere suggestion of fungus in the bathroom would be enough to send this recovering germophobe back into intensive therapy (I prepared it as I bathed) but there's something so comfy and organic and not at all gross about it. Add it to the reno source list.

So far the only place to get one is here.

August 12, 2010

i want to ride my bicycle

People who know me would probably be surprised to hear me express enthusiasm for biking. The truth is I adore bicycles. It's the uber sporty, hard core dude, Lance Armstrong loving, spandex wearing school of cyling that I don't care for which is sadly the norm in my corner of the world.

When I was a teenager I spent a year in Germany as an exchange student. One of the best things about that time was the euro bike I was given to tool around the town. Over the cobblestone streets I rode to school, the market, teetering home from the pub... good times.

There's something so civilized about those sturdy yet stylish euro bikes. I love this one - the dutch city bike from Vancouver's Jorg & Olif.

These days, I've got my heart set on the idea of somehow importing a Christiana bike from Denmark. Almost more plentiful than cars in Copenhagen, you'd see these put to use in any number of ways - to pick up the kids, groceries, de facto delivery vans... even the post office uses these to deliver the mail.

Here's one we spotted at Amsterdam's Foam Gallery on our last visit.

I'm not sure how exactly I think I'd be able to make my commute to town with such a bike (it involves a trip down the Alaska Highway which is bigger and busier than you might think), but if anyone out there has a lead on a Canadian or North American importer, drop me a line.

August 8, 2010

so hip it hurts

Our brief northern heatwave has passed only to be replaced by the return of the August drearies. ho hum.

There is a bright spot shining through the drizzle with this morning's discovery of Unhappy Hipsters. Reminds me a little of my favourite Martin Parr series, Bored Couples.

Stare all he might, he couldn’t wrap his head around how to panel the interior of the fridge with plywood.

Though the hike to town was back-breaking, they both agreed that installing a road would have ruined the juxtaposition of the built and natural environments.

Add this to the rotation along with Regretsy, Awkward Family Photos and Cake Wrecks.