Friday, February 25, 2011

10 Lessons from a Designer

I believe this is what you would call re-blogging . . .
These are some insightful and thought-provoking lessons from Wieden+Kennedy’s Executive Creative Director, John C Jay: 10 Lessons for young designers.
1: Be authentic. The most powerful asset you have is your individuality, what makes you unique. It’s time to stop listening to others on what you should do.
2: Work harder than anyone else and you will always benefit from the effort.
3: Get off the computer and connect with real people and culture. Life is visceral.
4: Constantly improve your craft. Make things with your hands. Innovation in thinking is not enough.
5: Travel as much as you can. It is a humbling and inspiring experience to learn just how much you don’t know.
6: Being original is still king, especially in this tech-driven, group-grope world.
7: Try not to work for stupid people or you’ll soon become one of them.
8: Instinct and intuition are all-powerful. Learn to trust them.
9: The Golden Rule actually works. Do good.
10: If all else fails, No. 2 is the greatest competitive advantage of any career.
My aunt is an architect and designer and I know she holds true to almost all of these and has a successful creative business.    Here's a link to her work: Hayes Architecture and Interiors.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daily Photo Project #1

Ok.  Here goes.

I've been giving some serious thought to embarking upon a year-long daily photo project, and today I just decided to go for it.  As daunting as this sounds, there are many things motivating me to do it right now, namely the opportunity to grow as a photographer.

Ever since I was introduced to James Kochalka's American Elf, an amazingly simple and awesome and beautiful daily web comic, I've been noticing moments in my daily life that I want to point out/remember/express.  As a collection, American Elf is simple and poignant and SO inspiring, creatively speaking.  Here's the first one EVER all the way back in 1998 (and he's managed to keep doing it to this day!)

 I doubt that I'll be able to keep up this project as long as James has, but I had I similar feeling today as in this comic.  Here's my first photo to get things kicked off, but you can keep up with the project on my Flickr page: My Photostream

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beauty in an Elevator

I watched this video a few months ago from a friend who posted it on Facebook and it has stuck with me ever since.  I even wrote a poem about it to try to figure out what was so beautiful about this project.  But I'll let you figure it out for yourself. . .

Future Shorts: Lift

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Illusionist

We saw "The Illusionist" the other night and I can safely say that it's one of the best things I've seen this year, or maybe ever.  Here's a link to info and clips: The Illusionist

Not only was it visually striking but the story was beautifully crafted.  There were hilarious moments and really poignant and sad aspects but it wasn't heavy-handed. Pretty poetic in that way.  I was totally immersed in the world by the end. Highly recommend it!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Creativity and the Self

There's an article in the current Yoga Journal about pleasure in yoga practice by Sally Kempton, and there's a bit about creativity as one of the 5 basic levels of pleasure that are necessities for balanced life.  The 5 she gives are pleasures we get from sensual pleasure, loving intimacy, purposeful action, creativity, and of immersion in spirit (what you get at as a result of a yoga practice).

She defines creativity as more than just creating an object.  Rather, it includes the feeling of inspiration that results from a creative idea and discusses the physiological impacts on the brain.  All the the actions she mentions trigger the pleasure centers of the brain sending dopamine and serotonin to the cortical area.  But there is also a divine aspect of this moment of inspiration that speaks to the universality of the creative impulse.

Seed Stitch Cowl: Free Pattern

It's not often that I hope for winter to last longer, but I did while I was making this cowl. Months ago I told my dear friends Molly and Lindsey that I'd make them cowls, but (as usual) I got a little distracted with other projects.  Anyhoo, this one's for Molly and I bet it will make all the hipsters on the L train she takes back to Bushwick super jealous.  (Don't worry, Linny.  Yours is in the works and Boston will be cold for a while, I think.)

I didn't knit this one in the round but it still looks good turned on its side because seed stitch looks good on a piece whether it's upright or turned on its side.  So it's basically like knitting a scarf but you'll weave the ends together at the end.  You could also knit this in the round with size 17 circular needles and you'd have no seams, but you'd cast on the amount to go around the whole circle.

Creativity Road Block #1: Defining Yourself

You were fine.
Then you defined yourself.
Now, you need to de-define yourself.
Then you'll be fine again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reading Photos like Text

I've read in many places that when you look at an image your eye naturally reads it from left to right.  I always thought this made sense because that's how we read text, of course.  (What about people whose first language is one that does not read left to right?  Do they read images the way they read text?  I guess that's an issue for another post).  This concept can be applied to deciding on the composition of an image.  It's helpful to know how the eye reads a photo to know how you should position the various elements of the shot.  For example, as is discussed here: How to Use Lines, when considering how to position a diagonal line the best way to present them is to start from the bottom left corner running to the right at some angle.

How powerful this phenomenon really is became apparent to me when I was editing the other day.  While I was out shooting with the concept of lines in mind I took these photos:

Converging and diagonal lines are utilized. 
Some nice elements, but not the most powerful image, especially since your eye is drawn to the end of the hallway, but there's not much going on once you get there.  Kind of anticlimactic.    

Check out the next shot, though and see if you notice a difference in interesting-ness.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Need to Keep it Real? Wear Yellow Pants

Whenever I'm in danger of taking myself too seriously, I try to wear something slightly outrageous to remind myself that life really is no big deal.

Yesterday, my tactic was yellow pants.  Bright yellow, corduroy pants with my snow boots that are too big.

These guys definitely aren't taking themselves too seriously.  
Also, this is amazing because it was an ad for JCPenny back in the day.  Note the labels.
My yellow pants were liberating.  I walked more freely, not trying to uphold something, and it seemed to give others permission to so do, too.  People smiled at me more, nodded hello, and less people asked me if I wanted one of their fliers about a new sleazy club or mediocre restaurant (maybe because they thought, "She's wearing yellow pants.  She's no sucker.")

In conclusion, wear yellow pants to instantly brighten your day and feel more confident and creative.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Photography Elements: Converging Lines

Many great photographers were self-taught, and even though there are some elements of photography that have been intuitive for me, I (obviously) have a lot to learn.  In the absence of structure, I've given myself assignments to explore different aspects of photography.  I started off with Lines.

Vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved, converging; lines can be useful elements of composition, if utilized thoughtfully.  It is this moment of making a choice about how to compose an image that is one of the things that separates a lifeless snapshot from a more powerful image.

When I set out to shoot with the idea of utilizing lines, I found that I looked at things very differently.  I discovered new niches of my own town just by looking for particular things to photograph.  I reviewed the images later and found that I was particularly drawn to take pictures with converging lines being the main element.  I did this inadvertently and only realized later that it was something I was drawn to.

Digital Photography School talks about Converging Lines in this post: How to Use Converging Lines to Enhance Your Photography

Here are some of my photos in which converging lines are utilized:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How To: Unravel a Sweater

"Why, of all things, would you want to unravel a sweater," you may ask.  To which I would say, "How many ugly sweaters are there in one thrift store?  Answer: a lot.  And how much do you think all that yarn would cost if you bought it new?  Answer: probably about 4 times the price!"  So, of course you'd want to unravel a sweater if you want the yarn to make other, less ugly things.

Yes, unraveling a sweater for the yarn does take more time than buying a skein of yarn, and yes, it can be a bit messy, with little fluffs ending up all over the house for a couple of days.  But for the money you'll save and extra creativity kudos you get for knitting something beautiful out of discarded goods, I think it's worth it.  


The Blister Popped

In 2010, I worked on an organic farm and even though the work was hard, the hours were long, and free time was almost non-existent, I felt more creative than ever before.  I thought of all sorts of photos to take, ideas for concepts to connect them, I wrote poems, played music, and philosophized about the nature of things.  I'm not sure why this burst of creativity happened, but I don't doubt that it was due to the combination of the inspiring people I was with, the satisfaction I got from hard work and dirt under my nails and in my skin, and the very fact that I was working outside all day, everyday.

I recently heard of an interesting theory called "Earthing."  From the little I understand about it, I believe it purports that much of the dullness we experience in our daily lives, both mental and physical, is due to the fact that we have lost our connection with the earth.  I suppose my experience of increased mental and physical vitality and creative spirit while working on the farm would be evidence in support of this theory since I worked barefoot almost everyday for 8 months (not without some sacrifices made by my skin).

Here's one of the poems that came during this period of creative drive:

The Art Instinct

In trying to understand the traits that pervade humanity, we often look to the past.  Throughout human evolution we have created more than just objects of necessity, and there are many who have explored this concept deeper.  A book by Denis Dutton combines art and evolutionary science to try to claim that the creative impulse and art itself is not socially constructed, but rather innate.

The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton (left)

Here's a student essay reflecting on some of Dutton's claims:
The Art Instinct: Evolving Creativity

In my own life, I find evidence that the impulse to make things has been a part of me always.  Like most kids, I made little drawings, paintings, ugly things with glue and dried beans, but unlike some, I've continued to explore my world through these small pursuits into adulthood (if you can say that I'm an adult).

I see it in the kindergartners I teach: whenever there's a spare moment in the day, they want to draw, paint, pretend, or build.  The same is true in my life, and I guess Dutton would argue, in all of our lives, if we allow it to manifest.