Sunday, March 21, 2010

William Wilson: Barn Burnt Down

The gorgeous shots from Bay Area artist and photographer William Wilson are really inspiring my Sunday.

Barn's burnt down —
I can see the moon.
—Mizuta Masahide

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Polly Morgan: Taxidermy

Having worked at a craft magazine for some time now, I have experienced the rather frenzied upset that can occur in response to taxidermy. There is no doubt, dead animals hit a chord with almost everyone, though not everyone understands this work as true craft. British artist Polly Morgan actually has a disclaimer on her website explaining where the animals have come from and the nature of their deaths, as well as a warning not to enter the site if disturbed by the site of dead animals. But it was Morgan's love for animals and a desire to preserve them that brought her to study under Scottish taxidermist George C Jamieson, eventually gaining artistic acclaim through her baroque still lives.

Morgan is very intentional in her compositions and materials; the animals (mostly birds) are "traditionally displayed, but [placed in] less than expected scenery. The scale and settings are often unnatural, but the animals are never anthropomorphised. Seeing them out of place encourages us to look at them as if for the first time." Admittedly, seeing many of these critters with their eyes closed and necks bent in sleep-like or even death-like poses strikes a different tone than the expected natural history museum diorama setting. This, coupled with a frequent juxtaposition to wunderkammer objects, leaves no doubt the animals are on display, but to what effect? Oftentimes the viewer finds them self witness to a 3D Renaissance painting. Other times, a still from a Hitchcock film. Even a scene from a life not unlike our own, where the magic of an animal in life is kept reverently close in death. [via the Unnaturalist]

Friday, March 19, 2010

Surprise Art Box: Strigiformes, Stages I & II

April 24th marks the next Surprise Art Box group show, and heavens help me, I'm in it. Now, I'm not really an artist, I'm a designer. But I miss the brush and paints and the tangible satisfaction of the hand. Because my natural illustrative talents sort of dry up past verbatim rendering, I wanted to try solvent transfers (with a blender pen) to hopefully take my imagery to new and unforeseen levels using the transfer process as a buffer to explicit depiction.

Shown here are steps 1 and 2 of the complete process — the initial watercolor illustration (done from bird field guides) and the toner transfer on primed wood panel. To get the transfer I first scanned my watercolors in 8-bit grayscale, bumped up the contrast in Photoshop, flipped and printed them. I then photocopied the printouts with a toner photocopy machine. Note: you have to use toner, ink won't work; color photocopies are OK. Flipping the image is important (especially with type) because your print will come out backwards from what you see on the paper. I then held the photocopies face-down to the panels and used the blender pen to saturate the paper, transferring the toner to the wood. I should mention that I decided to do double transfers with multiple photocopy printouts, one atop the other, to darken the results, and I used a burnisher to help make the toner stick. Future steps are TBA, as I have no idea what I'll do next! Dare I introduce color? This is an organic if imprecise process. Stay tuned!

I should mention that I'm really into owls these days, and it was their spectral quality that led me to chose transfer printmaking as my image making method. I've been painting birds for a while, but when I found the owl illustrations in a 1961 second edition of Peterson's A Field Guide to Western Birds, I became enamored. They are no doubt agents of the spirit world — noiseless, mothlike, nocturnal, with almost tribal "facial disks" and feather tufts. My aspiration is that the imprecise nature of toner transfers will lend a ghostly character to these birds. So far I'm pretty happy with the results.

In case you're not already familiar, SABP was founded in 2009 by Bay Area artist Matthew Jervis. The basic idea was born of the mystery boxes available in specialty toy emporiums such as Kid Robot. An artist creates limited edition collections of 20 3"x3" pieces which are displayed in full but sold individually at random — the buyer doesn't know which one he'll get. "Its like a gumball machine full of cool art by awesome artists. Put yer money in, twist the knob and see which one you get." Be sure to check out Jervis' incredible 100 Faces project.

Studio Pepe Heykoop: Brick Series

Speaking of forward chandelier shapes, check out the Brick Series by Dutch artist Pepe Heykoop, composed of wooden children's blocks. The series originated as a exploratory reaction to a chair drawing made by James Gulliver Hancock (above). FURNISM will soon produce and manufacture the chair, an exercise in "extreme seating" no doubt.

Studiomama: Branch Out

Using a 3D scanner and 3D software, Nina Tolstrup of London-based Studiomama captured and digitally manipulated real branches into rapid prototypes, and finally cast branches. These cast pieces were then used as connectors between the fallen branches to make basic furniture like trestles, table frames, stools and coat stands. My personal recommendation: a branch chandelier. [via Design Klub]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tina Kalivas: Polyrhythms

It must be spring, because all I can think about is fashion. And that welling anticipation got kicked into high gear when I saw the latest collection from Tina Kalivas, Polyrhythms. Based in New South Wales, Kalivas "trained in London for 8 years by working under [the late] Alexander McQueen, Clements Ribeiro, Russell Sage and J. Maskrey has a very European influence in her designs. She studied period underwear and corsetry at the London College of Fashion and also worked on costumes in the film industry." Read more at Fashion Windows. [via Sycamore Street Press]

Monday, March 15, 2010

Advanced Style

You know what totally makes my day? Catching sight of an individual of a certain age decked to the nines at say, 11:30am on a Monday at the post office. You know the sort. Silver haired, in a tailored outfit replete with matching accessories and spiffy footwear. I don't know if these folks are merely products of their time (when kid gloves were required in town) or just super stylie all on their own. Either way, I am simultaneously awed and chastened by this artistry as I cast a clandestine look at my dirty jeans and duck boots.

The watchful eye of New York's Ari Seth Cohen has compiled a fabulous blog capturing this very subject, Advanced Style — "Proof ... that personal style advances with age. Respect your elders and let these ladies and gents teach you a thing or two about living life to the fullest." Yes, sir! This is what fashion is all about. Personal pride, flair, flamboyance, character, and having fun. While so many keep a skittish eye on the style blogs and sweat over next season's colors, these folks have found what works for them, and they are not afraid. In an era when obnoxious emphasis is put on youth and prescribed glamour, I find Cohen's collection aspirational. Lead the way, silver set!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Geographer Steals the Stage

Last night I had the substantial pleasure of attending Geographer's CD release party for their new EP, Animal Shapes, out now on iTunes and Tricycle Records. It's not just my involvement in the project that makes me love these guys. They're just really, decidedly, exceptionally good, and I feel very lucky to have been able to work with them and Tricycle. When they first went on, I was standing at the back of the Rickshaw chatting with friends. But as we pushed up toward the front, the full sound of the speakers hit and Mike Deni's voice just takes over.

Geographer may only have 3 members, but their sound is full-blooded, with lots of synth and polyrhythmic layering. In part, this is why I've decided to show a more intimate look at Mike making acoustic music while harmonizing with Kacey Johansing. He's one of the few musicians I've seen recently who understands his voice is an instrument. Though, don't get me wrong, GEO wouldn't be GEO without the swoon-worthy celloliciousness of Nathan Blaz and raging technical mastery of drummer Brian Ostreicher. Seriously, if you haven't already listened, do.

Cutting Boards, from Fine Little Shop

As promised, more from Elisabeth Dunker and her Fine Little Shop. I am enamored with these cutting boards — what a wonderful idea! Hers are made from hard density fibreboard (HDF), a type of hardboard composed of wood fibers glued under heat and pressure. I never knew you could imprint something like this with your own imagery, and I'm curious where or how she had these made ... Hmmm, maybe I'll just ask her. In any case, Dunker offers her one-of-a-kind kitchen helpers at a very reasonable price — a happy addition to any home.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nina Lindgren: Cardboard Heaven

OK, there seems to be an upward trend in diminutive cardboard dwellings. First there was Benjamin Van Oost's Favela, and then Anna Serrano's Cartonlandia. Now there is Swedish illustrator Nina Lindgren's city of dreams — Cardboard Heaven. I am just blown away by that work-in-progress shot. You can read more on her blog, which does include a translation button, though to indeterminate effect.

Eleanor Grosch: Spring Tablecloth

I try not to post too much from Design Sponge. (I mean, who among us doesn't look every day.) But when I saw this beautiful DIY spring table cloth made from IKEA towels by Eleanor Grosch of Push Me Pull You Design, I just had to share. The alternating blue line patterns give the tablecloth its French countryside aesthetic. And it only cost her $5 to make! Hmmm, I think it's time to finally get the sewing machine repaired. Check out her steps here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Elisabeth Dunker: Fine Little Day

I am perfectly, resolutely in love with Swedish stylist, photographer, illustrator, and prop designer Elisabeth Dunker. The woman has descended from the pearly palisades of design heaven to quietly bless everything she touches with her keenly poetic aesthetic. I will no doubt go on a posting rant over the next few weeks pulling from her design partnership, Lulu, collaboration with artist Camilla Engman, Studio Violet, and store, Fine Little Shop, which features a selection of vintage accessories, decorations, and clothes, all carefully selected or created by her. Today I will post, by way of introduction, a series of photographs from her blog, Fine Little Day. If I could select but one world to enter, this would be it. See more on her Flickr.
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