Friday, April 30, 2010

Adam Wallacavage: Octopus Chandeliers

I just posted this on CRAFT, my happy find of the week! While perusing the BellJar blog yesterday I came across these enchanting cephalopod chandeliers by Adam Wallacavage, a Philadelphia artist who made his start photographing for skate magazines like Thrasher. The chandeliers were born of a maritime infatuation, and sport awesome names such as Miss Fede, Dixie LaRue, and Fenicologia.

"Inspired by an obsession with the ocean and a fascination with extravagant interiors of old churches, Adam transformed the dining room of his South Philadelphia Victorian Brownstone into something from the pages of a Jules Verne novel. Teaching himself the ancient art of ornamental plastering, Adam evolved his new found skills into making plaster cast octopus shaped chandeliers as the final touch to his underwater themed room."

Adam also keeps a photo and finds blog, Monster Sized Monsters, and has a book out of the same name at Ginko Press. You can find more of his work at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery. And, for what it's worth, I emailed Adam to get some pics and he wrote me right back and was very helpful. It's entirely exhilarating to encounter a professional in the true sense of the word. You rock, Adam!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Surprise Art Box: Strigiformes, Stage III

So the show was a success! SABP took over SOM bar in the Mission for 3 hours last Saturday afternoon and we had a really great time. There were fewer than expected artists, a tribute to the fact that everyone is so busy these days. But even so, we filled out the space quite nicely. To date I only have 2 of my 20 pieces left. The rest have found happy homes and I am thrilled.

I wanted to follow up on the painting process. Last post I wrote, only the 6 original watercolors and 20 transfers had been completed. All my small panels had been embellished with black and white owls. While these looked fairly cool, they did not feel complete to me and so I began adding color, something I was hesitant to do. At first I merely painted solid colors around the transfers. But then I began to do light washes over the owls and saw their features change and differentiate into truly individual personas. This was rewarding, creating new characters out of the same basic prints. Upon advice I started pairing up the owl prints and doing doubles on a single canvas. The more things I tried the freer I felt, and by the end I wished I had another 20 panels to paint.

For me, the greatest part of this process, start to finish, was having to let go of the outcome. That probably sounds trite, but as anyone undergoing a creative venture knows, where you start and where you end never match, and it's the challenges you're obliged to adapt to that make it great. I had starting this project wanted to do a new kind of image-making, and I think I achieved that. But I had also wanted to leave my controlled brush and penchant for color behind, creating spectral images that played lower notes. I could not accomplish this, and I can't say why. I hope in the future to better abandon instinct and explore new visual territory. That to me seems the mark of a growing artist. The ability to leave all past work behind and tackle something truly unknown. Regardless, I achieved my primary goal: fun. This was a great deal of FUN. And I got the paints out for the first time in a long time, and it felt great, and I think the series turned out wonderfully.

Surprise Art Box 03 will happen in September 2010. I have already started my next series. There is something so wonderful about the size and the price point — a winning combination for sure! Give me a large blank canvas and I panic. Give me 20 tiny canvases and I swoon. Next up, bugs!

Behind the Scenes, Photographing Flowers

Just a quick note of appreciation for the 'rents. There's nothing like blogging to bring the family together! I must have taken well over a hundred shots for Claire's How-To Flower post. And at the end of the day, when the light was fading and we were still experimenting with composition, my dad ran to the garage to get some natural spectrum track lights he just so happened to have. We were able to keep shooting and tweaking until the light was too far gone and the shadows were too prominent. You can see here (below) some of the issues we were dealing with — too top-lit, too many cast shadows, too blown out. All good lessons in image capture. Thanks guys, for all your hard work and dedication!

Friday, April 23, 2010

5 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Cut Flowers

Hi everyone! I'm super excited to introduce Claire Lee, my fabulous second mom. She's been putting together some excellent projects for CRAFT, most recently for their gardening theme, Bloom. Claire shared her tips and tricks for how to choose the best blooms, prep and care for your flowers, and put together playful arrangements. Make cut flowers a part of your day! Here's how to extend the life of your blooms.

When flowers are fully open, they are already at peak. Consider purchasing them when they are still in tight buds or just beginning to show color. I went to the supermarket after work and did not have much luck finding ideal flowers. You can see here (above) that most of the blooms were already way too open and displayed outdoors, subject to sun and wind.

I went inside the store and above are two examples of the tightest flower heads I could find. I would have preferred even tighter buds, but sometimes you make do with what there is unless you have the time to try another market. As you select, check the condition of the flower buds, stems and leaves. Eventually I settled on some hydrangea, ranunculus, and oriental lilies. With lilies, especially white ones, carefully check the buds for signs of bruising (bottom left). And be wary of those that have already opened, as the petals are easier to damage as you get them home and the pollen may have stained the bloom inside (bottom right). Be sure to remove pollen as the lilies open.

You want to see good substance -- no parched or bruised buds, no yellow where there should be green, the leaves closest to the flower in good shape, and no squashed or slimy stems. Robust stems not only do a better job of conducting water to the bloom but also have enough strength to support the weight of the flower head once it opens. Just as with any other produce, fresh is best.

How blooms are transported to the market, stored and displayed impacts bloom life. You do not want to see water on the flower heads, or caught between the stems, or inside the plastic sleeve on your bunch of blooms. This causes rot. You may not see the rot until you get home and open the bunch or find that your roses develop brown spots a day or two after purchase.

Let your flowers open in the protected environment of your home where you can enjoy the daily transformation of blooming. Tulips, my personal favorites, actually grow another 4 to 6 inches in the vase, and you will see this happen if you buy them "green".

Once home, prepare your vase, cutting utensil, and water. Make sure they are clean. Bacteria are the enemy and you want to minimize build-up. I use a dedicated pair of sharp scissors that I run through the dishwasher after use.

Fill your vase with enough clean water to cover the bottom half of the stems. Room temperature is fine for most flowers. There are a variety of water cocktails touted as extenders of bloom life. Commercial flower food works because it contains a combination of sugars, acidifiers, and mild fungicide. I have not seen research evidence that pennies, aspirin, lemon and lime soda, or vodka are effective. I just use clean water and simply change the water each day, giving the vase and tips of the stems a good rinse.

Prepping flowers takes time but rewards you with vase life. As the Little Prince said, "It's the time you spend with your rose that makes it so important."

Remove any damaged parts, making the smallest and cleanest cuts. This will minimize the amount of energy the above-water stem will spend sealing off loss of moisture, and reduce the below-water stem's exposure to bacteria. Remove any dirt. Remove any flowers and leaves below the water line. If you like the look of foliage in water, you can let the leaves remain and remove them when they begin to deteriorate.

Using your sheers or scissors, make 2 cuts to the stem. First, cut the tips on a diagonal. Then make a second cut up through the center of the stem. For roses and hydrangeas, I often cut 2 or more inches up the center of the stem, cutting through the first or even second nodule. Think of this as maximizing the surface by which the stem uptakes water. Hydration is the key to extending flower life. Place the bloom in water right away. Some florists advise making cuts under water to avoid the "gasp" effect whereby the flower uptakes a little bubble of clogging air at incision. I haven't found this to be problematic.

I like to use odd numbers of flowers, and often mix contrasting colors. If you have a weaker stem (like with some ranunculus) consider using a billowy bloom as a base, such as hydrangea. You can even arrange in hand, passing the smaller flowers through your support bloom to create a balanced presentation. When you're finished, cut all the tips to the same length, making sure to make both diagonal and vertical cuts, and finish arranging in a vase.

See what pleases you. Combine bought flowers with garden finds. Make the most of just one bloom, or mass many blooms together. Have fresh herbs around? Try parsley, basil, or thyme as foliage. How about Thai basil as your purple? Experiment!

Next time you pass a garage sale or a thrift shop, look for containers. Hunt around in your kitchen or your office. An interesting can or paper cylinder will house a glass or plastic cup of flowers. Consider the simple beauty of jam jars. Think of flowers and container in combination -- whimsical, unexpected, or sophisticated.

Once you have settled on your arrangement, check the water level at least every other day and replenish or change the water as necessary. Remove any deteriorating foliage. Trim the stems if they get mushy. I just change the water daily, giving vase and stem tips a rinse while I am at it.

Flowers do not age as fast if displayed in a cool, draft-free place away from direct sunlight. A single bloom on your bathroom sink will start your day with cheer. A flower or two on your entry table will greet you when you step in the door. A vase of flowers in the room that you haven't had time to straighten up will provide a little oasis for your eyes.

Whether your arrangements are spots of color and joy, a way to bring nature indoors, or a meditation on the ephemeral, flowers are a gift to the self and others. They invite you to contemplate beauty and make it part of your day.

ROSES: With rose selection, gently pinch the buds looking for firmness. Rock hard, they may have been stored too cold and will not open. Too soft and they will open very quickly, the petals prone to drooping.

DAHLIAS: As with any hollow stemmed blooms, invert the flower and fill the stem with water, trying to keep the flower head from getting wet. Seal with your thumb and place into a vase of water before releasing your thumb so that the water pressure keeps the stem fully filled.

HYDRANGEAS: Keep the woody growth on the stem length. Water uptake is better through the older stem growth.

POPPIES: As with any blooms that exude a milky substance, char the stem over a candle flame or dip the tip of the stem in very hot water before placing in the arrangement.

BULB FLOWERS: If you can get these with the bulb still attached, they will last much longer. Just clean the bulb, cut away any damaged roots and change the water at least every two days.

About the Author

Claire Lee is an artist and crafter, a mother to five (now adult) children, and a university administrator. She shares a love of art, music and books with her husband in their home near San Francisco -- and Paris remains a state of soul after having lived there for half of her adult life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Molly Hatch Ceramics

Ceramicist Molly Hatch grew up in close connection with nature and the practice of making: "My childhood was spent on an organic dairy farm in southern VT and a Quaker community in central VT. My love of ceramics comes from a family history of using our hands to make objects for use and contemplation. In my ceramic work, I aim to keep the family tradition of making the things we need and things we desire. I aim to design new objects and redesign old objects in the hope that the folks using my work will begin to see art in the everyday."

Hatch's style is unified but seems to draws from a number of world sources — there's a little bit of Delft flair, and references to traditional Turkish pottery illustration. Her newer floral work screams everything I look for in the thrift store for my disparate ceramic plate collection. And I just love the frames she's created to display her pieces, as if the wall was an extension of the art. If you're in the Bay Area this Saturday, April 24th, swing by LOLA in Berkeley to catch a glimpse of her new show. Be sure to take a look at her blog, and her Etsy, which is due to reopen sometime this spring. Check back if you're interested in placing orders! [via Design Sponge]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ana Kraš

Serbian designer Ana Kraš has created a wonderful body of furnishings that includes lamps, chairs, side tables, and a clothing rack. Her designs contemplate how we use the functional objects in our home, and bring the handmade and well-crafted front and center. My personal favorites include the Ksilofon, a simple construction clothing rack of understated elegance that blatantly thumbs fellow contemporaries of the ersatz plastic variety, and the Bonbon lamp series comprised of colorful yarns manually knitted over steel wire frames. Kraš most recently showed at this year's Salone Satellite, part of the Milan furniture fair dedicated to new and emerging designers. [via Design Klub]

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Social media has the rather wonderful role of global communion in instances of shared spectacle, atrocity, or natural disaster, be it ex-Guantanamo guards finding ex-prisoners on Facebook to apologize or, in this case, people posting amazing shots on Flickr of an Icelandic volcano stirring beneath a glacier. The world has been watching for days now as Eyjafjallajökull continues with the latest in a series of grumblings which began in December of 2009, this being the second eruption, this first to occur beneath glacial ice. This gallery was curated by Yahoo! Editors' Picks from various personal sets and satellite photos.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Bicycle Safari

Lawrence Lund runs the Swedish blog The Bicycle Safari, where he archives interesting cycle and ephemera finds on the street — custom bells, creative reflectors, homemade hacks, decals, logos, even neglect. I am particularly in love with the old worn badges displayed on the front fork, made even more beautiful by rust and weather. [via Notcot]

Fly Arts Group: Interior Design Typography

I found this on Design Work Life this morning and couldn't resist the repost. Witness: these incredible 3D letterforms in miniature, made by Russian design company Fly Arts. Unfortunately, the group's website seems to be down, and so it's been difficult tracking the making of this project, but you can see more photos here. The longer you look the more you find. Mind blowing!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

David Tomb: Borderland Birds

It's no secret, San Francisco artist and twitcher David Tomb has a thing for the winged, bipedal, endothermic, egg-laying, tetrapod vertebrate class, Aves. When asked, "Why birds?" Tomb replies "Well, birds are the bees’ knees! They can fly and they are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs. What else do you want?" and then goes on to describe a gothic memory from childhood involving vultures sunning their wings.

There is something about this image, and the nature of lore as engendered by memory, that faithfully describes Tomb's quality of painting. His watercolors are true to their ephemeral nature, the birds often poised in limbo, pending, the visible pencil sketch below urging gesture. Tomb is a studious form seeker, combing field research, live bird drawing (an admirable trait for such a kinetic subject), and sketching from real deal stills. His haunts outside the field include the California Academy of Sciences, UC Berkeley, and the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

The show at Electric Works opens tomorrow, Friday April 16th, and will include both works on paper and installation inspired from birding trips to the Southwest and Mexico -- the "borderland". His winged subjects include the Montezuma Quail, Aztec Thrush, Aplomado Falcon and the racoon-like coati. Read the interview by Sona Avakian in its entirety at The Examiner. Take a tour of the artist's converted police station home and studio at Apartment Therapy (simply stunning). And I'll see you tomorrow!
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