Date Archives September 2010

Masters and Their Crafts

This weekend I came across a couple of videos that seemed to have a common bond, that of masters and their crafts. It’s been said that it takes 10 years to master something, be it a language, Photoshop or something random like juggling. The guys above in these videos, Chad Robertson and Peter Welfare, excel in their fields because they’re passionate about what they do.

Mr. Robertson co-owns Tartine, a bakery in San Francisco where he hand makes the bread every day, in fact, the restaurant is now famous because of it. Mr. Welfare on the other hand is the president and head inkmaker at The Printing Ink Company. These are pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum yet their both still masters of what they do. They take extreme care in their methods and their craft is more akin to art than labor.

If you have the time watch both of these videos and soak in some inspiration.

Tartine video found through You Might Find Yourself


Willy Verginer

Willy Verginer is an Italian artist and a wood working genius. Born in 1957, Mr. Verginer has exhibited his pieces all over the world and in my opinion they’re amazing. It’s incredible to me that he can sculpt such life like figures out of wood but how playful all of them are, with bright splashes of color and the odd placement of his pieces. I’ve never seen anyone create work like this before and I’d love to see these in person.


Space Suit of the Week

I’m such a liar; we aren’t even looking at a space suit this week. But what this should really be called sounds dumb: the space suit precursor of patented naval redundancy engineering… of the week. Let’s just call it the Patented Engineering by the Navy Intended for Space (P.E.N.I.S.) of the week.

I’m still a liar. The above suit was never intended for elevations beyond the airspace traversed by high-altitude jets (called uncontrolled airspace at elevations above 60,000 feet), and at such altitudes air is so thin that calling it airspace is really just another lie. The suit above is designed to protect pilots flying around in such an air(less)space.  And yet, the suit is redundant by design. The primary means of protection from the dangerously low ambient pressure at 70,000 feet is the pressurized cabin. But things can go wrong, so the protection from decompression is duplicated by means of a pressure suit like the one above.

The idea to engineer “back up plans” into a system is called redundancy. Interestingly enough, in some vital systems aboard the space shuttle, components are not merely duplicated but triplicated. This means that three independent components would have to fail sequentially for the overall system to fail.

What began as a redundant protection for pilots became the basis for the suits worn by astronauts during the Mercury mission and for Gemini mission. It is absolutely insane how quickly the technology that enabled us to fly higher and higher evolved. Just 66 years before Neil Armstrong took a small step, the Wright brothers took a wobbly, but controlled flight across some field in North Carolina. In the six and a half decades between the two events, we learned how to not only travel the nearly 240,000 miles to the moon, but how to leave our biosphere and return safely to it.

And P.E.N.I.S. helped.


P.S. Big thanks to Matt for suggesting this week’s suit! And big thanks to John, a friend who attended the Air Force Academy and helped explain airspace terminology to me. He also reminded me that any airspace above 10,000 feet is dangerous.

Zippora Lux

Zippora Lux

Zippora Lux

Zippora Lux

If the popular tumblr Dream Cats is anything to go by, feline friends are very à la mode at present. Perusing the work of London-based triple threat photographer, illustrator and graphic design student Boya Latumahina (who works under the pseudonym Zippora Lux), I too started to fall under the kitty spell – even though I am usually a dog person. Joining two of her favourite things – Hubble telescope photographs and cats – Latumahina has brilliantly presented kittens as celestial beings. To my mind, it’s a perfect match: the hypnotising mysticism of the constellations matches the strange beauty of the moggies.

In her final year at Central Saint Martins, Latumahina has plenty of other goodies to check out on her portfolio.


Takashi Murakami Exhibit at the Palace of Versailles

A couple weeks ago the Palace of Versailles had 15 of it’s rooms filled with new and exising pieces from Japan’s most famous current artist, Takashi Murakami. I’m a huge fan of Murakami’s work so I think it’s amazing that the Palace agreed to house his work, though some of the more traditional folks aren’t very happy. I personally think they’re being extremely close minded and need to let a little culture into their lives… anyhow, since I live in Los Angeles it’s not very easy to pop over to Frankce, so thankfully the folks over at OFIVE.TV have made a video of the exhibit and posted it for the world to see. I think it looks like a great show and it makes me happy that I saw his show at the LACMA here in Los Angeles while I had the chance.

If you want to see more be sure to check out the Guardian’s photo gallery which has some great photos of the exhibit.


‘The Science of Sleep’

Before I even knew the name Michel Gondry I had already been exposed to his unique aesthetic sensibility through his music videos for artists such as Björk, Daft Punk, Massive Attack and Cibo Matto. I can remember sitting particularly transfixed in front of the television watching his music video for Björk’s “Army of Me”, completely in awe of the manic and surreal landscape of exploding museums and diamond-eating tanks. I was truly converted to Gondry’s fan club after I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and was further won over after he both penned and directed The Science of Sleep (2006). The absence of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s imprint on the script turned off some viewers; however, I am happy to go on any ride that Monsieur Gondry wants to take me.

I get excited by little things I don’t know, I get excited to know more about what’s inside people’s hearts and by the magic in the world.

– Michel Gondry

During the fantastic opening sequence of The Science of Sleep, the film’s protagonist (Stéphane, played by Gael García Bernal) introduces viewers to the activity of dreaming: “People think it’s a very simple and easy process, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. As you can see, a very delicate combination of complex ingredients is the key. First, we put in some random thoughts and then we add a little bit reminiscences of the day, mixed with some memories of the past…Love, friendships, relationships and all those ships, together with songs you heard during the day, things you saw…” Placing all these seemingly intangible ideas into a pot, they are visually represented through various objects, such as spaghetti, perfume, vinyl singles and an unidentified brown fluid. For the premise of the film is not merely dreams, but also games of make believe where television sets are constructed from cardboard, telephones are made from felt and buttons, cotton wool clouds float on apartment ceilings and the distinction between reality and dream is conflated.

For me, the romantic narrative between Stéphane and Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is secondary to the cinematic exploration of dreaming, whereby Gondry weaves a hallucinatory aesthetic into the fabric of the film. Indeed, as The Science of Sleep progresses it becomes more difficult to navigate the film’s stream of consciousness representations of waking and reverie, but what is particularly exciting is that Gondry achieves this through handmade wizardry rather than conventional special effects. Adopting a do-it-yourself aesthetic, which is also employed to full effect in Be Kind Rewind (2008), the central idea behind the narrative suggests that you can fabricate your own reality, but to be wary of the power of the dreamworld that you create.

In true Gondry style, it is a joyous ode to imagination and fantasy and never letting go of childlike impulses. The innocent sense of wonderment that infiltrates the entire film places the viewer directly within the strange interior spaces of Stéphane’s consciousness. It’s a pretty amazing place to be.


The Future of the Book

On a lot of blogs and in popular culture lately people are looking to the past for their inspiration. We have Mad Men on TV or blogs dedicated to Penguin covers, hell, I’m just as guilty of doing this. So it’s really refreshing to see the folks at IDEO taking a look at the future of books, coming up with some exciting, though possibly confusing ideas. They’ve created three different book interfaces that would work with a tablet computer, Nelson, Coupland and Alice, each having their own strengths and unique primary task.

I think my favorite of the bunch is Alice, which takes reading books to the next level but allowing you to interact with the story, taking photos, visiting areas in your town to unlock special chapters and communicating with your mobile phone. My only real beef with these is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of thought around navigation, which is essential to making a users experience a good one. I don’t want to poo poo this project in any way, I think it’s a great idea and I’d love to see more forward thinking like this.


Nokia ‘Dot’ by Sumo Science

When was the last time you watched a stop-motion animation that mimics a video game, was shot using a cell phone, and holds a world record?  Was it just now?  You’re welcome.  The video is the work of Sumo Science, a UK animation and direction studio lead by Ed Patterson & Will Studd. Here’s how Ed and Will made Dot. In a press release from the Sumo Science’s parent company, the film is described as: “a tiny 9mm girl who wakes up in a magical, magnified world to discover her surroundings are caving in around her. She escapes the encroaching wave of destruction as her world unravels via a path made up of tiny, familiar objects such as coins, pins, pencil shavings, nuts and bolts, until she finds peace by knitting herself a blanket from the very matter that pursues her.”

This video is amusing and well-executed, but so are other Sumo Science videos. The tension between Dot as stand-alone amusement and Dot as a cleverly-diguised Nokia commercial is virtually nil, so I don’t have to waver between thinking “this is great” and “stop trying to sell me stuff!” You think it would have been better with an iPhone?


Squid Capsule by Layer

Yesterday, the sun set on the last official day of summer. Now it’s time to ignore the lingering heat, dress in layers, and make way to Materials and Applications to see Squid Capsule before the exhibition closes at the end of the month. Squid Capsule is an installation by Layer– a design partnership between sci-arc graduates Lisa Little and Emily White. The installation amplifies ambient weather conditions within tapered plastic compartments that manifests as condensation. Meanwhile, in Pasadena, another installation (titled Fat Fringe) by Layer has been installed at the Pasadena Museum of California Art as part of the California Design Biennial. Fat Fringe began as a collaborative workshop hosted by Layer and Materials and Applications investigating how to cut and fold paper on a large scale. Fat Fringe closes at the end of October.

When Abitare asked Emily White why installations were attractive to the pair, she responded “Installations are fun! Compared to larger scale construction, they allow much more immediate experimentation with materials, program, processes, form. Because of their experimental nature, they also inspire critique and conversation.”


London Fieldworks

London Fieldworks is the joint venture of artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson, which rigorously explores the creative intersections between art, science and technology. In so doing their work is concerned with collapsing the perceived distinctions between art and science. Their latest project, Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven (2010), saw the construction of two sculptural installations in London; one in Duncan Terrace Gardens and the other in Cremorne Gardens. Drawing on the architectural facades of the surrounding buildings – Georgian town houses and 1960s social housing – this work reflects their interest in ecology, public space and form.

It’s exciting to see architectural sculptures literally embedded in nature to produce a work that is not merely visually appealing, but also engaging with the environment in a clever way. Spontaneous City was one facet of The Secret Garden Project, so London folk should keep their eyes peeled for more pop-up installations in green spaces and urban corners in the future.