Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

What a wonderful day for an exorcism. Or charts.

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

And, because I’m going to Vienna and Krakow in late February and Krakow is one of the last places that has wild European Bison, this pertinent chart:

Mantis mantis mantis. (Mantis.)

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Mantis! First, my work companion. My coworker Tongue is obsessed with plants. He has a gazillion plants in his home, and seeds, and things that look like they’re dead twigs but are not, all the plants. In order to prevent bugs from eating his beloved plants Tongue bought baby mantises (I like to pronounce that “manteeses” even though it’s wrong). He brought a few of the mantises in plastic containers to work where I proceeded to get no work done because I had to cuddle the sweet wee demon-bugs! So cute! So sway-y!

I love how he has a little hat on his head between his sweet little curly antennae. It reminded me of the Pharoah’s crown, the one that looks like a bowling pin nestled in a wonton soup spoon.

I also love how the mantis had a neck that he can turn. And the swaying was great. And occasionally he would flick out his praying arms. As I said, not much work was accomplished during his tenure. Eventually Tongue took the mantises home which made me forlorn but was probably for the best. Sigh.

More mantis! A friend of a friend recommended me for some design work. A woman named Yoda was starting her own production company called Pink Orchid International and asked me for a logo. She said she was not opposed to anything related to pink or orchid. I got to make a variety of interpretations and you bet your sweet patoot I did an orchid mantis version, yes I did.

Yeah. Not surprisingly, Yoda did not use my super-amazing mantis logos. She chose the one in the upper left because she is professional and I want to incorporate insects and skulls and rainbows into everything I do. But I was appreciative of the opportunity. Maybe someday I will get the chance to make bug-related business identities. Who knows what the future holds (insect-logo-wise).

Russia’s vice-like hold on the apex of crafting will crumble at my feet.

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

So you may or may not know that I have a personal ongoing feud with the entire former Soviet Union because every time I am feeling good about my artistic talents some Slavic person pops up on my Pinterest and destroys my self-esteem with their superior skills. Every time. Like clockwork. I’ve mentioned it here:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2013/10/08/two-artists-that-are-magnificent-and-humbling/

And here:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2016/01/23/two-artists-that-might-make-me-not-scared-of-dolls-finally/

And here:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2016/08/30/moooooooom-the-russians-are-being-better-at-crafts-again/

While we’re here, let’s add Julia Gorina to the list:

And Tatiana Verkhovskaya:

It never ends. But today is a new day. Today is the day I begin my climb to my rightful place as The Best At Crafts. I’ll take you through my journey.

I like jewelry. I like early 1900s fancy jewelry with enamel and plique a jour (enamel with no back, kind of like tiny stained glass) and diamonds and gold. Unfortunately I do not have the kind of money to buy all the things I want. So I’ve decided to figure out how to make it myself in far less expensive mediums like wire and resin and crystals. I made a folder of inspirational images to draw ideas from.

 

I started with this one:

I wanted a really simple shape with thicker and thinner parts where the diamond sizes are graded and the diamonds are on a dark background like tarnished silver. I only used stuff I already had in my apartment, so I wrapped some gold wire in some brown wire and soldered loops so it could hang and made sure all the shapes were closed because I intended to dip the shape into that plastic stuff that Sakae uses for her kanzashi.

I learned oh, oh so much during this process. Like if the wire is made of aluminum it does not want to be soldered. And if you have a big open space in the middle of your piece the plastic dip material will not go across it, you need little struts to break up the space. AND why people don’t have thick wires at in their plastic dip pieces is because of The Glop. More on that later. But I got it to a decent place. I wired, then I soldered, then I dipped, then I failed, then I picked off all the plastic, then I did it again, then I failed again, then I finally got it right, then I covered it in a thin layer of UV resin, then I painted delicate black calligraphic lines on the thicker edges, then I adhered graded flat-back crystals along the black paint. The final product looks like this.

With my hand for scale.

Here is The Glop situation I was describing.

Okay. Good start. Things I will do in the future:

  • Use raw copper wire with copper solder so it adheres more easily and the solder isn’t as noticeable (the solder I used was the standard silver-colored one and it’s REAL noticeable)
  • Spray it with a water / baking soda mixture to make it brown
  • If the “windows” are small I will use thinner wire to avoid The Glop
  • Try UV gel topcoat instead of UV resin because the resin is thick, prone to bubbles and has a yellowish cast
  • The black acrylic paint worked fine, that’s staying
  • Using UV resin with a paintbrush to attach the crystals also worked fine, that’s staying too

I’m psyched about where this is heading. I feel lots of growth and potential in this. Soon all of Siberia will be mine for the taking, craft-wise. Stay tuned for more on this as it happens.

No sleep for you.

Friday, January 12th, 2018

You know when you go to bed at night and you’re tired and and you think, “Ahhh, I will fall asleep immediately, better get my passport ready for the Land of Nod,” but your brain decides this is the ideal time to throw random nuggets of information at you that you feel compelled to ponder? And this prevents you from going to sleep? And you end up hating your own brain? I know other people experience this, I’ve seen the memes on Buzzfeed:

 

(Colitas are mentioned in the song Hotel California. “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air.” It’s supposed to mean “little buds” as in marijuana.)

I’d like to share my night-time thoughts that cause me to be an unproductive bag of parts the next day. Here we go:

  • I heard somewhere that Usain Bolt has never run a full mile in his life. He only does short sprints. That seems crazy to me. I’ve run/walked/huffed The Mile several times in middle school and high school. If I’ve done it Usain should have done it. Do the schools where Usain grew up not require them? And if so, why did I not move to that place? I really hated The Mile.
  • I watched a video of a snail laying eggs.*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BK2GRY8Y6U

    How do the eggs make their way down the body? Is is like peristaltic motion, where the muscles move in a sequence? Is the snail positioned downhill and I can’t tell from the camera angle? Why don’t the eggs take the shortest path possible and ploop off the side of the midsection instead of making their way to the tail? Also, there’s that snail that that doesn’t have a vagina, the acting male (they’re hermaphrodites) just stabs it and throws the sperm in the stabbing hole. How does that work? How does he know he’s not pumping his seed into her liver or kidney? Is her whole body a holding tank for eggs? What the hell is going on in there?
  • What ever happened to that lower-case “f” letter without the line across it that was the “s” sound? Does everyone know what I’m talking about? Here, an example:

    I read somewhere it has something to do with a “hard s” (which is the Z sound) and a “soft s” (which is the typical S sound, like a hiss). I’m wondering if we can bring it back. And what made the Germans get rid of the stacked double S?

    Did the Germans take a vote? Like, okay, this letter ain’t cuttin’ it no more, bring in your keyboards and a pair of pliers, we’re going to pull that key off never to be pressed again. Who is on the committee? Are there lobbyists, sliding money under the table to keep certain letters off the chopping block? I bet the pound sign people were sweating bullets until hashtags became a thing. The early 2000s were a scary time for the pound sign folks.

*If you want to have a profoundly trippy experience, watch this video with the sound on. And tell me, why that snail is laying eggs out of the side of its head? Because that doesn’t seem right AT ALL.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qGnbLeuysU

I made some stuff. Let’s look at it.

Monday, December 18th, 2017

I made two things, veeerrrrrrrrry diametrically opposite. First, the deer skull. Cricket’s dad found a deer skull with antlers behind their house twenty years ago and Cricket recently gave the skull to me. It was a fine-looking skull and I wanted to display it but it looked sort of nakey. So I decided to decorate the skull using every bead technique I could think of. I even tried new techniques I had only seen online. One of my big inspirations was Betsy Youngquist. I’ve mentioned her before. She does some drool-worthy work. I don’t know what you’d call what she does – bead and found item mosaic? Object decoupage? Three-dimensional collage? Whatever it’s called, it’s awesome and I’m a big ole fan. Here are some of her newer pieces.

You know those sewing samplers from days of yore? Where a young girl would make every stitch she knew how to do on a piece of fabric? That’s what this skull turned into for me. Since I was using a million different techniques I limited my color palette to white, pearl and silver. I was pretty psyched with how it turned out. My photos are meh because for some reason my camera was flabbergasted by all the white but maybe someday in the future I will have a professional take pictures of it for my portfolio.

The second project I worked on was different in every way something could be different. It was for work, for starters. We were pitching a birth control drug. Most of the deck was perfectly normal. “Our research shows that women this that and a third thing and here’s a quote and here’s a chart,” etc. I blurred out a lot of stuff that may or may not be proprietary.

However the strategists wanted to show that modern women are bombarded by unwanted dick pics all day every day. I was told to find pictures of men showing off their charms, put them in the deck and cover the jingly-jangly parts with emojis. I get paid actually usable currency to do this. So late on the night before the pitch I typed in things that would get you fired anywhere else into Google and there they were. A veritable field of men displaying their appendages. Here’s a screengrab I took that I heavily doctored to make it SFW.

I was sitting there, sifting through the pics because I needed their head at one angle and their implements at another angle (to get the emoji cover-up to work). I also typed in several specific ethnicities to get a diverse spread (ha ha ha). I was so involved in finding the right images for the job that I neglected to notice the cleaning lady behind me who could totally see what I was doing. I only realized it afterwards and I REALLY wanted her to report me for being gross and pervy on the job so I could explain that it was for work. Alas, she did not. She does, however, greet me with a big smile every time she sees me now, like, “I know what you’re into, yeeeeeaaaaaaah.” I kinda want to tell her that that’s not my jam but then we’d have to talk about it and I don’t feel like doing that so this is how it’s going to stay. Me and the cleaning lady have a dick-pic bond. It’s a dream come true.

It’s an animal post!

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

1. A woman put a camera near her bird feeder and the pictures she gets are straight-up gold. Her name is Lisa M. Ca (but it should be Lisa M. CAW, amirite everyone? Hello? Anyone?). Here is a picture of her camera setup.


I think my favorites are the doves because I’m a sucker for doves (PigeonLover 4 Lyfe) but the, and I quote, “Grackle with a Snackle” is pretty great as well.

I highly recommend going to her blog and looking at all the bird pics. They drop your blood pressure really fast. So calming.

https://ostdrossel.tumblr.com/

 

2. A picture of alligators (or possibly crocodiles) in a river. With reflective eyes. I love the deep blue water and the orange retinas. Photo by David Moynahan.

 

3. I think we should return to this form of reproduction because I am 100% not feeling the “Imma rip my way out of you” technique we as humans are using now. Methinks time for an upgrade.

 

4. What my day would be like in Toyko: Wake up. Put on oven mitt. Go to squirrel park. Hang out with squirrels. Go home at night. Repeat every day following.

https://kotaku.com/inside-japanese-squirrel-gardens-yes-squirrel-gardens-1465052392

 

5. And while this isn’t technically an animal it is still nature-related so I’m putting it here. It’s a chandelier made with living algae. It helps clean the air.

Here’s an article about it. https://www.curbed.com/2017/9/27/16372820/air-purifying-plants-algae-chandelier-julian-melchiorri

Guatemala, Part 6.

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Lake Atitlan. Get ready.

But first, Antigua’s main plaza! That I forgot to add to the Antigua posts earlier! I love how there’s old ruins and new ruins and everything all sort of mooshed together.

And I only made it to the main cathedral at night so all my pictures are blurry, but here’s the best of the bunch. A beautiful building, beautifully lit.

Okay, Lake Atitlan. We stayed at a hotel with THE MOST AMAZING GARDENS EVER. The owner started them several decades before and lovingly caressed and cuddled them and now they’re mind-blowing.

You would think I had never seen a plant before in my life the way I reacted to this garden. Right outside our room there were some screamy parrots that came out of their enclosure during the day to sit in the vines and shriek violently at the guests. One was a scarlet macaw. He was extra-screamy.

And there was one tree on the far edge of the property with the most interesting pattern in its bark. I felt like I was in a werewolf movie.

And here are the closeups I took of specific plants. Fun tidbit: while taking some of these photos, The Moomins had to protect me from getting attacked by an ornery goose that lives near a small koi pond on the property. I guess I got too close to the goose’s woman and he was disgruntled. It was worth almost dying at the hand (wing?) of waterfowl because these plants were something else, I tell ya.

We went out on a tour of the lake itself. I did not know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, crash-landed in Guatemala and saw the mountain there that inspired him to write the “draw me a sheep” portion of the book. Specifically the elephant in the snake that is mistaken for a hat. <—- That sentence sounds like I had a stroke but if you’ve read the book it makes sense I promise.

Here’s an article about Saint-Exupéry and Guatemala.

https://globalvoices.org/2008/07/11/guatemala-was-antigua-the-inspiration-for-the-little-prince/

There was also a napping volcano. Shhhhh, Volcano, everything is fine. No make ‘splosions.

Aaaaaaaand that’s pretty much the highlights from my trip. However, one of the other people on the trip, Boris (who had THE BEST Russian accent in the world) had a far superior camera and took some unbelievable pictures of birds and other beasties. He was kind enough to share them with me, and now I will share them with you.

Guatemala, Post 5.

Friday, November 17th, 2017

More Antigua! But first, other things.

We drove past a funeral. It was quite sad. A police officer had been killed. I love how the whole neighborhood showed up and was walking with the family to show support. There was also a band playing mournful walking music and I think we as a nation need to get on that.

I saw a fountain and I liked how they planted flowers birds-of-paradise flowers the fountain. Plus there was a pigeon and I am on Team Pigeon 4 Lyfe. Extremely pro-pigeon. Not ashamed of it.

Okay, so Antigua. The buildings are very short and the roads are extremely wide because if an earthquake destroys a building and it pitches forward it doesn’t knock down the building on the opposite side.

There is a former nunnery in Antigua, Convent of las Capuchinas. It cost a lot of money to become a nun and that, combined with the constant battery of earthquakes, caused the nunnery to be shut down.

The grout that holds those brick walls together was a mixture of sand, gravel and egg whites. The city apparently ran out of eggs during the construction of this building.

The wine cellar for holy ceremonial wines was build like a doughnut with a big column in the middle which is how it survived all the earthquakes. It has great acoustics so the nuns used to go down there and sing and maybe sample the wines.

And there are gardens which are beautiful. It’s not too hard to have a gorgeous garden in Antigua, I saw many of them.

As we walked along the street during the sunset on the last night we found a rooftop bar in an old mansion-type home. The fancy older buildings reminded me of Spain. They tended to have huge scary exterior walls:

And gorgeous compound-like interiors with gardens. This was no exception.

When we went up to the roof you could really appreciate how the city is nestled in between the mountains.

• | • | • | INTERMISSION | • | • | •

Dia de los Muertos-type dolls! Same store as the decorated antlered skulls. I showed restraint and did not buy them.

• | • | • | INTERMISSION OVER | • | • | •

That’s all my photos on Antigua. I only have four photos for the town of Panajachel, a town on the edge of Lake Atitlan (more about Lake Atitlan in a bit) so let’s go through those.

CHARCH! In Panajachel we visited the church. I liked the architectural style

The inside of the church looked like and upside-down boat.

And there was a nice carved monster holding up the display board in the back.

Here was the biggest surprise for me in Panajachel. Stay with me here: There is a semi-famous artist from Vienna Austria named Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 – 2000). His artwork is extremely distinctive. It’s difficult to mistake it for someone else’s work. Here are some examples.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see a rather large mural featuring some of Hundertwasser’s work in this small village in Guatemala.

Whattup, Hundy? How you doin’?

Okay, coming up next: Lake Atitlan. Get ready for the most insane plants you have ever seen.

Guatemala, Part 4.

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Antigua! A city in Guatemala with, like, 30 churches! Some are still functioning, some are only facades. Everything is protected because the whole city is a UNESCO site. Here are some of the façades. You can see there ain’t nuthin’ back there.

 

A popular motif in Antiguan churches is St. James on a horse leaping over the three giant mountains that surround the city.

Antigua has been around for almost five centuries and our guide called the prominent architecture style “Spanish seismic baroque.” As in, oh the earthquake broke this chunk of the building off, we will replace it with little to no concern to whether it matches or not. In addition, when the church insisted that the indigenous people build these new houses of worship, the people incorporated elements of their existing religion in there. For example, here is one of the most famous Antigua churches, the Iglesia de la Merced.

In my photos it looks like it’s a muddy mustard but in real life it’s a festive banana pudding color. Now, one might assume that those are grape vines on the pillars around the front door, right? Nope! Corn! It’s corn! One of the most sacred things to the Mayans!

And that four-pointed motif in the archway, that must represent the cross, right? Nope! Symbol for Mayan sun worship! Sneakin’ it all in there!

Moving on to other churches: Here is the Catedral of Antigua. Many of the hands of the outdoor sculptures are missing because of the earthquakes. I guess that’s the first part to break off.

If this is their approach to Baroque, I like it. Baroque as a design system can be a little overwhelming, especially the end of the period, known as Rococco. Here, have some examples:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rococo#/media/File:BasilikaOttobeurenHauptschiff02.JPG

https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5012/5399173556_01eeb03ca5_b.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/73/Amalienburg_Spiegelsaal-1.jpg/800px-Amalienburg_Spiegelsaal-1.jpg

http://www.macklowegallery.com/images/CMS/Glossary%20of%20Terms/Rococo.jpg

See what I mean? Lots of stuff on all the surfaces all the time. That’s why I prefer this atypical approach to Baroque. Enough stuff on some of the surfaces some of the time.

While staying in Antigua I went tot a walk down the street and came across the Iglesia de San Francisco El Grande. They have it lit beautifully at night.

Near the small side chapel door was a mosaic of a fish. I thought he looked friendly.

There was a cross sculpture in front. That’s not unusual in itself. What was unusual was the symbolism. Note the stop sign hand, the tunic, the gambling dice, and less easy to see are the ladder and blacksmithing instruments across the horizontal beam. Does anyone know why those specific things are there? If you do, let me know. I could not figure it out.

Other church-related things: The view out of the door of one of the churches.

The altar of one of the churches clearly done in Empire style, that’s Napoleon’s time (which was a rebirth of Greco-Roman style, errybody be stealin’ from errybody else):

This wall tableau of The Father, The Sun and The Holy Ghost. I loved that instead of a normal round halo, The Father has a triangle representing the all-seeing eye, the same one on our dollar bill. And please note Jesus’ halo which resembles a Mayan crown.

http://cropcircleconnector.com/images/stela1.JPG

We were there during a festival of some kind (Easter? Maybe Easter? Sure, let’s go with Easter) and the Guatemalans have a really cool way of decorating their church. They dye sawdust and using stencils they create beautiful temporary carpets on the floor.

This was a small one that SOMEONE SMUDGED UP THERE IN THE FRONT. I would be so angry if I had toiled on this carpet and someone let their dog or kid mess up my work. I wouldn’t kick a dog or a kid but I might kick the person responsible for that dog or kid.

In another church there was a far larger carpet surrounded by ripe fruit and vegetables. It smelled very, very good. Could have done without the angel lawn ornaments but it’s not my carpet or church.

Next entry: more Antigua.

Guatemala Part 3.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Coffee beans! But first, chicken buses.

Chicken buses are one of the primary ways people get around in Guatemala. It’s called a chicken bus because people would tie baskets of chickens to the roof with the rest of their luggage. They are school buses from America that we’re done with. Guatemala buys them, paints them in the jauntiest of colors, gives it a name like “Esmerelda,” slaps some chrome and maybe some lights on there and uses them as mass transit. Not surprisingly, I loved them.

Type in “Chicken Bus Guatemala” into Google Images and scroll through that. It’s a vibrantly-festooned good time.

Coffee beans! I went to a coffee plantation in Costa Rica and a lot of the information is the same concerning how the plant grows and how its harvested, etc. Here’s a link to that:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2012/02/28/costa-rica-2012-part-7/

Here is the enormous cement area where the coffee beans are spread out to dry.

Here are the beans dry before roasting.

These are coffee bean plants and a little pollinating bee. You go, bee! I’m proud of you.

 

Would you like to see the scariest roasting machine ever? Here ya go. If someone wheeled that into a room where I was being held captive I would immediately start spilling state secrets.

Teeniest church ever on the coffee plantation. Fits four parishioners max.

And gorgeous plants all over the property, especially the striped boo.

In the main house the owner had some coffee-oriented items. There was a collection of spoons.

And cups.

And a coffee advertisement from 1657. It looked like an olde versionne of a 1950s ad:  “Coffee puts pep in your step!”

There was a small museum on the coffee plantation. Similar to Mexico (which is not surprising since they share a big ole border) Guatemala uses those lovely paper-cut decorations on their ceilings.

And also, not surprisingly, there’s a whole bunch of spiritual non-Christian religious traditions that are still practiced. Here is a small costume worn in a ceremony. Common themes are mirrors and masks which you can see here.

There was a store in the city of Antigua (more on Antigua later) where they had a whole wall of these kinds of costumes and masks decorated with sequins and antlers. I wanted everything on that wall. It’s a good thing that place was closed most of the time because I would have laid my credit card down and asked them to fill up a truck.

While we’re here, let’s look at some random bits and pieces that relate to anything else specifically. First, geckos in light fixtures! I do love me some geckos in light fixtures.

A cemetery on a hillside. Vibrantly-painted mausoleums. I think that’s something we should adopt here, everyone should have their tomb painted the color they loved most. It tell you a little something about the deceased.

Every culture has a craft that they are excellent at. In Guatemala it’s thread-based. The embroidery / cross-stitch / loomwork / quilting / braiding is unreal in both its skill and diversity of styles. I bought some stunning bracelets using a popular pattern but different colors.

Here’s a Pinterest page that shows a pretty good sampling of the variety of threadwork. It’s pretty phenomenal.

https://www.pinterest.com/CasaAmarosa/guatemalan-embroidery/?lp=true

And here is something that made me laugh every time I saw it. In one of the hotels we stayed in there was a gift shop. No big whoop there. There was, however, a painted box on display. I assume the artist was trying to make a lovely tableau of Guatemalan items together, a themed still life. The only problem was there was an owl that looks like it had been sucker-punched in the back of the head while witnessing something profoundly traumatic. Every time I saw it I got the giggles.

Next entry: the town of Antigua.