Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dutch Wheels

Last week's jaunt to the Netherlands brought us face to face with one of the world's most bike-oriented cultures. So it seemed fitting to share some of the fun on Earth Day.

Have you ever balanced a load on the front of a bike? I have a noticeably harder time when my front basket is filled, so I can't even imagine steering with the large plastic milk-type crates (filled!) that most Dutch bikes seem to feature, let alone maneuvering with one of the cargo bikes!

Also impressive were the numbers of child seats I would see on any given bike. Children could not only ride on the back of the bike, but also up front by the handlebars. Fathers and mothers would go whizzing by with babies and toddlers perched just behind the handlebars. And no, helmets were a rare sight on anybody...

What I do appreciate, though, is the fact that nearly every bike shows a bit of personality. Things like a teen's neon cargo crate, a red polka-dotted bell or a brightly painted luggage rack on an otherwise black bike, or -most fun- bikes featuring fun, brightly patterned oilcloth bike bags. I wish I could've justified getting a set for myself! Also popular were strings of plastic flowers woven around the handlebars. A little too kitschy for my taste, but totally fun nonetheless. And frankly, we could all use a little more fun, right?

Seeing all the cyclists in the Netherlands reminded me of how little I've been riding my own bike lately. I need to get out there more often! Any of you regularly ride a bike? Do you pimp your bike in any way? I have practical red bike bags on my otherwise black bike. Sort of something, but not as fun as I'd want. Maybe I need to do a little crafting to get me motivated (b/c the hill we live on is less than motivating, ha!).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fabric Collage Banner: Easter

"Der Herr is auferstanden!"
"Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!"

"The Lord is risen!"
"He is risen indeed!"

Frohe Ostern! // Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Transfer Process (TAP and creativity)

I've been working on a project with a friend that is multi-layered and will end up as a kind of workshop. It involves concept design, project development, and personal reflection. It also involves material preparation, so I've been playing around with Lesley Riley's TAP (Transfer Artist Paper), a paper you can (inkjet) print, draw, or paint on, and then iron onto a variety of surfaces. I've been using it to print text and images and then iron them onto fabric, which is probably its most common use. It really is good stuff, but then again, I've never tried any other brand.

If you've never used TAP, then here are my top two tips:

1) Cut your image from the transfer sheet as close to the edge of the image as possible, shaving the edges as close as you dare. This prevents a clear polymer 'outline' of your image from adhering to your final surface.

2) You can't over-iron TAP, so when in doubt, just keep on ironing. Just don't scorch your surface in the meantime! That word 'joy' up there took me less than 30 seconds, FYI.

But prepping fabric with TAP images has only helped create part of the project materials. A second transfer process will be needed in order to finish the project, and still another to use/share the project. The second transfer process is all about tangibly expressing a personal experience in a collage format using the supplies on hand. I think the physical expression of an abstract concept is the hardest transfer to make, especially for those who may have limited experience with collage. In fact, I think this is the hardest part about creating anything...getting to the point where your creation matches your vision, and/or knowing when to let the creating process eclipse the vision you initially had.

The final transfer process isn't so much about the creator as it is about the person who may ultimately look at the creation. What is their experience like? Or even, how important is the viewer's experience to the creator? Perhaps that should be answered first! Sometimes I look at artwork and see a very clear message, other times I'm totally flabbergasted. I think my favorite experiences are where I see multiple possibilities; even better are the times when I get to talk to the creators about their creation. Many deliberately choose to only partially transfer their ideas into clear messages so as to create an opportunity for dialogue. And dialogue is actually a goal for these finished projects, so perhaps if that idea-to-project transfer isn't as complete as it could be, dialogue could still be inspired.

So yes, the wheels have been turning lately! I have a million ideas on other ways to use this TAP stuff, but those will have to wait until this workshop is behind me!

I'm curious, have you ever used TAP? If so, how have you used it?  And if you create things, what's your idea-to-project transfer process like? I definitely like clear messages when it comes to my work, but my art...not so much. Are you more of a 'give a clear message' kind of creator, or something else?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fantasy Urlaub

What is it about magazines that we still buy them? I mean, despite the amazingness of the internet there is still something about flipping through the pages. In addition to the dragon fruit, I also recently picked up the April issue of Schöner Wohnen. It wasn't until I got home and flipped it open, that my eye caught the corner of a picture and I instantly knew where it was, and not just because I'd seen it once before. No, by following a blog I had actually watched this space get designed, built, and decorated over the years.

Peacock Pavilions is in Morocco, specifically Marrakesh. In addition to hosting private travelers, this space is also rented out to creative retreats (painters, bloggers, etc.). The stencils used by the Royal Design Studio team (literally everywhere in this place; see the stair risers, below) just blow my mind! The architecture and collection of furniture aren't too shabby, either.

It's places like this that end up on my fantasy Urlaub (lit. 'vacation') list. What's on your fantasy vacation list?

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Dragon's Fruit

The big news in our town is that a new grocery store opened this week. This says so much, right? So of course I had to join the masses to see what it looked like, but I waited until a day after opening because I'm cool like that...not at all. I ran into one of my book club friends and we simultaneously geeked out over the increased cheese selection (guess what book club is really all about). I then proceeded to buy things I don't need simply because selection! everything looks pretty! opening week sales! all the Germans are smiling! (I kid, sort of) and did I mention selection?

Anyhow, so I had to bring home a dragon fruit because selection! and it was the first time I'd seen one since forever. My best and only memory of eating dragon fruit was years ago in Guatamala. I was on a business trip of sorts and was flat out exhausted. It was pouring rain and we were sweating under our raincoats, meaning misery multiplied. Somebody spotted what looked like a hot dog cart piled with bright pink dragon fruit. So we decide to buy some and the guy cuts them open for us and I'm just amazed because this was the first time I'd actually seen a dragon fruit, much less seen what one looked like inside. And folks, it was b.r.i.g.h.t., like neon bright! And somehow just looking at these things and marveling that we were eating something this color made us supremely HAPPY. They also tasted amazing.

Now not every type of dragon fruit is bright pink on the inside, in fact, most are white with black seeds. I have a feeling that's what I'll find this time around. But after reading up on them, it looks like I need to wait a bit for mine to ripen. Apparently all the lovely green bits are supposed to get brown and gross before the inside is at it's best. I think we can find a nice metaphor for life there, or ?

As much as I had fun playing with my new camera to get these pictures, I wanted some kind of accompanying text, and this week's prompt of 'writer' was just the motivation I needed to get me into gear. Writing is something I enjoy, and something I want to continue to explore, much like photography. I think that while a picture can often say so much, sometimes there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Have you ever had dragon fruit? Is writing a 'thing' for you? Anybody else geek out over new grocery stores? (j/k on the last one, actually, no really, I want to know!)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Smartphones, I'm just not that into you.

Spring has arrived and along with the first blooms has come my first DSLR camera. Anybody else upgrade their camera lately? This camera has been a long time coming, like a really long time. Towards the end of the story the box was held up for me in front of a Skype camera on Christmas Day, but it took still another 3 months until I could hold it with my own hands.

And boy did it feel good to have a camera big enough to really hold on to!  To say I was excited would be an understatement. I'd been told that you're ready for a better camera when you've really maxed out your current camera; this was so true for me. Part of the reason my blogging went down last year is because my creativity levels tanked. I was feeling so limited camera-wise; I knew the photos I wanted to take, but wasn't able to take them with my point-and-shoot.

However, a good camera doesn't automatically take good photos. I have to keep reminding myself of this, despite having taken an intro class and reading a great little book. The new camera has a lot of bells and whistles that I'm just not used to yet. It's sort of like my mobile phone situation. I don't have a smartphone -am I the last person in the western world with a dumb phone?! The end result just hasn't impressed me enough to justify the means (mainly price). I had my first smartphone -a newish iPhone- when I was in the US last month, so I got to be a cool kid for two weeks. But I was nonplussed; it was too bulky for me, required seemingly constant charging, had an annoying keyboard, and I was too busy to take the time to figure out all it could do for me, never mind the radiation levels of an iPhone. So smartphones, I'm just not that into you.

New camera? Yes, you are worth it. I'm happy to take the time to get used to you. You will make me want to go outside more, help sharpen my brain as I get creative, increase my knowledge as I learn about the science of how to take better photos, and a whole bunch of other stuff. And new 50mm 1.4 lens? I think we're going to get along just fine as well. You've already helped dark German days seem so much brighter.

What about you? Do you enjoy photography? What are your favorite places for learning new tips and tricks? Any favorite online photography classes you've enjoyed?

PS: Special thanks to Tracey and Tina for their thoughts and encouragement on the camera upgrade. Both take lovely photos, check them out!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


A little quote hanging on my office wall.

I'm so happy to be in the throes of spring! Everything feels fresh and ready for new adventures. We didn't have much of a spring last year, and this year's was delayed for me as I traveled back to the US for a couple of weeks. It was still so cold there (think big winter coat-cold!) that it was almost like going back in time. Of course this meant that coming back to Germany was especially nice; winter was sloughed off. I'm looking forward to some new projects and (hopefully) being around here a little more often.  

What are you looking forward to this spring?

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