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?

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Adorable office supplies from Present & Correct

Just a few snippets of reading that might interest you this weekend:

1. Animoto lets you send a video card using your own photos. I made a Valentine for my nieces this way.

2. The shape and structure of writing is a topic that fascinates me. Here's a visual on personal essay structures.

3. On resisting the selfie culture.

4. One of the worst commercials ever is being discussed. 


6. A low-tech method to stay happy + productive.

7. Overcoming creative blocks (really good).

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lock and Key

How are you with campy movies? Last weekend we had a friend visiting from the US, a friend who speaks great German, and we were talking about campy German movies of the Til Schweiger ilk. These movies are usually equal parts funny, awkward, and inappropriate. We were watching a trailer and a line stuck out to me: "Liebe ist nichts für Feiglinge" (lit. 'love is not for cowards'). And it struck me just how true that statement is.

Yesterday I read this Atlantic article about a Marriage 101 course one of America's top research universities offers (yes, really). Its focus wasn't on how to find the right partner, but rather on communication skills and knowing yourself and what you bring to a relationship, with the premise that this will significantly help your relationships. And again I thought, so true.

Until you are brave enough to know yourself, including your limitations, I don't think you can bring too much to a relationship. Granted, this can take some time, but you also have to be strong enough to keep caring for the other person, despite their weaknesses; the closer you get to a person, the easier it is to see their flaws. Love really isn't for cowards.

Last summer we found ourselves in Verona, Italy. There in the fabled Capulet courtyard you can find scores of tourists (and probably a few pickpockets) surrounded by statements of love. Most of these are consumerist trappings made in China, but there are also the heartfelt notes and letters written or posted on the walls, or jammed into crevices. In a variety of languages some declared their love, some begged for it, and some grieved it. An iron gate is covered by engraved padlocks, keyless now that the love they represent has been proclaimed everlasting. Strong.

There is nothing factual about this symbolic setting, and apparently the walls are cleared regularly for maintenance, but there is an odd inspiration hanging in the air. This place is a memorial to love and there's something strong about that, despite the tacky trinket shops and camera-toting tourists (myself included). But really I think the strongest part, the part that meant the most to me, was being there with my husband and just looking through all the pink and the plastic and the tourism to see what was true love.

True love isn't for cowards, and yet it is for the weak. In many ways it's like a three-legged race: it takes some getting used to, and sometimes there are tumbles, but you're in it together. It's also a garden that takes tending, a spot to be treasured and cared for. And in this way I find it transcends the relationship typified on Valentine's Day and in Giulietta's Verona courtyard.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

These words, which are so often read at weddings, were actually written to a mixed group of people reminding them to care for each other -to love each other- despite their differences. I find them convicting. It's not easy to love like this, but it's easy to wish to be loved like this. And yes, some people are easier to love, some less so. But today I'm asking myself -and maybe you, too- not who do I love, but how do I love?

(this post was outlined & drafted, but not completed, in five minutes for this writing challenge)
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