Thursday, December 23, 2010

let down

Henri Cartier-Bresson--Romania 1975
My endless circle of giving has been interrupted.  I was felled by a virulent stomach flu Monday and Tuesday.  So instead of buying coffees and gas and groceries for strangers, I was being cared for by the best man I know.  Inside my aching body I was so grateful for the kindness of my husband, who held my head and rubbed my back and emptied my vomit bucket (!) and came back from the store to tell me that he and E had bought soup for a guy at the grocery store.   The next day they put money in the bell ringer's bucket and I've got some serious catching up to do.  But for now, I'm glad to be back.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


As a kid, I was a big time label girl.  Nearly anything with the Guess label on it was delicious to me.  Even puke-colored jeans, or ugly T-shirts that we found on the sale racks.  Because we never bought anything that wasn't on the sale rack.  Anything.  When I saw something with that ridiculous triangle hanging amidst the sale rack, I was elated.

I've been wondering lately if this devotion to brand was something I acquired because my parents were SO immune to it.  They could not ever see spending $50 for a pair of jeans that, to their eyes, were exactly the same as the $14.99 pairs.  Or was I simply seduced by the marketing of wet looking girls with sand on their perfect thighs and their bosoms busting out of femmed-up cowboy shirts?

I was in Hollister today, looking around for my E who has never had anything from the store, but is still wildly attracted by the aura surrounding it.  Who can blame her?  I stood there in the island hut, with its white shutters and plank floors, looking at all the super-soft T-shirts and sweatshirts, the aroma of coconut drifting all around me, and I wanted to buy the whole effing store.

But I left empty-handed.  Can you believe it?  My very own credit card like a gorgeous wet-looking girl nestled in my wallet, and I walked away.  Good God, have I grown up?  Am I that parent--the one who balks at the $50 hoodies and the skanky-looking models?  Yes, I am.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

circles go round and round

Last week, I met a friend for coffee.  While standing in line, a complete stranger gave us $15 worth of credit at the cafe.  We laughed and ordered extra tall lattes.  The next day, the same friend called me to say that another stranger in front of her at Starbucks had payed for her coffee anonymously.  I was talking this over with the Mister and we decided we try to initiate our own little mini-holiday inside this big holiday month:  For the five days before Christmas Day, our family will commit to doing at least one random act of kindness for somebody out in the world.  Whether it's buying the groceries for the person behind us in line, or giving someone a coffee, or filling up somebody's tank of gas, we will set aside some cash and dole it out for these anonymous good deeds.  Just like the guy whose $15 gift is reminding us to pay it forward, hopefully the circle will keep going round and round.  I'll try to post here how we spend our random kindness December 19-24.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

apt advice

Though sometimes Keri Smith's own success makes her seem overexposed, I'm not sure I can get enough of this list.  See if you agree.

Secrets of the Self Employed (or How to be an Amazing [insert profession here])

1. Don’t worry about marks while you are in school. No one will ever ask you what school you went to or what your marks were when you leave it. (this pertains to the field of illustration).

2. You are always working for yourself, even when you work for others. Sometimes it feels like you are just the hired hand (and some clients can be really challenging to work with). But there is always some way to turn an illustration job into something exciting for you. Some ideas: experiment with a new technique (or a new color palette), use it as an opportunity to learn about a new topic, rebel against the job in tiny ways (do some roughs just for yourself in which you insert subversive material).

3. There are no actual rules for how to become a successful [insert profession here]. Make your own path.

4. It will help you to create a social network of other self-employed people.

5. Move your body every day. There are many health reasons for this, but it also helps you to work on ideas subconsciously. Ideas and solutions will come in when you least expect them but (almost always after a minimum of one hour of walking). There are new studies that suggest increased oxygen to the brain is a greater source for creativity than “creative brain exercises”. I have found this to be true for myself.

6. Goof off on a regular basis.

7. If you want to work on your art, work on your life. All those personality traits that aren’t working for you will come back to haunt you in your career (i.e. assertiveness, fear of conflict, fear of confrontation.) It’s all connected.

8. What you think becomes your reality. I always had a belief that if I cleaned out my recycling bin in my studio I would get new work. And guess what, it always happened. If you think the industry is screwed and there is no work to be had, guess what you will find out there?

9. Focus on ideas instead of tools (technology). Anyone can learn to use the tools, but it is the thinkers who really impact the culture in important ways. In the end the tools don’t offer anything interesting.

10. Worrying about the competition does very little to help your career. I know it’s hard sometimes to ignore what other people are doing (we all think that others are doing better than us), but every one of us is on a different life path. We are all here to accomplish different things and even though it would seem like one person’s path is similar to yours, it is not.

11. Only work for free if you are passionate about the cause or receive something of value in return. (Be wary of people who offer your name in lights in lieu of money. Many people will tell you something is good promotion for you, often it is not and there are no guarantees when it comes to promotional value). If you are not getting something of a measurable value (i.e. printed pieces, or money) ask for something else, creative freedom. If they refuse then they may not be a good client to work for anyway.

12. Take some small risks on a regular basis. Some ideas: write some places/companies you would really like to work and let them know why you think they are great.

13. Don’t worry about whether or not you are good (good is subjective and most people are not great judges of their own work), just keep making work.

14. Ignore cool. Successful people do not try to be hip, they just do work that excites them.

15. Always come back to work that excites you. Even if you get off track for a while. Do personal work on a regular basis, show it to others. You can reinvent yourself at any time.

*Above photo evidence of E's adherence to #6

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Can you believe it?  Again, I find myself staring into the eyes of creatures made from felt.  These creatures, I'm certain, are alive.  Aren't you?

Cat:  Just be still.  They'll be gone in a moment.  
Bunny:  Shit.  My onion is upside down.  It's itching my neck.  I hate it when things touch my neck.  Seriously, guys. . . .I think I might have to move.  What happens if I blow our cover?    
Donkey:  Sigh.  

Found here, with a price only available upon request.  And only in French.  That is some handy-dandy needle work.