Monday, January 31, 2011

Justice is righteous adornment.

I love this mugshot of civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, after she was arrested in 1961 for "disturbing the peace". Her calm, unashamed smile and the rose pinned to her collar makes the sign around her neck look like a most elegant piece of jewelry.

My thoughts are with the protesters in Egypt. I hope this helps you to remember them too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

MLoH #8 - Séraphine

I saw the completely mesmerizing film Séraphine last night. It tells the story of the French vernacular artist Séraphine de Senlis, who painted gorgeous, hypnotic, visionary works, often two meters high, with intensely rich pigments made from animal blood, clay, flowers and oil salvaged from wherever she could find them. The first scenes in the film show her trudging determinedly around the woods and her small town of Senlis, gathering materials, in perfect awareness of the beauty of the natural world but unaware of the fine points of social interaction. 

She survived just barely on meager earnings working as a laundress and housecleaner and was a devout Catholic, believing that a guardian angel urged her to create. She sang hymns as she painted, as if offering up her work to the Virgin Mary. One of the most affecting scenes was her proud acceptance of a bowl of soup from a kind neighbor, saying "I will eat it tomorrow; I already ate today." Earlier we saw that this meal she had eaten was in fact a leftover piece of veal given to her by a shopkeeper.

Her work was "discovered" by famous German art critic Wilhelm Uhde, the patron of Henri Rousseau and one of the first collectors of Picasso and Braque. He sponsored her art until the 1929 stock market crash made it impossible for him to continue supplying the massive amounts of money she eventually started spending. Séraphine was ill-equipped to handle the suddenness of her fame and fortune coming and then going again. The last ten years of her life were spent in a psychiatric ward, without the comfort of her art.

In the film, Séraphine quotes St. Theresa (the ecstatic one) and says, "Be ardent in your work and you will find God in your cooking pots." Surprisingly perfect advice for a maker, I think. I hope I can find inspiration in the middle of all my sawing and sanding.   

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Smith Tower

I went out for a pseudo-tourist afternoon with some friends and their friends from afar (S. Korea, to be exact).  We went on the Underground Tour, where you can listen to amusing stories about Seattle's rough and tumble frontier past while standing in dark and abandoned underground rooms and sidewalks that were once bustling businesses above the ground.

Some fun facts -

1. After the Great Seattle fire in 1889, the city started taxing prostitutes.  Pretty much all of the business district was destroyed, so no one had any money apparently.  Except the working ladies, who ended up contributing 81% of the money used to rebuild Seattle. 

2.  Lou Graham was a prominent Seattle madame who donated to children's education, more than all of the other local philanthropists combined.  When she died without a will, her estate was given to fund education in King County.  Until Bill Gates came along, she was the single largest private donor to education in Washington.  No schools are named after her though.  

3.  Manganese added to molten glass will eventually turn the glass purple if it's exposed to sunlight for 2-3 years.

what is this notched, curved thing?

unsuspecting pedestrians passing above

the loveliest toilet I ever did see

We also went to Smith Tower, a skyscraper built in 1914 that was the tallest building west of the Mississippi for 17 years.  Didn't go up, but the lobby was exquisite!

gorgeous elevator

Like an ancient bronze mirror...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jeanne Hébuterne

I was digging around recently, reading about Modigliani and found this gorgeous picture of his lover and frequent model, Jeanne Hébuterne. She killed herself at age 22, two days after Modigliani died of meningitis. It always makes me a bit uncomfortable thinking about all the talented and passionate people in the world who are full of potential but somehow get derailed from greatness because of personal or social circumstances. Jeanne was an artist herself, but she left so little behind. 
Portrait of Modigliani by Jeanne Hébuterne
There's an article on ESPN about a 14-year-old Ugandan girl who has a natural-born talent for chess here. It's a moving story that hasn't finished unfolding, because she still has a lot to learn and do in the chess world. Unfortunately, her ability to afford to continue competing in international chess tournaments is also still uncertain. I hope that someone will sponsor her... It is so easy for brilliance to go unnoticed.                

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday LoH #7

1.  The little butt wiggle my cat does before he pounces on ribbons.  Actually, my cat playing with ribbons, period, is one of my favorite things to watch.  Like a dog, he'll bring the ribbon to me in his mouth, drop it on the ground and gaze meaningfully at me.  Sometimes he meows plaintively, as if to chide me for having the insensitivity and audacity to not play with him. 

2.  Playing with quartz!  I bought some raw pieces and they are rough and full of beautiful inclusions.  There's something very satisfying and daring about uncut stones.  Because I sometimes love symmetry to a fault, I think they'll force me to be a little less uptight in my design.  I want to use stones in a way that de-emphasizes their preciousness and their ability to hog the limelight.

3.  The Rancho Bravo taco truck in Wallingford.  I can't believe how delicious a little bit o' pork with a little bit o' onion and radish and lime juice on a corn tortilla can be.  And for only $2!  So amazing.  Their tamales are also ridiculously good, with the cornmeal soaked through with flavorful meaty juices.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vivian Maier

There's so much on the web these days that sometimes I become a bit numb to all the information and images that I see every day.  But every once in a while, I see something that makes me stop.  And just marvel.  And feel that clenching feeling of awe and delight in my gut.  The story of how Vivian Maier's work came to light is one of those times.

A young Chicago man named John Maloof bought a big box of an unknown woman's photography negatives one day at an antiques auction.  He spent days scanning them and discovered extraordinary photographs by an amateur photographer by the name of Vivian Maier.  He then tracked down the people who took the other boxes of her work and bought those too.  He now has over 100,000 of her images and is spending all his time trying to digitally archive the negatives and spread the word about this amazing work.

There isn't much that is known about her life.  She was born in France, lived in New York and Chicago, a beloved nanny, an outspoken Socialist and feminist and an immensely private person.  She traveled the world in the late 1950s, alone, and took photographs.

John Maloof has a website HERE where he shares some of her work that he uncovers daily.  How like an archaeological dig this whole endeavor is!  And it's amazing that we can follow his progress as he pulls more and more beauty from those dusty negatives and rolls of undeveloped film and more information about this woman who seemed to have been satisfied solely with the act of creating art.  I wonder if she ever tried to apply to art exhibitions?  Did she even want the art world to validate the work that she was doing?  Was she content just to live a life of making?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Early last month, a good friend ordered some pieces to give as Christmas gifts.  Now that Christmas is over, I can share two quick photos here!

The small thorn pendant was a custom design, a gift for a classically elegant lady with the initials of NL.

Monday, January 3, 2011

MLoH #6

1.  Being back in Seattle with Rob and the obscene amounts of food our parents loaded us up with to bring back.  Roast pork, scallion bread, daikon meatballs, sticky rice dumplings, boxes and boxes of chocolate, six different kinds of cookies, candy, dried plums and sweet olives, tea!

2.  New Year's Eve spicy Chinese hot pot and movie marathon with my family.  We went to the local library and rented four completely random movies and watched them all.  Mission Impossible III (dad was a fan), Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (mom cried), the 1956 Yul Brynner/Ingrid Bergman Anastasia (quite entertaining for all) and Yi-Yi, a critically acclaimed film about a Taiwanese family that none of us liked.

3.  The fireplace at my parents' house!  It crackled in a very satisfying way and made the house smell Christmas-y.  We threw in some sweet potatoes wrapped in foil and they turned out beautifully- sweet and caramelized.  I could feel the lovely heat in my toes and the tip of nose as I conked out on the couch reading.  I felt rather like Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House in the Big Woods.

4.  Sleeping in with absolutely no guilt.

5.  Getting a travel voucher for giving up my seat on a full flight.  I'd always wanted to do it, but my schedule was never flexible enough to accommodate.  So, I got to spend a few extra days with my family AND a voucher to use towards some future trip! 


Today I was featured on Wear What When, the style blog for Seattle Met magazine!  Thank you, Laura and Malika, for giving me an opportunity to answer some thought-provoking questions about my work!