Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Move along, nothing to see here

If you are sick and tired of hearing about Michael Jackson, then don't read this post. Celebrity deaths tend to get so much overexposure in the media, too often to the detriment of other news. So maybe you can go catch up on all the other things that have happened in the world since last Thursday.

For those of you who want to stick around, I'll give you some background on my decision to write this post. Because Chicago is minutes away from Gary, Indiana I decided to pay a visit to Michael Jackson's childhood home on 2300 Jackson Street. These are some of the photos I took there.

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It was hard to believe that such a large family grew up in such a small house.


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I didn't leave anything at the memorial, but I did get some pictures of my vintage Michael Jackson doll in front of it.

As we traveled westward into the setting sun on our way back to Illinois, I got an idea for these photos. Sunset seemed an appropriate metaphor for a death that marked the end of a career and an era.

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I want to thank my wonderful fiance Cameron (a.k.a. Slice the Celestial Sorcerer) for helping me with this final shot. Though I know he must have felt ridiculous standing in the TGI Friday's parking lot holding a doll up in the air, this photo made it worth it:

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I hope that if a reproduction of this doll is made, it will have articulated joints, especially in the ankles and the knees, so it can be posed doing the moonwalk.



If you want to see the rest of the photos I took yesterday, click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bidding farewell to a legendary artist

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It still doesn't seem real. In a few days, perhaps it will hit me and I will come to terms with the fact that he's gone. I have never known a time without his music. He was an artist of formidable talent, with an incredible stage presence despite his very reserved offstage persona. I could always relate to this characteristic of his. I've always found it much easier to be a much more effusive version of myself when I am performing than in my everyday life. The artist (and possible fellow INFP) I am writing about is the late Michael Jackson.

He was truly an inspiration to me as an artist, and I hope this is how he will be remembered and not just as fodder for the tabloids. Even in his death, Michael Jackson makes me realize that if I put my soul into my work, a part of me will still live on. Perhaps that is one of the greatest gifts of being an artist, the ability to create a legacy with every new creation.



J5 Montage
J5 Montage | digital photo montage/desktop wallpaper | 1998



Also, did you know Michael Jackson was also a visual artist? Check out this drawing he did:

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It appears in the booklet inset of his HIStory album. Sorry, I don't think you can get this from the iTunes store. You have to get it on CD to see the artwork inside.

Finally, I am closing this post out with one of my favorite Michael Jackson videos, "Earth Song." It has such a powerful message.

re:Work-ing it




Earlier I described my relationship with the design field as an unrequited love affair. But I could draw other comparisons. Have you ever been reunited with a former love only to find your passion re-ignited, despite the fact that you had convinced yourself it was over between the two of you? Last week at NeoCon was like that. After my unpleasant stints in various circles of retail hell, I had soured on the interior design field. I felt that I had been betrayed, spurned, and scorned by it. But now I can think of nothing else but reuniting with my long lost love.

After spending 3 solid days surrounded by design, I was sad to leave it all behind for my ordinary non-designer life. And so I was very glad that today's re:Work seminar gave me another reason to make my way back to the Merchandise Mart again.

I really appreciate what The Mohawk Group is doing for designers and architects who have been displaced by the recession. They see it as an opportunity to give back to friends who have supported them. A lot of people are out of work right now some of whom were in the industry over 10 years. It was sad to see their third floor showroom fill up with out of work designers, a few of whom I even recognized from Harrington. Some had many years of experience, while others were laid off from their first design job.

Despite this, the presenters were all very upbeat and positive. Some of the positive things I learned were that there is a lot of pent-up demand for our services and projects are on hold everywhere. The three dimensions of the design landscape that are changing—technology, environment, and demographics—are the three that out of work designers can increase their expertise in to become more marketable. They also provided valuable tips about resume writing, networking, researching potential companies, and job search strategies. The information they provided in the seminars was also supplemented with re:Work workbooks for us to take home. This was especially valuable to me since my work obligations prevented me from staying for the whole day.

I returned to work this afternoon thankful to still have a job, even though it is not in the design field, but still yearning to re-connect with my old flame, interior design. After attending re:Work, I'm ready to take the next steps toward mending my broken dream. I think I will start by updating my portfolio. And when I do, I'll be sure to post my designs here on my blog.



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Designers, interrupted: NeoCon 2009 and the Great Recession

Cocktail Party NeoCon 2009



Beneath the festival atmosphere at NeoCon 2009, there was a sense of sadness. I ran into a designer I know and he told me how hard it's been lately, as did the 2 architects and 2 designers he introduced me to. And on the morning of the ASID Career Exchange, well coiffed and well heeled design grads flocked to the 7th floor cafe with their portfolios in hand and panicked expressions on their faces. Would they find good jobs? Maybe not. Times are hard, and many firms are not hiring now. At least they had the decency to tell us so.

Veteran attendees of the trade show quickly realized that the lavish parties the showrooms had given in previous years were scaled down significantly. And so amid the live jazz, flowing champagne, tinkling cocktail glasses and platters of hot hors d'œuvres, there was still a palpable air of melancholy. What will become of interior design? Where are the clients? Where is the money? Who can afford to hire us now? If only things were different...

The unfortunate reality is that few of my fellow design alums are working in the field, and neither am I. And after three solid days of immersing myself in the interior design milieu once again, it hit me: I miss working in my field. It breaks my heart to not be a part of it anymore. Even listening to the textile showroom reps talk about how many double rubs their upholstery fabric could withstand made me feel sentimental; I had sold and specified upholstery fabric once. Every piece I liked I wished I could specify for a client. But I don't have any clients.

Our design careers have been interrupted by the unfavorable economy. We are all part of the great diaspora of displaced designers who are doomed to labor in the dreary world outside the field of design until the economy improves. But we found solace at NeoCon this year, discovering that we are not the only ones.

My quest to find work as an interior designer has been like an unrequited love affair. Being excluded from a field that you are passionate about is just as painful as being in love with someone who does not love you in return. It engenders the same sense of heartbreak. The Merchandise Mart is like a monument to that heartbreak, a mausoleum for my dead dreams of design. And now, even though a week has passed since I attended NeoCon, I still long to be a part of that world. But instead I have returned to work at a job that has nothing to do with design. It's a good job, and I am glad that I have a job at all in these circumstances, but it is not interior design. But at least when we moved into our new office space last year they let me put a few finishing touches on things.

Still, I am hoping that NeoCon 2010 will be a much happier occasion for all of us. I hope that what has happened now will prove to only be an interruption, and once it is over we can get back to doing what we do best.



By the way, if you are a displaced designer, check out the free Rework career workshops, sponsored by The Mohawk Group. The one in Chicago will be held Thursday, June 25th. Click the link above for all the details.

Widget Wednesday, NeoCon 2009 Edition: Designer Pages

As fields that have been in existence long before the rise of the Internet, architecture and interior design have long-established ways of organizing information. Much of it relies on hard copies, or as I was taught in my Materials and Sources class in 2005, Excel spreadsheets. Now with the advent of Web 2.0 and social media, we have so many new ways to share our finds. This is where Designer Pages comes in.

I learned about Designer Pages while working with them on the Twitter campaign. As a designer who spends most of my product research time on the Internet, a really appreciate the cloud computing solution Designer Pages provides. Think of it as a virtual 3-ring binder where you can save all your clippings for a particular project. You can also invite other designers to collaborate with you. And it's free!






Now I think I'll try out my new membership by moving my furniture & finishes for my dream house from a cumbersome Excel workbook into Designer Pages.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I just made my very own commercial

That's right, I made a commercial to sell myself. A position I am applying for asked for applicants to submit a video. And I decided to post mine here. Tune in for the world premiere of my video, "Why You Should Hire Me."




A Paradise of Chairs from NeoCon 2009

One exhibitor at NeoCon 2009 from China called their display "The Paradise of Chairs." So I had to use that phrase for something, and this post gave me a great opportunity to do so. This post is about my favorite chairs from NeoCon 2009:

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First we have The Paradise of Bar Stools, part of the Paradise of Chairs


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A Karim Rashid office chair


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These beauties are part of the Justine series from Cape Contract Furniture.



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Once again, the chairs with the embellished backs from TMC Furniture.



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These chairs, also from TMC, have seats lined with linoleum from Forbo, making them nearly impervious to stains and scratches, a very good option for healthcare and institutional use.



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Allermuir had an assortment of chairs in every color of the rainbow.



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What I like about these chairs is that they are designed to make children more comfortable in hospitals. The cheerful print on the upholstery is very uplifting.


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These Crystal Chiavari polycarbonate chairs are chrome plated. Clear versions are also available.


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The name of this gorgeous upholstery fabric is "liquid gold."



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Not part of NeoCon, but this chair from the first floor Clive Christian showroom seems fit for royalty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Green design becomes more prominent at NeoCon 2009

Before design school, I had never heard of green design. By the time I graduated two years later it was the hottest new buzzword. The aesthetics of green design appeal to me. I like the creativity involved, the process of making something from nothing. It has informed my artwork as well. As green becomes more mainstream, more manufacturers are creating products using environmentally responsible materials and processes.

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I really appreciated the Materials Petting Zoo sponsored by Ecolect because it gave a chance to literally experience the products hands on. I even learned what the punctured kraft paper I used in Adaptive Reuse 2 is called, Geämi.

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Molo's softwalls are also very environmentally friendly, as they are made with recycled materials.

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Bamboo, now a staple of green design, is now being offered in new varieties, like this strand woven bamboo flooring from Lumber Liquidators. It's as durable as oak.

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And this innovative plank bamboo paneling from Mats, Inc. is available in tiles as well as panels that could make great room dividers.

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Our Future Inherits What You Specify Today

I like this slogan by Patcraft Designweave: "Our Future Inherits What You Specify Today"

I was very pleased to see that so many manufacturers have decided to make a commitment to taking better care of the environment and natural resources. For too long this was not the case with many manufacturers. Hopefully someday the green category will no longer exist because it will be a standard and expectation for the industry. In the meantime, I am excited at the possibility of interior design and architecture becoming the next industries to provide the green jobs everyone keeps talking about.

my favorite booths at NeoCon

As I prepare to wrap up my series of posts about NeoCon 2009, I want to be sure I cover everything. And what is a trade show without exhibitors? These are a few exhibitors who really did a great job of designing unique booths to showcase their products.

A very groovy textiles display from Architex.

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LSI's relaxing seating alcove reminds me a lot of Panton.

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Aquafil USA's space is like a carpeted disco.

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Molo's space was a total experience, sectioned off with their softwalls, lit with their softlights, and furinshed with their softseating. Because they are made of kraft paper and have a honeycomb like structure, they would make a perfect companion to some of my postconsumerist pieces. Yes, my dream installation of my artwork would involve seating from Molo.

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But until then, at least I can look at these photos.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here



Mine is but a simple dream: 300 square feet of studio space that is mine and mine alone. In the meantime I am grateful that I even have a place to paint. Actually I have 2 places, but there are many constraints because both are shared with other people. So now I am moving my paintings somewhere else, though I don't know where I can put them. There isn't enough room for them at school and my studio is too small. I might just end up bringing them home and adding to my already cluttered living space, which was exactly what I was trying to avoid but is cheaper than trying to rent storage space with money I don't have. I suppose I could see if my family could keep them for me, but I want my paintings to be where I can keep an eye on them. I will be glad when I finally have my show so I can sell them. I certainly could use the money.

So anyway, I spent yesterday moving half of my paintings out of the studio (larger ones like Silver Whisper and Solar Storm were too large to take in the car) instead of painting.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Design Students of the World, Unite! Design Schools at NeoCon 2009

I think it's great that design schools participate in NeoCon. It gives former students a place to meet up with fellow alumni and former instructors, prospective students a chance to get more information about the schools and their design philosophy, and current students a chance to work at one of the most important trade shows in the industry.

These are a few of the schools whose booths I visited.


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I really enjoyed talking with the people at Savannah College of Art and Design's booth. And what a booth it was. Can you believe the chair above was designed by a student? The chair in the photo above is the Chrysalis chair designed by Timothy Luscher. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the instructors and he told me about the school's design philosophy. They are educating their students to be well rounded designers, and the goal is for them to know not just how to design interiors and products, but even their own logos. The school has also gone international and now has a campus in Hong Kong.

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The School of the Art Institute was represented there as well. This year they had a booth with a small exhibit of products that graduate students in industrial design created from Corian. Above you can see just a small sampling of what they came up with. Their pieces all related to the theme of "Objects That Entertain Us" and included toys, customizable dumbells, and even a fish tank with motion activated lights. Pretty innovative considering that we usually just think of Corian as something to make counter tops out of.

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The booth for my alma mater, Harrington College of Design, was very conceptual this year. Visitors were invited to write their design constraints on a name tag and stick it to the wall. I think they covered just about every possible design constraint you can think of. The recurring themes were lack of time and money. The message they communicated, "Don't let your personal constraints affect your creativity," is definitely a timely one.

So if you are thinking about going to design school, don't just watch HGTV. Visit the schools at NeoCon so you can see what their students are doing and get a chance to talk to some of the professors so you can see what school is right for you.

Saturday Solutions: quick & easy business cards

This week, due to budget and time constraints, I wasn't able to get a set of color business cards printed to promote my blog at NeoCon. So I used an alternative that worked well for me during the Toyth show: wallet sized photos. I wanted the cards I gave out at the show to only feature the pictures that I was exhibiting. At 2"x3" my wallet size photos are almost the same size as business cards, but cheaper. The Walgreen's in my area charge about $1 per sheet of 4, making them a quarter apiece.

Or save even more money by taking a few minutes to do a wallet sized layout in Photoshop and your cards will cost even less.



For the Toyth show, I wanted my Doll Project images to be free of captions, but I still wanted to have my contact information included.


So I printed all of my information on labels, which I put on the opposite side of my cards. I used Avery's 6572 permanent ID labels and they were just the right size.




For professional looking results, I recommend taking the time to use a paper cutter instead of just scissors to cut out your cards. And having them printed at a photo finishing place yields higher quality images than using a regular printer. But if you have a good photo printer, go for it!

So, for this quick and cost-effective mode of self-promotion, this is all you need:

  • digital versions of your work (or whatever is going on your business card)
  • photo finishing services (or a very good photo printer of your own)
  • a paper cutter
  • Avery's 6572 permanent ID labels


Hopefully your inexpensive cards will help you get in a position where you can go all out and splurge on the fancy ones someday. Happy networking!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Handmade Nation opening titles

I just love creatively animated opening titles. And you know I like making stuff, too. So when I saw the opening titles to Handmade Nation, a new documentary about the growing popularity of crafts, I had to make sure I shared it on here. I love the way the supplies all come to life!




I am really looking forward to seeing this whenever it gets released in Chicago. For more information, visit handmadenationmovie.com

9 things for artists from NeoCon 2009


Though NeoCon is all about showing the latest new materials and furnishings to architects and designers, it is also a great source of information on new ways that fine artists can get our work out there. (Not to mention free samples of many of these materials you can take back to your studio and play with.)

Since I am an artist as well as an interior designer, I am always thinking of ways that I can take the materials of the design world and use them to create fine art. And this year, since I have a blog, I want to share some of them with the other artists who read my blog.

Here are 8 things you may never have thought of doing with your artwork.
(And a ninth thing you probably already have.)




Custom Fabric

If you like creating repeating patterns, this could be a good outlet for you. Wouldn't it be great to have your design on a lampshade, some throw pillows, or even the upholstery fabric of a sofa? Perspectives in Print does all of this and more. There are so many possibilities.




Prints on Glass

Though CanvasPress is known for printing photos on canvas, which is a great idea for photographers and digital artists to get their work out there, they are also printing on glass now.

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So you could do windows, lightboxes, or glass tiles featuring your work. And you don't have to worry about your design rubbing off because the image gets fused with the glass during the printing process.




Prints on Acrylic and Resin



3form can encapsulate your artwork in resin, and so can Reynolds Polymer, which can also print it on acrylic.




Prints on 3form and Panelite

These translucent and often honeycombed panels are the object of many an aspiring designer's affection because they look so futuristic and so cool. We like to design doors and countertops and walls with these materials. And I think artists should love it too because it could make a great surface to work on. Look at what Panelite did for a museum installation with this photo of Dr. King:

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And if you are a sculptor, you may also be interested in using 3form's light art material to create beautiful pieces like this one:







Prints on Window Film


Lintec does digital printing on window film, which could be an alternative to using custom printed glass or acrylic, depending the type of venue you are creating the artwork for.














Prints on Chairs


TMC Furniture can screen or digitally print your work on the back of a chair. This could be a way to make a great painting or graphic into something more functional that you could sell.
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Prints on Leather Upholstery


Digital Leather can print your design on leather upholstery. From there, it can be made into furniture, or even shoes!






Custom Wallpaper

Astek is one of the wallpaper brands I became familiar with during my time at Expo Design Center. Now they are making custom printing available. You can have your design printed on many different types of wallcoverings, including grasscloth, silk, and glass beaded wallpaper.

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Or go green with Lintec's PRINTERIOR, which is completely recyclable. If you were inspired by the two rooms of the Art Institute's Modern Wing wallpapered in Robert Gober's artwork, you might want to explore one of these options.



The beauty of this is that you don't have to fabricate the products yourself, so working in any of these media will not require any additional training on your part. If you want to create a site-specific piece or an environment that is comprised of your artwork, this could be a good way to do it. If you want to make a great impression at your next art show, having custom fabricated furniture and finishes in your booth could help you to stand out and get noticed. And for those artists making commentary on consumerism, why not use the media of commerce to get your point across? After all, these products are intended to go in commercial spaces.



Working with Art Consulting Firms
(but you probably already knew about them)

Of course, interior designers need artwork in more traditional formats as well. While I was at the show, I met several representatives from art consulting firms. There are many corporations and institutions that need beautiful work to go on their walls, but they can't afford to pay for originals. So they like to buy prints instead. The reps told me that they get their prints from publishing companies. So if you want to go this route, you should look into working with a publishing company. While I was at the Art.com booth, I found out about another service for emerging artists. Artists who participate in ArtistRising.com have a chance to get their work featured on Art.com, which could garner a lot of exposure for your work.

These companies could also be a good place to find a day job if you like sales. Use your artistic eye to help people find the right paintings for their spaces. Not sure if they are hiring right now, but here are their websites:

Artworks Studio, Kansas City, Kansas
Art Rent & Lease, Portland, Minneapolis, New York; Consultants throughout the US
Chicago Art Source, Chicago, IL


If you liked what you saw here on my blog and live in the Chicago area (or want to travel here next year), you should visit the Merchandise Mart's site to sign up for their mailing list so you'll know when NeoCon 2010 is going to be. I would definitely recommend that all artists stop by the show, not just to see new materials to incorporate into their work, but to network with designers and art consultants as well.


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