Ink can do this?

November 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

On my desk I have a golden-yellow bowl that holds my pencils (even the sparkly pink pencil I used on my GREs), sharpies, and two random flower knobs from Anthropologie. It also holds various pens. Often their ink only falls on the pages of my journal, forms, or letters. However, dear Readers, I have been inspired to use pens in a different way.

This video clip for Faber-Castell is quite amazing. It’s worth 40 seconds of your time.

Joan Saló Armengol is an artist who lives and works in Berlin and Barcelona. He uses pen on canvas to create wonderful pieces like this…

Untitled - Joan Saló

and this…

Untitled - Joan Saló

and this…

Untitled - Joan Saló

A nod to Joan Saló who has mesmerized me with his work.

I have been inspired. Readers, I hope you are inspired too. Are you?


Peter Pan and the Gift of Stories

November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

A friend’s delight in the animated Disney films she grew up with as a kid has got her blogging her way through the entire collection. Check out her Disnerd Adventures blog here and see my (Abi’s) guest post on Peter Pan, stories, and my first attempts at flight here.

Another Other Immigrant

November 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

For the day we celebrate the immigrant, I’m reminded of a poem by Ed Bok Lee, a Korean American poet from Minneapolis whom I had the pleasure to hear read a month ago. Though this spoken word performer had many lovely images (the sea is the first / and oldest movie) and powerful words (it matters / how I die as much / as what I do / to survive), one phrase stuck out to me, “All love is immigrant.”

After the reading, I bought his recent collection Whorled (2011) and immediately flipped through until I found, not just a line, but this short poem which begins the collection:

All Love is Immigrant

There is another other
in the other of every


I’m still sitting with these words.

Perhaps no “other” is so iconic as Dorothea Lange’s 1936 photo of an impoverished Migrant Mother. Abstract artist Marten Jansen was struck by how the family continued to live in poverty despite the fame of the photograph. He writes, “Everyone has seen the photo, everyone has identified with the family, but the real-life individuals remain irrelevant.” He painted that depersonalization of the mother, titled Immigrant below.

Director James Bort also celebrates the other in every Another through dancers around the world. He says, “I wanted to make a small tribute to the dance, all dance forms, like a musical score played with several instruments. The idea is to bring together seven dancers and so many worlds, countries, styles, ages and personalities. ”

The result is an entire-bodied celebration of so many passions. I’ve yet to see a tap dancer who doesn’t love what he’s doing.

The dedication for Ed Bok Lee’s book is “for those who let love learn.” Isn’t that lovely? May you, Readers, let love learn this long weekend.

Color by Color

November 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

The first week of school I had my students pick a crayon of their choice. I said, “Choose any color you want.” Most responded with, “Why?” I said, “It’s for a project. You will see.” A month or two passed and a couple of fourth graders asked, “Miss Vang where are the crayons?” I confessed and said, “You will see the crayons in a week. I promise.” Good thing I have students keeping me accountable. Here is a photo step-by-step of this unnamed art piece.

1. When the crayons are all glued onto the canvas, start melting the crayons by using a hair dryer.

2. After the crayons have melted let it dry.

3. Every artist must sign their work.

4. The art piece hangs in Room 112.

A nod to my students.

I want to challenge you reader to use everyday art supplies or tools in an interesting way. Dear Readers, maybe you can try to use wires, color pencils, or erasers. What will you try?

Weekend Do: Pass Go

November 18, 2011 § 4 Comments

If anything, I’ve come to appreciate Pakou’s weekend posts for the sense of purpose or vision they give for the next few days. Yes, I think, it is the weekend. So much possibility. And somewhere to start. So wherever this weekend takes you, be it sprawled on your couch, partaking of your city, dining with friends or family, or traveling to Canada, may you start well by doing a few things.

1. Do hold onto your socks, your face, or anything else that might rock off  because of Lisa Hannigan’s soulful tunes.

Doesn’t she seem like such a delightful person? I love that she can’t resist smiling when she sings. Her repertoire includes some lovely collaborations with notable male vocalists like Glen Hansard (of Once), Ray LaMontagne, and Damien Rice. Also worth listening to are her songs “O Sleep” and “Courting Blues.” Oh, I am loving her. I hope you fall for her too.

2. Do create a new piece out of something old. I’ve enjoyed some of these “block out” poetry pieces (where you create a new poem by highlighting select words on a page from an old book) and want to play around with it, but this piece is one of my favorites.

I love the stormy background, the highlighted “I” in the entire piece that suddenly switches to a “you” at the end. Me, me, me, but YOU tell the story best. And the title just wraps everything neatly together. I’m intrigued by the process of creating block poetry because you have to have a particular eye (no pun intended!) to see a new piece within so many other words, to know how to manipulate what’s there to reveal something different.

3. Do visit your local bookstore as so many are sadly going out of business. But beware! In an interview about his latest book Hope: A Tragedy, Jewish author Shalom Auslander says, “There is much more dangerous shit in your average independent bookstore than you are ever going to see in TV or film. You could do posters for Candide that would get banned.” Bookstores seem like such cozy, quiet, safe little nooks. And yet so much awaits within them. Not even our shock-value media can compare with our imagination combined with the written word.

4. Do rock your style at any age, like these lovely ladies who exercise their creativity through fashion, who hunger for color, surrealism, and leopard prints.

These women are indeed inspiring. I don’t know if I’ll be this bold or fashion-intelligent when I march into old(er) age (I’m hardly either now), but I do hope not to be a dreary old woman.

Ready for the weekend? Hop to it, folks. And listen to Lisa one more time.

Documenting Moments of Life

November 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Oh, life, such a weight and joy that it brings-of course it deserves documentation! Journaling has always been my default in recording the losses, experiences, and dreams of my life; however, I have found much freedom in exploring different ways to document life moments.

In my family there is a tradition of telling stories and events through story cloths call paj ntaub (flower cloth). Hmong story cloths uses embroidery and appliques to create people, animals, and stories. I am not sure if I could make a paj ntaub of an event in my life, but the idea of stitching words or images on fabric or using fabric to remember a person or experience is something I will definitely be exploring.

A corner of the paj ntaub in my home - harvest time.

Recently, I have been inspired to pair journal entries with sketches. Carrie Rosalind shares her great-grandmother’s journal pages on her blog.

Rosalind's great-grandmother's 10.21.42 journal entry.

Lately, I have been taking instant documentation of moments with my Polaroid camera. The old school navy and golden-yellow 600 Film Polaroid camera sits on top of my treasured bookshelf. The Impossible Project exists to continue the art of analog instant photography. It explores and produces instant film for traditional Polaroid cameras.

My priceless Polaroid camera with some photos I have taken.

What are some ways you document life, moments, or people?

Here Be Dragons

November 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

I really want to love the book The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen. The idea of a kid cartographer genius is great – and the author includes maps in each page’s margin (see my first post about it here.) Yet the voicing of the child genius feels unbelievable to me most of the time. Still, the writing is lovely and I keep coming across beautiful passages like this one:

I firmly believed that drafting maps erased many of the unwarranted beliefs of a child. Something about measuring the distance between here and there cast off the mystery of what lay between…the number one rule of cartographia was that if you could not observe a phenomenon, you were not allowed to depict it on your parchment. Many of my forebears, however, including Mr. Lewis, Mr. Clark, and even Mr. George Washington (the cartographer-turned-president who could not tell a lie but could certainly draw a lie), perhaps because they were born into a world of great uncertainty, had violated this rule quite blatantly by imagining all sorts of false geographies in the territory just beyond the next mountain. A river clear to the Pacific, the Rockies merely a thin line of foothills – it was so tempting to graft our desires and fears onto the blank spaces of our maps. “Here be dragons,” the cartographers of old wrote in the empty abyss just beyond the reaches of their pen lines.

I love this. How often do we try to name our fears and desires without knowing them, to define a space simply by what we want without taking the hard road of discovery or learning to dwell for a time in the tension of uncertainty? I do think this is one value of art – that creating becomes a process where we explore those unknown areas within ourselves and come to a place where we can map the journey truthfully. Without dragons.

Artist Susan Stockwell uses this symbolism of maps quite literally in her paper dresses. For her exhibit at the New York City Art Gallery, she’s made Victorian-era-inspired dresses out of historic maps from the 1870s, pairing both a lost fashion and a lost view of a much-changed world. In her work, Susan explores ecology, geography, and global trade, and she uses and recreates maps in ways that challenge what we know or think we know about our world.

Kurt Vonnegut used another type of map to show how closely we stick to the familiar in our storytelling. He broke down the arc of stories into 3 main patterns, mapping them on an x and y axis (or rather a G-I axis on the B-E continuum). He has this comedic dry humor so evident in his writing but which I was surprised to find exists in his presentation as well. (I tend to think most writers are awkward in real life. This may just be derived from personal experience…)

And really, I couldn’t let this post go by without a song by Maps & Atlases (so appropriate, right?). But I think “Solid Ground” fits this theme too. The lyrics, “in winter decay / when hopes and plans seem all but gone / you have found a way / to make me seem like almost drawn,” echoes how we’re so often on the abyss until we step back, wait, then draw past those boundaries with new found knowledge.

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