Sunday, December 30

More prints of the moment

Low to high:

[L-R: 1971 poster by Scott Hansen, $14.99 (11.5" x 17.5"); Avian poster by Scott Hansen, $14.99 (17.5" x 11.5")]

[Plant studies monoprints on handmade paper by Catherine Chalmers via Papa Stour, approx. $95.82 (approx. 7.4" x 7.4")]

I saw this in the latest Domino and immediately wanted to see the print in person. It's a limited edition lithograph and though I found it on for $188.99, I'm not sure if what they are offering is a true lithograph. For this particular print, I would want the real thing.

[Berliner Secession Iii lithograph by Thomas Heine via, $264.99 (37" x 27")]

Saturday, December 29

Prints of the moment

As per usual, I'm going through my bookmarks. This time I realize I have a number of art/posters saved. Perhaps I'll be loving owners to all these prints one day.

All the independent, affordable art made possible by the Internets these days is so wonderful.

[L-R: toro giclee by Jen Ray via Etsy, $20 (4.4" x 4.75" image on 8.5" x 11" paper); Many Mountains archival pigment print by Ky Anderson via 20x200, $20 (8.5" x 11") - $2000 (30" x 40")]

These are posters are from Billboard's The 25 Best Rock Posters of All Time. I also really liked the James Brown, Pearl Jam, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix posters, but couldn't find them online anywhere for a reasonable price. Apparently, only 6 known copies remain of that Beatles poster. As for the others, I can only dream of coming across one of them someday at a thrift store. I still love Jason Munn's work the best when it comes to band posters though.

[L-R: Thelonius Monk at Town Hall, New York City, 1959 by Dennis Loren via, $24.99 (17" x 24"); Elvis Costello by Hammerpress, $50 (15.25" x 22.25"); Johnny Cash in Concert, 1967 by Dennis Loren via, $24.99 (15" x 23")]

Though she is everywhere these days, I'm actually not a huge Jill Bliss fan. However, I did really like these.

[native herb posters printed with soy-based inks on 100% recycled matte cardstock by Jill Bliss, $16 each (16" x 20") or $29 for a set of 3;]

Tuesday, December 18

Handbags for the non-handbag gal

I usually carry around a scruffy cotton tote as a purse and have never spent half a month's rent on a handbag. So it's odd I've been paying close attention to handbags lately (such as staring down fashionistas in the subway). For some reason, I really like these:

[Clockwise from top left: Dr. Q Groovee by Marc by Marc Jacobs, $498; Bon Voyage Bag by Orla Kiely via Anthropologie, $458; Press Your Luck Tote via Anthropologie, $428; Flap Hobo by Olivia Harris, $440]

Monday, December 17

Jewelry for the non-jewelry gal

I can never find jewelry that I like but was surprised to find that over the past month I had accumulated four jewelry pieces in my bookmarks. I guess they caught my eye while I was doing my mindless internet perusals, and I could see myself wearing them. These are all handcrafted and such elegant but understated pieces. There is a bit of polished, graceful rawness to all of these that I really like.

[Clockwise from top left: Tiny Diamond Ring $240, Faceted Bangle Bracelet $22, Textured Ebony Ring $25, Golden Teardrops $26]

Monday, December 10

Until next year, yellow/orange/red

It's been awhile. I come back only to bid a fond farewell to a really lovely autumn season and all its colors. oh, colors! I will fill this studio with love again, soon. We are off to warmer climates (aka California) on Saturday. It was a really hectic November... tested out new waters and much to my surprise, found it enjoyable.

Saturday, November 10

Cashmere Love

Cashmere is my newest addiction. I'm a little late to the game. I have been aware that it is regarded as essential, but I never really felt the urgency of shelling out $100+ for a sweater. Now I'm a believer for one sole reason: temperature control. It's amazing in making you feel warm yet not overheated. Brilliant for the extreme interior/exterior temperature changes during the fall and winter in a place like New York.

UNIQLO's cashmere sweaters are currently 20% off, which make them attainable for just under $70. Not the highest quality you can get but great for cashmere novices. Plus they've got any color you can dream of.

Thursday, October 25

Mashed potatoes for breakfast

That's what I succumbed to this first morning of chilly, rainy weather, which I'm pretty sure determined my fate for the rest of autumn and winter in the comfort-foods-consumption department.

Other ways to feed yourself some insta-comfort:
- Put a bit of half-and-half in your coffee
- Roast a chicken with garlic, lemon and herbs
- Eat trail mix with more chocolate and yogurt chunks than nuts and raisins

Tuesday, October 23

Playing hooky

Creepy weather for being almost November, but who's complaining? A couple photos of not-doing-work yesterday at Riverside Park by IluminaciĆ³n luiseƱo.

Sunday, October 21

Obsessive Consumption

jen bekman is a tangible art-space in SoHo for the DIY/Etsy set. If you're into that.

Currently at the gallery, there is a Kate Bingaman-Burt exhibition. Kate is a graphic designer/illustrator known for her daily drawings of her purchases and, amongst other things, does drawings of every one of her credit card statements until they are paid off. It's interesting, this idea of documenting what you consume.

(illustration by Kate via her Obsessive Consumption blog)
I admire how transparent she is about her spendings habits. I, on the other hand, am very secretive, and if anyone asks where I got something I always I say I got it on sale "somewhere," even if it was blatantly from the entrance rack at Anthropologie. Maybe I secretly want to be French or something. Kate seems to be the antithesis of my sentiments and at the same time is able to put it all out there in such a visually appealing way.

jen bekman
6 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, October 18

Billyburg knows good design

Familiar gripes about Williamsburg aside, there is some great stuff to be found (and less people to encounter) if you venture off of Bedford Ave. In the spirit of gathering inspiration and ideas for a client, Kat and I went on a small design tour last Friday. No, I haven't branched off into interior design, but it's good practice to tease your senses with real-world textures, shapes, lines, colors and contrasts before making any sort of graphic statement on the screen.

I'm not going to complain about the prices (but I will make a nod toward the irony of W'burg restaurants being filled with young people on a weekday... seriously, how these people make their income to spend on expensive design is a mystery), but the design stores were accompanied by good-natured and relaxed shop-people who actually allowed us to take photos. I really love the "craftsman" feel of design of all forms these days, lying somewhere between DIY and DWR.

(Moon River Chattel - ocean and botanical-inspired mercantile at 62 Grand St b/w Wythe & Kent)

(The Future Perfect - high-end but endlessly witty and well-crafted pieces at 115 N 6th St & Berry)

(A&G Merch - next door to The Future Perfect at 111 N 6th St & Berry. Felt like a grown-up version of Urban Outfitters, in a good way.)

Wednesday, October 17

Before it was exploited for hipster soft porn marketing schemes...

I was fascinated by this article about the font ITC Grouch in Design Observer from a couple months ago. I had been noticing a throwback to this font in the circles of American Apparel/Vice Magazine/Nylon/The Cobra Snake... whatever genre you want to call it that features (camera-flashed) skinny girls with unkempt hair and boys with mustaches and pot bellies. (I can't think of a better word for it than "hipster" but that word gets you into trouble these days, since its contexts are so polarizing now, that I have to think about who I am talking to before I actually use it.)

Anyway, before that article, I hadn't known what the font was a throwback of. But when I did have my encounters it always felt strangely familiar, like I had known it all my life. Not surprisingly, I had. The font was designed in the 1970's and was used regularly through the 70's and 80's. And much like the author, once it moved from my peripheral and into the bloodstream, I found it hard to get rid of. Here are my most recent acquisitions of ITC Grouch (or similar renditions):

(This is the spine from one of the books I also got from Housing Works' Open Air Book Fair. It was published in 1971 and has amazing and extensive diagrams and illustrations on how to take care of indoor plants.)

(I found this Pantone binder of thousands of color swatches on the street. The cartoon on the right is a snippet from a brochure that came with the Pantone binder, which I just included because I thought it was funny.)

Tuesday, October 16

Monday, October 15

By the cover

These are from Housing Works Used Book Cafe's Open Air Book Fair in SoHo a couple weekends ago. $1 each, so they were more like purchases for design research based purely on their covers, though the Turabian writing manual, Othello and The Dud Avocado (apparently, the O.G. Bridget Jones of the 50's and just reissued) are classics. Yen helped me find a couple of these.

I love all the clean lines (especially the stripes), simple color palettes and no-nonsense typography. The writing manual is my favorite. Graphic designers were such pioneers back in the day. It's also no surprise that Constructivism is one of my favorite art movements.

Friday, October 12

The woman in a polka-dotted dress... Andrea making out with Sam in the brand spankin' new New Pornographer's music video featuring Neko Case. The video premiered today on MTV2's Subterranean Blog and was mentioned in Pitchfok's Forkcast as well.

Congratualations to Courtier for being photogenic, good kissers (I presume) AND being kind to animals (they take care of our cat while we're on vacation).

Another Andrea & Sam moment featuring polka-dots if you can't get enough: she wears polka dots and plays the accordeon by Sasha.

Tuesday, October 9

On 1940's Shanghai fashion through Lust, Caution

I had been so wound up to see Ang Lee's Lust, Caution ever since we met the movie's Foley Editor at a bar downtown over the summer who described the film as "the soft porn version of Casablanca."

I did get to see an advanced screening a couple weeks ago at Columbia, and since then I have not been able to stop thinking about the east-meets-west fashion of Shanghainese high society during the Japanese occupation of China and 2nd World War. The garb was at its peak in reflecting the two polarizing political situations of the time that was transforming China - remnants of the last Chinese dynasty which fell three decades years earlier while the country was just a few years shy of the Communist takeover. In between this time, Shanghai was susceptible and open to many Western influences which allowed the city to compete with chic metropolises such as Paris and New York.

The costuming in Lust, Caution lent itself to a mixture of traditional Mandarin gowns (qipao) and Casablanca-esque trench coats and business suits. Women's looks were always accompanied with impeccably applied makeup, gem-incrusted jewelry and perfectly coiffed hair. In my opinion, it's one the most romantic time periods in fashion because it evokes the heartbreaking realities of the bourgeois Chinese during the war. Men and women rarely showed emotion, bit their tongues when making sacrifices, knew their roles and were always "put together," but on the sidelines, clandestinely experimented and discovered their sexual identity and power (or whatever it was that was being repressed) in the throes of the utter political turmoil of war.

That is usually the context of films depicting this time period anyway, and watching these epic stories unfold on the screen is the main reason my heart gushes over the costuming. I do not feel the same by just looking at photos. My love for the fashion of this era is derived directly from the dramatic narratives and sagas, and also the fact that my grandparents were students in China (as the protagonists were in Lust, Caution) during the Japanese occupation. Teased with crumbling photographs and oral histories lost in translation from Mandarin to English, I am always thirsty for the romanticized version of my grandparent's young adult lives through the eye of not only a historian or documentarian but of an artist and storyteller.

I didn't notice this while watching the film, but if you watch the trailer, the color concept is a cool palette running consistently throughout the movie. And traditional qipao, while quite often tailored in vibrant fabrics, were at most a faded sage or dark blue in the film, communicating an ominous fear prevalent for even the rich and powerful during this time. Warm notes of bright fuschias and deep reds hinting at the intense but short-lived passion between the main characters revealed itself in fleeting splashes here and there of small decorative details: flowers, textiles, wall colors, accessories, lipstick and nail polish.

How amazing it would've been to work on the costume design or art direction of this film!

Wednesday, October 3

Vintage cravings

My latest eBay rummaging has included vintage globes. Apparently there are some serious collectors out there. I don't really know the differences in manufacturers or what makes certain globes more attractive as a collector's item though (obviously, the older the globe, the more desirable but what else?). Unlike vintage maps, globes are so much more tangible; they are these wonderful three-dimensional, tactile nuggets of history based on a mixture of facts, educational guesses and pure assumptions. I did win one on eBay recently. We'll see if this obsessions keeps up.

(globe collection from lovelydays via flickr)
I'm also looking for a 50's Steno-like chair, which is incredibly hard to find in the city for a good price since they are very much sought after. Companies that do impeccable restorations (like Twenty Gauage does for vintage steel furniture), or reproductions from manufacturers who have the license to the original designs (like DWR) fetch upwards of $500, which is just ridiculous when you're not a collector and can find the chair easily at any suburban thrift store in America for under $20. Unfortunately, you're out of luck if you don't have a car. And the chances of finding one on the street on garbage day... well, I admit I still pray to the mid-century design gods all the time for a spectacular score like that one day.

(Refurbished Steno chairs from Twenty Gauage)
I did find a couple at an office furniture resale warehouse on 6th Ave near my office today where the owner quoted me $125 for each chair. Not by Steno but of the same 1950's style. I liked them a lot. I may have to break down and buy one of them since Craigslist and eBay are not giving me any better deals, and I would spend that much on a desk chair from Staples... well, maybe about half as much but the Staples chair would no doubt go from cradle to grave in less than 5 years anyway.

Tuesday, October 2

This is the house that Will built

I know a lot of architects for not actually being an architect myself. Here are the fruits of my friend Will's labors. Will is the only architect I know who is self-employed, so his first completed boutique design project in downtown San Jose is very exciting. If you ever need anything designed and built, you can e-mail him - (Happy Birthday, Will!)

112 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose CA 95112

Monday, October 1

The end of writing e-mails to clients whilst in my pajamas with one finger stuck in the Nutella jar.

I moved into my studio today! Working from home (or a cafe) has always sounded romantic to me, which is why I did it for the past four months. But the truth is, if you don't have discipline and are easily distracted, it can take its toll. Some days I wouldn't even leave the apartment simply because there was no reason to do so (I am the type of person who can spend three days in a row indoors without thinking anything is wrong until I get dragged to a bar and realize I've completely forgotten how to talk to people). Or I'd spend all morning reading magazines and then end up doing work late into the night. And if your only interaction all day is with a cat... needless to say, I recognized the oncoming, self-induced train wreck and got out of there.

So! I'm hoping to have the best of both worlds at this new office space in Flatiron District, which I share in a big loft with other creative freelancers and small start-ups. I am very grateful to be part of this collective full of people who manage their careers so independently. Very inspiring. Still get to keep my own hours (I refuse to commute during rush hour) and choose my projects (more or less), but now I can keep up with my socialization skills and not rummage through my cupboard every 15 minutes for snacks.

(Happy birthday, Dad!)