TED Talk: Artfully Visualizing Our Humanity by Leslie Fandrich

Visually representing SMS messages being sent in Amsterdam on New Years Eve.

Visually representing SMS messages being sent in Amsterdam on New Years Eve.

A few years ago I experienced Arcade Fire's interactive video The Wilderness Downtown (use Chrome to view) and it made me cry. It was so personal and beautiful. One of the people who worked on it, Aaron Koblin, presents an amazing TED Talk on how we can use data and unique interfaces to tell stories and bring some humanity back to the information. Get your note books out. This is a good one.

Don't you just love TED Talks? They are always so thought provoking and inspiring. Do you have any favorites?

Girl Crush Philly: Part Two by Leslie

On Tuesday I wrote Part One about Shauna's beautiful space and my girl crush on Danielle. Today I dive deeper into the exercises we did, specifically the jealousy map.

Girl Crush is more than girls crushing on each other. Before I went, I didn't really realise how in depth we were going to get about our goals and dreams. Yes, we had tea and cupcakes, but Danielle led us in three exercises adapted from The Artist's Way that were designed to get us comfortable sharing in the group, battle our inner critic, and recognise our greatest goals by identifying who we were jealous of.

Looking at who we are jealous of is an unconventional technique because we are taught that it is wrong to be jealous. We shouldn't envy our friends, or want to be something other than what we are, but the truth is that our brains do it ALL THE TIME. Instead of battling that feeling and letting our inner critic tell us we suck for being jealous, why not embrace that feeling, look at it honestly and figure out the WHY. Figuring out WHY we are jealous of someone can lead us to understand what we really should be focusing on in our lives.

Self-reflection is not easy and revealing who we are jealous of makes us feel vulnerable because we fear being judged. In the safety of the workshop it was still hard, but we all did it and supported each other with perspective, understanding and advice. First, we wrote down who we were jealous of, either a specific person, a type of person or a character trait. Then, we went back and tried to figure out WHY we were jealous of them. This is the part where the group discussion was very helpful because sometimes, the reasons we are jealous of someone are not obvious right away. Talking it out helped us to dig a little, find the truth and get to the heart of WHY. Once we figured out WHY, we thought of actionable steps that would help us fulfill that need or want or achieve our goal. Sounds easy right? It's kinda not.

I'm going to take deep breath and share who I am jealous of, to show you how this exercise worked for me. Don't judge, okay?

The one that I shared with the group was: I am jealous of in-crowds. Now, you might think it's because I want to be popular or to be seen, but you would be wrong. In-crowd might be the wrong term, but you know what I mean, right? It's a group of people who are already friends or have worked together before. I am jealous of them because of the support and opportunities that seem to come from being part of a group of people who are working together. It's hard to work alone, and to me, the in-crowd is this wonderful place to be, where you get hugs and jobs all day long. It's easy to look around and see cliques of people and want to be a part of one of those groups, but you can't apply to be a part of an in-crowd, they either include you, or they don't, and you have no control whatsoever about what other people do. So, here is what I have decided to do, I'm going to participate in and build my own community. I'm going to gather with those people around me who are doing what I do and I am going to hug them and support them and work with them. We all have our own communities if we just look around ourselves, like a local Mom's group, the local library or blogging friends who are attending the same events. Teaming up with the people who are already close to me is an excellent way to get support and opportunities.

After all three exercises I was totally exhausted and felt like I need to curl up and take a nap to process all the wonderful things that I heard, but we had one more task, art making! There were book covers, magazine clippings, stamps, pressed flowers, feathers and fantastic art supplies. We all got busy making art and tried to bring some of the insights we had during the day into our pieces. Sitting around the kitchen table, we had more discussions, and I wished that in the future I could conjure up this fantastic, creative table of women every time I needed them.

Thank you to everyone that attended Girl Crush Philly, especially Danielle and Shauna! You both did an amazing job inspiring us. Hope I can see you both again soon.

Check out Flickr to see the rest of my pictures from the day.

Girl Crush Philly: Part One by Leslie

Over the weekend, Jill and I drove down to Philly to attend Danielle Krysa's (The Jealous Curator) Girl Crush art workshop and tea party at Shauna Alterio's loft apartment/studio. Our friend Elizabeth, who we met at Camp Mighty last year, came with us and put us up in her guest room for two nights. (Her home and family are adorable.) We were also surprised to see Jennifer Cooper from Classic Play and Stevie Koerner of Tru.che (who we also met at Camp Mighty) there as well. Seven more incredible women rounded out the group and we spent the day getting to know each other, getting to know our inner critic (that devil that often whispers self-hate in our ear) and supporting each other through discussions about how to allow creativity into our lives as much as possible. 

Shauna and her husband Steve seem to live and breath creativity. Their blog Something's Hiding in Here and companies Forage Haberdashery and Seed House Stationaries represent the diverse range of things they like to make and every inch of their personal space is thoughtfully considered and decorated in a perfectly whimsical, modern and eclectic way. I felt like I was in an Anthropologie store before I even knew that Shauna had once worked for them designing displays and directing the visual language of all the stores. Everywhere I looked I was just in awe of beautiful objects, beautifully arranged. 

While the space was envy-worthy, what topped it was the people who filled the room. These women were incredible. Each one had an interesting background (videographer, chemical engineer, artist, curator, designer, writer) and really interesting ideas about where they wanted to take their lives. Shauna was the hostess and the center of much of the girl crushing, however I must admit that the reason that I was there was to crush on Danielle. There is something about her that I feel such a kinship towards. I'm sure half of it is that she is Canadian, but it's also her art school background, ad agency experience and her five year stay-at-home Mom stint before she realized if she didn't do something for herself again she might go crazy. All that is me too. I feel like I need to learn something from her. Yes, she was definitely my biggest crush of the day.

These gatherings of creative women are certainly something special. It's such a safe, nurturing environment and yet it's no cake walk. Vulnerabilities were revealed, feedback was given, we were all asking questions and trying to get at the root of blocks and issues that may be holding us back. It's hard work. It was exhausting. But it was amazing to witness and participate in. 

I have so much more to share about the insights that I had and the exercises we did to reveal them. Stay tuned for more soon. For now, you can check out the rest of my pictures on Flickr.

Update! Read PART TWO, in which I reveal who I am jealous of. (It might be you.)

James Gordon Irving in Uppercase Magazine by Leslie

What started as a simple blog post has turned into my first printed article in magazine. Sometimes it's interesting how things happen. You can never quite plan the series of events required to produce a piece of work and many things need to be "just right." 

After I wrote that blog post, I began to wonder about Mr. Irving and the limited information about him online. My husband is amazing at tracking people down, as he did for his book 1950s Radio in Color, and I asked him to see what he could find out about Irving. His secret? Librarians. They know everything.

Initially, I just wanted to interview Mr. Irving for my blog and I thought it would be cool to meet him. It turned out to be very difficult to arrange a meeting though, he was sick at the time and it was hard to talk to him on the phone. The idea kind of faded away, until I met Janine at Uppercase Magazine shortly after ALT Summit last year.

She remembered the Golden Nature Guides and had an issue coming up about the creative side of science. An interview with Irving would be perfect. With Janine's interest, we had a new incentive to make the interview happen. After nine months of trying, we finally met with Mr. Irving in February of 2012.

It was wonderful to be invited into his home and to hear the story about his life and career as a commercial illustrator. He was a remarkable guy who worked very hard and had no grand illusions about himself. Modest, funny and a talented artist, he seemed to have enjoyed his life very much. Sadly, he passed away in August, and while it's unfortunate that he won't get to see the article in print, his son told us that he really enjoyed speaking with us that day about his work and basking in some attention from us. I hope that because of this article, more people will know about the fine work that Gordon did, and that his family will feel it's a fitting tribute.

Janine at Uppercase did an incredible job on the layout, it's really quite thrilling to see words that I have written and photographs that I have taken printed in a magazine! I am so grateful to her for the opportunity to do this and I hope that we can work together again soon.

Visit the Uppercase Blog for some excerpts from the article, my contributor's profile and more information about Issue 15. If you would like to read the article, you can purchase Issue 15 from the Uppercase website, however I highly recommend a subscription. I have one and love receiving these fine magazines in the mail every three months. I always find so much inspiration and information about the creative work that people are doing.

"A great idea can spark from an eureka-moment or it can be the outcome of methodical process. Whatever your method, you will find both the inspirational and the practical in this issue of UPPERCASE

In investigating the creative side of science, we were enthralled with the small bits of matter that assemble and combine to create something greater: on the softer side, coloured molecular orbs of baubles and beads are components of jewellery and art; on the flat plane, pixels, points and grids create the framework for two-dimensional creativity.

Please also enjoy our special feature “Beautiful Bitmaps” in which 26 typographers, designers and illustrators interpret a vestigial component of digital type, the bitmap."

Do you have anything from your childhood that you would like to know more about? I encourage you to research it! Meeting the people responsible for the creative work that we have grown up loving is a remarkable experience, for both sides of the table.

The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine by Leslie

I signed up to support Uppercase Magazine's upcoming book The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine. This book will be filled with the history, advertising and ephemera surrounding the typewriter.

"From their invention in the 1860s through much of the 20th century, typewriters were indispensable tools for recording the written word." - Wikipedia

I love the book already and I haven't even seen it yet! I went for "The Deluxe" package and I'm looking forward to seeing the art print that will come with the book. If you are into design and typography at all, this is the book for you!

"UPPERCASE books are known for their attention to detail, beautiful design and high production standards. The Typewriter: a Graphic History of the Beloved Machine will be a large format (9" x 11"), full colour hardcover book with at least 224 pages. The large page size will allow for many actual-size reproductions of artifacts and graphics, presenting this rich visual history is the best way possible."

A Peek Inside the Office of Uppercase Magazine by Leslie

I discovered Uppercase Magazine at ALT Summit last January and was so happy to learn that they are based in my college home town of Calgary, Alberta and that the founder and design director, Janine, went to the same school as I did, The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), and graduated just a year ahead of me.

Janine and I began talking on twitter and email and one of the projects that I was working on happened to be a good fit for the Fall issue of the magazine. I am so excited that my first published article will be appearing in Issue 15! Stay tuned for more about that in September.

The Uppercase office is filled with gorgeous natural light, plenty of colorful items to inspire and of course all the printed magazines and books that they have produced. I'm so impressed with everything Janine is doing, she's worked hard to build a company founded on her passion and love of design and the printed page, all while raising a young family.

The magazine does not rely on advertising for revenue, so it has minimal ads, but that means getting subscriptions are even more important for them. I highly recommend you get this quarterly magazine delivered to your door! It's filled with inspiration, creative people doing incredible work and lots of amazing stories of people living their passions and dreams. Just click on the link below or in the sidebar. 

(Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Uppercase and receive $1 for each sale made through these links, but even if I wasn't, I would still be telling you to get in on this incredible magazine. It's THAT good.)

Thank you to Janine for letting me stop by the office, hang out as long as I wanted and take pictures! It was awesome to meet you in person and see where the magic takes place. 

Note for local Calgary creatives: Uppercase is located in the Art Central building in downtown Calgary on the corner of 7th Avenue and Center Street. The building is filled with galleries, studios, cafes and shops and it's totally worth a visit if you haven't been there before. Be sure to pop into Uppercase and see what they have to offer.

Hand Lettering and Typography by Leslie

Ihave a new favorite thing to do. Hand drawing type. The image above is a freehand sketch of part of the New York Times logo. It's amazing what you can learn by studying something and re-drawing it. Copying work of others is ok in the context of learning, I'm not trying to pass this off as my own unique creation, but I really did learn so much by studying the NYT logo and trying to recreate it. I also learned that graph paper would be very helpful!

It all started last November after Camp Mighty when I illustrated the key points from the five talks. I enjoyed drawing the words in a way that reflected their meaning and gave them greater impact. Then I saw this O Magazine cover and this article about the artist Dana Tanamachi and I realized that I wanted to get much more creative with the lettering. When I illustrated the talks from Alt Summit, I loved thinking about the layout from a typographic perspective and I tried to do a few new things with the letters that I hadn't done before.

Lisa Congdon's 365 Days of Hand Lettering project has also been an inspiration, see her lovely script drawn in an old book below, and she also told me about Jessica Hische's drop cap project, where I got that fabulous letter "I" at the beginning of this post. Jessica's lettering work is very polished and it looks like she finishes everything in the computer. Whether it's drawn in the computer or on paper, as long as you are creating the letters yourself and not using a font, it is considered hand lettering. (PS. Jessica has great information on her blog about getting paid as a freelance artist/illustrator/designer and also about inspiration vs imitation. I love this gal, she is so smart, candid and honest about the issues that are important to her and everyone who works as a commercial artist.)

Despite my graphic design background, I didn't study type in school the way most designers did. I was a multimedia student who started out in photography and got a smattering of design education. I missed the crucial foundation design classes where students have to hand draw type, although I distinctly remember hearing about the assignment from my friends. I think I might be about to make up for it.

In New York last weekend I picked up Typography Sketchbooks by Steven Heller at McNally Jackson and then accidentally came upon Just My Type by Simon Garfield at my local library.

I love Typography Sketchbooks because it shows so many hand drawn fonts on their way to becoming more refined and polished. Process oriented books are the best for learning, you can see how things are developed and made and essentially see behind the curtain.

In the introduction Steven Heller says that a graphic designer who is not fluent in type is not a graphic designer. When I was working as a graphic designer in New York City after I graduated from art school I knew how to use type, I knew which fonts I liked and I recognised good design and typography, but I don't think that I was truly fluent in type. I didn't fully understand the history and work that goes into creating and designing type and that might be why I struggled with taking my design work to the next level. Time to go back to school! Or at least embark on some self guided study.

Just My Type by Simon Garfield looks like a fantastic story-based history of type. The foreword by Chip Kidd is awesome and had me hooked when he talked about the mostly typographic New Order album cover art. I just started reading it but I'm excited to get further into it.

I also picked up a first edition printing of Lettering by Alexander Nesbitt from the 1950s on our recent trip to the Reader's Quarry Bookshop in Woodstock, NY. It's inscribed to Wolfie (I love inscriptions in books!) and has some great examples of script lettering that I'd like to try drawing. It's got lots of information about the history of lettering and the second section contains "A practical course in lettering". It should be a really useful book and I just love that it's 60 years old. Can you believe that it is still in print? History is such a rich place to find inspiration. 

I'm really looking forward to focusing on this new creative outlet. I feel that lettering is a very useful skill for me to develop that will help me with my art and the communication and design of this blog. I've already started using it in my new weekly feature, Photo Walk Fridays, and I'll be redesigning my header as well. I do sometimes fear that my wide array of interests don't allow me to stay focused on just one thing, but I was encouraged by Laurie Smithwick of Leap Design who told me that all of these interests I have are related, they compliment each other and work well together. It's ok if I am a photographer/illustrator/writer/designer/artist. Why limit myself to just one thing? I'd like to know it all, thank you very much, and I'm happy that I have this nice little blog where I can put it all.

More Inspiration:

Do you love type? Do you draw type? Please share with me your favorites and your inspiration!

Photographed at ALT Summit & Roundup of Links by Leslie

Jill and I at the "Dinner en Blanc" party. It was magical to see a sea of light colors floating around the room. © Moss & Isaac

My trip to Salt Lake City to attend ALT Summit was amazing and overwhelming. There were lots of wonderful people, lots of fantastic information and I'll be posting over the next few weeks about what I learned, what I saw and most importantly what I experienced as a first time attendee. If you are a creative person, you HAVE to come with me next year. I am certainly going back. The conference is not just for bloggers, although that is the primary focus, anyone who is involved in a creative field can find something to learn.

Very briefly, one of my top moments was being photographed by Karen of Chookooloonks. I have more to say about it, but it really was a magical moment for me. I also loved the photo walk that I took with Tracey Clark from Shutter Sisters, I met some wonderful people and really enjoyed hearing about Tracey's approach to shooting and teaching photography. More about that too, including the pictures that I shot on the walk. It's no surprise that the photography moments resonated with me the most and I had my eye on the event photographers the entire time. I enjoyed meeting William and Susan Brinson and I scored a beta test invitation for Squarespace 6. Sweet! I also collected 80 business cards and I can't wait to show you the trends that I saw. Almost every card at ALT is amazing.

My top priority over the last few days has been my family, who missed me very much, especially my three year old. It's been three days of emotional turmoil from him and I hope tomorrow will bring calmer seas and more time for me to write and process photographs. In the meantime, these are the event photographs that I appeared in and down at the bottom of the post you will find links to a few recaps that have already been posted. Stayed tuned for more!

Dinner at J. Wongs with Juli Alderson (Inspiration Bug), me, Jill Vaughn (Terra Savvy), Jordan Ferney (Oh Happy Day), Alix Bannon (Cute and Delicious), Lisa Congdon (Lisa Congdon Art & Illustration), Dottie van Every and Alix Tyler (Modern Kiddo). © Brooke Ashley Dennis

Jenny Mitchell (Frecklewonder), Danielle Krysa (The Jealous Curator), Tracy Benjamin (Shutterbean), Dottie and Alix (Modern Kiddo), Victoria Smith (SF Girl by Bay), Rena Tom (Rena Tom), Kelly Beall (DesignCrush). Juli and I are peeking out from behind Jenny on the left. © Brooke Ashley Dennis

The keynote talk from Ben Silbermann, the creator of Pinterest was inspiring, moving and excellent. Game changing inventions are still happening on the internet. Success and innovation are possible. He got a standing ovation from a room full of people who adore him and what he stands for. (I'm sitting directly to the left of him.) © Justin Hackworth
Sitting in on Melisa Russo's (Lil Bee) roundtable discussion about how to "Bridge the Design/Lifestyle/Mommy Blogger Gap." © Justin Hackworth

Cutting paper in Allison Chapman's class about bookbinding. She's a fabulous teacher and runs Igloo Press in Ohio. © Brooke Ashley Dennis

Jill and I posing for photographer Justin Hackworth at the Ru La La Friday night Mini party. © Justin Hackworth

At the Ru La La photo booth with Melanie Biehle (Inward Facing Girl), Jill Vaughn (Terra Savvy), Megan Reardon (Not Martha) and Brianne (The Ravenna Girls).

Photographers: Moss & Isaac, Justin Hackworth Photography and B.A.D. Photography.

Sarah Bryden Brown at BlogStar: 38 Things I learnt at ALT Summit 2012

Amy Ferguson at Old Sweet Song: Eight (More) Steps to Get Over Post-Alt Summit Depression

The Secret Society of Enterprise: Top Tips from Alt Summit

A Blog About Love: Highlights of Alt Summit

Growing a Readership panel, Storified by Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely.

From Blog to Book, Storified by Kate Woodrow of Chronicle Books

Illustrator Tammie Bennett: Alt Summit and Me

Laurie Smithwick at Kirtsy: The Business Cards of ALT

Chrysula Winegar: Finding Work Life Balance When the Muse Calls

Melanie of Inward Facing Girl is rounding up her favs on Pinterest.

Victoria at SF Girl by Bay: So... What's ALT Summit Really Like?

Danielle from The Jealous Curator: Alt Summit 2012

Anne Sage at The City Sage: The Rundown: Alt Summit 2012

Bri at Design Love Fest: Alt Summit Highlights

Alix and Dottie at Modern Kiddo: Alt Summit // You Should Read These Blogs

Rena Tom: Weeknotes 2012/4

Susan at The Working Closet: It Must Be the Altitude

Additional links can be found on the Alt Summit Blog: Recaps Galore, More Alt Love

And ALL the photos can be found on the ALT Summit Flickr stream.

(I'll be adding to list as I find more posts!)

Get Over the Nerves and Shine at Alt Summit by Leslie


Tomorrow morning I board a 7am plane with my traveling/blogging pal Jill and fly to Salt Lake City, Utah for our second networking/learning/inspiration event, the Altitude Design Summit. (Our first was Camp Mighty last November.) You would think that I would be jumping off the walls, all smiles and giggles at the fact that after deciding last year to attend Alt Summit, I am ACTUALLY attending Alt Summit. (10 points for setting AND accomplishing goals.) Instead, I am a ball of nerves, feeling full of self doubt and wondering what the heck I am going to say about myself to hundreds of stylish, awesome and smart designers, photographers, bloggers and various other amazing people.

Where is that self-assuredness that people seem to have? Why is it that I sometimes forget that I am awesome? My husband gave me a pep talk last night and I decided today to do the same for myself. Here's how I am going to get over my nerves and shine at Alt Summit. 

  1. Be Enthusiastic. There is such a thing as too much enthusiasm, however it is so ridiculously over the top, you will know way before you even get close to it. Enthusiasm is your greatest asset at an event like this. Get into it! Know your stuff. Do your homework. Put yourself out there! You will not regret it. You will get out of it what you put into it.
  2. Say Hi to Strangers. Take a deep breath and just go say hi to those people who you know and admire. Before you know it you will be chatting like old friends. And if you aren't? Move on. Not every single person you meet is going to be your best friend, but at least you tried. If you are standing next to someone you don't know, say hi! They are probably nervous too. They might need a hug.
  3. Assume Everyone is Nervous. I would guess that even the veterans who are speaking or organizing are nervous about something too. Those people are putting themselves out there the most and it takes a lot of guts to be a leader. Tell them you appreciate their hard work. And for all the other new people like you and me? Give them a high five, tell them you are nervous too, laugh about a stupid thing that happened. It's all going to be ok.
  4. Ask For Cards. People will appreciate not having to offer it and you will get to give them yours. Also, don't be afraid to just hand out your card first! You worked hard on those puppies, show them off!
  5. Take Notes. Write down everything, including people's names, and try to process everything and store it in memory as it happens. It will go by too fast and before you know it you've forgotten that person's name and the important bit of advice they told you. Listen as much as you can and ask people questions. 
  6. Take a Break. If you feel overwhelmed, tired or nervous, take a step back. Go to the bathroom for some deep breathing, take an hour nap in your room or go for a walk. Keep something that grounds you in your pocket and let it remind you to take care of yourself first.
  7. Be Confident! You've totally got this. Remember why you came here and what it is that you do best. The best way to stay confident is to avoid comparing yourself to others. The only person you can compare yourself to is yourself. Remember where you were a year ago? Five years ago? Yeah - so much better now. Right? You rock, and don't you forget it.
  8. Just be yourself. Relax. Take a deep breath and just be the person you are with your best friends and family. That is the person that everyone wants to meet and hang out with.
  9. Have fun! Do something you've never done before. Dance in the snow. Ask to take someone's portrait. Draw someone a picture. Sing at the piano. Be bold. But... don't drink too much. The last thing you want is a wicked hangover in the morning for the first panel. Space out the drinks, make sure to drink lots of water and take some Advil before you go to bed. 

I'm really looking forward to meeting so many new people starting tomorrow! And after writing this post, I think I am finally more excited than nervous. Check out my About page for a picture of me and who I am. Be sure to come find me and say hello, I'll probably give you a hug and a high five, and my card. Safe travels!

My New, MOO Business Cards by Leslie

I just ordered Moo business cards for myself, featuring my photography and this blog. I was really excited to find the Printfinity service that allowed me to print the front side of the card with 25 different images. As a photographer, this allows me to have a number of options available to hand out and to carry my portfolio around in my pocket. 

Below are all of the cards spread out on my table. Cool, right? I've handed out only a couple so far, but I love being able to see which card appeals to each person. I think it's a little more memorable if people are able to choose an image that they like and then hear the story behind it. The next time I see you, hit me up for your favorite!

*This is not a sponsored post. I bought my own cards and have not received any compensation for writing this post.*

Geeking Out on the Periodic Table by Leslie

When we were at the American Museum of Natural History for Quinn's birthday, my sister-in-law wanted to buy the boys fun placemats. Quinn picked out the dinosaurs, of course, and Milo picked out a colorful placemat of the periodic table. I thought it was very cool myself and I love to encourage Milo towards science. After getting it home and having a closer look at it, I discovered that it was far more than just a fancy periodic table.

Theodore Gray has been able to combine his love of science, talent for photography and his clever humor to create a very interesting and exciting look at the dozens of elements that are the building blocks for everything single thing on earth.

A diamond is forever, unless you heat it too much and it burns up into carbon dioxide gas. Graphite is also pure carbon and widely used in pencils, but not nearly as pretty. In this poster, pretty trumps practical.

This foil is what remained after useful shapes were stamped out, but what those shapes were useful for remains a mystery to me. Pure thorium metal like this is quite rare, and not easily obtained.

These nodules were created by pouring molten aluminum into a bucket of water. There was no reason to do this other than my desire to create a sample to photograph for a certain periodic table poster.

Bismuth loves to form beautiful crystals. You can make small ones without even trying, but one this big requires very pure bismuth and careful control of the cooling rate as the crystal is formed.

The placemat is just one iteration of the information that he has amassed. There is a poster, a book, an Ipad application and the website, each giving us a slightly different experience. The book is full of beautifully designed spreads and large scale images that really let you see the materials.

On the website, if you click on an element and view the details page, you can scroll down and see additional photographs of ways that the element is used and it's applications. There is occasionally humorous and cryptic information about how he obtained some of the materials. On the Thorium page, you can find this:

"Cutout sheets, 20g. This was part of a larger batch purchased by Max Whitby for his commercial element collections: I piggybacked the purchase of this material from the same source, for a sum that must remain confidential per our agreement with the source, who also wishes to remain anonymous. (Nothing illegal mind you, ownership and sales of thorium metal in small quantities is perfectly legal, they just don't want anyone hassling them to sell more of it.)

This sheet is about 1/16" thick, not just a foil, a real plate, heavy due to the high density. The photograph shows it as it originally came to me, it is now 3/4" shorter because I cut off a 15 gram (out of a total of 50 grams originally) rectangle of it to trade for a depleted uranium projectile. Please note that if you're looking for a serious chuck of thorium metal (a) good luck and (b) don't bother asking me, I am not prepared to trade any of this material for blood or money. The only thing I might trade it for is a seriously unusual sample of something I don't have anything like: A significant historical object, genuine DU tank penetrator, that kind of thing."

I just find that whole description fascinating on so many levels and WHAT is a DU tank penetrator?! The way that Theodore tells the stories behind each element is pure entertainment. Secretive buying and selling of rare and possibly dangerous metals aside, the passion and enthusiasm that the author has for his work is apparent throughout the project. The life he has brought to the Periodic Table is incredible.

In addition, Tom Lehrer's famous Elements song now has a visual animation to go with it:

If you thought that was fun, check out Daniel Radcliffe singing the whole thing on a British talk show. I had no idea he was a geek too!! With a great memory!!

I think what is so remarkable about this project is the visual display of information. I am a visual person and if I can see something and make it real, my understanding and memory of it is really improved. I think for students, this is an incredible tool for learning, and every science classroom should have a large poster hanging on the wall and a handout for each student.

Theodore Grey has done us a great service in harnessing his passion and directing it into a project in which we can all share in his knowledge and enthusiasm for the elements that make up our world.

*All images used with permission from Theodore Gray*

Deconstructed Men's Shirts by Leslie


When most people clean out their closets, the clothes are donated or given to a friend. For some reason I was compelled to pull out some of the dress shirts that my husband was getting rid of and I have been cutting them into pieces.

You might remember last summer I was doing some work with fabric, weaving it into wire frames. I stalled a bit after I had done a few pieces, unsure of where to take it and lacking in raw materials. Since then I have been saving all the clothes that I would otherwise get rid of and trying to think of what I would like to do with them.


I figured I should sit down and start playing with it all and cutting up the clothes seemed like a great place to start. Chris's shirts are ideal, with the large panel in the back providing a good chunk of fabric and then all the little details that are in a man's dress shirt. I have been cutting out the collars, cuffs and the pockets and taking off buttons and labels.

My head is still mulling over what to do with all the pieces when I am done, but there are lots of possibilities. I love these deconstructed objects and appliances. I could arrange all the pockets together into a grid and for some reason I see the collars and strips of buttons hanging on a fence blowing in the wind. The artist Jean Shin (someone I learned about in my class last summer) did an installation with cut up shirts. Her work is definitely inspiring me.

There is something very lovely about cutting things up... For all the time we spend MAKING things, sometimes it's nice to unmake things. I guess it's part of the creative process. We must take some things apart so that we may put it back together in another way. Often we learn a lot from taking things apart, we can see the insides, see how it was made, appreciate the details and understand how it was constructed in a way that you just can't see by looking at something from the outside.

Have you taken anything apart lately?

Typography at the B&O Railroad Museum by Leslie

There is nothing better than industrial lettering. At the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore I found so many spectacular examples I could not put my camera down. The colors and styles of lettering were bold and eye catching, meant to be seen and read while a train is zipping by.

From Wikipedia:

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (reporting marks B&O, BO) was one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal (which served New York City) and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which would have connected Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In 1827, twenty-five merchants and bankers studied the best means of restoring "that portion of the Western trade which has recently been diverted from it by the introduction of steam navigation." Their answer was to build a railroad—one of the first commercial lines in the world.

What I Learned at Alt Summit (on Twitter) by Leslie

I still have not gone to my first blog conference. With a two year old who NEEEEEDS me at night and limited childcare options, it hasn't become a reality. One of these days. Soon. So for now I tune in from afar, and like being inspired by Mighty Girls without actually going to the Mighty Summit, I was still able to learn a lot even though I wasn't at the Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City this week.

The Alt Summit, organized by Design Mom and Kirtsy, is geared towards design, style and photography blogs. All kinds of fabulous people from all over the country and the web gather at the Grand America Hotel and attend lectures and events for three days. They get advice, network and meet new people, get inspired and just generally get smarter about what they are doing. The people there are leaders and trend setters and they all have something to say.

I checked in to the #altsummit hashtag on Twitter every once and a while and found a bunch of wonderful new people to follow and got a ton of wisdom in under 140 characters. Here were some of the best ones from just Friday alone:

1. Tina Roth Eisenberg of Swiss Miss gave the final keynote talk and inspired quite a few people on Twitter. These points were given as blogging "rules", however I really think they can apply to life in general.

  • Your enthusiasm and integrity are your biggest assets.
  • Don't talk, just do it.
  • Surround yourself with smart/creative people.
  • Don't wait for a solution to fall in your lap. Go out and make it happen.
  • Have the right intentions. It shouldn't be about the money. Focus on what's important.
  • Surround yourself with beautiful things.

2. Liz Stanley of "Say Yes to Hoboken" has a list of the best up and coming blogs.

3. Photographer Nicole Hill Gerulat said "You can do anything with a tripod and a slow shutter speed."

4. Writer and designer Meg Mateo Ilasco said "The more technology we have in our lives, the more we need to touch things" referring to the fact that print and books are not dead. 

5. DJ Spooky gave a lunch keynote and many people were surprised by him. He talked about Copyright Criminals, a documentary about the history of sampling and said "I wasn't planning to go into music, I was planning to be a diplomat." and also  "The number one selling album of all time is the blank CD."

6. Heather Armstrong from Dooce talked on a panel with Federated Media about the art of pitching to advertisers if you have a blog. Her advice for bloggers?

  • Dealing with ads/ad networks can easily become a full-time job, if you're serious about generating $ you need an assistant, an intern or a clone.
  • You need your own domain for people to take you seriously.
  • Most of the best ad leads are in your inbox. Be sure to reach out the them and send them your media kit.

Overall, on Twitter, people were utterly raving about this conference. It was clear that many of us who weren't there had plans to go next year and were, quite honestly, jealous that we weren't there this year. It's a fantastic opportunity to meet with creative people in an environment perfect for networking and building relationships. It's also a pretty small conference, since it is specifically for design-type blogs. It's far easier to meet the people doing the work that you admire and be able to ask questions about how they do what they do. 

Attending this conference next January is a must for me. I will fly my Mom out from Canada or just bring my husband and kids and somehow raise the money to afford the plane ticket, hotel and conference fee. Anyone want to come with me? Or sponsor me? Let's talk.

House Envy by Leslie

Life can always get better, right? Aren't the most successful people always slightly dissatisfied with the way things currently are? As a kid I was constantly rearranging the furniture in my room, craving change and looking for that new perspective. As an adult, it seems I've made a habit out of some pretty drastic moves, each time one step up the ladder. From small town Canada, to Vancouver, then Calgary, then to a new country, eventually to New York, and now that I have reached the goal of living in the coolest city in the world, I am now on a domestic quest to live in the coolest house. And by cool, I mean "put it in a magazine and take lots of glossy photos" cool.

The place we live in now is the new beginning. It's the first house that my name is on, and the first house that I had a hand in choosing. The way we live in this house is so different from a typical home. The open floor plan, the cathedral ceilings, all the natural light, the huge screened porch that blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor, having 2 acres and being surrounded by trees. It's really wet my appetite for modern design. And yet, it's not perfect.

We've learned that the house was not built for the winter, it's expensive to heat with the current system and it's poorly insulated so that the heat doesn't stay in. We had to upgrade the electrical to 200 amps because the heat pump is such a pig and the wood burning stove that we had installed just doesn't seem to be big enough.  So for all it's perks and how fabulous it is in the summer, I feel a bit like we are forcing this house to be something that it's not. Once we replace the pig with a new propane system and add insulation where ever it can go, it will be much, much better, but I still dream about the day when we can build a brand new house with everything we want and need. It will be energy efficient and inexpensive to maintain, it will be beautiful and balanced, it will have sweeping views and be perfectly situated on a nice 10 acre lot, it will have everything that makes life easy to live and let's put it in California while we are dreaming, so we can really live the indoor/outdoor lifestyle all year around.



So that's why when I saw this article in the NY Times, about Ron Radziner's new house, I totally got house envy. Radziner is a partner at Marmol Radziner and Associates and I have also lusted after the company's super fab, pre-fab. Pre-fab is totally the way to go when building a new modern house. It will cut costs drastically and save time, though it is still building new, with all the headaches and delays that go along with that. The other house that Chris and I fell in love with when we were thinking about building, was the Rapson Greenbelt pre-fabs by Weiler, specifically the Greenbelt 2. We got so far as to speaking to them and looking at land, but alas, it was not the right time for us to be building a house.


Someday in the future though, I will have my dream house. And for now, the one we have is leaps and bounds ahead of anything I have ever seen or even dreamed about, but it truly is just the beginning.