Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wiggy and Walter

And now for something completely different...

I am the proud owner of two cats: a female, grey tabby named Murray and the other a big, fluffy, white male who rules the roost and goes by the name of Wiggy. Wiggy is a character for sure just like his late sister Toupee. When we moved into this house I was pregnant, therefore, it took me forever to unpack. I would get overwhelmed very easily and would just stop, leaving boxes half put away and just a mess everywhere. One day I was unpacking a box in my office and I ran across my "Walter the Farting Dog" stuffed toy that was lovingly gifted to me by a close friend who has the same 12-year-old-boy sense of humor I have. This toy is based on the main character in the "Walter the Farting Dog" series of books, you squeeze it and it poots (2 different ones!). I didn't know where to put it so I just stuck it back in the box and left to go take a nap. Well, if you know cats you know that they love boxes, exploring inside them, etc. Wiggy ran across ol' Walter and he fell in love. Yep, he dragged him out of the box and decided that this was his new BFF. I would take Walter away from Wiggy, but no matter what Wiggy kept finding him and dragging him around the house to cuddle, clean and just hang out with. I would find Walter upstairs one day, downstairs the next. I got such a kick out of it I started to take pictures of Wiggy and Walter around the house. Here are a few to enjoy (these are not staged)...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let's Go! - Cumberland, Maryland

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic and would like to share some pictures of a place my husband and I called home for a few years - Cumberland, Maryland. Cumberland is a lovely little city in the western part of Maryland up in the mountains (yes, Maryland has mountains). It's an often overlooked city in an often overlooked - except for Deep Creek Lake - part of the state. Surrounded by mountains, tucked in a valley, Cumberland used to be a quite large and busy manufacturing center. Times have changed and it struggled for a while before tapping into it's rich history and attracting tourists. The downtown is fantastic, lovely shops, historical buildings and restaurants. My personal favorite being Queen City Creamery, where you can grab a coffee, freshly made deli sandwich, and the best frozen custard on Earth! Here are some pictures of the city and it's buildings - enjoy!!
Let's start with Washington Street, filled with historical mansions and stately homes. The architecture on this street is amazing. There are some real showstoppers here!

Allegany County Courthouse with it's gargoyles:

Emmanuel Episcopal Church in the heart of the city with it's original Tiffany windows (yep, Tiffany himself designed them), this was also part of the Underground Railroad. There are tunnels and rooms beneath the structure that were once part of Old Fort Cumberland.

Some other pictures, including our street we lived on:

I really miss Cumberland and it's people, just a lovely area of the world. I cherish the time we spent there and all the fabulous friends we made. If you ever get a chance to visit, please do, the city and surrounding areas are not to be missed!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some thoughts about now

With the news a couple of weeks ago that the Sears Tower will be renamed the Willis Tower (groan) came the realization that every place I've ever worked has either been renamed or simply does not exist anymore. How sad. It seems like my work history doesn't exist. When asked where or for whom I have worked, most responses get blank stares or remarks of "Are they even in business anymore?" (No, they aren't - is usually my response). There are two that are still around, Culp and Covington, but the locations and the divisions in which I worked are distant memories (as are the people I worked with).

Textiles used to be a very stable, exciting and vibrant industry. I have heard stories of the lavish parties and trips people used to take - when times were good. Unfortunately for the Textile industry, times haven't been "good" for the past 10 years (or more) - basically my entire working career. When my husband graduated from college he missed his graduation because he was already working, people were fighting for textile graduates. That was a while ago. Since then, I have watched mounds of people lose their jobs, little towns die (or at least scramble to reinvent themselves as something other than a "mill town") and old manufacturing facilities turn into condos or just left to waste away. How sad. The saddest part is not many made a fuss, there were no bailouts or lifelines for them. I watch the news these days and I sigh because the way most people are feeling now is the way I have felt for most of my career. It's tough walking into work each day not knowing when the hammer will fall. I got laid off from two different companies in the course of a year - yeah, I used to joke I was a walking country song waiting to be written. I just picked up, moved on and prayed, a lot.

The industry is a completely different animal now, mostly overseas. There are a few manufacturers here that hang on, and I hope they do well. I hope people start to realize more and more how important it is to support them. But what I want you to take away from reading this is that you have to evolve too. I have learned this the hard way. Get up, dust yourself off and plow on. I'm having to look at my future career path in a completely different and creative way, because what I used to do, in the capacity I did it in, is slowly dying out. Maybe this economic downturn will force more people to be creative, entrepreneurial, and use outside-the-box thinking. I sure hope so, I am looking forward to a very bright future, and that this hard time will soon pass.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Good Fortune!?

I love fortune cookies - they are the perfect ending to a fab meal of Chinese food! I pulled these three fortunes from cookies in the course of one month. I thought each was interesting, so I kept them and put them up on the previously mentioned inspiration board in my office. Apparently I am one creative and therefore will be prosperous chick! All this prosperity will most likely occur in three months or a few years. My fingers are crossed!!! Wait, what field of entertainment are they talking about? Uh oh...

Cut and paste

Like most people in creative professions, especially any sort of design, I'm a visual person, I need to see things for them to be processed. I need to keep images of things that inspire, create a mood, make me happy or are just plain old pretty, in front of me at all times. I have done this for as long as I can remember. Growing up I had the inside door of my closet plastered with the latest things I loved from fashion magazines. I was never one to hang up pictures of bands or actors, clothes and accessories are what I swooned over, as well as the occasional building or interior. Now I keep things a bit more tidy, I have two cork boards that I have filled with images I find interesting.

The first one hangs in my home office right above my desk. This is the board where I put things that inspire my creativity and images I find visually entertaining, along with the occasional smattering of things I would love to have (hello YSL platform pumps and the perfectly decorated bedroom with just the right amount of color).

The next board hangs in my closet, this one is more of an "aspirational" inspiration board. It has images of clothes and looks that I like and may inspire a mixing up of my wardrobe. In other words to prod me out of my "pants and t-shirt" box. Oh, we all have our "uniforms" don't we? I also keep some earrings and my necklaces hanging from it. That was the board's original purpose - a place to hang my jewelry and some other accessories from, but it evolved - being the image pulling freak that I am.
Both of these boards are ever changing, they evolve almost monthly. Some of the images I remove get archived in my inspiration notebooks and some just get tossed. Someday I hope I can have a whole wall in my house dedicated to nothing but my crazy image collecting. There is comfort in having these around, I look at them and ideas pop up in my head or I just can escape from my hectic day for a few seconds. It's one of my many "things". I wonder how many of you out there do something similar?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Armor Amour

I was reading the latest WSJ Magazine earlier this week and it had a very interesting article about suits of armor being in demand by collectors as art see here. I am fascinated with armor, not in a renaissance festival way, but in more of an apparel as "protection" way. Armor manages to be cool and at the same time kind of creepy. I always try to seek out the armor section of any museum I visit (if they have one) and spend time looking at the pieces and thinking about all the time that went into making them. Not only making them decorative, but fierce looking and functional. How amazing would it be to go back in time and watch one of the craftsmen make these suits? I think about the person wearing the suit and how hot they must have been (like heat hot, not woo hoo hot) and how claustrophobic wearing those helmets would be. If I start thinking about that stuff too much, that's when it gets creepy. I don't think I could have a suit of armor in my house as art, but I appreciate those that do.

The article brought back memories of John Galliano's Fall 2006 Christian Dior Couture collection - a totally amazing collection with his own take on armor (or pieces of it) - see below:

Fabulous! (I wonder who made those metal sleeves for Dior?) Visit Style.com and click through the collection, it's a wondrous journey from look to look. Galliano is pure genius with the Couture. I'll touch more on that in another post. Any of these dresses I would be happy to have in my home as art! Hazaah!
All images are from Style.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Spring (a little early)!

I was looking through some of my old pictures and found this gem I took from Spring 2006 in Cumberland, Maryland, where I used to live. This was taken on beautiful Washington Road. Cumberland is in the western part of the state in the mountains and not many outside the area know much about it. It really is a lovely place that we were happy to call "home" for 4 years.
Anyhoo, we've been having such lovely weather in Georgia that I'm in the Spring spirit and this picture just makes me feel good! Hope it does the same for you!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Inspiration underfoot

Sometimes inspiration comes in unexpected places at unexpected times. I had this happen a few years ago on a side trip to Seattle before a Color Marketing Group conference in Vancouver. Maybe I was just tuned in more to my creative side in preparation for color forecasting fun, but I guess I was at the right place at the right time for me to think of something we see everyday, as something inspiring. I was standing with my friend and Mom on a sidewalk waiting to cross the road, it was a little chilly so I was looking down at the sidewalk and noticed the really cool manhole cover with a map of the city of Seattle on it:

How cool! I quickly snapped the picture. It got my brain going - how many other things have I overlooked or didn't think twice about because I didn't take the time to really look. Look at the picture again, think how much effort someone went to to design that and how creative someone was to suggest they actually make a manhole cover as sort of a piece of art? How many more of these cool covers are there out there? On my travels since, I have made an effort to look down and notice manhole/utility covers on the streets and sidewalks and take pictures of them. It's something I look forward to doing, like hunting down treasure that may or may not be there. Some have been interesting, but none have lived up to the Seattle one. My point is to take time and just look around and notice some things you may have overlooked before - you may be pleasantly surprised! I'll leave you with some other covers I've found on my travels. Have an inspiring day!

From Greece:

From Puerto Rico:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The pillow upon which I dream...

A few years ago I ran across this Manolo Blahnik pillow, pictured below, on one of those fabulous, obscure (at the time) second hand web stores. You know, the ones that sell barely used designer goods cast off by socialites, celebrities, and wealthy women who have more money than they know what to do with. What caught my eye was: #1 it was Manolo Blahnik (BIG fan), #2 it had Scottish Terriers on it (I collect interesting vintage Scottie knick knacks) and lastly I had seen these pillows in magazines and knew they were very hard to come by. Manolo had sold some in his stores, but mostly they were given as gifts for certain occasions. As you can see this one was clearly meant for Christmas 1997-98. I made note of the listing and kept my eye on it. When it was initially listed, it was a bit pricey. I checked on it a few times a week, hoping that no one bought it and that maybe it would go on sale. A couple of months later the site had a massive clearance to make room for new stuff. Behold my (I already considered it to be mine) pillow was on major sale - below 3 figures!!! I purchased immediately. A week later it arrived and it did not disappoint. It is a lovely pillow, you can tell it isn't cheaply made. The fabric is a lovely butter yellow linen, stuffed with feathers and has some very nice fringe. The image is carefully silk screened on the front - it's beautiful, the picture doesn't to it justice. I had my pillow and didn't think of it as anything more than a lovely item for my home, until...

I keep quite a few binders full of images/articles and the like that I have pulled from magazines throughout the years. If I find something interesting or inspiring I pull it and file it (more on this habit of mine in another post). Somewhere along the line I had pulled the editor's letter from Harper's Bazaar because it had pictures of then editor Liz Tilberis's office (see below - I'm unsure of what month it's from, but it's certainly during the late 90's). I love seeing creative people's working spaces, I find it fascinating. I really admire the late Ms. Tilberis. She reinvented Bazaar into a very graphic, fresh and visually stunning fashion magazine. The layouts, graphics and typography really made an impact (thanks to Fabien Baron - a genius that way). Sometime after I purchased the pillow, I was looking through one of the binders when this page caught my eye. If you look closely at her office you will notice (I know it's hard) 4 yellow Manolo Blahnik pillows - the same as my pillow - right on her sofa!! I did a double take. Now I'm not saying that I may have one of those pillows that once resided in her office (I'm sure more than 4 were made), but I can dream that it was. Right?! I can imagine in my head that the pillow I have once had a more glamorous life in NYC and had been a part of a very exciting time at that magazine. It may have overheard some very interesting conversations between very interesting people.

Sometimes I find myself staring at that pillow thinking "What if?" and "Maybe..." And it always makes me smile.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

SpongeBob SquarePants!!

That's how the theme song for the Nickelodeon cartoon by the same name begins. If you aren't familiar with this cartoon - is there anyone out there who has not seen at least one episode? - it's about a plucky, fun-loving fry cook that resembles a yellow kitchen sponge. He lives in the ocean in a town called Bikini Bottom among his fellow sea creature friends:
Patrick Star - best friend/starfish
Squidward Tentacles - best frenemy/squid
Eugene Krabs - boss/crab
Sandy Cheeks - best friend/squirrel (?!)
Gary - best friend/pet/snail (that meows like a cat)
etc, etc

I've watched SpongeBob off and on for years and I've just recently started watching it again - A LOT! Probably because Nick runs it constantly and maybe, just maybe because I need him right now.

It's a visually stimulating cartoon, cleverly drawn, full of life and fun. (Even super-hip designer extraordinaire Marc Jacobs has him tattooed on his arm!) It's humor and story lines appeal to a variety of ages. And honestly, as much as SpongeBob can drive you crazy with his endless optimism and energy that borders on crazy, you begin to realize how fun life could be if you didn't take things so darn seriously.

I particularly love the episodes that contrast SpongeBob's optimism and joie de vivre with his neighbor Squidward's pessimism and endless striving for being something more than just a cashier at the Krusty Krab. I tend to relate to Squidward more, but I want to be like SpongeBob. I want to bounce out of bed and be peppy and ready for the day, SpongeBob would love if he could work 24 hours a day - his passion is making the best darn Krabby Patty ever. He finds joy in the mundane. SpongeBob is a childlike in his approach to living life, Squidward is a jaded and bitter adult who can't get outside the box. SpongeBob is present and living in the moment, with an undying optimism for the fun that will be in every day.

With all the craziness going on in the world, I know I certainly need that lesson right now and watching this cartoon has made me very aware of this. I need to be optimistic towards the future, but more importantly I need to be joyful everyday. Even if I have to make my own version of Krabby Patties, I shall do so with zest! I've read countless numbers of books on being present, finding your purpose, etc. and all it took was this little yellow sea sponge to make me "get it". Maybe we all need to watch a little less news and a little more SpongeBob. If nautical nonsense be something you wish...

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's the thought that counts - trust me...

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a terrible gift giver. As a designer I pride myself on in being so spot on with observing what is going on and being in touch with my customer's needs. Therefore it baffles me as to why I can't get even my closest friends and family appropriate gifts that they like and will use. I have no talent for selecting, purchasing and beautifully wrapping up the "perfect" gift. It took a long time for me to be able to admit this flaw, a looooong time. I started this journey towards bad gift giving realization about the time my husband and I started dating. My husband is nothing, if not direct so he was a big part of this. Sure, I gave some good things to him during our courtship (hello professional popcorn popper that he cherishes to this day) but mostly I just missed. He, on the other hand, gave lovely, expensive, thoughtful gifts that amazed me. For example, our first Halloween together he carved me a pumpkin, yeah, WOW!

My bad gifting came to the summit of badness on our first wedding anniversary. Let me set it up. I was under the assumption, that while we were both employed and making good money, that we were going to keep the gifting modest. I mean we were trying to renovate the master bath, back room and eventually the kitchen. So I picked a very modest gift (a fine wooden lap desk from Levenger - I'm embarrassed just to type this), I thought he would be proud that I gave him this useful and reasonably priced item! And of course a card. I was very excited!! Well, that fateful day rolled around and I presented him with this lovely item - not wrapped of course. He kind of looked at it funny and smiled a bit, meanwhile I'm beaming like the sun. He looked at me and said "You gave me a piece of wood? I mean I like it and will use it, but it's a piece of wood." He then handed me a card, I opened it up and inside next to the flowery words of love was a picture of the most lovely cashmere Hermes scarf that would be arriving later in the week in that wonderful orange box from the store in NYC. (Cue the losing game show music) I suck! He, to this day, does not let me forget that I gifted him "a piece of wood". In my defense, he uses it everyday, but it probably wasn't the best choice for that occasion. Since then, we have made an agreement that we will just buy things for the house or put money in for a vacation instead of exchanging gifts for these occasions.

I'm so gun shy about giving gifts that I usually just don't and wait until the pressure of the occasion is off. Then I can just casually find something during the year that I think the person would like and just send it then as a surprise.

So I apologize to everyone to whom I have gifted the weird, inappropriate, off-the-wall and what-the-hell was she thinking gifts that usually arrive late and unwrapped.

I am truly sorry.
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