Last weekend we went to Lucca, an ancient walled city about an hour away from Florence, with our friends Fabrizio and Flora. Yes, there were churches. Many churches. And also porcini. Incredible grilled porcini at Osteria dal Manzo. But headed back home Flora and I agreed that one of our favorite ways to understand a new place is through their office supply and stationery stores. Which is what I did. I happened upon some locally printed cards and these old Letterfix sheets that, I believe, are no longer made. I have such fond memories of my mother's folders and folders of these. It was hard to choose just a few, including the Greek alphabet and these trees from above. Lucca's famous flea market that winds its way through all of the piazze was taking place and there I found this spectacular embroidered monogram ribbon that was sewn into clothes; telegrams from Belgium with pastoral illustrations; and two letters to the same person, in the same hand, but with different pens. 

Libraries I have Loved

Often clients and collaborators are a bit confused by and surprised at how often I travel and still manage to take on work. So I wanted to share my little secret to being portable: libraries (public, at universities or research centers). In the last two months I've taken up residence at the  Getty Research Center (literally too beautiful to photograph), and (top to bottom, L - R) Boston Public Library, Cambridge Public Library, Newton Free Library, Weston Public Library, New York Public Library Children's Room (Central Branch), Columbia University's Butler Library and the New York Public Library East Village branch. In New York, if I have an hour or two to spare, I'll locate the closest library and pop in to charge my phone, read a short story and poke around the new releases. In the more distant past, the Oxford University's Duke Humphrey and University of Pennsylvania's Fine Arts Library were refuges.

Often a library is the first place I seek out in any city I pass through, and even the cities I live in. I think there are many reasons why: a feeling that if they aren't used, they'll be closed; the silence; the thoughtful architecture and inspiring small touches (like the quilt in Weston and the miniature figurines and floor plan at Columbia and busts in Newton); the free wireless; vibrancy and the presence of youth and children (in fact the Cambridge branch IS the library for the adjacent Rindge and Latin High School as far as I can tell); opportunity to peruse the shelves; the friendly staff. In some places (Getty) there are organic lunches to be had on the rooftop terrace. In others (Weston) you can reserve an entire private office for yourself. In others still (Boston) it's closer to a museum, with breathtaking Sargent murals. I bring my pen, ink, scanner and even envelopes and settle in for the day. If you are mulling over a road trip or sabbatical but aren't sure of where or how you'll work, it might suddenly seem possible with a local branch nearby. 

WEST TO EAST: DAYS 3, 4 and 5

In the interest of finishing something, here are some snaps from days 3, 4 and 5 of our cross country road trip. Day 3 found us at White Sands National Monument in New Mexcio. It's an eerie, all white landscape with space-station picnic booths in the middle of the sand dunes. About .2 miles in to hiking the 65' sand drifts I freaked out a bit: the heat, the blinding white, the absence of water. But not before the obligatory runandjump photo. That night we stayed in Pecos, TX, tiny town with, quite oddly, a Best Western styled in the fashion of a Swiss chalet (built by the Swiss proprietiers Swiss son, featuring Swiss memoribelia, including these funny costume prints, everywhere). Then on to the old stockyards of Forth Worth, Texas where there waere animals alive, dead and represented: a petting zoo, an antler chandelier and deer head at the steakhouse, and a fantastic horse lamp outside of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Day 5 was Jackson, Misssissippi, most notable for the other-worldy fried chicken at Two Sisters (it is worth a trip if you are within 1,000 miles of the restaurant); the stately central post office that is now for lease by a private developer (sob); and the canny aesthetic sense on display at the Farmer's Market.


Last night's snowstorm in Philadelphia provided a great excuse for a banner change. And so: the elegant snow drift outside our front door. The last week of the year is a time when I try to accomplish all of my new year's resolutions all at once, and many of them involve projects I'll simply call "snowflakes." What are you up to this week?

Also: three cheers to Jillian, Kristina and Amanda for 100 Layer Cake's new site. I am honored to be included in their calligraphy vendor a-list

Martha Stewart Weddings Event

I was honored to be asked to calligraph dates for the annual Martha Stewart Weddings party last night. The theme was metallics and, as always, the crew at MSW and The Wedding Library pulled out all of the stops with a gigantic tinsel chandelier, glitter dusted desserts and what I can only describe as a gold confetti video installation on the floor. I paired up with Valerie at Spark letterpress to create gold date bookmarks which we finished off with hand dyed ribbon in gold and ivory. It was four hours of storytelling, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Here are my favorite moments from the event:

  • Calligraphing a wedding anniversary date for Annie from Colorado (the Annies are important at MSW). She met Pete back in 1997 when she accidentally dialed the wrong number and ended up in conversation with a friendly stranger who she would go on to marry. She counts how many weeks they've been married (821) which made me tear up.
  • Being approached by Martha Stewart herself, who asked me to calligraph "Alexis," her daughter's name. I cannot overstate her powerful presence.
  • Finally meeting Jenna and Bryn in person (and adoring them instantly). They are two ladies whose work I so admire. Please go check out their calligraphy and blogs. 
  • Calligraphing "November 18, 2010," the day when an only son will return from basic training. Again, tears. 
  • Having someone read, note and appreciate (for the first time!) the small Borges quote printed on the top of the bookmark. I will forever remember the woman who did so.
  • The fashionable young couple eating ice cream who asked me to pen a note of thanks as though written by their young daughter, who was being looked after that evening by her grandfather.
  • The ruckus group of beautiful ladies in sparkly, ruffly dresses who kept begging the DJ for one more R & B song and danced until the lights went up.

And then there are people who make a lasting impression in our fleeting time together: the stunning woman who looked like Paloma Picasso, the young lady in the gold baubled necklace cleverly fixed with a piece of wire, the ebullient man brimming with excitement over his new promotion, the planner who noticed my Santacafe matchbook and swapped local restaurant recommendations. My gratitude goes to everyone who contributed to such a terrific night.

If you stopped by last night: it was delightful meeting you. Please be in touch. And for everyone: look out for another storytelling giveaway later this week.