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.

West to east: day 2

We spent the night in Phoenix last night, at an oasis called ZenYard Guest House. The proprietors -- Eddie and Dale -- are delightful and told us about the Musical Instrument Museum. Have you been? The way it works is each country has a display, and that display includes that country's instruments. There is also a TV of footage of musicians in that country playing music and when you stand in front of the TV music plays through your headset. It lands on my list of favorite museums ever. Above: footage from four exhibits (North Korea, Spain, American hip hop and then a video about making scrolls for player pianos). Also, textiles, miniature violins and a map of Africa showing all of the languages (the close up area is like 1 square inch of the continent). And yes, another post office. I had my first raspado. Are you thinking of opening a restaurant in a summery vacation spot (Rob A., I am talking to you)? Include raspados and you will have lines out the door. Basically: shaved ice, fresh fruit in syrup (mango in my case) topped with a ball of vanilla ice cream that, within minutes, melts into this awesome not too sweet shake smoothie type thing. And lastly, my favorite story of the day was at the Opera exhibit at MIM. There I came upon a man and his wife. She was blind. As they listened to the music on their headsets the man would describe to her what he saw on the TV (Him: "Now Madame Butterfy comes out in her kimono." Her: "Are they dancing?" Him: "Now there is an image of Papageno playing the flute." Her: "What does his face look like?"). What an inspiring gesture of love. 




And we're on the road again. After a throughly crazy move we hopped in the car at 2 AM on Tuesday night, dropped off 20 feet of calligraphed scroll for a collaboration with wonderful, patient Kate of Flowerwild and said goodbye to LA. This journey will take us through South Carolina, Philadelphia, Boston and a month in New York (NYC collaborators: let's get together!). Day 1: Joshua Tree National Park. Guys, GUYS have you been there? It is like an alien universe with green to brown ombre cactuses; puzzle piece rock formations; and the miles of trees with outstretched, crooked arms. What visit is complete without a trip to the post office; sending a few postcards (there is an Oasis of Mara) and, of course, listening to "Where the Streets Have No Name" 'til the speakers pound. 


I am totally in love with this project by Lisa Anne Auerbach that I stumbled upon earlier this month while attending a poetry reading at the Hammer Museum of Wislawa Szymborska. Ok, here's how it works: 

Last spring artist Lisa Anne Auerbach trained as a Hammer security guard to gain insight on the role of guards at the museum. She subsequently worked shifts in the galleries that informed her Public Engagement project, United We Stand. For her subtle intervention, Auerbach replaced the guards’ standard blazers with a new set of blazers, tailored for each guard and bearing a slogan on the back related to standing. She honed in on standing as she found it to be a definitive element of her experience as a guard, physically taxing and particular to the guards’ job at the museum. The phrases were selected by the guards and transferred onto the garments in their own handwriting. Hammer guards will wear the blazers by Auerbach throughout the museum from February until the end of April.

I walked around the galleries going up to all of the guards and asking them to show me the back of their jackets. Each had a "stand" slogan like "Get up, Stand up." or "Under / Stand" or "Stand back." I interacted with the museum guards far more than I ever did previously (previously: not much). I adore that each guard's blazer has their handwriting stitched in sequins. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lisa! The experience brought to mind this poem (translated by my long lost friend Joanna, whom I think of every time I hear a beautiful Polish woman read Szymborska, as I did tonight)

Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Janna Trzeciak

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon. 

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it's backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.  


So during my freshman year in college I decided to make a human sized nest-swing whereby I commissioned a blacksmith to forge a metal "basket" type structure, wove it with grapevines from a nearby vineyard, filled it with foam, lined it with waterproof cloth, and hung it from a tree on campus. In hindsight, it would have been a lot better had I enlisted the help of a physics major (at a certain point it started to sort of...bend). You can imagine how giddy I was to discover the Treebones nest which sits between two trees (and is immeasurably sturdier and more wonderful than my attempt) and overlooks the Big Sur coast. They had a last minute opening two nights ago and we decamped there with our sleeping bags. The moon was so bright reflecting on the ocean just outside our nest portal and made is almost impossible to sleep, so distracting was the beauty. What an amazing experience. If you ever have the chance, go! (PS: I am now on instagram -- @neithersnow. Are you?)


Julie at Oh So Beautiful Paper kindly posted a profile of Neither Snow over here today. Thank you! I'm honored to be included (and check out other calligrapher friends in her "Calligraphy Inspiration" series). She notes the latest project I've had up my sleeve: decals (more to come). For too long, decals have been relegated to the world of walls (or the side of minivans) but they can be used on nearly any other surface: notebooks, leather, glass, wood, fabric, mirrors, chalkboard, ceramic. And they don't register as "decal." They register is "how did you get calligraphy on to that surface?" You may ask: "Why not just use paint or ink?" After experimenting for the last year I have fallen in love with this medium and here are a few reasons why: 

1. Decals maintain the calligraphy's crispness and hairline strokes, unlike paint or chalkboard pens.
2. Vinyl comes in an unimaginable spectrum of colors, including glitter, metallic, high gloss and super matte.
3. Clients can easily apply decals on their end. For example: names on 300 "escort" votives in Miami? Done! And without the environmental and financial cost of shipping the glassware back and forth.
4. Decals are scalable and flexible. We can create gigantic banners and signs or very tiny names and wrap the calligraphy around rounded surfaces.

Here are a few more snaps from a recent project I collaborated on with designer and stylist Joy Thigpen for one of her workshops and photographed by Rylee Hitchner. Joy said, "Gold. Silver. Notebooks." and this is the final product, given to each attendee.

Finally: the cat is out of the bag. A. + I are moving to Florence, Italy in September for the year (!!!). This means I'll be scaling back client work that has to be shipped to and fro (printed envelopes; escort cards). I'll be focusing on digitized calligraphy for invitation suites, tattoos, decals, fabric and other fun projects (shipped stateside); work that can be shipped directly from Florence (unprinted envelopes; place cards and escort cards on Italian papers); and European clients. If you were hoping to work together on a project that falls into the first category, please be in touch with my stupendously talented colleagues listed to the right. The move also means we're looking for a renter for our Philadelphia home (if you know of anyone) and are in need of fantastic Florence suggestions.

{Photos by Rylee Hitchner}


Yesterday ranks as one of my favorite days in LA. Let me recount: stunning and sorta' creepy 4 hour hike through what was described in the guide book as the "urban wilds" Elysian Park. Change clothes in car. Eat mu shu pancakes in the parking lot of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Sprint to Piatigorsky Cello Festival Concert. Marvel at beauty of Gehry building and wooden pipe organ. Sneak down to orchestra seats. And then and then and then out came the "cello chorus." What is a cello chorus you might ask? Well, it is over 100 (yes, is this number right? It must have been. It was the entire orchestra.) cellists on stage all at once. I tried to find a video on YouTube of a similar event and nothing came remotely close to the quantity of instruments on stage. In the front, some of the world's greatest musicians, including the incomparable Mischa Maisky (above). And behind them, an army of young students, bows at attention. So the conductor comes on stage, raises the baton, and signals the beginning of Bach's Air. Before last night, I thought of this piece as the "overused song at weddings as the bride walks down the aisle." But last night's performance was an overwhelming, marvelous display of musicianship, solidarity, and multigenerational communion. An army of cellists playing in unison. It is an experience I will never forget. (Above is my very blurry photo before I got busted, along with dozens of proud parents.)

UPDATE: Thank you to attendee Pasquale, for the last, clearer photo. I saw that he successfully snapped a few images from the front row and was not busted, thrust my business card into his hands and begged him to send me a photo. The kindness of strangers.)

UPDATE 2: The New York Times has confirmed it: 110 cellos on stage. Just in case you thought I was being hyperbolic.

99% Invisible: Stamps!

Thank you to John R. for pointing me to this episode of 99% Invisible on desiging postal service stamps. I loved learning so many new facts about the design process (what do you think? Do you love the breast cancer stamp design? I've always found it busy..but now that I know it is supposed to be a representation of Diana, I'm coming around). One small correction: the alcoholism stamp was not "stamp out alcoholism," as the interviewee states (I may be wrong about this...correct me if I am). It was a lot worse. It was "Alcoholism: You can beat it" (above). Which really isn't message you want to send to your recipient (but it is one of my favorite stamps).


Last night I had the honor of seeing Pina (in 3D), thanks to a nudge by Daven (my fondness for the director, Wim Wenders, is well-documented). There aren't words, really, to describe it. So all I can say is run, go, watch and then see it again. Lately there's been a blog trend that involves the authors unabashedly announcing that they're about to share something "authentic" and "honest." I'll hold my tongue and instead go positive and say this: in watching Pina, it becomes immediately apparent how work that is authentic and honest does not need a preamble. It is unmistakable, and it is profoundly rare. This was my experience with Pina. What is so striking is how every gesture and expression rings true. You don't need someone to tell you it is so, because it just is. The spectrum of human emotion and experience conveyed in the choreography, movements and dancers' reflections about Pina threw into sharp relief the other aesthetic encounters in my life that lack this quality. It's a gift to be reminded of the difference.