HAPPY BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU! It’s the “Hallmark holiday” of France, where the young wine known as beaujolais nouveau is celebrated. Many of my French friends scoff at the “holiday,” much preferring more mature wines, but I think it’s the perfect excuse to have a glass with friends. Today’s French lesson was meant to be a pairing of le vin [wine] and le vent [wind, which we've had far too much of lately] – two words I struggle with defining their pronunciation – but alas, it turns out that wind is quite difficult to illustrate. Instead, I invite you to raise un verre du vin rouge [a glass of red wine] and say santé [cheers] tonight!
French Lessons is an ongoing series where I teach you French words and cultural lessons while beefing up my Illustrator skills.
Last spring when I was booking my tickets back to the states I found the best deal on Aer Lingus (did you know all Irish planes are named after saints!?!). At the time I had never been to Dublin before and so the 9 hour layover on the return flight seemed like the perfect excuse to see Dublin and catch up with my friend Emily who runs the blog From China Village – named after her hometown in Maine – which is a fantastic resource for any visit to Dublin, especially if you enjoy a twist of DIY. This whole leg of my trip was particularly amusing because I had just come from a 9 train ride from Pittsburgh to New York where I caught my 7 hour flight to Ireland. I was only slightly jetlagged and in need of a shower, but it was an adventure and we got really lucky with a beautiful day! Emily also happens to be a Vayable Guide (what I do in Paris) and has two offerings – Dublin Like a Local and Made in Dublin – so she gave me a special blend of the two.
First off, when you’re jetlagged, it’s really nice to have someone show you around so you don’t have to think too hard. I first met Emily through twitter, then featured her on Boarding Pass, and actually met her in Berlin during The Hive conference. Despite having only met her once before in person, whenever we’re together it feels like I’m hanging out with an old friend. (Funny, when I’m giving my own Vayable tours, it never really feels like I’m with strangers). My pace of life typically is non stop so there’s not a ton of time for research, so it was such a treat to have someone like Emily (below) to show me the ropes – and make me want to come back for a longer visit!
Our visit actually started with a trip to The Design Tower, which is full of artist studios. Emily had called ahead to arrange a special visit with a couple artists. This is definitely something I wouldn’t have done myself had I not been with a local. By the time we left the space I was totally fascinated by the process of soldering.
We also visited the Alan Ardiff studio that makes moving jewelry (that’s one of his prints left), and the jewelry designer Breda Haugh. I was fascinated by the low-tech nature of her workspace (right).
Along the way we stopped at the beautiful new design-forward hotel, The Marker. We didn’t get to see a room, but I can tell you the bathroom was gorgeous! I was really intrigued by the geometry of the interior.
Now I know this is going to sound weird, but the yogurt salad lunch was a total highlight of our day. The other perk of seeing the city with someone who lives there is they know the good deals and special happenings in town. This actually was Glenisk – Irish brand of organic yogurt – Upfront & Personal pop-up shop. Emily had received a couple free coupons in the mail so we decided to check out their “yogurt salads.” Emily and I still talk about it to this day. We both had the smoked salmon with lemon juice, olive oil and capers on greek yogurt as our savory option, and berries, honey and granola for dessert. SO amazing! You can find the recipes on the Glenisk website.
Another highlight for me was the Irish Design Shop. First it was fun because Emily knows the owners. Second, I love that everything they sell is made in Ireland. (It reminded me a bit of L’Illustre Boutique in Paris). They’d just opened their second location so we got to scope them both out. Definitely great for a more meaningful souvenir.
We ran out of time to fit in a proper beer, but Emily made sure I got to the airport in plenty of time, where I chugged my first Guinness before boarding my flight back to Paris. A giant success, I do say!
Today on my way to lunch I exited metro Bourse. The homeless man who is usually there was there as normal, but this time something new caught my eye. In the past I had noticed that he had created ash trays out of old soda cans (something I had seen done before), but today I noticed something new: animals created out of styrofoam. These were clearly made by hand, and these animals had personality. Particularly the bird who had a gold chain and metal hair. During lunch I mumbled to my friend Jenni “I think I may buy a styrofoam animal from the homeless guy at the metro on my way home.” She laughed, but when I get an idea in my head, I usually make it happen. And when I do it within the hour, I’m serious.
I think noticed the animals when I first existed the metro when I saw the homeless man with a big square of thick styrofoam. I initially assumed he was using it as a seat, but then made the visual connection to the small animals and bird on its side. The display was far from glamorous, and wasn’t front and center (nothing like these dinosaurs that made my day yesterday), but seeing him with the foam square made me make the connection. Later I noticed the small remnants of styrofoam around him.
Thankfully it was the same metro I take home so it was a no-brainer. I know I’m guilty of walking by homeless people without giving them a second thought, nor attracting unwanted attention (or guilt). But today I stopped. I told him in French I liked the animals. At the time I hadn’t even realized he was working on one, because I figured I’d give him a few Euros and our interaction would be done. Instead I got an insider look at his process. While myself and many of my creative colleagues turn to the internet for inspiration he had a pile of hard cover colorful childrens’ books, mainly the Disney variety. He flipped through them and showed me what he found interesting. We chatted in French, but I couldn’t always understand him (or not sure that he was always making sense), but I think my enthusiasm and interest and genuine smile on my face made up for any miscommunication. Then he showed me the end pages with animals, pointing out the skunk that he was currently working on. I’ve always loved watching artists work, and it was kind of amazing in his ability to translate a 2D drawing into 3D, while adding his own style to it. He tried to convince me that it was nice as is, but I assured him that I liked how he added marker detailing to the animals.
I still don’t know his full story, and have opted not to post his full picture on the blog. (I always feel weird posting pictures of strangers without their permission). I hadn’t noticed in person, but in the photos I saw that he had medals pinned to his jacket. It made me wonder if he was a veteran. I admit I got distracted by the bird which I was holding the entire time we talked. I realized after I left I didn’t ask him a price, but just paid him – probably not enough for the joy that happened afterwards, but I also know that I’ll be back and bring him a sandwich, or two. (I’m also happy to make a detour on my Vayable tours for anyone interested to support a local artist!)
The next thing that happened was also something I didn’t expect. I was still smiling from the bird, and knowing that I was able to contribute to someone less fortunate than I, but when I descended down into the metro at Bourse (which ironically translates to “stock exchange”) I didn’t expect everyone else would treat me differently because of my bird. The French are a much more private culture than Americans, and you tend not to talk, smile, or interact with strangers in Paris like you would in the U.S. (3 hours after arriving in the states and I have more interactions with strangers than I do in a month in Paris). But when you’re holding an awesome bird made by a homeless man, people start to notice. The thing is, when I was holding it and the way I was holding it – like a proud mama – no one realized who the actual artist was. Before the train arrived I would tell the people who smiled as they looked at me that it was by the homeless man at the top of the stairs by the exit of the metro. Then I got on the metro, and a few more people started to interact with me (this NEVER happens). The sweetest was a grey-haired woman, who smiled at me and the bird several times and she heard me recount the tale a few times. As the new unofficial PR agent for the homeless man, I was happy to credit the maker (realizing that my vocab in French to described whittling birds out of styrofoam by a homeless man was a bit lacking). I also think that people – and it was a diverse group intrigued by my bird – didn’t really understand what I was saying because it’s not every day you see a bird like this coming from a man on the streets. I never would have guessed had I not seen it myself.
There is a certain je ne sais quoi in what this homeless man outside of the Bourse metro that embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that the world needs. He’s not only being resourceful with the simplest of materials, but he’s developed a style that is nothing like I’ve seen before. (There is too much “copy & paste” these days, and where I think long term financial stability falls short). Clearly this simple bird got me excited enough to blog a couple hours later, during a time when I’m lucky if I get one post up a week these days. Sometimes I think we try way too hard when the secret to happiness and success is right in front of us! It all kind of reminds me of Caine’s Arcade, where a 9-year old with a bit of cardboard and a lot of imagination helped inspire kids of all ages.
To visit the talented styrofoam animal artist, look for him at the rue Notre-Dame des Victoires exit of the Bourse metro. Don’t just buy something from him, let him show you what he’s working on.
Something I’ve become very good at in France is waiting in line, and this weekend set a new record. I’ve learned to set my expectations low, but rarely are they low enough going into the situation. The Centre des Impôts [tax office] is one of the few exceptions in efficiency, but I attribute that do the fact that it’s because they’re actually taking your money, and lots of it. What Paris has to offer is lots of great stuff that is free though, and with the help of social media word spreads faster than ever.
Last Thursday I tried to stop by the Palais de Tokyo (one of my favorite museums in Paris, and it’s open until midnight) to participate in the first day of JR’s #insideoutproject in Paris. I’d seen the announcement on Instagram, and made the note to get there early. It was a bit after 1pm when I got there, but the line – which reached around the fountain area, which tends to serve more as a local skate park – was already closed for the day knowing they could only see so many people through the photobooth truck. Instead I was happy to run into a friend and take pictures of the truck and project. I asked a girl how long she had waited, and she said they arrived 30 minutes before it opened and they waited 2.5 hours. I decided if I was going to do this, the wait would be more fun with friends.
So you can imagine my surprise yesterday when my friends and I arrived an entire hour before the truck “opened” at 1pm to get in line. We started about 50 meters back so we were full of hope, especially as the line got longer and longer the more we waited. However, we never imagined that it wouldn’t be until almost 5.5 hours later that we would have our photos taken. (I beat my record of 4.5 hours waiting at the Préfecture, however, friends lately have clocked in at 5 hours and 5h45min for their recent status changes). While it looks like a beautiful day it was blustery and COLD (probably the coldest day we’ve had so far). Thankfully we decided to take a few shifts inside the MK2 movie theater, however, after about 3 hours our friend Lali had to call it and headed home. Ironically when she texted us much later, around 5:30pm, that’s when we had just gotten our pictures! Just as I’ve bonded with my line mates at the Préfecture, we definitely were friends with those around us in line by the end.
I got to hang out with my friends Sophie and Christian. They’re actually the team that shot my David Lebovitz video a few years ago
There were a few saving graces during this epic wait. First, I was with friends and got to speak French all day (which doesn’t happen enough when I work as at home as freelancer). Second, there was sun, and it was not raining. Third, JR was there himself so it was awesome, and he was really generous taking pictures with everyone. I had a super short conversation with him, and long enough to say thanks by giving him a Tattly photography set. Sophie and I were also able to keep ourselves entertained for awhile after spotting Mathieu Kassovitz – a friend of JR and big supporter of his projects – who I adored as Nino in Amélie (which is fun, having heard the film’s director Jean-Pierre Jeunet speak this week too).
We also lucked out because JR was manning the photo booth when we got up there. We had been moving millimeters a minute all day (apparently there were some printer issues, slowing the process more than usual, but lucky for us it started working just in time). All I have to say was, JR was efficient! He was able to fit in a fan shot while we each took our picture in the photobooth housed in the side of the truck. Of course the irony was that we moved so slow all day and this happened so fast we all felt caught off guard (and wind blown) in our pictures. But we made it – barely, and just after the sun set. You can view all the portraits on the official Inside Out website.
Inside Out is JR’s collaborative community project that is happening around the world that came about after his TED prize. I’ve seen it when he took over Times Square, as well as posting portraits along the canal in Pantin, just outside of Paris. There are currently at least two photo trucks in the U.S., and the truck will be at the BNF [Bibliothéque Nationale de France] today and tomorrow (even if you want to go see it and not wait in line). The best way to find out what/where the latest project is to sign up for JR’s newsletters, and follow @JR and @insideoutproject on Instagram, and @JRart on Twitter, as well as follow #insideoutproject. JR truly is a master storyteller, and his Instagram is one of my favorites because of that. Next up: Tuesday his latest film “Inside Out” premieres at the MK2 Bilbiothèque (in the US, look for the HBO special). Check out the trailer below:
Also at the BNF [Bibliothèque Nationale de France] is a large-scale JR installation. I arrived via Parc Bercy and crossed the Seine over to the library towers. They still have a few more panels to add but it’s close!
So while we may have been miserable and cold all day, we made it and only have good memories of the day. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If you have a chance, I highly recommend seeing this project in action in a city near you! Better yet, wait in line and become part of the project.
All semester I’ve been teaching a wonderful, and very international group of juniors at Parsons Paris. My class is called “The Designer/Entrepreneur” and we’ve been looking ways to build a personal brand, the basics of running a business, and creating “side projects.” Over and over I’ve returned to Tattly as an example. The Brooklyn based temporary tattoo company was started after Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka Swissmiss) was frustrated by the horribly designed tattoos her then 6 year old daughter would ask her to put on her. So Tina called up a few illustrator friends, and Tattly was born. While the idea of a temporary tattoo is not new, the approach and design of the company is fresh, but most importantly fun [note: the cards arrived yesterday in an envelope filled with confetti! I may have had to vacuum, but it totally made me smile!] A trip to their DUMBO HQ unveils a world of entertaining props (inflatable unicorn anyone!?!) and office supplies covered in googly eyes [see stapler below]. The other awesome reason to love Tattly is that every Tattly artist not only gets credit for their work, but also receives a percentage from the sale of each of their designs. Sounds simple enough, but sadly doesn’t enough in the creative industry, and is such a great way to support designers, in every sense.
But I digress. The other exciting news is that Tattly has just launched a new line of letterpress printed cards. But they’re not just any note cards, they come with a Tattly inside! When I was visiting HQ back in October I got a sneak peek into the new line. “SO COOL” was my immediate reaction, which takes me back to the tales of my students. Just yesterday in class I was recounting tales of the importance of thank you notes. My first example was how I wrote a thank you note to the Apple store employee in Paris who spent hours with helping me get my images properly backed up. Customer service is quite rare in France, so the thank you note became extra meaningful. The irony is that he then found me on twitter, and then this week – months later – connected me to his sister who is studying tourism and interviewed me for a class project. Perhaps a more impressive example is that I wrote a thank you note to the wonderful Hotel Negresco where I stayed on an Air France press trip. Six months later I found myself being invited down to Nice again, but this time to celebrate their 100th anniversary. A pretty sweet reward for a simple thank you note, I do say. Now with the new Tattly cards I can hardly imagine what the power of a hand written note will lead to…
The other fun thing is seeing what people do when you give them a Tattly, or four. Less than 5 minutes after giving some to my Parsons Paris colleagues, Jasonpaul McCarthy, the Director of Fashion Design, came to find me and show him his new styling arm! Even if a real tattoo isn’t your thing, you have to admit the “just add water” kind only can make people smile! :)
If you’re in Paris, you can usually find Tattly at PopMarket in the 10th, Millimètres in the 9th, Colette in the 1st, and BonTon in the 3rd! (Let me know if there are any stores you’d love to see carry them, and I can bring by some samples!) Tattly also ships internationally. Scope out the full Tattly line here + Tattly cards here!
Today I went for a swim at Piscine Pailleron. The experience was quite different than my first visit for the WATO underwater party back in August. WATO [We Are the Oracle] is an events, audiovisual and communications agency known for their clandestine parties (I first learned about them on Messy Nessy Chic). As soon as I heard about the Underwater Party, I knew I had to take my love of Paris swimming pools (see here and here) to the next level. So I recruited a bunch of friends and danced in the deep-end for the night. It was my first time dancing in a pool, and man, did my calves feel it the next day! Funny too that at the time I didn’t realize how shallow the shallow end was – today I couldn’t even flip turn on that end (only in France, but to their credit the pool was originally built in 1933). In any case, I decided to put together a little video of the soirée to give you a sense of it. The game of “keep up” with giant balls was one of my favorite parts (halfway through the video). And if you haven’t gathered from the pictures, the dress code was white – a challenge given my black dominated Parisian wardrobe – with a blue accessory. For more WATO events follow their Facebook page. It appears the next shindig is The Victorious Shelter, a 1940s style party in a bunker on November 16th.
Last week was an exciting week. In a last minute assignment, I was asked to interview the new Creative Director of Eurostar, Christopher Jenner. The story was for Fast Co.Design, and was coordinated with my editor in Baltimore, her editor in NYC, Christopher’s press woman in London, myself in Paris and Christopher was in China where he was working on a couple other projects. (Thank goodness for Skype!). I seriously think we all deserved an award for pulling everything together in less than a week. (The article was also trending at #1 on the site for a few days which is really exciting).
Christopher’s life is fascinating. Born in South Africa, he first discovered Europe through a 4-month train trip when he was 18. He’s been in London full-time – except when he’s traveling, which is a lot – since 1998, and opened his own studio in 2010. His work is centered around emotion and storytelling, with a high attention to detail and craft. The gig with Eurostar came about after a conversation with the CEO at an event (not some long drawn out applicant process!). I also think it’s awesome that Christopher will maintain his studio while taking on the new role as Creative Director for Eurostar, with the idea that projects are all mutually beneficial, even across realms and disciplines. You can read the whole article here. I for one can’t wait to see what is to come for Eurostar, and what it means for the future of train travel!
As most of you already know, I teach a map making class on Skillshare. Once you sign up you have lifetime access, and you can sign up any time. But because there are no official deadlines sometimes it can be a bit harder to motivate. Welcome project challenges! From time to time I’ll be adding extra incentive to work on your projects, and also win some cool stuff. The first challenge is to create a postcard-sized 4×6″ map of your favorite neighborhood. The winner will not only win printed postcards of their map, but they’ll also get a 30 min consultation with me (probably via Skype) to help finalize the map and prep the file, as well as a copy of A Map of the World According to Illustrators and Storytellers courtesy of Gestalten publishers! If you haven’t seen this book yet, I posted about it here. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The deadline to submit your map is Nov 18th!
Just because I’m the teacher doesn’t mean I’m immune to the project challenges either! In fact, this challenge was the perfect excuse to work on a map of the 9th arrondissement of Paris [top image] that I have been dreaming of working on for over a year now. (Turns out all I needed was one morning to focus on it to pull it together). I really enjoyed working on it and it was strange to get to know my old neighborhood through the streets – I hadn’t thought of how it all fits together before. I also like that it’s the perfect way to celebrate so many of my favorite local shops. I even got to use some new skills I learned in Brad Woodard’s Illustrator Skillshare course. Of course, I designed this map to be a printed postcard so it doesn’t display as well as it should on the screen (smaller text is far more successful in print than on screen, but now that I have a retina screen I’m having issues with saving it so it looks best – I recommend clicking to enlarge for now). Now I can’t wait to get this map printed and start handing it out on my Vayable Design Tour of Paris!
If you want to sign up to make some maps, just click here. Oh, and the code YOUROCK will get you $10 off :)
To learn more about how I got into teaching on Skillshare and how it works, you can read my Teacher Stories interview on the Skillshare blog.
The changing of seasons (changement de saisons) is something that exists in many places of the world, but in France it means more than just the changing of leaves and weather; it can also can represent a mental space. A few years ago I went to la pharmacie (the pharmacy) because I was feeling unusually exhausted and felt like I may need some vitamins. The pharmacist was not surprised at all by my fatigue, quickly explaining it as “C’est le changement de saisons.” I’ve had other friends experience and hear the same thing, and like clockwork, late fall every year it hits me. Maybe it’s all in my head, but has anyone else had this feeling from the changement de saisons? Is it just a French thing?
French Lessons is an ongoing series where I teach you French words and cultural lessons while beefing up my Illustrator skills.
I first encountered the Mattress Factory through the NYTimes series 36 Hours: Pittsburgh. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the image of the white mannequins with red polka dots would forever remain engrained in my head until I saw it in person. Also, little did I know that my best friend, Felice, who I met in Paris 12 years ago, would be their Education Director, and that I’d get an insider tour. These dotted rooms may look big, it’s all mirrors: hence the title Repetitive Vision. Such an experience, and part of the Mattress Factory’s permanent collection. Focused on installation art, the Mattress Factory reminded me quite a bit of Dynamo, the contemporary art exhibition which is still on in Paris at the Grand Palais.
The awesome thing about museums is that they can do crazy things that a client would never agree to: like Sarah Oppenheimer putting a hole and cut through the floor and out the window.
Artist Betsy Damon even put a river in the basement of the building (right). They were closing that part early to dry out the room before the next installation! The James Turrell room (left) was also trippy in it’s own way, and a good reminder that you should go and explore art – it’s not always what you expect when you get close!
This room of words I don’t understand by Parastou Forouha was one of my favorites.
There is also a delightful cafe on the main level where I ate a delicious black bean burger. Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the Mattress Factory literally used to be a mattress factory – you can see some of the mattress springs on the right wall.
Every year the Mattress Factory holds an Urban Garden Party fundraiser. Factory 500 is for high level donors and involves great events to private collections (I got to tag along to one – great fun!). They also offer a great summer camp for kids!
These photos are from my trip last May, and the temporary exhibit has changed since then, but it’s a good reminder that art museums are dynamic places and you should keep going back and see how they use the space each time. The Mattress Factory focuses on site specific art, so you can definitely expect a creative use of the space.
500 Sampsonia Way | Pittsburgh, PA 15212-4444
Open: Tuesday-Saturday: 10AM – 5PM, Sunday: 1PM – 5PM
For more on Pittsburgh, don’t miss Conflict Kitchen too!