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!
After Brittany Powell lost her camera on a trip her husband jokingly told her she should paint all the photos from their trip. Little did either of them know it would turn into something more. Now Brittany paints “watercolor snapshots” of other people’s travels in what she’s dubbed Illustrated Vacation. Just look at her below with the sloth in Panama – totally adorable, right? I love that it tells a different story than a photograph, and really makes you want to have a conversation about it, and look at it longer than a normal photo. Brittany’s Low Commitment Project: Making stuff happen with little energy and time, which she keeps with an art school friend, also made me smile. I particularly loved the Native Dress series of animals with designs inspired by textile patterns from their native lands. The best perk is the research for these trips inspires wanderlust. Thanks, Brittany!! –Anne
last trip taken:
Panama. When I saw we had just enough frequent flyer miles to get us to Central America, I began researching Panama because it is the furthest distance we could go. Highlights: Boquete, fish tacos, falling in with a serious birding crowd for a day, and sloths. Bummer: losing our camera.
Incidentally, when I lost our camera, my husband jokingly suggested I paint all of our trip photos. I did, and that sparked my new project: through Illustrated Vacation, I paint “watercolor snapshots” of other people’s travels.
next trip on deck:
Hong Kong and Hoi An, Vietnam. My mother-in-law recently moved to Hong Kong, so we’re visiting this winter. The only absolute MUST DO on our list is Tim Ho Wan, the least expensive Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. It’ll be our first restaurant with any stars, which is typical of our “cheapest of the awesome” traveling style. After Hong Kong, we will fly to Hoi An for four days of sun, beach, and visiting ruins (or as my husband’s friend said, “you spelled ‘food’ wrong”).
one place you would go back to again and again:
Argentina (see below). More realistically, we repeatedly visit family in Italy and close family friends in Turkey. There could be worse fates. We love the cuisine in both countries, there are endless sights to see, and our family and friends are warm and welcoming (and lucky for us, they’re all wonderful cooks). Our Turkish friends don’t speak English, so Google Translate has been our buddy. Even so, we know our friends will say, “My daughter,” while hugging my husband, and they’ll call me their son.
Also, we keep ourselves interested in US travel by visiting one national park each year. This fall, we’ll take a short road trip to Redwood National Park.
place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
Argentina. There’s no reason not to go. It is an interesting and lovely country, it’s cheap for North Americans right now, the food is totally satisfying, Buenos Aires is a design-y city, and it is much easier than some other South American countries. One of our favorite days was spent at a gaucho festival in San Antonio de Areco, grilled beef sandwiches in one hand and surprisingly tasty juice-box style wine in the other, cheering on the cowboys while chatting with a family of young dancers.
preferred method of transportation:
Train. I have an unnatural loathing for renting cars while abroad, plus I always work on my embroidery while on trains. No matter where we go, this garners curious stares from grandmothers.
place you’ve never been but dying to go:
Scandinavia. We always say we’ll go there when we find our benefactors.
place you’d never go back:
Zanzibar. Not because we didn’t have a good time, but because it took six flights and 48 hours to reach our destination. We spent most of our honeymoon on the island of Pemba, which made us feel absurdly fortunate, then a few days in Stone Town on Zanzibar Island.
most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
During my four-month study abroad program in Germany when I was 19, I met my best friends, found out that different ways of doing things can be ok, drank more than my fair share, and took trips to Holland, the Czech Republic, Italy, and other German towns. That opportunity cemented “travel” as one of my values and set me up for a lifetime of saving my pennies for the next voyage.
how do you prepare for a trip?
I research the heck out of the place by dreamily reading guidebooks, travel blogs, and food blogs. Then, I make rather exhaustive lists of sites, restaurants, and activities, sometimes coordinated with a map. When we reach our destination, we bring the list with us but don’t worry one bit about sticking to it. The list ensures we don’t miss anything by accident, but can choose what to skip in an informed way. Also, when we reach that point of road-weary feet and hungry crankiness, I usually know where there’s a good cafe nearby.
how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
I maintain a travel journal, mainly jotting down what we did, who we visited, and what we ate.
what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
Food, animals, funny signs, and odd (to me) bits of popular culture. Of course, if we are visiting people, I always want photographs of them, too.
on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Maybe 40 a day? I pare them down each evening so it isn’t such a daunting task when we return home.
what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
My husband and I love to send silly watercolored postcards of our trips to family and friends back home, so we bring a tiny watercolor set. We have a Canon Rebel T3i, which is a fantastic camera for those of us who aren’t “real” photographers.
what do you do after a trip? how long after a trip does this happen?
I usually make a Picasa web album right away and try to put together a physical album within 6 months. My food photos go on my blog. For our Panama trip, I spent about 6 weeks painting our travel photos.
favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
Food–We grocery shop whenever we travel, and tend to bring home a suitcase full of jars, cans, and packets of edible mementos. Even if we spend a few dollars more than we would at home, this suits us better than a tchotchke that sits on a shelf. During our last trip to Italy, we scored a giant hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano and a special wedge-shaped tupperware container for it. The TSA has taken just a few of our prizes, but let our 5 pounds of spaghetti and 10” diameter cheese ball through after inspection.
Clothing–I don’t spend much on clothes at home, but might purchase a couple cute things while travelling. That way, I think about our trip every time I wear the striped dress from Paris or top from Buenos Aires, and nobody else in town has the exact same item.
Small Housewares–Even if it is easy to find similar pieces at import stores, I love knowing that my hand-carved wooden stool came from the streets of Zanzibar and that I bought my ceramic mugs in Bulgaria.
how does your travel relate to your artwork?
Illustrated Vacations grew directly out of our recent Panama trip–I painted over 80 4” x 6” “photos” from memory, and now I’m offering the service for other people.
One of my latest pieces for Low-Commitment Projects (a website I maintain with a friend) is called “Native Dress.” I painted illustrations of animals with designs based on textile patterns from their native lands. The research for this project gave me a serious case of wanderlust to see both the animals and the textiles in their homelands. Shetland ponies in Scotland? Chilean flamingos in Chile? Yes, please.
- blog: brittanypowell.com/blog
- portfolio: brittanypowell.com
- special project: illustratedvacation.com, lowcommitmentprojects.com
- online shop: illustratedvacation.com
BOARDING PASS is a regular column exploring the creative ways people see the world and record their travels. Find me on Instagram + Twitter! Or sign up to take my MAPS or InDesign classes on Skillshare!
Several years ago I posted about Conflict Kitchen, which I learned about from Meena Kadri (she also wrote a piece for Design Observer). The concept is a take away stand that changes from time to time, featuring the foods of places that the U.S. is in conflict with. Along with the food, the design changes too. Conflict Kitchen is a project by Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, artists associated with Carnegie Mellon’s School of Art. When I booked my ticket to Pittsburgh back in May it didn’t even cross my mind that I could actually visit in person, so I was so excited when Felice had reminded me that it was there. In fact, they recently moved from their initial East Liberty location, to close to the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, which was extra incentive to check it out.
When I was in town the country in conflict/conversation was Iran, and we ordered a few different items – including a vegetable stew, rice pudding and sweet tea –to get a taste of things. It was all very good! Along with our meal came a folded up guide – used as a wrapper, depending on what you order – to discuss various themes and points of conflict in Iran, based on interviews with Iranians living in both the U.S. and Iran. It’s full of interesting tidbits too. For instance, did you know that the opposite sex can not touch each other in Iranian films? Also, violence in films isn’t allowed. Wow, what a stark contrast to what we see in American cinema! The conversation continues on the Conflict Kitchen blog as well.
The project funded through food sales, as well as support from The Sprout Fund and The Studio for Creative Inquiry. Culinary direction is by Robert Sayre, and the graphic design is by Brett Yasko (see a few more renditions from a page in a local magazine below). I love all the color and patterns! They recently relaunched their website too.
In my mind the only thing missing in the design are maps. I’m pretty sure in addition to not understanding the root of conflict, most people wouldn’t be able to locate these places we’re in conflict with on a map! (Yes, I’m still teaching my map making class on Skillshare if anyone is up for the challenge of mapping conflict!)
Conflict Kitchen is located in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Plaza at the corner of Schenley Drive and Roberto Clemente Drive. Open Daily from 11am-6pm.
When I was giving a tour this summer one of my guests made the observation that going to shops when you travel is less exciting than it used to be because you can find everything everywhere these days (an observation she first noticed in China). On another tour we were making our ways through the passage ways of Paris and came upon Passage du Grand Cerf (my first visit actually). I had heard of L’Illustre Boutique before, but had never been, but immediately felt like I was in a toy store for grown-ups. Not only was I surrounded by beautiful work, but I was discovering new works at the same time (just when I thought I knew all the French illustrators). The mother and daughter I was showing around Paris were just as entranced by what they saw, buying a few things on the spot, and returning again during their visit. For me, the joy was finding a place – nothing too big or fancy – that celebrated something specific to place [Paris] in only featuring the work of French illustrators (about 30 different ones in total). It’s like the whole “go local” campaign, but without trying to hard. My other favorite part is that every few months the window changes too. (Random fact: after my first trip to Paris in high school I thought I wanted to become a window decorator. Before Paris, I had no idea windows could be so cool!). At L’Illustre Boutique, the first window I saw was by Papier Tigre (their newsletter/instagram is how I discovered the shop) which was a celebration of their geometric style, and Hélène Druvert‘s paper beach scene [pictured here] was perfect for summer, and helping me still cling to the end of summer now. A few of her papercut pieces are sold in the shop, but of course the installation made me do a bit more digging about her work. There’s a nice little interview on the L’Illustre blog too (use Chrome to translate if need be).
(There’s often new work out front which is always exciting to see. Sadly, I waited too long to buy my favorite print.)
Discover who is behind these works on the L’Illustre blog.
These travel notecards by Season Paper Collection were love at first sight!
And there’s plenty more to discover in the passage as well…