Boarding Pass – Conn Brattain

Not everyone knows how to appreciate a good cemetery, but the fact that designer Conn Brattain does, makes him a true traveler in my book (as Conn notes below – Paris had a similar effect on me). I first “met” Conn and his partner John (stay tuned for his Boarding Pass tomorrow!) last year when we featured their amazing Hawaiian home in a d*s “sneak peek.” Not only have these two managed to figured how to make their way from of the grind New York City to the dream life in Hawaii, but Conn continues to spend his days working part time as a designer for Todd Oldham! So I hope you enjoy today’s look at the world through the eyes of Conn Brattain. {Mahalo, Conn!}

Our first trip to Maui, hiking Sliding Sands Trail in Haleakala National Park 2001. Did I mention we LOVE to hike?

last trip taken: September/October 2008 to NYC and Indiana.

Food is always a good subject to photograph when visiting family.

next trip on deck:
Most likely a drive to town. Since we live in the boonies, it takes us an hour just to go to and from town for groceries and such. Nothing less than 2 hours so we consider that an excursion. Therefore, we only make the trip about once a week. But seriously, it’s hard to say where the next trip will be. We have a list as long as our arms (all four of them), but nothing scheduled in the next few months. I would love to visit Chicago in the spring as I have not been back since my days at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and John has never been. It has incredible architecture and art. A little island hopping would be fun too. We are dying to go to back to Kauai and looking forward to visiting Lana’i for the first time.

one place you would go back to again and again:
Paris and Kauai. Sorry. That’s 2. Hanging out in the cemeteries of Paris is an absolute favorite excursion. I love walking every inch of Paris and hiking every inch of Kauai. Both are a bit like stepping back in time. I’ve never been to the French countryside though and would love to have a month to explore that.

{Cemetery and balloons in Paris in the early 90’s…i do love a good stroll through a cemetery. when i was little i used to beg my mom to drop me off at one near my uncles house because i LOVEd the headstones… and she always let me go. Paris cemeteries are amazing… i would easily spend 2 days every trip in them. and the cats! }

place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
Kauai or Paris. Both are so completely different . One a sleepy little island in the most remote island chain in the world and the other a bustling yet calm city so full of beautiful architecture and life yet both so full of history.

{Ke’e Beach looking up the Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawai’i}

preferred method of transportation:
Plane. Although a road trip through the National Parks would be fun.

place you’ve never been but dying to go: Bora Bora or Japan.

place you’d never go back:
I don’t think I’d ever visit Dallas, Texas again. But then again who knows. Also don’t think I would go to Niagara Falls again. It was kinda depressing as there did not seem to be anything really natural about it at all.

most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
First trip I travelled alone to Paris in Spring 1991 because I saw it my way…what I wanted, when I wanted and it was amazing. Sometimes a trip on your own is exactly what you need, but I’d love to go to Paris one day with John as he has never been. Also our first trip to Maui because it planted the seed that would have us living here 5 years later. (oops that’s 3)

I took these images of Philippine Ground Orchids our first trip to Maui in 2001. I finally got to use them as the logo for a floral designer in 2007. In 2008 I made a 3-D orchid of felt and canvas that I then framed.

how do you prepare for a trip?
First make a list of what to pack. Then line everything up on the bed that I am going to take and make outfits for each day with as few items as possible. Then throw in one extra pair of shoes last minute that I never wear. I like to leave some extra room so I can bring back a few great finds.

how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
Photos and a few notes. I used to try to write down a lot, but now I just rely on the old digital camera. I take pictures of everything now that I don’t have to process film. But I do miss images from film. I also look for the best out of the way mom and pop places to eat as well as investigate where the antique and thrift stores are.

A holiday card and a “self portrait” inspired by a book I found in a thrift shop in Indiana of Pseudoisochromatic Plates to test for color blindness from 1957.

what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
Buildings, old signs, plants/flowers, sky, textures. They all inspire me in the design process of new logos and color schemes. Nature plays the biggest part in what makes me happy. The color combinations and patterns in nature always boggle my mind.

Sky and floral images.

Hui Aloha Church 1859 in East Maui, surfboard fence -Maui, Price Sign at Home Depot, and a doll with plastic flowers in a trash can at a cemetery in Indiana.

on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Depends on the trip. Before we moved to Maui, I would take close to a thousand pictures each time we visited the islands… and that was when I was still shooting 35mm film. Now that it’s all digital, I bet I shoot more. I have a rule that my camera is ALWAYS on me on within a few steps. I never go into a store without it, especially vintage stores. And if it makes me laugh I will almost always snap a pic of it. I’ll even turn the car around to go back and get the shot.

ALWAYS have a camera with you to take pictures of anything that will help make the trip more memorable like this gem. I took this on a work related trip in the lobby bathroom of the hotel we were staying in. It made me laugh so hard I had to go and GET my camera. It says: “Towel Machine is Out of Order” then someone else added their 2 cents by writing “And it doesn’t work either.”

what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
2 cameras: Canon Rebel XTi and a Canon Powershot, some sort of note or sketch book, one of those pens with 6 colors of ink, at least 3 pencils, 2 sharpies, laptop, ipod, empty folder to collect pages from magazines and other printed materials that inspire me, a list of where to shop local antique/thrift shops and business cards.

The 6 colored pen.

what do you do after a trip? how long after a trip does this happen?
It depends on the trip. Usually breathe a sigh of relief to be home. I do make slide shows of what we have been up to here in Maui to show friends and family when we head back to the mainland. I have also made a few online photo books. If traveling with John I usually don’t write stuff down about the trip… he’s really great at it so I leave that to him. If by myself I tend to write a bit more. Funny expressions and things people say that make laugh ALWAYS get written down. It can take weeks to sort through photo’s after returning home.

Collection of small found objects, vintage wooden plates, bowls and cups, books and glass purchased at various shops around the globe.

favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
Hopefully something we found in an antique/thrift shop with some history behind it like old hotel brochures, fabric, art, glass… oh yeah… and candy.

A graphic I made inspired by the leaf of the Monstera Deliciosa plant.

where do you like to stay when you travel?
We really like to stay in a vacation rental rather than a hotel. It gives the sense of living the place you are visiting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice hotel just as long as it is not in a crowded resort area. Of the 8 trips we made to the Hawaiian Islands, we always rented a house. Very private and quite and a little bit of living the fantasy.

website :: conn brattain
blog: cuckooforcoconuts

Click HERE for all the past editions of Boarding Pass!


  • “First trip I travelled alone to Paris in Spring 1991 because I saw it my way…what I wanted, when I wanted and it was amazing. Sometimes a trip on your own is exactly what you need…”

    This is exactly what I’m doing next February! It’s nice to be reminded–in light of my own occasional trepidation–why it’s necessary, and why I’m so excited!

  • aloha karigee… it was a trip for work and i was at first not into going alone, but once i got there… everything changed. have a great time.

    and anne… many mahalos for allowing us to revisit our photo’s and recall some favorite trips.

  • conn is so inspiring. reading this entry brought me to tears–i am lucky to call him a friend. and to get the chance to glimpse the world through his eyes–wow! that leaf print ‘thanks’ card is so magnificent. i want him to hurry up and come over to cambodia and do some work here. i know he would be so creatively inspired and moved. thank you!

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