Improvised Life » materials for making If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:12:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hands as Tools: Ethiopian Version Fri, 17 Oct 2014 08:08:19 +0000 (Video link HERE.) State-of-the art eating in Ethiopia.

Made by hand, eaten by hand.

When I was there, I don’t think I saw a cooking utensil that wasn’t either wood or clay, a rough panga for chopping beef, and a cheap plastic cup here and there for pouring. No need for Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma or a fancy Wolf range to dine well there. (more…)

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Annals of Hair Design: the Hair Hat! Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:00:46 +0000

We are continually amazed at the mighty improvisational and creative brilliance-in-the-realm-of-hair-dos we see around town daily. But these hair hats may take the cake.

We don’t know HOW this Caucasian guy got his bone-straight hair to stay put (or why?… the mysteries of the artist’s impulse).

Dig this African American version. The bill can be worn in front…


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Wood Scrap Room Partition Surprise Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:00:04 +0000

We recently stumbled on designer Olivier Dollé‘s very compelling room partition. Or that’s what we thought it was until we started wondering why he add the two horizontal pieces at the top and realized… they were LEGS!

It’s a table, turned on its side. Eureka! (more…)

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Max Lamb’s Inspired Furniture Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:58:18 +0000

We’ve written quite a bit about Max Lamb in the past because of his unique ability to combine art and simple practical design. An integral component of his art is showing people HOW he made it. At you can see illuminating how-to’s on just about all his pieces.

His latest work is his Marmorial series of furniture. We had to look up “marmoreal”; it means “made of or likened to marble“. (more…)

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Calling on Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and YOU Thu, 09 Oct 2014 23:00:18 +0000


We would happily give every Improvised Life article away for free —all 3000 of them— as we did for nearly five years with great pleasure…

…if we could. (more…)

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Vibrating Bed Mystery Contest Update Wed, 08 Oct 2014 21:40:02 +0000

Sally Schneider

Several weeks ago, in desperation, we posted a challenge to our readers to come up with solution for our vibrating bed, which, shaken by some mysterious force,  wakes us in the wee hours of the morning. Until we find the source, we are hoping to find a way to keep the bed from shaking, so we can get a good night’s sleep.

Since then, quite a few readers responded, offering some really clever, but mostly not viable ideas, like suspending the bed. While we sussed them out and undertook a hopeful correspondence with an engineer that emailed us his thinking, we decided to keep trying fixes. (more…)

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Matisse Painted with Scissors (You can Too!) Tue, 07 Oct 2014 18:12:54 +0000

(Video link HERE.)  We readily admit to being spaced out, fogged, our mind on other things lately, so we deeply appreciate reader Zoe Komaransky putting herself in our shoes and coming up with an inspiring article:

I appreciate how challenging it is to come up with these posts. I bet there are days when complete ideas just show up and then others that require beaucoup research. This often makes me think, “Ha! I need to send this improvisation to Sally and IL.” Then that day goes on, I get busy and I don’t. But there’s one now that won’t let go so here it is—’keep your hand wide open’ as Abbey Lincoln proclaimed in her wonderful song.

I saw the The Matisse Cut Outs show at the Tate Gallery in London this summer and was astonished. I said, ‘Here’s a man who could not stop improvising.’ When he became so ill that he was bedridden or wheelchair bound and could no longer paint, he switched to making art with scissors and paper.


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Update on Vibrating Bed Solutions: Hanging Beds Wed, 24 Sep 2014 16:30:19 +0000


We were thrilled to get such a resounding and thoughtful response to our contest asking for solutions to keep our bed from vibrating, that is, to dampen the mysterious vibration coming through the floor. A number of readers suggested suspending the bed, which we WISH we could do. But as with any creative problem, we have some serious constraints to deal with. (more…)

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Artful Pubic Wigs! Wed, 24 Sep 2014 08:32:39 +0000

Sinnae Choi in collaboration with unnamed participant

We check into Improvised Life part-time support staff and contributor Sinnae Choi’s website periodically to see what the multi-talented artist is up to. We were amazed at the LOL beauty of the human hair merkins she collaborated on… And learned that a merkin is by definition a pubic wig.

Who knew? and… Why not?!!   Writes Choi and her collaborator:  (more…)

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Cargo Bikes to DIY or Buy Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:29:57 +0000

(Video link HERE.) When we saw the image below of a hacked cargo bike Susan Dworski spotted on a Venice California beach, we thought of our old friend Peter Hoffman, chef of Back Forty and Back Forty West (formerly the great Savoy) in NYC. When his kids were young, he’d ride his odd-looking custom-made cargo bike to Union Square Farmers market; it had a huge front-wheel carrier, that allowed him to tow his kids AND a load of produce.  Although we’re happy to know about the iterations of custom cargo bikes you can have master bike-maker George Bliss of Hudson Urban Bicycles in NYC make you (check out the video), we love that there a multitude of other ways to go, as with the brilliant, multilayered and cheap bikes below. (more…)

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Contest: Solve the Vibrating Bed Mystery Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:00:25 +0000

Holton Rower

A few months ago, after a mysterious vibration coming through the floor started shaking our bed, and us, awake at night, we wrote about the improvised bed legs I’d made using yoga blocks and special thick rubber we’d researched. It worked for a while, but we are still plagued by the mysterious vibration that is keeping us sleep-deprived. (From surfing the internet we realize that THOUSANDS of people suffer from this problem). We have read endless technical papers on the vagueries of how sound and vibration travel. We’ve lost count of our attempts at damping the vibration, including the sculptural “bed shocks, above, my friend Holton Rower devised.

So we’re issuing a challenge to Improvised Life’s clever readers: help us devise a solution to keep the bed from being shaken by the vibration coming through the floor. The winner will receive a lifetime subscription to Improvised Life. Here’s what we’ve tried already (call us crazy but we can’t sleep): (more…)

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11 Strangely Clever Improvisations with Instant Ramen Wed, 17 Sep 2014 20:00:16 +0000

(Video link here.)  If you ever find yourself having to cook dinner from a mini-mart, keep in mind these 11 clever improvisations on the theme of instant ramen, an iconically cheap, vin ordinaire instant ingredient.  Sometimes THAT kind of ingredients ia more challenging to improvise with than purist hi-brow ones.

Our favorite: gnocchi said to have been invented by the great chef David Chang.

Note: You need to BOIL the noodles first to make any of this work. We’d boil ‘em in salted water, not the msg broth.

via Kottke

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Weave a Grapevine or Room Screen Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:00:33 +0000

Sally Schneider

In a recent ramble around New York, we came upon this classical iron fence, transformed by grapevine. The fence acts like a loom or structure through which someone wove grapevine in and out to make for much greater privacy and a warmer, more organic feel.

And of course, that got us looking up grapevine (which we use for smoking foods; stay tuned for a post on that), and how to use it, and then imagining other applications for it… (more…)

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Rock Table…DIY Imaginings Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:00:05 +0000

Elisabeth Garouste and Maria Bonetti

Spotted at Aqqindex: a very cool Rock Table by Elisabeth Garouste and Maria Bonetti.

Could we chistle out notches in small boulders or interesting big rocks to hold a triangle or rectangle of painted ply or…


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