Over the years, just about every place we’ve lived has had hardwood floors. They’ve ranged from prewar bleached and polyeurathaned oak to white “pickled” new oak and lately, off-white, high-gloss painted slightly rough plywood. For all those years, we’ve searched for the best way to clean our floors without damaging the protective surface. Since New York City is a fairly dirty place, a simple dry-mopping won’t do; the dust that settles on the floor needs to be washed away or it will get ground into the surface (and our bare feet). The classic string mop is hard to wring out and doesn’t seem able to handle shoe marks very well.
This wonderful image got us thinking about umbrellas: the brilliance of the IDEA and the brilliance of the actual creation.
Our friend John Wellington is an artist whose controversial work has been called “classical, claustrophobic, fetishistic, beautiful, vulgar, architectural, humorous, morbid, decorative, and sexual.” He renders deeply personal imagery using Old Master techniques in unique ways and teaches his methods at the New York Academy of Art where he is an Adjunct Professor, and at his Manhattan studio.
For more than thirty years John created, copied, ruminated, lamented, critiqued, elucidated, explored and most importantly, drawn in sketchbooks. Recently, he created IDOLS DEMONS SAINTS, an iBook for iPads based on his sketchbooks. It is a kind of visual journal and art manual that offers insight into John’s creative process and the complex Old Master techniques he uses, from sketch to finished work.
IDOLS DEMONS SAINTS interests us for many reasons. First, we’ve learned a great deal from being able to see John’s process of painting; even though we are not painters, understanding his thinking helps us in our own work. The first page of the sketchbook, for example, lists principles useful in any creative endeavor.
Second, read more…
We are smitten with Lawrence E. Pierce‘s The Art of Fixing Things, principles of machines, and how to repair them: 150 tips and tricks to make things last longer, and save you money. The title and its very long blurb are not quite accurate however. The book is also a manual about MAKING things, tinkering, and the realities of the creative process. Beyond really smart, practical, concrete tips about restoring a stripped bolt, the virtues of aluminum, and how to keep paint from dripping down the can, Pierce, who has been a farmer, mechanic, handyman and litigation lawyer, also addresses mindset and process. Take Tip 68, for example:
Tip 68: Practice Breaking Things
When a difficult problem arises, set up a test on a similar part.
Let your destructive instincts run wild with spare parts. Then you will know how far you can go. read more…
We found this today on the strange, great, illuminating Daily Fluxus Do It Yourself Instructions:
1. Identify the happiest feeling of the day.
2. Put it in a jar.
3. Switch it if something happier happens.
We’re wondering if this happiness jar would work in a similar way as jars full of air captured in a special place we posted about some time ago: when we look at them, we know that there is a bit of that place in there, along with good memories.
Can we activate happiness with this iteration from Fluxus?
What else could we store in a jar to remind us of what we need to remember?
Related posts: a jar of air + memory
3 powerful principles for remembering + learning anything
stealing and tailoring ideas
quilts as memory-keepers
digital memory archive (photograph stuff then give it away)
Several years ago I illustrated an 18th century Japanese saying using watercolors and rubber stamps made from hand carved, Staedtler Mars Erasers.
The message reverberates across time.
One of the people we miss most since we left our old digs is paper artist extraordinaire Matthew Sporzynski, also known as the Couturier de Carboard. (Check out the Pinterest Real Simple compiled of his wonderful paper constructions.) It seems that whenever we ran into him in the elevator or on the street, we’d learn something illuminating. Matthew is endlessly creative and generous and we’ve posted a number of times about him, especially the spontaneous, and always perfectly-timed gifts he’d leave outside our door: stealth gifting. So we were delighted when emailed this picture of his “boat bag workaround”, where he fashioned a leather belt into an adjustable shoulder strap to allow him to comfortable haul heavy gear in his canvas boat bag:
I was rather pleased with a last-minute improvisation I made last week. I was going to a photo shoot at 23rd and 5th and needed to carry a big light box (two hands) and a boat bag full of heavy tools and supplies. I literally thought “what would The Improvised Life do?” read more…
When I was looking for an affordable space to buy in New York City, I devised strategies for envisioning how I might tailor the various spaces I was considering. I ended up teaching these strategies to several friends who were “stuck” when trying to design a new kitchen, study — any room at all; these simple approaches helped them unplug the creative flow of ideas, and ultimately find solutions to their design dilemmas.
The first thing is to figure out all the things you need a space to do or have, and make a list. read more…
Having no hidden rooms in our apartments, we have written a number of posts mulling ways to make an “instant”, impermanent guest room in our space. They are usually along the lines of something a kid would make, since secretly, we love the feeling of forts, teepees, treehouses. We are always on the lookout for materials with which we might quickly rig such a private space in our big open room, to enclose a guest bed, be a meditation room, a hideout.
So we were smitten when we read about Fort Magic, a kit full of PVC pipes and connecters and clips with which you can make Tinkertoy-like structures to attach sheets or fabrics. Designed for kids but it see,s perfectly suits our adult fantasies. read more…
Nina Saltman, ‘the improvised life’s construction and building consultant, is really good with her hands, and even better with extensions of her hands—namely, tools. Nina was one of the first women in the country to wear a hardhat. She’s worked her way up from apprentice carpenter to general manager of massive construction projects (see About).
Now that we’re doing a lot of projects for the Laboratory, what we wanted to know from Nina was: what tools does she consider to be essential? Nina thoughtfully organized her list of recommended tools in a hierarchy of essentials that you can tailor to where your life is and how ambitious your repairs and projects are.
BTW: Nina doesn’t use a tool box. She prefers a tool bucket, with a “bucket buddy” to organize the extensions of her mind and hands. This week we’re bringing you all of the hand tools and important accessories that can fit in your bucket. Next week we’ll be back with power tools and tools for more ambitious woodworking.
1. Absolute minimum tools required:
With just these, you could probably do most things, maybe not so well, or efficiently, but it would be possible. I once repaired locks at my brother Dave’s house with my Swiss army knife because his ‘tool box’ consisted of a couple rolls of wire and a pair of pliers. read more…
There are a lot of online drawing tools, but most of them feel too complicated to be of much use to us. Diagram.ly, on the other hand, couldn’t be easier. If you’ve ever needed to throw together a quick diagram for a report and been stymied by the lack of options or user un-friendliness of Microsoft Word, you’ll find this to be a great (and free!) alternative. We’ve been using it to sketch out some storage space, but see its potential for many free-form design projects. For the more business-minded, the folks at alternativeTo point out that it would be great for organizational and work-flow charts. And certainly kids who just want to play around with shapes could have some fun with it too! It’s a perfect combo-platter: practical AND playful…
Via the always great Swiss Miss, again
Related posts: ed emberley’s drawing book: make a world
the best fabric pen for ‘drawing just for fun’
design your own textiles
the wirecutter’s trustworthy technology reviews
a wondrous ipad app for kids and adults
When Design Within Reach launched the Sapien bookcase, it seemed like a brilliant idea: a bookshelf that allows books to be stacked vertically over five feet high, to form a neat stack from which you could easily remove any book. CB2 promptly knocked off the rectangular-pillar-with-removable-shelves-design. We bought one, then rued the day. The problem is, once the bookshelf is loaded with books, it becomes too heavy to move, a major flaw for something that is really about living fluidly, the opposite of built-in shelving.
So we devised the perfect hack: a ready-made set of wheels (originally made to hold metal file boxes) that fit the Sapien base perfectly. read more…
On the great blog Made by Joel, when we found a post that began: “I was drawing…just for fun.” We love to hear about people experimenting, with no particular destination in mind. In the end, he took one of the drawings and turned it into a little pillow for one of his kids.
He also mentioned his favorite fabric pens, and we appreciate the tip. Joel Henriques is one of those amazing souls whose advice we always trust. Looking at his improvised drawings, we’re thinking not only pillows, but shower curtains, placemats, window shades, coverlets and beyond… read more…
(Video link here.) Although we’ve spent decades improvising in the kitchen (figuring out ways to cure hams in a city apartment and make souffles in iron skillets and teacups) we haven’t embraced molecular gastronomy in our everyday cooking. We enjoy its magical qualities on forays to the restaurants of inventive chefs like Wylie Dufresne and Daniel Humm….and now on YouTube with Alinea’s edible helium-filled balloon. We WOULD love to experience this triumph of fun, imagination and beauty (especially knowing that it started with Alinea chef Grant Achatz asking himself “What if…” and then figuring out how to do it.)
While we find we can go pretty far pushing the limits of ordinary cooking equipment, there is one esoteric tool we have found truly useful: The Smoking Gun. It’s a battery-powered pistol that turns hardwood sawdust like cherry, applewood and hickory into fragrant smoke with which you can infuse all manner of food read more…
We find ourselves spending a lot of time sifting through product review websites as we try to make smart purchases. This can be a tedious process, and often we end up more unsure of what we’re looking for than when we started. That’s why we were really excited to discover The Wirecutter ,”a list of only great technology”. Run by Brian Lam, a former Gizmodo and Wired writer, the site lists “the best” in gadgets, from phones and TVs to cables and wireless music, to vacuum cleaners and electric toothbrushes.
We came across the site while researching portable hard drives, and really loved the layout of Lam’s reviews.Lam names the Lenovo Thinkpad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive as the best, but gives a thorough explanation of his choice and offers a couple of cheaper options that he still recommends. At the end of his write-ups, he includes a list of the “best sources” on his product choices, so you have easy access to a few other reputable reviews and his evaluation process.
Best of all, we like the way he thinks. read more…