Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pop rocks sushi at Sushi Mazi

Last night a friend and I hit Sushi Mazi on Division for a belated birthday dinner -- sushi was pretty much the only non-frozen thing I could consider eating in 106-degree heat.

We ordered, among other things, the pop rocks roll: 

Camera phone action shot; one piece down. 

That's right, Pop Rocks. As in, the carbonated candy of late '70s and early '80s fame that sparked one of the most persistent urban legends ever. (No, your stomach will not explode if you consume Pop Rocks and soda.)

"Pop Rocks" by Kasia/flickr.

Gimmicky? Sure. Tasty? Definitely, once I discovered that a dab of salty soy sauce perfectly complements the sweet candy. 

For the record, the spicy crunchy salmon roll was gimmick-free but also delicious, and the tempura tofu was one of the best fried things I've ever tasted…and let's face it, that's not exactly a short list. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Papershapers video

I have a huge weakness for paper art, so it's great to find a video that showcases nine different paper artists. Brian Dettmer, whose incredible book "autopsies" I wrote about in a previous discussion about damaging books in the name of art, shows up around 5:25. I also really love Hunter Stabler's intricate, geometric cutouts (2:58) and Polly Verity's ethereal tissue paper creatures (3:30). Hell, I love them all -- so just watch the video already.

These artists were all part of the Papershapers show at the Scion Installation LA; however, this exhibit closed on May 2nd. Bah.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Interview with Holden Lee [Sunday spotlight]

At seven years old, Holden Lee is the youngest artist so far to be featured here on Build/Make/Craft/Bake, but don't let his age fool you. This kid has talent and skills aplenty.

Holden draws, creating imaginative and silly creatures that his mom, Cheryl, silk-screens onto t-shirts. Let's meet two of my favorites, Squidbat and Robosaurus: 
Holden writes: Squidbat uses his tentacles to grab his food, and he loves to eat fruit flies. Sometimes he is really sweet and he gets food for other people. Squidbat is very social. He likes to climb into caves and meet other bats. Squidbat doesn’t like Parrots though because they are more famous than he is, because they can talk. Squidbat can protect you because he has lots of friends for backup.
Here's the artist himself in a Robosaurus shirt: 

And Robosaurus's bio: 
Robosaurus likes to watch movies like King Kong and Godzilla because they can climb buildings. Robosaurus saves people who are in trouble. He’s like a superhero. He doesn’t like it when people get hurt, seriously hurt. He is really nice and will save you when you are in trouble. He will be your bodyguard.
Did I mention that Holden was five years old when he drew Squidbat, four-and-a-half when he created Robosaurus, and that he comes up with all the character bios himself? 

Lucky for me, Holden agreed to spend a few minutes of his summer vacation on an interview. 

BMCB: How did you get started with drawing?

HL: Well, at first I wanted to do something creative and I wanted to draw. Then I got so obsessed with it I just started drawing everywhere. I was drawing my dad. I was drawing all sorts of things.

Why do you like to draw?

I like to draw because whenever I'm bored I have something to do, I can draw whatever I want.
How did you get the idea to put your characters on t-shirts?

Well, in pre-k I was invited to a party for my friend Henry, and his mom said "no gifts" but to draw a picture. But I draw pictures every day, so I asked my mom if we could put the drawing on a tee shirt to make it better and different. My friend really liked it.

Do you have a favorite character?

My favorite character is Clobster or Robosaurus, because Robosaurus was pretty much my first character. I drew him at a school camp.

Do kids and grown-ups see your art differently?

Well, one adult thought I was copying SpongeBob because, Clobster…Mr. Krabs.

Clobster's bio: Clobster likes to make things equal. He’s kind of like Robin Hood, and he watches that movie a lot. If someone has more and you have less, he will make it even. The people he takes from don’t even know it because they have so much already. He has a special talent and can make pearls from sand that he gives to all of his friends.
Do you have any favorite artists?

Tim Burton

Where can people find your stuff?

Craft shows, street fairs, Etsy and Piccolina in SE Portland.

[BMCB: Seattleites, take note. Holden Lee Tees will also be at the Urban Craft Uprising, August 1-2 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.]

What are you working on next?

A new Etsy shop, caramelcockatoo, with one-of-a-kind artist trading cards only. 

The artist at work. 

Thanks, Holden.  Keep drawing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Camera shutters in slow motion

A lot goes on during a simple click of the camera shutter. In single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, a mirror routes the light from the lens up through the viewfinder. This means that the photographer sees the same thing that the film (or sensor chip, in digital cameras) sees. It also means that the mirror has to get out of the way for the picture to be taken. 

In the video below, you can see the mirror flip up in slow motion, the shutter open, and the mirror snap back into place. 

Canon 5D shutter video by James Pearman. 

The above video, taken at 2,000 frames per second, shows the focal-plane shutter actuating for a brief exposure, probably 1/25o of a second. You can tell the exposure is short because the entire image sensor is only revealed for a moment even in slow motion.

For shorter exposures, the shutter would not open beyond a slit. Instead, the first leaf of the shutter mechanism would be followed even more closely by the second. So the top and bottom of photos taken by a camera such as this one can actually capture separate moments in time. Pretty cool.

Here's a different camera (a film SLR) shown from the back, again filmed at 2,000 frames a second. You can see how the two planes of the shutter reposition themselves for the next shot while staying closed. 

Canon Elan7 (shutter at 1/1000) video by James Pearman. 

These photos were taken with a Phantom HD high-speed camera, which is definitely going on my next Christmas wish list!

[via Discoblog]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Centipede benches by Esrawe [bio-inspiration]

I'm not sure which I like better, these centipede benches by designer H├ęctor Esrawe, or the phrase "multiplicity of legs" used by Design Year Book to describe them. 

[via NOTCOT]

Make your own old-fashioned microscope [How-to Tuesday]

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (that's pronounced lay-wen-hook), known to many as the Father of Microbiology, made some pretty badass microscopes in his day. He used them to discover the teeming communities of microorganisms, which he called animalcules, found in water and bodily fluids. 

Leeuwenhoek's microscopes were simple but surprisingly powerful devices that could magnify objects 250 times or more. Peering through his signature tiny glass lens with light from a candle or the sun, he was the first to describe blood cells, some bacteria, sperm cells, muscle fibers and countless single-celled microorganisms, such as rotifers, algae, Vorticella, and Giardia.  

A replica of a brass van Leeuwenhoek microscope. Image source here

It's amazing to me that van Leeuwenhoek's microscope designs are simple to make for yourself. Excellent instructions have been written up by Patrick Keeling and posted here

Keeling's DIY van Leeuwenhoek microscope. Image source here 

To make your own lens, you'll need some glass. Keeling's instructions suggest using a glass capillary tube or a Pasteur pipet. If you don't have access to these materials, you may want to (carefully) break a glass jar and use long, slender shards, as suggested in this tutorial, written by Alan Shinn.  

Images taken through Keeling's microscope. Details here. 

Don't be fooled by the simplicity of this design -- this is one powerful microscope! The quality of your images will be determined by the size and roundness of the lens, so try making a bunch of them. 

Happy observing! 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Music from a tree. A tree!

Electronic music has a long history of incorporating sounds from everyday life into music, but I think this piece is especially cool -- Diego Stocco made every sound in this video by playing a tree in his garden. 

Diego Stocco - Music From A Tree from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

I found this video while reading DudeCraft, a blog written by Paul Overton, who, as it turns out, makes some pretty cool electronic music of his own. 

I've been thinking a lot about musical creativity lately, so expect a few related posts in the near future…

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Patrick Gannon's papercuts [Sunday shout-out]

With a sharp knife and intricate layers of bright paper, Tokyo-based paper artist Patrick Gannon creates characters that instantly intrigue. 

"Regrets of a Mad Scientist"

"Until That Day, I Make My Home Down Here"

"All the Little Things Said"

Patrick and I sat down (separately, at different times and on different continents, at our respective computers) for a little interview.

BMCB: How did you get started with papercutting?

PG: Pretty much by accident. I'd always drawn and doodled, but being an artist hadn't even crossed my mind as a possibility until my mid-twenties when suddenly something clicked in my brain. Up until that point, I had pretty much no formal training, so I decided to go to art school for my MFA. One of my art professors suggested I use paper behind my pen-and-ink drawings to add a splash of color. From there, things just evolved.

For about two years, I experimented, combining all kinds of mixed media with the increasingly complex paper shapes: acrylics, oils, watercolors, scratchboard, etc. In the end, I came back around to the simplicity of paper and glue. It just felt right to me, natural.

Can you describe the technique a little bit?

Everything starts out as a scribble in my sketchbook; usually a really messy one that is indecipherable to anyone but me. After resizing it and tweaking the composition on the computer, I draw everything out on tracing paper. This is where I start to work out the layers and the positive and negative shapes. Next, I start diving into my piles of paper, trying to find the right combination of color and texture to create a sense of emotion or atmosphere. Cutting the paper can be very relaxing, almost like meditating. I try not to glue anything down until I'm happy with the way all the bits are working together. A sneeze can be disastrous.

"This Humble Contagion", work in progress

"This Humble Contagion", work in progress

"This Humble Contagion", finished 

What is the creative process like for you?

Everything going on around me gets chewed up and filtered through my mind and ends up in my art. I studied English lit. in college so books and words influence my thought process all the time. I have a tendency to be overly analytical in my "real life", so when I'm making art I try to rely on instinct to provide the visual metaphors and symbolism. Some pieces start out as a single word or a phrase or concept that sticks in my head. Others will evolve out of sketches. Every once in a while, a piece will leap fully-formed into my brain, but that's a pretty rare occurrence. Usually I have to finesse or bludgeon them into shape.

How much time does it take to finish a piece, such as "This Humble Contagion"?

I was working on a couple projects at the same time, so I think This Humble Contagion took me about two weeks, from first sketch to finish. It kind of depends on how much time I have to dedicate to a piece. Most pieces get done in about a week. I've finished a few in two or three days. If I have the luxury, I like to let the piece sit overnight at some stages, just so I can look at it with fresh eyes the next day.

Who are your artistic influences?

There are tons. The myths and legends and fables I devoured as a kid. Arthur Rackham's fairy tale illustrations. The power and divinity of man in Michelangelo's work. Tim Burton's quirkiness. Life in Tokyo, the minimalism of Japanese design in general and Hiroshige's waves specifically. The dynamic action of American comics. The textures and patterns of the papers are actually a big influence, too.

"A Welcome Messenger"

What are you working on now?

I'm getting close to finished with a pretty big piece (for me anyway). I haven't come up with a title yet. I'm trying to play with the contrasts of solid and liquid, sharp jagged physicality and the swirling flow of thought and emotion. And fish. After that, I'd like to do something bright and maybe a little breezy for something coming up in August. I like to bounce back and forth between heavy, dark or conceptual pieces and fun or funny ones.

Where can my readers find your artwork?

"Battle Royal" is up at Gallery 1988 in San Francisco until July 18th. I'm really happy with the pieces in this show, and the rest of the artists are all amazing, so it's definitely worth a look.

I think, for the immediate future, the rest of my shows are here in Tokyo. But you can always find my work online at my website and, for my newest work, on my blog PaperCuts. There's a bunch up on Flickr, too.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Until I started working with it, I never realized how fascinating and beautiful something as simple as paper can be. Or what can be done with it. I imagine that's true for pretty much everything. I'd encourage everyone to be creative with whatever they have at hand.

"Koi Kihagaki"


Previous Sunday shout-outs:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Silver Falls and slug slime

I spent my holiday weekend at a family reunion at Silver Falls, a state park in Oregon with beautiful waterfalls that you can walk behind.  

There are 10 waterfalls in the park; these are photos of South Falls.

During one hike in the park, my cousin, who is trained in survival skills, told us that banana slug slime can be used to treat stinging nettle exposure or bee stings. Mmmm, slug slime. Who knew it could be so useful?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jim, the skull artist [Sunday shout-out]

Shortly before my trip to Scotland, I saw photos of these amazing rope sculptures of skulls: 

All photos courtesy of Skullgallery

I had to know more, so I contacted the artist, Jim, who agreed to share a few additional photos and to do a short interview. 
BMCB: Do you make skulls exclusively, or are they only one part of your artwork?

Jim: As my wife, Coco Fronsac, would say,  I’m a monomaniac. I have been working on skulls since 1980, but I don’t feel any weariness, it’s like the more I work with, the more I discover.

Why skulls?

In fact, it all really began when I was eight years old. At that time, I was living in Koumac, in New Caledonia. Well, I had just found a human skull in the forest. It was my first face-to-face. I brought it with me to my classroom, and it has had a place of honor there ever since.

Do different cultures receive your work differently?

The inspiration for my work comes from Amerindian and Oceanian cult objects. It also draws from Europe, with ex-votos, relics and cabinets of curiosities. I’ve always been fascinated by death. My art is also contemporary, which doesn’t rule out a spiritual dimension.

What is your favorite material to work with?

Definitely rope and natural materials. I also use other materials, like glass, cloth, and I'm even discovering plastic. But I rather prefer rope.

What is the creative process like for you?

I’m reading a lot, seeing lots of things, that’s the point of start for everything. Anyway, it takes time before I start a project. I want to be sure before beginning because a sculpture takes time, a lot of time. I had my serial period, but now I prefer to do unique pieces.

What are you working on now?

Plastic & light.

Where can my readers find your artworks?

My work is currently in two galleries:
[BMCB: Readers who aren't in Paris should check out Jim's website.]

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would like to say that there’s strictly nothing morbid in my work. My approach is very respectful of death.


Previous Sunday shout-outs:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy DIY Fourth of July

Looking for something to do this holiday weekend? Check out Instructables' do-it-yourself Fourth of July guide, which includes recipes for things like barbecue sauce and fireworks. (And for goodness' sake, please locate a fire extinguisher before you start cooking up explosives.)

You might also like to check out the guide for photographing fireworks at Digital Photography School, or perhaps the fabulous Fourth of July recipes at Pioneer Woman Cooks. 

At any rate, have a happy DIY Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I'm all for low-tech solutions, but some people take it to the extreme. The hilarious extreme. There, I Fixed It, one of my new favorite blogs, features clever and not-so-clever kludges for you to admire…or laugh at. Here's an example:

Many of these fine examples of home engineering rely heavily on duct tape, which a former housemate of mine liked to describe as "Jesus on a roll." Why? Because it saves. 

[via Make]