Friday, April 30, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Via Elle Decor
Ikat (pronounced “ee-cot”) are some of the oldest known patterned textiles in the world. They have appeared in several countries, including Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Guatemala, Turkey and India. In the 19th century, Ikat fabrics from Central Asia were used as a form of currency on the fabled Silk Road trade route across Asia, thereby linking Europe to the people and cultures from Turkey to China, and influencing the design world thereafter.
Ikat textiles are created, essentially, using a tie-dye method, whereby thousands of threads are tied and dyed to create intricate patterns before they are woven. Typically it is the warp threads (cross-wise) that are resist dyed, but occasionally the weft (vertical) threads are also dyed, resulting in a double ikat.
True ikat textiles are then woven by hand on narrow looms. A pattern emerges from the resist dyeing as the threads are loomed. The hand-woven fabrics have a completely different feel and appearance than fabrics made from a power-loom production.
Historically, Ikat resulted in magnificent robes, adorned horses and hung in palaces. Designers today are reinventing the Ikat, using ancient techniques to create fresh, new designs, and where they apply the bold patterns is half the fun. Ikat is EVERYWHERE. I, personally, cannot get enough.
Everything about this image is RIGHT:
Via House Beautiful
Threads by Lee Jofa Nirvana Ikat in Granite colorway.
A subtle, masculine use of Ikat in the home:
Interior design by Todd Romano via Material Girl's Blog
Ikat in the bedroom via House Beautiful:
Elle Decor has been all over Ikat for years, with a special concentration recently:
Madeleine Weinrib, who provides Ikat in every flavor of her amazing textiles, applies it to clutches for a vivid night on the town:
Food can't help but look delish against this backdrop:
This lucite ice bucket from Iomoi is just in time for refreshing summer drinks:
The fashion world isn't slacking when it comes to the Ikat craze:
Ikat looks hot on the runway....
Via Runway Daily
...And in retail shops, where you'll probably find the rest of us:
Chic Geek did a cute post on how to wear Ikat:
Friday, April 23, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
I started taking a serious interest in photography on the cusp of the digital camera revolution, around 1999. Digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras were very expensive at the time (and not that great), so I decided to get an older model film camera. As usual, I spent weeks conducting extensive research and finally settled on a Nikon F3, a solid yet simple camera with no fancy automatic hoo-ha, just shutter speed, aperture, and manual focus. I don’t know if it was luck or if I just happened to pick a camera model with universal appeal, but I loved it.
my first camera, a Nikon F3HP, designed circa 1980
Fast forward ten years later and my beloved camera was starting to spend a lot of time on the shelf. I still felt powerful inspiration each time I picked it up, but I no longer had easy access to a darkroom since my undergraduate degree was done (and community college classes in New York are not cheap). Paying a lab to do your film processing, darkroom printing, and digital scanning can get very expensive and since I mostly put my pictures online these days (rather than printing physical photos) I began to consider switching over to a digital system. It was a tough decision but I figured I could always go back to film if I wanted to, plenty of people sell off their old cameras all the time. So I made the jump, sold my camera and lenses (nearly for what I originally paid) and “upgraded” to a Nikon D90, a light weight and affordable digital camera that is completely automatic and so easy to use that I find it a little obscene. I’m certain that 19th century Daguerreotype photographers felt the same way when the Kodak Brownie camera debuted in 1901: something this easy cannot be art!
the Nikon D90, picture from Ken Rockwell's blog
a Tachihara 4x5 Field Camera: the choice of a true artist
the Kodak Brownie: the choice of insipid dullards and charlatans
I know that it’s preposterous but I find it very hard to take digital cameras seriously, even this new one. It’s an amazing piece of technology with all sorts of automatic and adjustable options to compensate for every conceivable lighting condition and subject matter, but I have grown to despise all the buttons, screens, and numbers. It’s like having to solve a tiny Rubik’s Cube each time I want to adjust a basic setting. Normally, I am very comfortable with figuring out complicated devices but honestly I just don’t know what the hell is going on with this thing sometimes:
the rear panel of a Nikon D90 displays an absurd amount of information
It took me several months to figure out that I could make it take a picture EVERY TIME I pressed the shutter down. I’m totally serious. Basically, the camera would refuse to take a picture if the autofocus wasn’t “ready”. I’d be standing there, aiming the thing, holding down the shutter button, the camera is whirring away it’s focus motor and capturing exactly SQUAT. I was starting to put serious thought into tossing the camera out of a moving vehicle when I finally found the setting that “lets” you take a picture instantly, no matter if the camera is focused or not. I had no idea how lucky I was previously, to have a camera that takes pictures instantly upon mere command. Push a wrong button on the D90 and you suddenly can only focus on whatever is in the bottom left portion of the viewfinder, press another and the entire image is a deep blue hue, another button and a giant histogram appears on the screen and starts yelling at you. The F3 had only a couple of settings to twiddle with; after that it was your own fault if it didn't work. Besides focus and aperture on the lens body, all you really need to know is on top right: shutter speed, the shutter button, and how many shots are left on the film:
top of d90, picture from Ken Rockwell's blog again (please don't sue me, sir!)
Digital cameras are touted as universal situation devices but after spending some time with one, I think this is not entire accurate. Digital cameras are extremely useful for fast-paced subject matter like weddings, sports, children, birds and animals. They are also great for commercial studio photography, fashion, jewelry, food, products, and anything else that requires accurate color, sharp focus, and a high volume of shots for practically no cost. Need a few dozen sharp, colorful, spontaneous-looking photographs of two people walking around the city and the park on a sunny afternoon? Digital is your best bet for success, you can easily shoot several hundred pictures in two or three hours, with various lighting conditions and locations, and have them print-ready for the client after a day or so of editing down and lightly cleaning up the best selection. Truly a professional photographer's dream has come true as far as ease of use and reliability:
Wilson and Erin's engagement photo shoot: the most successful project with this camera so far
But when it comes to other categories, slow paced subject matter, biographical portraits, still life, documentary, long exposure, multiple exposure, low light photography, night photography, and especially black & white photography, film cameras are much more appropriate tools. At least for me. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to own and operate both digital and film cameras right now so I am sticking it out with what I have. I absolutely miss the grit, the risk, and the uncertainty of film and I’m much too lazy to add all that patina to a digital photo with Photoshop. But I like the convenience of digital; I can take all the shots that I want and it costs me nothing to enjoy the results. But eventually I know I’ll go back to film simply because the process and slowness of working with film is more compatible with how and what I like to shoot.
jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (shot on film, pushed and cross processed)
The makers of contemporary technological devices seem focused on cramming in as many options and choices as possible. But there’s something delicious about something that does one thing, does it well, and perhaps has a few simple analog dials, meters, or switches to keep you informed. I don’t think it’s entirely my love of anachronism, although that likely contributes. But there definitely exists a powerful relationship between simple visual form and effortless cognition. (do I even need to say the word iPod?) Occasionally, someone merges well established analog forms to communicate newer digital concepts, resulting in the best of both worlds:
Samsung TL320: I can’t vouch for the quality of the camera itself but look at those nifty analog dials!
Audio equipment used to have these amazing “VU” meters (Volume Units) on recording devices, tape decks, and such. A needle bounced back and forth, smoothly and instantly informing you of the situation, the meaning of the numbers themselves unnecessary because the angle of the needle and perhaps proximity to the “red” area was all you really needed to understand the volume at any point in time. The left was quiet, the middle was moderate, the right (and red) was loud!
an analog VU meter with peak LED, courtesy Wikipedia
Alternatively, newer technology (in general) tends to have all sorts of LED displays, which are a real chore to work with. A digital number on an LCD initially tells you nothing when you first glance at it because your mind has to process the shape of the number first (slowed even more by the rigidly angular forms of digital numbers, which are less legible) from a visual symbol to a mental concept of that specific number, then you have to think about how that number corresponds to the thing being measured... An exhausting, confusing process to describe (and read) and experience. Is −11 loud or soft? what about +2? I have no idea.
all you need is a an electrical engineering degree from Stanford to figure this crap out
I would postulate that one reason digital clocks are so popular as alarm clocks is because you have to start working your brain immediately just to figure out what time it is when the alarm goes off. A friendly, round-faced analog alarm clock with a dulcet bell just doesn’t hold the same power of motivation as a honking, buzzing, small plastic rectangle with flashing angry red shapes on the front that you have to focus on and then translate with your half asleep brain.
a modern instrument of cognitive discomfort
I come across this analog versus digital problem constantly. For example, after living here for a couple of years, it occurred to me that it might be nice to get some sort of device for measuring the level of moisture in our apartment. A ludicrous concern, of course, to those of you who enjoy warm, humid weather year round. Here, it gets particularly dry in the winter and it sneaks up on you. I know when its time to get the humidifier out of storage because one random morning I'll wake up with a bloody nose (sorry, that’s gross). Well as it turns out, such a measuring device exists: a hygrometer. Digital hygrometers are cheap, accurate, and reliable, but (as with most modern technology) I couldn’t find a plain old hygrometer. Instead, I found these monstrosities:
every possible meteorological measurement known to man
Horrible cluttered garbage! I can already get weather information on the computer, and in a much nicer format. All I wanted was a simple hygrometer and the most I could tolerate in addition would be a thermometer or maybe a barometer, just for kicks (I dig nautical stuff). I had no use for this mishmash of numbers and icons so I gave up looking for a while. All hope was not lost, however. One afternoon I finally came across these gorgeous barometers:
The bottom one has an integrated hygrometer & thermometer and is absolutely gorgeous. They are analog/digital hybrids, each a lovely combination of modern technology integrated with a tried-and-true analog form. Now, I’m certainly not one of those people who thinks that the Golden Age Of Creativity is long gone, I’m actually very future oriented. But I think it’s a huge waste when people disregard the successes of the past, completely toss out the old way of doing things. Those who make the most amazing designs, the most beautiful art, the most exciting music (any creative work, really) are taking inspiration, concepts, and samples of what has been done before and integrating these parts with their own ideas, their own influences, and the needs, desires, and technologies of today. However, even the best designers can take it too far to the other extreme of pure form and minimalism:
apparently, there are no buttons in the future
When I first saw that, I thought it was a joke. I have the previous generation iPod shuffle and it is by far the best iPod ever designed by Apple. It only holds 2GB of music but for short jaunts, it couldn't be more perfect:
the true pinnacle of iPod design
It's easy to pick on Apple; most of their work is so nicely designed that the bad stuff is really obvious. But sometimes they blatantly sacrifice function in the name of pure form. Here's another recent failure by Apple:
$40 to the first person who shows up with cash
I don't know if you've tried out one of these "Magic" mice, but what a piece of junk! I have one sitting on my desk right now, collecting dust. Apple has played these tricks before, they strongly resisted adding buttons to their mice in the 90's, insisting on a one-button mouse when all other mice had at least two or three buttons, as if the unwashed masses purchasing their computers for thousands of dollars couldn't handle another mouse button. Please. I'll admit that I have some personal bias and I'll also admit that the Magic Mouse is interesting in concept (no physical buttons to get dirty and a built-in pseudo trackpad), but they are once again blatantly sacrificing a useful button in the name of visual purity. If you're one of those one-button mouse people, you're probably thinking "get over it, psycho!". But if you use several buttons like I do (and lots of other nerdy computer users), then switching to this new mouse was like losing a finger. Well, I'd finally had enough of Apple's ridiculous mouse flimflammery. I bought a wireless Logitech mouse on Amazon. It has a bucket of buttons, ergonomic design, easy to configure, and clearly someone put a lot of thought into the visual aesthetic AND the function:
NINE buttons: sometimes more is more
And just to thoroughly stir the pot, I'll throw in this last image of a 1972 Wittnauer Sector Futurama 1000 watch, with a double "retrograde" dial.
Here I think form has taken some priority over function, but when someone breaks the rules so ingeniously you can't help but be impressed.