- PRETTY PICTURES
- THINGS TO BUY
- ABOUT ME
Last year I came into possession of a box of fan mail to Robert Wagner sent in 1957. It contained envelopes from all around the world, comprising about 150 envelopes with letters, about 250 envelopes only and about 30 envelopes with letters that had never been opened.
I decided to make my 2014 Valentines "Letters to Robert Wagner."
Each envelope seemed to be its own piece of art. The handwriting, the placement and layout of address, stamp and cancellation stamp varied widely from envelope to envelope. To this I added my own stamp that said "Timeless Love" – sometimes to the front of the envelope and sometimes to the back, depending on how it would interact or interfere with the original design. And then I sent them back around the world for Valentine's Day. The majority of them came from Argentina, but there were occasions I could send some back to their country of origin.
Those with letters were sometimes just a simple request for a photo and sometimes more.
The letters came in all shapes and sizes, all different kinds of papers, including the above which was a simple piece of paper, typed on 2 sides, folded and sealed with the stamp on the back.
Having sent fan mail myself when I was a teenager, I completely empathize with these fans' expectations of a personal response.
The front of this letter is all business; the back tells the truth.
Most of the letters seem to have been opened with a slicer, which also sometimes sliced the letter in half.
The above letter was sent from Berlin, addressed simply to "Mister Robert Wagner, Centfox/Hollywood." Despite being redirected from MGM, it got to him (his staff).
Even the typewritten letters have an incredible amount of personality.
The letters that were unopened were especially fascinating. I sent them with a note saying that they had never been opened and leaving it to the recipient to decide whether to open it or not.
There were two letters from Norway, from different people that had exactly the same text. Because they both mentioned the Norwegian weekly magazine, I wondered if the magazine had written a letter in English for people to copy and send.
Then I discovered 5 other letters (not shown here), again from Norway, again with all the same text (but different from the above). Could the 5 people all have known each other and written their letters together? A bit of a mystery. I sent all 5 letters to the same place: Pentagram in New York.
I struggled at first with the fact that some of my valentine recipients would receive envelopes with letters, and some would only receive empty envelopes. But I found the envelopes so beautiful and their emptiness made them equally poignant. What did they contain? How much love did they reveal?
Below is one of my favourites, sent from France and including a coupon for return postage.
I wonder about the people who wrote these letters. If they're still alive, do they still care about Robert Wagner? Given that I still have a weak spot for the actors I once loved, my guess is yes.
n.b. Robert Wagner's birthday is Feb. 10.
Richard Turley was the designer for the cover of American Illustration 32, and for it, he asked 45 artists to create a piece of art directly on the blank covers of 288 books. Some of those artists were together, filmed over a weekend in a marathon of painting, etc. I was alone in my studio on my island with just one book. I have a giant graphite stick that I've been wanting to use and decided this was the time to do something less obsessive than my usual work.
My instructions said it was supposed to be on the theme of "the body":
Here are some details:
You can see some of the other covers on Creative Review's blog.
Brandona Kavulla at Fortune Magazine hired me to create a complete set of capital letters and the numbers 0–9 in the style of money for display elements in the magazine. I created two versions of each letter: a "clean" one, and one with some spirograph attached to it:
While the characters are of the same style, they all have different ornament styles for serifs and inside the stems.
Here's a large "M":
And here's the full numismatical set, minus the spirograph:
The first issue came out in January with a redesign by Brandon Kavulla using the new Money Alphabet in key positions.
Of particular beauty is his design for title pages in the tablet edition:
And more from the magazine:
The theme for this issue of Varoom was an easy one for me: Obsession. All I had to do was make something obsessive. A trip to a super-fun filled Japanese dollar store resulted in an obsessive shopping spree of stickers. A sheet of 22 x 30 inch watercolour paper and many hours later ...
Some details ...
I was invited by the lovely Pamela Williams to create a set of MOO cards on their triple-thick stock, as other designers such as Sagmeister & Walsh and Adams Morioka had done before me. I agreed, but didn't really understand the project, and it wasn't until well into it that I realized it was to be like a business card template with 50 different designs on the back for the hoi polloi to customize for their own selves/businesses. I wasn't nuts about that idea, and personally I think business cards are dead ... but I do myself often need a temporary card: something to write selective or temporary information on.
For instance, when I'm travelling I sometimes have a local cel number, or a hotel number, or a room number. I also have 3 different email addresses for business, friends or - essentially "junk". I might want to give a book or movie recommendation or take a restaurant recommendation from someone ... anything that would otherwise be written on a scrap of paper or in the margins or bak of someone else's business card, this is what I need. And I think this is what many people need.
So I designed this front for the front of the cards, for writing information:
And then for the back, having just struggled with lighting conditions for my Poptech Sparks, I wanted to make something that worked with different lighting conditions, and proceeded to make what I called little "stage sets" of cards to be lit and shot different ways. Ergo, 50 different card backs, thus:
And here are a few, close up:
All proceeds went to the campain "Because I am A Girl" from Plan International. The card set may or may not still be available from MOO, here.
Another Bluedot chair for another charity auction, this time for the AIGA. I decided to make a match for my previous chair, again with a movie description for the text. The second in this potential series.
Andrew Zolli at PopTech asked me to create an identity for the 2013 edition of the PopTech conference, themed "Sparks of Brilliance". Poptech is a great conference that takes place every year in Camden, Maine. I spoke there a few years ago, and it is really a fun, intimate yet broad conference, so I was thrilled to do this project.
After some trial and error, I came up with these eclectic sparks.
Below are the designs for the name badges. (They fold in half, so the bottom is upright on the back.)
Different people would have different sparks on their badges.
Below is the main identity, for banners etc and on the web. (Typeface is Henrik Kubel's Outsiders.)
Certain sparks were designed to have the PopTech circle in the middle.
But not always the same ...
I was also supposed to speak at PopTech and was greatly looking forward to seeing all the signs, banners, badges, windows etc. festooned with the sparks. Unfortunately I got deathly ill and was unable to go, to my eternal regret.
Each year at the Congress of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), members are asked to make something for a special project. In 2013, the congress was in London, and the special project was to create graphics (in black) for a teacup and saucer.
I decided to make an incongruous cup. A senseless -– yes, possibly even surreal – cup. First I drew a rim of stones for the sides of the cup.
And the, for the saucer, a rim of hair and, when the cup is lifted - a drain. Why? For no reason whatsoever.
Here's a detail of the stones:
And here's the cup and saucer:
This design for Maharam fabrics is based on the cipher I designed for part of my book, I Wonder. As a cipher, it says something. It's a letter to a friend, and I liked the idea of people unknowingly sitting on a secret communication. I think it would be very, very difficult to decode this message.
It comes in seven colours very similar to my otherfabric Centric, but these are my favourite three:
Available from Maharam.
This is an interesting project. And an odd one. I, along with 5 other designers/studios was approached by Adobe to "hack" an Eames chair, while being filmed in a 48-hour time limit, to promote their creative cloud suite of tools. I told them I wasn't using CC yet, and that if I did this, I couldn't imagine doing it digitally, using Adobe software, but that I would do something by hand. They were fine with both of those things, so I agreed. A few weeks later, a videographer, Rory, and his assistant Dabne arrived at my door with this chair (in a box).
It was so beautiful, as you can see, that I was lothe to do anything at all to it. I had a couple of ideas, one of which was drilling holes in it (which I'm glad I rejected, because that's what someone else did), but the one I settled on was to cover it in strips of wood veneer that I had kicking around. I was really nervous because I had no idea if it was going to work.
It was super fun having Rory and Dabne around, and they followed me to the store to buy the right kind of glue, and they took lots of shots of my house and my dog.
I chose a contact cement which worked really well for gluing wood to plastic but it was basically a one shot deal - once it was glued it was glued, there was no going back.
I used tracing paper right on the chair to figure out the curved shapes.
As the chair progressed I realized I liked the combinaton of plastic and wood and decided not to cover it completely. Plus, I was running out of time.
On the 2nd day an editor showed up and she would start processing the footage after Rory shot them. They were on a crazy tight deadline as well. I was working from a Friday at noon to a Sunday noon, and they had to get a cut in to Adobe on the Monday.
On Saturday night I was finished most of the veneer but had to fill the cracks and sand it, which made a terrible mess and had me really worried.
It cleaned up fine for the final shots on Sunday, although technically it's not finished as it needs a couple of coats of varnish. What I really like was how an unintentional Tiki figure came out. So I call this the Tiki Chair.
So that was 3 people hired on a super tight schedule to fly up from San Francisco to do the filming over 48 hours; they got hours worth of footage which was supposed to be edited down to about 5 minutes. But in the end Adobe put all 6 designers together in one mashup video of 2.5 minutes. It can be seen on YouTube, here.
And I got a great chair!
I had a show of work at the Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) in June, and Tanner Woodford, who runs the museum, asked me if I wanted to do an installation piece with some flowers (they had a flower store connection willing to donate flowers). So I said sure!
I didn't put any advance thought into it because I wasn't sure what kind of flowers I was going to get, but the day before he opening of the show, I was taken to the flower store and picked out some things that looks like they'd hold up reasonably well, and some others that wouldn't (like roses). had been thinking fo just doing a pattern, but thinking about how the piece would be on display for a few weeks and would, of course die, I decided to make the word "Sorrow".
I arrived at the space at 2pm and just started laying things out. I was basically making it up as I went along.
I had brought a good camera with me, but no tripod, and the light went really quickly. I didn't have much time for photos, so the photos I took were pretty bad.
I finished at around 9 or 9:30 pm. So I worked for 7 hours straight. The opening party started at 5 or 6, so I was still making with people coming around to watch.
Above was just after it was finished. Tanner sent me the shot below, after a few weeks. When he took it down, he put the dried petals and leaves into jars and sent one to me and some to other people as well, which was nice.
For the theme "experiment" I had this idea to create a pseudo-scientific, faux-electronic, erzast-frankenstein kind of setup, with a bunch of stuff I had lying around. I got partway through the project, with no planned end in sight when I looked at my desk and the experimental materials on it and realized - that's it!
The final delivery was a collection of some of these images.
I had it in my head I wanted to make a heart of gold. But then I decided I wanted to do something different with foil - which is usually so static - an give it motion. An active heart, a spinning heart.
Here's the die for the foil:
To me, a muse is an elusive thing. One is lucky to have one, and finding one is difficult, sometimes with false stops along the way. I envisioned the way to finding the muse as a maze, where sometimes you find small spots of enlightenment, but it's not until you find your way to a true muse that your world and creativity opens up into full freedom and colour.
Todd Falkowsky asked me to create a surface design for a Blu Dot chair as part of a charity auction. I decided to start a new series for this, with the text of movie descriptions.
This double-page illustration was for the "taste" issue of Varoom. For it, I imagined a menu of unusual things.
I was asked to take part in a project creating carpets to be made by a fair-trade company in Nepal. For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted a sentient carpet - it says "I, carpet": what does it feel when you walk on it? I built the structure of the carpet around these words, and designed patterns of mice, birds, cats & dogs for the spaces formed by the structure.
Then I discovered they didn't want words in the carpets.So, despite a lovely test done, this was never made. Maybe one day.
A two-page spread on the topic of "Entertainment." I created a custom circular type for this.
When I was asked to speak at AGIdeas in Australia, I was also asked to design a special give-away piece for the printers Gunn & Taylor. I designed a notebook with a geometric pattern for an embossed cover, with bits of gold, silver, red and blue foil placed in some of the shapes.
Inside, instead of using lines or a regular grid, I printed different shape-grids on each of the pages, curious as to how it would affect that way people take notes, draw, or think.
I was asked to choose a number between 1 and 65 to illustrate for a book celebrating the TDC's 65th year. I chose the number 11.
Because I travel a lot, I decided to use old postcards for my Valentines this year. I sent about 480, and the cards range over about 90 years: from 1901 to the late '80s, I think. They are from all over the world and they went all over the world. About 100 of them had writing on the back and had been posted before.
Then, they're all overprinted in silver with my image, which says "From me wherever I am / To you wherever you are."
This is my most recent piece for Varoom Magazine, on the topic of localism. It's a bit post-apocalyptic.
Maybe one day we will all be local
in our small communities structured for survival
we will hew things out of wood
and farm our plots of land for seasonal food.
Our neighbours will be potters, metal smiths,
bakers, weavers and stonemasons.
We'll have a primitive doctor
and a sadistic dentist.
The weather will be our enemy and our saviour,
gracing us with water
or withholding it for too long.
We will be surrounded by the warmth of animals
using them for everything they have to
give us while strugglingto keep them alive.
We'll know each other well and gather
under summer stars and around winter fires
to tell stories of the past.
We'll assist in births and deaths.
We'll worry mostly about food.
We'll draw pictures of each other on skins
and in stone and wood.
Now and then a stranger will come.
Sometime this summer Hemlock Printers contacted me to design their annual set of wrapping paper. I agreed provided they give me carte blanche over the design and they decided to trust me. I wanted to create something that was festive, but completely non-denominational, and not even "Seasonal". So no snowflakes, or Santa, or bells etc., and no red, green or gold. So I decided on a very bright yellow as my dominant colour, with silver.
I had a number of ideas for the theme of each wrapping paper, but I decided on doing something with kittens, trucks and big machinery, cake decorations, and flames. I figured that would cover a wide range of tastes and sensibilities.
They have a standard die of the container/box it comes in, and I designed that too. In the spirit of a surprise gift, there's very little indication on the outside of what's inside. It's very simple, plain white with four symbols on the front.
When you open it up, yellow, silver and black flames come from the sides, while the top and bottom flaps have perforated tags: again something to suit everyone.
Open it further and the whole thing is on fire on the inside, revealing the first of the wrapping paper sheets.
The box contains 2 sheets each of all four wrapping designs:
I've made a separate post for each of the designs so you can see them in more detail here:
Hemlock sent about 2700 of these out to their friends and clients across North America. If you're on their mailing list, I hope you enjoyed this year's wrapping papers. I had a lot of fun making them. Oh, and the good folks at Hemlock tell me they've received an overwhelming positive response!
This is the first of the wrapping papers I did for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. It might be my favourite. I certainly had fun making it (beginning with ordering a mass of exciting cake decorations). As usual, the cake decorations are not photoshopped, nor are they glued: I placed them in place, shot them and moved on to the next.
Printed in CMYK with a flourescent yellow background with spot varnish.
And the full sheet:
This is the second of the wrapping papers I did for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. It's a toss-up whether this or "Cake Decorations" is my favourite. It's called "Fire", and it's printed in CMYK and flourescent yellow.
The full sheet:
This is the third of the wrapping papers I made for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. It's printed in flourescent yellow and black.
And the whole sheet:
This is the fourth of the wrapping papers I designed for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. I've been wanting to do something with kittens for a long time (this uses stock photography from Shutterstock), so this was my chance: Kittens! Who doesn't love kittens? Printed CMYK with silver background and spot gloss.
The folded sheet as they first see it, above.
Some of the kitten twirls, below:
And the full sheet: