Spreadsheets are boring yet useful

When a project has a lot of moving parts, sitting your butt down and making a spreadsheet can really help. Without one, it’s just too hard to keep track of WHAT needs to be done WHEN and by WHOM.

Your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be digital. If using a paper ledger or graph paper is a better fit for you, then go for it. Just be sure to use a pencil and not a pen because tasks evolve over the life of a project.

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Project Management for Artists

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Inventor Spotlight: Simone Giertz, The Every Day Calendar

Simone Giertz is known for her intentionally shitty robots and her straight man schtick in her demo videos. But this project here, the Every Day Calendar, is a more serious piece. The Everyday Calendar is a touch-sensitive, light up display that you can use to help keep track of a habit that you want to form. Giertz used it for meditation practice.

Check out Giertz’s kickstarter campaign here

Artist Spotlight: Liana Finck, Passing for Human

human

I’m reading a beautiful new comic book by New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck. The book is about her parents–her artistic yet domestic mother, her odd yet professional father–and it’s about the author’s own coming of age. If you’re a reader of comics, then you probably appreciate how different writers play with time and timing. Finck is a master. Her stories are beautifully paced, toggling back and forth between reality and abstraction.

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Interview on WNYC, Sep 2018

Finck’s column on Medium

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Crypto Shouldn’t Be Called Crypto

I understand why it’s called that. Security is the feature that enables distributed ledger technology. But the word “crypto” is a description of the technology and says nothing about the user experience or its impact on the economy and society. The word “blockchain” is a description of the tech, too. Both words are so defensive. We need a name for crypto that is more about what the tech allows us to do that we couldn’t do before and less about how the tech works. What might that name be?

How Good Taste Can Get in the Way of Creativity

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

I adore this excerpt from Ira Glass’s longer piece called “On Storytelling.” Glass points to something that he wishes he had known when starting out writing for radio: That there a gap. There is a gap between your good taste and the quality of the work that you make as a beginner. Your taste is good enough to tell you that what you are making isn’t really that good. At this point, a lot of people just quit. But Glass urges us to push through. And he says that the only way to close that gap between your good taste and the beginner work that you are making is to make a lot of work.

 

Childhood Objects

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I’m participating in an online course hosted by MIT’s Learning Creative Learning group. Our first assignment is a lovely one: Share an object from your childhood and reflect on how it influenced you. For inspiration, we were given Seymour Papert’s short essay Gears of my Childhood.

Lucky for me, our mother filled our home with beautiful objects. I’m pretty sure this environment is what led me to study product design in graduate school. From an early age, I remember noticing the details on the objects. And as an adult, I have such an appreciation for combinations of materials in an object (like the leather+wood+brass on my baby carriage) and how they work together to deliver a functional whole.

Check out some objects from my childhood here

CS for All – Program or Be Programmed?

This week my MakerLab students are researching the “CS for All” movement including this short video from Douglass Rushkoff, author of Program or be Programmed: 10 commands for a digital age.

Here’s a taste:

Back in the 1980s, learning to use a computer was the same thing as learning to program one. But as computers got easier to use and more user-friendly, the distance between using a computer and knowing how it worked got longer and wider until we had extremely opaque interfaces in which you do what the program says without any idea of what’s actually going on behind the screen.

 

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Free course on Learning Creative Learning, Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, MIT

 

FOR FUN

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MakerLab students fabricating v1 of “No Waste Challenge”

 

Exploring Media: Mezzotint

 

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Spring Evening by Robert Kipniss, 2017

Today will be a fun art-making day. This morning I’m meeting my students at the new makerspace in our public library to fabricate their designs on a laser cutter.

And this evening I’ll start a mezzotint short course hosted by Cayuga Arts Collective. Mezzotint is a 17th-century printmaking technique in which you manipulate the roughened surface of a copper plate. The media affords soft gradients and a painterly effect unlike printmaking methods before it which are more line based. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

 

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Invention Everywhere

invention

Saturday was a gorgeous fall day here in the finger lakes so we hopped in the car and drove up to Lake Ontario. We had a wonderful day walking at the lake and driving through acre after acre of apple orchards in full swing.

On our way home we saw a sign for the “Savannah Arts Festival” on the side of the road and we decided to pop in. It turned out to be a little community arts festival with craft vendors, DIY activities, a food truck, and a “Trashin’ Fashion Show” that was to start about 5 minutes after we arrived. We got in line.

The love and work that was put into this event moved me. It was clear that volunteers had put a lot of energy into creating the runway and the right atmosphere for the show including a fabulous MC and custom music for each model as they walked the runway.

There were about 10 entries from contestants ranging in age from kids to teens and adults. But my favorite entry is pictured above. This was created by a 9 years old. I didn’t catch her name. And I don’t know if she won a prize. But I thought her use of materials was so clever and graphic. While most entries were bubble wrap and draped table clothes adorned with hot glue and bottle caps, this nine-year-old created a look that embraced industrial materials and a futuristic aesthetic. The foil ducts as leg warmers warmed my heart!

 

Artist Spotlight: Joan Jett

After yesterday’s hearings, I need a good dose of Joan Jett.

Joan Jett was a pioneer in Rock & Roll. In 1970s Hollywood, she set out to form an all-girl rock band. As you can imagine, that idea was met with a lot of resistance.

But Jett survived and thrived and this month she’s got a documentary coming out that captures her story. I can’t wait to see it. In the meantime, there’s a lot of great coverage out there to read and listen to. This interview with Marc Maron is fantastic (it starts about 15 min, 50 seconds in) and this interview with the NYTs is sweet.

In these interviews, you’ll hear that Jett has this great combination of character traits.  She’s strong, yet humble. She has had crystal clear vision and integrity throughout her career. She’s authentic and she f*ckin rocks. Thanks, Joan. Much love and respect.