Bryan Nash Gill turns trees inside-out.

bswoodc11“If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” It’s a silly question, but I like to ask it. I think what people say is telling. I’ve noticed that some think they’re strong, solid trees (and often think in terms of furniture and the use of the wood), while my female friends are more likely to call themselves aspen, or birch, or even magnolias. I’ve always loved dogwood trees myself, but there is something wonderful about a tall, white pine. Or the vanilla-scented ponderosa pines. Trees tell stories, I think.

Judging by his work, Bryan Nash Gill probably has thought about my goofy, getting-to-know-you question. How could he not? His art works are so deeply inspired by trees, from his gallery installations and sculptures to his fantastic prints. He creates these images (like the one above) by covering a tree stump in ink, and placing the paper directly on the wood. It makes an imprint of the rings, of the entire history of a tree. It looks like a fingerprint, but it’s much better, for unlike our static prints, these uneven loops change and grow every year (that is, until someone cuts them down and looks inside).

While I like the tree prints best, he has a fantastic body of work. See more on his website.

Speaking of plants, let’s drink some…

Drunken-Botanist-high-resI think plants are just on my mind this week, seeing as it’s early spring and all. I spotted my first crocuses today when I was at a meeting up in Wiscasset today and I gave a tiny shout. My co-worker thought I dropped my coffee, but I was really just excited about FINALLY seeing a little flora in Maine.

I’m rambling a bit, and it’s probably because I’ve had a few glasses of wine, and while that didn’t exactly inspire me to post about Amy Stewart’s very cool sounding book, it does seem fitting, right? As I type this, I’m sipping at my own glass of alcohol and contemplating the grapes that made it, and all the many fruits and leaves and grains that go into a truly fantastic cocktail. In The Drunken Botanist, Stewart chronicles the vast variety of plant life that has been transformed by our greedy hands into creative libations and delicious intoxications.

Oh, and because I can’t not mention this fact, it’s a beautiful book with truly awesome typography. I should probably buy it for my boyfriend, who could frequently be described as a drunken botanist (when he’s not busy being a “mad scientist”).

Learn more here.

Two cool things: Green architecture, plant emotions.

PIC_MarkMiller_11. Plant-In City. I’ll let their description do the talking:

Mankind is increasingly leaving nature behind, migrating to concrete jungles where green space is at a premium. Yet urban dwellers will always long for a connection to the earth: we build parks, protect nature reserves, and grow gardens. We’ve become adept at shaping nature to fit our multiple spaces and lifestyles.
Plant-in City is a collaboration between architects, designers, and technologists who are building new ways of interacting with nature. Our 21st century sculptural terrariums combine modular architecture, basic laws of physics, embedded technologies, and mobile computing to construct a “Plant City” where the aesthetic meets the pragmatic.

2. Do plants have emotions? We were discussing this at work the other day, and while my first inclination was to be really skeptical, I’ve been a little swayed. No, I don’t think weeping willows actually need Prozac, just that maybe there’s something these living creatures pick up on that is kind of, maybe a little, like our empathy. Further reading can be found on, but this is one of those weird moments when I don’t want to know too much more. According to some people, plants react when living things are killed. Perhaps it’s true, perhaps it’s not, but I rather like that idea and for now, I would like it to be so.

I think this must be how people in Iceland “believe” in fairies. According to one article, 80% of Icelanders think fairies are real. Maybe they do, or maybe 80% of the country just has a more whimsical outlook on life than we do. Either way, I want to go to Iceland and see some freaking fairies.

Pink lakes make me wish for some green.

PINK LAKES 09If I had a couple thousand dollars to throw around, a Steve Back print would be one of the first things in my shopping cart. These amazing photographs capture pink lakes (pink lakes!) in Western Australia. The sweet, beautiful hue comes from a naturally occurring algae, which makes it a million times more enjoyable than the shockingly colored sunsets caused by pollution (which I admit, I do enjoy anyway. Hey, if there world is going down in flames, we might as well marvel at the colors, right?).

Sadly, a framed print costs around $2,500. Sigh.

HUTT LAGOON 02I think waking up and looking at those colors everyday would make me a fundamentally better person. I think I’d be a lot nicer (not to mention cooler) with a pink lake hanging on my wall.

See more here.

{via Black Eiffel}

The Boy I Never Loved.

When I was at Bard, I once found a piece of paper on the ground that had been ripped from a notebook. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I believe it was something like this: “The Greeks had a name for the smell of the earth after the rain. Isn’t that romantic?” It was written in blue ink on notebook paper, and it looked like a boy’s handwriting, though I’m not really an expert. I fell a little in love with the mystery writer and felt a little angry at the recipient of the note (because it must have been a note. It was folded so carefully) for letting it fall onto the ground.

I think I would have had a lot to say to the note-writer, because I also think there is something inherently romantic about the rain. I’ve since learned the word he was referring to: Petrichor. According to World Wide Words, Petrichor is “the pleasant smell that often accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather in certain regions.” Sadly, the writer was wrong about one thing: It is not a Greek word, though it does have its origins in the Greek word for stone petros. The second part of the word comes from ichor, which is the Greek word for “the fluid that flows like blood in the veins of the gods.” How romantic! But Petrichor doesn’t have the pedigree I would have hoped—it was named by two Australian researchers who discovered that the enchanting scent comes from an oil produced by plants that gets absorbed into the surface of rocks, only to be released again when it rains.

Normally, I consider this kind of knowledge somehow antithetical to romance, but I think I’ll always find rain (and the resulting earthy smell) somehow moving. Even when it’s cold and bleak, there’s something lovely about it, don’t you think?

Even if your answer is no, there are others who feel this way. Hence The Rain Room at Barbican’s Curve Gallery in London. Featured recently on Architizer, it is a unique installation that lets visitors pass through a room of rain without ever getting wet. Set on a dark stage, cameras map human movement through the room, sending instructions to the sprinklers to drop rain near people, yet never quite on them. As you move, the rain moves with you, keeping the visitor surrounded constantly by moving water, gently falling politely away from their day clothes.

If I could afford a ticket to London, I’d be on a plane right now. But I’ll just have to make do with Portland’s very real, very wet rain. Not that I’m complaining.

Three Nice Things

Sometimes, I don’t think there is enough art (and writing and culture) devoted to capturing happiness. Stefan Sagmeister’s show at UPenn is great because it’s just that: happy stuff. Using typography and photography to illustrate inspirational sayings, it’s a bit like Pinterest got an art show… but in a good way!

But it’s not just light-weight eye candy. Sagmeister also incorporated some science into the show:

To contextualize the maxims that appear throughout the exhibition, Sagmeister has gathered the social data of Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Steven Pinker, psychologist Jonathan Haidt, anthropologist Donald Symons, and several prominent historians. A 12-minute segment of the Happy Film, a feature length exploration of whether it is possible to train the mind the way we train the body, will also be on view.

Cool. Especially since Daniel Gilbert is so great—he gave one of my very favorite TED Talks. It’s about how to be happy (of course) and the importance of synthetic happiness. Turns out, how we conceptualize happiness can really limit our enjoyment of things. Not everything has to be external for it to be real. Obviously, he explains it MUCH better than I am, so go watch it here.

Finally, though it’s a little unrelated, Sagmeister’s art reminded me of a great video that I think I found via the Jezebel commenting section. But don’t let that stop you from watching it! It’s a really great video on what being “pretty” means, and why you should never, ever want to be “just pretty.” Trust me on this one, it’s pretty cool.


Image: “Trying to look good limits my life” Art direction: Stefan Sagmeister. Design: Stefan Sagmeister, Matthias Ernstberger. Photography: Matthias Ernstberger. Client: Art Grandeur Nature.

Sew What?

Nerdy crafters really are the best. The best what? The best at living, obviously. This craft, which is nothing short of beautiful, is a full-sized quilt made by Kate Findlay and was inspired by the Large Hadron Collider. She’s created a series of quilts that all use the massive physics experiment as the aesthetic guide for the patterns and prints. They’re pretty and strange and so very geeky.

“I’ve been living and dreaming and sleeping and eating hadron colliders,” she told Symmetry Magazine.  Bet she’s read this book (I hope she’s read it. It’s so good! And so weird).

Anyway, I like it. Even if the LHC can’t actually make particles travel faster than the speed of light. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best…

A Hair’s Breadthe.

A lot of people find human hair disgusting when not attached to a head (I know I had some previous roommates who did) but I never really understood that reaction. Sure, I don’t like eating hair, but if I find one my food I generally just remove it quietly and keep eating. We leave little pieces of ourselves everywhere—skin cells and hairs and tiny bits of gnawed-off nails—that it seems inevitable that we’ll be in constant contact with human debris.

Anyway, I’m thinking about this partially because I came across the work of Jenine Shereos on Notcot. She crafts these incredibly delicate, impossibly intricate leaves out of human hair. She stitches and weaves and knots the hair until it creates this perfect little skeleton. I can’t even imagine the patience that it takes. Continue reading

Counting Flowers On The Wall…

Oh my god, how much do I love this? A lot! The answer is a lot! It’s a chandelier made out of test tubes, which can be filled with everything from candy-colored liquids to single stem blooms. The innovative lamp comes from Polish Designer Pani Jurek, who was inspired by the work of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Maria Skłodowska-Curie. Science, decor, and design? I would like to live in that house.


{and while we’re at it…}