In July, I had a moment of insanity where I was more than halfway serious about going to the Olympics. I looked at plane tickets and then looked at event tickets and hotel rooms and and and… I got really excited for a while. My reasoning was that the British know how to put on an event; this is probably going to be remembered as one of the best games of my lifetime (afterward I still think this is the case). Then reality set in, and I went to Nashville for work instead. So, I spent about a million hours watching on TV, and wishing.

In all my excitement about the Olympic events and the areas and so forth, I missed the well designed pavilions that were apparently scattered about London. This is the Coca-Cola Beatbox.

It is a little complicated, but the idea seems to be that the large rectangular pieces act as giant drums.  As people walk up the central spiral they somehow activate the sound making properties of the building. Most reviews were a little lack luster, but it sure does look cool.

Night and a reflective surface seem to make it look its best. I appreciate a limited color palate and the desire to push a brand beyond the style guide (and a brand’s willingness to be pushed).

On the inside there is a “bar” where you can get yourself a free Coke.

The spherical “bubbles” respond to crowd noises by changing from red to white and opening up. They are meant to represent the carbonation bubbles in a glass of Coke.

Just one more thing I wish I could have visited in London this year. Sigh.


interior video here (feels like a commercial)

exterior photos from here

interior photos from here and here

via Domus

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A short history of my experiences with fireworks…

Age 8 – I watch the town’s 4th of July firework display with a friend and her family. I am the only one who stays out on the blanket by herself watching. All the other girls retreat to the car and the protective arms of sympathetic adults. I am not afraid because I know that my dad is one of the men shooting off the fireworks. He loves them, so I do too.

Age 15 – My friends and I learn to shoot off pop-bottle rockets by hand. That is, holding them in our hands until the fuse is almost gone and then tossing them up into the air where they take off. Good times.

Age 19 – Home from college, my dad lets me light the fuse for some of the big fireworks in the town display. I hypothesize that I am the only person of the female gender to have ever done that in my town’s history.

Age 20 – Summer stock theater. I convince the student in charge of the scene shop to let us off early on the 3rd. We drive to South Dakota to buy fireworks, then illegally transport them back into Iowa. Steve gets a speeding ticket on the way back because I take too much time looking around the fireworks stand. We are late for the evening performance. Everyone complements me on my amazing firework display the next night at the bonfire.

Aside: if you are one of the 5 guys that I went to college with, thank you for putting up with me. You were much more gracious than I had any right to expect. Seriously, I was insufferable and you were still nice to me.

Age 23 – Denver, Colorado. I watch fireworks from the back of the theater’s loading dock with the other carpenters and feel homesick.

Age 30 – My brother shoots off about an hour’s worth of fireworks in my parent’s front yard. This batch is illegally transported in from Kansas. It is the last night we are all together.

I still love fireworks. They have an elemental, savage beauty; both celebration and destruction in one.

These photos are the work of David Johnson. They were taken at the International Fireworks Show in Ottawa, Canada at the beginning of August. He gave an interview to This is Colossal about how he created such amazing images:

“The technique I used was a simple refocus during the long exposure. Each shot was about a second long, sometimes two. I’d start out of focus, and when I heard the explosion I would quickly refocus, so the little stems on these deep sea creature lookalikes would grow into a fine point. The shapes are quite bizarre, some of them I was pleasantly surprised with.”

These images capture the magic of fireworks better than any other photos that I have seen. They are breathtaking.



All images from David Johnson’s website

via This is Colossal

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Rainbow Streets

Recently two awesome art installations caught my eye for their great use of the “fifth wall” (the ceiling).

This umbrella installation was in Águeda, Portugal and is a part of an art festival called Agitagueda. It just feels so happy and summery.

Then on the other side of the globe in Sydney, Australia, Nike Savvas created this canopy of color in an extremely gray street.

I don’t think that either of these works are still up, but they are both super inspiring. An ordinary street can be an extraordinary canvas.


Umbrella images by Patrícia Almeida and Diana Tavares

Colorful lane way images from here and here

via My Modern Met

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Synchronized Swimming from a New Perspective

One of the reasons that I love looking at ceilings is the shift in perspective. We spend so much time looking down, only a little time looking forward or around and almost no time looking up. It expands the mind when you force it to see the same room from a new angle.

Some person of vision at El Huffington Post (the Spanish language edition) has taken underwater photos of Olympic synchronized swimmers and flipped them 180 degrees so that it looks like the swimmers are standing on the surface of the water.

all images from El Huffington Post.

Via My Modern Met

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Ebb and Flood

Growing up as I did, at least 1,000 miles in any direction from the ocean, I still find tides to be quite mysterious and almost magical.

St Mary’s lighthouse, Whitley Bay, Northumberland. 17 and 20 September 2009. High water 5.50pm, low water 1pm

Where is this mythical “sea level” if the water level changes by 25 feet or so in an 18 hour period?

Blackpool, Lancashire. 16 August 2010. Low water 11.20am, high water 4pm

It makes me dizzy to think that the shore that I stand on is soon to be covered with water deep enough for boating.

Staithes, Yorkshire. 14 September 2004. Low water 9.45am, high water 4.30pm

This amazing series of photos is by Michael Marten. He features the coastlines of the Britain. In an article he wrote for Camera Obscura he notes: “The island of Britain isn’t big by international standards, but its coastline measures 17,800 km if you were to walk round all the headlands, bays, sea lochs and estuaries.” That is a lot of places to explore. “The British coast isn’t just long, it’s extraordinarily varied. There are long sandy beaches, white chalk cliffs, industrial estuaries, harbours large and small, tidal saltmarshes, and great sweeps of flat sand and mud.”

Harbour, Berwickshire. 22 August 2005. Low water 11am, high water 6pm

He seeks out times and places where the water level varies the most from low to high tide. Most of these photos were shot either 6 or 18 hours apart at a ‘spring tide.’ Apparently, the designation of ‘spring tide’ has nothing to do with the season of the year, but rather because they rise higher. The spring tide is in the days around the new moon and around the full moon.

Dwyryd estuary, Gwynedd. 16 and 17 October 2008. Low water 5.10pm, high water 11.10am

Cullen, Moray. 29 and 30 March 2006. Low water 6.40pm, high water 12 noon

Marten hopes his photos will increase awareness of natural change, of landscape as dynamic process rather than static image.

Cuckmere Have, Sussex. 12 August 2006. Low water 9.15am, high water 2.50pm

It is amazing how much land can be swallowed by the sea in a matter of a few hours.

St Ives, Cornwall. 15 June 2011. Low water 12.30pm, high water 6.30pm

North Berwick, East Lothian. 20 August 2005. Low water 11.15am, high water 3.40pm

Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. 16 April 2004. High water 10.10am, low water 4.15pm

His photographs manage to be both technically fascinating and aesthetically beautiful.


All images from Michael Marten’s website

He will be exhibiting this series at Oxo Gallery in London in September, 2012.

Categories: Art, Photography | 1 Comment

Petals of Fire

I have said before that I think the Olympics are the best thing that we do as modern citizens of the world. I tear up when I think about it.

As much money as may change hands during the games, they are not really about money. As much patriotism as is stirred up by the events, it is not really about any individual country. The US and China may win more medals than any other country, but many smaller countries have a much higher medals to population ratio. It is not even really about the athletes, although they are the center of it.

It is about peace. World peace. Nations of the world coming together, not to “work through our differences” or to “hammer out agreements” but to play together.

These are games after all. As much pressure as any individual athlete feels to win in his or her event, in the end there is joy in movement.

I can’t say it better than this: “In Ancient Greece, the Olympic Truce traditionally lasted up to three months, before and during the Games, allowing warring city states to set aside conflict, celebrate togetherness and experience peace inspired by sport. During the Games, a fire was kept burning to symbolize and remind people of the Olympic Truce. The Torch is therefore a living, vulnerable reminder that the true ambition of the Olympics is not victory but peace.” -from the Opening Ceremony site.

There were many things that were not perfect about the opening ceremony, but the cauldron and it’s lighting are about as much perfection as humans are likely to achieve.

The cauldron is made up of 204 copper petals; each one represents one of the competing nations. Each countries’ team brought in their petal as part of the parade of nations. Then they were attached to long pipes in a ring at the center of the arena. The cauldron and petals were designed by Thomas Heatherwick, English designer extraordinaire. He is one of my favorites (favourites?).

Each nation brought their petal, their bit of fire, to the communal cauldron, and together they burn bright. When the games are over, each nation will take their copper petal home with them, as a reminder of these games, and the ideal of peace The Olympics seek.

This is powerful symbolism.



images from here and here

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My grandmother had a jar full of buttons, and I loved playing with it. It was not so much a jar as a fancy lidded serving dish that she had separated from the china and kept on top of her dresser. I would pour them out on the floor and start by separating them into colors, then types of buttons within the colors, and then I would use them to make elaborate geometric patterns. Sometimes I would follow the patterns in the rug, sometimes not. Those buttons were old, most were made from shell or wood or metal, not plastic. They seemed special to me, sacred.

It is amazing how many hours of fun we could have with the button jar.

I now own that jar full of buttons, it sits on an end table in my house, but I can’t remember the last time I sifted through it. I should pour it out one of these evenings…

I got started thinking about buttons because of the amazing work of Korean artist Ran Hwang.

She creates these amazing images using pins and buttons. Thousands and thousands of pins and buttons.

The mind boggles.

The patience that it must take to create something on this scale from such small items is hard to fathom. That is dedication.

I love how the buttons are “falling” off the corner of this one – like petals.


Images from Ran Hwang’s website

and the Leila Heller Gallery website

via This is Colossal

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Yarn Sun

Very few things make me more excited than everyday materials used in unconventional ways.

This is Letting Go at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts by street artist hot+tea. It is yarn.

Guests at the museum were encouraged to lay down on the floor and look up into the strands of yarn hanging from the top of the rotunda.

From the museum’s description “Looking at letting go from the second floor, one sees thousands of individual strands, a streaky volume that creates a gently disorienting vibration of color that fills the rotunda’s void.”

I like that – gently disorienting. It reminds me of waking up from a nap, or those first few moments after leaving a matinee when the sun is still shinning, but it seems like it should be much later.

This is beautiful work, the whole is so much more than its components.


All images from the MIA website

via designboom

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Awesome Water Toys

I love the water. I love swimming in it, looking at it, and especially playing in and around it.

When I was a teenager I thought I had lost the ability to frolic in the water. I thought that swim training as hard as I did somehow sucked the fun out of being in the water forever. Happily, that was not the case and I can frolic with the best of them these days. Although, I have found that good water toys make frolicking more fun.

This is Sports Park 60 by the German watersports company Wibit Sports.

This looks like such a good time! Wibit has a bunch of interchangeable floating units that can be configured in countless ways. This grouping is called Sports Park 60 and includes trampolines, swings, a bridge, an action tower and a whole bunch of floating platforms connected to one another.

Oh yeah!

I can’t think of a better activity on a hot summer day than being launched into a lake from a giant inflatable playground.


all images from Wibit Sports

Via My Modern Met

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This installation How I Roll, in Central Park has been getting a lot of attention. It is pretty cool.

The airplane slowly rotates around on it’s wings, the work itself is great, but the chain-link fencing seems like an afterthought. It is by Paola Pivi and will be on display all summer as part of the Public Art Fund.

It made me think of my favorite airplane installation from a few years ago.

This is Harriet and Jaguar by Fiona Banner at the Tate Britain in 2010.

This is a static installation, but because the viewers could get right underneath the airplane it was dynamic. Also the sheer size of an airplane is much more apparent in a building. We are used to seeing planes outside, seeing one inside is a huge perspective shift.

How I Roll images from here

Harriet and Jaguar images from here

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