Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: iLonely

iPod. iPad. iPhone. Has the world of techno-connectivity that seems to be symbolized by the humble lower-case "i" done more than just create a media iCon? For sure Apple / Mac is not responsible for the Age of Information's addiction to tech savvy connesseurism of tools and gadgets that are so "easy to use" that I'm sure more than one toddler has phoned Japan while their parent has unloaded groceries at the checkout. Absolutely our dependence on Facebook is not solely because it is the easiest way to re-connect with those we love when Friday night shenanigans result in another "I lost my phone- everyone send me your #!!" scenario. Our adoration for apps is not entirely the fault of the Apple store whose fabulously sleek interface has revolutionized the way our culture views media marketing.

I am the Apple girl in my family. Having dated a statistically significant number of geeks over two decades has taught me that Macs are superior. Period. Go ahead... argue. Won't make a difference, nobody else has swayed me yet. But strangely, while my uber plugged in sister still totes a PC in her stylin' laptop case, it is she that is the Apple poster child. Her ears have sported the buds of every Pod the wee letter "i" has been a part of. She was the first person to show me the bazillion reasons there were for me* to jump on the Smartphone bandwagon.

*Regular readers will know that I am still sans mobile and am possibly the only person in North America who is still land line dependent. In fact, I am waiting to chance upon a vintage rotary in a great colour, which should suitably confuse and frustrate my family. 

Li'l Sis is the demographic that Apple has coveted since it made the horrific and near fatal error of ignoring the concept of home computing  way back in the day. They played catch up for years before one of their more briliant marketing teamsters came up wtih the concept that would change the name of the game forever. Sexy. iPods are not small and convenient listening devices, they are crazy unique dance moves to indie tunes you have never heard before but know you should love. iPhones are not a way to enjoy the wonders of mobile communication, they are a way to let the world know who you are via rainbow hued cases, jeweled bling and wicked cool ringtones. And PC vs. Mac started it all by turning geekdom covetable with a campaign that imprinted on us the idea of computer-tech-network-engineer-graphic-artist-webmaster-hacker types being infinitely cool and mightier than thou.

These days, the more wired you are, the higher up the ladder you seem because chances are, you are one of the first to see it tweeted that Beyonce is preggers and that Miss Kardashian is over a foot shorter than her basketball playing hubby. And we all know that knowledge is power! Yes, in a rush to keep up with the "Joneses" of the digital age, we have immersed ourselves in a gloried display of how important "i" can be. It is a time to celebrate your unique attitude, style and sparkly contribution to society and show the world via cute txt lingo how fabulous you truly are.

But what about the "we"?

No, not the Wii (Nintendo's answer to unhealthy closeted gamers is to create quality family time playing "team sports" in front of the telly, of course) ... I am talking about real, actual, person to person communication using only the tools we used for all the centuries before this one. Our ears and our mouths. Julian Treasure has taken it upon himself to study the dying art of listening. He points out that the louder our world gets, the more distracted we are and the more removed from healthy society we become. I recently spoke to an old friend from high school that said since returning from life in Thailand, he has noticed a vast disconnection in North American society. That striking up a conversation with somebody is near impossible what with having to interrupt their texting or iPod listening.

People these days are busy even in their downtime, and our brains are becoming so overloaded with non-information that we simply have very little room left for the things that are... or should be... important. Politics, education, daily interaction... family... all are taking a backseat to a glossy new interface that we are mistaking for life. I notice this every day walking down the street with my four year old. I live in a small town (pop. 10 000) and when my now eight year old was wee, he spent most of his time out of the house chatting up anyone who would give him the time of day. Which was on average, pretty much everyone. The bus, the grocery store, the park... nobody was exempt from his tales of what was his favourite new toy or book. That was four years ago, and today, when my second tries in vain to converse with the people we run into on our walk downtown, he is mostly blocked by earbuds or a qwerty pad... and the most he receives is a polite but uninterested nod. Most of the time he is ignored completely. Now I am of course biased because I think everyone should drop what they are doing and indulge my son in conversation, but I was raised to not interrupt people and to give them their space and that is now the lesson learned in repetition. It isn't hard to see the difference though. Even without a degree in Humanitarian Studies, or whatever area it is that studies the effects of human interaction on the psyche, I can tell you how unhealthy this all is. Perhaps if I didn't take personal offense via my child, I wouldn't notice. But then, when we see more and more relationships being "built" on bank accounts and boob jobs, perhaps the art of social interaction is something that should be paid more attention to.

Maybe. Just a thought.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: The Way of the Budgie

I am fascinated by the psychology of marketing. This is paradoxical as I am also completely against a consumerism based culture. Which is ironic in that I write both a blog about things and stuff, as well as a blog revolving around the wedding industry which is relatively redundant in a modern society where the church no longer rules and girls are not the property of her father but is rather an industry based on charging obscene amounts for unneccessaries we have been taught since Barbiehood that we truly must desire to be happy. Right. I digress.

I am passionate about the creative process. My world has always revolved around creating in some form or another. I am unsure where it comes from as my family and friends growing up, while supportive of the arts, were not devoting much of themselves to creative pursuits. I was taught that money was not only important as a means to getting by, but also as a demonstration of who you were. Thankfully I was also taught values and interests that won out and cleared another path for me, however economically unviable it may be :)

A couple of years ago I took a marketing class that focused on branding and how to translate your business into print and various areas of advertising. I spent the last bit of the class trying to explain to the instructor how I was searching for a name that was simple and organic without sounding too organic. The thing about living in the Kootenays is that it is very easy to be pegged as what I like to refer to as a "budgie"... those who try to live simply, shun pop culture for the most part, and eat a rather "seed" based or natural diet. We have a high per capita tofu consuming population and to use the word organic in Nelson is to pigeonhole yourself beyond redemption. Once you are labelled budgie, your abilities in the business side of town are much hindered. It's a small town.

So before we even got to the actual name figuring we had to debate the demographic being feathered or otherwise and then came the part where I had to stand by the concept of people paying at least $80 for a pillow. As I myself find this strange to a certain degree, I tried in vain to explain that when certain people see good design they will pay what you charge. I have to admit though that there is a fair amount of frustration in knowing that those people are not the majority of Nelson's populace. We are a young, hip and vibrant town, but that energy comes from all the starving artists out there. If you want to make a living in this town as an artist, you have to find a way to do it remotely. I think "the world is your oyster" is a phrase that we creative types are clinging to in an attempt to convince ourselves that as long as we have access to the WWW, we will be just fine.  But at the same time, our values are finally returning to us and we are being hit with the question "If an overabundance of stuff and whatnots is such a huge part of what is wrong with the world today, then why am I trying to make a living by making more stuff?"

The handmade movement is such a greatly empowering entity. It allows the minority to be part of the equation. Single moms can try to make a living from home, students can supplement with part time, non invasive work and artisans are feeling that their skills might again be worth something. The lure of "cheap" and "mass produced" are no longer holding the sway they once did. Our economy in the toilet means that the higher ups are paying attention to details that they never would have in better economic climates. We are all standing tall while we steamroll the "Made in China" system. Yay us! But then, how do we make the right choices in choosing what to make? I often see people get down off their soapbox after a particularly brilliant schpiel about living simply so others can simply live... only to take up a needle and thread to sew more pretty stuffies and coffee cup sleeves. How big is our scope, exactly?

More and more I am seeing that the way of doing things is changing whether we are ready, aware, involved... or not. I am finding more people who are making huge changes in their lives. Not simply changing their light bulbs to CFCs, or upping their blue box capacity... but digging up their front yards to garden and tossing their cable subscription. Choosing not to drive, buying less... educating through leading by example. In a world where Disney rules and toothpaste brands are fighting over the rights to sell mint tooth cleaner with the top rated cartoon face, maybe the best bet for everyone is to worry less about the bottom line and think more on the common denomenators. Community, health, love and understanding... imagination and play... support and caring and selflessness. Maybe trading in the second car for more quality time via fewer soccer camps. Eating dinner at the table with healthy conversation is worth more and says more about the family than the cottage at the lake, or the size of the toybox.

Let's get back to making quality, dependable and beautiful necessities and work hard at trimming the excess. If less is considered to be "needed" then people will eventually learn that it's not about saving a buck, but putting that buck where it counts... and that buying something to last, maybe even to pass down through the generations, is in fact better than the "convenience" of disposable anything. Make less and get paid what you are worth. It sounds easy. Let's make it so.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: What Was I Thinking?

Lately I have been questioning my wisdom at twenty. Mostly how it relates to how in the world I ended up where I am now.

I don't know how well the life of a designer translates for most people, because when I have glimpsed the fashion world from the "outside" it seems very linear and almost harsh. It's marketing and it's an industry so I know there is an element of ick to it that people pick up on, and there is definitely an Us vs. Them feeling. Much of the time the fashion industry becomes all about keeping up with the Jonses of the It Bag world, (which is a ridiculous pastime,) and the focus is in all the wrong places.

The thing is, that when you are immersed in that world... I mean when that is your day to day, and your peer group, not just subscriptions to all the major fashion mags... it's about something different. Something completely different.

For one, fashion is an art form. I know, everyone knows that right? Not really. Not really really. Very few people are in the industry with the intent of getting rich and famous. Mostly because it is near impossible. It is an industry where percentage-wise, very few have reached celeb status,. And that is one of the first things you learn, because the fashion industry is harsh! It's aggressive, it's cut-throat, and it's completely unfair. When a girl who is used to being the It girl in her hometown walks into a modelling agency, she is no longer special. And this is true for every aspect. In truth, if you don't find your coping mechanism, you will get burned out really quickly. So what keeps everyone going?

They are not living in the real world!

The thing that keeps the fashion wheel spinning is that those in the center are completely and utterly removed from normal reality. Their way of being literally revolves around beauty as a way of life. Their talent, whatever it is, is dependent on somebody, or many somebodies, creating a reality out of the furthest reaches of their imagination. It is the closest thing to literal dream interpretation in the world of vocations. And there are teams of people whose role it is to keep that momentum flowing... absolutely nothing is impossible. Eventually you forget that your world is kind of, well... made up. When you go to your office party during the Christmas holidays, you probably dress nicely, have a few drinks and live a little. When you go to a label launch, fashion week, or "thank god that show's over" bash, it's not uncommon to have a plethora of ridiculously beautiful and half naked people with golden wings on their backs pouring you drinks. Or, say, a swimming pool with large air mattresses to float on. At the very least there should be a tea leaf reader. And whereas you might find wearing a tiara to be "a little much" for a night on the town, you would feel out of place if you don't have MUCH sparkle at a fashion soiree. Do you see where I am going with this? When this sort of thing is commonplace, you forget what else there is. And it needs to be your reality, because you need to continue to be a dreamer or you lose your muse. Fashion is an art that uses the human form as a canvas, and fabric, beading, steel rods and pretty much anything else conceivable as the medium. There is a dangerous side effect to the part where the lines of reality get blurred, but that is another post. What I am talking about is the part where one exchanges one "reality" for another.

Right. So cut to modern day. I only just recently came to the realization that I have a basis for my lack of reasonable thinking. That's how out of touch I am. Not only do I not function well in the real world, but I don't even know that I don't function well in the real world. When I left the city for the mountains, I immediately found myself a group of belly dancers and circus people to surround myself with. They are amazing people, and they make a way of life out of incorporating what they love doing into a living. But I am not a performer. I tried for awhile to organize them and PR them and be their business mind, but herding artists is very similar to herding cats. Possibly more difficult. I put on shows, I honed various art skills... I tried my hand at "normal" reality, managing financial institutions and working at a law office, somehow ending up in the role of Mom. My kids do their best to keep me in line as I have the attention span of a two year old on speed... my four year old regularly has to take my face in his hands to be sure I'm listening... While I'm certain they are having a good time, I'm not so sure that I've mastered the ability to impart a sense of... uhhh... responsibility so much.

If anyone has tread this path in the past and has something of useful advice regarding "fitting in"... please share. Until I come up with a replacement reality, however, I see no reason not to continue to believe in hoola hoops, feathered headpieces, outrageous garden parties and fortune cookies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspired Fashion: The Fibershed Project

While I have known about and followed Rebecca Burgess's Fibershed Project for nearly her full year, I was newly inspired today to see it written up on the Etsy Blog. For anyone who has the least bit of interest in organic and sustainable fashion, Rebecca's quest to wear only garments that have been grown, processed and created within 150 miles of her front door is one that is at once overwhelming and motivational. My own obsession with textiles and clothing design has instilled a certain awareness of what insidiousness is inherent in the fashion industry, but in making such a bold statement towards what is possible, and walking the talk, Rebecca has pretty much reached hero status with me.

Rebecca's journey reminds me of this book where the authors created the same process around food.
A few years ago, when the 100 Mile Diet was published, the couple who co-authored the book visited Nelson during their Canadian book signing tour. They gave one of the most entertaining PR talks I have attended and made the book so much more than what it was, sharing the stories behind their conclusions in hilarious detail. For two aware and educated people who were immersed in the age of information (they are both writers in media) and young enough to be able to focus on the how and the where, they were blissfully ignorant. None were more surprised than they when the discoveries were made of how obscene our way of getting from "farm" to plate is in the modern age.

What I found truly absorbing was how much of our culture, heritage, and sense of community has been lost in exchange for the convenience of the modern food industry. Food and community have always been inextricably linked, and removing the sense of community is having just as damaging an effect on our health as a species as the toxins we are consuming as part of a "conventional" diet. The same is true for the other aspects of our lives that are human needs. Breathing, eating, sheltering and clothing ourselves, if we have let go of our connection to these needs being fulfilled... if we have reached a point where the label in our jeans is more important to the physical, emotional, and way they are affecting our very selves... what is left of the humanity in our species?

That sounds heavy. It is heavy though. I doubt that most people are aware that the textile industry is the world's number one polluter of fresh water. That synthetic dyes produce cancer causing carcinogens. That the slave labour force around the world is largely driven by the fashion industry. While many of our needs are taken care of without much thought on a daily basis, what we wear has a profound effect on how others see us. The fashion industry has made us walking billboards for not only their labels and brands, but also for a certain allowance that we are willing to let our values be rearranged for a smaller price tag, following trends and acceptance in society. Rebecca's stand against that is much farther reaching than simply wanting to wear beautiful and natural clothing, or even for supporting sustainability and the environment. What she is doing is reminding us that working together and building a sense of community should be a part of human need. The process of creating should be inextricably linked with covering the basics of how we live, and that clothing our bodies in this manner should portray that we are healthy, understanding, beautiful people with strong values.

Rebecca notes, "There is a story in each garment, a living history of our collective experience resides in the implications and realities of our clothes.  The wool in (one of the) tunic(s) comes from the homestead of Kenny Kirkland.  His flock is small in comparison to the flocks that live north and west of us– where 1,000 sheep per ranch is considered normal.  In our current system the meat from these animals brings the highest margins, and yields vital wages and income.  However, many resources lay wasted in the process of procuring this “one” economically viable product.  Making something from the wool is time consuming and proves unaffordable for many ranchers. I wondered…. “At this moment..the great irony and tragedy is that it is too “expensive” to use our own resources…. but in a drastically re-organized economic system which we are entering…… will this remain the case?” What happens when we can’t get everything we need somewhere else?

The Fibershed Project follows the making of the garment, from befriending the sheep or llama that the fiber originates from on its farm, to growing and wild-harvesting the plants that are used in the dying process, to dying, spinning and hand processing the garment.  As an ecological restoration educator, textile artist and author, Rebecca was the perfect person to push the idea of creating a wardrobe from local and sustainable fibers and show how it would be a greatly rewarding experience. She has connected with various artisans, farmers and supporters to help her realize her goal.

Sage steeps in copper dye pots.
 In creating a community that shares resources, educates one another and supports the concept, she is also helping to outline a blueprint for others around the world to do the same. As with anything that balks at convention, having the support of like minded  people is in some ways the most beneficial aspect of this endeavor. Rebecca is spreading the ideas behind her work, as well as hands on how to, in her books A Better Life, and Harvesting Color.  She also has a beautiful and well informed blog which follows her process and is well worth a read.

What do you think? Are as inspired as I am? Can you see yourself wearing only gorgeous, handmade artisan clothing? Would you attend dye parties so that you could build up within your community and make a difference? I love any project that puts the locals in the spotlight... and as my community has such an artistic community anyway, I am curious to see how far this could go here... time to start putting out some feelers perhaps.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ron and Draco... All Growed Up

 I don't know about you all, but I was completely addicted to the Harry Potter books till the movies came out. Not that I have any many issues with the movies, but you know how it is with an amazing book... the possibility of cramming it into an hour (or three) at the theatre is next to impossible. It was years ago now that I read them, but I still feel a great fondness for the characters. 


This is perhaps why I feel so amused by the idea of casting Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy in the roles of male model. I most certainly understand the savvy concept, the brilliance of borrowing their characters without actually using their persona to sell product. Marketing psychology fascinates me, and this shoot is bang on, but it still seems kinda like they should not be throwing Weasley and Malfoy in a room together with the purpose of selling clothing. It seems, I don't know... dangerous? LOL

 Either way, the idea to shoot Rupert Grint and Tom Felton at the Magic Castle in LA was pretty genius. Scott Sternberg of Band of Outsiders shot the pair himself on Polaroid film (also genius) and the results are exactly what the clothing should be represented by. (It doesn't hurt that the label's acronym is BOO which fits with the castle's creepy bits for a lookbook hitting the populace in the face right before Halloween.) More than anything, it's great just to see these two just having a good time.  

 All in all, a pretty brilliant scheme. Well played.