(un)Fashion: Creativity and Translations

Hard to believe that the book (un)Fashion hadn’t yet made its appearance  into my house and blog until this weekend when a friend brought it to my attention.

(un)Fashion presents a kaleidoscope of people from different cultures and portrays how they dress and adorn themselves away from the fashion shows and chain stores.  It refreshingly ignores  the Western conventional view of what’s beautiful and what’s not. Tibor Kalman, one of the graphic geniuses of the 20th century and  editor-in-chief of Colors magazine and his wife, illustrator Maia Kalman created this stunning gem of a book.

Take a look:

Some of the images remind me vaguely of this book: Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester, which I blogged about in one of my first posts back in 2010. I’ve always been fascinated by culture and its expressions through fashion, music, film, art  and language.

Right now I’m busy working with languages;  another area that fascinates me since I first learned English 35 years ago in small town Germany . Currently I’m exploring different ways and avenues how to make language learning more accessible, fun and effective using a variety of tools including technology/art/music etc. (Which, by the way is a great excuse for reading French Vogue extensively and spend time watching foreign language soap operas on Netflix.)

Trying to understand what it takes to learn a language is fun and frankly quite creative.  Creating is closely linked to the process of translating or transforming an idea into “an expression”. Without a doubt, creating and translating have a close relationship.

These days I’m in the process of re-orienting myself and re-evaluating this blog, looking into ways of making it more into a cultural exploration.

As an example, here is one interesting clip from the Indonesian version of “The X-Factor”.  The clash between the singer’s voice, her selected music, the format of the show (exported to more than 40 countries)  and her dress display exactly the kind of cultural mélange that interests me.

Once I have a clearer picture of where this exploration takes me I’ll be back.

ISBN-10: 0810992299
ISBN-13: 978-0810992290
Tibor Kalman (Author), Maira Kalman (Author)


Dopamine and Empathy

Yesterday night I discovered the answer on why I’m so driven to find questions and their answers on the internet; questions, that arise while looking for answers. And where did I find it? On the internet, of course.

We are all addicted to information and there is a reason. Taking in and processing  information was essential for survival such as scanning the landscape watching for predators or other dangers. And nature has made this an incentive by giving us a warm ‘fuzzy’ feeling through the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It’s  the same way nature rewards sexual behavior to ensure the survival of the species.

Scanning the horizon yesterday has been replaced with browsing the internet today and that bar that  B.F. Skinner‘s rats hit over and over again for the reward of food has been replaced by the “Enter” key that we press all day for our dopamine fix.

However, what do we do with all that information that we strive so hard to seek? Isn’t it all too much? And what else suffers as a result of this?

Nicholas Carr, who has written extensively about the effects of the internet on cognition, talks about the consequences of information overload in this 15-minute lecture. Hopping from article to article is a lot like multitasking, something we’re all familiar with. But multitasking doesn’t actually exist, it is rather the process of shifting from task to task, adjusting constantly to the new stimulus in front of you.  It’s not an efficient process, because it interrupts a more sophisticated exploration and leads to a lack of important processing skills required for creative  and systemic thinking.

And guess what else it affects and this was a surprise to me…..Empathy!

Research suggests that along with the decline of book reading, college “kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago” according to Kevin Dutton’s article “Psychopathy’s Double Edge” in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Isn’t that scary?

Here is why the 500+-year old art of reading a book is today more important than ever:

Reading a book carves brand-new neural pathways into the ancient cortical bedrock of our brains. It transforms the way we see the world—makes us, as Nicholas Carr puts it in his recent essay, “The Dreams of Readers,” “more alert to the inner lives of others.” We become vampires without being bitten—in other words, more empathic. Books make us see in a way that casual immersion in the Internet, and the quicksilver virtual world it offers, doesn’t.

- Kevin Dutton

Usually when reading a book we become immersed in the story as the protagonist and imagine life from the viewpoint of the hero/ine. How about reversing this? What about imagining your own life and the people around you through the eyes of a Jane Austen, or William Shakespeare. Isn’t that an interesting thought?

Trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes is not only an entertaining experiment but also applied empathy. Often I try to see life through the eyes of someone I don’t like that much. That usually helps me understand the motives of the other person’s actions and helps me to stay calm.

Empathy is important. And not only for the ones at the receiving end.

Credit for finding Kevin Dutton’s fascinating article and the video above go to Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast.

Late Summer Room with a View

This was my “Room with a View” this summer:  One foggy late summer morning from my bed room window in the Black Forest.

After a long summer here in Germany I’m now ready to go home.

I found plenty of inspiration in the soft and muted colors and patterns of Southern Germany. The images below were taken in and around Freiburg:

Below is the small German/Swiss border town of Laufenburg which is divided by the Rhine and connected by bridge. People can easily stroll from Germany to Switzerland and back, much to the amazement to my daughter, who is used to random airport searches and suited security guards.

Even the sidewalk reminds me that it’s time to go home.

See you next week.

Dance of the Crows

At this year’s dOCUMENTA13, I learned about Füsun Onur’s work. She’s an artist from Turkey and uses many different material to express her art including needle and thread.

“Dance of the Crows” was very much what I had envisioned when I cut holes in my curtain (as you may remember). Unfortunately, I had no concept. This is the difference between a real artist and myself.

This beautiful curtain is giving me some inspiration:

The image above is the whole cloth and difficult to photograph. It’s a hand-stitched piece of calico, commissioned by dOCUMENTA that covers a window in the “Neue Gallerie”.

Look at these details:

And my favorite feature…..it’s reversible.

Summery Sunday with Colour Research

Isn’t this just the embodiment of summer? It makes me think of a bohemian retreat or a gypsy caravan in the middle of nowhere. Amanda Goode is the creator of these wonderful fabrics which seemed to be first crocheted or knitted and then top stitched. She was member of the Group “CREATE“, Colour Research for […] Read more »

Dance and Threads

Who would have thought that dance and embroidery go so well together. Mixed media artist Jose Ignacio Romussi Murphy from Chile embroiders vintage postcards and playfully brings the dancer’s postures to life. A simple idea with great effect. To see more of his dancers, visit Romussi’s flickr and for his mixed media work, visit his […] Read more »

Urawaza, Self-Publishing, Marrakesh and Brain Candy

Memorial  Day Weekend is coming up and I’ll be taking a small mini vacation…. In the meantime, here are some interesting things I discovered while wandering the web: Researchers have found that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same sensation of pleasure in the brain that we get from eating food, getting […] Read more »

Junko Oki / Woky Shoten – poesy

Remember this post about my favorite embroiderer Junko Oki and my efforts to get my hands on one of her books? Well, I finally succeeded and yesterday received a copy of her wonderful book ‘poesy’. It features her beautiful embroidery, bags, clothes and simple cloths, some of which are photographed in the context of a […] Read more »

This Week

Good morning! The weekend is almost here and I’ll leave with some good finds around the web: Amongst the many fantastic pinterest boards, Kate Lyden’s and Nesting Emily’s, especially her beautiful set on textiles are two of my favorites. Found a great pre-fab home, which I can really imagine living in, if there were 50 […] Read more »