I rarely have a need to shop for children. However, I did stumble upon a really great find this past weekend that I would have loved to have been able to gift this to a 4 year old kid: Little Aaron’s Me and My Friends, from Pictoplasma. It’s quirky cover caught me, as I was staring at some photography books: a sassy looking 1970s child in front of a car with a…large, animated 1950s greaser monster? I was taken aback, trying to figure out if this was some silly fake kids book for adults or a silly real kids book for kids. Regardless, I grabbed it and was captured by the work of “Little Aaron” (designer and animator Aaron Stewart).
A picture driven kids book, manufactured to be both “spit and spill” proof, the book features photos of Aaron Stewart as a child around town in 1970s Wichita, Kansas (where he grew up). The photos are fairly common, featuring images of a child by a lake, a child playing on a rocking horse, or a child reading to himself on the ground. From here, Stewart infuses fantastic friends, animated from his imagination now, into the photos. The result is the creation of childhood friends “you have always dreamed of.”
The book would be an awesome gift for a kid. But, because Stewart’s work is so fantastic and full of imagination, it’d probably make a pretty cool gift for an adult, too.
When people suggest city guides for a place you’ve never visited I’m usually pretty skeptical. People are so different from each other so it’s impossible to please everyone, but I think Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities does a pretty good job. Put together by editor Ziggy Hanaor, Graphic USA asks residents of 25 of the biggest cities in America to give their picks for the best places to eat, hang out, shop and see museums, amongst other things.
I can’t really speak for other cities, but I can hands down approve the section on Los Angeles. When Ziggy wrote me and asked if I’d be interested in checking out the book I had my doubts. Could a city guide really know all the cool, little spots that a person who lives in a place long enough find? Funny enough, I think this guide actually nails it. I can’t speak for other cities, but I think Tal Rosner, author of the Los Angeles section, totally nailed it. He eats where I eat, he drinks where I drink, and shops where I shop. I was honestly shocked that he was so spot on, and though not everything is perfect, I was completely surprised.
I should also mention that the design and art in the book is amazing. Each section uses a different artist to represet the city, either with design or illustration or photography. Los Angeles is a blur of Lomo photos, Milwaukee features some amazing design by Andy Brawner and lovely illustrations for Portland by Briar Levit. I would definitely recommend snagging this book if you’re looking to travel around the United States.
Editor’s Note: I just spoke to my friend Danielle Lehman, a Kansas native, who says that Kansas City is also represented well. Her favorite restaurant Oklahoma Joes, which is listed under Anthony Bourdain’s list of places you have to eat before you die, makes Graphic USA’s list of places to eat.
Although it was initially their Anti-Theft Lunch Bags that drew me in, I soon discovered that design duo the. are not merely a one trick pony. Irrespective of whether they are designing speakers, bow ties or lamps, the. follow a design principle that melds functionality and a delightful sense of fun. Joining the talents of Hong Kong-born Sherwood Forlee and Japanese-born Mihoko Ouchi, the innovative products created by the. are released in limited editions and often involve donating proceeds to charity.
Using their admittedly short attention spans, Forlee and Ouchi have created wares the like of which one could only dream. Thankfully, they’ve made them a reality. I am particularly grateful as I need to keep those damn thieves away from my lunch – my sandwiches are delicious!
Week before last, we looked at the watercolors of Steven Holl: an architect pushing architecture into art. But what about an artist pushing from art into architecture? Here are three architecture models built by Frank Stella, who gained notoriety as a minimalist painter in the late ’50s and early ’60s with several series of striped paintings including “Benjamin Moore Paintings” made with, what else, house paint. Through decades of his prolific career, Stella’s canvases became increasingly complex, colorful and dimensional. Maybe it was inevitable that his trajectory would lead him to architecture, but when the Met held an exhibition of his work called “From Painting to Architecture” in 2007 not everyone loved the results.
I’ve always liked Stella’s paintings, but I’ve always had a hard time placing his architecture. Maybe because the models he makes look more like complex sculptures or fragments of architecture. I’m not saying his work is bad, just that it doesn’t have enough plumbing (yet) to leave the realm of sculpture. I’ve worked on plenty of architecture projects that initially developed through sketch models not terribly dissimilar from these, and I know it takes a lot of work to transform such models into architecture that can be realized at scale. So it’s strange to see one of the more famous American post-war artists working toward architecture. To get there, he’ll have to give up some of the freedoms that creating sculptures allows; he’ll have to give up some of the freedoms of being an artist.
Last week I came across a really nice E.P from a band called Glass Vaults which I think you might enjoy. Entitled Glass E.P, it’s the creation of two Wellington based musicians who create incredibly tender tracks which are underpinned by a sense of darkness and washed in haunting textures and rhythmic drums. The five tracks on here cover a range of different sounds but listeners are bound to find touches of the The xx, M83 and Yeasayer on here.
The standout for me is the wonderfully reserved opener called They Will Grow. It’s a sort of shoegazey chant with all the tenderness of some of the more gentle Yo La Tengo. Backed by some ambient harmonies and dreamy synths, it’s bound to enthuse fans of contemporary ambient music. Listeners looking for a more energetic fix should head straight to their song New Space which demonstrates the duos keen pop sensibilities, taking their sound and wrapping it around some wonderful Animal Collective style drumming. Best of all, the E.P is yours to download for free from their Bandcamp site. I hope you enjoy.