Beautifying Scraps

Image via SixtySix

This is Nicole McLaughlin, 27 year old designer based in New York. She specializes in upcycling and sustainability in her bizarre and fantastical apparel.

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This video dives into Nicole’s thoughts on sustainability in design and fashion, and her making-process (you can skip the in-video ad from 0:45-1:27).

I happened upon Nicole’s work within the last couple weeks, on one of my brief and shallow dips into Twitter, and was immediately captured by the playfulness and originality of her designs. Not only is she making things that are so clearly sustainably repurposed goods, she is doing it in a way that highlights the past lives of each item. Like a woodworker highlighting live edge of a maple slab, Nicole is beautifying the scraps of material. She is creating a sense of fashion in a place few people have ever looked before.

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After gaining traction online with items like volleyball slippers and bread mittens, Nicole has become a voice in the fashion world for sustainable and eco-friendly design.

Her creativity and willingness to play with her work is inspiring.

You can read a more in depth look at her life and work here.

Goya and Van Gogh

Two famous painters from history – Francisco Goya and Vincent van Gogh – were born on this day, 275 years and 168 years ago respectively. I do not have anything very insightful to say, I just scanned through each of their works again this evening, and pulled several ‘comparable’ pieces (only in rough terms of color and subject matter) to put on display here.

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First we’ll start with self portraits, hard at their work. (These remind me of one of my favorite paintings)

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Churches with blue skies.

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Women in blue.

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And finally, secluded gathers behind tall trees.

It’s quite beautiful to see how unique these two worlds are. And, despite how different the subject and scene of each painting is, how clearly every work fits in to the over arching world of the painter.

Both Goya and Van Gogh really found their thing. I wonder, when I’m old and gray and looking back at my life’s work, what my thing will be.

Here’s a bonus video about a piece of Goya’s work by one of my favorite YouTube channels.

Less, But Better

Rams, a documentary by Gary Hustwit, paints a beautiful picture of the life, work and philosophy of one of the world’s most influential industrial designers – Dieter Rams.

Kindly, organized and reclusive, Dieter Rams does not fall in with the authoritarian stereotypes of world-changing innovators – like Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison. He is generous with his time and ready to help. His demeanor is remembered by some of his former employees as fatherly. Through his 40 year tenure at the German electronics company, Braun, from 1955-1995, he gained the respect and loyalty of those he worked alongside.

Rams’ home office. Nearly everything in this frame was in part designer by Rams himself

Although his attitude and leadership differed greatly from that of Steve Jobs, they’re design sensibilities were much the same. The work of Rams is perhaps the single greatest contributor to the design of Apple products we see today.

A 1956 Braun record played, dubbed “Snow White’s Coffin,” due to its early use of plexiglass in the lid
A comparison of Dieter Rams’ designed radio and the first Apple iPod

A CNN article on Rams and man and Rams the film asked the director, Gary Hustwit what if he’d asked Rams about his influence on Apple Products.

“He thinks it’s a compliment. He likes Jony [Ive, Apple’s former Chief Design Officer] a lot. But I think it’s hard for him to judge that impact because he doesn’t have a computer. He’s not on the Internet. He’s not interested in digital interfaces and user experience design and all these screens that we have to look at all day. There are no screens in his life, there’s just an old Braun television from the 1980s and that’s really the only screen in his house. It’s just not something that he’s interested in engaging with.”

Rams’ leading philosophy in design and in life is:

Less, but Better.

This leading ideal is then broken up into the now iconic 10 Principles of Good Design.

  1. Good Design is Innovative.


  2. Good Design makes a Product Useful.

  3. Good Design is Aesthetic.

  4. Good Design makes a Product Understandable.

  5. Good Design is Unobtrusive.

  6. Good Design is Honest.

  7. Good Design is Long-Lasting.

  8. Good Design is Thorough to the Last Detail.

  9. Good Design is Environmentally Friendly.
  10. Good Design is as Little Design as Possible.

When asked by an aspiring industrial design student what advice he had for her, Rams replied:

“Keep your eyes wide open.”

Pretend It’s a City

This is author Fran Lebowitz. She hates the world.

What’s fascinating about Fran and her dismal outlook on life is the joy that she brings to others through her fickle hatred for the commonplace pieces of life. Through her vocal distaste of the news, smartphones, traffic, humans in general – she is able to bring laughter.

Me and my roommate just finished the new Netflix documentary series, Pretend it’s a City, directed my Martin Scorsese (left). It is a beautifully directed seven hour exploration into the mind of this incredibly witty, pessimistic, short, tack of a woman.

I quite enjoyed it – though I’m not sure exactly why. Fran’s viewpoint and outlook is not one I wish to share. But it was thrilling to see a woman so unapologetically bitter at the world, who bring mirth to countless audiences through that bitterness.

It’s like what Austin Kleon talks about – finding the things that disgust you in the world, and creating things that work to foil those things. Except, in Fran’s case, she finds the things that disgust her in the world and talks about them. And she’s been doing it for 50 years.

The Distraction Quandary

Tom Sachs, a New York-based sculptor, gave a interesting TED talk on creativity and standards. In it, he said:

“Authenticity also demands endurance. Do it for a long time – whatever it is. Two years, it’s just an interest. Do something for five years, and it’s a hobby. Do something for 20 years, and you begin to build a sense of mastery and the holes in your position on the thing become too small to be of any consequence.”

The problem is that I’m constantly distracted. Distracted from my book while I’m reading. Distracted by that idea I need to jot down, or text that I’ll forget to send. Distracted from hobby to hobby, focus to focus. From season to season to season.

How do I attain mastery over any single thing when my lens of attention is constantly shifting?

Leonardo Da Vinci, famous for his mastery over so many varied things supposedly uttered these final words before his death:

“I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.”

Of course, that is ridiculous. Leonardo was one of mankind’s greatest artists and thinkers – yet he too felt this sense of impending failure. Honestly, I don’t know how to reconcile that contrast. That a man we revere for what he created and gave to the world, himself felt unfulfilled.

For now, as I ponder the quandary of Leonardo Da Vinci’s happiness, I suppose the only thing to do is continue in curiosity. To look every more intently for the beauty the world has to offer, so that I may add to it in whatever small bits I can. And, of course, to take David Sedaris’ advice from his book, Calypso:

“The key of course, is to stay busy.”

Picasso’s Letter

“Everybody has the same energy potential. The average person wastes his in a dozen little ways. I bring mine to bear on only one thing: my paintings, and everything is sacrificed to it – you and everyone else. Myself included.”

This is a quote from a letter Pablo Picasso wrote to a lover, discovered through this video about the daily routine of the artist.

It seems quite a dreary way to live, but effective. Isolating, but inspiring. Like so many things, there are positive things to glean and add to my own life, and things to leave behind.

It seems as if Picasso was the ultimate hustler.

Writer’s legacy

This afternoon I was listening to an NFL podcast. At the top of the show, before getting into the normal swing of things, the host took a few minutes to give a tribute to a fellow sports writer that had just passed away the week before recording. At the end of it, he said “I loved him. I loved reading him.”

It struck me – that in a world of sports writers, the columns become the people. The words and paragraphs shape the personality and perception of the individual behind them. I think we do this subconsciously every day, but I’d never heard the idea stated so clearly and frankly. I loved reading him. The writer was made up of his words. He was his writing. That was his legacy and his being.

When I think about musicians or directors or artists, their work becomes their personality in my mind.

I wonder if my perception matches their reality.

The Life of Hayao Miyazaki

This evening, I watched Never Ending Man, a documentary following Hayao Miyazaki, the famed founder, writer and director of Japan’s Studio Ghibli. It was a fascinating watch, as Miyazaki is, himself, a fascinating man. He wears a white apron in nearly every shot of the film, at home and in the studio, and there’s more often than not a cigarette hanging lazily from his mouth, tucked into his top lip and wobbling as he talks.

The films starts with Miyazaki’s announcement to the press that he will be retiring from the movie industry – only to see him quickly return to work on a short film, then hint at the launching a feature film near the end.

There were several quotes from Miyazaki that stuck out to me… I want to share them here.


“Self satisfied people are boring. We have to push hard to surpass ourselves.”

“I’ve got things I want to do, but don’t feel I can. I want to create something extraordinary. I just don’t know if I can do it.”

“You’re drawing people, not characters.”

“I don’t like the word ‘challenge.’ I just trudge along. Forward, always forward.”

“I just sketch anything that catches my attention.”

“All important things in the world are a hassle.”

“When I’m tired, my pencil escapes.”

“What a bustling world, full of strange wonder!”

“If we’d tried to please, we’d be long forgotten.”

Hayao Miyazaki was born January 5, 1941, in Tokyo, Japan. He just turned 80, and is about halfway through the making of what he says will be his final feature film. He is making it for his grandson.

An interview with Jean-Michel Basquiat

This evening, I watched an interview with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

ST. MORITZ, SWITZERLAND – 1983: Artist Jean-Michel paints in 1983 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Photo by Lee Jaffe/Getty Images)

I am not a great lover of Basquiat’s work, but it was interesting to feel a little bit more appreciation after engaging with the artists himself for 35 minutes – even though it was a rather painful 35 minutes. It was hard to tell who felt more uncomfortable through the interview, Basquiat or the interviewer.

Here are a couple moments that stuck out to me from the interview. First, the interviewer asks about a series of paintings in a show he had seen recently.

Interviewer: “Were they done for that show?”
Basquiat: “No, they – they were just done. But they weren’t done… for any reason or anything.”

Interviewer: “What do people like in your work?”
Basquiat: “You got me.”
Interviewer: “I think people are classifying you as – what? An expressionist?”
Basquiat: “Expressionist? That happened a long time ago didn’t it?”
Interviewer: “Expressionism? Yeah – well there’s New Expressionism.”
Basquiat: “Oh… expressionism. Well, art should be expressive. Of something or other.”

Interviewer: “There’s a certain – let’s use the term crudity to your heads I suppose. You like it that way? Or would you like to get them more refined in a realistic way?”
Basquiat: “I don’t – I haven’t really met that many refined people. Most people are generally crude.”
Interviewer: “And that’s why you keep your images crude?”
Basquiat: “Oh believe it or not, I can really draw.”
Interviewer: “No I believe you can really draw.”
Basquiat: “But – I.. I don’t really know. I try to fight against that usually.”

Basquiat: “I am what I am, what I am.”

Quiet, contemplative, soft spoken… I had painted a picture of Basquiat in my head, but similar to his own paintings, it seemed crude when put against the man himself captured on film.

In 2017, an untitled piece of Basquiat sold for 110 million dollars at auction. It is one of the most expensive pieces of art ever sold.

Basquiat died of a drug overdose on August 12, 1988. He was 27.

The artwork of Jason Polan

Today, this blog post from Austin Kleon introduced me to a charming new artist – Jason Polan.

Jason died on January 27, 2020.

I’d like to continue learning more about Jason, “one of the quirkiest and most prolific denizens of the New York art scene.” But from the little I know about him now, it seems like Jason is someone I’d like to be like. Ambitious, hard working, consistent.

On multiple occasions, Jason sketches every piece of artwork in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

In this video, Jason said “I think there’s a quality in quantity.” I agree with him whole-heartedly.

After reading and watching a little bit about Jason, and seeing his artwork, I was inspired to go back to a past project of mine, a comic strip called Stephanie and Carl. I drew Stephanie and Carl today for the first time in many months, and hope to keep drawing them.