Friday, December 31, 2010

The happiest girl in the world

Dave really outdid himself this year in the gift-giving department. While I was buying him all the staples (pajamas, sweaters, heavy wool socks, Stumptown coffee, etc) he was hard at work tracking down some of the cool stuff I've been trying to find lately.

First of all, I finally got this beautiful book of Margaret Kilgallen's work. Not that it was so hard to find (you can buy the reprint editions at Curiosity Shoppe). I just never got around to purchasing it. And now I don't have to!

I'm also excited about my new calendar from my favorite printers, Yeehaw. (I do still want to get a refill for last year's but this one is much bigger. So I don't feel like it'll be overkill.)

And I'm not sure how Dave knew that I'd been eying these vintage elephant banks, but he did. Now the laundry quarter supply will be looking extra stylish.

I know Dave was aware that I'd been looking for one of these Finel enamel bowls for quite some time, but it's still a testament to his thoughtfulness and eBay skills. He even managed to find one without any unsightly chips!

I was pretty sure that bowl was going to be the pièce de résistance--until I opened up the Gocco printer. These things are out of production, though all the supplies (ink, screens, bulbs, etc) seem to be easy enough to find online so I'm not too worried about running out.

Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do with it, though I do have a few ideas up my sleeve. More to come on that one.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fun with gift wrapping

I had kind of wanted to post about this before Christmas, but I would have been revealing too much to one particular person.

I was really into this plaid gift wrap we bought--it's just Christmasy enough.* This year I tried a few new decorating methods, such as the above strand of what look to me like paper buttons. (See here for how to make them...though it should be pretty self explanatory.)

I made the bow using a variation of the above technique (that is, by cutting much larger circles and folding them in half).

I bought this giant postcard from Yeehaw Industries at the Chelsea Market holiday pop up shop and decided it would look great decorating the outside of a box.

I also made some gift tags using a silver shopping bag and rubber stamps. I really like how muted the stamp looks on the silver paper.

Dave did a little bit of stamping too. Of course the only picture I took of this one is out of focus but I think it's too amusing not to share anyway. Tune in tomorrow for what's inside the boxes!

*I know how much paper is wasted every year wrapping gifts, but I'm not about to start wrapping everything in fabric like some blogs suggest (besides, who's to say that some of the recipients won't throw out the fabric too?). I do reuse a lot of other materials anyway, from shopping bags to tissue paper.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Christmas all over again

The stockings are hung, the tree is out (though not lit in this photo for some reason), along with all of the other random decorations I've collected over the years. (Funny to see how bare the wall looked last year, as we'd just moved in.) Every year I can't help making (and buying) a few new ornaments to add to the rotation. (I suppose I probably should think about getting rid of some of the ones that I keep confined to the closet.)

I actually made this paper ball ornament last year, using some pages I cut out of a book, but I don't think I ever posted about it. So here it is.

This year I made this paper tree using an old magazine. A little tedious, but super easy. I love how sculptural it looks.

Last fall my step niece developed a bit of an obsession with picking up acorns and shared a handful of them with Dave (which, adorably, he saved). So I already had a dried acorn hat (as I like to call it) for making this ornament, which was only slightly more difficult than the paper tree. I wish I'd had more spare hats because I would have made a whole family of wooden acorn people. (I guess there's still time!)

I also ended up buying a few new holiday things while I was in L.A. I couldn't resist this squirrel candy dish from Yolk. (I like how we have a mix of Christmas and Halloween candy in there. The pumpkins were half price and someone could not turn down a bargain.)

After hemming and hawing over some of the pricier (but beautiful) items at Plastica, I left with just this sweet little wooden Swedish bird ornament. (Note my little acorn friend to the right.)

Here's my garland from last year. Maybe next year I'll make a new one. It's always fun to change it up. I've also promised Dave that next year we'll get a real tree, so that'll be a pretty big change. I've never had a real Christmas tree for as long as I've lived, and I've decided it's probably a good time to go au natural.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Watts Towers

On our way to the airport we made one last stop: the Watts Towers.

Named for the neighborhood where they are located, the Watts Towers are a collection of 17 interconnected structures, the tallest of which is 99 feet high. They were all built by one man, an Italian immigrant construction worker named Simon Rodia, who created them in his spare time over the course of 33 years.

Constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, and coated with mortar, the towers are embedded with pieces of porcelain, tile, and glass, and found objects such as bed frames, bottles, scrap metal, and sea shells.

These tiles spell out "SR 1921" (his initials and the year he started the project) and "Nuestro Pueblo," which is what he called the property. The flower shapes pressed in the concrete were made using garden hose spigots.

You can see a lot of fragments of vintage soda bottles.

The whole place is shaped like a boat. Our tour guide said he guessed that Simon intended to recreate the ship he sailed to America on.

In 1955, Rodia mysteriously left Los Angeles, giving the property away to a neighbor, and never returned. A year later his house, which was located within the structures, burned down. There is a wooden platform indicating where the house once stood, which was quite an unexpected revelation for me, as it's really hard to imagine this place as someone's backyard.

After the tour we watched this short film about the towers, made in the 50s while Rodia still lived there. Interestingly enough, the musical score, which was created just for this film, was later used in a very famous TV series. (I'll let you figure out which one.)

And so concludes my long and drawn out vacation slide show. I hope it was actually enjoyable for anyone else who was reading it!

Monday, December 20, 2010


I know it's a little unbelievable that three weeks later I'm still posting about L.A. but that's really just a testament to how many awesome things we did there. Our last night in town we went to LACMA, the L.A. County Museum of Art.

Outside there are lots of Eames wire chairs scattered about (a nice counterpart to MoMA's Bertoias).

Also in the courtyard is this sculpture, called "Urban Light," which consists of 202 cast iron street lamps that once were used in the streets of L.A. The Hipstamatic Dali lens does some crazy things to it.

After looking at the William Eggleston photo exhibit and thinking "what a great museum," we realized that there were quite a few more buildings to explore. We saw Andy Warhols, Alexander Calders, Richard Serras,

Giacometti sculptures, Paul Klees, Philip Gustons,

Henri Matisses, Ed Ruschas, Donald Judds, and on and on.

I took a lot of pictures of the "Fashioning Fashion" exhibit. It really photographed well.

And also from "Eye for the Sensual."

So I was pretty impressed with this museum. Nine buildings filled with ridiculously incredible art. And it's free during the week for California residents! (Which of course didn't help us, but just sayin...I can't think of any NY art museums on par with this one that are also free for locals.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is located on a fairly nondescript block in Culver City. But the interior is anything but nondescript. I'm not sure I can even explain what it is--a cabinet of curiosities, "a specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, with an emphasis on those that demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities." It's a dimly lit labyrinthine place, with beige rotary phone receivers in the wall that play back information about the exhibits when you hold them up to your ear.

In this room we heard the tragic story of an opera singer.

From butterflies behind glass to miniature mobile homes to dogs of the Soviet space program, the museum houses a strange variety of collections,

many of which are charmingly "out of order."

As Dave pointed out to me, many of the displays look straight out of a Nine Inch Nails video.

Especially when you photograph them using a Dali lens.

While I at times couldn't fully comprehend what I was looking at, I always felt a sense of wonder and amusement (and maybe a little bit of confusion). In that regard it's almost like a big art installation, an experiment designed to invoke various reactions in the visitor.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bela Lugosi's Dead

A little over a week ago marked the 30 year anniversary of Darby Crash's death. The singer of the L.A. punk band the Germs, he died at the age of 22 of an intentional heroin overdose.

The Germs were one of the first punk bands I listened to. Fifteen years ago I came across an article about them in a random music magazine and became obsessed with their story. It took me over a year to track down their music--at the time the internet was still in its jurassic stages, so I couldn't exactly Google them, and I wasn't yet familiar with the concept of independent record stores. I finally found a copy of MIA at a Strawberry's while on vacation in Boston, and to this day I still love the Germs.

So when I went to L.A. I of course had to make a little pilgrimage to find Darby's grave. He's interred at Holy Cross, a Catholic cemetery in Culver City, his plot marked by a flat rectangular stone that I quickly noticed seemed to have been a frequently-used generic design.

Dave had unsuccessfully tried to find the grave the last time he was in L.A., but he hadn't been able to research its exact location. I can't imagine how many hours it would take to find it without any direction whatsoever--it'd be like, well, finding a needle in a haystack. (Dave also wrote his own meditation on Darby's death anniversary. It's the inaugural post of his new blog, Savage Aesthetic. Go read it!)

The website where I found Darby's grave location (Section R, Tier 8, Grave 114, by the way) lists a number of other celebrities buried at Holy Cross--among them John Candy, Sharon Tate, John Ford, Rita Hayworth, Jimmy Durante, Bela Lugosi, and many others. I sought out Lugosi's grave as well (and, without trying, Bing Crosby's), and was warmed to find that someone had recently wished him a Happy Halloween.

Bela and Bing are in the section referred to as "The Grotto," where this altar and statue of Mary are situated.

Closer inspection reveals a variety of candles, prayer cards, and other Catholic relics placed on the altar, and in the rock wall.

It might seem a bit morbid, but if I'd had more time I would have liked to have explored the whole place a little bit more. It is an actively used cemetery, but as long as you're respectful, I don't see anything wrong with a little bit of graveyard tourism.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hanging out at the Eames House

Constructed in 1949, Case Study House #8 was designed by legendary designers Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen. The house is in Pacific Palisades, a fancy-looking neighborhood of L.A. just north of Santa Monica. I made a reservation to take a self-guided tour of the outside (only one tour of the interior is granted per year, to Eames foundation members).

When we got there it turned out that the tours are actually guided, which was nice as we learned a lot more about its history and design. Even though we couldn't enter the house, the design is so open that we could easily look inside and see the whole thing (with the exception of the upstairs)--I learned that the intention was to give the impression that the patio was an extension of the house.

Dave sitting in Ray's swing, which she thought provided the best view of the house.

Here's their doorbell.

The space between the house and their studio is of course nicely designed as well.

The pathway is made of a variety of materials, with various carefully placed potted plants.

A view of their studio, which is located about fifteen feet (maybe's pretty close though) from the house. Note the giant praying mantis.

We noticed this little guy in a far corner of the property. It was a gift to the Eames for their grandchildren to use, and came from a London playground. Reminds me quite a bit of this...

We also noticed these toy dump trucks elsewhere on the property (it's a pretty huge piece of land). I love how everywhere we turned there was another little surprise. The yard is situation on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean--those Eames had pretty good taste.

We weren't allowed to take any photos of the indoors but I found this site that has a few interior shots. I love the bookcase. It's hard to see but they have several LTR tables lined up in the hall between the kitchen and living room. And now I of course really want one. Sigh.