Category Archives: Trend: DIYism

Trend: DIYism

Self-empowerment(!) creating a markedly different sense of control; an attraction to that which is experiential (and valuing the experience); creativity, renewed; the anti-immediate gratification movement

Adventures in Printing

400 pounds of printing power

I recently became the proud owner of a beautiful new-to-me Risograph GR 3750 – pictured above in all of its beige glory. I know what you’re thinking: who in their right mind would actually spend money on what appears to be a piece of obsolete office technology? Although it appears to be an innocent copier – this machine can be pretty magical in the right hands. Risographs are not normal copiers, they are more like an automatic mimeograph, sort of the missing link between screen printing and offset. It works by scanning an image, which is burned into a wax paper ‘stencil’ that wraps around an ink-filled drum. Paper then passes beneath the drum and ink is pushed through the ‘stencil’ and onto the paper. The beauty of this process is that you can change out the drums to add more colors to your work. Similar to screen printing, you print one color at a time while layering colors to create art. While the printing is not perfect, it is possible to work within the constraints of the process to create beautiful results. Because of this the Risograph has seen a huge resurgence amongst designers, illustrators, and indie publishers in the last few years – it makes it extremely cheap to create large volumes of high quality printed materials.

2 color (purple & black) test prints

When the opportunity presented itself for me to buy one on the cheap I jumped at it. My friend and I drove up to Gastonia, NC to buy it from a pastor at a small church, who was very confused what two young guys were doing buying his old copier. After literally almost killing ourselves moving the 400 pound behemoth into my basement, we got to work on making it work. After a full day of tinkering with it, consulting ancient service manuals, and a healthy dose of cursing – it was working.

the back panel - not intimidating at all to work on...

The challenges presented when designing work to be printed on a 20 year old obsolete duplicator are numerous -the color palette is extremely limited (right now I only have purple and black), the registration is never perfect, the size is limited to 11×17. Although some would see these constraints as a hinderance to their creativity – I see them as an opportunity. Great design needs constraints to push against – you cannot break the rules if there are no rules. The challenge of producing great design is to push the limits just far enough to create unexpected results – whether its creating art on an old copier or designing a logo with a detailed creative brief – creativity thrives when it is has something to push against.

2 color print using overlays, notice the poor registration

By far my favorite part about having a Risograph in my basement is that it has inspired me to create work for the sole purpose of fun. No clients, no deadlines, no money, just the simple joy found in the act of making stuff. I encourage any creative person to take time out of their busy schedule to make stuff for no reason other than fun – it is a great way to recharge your creative juices and remind yourself why you started doing this stuff in the first place.

The risograph in its new home - makin' stuff

 

 

America’s New Frontier: Made In Detroit

What kind of people forge full-speed ahead into treacherous territory with little but a dream and no guarantee for success?

Who were these people?

Americans have been doing it for centuries, and I’m sure the parents of those early pioneers thought their children had lost their ever-loving minds. But what kind of country would we be without these fearless lunatics? Their undying optimism laid the foundations for some of our greatest cities: Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco – to name a few.

Then there’s Detroit. It’s almost impossible to miss the ubiquitous coverage of the city’s demise. But squeezed between the contentious debate over the city’s bankruptcy and the photo essays detailing infrastructural decay, the story of a new American pioneer is slowly unfolding.

They are the native Detroiters who stand their ground, seeking innovative and entrepreneurial opportunities to strengthen their community. And then there are the newcomers – many young people – who come for the cheap rent and stay with the hopes of playing a part in the city’s rebirth. Some of these people have even left behind sensible upbringings and beautiful suburban lawns. I’m sure their parents are horrified.

It’s a story equal parts inspiration and terror. You can participate in the next great chapter of American history, but if you get hurt in the process, it might be hours before an ambulance arrives. I can’t help but be excited when I hear about the folks who brave it anyway.

Amidst the ruins, a new generation of lunatics is dreaming. They see their destiny inextricably linked to the city they call home. New ideas and businesses are emerging. There are tech startups, ad agencies, super cool small businesses, and local eateries.  There are also household names completely reinventing themselves.

I bought this journal from Shinola. They used to make Don Draper's shoe polish, but today they're breathing new life into American manufacturing with beautiful watches, bicycles, journals, and leather goods.

True, Detroit has a long, long way to go, and the journey will be perilous. There is no guarantee the risk will even pay off. But like so many pioneers who came before them, the people who invest in this city, both literally and figuratively, share a common perspective.

Detroit isn’t a wasteland to give up on. It is a new frontier worth conquering.

(Oh, and for the naysayers out there, things could be worse. I have two words for you: Dust. Bowl. )

The New Failure

I’ve never had much of a green thumb, but I come from a stable of accomplished gardeners — on both sides. I guess eventually it just catches you. I finally caught the gardening bug at our first house about 10 years ago.

The house was a traditional, tiny downtown starter home owned at one point by someone who was quite a gardener. In the time between her and when John purchased the home, the yard and plantings overgrew. Beneath all the tangles and years of neglect, all that beauty was still there, waiting to be rediscovered.

Area by area, we hacked out the clingy vines and cut the wild weedy trees. We pulled out years of thick English ivy. One by one I learned what lived there and how it needed to be cared for. By the time we moved a few years later, I handed the new owner a thick manual of plant placement diagrams, pruning instructions and details of improvements we’d made. It was no Biltmore Estate by any means, but I think we managed to recapture some of the yard’s original beauty. While the new homeowner managed to destroy most of that work within a year, my green education stuck.

My green thumb had finally taken root.

Three years ago, I decided to graduate from a mildly successful jalapeno plant grower to a full-blown raised bed gardener. My neighbor, who is an accomplished gardener, cheered me through all my fears and insecurities and shared more know-how than a pile of books. I still remember the excitement of seeing tiny starts of romaine lettuce and thinking ‘I could grow lettuce at home!’ I wasn’t thinking at all about the superior taste of homegrown veggies nor was I thinking I’d get much more than a salad or two. I ended up getting weeks and weeks of crisp lettuce that made store-bought lettuce taste like sawdust. So now I am completely spoiled.

My first garden did fine for a complete amateur. My second spring garden did much better, which led to a summer and winter garden that year, too. Now in my third year of gardening, it’s safe to say I am always growing something.

All my life I’d thought my parents had some classical training. How were they able to amble through a yard and identify almost everything? How did they know where to cut, when to plant and if something was dead or dormant?

It turns out, there’s no big secret to cultivating a yard or a garden. You just stick your hands in the dirt and give it your best shot.

I think we’ve been afraid to do things ourselves for too long. What if I fail? What if it doesn’t work? I don’t know how to do that. But these days, fear is giving way to something better, something brighter.

Consumers of the new economy have a rekindled sense of DIY. They are seekers, and learners. They collaborate, cultivate and share. It may be something as simple as learning to garden or joining forces with a friend to form a new company. There’s an exciting fearlessness that’s refreshing after the drought of a recession.

Consider the explosive growth of the digital scrapbooking site, Pinterest. While primarily used by young women, it’s growing by never-before seen leaps and bounds. It’s even managed to sneak its way up in usage right behind Tumblr and Facebook.

The new reality is that nothing is out of reach in the minds of today’s consumers. Trying and faltering is no longer a failure. It’s how we learn.

Being afraid to try is the new failure.

Goodwill for Goodwill. And There’s a Prize!

from chair spindles to gorgeous tree ornaments

We couldn’t be happier about this one if we tried. Working with Goodwill Industries of the Upstate/Midlands SC is a dream assignment—powerful mission, great people, interesting projects.

A wonderful bonus of the work we’ve done for Goodwill is the friendships we’ve developed along the way. Good Life blogger Kendra Ardis, for instance.

We first met Kendra when she responded to our Craig’s List ad looking for The Perfect Person to help us develop and launch our first lifestyle blog, The Good Life. The blog centers around the definition of thrift we love the most, from Wikipedia:

the recycling of formerly-owned items, finding new use and new love for vintage material goods which had been thrown out, and the thrill of imagining what the former life of the item was like

A thrifter from way back, Kendra is the Perfect Person to write The Good Life.

wouldn't these look swell on your tree?

As a bonus, Kendra and The Good Life brought to us another artist who takes thrift to a new level, Barb Blair of Knack Studios. In a guest post on The Good Life, Barb transforms these old chair spindles into the most incredible Christmas Tree ornaments around. What’s more, she’s allowing The Good Life to give them away a set of 12 in a contest on the blog’s Facebook page as a way to bring more people who love the art of thrift to the blog.

(To enter to win these ornaments, just click on this link. Deadline is midnight tonight.

Maybe it’s just the traditional feeling of goodwill (pardon me) the holiday season brings, but we’re feeling grateful for so many things that came to Riggs Partners wrapped in the Year 2011—not the least of which is a wonderful new client and all the relationships therewith. We are truly grateful.

Discovering the perfect brand experience, freewheeling through Etsy

I’ve always longed to take a freewheeling road trip. You know, the kind of journey where you head out, no real destination in mind, no particular route to follow. You just go, following the option that looks most interesting at the moment.

Where would it lead, I wonder? Where would I end up?

I made that journey last week, albeit vicariously. Sitting right on my sofa, right in my pretty little keeping room, I jumped into a blog I love, saw something interesting, clicked on a link, which lead to a link, which lead to a link, which lead to a link, and before I knew it, I was joyfully lost amidst the wild DIY wonderland that is Etsy.

There were beautiful treasures everywhere I clicked. Such creativity. Such originality. Such inspiration. I wandered. And then I landed at Jaros Designs. Every pretty offering spoke to me.

my heart's desire

I wanted that pair of Vintage Valentine Red Freshwater Pearl and Antique Brass Drop Earrings! And the Mixed Metal Petal hoops. And that sweet, pretty Ocean Droplet Pearl Seafoam Necklace. I needed them. They needed me! And so I ordered, and just two days later, the little box of boxes arrived on my doorstep. I tore into it.

The joy of a simple blue bow. There they were—a collection of pretty little chocolate brown jewelry boxes, each with simple, gorgeous, happy blue bows. And suddenly my shopping spree (oh, the guilt!) became a wonderful indulgence (presents for me!)

Inside, the pretty treasures were wonderfully cocooned within fold after fold of tissue paper, secured with yet another pretty bow. Analisa Jaros had included a handwritten note, thanking me for my purchase. “That’s the difference in handmade,” I thought. “There’s a human being on the other end of this purchase.”

the complete package

Minding the details. The package from Jaros Designs made me think about the power of an exceptional brand experience. I landed rather randomly on Analisa Jaros’ Etsy shop, but in the midst of my freewheeling click click click excursion, something about her merchandise, and its mouthwatering photographic presentation, made me stop. And stay. And buy, even though that night’s cyberspace journey was begun with no conscious intention to shop. Analisa’s personal touch and attention to the tiniest details brought her Etsy “handcrafted jewelry” brand promise home to me, full circle. I loved buying from an artist who included a personal note and with whom I have now had several pleasant email exchanges.

That, I believe, is a brand experience done right—well defined, differentiating, consistent, relational, and intentional. Nicely done, Jaros Designs.