Saturday, October 23, 2010

Handmade Parade: Wine Box

Nothing shows your appreciation and admiration like a handcrafted gift. In Handmade Parade, we pull out gifts we've made for friends over the years to give you ideas or inspiration for creating your own handmade presents.

Sometimes I'll have a gift ready to go but still feel that it needs a little something extra. A great solution is to make the wrapping part of the gift! Since I am physically incapable of throwing anything I might one day use, I am left with lots of containers - chocolate boxes, coffee cans, and cookie tins. As fellow collectors will know, this personality trait can often feel like a curse (as the piles begin to outgrow the closet...), but when it pays off there's no better feeling!

I just love those wooden boxes that pricey wines come in, and I always save them. Usually, if my wine comes in a box, it's the cardboard variety (funny 'cause it's true!), so these fancy wooden containers don't come my way all that often. Consequently, I save them for special occasions and special friends.

The boxes will always have a winemakers logo on the front that needs to be covered - I've used acrylic paint in both my examples below, but there are many possibilities. For example, decoupaging book pages or comic pages onto the crate would be simple and beautiful!

Here's the first version I made, many years ago, to house a birthday present for my illustrator friend. He had just launched his website and so I had access to his newly-designed logo, which I replicated in acrylic paint on the box.

I think he still has this with him; last I heard he was using it to hold his precious paintbrushes! I guess he's keeping his secrets somewhere less obvious...

Here's a simpler box I did this month for a designer friend who just moved to the snowy Rockies. I'm making an educated guess that there are snowmobiles in Banff:

Megan and I filled it with a "Winter Survival Kit" - a Shambolic Rockstar scarf, hand-mixed chai spices for soy chai lattes, handmade bath products, etc.

There you go. I really like the idea of reusing packaging and making it into something personal. Reduce, reuse, recycle... but, if you don't have any wine boxes on hand and you want to do this project, they are available very cheaply at many dollar stores.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Secret Language of Five Corners

Since this whole blog is an experiment in giving people a glimpse into the Five Corners studio, I thought it might be appropriate to let you in on the types of things that can often be overheard while we work. Although 'appropriate' might not be the word some would use, 'odd' is possibly a better one, or 'ridiculous'... whatever.

In no particular order here are some of our most common phrases:

Coke me

This is by FAR our most commonly uttered phrase, seeing as how we might as well be sponsored by Diet Coke (and oh, wouldn't that be glorious? Coca Cola company, call me!) The fridge in the studio exists for the sole purpose of keeping our precious cans of Diet Coke properly chilled. Approximately every five minutes one of us will call out “Coke me” to whomever is closest to the fridge and a cold can of liquid heaven is immediately sent our way.

Is this stupid or awesome?

There's a fine line some days. A felt cactus or a mustache necklace? Could go either way, frankly. And most of the time it's hard to see your own work objectively. So fairly often one of us will push back in our chair and ask the other to make the judgement call. Sometimes the project goes into a timeout so we can take another look at it a few days later. Sometimes awesome wins, but sometimes stupid wins and the project goes into the failure drawer.

I want to BE us!

On a particularly productive day we bust out this little gem to pat ourselves on the back. It was first uttered in a spontaneous fit of self-congratulation when a challenging set of projects worked out even better than we could have hoped. I think it originally used to be longer, as in “We're so awesome, I just want to BE us!” But we are masters at patting ourselves (and each other) on the back, if we can't appreciate ourselves who else is going to?

We should clean up this mess

Oh messy studio, we love you so. But every so often we will take a look around and realize that we have crossed the line. That we can't find anything we need, that bits of clay have been ground into our poor carpet or that yet another pile of random papers has toppled over onto the floor. And then it becomes studio clean-up day.

Director of Awesome

This is a fairly new phrase for us, but it captures what the last few months have been about for us. Like most creative people, both of us have always struggled to find a balance between working for a living (ie: paying the bills) and living creatively. Basically we both want to get paid to do something we love for a living. But jobs that involve making messes and gluing stuff to other stuff are hard to come by, oddly enough. Hence our mythical dream jobs as a 'Director of Awesome'. If you happen to come across a Director of Awesome job posting one day, now you'll know just who to come to! I'll start putting my resume together...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Can I tell you a secret?

So, last night I went to see "PostSecret Live" a multi-media presentation by Frank Warren, the founder of PostSecret, at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC.
Postsecret: Confessions On Life, Death, And God

A little background for those who aren't familiar with Postsecret. It began in 2004 as a community mail art project; Frank Warren hit the streets distributing blank postcards with his home address printed on the back. The idea was simple and the instructions were few: anonymously reveal a true, never-before-spoken secret on a postcard, be creative, and then mail it along to Frank's house. 

The postcards he received are creative and compelling. Sometimes the images chosen reveal further truths or details, and the few, carefully-chosen words can read like poetry.

Every Sunday morning, Frank shares some of the over 150,000 secrets he's been sent by showcasing them on his PostSecret website. The postcards are replaced each week with a batch of new ones. He has collected secrets in five books, and has shown some of the cards in gallery exhibitions. Now he's taken his show on the road by giving talks at universities, showing secrets that were "banned from the books", and talking about what it's like to be the man entrusted with the deepest secrets of thousands of strangers.
A Lifetime Of Secrets: A Postsecret Book

For years now, looking at the Sunday secrets on the website has been the first thing I do on Sunday mornings (or the last thing I do on a late Saturday night!). I have been saddened, energized, disgusted, and delighted reading the vulnerable thoughts, remembrances, and fears of strangers. I have laughed out loud (literally) and then scrolled down one postcard only to find myself blinking away tears. This is the power of the project - to connect strangers. I think it can help us all remember to practice empathy in our daily lives and to realize that everyone has a lot going on under the surface.

Now, to last night's event. I expected it to be packed, but the auditorium was half-empty. This might have been because it was announced last-minute and/or that ticket prices were ridiculous ($50?!). Still, the young audience (mostly in their early twenties, some teens with their very cool moms) that did turn out was very enthusiastic. It's easy to see that the PostSecret project has impacted many lives.

We all listened with interest to Frank's stories: from his mother's reaction to his project (hint: she's not a fan, as a voicemail message from her that he played for us effectively proved) to a heartwarming story of a PostSecret postcard marriage proposal. We learned the most frequently told secret: "I pee in the shower", and the second-most popular sentiment: "I wish to one day have someone I can trust with all my secrets". He told us that he very rarely receives confessions of major crimes, but he gets multiple postcards about body image, cutting, and depression every day. He talked to us about the warning signs that might indicate someone is thinking about attempting suicide and discussed how he raises awareness and funds for suicide prevention through his project.

At the end of his presentation, Frank opened the floor for the brave people who wanted to share their own secret with the auditorium. Some were funny or sad, a couple were poignant and told stories of strength, one reminded me what it was like to be a teenager and to believe that no one will ever "get you", and one was  immature and extremely illegal. I wish I could tell you more, but the room really felt like a safe little community and it just wouldn't be right to take those confidences out of that auditorium. Which is, I guess, what the event demonstrated best for me; I now have a small idea of what it's like to be Frank Warren and to be trusted with the most intimate secrets of strangers.

Have you ever mailed Frank a secret?  We've talked about the importance of creativity on this blog, so maybe it's time to spend a few creative minutes with a blank postcard. You never know what will come out of it...

13345 Copper Ridge Rd
Germantown, Maryland