8.12.2008

outlet safari


Next time I fly, I'm going to bring a power strip with me. I've spent so much time recently just wandering around the airport seeking out an outlet just to find that they're all in use. If I had a power strip with me, I could just ask the person to share the precious electricity. And I'd probably make a few friends too!

Time to board for the last leg of my flight to Hawaii ~

:: unplug ::

8.10.2008

DIY : jewelry display / cake stand

I've had cake stands and jewelry and making things on the brain. So on my way back from brunch today, I stopped at the local thrift store, Boomerangs. My original intention was to look for a back pack for my trip to Hawaii, but of course I found myself browsing through the random pieces of deserted china and glassware with thoughts of delicate cake stands a'la Esther Coombs. I started playing with some plates and glassware and soon enough I had chosen the material for the design of 3 or 4 stands.

Next, I headed next door to the hardware store where I picked myself up some china + glass cement.

Once home, I got right to it. This project couldn't be much easier. The "hardest" part was being patient enough to allow the cement to set (which doesn't take very long). Step 1 was to figure out which pieces should be glued together first. Again, this isn't brain science and it really doesn't matter. And I guess if you really want to be accurate about it, you should measure to find the center of the plates to more accurately place the other pieces, but I think I have a pretty good eye, so I just went for it.
In progress:

Finished products:

The one on the right is a little more mid-century and I think it will be a gift. I might try to find a nice little cup to fit on top.

Dressed in jewels:

Green Product Design : Dish Soap

Greening your home is a process. But that process can be fun. Particularly if you're into design! For my purposes here, I'm focusing on dish soap. An easy switch to make and a significant one. Who wants to be eating / absorbing all of the bleach and other toxic chemicals found in conventional dish soaps? Not I!

In looking at green cleaning products, I've noticed that a lot of the designs tend to look a bit more high-end, simple and modern. And often, they are more "green" in the color choices as well.

Seventh Generation, for instance, has made a large green leaf, simple type and a white plastic bottle the staple of their product design. Immediately, this stands out as a green product. The leaf says "eco-friendly" and the white bottle says "pure", "toxic-free". Many companies tend to use transparent bottles which show off the bright pink or blue liquid inside. Here, SG has gone opaque, and treated the bottle so that it matches the cap, creating a unit that looks "whole". The shape of the bottle itself is basic. It's recognizable and functional. Even the design of the label is simple. The font / typography choices also support these messages. There are no big starbursts, outlines on the type, or manipulating done to the shape. It's straight-up. The designer has worked with a select few typefaces and used them carefully.

Now compare Seventh Generation to shelves full of this and I think you'll see what I mean:

These products are overly expressive. They're selling POWER and SHINE and supposedly, CLEAN. But when you look at these next to the Seventh Generation product, suddenly they don't look so "clean" anymore, do they? To me it looks like a big TOXIC mess that says "run away!". Really, it's painful. There are probably 10 different typefaces used on the label, the shape of which is all over the place. You've got splashes and banners and hands and glasses and starbursts and swirls. It's all there.

Although Seventh Generation is one of the more popular "green" product lines out there, it's not my favorite in terms of design. There are some other green products that speak to the designer in me a bit more in that they didn't immediately go for the obvious with leaves and earthy colors.

Method is one of those. It might have something to do with the funky package designs—by Karim Rashid—or the savvy marketing which features a movement "People Against Dirty". But design aside, Method is a great, natural product. It's also accessible—you can find Method at your local Stop & Shop, Target, Home Depot and many more. But back to the design. I admire that Method did not take the easy way out by literally going green with the color scheme. At the same time, you might consider it "safe" that they chose to stay a bit closer to the conventional products in using transparent bottles that allow the color of the product to show through. Either way, it works much better here because rather than pairing the colored product with over-the-top typography and imagery, they have gone extremely minimal. Compared to other designs, the type size and logo can be considered small. Very small. But it works because the whole thing is uncluttered. There are no blazing claims to the power of the product or images depicting clean glasses—it's just "dish soap". Straight-forward and to the point. They're not trying to prove anything with the design. In terms of the actual bottles ... well I've read a few opinions on the one pictured to the left. Imagine picking that sucker up with a soapy hand. The one on the right, however, is a bit more user-friendly.


Another favorite of mine in the green aisle, is the Mrs. Meyers products. Looks like something straight out of a Vermont General Store ... homegrown and honest with a touch of lightheartedness. A product and company that you can trust and that has a history that you can actually read about on the website. The design of the packaging is appealing to me because it says all of these things, and it's got that retro-modern look that I just can't walk away from. I would seriously buy this just because it looks nice, but lucky for me it's actually also a great product. As the website puts it, Mrs. Meyer's products are hardworking cleaners that work like the dickens on dirt. Gotta love it.

So again here, there is a simplicity to the design. We can see there is a limited color palette, which changes according to the scent. That helps to keep things neat while still allowing for variation within the brand. The designer has kept to 2-3 fonts { I don't have the package in front of me so I can't confirm for sure! }, and force-justified the type design which goes with the "retro" look and keeps things from jumping out all over the place. And I can't leave out mention of the smiling Mrs. Meyer illustration on each product. How much more simple can you get than a stick figure?

Lastly, my personal favorite is a discovery I made this past weekend while buying toilet paper at Target (disappointed to find they didn't have any recycled toilet paper). J.R. Watkins products. I almost bought the whole line ... but all I really needed was dish soap. This stuff is so "pretty, " you could give it as gifts. Again, looks like a really quality product from an honest company. There are so many layers to this design, but here they all work. Many aspects of the design were inspired by vintage elements - apothecary labels are just one of those elements.

Ok, I have to be honest. The problem with writing a post this long is that it takes DAYS to write and by the time you get to the climax, you're OVER IT . at least for me.

The whole reason why I started this post was because I wanted to talk about the design of this product - J.R. Watkins - but now I'm just burnt out!

8.07.2008

chinese fortune

I always find it so bizarre when I get Chinese fortunes that are really on point ... I mean, I'm going to Hawaii on Tuesday for work.

Speaking of cake stands and recycled art ...

I just saw the work of Esther Coombs posted over on Decor8. I hate repeating what someone else has just posted, but since it's so relevant to my last post, my appreciation of using recycled materials for new work and since her designs are so beautiful ... why not? No harm done.

Esther combines vintage teacups, plates and glasses from second hand shops with hand drawn doodles to make her new creations. From her Etsy shop: "I want to mix the old treasure and narratives these items possess with the new story I layer onto them."


I feel a DIY project coming on ...
there's a great instructional here at the blog of jewelry designer Caroline Armelle on how to make your own cake stand.

8.06.2008

Jewelry on display

I'm always looking for ways to organize/display my jewelry so that I won't have have to dig through piles on my dresser in order to find matching earrings. Because, I'll be honest, it generally ain't a pretty sight. I'm a pretty organized, neat individual, except when it comes to my room. And my dresser seems to be the dumping ground for all of the little things that don't have good homes (ok, so the glass has a good home in the kitchen) :

Victoria just recently posted about this over on sfgirlbybay but I wanted to share some of my ideas here.

For awhile, I had a large box on my dresser where I laid out my earrings and necklaces. The box remained open. The only problem with that was that things didn't stay nicely laid out for very long. They soon became a big, tangled, dusty mess. And the nicest thing about the box was the top of it, which didn't show when it was always open.


I still keep jewelry in the box, but it remains closed, in a different spot in my room. And now the only problem is that I forget to wear that jewelry!

I've also always used little bowls and boxes to hold rings, bracelets, small earrings, etc. Similar to an idea suggested in Blueprint magazine.

But since seeing this image of an old medicine cabinet repurposed as a jewelry / scarf display—an idea from a Martha Stewart Living magazine—I've been wanting to create my own version. Unfortunately, I haven't yet stumbled across such a nice cabinet.
I did however find a hanging glass frame with a door and a pin cushion-like backing (meant to be used to tack a few photos to) which I snatched up at Marshalls and quickly put to use as a jewelry cabinet.

And I was just browsing the shelves at a favorite store when I spotted a cake stand. It was awfully cute and affordable at only $14.99, but I couldn't think of a good use for it. Then I thought, jewelry display! Yes! But I decided to forgo the new version and search for something with a little vintage charm on Ebay or at an antique market. You can find really beautiful stands in a variety of materials—glass (depression, vaseline, milk, etc.), porcelain, aluminum, and more—and styles to suit your taste. And if you stack a couple of these (try different materials), you can create a really unique little place to stash your jewels.

8.05.2008

Drexel Dining Chairs

I'm so excited! I finally found a set of chairs on Ebay that match the set I inherited from my grandmother. Actually, I've seen several sets but I've had to let them go because they were just cost prohibitive. This time, the price was right and even the shipping cost is low. And the timing couldn't be any more appropriate since my grandmother just passed last week.
The chairs are gorgeous, in fact they're in much better condition than mine. There are even two "captain's chairs" (with arm rests).

The chairs were made by Drexel in the late 50's/early 60's and are from the Declaration line, designed by Kipp Stewart and Stuart MacDougall.

8.03.2008

More recycled art

Check out these chickens made from recycled plastic bags. I'm really digging their proud plumes! They are hand made by artisans in South Africa and can be purchased via Aid to Artisans.