July 01, 2010
One Product to Rule Them All

Yesterday I splurged on a shower gel that claims to have UV properties. I also bought some citronella-impregnated rubber bracelet things to ward off mosquitoes. So this morning, MJ & I brainstormed the perfect summer product - one shower gel to handle all your summer irritations. We proudly announce the concept of:


Summer Morning Shower Gel

* 24 hour UV protection (SPF 30++)
* all natural citronella insect repellent
* caffeine infused for morning energy
* nontoxic, aluminum-free antiperspirant
* hair defrizzer and styling product
* cooling menthol skin refreshment
* powder finish when dry
* fresh garden peppermint and basil scent

And be sure to try the Glitter version with all-day sparkles!

Posted by kuri at 11:59 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
May 13, 2010
The False Promise of Common Sense

Most everyone values common sense, don't they?

It takes a lot of different forms, but typical Western-culture common sense seems to value self-protection of various kinds: carry an umbrella on a rainy day; only buy what you can afford; don't walk barefoot where a glass has just shattered; don't eat green furry things from the back of the fridge; look both ways before crossing; don't quit your day job. No doubt you have a few favorites of your own.

But is common sense really a good thing? Is it necessary?

If you unswervingly follow common sense, life is relatively safe and predictable. You stay dry in the rain. You avoid illness and injury. Your finances are stable and secure.

If you flout common sense, though, what happens? Life becomes less predictable. You create opportunities for things to change. You receive chances to learn and grow. New perspectives open to you. Ducking into a doorway in a rainstorm might give you a different view on the street or allow you to make the acquaintance of another umbrella-less outlier. Quitting your job to make a go at something you love is full of adventure as you work and play at creating success. Splurging on luxuries when you can't afford them teaches you about what you really value - other people's good opinion trumps food; traveling the world trumps good credit.

The immediate results of ignoring common sense are sometimes bad: food poisoning from those furry green leftovers is unpleasant; stepping on glass is painful; being hit by a car more so. But maybe in the hours and days you spend recovering your health, you find the time to uncover a new understanding or explore some ideas that your busy life hasn't give you time to settle into.

I think there are times when common sense is a wise thing. And tossing it out the window to follow your heart (or just going with the flow of a forgotten umbrella) seems much more valuable in the long run.

So next time someone says, "You have no common sense," you might want to cheer a little.

(Thanks to my dinner companions last night for getting me thinking about this.)

Posted by kuri at 09:47 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
April 19, 2010
alternate "greater than" symbols


The other day on Facebook my sister wished for mathematical symbols to indicate "more beautiful than" and "more delicious than" so I made her some.

Posted by kuri at 10:22 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
April 18, 2010

The last Tokyo Morsbags
Me with the final 24 freshly sewn Morsbags.

Since June 2007, my friends and I made 406 bags from recycled and repurposed materials. Most of our sewing happened in the first 18 months and I've had a big box of fabric hanging around waiting to be used. Now it is done.

Posted by kuri at 09:40 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
December 21, 2009
Christmas Tree, 2009 - hardcover edition


For the past nine years I've crafted a Christmas tree out of found objects, bits and pieces, useless odds and ends and occasionally a purchased item or two. This year, we had a box of books that we'd been trying to give away since the summer. A dozen hardcover castoffs became the foundation of the Christmas tree.

I am especially pleased with the way this tree turned out. But it was a 4-step process that took most of an afternoon, so I couldn't do the complete construction on Christmas Day in my usual tradition. Here's how it worked, in case you want to try one yourself.

Step 1: Drill This caused a bit of controversy in the household. Tod didn't want to hurt the books. I wanted to spike them so they wouldn't collapse. He went to work without a better suggestion and so I drilled the books by opening each book to its center spread, laying it page-side down and using a hand drill through the middle of the spine.

Mix and match painted covers

Step 2: Paint I silvered the edges of the pages with spray paint to make them consistent. The titles ranged from Great Grillin' to a 1963 children's edition of the Canterbury Tales and the covers were a range of tacky and plain so I decided to paint them with a mix of green acrylic paints. Because I like the artwork on the Canterbury Tales, I left that one unpainted and dry brushed any of the beige books to coordinate, while giving good coverage to the blue, black and red tomes.

Spools of thread between books make space for lights

Step 3: Assemble This was a little bit harder than I expected. It took several attempts to get the spacing and shape right so I was sliding books on and off my dowel rod multiple times. The dowel I used was thin and flexible, so the tree leans a bit. I slipped a small spool of brown thread on the dowel after each group of three books. This enforced a few inverted Vs big enough for the lights.

Just like a real tree, I need to rearrange the lights - there are some dark patches!

Step 4: Light I topped the dowel with a cut-and-glued star made from a manila envelope, and tucked a string of colored bulbs in the spaces between books. This makes the tree glow gently in the dark.

Posted by kuri at 12:19 PM [view entry with 10 comments)]
December 17, 2009
Cheap materials

Sometimes I get so stuck on trying to do something well that I can't even get myself to begin. A few timid attempts result in the Inner Critic telling me I will fail, or be proclaimed a terrible fraud of a creative person, or any of the other clever and deadly things he taunts me with. But here is a good way to trick him into shutting up and getting out of the way while I create.

Use cheap materials. When I downgrade from fine drawing paper to copy paper, it's obvious to the Inner Critic that I am not doing anything important or worth criticising. If I draw with a gel pen or a Sharpie, I don't get nearly the same pokes as I do if I pick up a technical pen.

This won't work if I really do need to create something fine but 95% of the time I don't need permanence because I'm making a birthday gift or a sign or some silly whatever to amuse a friend. It is disposable creativity and so a Flair on notebook paper will work as well as a brush and canvas. Sure it won't last through the ages, but it doesn't need to.

The Inner Critic is so easy to fool sometimes.

Posted by kuri at 05:10 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
September 30, 2009
Exaggeration and Embellishment

What makes a costume different from street clothes? I've been exploring this idea for Spin Matsuri, where I will be leading a costume workshop. "Exaggeration and embellishment" is my answer to the question.

Garment shapes are exaggerated by making them more of what they'd normally be: wider collars, puffier sleeves, shorter skirts, longer gloves. Shapes can also be exaggerated by accenting the garment line through fabric choices and construction methods.

Color tends to be more saturated in costumes than in street clothes. If you want the audience to see pastel pink under bright lights, it can't be pastel, it has to be a true pink. In hooping, we often play in darker settings or in natural lighting conditions rather than theatrical stage lighting, so this is a consideration. Pale colors show up nicely against LED hoops and in the twilight. In the sunlit day, street colors are sufficient.

Embellishments are almost essential. Bigger is better and more is good. Costumes can drip embellishments in ways that would look weird on street clothes; multiple rows of sequins, braid, & ribbon suit a costume where one alone would be enough in ready-to-wear. Trims enhance shapes, too, giving definition to a cuff, bodice or leg. Size plays a part. A costume uniform will have gold braid much wider than any real life general's. Big spangles, huge rhinestones and oversize applique read well from the audience. Embellishment can also be done with unusual materials - paint, glitter, glue, markers, felt- to cover larger areas quickly.

My Spin Matsuri workshop focuses on simple, no-sew costumes using exaggeration and embellishment. I've figured out how to take a long sleeved t-shirt and with a few snips make a three piece costume set of skirt, crop top, and gauntlets. There are a few other designs to share, too. I have an abundance of glitter glue, markers, ribbons, scraps of fabric, odds and ends of trimming, plus spray paint and stencils ready to use. Get your imagination going while the hot melt heats up!

One thing I won't have much of at the workshop is time - it is sandwiched into an hour between dinner and the glow party on Saturday evening, so I wanted to share this bit costume philosophy now, while I have some time to think. Maybe I will be able to explain it more succinctly to the people who come in to make costumes that evening.

(After Spin Matsuri, I'll post my "one t-shirt, three piece costume set" tutorials.)

Posted by kuri at 07:26 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
July 24, 2009
Should I keep my creative bits & bobs?


The most difficult part of ruthless kipple pitching is deciding what to do with my creative output. I have stacks of drawings and suchlike stretching back over a decade. Part of me says "This is your precious personal history - you can't just throw it out." Another part of me says "Not all of this history is worth recording, so you should edit it down to a handful." The part holding the trash bag says "Argh, who cares? Just let it go. Remember it fondly later, if you can."

I want your advice. If these were your things, what would you do?

Sketchbooks - there are some drawings in them that are reasonably good, or at least remind me of what I was looking at or doing at the time. Lots of ideas for bigger projects end up in these books, too. But at least half of my average sketchbook is crap - warmup drawings, bored sketches done while waiting, testing out new materials, trying to improve a bad mood through art therapy. These pages have little to offer me now.

a) Keep all the sketchbooks as is - the context of the pages is important even when the drawings are not.
b) Slice out the interesting pages and file them in a new place; toss the remainder.
c) Pitch them all - you are not a real artist and this output isn't valuable to you or anyone else.

8mm films - I made these in a film class in 1996. I liked them then and the class informs my editing to this day, but haven't seen the films in a long time as I have no projector.

a) Keep them because you made them and the originals show your tape edits and lots of hidden detail.
b) Keep them for raw material - turn them into jewelry or another project.
c) Digitize them somehow, get them online, then toss the original films.
d) Pitch them all - they are uninteresting student films.

Print blocks & proof prints - I have several dozen of my old lino print blocks. They could be used again someday. Some of them are cute or clever; some not so great. Others were part of a show I did a long time ago. I also have proof prints (& some final prints) of them that remind me of my slow progress as a print-maker.

a) Box them all up and store them somewhere in case you want to print them again.
b) Test print all the blocks. Keep the decent ones; toss the rest along with the old proofs & prints
c) Pitch them all - they are just collecting dust and taking up space.

Travel journals & mementos - On our first long visit to Japan then again in Singapore, I kept visual diaries of our experiences. There are other journey-specific sketchbooks, the most recent being from Adelaide last summer. In addition, I have a few purchased or found mementos that I hang on to as travel souvenirs.

a) Keep the journals and the mementos because they bring refresh memories of your trips.
b) Release the mementos but keep the drawings and journals.
c) Pitch them all - keeping them is like showing your friends a vacation slideshow - boring.

I want to hear your suggestions and ideas. Do any of my solutions seem right? What would you do?

Posted by kuri at 10:52 AM [view entry with 6 comments)]
August 26, 2008
Non-Imaginary Necklace


Of the necklaces I've made for 365 Necklaces so far, I think this one has been the most fun. It was a request from my friend Moritz to do what I could with the mathematical imaginary unit, i. He made it easy by giving me his favorite equation for i (see caption above) and I turned it into a very not imaginary necklace.

I used a variety of encodings and color codings. The mathematical operators (= + ^ - * )are done in 7-bit ASCII binary in silver beads. The numbers and letters are also ASCII binary, but red. The two constants, e & pi are picked out in numeric form with silver beads for decimal points (and pi is a circle, of course). I hammered some silver parentheses for a change of pace.

There are still some openings for a free necklace of your own, so if you want one, please comment on the offering post before it is too late.

Posted by kuri at 03:23 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
August 20, 2008
36 Necklaces (for Free!)

Waiting to go on Etsy

I am falling far behind in the 365 Necklaces project. If I had followed my one-a-day plan faithfully from March 18th, I should have amassed over 150 necklaces by now. But as of today, I am up to 83.

I will blame the inconvenience of putting things up on Etsy. I love my Etsy shop, don't get me wrong, but it is very easy to procrastinate the product photography, descriptions, pricing, tagging, and the rest. The necklaces pile up and seem impossible to get online.

So I am going to bypass Etsy to try to increase the tally more quickly. Free necklace to the first 36 people who comment. You can even choose your message or mathematical constant and your preferred color (though what you get depends upon what beads I have in stock). In your comment, please include:

1. Message or Mathematical Constant (no more than 10 characters, please)
2. Desired color
3. E-mail (so I can get your physical mail address)

Everyone welcome, so come out of the wordwork lurkers and RSS readers. No strings attached (except for the cord on the necklace) but I've been socking away the profit from my Etsy sales for charity. If you'd like to donate, please feel free to pass me some money via PayPal that I will add to my kitty, or you can donate directly to a charity you care about.

Posted by kuri at 02:58 PM [view entry with 32 comments)]
July 13, 2007
Handmade Envelopes

Handmade envelopes

Swap-bot members run crafty swaps that encourage me to try new things. Today I made some envelopes from origami paper, tracing paper, and an old map. I'd never done that before, but it's easy and fun. I like these especially because they are pretty and practical, too.

To make your own envelope:

  1. Take an envelope you like, carefully rip it apart at the seams (or Google for "envelope template" for some that you can print out)
  2. Use the old envelope as a template on some fresh paper
  3. optional: Trace around the template
  4. Cut out the envelope shape following the template or tracing
  5. Fold up the new envelope
  6. Glue the side and bottom flaps together
  7. Decorate as desired

It really couldn't be easier and you end up with fun envelopes from your own stash of papers. It's not too late to join the Handmade Envelope swap if you want to give yourself an excuse to try making some.

Posted by kuri at 07:05 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
July 07, 2007
Destruction of History or Value-Add of Trash?

Collaged pages using antique documents

Yesterday, Greg & I explored his huge collection of ephemera and put together some collaged pages. We had an interesting discussion about whether it is OK to use old things and in the process of using them, destroy them or their context.

These pages I did are a good example. They include two old photos, a telephone line transfer form dated 1953, a 66 year old train ticket from Kyoto, and a tourist pamphlet from the seaside resorts of Chiba prefecture. Did I add value by turning them into something else? Or did I destroy a bit of a stranger's personal history (and thus a minuscule portion of the world's historical record)?

It was difficult to make those first cuts into the telephone form, even though Greg has a total of ten of them and they are obviously long-forgotten beuracracy. They were interesting to examine and to imagine what the process was like and why Tada-san sold his phone line way back when.

Now that form's been reduced to a series of slices - names, date-canceled duty stamps, name stamps - and worked into something that's vaguely artistic and divorced of its original context. Is it better off in a travel collage tucked into Greg's Moleskine and displayed online? It's different. Maybe not better. But maybe not worse, either.

Some collage people scan and reproduce their old documents. That's not a bad idea for really precious or personal things. But it's not quite adequate to print out a new copy of a scanned photo.

I loved working with the old paper yesterday. The texture of old stuff can't be reproduced very easily. The hard, curled-up edges of the 50 year old photos, the weight of the paper ticket, the bone-dry feeling of the form, acid-brittle newsprint of the tourist pamphlet. Those were exciting to manipulate. Now they are cut up and glued down, never again to be enjoyed whole, the way I did yesterday.

I feel a little sad for the objects I destroyed. But maybe I've extended their memory by incorporating them into something new. I don't know. What do you think?

Posted by kuri at 09:17 AM [view entry with 5 comments)]
April 24, 2007
Round Robin Journalling

Over on swap-bot, I joined a round robin journal swap. Each participant decorates a notebook and then pass it along to her partner who adds some pages and passes it along again. Each journal makes its way around the circle and after two or three months you get yours back with nine other people's art and entries.

I made a little hand-bound, linen covered journal that I sent to Belgium (but forgot to photograph). On Saturday, I received a painted & collaged sketchbook from Sweden. The Swedish journal had a theme of "seeking truth" so for my page, I drew this:


From the photographs of the other participants' journals I've seen so far, most people create multimedia collages. My pen and watercolor stuff seems flat in comparison but it's what I like to do. I'm a little anxious that simply drawing isn't satisfactory in this case. I've never gotten the hang of collage craft. Still, perhaps I should have sprinkled it with glitter or glued ribbon to the page.

Truth is: the more variety in these journals the better. I should be happy with my contribution and not worry if it's acceptable to others or not. But the truth is: I feel artistically inadequate.

Posted by kuri at 09:05 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
February 16, 2007
Mutual Admiration Societies

Last night, at Jim's exhibition opening, I realised how lucky I am to have surrounded myself with interesting, creative people who respect and admire one another. It's a remarkable feeling to be in a crowded bar and know that more than half the people there are friends whose work you know, whose pursuits you've been part of, who frequently influence your creativity, who can fascinate you with descriptions of their latest projects, and who are likely to ask you intelligent questions about your art or theirs.

Three cheers for mutual admiration societies!

Posted by kuri at 07:11 PM [view entry with 6 comments)]
February 02, 2007
Alternate Economies

creative perspectivesThis past week I've visited the post office three times. I mailed out four books, two letters and six envelopes of small miscellany. Every one of these shipments was prompted by the Internet.

Tod said to me, "Wouldn't it be funny if the Internet was what saved the post office?" From the blight caused by e-mail, he meant. People's creativity, and desire for slower, physical interaction (another nod to the slow life) seems to be doing just that.

It reminds me of a short story I read in 1999. Bruce Sterling's Maneki Neko describes an alternate, underground economy of gift giving that's run by a network of computers. Characters get phone calls and e-mails from the system telling them what to do, when and where. In return for their random acts (usually of kindness) they reap benefits of others' anonymous acts.

The networks I belong to are moderated by computers, but with a clearer cause and effect to the exchanges.

Last week's four books went out from Bookmooch requests. Bookmooch is a book trading service with about 8,000 active members and 200,000 books. You list your unwanted books and other people can request them. And of course, you can mooch other people's books. There's a point system to keep things fair. We've mailed out 23 books since September. Nine books have made their way to our house. Our Bookmooch inventory is here, in case you want to mooch from our list and send me to the post office again.

The rest of the mail out went because of Swap-bot. I got turned on to swaps last year when we did the Creative Perspectives CD swap. Swap-bot members are mainly crafters, so a lot of the swaps are for yarn or buttons or collage bits and some are "artist trading cards" or pen-pal style letters. Searching through the swap listings is great fun and there are always a few that tickle my creative fancy: handmade envelopes, matchbox and film canister fills, music mixes, recipes, handmade stuff...

In Sterling's story the government is much concerned with tax evasion from the gift economy. I wonder if the government will twig to these alternate physical economies and start taxing us for books we mooch, or boxes of tiny beads and buttons we exchange? There's talk about how to manage online game economies - the sale of avatars in Second Life, or gear auctioned off in World of Warcraft.

Posted by kuri at 06:05 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
January 19, 2007
Cennino's Apprentice

creative perspectivesThis week I apprenticed myself to an Italian painter. He's been dead for nearly 600 years.

Cennino Cennini wrote Il Libro dell'Arte about the techniques of the professional painting in the 14th century. It's been translated into English (several times) and is known as The Craftsman's Handbook. It covers topics from drawing to making castings. I am going to see if I can't learn to be a Renaissance artist by following his instructions.

There's a huge appeal in doing this. I feel my life is too digital and sometimes too ready-made. Working with 14th century materials is about as hands-on and basic as you can get. By the end of the project, I will have heaps of new knowledge (though how I will use my ability to mix cement for ceramics, I don't know). And along the way, I'll be creating all different kinds of things - from silverpoint drawings to paint brushes. It's also a fun puzzle to translate from 14th century Italy's culture, customs and materials into what's available in 21st century Japan. I've already hit snags and I'm not even past the first step.

I'm documenting all of this as I go along on a new mediatinker site called Cennino's Apprentice. You're invited to have a look and to comment if you wish.

Posted by kuri at 02:18 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
January 05, 2007
Light and Shadow

Glowing shadow

creative perspectivesAs the late afternoon sun streamed into my office at a steep angle, bringing my daily 30 minutes of winter warmth, I noticed a strange light flickering on my wall. The lenses of my glasses focused the sunbeams in the middle of my shadow.

I had to remove my specs and play a little bit. It was giggle-inducing fun to make the glowing eyes move around the wall.

Posted by kuri at 09:03 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
December 29, 2006
Creative Accomplishments

creative perspectivesIt's time to review the year's creative projects. I don't think 2006 has been very kind to me. I feel as though it was a year of failures and false starts, but when I look back on everything I've done, I am truly surprised at all I accomplished.

So your last Creative Perspective for 2006 is to get a perspective on what you've done. List out on paper (or in the comments, if you like) every creative thing you remember doing this year: poems written, sweaters knitted, songs remixed, landscapes painted, costumes sewn, pinecones crafted, recipes invented. Then give yourself a good pat on the back for a year well spent!

I do not mean to toot my own horn, but I want to be able to refer to this list when I'm feeling blah and boring and uninspired. So here is

Kristen's Creative Accomplishments 2006

Patterns drafted: Tasty the lobster, dead wolf prop, mock wrap skirt, festive skirt, tetrapockets, metal bird masks, Indian lanterns, 5-minute t-shirt jacket. Recipes invented: 22 originals presented on Recipe Thursdays; dozens more unpublished. Videos edited: UltraBob wedding videos (including Japanese Wedding Wranglers), Hello Tokyo 2006, Hotta Rakashi Museum loop, KC's wedding greeting, Collectik screencasts. Recordings made: 13 chapters read for LibriVox, 2 shows for Hanashi Station; Matsuri in Matsudai; Sado Fringe Drumming. Stuff drawn: countless maps; dot painting; South Stradbroke Island; Tower of London; Jama Masjid (Delhi); untold random scribbles and paintings. Items sewn, knitted, & crafted: 4 pairs of pants; 3 skirts, 1 hat, 1 table mat, 1 pillow cover, keitai cover, several necklaces. People encapuslated in 40 words: 273 and counting... Collaborations enjoyed: Scott de Vacherie; Hotta Rakashi Memorial Museum; Futari.

Posted by kuri at 01:31 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
December 22, 2006
Yes! And...

creative perspectivesThe other day I was listening to an interview with an author on NPR when a call-in comment made me stop and think. This caller, John from Chicago, explained the powerful creative tool he learned from doing improv comedy.

"Yes! And..."

Whoa. Two words that affirm and springboard to more ideas. How simple. I can see that these two words will create a spark in my creative projects - and in my business and personal life, too.

Let's all say it together (good and loud now):

"Yes! And..."

Posted by kuri at 07:31 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
December 08, 2006
Fun & Games

creative perspectivesLast night a large party of us were playing Catch Phrase, a game where you must beat the clock to describe a word or phrase without using the word itself. It's a fun game - for Americans. For non-native speakers, it's a little bit frustrating because it's full of American cultural references. Honestly, "tailgate party" is not a phrase you'll hear in the rest of the world. Our Australian friend (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) got stuck with that one. Here's what emerged:

"Someone is following me. I'm in a car and he's really close. He's following me. [pause] Someone is following close behind my car but it's ok...we're having fun. It's a good time!"

None of us guessed what it was, but when the answer was revealed we laughed hard and long. Tailgate party - of course! Such a creative explanation. Yay!

In another game I'm playing 40x365, I wrote today about someone whom I had almost entirely forgotten, but whose influence has certainly carried over into my adult life. I can so clearly remember Mary Alice's design studio - I loved examining all the stuff she had pinned up to her idea board, and the rows of yarn in all the colors and textures available to her. It was bright in her space and always interesting. Mary Alice herself was unflaggingly cheerful and enthusiastic, which I girlishly assumed was the result of getting to spend time in such a great room. Even now, I try to keep my room bright and full of inspiring things.

Posted by kuri at 04:00 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
October 27, 2006
Creative Playlist

creative perspectivesI'm not sure that I ever properly thanked everyone who did the Creative Perspectives mix trade with me a while back. I should shake your hands, all of you.

These CDs have become the soundtrack for my sewing projects and they work like you wouldn't believe. This week, I have churned out four pairs of pants, two skirts and a smock, developing two patterns, (publishing the better one earlier in the week) and modifying a commercial pattern as I uncovered its flaws.

When I cue up all the Creative Perspectives albums alphabetically by the giver's name, my playlist starts with Finally by the Frames (how I usually feel about screwing up the courage to cut into the fabric!) and ends with Carolyn's Fingers by the Cocteau Twins.

And there's not a single repeated song in the day's music. I love it!

Posted by kuri at 06:25 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
October 20, 2006
Material Choices

creative perspectivesDo you have trouble choosing materials for your projects? I do.

I can easily draft up the plans whether I'm doing a sewing project or some woodworking or jewelry or even a painting. And while planning, I get an idea for what I wood, metal or fabrics I want to use.

Then I go to the store and see everything that's available - all the possibilities I didn't even think about - and I get stuck wandering the aisles for hours, rethinking my plans. "Gee, if I did it with this fabric, I could use that scrap I have a home as a pocket." "What if I used a heavier guage copper, would I gain durability at the expense of flexibility?"

Or I realise that what I want doesn't exist. A couple of weeks ago I drew up plans for a small wooden shrine. The proportions are great and the size is just what I want. But the boards I spec'd are non-standard sizes, so the shrine is not yet built.

Today I went to Okadaya to get three meters of lightweight indigo linen and maybe one other fabric. It took me two hours and I ended up with my three meters of blue, plus 2.5 meters of novelty print cotton, 2.5 meters of brown cotton gauze and two meters of cotton plaid/stripe. I will sew them all up into skirts and pants this weekend, but that's not what I'd planned.

So when you go shopping for materials, do you have a firm idea, or do you change plans mid-stream?

Posted by kuri at 05:25 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
September 15, 2006
Early Influence

creative perspectivesMy mother sent me an interesting package a few days ago, crammed with schoolwork, report cards and childhood art. Of course I dropped my work to page through everything and I was interested to see something on my report cards that I had never noticed.

My best marks when I was very young were in Reading Aloud. Teachers commented on my performances and stories (a few of which were enclosed in the package).

Mrs. Walder, nursery school: "She...speaks well before the class."
Mrs Brinster, kindergarten: " completely at ease in performing before the class"
Miss Karatosis, 1st grade: "She is becoming quite a storywriter."

I think these small nods influenced me deeply. In sixth grade, I wrote the Christmas play and performed as MC for the spring school program. And my work now involves reading aloud, writing and performing. But I wonder if my weakest subjects, math & physical education, had been positively remarked upon in 1973, if I'd be more able and skilled in those areas as an adult?

Do you recall any positive youthful encouragement that still holds influence on your creativity? Do you give any to children in your life?

Posted by kuri at 11:52 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
September 08, 2006
5-minute t-shirt jacket

creative perspectivesEarlier this summer, there was a craze in the sewing/crafting world for "wardrobe refashioning," taking an item of ready-made clothing and turning it into something else. There were some really clever ideas (here are some photos) and I wanted to play, too.

Finally, today, I grabbed a t-shirt I never wear - it's a little too long and tight - and turned it into a jacket. Took me five minutes to get the shape right with a pair of pinking shears. Now it's a flutter-sleeved, cutaway jacket/overshirt nd I can tell I'll wear it often.

I liked the results enough to write up an illustrated guide to doing it yourself. Writing the instructions took 2 hours. So much for getting any other sewing done today... Now here's your challenge. Reinvent one of your own ill-fitting t-shirts. If you like what you refashion, tell us about it in the comments.

Click for larger image, or download a printable version: 5-minute t-shirt jacket (PDF 232K)


Posted by kuri at 05:48 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
September 01, 2006
Exterior Textures

creative perspectives

Walking through my neighborhood recently, I've been paying attention to all the new construction. Most of it is terribly disappointing - generic, cheaply made apartment blocks - but I'm interested in all the different exterior facings that are popular now and how thy compare to exterior surfaces from a decade ago and even older ones.

There's a lot of creativity in these. Sometimes they all look the same, but they aren't.

Plasti-brick panel siding.

The new stuff seems to be mainly sheet siding formed into brick and stone shapes. The seams are obvious cracks filled with a finger-width of putty and the bricks don't meet up at the seams. Dreadful. A decade ago, they were using flat brick-like tiles on the exteriors. Stucco remains popular for certain styles of housing. Real stone and brick are hard to find. Wood and tin are relegated mainly to the old and decrepit buildings of 20+ years ago.

I've begun to take photos of exterior surfaces and have started a Flickr set here: Exterior Textures. The first set of photos is from yesterday's trip to Kanagawa. I'll add more from my neighborhood and around Tokyo as I have time.

Taking photos of exteriors makes me dangerous to walk around with, as MJ can attest. As we walked through her neighborhood yesterday, I stopped at almost every building to snap a photo of the siding. Homeowners throughout Hiratsuka were undoubtedly reporting the suspicious behaviour of a foreign person.

Posted by kuri at 01:07 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
August 04, 2006
At the Library

creative perspectivesI took some of my own advice today. I changed locations to focus on my creative work. I walked over to the local library, and amidst some curious looks from the librarians and child patrons, plopped myself at the reference table and spent several quiet and productive hours poring over books and maps.

I am positive that if I'd tried to do the same amount of work at my office desk with its myriad distractions (all bundled into one tidy computer), I would have failed. But now I have a sense of having progressed on my latest idea, even though it is still in the early stages of planning and deciding. I'm excited about it and hope that in the coming weeks I'll be able to tell you more about what I hope to be doing over the winter months.

Posted by kuri at 06:25 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
July 28, 2006
Textures Underfoot

creative perspectivesWalking home from the Kudan Kaikan beer garden Wednesday night, I reached Iidabashi, about halfway, and decided to spare my left instep from the growing blister my sandal was rubbing into it. I took off my shoes and walked the rest of the way home barefoot, taking great pleasure in the textures underfoot.

First I walked along a brick-paved street. It felt smooth and slightly warm. I liked the way my feet pressed into the cracks between the bricks, as if they would like to imprint me. After that too short stretch, I trod temporary asphalt paving for a while. The prickly uneven holes between tarred pebbles nipped at my toes.

At the intersection on Andozaka, I stood on the dotted yellow edging. I expected the rubbery plastic bumps to be more raised. I bounced around on it a little bit, unsuccessfully trying to position my reflex points for a massage before the light changed. The next bit of sidewalk patchworked old and new construction efforts - more temporary asphalt, a few squares of non-slip concrete, a couple of smoother tarred-over asphalts stretches.

I was pleased to discover how fun it is to climb the 60 stairs in the shortcut to our street in bare feet. The smooth concrete and tile steps are easier to take without shoes. And the summit achieved, I walked heel-to-toe on the smooth heat-painted white border to avoid my street's scratchy paving. The polished granite lobby and carpeted hallways of my building were welcome relief from the more robust exterior textures.

Take off your shoes and walk around outside today. See what you feel. You might be surprised.

Posted by kuri at 07:50 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
July 21, 2006
Completed Jewelry Projects

creative perspectivesAh, it feels good to finish something. At the moment it seems like I have a lot of loose ends and unfinished projects. But I can reduce the count by three now.

I went through my jewelry project box a couple weeks ago and found a bunch of silver clay and other bits and bobs that I've been meaning to work on. I got down to business and made a trio of necklaces that you can see on Flickr. I like them, even though I realise I need to work on my wire techniques.

Aluminum Choker

Posted by kuri at 12:46 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
July 14, 2006
In a summer mood

creative perspectivesI woke this morning to an in-brain concert of Ella crooning "Too Darn Hot." At 7 am, it was 28.3 (about 83ºF) with a likely high of 34 (93ºF). The hot and humid summer is upon us and I'm not enjoying it. I'll spend the next three months waiting for things to cool off again.

Two mornings ago, I was trudging across town slowly working up a sticky sweat. My mood was turning sour as I turned pink. Then I thought about all my friends who just love summer. They crave the sun, the warmth, the freedom they feel in the hot weather. If they can love it, shouldn't I be able to, too?

So I tried it on. I love summer. I thought about all the nicest summer icons - watermelon, shaved ice, picnics, cold drinks, fireworks, seaside holidays, boating, bathing suits, well-muscled lifeguards.

And you know what? My mood changed. The weight of the sun beating down on my shoulders lifted a little. I felt more comfortable, cooler, happier. It didn't last too long, but I tried again later and sustained a happy mood a few minutes more. Exercising a change in perspective may be the way to make summer not only bearable but enjoyable.

I'm persuaded that seeing things from another point of view is an effective way to change your thoughts and mood. Next I'll try to apply this technique to my feelings about certain projects that have me frustrated and worn out.

Posted by kuri at 07:52 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
June 16, 2006
Alternate Seasons

creative perspectivesWith the summer solstice approaching and a series of comments on Dr. Dave's blog I've been thinking about seasons. Of course spring, summer, autumn and winter are rational and natural, but why not some other more personal seasons?

I made up a few of my own seasonal sets today. Two are on an annual rotation, the other describes a shorter and more irregular cycle. What seasons can you find in your life?

Creative Seasons

Garden Seasons
hopeful plans
freshly planted

Seasons of Feet
new blisters
soggy shoes
itchy toes
painted toenails
callous formation
extra socks

Posted by kuri at 07:26 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
June 02, 2006

creative perspectivesThis week I've been working on illustrations for two different projects. For one, I needed a model. I browsed my collection of photos looking for someone turned at the correct angle, smiling and looking at the camera. No such luck. So I picked up the camera, tilted, smiled and snapped.

Then I went to work in Photoshop, using the pen tool and many layers to create a block-print look face. I made a very simplified version (at right below), using the placement of my features and the general shape of my face, ignoring details and eliminating curves, wrinkles and my nose. It was pretty much the look I wanted to achieve, so I submitted it for comments to the Collectik crew.

And then I decided to try making a more realistic stylised version of me. I added the laugh lines and moles, followed the curve of my face more closely, and gave myself a nose and slightly more accurate eyes.

The reference photo; me, realistically stylised; the submitted face.

I truly enjoy abstracting the essence of something in to shapes and lines. Simpifying an object requires you to focus on positive and negative space, form, shadow. Which details tell the story? What can be discarded? Which lines must be 100% accurate? Which ones can be adjusted and how? Can or should you add details that aren't there?

It's especially interesting when you work with your face as the object. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day with the details I included or didn't...

Posted by kuri at 12:06 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
May 19, 2006
What do you see?

creative perspectivesWhen you look at a scene, an event or a person, what do you see? Where is your eye drawn? What runs through your mind - consciously or subconsciously? These are hard questions to answer, but I think they are important to improving your creativity. If you know what you naturally prefer, you can strengthen it, or choose to focus elsewhere for a break or a new perspective.

I've been studying my friends' photos and artworks lately to try to figure out what they see - their creative visions.

Jeremy sees light and shadows played on textured surfaces.

Jim finds old styles in modern places.

Lil sees humanity in the non-majority and the elegance of structure.

Julianne is attracted to color and form.

These are just some representatives of four large bodies of work. By looking more closely I'm uncovering (perceived) secrets of what makes them tick - and I'm starting to discover what I see - color, edges and relationships.

Posted by kuri at 03:37 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
April 28, 2006
Creative Filching

creative perspectivesHow do you feel about people using the creative output you share online?

I put a lot of materials online for people to use freely - patterns and tutorials. I don't mind, and really can't keep track of, people who borrow an image and use it on their site if they host it themselves.

I don't like it when strangers profit from my freely-given work by reselling it or when they hotlink my images. To me, both are forms of petty theft.

On March 18th, I discovered that one of the files on my server was being used extensively as a hotlinked background image on one of the free website hosts. So I replaced it with a placeholder - nothing as rude as bathtub girl or goatse, though it wasn't exactly polite. Original - Placeholder

This morning I woke up to this mail.

Listen up jerk!! Here is the deal - people put their pictures on line knowing that other people are going to come in and get copies of the pictures. And why you ask ( because you are obviously to stupid to figure it out on your own)? They do it for one of many, many reasons, like advertisement for their product on the page you bring up by clicking on the picture, or to sell me a product, or because they want you to take the picture, and that was the whole point, and they offer many more pictures on the page when you click on the picture, etc, etc, etc. But then there is the even worst of all, the idiots who put a picture up there so they can post their very, very, very, long and boring blog............So, guess what, if you don't want someone to have a copy of your picture, don't put it on line and shut your stupid A** H*** up!!

Well, what do you say to that? In the space of one ranting paragraph I've been labelled a jerk, an idiot, an asshole, and also boring and stupid (twice).

What kind of person writes a note like that in the wake of being told to stop stealing? A youthful American, I would guess. Who else has such violent , self-righteous anger?

So I replied. Politely.

Dear Colleen,

Thank you for expressing your opinion so clearly and strongly in your mail, but I beg to differ.

Regardless of what other people do, I do not put material online for unattributed use elsewhere. I am usually quite happy to allow others to borrow my pictures if they ask politely, and host them on their own server.

What irks me is when people hotlink my images. Perhaps you are unaware of what that means.

Hotlinking is when you put an img tag on your page that points to an image on my server. Doing that means that everyone who goes to your page hits my server first to collect the image. This uses the bandwidth that I pay for. While the image itself might not be so large, multiple hits add up quickly.

In this case, I presume you are complaining about my circles.jpg image which was being hotlinked by a large number of people as a background for their websites. I replaced that image with an alternate image on March 18th.

I appreciate your point of view on the matter of using other people's images, but do not agree. I hope you will respect my opinion and make some technological changes to your website or simply find someone with a more compatible philosophy who will not mind your hotlinking.



Wonder what I'll wake up to tomorrow? I sort of hope she sends me a link to her website so I can discover more of her sparkling personality.

Posted by kuri at 08:09 AM [view entry with 6 comments)]
April 07, 2006
Mixing it up

creative perspectivesI've been thinking a lot about mixtapes and mixCDs (and m3u playlists).

But I can hardly remember the last time I made a physical tape or CD with a narrative arc, a message, an ebb and flow of tempo and emotion. But I miss that, so here's a mix trade offer for Creative Perspectives readers:

I'll send you a CD of music that always puts me in a creative mood, if you'll send me a creative mix of your own. Leave a comment with your e-mail address before next Friday and I'll be in touch to trade mailng addresses and such.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about mixtapes or see what other people mix together, here are some resources:

Wikipedia article -
Tiny Mix Tapes' Automatic Mix Tape Generator -
Mixtapes at MusicWiki -

Posted by kuri at 01:29 PM [view entry with 7 comments)]
March 17, 2006
Using Up the Supplies

creative perspectivesOver at Simple Sparrow, a crafter's weblog I've just run across via Whip Up, I found a challenge I will take on.

Use What You Have Month
No new supplies in April.


I'm not, perhaps, as crazy about purchasing supplies as some people are, but even so, I've got a sizable stock of paint, papers, fabrics and other creative toys. And lately, I've had a craving to be crafty so I might just get some of these things used up next month!

It's hugely fun to improvise when you don't have just the right thing. What's close enough? How can you modify what you already have? I'll bet you can find all sorts of ways to use the remainders and oddments you have sitting around or maybe, like me, you have some completely new, untouched supplies to work with.

There's even a Flickr group for people to post photos of what they've been making with their stash of old stuff: usewhatyouhave. So go ahead and join in, and make some space for new stuff later this year.

Posted by kuri at 02:47 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
March 10, 2006
When words collide

creative perspectivesSometimes I reel at my own denseness when a twist of perspective opens my eyes to the obvious.

Tonight in the conbini, we were picking up some odds and ends to snack on and I saw a lovely can of chu-hi, - flavored soda with alcohol - with a beautiful style that evokes pre-war Japan. The color combination, typface and textured can drew my eye. And then I read the label:

Takara Shochu Highball Dry

Shochu Highball? Shochu Highball? Chu-hi?

Argh! I know that Japanese is full of portmanteau words. Why did the origins of this one never occur to me? Perhaps too much consumption and too little consideration.

Can of revelation. Tasty, too.

Posted by kuri at 09:14 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
March 03, 2006
The Harder Path

creative perspectivesI read this quoted on my colleague Chris's weblog, and was struck by its simple insight.

This is from Paul Graham's How to Make Wealth but I think it applies equally to creativity as to commerce.

If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you're trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you're even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what's the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it.

When you have a choice between two creative ideas or two ways to implement an idea, isn't it more fulfilling to do the harder one? I get such a sense of accomplishment from hard work. But sometimes I forget that and this reminder is a good kick in the pants to go do the multi-page mapping project I've been putting off for weeks.

Posted by kuri at 09:17 PM [view entry with 5 comments)]
February 17, 2006
Blind Spot in the Window

creative perspectivesMy sister told me about the Johari Window yesterday. I thought I'd share it with you so you can try it. This is a 1950's pyschology tool that gives a glimpse into how everyone's perspective is different.

From a list of 55 adjectives, you select half a dozen that you believe describe yourself. Then you ask others to think about you and select the ones they think fit best. By reviewing the answers, you can see how others perceive you, where your idea of yourself overlaps with others' knowledge of you, and where it doesn't.

There is also the other side of the coin in the Nohari Window. It lists negative adjective with the same instructions to choose 6 you feel apply to you, then get friends and acquaintances to select the ones they believe describe your bad aspects.

Of course someone set up an online version , the Interactive Johari Window. And I played with it yesterday. You're welcome to look at my Johari and my Nohari windows. I invite you to add your own set of adjectives to my results if you like. The more people who add their ideas about me, the more I can see how far off my self-perception is.

Should you choose to give it a spin, and I know you, I'll add another datapoint to your window.

Posted by kuri at 08:14 AM [view entry with 5 comments)]
February 03, 2006
Power of a New Pen

creative perspectivesLast week I found myself in a favorite art supply store to buy some new technical pens. I've worn mine out with all the drawing and travel (pens do not survive many air trips before they get all splurty or dried up).

In the section of disposable technical pens, I found a brush pen with the same ink as my favorite pens. So I bought one to try.

And what a change it brought to my drawings. For the surprises I find myself putting on paper (I won't call them mistakes) make me feel more like I'm painting than penning. The variation of thickness and thinness (not always intentional) is great fun and has led to interesting and lively drawings.

Here's one that made me realise that the pen is influencing my drawing style:


Posted by kuri at 09:55 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
January 27, 2006
40 x 365

creative perspectivesMy friend, Dan, one of the most exuberant and creative people I know, has just celebrated his 40th birthday. To mark this milestone, he launched a new project: 40x365.

Every day for the next year, he will publish 40 words about someone that he knows. "But not just anyone, it's got to be someone I've actually met in person, someone whose name I still remember, and someone who was interesting." He suggests that we all try to list 365 people from our own lives. Good idea.

My list came pouring out up to about 100 people, then I faltered, flailing like I do when I am in a bookstore ("What was the name of that author? There was that book, I read that review..."), but promised I'd pick it back up in a day or two, and haven't yet. I still have a few months before my own 40th birthday, so there's time. I won't wait too long. 365 is a lot of people, even when you travel and live in a place where interesting people come and go all the time.

The handful of Dan's vingettes that are already online are little gems. I particularly like this one:

Betsy said, the day we met, she hated the fact that every boy she introduced to her roommate ended up falling for her roommate. I was so swept away by Betsy I promised I'd be the exception. I was wrong.


Posted by kuri at 06:58 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
January 20, 2006
Color shifting

creative perspectivesAs I mentioned last week, I'm about to start redecorating the house a little bit. This week I moved all of the art on the walls through out the house to our little toilet room. It's surprisingly nice to have it crowded there, but the rest of the walls look so bare. I will start on new things for those walls soon.

While looking at sofas and thinking about new decorations, I'm seeing a shift in my color preferences. We've lived with a black leather sofa and greenish rug for the last 8 years, but I keep thinking "dark brown leather might be a nice change, and maybe a copper-colored rug"

So it occurs to me I might be starting a Brown Period. My two coffee cups, for many years a series of green ones (Tod drinks from blue ones), have been replaced with mismatched brown ones. Over the holiday, I dyed my hair dark brown. I considered and tried out changing the colors on mediatinker from purples to browns, but haven't yet found quite the right combination. I notice myself drifting towards browns in clothing, too. at least while window-shopping.

I'm not sure if this is only a fad of mine or if I am really developing a preference for brown over black , green and violet. I hope I figure it out before I commit to a sofa color.

Posted by kuri at 06:44 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
January 13, 2006
Changing all the art

creative perspectivesWe've renewed our lease for another two years, so it's time to make some changes around the house. Because the sofa is slowly disintegrating, I need to either reupholster it, or buy a new couch, which means I can think of redecorating the living room.

One small thing that will make a big difference in the room is changing the art. There's not a lot hanging on the walls, and even fewer objet on shelves, but what we have is so familiar that it's easy to ignore it.

I think I'll replace the two small ink drawings in the living room with one quite large piece--maybe something I paint myself. Also I've been playing with sheet metal this week and I see possibilities for a sculptural lamp made from the scraps of my current project.

And moving around some of the other photos and prints scattered around the other rooms should give the whole apartment a bit of a lift. Fun!

This project gives me a double creative dose. Not only to I get to design the new look of my interior, but I will be making the works I want. Maybe you can redecorate one of your rooms with some of your artistic endeavors and we can share before/after photos?

Posted by kuri at 03:29 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
December 16, 2005
Mapping (III)

creative perspectivesI'm going to close out Creative Perspectives for 2005 with another example of mapping. This time, I've mapped each month's key event--whether it was very good or very bad. There are five bad months and seven good ones. It's a very personal event calendar.

2005 - good and bad. Click for larger view

I tried to abstract the most important thing that happened in each month. Some worked beautifully and turned into lovely little geometric designs or flowing shapes.

On the other hand, a few of these are more concrete than I'd like. July was my trip to Beijing. See? There's Tian An Men, hidden by the red chaos of China. For December, I drew a gallah feather, a gum tree leaf, and one dot for each of the places we'll be visiting in Australia. I should rework both of these without the obvious symbols.

And some are just poorly done. In particular, May was our Golden Week camping trip to Niijima, but I choked for ideas and ended up with little symbols about nature. They aren't even interesting. Definitely need to think harder on that one.

As it turns out, the bad months were much more successful as abstractions than the good months. The good months were mostly about travel and places; the bad months were people problems. I find it easier to abstract emotions than places, I guess.

If you were going to draw out a map of your year, how would you do it?

I wish you very happy holidays and a fresh and insightful new year!

Posted by kuri at 12:00 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
December 09, 2005
Mapping (II)

creative perspectivesA lot of my maps are abstractions of my emotions. What is the state of my heart? My mental state? How am I being influenced by things I think or see or hear or do? It's cathartic and sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it. Idle doodles become outpourings.

Because I am afraid most people aren't going to understand these very personal maps, I don't often display them. But I reluctantly showed my sketchbook to a friend earlier this year with surprising results. He is extremely perceptive and gave me spot-on interpretations, revealing things to me that I hadn't considered. I think he knows me better than myself, in some ways.

Here is an example I will share that is very map-like. I even let my super-ego label it for the benefit of viewers. It summarises and lays bare a lot of emotions and things I've been feeling this year. There's a great deal unsaid, too.

2005 Heart Map click to enlarge

Feel free to interpret in the comments. Just don't suggest therapy or a regimen of drugs, please.

As a creative exercise, can you map out your year in some way?

Posted by kuri at 01:01 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
December 02, 2005
Mapping (I)

creative perspectivesFor most of this year, I have been playing with map-making.

Some of my maps combine time and space: the last day of the trip to NYC, my trip from Tokyo to Pittsburgh to Paris and back. Some show the tasks I've laid before me. Others lay out the sounds of the space I'm in. I even mapped a really bad sunburn I got over the summer.

For a while I didn't think of these drawings as maps. They were just things I was thinking about and putting onto paper. But in August I picked up Katharine Harmon's You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination and realised that I had been drawing maps for months. The book is filled with clever, intricate, weird, and classic maps that make me feel connected to a long history of map-making.

Now I make a point to draw maps of whatever takes my fancy. Just like I was doing before, only now they have a label.

If you have a gap in your Christmas list, I can recommend You Are Here as an interesting filler that will give you many hours or enjoyable reading and study.

Posted by kuri at 10:48 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
November 25, 2005

creative perspectivesThe other night I had a dream about a friend blowing soap bubbles for me as I delightedly chased them around a grassy lawn. The bubbles started out small and numerous but he combined them into bigger and bigger bubbles. I caught a silvery-grey one nearly as tall as me and balanced it on my head. It was viscous and slightly rubbery but delicate and thin and it eventually burst all over me. I woke up then, but I was happy.

Dream bubbles

Today in real life I burst another kind of bubble and I must say I'm feeling happier. I've been keeping a secret from one of my best friends for nearly two years but this afternoon I told her everything. Now my good friend is able to put my odd moods and bizarre behaviours into context. I'm not a total nutter, at least not in the way she imagined.

So it seems that dreams can be not only creative springboards, but springboards for finding real-life actions that express the dreams. Although the dream friend who blew the bubbles that delighted me and the real friend who asked me to keep the secret are not the same person, I can see how bubbles (of delight or deceit) that start small can grow into something huge. But they never last.

I don't know if telling my secret will change my creativity. I feel unburdened, but to be honest, I'm a little worried that my self-restraint was partly fuelling my abstract drawings. Without the stress of keeping silent, will I lose my ablity to create as I have been?

Posted by kuri at 10:57 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
November 18, 2005
Come sketchcrawl

creative perspectivesGather up your sketchbooks and drawing materials tonight and get ready to come out into tomorrow's sunny, brisk weather to draw!

When: noon - 3
Where: Kinokuniya bookstore, Shinjuku (at Takashimaya Times Square)

My tentative plan is to plop down in the Kinokuniya plaza and draw the grey granite and shoppers, then pack up, grab a coffee, and move towards Kabukicho for some frantic color and bustle, and make one last stop in the greener pastures of Shinjuku Gyoen. If you turn up and have a better idea, then our destinations may change.

See you there?

Posted by kuri at 04:33 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
November 11, 2005
Sketchcrawl - Sat Nov 19

creative perspectivesBorrowing an idea from Danny Gregory at Everyday Matters, I'm planning a sketchcrawl in Tokyo. Come draw in the field and meet other people who like to do the same.

Let's meet on Saturday, November 19th at noon at Kinokuniya Bookstore (out side the ground floor entrance) in Shinjuku.

We'll wander around Shinjuku, get in the way of holiday shoppers, and spend 45 minutes or so at three or four locations to draw what's around us. If the weather is too cold, we'll move indoors--goodness knows there are lots of places to get a coffee in Shinjuku--and sketch what we see out the windows.

A recent outdoor drawing

The sketchcrawl is open to everyone. No experience required.

As Danny said in his invitation to his sketchcrawl in NYC, "I would urge you to bring something to draw on and with and a little folding money to purchase hot libations along the way." Good advice!

Hope to see you next Saturday. Feel free to e-mail me if you have questions or want more information.

Posted by kuri at 08:33 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
November 03, 2005
Doing with Dreams

creative perspectivesWhat do you do with your dreams?

I sometimes have dreams with good storylines. They could be expanded into a short story--sometimes they even feel like a film. But usually I forget them upon waking. And when I do recall them, I don't usually act upon them.

My sister keeps a dream journal. Other friends do as well. But what do they do with their dreams after they write them down? Is the writing an exercise in emptying the brain? Or does it somehow cement the ideas and allow the creative artist to use them?

Here's a dream I had this week. What could I do with this?

A secret band of people were poisoning doctors and teachers (and others) with gas emitted from clock-radios. The gas worked very strangely: if you breathed fresh air, it worked faster; if you stayed in a sealed room with the gas it killed you more slowly. If you only breathed a tiny, tiny bit, then escaped into the fresh air you might survive, but since the gas was odorless, that didn't usually happen. So you had to decide what to do - stay in and die or go out and die.

When I discovered I was in a poisoned room, I held my breath and started collecting things to take outside with me--I remember grabbing the Zous to keep them safe.

There was an antidote, but since the killers were targetting doctors, nobody knew how to administer it.

I suppose I could start that secret band of poisoners. It was highly effective.

Posted by kuri at 12:12 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
October 28, 2005
Altered States

creative perspectivesIs your creativity enhanced, influenced or improved by drugs or alcohol? Certainly in the history of creative geniuses, there are many tales of drunken brilliance and drug-induced visionary work.

Maybe in some cases, chemicals bring creativity. But how many of us try to induce a creative frame of mind with a little wine (or more than a little) and the drug of the week? Pleasant as it may be, it doesn'tbring on the super-genius that we dream of.

Personally, I find I get too absorbed in my altered-state plans and ideas to record them, then inevitably I fall asleep and when I wake up, the great light of creativity has been snuffed by a headache and fuzzy teeth.

Better for me to create with a clear head and my own, unaltered, vision.

Posted by kuri at 10:22 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
October 21, 2005
Dominant sense

creative perspectivesYou may have noticed that lots of the Creative Perspectives articles deal with one or more of the five senses. They are, after all, where we get the foundation for many of our ideas.

But have you ever considered which one is your dominant sense? We all are aware of our dominant hand, the one we write with; or our dominant eye, the one we use if we look through a telescope or camera viewfinder. But do you know that you probably have a dominant sense, too?

If you're not sure, think about these questions.

  • When you think back on a dinner party do you remember the way the food tasted, or do you replay the conversations, or do you picture the table settings in your mind's eye?
  • What most attracts you to your partner(s) - the texture of her hair, the smell of his skin, the color of her eyes, or the sound of his voice?
  • Would you prefer to wear something that had a wonderful texture or something that looked great in the mirror?
  • When you visit a garden, would you rather touch the plants, smell them, taste them, or look at them?

There are likely a thousand questions to draw out the answer, but I'm sure you get the idea so I will cut the list short. (Feel free to add some questions in the comments if you think of good or interesting ones)

Even through self-examination, it's not always easy to tell what your dominant sense is. If questioning doesn't get you anywhere, sometimes it will reveal itself in the sort of creative projects you take on. A creative cook is likely to have dominant taste and smell; a pen and ink artist is visual; a weaver is probably grooving on touch.

This can be a strength you play up. Or you can turn yourself around and try a new perspective by engaging your non-dominant senses. Visual creatives can try knitting, or people with hearing as a dominant sense might try to paint a watercolor.

Next time you're looking for a twist on your work, try letting your non-dominant senses take over for a while.

Posted by kuri at 10:20 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
September 16, 2005
Creative Languages

creative perspectivesA conversation with a trilingual friend at dinner last night got me thinking about non-verbal languages.

She told me the story of how her grandmother would watch Japanese TV dramas with her every week, and each week at 8:40 when the director pointed out very clearly who the bad guy was, she would turn and say to her granddaughter, "Look, see, there. It's him! He's the bad one." Of course, the younger generation had already figured that out from more subtle clues. She had been immersed in the visual language of film since childhood.

Though grammar of film was once the province of an elite set of filmmakers and television producers, these days it's cheap and easy to make your own films with digital video cameras and computer editing. So film is being "spoken" by regular people rather than just watched. It's becoming more common.

In fact, kids are learning to speak it school when they make documentary and storytelling videos as class projects. And they learn by imitation, too. A group of 5th graders in Minnesota did this interpretation of DEVO's Whip It video.

A form of communication I have missed out on is the video game interface. Though interfaces are not a grammatical language per se, the skills a gamer exhibits - ability to quickly parse a visual field for information on ammo, maps, lives remaining, etc-- are changing the way people communicate. There is an entirely new vocabulary in film these days--variable-speed pans and montages, for instance, that convey movement thorugh time and space in a way that is novel.

All of this leads to the inevitable question: what language signal will I need to have pointed out to me in the most obvious and simplest way when I am 80? What creative visual or aural (or scent!) languages are developing now that will change the way a younger generation thinks and communicates?

Posted by kuri at 09:01 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
September 09, 2005

creative perspectivesI'm doing an art project now that I keep putting off. I really want to work on it, but it's causing some controversy here in the McQuillin household. So rather than upset my mate or work out a reasonable compromise or really explain what I'm doing so he's not freaked out, I avoid making much progress. I do a little, get oddly paralysed and stop.

Which sounds pretty rotten until I realise that I've gotten busy on a number of other projects instead. Today I made a headpiece for tomorrow's boating party. Yesterday I finished up my podcast for Hanashi Station. The day before that, I used the last page of my old notebook and went out and bought a new one. I've been organizing upcoming travel, too, which takes so much more time than it should, really.

So the delay in getting this difficult project off the ground isn't completely bad, but I realise I need to address what's stopping me from working on it. Is it really as bad an idea as Tod thinks, or am I just concerned for his feelings?

How do you fill the time when your projects don't run as smoothly as you'd like?

Posted by kuri at 06:54 PM [view entry with 8 comments)]
September 02, 2005
Personal Days

creative perspectivesIt's time to rethink the holidays. Many of use simply follow along with the nationals and relgious holidays that are presented to us without thinking too much about them. But I suspect that there are more significant holidays for each of us.

For example, my wedding anniversary has more signifigance to me than Easter; I always celebrate the solstices and the equinoxes. But those are the obvious ones.

What about other less well-known occasions? Maybe I should celebrate the invention of the pencil or the Internet. Or Lewis Carroll's birthday. I think I must declare a day to commemorate coffee. Can you imagine what fun we'll have on Cupcake Day?

So this week, make a list of the offbeat and the significant holidays in your life. Then mark them down on your calendar and find ways to celebrate. What's your first new holiday?

Posted by kuri at 04:45 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
August 19, 2005
Perfect Space

creative perspectivesHave you ever imagined your perfect personal space? Mine is a large room, well shaded and insulated from the outdoors, but with a wide wall of windows onto a sunny veranda and garden with a fountain. Inside, there is a fireplace for chilly nights, a wall of books, a big table for working on and plenty of storage for supplies and tools. Need I mention the comfy chairs for relaxing and a spacious kitchen for cooking?

I guess that's quite a lot for a room to accomplish, but in my mind's eye, it is the perfect place for me. Relaxing, well-appointed and comfortable in all seasons.

I wonder if I'd be more creative there, or less? I think that maybe a bit of adversity improves my focus and drive to be creative.

Posted by kuri at 10:59 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
August 05, 2005
Book inspirations

creative perspectivesI'm a little tired of my drawings. It's not the drawing process itself, but the way the pictures are turning out. Some days it's hard to get into the right frame of mind and as you have seen, they sometimes end up not well-observed or well-executed.

So to find a bit of outside inspiration, and maybe a few new ideas, I stopped into a Bargain Books yesterday. These are the bookstores that take over a vacated shop in a stripmall and fill the place with folding tables full of paperback overruns and out-of-date travel guides. They always have a big selection of large-format paperback cookbooks and crafting guides. And plenty of books on art.

I browsed through some of the "Best of Art" titles: Picasso, Degas, Monet, Calder. Studying those familiar images was helpful, but I realised that I'm not likely to imitate any of their styles. It may be sincere flattery, but I am not interested in copying. So I tucked into a few art instruction books until I found one that wasn't too annoying and put it in the basket.

Though there's nothing new to me in The Sketching and Drawing Bible, it's good to have some reminders of techniques I don't normally use. When's the last time I did a scratchboard? I don't have what I need to do one right now, but with the materials I have in my travel bag, I could try more crosshatching or a different blending technique.

Glad I stopped into that cheesey bookstore. I feel possibilities opening up.

Posted by kuri at 11:58 PM [view entry with 5 comments)]
July 29, 2005
Stress and senses

creative perspectivesHave you ever wanted to turn on your creativity, but for some reason just can't seem to settle into it? Maybe you're stressed.

"Nah, I'm not stressed. Everything's fine," you say to yourself. "Work's going well, the bills are paid, and the kids are healthy. I don't feel stressed at all. I just can't draw/compose/play/sculpt/write today for some reason."

But maybe it's a different kind of pressure than what we usually consider stressors. I discovered not too long ago that I respond badly to visual stress. When my desk isn't neatly organized--if it's covered with flotsam from other projects or if the wind has scattered my notes across the room--I can't focus on anything completely until things within view are put away, straightened up or tidied.

Some people have aural stress. Noises distract them. A TV in another room, traffic on the street, or something as simple as the wrong music will push them into a state of mind that makes it difficult to think.

Still others get discombobulated by smells, textures, or tastes. I'm sure you can think of a time when a scratchy clothing tag drove you batty until you cut it off, or when the lingering flavor of onions from lunchtime subtly irked you until you brushed your teeth.

So next time you're having trouble getting started or staying in the creative groove, inventory your environment through your five senses. You might find a surprise stressor that you can attend to and then get back to creating.

Posted by kuri at 08:29 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
July 22, 2005
Drawing Sounds

creative perspectivesWhen you're sitting down to draw, do you pay attention to things other than the visual information in front of you? One morning at camp I listened carefully to my surroundings, put myself in the center of my paper and drew the noises all around me.

a page from my sketchbook

It was an ear-opening experience to translate sounds to the page and the more I listened, the more detail I heard. I wished I'd had a larger sheet of paper and some colored pencils!

Posted by kuri at 09:54 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
July 15, 2005
Pencils or pixels?

creative perspectivesThis past week in China I experienced many exotic and fascinating places. I drew some, photographed a few (on b/w film with a camera older than me, thanks to Jim). I looked. I listened. I leapt into the unknown and the creative.

But was it enough? It was extremely satisfying and I've returned with a head and heart full of unforgetable moments, scenes glimpsed, and people remembered. I have stories to tell and images to upload, but does it satisfy my lifelong goal of sharing my experiences so fully that someone else understands them?

As I prepare for my next trip and the ones after that, I am in a quandary.

Should I continue to draw my way around the world, making amateurish pictures on paper that engage me mentally and physically but might not convey much about the real experience to the viewer? Or should I bring along the gadgets necessary to record the experiences digitally?

The trouble is that with each device I carry, I put myself at risk of living the moment only through that device. Turn on the audio recording gear and I forget to look at things. Flip open the viewfinder of the video camera and the scents of the place disappear as I look for an engaging motion and sound.

I worry, too, that gear will bewitch me and I'll stop drawing. I don't seem to be able to switch between them very easily. After using the film camera for the first couple of busy days in Hunan province, it was difficult to relax into the slower pace of sketching. Drawing requires me to be in one place for more than 30 seconds.

There are situations when it is simply not possible to draw at length. Is it prudent then to take a pass on capturing those moments at all? Or is it better to turn to technology and risk losing the joy of drawing?

I have a couple of weeks to decide. In the meantime, I am checking out the specs and prices on some tiny easy-to-pack DV cameras, just in case.

Posted by kuri at 02:17 PM [view entry with 6 comments)]
July 08, 2005
Light Therapy

creative perspectivesWe've reached the zenith of long days and now we move into a slow shortening of daily light as Earth makes her way around the sun. For most of us, that means lingering summer evenings and a billiant noon light. Have you noticed?

If you haven't given thought to the sun and its light, get yourself outside this week.
Looking through the window isn't the same as being out in the world, so be sure to get outdoors for this experiment. Take a camera, or a paintbox or your journal and find a way to capture the experiences.

Take an early morning walk--jut after sunrise while the day is still a little bit cool. What color is the world in the morning?

Then go out at lunchtime and have a little picnic in the sunshine. Note the angle of light, the shadows, the color of the light, and its heat.

About an hour before sunset, go out again. The world mellows as the light turns goldy-pink and shadows lengthen. If you can stay to watch the sunset and twilight, you'll be well rewarded with gorgeous lightscapes as lights blink on and the world goes from natural to artificial light.

Posted by kuri at 12:12 PM [view entry with 5 comments)]
July 01, 2005

creative perspectivesI'm about to embark on a creative project I have dreamed about for years. I'm going to go draw, sketch, paint and collage in cities worldwide--and rural areas, too. The next six months are devoted to travelling and creating.

I realised recently that there is nothing to stop me from doing this. I can budget my savings to cover the costs. My infrequent work as a freelance video editor, writer, and web monkey is not as valuable to me as testing my creative potential.

Perhaps I will get tired of being creative after six months of focus. If that's the case, then I can go get a job in an office and earn a lot of money doing something dull. But I doubt it; this is an adventure with hurdles, challenges and unforeseen excitement. How can I possible get bored?

If you happen to be in Beijing, Chicago, Nagoya, Delhi, Agra, Pittsburgh, Paris, Shanghai, Adelaide, Uluru, or Brisbane, and see a the woman with a sketchbook sitting in the shade, it might just be me.

Stay tuned for "where to buy a pencil sharpener in Beijing" and "fifteen ways to draw a crosswalk"

Posted by kuri at 08:06 AM [view entry with 7 comments)]
June 24, 2005

creative perspectives"Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is lifes undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind us much debris of cast-off and everyday clothing."

--Harriet Beecher Stowe

Oakland, NJ -- home from 1969-1975.

In Oakland, I ran around in the wooded lot behind the house where the neighbor boys had carved out bike trails. I walked to school and picked fallen apples from the trees in front of the house. I played for hours in the glassed-in front porch with our collection of Fisher-Price toys. This is the house where I lost my front tooth and cooked my first meal.

Valley of Lake, PA -- home from 1976-1984.

In the Valley I wandered the woods, carving my own trails. Mom drove me to school but I learned more by reading books in the library and playing with my toys--tools, science gear, and art supplies. This is the house where I had my first period and baked countless desserts.

The places that we live shape us. I am connected to nature because of the trees, stones, hills and gardens of my homes. I recall many details of each house--the distinctive smells of the rooms, the smooth surface of the porcelain fixtures, the color of sunlight filtering through the windows. All of these memories come through in the things I create now.

Home is not only where the heart is, but where the subconcious goes for ideas.

Where did you grow up and how does it shape your creativity?

Posted by kuri at 10:42 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
June 17, 2005

creative perspectivesYou probably know about CafePress, the online shop where you can sell your own custom t-shirts, mugs & other stuff.

Do you know abotu Lulu? Lulu is an on-demand book publishing service. What a cool thing! You upload your content and with a few additional steps (choosing cover artwork, setting a price, and so on) you have a ready-to-sell book. It doesn't cost you anything.

Lulu does more than books. You can publish and sell your music, photography or art through Lulu as well.

This seems like a god-send for us independent creative types. Who's going to be the first Creative Perspectives reader to publish through Lulu? And what are you going to publish?

Posted by kuri at 06:10 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
June 10, 2005
Value of Fun

creative perspectivesI am well motivated by pleasure and fun. Money is useful but I'd rather be underpaid to work with people I like than to be overpaid to work on a project with a bad team.

Two days ago, I jumped into the end stages of a web development project. My role is minor (porting content from the old site to the new) and fair drugery, but I'm enjoying it tremendously.

It's all because of the guys I'm working with. Jeremy Bogan and Daniel Bogan, at Segment Publishing in Sydney are fun, smart, and smell like elderberries. I may never meet them in person but we get along famously through intstant messaging. We've joked and teased, while excavating a mountain of tasks quickly and efficiently.

My very favorite jobs have been with good teams. The Multimedia Development Center crew at Duquesne in 1997 was a dream--everyone was intelligent, capable, willing to share knowledge and able to be silly while working hard. It was a highly creative environment. We've all gone our separate ways, but we keep in touch and I think all of us would choose to work together again if we could.

The MediaSense team here in Tokyo is another group of hard-working, hysterically funny people; I always free up my calendar when they call me for a last-minute job. We make videos for a corporate client and even though it's always "the same thing as last time, but different" we manage to be creative within those limitations.

So for me, even toil becomes creative play when I like my collaborators.

Posted by kuri at 11:48 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
June 04, 2005
Color theories

creative perspectivesA couple of weeks ago, Tracey was asking me why some colors look better on people that other colors. "Maybe you can explain it on Creative Perspectives," she suggested. Well, that's a tall order--books have been written about color theory & professionals charge an arm and a leg to give you a personal color session.

But it's possible to explain the basics in short order. In fact, I had fun yesterday playing with a personal color palette.

My personal color palette

First I took a close-up photo of myself in daylight. I brought into Photoshop and sampled the color my skin, eyes, hair and the red of my lips (which should be about the same color as when I blush).

From there I played with a nifty color tool Color Coordinator which allowed me to enter a color value (which I noted from my photoshop sampling) and view monochrome values (the first two columns above), alternate complements (120 & -120), complementary (180), and one of the tetradic colors (90) on the color wheel. I adjusted brightness in horizontal bands and saturation in vertical bands to give a wider range of examples for each color.

And it turns out that some of these colors are already in my wardrobe. I noted the general colors of my current wardrobe in dots along the side. I'm not doing too badly, though I suppose I need more blue in my life.

Posted by kuri at 12:26 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
May 27, 2005
Call to Podcast

creative perspectivesRemember the college radio station you listened to late at night? It was an odd mix of musical styles, on-air personalities and funny PSAs...and if you were more than 500 meters from the broadcast tower, you couldn't listen in.

A new project--an online radio station--is taking off and you are invited to play. Hanashi Station seeks people to produce their own online radio programs (podcasts).

Podcasts are downloadable MP3s that you can listen to on your computer or your MP3 player (named after iPods, podcasts actually have nothing to do with Apple or iPod).

Hanashi Station is scheduling 10-15 minute programs to air July through December. Have you ever wanted to have your own show? This is your chance.

Content must be related to Japan, but pretty much any format goes: talk, interviews, readings, environmental sounds, field reportage, news, rights-cleared music. Producers don't have to live in Japan to particiapte; from anywhere in the world you can do a program about any Japanese topic: anime, haiku, gardening, translation, or whatever you like.


And it's all my idea. Over the last few months some friends have talked about doing podcasting, but nobody has enough time to do anything regularly. MJ, Jim, Tod & I combined forced to put this together.

Hanashi Station will run a six-month trial, with shows going out from July through December. The first announcement yesterday nearly filled up the starting slots, so it looks like there will be more show times added to the schedule.

If you want to podcast at Hanashi Station, please e-mail www at

Posted by kuri at 09:23 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
May 20, 2005
Creative Achievement

creative perspectivesWhen I was about 14, I won a prize for a drawing in a coloring book contest. My picture was not a masterwork but it was in perfect coloring book style--big, simple shapes that reproduced well as outlines to be colored in my little kids. I knew what the contest needed and I aimed for that. I think the subject of my drawing was villagers with pitchforks chasing a dragon or storming a castle.

Winning the contest was embarrassing; the drawings were turned into a coloring book given away at the next year's summer festival and the originals were on display in the same room with the juried art. My classmates saw this childlike drawing when I knew I could do better work. Horrors!

Fortunately not all teen art prizes send tremors down the spine 25 years later.

Helen's prizewinning pottery

My niece has a creative prize to be proud of. Her pottery bowl, Fantasia, has just won the Lorraine Franckiewicz Art Award in a juried exhibit in her town.

Unlike my coloring book drawing, Helen's contest entry shows her true talents. She's been making pottery for about two years and look at the beauty she can create from clay and glaze. This is a prize that is well-deserved. Congratulations, Helen!

Posted by kuri at 11:12 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
May 13, 2005
How to Catch a Thief

creative perspectivesWell, our house robber has struck again after we laxly left the door unlocked when we came home last night (this morning at 5 am, actually). He's ventured farther into the apartment, opening two briefcase bags in the hallway and stealing 5,000 yen in coins from a basket tucked out of sight under a table in the hall.

So now I'm thinking of ways to catch this bastard in the act. Of course I will set up a motion detecting webcam to record any activitiy at the door. Perhaps I will also install a very loud buzzer to wake up not only us but every tenant in the building.

But what I really want to do is to invent a really novel way to incriminate him. I envision a Rube Goldberg contraption that sets off a chain of events when the door opens--a rope tied to the doorknob pulls upward as the door swings out, lifting a ... what would you add to the machine and what would it do?

Posted by kuri at 11:32 PM [view entry with 7 comments)]
April 29, 2005
Observation vs action

creative perspectivesI've observed that there are two ways of figuring things out: observation and action.

I'm an observer. I look at something new, study it, and gain understanding. Sometimes I'll test it out after I have observed.

For example, when Jeremy was teaching me a swimming technique, he showed me by stretching his arms in the air the way they should move through the water. I watched, but didn't mimic his actions in the air. I observed him, thought about how it worked, imagined it in my muscles. After I got it in my head, then I tried it. I do well with swimming videos--watching them over and over until I see all the fine points. Then I try the movements in the pool. Success isn't complete until I've acted, but the understanding is there before I hit the water.

Many of my friends are the opposite--they take action to learn. They see something new, fiddle with it and gain understanding. I assume they think about it as they are manipulating it. Or maybe they save thought for after they've played?

This difference in learning sometimes causes trouble between me and Tod when we're shopping. "Honey, could you please not break the display model/bang that instrument so loudly/mess with that thing we can't afford to buy?"

This week, I'll be camping on Niijima so there should be plenty of new things to encounter. I'll try to break out of observation mode and see what happens when I act on things to discover their secrets.

Posted by kuri at 06:42 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
April 22, 2005
Personal Symbols

creative perspectivesDo you have a shape, sign, or mark that you consider your personal symbol? Something that resonates with you or sums up your connection to the world at the moment.

It might be something you habitually doodle. What shapes and patterns end up in the margins of your notebooks? I map one-period sine waves and complex mazes that look like circuit diagrams. I sketch stars, sometimes in constellations. Tod draws a squiggle that he was surprised to learn is the astrological symbol for Capricorn.


Or maybe your mark is a monogram you've designed. I created a Scott Kim inspired inversion of my initials when I was unmarried.

You might use something more representational. When I was in junior high grade (about the time I wanted to be called Kip), I decided I wanted to be a helicopter pilot. I signed all my school papers with the "k-copter" instead of my name. A little later on, I signed my name but added a pine tree and a star.

Think about your symbols and they mean to you--do they reflect your creativity? Mine are mostly related to science (sines and circuits) and the sky (stars, helicopters). These are factors that influence my best work and designs, as it turns out. I take a scientific approach to art and creativity. I'm drawn to metals and math. I like finding patterns in randomness and inventing stories to go along with the constellations I create.

So now I wonder whether if I stuck to the sort creative lines my symbols suggest, would I produce even better work?

Posted by kuri at 08:46 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
April 15, 2005
Work outside

creative perspectivesIt seemed like winter would never end, but at long last April's sunny days are warm. Today the weather is glorious and I'm feeling the urge to be outside. But I have work to do.

Well, work's not going to stop me from enjoying this glorious day. I'm taking everything outside for the rest of the afternoon. Having a laptop makes that easy, but I think I will do some of my work on paper today to refresh my brain and give my tired eyes a break from the screen. I have some site maps to draw up and I need to think about the effects in a section of the film I'm working on.

If you can sneak an hour outside with your work today (or on the next sunny weekday) see how it affects your mood and your creativity.

Posted by kuri at 01:47 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
March 04, 2005

creative perspectivesThis week, we're going old-school with our creativity. I'm sure you remember (perhaps with some dread) the compare-contrast papers from your 9th grade composition class. With practice, you should have gone from basic observations to more finely noted details and finally on to the larger ideas that linked your compared objects. But other school distractions--geography homework, soccer practice, the cute boy in trigonometry--likely prevented this from happening.

So let's brush up our comparative skills. Take two things that fit together in a category--fictional characters, bottles of wine, politicians, songs--and prepare to write.

If you're not sure how to start, try simply listing similarities and differences. Get the obvious points out of the way, then let yourself have fun with some of the larger cognitive leaps.

Once you have a list, think about what's important in it and what is interesting. Can you combine ideas from the list into one "treatment" of the subject?

For example, apples and oranges are both fruits, but they grow in different climates, mature in different seasons, and are combined with different ingredients in the kitchen. You could take those points to write about how geography influences what we eat.

Posted by kuri at 10:53 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
February 25, 2005
How to self-promote

creative perspectivesOne of the more challenging aspects of being a creative person, especially if you're a freelance whatever-you-do like me and so many of my friends, is promoting yourself. How do you let people know what you can do, and do well, without coming off as an overinflated egotist?

You get one of your other creative friends to write your PR materials.

This week, make an arrangement with a creative friend who knows your work well and offer to trade puffery for puffery.

How do you want to promote your friend? How about a press release about a recent project, a brochure for her company, or a letter to send out to potential clients. Talk it over first to find out what will work for her.

A bit of reciprocal publicity lets you see your world from another perspective. You might be surprised at how glamorous and exciting your work is to an outsider. Give it a try and see what happens.

Posted by kuri at 09:49 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
February 18, 2005
Shape of Creativity

creative perspectivesImagine that your creativity is an entity of its own. What does it look like? Does it have a shape? What color is it? Does it move or is it static? Does it have a name? Where does it reside--in you, near you, somewhere apart?

My creativity is a sphere that's slightly fuzzy on the edges. The blur is from scattered particles outside the denser main body of speckles that are all single creative ideas. I see it as the photo of a distant elliptical galaxy.

My creative sphere changes sizes. Sometimes it's small and dark, like a red dwarf star or a galaxy on the edge of being engulfed by a black hole. Other times it expands, loosening the bonds between the individual points that comprise it, and changes color to a bright creamy white.

Regardless of size and color, my creativity hovers in front of me at eye level but pans left and right randomly. It doesn't have a name. It's quite a stellar image, isn't it?

Posted by kuri at 06:21 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
February 11, 2005

creative perspectivesArmatures are wire frames buried deep inside scultpures for structural support. They are a necessity for providing strength to the clay and direction to the artist.

Painters use frameworks, too. If you look at many of the old masters' paintings, you will find evidence of their armatures--figures arranged in the golden mean, root rectangles and other polygons. Once you learn to see them, they are everywhere.

I believe any creative person can benefit from armatures. I use them all the time in my creative endeavors, although rarely physical wires or even the golden ratio. I use time, patterns, and symmetry to structure my videos and writing. Since I am often telling documentary stories or explaining things, my choice of armatures works out well for the audience as well as for me.

There are people who say that structure limits creativity, but I disagree. I create improvise on top of my frameworks. Having an armature to drape ideas on allows me to set a creative desitnation, discard the paths not taken and focus on creating. An armature allows for flexibility and change, but makes sure that I achieve what I intended.

Posted by kuri at 11:30 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
February 04, 2005
Creativity cards, set 3

creative perspectivesHere is a new set of five quick and easy creative activities on printable cards. This set takes a slightly dark turn to match my mood this week. But never fear, these activities are more likely to buoy your spirits than to bring you down. Be silly with them and see where they lead you.

If you have ideas to share, pass them along and I'll include them in upcoming sets.

Creativity cards, set 3 48K PDF

  • Shades of Grey
  • Fifteen Faces
  • Break Something
  • Emergency
  • 50 Ways to Leave

Posted by kuri at 04:06 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
January 28, 2005
Creativity cards, set 2

creative perspectivesDid you do any of last week's creative activities? I baked a pie--the coconut cheesecake featured in yesterday's Recipe Thursday.

Here is a new set of five more short, fun things to do on printable cards. If you have ideas to share, pass them along and I'll include them in upcoming sets.

Creativity cards, set 2 48K PDF

  • Jump Rope
  • Three Things
  • Fix Something
  • Pants!
  • Have a Bath

Posted by kuri at 08:05 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
January 21, 2005
Creativity cards

creative perspectivesI think my year in school was labeled Grand Guinea Pig Class. It seemed that every year there was some new textbook or learning tool that we had to try. Most were a bust, but I really loved the SRA reading lab. It was a box full of slick colored cards with independent study exercises to improve reading, writing and other language arts skills. My favorite series asked you to finish a story that they started with a half a paragraph or so.

Today I decided to do a set of "creative cards" to help improve our creative skills, kick start our senses, and develop our sense of whimsy. I'll do five a week until I run out of ideas. You are, of course, invited to suggest some activities.

Creative Cards, set 1 (52K PDF)

  • Bake a Pie
  • Tie a Knot
  • Match a Color
  • Write a Song
  • Create a Hat

You can print these out onto cards, so get yourself some plain 3x5s and a box to keep them in.

Posted by kuri at 06:53 PM [view entry with 3 comments)]
January 14, 2005
Finishing things

creative perspectivesLast year, I set my self up with a new year's resolution to "Do More." And I did quite a bit in 2004. I learned to knit, created over a dozen short films, wrote tens of thousands of words, sewed some clothes, invented a scores of recipes. When listed out, it's quite impressive.

But it would be more impressive still, if I had finished everything I started. By the end of the year, I had so many loose ends that I couldn't keep track of what I was supposed to be doing. I was flailing and felt like I was failing, too.

This year's resolution is Finish More.

My list of unfinished projects includes things from as far back as 1999. There are a few new projects that are just-born, and a lot of stuff in between.

I'm allowing myself an hour a day to work on them. It's effective! This week I finished up some small things and I'm making excellent progress on a bigger project. This positive action fires my enthusiasm to finish even more. Some days, I sneak in another hour or two to get things done.

It's 8 am now, and time for "Finishing Hour" so I'm off. Hope you'll find some time to finish a creative project today.

Posted by kuri at 08:03 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
January 07, 2005

creative perspectivesThis new year is bringing a series of vivid dreams that make me want to act on them. Here are three memorable dreams and what I'm doing (or might do) to make them come true.

Book Dream: I bought a graphic design book, marked down from $1,600 to only $1,000. I purchased it even though it was an advance release copy and the typesetting was bad, but it was stolen from me by a teenaged girl who shape shifted into a middle-aged woman who denied the theft.

Creative connection: Write that book. I paged through it before I bought it--I know what it was! Or if the book doesn't work, I could turn the strange story into a screenplay.

Clothes Dream: I pulled things out of my closet to pack them for a trip but none of the clothes were familiar. I particularly remember a black skirt with red flowers done in a 1950s French style.

Creative connection: Sew that skirt and some of the other things I saw in my closet. Yesterday, I searched for the fabric to make the skirt. No luck, but I'll try again.

Food Dream: I arrived (maybe from the trip I was preparing for in the previous dream) just in time to attend a cast party for a show that all my friends had been in. Everyone was off buying wine and supplies, so I spent most of the dream babysitting big slabs of beef that were being marinated and talking to a the wife of a friend about the show and cooking.

Creative connection: Needless to say, I'll marinate steaks in the near future and invite my friend's wife to dinner. The real message for me in this dream is to produce a play. I have a script written that I'd like to see on stage, and have been thinking about hosting some dramatic readings of plays and scripts just for fun.

Posted by kuri at 10:25 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
December 31, 2004
The summing up

creative perspectivesFor the past few years, I've made a point to summarise my year in exactly 25 words. It's not easy to do and I end up skipping some of the main points but now that I'm gaining a collection (2003, 2002, 2001), I appreciate the effort I've made to try to get something down.

After a good deal of tinkering, this year's 25 word summation is presented below. Feel free to post your 25 words in the comments.

Did more, finished less.
Strengthened friendships and traveled.
Constructed 18 videos, knitted scarves,
Shared my pencils and my love.
Still seeking realisation of my principles.

Posted by kuri at 05:17 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
December 24, 2004
Inventing a tree

creative perspectivesThere are no towering tannenbaum for sale here in Tokyo, unless you are a millionaire or plan well in advance. I make our holiday tree from whatever we have in the house, plus a small stock of 100 yen shop decorations I found a few years ago.

This little burst of creative energy is one of my favorite things about the holiday. We've had trees made of paper strung from light fixtures, bamboo poles tied into a teepee shape, and rosemary plants decorated with red velvet bows.


This year's tree was a stack of seventeen wine glasses carefully balanced, then decorated with beads and illuminated with candles. Elegant. Risky.

I was on edge throughout dinner and gifts, but the curtains did not catch fire, the beads did not melt, nor did an earthquake tumbled the arrangement. Merry Christmas!

Posted by kuri at 11:59 PM [view entry with 6 comments)]
December 17, 2004
Color matching

creative perspectivesLooking out my window last night, I saw the most amazing thing. The color of the sunset sky matched the color of the lights in the stairwell of the building next door. I took a photo and checked in Photoshop: #F29D30 and #F0942F. Maybe not an exact perfect match, but difficult to tell apart.


Today I decided to open my eyes to colors in nature that match manmade articles. As I walked outside this morning, I saw fallen elm leaves that could have been mistaken for the yellow pedestrian guides on the sidewalks.

The dull red of the painted tin lamps in the park blended with the leaves still clinging to the trees ringing the oval.

A bright orange and black Daurian Redstart perched on a wire must have been the inspiration for the motorcycle parked on the street below it.

Now that I'm paying attention, there's a surprising amount of color similarity all around me.

Posted by kuri at 11:46 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
November 26, 2004
One Creative Accomplishment

creative perspectivesAfter you wrote out that list from last week's column, didn't you feel better? Lighter? I know I did. But there's a long list on my desk now! I've crossed off many of the mundane chores, but the creative To Do items get pushed aside somehow.

Well, let's do one today. Accomplish something creative you can cross off the list. Pick something you can get finished today. For my creative task, I've edited photos to make the desktop backgrounds and screen-savers that some of my regular readers have requested.

So here they are, with several bonus images because I was having fun!

1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

Hakone Glass A
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

Hakone Glass B
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

glass c
Hakone Glass C
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

Shrine Candle
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

shrine water
Shrine Water
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

slag clover
Slag Brick with Clover
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

Train Tracks
1024 x 768 JPG
1280 x 1024 JPG
1280 x 854 (15" Powerbook) JPG
2560 x 1600 (30" Cinema Display) JPG

Posted by kuri at 10:05 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
November 19, 2004

creative perspectivesIs your head cluttered with things you need to do? All those mental reminders - don't forget to pick up Sally's birthday present; ask Mr. Jones about that e-mail; prepare the invoices - important as they are, they all get in the way of your creativity.

When you unclutter your head, your creativity flows. But how to get rid of those mental To Do items?

My favorite way is to make a list. Write down everything that you need to do--short term and long term. Then let yourself forget them. It's not that you won't do them, but your list will be your memory and your brain can simply feel free to focus on other things.

And it's a quite pleasant high to cross things off the list!

Posted by kuri at 07:41 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
October 29, 2004
Let's write novels

creative perspectivesHurry, hurry! It's not too late to sign up for Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month. It kicks off on November 1 and runs for 30 days. Your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel. It doesn't have to be a good novel, just has to be finished.

It's a sustained exercise in creativity. Last year 25,000 people started and 3,500 of them completed their novels. The goal this year is 40,000 participants and 5,000 "winners." There's no prize but the pleasure of writing and the thrill of completion. That's enough reward for me.

I signed up yesterday and I'm completely unprepared--no plot, no characters, no clue. But I've been doing my finger limbering exercises and I can pump out 2,000 words a day. I know I can. So get ready, get set, go write a novel!

Posted by kuri at 08:34 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
October 22, 2004
Your own religion

creative perspectives My darling husband asked me the other day "If you could start a religion, what would it be like?"

Oh, interesting thought experiment. I let the ideas rattle around in my brain for a few minutes, dismissing thoughts of lofting stone chapels with velvet draperies and deep pipe organ tones, then started churning out my ideas.

Reverence for nature
Respect for inexplicable phenomena
Veneration of creative practices
Celebrations for no real reason
Love of highs, lows, and balance
Adoration of sexual arts
Points off for consumerism
Double points off for car owners

As I wound up the litany of observances, he turned to me, smiled, and said, "Mine would be the Cult of the Cherry Ripe." Heh.

So I put the question to you: what would your religion be like?

Posted by kuri at 07:43 AM [view entry with 6 comments)]
October 01, 2004
Vintage items

creative perspectives Here's a change in perspective that slapped me in the face today. I was walking through Jimbocho and passed by a "vintage goods" shop full of Rolleiflex cameras, Zippo lighters, and Omega watches. What shocked me were the two neon green and orange plastic Swatches from the early 80s.

Could 1984 possibly be vintage? Antique? Oh,!

I spent the rest of my walk pondering the concepts of old, antique and vintage. What do I think of as antique? Certainly any thing older than the 40s qualifies. Stuff from the 50s were my parents' things growing up so some of them were in my childhood home. They were old, but not antique. Certain items from the 60s seem antique--mainly things that I use the modern equivalent of today: 1960s computers are antiques. Anything from the 70s forward, though, I can't classify as vintage.

It boils down to "anything older than me" is antique. Things that existed from the time I became cognizant of the world simply are not old enough to be antiques. I imagine that this will hold true even when I am 100.

Those Swatches will never be antiques. But they will always be tacky.

I don't think I necessarily seek to include either the modern or the ancient in my creative work. But I do rely on places, people and things that influenced me growing up and as an adult. That means that people older than me have a much richer selection of influences and that I have more depth to draw from than a teenager.

So what's antique or old to you? Do you think that your childhood "contemporania" influences your art and creativity?

Posted by kuri at 09:50 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
September 24, 2004
Some other tools

creative perspectivesI'm sitting here working on a friend's new computer and I'm surprised at how different his setup is. We both use OSX, but how strange to discover that he uses trackpad clicking. I keep accidentally launching applications. His controls are on the opposite side to where I keep mine. I'm entirely disoriented but it's fun. And oh so revealing to see how habituated to my own computer I've become.

It makes me want to borrow some other tools. Other pots and pans, a different camera, someone else's toys. What way would they impact what I create?

Anyone want to trade some tools? Let's see what we can do with a different perspective on the physical world.

Posted by kuri at 02:14 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
September 17, 2004
Try jumping in

creative perspectivesA blank page. An uncarved block of stone. The guitar you haven't picked up in months. A long To Do list. An e-mail left unanswered too long. Scary, scary, scary things that require an action and effort. Easy to put off a little longer.

But be brave. Try your best! Dive in. Don't think too long or hard about it; put pen to paper, chisel to stone, fingers to frets and see what happens. Make a mistake? So what? S'alright. Figure out how to fix the mistake or incorporate it into your project.

In Star Wars, Yoda says "Do, or do not. There is no try." Although that could be interpreted as "do it right or not at all," what I think he means is that trying is doing.

This week pick one thing you've been avoiding. Jump in and get it started. See where you go if you try.

Posted by kuri at 11:00 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
September 10, 2004

creative perspectivesDuring a recent bout of editing work, I found myself watching a lot of interviews with consumers. The interviewers were leading them a bit, trying to get the women to say how they liked to buy the fashion product that was the focus of the project, while their menfolk preferred gadgets.

Most of the women went along with this--whether it was because they truly did prefer fashion shopping to buying iPods & PDAs or whether they were simply gently coerced into saying so, I'm not sure (these interviewers were good). Only one woman said she liked gadgets better.

And none stated a preference for my shopping foible--supplies. I can pass on the clothes, shoes and jewelry. Electronic gadgets leave me cold, generally. But a new pen, notebook, tube of paint, screwdriver, saw, or meter of fabric makes me happy.

So, in that spirit, I present some Creative Perspectives supplies: a journal/notebook, a lunchbox-cum-art box, and if you're feeling particularly brand loyal to this weekly feature column, a t-shirt.

Feel no obligation, but they are here if you so desire.

Posted by kuri at 11:46 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
September 03, 2004
From junk

creative perspectivesA friend was telling me about his creative endeavors as a kid growing up in Spain. He comes from a family of 11 and money was a bit tight when he was young. Once his father scavenged some old, broken TVs and gave them to Santy so he could strip them of their copper wires, sell the metal, and have a little money for sweets or toys.

But when 7 year old Santy opened the first TV, he saw all the components inside and thought, "I can make a whole town from this!" So he did. He pulled apart the sets, broke open the tubes, disassembled everything and created a four meter square town of tiny buildings, roads and airplanes.

That may be the best use of a TV I've ever heard.

What creative things have you made out of old junk?

Posted by kuri at 05:38 PM [view entry with 4 comments)]
August 27, 2004

creative perspectivesThe city drained the park's reflecting pools in preparation for cleaning. Denied my daily downward glimpse of sky and leaf, I sought out other reflections on the way home from this morning's swim.

The range of reflective surfaces seemed limited: glass doors and windows, traffic mirrors, highly buffed cars, rearview mirrors, chromed railings and knobs, a neighbor's tiny koi pond. The reflections themselves were more mundane than not: the building across the way, me walking by, the street, sidewalk and traffic.

But there were a few choice morsels. I saw colored flowers on an otherwise stark modern sliding door, a smiling child on a bicycle reflected on a black taxi. My favorite was a tangle of overhead wires with a transformer against a grey sky reflected in the windshield of a red minivan.

Inspired by looking no farther than the surface, I will take the camera out this afternoon and try to capture some reflections. Not an easy task, but I think it will be fun.

Posted by kuri at 01:35 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
August 13, 2004
Naming conventions

creative perspectivesI am the sort of person who names inanimate objects--cars, stuffed toys, and particularly computers.

I tend to work in computer-rich environments where names are necessary to identify the machines. At the bank, all the computers had alphanumeric codes. I think my testing suite server was tk2t126-something. Neither creative nor memorable.

By long-standing tradition, geeks name machines in sets. At Telerama, where the mascot was an elephant, we had africa, asia, tusk and ivory. In one of Duquesne's media labs, the computers honored film directors. In another, we used color names.

Since I own one or two computers at a time, my naming scheme runs serially. Most express passions: desire, joissance, yen, ravary, iru. My laptops and external storage devices reflect travel and movement: portage, ferry, texel, siphon.

Many of the names have personal double meanings. I named yen right after my first trip to Japan. Iru means both to need and to exist and it came into existence when I needed it to finish a project. Ferry's purchase required a boat trip to Dover, Delaware.

Soon a new computer arrives on my doorstep. While sitting in Hibiya Koen the other evening, I hit upon the right name: koi. You might know koi as a Japanese carp, but with different kanji it means romantic love. Change the kanji again and it means entreaty or request. It can also mean intention and yet another meaning is "deep, dark, dense, strong". Koi fits in nicely with my passions.

How do you name your objects?

Posted by kuri at 08:27 AM [view entry with 10 comments)]
August 06, 2004
New Spaces

creative perspectivesMy recent decision to abandon my container garden has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the spaces around me. After removing the planters and tiered shelves, and washing down the tile flooring, I discovered that the little garden space is quite a bit bigger than I remembered. It's a lovely spot for sitting and thinking.

Which leads me to wonder how I can rearrange my office. I've been feeling sort of stuck in this long narrow room--it's cluttered, fussy and distracting. We've got two desks, a small filing cabinet, a credenza, and two big metal racks full of equipment. If I turn my desk, can I still get to the door? What if I move the racks together and use them as a divider between my side of the room and Tod's?

I think it's time to get the measuring tape out and figure out how to get a new perspective on this room.

Posted by kuri at 09:00 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
July 23, 2004
All for free

creative perspectivesA newcomer to Tokyo was going on about the expense of keeping entertained in the city. When I countered that there are lots of low-cost and no-cost things to do, he challenged me to list them.

And I did, but what struck me is that most of the things I do to amuse myself are creative. If I have a camera with me, or a sketchbook, video camera, or notebook, I spend my time observing and recording things around me. If I don't have a device to record, I simply watch.

(Or I run into a shop to buy a notebook and pan--I'm the owner of countless notebooks and pens purchased because of an urgent need to write in the field.)

So while my tools may cost me a bit of cash, I occupy my time using them at very little cost. If I'm lucky, they sometimes make me money, too. Being a creative person has hidden fiscal advantages.

Posted by kuri at 10:02 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
July 16, 2004

creative perspectivesLast night I went to a festival with two photographers. I didn't have a camera, so I spent my night watching them taking pictures.

"Oh, this is going to be dreadfully dull," I thought. I knew I'd be frustrated as I saw things to photograph but didn't have an instrument to do it.

As it turned out, it was an engaging evening and I had plenty to occupy me. I studied their techniques and choice of subjects. I started to guess how each would approach the lanterns, the dancers, the food stalls, the lights. They rarely took the same shots. I compared theirs to what I would do with camera in hand.

I was an active spectator. I paid attention to what was going on around me and my assiduity paid back new perspectives on seeing the world through a lens.

Posted by kuri at 10:00 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
July 09, 2004
Whitewashing the fence

creative perspectivesToday's creative solution to heat-induced stupor and writer's block in the form of a transcript of a conversation on iChat

Kristen: I need to write my Creative Perspectives column
Kristen: I've started it four or five times
Kristen: but I can't get my head wrapped around anything
MJ: hmmm
MJ: what's the focus today?
Kristen: well, it might have been scent, or rearranging space, or a couple of other things
Kristen: but when I started writing, the words failed to come to me
Kristen: and I gave up on all of them
MJ: hmmmm
MJ: how about writing about fighting writer's block?
Kristen: hehehe. I'm sure that wouldn't go anywhere either
Kristen: but maybe I can try.
MJ: well let's see what to do when you have writer's block....
MJ: you can:
MJ: try a different scene (go for a walk, go to a cafe)
MJ: start working on something else and let your subconscious mind tackle it for a while
MJ: what do you usually do?
Kristen: I walk away and come back to it later
Kristen: Or I get you to write my column for me. :-)

Thanks, MJ

Posted by kuri at 04:32 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
July 02, 2004
Skinning cats

creative perspectivesWhen faced with a creative challenge--or even a mundane one-- I devise a list of 10 ways to face the quandary. I end up with the usual, obvious answers and some off-the-wall notions, but there's always one line in the list that will work.

There's more than one way to skin a cat and making a list proves it.

For example, let's say the task at hand is to photograph merchandise so that it can be sold on a website. We're talking logo t-shirts, totebags and coffee mugs--dull, standard products--but the company is fun and creative and wants to bring that across in their online shop. What to do?

  1. Take standard studio product shots
  2. Photograph items in locations around the shop/office/city
  3. Photograph in a film noir style
  4. Show happy people using the products
  5. Create 360 degree views (Quicktime VR?)
  6. Show alternate uses (i.e. ferns in the coffee mug, t-shirt as towel)
  7. Combine product shots with manga-style mascots
  8. Use the products as screens over nude women ala "Calendar Girls"
  9. Don't photograph at all--use drawings instead
  10. Photograph details but not the whole product

By the time I reach ten, I'm usually ready to add more, and often do. But starting out with a set goal of ten gets me past the usual ideas and into the realm of creative thoughts.

Try it, you'll see what I mean.

Posted by kuri at 09:02 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
June 25, 2004

creative perspectivesSometimes, you need to give your body a workout to get the brain flowing freely. I know I sit too much at my computer cranking out words and images. When I go for long walks or swim laps, my brain changes gears and I enjoy a meditative state while my muscles do their thing. When I'm done, I feel tired, refreshed and full of energy. My fancy flies and I end up in places I didn't expect--creative leaps from my desk-bound routine.

Go take some exercise today. A good walk at lunch, a bike ride after dinner, a session at the gym, a splash in the pool. Make sure it's long enough to allow your brain to disengage and your body to get tired (but don't overdo it--gentle and easy is fine for this exercise!). Then see where your mind goes.

Posted by kuri at 11:59 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
June 18, 2004
Dear Inner Critic

creative perspectivesYou have an inner critic, don't you? I think most of us do. Mine's a middle aged man--the ringleader of all reviewers--who lies in wait in my head, looking for a chance to tell me what's wrong with what I'm doing. He's harsh.

But today I'm going to write him a letter to tell him why I disagree with his reviews.

Dear Inner Critic,

I have been following your reviews and opinions for many years and would like to give my sincere congratulations for your perseverance over these many decades.

However, I believe that your criticisms are sometimes too severe and do not take into consideration the homely and experimental nature of creative spirit.

Not every endeavor is destined for perfection. For you to insist that it is and to compare every work to your ideal is limiting this artist's enthusiasm to produce more. And as we all know, practice makes perfect.

So I humbly request that you keep your mouth shut and allow the artist to do her thing in peace. When she is ready for your comments, I am sure she will ask for them.



Now it's your turn. What would you like to say to your inner critic?

Posted by kuri at 11:34 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
June 11, 2004

creative perspectivesHere's a challenge. Unplug yourself this weekend. Turn everything off--the TV, your computer, radio, stereo, cell phone, answering machine. Take in no media and be completely unreachable for a day or two.

At first this is going to be uncomfortable. At least it is for me. No computer? How will I answer all the questions that pop into my head? No cell phone? But what will I do if I want to meet someone and I'm running late or can't find them?

After the initial panic, I settle into a very mellow and leisurely groove. No distractions from thinking. I can take my time and enjoy my life without the subconscious stress of ringing phones and e-mail. I can pursue my pleasures quietly. It's a good stretch of time to paint, to cook, to plan things.

What will you do with your unfettered time?

Posted by kuri at 06:15 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
June 04, 2004
Change of focus

creative perspectivesI've been floundering. I can't seem to get anything finished. None of my projects are going where I want them to. There are lots of hurdles and blocks-- some are of my own making, others not. It's rather frustrating.

My frustration morphs into a series of bad feelings, irritable moods and depressed thoughts including all of the time-honored artistic temperament classics: Do I have any talent or skill whatsoever? Any original ideas? Why am I doing this stuff anyway? What's the point? How can I possibly think my work is any good? Mr. XYZ is better at this than me, so why should I try? Wouldn't I be better off with a "real" job pointlessly shuffling papers somewhere?

So my daunting digital pile of uncompleted work sits untouched. And so do my physical piles. Nothing's getting done at all, even my normally tidy house is adrift in dust. The lack of progress aggravates the bad feelings, further preventing me from getting anything done. A vicious cycle.

have-lack.gifBut it's breakable. This morning, I decided to look at the situation from a different angle:

I have accomplished a great deal. The unfinished projects are avenues for continuation and growth. Books, stories and screenplays started. Art underway. Footage shot but unedited. There's effort behind it; look at how far I got. No reason to stop now. Let me add more to what I've already done and see how much farther it goes.

I think this is the secret to happiness in many aspects of life, not just creativity. People who focus on what they want but don't have--whether it's consumer goods, love, fame, creativity or something else--are rarely happy.

My glass is not half empty. It's half full.

Posted by kuri at 11:37 AM [view entry with 6 comments)]
May 28, 2004

creative perspectivesI've caught myself sending quite a few e-mails recently with writing full of trite and meaningless phrases. Most of them are "bread and butter" thank you notes which aren't really intended to be masterpieces of writing, but "I had a great time; let's get together again soon," may be the epitome of lazy writing.

What was great? Why do I want to get together again?

A few moments of critical thought always produce an answer. I pick out a detail of the event and make that the focus of my writing.

Saturday's barbecue was terrific. You are a master of the grill. Thanks for showing me the trick with the spray bottle--very clever! I hope you'll share your recipe for the lamb marinade, too. The combination of garlic and lavender was a delicious surprise. Hope we can get together for another barbecue soon--my place at the end of the month, maybe?

While it's still not prize-winning prose, it's an improvement over the original.

This technique works with holiday postcards, too. I delight in writing them. Give me a sunny beach, a few fruity drinks and a stack of picture postcards and I'll compose the full story of my day, written out in five sentence chunks. Everyone gets a different glimpse into what I'm experiencing and I don't get bored writing the same things over and over.

Dear M,
All the hotels along the beach offer guests sun robes and beach towels. Each hotel has a different color and design (our hotel towels are navy blue with white fish). While most of the guests stick close to the strip of beach near their own hotel, a few brave souls cross the invisible lines to sit on beaches filled with people in other robes. It's seaside integration!
Love, K

Dear J,
We snagged a beach cabana this morning after breakfast and have been enjoying a steady stream of pina coladas and mai tais delivered by a sun-kissed god with a gorgeous smile and no shirt. I'm not sure it's safe to swim when you're tipsy at 11 am, but I will have a careful dip in the ocean to cool myself off and build up an appetite for lunch. What decadence!
Love, K

Sure beats "Having a great time, wish you were here."

Posted by kuri at 08:16 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
May 21, 2004

creative perspectives"Attack life. When you drink a beer, drink the hell out of it," UltraBob suggested the other day. And that got me thinking.

How do you approach life? Do you go slowly, savoring all the details? Do you rush through activities to get to the next thing? Do you hang back from participating, preferring to critique everyone else? Do you jump in with gusto and enthusiasm? Glide through with style and grace? What other ways are there to live?

I think that most of us vary our approach depending on the situation. But what if you tried to live your life all one way? How would things turn out? Let's take an evening at home and run it through a few different ways:

Savor - You stash away your bag and coat and run a hand across the empty hangers to hear them jangle together. You stroke the dog gently, noting the silkiness of her ears and the rough patch of hair at the base of the tail. At the table, you contemplate every bite, compare flavors and pair wines to courses. Dinner lasts three hours.

Rush - You drop your bag and coat on the floor and put something in the microwave to cook. Dinner is on the table ten minutes after you arrive home. There is no way to shovel the food in fast enough and it's all swallowed without chewing. Then the TV is on and you're comatose.

Critique - After noticing that the closet needs to be rearranged you stand in the kitchen and offer advice while someone else cooks. The dog whines at the back door, eager to go for a walk and you complain that someone should have walked him earlier, but you don't take him out yourself. When dinner is served, you eat little more than a small taste, then suggest improvements.

Play - You wad your coat into a ball and toss it into the closet for two points. You race the dog around the house and tickle everyone you meet along the way. During dinner, your prawns dive into your water glass, you sculpt with fruit and fold your napkin into a hat.

Attack - You drop your bags and coat on the floor and embrace everyone in the house. You play with the dog until the stick you've been wailing across the yard breaks a neighbor's window. At dinner, table manners are cast aside so that food can be eaten with the utmost enthusiasm. "Hand to mouth" takes a new meaning. You drink the hell out of your beer.

Posted by kuri at 09:18 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
May 14, 2004
Neglected color

creative perspectivesLook around you. What colors predominate in your environment? My furniture is light wood, chrome and black, accented with green and red, sitting in rooms with pale walls and carpets. How about your wardrobe? My clothes are mainly shades of pink, maroon, olive, brown and black.

And what colors are missing?

Blue is the least represented color in my life. I can count the number of blue items in my house that I've purchased: 8. Strange, really since it's the favorite color of most Americans and Europeans according to the fascinating book Blue: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau.

Blue is the color of calmness, repose and unity. Taking that a bit farther, Color Wheel Pro says light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness; dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.

According to an article about color used on websites, "[Blue] generates feelings of tranquility, love, acceptance, patience, understanding and cooperation. Its negative qualities if used inappropriately are fear, coldness, passivity and depression." Feng Shui theory says blue is energy on the decline.

So it seems you can make blue mean just about anything. There's a quite comprehensive lesson on color meanings if you're interested in learning more.

Today I'm going to experiment with blue. I can't paint the apartment, but I have stuck some colored paper on my bare windows and the wall near my desk. I changed the system colors on my computer (Wow, the Mac OS "blue" theme is so strongly colored!) I will try to find something blue in my closet. I think I have some blue nail polish for my toes.

Wonder what turn my creativity will take today? Calmer? Or colder?

Posted by kuri at 10:57 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
May 07, 2004
Date yourself

creative perspectivesSometimes it's a challenge to get away from the normal routine of work, family, household chores and all the other things we fill our time with. But stepping outside that routine can kickstart your creative juices.

Take out your calendar and pencil in a date with yourself. If you can manage it, take a full day or a whole evening, but even a long lunch is fine. You're going on a date with yourself.

Now, what to do? Plan your date just like you would with a friend or lover. Maybe you'd like to do something actively creative: strum your guitar, write a letter, take photos, make paper, sketch flowers. Or maybe you need some outside input: visit a museum, watch a movie, walk in the park, read a book. Or perhaps something indulgent is what you crave: put on a face mask, paint your toenails, sit in a bubble bath.

Whatever you choose, treat yourself nicely. Enjoy. Take note of what you're doing...drink in the details. What you put into your date will come back in your creative output later on.

Posted by kuri at 09:53 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
April 30, 2004

creative perspectivesAs a kid, I sketched out the perfect places to live--my personal castles and villas complete with all the necessities: libraries, interior courtyards, gardens, swimming pools, and stables. I also loved dollhouses--the ones that were built for me and the ones I made myself. The three story string-action elevator in my 1974 Barbie Townhouse was just too cool.

I am still fascinated with living spaces. I study the floor plans of all the apartment buildings that drop ads in my mailbox. I stand outside realty offices comparing the places for rent and sale. There is a little drawer in the wooden card-catalog of my brain for the architectural details I want to include in the house(s) I dream of building.

Today I'm going to take a little time and sketch out some of those ideas to see what I come up with. Then maybe I'll try to incorporate some of the plans into my real-life living space. I can probably manage a library, but the secret passage and the turret might be a challenge.

What turns up in your dream house?

Posted by kuri at 11:00 AM [view entry with 6 comments)]
April 23, 2004
What's in a name?

creative perspectivesOn my sister's site, Wild Mushrooms, Jenn sometimes posts poetic writing assignments. Today's creative perspective draws on one she titled Buttered Poetry (now with more salt!).

Write out your name -- First Middle Last--and find words using just those letters. How many can you find in 30 minutes? Do you think you got them all?

You can confirm (or cheat) at Anagram Server--be sure to check "print candidate word list only." I thought I was doing pretty well with over 60 words on my list, but my 24 letter name yielded 3688 words.

Now that you have a list, take a look at it. How many of the words describe your personality or what you do? How many are what you might like to be, but aren't yet? Which words seem completely wrong or unconnected to you?

I was quite surprised at how many words matched me: cute, temper, luckiest, and, of course, tinker. One word I wish I lived up to: precise. And one that just doesn't seem to fit at all: centerline.

Posted by kuri at 06:54 PM [view entry with 1 comments)]
April 16, 2004
Game plan

creative perspectivesYesterday afternoon, I was listening to the neighborhood kids playing. They were laughing and running around, but most of their playtime was spent planning what to do. They were making up rules and setting up situations to act out.

So today, it's game plan day. Gather together your playing pieces--cards, dice, crayons, index cards, glasses of wine, anything goes--and a few friends. Then start thinking. The goal's to come up with a complex structure; playing the game itself is not the focus, though it could be a lot of fun...

A sample game called "Chairs"

"You can be the lady. You stand here," says the bossy girl.
"I want to hold an umbrella," says the less bossy one.
"OK, but only if the die says six. Otherwise, you get a cushion, OK? When I say 'Go!' we all run around and when I say 'Stop!', pose like a chair. Then the lady gets to sit on us and decide who is the most comfortable."
"That's silly," the lady complains.
"You have a better idea?"
"What if everyone poses like a chair or a table? I can try to sit a cup on them. And if it falls over and they get wet, they lose."
"Yeah, that's good! Everyone ready...Go!"

Posted by kuri at 07:10 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
April 09, 2004
Foolish Consistency

creative perspectivesA foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is a foolish consistency? Emerson never said, but I think a foolish consistency is something we do unfailingly without thinking about it. We are brand-loyal to our toothpaste; we travel a consistent route to work; we take lunch at exactly noon on weekdays.

Foolish consistencies are little habits that make up our unconscious daily routine. We could change them without harming anything and perhaps those alterations would be helpful in giving us new perspective.

How many things in your life are foolish consistencies? Do you think you can change one of them this week?

Do you have any wise consistencies?

Posted by kuri at 06:45 AM [view entry with 5 comments)]
April 02, 2004
Only one

creative perspectivesSixteen years ago when I was teaching kids to read and deciding if education was my life's calling, an essay contest announcement crossed my desk. I don't recall who was sponsoring the contest but the theme has become embedded in who I am and how I think of myself.

It was a deceptively simple idea. Imagine all of your senses get "stuck" on one input each--you can only hear one sound, see one thing, touch one surface, taste one flavor, smell one scent. What would each of these be and why?

Most of the fourth graders in my classroom wanted to taste pizza "because it is good" and to see TV "because it is fun." They were sweetly naive. Not a lot of effort went into their essays, but they wrote and submitted them anyway.

Why not have a think about it yourself and leave a comment? I'll share mine (the same five that I wrote out so many years ago) in the comments on Monday.

Posted by kuri at 11:53 AM [view entry with 5 comments)]
March 26, 2004
Alphabetical Order

creative perspectivesFor the next 26 days, I'm going dedicate each day to a letter of the alphabet. I'll incorporate things and actions that begin with the day's letter. Sounds a bit odd, but it will encourage me to do things I might not normally do, or at least to think up some clever ways of naming what I am doing during the course of my day.

Today is P, because P seems to be naturally figuring into today's activities. I made pickles this morning and will eat Pho for lunch. I pulled back my hair this morning. I'm penning an article for Perot this afternoon. Tonight I am going to a party and I will wear purple.

Tomorrow is Q. Hmmmm...quiz, questions, quarrel, quadrille, quit, quinine. Should be an interesting day.

You can play, too. If you don't want to go the distance with all 26 letters, just try one day. What letter will you choose?

Posted by kuri at 01:29 PM [view entry with 6 comments)]
March 19, 2004

creative perspectivesWhen I'm feeling blah and uncreative sometimes I mess with my hair. I create a new look with ponytails all over my head or little braids or curls or gelled sections. The "new me" is more likely to think creatively. I get inspired when I've just turned my head into a topiary of tresses. Try it yourself; you'll see.

You say your hair is too short to restyle? Nah. You should see some of the cute Japanese boys running around Tokyo with their short hair gelled into little mini spikes. You're bald? Well, that is probably too short to style, so why not style your beard? Or be really daring and draw on your head. Or make yourself a hat. This isn't about beauty as much as regaining a sense of fun.

If you need some inspiration, skip the movie stars and fashion magazines. Take your ideas from Dr. Seuss, bonsai, architecture, 1930s streamlines, fireworks, macrame. How would Man Ray, Rene Magritte, or Salvadore Dali style hair?

Posted by kuri at 06:53 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
March 12, 2004
You're a legend

creative perspectivesDo you remember all the myths and legends that we learned in school? Three of my favorites are from Americana: Paul Bunyan, a giant logger who traveled with his blue ox, Babe, Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple orchards across America, and John Henry, a railroad worker who won a race against a steam powered shovel. They were people (two of them are definitely real people but nobody's sure about Paul Bunyan) who did remarkable things. As people retold the tales, their feats and abilities grew.

If you were legendary, how would the story go? What remarkable feat would you perform? What does your legendary self look like? Which traits would be magnified? Do you have a companion? A mortal foe? And which aspects of your life are left out of the legend? (Those are nearly as important as what's kept in, you know...)

I'm going to write the legend of Kristen based on something that actually happened this month. I'll put it in the comments later today. I hope you'll write one, too, and share it here.

Posted by kuri at 09:37 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
March 05, 2004
New logos

creative perspectivesWow, what a great response. Thank you! I was impressed by the variety of ideas you sent. Every one of them was had its own personality. I hope you had fun with them and that thinking about the logo inspired one of your own projects. They certainly inspired me.

One logo particularly resonated. This is what I wanted to do in the first place. Thank you for reading my mind, Robert. As you can see, I altered the colors for the final version. I'm a fan of duller tones; bright primaries hurt my old eyes.

creative-perspectives.jpgRobert sent a set of elements from the I Ching: earth, water, fire and air. The logo incorporates an Asian motif and uses clean straight lines like the rest of my site. Plus if you look at it from a distance, it's laughing.

prpcie.jpgSajjad offered his idea in a comment. "I'm not a designer so can't really give something visual or very solid, but how about putting "Creative" in various colors and "Perspectives" in a 3D style text with different perspectives on different parts of the word?" I had a hard time getting the perspective idea to work at such a small size, so I alternated the letters top to bottom--pErSpEcTiVeS--and that's a different perspective entirely.

cp-a.jpgcp-b.jpgMike's submission had a clever twist. " I was thinking of something that you could change as the ideas change. For example, you'll see in there that there are two layers of little icons that go along with a possible theme. If the exercise or idea is writing related, turn on the pen layer. If you're talking about, say, music, then turn on the music icon. It wouldn't be too terribly hard to change, and would add a neat litle touch to the graphic." Indeed it is.

80s-style.jpgGreg sent his idea along with a sample in e-mail. "I think Id use pen and paper, scissors, a computer maybe. Artists palette. Drawing pencils crayons, tools, whatever. The style is a little 90's ish, but good for clear bold graphics." I read his description and took a good look at the architect's logo he attached then came up with this.

creative.jpgAnd just to compare, here's the old one, now relegated to the rubbish heap.

Posted by kuri at 08:48 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
February 27, 2004
Creative logo

creative.jpgI've never really liked the logo I use for Creative Perspectives. I tried to abstract the elements-earth, water, metal, wood, water--and ended up with something that looks like it might say "Hello My Name Is" on top. Not quite what I was going for and I'm ready to try again.

But this time with your help.

Would you like to take a break from your own creative persuits and help me come up with a new logo? Send me your ideas as a psd, jpg or gif file, (120 px by 80 px, please) before next Thursday, March 4. I'll post them next week for you to see. Depending on how I'm inspired, I might pick elements from the your ideas to form a new logo, or maybe collage something together, or use them "as is" or ...well, I'll see what the Muse suggests.

On a related note, creative photographers might be interested in participating in's Day in the Life project. You take a photo every hour on Feb 29th, the leap day, then put them online. It's going to be a fun day;I'll be doing it. I hope you will, too.

Posted by kuri at 01:57 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
February 20, 2004

creative.jpgDo you keep a journal?

As a teenager, I kept a diary for six or seven years--full of the angst or exams and the trials of never having a date--that I wrote in frequently, if not daily. During the dormitory years at college, my diary transformed from lovelorn ramblings to costume sketches and reminders to go to class.

For years, I carried a sketchbook everywhere. That was fantastic. I paid a lot more attention to things around me. Any time I was bored I would grab my book and pen and draw whatever was handy. I did hundreds of little sketches. Some of them are horrible and others are quite good. I took notes in my sketchbooks, too.

But somehow, I stopped doing that. These days (in addition to this weblog) I keep a motley a variety of notebooks filled with to do lists, user interface designs, observations made on the train, grocery lists, meeting notes, and drawings. But I have too many of them. One in my bag, another in a jacket pocket, one on my desk...

So I declare today "starting the journal anew" day. I will keep a better journal. "Better" meaning I carry one with me everywhere and I use it creatively every day. Care to join me?


Drawings - yes!
Observations on trains - yes!
Interesting words and kanji - yes!
Little ideas - yes!
Bg ideas - absolutely!
Costume sketches - yes!
Construction diagrams - yes!
Half-written poems - yes!
Pressed flowers - for sure!
Grocery lists - no way.
Mistakes - yes!
Odd thoughts - yes!
Note to myself - yes!

Posted by kuri at 09:49 AM [view entry with 8 comments)]
February 13, 2004
Light of Day

creative.jpgBecause of my unusual household schedule, I usually don't leave my apartment until mid-afternoon. But recently I've had the good fortune to get away from my desk in the morning. I've noticed how different the light is at 10 am.

Shadows of trees point in northwest across the sidewalks; light slips through the gaps between buildings to illuminate windows and metal railings. I've noticed architectural details that never caught my attention before--flagpoles, ledges, the color of bricks.

Light is key to visual arts. The Impressionists cared more about light than subject matter. Painters flock to Firenze for golden Italian light and many Great Masters were really masters of light. Noir film thrives on its absence. Stained glass uses light twice--reflected and transmitted. Photographers know that one of the best times of day for shooting is the "magic hour" just before sundown.

Try to get outside today at a time you'd usually be indoors. Take a close look at the light and shadows around you. Does your familiar landscape reveal secrets and hidden treasures?

Posted by kuri at 09:35 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
February 06, 2004
Sinister hand

creative.jpgToday is a tough one; we're going to write our names with both hands in all different orientations. Grab a pen and a sheet of paper.

First write your name with your dominant hand, then with your non-dominant hand.

Then write it backwards. Start with your initial at the right and write each letter backwards towards the left. Do this with both hands.

Now try it upside down, as if you were holding a mirror along the bottom edge of the letters in your name. Again, try it with both hands.

And finally, write your name upside down and backwards.

Here's an example of my name written eight times:


As I flipped the paper around to see the names written right way around, I realise I messed up a couple of times...oops! It was harder than I thought.

And my mood has changed. I was tired and my To Do list looked pretty daunting before, but now I have more energy and I think I can accomplish what I need to do. That's a pleasant surprise!

If you want to go a step further with this, UltraBob suggests writing out a paragraph. I tried a few sentences upside down and some backward with each hand:


It was challenging. I wonder if I'd kept going if it would become easier? I also wonder if I would have written anything different than I normally would, as the right side of the brain tends to dominate when you're writing upside down.

Posted by kuri at 04:13 PM [view entry with 2 comments)]
January 30, 2004
Your Doodles

creative.jpgLast week, I invited you to make some doodles using loops and mail them to me. Did you have fun? Here's a very brief gallery of submissions.

Jennifer (

Me and Tod: Angry Pig-Cub and Bird

Posted by kuri at 07:20 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
January 23, 2004

creative.jpgSometimes being bored is great for your creativity. When I'm bored, I doodle. I picked up a pen the other day and started doodling in a style I haven't done in about 20 years. If you were to peek into any of my school notebooks between 6th grade and graduation, you would find only the very briefest of notes and a lot of doodles like these:


I draw closed loops randomly then try to turn them into something. Often they are grotesque faces or people drawn with a minimum of frills.


Sometimes they are more elaborate creatures.


So to get your creativity going this week, here are two loops for you to play with. You can turn them any way you like, use them together to create a scene, or make two unrelated drawings with different rotations. Pretty much anything goes.


If you e-mail me yours by Thursday the 29th, I'll show them here next week, along with the ones Tod & I did from these loops.

Make some loops of your own, too! Just have fun and see where this takes you. It took me to good grades for six years--I think doodling during class put me into a state of relaxation that helped me absorb the lectures. Or something.

Posted by kuri at 12:30 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
January 16, 2004
Rotate 90

creative.jpgI'm borrowing today's idea from Jeremy at Antipixel, who was inspired by this creativity's a small, circular world.

Turn your work sideways. Jeremy tried taking vertical photos rather than landscapes. Maybe you will turn your journal sideways and write the across the long edge of the page. Or design a website that requires horizontal scrolling.

You can even try this at work. Do your next PowerPoint presentation in portrait orientation. Try making a chart that is wide rather than tall or vice versa. Send a sideways memo...I'll bet it gets some attention.

Posted by kuri at 10:26 AM [view entry with 5 comments)]
January 09, 2004
Upside down

creative.jpgWhen I was a kid, I would lie on my bed and hang my head over the edge so that I could see everything in my room upside down (that position also made it easier to braid my very long hair) As a young woman, I spent part of a summer afternoon lounging on a fountain and watching the river traffic upside down. Except for the crick in my neck and the blood rushing to my head, it was great fun.

I'm not the only one who likes to see things turned over. In Japan, Amanohashidate, one of the country's "Three Famous Views" is best enjoyed when viewed upside down through your legs.

So for today's creative perspective, view the world around you upside down. Don't just peek, take a good long look. What differences do you see in your room? If you're able to go outside to look around, notice the way things move. People's gait as they walk; the movement of cars are they brake. If you're really brave, try it in public. Does your favorite shop seem different when it's topsy-turvy? Does your homeroom teacher look unusual? Well, that might just be the confused expression on her face...

Posted by kuri at 08:49 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
January 02, 2004
More more more

creative.jpgDo you have a New Year's resolution? I have one:

Do More

For me the creative process is iterative. I try something, take a look, make a change, compare my results, find inspiration or see a new twist, try again, and often end with something wonderful and unexpected. The more I do, the better I get. I am building up a body of work--some of it's total crap, but some of it is pretty good indeed.

There's a story about a pottery class where half the students were graded on quantity and half on quality. The quality students aimed for one perfect pot by the end of the class; the quantity students were graded on the number of pots they made regardless of quality. The students who aimed for quantity ended up with better quality pots because they weren't afraid to try, fail, experiment, learn, and try again.

More is good. Practice makes perfect.

Take that to heart. Whatever your creative outlet, do it more this year. If you don't expect perfection every time, I'll bet you'll have some fantastic work in twelve months' time.

Posted by kuri at 09:03 AM [view entry with 5 comments)]
December 26, 2003
Cartoon yourself

creative.jpgLet's pick up a pen and draw today. We're going to cartoon ourselves from two perspectives.

Don't worry, this isn't about your drawing skill. There's no "right" way to draw a cartoon, so let yourself have fun with it and do your best. If you get stuck, think of all the different styles you've seen: Peanuts, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, South Park, Japanese anime and manga.

First Perspective: Yourself in Real Life
cartoonyourself.gifCartoon yourself in your "natural environment." What do you do most of the time? If someone walked in to your house, what would they find your doing? Maybe you like to sleep or read or play video games. Or perhaps you're always at the office wearing a suit, so you live in a corporate environment.

Try to draw the details of what you look like, what you wear, the things around you. It's OK to exaggerate! Maybe you can include some action, or make a multi-panel story.

My Real Life: sitting at the computer in my pajamas, hair going everywhere and coffee nearby. This is me pretty much every day...including right now.

Second Perspective: Yourself in Your Dreams
cartoonyourself2.gifNext forget reality and cartoon yourself doing something you wish you could do. Singing in front of 50,000 people? Winning the lottery? Bringing peace to the world? The sky's the limit, here.

But remember to include details to show where you are and what you're doing.

My Dream Life: manning a mission to Mars. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut or an astronomer, but my eyes aren't good enough and my math stinks! But in my dreams, I am in flight, trying on my space suit. So fashionable...

Want to share your cartoons? Post a URL in the comments. I can't wait to see what you've drawn!

Posted by kuri at 12:17 PM [view entry with 0 comments)]
December 19, 2003
From the floor

creative.jpgIf you'll just stretch out on the floor for a moment, please. Yes, that's it...on your stomach, arms & legs relaxed. Rest your chin on the floor. Good, good.

You have become a child, a Borrower, a puppy.

What do you see? The carpet looks different from down here, doesn't it? Take a close look. It's a lot rougher and uneven from this angle. Look at the way the furniture meets the floor. What would it be like to walk on it if you were only a few inches tall? The door's an awfully long way away. And all those crumbs as obstacles...time to vacuum, I think.

But first, roll over onto your back. Let your eyes follow the nearest wall to the ceiling. What seems so close when we're standing looks miles away when we're down here. Does your furniture take on a new perspective? Put reality aside and imagine what might be on the surfaces you can't see now. There must be a cookie jar on the credenza, if only you could reach it.

Of course, when you stand up there's no cookie jar, the ceiling regains its usual stature and you will forget about the crumbs. But carry the memories of your perspective from the floor with you today and see if you can use them as you work or play.

Posted by kuri at 09:32 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
December 12, 2003
Favorite letters

creative.jpgToday's perspective comes from a conversation with UltraBob yesterday.

What are your favorite three letters, and why? Answer in as much detail as you can.

Here are mine:

Q: As a little girl, I loved writing the curvy 2 shape of a cursive capital Q. It confused me that numbers and letters could look so much alike. (Maybe this is why I still sometimes exchange e and 6 when I'm calculating.) As an adult, I appreciate the typographic Q with its flourish-y tail. Did I marry a man with Q in his name on purpose...?

V: A practical, versatile letter, especially as a fridge magnet. Turn V on its side to show you have values more or less of various things. Flip it upside down for a variation on A. Its vocabulary isn't vast but it can act as a drill in a pinch.

K: A stable letter. No matter which way you turn it, you can't knock it over. Yet it's also sort of bristly--if I throw a K at you, you're likely to get scratched. I also like the closed feeling in my throat when I say it: k k k k k. Get going fast enough and it sounds like a machine gun. K isn't merely my initial, it exemplifies my personal attributes. How could it not be a favorite?

Bob's fond of R and I'm sure he'll let you know why...

Posted by kuri at 09:15 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
December 07, 2003
Nengajo party

Today was the Creative Perspectives get -together. We spent our afternoon making nengajo, Japanese holiday cards.

Jo is carving her first-ever stamp. She's going to use it on the beautiful marbled paper she made today.

Bob spent most of the day sketching monkeys. His final product is a print block with a lot of character.

Greg brought lots of art toys and Jo took charge of dinner--a completely scrumptious polenta pizza! Tod was the kanji-master (of course) and I sketched variations on a theme until I got the design I wanted. If I have your address, you'll get a copy. If not, send me your address.

Posted by kuri at 08:10 PM [view entry with 5 comments)]
December 05, 2003
Rules, rules, rules

creative.jpgWhen you're faced with a trivial but impossible decision put a creative spin on it.

Make up arbitrary rules. Then stick with them.

"I'll buy a book that has san-serif type on the cover, is thicker than 3 cm, and is written by a woman."

"On my day off I'll take the train to the first destination that has four syllables and no S in its name."

"I'll buy 3 things at the grocery store for dinner: one that's under 200 yen, something with purple on the label, and whatever is to the left of the tomatoes."

Setting a framework for yourself, no matter how silly, forces you to find creative solutions within the restrictions. What has a purple label and goes with escarole?

Or it might expose you to something you've never seen or tried before--a book on glazing your own windows, or the delights of Ichigaya.

I sometimes play game this with friends when we're out wandering around and nobody wants to make a decision about where to eat. Everyone gets a to make one rule and has one veto if the restaurant is too dodgy or undesirable.

"We'll eat at the next place we see that has a green sign, beer on the menu, and a waitress wearing an apron."

It's amazing how quickly you find a place that fits all the requirements.

Posted by kuri at 08:58 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
November 28, 2003
In the dark

creative.jpgTonight when you go to bed, after you turn out the light but before you fall asleep, sit in the dark for a few minutes and take notice of your surroundings. Examine all your senses before you conk out and then see if it brings you creative dreams.

As your eyes adjust to the dark, listen to the world. It's quieter, sure, but what sound there is seems more vivid. Is there traffic in the street outside? Can you hear yourself breathe?

What can you taste? The last swig of beer at the bar? Your lover's lipstick? The toothpaste you used to brush your teeth?

By now your eyes are probably adjusted to the dark. Do you recognize your furniture? How does it look different in the half-light? Look at the silhouette of your hands. Does each finger have the same shape?

Feel around. Are the sheets smooth or textured? What do the buttons on your pajamas feel like? Can you tell what's under the bed? (Beware of monsters.)

Now it's time to drift off to dreamland. As you snuggle under the covers, take a long deep breath. What scents waft through your night? Potpourri? Unwashed pillowcases? Books?

(This exercise is a good way to calm your mind and put yourself back to sleep after waking up from a nightmare...)

Posted by kuri at 10:08 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
November 21, 2003
Sing a song

creative.jpgNothing loosens up the spirit & gets ideas flowing like singing.

It doesn't matter whether you can carry a tune, shatter crystal or have a tin ear, singing increases the oxygen in you blood, and gives both hemispheres of the brain a nice workout, plus it's just plain fun.

So stand up, move around, and belt out a song. Sing loud. Scare the cat, wake up the neighbors. Startle your coworkers in the breakroom. Make your spouse/parents/children wince, or better yet, get them in join in.

Don't sing along with the radio, though--this is YOUR song.

Style it! Sing in a funny voice: do a jazz standard in a punk style, sing a theme song as an aria, rap a hymn, give a lullaby a Latin beat. Or choreograph some movements; you can even use your hairbrush as a microphone.

Not sure what to sing? How about your national anthem? A Christmas carol? The toilet paper song? The Zousan song? So many might have to sing a few.

Afterwards, notice how great you feel?

Posted by kuri at 07:30 AM [view entry with 0 comments)]
November 14, 2003
You're Invited

creative.jpgSometimes it's easier and more fun to be creative if there are other people involved. You can expand on one another's ideas--a creativity jam session.

So this week, I suggest that you plan a creative get-together. It doesn't have to be an elaborate event or a formal party, but invite some friends over to do something creative together. Cooking dinner, making music, writing a story, reading a play aloud, sculpting your poodle, designing a website. Something that a group of people can pitch in their ideas and end up with one final product.

If you're in Tokyo, please mark your calendar for my creative get-together.

We'll make nengajo, New Year's cards, on Sunday, December 7th in the afternoon. I'll have postcard stock and lots of pens, paint, paper, glue and tidbits available. Afterwards, let's cook dinner together.

If you want to come along to play, e-mail me for more details. Plan to bring your favorite art supplies for making postcards, and/or an ingredient for dinner.

Posted by kuri at 09:49 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
November 07, 2003
Shhhh, listen

creative.jpg Stop what you're doing now and listen to the world around you for two or three minutes. Go ahead and close your eyes; it's sometimes easier to focus on sounds when you're not distracted by seeing things. But it's fine to leave them open, too..

What do you hear? After a few moments, I'll bet you'll be surprised at all you can hear and describe just from the sounds. What makes the sounds unique? I hear a dog barking but what kind of dog is it? How far away? Is it happy or angry?

At first, I notice the humming of the computers next to my desk but after a few seconds, I realise that it's not just one sound. There's a high-pitched steady whine and a lower hum, plus a deep whirrring. It's man-made music in harmony. If plaid had a sound...

I'm listening carefully as I type this, so I also hear the sound of fingers against keyboard. Sometimes I strike the keys with my fingernails and there's a faint click paired with the sound of plastic pressing against plastic. The spacebar sounds hollower and louder than the other keys. My typing is erratic as I listen a little, type, listen a little more, type, then click with the mouse to correct a typo... The mouse is heavy and its battery door is a little bit loose, so it makes a heavy clap-rattle when I pick it up and move it.

Now the dryer is beeping. Five 1/2 second beeps in something a little flatter than B indicate that it's time to put the laundry away. When I don't get up to do it, it complains with a quick double-beep and I can hear the click of the Off switch opening the circuit.

The door to the veranda is ajar and all throughout my domestic harmonies, there's a descant of traffic noises from the elevated Shuto expressway. Swishes of cars and an occasional delivery truck rushing by a little bit faster than the cars. The traffic is moving smoothly right now. Someone on the local street guns their engine at the light and peels out. A pizza delivery scooter zips past--it sounds like a buzzing bee.

The Marunouchi line runs by every few minutes. First there's the clattering of wheels against tracks echoing in the tunnel, then as it gets nearer the rush of air going past the retaining walls grows louder until it's abreast of my ears, then there's a slight echo as it passes under the cross street. The sound fades away quickly as it heads towards Ikebukuro. A train passes in the other direction--the rumble is deeper and the wheels are squealing, it must be full of commuters.

I like giving my ears center stage of the senses. What did you hear?

Posted by kuri at 12:00 AM [view entry with 4 comments)]
October 31, 2003
Scented Day

creative.jpg Scent is a very powerful sense--can't you conjure up a lot of memories by recalling the smell of fall leaves, pumpkin pie or wet wool sweaters? Today we'll tickle our noses and see if our creativity is enhanced.

I'm not much for wearing perfume, but I love fancy soap in the shower. So for me, a quick way to give myself a change of perspective is to put on some scent that lasts all day. Since I don't have any "real" perfume, I use essential oils.

I apply it to my hair, brushing a drop or two in thoroughly, so when I swing my head around, I catch a whiff of lavender or rosemary. It's more traditional to dab your perfume onto your wrists and other pulse points and that works beautifully , too. If you'd rather not wear the scent, but still want to try exciting your nose for the day, carry it with you on a handkerchief that you can sniff.

If you usually wear perfume, do something different today. Be daring! Try your sexy nighttime scent at the office, or trade scents with a friend. Pick up a sample of a new scent at your favorite department store or wear your husband's cologne.

Any man brave enough to wear his wife's perfume gets applause from me!

Posted by kuri at 12:00 AM [view entry with 1 comments)]
October 24, 2003
Shift work

creative.jpgToday's creative assignment: pick a day next week and shift your schedule by one hour.

You can shift forward or back--I'm a morning person so I'll get up and go to bed an hour earlier than usual. That means I can also get to work an hour earlier--leave an hour early, too! Take lunch at 1:00 instead of 2:00. Have an earlier dinner.

It may not seem like a big change, but you'll encounter a different world. Your commute will be more or less crowded. Maybe you'll get in on a timely lunch special you normally miss, or eat from the early-bird dinner menu. If you watch TV in the morning or evening, you'll see different shows. Maybe you'll see the sun rise--or catch the sunset from street level instead of inside your office.

Posted by kuri at 12:00 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
October 10, 2003
A dozen details

creative.jpgEven though I try to keep my desk tidy, there are lots of things on it. Most of them don't merit a second glance; they are just the things I use every day.

To open my eyes, though, I'll take a close look. You follow along. Grab something from your desk now...what did you pick up? I'm holding my dictionary.

Here are a dozen questions to get you started. Of course you'll see more details than this, so don't stop here...

  1. What does it weigh?
  2. Does it make a sound?
  3. What scent does it have?
  4. Does it have the same texture all over it?
  5. What color is it?
  6. Is it in good condition?
  7. Is it warm or cold?
  8. What size is it?
  9. Where do you keep it on your desk?
  10. How does it move?
  11. Can you taste it?
  12. What do you call it?

1. My dictionary weighs about the same as my half-full coffee mug. 2. If I flip through the pages quickly, it sounds like a bird in flight; if I hold it by the spine and flap it, it makes a flop-flop noise like someone running. 3. A light sniff smells sweet, probably from all the candy that I nibble at my desk. If I open it and take a good whiff of the pages, I'm transported back to my school library. 4. It is a little bit tacky on the covers, and the edges of the pages are soft and dry. 5. The cover is dark dark navy blue with white and yellow writing ad bright red, green and yellow designs. On the back cover there is a pale green and pink sample entry. 6. I've used it a lot, so the edges of the cover are burnished white and the corners are bent and curled back. The pages are turning darker at the edges and there's an accidental pen mark on the outside. The pages from vernier to vision are folded at the bottom corner; from amity to ante are folded down at the top. 7. The book is warm on the outside where I've been handling it, but the pages inside are cooler. 8. Its height is exactly the same as the length of my left hand from wrist-bone to the tip of my middle finger. 9. It stands to the left of the Japanese dictionaries and to the right of the Final Cut Pro manuals. Before I had the manuals on my desk, it was next to my wooden card file. 10. If I sit it spine down, it opens itself to page 564-564, pitch to plane. If I pitch the book across the room is decidedly un-plane lake. Not a bit aerodynamic. 11. I hesitate to actually eat my book, but I can imagine it would be slightly sweet and salty with a strong taste of acid from the cheap pulp paper it's printed on. 12. I only have on English dictionary, so this is just "the dictionary." But it calls itself "The OXFORD Paperback DICTIONARY & THESAURUS" which is entirely too long for daily use.

Posted by kuri at 07:08 AM [view entry with 3 comments)]
October 03, 2003
Breakfast for dinner

creative.jpgTonight, put on your PJs and turn on the Cartoon Network. You're going to spark your silly side by having breakfast for dinner. In my household, a sit-down breakfast is usually only a weekend event. But if we pretend, we can have breakfast any evening.

Classic Breakfast: Pancakes, bacon, juice.
No-cook Breakfast: Cereal with milk, fruit slices, yogurt.
High Class Breakfast: Eggs Benedict, fresh fruit, mimosas.
British Breakfast: Fried egg, baked beans, toast, sausage, broiled tomato.

Be sure to yawn a lot, read the newspaper, or do whatever you like to do in the mornings. Best thing is, you don't have to go to work afterwards!

Posted by kuri at 12:00 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]
September 26, 2003
Creative perspectives

creative.jpgFollowing on the success of Recipe Thursday (which encouraged me to cook more often and make notes on what I was doing), and Video Saturdays (which helped me get back to my video projects), mediatinker will feature a column with ideas for sparking creativity and focussing your creative genius.

Most of the entries will be about changing the way you see or do things. Give your brain a different perspective on your world, and you'll make creative leaps more easily.

The Other Side
Changing my point of view and paying attention to what I see from the other side refreshes my mind, sweeps away the old thoughts, and sometimes sparks new ideas.

To change your perspective, take a walk on the other side of the street. You'll see the familiar neighborhood buildings and sidewalks from a different point of view. Don't forget to look around as you travel on the other side. What does your house look like from across the street?

I did this last week, and was pleased to note that the stark concrete wall I normally walk next to actually fits into the landscape nicely when seen from 10 meters away. And the tree at the corner that was heavily trimmed this spring has a very different shape than I thought.

Not a walker? Try parking in a difference place at the mall or parking down the street from your office. Exit your office through the service entrance. Catch a different bus. Walk to the opposite end of the train platform. Just put yourself slightly outside your usual place, no matter what that place is.

Posted by kuri at 09:54 AM [view entry with 2 comments)]