Archived entries for cool stuff

Seeing Red: From Coffee Stains to Socks

Meet Hong Yi aka RED. RED is an artist. She likes to paint but not with a paintbrush. And she made a splash recently with coffee stains and socks. Yes, seriously.

In her latest project, she used 750 pair of socks to create a sock portrait of famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou. She spent over three weeks on the project and used black, white and grey socks, stringing it using bamboo sticks and stitching patiently until the portrait emerged.

She was inspired by bamboo sticks poking out of windows in the alleyway with laundry hanging onto them. “To me, that was incredibly beautiful. And the amazing thing is seeing something so traditional in a modern, pumping city like Shanghai,” says Yi.

Why Zhang Yimou, the famous Chinese film director behind Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower, and the Beijing Olympics? According to Yi:

“Many of his movies reflect the beauty of the Chinese culture, through the use of bamboos and traditional costumes. I thought Zhang Yimou’s portrait done in a Shanghainese laneway, with bamboo and laundry would be perfect for this project.”


She ended up using 750 pairs of socks (shirts were too big and expensive) and she found an interesting way to pin the socks together, creating a diamond-shaped piece of skin. “It was interesting to see the different angles of shadows casted on it throughout the day,” she added.

Yi is not new to using unusual objects as a tool for creating her art. In February, she created a portrait of Jay Chou (a Taiwanese musician, singer-songwriter, music and film producer, actor and director) a using nothing but Nescafe coffee stains on the bottom of a mug.

She was inspired by the first in Jay Chou’s song, ‘Secret’ about lifting a coffee cup off the saucer and the last line, about autumn leaves and fragmented pieces. Hundreds of individual coffee stain rings, many of them broken and imperfect like fallen autumn leaves, formed a whole portrait:

“The singer tells a heartbreak tale of a lost romance with a girl from 1979 who time-traveled forward 20 years and met Jay in 1999, and they fell in love. She then went back to 1979 and sketched a portrait of him. My painting is meant to look like a sepia-toned old photograph to capture the essence of this story.”



The project took about 12 hours to finish. Yi admits that coffee is “quite a challenging medium to use — too little water and the rings wouldn’t form easily, too much water and the rings would blend into each other, resulting in just a deformed pool of coffee. I had to also wait for the lighter parts too dry up before stamping on the darker rings, or else the rings would not be visible.”

As a little kid, she dreamt of becoming an artist. Modestly, she explains how she creates her art: “I like to grab whatever I can get hold of – rocks, ketchup, milk, salt, shirts — and turn them into art. It’s more fun that way!”

Check out her art, like the Yao Ming potrait and the homage to the controversial Ai Weiwei using 100,000/7kgs of sunflower seeds.

You go, Red! Visit her blog, Oh I see Red!

Social Reading: Hey, did you know…

I know I’m not the only one who yet to adopt an eReader. I accept the fact that there are more and more cool devices out there for reading, from Kindle to Nook to Sony Reader to the latest, Kobo. Then there’s a host of social reading platforms, from the Washington Post Social Reader (a free Facebook application that offers a new way to read news — with your friends) to The Guardian‘s Facebook app (which by Dec 2011 was installed by more than 4 million users and drove up daily page impressions by almost 1 million). Google even joined in the fun with Google Currents.

What drives this latest craze? Is it because people like book clubs so much? Let’s define “social reading” first (or L.A. Times more appropriately asked “What the heck is ‘social reading’?”):

Look ahead: The presents have been opened, wrapping thrown away, and for a few quiet hours you’ve been curled up reading the new Steve Jobs biography, a gift from your dad. You find a surprising detail and call to your significant other, “Honey, did you know …?” but because he is busy making dinner, the idea fizzles away as you turn the page.

Or maybe when you get to that passage, with the swipe of a finger you highlight it and email it to your dad, adding a thanks for his gift. Or you click to add your thoughts to a chorus of readers who found that same passage interesting; or you check to see if there’s a link to a video clip; or you find an annotation from the author; or you post it to Twitter or Facebook or Google+, where others can comment on it too.

That’s called “social reading,” and it’s coming to an e-reading app or device near you.1


It’s not hard to believe that people want to share what they have read with other people and receive feedback about their thoughts and ideas. Technology is the great enabler for social reading, and the natural place for this activity to cultivate.2 I get it when it comes to news such as the case with Washington Post, The Telegraph and NY Times’ Recommendations. It’s discussion on current events, policies and the market. And it’s “happening right now.” But I guess there’s a need to opine on everything, even when it comes to chick lits, just like in a traditional book club.

Let’s take a look at one of the latest “club”: Copia, which bills itself as a Social Network for Book Lovers. It’s a social media and content delivery platform that brings together content, community and commerce to create an environment where users collaborate, socialize and buy content. Copia is accessible across a broad array of digital devices and platforms including Mac, PC, Android, notebooks, netbooks, iPads, slates, smart phones and eReaders.

With a tagline of “Reading reimagined for the iPad™” Copia wants book lovers to love it (because every book lover apparently has an iPad. Well, except me). It combines everything you love about the iPad with the most advanced social reading experience. Essentially, apps are increasingly being developed to enable users to electronically share thoughts.

Putting my reservations aside, Copia seems to offer lots of nice doodads like featured/most active groups, creation of notes, combining e-commerce & social. In addition to syncing your spot in a book, taking notes and highlighting excerpts, Copia lets you connect with other users. You can view notes that friends have made in the margins of a book, or join Copia Groups (essentially e-book clubs) and share recommendations. Copia has many of its own social networking features, but it also can connect with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.3

I like to note that there are some bright and useful elements in these eReaders & social reading platforms, especially from Kobo and Copia, for UI designers and app developers to consider in a community /application design. It’s definitely a lot more user-friendly if used for eBooks but nice UI for the iPad & Desktop Reader.

Before I end this thought, I’m adding self-publishing factor into the mix. There are many out there as well but I like BookBaby, which throws open the doors to the electronic publishing and distribution world for independent authors, offering affordable short-run book printing with the highest pay-out rate for eBook distribution in the industry.

Now that makes it real interesting: BookBaby not only publishes for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Copia (and distributed by the latest two partners), authors can also create custom-printed version of your book, with your own design! Bookbaby Print utilizes the latest layout and bindery technology, along with the highest quality paper, bindery stock and printing processes to produce books that are guaranteed to delight authors and their readers. Yes, don’t throw this baby out with the bath water!

So does this mean “gone are the days of “selfish,” private reading: reading alone in the bathtub, alone under the covers, alone on the couch, alone in the park, etc.”4? It’s still hard for me to swallow that idea, that reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. I really like my analog paper.

p.s. A look at using social reading for education. It’s in the form of collective reading that characterizes early reading instruction, where reading begins as a social experience. Now that’s something I can stand behind!


1L.A. Times: What the heck is ‘social reading’?

2,4Tame The Web: Allison Mennella – What is “Social Reading” and why should Libraries care?

3Switched: Copia, A Social E-Reading App, Quietly Launches 


So Goude: Goudemalion. A Retrospective.

The first-ever retrospective of the work of Jean-Paul Coude, a French graphic designer, illustrator, photographer and advertising film director. You may not know of him but you’ve seen his iconic work.

‘Blue-black in Black on Brown’, New York, 1981

Opening at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs on Friday is the retrospective ‘Goudemalion’ of the work of Jean-Paul Coude, a defining 80′s artist, art director, photographerand image maker. The exhibition examines the work through the lens of the Pygmalion myth — a humorous nod to his most important muse, lover and the mother of his son, Grace Jones, to whom he is, as he laughingly puts it, her ‘Pygmalion.’1

Goude didn’t like studying; in his own words he “was bad at it.” Luckily he was good at drawing. He began his career in the 1960s as an illustrator for the department store Printemps in Paris. he began his career in the 1960s as an illustrator. In 1964 he became the Artistic Director for Esquire in New York and 10 years later, he joined New York Magazine. It was there that he first met and photographed Jones and became instrumental in honing her public image, exaggerating her androgyny and producing many striking work, including the famous photograph of her impossibly twisted pose used on the cover of her 1985 album, Island Life.

‘Grace revue et corrigée’ (Grace re-visited), New York, 1978


Azzedine et Farida, Paris, 1985

First published in New York Magazine in 1978, this image is in fact a montage of several photographs spliced together. In the days before Photoshop, this was Goude’s trademark: Using scissors to chop up photographs and then reassemble them, elongating limbs and exaggerating lines and curves. He called this technique ‘French Correction’2 — which is mostly concerned with glorifying and revealing the body, by exaggerating and subliming it. He redesigns the bodies of his models, photographing then transforming them.3

Aside from creating several well-known campaigns for brands such as Perrier, Citroën and Chanel, Goude is also a filmmaker; his film ‘Heartbeat’ traces his eclectic influences and highlights his diverse portfolio which has led to some describing him as a ‘polymath’. What is apparent from the film is that Goude was and is heavily influenced by black American culture and French colonialism — a result of having grown up in a predominantly black neighborhood in France. “I was an illustrator who used to illustrate other people’s fantasy. I naturally became an “image maker,” he says.

Designed by Goude himself, the retrospective is a giant installation retracing his 40 year career. The show is organized into different sections: One a chronological journey from his early days to his most recent work, another recreating the most celebrated moments of his career — special areas dedicated to his most influential projects: Les Galeries Lafayette, cut-up slides, neon furniture, Chanel, and his muses, from Toukie Smith to Grace Jones to Karen, his last muse and current wife.3

Self-portrait, New York, 1982

According to Amelie Gastaut, co-curator of the exhibition:

For Jean-Paul Goude, as for those of us who curated the show, there’s not much difference between Applied Art, commercial arts and Fine Arts. Behind each of these lies an artist and his singular and original universe. When the advertising world solicited his work in 1982, he had started his artistic career for about 20 years, and he’s still a major element of today’s French artistic scene.5


A highlight of this season’s cultural programme, surprisingly, it will be the first ever retrospective of the work of the now-iconic Goude on the French advertising and fashion scenes. And the perfect opportunity for viewers to gain an understanding of his unique world view.

‘Le Noir’ self-portrait, New York, 1982


Goudemalion opens today and runs through March 18, 2012. More info (in French only): Les Arts Décoratifs — Goudemalion. Jean-Paul Goude une rétrospective


1,2Wallpaper: Goudemalion: Jean-Paul Goude retrospective, Paris

3,5Elle: Jean-Paul Goude Paris Exhibition

4Art Photo Expo: Jean-Paul Goude

Photo credit: Jean-Paul Goode®

Post-it Like Crazy

Brazilian shoe brand Melissa takes 3M’s Post-it notes and stop-motion animated films into a massive new level.

Using 350,000 of the colorful stickies in the U-shaped foyer of Melissa’s flagship store in São Paulo, the Post-its act as “pixels” in the video, with become these impressively trippy images of prancing elephants, balloons lifting folks aloft and pulsating heart-flowers. It’s part of the brand’s “Power of Love” campaign, which was appropriate because it took 25 animators five months to create and I bet they loved every moment of it. :-)

On top of the animation, the company got passers-by to jot down messages on 30,000 Post-its, and it has since gone viral online. There are some environmental types who are concern about the ultimate fate of all those notes, but I don’t see why you can’t totally recycle those notes by passing it to the next person. It’s the power of love, man.

Make sure you watch the making of it.

Via Adweek

Sharpie Taps Into Self-Expression

I love Sharpies. I always have one with me. They can be fine or fat markers or anything in between; I’ve used them to doodle in class since I can remember, and I can always rely on my red fine point to mark up anything (yes, the dreaded “Imelda is marking up the printouts again”). And I have the ink-stained fingers to proof it.


Sharpie’s latest campaign, Start with Sharpie, draws on “Self-Expression,” and it reminds me of all the things I love to do growing up: Writing, drawing, tic tac toe, crosswords, “permanent” tattoos (yea, you had one of those). It taps into the idea that Sharpie gets you to express yourself, be creative and make anything you want. With nearly two-million incredible Facebook fans, what’s better than using their avid fans?

They recruited three of their Sharpie Squad members: Cheeming Boey (you may say “Jimmy who?” but get ready to be blown away), Erica Domesek (DIY Expert) & Mark Rivard (skateboard artist).

Cheeming Boey

Cheeming Boey is the “coffee cup artist” who drew intricate, finely-detailed drawings on those 4-cent Styrofoam cups with a Sharpie. Styrofoam gets a bad rap because it’s cheap, disposable and it never degrades. A landfill nightmare. But Cheeming has turned it into something you gape at.

“About the only time it makes the news is when some city bans its use – as more than 20 California cities have done. Or when some art auction sells a foam cup with a dead ladybug in it for $29,900 – as happened in 2001. All of which makes the simple, 4-cent cup the epitome of pop art. It’s at once kitschy and unhip and dismissed by all. Yet it can be a demanding medium to master. It’s curved. It smudges. You can’t redo mistakes. And every drawing must re-connect to its start.”


Cheeming’s work has been displayed in galleries nationwide. In his ad, Cheeming demonstrates how a Sharpie Pen and a simple Styrofoam cup can be combined to create something truly inspiring.

Note that not even bananas are safe from his wandering Sharpies. In this picture, “mistake” cups are used for drinking.

Erica Domesek

A DIY expert, author and creator of P.S.- I Made This, Erica’s creations are inspired by some of the biggest names in fashion. She has been featured in top entertainment and fashion media, and both her website and her book feature several Sharpie DIY projects. In her Sharpie ad, Erica breathes new life into a standard-issue pencil case using new Stained by Sharpie® fabric markers to create a chic purse.

The good news is you can make too—just follow the steps listed in the D.I.Y. with Domesek blog post!

Mark Rivard

Mark is a super-talented skateboard artist who has figured out how to manipulate Sharpie markers like a paintbrush to create some amazing skateboard art, complete with the kind of nuanced brush strokes and shading that makes a Sharpie blog editor proud. Using skateboards as his canvas, Mark’s designs have appeared in sports commercials and viewed in galleries worldwide. Mark demonstrates how he uses Sharpie Mini markers to create coveted custom boards.

In addition, the print campaigns will include QR codes where you can unlock exclusive content and videos of each Sharpie project.

The campaign supposedly aimed at teenagers, with new website to boot (not too crazy about it). However, I don’t feel that it alienates older age groups (heck, I’m in that way older age group), so one fat check mark for you, Sharpie!

To read all about it, go to


Images courtesy of Sharpie

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