Posts Tagged 'inspire'

The Regional Assembly of Text | Vancouver

One of my favorite stores in Vancouver, B.C. is The Regional Assembly of Text, a sweet sliver of a shop dedicated to handcrafted type. My daughter, Kate, lives in Vancouver (she’s a student at UBC) and thinks shopping for typography is a good time. Other moms take their daughters shopping for clothes, we buy paper.


Our bi-annual trip, and our bounty, a few weeks ago.

Kate and her friend, Brendan, stopped in for the monthly letter writing club last week, and I convinced them that guest blogging would be a good use of their talents. Here’s a chance to be a vicarious Vancouverite, and hang out with the cool, creative kids.


On a sweltering evening in Vancouver, (okay, it was probably only about 85 degrees, but combined with extended use of public transit and a tremendous lack of air conditioning, the city becomes an oven) my roommate Brendan and I trooped eastwards to Main Street. We arrived about thirty minutes late to the Regional Assembly of Text, a stationary/crafting store nestled behind an inconspicuous doorway and just past the terribly trendy part of town.

The Regional Assembly hosts a letter writing club on the first Thursday evening of every month.  They clear out the center display racks, lay out tables end-to-end, and line up scads (scads, I tell you!) of typewriters for people to use. The place was packed with crafters.


We took pieces of astrobright paper (mine was an appalling highlighter-orange) and old cut up maps of Vancouver to hand write our letters on. Later, as people (locals who had far more experience in letter-writing and had showed up on time) cleared out, we grabbed seats at the coveted typewriters. Sipping lemonade out of teacups and busily hen pecking away, occasionally going way past the page’s edge, I think the place charmed the pants right off of me.

My finished letters bore very little resemblance to the chatty emails and quick one-offs I send every day, or the stupid press releases I receive en masse as the culture editor of a university newspaper. There are horrendous typographic errors, words running off the page, and margins which fail completely to line up with one another. Phrases have to be held carefully in your mind, nursed from beginning to end, because the typing is so much slower. If you forget and let your fingers fly as they would on a computer keyboard, your writing is rendered incomprehensible because you can’t hit the keys hard enough to leave a mark.


There is just something about taking an efficient step backwards that can make us more careful about the words we use and where we send them. A little sweat, a little more attention, and a few drawings in the margins make the messages we give people just a bit sweeter.


Story by Kate Barbaria. Photos by Brendan Albano.


shout out to the entrepreneurs|grasshopper video

A little inspiration to kickstart the week.

Re-branding from the folks formerly known as GotVMail (who?), now known as Yup, it worked. A great example of using social networking, as well. Posted on YouTube, linked on Facebook by my friend Sean, and then picked up and blogged. I’m about to email the writer, Sonja Jacob….this is how it’s done.  Of course, it works because it’s a terrific piece, and the client invested in good writing, design and creativity.

Original music by Carly Comando. Written and produced by Sonja Jacob. Designed by Ben White in the UK.

I’m ready for some Monday morning world changing. How about you?

Mustang~Journey of Transformation

Ever have a friend whose talent, adventures and pure productivity takes your breath away? Who always has a story that leaves you in awe? Who inspires you to reach just a little deeper into your own creative toolbox?

imagesWe’ve known Will Parrinello for over 30 years. He was a “radio guy”  when we were all students (we were newspaper folk) in Chico in the 70’s. He’s one half of Mill Valley Film Group, along with his partner John Antonelli. Their films all have a spirit of curiosity, adventure, creativity and inspiration, and it’s been a thrill to watch them (the filmmakers and the films) over the years. Will’s latest film, Mustang—Journey of Transformation, premiered at the Aspen Short Film Festival earlier this month. And now it’s headed to NY to screen in competition  at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival on April 27. Tribeca was started by Robert De Niro and his producing partner Jane Rosenthal in the wake of 9/11.

Mustang – Journey of Transformation tells the story of the Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang, a Tibetan culture saved from extinction through the restoration of its most sacred sites. It is narrated by Richard Gere and is truly inspirational. Mustang lies on a windswept plateau between Nepal and Tibet in one of the most remote regions in the world. Isolated by both geography and politics, Mustang–known as the Forbidden Kingdom–has been completely off- limits to westerners for 50 years. This starkly beautiful place is home to one of the last surviving repositories of Tibetan sacred art from the 15th century. In 1991 Nepal opened Mustang’s border to the outside world.

What the first visitors found was shocking: the ancient monasteries were on the verge of collapse; the Buddhist wall paintings were disintegrating; the community was deeply impoverished. The people needed health care, education, and jobs. Surprisingly, the King’s first plea to outsiders offering help was to save the monasteries. The King understood… saving the art would save the people, because without cultural identity there is nothing. Mustang -Journey of Transformation is a tale of hope and rebirth told by the people who helped save the Forbidden Kingdom.


Restoring Mandala by J. Sanday

Will describes my favorite character in the film, Luigi, the Italian art restorer. “Luigi Fieni is the head art conservator on the Mustang restoration project. Luigi is like a beacon of light, and his energy jumps off the screen. Through his work in Mustang, Luigi has become, what I call a guileless Bodhisattva… through his open heart – we met dozens of his Loba friends. You have to see Luigi in Mustang – because he’s like the Pied Piper – everywhere he goes young men and women… and more women, come running to greet him. He’s universally loved for the great work he’s done, for his generosity as a skilled teacher and for the professional knowledge he’s shared with the Lobas, and for his amazing spirit.”

Interesting. I think Will’s energy and spirit are pretty amazing, too.

Please keep your eyes open for this film at your local film festival. And if you’re in NY, please consider attending one of the Tribeca screenings (April 27, 30, May 1 and 3). Then find Will and tell him you’re a friend of mine. I guarantee you’ll become a friend of his.

To learn more about this region and the people , check out the American Himalayan Foundation.

buy:design | ReForm School

It’s been a serious week here at re:design, so it’s time for a little Friday shopping therapy. Headed straight to ReForm School, and I confess, I want it all.

The website is a treat, like hanging out with the cool-clever-nerdy-arty-vintage-kids, drinking espresso, listening to obscure jazz, and smoking clove cigarettes. But without the cigarettes (because that really isn’t cool).

My picks:

The Non-Planner Datebook by Keri Smith. It promises me a sense of framework, without feeling constricted or bound by predictability. That’s good, I think.


The Skateboard Clutch by Beck(y)


Polite Cards by Bob and Roberta Smith


And in a lovely full circle moment, the 1000 Journals book (Voyeuristic. Inspirational. Entertaining.), chronicling a project I wrote about here (and reminding me to order my 1000 Journals film from Andrea Kreuzhage).


Easy to get into trouble here. And I didn’t even touch the hammock made from seatbelts. Honest.

Girls for a change

Some of my most meaningful work has been with Reach India, an organization that works with poor women and adolescent girls in rural India, helping them develop the life skills to change their own lives and create their own future. I visited the program last year, and it was an inspiring experience that will always stay with me.

Reach India is supported by Nike Foundation, and they have a true understanding of the power and potential of girls. This video, done by Wieden + Kennedy has been around, but it’s so important to my work, that I want to share it here.

As a communications piece, the video is simple, clear, powerful and inspiring.

For more information, check out

Sabotaging the saboteurs with art

My good friend, copywriter Leslye Wood, has been valued companion in the journey of making-sure-our-work-matters for about 12 years.  Leslye’s path took her Nigeria, and she has spent the last several years committed to researching, writing, promoting, negotiating, pushing, and doing everything she can to support the documentary film, Sweet Crude.

Sweet Crude is the story of the Niger Delta. It’s a story of vast oil wealth and abject poverty. Of greed and corruption. Of the failure of nonviolent protest to right injustice and the dismaying success of militancy to bring attention to the crisis.

The film is finally finished and premiered last Saturday (April 4) at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.

But this story is about the poster in the midst of the journey.


On April 18, the crew walked out of military prison – but their footage remained behind.  The Nigerian government intended to sabotage Sweet Crude and suppress the truth about the Niger Delta, and they failed.

But the detainment did cost the film crew thousands of dollars, at a time when every dollar was needed.

The answer was in art, of course.

In the first moments of the detainment, crew member Tammi Sims used her cell phone to call Leslye Wood in Seattle. For the next seven hours, Tammi managed to surreptitiously send a steady stream of text messages. By the time the JTF took Tammi’s phone, Leslye knew enough about the situation to have already begun critical release efforts.

The Sweet Crude team developed and sold a poster, created from the actual text messages Tammi and Leslye exchanged – on the day the crew were captured and just before they boarded the plane home to Seattle a week later.  The  18″ x24″ posters were designed by Seattle graphic artist Gabriel Stromberg, and  hand painted and silk screened on archival stock. They’re powerful and arresting (pun intended), and yes, I have one.

This is what I mean by visual voice. Literally.

This is my favorite line (the poster came with the full text attached to the back):

Friday 8:17 am (US) Leslye: Sending huge love. Big fat faith. Impenetrable strength. I am right with you in spirit.

Leslye described the Full Frame premiere to be as amazing and gratifying. She was thrilled that the audience was so engaged, and responding exactly as they had hoped and imagined they might. The audience gave the film a standing ovation, and equally (perhaps more) important, they stayed engaged, asking smart, thoughtful questions during the Q&A. Leslye is proud of the film, and I am so proud to be her friend.

Sweet Crude’s fund raising efforts continue. If you are in the Seattle area, check out RAISE IT! SWEET CRUDE FREEDOM MIX BENEFIT CONCERT, April 15, 2009,  The Triple Door, Seattle, WA.

For more information about the concert and Sweet Crude, visit

buy:design | Fieldnotes vs. Moleskine

If it’s Friday, it’s buy:design. We’re buying notebooks today.

I take my notebooks personally, and never met one I didn’t buy. Current favorite at home is a 3D Wonder Woman spiral job I picked up at Target. At work, I have an affinity for composition books (and if I am lucky enough to be traveling, with a label or card glued on the cover, just because).

I am a more recent convert to designer notebooks: Fieldnotes and Moleskine. Just can’t choose between them. And now both companies have figured out that they can sell their notebooks as lifestyle, and I’m even more confused.

Which notebook, which lifestyle?

Fieldnotes: A little bit retro, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Tagline: I am not writing it down so I will remember later, I am writing it down so I will remember it now.


As an extra incentive (because new paper and a perfect pencil isn’t enough for some), they offer a Vintage Memo Book Archive. I am a little relieved to know some one out there thinks this is as cool as I do.


Speaking of cool, Moleskine is standing by to help me become legendary. That’s their tagline, Legendary Notebooks. Their archive includes Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein, and they’ve got an exhibition in Berlin and Paris. Yes, they do take themselves a little too seriously. But…they are so beautiful and they feel so good.


So, while I am still conflicted, my handwriting looks really, really good in the Moleskine. But come this summer, I am going casual, and will swap for the Fieldnotes.

Happy Weekend.