Woven nests and the vision of a perfect society

St-Paul de Vence is such an amazing place with incredible art, antique shops, charming boutiques at every turn. I was  really amazed by the sheer number of galleries in the city, and the fact that it was home to artists that I love – Chagall, Matisse, Picasso. While this too beautiful-to-true place left me so overwhelmed what stayed with me was a beautiful nest I saw floating in isolation, hidden away below the ramparts. Apart from the creative artistry behind the project, there was a kind of comforting aspect to it. If I was not in South of France I wonder if I would ever come across this beautiful project. I really want these wonderful sculptures and the artist behind it to be known.

Kim Cao uses weaved bamboos as the only material to make his floating nests. The manner they support and intersect to form natural shapes inspired him  to create this artistic vision of the perfect society. “The bamboos are men, relying on each other to shelter something bigger, something more beautiful, some unspeakable, and invisible mystery, floating on the winds. A testimony to the grace and solidarity that we humans can show.” The beautiful thing about such art is that it does not always answer the problems faced by the society but makes us ask the right questions.

Nid Vivant - Kim Cao 2015 - 240cmWhat is the creative process behind the woven nests?
After feeling what kind of shape needs to come out, I go out and choose the materials, the thickness of the bamboo and its breed define the natural bend I can get from it.
Depending on the size of the piece, I either use the main stem or the “branches” (axillaries although I’m not sure about the English translation for this, axillary in french, can’t really speak of branches, as bamboo is a herb, like palm trees ).
 I then decide whether to weave with the whole plant, leaving the leaves to decay and eventually fall, or clean up the branches for a more geometrical render.
On some occasions, I heat up the bamboo to artificially bend it beyond its natural limits. Like steel, bamboo fiber becomes flexible when heated, then keeps its shape when cooled down.This technique is indeed tricky, as pressure and temperature have to be adjusted to the stem’s freshness/dryness. Doing so without breaking half the stems in the process takes a lot of patience, but mostly it needs attention and sensitivity, one needs to be “listening” to the bamboo, both literally and metaphorically.
Kim Cao - wandering nest 2013.jpg
I took the time to describe precisely this process because t became obvious to me after a few years of working with this material, that I had much to realize and learn about individuals and societies, from bamboos; as individuals, we can, of course, bend beyond our limits, our balance, but we have to listen to the cracks, pops and pains during the process, otherwise we are sure to break at some point. As a society, we survive and prosper by accepting the links and the pressures that are a natural consequence to these links.
We bond with people, it makes the structure hold itself together.
When the pressure is too great for the individual to withstand, at least a piece of him/her breaks and begins its own journey. Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect society, that’s why leaving my creations to decay and be used as a ladder for young sprouts to get to the light is an important stage of the creative process, which I adore.
Kim Cao - cocoon 2015What inspired you to create weaved bamboo nests?
The need for a shelter, I guess, and the need for a cure to overthinking 🙂 My dad was born in Vietnam and my mom is french. Growing older (and more vulnerable), I admitted lacking a sense of belonging. When you’re mixed blooded, people from either country ask you where you’re from. Hence the attention I gave to societies, big or small, my opinion is we’re all in need of that sense of belonging, and of a connection.
KIM CAO - NEST HD©Kim Cao.jpgTell us more about your vision of a perfect society. 
I wish people would listen to themselves more. To me, it all starts with listening and contemplating. In modern western society, listening to others is considered as a sign of weakness, when to me it’s the greatest sign of strength, and listening to yourself is selfishness when I call it self-alignment. How can anyone else know better than myself my feelings, and in a more general way, what defines me as an individual?
We’re taught to memorize, not feel.
We don’t know our own selves.
My opinion is, people would feel better about themselves by taking a break, breathing, listening and contemplating, and this simple act of self-love could help society into an upwards spiral. Connect, in real life, do something you like!

Kim Cao - suspended nest - 2015.jpg

How do you dismiss all the conflicting thoughts in your head and focus on the singular process of creation?
Most of the times,  it’s the overdose of thinking that leads me to empower myself by manipulating matter. My redundant thoughts are always about things I understand, but can’t change. But I can change bamboo!
Give us a sneak-peek into your typical day. How does an ‘A Day In Life of Kim’ look like?
I’m lucky enough to live in a small house with pets everywhere, and a vegetable garden.
On a typical day, I’d eat fruits and take a walk in the garden with my dog, check on the veggies and on my two beehives. Then I either work on video editing or music, or on sculptures.  I also grow a ton of experiments, like Koke Damas to include in my nests, water lentils to put in recycled lightbulbs, or moss for terrariums. I’m passionate about plants!
I’m also part of an association that promotes artists and also help people/companies install growing systems with recycled materials in homes of offices. And of another, that aims at protecting bees and related insects.
cloche
If someone issues a search warrant through your tools and sketchbooks, what are they likely to stumble into?
Very simple sketches, as I prefer simple shapes, sometimes to help with staging or proportions.
As for tools, the main one is a good sécateur, a quick Japanese saw, a hatchet, strings of differents kinds and a small blowpipe. I also use a variety of climbing equipment to hang the pieces in between trees.
photo KIM CAO Portrait HD ©Dana Sardet
Do you have any other creative projects you are currently working on?
I’m working on an exhibition, a path in the woods I spent my childhood in, in Saint Paul de Vence, and have some other ideas in the area.
I’m passionate about storytelling, so there’s a story I wrote, a philosophical journey, of a young man looking for his roots. Maybe an audio book, child book or animated movie with this.
I’m working on a project with a polish illustrator, for an animated movie. I also love dance, a project involving cadavers acquis (exquisite corpses) with 15 dancers is under construction, I’d  like to explore mixing dance on stage with pre-captured dance videos in a yet to come project. As for sculptures, I’m exploring working with living materials, plants, mosses, maybe even ant colonies!
You can check out his website to see what’s new:
Visual art (sculpture, miniature garden and videos: http://kimcao.portfoliobox.net/

 

Typologies, Design Innovations and Creativity with Gianluca Gimini

I have always been fascinated with writers and illustrators’ creations on blank paper. What intrigues me is the inner conflict and the dialogue they have with the blank page before their creations come to life. So when I stumbled upon Gianluca’s project, where he rendered 50 of the bicycle sketches he collected over the past 6 years into prototype designs, I was fascinated.

What I loved about this project is that its construct permitted us to observe a designer’s awareness of aesthetics and functionality of the product designs against a non-designer’s independent, non-biased, non-aligned thought process. Maybe this is one area we must all consider for product designs and innovations.

I interviewed Gianluca for Blank Paper Project and he had some interesting insights and stories to share about his project ‘Velocipedia’.

Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 HORIZONTAL GALLERIES (10)Gianluca: There is a quite funny story behind this project. It all started in 2009 in a bar in Bologna where I was chatting with a friend. We were talking about school time memories and I recalled this very embarrassing moment: a classmate was being questioned by our technical ed. teacher. He was doing pretty bad and was on the verge of tears at a certain point, so the teacher tried to help him out by asking him to describe his bicycle. The poor kid panicked and couldn’t even remember if the driving wheel was the front or the rear one.  My friend laughed at this story and said that anyone who has ridden a bike must know how it’s made. Then he tried drawing one on a napkin and miserably failed. That’s the day I started collecting bike drawings.

I would walk up to friends, family or total strangers with a pen and a sheet of paper in my hand, asking that they immediately draw me a men’s bicycle, by heart. Soon I found out that when confronted with this odd request most people have a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made. Some did get close, some actually nailed it perfectly, but most ended up drawing something that was pretty  far off from a regular men’s bicycle.
Little I knew this is actually a test that psychologists use to demonstrate how our brain sometimes tricks us into thinking we know something even though we don’t.
Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 VERTICAL GALLERIES (25)
I collected hundreds of drawings, building up a collection that I think is very precious. There is an incredible diversity of new typologies emerging from these crowd-sourced and technically error-driven drawings. A single designer could not invent so many new bike designs in 100 lifetimes and this is why  I look at this collection in such awe.
In 2016 I eventually decided it was my turn to take part in this project. I decided my job was going to be to present the potential and the beauty inside these sketches. I selected those that I found most interesting, genuine and diverse, then rendered them as if they were real. I became the executor of these two-minute projects by people who were mainly non-designers and confirmed my suspicion: everyone, regardless his age and job, can come up with extraordinary, wild, new and at times brilliant inventions.
Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 HORIZONTAL GALLERIES (4)

What is the creative process behind your art?

Velocipedia began as a collection and I really did’t have a purpose for doing it. At some point I understood I was gathering some great material for what is called a crowd-sourced project. Many projects of this kind are aimed at making the exact average of the collected materials, but I thought each and every one of the bikes I was receiving had unique features that needed to be brought to attention rather than merged together into a single design.

In general it would not be easy to say what’s the thinking behind my projects. I like them to be meaningful, that’s for sure. I know I tend to work by association of ideas and that my love for puns always comes up. My coin box for BVR and Ciro Minimo for Helios Automazioni would be two good examples of how play on words influences my designs.Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 HORIZONTAL GALLERIES (6)

How do you dismiss all the conflicting thoughts in your head and focus on  the singular process of creation?

I teach product design in University. I think the best exercise for me is doing this together with my students on their projects. It makes the process much more natural when it comes to my own because I do it so many times together with them.

Give us a sneak-peek into your typical day. How does a ‘A Day In Life of Gianluca’ look like?

There is no rule and that is probably the best part. During the academic year I go to university twice a week and have lessons to prepare, exercises to mark and so on. I also started teaching in high school this year. When school is off  I might find myself for a month in a row inside a big studio working as a consultant on some big project. In between these occupations I carry on other client work and personal projects. Probably what is common to my days is that I don’t spare a lot of time.

What do you feel when you stare at a blank page, before your art take shape on the whiteness of the sheet?

I feel the horror of vacuity. That’s why I need to feel my concept is strong and why I use puns to find an appropriate shape. For many designers styling is more like a final phase of the so called creative process and it can have nothing to do with the function or the meaning of the object. I feel I’m not able to do that.

If someone issues a search warrant through your tools and sketchbooks, what are they likely to stumble into?

A PC first of all, then a smart phone full of pictures I take at things that somehow inspire me (I spent some time publishing some of these pictures last year); and then objects I gather in flea markets and at times use to develop prototypes (this is a different kind of process I use, in which I overcome the horror of the white sheet letting that the shape or part of the shape be determined by something that I can’t control such as a found object). Other tools are linked to prototyping “the old fashioned way”: cutters, balsa wood, glue, plaster and so on.

Tell us more about projects. The one you mentioned are based between crossing the borders between product design, graphics and illustrations.

I think it has to do with the fact I wasn’t trained as a product or graphic designer. I studied as architect and that influences my mentality. I am at the opposite of a purist in any discipline. Also the fact of speaking more or less fluently two languages (Italian and English) and knowing a bit both of Italian and U.S. culture pushes me to look at things from more than one point of view…I guess.
This is a very minor project but I think it’s eloquent. I was asked to develop a cover design for a yearbook and ended up putting together a mock-up for a fictional product, just to make the cover design. The whole thing took me just 4 hours.
This other one, called Instalegs, went viral in 2013. It’s a physical object that I actually produced as a series, but it’s rather a satire that could have been made as  comic. I thought that actually making it would have been even funnier. It certainly would not have gotten all the attention if it had remained just a sketch.Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 HORIZONTAL GALLERIES (3)What are your can’t-live-without stationery essentials?

I love the Pilot V5 because it’s dirty. It always messes up the drawing a bit. Purists of sketching tend to dislike it for the same reason. I also like very soft pencils: B6 is one of my most frequent choices. And I like drawing on scrap paper though it tends to get lost very easily on my messy desk.

Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 HORIZONTAL GALLERIES (5)

Some stats: Total number of collected bicycle sketches: 376
Youngest participant: 3 years old
Oldest participant: 88 years old
Different nationalities of participants: 11
Bicycles facing left: 85 %
Bicycles facing right: 15 %

Gianluca Gimini - Velocipedia 1200 HORIZONTAL GALLERIES (14)

Fun facts collected during the making of this project:

Some diversities are gender driven. Nearly 90% of drawings in which the chain is attached to the front wheel (or both to the front and the rear) were made by females. On the other hand, while men generally tend to place the chain correctly, they are more keen to over-complicate the frame when they realize they are not drawing it correctly.

One of the most frequent issues for participants was not knowing exactly how to describe their job in short.

The most unintelligible drawing has also the most unintelligible handwriting. It was made by a doctor.

Gianluca Gimini is an Italian/American designer. As a professional he carries out projects of different nature often crossing the borders between product design, graphics, and illustration. He loves the communicational aspects of design and adds a humorous twist to whatever he does. He teaches product design at the University of Ferrara and occasionally writes in design magazines. He also helps big architecture firms convey their design projects to their clients.

Check out his projects here: http://www.gianlucagimini.it/

Portfolio: https://www.behance.net/GianlucaGimini

Blog: http://www.gianlucagimini.it/blog

On creative side projects

Side projects are important. Some are born out of the natural urge to create. Some are born out of the relentless  pursuit to obtain that state of self-awareness where creation becomes a dialect to communicate with the world. Either way, it helps us remain relevant to who we were are, as artists, writers or creators.
Recently, I am across Elias Poland’s Journal Pages. These pages document his daily consumptions, from carrot juice to coffee to scabies medication – and everything in between. 
Elias-Poland-drawing-purchases-2
“I suppose the nature of a time capsule is not so much to look at the past, but to throw the present into relief by comparison.” – Elias Poland  Elias-Poland-drawing-purchases-3
Creative process should somehow bring together every element of our lives and no part of it should be betrayed as a mere clinical process. Elias-Poland-drawing-purchases-4
Often our minds are like islands of inspired creativity surrounded by clueless, bastards of disassociated thoughts. But by achieving that integrity with every aspect of daily lives, we become grateful, more centered and more connected.  Elias-Poland-drawing-purchases-5
-egSqFSK7shxLNK060Wf5Q-wide Elias-Poland-drawing-purchases-6
These side projects serve to document our journey, our perspectives and our mundane activities. Instead of discarding them completely, these routines like groceries store visits can help us towards a mindful living and even become a part of our creative process. 
 
You can see some more of Elias Poland’s work at .

Social defiance, friendships and creativity

Creativity is an act of defiance. You’re challenging the status quo. You’re questioning accepted truths and principles. You’re asking the universal questions that mock conventional wisdom. –  Twyla Tharp.

Photography NORMAN SEEFF, JUDY LINN

Photography NORMAN SEEFF, JUDY LINN

What sustains us writers, artists and illustrators is the unique kinship we develop that is different from the traditional construct of friendships seen by this world.  Our friendship takes birth in the creative conduits and spill over the landscape of art, music, and our collective non-conformed lifestyle choices. As years pass on, although we drift apart from friends we meet in our creative spaces, our soul collect parts of their journey and makes it our own.  Soon we outgrow the need to be physically around each other. These friendships leave a permanent impact on our creative lives and fuel our discovery towards new realms of art and literature. One such relationship that we cannot stop obsessing over is the friendship between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Their journey brings to life a personal odyssey of self-discovery that mirrored their passion and curiosity for aesthetics and arts. Pushing the boundaries while exploring mythology, sexuality and religion but always cocoon in the tenderness of love and compassion. At the creative crossroads Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe sacrificed everything often struggling to pay for food and shelter, to make art, write poems and breed their fragile dreams against the conventional wisdom of the society. Their relationship endlessly oscillated between comfort and exploration – pausing the narrative and examining the role of society in the process of creation.

“In 1968 Robert was living with Patti in a little apartment near mine in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. They were always working, making paintings and drawings and sculptures, and the walls of their apartment were covered with their work. They were both very young and I found them very beautiful. I asked to come over to their place one day to shoot portraits of them. They were among the first double portraits I shot. Patti published two of them in her book, Just Kids, in 2010, and credits them as the first portraits made of the two of them.” – Art Director Lloyd Ziff recalls.

Photography NORMAN SEEFF, JUDY LINN

Photography NORMAN SEEFF, JUDY LINN

Launching our creative talents in this world is a self-loathing gig for most of us. We have grown up as freaks, clinically insane and still continue to question the fundamental nature of our troublesome personalities. The highly fantasized “creative journey” actually feels like driving blindfolded into an abyss. The world dismissing it as a drug-induced delusional life of no responsibilities and no commitments. Of being feared as an imposter to the truth set by the collective norms of this world. To watching the death of our favourite stars, ones we worshiped and loved. To realising the inanity of our own creation against the wonderful, fascinating creations of other musicians, writers and artists.  To feel like an island and feel a huge disconnect with the society we live in.

It is here where a co-conspirator, a friend, a fellow-traveler helps in calibrating ourselves and sets tone for our exploits. These friendships help us in realising our creative potential in its anti-institutional context, detaching our egos and de-aligning our self-obsessed individualism from its center to a bigger, larger impulse. An impulse to create because we do not know anything better. An impulse to destroy what we created because it was not honest enough. That impulse that becomes our final beacon and the friend our sole plotter.

An indispensable soul mate, our favourite person, on the road to the great creative Valhalla.

We are one of many

Ben-Clemons

Ben Clemons, owner Bar 308, Nashville, TN No. 308 Owner and Bartender

Many of us are at the intersection between leaving a safe, established order of life and starting something of our own. As artists and writers, we pursue a restless creative path that takes us from singing to theatre acting to painting to pottery – a kind of a supplementary lifestyle that holds us good, as long as we go on with our ‘reasonable’ lifestyle. But when it comes to putting all our metaphorical creative eggs in one entrepreneur venture we shrink and shudder at the thought.

While we may feel we are alone in this journey, there is an independent creative scene picking up steam and evolving in a way that is changing the economics of the world. Not that I understand the economics of the world  or economics in general, what I understand is that many creative folks out there are choosing to leave behind their certain and safe lifestyles and starting their own cafes, shops and small businesses. In the process translating their aesthetics into business ventures that touch people’s lives.

This is where these photo essays on various creative communities of twelve American cities make you pay attention.

Brooklyn-based Writer and photographer Wesley Verhoeve has travelled the US capturing the creative folks from different walks of life – woodworkers, designers, to hairstylists, chefs, farmers, engineers, writers and coffee brewers. One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about the creative communities of twelve American cities. Wesley’s desire behind the project was “to inspire and be inspired by the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage and empower others to make the leap, and let those already there know they are not alone.”

I queried Wesley Verhoeve for more insight and to get a glimpse into his experience with meeting diverse mix of creative folks.

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Wesley Verhoeve Photo Courtesy: BEHZOD SIRJANI

Your project is a sort of an examination of how creative folks live a fulfilling lifestyle outside the major cities and achieve the same self-driven, restless motivation for creation and commerce.  What was the inspiration/reason for starting One of Many?

I was in a transitional phase and had a little time to observe the things happening around me. It seemed like an increasing amount of creatives were choosing to move to, or stay in, the smaller cities, rather than move to the increasingly expensive perceived creative centers NYC, LA and SF. At the same time, I also felt like the same group of people were increasingly choosing to start their own small businesses, or work for other small companies, or as a freelancer. I was curious what these creative communities looked like, so I picked twelve cities to explore where I could capture this new movement in portrait and writing and see it up close.

Justin-Morris-2

Justin Morris, designer, Portland, OR

 

I love the excitement and passion that come from leaving the comfort zone and starting a new business. It is taking a leap into the unknown. What is that one driving factor that inspires creative communities to explore this route?

I think the answer is different for everyone. For some, it might be a necessity, like a stay-at-home parent who isn’t able to go to an office. For others, it might be about having more control over one’s schedule and creative output. Others even might be able to make more money as freelancers than as people on staff. There’s a myriad of reasons, and there are also plenty of people for whom the opposite is true.

Baker

Cheryl Day, baker, Savannah, GA

 

Most of the creative folks out there spread themselves too thin. Somewhere they are stuck midway between leaving their current agency and starting a bakery, design studio or launching themselves independently. What is your advice to them?

I don’t know if I’m really qualified to answer that question. I’m still in the middle of figuring it out for myself, and again, I think every situation is different. I’m still learning every day, watching and being inspired by friends and examples. I do know that I have learned that following the “if it’s not hell yes, it should probably be no” rule works for me, and I also keep a running list of articles and talks that inspire me in practical ways on my website with lots of advice by people more experienced and qualified than I am.

Lane-Huerta-2

Lane Huerta, clothing design, Savannah, GA

 

If someone issues a search warrant through you workstation, what are they likely to stumble into?

Not much! Thank you cards, envelopes, stamps, pens, a computer display and some pretty books or prints.

Josh-Harvey-for-web

Josh Harvey, founder of The Sneerwell, Denver, CO