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Alissa Walker

American Craft Crafts a New Website

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Awhile back we hinted at the relaunch of American Craft, a 67-year-old magazine that found new life in the hands of editor Andrew Wagner and creative director Jeanette Abbink, who were both founding team members at Dwell. The third issue just landed in our hands and now they’ve even got a pretty new website to match their pretty new magazine.

Designed by Brooklyn-based design team Renda Morton and Holly Gressley, the website maintains the attentiveness of the publication, with dedication to patterns and type. The current issue has nice pieces on Lenore Tawney and Heath Ceramics, but back articles are on there, too, including the not-to-be-missed profile of craft heartthrobs Steven and William Ladd. Damn! Take those boys outta the kiln, they are plenty hot!

Something else you might like is the Blog Beat column, where they capture pithy comments from craft blog contributors and commenters. And might we mention to all devotees of the former mag (who keep writing confused letters to the editor), the publication’s extremely comprehensive Calendar–with craft shows, exhibitions and events worldwide–can now found exclusively online.

Dude. Sweet! Dude. Sweet! Dude. Sweet!

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A long overdue exhibition “Sweet: The Graphic Beauty of the Contemporary Rock Poster” opens next month and heaven help us if we can’t get to Maryland to see it. The exhibition features 29 firms specializing in silk-screened rock posters in the Art/Sociology Building Atrium at the University of Maryland. The exhibition runs February 6 through March 29, 2008, with an all-day opening called Sweet Booth, where participating exhibiting artists will sell rock posters, unique works of art, and clothing. Sweet!

In addition, artist Jesse LeDoux will create a site-specific installation that addresses the versatility of the screen printing technique, and artist Tim Gough will create unique signage by silk-screening directly on the walls. The complete list of artists, including 33RPM, Aesthetic Apparatus, Decoder Ring, El Jefe Design, Small Stakes, and many more, is on the website. And for those of you who caught the reference in the headline: Dude.

Heller, Ewen and Jeys Find Out “Where the Truth Lies”

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With a clever wink and a nod to its ultra-timeliness during this election year, “Where the Truth Lies: A Symposium on Propaganda Today” is an all-day conference on February 15 at the City University of New York. Organized by Steven Heller, Stuart Ewen and Mary Jeys, “Lies” will examine where the truth ends and where the spin begins.

Renowned food critic Milton Glaser delivers the keynote for a fun-filled lineup moderated by David Brancaccio of the PBS show “NOW,” and throughout the day there will also be propaganda films curated by Jeys. And how about that poster design, by Michael J. Walsh, Brian E. Smith, with photography by Harry Zernike? We feel ourselves sweating and blinking nervously just looking at it.

Archinect Travels and Takes Us Along for the Ride

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Last year, Archinect editor Marlin Watson, a self-described “disillusioned architect,” embarked on a cross-country road trip with a video camera to find out what we talk about when we talk about architecture in America. In December, he finally started posting his discoveries as the new feature Archinect Travels. Part travelogue, part documentary, Watson’s incredibly personal narration and nice camera work make good companions for this journey, which he explains like this:

This is an architectural sabbatical, beginning and ending in Los Angeles and traveling as far east as Chicago. We’ll make the land a large museum and each building site will become objects for study and scrutiny.

The first tour of duty takes us through the American Southwest, from the modernist epicenter of Los Angeles to the magical money-spewing castles of Laughlin, Nevada; from Taliesin West to the cliffside dwellings outside Sedona.

Download the episodes for your iPod/iPhone and stay tuned for future episodes, including a tour of Minneapolis with Ralph Nelson and Dan Clark of LOOM, the Nelson-Atkins museum in KC, Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, the Morphosis courthouse in Oregon, and hitchhiking on a golf cart with America’s most famous architect. Hmmm, now who could that be?

You’ve Got One Month to Live. What Are You Ordering From Moss?

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Design junkies currently attending the Sundance Film Festival have a movie that’s made specifically for their style-stashing nature, The Guitar, a film that premiered over the weekend:

“One morning, “mouse-burger” Melody “Mel” Wilder (Saffron Burrows) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, fired from her thankless job and abandoned by her boyfriend. With nothing left to lose, given two months to live, she spends her entire life’s savings renting an empty palatial loft in the Village. Thinking she’ll never have to pay the piper, she lives off her credit cards, fills the loft with the fanciest products…”

That’s a still from the movie above, one of many tables in this 6,000 square-foot loft seen overflowing with the entire contents of the latest Design Within Reach catalog.

An article in last week’s New York Times describes the purchases even better: “one-of-a-kind rugs from Carini Lang; chandeliers that sell for $2,500 a pop; and, finally, the creatively fulfilling guitar of the title. It’s kind of a shopaholic’s version of “The Bucket List,” with Jonathan Adler designing the Bucket.” Writer Joyce Wadler visits the home of director Amy Redford (yes, that Redford) to discuss the possession of well-crafted objects and how they could provide comfort to the terminally ill, something we’re sure no one reading this blog could possibly argue with.

How to Locate the Vampires Walkin’ Through the Valley: Move West Down Ventura Boulevard

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If there’s one thing we love about being trapped here in our visual culture bubble, it’s looking at maps. Oh, how we love the informational yet directional nature of maps! But if you asked us to choose another thing we love, just as much as maps, it would definitely be a toss up between maps and Tom Petty. And the Heartbreakers, of course (but that would be three things, we know).

Lucky for us, local publication LA Weekly has combined our two great loves in one great feature, “Tom Petty’s Los Angeles” which includes a beautiful graphic by Scott Gursky that weaves real-life places Petty lived (like several skanky hotels in Hollywood) with notable performance venues and enough lyrical references to send you digging into your iTunes library for “I Won’t Back Down.”

The map was created to coincide with the release of Chronicle Books’ Runnin’ Down a Dream, a gigantic companion to the Peter Bogdanovich documentary that came out last year. The numbers on the downloadable PDF correspond to 38 different locations, with addresses, so you’ll know exactly where to go when you wanna glide down over Mulholland (#20, the location where pro skater and convicted murderer Mark “Gator” Rogowski glided down a ramp in the video for “Free Fallin’”).

Milton Glaser, Pixar Star?

When Ratatouille received an Oscar nomination for best animated picture this morning, we remembered an interesting yet unconfirmed rumor embedded very deep in our brains. We heard that when the Pixar animators needed inspiration for the film’s legendary food critic Anton Ego, they looked to none other than legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser. Laugh if you must, but contrast how Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole) talks cooking, above, with how Glaser talks about designing, below (in the Hillman Curtis film). Wikipedia says Ego’s likeness was modeled on French actor Louis Jouvet, but note Ego’s distinctive cadence, that ever-present scarf, and those large, graceful hands. Hmmm…

Post-Compostmodern: Now What?

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We’d be lying to you, dear readers, if we didn’t admit that before this weekend’s Compostmodern conference, we were in a very bad place.

Maybe it’s just the typical occupational hazard that comes with being a blogger. But when you’re bombarded, every day, with designers touting the eco-sensibility of their newest utterly useless product you should buy for only $499.99, architects who want to be praised for using some non-toxic paint on their latest 500,000 square foot monstrosity, and creative people using up valuable resources to launch misdirected movements about using up valuable resources, it’s enough to make us want to reach our hands through internet until we can wrangle the mouse from their smug little hands and whack them over the head with it until they get it.

So when spoken word artist Dawn Maxey stood up and read her little poem on eco-hype yesterday (read the full text), we wanted to run up on stage and kiss her. Oh, how we feel you, sister.

Valerie Casey addressed that eco-fatigue we’ve all been feeling. But she coupled it with a very interesting point about movements in general–they spike, then dip, then slowly gain more solid acceptance over time. So don’t despair, we’re all just feeling that spike. The dip has yet to come.

Except now, this movement belongs clearly to designers. Activism didn’t work, said Adam Werbach. We are in need of better stories, said Alex Steffen. We need to stop making stuff, said everybody. And Casey made a great argument for why designers by nature are perfect to spearhead change. But when Casey showed the slide above, which was sent to her by, in her words, a “very prominent and well-known designer,” it really got us fired up. Because every single company we heard represented at this conference–Mark Galbraith and Nau, Jane Savage and Nike, General Electric and VSA Partners, yes, even Werbach and Wal-Mart–has realized the importance of not just being designer-centric, but being designer-dependent in order to make big changes. People: There. Is. No. One. Else.

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Adam Werbach: Make Sustainability “Irresistible”

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Adam Werbach opens the closing keynote of Compostmodern by saying something very simple. We need leaders. We need leaders and you are in the sweet spot. Designers need to exercise the power you have because you own the process that needs to be changed.

Then he says he has to speak honestly and he’s probably going to offend someone in this talk. Goody!

The Industrial Revolution is not only over, it’s falling apart. Now we’re in something else–call it the Sustainable Revolution, if you want. Some people are waiting for a crisis to take action, but it’s already here. The oil is gone and there’s a dengue fever outbreak in Texas and the ocean already rose up and swallowed the city of New Orleans. The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of rocks, he quips. The slide rule didn’t just “go out of style.” Things don’t change unless we have something better to replace it. The Industrial Revolution won’t end because it’s not working anymore, it will end when we make sustainability irresistible.

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Valerie Casey Introduces the Designers Accord

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Jessie Scanlon‘s article sets it up perfectly. Valerie Casey (who used to be at frog, now at IDEO) was on her third cross-country flight that month and had just seen An Inconvenient Truth when it hit her. She decided to start doing some research. She came across an albatross carcass which had 1036 pieces of plastic in it. And she learned about giant sections of the open ocean where all the floating plastic in the world seems to congregate. She was suffering from acute apocaphilia (aka exposure to climate porn) and she was having something that sustainability guru Ray Anderson calls the “spear-in-the-heart” moment. Because her slides were so awesome, we’re going to include as many as we can.

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She decided to start putting together a plan that positioned designers as the leaders of this movement. Apparently, not all designers felt the same way.

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