Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Leaders of tomorrow

In the globalized world our reference point is not our neighbor, but the whole of society. 

We cannot benchmark on the next person´s opinion anymore, but increasingly, only on our individual ethics. 

Successfully implementing personal values when thinking on a holistic, global scale will determine the leaders of tomorrow.

I am collaborating with my brother on this very unique post about stuff we are not okay with. Here are his thoughts expressed with great words and clarity. Could´t agree more.

I feel like we are losing the war on idiocy. we are fighting global warming while car industries cheat pollution tests. we are fighting oppression by subjugating people. we are fighting prejudice by not listening to others. We are fighting for heaven by bringing hell on earth.

Groups of ignorant, narrow minded people bombing people on the basis of the sad illusion we call "religious extremism".

Every time someone decides to voice his own extremist hate against another human being through any form of violence, he is not destroying an enemy, he is destroying everyone, including himself. The only enemy worth fighting is not out there, somewhere, offending our world view, it is in our own heads, giving us such a pitiful and limited world view in the first place.

Terrorism is not only extremely sad because of the people who die. It is sad, because it means that we are not ready to be united in the face of the real threats that loom closer every day on our very species and human civilization. Global warming, epidemics, energy and food depletion, pollution - we can't act against any of these the way we are now.
Soon we will regret having chosen to kill each other because of petty fairy tales instead of taking action when the time was right (or I should say overdue).

Think we are doing a damn good job? Think again, there is a lot of work to do.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I understand contemporary Art.

I understand contemporary Art.And after reading this you´ll know you do, too.

I love art museums, always did, but all too long I felt that frustrating feeling of “what am I even looking at”.  Sounds familiar? You want to look smart, feel you care about culture, maybe just want to take a selfie with the Mona Lisa, it doesn´t matter, now you´re there in front of this huge art collection that looks, well, very artistic. You´ll take a stroll through the centuries and try to make sense out of it, very soon you´ll start wondering if they´ll have bagels in the cafeteria and look for the toilets to check your hairdo, but right now, you´re motivated.

It starts easy. Cave paintings, Stone Age Venus, all right, look what those apes 2.0 did there, of course my five year old nephew can do something like that, but we´re talking about half-brained Hominidae here (yay I used Latin, being here makes my QI rise by the minute). Imagine starry skies and mammoth hunts, maybe consider turning paleo, discard the idea half a minute later.

Next, Egyptians. Egyptians are always cool, they look half elves half Persian, did they really have such long necks and full lips? They must have been hot as hell. This one´s Cleopatra?  Where´s Tutankhamun? Cleopatra and Caesar must have been the most epic love story of all times. And the pyramids! Now that´s something I can relate to. I see it, I understand it, it looks awesomely cool and difficult to make but I get it, stacked rocks, neatly cut, rolled on tree trunks and up sandy slopes. Everyone wearing the same white cloth around their hips, the Pharaoh over there with the majestic headpiece and the scepter and the Dog God and Ra, the Sun! Great! I love Egyptians, they are so memorable. All their symbols are just perfect to recreate scenes in your head, mummies, cats, the Nile, fanning with big palm branches. Scribes sitting cross-legged. Hieroglyphics.

From scorching desert sun to rainy Britain, knights and castles, pretty maids with laced dresses, long broad sleeves and braids. Medieval times are dark, violent and cruel. Cold rooms, but hot hearts. In their art they all look extremely ugly, glassy eyes, ghostly pale, an expression of repressed sufferance (which reminds me, whenever you feel down google Elisabeth Stuart, the pearl of England, hottest woman of her time, she´s really ugly). Pointy shoes, curly hair, long coats, huge horses, monks, the Bible, Heaven and Hell. Those illustrations are fun. Tapestries and icons. Every panel is a different time or scene of the narrative. Wooden frames, painted glass windows.

The roman, the gothic, cathedrals! Up, up to the sky! We want salvation for our Souls! But quiet, if your fever rises we´ll have to bleed you with leeches. That will purge the evil humors. Repent, your time is near. Here, have a blunt sword and go die in a horrible manner, at least your pains will be over. If you´re dead at least you won´t be hungry.

Renaissance comes like dawn, now the light is soft, comfortable, now it´s Florence and the machines are at work, they flap their leathery wings and turn their wooden gears and ropes are pulled and sails blow open in the full wind, where´s Marco Polo? We´re departing! Manchuria awaits with rivers of golds and rubies hanging from the trees. For the ones who stay, paintings are the most delicate and detailed expression of reality, skin is soft and rosy, pearls are glowing from the inside, brows are thin and serene. Superb needlework adorns rich robes. Everything looks even more real than a picture, no dark bags under the eyes, no litter on the paved streets, no flower ever faded. There comes Leonardo, Raffaello and Michelangelo and when you see their sculptures it´s awe and wonder, the way it should be. They are white and perfect to the point some people want to hit Pietà´s Virgin Mary because her beauty is too heart-breaking.

You can deal with this, this is a journey to technical perfection, where every single hair is a stroke of brush, colours and shapes, light and dark, perfect proportions. It´s so difficult to make, it must have taken ages, that´s what I value, manual skills and time, everyone understand what those are in the same way, we have a direct experience of it. Now this, this is talent, so this must be Art!

The Impressionism is where most of us split. There´s early Monet and who doesn´t love it, his world, no, his environment is so beautiful! You can almost see the water splashing, almost hear the seagulls crying out for your bread crumbles, little smiles on the corner of lips, you can almost see them opening in a full laugh, or maybe seal in a giggle. See the flickering light bulb in the lonely street covered in snow, hear the carriage that left those dark marks in the mud clang noisily away in the fog, smell that steamy cup of coffee, or is it cocoa?

Then, like the vacant gaze of the woman sitting with her crystal glass of absinthe, our vision too seems to get blurry. Colours don´t fit in anymore, shapes are out of perspective, figures lose their proper contours. Time and subjective perception seep in but okay, I get that. I might not agree, but I still recognize what Van Gogh and Picasso are showing me, there´s a narrative, something is happening and I am part of it, and then come on I mean the guy cut his ear off, he must have had something pretty interesting to say at a dinner party, while the other one is just too famous not to fake being familiar with. Why, of course, Picasso is amazing. He´s the one with the sunflowers, right? Just kidding, everyone can at least recall Guernica?

Aaand that was it. Now we enter abstract art. Kandinsky, Mondrian, Rothko.


Rothko …

Wait what? What happened? Why would anyone call a red square of paint an art piece? How did we get to this point? And if this is the sublimation of it all, then what are artists still doing out there?

Let´s see. Prehistoric Art was stickmen and stamps of hands, they were really like kids in the sense that were learning to depict something from...well from nothing. There was nothing before, no precedent. They might have noticed footprints and maybe found resemblances between, say, a pattern on a rock and a leaf? So they realized they could make an image of something by copying it, for example with imprints, or represent it. Can you imagine how it must have felt when for the first time ever something that was not there was indeed there, somewhere else than in your own head. Just because the first one to think about it used a burnt stick to trace it on a cave wall, it existed. Just coming to the idea that your thoughts could be visible, and how. It must have been mind-blowing. 

Slowly, signs were coded and evolved into hieroglyphics, together with more and more representative images. The idea of animal heads on human bodies, or forecasting, through words and signs, a more abundant harvest. Here again, something that wasn´t there before, like a God, or a hope, was brought into existence thanks to the power of imagination. These skills made communication through an universally understandable medium possible, no words required. Almost like reading each other´s mind. No wonder the Pharaoh was God. He created things, like the Afterworld.

Decoration and writing became the weapon of the rich and powerful, which in turn became even more rich and powerful, because they could keep their communication within a smaller circle. Think about monks, who were writing books, prayers and rituals, and were the only ones who would not die in battle or from hunger, and lived in stone buildings erected “for God”.

Eventually, tools evolved and art found new applications, for example in wood carving and window decoration, very handy if you need to create a “magic”, evocative atmosphere, or just hide the shallowness of an empty church, the coolness of naked stone, entertain during incomprehensible mass service or attract prayers and pilgrims, along their charitable donations of course. So art as a weapon of power, a show off, look, we have beds, you see? Beds! No more smelly hay for the five of us, look how comfortable we look under the blankets side to side like sardines, we´re, like, the highest point of civilization.

With tools taken care of, paints that would last and not crack or fade, stable supports like frescos, and smooth soft marten brushes, artists were all set. Ready to discover perspective. It needed a genius and a genius they had. Geometry they already knew, to build cities, you know, now it enters the two-dimensional space and makes a party! We didn´t know we missed her until she arrived, now we just can´t do without. What a great invention! Space pops up everywhere, the canvas is deep, deep and full of items, they can be arrayed here and there and light, oh light makes so much more sense now that objects are at a different distance.

Wait a minute, light is the key! It´s not the object I see, but light being reflected from it! What do you mean, water is blue? Why blue? No look, water is black, and it´s white when clouds pass over the sky, and there, water is bright orange in this sunset. Monet´s wheat sheaves are blue and pink, Rouen is afire, a coral reef, everything but white stone. Light travels in time and time too is part of the narrative. That girl has just turned, the dog just ran away barking, leaves are trembling in the light breeze, flags roar in the brave coastal wind. Nature is alive, we are alive! Doesn´t it feels great standing here above the clouds, looking down on a sea of fog, Mr. Friedrich?

We´re on top of the World. We got trains and can travel to distant, exotic lands faster than ever. Have you ever seen an Ostrich, my dear? Those birds are two times taller than you! Here - this is an Ostrich egg, I got it at the World Fair last month. Pretty expensive, but the spirit of adventure and discover, what´s money to it, my Beloved! Oh but what would you know about that, woman, you are only thinking of the omelette you could make with this, ain´t you? I very well know you, yes I do.

Expressionism taught us that no, we don´t know everything. We know very little, to be honest. What do you know, about what´s going on in my mind? Here, I´m going to show you. What is this? It´s rage, frustration, despair, desire, all at once. It´s what I´ve seen and what I want to see, it´s my dreams, my fears. Do you understand? No, Mr.Kandinsky, no, Mr.Nolde, Mr. Matisse, Mr. Magritte, Mr.Munch, Mr. Van Gogh, I don´t see any of that here, I don´t understand. What are you painting? Why? Oh well - I guess I´ll just enjoy the colours then, although those also look rather … disturbing. Are you disturbed, Mr. Artist? Is the lead in the white paint poisoning your eyes and your mind? Can´t you explain? No, no, how can you explain feelings? Look, I am actually showing you! Here it is, see? Sometimes it´s a black well, others a rainbow blur, sometimes its painful, other times is just empty, void, melting down, I can´t even start describing you what I feel, but here, feel it for yourself! Just look at it, see what I mean?

Then something happens. Emotions, we all feel the same, right? Blue reassures and red makes our hearts beat faster. But what is causing emotions, what is there that makes me able to feel, what is there that makes me think about the fact that I am feeling, how is it that I know this one is a good or bad idea, and oh, there´s so many things in my mind, and the canvas is so small, what can I possibly show here, that will contain it all? What can this tiny brush do for me, this pencil? 

Wait, what can this pencil do? Everything!
Everything is here, all the powers that ever where and ever will be, are here, in this ink. This is a pen, and a piece of paper, and all the possibilities in the world. I don´t need to do anything else than put it down. I begin, I place my pen on the paper. A point. Now a line. A black sign on a white background. Is it the horizon? Or a table. And the point above it, is it the sun? And if I turn the canvas upside down, what is it then, a fish in the sea? Degas, many years before, has cut his supports in such unexpected ways, pulling the gaze of the observer out, out of the frame, as if to say look, this is only a part of the whole. It´s the corner of a dancing hall, the dancers are cut in half, one leg here and the other outside of the canvas, so what? I´m sure you can hear them tip-tapping their fairy feet while they warm up for class just as well.

Now abstract art is the same message, look, what do you see? Good, and what else? Amazing, yes, all that and much, much more! Come back tomorrow, maybe you´ll see something you have missed today.

A point and a line, the beginning of it all, the units, they can´t be found in Nature. Nature has no “point” size, no “line” thickness. It has marbles and sticks, which are usually not really round nor straight. There is the power of the mind, the power of abstraction, of symbols. Everything came from rational thinking. We were waiting for blizzards to have fire, now we type away on screens. Some of us are sharing their thoughts online, through data files built out of points, that become lines, that become surfaces, that can bend and fold and be observed from all sides before being extruded with our 3D printers. We are still drawing stickmen though, still displaying them in art galleries, 35,000 years ago just as we do today. Still wondering what does it mean? 

So to finally prove to you I understand contemporary art and you do, too: art is witness of her time, she documents and escorts us in the journey understanding ourselves. What do we like, what don´t we, and why. What do I see in a point and a line, in a field of reds, what I don´t see there. Sculpture, in that sense, is even more stunning. Three-dimensional space of possibilities, and we´re not just in front of it, we´re in it.

Art is not the object in front of you, it´s what´s happening within you while you are looking at it.

If you want to see something as art, you will. Art is everywhere. So why does some art enter galleries, who decides? Well you do. Do you have something to say, do you want to give us something to think about? Well there you go. Give it a shot. The world is always hungry for the show, for something to think and talk about.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Have you found your balance between working and wellbeing? I still have to work on it.

Here´s to first-world working girl problems. Silly little (and less little) things that make our lives just that tiny bit more stressful everyday.  

Breath in, breath out, keep going, tomorrow you´ll do better. 
Just remember to keep your smile on ;)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

There´s only two types of people in this World: those who know what they´re saying, and those who don´t but think they do.

Who knows what he´s saying is smart. Who doesn´t know what he´s saying, is stupid. Smart people are fun, stupid people are annoying. Most times we´re just both without really noticing. Well, we should notice, we should take care of our words. Here´s why.

I was going to post about violence in movies (and sex on TV, as Lois sings) when I found myself wondering if I actually knew what I was talking about. I asked myself cause I didn´t want to be annoying, this time. So I sketched a quick mind-map and things got pretty intense.

All of a sudden I had a map of Life, the Universe and just about Everything. Ah well, not really the Universe. Or maybe yes. Anyway, here it comes.

It can be read in any direction, it´s a circular, iterative mental process. Everything we know is either Art or Science, Art is part of Science and everything is Language. Here I write Language as Communication, and Communication isn´t just Verbal, it´s Semantics: the Word and its Symbol, its Representation. There are millions of connections, logical jumps, that one can draw here - here´s the fun about it. 

I love Theories of the Whole. Let´s put some order in our Universe, shall we? Cause if you don´t understand Order, you won´t be able to deal with Chaos.

Disclaimer: how do I say this. This is just an image I did because I felt like it. It´s no conference paper. I just had it in my mind and felt like putting it down.

So from Word and Representation come all fields of Art. We start with pure Word as Poetry and Prose on one side, pure Symbol with Drawing and Painting on the other side. As traditional Art goes, they are two distinct disciplines, but here it´s not really relevant. I also group both hand and digital works. It´s the same mental process, although the tool is different. See my blog post about 3D printing for more about this topic. Then there´s Photography, and here there are other levels of complexity worth mentioning, which are quality and stream, pop. Oliviero Toscani against Instagram, say - while on Instragram there is a bit of everything, from yet another bottle of Vodka (people, seriously?) to amazing nature shots (now those are the right kind of shots). 

Words go into Music, notes have names and can be hummed or sung or whistled - I hate hearing other people whistling just as much as I love whistling myself (such a cruel world!). Music again can be instrumental or electronic. Mozart or Skrillex. I don´t give a judgement here, I am pissing enough people off already, I am just leading a short trip through space and time, when I went trough it myself it blew my mind but by all means, you feel free to keep your levels of excitement down.

Music becomes Dance, which here I want to understand as pretty much any movement done on purpose of Beauty, done with an intention of Harmony. 

Prose and Drawings sublimate into Comics. If you ever read Alan Moore you hopefully know what I am talking about. But down to any Manga, you see, word and picture are just so perfect together. Even more, not a picture, but a drawing. The idealized, symbolic expression of a known, or unknown, object or figure. Sometimes so much more perfect, touching and meaningful than a photography. The parts that our brain fills in, that´s the amazing stuff about comics. Like books, they defeat the chains of Time. I can look at that face, at that crazy city, just as long as I want. The frame won´t move on, it´s there for me. It´s waiting for me to be ready to be carried on.

Sculpture lifts from the two-dimensional space. From there to animation is a small step. If physical, it takes Movement (here Dance) arm in arm and enters Theatre, Cinema. If virtual, it´s Cartoons, Anime. 

Architecture transforms visual, figurative Art into Science. Here I see architecture as the design of things. Interiors and products, buildings and urbanity. Fashion, too, of course. Social Sciences such as Economy, on the other side, are the bridge between emotive behaviour and rules. 

Move a step more into the scientific, rational field and you find Engineering and Biology. Everything has a number and a definition. Here again, the word and its symbol. Biology abstracts in Chemistry, everything is Physics, and it´s Math. And I am here typing this because of Informatic, the realm of Logic. 

Logic, as the use and study of valid reasoning, is the beginning of everything, even of Math. Back to start. This makes me think about common sense, and how important and essential it is.

The Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.   
~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

p.s. I am still thinking where to squeeze in Cooking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mesh Printing in 12 Steps - with drawings!

We posted a video of how we print on things like tote bags and t-shirts using screens, it got quite some attention and nice feedback. Screen printing is super easy and fun, anyone can try at home. 

There are different types of screen printing - which is the same as saying mesh printing. Using a stencil is the easiest way, using photographic emulsion screen printing (which is how we do at Steamy Chums) needs a bit more gear.   I will show you how to do both methods.

We make our prints at Mesh Print Club in Rotterdam, which is an awesome lab, and I invite anyone in the area to try one of their courses. Find them here:

Photo-emulsion Mesh Printing in 12 Steps:

If you just want to mesh or screen print, prepare a stencil and jump from step 2 to step 10 of this article. Use stencils if you just need a few items to be printed, and if your design is simple, with big fills and wide lines.

If you want to use photo-emulsion print, stay with me here. Why use photo-emulsion prints? Because they are more precise, allow for more detail and can be used for as much as needed without breaking apart. Cardboard or paper stencils that get wet with paint break apart very fast, and fine lines are difficult to print.

Now we go to the big machines. You can of course figure this out at home, but I suggest to find a lab where you can use dedicated tools.

* Catch up here if you want to use a normal stencil instead of one made with photographic emulsion. *

Here's the whole process in one image, open in new tab to enlarge.

 Sounds fun? It is! Here are some process pics.

Placing the screen in the vacuum machine.

Washing off the emulsion that hasn't been impressed because it was covered by the artwork.
Printing at the Mesh Print Club.
And printing at home.
Our homemade Steamy Chums T-shirts! Soon on our online store.

Een video die is geplaatst door mira conci (@steamychums) op

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Urban Makers - big ideas, tiny apartments

Picture this: you live in the city center, your budget is squeezed, and you love creating things. Handcraft, DIY, bricolage, arts and crafts, tinkering, you name it. You want it all - but you live in a one bedroom apartment. Together with your partner. You're an Urban Maker.

This is our situation here at Steamy Chums Home Lab. We make resin toys and architecture models, sometimes furniture. We started in a very organized, efficient way and packed everything neatly and clean in a vintage cabinet bought on purpose. Already 2 square meters of our precious 15 square meters each were gone, devoted to the inner monster who wants to MAKE THINGS. 

Poor fools. As soon as you give space to your inner monster, he's going to want more. MORE.

Now we have tools all over the place. But our friends are cool with it.

They want to be nice and are very comprehensive.

We'll see when we get that milling machine we want.

For now it's ok. Most times.

After all, Urban Makers are just like any other people.

Urban Makers girls love shopping. Especially for things they already have.

They bitch if people touch their favorite things. Especially if they're fragile.

They fight with their mother when she comes visit, while she just wants to give a hand.

I mean, how many times have I told her...

Urban Makers are asked the same embarrassing questions as any other young couple.


They have to deal with Murphy's Law anyway. 

For example, no matter how many of the same basic item you have, the one you'll need is always missing.

You might be a master of advanced technologies, but your kitchen appliances will still let you down.

And no matter how cool you feel creating chemical reactions, you'd better tidy up afterwards.

Thanks for reading ;)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Casting, the Nightmare you didn't see coming.

Casting is exciting, you think you'll make tons of perfect copies of your artwork in no time and you'll be done in time for after work drinks. 

Nope, forget it. More like you'll be halfway there by Saturday's brunch. 

When you're through the mold making part, which is in itself a journey through pains and broken dreams, you'll be expecting things to go downhill. After all, you have your original figure and your mold and you need little else: resins, measuring cup, maybe a scale (if the resins have to be measured by weight), mixing stick (we found that chopsticks in wholesale packs are much cheaper and work perfectly), and gloves.

What should happen: first, you mix part A and B thoroughly. Second, you pour the mix in the two halves of the mold, which you have previously braced using rubber bands, and a thin piece of wood or similar rigid material to even out the pressure. Now there's only to wait, you can use this time to make coffee and stuff yourself with chocolate cookies ("winter is coming, I have to put on defenses"), do some yoga ("I am sublimating myself, I am the alfa and the omega"), or, more realistically, check your Facebook. Third, you'll open the mold and release the perfect pieces inside, feeling like the chosen One, the one who always finds a pearl inside her/his oyster. This is how it should be.

But it isn't. There are multiple ways in which casting goes wrong. It usually does. I grouped the five most common casting disasters you'll encounter, ordered by level of tragedy. The first isn't too bad, the last is a catastrophe. 

Level of Tragedy 1: Annoying. The canister pours on itself. 

Liquid plastic pours all over the place and makes a mess.
Solution: pour more decidedly, clean the neck of the canister with a paper towel.

Level of Tragedy 2: Upsetting. The mold is drunk.

The mold wants much more resin mix than you calculated. That drunken old bastard.
Solution: it's probably your fault, you don't give her enough attention. If you check your estimate again and can't find mistakes, trial and error to find the right quantity.

Level of Tragedy 3: Exasperating. The rubber bands snap.

Liquid plastic leaks and makes a mess.
Solution: get better rubber bands, then get even better rubber bands, then write the local rubber bands producer that someone is still using rubber bands for something (who uses rubber bands nowadays anyway?). In alternative, my boyfriend says that in Mexico broccoli are sold tied with industrial-strong rubber bands. Import broccoli from Mexico.

Level of Tragedy 4: Maddening. The air duct clogs.

Most of the times when you open the mold you'll find it perfectly free. I believe the clogging is caused by sprites, nice monsters that infiltrates in your molds while you pour because they like to get high on resins vapours. 
Solution: Clean and re-clean the ducts, unlike elves, sprites don't like clean places.

Level of Tragedy 5: CURSED. The resin doesn't cure.

You'll want to think that someone is playing voodoo on you, but you'd fool yourself. This is too complex and black a magic for anyone. Only Monkey Island's Voodoo Lady would be capable of this kind of trick. You're probably just too tired and made a mess with the proportions of resin A and B.
Solution: there's nothing to do, you'll have to throw away your mold (preferably out of the window, for the drama), and make a new one. Go for a walk before, chill, breath in-breath out.

The ratio of good pieces to failures may be influenced by, among others: your mood, background music, the Moon, the last movie you saw, trending hashtags on Twitter, eating habits of mammals in your general area and endocrine glands.

Creating artworks requires Zen-monk discipline and a good deal of passion. 
I might get really frustrated at times, but every time I see the results of my dedication, passion and discipline don't sound like a problem anymore.