Archive for October, 2009

A fragile peace

Musings on homonyms, fractals, clones and other similarities


Hmmmm, should we get further entrenched in a war we shouldn’t be in that we won’t be able to get out of…. I’m feeling a distinct sense of deja vu about this, and I know I’m not alone…..


“Designer, talk to me.”

“Well Tim, I found this picture inside The New York Times Magazine and it inspired me to make a fabric, something lacy but with strong fibers that can hold together disperate elements.”


“That seems like a lot of work. Are you sure there’s time?”

“This is the time right now, Tim.”

“All right Designer. Carry on.”

The cover of the new Style magazine for Oct. 18th is such a smashing look I thought I’d make it into my weekly design, just like that, no interpretation, no creative thought.



Then inside I find an artist doing much the same thing with cows, though she is thinking quite pointedly and creatively. Julia Lohmann uses cow parts to make cow sculptures. It’s disturbing and maybe a little wasteful in that she’s using hides, though mostly she’s focusing on parts that would normally be discarded, and in doing so is getting viewers to think about the amount of waste in meat production.


I’m interested in the self similarity aspect of her work, about the scrambling of something to make it again, or some semblance of it, much the way I’m scrambling today’s cover before piecing it back together to reconstruct the image in a new form.

What is it that we’re doing anyway? Our creations are not  quite fractals (the most interesting self-similar things of all) where a small part of the whole has the same structure as the mass of such parts (I’m thinking of  clouds, cauliflower, broccoli… and I think also their fascinating hybrid, romanescue….),


and they’re not clones we’re making, but something inspired by an object or being and reconstructed from it’s parts to make something related yet original.



“Designer, one of your outfits is so strong and the other is so delicate today.”

“Yes, Heidi. One was handed to me and the other took a lot of effort, especially since I was trying to change the values in the image.”

“I can see that.  It’s beautiful but also a fragile piece.”

“I think it’s worth the effort.”

“Designer, I agree. You’re IN. You can leave the runway.”

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Back to the future

I have eaten beef twice in the last 40 years. When I was twelve I read Diet for a Small Planet and found the various arguments for choosing a vegetarian diet made sense to me. I thought it would be healthier, a better use of resources, and also there was that less rational thought that on some level, animals were, well, “human” too. My mother told me that as long as I was careful to balance my amino acids (all but one anyway, which apparently you couldn’t get without meat) and added in cheese for good measure (rennet-free if possible), she would let me cook for myself. I made tasty casseroles which I planned to freeze for other days, but found my family enjoyed them as much as I did, which delighted me. I went on this way for the next eleven years (eggs yes, fertilized eggs no) and only thought of expanding my options a bit, surprisingly, after staring at a tall stack of folded laundry and realizing that all my clothes were pretty much all the same color, sea blue green. (This does happen to still be a favorite color of mine to wear (the outfit I put on most often, and in fact am wearing today, has six shades of it topped off with a blue green lampwork necklace) but now I’ve also added some pinks and a few soft browns and two dashing magenta coats! My Boden raincoat has huge white buttons and an eliptical spring green polka dot lining (such fun) and my winter coat, a truly fabulous fifties find, is such a vibrant shade of rose that you can actually see the blue and yellow highlights stand out from it on a sunny day. Now my wardrobe is not only more exciting, but laundry days are more fun too. In fact, being a textile person, I consider watching different fabrics tumble in a front loading dryer, a favorite sport!) So, what does all this talk of clothes and color have to do with eating meat? Well, simply put, I thought I’d imposed too many restrictions on my life and that by expanding the ring of possibilities just a little, I’d still be eating a little lower on the food chain than I had in my first twelve years, and yet could enjoy more options in life.

The other thing that helped tip my balance away from strict vegetarianism in the ’70’s is that it became increasingly hard to uphold my ideals when I wasn’t in a position to cook for myself. Smith College (a place I still love to this day) had small kitchens and in-house dining and wasn’t prepared for a vegetarian when I entered as a Freshman in 1975. Their concession (and thankfully they did try to accommodate me), was to offer a vegetarian dinner once a week. The alternatives on other days were a little bleak, cottage cheese and iceberg lettuce (along with some terribly unfortunate homogenized peanut butter that barely merits mention). The meager supplements I could afford, some almonds and what turned out to be bug infested dried apricots (even health food stores didn’t have it together in the ’70’s) and the occasional bean taco from downtown, proved inadequate and I became weak and hungry waiting for Thursday nights. It wasn’t that they didn’t serve vegetables, because they did, but meat was such a part of the culture, that bits and pieces of it slipped into other dishes as a way of making them special. I remember some sort of English pudding at Christmas that was made with suet, and lardons now and again topping off otherwise greenish foods. They also left sticky baked goods out for snacking at night. So there it was, even back then, even there, the possibility of being overweight and malnourished at the same time. I was able to move into a coop my second year and eventually moved off campus where I became the house baker of twice risen whole grain breads, and all once again became delicious in the world.

So the two hamburgers…. They were delicious too. I worked around the clock in graduate school for weeks at a time (I studied graphic design at Yale) and the hamburgers definitely filled a deep void, but they were aberrations and made me uncomfortable on some level of my consciousness. Now, here I am reading the food issue of the New York Times Magazine, Oct. 11th, 2009, and am taking a look back and also a look forward.


As you can tell by now, I enjoy flipping through.

Ummmm, pretty type!


Pretty spread.


Pretty ad.


Oh, this is just gorgeous!


I’ve taken a great interest in the unfolding of the natural/organic/biodynamic/slow/green food movement in this country. I loved following Alice Waters’ work introducing school children to farming to instill a love of vegetables and healthier choices.

(Here is some garlic of my own, my very first crop!)

first crop


I enjoyed watching Harvard students follow Alice’s example, growing their own food, and I was especially happy to see Smith adopt centralized dining so that all vegetarian students, whether for religious reasons or otherwise, can now gather together in the vegetarian dining hall to share convictions they have in common. It is a thrill to read that the answer to our nation’s hungry seems to lie in the fresh leftovers abandoned until now in our fields, and then there is once again the question raised by Jonathan Safran Foer. Just when did we decide that some animals are for loving and others are meant to be eaten? I’ve been quite content for almost thirty years now skipping beef and pork but adding fish and chicken to my formerly strict vegetarian diet, and I do believe variety in one’s diet is important, but just when did eating animals become the norm? Just think cavemen, I guess, when we were less evolved.

I raise canaries…


have a husky…


and love playing with my brother’s cats….


It’s a question about why fish and chickens are ok to eat… something worth revisiting.

tramp trunk email

After last week’s wooden looking ensemble I’m hoping to come up with something more fluid today. I liked the paneled blouse (a bit Victorian, a bit folkloric) and am thinking a fun folkloric dress inspired in part by the beginnings of America’s natural food movement might just fit the bill. Here it is with a totally out there Peruvian hat!


Hungry for more? Two of my friends have beautiful and inspiring food blogs I’d live to share. Liza takes you home to her kitchen via her designerly photographs. She has made (among other delicious treats) a unique sourdough starter from a radicchio leaf, http://knittingalife.com/. Susan takes you with her on her travels as she shares culinary thoughts and brings recipes to treasure home to your kitchen, http://www.sweetleisure.com. Enjoy!

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The comfy couch

“Designers, gather ’round. Today’s challenge involves a balance of basic design elements: form, color, structure, texture, line…. You’ve worked with pattern recently so we want you to think about some of these other ideas. You will have a budget of $6.00 to buy the Seattle edition of the Sunday New York Times and only five minutes to shop at Food. Ready? Time starts… NOW!”


“OK, Designers, time’s up! As you see, you’ll again have two covers to work with this week, October 4th. The first is almost too beautiful to cut into, so work VERY CAREFULLY.”


“I know, you just want to move right in, don’t you?”


“The second, well, rearranging it can only be an improvement….”



“All right, Designer, you don’t have much time this week. Go go go, get to work!”


“Model it’s time for your fitting, and then we’ll start the show.”




“Can you show us what’s under the coat?”


“We feel the coat is inflated and dumpy looking. On the other hand, it is difficult to wear stuffed upholstery successfully. This has turned out to be a difficult challenge this week, but we do like your architectural ideas. Perhaps a little less time goofing off on the comfy couch and a little more time at the drawing board next time, Ok?”

“Designer, you’re IN. You can leave the runway.”

“Thank you, Heidi!”

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Women warriors

September 27th, FINALLY I get to use the accessory wall!!


Check out this glorious boot. It’s a gift!!! And it’s perfectly sized. Now I just need to make another one, hmmmmm. The red panels (reminiscent of last week’s Red book) are begging to be pleated, Samurai style. This cover is telling me what to do, much like its predecessor, the “RIPPED!” cover, which got me started on my fashionable year. But wait, inside I see a spiked and studded Prada shoe that reminds me of an Etruscan helmet. It’s been abandoned on a stair (by a modern-day Cinderella? Or perhaps by Alice in Wonderland?) amid pointy grasses and the hugest furry caterpillar I’ve ever seen! Put the red Vietnamese wooden panels together with that shoe and I wonder what you get?


(As I work, I’m smelling the faint aroma of an Italian-speaking cheese, one I’ve climbed high up a steep misty mountain in Switzerland to find, down in the depths of a musty cellar pantry.)


A dance club for young gays run by their supportive moms… what an incredibly beautiful thing. Imagine how that kind of love and acceptance could have changed the lives of so many before them.


So it’s the internet that’s helped young gays find each other and given them their newfound confidence. Interesting articles this week.

Last night I watched a few hours of fashionable television, The House of Eliott, a banquet of twenties elegance as envisioned by two women trying to forge a business in a world of male finance, and the new episode of Project Runway, the blue challenge. Here’s a combination of the two.


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