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July 31, 2008

Sonia Delaunay: Living in Color

Sonia Delaunay created dazzlingly colorful paintings, textiles and household items.

Colorful art of Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay was initially a painter but became increasingly attracted by color itself and designed fashion and other items, including a great deck of cards. Robert Delaunay, her husband, also created compatible beautiful paintings, viewable at the Guggenheim here in New York. Another great husband/wife meeting of the minds. They must have been incredible inspirations to each other.

Perhaps one of the first really modern designers, working in the early decades of the last century but active until her passing in 1979, Sonia unleashed her wild colors on dresses, cutlery and created the first neon sculpture. She was friends with great artists and supported by many art movements such as the Surrealists, Dadaists and Futurists. She collaborated with Coco Chanel and Sergei Diaghilev. Her fluid movement from everyday items to “high” art appeals to my sense that art should trickle into all aspects of life, making existence richer, more fun, more intense, more thoughtful and more colorful.

July 30, 2008

Designing Your Day

The Mac calendar software that works best for me is DayChaser.

Day Chaser calendar software A small application (part of why it works well), DayChaser does almost everything calendar software needs to do without being overly complicated or causing software conflicts.

Now Software's Now Up to Date was my choice for several years. Unfortunately, while its interface is great, it conflicted badly as soon as System X came around. Apple's own iCal application is great in theory. However, if you're a “power user,” it too will eventually crash and conflict with other applications and once its files are corrupted, you cannot clean them up. You can't even start a new calendar because it is set up to be THE calendar for that user. You would have to sign in to your computer as a new user to create a new calendar, an unacceptable annoyance as all your other files would be with your other username.

The only way in which DayChaser appears to be lacking is an inability to create multi-day banners without blocking other events. You can do it but it ruins the view. So, for instance, if you wanted a two-week vacation (who doesn't?) to be a banner across a bunch of days, it would interfere with the display of other events. That feature aside, it does everything necessary and allows you to customize the display as needed in terms of color-coding categories etc. At $30, you can't go too wrong.

July 29, 2008

Well-Designed Groceries

Trader Joe's is loved by many. I found it last December when I had a party and needed great food without spending a fortune.

Trader Joe's fruit floesTrader Joe's is also cute. They understand marketing and put forth a whimsical version of old fashioned 1800s advertising art as their style (see left).

Their food has improved my nutrition. As a vegetarian (who does eat fish), there is lots from which to choose, all at great prices. I love their frozen edamame, better than what I've gotten elsewhere. Their cheese selection is vast; they have great fish — frozen, smoked etc. Fruits and vegetables, while not farmer's market fresh, are very good. They carry endive, one of my favorites that is hard to find. Their decaf coffee is the best. For desserts, light Fruit Floes, similar to what's pictured at left, are refreshing. For a party this weekend, I was asked to bring chocolate so I grabbed boxes of inventive chocolate treats with peanut butter fillings, with almonds, with coconut, all priced so that you can afford more than usual.

There are other fantastic markets throughout the city but they are much more expensive. Fairway is a runner up and a great store. Why don't more places follow in Trader Joe's footsteps (they say they “cut out the middle man” and bring food directly to the customer) — but at least we've got Joe.  

July 28, 2008

When One Door Closes…

…Another One Opens.

For cool head murder detective Ross Tanner, played by Clive Owen in the Mystery series Second Sight, this metaphor works several ways.

Mystery Series Second Sightin a field that prizes powers of observation above all else, star investigator Ross Tanner is losing his eyesight to a rare and unpredictable disease called Azoor. The disease is caused by a virus and can reverse, can cause slow vision loss or can cause complete blindness — perfect scenario for a troubled cop along the lines of many great mystery detectives, to drive him nuts and make doing his job that much harder. Ross has to hide his confounding predicament to those around him.

This series is so cool, it seems as if it could have been written by Oliver Sacks. As Tanner's eyesight lets him down, other powers of observation become keener and a touch of ESP seems to be a payoff. Clive Owen plays the role adeptly, with simplicity, intensity and passion. Fun stuff for mystery lovers and people who know that life's unpredictability is one of the best mysteries out there. 

July 27, 2008

Blue Hydrangeas

blue hydrangeas




Artist Marisa Repeta painted this dreamy image of Blue Hydrangeas with beautiful color interplay. See more.

July 26, 2008

The King of Spices

Black pepper has been dubbed the king of spices.

Black Pepper, the King of Spices

Above: black, white and green peppercorns are the fruit of the piper nigrum vine from the world's equatorial regions

Black pepper makes a simple salad perky, a light fish dish intriguing and pasta delectable. Won over by black pepper because it adds so much flavor to food, I asked my friend Paulie, a knowledgeable and good cook, to tell me a little bit about it.

Because pepper can be stored for years without losing flavor, it gained its extra rank and status as king of spices. Pepper was so precious in ancient times that it was used as money to pay taxes, tributes, dowries and rent. It was weighed like gold and used as a common medium of exchange. In A.D. 410, when Rome was captured, 3,000 pounds of pepper were demanded as ransom. Current principal pepper exporters are India, Indonesia, Brazil and Malaysia.

July 25, 2008

Timeless Design

Timeless designer Pierre Paulin created all the beauties seen here.

Pierre Paulin colorful furniture

The shapes, colors and even the names are beautiful, playful, inventive, smart and uplifting. Lucky for us, most are available today through Hive Modern in a great range of fabric choices.

July 24, 2008

Animal-Enhanced Advertising

Smart advertisers know that adding a critter to their product shots clinches the deal.

Animals in advertisingFeast your eyes on this adorable color-coordinated doe-like pooch in the CB2 room at left. Tell me he doesn't make the whole scenario several notches more interesting. Animals add so much to a product shot: humor, color and personality — in a way that nothing else can. A second runner up is using kids but since they are humans, after all, there are many more problems inherent in that approach. Animals have a sort of other-worldliness that adds to their appeal. It's as if they are saying, "Yes, we know we make this shot look so much better than it would without us but we aren't materialistic; we're just doing you a favor by enhancing your photo.”

July 23, 2008


“Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

You are your thoughts

This is artwork created for and included in my business card. The background became my most flamboyant painterly rug, called "Think." The words were my version of a similar thought to Emerson's; I read the Emerson quote only recently. It's a distillation of a lot of interesting concepts I've read about the power of positive thinking and related ideas. But it's not just about thinking. It's the concept of how your thoughts become actions which become tangible things and experiences and ultimately your life. So be aware of what you spend your time thinking about. You have the power to direct your mind, although at times it can seem like your mind has you. And you can direct it to happiness and constructive endeavors or to negativity and circular thoughts that take you nowhere. I'd choose the former.

July 22, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

This entry isn't about cats.

Getting Along

The metaphor here is that my two critters have been taking two steps forward, one step back in learning to get along with each other. And as all math whizzes know, that means they end up ahead of the game.

When attempting new things, it usually goes something like two steps forward, one step back. When you realize that, it can make it easier to accept the one step back phase, which is inevitable most of the time. Learning something new doesn't happen instantly and that's part of the reward in the long run. One of my bosses used to say, “Hey, if it was easy, it would pay about $20,000 and everyone would be doing it.” Made me laugh and he was right. So don't let the backsliding part of learning something new get you down. It's part of the dance. Whether it's learning to cook and burning pans in the process, checking out new social groups and feeling awkward until you make great new friends, learning a new language and feeling like a tourista idiot trying to speak it, moving, learning to drive, studying a new musical instrument or myriad ways of enriching your life and opening yourself up to new views and experiences, give yourself a break. Don't let the faltering hold you back because you will get there and it will be worth it; you'll end up in the promised land. Just look at these critters. (Okay, so maybe my bed's not exactly the “promised land” but they're on their way.)

July 21, 2008

Business & Art Are Buddies

My instinct tells me that business and art are allies, not enemies. This has been proven true in my work in graphic design. This week at a lecture by Ran Lerner on his excellent product designs, the same message came through.

Products designed by Ran Lerner

Products designed by Ran Lerner: candle, cutlery set, salt and papper set, wine rack

Ran spoke about the process of bringing products “to market” and I was struck by how similar his working process is to my experience in graphic design. Not having designed mass market products yet, although my rugs are beginning to bloom, I didn't realize that many of the same principles apply in the day-to-day work challenges of product design as in graphic design. Ran works with manufacturers such as Umbra. When presenting to companies, you must take their market into account. So your design is not just about taste; it's about satisfying a company's vision and their client base. This is very much like graphic design where the client's subject matter, audience and goals are key. Learning to work with different clients and audiences challenges your sense of creativity and visual expression. It doesn't need to be a restriction in a negative way. It's certainly a challenge but constraints build new solutions.

When I was beginning to design things, I did some pro bono and low-paying work for broke musicians who needed materials. They had no budget. I had to produce ads, posters, invitations, tickets, CD packaging and business cards in black and white on whatever paper was around. And my creativity soared. I talked to my father about it and wondered why I couldn't be that creative (and cost-effective) for my own projects. He said that constraints are a great and eye-opening tool in all artistic work. The validity of this became evident to me from working on these very constrained projects that were deeply satisfying. Yet another of life's conundrums: sometimes less really is more and even leads the way to more.

July 20, 2008

KittyGate VI: Doubletime

Rhythms are shifting to doubletime around here.

KittyGate VI

It took almost 10 months and it's not done but my two kitties who were like oil and water are letting each other live. And it all became possible thanks to the KityGate. Trace the tip of the tail: KittyGate, KittyGate II, KittyGate III, KittyGate IV, KittyGate V. My hope is that the next installment of this saga, which I expect won't be for a little while, will actually show these guys liking each other, playing together, maybe even curled up together. Anything is possible.

Inspirational kitty art in frame and computer screen by Jim Flora.

July 19, 2008

Birds of a (Many Colored) Feather

Check out these amazingly colored birds.

Birds in Striking Colors

Pictured Left is a Paradise Tanager and Right, a Lilac-Breasted Rolle

These brazen beauties were cited by Colour Lovers, where you will find several more startling tweeties. We've all seen stunningly colored parrots. I loved seeing them when I vacationed in Aruba. But there are so many more varieties of birds attired in incredible color combinations. Nature is the consummate artist. 

July 18, 2008

In a Funk

Getting down in a Funk? If so, come take a Funky turn this Friday at Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing festival that runs for three weeks, Tuesday through Saturday, in July.

Funk Dancing at Midsummer Night Swing

They call it midsummer but to me, summer has just begun and it is time to move to the grooves. You can go just to listen to the music if you're not a dancing body but I hope you are — it's nice to be out in the summer music-filled evening in that part of the city. This year, they've moved the event around the corner to Damrosch Park because of construction in the main courtyard.

Muscially, I see an emphasis on Latin music in this festival — Salsa, Samba and more — with a few other nights of Funk, Jazz, Swing and Tango. My personal dancing favorite is Funk. Tonight (Friday), you can experience what they call Afro-Soul, Funk, Afro-Latin Electro, Garage-House with three different bands. Next Tuesday is a program featuring the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, with classic jazz played by a large band.

A dance lesson in the style of the evening's music is given at 6:30 for no extra charge. Dancing is its own art form and a great way to get exercise. Plus, it's social; you get to mingle with just the right amount of people interaction.

July 17, 2008

Run Kitty

Modern area rugs in colorful designs

Modern Rug with Kitty ArtLast but not least in the recent onslaught of rug designs from my new rug business is this homage to my kitty. Her very feminine and curvaceous butt is recognizable to those who know and love her.

I did this drawing of my feline when she was a little kitten and everyone pointed out to me that it was definitely a female kitty. I hadn't realized, had just drawn what I saw. It's cool to see this art now make its way onto a rug design. You can never honor the kitties too much.

July 16, 2008

Rugs Are for Kitties to Twist On

Here is another of my new designs. This design also comes in a yellow/purple combination and was inspired by 1950s lampshade patterns.

Modern Rugs with a Twist

Have fun in your own house like the furball and check out the full line of our rugs grouped by motifs including painterly, graphic, rich solid colors and illustrative rug designs. Our rugs are custom made in any size and shape. This rug is a circle, which works well in a dining room and for ceiling gazing. We can make runners that turn a corner and all sorts of cool shapes. Live it up with our unique modern area rugs. Here's an image of the rug in the fuller room below.

Modern area rugs

July 15, 2008

Big Day for Modern Rugs

Today, I received a shipment of six rug designs for my business, my first full-size rugs with which to take promotional photos, show buyers the actual color and texture of the rugs and launch the business.

Modern rugs in unique colors

The colors came out beautifully and the rugs feel great under your bare feet. The rugs take a couple of months to make. Specifying yarn colors is, to me, the most involved and tricky part of the design undertaking, as what you see in a finished rug isn't always what you expect. You have to learn the translation process the same way you learn in graphic design work how printed pieces translate colors from the Pantone or other color matching systems. But hey, you get to play with colors for hours in the process, so not a bad task.

Modern Rugs in Artistic Colors and Designs

The Good Doggie rug design shown below is one of the ones that gets a big reaction from customers. There's nothing like a critter to get people all worked up. There are more animal themed rugs in the collection too.

Modern Rug Design

Rug designs are presented in four categories: Painterly, Graphic, Solids and Illustrative. Since color is one of my greatest design strengths, even the solid color rugs offer wonderful design options in colors that brighten your life, as shown in the long luxurious hall runner below. This color combination is called Blackberries.

Striking colors in modern rugs

The site shopping cart is not quite finished being set up so if you see a rug you're interested in, don't hesitate to get in touch with us. Thanks! 

July 14, 2008

Skies Filled with Music by the Skyliners

The Skyliners are a drum and bugle corps from the NY Tri-State area who regularly perform at stadiums and outdoor events.

NJ Skyliners Drum Corps

Three horn players above include my good friend, Bob Urspruch, far right, who took the solo beautifully in “Hava Nagila” at Saturday's concert. Bob's brother, John, in center. Note matching yalmukas donned for this song.

My friend Bob has played with this group for years, along with his brother, John. Both proficient horn players with in-depth knowledge of jazz, blues and other musical genres, now that I've gone to an event, I get why they enjoy playing in this different milieu.

Audience Participation

Bob's wife, Camelia, with friend, Buzzy, lend audience support 

The power of the large group, the outdoor arena, the uniforms and synchronized marching all create a special kind of performance that is a lot of fun. Many people go to see one group but it was informative to see the Bridgemen, who played before the Skyliners. It gives you more of an idea what kinds of music and entertainment a corps like this can produce to see some variety.

July 13, 2008

Summer in the NYCity

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue boasts a beautiful roof garden made for taking in a panoramic city view on a breezy summer night.

Jeff Koons at the Met's Roof Top Garden

Currently on display at the Met Roof Garden are sculptures by Jeff Koons

Tonight, the IDSA held their monthly stammtisch gathering there. The rooftop was jammed but it was big enough to hold everyone. Drinks are served from several bars. The view is spectacular. The weather tonight was perfect with just a touch of a breeze. Walking through the Met's vast collection on the way to the rooftop garden is awe-inspiring too. I couldn't help thinking how hard it must be for the museum to safeguard their treasures with vast throngs of people constantly going through. I don't know how they do it, even with guards, cases, ropes and security systems. Check out the roof garden if you're in the neighborhood for an appreciation of the city. It's fun to watch the lights come on in the buildings and the setting sun as the view changes. Art is all around us.

Went to dinner with friends afterwards at a place called Uptown on 88th Street and 3rd Avenue, a prime example of the countless restaurants throughout the city you can just fall into that have killer delicious food.  

July 12, 2008

Spicy Music & Hot Dinner

On the corner of Houston & Allen Streets on NYC's Lower East Side (to call this neighborhood booming is an understatement) sits the tiny restaurant called Oliva, featuring spicy music and a delicious unusual menu from the Basque region.

Oliva Restaurant

Musician and friend, Colette Michaan, flutist extraordinaire, with a specialty in Latin music, plays there with a group called Mo' Guajiro on Wednesday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and I had a great time at her gig this week. Colette forewarned me that the place can get really crowded, steamy and noisy, which it did. The music was excellent with the happy minstrels jammed into the corner producing good sound anyway. As I love to dance, I got to shake my booty plenty with some super nice Latin guys I met and it was tons o' fun. No, there is no dance floor. The bartender gave the three of us a shot of something that tasted innocent and of honey. I'm not a shot type of girl but I did one for the team and it was delish. This is nyc alive and well: a tiny little joint with sublime food, tasty music and a unique atmosphere.

July 11, 2008

KittyGate V: Chillin' Not Killin'

The momentum builds — KittyGate continues.

Kitty Office

They look pretty reasonable, no? These critters usually spend their time doing their own things if they're not actively being disgusted with each other but this is turning into a regular truce sort of thing now. It's too early for me to say that I'm thrilled but I am definitely excited about this progress. This is HUGE compared to what life has been like for nine months. And it all started with the erection of the KittyGate. See previous entries: KittyGate, KittyGate II, KittyGate III and KittyGate IV. For anyone who's wondering, yes, I let them stay there and didn't claim my chair back so as to relish this happy moment.

Artwork in computer screen by Jim Flora redux. 

July 10, 2008

Feng Shui and Kitties Too

Feng Shui is an ancient Japanese system to aid all aspects of life in the design and arrangement of your home. It breaks your living space into a nine section grid and advises that you focus on different aspects of your life and goals in the appropriate area of the grid.

Feng Shui Design

New bedding arrived today and Autumn gave it a test run right away. Thank goodness she approves. I have been hesitant to learn much about or to try to incorporate Feng Shui principles because, as a designer, I didn't want a system to influence me to possibly change layouts that I love. I think a lot of people feel that way initially. However, as I've learned a little bit about it, it really is fun and isn't hard to work with. It offers tips on ways to enhance your environment.

Your Wealth Corner is the upper left area of your house (when facing in from the front door). So you are advised to put tokens of wealth in that area and not to have it bogged down with things that might keep wealth from you. Your Love Corner is the upper right area of your house and the upper right corner of your bedroom and each room too. You are advised to use pink or red candles to attract love in that corner. The system is much more complicated than these simple tips but you can take it in bit by bit and it brings a fresh perspective. One of the biggest admonitions is to FREE YOURSELF OF CLUTTER. Feng Shui believes that clutter keeps all sorts of things away from us and mires us in the past and in incorrect thinking. It does feel great to clear clutter, even if it's inside a closet that no one normally sees; you can feel the clean spirit of it and that's the whole point: what you feel motivates what you do and what happens to you.

July 9, 2008

Living Learning

While doing research for a potential upcoming web client who is a journalist, I encountered the Columbia School of Journalism's website. I was impressed with its dynamic presentation.

Journalism's Brave New World

This is the best academic website I've seen by far. I believe this is a redesign, as I am quite sure I looked at their site last year and this was not the same site. The current design is successful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is stellar and varied photography, enhanced by intriguing brief captions.

Great Use of Simple Flash Animations

I have never seen an academic website that manages to convey the intellectual excitement of the institution until now. The site is extensive and contains tons of information. My only criticism is that I didn't find a sitemap, which a site this complex needs, besides search engine reasons to have it. This site is a great piece of marketing and informational “reporting” for a revered institution.

July 8, 2008

KittyGate IV: FeedingFrenzius Miraculous

Ripley's Believe It or Not is rumored to be clamoring for the rights to these snaps but you saw them here first. Miracles happen every day.

Kitties Learning to Get Along

What?, say you — I simply see a picture of two fuzzy house residents enjoying a munch break. Ah, say I — then you haven't visited these rooms of flying fur, screeching yelps and blood curdling growls ascending from the deepest basso profundo to the highest lyric soprano tones in recent times. This is the first occurrence in nine months of these two kitties being able to eat this close to each other without going nuts. Two nights in a row. Something good is in the air.

Get the whole KittyGate lowdown to date: KittyGate, KittyGate II, KittyGate III

July 7, 2008

Modern Cats

Modern Cats For those of us who think the only thing more fun to look at than kitties is kitties in cool interiors, check out the gallery at Modern Cat. Cats are not just beautifully designed; their incredible ability to relax makes them extra photogenic, not to mention inspiring examples for us human friends.




July 6, 2008

Paper, Patterns and Pleasure

Color is entrancing in many forms.

Colorful Paper

This gorgeous image is from a blog called Colour Lovers (thanks to Just Muttering). The blog is part of an overall site that focuses on color in many manifestations, from fashion trends to artwork to pretty much anything that employs color. Lots of good ideas and interesting topics.

July 5, 2008

Picasso Face II

Autumn might be a partial reincarnation of Pablo Picasso.

Picasso Face II

Wednesday night at an informative seminar at Tekserve, Manhattan's best Mac store, I saw the great Apple ad poster on the right above featuring Picasso and — I know I'm a little obsessed but — I thought that Picasso looked a lot like Autumn, the kitty. It makes sense; they are both maniac geniuses (and I don't use that word lightly). And this is after having made the post below, previously calling her “Picasso Face” — note yellow swatch on Picasso painting separating the profile and head-on view and on Autumn's face down the middle too.

Picasso Face

So she is both muse and spirit of the creator; pretty good. If Autumn wasn't such a perfect name for her, I'd rename her Picasso. I guess it'll just have to be a nickname.

July 4, 2008

Patriotic Recycling

Recycled sweaters are the forefathers of this patriotic blanket made by Crispina.

Recycled Sweaters Blanket and PillowsThe company specializes in blankets but also offers some really cute toys and other items. The fuchsia and orange add much pizzazz to the traditional red, white and blue.

Sustainable living and products are terms I'm hearing constantly, meaning to reuse materials and create less waste. These items made from fabrics that have already served people well but can live again in beautiful pieces are a great example of smart recycling. No reason to throw something away that has tons more life left to love in it. Refurbish and refresh, baby.

Recycled Possum

Possum made from recycled materials by Crispina is ready to be loved by a new family, like yours.

Happy Independence Day 

July 4th means it really is summer now. Summer means fun. Summer means swimming. Summer means dinner while it's still light out, sometimes at Leno's Clam Bar.

Leno's Clam Shack

Leno's Clam Bar really hits the spot. The best fried clams and huge portions. Fantastic corn on the cob. This is the kind of place that will always seem nostalgic and is very American. The present owner's family bought the place in 1967 and the building has been there as a joint since the 1920s.

Summer means walks down to the tiny beach with bare legs and feet in the water. Summer just feels so darn good. Give into it. Happy summer and Happy July 4th.

July 3, 2008

Loving Your Job

This little guy loves his job.

Loves His Job Would we were all so well suited to our daily tasks. I found this cutie pie on Hula Seventy, which I found following an enjoyable train of links including the following interesting resources:

Coudal Partners

Gelato Baby

Jim Flora

Irwin Chusid


Hula Seventy

Which is where this happy guy resided, under an orange-themed day. 

July 2, 2008

KittyGate III: Comatosius Momentous

Something I thought I might never see: both my fantastic critters in comfy comatose states very near each other. Here they are both on my desk, taking a break from spitting, growling, chasing and worse. I dreamed of seeing them together like this.

Fighting Kitties Getting Along

Just so you don't think money will rain down from the sky and other improbable things are happening, there was plenty of hissing at other times of the day. Still, you'd have to call this progress.

Retrace the KittyGate scandal: KittyGate and KittyGate II

Kitty art in computer screen by Jim Flora

July 1, 2008

Float on Down

IDSA is the Industrial Designers Society of America.

Ran Lerner Designed Forks

“Float” flatware designed by Ran Lerner

Come join me and my new IDSA friends for Inside the Designer's Studio on Thursday, July 17th, co-sponsored by Design Within Reach. Cost is $15. Wine and light snacks will be served. I designed the announcement for this upcoming event. Ran Lerner of Ran Lerner Design is the guest speaker. Ran designs items including cutlery, lighting, watches and kitchen tools. He is a down-to-earth guy and I am looking forward to hearing him discuss his successful company and designs. His work is carried by stores such as Bloomingdale's, The Conran Store, Bed Bath & Beyond and MOMA. Hope to see you there. 

Time: Thursday, July 17th, 7pm
Place: DWR Tribeca, 124 Hudson Street, NYC