What Matters

"I began spending a lot of time reminding myself that regardless of whether this has all been luck or whether I have any talent isn’t what matters. Who cares about that? What matters is that I am happy getting up every day to paint and draw. What matters is that I make my best effort every day to be myself in my life and work. What matters is that I work really hard at my career. What matters is that I am thoughtful about the work I want to make and the people I want to work with. What matters is that once it started, making art for a living hasn’t failed me. " – Lisa Congdon

 

Read her entire post here and agree that she is simply amazing.


[A conversation with Olly some 6 weeks ago...]

Olly: "You got to learn to be an artist."

"But... isn't that self-indulgent?"

Olly: "Who cares?!"


Wild&Wood

While you never run out of options when it comes to finding a cafe to have a good cup of coffee, there are only a few places in London where you can get a decent cronut. This piece of exciting news was what originally brought me to visit this little coffee joint in the heart of Holborn.

Stepping into Wild&Wood was like entering someone's kitchen, you might also do a double take to check if you have wandered into the Shire. It gets even more confusing when you go up to the counter to see a pixie-sized lady waiting to take your order. (I hid all my rings just in case.) This cosy nook, furnished entirely with antique church furniture, reminds one of sun-drenched days while you laze on the couch after school while your grandma prepares your favorite tea-time snack.

The cafe draws a mixed crowd. Everyone is here with a single agenda, gathered on church pews, confessing their addiction for caffeine. While table sharing is non-obligatory, it is very much encouraged due to limited seating in the small cafe. With flat whites and lattes placed side by side on a narrow table, coffee drinking becomes an intimate experience where you'd find yourself having a conversation with the stranger next to you after you have gotten over how good the coffee is on the second sip (they only serve Monmouth coffee). 

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On my first visit they ran out of cronuts at 4 p.m. so we ordered the amarrrrrretto cheesecake which had me enamorrrrrred at my first bite. The layer of crusty brown sugar packs a crunch and complements the velvety cheese perfectly while the mellow hint of almond stubbornly lingers in your mouth until you wash it down with coffee. Sooo good.

The cafe was also packed at that time we visited, so we had to opt for the street-facing seats. Honestly, there isn't much of a view except for sweaty construction workers (if you're into that sort of thing winks) and office executives rushing home/to the gym after work. Ironically though, it gave us the sense that we had all the time in the world to savour our coffee and cake. As the sun quietly sets, we scampered to find meaning in our lives, and ended up sitting on the pews for two hours as we devised our game plan to conquer London Design Week. Instant caffeine fueled efficiency. ☺

This is definitely the place to visit if you're looking for a simple, no-frills coffee joint in London.

Wild & Wood Coffee

Unit 19, 1 New Oxford St,

London WC1A 1BA, United Kingdom ‎

Cosmos

I'm smiling as I am writing this and I can't find a reason to stop smiling. Two weeks ago I received an order request on my Etsy for Breakfast with Carol Ann Duffy tea towel to be dispatched immediately. It was my first order coming from the UK. I was thrilled, but at the same time, curious as to this urgent request for a tea towel. I wondered if the poem holds the same amount of sentimentality to my customer as it has to me. I packed the parcel and sent it out the next morning with a handwritten note, in which I took some time to share my story behind this artwork and how special this poem is to me.

Three days ago I recieved a message in my inbox and found another reason that would make me smile whenever I read this poem

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My heart was suddenly a bundle of sleepy British shorthair kittens. Everything felt so warm and fuzzy. It meant a great deal to receive this message;  to know that there are people who can relate to my works and have a part of their stories to share. This kind gesture from Ian and his wife is possibly the second best thing that happened apart from getting to hand the tea towel to the amazing Carol Ann Duffy in person (click for picture!!!!). 

It is an affirmation to the conviction I hold in what I do, to learn that this is not happenstance but a result of what I have strived for. ☺  I am really looking forward to having time to work on new stuff for Wood&Lead. It has been a little tough finding time but I have to keep going! I will. ☺

 

Oh Maira

I love staying home on a Friday Night knowing that people are out there living it up and painting the town red (and later with their dinner) because this just means that I have a lot more Alone time to myself that I do not need to share with other people who are Alone.

For me, there is a strange charm about Friday nights; the slow unwrapping of the weekend, like a precious flower, or an onion. Perhaps it is the faint static that hangs in the stillness of the air, with time unhurried. Or, the languid drawl of the night as it announces the end of a long week. You suddenly find yourself with all the time in the world to lose yourself to daydreaming, and to catch up on internet's awesomeness. What a luxury. The only thing that is really missing right now is a huge tub of ice cream. Who cares about the culminated bad calories that you have already indulged in to get past the week.

As always, I am here for a reason. Besides to mask my existentialism issues by romanticising Friday nights alone, I really want to share this video which features Maira Kalman, an established illustrator/author. I've always been in love with her works and I admit that I love her more after learning that she loves books more than I do. In this video, she explores her identity in art, and how she uses her drawings to tell stories that belong to people/strangers, which, in turn helps her to find a relationship with the world. The video is uplifting and absolutely relatable. I think what is empowering about her message is that she is telling us to look at the things that form a huge part of our lives and being creative enough to make them part of our identities. This will then help us understand our sense of purpose in this world. She is a classic example of an amazing human being.

 

"How do you know who you are? There are many parts to who you are, so there isn’t one static place. And then, the other part of that is that things keep changing." – Maria Kalman

It is funny, because I have been thinking a lot about my art lately and this video appeared in a timely fashion. While storytelling has always been the main focus behind my artworks, there seems to be a lack of a deeper connection between what I do and what it is originally intended for. I haven't been able to figure this out for a long while but now that I do, I am thankful that the pieces to this puzzle are slowly finding their way to me and this really excites me to take on an entirely new approach to my works. There is still so so so much more that I need to learn which is so daunting yet exciting at the same time.

Another gem on the internet, Pizza Feminism – feminism served fresh and toasty. It really fills you up after a week worth of listening to mind-numbing sexist jokes/comments that are being slipped into daily conversations. 

Sooo we are into March and that scares me a little. For now, I'll leave springing into action for tomorrow while I watch a movie and wait for flu medication to kick in. Happy Weekend everyone. ☺

Tokyo Art Book Fair 2013

This blog has gathered  just enough cobwebs for Halloween! Yipee.

So the waves have finally brought me back to my sunny shores. Actually, since a week ago. My mysterious disappearance to Australia was the result of being sucked into a relentless temptation offered by a budget airline and a need for some quiet time.  I will be posting my photos from my trips bit by bit so there would be something to look at for the next few days.. weeks... months? 

 It is hard to believe that September came and gone just like that. 21st September was a day that I was counting down to since the 1st of July. When the day finally came, I did not know what to expect and almost relieved at the fact that I am present in Tokyo, at Tokyo Art Book Fair as an exhibitor.  By Grace I made it there, and I am sure glad I did. ☺

This year's fair was a massive one, we were one of the 300 over booths at Tokyo Art Book Fair held at a university with the most confusing name at Shinanomachi, Tokyo this year. The event was a huge eye-opener, it was really great meeting independent publishers from all over the world. However, there were a few challenges in being part of such a huge exhibition as well – in trying to stand out and having to set prices at a competitive rate. When I took a break from manning the booth and walked around, it was only then I realized how huge the compound was. I ended up only purchasing two zines on the first day myself. Both were by Taiwanese designers and extremely lovely. ☺

Seated at my tiny corner at the booth, it was interesting to observe the way people interacted with my designs and the display space. It was an incredible experience to see how your design extends beyond the physical material (in this case, the book) and to the environment in which is sitting in and vice versa. It gave me a lot of ideas on how my works can be improved to provide a more wholesome experience. I also thoroughly enjoyed talking to people who took interest in my works, to explain about the concept of my writings and designs even though not everyone who came by left with something in the end. It was a truly humbling experience to meet people who tell you that they appreciate what you do, and my heart stifles a chuckle whenever I see people smiling while flipping through my books. 

 

 

Over the 3 days, we had our fair share of surprises – friends (Saki, Silas, John & Lp) who showed up to give their support, as well as acquaintances who came by with coffee and chocolates, including the man from an antique shop in Shimo who loaned us display items for free. There was also a sweet Singaporean lady who dropped by our booth with her son to show her support when she realized that we are also Singaporeans. Not forgetting Bernice, Stacy and Josiah who helped us packed at the end of the fair and Josiah who carried my stuff up 5 levels to our apartment with his super strength after he learnt that our apartment elevator was not working. So thankful for these people. ☺

This trip was unlike any other trips to Tokyo, mainly because the intention was not for vacation. It is definitely a great experience and something I wouldn't mind doing again. As there is always a first for everything, I am beyond blessed to have this experience to call my own.

Here are some pictures that I have managed to capture amidst the crowd! Hope you guys will enjoy the post, it was not easy typing with both hands covering my ears to protect them from the boisterous roar of the thunderstorm. ☺ 

 

 Entrance to Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design GAIEN CAMPUS   

Entrance to Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design GAIEN CAMPUS

 

 Stamping workshop at one of the tents on lvl 1

Stamping workshop at one of the tents on lvl 1

 Cute booth designed like a birdhouse

Cute booth designed like a birdhouse

 Random by PY Leong X Wood&Lead

Random by PY Leong X Wood&Lead

 Our tiny booth – I had to balance a merchandises on my head and it helped to draw some crowd.

Our tiny booth – I had to balance a merchandises on my head and it helped to draw some crowd.

 Customers browsing through  Of Clouds & Parenthesis , a travelogue.

Customers browsing through Of Clouds & Parenthesis, a travelogue.

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 LP who gave us a HUGE surprise by turning up with John without notice 

LP who gave us a HUGE surprise by turning up with John without notice 

 Michelle, Wood&Lead customer who bought and modeled the tote *___*

Michelle, Wood&Lead customer who bought and modeled the tote *___*

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Click on the image above to watch the video which accurately captured the mood of the book fair. This video was taken and originally uploaded by my friend Stacy who runs a cool site with updates of her life in Tokyo. 

 

Also, Wood&Lead items sold at Tokyo Art Book Fair are now available for purchase, visit Wood&Lead Etsy store now ! ☺ 
  

 

Rolling In The Deep

Here's something I've been working on (besides a better sense of humor), when I am not photoshopping faces on stalks of broccoli. I've been illustrating a lot, compiling my series of 'pun' drawings into a book/zine for the Tokyo Art Book Fair this year (!!!). It has been really interesting so far. I've done a lot of hand lettering and made a lot of patterns and these are some things that I didn't exactly think that I'd be doing. The following week would mark a huge milestone in this project. While I'm a little nervous, I'm really excited as well. I made a silly gif out of the buns featured on my zine cover. I wish I am able to relate to the one with a bag of baguette, holding a stalk of daisy, but I really feel like the one at the bottom doing the running while trying to balance everything at the same time. I have exactly a month. If the rolling pin is my only mode of transportation I'll roll my way to Tokyo. じゃね! I hope you guys enjoyed the gif better than my Adele reference.

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Me, in a few lines

I will have to start working like a jellyfish for the next few weeks. I enjoy staying in on rare Saturdays/Sundays and getting all my work done in one sitting (only leaving my seat a couple of times for trips to the kitchen savaging for food). In between the stuff that I am supposed to finish by today I got a little carried away and made a simple logo vector out of my painting. It was so much fun. ☺

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Work-in-Progress

One of the paintings I worked on last weekend - the lines far too raw and the brushstrokes too careless for my liking. Unpolished, and awkward as it is, it makes quite an accurate depiction of myself. I am a Work-in-Progress.

It is not the best, but it is how I want to present myself to others, as I am. I spend a lot of my time reading, it makes the second best form of escapism to traveling. In words there are worlds we find that do not exist, our universe gets a little bigger and more interesting when you explore it in reading. Our lives are made up of stories – the ones that do not belong to us, some discovered, some made up and those you live to tell. 

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I am learning to love my works a little more by sharing them with others and getting feedback. It is an unnerving thing to put yourself out there, it feels uncomfortable and narcissistic to a certain extend. I was never quite for the idea of having a 'blog' because most people set it up with a common intention in mind. I do it not because I think that I am amazing at what I am doing, but because every piece of work is a deliberate attempt  to make something original, sharing them motivates me to make something better in my next try. It is also an exercise for me in learning to relinquish control because I am really my own worse critic. 

For me, the documentation of these works encompass the effort in crafting my personal creative endeavor and writing my own story. I hope that I can one day look back and see how much closer I am to where I want to be. I am not hopeful that what I am doing would open any doors, but I just know that doing what you love is equally important and it might make the world a better place. You would then, have a story to tell and naturally find your place in the universe. After all, like how Muriel Rukeyser has put it  "The universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories." ☺

七倒八上

This was really me a few days ago when I shuffled around the house in this manner beyond frustration and self-defeat, occasionally wiping away fierce tears with my paint-stained hands. Ok, I exaggerated.

The reason behind my anguish lies mainly in my impatience. I've been experimenting with a new painting medium and it frustrated me to no end because I just couldn't work comfortably with it and I ended up ruining two simple paintings that took me a few hours to do. I panicked and got frustrated, because I've wasted so much time and I felt that it was crucial for me to learn a new medium. All the old insecurities slowly resurfaced and I found myself wading in self deprecation. Painting suddenly became as tough as trying to touch my toes.

I allowed myself to sulk, but only for awhile (like 10 days, just kidding). Sulking is important, it is a critical part of the process to feel better about things. Just like how crying is, but the former is more eco-friendly as it doesn't kill trees so I'd go with that. I also made a drawing out of it –

 

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But I didn't immediately feel better, not until the following night when my japanese teacher asked me to draw a neko (cat) during a class pop quiz. I thought I had heard wrongly but was secretly happy as it was my favouritest thing to do! How did she know, aren't the Japanese amazing?! While I was drawing on the board infront of the class, it was heartening to know that what I enjoy doing can bring joy to others as well. It wasn't the best looking neko on the planet but that mere 30 secs gave me a fresh perspective and a sense of purpose [or perhaps I am just disgustingly optimistic].

People used to tell me that if it's something that you really love, you would do whatever you can to get it. Because of the way that I was, I never saw failing in the part of doing. It didn't make sense to me how you're doing anything right through making mistakes. But that's where you learn, the beauty of distress. While there is a lot of pressure and self-struggle in face of repeated failures since it often takes 10x the effort to get pass yourself, through it you do gain resilience and patience.

I figured that since I've been consistently failing at the attempts of what I enjoy doing, there's no harm taking another plunge because I have nothing to lose. Like the Chinese saying (of Japanese origin) that goes, "七倒八上“ / 七転び八起き (nana-koro-bi-yao-ki) which translate to 'fall down seven times, get up eight' . Everything will work out eventually, just keep going. ☺