Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Everything happens for a reason... and much deep love to our friend Marty Smith.

Everything happens for a reason... 

Does it really?
This was a question I have asked many many many times for last few weeks. 

We lost our good friend Marty Smith on April 7th. It was unexpected and tragic loss that could have been avoided . (here is the official announcement from Art Center.) He was our Department Chair when I went through Art Center... but over many years he has become more than the person who was in charge of the design department... and has become a true friend for Frido and our family. I loved his warm smile, his humor... and his gracefulness in life. 

I had been feeling stuck for a few weeks after incident happened. Loss is hard. It's undeniable that losing a friend really really sucks... 

And why?? Stickers Frido has been designing for last 4 months arrived the day after Marty passed away. It was a design I looked forward to seeing in person so we could add the message to our cover of Traveler's Notebook refill as a reminder and as an inspiration. But when I saw it in person... when the stickers finally arrived, I seriously asked myself "does it really??" 

In Japanese culture... (and probably many more Eastern cultures), we believe that the fact that our life begins and ends is one of the biggest factor of what makes our very life more beautiful. The impermanence... the imperfection, the fragility. But why are things that make our life beautiful is so painful at the same time??

It's easy to believe "everything happens for a reason" when things are going well, isn't it?

My friend I met at Art Center years ago reminded me yesterday how incredible Marty's lifelong ripple effect has been... how he has connected all of us together. And she and I have never met if not for Marty.

Today. I am still processing. And I am constantly reminding myself that I do not have to rush through the process. Healing takes time... And today I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I just know that not "everything" is pain free, sunshine lit, and rainbow colored in life... some part of "everything" is plain simple terrible. But I believe in believing that only truth in life is "everything happens for a reason".

Marty, we love you and miss you so much everyday... all the ripples you created will always be a part of our ripples in life. RIP. 

with all my heart,

Tinkerlab at Baum-kuchen home

Few things in life clearly rise to the priority for our family. One is travel (I am sure you guessed it!) and another one is creativity and "creative thinking". 

For Frido and I, design process and solving problems is so much of what is engrained in us... and it has become a natural part of how we approach and engage with our girls too. So when I stumble upon this book "Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors", I was immediately drawn to it. I loved seeing different art and making projects that were captured beautifully in the book. But maybe even more so... the writing that was a part of the book. Introducing the idea and concept of Tinkerlab at home and how to inspire little ones' creativity through process. After reading through the book, I announced to the girls that we will transform our breakfast nook next to the kitchen into our own version of Tinkerlab.

Our space is very humble (approximately 8'x6'). We are currently using two foldable tables with adjustable height. The tables are set to the lowest height so kids can easily access the workspace on the table and a few vintage kids' school chairs. We are using a part of one table for art supply and other table is often totally open as a project station. They are so lightweight and I like that I can switch up the space really easily. I tidy up pretty frequently after girls work in the space so tables have open enough space to feel inviting and less chaotic. But usually each clean up only last about 3-5 minutes.

Today girls use this space daily. One table is currently dedicated to watercoloring since they have been enjoying the process so much. Each evening I usually clean up any left over materials from the day (paper scraps, left over hardened play dough pieces, used brush), set out a new water for watercoloring and a clean sheet of paper!

It helps that it's next to the kitchen so it's very accessible to them. Coco often spends her time there in the morning when I clean up the kitchen. Sometimes I sit with them and do my own little art to gently share different ways of doing things. Satchi's friends all go straight to this space when they come to visit our house and I love seeing what comes out of each kid's creativity.

My hope is that our girls will feel very natural to just pick up a pen, brush, glue, whatever supplies they need and create when they want to and need to. "Making" is not something that they only do for one school project but just another everyday routine.

Now that summer is approaching, I am looking forward to going through the projects listed on the Tinkerlab book again and explore different ways of making and expressing!

The author Rachel Doorley also have a website dedicated to Tinkerlab and her studio in Palo Alto feels magical to visit and take kids' class at!

Thank you so much Rachel for inspiring parents everywhere!

p.s. below is a collection of girls' project photos I have taken in last 6 months or so... after we created our version of "Tinkerlab" in our house. I had fun browsing through my photos and looking at them. To remember how fun some of the project was for all of us! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reflecting on Inspiration Lab 004: The Art of Fountain Pens (4/10/16)

Few weekend ago, we hosted our 4th Inspiration Lab at Baum-kuchen. We love that we continue to explore different aspects of analogue lifestyle through these intimate gatherings. This time, we shared our love for all things fountain pens.

The idea for this Inspiration Lab started when Eunice showed me how to get more out of my fountain pen back in early 2016. I think Eunice (@thedailyroe) got really concerned when I told her that I NEVER cleaned my LAMY fountain pen for past 3 years. (oops) The truth was that I had no idea how to clean a fountain pen nor the difference between clean and not so clean nibs. So when she brought all her tools to the studio to help me clean my white LAMY and showed me how easy it is to actually clean it..., I wondered "how many other people can get gentle help in getting to know little bit more about their fountain pens?"

There was also another component which was to be able to use ink from any fountain pen ink bottles!! This really got me excited because I was no longer stuck with the color of cartridge inks that each fountain pen makers produced. Seriously... there are so many beautiful ink bottles out there! I learned that it was also very simple to use a ink converter in some of the fountain pens. It really widened my view in fountain pens.

So that's what we tried to infuse during our Inspiration Lab + really useful trouble shooting tips and extra insights Eunice has gained along her journey of fountain pen adventure!

I hope everyone who attended the Lab had a lot of fun not only from learning about fountain pens but also taking a little peek into Eunice's analogue tablescape (she brought a part of her personal analogue table collection to share:), opening thoughtfully curated gift from the host filled with inspiration and tools for your ever evolving fountain pen journey, and the yummiest donuts from Highland Park Donut Friend as well as connecting with like minded analogue community!

I love witnessing the magic of everyone being together in our humble studio space... and sharing how much we all love this analogue lifestyle!


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Building an analogue habit / The 100 days of Meditation

Few weeks ago, I reached the epic goal in the most beautifully anti-climatic way. I completed my "100 day" project. 

I first came across the idea of #The100DayProject when I attended and spoke at the recent "The Beyond Inspiration" gathering. There, Sarah Ehlinger (check out her Instagram @verysarie) shared her story about The 100 Days Project she was just finishing and how it shifted her creative career. At the end of the gathering, I left the room promising myself that I would love to shift something in my life by challenging myself with The 100Day Project. 

Knowing myself and everyday juggle we have at home and the studio, I knew that whatever I decided to tackle as a part of The 100Day Project needed to be simple and straight forward... Around the same time I started to practice morning meditation using Headspace app. So combining these two ideas came together somewhat natually.

My objective for 100Day Project: 
To write a thought, feeling, a word... that came to my mind during and/or after my meditation using pen and paper. 

So the journey began on 11/8/2015. 

I would be truly truly truly honest. When I started, I made sure that I felt okay if I skipped a day or two (or three) here and there. I didn't and still don't even get out of my bed to meditate (as Headspace suggests to sit and meditate). I open my eyes, roll to the side to turn on my app on iPhone and simply start. This helped me tremendously to keep things real and stay on the path. I also have been on a backseat driver for the family morning routines... like making breakfast and packing lunch for girls. (Thank you Frido!!!)

Doing a guided meditation with Headspace has been really good for my process too. App works as a motivation since I can see all the past meditation I have done and also be able to unlock and choose new practice and focus when I complete a series. Every time my mind wildly wonder, there is a gentle reminder which brings me back to the intension of why I am there. Some early sessions I fell in sleep during the practice and I remember writing on my IG update with 100 day project "need more sleep". Some other days felt more substantial as building blocks to think and feel differently about the world around me. 

Here are some thoughts... about meditation and the project. 

I never knew what I would get out of this process... but I think it actually changed my life. 
Through last fall into the early 2016 had been very full of life learning for me. A lot of processing about what happened in the past. Defining and redefining what it meant to embrace life's imperfection. Getting to know myself more and feeling okay with it. And meditation really took a part in shaping my thoughts to move forward. It gave me tools to think about relationship with myself and people around me more constructively and with warmer lenses and filters. Now I have meditated somewhat daily for 5 months or so, I can see the difference in the way my body feels after finishing the 20 minutes session. Even on the day I wake up with light headache, the headache usually clears off by the time I finish the day's meditation. And I am more ready to greet the day. 

Feeling and thoughts do not define who we are. 
Meditation has been a constant reminder that feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts. They are not definitive and they don't define who we are. It's normal for us to feel things (both positive and negative). Our job is not about just celebrating positive feelings and pushing away negative ones. Instead acknowledging that those feelings exist and remind ourselves that they come and go. This way of framing our feelings helped me to let go some of the way I felt and resented about painful memories from the past. My favorite metaphor has been that our mind is like a big body of ocean water. Some parts have tons of waves because storm is passing through but deep inside the sea... there is always quietness and stillness. And any storm pass with time.

Embracing our rich interior world. 
Meditation is such an interesting concept. It seems so simple (just sit or lay down and close eyes to think nothing, right???)... but I quickly learned it was very very hard. My mind often wildly wondered in so many different direction. About 50 days into the project, it struck me that I did not even know that our minds did that...wondering... aimlessly and subconsciously before I started practicing meditation. And how important it is for our minds to get a break from constantly inhaling information... and have a chance to reach into deep pockets of subconsciousness. 

We always look outward for more inspiration and information but to remember that we all have very unique and rich interior world that we can journey through is also so important. 

To be able to share and carry tangible footsteps of growth in me. 
Putting the project out there on the IG world made me realize that we all share similar feelings. Some days I was surprised to read through comments that were triggered by some sentiment I wrote earlier the day. I didn't realize until I started sharing... that we are unique yet hold something that we can all relate through the core of who we are as humans. A lot of people mentioned to me that they are looking forward to starting their version of 100 days of meditation and I am grateful that I can contribute to the world in the way of sharing.

My 100th day was just like another day. No particularly insightful thoughts from the meditation. Nothing really glorifying and it was perfect the way. Today I am officially "done" with the project which I started back in November... but I decided to keep going. My body and my mind actually crave the ritual of meditating and writing if I skip few days in a row. Sometime between the 1st and 100 days of meditation, this newly introduced analogue routine transformed itself from feeling foreign and trivial to an established habit that is now a part of my everyday. 

I am thankful to have tangible footsteps of my meditation written and documented with my words. Something I can hold onto. Something my girls can hold onto someday... when time is right. 


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