interview

The Strange and Wonderful Reality of Craig Winslow

I’ve become so curious with how fondly we think of nostalgia, dream about the future, yet we ignore the present moment.
Portrait by  Armando Garcia .

Portrait by Armando Garcia.

To Craig Winslow, the world is very much alive. He’s created a profession of blending the physical with the digital, shaping a strange and wonderful new reality for us all to enjoy. His experiential design brings ordinary scenes to life with projected shapes and patterns. Blank walls transform into new landscapes. Inanimate objects expand with depth and dimension. Shafts of light become interactive exhibits. Possibilities are truly endless in the world or Craig Winslow.

We met Craig at last year’s WeMake Celebrates conference. In 2016, he was just embarking on a year-long Adobe Creative Residency. His Light Capsules project won a coveted spot, and for 52 weeks he dedicated his time to bringing ghost signs back to life with projection mapping technology. He created more than 25 installations across the country, which launched him into the national spotlight. We’re delighted to have Craig at this year’s conference. His work fits perfectly with our experiments in process theme.

“The best ideas come from times when I’m most flexible, and can clear my mind and just experiment. Very often, I start with a concept for a project by tinkering, and being unafraid to try something new,” says Craig. “Even if whatever I was trying to accomplish doesn’t work, it may inspire something else entirely.” Craig’s drive and openness to new ideas and experimentation that led him directly to Light Capsules. Creativity struck during a cross-country move from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. Together with his friend designer and illustrator Mike Ackerman, Craig embarked on a 15-day road trip/art project called  “Projecting West” where they would project daily narrative light installations. On the sixth day, Craig’s projector caught a ghost sign, which ignited the project that would catapult his career.

Photo by  Mike Marchlewski
Photo by Sam Roberts

Photo by Sam Roberts

Craig’s experimentation with reality is rooted in his boyhood. “I grew up playing in the woods with my sister and letting our imagination go wild. As we transitioned to the dawn of the internet, I played a bunch of video games, and was just curious to learn how to make things on the computer. My close friends and I made weird videos and haunted houses. There was always a blend of physical and digital elements,” says Craig. “I’m still completely captivated with making experiences that blend the physical and digital.”

These experiences helped Craig become an expert at transporting people into a new reality. He creates artificial environments that engage us, bringing us into the present moment, together. ”One significant moment clicked with me. I was working on a storefront display in SoHo, and I was projection mapping a pair of blank shoes that were then animated with the new designs. Looking through the window I saw a couple young kids walk by, followed by a much older lady. They both lit up with excitement. It struck me how none of them had to wear a device or be told how it works, they were just enjoying a shared experience,” said Craig. “More and more I’m excited by creating work that people have to see in real life, because it gets us out of spending too much time online, and out to enjoy the world around us, together.”

Spend a few moments exploring his work, and you’ll start to see the world in new dimensions. While he brings old advertisements back to life with Light Capsules, he’s also igniting industrial spaces with new energy through White Noise, a collaborative time-lapse project with sound designer Miles Dean and movement artist and choreographer Erika Senft Miller. “A lot of my work relates to a strong sense of place, and time. I’ve specifically become so curious with how fondly we think of nostalgia, dream about the future, yet we ignore the present moment. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, but be excited for the future, and be an active part in creating it. I’ll discuss this more in my WeMake talk.”

For Craig, every day is an experiment in waking the past, examining the present, and taking hold of the future. Today, he’s constantly jet-setting across the country to explore new realms of projection mapping, 3D modeling, and beyond. We’re excited to hear more about his latest projects, current tinkerings, and what’s ahead in his horizons. Grab your seat. Tell a friend. We’ll see you on October 13 at the 2017 WeMake Celebrates conference.

The Design Game of Timothy Goodman

It’s about approaching this whole thing as a practice, not as a profession.”
Images courtesy of Timothy Goodman.

Images courtesy of Timothy Goodman.

In today’s digital world there is a range of different types of graphic designers leading very different occupational paths. But I believe you can simplify designers into two categories: those who work for brands and those who get brands to work for them.

Timothy Goodman is a prime example of the latter. A golden boy of the New York design scene, Goodman’s hand-drawn typography has given brands like Airbnb, J. Crew, Sharpie, and Ford loads of attention. And his personal life is also in the limelight40 Days of Dating, his viral romantic experiment with Jessica Walsh, has practically turned him into a household name. Goodman is the type of artist that knows what he wants, does what it takes to get it, and then quickly outgrows it.

After wrapping up his degree at the School of Visual Arts, Goodman mastered book design at Simon & Schuster. Designing dust jackets might not have been his favorite artistic task, but this type of creative and illustrative work gave him the spirit of an independent artist that some designers never achieve. “What I learned the most from my year as a book jacket designer was the importance of having authorship,” said Goodman. “Because I was fresh out of school, I really liked having my name on an artifact. It made me feel a sense of identity in a way, and it allowed me to keep pursuing different visual styles. And I could tell my mom to go buy the book at Barnes & Noble. In the end, it’s all about mom.”

Leaving the books behind and taking his typography skills with him, Goodman moved on to branding work at Collins and then landed an in-house gig at Apple, all within a few years. These agencies helped launched his career, but his drive consistently outran the work.“I wanted to go off and create more work that would inspire others. I want to bend and twist and shake and squeeze the most out of life and my work without getting too caught up in the end game or the failures along the way.”

Today, Goodman runs his own studio, producing Sharpie workshops, beautifying magazine covers, throwing up murals, and conducting social experiments. “I love working on installations and murals for the sheer scale and audacity of it. It’s challenging, and you have to think about it in many different dimensions,” said Goodman. “Other than that, the personal projects I do are most fun. My ‘Memories of a Girl I Never Knew’ series is one of the longest and most rewarding things I’ve probably worked on.”

Goodman’s success could be owed to his talent and drive, but he might not have come this far without his willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve (or social media). 40 Days of Dating not only gave him national attention, it also gave him copious amounts of inspiration. “40 Days has torn down a wall I’m no longer interested in having up as a designer. So many of our own experiences and fears are the same as a lot of people’s, and I want to continue to connect to people and start a dialogue through my work. I’ve also been writing a lot about my personal life through a series I call 'Memories of a Girl I Never Knew. I don’t think I would be sharing this stuff with such an ease if it wasn’t for 40 Days. It’s given me a capacity for vulnerability. And with all vulnerability comes the risk of failure.”

Get up close and personal with Timothy Goodman at the WeMake Celebrates conference on October 2 at The Armory. He’ll be joining us as a keynote speaker, sharing his practice and his future projects. Don’t miss this special moment between Goodman and the Portland design community! Click here to get your tickets.

Mowing the lawn with Matt Sundstrom

I feel like the work that we do is our legacy. More than anything else. I feel very conscious of doing work that in some sense feels of this time, and also timeless.
Starvation Creek Falls, Oregon

RECAP: sketchXchange with Matt Sundstrom

August 7, 2015

On Friday, Aug. 7, Matt Sundstrom shared his practical insights into creating some amazing black-and-white landscape illustrations. We learned that Matt can't stop, won't stop making something everyday - hundreds of sketches, a backyard studio, a successful career at Instrument, a family... We also learned that nice guys do finish first. 

If you missed the SketchXchange, fear not. You can relive the evening in photos.

Photos by Britt Appleton & Chris Hoge

INTERVIEW:  Matt Sundstrom

There’s an unofficial “nice guy” test, I think, which is: in a heat wave, can you stand in a sweltering cabin in denim and be patient and kind? Can you answer sweeping questions thoughtfully when it’s 100 degrees and inside your house you have cold Coke and a daughter who’d like to play?

Matt Sundstrom is an incredibly kind guy. He’s a lot like his work. He is patient and studied and diligent. He is the Associate Creative Director at Instrument, and every night except Friday he’s drawing in the cabin he built in his backyard. It’s just an endurance thing,” he says. “If you’re not doing it every day, then you have this period of burn in where you just have to get a lot of really bad stuff out of your system before you start getting your feet under you.”

He draws comics, which is the first art form he fell in love with, back when he was a kid. "When I was in 7th grade or so I had a friend of mine bring in comics. He kind of challenged me to draw comics so that we could put together our own book. We created some really bad comics together, but I was just really excited about it."

process shots via SaltFireFallDust

He also draws landscapes. Landscapes are kind of his jam. "It's a niche that's not really occupied a lot here in America, so that would be a fun thing to be known for. It's something that I love doing," he said. "Whenever there's been polling done about what people view as interesting art, usually representation art and landscape tend to be high, but also high up on the kitsch factor."

From Wizard Island

There’s something very contemporary and digital feeling about Matt’s landscapes. They look exceptional on a screen. There's also a friendliness that feels like classic children’s book illustration. Simply put, they’re nice to look at. Landscape without people is challenging, because it is not obvious where to focus. I think Matt knows exactly how much to include to avoid that problem.

I found with my work I tend to go in 10 year cycles of things that I’m interested in, so landscape is really interesting right now but it might be something else later.
spirit animals drawn for the 100 Days Project

Matt's currently working on a book of comics and landscapes about Oregon. He tries to do a book every year. He describes Stephen King's concept of mowing the lawn from On Writing. "The fun stuff usually comes really early or really late, the rest of your process is just mowing the lawn."

That idea means a lot to him. He says he repeats it to himself when he works. It's about more than the project for him. It's a legacy. "I definitely feel very strongly about the idea of your work standing for who you are," he said. "I think a lot of things really come down to the work. It’s really the only thing tangible that we leave behind, besides personal connections, which start to fragment as soon as you're gone. I feel very conscious of doing work that in some sense feels of this time, and also timeless."

 

Matt's studio, which he built

Find Matt online: 

  Matt Sundstrom.com  |  Salt Fire Fall Dust   |   Inks & Things    |   Fantom Forest  

Drive Into the Sun   |   PDX 100    |    Medium   |    Pinterest 

Instagram - @mattink        twitter - @mattink


Creating Space, An Interview with Mara Zepeda

marazepeda.jpg

Mara Zepeda creates space. Balancing life as a woman in tech and a calligrapher and designer of tattoos. Her dual roles often intersect—one offsetting the other in thoughtful consideration. Mara takes chances. Her discipline in the traditions of letterforms, fused with her philanthropic way of reasoning helped her to start Switchboard, (a community platform for sharing) with co-founder Sean Lerner.

I admire people like Mara and am inspired by her creative gusto. She creates beautiful calligraphy under the name Neither Snow and often moonlights for NPR including: Morning Edition, Planet Money, and Marketplace. She’s passionate about building community whether through the art of tattoos or as the CEO of a start-up. I found her story fitting to wrap up this quarter's theme, Polarize.

She studied in a scriptorium at Reed College. It was founded in 1930 by Lloyd Reynolds, a premier calligrapher of the Northwest. Later the program was taken over by Robert Pallandino, a Trappist monk whom Steve Jobs studied under. People often times reference the commencement speech Job's gave at Stanford, talking about the MAC and his inspiration with typography so early, and the calligraphy courses he took with Pallandino.

She tells me she was a really bad calligrapher having trouble with perfecting traditional italic and Copperplate script. It’s hard to believe when you see her work.

“Although I studied with some of the best teachers in the country, my work was always the absolute worst. At a certain point, I knew I really liked it, and how meditative it was. I liked studying the letterforms and the physical practice of it. But I wasn’t going to be able to replicate another hand.”

In 2009 contemporary calligraphy began to surge and with it Zepeda began expressing her own style and personality through the letterforms she was learning. She started her first business and created a niche for herself in the wedding industry. When her husband began to travel more she cut down on the use of paper and went almost entirely digital. Today she designs commercial identities and editorial but the majority of her work is commissioned tattoos. Part of the requirement in the process of tattoo work is to have the clients send photos and write about what inspires them to get the tattoo, and then she features the stories on her blog.

"It becomes a really nice narrative resolution that highlights them. People get tattoos for incredible reasons, like a child passed away, or they got a divorce, or survived cancer. Every single reason is crazy meaningful."

Today, Zepeda helps to run Switchboard and devotes one day a week towards her lettering practice. Switchboard was bootstrapped in part from the revenue of this, and is probably the only startup to ever be funded with calligraphic forms.

“We’ve done a round of fundraising but it’s not easy to be a woman in tech and fundraise. If there’s a way I can draw a low salary from Switchboard to keep the enterprise off the ground while doing calligraphy one day a week, it’s so much better in the long term for everyone involved.”

Calligraphy has also informed a lot of her design decisions when it comes to Switchboard. One example is white space. When they hired Jessica Hische to do the design of the site, they wanted a lot of white space and for people to feel as if they had landed in an open field. She noted that there are other similarities—

“There’s a pattern that has emerged. People will write posts like letters, very often they start by saying, Hey everyone! There’s a sense of correspondence,which was brought over from calligraphy unintentionally. When you address someone as though they are a correspondent you show them a level of respect and intentionality, that’s really different from a tweet or posting on someone's wall. This notion of correspondence and respect, and taking a beat to address a community in this almost formal way is not something we require. However, it’s remarkable to see so many of the post start out with Dear Community, it’s so nice.

Other similarities is in the act of gratitude. We all know how much we love getting hand written letters in the mail...something that has been lost in today’s digital world. Switchboard encourages this action as well. Once an ask has been fulfilled there is an opportunity to say thank you, and an opportunity to be mindful about the community and your audience.

In July Switchboard turns 2. It’s a startup that is quality driven before quantity driven and a magnet for underserved communities in technology. Their clients are municipalities, education, veterans, farmers, and even design communities to name a few. I look forward to seeing it evolve and the communities grow.

Photos courtesy of Mara

Carson Ellis: a classy hippie

When I die I’d like for someone to say: she really followed her instincts.
From "Under Wildwood"

If you think you don’t know Carson Ellis, you might be wrong. She illustrated the Wildwood Chronicles. She does all of the art for The Decemberists. She has had editorial illustrations in The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review. She painted that rad mural in St. Johns. I’m a big fan. It was bizarre to stand in her driveway and talk about how Beyoncé is overrated. 

Carson’s work captures what Portland feels like better than anything else I’ve seen. And I don’t mean quirky Portland, or in her words, “twee and precious” Portland, like art you might see at a street fair or in New Seasons, but natural Portland. The trees. Our type of cloud. And something harder to pinpoint. Something energetic. If you want to know what it feels like to be in Portland, flip through Wildwood. It’s so special I could cry. 

6b708b521a24de7a8accb7c708441490.jpg
Illustrations from the Wildwood Chronicles. Written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis.

Carson grew up on the grounds of a dilapidated estate called Dellwood in upstate New York. “The actual mansion was in ruins,” she said. “There was a caretaker’s house with a grumpy old man who lived there. We lived in the carriage house, which was sort of like a barn. But my parents were hippies and it was a super tricked out hippie pad.” The place is gone now. Bought by developers and dozed for condos that were never completed. But the experience meant so much to her that she emails with a local historian. (I imagine she’ll make a book about it someday.) Carson spent a lot of time chasing the pony across the street, and a lot of time drawing. “I had an art practice from the time I was an elementary school kid, but I do think that I was sort of a crappy artist most of that time,” she said. 

She studied oil painting at the University of Montana. She wanted to study illustration, but it wasn’t offered. College was where she met her husband, Colin Meloy. She worked on xerox flyers for his band, and they were roommates. When she graduated she moved around, waitressing and making art. “I know now looking back at my post-college portfolio that I was unhireable,” Carson said. 

Mural designed for the St. Johns neighborhood in Portland

She ended up in San Francisco. She was super into the street art and graffiti culture. She drew with sharpies and paint pens. She said, “I just wanted to do something that was novel and unique. So I think what I was seeking out with these really exaggerated, stylized sharpie-drawn depictions, graffiti-influenced depictions of people, was a way to set myself apart. At some point I just stopped doing that. I saw that the art I loved was setting itself apart in ways that were a lot more nuanced.” 

In 2001 Carson moved up to Portland, and she and Colin started dating. They collaborated on promotional materials for his new band, The Decemberists. Carson was still drawing everything with sharpie, but she was unsatisfied. She said they were both really into comic books at that point. (She mentioned Meat Cake and Eightball.) She googled “what do cartoonists draw with?” The answer was brush and ink. So she went to the art store, bought a nib pen, nibs, an ink well, and ink. She said, “I dipped that pen in that ink well and it was like the heavens opened up, and I was like, this is it! It just changed everything about what I was doing. And I think it allowed the art to be sophisticated in a way that it hadn’t been before.” 

"The Littlest Hockey Fight" (my favorite)
I just want to be known for making good art. Being an artist is a journey. You have to always be checking in with your inner compass to make sure you’re doing the stuff you want to do. Evolving the way you want to evolve, rather than following the money, or the easy route because you don’t have time to do it the hard way. Or following the direction people want you to follow.

Carson uses words like, “psychedelic,” and “grotesque,” and “macabre.” She said, “I’m a huge fan of anything you find if you turn over a log.” In college she painted portraits of her friends where she tried to make them look ugly. She said, “I’m still interested in finding ways to make people look expressive. But I think I do it in a much more subtle way.” 

She’s also really into Russia. She took a trip there in 2001 that she says has “literally informed every single thing I’ve done creatively since then.” She explains that “there’s something that appeals to me so much about how incredibly intellectual and elevated and sometimes very politically progressive Russia has been over the years, and also how tumultuous, how backwards at times...the constant tumult of that country. I feel like I am defending it a lot to people.” 

She claims that she doesn’t do anything unique. That she can look at any illustration and name the ten influences that amalgamated in her brain to create it. But she’s also glad that the internet wasn’t such a presence when she started. “I’m really grateful that I didn’t have all of that potential influence coming from every which way,” she said. “And also that I didn’t have that awareness of how much great stuff was being made in the world, because that’s daunting. If you’re making art in a bubble, then you have no reason to think you should stop.” 

wild dogs from "Wildwood Imperium"

Carson lives on a farm outside Portland with her husband and their two boys - Hank and Milo. (Milo's middle name is Cannonball!) They've got all kinds of pets - llamas, chickens, goats, a cat. And there's a horse next door. It's a dreamy place. Just trying to find her studio I wandered into two crazy buildings - a sort of tractor barn filled with guitars, and a silo. She has vague plans to fill her farm with giant folk art, but for now she's working on another picture book she wrote, and some unnamed projects with Colin. "I don't think I have anything coming up that's any better than what I've had going on, but I think I've had it good," she said. 

pictures of Carson's property from her Instagram
pictures of Carson's studio that I took at the interview

More Carson: 

website -  www.carsonellis.com        Instagram - @carsonellis         twitter - @cfellis

Books: 

Home written by Carson Ellis | Wildwood written by Colin Meloy | Under Wildwood written by Colin Meloy | Wildwood Imperium written by Colin Meloy | Dillweed's Revenge, written by Florence Parry Heide | Stagecoach Sal, written by Deborah Hopkinson | The Beautiful Stories of Life, written by Cynthia Rylant | The Composer Is Dead, written by Lemony Snicket | The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stewart