the swell stuff 2016-2018

A space for random musings, links to cool content on the web, books I am reading, music I am listening to, articles that don't fit in the more formal categories, ideas worth mulling over: that's what the swell stuff is for. The page hosts idiosyncrasies, the stuff that's not like the other stuff (thank you George Carlin), the delights that give my experience depth and breadth. 


ceramics class

agateware with jennifer cheung oct 27, 2018

Working with our hands is one of the ways we connect to a deeper way of knowing, a more settled sense of belonging to the world, belonging to our own bodies, tapping into a sense of usefulness and agency in a world determined to drag us away from ourselves. For a more practical explanation, the link below takes you to a class description, time, place!

culver city: la’s next cool hood

according to Vogue, Aug 2017

The fashionistas and trendsetters have caught on to what we locals have been relishing in relative quietude: Culver City is where it's at. The August issue shouts out the architecture, restaurants, and shopping that have transformed our little haven into a legit destination: among my personal favorites: the tacos at Loqui, Arcana bookstore, and the Culver Hotel.


pj harvey: chalk hills

what I am listening to

If you know PJ Harvey, you'll know this is a ten-year throwback – but evocative music transcends time, and this track still cuts deep. It's haunting, skeletal, and beautiful all at once. The image links to a playlist she uploaded on Spotify of some of her favorites, then to a video performance of White Chalk via the button further down.

transaprent leather

apparition by ecco leather

Soft, transparent cow-skin leather is pliable and available in a range of rich and controlled colors. Can be used in anything from bags to shoes and from jackets to shirts. One of a class of innovative textiles with its own narrative: "how it moves, how it flows, how it bends, how it feels."



digital precision in compact form

A desktop waterjet machine that can handle hard materials such as carbon fiber, stone, glass, metal, and ceramics. One could get into some trouble with a tool like this! Let's add it to our Holiday Wish List.

favorites for january

here's to 2017

I Can't Think About it Now by Dawes 

Custom Converse 

Broiled Saffron Dates

Here is Where We Meet by John Berger


barbara gilhooly

annealed wire sculptures

Eight years ago I tore a page out of Interior Design magazine showcasing Gilhooly's wire sculpture and have been religiously sorting it back to the top of my "wow pictures to look at" pile. Her forms are organic and geometric, romantic and architectural — and cast shadows equally intriguing to look at. More recent work includes the exuberant Balls for the Wall. Check out her site to see what keeps me looking. 

cow canyon trading post

visual appeal, and a serendipitous connection

Bluff, Utah, aka the edge of Bears Ears: A cow talisman from a fish-out-of-water cafe-coffee shop led to the artist as the owner of Cow Canyon Trading Post, led to Bluff as the home  of author Ellen Meloy, who died suddenly in her sleep at 58, which led to Verlyn Klinkenborg's appreciation in the New York Times.


midsummer delights


Joy to You Baby by Josh Ritter 

Porridge by Anni Kravi – so beautiful!

Street Food Cinema – although I missed John Hughes' classic Pretty in Pink

Thursday music at the Hammer Museum


what I am reading now #4

the difference: when good isn’t good enough

This is a book about striving for excellence and what it means to be thoughtful: to contribute meaningfully to others and to our own selves. The intent is to thrive in innovation, engagement and productivity – and achieve breakthroughs professionally and personally.


what I am listening to

michael kiwanuka; love & hate

"A sprawling soul opus full of longing and self-assessment," according to Pitchfork. Love & Hate is melancholy, introspective, evocative of the '70s in its attention to storytelling and the sound of Kiwanuka's voice. This track is from his second album, produced by Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton.

big thinkers, food waste, loneliness

Sarah Wilson is an author, minimalist, and entrepreneur; her interests range from her bestselling book I Quit Sugar (Egads! That's a nightmare.) to solitude to carpe diem. Some hard-won wisdom: We need [people] to give a shit – and to show as such. Show up, fire up, give a shit…or go home. Let’s do this crazy thing…or not at all.


sashiko workshops | kaban+

hand work, mending as metaphor

As mentioned in the post about Frau Fiber (below), there truly is something profoundly redeeming – almost revolutionary – in the act of repairing an item otherwise destined for the scrap heap. Let's vote for thoughtfulness in what we buy, what we make, what we use. Link to more info about Kaban+ workshop May 13

maggie rogers | alaska

what i am listening to

If you haven't come across the viral YouTube video of Pharrell discovering Maggie Roger's track during an NYU music class, take a listen below. Haunting, original, lyrical, and wholly unique: it's on regular rotation in the OPS studio. Have a favorite to share? Send a link! 

favorites for july 2018

some recent discoveries

Your Hand Holding Mine by Yellow Days 

Very Fond of Food by Sophie Dahl – a deep hunger

The Dogwood Dyer – Liz Spencer

The new DesignLA magazine from the LA Times


local, handmade cabbage

not really, but made from cabbage!

A village workshop in Jordan makes completely compostable papers from hand using shredded red cabbage leaves. Leaves, flowers, grass and spices are collected to give the handmade paper various hues and different structures. The collaboration with Studio Gutedort in Germany supports the village with new ideas, designs and possibilities.

favorites for june 2017

almost summer treats

Let Me Down Easy by Paolo Nutini 

LA Design Festival

Summer Squash Potato Torte

Textile artist Mary Little

table through the doors  

puerto escondido, oaxaca, mexico

Here's an idea to savor: a cast concrete table extends from indoors to out – note how the doors/wall close around the table itself. Near a remote stretch of beach in a surfer's paradise, surrounded by a calming dessert landscape. Photograph by Camila Cossio. "A place to escape from society,” says the owner. Sign me up!


what I’m reading next #3

bill hayes on nyc and oliver sacks

"I have come to believe that kindness is repaid in unexpected ways and that if you are lonely or bone-tired or blue, you need only come down from your perch and step outside."

“I’ve suddenly realized what you mean to me: you create the need which you fill, the hunger you sate."



2017 starts unplugged

January opened with travel to Mexico and Guatemala, and some much needed time to refresh, recharge, and regroup. What's the mindset for 2017? Being grateful and enthusiastic about moving forward into the unknown. The next few weeks will be about setting up plans, visions and goals for an inspirational and productive New Year.

what would you serve with gin and juice?

snoop dogg and martha stewart

This duo is a brilliant and unlikely pairing. I don't know how much of it is a genuine embrace of mutual playfulness, how much a calculated exploitation — but in either case, this partnership stands as a model for thinking around the corners of presenting a brand or positioning an idea. Are there people, events, or products your brand can partner with to show-off its "other" side?  


what I'm reading #2

the rise by sarah lewis

From the blurb that inspired me to purchase the book: "The Rise explores the inestimable value of often ignored ideas — the power of surrender for fortitude, the criticality of play for innovation, and the propulsion of the near win on the road to mastery, the importance of grit and creative practice." Sounds like a recipe for good living and good working. 

guilty pleasures

fall 2016 edition

Strawberry Shortcake Cream'wich

Lights Come On,  Jason Aldean 

Deadwood on DVD


sarah lewis: visual literacy

writer, curator, professor

"Visual literacy is increasingly urgent today. Engaged global citizenship requires grappling with pictures."  All of us who work with image, language, and print (and digital) to communicate, persuade, sell, share ideas, and more will find these words particularly resonant. The rise of social media drives the point home: to see is to believe, want, belong. Read more on Ms. Lewis' site.


spotlight: mari andrew 


I discovered Mari Andrew's Instagram feed through the usual algorithmic down-the-rabbit-hole labyrinth of social media. Her self-deprecating humor, vulnerable observations, and quirky line drawings are consistently charming.                


los angeles river revitalization

Mia Lehrer, trees, community

Los Angeles has a complicated history with water: think droughts, flash floods, Chinatown. Newcomers laugh when we refer to our "river" – until they see its waters roiling after a good rain. We're more accustomed to seeing the riverbed used for car chases in the movies, but landscape architect Mia Lehrer has a more idyllic vision in mind: wetlands, bike trails, public space.

photo courtesy City of Los Angeles

photo courtesy City of Los Angeles


the big questions of meaning

I read this blog most weekends, during early morning coffee and while scratching the belly of the furry beast who shares my home. Some posts, like this one quoting Mary Oliver, are special favorites. As a go-to source for reasonable, calming discourse in the madness of our times, On Being works.


jouska and obscure sorrows

also, botanical gardens

Another rambling internet search led to a list of 23 Emotions People Feel, But Cannot Explain. I laughed a bit too much over jouska, a hypothetical conversation you compulsively play out in your head. Looking for the link again to insert here, I discovered that in 2008 I created a list of all the botanical gardens in the U.S. for a client project.


what I’m reading #1

bighorn sheep, the desert, loss

If you haven’t read the lyrical and powerful Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild by Ellen Meloy, do yourself a favor and check a copy out of the library. “An inspired reflection on the bond between wild creatures and the human imagination, told as a chronicle of four seasons with a band of rare desert bighorn sheep.”