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Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Seeing: Beyond Van Gogh

This immersive exhibit brings Vah Gogh’s body of work to life through digital projections. Traveling to cities across the US, the installation features a series of texts about the artist’s life and work, followed by a breathtaking projection room. It is in that enormous room where the exhibit comes alive through a nearly hour-long seamless, digitally projected animation of Van Gogh’s work. The installation is not like a documentary—there isn’t a narrative plot—but more like the experience of being inside an all-encompassing screen saver that tells a sensitive story through the interweaving of brush strokes, paintings, and letters that span one artist’s lifetime. Being in that room was an escape and a chance to dwell in the beauty of Van Gogh’s work and the awe of seeing what digital technology can allow us to experience.

Learning: Hand-lettering

I recently signed up for a trial of SkillShare—an online source of lessons and courses in any skill or topic you could imagine—and completed Gia Graham’s Hand Lettering in Procreate course. I have been thoroughly enjoying digital drawing on my iPad, and in this course, Gia teaches all the fundamentals needed to create beautifully crafted hand-lettered work. The world of typography, fonts, and lettering has many intricate details and rules that one wouldn’t know about without studying graphic design. Check out this typography glossary, filled with terms like ‘spur,’ ‘tail,’ ‘swash,’ ‘teardrop terminal,’ and more. Through the course, she teaches you how to create your first lettering piece. I plan to continue working on this skill, as the process is so pleasant and fulfilling. You can see my first piece from her class project below in the Yoga Nidra section.

Sensing: Yoga Nidra

I recently wrote about an episode of Huberman Lab where he discusses sleep. One well-being practice that Andrew Huberman consistently advocates for is what he calls ‘Non-Sleep Deep Rest,’ or NSDR. This includes a technique called Yoga Nidra, which—I won’t pretend to be an expert—is a type of guided meditation that can help with relaxing and gaining rest for the body and the mind and can be practiced in the middle of the day. I always struggle with a wave of exhaustion in the middle of the afternoon, and as an avid listener of Huberman Lab, I finally started dipping my toes into this practice. It has worked wonders. Unlike other types of meditation, this feels more like a nap but is refreshing rather than disorienting (I am not a napper). I didn’t do much research before starting and therefore have been following the guided meditations on YouTube by Ally Boothroyd, who, to be honest, was the first result of my search. I am still exploring other platforms and practitioners, but having the time to reset and rest each afternoon has infused me with a second round of focus and energy, helping me overcome a mid-day exhaustion problem that I have struggled with for years.

Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Reading: The Plaza: The secret life of America’s most famous hotel by Julie Satow

I love nothing more than a book that interweaves economics, sociology, culture, and urban studies, and this book does just that. Zooming in on one iconic building—The Plaza Hotel—Julie Satow recounts a history of American wealth and the upper class. In a story that tracks the building’s ever-revolving ownership, residents, and architectural layout, we get a glimpse of our economy’s booms and busts told through famous historical characters, including Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Beatles, Trumps, Vanderbilts, and Hiltons. Through this lens, I have found it fascinating to learn what tastes have gone in and out of style, represented by the hotel’s phases with gold décor and more. Through the story of one building, the book points to a broader narrative about the changing meaning of elitism, status, and who holds the wealth in this country.

Listening: The Financial Feminist: How to live your rich life with Ramit Sethi

As I discussed in previous posts, I have been trying to further educate myself in personal finance, especially now that I run my own business. This inspiring conversation between Tori Dunlap and Ramit Sethi centers on an idea I was never taught or urged to think about until recently. We work so hard to earn money to live, and in a panicked narrative telling us to save, we forget to outline what we are saving for and how to use that money to enjoy our lives.

Ramit’s insight is focused on living your ‘rich life,’ i.e., spending money how you want to and changing your mindset around it. So many of us feel panicked about money and assume that feeling will go away when we hit a particular milestone. But through the process of coaching a diverse set of people, from everyday couples to millionaires, Ramit has found that for many, the feeling doesn’t ever go away because our feelings about money are not based on numbers or facts. Tori and Ramit’s shared perspectives in this conversation were eye-opening to me and truly showed the importance of mindset, planning, and feeling clear about one’s values.

Seeing: The Glass House in New Canaan, CT

Modern Architect Philip Johnson, known for the Seagram Building, 550 Madison Avenue, and more, built his residency, The Glass House, on a 49-acre piece of land in New Canaan, CT. The main structure features an entirely glass façade, as the name suggests, and the property includes additional buildings and structures that represent the architect’s vision and design legacy.

As the main structure on the property, Johnson lived in The Glass House until he died in 2005. The pared-down minimalism of the interior has been retained in its original form. The property also includes the original swimming pool, sculpture and painting galleries, library, guest house, pavilion, and other sculptural elements immersed in the acres and acres of fields and trees.

Seeing this icon of modern architecture was breathtaking, and I was overcome with awe when experiencing Johnson’s limitless creative vision lived out through a series of buildings. There were endless moments on the property that were so perfectly considered and designed. The shadows in the sculpture studio, the simple desk chair and Mies van der Rohe furniture in the house, and the Frank Gehry chair in his library study tell a story of an architectural generation. I loved experiencing the epitome of an artistic vision expressed as a way of life.

Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Seeing: Headspace Guide to Meditation on Netflix

I have been using the Headspace app to do guided meditations or listen to focus music for over three years. Although I have gone through phases of dedicated daily practices and then less focused periods, the app always helps me recenter, and one of my favorite features has always been the graphics. While I have found that most imagery around meditation or mindfulness incorporates photos of nature, Headspace takes an entirely different and creative approach to its visuals. These graphics are amplified in the Headspace Guide to Meditation series on Netflix that I began watching this week.

Because each episode contains a guided mediation at the end, it is not the type of series one binge-watches in an afternoon. Therefore, I am only a couple of episodes in, but I love the animations, teachings, and meditation sessions they offer. The visuals in the first half of each episode, where the narrator Andy explores various concepts at the heart of mindfulness, like ‘letting go,’ are adorable and provide a true visual escape into relaxation. There are other Headspace series on Netflix as well, including a Headspace Guide to Sleep. I look forward to watching them all, one day at a time. It’s the perfect way to zone out and take a break while taking care of yourself.

Headspace Guide to Meditation, photo by Jenn Pavlick

Listening: 99% Invisible - First Errand

This episode of one of my long-term favorite podcasts, 99% invisible, was excellent. “First Errand” discusses the Japanese TV series Old Enough!, a family and children’s show depicting young children in Japan and their first time going out into the world alone. This is a standard practice in Japanese culture, unlike our social norms in the US. I have never seen the TV show, but in the podcast episode, they discuss the cultural differences that allow young Japanese children to become far more independent than their American counterparts and the role the built environment plays in facilitating this behavior.

99% Invisible
99% Invisible, photo by Jenn Pavlick

In most American cities, towns, or suburbs, one would be alarmed and concerned to see a four-year-old walking alone alongside a busy road, on what is likely to be a very long hike to the grocery store. But unlike in the US, where people need to get out of the way of cars, in Japan, the driving culture is focused on pedestrians, where drivers are taught to get out of the way of people. Plus, as the episode explains, Japanese real estate zoning policies don’t break the cities into ‘residential’ versus ‘business’ districts in the way most American cities do, so most homes will be within walking distance of a grocery store, school, and more, making the trip much shorter that it would be in the US. This layout makes it possible for a community atmosphere to protect the young, independent members of society. I loved that this episode explored interesting urban phenomena that show how our physical urban layouts not only reflect our culture but also guide our behavior to produce entirely different societies.

Seeing: Geneva Vanderzeil

I love furniture and innovative interior design. A not-so-secret part of me has always dreamed of being a furniture designer, but the materials and tools needed have felt out of reach. However, Geneva Vanderzeil has proven it possible even without an elaborate wood shop or studio. She does an incredible job of using pre-made parts found in hardware and home furnishing stores and transforming them into complex and truly artful pieces. I love the reupholstered chair she created using pool noodles, her transformed arch table, and her slatted dowel TV stand. By starting with armatures from existing furniture pieces and creatively taking advantage of all the materials available, she transforms thrifted pieces into artful contemporary furniture in a way that can be achieved in one’s home with minimal resources and supplies. She has inspired me to begin similar projects myself and to look at the free chair on the side of the street as a skeleton for a transformative project.

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