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Link About It: This Week's Picks

Recalling the ghosts of Ouija, OK Go's drone dance, 3D-printed tattoos and more in our look at the web this week

by CH Editors in Link About It on 01 November 2014

Link About It, Africa, Drones, History, Photography, Tattoos, iPhone, Pop Culture

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1. Party Fails in Western Art History

We've all experienced it: being accosted by creepers (or worse, being overcome by boredom) at a get-together, resulting in some cringeworthy scenarios that require plenty of drinks on hand. A hilarious piece from The Toast assures you, however, that this is no new phenomenon. Women have been having terrible times at parties for centuries—as evidenced by these historic Western art paintings, accompanied by editor Mallory Ortberg's re-imagined conversations. And these poor partygoers didn't even have cellphones to strategically save them from the death grips of a tyrannical host or earnest party bro.

2. The History of the Ouija Board

In his latest weekly podcast on design, Roman Mars tackles the spooky, eccentric history of the much loved, and often feared, Ouija Board. And while the game itself isn't as old as some may think, the iconography does date back to the 1800s and three sisters claiming to be mediums by way of talking boards. After the Civil War, many folks sought out their dead loved ones—through communication with the afterlife. This spurned a large-scale production of the boards, which would go on to become staples in pop culture and Halloween parties.

3. Pop Culture on Coins

In his project "Tales You Lose," artist Andre Levy takes the presidents, queens and other political leaders typically found on coins and transforms them into pop culture icons, with just a little bit of paint. Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man on the Italian euro becomes a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; a head on a Chinese coin becomes René Magritte's green apple-covered "The Son of Man." Levy adds an individual touch to the faces on these mass-produced coins (or what he sees as "sculptures"), ultimately "redefining people's emotional connection to money."

4. 3D Printer Tattooing Machine

Combining a 3D printer with a tattoo needle, Parisian design studio Appropriate Audiences has created possibly the first tattoo printer that works on human skin (RCA grad Jess Fügler presented an automated leather tattoo machine at LDF this year). With the ability to insert ink by puncturing skin at up to 150 times per second, and adjust to a varied surface, the machine is actually useable and proof of exciting innovations to come within the historic art.

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5. SnapJet Smartphone Film Printer

Offering another way to render digital images as physical photos, SnapJet is a new company set to soon hit Kickstarter. Without the need of WiFi, Bluetooth or cables, the impressively small printer simply scans whatever is on your phone's screen and exposes the instant film (Fujifilm Instax Mini or Polaroid 300PIF) inside. The resulting image is ejected from the printer, at retina-quality no less.

6. Himalayan Trail Treats from Patagonia

Keeping full in the wilderness isn't always pretty. Sure, you might luck out and stumble upon some Cloudberries or Chanterelle mushrooms, but more often than not it's protein bars and freeze-dried astronaut meals. Luckily the folks at Patagonia—known for their sustainable performance apparel—recently expanded their Provisions line of equally earth- and health-conscious foods to include Tsampa soup. Founder Yvon Chouinard first came to love the roasted barley staple on climbing trips to the Himalayas in the '70s. Packed with flavor and energy, the tasty soup is a time-tested source of sustenance in high altitude locales.

7. Lagos Photo Festival

As the second fastest growing city in Africa, Lagos is teeming with creative energy—especially in the visual arts. The city is home to one of the world's largest film industries and now Azu Nwagbogu intends to add photography to city's character with the Lagos Photo Festival. Showing work from local, African and global artists, the exhibit focuses on work in Nigeria and the continent without ever limiting its scope. As Nwagbogu explains, "The idea was to show in Africa, in Lagos, work being done here by amazing talents, regardless of their nationality." Along with exhibitions the festival coordinated workshops, lectures, screenings and open exhibitions to nurture local talent and interest in the medium.

8. OK Go Does Not Let Us Down

If we've learned one thing about music videos over the last few years, it's that OK Go will never let us down. It's fitting then that their latest single "I Won't Let You Down" takes the art of video-making to brand new heights—literally. Done in one single take and shot entirely on a camera rigged to a drone, dozens (if not hundreds) of dancers join the band for a dazzling display of choreography and cinematography that oscillates from mania to majesty.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily on Twitter and published weekly every Saturday morning.

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Knit Merino Wool Hats from Rustic Threads

Super-soft, dip-dyed beanies made by hand in Joshua Tree

by Nara Shin in Style on 31 October 2014

Beanies, Hats, Knit, Made in USA, California, Handmade, Joshua Tree, Merino Wool

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Inside a small boutique called The End, in the arid desert of Old Town Yucca Valley, CA, we stumbled upon some hats that beckoned to be touched and held. The hats are knitted by Taylor Elyse Compton, a Joshua Tree resident, who has a small studio called Rustic Threads. Compton sources 100% merino wool—softer and lighter than other wools, and without the itchiness—from Ohio, which she then spins, dyes and knits herself. "I have never lived in a place like this before," Compton tells CH. "It’s hard not to be inspired by the vast scenery. The mountains are huge, and skies are endless with the most vivd sunsets promised every evening. Joshua Tree is a one-of-a-kind place, and it keeps me making one-of-a-kind work." It's also a place where temperatures can drop to freezing during the winter, putting the hats to good use.

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Having been knitting for around four years, and dyeing and spinning for two, Compton says, "My products are an investment and I want each piece to last a lifetime; that’s why I choose to use merino," noting that "it’s soft, light, warm and durable." Her newest pieces, which have been added to her online shop today, are beanies dipped in different natural dyes like indigo, madder, turmeric.

Rustic Thread offers made-to-order hats, as well as vests, scarves, dreamcatchers and more—all can be found online and at a few boutiques in the area including Heyoka Hideout, In Heroes We Trust and The End.

Images courtesy of Rustic Threads Studio

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The Art of Discovery with Renaissance Hotels

Photographer Jeff Vespa releases an intimate book of portraiture with the support of Renaissance Hotels and The Creative Coalition

by Largetail in Culture on 31 October 2014

Hotels, Jeff Vespa, Renaissance Hotels, The Art of Discovery, The Creative Coalition

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This past week we attended the release of Rizzoli's "The Art of Discovery"—a collection of intimate portraiture featuring many of Hollywood's most recognizable faces. Each image and the accompanying text was captured by photographer Jeff Vespa, founder of Verge, co-founder of WireImage and video collaborator with artist Alex Prager. We were guests of Renaissance Hotels—production sponsors of the book and the launch event, who have taken us on previous immersion into the hotel's cultural offerings and partnership. Together with Renaissance Hotels and arts advocacy organization The Creative Coalition, Vespa constructed a beautiful and inspirational book that masterfully showcases celebrities as we've never seen them before.

We spoke with Vespa to gain insight on the collaborative work, and how he got 100 of Hollywood's best to open up. "The initial idea was there from the beginning," he shares with CH. "Robin Bronk from The Creative Coalition approached me with the project, Renaissance Hotels wanted to do a celebrity photo book that was about discovery as the theme. Their brand’s motto is 'Live life to discover.' Together we came up with the idea to ask actors about significant moments of discovery in their lives. Those 'aha' moments that changed them or gave them a new perspective on their life or career." Vespa did the majority of the interview directly after he shot the images. He notes, "Some of the conversations became pretty philosophical. It is not a question they ever get asked so we knew we would get stories no one had ever heard before."

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My favorite compliment about shooting someone is when they look at the photo and say, "That’s me."

As for his personal process, he says, "The shoots were very simple, just a white, grey or black backdrop, possibly a chair or stool and one or two lights. It is a portrait book in the classic sense, the photos are all about the person, not about the environment we put them in." Vespa wanted to capture each individual as who they are, and nothing more. It lends the book a personal touch. "My favorite compliment about shooting someone is when they look at the photo and say 'That’s me.' That is always my goal." And it was a goal he accomplished in all 100 photographs.

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Vespa also employed communication technology in order to involve the book's designer along the way. "A big part of the process was Nancy Rouemy, the designer of the book. She helped art direct most of the shoots but she lives in NY and the shoots were in LA. So we used join.me and I shared my screen with her." As he shot, she immediately saw the images and was able to offer instant feedback. Even before that, Rouemy would preselect reference images before each shoot—and she would work with Vespa on plotting out the book's pacing. As the conclusive piece in the partnership, the two would pare down all the options and spend hours editing to land the right match.

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With discovery at its core, the book delves in the world of its subject—something only Vespa could do. "Most of the actors featured in the book are my friends, so that made it easier in all aspects. We set up a studio at my house; already there was an intimacy and privacy that everyone felt comfortable with, asking the question was just an extension of that. Everyone felt very open to sharing, I think we were able to get personal moments that show who these people really are. They were not promoting a project, this was about us creating something together," he concludes.

Many stars turned out for the book releases, to honor the work of a visionary creator and his partners, Renaissance Hotels and The Creative Coalition. It was another wonderful event in the hotel's array of programming.

"The Art of Discovery" is available on Amazon for $31, where a percentage of proceeds go to benefit The Creative Coalition. At the Art of Discovery website a contest is running now through 14 November 2014, where users can submit their own story of discovery and enter to win a chance at a photo shoot with Jeff Vespa in Palm Springs.

Images by David Graver, video courtesy of Jeff Vespa

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