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Super Fancy Natural Soap! Why do I love Soaptopia?

Natural Decorative Soap: Jabon de mi Corazon from SoaptopiaYep, I’m blogging about fancy soap. Really. I can’t help it. I’m not a fancy soap kinda guy. I like Ivory for it’s plainness. But Soaptopia has turned me into some kind of hygiene product fanatic.

I got a little stocking stuffer for the holidays. Oh, great, soap, I thought. Then I noted how beautifully made — colorful!  And wrapped — funky! And smelly — delicious! You know there’s something good inside by the fantastic slightly irreverent packaging and silly soap names. Plus they have all natural and organic ingredients — you can even see chunks of lavender and other goodies in some. But, yea, still soap.

Eventually I got around to using the stuff. Whoa! I could just feel the all natural goodness. Instant aromatherapy. And each bar seemed to last for countless soapy sessions. My showers suddenly became just a little bit more happy. When I finally saw my last bar dwindling down to nothing, a sadness came over me. Oh no! I was hooked! So I hatched a scheme. I can’t justify six bucks for a bar of soap for myself. But I figured I’d gift some back to my partner in a secret plot to keep my shower stocked with yummy natural soap.

So I checked out Soaptopia’s website — holy crap! They have TONS of amazing soap! All cute and decorative and natural and eco-friendly and fun. And names like “Staying a Lime” and “Aloe be Thy Name” — ooh, I’m a sucker for a good bad pun. I realized they are right around the corner from Santa Monica in Los Angeles, right in Mar Vista. (12228 1/2 Venice Blvd. – Mar Vista, CA  90066). So I bopped on over. Visiting the shop is even better than buying online — they are cranking out the goods right there in the store / happy goodness factory. It smells delicioso. In addition to being able to touch, feel and smell all the beautiful soaps, you can buy from the freshest creation. The owner Jolie sliced off fresh chunks of soap from the latest batch. Just for me. But hey, even if you don’t live in LA, don’t despair. Feel free to shop online — you can trust that these soaps are brilliant! And the soaps appear in other fancy boutiques all over. (If you have a fancy boutique you can load up on wholesale natural soap and body products here.)

So that’s it. I’m hooked. Now you too know where to get the very best in funky handmade all natural soap (made from olive oil, shea butter and organic ingredients). Also, good to know, they sell other amazing bath products. Natural lip balm (shea butter), natural shaving soaps, natural bubble bath, massage candles, massage oil and body moisturizer and the groovy natural soap gift boxes.

1 comment April 20th, 2009

Victory Over Donald T. Sterling LA Times Ads

Today, after nearly two-and-a-half years of struggle, and many more years of pain and suffering, the Donald T. Sterling Graphic Design Foundation very tentatively declares victory over Donald T. Sterling Corporation’s ugly ads in the LA Times!

No, DTS did not actually hire a designer to make the ads look better. But the ads have been conspicuously absent from the paper in recent weeks. As noted by “Anon” in the comments of the main blog post:

Well, it’s one month into the Tribune Company bankruptcy and I haven’t seen any DTS ads for weeks. Did the Bankruptcy Trustee decree no more freebies for Sterling and he has to pay the regular rate card like everyone else?

Maybe the contract finally ended –we had learned that the ads were actually a freebie for Sterling in exchange for LA Times advertising at Clippers games. Maybe it is part of the Tribune bankruptcy. Or maybe it is because Sterling is too busy being sued so he doesn’t have time to personally create the crappy ads. Or maybe, just maybe, our pleas to the new Obama administration worked.

Any further news from our loyal membership is welcome! We are not popping any champagne corks yet — as far as we know, we may start seeing the ugly ads in lighted billboards on every block or plastered all over the sides of buildings.

Thanks to everyone who has supported the campaign! We remain cautiously optimistic. Hopefully this moratorium will remain in place so we can finally stop spending every waking moment on this issue and turn to other pressing matters. I’m looking at you Odet, Vice President!

2 comments February 19th, 2009

New Onine Ceramics Gift Store for Jennifer Joyce

Jennifer Joyce, Santa Monica potter and ceramic artist, has launched a new online ceramic gift store! I take ceramics classes at Jennifer’s Santa Monica pottery studio and helped her set up the online store.

With the opening of the store, Jennifer announced some new designs and products. She has been working on some new glazes and designs including her Citrus line of bowls and mugs with a beautiful green texture on the outside and bright orange inside. I also really like the Moonscape bowls that have a stylish black and white texture outside and a blast of chartreuse on the inside.

Jennifer has also been working with a photo transfer technique in which the photo can be reproduced in sepia tones on tiles and ornaments. It has a very classic look and Jennifer adds beautiful glazed designs around the photos. Online she advertises pet memorial plaques and pet ornaments, but the process can be used for any photo.

Jennifer has also been working on a wedding section but it is not yet live. She can make custom bridal party gifts, on-of-a-kind table decorations and centerpieces. I also think her bowls and other table ware make a much better wedding gift than typical registry items.

A few of Jennifer’s ceramic sculptures and tiles are also available. And it is possible to sign up for pottery classes or purchase pottery class gift certificates.

February 15th, 2009

Ditching the Lawn to Feed the Butterflies in Los Angeles

I’ve dreamed of re-landscaping with native plants for ages. But, like our decrepit bathroom, we just hadn’t the time or energy to get around to it. Until now.

This is just a long-winded account of what we did to reclaim our yard, under the guidance the many online tips from folks at Las Pilitas California native plant nursery. Hopefully I’ll write up a full-fledged guide shortly.

We never really watered our weedy lawn much, out of environmental consciousness and a little laziness. It managed to survive pretty well until one drought year when it went really brown. So finally one day I saw a crew of gardeners ripping out a lawn up the street (to re-sod — ew), and I had em rip out our remaining grass. Then to make sure all was REALLY dead, I watered for months and waited through the rainy season for anything to sprout, spraying nasty, evil chemicals to dispose of the rest. Rampaging weeds and invasive grasses are a sure way to ruin a native planting before you even start.

After much soul-searching, we murdered our 40ft eucalyptus tree so that it wouldn’t destroy our new native habitat with its thirst for all moisture in the soil and constant rain of leaves, seeds, blossoms and bark. I will miss the shade and smell, but not the daily sweeping. Here in Santa Monica we are frankly lucky we didn’t get protested for chopping a tree, even if it is an invader from Australia. We offed it swiftly.

I did a modest amount of research and at first it was hard to track down NATIVE plants at the local nurseries. Everyone sells so called drought resistant stuff, but almost all of it is from the Mediterranean, Australia and Africa. The same handful of species is sold everywhere. It just doesn’t make sense — why not salvage a little of the local biodiversity with perfectly suited plants that need little or no care? I suppose it is just the economics of nurseries — they all get plants from the same national distributors and customers all ask for the same silly plants.

Finally I found this quite cool California native plant nursery with a brilliantly informative website (laspilitas.com) with easy online ordering and delivery. I picked out critter-friendly buckwheats, salvias, manzanitas and more. I carefully (more or less) diagrammed the mature sized plants across the yard. I contoured a couple of modest mounds into the yard. I even filled the Civic with 700 pounds of rocks to welcome the plants. The sprouts arrived by UPS, surprisingly tiny and a little smooshed. I planted the suckers as planned. Contrary to every gardening instinct (and against advice from our neighbor the professional landscaper) I followed the instructions from the native plant people – no soil amendment, no roto-tilling, no organic matter, no fertilizer, no composting. Just stuck the plants into the hard, minimally disturbed ground. Ok.

And now time to mulch. The one things the native plants do need is a few inches of wood chips to recreate the natural organic matter that would cover the ground in the wild. I carefully calculated how much I’d need and started looking for sources. It was gonna cost at least $500 to either buy the dyed crap they sell at Home Depot, or to get some nicer stuff delivered. It would cost more than I’d paid for plants and rocks! The City of LA also offers free mulch that you can pick up at several yards throughout the city, though I read reports that it often has a bunch of trash in it. Then I found a tree trimming company that would, for FREE dump FREE wood chips and it was completely FREE, including the FREE delivery. I was mighty excited about the free part. The minimum they’d deliver was a bit more than I needed, but I figured I’d easily find some spots in the backyard that could use a little mulch.

Now, in retrospect, I now know that they dumped much more than the minimum portion I’d requested. But when it arrived I had no idea. I had already assumed the pile would seem astonishingly huge – I have no point of reference. But as the pile slid out of the dump truck, I started to feel a little sick. The mountain was much larger than our car – longer, wider, higher. Which sounds kinda big, but, really, when it is in your driveway and you can’t park there any more or use your gate, and all of the neighbor kids want to climb in it and everyone who passes points and starts asking questions, it is impossibly big and seems like a big mistake. And it radiated that nice piny Christmas smell, but multiplied by a gazillion so that the off-gassing made my eyes burn for days, even inside the house. Neighbors were gawking and some passers-by were outright laughing, though I may have been suffering from a little paranoia.

So for a week (during a nasty heat wave) I frantically and desperately hauled wood chips around the yard trying to make the mountain get smaller and prove that I wasn’t a friggin idiot for getting it all dumped there. And, besides, I had to make room to park the car, and get the trash bins out of our gate. Thanks to Mr. Peterson, my neighbor, who witnessed the delivery and lent me a wheelbarrow. I guess I had thought I was going to use a bucket to spread the stuff or something. Yea, right.

Well the pile was a crazy hodge-podge of wood. The stuff on top that I spread on my yard first was too big—giant chunks of pine that were really bright colored and it made the yard look like I was getting ready to light a bon-fire. You couldn’t even see the plants. It was sad and embarrassing. On the other side of the wood pile I found stuff that was equally unacceptable – really papery dusty crap that had mixed with some leaves so it was composting and steaming. A woman actually knocked on my door concerned that the giant dangerous looking wood pile was spontaneously catching fire. Somehow, by accident, I realized that if I spread the composty stuff on top of the absurdly huge pine chunks, it made neither look too ridiculous. So I dumped another layer on the yard. Not bad. Then I spent another few days dumping woodchips in every free nook in the back yard. Finally in the middle of the pile I found some really nice, modest sized, reddish wood chunks, just the kind any normal, self respecting suburbanite would love to have in their front yard. But no more space. Oh well.

I managed to use about 2/3s of the damn pile. Really. It was amazing to see the pile actually shrink, against all odds, as I dragged barrow-full after barrow-full around the yard.

The remaining pile mocked me for another three weeks as I posted Free Mulch on Craig’s List and met about a dozen very interesting people who also like mulch.

Two weeks after the first application, the wood chips settled and the color and scent actually became pleasant. The plants nearly all survived (surpassing all hopes) and after only a couple of months have grown nicely, begun bloom and attract some beautiful native butterflies and birds. I just want to hang out in the yard and water it to show it a little love, but I can’t because it doesn’t need water and in fact it would kill it.

3 comments July 8th, 2008

Donlad T. Sterling Homeless Center Investigated by LA Weekly

Donald Sterling Homeless Center Ugly Ad

In this week’s LA Weekly cover story Patrick Range McDonald investigates whether there is any meat behind the Donald T. Sterling Homeless Center ads. Our campaign to stop the ugly ads gets a little mention in the article. But the amazing thing about the Homeless Center ads is that real homeless service providers don’t know much about the homeless center, there have been no plans presented to the city about the homeless center, and, in fact, apparently Skid Row doesn’t really need another homeless center. I sorta mentioned this back when I first whined about the service center ads, “Donald Sterling is Homeless and Needs your Help.”

Now we find out that the ads are not just ugly, confusing and self-aggrandizing. They don’t really exist. But I’m sure Mr. Sterling is not intentionally keeping thousands of homeless people waiting for services. He is too busy designing his own ads.

This article is truly the best compendium of Sterling knowledge assembled to date and it gives us a window into how STERLING HIMSELF DESIGNS THE ADS!

“A business associate who often visited Sterling in his penthouse office in Beverly Hills in the 1990s says Sterling actually cuts and pastes many of the flamboyantly unattractive ads himself, with scissors, tape and marker. He has spent hours getting just the right look, sometimes elongating the images of buildings to look more Sterling-worthy. For years, Sterling paid half the going rate for space in the Times, according to the associate.”

(Check out the Weekly’s fantastic archive of Donald T. Sterling ads.)

March 19th, 2008

unearthed, art pottery show reminder

Wow, the big pottery show is this week. Preparing for this show has been fun in so many ways.
Having a show has been a great incentive to make some nice new pieces. The new ones I’m completing this week are the best so far — though I shouldn’t say a thing until they come out of the kiln! I have some very large pieces that came together really naturally, from sketch, to wheel to glazing. I still can’t wait to see them after they are baked. And then I get to share them!

And this has been a great chance to invite people to a party and talk to all kinds of people about something I’ve been having fun with for a while. Putting this together has forced me to think about what I’ve been making and has helped me realize that there is a lot of intention behind it. I actually do have some kind of vision behind what I’m making. And since people are enjoying it, I have even more reason to make more.
So I’m looking forward to seeing friends and meeting some new people a the big opening this weekend — Saturday night at Jennifer Joyce Pottery Studio and Gallery. You can see the official unearthed pottery show site here. And read some blather about the pottery here.

1 comment October 8th, 2007

unearthed, my first solo art show

unearthed, art pottery exhibition, marc grobman at jennifer joyce galleryYou’ve got to come check out my first solo art show! I’ve been doing ceramics for a couple of years now and I guess people have been diggin’ it, so Jennifer Joyce offered me a show at her gallery!

Working in clay has been so satisfying — plunging my fingers into something substantial, away from the computer, in real life. And being able to create things that just ooze out of my brain. No flow charts, no code, no organization, no usability testing.

So, with complete disregard for utility or what anyone else thinks, I’ve somehow been making some nice pieces that people like. I don’t want to whine… I’m not quite satisfied with the work I’m producing. I feel like I’m just now starting to control the clay more than it controls me. But I’m pleased with enough that I’ll be able to fill a small room with some interesting stuff I’ve made.

Anyway, the show is called ‘unearthed’ and you can check out a few pieces of pottery at www.quixo.com/unearthed. You can give each piece a little spin with the fancy interactive-online-art-spinning-widget. And I hope you’ll join me at the opening Saturday, October 13, 5-8pm.

I try not to analyze it too much, but I like to think of it as punk pottery, all spiky and pock-marked. But, you know, not the punk rock of pure oblivion, destruction and fury, but more the throw out the rules, start over from scratch, anti-pop punk. And I’m sure you can see the other influences banging around in my head too. It is abstract but with enough direct connection to the natural world that the forms are sensual, grotesque and maybe a little humorous. The kind of thing you might find in the forest or under a microscope or possibly just after a meteorite has made landfall delivering artifacts from a lost or future civilization. Or whatever. I’m just making this stuff up. Come on out and you can take from it what you like…

Oh, and the art will surely be upstaged by the yummy munchables crafted by Stacy TenHouten who is firing up her new business, Butterlove Bakery.

2 comments September 19th, 2007

Eve Zeisel Los Angeles Exhibit Reminder

Just a little reminder that the Eva Zeisel exhibit at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum is starting September 9 and running through the end of the year. There is more on Eva Zeisel and the Los Angeles exhibit here in my previous post.

We just returned from the opening and this exhibition is set up differently from the San Diego show. In San Diego the work was grouped thematically, but here Zeisel’s work is laid out chronologically. This made for a great tour led by Pat Moore, my step-mom and the founder of the Eva Zeisel Forum. I had heard all the stories before but never all at once, in order and with examples laid out so beautifully. While I’ve long appreciated the work, Zeisel’s biography really hit home tonight. Highlights of the tour include hearing her history including traditional apprenticeship in Hungary, imprisonment by Stalin and a conscious move against the coldness of Bauhaus and modernism. Gonna have to break out some of her books (listed here). Anyways, check it out before the end of the year. (and the circus exhibit, also now showing, is great fun!)

5 comments September 8th, 2007

Quixo Finally Hits MySpace to do some designing

Quixo on MyspaceWell I finally got myself on flippin’ MySpace. Yea, I know, I hear you saying I’m too old for that crap, it is a complete waste of time and, besides, it is sooo last year. You know what I say? Like, whatever.
MySpace actually keeps growing, especially for musicians, film makers and non-profit organizations who want to connect and to have a place where it is easy to post updates, music and videos. In fact, the new non-profit/issues section, “Impact,” is getting revised and improved as we speak. I just keep bumping into people who need professional design for MySpace pages. Thought I might as well join on in.

Myspace was not originally written to be customized or used for anything but personal profiles. And for some reason they refuse to change that. Much whining has been blogged over this. So customizing is a bit limited and takes some ugly code. Still, within those restrictions one can find comfort and there there is plenty you can do (especially if you know a little css and html). And show some restraint. And more restraint. Like anything basic design principles apply — pick a limited cohesive pallet of colors and type faces. Line stuff up. Sketch and mock it up before you try to force it to appear in myspace. Oh, and there are massively helpful css hacking tutorials like this.
So I have some custom pages coming up and I’ll share them when they are ready. And till then, you can stop by my custom Myspace page and befriend me.

August 20th, 2007

Eva Zeisel exhibition comes to Los Angeles

Eva Zeisel’s body of work will be on display in Los Angeles in celebration of the industrial designer’s 100th birthday. The exhibition will run from September 9 to December 30, 2007 at the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Museum Row at 5814 Wilshire Blvd between Fairfax and La Brea. The show is coming from a run at San Diego’s Mingei Museum of Folk Art.

Eva Zeisel Book, Designer for IndustryZeisel is an industrial designer who, throughout the last century, has produced ceramic dinnerware for mass production. Approaching her 101st birthday, she continues to work from her studio in New York. Her strikingly simple organic shapes are so unique and personal, they are being presented at the Folk Art museums (unusual for mass produced items). In addition to dinnerware, Zeisel designs furniture and decorative pieces, crystal and tea pots, many on view at the exhibition.

I’ve come to admire Eva Zeisel’s work through my parents whose collection appears in the exhibition. Years ago they fell in love with some everyday china that had been used in the family in the 1950s. They got curious and, just a little naively oblivious to the fact that Eva Zeisel was already an icon in industrial design, contacted and befriended her. After years of crawling Ebay, thrift stores and estate sales they’ve amassed an extensive collection of her work and a brilliant network of Eva enthusiasts. They even started the Eva Zeisel Forum (formerly the Eva Zeisel Collector’s Club). (They have a Forum site and a site where they post their latest Eva collectibles up for sale).
There are some excellent books on Eva Zeisel. Eva Zeisel, designer for industry is a beautifully produced book with amazing photography. It is out of print but available through Amazon sometimes, so grab it if you can. Eva Zeisel by Lucie Young is a lighter read with a good amount of biographical information. It is a much smaller book but fun. If you want to hear it straight from the designer’s mouth, Eva Zeisel On Design is a much deeper look at the craft of industrial design, presented through various essays and articles by Eva Zeisel herself.

Eva Zeisel Nambe BowlYea, she’d an icon, she’s in museums and she is producing some very high end work that nobody can afford. But you can still buy her latest work. Nambe is currently selling a very sheik line including polished metal bowls, vases and various wine glasses and goblets. You can see them here.

The one I’m gonna pick up for is the Eva Teakettle, mostly because I really need a tea kettle.

Eva attended the opening in San Diego (which I missed) so I’m hoping she’ll make the LA event!

2 comments August 13th, 2007

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