something lighthearted

might be just the ticket today.

This, forwarded (a bit ago) 
by some of those amazing kids of 
mine...photo: kingdom of style.


remember what good kindness can bring

They say that, even when the mind doesn't (consciously), the body remembers anniversaries.

20 years ago, this month, my husband and I and our three adorable babies moved to California for a few years. We are still here. It is home, I suppose. Now.

But it is another anniversary that haunts me today.

About 18 years ago, thrilled to have the chance, I trotted my portfolio (mostly pen and ink illustration, some watercolor, a good dash of calligraphy) to a conference at Asilomar. It must have been a Society of Children's Book Writers thingee, or some such pow-wow...the people were engaging; charming, really. The architecture was heavenly (that's what I remember most fondly). There was a woman there who told me I had such delightful energy and remarkable confidence...she thought I brought great things to the conference, and hoped to be like me someday (I thought she was sweet, rather odd, perhaps a little misinformed...but I appreciated that she went out of her way to say this).

In short, I was on top of the world. I had been working at a darling children's bookstore around the block from where I (still, and have for the past 20 years) live. For most of the conference, I tooled around the scented grove and salty shore [that is Asilomar] with a delightful owner of said bookstore and an intriguingly worldly editor named Sally (please forgive me, Sally, I no longer remember your last name). They were fun. It was a blast. Again: I was on top of the world. To make matters even better, I was thin. (Well, thin for me. Which is not totally thin for others, but made me rather photogenic. I can only say this, now, because it was almost 2 decades ago, and I am almost 50, and when you are almost 50 you better learn some things are pretty amusing in retrospect and you better have a good sense of humor...because there is not enough botox, squishy happy silicone, clever scalpel work or reforming spanx to make you more fun to be with. It all about the innards, girls. Innards as in: soul. Not piping.)

Anyone that has written more than one paragraph in their life knows there is a speed bump we're about to hit.

At the end of the conference: the portfolio review.

The art director, from a major (MAJOR) publishing house, perused my portfolio and calmly told me to return to art school.

This was AFTER (after) I had produced my final, very well-matted (I slaved over the matting and presentation and every single bit of the that stinkin' portfolio, and...I promise...it wasn't perfect, but it was good. Good enough not to be treated the way he treated it). Anyhow. Final piece in the portfolio: a small but brilliantly wise photograph of those three babies (their ages, then: 4, 5, and 7).

I calmly said, at the end of the presentation: these are my greatest works of art. They always will be.

They...soon there were four...have always been the greatest works of art I know. (They are, now--of course--their own works of art, their own people. And even more magnificent for that.)

And the Art Director simply said, with scarcely a glance: get thee back to art school.

Life sometimes proceeds in fits and starts.

I mention this because, in the past few years, mentors that I could never have dreamed of have come into my life.

They are not just mentors: they are dear and trusted friends, people for whom I would go to the end of the earth.

The other thing I know, at almost 50, is that there is no book, no job, no house, no car, no handbag, no rock that will make the difference that love makes. And I am blessed in my friends and family and I have a debt of gratitude to those I love...including these mentors. (And you know who you are.) How can I thank you enough?

Perhaps thanking someone enough can't be done. But that doesn't mean I won't try. To return the love that has been given to you is, perhaps, the greatest thing we can do in life. Don't you think?

Here's the funny thing, the thing I thought of this morning that prompted this entire post.

That art director.

It's quite possible, a few years before he reviewed my portfolio, that (maybe, just maybe) I saved his life.

You'd think I might have told him that, before, during or after the review that changed my own life (by throwing the verbal equivalent of dry ice on my desire to write and illustrate for most of the next two decades)...

That art director had had an awful seizure, falling to the ground and convulsing, horribly, at a talk he was to have given, two or three years earlier, at an SCBW event in San Francisco (we were all assembled in one of those sterile rooms that are often attached to churches, and waiting patiently at our desks for him to talk). I had just moved to California. This was my big day away, (magnificent) husband watching the kids, me hoping, praying, wishing for at least a small chance to be part of the book world. I didn't work in the bookstore yet. The next twenty years were like a shimmering mirage ahead of me, a delight...

The art director got up to speak, and seemed to become tongue-tied. I remember him twisting his body a bit, a stutter, his hand near his collar, a few choked syllables. We were a bunch of novice writers. No nurses. We all waited, uncomfortably (every person in that room, I know, sent their heart out to him...was this an ongoing physical malady, or a momentary and obscure working of the brain? Who ever knows, when they see these things happen? We didn't, I'm sure).

After what seemed like a small eternity, he dropped to the ground, writhing. There were horrible sounds. Women flocked around him. Someone went for water.

I got up and calmly (my parents raised me this way: in the gravest situations, you absolutely do not clutch) searched the church anteroom for a pay phone (yes, dear reader, it was before the ubiquity of the cell). I called 911. The ambulance was there in 5 minutes. (It seemed like eternity, again.) They took him away. We all sort of acted like nothing had happened, said courteous good-byes, and left.

There were no other phones in the area. No one else went to the phone. There was no need for me to tell anyone I called 911. I just did it. It's not a big deal that I was the one that did it. It wasn't then, it never will be. It just needed to be done. The only reason I recount this all is that I wonder...

With no follow-up information, we never knew what happened that day. We were all too polite to discuss it, as far as I know. But, when the medics put him on the stretcher, he seemed to be barely alive, scarcely able to draw breath.

Here's what I wonder: who knows what would have happened, two years later, if the breath he drew (while poring over my portfolio) had released a kinder word? I was too polite, still, to tell him I had seen him writhing on the floor in the church hall. After he summarily dismissed my work (and me), I was too shocked to remember that I was a good person, that I had (even if it was only in some small way; perhaps he would have been okay without an ambulance) helped him. And it was a very long time before I thought of myself, again, as a good artist.

There is only one thing to take away from all of this, after all these years: remember what good kindness can bring.

It seems too important, at this moment in time, not to say thank you to some of you. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your love. Thank you, clearly, for your good words. They have been life changing.

For years, it has been a dream of mine to be, someday, a mentor. Dear mentors, dear friends, dearest family: if I may love and mentor only half as well as you, I will count myself the greatest of successes.

With blessings and love, from this sweet Sunday on, to all who read this. Happy anniversary. We are lucky to be here.


alvina rocks

"The accordion would be her dream, playing 
schottisches and polkas at weddings and dances."

[i really can't tell you how much i love alvina
you have to get the book to find out why.]

"What? An old salt like me?"

"...he would say back.
And I would laugh and laugh."

[click book, better look]


and sauce him with poudres of gynger

Maxine: model, muse, matriarch, medieval scribe.

"Take a crane, and unfolde his legges, and cut off his wynges and his legges, and sauce him with poudres of gynger, mustard, vynegre and salte."

Maxime de la Falaise: The New York Times 
Seven Centuries of English Cooking

revisting the fringe benefits of failure

"Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew."

J.K. Rowling on The Fringe Benefits of Failure
This one's for you, Bricolage...

love letterpress

[started a twibe]

From Fabulous Mrs. Blandings: All the News that's Fit to Print

What could be better?

cool beans


wicked moxie

 from foster huntington at a restless transplant: 
[the video is priceless..."it's wicked good stuff"]


(this one, a tribute to an HTJ post) 
from JP of

JP's knowledge is encyclopedic; his is one 
of the most fascinating blogs you'll find. 

He's an alum. of 
Ralph Lauren, 
Hart Shaffner Marx &
Lilly Pulitzer.

[simply amazing stuff]

Here, The Selvedge Yard on
the new Lilly Pulitzer,
Grey Gardens (and it's 
just the beginning)...

def. a hold up

snagged this from

Jackling | Woodside

photography: jonathan haeber


open books

these are so wonderful, and so much better HERE

Open Books: MB Goffstein

You can also click on any of the books
above for a much more delicious taste

time warp

you know what makes kate and leopold the perfect movie?

watching it with your amazing daughter who is
getting on a plane to go back to that city tonight

[i love the time warp near the brooklyn bridge:
"a beautiful 4D pretzel of kismetic possibility"]


Alice Saga

I think, best I can remember, 
that the first time I saw the vt blog
on a blogroll was at Alice in Wonderland
And, because Alice Saga has such
exquisite taste, it really is impossible
for me to tell you how much 
that meant, many months ago,
when this blog was quite new...

And still does. Alice Saga, thank you. 

Above, at the window, Jenny Reyes.
(More about Geronimo, & Jenny, here.)

All photos from Alice in Wonderland, 
the equally ethereal Alice's Salon Coquette

[Alice Saga is an 
amazing amazing 
brilliant stylist 
who is a.k.a.



One More

from illustrator Hiromi Suzuki

more, below

The Art of Hiromi Suzuki

Don't you just love this? 
The art of Hiromi Suzuki.

Here's a link...mostly in Japanese, 
but wonderful in any language...


all illustrations copyright Hiromi Suzuki


april twenty-second: a good day to start something

Twenty eight years ago, on the twenty-second 
of April, a charming boy who had captured my 
heart (forevermore) proposed. We were married 
a year later, in June (on a warm Georgia day), 
surrounded by people we loved...six years later, 
on April twenty-second, our third child was born.
Today is his twenty-second birthday
(happy birthday, dear redhead of ours!). 

April twenty-second is a lovely, lovely day.

Perhaps is it is a good day to start something 
else new...we (for the past several months, 
there is another wonderful designer with whom 
I've collaborated on several projects) have 
a few treats in store for you. Stay tuned! 

Holly Brubach. "Once Upon A Time, It Had Your Name All Over It."

That Thing You Buy

New York Times | Design | Spring .o9

In 1985, a brash new pop star named Madonna, channeling Marilyn Monroe and surrounded by a chorus of men proffering diamonds, declared that we were ‘‘living in a material world’’ — a proposition that at the time seemed provocative and even a little crass. By today’s standards, the song’s music video, a campy anthem to ’80s excess, looks unbelievably quaint: the party was just getting started. And now it’s over. We woke up one morning to discover that we had too many toys and no retirement. Somewhere along the way, our entire economy came to be based on consuming stuff. Waving the flag for those who persist in the belief that shopping will be our salvation, Louis Vuitton’s ad campaign this season features the Material Girl herself.

Lead times in book publishing being what they are, Deyan Sudjic could not have foreseen that the culture he was writing about would come crashing down before he sent off his manuscript for ‘‘The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects’’ (W. W. Norton & Company, June). The book reads like ancient history already, recapitulating our obsession with material goods, disentangling the multiple strands of desire and emotion that have bound us to our possessions.

Like all the best critics, Sudjic articulates a philosophy of his chosen subject, identifying design as ‘‘the DNA’’ of a society, ‘‘the code that we need to explore if we are to stand a chance of understanding the nature of the modern world.’’ Considering fine art, the condition to which many designers now seem to aspire, Sudjic remarks on the ‘‘curious paradox that even the most materialist of us tend to value what might be called the useless above the useful.’’ By these standards, he concludes, Gerrit Rietveld’s Red Blue Chair, in the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection, ‘‘remains to a certain degree stigmatized by the fact of being useful’’ when compared, for instance, with a Mondrian painting and its utter lack of utility.

Gerrit Rietveld’s Red Blue Chair

A big thinker given to bold statements, Sudjic proves an entertaining commentator and, for those who bring their own opinions, a worthy adversary. ‘‘If there is one thing other than a chair that every designer wants to have put their name to at least once in their career,’’ he contends, ‘‘it is an adjustable light.’’ News to me. In what seems an arbitrary association, he attributes the black finish and contrasting red control switch on the Tizio lamp to the Walther PPK, a black semi-automatic pistol with a red indicator for the safety catch.

Sudjic is at his best analyzing contemporary designers and their work. Philippe Starck, he claims, ‘‘has only one trick, and it’s a good one: his childlike view of the world.’’ In Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge, he identifies a variety of influences, including André Dubreuil and the French decorative arts, ‘‘Australian hedonism’’ and ‘‘the stressed-aluminum skins of the early days of commercial flying.’’

It’s when we get to luxury that Sudjic’s bravura begins to falter. What does luxury stand for anymore, now that it’s been rendered meaningless by a flood tide of status handbags and gourmet kitchen gadgets? ‘‘Scarcity can make luxury from the simplest of things,’’ Sudjic writes, as anyone who has ever gone camping can attest. ‘‘Luxury in an age of abundance is harder to get right.’’ More to the point, what is luxury in a time of economic collapse? Today’s definition would be freedom from financial worries, which is getting harder to come by all the time.

Still, it’s fun to read Sudjic’s terse indictment of a gold-plated cell phone pretending to be fine jewelry while its technology will be out of date in six months. ‘‘Rather than gold adding luster to the phone, the phone undermines the prestige of gold as a material.’’

Armed with nothing but his slingshot and a few choice words, Sudjic takes on what he calls ‘‘the fashion monster’’ for co-opting and exploiting other forms of visual culture, for shaping almost every other industry, for engineering built-in obsolescence as the driving force behind cultural change. ‘‘What has fashion done to design?’’ he asks. ‘‘What has it done to art and photography and architecture?’’ Good question. The answer is a book, and I wish Sudjic would write it.

Sudjic writes from the perspective of a willing participant in the consumerist binge we’ve all been on, noting ‘‘the bulimic fluctuation between gratification and self-disgust that comes from the compulsion to acquire too much too fast.’’ 

In an epilogue that feels like a hasty addendum, he wonders what will happen to our ‘‘narcotic addiction’’ to acquiring new things. ‘‘After excess comes sobriety,’’ he predicts, not by choice but because we can’t afford to get high. A nation of addicts forced into sobriety is not a happy prospect. Time to rethink the pursuit of happiness. 

After two decades of defining ourselves in terms of our possessions, we now need to figure out who we would be without them.

More on Brubach: at Home, at NYT/Living in the Age of Entitlement (thoughts, here, from the Stone Street Press) and so on, & on all things vintage. Books, here.

tail of the yak

the magnificent legend, in berkeley

flickr image: here
more: here

[go jordan ferney, thou of exquisite taste!]

Time for William Blake and M. B. Goffstein

“Goffstein is a minimalist, 
but her text and pictures carry 
the same emotional freight as 
William Blake’s admonishment 
to see the world in a grain of 
sand and eternity in an hour.”

"People, Houses, Sky"

taught, for many years, at 
Parsons School of Design.

for additional Goffstein information on blog: tap