El Camino de Santiago

I’ll admit it: I’m a view junkie. Views–sweeping mountains, crystal blue seas, green rolling hills–these are the reasons why I hike. I’ve camped in the snow at the base of New Hampshire’s White Mountains before climbing up powdered peaks. I’ve watched the sunset from some of the highest points in the Adirondacks, I’ve gazed at the Jungfrau in Switzerland and revelled at calving glaciers in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. If I could pick a cinematic moment to recreate for myself, it’d probably be Maria frolicking through the Austrian mountains (minus the singing, never was blessed with that talent, unfortunately).

But in reality, I’m not a huge fan of the actual process of hiking. Don’t get me wrong, I like a physical challenge. But sometimes, when I’m closing in towards the top of a peak, I find myself questioning why I ever thought scrambling on scree for 4 hours would be fun. Still, I do it. And, at the top, nothing matters. Once I see the view, breathe the air, something changes and I pledge to do it over and over again.

Knowing this, one might question why I chose to spend my break walking through a relatively flat, pastoral, rain-drenched section of Northern Spain. When I started walking El Camino De Santiago, I wasn’t completely sure either. In a few days time, it was pretty clear.

Also known as St. James’ Path, Way of St. James, and Route of Santiago de Compostela, “El Camino” is a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain (traditions say that the remains of the saint are buried here). There are various places in Portugal and Spain in which one can begin the journey, but the Camino Frances, starting in the Pyrenees at St. Jean Port de Pied is the most common pathway. Many undertake the camino as a form of spiritual retreat or for religious reasons. Recently, this walk has also become a cultural phenomenon and is becoming more popular every year.

After my short stint visiting with friends in the South of France, I took a 4 am Bla Bla Car (a group ride share perfect for last minute trips) from Marseille to Barcelona. My driver, Tien Vu, was from Vietnam and headed to the city attend a number of futbol matches. Along in the car with us was a properly dressed French businessman and a large Italian guy snoring in the backseat. I chatted in broken French with the car for about half an hour, and promptly slept until we arrived. Barcelona was the ultimate pit stop, and I was fortunate to spend a day gallery hopping with my distant uncle Gaston, who is a practicing fine art photographer.

After saying my goodbyes to Gaston I grabbed an overnight bus to Lugo. Boarding the bus, I met a young guy with florescent pink hair and an enormous backpack: my first encounter with a fellow pilgrim. We talked for a while as the bus rolled on towards Lugo. He told me that he decided to walk El Camino only three days prior. His shoes were without a scuff, almost gleaming. I laughed wincingly; the cardinal rule of the camino is to take care of the feet first, and that means breaking in your boots. As I’d later experience second hand, blisters are a real danger. I said goodbye to my first friend in Burgos, where he began his walk.

I slept lightly on the bus, keeping an ear out for my two necessary changes. As we progressed further into rural Spain, it became clearer that I was not going to be able to use English to get by. Despite my uncertainty as to if I was on the correct bus, I made the necessary transfers to eventually end up in Sarria.

The entire length of the Camino Frances runs about 800 km. I didn’t have time in my break to complete the full camino in my first go, so I opted to experience the end of the route, from Sarria to Finisterre. About 120 kilometres in, I would arrive at Santiago de Compostela.

The small, sleepy town of Sarria is a common starting point for many pilgrims who do not have the time, money, or the physical ability to walk the full 800km because it is about 113km away from the Cathedral Santiago. In order to get a Compostela, or certificate verifying you partook in El Camino, a pilgrim must walk at least 100 km. To obtain the certificate of distance, one must also carry a Credencial, or pilgrim’s passport along the way. Upon entering albergues (dormitory-style inns) and cafés, pilgrims can stamp their passport. This brings revenue into the area, and makes for a great keepsake. Mine, unfortunately, was pretty destroyed by the rain.

I spent my first two days of my camino alone, walking solo–under 20 km each day–through fields, paved roads, and muddy forests. While some of my friends in London shuddered at the thought of me spending a “lonely” break simply walking, I revelled in it. I’m a pretty social person, but I love spending time by myself. Alone time on the camino in May is even better: solitude not loneliness. I did pass people along the walk, sharing smiles and quick exchanges. Primarily, though, I traveled with my thoughts, completely immersed and at peace. At the first hint of sun on day two, I had just walked up to the first major viewpoint. I sat there for an hour, eating my huge bar of chocolate looking out onto the flower-filled valley, which was saturated with green from all of the rain.

Towards the end of my second day, I met a man names Moshe walking along the narrow path. He recognized me from the albergue on my first night, and we walked for about two kilometres. Moshe was 71 and from Israel. His age was astounding to me because he walked at twice my pace. Laughing, he told me that he was often at the front of his group, leading the way and making decisions. I asked where they were, and he explained that his “camino family,” comprised of people who had started solo in the Pyrenees, walked at their leisure, often in pairs or trios. At the end of the day, they would all meet up, eat together, and stay in the same albergue.

He invited me to join his group for dinner, and thus my social portion of my route began. These guys were the real deal: hardened 800km walkers, the “real pilgrims.” I allotted about 7 days for my entire journey, but after meeting up with them, I finished with 3 full days to spare. They jokingly called me a “day packer,” which refers to the pilgrims who walk the “luxurious” camino, stopping in hotels every night and having their pack transported by a bus each day. I like to think I earned a little credit, because I carried all of my belongings from the South of France (unnecessary sketchbooks, a plethora of pens, and a few dresses) in addition to my Camino staples (rain jacket, synthetic pants, water bottle, and of course, chocolate).

From then on, I joined the most eclectic group I could have imagined: Moshe from Israel, Manuel and Manuel Sr. from El Salvador, Jana from Denmark, Robby from Germany, Scott from the States, Martin from Austria, David from Ireland, Shannon from Canada, Nikita from Norway, and Tanja from Slovenia. While I was planning to walk my entire camino in solitude, I enjoyed this clan so much that I decided to stick with them in the evenings. Aged 26-71, they came from all walks of life (Wall Street financial manager, lawyer, engineer, coder, professional photographer, energy advisor) and from very different areas of the world. At night, we feasted on the “menu del peregrinos,” a large three course meal which costs about 8-10 euros. Common items: steak, french fries, lots of fish, pasta, octopus, tuna, salad, soup, and never-ending bread. The food is mediocre, but tastes unbelievably good after the long day of shuffling one boot in from of the other. If you’re lucky–which I often was–you’ll get a personal pitcher of wine to accompany the meal. On the camino, vino tinto flows cheaper than water. Full to bursting, often tipsy, we’d crawl into the albergue beds at 11pm. I’d read my kindle, some would write, and some would scrounge for wifi at a nearby bar in attempts to contact loved ones they’d been away from for over a month. Since we walked in the very beginning of the most popular camino season, we had no pressure to rise at the crack of dawn to rush to an albergue. We rose around 7:30 or 8, walking slowly at first, stopping for breakfast a few kilometres in the odd roadside cafés that spring up in the middle of rural Spain. They exist for the peregrinos, who treat themselves to a fresh squeezed zumo de naranja, a piping hot cup of café con leche, and a thick slice of Santiago cake. Like I said before, this wasn’t a rough-and-tumble camping trip. El Camino was different that what I was used to, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

At the very end of my trip, I overheard an enthusiastic pilgrim at my final albergue conversing about his experience: “As corny as this sounds, El Camino is the university of life.”

Cheesy? Yes. Do I agree? Wholeheartedly.

When I started walking El Camino De Santiago, I didn’t really know why I was doing it. I didn’t do it for the views. I didn’t do it for religious reasons, though I do feel spiritual when I’m in nature. Without knowing it, I did it for the people.

After all, where else would I, a 21 year-old female spend my day walking animatedly with two men in their 40s and 50s without anyone questioning if I was fully safe? Where else could I hear a stranger pour her heart out about a painful divorce, or, smiling, meander along in comfortable silence with a man from Argentina? Neither of us spoke each other’s language, but we shared, as my French friend says, “le langue de sourires.” I walked, quietly, fully absorbed in the crazy travel stories of those much older and wiser. I walked alongside a deeply religious woman from the UK who was on her third camino and I shuddered in horror as Nikita told me about how her neglected blisters got so bad. I listened to a young Italian teacher’s bizarre encounter with a man in Portomarin, who threatened to eat a cat on the side of the road if she didn’t share her crackers, and I watched a kind 28-year old Austrian carry a 70 year-old’s pack for 10 kilometres when he got tired. Sometimes, I dived right into debate, my inner left-leaning millenial, hardcore-feminist self conversing with a genuinely wonderful and very opinionated conservative male. As the route grew a little more slanted, we decided to save all heated political conversations for the downhills. I shared my own stories, of art, of WWOOFing, of traveling on an extreme shoestring budget. I think I even converted a few of my group to try couchsurfing (hosting, they said, not visiting). And so, we continued day after day along the well marked way, following the yellow arrows along streams, highways, and forests, watching as the km markers ticked down from 100, to 50, to 20, to 10.

As we arrived in Santiago, my journey felt a little anticlimactic. We headed to the beautiful pilgrims’ mass, received our compostelas, ate one last meal, drank one last drink. Compared to the pastoral beauty of the open road, the touristy aspects of the city gave me a strange feelings. The shell, the symbol of the pilgrim often dangling off the pack, was turned into earrings. The yellow arrow was slapped onto t-shirts. Crowds of people craned over one another to get a picture of the swinging incense in the sacred church. After a night in a beautiful albergue, I said goodbye to the wonderful people I had spent my short break with.

Still, Santiago, in the rain, did not feel like my end. I continued on at the suggestion of a friend to Finisterre, which is common for pilgrims who want to continue on. I had the time, since I had pushed myself physically by staying with the 800km crew, even walking a 30+ km day. Cabo Fisterra, believed to be the end of the world in Roman times, was where I found my peace. The seaside town fluttered in between extreme sun and brief storms (hail and rain showers). Again in solitude, I treated myself to a few delicious meals, complete with Sangria and typical Galician desserts. I walked along the water, through the winding streets, and eventually to the cape, where I ran into the two Manuels. I spent a few more hours with them, listening to the waves and watching with dismay as Manuel partook in the tradition of burning his camino clothes (I couldn’t help thinking about the chemicals his synthetic pants were releasing into the air).

I was the only pilgrim at Albergue do Sol et da Lua, a hippie haven complete with yoga studio, comfortable vibrantly colored beds, and a worn in kitchen. Here, I slept late, finishing my current book while listening to the hail bombard the tin roof of the inn. I stayed for three nights.

Sad to leave Finisterre, I grabbed a bus back to Santiago in order to catch my afternoon flight back to London. After my relaxing, thought provoking moment by the sea, the city seemed more welcoming, more friendly.

I haven’t walked the full route of St. James, and when opportunity arises, I plan to. My brief stint from Sarria to Finisterre, though, was the perfect taste. It was a taste of different opinions, a taste of Galician weather, a taste of intergenerational friendship. I learned a lot about myself, and my legs. My gratitude–for life, for earth, and for the badass women who inspire me to travel solo–increased tenfold. Looking back on my walk, this view junkie is happy. While I can’t say I bagged 10 peaks in a week, I think I saw something even more special.

And no, I haven’t seen “The Way” yet. I will, I promise.

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Seven Sisters, Brighton, Finals

SevenSistersIMG_9174IMG_9352Things have been incredibly hectic since I’ve arrived back in the UK, and I’m skipping a tiny bit ahead here (still planning to post a bit about my time in Northern Spain)… At CSM in the midst of preparing for final assessments. For Stage 2, which is equivalent to junior year in the UK, assessments involve a hand in of sketchbooks (research, etc.), all finished products from the semester, and a self-initiated research project/essay. At the end of the course, the students break into teams to plan an exhibition, to which industry professionals will be attending! It’s exciting and motivating at the same time. This semester at CSM has really solidified my drive and commitment to a career in the arts. I’ll return to the States on June 25th, where I will then start my two months as an Artist-in-Residence at the Cultural Center at Eagle Hill. While I know my summer is going to be fantastic, I’m definitely not rushing it here. I’m so not ready to leave.

Upon my return to London, my parents were able to visit, which was so fun. The highlight of their time here was our day trip to Seaford and Brighton. We spent the morning walking the Seven Sisters. The cliffs were breathtaking, and I’ve really lucked out in regard to weather and my outdoor activities here. I love the sea, and this trip was a necessary break from the bustle of London. In the afternoon, we headed toward Brighton. For the most part, we walked around by the water, enjoying the crowds and kitschiness of the pier. For an early dinner, we headed to a vegetarian restaurant called Terre à Terre I had read about online. Our meals there were transcendent. The flavours (notice my UK spelling… I’m adapting!) were so unique, and each dish had a fantastic combination of textures. It was definitely one of the best meals I’ve eaten all semester, and so worthy of a blog post. I’m often quite enthusiastic about photographic my dishes, but this one was so good that I didn’t even have time to take a picture.
Now that it’s getting warmer, London and the rest of the UK is coming alive. The weather, on the whole, is sunny and warm. I spend most of my lunches outside nowadays, and I’m so thankful my term lasts until June. I’m planning one more big trip before I head back: Tour du Mont Blanc! After assessments finish on June 8th, I’m meeting up with my friend Reece who I met through Skidmore outing club and my friend Marcus, who has been living in Italy for almost a full year now. The hike will take about 10 days to hike at a relatively leisurely pace (Reece is planning on making a short film, and I plan to fill a sketchbook) and we will hopefully be camping for the most part. The path goes through the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, and France. I can’t really think of a better way to spend my last two weeks here in Europe. Stay tuned!

 

Nice is nice! (Antibes, Marseille, and Aix are cool too)

IMG_0649 3IMG_0766 3IMG_0822 3 IMG_0594 3IMG_0547 3IMG_0507 2IMG_0927 3_1 IMG_0957 3 IMG_0927 3 IMG_1014 2 IMG_1019 3 IMG_1029 2 IMG_1033 3 IMG_1090 3 IMG_1349 3Next stop on my break: the South of France! Initially, I planned to spend the entirety of my break traveling solo (something I hadn’t done before and really wanted to try), but when a few friends asked me to join them in the South of France, I was so excited. France is high up on my list of countries I want to explore throughly. I love the language, the landscapes, the history, and of course, the food. So, I returned from Edinburgh to start packing for my month-long trip to France and later, Spain. During my brief stop back in London, Maddi, Shannon, and I managed to get last minute “restricted-view” seats to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on the West End. I’m not a huge theatre buff, but the play absolutely blew me away. More on this later; I’ll write an entire post about the West End (hopefully I’ll see at least one more show in the upcoming months).

My friends (Chloe, Jessa, and Duncan) study in Italy, and we decided to start our trip in Nice! I somehow managed to convince all three of them to try out couchsurfing with me (I’m pretty sure I should work in their marketing department right now because I’ve created so many couchsurfers lately), and we even found a host who was okay with having the four of us! Such a big group isn’t usual, and finding places to surf in the South of France turned out to be harder than in other cities I’d visited previously. From what my hosts told me, they get a ton of requests. After all, the Côte d’Azur is a pretty popular destination. I arrived a bit earlier than my friends, so I headed to our host Axel’s apartment. He was the couchsurfing master and a really interesting guy: over the course of a few years, he had hosted over 150 guests! While I waited for my friends to arrive, I went out to a very classic French lunch with Axel and his friends. There were many, many courses. (Think: wine. Bread. More wine. Appetizers. Entrees. More wine. Cheese. More wine. Dessert. Coffee.) The French know how to eat, and I really enjoyed trying to speak my rusty French with his friends. Some spoke English, some did not, so the conversation organically switched back and forth. At the end of the lunch, we all decided that the most important things in life, at least in France, are 1) cheese 2) bread and 3) wine. Seems right to me.

Nice was filled with surprises: some awesome, some not so great. Since we were there on Easter weekend, so many restaurants were closed for the holidays. We had a very interesting time finding places to eat, as many of Axel’s recommended, local-approved places were fermé. Nice was a bit grittier than I expected. It wasn’t as hot as I had dreamt it would be, but it had a lot of charm. On the hottest day of the week, we decided to grab a short bus to Antibes. Known for sand beaches, not the stones that define the coast of Nice, it was a great spot for a relaxing beach day. The funniest thing about our whole week, though, was our clothing choices. Our entire group was born and raised in the Northeast of the US, so we’re used to really cold winters. That being noted, Nice’s March temperatures, while not sweltering, were still pretty warm to us. It was hilarious watching old women walk around in winter coats and hats while we jumped in the sea with our bathing suits. We spent the majority of our time in Nice wandering around spontaneously (my favorite), but we also checked out the Chagall Museum, which was actually created during Marc Chagall’s lifetime.  Later than weekend, we spent the night bar hopping and swimming (again) with some new friends from Ireland and the Netherlands.

The absolute highlight of our trip, which hit Nice, Antibes, Marseille, and Aix-en-Provence, was Les Calanques. A National Park not far from Marseille, Les Calanques were breathtaking and some of the best hiking I’ve had so far in Europe. The views were sweeping, the water was turquoise, and again, I lucked out with the weather. During our day hike, we met a really nice guy from Germany (Bennot) who had spend 10 days walking around Les Calaques. We ended up walking with him and a family from Israel for an hour or so, and Bennot showed us all a beautiful cove where we sat and ate our lunch. The water was freezing, but I decided to swim anyways. Bennot and I were the only ones who braved the water, and some locals sitting at the top of the cove laughed and took pictures of me as I treaded water for 5 or so minutes. I really wish we had spent more time in Les Calanques, but I know I’ll be back some day.
In Marseille, Jessa left us to head to Madrid. Chloe and I couchsurfed again, this time with a recently graduated architect named Anthony. He had gone to school in Paris and had worked for a brief time in Brussels, and knew a lot of people affected by the recent bombings. After some delicious Tunisian food in Marseille, we traveled to Aix-en-Provence. This smaller city was exactly how I pictured the South of France. With its old, pastel colored building, cobbled streets, bustling markets, and gnarled trees, I totally understand why Cezanne, and many other artists, were inspired by Aix’s landscapes.

 

 

Pentland Hills, Arthur’s Seat, and more

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Coming to London, I knew I had to visit Scotland at some point. As my first term came to a close, it seemed like the perfect way to start my four week break. I started planning my trip with my friend Rahela, pictured above, who is in a different graphic design course at CSM. I desperately want to go hiking in the Isle of Skye (seriously, watch this beautiful video of mountain biker Danny Macaskill as he defies death on the Cuillin Ridgeline and you’ll understand why it’s on my bucketlist), but we decided to start with Edinburgh due to last minute transportation costs, the amount of time Rahela had before she had to return to class, and the fact that we wanted to visit our friend Gwen who studies there. Shortly after deciding on Edinburgh, I heard from my friends Maddi and Shannon, who are both studying in Madrid with Skidmore in Spain. Their break, albeit much shorter than mine, started at the same weekend that CSM’s did. They both really wanted to see the UK, so we decided to make the trip to Scotland together! Maddi would later stay at my apartment in London as I headed off to France (perks of having friends all over Europe, eh?)

Traveling on the cheap, as always, Shannon and I found us overnight megabus tickets to Scotland. I totally prefer the train, but the bus in incredibly cheap and convenient. Also night bus = more time to explore Edinburgh. Our four days in Scotland led to some hilarious transportation mishaps, mostly because we failed to give ourselves enough time to get everywhere. Shannon, Maddi, and I arrived at Victoria Coach Station but Rahela who was a bit late, took an Uber because she wouldn’t make it on time through the tube, and then hilariously ran into the station after being dropped off at the incorrect station entrance. I have never seen anyone run so fast in my life, but luckily for her, the bus was late!

Thankful we had all made it, we headed to Edinburgh! This was my first overnight bus in a long time, and I forgot how uncomfortable they can be. Note: this wasn’t a sleeper or anything, just seats. Arriving in Edinburgh at 7:00 am, Rahela and I headed to our couchsurfing hosts apartment. Our hosts, half-brothers Levio and Bruno, were so awesome! While they had to work most of the time we were there, they were incredibly generous (we had our own room and private bathroom, which isn’t always typical) and kept my love for the couchsurfing community going strong. We were exhausted from the bus, so we decided to take a nap before exploring the city.

I love cities, but my main interest in coming to Scotland was to get out and see some nature. First, in Edinburgh, we saw botanical gardens, the castle, tried haggis (interesting) and cullen skink stew (a creamy seafood stew, SO GOOD), and walked around the old city. Our hosts lived in Leith, which is farther from the center, but by the water. Bruno told us that the city is focusing a lot of effort in trying to make a popular marina/water district around their area.

The craziest thing about our four days in Edinburgh was definitely the weather. Gwen, who studies at the University of Edinburgh, has told me some crazy stories about her winter experience (rain, cold, and extreme, umbrella-crushing wind). However, Edinburgh was sunny, warm, and incredibly pleasant throughout out entire stay. Bruno and Levio told us were were SO lucky and were excited when we told them about our plans to go to the Pentland Hills, which was Levio’s favorite place to go in his free time. We spend out entire second day in the Hills, which are only about a 40 minute, 1.50 pound bus ride from the city center. I couldn’t have planned a more perfect way to start my break. Our packs filled with cheese, fruit, and other picnic essentials, we started our 9 mile hike around the Pentlands. Hitting Scald Law, Carnethy Hill, West Kip, East Kip, and a few other hills, our walk (walking means hiking in the UK) took us to some of the best and highest views in the Pentlands. On our hike, we met tons of sheep and a nice Scottish family who again told us over and over how lucky we were to have chosen a sunny weekend to visit. If the Pentlands are only 40 minutes outside of the city, I can’t even imagine how beautiful the Isle of Skye is!

 

My favorite thing about Edinburgh is it’s proximity to nature. We even walked up Arthur’s Seat (a park/hill right in the city) twice, once during the day, and once at sunset (see the last two photos). To be honest, I came to London primarily for the rigor and challenge of Central St. Martins, not because I was particularly drawn to the UK. However, my first trip to Scotland totally affirmed my love for this area. I really hope I can get to Skye, or at least the highlands, before I leave in June.

CSM Madness

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WOW. Well friends, it’s been a while. So much has happened in the past few weeks, and it’s time to catch up. Before I start spilling all the details about my spring break, I’ll recap a bit of my first term. 

For starter’s, a virtual tour: The first photo in this post shows the inside of CSM’s mega-huge Granary Square building. Running through the middle is “the street,” with a supply shop, equipment rental area, the Canteen (the UAL version of d-hall), and foundation studios. I work up on the second floor to the left! I love how big this building is. It’s buzzing with talent, and I try to walk through the fashion, fine art, and product design studios when they’re open. The second photo shows the Futuro House of CSM’s roof terrace. A product of alum Craig Barnes, this Futuro House “landed” at CSM with an aim of hosting a variety of performances, screenings, talks and other happenings. Here, “artists, designers and thinkers will question, provoke and seek to change the course of our world.” I haven’t been in it yet because the terrace is often locked, but I’m definitely going to go to an event in there before I leave London. (Read more about the spaceship-like room here: http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/csm/2015/09/30/futuro-house-lands-in-kings-cross/). The last two photos (from the internet, by the way/since I’m traveling…) are of my favorite feature of Granary Square, the ever changing light/water installation. A lover of public art, I’m always excited to see this ground level fountain when I leave school for the day. The levels & number of water jets running are always different, creating new patterns all the time. I especially love this piece at night, always bursting with color. It’s stuff like this that makes me want to work with public art in my future career!

My term itself has been absolutely INSANE. I love the illustration pathway here at the graphic design department. The most interesting brief, which basically means project/assignment, thus far has been “True Crime.” With this brief, our tutors asked us to give a true crime a fresh perspective through sequential narrative. Since this school focuses heavily on research, we were also asked to watch Making a Murderer on Netflix, read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and listen to the podcast Serial. Despite my obsession with Serial and gory crime, I decided to twist the assignment to involve a petty crime. My story involved the late 90s Pennsylvania sensation Samuel Feldman, who squeezed and mutilated over $8,000 worth of bread, bagels, and cookies in Yardley, PA over the course of two years. My project culminated in the presentation of a large wall comic. In the end, Feldman walked away with 180 days probation, a $1,000 fine. Illustrating and researching this story was so bizarre. Here’s my favorite quote from Feldman’s attorney: “He’s just a picky shopper, intent on finding the freshest loaf of bread…”

For me, the most interesting assignment of the term was extremely broad: just to “Capture London.” Below are some photos from works in progress (WIP!) of my ongoing installation, Of the World, For the World. Inspired by the Asia and Africa wings of the British Museum, this piece acts as a playful commentary on the British legacy of theft and cultural appropriation. So far, I’ve transformed the gouache illustrations into stickers and am experimenting with installation ideas. Eventually, I will display enlarged wheat pasted versions around the area of British Museum! So excited to continue this project in term two. Check out my instagram for more updates, and to see a lot of other #WIPs. Here are a few photos the working process we are expected to catalog at CSM:

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mid process WIPs, gouche on watercolor
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mid process, cut outs
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initial sketchbook research
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initial sketchbook research
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inspiration/research, prints by illustrator Joelle Jolivet
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sticker exploration
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playing around with installation ideas – small scale
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sticker backs, I love the way the legs curled up once peeled off

The term ended with my assessment, a presentation of the work I’d done this semester and a two-on-one discussion. So far, I’ve found CSM inspiring, fun, stressful, and exciting. Now, for a much deserved four week break. (FOUR WEEKS… YEAH! )

UAL Wednesdays: Domenic Lippa

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Thanks to those awesome Wednesday artist lectures, I had the pleasure of hearing Pentagram’s Domenic Lippa share public criticism of his UAL rebrand. Listening to him speak about negative (and positive feedback) was great. Even the most successful artists and designers face daily criticism. I know it’ll be a part of my artistic life forever… might as well embrace it! Below is the former logo (left) and the pentagram rebrand (right). Lippa’s talk was not only engaging, but it also helped me understand the design principles behind the logo’s simplicity. Because UAL comprises so many universities, they needed a logo that could be broken up, added to, and worked with throughout the visual languages of all of the colleges. I’m not sure if I’m completely in love with UAL’s newer logo (Helvetica is a bit of a f**k it design move, especially from Pentagram) but it definitely makes sense.

 

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Why I love Couchsurfing (and Paris)

 

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With my couchsurfing host & new friend, Clara! (And our baguettes… but I already ate mine, haha)

IMG_9183 as Smart Object-1 IMG_9179IMG_9226 IMG_9194 IMG_9211 Can't get enough of that Injera                                                Can’t get enough of that injera
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This weekend I visited Paris for what turned out to be a wonderful Skidmore reunion! Not only was I able to visit my friends who are studying in this beautiful city, but I also met up with some more friends studying in Madrid and London, too. We started the weekend with some classic touristy stuff (I’m not always a huge fan of checking off the “sights,” but for Paris, it’s totally worth it). My friends Dan and Olivia, who are at the Skidmore in Paris program, had saved trips some of Paris’ biggest attractions till we arrived. Hands down, the Eiffel Tower blew me away. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, though: when we walked up to it at night, Hotline Bling was blasting through the crowds underneath the main structure. Good stuff.

Throughout the weekend, we hit up the Pompidou and Musée D’Orsay, climbed the steps of Notre Dame, ate falafel while walking around Place de la République, took in the sunset along the Seine, enjoyed pitchers of sangria while making friends with some fishermen from Bretagne, devoured late-night crêpes, and sat town for some of the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had. If you know me well (or at all), you know how much I love food… and Paris knows how to do it right.

I haven’t taken a French class since high school (I studied Hindi at Skidmore), so my French was pretty rusty. I was surprised at how well I can still read it, but my speaking is pretty laughable. Being in Paris made me really want to attain fluency, especially because I have lots of extended family living in the French part of Switzerland. It’s such a beautiful language, and I’d be happy to spend all day walking around the city just listening to snippets of conversations and trying to make out what people were saying.

It was SO wonderful to see some of my friends from Skidmore, to hear about their experiences abroad, and to explore Paris together. However, one of the most amazing parts of my trip to Paris was definitely couchsurfing. I’m a huge proponent of couchsurfing, which basically a website that connects travelers with locals so they can stay in cities for free.  People host for many different reasons, but most often as a way to grow a worldwide network of cool people. My first couchsurfing adventures began two years ago in Portugal, where I WWOOFed with two of my best friends from high school. Initially, we used couchsurfing to travel around the country because we couldn’t really afford anything else. However, couchsurfing is even better than a no-cost place to crash: it’s a way to meet REALLY interesting people, to discover a city in unexpected ways, and to make connections all around the world. Every couchsurfing experience is different: sometimes you can get a private room with a bed, sometimes you’ll be cuddled in a sleeping bag on the floor with 3 other people. I love the unpredictability.

I had been waiting to couchsurf again ever since that last experience in Portugal. Since my friend Dan was living with a host family and therefore couldn’t offer to host guests, I thought Paris might be a great time to try ‘surfing’ again. I ended up staying in the 11th arrondissement, which turned out to be pretty close to where my friends lived in Paris. My host, Clara, who studies speech therapy in the city, was the ultimate hostess. Not only did she meet me at the metro when I first arrived, but she brought me croissants for breakfast, knowing I probably hadn’t eaten much on my morning trip (I left London at 5 am). She ended up hanging out and exploring with us for most of the weekend, and I’m so grateful for her tips, joyous personality, and her overwhelming generosity. From laughing at the supposedly hip French phrases I learned in high school vocabulary lessons (apparently most people don’t say ‘chouette’) to teaching me how to distinguish authentic Haussmann architecture from the imitations, Clara was the best. Seriously though, she even left candy on my pillow every evening! Couchsurfing, in general, gives me faith in humanity. If we were all as kind to strangers and travelers as my hosts have been thus far, the world would be a better place.

Ziferblat!

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There were a bunch of crazy board games, but we opted for Connect Four (our collective favorite)

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Weis, making tea, and Catina, I’m not really sure… The kitchen was a disorganized wonderland, with people running in an out to chat, wash dishes, or grab more cake

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Before hitting the pubs this Saturday, I went with my friends Wies and Catina to a really interesting place called Ziferblat. To put it in their own words, “Ziferblat is a tree house for adults.” Basically, it’s an experimental living/gathering space, and when one enters, they become a micro-tenant of the space. Wies had been twice before, and she says that every time has been a different experience. This place was a total hole-in-the-wall. To enter, we rung the buzzer and entered into what seemed a normal, small apartment’s staircase.

Upon entering, we were greeted by the “Ziferblat hosts” who took down our names/the time, and gave us these little clock charms (he told us to give to give them to our sisters or a friend). In the space, “everything is free except for the time you spend.” We stayed for about an hour, which costs about 3 pounds. Paying for the time is equivalent to making a donation towards growing this social experiment.

The name Ziferblat is derived from Zifferblatt, or clock face in Russian and German. The first Ziferblat was  opened in September 2011 in Moscow. The creator of the “anti-café” concept is Ivan Mitin, and locations exist in Russia (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don), Ukraine (Kiev), Great Britain (Manchester, London) and Slovenia (Ljubljana).

Inside, we were welcomed with unlimited cake, coffee, tea, biscuits, you name it. It’s pretty much heaven. The Ziferblat’s decor is eclectic and cozy: plush armchairs, rugs, interesting notes and sculptures, and haphazardly hung pictures. Hanging on the walls and the shelves are instruments, novels, stacks of boardgames, paper, pens, etc. According to the hosts, the Ziferblat exists to build a community of people who want to use the space to make something interesting: you can make art, write music, meet new friends, talk, eat, work, etc.

We spent our time chatting, making tea, and learning about a few of the crazy board games some of the hosts were playing. We opted for Connect Four, one of my childhood favorites. I hadn’t played a game like that in so long, and I forgot how fun it could be.

This Ziferblat is on Old Street, which is about a 10 minute walk from my apartment in Shoreditch. It’s crazy how such cool things exist so close to us and most of the time, we don’t even know about them. I’m definitely planning on going back soon.

Bathtime

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Roman baths! It was so cold, I definitely wanted to jump in.
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The Royal Crescent

IMG_8699 This Saturday I took a day trip to Bath! I’ve been spending most of my weeks 1) exploring London and 2) making art, so this was my first trip outside of the city. I loved Bath: with the slower pace, historic architecture, and Roman baths, it was the perfect excursion. In the morning, I walked all around the city in the rain. One of my favorite things about the UK is how green the grass is. I mean, it’s raining or drizzling most of the time, but I’m surprised at how much I don’t mind the weather. In the afternoon, I decided to play the ultimate tourist and see the Roman Baths, audio headset and all. It was pretty cold, and just standing near the hot spring water while learning about the history of the Baths was enough to make me want an actual bath. Back in my apartment in London, my bathroom is incredibly small. Having a huge shower was definitely something I took for granted at Skidmore! Apparently the restriction on actually bathing in the Baths started when a girl swallowed the untreated water, got meningitis, and died. Pretty crazy. I finished the day with a delicious takeaway meat pie and another walk through one of Bath’s lusciously green parks. I can’t wait to go on another day trip soon, and I just bought a ticket to visit friends in Paris. More to come!

Wandering Around Wondering

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I love this area by the National Theatre, there’s a great little used book fair by the water. I’ve spent a few days walking along the different bridges and looking out over the Thames.
I photographed for a quick animation here, and soon got scolded by a security guard for my tripod. I’d gotten what I wanted, so I packed up: but I liked these two pigeons chilling by the corner.

Short animation: Londoners walking by the National Theatre!

 

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