Monday, September 29, 2014

Farewell for Now

Hand Drape by Diane Komater
steel wire, 48 x 36 x 1"

After much consideration, we have all decided to say farewell to the blog for now. It's not for good, just for awhile. We have so loved bringing you beautiful things every week, but our lives outside of the internet have recently become very busy, so we need to put Swings and Arrows on hold for the time being

Thank you for your support over the years. 
Your readership has been appreciated more than you know. 

You can see more work from marvelous wire sculptor Diane Komater on the artist's website: 

Cathleen, Grace, Alissa and Brian

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Middle School Reading Lists: Then and Now

As an educator (that sounds snobby) I found this article intriguing - a comparison of middle school reading lists from 1908 and today. Check it out.

Stock photo from Google, you know, 'cause I'm phoning it in.

Thoughts? I think what surprised me the most was that the books from today's reading list are, for the most part, not older than twenty years old. Yikes! Young people need to read books from time periods other than just contemporary titles.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Safety First

Vintage Children's Training Scissors 

I can't figure out how these four-finger scissors work exactly. They look like a torture device for poor preschoolers. But an aesthetically pleasing torture device nonetheless. I wish I had known about them when I made my scissor print

- Cathleen 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One Man Symphony

I found this online and I don't know who this guy is and if he is a musician, or photographer, or both. For some reason he took the time to take a photo of him sitting in every seat, playing every instrument, and mulling about doing other odd things (like drinking behind stage).  It must have taken a very long time but I am happy he had the energy and perseverance because it's kinda awesome. Click on the image to see the larger version.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Artwork of the Week: Illustration by Luke Best

illustration by Luke Best
published in Geo Wissen, 2012

After multiple reschedulings, we finally had our yard sale this past Saturday and it was a minor success! We made 118 bucks which was way more than we expected. Besides the rush that came over me each time I made a $3 sale, I mostly just felt relief to finally exorcise the house of all our junky demons. Most surprising transaction? One chipped Martha Stewart for Kmart bowl circa 2001 for 10 cents. After the guy failed to produce anything smaller than a $20 bill, he seemed genuinely psyched when I told him he could have it for free. I hope he and his roughly used bowl are happy. Wherever they are.

You can see more work from London-living Luke Best on his website: 
and his blog:

- Cathleen 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Photo Friday- Crazy Kids in Studio Addition

I am in studio everyday photographing objects from jewelry, to fine art, to furniture.  Both my kids come in to hangout on a regular basis and are, on the whole, well behaved.  But there is something they have done for years and I don't see it ending anytime soon.  They love to jump in shots or get me to photograph them between pieces.  I have a heck of a lot of these images and some are crazier than others.  Here is one of Ted going nuts on my large grey drop right before a piece of furniture comes in to be shot.  
I will post one of these images each time it is my turn for "Photo Friday"... until Alissa is back writing on those days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Probably Need This

I've never eaten a sardine, nor do I ever plan to, but I still think I should probably get this antique sardine box.

- Cathleen 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Auditions for Famous Roles

Watching auditions for famous roles always interests me....especially when they are by actors who later become huge.  Some of these I like because the role is classic and the performance was outstanding and others are interesting because they are by a no name that becomes a mega star years later.

This audition by Henry Thomas for the role of Elliot in E.T. has become pretty famous but I think it is my favorite.  This kid was impressive and Spielberg is obviously blown away at the end.

I love this one because it's for one of my favorite movies and what launched Jason Schwartzman's career.  He had never acted and was never planning to be an actor but was convinced by Wes Anderson to give it a try.

It's Pacino auditioning for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather....not much else has to be said.

A young DeNiro auditioning for the role of Sonny, in the first Godfather.  I like this one because he didn't get it but then was fortunately used in the next one to play Vito in the flashbacks.  One of his greatest roles.

Scarlet Johansson as a little girl is neat to watch.  It was for a bad movie and she doesn't do all that great a job but not long after, she got the role in The Man Who Wasn't There by the Coen Brothers.  An odd movie but she played a wonderfully uncomfortable role.


I have never actually seen The Notebook but I love Rachel McAdams and her chameleon like acting ability.

If you know of any others that are cool, please comment.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Artwork of the Week: The Yellow Books

The Yellow Books by Vincent van Gogh

Another surprising revelation of ordinary things: the library! Graham and I go to two different branches for story times and music/movement class at least twice a week, and while we're there, I'll usually check out a few board books for him. I never considered borrowing books for myself because I take FOR-EV-ER to read them and figured I would either end up with excessive late fees or returning them half-cracked. Then I read Alissa's post about Dinner: A Love Story and decided, you know what? I should check that out! So I went to my library's website and discovered that not only could I RESERVE BOOKS ONLINE, but I could also RENEW ONLINE! when the return date was approaching.  My whole literary world has been blown apart. I loaded up on cookbooks last week, including two on one pot recipes that I've been eyeing on Amazon for awhile. I may never buy another book again. 

I'd never seen this Van Gogh painting of books before, but apparently you can buy a print of it at Walmar. Look who's getting good at discovering things everyone already knows about.

- Cathleen 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Photo Friday

Alissa's taking a break from the blog for a little bit. While we'll certainly miss seeing her here on Fridays, we plan to keep the torch burning while she's off getting her ducks in a row. Grace, Brian, and I will take turns posting at the end of the week. In lieu of adding to the onslaught of Friday links you probably get from other blogs, we thought we'd just leave you with one personal photo and a short explanation.

Here's mine. 

Something I'm into lately: Taking a shower by candlelight. I know candlelit baths are what romance novels are made of, but I'm here to say showering solo in the dark is where it's at!

- Cathleen 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Design Always Repeats Itself: Japonisme Edition

I'm currently undertaking an independent study in Asian Influences in Art and Design and I've just completed the book Japonisme; Cultural Crossings Between Japan and the West and the book is fascinating! One of my favorite elements though is in Chapter 2: Japan and Painters where the authors discuss the works of many 19th century English and French artists and their direct influence of Japanese woodcuts. My absolute favorite is this example:

The Courtesan Hinazuru at the Keizetsuru
Kitagawa Utamaro
c. 1794-5
Color Woodcut

The Letter
Mary Cassatt
c. 1890-1
Color Etching, Drypoint and Aquatint

Mary Cassatt had direct access to this image and it seems highly likely that she was inspired by Utamaro's magnificent rendering of a women with a paper in her mouth. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Music for Mellow Mornings

Animal Tracks by Mountain Man

We took Micky to the airport early today, and since Graham's got a mean ol honking cough, we spent the rest of the morning inside playing music and reading books. I heard this song (below) in a yoga class weeks ago and didn't figure out what it was until yesterday. Sylvan Esso is a two-person band, produced by Nick Sanborn and voiced by Amelia Meath who used to sing with Mountain Man (above), a female folk trio I just discovered thanks to Spotify's Biography lesson. I like them both, but am really leaning hard on the soft harmonies of Mountain Man right now. And! Another revelation! Both bands are based in the Raleigh-Durham area. Which somehow makes them even dearer to my heart. Have a listen.

Coffee by Sylvan Esso

- Cathleen

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tim's Vermeer

I watched a fascinating documentary last night called, Tim's Vermeer.  It follows inventor, Tim Jenison and his quest to prove the theory that Johannes Vermeer used optics in order to paint extremely realistic paintings during the 17th Century. Everyone has seen a Vermeer or at least the most famous one...

Girl With a Pearl Earring
Books have been written about the idea that Vermeer may have used an early version of the "camera obscura" to project a scene on a wall in a dark room through a pinhole lens. His work has always been thought to be too perfect and his pieces (when x-rayed) show absolutely no sketching under the oil paint.

Tim Jenison wanted to recreate a Vermeer using this technique or something similar in order to prove that it could be done using 17th Century technology.  What he discovers is something truly magnificent and ground breaking in the Art History world.  If correct Vermeer may have not only been a great artist but a brilliant inventor and early "photographer".

Tim using mirror technique to do his very first painting copying a portrait of his father
The scene Tim set up in order to precisely copy a famous Vermeer

Here is the trailer to the movie and it is only 99 cents to rent on iTunes this week.  It's not long and is most definitely worth the time.  It is directed by Teller (of Penn and Teller) as well as produced and narrated by Penn himself.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Artwork of the Week: Ruin #9

Ruin #9 by Danny Jauregui
graphite and ash on panel, 2007 

We are back! While I had a wonderful time spending bright mornings on the beach and overeating delicious food by dad all summer, it feels SO nice to be back in my own space again. And getting things in order! I finally backed up my computer and updated my OS after months of moving the task from week to week on my To-Do list. Boring stuff, I know, but it feels like I've done a cleanse. Minus the glowing skin and energy boost. Anyway, major administrative accomplishments over here! Next on the list: finally finishing Graham's baby book. IT SHALL BE DONE.

You can see more work from artist Danny Jauregui on his website:

- Cathleen 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dinner: A Love/Hate Story

So I finally got around to checking out Cathleen's "birthday gift" to me from last year: Jenny Rosenstrach's Dinner: A Love Story. I was at my library and they finally had it, so I did what any sane person would do: I gave a little yelp and a hop, then remembered that I was in a library, grabbed the book and got out of there as quickly and furtively as possible.

Anyway, this book has been just as fantastic as I thought it would be. Jenny's writing style is charming and conversational and I've found myself laughing out loud many times. But even more important than keeping me entertained, (wait, is there anything more important than that?) it's given me a new angle from which to tackle my dinner issues. 

Wait, what's that you're saying? "Alissa, how can you have dinner issues? You love to cook and you're at home all day, for goodness sake!" I know, it sounds ridiculous, (I could NEVER cut it as a working mother) but dinner is like a scary freight train relentlessly bearing down on me every day. No matter how much I like to cook, the continual thinking, planning, and actual cooking with small people underfoot can make even the stoutest chef heart tremble a little bit. Not to mention that my eldest daughter likes to ask me in advance what we're eating for dinner tomorrow- usually just as we're sitting down to the dinner that I just made. 
It literally puts me into a panic.

That's why I'm so excited to have a fresh perspective and some new ideas to try out in my kitchen. Maybe it'll breathe some new life into old favorites and make the monotony avoidance a little easier. So what I'm trying to say is, 
Thank you, Cathleen, for your thoughtful cyber present. I love it and it was just what I needed.

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Emma Bridgewater

Have I ever talked about Emma Bridgewater? I'm pretty much obsessed with her pottery. Ever since I had Clementine I wanted to purchase her a silver baby mug from Tiffany's, but they are super expensive - so I settled for a silver spoon and you know what... that spoon is driving me crazy! It gets tarnishy on a dime and it has scratch marks all over it. Since silver is so high maintenance and completely out of vogue I was stuck. I headed over to Emma Bridgewater's website and was completely smitten by her baby mugs. Here are my top favs!

Figs Baby Mug

Egg and Feather Baby Mug

Polka Dot Baby Mug

The mugs are priced around $25 each and Bridgewater sells other items, pitchers, platter, jugs etc... Here's my beef, the company is located in England therefore shipping to the US is $30! And even though I of course understand why it costs this much it's irritating and has stalled my grand plans to have a gorgeous mug for my two babies.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Artwork of the Week: Personal Work

Personal Work by David Abrahams
(though I have a feeling that's not actually the title of the piece)

The first official day of fall this year isn't until September 22, but now that Labor Day has come and gone, summer feels over for me mentally. Physically I'm still at the beach and it's still hot as ever. Actually TOO hot to go down to the shore today if you can believe it. So we're spending our morning indoors, eating melon and watching our fourth episode of Curious George. Oh yeah. 

You can see more work by London-based fashion photographer David Abrahams on

- Cathleen 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TW Searby- 19th Century Photographer

Over the last few years I have built a pretty legit and detailed family tree including Grace and my family lines.  I have traced nearly every ancestor back to when they arrived in the US (and beyond) and have found some cool stuff.  I have also found that our families have both been in the states a lot longer than previously thought.

One fun fact about my Searby heritage was finding out that my great-great grandfather (Thomas W. Searby) was a photographer/artist in Philadelphia (and later Brooklyn) between 1850-1880.  Being a photographer myself, it was very cool to find that my ancestor was at the very beginning of this technology and art.  He specialized in portraiture before, during and after the Civil War.  What's even cooler is that I was able to find copies of some of his Ambrotypes and here they are....

He used the same chair prop in all three of these final photos and it looks like the same chair the lady in the first photo is sitting on.  There is no way to know but one of these could be TW Searby himself.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jeans.... sigh.

I've talk about how much I hate jeans before but here we go again. Fall is looming... which means I will drag out wearing shorts as long as possible. So here's my question, I like the boyfriend cut jeans but I don't know anyone that owns a pair. Have you tried them? What do you think? Any brand recommendations?

I like these ones from J.Crew the Broken-In Boyfriend Jeans.... but they don't come in petite and I'm VERY VERY short. 

On another note did anyone read this article on anti-helicopter parenting? We have got to give our kids freedom. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hanging Around

7 x 65 cm, 2012

Weaving is so hot right now. The blogs I frequent and the Pinterest feeds I follow are absolutely teeming with them. Here's a round-up of some of my favorites as of late. 

artist unknown 

Linen Seafoam and Peach by Rachel Duvall
36 x 56"

Woven tapestry by Maryanne Moodie

Sport by Ben Barretto
165 x 250 cm, 2012

artist unknown

- Cathleen 

The World's Largest Photograph

 This is the largest photograph ever taken using the largest camera ever made.  It is 107 feet wide and 31 feet tall.  It is not just the largest photograph printed, but rather the exposure itself is that size.  Planned and executed by six artists and assistants- Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada.  They used an abandoned Air Force jet hangar as the camera by completely darkening the ceiling and walls and sealing off all light except one pinhole on the hangar door with only a quarter inch diameter.  They coated a giant piece of muslin in silver gelatin hallide to make it light sensitive and hung it on the opposite side of the hangar.

The exposure time was 35 minutes and what it captured was an old Marine air base in California.  After the exposure they needed to develop this massive photograph by washing it in an Olympic pool sized custom made tray filled with 600 gallons of developer and then 1200 gallons of fixer... Impressive.

Here is the photograph displayed in a California gallery. Or maybe this is a digital rendering because those people look fake.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Artwork of the Week: Drawing by Junyi Wu

Alissa! I feel the same way! Fall is so open! Full of possibilities! Brimming with potential! 
We've just finished setting up our living room (after moving in almost 4 months ago) and it feels like a fresh start. We splurged and had it painted in my favorite Pewter Mug gray and spent one night last week hanging art on the walls. I even took a drawing that we received as a wedding gift (over 3 years ago) to be framed and I'm SO excited to finally see it hung in our home and checked off my to-do list. 

And I bought a new plant! (To replace one that was recently confirmed dead.) Things are really looking bright shiny and new over here!

You can see more work from Los Angeles-based illustrator Junyi Wu on the artist's website and Tumblr, as well as purchase original artwork and prints online from Nucleus Gallery

- Cathleen 

Friday, August 22, 2014

The New Year

Most people on the planet make New Year's resolutions on January 1. As many times as I have tried to do this (and follow through), something about being at the very beginning of the dregs of winter really zaps my Can Do! spirit. My New Year really starts at the beginning of the fall. I get super energized by the coming cool weather (maybe because I'm rested from a summer break) and I'm ready to hit the ground running. 

I always start by doing a huge fall cleaning and purging and then I get my list of new projects ready. (Fall is the perfect project weather.) Since I had a really great summer doing little fun projects with my children, I'm excited to jump into bigger projects for myself. At the top of my list is redoing my bedroom. For the past 2.5 years, I've been waking up in a gross box of yellow and brown. And it ruins my morning. Every Morning.

In order to crush this soul-crushing, I'm finally going to follow through on something that I've been wanting to do FOREVER: paint my furniture a beautiful navy/cobalt/ultramarine blue. (I've mentioned that I have problems with color assignations- maybe someone can tell me the name of the color that I've looking for.) Anyway, I was thinking of going with olive green walls (ala LGN) but I think it would end up being too drab. Our designer friend Anne-Marie reminded me that I've been wanting to do lavender walls forever, so that's been floating around in my brain for a while. I don't want it to be too bright (Easter Eggy, as Anne-Marie said) because I'm looking for a little more soothing. 

A-M sent me this- definitely more soothing.

I'll take some before pics and keep all our readers posted. I'm going to paint the furniture first and then tackle the walls. Ugh. It will be a lot of work but it will be worth it to not wake up in a sad yellow dungeon every day.

Happy Weekend and Happy New Year, Friends!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shadows by Andre Kertesz, 1931

Shadows- Andre Kertesz 1931
Andre Kertesz was a Hungarian photographer who was known for his experimentation with angles and development. A lot of his work is very surreal and this particular shot is one of my favorites.   

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Game of Shadows

Doesn't this book look awesome? The Game of Shadows by Herve Tullet is a die cut board book that you read by shining a flashlight through the lacy pages, projecting the story in light shapes across the wall of a darkened room. I've always been interested in shadow puppets---I've harped about it here before---and this is just the sort of thing that I could use to get Graham hooked early. Christmas wishlisted!

- Cathleen

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Best Impromptu Street Performances

A really good street musician is always impressive to hear and many videos of these performances have gone viral over the last few years.  Here is a list of all the best I have seen (not in person), although I have seen some live performances that I have been very happy to stumble upon.

This was a performance by the famous violinist, Joshua Bell, in a DC Metro Station. It was planned by a writer at the Washington Post as a study of how people respond to street performers and whether they would recognize a master.

This one is amazing and beautiful.  It is an entire orchestra (with chorus) that performs Beethoven's 9th and each musician emerges from a hidden location every time their piece of the symphony begins. This video, outside of hearing an amazing orchestra play, shows Beethoven's complete and utter genius. The power of the composition in the 9th symphony is unparalleled.

I don't know if this one was planned or if this pro concert pianist just sat down as he passed by a public piano in London.

Another pianist who plays a public piano at the delight of passengers waiting for their plane.  This is a fun one because he plays several different variations of Fur Elise.

This crew has done this a few times now, but it would be very cool if you were on the same flight. It is the cast of The Lion King musical bursting into the opening song of the play.

A street guitarist just doing his thing and proving to be a damn fine picker.

This recently went viral and made me happy when I first saw it.  A street guitarist is doing his thing when two dudes passing by felt the muse and broke out a little freestyle.  The guy in the reflector vest made me laugh because he was heading into the nearby store and couldn't help but take the time to get involved.

I love finding a good bucket drummer in DC.  They are usually GoGo drummers and a whole lot of fun, but this kid is impressive.

Not musicians, but these Ugandan kids are kinda awesome.

If you know of some others, please link them in the comments below.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Artwork of the Week: Marketplace

Marketplace sketch by Melissa Castrillon, 2012

My friend Janie and I decided to do an entire dinner sourced from the Durham Farmer's Market this weekend. Unfortunately (ok, fortunately!) they only sell what's in season, so both of us ended up rounding out the meal with a little help from the bog box supermarket. (Who knew lettuce season was over?) But all of the main stars of the meal were local! I cooked these super delicious meatballs with ground beef I got from one vendor and sliced up some goat cheese from another guy that I served on a whole grain bread bought from one of the baked goods tables. Janie boiled up some sweet corn for our side, tossed some beets into a salad, and baked a beautiful peach buckle for dessert. It was great! Though next time it would be really cool to limit ourselves to JUST what they're selling at the DFM. It would be tough, but I think we're up to the challenge. 

You can see more from British illustrator Melissa Castrillon on her website, purchase prints from her shop, and peek her process on her blog

- Cathleen 

[Image via flickr]

Friday, August 15, 2014

North Carolina!

So, I just got out of the car after a harrowing seven hour road trip to Raleigh (it should have been four and a half) and I'm pretty close to deciding to live here permanently just so I don't have to drive south on I-95. 


It looked like this the whole way. (Not really.)

This is a lightning fast trip- I'm meeting my new niece, celebrating my Dad's birthday, sending my sister off to college, and various sundry merrymaking. I'm hoping to hit the Raleigh Flea Market and I'm going to wave to Cathleen (Hi, Cathleen! I know, I should have planned this better so we could hang!) from I-85.

But, NEXT WEEK, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming and Fridays will stop looking so sad. Promise.

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thinking About The Invention of Wings and Eddie Murphy... huh?!

Recently the book The Invention of Wings was recommended to me by my internship supervisor. She receives credit in the book for assisting Kidd with her research. I'm not much of a fiction fan but since this was historical fiction I decided to give it a shot. The book was very good! I highly recommend it. Kidd spent an enormous amount of time researching her characters and was careful to be historically accurate. However, my favorite part of the book was the epilogue where she describes her research and what and where she had to fabricate in the book. 

The book revolves around the life of Sarah Grimke, a real historical person, and her family's enslaved person Hetty/Handful. Both women are real people but in reality Hetty died as a young girl. 

Sarah Grimke

I didn't know anything about Sarah Grimke, had never even heard her name but it is because of her and the steps she took in abolition as well as women's rights that I have the education and opportunities I have today. 

Angelina Grimke

Her sister Angelina was also a powerful force in abolition and women's rights. 

Harriet Powers
Bible Quilt
National Museum of American History

In the book Kidd bases her character Charlotte's story quilt off the work of enslaved person Harriet Powers. I'm ashamed as an art historian that I had never heard of nor seen her work. Two of her story quilts survive, one here in DC and one in Boston.

This powerful appliqu├ęd quilt tells stories from the bible and acts as a form of literacy and expression for the enslaved Powers. 

Harriet Powers
Photo Courtesy of the MFA in Boston
And here's where I take my leap in thoughts. I recently re-watched Eddie Murphy's Delirious with my husband. I finished the book a few days after re-watching Delirious. The combination of events has struck a cord with me. 

I had first seen Delirious when I was about 17 and I thought it was hilarious! However re-watching as an adult, having had more experiences and being the mother to a daughter and a teacher to children, I was extremely bothered by the act. 

Murphy was only 22 when it was filmed and although there are elements of hilarity I was extremely bothered and put off by his misogyny. Over and over he ridicules women, talks about slapping a former girlfriend, and engages the audience in mocking a female audience member. 

What the Grimke girls did in the 19th-century has helped give women so many opportunities, but sadly, misogyny and pushing women down instead of giving them a hand up still exists. 

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