Travelogue: Glessner House in Chicago


Glessner House, located in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historic District, was designed by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887.

Richardson studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which encouraged quick conceptual sketches and detailed perspective drawings that could and should be followed through to physical completion of a space.

Good thing.

In April 1886, Richardson completed the design for the house. 

Three weeks later he was dead.

This sprawling residence was built for the Glessner family, wealthy from 19th Century manufacturing of agricultural equipment. It was home to a child who would grow up to be very important due to homes of a different scale: Frances Glessner Lee.

Frances was the first female police captain in the U.S. and “the mother of forensic science.” In her 40s, Frances began making miniature dioramas that depicted grisly murder scenes. The replicas were designed to be educational tools for homicide detectives and the fledgling field of medical examination and crime scene investigations.

Pictured: Detail of “Kitchen,” from the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths. 

The dioramas, eventually becoming Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, were precise — down to the make of the mousetrap and the bloat of the body. Many are still used today to train detectives, and the answers or real-life cases from which they were inspired remain under lock and key.

Also awesome? It’s rumored Frances was the character inspiration for everyone’s favorite brilliant amateur detective in gaudy baubles: Murder, She Wrote’s very own Jessica Fletcher.

Following, some pics I snapped on a recent tour of the place… No crime scenes evident!

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Entrance, library and parlor

Dining room and kitchen details

Bedrooms

Behind the scenes

Next door


The story of the French Angel


As the end of the year (aka gift giving season) rolls up with the top down, I thought I’d show off one of my favorite custom embroidery jobs from the archives.

***

I recently finished this custom piece for a dear friend. He wanted to gift an artwork to a friend who loved wrestling and wrestling history. He picked an image from this series of photographs by Irving Penn from 1945 and told me to have at it.

Original image info: Irving Penn, 1945, “Dorian Leigh & Maurice Tillet aka The French Angel”

The man in this photo is Maurice Tillet (1903-1954), the most notorious wrestler of the 1940s, better known by his ring name, ~THE FRENCH ANGEL~.

If you’ve been to Chicago’s International Museum of Surgical Science, you’ve probably seen a bust of The French Angel.

The plaque there tells more of this man’s story:

“He studied 14 languages, wrote poetry, and aspired to become an actor. However, his dreams were shattered when he developed acromegaly in his twenties. … This disorder is caused by an abnormal production of growth hormone usually related to a benign tumor of the pituitary gland… With his new body, Tillet, an educated man and a lover of the fine arts, felt like a monstrosity. Unable to face a life of constant gawking and humiliation, he decided to make drastic changes and use his condition to his benefit.”

At the end of his life, Maurice was a Chicago boy. He died here, too, of a heart attack that came on after he heard that his trainer died. <sobbbbbbing>

My color choices for his wings and the stars on his belt are a direct reference to the Chicago flag.

I almost put the fourth star on Maurice’s belt too, but I just had to do something about Dorian there…

The angle of her foot, the shape of that heel… oh la la, there’s just so much I love about that aspect of the original photograph. I put the last star beneath it to give Dorian her own special place in this piece.


Socks for Christmas? Yes, please.


You know you’ve past a certain age threshold as soon as getting socks for Christmas sounds awesome. No? Well, welcome to my blog, fellow kids. Say it with me now (to the tune of LMFAO “Shots”): Socks socks socks socks socks socks! Everybody!

I just added socks to the macro.baby shop because, I mean, look at these.

They have all the function you need from your footwear — not to mention the “I’m fun and love graphic design” vibe of a grown ass adult if you’re looking to demonstrate that kind of thing at a Scrabble marathon house party or whatever — plus they’re mismatched so you can feel the sloppy, IDGAF kid-ness of being a kid again.

Don’t forget the wrapping paper.


Look what just dropped: 2022


New on the shop: It’s that time of year again. Time to think about the next one.

Have your best year yet with my dotted, delicious, designed colorful calendar poster. So full of promises for hope, happiness, and horrible alliterations!

Giclée print poster made on thick and durable matte paper (because the matte feels so smooth and sexy).

12 x 18 inches.

$25 + free shipping.

Available now through… well, 2022 I guess.


Berenice Abbott black and white photo of two men in the distance walking on a bridge. Bright yellow embroidery floss emanates from each of their paths.

Best Berenice Abbott quotes in “A View of the 20th Century”


I recently subscribed to The Met on YouTube and found a trove of treasures from this institutional mainstay. Since 2020, the museum has released three to four films from the moving-image archive to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Called “From The Vaults,” the series continues through March 2022. 

Hey, when you turn 150 years old, it’s your party and you can make everyone celebrate for two years if you want to.

I’m slowly making my way through all the artifacts they’ve posted; most recently, a 1992 film about American painter Ralph Fasanella, who was known for his depictions of working-class city life and born in the Bronx on Labor Day 1914 to newly minted Italian immigrants.

​​Berenice Abbott: “A View of the 20th Century”

One of the most compelling docs I’ve watched in The Met’s series so far was another 1992 piece, this one about the photographer Berenice Abbott. I LOVE Berenice and am often drawn to her Works Progress Administration images when selecting images for my embroidery collection.

As one source in the film so succinctly put it, Berenice took, “Emotionally resonant pictures of ordinary things.” That’s as working class as it comes.

What I didn’t realize was how accomplished Berenice was in other intellectual and theoretical pursuits beyond artmaking. Here are some of my favorite quotes from this legendary artist.

"I'm not a nice girl. I'm a photographer." Berenice Abbott

“This clear-eyed, insightful documentary, directed by Martha Wheelock and Kay Weaver, offers a grand tour of Abbott’s extraordinary life, from her youth in Ohio and apprenticeship in Paris through her later groundbreaking scientific photography at MIT and final years in Maine. 

Using the artist’s memories as a lens for apprehending nearly a century of American and European cultural history, this film pays homage to Abbott’s genius for invention, her free-spirited embrace of uncertainty and experience, and her unshakeable devotion the art of photography.”

Watch Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century

Best Berenice Abbott quotes

in “A View of the 20th Century”

Berenice Abbott photographing on South Street, New York, 1937. Photo by Consuelo Kanaga.

ON BEING AN ARTIST

“The only pleasure you can get from creating something is the pleasure you have in doing it. Not the final product even. The pleasure you have in doing it. And that cannot be taken away from you. And it cannot be crushed. But you had a certain kind of joy creating it. And that’s all you can expect.”

“There are many teachers who could ruin you. Before you know it you could be a pale copy of this teacher or that teacher. You have to evolve on your own.”

“I think you have to be intensely personal and be true to yourself. The subject matter that excites you is something you want to photograph. You have to convey to the person who looks at it what it was that excited you.”

"The only pleasure you can get from creating something is the pleasure you have in doing it." Berenice Abbott
Embroidered ball pit of French knots by Jackie Mantey fill the gap under a highway as cars head toward a smoke stack, photographed by Berenice Abbott.
“To the Pit” by Jackie Mantey. Embroidery floss on photo paper. // Original image info: Berenice Abbott, 1937, “Triborough Bridge, East 125th Street approach, Manhattan.”

ON ART

“If you’re trying to express people, you have to be part of it because it’s an exchange. You’re a part of that time.”

“The art is selecting what is worthwhile to take the trouble about.”

“I think it stands to reason that if you recognize and appreciate your heritage, it helps you with your future.”

Embroidered thread kites by Jackie Mantey peek out of black and white buildings, photographed by Berenice Abbott.
“Social Distancing” by Jackie Mantey. Embroidery floss on photo paper. // Original image info: Berenice Abbott, 1937, “General view from penthouse, 56 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan.”

"Art is selecting what is worthwhile to take the trouble about." Berenice Abbott

ON PHOTOGRAPHY

“Anything you photograph has to be exciting somehow visually. It has to be photographically important, visually important. Otherwise you write about it.”

“Photography is very much a prisoner of its time. You work within the framework of the technique at the time, and that’s the way you have to judge photography.”

“I think all photography is documentary or it isn’t even photography. Most photographs are documents by their very nature of the realistic image. When they try to make it a nonrealistic image, they’re imitating another medium. Selectivity is key.”

“Many interesting things aren’t photogenic at all.”

"Selectivity is key." Berenice Abbott
“It isn’t just that you think the city is beautiful. It’s that the city is very interesting. Everything in it has been built by man. It expresses people more than people themselves.” Berenice Abbott

ON CITY APPEAL

“It isn’t just that you think the city is beautiful. It’s that the city is very interesting. Everything in it has been built by man. It expresses people more than people themselves.”

“The city is full of every period, every epoch. Everything there comes out of the human gut. Everything that’s built. Every sign that’s put up. The new, the old, the beautiful, the ugly. It’s the juxtaposition of all this that is an intensely, immensely human subject. You’re photographing people when you’re photographing a city. You don’t have to have a person in it.”

"I think your work is the most important thing in your life. To spend more time with it." Berenice Abbott
"I believe in nature and truth and common sense, pursuit of knowledge." Berenice Abbott

ON BEING A WOMAN

“He said, ‘Nice girls don’t go down on the Bowery.” And I said, ‘Well, I’m not a nice girl. I’m a photographer.‘”

“My assistant got the job. A young man whom I had trained. I think the last thing the world really wants are independent women. I don’t think they like independent women much. Just why I don’t know. But I don’t care.”

“Yes, I’ve always been a loner. I’m certain that some people marry and it doesn’t spoil their independence, even women in some cases. The vast majority seems to snare the woman and she can lose track of her directions and her desires and her interests. I’ve heard so many women say, ‘Oh I would like to have done this but after all my family came first. I had to look after my sons.’ So apparently that was more important to them. To me it would be like losing yourself. I think your work is the most important thing in your life. To spend more time with it.”

"I always thought that there was nothing smarter than an old woman." Berenice Abbott
"I'm planning to live to be 102." Berenice Abbott

ON BEING

“I believe in nature and truth and common sense, pursuit of knowledge. Nothing is any good unless you sort of live up to it. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. That is very valid and can’t get you into any trouble. But you don’t need religion to have morals.”

“I always thought that there was nothing smarter than an old woman. You’ve lived so much, you’ve seen so much, in some sense you’ve been on the passive end of it, which means that you have observed plenty. But my impression was always that most ordinary women, if they’re old, have some remarkable quality that no other people have.”

Embroidered thread kite by Jackie Mantey peeks out of a black and white building, photographed by Berenice Abbott.

“I had no idea I was getting older. I’ve never worried about getting older. I don’t see why people make so much of a thing about aging. It’s so natural to age. Everything is aging all the time. Everybody’s aging constantly. Why worry? It’s slow. You’re not aware of it.You just take it in your stride. But women are so harassed with the idea because of the social attitude, the unfairness of social attitudes between the aging of men and women is so ridiculous and so dreadful that women’s years seem to be only good as long as she can procreate, but a man can be very attractive at 80.”

“I’m planning to live to be 102.” 🙂


You say credenza, I say credanza


My new graphic design credenzas are hotter than Young Tony Danza. Fight me! 

A baby-faced Tony Danza looks tough by also flirty as he pretends to prepare to throw a punch. Oh, also, he's topless. Yesssss.

Here are a few of my recent favorites. 🙂


These versatile mid-century modern-inspired credenzas are ideal TV stands, cat stands, book shelves, drink carts, office cabinets, toy chests, or the perfect complement to your bedroom set.

  • Perfect size. 35.5 x 17.5 x 30 inches.
  • Customizable. Available in a warm, natural birch or a premium walnut finish, with gold or black steel legs. You know who else had steel legs? Young Tony Danza. 
  • Easy to clean. Got a damp cloth? Of course you do. You’re good to go.

Three side-by-side images of a tan brown phone with five white dial buttons, numbered one through five.

Mid-year check-in: Four productivity tools I’m loving for creative projects (and how I use them)


In January, I wrote about six smartphone apps and creative writing productivity tools I planned to use to stay motivated on my personal projects throughout 2021.

Am I still using those? Yes.

But now, seven months deep, I’m still trying to avoid work about work.

Aren’t we all? Hell yes.

“60% of time is spent on work coordination, rather than the skilled, strategic jobs we’ve been hired to do,” according to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index 2021.

Yellow and pink text reading, "We spend more time on work coordination than on the work itself."

I feeeeeeel that. In my professional work certainly, and in my personal work as well. Even though I’m not coordinating with a team of designers, clients, or account managers while, say, drafting a novel or making a new embroidery collection, I still find myself tinkering away for hours on planning, documentation, and (my ultimate seems-like-work-but-isn’t guilty pleasure time suck) video streaming Skillshare/Creative Live videos.

So in July, I reassessed how I was working on these things. It was time to think about my time. Given that the pandemic wasn’t keeping us under lock and key anymore, I needed to adjust my routine for the quicker post-pandem pace and packed schedule. Here are four new tools and strategies I implemented to get myself in a rhythm—and keep myself making.


For writing: Airtable

OMG! I love Airtable! A friend told me about this spreadsheet app while we were on our final quarantine walk. It’s free and the UX is intuitive, especially if you’re familiar with Excel or Google Sheets. My favorite aspect of Airtable is that I can upload documents, jpegs, and various other things directly into a cell block. 

I have one Airtable project set up with three tabs, one for each of my writing projects: a novel, a book of creative nonfiction, and my blog. From there, I’m able to schedule out each piece of the larger work, add photos for reference or posting, and drop in both the Google doc link and the Word doc of the final version so I can move on. 

Pink and yellow text reading, “Writing will always be interesting to me, because even if life has no meaning, writing does. It’s all about discovery, personal and otherwise.” Jo Ann Beard

I know I could keep a folder on my cloud somewhere with all of this content, but it’s so nice to have it linearly lined up, with deadlines attached, and the ability to just dump it when I’m done so it doesn’t take up space in my drive. 

Writing tasks can be overwhelming to me because I get ~too~ into them and, when I’m in that addictive headspace, I feel like I have to write the entire book in the next month. But writing is also my most important thing. With Airtable I don’t fold under the demanding weight of such self-imposed pressure. I just keep ticking things off, bird by bird

For reading: GoFullPage Chrome extension

App fatigue is real. According to the Anatomy of Work Index, U.S. employees jump between 13 tools an average of 30 times per day. Yikes. I think I hit even higher numbers when it comes to things I want to read. GoFullPage has helped with this personal brand of digital distraction. When clicked, the extension will basically scan the entire web page you’re on and turn it into a PDF or jpeg.

Pink and yellow text reading, "On average, we jump between 13 tools, 30 times a day."

I use GoFullPage for saving things I want to read later as well as for capturing clips of my professional writing. I capture what I want to read, download it, and save the PDF in a “To read” folder on my drive. I have time set aside on Saturdays that I scroll through the folder and read whatever still intrigues me and then delete the damn thing when I’m through. 

I tried using the “Reading List” feature on Chrome for a process like this, but then I just racked up links on links on links and never read any of them. With GoFullPage, I don’t have endless tabs open, and there’s just enough effort required to capture and save the page as a PDF that I must decide if I truly, truly want to read it. Adding it to the Reading List was way too simple. The potential discards clogged up the line.

For getting sh*t done: Do not disturb phone setting

I mean, it’s obvious what this does, right? Turn it on for your phone and it will quiet all alerts. I get by with a little help from my robot friends, etc. Every morning I block out my day hour by hour. (I know this is a little intense, but my Meyers Briggs Personality Test confirms this kind of planning is best for my sensitive lil heart/mind. INFPs are for lovers.) I use Do Not Disturb when I’m on an hour-block that requires focus, which is usually writing, but this can also be helpful for administrative work or artmaking.

Pink and yellow text reading, "Focus sprints of uninterrupted worked time made teams 43% more productive."

Productivity research from UC Berkeley’s Becoming Superhuman Lab found that 92% of people believe that “carving out a daily block of uninterrupted time called a ‘Focus Sprint,’ where they do not need to toggle between apps or constantly monitor the inbox, would positively impact their and their team’s productivity.” Teams that used these Focus Sprints reported they were 43% more productive. Sign. Me. Up.

For regular to-do tracking: Asana’s board view

“Individuals could save 6 hours and 5 minutes every week—290 hours per year—through improved processes,” like clearly defining roles and responsibilities, the Anatomy of Work Index found. Plus, nearly 70% of respondents said they would feel better-equipped to hit personal targets with clear processes to manage work. This seems obvious, but do you give your personal creative work the same approach? Why not? 

How to save 290 hours per year of wasted work time? Get a better process.

I have been using a free version of Asana for my personal tasks for a while now, but I simply could not make a calendar view of tasks work for me. I would just blow right by the deadlines when paying-work had to rise to the top of my to-do list. I tried switching to board view, et voila. Now we’re cooking.

My board view is essentially a habit tracker with four columns, or boards, set up: Monday-Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monthly. Under each column I have five or six tasks that are related to my creative projects. For example, I write one paragraph a day on my novel every weekday, Saturdays are for embroidery, etc. The task descriptions never change, I just check and uncheck items as I complete them each day. 

This process has been ideal because I don’t have to hold every task in my head or copy-paste the tasks to every day’s to-do list. They’re not tied to a time-specific requirement, so I am able to remain flexible depending on what the rest of my day looks like. And then, since I have a slew of separate Asana projects set up for more detailed notes on each creative task, I can stay within one program to jot down notes as they arise.


Matching totebag, notebook, and bookbag by macro.baby

Back to school bookbag and notebook combos


These back to school bookbag and notebook combos by macro.baby fit the trends—and everything else you need them to hold.

The backpacks have a heavy-duty construction, padded nylon backs and bottoms with durable spun poly fabric, and an interior pocket for a laptop. The notebooks are on a high-quality 70-pound paper and feature an anti-scuff laminate cover with a super-soft matte feel.

Mostly, though, they look cool, right? Right.


Colorblock

Pop of pink

Cool shapes