Bottle Cap Cottage

Russian pensioner Olga Kostina has turned her tiny cottage in the remote town of Kamarchaga in the Siberian taiga, into architectural macrame. Inspired by traditional motifs, Olga has painstakingly nailed over 30,000 plastic bottle caps onto her house to create pixelated patterns, and plans to continue adding more until every wall is completely covered.

Commenter “wendywonderland” says it best:

“Our magic comes from within, inspired by the world we inhabit and the resources we stumble across. How to teach people to listen to the small voice that guides them to the plastic bottle caps, and allows them to be viewed as beautiful? ”

How to teach people, indeed. Thanks, Olga!

How would you transform your house into livable art?

(via designboom)

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10 Rules for Students and Teachers (and Life)

“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.”

This beautiful and quite moving list titled Some Rules for Students and Teachers is often attributed to John Cage, who passed away twenty years ago this week.

The list was actually created by artist and educator Sister Corita Kent as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968 and posted as the official art department rules at the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent.

The list was popularized by Cage, whom the tenth rule cites directly, and often attributed to him.

Have a thoughtful weekend as you mull these over, readers.

For more of Cage’s musings on life and art, see the excellent biography Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists 

Where Do Good Ideas Come From? The Twilight Zone!

“Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized.”

In this short clip from the vintage TV special Writing for TelevisionRod Serling, creator of the cult-classic The Twilight Zone, articulates the nature of creativity in just 64 seconds:

{clip via {Brain Pickings}

“Ideas come from the Earth. They come from every human experience that you’ve either witnessed or have heard about, translated into your brain in your own sense of dialogue, in your own language form. Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized. Ideas are probably in the air, like little tiny items of ozone.”

When you feel like you can’t create, when there’s a death grip deep inside your chest that is keeping you inert (I dunno, that’s what it feels like to me…) remember these words of wisdom from the Terral Manifesto:

“You may not be a Picasso or Mozart but you don’t have to be. Just create to create. Create to remind yourself you’re still alive. Make stuff to inspire others to make something too. Create to learn a bit more about yourself.”

You will never be sorry that you got up and created something, no matter how small. I promise. 

Photography Crash Course: 10 Quick Tips

Photography Crash Course Series
photo copyright {Serenity Bolt Photography}
It’s time to turn that dial! You know what I’m talking about….that safe little “A” on your camera where you’ve been hiding out, or perhaps you’re more of the adventurous type and have scooted it over to “P” a few times? Well, it’s time to step it up. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to start experimenting with your camera. It’s not like there’s any risk involved- no one has to know how many crappy photos you deleted before you got that one amazing shot!

Here are just a few quick tips to get you started:

1. Shoot, shoot, shoot. I remember watching an interview with Jay Maisel, a world-renowned street photographer, and that was the one thing that he stressed the most. You have to get out there, every day if possible, and just take a lot of pictures. It increases the chance that you’ll photograph something spectacular. There has never been a day that I’ve taken my camera out with me for the day and regretted it. You’ll see the world differently, I promise.

2. Count to 10. Take the time to frame your shots. Don’t shoot with the intention of cropping later. You’ll save time, and you won’t lose any image quality by zooming and cropping away at it in post-processing. As war photographer Robert Capa said, “zoom with your feet.”

3. Pay attention to lighting. Don’t shoot in direct sunlight, especially if you’re photographing people. It’s really unflattering! Try to pay attention to the quality and direction of the light around you. Late afternoon and early morning are great times to shoot. Mid-day (when the sun is harshest) is not so great.

4. Learn the basics of exposure. ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. You can print and laminate these cheat-sheet cards to keep in your camera bag. Once you get these down, that “M” button will be your friend because it means you have total control over your photographs. After all….you’re smarter than your camera, right?!

Example of a slow shutter speed:

Example of a high shutter speed:

Now about aperture…

Things you should know about your aperture:

  • The aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken.When you hit a button to take a picture, a hole opens to allow the camera to  capture the scene — the aperture you set effects the size of that hole. The larger the hold, the more light goes in, the smaller the hole, the less light.
  •   Aperture is measured in f-stops (you will see it referred to as f/number, like f/2.8, f/4, f/22, etc.).
  • Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens. Simply put, it doubles or halves the amount of light coming into your camera.
  • The one tricky thing you MUST remember — large apertures (where more light is let in) have SMALLER f-stops, and small apertures (less light) have LARGER f-stops. In context: f/2.8 lets in much more light than f/22.
  • The depth of field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.
  • Large depth of field means that most or all of your image (meaning both foreground and the background) is in focus, or sharp. For this effect, you want a larger f-stop, meaning a smaller aperture or less light getting in.

Most of the background here is in focus, giving it a large depth of field and a small aperture:

Shallow depth of field means that only a part of the image is in focus, and the rest will be blurry or fuzzy. For this effect, you want a smaller f-stop, meaning a larger aperture or more light.

Example, the background is blurry, leaving only the subject in focus, which is a shallow DOF and a larger aperture:

One way to keep all this straight in your head: small f-stop numbers mean small DOF, and large f-stop numbers mean large DOF (depth of field).

…and now moving on, a few more things to consider:

 4.  Check the background. Make sure there’s nothing “growing” out of your subject’s head….like a tree or a telephone pole.

5. Hold steady! This one might seem obvious, but it’s a good idea to get in the habit of holding your camera with one hand supporting it from underneath. This helps to keep it nice and level, as well as reduce camera shake.

6. Pay attention to composition. Start with a few articles on composition. Learn the rules from more experienced photographers. There is a wealth of information out there- use it!

7. Forget the flash! Learn to take pictures in low light by using the right combination of high ISO (this is not complicated, higher numbers mean a brighter picture) shutter speed, and aperture (lower is better for low-light situations because it lets in more light). If you must use a flash, use a diffuser (this can be as simple as holding a napkin above the flash). Your subjects will thank you for it, I promise.

8. Study the greats. Identify what is is about their work that draws you to it. It’s not a bad idea to try and copy the style of photographers that you admire. You can learn a lot by trying to figure out what motivated them to get the shots you love. You’ll find that your own style emerges on its own after a while.

9. Move around. Do you want every photo to look like it was taken from the same point of view (about yay high…er…exactly the height of your face!) Crouch down, lean over, experiment with angles…it’s waaay more fun!

10. Experiment away! Remember, it doesn’t cost anything to go crazy with your camera. Take a hundred pictures of the same bathtub with different exposures (just don’t show them to anybody). It’s the best way to learn your camera inside and out.

11. Bonus tip: Focus on the details. Don’t just look at the big picture. Sometimes it’s the little things that capture the feeling of a place or situation. This is also a good way to make color stand out in your photos. I love to take vivid close-ups- it never fails to turn the everyday into something extraordinary.

Already got a few awesome shots you’d like to make prints of? Learn how to make unique canvas prints at home with my easy How-To Guide: Canvas Photo Transfer.

A few resources:

Digital Photography School is a great website with a huge stockpile of articles on every subject imaginable.

Also, check out this helpful (and hilarious) video 50 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS IN FIFTEEN MINUTES

Kelby Training is a subscription-only site by photoshop guru Scott Kelby. For 25 bucks a month, you can watch as many videos as you want. I subscribed for a month, watched a ton of videos, and unsubscribed! This is entirely acceptable.

Happy Shooting!

xo Serenity

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

The Burning House: What Would You Take?

If your house was on fire, what would you grab?

This is precisely the question that Foster Huntington asked himself, first photographing the belongings that he would take, and then asking a few friends to do the same. His experiment soon turned into a blog called The Burning House, and later became a book after he traveled around the country collecting submissions from as many diverse sources as possible.

“Today, developed countries are consuming more than ever before. This culture of consumption is often fueled by people’s desire to define themselves by the

possessions they amass. The Burning House: What Would You Take? takes a different approach to personal

definition. By removing easily replaceable objects and instead focusing on things unique to them, people are able to capture their personalities in a photograph.”

From the introduction to the book

Name: Miguel

Age: 36

Location: Porto

Occupation: Bike shop owner

List:

The picture you gave me and the leather box we found together.

Mom and dads old camera and mom and dads old leather bag.

The shoes I can’t live without.

Your smell #1 and your smell #2.

The notebook where I draw while you laugh.

My iPod to listen to beautiful tunes while thinking in our next home.

Name: Brody

Age: 6

Location: New Hampshire

Occupation: A kid

List:

Wedgehead

Garfeild cup

Lego helicopter

Bumblebee Transformer

Chip

yellow belt

piggybank

wallet

weaving

(not pictured) Lego Camera used to take photo

Name: Kate Molins

Age: 26

Location: London, UK

Occupation: Clapper / Loader

List:

Buster Kitten – 2 yr old cat

My mum’s ashes

Photo album / scrap book

iPhone

Grandmother’s watch

Dad’s watch

My watch – 16th birthday present from my mum

Macbook

Passport

8mm Camera – 24th birthday present from all my friends

Dad’s “I Love Tits” Mug – in small print, “from the British Ornithological Society”

Limited edition GONZO, Hunter S. Thompson photo book – 21st birthday present from my mum

Lemmy, Buster Kitten’s brother

My uncle’s old Leica CL

Diary & notebook of VALUABLE ideas & info from the past year

Portable hard drive with millions of photos and other important things

Name: Joshua Lee Bacon

Age: 20

Location: Boone, Iowa

Occupation: Student

List:

Favorite pants.

Favorite underwear.

iPhone.

Box full of all my prints and negatives.

Buffalo box full of treasures and special snapshots.

Passport.

Chinese cigars.

Some cash.

Photo of my grandparents.

Photo of a friend.

Field notes and pens.

Vivitar and telephoto lens.

I would want to take more records, but the first one I would grab would be this Envy Corps 7 inch.

Some old letters.

Wallet.

Name: Brenda Bell

Age: 60

Location: Pinetop, Arizona White Mountains (wild fire country May/June)

Occupation: Homemaker

List:

My dog, Baby Val and treats for him

My husband Larry and treats for him

Peanut butter and crackers, peanuts, candy and gum

Bumblebee Transformer

A spork (spoon/fork)

Hand warmers

Wool hat

Lots of money (small dimensions) and change

Emergency first aid kit and zip lock bags

Matches

Name: Kristi Dahlstrom

Age: 27

Location: Germany

Occupation: Literature Teacher

List:

Great Aunt’s Violin (& Bow)

US Passport

Photograph of Siblings

2 Letters

Journal

New American Standard Bible

Rilke’s Book of Hours

T.S. Elliot Collected Poems

MacBook Pro

Black Flipflops

Name: Luca

Age: 42

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Occupation: Pricing analyst

List:

My collected writings

My Field Notes still to be used

My current notebook

the Midori Travellers Notebook On Writing by Stephen King

From Hell by Alan Moore

Important photographs

The stove moka I had for the past 10 years (because nothing looks as bad after a proper coffee)

The belt my dad had when he was in the army

The beret I had when I was in the army

Fountain pen and pencil, with my favourite brown ink

My grandad’s petrol lighter

Opinel knife Bookbinding tools

Reading glasses and sunglasses

iPhone 4S (used to take the picture)

Name: Alejandro Sosa

Age: 36

Location: Venezuela

Occupation: Technology consultant

List:

Everything is recoverable, except my daughter

weaving

(not pictured) Lego Camera used to take photo

Street Artist Megx Turns Germany Into Legoland

Bridge Transformed into Giant LEGO Bricks by German Street Artist MEGX

A standard-issue gray overpass was designed to look like giant LEGO bricks by MEGX, a street artist whose graffiti is worth checking out. The concrete 250-square-meter bridge in Germany was transformed from boring concrete into a real-life legoland creation.

Bridge Transformed into Giant LEGO Bricks by German Street Artist MEGX

photo by MEGX

Bridge Transformed into Giant LEGO Bricks by German Street Artist MEGX

Photo by Lukas Pauer

The Wuppertal, Germany bridge was not transformed overnight graffiti — authorities and sponsors helped MEGX create the giant mural over the course of four weeks. Which is still not a lot of time...

via {design milk}

Weekend Links + Fiction Photo

I took this photo last week on an empty backroad on Cape Cod. An old motel, a broken phone, a car…surely there is a story here.

It’s up to you to tell it.

Your submissions can be as long or short as you want. I’ll post the winning entry next week. I can’t wait to find out what happened here!

Now, some links for your weekend perusal:

  • Have you discovered Art.com? Every print imaginable…browse to your heart’s content! I almost felt like this deserved a post of its own, I love this site so much.
  • Pretty handpiece jewelry from Palomarie.
  • 20 ways to let go of regret.
  • There is something about the way that the modern and the ancient are seamlessly fused in this Spanish convent by architect David Closes that I can’t stop looking at.
  • English designer Isabel Knowles makes lovely handmade skirts, dresses and tops. I love all of them…and good news- she has both an etsy shop and a blog!
  • Wearelucky. “I decided to pass on my good luck to others by giving away £1,000 every day. I planned to give the money to complete strangers – someone different every time – and all I’d ask is that they’d do something positive with the cash. I didn’t just want to share the money; I wanted to share the responsibility that came with it. I would take a few photos, ask a few questions and build a gallery of Lucky people and stories.” Um, hello. Hi everyone. Right here.
  • Happy Birthday, E.B. White. The author of my favorite children’s book (no, not “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Trumpet of the Swan”) turned 113 this week. Here is a vintage animated film based on The Family That Dwelt Apart.
  • Did someone say glow-in-the-dark cupcakes?

Have a good weekend!

xo Serenity

How-To Guide: Canvas Photo Transfer

If you’re anything like me, you have a hard drive (or three) of photos waiting to be printed. Take matters into your own hands and do it right at home! Printing onto canvas turns your photos into unique pieces that you can’t get from a print shop. Each transfer is wonderfully and uniquely imperfect, which gives them a vintage look and feel.

For my first experiment, I used a color print of sunset at the “Sheep Shearer’s Union Hall” in Butte, Montana and a black-and-white print of a statue from Ta Prahm temple in Cambodia. I think it worked equally well for both, although next time I would definitely choose a color print with less detail.

Materials: A laser-printed copy of your photo, an 8×10 inch canvas board, a paintbrush, a jar of heavy gel gloss, and a spray bottle of water. Did I mention that this is really easy?

Step 1:   Print a copy of your photo using a laser printer. This is very important because the kind of ink from an ink-jet printer won’t work. I took mine to a copy shop and had them print out a copy (I just emailed it to myself and printed it from their computer). Remember that your image will print reversed, so if there are any words on it, make sure to print a “mirror copy.” You may notice, if you look carefully at my picture of the “Sheep Shearer’s Union” building, that I forgot to do this.

Step 2: Completely cover your canvas with a heavy coat of gel medium.

Step 3: Press the photo copy onto the canvas and let it dry completely. Make sure that you press it on really well and get all the air bubbles out. I went over it with another canvas board. Just leave the plastic wrap on the second board and rinse it off in the sink when you’re done. I let the color photo dry for about 3 hours, and left the black and white picture overnight as a test. I recommend overnight, or at least 6 hours. It came out much better and the paper was easier to peel without any of the transfer rubbing off.

Step 4: After your image is completely dry, spray the top with water. Don’t be afraid to douse it. It really needs to get wet in order for the paper to become loose enough to start peeling off. Once it starts peeling, you can calm down with the water, though. You don’t want to totally soak the board and end up warping it.  Rub the surface so that pieces of the paper start to come off and your image is be revealed! Doesn’t it look cool to see the image coming through? This step takes a lot of patience. It took me about 15-20 minutes to gently rub the paper off. If you get overzealous, the transfer will rub off in little chunks and once its gone, there’s no putting it back on. You can see that this happened quite a bit on the color image. I was much more careful the second time around.

Step 5 Also, once you’ve gotten as much of the paper off as you can, you’ll notice that there is still a light film over the canvas that you can’t seem to remove, no matter how much you spray it. The trick here is to let it dry, then wet just your fingers and rub the dry board. The last bit will come off. Be very gentle! I didn’t do this with the color print and as you can see, it’s much hazier. However, this is kind of a cool “instagram-ey” effect if that’s what you want to go for. PS- you might as well take off any nail polish that you happen to be wearing before beginning this project- as you can see, it won’t be staying on for long….

Step 6: Cover canvas with one more light coat of gel to seal the image.

I’m really happy with the way these came out! I definitely plan on experimenting with this a lot more. Have fun!

~*~ Serenity

Like this post? You may also be interested in How To Guide: Make Your Own Chalkboard and 10 Quick Photography Tips.

Inspired by {A Beautiful Mess}

Literary Map of San Francisco

As I prepare to head for San Francisco next month, I was excited to discover this typographic literary map in puzzle form, illustrated by artist Ian Huebert! I think it would look pretty great framed, yes?

Here is a complete list of authors and works:

Thanks to {Brain Pickings} for this one.

Izziyana Suhaimi Embroidered Artwork

I am so impressed by Singaporean artist Izziyana Suhaimi‘s work. She merges  embroidery techniques into her own pencil drawings and watercolors, blurring an absolutely beautiful line between skilled handicraft and fine art.

“I don’t think modern art should be a certain way. The beauty of art is in its variety and diversity,” says the artist in a recent interview. “In everything and not just art, boundaries are getting blurred and limitations are being pushed.”

Izziyana first began developing this technique while doing a school project on medical illustrations and soon began incorporating the craft into the majority of her work.

(images from here) Follow her on Tumblr here,