Anne Nowak

Before I left Copenhagen, I went to go visit my new, extended tribe at Alhambra & Sons for a second time. There was one artist in the studio whose space I was very drawn to - you can see some photos of her spot in this blog post. I wasn't able to meet her the first time I visited but I was able to meet her this time around.

Her name is Anne Nowak and her work is: oh, so fantastic.

Interesting fact: the studio that I saw a week before my second visit was not the same studio that I walked into this second time around. There was new work everywhere and there was a productive energy that you could feel was charging the space.

I was originally interested in talking to Anne about some cyanotypes that she had made called 'Dead People's Flowers.' They are beautiful prints created with the process of her going to graveyards and collecting flowers that were thrown out after they had wilted or died. I wanted to purchase one if I could - turns out that she wasn't selling them quite yet because she had some shows the collection was going to tour. (It was recently featured in NYC at Armory Week and has since been gaining a lot of interest.)

There was also another piece that I was interested in taking home with me and it was that of a moon. I loved this piece the moment I saw it and wanted very much to make it a part of my life.

This is a White Moon print from Danish artist, Anne Nowak, and you can purchase it here.

Coincidently, Anne was producing her print, Haze, and was planning on making some White Moons as well. I asked her where I could buy her print and she told me the name of some stores but then offered for me to purchase directly from her. More often than not, anytime you are able to buy directly from an artist, it benefits them more than if you were to go through a store - so, of course I said yes. 

We talked quite a bit and she went on to make her first 'White Moon' of two that afternoon. 

Prepping for 'White Moon.'

Anne Nowak inspecting her 'White Moon.'

I started to talk to her more about her recent flood of productiveness and she explained to me that she was just so inspired by NASA's photography of planets and space that she had to do something about it. I know the feeling. When you're inspired, you have to ride that energy otherwise you lose it and it leaves you to wallow in regret for a while. 

Anne showing me her 'Black Moon' print where the whole process is reversed.

Prototypes of work where you can see her inspiration take effect. What I would do to have these, I do not know!

When Anne decided to work on the print I would take home with me, it got really quiet. During the making of the first moon, she was describing all of the components that were going into it: the spray paint, the kind of paper she used, her template, etc. but the entire time this moon was in production, there was a mysterious cloud that silenced the both of us.

Anne preparing to wrap up my 'White Moon' on the bottom right.

We looked at it after it was done and compared it to the first one.

"It's darker in its energy," she said. "Maybe it's because I was making it for you."

I laughed. I am known to have interest in dark energy so I'm glad she was able to pick up on that. It was almost as if she felt who I was and translated it into one of her many versions of her moons. Fascinating, no?

This art piece is something I will cherish and always keep close - not only because it is visually pleasing but also because of the story that comes with it. I fundamentally believe that as much as we are automating a lot of services through technology, we as humans will crave craftsmanship and personal interaction as time goes on. So, if you haven't already, find some artists, spend time with them, and invest in their craft. You may learn a thing or two about your own skills but they may also reveal things about you that you may not know.

Moral of the story is that Anne Nowak is a fantastic artist and it was so lovely to meet her and spend time with her in her studio space. Follow her on Instagram and check out her work on her site

Service Design Notes: More and more, people are wanting to know how something is made rather than just being given product. To demonstrate process is a great way to design services because there is an underlying educational component the service receiver is also receiving. It keeps users engaged throughout the process and the end service that is being received feels more satisfactory and goal-like.

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An Extended Art Community

Do you have a tribe?

Throughout my experiences in my adult life (so far), I belonged to many tribes when I started my career. As I get older, some tribes have faded and I'm glad for it because I think it spread my relationships way too thin. After pivoting my career early on (you can read a little bit about it in this blog post), I began to identify myself into two tribes: UX/Service Design and Letterpress/Art Makers. These are broad categories and there are sub-tribes beneath these trees but the point is that I found them and I am never letting go. 

If you don't have a tribe that you identify with, I encourage you to seek one out. Community is the only way to collectively survive as humans and I am ever so thankful for mine.

Before coming out to Denmark, I did some research into these communities that exist in Copenhagen and found a letterpress artist named Megan Adie whose work I found really interesting. I wanted to meet her so I reached out. Unfortunately, she was at a printmaking residency in Basel (such a good excuse to not be available!) but she was kind enough to invite me to her collaborative space where, in concept, it was just like Spudnik Press where I currently teach letterpress. I respect Spudnik's business model very much so I was even more excited and determined to pay a visit.

Having spent a few days to myself, I was eager to meet some people so I headed over to Alhambra & Sons and felt those jittery feelings you get when you're going to a dinner party where you don't know most of the guests.

The result from these kinds of events can be:
1) Meh. The food was good but I'll probably never see those people again; or
2) I can't believe it took so long to meet these people. Where have they been all my life?! 

So which one was it? 2!! It was 2!!!! 

From left to right: Julie, Hanne, and Fie

These lovely ladies welcomed me in, fed me lunch in the truest Danish fashion, and we chatted about all things art, culture, politics, you name it. I find it cognitively fascinating that those who choose to take part in certain mediums tend to show interest in similar topics of conversation and values. I could feel the passion of these women as they talked about the current state of Danish politics and I could see the love they had for their craft as they allowed me to watch them work. 

Fie + Julie @ Kit Couture

Fie and Julie work for Kit Couture which is a new company that offers wonderful knitting kits for those who love to knit. I, myself, could never actually figure out the patience for knitting but I know a dear friend who does so I purchased a set of needles for her. The concept of the company is brilliant and very well branded. They haven't shipped out to the US yet but I brought some cards along to hopefully spark some orders. 

Hanne Zachariassen @ Miss Asphalt

Hanne is a fashion designer who runs Miss Asphalt where she creates clothes from found fabrics and does a lot of experimenting with her patterns. She also runs workshops for those who want to learn how to sew and you can feel her passion oozing through her stitches. 

I had a great time here and I definitely will not forget these girls. I'm going to visit again before I leave to say my goodbyes but I'm so happy to say that they are an extended art community for me here in Copenhagen. Another piece of home.

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Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Insight: Having no responsibility to answer to someone for at least 8 hours a day allows you to calibrate your compass to rediscover your truth north. 

I love art, design, and architecture. The letter I received from myself, sent by my high school english teacher 5 years after my senior year, told me that if I didn't have these things in my life, I needed to do something about it. It was this letter that led me to attend art school for my graduate studies and commit to a journey filled with perspective, discipline, conceptual thought, and craftsmanship. 

Throughout the years, I must admit that I became jaded with the endless politics and ladder climbing of the art world. The superficiality and unfiltered representation/celebration of presented work at various shows that was questionable at times created a spiraling negative lens of which I chose to respond with rejection and retraction. I lost my desire to see the treasures that exist in the pursuance of creating something with an idea/conversation in mind and for this realization, I have to thank The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

From its location and architecture build, this museum is a beautiful Mecca of carefully curated work that has a vast amount of people from all over the world traveling to experience its environment and all that it contains. I noticed the colorful array of people who I entered the museum with and I had the strangest feeling that I was at home. 'Home' is a word which its definition has constantly been morphing throughout my life - I still can't tell you what it fully means to me but I can tell you that it is the word I want to use to describe that moment.

During my graduate studies, one of the things that I had the chance to do was take a trip to New York with some professors in our painting department. It was winter and there were many galleries and museums planned for the trip but the most memorable space scheduled was the Dia:Beacon. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (LMMA) is not too different from how the Dia:Beacon is constructed. Here are the reasons why:

1. They both take a considerable amount of time and planning to visit

It is not an easy task to show up at both of these museums. What I mean by that is that it's not some place where you can pop in for an hour or two and then go shopping at H&M down the street when you feel you've had enough art for the day. There is a particular place and purpose for these kinds of museums as well but both Dia:Beacon and LMMA do not fall into that category. 

Why is this important?
By situating a place where the commute is specific and at least 40 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of a city does a few things. It prepares your mind and body for what you are about to encounter. There is something beautifully quiet about riding a train outside of a city and walking towards a space where you are about to be in close proximity to thoughtful work. By constructing a journey such as this, work that is going to be shown does not need to compete with other things that are vying for your attention. It forces you to be dedicated. To listen. To watch. To have a conversation with and about what is being shown. To be successful in what most art work is trying to nudge you to do: self-reflect on the subject matter at hand.

UX notes: By constructing an experience that is not as easily spoon-fed to someone, there is activity and intentionality to finding the goal you have to offer. Through this activity, there is already a sense of community in those who achieve this goal. In addition, during the research process, there is more information offered and time to be prepared with online content of what you are about to be rewarded with.


2. Distinct architecture defines your experience

My thesis dealt with a lot of architecture comments - mostly around the fact that you can design your workspace to achieve the goals you would like in your organization. I am not an architect but I am an interaction designer, and it is important to note that while interacting with things both digital and physical, your environment sets the tone and determines the potential of your experience.

Why is this important?
Your physical body is something that we aren't normally in tune with while we are experiencing something. Of course, when you are visiting a monument or sculptures that comment on your actual human size, you are aware of how you feel in that given moment but what I am eluding to are how our bodies subconsciously move about a space and what it prepares for while exploring content. 

While Dia:Beacon gives you its entire landscape so that you can prepare your entire visit, LMMA does something quite different. It suggests a hint of what you are about to experience, almost like a secret passageway, and takes you on a journey. I have to admit, I was a exhausted after the first few exhibitions because I was not prepared for how vastly large this space was but while putting into perspective the secrets that LMMA was trying to uncover based on its landscape, it was enjoyable in its intense exploration.

UX notes: There is a balance between how much you prepare a user for and how many secrets you can expose throughout someone's journey. It is important to use different methods to prepare someone for how much of a journey they will embark on and design it in a way that it does not exhaust the human from quitting altogether. 


3. The work is phenomenal and relevant

I commented earlier on the fact that I was tired of the art world showing things that were questionable at times. This is where curators shine. Just like any industry, an expert's responsibility is to know what currently exists, how the current culture defines what is relevant right now and projects the future to be, and what work has been crafted to communicate and comment seamlessly to both history and the current state of time. LMMA did not disappoint when it came to the work it chose to show and the exhibitions it created for visitors during the month of July 2015. 

Why is this important?
I believe that the art world's responsibility is not only to show relevant work that drives people to consider what it is happening in their current world but to also push into the future of where a certain medium can go. Without the knowledge of historical work done in a particular medium, there is the dangerous ability to create something that has already been done which could potentially be deemed as irrelevant. Celebrating work that has created an impact on industry mediums is a wonderful thing - and LMMA does just that.

UX notes: Just like painters, printers, sculptors, etc. do their homework in art history so that they can create something that comments on past artists while pushing the boundaries of their mediums, experience creators must do the same. Benchmarking off of other sites, apps, services, etc. is one of the best ways to push the UX industry into the future. Additionally, without a doubt, content is king in all contexts.

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