Archive for the ‘Zaum Moments’ Category

Published Again!

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

About six months ago, I responded to a call out from Chronicle Books to submit Instagram photographs for a book they were publishing. I didn’t expect anything from it but decided to take the “Be in it to win it” attitude. I hadn’t received any sort of confirmation from the publishers so presumed I hadn’t been accepted.

At the time of submission, I was about to move from Paris to Manchester and had no fixed address so I gave them my brother’s bakery address. So neither of us were really expecting a parcel addressed to me to arrive at his shop. Inside the mysterious package were two copies of This Is Happening, featuring one of my photographs.

Now I'm a published photographer!

Now I’m a published photographer!

I am particularly thrilled to have my photograph printed in a book produced by one of my favourite publishing companies. Now I wonder if they would like my book about Paris…

How Ugly is Ugly?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Very ugly.

Wow.

Wow.

Just in case you wanted to see in detail the hideousness of the medal that I ran 42km for.

Marathon Completed!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, writer of words, traveller of countries, blonde of hair, am now officially a runner of marathons. I DID IT! I am currently experiencing a sense of complete personal pride. In my mind, I am the fittest, most talented, most generally genius person in the world. It’ll pass, but for a few hours I am going to feel really bloody good about myself. And I think that’s fair enough – I just ran 42.195 kilometres in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds.

The experience was extremely rewarding – as my group (we were separated into groups by expected completion times) set off from the starting line, I felt a huge surge of excitement and general “wow, this is happening!” as I joined thousands of feet hitting the pavements of Paris. The weather was PERFECT. Sunshine, clear skies and no wind. It was the wind I was concerned about – there was none of that today! It was cold at the start but by the time we got moving it got quite warm. We headed down the Champs Elysées, past the Louvre and through the centre of Paris before hitting the Bois de Vincennes, returning back through Paris, past the Eiffel Tower, through the Bois de Bologne and back to the Arc de Triomphe. Not a bad place to run. Thankfully, Paris is nice and flat so there were no major hills to climb.

While the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful, the toilet situation wasn’t – there were portaloos set up at various points along the course, but by the time my slower group reached them they were all disgusting. Really not pleasant. I quickly ducked into a café along the route and smiled a “I’m running a marathon which is a really long way and you should DEFINITELY let me use your loo” smile and it worked. In and out like a flash, I was. Now I shall move on from discussing my ablutions.

I felt reasonably strong for most of the course and have potentially become addicted to sports-energy-goo-things. They’re DELICIOUS! I was eating chocolate flavoured goop whilst running through Paris in the sunshine! How great is that! The last five kilometres were a little bit extremely tough as my thighs were screaming at me, my feet were questioning my motives and my original plan on telling myself that five kilometres is the shortest distance I will ever let myself run in the mornings on my everyday jogs didn’t really work. Five kilometres became REALLY LONG and as I watched other runners dropping off, getting cramp and walking I doubted whether or not I would make it. This is starting to sound like a soap opera. Anyway, I didn’t stop, I popped another energy goo and as I hit the final kilometre the adrenaline kicked in as I realised that I was about to finish running a marathon. LET’S RUN FASTER! Without any consultation with my brain, my legs started working harder and I crossed the finish line in an impressive non-jogging pace. Hardly a sprint, but still. I was impressed.

Somewhat pathetically, I almost cried as I crossed the line, I was that glad it was over and that proud of my achievement. No tears were physically shed but they were in there somewhere. I collected my horribly green tshirt and my ridiculously hideous medal before walking very, very slowly to the metro. Walking down stairs in currently a challenge. Yes, the medal is awful – it is a huge rectangular thing with very poorly shaped text and images and some terrible colour choices. Whoever designed it needs to go back to design school. But still. I have a medal! WOO! It’s like winning the Olympics.

So I am now looking for another marathon to run! But if I do it I will have to take my amazing friends who met me before the marathon and positioned themselves at multiple points along the route waving flags and cheering for me as I passed. Knowing that they were waiting for me spurred me on and I feel so grateful for having such wonderful, supportive friends. Merci, mes amies! Vous êtes les BOMBS! A super huge thank you to Becky for your artistic sign-making skills and for being heavily pregnant yet willing to stand outside in the cold for hours waiting for me to run past. You’re either crazy or amazing.

And just to make this sound even more like an Oscar acceptance speech, I also would like to thank my friend Brett for making an unexpected, unrequested but ultimately generous and life changing gesture of sponsoring me so that I could afford to run in the marathon. Without him, I probably would have said “Bah, too expensive!” and never gone ahead with it. Then there were my fantastic parents who also helped me out and my friend Sonia who insisted on donating to the “Make Jess Run a Marathon” fund. And finally to my cousin, Sam for his kind shoe donation. I would like to recommend that everyone buys Mizuno shoes. They’ll get you across the line!

So my brain isn’t functioning properly, my legs are so, so, so stiff and I’m not sure I can stand up from this chair. But that was one of the best days of my life. Can I do it again?

Onward, Ho!

Monday, November 26th, 2012

For my 600th blog post (whoa.) I would like to share with you an excerpt from a text that has hit close to home with me, as I continuously struggle with the questions of:

  • What the hell am I doing with my life?
  • Where am I going to live next year?
  • Why do I bother trying to be a writer/creator/sock creature maker/lino-printer etc when I am clearly lacking any real skill/talent/ability etc?

I found this excerpt in an article by Oliver Burkeman on the School of Life website and it just makes me feel so much better about EVERYTHING. I suspect it will ring true for a few other people as well.

The bookshelves heave with advice on how to feel confident in social settings, or motivated to take exercise, how to get inspired for creative projects, etcetera. But what if you just accepted that you felt afraid, or unmotivated, or uninspired, and went fearfully, unmotivatedly, uninspiredly onward?

‘Give up on yourself,’ wrote the late Japanese psychologist Shoma Morita, whose deadpan approach provides a refreshing respite from the legions of grinning positive thinkers. ‘Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be, and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.’

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Hello Etsy <--- Said With Dutch Accent

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Last night I returned home from a four day trip to the Netherlands. My travels were dual-purposed:

  1. To attend the Hello Etsy 2012 conference
  2. It was a good excuse to visit my family.

I always feel very at home in the Netherlands – perhaps it is because all of a sudden I am surrounded by people who are tall, blonde and rosy-cheeked like me instead of the short, skinny Frenchies I hang out with these days. I can’t speak Dutch although from growing up listening to my Grandparents speak to one another I seem to have an ear for the language. I can’t tell you exactly what is being said but I can follow very basic conversations. The human brain is an amazing thing.

Maybe it is these red shutters, but I feel at home in Holland

Anyway, I spent most of my time with my family in Gouda (it’s pronounced Gggccchhhh-ow-der not G-oo-da), visiting the city, driving to the apparently mountainous ‘dunes’ (they was slightly raised patches of ground) near the coast, and eating gevulde koek. On Sunday we went to Delft where I didn’t buy any blue and white porcelain but I did watch people sail boats around and around a course in a small area in a canal. My cousin, Judit was one of the organisers of the event and she tried to explain to me the complexities of the event. It certainly looked technically difficult and I definitely couldn’t have done it. Crazy Dutch.

Delft canal

You can’t get more Dutch than this – canal, boats, houses, Vermeer clouds.

On Saturday I woke up very early and caught three trains to Eindhoven for the Hello Etsy 2012 conference – a day of talks by small creative business owners run by the good folk from Etsy. It was linked with Dutch Design Week and there were many interesting events happening in Eindhoven. None of my family could understand WHY it was in Eindhoven, but that’s where it was so that’s where I went.

Hello Etsy

Hi there.

The conference was attended by lots of fellow crafters who sell their products on the Etsy website. There were about 200 of us and we listened to various speakers including Janine Vangool from Uppercase Magazine; Satish Kumar, a former monk who now travels the globe encouraging peace and environmental responsibility (he also walked from India to America via Moscow, London and Paris (yes, walked) carrying boxes of tea to give to the heads of government to encourage them to drink a cup of tea and have a bit of a think before starting nuclear war); and Piet Hein Eek, a Dutch designer whose atelier the conference was being held in.

Piet Hein Eek workshop

The AMAZING workshop at Piet Hein Eek

While all of the speakers had something interesting to say, I gained the most insight from Janine as she spoke about the processes and changes she has gone through throughout her life in order to get to her current position as a magazine and book publisher. It was reassuring to hear that it isn’t an overnight occurrence and that she has changed jobs and directions many times throughout her career to be where she is now. It made me realise that over the past two years I have been telling people about this book I am writing about Paris (yet honestly haven’t really started yet) and am trying to attempt various other projects instead. But the idea of having my words printed in a beautifully bound book with nice typesetting and photographs makes every inch of me tingle with excitement.

Janine provided the advice of doing what you love and the fact that you can’t succeed or fail unless you try. This is a significant pitfall in my current way of doing things – I don’t try. I sit around hoping that some magical fairy will make something happen for me on my behalf instead of getting out there and making things happen. This has to change.

She also said that there is always room for quality which I think was a lovely thing. You can tell from Uppercase that she has a great eye for quality and that the work she produces is made from the heart. This is something I aspire to do.

An overall feeling I gained from all of the speakers was that they were simply following whatever their heart and soul was telling them. Instead of producing products with a specific market in mind, they would make something that they liked, loved, wanted and the market would find a place for it.

Hello Etsy conference

Lots of interested listeners

The most popular speaker of the day was Satish Kumar – a cute, little, 70-something Indian ex-monk who made the hearts of the 90 per cent female crowd go gooey. He is a very impressive man with a strong will, amazing intelligence and a determined agenda to spread the idea of peace. He was also very human and approachable, not preaching to us but presenting the facts and encouraging us to follow our dreams and to focus on making the world a better place. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that everything in life has a place, including fear and doubt. It is just a matter of keeping these things in their place and not allowing them to control us. Very true.

I came away from the conference not having ‘networked’ as much as I set out to do but with a better understanding of creative business. It is a long journey and requires a lot of effort and work, all of which I believe I am capable and willing to do. I just need to get my butt into gear and do it.

Hello Etsy bag

Why, hi!

In The Beginning There Was Zaum…

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Today is Tuesday. It is the eleventh day of September in the year 2012. It is my Uncle’s birthday and yesterday it was my mother’s. Ten days ago I turned 27 and I am 354 days away from being 28. Today I decided enough is enough and I am taking my head out of the clouds and putting my butt into gear and I am going to make my business, Zaum, what I originally intended it to be. Something amazing.

When I first set up Zaum I had high hopes of completely transforming my life, quitting my steady university job and starting something on my own. I did it to some extent and if I hadn’t decided to go out on my own maybe I wouldn’t be sitting in my apartment in Paris writing this. Perhaps I would have eventually moved up to a more senior marketing role, received a pay increase and taken four weeks of annual leave every year.

I certainly wouldn’t have spent 2010 wondering what the hell I had just done. I wouldn’t have worked at UWA two days a week and I therefore wouldn’t have been able to get an apartment in a residency located in a 13th century convent. I wouldn’t have moved to Paris and I wouldn’t have eaten this:

Caramel tart

One of many cakes I have tried.

I wouldn’t have made friends with crazy italians, mad scientists or staple-artists, and I wouldn’t know the joy of running through Paris at 7.30am and feeling like I have the entire city to myself.

Basically, today I have come to a realisation that while I have in no way wasted my last year and a half in Paris, I think it is time for me to move on the Phase Two: Zaum in Paris. Before it was just Jess – now Zaum has come to stay and is going to blossom over the next few months into something wonderful. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what that is, but in the last five hours much brainstorming, butcher’s paper and black pen action has occurred and things are moving.

The reason why I am writing this is to spread the word in the hope that everyone reading this will support me. I know that I am not one to push myself along and am generally inclined to suggest I give up now and get a “real” job. ARG!!! So I am asking you all to kick me, slap me or throw buckets of cold water on me if I start to turn away from this.

I currently feel like a boxer preparing to enter the ring – I even want to jump up and down with my fists held up in front of my body, ready to take the first swing. Bring it on! Zaum is ready to rrruuummmmbbbbblllleeeeeee!!!

“Good Things Come Out of Incomprehension”

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Today I discovered Maira Kalman, an illustrator and author who has a carefree and positive aspect on life, work and happiness. I watched her give a TED talk and felt particularly inspired by her easy and simple way of working. Her comment, “Good things come out of incomprehension” stuck with me as I often feel myself feeling particularly stupid and lacking knowledge when really it isn’t necessarily my fault that I don’t know the political history of a certain country or the entire work collection of an 18th century author. Her illustrations are funny yet reflective of the real world. You should check her out.

Inspiration

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

When my brother was visiting me in Paris, we went and saw a Stefan Sagmeister exhibition at the Les Arts Decoratifs gallery. This is one of my favourite galleries in Paris as the exhibitions focus on contemporary movements in fashion, media and art – areas of great interest to me.

Stefan Sagmeister is an Austrian designer who pushes and explores the use of design in some fascinating ways. He has gained a good enough reputation that he is able to really pursue his love for design in ways that many other people dream of doing. He is also a very intelligent and thoughtful guy and has presented numerous times for TED – a series of talks from people of various backgrounds on a wide variety of topics. One of Sagmeister’s talks was about a year-long sabbatical that he took in Bali where he stopped working for a year and focussed purely on idea development and exploring new design concepts. The personal and professional benefits that he gained from this sabbatical are quite amazing and it has made me think about how I am spending my time in Paris.

This past year was a bit of a sabbatical for myself – I didn’t work and I attempted to explore new avenues of creativity. However I ran into a problem that Sagmeister experienced himself; he had taken a sabbatical a few years prior and had felt it a failure as he went into it without a plan. He thought having all of the free time in the world would instantly provide him with the freedom to create new ideas and yet it turned out not to be the case. This is a problem that I have been experiencing and I am thinking of following Sagmeister’s lead and developing a structure for my time so that I actually achieve things in the next year. I am a person who loves structure and boundaries and I think this way of working would suit me well. While I love being able to do things whenever I want, I also find myself craving routine and regularity. Setting myself a timetable for when I focus on writing, when I make sock creatures, when I develop new ideas, would provide me with the basic structure I need to get things done. With this in place, who knows what great things I will develop in 2012. Perhaps that award winning book I keep talking about…

Art vs Science

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I realise I have forgotten to mention that I am soon to be a world-famous sock artist who has exhibited in one of Paris’s hippest joints. Yes, that’s right. I’m going to be putting my socks on show at Café A – the hippest, grooviest, BoBo-est Café/gallery space in Paris that happens to be connected to the Récollets. When I first found out that I was going to be moving to an artists’ residency, I thought that maybe I would get to go to some cool exhibition opening. It never crossed my mind that I would have the opportunity to put something IN the exhibition for arty French people to come and look at.

A few weeks ago, all of the scientists and artists living at the Récollets were invited to submit ideas for an exhibition with the subject of “Art vs Science.” I jumped at the opportunity to exhibit work in Paris and submitted the idea of making a science laboratory out of socks. My idea has been accepted and for the past two weeks I have been making microscopes, scalpels and coffee cups (scientists need caffeine) out of socks. This Friday the exhibition opens with a vernissage (aka free wine) at 7pm and apparently lots of ‘cool’ people have been invited. This makes me nervous. I thought this thing would be little and no one would come to it but it seems it maybe actually get some sort of turn out. Terrifying.

Anyway, I still have some work to do on it before I post photos but I will let you know how it goes. In the mean time, anyone would happens to be in Paris this Friday night should come!

Art or Science Poster

Cool.

NaNoWriMo 4Eva

Monday, November 28th, 2011

I just jumped around the room like a five year old because

I did it!

I have just typed my 50,000th word in my NaNoWriMo challenge and I am so proud of myself. I have wanted to do this for a few years now and never thought it would actually be achievable and I have proved myself wrong. I now have a working manuscript for something – what that thing is, I do not know. But there’s potential for a book to eventuate and that’s something I haven’t had before. Having my words printed and bound is something I really want to have happen in my lifetime and I am now one step closer.

So what now? I still have two more days until NaNoWriMo finishes and I am going to continue writing until the end. However, once it is all over I don’t know what to do with my words. Print out the 90+ pages and use it as a door stop? Perhaps I can take up origami or build a paper-maché Eiffel Tower replica. I have had lots of people ask if they can read it and I am somewhat inclined to give it to a lot of people and force them to provide me with real feedback. But I know the answers will be friendly and polite and won’t really offer much guidance for where to go next. No, I think the next stage is to read back through what I have written and really think about what my Book o’ Paris is going to be about. It is currently a hodge-podge of random notes and it has no flow or style. But that’s ok – that’s what editing and re-writing is all about. I’m just glad I have 50000 words down on paper (well, in Word) and I can now officially say, “I am writing a book about Paris.” when people ask me what I do here. It sounds much better than, “Umm… not a lot.”

Nanowrimo