Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Seasons Greetings: A Blank Card inspired by Taylor Swift

Yes, I love Taylor Swift and her catchy tunes and her amazing music videos! And no, I don't know when it all happened. But I am glad it did. Here is a little video card from me to you:

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Video Light Painting

Light painting photography and videography invoke a sense wonder in me, because they capture what my eyes cannot. Everything is no longer fleeting, maybe just undetected. And the darkened backdrop and built-in anticipation conveniently add to the alchemy.

This is my entry to a video contest held by an induction lighting company to highlight the properties of their products, or just a good opportunity to wave some light bulbs around and practice this magic.

So, I did end up coming in 2nd place, but was denied the prize money, because the company effectively declared that I was not a citizen. Well, that is certainly news to me. Anyway, this was a poorly conceptualized, managed, and executed event. An utter debacle. First, they postponed the submission deadline for two months without any notice or explanation to the people (me) who worked very hard to meet the original deadline, giving unfair advantage to late submissions. Then, they altered their contest “rules” several times throughout to fit their own agenda and mistakes. Mistakes that were a direct consequence of the inherent flaws within the contest set-up, just to show how clueless they are about social media. The only things I learned about this company, other than the fact that their light bulbs are extremely fragile and can (and will) break/explode if you so much as lay it down on the table at the wrong angle, are that they have NO INTEGRITY and NO COMMON SENSE whatsoever. Never again. 

Rant over. Sorry. 

Watch me "paint" your screen with light:

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Panda-fy your Paper Lantern / Bubble

Obsessively watching baby panda videos on Youtube turned out not to be a complete waste of time after all. For one, it deepened my love for white fluffy things, like the "It's so fluffy, I'm gonna die" unicorn, samoyeds, and this extreme samoyed. Did I mention samoyeds? And that is always a wonderful thing. Then, there's the inspiration that a white Bubble is almost a panda face, without the black blobs.
And there's the recognition that adding black blobs to a white Bubble is certainly one of the very few ways I'll ever have a panda. 
I proceeded to make two ~3" black pompoms (how-to video here) and strung them together with twine. Tying and hanging them from the vertical ribbon created those Mickey-Mouse ears, and I adjusted their locations by lengthening or shortening the connecting twine. 
Then I cut out three black blobs to be the eye patches and nose, which were attached to the Bubble with glue dots. You can probably also use poster tacks. 
Download the eye patches and nose template here and make your own paper pandas! 
You can use any paper lantern like the ones shown below. The template and pompom size work with lanterns ~10" in diameter. To fit a smaller or bigger lantern, simply scale up or down accordingly. Have fun! 
Left / Right

Sunday, 2 November 2014

5-second stories about Halloween

Baby Mike Wazowski swore that he did not just wreak havoc at the studio, but it certainly wasn't me. P.S. Does anyone still remember and love this movie?
Minions will always be minions. And I have one. 
"Halloween dress-up games aren't just for humans," a Bubble lamp declared.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Last Great Adventure - Nostalgia, Technology, and Death

It began in April when a message came to me with a peculiar request, and this disclaimer: I'm not pulling your leg. Not that such phrase typically instilled confidence, but I read on. A group of aerospace engineers in Kentucky started a business to provide a unique way to commemorate your departed loved ones - by taking their cremated remains to the edge of outer space and then dispersing it - amongst the magnificent vastness, the peaceful quietness, and likely the farthest place they've ever been. I've obviously come to think of this as quite poetic, but I can't deny that my initial reaction included visceral feelings of aversion or avoidance (probably because it is about death). And I wondered if my leg was being pulled. Their company name is Mesoloft.

Anyway, back to the request. They'd been struggling with the aesthetics of their device, so they wondered if I could design an origami paper enclosure to make it look more refined. Months passed by and emails exchanged. I experimented with different shapes and materials while the group at Mesoloft launched several test flights. Finally, they were ready for the public. And I got their permission to edit and make a video with their footages.

I like to use each video as an opportunity to learn something new about Adobe After Effects. So, while I was randomly animating vintage photographs with the parallax technique (public domain is awesome!), I decided that these definitely belonged with Mesoloft. And when my brother advised that I shorten the opening clips, because you can never underestimate people's attention spans nowadays, I stubbornly refused and defended my "artistic" vision. I mean, there must be some ingenious, romantic resonance between bringing old photos to life and this celebration of dreams and memories with flying balloon, right? I was just unable to articulate the reasons why, but I declared while trying to sound deep, "This video is about nostalgia. The fear of death and being forgotten is universal!"

Yup, I also could not believe the pretentious words that were coming out of my mouth (keyboard). But there is underlying truth, as it turns out. 

Even though, I soon realized that I was probably trying to mimic the hauntingly beautiful opening sequence of the movie Melancholia, in which Earth is on an inevitable collision course with a much larger planet. The end of everything was made clear right at the beginning of the film, yet we the audience proceeded to witness the now pointless, many struggles of human interactions. (It made such an impression on me that I was subsequently, majorly disappointed to check out that director's other films. Apparently, I just stumbled on to a Von Trier "lite".) We were not allowed to take comfort in ambiguity.

Nostalgia. In recent years, some have been critical of things that invoke nostalgia, from Instagram filters, hipsters, and indulgence in the "good old days", especially if you weren't even alive back then. In SALON, Amanda Petrusich warns us about the dangers of not being present:
But it’s troubling to think we could get stuck there — that we could lose our ability to forge new and significant relationships with art, and that we might no longer be able to use those connections to understand each other. Because that sounds counterproductive and, above all, lonely.
And not so surprisingly, K. Mike Merrill, being the the world's only publicly traded person, expressed his eagerness to only look forward in A Love Letter to Living in the Future:
To withdraw from society is to surrender to pessimism and accept that the best world we will ever have is behind us. I don’t buy it. I’m impatient for domestic robots, brain wave interfaces, crypto-currencies, bionic limbs, and video games as spectator sports to be commonplace. The future is coming true before our very eyes and if we are looking backward we’re not just ignoring what is ahead, we’re also going to miss out on what is happening right now.
But, should a techie not be able to appreciate the critical role any outdated piece of technology it once played? And like author John Green said, "Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia." Rather, Merrill offered more of a critique on the Kinfolk-esque lifestyle, where so much effort is put into living "simply" in this fast changing world that it inherently cannot be uncomplicated. I do not believe that nostalgia is defeatist. A BBC Future article explains why nostalgia is actually good for you:
Constantine Sedikides suggest nostalgia may act as a resource that we can draw on to connect to other people and events, so that we can move forward with less fear and greater purpose. Sedikides was inspired by something called Terror Management Theory(TMT), which is approximately 8,000 times sexier than most theories in psychology, and posits that a primary psychological need for humans is to deal with the inevitability of our own deaths. 
To face mortality, people gain strength through nostalgia, art, culture, and society - an intricate system to help us achieve ersatz immortality. Maybe that's why I needed those clips at the beginning of this video.

In Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut describes an alien race Tralfamadore as having the ability to experience reality in four dimensions; meaning that they have total access to past, present, and future. They are able to perceive any point in time at will, and see their stories sideways - like being able to flip to any page in a book about their life:
There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.
In addition to seeing all the "marvelous moments", they know the exact time and place of their own annihilation. Yet they are powerless or reluctant to prevent it, as they believe that when a being dies, it continues to live in other times and places. Their famous response to death is, "So it goes."

Perhaps we also need a better relationship with the past, the present, the future, and all simultaneously, the end. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Kate Duncan makes Cutting Boards + Wooden Chocolate Cake?

The 2013 Interior Design Show West (IDSwest) introduced Kate Duncan, a designer and fine woodworker, and I - even though during the four-day, ALL-day event, we did not manage to meet in person. (And a gregarious person would even consider our booths neighbours.) The fact that simple tasks such as going to the restroom and getting lunch required a "favour" system with your fellow sellers greatly reduced my mobility. You know, someone must man the booth at all times! I was so set on that concept, fearing that an eager buyer would arrive at just the most inopportune time. Alas, that constantly forced auspiciousness drained my energy and left me demoralized at this whole "craft fair" thing. 

Perhaps it was this same reason that Kate wanted to design her own kind of pop-up shop. She asked me (and several other local makers) to join. I sort of did, still not trusting my salesmanship. But she went all out and did an amazing job, at The Chinatown Experiment - in all her many roles as a leader, curator, and as always, designer. She would spent hours setting up the space and then plop down on the floor, have a beer with someone while singing along to the music that she just turned up. I mentioned to her how I am really into making videos. She said, "We should make a video, too!" And she actually means what she says. So, this happened. 

That one weekend I just followed her around her 1000 Parker Street Studio (a place so cool that it merits its own post) while she made her beautiful cutting boards. Surveying the space, I became fascinated by how much the wood shavings resembled chocolate curls (I am, like, literally, fascinated by the littlest things.) and how black walnut is basically blocks of chocolate. But of course, she indulged this by making a spin-off video where she made a "chocolate" sponge cake for me. 

A wooden "chocolate" cake that I later decorated with wood shavings and things you'd find in a woodworking studio. A very delicious spin-off. A bitter-to-sweet story? I will stop now.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Wave Machine ver. 3: FiberLab Symphony Orchestra

Ladies and gentlemen. Please allow me to present the FiberLab Symphony Orchestra, consisting of 1 perforated hardboard, 2 craft rings, 12 wooden trims, 288 wooden balls, 720 metal findings, and about 1500 feet of nylon string - all accompanied by the ravishingly beautiful String Quartet No. 2 by Alexander Borodin. 

Everything is connected, and just works because of a simple concept. Powered by hand with no help from motors and electricity, it almost dares to lean toward the hipster spectrum. But again, this piece of music was already cool in the 1880s. Anyway, here are some screen captures for you:

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Wave Machine Ver. 2 - the Carousel / a Moveable Feast

And I keep plugging away at this Wave Machine thing. With its new look modelled after the Eiffel Tower Carousel, it now generates two kinds of waves when you move the top ring and flag pole individually. More interestingly, combining the two motions adds the two waves together and allows you to observe a physics phenomenon called wave interference. Observe what happens when two different waves propagate through each other.
The resulting wave becomes amplified or cancelled depending on how the original two interact with each other. The plan is to continually develop this "toy" and hopefully it will engage more girls in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in the future. 

I've also been having a lot of fun learning Adobe After Effects from Youtube channels like ECAbrams and Mt. Mograph. Thank you, Evan and Matt, for making learning tutorials totally binge-watching worthy. 

Paper Exchange: Bowtie for a Story

I just had this idea, and I am sending it out into the vast world of the internet, expecting zero responses. But it goes like this: Tell me why you would like to have one of my paper bowties and I may just send one over to you! All I ask in return is that you send me a photo of it being worn (and permission to use the photo). For example:
Be creative! And please keep in mind that this is an effort for effort project. Email me at: justina @ (no spaces) And we will see what happens...

Friday, 20 June 2014

How to cover up that ugly ceiling lamp - RAMEKIN: have dessert, everyday

new product alert!
Turn everyday into dessert.

Whether you are a renter or just too busy for re-wiring, the RAMEKIN lamp shade is the solution for that unsightly ceiling light in your otherwise perfect apartment. Make a bold statement with this unique piece! More information here

Sunday, 25 May 2014


To celebrate achieving 1000 LIKES on my Facebook page, I stacked this origami city with some of my favourite creations over the years (wow, years!). Just like that Italian city, it wasn't built in a day. Thank you all for your support! 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Meanwhile in Easter Bunny Land...

Just a little photo shoot to document the busy days in Easter Bunny Land before the big holiday! 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

My "LOW-TECH" Wave Machine Version 1.0

Circles and waves have become my muse. After months of daydreaming and experimenting with different material combinations, I finally made a prototype of a kinetic mobile that creates soothing, beautiful curves! The design utilizes simple geometric properties of circles to approximate sine waves. Watch it dance as I move the top disk around:

"LOW-TECH" Wave Machine
Action Shot
PS I made it cute over the weekend.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

FUN at Home Depot: Copper Pipe Chair

Believe it or not, I get a lot of my arts/craft inspiration and materials from home improvement stores like Home Depot and Rona. So, one weekend + 5-6 trips to Home Depot + asking their plumbing department staff seemingly random questions later, I am proud to present a chair that I made using only copper pipe, ropes, and epoxy. (Note that I am Team Blue, but it's a bit farther away.) Although, without proper jointing techniques, this chair is probably only rated for children, small pets, or an extremely short person like myself. Nevertheless, it thoroughly satisfied my recent obsession with copper. 
Also, I just love my fig plant from IKEA.
copper + twine weave
PVC Prototype: I am your father! dum dum dum
I used the much cheaper PVC alternative for prototyping to get a sense of dimension and scale, and to figure out what works and what doesn't (i.e. those fancy 45-degree hind legs). So, don't be afraid to experiment with new material. Let's get weird at Home Depot!

Possibly the BEST thing about Making Videos

I received an email over my birthday weekend, from a mother in North Carolina, that reads: "My son Bennett, who is 7 years old, has been smitten by all of your videos and projects. He gathered all of the materials by himself to make the heart yarn and followed your directions by pausing the YouTube video every few seconds. I have a picture of his work that I'd love to email to you, just to say thank you for inspiring him and fueling his love of art, handcraft and math!"
Aww! It was seriously one of the best birthday gifts I ever got. I am so glad that my video assisted little Bennett's self-directed education in some way. And a few weeks ago, a teacher told me that she "put it together late last night and took it in to school today. Everyone oohed and aahed over. Happy Valentine's Day!"
This is becoming my favourite thing about making videos: bringing people together for a bit of fun and learningIf you created anything from watching my videos, please please please send them to me at! I'd love to see them! 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

TED Talks 2014 + Catenary Action

So, TED has arrived in Vancouver. And like its brand new hosting city, this conference where the rich-and-famous share "ideas worth spreading", is offensively expensive yet so quintessentially cool that you cannot show distaste without being a rebel. But once in a while, you catch glimpses of beauty that make you understand all the fuss - like a rare, sunny day in Vancouver or this ethereal installation by Janet Echelman. This 745-foot aerial sculpture hangs between a 24-story hotel and the Vancouver Convention Centre, and gently melts with the sky. When the wind flows through the colourful mesh, creating mesmerizing ripples, it is pure magic. 
Physics and geometry may plainly describe this installation as a collection of strategically placed catenary curves. Catenary is the shape of a hanging string held at two ends. That is to say, catenary is dictated by the pull of gravity. So, when inverted, it becomes very efficient at carrying load, especially its own weight. This is why catenary exists commonly in architecture and engineering as bridges and arches, most notably in works by Antoni Gaudí. Here is a totally slick chair designed by Studio Bram Geenen dedicated to the master. 
I also came across this Catenary Pottery Printer by 'Great Things to People' that cleverly gets help from gravity to form these delicate porcelain objects. Check it out here!
Now, I am back to being melodramatic about TED Talks.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Asian Black Bear: The Disappearing V

In keeping with our "everything-paper" theme, here is an Asian black bear that I created, using only micro-shredded paper scraps, to bring awareness to animal protection. 
Like a superhero, the Asian black bear is most distinguished by its white V-shaped chest mark. Unlike a superhero, it needs our protection from poaching and deforestation. 
A close-up view
Paper paints: does not stain, easy clean-up with vacuum
Watch me work!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A Geometric "Love" Story - How to draw hearts with circles

Yep, I am going to be one of THOSE people who start celebrating Valentine's Day in January. Here is a special V-Day production I made for both art and math lovers! Aristotle once said, "There is nothing strange in the circle being the origin of any and every marvel." So naturally, the magic of circles inspired the creation of 3 different hearts, the synonym of love.

In Act One, the method is called "curve stitching". Each tangent line segment moves around the circle and eventually envelops the shape of a heart. Act Two draws what I call a chubby, smiley heart, the cardioid. It is formed by evolving circles centring on and passing through the same point on another circle. And lastly, each heart is formed by the partial outline of 4 circles. Simple and sweet! All you have to do is shift your perspective to see it. This post also shows many, many other ways to draw a heart using mathematical concepts. Check it out and maybe you will find some cool ideas!

I also manage to sneak in three other quotes that I thought went really well with the scenes!

To make the knitted heart shown in Act One, you will only need a cork board, 72 pins, and some pretty yarn or string. 
First, follow the method shown in video and use below template as a guide to evenly place 72 pins in a circle. A longer string will make a bigger circle, and vice versa. Remember to pull the string taut over each dot.  
Next, follow the process shown in video and wrap the string around the pins (nodes) according to the following 10 templates. "Set 1: Start Nodes 0-15 (every +1), End Nodes 15-30 (every +1)" means: 
  1. You start from Node 0 and bring your string over to (end at) Node 15. 
  2. Wrap around Node 15 and bring string back to Node 0.
  3. You move starting node by one (15+1=16) and ending node by one (0+1=1) 
  4. Repeat Step 1-3 for Node 1 and Node 16.
  5. Repeat until you finish Node 15 to Node 30, then continue onto the next set. 

Set 1: Start Nodes 0-15 (every +1), End Nodes 15-30 (every +1)

Set 2: Start Nodes 16-20 (every +1), End Nodes 32-40 (every +2)

Set 3: Start Nodes 21-26 (every +1), End Nodes 43-58 (every +3)

Set 4: Start Nodes 27-29 (every +1), End Nodes 60-64 (every +2)

Set 5: Start Nodes 30-36 (every +1), End Nodes 66-72 (every +1)

Set 6: Start Nodes 72-57 (every -1), End Nodes 57-42 (every -1)

Set 7: Start Nodes 56-52 (every -1), End Nodes 40-32 (every -2)

Set 8: Start Nodes 51-46 (every -1), End Nodes 29-14 (every -3)

Set 9: Start Nodes 45-43 (every -1), End Nodes 12-8 (every -2)

Set 10: Start Nodes 42-36 (every -1), End Nodes 6-0 (every -1)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

HOW TO: Make a geometric mobile

This modern, geometric mobile takes the form of a dodecahedron, one of the most interesting (and pretty) objects. Jammed pack with symmetries and the Golden Ratio, it has even been used to describe the shape of the universe! Admittedly, I am not exactly sure what that means, but it sure sounds cool. This dodecahedron, however, simply consists of 12 pentagonal pyramids; each with a mesmerizing spiral interior. So, pick your own color combination and create an inspired sky with these hanging decorations! 
Scale it up and make a big one!
And don't need to worry about getting the shape right. I've created a printable template to help you fold the perfect pentagonal pyramids.  Download it HERE!
Follow along with the DIY video tutorial: