completing the cutting boards


last month, i talked about community woodshop and the first half of our cutting board class. last week i completed the class and came away with 2 nice cutting boards. the first step in finishing up is to trim the uneven edges, which i am doing with a squaring template on the table saw above.


once i got my trimmed pieces, it was time to decide if i would do any cross cuts and flips. the wood grain itself will always look pretty on its own, but i used the trimmed edges to see where they flipped cuts would match up. i decided to cut the board into 5 pieces and flip symmetrically.


after these final design edits, when the glue is dry, we plane both surfaces and decide on any edge finishes. i decided on simple rounded edges for one, and only one round for the other. then it’s off to the sander to get all surfaces perfectly smooth.


once they’re ready to go, we got out the beeswax. it’s more of a heavy grease that smells like fine bath products and soaks into both wood and your hands, giving both a nice finish. the color of the wood really came alive with this application. i think they look great, but now i’m a little hesitant to take a knife to them. next up, i’ve signed up for basic cabinetry. i can’t wait to see what manner of trouble i can get into there!


AIGA blueprint: freelance

aiga blueprint: freelance
jason adam, mark leroy, heather parlato, spencer cross & petrula vrontikis. photo by paul dimalanta for aiga

last week, i had a blast participating on the aiga los angeles discussion panel blueprint: freelance! i was in excellent company, in concert with mark leroy of silver echo, spencer cross of tokyofarm, and petrula vrontikis of vrontikis design office, moderated by jason adam of hexanine.

i considered the many freelance debates and debacles i’ve been through in preparation, but it seemed once we got going, we really could have talked for hours. one great thing about running your own business is that you can always learn from 3 other people if you sit down and talk about it. everyone has a different experience or has learned some specific twist that can help ratchet the industry ever closer to best & ideal practices. jason kept us from picking apart the details of every point by moving the discussion along.

we talked about a great many things, and all kinds of questions rolled in. aside from saving your money, increasing your moonlighting till you can’t stand it and attempting to take your employer as a client, i think the most general statement about the great unknown can be summed up by these 3 steps of transitioning to freelance:

1. know yourself first. you will have to search yourself for your personal philosophy about how you want to run your business. you’ll draw on past experiences, books and articles you’ve read, inspiration from mentors, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how you want things to go. you’ll decide on your market positioning and your mission statement, and you’ll brand accordingly.

2. get prepared. knowing yourself is a good start, but you’ll want to check with industry references and standards. find out the main styles of business and see where you fall. learn about book keeping, accounting, tax qualifications, project management, legal specifics that pertain to design and intellectual property. learn all this stuff you don’t know!

3. learn on the job. the first two steps only describe the situations you can imagine—but the business world is all ready to throw you a bunch of curve balls you haven’t considered. there will be intricacies you haven’t prepared for, questionable situations that don’t point to a clear answer [or maybe they do and you’re just mired in it enough you can’t see it yet], interactions that make you question a policy or contract line. and so be it. you will learn what you didn’t know, you’ll consult your network, you’ll make a valuable mistake that informs your future, you will grow, and you will keep on truckin!

if we look happy, it’s because none of us have bosses! thanks so much to paul dimalanta for the great photos.

with that said, if you have a specific question about something, email me!. in the meantime, here’s a recap of the resources we all talked about:

jason’s recap:
on the hexanine blog!

mark’s resources:
win without pitching manifesto
the brand gap by marty neumeier

petrula’s resources: class running a design business: freelancing

spencer’s resources:
AIGA professional practices in graphic design by tad crawford
design is a job by mike montiero
the education of a design entrepreneur by steven heller
graphic artists guild handbook: pricing and ethical guildelines
talent is not enough: business secrets for designers by shel perkins
california lawyers for the arts
join the spencer-founded kernspiracy list:

my additions:
creative freelancer conference, blog & events!
the designer’s guide to marketing & pricing by ilise benun & peleg top [check their blog too] blog
smashing magazine’s legal guide for designers, check their blog too!
jessica hische’s thoughts on getting freelance work and the dark art of pricing once you have it.

and a couple of my own interviews:
freelancing 101, 102 and 103
creative freelancer blog’s interview with heather parlato on freelancing

what i learned in my month without a car

here's something that rarely happens: a ride in an empty bus!
here’s something that rarely happens: a ride in an empty bus!

it’s been a month! it kinda flew by, but lo, i am dropping my car at the mechanic today. i learned a lot about transitioning to transit this month, and as i found myself planning my day, strategically combining a few lessons i grossly failed at mere weeks ago—all excited about how perfectly it would work out and how i would challenge myself to even walk the last leg rather than ride a bus to my stop—my epiphany became clear: i am hooked on avoiding driving!

but i can totally see how hard it is to make the transition. i’ve gone through periods of more transit and those virtually without, and it takes a different mindset. as timing would have it, our city’s pro-pedestrian ambassador, alissa walker, just wrote this piece for LA magazine, better off ped, with tips for living this way. i love her suggestions for success, but i found myself making far more novice errors, so i thought i’d take it from a much-more-recently behind the wheel stance.

thoughts on adapting to transit

travel light. whether you’re walking, bussing or biking, you’re not going to take a giant shoulder bag with everything you need. you’ll want something that carries your accoutrements [a book or notebook? a water bottle? a snack? anything you’d keep in a purse?] without killing your posture. you might eat out strategically rather than carry a lunch, or switch to a backpack on the days you need to carry extra cargo home. this is true for shoes, too. i got some cute sporty shoes that work well and stand up to a good walk.

get the lay of the land. locate your local bus stops, take note of the busses that stop there and look up the routes on you can download pdfs online, or store them in ibooks on your phone. load up your tap card so you don’t have to worry about change. you can download the metro LA app to get info on maps, stops & next arrival times on your phone when you’re out. after your first few trips, you’ll find yourself at new stops with new connections. you’ll learn a lot more about the possibilities as you go.

you’re going to mess it up a few times. it happens, you look up a trip and it seems to work out, but one of many things go wrong, and now you’re late—only you can’t do anything about it. this is a great opportunity to learn about acceptance and the inability to control a situation. the lesson i’ve learned about control is that we often distract ourselves in thinking we’re controlling something that we’re not. like stressing out about being late? call ahead and explain what happened and move on.

plan weeks, not days. when i drive, i do errands all in one day, they are all off a main route and it makes sense to do them all together. it seems that transit is better geared to smaller clusters and more simple destinations, lest you end up on a marathon trip or carrying too much. i have learned to generally arrange the next week in my head, figuring out appointments first, clustering any errands that make sense with them, and deciding what is a priority of what’s left to do. which day will i walk, when should i commit to a transit trip? it will also help you place the more critical time-sensitive trips so you don’t run out of cat prescriptions without rearranging your whole day at the last minute.

understand that some people are going to feel sorry for you. i got a lot of shock and dismay at the idea that my mechanic was booked for a month. it didn’t bother me, but to some, it was an outrage. i also got a lot of insistence at accepting a ride home when it was found out that i took the bus to my destination, in the way you know a person wants to help you but it sounds like they’re suggesting you should never have to do something as lowly as public transit. sometimes it feels weird to have people pity you for something you feel good about. the complicated feedback loops at work here are not about you. you can comfort them that you are okay and the bus is okay and everything is okay.

but some people are going to offer you the much-needed ride home! there were lots of times that i wasn’t exactly going to ask for a ride, but when one comes up that keeps you from waiting around at night for a 3-legged trip, you take it graciously! this might be the ultimate lesson in acceptance, but it also got me wondering how i’m really living without a car while in someone else’s car. i didn’t wonder about this too long though, because a carpool trip is a great time for conversation.

you will become more comfortable all up in everyone’s grill. you will see the best and worst of people. it will be a barrage of fashion, attitudes, fragrant discoveries, conversations, exercises in avoidance, all kinds of hilarious and treacherous first-world urban survival skills will surface. some new shit will come to light, man! you will learn about yourself, and people, and about more acceptance, and it will all be okay. i try not to dwell on this, because it’s mostly not a big deal. then every once in awhile something jarring happens. some guy will not want to stand next to that other guy. someone might want to talk loudly about racism, or jesus, or share their paranoia or ask for money or suggest you are a scoundrel for refusing to loan them your phone. great social upheaval will happen! and then it will resolve itself. nothing jarring happened to me this month at all. everyone was cool. thank you, everyone, for being cool this month.

what’s the cost breakdown of this experiment?

the truth is, unless you completely ditch your car, benefiting from maintenance & insurance savings, if you don’t drive much, you are trading gas expenses for transit fares and conveniences. a week metro pass is $20, and though i don’t quite ride often enough to need one, my week would sometimes max out right at $20 on the tap card. a tank of gas in my car right now runs around $50, and i was doing 1-2 tanks per month. so my gas money would go to mostly transit fare and little snacks i’d buy along the way unless i was a daily commuter who stood to cut high mileage out of my life. however, like many things, the cost tradeoff alone shouldn’t be your only guide. on how many normal days do you just sneak in 2-4 miles on foot? or get to relax and enjoy the scenery? my body just caught up with all the exercise last week and i started to lose weight, so …!

what happens when the car comes home?

keep it up! so, last night when i was planning my day and realizing i wanted to walk part of my trip, the big takeaway is that i am going to keep walking as many trips as i can. i’m also going to keep taking the bus to all the daytime destinations i’ve been doing. the times i’m going to make exceptions are for 1 weekly run to an inconvenient errand of my choice [basically, the ones with heavy cargo] and any inconvenient night events.

drive 1 tank or less of gas per month. when i did my taxes recently, i noticed i was averaging 500 miles per month. my car gets 300 miles per tank of gas, so my first measure is going to be to drive only 1 tank of gas per month. considering how few times i would have used the car if i had the choice this month, i think this is going to be easy. the next discovery will be, exactly how little can i get away with driving below that tank? and how soon before something jarring challenges my comfort zone?

these are the mysteries that await! in the meantime, i got myself a pedometer app and i’m going to start tracking my trips. time to start measuring a different kind of mileage [i just walked 4 miles home from the vet after dropping off my car, cat meds in hand well before we run out this time! thanks myfitnesspal pedometer app!]

alissa has a follow-up to her LA magazine piece on her own blog: better off ped full of resources for making your transition. share any you have here!

community woodshop


thanks to my fantastic design network, i found out about community woodshop in the keystone arts spaces in glassell park just a few months after they opened. community woodshop is both a workspace and a learning space for people who want to learn about and work on various techniques in wood working, but maybe don’t own or have space for all the equipment. after taking the required safety class, you can join various levels of membership to work in the shop, or take classes. since i’m a beginner, i opted to start with the cutting board class.


we were given all the samples in the above photos for inspiration of what we could create, though we were discouraged from cutting too many angles, since it would complicate the gluing process for those of us with less experience. we could do straight cuts, cross & flip, round corners, cut handles, or route a trench. cool!


we were provided with maple, alder, walnut and mahogany pieces, squared on 2 sides. to get a feel for the process, we were told to smooth the other sides. here are 2 students using the planer and joiner to get perfectly-smooth starting pieces.


our teacher, bob, reminds us of all the safety precautions of the table saw. there are many. when cutting with wood grain, the wood goes through the blade effortlessly, but going against grain can be a much more tricky cut. we cut all our on-grain 1″ pieces, and bob cut all our against-grain requests for us. then we went to worktables to arrange our pieces and design our boards.


gluing is the fun part. you get big clamps and glue paper and turn all your pieces on their sides, run the glue down the center, and stick them one by one to their neighbor. then tighten the clamps and watch the glue squeeze out the seams.


finally, we let the glue set and cleaned it from the surface. my board looks oddly plain here. the table saw burned the maple wood as it cut, which is normal since it is a very hard wood, but leaves it looking dirty. all of that will be sanded away though, it will oil up nicely and all the grain details will show through. i’ve heard we use some sort of beeswax to do this. we’ll find out in next week’s class when the beauty of our projects are revealed!

recent work: small farm fresh

I recently started working with a project I deeply believe in! Small Farm Fresh is the startup of a good friend, who created a site where local farmers could sign on to list all their seasonal produce, and chefs from local restaurants could shop for ingredients they need and have it delivered quickly through any of the local daily farmer’s markets. When i say local, this is currently an LA-area project, and for now it’s in beta. Similarly, for the moment, the identity is just a logo, but it’s taking off quickly and we’re planning to grow the brand as the business expands. There are a lot of great plans in the works, i’m so proud to be a part of it!

See more of our work here.

how i made my errands walkable

there’s a post i’ve been itching to write for a long time, but it wasn’t quite finished yet, so i left it on the back burner. recently, a talk by alissa walker, which included the suggestion to make 1- and 2-mile radius maps, completed the puzzle for me and i decided to write the whole thing. funnily enough, my car needs a repair and my mechanic is booked for a month, so i get to put all this information into practice immediately!

awhile back, i decided to integrate walking a lot more into my day, and figured if i was exercising while doing errands, taking an hour to walk an errand loop would no longer be seen as taking too long—it’s merely displacing an hour workout. in my determination to do as many errands as i could on foot and within my 1-mile neighborhood, i mapped out as many businesses as i could and replaced further / driven errands with places i could walk to, or pass on my way home from the bus.

echo park landmarks

1. cookbook: small, organic market with fresh produce and specialty foods.
2. blue collar working dog: it may be primarily dog supplies, but they have high-quality cat food in single cans, for times when i’m between the larger packs i buy elsewhere.
3. house of spirits: the local liquor store with the biggest variety.
4. beauty box / sunset beer co: beauty box is an excellent local hairdresser i’ve been using for years. next door is sunset beer co., a specialty beer store that doubles as a comfy bar.
5. friday farmer’s market: we have our very own weekly farmer’s market right here in echo park on friday afternoons, 3-7pm.
6. echo park & lake: a great place to take a walk or run around the .88-mi path around the lake. we’ll have to measure the new path after the rehabilitation is complete.
7. the echo: we have one of the coolest night club & venues [there are 2 on-site] right here in echo park. being able to avoid parking and have a few drinks without thinking about driving is invaluable!
8. edendale library: i’ve been trying to do all my reading on borrowed books. combine the library’s online book request system with a walkable library and you have reading material at your fingertips within a couple days.
9. mohawk bend: not just the local watering hole with the most taps, but also a client! i do a lot of meetings here, so the walkability is key. it should be mentioned, though, that there are tons of places to eat all over echo park, and mohawk bend is maybe the furthest from my house, so there are plenty of choices anywhere in-between.
10. vons: i don’t do much market shopping, but there are times when i do need something in a pinch, and vons is the only market that carries our preferred cat litter, so i go there to get that, and withdraw cash on my atm transaction to avoid any bank visits & foreign atm fees.
11. rite-aid: i currently don’t use rite-aid, but after walgreens [on sunset & echo park] stopped working with my insurance, i figured i’d see if i can fill prescriptions here. currently i’m at CVS and the walkability is much lower.
12. edendale post office: i do a fair amount of mailing, and this post office allows me to get some secret stairs in on the way over.
13. yogala: a great yoga studio a 10 minute walk from my house, with 2 alternatives: the longer / flatter route, or hiking up a hill and taking the avalon stairs.
14. elysian park / dodger stadium: when walking purely for exercise and sight-seeing, the beginning of the portola trail is just steps from my front door. dodger stadium is just through elysian park via academy road.

BUS, glendale blvd: there are a few convenient 92 and 603 bus stops at points on glendale blvd. that i use. taking it north, i can get to atwater village, where i also shop, take sewing class, exercise at heartbeat house, or visit my mom [this bus also goes to downtown glendale & burbank]. my new use of this bus will be to avoid biking over glendale blvd so i can more easily get to the river bike path. to the south, this bus goes downtown.

BUS, montana st.: the 200 bus takes alvarado and hoover streets to meet up with the expo line going to culver city. on its way, it crosses wilshire, which is a great way to catch the 20/720 west to LACMA or other points in mid-city.

BUS, sunset blvd: at sunset & echo park, i can pick up the 2/302 or 4/704, and take them anywhere downtown, to meet up with the trains at union station, or travel west to hollywood, anywhere on the west side, or the beach!

last year, i made a rough draft of this map to see how much was covered within echo park. i think it’s pretty impressive! there are very few things i can’t do on an afternoon break / errand walk. i should mention, i have alternative solutions to the bank [mailing deposits / cash at atm transactions] and some i’ve gotten lazy about and reverted to driving. jason has chosen to hold a premiere amazon account, so sometimes we order inconvenient items on free shipping as well.

what alissa put into perspective was mapping 1-mile and 2-mile radius terrain around my home and trying always to walk the 1-mile routes. i didn’t realize i had already done this [or at least figured it out, if i didn’t always stick to it]. the challenge then becomes, will you walk to the 2-mile destinations? here are what mine look like:

1-mile radius

looking at this map, i’m right on track with my errand plan—even the dreaded CVS / pet store walk, which is only a pain because that stretch of glendale blvd is busy and has scary tire tracks where people have clearly driven up on the curb as they speed toward the 2 freeway entrance. i’ve decided that’s too clear a sign of danger, but maybe i can take the 92 bus instead.

2-mile radius with 1-mile overlay for comparison

this map makes me cringe when i think about walking this far anywhere that’s not sunset blvd or through elysian park via stadium way into chinatown. those walks are direct and i’ve done them with predictable turnaround times. however, anywhere directly east or north outside of glendale blvd. is not really a clear path. hills and dead-ends north of sunset rule out those routes, and the length of the walk if i go down to sunset and back up north makes it a trip i’d more likely bike. similarly, to get over the river in the quadrant directly north to east, the only through-way is stadium way, which is not safe to walk due to low visibility by speeding commuters. when i want to get there by bike, i have the choice of glendale blvd., or the roundabout trip through the park to chinatown, north on broadway to where it meets figueroa in cypress park. that works on a bike, but i’d never walk it if given the choice.

interestingly, in both cases, i didn’t realize just how much is covered in 1 and 2 miles of my house. it’s more than i thought, and a great reminder that there’s almost nothing you can’t do with the combination of walking, biking and using transit. now i have to figure out how to cart things that don’t fit in a backpack or pannier bags. since i’ll have no other choice for the next month, i’m going to strategize and put it all into action. i expect to learn a great deal, so i’ll share the unexpected surprises

natural curiosities: designer’s lunch

a look inside the art house

last week, natural curiosities hosted another of their design lunch series, where industry trade professionals are invited to take a spin through the studio, have lunch, get design inspiration, network and experience the creative space where the art pieces are developed.

fill your space with inspiration

natural curiosities is known for working with all types of specimens and media. the art is the end product of ongoing explorations with collected artifacts that adorn the studio and experimental processes.

see our work for natural curiosities.

aiga’s blueprint: freelance

i’m both honored and excited to be a panelist in aiga’s blueprint: freelance on march 28 at nextspace in culver city! we’ll be talking about running our business and share the realities of what it’s like to run your own show. this panel is full of great voices in the los angeles design scene, and best suited to designers or related creative professionals who have been curious about starting their own firms and want the scoop from a range of professionals spanning 5 to 20+ years in business.

if this is YOU, register TODAY!

in the meantime, i’ve talked about freelancey stuff before, and if you’re into that sort of thing:
freelancing 101, 102 and 103
creative freelancer blog’s interview with heather parlato on freelancing