March 22, 2019

The Blackwing Volume 811 is a Dr. Maya Angelou-inspired pencil

Black Wing Library Pencil inspired by Maya Angelou

Blackwing, purveyors of some of the best pencils around, has unveiled the Volume 811 also known as “The Library Pencil” inspired by the late Dr Maya Angelou. The pencils are part of their limited edition series.

  • At a speech at the New York Public Library, the late Dr. Angelou described the humble library as “a rainbow in the clouds” so that “in the worst of times, in the meanest of times, in the dreariest of times… at all times the viewer can see a possibility of hope.”
  • 811 refers to the section of the Dewey Decimal System containing some of Dr. Angelou’s most famous works and works from other inspirational writers
  • The pencil features an emerald green finish and gold ferrule inspired by the iconic green lamps found in libraries around the world
  • The body is made of incense cedar, with a firm Japanese graphite core, aluminum ferrule, and dust-free eraser
  • It’s coated with a phosphorescent topcoat, making it a literal light in the dark
  • A pack of 12 will run you $24.95 USD

Available now at Blackwing in limited quantities.

March 21, 2019

Akiko Shinoda discusses why Japanese designers are too modest

japan fashion week Akiko Shinoda
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Akiko Shinoda, the current director of international affairs at Japan Fashion Week, is on a mission to bring light to more Japanese creators. In an era where fashion is ultra connected, Japanese designers still remain focused on their local market which suffices to sustain business. As competition heats up, Japanese fashion may need to adapt or it will lose its position as a cultural leader.

Japanese should be looking to expand

For Akiko Shinoda, Japan’s fashion scene is as strong as ever. Local designers are in demand and as such not pressed to expand operations overseas. In addition, designers typically speak little to no English, often a barrier to pushing their work beyond. However, Shinoda wants this to change and for typically shy creators to go beyond their comfort zone and showcase their work elsewhere. By embracing uncertainty, local talent can become the pioneers of tomorrow.

A gilded age of fashion

Perhaps the most important take-away is how Japan’s global fashion revolution in the 80’s has run out of steam. Back then, designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons burst through the scene. It was then followed by the Urahara movement and the pioneers of streetwear such as Hiroshi Fujiwara, Jun Takahashi of UNDERCOVER, NIGO of A Bathing Ape, and Shinsuke Takizawa of NEIGHBORHOOD.  Today, very few designers have made headway with a few noteworthy exceptions. Shinoda notes that regional competitors such as Korea and China are making great strides to potentially dethrone Japan as a cultural powerhouse. For example, Korea leverages private business and government bodies to attract international demand. As such, Korea is taking the reins through K-Pop, K-Fashion and K-Beauty.

Why Japanese mindsets need to change

As Shinoda points, out, most Japanese designers focus on quality and craft above all else. This means that brands spend little to no time trying to branch their message out to international markets, losing out on potential opportunities. As such, Shinoda wants to leverage international events to tell these stories in greater depth and ensure Japan’s dominance continues. With fashion as a key export, we hope to see more Japanese designers break onto the scene.

March 18, 2019

Museums are overrun with art, but spring cleaning is no easy chore

Museum Stockroom Overloaded

Museums are coming to terms with the reality that they can’t maintain their enormous art collections, which might never be displayed and worse yet, are still growing. These inefficiencies are coming to light and are seen in the rating, cataloging, and distribution outlets of the artworks themselves.

How did they get to where they are?

Wealthy art owners have been giving museums their stuff for decades, either due to philanthropic reasons, tax deductions or just the prestige of seeing their works on display in esteemed settings. The issue is that these objects can be anything from actual art by famous artists to things dubiously deemed worthy of being preserved and displayed such as cocktail napkins, underwear, and other personal effects.

The issue is it’s far easier to get more stuff and museums accumulate it at a faster rate than they can put on display and some items, such as those with paper, can only go on for so long because of light sensitivity. As a result, all of these objects have to go somewhere and have to be well taken care of, creating an issue of sustainability for the institutions.

Even More Art is Coming

The process of deaccessioning items, the formal term for disposing of an art object either through sale or transfer to another institution, is much easier said than done. There is a lot of red tape that prevents museums from culling their collections. Or worse, it forces them to increase them. For one, the Association of Museum Directors has strict guidelines dictating that proceeds from art sales can only be used to acquire more work, not to cover operating costs like staff salaries. What’s more, is getting rid of art means going through several layers of approval and sometime’s that’s not even possible.

The Brooklyn Museum can’t get rid of an over 900-item collection given by Col. Michael Friedsam, who died in 1932. The issue is a quarter of the gifts were fake, misattributed or of poor quality. Yet, deaccessioning them requires permission from his executors, the last of which died in 1962.

Independent of restrictions, however, is simply future and changing demand for art. As contemporary art becomes more popular and museums aim to integrate more work by women and artists of color, there is bound to be more art making its way into museums as well.

How some museums are deaccessioning

Charles L. Venable, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, took it  upon himself to begin a process that eventually led to the deaccessioning of some 4,615 objects by assigning each item a letter grade from D (a “has been”) to A (an absolute masterpiece) depending on a given work’s aesthetics, physical condition and whether the museum had better examples in the genre. Based on these grades, the museum sought to find new homes for the objects that would value them accordingly: some institutions might have many specimens of an item and thus consider it a ‘D’ and others might have none and consider it an ‘A.’

Our thoughts and the historical footprint

If museums are institutions are tasked with both preserving and sharing history with future generations, it makes one wonder how much physical history is displaced and lost because it never made it into a museum. As mentioned above, wealthy collectors certainly contribute valuable works that museums are happy to have, but they also contribute things that are just that, things. Moreover, the value of an object could very well be an arbitrary decision by a museum authority and combined with the structure of the curatorial and deaccessioning process, a lot of junk could very well be taking up valuable climate-controlled space because of some technicality.

How much history are we presented that’s only considered noteworthy because someone put it in a glass box? Some collectors, not content to see their collections languish in storage, take matters into their own hands and create private museums. But for us mere mortals who can’t afford to acquire, store and display collections, can we still make history?

March 10, 2019

POW! WOW! Hawai'i 2019 brings together artists from all around to paint murals in Honolulu

POW! WOW! Hawaii Shepard Fairey Photography by Brandon Shigeta
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POW! WOW! Hawai’i began in 2011 as an opportunity to bring art to lesser-known places in a city-wide festival format. The worldwide event series was founded by Jasper Wong and supported by an amazing team and volunteers. It now spans the world over, including stops in Long Beach, San Jose, Austin/SXSW, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and more. This year’s festival focused on more than art with live music, a block party, and panel discussions.

See some of our favorite works below.

Art by Wooden Wave | Photography by Brandon Shigeta

Art by Drew Young | Photography by Brandon Shigeta

Art by Cory Taum | Photography by Brandon Shigeta

Art by Caratoes & APEXER | Photography by Brandon Shigeta

Art by Shepard Fairey | Photography by Brandon Shigeta

Art by HowNosm | Photography by Brandon Shigeta

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