Tag Archives: twitter

working with borrowed eyes.

Last weekend I was working on a new necklace design. I loved the colorstory of white, brown and cobalt that I’d had in my head for several days. The beads I chose were the right shades, but a collection of difficult shapes. Normally when I’m working, I just keep tweaking something until it looks right to my eyes, but this time I restrung the necklace several times until I wasn’t sure what looked right anymore. I wanted a second pair of eyes, but being home alone at a fairly late hour on the west coast, I didn’t have one. So I tweeted a picture of the necklace and asked for yea or nay votes.

The first response was a nope, not done yet, try again. The next two responses were unqualified yea votes. The fourth vote was “aaaalmost, but maybe you should try swapping the small bead under the shell and put it on top of the shell.” I made notes and went to bed.

The next morning, I had several more responses and I got interested in how we see things: what our eyes expect to see, and what, individually, pleases or offends the eye. Finishing the necklace ended up taking a back seat to collecting as much information as I could about how different people saw this one piece. I decided to tweet it again and see what else I could gather. There were several more responses, so varied that some of the suggestions were exact opposites. Curiously, everyone I asked loved the bead that bothered me the most: the large translucent cobalt on the bottom left of the arrangement. I starred all the responses and set about stringing a version of the necklace for each suggestion.

This was the final tally of comments:

  • Unqualified nay, try again: 1 vote
  • Unqualified yea: 3 votes
  • Add smaller beads on the left to balance the narrowness of the shell on the right: 2 votes
  • It needs one more color: 2 votes
  • Add one small bead on top of the shell on the right: 6 votes
  • Take out the large brown bead: 1 vote

There were too many trial versions to post all of them here, but this is a sampling of what I tried.



The process was fascinating, and I ended up having several conversations with artists in  various mediums about how we decide when something is done, and how much influence we get from other people while we’re working. I gained an affection for my original version, although it still looks a bit off to me, and have kept one of those for a project I’m doing. The final version ended up having just one tiny blue bead added on top of the shell bead; that necklace is available for sale in my urban legend shop. If you like any of the alternate versions and are interested in purchasing one, please email me and I’ll set it up for you.

fifteen thousand useful phrases.

A good book is a wonderful present. I stopped by Shana’s a couple of days ago, and as I took my coat off she casually said, as if it were no big deal, gesturing toward the couch: there’s a present for you there. And there was this magical book, sitting on the sofa cushion like any other little thing. Only it isn’t any other little thing. It’s the most enchanting book ever. Fifteen thousand useful phrases. You may have noticed that I have a thing for words. I also have a thing for odd reference books. And people who can turn a phrase. So this book? SHAZAM. I spent the next several hours reading word pairings and phrases aloud. I changed my regular Twitter bio to include the phrase “a well-bred mixture of boldness and courtesy.” Then I spent some time this morning setting up a Twitter account so I can tweet the whole entire book, because the world needs to know all about the fifteen thousand useful phrases, subtitled “A practical handbook of pertinent expressions, striking similes, literary, commercial, conversational and oratorical terms, for the embellishment of speech and literature, and the improvement of the vocabulary of those persons who read, write and speak English.” By Grenville Kleiser, Funk & Wagnalls, 1917. It’s hilarious and touching and altogether brilliant. SHAZAM.

“The choice word, the correct phrase, are instruments that may reach the heart, and awake the soul if they fall upon the ear in melodious cadence…Language is a temple in which the human soul is enshrined, and…it grows out of life…”

If you’re interested in owning your own copy, it’s available on Project Gutenberg in several digital formats and abebooks.com has lots of hardcopies in various conditions.

congratulations, neil!

Following Neil Gaiman on Twitter is one of the small delights of my day. His dog is sick, but recovering. There’s no honey for his “almost but not entirely unlike tea” in his hotel room (quote actually by Douglas Adams, but big love to NG for reminding me about it). He’s attending the press junket for Coraline and tweeting incessantly throughout (p.s. I’ve just seen the 3D trailer, and it’s breathtaking). His mind moves like lightning, his spelling is admirable, I have no idea when he has time to write his brilliant books. It’s good stuff. And so I was extra pleased to sign into Twitter this morning and find that he’s just this very second won the Newbery Award for The Graveyard Book. Congratulations, Neil! Now go demand some honey for your tea; the marmalade isn’t going to cut it, and you have interviews to give.