Monday, July 29, 2013

What? I have to go to Summer School?

Summer break is one of the most anticipated times of the year for students, and it's easy to guess why: no school, no homework, no grades, and fun!  During the school year, I always look forward to summer vacation because it's always nice to have a break from stress and high school.

But about two weeks into the summer, I begin to worry about what to do with myself... I'd played all the video games I'd wanted to play, slept in as much as I wanted, and was basically just an all-around lazy bum, but I wasn't doing anything that was truly productive.  I now understand that being a lazy bum can only be fun for so long.

That's where summer class comes in: Chloe took her t-shirt making class and just finished up an intensive painting class at UCLA, and I'm taking a creative writing class  as part of the Community Arts Partnership Summer Arts program in downtown LA, sponsored by Cal Arts.  

At CAPSA, I've been spending every day from 10-5 writing.  Though the focus is on poetry, I have had some chances to work on writing short stories, and I've definitely developed a love for poetry, too.  The best part is that the class doesn't even feel like class—it's just me and a bunch of writerly friends...writing. Being in the class has helped me realize that writing may be something I would like to pursue in the future.  Even though it's nice to lounge around the house, having work to do has been something of a relief to both of us.  Imagine that!

A lot of my friends are at summer camp right now, which is another productive way to spend your summer.  At least these organized activities keep us from wasting away our lives on the living room couch!

I say all of this now, but I know that when my class is done, I'll be back in front of the TV killing brain cells.  

Story of my life.
...when I'm not in class.

How do you like to spend your summer? 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Compartes Chocolate and Craft In America

I went to a chocolate appreciation/printing workshop at this funky place called Craft in America when summer first started. The class was not so much as making chocolate itself (although that would've been fun) but making chocolate wrappers using the monotype printing process. 

Me and the monotype printer
In the class, while we worked on designing the wrappers, we were supplied with chocolate truffles from Compartes. ( 912 S. Barrington Avenue Los Angeles CA 90049) Jonathan Grahm from Compartes told us about how took over his family's chocolate business as a teenager and transformed and expanded it all over the world. He also talked about how he came up with the designs for his chocolate bar wrappers, and how he printed designs onto he chocolate truffles. The chocolate was delicious but the intricate designs on both the wrappers and the chocolates (the colors being edible of course) are art in themselves. Each chocolate tells a story, with their vibrant colors and taste. Depending on the theme whether it's a holiday, an event, or different parts of the world, the chocolate and the design both match the theme. All of the chocolates are amazing (yet expensive). 

Yes, these are truffles.

Jonathan Grahm is the owner, artist, and chocolatier of Compartes. He integrates art, flavors, different cultures, and different styles together to create his gourmet chocolates. For his newest chocolate series, Jonathan researched graphic design and different cultures around the world to create the perfect chocolate that corresponds with each place around the world he based his chocolate off of.

Compartes chocolate bars

Jonathan's designs are especially amazing since he never even studied graphic design before.

Making wrappers using monotype printing was also very fun. We would paint on a piece of plastic and then place a piece of paper on top and roll them both through a machine to transfer our designs onto the paper. While we designed the wrappers we also got to eat some delicious chocolate truffles from Compartes.

My chocolate wrapper

The paper printing class was sponsored by Craft In America who has been doing some interesting workshops on art and food. The class was taught by Christina Carroll and is held in the Craft in America building located at 8415 West Third Street. The building is small, but has some beautiful craft and art on display.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Great Documentary Film: Somewhere Between

Last weekend, we watched a documentary film on Netflix called "Somewhere Between", directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, that follows the lives of four adopted Chinese-American teen girls.  I have a few adopted Chinese friends, and I guess I never really thought much of their back stories, but the film was incredibly eye-opening.  Each of the girls has her own struggles with her identity: Fang, who vividly remembers being abandoned on a sidewalk, continues to return to China and reach out to other orphaned girls; Hayley longs to know the reasons for her abandonment and seeks out her birth family; Jenna, a top student at a prestigious academy, constantly busies herself in after school activities to keep her mind off of the questions surrounding her abandonment; Ann, a pre-teen living in suburban Pennsylvania, doesn't show any particular interest in her biological family but is jealous when Hayley finds hers.

One of the things that is so striking about the girls in the film is their resilience: through their struggles growing up "somewhere between", the girls demonstrate an intelligence and understanding far beyond their years.

I have a few adopted Chinese friends.  Sometimes I wonder how they feel about their birth families and adoption. I don't quite have the gall to ask them about it myself, perhaps because I know how delicate the subject can be, especially considering Chinese culture's pattern of abandoning baby girls in favor of raising boys.  "Somewhere Between" provides a lot of insight into the various thoughts and feelings of different adopted Chinese girls.  The film beautifully captures a wide range of emotions—happiness, despair, loneliness, curiosity—and had me laughing and crying along with the girls.  I would highly recommend it; it's a film that everyone should watch, regardless of whether or not they know any adopted Chinese kids, because anyone can relate to its theme of being an outsider and trying to find a place in society.

I give it a two thumbs up.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

T-Shirt Making Class and Lumi Co.

So for the entire last week, I was at a T-Shirt making class with a friend of mine. The class is a program for high school students at ArtCenter in Pasadena.  It was also, much to our surprise, a business class (more so than a t-shirt making class). We learned how to license our products and copyright our designs, which of our designs would sell better, and how to advertise our designs.

Before this camp, I had made t-shirts with my cousin using screen printing which is very time consuming. I wanted to take the class so that I can learn different ways to print on t-shirts that are both more efficient and to place more detailed graphics on them.

At this Art Center camp, we first designed what we wanted to put on our t-shirts and scanned them into the computer. You can also draw your designs directly on the computer too. Then we formatted it on a 11x17 canvas size and turned the images into negatives.
Negative of my T-shirt design
We emailed our designs to Lumi Co. who then printed our designs out on film. Lumi Co. is  a company that has created a new type of dye called Inkodye that is clear when rolled on to a surface, but becomes colored when exposed to direct sunlight. The Inkodye colors come through the transparent part of our film, but remains clear where the film is black because the black parts block the sunlight and prevents the dye from activating. If the film has grey tones, then a little bit more light gets in to form a gradient. What's more amazing is the fact that Lumi Co was founded by a young woman called Jesse Genet, who started the company when she was only 16. We met her. She was really nice. Her company is in this artist's colony at the Brewery, a live work place for cool artists.

Here's a link to Lumi Co's website where they explain how the print process takes place.

My teammates modeling the T-shirts I made.
With the Lumi Co. dyes you can experiment a lot more than you can with screen printing. However, if you want your designs to look exact with more colors, I would suggest screen printing. Both are very time consuming (so you might want to get a company to print t-shirts if you were looking for mass production). However, DYI is a lot of fun to do. I'll be making my own T-shirts soon, so look for them my store site at

By the way, I sold three of my T-shirts for a total of $90! Not bad eh?