RSWL: Repurposing and Upcycling

This IS a random entry, but you were warned (RSWL- Random Stuff We Like). It is entirely possible it is the 3.75 full, unbroken hours of sleep each night I get causing this randomness. Maybe it is the voices in my head or the overexposure to spray paint. Whatever the cause, this afternoon, while working with my husband and mother on repurposing items, a connection was made between our projects and the pictures we take. It makes sense to me, so I’ll try to make sense.

My husband and I like to “pick” and find treasures at flea markets and local dumps. Honestly, I didn’t like this at all for the years my husband would leave on his form of field adventures. Then, I figured I couldn’t beat him (not like THAT), so I’d join him. Now, our 2 year old son asks when we are going to “fee mawkets” and “yawd sales”. He actually thinks his super hero dad works at the “fee mawket”. We enjoy the hunt and the projects so much that we started reselling our finds…which just leads to more picking adventures.

Scrap yards, local recycling lots, and dumps are the best places to find these items long forgotten and discarded by others. Others see rust and deterioration; we see beauty and industrial décor jackpot. We see stories. We actually prefer to know the stories behind objects we buy. As I scrubbed a large, dilapidated, wooden marching band drum that we’ll convert into a coffee table, I wondered what songs had been drummed on the instrument. How many hands had entertained with the steady beat? How many smiles and proud moments had accompanied the drum? And so it goes with the many finds that come and go in our garage.

It isn’t that different from the way photography can make you look at things in another way. When our Transmogrifier Team takes pictures for the texture website we look for rust patterns, wood grain, tree bark, and peeling paint. The small details, the beauty disguised in decay…well, it takes your breath away when you really “see” it. The abandoned objects and places we photograph for the imagery website all have stories left and covered in dust. A shipwreck weathering in the water is captured by our camera lens, enlarged, printed out and now hangs as art behind a desk. Fire hydrants and 55-gallon drums all appear different after you see our images and read descriptive background on these objects. Really? Large metal drums helped win the Battle of Guadalcanal in the first U.S. offensive in the South Pacific Theater?? Leaves that first burst in the spring become a must-take shot for the fall months and you find yourself watching the tree grow and change through the seasons.
Does that make sense?

Repurposing and upcycling, just like photography, can breathe new life into objects and change the way you look at those objects and places. The opportunity is there, all around us. The stories are there, waiting to be discovered. The beauty is bursting, if we look. Next time you pass a yard sale sign, stop and look. Next time you go to take an old, Aladdin heater to the scrap yard, step back, picture it with glass on top, and just maybe you have a side table. Next time you see someone taking a picture, notice what it is they are trying to capture and you may be blessed with a new perspective. Go ahead- look. It’s a shame not to.

Nate’s Notes: “I Hee a Twain!”

DSC_0235We went on a field adventure a couple days ago.  It was Momma, Daddy, me and Lyla- yes, she seems to come everywhere with us…still.  <sigh>.   Anyway, it rained that morning so I didn’t think we were going on our adventure, but Daddy says rain won’t stop us!  After lunch we climbed in the car, cameras and all, and were off.   Some songs, a nap and hours later, we arrived to bright sun and wind.  I don’t mind the wind- it tickles my face and blows Momma’s hair all over!  Silly wind.

We started hiking.  I wore Daddy on my front and Lyla wore Momma on her back.  We hiked.  And we hiked some more until we saw big big water!   It went as far as I could see, was really blue and made me smile.  Momma call it the ocean where fishies, whales, and sharks live with lots of other creatures.  “Baaaby shark- do do-do do do do. Baby shark!”  Oh- sorry, not song time.

Anyway, right by the big water, we saw a house all by itself on the edge of rocks!  Why did someone live right there?  Because Momma freaks me out and can tell what I’m thinking before I talk, she started telling me that this was a lighthouse.  After I asked her to get out of my head, she said it was to help boats in the water when they can’t see, so they don’t get lost. Boats have eyes?    A bright light shines and a loud horn sounds so the boats know where the rocks are and don’t get hurt.   Driving here, we actually saw a boat that looked hurt.  It was old and not in water.  It looked broken and sad.  Guess it didn’t hear the horn or see the light.

Just then, the horn sounded!  That wasn’t a horn, it was a train, I swear!   “I hee a twain!  I hee a twain!!  Pretty soon a twain coming!” I yelled into the wind.   Momma and Daddy both smiled and shook their heads at me.  They kept telling me there was no train, that it was from the lighthouse.  Ummm….no.   I’m pretty sure I know what a train sounds like.  Pfff.   Big people think they know everything.   Won’t they be surprised when the train comes!  I didn’t see any tracks, but maybe after we climb down the hill on all those steps there will be tracks.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse

No tracks.  Just many eleventeen steps, cool rocks, the house, the light, lots of wind, lots of water and the train horn.   It was kind of amazing and lovely out on that point.  It had a name- I think Momma called it “rays”.  We stayed for awhile, enough to make me sleepy as we watched the big water, flying birds and boats.  Someday, when I don’t have to carry Daddy around on my front, I’ll go back and walk all those steps to see the lighthouse again.   The train never came, but it was one of my favorite adventures so far!

On the ride home, Momma and Daddy told me that their light will always be on and I’ll always know where they are so I won’t ever get lost.   What. Are. They. Talking. About????  So cryptic sometimes…like they think they are a lighthouse now and I’m a boat???  It’s just exhausting sometimes trying to figure them out.

Enhanced by Zemanta

TMG Philosophy: Integrity-Part 1

Integrity is tricky.  It doesn’t have to be.  But it is. Integrity is about consistency, values, honesty, expectations and outcomes.  It’s about what you preach matching what you do.   It is something that takes daily discipline to maintain, and yet takes only a shadow of doubt to break down.  Integrity is perhaps the most attractive virtue I find in the people around me.

Integrity is spoken of as often as diaper changes are in our family.  (For those that don’t know, we have a 24 month old and a 7 month old.  That is a lot of diaper changes.)   Each day, my husband and I work to be the best examples of integrity for our very aware babies.  Each day, we encounter teaching opportunities that test our own integrity.   Antagonistic  voices whisper, “it’s okay to cut this corner…you are tired, don’t have enough time…just do it this way…you said you’d do it, but maybe next time…good enough…you meant well.”  And then little eyes look at us and we struggle to show the right example.

I could discuss so many levels of life that I think integrity includes (hence the “part 1”), but I want to focus this entry on integrity related to people holding steadfastly true to their commitments.   Because I’ve recently struggled with balance and my own commitments, it’s raw and ready to be written.   The idea of commitment can encompass many different kinds of intentions, promises, beliefs and relationships of trust and expectation.  We are usually committed to any number of people, organizations, even traditions and ideas. Sometimes we make these commitments with ourselves in projects and work lists.

That is where I start to over analyze.  When I don’t stick to a training plan for an upcoming race because of any number of “reasonable” excuses, do I lack integrity?   When I make my list for the day or week, and I don’t get to the hand written note for the neighbor lady whose husband just passed away, am I chipping away at my integrity?  It is easy to say I didn’t make that commitment explicitly to her and she’ll never know the difference…but if I can break my word to myself about an easy and quite meaningful task like that, what’s going to stop me from breaking my word on another level?  After all, isn’t integrity wrapped up in doing the right thing even when no one is looking?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Nate’s Notes: Not Just About Taking Pictures

Okay, I’m 2 now.  It’s time to start getting serious about what my options are for the future.  Awhile ago, I admitted that it wouldn’t be so bad to take pictures like Momma does.  After all, you get to see things in a different way, like a whole new world, when you look through a camera.   For you other kids out there, it’s kinda like when we get to start facing forward in our car seats.   You see trees, birds, flowers, and buildings that you didn’t before.

Now, because I’m only 2 and Momma, even Daddy, are constantly exposing me (ha ha) to the world of cameras and taking pictures, I don’t have many other choices on the list.   I know I like cars…a lot.  I like running… a lot.  I like animals…a lot.  I like books…a lot.  But just because you like something, doesn’t mean you can put food on the table with it.   So, for now, photography can stay at the top of my short list.

Of course, I’m noticing that it isn’t just about taking pictures.  Sure, the field adventures are super fun.  We get to see new things and learn new things.  I’m even starting to figure out what Momma will take a picture of before she does.   After all the fun, Momma sits on the computer for a gazillion hours.   When I want her to read a book, she’s loading pictures.  When I want to build a tower, she’s working on photos so they are straight.  When I want to run, she’s getting rid of blurry photos.  Pff…see, even big people take blurry photos.  And you think it’s “cute” when I do it!   When I want to race cars, she’s putting all the door pictures together, or all the animals, or the benches, or the clouds together.   I have mad sorting skills now so I’m really helpful, even if she tells me, “no pushing buttons!”.    Then, just when I think she is done, she starts naming and numbering each picture!  Whaaatttt????

And it doesn’t end there!   When they are named and numbered, she puts them on the spiderweb…no, site…no cobweb…no …. WEBSITE!   When they are there, she adds even more words.  Always with the words.  She tells me she has to add “key” words.   So, like with my cars, she says, “car, cars, race cars, toy, toys, wheels, metal cars, moving toys”.   I don’t get what all those words have to do with keys.  Maybe she means the car keys?  Hmm….well, I AM only 2, so a lot of your big people stuff still doesn’t make sense.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is way more to Momma’s work than just taking pictures.   It take a lot of time!  More time than I thought it did, and more time than I want it to.  What is the point of being at home if you can’t play all the time!????!!!  Yea…I figured you had  no good answer.   Lyla and I will have to work on a new daily schedule for her… I have many many ideas!

RSWL: Stories

Stories.  We listen to them, we read them, and we tell them.  They tease us, inform us, distract us, and entertain us.   A good story gives us something to think about.  Stories capture us almost as soon as they begin. Each of our lives is a story of failures, successes, sadness and joys.  We can even tell ourselves stories about our lives that don’t agree with the reality of our lives.  But we tell the stories anyway.

We, as people, love stories.  They surely are one of the oldest forms of art in history.  Stories transcend cultures, classes, and time.  They live from one era to another until they are so deeply rooted in our identities.   They teach future generations.

July 14 2011 sony 001We, as The Transmogrifier Team, love stories.   We love looking for untold stories in the objects and places we photograph.   We love hearing stories when we are out on our field adventures.   We welcome chance encounters with people on location.  Why is that building there?   How did this mine get here?   When did the cemetery begin?   We search for stories about objects.   And in that searching, in those encounters, we learn and grow.   We share.  We share those stories with you when we provide extra information for each image.  We share those stories in our various blog posts.

We also take our pictures to try and tell a story, perhaps one not yet told.   Our team members photograph to preserve.   If you haven’t checked our galleries lately, visit one or two and you just may read some stories.  Even if you don’t find those stories in writing, you just may see them as you flip through the images.   That’s our story…and we’re sticking to it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Nate’s Notes: Always Remember

Today I’m 2.  Momma and Daddy and everyone else seem pretty happy about that.  To me it’s just another day with my cars and books.  I don’t feel any different.  I don’t look any different.  Trust me, I checked in the mirror…for a long time.  Have you ever made faces in the mirror?  It’s so fun!  Anyway, I guess it’s cool because I got some new cars, a book, some new pajamas and sixty-seven-eleventeen money buttons for my piggy bank.

On the television this morning while Momma was trying to find my train show, I noticed a lot of people were sad on different pictures.  “Oh noooo!  What happened?!  Boy cwying…”  I said to Momma.   She caught me staring at it so she snatched me up and hugged me.   She told me a story about buildings and people who got hurt and couldn’t be here anymore, like some of the people we love in our family have gone away too.  She told me about superhero people who tried to help.  She said some of those people were like my Uncle Brett and Uncle Josh who drive fire trucks.  It sounds like a lot of people got hurt and a lot of people needed many hugs and loves because of what happened.  That does seem sad.  Momma said this happened on the same day I was going to be born on, but many years before I was born.  That is why people talk about it this day.

After the story, I felt like hugs a little bit more, so Lyla and I stayed on Momma’s lap.  I guess people will never forget what happened that day.  I guess good things happened too though because it sounds like when people were scared, everyone helped everyone to try and make it better.  That seems like a nice thing.  That is what I’m going to remember.

summer 09 trip 224

TMG Philosophy: Balance

Most people, seemingly, struggle to juggle life’s demands whether they are personal, social, family or work commitments.   We may even be pushing the limits of our daily time allotment to see how much can be accomplished in 24 hours.  Less and less down time is “scheduled” into our lives. 

Personally, turning “off” the go button for me has always taken great effort, and probably will always take extra discipline.  Though I’ve usually been aware of my fight to find balance, it hasn’t been until the last couple years that I’ve worked so hard to achieve that stability.  

Two years ago, I was an office manager who worked too many hours and days, had an amazing husband of 10 years, lived in a lovely home with our puppies, and yearned for a day we would become parents.  I didn’t hate my job, but I wasn’t happy.  My husband and I filled our calendar squares with working, camping trips, hikes, fishing and hunting trips, dinners with friends and family, movie dates, dinner dates, and alone time.  

Then came Nathaniel who will be 2 years old on Wednesday.  Then came a major work change from office manager to working from home doing something I get pleasure from every day at The Transmogrifier.  Then came Lyla, 7 months old.   So now, here I am, given an incredible gifts of my babies, being at home with them, and the opportunity to work with other creative people.  I get to do artistic and original work every day whether it is writing or photography and all that comes with it. 

Never before have I felt I’m where I should be.  Never before have I felt such happiness in all areas of my life.  Never before have I struggled so much to find balance.  Our calendar squares and the hours each square encompasses are filled with baby memories, field adventures, taking pictures, writing, picking, laughing, teaching our kids and learning from them.   Now the work that fills my squares brings me such pleasure I have to compel myself to stop.  Or, when I’m not doing it, I find myself pulling away from other things to focus on work. 

It occurred to me the other day that my work and family life/free time are no longer neatly compartmentalized, but are seamlessly becoming jumbled up together.  Our family vacations, field adventures, and road trips are full of image photography opportunities, blog entry inspirations and family memories.  To a multi-tasker like me, that seems pretty darn cool!  I get to check multiple things off my list with one event!  Win win win!  Or is it? 

That depends on me.  A few weeks ago on a field adventure with our babies and my husband, Chad, I realized with no small amount of horror that I was losing my balance.  Or maybe I had lost my balance.  We were out taking pictures, stopping at the San Francisco Zoo and the Japanese Tea Gardens.   Throughout the day, Nate kept tugging on me, beckoning me.  I can still hear his eager voice, “Momma!  Momma!  Momma!  Mom! Mommy!”.   Each time, I told him to wait.  Each time, I barely acknowledged him because I didn’t want to miss my shot.  I had work to do.  I couldn’t be bothered with the love and exuberance of my son.  

It wasn’t until I was lying in bed that night that I realized I hadn’t ever stopped to discover what Nate was so excited to show me.  Epic fail.  I then began wondering how many other times I had done this to him.  How many times had I dismissed him or my husband?  I was most certainly out of balance.  With renewed vigor and effort, I have begun the battle to regain some balance. 

Having a balanced life is different for each person as we all have different components that make up our wheels of life.   But I do really believe it is realistic to get to a balanced place, even if the glitches come.  The glitches will come.  It comes down to with what and how we choose to fill our calendar squares. There is that word again: choices.  We choose, for the most part, what and how much of what comes first in our lives.  Quality and quantity.  Obviously this fluctuates on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  But we have a large say in how busy we are…and being busy all the time doesn’t mean we are more productive or more fulfilled, necessarily.  It might just mean we are busier.  And that might mean we are missing moments and opportunities, like I did with my son. 

Nate’s Notes: My Favorite Things (yes like the song)

I am almost 2 you know.  Next week it’s my birthday. The other night, before bedtime, Momma and Daddy were asking me what some of my most favorite things are.  I’ve known them both long enough now to recognize that they become reflective around birthdays and milestone dates.   They both like to talk about what has happened since the last time I had a birthday and how much I’ve grown and learned, although Momma goes on and on.  No really, she does.  She makes lists.  Always with the lists.

Here are some of those things… (You may have to sing this to the tune of some song or something- that is what Momma said.)

Nate’s Favorite Things– *with a few extra verses



Race cars and tractors, and things that go choo-choo. Juice drinks and berries, corn, beans, avocado.  Sleeping all snuggled with Momma and Daddy.   These are a few of my favorite things.

Tunnels and fast cars, and cars and lots more cars.  Stories, my puppies, my cat and my chickens.  Talking and reading my books all day long.  These are some more of my favorite things.

Digging in dirt or just jumping in water.  Running in circles or dancing and singing. Riding on Daddy while Momma takes pictures…Yes, even that is a favorite thing!

Field adventures!  Learning new things!  Meeting people there!  Distracting the ones that think Momma is crazy…well, that doesn’t make the list!

Looking for lizards, rocks, lichen or acorns.   Finding the moon or the clouds in the sky. Taking my own pictures, yes Momma lets me!   These are just more of my favorite things!

Road trips, I have to admit they’re amazing.  Music and bath time, flea markets, my lovey. Playing with cars, oh yea, I mentioned that.  Well- that is probly’ my most favorite thing!

Coloring, painting or building with Legos.   Grandparents, cousins, my aunts and my uncles. Family dinners with laughing and joy.   Those are most definite favorite things!

Lyla laughing!  Momma smiling!  Daddy giving hugs!  Now those are the best of my favorite things.  The ones that show me I’m loved!


RSWL: Another Keri Smith Book

You may have noticed we tend to write about creativity, exploration, and  inspiration as recurring themes.   It’s only because our team at The Transmogrifier believes in these ideas so profoundly, we seek both out daily ourselves.  A few months ago, Tim introduced you to the Canadian author, Keri Smith and her wonderful book How To Be An Explorer of the World.

Well, I found another fun and inspiring book by her I want to share.  It is called  Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life.  As Keri Smith writes in her introduction,  “my favorite books are those that make me burst with energy and inspire me to drop everything and get down onto the floor and fearlessly create for hours.  Living Out Loud is a “to do” book, not a “how to” book.  I hope it will encourage you to play, and to face the fears that hold you back.”

Just like How To Be An Explorer of the World, this book gives activities to encourage you to play, do and create.  The activities are easy and inexpensive.  A lot of them are free.

Here is an example with also embodies how our Transmogrifier Team hopes people will look around them, really LOOK, and SEE things from a different perspective.  This idea actually feels a bit like looking through a camera lens…

It’s called The Finder.

“Charles and Ray Eames praised the use of a finder in their teachings.  A finder is a small piece of cardboard (about three-by-four inches) with a one-inch-square hole cut out of the middle.  Viewing the world through this hole forces you to lose context and content, and to greatly shift your perception.  The finder allows you to focus on small sections and negative space.  It also singles out color and isolates pattern.

The Finder

[Photo credit: from Living Out Loud by Keri Smith]

“Make a finder and place it on a stack of magazines.  Cut through as many layers as you can with an X-Acto knife.  Sort through the pieces, picking out the ones you like.  Look at the shapes you’ve created by accident.  Use the cut-out squares as reference for other projects or to create new ideas, concepts, and compositions.

“Take the finder with you on a walk.  Look at familiar places with a new eye.  In your sketchbook, sketch out what you see.  What do you notice that you didn’t see before?”

I love any suggestion that changes the way you look at something and ignites a spark.  And this activity is not the only one like it.  Smith’s book is packed with games, suggestions and ideas to encourage you to tap into the enthusiasm, joy for life and playful spirit that some may have left in childhood.  The book also leads to a lot of self observation, which I’m always ready for.  I might not like what I observe, and that kicks me into a growing movement…never a bad thing!

Add this book to your list and dare to live out loud!   

Enhanced by Zemanta

TMG Philosophy: Work

Today, in the United States, we are celebrating Labor Day.  As a kid, growing up in Michigan, the idea of Labor Day was more about the end of summer with the first day of school being the next day.  We would often spend the day at a barbecue in the backyard of a friend’s house with the Jerry Lewis Telethon on the black and white TV in the house, the rabbit ears on the TV positioned just so.

Labor Day in the United States was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 as an effort to lessen the tension between big business and the workers after several large strikes in which workers were killed.  It was quickly approved by a unanimous vote in Congress.  In upper society in the US, Labor Day was considered the last day of the season in acceptable fashion to wear white clothing.

The idea of a national holiday that celebrates the laborer may sound suspiciously communist to some of you, but nonetheless – it is the holiday we have.  For most of us in the US, Labor Day is more of a name and a chance to have one last big backyard party with our friends and family, while enjoying a day off, than a chance to honor workers.

Stop and think about the idea of hard work and what that means for a moment.  We are often told as we grow up that if we work hard, we will get what we work for.  Some people get this and dive into their work with enthusiasm for the sense of accomplishment that often comes at the end, and some on the other end of the spectrum seem to be as accepting of doing work as a pulled pork sandwich vendor would be at the Wailing Wall.

But let’s be honest, not all hard work leads to a positive end.  Sometimes we work really hard and things still don’t turn out the way we expect.  I know a few people who work hard and have a good work ethic, yet they struggle to find work.  I am sure we all know a few people like that, just like we probably each know a few people who don’t seem to work much at all, yet are doing just fine.

At the Transmogrifier, we believe in the value of work and the realization that pretty much anything of value, takes a lot of work and effort to create, maintain or make grow.  It takes a special level of commitment to stick with the work even when the rewards are not readily apparent.  That is why we have been committed to our websites and the incredible amount of work it takes to build them up, for several years now , and we know it will be work for many years to come.

We are happy with the “fruits of our labor” and we hope you are too.  Give us a “Like” on Facebook if you like what we have done, sign up for an account (it’s free) on our sites if you have not done that already, or share what we are doing with a friend or coworker.  We would appreciate that work on your part, which helps us with our work.  Let’s take this Labor Day to think about the work we all do and show some appreciation for the work other do, as well at take pride in our own efforts.

Thanks, and Happy Labor Day!