Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What I made for Christmas

Well, there are another seven days until the end of Christmas, but at least the gift-giving moment is over and I can post some pictures of what I've achieved.

Some of you may remember this nightlight I made a while back:

Nightlight for young captains

It lives in my mother's kitchen now, but for Christmas, I made the following:

Christmas Nightlight

A Cracow on Christmas themed nightlight for my grandparents. They have lived in Cracow all their life, just steps from the wonderful St. Mary's Basilica and I know there are few things in the world they love more than their beautiful city.

Christmas Nightlight: The Mariacki ChurchThe nightlight is a huge improvement on the one with the ship, not only because of the materials I used but because of the experience I gained making the first light.

All of my nightlights so far are powered by two AA batteries. The lights are LEDs, so they are safe as far as heat is concerned and I expect them to last a very long time. As the shopkeep at the electricity store down the street said (to save on explanations, I told him I would be making a doll's house): "Oh, the kid will be bored with that house long before those LEDs burn out."

Well, I hope not. ;)

If you click on the photos, you will go to Flickr where you can see larger sizes and a whole set dedicated to what I've done in the nightlight world so far.

The reason I call them nightlights (and I think I need a better name) is because they can function as such. The LEDS are bright enough to light up a dark room, but not so bright that they disperse the darkness completely. My original idea was that people could put them on a child's dresser, and they could look at the scene before falling asleep. Something for good dreams...

Christmas Nightlight: Cracow Christmas Nightlight: The Lajkonik

Another gift I made was this apartment block for my sister:

House Nightlight

It is made out of an empty wine-box, as the more perceptive drinkers have probably noticed.;) I like recycling. And there is a trick to it. When you press the doorbell, the windows light up, and when you look through the windows...

House Nightlight will see little people.

House Nightlight: Bookworm
House Nightlight: Dinner
House Nightlight: Young person's room
The box is wooden, but everything inside except for the occasional scrap fabric curtain is made out of paper. Like in the Cracow scene, every single little person and piece of furniture are hand drawn and painted.

I have two more houses like this in the making, back in Lodz, I can't wait to get my hands on them again. They will be a lot nicer than this first one- again I have learned which materials are best and how to put everything together properly.

As before, the whole thing takes two AA batteries, and replacement is fairly easy. The lights are LEDs. I love LEDs. They're so handy and so efficient.

Like I said, I painted the people and furniture myself, but some of the wallpaper is actually origami paper...I was never any good at making anything but cranes, and I had a packet which I'd received as a gift lying in my paper box for a good few years.

This, dear friends, is why I never throw anything out! All sorts of scraps and odds and ends have found their way into these nightlights. The windowsills on the house, for example, are made out of cat food tins. Oh, yes. I wash all my cans and save them, they are extremely useful, if only for holding my various pens, pencils, and markers.

I made two more nightlights like these, but I will save them for another post. One of them has still not been delivered to the person I made it for, and on the off-chance that this person reads my blog, I wouldn't want the surprise spoiled.

A good post, I think, to end the year with.

I know there aren't many of you reading this at this point, but I wish you all a wonderful New Year, with lots of creative and fruitful endeavours. And if you're just the lazy sort and happy with that, then I wish you what we in Poland call 'holy peace', and that is to say, the cherished lack of excessive noise and unnerving distractions which can normally drive one to curse at the skies.

Have a good 2010, everybody. Oh, and don't forget, January 1st is the PERFECT time to start your 365 Photos Project! I will be posting mine on this blog starting the day after tomorrow, so don't let me make you jealous. ;)

Do siego roku! May the New Year truly be New!

House Nightlight: Painting the apartment

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New still very happy today sleep tomorrow where more photos!

Today I used a little app on Facebook which pulls and counts the Top Ten words you use in your status updates.

The result made me laugh:

1):new - used 13 times
2):still - used 12 times
3):very - used 11 times
4):happy - used 11 times
5):today - used 10 times
6):sleep - used 9 times
7):tomorrow - used 9 times
8):where - used 9 times
9):more - used 8 times
10):photos - used 8 times

Anyone who knows me knows this is exactly what my life is about. Sleep today, photos tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Project 365 2010- come on, you know you want to.

On January 1st 2007, after gulping down a couple of bottles of champagne in my bed at midnight after I'd learned my cat had the choice of being euthanised or drowning in his own internal fluids, I started something that changed my life. Project 365.

I'm not entirely sure who had the idea first. Photojojo has a good write-up on the subject, but the idea is simple enough to be expressed in one sentence:

Take one photo a day, every day, for one year.

Or three years as has been my case, as I can't stop. 2010 will be my fourth run, and I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed the previous three. If you like to take pictures, you should give this a go, too (Kat, I am looking in the vague direction of distant Indiana as I type, so consider yourself tagged).

Questions you might be asking yourself right now:

Why do this?

    61/366: Dad's Birthday
  • Why not? Okay, seriously: I didn't think it would be a big deal, but having a photographic diary to look back on after a year is a very cool thing. I have tried keeping a written diary several times in the course of my life and the result was always a notebook of illegible scribbles abandoned halfway through, of so little interest to me years after the deed that I've burned or shredded them all without reading. With photos, it is easy- I have a mnemonic of my year which I can show to anyone without boring them to death or risking revealing anything too private. Usually. ;) 

      271/365:Sun at night
    • Your photography will improve. I'm aiming this at people too careful to call themselves pros- those who, much like me, have a pretty good idea of what's going on in their camera, but need a good googling whenever they need to approach a subject seriously. Taking a photo every day, most likely in different lighting and setting, will make you more aware of how your camera works and what you can tweak to get a better shot. It will also give you 365 opportunities to try out that trick or technique you always wanted to have a go at.

        317/366: The Bounty
      • You will never miss another photo-op again. Why? Because you'll be taking your camera with you everywhere, that's why. Trust me, the habit forms, and it's a good one. I used to be one of those people who, although aware of owning a camera, never actually thought they were good enough photogs to bother encumbering themselves with it on a daily basis. Imagine if I had gone on my (in?)famous square-rig sail to the Equator with that attitude!

        147/365: The old and the new (taken with the substitute)
      • Your photos will get more exposure. This advice not to be used as a dirty means of advertising, but there are tons of photo 365 enthusiast groups out there. On Flickr, I'm currently posting my everyday photos here . Shuttercal is also a nice place to go. Have a google, join a group, a board, a forum, a community. Make some friends, and see what the same day looks like in different corners of the world.

      Personally, I try to tag and geotag my photos as soon as I upload them, especially if they reflect current events, that way people who search the web for a photo of something specific have a better chance of finding my shot. Photos are a medium that demands sharing. That is also why I've decided to put a Creative Commons license on all of my subsequent P365 photos. In case you don't know, this means anyone can use those photos however they like, as long as they give me credit.  In other words, help yourselves:

      The rights to most of my non-365 photos remain reserved, however, so please ask if you want anything from outside the set.

      And let me know if you start up a P365, and where you'll be blogging it. I used to put mine up at Livejournal and that worked fine for three years, but from 2010 I will be posting the photos here, with a relevant tag. :)

      Cheers to 365+ more photos in 2010!

          Monday, December 14, 2009

          Crafty things

          Christmas gift teaser (if you are reading this then, no, it's not for you.):

          Tiny carriage

          347/365:Christmas crafts

          More soon.

          Tuesday, December 1, 2009

          Gifts from Radesh

          My cat friend Radesh is a prodigious hunter. Since we have known each other he has brought me many gifts:


          204/365: Red Admiral Defeated


          154/366: Radesh and the even bigger moth


          125/365:Radesh found something.


          333/365: Radesh provides for me

          and yesterday, a mole


          Some of them, like the mole, I have rescued and set free. Some he ate on the spot. Some were resurrected in the middle of the night to scritch and scratch around my bedroom.

          There was one morning when he woke me up at dawn, bringing a sparrow through the window. The thing was dead. I crawled back into bed and watched Radesh eat the bird whole, bones, feathers, beak and all.

          Ah, nature.

          Monday, November 30, 2009

          Patologia Lodzensis

          If my posts about Lodz have not sparked everyone's interest yet, I refer you all to this excellent photoblog about my favourite city: Street Patography

          (photo from said blog, taken by Negatyw )

          That is all.

          Tuesday, November 24, 2009

          After changes upon changes, it's all more or less the same.

          I remain a fan of Lodz. I arrived here in 2002 as a student, I stayed expecting steady employment (which, for various reasons, turned out to be a very silly expectation). I've seen this city change a lot in the last six years- I just wish I'd taken some photos in the first three, because some of the changes are stupendous.

          Take this building:

          101/366: Tangle

          I am not certain of the story save that it was a tangled one- an attempt to demolish it turned into a reconstruction which took over a year. Today, in drearier weather, I took a photo of the result:

          Fake windows

          Yes, those are fake windows, and an extra floor. Not bad for a building that was supposed to be demolished, no?

          Things do change in Lodz, although sometimes they stagnate for a very long time. I don't have any photos of this building when it was not yet condemned and held a pharmacy and fur cleaner, but at some point it was boarded up. A year or two later came the veil:

          Sunday Ghost Town

          It only covered the Southern side- the Western facade remained optimistic:

          43/366: Hopeful

          The veil was supposedly put up to keep fragments of brick and plaster from falling down on people's heads, but it gave the impression of a misty spell, or a Christo installation:

          4/365: Veiled

          But clearly the building was sick of waiting for the death sentence that never came. Slowly, as buildings will, it freed itself from its shroud.



          Friday, November 20, 2009

          Ex Navicula Navis

          I've been to a lot of exciting places, but I really have to say I find Lodz the most interesting, colourful(sic!) and graceful subject for photography. So I just wanted to share a photo map of the pictures I took of Lodz this year.

          Thursday, November 19, 2009

          Of nightlights and getting excited

          I follow a lot of people on Twitter. One of them is Wil Wheaton- I have a soft spot for the dude not only because he seems to complete the trifecta of being smart, funny, and talented, but mainly because my greatest fear is being disliked. This guy played a character that was deeply disliked by the majority of a very significant fandom and has come out of it a cheekily grinning winner, without any condition of regret- he's rightfully proud of his career and he's not a dick about it.

          Yesterday as I was playing with sharp things, a link to Wil's latest blog entry came up on my twitter feed. You should go over there and read it for yourself but the title sums it up well:"Get excited and make things" .

          And I thought, YES. Very good post, and it gave me heart. Because that's what I've been doing since I got back from California this September- getting excited and making things. I've not only been racing for a deadline with illustrations for a reprint of Betlejem, but also playing at another version of the gift I gave my parents for their anniversary last year. It was a little moonlit forest enclosed in an antique cabinet, with a battery-powered lamp stuck in the back for lack of electrical experience- something I have to dismantle now and rewire with an on-off switch so they can enjoy it better. In the meantime I made another attempt; to call it a nightlight probably describes it best:

          288/365:Nightlight for young captains

          My mother put it in the kitchen and switches it on from time to time. The inside is papercraft, the moon is lit up by an LED powered by two AA batteries. Overall not a bad job, though a lot of it needs improvement. I used a chisel to cut a hole for the batteries in the frame- the same chisel which I drove into my hand not once, not twice, but six times in the last three days.

          Fearing for my life and limbs, I bought a Dremel tool yesterday along with a router attachment. It has already made it to the Hall of Fame of Best Purchases I Ever Made, right next to my bicycle, my Macbook and my camera. It is very helpful in creating what the nightlight project has evolved into, and what you can see a glimpse of in the photo below:

          323/365: Getting Excited and Making Things

          So I am getting excited and making things. As Wil calls for in his blog, I'm doing it right now, because right now is the best time to do it. I don't know if I'll ever manage to make these diorama nightlights nice enough to sell, or if anyone will ever want to buy them, or if this hobby can be in any way affordable, but I am having tremendous fun and will have good gifts for Christmas this year.

          Pass it on, people: get excited and make things. Even if you lose a little blood and sanity in the process. ;)

          Thursday, November 12, 2009

          Quick update

          I've updated the Published Illustrations section of my portfolio; you can now see pictures from all three books I've done right here.

          The Berlin Wall photo I didn't find.

          Radesh is lying on the parapet, staring at me with one critical eye- the other one is slowly closing as he falls asleep. Radesh is the cat, in case you didn't know. He will be upset later when I try to clean up the mess he's lying on.

          So, non-sequitur, Flickr has recently called out for archival photos of Berlin and the Wall. I have one of those. I remember it well- in 1989 my parents packed the car and we rode across Europe all the way to a little blue house in Ruurlo in the Netherlands. On the way we stopped in Berlin, and took pictures of the Wall. In my six year-old naïveté I couldn't fathom how a government of responsible grown ups could ever come up with an idea as ridiculous as building a wall to divide a country in two. Such methods belonged in the sandbox, I thought. Of course I was more or less aware of the lack of freedom in Poland itself, but red-tape gagging and kidnappings by the Security Office still seemed like a more reasonable approach than BUILDING A FRICKIN' WALL in the middle of a city. What if you got caught on the wrong side? What if your house was in the middle of the barrier? HOW does one even perform an operation like that?

          When we arrived in Berlin, I took a kick at the wall, and then my mother took a photo. I was wearing a red tracksuit. It was not the day of the collapse, but people were still crowding around the now useless eyesore, climbing through gaps, hacking chunks of brick off with axes and picks. It was a universally hated thing, a symbol of oppression and all things Evil, and it was good to be able to kick it, though my little kiddie shoes never made a dent.

          I tried to find this photo and could not, even though I'm sure it exists. The album goes straight from a DDR retreat centre in the marshes to Paris, and Ruurlo. I don't know if we kept any of the negatives- bah, I'm sure we had our own chunk of the Wall itself, but where is it today? I want to shout out: I was there! and hold proof, but I can't. In the age of "pics or it didn't happen", it's dismaying.

          So that's the story of the photo I didn't find. I did, however, find some cute pictures of myself as a child, which I now include for the amusement of my friends and to the annoyance of complete strangers who have found this entry googling for photos of the Berlin Wall. ;)


          This Blog...

          So this blog is new. I had one on LJ for a very long time, and hated to leave because of the comfort of the Friends Page (if you've ever used LJ you know what I mean...). But then I stopped reading the page. And then I stopped posting.

          This probably isn't the tone I should take in a first blog post.

          But this time, I'm coming in from a different angle. I've set up my first proper portfolio website at and needed something to match. Using blogspot was easier than trying to figure out wordpress or movable type's special css. My short-term memory doesn't allow for too much technical mumbo-jumbo. A week from now I won't even remember how I coded that website, though all of it (except the javascript for the slideshow ) is my own work. That's why I rushed this job, and that's why all the content isn't there yet. No worries, I didn't put any 'under construction' graphics, even in homage to the recently defunct Geocities that would have been very, very wrong...

          In other words, welcome to my New Blog, which I will update frequently as it is now part of my personal happy network. Joy! Confetti!

          And since it is Polish Independence Day today, and I am Polish (oh, yes) here is a picture of vintage war bicycles at today's parade. Yes, war bicycles, what do you mean you've never heard of those?


          Note the mounted rifles:


          And with that I say goodnight, happy Independence Day, Poland, and I'll see you tomorrow.

          (I'm leaving the ridiculous 'Test Post' up below because Kat commented on it. Go visit Kat . She is funny and I like her.)
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