Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ursus Wehrli Tidies Up

For the first time, both of my blogs, "The Thoughtful Consumer" and "Art by Cynthia," are showcasing the same thing -- or more precisely, the same person: Ursus Wehrli. Never before has art overlapped so perfectly with uncluttering and organizing!

From a post on PSFK:
"Swiss artist and comedian, Ursus Wehrli, known for his Tidying Up Art books (where he tidies up famous artwork, such as Van Gogh’s Room or Botticelli’s Beach by carefully rearranging them) returns with a new project. In his forthcoming book, The Art of Clean Up he brings his passion for sorting things to everyday life and objects."

See his TED Talk for more about tidying up art.

I find his work to be creative and hilarious. But, in real life, at what point does "tidying up" become obsessive? From the point of view of the readers of this blog, I suspect that's not much of an issue. And yet, in order to avoid tackling the large clutter issues in your life, do you ever obsess over a small area that you can control by making certain it's orderly? Does this somehow prove to you that you're really not living a cluttered life -- you just don't have enough time to be neat and tidy everywhere; just look here (wherever it might be) where you've clearly demonstrated that you can succeed at uncluttering! I know a woman who was overwhelmed by the clutter throughout her home but, whenever she tried to tackle it, she'd end up cleaning only the kitchen. The rest of the house was untouched, but that clean kitchen reassured her that she hadn't lost control completely.

I don't feel compelled to tidy up everything and I'm very fond of some messy art, but Ursus Wehrli provides amusing proof that order can be made out of all manner of "chaos." Just watch the video to see how he cleverly resolves the "mess" in a Jackson Pollack painting. As I said: hilarious!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Urban Gardens Also Grow Communities

While it's been a long time since I was a practitioner of the fine art of gardening, I retain an interest in it and confess to living an occasional rich fantasy life as an urban farmer. The benefits of urban gardening are not just personal to the gardeners; cultivating the land can revitalize neighborhoods, too. For an example, take a look at this 10-minute video about the current impact of urban gardening in Detroit, the much more ambitious plans for the future of agriculture in the city, and the challenges that kind of development faces:

"Seeds of Progress: How Urban Farming Is Changing Detroit's Future"

Of course, not all stories of urban gardening are cheerful. Robin Finn writes in The NY Times about theft from the 700 community gardens scattered throughout the city:

" hear urban farmers speak, no borough, and no garden devoted to edibles, whether sprawling or thimble-size, is immune to theft. 'Food is more attractive than flowers, especially in this economy,' said Marjorie J. Clarke, a caretaker at the flowers-only Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden, known as RING. On the Upper West Side, cucumbers are tops for filching; in Harlem, the main draws are chilies and herbs; on the Lower East Side, green and red peppers; in Brooklyn and Queens, tomatoes and squash."

If you have a green thumb that's itching to get into the dirt or if you just want to find out more about urban gardening, the following links can be helpful:

"A Starter Guide to Urban Gardening" : From Inhabit, a blog with the motto, "Green Design Will Save the World."

"Urban Gardening: You Can Grow Food No Matter Where You Live" : EarthFirst posts about indoor gardening, container gardening, community gardening and guerilla gardening.

Urban Garden Magazine: "We want to inspire everyone, no matter what their domestic situation, to get growing. Even somebody living in an apartment on the 37th floor can produce surprising quantities of their own vegetables and herbs."

"The Edible Garden: Breaking Ground" : An LA public TV special in which six expert gardeners demonstrate how they use sustainable methods to grow beautiful organic produce. Available on DVD.

Previous posts from The Thoughtful Consumer:
Guerilla Gardeners
Off the Grid

If you do start an urban garden, or if you already have one or participate in a community garden, please share your experiences with it in the comments. Is gardening as satisfying as you hoped it would be? Does it help feed your family? Is the garden contributing to a sense of community?

And if it's just plain fun, please let us know that, too! Thanks.

UPDATE: I had just published this post and discovered within seconds this excellent story by Steve Lopez, also just published online in the LA Times:

"In the Weeds of Bureaucratic Insanity There Sprouts a Small Reprieve" : "Ron Finley planted a garden that fed both stomachs and souls in an area where healthful food is scarce. When the city demanded he remove it, neighbors protested and a councilman stepped in to mediate." ~ Please read this story of a man who planted his garden "between the curb and the sidewalk along his property in a 10-foot-wide, 150-foot-long strip of useless, scrubby grass" and discovered that it produced friendships as well as vegetables.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Small Houses, Urban Gardens, Consumer Spending ~ and a Blog Anniversary

In honor of today's fifth anniversary of The Thoughtful Consumer blog, I'm taking a hiatus from my hiatus to share several articles devoted to three of my favorite areas of interest: small houses, urban gardening, and consumer behavior.

Small Houses

As regular readers know, I enjoy exploring the options offered by small houses, but sometimes I'm amazed at just how small a house can be and still have someone willing to live in. The design model pictured above is an example. This house will be 28" at its narrowest and about 4' at its widest. It's scheduled to be completed in December in Warsaw, Poland, and, yes, it was commissioned. Read more and see more photos at the NPR post here.

Urban Gardening

On an acre of land in the densely-populated Mission Terrace neighborhood of San Francisco, "Little City Gardens recently became the first legal commercial farm within city borders. Thanks to [the women gardeners], San Francisco leaders revised zoning laws to allow the cultivation and sale of produce in all neighborhoods." Will Oakland and Berkeley follow suit? Read more in the LA Times article here.

Consumer Behavior

The recession may have put a damper on spending in the U.S. on items to decorate homes and make them more fashionable, but that's not the case in other countries that are developing a middle class with "disposable income" for the first time in their histories. Brazil, Russia and, especially, China are hot markets not only for the stylish stuff but for the glossy magazines that pitch it. Architectual Digest is about to start publishing in China, but more than just foreign branches of already established magazines are finding welcoming markets; brand new publications, such as Minha Casa and Bamboo in Brazil and Home in Russia, are also being launched. Can clutter be far behind? Read more here in the LA Times.

I'll be back with more posts soon!