Boundless Kindness

boundless kindnessLearning about boundless kindness. I made this poster to remind myself to truly wish others well.

“All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy.”

Quote from a book I’ve been thoroughly enjoying called Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom.

 

 

Why The Tattoo?

I got a tattoo of a deer today.

Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.

I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.

But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?

I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.

Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.

So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.

Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.

Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.

“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.

It made my heart soar.

So, why the tattoo?

I guess there’s several facets to that answer.

- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.

- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.

- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.

- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.

If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.

That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.

Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.

Shit Sandwiches

What is a Shit Sandwich?

A Shit Sandwich is a pile of shit sandwiched between two pieces of bread. If it sounds disgusting and unappetizing, that’s because it is.

You’ve probably never ordered one purposefully, but if you’re a human on earth, a few people have probably tried to serve you one.

A Shit Sandwich has nothing to do with you, and has no power to cause you harm unless you eat it. You may have had no power over the fact that someone decided to serve you a shit sandwich (unless you asked for one specifically), but you do have power over what happens when you are served your Shit Sandwich.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to eat a pile of shit.  All you have to do to avoid the harmful effects of the Shit Sandwich is to weild your power to say no. Just don’t eat it. Send it right back where it came from. It cannot hurt you nor cause any harm should you choose to reject it.

Let’s get real

Am I being too vague here? Let’s get real with some real world examples.

The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop, and I noticed both plugs were in use by other customers. I said to the woman next to me, “hi, I have a question for you: if your computer will last for a while unplugged and you don’t mind, would it be alright to charge mine for a while?  You can definitely say no, it’s no problem if you’re still using it.”

She said, “Ok, I’m leaving.”

I thought she meant, “sure, I was just leaving, go for it” but I quickly found out I was mistaken.

As she gathered her belongings, she went on, raising her voice “YOU ARE EXTREMELY RUDE, INCONSIDERATE, AND NOW YOU ARE INCONVENIENCING ME. YOUR GLASSES DON’T MAKE YOU SMART! I WAS JUST WRITING ABOUT PEOPLE WITH GLASSES, THEY ARE SO RUDE. YOU ARE JUST A CHILD IN A WOMAN’S BODY, AND JUST BECAUSE YOUR FAMILY DOESN’T SUPPORT YOU DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN TAKE IT OUT ON OTHERS. YOU ARE EXTREMELY RUDE AND…..” At this point, the woman who was sitting next to us gets up and vacates the area. I’m standing there like a deer in the headlights, shocked, confused, and speechless. I look over at the woman who’s escaped the reign of terror in the hopes that she’ll come back and save me, then realize I’m going it alone.

My first instinct is to sling it right back at her, but I quickly realize the situation for what it really is: I have just been served a giant hot plate of Shit Sandwich. Me reacting to her at all would be consuming the Shit Sandwich I just got served.

I realized that her actions had nothing to do with me, and so I sat back down, saying nothing. I didn’t have to defend myself, I had nothing to explain, and I didn’t want to serve her a Shit Sandwich either even if it was my first instinct–two wrongs don’t make a right.

The best thing you can do for yourself and for the Shit Sandwich Server is to leave well enough alone. Abstain completely. Remove yourself from the situation.  Because otherwise you’re going to keep getting served more and more Shit Sandwiches. People everywhere will start to see that you readily accept Shit Sandwiches and thoroughly enjoy them. If you, like me, don’t like eating Shit Sandwiches, you’ve got to put your foot down and set some boundaries. It’s nothing personal against the server–they are not a bad person for serving you a Shit Sandwich. But at the same time, you don’t have to eat it. Let the server handle his or her Shit Sandwich issues without you in the picture.

The key is recognizing that you are being served a Shit Sandwich, because obviously it is not always immediately obvious. You see the nice toasty hot bread first, and you must look between the buns to see the meat of the matter. Or in this case, the shit of the matter.  Once you know that someone is trying to serve you a steaming pile of Bullshit, you can then easily call “Bullshit” and go back to what you were doing.

I think a stranger from Safeway sums it up best:

“I do not respond positively to negative stimuli.”

Say no to Shit Sandwiches, my friend. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Visiting The Royal Press: Reviving a 4-Generations-Old Malaysian Print Studio

Visiting the Royal Press, Malaysia’s oldest letterpress printing press, is one of the coolest things I have ever had the opportunity to do.  Ever.

After a couple years studying letterpress, working commercially, and then starting my own letterpress business, it had me thinking I knew a few things about my favorite method of printmaking.

The Royal Press showed me otherwise.  I was happily surprised to be completely surprised. No, not surprised, more like awestruck.

Letterpress-ers, get ready to nerd out.  All others, please feel free to skip this bit:

They had a Linotype machine the size of two refrigerators upon which one would type, and then it would select letters from a drawer inside, send them down a chute, and upon your command, heat and melt the lead letters to form an entire single block.

They had a rule-making machine.

They had presses so old and so big they crashed in on my current reality and blew it to smithereens.

They had walls and walls and walls of lead type, greater than any collection I’ve ever seen before, including UC Santa Cruz’s Cowell Press, the Weisensee Kunsthochschule in Berlin, the Print Museum in Dublin, Ireland, and the city collection in Berlin’s massive library.

They had four languages of type: Chinese, Arabic, English, and Jawi.

My jaw was on the floor the entire time.

Aside from the technical brilliance, this place just echoes beauty in every corner.  It’s everything I love about letterpress and more.  Sunlight streaming in overhead, paper flying this way and that, dusty shelves with records from the company’s last 50 years, employees deep in thought and work, history engrained in every nook and cranny of the building.

The Press is 75 years old, and Ee Soon Wei, great-grandson of the original printer, is on a mission to revive and enliven this beautiful but dusty printing haven.  He wants to pass on the traditions of this amazing method, as well as preserve an extremely special family history.

He’s well on his way–he’s currently preparing a Revival Plan to restore the press to a living museum, one in which artists can work and live in residency for a couple years at a time, where tourists to the beautiful and artistic UNESCO city of Melaka can visit the space and learn about this ancient printmaking method, and where the heritage and story of the space is celebrated.  The Discovery Channel will begin filming a documentary of the revival process next week.

My personal interest and passion came from the interest in the The Royal Press as a hidden beautiful story that led to preservation and continuing the business while injecting new channel opportunities – gallery, living museum while running the business. I want the story to live on… – Ee Soon Wei

Check out the Royal Press’s website for updates and make sure to visit if you’re ever in Malaysia.