Category Archives: all

StuffedMice Studio

Studio lately

Mess, random objects and work in progress – this is what’s been happening here lately. I finished a new set of notebooks and it feels great, especially now, when my tax return is screaming for attention. These days I wish I could stretch time. Everything takes too long.

When I look at this room in the pictures I know that something has to be done about it. The only three things on the walls? A calendar full of Aboriginal art – a gift from my friend Aga who dragged it all the way from Australia. An insert from one of the Stack magazines with a quote that, unlike most “wise quotes”, doesn’t make me feel sick. And a piece of paper I took from the Lego room in Amsterdam’s Stedelijk museum – again, with a sentence that I happened to like. I’m sure there must be more that I’d love to see when I look up from my desk. But what?

We’ve already had an argument with Karol about putting a huge poster of Kate Bush up on one of the walls in our living room. Karol finds posters of singers who are still alive – sorry, Kate – creepy. “What if she visited and saw it, wouldn’t that be just too weird?” he asks. I seem to miss his point entirely and negotiate a triptych: Bush, Wagner and Bowie. All in smaller than huge sizes. All side by side. The evidently dead Wagner as an attempt to balance things up a bit. We both like him and surely, unlike Kate and David, he will never pay us a visit.

But we’re yet to reach an agreement. And I can already tell that deciding about the studio walls will be just as easy.

StuffedMice Studio

StuffedMice Studio

StuffedMice Studio

StuffedMice Studio

StuffedMice Studio

Quick Fix Covered Windows

Quick fix: covered windows

The studio is the saddest room in the house at the moment. With random furniture and usually biggest mess. Although the mess actually livens it up a little. But yes, still very sad-looking. When I work from home or stay at home, I spend most of my day here. Which really only adds to my, and possibly yours now, disbelief in how tolerant I’d been of this view:

Quick Fix Covered Windows

Cringe, cringe, cringe… The curtains! Aren’t they the ugliest thing you could choose for torturing your windows? We inherited them from the previous owners and never had enough time / courage / energy to burn them. And they were useful. For the times when I looked from behind my computer only to see a neighbour having a cigarette and staring at me from the opposite side of the street. Or for the times when we had guests staying over (which is often).

Enough was enough and I needed a quick fix. Something that didn’t need screws, hammers, drilling walls or what not.

Quick Fix Covered Windows

Right before Christmas, inspired by other neighbours’ bedroom windows, I bought some static film on Amazon to put on the glass but got to use it only last week. It came in 67.5cm wide by 1.5 metres long rolls. What’s perfect is that there’a a grid printed on the back of the film, together with instructions in at least 12 languages, so it’s very easy to use.

150123-StuffedMice-Blog-QuickFix-Covered-Windows-4

When I had my pieces of foil ready (my pieces are only 50cm long as I wanted to let as much unaltered light in as possible ), I sprayed the window panes and stuck the film onto them. I left about 1cm gap between the foil and window frames. Some squeegee work to remove the air bubbles next and it was finished.

150123-StuffedMice-Blog-QuickFix-Covered-Windows-3

Done! I used up one roll of film and quite like the effect it has (this one is frost but there are also others). Now I have clean, hospital-looking windows, lots of natural light, lots of nicely diffused light, privacy and no curtains! Naturally I did the impossible and measured one of the pieces incorrectly. The grid wasn’t foolproof by the looks of it. But I was so pleased with the newly found light that I left it as it is. Next: kitchen and bedroom windows!

150120-StuffedMice-Books-1b

2015 reads – 1 – Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

Fail better – this is my approach to books this year. I don’t read as much as I’d like to and when I wonder why, I realize that it’s not because of lack of discipline – I can read on trains, wake up earlier just to have an hour extra with a good book. It’s also not because of lack of time – I can make time for reading, quite easily. Why then? I treat reading as pure pleasure and so tend to push it down my to-do lists. I also associate it with being passive and simply have no need for it at times of increased activity. For example, I hardly ever read in December but come January and I crave books like a kid who’s just discovered the alphabet.

The ever-broken promise – to make some notes right after finishing a book – is back again. Quotes, general observations or whatever takes my fancy. Plans? To read more about/from China, design and Finland. Doesn’t look too hard, does it? Let’s see if I can fail a bit better this time.

I saw this book in Hong Kong and really wanted to read it.
Cixi – the most important woman in Chinese history. Mother of a useless emperor, dowager for an even worse one.
Ruled China from behind a yellow silk screen, with a clueless emperor in front of it. Despite her lack of penis but due to being the only person with balls at the court, eventually did sit in front of the yellow screen.
To this day not appreciated in her country.

When I was looking for the images of Cixi’s Summer Palace online, I found a comment of an European tourist, repeating what he must have been told about Cixi during his visit. Then I searched for some documentaries and kept wasting my time on carefully edited propaganda. Conclusion: read whatever’s not allowed in China by whoever is not exactly welcomed in the country.

Also, a good example of the healing power of music:

“Cixi had come to detest her adopted son: he had been involved in a plot to kill her and yet she was unable to expose him. He was widely regarded as a tragic reformist hero and she as a reactionary and vicious villain — and yet she was unable to defend herself. Her feelings of bitterness and frustration were only relieved when she watched an opera about a heartless adopted son, who drove his foster parents to death and then received his just deserts when he was struck dead by terrible lightning unleashed by the God of Thunderbolts. Cixi became very fond of this opera and watched it many times. She had the adopted son made up as a most despicable scoundrel and ordered the number of thunderbolts and shafts of lightning strikes to be increased fivefold. She also added the frightening Gods of Winds and Storms to the scene, so that the retribution looked and sounded even more horrendous. Unable to punish her adopted son sufficiently herself, Cixi wished the gods to punish him one day.”

2015 Books Cixi

2015 Books Cixi

/Image credits: Wikipedia, The Freer and The Sackler/

StuffedMice Bread And Butter

Some thoughts on freelancing

Freelancing is something I hardly ever talk about. And up until last year, when I set up my limited company, it never felt like a conscious decision. A while back, when I left mental health for photography (of course I’m talking about industries but couldn’t help an itsy bitsy play with meaning), it was required for me to become a sole trader in order to start working for one small business. Soon, it became a pattern that continued up until the moment when I registered with a recruitment agency. Then I had a choice: seek a permanent or freelance job. And that’s how I discovered my commitment issues! Having worked without safety nets like paid sickness leave and holidays stretched from one regular payment to another I knew it was no easy ride. But when I compared that to lack of flexibility all former employers offered me – I knew that the answer was to not look back. There is only so much of office politics and regular procedural brainwash I can swallow.

Do I regret my decision?

No.

I had many discussions with freelancers-turned employees who reported feeling content. I believed them. I also believed they equaled security with happiness and know that it’s not what I need or want at the moment. Sadly, there haven’t been many employees-turned freelancers I’ve met so far (unless we include temporary workers under umbrella companies). Not sure why. I can only guess that freelancing is still a big unknown to many.

Each to their own and whatever works.

From where I stand, it feels good to be able to have holidays when I want them – without considering company’s needs. Or be able to finish a contract without any so-called proper reason or notice. Accounting sucks. Unpaid sick leave sucks. But no obligation to attend shitty Christmas parties makes up for both. And so I hope to cure my commitment issue this year and continue being loyal to my favourite employer – myself.

Design Cocoa Packaging

Cocoa – from the bottom shelf

What do you bring from your travels? I used to bring close to nothing. Then the whole, what I call minimalism movement, took off and I started my souvenir rebellion. I can’t stand ideology, no matter how good it is. So now, for every trip, I allocate a small budget to spend on shopping. It’s usually grocery shopping but I have a penchant for proper stuff, too. My usual rule is this: get something that’s been on my must-buy list for a long time. Yeah, I’m one of the people with many lists. Most oftentimes I comply with this self-imposed limitation, unless something really and truly makes me fall in love with it – which hardly ever happens.

There is a game element to shopping. I discovered it while looking for matcha-flavoured Kit Kat bars in Hong Kong. I remembered them from Japan and saw in one store but then poof – they disappeared. The game was on. I looked for them everywhere, whenever I was near a sweet store and finally, on the day of our return to London, they materialised in a nondescript shop near our place. I bought some for friends and some more for those times when we have guests for tea. The game was over.

What I’ve been looking for since our trip to Helsinki is cocoa. But not any organic blah blah quality one, not any sugary stuff in a vintage-looking tin. Just plain cocoa, the cheapest you can get in a shop. Why? Because as a designer I tend to go for all obviously good-looking packaging and cocoa doesn’t seem to get this polished treatment – I find it refreshing. Because I like the plain cocoa better than the fancy one. And because it’s a game I can use as an excuse to go travelling.

Below: cocoa from Amsterdam and cocoa from Helsinki. The latter is with the famous eyes by Olle Eksell – not as unpolished as one would think!

Design Cocoa Packaging

Design Cocoa Packaging

StuffedMice-Summary-10

2014 – what mattered most

New Home

In February, we left the tiny flat in South West and moved into a small house in the South East part of town. This wasn’t a dream of mine – to live in a house – but I don’t like having any neighbours above and Karol wanted access to a garden so we had a very limited choice, considering our budget. There is a lot to write about this place and since the first anniversary of our life here is coming up, I’ll save it for later. In short, it’s been our favourite London place for the past eleven months. Sometimes I don’t leave it for days as I don’t feel I need much outside of it. It’s a great base and it’s a home.

StuffedMice-Summary-3

Travels

Well, despite having been a homebody I did manage to arrange and persuade Karol to arrange some shorter and longer trips. We visited Copenhagen, Malmo, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Hong Kong together. On my own, or rather with close friends, we went to Hastings. Apart from Helsinki, I haven’t blogged about any of these places (yet!). My biggest dream, and a growing obsession, was to visit China. Hong Kong was a beautiful introduction to something I very much hope for: many more visits to this country. Our time in Amsterdam was far too short. Copenhagen and Helsinki were full of magic – no news here, I still love the North of Europe best.

StuffedMice-Summary-4

StuffedMice-Summary-1

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-023

StuffedMice-Summary-5

StuffedMice-Summary-10

Friends

This year I came to terms with my definition of a friend. I stopped meeting people I had little or no love for. Deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts (this move I can only compare to something I did many years back: getting rid of a TV set, a truly life-changing experience). Stopped being nice and replying to the out of the blue how-are-you texts and emails of people from the past. Cut short all contacts with acquaintances. I put all my attention, effort and love on a table and divided it between those who I want to be part of my life and in whose lives I want to participate, too. The most meaningful event, a trip to Hastings, was something I still want to blog about. We gathered with my friends over many a coffee, many a dinner. We laughed, we cried and talked for hours. It’s been a good year for us all and so we laid another bunch of bricks for the, possibly not as lucky, years ahead.
There are two people I’m especially grateful for this year. Ania – who persevered despite my adamant refusal to respond to her attempts to be friends. And Karol’s friend Michal, who visited us for a couple of days back in October and whom I never tired of spending time with. Thank you!

53

5

Music

Blockbuster kind of a year for music! The first mention and my endless devotion, however pompous this sounds, goes to Kate Bush and her Before The Dawn. Nothing comes close. Sigh, sigh, sigh. I’m impatiently waiting for a DVID from the show. The best party I attended was by his majesty Prince. There was a wonderful, and wonderfully low-key, Mozart’s Requiem performed by a group of friends as a tribute to a young singer after her sudden death. The biggest disappointment was undoubtedly Eminem’s gig at Wembley. With poor sound quality and fans who, unlike Marshall, didn’t manage to grow up, I found it a good lesson for the future: no stadium gigs for me. And at last, at blinking last, I got to love David Bowie’s music! Now here’s a gig to watch out for…

StuffedMice-Summary-7

StuffedMice-Summary-8

StuffedMice-Summary-6

Creating

Without questioning its sense, I started making notebooks for sale. Makers, creators – these are the people that hold my interest longest and I decided to join their ranks. This is no easy task and no, my small shop hasn’t experienced much success. But you know what, it always feels great when I’m ready to upload my next product. It’s something that hardly any project at work has given me for a whole year and so I will keep at it. I love notebooks. I love paper. My next collection of notebooks is on its way.

Handmade Notebooks Black Mode

Family Christmas

Success – this is the word I’d use to describe my first Christmas as a host to our families. And I mean it as seriously as some people treat successes in their lives. Christmas, the way I see it, has always been about spending time with people close to me. In 2013 it was all about friends. In 2014, I invited our closest families from Poland. And it was fun. But again, I hope to write about it some more later.

StuffedMice-Summary-11

yeah, blogging used to be easy

I have these two PDFs with my old blog. Today I had a look at some notes. All in Polish. All super simple. And most probably all clear to me and nobody else but me. Or maybe not. Anyway, more often than not they make me laugh or at least smile so here’s a portion of some old Januaries.

150108-SM-OldNotes

Handmade Notebooks Black Mode

Shop Update: Black Mode Collection

There is a new collection of notebooks in my shop (half of it still available for sale). Black Mode is a nod to Depeche Mode – their music and lyrics. Lines from Enjoy The Silence, Policy Of Truth and Stripped, some of my favourite songs, were hand-embossed on black covers. Plain white pages with white stitching, simplicity ready for some chaos:)

Handmade Notebooks Black Mode

Handmade Notebooks Black Mode

Handmade Notebooks Black Mode

Handmade Notebooks Black Mode

Christmas Wreath Making

Christmas Wreath Making

I will blog for Christmas, you can plan on me… was my first thought as soon as I woke up yesterday. December’s finally here and those of you who visited this place in previous years know well that it’s one of my favourite times of year. OK, correct: it is my absolute favourite time of year. I started my usual countdown with attending a pretty unusual event – I was invited to a Christmas wreath making workshop at a Scandinavian florist shop! All courtesy of Three Mobile who asked me to test the new Samsung Galaxy Alpha‘s camera.

Flor Unikon is based near Angel in North London and run by Pasi, originally hailing from Finland, and Paul. The moment I saw this cute corner shop adorned with lights and surrounded by beautiful flowers, I knew the evening would be special. Soon after we’d gone inside, we gathered around a table topped with dried fruit, nuts and berries, listening to Pasi’s instructions the place turned into elves’ workshop. There were gingerbread cookies, mulled wine, Christmas carols playing softly in the background and curious passers-by peeking through the quickly covered with condensation windows. It was Scandinavian meets Dickensian Christmas evening.

Taking photos when learning a new skill can be tricky, especially for somebody like me, who loves switching to the “seeing mode” and forgetting about the whole world. All photos in this post, except the last one, were taken with Samsung Galaxy Alpha. I edited them in VSCO Cam app and Photoshop. Considering the poor available light I think the camera did pretty well! Admittedly, it took me a while to switch from my old iPhone’s functionality to Samsung’s playfulness while using the handset. In the end, I failed miserably at being nerdy and cool, and simply switched off all effects that I’m sure many people just love about this phone. What I really appreciated though was the possibility to use voice commands or gestures over the phone’s screen to operate it. Very useful when one’s hands are dirty! Both of these features are available on the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

Off to the wreath making itself – it is NOT easy! Well, not at first at least. I was the slowest student and it took me longest to cover the straw ring with fir. In hindsight, I gave in to my habit of perfecting things, instead of practicing wabi-sabi for a change. In the end, I had to rush with decorating and dominated the heated glue post for a bit, sticking orange slices, cinnamon quills and small cones at a speed of light. This wouldn’t have been possible in the past, mind you, since traditionally all decorations are to be attached with the use of ever-helpful wire. Thankfully, I made it just in time to, with dirty, sticky fingers and a complete Christmas wreath in a Flor Unikon paper bag, head off to Moro for dinner.

I knew Moro from bookstores as I often saw their characteristic logo on cookbooks so it was a pleasure to visit their restaurant. Even more so, as the fellow bloggers and organisers of the evening turned out to be super interesting, funny and kind. I caught the last train from North to the South East of London and this happens only on the best of days.

Thanks to Three for a great evening!

Christmas Wreath Making

Christmas Wreath Making

Christmas Wreath Making

Christmas Wreath Making

Christmas Wreath Making

handmade notebooks - pastels

Shop

It’s been a while since I started my stuffedmice shop on Big Cartel but haven’t mentioned it here. I’m working on my second small collection of notebooks. The first one – Pastels – you can see below. Creating in paper makes me happy and so I hope to share my joy with others. Welcome!

handmade notebooks - pastels

handmade notebooks - pastels

handmade notebooks - pastels

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-031

Helsinki – Art

When friends asked me what I wanted to do in Helsinki, my only answer was: take a ferry to one of those islands and swim in the sea. Of course, with the weather we encountered, the only sea I could swim in were sidewalk peddles – my optimism in the form of a swimming suit remained hidden in a travel bag. Luckily, I hardly ever truly need to do anything when being in a new place. I don’t come with a list of goals and places to see. Walking around, being somewhere different is enough.

Things always happen and it’s fun to stumble on them. When we arrived in Helsinki, we picked up a pile of brochures and a city magazine in English. OK, my reasoning for taking most of them was purely aesthetic – I can’t resist clean, functional design, otherwise known as boring. Plenty made their way to London, currently stationing on my desk from where they’ll be transformed to my visual diary. I mean, seeing designs I know from online research, printed and casually distributed in cafes or shops – that was unexpected. They really exist!

As it was, Helsinki Festival was taking place in the same week. The programme looked great. Needless to say we didn’t go to a single event. We even managed to miss the Late Night – Helsinki equivalent of Museum Night, though with businesses involved and much shorter opening times. By accident, we landed on a concert in Helsinki cathedral – part of the Helsinki Organ Summer – which we left rather promptly, as it wasn’t as good as the golden hour enjoyed by people on top of the cathedral steps outside.

But we ended up seeing some art.

At Kiasma, recommended by my friend Marcin (thanks Marcin!), we really enjoyed Kiasma Hits and, less so, Together – Marimekko and Kiasma – exhibitions. The building was a work of art in itself so we spent quite a while just hanging out inside.
There were no crowds and some of the installations were very interactive – one of the traits I love in any kind of art.

The real treat was Tove Jansson’s exhibition at Ateneum (no photos allowed). With illustrations from Tove’s childhood, early magazine commissions, Moomins – drawn, painted, in 3D – to abstract paintings, one visit didn’t seem enough. Especially when, because of the crowds, we had to move in very small steps from one display to another. I didn’t think it possible but my admiration for Tove and her work grew even bigger.

What else? I found my type of a bookstore – the Academic Bookstore has the best selection of books that interest me, beautiful and cosy interior plus a cafe. An instant favourite.

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-047

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-025

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-028

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-027

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-049

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-046

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-045

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-044

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-048

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-026

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-041

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-040

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-039

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-036

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-038

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-035

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-034

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-031

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-037

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-030

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-032

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-043

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-029

StuffedMice-Blog-Helsinki-033

Kate Bush: Before Dawn.

Many, many reviews have been written about this show. It was all that and more.
To say it was the best concert I’ve been to is an understatement.
Kate Bush took her music and gave it a world, right there, in front of her fans.
I laughed, shook my head in disbelief and then was truly, truly touched.
Won’t even try to describe it. And it’s not a cop out. It was simply beyond words.