travel photos & ephemera

I’m a German-born Chinese-American, currently transplanted to London. I grew up with a travel agent mother and an adventurous, somewhat restless, father, and my fondest memories of my childhood are of us traveling the world.
A couple of years ago, after their divorce, my mother unearthed a cache of old travel ephemera, including boarding passes and luggage tags from trips we had taken when I was a child. I treasure these bits of paper, souvenirs of times, places and, in some instances, airlines past. I’ve been pairing them with images from more recent trips, as I revisit these places as an adult.
In the image above, the well-loved white cat was photographed in Shanghai’s Old City in 2007. The Cathay Pacific boarding pass was from a trip I took with my parents in 1986.

Santa Cruz, CA (3 hours south of San Francisco) / Pan Am Boarding Pass

Great Wall cable car, Beijing, 2007 / CAAC Boarding Pass

Centre Pompidou ceiling, Paris / Air France Luggage Tag
The complete collection of ephemera and travel images were exhibited at the SOMEDAY, SOMEWHERE exhibition, 12-16 April 2011, in Clerkenwell, London.

po’ tatoes and sad spuds

A series of sad spuds and poor potatoes, made when I was frustrated by the resigned and hangdog attitudes of people I’d encountered. These po’ tatoes were left in various spots in London.
po' tato in handpo' tato and gate

Some got red wax caps, to hide their sprouts.

colourful sayings

feeling blue

tickled pink, detail
tickled pink

good as gold, detail
good as gold

The Words You Say Are Not the Words I Mean (Colourful Sayings), 2009
Cotton-linen napkins (secondhand), embroidery thread.

Created for the Open Source Embroidery (OSE) exhibition, first shown at Bildmuseet (Umeå, SE) and then the Museum of Craft & Folk Art (San Francisco, CA, USA). As OSE explores open-source approaches to computing and craft, I wanted to connect those themes with language, perhaps one of the most natural arenas for open-source creation and adaptation.

As a foreigner in northern Sweden, I was fascinated by the way language can be a medium for both connection, in the case of shared language, and alienation, when there are language differences, much as technology can both unite and divide.

American/English idioms that mention color are hand-embroidered on cloth, with HTML hexidecimal codes in place of the colors. HTML hex codes use a combination of letters and numbers to define color for computer display. Idioms and expressions are a way of embellishing or embroidering the bare structure of a language, and in this case, literally “adding color” to communication.

Since idioms are by definition specific to a region, period or people, the meaning may not always translate. The work aimed to encourage conversation amongst museum visitors, in explaining the meaning of the HTML code as well as the cultural and linguistic roots of the idioms.

It was important to me that the pieces be completely hand-embroidered, to reflect the process of learning by doing and experimenting. When I was learning to work with HTML in the late ’90s, as part of the dot-com boom, I much preferred to forgo the fancy software and just hand-code everything in Notepad, the better to understand and control the process. With these pieces, I was learning how to embroider as I went along.

longing for light (petals)

petals / paper visualization
Petals (Longing for Light), Feb 2009.
Discarded paper strips, thread.

The assignment: Build a paper-based data visualization, as directed by the website. That’s short for information aesthetics, and they have a passion for representing information in graphic form — not an easy challenge, as anyone who’s tried to figure out a poorly designed subway map knows.

The inspiration: Strips of paper discarded next to the school’s paper trimmer. My yearning for sunlight.

single petal/dayI was living in Umeå, a city at latitude 63° 50? N in northern Sweden. The winter days are short and summer days are long. Using the actual and predicted lengths of daylight for the first of each month in 2009, I created a visualization with 12 “petals”.

The outer loop of each petal is 24 cm from start to end point, representing the 24 hours in the day. The inner loops vary depending on length of daylight, ranging from 4h 33m (a little over 4.5 cm) for January 1 to 20h 34m on July 1. The white thread where the loops are joined is the start/end point.

When assembled, like a clock, the top loop is 12 (December 1); the bottom one opposite it is 6 (June 1).

I like how the simple lines suggest the passing of time and the cycle of the months as well as the promise of spring to come. There are multiple flower forms suggested, from the symmetrical outer petals to the drooping flower formed by the inner loops, to the spikier poinsettia-like flower formed by the negative space in the middle.


I do feel compelled to point out that in terms of a pure visualization of data, the petals are a bit flawed because it’s easy to misinterpret the “volume” of the petals as the amount of daylight. I was primarily concerned with the medium, that is the paper strips of varying lengths and the shapes that would result — working with the limited material I had, just as you have to make the most of the limited daylight. Perhaps the “volume” is more of an artistic statement about how little or much sunlight it *feels* like there is in a given month, rather than a strict data visualization. An interesting lesson in visualization for me, in any case!

paper visualization

And, oh my gosh, my design won! Yay!

wishing for blue sky

wishing for blue skywishing for blue sky, 2009.
Digital prints.

Installed in Umeå, Sweden. Offering the people at the bus stop a bit of color on these white, overcast days. The top photo is the view from the F train on the way back from Brooklyn. The bottom is of balloons from a celebration in Munich.

wishing for blue sky

cross-stitched Valentine

ValentineMy Valentine, 2009.
Paint chip, embroidery thread.

I’ve been fascinated by the similarities between cross-stitch patterns and pixel art for a while. Inspired by the Open Source Embroidery Project, I made a pixel-inspired Valentine. The pattern is adapted from a 9×9 icon offered up by for download with a Creative Commons license. I reduced the number of colors, plotted it out on paper, and transferred the pattern to the red card with pin holes. The card itself is a paint chip from Benjamin Moore; the color is called, of course, my valentine.

cross-stitch Valentine
card with pin holes
cross-stitch Valentine
cross-stitch Valentine

textile: texture experiments

The shapes in these fabrics look solid, but they’re actually hollow! The result is a lightweight fabric with incredible texture. I like the juxtaposition of organic shapes with synthetic fabrics and otherworldly effects from everyday items like buttons, knobs, and marbles.