Review: Zines/Quimby’s Bookstore

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A very special 'Zine at Quimby's.

A very special zine at Quimby’s


People are rediscovering zines in a broad way, as evidenced by the sheer popularity of CAKE, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo. At Quimby’s Bookstore, the city’s temple of handmade publishing, expect to find rare and one-of-a-kind projects. One unnamed author zine, for example, rhapsodizes a very special joint. Printed on a single piece of cardstock, the piece carries a simple type-written story of one person’s—presumably the author’s—experience of enjoying the aromatic, complex texture, pique and bouquet of our nation’s newest pastime, and taking it to new heights of ludic, near-religious degrees of ecstatic pleasure. Read the rest of this entry »

Maker Beat: Doodlez and Pancakes

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Sarah Law's "Hamhock" is typical of Daily Doodlez irreverent and confessional entries

Sarah Law’s “Hamhock” is typical of Daily Doodlez irreverent and confessional entries

By Michael Workman

One aspect of Chicago’s maker culture is small-batch publishing. It usually centers on zines, but also encompasses printing of all kinds, from posters to wallpapers. It takes place quietly, individually and in isolation. Until lately. Lesley Jenkins, a shortish, super-friendy, Cali-cat genderfuck queer, started an online and IRL group called Daily Doodlez (full disclosure: I contribute to the group’s administration). The Doodlez are an assembly line of entertainment: confessional, amateur, lots of drug use (of course), some blood play and, well, you get the idea. It’s remained localized enough to foster a kind of evolving graphic novel of the daily life and social anxieties of people across the city.

Doodlez recently began hosting group meet-ups for drawing, doodling and getting to know other makers working in the form. Newcity recently got the rundown from Jenkins, just as the group is starting to organize more community drawing efforts throughout the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Last is More: Mies, IBM, and the Transformation of Chicago” by Robert Sharoff and William Zbaren

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The IBM building, Mies van der Rohe’s final commission, was considered “twentieth century architecture at its finest” when it was officially opened in 1972. It was the first green office building and the youngest building to be declared an official landmark in Chicago. “Last is More,” with text by Robert Sharoff and photography by William Zbaren, centers around Mies’ Chicago years, culminating in the IBM building. The recent conversion of part of the building into the Langham Hotel served as the occasion of the book’s publication late last year.

Zbaren’s photography is gorgeous. The dizzying cover shot of an iconic white Marina Tower reflected in the gleaming dark IBM glass begins an overview of the architect’s history, his Europe years, his teaching at the Illinois Institute of Technology, an intriguing love life and his Chicago masterpieces. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Fueled: The Simultaneous Lives of Alisa Wolfson

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GPC_WTWB_Board_caQueen multitasker Alisa Wolfson is head of the Department of Design at Leo Burnett. Co-president of Chicago’s AIGA chapter. Design director of Lampo, an experimental music nonprofit. Award-winning designer. Sought-after speaker. Design 50 inductee. Adventurous spirit. Mighty presence on Chicago’s social and civic scenes. And full-time mom.

What’s your creative process?

I describe my life as “everything all at once, all the time.” I’m involved in a bunch of different projects that always seem to be due at the same time. Sometimes I build a huge campaign at work, then come home and build a fort with my daughter on the living-room floor. Either way, I’m equally engaged.

For inspiration, I rarely consult design books or blogs. Much of the work I am most proud of comes from inspiration out in the world or something I see at home. These days, I’m drawn to things my daughter is learning or doing. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Virgin Hotel

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Chad MartelQuality design and attention to details are key to the Virgin brand. Walking into Chicago’s newest hotel in the Old Dearborn Bank building at Lake and Dearborn Streets, you won’t see the Virgin name plastered on every pen or tapestry. Instead, you’ll be greeted by a chandelier forged from discarded trumpet horns. That’s because this hotelier understands that bombarding guests with brand names won’t get it far. From the weird to the whimsical, the Virgin’s interiors charm visitors with quirk and caprice.

Designer Rockwell Group played with textures, colors and themes to create nuanced spaces. Knowing the typical Virgin clientele, Rockwell splurged on spaces meant for working and drinking. The second-floor Commons Club features the Funny Library, displaying Second City-curated books with vintage kid accoutrements (think old-gumball-machine-meets-wax lips) and Chicago memorabilia. The Kitchen offers softer textures: herringbone mix-and-match seats with white linens and an open kitchen.

Perhaps the most stunning feature of the Commons Club, however, is the rediscovered historic ceiling. While remodeling the second floor, which once held bank offices, Rockwell knocked out a false ceiling to expand the room’s height; underneath hid a white, ornately textured ceiling, which has since been restored to its original beauty. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Simultaneous: Seripop & Sonnenzimmer/Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts

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Sonnenzimmer, The Impossibility of Language of Construction, 2015. Artist book.

The Impossibility of Language of Construction, 2015. Artist book.


Forging pivotal screenprinting practices that go beyond paper-and-ink, Montreal-based Seripop (Yannick Desranleau and Chloe Lum) and Chicago natives Sonnenzimmer (Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi) have independently, albeit in close conversation for years, developed diverse bodies of work based in subverting surfaces. In “Simultaneous: Seripop & Sonnenzimmer,” on view through April 11 at the Center for Book and Paper Arts, the dialogues that forged their camaraderie are translated into a terra incognita that suggests how to wear paintings, listen to fabric and touch sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Jeffrey Bardzell and Mél Hogan/IIT Institute of Design

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Interaction design scholar Jeffrey Bradzell speaks at IIT's In the Loop series

Interaction design scholar Jeffrey Bradzell speaks at IIT’s In the Loop series

The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design lecture series is back in full swing in 2015, with two events to satisfy the curiosity of nearly every stripe of design buff. The lecture series, In the Loop, is an ongoing effort organized by the Institute of Design as a forum to explore contemporary issues in design, architecture, urbanism and philosophy. In February, take note of two similarly accomplished, if very different, speakers.

February 19 is Jeffrey Bardzell, an associate professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington. Bardzell’s talk, “Design as Inquiry,” promises to explore how the arts can serve as a conduit or medium to further explore and refine scientific conjectures. Bardzell wants to know, “if science and philosophy already give us knowledge, why even bother with the arts?” Substantial business, to be sure, and given the Institute’s reputation as one of the nerdiest research-based graduate design schools in the world, the discussion following the talk should be several calibers above other conversations available on a typical winter Thursday in Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Very Doable

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IMG_7102Fashion stylist Samuel Ng was up to some weekend shopping.

What are the main factors someone should keep in mind while picking an outfit?
Doability—sex appeal—and durability!

In your opinion, what elements create a great look?
Always mix and match, but with some sort of color coordination—no hot mess! Follow the mood as well. I think the bottom line is to have fun and feel good with what we wear.

Where do you get style inspiration?
I get inspired from the Internet. Tumblr and Pinterest to be specific; it’s very 2015 to do so! Read the rest of this entry »

The Skating Life: Chicago’s Rinks are Iced Through February

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Photo: Choose Chicago

Photo: Choose Chicago

Bracing, romantic, exhilarating. For good reason, literature, like life, mythologizes ice skating. In Hans Brinker, or the “Silver Skates,” the classic children’s story about a Dutch boy on the Zuider Zee. In “Anna Karenina,” when Levin first proposes to Kitty: “On that day of the week and in that hour of the day, people of the same circle, all acquaintances, gathered on the ice.”

With a brand-new pair of figure skates, I set out to explore a few of the many outdoor ice-skating rinks in Chicago. I started in Millennium Park, that jewel of an ice rink, at the perfect tipping point between urban stimulation and serenity.

At the end of a brilliantly clear winter day, as a stream of traffic hummed along, I fell in with the other skaters, warming up on Frank Sinatra ballads. After a few turns around the ice–the rink is relatively small–the quotidian markers of the everyday, cars, buses, buildings, fell away. Surroundings came into view with that synergy of good public design and the exercise, or indulgence, of imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bandage Tins/Enjoy, An Urban General Store

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Fun for kids and for adults too

Fun for kids and for adults too


All kids love bandages that look like bacon, pirate skulls, pickles or—a perennial favorite—boo-boo kisses. We’ve never seen, throughout this great city, a collection of Accoutrements-brand bandages as wide as the array at Enjoy, An Urban General Store. There, toward the back of the store, a supply is continually stocked and refreshed.

And they’re great. There’s a variety of adult-ish themes too, including the oft-lewd Shakespeare Insults bandages and the classy tighty-whities underpants bandages you’ve been searching for your whole life. Read the rest of this entry »