Join contributor, Roshanda Cummings, as she explores what personal style and unchained expression look like for women in the Afrofuture movement.
Michigan is really the most fabulous place to spend the summer. It is the perfect climate for beaches and bonfires, for sailing and for cozy, rainy days. When I am in Paris or Chicago I am content- until it gets warm. In the Summer I crave bare feet, running through the forest, and swimming at least twice a day.
On my trip to Cappadocia, Turkey this spring I had the good fortune to meet Serdal Karakus. Over the course of a week, Serdal gave me an education in Kilim rugs- the history of the weaving process, as well as an over-view of the symbology.
It happened like this:
Ricky Cohete and I were tired of eating at tourist cafes. Simple as that. "I want to eat where someone's grandmother would eat" One of us shared out loud. We scoured the village with no luck. Before long, I saw a beautiful orange rug, and went into a shop to inquire about it. That is when I met Serdal. He had lived in Paris, and I had lived in Paris, and so we got to talking about french culture, and about rugs, and beautiful things, and French Women, and .... He invited Ricky and I to eat dinner with him. Now I am aware that this happens regularly in some cultures and settings, but each time it does, it still seems magical to me. Sharing a meal with a stranger is still about the most beautiful thing in the world.
While we ate the dinner his mother had prepared (NO JOKE!)... we continued chatting. He explained to us a lot about Turkish culture, answering many of our questions. Eventually we got talking about rugs. He took us back into his show room and spent a few more hours teaching us about his beautiful collection of rugs. That was a dream come true as well. I have always been fascinated by tribal craftsmanship, and it was beautiful to have the nuances explained. Each piece in his shop was custom made- by a specific person- for a specific person in a specific place. Some were designed with little squares cut out to avoid a tent-pole, or with a specific pattern to reference a family member or historical event.
Serdal has been collecting, and subsequently dealing rugs for many years. He has lived in several parts of Turkey, and can read the a Kilim rug just like a book. I have always wanted to know more about this craft, and our chance encounter was the perfect opportunity. Serdal is a kindred spirit, who is passionate about this history and story of beautiful, handmade goods. (and of course, now I know where to go for rugs)
You can find many of Serdal's rugs
... but of course, nothing comes close to seeing them all in person. You will have to visit
Goreme, Cappadocia for that.
Jonathan Randall Grant
This November, I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks adventuring out west and visiting Tyler Grant in Portland, Oregon. As a child, I once visited portland, during a rather magical summer vacation... and certain elements of the city have haunted my imagination ever since.
It was great to return, to see Portland as an adult, and to spend Thanksgiving with my little brother's dear friends. I also had a few weeks to explore. Here are my very favorite finds:
COURIER COFFEE- This is pretty much the only coffee place you need in Portland. Seriously. It is small, peaceful, fun, and does not have a twitter account. Do you need anything else? Oh, and they have amazing coffee. I spent an entire day there writing. Between the simple decor, folk records, and the witty banter of the baristas, I was sold. More than a coffee shop, I definitely felt that I stumbled on a hilarious secret community.
BOLLYWOOD THEATRE- Not a theatre, although they do play a fantastic loop of vintage bollywood films. B.T. Is a great indian resturaunt, serving street food in a grungy / eclectic setting. I would eat here every day if I could.
CARGO- Off the beaten path, in the Pearl District- Cargo offers foreign goods you have been craving but did not realize: Those golden cats that wave at you in chinese resturaunts, English-language copies of Mao's little red book, Brass bells from Ghana, and everything in-between. It is magical. I will return every time I visit Portland.
MACHUS- This store! omg! Clothes that I want to wear! This shop is not to everyone's taste, but as a stylist, I crave simple black pieces that are a touch extreme. Does that make sense? I thought I was crazy until I visited Machus. I am craving a few of their chic tunics.
TANNER GOODS- No trip to Portland would be complete without a visit to this iconic maker. Tanner Goods, is a portland-based leather company specializing in quality pieces that will last for generations. Their shop is staffed by super-friendly fellows, and is filled with great finds.
STEVEN ALLEN- It is probably the most perfect shop in Portland. The perfect light balance, the perfect flow, the perfect selection of clothing and home-goods. Delightful.
POWELL'S BOOKS- This shop is every bit as magical as the rumors suggest. Although their selection of fashion magazines is a little lacking- they do have an entire section dedicated to T.E. Lawrence... so no complaints here.
ANGEL'S REST- It is my little brother's favorite hiking place, so please don't bombard it. This spot is a peaceful climb- beautiful views of the columbia river, lush ferns, and not too challenging. The summit is its own little ecosystem, perfect for a picnic. or hideout.
HIPPO HARDWARE- You might think it odd to include a hardware store in a city guide... but then, I did not promise an ordinary guide. Hippo is a three-story labyrinth of vintage fixtures. And Magic. And the most hilarious / eccentric shopkeepers you have ever met.
Last Spring, when Ricky Cohete called to see if I wanted to go to Turkey for a month- i had one day to freak out, and then three days to plan. I didn't just want to vacation, I don't really do that. I wanted to spend the trip, exploring, meeting people, and mostly meeting creatives in the field of fashion.
Istanbul in particular is quickly becoming a fashion capitol, and I was eager to get a glimpse at its meteoric rise. Alara Kap at The Guide Istanbul was supremely helpful in recommending a few designers that I should meet, and I immediately got down to planning.
On a sunny day Ricky and I hiked to a neighborhood of Istanbul we had not yet visited. It reminded me a bit of Haifa, or perhaps Cannes- perched high on a ridge with several streets of posh boutiques, and designer ateliers. We stopped at a Starbucks (Ricky's choice) to recover. and then headed across the street to a beautiful, stately building.
Elif Cigizoglu, is a warm, charming woman. She was pregnant at the time, and exhuded a natural, even elemental kindness. Her Atelier was serene, in the style of a polished Haussman. We sipped water in the coolness of the studio surrounded by white walls, and comfortable furnishings. The striking experience was one of natural simplicity paired with elegance- to great effect.
Elif builds like an architect. Her garments are meticulously crafted. Each bead and brace, created by hand. Every element, strong and visually arresting. The colors may be muted, but her garments are magnificent in structure and craftsmanship.
She walked me through her workroom, confidently explaining each piece. Much of her work is for individual clients- mainly in Istanbul's Jewish community. The women who commission gowns are educated in fashion, and want something unique. She discussed the elaborate, and often competitive nature of the Turkish wedding- each guest requiring an original, beautiful garment. This she attributed to her success... but her runway collections were equally impressive.
Over the course of my sojourn in Istanbul, I had heard the murmurings in cafes and bookshops- political and cultural unrest. With this in mind, I asked her discretely about the effect of politics on Turkish fashion. She assured me that it had little to no effect- That the class who bought couture was constant and unaffected by unrest. It was interesting to hear, and reassuring that creativity could continue unscathed.
I am eager, in the coming year, to feature Elif's garments in a few editorials- so stay tuned for more collaborations... and if, in the coming months you need an exceptional garment, remember Elif. My visit with her was truly delightful and inspiring.
As most of our work has been on location, Bryan and I decided to attempt some studio work. It was a great chance to learn each other's working styles, and also a chance to work once more with the very talented Isabel Schuler and Logan Dillon. The technical term for this kind of project is a "test shoot"... a chance to try-out a new team, or build work for a portfolio.
We only had a few hours, but our team managed to throw the shoot together, and had a lot of fun in the process. Test shoots don't often get shared, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what we were working on. For us this process was mostly practice with lighting and studio set-up... but of course Isabel is gorgeous, so it just had to be shared.
... and of course as the Art Director, I got to be the stand in lighting test guy. So voila!
Jonathan Randall Grant
I am terrible at sending letters and postcards. Seriously. I have, over the years, all but given up on the activity of adult correspondence. I discovered, at various intervals, half-written letters, and never-mailed postcards up to 8 years old. Some with postage attached.
This is a major faux pas in my family, where physical forms of communication are highly prized. For this reason, I will probably never be viewed as an accomplished adult.
The solution that I hit upon years ago, was:
A) purchase many postcards during my travels
B) write a brief personal note about the trip
C) Hand it to the friend/family member in person
This has mitigated much familial responsibilities, and has kept the masses at bay. Problem solved.
In April, while roaming the streets of Istanbul, i was able to do a bit better than my usual...
While grabbing a drink with a designer friend at Tezgah Kitapevi (a bar/boutique I highly recommend), I purchased a stack of vintage photos. Later, while drinking some tea on the Bosphorus Ferry, I wrote a few notes and drew on them with a gold pen.
Voila! work of art // postcard. My work was done. Correspondence and packable gift all in one.
Do you have any Travel correspondence tricks you would like to share? All of us at Culture Keeper would love to hear!
I enjoy working with Mike and Megan, because we have such a great creative chemistry, and after years of collaboration, we can almost read each other's minds.
Asbury University Paris Semester from The Fresh Exchange on Vimeo.
So many people helped us create this: Linda Stratford, who first introduced me to Paris, and Lucie Barrois, the charming star of the film, whose family I have known for several years. Even the extras were friends from the American Church in Paris. A dear, dear cast and crew. This was such a fun experience.
I am so proud of my Alma Mater for going ahead with the brave project of starting a campus in Paris. Of course this is only the beginning... but it is a great endeavor. Asbury will be launching their Paris campus in the Autumn of 2014. Be sure to check out their site for more info.
|This image by Ricky Cohete. All others by John Hanson.|
A few years ago I was "let go" from a decent job. It was one of those jobs that kept my bills payed and allowed me to express reasonable amounts of creativity. Those factors coupled with the amazing-ness of my co-workers, created a scenario of loyalty. I would never have voluntarily left that position... but it turns out that was exactly what I needed.
With my job eliminated I fell back on styling, free-lance work, writing, and a few residencies to paint for churches. This gave me increasing amounts of free time, so I started posting more regularly, and Culture Keeper exploded. From there I down-sized... I (un-vouluntarily) got rid of my favorite apartment, and my car. With no home I was forced to be super-mobile (for the sake of hospitality as well as sanity). This brought me more free-lance work, and opened up even more travel possibilities.
It is a cycle. I had to give up stability and permanence, for the sake of expansion and possibility. I have to remind myself of that every time I feel the need to get a "real" job. What has opened up to me is a beautiful life of work and play and creativity and travel. This life is difficult (bloggers and stylists make less than you think they do), and some days I long for my own space. I am trying to look at a long-term picture... to think of this phase as laying the foundation for my coming career.
Here are a few tips that are helping me live a life of creativity and adventure:
// Minimize your expenses //
That might mean your iPhone, or it may mean your car. For me it meant both, as well as almost all clothes shopping. My only real bills are my school bills, I just try to keep those payed. The fewer expenses you have- the more adventures you can have.
// Maximise your network //
Collaborating with amazing people is the best way to expand professionally and creatively. Seriously. All the major opportunities I have received in the past few years have been through friends. Let the people around you know what you are working on. Reach out to fellow creatives. Beyond that ALWAYS stay connected.
// Stay Focused. But Diversify //
Don't be distracted by opportunities that will take you in the wrong direction or settle you down before your time. It takes a while to know your limits, and this is a tricky balance. Some weeks I don't have any photoshoots, so I focus on writing or painting. When I don't have paid work, I create my own projects that give me practice, and have the potential to pay off later. Diversify your revenue streams, while maintaining your integrity.
// Rely on the grace and goodness of others //
As much as I would like to say that "I did it all on my own"... I have to admit that it took a lot of coaching to get where I am, and it will take even more to get me where I am headed. Friends, family, and strangers have fed, housed, and educated me on my journeys. I am forever indebted to them. My parents have believe in me so much! Every time I get a huge mural commission, they have been there right along side me, painting, and bringing snacks. There is no way to succeed alone in creative endeavors.
// Follow others in your field //
Read articles by them. Follow them on twitter. Megan Gilger taught me that. When I first got a twitter account, she told me to follow every stylist, painter, and writer I respected, and anyone I wanted to be like. Solid advice. See what others are up to. Learn by example. Sometimes Jenn Elliott Blake and I talk through ideas, or issues we have on the job. It is a community, and we all help each other out. Find your community.
// Learn to value yourself beyond your accomplishments //
By far the most difficult part of free-lance work is thinking beyond the 9-5. I still struggle with viewing my accomplishments outside of that frame. Daily, I have to redefine success as building something long-term, providing inspiration to others, and developing meaningful relationships. In the end, what do you view as a creative, adventurous life?
// Don't compare yourself to others //
Everyone's journey is going to look different. I have had to stop following other blogs, so that I don't get bogged down with what I think my life is supposed to look like. You are going to build your own future, and it is going to take twice as long as you think it should. When you stop needing what others have, everything gets easier.
// More than anything, be comfortable with uncertainty. Because This:
As I return to blogging this Autumn, after a summer off, I am reminded that I am indeed blessed to be pursuing activities that fulfill me. It takes a lot of foolishness to defy good business sense in favor of happiness and fulfillment. I hope that you, dear reader, will have the courage and foolishness to pursue your dreams and take some beautiful risks with your life.
Ricky Cohete and I stayed in a charming little pansion (pensione) in the village of Goreme. I recommend you do the same. Rock Valley Pansion was not glamorous, but the staff was helpful, and they have a pool. You may think a pool is an extravagance, but in a dusty land it becomes a worthwhile luxury. They provide a great Turkish breakfast, and there are little huts around the garden, in which to read or nap or enjoy the mountains and caves and rock formations all around. Hiking trails lead right from the Pansion, so exploration is nearby.
The village of Goreme itself is small and friendly. Its inhabitants still lived in ancient carved caves, although now they seem to exist merely to profit from tourists.
When planning a trip to Cappadocia make sure your choice of lodging includes transportation to and from the airport, which can be up to 3 hours away. It is quite possible to play it cheap in the food department and splurge on tours. Unless you hire a private car, guided bus tours are the only way to hit the major sights. You don't want to miss the monastery, the largest of the underground cites, and the hidden canyon. All of these will be on the main tours. I know what you are thinking, because I thought the same thing. I hate tours, but in a region as remote as this, they are the only way to go- at least at first. Once you get your bearings it is quite possible to strike out on your own. While not a difficult region of the world to navigate, I would make a few reservations before arrival.
I took an entire day to just swim and explore and bask in the sun. I would recommend you do the same. Cappadocia's beauty warrants reflection, so give it some time. I have heard from many sources that the sunrise balloon rides are a mesmerizing experience, but that is one place that Ricky and I cut back in favor of other expenditures.
Things to consider:
If you are the type to worry about snakes and scorpions, plan your trip before may or after october, and they should not be an issue.
Women should carry scarves with them at all times, for churches, mosques and holy spots. Plus you will look amazing.
Don't forget hiking boots, sunscreen, and clothes that can get dusty. Cappadocia is no fashion show.
Meet the locals! You will get awesome meals, stories, and great advice!
Photo by Ricky Cohete (taken in Cappadocia Turkey)
Even in childhood I had a passion for the earth: I would sit and sing in trees for hours, I would make documentaries to save local forests, and in first grade I boycotted Japanese class, after watching a program on dolphin massacres. I was a rather disastrous mixture of outspoken and passionate.
Since those years, I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by friends and family who challenge and teach me how to augment my beliefs with love. Recently I was challenged in these ways once more.
We all know (or at least most of us do) that The Monsanto Corp. is pretty much the most evil thing around. Monsanto has corrupted the way we eat, bought out prominent members of our government, and has been a key player in the oppression of the farming class. More recently they were responsible for the suicides of hundreds of thousands of farmers in India. Not to mention what they are doing to our environment. It is rather easy for me to express without hesitation that I loathe this company's very existence.
... But recently a curious thing happened.
A few months ago I was at a monastery with friends. We were all sitting around discussing life, and I brought up a project that I was working on. I was planning to do a series called "Fuck Monsanto"… basically calling out the huge Seed Magnate for oppressing the world with its monopolistic greed.
I thought we were all on the same page about this subject- but my friend Calvin stopped me. "Dude" he said… "you are going about this the wrong way". With a gentleness that I myself could never muster he challenged me to re-think my statements and re-explore the topic. He encouraged me to think of Monsanto through a different lens (think: Wendell Barry, Ghandi, Joan Baez, and yes, even the Bible)
Truth be told I was taken aback. It was much easier for me to think of Monsanto as some looming evil, than as something complicated and human. Calvin said that the actual energy to transform something would take a positive statement like "Bless Monsanto". It struck me immediately. In part because it called out my own vulgarities, and in part because it was the hippiest thing I had ever heard.
was born out of that discussion. More a look into oppression and provision than an indictment of a corporation. I used the word "bless" because I too wanted to change the conversation… not just exposing corruption and evil in the world but exposing it in my own heart as well. I want to be a part of transformation and positive change.
Here is where things got crazy... I was working on the series... painting my little heart out... when one day I happened to tweet about the project. Just an innocent little tweet. The next day Monsanto and a few sub-corporations were following me on twitter. I was kind of freaked out. Reluctantly I followed them back, more out of curiosity than anything else. I thought perhaps that they had mis-understood the point of my project. Didn't they get that I was trying to expose their greed and corruption? As I followed their tweets I began to notice a pattern- the use of certain words- especially the word "sustainability". Ugh, I thought- "They just have good public relations folks". Then I read more articles, and their blog, and I began to get the sense that the Scientists (if no one else) behind Monsanto seemed to actually believe that they were doing the world a favor. Seriously. They seemed to think that with all that we had done to the world and to humanity- that we had to seek out ways to provide food for everyone... and they saw themselves as the heroes in this process. I was aghast at the idea that Monsanto saw itself as an agent for feeding the world and providing for the hungry.
The simple result for me is that I am learning to see the human side of the things I once hated. Even huge corporations are filled with people trying to do good. My heart has been transformed by this. All I want to do now is open the conversation- away from thoughts of good and evil, of right and wrong... to helping and healing and discussing. That's all I can do right now. None of this changes what Monsanto has done, and continues to do- it only changes what goes on in my heart- filled now with compassion rather than rage.
is a link to information about monsanto's work in India... and
are a few of the paintings I created during this process.
Jonathan Randall Grant