Category Archive for Art + Design
Space witch disco! One of my current favorite designers, Killstar, sent me some dark fashion to model.
Take a walk on the witchy side… and find out where you can see powerful masks and totems, up close.
My outfit of the day had a spooky-spiritual vibe, so I wanted a location that reflects this: the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The stark exterior, designed by famous architect Arthur Erickson, created the perfect lighting and backdrop. I felt like a sorceress, arriving in an alien land.
Nearby, there was an outdoor exhibit of longhouses and Pacific Northwest totem poles. Some of the carvings symbolize the moon, much like my Killstar La Luna crop top.
I paired it with Killstar’s Occult maxi skirt. The fabric is stretchy and comfortable, and the long length gives a dramatic impact. This original print, featuring stars and symbols, is also found on Killstar’s Occult racerback dress and pullover sweatshirt.
I can’t get enough of this coffin purse, branded with the alchemy symbol for sulfur. With a handle and chain strap, the coffin bag is large enough for your necessities, and fastens with a secure silver clasp.
I’ve been all over Moat House Eyewear ever since they reached out to me on Instagram. This British company hand-makes stylish sunglasses — out of wood! Because of the natural materials (ebony, oak, walnut) and handmade process, their sunglasses have a special vibe, much like the totem art behind me.
My ebony cat-eyes have a faint and lovely wood smell, and don’t worry, there aren’t any splinters. (Scroll to the end of this post for photos of my kitty posing with them!)
I guess I’m on a wood kick these days, since that’s also the material used for my SVNTY iPhone case. My old plastic one fell apart, so SVNTY stepped in and sent me one of their artisanal cases, engraved from wood. I think the spooky totem-face behind me wants to join the selfie!
Unlike the usual plastic or rubber phone cases, these ones feel sturdy and natural, yet are still light-weight. Once again, this is something you won’t find in typical stores. SVNTY’s Etsy selection includes original carvings of a geisha, moon, King Tut and Marilyn Monroe. The cases fit a variety of mobiles including iPhones and Samsungs.
I’m taking a photo of the powerful totem poles on display at the Museum of Anthropology. These spiritual sculptures date back to the late 1800s, and were carved from large trees by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
These mysterious figures remind me of the Easter Island stone statues (moai). I’m rather obsessed with visiting this island (Rapa Nui), so I chose the Easter Island / Pink Floyd “Division Bell” image for my case (get it here).
Especially in the summer, it feels nice to be wearing materials like cotton and wood. The sunglasses and phone case never feel sticky.
I travel so much that I rarely do posts about my hometown, Vancouver. In fact, there are a lot of fascinating places to visit here, such as the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The immense collection of ethnographic objects, especially by tribes in this region, make it well worth the $17 entry (or $9 on Tuesday evenings).
The most outstanding works are the towering sculptures and totem poles, made by BC First Nations artists. Bill Reid is celebrated for his carvings such as this Haida bear.
The imagery is forceful, and tied to aboriginal legends. I’m always in awe at how the artists envisioned these figures, which seem to come from another world.
Totem poles and house posts usually depicted supernatural “crest animals,” which symbolized a clan or family’s history. These stylized forms were usually carved out of red cedar, and might include images of the Thunderbird, raven, wolf, eagle and salmon.
On the other side of the world, the people of Easter Island made art with similar aims in mind (or so we think… there’s still so much that we don’t know!)
The UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA) also had extensive displays of modern First Nations art. One gallery showcased works by youths, in media like poems and photographs. I liked seeing the cute Japanese manga influence in this one.
In the back, glass cases hold thousands of artifacts from tribes in Canada and worldwide. The British Columbian masks stand out from the rest, with their captivating patterns and expressions.
Walking through this room, you can feel the spiritual power of these objects. I noticed unique design elements, like a beak curled up to form a second face inside.
These are by the Kwakwaka’wakw – try saying that three times fast. Doesn’t the mask with the flopped-hair look like an emo boy?
The MOA lets you compare indigenous art from all around world: Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Korea, China. These ranged from intricate costumes to… sticks.
Don’t miss this iconic sculpture by Bill Reid: The Raven and The First Men. It depicts the Haida creation story, where Raven opens a cockle shell and releases humans into the world.
Not a bad way to spend a summer day in Vancouver. Simply drive to the University of BC, and you’ll see signs pointing to the Museum of Anthropology. You can also explore the nearby beaches and Japanese garden. Then, you can get lunch near the waterfront, at Granville Island or on West 4th.
All photos by Joey Wong, except the cat and iPhone snaps by La Carmina.
What do you think of my spooky Kill Star outfit of the day? I hope you enjoy these posts that combine fashion with something cultural and travel-related.
Are you familiar with Pacific Northwest native art? Aren’t these forms impressive?
Let’s turn the post over to my Scottish Fold cat. Basil Farrow wanted to take selfies with me, so I obliged.
His flat-face is a bit like the Easter Island figures. Basil enjoyed sniffing the wood phone case.
When you order a case from SVNTY, you can request a custom name engraving. Mine is marked with La Carmina & The Pirates, in our logo font. There are several types of wood to choose from — including cherry, rosewood and maple — and the matte plastic border creates a snug fit.
It’s funny that this Moat House sunglasses shape is called “cat eye”… when my Scottish Fold is round all over. I suppose he’s more of an owl than a maoo.
Moat House has glasses for both men and women, in a variety of modern designs. Check out their full collection and order from their site.
Love supporting independent brands, and handmade local goods.
Basil can’t wear sunglasses because he doesn’t have a nose or ears… but he insists on suntanning anyway.
I leave you with some of Joey Wong’s images of Vancouver. He says (and I agree): “Vancouver has to be one of the most underrated and undiscovered cities I’ve been to.”
“No doubt the geographical setting is one of the best in the world with the downtown core being enclosed by beach, sea, and mountains. The scenic beauty is stunning, the food is plentiful and fresh, multiculturalism is real, and I know very few other places where you can be hiking in the mountains and then 30 minutes later be chilling at the beach. It has the contradictions that keep things interesting: small city vibe + cosmopolitan flair, copious amount of wealth + Downtown Eastside, an old European history + a new Asian influence.”
“I am disappointed when people overlook Vancouver. It’s not that cold, and it definitely isn’t that wet. Just go. Actually, better yet, don’t. Keep the city a secret.”
So give it some thought. Perhaps you’ll run into me, shooting outfit photos!
Yikes, I’m extremely back-logged with blog posts… but they’ll come hot and heavy from now on, I promise.
Let’s go back in time, to our Wicked Grounds drag performance party. Then I’ll run through the best Gothic, alternative and LGBT nightlife in San Francisco. Sounds good? Strike a pose, vogue, and let’s go-go-GOTH.
You’ll recall that some of my best friends and I gathered in San Francisco over Memorial Day Weekend (you can read all our SF adventures to date).
We learned a big travel lesson: it’s extremely stressful to travel during this American public holiday, since the rest of the country is doing the same. Hotels were booked solid, traffic was choked up… It took far too many hours to pick up this birthday cake with a boot on it (don’t ask why) and drive the short distance to the venue.
Still, Die Schwarze Frau managed to get dolled up, and vamped in the alleyway before her big American debut.
We got to Wicked Grounds, the San Francisco kink cafe, and immediately felt at home. The space is a gathering-place for the alt community, and has regular events such as themed munches. Plus, they serve yummy food and drinks.
We took full advantage of the human-sized cage, and tested out the selection of floggers…
Die Schwarze Frau’s performance was tiger-fierce. She whirled around, screamed at skulls, stripped, and did drops to the ground. I’ll show you more photos from her Tokyo performance soon, and perhaps a video!
To open the show, Naomiyaki did spooky live drawings on bodies, such as an overturned bottle of poison. (She also took most of the photos in this post.)
Naomi asked the audience to participate and made body-art the spot, based on this girl’s personality. Thanks to everyone who came to our event, and to Wicked Grounds for hosting us: we loved meeting you, and hope to be back soon!
After, the shenanigans continued at Dark Shadows, a much-loved San Francisco Gothic night at Cat Club. Such a pleasure to meet many readers and friends at this event.
We’re quite the motley crew to party with. Can you spot in this photo: a bear, blood, Covenant, unicorns, Frankenstein?
The DJ played some of our favorite synth-Goth tracks, like Mylène Farmer’s Désenchantée. On the right: “Despite all my rage, I’m still just a… bat in a cage.”
If you aren’t ready to commit to a permanent tattoo, Goth body-art lets you be expressive for a night.
Things with Trevor got a bit blurry…
I’m wearing a hakama, or traditional Japanese skirt as seen on samurai. It’s a modern interpretation by J-Goth brand Despair.
The MUNI (San Fran subway system) was an easy way for us to club-hop. We weren’t in town for Death Guild at DNA Lounge (every Monday), but we managed to see Bianca Del Rio at Trannyshack. Remember this post about how we met the RuPaul’s Drag Race winner?
I adore retro culture — can can dancers, top hats, burlesque — so we stopped by an Absinthe Party to honor Autumn, the designer behind San Francisco’s Dark Garden Corsetry.
She was traveling to Paris to further study the art of corset-making. (Soon, I’ll do a post about the shops we visited in San Francisco, including vintage and Jpop boutiques).
We raised a glass of the green fairy, and bid her bon voyage.
On another night, we went to Bondage-a-Go-Go, held every Wednesday night at Cat Club. BaGG has been running for 21 years, and is a fixture in the “kinky, fetish-y, gothy, nerdy, punky, leather-y” San Fran scene.
Photos aren’t allowed unless you have special permission, so be assured this is a safe and private space for play. That night, we saw dungeon demos by people in masks, and Go-Go dancers in cages.
The only San Francisco nightlife that didn’t live up to our expectations… was the Castro gay district. Long lines, unfriendly bouncers, and a slightly dingy atmosphere. Stick to the Goth / alt scene, and the lively T-shack drag shows, and you’ll have a grand time in this city.
Have you experienced San Francisco’s clubs and bars? How do they compare to the scene in other cities?
If we missed out on anything in this round-up, let us know in the comments! Coming up: coverage from New York, Cape Town, Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul…
While in New York for my recent TV shoot, I stayed at the newly-opened The Paper Factory Hotel. It’s a 100-year-old industrial space that has been transformed into an artsy hotel, with a magnificent view from the rooftop.
Come, and let’s explore a Factory that would delight Andy Warhol…
How amazing is the NYC skyline from the hotel’s rooftop? (All images by Ryan Edwardson Photography)
The purple knit top is Candy Stripper, found at Closet Child. My blue animal print dress is from Siam Discovery Center in Bangkok.
What a joy to explore this rooftop area, covered in intriguing graffiti like the words “Memento Mori.” This building has so much history: a century ago, it was a paper factory.
Today, it’s a 122-room hotel that is uber-modern and comfy, while preserving the historic manufacturing vibe. Old machine parts have become works of art, placed all around.
The Paper Factory Hotel is located in an unexpected place: Long Island City / Astoria in Queens. (Address: 37-06 36th Street, Long Island City, New York).
Sounds far? Not at all: the location is just across the East River from Manhattan, and meters from two subway stops. Ride the metro for 15 minutes, and you’re in midtown.
“Moshi moshi?” I loved playing around with the eclectic objects around the hotel. These included a British telephone booth, Thai rickshaw, Vespa, and vintage kid-sized automobiles.
These days, the main function of phones is for selfie-taking, rather than making calls…
The Paper Factory Hotel cleverly pays tribute to its former incarnation. I noticed elements like a polished concrete floor, inset with clippings from 19th-century Queens newspapers.
Althought I lived in Manhattan for years while attending school, I never explored Long Island City. Today, it’s become an emerging hip neighborhood, with a relaxed industrial vibe.
The lobby has a cafe — you can tell I’m pleased with my giant cup of coffee. Within walking distance, there were plenty of affordable local cafes and pubs. (And this area is safe, so don’t worry about walking around at night.)
The staff was lovely, and I hope I can be back for the summer opening of Mundo, a earthy Mediterranean restaurant. The downstairs area may also be converted into a club or gallery space.
The Paper Factory Hotel often hosts art exhibits and workshops. They’re right by the Noguchi museum, MoMA PS1, and the Museum of the Moving Image.
I’m 100% behind their mission to encourage creativity and collaboration. The website states: “We will help connect you with other like-minded individuals so that you might perhaps motivate each other and restore innovation to all aspects of life.”
My room was enormous — what a nice change from the usual cramped Manhattan spaces!
It even had a kitchenette and stand-alone mirror. I’m wearing a Moi-meme-moitie cemetery dress (Sleeping Garden print by Mana’s brand), and Gal Stern Flashback tights. You can shop her handmade legwear collection through her website.
I hope you’ll keep this hotel in mind, when you’re next visiting NY. Their site has special deals and lets you book online.
Thanks to the Paper Factory Hotel for hosting me and my TV team. We were blown away by this view of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings!
I had the best time shooting with photographer Ryan Edwardson, who is based in Toronto. He has a great eye for composition and capturing natural moments.
Here is a behind-the-scenes shot from our photoshoot on the rooftop.
Ryan caught my happy reaction to a sip of fresh coffee.
He’s a world traveler and storyteller, and this comes across in his photography. If you’re looking for a Toronto photographer — whether for weddings, commercial projects, portraits — keep Ryan Edwardson in mind.
I still have more photos from this chic boutique hotel to show you. Until then, you can see previews (and cat, and current travels in South Africa and Asia) on my LaCarmina Instagram.
Have you been to New York, New York? What do you think of the Paper Factory, and the mood of these images?
PS: I’m on the cover of Kirameki Magazine, out July 15! Here’s a preview of my magazine cover – yes, I’m wearing Moi-meme-Moitie.
Yukiro and I wanted our San Francisco journey to be rejuvenating. A time to regroup with friends and chill out. With these goals in mind, we did something I’ve dreamed about for a long time… and went on a mini-retreat at the San Francisco Zen Center.
Read on for the story of our Buddhist temple stay, and how these guest rooms are a hidden travel gem.
In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi arrived from Japan to be the head of the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco. He spoke English, and encouraged people from all walks of life to sit zazen with him. As a result, the Zen Center became a gathering spot for creatives in the Beat and hippie movements.
Suzuki-san established the Beginner’s Mind Temple (Hosshin-ji) in 1969. We stayed at the current location of this “City Center” (308 Page St at Laguna). The SFZC also has locations in Tassajara and Green Gulch, for more isolated retreats and intensive practice.
The historic building carries a genuine, natural sense of calmness. The front hall is decorated with sparse but graceful elements, like this meditating Buddha.
A shadow of a monk on a scroll: so simple and beautiful. The door leads to the meditation hall, where all are welcome to take off their shoes and enter.
You can imagine what a joy it was, to make this our home! The Zen Center offers lovely guest rooms for $105-$162 a night, which includes a healthy breakfast with the residents, and lunch and dinner by donation. These accommodations aren’t listed in any hotel sites, and are an incredible value considering the location and experiences offered.
As you can see from these posters, the SF Zen Center welcomes diversity. There is a regular “Queer Dharma” for LGBT practitioners, and their website states, “People of every race, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability — all are welcome.”
We felt perfectly comfortable staying here: there are no curfews or restrictions. Our rooms had Wi-Fi Internet, along with Buddha statues, Yogi tea and lavender soap.
Plus, we felt great about supporting the Zen Center, and taking part in the Buddhist practice. All guests are welcome to attend classes, dharma talks, and ceremonies. You can see upcoming listings in their events calendar.
Our favorite part of the San Francisco Zen Center was the courtyard garden.
I’m wearing a vintage Japanese robe (it’s been in my family for years), Liz Lisa dress, and white sandals c/o Y-R-U.
Such relief to slow down, breathe and appreciate nature.
The garden is filled with hidden Buddhas. Look closely, and altars will appear.
If you want to stay longer, SFZC offers a two-year Work Practice Apprenticeship program for Zen students, “to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.”
One of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment — something that people often forget, leading to stress and unhappiness. As Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote, “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
He taught, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”
“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.” Now that is food for thought…
The City Center has a bookstore, where you find Buddhist works including Suzuki Roshi’s well-loved book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
The SFZC Zen Center is a very special place, and part of San Francisco history. I’m grateful we spent time here, as I’ve always wanted to do a temple stay. I hope you’ll also get the chance to visit, take a class, or rent a guestroom in this Buddhist monastery.
Sending you loving-kindness. I’ll soon be exploring more Buddhist environments… stay tuned for the announcement of a major Asia trip.
Are you familiar with Buddhist teachings? If you’re curious, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a wonderful book for getting acquainted. After all, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”
Or as my Scottish Fold Zen Master would say, “Mmm mmm mmm!” (I found him this cat crossing sign at a Pier 39 pet gifts store.)