Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Trip without a Map

As many of you already know, I am very involved with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), as its International Membership chair, and this past weekend I was in Chicago for their 2nd annual Chapter Symposium. At that meeting I was responsible for presenting state and regional chapter leaders with ideas to retain and recruit chapter members.

Things got really interesting when I presented Social Media opportunities. Energy, confusion, disbelief and social media evangelism mingled together in the room. I realized that I had with a simple PowerPoint presentation taken the group into unknown and virtually unexplored territory. I had, along with my own experiments in the past several months, established, managed or embellished APLD's social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Land8lounge, Landscapedia, and Twitter. Just like starting a new landscape design, these savvy design professionals needed a 'site' map to follow to achieve their goals.

I contacted social media PR professional, Jessie Newburn, from Nemetschek North America to see if we could use social media jointly to promote an event that APLDNJ had planned to demonstrate their Vectorworks Landmark CAD program to New Jersey chapter members.

We established an extremely fluid and organic (read highly experimental) social media marketing plan which will unfold during the next week prior to the March 3rd event which is currently full with a waiting list. Hopefully, in addition to creating a format for sharing the event, the end game will be a base map that others can use and build on--we're navigating new territory and exploring the possibilities. You can follow the progress and see it unfold over the next week here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Power of 1

Three Dog Night was wrong, 1 is not a lonely number. From my perspective, the power of 1 is a place of professional and personal strength. For me it is impossible to separate life and work, they are so deeply interwoven into a seamless whole.

Often, artists and designers are accused of being self centered--we're not, not really. For some, like me, the solitary stance is necessary to be able to hear the ideas that flow through and around me. Professionally, like the sun king, I'm the center of my own creative life's universe. Mark Twain very aptly said, 'Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one's head." I choose to live my life in the middle of that storm and to use it to propel forward motion--for myself.

Sometimes I find myself unable (or unwilling?) to start a new project until it is visualized in my head. These broad ideas are the big picture that I work out in detail later. I never get it right the first time--that's where the designer's skill comes into play. If I don't get it right and I loose the thread of the idea I work on developing it so becomes something more richly detailed sophisticated than the big picture was. Drawing, for me, is like the sirens beckoning sailors to crash on the rocks, I draw to call back and develop ideas more fully than they are in the rocks of my mind's eye.

I do collaborate sometimes. I've worked with others who plod and work through ideas--I can do that, but it doesn't result in my best work. In the busy season, when I sometimes have studio assistants, when I'm hanging around the studio making myself busy with other things they think I'm procrastinating, doing nothing, wasting time, pacing aimlessly. They're not quiet enough, they don't understand the process, and they haven't learned to be their own centers yet.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stuck in the Mud...Ugly Shoes

Spring is approaching in my part of the world and that means...MUD!

My favorite pair of rubber and neoprene garden shoes have sprung a leak and need to be replaced. I have tried different types of garden shoes. I don't like the waterproof work boots that the guys wear--they're too heavy and definitely unfashionable unless you're a grunge gardener. I find most rubber clogs impractical because they get pulled off my feet in the muck. Even with a hardcore lifelong shoe fetish I don't like the flower printed light weight garden shoes--although I've been tempted to try a pair of Bogs (above). Practicality is going to win over fashion this time if I can replace my current favs so shopping around for replacements is not a burden, it is a challenge.

The first pair of garden shoes I bought were red Jollys clogs--definitely a bold choice. Great color and cork insoles, but they made me feel ridiculous. These same red shoes now languish at the bottom of the basement stairs in case of a flood. They've been worn once in 10 years.

Next, as sometimes happens, the pendulum swung towards practicality and I had a pair of Muck Boot Company (left) shoes that I wore out but definitely weren't fashion forward like the clogs. I liked the neoprene liner that kept my feet warm and let them breathe. They lasted for two seasons before the treads wore down and they became dangerous to wear.

On a trip to Vermont I found a pair of Sorels (below). I'm not sure if the style name 'Garden Mules' is appropriate, because they are decidedly unmule-like and UGLY, but I know that mine, after four years of wear and tear, need to be replaced and they are very difficult to find. They might even be discontinued since those I have found in my size are only available in one color. No choice for a shoe addict is not fair. My Sorel Garden Mules thick clog-like sole and neoprene insert keeps my feet warm and dry and they have great traction. I've even worn them to walk in and they have great support. They have only come off my feet once in deep mud--and I wear them every day for 2-3 months. They're ugly, unfashionable and have no pretty flowers on them but they get my vote and my money again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Web 2.0 Update-6 Months In

I thought it was time for a quick update on the progress of my Web 2.0 adventures--it's the 6 month mark of my expedition. I've been a member of one social/professional network for longer than 6 months and some others 2 or 3. I've explored some new sites as recently as this week. There are sites/communities I've visited a few times, and others I frequent every day. Some are not working for me and some are. What I do know is every person needs to find the right mix for them--not all sites work for everyone in every situation.

My favorite, by far is still Twitter. It's a fast and furious funhouse of information and conversation. It is also a powerful tool for sharing ideas and reaching people. It suits my busy, random thought processes. I've also started paying more attention to FriendFeed although some of its nuances elude me.

What have I learned? That a real sense of community exists in many of these venues. It's not just me talking to myself. Although because I feed my Twitter Stream to my personal Facebook page it seems that I'm not engaging my friends there and am just randomly posting whatever comes to mind. Throughout all of the sites I've frequented I've reconnected with some people and have met and conversed with new ones with wide ranging interests and knowledge. I've learned to take everything seriously--there's a lot of false information out there too. I've also learned that you have to be genuine. I am still learning the etiquette--yes, there are manners to be displayed--on some sites.

What am I still Wondering? I've become a convert. I am a believer in Social Networking, but it's my traditional slow time of the year - I'm unsure how much I'll be able to keep up when spring really hits in my part of the world. I now know that Web 2.0 has to be front loaded and needs constant feeding to succeed. You can't just have a hit or miss philosophy. My available my time to do that will decrease with the onset of good weather. For now I'm here and present as much as possible with the hopes that the time not spent later won't impact my positive presence too much.

What is the Downside? Other than Twitter addiction? The count is still out on this one. I have strong opinions on things. With the 'transparency' of real and honest Web 2.0 participation I have probably unintentionally insulted sensibilities and have gotten people upset. Others, not used to my randomness probably think I'm a total space cadet. I suppose you could view those reactions that any reaction is at least a reaction.

Well that's it for now, but if you want to join in or follow me, many of the other places I can be found are posted in badges and links to the right--just click one and it will take you to one of the locations on my Web 2.0 adventure--join in the fun!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Towards the Light

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA designed by Frank Gehry

Several years ago, in Los Angeles, I visited Frank Gehry's Disney Concert hall. During that visit I was stopped in my tracks by a bit of light that had reflected from one side of the building to another. There were no plants, it wasn't a garden, but the light created magic and a destination of its own. I've often thought about that image and its light in an abstract way knowing at some point I would want to explore its possibilities.

In school--we go to the dark side--shade. We're taught about shade, how to deal with shade, how to create shade, the varying types of shade, and the patterns made by shade. We're taught to make shade studies but we're not taught about light unless it is about how much sun a plant or garden has or needs. We learn about the angle of the sun in winter vs. summer, but not how to harness that light as design element. We consider how to light a garden in the evening hours yet not how to manipulate the light it gets naturally during the day.

Yesterday, as is my habit, I was out walking in the early morning. When I turned around to head home I was stopped short by the most amazing fuchsia morning sky backlighting a stand of trees. It has got me thinking again about the power of natural light in the landscape and how we as designers miss incredible opportunities to create magic by not manipulating natural light.