Blank Canvas Sampler: A new species of Urban Anas to add to the genus of dabbling ducks

Historically, samplers began as a way to record and collect needlework stitches and patterns for future use and adaptation. When a needlewoman saw a new or intriguing piece of stitching, she would quickly sew a copy onto a piece of cloth. These samplers evolved organically over a lifetime, the patterns spreading outwards with the deceptive randomization of fractals, as the needlewoman’s collection grew in variation, texture, and complexity.

After borders and alphabets were added in the 17th century, along with religious and moral verses, samplers became more deliberate, organized, and methodical. No longer a collection of tactile experiences, samplers became a showcase for skill and were taught to young girls as a “sign of virtue, achievement, and industry”.

Sound familiar? Our 21st century culture celebrates those who channel their energies into ‘profitable communication’. Everything we do has become a demonstration of skill, rather than a collection of knowledge and experience. But humans are not efficient, or perfect. Our stitches are brushstrokes, not pixels. When we allow our hands to record our world, a new honesty surfaces in our observations. The Blank Canvas Sampler is a collection of true life images and people, overheard tidbits and cultural commentary. Let’s bring the sampler, and our lives, back to their root humanity.

Click here to discover the Blank Canvas Sampler

Note: This matching winter morning couple made last Friday’s walk to work feel a little less like a walk to work

Famous Valentines: Quotes about Virginia Woolf by her husband Leonard Woolf

Virginia Woolf, a prototypical Blank Canvas Thinker, and self proclaimed “explorer” from birth, found in her husband, Leonard, a patient motivator who loved her with an understanding and forgiveness that speaks of a joining of two souls on a level beyond most modern concepts of marriage. While Virginia innovated the novel form with stream of consciousness and progressive female-centric values, Leonard set up Hogarth press in their Richmond house, both to publish his wife’s work and as a way to finance her literary explorations. When the interviewer in this wonderful youtube snippit asks Leonard why he stopped writing his own fiction, Leonard replies in what may sound to some a simple practicality; but coming from a man worthy of mental partnership with one of the most creative intellectuals of the 20th century, his answer, “one of us had to give it up,” (delivered surprisingly matter-of-fact) is heart-wrenchingly poetic.

On his wife’s genius…
“She had a combination of imagination and intelligence which is extremely rare, I think.”

On his wife’s magic…
“Every now and then, she would do what I call ‘leave the ground’ and give the most fantastic account of a perfectly ordinary thing which had happened or which she’d seen.”

On his wife being (occasionally) the object of ridicule…
“She dressed, I think, very beautifully, but rather unlike most people – and walked about in this curious way.”

Many scholars consider Virginia’s 1941 river suicide a sacrifice for love, to save Leonard from further anguish. But why don’t they understand – why didn’t Virginia understand – that any man who would chose to put on hold the chance at his own greatness for the woman who needed all of him, would have (with that same matter-of-fact grace) spent the last of his strength dragging her back up on to shore. For his true greatness will always be in helping his wife endure hers.

How to take workplace safety into your own hands

When you commit to the evolution of an idea, leave your ego at the door. The best self-editing, whether in writing or design, usually involves taking what you thought was shear mind-blowing brilliance, and tossing it straight out the window. Creative problem solving is all about trial and error, either performed mentally, or, as in this case, getting your hands dirty in real world testing.

This polymath has no Medici patron. As I explore Blank Canvas Living and work within the medium to develop a new way to tell a story using Story Thread Posts, I earn my creative freedom in a rather bizarre, yet beautifully brain preserving, way – rolling paper. Literally. I spend my 9-5s rolling epic seismic printouts, and when occasion calls for it, folding them. When our new set of wide-format printers came online, I went rollin…’ rollin…’ rollin’… along as usual, but when I stopped my palms and fingertips were black with toner! Sure, my version of coal dust is (probably? hopefully?) only vaguely toxic, but I couldn’t believe the engineers had overlooked the long term health of everyone using their products. The fact that these are the same minds currently slaving away on artificial intelligence is even more horrifying. ‘Slaving’ being the operative word. But anyways…

Protective Glove Criteria:
-full barrier (most critical at rolling contact points)
-easy on and off
-dexterous grip
-replaceable and/or washable

Latex was instant clammy hell. Garden gloves compromised dexterity. Everything was either too thick or too porous, or made my skin react. Cheap knit gloves worked best, but were still too porous at the contact points. I tried doubling them up, which worked at first, but made my fingers stiff with strain (a very odd sensation). I used a strip of tape to block the most stretched palm pores, then I had the exquisite, genius idea to impregnate the contact points with white glue. This proved effective, but was bulky and its texture rubbed off even more toner.

So, grudgingly, I chucked the genius and went for taped fingers (open at the back) and a T shaped palm covering. The solution is easily replaceable (to prevent the fibers from collecting too much toner dust), easy on and off, and doesn’t compromise my grip or dexterity. Is it the best solution? Ask my doctor in fifty years. But by then A.I. will have taken over and we’ll have some new version of coal dust to panic about – you’ll find my opinion (in pink) about that directly below.

How to turn your morning commute into an impromptu S&M adventure

I find Doctor C waiting for me when I get into the office this morning. Our receptionist appears utterly entranced by my friend’s glowing – today it’s coral – smile.

“I was thinking about what you did to do those dishes,” says Doctor C (I’d told her about my trick during one of our elevator chats), “and it gave me an idea for another assignment – if you’re interested.”

As if she has to ask! We step into the hall and she gives me the details. She wants me to use my storying technique to give a Blank Canvas Living client a new perspective on her grueling daily commute. And since it’s the same client who was thrilled with my bondage themed sketchbook cover design, I know exactly what angle to take…


Transit. Transition. How do you measure the space between A and B? Time. And we only have so much. Why devalue these precious minutes by dragging A and B closer together with handheld distractions? Are we really so terrified of giving up control and letting our senses direct our attentions? What happens when we submit to the moment?

The bus hits gridlock at 7th Ave and 4th Street. Ms M despairs. Her toes are already tingling painfully, pinched between the black leather straps of her high heels. It’s hell mornings like this one when she’s almost tempted to wear runners to the office – almost. What’s the point of trying to looking sexy when every other head is bent in reverence over tiny bright screens? They’ve chosen their distractions, and she, even with her stellar legs, apparently can’t compete with wi-fi access.

The bus jerks forward and Ms M teeters dangerously. She reaches across the aisle and grabs onto a second rubber strap handhold to center herself. She knows people don’t usually double up like this, but then again, people don’t usually wear 5 inch heels on public transit. The spread eagle position makes her feel immediately conspicuous, but no one looks up. She reaches both hands through the loops and twists her wrists to wrap the rubber tight to reduce the play. May as well go all the way, she figures, and lets her fingers hang free, her new handcuffs keeping her stable. The bus jerks again, with surprising violence. Pain shoots through her shoulders and she glares at the driver in his rearview mirror.

He’s smiling at her wickedly. Bastard! But then she realizes why. She’s locked herself into an impromptu S&M session and now he’s the one taking it all the way. Ms M feels her face flushing bright red. The other passengers, with their sensible shoes and iphones, disappear. The driver winks at her and she grins back. Her pinched toes become part of the game. She bends her knees to give over control of her body to the mercies of the driver. He pumps the gas and jams the brakes, taking obvious delight in watching her reactions.

The other passengers begin to look up to see what’s changed. Then the bus stops too quick, dead. The driver’s face goes white in the mirror. He’s hit the car in front.

This is a Story Thread post – Click to read more…

Blank Canvas Thinkers: Karl Lagerfeld quotes about work/life balance and the perfect day

While these quotes from Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘Karl on Karl’ interview will resonate with any deeply creative person, they highlight the contrast between the visionary and all the tiny French fingers, living between bonbons and pinpricks, that labour over his Chanel haute couture. These petites-mains bring his dreams into the physical, then wait quietly for him to come and tighten their work, until every hemline and seam echo his “will and discipline” – thereby achieving a certain perfection. His self direction must be respected, even admired, but can any man be called a genius when he has left no room in his philosophy for the regenerative chaos of love?