Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

Ten Years Later, copyright Jennifer Geisert 2011

I was tying the shoelaces of my black Converse low-tops in my ex-boyfriend's lounge, getting ready to walk into Camden Town. When I sat down on the futon and lowered my head to watch my fingers in the ever-familiar task, life was normal. When I raised my head again, everything had changed. He had turned on the television and we saw the fire and smoke pouring out of the first tower. The headlines were being typed across the bottom of the screen, white letters on BBC red. I thought it was a made-for-TV movie. And then I realized it wasn't.

I had left my home in California for London less than a month earlier. I was going to be starting my freshman year at art school in just two weeks, and I was using the last of my free days to get to know my way around north London. We were going to walk from Kentish Town into Camden Town for an afternoon spent wandering the markets and most likely the pubs. There was a game we had; see how many times we were offered drugs by the rasta men walking up and down the high street. They would mutter "Hashweed, hashweed, hashweed," and sometimes we'd hear murmurings of "coke," the sharp "k" in harsh contrast with the drawn out "oh" sound. That day didn't exactly go as planned.

It was a clear sunny day, similar to New York. It was early afternoon when we turned on the television. It must have been just after the first plane struck. We watched the smoke and flames pouring out of the gaping hole in the tower. All I could think about was the times my parents and I would fly into Newark airport to visit my grandmother, and how I'd always look out of the windows of the planes as we were landing to see the Twin Towers. That was the closest I'd ever been to New York.

We watched in horror as the second plane struck. We watched in horror as people began leaping out of the windows. We watched in horror as the first tower, and then the second, collapsed. The human toll was unbelievable. We watched as the news coverage changed to the Pentagon, and we saw the gaping hole in the side of the building. We saw the flaming field in Pennsylvania. I called my dad in California to see if he'd heard from my aunt's family in Union City, New Jersey, my grandmother in Pennsylvania. He told me to stay indoors, there had been rumors that planes might be headed for all the tall buildings in major cities around the world - I was to stay away from Cannary Wharf. (If you know the geography of London, you'll understand how ill-informed we were at the time of the location of Cannary Wharf in relation to Camden.) We watched as the news programs began to replay the horrific events from the start, over and over and over again. We watched the people in far away places shooting off guns and dancing in the streets. I couldn't understand why people hated my country so much that they would do this.

I know we went into Camden Town later that day, but I don't remember what we did or what I saw. I don't remember if I cried at that point. I don't remember a lot.

In the days and weeks that followed, people would hear my American accent when I was at the grocery store or the post office, and they would come up to me and express their condolences, saying they hoped that no one I knew had been affected. I would thank them, amazed at the kindness of strangers.

The first time I flew home after that horrible day, I was sick with the flu. My ears were so clogged up I could barely understand the questions the American customs official was asking me. My mother burst into tears as soon as she saw me coming out of arrivals. I wasn't afraid of flying, but that changed. As time wore on, I became terrified of airports, flights, turbulence, security alerts. I can't fly now without feeling nauseous.

Ten years later I'm back in California. Life has gone on. I have lived through a changing world, as well as a terrorist attack in my then-home-city of London. Today we mark the decade anniversary of 9-11, and my hope is that we move away from anger, fear, and hatred, and into unity, community, and forgiveness. Of course we will never forget, but I hope that we can rise above.

World Trade Center Wreckage, Yorba Linda CA, copyright Jennifer Geisert 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Catching Up

Remember way back when, when I told you I had some news about the OC Fair? Well, I was bad and never followed that one up. I'm only human.

So even though it seems like the fair is loooong gone, and you've no chance to see it in person*, here's my news:

The Greenhouse, copyright Jennifer Geisert
My photo won a blue ribbon! Hooray!!
Judging this year must have been tremendously difficult. Over 4,000 photographs were entered, and only about 900 or so were selected for exhibition. Of those 900 photos they were split into Amateur and Professional, and from there they were split even further into classes and categories. Among this years judges were Jeff Alu, assistant director at the Orance County Center for Contemporary Art, Susan Spiritus of the Susan Spiritus Gallery of Fine Art Photography, and several professional photographers and educators.

I'm particularly fond of the piece I entered as it shows my friend Eleanor's back garden in London. Obviously it makes me think of the evening I took the picture this past May, when I stayed with her for a few days and we ate our dinner outside in the sunset, but it also reminds me of all the times I've spent with her. We'd get together most Sundays for coffee and cakes at our favorite local place, Cafe Mozart (sadly it's no longer there), and sometimes we'd take her dog Ruggles for walks on Hampstead Heath and end up at the Bull and Last pub. We've had BBQs in her garden and celebrated Guy Fawkes day with bonfires and fireworks with friends and family.

Amazing how just one image can stir so many memories, isn't it?

*Even though you can't see this anywhere in person at the moment, you can see it on my website. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Yoga Love

There's a great yoga studio that's opened quite recently, and if you're in Orange, you're in luck! It's called The Yoga Mat, and it's run by Courtney and Natalie with a keen eye on the local community. I took my first class with Courtney yesterday, and OMG did she kick my ass. Achey as I felt afterwards, I also felt lighter in spirit, a miracle based on the difficult week I'd just had. (Jury duty, family illness, etc...)
Not only does The Yoga Mat have a great studio, they also have a small shop that features the work of local artists, and I'm thrilled to say that my necklaces are currently residing there! Like I said, Courtney and Natalie are focused on tapping into the local community and aim to have a local featured Artist of the Month. They've worked hard to ensure that they're promoting sustanability, with most of their displays coming from secondhand shops and friend's garages.

Handmade Necklaces by Jennifer Geisert
Check out some of the goodies you'll find on my necklace tree:

Lotus Blossom convertible necklace

Butterfly & Gold Flower photo necklace

Brown & Olive Green reversible fabric necklace

Brown & Olive Green reversible fabric necklace
As an aside, I left Orange for London 10 years ago today. I remember being on the airplane, so tired but unable to sleep. Every time I would doze off someone would wake me up for something. When we finally landed and got to the flat we were renting, my parents and I went for a walk to look at the Thames. It was raining and humid, and I hated the greyness of the city, then old gum on the sidewalks, and the brown waters of the river. I thought the buildings were ugly and the sight of the moss growing on the statues made me feel physically ill. Of course, those first impressions changed completely and I think London is one of the most beautiful and intriguing places in the world. I'm sad that there's been rioting there this weekend, and even sadder knowing that lovely friends of mine are living so close to it that they were unexpectedly caught up in it on their way home from a night out. I'm sad that my husband's family live so close that they heard sirens all through the night. I know that this will pass, and I know that there are people stepping off airplanes right now ready to embark on a new adventure, the same way I was 10 years ago.

Heart in Finsbury Park

Thursday, August 4, 2011

For the Love of Peculiar

Ever since my first high school photography class, I've had a fascination with pictures and what they mean. As a (semi) practicing artist today, I'm interested in making things look like something they're not, or making something out of several things that are kind of unexpected. It's probably why I'm drawn to TTV photography, because it means I can take a modern picture and make it look like it's not modern.

The Collection, copyright Jennifer Geisert

Another thing I've had an interest in is collecting vintage photographs. These are memories that no one remembers anymore, taken completely out of context. The faces and period dress make me wonder what was happening in the frame, and who the people were. 

My Grandfather, Italy

I've always wondered what would happen if we assigned new memories to these photographs, what sort of meaning we could give them. The possibilities are absolutely endless. So when I was in the bookstore the other day and found Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I was intrigued. When I flipped through and found the text peppered with strange, haunting photographs, I was hooked.

Written by Ransom Riggs
The author, Ransom Riggs, has taken this collection of found images and made them into a fantastical story. Some of the images are a little creepy and make me think of Diane Arbus (one of my favorites), and some of the images are fairly pedestrian but have taken on a creepy feeling because of the text. It's an interesting book, and as an "art project," I loved it. Not so much for the plot, more for the concept. However, I think that the next time I read it I'll get more into the story itself and less into the whole "It's a book with vintage creepy photography, this guy is the best!" Can't wait to see what else he's going to do.
Anyway, I've been inspired to add to my collection of vintage pics. Here are some of my finds:

So many posibilities...the artist in me is excited!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Nobody Walks in LA

I went to Los Angeles on my day off last week. Usually this sort of trip involves an hour-long car ride, a white-knuckle drive to find parking, an exhorbitant amount of money paid to park somewhere, and the worry in the back of my mind that I'll return to my car to find, um, no car. So it's not always the most relaxing day for me. But this time, James and I took the train to Union Station and hopped on the Metro to Civic Center, Little Tokyo, and even Pasadena. Infinitely more relaxing, and we did so much more than we normally would do! Just take a look...

Union Station
Sculpture outside the MOCA

Angel's Flight

A riot of color on Alvera Street

Color color and more color


Wishing Tree in Little Tokyo

Chop Suey

Relaxing Lunch at the Norton Simon

Leaving Los Angeles
 Next time we go we're going to try to get to LACMA and MOCA. Both are closed (closed!) on Wednesdays. Also, since wandering through Little Tokyo, I have a wicked craving for good Japanese food so I may have to insist we eat there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Cutest Eggs You've Ever Seen

I was all set to tell you about my day in LA but I got sidetracked quite quickly by cute Japanese animal eggs. Seriously. I went to San Francisco last year and one of the first stops was to the Ichiban Kan market in Little Tokyo. I fell in love with these little animal egg shapers, but decided not to buy them. Big mistake. I've been wanting them ever since. So last week while in LA, I found a small Japanese dollar-type store and decided that they HAD to have the egg things. And guess what....

Animal Eggs!
Bunny and Bear
 ....they did!! (They also had lime green bunny chopsticks which I absolutely HAD to have. They seriously make meals taste better.)

You have to hard-boil your eggs and peel them while they're still hot. Then they go in the molds and get stuck in ice water for 10 minutes.
Bunny & Bear Eggs
I don't know if my eggs were too small or if the bear is just a little too large or if I just haven't gotten the technique down, but the bear eggs turned out mostly without ears.

The cutest egg you've even seen
The bunny eggs turned out a little better than the bear eggs.

Eaten egg with tomato salad and risotto
 Even my vegan friend ate one. They're just way too awesome.

Cupcakes, pre-eating
Oh, and I also made some kick-ass cupcakes this weekend. They have cream cheese frosting and pink sprinkles. P.S. They're almost all gone.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Sneak Peek at my Day Off

Wednesday provided a much-needed break for me. I haven't had time to edit the photos yet, but here's just a little look at what I did on my day off...

Oh, and PS, stay tuned for a little piece of news about my photo entry at the Orange County Fair!
Happy Friday to All!

Monday, July 18, 2011

To The Start of a New Week

Happy Monday, everyone! I see we all survived Carmageddon, so much so that it's now being hailed as "Carmaheaven." Hope you all had a lovely weekend. Mine was made up of just Sunday, and was jam-packed with trips to Trader Joe's and errands to Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

I've been (insanely) getting up at 6:30 in the morning to get some work done before work, and much as I hate to admit it, it seems to be working out. So that's how you can squeeze a couple more hours out of the day!

I even managed to list a couple of earrings on Sweetpea Studios. I'll be working far more diligently on my Etsy store, so keep checking for new goodies.

Black Tie at Sweetpea Studios
Here's hoping we all have a wonderful week!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Insomnia, Etsy, and Carmageddon

Despite my best efforts, I couldn't sleep last night. It must have been my excitement over the announcement of the Emmy nominees this morning, coupled with my distress over "Carmageddon" this weekend. Obviously.

So what's a girl to do? Oh, I don't know, re-open her Etsy shop?

Feminine Specimen at Sweetpea Studios

On the Wing: Lace at Sweetpea Studios

On the Wing: Crystal at Sweetpea Studios

Handmade with Love.
Head on over to Sweetpea Studios to see what else is new!

It's gonna be a two-coffee morning....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What are they deep-frying this year?

Baby Chickens

It's that time of year again, when Costa Mesa begins to smell of BBQ and weird deep-fried food, when carnival rides and funhouses are errected seemingly overnight, when we start to dream of cotton candy and Alaskan pig races and baby chickens and pies that are just right. You guessed it, it's time for the Orange County Fair!

Strange Dancing Animals
I've always loved the fair. When I was younger I loved going to look at the animals raised by the local 4H programs (okay, I still love doing that) and seeing what sorts of weird stuff people collected (still love doing that too). When I got to be a little older, like a teenager, I used to go with my friends to play carnival games and ride the rides. (Some boys always thought it was HILARIOUS to rock the cart of the Ferris wheel. NOT funny.) Now as a "grown up," I love to look at the artwork that local ametur and professional artists submit. I've even joined in the fun and submitted works myself!

The Greenhouse, copyright Jennifer Geisert
 This year my entry into the photography section is another TTV picture. It's the lovely greenhouse in Eleanor's back garden in north London with the late afternoon sun shining over the pond. Don't you just want to sit and rest here awhile?

I also entered these photos into the fair, but they weren't accepted. Oh well, there's always next year and other photo exhibitions!

Country Walk, copyright Jennifer Geisert

Stately, copyright Jennifer Geisert
What do you like about your local county fair? 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Recommendation For a Successful Marriage, Then and Now

Somewhere along the way, I was given a list of "marriage secrets" from 1950, probably in one of my English classes in high school. I, being the precocious girl I was/am, decided to re-write them when I was about 17. Now that I'm actually married, I'd re-write them yet again, hopefully with more maturity and wisdom.

My favorite photograph of my grandmother

1) HAVE DINNER READY: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal - on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are a part of the warm welcome needed.
2) PREPARE YOURSELF: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.
3) CLEAR AWAY THE CLUTTER: Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.
4) PREPARE THE CHILDREN: Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.
5) MINIMIZE ALL NOISE: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.
6) SOME DON'TS: Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he's late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.
7) MAKE HIM COMFORTABLE: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.
8) LISTEN TO HIM: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.
9) MAKE THE EVENING HIS: Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure - he needs to be home and relax.
10) THE GOAL: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
FROM: 1950 Home Economics Text Book


Jenn's Rules for a Successful Marriage (1999/2000)
1) Dye your hair blue.
2) Buy me flowers.
3) Be sure to have candles and incense burning, as well as wonderful music blasting when I get home.
4) Make yourself useful and do some housework once in awhile.
5) Don't try to grow beards or huge sideburns. They're scratchy and unpleasant to the touch.*
6) Make sure you listen to me. And I mean REALLY listen.
7) Refrain from referring to me as "your woman".
8) Don't be such a wuss and let me give you manicures.
9) Bring me cheesecake, chocolate cream pie, and coffee as often as possible.**
10) If I don't want to talk, leave me alone.
11) Give me good back massages.
12) Take me swing dancing.***
13) Don't be insensitive when I have cramps and am in pain. And don't make cracks about me needing Midol.
-Boldly Going Nowhere, Issue 3, circa 1999/2000

On our wedding day, November 8, 2008

Today's Recommendations for a Successful Marriage (2011)
1) Equality is key
2) Show love daily
3) Thoughtfulness goes a long way
4) Share the household chores
5) Listen to each other
6) Be understanding of each other
7) Be willing to compromise
8) Make time for each other
9) Laugh!
10) Be each other's best friend

*My husband has had sideburns for as long as I've known him. And he has a beard. I actually prefer him with a beard.
**I'd probably amend this to chocolate and wine.
***I've never been swing dancing in my life, I've no idea where this notion came from.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Photo Geek-dom

San Francisco Art Institute

In case you didn't know, I am a bit of a photo geek. Photography was my favorite class in high school. I did a summer photography program at the San Francisco Art Institute between junior and senior year. I even majored in photography in college. It started with developing black and white film and prints in the darkroom. Gradually I moved on to the color darkroom. Finally, after college finished and I moved home and no longer had darkroom access, I started to work digitally.

It's been a long time since I developed a roll of film. (Remember those?) It's also been a long time since I've written a zine. Furthering my re-visitation of that teenager I used to be, here's a poem* I published in Boldly Going Nowhere, the zine I produced over a period of 2 years.

"Ode to the Empty Film Canister

Oh, my empty film canister!
How I adore you!
Your curved surfaces
Like motor oil on pavement
With rain.
Such perfection in your contours!
Such perfection is fit only for the gods.
So much possibility lies within you!
You could be a change holder,
The pennies and dimes would
Inside you
Like ancient
Leaning Towers
Of Pisa.
You could carry the jewels
Of the one who owns you,
Keeping them safe
From predators.
Oh my empty film canister!
Such splendor in
Such rarities found only one place on this earth,
The place of your birth,
-Boldly Going Nowhere, Issue #1, circa 1999

*Part of me suspects this is actually an exercise from my AP English class, which would be further indication of my geekyness.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Revisiting My Teenage Self

I haven't written in a long time. Make that a very long time. Priorities have shifted, and I don't really know what I want from my creativity anymore. That being said, I do miss blogging and writing and just doing something creative. So tonight, I put the dishes and adult responsibilities on hold and dug out some relics from my teen years. Surprisingly, some things haven't changed so much.

When I was 16 and 17*, I wrote a zine called Boldly Going Nowhere. It took me about 3 months to put together an issue, and I stopped once I went away to college, so I only ever made 6 issues. I distributed them to friends and people on this Witchbaby** message board I belonged to (I have absolutely ZERO recollection of how I got myself involved with that, or why I stopped being involved. None whatsoever.) A guy at work recently gave me a copy of his zine (which, by the way, is really cool - thanks, Corey!), which got me thinking about all of the time I spent working on mine. Maybe one day I'll resurrect it, or create another one. But for now, I think I'll just re-published certain "highlights" in this new-fangled media thing called "a blog."

"I pull into the parking lot of Office Depot, thinking I'll pick my two extra binders and clear colored plastic dividers at my leisure. As I'm walking in, I see a girl from school. "Hi Jessie," I call...she returns the salutation. It is at that exact moment I realize that I will probably see about half my high school crammed into the 7 aisles set aside for school supplies. Amazingly, not only is half my school population squeezed into those few walkways, but also half the student body of just about every nearby elementary, junior, and high school. Of course the shelves are practically bare and you have to fight and elbow and bite in order to even get close enough to glimpse the price tags advertising that Office Depot has the lowest prices and the largest selection of school supplies.

But I, taking a stance as "Monkey Girl" herself, decide that I have no better place to be other than in the midst of students and their parents at Office Depot, and therefore will look for the humor in the situation. Seek and ye shall find, my friend. Frantic students are everywhere. "Omigod Mom, I can't have THAT planner! It will clash with everything I own!" Once I finally position myself in front of the dividers, I take my sweet time picking the ones I want. Let's see, do I want the plain white ones? Or the ones with clear tabs? Oooh, if I get this package I can get 8 for the price of 5! I pick my dividers. I decide I don't want them. I put them back. Impatient people are all around me, frothing at the mouth, waiting to snatch up the best deals.

Standing in line to pay for my items of choice, I hear a rousing account of how someone in the calculus class has already finished all the math homework for that night, and how unbelievable that is, and who she was asking for help, and how she has to juggle THAT class with ASB AND the assemblies. And behind me is a girl who is pointing out every single athlete from my school to her mother, explaining who is on varsity and who is not, and who is really good at what they do, and who is not. I shift my folders and dividers in my arms. Catching sight of my precious dividers, the girl exclaims "Mom! I need those!! Omigod!!!" Mom suggests asking me where I found them. The young athlete declines. It wouldn't be cool. I'm probably some loser, and besides, she's waaaay too cool to talk to me anyhow. I silently laugh. I pretend not to here Mom's suggestion.

People are walking into Office Depot, shrieking their friend's names, and running over to give them a hug that nearly knocks them off their feet. It's THE social event of the season! Party at Office Depot! Let's make cute accessories out of Post-it Notes!!

And of course there are those of us who are pretending not to know that we are standing right next to each other in line. Oh hi Sarah, didn't see you standing on my foot practically. How was your summer? WILD you say? Mmm hmmm, see you around school, I can't WAIT! Fakey fake. But it's the best way to handle people at the party of the century, at Office Depot."
-Boldly Going Nowhere, Issue #1, written circa 1998

*Remember, I was 16 and 17 when I wrote these things. You must excuse the silliness.

**For those not in the know, Witchbaby is a character from The Weetzie Bat Books, written by Francesca Lia Block. They were a series of 5 books that followed the same characters throughout their lives in LA, and were eventually published in a single volume called Dangerous Angels, which was one of my favorite books at that time. When things are stressful for me I find myself regressing to my teenage self, listening to Portishead and Smashing Pumpkins, tearing through my FLB collection and battling insomnia and nightmares. (Last night the nightmares centered around my upcoming trip to England for my sister-in-law's wedding. I get there and realize I've left my shoes at home.)