Sunday, February 8, 2015

Local TESTy Valentines

Lovely, funny and yummy food puns by Gotamago
One of the lovely and talented local artists I know, Lichia of Gotamago, tagged things from secret minouette places to point out I'd gotten some press. It's one of the great things about being part of TEST or the One of a Kind, is that you get to know your fellow makers. So when BlogTO does a round-up of fun Valentines by local artists to let you "bypass Hallmark cheese [...] by making dorky puns, poking fun at the awkward side of relationships, or making artwork so beautiful and intricate it'll melt even the coldest, Grinchiest heart," there are several great picks from teammates. They included my thermochromic Valentine amongst their 10 favorites. Half of them are TESTy people, of course, cause our team is so awesome. ;)

minouette's thermochromic Valentine for the nerd in your heart
simple and sweet I Heart You by HeyRube
Gorgeous, customizable, hand-cut Valentines by Light&Paper
For true love, even first thing from Sea&Lake

Hilarious puns like "I love you a waffle lot" from new TEST member Queeniescards
(more or less x-posted to the TEST blog)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Etsy Team Captains Summit

I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Etsy Summit here in Toronto. Along with some of my fellow team captains and leaders from across the country, Etsy staff and guests, we've been planning the (anxiously awaited) follow-up to our amazing Etsy: Made in Canada show! It was such an astonishing success, we're going to try to make it a yearly event. Saturday, September 26th, the Toronto Etsy Street Team and 416Hustlers are planning to do it again, at MaRS. There will also be many more simultaneous shows from coast to coast to coast!

Besides meeting like-minded makers, sellers and leaders, we had a chance to really learn from everyone else's experience. We started with a bit of fun. The icebreaker challenged each table of participants to represent Canada using a bag of random craft items and items our peers had brought with them from their various home. Our diorama was the only one with an actual electrical circuit.... how could I resist? We had a PEI potato, wire, pliers and tape. In case you can't tell the first photo is supposed to be Celine (as wonder woman with balloons) and Cirque de Soleil acrobats (and former Olympians) preforming on a stage. It's a conceptual piece. Other hilarious and creative contributions included everything from maps of provinces, woodland and winter scenes, jewellery from artifacts, Niagara Falls, to wearable hats!

Some of the highlights included talks from our peers. The tireless powerhouse from WEST (the Winnipeg Etsy Street Team), Ruth Schulz Smith shared her Event Management expertise and enthusiasm. It's no coincidence she won the only award, having been nominated by her peers. Jessika Hepburn, one of the Halifax leaders and creator of Oh My Handmade! gave an amazing talk about community building and working with partners big and small. I don't want to sound corny, but it was really inspiring. One of my neighbours said she felt her mind so teeming with ideas that she couldn't sleep. As a group, we are consciously coming from the vantage of the handmade movement; we all want to grow our small businesses, but we are also fostering an economy that values the artists, designers, the handmade, the local, the eco-friendly, the repurposed or vintage treasures over the mass produced.  All of the captains and leaders volunteer their time for their teams, and are working to make things easier for all of these handmakers and vintage sellers to run their businesses and maybe even make a life from what they love. Maybe it isn't surprising that they had such interesting things to say about community, partnerships and creative businesses working to improve their corners of the world.
Ruth with rapt audience

Jessika talks about getting involved
We also heard from Etsy. We had some fun PR role playing with the lovely Etsy PR folks as well as their publicists. There was a great talk from their guest colleague Moishe Lettvin, an engineering manager for Seller Growth. He started his talk with images of his mother's pysanky (Ukrainian style) eggs to explain how he'd grown up surrounded by handmade items. While his creative outlet is writing code, he explained that finding a job at Etsy, after Microsoft and Google, felt like coming home. I enjoyed a peek at the technical stuff about the back end of Etsy, but it was also great to hear his enthusiasm for the things we do, and making it easier to run our businesses. Lastly, we got a chance to ask some questions about what the future may hold! I think people left reinvigorated, full of new ideas and happy, which is wonderful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Love, art and cinnamon hearts

Finding just the right Valentine's gift can be a challenge. I know I'm always trying to invent something new every year.

If you're seeking a one of a kind, hand-printed, colour-changing, thermochromic Valentine, or the chemistry of attraction in linocut form, or art for dog and cat lovers and more, I can help with that.

Apart from cinnamon hearts, I would definitely love a $500 Etsy shopping spree. Check out the #etsymatch question here, answer on twitter with the #etsymatch tag for a chance to win a $500 Etsy gift card.

And remember, I'm not kidding about the cinnamon hearts. You can send all you unwanted cinnamon hearts to me!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Time for some weather prognosticating rodents

Thermochromic groundhogs

Since we're catching the tail end of a blizzard here, it seemed nice to contemplate the end of winter.* We might imagine that the end of winter is in sight, and the celebrity weather-prognosticating rodents may not see their shadows next Monday, hahaha! Anyhow, I printed a new batch of thermochromic Groundhog Day linocuts, with disappearing shadows.

I'll be busy on Groundhog Day, myself. Etsy Canada is hosting another Summit, here in Toronto, for team Captains and Leaders from coast to coast. I ought to get cracking on my presentation.

*Apparently, we'll avoid getting really dumped with snow (unlike our neighbours to the south) because it's too cold and windy here. Um... I guess we're lucky?

p.s. Good luck to those of you who aren't lucky and are expecting almost a metre of snow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Birthday Faunalia!

Lady Winter by Phoebe Wahl, 2014

A very happy birthday to my friend Faunalia! All the best for you in your new year: health, happiness, travelling tiny homes, adventures, creativity, peace and more.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How the Earth's Crust is Born: Marie Tharp "girl talk" and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Marie Tharp and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Linocut
Marie Tharp and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,
9" x 12" linocut on Japanese paper, by Ele Willoughby, 2015
This is a linocut portrait of American geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp (1920-2006), whose pioneering, thorough and complete ocean floor maps made with her partner in science Bruce Heezen revealed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The mid-ocean ridge itself, based on their 1957 physiographic map, is illustrated behind her, along with the sort of echo sounder or precision depth recorder tracks she used, in front of her. The first edition is a variable run of 10 prints, each 9" by 12" (22.9 cm by 30.5 cm), on white Japanese kozo paper with "chine-collé" teal somegami paper.

Tharp had struggled to find the the right university major; she wanted something she could do, and enjoy, but there were not many options for women in her day. More opportunities opened up during WWII and she took the chance to return to school and study geology and then math. Looking for something challenging (but not tedious) she contacted Maurice 'Doc' Ewing at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia, who hired her to draft data, including the thousands of echo sounder profiles they were gathering. Women were still not allowed to participate in research cruises, but they could work with the data. Before long, Heezen came to Lamont and required so much drafting work that Tharp worked exclusively with him.

Scientists once imagined the ocean floor as a largely featureless plain. Early depth measurements were taken with lead weights (such as canon balls) and a whole lot of rope! As early as the late 19th century, such laboriously collected datasets began to hint at a broad rise in the centre of the Atlantic. By the mid 20th century, there was a push to try and map these submarine mountains.

Tharp spent months painstakingly "plotting, drawing, checking, correcting, redrawing and rechecking" profiles of the North Atlantic. The ship tracks across the Atlantic were a sparse web, but when Tharp compared half a dozen more or less parallel transects she noticed no only the general similarities of the ridge, but a V-shaped notch in the centre of all the profiles. She suspected they coincided because they indicated a rift valley all along the ridge crest. The early ideas about plate tectonics or the "continental drift" theory were still quite controversial and unpopular. Heezen dismissed Tharp's observation as "girl talk" for looking too much like continent drift - as in fact it was indeed a vital piece of the plate tectonics puzzle. We now know that surface of the Earth is itself a jigsaw puzzle of pieces known as tectonic plates, jostling one another at a stately, geological pace. Mid-ocean ridges are underwater volcanic mountain chains which roughly bisect all ocean basins. They are all cut by a rift valley which is the spreading centre. These rifts are where new crust is born, pushing upwards and outward. This drives the two plates on either side slowly apart over geological time. On our own timescales of everyday life, we notice the bumps in this slow ride: the sporadic earthquakes, rather than the slow creep (though today, we can meticulously measure both).

Tharp believed the rift was real though her contour maps hadn't convinced Heezen. In 1952, they began working on physiographic maps, which would show seafloor topography as if you were flying just above it, and the water were drained away. These had the advantage of really giving a sense of the variety of geology, from plains to mountains, seamounts to trenches. Also, unlike detailed contour maps, physiographic maps were not US Navy classified information, so Tharp and Heezen would be able to publish what they produced. Further, they were beginning to gather much better precision depth recorder data, which revealed far more features, along with better navigation to plot ships' positions along tracks more accurately. A second project in their research group involved plotting earthquakes, and Heezen insisted they work at the same scale. Heezen then noticed that ocean earthquake epicentre data also formed long lines - and in fact, when one map was placed above the other on a light table they found the earthquakes formed near continous lines along the Mid-Atlantic ridge right where Tharp had indicated there was a rift valley. Using the earthquake data to extrapolate and plot the rift position where there was no seafloor sounding data, they found that the rift extend landward into the Rift Valley of East Africa - a well-known, easy to observe terrestrial rift valley. Heezen was then convinced. They had discovered a worldwide mid-ocean ridge system, tens of thousands of kilometres long. Tharp was able to mine existing data to show the Mid-Atlantic Ridge extended to the south Atlantic and found similar features in other oceans. These all similarly lined up neatly with earthquake epicentres. Ewing and Heezen announced their findings in 1956. In 1957 Tharp and Heezen published their North Atlantic physiographic map; I've shown my version of their map behind her. The ridge snakes from top to bottom (north to south-south-west), above and almost mimicking the line of her arm.

They continued this work, extending to other oceans over the next 25 years, ultimately producing detailed physiographic maps of the world oceans. Their pioneering work mapping the oceanic plate boundaries, and showing their clear alignment with seismic data helped fuel the revolution in geology and geophysics, the paradigm shift of plate tectonics.

Tharp's work was largely in the background during her university career, though she won a number of prizes during her retirement and has continued to gain posthumous recognition for the importance of her work and observations. I was very pleased to see her recognized recently in Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Cosmos reboot. I want to bring her incredible insight and excellent work to a wider audience as both artist and marine geophysicist myself.

I've already sent one Tharp portrait to a seismologist friend in Australia and a second to her biographer Hali Felt!  Tharp has been on my 'to do' list for a while, but I finally completed her portrait, thanks to Hali. She stumbled upon my Etsy shop and asked me if I had ever considered making Tharp's portrait. I told her she had come to the right place and found a marine geophysicist/artist. I'm looking forward to reading her Tharp biography, Soundings. Now, we're swapping portrait for biography. How cool is that?