Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cassandra Smith

Milwaukee-based artist Cassandra Smith makes beautiful, grotesque, and intoxicating sculptures using lots of sequins, patterning, and animal parts. There is something ironic in all this, but the pieces are also quite haunting and the love of design quite sincere. The work feels more meaningful than just the simple shock of looking at an ornately decorated dead animal (real or fake). There is something playful, something serious, and a ton of attention to detail, ridiculous and rich.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A magazine and an art project... Uppercase.

Their latest 'assignment' is to engage with the art, design, and history of matchbox art - a personal favorite. I collected as many different matchboxes as I could when I traveled abroad, but sadly, most of the artwork for these little wonders is quickly being replaced with standardized, generic, and uninspired corporate designs. And, no, I don't think these designs will find their moment to shine in 50 years - the patina of Time will add curiosity, but I don't think it will transform these new designs into nostalgic, poignant, strange objects of beauty (although, obviously, who knows! Did the consumers - or makers - of the pragmatic ephemera of yore know that they would have such a devout and strange fan club in the future?!). Snobbery, aesthetic differences, and Cassandra posturing aside, I would just like more diversity as well as care, attention, and plain old playfulness in the art and design of everyday objects... (not to mention the amazing possibilities of thinking "cradle to grave"...). Alright, make some great designs or enjoy the examples that Uppercase has gathered.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The environmental impact of sunscreen (i.e. sit under a tree, instead, please!)

Re-posted from here.


Scientific studies ascertained a relationship between the approximately 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen melting off swimmers’ skins and the quickly increasing decline in corals. It turns out that four common sunscreen ingredients (octinoxate, oxybenzone 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, and the preservative butylparaben) activate dormant viruses in corals, which go on to destroy algae—what corals feed on, and without which corals turn white and die.

About 60% of reefs around the world are currently in danger of dying due to global warming, excess UV radiation, and human activity—whether because anchors and boats tear through them, we pollute them with our garbage, or we drown them in our skincare products.

According to the European Commission, the chemicals in sunscreen and other skincare products are so harmful that areas such as marine eco-parks in Mexico straight-out ban them. These chemicals “can accumulate in aquatic animals, have an estrogen-like effect and biodegrade into toxic by-products.”

When they added low quantities of sunscreen to water around coral reefs, they found that “large amounts of coral mucous … was (sic) released within 18-48 hours. Within 96 hours, complete bleaching of corals had occurred.” Previously dormant viruses residing within the corals came alive and triggered widespread infections, effects also caused by pesticides and other pollutants.It only takes 20 minutes in the water for 25% of the harmful ingredients in your sunscreen to be released into the water.


All the way back in 2006, the University of Applied Sciences in Basil, Switzerland, found endocrine disruptors (UV filters) in fish—male fish with not only sperm, but also female eggs. Read more here.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted research on 1,031 common brands of sunscreen last year. They found that:

  • 4 out of 5 do not offer adequate protection from the sun’s harmful rays
  • many include ingredients that may be unsafe
  • best-selling sunscreens (e.g. Coppertone, Banana Boat, and Neutrogena) proved to be the worst offenders. Here is the best and worst list: Find your sunscreen.
  • many sunscreens only protect against UVB radiations (which cause sunburns), and not UVA radiations (which cause skin damage, aging, immune system problems, and skin cancer)
  • 46% of sunscreens contain ingredients that break down under UV rays within minutes or hours, letting UV rays damage your skin
  • sunscreens in the form of powder and spray make it easier for toxic nano-scale ingredients to get into your body than lotion sunscreens containing the same ingredients
  • some sunscreens—and their toxic ingredients (namely, oxybenzone and other UV filters)—enter the bloodstream. These ingredients may exude free radicals in the sunlight, disrupt the endocrine system, cause allergies, and build up in the body
  • the FDA is not currently taking care of these issues, so you must do so for yourself

Read more here.


Stay indoors during the hottest/brightest parts of the day.
If you go outside, work in the shade when possible or wear white, light cotton clothing and a hat.
If you choose to use sunscreen, wear biodegradable sunscreens without questionable ingredients.
(There is also something called UV-resistant clothing - e.g. Solartex and No Zone - which I have not researched yet, but may be a good solution as well).