Rebuilding Connections: The Collaborative Works of Patrick Dougherty

Modern life makes it easy to lose our connection to nature, to others and to our childhood. Can art help?

Close Ties, 2006 Scottish Basket Maker's Circle, Dingwall, Scotland Image © Fin McCrea

Close Ties, 2006
Scottish Basket Maker’s Circle, Dingwall, Scotland
Image © Fin McCrea

River Vessels, 2010 Waco Arts Festival, Waco, Texas Image © Mark Randolph

River Vessels, 2010
Waco Arts Festival, Waco, Texas
Image © Mark Randolph

Patrick Dougherty builds fantastic nest and hut forms from saplings, fusing sculpture and crafting with architecture. After designing a project, he recruits people to help him with construction, teaching them how to weave and work with sticks. Inviting the public to be involved in the joy of creation is a wonderful way to spread the word about a new installation and give the community a sense of ownership and participation in the art. Materials are drawn from local plants which are often grown and harvested specifically for the project.

Call of the Wild, 2002 Museum of Glass, Tacoma Washington Image © Duncan Price

Call of the Wild, 2002
Museum of Glass, Tacoma Washington
Image © Duncan Price

Over the years, Dougherty has built more than 250 installations all over the world. He describes his creations as “whimsical, ephemeral, and impermanent”. You might see a striking resemblance to illustrations by Dr. Seuss. Parts of us which we put away when we grew up into serious adults start to thaw out and wake up in the presence of this kind of whimsy. Why do we insist on being so serious?

Uff da Palace, 2010 Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, MN Image © Todd Mulvihill

Uff da Palace, 2010
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, Minnesota
Image © Todd Mulvihill

Last January, Dougherty built Boogie Woogie in Hermann Park, here in Houston, from saplings of Chinese tallow. Chinese tallows are ubiquitous here, accounting for almost a fourth of all trees in Houston (Wikipedia). These quick growing and weak trees, despite their pretty leaves, are invasive and it is actually illegal to sell, distribute or import them in Texas. I’m constantly pulling them out of my garden. They are perfect for this kind of application, because no one will miss them.

Boogie Woogie is designed to look like an ancient glyph or symbol when viewed from above. I really enjoy the variable height of the roof, with its dramatic slopes. You can see the sky quite easily through that lightly woven roof, which makes being inside even more magical.

This is a lovely video featuring Pomp and Circumstance, an installation built in 2011 at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. It is part of the Inspired By… series by Shwood Eyewear, which presents artists and creatives operating in the Pacific Northwest, and was filmed by Gary Tyler Mcleod and Austin Will. They did a wonderful job of capturing the humble and generous spirit of Dougherty and his work, which never ceases to draw you in.

Video via Shwoodshop on YouTube.

I am fascinated by the value of illusion here. First of all, the eye is fooled into believing the nests are lighter and more fragile than they are. In fact, Dougherty’s goal is to make something that looks simple and haphazard despite the complexity and sturdiness of the weave. His work is inviting rather than intimidating. The Monk’s Cradle below looks as if it will collapse at any moment, but it is completely stable.

Monk's Cradle, 2012 College of St Benedict and St John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota © Thomas O'Laughlin

Monk’s Cradle, 2012
College of St Benedict and St John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota
Image © Thomas O’Laughlin

Secondly, Dougherty creates spaces that suggest an alternate reality to our modern, computer driven society. From inside one of his nests you get the feeling that the world is a playful, imaginative place. You can imagine leaving normal life behind to wander and cavort here indefinitely. It reminds me of my childhood playhouse, which was an a-frame design built from scrap plywood. It wasn’t nearly as cool, but it gave me a similar feeling. Dougherty does a wonderful job of cultivating enchantment and contagious joy, evident in both the construction and exhibition phase of his creations. It makes me want to go out and play. Put your shoes on; the last one outside is a rotten egg!

All images are used in accordance with Fair Use Policy for educational and analytical purposes.

Not Your Average Game of Cat and Mouse: Armor by Jeff de Boer

© Solarbotics with CCLicense

© Solarbotics with CCLicense

Multi-media visual artist Jeff de Boer is famous for bringing together things that aren’t often associated with one another: cats, mice, and armor. That’s right, he builds small suits of armor for cats and mice and sells his delightful creations for a pretty penny, with mouse suits starting at $1,500 and cat suits from $12,000 all the way up to $25,000. The work is gorgeously detailed, as you can see in this gallery from Beautiful Life. The video below is an awesome introduction to de Boers and his work.

Video via OptikLocal on YouTube.

As young man keenly aware of his individuality and blessed with a trailblazing nerdiness, de Boer was inspired by things medieval, especially the idea of the warrior’s quest, and began by making suits for people for while still in high school. While studying jewelry design, he found he had a knack for small scale projects. Seeing an opportunity to define a genre, he created a line of armor for cats and mice. Despite authentic and meticulous design, this armor doesn’t actually get worn. A television show in Japan attempted to find a cat that would be a sport and wear a suit, but apparently cats aren’t particularly amused by armor!

His work is peppered with humor and puns: from the focus on cat and mouse games to his armor for business executives, which includes a line of chain mail neckties and a “helmet for saving face in business transactions”. He has also created ray-guns, rocket lamps and abstracts known as Exoforms, among other things. But the mouse suits hold a special place in de Boer’s heart.

The weak really are my symbol, because I suppose I started out life that way.  So building armour for a mouse seemed like the natural thing to do.  It was the one image that was correct. 

–Jeff de Boer

We love them, too.

Coming of Age in Red and White: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s Furisodeshon

Happy Valentine’s Day 2013 to everyone! Here’s a little eye candy and ear worm.

In Japan there is a holiday called Seijin no Hi, or Coming of Age Day, celebrated in January. Girls who have reached the age of twenty in the past year are dressed in elaborate, long-sleeved kimonos known as furisodes, signifying their entry into adulthood and availability for marriage. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu turned twenty at the end of last month. Here she wonders what growing up will be like and imagines herself celebrating in the “adult” way, a child’s vision of smoking and drinking (and getting sick). The title of this song is Furisodeshon, or Furisode-tion. Kyary doesn’t wear the furisode here and seems somewhat loathe to grow up. She fears she will lose her dreams, although she is excited about the future. Red and white are considered an auspicious color combination in Japan, reflecting both maturity and purity.

Video via warnermusicjapan on Youtube.

Rough translation from
20 20 20 20
I’m I’m 20 years old furisode~tion
I’m just 20 20 20 years old
Isn’t that right? I’m 20 years old furisode~tion

Hello, this kind of anniversary
I’m able to say “thank you” from my heart
Usually it’s embarrassing, but
It’s a once in a life time special day

Chocolate’s bitter parts
Are you an adult? Are you a child?
Because I want to have dreams forever
Go along with this rhythm

20 20 20 20
I’m I’m 20 years old furisode~tion
I’m just 20 20 20 years old
Isn’t that right? I’m 20 years old furisode~tion

What am I going as far as saying “thank you” for?
I had various experiences
It’ll be good if this year is like that too
I won’t forget this excitement

To you who is always falling in love
Like the sour filling inside a shortcake
Let’s turn off the lights and light candles

20 20 20 20
I’m I’m 20 years old furisode~tion
I’m just 20 20 20 years old
Isn’t that right? I’m 20 years old frisked~tion

When I become an adult, will I be happy?
When I become an adult, will I be sad?
What will I do? What will I be able to do?
Will I be unable to do more than now?

20 20 20 20
I’m I’m 20 years old furisode~tion
I’m just 20 20 20 years old
Isn’t that right? I’m 20 years old furisode~tion

We’ve featured Kyary before here.

Seven Common Assumptions That Chain Creativity

Would you like to be more creative? Some common assumptions can chain our creativity and limit our experience of life.

Fragile Brain Shield by AllAllucinations with  CCLicense

Fragile Brain Shield
by AllAllucinations with CCLicense

We have incredible minds. The mind helps us perceive and make sense of the world around us, constructing a worldview and processing information to support that view. For this reason, the mind can also be a powerful weapon of oppression. If we hold particular beliefs without any power of review or adjustment, we become easier to control, less independent, and less individual.

Here are some common assumptions which bind creative people, presented with some pop culture slogans for a little whimsy.

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids! Creativity is only for artists.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

From Fortune 500 companies to parents interacting with their children, everyone benefits from creativity and a sense of play. Projecting the attitude that “normal” people are hard-working and dull while artists are colorful children is a wonderful way to divide creative people from the masses and devalue both groups. Lean in, I’ve got a secret. You can be as creative and as playful as you want to be, wherever you are. I’m not saying everyone will like it, but the potential lies within you.

I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too… If you want to get ahead, you need to conform.

In any profession there are role models. They can be inspiring and wonderful people. Unfortunately, we tend to try and emulate their success by becoming their clones and submitting ourselves to the worst side of peer pressure. Trying to be someone else is an excellent way to be unhappy. Wouldn’t it better to be yourself, even when it means you don’t fit in?

No place for second best. If I can just be perfect, I’ll get the job.

CCLI by on Flickr

© with CCLicense

Young people are advised to pick one thing in life, concentrate on it and try to be the best at it. This is a trap. Focusing on being number one at all costs will alienate your neighbors and destroy the moral fabric of your life. Cheating to win isn’t really winning; ask Lance Armstrong. It’s the simple things that we forget to be grateful for that are the building blocks of life and creativity… our families, our friends, our pets, nature… The list is endless. If we can’t enjoy these things, no amount of productivity or success will fill the void created by their absence. Why not be a dreamer and stay interested in people and the world around you instead?

Where’s the beef? Everything that isn’t “serious” is fluff.

CCLI by alexik on Flickr

© alexik with CCLicense

To build and maintain a human body takes nutrients that come from different foods. Eating only beef for a week would not help us feel or be healthy. Some question whether beef is good for us at all. The body requires a more balanced approach. Is a human spirit any different? Go ahead, have a salad. I won’t tell anyone.

Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener… That is what I’d truly like to be… ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener… Everyone would be in love with me! Fame brings love and satisfaction, and with it greater artistry and artistic freedom.

Our culture idolizes celebrity. Conventional wisdom says if we reach more people and make them like us, we will feel better about ourselves. What we overlook is that, in order to “sell” ourselves to great numbers of people, we have to become a mass-produced commodity. Who really knows what is in a hot dog?

No pain, no gain. If it doesn’t hurt, it can’t be worth anything.

CCLI by slim45hady on deviant art

© slim45hady with CCLicense

This isn’t to say that we should avoid pain at all costs. There will be things in life that hurt us and make us want to quit. I’m talking about courting pain. Some examples? The guy that exercises every day until his body screams for him to stop. The artist who thinks exacerbating her own mental suffering or loneliness will make her art better. The actor who thinks he has to be an alcoholic to play an alcoholic.  Pain is there to get our attention so that we can  do something about a situation that isn’t working. So if something really hurts, try doing it in a different way or not at all.

Leggo my Eggo! The success of other people poses a threat to my success.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Siblings get into arguments simply because of proximity. Maybe X is feeling a little tired and irritable when Y walks over. Pretty soon both are screaming at each other, “I hate you! You are breathing my air!” We like to think that we outgrow this behavior. The truth is that when someone is successful we tend to react as if there is a limited amount of success to go around and that person is bogarting it. Relax. Be happy for other people. When you have some success it is nice to be able to invite true friends to the party.

Sound familiar? At Synkroniciti we seek to free people from the chains in their minds. Would you like to join us?

In the near future, Synkroniciti will be announcing some new experiences available to our fans and readers, including web-based projects for those around the globe who would like to collaborate remotely, and workshops for those in the Houston area. We are very excited to take the next step in our journey.

Slogans are from Trix Cereal, Dr. Pepper, StockRunway, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer, Jane Fonda’s Workout Videos and Eggo Waffles.



Remembering How to Play in 2013 [VIDEO]

Behind the image of this crazy, innocent girl lies both hope for a bright future and fear that the world may never come together, that we will never change. It is an appropriate image for a New Year. My sincere hope for you and for myself is that we will remember how to play in 2013 and that we learn to be more reckless, not in our consumption of goods and “toys”, but in sharing with one another and creating new things. Can we meet in the center of our society, hold hands, and dream?

Video shared by Warner Music Japan via Youtube.

Read a translation of Pon Pon Pon here.