WORK. It's what we do, what we obsess over, celebrate, complain about, get paid for. We may call it Art, but it's still work. Particularly for creative types, where we do our work must have something to do with how it turns out, for better or worse - yet we rarely get to see behind the curtain.

We would like you to share something about your special place where creativity blooms. So where do you work?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wherever you go, there you are.

Looking at the Creative Caves where people do their work, we are drawn to those who buck convention and do it wherever they happen to land. No ergonomic studies, market research, triple-net leases, office furniture, telephone systems, alarms, professional liability insurance, ad nauseum. Some people simply leap into the void and find their calling. And it's thrilling when it works, as in the case of Alison Turner.

It seems Alison was a slave to her Blackberry and the treadmill of unseemly corporate life. In spite of the great pay, she threw off the yoke and hit the road, stumbled alone in the wilderness for a time, then found herself a new life's purpose. It's a beautiful story - maybe a fantasy for most - but there is wisdom in striving to live up to this simple axiom:

"Every day, try to do something that you love."

You can read all bout Alison and see her great photos here:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Italian Job

Bicycle component maker Campagnolo has manged to avoid the exodus to China that seems to drive all business, like lemmings, to seek the cheapest possible labor. Italian craftsmen, each at their own stations, continue to craft the finest racing components in the world from their bright and airy plant in Vicenza.
Campy has a very loyal following, largely due to the gorgeous, sexy and sensuous quality of their racing products. We like their adherence to old-world standards, and not just from a nostalgic viewpoint Campy, like Ferarri or Rolex, remains THE world standard for quality and innovation in the cycling world.

Get the full story here - BICYCLING

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Staffs & Chaffs

Doug & his Tres
Doug Pauly draws creative inspiration from many sources. A working musician for three decades, he is a gifted jazz guitarist, a skilled transcriber and a great teacher. We asked about his work space and got a very complex response that raised more questions than it answered - so we decided to investigate further.
Doug & his grass weaving
 For decades the New Yorker magazine's weekly night-life calendar has famously cautioned, "Musicians live complicated lives..." This is true in Sacramento as well as in the Big Apple. Just try pinning Doug down on his favorite workplace. That might be on a bandstand with a dozen musicians working behind a noted singer; it might be a solo stool in a cool night club; it might be his compact lesson room at the Guitar Workshop; or it might be his cozy little home studio. Then again, it might be the cemetery where he walks the dog and hums little ditties that eventually turn into jazz tunes. OK, too complicated for a simple little blog - let's look at the home studio.

The Home Studio
Doug's studio is comfortable, compact and ergonomically suited to his needs. A Mac computer is front & center, the heart of his transcription operation. He has written charts for hundreds of jazz standards and pop tunes and is sought out by many professional musicians for this specialty.
Custom-built book cases hold decades of accumulated music. There's room for one guitar stand (currently occupied by his "Tres" a guitar-like instrument of Cuban origin), as well as one visitor seat and a bit of recording equipment. And there is his all-important "window on the world" opening to the verdant garden yard. 
The phantom Grass Studio
We took a stroll in the garden where Doug showed me his weaving studio in a converted garage. The guitarist is also a grass weaver! He harvests California native grasses, weeds and grains and transforms them into complex and elegant wall hangings.

Staffs & Measures

Shafts & Grains
It turns out that scoring music and weaving grasses are not so very far apart, artistically speaking. There's a steady measure, rhythm and texture to each kind of art - from a visual viewpoint. And aurally speaking, clear and complex guitar fingerwork blends nicely with the soft rustling of wild grasses.

Doug Pauly is an accomplished musician and weaver residing in Curtis Park, Sacramento. His music can be heard at DOUG PAULY

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working Outdoors

As summer winds down, Herman Miller Lifework posts a question and a roundup of  outdoor work spaces. An Aeron Chair in a zen garden looks pretty sexy in a photo; but could you actually do computer work there? Let's hope the sprinkler timer is off!

Get the full story HERE
 Here at Whereuwork we remain uneasy about knitting widely different work and leisure activities together. Is anything gained by 'working' on an ipad in a park? We suspect that both realms are diminished - one's appreciation of nature as well as one's ability to do meaningful work. Multitasking can be overrated.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Letterpress Fetish

Letterpress printing has a cult status among graphic artists. It is mythical, reaching back in time to when printing was a very physical act - before the clicking & dragging disconnect of digital art and web pages.

Paul Shaw from Print magazine recently spent a weekend near Milan with Lucio Passerini, an Italian typographer of some reknown, and he wrote up a nice non-print profile of their visit. What Whereuwork likes so much about this report is the focus on Lucio's workshop - Il Buon Tempo - the physical space where he creates.

Type Banks
My childhood Saturdays were often spent playing in the pressroom of a weekly newspaper. My father was editor, reporter and chief bottle-washer in a pre-offset world. The smells of molten lead, ink-soaked wood and crisp newsprint come rushing back to me, looking at this photo.I long for the physical constructs of the printed word.

Get the full story here - IMPRINT

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How Skinny can you go?

Keret House, Warsaw
 With much of this country reeling from McMansion overload, designers have focused on going small for home and office. But Jakub Szczesny takes it to a new level with his Keret House in Warsaw, Poland. It is so small, so narrow that it defies description. We like that he called it an art project and thereby avoided building codes - Art Power! The question remains - how much is too little? Could you really live or work here without flipping out?

Get the full story HERE

Monday, August 1, 2011

Is there Creative Life Beyond the Cubicle?

Does anyone actually work here?
 Allison Arieff, former editor of Dwell magazine, design maven and NY Times blogger, examines the stark differences between  the image of the office cubicle, as promoted by high-design modular furniture companies, and the down to earth, ad-hoc places where many creatives actually do their work. She asked the provocative question, is there a better big-new-idea than the cubicle - and boy did she get responses. Most people railed against the cube, a few suggested only a private closed office will do; but no-one really described anything remotely new or different.

Making it real: a creative comfort zone
Ideas about work spaces range from interesting to absurd, but we are always curious to see the actual places where creative people work. Most telling was Andrew Berardini's musing on his own, very real desk.The differences between the real and the ideal seem to be vast.
Get the full story here: Beyond the Cubicle

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Izzy's Funhouse

When the Circus came to Town.
We have heard stories about the wild and playful places where some people work - the Google and Pixar palaces with loads of kids toys for grownups. They sport foosball tables and basketball hoops to fool with while they wax creative. Forced fun for a captive audience, these corporate idea mills cannot hold a candle to Izzy's Funhouse.
He's a pinball wizard, that has to be a twist...
 Izzy is an artist and commercial photographer who collects iconic trappings of 20th century American life - such as Halloween masks, paint-by-number kits and pinball machines. It turns out that a photo studio and amusement arcade can coexist quite nicely. Mechanical Pinball and arcade machines reached a zenith of popularity in the 1960's, sucking kid's quarters like slot machines. These were sturdy workhorses, designed for punishing use. Many machines are still in existence, though they now could use some TLC, if not outright rebuilding. Izzy is a handy guy, and so a corner of the photo studio has become a dedicated renovation shop for vintage arcade games.

Pre-circuit board technology
The inside of a vintage pinball machine is a collection of coils, switches, solenoids, lights and levers. This is old-school analog technology at its best. Needlenose pliers, dust brush, tweezers and a soldering iron are the preferred tools here.

The studio is in a nondescript one-story business park, about as anonymous as can be. Izzy says he misses his old Midtown Sacramento studio with its friendly neighbors, restaurants and services in easy walking distance. But more space, better layout and lower rent just make good business sense. Between photo assignments he tinkers with an old wood-rail machine, preparing for the Pacific Pinball Expo in September. It is an enviable creative environment in which to work, with stress relief always right at hand. Eat your heart out, Pixar.
Izzy Schwartz is an artist, commercial photographer and arcade aficionado residing in Sacramento. His work can be found HERE 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ghost Lab Design Conference 2011

Nova Scotia site of the Ghostlab
Architect Bryan McKay-Lyons has run a summer design/build camp for creative architectural students for the past dozen years. This year, he decided a conference would be a nice change. Esteemed luminaries such as Rick Joy, Glenn Murcutt, Kenneth Frampton and Ted Flato joined nearly 200 others for this June gathering to talk about architecture, sustainability and place. Wouldn't it be something to get an invite to the Ghostlab 2012 conference!

Full story here -
Ghost Lab 2011 | Editorial | Architectural Record

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

DIY Bike Shop

Over in Minneapolis, a couple blokes have started an alternative to the full-fledged bike shop. Maybe you are a rider who has dropped a chain or snapped a cable on the way to work; or some nagging adjustment you meant to make slipped your mind and is bugging you. Old alternative - take the bike to a bike shop, navigate through all the beautiful but pricey new bikes, find the repair counter, drop it off for a few days, figure out how to get by without your bike and pay an irritating bill. NEW alternative - pull into the Bike Fixation, swipe your debit card and choose your pleasure (tube, tire, lube, cable etc.) put it up on the repair stand, use the provided tools  and viola - a self-actualized improvement to your steed, right before your eyes.

Sure, it's not for everyone nor every situation, but it's a great idea for some and seems like a good way to encourage riding and demystify repair. A go-to, public work station with key bicycle tools - a whereuwork gem.

Get the full story HERE

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The moveable feast, or nomadic workplace

raison d'etre
Russ & Laura are a hard-working couple. They run a cottage industry around bicycle travel and touring, conducting interviews, testing and reviewing bicycle products, creating art and books, making presentations and leading bike tours. Now they are entering the world of video production. And they do all this without an office or a home.

Amtrak as office
In January of 2009 they  " turned in their housekeys "  and hit the road on bicycles, carrying everything they need for living. They make frequent stops along their travels, for impromptu presentations in bike shops, hosting S24O campouts and generally promoting the adventure of bicycle living.

People love to hear their stories

Here's Russ describing their first season on the road:
  "After rambling across the country for 15 months, we feel like we’ve become hardened travelers. The idea of heading back out into nothingness isn’t something we need to steel ourselves against, and the details of life on the road aren’t overwhelming like they were two years ago. Instead of figuring out health insurance or a home for our couch, we can focus on how to structure our work flow on the road so that we can actually accomplish everything we want to do. We feel like we’re able to be much more pro-active in our plans for this next trip, and think about the bigger picture."

In the Spring of 2011, they are hitting the long road once again.  You can follow their progress at Path Less Pedaled. It makes for very interesting reading.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Working in a Secret City

Oakridge, TN - a prefab, secret town

Oakridge, Tennessee has an anniversary this month. In 1945, the Feds hastily created a city (planned by SOM Chicago) that would grow to 75,000 residents - all off the map, off the grid. People who lived and worked there barely knew what they were up to, only that they should keep their mouths closed and heads down. They were part of the Manhattan project, building the world's first atomic bombs. It's remarkable and difficult to comprehend in this age of Google maps that 75,000 people could hide in plain sight for several years.

Get the whole story here -
Secret City

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to be there for more than 1/250 of a second

August Heffner makes the persuasive argument that sketching is a more enriching travel experience than snapshotting (that's my new verb for the day). Extend this beyond vacation travel to many more situations: sketching is self-enriching, old school, luddite, contra-technology.

And what could be wrong with that?

Get the whole story here -

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pedaling Coffee

WashPerk Coffee
There's a new coffee stand in Denver, mounted on a cargo bike (built in Portland, Oregon). While the food truck craze is blooming in US cities, a handful of folks are choosing self-powered bicycle stands for their mobile sustenance operations. A bicycle as a workplace; now there's an idea I like.

Get the whole story here -

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Baker's Dozen

Jodie Chavious is a rare talent in the Sacramento area - a Cordon-Bleu trained pastry chef. She worked at many of the area's top-notch restaurants before happily settling in at Taylor's Kitchen and Taylor's market. Restaurant folks are pretty nomadic by nature, carving out temporary work space where they can find it and sharing with (or surrendering to) others for multiple uses. So it's pretty remarkable - almost luxurious - that Jodie can count on a dedicated patisserie station every work day at 8:00 AM. Come 4:00 PM her space transitions to 'Garde Manger' - salad & cold plate prep - for the evening restaurant shift.

A place for everything; everything in its place
A major 'perq' at Taylor's Kitchen is the view. Most kitchens are dark, hot and stuffy - you can read Anthony Bourdain to learn how frightening many a four-star kitchen can be (you may not want to know). Taylor's, on the other hand, has fresh air, good light and endlessly entertaining views of the Light Rail Station antics across the street. 
A room with a view
First thing Monday morning, Jodie pulls eggs and butter out of the fridge to warm up and heads to the market next door to see what she needs to create. Cookies, cakes, pies, brownies - whatever has sold well over the weekend will need replenishing. Come Wednesday she begins preparing the week's dessert menu for the dining room, using fresh seasonal materials from the market. The best part of the job? Every day is different - the seasonal variety, ebb and flow of demand and special orders keeps it all interesting.
Canine haute cuisine
Adding to the variety, Jodie moonlights baking gourmet dog biscuits. Her  brand, 'Give the Dog a Bone' is available at Taylor's and at fine pet supply stores throughout the Sacramento area. The restaurant is dark Mondays and Tuesdays, so it's a perfect time for the night shift to pump out delectable, high-grade doggie treats.
Swing shift baking crew - woof!
It is remarkable how efficient her tiny kitchen workspace is, serving four distinct functions nearly round the clock. It's truly one of the hardest working spaces in show business.

Jodie Chavious is an Alaska native, dog lover and pastry chef extraordinaire.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Soulcraft Workshop

Jerry is one of the handiest guys I know. By "handy" I mean that he works with his hands; his hands are his principal tools. Jerry builds motorcycles; beautiful, painstakingly detailed custom motorcycles and he is very good at it - evidenced by the Best of Show awards he has received at prestigious West Coast bike shows. 

His shop is equipped with a very nice array of tools, better than your average home garage, but nothing like the exotic playrooms of the TV-star customizers like Orange County Choppers. Still, all that he needs is at hand, and he knows how to use each and every tool - which is more than most of us can say.
The custom motorcycle and hot rod world is full of high-tech consultants and accessorizers, running computer-based mills and lathes to turn massive chunks of alloy into precise, computer-generated parts. It is possible to pick up a Harley-Davidson catalog, check the boxes for themes and color schemes and "create" a bike that passes for custom, without so much as lifting a crescent wrench. But that is not the way it works at Jerry's shop.
He pictures something in his mind's eye, maybe sketches it out in pencil, then sets about creating it by hand, using a band saw, drill press, grinder, polishing wheel and hand tools. He has a loose network of machinists, platers, welders and painters who might be called upon for specific tasks - a community of people with complimentary skills and a common love for handcraft. But the bulk of the creative work flows from Jerry's heart and mind through his hands, shaping the steel, alloy, sheet metal and leather.
 In this age of alienation, virtual reality, shrinking attention spans, disconnects from the how and why of the everyday machines we depend upon, it is reassuring to see someone who actually knows how to hold a tool and make it work. Jerry's shop makes a case for working with your hands.
Jerry Wasemiller lives and works in Yolo County, CA

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hypothetical Development Organization

Around New Orleans this spring, compelling renderings of 'dream' projects are popping up in unlikely places, courtesy of the Hypothetical Development Organization.
Freed from the mundane constraints of budgets, zoning requirements or ownership, HDO is unleashing true "artist's concepts" of what this beleaguered city could be. Dreaming is always good for the soul.

Get the whole story here:
The Interventionist's Toolkit: Posters, Pamphlets and Guides: Places: Design Observer

Monday, March 14, 2011

Workplaces for non-workers

A growing number of my friends and acquaintances do not, strictly speaking, "work." Some are retired after a long, steady slog, perhaps the last generation to enjoy a pension. And some never really got the hang of 9-to-5 living. A common thread among them is a fierce dedication to all things bicycle.

My buddy Geno sends this image of the cyclist's workstation, invented by Store MUU in Japan. The high-design concept would provide public furniture that becomes a desk or cafe table with the introduction of your bicycle, doubling as secure bike parking. Why not?

Java Geno is a former city planner, avid cyclist, hiker and accomplished blogger.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Poet's Circular Retreat

Overhead, the Fire Hole

Perfectly round path of light

Rafters descending, rays of pine

Blue sky above, infinite puff of clouds

Coast raven in old walnut tree calls

Morning enters the place and theribs

Of the big top breathe with joy

©2009 Viola Weinberg

It’s a long way from Kazakhstan, where, so many years ago, I first stepped into a yurt. The Kazakhis called it a “ger,” the Mongolian word for this welcoming, highly portable structure. Round, covered in a tent top with a fire hole at the apex, it was lined with heavy rugs and hung with musical instruments and wolf skulls, a backdrop for a state-sponsored cultural exchange. I was there as a journalist on the high plains with a delegation that included a U.S. senator’s wife and many others. The USSR had yet to break apart; we were officially the guests of a desperate government of a failing federation.

My first impression of Kazakhstan was desolation, a high desert swept by winds that carried dusty air off the forbidding mountain tops of the Dzungarian Alatau— the range dividing the Xinjiang area of China and eastern Kazakhstan. Once the high clouds lifted, you could see the Dzungarian Gate, the pass that served invaders from Central Asia for many centuries as they attempted to take China for their own.

There, on a distant plain, with dirt devils and low-growing weeds rose a colony of gum drop-shaped yurts. It was like a dream. To this day, I have the same sensation when I step into my own yurt, which I named “Gert,” slightly after my first ger.

My yurt is modern—no yak hair, buttered with unspeakable lards—and no wolf skulls and rugs decorating the interior, although I wouldn’t mind it. I ordered it online, after touring a smaller yurt in a neighboring county. And to be honest, the idea of a yurt wasn’t my first concept of a special place to write. I wanted a little writer’s cottage that could be landscaped to look like something out of the French countryside.

We live on the remnants of a primordial swamp, a marsh, that once belonged to my parents. I had my eye on the back corner of our acre for a long time. My father had first devised a “park” there for my children when they were very small. He laid in sod and roses and irises around an old walnut tree, where they swung on funky swings and sang silly little songs to the neighborhood wildlife—deer, foxes, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, and bullfrogs. Years later, he refashioned the area into a meditation garden with a bench, a crude Torii gate, yellow roses in memory of my mother. At the center was a three-foot high Kwan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, to whom he would tell his troubles.

As Dad grew increasingly frail, unable to go to his space to meditate, he suggested we might want to build my study out there, an idea I loved. Where I wanted to put my space, the water table is about a foot under the soil and the county simply would not allow a permanent structure. Our search for a solution was frustrating, until we found a magazine article about the beauty of modern yurts. Research of county codes found nothing to prohibit a temporary structure. My idea was born in February. By March, the wheels were in motion.

Modern yurts no longer have fire holes, but they do have an option for a crank-open acrylic dome. Ventilation and beauty! The yurt kit contains other options which I ordered—windows with matching covers for shade and protection against the cold; double doors with windows, also for beauty and air circulation. And the colors! I lingered over a deep green, a sand brown, and a terra cotta earth color. With our adobe dirt, it seemed that terra cotta was the only choice.

We ordered the yurt kit and called friends to join us in a yurt raising. By October, we had a platform for the deck. A couple of weeks later, about a half dozen folks showed up; without them, there would be no yurt! It was a fascinating and simple process, which quickly became complex, given the eccentric nature of our friends.

The yurt went up quickly, and we spent the next couple of weeks tightening cables and bolts. By now, formerly agreeable neighbors were calling to express, variously, “the invasive nature of that thing,” or my personal favorite, “it looks like the circus has come to town.” Eventually, everyone came to accept the yurt, and I can best describe their emotional reactions as yurt envy.

I’ve spent four years writing in this sacred space. I’ve only allowed my daughter, her husband and their kids to sleep in it once. I prefer to separate the dreams of others from my own. As a creative writer, I need all the flights of my own imagination that my sub-consciousness can hold.

Writing poetry in a yurt is mystical. One of my first big projects was in collaboration with the painter Mario Uribe—a Buddhist tea master who paints the Zen circular symbol called an ensô. Mario brought 24 paintings he had created in 24 hours and asked me to write on them. I was sure I would be sent to hell for such a thing! I kept them quite a while, laying them out in a circle, meditating on them, arranging them as I saw fit. As time went on, I started to whittle down the bloated poetry (which had grown to over 30 pages by that point) to 24 lines, one for each painting. The simplicity of this exercise was cleansing, beautiful, intelligent.

Viola Weinberg is a poet laureate, a lifelong traveler, mother and grandmother. She resides in the Valley of the Moon.
A longer version of this story can be found at Rugs & Bones, Viola's inimitable blog.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

William's Artist Idyll

My method of artwork consists of applying various applications (not always just paint, it could be sand, ground charcoal, corroded metals, etc.) to canvases and then allowing that to settle before being manipulated further. My ideal space therefore is one that is attached to the house so I can do my artwork and then go do other tasks around the house and office, and return to check on the progress easily (and before it is too late to intervene in the process!)
I now have my ideal work space! It is attached to the house, but is accessed by a separate stairway, so there is separation from the house. I can go to my studio with a real sense of being in a separate (and much much messier) space, but I can still go into the house easily to do other things. The studio has northern light from the glass doors to a terrace (wonderful!) and skylights as well. I seldom play music or the radio and paint in the quiet which I love. I never take my laptop to the studio so the demands of e-mail or other right brain work are maintained in a separate domain. Our two dogs always accompany me and are the perfect companions.... no sass, no critiques, and protection against the constant threat of squirrels and the neighborhood's wild turkeys!

William Ishmael is a Northern California Artist, civil engineer emeritus, and raconteur
More of his art is available at