I Am Black Gold


I Am my natural resource.

I AM renewed by my heritage.

I AM enriched by my self-cultivation and rooted in my ancestry.

I AM the richness of the world. I AM Black Gold.

Shawndel Fraser 2014

Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society

This song and video remind me of my childhood in Harlem and my adulthood in Brooklyn New York. My New York childhood was full of teachers who embraced and espied the fullness of our African heritage. My family reveled in our Caribbean ways, and my adulthood is chock full of friends and peers who expertly interweave identity rooted in a self-love so deliciously chocolate that neo-soul is but a watery description of the depth and richness of our “Negritude”. I have gloried in Harlem sunrises, Brooklyn BBQ’s, mid-day Guyana rains,  Ghanaian Sunsets,  family dinners in Mexico and basked in Costa Rican love songs. In each place I was made aware of just how golden my Blackness is by immersion, contrast or just plain awesomeness. I adore this song and video for reminding me of my path, my people and my home-place. Thank You Esperanza and Algebra!

Ashe.

As I awaken from my multi-year cocooning, I emerge to Esperanza’s ode to and celebration of cultural richness and historic significance.

Yokoo: Artist Cottage Industry as Safe Space


Fiber artist Yokoo and her safe space: Silence. Quiet Bike Paths. Secretive, enveloping mist. Sunrise. Water. Solitary, early morning excursion to a beautiful location. Water. Trees. A private world carved from the quietest time of day, and a home-sanctuary where she crafts beautiful artworks. Fiber artist Yokoo has created a cottage industry that is also a profoundly safe space  that reflects, supports and ensconces her personality, her craft and her philosophy of life.

Silence is very important. Most of my ideas come out of complete silence. We all need to allow the silence. There is so much noise. You need to take the time to realize why you’re here. You are here to create. ~Yokoo

Thank you Yokoo for sharing your process, sacred spaces, and your activities with us. The glimpse into your home studio, your philosophy, your style, and your private world inspires me. It is no wonder that your artworks are beautiful and sumptuous, as you revel in the beauty of your life, every, single, day.

Massive hand-crocheted scarf by Yokoo, for sale in her etsy shop

The Snow Leopard (Massive hand-crocheted scarf) in Navy, Crocheted by Yokoo, available on Etsy.com

It’s important for people to create their own worlds…you have this world in which you live in, but I think we should create a sub-world to protect us. When the idea hits you that you are in control of your life, it’s like a window opening in a stuffy room. And if I could just say anything to anybody, it would be that you are given this life to live, and not to just exist.

This “Handmade Portrait” prompted me to think deeply about my home studio, my creative practices and intermittent productivity. I found it to enriching to hear just how many hours Yokoo devotes to her craft every single day, and I admire the spartan order to her belongings. Her crochet and knit items are so plush, textural, richly colored and generously sized that I couldn’t help but wonder at which brand and how much yarn she used per object (the Snow Leopard pictured above is 10 feet long and 8 inches wide!!!). This line of thought prompted me to ponder yarn the source of her yarn and the amounts she must use to create each piece, which prompted me to schedule spinning lessons to learn how to spin yarn. Months later, I now spin yarn on a Drop Spindle. Yokoo’s work and Etsy’s handmade portrait nudged me on the path to realize that I can make the perfect yarns for the projects I envision for my crochet and knit work.

Sliver, 1st ply of the yarn and drop spindle

My Drop Spindle featured with 1st single strand of what will become 3-ply yarn, and the original sliver that I spin from.

As for Yokoo’s last message to live one’s life instead of simply existing, well I say in response: “I appreciate you, Yokoo, for living YOUR life to the fullest. In addition to the lovely garments and accessories that you envision and carefully craft for strangers, you present the image of a creative, self-assured woman who contributes to the beautiful tapestry of the life simply by following your bliss. That said, I add your bliss to my life list of inspirations.”

thinking, feeling and growing toward my goals,

Shawndel

Two tone green yarn on Drop spindle

My Drop Spindle featured with first ply of a two-toned green wool yarn

That’s Pinteresting!


I created Pinterest boards some time ago, and have finally learned the merits of it: extreme photoblogging. Pinterest is a pinboard that allows you to post images from around the web, and then categorize them according to your preferred themes. All it requires is a simple bookmarklet installation in your bookmarks bar, and presto! You’re pinning all of your favorite things. I am using mine as an inspiration journal for craft ideas, recipes, and visual stimuli toward my ideal spaces.

Other people create board to vision their weddings or personal style, to share humorous images, or to make themed “magazine-esque collage boards. I have not tried to pin a video, so I don’t know it it is possible, and I don’t yet know if you can pin quotes or non-visual items like sound; but for the visually inclined, pinterest is an easy foray into blogging and curating your favorite parts of the web!

View my boards on Pinterest, who knows, it may inspire you to create an account for yourself! You can click the image if you’re Pinterested!

Click if you're Pinterested!

Digital Storytelling for Branding


I’ve started collecting instances of animated digital stories. This video from Moo.com matches their light and quirky branding. The music is bluegrass-y, the visuals march along at double-speed, and the stickers created in the video would be very familiar to their average viewer: likely a professional, artist, small business owner or professional artisan. I challenge you to show me a person who is in the market for $50 business cards who hasn’t been exposed to a small batch handmade soap or exotic coffee from Smallsville, St. Elsewhere.

A caption-less video that affords the viewer an omnipresent procedural view, assumes that the viewer already possesses a baseline understanding of the subject. The video then is not purposed as an informational piece, it is a promotional one.

The video shows the entire production process;  from when the user initiates the order, to the printing, cutting, order fulfillment and mailing then finally end-user implementation. The video presents each part of the process so quickly that the viewer quickly realizes that one must grasp the images as meaning or else miss the entire message. The video doesn’t have any captions or titles, so the speed remains constant throughout, and there is no external presence inserted. We are left to our own devices to interpret the images before us. This indicates that MOO assumes that the viewer already understands or has a baseline conceptualization  of  the product design interface, printing press and paper cutting process.

A person without such a mental schema would not understand the images presented to them.

For example, we, the omnipresent viewer, watched the user design their stickers “at home”. Next, we watched the file become a printed object. We saw the “chomp” motion of the paper-cutter, and we watched the disembodied hands of the worker gather the stack and place it into the MOO package. As the omnipresent viewer, MOO gave us a front row seat to  view of the entire process, and are thus expected to understand it, to comprehend it, to make sense of it because of the social capital we bring to he table.  Such a video assumes a baseline knowledge on our part, which indicates their audience has certain  experiences, information and professions which would need their services.

Moo presents this video on the front page of their website with the caption:

Ever wondered how we go about making our products? Well, for the very first time ever we’ve caught it all on camera.

It is advertising lay-speak : akin to the hunter laying on their belly on the forest floor, so that he or she will blend into the bushes. The hunter wants to be hidden, obscured from view.  This particular  introduction implies that MOO accidentally caught the slippery production process on tape, like a puffin just wandered into the trap of their frame, and they decided to share it with the rest of us who have no idea what the centuries old printing process looks like.

Clever. Clever indeed.Even knowing all that I do about digital storytelling and advertising, I’m still designing my MOO cards…how DO they make them anyways…. 🙂

Humpback Whales are People too


I found this video from the Great Whale Conservancy and wanted to share it with you because of the pure emotional display of our cousin, a Humpback whale dubbed Valentina. The video is the product of, and is in itself, an earnest display of empathy, a call to action around fishing practices and re-envisioning the modern diet (for more on this one, oh you just wait for my next post!), and proof that our non-human family feels emotion just as potently as we do.

The full story will be aired on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday, August 19, 2011.

When you watch it what does it make you feel?

The Dawn of a Digital Storytelling Career?


Contribute to the INDIEGOGO campaign

Yes, indeedy, I am translating my skills gleaned in the academy and at the CUNY New Media Lab and the Center for Digital Storytelling  into a marketable trade in the Performing Arts.  I am the New Media Consultant and director of all things technical  on the new indie musical “Talking to DeVon“. It is a multimedia musical with a digital trance-house soundtrack. The scene is set in the DMV, anywhere USA, where three strangers meet and learn that their paths had been leading up to that one moment of interaction. It is a funny, complex and emotional play that really speaks to my ideals of enhancing our quality of life by our receptivity to  genuine interactions with strangers.

Signature image for the Musical "Talking to Devon"

The idea behind the low-fi visuals is that the characters could be anyone, anywhere, you, me or your neighbor. In each moment, we can and do choose what energy we put into the universe. Talking to Devon explores the possibility of being your best possible self, in the company of strangers.

The play is grounded in Five Elemental Theory and includes dance, spoken word, an original soundtrack, video and sound installation and audience participation. We will open in Dallas, and our second venue will be in my beloved Brooklyn, NY! Tweet us for ongoing details!  My job as the Digital Storyteller is to work closely with the artist, Leisha LaShawn to conceptualize her ideas into something for the screen using relatively lo-tech video tools to convey organic ideals. The video will demonstrate the various emotions woven into the script, and will go with the songs to convey the meanings of Five Elemental Theory. Some of video will offer comic relief, or let the audience know when there is a transition in the story.

Overall, I think the play will be valuable for those of us who live fast-paced or hectic lives, who find it challenging to find or make time for mental and emotional rest.

We are raising funds on Indiegogo, so that we can pay for the first staging, set production, liability insurance, soundtrack mastering and all the other incidentals that bring great musicals to the stage.  I hope that you will find the story compelling enough to read more. If you enjoy the idea of spreading good energy among up-and-coming artists, then please do contribute to our IndieGoGo campaign. In addition to our gratitude, we offer fantastic material incentives in exchange for your heard-earned greenbacks 🙂

Be sure to tell me what you think about the video!

In creativity,

Shawndel