right now!     ian g. cozzens updates, news, photos, and thoughts

desk finished and in use.

January 27, 2009 at 4:01 am

This all got finished before last Friday, but I just got my act together to take pictures of it now.

new desk (center), and left of it, stair/ladder up to the loft:


continued below are detail pictures of the sweet computer shelves, which was pretty much the whole point of the project > > > > check it out: (more…)

desk organizationals

January 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Thanks to Diego’s mom Susan (a public high school art teacher here in RI), thanks to Scott who drove me in his van and helped carry it, and thanks to Tatyana who helped me transport the wood for its new frame, I now have a new desk!

[new desk is at center, a corner of the older desk (4’x4′ for large drawings) is on the right, still covered with stuff]

here’s a past view for comparison; I always forget to take ‘before’ photos.

flat file
[to work on this project, I had balanced a board temporarily between a stack of books on my flat file (behind the chair, with green fabric on it) and other books on the little typewriter table (center). the flat file, which is a bulky 4’x2’x2′, is now upstairs in the studio where I’ll actually be able to open its drawers freely…]

Along with the desk base (which will be used as a work table base somewhere else) and the drafting top, Susan also gave me a bunch of parallel-rule drafting rulers that the high school was getting rid of: they don’t teach hand drafting anymore, a) because it’s obsolete, and b) because they don’t really do vocational programs any more. I gave one of the rulers to awesome local printmaker Meg Turner, an artist who works, like me, in architectural modes. She’s been using a ruler and a triangle on her sketchbook pages to compose her axonometric drawings, and has been in serious need of a parallel rule. (If anyone else local wants one, get in touch!) We talked about the questions surrounding why drafting by hand is obsolete, and why high schools no longer offer vocational classes… unfortunate developments, in our way of looking at the world…

But okay, I’m not going to go into that here, it would get lengthy… and this is about a new desk! The frame for it is attached to the loft structure, to the bookshelf behind it, and slightly cantilevered out over one leg on its right side.

slightly sketchy frame for desk
[frame skeleton]

drafting top in place!
[desk in place, with telling view of mid-cleanup de-organization]

There are various rationales behind having a second desk, the chief one being: if the computer and all the other random scraps of paper, business stuff, mail, writing notebook, (whatever), are not in the middle of the drawing table, then I can leave my main drawing there free and clear, look at it all the time, and the default action upon entering my room becomes: sitting down and drawing.


Obviously there’s still a ways to go before I get to that stage, since the stuff from the shelf and other places has now been totally piled on the desk and the floor… and I actually want to dismantle the main drawing desk and modify its support slightly (to better fit my laundry bin) while I’m in construction mode… but the new smaller desk makes the whole thing feel real & possible. Re-organization begins…

pile of zines…
[side benefit of this clean-up: gaining access to things that were obscured by being badly organized or inaccessible… among them, zines; here awaiting a new shelf where they might actually get looked at!]


January 10, 2009 at 6:46 am

here are two fortunes I received when I was in Phila. with my family, showing the fallibility of the fortune cookie predictor logic. after I opened the cookie containing the bottom fortune, I claimed the extra cookie that my gran didn’t want, and it held the top fortune for me:

one right, one wrong

… thus, by the cookie’s command, I’m in that new years mode where you gotta change everything around: do the long-put-off improvements, buy things you’ve been needing for a while, fix the broken, sort out the old nameless piles, throw things away, and close the book on unfinished projects.

so even though I am making big changes, and each day brings a lot of transformation, it also feels like I am treading water: ever since I was a kid, I’ve had to de-organize before I could re-organize, and bigger transitions mean more time spent in the de-organized state. there’s also lots of logistics & organization necessary, which is not my strong suit. even when printing, which should be the straightforward part, I’ve been encountering technical issues… part of me thinks “I should know how to do this by now!” and part thinks “this is how the world is, always learning…”

here, extracted from an close-to-collapsing pile of stuff on the pantry counter of my parents’ house, is a key example of “where I got it from”:


I mean, come on, tell me a better way to keep track of little tiny hardware!

adam ryder photo

my friends Adam Ryder and Brian Rosa are having an art opening for their photography of high-tension electric power line landscapes: tonight, Saturday the 10th, 6-9 pm, at the Stairwell Gallery on Broadway in Providence. inter-urban wanderlust dreams. there will also be coffee by cafe intelligencia. don’t miss!

palimpsest, fiction, utopia

January 4, 2009 at 6:17 am

colors over each other

I use a thick piece of transparent plastic to align the different color layers as I print them. It’s taped down along one side, so I can print on it, line up the paper underneath it, then fold it back out of the way to print on the paper. If I do everything right, I only have to do this once for each color layer: I mark the table with tape at the corners of the paper, then just line each sheet up to the tape. Usually, I have to do it a couple of times, and adjust the marks somewhat after they are down, to get the color in the right place. The worst case scenario, and what happens for prints with tricky alignment or lots of colors: lining up the paper under the plastic every time. (not as bad as it sounds!)

more color layers

The transparent plastic sheet gets many different layers and colors printed over it, and ends up looking awesome, making me wish I could make a print that would be as good as all the layers randomly laid down over each other. I used to stop using the alignment sheets when they got to a particularly nice state; at some point I got tired of buying new plastic, and I’ve been using the same sheet now for more than a year. Where I want to see through the sheet to check the alignment, I scrub off the old ink, down to the clear plastic; everywhere else I let be. The different layers of ink have different thicknesses and hardnesses, sometimes there’s clear tape on the sheet, protecting some of the colors… This time, as I scrubbed some of the ink off, these remnants of text and image appeared:

palimpsest 1

palimpsest 2

My cousin asked me for fiction reading recommendations. Oh boy! Whenever I am in Philadelphia, I go to the stupendous “Walk A Crooked Mile” bookstore, which is in my parents’ neighborhood (but would be worth a trip even if it weren’t). Here are two super-high recommendations, both from that source:

This christmas-time, I found the book Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, which I had been wanting to read for years and years. I bought it as a present for my brother, then promptly borrowed it and read it. The only thing that’s possible to say about it without creating all kinds of spoilers is that it uses language in a way that no other book I’ve ever read does. The language not only creates the atmosphere and setting, but also disorients and disturbs the reader, shocking them out of their ordinary mind-set and typical approach to reading itself… terrifying and magical. Don’t read anything about it on the internet, just go to the library and get it and read it!

Last christmas-time, I found Antarctica, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I had never read anything by him, but I’d been impressed by an interview I’d come across, so I bought the book for my father, since it seemed like it would line up with his interests in climate change and environmental technology.

In the late fall of this year, I read Robinson’s Red Mars, was totally blown away, and actually went back and read almost all of it over again right after finishing it. (Kevin, I still have it! it will be coming your way shortly…) I was offered the loan of the sequels Green Mars and Blue Mars, but refused, because I had to get work done, and I knew that I would get nothing accomplished if those books were anywhere near my desk. I did find Robinson’s Pacific Edge at a bookstore in Providence, and read that… but! it was short, so it didn’t hold me up too much work-wise, and! then I loaned it immediately to somebody else, so I couldn’t read it again.

Just now, over the christmas holiday, I stole Antarctica from my dad and read it, and while it might not be as finely tuned as Red Mars in its overall sequence and structure, I was thrilled, delighted, and challenged, and would probably have gone back and re-read most of it again if my brother hadn’t stolen it from me in turn.

I feel like my brain is not in the right place right now to describe what is great about these KSR books, but I’m going to try. They bring together a lot of disparate elements: combining landscape writing, science-fiction technology, earth-centric mysticism, anti-capitalist revolution, anarchist ideas about organization and cooperation, the local food movement, humanist theories of architecture, mountain-climbing adventures, actual research and scientific knowledge, very real and sympathetic characters (even the unfriendly ones), and utopian social structures. The theories don’t overwhelm the action, and the narratives subtly but clearly underline the philosophical and political ideas he’s working with. The stories are darn good stories, too, with action, suspense, romance, danger, cliff-hangers, etc, but that would not be enough to make the books excellent…

Ultimately I think what makes Robinson’s writing great for me is that he understands the connection between the personal and the political, the individual and the wider world, the physical body and the philosophical idea — that these things are inevitably intertwined, that they are what we all have to deal with in our lives, and that that is where the greatest adventure lies. He’s smart, he thinks about the world, he gets it, and he writes it in poetic metaphors and incredibly page-turney stories. He isn’t afraid to build utopias — in science fiction, sure, but in a world very close to ours — and to say, straight out to his readers, that yes, this could be real, you could make it real right now, what are you waiting for?

Along related lines, I’m also reading or looking at:

  • Utopia by Sir Thomas More (the original one!)
  • Open Marriage by Nena and George O’Neill (1971, not about sleeping around but about emotional freedom and individual identity: this book is making me think super hard)
  • Posters for the People: Art of the WPA edited/curated by Ennis Carter. (This book just came out, I am very excited to own it!)

… upcoming in the queue (and also from Walk A Crooked Mile) are some books by Martin Buber, which also fall into the utopian category probably…

notes from the internet:

  • Glenn Abanilla, a fellow Providence drawer-of-buildings, keeps this great record of the tools he rescues and repairs!
  • My brother Rich is currently living in Damascus, Syria. His writing about his experiences there, as a tall blond Arabic-speaking north american, provides a different perspective from the suspicious and generalizing attitude that all of the U.S. news media seems to cling to, if you’re interested in what’s happening in that part of the world.
  • My cousin Jonathan rides his bike around a secret city.
  • I’ve been working my way through these essays by Paul Graham; they’re nominally about technology, but are relevant to wider questions of innovation and creativity, and how to work as a creative person.

and yes, I am feeling better! still avoiding coffee and alcohol till everything is totally cleared up… drinking lots of tea, though, staying warm in the snowy cold.

this work is copyright to jean cozzens | Secret Door Projects

Creative Commons License
most of it is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
for more licensing & copyright details, check out the credit page.