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


February 2, 2009 at 4:35 am

Today: I cut my hair and made some fan art!

(Also worked on preliminary dimensions for the new print drying rack, FINALLY. Things have been taking me a long time recently…)

Fan art: for Mickey Z‘s comic “Bullshit Frank & Gorilla Joe”, which I don’t fully understand but do fully love:


“in solitude we all are Birdeyes”
(mickey, is it birdeye or birdeyes? if I’m wrong I’ll fix it when I ink it!)
much better!

Haircut: Reiter says “SHARP!” (photo, and back-of-neck trim, by scott)

new short hair

This is the shortest my hair has been since the summer of 2003 (when I’d had a shaggy mohawk for a while, then an italian anarcho-punk squatter kid buzzed the sides of it for me. It’s been growing out since then, for the past year or two it’s been mostly just looong). I was gonna not post pictures of myself here but, whatever, haircuts are crucial moments, and I’m psyched about this one.

(yes, that is an american-flag-painted ceramic grenade sitting perfectly as an extra hat on top of mini-santa-claus-cup in the background…)

A little while ago I hilariously joined Facebook, after much persuasion by my brother. If you are into the social media stuff you can find me here. I also signed up for twitter, but for now I’m just putting my updates from here onto my twitter feed, so if you’re already reading this you already saw it. However, if that kind of thing works well for you, here it is.

Lilah has been rocking it with amazing posts about fashion, appearance, and identity at mattababy, and Deb perfectly captured where I am at these days with this post on her art blog. In the real world, good conversations with many friends, about intense stuff, each offering new insights and different perspectives. Also a lovely day spent playing pinball in two different cities, and listening to/seeing this show. Thank you everybody.

ps. that is my first fan art ever!

putting materials together, to make useful things: part 1.

November 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

This past week saw a great burst of work on the kitchen up in Worcester!

Here, Anna and Andrew are dismantling what’s left of the old counter on last Friday morning. The old sink used to be to the left of where Anna is standing…

anna and andrew taking apart the old counter

When the old sink’s plumbing and faucet totally broke down a couple of months ago (after a year+ of malfunction) Andrew and others went ahead and set up the new sink (scavenged from the Cohasset town dump by Nick’s mom) where you can see it in this photo under the window. He had tiled the counter, but because the backsplash tiling didn’t get completed, and the sink didn’t get caulked down, water splashed out over time, and had dislodged the tiles and also wetted the lath and insulation behind the sink… no good. Because of this, and for a couple other reasons (the old counter was 3-4 inches too low, the old plywood was not re-usable because of broken mortar and grout, it protruded awkwardly to the right of the sink, the space underneath it was dingy and gross, the plaster wall behind it was crumbling… etc) we decided to take the whole thing out and build it anew.

Thus the main focus of our work this past week was the sink area, getting it as far as possible along towards having a well-installed, fully-functional, completely-waterproofed sink and counter!

This is where we were at, early Sunday evening:

andrew working on the new counter

In the photo we are gluing and clamping a small piece of plywood onto the edge of the newly installed counter to form the understructure for an overhang and ‘drip edge’. (The crumbling plaster has been replaced with plywood.) Later in the evening (and way into the morning!) we mortared and tiled the plywood surface, using re-purposed tiles in two colors that were, by necessity and choice, cut and arranged into awesome patterns. No pictures of the final stages yet, that’s gonna be part 2!

I came back to Providence Monday evening. Then Thursday morning back to Worcester to do 2 more days of work. Now I’m back to Providence for a while, to work on prints for Craftland. Though I may go back to Worcester for a day or two, to keep the momentum going!

The intensity of the kitchen work kept me from finishing my ‘bread baking’ poster in time for the ‘sustainability art show’. It was actually a good thing I think: I would have been glad to be part of the show, but working on the kitchen, which will actually affect people’s daily lives! is more important to me. Getting to build things: to start with ideas, drawings, and discussion, then to put them into action and construct useful objects, was a crucial reminder of what my purpose in the world is. As far as I can tell!

More photos of last weekend’s work in progress follow: (more…)

two ends of the spectrum

September 24, 2008 at 2:12 am

This past weekend, at the Block Party! that Andrew Oesch organized (and I helped with) in Worcester, MA:


…and, a couple of days earlier, working on drawing (or rather, desperately trying to figure out how to draw) the display font for what became this poster:


The Block Party was collaborative, temporary, and chaotic. It had no tangible “goal” besides getting a chance to play, offering other people (kids and adults) the chance to play, creating a potentially transformative experience, practicing collaborating and facilitating with Andrew O, taking the chance to do something we had wanted to do since we were little (have an almost infinite number of giant blocks to build with), and maybe getting a little transformed ourselves (I’m pretty sure that’s me in the red shirt):

BONE ZONE at stArt in the street, worcester 2008

Despite its transience, this kind of project is very direct — you can see the results in people’s enjoyment of and immediate narration of the experience (one kid, as his mom pulled him away from jumping on and squashing boxes at the end of the day: “But… this is the BEST PLACE EVER!!!”). I have a bunch of persistent memories from my own childhood (a giant wooden dragon in the children’s section of the public library, walking through a tall maze of translucent plastic at an art fair, building forts in the woods, working on a collaborative clay castle-sculpture at a craft show) which convince me that Sunday’s memory of building giant structures out of boxes will stick with some of these kids for the rest of their lives. Andrew O and I are left with nothing except lots of photos and a couple of sheets of colorful paper — almost all the boxes got smashed and recycled — the experience was the important thing.

A poster like this one (computer-designed, computer-printed) is also temporary. If I’m lucky, someone will put a copy of the poster up on their dorm-room wall, maybe keep it as a reminder of the speaker that influenced their changing ideas; maybe it will go into the departmental archive, but most likely, most of the copies will become part of the massive pile of paper-waste that comes out of any university in any given academic year. Hopefully, it will get some folks to come out to the talk — maybe more people than if it was a simple flyer designed in a word-processing program and printed in black and white… who knows.


Designing on the computer opens up too many infinite possibilities for me. I like the limits of the physical, of rubylith and of ink drawings; I’m more comfortable with the irregularity, and the permanence, that are built into something you make by hand. Looking at a computer screen, I get wrapped up in minutely adjusting the anchor-points of lines or editing shapes pixel-by-pixel, saving endless versions of things so I can revert to earlier decisions if necessary.

Working on an analog object, if you erased something, that means it is gone (even if you might reach for the command-Z key instinctively) and you have to draw it again, or as close as you can get to it. In the physical world, there’s no perfectability: whatever you make might have problems or issues, but they will result from how it was made and be a part of it — not errors you have overlooked and might have fixed if you had just had another couple of hours to spend in front of the monitor.

[here are two parts of the middle of the “digital/analog battle royale” illustration process for the Labor Studies poster. on paper:]
[and on the computer. notice the ink-line tracing of the two politicians, which is in the middle of being re-sized to fit the photo-reference mockup:]

When I was looking at display fonts to use on the Labor Studies Dept. poster, I couldn’t find a computer font that I liked. I started to draw letters from scratch, but the initial sketches didn’t fit the need or style of the poster, and I didn’t have a lot of time and wasn’t feeling super-inventive at that moment. The letter-pantograph device (seen at the top of this post) was handed down to me by my grandfather, a retired engineer, along with his set of 1970s Rapidograph pens. Using it, I drew the letters above, then scanned them in, enlarged them and printed them out, photocopied them to the right size, and traced their outlines in ink, making them more angular, and changing them somewhat (to differentiate them from the dreaded Comic Sans!). The tracings were scanned again, and photoshoppified into something usable for the graphic title of the poster.

The whole poster involved so much work, so much finicky moving of text and images back and forth, so much consideration and discarding of various fonts, so much attempting towards perfection. I’m mostly happy with it, especially with the illustrations, but I don’t think it has the richness and interest of most of my screen-printed projects… and since I’m not part of the community where the event will take place, it doesn’t have an effect on my life, and I can’t see its effect on other people.


The Block Party! project also involved a huge amount of work (done mostly by AO, though I jumped in at the last minute). Collecting and assembling all the boxes was an almost-infinite task, printing the patterned paper, pasting it on, organizing volunteers, thinking about the philosophy and metaphorical underpinnings of the project. . . However, there was no pretense of perfection: our basic goal was to have enough boxes to really transform the space of the street — beyond that, we had no idea ahead of time of how it would actually turn out, and we knew that we would be figuring out how to do the project along with everybody else who was there that day.

Searching for perfection — ignoring the demand for perfection (even/especially when it comes from within myself). Either of these approaches could be applied to any project, any medium, that one might want to work in. At this point, coming off of these two almost-simultaneous projects, I think I know which of these paths regarding perfection I like being on the most.

However, it’s relatively simple to apply the “chaos is awesome” mentality to projects (like the Block Party) where the chaos is actually unavoidable. It’s somewhat harder to let it creep in to the screenprinting projects I really want to be focusing on, the areas where my meticulousness is more ingrained and more likely to take charge. Additionally, when life is overwhelming (as it usually is for me), it’s easiest to strive for righteousness and certainty, since those seem like the most secure options. One constructive strategy might be to take on less, leave more time for things, don’t put myself in places where I’m so stressed out that perfection seems like the only achievable goal, where I don’t have time to accept complexity and confusion. I know this is possible, because I’ve worked on more and more projects recently where I’ve had to slow down to allow for learning and chaos. . . they are harder and more difficult to approach than the ‘perfectable’ projects. . . . but simply remembering that the harder projects are more fun is a large part of the process. . . .

Here’s Andrew Oesch starring as Sisyphus in Werner Herzog’s new movie about participatory, community-based art projects:


… and a good reminder (from fomato.com) about how not to get bogged down by more projects than I actually want:


thanks, cute creatures, for your infinite wisdom.

intermediate kitchen…

April 12, 2008 at 1:07 am

The Forbes St. kitchen is not finished, but of course it is constantly in use, every day. For example: Nick and Max working together on house dinner.

The food was as good as it looks. (note the spice rack in the background — more or less finished!)

Max talks about plans for a folding desk in his room. (Laptop = recipe source)

secret door projects does NOT recommend: hanging cliplights from the kitchen ceiling, plugged in to extension cords (which are precariously stretched out along the ceiling, above the ceiling fan), that are plugged in turn into a surge protector that is loosely attached to the wall, by the switch of which you can turn the hanging lights on and off. Such a solution must only be implemented on a temporary or “mock-up” basis, and as we know, building codes disallow the use of extension cords in any situation.

HOWEVER such cliplights do give really nice direct illumination to work by, and make said kitchen really warm and cozy, as seen in these somewhat fuzzy pictures — and when we will get around to actually re-doing the lighting in here is anybody’s guess.

a spicerack is born

January 9, 2008 at 2:59 am

In September, the wall on the stove-side of the chimney looked like this:

the forbes kitchen with plaster walls and shelves full of stuff

From almost the same point of view, here is Andrew working on patching the old stovepipe holes in the chimney that was within the wall. (Saturday Jan. 5)

the same wall, minus its shelves, with no plaster and a chimney revealed behind the wall

Sunday morning, Jan. 6 — the studs have been removed (note the props to L & R of the chimney) and the masonry repairs are complete.

the chimney stands alone

Sunday evening — The new wall/spicerack is in place, Kelly puts in screws to secure it to the ceiling joists.

a new wall, of 2x4s and plywood, is being put in in front of the chimney

Sunday night: it is structurally complete — though missing a bunch of smaller shelves.

the new wall has an alcove that will hold shelves for spices

Kelly & Anna demonstrate the sweet (if slightly tight on the right side) fit of the Forbes St. spice jars on the rack.

the bottom shelf of the spice rack holds five jars of spices across...

Anna, Nik, and Kelly are going to add the rest of the shelves for spices — next weekend we work on dismantling and rebuilding the other bearing wall on the opposite (sink-) side of the chimney.

the forbes st. kitchen is happening!

January 8, 2008 at 4:44 am

kelly standing in front of a partially dismantled wall

For two years, I’ve been excited about changing the awkward and hard-to-use layout of the kitchen at the house my friends own in Worcester. Starting this summer, they’ve done a lot of demolition, and now the construction stage of the project is actually starting to happen. It’s super exciting.

The photo above is from September, as the housemates at Forbes St. were working on taking down plaster and moldings around the doors, closets, etc. (Kelly is in the middle of washing dishes.) The picture below is from this past Saturday. You are seeing a lot less plaster, a lot more mess, and part of Andrew working on the chimney. The stud wall in the center of the picture will eventually disappear, being reduced to smaller structural walls that will be part of a ‘box’ surrounding the central chimney.

the same wall, further dismantled

Briefly, we are combining two rooms that contained (and separated) the kitchen functions into one room, adding more work counter space, and building lots and lots of storage. This past weekend we finally took down some real walls, and built a new real wall. It’s small, but it’s structural. It includes an alcove that will become the most heavy-duty spice rack ever built.

The challenges, which are also the things that (already) make the project awesome and extremely rewarding:

  • Instead of having one or two clients, I’m working with 9 to 11 residents/part owners of the house, who all cook and use the kitchen, all are involved in some way in the design process, and all want to help and want to know what’s going on. It can be crazy and frustrating, but in that process of explaining something over and over again, I realize new things or come to new conclusions — and I have that many minds pointing out where something is not going to be right, and contributing that many more awesome ideas to the process.
  • We’re not working in the traditional ‘stages’ of architectural practice, where once signed off on, a design is hard and expensive to change — instead, things are flexible up till they are nailed in; potentially changeable even after that; and, where possible, are designed to be modified and added on to during the process of occupying and using the kitchen, seeing how it works, bumping into the corners, etc.
  • I am leading a loose crew of the people who live in the house in doing the actual building. Some have construction experience, some don’t. Everybody gets a chance to do things. This might take longer than rounding up some more experienced people to come in and do the work after we had finished the drawings, but it means that ideas can get contributed in the middle of building and up to the last minute, and that after the kitchen is ‘finished’, there will be a whole bunch of people living in the house who now know how to use a circular saw, a screw gun, and other tools, and who will be able to fix things around the house, make new things come into existence, and take more initiative in making the space their own.

Basically, it’s a totally revolutionary way to make living spaces, difficult and complicated, incredibly simple, possibly only practicable on a very small scale, but completely fascinating and compelling. I am super excited to have the chance to be involved in this project and this process. I’m writing more, and more in-depth, about the implications of this, and about the specific elements of the process — when that writing is a little bit less rough, it will also be here.

New Urban Arts 2007-2008…

October 12, 2007 at 11:13 pm

…has now begun! This now 10-year-old project, an art studio for high school students and young artists in Providence, is well-described on its web site: [link], where there can now be found this yet-again-revised ‘bio’ of myself, since I am one of the artist mentors there this year:

Jean Cozzens is a poster maker, silkscreen printer, and emerging
architect. She is originally from Philadelphia, PA, has now lived in
Providence for 8 formative years, and can occasionally be found in
Worcester, MA. Her many projects include: helping facilitate
participatory art installations, collaboratively rebuilding a
collective kitchen, persistently researching the architecture of
everyday spaces, making screenprints of all shapes and sizes,
practicing ways of interacting that undermine destructive power
relationships, and mentoring at New Urban Arts! Jean has received a
merit fellowship in design from the Rhode Island State Council for the
Arts and is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, where she
studied Architecture and Fine Arts. This is her third year at NUA.

Writing a bio is always difficult, even though the goal is to express what you are about, it always sounds somewhat forced. (Since this one is for the NUA web site, the next-to-last sentence is included at their request…)

Over the summer, the NUA studio underwent some renovations, including constructing an and expanded black & white photography darkroom, and a totally new silkscreen darkroom! I had the interesting experience of being the ‘client’ as my friend Adrienne served as the ‘architect’ for the new spaces — I’m not sure if she was pleased or not to have a client who knew how to read a drawing and made last-minute changes (in colored pencil) to the wiring diagram, a day or two before the electricians showed up. We definitely didn’t do that as an affront to Adrienne’s knowledge or prerogative as the designer — we did it because we knew that a certain arrangement of switches and outlets would make sense for the darkroom’s needs: a non-UV safe light (switch close to the door), a regular light for occasional cleanup (switch further away from the door), an outlet for the light table that is next to it instead of directly above it, and an outlet for a ventilation fan that is switched to go on with the safe light. We might not have been very good clients in that we didn’t know how to articulate these needs ahead of time — but Adrienne was a great architect in that she didn’t get territorial about it, but let us speak from our bases of knowledge to make the space more intuitively functional.

Various mentors and volunteers have also been doing a lot of the finish work on the space, if it can be called that — it’s still pretty rough, though luxurious compared to where the screenprinting facilities were previously housed. Andrew, working with some students, laid the vinyl tiles for the floor. Kate, Andrew, Jack and I retrofitted a sturdy metal table into a dual-purpose light-table-table and coated-screen-storage-rack. Our friend Pete came in and built a narrow table for coating screens. Andrew and students did a bunch of finish plaster work and painting. Jack and I built a rack for storing screens. I put up shelves for ink and materials… Now all the mentors & staff that will be using the silkscreen setup are working together to figure out some new ‘protocols’ for printing and for keeping the screens organized, so we can all be on the same page working in this awesome space…

It is a vast improvement over NUA’s screenprinting setup from the past two years, where you had to go into a dark and flood-prone corner of the moldy basement to coat screens kneeling on the floor, then sit in the basement on the light table for 10 minutes, while dust and grit fell on your head from the the floor above, while the screen was exposing. You also had to go into the basement to turn on our old high-pressure hose, then climb up a scary, dark bulkhead door into a gravel alley (where the neighbors’ dogs’ poop would go un-picked-up for days or weeks) to wash out your screens.

Now: you can stand up to coat screens, and there is a safe place to put them to keep them dark and dry while they cure. You still have to sit on the light table for 10 minutes, but it’s up in the main space, so people will hang out & talk with you, and it’s not cold, damp, or gross anymore. We also have a really, really nice washout sink, with a light on the wall behind its translucent back, and a hose that turns on right next to the sink, with a sprayer head that won’t spray water all over the place and get you wet!

It’s hard to remember sometimes how mediocre & crummy the situation was just five months ago, when I was printing the 10th anniversary poster. When I look back on the past month and a half, since I finished the ‘windows’ print at the end of August, it sometimes doesn’t seem like I’ve done that much, since I don’t have any new finished prints. But using the new NUA studio this first week of programs, and seeing how easy it is for other people to use, I’ve realized that a lot of my energy has been going into making the studio really good. It’s still in progress, and I know that a lot of stuff will get changed around, systems modified and adapted, etc, as the year goes on. I’m still really proud of the progress we’ve made so far, and especially of the process we’ve gone through, planning, negotiating, discussing, advocating for inches or feet in one direction or the other… another facet of the constant conversation that makes up the daily practice of New Urban Arts.

I’ll have some pictures of the new space here soon. I’m at the studio, 743 Westminster St, Providence (across from Classical & Central high schools), Tuesdays from 3-7 pm, if you want to stop by and say hi and check out some silkscreen process.

Print series update: all the ‘lost’ posters have been found. I’m waiting for Priority Mail tubes and then I will re-send lost ones, and send out prints to the couple of new far-away subscribers. There are about 8 subscriptions left, if you’re still interested in subscribing, contact me!

Right now I’m working on: getting stuff cleaned up and re-organized around the studio here, helping my friends tear down and rebuild their kitchen, finishing up some old projects and commissions, finding a server that doesn’t crash twice a day, printing some wedding invitation envelopes for Black Cat Graphics, getting photo documentation of my work from the past two years, rebuilding the rest of the website and finally creating a good image gallery…

… so the next print in the series is kind of put to the side for now. I have to tie up a bunch of these loose ends to give myself space in my head to think about it… when most of them are tied up, I can begin working on it again. I’m hoping to get it done in a mad push through late October, November, and mid-December…

We’ll see!

more pictures from the Magic City

October 7, 2007 at 7:49 pm

photos on flickr: building a city

community building day: working on the city in worcester

photos on flickr: cardboard buildings

photos from our installation this spring at the Dirt Palace window.

Magic City Repairs, part II: Worcester!

September 26, 2007 at 12:00 am

First of all: subscribers — did you get your print yet? Everybody who subscribed before August should have their print, with a couple of exceptions. I’m holding on to a couple for people who are traveling, when you come back, it’ll be here. Four people have yet to pick theirs up: if it’s you, email me or call me and come get them!

As far as I know so far, two people didn’t update their address with me when they moved, so there are those two prints somewhere in postal limbo. Two other prints (that I mailed later than the first big batch) haven’t arrived yet, the post office claims that they “fell off the conveyor belt” somewhere and will get there eventually. Thanks, USPS. So to anybody who didn’t get their print yet, let me know if you haven’t, and — patience — I’m sorry…

If you subscribed in September, you might not have gotten yours yet because I haven’t done a second big mailing/delivery… It’s coming, I just have to plow through the last couple of days of this project I’m working on now which is:

Magic City Repairs! part 2, in Worcester, MA.

This Thursday, Sept. 27th, in the afternoon, Andrew Oesch & I will be in Worcester hosting another city-building day where you can come make some kind of building or structure and add it to what is shaping up into a magic city atop a giant cardboard mountain with a cave you can go inside and some cardboard archways and structures that can only get bigger & better in the next month. Lots of information is on the project web site, the whole show is up till November 9th so there is no excuse not to miss it okay? Given the scale of the space and of our installation, and the nature of the context which is a relatively careful, proprietary, and non-messy university visual arts department this version of the Magic City project has come to incorporate both the dreams of 12-yr-old jean to have an infinite number of cardboard bricks to build a building out of… and the dreams of 28-yr-old jean to help create an equitable society in which anybody can build and shape things according to their desires. Could I ask for more ??? (well, maybe…. now about that adventure playground….)

Thanks to help from Jake B and Jay R Z this web site should soon become some kind of more formalized web log. It will be set up so things are more organized, and so that you can sign up for updates whenever I post stuff via RSS. There are many other things that are happening “soon”, so I’m not going to even talk about them here because that “soon” keeps getting larger and larger….

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