Friday, March 22, 2019


Design with type by Martha Slavin

We read type. We write words. We use parts of the alphabet all the time. We don't think much about the fonts we use or see. When I graduated from college, I planned to be a graphic designer so that I could play with type and design layouts. I went to art school and built a portfolio, but eventually chose teaching instead.

Many women stayed in design as a career. Two female designers that I'm featuring as part of Women's History Month have flourished in the commercial world of graphic design. They are the ones who create new fonts or design with type. Every packaged product you pick up has been in the hands of a designer.

Louise Fili is well known for her sophisticated, European look that she applies to labeling, logos, postage, and packaging. Her work is luscious, sensual and clean. Fili created the Love stamp for the U.S. post office.

LOVE stamp by Louise Fili

Take a look at her website, which I've located at the end of this post, for the Before and her resolutions of After of labels for such companies as Good Housekeeping and Hanky Panky. You will see how carefully she creates the space around the letters and how much thought she gives to what she is designing.

Logo by Louise Fili  Notice how the alpaca's nose extends beyond the border

Another well-known designer, Margo Chase, began working in LA in the entertainment industry. She created the title for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and many album covers using her Goth sense of design. She didn't limit herself to Goth. She founded a design group and refreshed more mainstream brands such as Nestle's Coffeemate and Mr. Clean.

Fonts designed by Margo Chase

Both of these designers are creative and play with letters even when they develop something as utilitarian as a 7-Up can. Fili and Chase want to entice you to look at the packaging and make a purchase. They design fonts for a specific purpose or brand.

In contrast, Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman, two designers from Switzerland, created the font Helvetica in the 1950s. You see Helvetica everywhere. There is a reason for that. The two designers were followers of the International Typographic Style developed in the 1920s, which emphasized neutral, objective designs. Miedinger and Hoffman succeeded with Helvetica, which is why you see this font in airports, restaurants, shops, and on packaging and logos. It is easy to read and has no emotional connection to the words displayed.

Next time you read a book take another look at the cover. Does the font draw you to the book before you even turn past the cover?
When you pick up a package, does the font help explain what will be inside?
Is the font friendly, dramatic, quirky?
What makes you decide from one package or another, or one book from another?
We buy products for many reasons. One of those is the design of the packaging.

You can find more information about my Women's History Month choices, Louise Fili and Margo Chase, at their websites. Both websites are a visual treat:

Enjoy the Vernal Equinox. Notice the light.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Because of the mass murders in New Zealand, I am not posting my usual blog. I hope we all take a moment today to think of ourselves as human beings, related to each other.

Friday, March 8, 2019


To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, I painted a bunch of postcards with yellow flowers to send to Love Notes and Global Art Swap postcard members. While I painted and since it is also Women's History Month, I thought of women artists and what little recognition they have received. Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe, or Mary Cassatt are artists we are all familiar with. If you studied art history, you might remember Louise Bourgeois, Kathe Kollwitz, Louise Nevelson or Helen Frankenthaler. If you love photography, you will know Diane Arbus, Imogene Cunningham, Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman and Dorothea Lange. I couldn't go much furrther in making a list.

I stopped painting and continued to search for women artists. I came up with a good list that I have included at the bottom of this page. I recognized only a few of the names, but I found their work to be both interesting and diverse. I scoured the National Museum of Women in the Arts to find more. I linked Bernarda Bryson Shahn and Elaine de Kooning to their more famous husbands.  Many others stand on their own merits, but without the recognition that many male artists received.

Looking at my postcards with yellow flowers, I remembered Vera Neumann from my childhood. My mother encouraged me to follow Vera, a well-known clothing and house linen designer, because she had made a success of an art career. In college, I loved the work of Sister Mary Corita Kent, a silk screen artist who used bright colors to convey her social justice messages in the 1960s. I hadn't thought of these two artists in a long time, but I realized as I worked this week what an influence they both had been on my own artwork.

          You can look at a gallery of Vera Neumann's work here:

You can see more of Corita Kent's artwork here:

Here is my list, so far, of women artists from the last hundred years:
Fine Artists:
Sonia Delauney, Natalia Goncharova, Bernarda Bryson Shahn,  Milena Pavlovic-Barili
Adrienne Piper, Carmen Herrara, Agnes Martin, Amelia Palaez, Judy Chicago,
Pat Steir, Elaine de Kooning and Jay DeFeo
Lygia Clark, Eve Hesse, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell (not the singer),
Grace Hartigan, Perle Fine, Alice Neel, Mary Abbott, Judith Godwin, Sonia Gechtoff
Ray Eames (who worked with her husband Ray Eames as a design team)
Lucienne Day (who worked with her husband Robin  Day as a design team)
Vera Neumann, Sister Mary Corita Kent, Margo Chase, and Louise Fili

What mentor did you follow who helped you to be the person you are today?

Check out these websites for more information on women artists and designers:

National Museum of Women in the Arts
Huffington Post:

Join the Love Notes Postcard Project and the Global Art Swap:

Friday, March 1, 2019


 Every month for the last five years, a group of friends gather at my home for Craft Day. We sit working on unfinished projects that would otherwise languish in closets. Some knit, some make quick fleece blankets for gifts, some make jewelry, others put together photo albums or do paper crafts or quilt squares. We all have projects we haven't finished that have accumulated in a drawer or on a top shelf. We spend a few hours together to work on them. Most of all we chat about children, grandchildren, recipes, restaurants, vacations, and universal issues that affect us all.

Since the beginning, I've been working on two unfinished Christmas projects. One is a cross stitch stocking that I started in 1990 as a gift for our son, which originally I saved to labor on during summer vacations and never completed. The other is an embroidered ribbon-weaving runner for our dining room table. I've worked on both off and on since we started meeting. I've finally finished the cross stitching on the stocking and completed the herringbone stitch that connects the ribbons on the runner. The tops are complete, but I still haven't added the backing material to finish either project.

Each strand of ribbon is connected with a herringbone stitch done in gold threads.
No wonder it took me so long to finish!

We take a break at noon for our Stone Salad and a cup of soup. I provide the greens for the salad and a soup. Everyone else either brings one thing to add to the salad, such as nuts, tomatoes, roasted vegetables, salsa, cheeses or dried fruit. Or they make welcome additions such as deviled eggs, delicious rolls or homemade desserts.

Here's a recipe for one Craft Day soup:

Chunky Vegetable-Lentil Soup
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup dry lentils
1 lb. small mushrooms, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small yam, chopped
1 half chicken breast, roasted and shredded
6 1/2 cups of chicken stock
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon peel
salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook till tender. Stir occasionally.Add lentils and cook and stir for one minute.
Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, stock, parsley, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender.
Divide among soup bowls.

At the end of the day, we've all made a little progress on our projects and we've all had a chance to enjoy each other's friendship. Our group members have changed over time as some have moved away or have made other commitments. Some of the members who have moved away come back to Craft Day when they are in town. What started as a way to clean out all of our unfinished projects has become a lively day with endearing friends.

As Nadeem Aslam said, "Pull a thread here and you will find it's attached to the rest of the world."

Many Craft Day members
I found Nadeem Aslam's quote at Holstee, a company whose purpose is to help people live more fully and mindfully.
Visit their website:  You will be glad you did.


A friend, Chandra Lynn, posts regularly on her blog, Pics & Posts. Check out today's post on the last day of Black History Month at
You will be glad you did.

Friday, February 22, 2019


Can you find the ant on the mushroom?

After our heavy rains, I went looking for mushrooms. They sprout up at different times of the year in Northern California, even in our dry, hot summers. But I expected to see more of them in February.

As I walked along a path, I thought I would be surprised by new crops blooming everywhere. Instead I found random tennis balls from the nearby courts forgotten under the trees. I discovered tennis balls are as hard to photograph as mushrooms are. The light confuses my iPhone in much the same as round mushrooms do.

I also found the last of the prickly Liquid Amder seed pods blown into bunches on the edges of the path. We used to collect them and spray them gold or silver for holiday ornaments. The birds love the seeds inside the pods, but all the seeds were gone by now.

Liquid Amber tree seed pods

I didn't find many mushrooms on my walk until I came back to our backyard. We have a dead alder stump in the middle of the yard. The top part of one of our redwoods broke off, thundered down to the ground and whacked the alder so hard that it too eventually died. A tree sculptor carved bear heads in the trunk once the rest of the tree was cut down. Last summer clusters of mushrooms covered the roots of the tree. Now fungi have started crawling up the sides like fairy staircases and into the carved spaces on the bear's head and paws.

Fairy staircases or Yellowstone-like pools?

The fungi are beautiful and remind me of the monarchs that usually swarm the trees along the Monterey coastline. I thought about those beautiful butterflies whose population in the last year declined by 86% -- a precipitous drop. Scientists offer climate change, habitat destruction, and pesticides (Round-up is particulary harmful) as reasons for the loss.

These mushrooms are also known as Turkey Tail Mushrooms

Our alder tree is going through a natural process of decay. We can't do much except watch it crumble, little by little. We humans, though, have accelerated the loss of the monarchs on the West Coast. They live here all year round and the smoke from last year's fires was harmful. Big environmental issues like this seem to be so enormous that it's easy to feel helpless.  I've learned that the last couple of years of political upheaval provides a blueprint for action. Getting together with others to do even small things can result in amazing achievements. If you can find space in your garden for some local, nectar-rich plants, join me and plant them. You might save a butterfly!

The Xerces Society has produced a series of plant guides to help all of us to find plants that will do well in our locations. Check them out!

Friday, February 15, 2019



I couldn't resist replacing my planned post for today with this photo from a good friend. A kitty and hearts. What more can you want to make you smile?

I'm a day late to write about Valentine's Day, but I'm taking inspiration from my son, who once said we should celebrate days like Valentine's, Mother's Day, and birthdays every day of the year. So if you missed creating something special for Valentine's, here's your chance to create a sweet surprise (minus the cat).

The hearts in the photo are simple to make. Take a sheet of 90 or 140 lb watercolor paper, dampen it, brush watercolors across the sheet. Let it dry, cut out heart shapes (use a shape-cutting machine or your own hand-drawn design) and add your message of love with a marking pen.

My friend's other card is more complex, but still doable. You need to collect a sheet of red paper for the background, a gold doily, some images such as the butterfly (either from a magazine or from a craft store), ribbon, hearts (make your own or head to the craft store), and some circles to put your message on.

Once you've assembled your cards, hide them in places your person is most likely to find them: sock drawer, under a pillow, at the breakfast table for a morning surprise.

You could also download the images below to fill someone's week with surprises and cheer. Print these images on cardstock for stability.

Have fun with love.

by mARTha Slavin

by mARTha Slavin

by mARTha Slavin

And one for your cat.

by mARTha Slavin

Friday, February 8, 2019


by Bill Slavin

To the rest of the country, winter is making its worst mark. In Northern California, white blossoms cover the flowering pear trees, the daffodils bloom with joyous yellow, the primroses and shy hellebores spread their colors along walkways and under the trees, while leftover poinsettias seem out of place. Rain comes and even snow to the local mountain tops, but sun breaks through, rainbows appear.

by Bill Slavin

Our Spring comes as early as mid-January. We luxuriate in the warm sun, but we need the rain, and more rain to keep back the hot firestorms of Summer. In the meantime, we glory in the pink and white tinged street trees, we marvel at the tulip leaves pushing their way into the sunshine, and we check the tips of the deciduous trees to see the beginnings of new green growth.

by Bill Slavin

I hope you enjoy a little bit of Spring photographed by my husband, Bill.