Tag Archives: nina hans

archiTEXT006 Monuments without Memory


Above from Edward Gorey’s book EpiplecticBicycle. Harcourt Brace & Company, New York 1997

Monuments. For thousands of years we have created them to help us remember events, to remember people. Entire cities are built around them and tourists and residents alike use them as navigational devices. Do they really help us remember? What happens to monuments that disassociate from the things they are meant to commemorate? There are a series of monuments or Spomenik (the word ‘monument’ in Croatian/Slovenian/Serbian) throughout former Yugoslavia that are facing precisely this problem. These spomenici can be found across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia, often in highly remote locations. They were erected as a unifying gesture by the Yugoslavian president during the 60’s and 70’s to collectively commemorate the trauma of the people there after World War II and to mark sites of historical significance. Some located an important battle and some former concentration camp sites and a variety of national architects and sculptors were involved in their design.


Once highly visited, these monuments have become neglected after the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian republic in the 1990s. Spomenici were meant to unify a country that no longer exists through a history that has fallen out of common memory, making their neglect somewhat less surprising. It begs the question, can we really expect new generations to hold onto the hardships of generations that came before? Do these traumatic histories in physical form become a necessary part of our cultural identity? Even now unattached as they are to their original purpose, the confidence and experimentation in which each Spomenik was executed and their siting in remote locations gives them a prominence that is undeniable. The question now, is what new life can these structures have? These monuments without memory maintain a certain power, but it is not the power of remembrance. Instead they inspire new stories, including the work of Belgian photographer Jans Kempenaers and an upcoming science fiction film by our New Mexico friend Kaleb Wentzel-Fisher (there is an immense amount of talent coming out of those parts in case you didn’t know) entitled SANKOFA, the next chapter in Spomenik history.


Although I have never had the chance to visit a Spomenik in person I would suggest a similar smaller (but by no means small) stateside experience may be found at Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. The sprawling acreage allows you to encounter massive artworks unexpectedly in the middle of the forest or view them from a distance across a great lawn. The same history of the Spomenik is not tied to these works, indeed they have separate histories even from each other, but then again isn’t the experience the same? Giant structures without meaning encountered by chance in nature.


Photos by: Jan Kempenaers

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Meet our Neighbors: David Lewis

photos & interview by Nina Hans

Tell us a bit about Falling Whistles?

Falling Whistles is a campaign for peace in Congo. Four years ago we walked into Congo and learned of children sent to the frontlines armed with only a whistle and forced to fight. We wrote about it in a blog that was forwarded around the world overnight. Readers wrote back asking – what can we do? How can we help?

We have been working to answer those questions ever since.

The Whistle became our symbol. It showed why we cared. We hit the road asking other to join us and began building a coalition for peace in our world’s deadliest war.

Now, three years later, we partner with seven Congolese visionaries rehabilitating over 600 war-affected women and children. Our coalition includes 40,000 whistleblowers, over 200 retailers, 35 Congressmen, and 16 Senators.

Why did you guys choose to move your organization to Downtown LA?
We started with no home, no office and no plan – just $5 and a dream worth our everything. I hit the road, hitchhiking for four months from Austin to New York City stopping in living rooms and coffee shops, asking individuals to join us in the pursuit of peace.

Back in LA we pulled desks out of dumpsters, built a ramshackle office in our garage, and began building a coalition toward a goal most call impossible. Eight interns came from across North America to join us.

Soon we outgrew the garage. A friend had just moved in on Traction Ave and was building out an old space where he was gathering a small collective of DJs, artists, magicians, and entrepreneurs.

The creative energy was so deep. We couldn’t stay away.
We had to come.

What do you think is special about doing what you are doing in Downtown LA?

Well, first thing is that the people are amazing. I love dropping by the Daily Dose or Handsome and bumping into friends on coffee break. Everyone is coming off of their own little island. The south side of the Arts District is like that. And every island has it’s own culture. Out of all of the old warehouses that are getting revitalized further and further south, each is it’s own canvas. But none of them are blank. Every building bares the mark of somebody and something that came before.

A lot has happened with Falling Whistles in the past year, we would love to hear a bit about what’s next?

On November 20th, the rebel army M23 took over Goma, a major city in eastern Congo. M23 has executed children in the streets and as a result of the fighting, 800,000 people are displaced. They must be stopped, so we launched a platform to push back. Go to Stopm23.com learn more, and to join us in asking the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, and the White House to respond.

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Refueled Mag: Featuring Nathanael Balon

Refueled Issue Ten just dropped and we’re excited to be featured alongside designer Aaron Draplin, a gathering with photographer Laura Dart, Folk Fibers’ Maura Ambrose, our good friend, furniture designer Stephen Kenn, Logan Caldbeck & Colt Miller of Cobra Rock Boot Company, a trip out to the Bonneville Salt Flats with adventurer/photographer Scott G Toepfer, the vibe of West America with Jordan Hufnagel & James Crowe and the Look from Imogene+Willie. Photos by Nina Hans

Please check out the online version for free right here.

Thanks so much to Chris Brown for his hard work and dedication to sharing Community, heritage and discovery.

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Graphic Design: Now In Production

Last night I attended Graphic Design: Now in Production at The Hammer Museum. The international exhibition explores how graphic design has grown in influence over the past decade. Featuring work created since 2000 the exhibition explores design-driven magazines, newspapers, books, and posters, film and television titles, as well as branding programs for corporations, subcultures, and nations.

In 2000 I wasn’t interested in graphic design quite yet, I was too busy memorizing anti-flag lyrics and doing all things I thought were punk rock. It was educational for me to see the evolution of graphic design in such a short time. I can imagine if you were already a working artists in 2000 you would have experienced this growth in real time, however I’m playing catch up. I was also pleased to see a lot of work I haven’t yet seen online. I highly encourage you to check it out. The exhibition will be here in LA till January 6, 2013. Admission is $10 and free on Thursdays.

Graphic Design: Now In Production – Film & Television Titles from Art of the Title on Vimeo.

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Product Placement: Spoonflower

Spoonflower is an online resource to print affordable custom fabric and digitally printed wallpaper designs. I’ve talways wanted custom WoodSmithe wallpaper around the office and at these prices it’s finally possible. What do you think? Do you know anyone who has ever used spoonflower?

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Meet our Neighbors: Matt Crooke

Photos & Interview by Nina Hans

What is fifteen52?

Fifteen52 is better defined by our concept rather than any specific line of products or services. Simply stated, our number one goal is to offer our customers whatever is necessary to make them feel they own truly unique automobiles. We manufacture many automotive and automotive lifestyle products. We also build cars for special customers such as VW, Ford, Chevy, Ken Block and various other special customers. Our main focus is our line of wheels which spans from cast alloy wheels to our forged and modular wheels that cost a pretty penny. We also manufacture various exterior and interior products as well as do consulting on the side for some of the companies we build projects with.

How did you get into cars?

I’ve been into cars as long as I can remember. My father owns a ’73 Camaro that he bought brand new when he get back from Vietnam. My grandfather owns a ’59 corvette that he’s owned since it was brand new. My family has always kinda been into cars, but it kicked it off for me when
I was working at a smoothie joint and some of my buddies there were into Volkswagens. I got my first job in the automotive industry in 1999, I was 16 years old running a shop based out of Berlin, Germany. I was the United States side of the company until I left in 2006 to pursue an opportunity in the music industry.

What do you enjoy about building cars in Los Angeles?

I take inspiration from so many different places, I treat automobiles just like any other artform. Cars are my canvas, but it’s interesting when you are dealing with a canvas on wheels because to have something tangible, the cost is so much greater than your standard canvas. The fun thing is being inspired in different ways through the large community I have here in Los Angeles. The fellowship I have with friends to push and encourage me is huge. Realistically, living anywhere else outside of downtown LA doesn’t give me the inspiration I need to go outside the norm, as I aspire for fifteen52 to be a different type of company in the automotive world. Overall I think Los Angeles is an amazing place and it’s motivating place to live and work, but mainly because of the people that are here. Growing up in LA was interesting, I’m always the one guy that’s from Los Angeles, in Los Angeles. It’s a melting pot that’s growing a ton all the time. There’s a lot of diversity here in regards to what people do and it drives me to be a better person and work harder everyday.

It kinda sounds like a cheesy soap opera but really all our lives are cheesy soap operas when you get down to it. It’s important to me because every single thing I do boils down to the people around me. I realize the main cornerstone of the automotive industry is just a piece of metal with tires, but whether it be cars, a shirt, jeans, drums or guitar, those or just the catalysts that bring us together in our communities.

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Richer Poorer Sock Display

We partnered with Richer Poorer, to re-design their P.O.P. display. Previously, Richer Poorer had made their displays in-house but came to WoodSmithe in hopes of stepping up their game in design, production and function. We set out to design a display that could hold their desired sku count of socks (in this case 72), would be flat packed/ready to ship and would compliment their manly aesthetic. Concepts were presented and RP decided on the design you see here. Socks can be accessed from all 4 sides, it’s assembly is a snap and it allows for the socks to be in plain view at retailers. We are pretty stoked on how it turned out. What do you think? Do you have a pair of Richer Poorer socks yet?

Click here to see more images.

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Meet our neighbors: Sonja Rasula

Photos & Interview by Nina Hans

How did you about starting at Unique?

I started unique LA (now also in sf & nyc!) because there was an opportunity in the city that i didn’t think anyone else was doing. There were little craft fairs and street fairs like the Abbot Kinney fest. Yet, there was nothing on a large scale that promoted independent artists and designers that were making all their products in America and that was in a professional atmosphere. It made perfect sense to me. Basically, I was trying to create something that was like a flea market but functioned like a trade show. The concept seemed super cut and dry to me. I wondered why no one was doing this in Los Angeles. People were doing it in Toronto, London, Paris, and I just didn’t understand why LA didn’t have one. One day I was sitting in my car driving to my favorite boutiques doing gift shopping, I drove all the way to Mount Washington to this one really cool gallery, then all the way to Abbot Kinney to visit my favorite stores there. As I was sitting my car, hot, board, in traffic… I realized that idea I always had in the back of my head could work. Everyone would come to one location; it’s environmentally friends, it allows people to get all their shopping in one place and supports the local economy. For some reason everything came together that day while I was in the car and I knew I was going to do it.

When do you realize it was a successful model and you should move to the other cities?

After the very first event I knew we could grow to other cities, I just didn’t have the capitol then. Unlike, most smart business people and entrepreneurs, I didn’t look for investors or have backing, or loans. First of all cause I knew I would never get approved. I actually used my retirement savings in December of 2008 to start the first event. It was super risky, and not something I was necessarily suggest other people to do, but what is similar to other entrepreneurs is that risk taking attitude. After the first event, I realized and I hadn’t put my life savings at risk, and in fact made a little bit. But more importantly, the amount of people that attended the event, I mean thousands and thousands! The reception from shoppers, the media, and especially the vendors, was so amazing that I immediately knew I had to take it to other cities. So really I knew right away it was just a matter of when and how.

Now that Unique is growing to other cities, why do you think it was valuable to originate in Los Angeles?

Well first of all I was raised here. It’s important to me to give this city the attention it deserves. Los Angeles is great because it’s still affordable to have an art studio here. In New York you have to be established to afford the rent. In Los Angeles you can move here and afford to get by while making and learning how to sell your art. And everyone thinks manufacturing is in New York and really it’s mainly happening here. For example band of outsiders, everyone is always talking about them, and thinking they’re New York based, but they aren’t. They are based here! There was something inside me that thought, I have to change this perception. To start on a mass level, to start promoting LA for it’s great design. That we are a tight cool community doing powerful and important things.

Usually my first answer to that would be community, but I think now over the last 6 months, as Unique has grown to other cities I realize that, together we are building a movement. I think I’m building a movement toward conscious consumerism. Were shoppers and community members realize that what they do in their every day life and also how they spend money can help effect our economy.

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Meet our Neighbors: Joseph Pitruzzelli

What was the process of opening Wurstküche

I started working on the idea of  Wurstküche in 2007  with my partner Tyler Wilson. I was in San Francisco designing night clubs, entertainment spaces, products, basically industrial design. I was starting to look for other areas to move to, I had been in San Francisco for 9.5 years. I was thinking about going to Austin, Texas. Tyler, who is my cousin, was at USC and mentioned that downtown LA was having a re-birth and I should come down and check it out. I came down and met him and kinda gridded the city, and we found the little cool pocket of the Arts District., which at the time was nothing like it is today but we felt like it had some sort of great energy. That’s when we decided we start a little project together. I wanted to build a bar that was my own, that I got to design.

 Why did you choose the Arts District? 

In hindsight it was pretty risky, but the Arts District was very similar to the area I was living in in San Francisco. I had an immediate comfort with it, you could see things like Barker Block just coming down the line and you kinda start to see this infrastructure and you could tell this infrastructure of downtown would modernize. There was no one living in these cool buildings, it felt totally vacant. It felt like behind the walls and empty exteriors there was a really awesome youthful vibe of people doing things and executing things. Apolis, Steve Opperman, Dubbeldam, those guys kinda key in moving this way.
Were you surprised at the success of Wurstküche?
I was surprised how the front sausage grill took such a prominent roll, how much volume it was doing. The original idea was that we would have a small sausage kitchen in the front , and the overflow would be in the back. We thought in the evening we would pull out tables and chairs and there would be a dance bar in the back. That never really took because the sausage kitchen kind of overwhelmed that. I thought we would do well, but I thought it would be with cocktails and a dance bar,  but really the lunch business kinda just took off.
How do you feel about growth of the Arts District since you have been here?
So far, it’s developed really well. I get a really hesitant when I hear about bus rides of developers coming through. What I see in front of me right now I think has been awesome growth. I think there’s been a great magnetism of places, which is why I don’t think development efforts are necessary in this area. There are projects like Handsome, which was probably attracted to places like Apolis and us, and then others will come because they are attracted to Handsome and it will grow like that, and it will be a great way of developing an organic, unforced community of commercial stores.
How are you involved in the community here? 
I am the president of of LARABA, the Los Angeles River Arts and Business association. And we are the 501©(4), community betterment association. LARABA is the guardian of the dog park, and we put on bloom fest. We partner with Melissa Richardsons Banks to produce that event. We also do various other things like planting trees, etc.
Our focus is not to just make food but it’s to make experiences for people that they come in. Food is part of it, drink is part of it, meeting people is part of it, design is a part of it. If we can build a consistently good experience that is fun and allows people to meet each other, then it’s great. I love to see people who have never met meeting each other, sitting at the tables and exchanging numbers.


Photos by Nina Hans

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The Giving Keys Necklace P.O.P. display

Our friends at The Giving Keys have been up to their necks in orders since appearing on sites like Huffington Post & Teen Vogue.  The brand is doing inspirational work and looked to WoodSmithe to create a home for their product that was equally inspirational.  Prior to our coming on board the handmade necklaces were being piled on tabletops and counters with little product visibility and virtually no individual product distinction. By utilizing reclaimed barn wood with a variety of tones, we were able to compliment the varieties of tones offered in the key necklaces. Once we designed the logo, it was etched, and the piece was given the final bit of love with a hand applied finish. You can purchase a key online or at Fred Segal stores.



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