Bright lights, big cities, beautiful buildings, and books

This week we find inspiration in some interesting places. Like Brooklyn, with its upcoming Book Festival and truly unique authors. And Detroit, where an architect (and Blurb author) envisions urban renewal one prefab structure at a time. Join us as we visit some big cities, explore a few buildings, and shine our bright lights on some fascinating books.


Creative inspiration from Brooklyn: An interview with the Keeper of the Golden Duck

We’ve been told that the beautiful borough of Brooklyn has more writers per square inch than anywhere else in the world. While that might or might not be literally true, it’s a fact that Brooklyn is an artistic powerhouse.

One of our favorite authors from Brooklyn, Cibele Vieira, also happens to be one of our favorite Blurb authors. We got in touch with her recently to explore her book, The Duck’s Diaries.

By way of introduction, what inspires you, artistically?
“I am inspired by art and by life and its complexities, from the social to the economic aspects of it.”

What makes Brooklyn a good place to live and make art?
“I love Brooklyn. I am originally from Brazil and have lived in Manhattan and Ann Arbor, Michigan as well. I found being an artist in Brooklyn to be easiest, in that you have a big art community, so you don’t feel weird or dislocated and you’re close to Manhattan and its major galleries and museums. My studio is in Bushwick and every year we have a big open studio weekend and it’s inspiring and comforting to be part of it.”

Can you share with us the background of the Golden Duck?
“Each year for the past five years I’ve chosen a color and created a project around it. The exploration of each color became an exercise to develop formal concepts.

In 2011 I decided to work with the color gold and was having a hard time figuring what would be my subject and what it would convey. Most of my color projects are studio-oriented, but at that time I had just had a baby and was tired of being indoors. So when my son’s duck-shaped bathtub sprung a leak, I decided to paint it gold. As I did it, that ordinary object became so gorgeous that I needed to set it free. So we took it to the East River and the chase started… Now after more than 12 adventures, it seems that the duck has become a simple (but bigger) metaphor for our pursuits in life.”

So what did you see as the next step?
“In the beginning, the idea was just to make wall installations of the photographs that would grow with the duck’s adventures, but the stories were so interesting that people wanted to hear more and more about it. So I started to write them down and the idea of making a book came naturally. I love to make books and have made several in the past, from albums to artist books. I decided to write it like field notes, easy to read with the images.”

Why did you choose Blurb for your book-making project?
“I have worked with Blurb before and I have always liked the print quality. At this time I looked around, taking into account sizes and of course pricing and Blurb fit the best. I love Blurb’s square book format.”

Let us in to your book-making process. Did anything surprise you?
“What surprised me was how easily it came together. My process is very organic. It usually takes me some time to come up with a concept, but this time it seemed that when I sat down to organize it, all the pieces were there. And after I finished, of course like everybody that commits to make a book, I was so anxious to see it. Blurb works so fast that I had the book in my hands in three days! Love it.”

How hard was the photo curation process?
“By now I have more than 5,000 images of the duck’s adventures, but incredibly it wasn’t that difficult to choose them. I think because I’ve spent so much time making my wall installations and I am so used to telling the duck’s stories that I kind of knew which images fit, in terms of both composition and content.”

Can you describe the reaction to The Duck’s Diaries?
“I made the The Duck’s Diaries as part of the whole “Chasing The Golden Duck” project. I think it grounds the project and gives it more depth. The book format also allows it to be viewed outside the ‘white cube’ of the gallery, which it is fantastic because it can reach a broader audience.

All the feedback that I’ve gotten has been very enthusiastic. I have friends that bought extra ones to give to other friends and that feels very good.”

Do you have any other projects you're working on? What's next?
“Yes, I am working on my first NY solo show, which is coming up next year and I’m also planning new projects on the colors blue and red. You can keep in touch with what’s coming on my website:”

Thanks so much, Cibele, and we’ll be looking forward to see what you do next. Here’s to Brooklyn—and the artistic spirit.


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Brooklyn, off the beaten track

We were recently in Brooklyn for the Food Book Fair, a confab of foodies, food writers, chefs, brewers, vintners, and photographers. In between bites and books, we went out into the heart of bleeding-edge hipness to explore the amazing creativity the city has to offer. In this spirit, we’re bringing you three books from—or inspired by—Brooklyn, New York.

Sketchbooks - Raylene R. Gorum

The pages of Raylene Gorum’s sketchbooks are more interesting than many artists’ finished work. Her simultaneously spare and grungy style is like a romp through the artist’s catalog of inspiration. While based in New York City, her ink, Polaroid, tape, and pen-based illustrations touch on Brooklyn mainstays like the B61 bus and hipster strolls down Bedford Ave.

Sketchbooks | Raylene R. Gorum

Williamsburg Wars - Jessica Sander

Before it was the home to hipsters, the main demographic of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn was mostly Hasidic Jews. Jessica Sander’s Williamsburg Wars gives a lay of the land while artfully and humorously analyzing the tensions and fashions of the two groups.

Williamsburg Wars | Jessica Sander

The Secret and How to Tell It - Naomi C Robinson

You’re not likely to find a real “how to” in this book, but the ink, paint, and tea-washed illustrations overflow with the suggestion of some half-revealed secret. The original book, by U.K.-resident N.C. Robinson, was created for the Brooklyn Art Library. But a gorgeous facsimile is, of course, available in the Blurb bookstore.

The Secret and How to Tell It | Naomi C Robinson



With the World Architecture Festival coming up in Singapore this October 2–4, we’ve got buildings on the brain (and book-making, of course). Which is why we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite Blurb architecture books and portfolios for you to peruse. We also had a chat with Nick Lavelle, author of the inventive It’s in the BOX! book. It's in the BOX! explores how architecture can offer solutions for some of the problems post-industrial cities like Detroit face. Intrigued? So were we. Read on to learn more about his thoughts on prefab structures and how his architecture project came to life with a Blurb book.

We're a huge fan of It's in the BOX! What was the most exciting part about taking your architecture project and making a book out of it?
“Architecture, landscape, and design projects overall rely on visual communication in order to transfer their ideas to someone not usually exposed to the design professions. Without visuals like drawings, renderings, models, and prototypes, It’s in the BOX! would be very hard to understand. Having a book show an entire design, including text that explains the design, is invaluable because it allows people to put a written story to the pictures, something the pictures might not pick up on. And the written story is just as important as the imagery because it provides deeper meaning.”

You focused on prefab structures. Are they a modern solution to the way people are now living?
“Prefab structures and mobile architecture aren't necessarily new to architecture but have grown in popularity partially due to the lower cost of construction labor. There is also inherent value regarding environmental and economic sustainability in that there may be less waste during the construction process and it is cheaper to assemble on site. They are also usually more utilitarian as they are mass-producible. These are all reasons why I chose to create something prefabricated for this project”

Detroit was the city featured in your book. What about it in particular made it the perfect city for your project?
“Post-industrial cities like Detroit are really quite fascinating because they pose a conundrum: They were once the epitome of progress and success but are now decaying, so how can one turn such a failing place around? I became familiar with just how disadvantaged the people left behind in the city of Detroit have become. They face minimal public services, failing schools, and the possibility of their basic utilities being shut off and parks being closed. This is simply not an option in my opinion and I sought to provide a small, low-cost solution to help the people left behind in Detroit—not to give them another plan—but give them something tangible that would help their day to day needs.”

How are you using your architecture book? Would you use Blurb again?
“I can definitely see myself using Blurb again in the future, especially for reordering copies of It’s in the BOX! I can use copies to take to conferences, to hand out for fundraising, or for just raising awareness. I can also see myself using Blurb for printing new publications for my design portfolio or for other projects yet to come. It's a great tool with a lot of options!”

How was the book-making process for you?
“Blurb makes it relatively easy to make a book especially if you start with one of their InDesign® templates. But even starting without a template and formatting what you've already made is still pretty simple. It was extremely rewarding to transition from working for months on a computer screen to being able to turn the physical pages of the book with my hand.”

Want to open some doors for yourself? Present your work in a hardcover portfolio or beautiful ebook.

Architecture books - Archive by Anna Huey

Featuring a selection of student projects created in the University of Colorado, Denver’s Architecture Department, this book offers an imaginative look at some fascinating imaginary buildings.

[arch]ive | Anna Huey

Architecture books - Arce Portfolio by Aurora Arce

Focused more on interior design than straight architecture, this book lets you pore over floor plans, room sketches, and material samplings. (You’ll also have the sudden urge to renovate or redecorate.) Functional, fun, and inviting, this portfolio features colorful personal and business spaces you’ll love.

arce portfolio | Aurora Arce

Architecture books - Architecture by Arnold Chan

Arnold, an award-winning architect and World Open of Photography Finalist, has seen it all when it comes to the most inspiring places and spaces around the globe. Thankfully, he’s gathered them all in one book for us to see as well.

Architecture | Arnold Chan

Architecture books - Abstracts by Emma Moonlight

Round, square, oval, you name it. Abstracts features buildings with stunning shapes and facades, replete with mirrors and glass. You won’t need to look too far for a little design inspiration.

Abstracts | Emma Moonlight