Monday, June 30, 2008

what I'm reading: the one-hour activist

Generally, I have an aversion to anything that sounds like a quick fix. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. (And don't even get me started on The 4-Hour Workweek.) Which is why I was a little skeptical of The One-Hour Activist.

But I have to say this is a really useful book. It outlines a series of actions you can take to advance causes that are important to you.

Verdict: This should be required reading for every high school civics class and for anyone who wants to take a more active role in government.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

organizing, part 2

Physical organizing gives way to virtual organizing. My desktop before (above) and after.


I often have a hard time easing my guilt about taking a weekend off from the studio. So I make deals with myself. Yesterday, it was "you don't have to work in the studio if you clean-out and organize your closet."

Friday, June 27, 2008

500 miles!

Today I logged my 500th mile on Nike+. Even though that's only a fraction of the miles I've run in my life, its pretty cool to have an official record of logging 500 miles.

The problem with running so much is that you tend to go through shoes a lot. (You need to replace your running shoes at least every six months.) I've got a closet full of shoes that I need to do something with. Which is why I was happy to find The site helps you find places for donating or recycling your used running shoes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

what I'm reading: asphalt nation

If you read Asphalt Nation at roughly the same time you're listening to The Omnivore's Dilemma, you may start to think that American is doomed. Asphalt Nation looks at all the ways the car is ruining America, the historical precedents for favoring the car over other modes of transportation, and some suggested solutions.

The other thing that happens when reading any book while listening to The Omnivore's Dilemma is that you start to compare the two. And Jane Holtz Kay is no Michael Pollan. While the information is good (and sometimes scary) the delivery is a little bit dry. Plus, the book is a little dated at this point. (It was published in 1998.)

Honestly, I agree with everything Kay says. I think we need to take steps as a society to become less car centered. I also agree that its going to be a long, slow battle that we can never completely win but should keep fighting anyway. But at this point, the solutions aren't anything new (walk more, bike more, expand mass transit, etc.) and the overall story could be told in a much more interesting way.

Verdict: Most of the information and statistics can be gleaned from bike and walking advocacy websites. Hold off until Michael Pollan decides to dabble in the car-free lifestyle. (A Natural History of Four Modes of Transportation, anyone?)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

countdown to the beach

Next week, Joe and I are heading to Ocean City, MD for a week at the beach with my family. And to prepare for our beach trip, I practiced by riding my bike to the post office today wearing flip flops. (Because flip flop bike riding is a key beach-going skill.)

walk score

Another cool find from Ode Magazine, Walk Score analyzes how walkable your neighborhood is by measuring distances to nearby amenities. Its not exactly accurate however, since it doesn't take into consideration things like sidewalks and street widths. (Which the site fully admits.)

My neighborhood got a sad 45 out of 100, while my parents' beach house in Ocean City, MD scored only slightly higher with a 52 out of 100. Yet, I know from experience that Ocean City is much more walkable than where I live now. (Considering that Ocean City actually has things like sidewalks.)

Still, its a pretty cool little tool.

spiritual capitalism

I just read this article from Ode Magazine called "The gospel according to Adam Smith." The article focuses on spiritual capitalism - the idea that doing good can be synonymous with making money.

I was immediately reminded of a company I came across the other day - Kind Bike. I loved Kind's mission statement so much that I wish I could steal it for my own:

"We believe the triple bottom line – people, planet and profits – should be at the core of every company’s value system.

We believe that any product should have value beyond mere possession.

We believe that simple and easy should translate into every aspect in which a company is involved."

The article also mentions a book called Business and the Buddha: Doing Well by Doing Good. This is definitely going on my must read list.

(Thanks to Christina from Taboo Studio for introducing me to Ode!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

remember me?

Even though I have, um, zero, experience with advertising, I still feel compelled to critique just about every ad I see. I think the bicycle industry (both manufacturers and advocacy organizations) is missing a key opportunity to promote themselves right now. Can you think of a time in recent memory when Americans' have been more receptive to cycling? Yet I haven't really seen an increase in advertising for cycling.

Then I saw this ad campaign on Bikes Belong's website. (I haven't seen it anywhere besides their website.) The campaign relies on the idea of nostalgia to encourage people to return to their bikes.

Now, if you ask me, nostalgia is not the reason cycling is on the rise. There are a number of reasons people are interested in cycling - rising gas prices, reducing carbon emissions, combating obesity. I don't think nostalgia falls high on the list.

I'd love to see more people bicycling, especially as transportation. Hopefully the bicycling industry will create some more compelling ads. Or perhaps I'll have to make some grass routes ads myself...

Monday, June 23, 2008


For those of you who prefer to shop in person, I've now added a list of all my retailers on my website. Just click on shop.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

well designed camping

One of my favorite things about summer is going camping. Joe found these really well designed camping products by Light My Fire (available online through REI). Looks like it might be time to bust out the tent and build a fire.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

pile of craft

Well, at least there was a roof...

Friday, June 20, 2008

pile of craft is tomorrow!

Yesterday I gave myself permission to play a little bit. Unfortunately, you won't see any of these new earring ideas at Pile of Craft tomorrow. (Between the landfill, a 7 mile run, and another meeting, I never made it back into the studio today.) But I'll have lots of other great stuff there.

If you're in Baltimore area, you should stop by and say hello! 10-5 tomorrow at Saint John's Church. (Indoors! - I'm so psyched!) And, if you mention this blog, I'll give you 10% off your purchase.

day at the dump

Today I went to the local landfill to learn about their sustainable energy efforts. Yes, that picture above is of a part of the landfill. It certainly didn't look or smell the way you'd expect a dump to look or smell. The landfill is using the methane gas generated from the garbage to create power (which also helps control the smell and reduces CO2 emissions). They also have a small solar power cell and wind turbine.

I was also impressed with their commitment to wildlife and ecology. The picture above shows their water runoff pond, where they use cattails to clean the water. They also provide habitats for a number of bird species (and not the usual seagulls either).

I guess if you have to have a dump (and they do recycle there as well) this isn't a bad way to do it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

what i'm reading: the omnivore's dilemma

To be fair, I actually didn't read The Omnivore's Dilemma, but have been listening to the audiobook. (Hey, I've got to pass time in the studio some how.)

Its actually surprising that its taken me this long to tackle this book, given that I loved Michael Pollan's earlier book, The Botany of Desire, and that I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (a book with similar themes to TOD) not long after if came out.

Just like AVM, The Omnivore's Dilemma makes you serious question what you're eating and why you're eating it. My question is, why hasn't it led more of America to question and condemn the practices in most animal feeding and slaughter houses. Didn't we learn in American history that Upton Sinclair's The Jungle brought about major reforms in the Chicago meatpacking industry after it was published? Why didn't the same thing happen with TOD? Some of the stories Pollan tells are down right horrifying.

To be honest, I do eat meat, and will continue to do so after reading this book. Growing up, and currently living in, an agricultural area, I actually have no problems with eating animals raised at a place like Polyface Farms. In fact, one of the reasons I'll be able to continue eating meat is that Joe's family butchers their own beef and pork every year, and that is where the majority of meat that Joe and I eat comes from. Its reassuring to me to think that right now, this year's cow is out in a pasture a few miles from my house eating grass.

What I really like most about TOD is how its so applicable to other things in life that have nothing to do with food. There were two quotes in particular that struck me. Pollan is talking about hunting, gardening, and other activities and says, "An economy organized around a complex division of labor can usually get these jobs done for a fraction of the cost, in time or money, that it takes us to do them ourselves, yet something in us apparently seeks confirmation that we still have the skills needed to provide for ourselves." Isn't this why we craft artists make things ourselves? Isn't this a sufficient argument for why we should still teach people to make things by hand? In fact, I think its telling that the rise of the DIY craft movement coincides with the publication and interest in books like TOD and AVM. That same impulse, of wanting to know where your food comes from, seems to apply. People in a very disconnected world want to feel connected to where (and who) their stuff comes from as well.

The other quote that struck me, because it could be applied to something totally unrelated was, "Eating's not a bad way to get to know a place." Except when I heard it, I substituted running for eating. The more I run around my town, the more I think that I must know it better than many of the people who live there. I know the alleys, the back roads, what goes on at different times of day. I feel more connected to my town because I cover its streets more carefully. How else could I tell engineers at a county planning meeting with complete confidence that, "no the Market Street bridge only has a sidewalk on one side, not both, and its on the north side, not the south." I run it almost every day. That's my bridge.

Verdict: If you haven't yet read The Omnivore's Dilemma, its definitely worth it. (Unless you want to continue mindlessly eating, then you probably shouldn't read it.) I'd also recommend the audio book, which I downloaded from iTunes. Its great to listen to during repetitive production work.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

recent press

I was recently included in an article on jewelry in DCasa Magazine. I have know idea what it says though - anyone out there who can translate? (Thanks so much to Sarah for sending me a scan of the article, otherwise I never would have seen it.)

And also, thanks to Grace for including me in design*sponge's Renegade wrap-up. That totally made my day!

And thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. That may be one of my favorite things about blogging - getting such wonderful support from a community like you. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

i'm a real person

I'm about to break all my own rules.

When I first started blogging, I thought that my blog - this blog - had to focus solely on my art. I was emphatic about it, even preaching that mantra to my students and any other artist I was discussing blogging with. "You're building your brand," I would say. "No one cares what you did on Saturday night."

Lately, though, I've decided that's a bunch of crap for several reasons. One - my blog is Megan Auman - which is me. And I'm more than a jewelry designer and artist (even though that's my business and a large part of my life, its not my whole life). Two - I'm bored. Which is mostly because - Three - The times in my life when I've been happiest are when I've been pursuing multiple, often unrelated interests. And Four - its crazy to try to compartmentalize these interests into separate thoughts and separate blogs. I am one person - I should have one blog, not 12.

So I'm giving myself permission here to blog about my whole life, not just the jewelry designer part (though there will still be plenty of that as well). And here are a few things I want to share about me:

-I'm a total nerd when it comes to reading material. I like well researched non-fiction. I find the real world fascinating enough that I'm not often interested in fiction. I'm also addicted to - I love browsing books through related books, I could spend hours on there.

-I'm turning into a total homebody. When you get down to it, I'd most often rather be home with Joe and Grizzly. (Though spending time with my family at my parent's beach house or camping with Joe's family aren't bad either.)

-I love working out and often work out twice a day. I consider myself first and foremost a runner, but I also swim, bike, and do yoga. I did my first triathlon in May, and am now training for a half-marathon.

-I've become totally obsessed with wanting to ditch my car and bike or walk everywhere. I'm even working on starting an organization in my county that promotes bike and pedestrian safety.

-I harbor a secret inner desire to be a writer. In fact, writer was the first job I ever remember wanting, years before I wanted to be an artist. And strangely enough, when I see an amazing piece of jewelry or art, I often think "I should quit now" but when I read an amazing piece of text, I think "I should become a writer." Isn't that a little backwards?

Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this post. (And thanks to Annie - our conversation yesterday really inspired this little epiphany.)

what i'm reading: how to change the world

In my recent funk about the state of the world (especially after reading Deep Economy) I've been looking for some more empowering things to read and watch. (Such as Big Ideas for a Small Planet.) This search led me to How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. Overall, I found this book really inspiring. Bornstein profiles social entrepreneurs from around the world who are making a positive impact on the world around them. Its great to read that people really can make a difference (though none of them did this by making jewelry, but that's a whole other issue).

My one complaint is that you'd think a book title How to Change the World would be a little more pragmatic - giving some insight into how you too can make a difference. Bornstein talks about the traits that all these social entrepreneurs share, but mostly as skills that few of us will ever posses.

Verdict: Inspiring, but a little repetitive.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

and I thought art star was bad

Note to the organizers of Renegade: While the idea of having a craft show in a pool sounds really cool, it becomes a bit less practical when it is pouring buckets (and the pool is doing what pools are supposed to do, which is hold water) and you are forced to hold onto your metal tent in the middle of a lightning storm to keep it from blowing away.

Needless to say, all of my displays and jewelry got wet. (Something which is not good for paper or steel.) So, I packed up, called it a show, and headed home. Sorry for anyone who came today looking for me, I just didn't have the energy to return.

Four shows so far this season - rain at every single one. Perhaps this is the universe's way of telling me that outdoor retail shows may not be the ideal strategy for my business. I'm so glad Pile of Craft is indoors.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

grave tiles revisited

Last night I was at my grandfather's farm for an auction, and noticed this garden edge tile by the pool.  I spent many summer hours of my childhood at my grandfather's pool, and must have walked by these a thousand times.  So it seems only fitting that in the days after my grandfather died I was obsessing over these grave tiles in Bonaventure Cemetery.  After all, these cement garden markers are the descendants of the European grave tiles used in Savannah cemeteries.  The grave tiles that I will forever associate with my grandfather's death even though I couldn't really explain why.  It seems now I can.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Its going to be 99 degrees today.  Poor Grizzly has taken to hiding in my office in the basement to escape the heat.  (We don't have AC.)

Friday, June 6, 2008


I hit a very exciting milestone today - 100 items sold in my Etsy shop!  Thanks to everyone who purchased something or supported me in some way.  (And thanks to you for reading my blog!)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

decorative resurgence

I'll admit it - I've been a little lax about applying to exhibitions lately.  But I got a call for entries for this show in my inbox that seems, um completely appropriate for my work.  Of course, that most likely means I'll be rejected.  But still, time to dust off those old application skills.

Monday, June 2, 2008

art star

I don't really want to talk about it.