In the Mood for Red

 photo by della chuang

To the fashion designer Bill Bass, "Red is the ultimate cure for sadness." And to the painter Wassily Kandinsky, red is very living, lively and agitated, it posses an immense force, it is a movement in oneself.

As for me, red is like the winter sunshine on my face.


feels warm like velvet

tastes strong like vodka

smells spicy like apple cider with loads of cinnamon and clove

sounds merry like the Xmas jingle bells

Yes. Merry Xmas, my dear friends.


In the Mood for Blue

photo by della chuang

Which country

looks blue

sounds blue

feels blue

tastes blue

smells blue?

Finland it is.


Fragrance of the Nordic Air

Bliss --- today is my first day out for a walk after I twisted my right ankle while doing a head stand. My foot had sent up a white flag, and I was therefore like a bird in a cage for the past two weeks.

It was – 17 degree Celsius (1.4  degree Fahrenheit) in the morning. Stepping out with my winter boots, I took a deep inhale and allowed fragrance of the Nordic air to enter and penetrate my Being. I stuffed my gloved hands in my pockets, curled my head to my chest, and set foot into the woods.

The solid crunch of my winter boots against the white snow filled the crisp air with a relaxing and chanting sound, which scratched a primal itch that reminded me of a delicious smell --- the aroma of Swiss dark chocolate waffles.

I slowly and deeply took an inhale: mmmmh, w-a-f-f-l-e. Then I crunched loud and crunched merry deep into the white Finnish woods.


Design in Nature

photo by della chuang

I am still suffering from a jet lag and a cold that I caught
in New York.

Not being able to tell anything meaningful, I would like to
show you something wonderful.

I always feel humbled by the design in nature, and I do not believe anything
I can design can compare to the beauty of the natural world...


Hear a Ginkgo Leaf Falling 聽到飄零的銀杏葉

I finished a design project. I had some time on my hands. I sat with my legs crossed, my eyes closed. I blocked out distractions, thoughts, and sensations. I concentrated on the sounds I heard. It was difficult to hear with focus at the first beginning. Gradually, I became aware of layers upon layers of overlapping noises.

The coo, hoot, twitter and chirp of birds from the back yard. The distant grind and groan of a car. The strident shouts, cries and chatter of children on the playground. The steady hum from the refrigerator in the kitchen. The pounding, heavy footsteps from the staircase in my walk-up apartment building. The unidentified snorts, laughter, bangs, honks, squeaks, creaks and whistles.

Twenty minutes latter, I opened my eyes. I stretched my body, and I heard a voice in my mind: more practice, and bigger ears, I could get to hear a ginkgo leaf falling on the sidewalk of Mott street in NoLiTa.


Perspective 觀點

New York Downtown Style: Chinese version vs. Taiwanese version

The old Egyptians drew the head in profile but rendered the eye as if it were on a front view – the body is more recognizable from front than side. However, arms and legs are more clearly described from the side.

Cubism combined glances taken from different angles at different moments into a single composition. A picture that wasn’t meant to look like anything but itself.

My first book New York Downtown Style (bilingual), first introduced to the reader in 2006, is now released in China with a new design by the Hong Kong born graphic designer Lu Zhi-Chang (Simplified Chinese: 陆智昌). Looking back and forth between the first and second covers, I could sense the difference from each other in composition, temperament, and tempo. In Lu's work (the left image), forms are more solid, enigmatic, and cooler. And to Lou Hsin-Mei (Traditional Chinese: 羅心梅), her approaches are more joyful , funkier and sweeter.

Different cultures, different times, different designers – different points of view.


A Rose Is Not a Rose 不是玫瑰的玫瑰

The American historian Alice Morse Earle wrote, "The fragrance of the sweetest rose is beyond an other flower scent, it is irresistible, enthralling; you cannot leave it. I have never doubted the rose has some compelling quality not shared by other flowers...". Seen in this light, the fragrance experts claim that the rose perfume creates a mysterious atmosphere and state of mind conducive to romance.

Although the words rose and fragrance go together like hand and glove, rose is my least favorite scent. I rather exclaim over color and beauty of a rose in a full bloom than smelling it from a perfume bottle. More than any other sense, smells keenly evoke memories and feelings for me.

A rose fragrance with gourmet touches makes me ill. Worn by a person who easily lost himself in the rage. It’s truly a horrible smell!

Last night, in a gallery opening on Broome Street in SoHo, I was having a drink and gazing at the artwork in the fashion crowd. A peculiar rose smell suddenly hit my nose and it was like a nasal déjà vu – I shivered, a chill rushed down my spine. I had to leave right away because the sickening smell permeated my nostrils.

To me, a rose doesn’t lose its color in the rain, but it does lose its fragrance in my olfactory memory.

Inspired by René François Ghislain Magritte, I conjured up an image of rose in a contradictive context : the rose is not a rose, because it does not smell.


Do You Hear My Design? 你聽出了我的設計嗎?

It's known that music can respond and appeal directly to an artist's "internal element" and express spiritual values. On writing, the French poet Charles Baudelaire affirmed that "scents, colors and sounds answer one another". On painting, the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky had this to say:

"Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key then another to cause vibration in the soul. It is therefore evident that color harmony must rely only on a corresponding vibration in the human soul."

If scent is the music for our nose, color is the music for our eyes.

I don't have a good ear to listen, but I appreciate music. Music allows me a freedom of imagination, interpretation, and emotional response on my design. I especially feel attracted to Bach, whose works are greatly admired for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty.

While working, I like to play Bach's music. I often picture myself walking through fields of paper, touching it with my pencil as if I'm composing the most enchanting music. To me, the organic and geometric shapes that I draw on my sketchbook are like Bach's musical notes that tangle with my joy and happiness.

I was enthralled by Kandinsky's curious gift of colour-hearing (synaesthesia), which he successfully translated onto canvas as "visual music". His artistic ambition got me thinking that, as a designer without the capacity to see sound and hear color, how I can conjure a visual presentation of music that illustrates the affinities between shapes and colors?

Therefore, I crabbed my pencil and started my musical adventure: I drew circles, triangles, and squares, one by one, and filled them in colors. Then, I made them sing with all the intensity I could to create a perfect visual harmony...

My dear readers, this is the creative process of this poster design that I pay homage to Kandinsky. Before you leave let me ask you. Do you hear my design?


Color of the Moment 剎那時光的色彩

One afternoon when I was writing the ‘color’ essay in my silver Mac power book in my New York apartment, it started raining like cats and dogs. The thunderstorm made the room so pitch black. Getting up from my black chair to turn on the yellow light, off-guardedly, I saw the colorful window… Looking out of the brown wooden-framed window, I was struck by the beautiful color abstract scene. I couldn’t see my neighbor’s red brick wall and the green trees in the back yard any more. The silver heavy rain was making the brick wall and the trees almost invisible in a blur of forest green and burgundy. What I was used to see is not what I was seeing. The rhythm of the falling rain is the sound of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s piano. The color vibration of my window is the color palette of Kandinsky.


Design with a Japanese Mind - A Conversation with Takeshi Wakabayashi 若林剛之

My name is Takeshi Wakabayashi
I owe a great deal to the nature of Kyoto.

When I need to be alone, I often take a stroll in Tadasu no Mori (糺の森), “the forest of truth”. I am happy and at peace with myself in this forest. It is natural, not pruned or planted by human beings. I also enjoy the late afternoon breeze in the spring. A kind of breeze is just like what the eccentric Zen Buddhist priest and poet Ikkyu Sojun (一休宗純, 1394-1481) described: “Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms”. The breeze carries away the day’s grievances of mine and puts me at ease.

From ancient times to the present, the Japanese people have celebrated the beauty of nature and the poignancy of its seasonal rhythm of the moon, the sakura blossom, the river and the forest. Inspired by nature impulses, they created meditations on the fleeting seasons of life and, through them, expressed essential truths about the nature of human experience.

Iki, the Japanese aesthetic ideal
The patterns of human experience forms culture, and the critical reflection on culture, art, and nature shapes aesthetics. Zen was formalized in China. Chan, as it is known in China, took root in Japan in the thirteenth century. Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on simplicity, emptiness, and the impermanence of the natural world generated a distinctive Japanese aesthetic. Therefore, the appreciation of nature has been fundamental to many Japanese aesthetic ideals, artistic expressions, and other cultural elements.

But the highly refined Japanese aesthetic sensibility is not only about the sensual appeal of elements of the natural world, but also about the human emotions it imbues them with. The main theme in Japanese aesthetics is that objects are alive and should be in harmony. Iki (いき, often written 粋), a traditional aesthetic ideal in Japan, illustrates this value of Japanese aesthetic.

Iki is not simply “Japanese things”. It can be used for almost anything, but especially for people. Iki is not found in nature itself, but can be found in the human act of appreciating the beauty of nature. Iki is associated with a thing or situation that is simple, improvised, straight, restrained, temporary, romantic, ephemeral, original, refined, inconspicuous, etc.; it can also be related to a person who is audacious, chic, pert, tacit, sassy, unselfconscious, calm, indifferent, unintentionally coquettish, open-minded, and restrained.

Satou Toshi-san, the owner of Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, is the perfect example of Iki to me. I'm not only impressed by her personal style, but also influenced by her sense of fashion, architecture, taste, and hospitality. She is truly a pioneer in creating a new style inspired by Kyoto tradition!

Design with a Japanese mind
In my 20s, I used to be called “the American boy”, owing my obsession with Ralph Lauren's collection. But soon after turning 30, I started to question my running after Western fashion as a Japanese designer. Moreover, what is the “modern” Japanese style? Just like you, Della-san. Becuase you are educated in America, with roots in Asia, I don’t see you viewing art and literature only with the Western eyes, right?

The aesthetic system of Japan is significantly different from that of the West. For example:
• Contrary to the precise geometrical values in the Western world, Japanese use diagonal, rather than a centrally placed horizontal or vertical line when dividing a rectangle symmetrically.
• In the West, the pictorial quality is based on realm; in contrast, Japanese characterize the elements drawn from the natural world in an abstract from.
• The West worships a permanent beauty and a complex context; Japanese praise the beauty of nature and its harmonious simplicity.

As a designer, I am open to anything. But things that take full concentration and excessive training attract me the most, such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, and traditional craftsmanship. Therefore, inspired as I am by the sublime Japanese aesthetics, I see no need to adopt Western ideals. And as an upholder of the need to rediscover and appreciate Japanese traditional values, albeit in an apparently revolutionary guise, I established the “Made In Japan” brand – Sou • Sou.

Sou • Sou, pronounced as so – so in English, expresses the ultimate statement of Japanese lifestyle. It is a typical Japanese way to say the word when we make a nod to maintain a friendly and harmonious atmosphere during a conversation. Although the word doesn’t convey a meaning of “yes”, it implies “I agree with you” and “I understand you”.

Sou • Sou has always made the point: discovering and interpreting avant-garde art in Japan, and the roots that bind it to the cultural and aesthetic values of the country’s own tradition. It doesn’t matter if the design is for Jika-Tabi (split-toe shoes, 地下足袋) or textile; all of Sou • Sou’s works derive their aesthetic merit from the fact that it cannot be fully achieved without perfect execution!

Tradition is present
When I walked in the courtyard of Shimogamo Jinja, I saw the glow of sunset deepening and hanging on the torii gate . Even though Kyoto is a modern city of more than a million, the weight of history and the force of tradition have given the streets of the city an undeniable unified and harmonious atmosphere, beyond the well-known image of temples and geishas.

Tradition lives in the present, and it is our key to the past.


All Children Are Poets 所有的小孩都是詩人

"Things," said film director Robert Bresson, "are made more visible not by more light, but by the fresh angle at which I regard them." It doesn't matter if those are created by Albert Einstein, written by James Joyce, or fashioned by Alberto Giacometti, things are merely alternative versions of the same hologram. Thus, altering our particular personal construct requires a substantial leap of imagination as we need to see things from a new angle.

We have been told that all children are poets, and through the children's bright eyes, the world throbs with life and is inhabited by all manner of beautiful, powerful folk. Ever since I started documenting the sublime beauty of Kyoto through my Cannon camera, I have been wondering what this city would look like to its children.

Children drawings are the poetic recording of the facts of childhood. Miho, a seven-year-old Kyotoite girl, presented to me her art project using nothing but colored pencils. In her manga-styled drawing, Miho's Kyoto story goes like this –

The little Miho: Let's go. Guys.
The boy in the middle who is leaning over a pond: Ah. Look at the Koi fishes. Are they friends?
The boy on the right who just fell from his bike:
Oooouuugh! it hurts.
The Koi on the left: W-A-I-T.
The Koi on the right: Here. Here.

*The tower on the upper left corner is Toji temple.

Picasso says, "Every child is an artist. It's a challenge to remain an artist when you grow up". I am not sure if I am an artist to Picasso's standard, but I believe that even when I turn 100 years old, there will always be a child in me who will believe in the wonders and magic of life and of living, who will marvel at the unknown and yearn to satisfy my curiosity, who will still dream and look at the world with child-like innocence....


Aimai (曖昧), the Ambiguous Mind

Ambiguity is the hallmark of Kenzaburo Oe (大江 健三郎), Japan's second Nobel Laureate in Literature. He defines ambiguity as “vague, obscure, equivocal, dubious, doubtful, questionable, shady, noncommittal, indefinite, hazy, double, tow-edged”. In Japan, aimai (Japanese: ambiguity) permeates art, culture, literature and even the language.

The Japanese consider ambiguity a virtue; however, it can cause a great many problems in cross-cultural communication. Unlike Western people strive for certainty and clarity of understanding in everything, the Japanese think that it is impolite to speak openly on the assumption that the party knows nothing; therefore, it is unnecessary to speak clearly as long as the other is knowledgeable.

In Japan, life often has the quality of compromise, and people use many roundabout expressions to decline offers. They take care to maintain a friendly atmosphere and express themselves indirectly. Ambiguity is part of being polite, of maintaining a harmonious ambiance. Saying “no” is considered impolite, so saying “yes” doesn’t really mean “yes”. That is the essence of “aimai na gengo” (Japanese: ambiguous language).

Linguistic ambiguity is the source of friction and misunderstanding, but also a trigger for the creative mind. Unveiling the metaphor of a piece of poetry or of a movie requires a lot creative effort. Interpreting the artist’s mind through the lens of personal thoughts and experiences gives rise to new ideas that were never intended by the original author.


Kyoto in Colors

In Kyoto, I noticed that I associated colors with some of the things I think about:

To wash my hair, take my bath, and put on a scented yukata is lavender purple in a sunny field.

To take a stroll around Kennin-ji at midnight is hazelnut brown with an enchanting quietude.

To wait under the latticed roof for the sun shower to stop is gold mixed with a rainbow color.

To sleep in a tatami room where some pure and clean incense has been burnt is sage green in the moonlight.

To listen to the sound of cicada on the veranda in the temple where I lodged is white of nothingness.


What Makes For a Bad Cover Design? 是啥弄壞了書本封面設計?

I like to hang out alone at the Strand Bookstore in lower Manhattan. Although Strand is well known as one of the busiest bookstores to entice the crowd of book bargainer hunters, I find that loitering around the congested passageways between its imposing shelves is peaceful and quiet. I appreciate the chance of being away from computers and conversation, and taking pleasure in a single activity – browsing the shelves for good book cover designs. As Strand call themselves the home of 18 miles of books, there are sure to be some hidden treasures.

A good cover design not only requires a smart title that delivers a purposeful message, but also an appealing visual that catches the reader’s attention. Once the reader lays eyes on the cover, there must be something to make him want to pick up the book, such as a clean distinctive typeface, a stunning image, an interesting texture, or contrasting colors on the cover. A good cover hooks the reader, but a bad cover makes him think twice.

But what makes for a bad cover design? In my humble opinion, the following are some crucial ingredients:
1. Too literal: I dislike an excessively descriptive graphic element alluding to its plot or character. For instance, using an image of a white tower for a book called “The White Tower”.
2. Too cliché: My heart sinks when I see a graphic element such as women with painted faces in traditional East Asian dress, Asian women with long straight black hair, dragon, lotus, chopsticks, and Buddha heads, on many Asian-themed book covers.
3. Trying too hard: I don’t like a book cover laden with too many images, types and colors to explain the details of the book. I'm drawn to the design principle of “less is more”.
4. Not approachable: Adding frills like a flap, elastic band, or button might convey a more “designed” or “artsy” look, but it can be a turn-off if the reader has to make too much of an effort to open the book and flip through it.

In the reality of the publishing world, an author has little say about the cover of his creation. Therefore, I was thankful for the constructive exchange with my own publisher and their in-house designer, and to be able to defend my book “KyotEau: Bottled Memories” against the above temptations. After all, we do judge a book by its cover.



We think about each other, and when we are apart we remember each other’s smell.

When I’m away, he misses the smell of my hair.

When he’s not with me, I like to smell the pillow that he sleeps on.

I love you, my Bjoern. As you know, I never think of you as just my teddy bear…


Simplicity – An Extract from "KyotEau: Bottled Memories"

What is simplicity?

For the Italian scientist, engineer, painter, and polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

The Polish musician Fredric Chopin (1810-1849): “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

The Japanese architect of botanical gardens Koich Kawana (1930-1990): “Simplicity is the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means."

And to the Japanese tea master, Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), the simplicity of the tea ceremony comes through in his poem:

Tea is naught but this;
First you heat the water,
Then you make the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know.

In the Japanese tea ceremony, many objects made from bamboo are used, and the mystery associated with the material contributes to the inner meaning of the proceedings. The shape of the bamboo flower holder, cylindrical in shape, is often nothing more than a chopped-off piece of stalk. Such simplicity is an important element of Japanese design. The concentration of perfect workmanship in a simple object is a design principal that has influenced many Japanese craftsmen and can become an article of faith.

This Japanese simplicity is the appreciation of a single flower, exquisitely arranged and presented, as opposed to a large bouquet, where it is quantity that counts. It might value the importance ascribed to the act of creation rather than to the object manufactured. It might focus on the intimate, organic qualities of structures built on a human scale, in contrast to those emphasizing the façade.

Simplicity seems natural, almost obvious, in its final form, but getting there takes experience, talent, and patience. Design for simplicity cannot be successful unless it is supported by perfect execution.

Simplicity isn’t simple.

* Photo by Manfred Koh


Surely Ideas Love You, Monsieur Maurice Roucel – An Extract from "KyotEau: Bottled Memories".

The French master perfumer Maurice Roucel says, “Though it is never clear where ideas exactly come from and how they announce themselves is unpredictable, I get ideas from everywhere, all the time. I can’t go through life anymore without allowing myself to be constantly inspired by anything. Just walking around can be enough – being open to different things, people and surroundings…” To Monsieur Roucel, what appears to be a spontaneous thought may well have been a long time cooking in the unconscious, just like a baby learns to walk and an adult learns to drive. As John Cage declared, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it.”

However, when it comes down to how creativity operates, Monsieur Roucel believes that a designer sketches in order to create the beautiful shape of perfume bottle; a musician writes musical notations to compose the greatest piece of harmonious music; a perfumer formulates ingredients to create the most memorable fragrances. For when it’s all said and done, Monsieur Roucel sees that ideas can sometimes be conjured up with practice, intuition, and new prospective.

Andy Warhol once explained: "I just paint things I always thought were beautiful - things you use every day and never think about." Ideas are subversive and they come in various guises. If you pay attention to them, they come to you. The angel of inspiration seems to favor those who have a promiscuous curiosity and enthusiasm.


The Life of the Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel – An Extract from "KyotEau: Bottled Memories".

How about the work life of a perfumer? The confidentiality of perfume formulas pulls a blanket of mystery over the perfume industry. However, Christophe Laudamiel is willing to shed a bit of light.

In his words:

“Half of his life is spent writing fragrance formulas to surprise and to create all kinds of envies and wonderful sensations for the happy few: clients, friends, and family.
Another half of his life is spent filling up trashcans with rejected fragrances from people who cannot smell or cannot judge but who think they belong to the happy few! The other half of the trashcans is what it takes to create a magic fragrance: a lot of expertise and a lot of trials and errors because not even perfumers can predict a scent in their minds just by looking at its formula.
A further half of his life is spent running around the lab looking for the suitable material in a jungle of 2,000 bottles or so to determine the correct next ingredient for his recipe of more than 80 ingredients.
Half of his life is spent thinking of how he can be more clever than nature by trying to tame ingredients and making them smell like what they don’t want to smell like.
Half of his life is spent thinking of how he should be shrewder than certain people sitting across a meeting table with different agendas.
Half of his life is spent thinking of how he can translate into a scent what someone cannot describe with words, but only with faces and emphatic gestures.
Half of his life is spent traveling either across Manhattan or across oceans, because the ingredients, the scent palettes, the fragrance collections and atmospheres won’t travel in the Internet in a zip file.
Indeed, there are many halves in a perfumer’s job, but they constitute the many facets to create the magic formula.”


The Life of A Graphic Designer – An Extract From "KyotEau: Bottled Memories"

To explain, I'm paraphrasing an entry from my diary, written on a day of frustration with our daily grind:

A graphic designer is a person who has to show up at countless meetings to listen to everyone’s critique of her work. She sketches first with pen and paper, then uses a Mac to design a digital representation of the initial ideas, and the design ends up as a two-dimensional print (such as a poster or advertisement), or a three-dimensional shape (such as a perfume bottle or package).

While she designs, she may drink green tea or soy lattes, or do some deep breathing, trying to stay calm while waiting for the computer to reboot, or the always-delayed meeting to start. From time to time she raises her head from the monitor to see if any of her co-workers are still around, even though it is 8:30 pm already, and if she is lucky, she doesn’t have to work on the weekends to meet the ever-tighter deadline. Nevertheless, she sometimes manages to step out for lunch and enjoy a quiet moment by herself on the eternally-crowded Fifth Avenue.

She continues to explore the spirit of design in its many guises, hoping that at least one of her clients or readers may understand her passion for and dedication to art and design. And what keeps her going is the thrill of seeing, some day in the future, shelves full of her perfume bottles, all identical and aligned like soldiers.


Eeny — Meeny — Miney — Mo 意尼 — 咪尼 — 蜜尼 — 眸

A happy hum from a Sami hunter.

意尼 — 咪尼 — 蜜尼 — 眸*


Going With The Flow 順其自然

On the rainy day I do nothing but watch the rain.




Being beautiful is more important than being meaningful.


I Am Not Deaf Yet. 我可還沒聾呢。

In Finnish Lakeland

I kept shouting:

Be quite, Mosquitoes!

I am not deaf yet.






The Yellow Humor 黃色的幽默

In Gjesver, a tiny fishing village in Norwegian Lapland,
I was walking down the pebbled path
and smelling the crisp clean air of the Arctic.

When my eye was caught and held by the yellow toilette,
an odd decoration object to the entrance of the yellow cabin,
I was tremendously amused by its humorous message.

An idea, no matter good or bad, is supposed to be fun!





Call Me Dotty. 叫我古怪。

The not typical fashion designer Sir Paul Smith doesn't like to mix with people working in the fashion industry. With the same mindset, I don’t enjoy going to any of the parties and private views, and pandering to the press all the time like a real typical fashion person does in New York.

I am not a hardcore hermit, but I hardly watch television (I just threw away my 15-year-old TV) and I don't read newspapers and magazines much. I am just the person who relishes the time of being one's true self, and finds it extremely exhilarating to be able to talk to cows, horses, and sheep as one's wish in the Swiss mountains.

When a city person like me feels at ease surrounded by the Swiss nature, every sensation of pleasure is enormously intensified, and several episodes from my hiking journeys have remained fresh in my memory.

A frequent and always wonderful sight was the astonishing number of cow that I passed on in the Jura mountains. They were usually in groups, often with babies alongside, and they never ceased to enthral me. I often amazed myself by the way I behaved when I was certain that there were no other human beings within fifty miles. All my inhabitation would suddenly disappear and I would walk cheerfully towards them shouting, "Hello, cows! Hello! Hello! How are you doing today?" The cows would tilt their heads very slightly with demure yet curious expressions but never ran away.

I could stay in cool lounges and hang out with fashion people–but I am more fascinated by having a joyful "conversation" with animals, that sorts of things that interest Sir Paul Smith, who refers his large brown cuddly monkey as 'the office manager' in his office.

I am often described as "dotty" by my friends in New York. But I take it as a compliment.


Back in Downtown New York! 再回紐約下城!

It is so good to be back to New York! Even though I have spent most of my time in Europe since last year, I embrace New York and see it as my dearly hometown.

Strolling down the streets, I noticed that there are at least ten retail stores are gone due to the downturn of economy in NoLita (North of Little Italy). Large "ON SALE" signs in different colors, shapes, and materials are posted on the windows of shops. The streets are crowded with beautiful people, but they seem to be enjoying the lovely summer breeze better than the fragrant air in fashion boutiques.

The recession is still lingering on. And the scent of recession to me is – beet.


Kandinsky in Color 多彩的康丁斯基

He smiled red when happy with excitement, of course.

And yellow, when at the Bauhaus, he completed his color theory
with new elements of form psychology.

Sometimes blue, when he used musical terms to designate his paintings.

Often cream white with a hint of pink, first thing in the morning.

Black, when the light was off.

Wassily Kandinsky always captures my imagination of colors.

*Poster design by Della Chuang


我﹣上﹣路﹣了! Off ... I ... Go!


1. 美國服裝品牌J. Crew出品的牛津學院風格的前開襟麻織襯衫:麻織襯衫愈皺愈有味道,配上一條剪裁合宜的牛仔褲便是最安全、最古典的休閒穿著。
2.巴黎著名的棉織品公司﹣小船(Petit Bateau)所設計的T恤:我是該公司產品的忠實粉絲。最愛穿設計給男孩用的圓領T恤。單穿、內搭、室內、室外,樣樣皆宜。
3.紐約服裝設計師譚燕玉(Vivienne Tam)的紗質尼龍長洋裝:譚燕玉愛用的尼龍織品不起皺紋、不佔空間。永不過時又帶點亞洲風格的洋裝可以隨時隨地派上任何用場。


My experience of hustle and bustle life in New York City has the effect of making me a prompt and ready traveler. My wants are few and simple, so that in less than the time stated I am in a cab with my luggage, rattling away to the airport of JFK, Zurich, or Helsinki.

Some of my friends are extremely curious about my tip of traveling light without compromising on style. Here is the contents of my luggage at a glance:

1. Oxford linen button down shirt by J. Crew: You can't go wrong with this classic style of shirt in any casual occasions.

2. T-shirt by Petit Bateau: I am a faithful fan of this Parisian cotton company. Short sleeve round neck tee for boy is my must-have to be worn outdoors as well as in.

3. Long mesh dress by Vivienne Tam: Tam's wrinkle-free mesh material doesn't take up too much space in my luggage, and her timeless dress with an Asian twist comes in handy in any different scenarios.

4. Bootleg Jeans by Notify: Classic cut with vintage wash is my favorite.

5. Leather flat sandals by Cydwoq: The high quality of the craftsmanship guarantees a good pair of walking and dress shoes at the same time.

6. Pack accessories that will offer some variety: The benefit with jewelry is that it doesn’t take up a great deal of room in your luggage and can be a great way to add some color to your travel wardrobe.

7. A mini travel cosmetic bag: I love bringing in sample sizes of soap, lotion, and perfume.

8. A multi-use scarf that will keep me warm on chilly flights. I can also wear it to the beach.

I've got my mini Cannon camera and Apple laptop at the ready. Off ... I ...Go!


你能說出多少的盎然綠意? How many shades of green can you name?



British Racing


How many shades of green can you name?

Last week as I strolled down the paths of the Swiss countryside, I sensed Nature exclusively gives plants their green color with a broad variety of shades in this mountainous country.

Everything is simply more green, the ferns and the trees and the ivy alike. I struggled to name the green while I perceived the nature surroundings in the soft spring sunlight, and wondered how many shades of green I can name?

British Racing


我會輕聲訴說我的愛 I would softly tell my love



秉持浪漫的態度當然不可能解決所有的問題,但是這樣的態度卻能振奮原動力及創意。就以土兒其作家Nazim Hikmet 為例,因政治立場與當局者不同而屢次遭拘捕的他(終其一生為共產黨員),即使進出監獄、流亡海外佔其成人歲月中的絕大部分,依舊悍衛浪漫的信仰,寄情寫詩從未間斷。




I believe in romanticism, and being a hopeless romantic is not a good thing or a bad thing – I may have my feet on the ground, but my soul fly somewhere over the rainbow.

A hopeless romantic is an idealist, and a sentimental dreamer. I like to dream of an actual world in which I can harbor my hopes. To me, those without hope in the real world are condemned to be alone.

A romantic attitude may not solve all our problems, but it is an excitement with motivation, and a pinch of creativity. Take the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet as an example. Although Hikmet was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs (he was a lifetime communist), he held romanticism up and continued his poetry writing under the stress of spending much of his adult life in prison or in exile.

I own a great deal to the romantic spirit of Hikmet. It is his poem I would softly tell my love that opened my eyes to the soul of writing. He makes me believe that even if there was only one reader paying the attention on my writing, I would continue to write with hope and, love.

Ladies and gentlemen, now I have Mr. Hikmet softly tell you his love:

If I was a plane tree I would rest in its shade
If I was a book
I’d read without being bored on sleepless nights
Pencil I would not want to be even between my own fingers
If I was door
I would open for the good and shut for the wicked
If I was window a wide-open window without curtains
I would bring the city into my room
If I was a word
I’d call out for the beautiful the just the true
If I was word
I would softly tell my love.


寂寞的氣味 Scent of Loneliness



不能在這麼晚的時間叨擾調香師友人Christophe Laudamiel。對於氣味有著熊熊熱情的他,鐵定會從床上跳下來,拿下筆紙準備與我挑燈夜談。於是我替自己倒了杯紅酒,靜坐獨酌。這時,寂寞的感覺,就像那一絲絲銀白的月光,蹣跚地滲透地包圍過來。慢慢在想,明天,他是不是就可出院回家了。



一期一會: 給我摯愛的讀者

雖然還沒看到我的新書「瓶裝記憶:京都之水」的最後成品(正由臺灣飛往芬蘭的路途中),但是摯愛的臺灣讀者, 我卻樂於暇想在翻書聲伴讀下的你,眼睛是如何好奇地隨它的文字遊移;鼻子又是如何小心翼翼地嗅聞它的京都氣味;當你的手指任意隨性地觸摸它的紋路時,臉部顯現出或驚喜,或感歎,或搐眉,或認同的表情。你知道嗎?由衷感謝你給我這個機會與你一起經驗一期一會的美妙以下節錄該書短文「一期一會」,也與我海外的讀者們共享:


「一期一會」這個概念由千利休提出,他是一位對日本茶道有深遠影響的禪宗和尚。 「一期一會」(按:一期一会)的意思是「一生一次的相遇」,這個字詞具體化了千利休的禪宗信仰──人們的相遇無法複製,所以不可褻瀆。「一期一會」的生活哲學態度是對人生的無常瞭然於胸。我也試著更加心懷感激,徹底盡情地活在當下,避免活得跟螞蟻一樣庸碌,忘記了人與人之間那誠懇真摯的互動。親愛的讀者,這也是我想要和你一起分享的。你知道螞蟻遇見同類時是怎麼「應對進退」的嗎?牠們會暫停,打招呼,再前進。日復一日。可是,我們是人,為什麼我們要遵從所謂的社會禮儀規範,循規蹈矩,墨守成規呢?



Ichigo, Ichie

I have a confession to make. I love to write this book in order to attract your attention. And by so doing, I hope to reach out to you and to let you into my mind. I have to admit that I am a concoction of signs – I long to be seen, but then I lose my nerve. However, I strive for the learning and experience of Ichigo Ichie, a concept from Rikyu Sen, a Zen Buddhist who had a profound influence on the Japanese tea ceremony.

Ichigo Ichie
(一期一会), meaning literally “one time, one encounter,” embodies Rikyu Sen’s ideal that each meeting between people is sacred, for it can never be reproduced. Here is what I want to share with you: the mindset of Ichigo Ichie appreciates that life is impermanent. As a result, I am trying to be more grateful, trying to live more fully in the present moment, and trying to have real human interactions instead of acting like an ant! You know how ants act when they meet comrade they stop, say hello, and continue for the day. But we are human. Why do we have to live strictly by the rules that we have acquired through social constructs – to adhere to and to follow?

Each gesture, each word, and each eye contact of a human being serves to frame the sacredness of the other and the extraordinary gift of now. And if we understand that every encounter may be the last, we won’t miss the chance.

I believe in Ichigo Ichie, and I think it is lovely that I am not only aware of my own existence but also of yours. Thus, I would like to open up and share who I am with you – Hello! What have you been up to?


The Graphics of Finland IIII: I Simply Know 芬蘭的圖像之四: 我就是曉得...

As the neuroscientist Steven Quartz at the California Institute of Technology says, “Our brain is computing value at every fraction of a second. Everything that we look at, we form an implicit preference”.

We see and evaluate everything in our surrounding, and eventually we establish the aesthetics of our own.

Therefore, I don’t have to decide if this image is beautiful. I simply know.


The Graphics of Finland III: Think of The American Artist Ed Ruscha 芬蘭的圖像之三

I am a designer, who photographs a bit.

I like to stroll down on the side-streets of everyday searching for the awareness of real life. I take things as I find them.

In this photo, the industrial complexes reminds me of Ed Ruscha, the American artist who is well-known for his strongly graphic work, such as the most iconic of American typographic expressions, the landmark, and once-temporary-now-permanent HOLLYWOOD sign that symbolizes his hometown to the rest of world.

Of course, there is no trace showing Ruscha's trademarked Americanism message in this photo. But on my first glance of this Finnish landscape, the faceless buildings, the endless gray sky, the flock of crows, the energy towers, and the smoky chimneys stand for anonymity, in the tradition of Ed Ruscha's "neuter gender" Black & White photography created between 1961 and 2001.

Like Ruscha's work, this photo is not something pregnant with meaning, but rather a documentary of my Finnish experience in a visionary manner.


The Graphics of Finland II: The "Green" Sled Design 芬蘭的圖像之二

I love fashion design but I am not a fashionista. I am not here to talk about the season's must-have "green" fashion product out of a brand strategy. We have seen so many sustainable products from bag to shoes to clothes and on and on, emerging from fashion companies jumping on a savvy marketing opportunity. Here, I am just pleased to share a simply wonderful green (sustainable) design with you.

On an icy afternoon in March, I passed Cafe Regatta where I often take my afternoon break. I was heartened when I saw this salvational type of sled dutifully standing by for passengers on the snow. From an aesthetic point of view, this sled is far from a true design sensibility, and is too much
of hippie-ness and naive. We all know that no matter how "green" this red sled design is – will not really help combat global warming or reduce our collective carbon footprint. But it was delightful to see that the manner of the builder was paying attention to a simple design with the existing materials from the surrounding. Things with contrast messages always attract me. Take this sled as an example: The red color reveals a green concept; the not-so-cool design warms your heart and makes you smile. After all, a good design doesn't have to come from a big concept.

According to the report from New York Times: some 2,670 new green products were introduced in 2006; the number has almost doubled since then. But the reality is that – most people say they want to do the right thing when making purchasing decisions but not ALL people actually do.
However, I think the idea of simply creating more greener products is a good starting point. And the more of us out there doing, the better.

The Graphics of Finland I: Cherries On The Ice 芬蘭的圖像之一

In Alain de Botton's book, The Architecture of Happiness, he mentioned about the French abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux traveled all the way around Lake Geneva without noticing the beautiful lake was even there. I still can remember how astonished I was when I first read it – Alas, St. Bernard.

As a graphic designer, I truly feel sorry for St. Bernard's determined efforts to scorn visual experience. Nature is divine, and I believe we always can find something more in nature than in books or galleries. Perhaps sensing that Nature is the best creative resource, and that walking has made me discover some significance about myself – I take a walk, rain or shine. Even under the harsh winter climate of Finland, I am bundled-up and march on the snow.

There is no shortage of ideas from Nature in any seasons. One day, while I was walking along the Baltic Sea under the weather of -7°C, my eye got caught by some delicious "cherries" sitting on the top of ice (in fact, they are buoys). I stopped and suddenly realized that I was exploring the discovery of visual analogy: "cherries on the ice" versus "buoys on the water".

Ideas come from anytime and anywhere. I was intrigued by the graphic landscape I saw that day and decided to work on a series of photography project to portrait Finland.


Are You At Home or Somewhere Else? 你在家還是在外頭?

"How Are You?" vs. "Where Are You?"

Since I have been known as a nomad in my circle of friends, I have noticed that most of the messages from my cell phone usually begin with "Where are you?" instead of "How are you?". Frankly, I have no problem with my dear friends being so getting-to-the-point with me, but I found it amusing that modern cell phones have affected our social exchanges. Just like what
the American scientist Steven Pinker claims: "We make tools, and as we evolved, our tools make us".

Giving a choice between ideology and cool design , I usually surrender to the first. The substantial, stocky form of home phones (especially from the 60s) exude a sense of mystery, and offer an unexpected experience. But the light, ever-smaller design of cell phones allow people to be connected when they do not wish to be.

Regardless of how "being connected" has become essential to our idea of lifestyle comfort, we all know that the future is not necessarily better. To me, life would be very dull indeed without mysterious, and what would be left to strive for if everything were known?



The Memories of Kyoto 京都的回憶


In the hot Kyoto afternoon,
the old puppeteer with his puppet
and the audience
reflected so much of the history and charm
of this thousand-year-old city.


The Memories of Kyoto 京都的回憶


Nothing was moving
but the scent of kimono
and the shutter of my Canon.



The Memories of Kyoto 京都的回憶


The ancient temples and famous garden
may define the rarefied soul of the old capital,
but the dark façades of machiya
are the marrow of its bones.

Scented Memory





Scented Memory
I loved it when he picked a big red camellia for me from the garden, and when he played Taiwanese or Japanese folk songs from the old record player. I loved it when he took me out for a bicycle ride, and when he hand-made winding toys for me from mango seeds. I loved it when he bought me fresh resin buns to stop me crying after a doctor’s visit, and I loved to sit on his lap to listen to his conversation with his friends. When I was a little girl, I loved to ask for a horseback ride or to lie down next to him, to smell his smell, and to touch his waxed black hair.

But what I loved most was sitting by his side and watching with heartfelt admiration as he was writing Chinese calligraphy with a brush. On many a late afternoon, as he sat on the tatami and practiced calligraphy on a low desk, I would grind an ink stick on a grinding stone to prepare ink for him. Each time he filled one sheet of rice paper, I would move the sheet and place a new one in front of him right away. Together we made a good team, and being so close to him, even the peculiar smell of the ink made me happy.

Years later, on a balmy evening on the deck of a restaurant in Kyoto, I was having a drink and gazing at the full moon and the stars. The beautiful calligraphy on the label of the sake bottle caught my eye, and suddenly I smelled the longing. And that first stab of longing came with the scent of my father’s writing.

For the first eight years of my life, we shared many wonderful moments. I loved him dearly, and nothing brings back these moments like my scented memories of our happiness.


Imaginary Memory

I have three kinds of memories: A. Those that I can’t remember well. B. Those that I can remember and that actually happened. C. Those that I can remember despite them never happening. Example of A: I don’t remember when I made my first step. I can’t remember which sock I put on first when I got up in the morning. Example of B: I remember the first kiss from the boy I loved. I don’t like to remember how I broke up with him. Example of C: I like to visualize people as apes when they are deliberately unpleasant to me, and I imagine them as having fallen behind in the process of human evolution. Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest movie directors of the 20th century, exploited imaginary memory to the extreme when he made his most famous and influential film–2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1968, when he was asked to comment on the metaphysical significance of the movie, he replied: "It's not a message I ever intended to convey in words. 2001 is a nonverbal experience.... I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content." Artistically, this movie proved pioneering and inspired many of the special effects-driven films, which were to follow the success of 2001. During the working process of this film, manufacturing companies were consulted about the design of both special-purpose and everyday objects in the future. His co-author, science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, even predicted that a generation of engineers would design real spacecraft based upon 2001 "even if it isn't the best way to do it". Kubrick’s imaginary memory brings to life the creative process of his filmmaking and continues to fascinate contemporary audiences and critics. The famous Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw says, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’ “ Sometimes, questions are more important than answers, especially for the creative mind.