once upon a time (part two)

part2
(and i’m back with more blabbles… read part 1)

so upon graduation, i came back home to hk and landed my first full time graphic designer job in the corporate commercial world. then reality hits – let alone the world, i couldn’t even save myself. my best ideas were always the ones that got trashed first. from the glowing edge that i was told to implement for “shelf impact”, to the purple script type the client insisted on using. i was sick to the stomach. i got all confused and told myself that i was there to solve “business problems”. i couldn’t tell good designs from bad anymore. down i fell into a black hole of self-doubt, avoiding design bookstores and waiting for my monthly tiny paychecks. the same went on for a year and a half, i forgot about my little portfolio packet, forgot what it was like to genuinely like the work i create.

and then one day, by God’s grace, i got a call from my absolute favorite designer in town about an opening and bam! i went from slaving my days at a commercial firm to breathing design again with amazing coworkers that i look up to. stuff i appreciated, my boss would too. i genuinely trusted his taste that anything that went thru him, i knew it’d come out better. work became fun (and much easier!) again. oh how i cherish those days with him sitting and watching over my shoulders trying 598 different kernings and 37 typefaces to figure out that the first pick was the perfect solution. i watched him still being the art director, though clients may have been the kings and queens with all these “orders”, he would know when to give in while still making the best out of it. and my inspiring coworkers, that gave the most selfless critique and encouragement, and spent countless sleepless night together in the trenches of page layout and typesetting, became dear friends. and there i was, back on track.

now i’m on my own and may have moved away from the mainstream corporate world, but every wedding set is to me a serious branding project that makes solid marks on people’s lives. i truly love every single project that leaves my studio to help change the world in their tiniest way, for that i am just so grateful. nevertheless, after all these years, i would still start every project with fear and trembling, of the unknown and possible failure, and yet this is exactly why i’m still in it – addicted to the moments when the new and unpredictable surprises me, gives me the chills, satisfies and lifts my spirits.

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a hong kong love story

Make peace.

it’s been some very long dreadful nights for our city of hk. with this spinning head and restless brain that i’m sharing with everyone in town, and being a bad sleeper myself, it’s been all the more difficult to get back to sleep in the middle of the night. for the past year, thanks to my information addict husband, i’ve been flooded with stories and insights left and right and sorta forced to hear all sorts of political happenings, media injustice, public outrage and grudges, a dysfunctional government, political scandals… some quite entertaining at times. all this time i had remained an observer lounging in our comfortable home in this seemingly stable city. then bang, it all exploded on one sunday, and with all my fellow hk people, we’ve come face to face against the full force of every inconvenience, injustice, dishonesty and conflict that’s been bottled up.

as it unfolds, we’re immediately flooded by a sea of different opinions. our youngsters occupying central with style and dignity for their hopes and dreams, with their democratic ideals in various forms and expectations; our officers in their different duty roles, struggling hard with the toughest mental and physical tensions; and the rest, the “silent majority”, who prefer to play it safe and take things slow. all of us cling to the same hope for a better city; all of us equally amazing hong kongers that love our one and only home, that we belong to and belongs to us, with tenderly love.

yet we are all weak, blinded by each of our own wills and emotions, we often fail at letting our true good come thru. impulsive violence, self-centeredness, insensitivity towards consequences, cynicism, extreme criticism and unfair judgments, lack of empathy… with our limitations, we are equally weak and failing.

but who are we fighting for? a better city? democracy itself? or our individual perception and understanding of democracy? freedom? and who are we fighting against? our dysfunctional government – the disposable bridge to mainland? or the oh so gigantic dictator so called “grandpa”? or rather the international conspiracy against our country? or maybe just simply, something is not right, we need to face it and fix it?

and i put these together, plain and simple. yellow and blue ribbons, formed and real, pinned together, sacrificial and brave. held together tight onto a disguised hard rock of white concrete foundation, firm and stable. under bright natural light, shadows form under the constant intertwining of light and darkness. it’s a real picture composed without any photoshop miracle. and it’s beautiful.

we are one very unique city with the captivating night. we are the pearl of the east. our grandparents built a good foundation for us with their own bare hands, we’ve gone thru prosperous yet orphaned colonial times, we’ve reunited with a not so familiar motherland. we continue to struggle with this “dad” that we’ve longed for, yet we can’t feel the same connection and belonging as the rest of the world would for their nations. we don’t resonate to our national anthem as much as to “獅子山下”, or even “海闊天空” that makes better portrait of our city’s rootlessness and wild dreams yearning for a safe haven.

pulling all nighters out on the street, or suffering and hurting for or against protests, or jail time and public ridicule, or making judgements on what is and what not, or building theories to help solve the problem. all are worthy and good, but it is not enough. our city needs peace, not harmony our grandparents seek, but a radical peace. our city needs people to fight for our dreams, proud and united, to play each one’s unique role in this powerful symphony that will rock the world.

make peace, together we walk on.

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a little love story: jena and yves

jenayves1jenayves2jenayves3jenayves4jenayves5jenayves6it’s been some long dreadful hot gloomy rainy weeks in hong kong, and so here i am checking in with this breezy summery set i did a while back for the lovely jena!

oh jena, exactly the kind of beauty that walked straight off some fancy fashion editorial, so being barely 5’2″ myself… intimidated? ah maybe a little bit, but she also brought along her laidback californian breeze with the most generous and genuine of smiles which made our first meeting and everything onwards mega enjoyable! jena came in with quite clear a vision of what she wanted, the brief was clear: wedding in cali (where home is) with big sur and the ocean being the perfect backdrop, foral, hydrangea, dusty pastel palette, art deco (and that has nothing to do with the great gatsby heat wave), rustic, elegant, classy, feminine. but she also allowed me to have as much creative freedom as a designer would love when it comes to creating the set. she was the precious kind that trusted me enough to adore mostly everything i built for her! never a debate on my choice of typefaces nor graphic decisions and of course staying on schedule no matter how much travelling she’s been doing! we started with some sweet bridesmaids invitations and measurement cards for prepping the perfect bridesmaid attire, then we moved on to a save the date bookmark, the main invitation set hinting at the beautiful wedding venue. and with jena being on top of things, we were also able to echo out our set with her actual wedding flowers and decor!

jena, you’ve truly been a designer’s dream bride to create stationery for, i wish for the best in everything you and yves do as you embark on a new journey! and by the way the humid hot summer here will soon be gone and we’ll be enjoying some autumn breeze soon :) (nay, both of us aren’t a fan of the heat!)

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once upon a time (part one)

i was the typical mediocre good-at-nothing-but-drawing girl in class and grew up trying to fit in by helping with people’s art assignments. sunday afternoons were spent doodling away at the tennis courts as my parents played their games. whenever i got in trouble, mum would threaten to cut my drawing class or confiscate my fancy 36-color set of Faber-Castell color pencils. (oh my precious! my heart still jumps at the sound of closing tin clasps) we figured i wasn’t going to survive the HK schooling system so i went to a boarding school in Canada where art finally became a serious school subject. i did what’s needed to get a pass in every other subject and spent countless guilt-free hours in the art studio. with a college application portfolio complete with 3 years worth of high school artwork (in 35mm slides!!), i got my ticket to art school – yay! i made it! or so i thought.

along the way, graphic design came about and typical of chinese parents -“drawing and painting won’t bring the bread (or rice) to the table” so perfectly, graphic design was the way to go. in the beginning i struggled with computer and technology – crashes, corrupted files and unfriendly printers had me sobbing at a night’s work gone to waste. worse, i mourned the loss of self-expression and drawing with my own hands. but soon grid systems, Josef Müller-Brockmann, swiss, typography, helvetica and Paul Rand brought me to fall in love with graphic design. turned out, graphic design was still all about self expression, just not my own. sleepless nights spent trying to come up with “cool” solutions for our imaginary clients, spare days interning to get real and fancy (by that i mean merely making mock-ups for real graphic designers..) upon the end of 4 years of education, i mailed off little hand-mounted folder booklets to my favourite designers. each booklet enclosed with individual cards of my design work, happy with every piece that went in it. i was ready to save the world with graphic design.

to be continued…

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*the little hand-mounted booklet

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a little love story: jerry 100

jerry100_1jerry100_2jerry100_3i’ve been waiting, and the day had finally come! jerry my little one is finally sleeping through the night (at his 7th month!) and life is getting a little bit easier. we could get a block of 11 hours of sleep if we were to skip dinner and go straight to bed – but of course, we refuse to get in bed till midnight. i simply cannot get enough of my sans jerry time: take-out shanghainese food from my favorite joint, dinner on the couch to go with the occasional movie…life is good!

jerry used to be so tiny, i can’t remember how he’d turned into what he is now. he used to occupy our bed with his stretched-out (yet below-average-short short) arms and stayed just like that throughout the night – now he sleeps in his own bed in his own room rolling around like a dreamy kung fu master. he used to enjoy laying down on his changing table for a fresh wipe while peeing at his own face – now the changing table’s become his least favorite place, because the big boy needs to sit up at all times so he won’t miss any chance to grab and chew on the closest thing around.

so as chinese tradition goes, 5 months ago, we put together a 100-day party for jerry and i made an invitation for the occasion. jerry’s chinese name means “waiting on sunrise” – inspired by the life of jeremiah the prophet.

stand firm to what life throws at you, my little jerry boy, and stay forever hopeful that sunrise will come, and the bright rising sun shall shine upon all!

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a little love story: a new chapter

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as how it always begins – sorry for disappearing from the face of the earth! at least that’s what it seemed like, i know! part of it was we’ve been working on our biggest in house project by far and the cat is finally out of the bag! ta-da! welcome to our newly renovated home – www.alittlelovestory.com (i can still smell the paint!)

we’ve sort of rebranded ourselves – less girly, more sure and sound, as i graduated from being that kiddo into being a wife and recently, a mother. the website and rebranding has marked the beginning of a new season, it’s given us some fresh air to venture onwards, and whatever it brings, i’m excited. the new website took us almost a year to put together, all those nights we stole from in between projects (and feeding the little one), and avery’s hardcore coding in the middle of the night. (yes, avery hand-coded everything all the way from scratch. yep he’s amazing.) i hope you enjoy all the little details and everything in between.

it’s time to sit back and phew…! to remember each and every little stories we’ve taken part in, we’re so blessed. thank you for the amazing year! looking forward to the next chapter of a little love story.

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a little love story: chloe and jason

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the sky is finally bright and blue and the sun joyfully out, the day is intensely hot and work is graciously slowing down a bit – oh my happy day to sit by the window in the luxury of some mild air-conditioning, a cup of caffeine, catching up on some avery time – it’s time to reconnect with the world with some lovely work and gratitude for all the great people i met over some very busy months!

i first met the lovely chloe and jason at a starbucks – was busy setting up my humble office space back then and was in the midst of figuring out what the new season would bring… so there i was, a bag of chaos and blah. the couple came in right when i was munching on my lunch salad, i looked up and was brightened up by chloe’s shy yet cheerful smile and those huge black and blinky shinny eyes, so hooked on her that i totally missed jason (oops!)  yet it was jason who started the excitement and did all the talking! it’s rare to have a groom getting all excited and giving a full go on wedding stationeries, and the talking and sunny enthusiasm brought me into their story and relationship… that was how we started, as they happily unfolded their story to me, with their hands held the whole time, patiently watching me finish up my bite :)

they have a thing for african fields and safaris, the raw and the pure out there in the world; also big fans of “up” the pixar movie! (me tooooo!), possessing a love for adventure and a passion to see the world. their childlikeness and idealism seeps out like sunshine between and around them.

it’s been awesome meeting these clingy lovebirds – i wish you two the best in the days to come as you build your house-with-hot-air-balloons together and set out on your very own adventure to see the world and shine!

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a little love story: connie and hiram

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“once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.”

we’re very well into the new year, is it just me or does anyone feel surreal living in the 2013? it’s just getting all the more numerically futuristic and we’re not too far from where doraemon’s (or ding dong, the cat robot from 22nd century) from, avery just shut down the mysterious find my friends app. (that explains my weak iphone battery.) i find it funny too on how avery gets to play nba2k vid games with his friend across the sea. a very nobita-gets-grounded-totally-doomed-but-still-gets-to-play-kinda thing. seriously, i can just sit here and feel funny looking around and absorbing the fairy tale we are living now.

another fairy tale started with my first encounter with connie about a year ago, a mute back then! (she just had surgery on her throat and had to refrain from speaking, but she could’t stop talking in our second meeting) she eagerly scribbled on paper and unfolded her story for me…

hiram, her creative boyfriend of ten solid years, crafted the perfect moment – in a horse carriage trotting through the city streets of Paris – to pop the question with the wedding ring. after the save-the-date bookmarks, we worked out a tri-fold invitation tied with a flannel ribbon. and connie is not just a do-it-all kinda girl, she’s more like the do-it-EVERYTHING kind of girl! she handcrafted a yellow-page-thick guest book, set up an sensational display of her journey with hiram in glass box display style, a candy corner with hand-picked treats, a garden of individual budding plants for guests to take home with. she also fed me when i was home alone, was both hands and feet on with my first wedding fair, came to eat with me at printer runs, cheered me up with her occasional treats… this girl deserves another 12 hours from doraemon each day.

congrats connie, and thank you for giving me a designer’s fairy tale!

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a christmas story…

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so, we mailed out a bunch of Christmas cards this year, just like how it was done back then.

back when i was younger, very young, my mom used to set up cotton strings across our faux fireplace for all the Christmas cards we received, i’d very carefully hang each new card up according to colors, papers, sizes, different santas… and each day would be different, i’d take them all down and rearrange them in a new way each day, counting as i went, i think once it’d gone up to a hundred something cards! (well maybe i lied about the number, i don’t remember but there were A LOT… and well yes i used to be a lonely single child. haha) Christmas cards in the mail was stirringly exciting, i used to anticipate Christmas like that.

this year, i got to print my own christmas card in my kind of christmas kinda way. and it was one of the secret little missions we did with Letuspress a while ago.

Silver on royal purple – i think back to the day when a king was born to us, quietly and gently, in a humble manger under a shining star in the lonely sky. Christmas – a little love story of the One who loves us so much that He jumped across to be with us. quietly and gently…

Wish you all had a warm and cosy Christmas, wherever you are, with family and friends, remembering that once upon a time, a little love story…

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a letterpress love story

Letterpress is THE printing method for over five centuries until offset printing came about and put letterpress into a retirement home for grannies. Don’t worry though, letterpress has made a successful comeback in recent years with a boom of letterpress shops popping up here and there as well as a community of dedicated hobbyists to keep it alive and well.

Do not think that letterpress is as simple as just pressing a plate on paper. It is no easy task. Glory has told of a semester spent learning the letterpress method but still could not produce a decent piece of letterpress printout. In addition to operating the machine, there are the typesetting, the adjustment of the [real and actual!] leading, working out the ink saturation, the pressure of the press, the registration of the paper, the maintenance of the each and every piece of hardware. One must become the machine’s absolute best friend in order to produce decent work.

We’ve recently found this local letterpress shop aptly named “Letuspress“. Thompson, the owner of the shop, is a true craftsman and is surrounded by them – the mother is a florist and painter, the girlfriend an established hand bookbinder, and the man himself a carpenter, photographer, handyman, and of course proud owner of a range of letterpress machines. We were ushered into his workshop of his “precious” – the Original Heidelberg. We just could not take our eyes off its exquisite gears, the vintage metal knobs and buttons, and the sign “Original Heidelberg” high and proud above the machine (which acts the safety switch for the machine).

Thompson has made our artworks into polymer plates of the exact mirror image. After filling the rollers with ink, some fine-tuning of the plate position, and lastly the pressure the press – there the Heidelberg goes. Graceful is the only right word to describe its work. The suction of a single sheet of paper, the turn of the “windmill” arms shuffling the paper to the press, the delicate and exact weight of the plate pressed on the paper, the resulting stack of grace with the perfectly debossed depth and the aroma of fresh ink – it’s the feeling you get when you pick up a freshly baked loaf of bread from the oven. This – is one of those moments when you can’t help but marvel at the elegant combination of paper and ink.

Thank you Thompson for bringing us up close and personal with the artform called letterpress. We just can’t wait to create lovely paper stationery for this revived classic printing method.

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