cait +tiff

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C / Make Bad Art


Last week, I started painting. I haven’t painted in a long time, not since fashion school a few years ago, and it was fun to get paint all over myself and spend the afternoon creating things. I now feel the intense need to invest in overalls. (Okay, more overalls.)

I remember painting with my grandma in Wisconsin, when I was probably 12. She was a wonderful painter, mostly did landscape stuff, and would work only with watercolors. I wanted to learn how to do it, so she set up a little table for me next to hers, and showed me how to paint a birch tree.

I didn’t want to paint a birch tree, I had absolutely no interest in a birch tree. I wanted to paint something big and exciting and I wanted it to be easy and I wanted to be the best at it. (I was not the most reasonable child.) But she was in charge, as she always was, and we were going to paint a goddamn birch tree.

So we painted trees, mine was crap and hers was lovely and elegant. I decided that painting wasn’t going to be my thing, because I wasn’t good at it, and I didn’t take an art class again until I was 32. (Note: this sounds like my grandmother turned me off from art, and it was certainly not that, it was my own weird perfectionism and impatience that did that.)

Anyway, I ended up painting three days in a row last week, and it was nice. I like physically doing it, mixing and messing around with colors and somehow always getting it in my hair, which just makes no sense at all. The stuff I make is BAD, it is not good, it is not pretty, it’s not even interesting, and it doesn’t mean anything. I mean, I painted my jeans on Saturday, and they we lopsided. I painted something that sort of looked like bamboo, but if bamboo feel into a motel art competition in the early 80’s. The best thing I did all week was when I wet an entire page of water color paper with water and dripped color onto with no creative direction at all.

The freeing thing about it, is that I am not trying to get better at it. I like doing it, and I feel like I rarely get to just do something without the intention of improving, and somehow winning at that thing. This might be an American thing, we are always trying to be the best at stuff and unproductive time is seen as wasted. But I am slowly starting to see the benefits of doing something poorly, like making bad art.

So here are photos of my non-precious, total garbage paintings. I will probably recycle them, because they will contribute more to the world that way, which is fine with me.

all the bad art.jpg



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T / ladies drawing brunch

ladies-drawing-brunch-headerSo last week, Rhiannon and I were chatting.  Specifically about how we both needed to draw more. And further, that we should draw together. And that we should invite other creative ladies in our lives to join us.  We wound up with two pros (Rhiannon and crazy talented visiting Nat) and a wonderful group of incredibly creative lady friends (including singers!).  Under the shade of the very hospitable Rambutan’s Phnom Penh Resort on a bright and cool Sunday in the city, we ordered tasty things, delicious leftover birthday cake was had, all pastels and coloured pencils came out.  And most importantly, we planned for future crafternoons. It was really the perfect thing.

ladies-drawing-brunch-tiff1ladies-drawing-brunch-tiff2I’m naturally easily distracted. Especially if I have a new toy with me.  So I was more than eager to shoot all the creating that was happening around me.

This afternoon was inspired by Leah Reena Goren’s new book, Ladies’ Drawing Night.  I’m a huge fan of her work.  Alongside fellow illustrators, Julia Rothman and Rachael ColeI love their push for this collaborative creativity.  We brought together a bunch of beautiful women, some of our dearest friends, some of whom had never met each other.  I was bursting with excitement watching new friendships form and hearing a desire for more events like these to happen. (Because I tend to be that creepy fly on the wall).  To be in this company of women?  Epic.

Rhiannon lead the session with timed drawing exercises surrounding a theme.  Your crazy uncle!  High heels!  Feet! The person sitting across from you! You have 3 minutes! Go!!  Check out what Rhiannon can do in that tiny speck of time.  Tiffany Tsang

Tiffany TsangWherever you are, I definitely recommend grabbing a bunch of your buddies, and spending a few hours letting your creative freak flag fly and discovering a side that doesn’t typically come out over just a glass of wine.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use. Cait + Tiff are not liable for any pastel-related clothing stains.

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T / it’s not another retirement

Photo Credit: Don Hong-Oai

Photo Credit: Don Hong-Oai

*Warning – there’s so much acknowledged privileged whining here.

When I left global public health consulting and a more traditional way of earning an income to live life as a millennial stereotype at the brink of 30, I joked and called it “early retirement.”  I was going to get to pursue creative things, mostly photography, full time.  And pepper this time with short tiny consulting opportunities here and there to make sure I could maintain things until things could take off.  These tiny little projects sometimes took me to cool places, or they let me do things wherever I wanted. Or they were the coolest little opportunities to get some concrete experience doing communications work.

But then I got offered a desk job.  That’s right, a full time desk job that would bring me back to my pre-retirement life.  And I couldn’t say no.  There were toys that I needed to buy, a Cait I needed to go visit in April.  And savings! I’m not necessarily a high maintenance kind of girl, but I apparently like expensive toys and far flung places (like LA, right?).

Nonetheless, I had to come to terms with returning to an industry I had made the decision to leave.  It’s not like I haven’t had these feelings before. Was it the end of the world? No. It’s an opportunity.  I’m coming to this new job a couple of years wiser.  I’ve shifted passions, but I can still be good at what I do at work.  Except with a little more distance this time.  And it’s not like I’m selling my soul here.  I am not throwing in the towel here.

I love this quote from Amanda Kohr and her profile on She Explores.

Words by Amanda Kohr, via She Explores.

Words by Amanda Kohr, via She Explores.

And I am epically inspired by this new theme song to my life.  For at least this contract.

I’m looking forward to going full throttle with the clients I can still make time for (weekends and evenings!), going bigger and bolder with projects, and all the toys! So many toys.  And the places!  I like barriers because they’ve always pushed me harder.

So I have to spend eight hours a day in something that doesn’t necessarily feed my soul, but lets me do more things that will help feed my soul instead. And eventually that golden needle of a YES will show up. I’m so excited.  (Except for the fact that I lost my beloved afternoon nap).

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C / dream weaver

Maybe it’s the slightly cool air, the thought of October in America, or the fact that you buy buy “pumpkin spice” ANYTHING, but I am feeling cozy right now. I’m in DC for about 20 minutes and heading back to Tucson, and am all curled up in a sweater at the airport.

For those of you who do not live in tropical climates, this is probably uninteresting, and at best, borderline boring. That’s fine, you’re excused. For the Cambodia/Myanmar/Thailand kids, OHMYGODYOUGUYSSSSSSS. Yesterday, it was straight up crisp after dinner, and I had to pull my sweater sleeves over my hands. Most other people were dressed in t-shirts and shorts, but they all probably died of hypothermia last night.

Anyway. I got into thinking about wooly, cozy, sweater-y things last night and decided that I need to learn how to weave. I have never weaved, unless you count friendship bracelets in Girls Scouts and the sweet hemp necklaces that me and my freshman year roomie made in 2001. (HI THEA!) My aunt is an incredible weaver and I had the priviledge of drooling over her loom when I was in Cape Cod a few days ago.* Her stuff is gorgeous and she does it to relax. I will do it, almost certainly, to become frustrated, threaten to quit, pout, and probably hurt myself, but I’m excited . I looked up weaving classes in Los Angeles, and lo and behold, the universe provides. Next Thursday night, Makers Mess is hosting a Weaving for Beginners class with Kellee, and I already have a world of faith in her. Two “L’s” and two “E’s”? I trust her.

Until then, I will be filling my life with photos of things I want to wrap myself in. Like this.


Have a cozy night.


*I love everything about this sentence.

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T / fave photo apps

Apps-HeaderLet’s face it, the visuals that I put out there on social media could be a little more consistent. It’s what every workshop will tell you.  Build a consistent look and the followers will come.  But really, I just love playing around.  With everything.  There is never a moment where I’m not post processing a photo on my phone before it gets uploaded onto the web.  I usually direct and compose photos with the intent of processing it with a particular app after.  And I get asked, a bunch, about what apps I use to do this.  So I thought I’d share my little trove of tools that I’ve got neatly packaged in a folder on my iPhone (also because I’ve re-learned that I’m a hyper ENFJ).




Hands down, my new favourite app this year. From the ladies behind A Beautiful Mess comes A Color Story, the best thing since dumplings.  In addition to the minimalist and colour worthy filters they’ve got you can also play with effects like this colour fog I’ve got descending on this Phnom Penh market scene.  And if you follow our Instagram, you’ll probably notice that I’ve been playing with light flare.  A LOT.  And I still need to jump on the bokeh bandwagon.

A-Colour-Story---FlowersAnd it’s not just for the photos you take on your phone!  I’ve been transferring the photos I take on my Canon 6D directly to my phone so I can share them with you, stat.  This allows me to throw them quickly through A Color Story, make some rock star adjustments and light play like I did with my buddy Adam, last night.  And up onto social media they go within as little as 5 minutes. A-Colour-Story---Rocker



I heart a good collage.  And while Instagram’s got Layout, I dig how FrameMagic allows me to border photos in a frame of whatever margin size I like, play with adjustments and filters, and in general make life so easy.  I took these photos when I was front row at Dengue Fever’s last concert in Phnom Penh.  Those colours are the product of their epic show! No editing needed on my phone!


Boomerang vs. DSCO! from Tiffany Tsang on Vimeo.

You know I like a good GIF.  And now I can make them effortlessly on my phone!  Over the past month, I’ve been experimenting with Instagram’s Boomerang and VSCO’s DSCO. My library is filled with Crossfit videos so far (just because gymnastics as GIFs are so fun).  These apps were just released in the past year and have their own unique capabilities.  While both allow you to upload to Instagram which will play the GIFs as videos in a never ending loop, Boomerang exports the videos as 8 second videos while DSCO does it for 5 seconds.  Processing times are also a bit different.  DSCO requires you to upload to your VSCO library first, while Boomerang operates at the speed of light.  Save that GIF video (GIdeo?) file, and upload it later.  Filtering and editing options are also a bit different.  DSCO comes with a package of VSCO’s super minimal hipster chic filters, while Boomerang only allows for editing later on using Instagram’s embedded features.  I still use both (much to the chagrin of my iPhone battery), but you can definitely change it up according to whatever you need.

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T / calm, cool, classic, collected

I’m still so excited it’s the new year, and I hope this feeling doesn’t ever go away. Even in August.  And one of the great things about the new year is identifying a certain style, a feeling…that je ne sais quoi that you want to uphold is most aspects of life throughout the year.

And in the past couple of days, I managed to identify it.  It all came from a song.  I’ve always been a fan of Phoenix, but composer Roger Neill’s orchestral re-interpretation of their hit, Lizstomania, really sealed the deal.  Equal parts dreamy and cinematic, with crescendos at the right moments and a general joie de vivre that doesn’t let the little things blow up.  I’ve had this on repeat for the last few days, and paired with a visit from an equally calm, cool, classic friend from France, I knew how I wanted to be this year.

And everything I’m digging seems to swirl around this feeling.  From the clean and quiet designs of Palmona Wool; and that general, quiet but still loud aesthetic of pairing a black turtleneck with a loud geometric pattern.

Photo Credit: Paloma Wool (right) and Sandra Semburg (left)

Photo Credit: Paloma Wool (right) and Sandra Semburg (left)

Alex Steinweiss is having a big year with this aesthetic going into full bloom. Except he’s been dead for four years.  Steinweiss is the graphic designer behind iconic album covers through the 1930s-1970s (see below).  He also attended the Parsons School of Design when it was just a baby.  And he’s having a big stamp on how things look this year.  Check out the opening titles for Master of None and Mozart in the Jungle (also below).  They both have his minimalist cum maximalist stamp on things; with a pinch of 1960s nostalgia that was heavy in the films of Anouk Aimée.  I love this theme of mixing the quiet with the loud.  And those fonts!  I can’t wait to see what I make in and of 2016.

Artwork Credit: Alex Steinweiss

Artwork Credit: Alex Steinweiss

Mozart In The Jungle Season 2 Opening Titles (All Episodes) from CHIPS on Vimeo.

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C / super famous pop stars (and me)


One of my favorite people in this city is Laura Mam. She was raised in California, says “hella” a lot. She moved to Cambodia a few years ago, where her family is from, but was forced to flee from the horrible garbage war 30-ish years ago. She is a crazy talented singer, and she is opening for Jessie J in Phnom Penh tomorrow night. She’s kind of a big deal.

Because she is a wonderful friend, she asked me to make her clothes for the show. I have been working on the looks for about a month, and finishing up the details this week. Buy that, of course I mean that a lot of things went wrong. I changed the design twice, I had to get mad and a little bit mean, and the week has been total stress-fest. The final touches for the looks are going on today, and I will be happy to see the back of it. But really, the actual back of it because that is where the cool details are.

I woke up this morning at 3:30 thinking about the neckline of one of the tops, and I have looked at the pieces so many times that I actually don’t know if I even like them anymore. So have been up for a LONG time today, and I’m pretty happy to see the sun come up, and am celebrating with a lot of coffee and 80’s Michael Jackson.

I wanted to post on the looks for the concert, but I don’t want to give too much away. She has some die-hard fans that would storm the gates if I ruined the surprise, so I have included a few photos of the materials that don’g give too much away.




More on the actual looks next week!



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T / playing with light and white

Product Photography Header-ImageI’m saying yes to pretty much everything these days.  And it’s not a begrudging yes.  It’s a wholehearted, I’m excited like Molly Shannon Superstar jazz hands kind of yes.  A few moments later, the realization that I’ve never done anything like that before sets in.  Perhaps a smidge of panic as well.  But thanks to the community of creatives here, I’m pocketing a new skill.  So when my workout pal Supei asked me to help out with shooting some gorgeous Cambodia-produced pretty things for her Nomi Network, I was in.  I just had to figure out how to build a lightbox.

A lightbox is pretty much the backbone of product photography.  Especially in this age of ecommerce.  A professional lightbox can be pricey.  Professional lighting, bright bulbs. That whole thing. In Cambodia, I’m not going to even bother looking for one.  But like I said, I have a couple of friends here (whom I’ve recently dubbed my design temple).  And Corbett even had a portable lightbox on hand.


I even live in the perfect house for a project like this.  Hello 360 degrees of natural light.

Product-Photography---The-Set-UpProduct-Photography---A-First-TryBut when it came to the bigger products I was shooting, I’d need to make a lightbox.  Jane said all I would need is a cardboard box and some translucent white paper.  And the ladies over here offered some great tips.

Product-Photography---Build-Your-Own-LightboxI’m obviously still practicing.  Still playing with light, bending it to my will and trying to get rid of those pesky shadows.  So I’m pretty much shooting everything. Including these scary spice chilis I had lying around.08---Chilis

I can’t wait to share with you the final shots when these go live on the Nomi Network.  Plus I’m looking forward to getting a little better at this.

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T / final draft / the story of an ampersand

Header---AmpersandOne of the funnest, more challenging and just plain cool design projects landed in my lap this summer.  Design an ampersand.  And with John’s impending departure, and the re-branding that’s happening on his site, I wanted to tell the story about how this little dudette came to be.

Our resident mixologist, John (you’ve met him right?), asked me to help him design a new logo for his blog, Alchemy & a Twist. I was delighted and excited in the way that happens when I’ve had too much caffeine (Cait knows this Tiff well).  If there’s one thing I know, it’s typography. So very quickly, I got through the selection of a typeface (Connie) paired with a worn out and crumpled background.  John and his stateside co-blogger, David, approved.

Now about that ampersand; John and David were pretty clear: it should look like a cocktail glass, with a lemon twist wrapped around it.  It should also have a bit of a 1920s speakeasy feel to it.  There was a Pinterest board to make sure we all knew what was being talked about over oceans and continents.

We played around with actually wrapping a lemon twist around a martini glass.  And this is what turned out:

Ampersand-with-a-Lemon-TwistThe little shrimp wasn’t quite what John and David were looking for. We scrapped the lemon twist.  It didn’t quite go well with that vintage Prohibition-era feel they were going for.  And John came back with a great description of what he wanted: clean and soft. Something like this:

I sat on it for a while.  I was stuck.  Like really stuck.  This involved staring really hard at all of these guys. Because, of course there’s an entire tumblr devoted to ampersands.

But after some scribbles, some tries, some re-tries. It all happened.  And it looked a little Edward Gorey.

Ampersand---Almost-thereAnd I started calling it a she. And she got cleaned up.  John suggested adding a cocktail stick and an olive, and what chick doesn’t like a couple of accessories?

Ampersand---Final-ProductSince we started on this road, I think this is one of my favourite projects to date.  And I’m happy that the little martini glass ampersand found a home on Alchemy & a Twist’s new logo too! You’ll have to click on their site to see the whole thing!


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T / battle of the batik (rough draft)

Batik-HeaderThere’s no question that Cait and I are textile-philes.  And in some wonderful universe, we’d have some beautiful antique trunks filled to the brim.  In reality, there’s a tiny carry-on suitcase and a bunch of plastic bags in the corner of my home office.

One of the most common types of material I’ve brought back are wax prints in its many shapes and colours.  You might also know wax prints by their local names: batik (Indonesia), kitenge (East Africa), and ankara (West Africa).  And they all share a common bond: Dutch colonialism.  Originating from wax printing practices in Java, early globalization spread this printing technique all the way to Africa where local patterns, cotton weaving techniques and social hierarchies all intermixed to produce the textiles we now characterize with traditional African design (read more about it here).  A few centuries on, I’m certain that I have some sort of pathological addiction to collecting these guys.

So after this most recent Kenya trip (I know I promised no more Kenya posts) a new bounty on my hands, and I knew I had to start making something of it before the pile got out of control.  So I dumped out all of the wax prints I collected and started sketching out some ideas on my Wacom tablet.  Just to warn you, these hands are not as skilled as Cait’s.

Mombasa-Kitenge-Tank-Top Mombasa-Kitenge-TopMost kitenge lovers in East Africa will tell you that they get their best stuff from Tanzania. Alissa brought back some mighty fine bolts for us from her sojourn to Dar-Es-Salaam this year.  But when I was wandering through Toi Market and stumbled upon Maureen and her collection of cheaper quality (and priced for a steal), but wonderfully patterned Mombasa kitenge, I knew I could make something of it.  While these bolts of fabric have a lower thread count and feel a bit rougher to the touch, they are still 100% cotton and oh so light in weight (they also get way softer after you throw them in the laundry). This means they’re perfect for hot season in south east Asia.  And even better lithe, flowy tops I could throw onto a pencil skirt or pair of skinnies.


Kenyan-Batik-Wrap-DressIt was love at first sight when I laid my eyes on this Javanese birdy print at a kitenge vendor in downtown Nairobi.  I’m a fan of fashion design that is simple andunderstated in cut, overstated in pattern, and always functional.  Wrap dress this will be.

Nigerian-RomperThat same kitenge seller in downtown Nairobi also had a a huge supply of beauties from Nigeria.  West African ankara are more likely to have motifs and colour patterns that make the print look and feel like its a living organism.  I loved what I saw here and I’ve been beyond envious of this Lauren Winter wrap around jumpsuit that Molly’s been rocking.   This is my “very hot weather” take on it.

Ugandan-Batik-Strapless-Dropped-HemI picked up this party of indigo and yellow on a trip to Uganda three years ago.  And then it sat around, waiting to be turned into a strapless party dress.  The poor thing is so loved. I think I just can’t bear to seal its fate.  But then Cait started talking about dropped hems.  Sorry babe, but it looks like you’re about to get cut up and stitched back together.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.