The Laughing Elevator Project

Have you heard of Laughter Yoga? I was introduced to it in my early twenties and find it fascinating and well, funny. There’s a Laughing Club in Denver that I checked out a couple times, years ago. I went with my sister. It was strange and awkward but I also sort of loved it. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to laugh? Over the years, I’ve made it a habit to laugh hysterically until tears are rolling down my cheeks. Okay if I’m being honest, I haven’t done that in a while… but in my younger years I was known for it.

In college I was a Comedy Improv groupie – a few of those funny guys lived in my dorm and I became great friends with them immediately. I went to see their shows every Saturday night. Mission Improvable at UMASS is still going strong today! One of my best friends from childhood, still one of my best friends now, is the funniest person I know. The first time I met my (now) husband I immediately fell in love with his sense of humor (among other things – like his good looks, his intelligence and whit and his love of travel – more on that in a future blog post). I love watching stand up comedy and listening to funny podcasts. I can be a pretty serious person but I still love to laugh.

As an artist, I am constantly bombarded with ideas for projects. The ones that stick are the ones that I know will force me out of my comfort zone. They are the ones that I feel will bring joy to others. My love of laughter is one of the things that inspired a project that I would some day love to see come to life. It’s called The Laughing Elevator Project.

Imagine pushing the button to an elevator in an office building, or a hotel, or a parking garage. Waiting to go up. Ding! The doors open and immediately you hear laughter emanating from the space – at the same time as it is inviting it, too, is a bit discomforting. But you have to get in, you have to go up. The laugh track is not just one person laughing, it is a crowd of people, laughing uncontrollably. You can hear men, women, children laughing hysterically. The walls are plastered with life-size portraits of those same people… laughing. At you? With you? You’re not sure, but you can’t help but smile and maybe even laugh a little because the sound is contagious, it’s visceral. Imagine this same experience while sharing an elevator with strangers. During a normal elevator experience you’d likely ignore each other. That dreaded awkwardness thick in the air until the strangers’ designated floors are reached, they step out and you feel relief. Today, though, with laughter surrounding you, you and the strangers acknowledge one another, you make eye contact and you smile, because yes this is awkward but it’s also funny. A minute later the doors open, you step out and you go on about your day but the laughing elevator keeps popping into your thoughts and the memory of it makes you smile. You recall the strangers with whom you made a connection and you can’t help yourself, you laugh.

I made a little prototype so that I could share this vision with others – see THE LAUGHING ELEVATOR PROJECT website to see it come to life.


Modern Elevator Hall InteriorModern Elevator Hall Interior

I don’t know if I’ll ever see this installation piece come to life. I don’t know how one finds funding for such a thing. But, man, would I love to make it happen. Not just for the end product of bringing joy to an otherwise joyless experience, but because I imagine the process of creating this piece – photographing people, finding ways to make them laugh genuinely in front of the camera, capturing the laugh track audio (perhaps starting with one of those local Laughing Clubs?) – would be an experience that would bring me right back to those younger years when I did laugh so hard that tears would roll down my cheeks. I want that again. It’s been too long.

If anyone can help me bring this project to life, let me know!



Creativity Retreat & My Nine Symbols

Last week I had my team over for a little creativity retreat. We had had a couple hours of craft time in the past but this was our first time making a day of it. We had a great time. We went to a Creative Mornings Denver talk (these happen monthly and are free to people in creative fields), then went out to brunch and then came to my house for a quick overview about what I learned in a recent leadership training and then craft time! Brittney tried embroidery for the first time ever and Mandy made a beautiful beaded bracelet.


I decided to draw my 9 ‘personal symbols’ on little river stones (that I will eventually glue into a little shadow box). It was an idea that I got from listening to the Happier podcast – which is a new one I started listening to by the woman who wrote The Happiness Project, Gretchen Ruben. I am really enjoying the podcast. And loved this idea for your own personal symbols (inspired by the 8 auspicious symbols of Buddhism). Here are what I chose to represent myself:


Dove in flight with olive branch
I love birds. I have images of them throughout my house. This choice of decor was not a conscious one, it just started happening over the years of decorating my house. To me birds represent freedom and flight. I also love the dove with an olive branch as a symbol of peace. In my youth and in my twenties I was idealistic and dreamt of peace on earth. Now, middle-aged, I understand that that is a far-fetched idea and I recognize that the best I can do is find peace in myself; foster peace in my family; and cherish it in my friendships.

World Map
Well, duh, anyone who knows me knows this is an obvious one. It has been the focus of my art for over a decade and for the decade before that I spent years traveling around the world… visiting or living in all the continents except Antarctica (still on my list). I had traveled to 30 countries before the age of 30 and lived in 7 of them. To me the image of a world map, represented without political boundaries, is a reminder that we are all connected, the world is one. They represent my love of travel as well as my calling to make art, but also humanity and this shared world that we all call home.

Symbolizing my love and adoration of animals. I have always loved them since I was a child. My bedroom was a menagerie filled at various times with cats, birds, snakes, turtles, frogs, hamsters, Guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, lizards and fish. In elementary school I thought I wanted to be a vet, in middle school a marine biologist and by college I thought I’d become an animal behaviorist. I veared in a different direction once I decided to honor the artist and designer in me but then came back around, and was able to combine animals and design, when I got my job at Denver Zoo five years ago. I feel that animals have a lot to teach us, especially elephants and other species that have a certain untapped wisdom like wolves, killer whales, great apes and even ravens. Having animals in my life, especially during a not so idyllic childhood, offered me companionship that I didn’t otherwise have. Having pets, even as an adult, has taught me what it feels like to love and to experience unconditional love.

I like the idea of using a letter that is an obvious serif typeface to represent graphic design, since that is my profession. But also ‘w’ stands for so many things – wander and wonder (I am happiest when I am following this motto for myself); www (world wide web and my profession as a web designer for the last 20 years); also ‘w’ stands for wife which is a big part of my identity.

Om symbol
This is the one symbol I chose to represent yoga, meditation, and my love of Eastern spiritual ideals. I am not a religious person but I am spiritual and I believe in the power one can find within oneself by finding calm, being centered and focused, using visualization and positive thinking. I believe in the idea of being in the present moment even if I find it to be a constant challenge. Having yoga and meditation in my life help with that. I believe in the connection between mind and body. I believe that we are all connected and that we have a higher purpose during our time on Earth.

This tree encompasses the idea of nature, growth and creation. Nature is where I feel most spiritually connected to something bigger. Nature is my religion. I grew up on an island and have now settled in the mountains. Through my travels I have experienced extraordinary spectacles of nature – deserts, waterfalls, rainforests, glaciers, rivers and grasslands. No matter what my environment I stand in awe of my surroundings – the vastness and power of the ocean or the strength and presence of mountains. I also love to stop and look down to inspect the minute miracles of nature – buds on trees, wild flowers, tiny insects, nests and broken egg shells. This tree, for me, also represents growth and regrowth. I want to always be growing as a person, to continuously learn and improve. In the same way that a tree cycles through the seasons so do we during the course of our lifetimes. We have ups and downs, valleys and peaks, and when those darker moments present themselves it is important to remember we will come into the light stronger and changed, hopefully more wise and truer to ourselves.

Compass/North Star
This is the one tattoo I have on the pinky toe of my right foot – which in and of itself represents my rebellious side (but not too rebellious). I got it when I was 17 in someone’s basement – in 1994 when tattoos weren’t so mainstream. I gave it a lot of thought before getting it. Even at that age, thanks to my European parents, I had a passion for travel. I came up with this symbol because it was meant to look like a compass – North, East, South, West and like a representation of the North Star both of which meant direction and guidance. As a young person about to enter the world, eager for independence, I felt that direction and guidance would come from trusting my intuition, being true to myself and facing the world ahead with courage. Those ideals have always stuck with me as has my little pinky toe tattoo.

When did I fall in love with photography? I learned how to develop photos in a darkroom when I was 16, my dad gave me my first SLR camera at 17 and I traveled to East Africa at 18. It was an early introduction to some of the most magnificent wildlife and landscape photography the world had to offer. I fell in love. In college, I took a broad array of art classes but mainly focused on photography – at times spending 10 or 12 hours in the darkroom without even taking a break to eat. Those days I used photography as a form of self-discovery. Years later, I traveled the world taking photos, obsessed with capturing moments and memories. When I eventually settled down in one place, I made a point to work somewhere where photography was part of my profession. At Denver Zoo, I am the Design & Interactive Manager, leading our design team, but I am also the staff photographer. I love the connection I feel with the animals when I am photographing them, following their every movement, waiting for that glint in their eye that tells me there’s a soul in there. By sharing these photos of our animals with our guests through our marketing efforts, my hope is that they too experience that connection and sense of awe. In the future, I’d like to travel and photograph animals around the world in their natural environments. Today, I get to do the next best thing. Which actually works better for our family – my kids would miss me too much if I were constantly up and going on photographic adventures.

Greek symbol for Motherhood
This one was an obvious one it was just hard to know what symbol to use. I found this Greek symbol of motherhood and liked it because when you are a mother, your children are intertwined with you. It is inevitable that they become part of your identity, even if that was hard to accept for me at first. Motherhood is the ultimate symbol of creation. How do you even begin to write about bringing life into this world. I can’t, so I won’t. I will say that my daughters have taught me how to love, how to nurture, how to surrender and have forced me to be a whole lot less selfish. I won’t lie, it was really hard for me to be so needed when they were really little; nurturing didn’t come naturally to me. I was filled with guilt, inadequacy and a small sense of failure. I am grateful that numerous sessions of therapy have helped me come out the other end and now I am proud of the mother that I have become. I am there for my children and I am doing my best, along with my husband, to raise kind, curious and happy daughters.

Bonus to this exercise is that I shared it with Sophie, my 8 year old, and she spent a couple hours the following day trying to define her own personal symbols which included: Energy (being active), Yin Yang, Family, Never Give Up (infinity symbol), Friendship, Chinese symbol for tiger (to symbolize animals), Japanese symbol for water, Japanese symbol for earth, symbol for Bravery. Some of them stood for who she is and things she loves – a few others, I think, she chose just because they seemed ‘cool.’ Here are her drawings:fullsizerender


For the Love of Bikes and Horses

The June wedding came and went and my commissioned piece was far from finished. Oh, the guilt! As a reminder the map I was creating was supposed to be a wedding gift for a couple that loves bikes and horses – check out my original post. Fortunately my client (patron? that’s more appropriate for someone purchasing art, right?)… yeah, patron. Fortunately my patron was understanding. I love making art but sadly it is low on my priority list behind my kids, my husband, my full time job and, alas, exercising. I’m proud that I make time for it at all!

Also, there were materials and processes I’d never worked with in this map and at times that had me at a standstill. Fear is the biggest procrastinator. I knew I wanted to work with bike chain and I knew I needed to glue metal to wood. Both were new to me and scary. I had spent so much time already drawing the gears with graphite and I loved the map as it was, so I was scared to screw it up. But I also knew I wanted to incorporate that rusty bike chain. And I needed to include some sort of reference to horses.

This is where the map was when I got stuck. It probably sat in my art studio like this for at least a month!


Then… I finally got to work. I bought three different kinds of glue and did tests to see what would work best. I also realized I would have to separate the chain in smaller pieces and then nail them in at smaller intervals. Just deciding what nails to use took time and research. I settled on small black carpet tacks and the best glue was E6000 because it dried clear. Best part of this process… getting my hands dirty.


The finishing touches were adding a little horseshoe over Colorado where the wedding took place and the couple call home. A little symbol of good luck for a happy marriage. And lastly, I used my wood burner to burn in their wedding date in the bottom right hand corner – 6.11.16. I hope this map brings happiness to the new couple and inspires them to wander and wonder.