Archive for June 2009

We say it’s our birthday…

June 26, 2009

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Happy birthday to us Greg [1] blows out the candle, while Christopher [2] wants the first piece! Our cousin, Karen [3], and new bride, Cindy [4] looks on.
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This past Sunday, the northern hemisphere moved to that sweet spot, all so the summer solstice could begin. This marked the beginning of summer, and the longest day of the year. From this point on, our days will gradually get shorter and shorter… so get outside and enjoy that sunshine! Don’t forget your SPF70.

We also celebrate one holiday not as internationally known; the birthday of both of the Design Brothers. Yes, we both were born on the same day, six years apart. June 22nd was the big day.

We’ve read that it is not so rare for members of the same family to have the same birthday, but it still amazes us. When we were younger, it kind of bugged us both as we always shared birthday cakes. Actually, it really was not fun. Our names were always together on that cake. We always had to blow those candles out together. Luckily, we did not have to wear the same clothes on that day. We haven’t spent our birthdays together in many years, but several of us surprised Christopher last July 4th in Phoenix for his fiftieth birthday celebration.

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A bunch of white boys Last year, Christopher [1] was surprised by his brother Jeff [2], and his brother, Greg [3] when they all came to Phoenix for his birthday. Why they all matched, is anyone’s guess. Truly, it was not planned. But, even though we were coordinated, we all agree… worse picture of the three of us… ever!
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This year we will also be celebrating our belated birthdays together on the July 4th holiday, along with an even more important event. The Jagmins are all heading to Orlando to celebrate with sister, Cindy, and our newest honorary brother, Larry (in-law). They got married in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, and we are off to attend a couple of parties with both families.

So we can spend more time with our family, and to give ourselves a little birthday gift, we are keeping this blog short. We hope you will raise a glass to our sister, our brother-in-law, ourselves, and the beginning of summer. Cheers!

Until next week
—Greg and Christopher

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Design Brothers this week Christopher’s plates are now in seen in the NoLita neighborhood of New York, at Haus Interiors. This is a brand new store started
by designer, Nina Freudenberger.
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Celebration, Commemoration, and Camping

June 19, 2009

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Happy Father’s Day Christopher [1] and Cindy [3] are thrilled to be on our dad’s [2] lap…with mom’s wedding photo [4] hanging above.
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There are very two important people that we would like to acknowledge this week. Since it is Father’s Day this weekend, of course, we would like to remember our dad, Marion. He passed away in 2001, but we think of him all of the time. He was a terrific dad, a serviceman who served during the Korean conflict, a hard-working accountant, a man who loved fun, and a guy with a great sense of humor. His jokes and puns always made us groan, but deep down we loved them. All of the Jagmins try to keep up his legacy with our own corny take on life. We can’t wait to talk about him a little more in a future issue.

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The future looks bright The graduate, Alex [2] with his sister Abbie [1], and mom, Kelly [3]. The Gun’ n Roses t-shirt says success!
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Secondly, we dedicate this issue to our nephew, Alex, who graduated from Mishawaka High School two weeks ago. We are so proud of his accomplishments. We have watched him grow to be the handsome and confident man that he is. He is full of hope, with eyes wide open, and ready for whatever the future may bring his way.

This week, he inspired us to write about youthful possibilities. We hope that he always remembers how he feels now as he starts his new journey to college and beyond. We also hope that he remains as optimistic about his future as we are, and know that wherever life may take him, to enjoy the ride, because it goes by very quickly. With his mom, Kelly, we are all proud. Congratulations Alex!!

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What I did this summer

Last week, Christopher got to relive his youth, and hang out with a great bunch of talented kids. He packed up his backpack and headed off to summer camp. Actually, it was an art day camp with one of his favorite non-profit organization; Free Arts of Arizona. Christopher has had the pleasure to be a part of this annual camp for four years now. He wanted to tell everyone about his six year of experiences with Free Arts, and this year’s week at camp.

Christopher: About six years ago, after moving to Arizona, I was hoping to combine my love of art, and somehow bring that love to children. By chance, I read a little article about Free Arts in the paper, and gave them a call. Free Arts is an amazing organization that brings creativity to a lot of kids that don’t get to participate in any arts related projects at their schools. This group has been working with neglected, abused, homeless and other children in need, for fifteen years now, and is affiliated with other Free Arts groups across the country.

With their amazing staff, and volunteers, Free Arts gives these kids a way to express themselves through dance, the visual arts, theater, creative writing and other artistic projects. They believe that if kids have an outlet to express their emotions, their self-esteem will grow.

I wish that I could show you photos of the kid’s smiles, but Free Arts thoughtfully wishes to protect their right to privacy. I did however take some photos of the projects, and I hope you can see the fun we had.

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My name is Sunshine One of the puppets made at MAC camp.
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When I called Free Arts six years ago, they helped me figure out how I could fit in with their organization. I ended up mentoring an after-school program in South Phoenix. To be a mentor, I had to commit to a one day a week session, for just an hour, for eighteen weeks. After a helpful and fun orientation/training session, I was off and running.

It wasn’t as easy as I thought, however. I spent hours planning and researching interesting projects for a really fun first day. Those 15 third and fourth graders found my project a lot of fun, for about 10 minutes! I realized, what I didn’t know about 8 and 9 year olds, was more than what I knew. Since I didn’t have anything else planned for that day, they ran havoc around the classroom for the remaining 50 minutes.

After that first trying day, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return, but did anyway. The next week with extra projects ready, crayons, and beads on hand to fight any boredom, I walked back into the lion’s den. I’m not going to say the next week went as smoothly as I would have liked, but I learned a lot. Each class became more fun and relaxed for me, and for them too.

It was an absolute pleasure getting to know them a bit more. Some were shy. Some were really outgoing. Most never had much exposure to art in their lives, but were willing to try anything.

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Puppet Party Here are just a few of the terrific rod puppets made last week at camp.
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There were a many challenges as a mentor. It was difficult to think of something new and interesting to bring to them each week, but it got easier as I found out what they liked to do. There was one boy who had a hard time concentrating, and he was my most difficult assignment. If I didn’t give him more attention, he would disrupt the whole class. He loved to color in coloring books, so giving him something to color was one way to keep him busy, but I also wanted to challenge him. I decided to get him to draw his own coloring book, and then had it Xeroxed for him. When he drew enough pages, I gave it to him as a gift. He was so proud of that book, and showed it off to all of his friends for weeks after.

I also learned to keep the projects simple. Not because they were not very smart kids… quite the opposite. If I challenged them in the beginning, most would surprise me with their imagination. I would also try to keep the tools simple. I got by with a lot of crayons, markers, paper bags, dried beans, rice and macaroni, and glue. I tried to keep the tools easy, so that they could find easily and cheaply around their home. That way, they might give it a try again later. My eighteen weeks, turned into over two years, and only ended after this group lost funding, and had to close down forever. I still miss those great little people.

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It’s raining, it’s pouring These rains sticks wrapped in African fabric make the sounds of a rain forest.
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Back to camp!

When I volunteer for summer camp, I usually try to work with younger kids, as these kids are so amazing. For the past four years, it has become my favorite week out the year. This year the week was cut a little short, because of the pinched economy, but I don’t think the kids felt they were short changed. As a volunteer, my job was to help out the kids with projects, and to assist the talented art teachers. The instructors are always energetic, fun, and non-judgmental. The great thing about art is that there is no wrong way to do things.

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Turn the beat around Some of the African drums played last week.
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This year, the kids got to try out some African drums, along with island steel drums thrown in for good measure. They also got to try their hand at a variety of musical instruments made out of shells, nuts, metal, and the kid’s favorite… goat’s hooves. They loved making their own rain sticks, and my head is still ringing a bit after a week of that!

In addition to the art and theater instruction there was a children’s yoga instructor so everyone could stretch, and get a little exercise during the day. There was also a class where the kids made shadow puppets, and moving puppets with rods and paper. The performance by these kids, at the end of the week, was so much fun. This week is still the highlight of my year!

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The exciting conclusion to the end of the week Two scenes from the shadow puppet finale. Peace in the garden [1] before the prehistoric beginning [2].
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Every year I leave more and more inspired; by the volunteers who devote so much time and effort, the teachers and faculty who strive to provide a safe and creative environment for the next generation, but mostly I am inspired by the kids themselves. With graduates like our nephew, Alex, and all of the kids at Free Arts, we have high hopes for an amazing future.

To make a donation, or donate some time, please go to their website at freeartsaz.org.

Until next week. Happy Father’s Day!

— Christopher and Greg


Things’ll be great when you’re downtown

June 12, 2009

We are big optimists and dreamers. Maybe we are both saps, but we think that the world can be a better place, and we are hopeful that our country’s rough time is temporary. As the automobile industry finds itself in trouble, we are optimistic that Detroit will wake up, and do the right thing to curb our dependence on oil. With the real estate market in turmoil… maybe, just maybe, our need for McMansions and sprawling lawns will subside. Ah, to dream!

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Dad [1], Mom [2], Jeff [3], Cindy [4], Janine [5], Kelly [6], Greg [7], Beth [8], and Christopher [9] visiting our grandmother on a Sunday after church.
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The photo above was taken is 1969 at our grandmother Jurek’s (our mom’s mom) home. This was always a pretty little neighborhood with well-kept lawns, where all of the families on the street knew each other. It was a very friendly place. People walked everywhere, and many mom and pop stores were only a short walk away.

Just before this photo was taken, the street (on the left) was actually covered in red brick. As kids, we couldn’t wait to drive over the road to our grandmother’s house, so we could feel those bricks under the tires of the car. The noise was much like driving over a cattle guard. The roughness of the road also slowed down traffic, so there was never anyone brave enough to race down the street. It made a great place to feel safe. We could play ball on the street, and have time to move out of the way of oncoming cars, as we had plenty of warning. Riding our bikes on this street was an exciting, and jumpy adventure ride. What a great street!

The brick road was one last remnant of South Bend’s past. It was one of the last streets in the city to be “modernized”, and paved. During summer of 1969, workmen removed all of the brick, and gouged deep holes into the street to take out and replace the ancient pipes. The workmen always started early and worked until about three o’clock in the afternoon. After that, the street became ours! We would play in the underground tunnels, all evening.

The street was like an archaeological dig. We would find old metal pipes, and prehistoric stones, and imagined that the Potawatomi indians also played there at one time (as they lived in the area). But, as the summer went on, our playing days were numbered, and ancient plumbing became new shiny pipes, and by fall, they were quietly covered up.

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The late 60’s and the early 70’s were really transitional for this west side neighborhood of South Bend. It was a hard and difficult time for these people. The original owners of these houses were getting older, and couldn’t keep their houses maintained. Since they weren’t kept up, the values dropped, and some homes were demolished. There were more vacant lots around, with tall grass and weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalks. Rents became cheap, and there were even some home fires started by vagrants. In 1968, there were small riots close enough to be scared, and that was the final nail for the neighborhood’s coffin. The flight to the suburbs had accelerated.

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Another Sunday with Grandma Jurek [1], Aunt Trudy [2], Christopher [3], and our sister, Cindy [4].
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However, our Grandmother and our Aunt Trudy stayed put. Neither had a car, let alone knew how to drive. There were still small stores close by to walk to. The bus stop was only about three blocks away, and an easy ride downtown. The South Shore railroad station was only two blocks away, which accessed a quick two hour ride to Chicago’s Loop. Both our grandmother and our Aunt Trudy had everything they needed close by. They were practical urbanites, and why would they leave?

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During that time, South Bend had a vibrant little downtown. It just had its first two skyscrapers built. The tallest was 25 stories, which was a big deal for our little town. There was a JC Penny’s department store where we would get our clothes. There was Robertson’s, which was a higher-end department store with a small restaurant that overlooked the store. Like a lot of Midwest town’s at the time, there was an S. S. Kresgee’s, which was the hot spot for kids to hang out at. You could buy a cold drink and maybe a cheap toy if you had some money. If you didn’t, you could just spend hours looking at the puppies, goldfish, and birds.

One of our favorite places to go was the Colfax Theater where we saw “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and other Disney movies. There was a men’s department store where our dad would buy his suits, a candy store, and a little counter restaurant called The Philadelphia, where you could get an amazing hot fudge sundae. Downtown was the place to go to; ice skate, read a book at the library, or just hang out by the river to watch the old men fish.

But things were changing for downtown also. South Bend’s very first mall was built on the south side of the city. Scottsdale Mall was now the place to go. There was lots of free parking, and many new chain stores all under one roof, so the snow nor rain did not deter. But, for our grandmother, aunt, and the seven Jagmin kids this was not a great choice. We had to take two long bus rides with transfers. We were familiar with downtown, but the stores were now closing, and our friends were not hanging out at the Kresgee’s any longer.

The city decided to do something big to rehabilitate, and keep the downtown area alive. The city managers decided to make the downtown area a large walking shopping mall. There would be overhead awnings to avoid the weather, and plant trees for shade, with a plan for fountains, next to benches to avoid traffic noise and stress.

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1970’s Downtown after the mall construction. Robertsons [1], and J.C. Penny’s [2] before they shut their doors.
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It took a long time for the city to finish this project. It was beautiful when completed, but the long construction closed even more shops. In addition, when the area opened, you could no longer park in front of the store and just walk right in for a minute or two. People had to park father away, and pay for parking. Even the bus now stopped further away… in an open area where the wind and elements were brutal. Our grandmother and aunt began to count on rides from our parents to the mall, and they began to avoid downtown for their needs. The city’s plan was a big failure, and the mall’s future was guaranteed.
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South Bend 1980’s South Bend’s downtown is located on the St. Joseph River, and the East Race Waterway [1]. Mark di Suvero’s sculpture [2] at Century Center [3] is a downtown highlight.
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SInce then, South Bend has grown up; and just like us, has seen good and bad times. Being an ex-manufacturing town, it has had to struggle over the years. Though to us, it always means home and it is a place that will always hold a special place in our hearts. Luckily for us, we still have friends and family there, and we can go back to watch it as it evolves and learns from it’s past. Just like us.

Until next week
— Greg and Christopher

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Design Brothers this week: We are now on twitter: @designbrothers. We just signed up yesterday, and would love you to be the first to follow us! Follow Christopher at: @chrisjagmin
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Roots, Rock, Reggae

June 5, 2009

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It is hard to believe that we have now written this blog for about six months, with hardly a mention of the music that has inspired us. Music of all types has set the mood, and has been the soundtrack of our lives. Like most people of our time, it has been undeniable that we remember events in our lives when a song comes on the radio, is heard in a movie, or on our ipods.

Our family was not technically a musical one. None of us played any instruments, or knew how to read music. We actually did have an electric organ for a few years, but we had sheet music with a numbering system instead of notes. So, for our family, it was a perfect and easy instrument.

We always had music playing in our house. There was a radio or stereo playing somewhere. Our mother sang to the radio all of the time, while she listened to the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, or show tunes. She had (has?) a strong, big voice in church that embarrassed us all when we were teenagers. She was actually very good, but every mother embarrasses teenagers. We never heard our dad sing… ever. He was more inclined to listen to Bob Newhart, or Bill Cosby when he turned on the stereo.

School of Rock

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No, it is not a KISS cover band. Just three bit players in the amazing production of “Babes in Toyland”. The makeup artist (our mom) is still for hire. The St. Anthony School Bulletin said the play was “amazing”! Cindy [1] is some kind of soldier, Janine [2] is a shiny flower, while Christopher [3] is a frightening elf! We all sang in a group of like-minded characters, so our voices were not heard. Thankfully.
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Our school was not very musically encouraging. While it had terrific art classes, and mandatory P.E., music classes consisted of singing folk tunes, and about four weeks of flutophone classes. The school didn’t have a band, or even a music department at the time. We did, however, have a musical play production each year, the Jagmins were integral to those fine productions!

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Not a dry eye in the house. One of many moving moments of Babes in Toyland. “Toy land, toy land, little girl and boy land”
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Christopher goes in the way-back machine for some of his musical influences and memories:

Guitar Hero

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Oh boy, a dork with a guitar! Christopher was wearing his favorite shirt when he opened one of the best Christmas gifts ever!
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When I asked for a guitar for Christmas one year, I never thought it would happen. The Jagmin family were not the Jackson’s, and musical instruments were a mystery to my parents. I had been wanting one for a long time, and I really thought there was no way that it was going to be under that tree.

Lukily, there was a happy ending to this story, and I got my guitar without any idea how to tune or play the thing. Needless to say it was hard. I realized at that time that I didn’t have a very good ear. In addition to the guitar, I was given a record with instructions on how to play the instrument. I listened to that record over and over just to try to tune the guitar. I barely got through the first side of the LP (there were four lps to go!). It was a long time before I realized that I was just going to strum the thing until something sounded good. I can’t say it ever did.

That same Christmas, my brothers, Greg and Jeff received “toy” guitars. They thought they were Keith and Danny of the “Partridge Family”! They wore similar shirts, and both thought they were the grooviest! They were both more air guitarists… less room for error when they played along to Greg’s favorite song (also his very first 45) “What’s New Pussycat” by the ever-cool Tom Jones.

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Summer in the city

After we got out of school for the summer, our sister, Cindy, and I would listen to the Chicago radio station, WLS, on our tiny transistor radios religiously. Each week (I think this happened on Friday, but don’t remember), we would sit on the floor with paper and pens in hand, listening to the top 40 songs of the week. We would carefully copy the names of each song, the artist, and the ranking of each song. The anticipation to find out what that top song of the week would be was so exciting. When we happened to own the record on the list, we would place a star, and then place another symbol next to the song that we wanted to buy.

When I remember this time period, it is hard to believe that we wasted so much summer-time doing this. But, now that I think back, I realize that it was more about spending time with my sister, talking about music, and deciding what singles we were going to buy. Cindy and I didn’t normally spend much time together when we were kids, even though we were only about a year and half apart in age. For me, this time meant so much, and the three or four hours each week inside the house was time well spent.

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I wanna be sedated

Many years later, when I graduated from high school, Cindy influenced my music choices again. She probably had no idea then, nor has an idea now, as to how she turned me on to some of my favorite music to this day.

For graduation day, she gave me a beautifully wrapped record, and boy was I excited. She knew that I was lusting after the new Steely Dan record. All day, I was anticipating the pleasure of sitting up in my bedroom, carefully unwrapping the cellophane, putting the record on the turntable, and reading those liner notes for hours. But, when it finally came to open the gift, I found a Ramones Album instead. She intended it as a joke gift. She and I laughed about it, but in reality, I was incredibly mad at her!

I didn’t listen to the record for months, but when it came to leave for college, I took it with me, stuffed with my other records. One day, many months later, my metal-head roommate was gone, and I was felling a little home-sick, and thought of Cindy. Also, I was getting a little tired of AC-DC, Aerosmith, and Bob Seger. I ripped the plastic off, and placed the Ramones album on the stereo.

It was a revelation. It was so different from the records that I heard in the dorm. It sounded nothing like I had ever heard before. It sure wasn’t the Commodores, or Earth, Wind and Fire. Boston, Peter Frampton, and Meat Loaf sounded wrong all of a sudden. I still loved Steely Dan, but The Velvet Underground, Diana Washington, and Bob Marley were suddenly part of my record collection.

While I never became ‘punk” and always stayed true to my nerdy ways; the Ramones opened up my ears to urgent, exciting and fun music. It also taught me to open up my mind, listen to all kinds of music, and hear new ideas. Back then, as now, music had the power to inspire me. And, when I am working on new designs or paintings, I need to listen to something new for inspiration

To this day, every time that I hear a Ramones song, I think of my sister Cindy. I hope she knows now, what she did for me. She is getting married this month, and I think I might just get her a copy of that album, on LP of course!

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Until next week… listen to something new, and turn it up!

— Christopher and Greg

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Design Brothers this week: Christopher’s encaustic paintings are now shown at the Alta Loft Gallery, downtown Phoenix. In addition, his recycled plates can be seen in the Summer issue of Boho Magazine.
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All illustrations ©christopher jagmin 2009