Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

16 FEBRUARY, 2010

6 Six Places to Find Affordable Art


Sticker-shockless art, or what good taste and good deeds have in common.

The traditional art world may have spent centuries trying to convince us there’s a direct correlation between price and taste, but the web is here to ruffle some feathers and liberalize art ownership. Here are six fantastic sites that offer affordable art from up-and-coming talent, plus some social good along the way.


You know how Wikipedia harnessed the power of the Internet to democratize knowledge? That’s what 20×200 has been doing for art since 2007, with a simple yet powerful formula.

(limited editions × low prices) + the internet = art for everyone

Twice a week, 20×200 introduces two original pieces of artwork — a photograph and a work on paper — available in three sizes, as cheap as $20. Wonderfully user-friendly and meticulously curated, 20×200 is an absolute treat.

We recently snagged this gem by Clifton Burt, inspired by a John Maeda haiku.


You may recall last month’s special feature on The Working Proof, so we won’t elaborate too much here.

Suffice it to say this online gallery and print shop is a brilliant marriage of good taste and good conscience.


We’ve featured Tiny Showcase some years ago, and it’s still noteworthy as ever. Similarly to The Working Proof, this smart enterprise offers affortdable artowrk from up-and-coming talent — with most prints priced as low as $20 — and even donates a portion of profits to a charity of each artist’s choice. A recent artwork, for instance, raised $28,155 for Haiti relief.

Each week, Tiny Showcase picks turns a new piece of tiny artwork into a limited-run print production, printed on archival Hahnemühle German Printmaking Paper with specially treated and sprayed ink, giving it an archival lifespan of over 60 years.


Another wink at the Brain Pickings archive, we*heart*prints, compiles and sells sticker-shockless prints from contemporary artists.

The site’s semi-democratic model harnesses the best of the crowdsourcing and curation worlds, allowing artists to submit their prints for consideration, but using keen editorial curation to choose the best ones to feature.


A relative newcomer on the affordable art scene, Eye Buy Art offers limited-edition fine art photographs by emerging talent from Canada, the UK and the US, priced as low as $25. (The prints, not the photographers — though how great would it be to buy yourself a photographer for a twenty?)

A jury of professional fine art photographers curate the up-and-comers, releasing one new photograph each week.


We’re longtime fans of society6, the ingenious new platform for empowering artists by connecting them with supporters and matching them with grants. (Check out our exlusive interview with founder Justin Wills.)

Over the past few months, we’ve discovered some incredible talent there, particularly catering to our soft spot for illustration.

Much of the artwork is available for sale, with prints generally priced between $20 and $50 — a jaw-droppingly low range given the uber-talented group of artists in question.

UPDATE: We’ve proudly partnered with Society6 to launch Art Pickings — a curated art portal featuring work by Society6 artists, cherry-picked by Brain Pickings. Check it out.

Know of a great site for affordable art? Do share it in the comments and we may include it in the sequel to this piece.

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01 JANUARY, 2009

Holiday Economy Examined


What our present economy has to do with 165,300 bathroom visits and 67 million dead large birds.

tree 2008 has come and gone, as has the drawn out celebration of excess, consumerism and gluttony known as the “holiday season.” A time when love and appreciation are exchanged between family and friends, they say, but really a time when money is exchanged between various cogs in the great big machine of Capitalism.

Courtesy of the ever-brilliant GOOD Magazine, this month’s GOOD Sheet neatly sums up exactly how much was exchanged during holiday seasons past and present, putting The Big Spend into perspective.

GOOD Sheet: Holiday Economy

In case last night’s debauchery has left you too lazy to click and see for yourself, some noteworthy numbers from the holiday season’s economic footprint:

  • $19.8 billion spent on computer and video game console and accessories during November and December of 2007. (And with the epic build-up for Grand Theft Auto 4, Resident Evil 5 and Rock Band, we bet the numbers would be much higher for 2008.)
  • 67 million turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • $9.3 billion in jewelery sales during November and December of 2007
  • $474.5 billion in retail sales during holiday season 2007, almost $100 billion more than 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation

turkey Sure, after a certain point, numbers become meaningless. We stop seeing the difference between “huge” and “really huge.” (Really, how much do you care if it’s $30 billion or $300 billion or $500 billion? It’s not like you’ll ever truly “experience” either kind of money anyway.) So here are a few handy yardsticks for contemplating the bigness of those numbers:

  • You’ll go to the bathroom roughly 165,300 (read “sort of big”) times in your life.
  • You’ll breathe around 400 million (read “huge”) breaths in your lifetime.
  • The U.S. national debt (read “really huge”) is $10.6 quadrillion (or billiard, if you’re European) — that’s $10.6 billion with three more zeroes — and growing by $3.37 billion per day.

Got the “a-ha” moment yet? We thought so.

Now go, we’ll leave you to your “sensible financial planning” New Year’s resolutions and trying to figure out what to do with all the idiotic holiday presents Capitalism, disguised as Santa, grandma or that Pollyanna-driven colleague, slipped down your chimney this year.

And remember, ain’t no shame in regifting.

via GOOD Magazine

03 OCTOBER, 2008

Reverse Psychology Halloween Edition


How to nail the I-don’t-give-a-fuck look by actually not giving a fuck but hopefully getting one.


Halloween, that special time when people who should not be roaming the streets half-naked get to roam the streets half-naked, is almost upon us. And if you’re employed by any part of the creative industry and/or consider yourself a “hipster” (despite never admitting to it), so is that tortuous hunt for the right costume. You know, the one that lets you out-hip, out-snark, and out-I’m-too-cool-to-care-about-this-kind-of-stuff everyone else. The one from the comfort of which you can make fun of all the vixens, sluts, bachelors, pimps, and other oh-so-cheesy get-ups out there. The one that inevitably turns out to be much less funny/original/culturally-relevant than you thought.

Amazoning It Well, this year we’re doing a full 180 and refusing to let this whole fuss consume a good two weeks of our lives. So, we’re getting a marginally-out-of-the-box costume that comes in a box. Yep, we’re Amazoning it. Because, seriously, it’s a Catch-22: If you end up on the “most original” list, you’re inevitably slammed with the “trying too hard” stamp. And if you don’t, well, you’re just unoriginal.

So join us in screwing with the system by boxing it all with a few click-ship picks that are sure to set you apart from the cheeseballs and the try-hards by being, well, neither. If only so you can make fun of all your friends who did spend those obsessive two weeks on their costumes.

If you’re hitched, how about the Plug & Socket set? Nothing says “we have great geek sex and like to rub it in your face in a way you can’t exactly call us out on” better. Or, if you’re on the not-wanting-to-look-desperate-so-broadcasting-desperation-hoping-it-would-appear-snarky side, just don the One Night Stand costume — sure, you’ll go home alone again, but at least you won’t wake up next to one of those much-less-attractive-in-the-morning French maids, vixens or naughty nurses.

And although it’s so 2007, we’re yet to have someone take us up on our Borat mankini dare. Plus, nothing says “I’m too cool to care about impressing people with my time-relevant wit” like a has-been costume that your rock out with your… oh, never mind.

05 JUNE, 2008

Customization Gone Wild


70% fabulous, respecting your inseam, how to add a 29th bone to your foot, and why a bear is missing an “e” but has plenty of nuts.


In this I-me-mine age, customization is already the expected norm. But what happens when it all runs rampant with made-to-order stuff offering OCD-worthy precision? Freud would sure have a field day with the anal-retentive nature of today’s consumerism, and who are we to stand in Freud’s way? Welcome to the Customization Gone Wild issue.

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Since we last featured Freddy&Ma, the design-your-own-handbag getup (named after founder siblings Anthony and Amy Pigliacampo’s childhood partners-in-crime nicknames) has branched out into more cool design-your-own stuff: plates and pillows, to be exact.

The concept is still all about rebelling against the mass-marketed fashions of today and takes a simple approach: to design your own handbag, you get to pick the bag style (tote, pouch, bowler, hobo, clutch and more), the leather trimmings (black, white, tan, brown, maroon) and one of the thousands of patterns (retro, geometric abstract, minimalist, flashy, you name it).

Then they make it for you.

Prices are based on the “canvas” you pick and range from $65 for the wallet-like metro clutch to $295 for the bowler. Or, if you’re feeling lazy and generous at the same time, just pick one of their Carry for a Cause Bags — 30% of your bag money goes towards Art Start or Crate Now, and 70% goes towards making you feel like a good person who just happens to be fabulous.

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Back in the day, you went to the tailor to get your custom-fitted suit, made from a fabric of your liking and with those buttons you inherited from your grandmother. Today, you are the tailor.

At least at, where you get to do just that: make your own jeans. You simply submit your precise measurements and pick a denim wash. Then, these guys (who we’re pretty sure are Santa’s little helpers moonlighting those other 51 weeks of the year) stitch your unique pair together and enzyme-wash it so it’s all pre-shrunken and even-colored. The rest is between you and FedEx guy.

We dig the concept not only because the big O gave it a nod-off, and not merely because non-cookie-cutter style makes us feel special, but also because we believe everyone’s inseam is a very, very special place and should only be clad in something very, very special.

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Fact: there are 28 bones in each of your feet. Another fact: feet are ugly, especially the really bony ones. But guess what: now, you can have 29 bones and killer foot style.

We’re taking about Skins Footwear, the tech- meets-design hybrid that features a two-part shoe structure consisting of an orthopedic “bone” core and an outer collapsible “skin.” The idea is you get yourself a perfectly fitting, super comfortable bone and then pick a number of skins so you can mix up the look and keep the comfort.

These guys launched less than a year ago, and they’ve already been featured in The New York Times. (Which is almost as good a nod-off by Oprah.) Not bad for a skin-and-bones concept.

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We’re not quite sure if this next über-customizer is the result of dyslexia or pure genius, but YouBar is one “e” short of the Build-a-Bear concept: it’s a fresh-baked, handmade nutrition bar that you build yourself by picking the exact ingredients and even naming your concoction.

And you do it all online.

Here’s how it works: you choose one or two nut butter “bases,” up to 3 different protein sources, some nuts and seeds to add, throw in your choice of dried fruits and berries, add the sweetener you prefer (they even have Stevia!), stir in your favorite seasonings or a bit of chocolate, and add some grains and cereals if you’re so inclined. You can even infuse it all with a shot of vitamins, greens and/or fiber.

Many of the ingredients come in organic version and you can manipulate the proportions of all your choosings within a category (say, 1/3 soy protein + 2/3 whey protein) as well as the levels (not too sweet, extra nuts, etc.) It even calculates the bar’s nutritional value for you — talk about full control.

Then you give your Frankenfood a name and get 12 of your very own lovable, edible monsters for $40 plus shipping.

We, needless to say, absolutely love the concept — it indulges both our health-nutness and our control-freakness. And to think people settle for PowerBars.

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