Hopscotch Design Festival Highlights

Elle Luna

Elle headlined the Hopscotch Design Festival, a two-day gathering tacked on to the now five year-old Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, NC. I could not have imagined a better way to kick off the event than to hear Elle delve deeper into “The Crossroads of Should and Must,” which she posted as an article to Medium in April. A must read, “The Crossroads of Should and Must,” reminds us why we can’t let our innermost voice be silenced.

Previously, Elle worked at IDEO, Uber, and Medium and is now a dedicated painter and artist.

See more of her work and musings at elleluna.com.


Sha Hwang

Easily the most heartfelt and sincere talks we attended, Sha is part of the healthcare.gov “Trauma Team,” tasked with fixing the site after its infamous launch. He spoke about this project while also philosophizing about the roles that technology and systems play in our lives. I appreciated his thoughtful approach. It was apparent that he took the time to craft a talk that explored not just the what but the why behind his work.

I’m currently reading, “Drive,” and since it focuses on motivation, his thoughts on how his team was able to incentivize the dozens of contractors who contributed to healthcare.gov was illuminating. His work is a mix of data visualization with interaction design. Above, is an example of a project he did for Flickr, creating a clock based on user images.

See more of his work at postarchitectural.com.


Annie Atkins

I had been looking forward to Annie’s talk since I am a big Wes Anderson fan and she worked on the Grand Budapest Hotel. A graphic designer, Annie works on films creating the graphic pieces that are at once props for actors to use while at the same time becoming part of the set and even characters themselves. She illustrated her job very well through video clips and then a discussion afterwards of each of the designed pieces necessary for that clip.

Imagine creating a postage stamp or addressing a letter using the appropriate pen for a piece of mail that sits on a character’s desk. As she explained, even if it is never shown in the movie, her job is to create the context and atmosphere for the actors to immerse themselves in.

At the end of her talk, she played a trailer for The Boxtrolls, an animated movie coming out this month that she worked on.

See more of her work at annieatkins.com.


Harper Reed

Harper opened up the second day of the festival. Previously the CTO of Threadless, one of my favorite places to buy gifts for Paul…he was the CTO of Obama for America, responsible for the internal as well as external technology that helped to get President Obama reelected. You can thank him for the fundraising emails if you received them…or continue to receive them!

It was fascinating to hear about what went into the ground-breaking technology strategy of the campaign. One of the takeaways was to always plan for failure…not just plan but actually practice failing in order to test systems and develop troubleshooting strategies. This reminded me of reading about Castro during the Cold War. He would plan power outages in order to prepare the population to carry on business without power.

Learn more about Harper at harperreed.com.


Brian Singer

Currently at Pinterest, Brian was also the creator of The 1000 Journals Project, which has since spawned books and a documentary. I was excited to hear about this participatory art project (he is facilitating journals with children in hospitals now) as well as to see more of his personal work.

One personal project that stood out for me was his “You are_____for the economy.” As the example above shows, he researched the actual forces that are good or bad for the economy. The original pieces are made from scraps of posters he reclaimed from telephone polls around San Francisco and then screen printed on and mounted to plywood. The messages include, “Crime is good for the economy,” “Nature is bad for the economy,” and “Obesity is good for the economy.” He also made these statements into posters and stickers (which I gladly took when they were handed to me).

I especially like his Twit Spotting project that calls out people who text and drive. Not only did he post photos of them caught red-handed online, he also paid for billboards to be made of the images to raise awareness of this dangerous epidemic.

See more of his work at iamsomeguy.com.


600th Blog Post

For the 600th Post I thought I would look back at 10 of my favorite posts from over 4 years of blogging. Click on the title to see the original post.

Enjoy, Mari


We’re Engaged!

I think this is the first video on the blog – fitting since I signed up for my first WordPress blog to keep in touch with folks about our wedding. Once the wedding was over (which was quickly since we were married within 3 months of our engagement) I realized I liked posting and sharing so I started Partners for Peace and the rest is…



Charlie’s Namesake

This post is dedicated to Charlie, the namesake of our VW Camper. Our world lost one of its most beautiful souls this summer. Although Charlie the man…the myth…my best pen pal is no longer with us, his memory lives on in so many of us that he touched with his writing, photography, and conversation. I learned so much from Charlie and I think it will always hurt to know that he isn’t here to swap stories with anymore. In a way, my correspondence with him that started when I was in high school was the precursor to this blog. Thank you, dear friend. You are missed.

Watch This Now

There are times when someone else says something so much better than I ever could…that’s why I like to share TED Talks. Here are a few worth checking out, especially if you need some inspiration.




Louie Schwartzberg of Moving Art created this little film with a big message.

A Day in the Life

One of my Peace Corps posts that illustrates what life was really like during our service.



Happy Third Anniversary

So many memories. So little time. That’s what videos are for.

David Foster Wallace’s This is Water

Another example of someone explaining a concept far better than I ever could. I think of this message often – especially when someone cuts me off or isn’t at their best. The world needs more compassion. As Wallace says, we have a choice in the way we see the world.

Five Recycled Art Projects

This post brings back memories of the Recycled Art Workshop that the Peace Corps Ecuador office hosted. This was one of the most informative and entertaining workshops we attended.

Sweet Dreams: Photography by Queenie Liao

I’d like to do a project of photos of Brooklyn but who can compete with Queenie Liao? I’ve seen similar projects but this is (in my humble opinion) the most successfully executed one of them.



Two Years Ago Today

Amazingly, this was one of the easiest videos I have ever created and perfectly sums up our Peace Corps Experience.

I Heart Brock Davis

I’ve admired the work of Brock Davis for a little while now. You can read my previous post that showcased a few of his fun food images here.

Above and below are some of his amazing iPhone images that he shares on Instagram and on his portfolio site. Whether it is his editorial work for publications including WIRED, The New York Times, and Fast Company; his personal work that includes Instagram images and Vines; or advertising work for clients Harley Davidson and Subaru, his sense of humor and spot on execution always bring a smile to my face.

Enjoy, Mari



I’m not a photography purist. It would be hard to be these days with all of the choices to process, manipulate, and transform images. Actually, I started teaching myself Photoshop over 15 years ago (!) and I’ve been an Instagram user since the beginning. I’ve grown as a smartphone photographer as the app has grown and I’m about to take it a step further with the Photojojo University course that my mother-in-law gifted me for the holidays. Yes, I am just getting around to it now!

My latest photo-related obsession: Printstagram! You can print your Instagram images in a number of ways from 4″ x 4″ prints to albums, posters, stickers, calendars, greeting cards, and minibooks. I think I know what I am making for holiday presents this year! I’ve made my first order and I have a feeling that I’ll be ordering again real soon.

Looking into the company behind the app: Social Print Studio, I see that they are based in California and are hiring for jobs that would be perfect for me and Paul. Maybe they’ll still be looking when we’re ready to make our next move! Until then, we’ll have to admire them from afar and keep sending new images their way. Here are a few that I’m printing as 4″ x 4″ squares that should arrive soon. Yay!

Photography love, Mari


Recommended Watching: Three Docs

 Documentaries to Watch

I’m currently reading Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and his main point so far is that what motivates human beings is no longer carrots or sticks. Rather, what people are seeking most are intrinsic motivators like the need for self direction, the need to learn and to create, and the need to do and be better.

Three documentary films that I have recently watched touch on some of these topics. Each film profiles individuals who are striving to be their best – the best young chess player in the case of Brooklyn Castle, the best video game player in the case of Free to Play, and emulating one of the best painters from history in the case of Tim’s Vermeer.

Each film explores the lengths that each person will go to in order to be at the top of their game. The time, dedication, and sheer talent shown in each of these examples is inspiring. I recommend watching any of these films if you need a little extra motivation.

Enjoy, Mari

Brooklyn Castle


Free to Play


Tim’s Vermeer



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