C is for Cloning

One type of personal side-project I really enjoy working on are series. They are meditative, and you only have to start with an idea to get going. The complexity and depth of the series can be decided over time, and hopefully as the subject gets revisited it comes into focus.

A new series I’ve started is called (as of now) “A Very Brainy Alphabet”. It combines the usual visual suspects of a children’s alphabet series with brainy words that twist it a bit. The first word ready for you to take home and have a discussion with the kiddos about is…cloning.


I can already tell this series will be a challenge, striking the right balance between an interesting brainy word that can also be interpreted without being too dry or literal. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Quill Feather Illustration Series

Twelve illustrated quill pens, each with one word.

The past year has been one of words. After moving from Portland, Oregon to Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012 I was surrounded by NEW. How do you describe what is happening? What do you say to people when they ask you inanely expected or intensely personal questions? How do you document the experiment of experiencing so many new things, you can barely keep up? Which ideas survive translation, which fail? Words can be wonderfully specific or frustratingly vague, and vice versa.

The past year was spent doing quite a bit of correspondence writing. On Facebook, in emails and postcards home (yes, the kind you send in the mail), with newfound pen pals…even sending letters in a bottle. And, writing single words accompanied by a feather.

The past year resulted in twelve illustrations of quill pens, the old fashioned way of writing your thoughts. Ink and time define what you can lay on a page, extraneous thoughts are omitted in favor of measured words, exactly the ones you want to use.

Light as a Feather

line drawing feather with various patterns inside the feather, a screen printed background and some splotchy neon green dots. Tasty.

To and Fro

Hand illustrated feather with textures and patterns on a bluish screen print background with neon magenta splotches.

It Tickles

A wavy fluttery feather with lots of fine feathering at the top. The parts are filled with textures of lines and dots and zigs and zags and circles and wholes and patterns on top of a screen print texture and hand stippled background.

Dream Maker

texture and pattern filled peacock inspired feather

Coming Around


Heave Ho

Texture filled feather illustration.

Twist and Shout

TWIST AND SHOUT: "Turn" pattern filled feather with screen print background and watercolor dots.

Splitting Hairs

Black line drawing of a split feather filled with patterns and covered with red watercolor dots.

Crackle and Pop

A 3-part feather illustration where the feather has snapped over. Filled with textures and shown on a screen print texture background with watercolor splotches.

As A Bird

line drawn feather with patterns and textures in the feather parts, overlaid with multi-color watercolor textures

Double Edged

One short of a dozen, here is another pattern filled quill feather. The watercolor accents hover at the tip, floating upwards in hope and lightness.

And In The End…

Swirling and patterned feather with a windy shaft and six peacock eyes.

Myopic Fields of Study

As a designer, et cetera, I usually follow the simple logic of…Do I find it interesting? Sign me up! I guess you could call me a generalist. That’s why I build derby cars, make 3D paper raindrops and go to postcard shows. A wide selection of topics, all of which itch the need of delving into the specificity of a subject. Even though I don’t make my living out of it, spending these short bursts of time on a super-focused theme is very rewarding to me.

Lisa Congdon enjoys collecting, arranging and displaying like items.

I find it fascinating that some people can find a niche so narrow and burrow down so deep, that their entire plane of reference is altered and a new little world is created to support the peculiarities of their interest. This hyper focus not only makes them brilliant (at times), but also creates their myopic perspective. Well, at least that is how I explain these research titles a friend sent me…

Effect of Adjuncts on the Color Stability of Bologna and Fresh Beef Sausages

Calculation, Qualculation, Calqulation: Shopping Cart Arithmetic, Equipped Cognition, and the Clustered Consumer

Making Time: Reciprocal Object Relations and the Self-legitimating Time of Wooden Boating

After reading these and making a few snarky comments, said friend and I spiraled into an email thread trying to best each other with fake inane research titles. Generally specific, or specifically general – you decide. Below I present you our first three topics.

Symbols of Virility and the Cultural Resurgence of Lederhosen

Forskning og Teori om Størrelse og Knuse-metode i Forhold til Klasse, med Hensyn til Smag og Behag

A study of Northern European migration patterns in relation to banal influences, with a special forword by B. Jean on cloud cover and pesky bugs.

Perhaps this should be part of a series called “I’m smarter than you” that is geared toward academia, executed as book slipcovers that hide the fact that you’re just reading the latest Malcolm Gladwell bestseller. Have any research titles up your sleeve that I should add to the collection?

In the process of researching these titles, I came across this photo. Which is just too good not to repost. What is going on? What ISN’T going on? Rocking out in lederhosen never looked more hardcore. In fact, I have danced with a man in lederhosen, and it was all you can imagine and more.

I want an invite to this party.

One Fish, Two Fish

While working on a larger illustration for a website project, I particularly enjoyed drawing these two little fish. In researching the project, animal symbolism played a heavy role and I thought this thought fit nicely: In China, the fish is symbolic of fidelity and unity, as it is noted that koi often swim in pairs. The fish below aren’t koi – they look more like salmon-trout-koi hybrids that are swimming up a noodle river – but they sure look happy.

Leap Day

Black outlined LEAP DAY type with various pattern fills such as dots, circles, lines, stripes and triangles. 3D type is filled with magenta, orange, yellow and teal. Welcome to the 80s!

A week ago today was leap day, February 29th, the day that occurs once every four years on a leap year. Good thing we have smart scientist people to tell us that the Earth isn’t always exactly on time, and we need to make up for it every fourth year and every couple of decades with an extra day.

A week ago today I also made a leap. A leap of taking the Bureau abroad to see if the independent designer lifestyle and running a small business could really transcend continents. A leap to see what the next year in life will bring me. And, boy howdy, so far it has brought me a 600% increase in pickled herring consumption.

Leap year also made me pause to consider the markers we all use to gauge time. It’s easy to get bogged down in daily routine, so I choose to look at these anomalies in an otherwise flatline of days and months and years as a time to look back, and look forward. Take stock, rearrange, and make some plans for what you want to accomplish.

What leaps do you want to take?

Between Here and There

A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking about the fractions of life – how events can shift your course depending on the smallest difference in circumstance or how you handle a situation. I feel this acutely every time I walk around my work neighborhood in Portland, a pocket between the Pearl and Chinatown. In the Pearl, well-to-dos get their nails buffed and highlights touched up, while a few blocks away in Chinatown down-on-their-lucks wait in line for a bowl of soup.

Fractions are funny, my friend and I agreed, in that they are intangible and hard to measure until the repercussions of an action are fully unfurled, and sometimes only become apparent when you stack each fraction of change on top of the other. I am somewhere between these two worlds of well-to-do and down-on-my-luck, but walking the line down 5th Street in Chinatown makes me wonder how many steps there actually are, between here and there. #occupywallstreet

Eli, No! Lucy, Yeearrrchhh!

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of meeting some new designer acquaintances who were on a travel adventure across the USA. When Nathan Strandberg and Katie Kirk of Eight Hour Day made a stop in Portland, we bonded over our chocolate labs on a rainy day spent walking the dogs at Thousand Acres on the Sandy River Delta.

Eli: no mischief here, no sir, not at all.

While the Northwest weather may have driven Nathan and Katie on to their next destination with haste, their pup Eli and my pup Lucy didn’t seem to mind the rain, mud and driving wind that makes Portland fall something special. Those labs seem to have an unwavering love for life that shines thru so clear that it makes it easy to put up with some of their eccentricities.

Lucy the chocolate lab with her squeaky newspaper toy.
Lucy: the face that could trick you into just about anything.

So when Katie wrote and illustrated the book Eli, No! about her faithful companion’s shenanigans, it all felt very familiar. If I had to write a book about my dog pal, it would be titled LUCY, YEEARRRCHHHH! because that is the pterodactyl noise that I make when she is doing something inappropriate. It’s not the most endearing sound to come from a human, which is why you probably won’t be seeing a sequel from my neck of the woods anytime soon. Instead, I’ll just use Katie’s book to relive Lucy’s less glorious moments.

Katie loves her dog, so she wrote a book about him.
Continue reading “Eli, No! Lucy, Yeearrrchhh!”

A mule by another name…

I received three figurines in the mail from my friend Sarah, who wrote that she knew I liked horses and thought I might do something fun with these half-inch tall toys. I opened the tissue paper wrapping she sent them in to find two horses…and a baby calf?

I was pretty sure that Sarah knew the difference between a calf and a foal…but what WAS the relationship of my three new charges, and did THEY know that something was off kilter? I have a feeling an uncomfortable confrontation between the baby calf and the Parental Horse Units will be happening soon.

Two parental horses decide when to tell their baby calf that things aren't as they seem.
Son, there is something we need to tell you...

Add to your ‘Most Ridiculous Riders Ever’ List

After reading an article on The Smoking Gun about the Foo Fighters’ rider, my pioneer rabbit started to get real persnickety leading up to his participation in the Stumptown 40 Pinewood Derby Car Race. So he hired a crack legal team to craft a ridiculous rider. Probably never should have taken those glossy head shots. Rabbit knows what rabbit wants, I guess.

Who knew a fake pet rabbit could be so demanding...