Interview: Using Pinterest to Write

Ansel's Pins

Ansel Burch is a writer, performer, creative polymath, and a friend of mine who specializes in re-enactments and professional radio dramas. His use of Pinterest as a way to curate visual representations of the places and people he writes about led me to interview him over the weekend. I’m a big fan of the social media platform, but usually reserve my inspirations in secret boards so as not to tip my hand on projects. Ansel is less concerned with that than I am, which allows others to gain more inspiration from his curating work. You can follow him on Pinterest as captfrobisher, or on Twitter @dndisms.

1. When did you start using Pinterest to organize your inspiration?

Probably about a year ago – I was against it initially, but my wife convinced me that it was a good idea, and I came around eventually. It’s currently the best way online to categorize and keep images for a specific project. Google Images seems to use textual parameters around the articles attached to an image, rather than the image itself; and Pinterest also loads faster on the smartphone, which is my main means of interaction with it.

2. Why do you find Pinterest useful for this?

You and I both work mostly with the written word, which can become very ethereal if you let it. Especially with my radio plays, when you’re writing, there’s sometimes this dream aspect where the characters move from point a to point b with no real description.

But if you have a visual concept you can refer back to, you get a more solid concept of “the rocket is so big, and people have to go from here to here …” You can narrate it more effectively. The characters have to get through the airlock, get around the bulkheads, etc. Getting that concept of where you are visually is so key when your work is mostly verbal and textual.

3. Do your ideas generally lead you to images, or vice versa?

I look through my feeds and pin things to the various projects I already have going on. I’ve not yet been inspired to a new project by Pinterest, but it’s given me a lexicon of imagery to work on for future projects.

4. Where do you start looking for your inspiration online?

My feed is made up by following boards rather than following people. I’ll look for an image that’s iconic for what I’m working on, then investigate what board it was pinned to, and follow that board. Then I investigate the lineage of pinning – looking for where similar images or boards exist, and follow up from there.

5. About how much time a week do you spend researching on the site vs. actively creating?

Probably 2-3 hours a week on the high end, mostly during my train commute. I only focus on it if I’ve got a specific project that I need inspiration for. For example, I may spend some dedicated time to get images of important locations or individuals for a storyline. But it’s mostly what I call distraction work.

Active creation usually takes 10-12 hours a week. Less than I’d like, but more than I can justify given the job situation. I’ll give all that active creation time in a day on a single project, rather than splitting the time between projects, and days of the week are devoted to specific projects – Monday I write the radio scripts, Tuesdays before a game are devoted to the upcoming scenario, etc.

6. Do you have a specific project or board you’re proudest of?

The curation for my constructed world of Tendar is probably my most well-designed board. Lots of architecture and landscape which show people exactly what I’m thinking of. There’s less “creep” of unrelated pins and pictures on this board.

7. What feature of Pinterest do you find most useful?

I honestly enjoy the “recommended for you” feature, which I know we disagree on and which my wife finds creepy. But it really delivers things to you, rather than requiring you to go look for specific images and hunt them down. I find it convenient, though of course it’s not perfect. For example, I wind up with a lot of women’s fashion being delivered to me because of the costume boards I frequent.

Web: Raue Center for the Arts

My friends at the Raue Center have been wonderful clients for a long, long time. We recently redid their twin Web sites – rauecenter.org and wsrep.org – as part of transitioning to a more user-friendly site for both clients and administrators. It was something of a challenge, but I’m very happy with the way it turned out!

The client wanted something cleaner, bolder and more modern looking than the original site. They wanted something they could update on their own, rather than reaching out to a third-party Web developer. There was a strong push toward integrating blog functionality and putting the social media efforts of the client easier to follow.

As a result, we decided on the WordPress format, which met all requirements listed. I worked closely with the Coraline theme from Automattic , keeping the basics unchanged while focusing on client requests for color change, graphic elements and social media integration.

Locating the proper widgets and applications turned into one of the most enjoyable aspects of the project, as did specific application of icons. Once launched, the admins have found it simple to maintain and keep up with.

I’m happy with the work – and, of course, being featured in some of the photos doesn’t hurt either. ::grin::

Site redesign

It’s been over two years since I turned my hand to my own Web site. I’ve been busier with other things, and frankly, the amount of posting I was doing didn’t seem to justify making any big effort to spruce up what was working fine.

However, in the process of porting Triskele Moon Studios and Le Petit Marche to WordPress blogs, I got to see a good deal of how far their themes and widgets had evolved over the past year or so. That, combined with the new activity on the writing front, led me to go ahead and redesign the site.

Let me know what you think!

Changing the Magazine Game

Many of you know that on September 23, red dust enveloped parts of Australia in the worst dust storm that continent has seen in nearly a century. You probably saw photos on news site, Flickr or in other digital media.

However, did you know there’s a magazine already available, two days later; which has collected them in print form?

Strange Light is now available through MagCloud, a service of Hewlett-Packard. Self-described as a “virtual magazine newsstand in the cloud,” MagCloud seems geared toward niche publishers, self-aggrandizement and fringe interests – but with Strange Light, I can see something else beginning to grow under their aegis.

The return to a tangible archival system seems delicious when you see these photos fully printed, something I’m loathe to admit as an environmentalist but forced to as an artist. The tactile addition to the artwork pulls me in, makes the oranges and reds seem far more real and alive.

It’s a trick of editing, of course, that made this hit me. Someone had the bright idea to collect what they thought to be the best representations of a moment in time, not only online but into a format that could, in theory, be handed down through generations. If you lived through the dust storm, I imagine that would have some appeal – and other savvy editors could easily capture other moments in time.

For example, Teabagger: The Magazine. If anyone does it, they owe me 50% of the profits.

(Incidentally, I first found MagCloud through Constellation Magazine, which is now publishing its Libra/Scorpio issue and is still well worth checking out, if you’re at all astrologically inclined.)

La Bellissima Web site

The projects have been flying fast and furious of late, and while that’s a very good thing for the bank account and creative juices, it’s historically left little time for blogging. However, seeing that the work is actually getting done, I figure it’s time (and past time) to start sharing what’s new again.

La Bellissima Web siteLast night the Web site for La Bellissima went live. La Bellissima is Crystal Lake’s first upscale lingerie boutique, and Kathleen Basista (the owner) is one of the most charming and pleasant people you’ll ever meet. She wanted to use a few specific elements in the site – her pink and chocolate color scheme, the sketch of a young lady dressing at her table, and the wonderful photography of both our mutual friend Susan Sieber and the photographers who worked on the Web sites for her manufacturers.

The pink by itself seemed a little overwhelming to me, so I added in the art nouveau flourishes seen in the sidebar. That led to the decision to place another in the area behind the photographs, which softened the blockiness of the photos and gave them a more organic, flowing, sensual feel.

I’m happy to say that Kathy was pleased with the end result. Last night L and I visited the shop – as La Bellissima also sells Triskele Moon Studios‘ jewelry, and the display cases needed to be filled, we figured we’d kill two birds with one stone by showing up together. They were preparing for an evening lingerie party, so a bottle of champagne was liberated to celebrate the launch of the new site.

Such is the life of a designer. Rough, huh?

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