The (secret world of the) Japanese Swordsmiths

How Japanese swords (the Katana) were made, an absolutely brilliant short documentary from 1997!

The Japanese sword is the soul of the Samurai. The crafting of this work of art — which embodies beauty, strength and tradition — has been shrouded in secrecy for more than a thousand of years. Because of the highly advanced techniques and numerous years of dedicated effort required in crafting Japanese swords, the skill has always been a closely kept and jealously guarded secret. Yohindo Yoshihara is a consummate Japanese swordsmith and a very high regarded Mukansa craftman in Japan. He is also the best-known Japanese swordsmith outside of Japan.
This video has been produced to appeal to all aficionados of the Japanese sword around the world and is a treasure trove of secrets to Yohindo Yoshihara’s truly outstanding Japanese sword craftsmanship.

Watched the documentary today and was very impressed. A craftsman can do what no machine can — achieving perfect balance, symmetry, and beauty…

Monsters & Carrots: my little moment of fame

Perhaps not many people know but I am a contributing editor for Smashing Magazine for many years now. It all started a little less than 8 years ago (the summer of 2010, to be precise), when I was approached by Vitaly (the editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine) who asked me if I’d like to help him create and manage the shiny new Adobe Fireworks section.

Fast-forward to today and what can I say? Adobe Fireworks is no more (although it will always have a place in my heart! and will probably have its icon pinned on my Windows taskbar as long as Windows keeps support for 32bit applications) but I have learned a lot during these years. I helped prepare and publish more than 40 (maybe more than 50 even… I lost count!) articles about Fireworks, about design, prototyping, and more; I worked with great people on my team; I collaborated online (and sometimes met in person) with many fantastic authors; and I learned a lot.

So when Vitaly asked me to say a few words (that were going to be published in the edition #200 of the Smashing Newsletter, I was more than happy to do so. Here’s what I said:

My work for Smashing Magazine started pretty casually as a side job eight years ago, while I was still deeply involved with web design projects and HTML/CSS. Vitaly invited me to become editor of the newly created Adobe Fireworks section in the magazine and since Fireworks was my primary UI design tool, things went really smoothly. Then, over the years, the magazine and the authors I was working with became more and more important to me. Adobe dropped Fireworks development a few years ago, but there were so many other exciting design topics to write about!

Working together with authors, editors, and experts, I learned how to be a better editor, and also a better author. The life change was subtle at the beginning, but by gaining more and more experience, at some point I quietly left the world of HTML/CSS coding. Nowadays, I am a fulltime technical editor in a Danish software company and during the nights I am still working on articles for Smashing Magazine.

Working with words helped me to unlock the creative side in me, and maybe this is one of the reasons why I started to work on a personal project of mine, the Monsters & Carrots series of drawings. My next big challenge will be to create and publish a book (or maybe several books!) full with illustrations from a crazy fantasy world. This is the biggest challenge at the moment — to “steal” some free time and find more life and work balance.

And lo and behold! I also saw one of my Monsters & Carrots illustrations featured in the newsletter! :-)

The Sea Mouse Dragon having tea with Mr Carrot

And I felt a little proud — just a little! :-)

And yes, I want to make a book (more than one, actually) full with my crazy monsters… and carrots. This will need time and effort but I will happily spend both of these for my little side project. Because I want to try and see what will happen.

Life is short. And when you feel you should try to do something, better try. Or just do, try not (to misquote Yoda a bit here).

Or… “Per aspera ad astra,” as old romans would say. :-)