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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Design’

I bought a pair of ipis earrings from the beercan art guy of Poblacion

October 30, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design No Comments →

I kept hearing about how Poblacion is the place to be, so when I met my first workshop group I suggested we eat at Bucky’s then cross the equator to El Chupacabra. You can feel your ears pop. The difference between the two sides is a subject for an anthropological paper.

Afterwards I was waiting along the street for the car when a skinny man came up to me holding a small sculpture made of recycled beercans. I was more interested in the large silver cockroach, also recycled from a beercan, that he was selling.

“You can put it on your shirt and take a selfie!” he said.

I said that I was more interested in its earring possibilities. “Can you make two small cockroaches that I can use for earrings? Just make them, I’ll attach the hooks and rings.”

We traded emails and I got them a few days later. They’re delicate but impressively detailed. Clearly Mika, the can art guy, had spent a lot of time observing cockroaches.

He can also make Edward Scissorhands thingies that you can attach to gloves, which means he could make Wolverine claws. You can find him on Felipe Street off Burgos, Makati every night. I’ve commissioned beercan cats for earrings and he’s working on them.

If I lived in Prague, this would be my address.

October 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Places, Traveling No Comments →

The Imperial Hotel is in a gorgeous Art Deco/Czech Cubist building in Praha 1. It was built on the site of a pub dating back to the 1700s. The hotel opened in 1914, and in recent years it was completely renovated according to its original plans.

This is an elevator.


Going home would be the high point of the day, even if you just went out to the pharmacy.

You would have breakfast every day at the Imperial Cafe.

Look at this staircase, Wes Anderson would plotz. Amazingly, no movies have been filmed at the Imperial, not for lack of interest, but because it is usually full.

And the hotel is pet-friendly, so the cats and I would be very comfortable. My dream house has always been a luxury hotel. Whatever state you leave your rooms in, when you return, everything is orderly and gleaming. There is no need to cook or wash dishes, because there is room service. When you get tired of the decor, you could move to another good hotel. Hey hotels, what about a writer-in-residence program? All my stories would take place at the hotel.

* * * * *

As soon as I wake up I’m going to watch Blade Runner 2049. I just checked the movie schedule and found out that the film adaptation of HHhH is also in local cinemas. It’s called The Man With The Iron Heart, with Jason Clarke as Heydrich and Jacks O’Connell and Reynor as Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis. The dreaded Nazi Butcher of Prague was assassinated by young Czech fighters who parachuted into Prague, leading to a seven-hour standoff between a handful of Czechoslovak fighters and the German Army at the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. One of the most stirring episodes of resistance and courage in World War II–I hope the filmmakers did it justice. And will they render the smartassery of Binet’s novel on film?

Weekend in Cebu: LitFest, Writing Boot Camp, fabrics and accessories

September 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Food, Places, Projects 2 Comments →


I left the house under the guilt-inducing gaze of Drogon, who disapproves of any activities that do not involve him.

I was in Cebu from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning for two events organized by Hendri Go, who runs the Cebu Literary Festival. I like Cebu: One can still breathe, even if the traffic is getting heavy; there are enthusiastic creative enterprises like Happy Garaje the design studio and Anthill the fabric gallery; there are intense chocolate creations at The Chocolate Chamber and that cake at the coffee shop of Big Hotel; and the major malls have wider, taller spaces than the ones in Manila. Also, Avatar earrings and accessories and Sunburst fried chicken.

After a quick lunch and chocolate fix, I did a reading and Q&A at one of the Cebu LitFest venues, a rooftop amphitheatre at SM Seaside. Near the amphitheatre is a cafe staffed by fluffy, lazy cats.

I slept like a baby at the Marco Polo Plaza, where the lovely staff sent up midnight snacks: ensaymada and tea on the first night, chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk on the second.

Before boot camp the next day I visited Anthill, a gallery and training center for producers of indigenous handwoven fabrics and accessories. I bought a reversible shawl that can be worn sixteen ways, which means I only have to bring a bunch of black T-shirts and jeans when I go to Tokyo this week.

Writing Boot Camp was held at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the I.T. Park in Lahug. I talked about building the habit of writing, gave writing exercises, and interviewed each participant about what was keeping her/him from writing. Then we talked about the writing projects they will undertake, the first five pages of which are due on Saturday, 30 September.

En route to the airport I stopped by the Avatar showroom, where I stuck to my resolve to buy only two or three items. Lately I’ve felt that my things are closing in on me like the trash compactor in Star Wars, so I limit my purchases to stuff I need or really like. Hence, the slightly weird.

Thank you, Cebu! I’ll be back.

How printed books are beating ebooks: with beautiful covers and textured pages

May 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Design No Comments →


Penguin Bespoke Editions: Bruce Chatwin’s works wearing Burberry

Book covers looked very different a decade ago when the appearance of e-readers seemed to flummox a publishing industry reeling from the financial crisis and Amazon’s rampant colonisation of the market. Publishers responded to the threat of digitisation by making physical books that were as grey and forgettable as ebooks. It was an era of flimsy paperbacks and Photoshop covers, the publishers’ lack of confidence manifest in the shonkiness of the objects they were producing.

But after reaching a peak in 2014, sales of e-readers and ebooks have slowed and hardback sales have surged. The latest figures from the Publishing Association showed ebook sales falling 17% in 2016, with an 8% rise in their physical counterparts. At the same time, publishers’ production values have soared and bookshops have begun to fill up with books with covers of jewel-like beauty, often with gorgeously textured pages. As the great American cover designer Peter Mendelsund put it to me, books have “more cloth, more foil, more embossing, page staining, sewn bindings, deckled edges”.

Read the full article in The Guardian.

I prefer printed books because I like the smell of ink and paper, and because if I don’t like what I’m reading, I can throw it across the room with great force.

Fantastic book tunnels and elevator shaft libraries

April 04, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Design No Comments →


Entrance to the Yangzhou Zhongshuge bookstore in Zhen Yuan, China. See more photos at My Modern Met.


Reading room at the same bookstore


Studio North in Canada turns an industrial elevator shaft into a library

Where are my glasses?

July 15, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, Design No Comments →

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Chus gave me this book, which he found at Dia de Libro this year (at Ayala Triangle, where Instituto Cervantes has moved).

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It’s a picture book for adults who keep forgetting where they left their glasses. (The solution is to have several pairs of glasses, so you can put one on to find the missing pair.)