The Power of Blue: Enhancing Your Home’s Ambiance with Abstract Art

From calming shades to eye-catching hues, blue is an incredibly versatile color that can elevate the ambiance of any space. Blue has a number of properties that make it an ideal choice for home decor. First, it reflects feelings of peace and serenity. This makes it an excellent choice for a living room, bedroom, bathroom, or any space in your house where you want to create a calming atmosphere. Additionally, blue helps to open up the room, making it feel larger and airier, which goes well if you’re into minimalism like I am.

After creating several pieces with a rather muted color palette, I wanted a change, so I created a piece of bright blue abstract art which can become the focal point of your room or you can mix and match pieces of home decor and fabric housing blue abstract art for a unique and striking look.

If you’re favoring the minimalist aesthetic and you’d rather spend your time by the seaside than anywhere else, blue abstract art is the perfect accent. It’s classic yet modern, peaceful yet inviting, and sure to give your space a little something special. So go ahead, take a look at the pieces below!

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Minimalism in action: why I prefer to display art as paperweights instead of wall art

I’m a minimalist who loves visual art and hates clutter. If you are the same, then this blog post is for you.

Do minimalists have decorations at home?

As a minimalist, I learned the hard way that I need art in my life, even if apparently, it has no use. What I did though, in order to avoid clutter is to display art on objects which have some function, for example, I’d rather buy a beautiful mug than having that same artwork hanged on the wall above my couch.

Do people still use paperweights?

Paperweights have been around for centuries and there’s no denying that they add a special touch to any room. Fine art paperweights make exquisite gifts and their intriguing designs can make a lasting impression. A paperweight can also be a meaningful way to commemorate a special moment or milestone and no matter the occasion, paperweights can be a beautiful and lasting way to honor and celebrate it. Yet at first glance, paperweights may appear to be nothing more than pieces of glass with some intricate designs.

And as a minimalist focused on each object having a well-defined function if I am to allow it space where I live, it might seem strange that I have a glass paperweight taking up place on my desk. It seems like an artifact from a different century, but I put it to good use by holding in place paperwork that I need to deal with as soon as possible, for example, things like invoices or fiscal receipts. I can’t cover too many papers with one paperweight and this way I avoid being overwhelmed by paperwork.

My desk faces the room’s window instead of a wall and a fine art paperweight is more likely to inspire me and not distract me when I’m creating or when I’m just doing administrative stuff. The paperweight I currently have on my desk houses a marine Ikebana poem I wrote, called “Hoar”, and it tells the encouraging story of not being bitter after you are the witness of your first white strand of hair on your head because life may surprise you and good things will happen to you beyond youth. You just don’t know how medicine will evolve and how one incurable element one century ago will be repairable in the future.

But like any marine Ikebana poem, this one also looks like just another still life bouquet of flowers and the text doesn’t distract me if I’m brainstorming or not actively trying to read the poem embedded inside the paperweight.

And while paperweights can have various shapes, my favorite one is the typical cabochon or dome shape like you see above. I love how this form seems to bring the best out of a 2D image or 3D inclusions housed inside the paperweight. The simplicity and the minimalism of the cabochon shape also contrasts well with the complexity of the image/inclusions reflected throughout the paperweight.

What do minimalists put on their walls?

If distracting, wall art can be moved from place to place, but unless it is small and can be leaned against a surface, I find hanging it to be a hassle and to be frank, all the walls in my home are white. Paperweights, on the other hand, are portable by design since you can hold one in your hand. I love that they are small and I can easily move them somewhere else if I need to focus and I want my desk to be completely empty.

Besides, a pet peeve of mine which few people know of is that I hate to go into an art museum expecting to be inspired by a diversity of art forms and once I set foot there, I encounter paintings only, as if painting is the only art form. I am often more inspired by Pinterest where an art search is going to be more diverse and inclusive. As a consequence, I wrote a visual poem called “Your Kind of Art” about the courage it takes to indulge in a rare art form and publicly calling it “art”. You can see it below, available on a small, square metal art print if that’s your thing, but since it is available on Zazzle, you can easily change its size, shape, type of canvas or even type of product on which it is printed.

What inspires me to create

All things considered, creation is a journey of self-discovery. I have tried several art forms and I’m constantly trying out new ones. As a child in art school, I mostly studied music with some years of studying ballet and one year of painting. I am still moved by music and I have saved countless YouTube playlists I absolutely need when creating different kinds of things, but I ended my music career a very long time ago because this art form seems so ephemeral and so reliant on technology in order to access it.

As an adult, I rediscovered the joys of writing. I ended up writing several articles in the life extension niche, 3 non-fiction books and 5 books of visual poetry. I had the 3 non-fiction books translated in 6 more languages and I was surprised by being contacted by readers who don’t speak English, but still found value in what I wrote and had translated. This experience also got me interested in translation as a field and I currently keep myself updated to the medical field (after going to medical school, doing a residency in geriatrics and gerontology and then deciding that clinical work is not really what I want to do for the rest of my life) by freelancing as an EN-RO/RO-EN translator in the healthcare niche only.

Initially, I wanted to have my visual poems translated in other languages as well and I even started doing that in Romanian, my native tongue, but for the moment, this project is on the back burner because even if I have the text, I still have to visually edit the poems to look like Ikebana bouquets of flowers. I wanted to have them translated in Japanese too, but with the kanji characters, I imagine the formatting of the visual poems will be even more difficult to achieve if the number of characters will be different compared to English.

Visual art, though, is understandable even by the illiterate and unlike music or a movie, it is instantly perceived due to the peculiarities of the human brain which favors visually displayed information and I like that instant gratification.

Another thing influencing what I create is me resonating with Stoicism as a life philosophy. I view it as an European version of Buddhism where attachment is perceived to lead to suffering. I think some degree of attachment is necessary to form a cohesive self identity and just to enjoy life, but excessive attachment, especially when it comes to objects, is something that I’m seeking to avoid. You may wonder now what that has to do with creating art.

Stoicism influences me by making my art unique, yet not rare. For example, I don’t sell originals (as in physical paintings that exist in one place only): I either create digital art or I draw on paper and make the scans available online. If drawing, I prefer watercolor pencils because I can separate the messy part of applying water with a brush at the end (which is still cleaner than having to regularly replace the water for any new color like with traditional painting) and I can do the actual drawing anywhere, even lying down in bed.

Along the same lines, when it comes to art prints, I don’t limit their number. All the art prints I licensed are open edition ones. If you bought an art print with artwork created by me, you will be able to buy it a second time if the first one was destroyed for any reason. I saw my share of people putting themselves in danger to save objects(!) and I want to avoid encouraging that behavior through the way I make available what I create.

I have always oscillated like a pendulum between art and science and at this stage of my life, I think design is a medium where I can combine them in one activity. Making my art available on functional objects is also why I see myself more as a designer rather than an artist. I’m not sure if my previous STEM education or just being into minimalism is to be blamed here for not indulging in art for art’s sake, but briefly, this is how I ended up displaying artistic poems on paperweights and other functional objects.

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125 Seashell Wall Decor Ideas Featuring Concrete Poems

Are you looking to add a touch of coastal charm to your home? Seashell wall decor can be a beautiful and unique way to bring the beach indoors. In this article, I will show you 125 innovative ideas for incorporating seashells into your wall decor, along with a twist of creativity – concrete poems.

From Shells to Marine Ikebana 125 Unique Coastal Wall Decor Finds

What exactly is a concrete poem?

Concrete poems, also known as shape poems or visual poems, are poems that take on the shape of the object they describe. For example, a concrete poem about a bird might be shaped like a bird. Concrete poems may also be arranged in a specific shape or pattern. The arrangement of the words on the page is just as important as the words themselves. The words and lines are placed in such a way that they create a visual representation of the poem’s subject. The shape or form of the poem can be anything from an object to an animal to a symbol. The words themselves are often used to add meaning to the visual representation. which is depicted in the theme of that poem. For example, the 125 art prints below contain marine Ikebana poems which are are visual poems shaped like an Ikebana composition (Ikebana is a Japanese style of arranging flowers in a vase according to specific principles).

How to appreciate concrete poems

Concrete poems are often dismissed as mere gimmicks or novelties. However, they can be just as powerful and meaningful as traditional forms of poetry.

Here are some tips on how to appreciate concrete poems:

  • Look beyond the shape

While the shape or the form of the poem is important, it’s important to also focus on the words themselves. The words and lines should work together to create a cohesive and meaningful poem.

  • Consider the visual aesthetic

One of the primary appeals of concrete poetry is its visual aesthetic. Take the time to study the shape of the poem and consider how it adds to the overall meaning of the poem.

  • Pay attention to the sound

Poems are often meant to be read out loud and visual poems are no different. Pay attention to the sound and rhythm of the words as you read the poem. The sound of the words can add an extra layer of meaning to the poem.

Concrete poetry may not be as well-known or appreciated as other forms of poetry, but it is a unique and valuable art form. By focusing on the words, considering the visual aspect and paying attention to the sound, you can gain a better understanding and appreciation of this fascinating form of poetry. By embedding this fascinating form of poetry into wall decor, the same piece of art can be experienced on multiple levels.

Throughout the 125 artworks seen in the slideshow below, I have combined the beauty of seashells with the art of concrete poetry to create unique pieces of wall decor. All these artworks are printed by Pictorem, a supplier I chose due to their exquisite quality, but also because they arrange the planting of 1 tree for every shipped print.

You can choose from a wide range of print options to suit your style. Whether you’re drawn to the classic elegance of canvas prints, the modern allure of acrylic and metal prints or the rustic charm of wood prints, you can transform your living space into a personal gallery. Start by exploring these 125 coastal artworks today and find the perfect piece to inspire and enhance your home!

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All the artworks above are available for sale here (just click on the word “here“).

Beyond blooms: is Ikebana restricted to flowers only?

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Are you familiar with the Japanese art form of arranging flowers in a vase and wondering whether Ikebana is restricted to flowers only?

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There are many offshoots of this beautiful art form where the aesthetic principles are maintained, but non-flower elements are used instead, for example, in Ikebana with fruits and vegetables (Morimono).

Ikebana without flowers: a new way to approach the art form

A second example of Ikebana with unconventional elements is marine Ikebana and by the end of this blog post, you will know how I ended up creating this genre and how this type of Ikebana looks like.

Because while initially admiring Ikebana arrangements in books, on the web and in offline exhibitions, when it came time to actually practice it, I never felt comfortable in using living plant material or cut flowers for a variety of reasons.

So I ended up making Ikebana with non-living elements: in the beginning just with marine elements, mostly seashells, and then with poetry too.

Minimalism meets coastal when marine Ikebana makes use of seashells, but this sea life art form can also use other “fruits” of the sea, such as dried sea urchins, starfish, sea horses, corals and maybe even sea glass. All these marine elements can be beachcombed without killing any animal.

Yet too much beachcombing is not good for the environment or for one’s clutter-free home, so I started thinking of ways of limiting my marine collection (mostly made of seashells).

Subsequently, when designing marine Ikebana arrangements, I started with small arrangements of 3D physical marine bouquets emerging from seashell vases, which could either function as trinket containers or could be attached to regular containers. As a minimalist, I can’t stand clutter and decorative containers proved to be a solution to enjoy visual art while keeping things neat.

I could have left it at that, but during a walk I got this idea of replacing the branches and twigs with free verse poetry as curved text, while maintaining the same line shapes.

Following this unexpected idea, I started taking photos of my marine Ikebana arrangements, did lots of photo editing (mainly to remove the background and crop individual elements of the arrangements) and started jotting down ideas of beautiful words which could be turned into free verse poetry for this novel art form.

In keeping with the philosophy of Ikebana, I wanted the words to be both beautiful and for the poems to suggest the passage of time. Marine Ikebana may be made of inert, non-living material, but I still wanted to suggest, and not necessarily show, the typical awareness of the passage of time which I admired in classical Ikebana (and Japanese art in general) for so long. Which brings next to:

Creating a relaxing coastal oasis with marine Ikebana poems

If you wonder how Ikebana combined with marine elements and poetry looks like, this section is for you.

I have included 9 marine Ikebana poems which I applied to 3 types of objects:

  • posters
  • desk accessories such as photo blocks and paperweights

By clicking on any of the images below, you will be taken to the Zazzle marketplace where each design can be customized without you being logged in. If you like any of these visual poetry designs, you can easily change the background color, select a different shape and/or size (depending on the product) and you can also transfer the designs to any other product from the Zazzle marketplace. It’s a lot of fun!

And now the poem list begins.

Time Travel

The following desk accessory is an ornamental glass paperweight featuring a visual poem called “Time Travel” which reveals a sense of time travel when listening to music recorded decades ago by musicians who are not among us anymore.


This desk decor idea features a visual poem called “Cake” about the only temporary human organ: the placenta. Hint: placenta in Latin means flat cake and I liked the play on words, so I used this theme to write a poem about the biology of it.


Next comes a poetry poster featuring a minimalist and coastal visual poem called “Paranoia”. The poem is enclosed in a pyramid and talks about a recent historical event: the Covid 19 pandemic and its early stage when paranoia spread faster than the virus, there was a toilet paper shortage due to panic buying and humans left humanity at the door.

Hot Chocolate

Although a common comforting drink, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to hot cocoa and this marine Ikebana poem, called “Hot Chocolate”, depicts the inherent sad story of each ingredient used to make this drink.

Graveyard Shift

My medical background proved to be a fertile ground when it came to depict the passage of time through marine Ikebana poems. “Graveyard Shift” is one such example, revealing the life and death realities faced during night shifts when most people calmly sleep in their cozy beds.


Next comes a sophisticated glass paperweight featuring a visual poem called “Dust”. It is a free verse poem about star dust, both in a nebula when a star is formed and metaphorically speaking, in all living beings like you and me.

Dreams in Stone

The following octagonal desk ornament features a visual poem, called “Dreams in Stone”, about water slowly carving dreams in stones until they become sand and “swim back” to the seaside for a better life.

In Science We Trust

Minimalism meets coastal in this science poster featuring a visual poem called “In Science We Trust”. Shaped like the tree of life or its bonsai variant, the poem praises the many benefits of science, technology and inventions which are so common that we take for granted.


The last poem from this blog post on Ikebana without flowers is called “Confidence”. If you ever undertook a creative project, you know that in the beginning, nothing is certain and it takes a leap of faith to take an idea and run with it. Similarly, the poem talks about the creative process with its highs and lows and the full drama.

As you can see, Ikebana evolved beyond the traditional Japanese art of arranging flowers to include non-floral elements such as shells and free verse poetry.

If you know someone who would like to see this, please use any of the share buttons below. Thanks!

Wabi sabi memory box ideas

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If you’re searching for some amazing memory box ideas with a special aesthetic angle, you’ve come to the right place!

Wabi sabi memory box ideas

Why make a memory box?

As its name suggests, a memory box is a box for storing your memories of a certain event or person in the form of treasured items from the past. Storing everything in just one box will naturally limit you to NOT clutter your living space or mental space. While it is nice to go down the memory lane from time to time, it is counterproductive to be reminded of the past when you’re trying to focus on work. It is just as counterproductive to store only things you use in the present. Because things from the past allow you to connect the dots, notice some progress and form the story of your life.

When it comes to choosing a memory box for keepsakes, you can definitely use any kind of container, but what these 6 memory boxes below have in common is a Japanese aesthetic concept called wabi sabi.

What is the concept of wabi sabi?

It is amazing that the wabi sabi aesthetic concept appeared in a country famous for its quality products because wabi sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. The wabi sabi style focuses on simplicity, minimalism, natural materials and a color palette reminding you of the natural world. Speaking of colors, I favor the blue and brown combination because it is a nice memento of the dominant colors of the planet we live on. You will encounter this color palette in all my poem designs from the memory boxes below.

If you are a perfectionist like I am, adopting a wabi sabi attitude will encourage you to embrace your imperfections, the imperfections of your home and work and to find beauty in everyday items and in your daily routine. You can start by trying more creative and offline activities when at home, such as reading poetry from an actual printed book or drawing with colored crayons.

Gathering a collection of treasured items from your past is another offline activity you can do in your free time. This could be especially valuable at the end of a project or during mourning to wrap things up and move forward with your life, hopefully learning something from the experience.

Each of the 6 memory boxes below includes one visual poem on the lid. Since each event or person around which you make a memory box is unique, you may find it useful to customize things. All these box designs are available on Zazzle and you can personalize many things without any extra charge: you can change the background color, add text, add photos, remove text or photos, choose different options regarding the box itself and even transfer each design to a different product.

Have you ever made a memory box for keepsakes? I’d love to hear from you in a comment below!

7 golden ratio examples in art and design

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As a seashell collector with a background in engineering and medicine, it was only natural to turn to the golden ratio when I decided to make something beautiful by starting to design visual poems. If you’re not familiar with the golden ratio, this blog post will tell you what it is, how to use the golden ratio in art and design and it will show you 7 examples of how I used the golden ratio in visual poetry.

What is the golden ratio and why is it important?

Imagine a line split in two parts: a and b. If (a+b)/a=a/b, then that ratio between a and b is called the golden ratio, the golden mean, the golden section or the divine proportion.

The golden ratio is important in art and design because proportioning one’s creation by making use of this irrational number (which is approximately 1.618) leads to aesthetically pleasing art and design.

how to use the golden ratio in art and design

How to use the golden ratio in art and design

There are probably ways to use the golden ratio in non-visual arts such as music, but here I’ll give a few ideas on how to use the golden ratio in visual art and design with examples below on how I used these in my own visual poems:

  • fit the image you create inside a golden rectangle. A golden rectangle is a rectangle whose width is a, whose length is a+b and if you divide a/b you get the golden ratio.
  • place the main part of your image in the left or right third of the image (leaving the other two free) by using a golden ratio grid as your guideline instead of using the rule of thirds, thereby dividing the grid in 1:0.618:1 instead of 1:1:1.
  • place the main part of your image in the origin of a golden spiral. A golden spiral is a spiral which gets wider by a factor of the golden ratio with every new quarter turn.
  • if your image has a shape other than a rectangle or if it contains different shapes which increase in size, you can use a different golden shape to balance the elements inside your image or to place the main part of your image. You can have circles, triangles, pentagons and many other shapes increasing in size by a factor of the golden ratio and following a linear path (sitting next to each other, e.g. squares) or the path of a golden spiral.

How I use the golden ratio when designing visual poems

1. Seashells

I start each visual poem by sketching an Ikebana flower arrangement, but instead of using cut flowers, I use English words and seashells, the latter being an example of the golden ratio in nature. While the growth path of each seashell made by a mollusk is different depending on its species and environment, I have inadvertently included many logarithmic spirals into these poems through this choice.

2. The golden spiral

While there are many ways to use the golden spiral when you create something beautiful, I use this golden spiral image 4 times as a separate layer in Inkscape, the main open source software I use when designing marine Ikebana poems from lyrics and photos of my seashells, mainly to find the perfect place for the title and/or logo/signature of each poem:

The golden spiral superimposed 4 times on the "Time" visual poem from Volume V of the Diamond Dust (Poems From the Black Sea) book series
The golden spiral superimposed 4 times on the “Time” visual poem from Volume V of the Diamond Dust (Poems From the Black Sea) book series

3. The golden ratio grid

I also use the golden ratio grid when deciding on where to place the seashell vase of each Ikebana arrangement as you see below:

The golden ratio grid superimposed on the "Time" visual poem from Volume V of the Diamond Dust (Poems From the Black Sea) book series
The golden ratio grid superimposed on the “Time” visual poem from Volume V of the Diamond Dust (Poems From the Black Sea) book series

Ready to see some examples of the golden ratio in art and design?

Scroll down to see 7 examples of everyday items on which marine Ikebana poems designed with the help of the golden ratio are available.

Which one do you like the most? I’d love to hear from you in a comment below!

2 functional decor ideas with golden ratio art printed in stone

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Do you like visual art, do you like the durability of stone as a material, but you also expect some functionality before you buy something for yourself or as a gift? Then you are going to like the following functional decor ideas with golden ratio art printed in stone!

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Pin for later if you don’t have time to read it now!

As a minimalist myself, I understand both your love of open space as well your prolonged pondering whenever you need to bring a new object in your home or office or both. While there are minimalists who prefer single use tools because those do their work best, in some cases, decorative objects can also have some kind of simple function, like the examples below, where stone is used to hold art when used as decor and the same stone is used to protect furniture from spills, stains, burns, condensation or from being scratched.

It’s a simple solution to enjoy visual art without turning your house into a mountain of clutter, especially if you move often or travel often.

Hassle-free art or how to display art without hanging it

If you’ve read other blog posts of mine, you know that I love visual arts as much as I love open space and there were times in my life when I thought I had to choose between the two. In the meantime, I realized that as long as I keep the walls white and move the art to functional, preferably small, objects, I can have my cake and eat it too.

While there are paintings done on stone and images printed in stone, it is a lot easier to enjoy beautiful art on a durable material such as stone if that plaque is displayed on a table, a desk, a shelf and NOT on a wall.

Here are 3 ways to enjoy art available on stone without bothering with wall art:

  • use the stone as it is, e.g. use it for its aesthetic function as desk decor – especially if the stone has an irregular shape and it is small, e.g. a painted rock or pebble. If the stone is shaped like a tile or a plaque, you can reuse it as a stone placemat to protect furniture from the heat of the food and/or for easier cleaning if whatever you’re eating produces crumbs.
  • buy or make a display stand if you need the stone tile in a more vertical position in order to admire it
  • attach non-skid or non-slip pads if you need the stone tile in an horizontal position, e.g. stone platters or slate tiles for serving food

Functional decor idea 1: stone coasters

Coasters for drinks are useful and maybe a bit frivolous since you could always use a napkin underneath your glass or cup. If you are wondering what are coasters used for, they are used to avoid the furniture from being scratched, to absorb condensation if the drink is too cold, to avoid steam being trapped between the hot drink and the furniture and of course, to avoid spills.

The images from the collection below contain visual poems designed by me and published on the Zazzle platform as stone coasters. Given the size of such a coaster, 4″ x 4″ (or approximately 10 x 10 cm), it is possible for the actual lyrics to not be easily readable without a glass magnifier, but each design can still be enjoyed as a floral Ikebana composition. The lyrics only add to the experience.

If you want to improve the design, on Zazzle you can play around, change the background color, add or delete photos and custom text until everything is according to what you like and need.

You can also choose between 4 types of stone to print your coaster:

  • marble
  • limestone
  • travertine
  • sandstone

Functional decor idea 2: stone trivets

If you’re wondering what is a trivet, stone trivets for hot dishes are plates used to avoid the furniture underneath them being stained or burned.

The images from the collection below contain visual poems designed by me and published on the Zazzle platform as stone trivets. Given the size of such a trivet, 6” x 6” (or approximately 15 x 15 cm), you are more likely to be able to read the actual lyrics, but even if you can’t, each design can still be enjoyed as a floral Ikebana composition. The lyrics only add to the experience.

If you want to improve the design, on Zazzle you can play around, change the background color, add or delete photos and custom text until everything is according to what you like and need.

You can also choose between 2 types of stone to print your trivet:

  • marble
  • travertine

While originally my visual poems were published against a black, cappuccino beige or chocolate brown background, most stone coasters and stone trivets from the collections above have their white or cream natural stone background because I think the poems look better like this on stone. I also changed the font to pure black for easier reading, if one is interested in that.

Don’t forget you may need a display stand if you want to use a stone coaster or stone trivet as a unique piece of home decor for your desk, table or shelf!

12 types of seashells I used to create coastal wall art & decor you may not have heard of

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Are you looking for unique and golden ratio based coastal wall art & decor? Then check out these 12 types of seashells I used to create floral and coastal art shaped as visual poems.

Many years ago I decided to get rid of all of my print books and switch to an e-book reader. I was tired from carrying heavy books whenever I moved and while I did switch to an e-book reader in the end, there were a few books I couldn’t part with. One of these was a seashell encyclopedia. At the time, that was my only book on the topic and while I could find online just about anything I could desire as a seashell collector, I kept the printed version for those times when I had enough screen time and enough ugliness surrounding me and I just needed some quiet time to see something really beautiful. I also kept two exotic seashells I bought during college: a beige Murex shell with lots of spines and a dusty red Turritella shell.

Fast forward to 2022, my seashell collection grew and so did my awareness on where I source them from. I was never in the habit of picking lots of them when beachcombing, but I was unaware of the industry that exists behind the seashell trade which sources them while still alive. I was under the false impression that all the shells found in tourist shops by the seaside were simply beachcombed after the mollusks died anyway.

The seashells I used below were partly picked by me and partly bought and here is a list of 12 common and not so common types of seashells I used to design coastal wall art & decor you may not have heard of.

12 types of seashells I used to create coastal wall art & decor you may not have heard of

1. The Japanese wonder shell

I’ll start with my favorite one: Thatcheria mirabilis or the Japanese wonder shell. I initially saw this seashell on the cover of the aforementioned encyclopedia. I have just one such seashell which I bought from a small Japanese island called Miyajima which is very close to Hiroshima. By the way, shima or in Japanese means island and Miyajima is the place to go in Japan if you’re a seashell collector. While naturally a yellowish white or beige shell, I painted mine with blue acrylic paint. Here are some concrete poems in which I used the Japanese wonder shell as the Ikebana vase from which the lyrics flow.

2. The triumphant star turban shell

Guildfordia triumphans or the triumphant star turban shell is another shell I bought from that small Japanese island. I kept it in its natural dusty pink color, but in some poems it appears blue because I added a digital filter when I designed those. I used it to decorate a lid from a box (you can see the box with its lid in one of the poems from the collection below if you click on it) and after photographing that box, I used that cropped outline in many other poems.

3. The Turritella shell

Turritella is actually a family of seashells, the common denominator being their very tightly coiled shells. I have just one such seashell which was originally dusty red in color. I vaguely remember I bought it many years ago from the Romanian coast of the Black Sea. In the end, I used acrylic paint to change its natural, warm color to a gradient color palette starting from chocolate brown to a cappuccino beige shade. You can see the result below.

4. The Murex snail shell

While most snails we call murex are part of the Muricidae family, many were regrouped in other genera. I used two such sculptural seashells in my poems, one with brown stripes in its natural color palette and another one I painted in blue. I sometimes added a blue digital filter to the brown Murex shell.

5. Mussels

Mussels are very common along the Black Sea shoreline. I mostly used them as details in the concrete poems because their elongated shape resembles leaves, but there are some poems in which I used one mussel as the main vase from which the coastal Ikebana arrangement emerges. I also used mussels to make an iris flower by gluing them around a tiny bottle, as you can see with the iris bud from the collection below.

6. Scallops

During the last years, I found more and more scallops along the Black Sea shoreline and I don’t remember seeing any when I was a child. I’m not sure about the cause of it, but I’m sure these are beautiful seashells and I used them whenever I needed to make use of their fan shape. The blue ones featured in the poems below were painted with acrylics and the cream beige ones still hold their natural color.

7. The rapa whelk shell

Rapana venosa is a predatory snail from the Muricidae family mentioned above, but I count it separately due to its subtle color and even smoother surface compared to the usual Murex shell full of spines. It is almost impossible to take a walk along the Black Sea shoreline and not find one of these shells.

8. The precious wentletrap shell

There are a couple of very tiny pink Epitonium seashells I found along the Black Sea shoreline which I used as poetic elements, but its larger relative depicted here, Epitonium scalare or the precious wentletrap, is a seashell I bought from Japan. It is naturally a subtle white to beige or even pink. The blue version you see below was achieved with a digital filter I applied after photographing it.

9. The harp shell

I’m not sure about the precise name of the species, but this is definitely a harp shell. I bought it from Japan and I painted the shell in chocolate brown, decorating its vertical ribs with a layer of cappuccino beige acrylic paint. It was already brown, but its natural pattern was a bit spottier and I think it looks better with this clear color palette of just two shades of brown. It is one of my favorites and I used it in many visual poems.

10. Clams

The clam is a staple of the Black Sea shoreline. I used clams in their natural color, but I also made a blue painted lotus flower out of them as you can see in the shape poem from the collection below. Some clams I used were from Japan.

11. The queen conch

I bought this conch from Japan and given its pink color and typical shape, it is probably a queen conch. The one I have was a bit broken and given its size, it was probably an adult when harvested. In my poems I only used its top part as seen in a cross section because it resembles a flower and I thought that works well in an Ikebana arrangement. I sometimes added a blue digital filter to create the illusion of blue flowers.

12. Microshells

I’ve been walking on sand so many times without knowing there are microshells hidden there. I found about their existence from that seashell encyclopedia I mentioned in the beginning and once I started looking at sand with a glass magnifier, I was amazed by the sculptural shapes I found. Many of these species are probably not even described. Here are a couple of concrete poems in which I included many such microshells.

The list of seashells I used just came to an end. You may not have heard about some of the lesser known seashells mentioned above, or did you? Which is your favorite? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Free Vitamin Sea And The Premium Blue Space Effect

If you’re reading this blog post, most likely you live on the blue planet as well and you need vitamin sea more than you think.

I’ve been living my whole childhood near water as I gazed through the window from my blue-decorated room filled with 4 aquariums at a time (yes, four!) and when I moved to a big, crowded, landlocked city I didn’t know what was missing, even as I had all the cognitive stimulation I craved for so long. Unfortunately, I still don’t live near water for reasons that I can’t fully control, but I schedule time to be around or in water as much as possible.

Blue planet image to underline the importance of the blue space effect and vitamin sea for human health
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay 

Blue spaces include any body of water such as a fountain, a hot spring, a pond, a lake, even a sea or an ocean if you live in a coastal area. Being near them for extended periods of time has several health benefits:

  • You are more likely to walk if the space around you is beautiful, wide and open. If you walk more, you are less likely to mismanage your weight.
  • You are likely to breath better from all the mist of a water environment, especially if you breathe in that salty sea breeze.
  • Your mental health is likely to be better overall whether that is due to the sense of calm blue spaces induce when being around them or due to the increased rate of water-related activities such as swimming, surfing or sailing.
Sailing boat image to underline the importance of vitamin sea and the blue space health benefits effect
Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

The impact of all these premium health benefits on humans describe the blue health effect and ever since I found a name for it, I not only took the liberty to go to the seaside more often, I also took this into consideration when creating my type of art: marine Ikebana poetry.

Here are the blue space effects I took into consideration while creating my art:

  1. I care about mental health preservation and improvement so I didn’t want my art to shock people or induce disgust. At most, I wanted it to make people reflect on things they may find uncomfortable, sometimes by using complex words, but the visual aspect should never be ugly or disgusting and the overall effect of my art should be to induce calmness. Hence when creating my compositions, I frequently used the golden ratio, lots of open spaces, the wabi sabi philosophy and I included a bit of blue in just about every visual poem I wrote and published.
  2. Not only that I used blue in all of my poems, but the designs themselves are inspired by the seaside, namely the Black Sea coastline which I go to so often. I can’t always stay overnight, but I often go there just to walk a couple of hours by the seaside, be it summer or winter, sunshine or rain or snow, I don’t care. Most of the seashells used in these visual poems were collected from the Black Sea, albeit a few of them were bought from Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
  3. The cleaner the water, the more intense the blue space effect can be. This is the reason for which I brainstormed a lot while soul searching in defining my type of art and a first solution I found was to manufacture everything as print on demand to avoid filling the world with unwanted books, art prints, home décor objects, merchandise or gifts. I already used this business model when releasing my previous three books on gerontology and this time, I wanted to try it in the art field as well.
  4. I don’t wish people spend even more time in front of their computers than they already do for work or leisure or both. Those short walks by the seaside I take are truly one of the rare cases when I’m truly offline and I get so refreshed not only from that fresh salty air, the exercise I get from walking a couple of hours, but also from all the new ideas I get. It is way too easy to be attracted by the digital realm and forget how to inhabit your body and reflect on life. Hence I took the decision to offer my creations as print only. Even if you can view or buy them online, you don’t have to spend time in front of a screen in order to enjoy the hardcover photo book series, the art prints or the homeware.

Some people may dream about reaching for the stars, but reaching for the seaside is good enough for me.
How about you?

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Black Sea coastline, photo taken by author

2.5-year update on how I turned Japanese learning into an alternative art education

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Two years and a half passed since I got back to learning Japanese after a 10-year gap during which I let the desire to speak and write fluently in this language to simmer quietly in my brain. As I wrote in the first post from this series of updates (link here), my sense of aesthetic is very influenced by the Japanese culture and I expect to progress as an artist and designer once I’ll be able to dive into this kind of art without the shackles of English.

After almost 4 grueling years in which I focused to create the Diamond Dust (Poems From the Black Sea) series of books, I can finally relax having published it and increase the time I spend learning and using Japanese every day. What I started doing differently now is reading easy Japanese texts. As long as I can use the crutch of furigana, I find it a lot of fun to read in this language.

I was already practicing reading in Japanese by making a habit of searching art keywords on Pinterest in this language, yet reading whole sentences makes the retention of the little Japanese I know a lot more lasting, it seems.

As life went on, a pandemic swept throughout the world and the way I continued to practice Japanese every day changed, but my motivation for one day becoming fluent in it did not wane.

My staples in learning it are still mobile apps. During the lockdown, I have stopped using Clozemaster but I have continued using Duolingo and JA Sensei.

Duolingo is very good for the ease with which a streak can be maintained so I have no excuse of not using some Japanese every day, no matter how busy and tired I may be. Meanwhile, Duolingo added a lot more lessons for Japanese which should be the equivalent of JLPT N4 by now, if the whole tree is finished (which is not my case yet). Duolingo also added a separate tab for learning hiragana and katakana. I already knew these from the usual Japanese course there, but I found the ease of learning how to write these better than on any other app I used and this time I finally found a way to use those Duolingo lingots (now called gems) by skipping levels when rehearsing lessons until I reach Level 5, the maximum one.

I also tried the Premium version in August: I didn’t find the offline lessons useful as they’d only clutter my phone’s memory. It was nice to do progress quizzes from time to time, but that’s about it.

Clozemaster seemed to reset the streak at the same hour each day, with no possibility of extending the streak if I happened to do the exercises in the early morning one day and late at night during the next day. This and the app lacking some visual crutch for the exercises (no images, old graphics) made me just uninstall it.

JA Sensei is still something that I use – I wish it had a streak to motivate me even more (it has some notifications now). Even here I changed the way I use the app, having downloaded the vocabulary from JLPT 1-5 and regularly reviewing and learning new words. Initially I decided to first learn the JLPT 5 vocabulary, then 4 and so on, but I noticed there were words I already knew from the upper levels and it would have been a pity to not review them as well. Nowadays I also rehearse pronunciation by using speech recognition when learning the JLPT vocabulary and I do my best to learn 10 new words per day and review a set of 30 words x 5 JLPT levels per day. For a while, I did phrase quizzes and kanji radical quizzes as well. Those kanji radical quizzes were extremely useful to guess the meaning of any kanji I may stumble upon and to search for the meaning of a kanji by using a print dictionary. The audio parts were also useful in getting used with Japanese sentences instead of words only, but for the moment, I focus on increasing my vocabulary with this app as preparation for heavier reading in printed Japanese where I may not understand the whole word, but I could guess some meaning if I saw the kanji side by side.

An app which I didn’t quit, but just put on hold is italki. I found it very cumbersome to schedule lessons and a lot easier to learn on the go with Duolingo and JA Sensei whenever I had some free minutes. Yet I admit the live feedback I received from the lessons there made the app worthwhile, just not on a daily basis as the other two.

A new resource I found is a website called with bits of Japanese from movies used as quizzes, including ones where the response was given by speech in order to practice talking in Japanese too. I don’t use this every day because it works better on the laptop than on the phone.

Video is my least liked format in which to learn, so forgive me if the idea of turning subtitles on in Japanese or English and improving my Japanese vocabulary this way is an idea that came to me so late.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed my plans about yearly JLPT testing which was canceled where I live. I was under the false impression that I could always just test myself with JCAT online, but it seems this test only works on tablets now. It’s also not free anymore, although if it worked seamlessly like last year, I would have paid for it.

As inspired by my child who is just learning her first words, I tried a couple of Japanese apps for toddlers learning this language. They are all in hiragana and katakana and the words are quite easy, but a lot of fun to use and easy to remember through the instant feedback I get from these toddler games. Inspired also by my child who learns a lot from music, I listen to Japanese songs from time to time, reading the lyrics on the screen, like this one I particularly like:

Ideas for the future include trying a laptop with a Japanese keyboard and operating system and also using VR and AR to force me to talk in Japanese, but in the meantime, my goal in the near future is to develop a habit of not only using Japanese every day (the easiest way is to just maintain my Duolingo streak and I already do that), but to read sentences every day.

Here are some resources I use for that:

Wikipedia in Japanese

This list of Japanese reading practice websites from TeamJapanese

I now reached a point where I make daily use of Japanese and for the first time in my life, I think I’m on the right path to become fluent in it. This doesn’t mean I don’t look for additional hacks to learn it even faster. If you know of any such resource for learning Japanese or learning a foreign language in general, I’d love to hear it!