Hello! Welcome to the journal for my Creative Project. Here I have outlined my creative process in the development, design and creation of what I call “The Snail Bag”. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
4 May 2012 – Stress and Panic – The mother of all invention.
So this week I was asked about my creative project – which at first I thought was bad because between it being that special time of the semester (when EVERYTHING IS DUE) and work trying to squeeze more hours out of me, I hadn’t really had the chance to think about it all that much. Which was why when Vanessa pulled me up in front of the class and asked me what kind of brain child I planned to bring into this world, I had to think fast.
Fast enough to go back in time.
Back to last months GSM writers night.
It was a special night – and not only because it was filled with free Pizza and special advanced tickets to see Titanic.
But also because the theme for that night was “Home”.
Now, I know this may come as a bit of a shock to some people, but….I’m weird.
I know that. I wasn’t always happy with it, but it’s something I’ve come to accept about myself and, yes, love a little. But that doesn’t mean that the overwhelming sense of isolation I felt growing up didn’t happen.
I was a terrible teenager. Lonely too.
And I used to attribute a lot of that lonliness to the fact that, as a Muslim growing up in a post 9/11 world, I had a lot of people essentially telling me I was a Bad Person.
I don’t think it’s possible for someone who didn’t have to grow up with a constant stream of media messages telling you that your religion is Bad and you should feel Bad. I don’t think many people have been chased in the street, or been referred to as a “terrorist whore” or had glass bottles thrown at them from moving cars (that was terrifying – I had my little brothers with me, and knew I could only run so far while carrying one of them if the people in the car decided to stop). But growing up, there was the constant sense of “me versus the world” mentality that characterised the thinking of both myself and the immigrant/refugee kids I grew up with. I grew up in Carlisle which, while not home to a huge ethnic population, still retained enough of a community to make us feel isolated from the rest of Australian culture. Couple that with the constant barrage of negative media imagery and letters to the editor (I’ve read enough letters suggesting – without an iota of irony – that it was the duty of the Australian government to put all Muslims in concentration camps). Suddenly, when I sat on the bus, people would sit next to me and automatically assume I had an opinion on the Iraq War (This was back when the War was still seen as a necessary moral crusade against the barbarity of Islamic Terrorism).
I was fourteen.
And I had to quickly learn how to debate with smug thirty-somethings trying to tell me I was oppressed (I was still wearing my headscarf back then). I grew (as all teenagers do) angry at the world. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t do anything those people told me I was responsible for. I wasn’t uneducated, oppressed – or worse: too stupid to realise I was oppressed in the first place. I had people asking me if I was being forced to marry someone older then I was.
I was fourteen.
I watched as my peers – many of them having fled from situations too terrible to recount here – being ostracised and demonised. We formed a tight-knit group – us “boat people” (a wonderful phrase courtesy of then Prime Minister John Howard) versus the public baying for our blood. The supreme irony that almost none of us had arrived here by boat in the first place (except one – his dad runs a Turkish Kitchen down in Belmont now). We created this elaborate world where we were the brave few standing against a torrent of hate.
My mother had a saying she was extremely fond of repeating.
If you treat a person like an animal for long enough, you shouldn’t be surprised when they turn around and bite you.
Of course, she was referring to the increase in Black violence in South Africa (where I come from – both my parents were involved in the anti-apartheid movement, and despite it’s rightful fall towards the end of the last century, she always tells me that “we could have done so much more”.
That’s what we felt like. Dangerous animals. Emphasis on the animal part.
The turning point came around the age of seventeen. It was my first semester at Curtin university. Something….terrible had happened to my mother as a result of the fact that she wore the Niqab. That morning, my dad had asked if she could, for her own safety, stop wearing it. She’d broken down at that point.
I was utterly torn. Because it meant that they’d won.
The terrorists had won.
I stepped on the bus that morning ready to tear the head off any bastard that dared to question me, my faith, or my opinion on anything besides the weather. I stood at the front of the bus – defiant of the audience I had behind me, and ground my teeth as the bus rolled into Como.
Then suddenly, in the angry cloud of silence I had surrounded myself with, I heard a small voice.
“Excuse me, but are you Arab?”
With a snarl I whipped round and…
She was the sweetest, most delicate little old lady I had ever seen. The corners of her eyes drooped – making them seem like they were constantly alight with a smile. Her white hair was so thin and fine that it seemed to float like a small cloud of silver about her head.
“I was wondering”, she continued a little tremulously, no doubt suddenly realising the way I could have taken it, “I was wondering if you could tell me how to say “I love you” in Arabic”, and with that a little hopeful smile.
Instant shame flooded me. All the wrath, that righteous anger that I had been so prepared to unleash on anyone that crossed my path disappeared. I was no better then the people that would call at me in the street. No better then that bloke in the group of other blokes (they always seemed to come in packs of three) that’d told me to piss off home.
“No, I don’t speak Arabic”, I replied quietly.
“Oh, that’s alright”, she replied, pulling a little book from her bag, “why, are you from somewhere else?”
“Yeah, South Africa”
“Oh that’s wonderful! Oh, but I already know how to say “I love you” in Afrikaans. And Zulu. Oh, and !Xosa”.
I had to smile with the way she said !Xosa. She’d clicked her tongue the way my aunty’s maids would, when they spoke to each other in the kitchen.
“Sorry about that”, I said, feeling suddenly shy in the face of this little old woman and her tiny book. She’d begun to pick through the pages, before pausing on one.
“Here it is”, she said, holding it up for me to see.
On the page before me, in a tiny crabby hand was a list of languages running all down the left hand side. She’d ruled a line down the middle of the page, and on the right were lines punctuated by blank spaces. I looked down at Afrikaans. Sure enough, there was a line there
“Ek is lief vir jou”, I read aloud.
“That’s it!”, she said, delighted, “you don’t know how to say I love you in any other languages do you?”.
With genuine regret I admitted that I didn’t, and we spent the rest of the journey exploring her little book, and talking about mundane things.
“There is so much hate in the world these days”, she mused as I tried my tongue at Swahili, “so much. There just aren’t enough people telling other people that they love them. That’s when I started my little book.”
She was the nicest old lady I had ever met. She talked to me about her late husband, and about how proud she was of her daughter in Melbourne. I told her about my dads crazy hobbies, and about all my brothers and sisters, how well my mum baked. Little things. The things you talked about to strangers on the bus.
And when it was my turn to get off the bus, I felt good. As though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. To quote one of my favourite books “Does my head look big in this” by Australian author Randa Abdel Fatah, “It takes a lot of people to cause you to lose faith in humanity. But it takes just one person to restore it”.
This might sound to you like a strange and fantastical story. You might think that I’ve quite possibly made it up, that this is just the natural fancy of someone used to writing stories.
I haven’t. It’s one of those near-mythical life changing events that re-enforces the sense of poetic beauty that comprises the entirety of the world.
It’s life. And wherever you are, Diana, I’m truly grateful to have talked to you. You’ve affected my life in a way you will never be able to measure.
And I hope you eventually found someone to tell you they loved you in Arabic.
Which (not really) brings me to my idea. During the course of the writers night, we discussed what each of us thought Home truly meant. Was it the place we felt the most safe and accepted? Was it our home countries, houses or (in the case of one poor student) tent? Or was it something less bound by the constraints of geography. Was it something inside us, that we yearned for, that we built up inside? And since this was writers night, these questions often led to random and completely unrelated topics.
One topic that came to light was that of the near limitless capacity of the handbag of one guys girlfriend.
“Seriously, she’s got everything in there!”
This got us into a debate about why women like to carry about huge handbags crammed full of useless stuff.
“To fend off hot guys”, one girl laughed.
“Because you never know what just might happen!”, someone else called out.
“Because I can’t live without it” chime in a third.
“We’re like snails”, I said, “we carry everything with us!”
“And you’re just as slow in the bathroom” – said someone who received a pencil to the head for his trouble.
Which is how I got the idea for my Snail Bag.
For the writers night, I had originally intended to write an article about new immigrants to Australia, and how, after a few years, when they go back, they come to realise just how Australian they had become. Or perhaps the struggle for first generation Australians to balance the expectations of their parent culture with that of Australian culture. Sadly, four assignments due and one fourteen hour shift (don’t ask) later, I was forced to turn in a far more light hearted piece on How to Zombie-proof your House.
Which is what I ended up presenting when Vanessa pulled me to the front of the class.
I’ll be honest, I’m extremely excited about this project. I had intended to pursue it anyway during the holidays, but here is my chance to produce something to a saleable standard….AND get marks for it.
I’ll need to go to Spotlight at some point and browse through possible materials. It’s gonna be fun.
11 May 2012 – Snail-pace!
So I’ve begun my Snail research. Prior to the creation of anything, I often invest a great deal of time and energy into researching my project. Especially when it comes to sewing, I feel it is important to look around and see how other people have tackled the problem. So the first thing I did was type in “Snail Bag” into google.
This is what I got:
As you can see, quite a few other people have tried their hand at formulating a snail, or snail shell bag. The problem that I have for most of them (except for the snail shell bag Sketch) is that many of them look slightly to kitschy for my tastes – a little too costumey and (in the case of the second image) a little too tacky. I really want to create a back that every day people could see themselves using. Something cute and quirky, but not too inaccessible to the common crowd.
I also wanted it to reflect as much of my personality as possible – because (as you may have deduced from my previous entry) I feel this project to be about something quite personal to me. So, armed with the knowledge and inspiration from what other people have done, I begin both further research and sketching.
From my sketches, you can see that I began by sketching out pictures of actual snails that I found on both the internet, and nature books that I have lying around my house. I also read up what I could about snails, coming across this really interesting article ( regarding the occurrence of natural spirals in nature (following the Golden Rule).
I find sketching to be an extremely effective method of coming to terms with the form I am trying to create – a 3D mental model if you will. I often run through a design mentally before applying it to paper to test it’s feasibility. In this instance, I wanted the bag itself to just be a shell, with the straps representing an extremely abstract form of eye stalks. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use buttons as the eyes, or just cut out material eyes. I think I will go with the buttons – aesthetically, I feel they will be cuter, and less tacky then actual eyes sewn in. Also, it may encourage people who view another person wearing the bag to interpret the bag as a part of the person wearing it (i.e. the person is actually a snail…..sort of thing). This abstractness should aid that.
12 May 2012 – Spotlight: where space-time physics no longer apply.
Spotlight is a black hole. You walk in there for ten minutes and walk out, dazed, confused and considerably poorer, some four hours in the future.
What I’m saying is I went to Spotlight, and spent far more time buying material (and paints,and canvases) then I should have.
But BEHOLD! My material selection.
I had some left over pleather from a previous project, and decided to add that to my selection. It’s extremely important for me – when starting a new sewing project, to go out and get a feel for the material I want to use. Since it’s a bag that I’m making, I know that I have to take durability and the appropriate level of stiffness into consideration. I have a rough idea of how I want my bag to look, and I often like to decide on what material I want to use before beginning drawing up actual plans for a pattern. Once again, the stiffness of the material plays an important role when considering the construction of the actual bag. I also purchased some boning and iron on interfacing. As much as I’d like the bag to be free of both wires and corset boning, it’s possible that I may not be able to achieve the stiffness I require for such a uniquely shaped bag. I like all my bags to be completely washable (I’ve had bad experiences with spilt things before), but if it’s not possible to devise a way to retain the bags shape before due date, I may have to go the boning route.
20 May 2012 – Making Magic A Mess!
So I started developing my pattern today. There are bits of newspaper EVERYWHERE and it looks like I’ve accidentally cut up the movie section that my sister was after. Ah well. As you can see below, I’ve devised two different construction patterns for the bag. I’d like my bag to be as functional as it’s circular shape will allow. I also don’t want it to be too big (which may lead to it becoming incapable of keeping its shape without extensive boning).
When I’m developing a pattern, I will often try to sketch out the general shape of the pattern pieces. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but I do a lot of my pattern making mentally. I take the three dimensional pieces in my mind and organise how I think they would fit. This is not an ability I’ve always had – but one that I have had to practice to achieve over a number of years developing patterns free hand (believe it or not, I’m absolutely awful when it comes to using a shop bought pattern). Because of this, I will often sketch out a variance in the construction of my pattern, due to the fact that my mental pattern making can – and sometimes proves to be – fallible. I will construct both these patterns when I get the time during the week. However, it is common in my creative process to devise and implement several physical prototypes before settling on the one that I’m happy with. As time consuming as the process can be, I find it the best way to ensure I come up with a product that I’m 100% happy with.
As mentioned previously, I have decided to incorporate the research that I did in the previous week into the design of my bag. In particular, the implementation of the Fibonacci Spiral (or the Golden Spiral) in the design of the bag. Artists may recognise this as one method of composition – the organisation of focal points and key players in a visual work according to the proportions of the spiral.
The Spiral itself places the focus point at a particular spot in the photo, which, due to the occurrence of the spiral in nature, presumably naturally draws the human eye towards it. If you look at the photo below, you can see that I have used a compass to measure and compose my own spiral – utilising first a circle cut to the diameter I want the bag to be, before adding my own calculations to create the spiral.
19 May 2012 – The Chicken Snail
What I forgot to mention in my last entry was that we had the opportunity to discuss our creative project with our classmates. I was fortunate enough to be teamed up with Bethwynn Veen – just the person I can trust with good taste!
I had the opportunity to discuss with her the deeper meaning behind the bag, and ask her for her opinion on what material I should select for my project. I told her immediately that the pleather was completely out – I didn’t want something that looked like it was part of a costume, but was undecided between the grey material and the white with chickens.
“Well this bag is supposed to reflect you!”, she said, “I like the grey, but I think the white suits you better”.
And she was right.
There was something kooky and very….me about a bunch of Greek homestyle inspired chickens. And furthermore, the more I thought about it, the more I realised how relevant the pattern was to my project. Chickens, as you might know, eat snails. They are, in a way, a destructive force to the snail. Which, essentially, is what the shell – or to pinch a Jungian term – the shell represents to me. Not only is it a home, a source of protection from the outside elements, but it is also destructive in that it hides and destroys the person I truly am. In order to fit in to society – be you an immigrant or a natural born citizen, we all have to develop this shell that we have to expose to the world. Which is saddening in a way, because it’s not who we truly are. We effectively have to hide and dismantle portions of our personality in order to fit in with the people around us.
Which is why Chickens on a Snail Shell is perfect.
So thanks Beth 🙂
Which also fits in with the immigrant/home theme. I’m going to be building this bag with my hands – using a sewing machine of course (cos who wants to be making itty bitty stitches till four in the morning) – but as close to handmade as you can get in this modern day and age. Snail shells also grow with the snail – just like our personas. It just ties in so well together that I can’t help but feel that, at least subconsciously, I had an inkling of the symbolism when I first saw it at Spotlight. That or it’s just sheer coincidence that I went with the Chicken pattern over horse one
Oh well, I need to start prototyping soon. I’ve got to go to work now.
20 May – Prototyping prototypes
So who remember this sketch?
Today I began cutting an stitching together quick and dirty prototypes of my bag.
You can see the finished prototype bags below:
It’s difficult to tell from the photo, but prototype one seems to be a far better option then prototype two (which doesn’t have a strip of material running down the middle). Each prototype took me roughly an hour and a half to make – with an additional hour for the extra bag I sewed below because of the zipper. I’m using an old sheet to make my prototypes – which means it’s very thin, making it difficult to gauge how stiff I need the material to be for it to keep it’s shape. I considered using some of my iron on interfacing, but it’s slightly expensive, and I don’t think I have the time to drive to Spotlight again before next week. So (in a break from my usual meticulous self), I might just have to wing the thickness when I get to the real bag. Fortunately, the Chicken material is in fact quite thick, so hopefully I won’t have to iron on more then one layer of interfacing to make it stiff. Instead, I’ve tried to use the boning I had (I’d bought extra) in the first prototype, but I wasn’t completely happy with the results (it felt and look odd, and the ends would be difficult to secure neatly in the finished bag). So I scrapped the boning idea and placed all my hope on the interfacing option.
I also tested out my first zipper placement idea (I’m not sure how clear it is in the photo) – and I was so pleased with it I didn’t bother to try out the other two (which is also odd for me – but I’d just realised how low on time I am D:). It is at this point that I decided the bag would have zippers on both sides – On which would lead into the main pocket of the bag, and the other which would lead to a small pocket for things like keys and phones. I don’t have any sketches for that idea, as it’s a simple matter of adding an extra layer of lining material to form the pocket.
Also, I’m so excited about this project again. I think I lost interest a bit during the material selection bit, but just seeing the bag in an (albeit untidy) physical form just makes me want to finish it and show it off :). Next week – The real thing!
27 May 2012 – Handbook to screwing up.
I hate myself. This is awful. I’m a terrible bag maker, and I deserve all the sore fingers I have for what I’ve done today.
First of all, I accidentally cut the pattern wrong.
AAAARGH! I figured out how it happened though – I decided the material wasn’t thick enough to hold shape without the interfacing, so I cut two squares of my Chicken material and two squares of my iron-on interfacing and ironed them together.
Then I forgot to put the two patterned sides together (which, if you’ve sewn before, you have to do it you want to mirrored pieces).
But that’s not even the worst of it. The worst thing…the ABSOLUTELY WORST THING I did today was sew the zippe facing the wrong way.
You heard correct.
AND THEN IT BROKE!
This is stupid. I’m stupid. I’m going to watch Dr. Who and cry myself into ice cream.
27 May 2012 – A bit later
Okay. It’s later. And I’ve calmed down enough to realise that this is due next week.
Alright, I’m really good at motivating myself. I can forgo sleep for up to three days without becoming a danger to people on the roads (really) and I don’t generally eat if I’m busy. I can finish this.
Back at it.
So, I’ve cut two new pieces.
And they’re already been ironed onto interfacing. All I have to do is not screw up the zipper and I’m fine.
What I forgot to mention during my prototyping phase was that the zipper needs to be handsewn into the spiral. It is near impossible to machine sew a straight sipper into a spiral shape with the sewing machine without either running over the teeth of the zip itself, or your fingers (I am not photographing that). Which was why I was so frustrated with the last bag – I’d spent so much time sewing the zip on that when I’d realised I’d done it wrong, I got frustrated and put it down for about an hour.
Which….helps I find.
In the past, when I found myself frustrated with a work and tried to push myself to keep working on it, I’d inevitably make even more of a mess of it. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve messed up from just trying to fix something while frustrated. So I suppose it’s a good thing that I went off and watched TV for a bit before coming back.
Anyway, I’ve managed to re-cut, sew and tack all my pieces. Generally, the cutting and tacking part of any sewing project traditionally takes the longest. Now all I need to do is sew it all together (which, hopefully, will go as planned) and I’d have finished the biggest part of the bag.
28 May 2012 – A bit, bit later
It’s Two in the morning. And I have never felt so awake. I’m so close to finishing this I can just feel the weight of it on my back.
Here is the body of the snail bag:
And now it’s just for the straps.
I think I mentioned in a previous entry that I wanted the straps to seem like a really abstract form of a snails eye stalks. I still want to do that. I’m going to be using the same material I used for the lining of the bag for the straps.
I think I forgot to mention that the bag is lined. When my aunty was teaching me to sew, she always told me that you can tell how good a seamstress is by how neat her clothes look when they’re turned inside out. My Aunty is, of course, is exceptionally good at what she does – to such a degree that would can generally get away with wearing some of the clothes she makes inside out (without anybody noticing 🙂 ). I also used bias binding on all the seams – which carries the dual purposed of re-enforcing them AND creating an almost cloth-like skeleton in support of the structure. I’ve got the telly on, and an old episode of The Nanny just came on.
I’m going to go start sewing the straps now.
28 May 2012 – Okay, so late it’s actually early
Eeee, I’m so proud of it. It looks so good! I didn’t think it would turn out this nice. I would definitely wear something like this when I go out. There are a few niggling little things I don’t like about it – I wish the blue part of the strap was shorter – and if I had another week or so, I would probably have sewn up a new bag to my wanted specifications (yeah, I sometimes end up doing that with projects I’m not 100% happy with – and besides, I have the extra material). You might be wondering why I haven’t posted any of my design journal up for anyone to see, which I will let you know why.
Because of the packaging (I am, after all, majoring in Graphic Design).
Yes! I’m going to package this bag, and just like the rest of the piece, it’s going to form part of the overall ideology of the piece. I’ve discovered through the production of this piece, that another, interesting theme had begun to emerge from the work. One that I had not originally intended:
The need for destruction for growth.
It’s a theme that makes sense if you think about it, and ties in nicely with the idea behind the Chicken material. In order to create, we must, in some manner, also destroy. Be it the beauty of an empty plot of land to build a house, or the emptiness of a piece of paper to write a letter, we need to destroy something in order to create something.
An Aboriginal man once told me that they believed that everything we make something, we poor a little of our energy into it. “It’s why you shouldn’t touch the boomerang or artifacts of a dead man – you don’t know what energy he was pouring into it when he was making it”. I think that’s true. Everything we make is, in some form, the result of the transference of energy from ourselves into the created product. We destroy, but we also destroy a bit of ourselves to pour life into this new products. It’s four in the morning, my fingers hurt, and my eyes feel sticky from squinting at tiny stitches for so long. I am effectively killing myself just a little bit faster then if I’d just gone to bed five hours ago.
I wonder if people will be able to sense my energy when they wear my bag too.
Anyway, I think I’m starting to ramble. I think I’ve already mentioned the time. What I haven’t mentioned is that I have to get up in two hours to go to work.
And yet I am satisfied. It’s going to be a fantastic day.
28 May 2012 – Tuesday afternoon
So during work today, I began to think about how I want to package my product. From halfway through the process, I wanted the packaging to be a part of the experience of the Snail Bag itself. I want the act of carrying and opening the bag to be indicative of the feeling of growth and discovery – surprising, full of exhilaration but tinged with a sort of melancholy from the so called ‘loss of innocence’ or ‘destruction’ of a previous mode of thought. So I began by deciding to seal my bag with something thin and tenuous – the reflection of a poor idea that still, however, forms a part of ourselves.
Furthermore, in order to keep in with the handmade feel and aesthetic, I selected a brown paper bag to put my Snail Bag in, before sealing it with glue and a leftover button. Finally, I began work on developing my logo.
I’ll admit, I didn’t do too much sketching to develop this logo. I wanted to keep the idea as fresh as I could, and I feel the mild imperfections would reflect beautifully on the elements of my own personality – imperfect, but thoroughly unique. The idea for creation the words from a snail trail was an obvious one, and in order to tie the logo to the bag, I cut out some of the flowers from the leftover material that I used for the bag and glued them on.
This is the finished product (apologies for the bad photo):
And that’s it. It’s finished. It’s beautiful. And I can’t wait to show it to everyone.
20 May 2012
Post tute thoughts:
My bag received an extremely positive reaction. It was really worthwhile to see all my hard work pay off, and I just wanna thank Beth and Matt for making me feel so good about it.
I thought the opening of the bag went extremely well. Vanessa was extremely helpful in asking if someone who hadn’t been born in Australia would be willing to open the bag – an extremely fitting gesture (so thanks Vanessa 🙂 ). I will post up a video of the presentation itself when I manage to get it from Vanessa.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you find it useful somehow in your own creative endeavors. If anyone has any queries regarding the bag, or would like to commission one (Yes, I’m open for commissions), feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
But in the meantime, regards. And to my fellow students: enjoy the break!
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