31 July 2012

Following in the Footsteps of Surfers

I remember the day I discovered and bought my first Patagonia jacket. It was a moss green fuzzy made from recycled plastic bottles. I was amazed by the transformation involved and proudly wore it for about 8 years--until my mother fell in love with it too.

In light of what we're building with AKSHA, a friend sent me this link to an interview with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. His ideals of sustainability and fun have built an influential company that thrives regardless of the economy. I was so inspired by his humility and simplicity in crafting the Patagonia that I feel compelled to share it here.

Chouinard writes of how he did it all in the memoir, Let My People Go Surfing.

19 July 2012

Gathering the Tribe: Platforms for Change

The thing I'm most grateful for is that AKSHA leads me to meet amazing people everyday. In my world, Art and Enterprise are really about generating community--its about LOVE. Collaboration, partnership, co-promotion, skill-sharing... the old competitive model is tired. With social enterprise, business is  going open-source. It is an interactive endeavor.

There are more opportunities for growth when you belong to a tribe. And when you're blazing the trail of a new idea, you need scouts, mentors who've been out ahead of you, as well as the cavalry of other entrepreneurs to share the journey and throw you powerbars when the going gets tough.

Here's are just a few of the inspiring people I caught up with this week: 

Justin Hakuta, co-founder of YogaStart. I met Justin in New York a few years ago while he was at Harvard Business School and I was at ITP. We're both part-Filipino and share a bent towards the arts, spirituality, social justice and as it happens--business. He's working on a platform that will serve as a hub for wellness in multiple forms, including the arts. Stay tuned...

Kaya Kaplancali, co-founder of Bioserie, makers of the world's only 100% certified bioplastic iPhone and iPod covers. I have two. They're beautiful. We're working on a series for AKSHA.

Amarit "Aim" Charoenphan, co-founder of HUBBA, Bangkok's first co-working space and a start-up incubator. He introduced me to TotalAwake, an iPhone/iPod App developed by one of their teams. Its "the ultimate app for people interested in mindfulness and meditation training".

Lawrence Axil Comras, founder of a new search platform called WhoElse. Before this, Axil founded Greenhome.com in 1999 and sold it to Jane Capital in 2010. We explored Wilpattu National Forest together in Sri Lanka last spring, and he bought a sketch I made for my last art project, In Search of Menander. 


Things they all have in common: Imagination, Courage, Integrity, Openness, and Warmth. In this endeavor, its like gathering members of a special tribe together. 

15 July 2012

The Axle

AKSHA is Sanskrit for “indestructible”. It is the wheel's "axle"-- which cannot be worn away. 

Just spent the last 3 days giving "test talks" on AKSHA at a Dale Carnegie Lab. At the end of it, the participants asked me for my card--and I realized its finally time to commit! Here's a graphic I'm working on...

Aksha in Sanskrit can also mean "that which is perceived". 
I like both uses of the word as a metaphor for ART and for the company. AKSHA is a central axis for artists, designers, and spiritual practitioners joined together in a wheel on the path to liberation. 

10 July 2012

World, welcome AKSHA.

This is a project that began when a group of people asked me to be their "hero."
I'm no hero. But I am an artist, and thus am FULL of crazy ideas. It also makes me familiar with the wonderful and painful process of making meaningful--and sometimes magical--things out of sheer imagination, sweat, comaraderie, and raw material. (To see a house-sized installation, a Zen-inspired story book, and a video shot through a microscope visit BrushSong.)

As it happens, that is something that artists and entrepreneurs have in common. My father, Rabel, is an entrepreneur-engineer. He is unconventional, to say the least. While in California, he won an award for designing a method of structurally "floating" entire buildings off their foundation to make them less prone to collapse in an earthquake. Then, he surprised everyone and became a certified massage therapist, starting a business in medical massage at the ripe age of 60. (And he's happier than ever.)

It must have rubbed off, because I attempted my first business endeavor at 13, getting all the kids on my block in Manila to "invest" pesos into a fund to start our own pet shop. My parents moved me from the Philippines back to the US before the pet shop was realized, but I never forgot it. In some way, this project, AKSHA, is my path to living out that youthful impulse.

So when I first heard the words "social enterprise" seven months ago at the INEB Conference in Bodhgaya, India, my ears perked up. Then when I was approached to envision an international program that would support artists of Buddhist traditions, I found the perfect opportunity to meld both.

This blog is about my journey on this wild experiment to see if it is possible. My goals are to generate the means for what the Buddha called "Right Livelihood" for myself and other artists. In particular, I aim to create a platform that will support artists from isolated communities who are engaged in preserving artistic forms of spiritual practice.

To this effect, I'll feature a different artist every 2 months. Look for:

  • photos of their work
  • videos of them talking about their process
  • and peak into the development of innovative products by emerging designers inspired by them.

This is huge and gorgeous piece by Somyot Kumsang. It is called "The Transformation" and I thought it would be appropriate as the first piece for this blog. 

It's made with charcoal on a large sheet of handmade paper (200cm x 100cm, 2011).

Like his students and friends, I call him Ajahn Pei. He doesn't have a website and doesn't speak perfect English (yet), but if you'd like more information I can put you in touch. 

Cheers, Minette