3 of NPH’s Favorite Instagram Accounts
An artistic baker, a home DIY-er and a guy who finds the weirdest stuff on the internet. What's not to love?
We live in spectacular times. In the palms of our hands — and, perhaps, right now, this very second, just as you’re reading this very sentence — the entire collection of human knowledge rests cozily in a little, metallic, glowing quadrilateral we call a smartphone. That’s wild. A technological triumph. The smartphone is a symphony of engineering and ingenuity, the likes of which have never been seen in the history of our species.
They’re also great for watching videos of cats wearing helmets made out of hollowed-out pineapples.
I mean…Yes, smartphones are modern marvels straight out of a sci-fi novel: we use them to pay bills, virtually visit the doctor, figure out the name of this ’90s alt-rock song that’s playing at the Starbucks I’m in right now (Two Princes by the Spin Doctors, FYI), and use them to take flattering selfies (hey, abs are hard to get — gotta memorialize ’em while you have ’em). But with apps like Instagram (reminder, follow the Wondercade account here!) we also use these portable portals of infinite information to sprinkle our days with bits of joy, laughter and curiosity, created by people across the globe. That’s why, today, we’re going all in on my favorite Instagram accounts and turning it into a whole article, with a terrific triple feature. Why, you ask? Simple! No matter what time of day you may be reading this, you no doubt need — nay, deserve — a little digital diversion. So we’re giving you one. You’re welcome.
Feast Your Eyes on Lauren Ko’s Totally Tasty Feed!
Lauren Ko is a Seattle-based, self-taught home baker who started baking pies…and turned it into an art form. Her pies are so pretty, a perfect combination of her two disciplines. She is the author of the New York Times best-selling cookbook, Pieometry, and her dazzling desserts have been featured in Vogue, Oprah Winfrey’s magazine O, Hulu’s Baker’s Dozen — and now, Wondercade!
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: How did this geometric journey begin for you?
LAUREN KO: This whole journey was honestly a bit of an accident. I moved to Seattle in 2016 and was dinking around on the internet (as one does) in my funemployment, and stumbled across some pictures of really beautiful pies. They got me thinking: I had been cooking and baking my whole life, but in my Chinese Honduran American family, there wasn’t a lot of traditional apple pie happening. I made it to adulthood never having made a pie! So, inspired, I Googled a recipe and went for it. I made my first plaid lattice apple pie and it was…fine. It didn’t instantly transform my life, but it was something I added to my repertoire of things I would bake for fun whenever the fancy struck.
As I continued to dabble, I realized pies made a fantastic design canvas. Pies I saw on the internet had a romantic beauty, with lots of floral and foliage cutouts, which was not my personal style at all. I was curious about exploring my penchant for modern design, and hadn’t seen anyone else interpreting a traditionally rustic dessert in this very clean, sharp aesthetic.
Truly a chimeric career! So how’d you end up on Instagram?
I started @lokokitchen because I felt like I was becoming that friend, ahem, and putting too many food photos in my personal account. It was meant purely to be a holding space for things I was cooking and baking for fun; a personal photo album to keep track of summer salads, blueberry muffins, chocolate chip cookies…whatever I was concocting in my kitchen. But it just so happened that the first photo I shared was a geometric peach pie with some cheesy play-on-words caption.
That post instantly blew up with several hundred likes, which as a regular person, totally blew my mind. So I continued to share pies and tarts that I had either stored in my camera roll or was making in real time. Within a month, I had 1,000 followers and a month after that, Design Milk reshared one of my photos and my account went viral. I started gaining tens of thousands of followers daily and eventually, I quit my job to explore where this might lead. And here I am, 7 years later, an accidental pie lady still riding the wave!
Where do the designs for these MoMA-worthy pies come from? Do they come to you in a dream?
My inspiration is generally not food-related. I’m inspired by things like puzzles, textiles, architecture, the way the sunlight hits an object at a certain angle…I have pies and tarts in my account that were inspired by things like patio furniture, public bathroom floors, bamboo purses, and obscure childhood memories. Much of what I make is also informed by seasonal produce — what I have on hand or what’s on sale at the grocery store.
My childhood pie memories are of those burrito-shaped McDonald’s apple pies that were served at roughly 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Let’s turn the tables…what are a few of your favorite Instagram accounts?
Frankie Gaw (@littlefatboyfrankie) has the most amazing design eye and a great sense of humor. Holly Haines (@itsholly) has an incredible brain for flavor. Everything she makes evokes an instant “OMG I WANT THAT.” Tomas Ayuso (@tomas_ayuso) is a Palestinian Honduran journalist whose photography and storytelling are deeply compelling. The Pastry Project (@thepastryproject_) is a social enterprise here in Seattle providing free baking and pastry training to individuals with barriers of entry to employment. They do impactful work in our community, and I LOVE their mission…and their soft serve!
What’s your all-time favorite pie?
My Signature Spoke is the pie design I make most frequently, and it graces the cover of my book. But I’m partial to the Tangram Tart. To me, this piece encapsulates everything I truly love about this journey: striking color contrast, sharp design elements, so much texture and delicious tropical flavors.
I’d feel bad cutting into it. Your pies are too pretty to eat.
No! The pies are made to be eaten! For me, the highest form of appreciation is to slice in and enjoy — preferably by other people because I don’t really have a sweet tooth!
The Most Superbly Strange Account on Instagram
Instagram (and the internet writ large, of course) is full of strange and wonderful things. For my money, no single account does a better job of gathering the best of it than the Doctor of All Things Bizarre. Real talk: It just may be the most curious, creepy, cute and comical (oftentimes all four!) corner of the internet I’ve ever seen. The mastermind behind this magic is a man named Michael — who (politely) refused to share his last name. He cited privacy (I get it Michael, I get it) and frankly, it only adds to the mystery and wonder of his account. I was excited to learn more about how he’s created a feed that feels part carnival sideshow, part avant-garde art gallery.
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: It took me a while to find the words to describe your account in my introduction. How would you describe it?
MICHAEL: Bizarre, strange, entertaining, unusual, surreal…and many times, humorous. Not to toot our own horn, but I think we have one of the best pages on Instagram! To me, something is “bizarre” if it doesn’t conform to normal standards of everyday life: extreme body modifications, performance artists doing death-defying stunts, odd surreal videos that use CGI methods to make them look like a magic trick — like someone falling down and when they hit the ground, they turn into a pile of clothes. Someone like @zachking, who creates illusions that defy reality.
How’d you get interested in all things bizarre?
When I was little I loved reading Ripley’s Believe It or Not and watching The Twilight Zone. Many years ago, my dad took me to the menagerie at Barnum & Bailey Circus. I had a fascination with sword swallowers, the lizard man, fire eaters. And in the last 30 years I’ve collected many bizarre and unusual books. I have over 500 books that deal with the unusual, and death — which I’ve always been fascinated with. When I joined Instagram, that’s what motivated me.
Where do you find stuff to post?
I look for stuff all over: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, other obscure Instagram accounts, or I’ll just Google for bizarre images. The secret sauce is in my knack to find cool stuff. I always ask myself, “Is this going to elicit a positive response from our audience, or is this going to turn them off?” We want our audience to, in some way, shape or form, be blown away and go, “Whoa!” Sometimes we’re wrong.
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts to follow for inspiration?
What’s your all-time favorite weird thing you’ve ever posted? And you’ve posted some really weird stuff! Which is fine by me, obvi. I love weird stuff. That’s why I follow you. Is this getting weird? Anyway…your favorite?
We love the wacky stop-motion Claymation videos from Jan Svankmajer, the famous Czech filmmaker. One we recently shared shows two steaks dancing around in love. It’s very comical! We’ve also shared a latex box with a moving eye that blinks and looks around. And another one was a spoof on dog shows: in it, a large man with a dog’s head and face holds a leash to a tiny man in front of him, and the two walk in stride like the show dogs do.
I’d vote for that to take “Best in Show.” Stay strange, Michael!
FYI: DIY That’s OMG
Travis Collins, handyman extraordinaire, along with his partner Liv, run @TOOLSbyDesign: a home improvement-infused Instagram account that offers project ideas, tool reviews and recs, and step-by-step how-to guides. And even if you aren’t inclined (or allowed — take a look at your rental lease!) to take a sledgehammer to a wall, or if you don’t know a drill bit from an olive pit, you’ll still be entertained and informed by Travis and Liv planting an orange tree, or be hypnotized by a gel pellet blaster.
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: Hi Travis. In 150 words or fewer, tell me about your account.
TRAVIS COLLINS: @TOOLSbyDesign is about fun and informative content around tools, home repairs, lifestyle products, outdoor power equipment, automotive and more. I think of my page as the video version of what magazines used to be: a place to get new product info, entertainment and a few fun advertisements, with new products from small companies looking to get exposure.
In one day I can be showcasing the anti-kickback on a new drill, testing out a new string trimmer/lawn mower, tearing out a wall for renovation and closing out the night by sitting around a fire pit with Liv and the pets. My account has become a great place to learn about tools and become inspired to begin projects. Pick up a tool and feel confident!
123 words. Nicely done. So how’d you get into this? Did you watch a lot of Home Improvement growing up? Did you have posters of Bob Vila on your bedroom wall?
I grew up a carpenter’s son, always around tools, working side-by-side with my father well into my 20s. Carpentry came after classes, where I took four years of woodshop through high school, even teaching woodshop in college for two years. While attending college, I became a part-time mechanic at a local auto repair shop, ultimately becoming manager of a performance automotive shop, where I restored classics and built race cars, before returning to carpentry and remodeling work.
What’s the craziest project you’ve ever done?
Cutting a hexagonal transition into a 75-year-old oak floor to perfectly mesh with a random hexagon tile layout. From start to finish, we went from a termite-eaten foundation to full kitchen remodel. That was a wild one, and I learned a lot.
What other home improvement Instagrams are you into?
Whoa, this is a great question…I’d say my friend and fellow content creator @krugerconstruction. I like @ironcitygarage — he finds old trucks to rescue. I also really enjoy @alecpaintsofficial for some soothing “cut in” paint work, and @awesomeframers for their fun vibe of giving detailed product showcasings while building a house.
Last question: In your professional opinion, what’s the one tool folks shouldn’t be living without? And a follow up to the last question, which makes the first question not the last question: What’s a home project anyone, regardless of skill level, could take on?
One tool everyone should own no matter their skill level is an oscillating multi-tool, also called an OMT, which takes a small, precision-oriented blade and zips it back and forth rapidly to cut wood or metal. Great for tight spots. It can also be used for detailed sanding. It really is a very useful tool for people with all kinds of skill sets.
If someone is a bit timid to get into DIY and home improvement, there are a couple simple projects I recommend starting with. Find images online for a simple side table or coffee table. A table will teach you a lot about joinery and help you get the hang of tools. You will be amazed at what you create. It likely won’t be what you expected, which means the next one will be better! Another simple project that will also change your home’s vibe is creating trim around windows and doors. It’s a great starting point that gets tools in your hands, and also gets you started on finish work like caulking and painting. Get out there and have fun!
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