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April 29, 2008

Personal Interior Design

Interior design is something about which I am passionate.

Color Addict Interior Design

At left: One wall in the living room of my apartment on the Upper West Side in nyc

Going through the process of updating my rug website and gearing up for business in that endeavor, I've added an interior design section to the site. Friends and colleagues have encouraged me for a while to do this. Interiors I've designed so far include my own and a couple for friends, okay, boyfriend victims if you must know. But they've gone over with much success and I've gotten comments from almost everyone who's ever walked into my places about loving the design. Comments come from incredibly diverse sorts of people too, men and women, kids even, construction workers, movers, painters, former cops, building workers, teachers, artists and all sorts of people. This has led me to believe that I might have something useful to contribute to this industry.

Besides my addiction to color and also texture, the main focus of my design approach when working with other people is to think about their lives. It's very much like graphic design in that you are adding your own touch to the work but it's the client and their goals that need to remain primary. With interior design, what's fun and rewarding is that, with my approach, you help the person see what makes them happy in life. I don't mean what objects make them happy, although those count too but what ways of moving through their places work for them. It's a psychological uncovering of many aspects of who they are. They might find out that what they thought they liked in terms of interiors doesn't actually make them happy or function well in their lives at all. They might be just copying something they grew up with and got used to, for instance. More to come.

April 27, 2008

Art is Everywhere

Spontaneity is not my strong suit; I like planning so I can be prepared. Nevertheless, yesterday my friend Susan took me to Peekskill, New York for a spur of the moment visit to get us out of our too-familiar routines. The right kind of spontaneity can renew your faith in the world's unforeseen opportunities and shake us out of our limited views.

Art in Peekskill, NY

Above, L to R: “Theatre in the Streets” photograph by David Small, Kevin Kall Oil Stick Painting, two of the many fine artists whose work is on exhibit at the Flat Iron Gallery in Peekskill, NY

Peekskill is a town that is on the comeback trail, having recently witnessed an extensive renovation of their main theater, which was host to a concert by opera singer Jesse Norman last night and will present a concert by jazz/pop singer Phoebe Snow in May. Coffee shops, a tea house and several art galleries are nice places to peruse nearby. We had an amazing concoction of fresh scones with home-made whipped cream (nothing like the canned kind) and a mountain of fruit at Kathleen's Tea Room (she doesn't want a website). Then we were lucky to wander into the Flat Iron Gallery, which houses hundreds of talented artists. Proprietor Wendy Garber eagerly showed us around. Without her, we wouldn't have realized half of what was there. My friend and I were both inspired. It's great to share ideas with other creative people; it leads to new thoughts and possibilities, both personal and artistic.

More art in Peekskill

Above, L to R: “Floral Pastures and Cows” in oil by Steve Frim and “Thumbnail” from Sanguine Nudes by Andrew Lattimore

April 26, 2008

Poignant and Superb Films about Jewish and German Atrocities

Movies have an uncanny ability, when done well, to take you inside a time period and characters' lives. I've seen a wealth of movies over the last year, all foreign creations, dealing with issues relating to Jewish and German struggles.

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others focuses on an East Berlin Stasi (State Security) official's spying on an artistic couple's lives and his personal transformation. It sensitively portrays a realistic character's life-changing experience through tragedy and the equally powerful concept that art cannot be suppressed any more than love can be, regardless of tyrannical ruling forces. One of the best movies I've ever seen. Lead actor Ulrich Müre is mesmerizing. The extraordinary major motion picture debut by director and screenwriter Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.

Black Book

Blackbook is a blockbuster style movie in cinematic beauty and effects while telling the story of an invincible young Jewish woman caught in Holland during World War II and forced to flee for her life. She subsequently takes on several identities and ends up working as a spy. She moves to Israel after the war; one of the only movies I've ever seen that shows an inside vantage point as to the huge modern-day significance of Israel for many Jews. Great acting, particularly by the astonishing Carice Van Houten.

Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa follows the true story of a family where the husband realizes that Germany is becoming unsafe for Jews in the late 1930s so they move to Africa, one of the only relatively safe options at the time. The daughter (real life author, Stefanie Zweig) grows up with an unusually varied cultural view. The wife struggles with Africa's difficulties and deprivations. Their whole family back in Germany is killed. And life in Africa is still unsettling for Jews, not to mention that an intellectual lawyer has to learn to work a farm. Powerful and moving.

Aimee and Jaguar

Aimee and Jaguar centers around a wealthy married woman with young children and a gutsy Jewish woman who meet and eventually fall in love (the married woman's husband is a lout). Stylish, believable and emotional, it's a very different take on World War II tales, based on the real life experience of the married woman (Lilly Wust as told to writer Erica Fischer). Another in-depth and beautifully done portrait of a scary time in history.

Aurevoir Les EnfantsAu Revoir Les Enfants is based on director Louis Malle's own life story about a Jewish boy who was hidden in his boarding school during the time of World War II. Criticisms have found this film cold but I found it poetic in its spareness; the story of children told simply. The talented young Jewish boy is eventually found by German soldiers and killed. Very sad.

These movies passionately portray gut-wrenching cruelties committed during the time of World War II primarily and have made me feel as if I know what it felt like to live at that time and with such conflicts and pain. However, perhaps my favorite in this exemplary bunch is The Lives of Others, focusing on the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is astounding to me that Germans created the situation of the East German Stasi and the Berlin Wall after having gone through World War II. It's almost as if they wanted to punish themselves and their own country.

April 25, 2008

Angling for Modern Rugs

My kitty was caught angling for my rugs yesterday.

Cats are designed for comfort. They stretch, snooze and contort into graceful, funny and odd-looking yoga-like poses all day and night. I'm not above taking advantage of their natural artistry and dexterity to promote my modern rugs.

April 24, 2008

Juicy Designs: Orange Slices

In addition to the Tulip Chair mentioned in the last entry, great designer Pierre Paulin also created the Orange Slice Chair.

Pierre Paulin's Orange Slice Chair

Pierre Paulin's designs are as fresh as their namesakes, created circa 1965. They are available in heavenly colors and top quality fabrics at hive modern. I dream of being able to furnish a place with lots of his chairs.

Tulip Inspiration

White tulips might be my favorite flower.

Tulips as Inspiration

L to R: white tulip, tulip sleeve, the Little Tulip stool by Pierre Paulin

Ironic that it's the white that knocks me out the most since their varied colors are also magnificent. The pristine white flowers with their brilliant green petals slay me. They look 1930s to me in white, with their dignified grace and elegance and they seem debonair, to go well with cocktails and an expansive nightime city view. Seeing similar design inspiration used with greatly differing results is fun and gets your design imagination going. When I saw the tulip sleeves above, very pretty, I remembered how much I love the Pierre Paulin tulip chairs. Available as a stool or chair, in a larger model and with an ottoman, the chairs do the flower justice.

“A chair should be more than simply functional. It should be friendly, fun and colorful.” — Pierre Paulin

April 23, 2008

Elephant's Memory

Elephants are large-brained creatures and are reputed to have good memories, besides being really cute. When I was a kid, I used to repeatedly make elephants in Shop class (aka woodworking class).

Charles & Rae Eames' Playful Elephant

The Eames Plywood Elephant is considered a legend by collectors. Only two prototypes were produced in 1945, both of which were subsequently displayed in an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Charles and Ray Eames were fascinated by these gentle giants.

While I really love my Shop class elephants, I have to admit that they weren't quite as cool as the charming and graceful Charles & Ray Eames elephant pictured above. For my non-designer friends, the Eames are a famous design couple (Ray is the woman) who worked mid-century and whose furniture and useful accessories are adored for their beauty, chicness and smart functioning qualities (lightness, comfort etc.). I had never seen their adorable plywood elephant before but they did delve into toys and other fun accessories besides furniture. Plywood is famous for its grace, beauty, flexibility and strength in fine furniture design and came into its own in that era with new construction techniques.

Another example of a couple who worked passionately together (my ideal), design doesn't get any better or more imaginative than lots of the pieces turned out by the Eames, whose masterful creations are still considered the height of modern interior design. See many beautiful Eames designs at Design Within Reach, Hive Modern and The Vitra Design Museum.

April 22, 2008

The Man with the Blue Guitar

Sasha the Kitty with Blue Guitar

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

— Wallace Stevens, from The Man with the Blue Guitar

Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize winning 20th century poet, wrote an incredibly long and intriguing poem called The Man with the Blue Guitar. My father told me about it when I bought the gorgeous cobalt blue Parker Fly guitar partially pictured above. This blue guitar has much significance for me. First of all, Parker Fly guitars are amazing. They are lightweight, made of materials that weigh next to nothing and yet resonate like fine wood. Secondly, they are gorgeous designs. Thirdly, when I first found it, I had dreamed of a guitar in this color. Then I met a few musicians in a row who played cobalt blue guitars and the fact that there were more than one of them at the time meant a lot. So my father told me about this poem by the artist, Wallace Stevens. When life imitates art this way, it is reassuring, funny, touching and significant. We need to pay attention to such things and listen to what they are trying to tell us.

Above: Sasha with the Blue Guitar

April 21, 2008

Color Optimism

New client Liz Ward creates stunning mixed media collage paintings with colors that elicit extreme optimism to me.

Liz Ward, "Bliss" It is such a pleasure to work on her site handling her images. I often say how much I love graphic design work because it exists not just to be "art" but also to communicate. While that is true, art like Liz's communicates to me emotionally at a glance. Many of her works are available as high-quality prints and greeting cards so you can share in this beauty without forking over your whole bank account.


Image: Bliss © Liz Ward Art, Mixed Media
(note kitty contributing to woman's bliss)

April 19, 2008

Happy Passover

Tonight at sundown starts the week-long celebration of Passover for those of the Jewish faith.

PassoverThrough the magic of online resources, I found the Kosher Gift Box, located in Westport, Connecticut. They offer delicious gifts for Jewish holidays (you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy them) and fun other items too, such as their Passover Box of Questions. I've been told it's a Jewish trait to question things in general; the questions in this gift box are intelligent and provocative, to take seriously or with which to have fun. Check out their chocolate-covered matzoh (currently sold out so no link!) — yummmmm. Here's wishing all my friends (and enemies too, if I have any), Jewish and of other persuasions, a great new season. May you all achieve happiness and prosper this emerging spring.

April 18, 2008

Go to Bed

These colorful, fanciful and funny sculptures, all supporting a bed theme, are by artist Jane Kaufman, available for purchase through Greenjeans in Brooklyn, NY (highlighted yesterday).

Jane Kaufman Bed Sculptures

L to R: Flower Bed, Day Bed, Bedtime Story

Part of a show on small quilts called Under Cover sponsored by Greenjeans this February–March, these adorable sculptures remind me a little of Maira Kalman's illustrations too (see recent entry). They tell a story as well as being pretty to look at. Art that gets your imagination going is so healthy, I think. It's like turning on several burners at once and really making a feast. 

April 17, 2008

Visual Jazz

Romare Bearden's art is filled with color, light, life, music and cats. He is one of my favorite artists and one whose approach fascinates me. His definition of visual jazz is:

“You put down one color, it calls for another. You have to look at it like a melody.” — Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden, Of the Blues

Above: Of the Blues: Kansas CIty 4/4

Bearden is known for collage paintings and subjects often show the relationship between music and visual art. There's a gorgeous children's book with his illustrations called "I Live in Music." Bearden also loved cats, as is evident in this great portrait. He was an avid reader and wrote his own books and articles. Turns out my father knew him, which makes sense given their great minds and artistic interests.

Artist Romare Bearden Loved Cats

Above, L: The Artist with One of His Very Comfortable Cats
Above, R: Of the Blues: At the Savoy

A Craft Store Grows in Brooklyn

I've been frequenting a pretty little high-end craft store in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Greenjeans, run by Amy Shaw and Jae Kim (wife and husband; I love it when couples work together).

Some of Greenjeans' Wares

Some Greenjeans products I really like: maple cutting board, original toy animal, scented soap

Greenjeans carries an eclectic and selective mixture of jewelry, toys, artwork and housewares. All are made in the U.S. by hand, a requirement for their merchandise. Amy and Jae quit their corporate jobs to start the store a few years ago — more power to them. I found them while looking through Park Slope and am very glad I did.

More Greejeans Brooklyn Goodies

More nice things: graceful earrings, chic metal evening bag, toasty handmade socks

Taking a drive down to the store for an unplanned outing is a reward for me. The part of Park Slope in which the store stands is a bit at the edge of what I'd known previously. The store is located on 7th avenue between 15th and 16th streets.

Fanciful Greenjeans Angel SculptureSmall casual restaurants and stores dot the area in Brooklyn and although the main section has gone well past emerging, outer areas are still stretching their legs. It's like boutique shopping, which I have always found more satisfying than department store shopping, although naturally the selections are more limited. Today, with online shopping resources so grand, you can have the best of both worlds. Go online when you're driven to find something specific and go strolling to a store like Greenjeans for the pure pleasure of it. Amy and Jae, you'll be seeing me again soon.


April 16, 2008

Art for Your Eyes and Mind

Artist Maira Kalman has an interesting approach and took part is a wonderful blog art/story series sponsored by The New York Times.

Maira Kalman Illustration 

I feel a kinship with her, as I care about words as much as images. Her beautiful artwork is enhanced by the fanciful and thought-provoking little tales she winds around them. A well-known artist, Ms. Kalman has created numerous covers for The New Yorker.

She has also designed very successful products sold at the Museum of Modern Art, among other places, such as the umbrella with the sky on the inside. Sky Umbrella





Stay Up Late by Maria Kalman

She has published many children's books and has another book forthcoming from her blog column called The Principles of Uncertainty, from which the image above left is taken.

At left, one of the artist's children's books — I love the title, as anyone who knows me would understand. 

Below, one of Maira Kalman's great covers and a whimsical photo of the artist.


Maira Kalman Cover and Photo


April 15, 2008

Cat's Not Out of the Bag

Autumn took to recycling shopping bags yesterday by using them as tents, sleeping caves and evening gowns.

Cat's in the Bag

Aren't kitties clever? So resourceful, so pretty, so silly. They are endless fun. 


April 14, 2008

In Praise of Edamame

Delicious and pretty edamame (sometimes incorrectly spelled edamane) is a Japanese vegetable that's soybeans in pods.

Delicious and Beautiful Edamame

Edamame contains fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals in high numbers. It's lots of fun to eat too, as you pop out the feisty beans from their pods. I've had it a few times. Once was at an Asian fusion restaurant in Manhattan and it was superbly prepared, with spicy, salty outsides that enhanced the beans as you worked them into your gob. Then they're also irresistible in a crispy snack from Trader Joe's. The simple at-home way to prepare them is just to boil water, plunk them in, add a little salt, bring back to a boil and cook for five minutes. They're yummy hot or cold, very low in calories, very good for you, very satisfying and very GREEN.

April 13, 2008

We're All Nuts

A friend sent me a bunch of the-price-of-gas-is-ridiculous cartoons and this was my favorite.

Skyrocketing Price of Gasoline

Why do we accept these prices? At least we can still laugh about it. 

April 12, 2008

I'm a Little Teapot

These graceful little teapots by HuesNBrews come in a variety of sizes, styles and colors and reminded me and my friends of beautiful housewares by Russell Wright from the 1930s.

Great Tea Pots by HuesNBrews

In person, there's a slightly antique quality to the ceramic as well as the Deco-ish design. The above pots hold tea for two but these come in a few sizes. The coolest thing about these — and other similar designs that can be found lately — is the easy-to-use removable strainer. The strainer sits neatly inside the top and makes using tea leaves a breeze. It also makes the brewing process simple since you can remove the tea leaves after two–five minutes, the recommended amount of time to not over-brew your tea, which varies based on the type of tea being brewed (black, green, oolong, white or herbal).

Caffeine Reduction Tip 

You can make caffeine-reduced tea by steeping for 30 seconds, discarding the liquid and re-steeping for the recommended amount of time. This in-the-pot strainer makes that easy to do. I got mine at the Silver Tips Tea Room in Tarrytown, mentioned a few entries ago, a very relaxing place to spend time. Really nice designs.

The Beauty of Logic (Color-Coded)

Red Fire Engine

Well, to begin with, fire engines have 8 wheels and 4 people riding in them.
8 plus 4 is 12.
12 inches is a foot.
A foot is a ruler.
A famous ruler was Queen Elizabeth.
"Queen Elizabeth" was a ship that sailed the sea.
The sea has fish.
Fish have fins.
The Finns fought the Russians.
The Russians are red [sic]
and fire engines are always rushin'…
so that's why fire engines are red.

(courtesy of my sister, Anne) 

April 8, 2008

Fear or Faith — Stake Your Claim

Human / angel stories are often funny and poignant.

AngelA, the Movie

Through good luck, I found the movie, AngelA, an unusual and deeply touching, stylish flic by director Luc Besson. Highly recommended — original in approach: part film noir, science fiction, morality tale, buddy story, romance. In fact, I like it so much, I just want you to see it.

More Angels

More Great AngelsAnother angel movie I love is from the 40s, called The Horn Blows at Midnight, a hilarious encounter with Jack Benny at his best. Anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of this tale has a treat in store, available through Amazon, although amazingly not at Netflix. I hope the movie studio responsible will have the sense to release it on DVD. Meanwhile, don't throw out your VCR if you know what's good for your movie chops.

Harvey There are other well-known movies about humans and angels or other-wordly spirits, such as Jimmy Stewart's Harvey, also great fun but the above are two of my personal favorites, though very different from each other. Food for the creative spirit, imagination and even soul.




Jimmy Stewart had his hands full of angels, as he played George Bailey in one of the most popular movies ever, It's a Wonderful Life. By the way, this movie didn't do well when it was first released and won no Oscars or awards.

It's a Wonderful Life

Stills from ”It's a Wonderful Life.”

April 7, 2008

Reaching Out

While watching a movie tonight, there was one scene that cut through to me. The heroine of the movie, who has been a concert hall singer in the late 1800s and so has performance moxie, helps a good, selfless character, who is giving his first speech and falling on his face. Seeing him floundering, she bounds up on stage beside him, where he's been speaking sheepishly into the floor and goads him into the passion he feels about his subject. The speech is a rip roaring success.

Our Better Selves

This exchange was the one that rose above all else for me in a film about a very different subject. It shows what people are capable of when we care. The heroine stepped outside of herself and gave of herself for this decent guy, as he had done before. I wish us more moments like this in our lives, both as instigator and recipient. If you step outside yourself and look, opportunities are lying in wait.

April 3, 2008

Going to the Dogs — and Cats

I've been going to the dogs — and cats — lately.

Going to the Dogs and Cats

Photos L to R, by talented photographer clients Jay Ward and Audrey C. Tiernan

They say you draw to you whatever you love so I guess I am drawing fantastic animal-related clients to me because I love animals and have a bond with other people who love them too. The dog photo above is one in a portfolio by a primarily music-focused recent client called dogbrain Music. Jay Ward creates music by and for dogs, as well as human music. The photo at right is also by a new client I am so pleased to be working with, a superb photographer named Audrey C. Tiernan. She happens to also love cats and has two, Slugger and Pistachio, so you will undoubtedly get to see more sublime photos of these creatures as we complete her site. Going to the dogs — and cats — has never been a better idea.

April 1, 2008

Freudian Slip

While talking to my friend and client, Andre, today, we were laughing about things said in certain circumstances without realizing the double entendres they held.

Freudian Slip

All my life, I have had the propensity to say things I didn't realize were risque in all sorts of settings. What can you do? They're out of your mouth and you can't take them back. Andre made the comment, "Freudian slip," and it made me think what a great caption that is. Here's Freud, great mind of psychology, who also tells us that a lot of what we say, do and think is about sex and yes, I make that type of "slip" on a regular basis in my life. I think it's beyond Freud, great mind that he was. I think it's God's sense of humor. I have always thought of God as a sort of tongue-in-cheek personality, laughing at our little ways. I think God gets a kick out of seeing us squirm when we put ourselves in compromising positions, whether trivial or serious. I think She has a heart too and cares about us but still leaves us to our own devices to basically sink or swim and cracks up when we make fools of ourselves, in a light or important setting.