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May 31, 2008

Pernicious Pollen and Malicious Missives

Today, the garage where my car got its annual inspection sported a voluminous blanket of dancing snowy pollen on the ground and in the surrounding air. It looked like nature was throwing a pillow fight.

Pretty Pollen

Pretty pollen packs powerful punch

The downy stuff resembled the castoffs of dandelions in their second stage and I guess that's what they were. Some customers at the garage said they were pollen. I had never associated dandelions with pollen before. I used to love them as a kid. My mom was a weed lover and influenced me to love wild growing things, not just cultivated flowers. She could never understand people who wanted to get rid of dandelions. She may not have had any highly allergic friends, though. In a moment of delicious nastiness, I suggested that the endless bouncing pollen could be mailed to people we know who are highly allergic and they'd probably never get it fully out of their houses, with its countless tiny furry parts. This amused the guys muchly and myself too, devising devious uses for the innocent fluffballs. Nature's designs are beautiful and wicked both, not unlike us children of Mother Nature.

May 30, 2008

The Spaces Between

There are so many instances where the empty space between things is what defines them and makes them valuable, gives them their identity:

Necessary white space

The Space Between the Lines

The Space Between the Notes

The Need for White Space in Layouts

The Pause Between Words 

The Power and Luxury of Empty Space 

It's a funny fact that "white" space is seen as "negative" space in a world filled with things, thereby creating a paradox that emptiness is fullness. White is all colors and black is the absence of color yet we see white as empty and black as fully colored in. I've always loved this type of conundrum. Mind twists aside, the positivity of negative space is a real and necessary thing, in all areas: music, graphic design, interior design and in the moments of our days. I think the last one is the most overlooked. Thinking of it this way helps me see how important it is. We need to take a breath, stop and not be doing something at all moments. The contrast helps put things in perspective and illuminates the ways we really want to fill in our scenes.

May 29, 2008

Music, Food, Hardware & Art
Amp Up in Brooklyn

For those who love artistic things that function well, the upcoming Crest Hardware Art Show in Brooklyn with a fun opening celebration June 7th and running until July 11th hosts a satisfying concept.

Crest Hardware Art Show

Here's what store manager Joseph Franquinha says about the recurring show:

“As manager of Crest Hardware, I am thrilled to provide a unique, non-traditional atmosphere to showcase the artwork of the creative and vibrant community we service. I have such a love and appreciation for art and I am fascinated with seeing the transformation of basic hardware materials into something other than what they are intended for.”

Hardware as Art at the Crest Hardware Art ShowThe celebration offers music and food as well as hardware and art. Great hardware really is art anyway but in this show, they get carried away.

One of my talented musician friends, Bill Bell, is performing. Bill's musicianship is superb (he plays pretty much every instrument and plenty you've never heard of) so stop by Saturday, June 7th if you can.

May 28, 2008

The Jewish Cheesecake gods Dig In

Some people might say that

New York = Cheesecake.

To the Kosher Giftbox, resource for delectable gift-giving, upcoming Jewish holiday

Shavu'ot = Cheesecake.

Yummy cheesecakes at Kosher Giftbox

Incredible cheesecakes from the Kosher Giftbox in Westport, CT

June 9th and 10th (the date moves around according to the Jewish calendar) is this year's Shavu'ot, which commemorates harvesting of the first fruits and the giving of the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai. It is customary to eat a dairy meal during Shavu'ot. Good excuse for cheesecake, says the Kosher Giftbox, whose decadent cheesecake options range from tried and true original New York cheesecake to amaretto, chocolate ganache, brownie encrusted and caramel and pecans with chocolate. Wow. — I'm farshtopt just talking about it.

May 27, 2008

Sometimes Love is Hiding Between the Seconds of Your Life

That is the tagline for Cashback, the intriguing movie mentioned below. 

Cashback Reveries on Time

Turns out Cashback was first a short film that won a Tribeca Film Festival award and received an Oscar nomination. The short film, which is included on the DVD, uses much of the exact same footage as the longer version but it shows how vital editing is to a film. Besides additional concepts and story line, the full version is light years more interesting than the short. All the sensitivity about the meaning of time is missing in the short, although the creator must have had the seed of it in his mind. The two main characters are developed in the full-length version too. Great job fleshing out the full-length version.

A Moment in Time

Concepts of time travel, stopping time, freezing a moment in time lead to complex thoughts and have made for some great stories.

Stopping a good moment in time

Cashback is a movie whose root concept is about freezing time. An insomniac art student starts to use his extra eight sleepless hours and learns how to freeze time. The ultimate message is to appreciate a moment. Time After Time has several threads involving time travel and is about man's quest to understand the role time plays in our actions and desires. The hero tries to prevent Jack the Ripper from accomplishing his crimes and the message, ultimately, is that love is stronger than anything, including time. Both thought-provoking movies approach the concept of time in clever ways, with satisfying conclusions. Time may rush on but you can still savor a beautiful moment in time.

May 26, 2008

Petaholic

Autumn is an “easy” girl and has her way with pretty much everyone who visits.

Jodi and Autumn

Here she is “allowing” my friend Jodi to pet her endlessly. Most visitors say something like, “Yup, cats love me,” in response to Autumn's enthusiastic rubbing, licking, rolling over and purring. And Autumn does love them all. She's a petaholic. I like the way she's sticking her legs straight out in front here; she looks like a leaping reindeer. But she's not going anywhere as long as Jodi keeps up the massage therapy.

May 25, 2008

Bedroom Sanctuaries

Furniture maker Maine Cottage does especially well with beds. They love color.

The bedroom as santuary

Above: bed, sidetable and footstool by Maine Cottage

This simple New England-rooted furniture is available in gorgeous hues and can be custom-combined in some pieces. While you may not have the tranquil view shown above, it's really the interior of the bedroom that matters. You don't want light to pour in usually so the main ingredients are within one's control. For my money, besides a beautiful color scheme, a great mattress, plenty of super comfortable pillows, enough spaciousness to feel soothed and a good reading light next to the bed are elements that make for a bedroom where you can rejuvenate yourself.

Heavenly pillows, a good reading light and he's out

Above: Great pillows, good reading light and Sasha demonstrating the art of the nap

My girlfriend had bought herself an expensive Kingsdown mattress a few years back and encouraged me, as a lover of well-made things, to see what a difference it makes. She was right, although to me, great pillows are even more important to a good night's sleep. And don't forget soft bedding. Everyone's different in this area; some people like to be buried in covers and others want the whisper of a fairy's breath as a coverlet. Whichever you prefer, do yourself a favor and take care of your bedroom. Nighttime comfort matters as much as daytime pursuits and in fact prepares you to take them on. But yes, you're allowed to nap during the daytime too.

May 24, 2008

Fine Furnishings Bloom in Rhode Island

Red Elephant Gallery, which carries my rugs in their online store, calls home base Bristol, Rhode Island. They sell beautiful handmade designs ranging from striking affordable jewelry to tactile-friendly goblets and more.

Items available at Red Elephant Gallery

Above, from Red Elephant Gallery: copper and brass wine glasses by Morningstar and pewter handcrafted salad servers by Michael Michaud

Red Elephant Gallery is a great place to find gifts (and things for yourself) because items are unusual, beautiful, often functional and reasonably priced. You usually won't find their offerings at larger design resources. Speaking with Karen, the owner, today, she told me about another furniture fair that may be a welcome opportunity to display my new rug line: the Fine Furnishings Show, which takes place annually in Milwaukee and this October in Providence. I am excited to learn about this potential showcase, which introduces diverse designs for the home. There's a lot of talent blooming in the design world. After attending ICFF last week, it's nice to know that more lies in wait. I'd love a trip to Providence and it looks like there's one in my future.

Fine Furnishings Show in Providence

Above, bench by Todd Ouwehand and large sideboard by Frank Procopio

May 23, 2008

The Calling

What is your calling? Do you feel compelled to be the best tennis player, doctor, accountant, magician, scientist, artist, lawyer, crossword puzzle solver, computer programmer, dancer or expert on the effects of the same food eaten for 200 days straight? Or do you wonder if you have a calling at all?

What is your calling?

Passion, which is akin to a calling, is a fascinating thing to me. I love people who feel passionately and my gut tells me that even if a passion is fleeting, the momentum it carries will lead to good things (assuming it's not a self-destructive passion, which is a whole other direction). Where does this fire come from? And how do you honor it when you feel its call? I think one key is not being afraid to stumble because stumble you will, no matter how talented, how smart, how graceful or gifted. And in the stumbling, you will learn a lot and it will set you on your right way. I'm beginning to think that being great and failing are almost the same thing. How curious. Curious and curioser — so says Alice from Wonderland, who, as we know, had a lot on the ball.

May 22, 2008

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Gorgeous book covers entice the reader to seek within. I have long bought books for their covers, besides other reasons. I would always choose a great cover over a not great one when looking through new books. Holding a great cover while I read a book adds to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the whole book.

Great Book Design

While all cover designs are fun and important — magazines, brochures, annual reports — in that they set the tone for a piece and make its first impression, book covers express perhaps the most imagination since they foretell an inside story. There is such great range in modern book cover design too.

Book Covers by Louise Fili and Richard McGuire

Above, L to R: cover designs by Louise Fili and Robert McGuire, also the authors 

My own favorite book cover designer is Louise Fili, one of a handful of designers I have admired and who inspired me greatly when I started to design things (and still does). Another is Richard McGuire, whose children's books and toys are perfection. Richard McGuire's books and products are inexplicably hard to find, although you can find some of the books on Amazon. I actually called him up at the start of my career in the '90s and spoke to him. He is a hero of mine and a great designer and has created many illustrations for The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine.

May 21, 2008

Charismatic Clocks

Designer Emi Ozawa's imaginative and colorful clocks are available at The Artful Home. More styles are there, including nice wall clocks and abstract desk clocks.

Fantastic clocks by Emi Ozawa

By Emi Ozawa: Cat Clock and Coffee Cup Clock, both available in several colors

George Nelson's Brilliantly Simple Clocks

George Nelson's Brilliantly Simple Clocks: The Ball Clock and The Watermelon Clock

George Nelson's brilliant designs have been reissued by the Vitra Design Museum and are available at numerous design resources, including Nova 68. Here's his great story about how his famous clocks came to be:

“And there was one night when the ball clock got developed... Noguchi came by, and Bucky Fuller came by… we started making doodles. Then Bucky sort of brushed Noguchi aside. He said, ‘This is a good way to do a clock,’ and he made some utterly absurd thing. Everybody was taking a crack at it, pushing each other aside and making scribbles… and the next morning there was this roll of drafting paper and somewhere in this roll there was the ball clock.”

 

May 19, 2008

Slow Starts Can Bode Well

It occurred to me that slow starts can be misleading — in a good way.

Slow Starts Not Bad

While talking to a client and friend today, we were comparing notes on how new challenges get met. When I went to the ICFF the past two days, I didn't know where to start or what to expect; I only knew that many people had told me what an important design show it is and that as a designer, especially wanting to increase my rug design business, I should go. At first, at the ICFF, the registration process wasn't working for me online and the logistics of getting away from work, even on this weekend, were excruciatingly tough, with many projects due.

Slowly but surely, things fell into place. I was lucky enough to have met one person through a friend of a friend who met me there. I met many great people and am excited to have learned about a group of young designers I am going to join who exhibit together, thereby lessening the cost immensely and helping each other out all around. I also went to an after-party yesterday and met more people associated with this design group (more about that soon). Looking back, my visits were a big success.

This experience made me realize that many times when you undertake a new venture, at first the start is uncertain and unclear. But if you head in the direction you want to go, you will get there. Slow doesn't even have to be steady to get you there; all you have to do is start.

May 18, 2008

Wood Dances with Light

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair or ICFF is currently on display at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York (May 17–20). I wanted to go last year when I first learned about the show and I did go this year. It's considered an important annual trade show for contemporary home design.

Wood Lampshades

Wood lampshades from Madera

These wood lampshades from Argentinian designer Marcelo Dabini for Madera above were a standout in what I saw today. With luck, I will display my rugs there next year and I had to get ideas on how to set up a booth. The lampshades above are more beautiful in person, as light weaves its way through the slats. The workmanship and dimensions are sublime. In addition, in general, designers are a great lot: open, bright, friendly and intelligent. Inspiring.

May 17, 2008

Picasso Face

Cats like Autumn, whose faces have markings that cut across the two halves of their faces, look like “Picasso faces” to me. They almost make you think you're seeing their profile and head-on view at once.

Picasso Face

Picasso, as seen in the painting above left, was the first artist to show a face in both direct and profile view at the same time. This looked odd to people at first, as it's not what we literally see. However, it is something the mind can see and an artist‘s job is partly to provide us with new ways to see. Picasso did this more than most artists. Painterly kitties like Autumn are an example of “life imitates art” with their graphic faces. Look how she's imitating Picasso's yellow swatch down the middle of her face. It's an expression of God's sophisticated and cultured artistry that no man can exceed but which we can celebrate, honor and enjoy.

May 16, 2008

“Websites for You
and Your Best Friend Too”

This has been my graphic design firm, Nonlinear nyc Inc.'s, ad campaign for about a year and a half now. These small ads appear in The Island Current (no website), our local paper that sells for $1 (the price is right) and gets read avidly by residents.

Nonlinear nyc Inc. Graphic Design

Nonlinear nyc Inc. Graphic Design and Communications

Nonlinear nyc Inc.'s mini ad campaign

A new ad will be running in the June issue, as seen bottom row, above left, plus a sneak peek at a future fourth in the series. It's fun to look at them as a group now that there are several. Designing ads, like any other specific item, has its own challenges and constraints. These have to be in black and white, I can only afford a small ad and what looks good on its own may or may not look good when seen in the context of a busy newspaper page. One tip someone gave me when I first started designing ads was to cut out your design and place it in the magazine or newspaper in which it will appear. You don't usually have control over the page on which they'll run your ad so you don't know if there will be white space or competing imagery right next to you. The people who lay out the papers have a hard job fitting all the ads in different sizes with clashing artwork in each issue. Nevertheless, it's a lot of fun to see yourself in print and it always will be, online media boom and from which I make the majority of my living notwithstanding.

Never Mind.

Lost and Found

Never mind. She found it.

May 15, 2008

Le Chat

To celebrate the jubilee (60 years of design!) of Pierre Paulin, manufacturer Artifort has reissued more of his amazing work. Le Chat chair is one such item.

Pierre Paulin's Le Chat Chair

From the offering: Paulin designed Le Chat in 1967. Its tense curves seem to leap from a single point. Drawn with a single stroke of the pen. Without hesitation. You can feel the power, the readiness to leap. But it also invites you to sit. It’s fully shaped to your body. Dynamic and restful. Artifort is re-introducing Le Chat, with a slight modification.

With a name like Le Chat (the cat), how could this brilliantly simple chair not be beautiful, playful, graceful, dynamic and restful all together?

Have You Seen My Ball?

Have you by any chance seen Autumn's yellow ball?

Where did I put that?

She knows she had it recently but can't remember where she put it. If you see it, could you please let her know. She really likes it. Reminds me of when my mom would look for her glasses which were invariably on top of her head. We'd have a good laugh about it. I once walked around looking for the phone when it was in my hand so my mom taught me well.

May 14, 2008

Fast, Cheap and Great Dinnerware

In my business (design / advertising / communications), they say you can only have two of the three: FAST, CHEAP AND GREAT. Well, that is almost always true but the dinnerware below achieves all three with rare elan.

Super Well-Priced Dinnerware at CB2

These nice square white plates are priced from $.95 to $4.95/each at CB2 and are just $1.95 for the medium 6.5" size. They are sturdy and look great. White looks soothing on your table when added to other striking colors. Every now and then, a real bargain comes your way. Also check out CB2‘s stemless glasses for another good deal in pretty housewares that will leave you enough money to consider owning a bed and chairs.

May 13, 2008

House Becomes Home

My great friend, mentor and co-worker, Barbara, in California, with whom I worked for five years at Price Waterhouse, as I grew to love animals, told me, "Animals make a house a home." She nailed it.

As I was snapping some pictures to show interior designs on my rug website, my kitty followed me around. Here she is in the living room. You never need to pose critters; they always look amazing. They do not always do what you want them to do when trying to take their pictures but they do always look great. They add so much to one's life, I am eternally grateful. They crack you up constantly just by being themselves. They always help put things in perspective. They keep you company when everyone else has confused you or just has something else to do. The ideal mixture of soulfulness*------ (my kity typed that) and silliness, you can always count on the kitties for a sense of well-being.

May 12, 2008

Mesmerizing Metallics

Metallic threads and surfaces crop up as fashion seasons come and go. As with other design areas, technology is a helpful ally to this trend.

Beautiful Metallic Surfaces

Above: L to R, Stuart Weitzman cobalt metallic bag, available at Bluefly and Nicole Miller metallic cocktail dress, available at Nordstrom

Sometimes the trend goes too far into the sci fi arena or the over-laden cosmopolitan but at times, it is artistic and worthy of a modern-day Cleopatra, as in the items above. Technology has enabled the easier creation of effects that are complex to achieve. Metallic threads in cloth and leather, when properly executed, are an other-wordly effect and will make you feel festive. Grab some stunning metallic fashion armor and storm the city and burbs.

May 11, 2008

Successful Steps

Stepladders are an item the average person wouldn't probably think too much about in terms of design. But it's often precisely that type of item that is in the direst need of good design, either because it's been neglected or because you use it regularly and a good design could make work more efficient and more of a pleasure.

Well-Designed Modern Stepladders

L to R, Nuovostep stepstool designed by Andries & Hiroko Van Onck, the Tiramisu stool by Andries Van Onck for Kartell, the Flo stepladder by Marcello Zliani for Magis, available at Unica Home, the Museum of Modern Art store and elsewhere

A good stepladder is an engineering challenge because it should be collapsible to the smallest size possible, offer sturdy support for a large amount of weight, look good, reach as high as possible while maintaining its small footprint and be durable to withstand constant use. The answer is modern materials that are both light and strong. There are ways in which our world keeps getting better and one of them is in the development of materials that can accomplish difficult tasks with ease. Pay attention to the height of top steps and the top support bar is a good feature for safety and comfort.

The Great Z Rack

Great engineering and great design go hand in hand. These ladders remind me of another product that is a fine work of engineering: the “Z” garment rack. Features that distinguish this rack are that it is exceptionally strong and exceptionally maneuverable. When I moved apartments, putting clothes on this rack saved a lot of time packing and sorting. I used it again this December at a party and it allowed me to store many coats in a small space with no organizational problems. Its parts are easily reassembled. The “Z” base allows it to turn corners where other racks are clumsy. Using well-designed and engineered products changes your life. 

May 10, 2008

Colorful Finds

New York hosts great museums — imposing ones like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art and smaller gems like the Frick. In between are some of my favorites, such as the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Art and Design (with a recently changed name from the American Craft Museum). The Whitney has a good online store where you can find some unexpected designs.

Cool Things at the Whitney Museum Store

Above: A set of beautifully colored practical melamine bowls and artistic and fun card cases from the Whitney Museum store

Museum stores online carry different merchandise than their physical counterparts so they are resources for good-looking, unusual and well-designed items either for yourself or to give as gifts. One other non-New York online museum store that has interesting items belongs to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Don't overlook these arty avenues for something refreshingly different. 

May 9, 2008

What Not to Do on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is this coming Sunday, May 11th.

Mother and baby bear

While it's great to celebrate the incredible effort of mothers and to honor them, I was raised being told that this type of holiday is a “greeting card holiday,” meaning that it was invented purely as a money-making proposition. I think my parents are right, although it's nice to take a moment and celebrate the arduous challenge of being a mother. Not being a mom yet myself, I am in extra awe of the work moms put in. It's hard enough to try to hold down any sort of job, get your own basic needs taken care of, let alone do the laundry. But try to get some tyke off to school? Rush them to the emergency room? Help with homework? Who wants to do homework?! Not to mention pay for a thousand things. Animal mothers work their butts off for their offspring too and perform heroic feats to protect their little ones. The mother instinct is a beautiful thing.

Meanwhile, whatever you do to acknowledge mothers, do NOT come to City Island on Mother's Day. For some unknown reason, the entire borough of the Bronx and more seems to swarm here on Mother's Day and you cannot get on the island after a certain hour. Why anyone would want to put themselves through this is beyond any of us residents. Last year, I had to leave for some reason and it took over an hour to get through a five-minute section. This is not the day to visit our cute spit of land. Come the day after or the day before but do yourself a favor and avoid it like the plague on the actual day.

May 8, 2008

Moving Through Space: Visionary Frank Lloyd Wright

Larger than life architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a chaotic personal life yet created soothingly organized architecture and designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum

Frank Lloyd Wright's dramatic Guggenheim Museum interior, designed when he was in his 80s

I popped his logo on the image above because as a graphic designer, it's something with which I'm so familiar and I love it. His architectural handwriting has been made into gorgeous typefaces by several prominent type foundries.

Frank Lloyd Wright's personal life created scandals in his time (wouldn't as much so now, although he wasn't an easy guy) but his driving passion for work outwitted and outlasted his personal turmoil. His life would be splashed all over tabloids today. He was a flamboyant and unique man.

Frank Lloyd Wright chairStructures should come out of nature, he believed, and blend with it and he accomplished this in a way no one else has done, almost like a poet to my mind. Although I find his continuous earth tones to be too monotonous, I still love much of the design, both architectural and in the countless other items he designed. He designed everything inside the house as well and a client had to conform to his dictates or they could not have his house. He designed furniture, tableware, lighting and even one hostess' dress. Numerous “in the style of” designs have been spawned by present-day manufacturers.

He went through long periods of disfavor but was most successful from age 70 to 90, a true artist in his approach to life. Asked how he could work so hard in his later years, he said he could shake the designs out of his sleeve and couldn't get them out fast enough. He hit his full stride at a time in his life when some people have "turned in.” One worker described him as “200% alive.”

His Imperial Hotel in Japan was the only building in the city that survived a massive earthquake right after it was completed. The building had been constructed of  non-standard materials and as an engineer, Wright had calculated that earthquakes were regular occurrences in Tokyo.

Here is a link to a beautiful new structure created 50 years later from an unbuilt Wright design. 

May 7, 2008

Perseverance

Winston Churchill said that courage is the greatest virtue of all because without it, none of the others can exist. Is perseverance needed prior to courage — or perhaps courage is what allows you to persevere.

Perseverance

Motivation is a mystery even to those who are highly motivated. I love to ask people what motivates them. And do you know, even the brightest, most centered and successful people I've asked usually say, "I don't know." Then they'll think a minute and say something like, "my baby." But that's not enough of an answer for me and it isn't everyone's.

Mysteries of motivation aside, I was thinking about perseverance because I was thrilled to solve an alignment issue in my rugs website today. As an online designer, you are constantly challenged with technical anomalies, most of which are ultimately solvable but not all and often not without considerable time and sweat and multiple attempts. An odd mixture of logic, faith and stick-to-it-iveness seems to be required for success. I was thinking that this mixture is a good formula for life in general. It was so satisfying to fix this puzzle, which only appears on certain browsers (that's always the case) that it made me stop and think about what it takes to keep going with an effort that is confounding you.

I believe my mom taught me some of this stick with it stuff by her unspoken example. She was great at accepting the world's oddities without as much fuss as most people. They could make her laugh, cry or be frustrated like anyone else but she had a great way of forging forward that I think got under my skin and I am very grateful for it. I wish I could give it to every friend and every kid I see.

May 6, 2008

Self and Shadow

Conversations between dark and light, shadow and person take place visually and psychologically in the intriguing art of Nadine Gordon-Taylor.

Nadine Gordon-Taylor ArtAt left: “IMAX Shadow” in oil

Ms. Taylor places her own shadow in all her art, giving a new dimension to the work. I love the additional layer of the painted frame in the image at left, something she did in one series.

I had the good fortune to meet the artist at the Flat Iron Gallery this past weekend. She is as interesting as her art. I confessed that I love the images that show cats too and she told me about her cat, Matisse, pictured in the two acrylics below. She currently has five cats and I think one dog.

Technically adept, her work is influenced by concepts of how we hide and show our dark and light sides — very interesting and thought-provoking, besides being visually stimulating — a substantial creative journey.

Art by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

L to R: “99 & 100% Pure” and “To Sleep Perhaps to Dream” by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

 

May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo or the fifth of May in Spanish, a day of celebration.

Mexican food

Officially, the holiday commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. In reality, in my part of the world, it's an excuse to celebrate and eat Mexican food. A group of my friends and I went to an early outside festival on Sunday (the 4th) in Peekskill and had Mexican food at Ruben's Mexican Café, as well as at the outside fair. There was much merriment, music, food and fun, although the restaurant was strained way past capacity. The food was mostly great with one odd exception being the nachos. The guacamole was fantastic. The day turned out to be beautiful despite a week-long prediction of rain. We got to spend more time at the Flat Iron Gallery which was, as before, inspiring.

May 4, 2008

Tantalizing Teapots

Teapots, like chairs, have caught the imaginations of many superb designers who have created gracious, amusing, soothing and surprising versions of this tableware.

Artistic Teapots from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Two teapots, both from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Why do certain objects attract the creative juices of artists so much? In the case of the chair, there are endless possibilities for design coupled with a highly practical need. In the case of the teapot, however, I think it's just the gracious spout shape that for some reason beckons for design experimentation. Whatever the reason, beautiful teapots are all around us.

May 3, 2008

Significant Type

What's in a typeface? Designers have heartfelt answers.

wandering into type


A documentary called Helvetica has come out. The title has made most people I've mentioned it to laugh, which indicates how many people are familiar with the Helvetica typeface, for one thing. If a movie came out that was called Baskerville, just as a random example, the title would elicit a blank response from most non-designers. Like the designers interviewed, I can go on a long road talking about type and have a strong view on Helvetica too. I'm of the “not” school. I love sans serif (without curly edges) type but admire so many other typefaces more (Futura, Univers and newer creations such as Agenda). What's really eye-opening about the film, though, is that it shows how ubiquitous this one face has become. 

Designers tend to be word conscious. Most graphic designers love the power of words; they are communicators, not just image creators. The iconic practitioners speaking in this film (Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Erik Spiekermann, Massimo Vignelli, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones and many others) made me realize that part of the clout (good and bad) of Helvetica is that you don't notice it specifically as type. It's purposely in the background.

One person pointed out that advertising lures people in by creating a mood first and then delivering its “sell” punch. Helvetica is unobtrusive so you may not know “what hit you,” aiding the sometimes subversive nature of ads and perhaps making mega corporations seem innocuous when they can be perceived as diabolical. This doesn't mean you can't play with it, as you can with any typeface. (I did my part above and incorporated part of the art from one of my rug designs designs inside the main word.)

“In favor” users love that it doesn't get in the way of a message. Artists who dislike it see it as lifeless, unimaginative and bland. It is used for hundreds of corporate identity systems; I love to create corporate identities but want them to have personality; the Helvetica solution is a cop-out, to my way of thinking. The movie shows countless varying examples of the type being used. It does a good job of covering contrary viewpoints, although I suspect creator/director Gary Hustwit falls in the “I like it” camp.

If you never thought about the power of typography, this is an eye-opening and amusing piece. And if you think about it all the time, as I do, it still opens your mind to some new and worthwhile ideas, many of which are complex and surprising.

May 2, 2008

New CD Allowed in the Car

My car, nicknamed Petey (it's a metallic blue PT Cruiser convertible), has hosted only CDs by Stevie Wonder since its birth in May 2006. Now, a new CD, Joni Mitchell's latest, has been granted permission to grow roots in the song bin.

My Car Hosts Only Two CDs

Joni Mitchell's current CD, Shine, is lovely, brought to my attention by one of my brilliant musician friends. It's not that it's necessarily my first choice in a world of great music; it's just that it feels right. It's just beautiful. Stevie Wonder's musical seduction goes without saying, in my opinion. I love my car and driving in general. I do often sing in the car and will bring practice CDs in temporarily but none live there except Stevie and now Joni's Mitchell's newest effort (we are not on a first name basis). I didn't mean to so severely limit the car's choices; it just worked out this way and brings me an odd pleasure. Filtering has its place.

“Blue” by Joni Mitchell

 

I couldn't end this entry without mentioning Joni Mitchell's CD entitled Blue. The color title moves me, not only because of the allusion to musical blues and the full CD is gorgeous, possibly my favorite Joni Mitchell. A great piece of work.

May 1, 2008

Sultry Salsa in Brooklyn

Unexpectedly last night, I took a Salsa dance class in Brooklyn.

Salsa in Brooklyn So no one was wearing outfits like these nippers in class, which was a fun and motley crew of grownups. But still, the vibe is there. The teacher is spunky and awesome. My friend was taking the class and I drove him there. He said I was welcome to watch and I LOVE dancing so I thought I would. One thing led to another. The teacher, who is great at pulling people in, said I was welcome to take part. It would never have occurred to me otherwise, especially since my footwear of the moment was platform slides — so I took them off and did the class barefoot.

it's funny because I just read an article about the benefits of going barefoot yesterday. I think you can spin better with thin dance soles but having read this article definitely helped me not feel so weird taking a dance class in bare feet. All in all a great night's fun.

Go spin for yourself:

For Salsa Dance Classes call: 347-628-5883

Location: 259 Smith Street in Brooklyn

Private classes are also available. By the way, there are dozens of amazing! restaurants on this strip of Smith Street too. Savoia is one of them.