Saturday, January 30, 2010

Top 4 Designers: Part 3


This Top 4 Designers task is starting to seem a bit daunting. I've had over a week to dwell on it, but somehow choosing a metal artist/craftsman/designer seems so difficult. I feel I know even less about metal than I do about furniture! I've been reading Objects: USA (1969) and Nordness, the curator, is playing in my mind in how I decide what makes people designers. I've tended toward the more Modern approach on the last two, but for this, I'm harkening back to an earlier era for my favorite designer in metal.

Rejected in the furniture category (yes, he designed furniture), Guimard's easily recognized Metro entrances and powerful Art Nouveau style never cease to leave me with my mouth hanging open in worshipful awe. Walking around Paris this past summer made me feel like I had an old friend as I would turn corners and see his plant-like forms rising from the pavement. His Castel Beranger building entrance gate undulates in a way that is sensual, evocative, and makes my skin tingle. Guimard designed the entire building as a gesamtkunstwerk with the desire to connect the interior of the building with the exterior world of Paris. Other designers of the period designed whole buildings in the "whiplash style" as well, but it was Guimard's adherence to the progressive ideals of his day that makes his memorable and unique. Younger than his design contemporaries, Guimard quickly embraced new technology--incorporating electricity into his designs--and pushing metal to new limits of design. Even though the Art Nouveau style ended soon after the turn of the century, Guimard's innovations still stand as a testament to his design genius.

The photo for this post comes from the Victoria and Albert museum. (Yet again, I know.) This gate can be found in their Ironwork Gallery, and as soon as I saw it I knew it was Guimard. I love identifying pieces without the label as it makes me feel like my education is not wasted.

Up next: My top ceramics designer.

Honorable mention: Stuart Golder because he emailed me back when I wrote a paper on his work.

Top 4 Designers: Part 2


I thought about this one for a long time. Known for once saying, "I hate furniture," I struggled to choose a designer I could easily call my favorite. While I appreciate furniture for it's functionality--I do love my bed--it's often hard for me to appreciate it from a design standpoint. I waffled between Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Emile Galle, Josef Hoffmann (can you tell I like the early 20th century?) and many others before deciding that Charles and Ray Eames win this one. (They're also featured on Frasier!)

They began designing and producing when decorative arts and industrial design collided and their resulting body of work is eye-catching, Modern, and elegant, yet homey. Unlike Chihuly, I didn't know the Eameses until last year's survey class, where I discovered the Lounge Chair, Wood, designed in the mid-1940s, and was immediately captured. The photo above is the LCW I found in the 20th Century Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The smooth wood, the rounded edges, and the stable four-legged form all speak volumes about design, comfort, and use of new materials. They were able to use modern machining techniques and materials like plywood in the Post-War era to create affordable and comfortable furniture.

I also love the lounge chair and ottoman for it's molded plywood, which they don't try to hide, and the leather upholstery that always makes me feel as though it belongs somewhere between an office and a rec room. Charles and Ray Eames also experimented with molded fiberglass, after working with their friend Eero Saarinen on his womb chair. Charles and Ray, however, were the first to leave the new material exposed and are credited with developing a modern, sleeker aesthetic for their furniture.

Their designs are now available through Herman Miller, should you too fall in love.

Honorable Mention: John Belter and his fabulous tete-a-tete.

Top 4 Designers: Part 1

In a recent discussion, I was asked to list my three favorite designers of decorative arts. I couldn't narrow it down quickly, so I begged off, promising to write a blog post with my answer. The reply grew quite lengthy so here's the answer in four parts, starting today with glass. These are my favorite designers, with a few honorable mentions, one from each of the four "major" decorative art groups: furniture, ceramics, glass, and metal. There may be a few quibbles on my grouping, and even my choice of designers, but each one holds a special place in my heart for various reasons.

Hands down, without thinking, I can name Dale Chihuly. I loved Dale (we're on a first name basis) before I even knew who he was. In my freshman year of college I mentioned my love of the vase that sits next to Frasier's fireplace (after season 3 for those who are fans), and was chided with, "Of course you love it, it's a Chihuly." The woman who told me this may be patronizing, but she's right. Chihuly is a Seattle, WA-based artist, in addition to being world-renown, thus his inclusion in Frasier's exceedingly posh (and somewhat pretentious) apartment.

Additionally, I was warmly greeted by his beautiful sculptural chandelier upon walking in to the V&A in London (pictured above), clenching what I know will be a life-long affair with the museum. Chihuly's made a few appearances in my classes, but I usually end up spotting him in an entryway, gallery, or other unexpected places.Overcoming the loss of his eye, Chihuly, along with his studio, produces amazing works, delighting not just glass, but beauty lovers everywhere. His work is eye-catching, sculptural, playful, colorful, and displays a mastery of glass handling like no other glass work I know.

Honorable mention: Wilhelm Wagenfeld Kubus Stacking Storage Containers. IKEA-like storage in a pre-IKEA era.

Up next: Furniture

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spring Semester and Louis C. Tiffany

The semester officially started on Wednesday, and here's hoping that despite my lapse in updating over the holiday break, the need to procrastinate will be the impetus to get me blogging on a regular schedule again. One of the more exciting aspects of this semester is my internship with the Neustadt Collection. The director is a graduate of our program and I'm very excited to work with her. Plus, I get to take a trip to New York, and who doesn't love riding the Bolt Bus?

I am researching World's Fairs and Louis Comfort Tiffany's exhibits therein. Before I started graduate school I was aware of World's Fairs in a tangential way. I knew Queen Victoria started them, but that knowledge is based on my love of the Queen. I was aware of the St. Louis fair because of my enjoyment of musicals. And Kelly convinced me to read The Devil in the White City (which I highly recommend for a quick, thrilling, and historical read), giving me greater insight into the planning of the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. But, that takes me away from Louis Tiffany and his Favrile Glass. Most known for his windows and lamps, Tiffany experimented with glass and ceramics, taking advantage of his father's money and workshops to develop stained glass that is still revered to this day. Granted, you can be in the John LaFarge camp, but I've been a Tiffany girl since I was little. Biased, sure, but you can't deny the way the light catches the rich colors, the use of lead to separate the panes, and the warmth behind each design. I'm excited to see what I will learn and what this internship holds for opening up new research pathways and giving me the chance to break away from ceramics and explore my other great dec arts love: glass.

(But not to worry, Ceramic Sentiments will soon resume!)