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July 29, 2008

Object of desire.

6a00d8345173e769e200e553c220878833-800wi Gary Hustwit, who created the wonderful, must-see film Helvetica has announced a new film that I am eagerly anticipating. Debuting in 2009, Objectified is a documentary about industrial design. The film features some of DWR’s favorite designers: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Hella Jongerius and Karim Rashid. It aims to “document the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives.” I am equally excited about the film’s logo, which features the Panton chair. They’re blogging about the film here.

July 24, 2008

What is modern about Shaker?

Furniture from the mid-20th century demonstrates what is possible by using new materials and technologies. The same can be said for 18th-century American furniture by the Shakers. In fact, there are many examples of time periods when radical departures in furniture design are attributable to new technology. But what connects Shaker and mid-20th-century furniture is the form.

The Shaker movement was founded in England in 1747 and in America in 1774. For almost 200 years, the members of the sect established villages from Maine to Kentucky, living in communities separated from "the world," or people who did not share their religious beliefs. As for the name Shaker, it is derived from "shaking Quaker" and referred to the movements the members made when sitting in silent communion. Of the many Shaker virtues, utility, harmony and order were highly esteemed, and these qualities were expressed in the everyday items the Shakers created.

The mid-century modernists have more in common with the shaking aspect (coffee and cigarettes) than with the religious and isolated ways in which the Shakers lived, but they shared the Shakers' ability to turn a belief system – albeit a very different one – into a physical expression. The belief system that drove the modernists included a desire to create affordable furniture for as many people as possible. The expression of which took the form of simple, functional, well-designed items that could be mass-produced. The Shakers, who numbered 6,000 in the years before the Civil War, didn't seek involvement with the "world's people" (non-Shakers), but when they realized the demand for the furniture they created, they began producing it commercially. Different intents drove the Shakers and the modernists to remarkably parallel bodies of work that continue to reverberate today.

Both groups shunned the stylistic traditions of their times, favoring instead simplicity and proportions that met the demands of utility and were in keeping with the human form. Before "less is more" and "form follows function" became modern maxims, the Shakers had long denounced decorative excess in favor of smart, practical furniture. "Beauty rests on utility," believed the Shakers, "and that which has in itself the highest use possesses the greatest beauty."

In addition, the Shaker craftspeople did not sign their work, since doing so was believed to represent a display of personal pride and did not reflect Shaker virtues. Modernist furniture designer George Nakashima shared the belief that signing a piece is egocentric, and it was only after Nakashima knock-offs appeared did he agree to mark his work. Nakashima was an MIT-trained architect who was known to describe himself as Japanese Shaker. This label expressed his belief that his designs should be treated as everyday functional objects, not precious possessions.

The market for fakes was something the Shakers were familiar with, especially as their pared-down, functional furniture grew in popularity. Examples of Shaker furniture include lightweight ladder-back chairs that could be hung on the wall when the floors were cleaned, and worktables with push-and-pull drawers that could be accessed from either side, perhaps by two sisters working on their sewing simultaneously. While many people think of Shaker furniture as small in scale, many of their pieces were actually quite large, as they were designed for communal living. An example would be long dining tables and benches meant to be used by as many people in the community as possible. In this way, the Shakers and modernists differed, but for the most part, these groups had a lot in common, especially when it came to carefully considered, straightforward furniture that is just as relevant to how we live today.

July 23, 2008

Scholars of Shaker culture.

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For 40 years, Faith and Edward Deming Andrews collected Shaker art, amassing what is believed to be one of the most comprehensive collections of Shaker materials ever assembled. The Andrewses’ story, from acquiring and ultimately disposing of their collection, is the subject of a traveling exhibit, “Gather Up the Fragments: The Andrews Shaker Collection.” In addition to showing more than 200 objects, some of which have never been on display before, the exhibit examines the Andrewes’ involvement – as scholars, collectors, and dealers – of Shaker art.

The Andrewses have been credited with being among the first to recognize the unique contributions of the Shakers to American culture. “The story of how they acquired and eventually disposed of their collection is a fascinating tale of intrigue.”

Through October 31, 2008, the exhibit is at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Contact them for additional tour locations. For a review by “Antiques and the Arts,” click here.

July 11, 2008

They came for the iPhone...

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...and stayed for the Starbucks Coffee and best in modern design.

Southlake, Texas. 7:30am

Posted by E. David Goltl, Proprietor, Southlake Studio

July 10, 2008

Line 'em up.

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Around this time last year, Apple introduced the iPhone – and it was a mad house around the Southlake Studio. People started gathering in line the evening before the release date. Well, Apple is at it again, this year promising the iPhone G3 to be “twice as fast” and “half the price.” And the public is listening. This morning when I opened the Studio, I found four young men (the first of many, I’m sure) taking refuge from the Texas sun in the entryway (luckily they brought their own chairs). I’m sure they’ll be a bit groggy tomorrow, so we will be providing Starbucks Coffee and bottled water for our sidewalk campers at 7am. Gonna be there? Stop by the Studio to check out the Geneva Sound System, the perfect complement to the new iPhone.

Posted by E. David Goltl, Proprietor, Southlake Studio

July 09, 2008

Talking Sottsass in San Francisco.

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Oh, Ettore Sottsass, how you are loved and missed. In 1981, with the launch of his Memphis Group, Sottsass pursued one of my favorite obessions – the often rocky and incestuous relationship between high and low brow. He effectively put a nail in the coffin of generally accepted 1970s idea of “good taste” (ie, boring). Though Memphis and its legion of young Italian designers imploded by the end of the decade, its impact is still relevant 25-plus years later. In 2007, before passing away at the age of 90, Sottsass (a longtime champion of the 1006 Navy® Chair) collaborated with aluminum chair manufacturers Emeco to unleash his final design: the Nine-0 Collection.

Please join the DWR Potrero Studio and Dan Fogelson of Emeco on Thursday, July 10 from 6 to 8pm for a presentation from the company. In addition to leaning more about Emeco and Sottsass, you’ll have the opportunity to see the Nine-0 Swivel Armchair live and in person. The first 200 production models are individually numbered and nearly begging for cult status (and are only at DWR). Ettore would want nothing less for his brilliant and triumphant final design.

Posted by Timothy Williamson, Studio Account Executive, Potrero Studio

July 03, 2008

Louisville lodging.

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Sometimes inspiration arrives in an unusual package. Living in D.C., one would assume it would come from the vast Smithsonian collections. But my recent earthquake of inspiration came from a perfect hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. I heard about the hotel, 21C, years ago and have yearned to visit it since. 21C stand for 21st-century art. The hotel and its galleries are packed with it, they feature pieces made by only living artists.

The experience is worth keeping it on your radar. Stay, dine and gaze at pieces from this phenomenal collection without any barriers. I sat beneath an opera singing chandelier by Werner Reiterer in the lobby, sipped wine inches from a Chuck Close and descended a cement staircase to a wall filled with heart-stopping photography by Peiter Hugo.

The aesthetic is modern, the staff is excellent and down to earth, the restaurant and bar, Proof, serves up food that rivals the top eateries of San Francisco or New York. The hotel is just one of the developments churning the development of a great little downtown...all the while, supporting living, modern artists, and inspiring the rest of us.

Posted by Ann Blackwell, Studio Proprietor, Georgetown