Friday, January 30, 2009

Tourist Trappings

When I was making arrangements to meet Patricia van Essche while I was in New York I told her, "You pick the place.  When I'm in New York it's like I'm on the moon.  I have no idea where I am or what relation  my current or future location has to anything else."  This trip, I vowed to get a better sense of the city.  Being at the mercy of the kindness of strangers is not my strong point.

As my big city friend was going to be out of the city for the first two days of my trip I made a little pact with myself.  Walk at least three miles a day.  Eat what ever I wanted.  Google Maps was the thing that made it all possible.  See, I can't bring myself to be that person standing on the street corner looking left and right, up at the street sign, back at the map.  Instead, I walk purposefully, but sometimes in the wrong direction.  With my handy maps it was impossible to get lost as they gave me the directions in words, which is something I process better than grids.  Also, it designated the distance of the journey.  Genius.

When I had gone by to see Elizabeth Wilson, who carries some of Ted Muehling's jewelry, she advised me to see his shop.  When wise women tell you things, you listen.  So I googled.  From the West Village, my home base, to Muehling's was just over three miles.

It was incredibly cold in New York and unsurprising but remarkable that the wind always seemed to be in my face.  But walking in the city is like being on safari.  Discoveries around every corner and a wild beast here and there.

Ted Muehling's shop was extraordinary.  It was peaceful, but it had a kind of a low current of energy.  Not zen.  Not relaxing.  Stimulating.  But no mania.  He does not allow pictures so I must encourage you to seek out his pieces where you can.  Including the earrings I've been coveting for a good, long time and finally made my own.  And, yes, I've worn them nearly every day.

Elizabeth's other suggestion was to see De Vera, just across the street from Meuhling's shop.

While Muehling's designs are modern and essential, the objects and jewelry at De Vera are intricate and complex but no less beautiful.  I simply cannot imagine being the lucky soul who gets to hunt and gather these pieces.

When my big city friend returned (I do think he was a little worried to leave me as he has usually been my GPS) he asked if I were ok.  Completely over the moon.

A few of you have asked, which is so dear, about the earrings I purchased at Ted Muehling.  I managed to take them off long enough to snap this shot.

Image, top, Muehling's shop, the next De Vera.  All items pictured from De Vera.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Happy Surprise

Sometimes as I go skipping through the world of interiors I am delighted by something new.  An awakening.  And sometimes I gasp, whether audible or not, at the beauty that I find.

Much, much too often I find that I have made no discovery at all.  Not new, merely new to me and I am embarrassed by my lack of knowledge.

Such was the case when I visited Christopher Spitzmiller's studio when I was in New York this week.  Was I surprised by Chris's beautiful work, by his melt in your mouth glazes?  I was not.  Was I surprised that he was gracious and generous and lovely?  I was not.  I had heard that already.

What surprised me was that Roy Hamilton was working quietly in a small back corner of the studio.  What surprised me were his beautiful ceramics.

It was the subtle yet beautiful texture of his work in neutral that gave me pause.

Neither he nor Chris made me feel the fool when I admitted I was unaware of Hamilton's work.  Neither made me squirm that I did not know that his ceramics have found a place in the projects of Parish Hadley, McMillen, William Hodgins, Darrell Schmitt and Steve Chase.

Smiling and patient they showed me the work and let me feel the relief of the slipware without mentioning that over the last twenty five years Hamilton has been honored by the Rhode Island School of Design, had commissions from Tiffany & Co. and a collection of fabrics and wall coverings for Donghia.

No, they didn't.  Instead we chatted amicably about a fellow Kansas Citian who lives in New York, a name that comes up again and again.  

Chris lured Hamilton to New York from sunny Los Angeles, a move he might be questioning this week as the weather in New York is truly atrocious. 

His decorative pieces are designed as vases and bowls though he notes that the vases often end up as lamps.  They are currently working to create a website to feature Hamilton's pieces.  That is a happy surprise.

Top three images Christopher Spitzmiller's work with Clare Potter, the remaining pieces by Roy Hamilton.  His pieces sometimes pop up on ebay.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Silver Lining

I was just talking about Gio Ponti and here he is on the pages of Western Interiors. Ponti and Christofle's design director, Tony Bouilhet, collaborated for nearly fifty years (1928 -78.) Some of the twenty-five pieces were never produced, but Christofle is introducing a collection of Ponti's work. I checked the site and did not find them yet. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I had the great pleasure of stopping in to see Elizabeth Wilson of Asiatica last week.  She's particularly engaging, but I am always stopping myself from stealing surreptitious glances at all the beautiful things in her shop.  When we had wrapped up our business she said, "I have something I want you to see in the back."  These are the magic words; only good things could follow.

For the last forty years or so Elizabeth has been gathering Japanese kimonos to use as inspiration and resource for her clothing designs.

Recently she and her team have organized some - some - of the hundreds of kimonos on shelves by color.  It's a stunning collection.

If you click on the pictures they will enlarge so you can see the detail of the pattern and color.

As we all stood and admired and said, "Oh, look at this one," and, "Did you see this?" I asked her what she would do with them, her beloved collection that she has gathered from hither and yon, from people who could not see the value of these pieces.  She's not sure.  Something.  Something special.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vintage Seals the Deal

Courtney Barnes of Style Court posted a while back on repurposing a piece of your grandmother's needlepoint to add a soulful touch to modern digs.  While going through the House & Gardens I ran across this charming vignette from Annie Selke from July 2006.  The hooked fan pillow is particularly charming.  While not your grandmother's, it gives a new room additional vintage charm.  It appears the pillow is still part of Selke's collection through Dash and Albert.

There were several other elements of this home that would be inexpensive ways to freshen up.  Lusterware plates like these can be found at several of the antique malls here in Kansas City.
In addition, there are currently framed, pressed botanicals at Pear Tree, Curious Sofa and Christopher Filley's.  While not quite as inexpensive as the plates, Selke does a nice job with this arrangement by using just one.  One might be in the budget.

The same could be said of the butterfly print on the table, above.  A framed print on an easel might just brighten up a tired tablescape.

And, while slightly more ambitious, the craftiest among you could reproduce the bamboo below the chair rail from Selke's dining room.

The bathtub, sadly, may cost more than my car, but that glimpse of white wicker?  The vintage mirror?  These as well as the light fixture and portrait can easily be found in one trip River Market Antiques or something similar in your town.  Keep the backgrounds clean and fresh, as Selke has done here, and these inexpensive, vintage pieces will shine like treasures.

Dash and Albert available in town at Stuff in Brookside.  By the way, I have not torn one page from the stack of House & Gardens.  I just keep pulling them out and saying, "Oh!  Oh, yes, I loved this one," and then putting them back on the shelf.  Photography on the images above Andrew Bordwin.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Longing, Heartbreak and Redemption - Sort of

When I saw the First Lady's ensemble yesterday I thought first, "Fabulous!" and then "Eureka!"  the perfect post for today as I have an old layout of Isabel and Ruben Toledo's loft.  

No, not the one from the Times.  I had originally thought House & Garden, but in examining the fonts (desperate and crazed people do these kind of things) I thought not.  Vogue, maybe.  But the long and short of it was that I could only find this one page.  This one tattered page that I had kept in a separate file because she is wearing a pair of Ted Muehling earrings that I am quite sure I would wear every day if I owned them.  I searched for hours.  Well, a really long time.  

So I cannot offer you what I was sure would be the Holy Grail of design blog/fashion connection.  Instead, I will send you to Vogue for the slide show of another designing couple, Alexandra and Michael Misczynski and hope for better blog karma tomorrow.

The New York Times images are available through the Times, Habitually Chic and Apartment Therapy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Drawing, Two Books and a Song

The Blandings boys all discussed Martin Luther King, Jr. at school last week.  The youngest, who is in Kindergarten, brought home this drawing.  I paused for a moment to be grateful that he had not said, "I have a dream...that all people have candy," or PSPs or something like that.  He might have been coached.  Still, when I asked him who King was he had a clear idea and explained to me that a long time ago some people didn't get the same things as others, couldn't go the same places, and that "that wasn't fair."  "Martin Luther King," he told me, "talked about it."

I recently finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird.  If I could hand my boys a book that would guide them to develop into the type of men I'd hope for them to be, this might be it.  Published in 1960.  Not a long time ago.  In my lifetime people have moved from learning racism at their fathers' knees to learning about it at school.  A history lesson.  Some have.  Hopefully most have.  Certainly we have made enough progress to elect an African American president and that is something that should give us pause.  

I asked my youngest what the Xs were in his drawing.  Thanks to his brothers he is a master at drawing guns and tanks and the like so I was surprised he hadn't used those to represent war.  He explained that the building itself is war and his marks are "x-ing" it out.  He's learned this method of ridding oneself of scary things from Harold, who is handy with his purple crayon.  In one of the Harold tales he takes care of a scary witch, a demon of his own creation, by x-ing her out.  We should all be armed with purple crayons.

And, to finish up this bit of rambling today, one of my favorite songs from James Taylor.  I love James Taylor as I tend to run to fret and bother; he soothes my soul.  So, let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Icing on the Cake

You might remember a really terrific image from House Beautiful this month.  I could not stop studying Christopher Spitzmiller and Clare Potter's new line of ceramics.

My mother had one of those white porcelain lamps with the roses appliqued on it when I was a little girl.  I begged her to put it in my room.  Wisely, she declined, but I made her move around me as she was pinning the latest pinafore rather than turn myself so that I could gaze on that lamp.

Spitzmiller and Potter's pieces are like that, except they've been touched by the wand of fairy godparents.

It's likely you've seen Spitzmiller's work in countless magazines and most recently on New York Social Diary.

I've had the pleasure of seeing a couple of pairs of his lamps up close and the glaze is other-worldly.  There is nothing like it and those dime-a-dozen knock-offs will be at the curb in no time while Chris's lamps will grace your grandchildren's tables.

And, yes, we've gone from Spitzmiller to Chris because I emailed him after seeing the House Beautiful story and said, "I must know what inspired this shift; I'm captivated."

And he emailed me right back.  Even by email you can tell he's gracious and engaging.  Chris and I do have a mutual friend, but that is not how we connected and the same is true of Chris and Clare Potter.  While they share a friend it was seeing her work that drove Chris to her studio to discuss a collaboration.

"Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, I had to meet her on my own, in my own time, which was probably the right time to meet her. We both needed a little something new to shake us up."

Thank heavens.  Chris crafts the vessels then sends the blank base to Potter to add the decorative elements.  She reads each piece to see what it wants and then works from there.  Do click on the individual images and you will see the detail of the flowers and be surprised by bees and bugs.  While they have both worked with colored glazes in other works for these they have chosen to keep the purity of white.

The pieces are coated in a clear glaze that is pink before it's fired.  And makes the pieces look as if they have been dipped in candlelight afterward.

These stunning pieces are available through Christopher Spitzmiller or Mallett Antiques.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chairs Apparent

I'm going through my issues of the last year and a half of House and Garden.  I keep swearing I'm going to edit them one more time then recycle.  But I'm having a hard time letting go.  After running across an image of a Gio Ponti black ceramic pitcher, searching on line and becoming discouraged, I thought, "I bet I can find one at the antique mall."  I didn't.  But, there were other treasures.  The marble table above is still bouncing around in my head.  $165.

This makes you have to turn your head a bit, doesn't it?  These darling girls have been mistreated.  You could give the two of them a loving home for $168.  There's a table that's part of the deal that has no relation to the chairs, but maybe they've been together and don't want to be parted.

Three of these at $55/each.  A quick spray on a good day and you can enjoy them all spring.

This guy has great stuff.  Really great stuff, but he has figured it out and has these battery jars at $42 each.  Still, great inspiration.

Four.  I'd probably paint them white and put some really punchy fabric on that seat.

Hmmm?  Oh, yes, I know, $180 for four.  A total bargain.

Two of the enameled bowls which keep drawing my attention.  These are really cobalt blue so I didn't need them.  I do think they were $15-ish.

And then this, in a case, right before carpool with no time to get a key.  Clearly, not Ponti, but something good?  That chalky black finish gets me every time.  

Get out there.  Not everything comes right to your door with free shipping.

All pieces River Market Antique Mall, 115 W. 5th Street.