Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Chair Thought

My heart goes out to the people leaving their homes today from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Stay safe. This image of chairs facing east, west, north and south is via and its design work by Atelier Bow-Wow.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Building a Biography

These are the drawings that began the furniture work. I was wondering about the feminist contention that the biography was a limited form to document the life of a woman. At the time one could go to library and see that the biography of Susan B. Anthony was markedly slimmer than say Harry Truman. Was this because her life was slimmer? It got me thinking that a piece of furniture is perhaps I more tangible format for illustrating a life. Therefore, I began to design pieces for woman who's biography I had read and tried to form a built manifestation of the woman's life.

Building girls-part two

Madeline looked at the blog today and lamented that I had not written about her lately. It was a rough getting back to school period and we are not quite in the happy blogger rhythm... But I am working with these drawings that reminded me of doing work and being a mother. These are drawings that I did from a series of Maxine Kumin's poems. Kumin's work really speaks to me in that it is about the everyday. When her child enter into her work its very frank discussions of who she is as a person and who this other person-the child- is. I think because Madeline was born after it became fashionable to have children there is not a lot of guidance about how to be a parent when your child is taller than you and has discovered the art of contradiction. Kumin's poems remind me that it is a state of grace. These drawings took imagery from the poem and made a furniture/place/space out of the gesture.

Building relationships

These are all the Love Seats. Respectively, A Love Seat for Vita and Virginia, A Love Seat for Leonard and Virginia, A Love seat for Vanessa and Virginia, and A Love Seat for Lytton and Virginia. These were exhibited at A D/B Project Space in Brooklyn New York in 2002.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Building words

In an effort to get myself to write this paper about the furniture work. ; I will post this image of the Love seat for Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf; A Love Seat for Reading Poetry. This is the built version of the love seat and was exhibited in 2001 in Brooklyn. So here is my opening paragraph:

For the past 15 years rather than an alternative practice I have had a parallel practice in which I have been investigating the built form of biography. At first the subject manner has mirrored my life as a creative woman but gradually as I matured I looked to others for kinship in the act of making. These pieces are a deeper exploration of the typical design practice. I have reached for a more spiritually and intrinsic understanding of the person's life by designing a piece of furniture for people I admire.

Other peoples chairs, other peoples ideas

I came across this beautiful chair "idea" on the blog Grijs. It is a piece from a larger project by two Swiss designers- kueng-caputo who explore the nature of the design copy and if you can make a piece from the original idea. Its very interesting since I am teaching furniture design and my method is to tell the student to go look at a particular design and see how its formed or put together or conceived. This is not plagiarism, this is looking at who and what you are derived from as a young designer. I would the say that this Copy project falls short only because the "copies" are more often than not better than the design icon they are paying homage to.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Caleb and I were asked to do a "napkin sketch" for a fund raiser at Southern Polytechic in Atlanta. I decided to embroider a "room of one's own".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Image Building

I set the task for my students today to draw a conceptual sketch of the their project. Not a rendering, not presentation drawing but the first flash that they have of the image of the space. Here are some examples. Two are by the great american designer Ray Eames and two are by ME! I like to do a perspective drawing EARLY in the project to draw out all my preconceived notions. I do not draw a perfect perspective but a very loose idea of the room. It always showed the client that I did have an image in mind and there was no need for any more magazine pictures yet let the project stay loose and continued the creative process.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Building connections

Diana Lind is a great friend from Brooklyn who sent me this very intriguing e-mail. She must have known that one of my best "fun-facts" is that I discovered there are not one but two Brooklyn Mississippis so when she sent me this image of Neil Freeman's map of the U.S. connecting all the cities that have the same name I got hooked. The moth like quality is amazing in this image, it says a lot about being connected and not..... Diana is the editor of the great magazine Next American City and this print is being offered as a fund raising device. The sale of a print will go to further editorial content in the magazine (the mag is an org not a com). Check out the Magazine, the prints and Diana's great writing at

Building a Body of Work

One of my tasks this week is to compile all the furniture work I have done over the years and discuss it in terms of an "alternative practice". I would first say that it has been a parallel practice one in which I can make a simpler form of an idea. The short version of this body of work is that I read a lot. And my way of digesting the reading has been to imagine the built manifestation of the story (a biography more often than not) through a piece of furniture. this has been an exercise in the idea that all architecture is a built story, a biography of the person who will reside in the building. One of the first round of furniture was "Love seats for Virginia Woolf". I read almost everything about her just as Caleb and were getting married and was fascinated by how her relationships with her family and friends seemed to have no hierarchy. No one loved more than the other, no one worked harder in the the relationship; and sometimes there was very equal amounts of tension. This is a love seat for Virginia and Clive Bell. Bell was Virginia's brother-in-law and there seemed to be a love-hate thing going on-therefore I made a Love seat for a Fight.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Interior Ideas

Its not often that my blog reading and my academic ideas merge but this week Irene at Bloesem(my favorite) was discussing Li Edelkoort's prediction that the "house" will be a personel "museum". From my research this is not a new idea, it perhaps started in the 17th century with the "Wonder Room". It was a room in an estate or castle that was reserved for the display of the objects and wonders of the world that the court explorer would bring back. I like to call this a "Collected Space" and anyone from Sir John Sloan-the 18th century British architect to Ray Eames have made spaces like this.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Building Form

We popped over to Birmingham today to run some errands, Whole foods, new ballet shoes,etc. We went to the Birmingham Museum of Art and were very impressed. We got to see a beautiful Sargent painting since we miss visiting Madame X at the Met and they have a great show of 1950's German modernist production pottery. It's called a New Twist: German Pottery from the 1950"s. It is a collection of 60 vases from a private collection of a resident of Birmingham. My imagination is going wild thinking what great people could have loved such interesting work and put a collection together. If your in the area its a must see.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A chair present

Deep in the recesses of Vogue Living this summer I saw a piece about Maria Pergay a French furniture designer and interior decorator. This ribbon chair or Ribbon Pouf! is the height of her designing with stainless steel. She says that the piece itself is a "gift from me to the people who like my work" Its already wrapped up-how french, and chic!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Interior World

This sounds like a great exhibition and I hope to go on my next trip to New York. House Proud at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, is an exhibition of watercolors of it looks like 19th century interiors. I love collections of interior paintings because it give you a really clear sense of how rooms were used closer to the time they were first built and designed. This image is particularly fascinating-look at the desk right up against the banquette for seating-how modern???? See this New York Times review.

When a house builds your life

I just finished this lovely book written by Julia Reed about the renovation of her first grown-up house and how the end of the renovation "dove-tailed" with the storm Katrina. The stories of the renovation are familiar since I was the focus of many a renovation "hissy fit" in New York AND it really gets to the real important things in life; family, friends, a place and house that makes you whole. And always remember there is no such thing as a "carpet emergency" in light of the trails that the citizens of New Orleans faced when re-building their city.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Building Gardens

It may look like I have only been working on school preparation but actually the Olympics gave me a great boost on the Trianon project. I am happily "embroidering" the site plan of Marie Antionette's garden while I watch well honestly Micheal Phelps... Anyway the first piece is coming along nicely and I will be ready for the upholsterer soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ninja Chair

As I was working through my first lecture today I inserted the work of Charlotte Perriand. A designer in Le Corbusier's atelier before the second world war, she is responsible for (what I think) is the most interesting furniture to come out of Corb's studio. During the war she actually had to stay in Japan for the length of the conflict and worked through some of her most thoughtful work. Captivated by the Japanese culture she came up with this very beautiful Ombre chair which is stackable. For me this piece hits a lot of notes, elegantly mass producable, modern yet personable and some how the form of the piece really conjures a narrative of the Asian spirit..a would call it a Ninja chair. One of the best reads about Corbusier and chic modernist french life in the twenties and thirties is Perriand's autobiography, Charlotte Perriand, A Life of Creation . Somehow she explains Corb's work very clearly, she had a great life complete with many a chapters ending in "at the top of the mountain I took off my shirt!" And if you look carefully you see she had NO editor...Pretty great lady.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Building your world

Andrea Zittel is another woman artist who I look to and admire for her"total vision". Like J Morgan Puett she has left New York and found a place in the world-Joshua Tree- that feeds her work as a "placemaker" as well as art maker. She also works through her clothes to control the environment. I spoke about her Smockshop which is open in Chinatown, New York right now. Look at her site and for some real inspirational work and way of being in the world.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When is Design Good? This article is about Phillip Starck and was in the Times last week and speaks about a lot of the things I struggle with in the design culture. Starck is truely the only original form giver of the 21st century. And I have always loved his work in particular the boldness of scale that he uses in most architectural projects...what is really big and what is really small? And how does it effect space? He had been talking about the consumptive nature of the design world and how he wanted to move in a direction that has a lighter footprint. This article talks about the very beautiful wind turbines that he has designed. This is interesting on two fronts-one the sustainable movement has had to fight against the uglies of the 60's sustainable culture...this says sustainability is beautiful and two he paid for it himself...which says I believe so I pay for new technology. Some would say elitist, I say inspiring-and I actually love to call people elitist.

When a chair lives in a building

I have wanted to write about J. Morgan Puett all summer. I had not heard a lot about her for the last couple of years and in July there was a very interesting article in the Times about her work, the place where she lives and works and her "seamless life" as a mother and artist. Puett is important to me because when I first arrived in New York in the late 90's her shops in Soho and Tribeca were huge inspirations. The sensibility of industrial southern made my heart sing and of course that the interior and the clothes dove tailed was really important-a total vision. So now she is the ring master of farm in Pennsylvania where art and life come together. This summer she lead apprentices through art projects on the property. I am fascinated by the fact that the architectural work came through the sensibility of the clothes that she makes-an interesting connection with utopian communities is that Bronson Alcott at Fruitlands made his own clothes to work the land. So for centuries clothes have been an inroad to creative freedom and clarity? See her various web sites .

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Sweetheart Building

I am now under the rock of organizing lecture for my classes, image ideas, image ideas... But in the last week I did have my 15th wedding anniversary. Caleb has a tradition of drawing architectural valentines for Madeline and I and I thought I would share one with you to mark the occasion. I always have told people I married Caleb because he drew so well...there you go.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Urban Couch

I saw this BoConcept; "Longest Sofa in the World" in Met Home this month and thought it was interesting in that maybe scale has meaning in furniture. This certainly is a powerful idea-a long red sofa in a urban town square. Evidently it is touring in the U.S. soon and has is own rock video to accompany the concept... Google "longest sofa" and see You Tube for the result.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Good Morning Mr. Chair

This is image made the blog rounds a couple of months ago and it might have been the beginning of the "chairs and buildings" idea-it certainly says it all in this image. The work is by Columbian sculptor Doris Salcedo and her work seems to be about the politics of objects?
I am going to do more research on her; first step, look under artists

Friday, August 8, 2008


This weekend I will get more rigorous about the blog, getting lectures together and a new train of thought about furniture but tonight I just have to say "wow". We just finished watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. I was ready for some good old cheesy showmanship and we got something much more. The filmmaker Zhang Yimou is the artistic director and what a beautiful eye he has, every detail was very, well classy. And I have to report I had my first pang of professional envy-I would be so proud if I had designed the "birdsnest"-I hope Ai Weiwei is-to build a cultural icon and have a cute nickname.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The meaning of a Sofa

Ah back from under the rock of a vacation. Sorry about the absence but I had to get Casa Crawford South under control a bit before linear thought could happen. But I have been thinking about "meaning" in furniture. Or the storytelling... I work with this idea all the time and in fact will discuss this more in the fall but I found three brilliant examples of Sofas With Meaning. The first is the "Press" couch by Mattia Bonetti-I saw it in person at the Museum for Art and Design last winter. The material is images from China Newspapers that are needlepointed! Pretty intense. The second is now a design classic by Hella Jongerius-inspired by horizontal and somewhat artifical landscape of her dutch homeland this is an abstract expression that image and very powerful. The last one was a couch made by event stylist Amanda Henderson-that one image of Audrey brings up lots of emotion. Pretty interesting.