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Finnish Line: Designers Discuss Spirit of Marimekko

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum recently kicked off “Design by Hand,” a new series focused on the craftsmanship, innovations, and merits of contemporary global designers, with an evening that spotlighted Marimekko. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to get an inside look at the Finnish design house, renowned for its original prints and colors.

weather diary
Marimekko’s Jussarö cotton fabric, designed by Aino-Maija Metsola, is part of the Helsinki-based company’s new Weather Diary collection. Below, Sami Ruotsalainen’s teapot uses the Räsymatto pattern designed by Maija Louekari.

teapotWhile the name Marimekko is based on “Mari” a girl’s name, and “mekko,” the Finnish word for dress, to its legions of worldwide fans it stands for fond memories and cheery graphic prints. The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum recently hosted an event featuring three Marimekko designers: fashion and textile designer Mika Piirainen, ceramics and product designer Sami Ruotsalainen, and print designer Aino-Maija Metsola. While each designer offered a unique insider’s perspective, selected themes surfaced that shed light on the brand’s impressive longevity:

Potpourri of patterns: “While Marimekko is known for bold designs, it’s not all about massive prints, it’s also about contrasts,” Piirainen said. “We’re crazy about dots, and circles are the friendliest shapes in the world. We’re crazy about stripes, too,” he added. Flowers and their textures are also popular motifs, even black and white solids. Recently these designers have also turned their focus to smaller prints.

Individual inspirations and influences: “It’s important that inspirations for products are close to you so people know there are emotions behind them,” Metsola said. Finland’s islands in the archipelago, seasonal weather patterns, and vegetation form the basis of much of her work, such as her “Weather Diary” aquarelles or “Midsummer Magic” collections. Piirainen is also influenced by nature, and takes photos during his travels to Lapland and Australia. For Ruotsalainen, food and items of everyday life impact his designs.
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Reading the Tea Leaves: Starbucks Debuts Teavana Concept Store in NYC

Always thirsty for hot new markets, Starbucks is betting big on tea. The coffee giant recently spent $612 million to acquire Atlanta-based Teavana Holdings, and is not letting its newest subsidiary steep. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to see what’s brewing at the first-ever Teavana concept store, complete with tea bar, a “curated” loose leaf tea section, and tea-inspired foods.

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(Photos courtesy Starbucks Corporation)

Teavana is a twist on beverages, and changes the idea of how people think of tea,” said Chanda Beppu, strategy and business innovation director for global tea at Starbucks. It’s also designed to broaden how customers think about the brand.

Starbucks acquired Teavana and its more than 300 retail locations in December 2012, and last week unveiled the first “Teavana Fine Teas + Tea Bar” on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (on Madison Avenue at 85th Street). With an assortment of 100 Asian-inspired flavors and a coveted location near Museum Mile and Central Park, Starbucks is also looking for New Yorkers, tourists, art lovers, runners, and passersby to warm to the concept store. “We’re still learning,” said Starbucks chief creative office Arthur Rubinfeld during Wednesday’s press preview, “and we’ll see how much of a community gathering spot this becomes.”

For Starbucks, it’s all about local relevant design, and textures are key, added Rubinfeld. Starbucks’ creative director of global design, Liz Muller, led a tour of the multifaceted venue, divided into distinct sections. “Here we wanted to create a tranquil, calm, zen-like ambience,” noted Muller. “Tea is the speaking point, and the store is in the background.”

“At the entrance visitors are greeted by a wall of teas,” said Muller. “As they continue inside, they’ll see an illuminated countertop and a menu board on the left side. Wall graphics include hibiscus lit in color, with wallpaper in muted tones. The solid wraparound countertops are made of recycled oak wood, and we used lower club seating for guests. The food case is like a jewel box, taking a European approach,” On the far side of the entrance is a colorful merchandise display.
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International Center of Photography Kicks Off Robert Capa Centenary

(David Scherman)Robert Capa (né Endré Friedmann) was born 100 years ago yesterday, and the International Center of Photography will spend the next year celebrating, so you have plenty of time to whip up a “Falling Soldier“-themed cake.

The legendary photojournalist’s work will be the subject of “Capa in Color,” opening at ICP on January 31. This first exhibition to look at Capa’s color work across his entire career will present over 100 color images that he made from 1941-54, from World War II to his trip in the U.S.S.R. with John Steinbeck, to images of Picasso, Humphrey Bogart, and Ingrid Bergman, to the last images he took in Vietnam in 1954. “Part of the goal of the 100th celebration is to reveal the richness and depth of the Capa Archive at ICP,” says Cynthia Young, curator of ICP’s Capa Archive, which recently received a $117,500 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. “Recovering his color photography is part of that work and the discovery of his voice on the 1947 radio recording almost single-handedly brings him to life in a way we have never experienced before.”

Sure, his famous D-Day photograph haunts all of our dreams, but what did Capa sound like? Wonder no more: the ICP has released the only known recording of the his voice, a 33 1/3 rpm microgroove recording was discovered on eBay. It’s Capa’s October 20, 1947 appearance on Hi! Jinx, a national program on NBC radio that was created in 1946 by Jinx Falkenburg and Tex McCrary. Here’s that segment—”Bob Capa Tells of Photographic Experiences Abroad“—digitized for your 21st century listening pleasure.

Ready the Creamed Corn! Canstruction Returns to New York

Gensler WSP Flack + Kurtz - CAN’s Best Friend
Can’s Best Friend. Koons meets canned goods in this entry by Gensler and WSP Flack + Kurtz.

Ever dreamed of recreating a Richard Serra sculpture with tomatoes from the pantry? Erecting a monumental tribute to Alexander McQueen’s armadillo heel using only canned peas and elbow grease? What about constructing a truly giant giant panda that can feed hundreds? Teams from top architecture and engineering firms will prove that they can do it, and for a good cause. The international charity competition that is Canstruction returns to New York City this month and with it the opportunity for teams of architects, engineers, and students they mentor to design and build giant structures made entirely from unopened cans of food—all of which are ultimately donated to City Harvest.

For its twenty-first go-round in Gotham, Canstruction has lined up 26 teams representing the likes of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Arup, Gensler, and HOK. Their carefully stacked creations will be judged in categories that include Best Use of Labels, Best Meal, Structural Ingenuity, and Most Cans. The works will be on view at Brookfield Place from October 31 through November 13. Visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable foods that will be donated along with the cans used in the competition to City Harvest.

Seven Questions for Martha Stewart

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Martha Stewart was joined by Bravo’s Andy Cohen last night to kick off the second annual American Made, a two-day celebration of ingenuity and craftsmanship that turns Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall into a lively marketplace of handpicked purveyors, crafters, and makers. Among this year’s American Made honorees are lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, Shinola’s Health Carr, and paper crafters Leo Kowal and Mary Rudakas, who took home the audience choice award for their SVGCuts creations. And for Stewart, that’s not even the icing on the cake—she’s got a new book out (about cakes!), an equally delicious PBS TV series in production (more cakes!), and big Halloween plans (Pumpkin Layer Cake…and much more!). We paused in our attempt at her Clementine-Vanilla Bean Loaf Cake to ask her seven questions.

What are some of your favorite finds among the nominees and winners of this year’s American Made awards?
The two-day event celebrates the spirit of innovation and spotlight a new generation of entrepreneurs. Everything we highlight with the American Made program, which is now in its second year, is something I’ve found in my various travels and meetings to be fascinating, unique, and worthy of recognition. This year, I have my eye on Back to the Roots, which is a ‘grow your own mushroom kit’ company out of Oakland, California, as well as Spoonflower, a custom fabric printing company in Durham, North Carolina.

cakes

Which recipe in Martha Stewart’s Cakes would you suggest for an amateur baker who wants to whip up a tasty and visually stunning cake?
The buttermilk cake with chocolate frosting is a great starting point for any amateur. It’s both visually stunning and tasteful. This book also provides a basics section specifically designed for amateurs who are looking to sharpen their baking skills. It provides essential equipment and ingredients for mixing, baking, and finishing!

Any tricks you can share about making a cake look as good as the amazingly beautiful ones featured in the pages of Martha Stewart’s Cakes?
Pairing cakes with accompaniments can be the finishing touch to a baker’s creation. They are served on the side adding richness, to simple cakes.
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Hamilton Wood Type Museum Teams with Erik Spiekermann to Go Hard in New Home

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Strong and Silent Types. The new crew at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum stands in front of a vintage photo of their predecessors.

hard_typefaceWisconsin’s Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum–the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production, and printing of wood type–recently moved into a new home in Two Rivers, and the race is on to reopening day. Helping to inaugurate the new space will be the museum’s annual Wayzgoose type conference, which gets underway November 8. Among the special guest speakers this year is the fontastic Erik Spiekermann, for whom a typographic tribute is in the works: Hamilton will be cutting the Spiekermann-designed font, “HARD” (pictured above), at the conference. “I’m excited to see Hamilton cut this font using traditional methods,” says Spiekermann. “With Hamilton’s vintage pantographs and former type-cutting employees, this will be a chance to see history in the remaking.”
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The Art and Design of Deception: Documentary Tells Story of Secret WWII ‘Ghost Army’

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Friendly Ghost. Bill Blass somewhere in Europe, in a photo taken by his friend Bob Tompkins.

Inflatable tanks, sound effects, elaborately painted faux convoys, carefully crafted illusions. It was all in a day’s work for the American G.I.s—including Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly, and Art Kane—who artfully mislead the Axis forces on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. “They conducted 21 different deceptions, often operating within a few hundred yards of enemy lines,” filmmaker and author Rick Beyer tells us. “Their story was hushed up for more than 40 years.” Beyer brings it to light in The Ghost Army, a new documentary that will be screened on Thursday, October 17 at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (register here to attend). Beyer made time to tell us some ghost (army) stories in advance of next week’s screening.

How did you become interested/first learn about the story of this secret WWII unit?
I first learned about it eight years ago when a mutual friend introduced me to Martha Gavin, whose uncle, John Jarvie, served in the unit. Her enthusiasm was the spark that started the whole project. I have always loved quirky history stories, the strange, “can you believe it?” stuff. In fact, I’ve written an entire book series, The Greatest Stories Never Told, that focuses on just that. The idea that American soldiers in World War II went into battle with inflatable tanks and sound effects records was so bizarre, so contrary to every image from every war movie I’ve ever seen, that it immediately attracted my attention.

On top of that was the fact that many of the soldiers in the unit were artists, who used their spare time to paint and sketch what they saw on the battlefield. In fact, the first time I met Martha at a Boston area coffee shop, she was carrying an armload of three-ring binders filled with uncle’s wartime artworks. I was captivated with the way they presented such a unique and intimate perspective of the war. And that’s how I got hooked.

How were GIs selected to serve in this unit?
The Army threw the 23rd together in a hurry, in January 1944, so they assembled it from four pre-existing units. One was the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, which had been formed more than 18 months earlier. The Army had loaded the 603rd with artists, because their initial mission was camouflage. Some were recruited from art schools such as Pratt and Cooper Union. Word quickly spread to other artists interested in finding a way to put their art skills to use in war effort. (Or interested in finding a way to avoid ending up in the infantry!)

Similarly, the Army took a pre-existing radio unit and assigned it to The Ghost Army to handle radio deception. But because they wanted only the very best radio operators to carry out convincing deceptions, they pruned about 100 soldiers from the radio unit, and then plucked skilled men from other units around the country. In general, once it was formed, The Ghost Army had a very high priority status, and could whatever soldiers it wanted.
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Ryan McGinness Creates Artwork for National Coming Out Day

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An activist named Sean Strub convinced Keith Haring to donate his now-famous image of a person dancing out of a closet for National Coming Out Day, which takes place annually on October 11. This year marks the 25th anniversary of that image, and the Human Rights Campaign is celebrating with a colorful new commission: the organization invited New York-based artist Ryan McGinness to create new artwork symbolizing National Coming Out Day.

“I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of Keith Haring,” says McGinness. “I developed three final images and invite you to vote for the one you like the best.” Voting closes at midnight on Thursday, and the design with the most votes will be released as a t-shirt on Friday.
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Christopher Guy Opens New York Showroom, Looks to Web to ‘Add Another Dimension’

You may recognize the deco-inflected globetrotter look of Christopher Guy from the sets of The Thomas Crown Affair and Casino Royale. In the wake of the ribbon-cutting on the brand’s showroom at the New York Design Center, designer Christopher Guy Harrison was on hand to discuss his “contemporary with classical values” style and how he conveys it in an increasingly digital world. We sent writer Nancy Lazarus to pull up a sumptuous chaise longue and observe.

CGuy speaking

CGuy eclairageWhile online platforms have left their mark on interior design in recent years, they’ll never replace the need to discover and experience design in person. Interactive technology has created innovative ways for designers to build their brands and businesses, communicate with clients, go shopping and provide inspiration, said Elledecor.com editor Amy Preiser at last week’s New York Design Center What’s New/What’s Next event.

Digital platforms are certainly not a substitute for perusing a design showroom, especially when it’s a colorful state-of-the-art NYDC penthouse. Christopher Guy Harrison, CEO and founder of Christopher Guy, shared his brand’s approach to digital from his new flagship space. His furnishings have been featured in movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Hangover, and he’s designed hotels like the Bellagio and Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas as well as the Ritz Carlton in Tokyo.

“We need to embrace the internet to add another dimension. At its start, the internet was just an extension of the catalogue,” said Guy. For his business, the web and digital tools have become a priority, and he reported having a dedicated web staff of 20 in his Singapore office. He uses the platforms to showcase interactive spaces, share design influences, and convey different moods.
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Wherefore Art Thou X-Acto Knife? Kevin Stanton’s Cut-Paper Shakespeare Classics

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A cut above. The title page for the Signature Shakespeare edition of Romeo and Juliet, illustrated with hand-cut paper artwork by Kevin Stanton.

hamletKevin Stanton remembers the first time he picked up an X-Acto knife. “In an introductory Chinese class I once took, I obsessively chose the hardest pattern for a cut-paper project we did out of construction paper,” he says. “I was struck by how detailed I could be with that knife.” He ended up with a fish that shimmered with painstakingly cut scales and a taste for slicing paper, a technique he returned to during his freshman year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “I’d done a portrait in small strips of color-aid for my LCD class that was ridiculously meticulous, and I’m convinced the only reason I passed my drawing class was because my drawing professor liked it so much.”

Now a few years out of Pratt (he graduated in 2010 with a BFA in communications design), Stanton has honed his knife skills to the point that Sterling Publishing enlisted him to illustrate several volumes of its Signature Shakespeare series with his hand-cut paper artwork, which is reproduced in all its multi-dimensional glory in laser-cut tip-ins and scans. On Saturday, Stanton will be among the mix of established and emerging artists and designers participating in Pratt’s annual Alumni Art and Design Fair, where books, accessories, jewelry, paintings, and photography by more than 40 Pratt alumni will be up for sale. We asked Stanton to tell us about the process of taking a blade to the Bard, his experience at Pratt, and what he’ll turn his sharp eye (and sharp edges) to next.

What was your process like for illustrating new editions of the Shakespeare classics?
The process for the Shakespeare classics started with large lists of ideas for spot illustrations that were put together by Sterling’s Shakespeare expert (a Columbia professor, I believe). Then a ton of thumbnails and discussions about colors and sketches and ideas and revisions. Then better sketches and revisions. And basically by the end, I had two weeks to finish both pairs of books! It was crazy, but amazing.

What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
The sheer quantity of illustrations with the time, I think. But working with a group of people brings its own challenges too, but I think we cobbled something special together so it was worth it!
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