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Archives: July 2008

Design? Maharam’s Got It Covered

How many design stars’ names can you drop in three minutes or less? Probably not more than Michael Maharam, who in the below video from the Maharam showroom at this year’s NeoCon guides Interior Design editor-in-chief Cindy Allen on a whirlwind tour of the company’s extraordinary textiles. Watch for swatches of recent creations by painters Sarah Morris and Beatriz Milhazes as well as a woolly stripe by fashion designer Paul Smith. Meanwhile, Maharam teases us with mention of the company’s in-progress projects with the likes of Jasper Morrison, Konstantin Grcic, and Hella Jongerius. And check out the pricey but enduring fabric Jongerius recently developed for Maharam. Among its first buyers? Steve Jobs.

Dig Your Baby Teeth Into This New Site

feature_sharing.jpg We’re a bit beyond babies at this juncture in life, but we couldn’t help but be a bit amused by this new site, Kidmondo, an online baby journal and organizer for overwhelmed parents who are still all too eager to share every step, tooth and hair on their newborn with their farflung friends and family. It’s like Facebook for the proud parents crowd with a photo gallery, medical and food journals. We’re surprised that there’s not a virtual Diaper gallery, but that’s just the jaded journalist speaking. Basic Kidmondo is free for up to three children, which means Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will have to look elsewhere to show off their six young offspring. Springwise, where we found out about this site, notes while Kidmondo is presented in English, it could be easily adapted to the customs and languages of many countries. Look out, China?

Move Over Dara Torres: We’re Waiting for the Knitting Olympics

medal-web-small1.jpg This is Mary Beth Klatt, once again filling in for the intrepid Steve Delahoyde for the rest of the week. While he’s busy doing a Funny Ha Ha reading among other things, this writer is focused on more important things, let getting ready for the 2008 Knitting Olympics. Instead of flexing muscles in the gym, thousands of knitters everywhere are sharpening their knitting needles and replenishing the yarn stash for this challenge of skill, stamina, the thrill of standing on the winner’s stand and saying, “I did it. I won.” This Olympiad of the crafty variety, alas, does not take place in smoggy Beijing, but rather on the Internet. In 2006, it was led by the fearless Yarn Harlot otherwise known as Stephanie Pearl McPhee. We can’t find this year’s rules just yet, but here’s what we found for 2006. And the results. Let this all inspire you to greatness and the gold. Yes, it’s quite within the rules to start swatching now, that’s considered “training.”

Helvetica Director at Work on Industrial Design Documentary

Gary Hustwit‘s must-see typographical documentary Helvetica is newly available for download onto your iPod, and so it’s fitting that the director is now at work on Objectified, a documentary about industrial design that will include footage of his interviews with everyone from Jonathan Ive of Apple and Dieter Rams to Hella Jongerius and writer Alice Rawsthorn, who he asked to share stories behind the manufactured objects of everyday life and comment on issues of consumerism, sustainability, and identity. Slated to debut early next year, Objectified (with the above logo by Michael C. Place of Build that is already available on t-shirts) will aim to represent a dinner party conversation among designers and design experts: a dinner party at which every guest demands to bring his or her own chair, dishes, and flatware.

As with Helvetica, Hustwit’s choice of topic was guided by passionate interest as opposed to expertise. “One reason that I’m delving into the world of objects in this film is that I, admittedly, am obsessed by them,” wrote Hustwit yesterday on the film’s blog. “I’m interested in industrial designers because their work influences so many aspects of our world yet most of the time it’s taken for granted. And I think that, especially today, it’s crucial for us to re-examine how we make and use consumer products at every level.”

When in Doubt, Put Them in Jodhpurs and Riding Boots

vf covers.jpg

It may still be July, but Vanity Fair is already hyping its September style issue, featuring Annie Leibovitz‘s photograph of French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy on the cover (pictured above) and a profile by Maureen Orth inside (asked to comment on Bruni, Jean-Paul Gaultier says, “She is like the heroine of a book or a movie”). Bruni’s equestrian-influenced cover wardrobe made us think of another Paris-based VF cover, from October 2005, not to mention Si Newhouse‘s sharp eye for saddlery.

Tomi Ungerer: Octopus in the Bathtub, Blunderbuss in the Nursery

(Phaidon Press).jpgMost Americans like to imagine the authors of children’s books as cheery Mister Rogers types, endowed with primary-colored minds occupied only by the continuing adventures of their particular brand of talking rodent, wayward snowman, or scruffy but lovable youngster. And so, in the 1950s and ’60s, the country struggled with Tomi Ungerer, who mixed creating children’s books about such characters as an heroic octopus (Emile, pictured at right, in the bath) and a family of daring French pigs with work designed for an adult audience, including anti-Vietnam posters and erotica. In yesterday’s New York Times, Randy Kennedy welcomed back “the most famous children’s book author you have never heard of” as Phaidon prepares to republish his children’s books in English.

Sure, Ungerer, now 76, once “made a habit of playing poker with the Cuban envoy to the United Nations” and published a book of “interviews with dominatrixes at a bordello in Hamburg; the title, roughly translated, is Guardian Angels of Hell,” but he also wrote some extraordinary children’s books. Having acquired the English-language rights to Ungerer’s work from a Swiss publisher, Phaidon will this fall release the 1962 tale of The Three Robbers, “a darkly drawn tale of big-hatted brigands and the orphan girl who shows them the error of their ways.” Among the book’s virtues is its refusal to talk down to young readers. “I think children have to be respected,” said Ungerer. “They understand the world, in their way. They understand adult language. There should not be a limit of vocabulary. In The Three Robbers I don’t use the word ‘gun.’ I say ‘blunderbuss.’ My goodness, isn’t it more poetic?”

The Tao of Comics

tao of pooh.jpgFor the full scoop on Comic-Con, which wrapped up yesterday in San Diego, we point you to the photo-rich coverage of our West coast sister blog, FishbowlLA, but for a quieter, more thoughtful peek into the world of comics, we turn to The New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog, where Rollo Romig chatted with the magazine’s resident comic-book expert (and Comic-Con veteran) Françoise Mouly. Earlier this year, Mouly launched Toon Books, “the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up.” Why comics?

It’s as simple as it gets: a guy or a woman with a pen in a room. You don’t need a two million dollar production budget; you don’t need a team. There’s something that moves me to tears about the fact that it’s the expression of somebody’s hand. It’s publishing a manuscript; it doesn’t even have to get set in type.

As for those who don’t take comics seriously, Mouly has a theory about that, too: “There is something about the fact that comics can be understood by the illiterate that makes highly literate people suspicious.”

Tim Gunn Bemoans Crocs

tim gunn ponders.jpgWhat’s the worst fashion trend you’ve ever seen? Time magazine recently asked this question of the enduringly decanal Tim Gunn, now mentoring a fresh crop of designers on the fifth season of Project Runway. Gunn’s pick of sartorial tragedies? The embrace of rubbery shoes fit for an ungulate.

Generally speaking, it’s footwear trends. I mean, today, the era of the Croc—it looks like a plastic hoof. How can you take that seriously? I know it’s comfortable; I understand that. But if you want to dress to feel as though you never got out of bed, don’t get out of bed.

Of course, this bit of wisdom sounds even better when Gunn says it. Watch Time‘s video of the interview here.

British Museum Gets Headache After Numerous Complaints About Expansion Plans


As we learned just last week by looking at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Tate Modern, sometimes you get the good from adding new wings to your museums and sometimes everyone gets angry with you. Such is the lay of the land with these things we suppose. So is it now with the British Museum, who has run into big trouble with their plans to add a new batch of space to the rear of their massive building(s), for three key reasons laid out by detractors of the plans: a) it’s too big and expensive to do this, b) it’ll be too modern and mess up the classical look of what’s there now, and c) all of the views will be blocked from within the current structures. So, in general, everyone hates everything about it, proving, once again, why you should be happy that you’re not an architect who lands commissions like this one.

Serpentine Gallery Review Asks Readers to Look at Frank Gehry’s Flaws


Back in March when we reported on Frank Gehry unveiling his plans for the temporary Serpentine Gallery, you might remember that we said it looked like “the Acropolis of Athens after an earthquake.” Now that the thing has been built (which you can watch in time-lapse here</a if so inclined), the first review is in and the Guardian‘s Stephen Bayley is much kinder with his wording than were we. It’s almost your standard review of a new Gehry building, including the themes of “It looks crazy” and “It calls attention to itself,” but Bayley inserts a nice bit of extra thought into it, calling out the critiques of Gehry’s work (his buildings are wasteful, how something will manage to be built is low on his list, his stuff all kind of looks the same, etc.). But the reviewer manages to spin it all around saying that, yes, all these things are possibly true, but go check out this new Serpentine building and see if you come away thinking the critiques are justified or if Gehry truly is the genius some people think.