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field trip

Simon Doonan Savors ‘Surreal and Crazy’ Scottsdale

scottsdale.jpgAny city with a museum known as “SMoCA” is OK by us, and now our old friend Simon Doonan is spotlighting Scottsdale as “a place that you should seriously think about adding to your could-I-bear-to-live-there? list.” The Arizona town will soon be home to a Barneys flagship store, and Doonan, the store’s creative director, has been making “reconnaissance trips” to prepare for the October opening. In addition to SMoCA and oodles of spiny succulents, the city is home to Barbara “Jeannie” Eden, bacon-wrapped Mexican hot dogs, a deep-seated fear of precipitation, and a Westin hotel with a staff bagpipe player, reports Doonan in his latest New York Observer column. And there’s no shortage of drama:

Last week, I had my first Scottsdale health emergency. Here’s what went down: A colleague and I were taste-testing mini-desserts for the opening bash. The proffered stuffed raspberry looked innocent enough. But while masticating, a strange electrical tingle exploded in my head. I assumed the worst and prepared to collapse to the floor and transition into a vegetative state.

“Pop Rocks!” shouted the chef, who had cunningly inserted the weird 1970s candy into the offending fruit. I am telling you, nothing is too wild and crazy for the people of Scottsdale.

Friday Photos: The Gift Fair That Keeps On Giving

(All photos: UnBeige)

It’s New York International Gift Fair time! The fun kicks off this weekend at the Javits Center, where we’ll again be prowling the aisles of the juried Accent on Design division as a judge for the “Bloggers’ Choice” awards. In the meantime, take a look at our photo album from the February fair. Amidst the merchandise extravaganza, we found covetable goods from old and new favorites, including Artecnica (with a booth softly illuminated by Starlightz paper stars, pictured above), Areaware, Jonathan Adler, Harry Allen, and Alessi—and that’s just the A’s! First up, DFC‘s line of ceramic Skull Boxes. They were designed for trinket storage, but we prefer to think of them as ice cream bowls for Damien Hirst. At just under 11 inches tall, they’re the perfect size for a spin art sundae topped with a spun sugar butterfly.


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UnBeige@NYIGF: Write On, DFC!

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(Photos: UnBeige, DFC)

Today’s installment of covetables discovered at the recent New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF)’s Accent on Design division is heavy on the whimsy. Even the most recession-ravaged gift buyer couldn’t walk by DFC‘s Mexican fiesta of a NYIGF booth without smiling. Welcoming visitors to the maximalist world of design duo Tony Moxham and Mauricio Paniagua (proud purveyors of “pretty things, big things, bright things, and shiny things”) was this four-foot-tall fiberglass bear, whose hand-painted coat doubles as a blackboard. Think of it as a customizable Jeff Koons sculpture—and unlike Koons, DFC also offers a more economically priced version: the smiling bear’s head alone (as well as a penguin version). More of a Damien Hirst fan? DFC’s new spring line, inspired by the idea of treasures from a mythical land called Mushi Mushi, also includes ceramic skulls hand-glazed in a range of ice cream hues. As for those flocked animals pictured at far left, “They’re harvested from the Mushi Mushi glitter farm,” explained Moxham with a sparkle in his eye.

Previously on UnBeige:

  • UnBeige@NYIGF: Rich Brilliant Willing’s Russian Nesting Doll Tables
  • UnBeige@NYIGF: Bucky’s Birdhouse
  • UnBeige@NYIGF: Rich Brilliant Willing’s Russian Nesting Doll Tables

    RBW nesting doll.jpg
    (Photos, from left to right: UnBeige, Rich Brilliant Willing)

    Another week, another highlight from our recent trip to the New York International Gift Fair, the sprawling twice-yearly trade show that demonstrates the impressive elasticity of the term “gift.” Today we bring you the second of our two “Best in Show” picks from the Accent on Design division (the first, you’ll recall, was Areaware’s Bucky Fuller-inspired Geo Birdhouse, designed by Kelly Lamb). At the rough-hewn American Design Club booth, we were drawn in by these elegant, glass-topped Russian Nesting Doll Tables, designed by New York-based firm Rich Brilliant Willing. The wood side table, with its ring of milk-painted wooden slats, appears to defy gravity, while the larger aluminum coffee table, in a sharp peacock blue, looks like something salvaged from a chic Milanese circus. And notice those tempting orange orbs atop the wooden one? “People kept trying to steal the tangerines,” Alex Williams (the “Will” in Rich, Brilliant, Willing) told us at the fair. “One woman just walked away with one, and we had to chase after her to get it back.”

    Previously on UnBeige:

  • UnBeige@NYIGF: Bucky’s Birdhouse
  • UnBeige@NYIGF: Bucky’s Birdhouse

    areaware geo birdhouse.jpg
    Photos: UnBeige (left), Areaware (right)

    When UnBeige was invited to serve as one of four judges for the inaugural “blogger’s choice awards” at the New York International Gift Show (NYIGF), we jumped at the chance to prowl aisle upon aisle of covetable objects. Twelve hours, two trips to the cavernous Javits Center, and hundreds of product-stuffed booths later, we learned that Sergio Rossi pumps and trade shows don’t mix, but more importantly, we had fine-tuned our list of top picks and completed our Christmas shopping through 2011.

    First up on our UnBeige Best of NYIGF list: the Geo-Birdhouse (pictured above), a standout at the stellar Areaware booth. This miniature ceramic version of Buckminster Fuller‘s favorite shape was designed by Kelly Lamb to be used as a nesting place for wrens, finches, and other small birds but would look just as attractive indoors as a dangling, geodesic conversation piece. We particularly like how it beautifully captures the general conclusion about Bucky’s utopian structure: it’s for the birds.

    One Laptop Per Child Goes to Colombia

    Here at UnBeige, we love it when good design meets social good, and so the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is of enduring interest, whether its news of Yves Behar scooping up awards for the laptop’s design or listening to Mary Lou Jepsen, OLPC’s founding chief technology officer and now head of Pixel Qi, hold forth on how to create green gadgets (“design for the bottom of the pyramid”). If you’re a little foggy on the project’s particulars—and even if you’re not—we recommend the below TED video. Filmed earlier this month, it features MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte discussing the project as he voyages to Colombia and delivers laptops inside territory once controlled by guerrillas. How’s the project going? “In rough numbers, there are about a million laptops” in the hands of children around the world or en route to them, says Negroponte. “That’s smaller than I predicted—I predicted three [million] to ten million—but it is still a very large number.”

    Previously on UnBeige:

  • Greener Gadgets: Mary Lou Jepsen on the XO Laptop
  • One Laptop Per Child Team Pushes Forward with New X02
  • Intel Drops Out Of OLPC Program
  • One Laptop Per Child Finally Giving Laptops to Children (and You)
  • New York Goes Mad for MAD

    MAD bus.jpg

    If you didn’t get MAD enough with our earlier round-up of critical reactions to the newly opened Museum of Arts and Design, stay tuned, as we’re heading inside later this week. Meanwhile, the talented Amanda Barrett,’s associate director of marketing for events and education, was on site at last week’s gala opening and made the below video for us with her trusty flip camera and the assistance of video production oracle Weston Almond (note their right-on-the-money soundtrack selection!).

    Who did Amanda spot among the VIP-studded crowd? Countess Marianne Bernadotte of Sweden draped in a gold cape, Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (who MAD should tap for what we imagine is a massive collection of pins and brooches). Among the design dignitaries in attendance were the dashing Yves Béhar (who designed the Swarovski chandelier in the grand atrium), Wendell Castle, Karim Rashid, and Chris Hacker, chief design officer of Johnson & Johnson. Also among the guests of honor? The wonderful and charisma-oozing Michael Bierut, who designed the museum’s new graphic identity. “It’s based on the building’s circles and squares…and of course Columbus Circle itself,” Amanda tells us. “He chose Futura because of its perfectly round ‘O.’ Move over, Helvetica!”

    With Offbeat Artists’ Enclaves, Who Needs Resorts?

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    No, that’s not an exterior shot of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse above, it’s the House of Artists at the Art/Brut Center Gugging just north of Vienna. The center houses a museum/exhibition space where visitors can purchase works by the artists in residence, all of whom happen to be mental patients, which seems appropriate, as the center was once a sprawling psychiatric hospital. Daphne Merkin explains further in her recent piece on Gugging and its unique twist on Outsider Art in Culture+Travel. Meanwhile, in the latest travel-themed issue of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, columnist Stephen Metcalf journeys to the Territory, a renegade art collective in Paris of which his first impressions are of “a firetrap, a serial-killer lair, and Willy Wonka‘s chocolate factory.” He later describes the place as “a semi-commune dedicated to artsy poverty in an era that has not been kind to artsy poverty.” Sound like your cup of tea? Before you apply to be a resident/member, consider this:

    To live in the Territory, one must follow 135 rules, which include elaborate habits of communication (via walkie-talkie) and egress (everyone must master exiting in one minute, with passport, laptop, and pants), so that no one will ever be harmed in a fire. Other rules encompass kitchen etiquette, the management of the “strategic reserve” of 300 frozen salmon and the necessity of obeying the Art Class Alarm, which draws together the Territory at any hour, night or day, for an art project.

    Sounds just like just another day at UnBeige headquarters, although Steve has been known to dip into the strategic reserve in the wee hours. Apparently, there’s nothing like salmon to fuel those 5 a.m. posts. Must be the omega-3s.

    Project M Gets on the Bus


    On a field trip to Selma with Greensboro, Alabama-based Project M (no, we didn’t walk from Montgomery, we drove), we were tipped to a cultural destination just over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Artist unknown, but it’s a little bit Paula Scher and a little bit Howard Finster. And once we started taking it in, we realized we were a bit frightened, and it was probably preferable that the artist remain anonymous.


    Project M Doing the Renga


    Along with renovating their accommodations, getting to know the neighborhood, and being forced to take jogs every morning with John Bielenberg (oh, wait a minute, that was just the advisors), Project M engages in little design challenges to keep their minds sharp and their hands busy.

    One morning we participated in a Renga, which is a Japanese word for collaborative poetry, the kind where people build stanzas upon stanzas to create one big happy masterpiece. Here, in Rural Studioland, a Renga means actually building, of course, so we were equipped with 2x2s, drywall screws, a table saw and some drills. Teams of two were instructed to make it graphic and make it 3D, using “stanzas” of six 2x2s every turn. Away we went. More coverage at M’s blog.

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