Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fear of design Commitment

On a recent downtown trip to SOHO to explore some of my favorite shopping treasures of NYC like Ted Muehling, Moss, de Vera, Etc. I started to notice a lot more graffiti then on my last visit. At first I was a little concerned remembering the Pre-Giuliani days in NYC when graffiti was everywhere with little regard to New Yorkers that had to survive here. Covering all the subway maps, or any sign in the subway for that matter. When a taxi horn brought me out of my daydream of old NYC, I became fascinated with the concept of Design (or art) without commitment. You have an idea, do it on the wall, and walk away, done!

What a wonderful way to do Design (or create), no commitment to production, no clients to appease, no shipping, no quality control, no estimated taxes to pay, no design drift, just raw design. Wow, no overhead other then the cost of the can of paint. But of course no income either, but let me have my fantasy. Just design from the Gut, guttural design, like when I am sitting at the drawing table with a big piece of paper and lots of tiny inspirational sketches. Treasure this moment before you turn it into production. Who could ask for more?

Be sure to check out this months issue of Interview magazine to read about Brian Donnelly a.k.a KAWS a street artist's life. Or to see a video on Mr. Donnelly click KAWS.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Collective "design" consciousness

Skull by Damien Hirst, possible inspiration for a lamp? Sconce? Doorstop?

I have a somewhat irrational design fear. Maybe I am putting too much thought into this but the more I am courted by or brought into design studios I am confronted with the portfolio of ideas.

Mobile by Alexander Calder, possibly light pendent? Wallpaper pattern?

As a designer and often part of a design team having an "inspiration folder" is pretty standard practice. In fact, the images on this post are from my own folder.

The Talisman Collection from De Beers, Possible sconce? Pendent? Texture for a bowl?

At Donghia we all had our office walls covered in our own personal design inspiration. It was a wonderful experience to walk into someones office or studio especially Sherri Donghia's office and instantly be confronted with their inspiration. It was moving to have this openness and be able to see in a capsule what their gut design feeling expressed. Some of us changed what was displayed often and some just added layers but regardless it was telling.

Inspiration for ad campaign? Upholstery detail?

My fear is of a, "collective design consciousness." There is so much information at our finger tips now a days. The sensory overload and simulation of design inspiration both past and present is a gift of the modern age. My fear is seeing the contents of these design inspiration folders that I have been privy to recently with overlapping images. There is generally always something from www. or or the many design blogs that we all follow.

Inspiration for a lamp but in metal, stone, glass???

I want this posting to be a red flag to both the the well seasoned and the green designers out there, get outside and explore one step further. Go to the book store or library, museums, galleries, auction previews and find inspiration that is yours alone.

I wish you the best of luck.

Inspiration for a sconce? Mirror? Texture?

Pendent by Cartier, Inspiration for a sconce? Glass color combinations?

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Beauty in imperfection.

A core belief I have in design is that there is beauty and relevance in what the masses call imperfection. In Japan, this train of thought is know as Wabi-Sabi.

A staircase at The Getty Villa, Malibu

A Ruth Asawa sculpture at the De Young Museum, San Francisco

The word "Wabi" stems from the root wa, which refers to harmony, peace, tranquillity, and balance and "Sabi" by itself means "the bloom of time." Together they mean "Finding beauty in imperfection."

Footed wave platter at Takashimaya New York

With this belief, I am able to spend hours mesmerized in the glass factory while my new designs are being developed into a reality or physical object. You have to understand that there is no hocus pocus in the physical creation but, I believe that there is magic in seeing the mistakes or misinterpretations that naturally happen by the Maestro to create the vision of the object I have in my head. The magic is to hold that mistake in the back of your mind and play with it in the future, once the real work of getting the prototype forms I originally envisioned. This is the time I call play, this is the time that the shapes and forms are where I want them so now is the time of color, texture, polishing, overlapping, poking, pulling, wrapping, etc.

Large Handkerchief vase by Otium

A futile attempt by me at creating a Wabi-sabi design, the candlesticks were suppose to be uneven and precarious.

The standard Disco Volante Candlestick, with a metal frame to avoid too much Wabi-sabi

The majority of these pieces never see the polished well appointed showrooms where the Otium collection is sold. These pieces generally become, gifts, donations or doorstops. I really can not easily sell an object that is not readily reproduced within the standard variance of hand made pieces. Wabi-Sabi is still a foreign concept to a lot of the Western World.

Three of many Venetian glass "Wabi-Sabi" Tumblers we made for a benefit. Look for these in the Otium Lifestyle collection coming out soon.

I hope that you will give this concept a little consideration the next time they see the beautiful color and texture created by rust and denting on an old metal bucket, or a reflection in a pothole, or the asymmetry of trees along a wind swept shore and maybe even of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death in your own life.

I will end with an enlightening but harshly realistic 13th century Japanese proverb:

"Time is kind to things, but unkind to man."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Golden Mean or Ratio

Can a designer ever stop designing?

While at Sandy Hook beach on the Jersey shore I was abruptly brought back to the reality of my design past and my relationship with the “Golden Mean.” How? By finding a shell.

I had the incredible opportunity to work in the Donghia Furniture and Textiles Design Studio for several years with the design legend John Hutton. John was relentless in our practice of always using the “Golden Mean” or “Ratio” in the basis of our designs. Which I still incorporate in my Otium designs.

Anziano chair from Donghia

Evviva Lamp by Otium

Although the "Golden Mean" is a complicated concept, I will try to simplify it to a basic outline.

The "Gold Mean" is an “Irrational mathematical constant,” or a mysteriously emotional aesthetically pleasing proportion that has kept philosophers, artists, architects, designs and mathematicians captivated for centuries. The "Golden Mean" exists perfectly in nature as well as human produced designs, the Pyramids, Taj Mahal, Parthenon, to name only a few.


In nature there is an endless representation but, the two that stand out in my mind are the Shell (think beach) and the seed formation in a Sunflower. The "Golden Mean" also apears naturally in viruses, leaf patterns, human anatomy (as illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci), DNA, cells, you get the idea.

Leonardo da Vinci


Mounted shells from Andrew Martin

Mechanical shell from Andrew Martin

Mathematically the “Golden Mean,” is the SUM of the two proceeding numbers. 1 plus 2 equals 3; 2 plus 3 equals 5; 3 plus 5 equals 8; 5 plus 8 equals 13; and so on.


Construction of a golden rectangle:

1. Construct a unit square (red).

2. Draw a line from the midpoint of one side to an opposite corner.

3. Use that line as the radius to draw an arc that defines the long dimension of the rectangle.

Instructions by. Joel Holdsworth

How does this relate to us? I am glad you asked.

Credit Cards

Apple iPhone and computers

Windows and Doors


Metro Cards

DVD Packaging