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


Monday, August 24, 2009


Grace Ranch
I recently spent a lovely long weekend in Sonoma County, California. I was there for a wedding at Grace Ranch (I am designing a chandelier for the barn), but found plenty of time to steal away for a few wine tastings, some wonderful meals and lots of laughing with old friends.

Inspiration for the Grace Ranch barn chandelier

My two favorites wineries on this trip were
Merry Edwards Winey and Iron Horse Winery. We found ourselves in the Russian River area of Sonoma and quickly learned it was the ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes so we loaded up with a few bottles. We were also very pleased to find that Iron Horse produced a 2006 Petit Verdot with 100% Petit Verdot grapes from the Alexander valley, which I was told is pretty rare.

Hopefully these bottles will hold me over until I can get back to
Clo Wine Bar and shop, my favorite local wine haunt here in NYC. I am also working on a collection of wine buckets, wine stoppers, glasses, etc to be sold through Clo. This collaboration was inspired by the owner of Clo seeing the Dexter glasses I did for the dining room designed by the spirited Interior designer Amy Lau, at last years Showtime Television and Metropolitan Home’s showhouse in Gramercy Park.

Notice the creepy finger prints and the blood

For meals in
Sonoma County we were a little less adventurous in our travels, much to our surprise, finding out that our lunch destination and our dinner destination were directly across the street in the quaint one block town of Graton. Trust me I am not complaining. Lunch was at Willow Wood Market Cafe, a sun filled retro feeling small town restaurant, but incredible food and for Dinner we were at Underwood Bar and Bistro, with it's energeticly fun environment, attentive but relaxed servers complete with a Bache ball court in the back courtyard and food to rival any NYC or SF restaurant. Although we had a lovely Grenache, Quivra, Dry Creek Valley , '07, with lunch I was ready for a cocktail at Underwood and how could I resist a Lulu cocktail.

Franky, the Dog of Honor