Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Off-Black and Nude

Welcome to the world of hosiery. The subject really deserves its own one-word-titled book like Salt or Cod because ‘enmeshed’ in the history of “Hose” you’ll find the history of, among other things, technology, sexuality, art, the women’s movement, natural resources, and cross-dressing.

Like any other specialty item, legwear has a language all its own. I’m pretty sure that “Nude-to-waist” is a technical term and while “off-white” can be found everywhere, in the realm of hosiery, "Off Black” is a standard color.

And the packaging…

Three illustrated boxes from the mid-1950s.

I'm just crazy about these Deco boxes from Old Nylons. They sell original vintage hosiery, and carry many rare, boxed specimens that sell for upward of $100. The site also provides details about the manufacturing process and the mills.

White space-age chairs, Pucci prints,
purple & orange—so very 1960s.

This type of cut-out-peek-a-boo packaging became very popular as a way to show color. But there's no way around it, if there are no samples to fondle, one must occasionally violate the taped plastic package.

I don’t quite get it, but Warren Beatty seems to have wandered from Shampoo (1975), onto the set of Saturday Night Fever (1977).

Sources and sites for more "sheer" hosiery delight:
SSSH960 Nylons Collector on flickr. A vast trove of hose pix. Many brands, and photos of what's inside all those lovely boxes--the protective tissue paper, the paper bands, etc. Many thanks to Alain for use of images.
Sleek 'n Chic, Deedeebon, and Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day for Touch of Soul package.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Design Research: Marimekko Mecca

The must-see design earlier this week at the Cooper Hewitt, was not on the walls, but on the staff and visitors. Vintage Marimekko was out in full force, as the National Design Museum celebrated this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Jane Thompson, and the publication of the new book Design Research: The Store that Brought Modern Living to American Homes, by Thompson and Alexandra Lange.

Design Research was the legendary Cambridge, Massachusetts-based “General Store of Good Design” founded by architect Benjamin Thompson in 1953. D/R promoted simplicity, comfort, and affordable prices in home furnishings and accessories by importing well-crafted and designed products, chosen largely by Thompson himself, from around the world. Perhaps the most notable of such imports were the hand-printed fabrics of the Finnish company, Marimekko.

Design Research became the lifestyle emporium of a generation, supplying not only the décor of an American design revolution, but the wardrobe as well. What better garb for the enlightened, soon-to-be liberated D/R female shopper than a bold, colorful, loose-fitting Marimekko frock?

The evening opened with a film-in-progress by Caroline Van Valkenburgh, It Wasn't Just a Dress, about women and their treasured Marimekko dresses. It’s a fascinating look at the iconic dresses, and their legacy.

Following the film was a panel moderated by the book's designer, Michael Bierut “Game Change in the Design of Retailing.” The program can be viewed here.

Filmmaker, Caroline Van Valkenburgh, right and one of the film's subjects.

Jane Thompson

Co-author Alexandra Lange

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Typographic Triangulation

Felt pennants with names of colleges or sports teams are what come to mind when I think of graduated type set within a triangle. I have no idea if the ‘pennant’ was ever a popular format for signs, but since there are only two examples in Manhattan that I know of, it’s clearly not very common today.
The 35th St. vintage metal awning of The New Yorker Hotel is one, with thin, art deco-style letters, set against a black background.

The other is a Laundromat on West 79th St. with black mod/deco letters on bright yellow.

Last year I saw some triangular Kiosco awnings in Buenos Aires.

I just want to add here that the graduated lettering on the metal awning is only one of several type styles to be found on the structure of the New Yorker Hotel. I have no doubt that a good sleuth could find enough typographic evidence to piece together the building’s entire 80-year history.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ugly Tomatoes

What better way to honor Fashion Week in NYC, than to showcase some really ugly tomatoes? These particularly hideous heirloom specimens were grown at Taft Farms, a 200 acre, family-run farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Friendly and fascinating Farmer Dan doesn’t even expect to sell these, so he just cuts them open for customers to try. Next thing you know, you are searching for the most monstrous-looking ones in the pile to bring home.

It’s too early to pass judgment on the Spring 2011 collections, but I as far as tomatoes are concerned, these misshapen models represent the absolute pinnacle of good taste.

Top photo (the ugliest, for sure) by T. Rosen

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Barton’s Sweet Spot

Founded in 1940 by Viennese chocolatier Stephen Klein, Barton’s Bonbonniere was known for selling kosher chocolates. Bringing a box or tin of Barton’s chocolate was standard when visiting friends or relatives on Jewish holidays. (Remember the illustrated black tin of Almond Kisses?)

The first Barton's store was located on 81st St. and Broadway in Manhattan, and was designed by Victor Gruen, who, like Klein, was originally from Vienna. He went on to design eleven of their stores including the 50th store in 1952.

This colorful store interior appeared in the August 1952 issue of Architectural Digest. Alvin Lustig consulted on the graphics.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year of 5771, begins tonight. It is customary to celebrate by eating sweets and wishing others a “sweet” year.

May it be a sweet and peaceful year for all.

Via Mondoblogo, via sandiv999

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Color of Bureaucracy

The only color bureaucracy brings to mind (aside from drab gray) is red, for red tape. In fact, bureaucracy is way more colorful than we might think.

Residents of various summer communities proudly display the annual town-issued stickers for beach parking. Since each year’s sticker is a different color from the previous one, car windows of many long-time summer residents become collages on glass, with their own regional color palettes. (Read 'Sticker Shock' in the Boston Globe about how passionately residents reacted to Wellfleet’s enforcement of its law against displaying old windshield decals.)

Sheffield Massachusetts in the Berkshires has the most beautiful “transfer station” (dump) permit stickers I’ve ever seen. Each year’s design involves not only a different color background, but different colored ink as well. Elsewhere, colored stickers can be found diplayed by businesses in their storefronts for assorted memberships, inspections, and permits.

It’s Labor Day weekend and summer is winding down. You are sitting in traffic, a bit wistful, your car packed up with the remains of the season. Perhaps the thing to do is think about next summer, and wonder—what color will it be?

The Berkshires

The Hamptons

The Jersey Shore

Empty storefront, Yonkers, New York

Cleaners, NYC

Hardware store, NYC

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Haystack Mountain School

I’m back from two blissful weeks in Maine where I attended a fiber workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Founded in 1950 at Haystack Mountain, the school moved to its current facility in 1961 on Deer Isle. The campus is a collection of cabins and studios, built into a hillside at the water’s edge. Edward Larrabee Barnes designed the compound, and in 1994, having stood the test of time, it received the Twenty Five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects.

From Barnes’s 2004 New York Times obit:
His Haystack Mountain School of Arts and Crafts…was not a building but a village of shingled cottages linked by a grid of wooden decks leading to a spectacular ocean view. Its diagonal forms were a much-noted departure from the cubical massing of the International Style that prevailed at the time. In 1994, the American Institute of Architects honored the project's influence with its 25-Year Award for older buildings, calling it "an early and profound example of the fruitful and liberating fusion of the vernacular building traditions with the rationality and discipline of Modern architecture."

The breathtaking view shifts gloriously with the fluctuating Maine weather. We drifted off to the sound of crashing waves at night, and woke to outgoing lobster boats in the morning.

Barnes’s Haystack architectural model and elevation of the campus are in the collection of MoMA.

The sub-tundra terrain of moss, lichen, pine, and glacial erratics provided a fascinating and enchanting landscape …

The atmosphere is very conducive to working. Studios are open 24/7 and having prepared (and delicious) meals is very freeing.

Experimentation and exploration is encouraged and the teachers of the six workshops in session during my stay were all so inspirational. At night we got to see and hear about their work.

For example:

Kristen Morgin works in unfired clay.
Topolino, 2003
Monopoly, 2008

Jerry Bleem works with a wide range of found materials. The intriguing surface texture on these sculptures was created with staples.
June 10, 1983, 2000
Found printing plate, staples

Float, 2004
Fish scales, staples

Matthias Pliessnig works in steam-bent white oak.

Look through the Haystack workshop offerings to see other instructors.
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