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Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him. On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.
As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.
You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.
It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.
The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work
The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.
Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically
For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin. Salute. Santé
These days, not many of us stop and take note of what we are walking on or where we stand. But over the years, lots of talented people have been putting lot of thought and creativity into the stuff that goes under our feet.
Treat your feet and feast your eyes: Viva Terrazzo…..
Above is just a peek at the bedazzling variety of patterns produced by the terrazzo process–part construction part sculpture pure elegance that lasts a lifetime
If your two feet happen to prefer wood to stone, but you still want the visual variety of Terrazzo, you need to budget for Parquet wood floors.
Above selection, tip of the parquet iceberg, found here
The idea certainly appealed to the folks at the St Petersburg Winter Palace–the Hermitage, nice photo from here.
But what do you do in 2015 to satisfy the floor fetish in your own contemporary home?
Well here’s one idea:
Grey wood is all the rage. It seems we now favour a neutral background for our lives and ourselves, a bare stage on which to strut our stuff.
But what does that say about us and how we value ourselves relative to the things around us? Have we lost a step or two in always clambering to be the centre of attention? If Princes and High Priests were willing to share their habitat with the likes of this…
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Why can’t we just suck it up and give ourselves a floor worth dancing on?
But, hang on, you don’t have to run out and replace your floor; what a waste. The truth is you can dramatically raise the creative temperature of any room by covering parts of it with a piece of hand-woven cloth. Oh yes you can…
Zoe Luyendijk gets it and she’s got it, woven by hand in silk and wool to slip nicely between your foot and the floor while your eyeballs explode. Fall in love here:
Surely we are ready to revive the art of the floor. Why should fridges, counter tops, and faucets get all the attention. Look down, imagine the possibilities. Imagine your personal terrain.
Floor of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Don’t stand for anything less.
And what about that ceiling?
Gotta thirst at the end of a day? Well, there is no shortage of colourful, solutions to be concocted–by you yourself or by a licensed professional (image from here). Cocktails are back. Lucky us.
The mixed drink for adults that goes beyond the quick and simple rye and ginger, rum and coke, scotch and water, tequila and tequila is very much in favour just now and shows no sign of retreating any time soon.
Funny how things come and go. Not so long ago, the thing to do was to keep everything simple, including your brain buzzing beverage of choice. Open the bottle, pour a healthy slug, add something a child might drink, and repeat as necessary–or just make a giant jugful.
But now, it’s all about multiple ingredients, hard to find, mixed in just the right proportion, requiring some care and skill, served in a special glass, beautiful to look at.
They say the cocktail craze started way back before we let television in the house. Almost a hundred years ago, people of means and money looking to fill the void between the afternoon nap and dinner decided the thing to do was to have friends over for drinks, real drinks, stiff drinks crafted with expertise made from hard-to-get components, just like their hats and furniture.
Great design above by Beverley Nichols found here.
Those who looked into it seriously say the cocktail hour was born sometime between 1917 and 1924, somewhere between London and America, moving inevitably from houses to bars, cafes, nightclubs, fund raisers…
The bunch above are slurping their cocktails during prohibition in America, meaning you needed a password to get in and you had to lie to your mom when you got home. From this article.
This crowd is on the town Berlin at a time when, it seems, nothing was prohibited (and just before just about everything was prohibited).
Wherever you are, the cocktail seems to be best consumed in the presence of someone you think is swell.
Or at least someone you used to think was swell. This is a fine photo by Irving Penn was taken in Lima and found at this eye-opening site.
Then again, some gals just like to put on their best cocktail hat and go it alone.
OK, so back to the here and the now. Below is the bar at the Brasserie NYC in the one and only Seagram’s building where, we can tell you, you will not go wrong in acquiring a satisfying cocktail, New York style: big, quick, yummy, and served by someone who won’t make you feel like you don’t deserve this.
If you find yourself near NYC or just thinking it, it would be a fine occasion to have a Manhattan cocktail.
Wherever you are, spare an hour late in a day to seek out seat at the bar somewhere in your town. Give the bartender a chance to try something new on you–or challenge him/her with something little known.
At the r of l, our official cocktail is the negroni.
Why? it tastes really good in any season and any time of day, it only has 3 ingredients, and it goes very well with any activity, whether you are being quiet and reflective (wondering where you put that note reminding you to do something) or hosting a gathering of 20 friends and neighbours in celebration of the fact that you have 20 friends and neighbours. (Image above, History, and more from Swide)
Find your cocktail, find your reason to sip it.
All of us are born with more than enough imagination. It is not exclusive to people who go on to write novels, paint pictures, make movies, design buildings, or start a fashion label. Just look at any child under 10–look at what they are doing.
Middle photo, children drawing on panels, Japan, 1909 b7 “F Carpenter”. Top photo and lower one, kids on the street in New York, by Helen Levitt. Lots more here.
But if you ask people over 20 about their imagination and how they use it, you’ll find them frowning while they try to come up with something that won’t sound stupid.
It seems that once we get it into our heads that we are grown ups, most of us abandon the inventive use of our imagination and only call on it when hankering for something we don’t have: a tropical vacation, possession of a winning lottery ticket, a cigarette, a cheesecake, a white Christmas, dream girl/guy.
Fine, but isn’t there something a bit more useful you could do with this amazing tool that takes you beyond the here and now and the run of the mill?
It doesn’t have to be the invention of an alternate reality or a re-imagining of the modern metropolis. It could be your choice of an outfit for a walk downtown.
Like this inventive and still playful woman. The Japanese, bless their hearts, take their imaginations to the streets as a matter of course.
And they are not alone.
Above The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas of NYC, photo by NPR found here
More than anyone (as we at the RofL noted before) we have the amazing Bill Cunningham to thank for finding and photographing people who set their own standard every day in New York.
These are people who wouldn’t be caught dead in some other persons clothes. Above from here
But, hey, public displays of originality aren’t for everyone, of course. And plain clothes have been the choice of some of the most imaginative humans who ever lived.
Mr Einstein at the beach, almost blending in, seen here
The point is: somewhere in all our lives there is an opportunity to do what feels right to us and what we strongly suspect is not what most people are going to do.
Don’t we have some sort of responsibility to do something, sometime, that is all our own, a demonstration of our DNA writ large?
All we need is the courage to let loose our imagination, our playful side, and put it out there.
Start small, start with lunch. This is a sandwich, a baby grandwich. Bravo, and bon appetite. After lunch, maybe go outside and paint the house, pushing yourself beyond taupe with charcoal trim.
Nice building, personalized, and you won’t have any trouble finding it again. It was given a lick of paint by Stanley Donwood, pen name of an artist and is the London office of XL Recordings. More here
Tired of hauling a spruce into the house or the landlord just won’t let you?
We all have an oceanful of ideas–some bright, some wacky, some spooky, some great–floating around in our heads. Giving ourselves permission to dip into that ocean a bit more often would make the world a bit more interesting, don’t you think?
Paris, the 1920’s, letting it loose, 24/7. Photo from here
Happy New Year. Go play
Clowns tell us a lot about ourselves and our lives. The best of them reveal some sadness or strangeness or both while doing their best to amuse us. The overall message is: you might as well laugh because, well, life isn’t always a piece of cake, sometimes it’s a pie in the face.
Clown figurines of tin or ceramic seem to carry an extra layer of sadness and oddness after a few years. Maybe there is a contradiction between what we see now and the smiles the little joker was meant to induce. Crawling clown toy, 1900, from here
But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.
According to Tracey’s Toys:
“The Rolly Dollys first appeared in 1902 and were produced through the 1920s in over 70 different styles. Some were based on advertising or cartoon characters like Buster Brown and Foxy Grandpa, while others represented children, clowns, police officers, and more.”
Is this him?
All in all, the clown whether he is a comic actor, a circus performer, a tin toy, or cookie jar (above) has a long history and a continuing important function in human society. Is there sadness underneath it all? Is there misery and madness?
Well…maybe. But we all have a choice to see the soda spray bottle half empty or half full. Is the whoopee cushion a cry for help? Or just a perennial boyish prank. We come down on the side of mirth. Release the clowns!!!
Play on fellas. Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”