Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Horrible Cat Howard

In reference to the Dec. 28, 2010 blog Of Pencils and Pianos: I have a new update. Howard the cat has necessitated making some changes.  He is always causing trouble of some sort.  My mother calls him Dennis the Menace, and for good reason.  He is always into some sort of mischief. 

Exhibit "A"

The Tether Technique of Tying a Pencil to Your Piano recommended by my tuner, Al Moles, has been successful in preventing wayward pencils from being swallowed up by the piano. I had originally used a red string, to match the errant red pencil, but Howard the cat did some flossing and bit the string in two.

Thus, it came time to be the designer that I am and color coordinate the string and pencil to the room accordingly.  I have to say I have grown fond of the leashed pencil.  I never lose it now and it makes me laugh!

This handsome black pencil with black eraser, complements of Holly Hunt, fit the bill nicely.  Twine in a natural color from the basement workroom meant I didn't have to go shopping. 

Howard playing Music for Marcel Duchamp

There are times that I have been in another room of the house and heard harmonic and dissonant chords being played.  It is the kitten on the keys.  My other cat, Simon, has no interest in playing, but Howard has a some real potential channeling composers such as John Cage.

My tuner, Al Moles, warns me though, that he has heard stories of cats sharpening their claws on the felts, both under the strings and on the hammers.  Now THAT would be a CATastrophe!  I always keep the top closed to prevent that from happening.  But if I'm playing, Howard has a way of jumping up to play if I leave for a break or whatever. 

Exhibit "B"
Paul L. Jansen and Son
artist bench in leather (not vinyl!)
 I bought this artist bench when I bought the piano.  The cats never touched it.  One day, however, six years later, I heard the distinctive sound of cat clawing.  I rushed in to the living room to find Howard doing his dastardly deed on the bench. I was horrified, but fortunately I caught him before he did any real damage.  You can see a few "pin pricks" on the leather, and I hate that it's not perfect anymore, but what can you do?  Now I have to remember to put sheet music on the bench when it is not in use, to prevent any more damages.  Cats!  You can love them and hate them, but I can't live without them!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blue Monday

Untitled by Yves Klein
dry pigment in synthetic polymer on cotton over plywood
6'  4   7/8"  x  55   1/8"

I heaved a collective sigh of relief when I read I wasn't alone in feeling a little blue. British psychologist Cliff Arnall calls Blue Monday the most miserable day of the year. The jury is out as to whether it hit on January 17th or the 24th. Since the 17th was a national holiday, I was still enjoying the mental freedom of the weekend and it didn't hit me until the 18th, but I take some comfort that I was still pretty much on schedule with the general public! I just woke up and felt out of sorts. There wasn't anything in particular that was depressing me; it was your basic  melancholy and ennui.  Couldn't put my finger on what the malaise was all about until I read an article about the phenomenon.  Arnall attributes it to the end of the year let-down, when the excitement of Christmas and New Years are past, when the bills are coming in, it's cold, the phone isn't ringing, and New Year resolutions are falling by the wayside already. It was somehow comforting to know that I wasn't alone in feeling despondent; that it was all part of being human!

Blue Monday by Carolyn Brown
oil on canvas
5' x 6'

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Loo With a View

I once had a client who was a urologist. When we got to doing his bathroom, it seemed like an obvious idea to put in Plexiglas wall panels to house the bathroom plumbing.  He loved it and felt right at home being able to see the inner machinations.  Bathroom design is always fun to do because it's a small room with only a few basic requirements. Inspiration can be found all around us for pushing the envelope and creating thought-provoking design.  Out of thin air, so to speak, what about designing an outdoor restroom facility for the public?

"Don't Miss a Sec"
Monica Bonvicini

This is such a beautifully elegant concept:  it reflects everything and is practically invisible. Not exactly your typical  Johnny On the Spot, but an architectural gem - actually an art piece originally displayed across from the very respectable Tate Britain in London. It's entitled "Don't Miss a Sec" because the artist, Monica Bonvicini,  was playing with the idea that art opening attendees hated to miss out on any of the opening night excitement by having to use the restroom. By using one-way glass for a free-standing restroom, no one could see in, but the person inside could see out and not miss any of the event.  Now THAT is thinking outside of the box!

"Don't Miss a Sec"
Monica Bonvicini
There is a lot more to this conceptual art piece than meets the eye.  The artist took into consideration its historical location, which was a 19th century prison facility. Architect Jeremy Bentham proposed a wheel-like prison design that would allow the warden to watch the prisoners without them knowing that they were being watched.  Then again, prisoners don't have any privacy in their cells today for their toilet functions, do they? It was never built, but Bentham's ideas of constant surveillance were fodder for Bonvicini's inspirations.  The use of a stainless steel prison toilet and sink combo makes sense with this information; it's not just a stylish and practical solution. Furthermore, Bonvicini made this a perfectly functioning port-o-potty, but it apparently didn't get many takers!

Are you brave enough to step into this bathroom?

Here we have another example of brain twisting.  The story going around was that it was a 10th floor apartment with a painted floor.  Definitely good for a laugh, but again you have to be very brave.  Actually, it is a manipulated photograph for a photo contest; not to say you can't photo-screen a print onto any floor, ceiling or wall to get the same effect. Since antiquity, various cultures have painted sky ceilings or murals to suspend belief that the flat surface is not what it appears to be.  This idea just takes that concept a little bit further.

Powder Room
Renee Celeste Flanders

Just as Alice stepped into the looking glass, how about stepping in to a 3-dimensional painting? Have the bathroom be an extension of a work of art - the results will be magical!  In this case, the inspiration for me came from the print of a vase of flowers.  I suggested painting the walls "like the painting".  I sketched the lines on the wall, took the color scheme from the print, made a few other rhymes, and "Voila"!  The room never fails to evoke the "Wow" response from visitors.  

Moral of this story:  Bathrooms can be more than just pretty rooms. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Hot Winter Story

There's nothing like a good oxymoron!  What with the cold winter temperatures, it is pleasant to recall the warmth of summer. Sometimes, though, the summer is a bit too warm, and then we fantasize about cooler weather and the cycle begins anew. 

As a designer, I strive to give the best customer service that I can.  Most of the time, the behind-the-scenes hassles I shield from my clients.  I don't wish to distract them with all that is distressing about this business; that is what they are paying me for!  But sometimes we designers have experiences that are ridiculous and border on the absurd.  This past summer, at the height of a heat wave, one such incident occurred (that I hope is not too incriminating) and the evidence is as follows:
Exhibit "A"

Ordering a simple fiber board table to be covered with a cloth seemed simple enough.  I ordered one from a local supplier and picked it up, unassembled.  My client didn't think it would be an easy job, but I, with my Fortune Interiors background, knew my way around a hammer and a screwdriver!  I assured the client that I would take care of it and that it would be all assembled that very day.
Yours truly, in the middle, with some of my colleagues high in the rafters of our shop at Fortune Interiors.  We were a team of artists employed by Mark Twain Bancshares to design and fabricate the furnishings for the multiple bank branches.  Our artwork was also purchased by the bank and put on display.
Arriving with my tool box, I let myself in to the home and headed to the guest room, where the table was to be installed.  Having been told by the store that it was a simple task that "anyone" could do, I imagined I would be out in a half-hour.  I unpacked the parts and laid everything out for assembly.  For some reason the air-conditioning was off, and to my horror, I started to get sweaty.

As I was planning to go out immediately following this little task, I was dressed in a nice skirt and top.  Not wanting to appear in the evening as a drenched dish rag, there was only one thing to be done.  Close the bedroom door and be prepared to yell  "don't come in"  if anyone came home early!

Exhibit "B"

As I glued, hammered, and screwed, I felt that not just anyone could put this table together in the proper manner!  I had years of training to do it just right! Midway through the assemblage, the thought entered my mind that I had never done any carpentry quite like this and it was fairly comical. About one hour later, I got the job done, as promised, and packed up to leave for a well-deserved martini.  I marveled to myself what lengths I go to please my clients!  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

High Five

Lo and behold... a hand wave beckoning me at Saks Fifth Avenue, AND on sale!  If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you will recall that I recklessly abandoned the same gloves on a bench while holiday shopping.  To my utter astonishment, Saks had brought this style back a second season. Delirious with delight, I purchased a second pair for Emily because she had dragged me there despite my putting up a resistance to post holiday shopping.  I stopped by the store a couple of days later and the hand was bare and they were sold out.   Was I lucky or what?!