Monday, May 21, 2012

My love of Vintage Pyrex

One of the first things I ever bought as an independent apartment dweller was a big yellow Pyrex mixing bowl.  I got it at one of those NYC flea markets that they hold on the weekends in a parking lot. It didn't have any chips, but was pretty scratched up and I used it mostly to mix bread dough.  I have always loved making my own bread and this little number was a score at $10. 

Growing up, my mother had alot of older and more interesting sets, most of them blue and white or turquoise and white.  There was the occasional sunflower pattern or stray dish with circles on it, but for the most part she had the more traditional varieties. My summers were filled with bowls full of jello, macaroni salad, and marshmallow abrosia.  Strange to say, but I feel like most kids today don't get to experience alot of those kinds of memories.

I have always found extreme beauty in things that were made to be used.  I never viewed these bowls as anything less than useful.  As I became aware of more patterns and sizes, and types (the butter dish is a unique example) somehow the whole collection became more amazing.  William Morris once said "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."  Amen to that brother.

When contemplating new products for our shop at Pocono Modern, I had the idea to pay homage to the ridiculously hip Pyrex of the 50's and 60's by creating a kind of visual documentary.  The result is our new poster which can be seen below (click to enlarge):


Although most of us will never own all of these collections, I am proud to say that my big yellow bowl is perched on the top as a crown sits on the head of a king.  Now everyone can have some retro Pyrex in their own kitchen.

This poster is 11 x 17 and available through the Pocono Modern shop at www.poconomodern.com ($16)

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Most Creative People

I had to chuckle slightly after reading Fast Company's list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.  Let me start by saying that I enjoy Fast Company as a publication and I am especially fond of their website.  If Facebook had a blog, I imagine it would look like their website.  In any case, I went through the list of creatives expecting to find some unknown talent or some up and comer that they had combed through mountains of mediocrity to find.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  The list was populated with celebrities, corporate executives, and accomplished creatives all building on their existing accomplishments.  

No disrespect to the celebrities, but if you make $20M a year, it's not that difficult to start a new project that allows you to be creative.  I have a hard time believing that Shaquille O'Neal is going to win the Pritzker.  I also don't imagine that companies like Starbucks and Amazon.com have a hard time attracting good talent, although some of their top people are on this list.

And while I am glad that Fast Company is celebrating creativity in some way, I would like to offer some alternate judging criteria for next year's list.  I would propose to celebrate the following:

1- People who are doing groundbreaking work in some field without any funding, assistance, or leverage other than their own passion and determination.
2- People who use their talents to help other people rather than prioritize fiscal gain.
3- Companies who are pursuing an impossible goal that one day may be possible.
4- People who have triumphed over ridicule and criticism to prove their critics wrong.  

I don't know about you, but these are the kinds of figures that inspire me, particularly when it comes to being creative.  Cee Lo Green 1995 is way more inspiring to me than Cee Lo Green 2012.  Food for thought.  


If you'll excuse me, I have to go look at Justin Timberlake's new home line. He's apparently partnered with a designer to start a curated web site offering daily deals.  It's a good thing as it must be difficult for him to get all that press on his own...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Has Dwell Magazine become irrelevant?

As someone who has built a life around being a proponent of Modern Design, I find myself supporting and gravitating towards companies that have similar philosophies.  In October of 2000 I remember walking by a news stand in NYC and seeing the Premiere Issue of a new magazine called Dwell.  The cover was bold.  A big steel box of a house with a woman and her dog sitting in front of it.  The heading under the title said 'AT HOME IN THE MODERN WORLD' in all caps with a lovely sans serif font.  The features listed on the cover had tag lines like 'Design for Real People' and 'The Most Beautiful Vacuum Cleaners on Earth'.  I was drawn from the start and picked up a copy.  

When I got it home I read the first issue from cover to cover and salivated at both the publisher's mission and the editor's opening remarks.  They were brilliant.  Lara Hedberg (publisher) led with the tag line : From the Robie House to Our House and talked eloquently about we should aspire to create homes that fulfill our deep longing for meaning and beauty.  Editor Karrie Jacobs went a step further.  She wanted to stage a minor revolution.  Her beautifully written introduction talked about how the design community has a desire to try and show architecture as this perfect and unattainable being.  Dwell was aiming to give it back to regular ordinary people and this inspired me.  From then on, I waited on every issue and saw the magazine grow and develop to reach thousands of new readers every month.

By 2006 each issue was the size of a local phone book filled with page after page of enviable goods and projects.  Despite the change in editors (I believe they are currently on their fourth in 12 years) there seemed to be a continuity of thought that made me believe I could be part of this revolution.  Year after year went on and slowly the mission changed. It seemed that the book was getting thinner and thinner as advertising revenue across the industry tanked.  The magazine started to lend their name to conferences and consumer partnerships (such as a tile line with Heath ceramics) and the revolution started to fizzle.  It seemed that all of the energy of the original mission was now going into generating revenue to keep the ship afloat.  Today the magazine arrives about as thick as the original issue, which is pretty thin.  I used to devote a solid two hours to reading each volume and now it takes me all of eight minutes.  All of the original tenacity and gumption have been replaced with project after project of designs that seem as impractical and unattainable as the designs they once condemned.   

Now I suppose you could argue that shelter magazines as a whole are tanking.  Domino closed and even Martha Stewart couldn't sustain the popular Blueprint brand.  But I would disagree when you see books like Elle Decor, House and Home, Elle Decor UK, Living ETC, and Inside Out growing by the month. Even Atomic Ranch and Modernism haven't lost their luster through the recession and I even found myself picking up recent issues of Architectural Digest, which is amazing in and of itself.  These books have survived by focusing on their core audience and not concerning themselves with trying to grow beyond their brand.  I think this is a lesson Dwell could definitely learn from.

Of course there will always be people discovering Dwell for the first time and falling head over heels. But for my part I will not be renewing my subscription and I am very sad to say that.  I wish the magazine went back to it's original desire to show the average person about meaning and beauty in the home as opposed to finding the craziest places around the world which most people will never even come close to living in.  

Karrie Jacobs once wrote that Dwell wanted to demonstrate that a modern house could be a comfortable one.  If only it were so.