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Monday, June 30, 2014

Denise Scott Brown

Denise Scott Brown (1931- ) was born in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and studied architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

She moved to Philadelphia with her husband and fellow architect Robert Scott Brown to attend the University of Pennsylvania. A year before she received her master's degree in city planning, her husband was killed in a car accident.

Upon graduating in 1960, she joined the faculty and almost immediately met Robert Venturi. They became friends and partners, and they eventually married in 1967. That same year, she joined the firm of Venturi and Rauch, becoming a partner in 1969. The firm later was named Venturi Scott Brown and Associates.

In 1972 the couple, along with Steven Izenour, wrote the book Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Later she and her husband challenged the modernist rejection of ornamentation, saying that the movement had been too severe. Scott Brown and Venturi designed a collection of chairs for Knoll that embodied this conviction by employing some of the more traditional forms of design.

Scott Brown won the 2010 Edmund N. Bacon Prize and the 2007 Cooper-Hewitt Design Mind Award along with Robert Venturi. Last year Scott Brown, supported by many well known architects such as her husband and Zaha Hadid, petitioned to be added retroactively to the 1991 Pritzker Prize won by her husband, from which she was excluded, even though she was an equal and essential partner. The petition was denied.

From, and

Denise Scott Brown in front of the Provincial Capitol Building in Toulouse, France

The Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, London

Seattle Art Museum

Chippendale chair for Knoll, with Robert Venturi

Urn table for Knoll, with Robert Venturi

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Designing Modern Women

The Museum of Modern Art  in New York currently has an exhibition called Designing Modern Woman: 1890-1990, which features women who profoundly influenced design in the 20th century. The installation is drawn from the MoMA collection, including work by the famous and the unsung, such as Loïe Fuller's turn of the century theater contributions, furniture and design by Charlottle Perriand, Lilly Reich, Eileen Gray, Eva Zeisel, Ray Eames, Lella Vignelli, Grete JalkGreta Magnusson Grossman, Gae Aulenti, the architecture of Denise Scott Brown, textiles by Noémi Raymond, Anni Albers and Eszter Haraszty, ceramics by Lucy Rie, industrial design by Margaret E. Knight and Karin Schou Andersen, Marianne Brandt, and graphics by Helene Haasbauer-Wallrath, April Greiman, Luba Lukova, Lina Bo Bardi, Magda Mautner von Markhof and Bonnie Maclean.

As the links above indicate, I've posted about several of these women, but some of the items in the exhibit with which I wasn't familiar have caught my eye and make me want to explore the lives of the women I don't know. Perhaps you'll feel the same.

After all, had you ever really given much thought about what went into designing the flat-bottom paper bag? Or that the first machine to make them was designed by a woman in an era when very few women were industrial designers?

The exhibition runs through September 21, 2014.

From and

Flat-bottom paper bag
Designed by Margaret E. Knight

Designed by Karin Schou Andersen

Poster for the Yardbirds and The Doors
Designed by Bonnie Maclean

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rediscovering Sheila Bownas

Sheila Bownas (1925-2007) was born in England and attended the Skipton Art School from 1941-1946. She then received a county art scholarship and attended the Slade School of Art in London. Bownas had five paintings accepted and exhibited at The Royal Academy of Arts and later went to Florence, Italy, to study art history.

She became interested in textile and wallpaper design, and during the 1950s and 1960s, although not as well known as designers like Lucienne Day, she was commissioned by Liberty of London, Crown Wallpapers, Marks and Spencer, and the German company PW Bruck-Messel.

She was also commissioned to work on pictures in the botanical section of the National History Museum. Later in life, she returned home to Linton, near Skipton, and worked on landscape and portrait painting.

Bownas was such a private person that even her family was surprised to learn what a prolific artist she had been. When she died, her family found hundreds of paintings and textile designs in her small studio.

In 2008, Arts Development Officer Chelsea Cefai purchased 200 of her works at auction, and since then, she has been bringing Bownas's patterns back to life. A number of products using Bownas's designs are available for sale.


Cecil print

Erik print

Ernest print

Lloyd print

Lori print

Rex print

Otto print

Woodrow print

Herman pillow

Edwin pillow

Chelsea Cefai

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Nakashima legacy

Legendary furniture designer George Nakashima died in 1990, and his complex of home, studios and workshops in New Hope, Pennsylvania, were designated a National Historic Landmark. Nakashima's daughter, Mira Nakashima, took over the family business following her father's death.

Nakashima recalls living in a tent while her father built the family home and workshop. They used a cistern to collect rainwater, since they had no well. They got drinking water from neighbors and bathed where they swam.

Her father was trained as an architect, and she herself studied architecture at Harvard, but she has dedicated herself to the preservation of the complex and the furniture collections within the structures and to continuing the woodworking tradition her father started in the 20th century. She hopes her son Satoru will join the family business and carry it into the future.


George Nakashima's home

Wood stored in the complex

Furniture stored in the complex

Current staff, with Mira Nakashima in the foreground

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

West German pottery: Jopeko

Jopeko Keramik is still in business today, and according to their site, the Korzilius family has been in the ceramic business for 350 years and has been at its present location for over 150 years. The present-day company was founded in 1848 by Johann Peter Korzilius in the town of Ransbach-Baumbach. It is run today by Johann Peter Korzilius II and makes flameproof ceramics for private households and caterers, ceramic light switches, ceramic lighting, acoustic ceramics and sanitaryware. They also allow studio potters to use their equipment to produce limited runs.

Heinz Martin was the main designer during the 1960s. During that time, the company produced brightly colored drip "lava" glazes on white clay that are popular with collectors today. They also did a considerable amount of work for the tourist trade. Jopeko markings were often nondescript, having few distinctive elements. Frequently, the shallow imprinting on the bottom of the pieces was covered with thick glaze, leaving them almost illegible. Many of their products originally bore metallic foil labels.

From,, and - Vasomania - ModernistBerlin - julianshimmin

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The first beanbag: Sacco

The first beanbag chair was designed in 1968 by three young Italians in their thirties--Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini and Franco Teodoro.  They originally envisioned a fluid-filled envelope, but the excessive weight led to the use of polystyrene beads.

The Sacco was first produced by Zanotta in 1969 and is still in production today. Called "the anatomic chair" in the Zanotta sales catalogs, it was originally considered a "non-chair" and thus a break with tradition. Beanbags were first made of leather and canvas, and their loose filling allowed them to conform to the body. People quickly realized that the Sacco could be used as a chair, a chaise longue or a stool, and its popularity grew.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the beanbag chair became synonymous with the hippie culture. It has been copied by many manufacturers, with varying degrees of success, and remains popular among the young even today.

From, and 1000 Chairs by Charlotte and Peter Fiell

Sacco ad

Mod Saccos

Monday, June 23, 2014

Collecting: Tapio Wirkkala jewelry

I've chosen one of my favorite designers, Tapio Wirkkala, as the subject of the first post in a series called "Collecting" that I plan to write each month.

I have a couple of Wirkkala's ceramic pieces, the Kingfisher and Pollo vases, and we've had a number of his Ultima Thule glass pieces and his vases for Rosenthal in our store, but I don't have any of his jewelry. Don't think for a second that I don't aspire to owning a piece or two. I would love to have a Half Moon or Viking pendant. In fact, they're on my "Things to Buy Before I Die" Pinterest board.

Silver Moon (Hopea kuu) pendant

Half Moon (Puolikuu) pendant

Crescent Moon (Kuunsirppi) pendant

Apple (Omena) pendant

Devil's Head (Pirun pää) pendant


Viking (Viikinki) pendant

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jonas Forth's surprising facts about Finnish design

While tooling around the Interwebs the other day, I ran across a list called 20 Surprising Facts about Finnish Design Icons, written by Jonas Forth. To be more accurate, there are 24 surprising facts, because Jonas was apparently feeling generous the day he compiled the list.

I'm only going to tease you with a few of them, because I want you to go to his site and let him tell the rest of the stories.


The iconic Fiskars scissors by Olof Bäckström were meant to be red, green or black but due to the production manager using what was left in the moulding machine from making plastic juice pressers, some of them turned out orange. They took a vote and orange won 9-7.

The metal holder that surrounds the glass in Timo Sarpaneva’s Tsaikka series was made from recycled zipper waste. His brother Pentti, who made jewellery, experimented with similar ideas.

The best way to identify a real Aalto 60 stool is by how the screws are attached to the bottom of the base. They’ve basically been made the same way since 1933.