They hung from the exposed structure of the portico that ran the length of the house over-looking the marina and the tropical glistening scene that surrounded the estudio-cafe. Gently twirling blades of colorful aluminum balanced and counter-balanced on wire and suspended from nearly invisible filament. Petals of flowers, leaves, triangles, they dangled and spun in the gentle movement of air. What local artist created such magical sculptures that added such color and dimension to the various heights of space both inside and out ? I must find this fanciful person.
I discovered he was not a local, rather a visitor del norte. Yes, an American snow-bird escaping the chilly climes and bringing his art, as he vacationed in the southern resort of Puerto Vallarta, for others to share. There was a kismet, a chemistry between the two men, the host and the new-comer. Both teeming with artistic juices looking for challenging means of expression in a variety of media. The host was more than willing to share his space to exhibit these delicate yet powerful pieces. The new-comer when describing his work references “poetic spaces and meaningful places” and nothing could better describe where he found himself and his new venue, the estudio-cafe.
Having enjoyed for years the magic of the estudio-cafe with it’s perfect waterside setting and continuous collection of artists presenting exquisite musical talent and fine art of all manner, engaging conversation in an ever stimulating artistic dynamic, it was this day with the sun-bathed ochre stucco walls and shadows cast by the progression of the day with soft breezes wafting through the architecture, that I was moved once again by the composition of it all.
A three-dimensional collage of color and style, form and scale, art both created and spontaneous – an unselfconscious collection of rare confluence that cannot be created – but happens. This is an incredible experience. And it was with this overwhelming experience that first introduced us to our host and has since brought so many fascinating people into our lives.
This was the beginning of the friendship, spawned by the love of art, related color and shapes, that brought Terry Welker’s work to New Mexico. After a couple of years admiring the enchantment and thrill of his mobiles at the estudio-cafe, I made the call that connected our common love of design and resulted in a premiere exhibit of spectacular, yet modest sized kinetic pieces a our boutique gallery in downtown Albuquerque. As he says of his work, “he animates space with sculpture.”
Come to PATRICIAN DESIGN to see these fantastic suspended sculptures and smile at the joy they bring. And also the “host.” This wonderful artist, Federico Leon de la Vega, who by warmly embracing family and friends has created a nurturing atmosphere of love and friendship, limitless talent and sensitivity and who has also generously exhibited his magnificent oil paintings at PATRICIAN DESIGN. We invite you to experience these two outstanding artists brought together by a remarkable union of creative energy and goodwill.
Referencing the fabulous continuing education course of a couple of weeks ago, my story continues with a bit more regarding the content of the course and also the context of having it held in Santa Fe. You might remember that the focus was on natural and engineered construction and design materials including leather, concrete, natural stone, and engineered and natural woods, cork, terrazzo, recycled rubber, glass and paper.
To have had this class in an architecturally unique environment such as Santa Fe in a beautiful, soulful, old historic structure like the La Fonda Hotel, in a meeting room with hand-carved wood beams and architectural details, antique art pieces and an intimacy that one can’t get in a new facility, it made the subject matter much more relevant and compelling.
While we have been awakened to, if not shamed into realizing the responsibility toward sustainability, it is also fascinating to see the back-tracking and re-thinking that have occurred. For example
the bamboo bandwagon was so HOT and then, like a hot potato dropped from the design narrative when studies showed that in most cases, a high content of formaldehyde used in processing of it as a flooring material negated the healthful virtues of this otherwise natural, renewable resource. Tanning leather…the actual chemical ingredients (chromium) used to process leather in many places, Morocco as an example, was so toxic and penetrated the soil into the water table causing untold deadly health issues. Newer technology has almost eliminated such practices – but for years it went unchecked and a bazillion products were sold under the guise of leather being “green.”
We are often so knee-jerk and willing to follow a movement about which we don’t get all the facts. While sustainability is a seeming moral obligation and only makes sense for the good of the planet and our custodial responsibility, the manner in which we go about it to allow things that are not completely vetted and then the restrictions we impose and the guidelines that we set forth are often misguided and impractical.
I sat in a conference room once that was in a suite of a highly regarded LEED building – that suite’s designers and those of the entire building were regaled with honors for their efforts and accomplishments, yet the room was asphyxiating to me as the off-gas of the linoleum conference table was too much to bear. I thought – how can they meet encapsulated in this room for extended periods of time when I was only there on a passing tour? Phew! Not practical for me! Oh, but it comes from linseed oil and a complex recipe of other wonderfully sustainable ingredients – it’s natural!
We now hear so much about BUY LOCAL and it is both to support our local communities but also to reduce the fuel costs to transport things from afar. Why eat a blueberry in the fall in Vermont when the season is clearly past and the berry comes from – who knows where – but not close by. We can get bananas and mangoes all year round in Alaska and are spoiled by the incredible supply of endless exotic produce – but it is not an inexpensive supply chain. Let those who shout the loudest do without a pineapple when the desire arises.
When Toyota’s Prius cars came out there was a commentary that compared the cost to drive an inefficient fuel-eating gas-guzzler against the fuel cost to build a new hybrid Prius. One was actually better off, for the good of the planet, driving their old car until it died rather than spend the amazing amount of energy to build a new car. Now, I have not fact checked this, but the analogy is interesting.
I was raised to respect things. I collected aluminum cans in every trash can on the beach growing up as it was regarded as a recyclable resource even back in the day…but we were also encouraged to pick up trash when we passed it and to care for everything with which we came in contact. That concept of respect is what this sustainable movement is all about. Respect and care, thoughtfulness and smart decision-making to that respectful end.
September 25, 2015
Continuing Education – it can either send a signal of dismal obligation or the promise of an exciting new territory of learning in a field about which you are already interested. Today the latter was surely the case. The obligatory CEU’s required to maintain/renew state licenses in Interior Design sneak up every year about this time.
I started out for Santa Fe, a direct 50 minute ride north, up the freeway. The traffic has started to gather at 6:45. It’s funny how when you do not customarily hit the road at that hour that you discover that so many others do! As the sun peeked intermittently over the mountain and the terrain dipped and rose to the east, the glow back-lit the charcoal-blue undulating peaks and burst forth blindingly as the landscape flattened to grassy fields of the high desert. Once up, it is invigorating to see the sunrise and be on the road starting off on an early day – it’s the getting up that is the struggle!
The class was scheduled to start at 8:00 and I had started out at 7:05 – cutting it a little close with no contingency for delays. The freeway was a ribbon of fast moving cars, marked for 75, most were zipping along at 84 – I included. As I entered the city limits and navigated the exit winding my way along the curving streets past golden chamisa and sun-baked adobes, clusters of lanky black-eyed susans and residues of old-fashioned hollyhock stalks punctuated with tired pink blossoms
leftover from the mid-summer floral explosions so fabulous in the cooler mountain air that is Santa Fe. Descending into the “City Different,” I wanted to enjoy the scene but was pressed for time.
Scooting around the corner and climbing up the sloped street in front of the La Fonda toward the Plaza, I turned right only to find that – as I had expected – the parking lot in the hotel was full. More minutes spent turning right again in front of the majestic Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi,
I screamed into the other open lot, paid for the day and raced on foot, in my new sensible Tom’s flats, along the sidewalk back to La Fonda. The doorman proudly held the door open with a smile and I dashed inside just as the towering church bells rang 8 o’clock. Whew…I swiftly crossed the busy lobby of eclectic travelers and made my way to the private room in which the class had assembled – in the nick of time. I grabbed a coffee, signed the sheet and took my seat at the front of the room and began a day of total immersion into the world of wood, concrete, cork, leather and composite materials such as terrazzo and engineered stone.
Inasmuch as one might not find this terribly stimulating, the instructor, Fred Jackson, was animated, enthusiastic and extremely well informed. He fielded numerous questions without a hitch, had excellent presentation materials, hand-outs and visual aids. It was informative, interactive, illuminating and fascinating. It was creatively inspiring and helpful. After 8 hours, I feel that I know so much – so very much about the characteristics, applications, strengths and weaknesses, sustainability, fragility and renewable and recyclable resources of all of these various natural and manipulated materials that I am now well armed and quite dangerous.
July 5, 2015
We watched a HUGE thunderhead form dwarfing our magnificent Sandia mountain at noon yesterday on the 4th of July. It was a spectacular example of nature’s beauty and power of design – and a sure sign that we were going to get the rain that had been forecast foiling late afternoon plans and fireworks festivities.The magnificent cloud grew and grew. It erupted over the crest of the mountain growing from this perfect anvil shape in glowing white against the brilliant blue to a menacing grey morphing into a massive area of sky without definition colliding with another wall of weather that was moving in from the north. We watched it with resignation that our backyard BBQ party would be forced inside…however, as the afternoon progressed…not a drop of rain nor a wisp of wind. The wanna be storm came and went passing quietly with subtle rumbles of thunder as though frustrated that it couldn’t perform to ruin the day. The evening was perfect for gathering outside with a soft, white, high cloud-cover that kept the temperature just right and the air soft and comfortable. It was a perfect evening for a summer party and at dusk the bottle rockets started zinging through the air too early to see and continued into the darkness when they blazed bright and hot through the night. Several neighbors had magnificent illegals that shot up with loud mortar booms spraying the blackness with brilliant explosions of chrysanthemum bouquet sparkles dispersing and falling in sprinkles of starry lights. It was a most satisfactory Independence Day after all.
January 22, 2015
Let’s make guacamole! Creating a good time—is an art. And as is true with most artistic ventures—as in life in general—some people do it better than others. Enthusiasm is infectious and it generates such greatness from its energy that is should be harnessed. It is about this that I write today.
So hearing the charge “Let’s make guacamole!” will be for some a really exciting, if not challenging opportunity, while to others it will suggest a rudimentary task and prompt eye-rolling. Those with a lack of enthusiasm or optimism, that everything can be fun with the right recipe, will be the
eye-rollers thinking—what’s the challenge of making guacamole? Having done that a million times and regarding its mastery as already accomplished, will not look forward to such an opportunity.
It’s like all enthusiasm, the glass half empty or half full…and with that let me share with you a cooking class that was such fun that is warranted this blog. Despite the fact that the setting was in a tropical jungle, there were many options that day for activities that would blow your paradise-seeking mind. And with all those incredible options I was having great difficulty making decisions each of which eliminated one over the other.
Otherwise probably not to keen on the idea, but having been romanced by the paella lesson left to simmer on the open grill, I had half an open mind about the seemingly simple offer of a guacamole class.
So with a small herd of turtles in front of and behind me, we climbed the stone steps that wound through the lush green vegetation. Barefoot and still in my wet-suit from an educational and invigorating morning snorkel, I wondered if I should be returning to the beach or investing the precious time in the seemingly rudimentary guacamole class.
My reward was at the top of the hill…a statuesque chef donning his attenuated white hat graciously greeted us—welcoming us into a beautiful open-air palapa with its bony wooden structure beneath the layered palm thatch ceiling. There before us was a long rustic banquet table beautifully dressed with multiple molcajete vessels of various sizes filled with dark ripe round avocados, blackened/roasted plum tomatoes, grilled onions, blistered serrano chiles, freshly cut limes, red ripe plum tomatoes, fresh serranos, bunches of aromatic cilantro and pristinely peeled white onions.
At the point of arrival, a bounty of various specimen chiles were presented on a large rust-colored clay barro platter and stacks of little barroware plates were in piles interspersed among the molcajete.
Giant steel stars pierced to allow twinkling light to dance at night painted turquoise for pop in the daytime hung at staggered heights from the center of the grand, voluminous palapa. Surrounded by verdant jungle and colorfully painted concrete walls, the room was expansive yet intimate. The chef in his starched white uniform embroidered with his name and proud logo of the establishment greeted us in his towering hat and welcomed us into this scene that dazzled the eye.
Guacamole I’m thinking…this looks like a bit more fun than merely mashing up some avocados!!! And with that he began his friendly introduction to the fiery cuisine of Mexico’s flavorful salsas! Presenting the platter of chiles he held each up for all to see asking the group if anyone could identify them. The replies came from all around “serrano, jalapeno, chipotle, banana, arbol—cola de rata, poblano, guajillo…” The rapt audience sat encircling the grand buffet on rustic wooden stools engaging in lively conversation as the chef spoke in his open and encouraging manner describing each of the chiles and their many uses.
Now we were invited to approach the table where spaced evenly along each long side were stacks of white linen—pressed aprons and chef’s hats for each one of us—how fun and what a nice addition to the otherwise casual scene. We donned our outfits with giggles and proceeded to admire each other’s instant transformation into the appearance of proper culinary participants!
The chef alternated each pair across the table from one another assigning guacamole for one pair and salsa molcajete for the next and so one down the line. This too produced camaraderie between strangers who at once bonded in the fun of the festivities. Oh, and did I mention that for those who chose to partake that delightful beverages were served of all manner of tropical delights from straight tequila shots to refreshingly poured on the rocks with lime to jaca, papaya, pineapple juices, and rum? All this as the chef assigned tasks for each around the table resulting in a chatter of conversation and progress reports as each tackled their portion of the process—dicing, mashing, mixing and squeezing. The action continued to unfold as the capable woman behind the counter made fresh corn tortillas and delivered them oozing with molten Oaxaca cheese—quesadillas ready to scoop up the magnificent fresh salsa and guacamole!! Smiles and groans of delight emanated from around the room.
So in summary…the recipe for creating a good time: Presentation, welcoming attitude, disarming graciousness, with the best representations/samples of the product around which the good time is based! Know your theme/subject and make it fun!
September 19, 2014
Black kitchens are sexy – as noted in the recent article “Cook in the Dark” by David A. Keeps, in the Wall Street Journal, last weekend September 13-14, 2014. And in 2008 when we created a dramatic statement using black custom cabinets contrasted against raw-meat colored granite to many it was quite daring, even astonishing – but everyone LOVED it! Yes, it was a man’s kitchen – but as his female friends can attest, it is genderless in its stunningly composed design. This particular interior remodel featured this striking kitchen and we celebrated the black further by painting all the base trim, doors and molding in a semi-gloss black. Contrasting creamy travertine floors and walls are punctuated by the black trim and monolithic two-sided black marble fireplace and flanking cabinets.
On the heels of that project, we found ourselves celebrating a stone fireplace installation from the 70s. Many thought it needed to go – but rather, we found the same slate stone in large format floor tiles and finished all of the floors throughout with this stunning natural material. All of a sudden the fireplace was at home in a new context. A completely new kitchen – enlarged with many added functions – was designed with black cabinets and iridescent mossy green granite counter-tops flecked and riddled with gold and black fissures. The slate stone flooring was mimicked in the backsplash with the same silvery slate along with a black and grey stone madras-like mix.
I was there in that second interior today as the client prepared with great focus and determination for a significant reunion of friends coming from all over the country – some not having been together for 40 years! A new commission of a martini alongside a copy of Flying magazine (the client is a private pilot), by celebrated artist Susan E. Roden – delivered today, sparkles with highlights of silver leaf next to the brushed stainless accoutrements. The bright red pops against the neutrals and black anchors of the dark toned bar and obsidian kitchen.
So it’s been fun to read the Keeps’ article and hear of this new craze in dark kitchens – we always knew they were sexy. Clients love being ahead of the trends. But as is always the case – when the trend takes hold, the industry provides a new array of offerings for designers to incorporate. New materials, new finishes – the challenge is to think a bit off from the norm and create before the palette is presented on the industry’s silver platter. Remember though – that good design always transcends trends!
July 21, 2014
While innovative highways channel thinkers racing in an infinite world of hi-tech competition and dizzying speed – who will build these innovations? Just read an interesting article and it spurred thoughts around an old subject about which I have passionately expressed urgency in the past. A subject addressing our preoccupation and emphasis on hi-tech advancements at the expense of, rather than in concert with, the trades. Let’s examine why the following might be applicable in every community where intellectual design creatively and successfully melds with tangible old-style craftsmanship. INTERNATIONAL NEWS FLASH from Istanbul – Kerem Alper – whose brain works on both sides of the fence holds dual Masters from Stanford in both design and business. Alper obvserves, “We’re seeing a hybrid world where digital and physical design collide, which could be called “physical computing” or “embodied systems” or, as we say, “sensitive products” (because “smart” implies only the left side of the brain) but it all hints at: If you’re doing an app or a website, what is the physical counterpart of this? Partner with dual degrees also from Stanford in architectural design and structural engineering, Paired with a degree from NYU in media arts Engin Ayaz, address why Istanbul is ripe for collaboration between the high tech intellectual design and hands-on design fabrication: “One factor is convenience. We can work closely with craftsmen and makers here; they still reside in central areas of city and they have a lot of know-how in the techniques of making. They are the last generation of their kind, so we treat them as precious collaborators for our projects. IMPORTANT lesson for all listening: to nurture a partnership between the trades and the fast-pace of the innovations of our technological world with all productive members of our society – emphasizing each ones strengths and contributions and cultivate expertise and pride in all work. Lest we be reliant on other countries to fabricate our dreams.