Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hectic November

Jean says: We've been busy!

[We interrupt ourselves to tell you that this week you can also see us on Style Like U. Click here to link to the Style Like U website and see us hold forth on all sorts of style issues. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.]

Join us as we examine subjects and events ranging from a terrific opening of Midwest Potters (running through Nov 30th at gallery gen's Long Island City studio), the Philadelphia Museum's Craft Show and the Pier Antiques Show and Fashion Alley. They were wonderful opportunities to clear the cobwebs and be inspired. We got to view and experience the new (handmade art and crafts) and the old (vintage fashion, art and jewelry), meet new people and greet old friends.

gallery gen -- Warren and Nancy MacKenzie and Midwest Potters 11/05/10:
gallery gen held its opening night reception for its exclusive fall exhibition - MacKenzie - on Friday evening, November 5, at a space on Spring Street in Soho. Valerie arrived on time while I was unavoidably detained at the office. When I finally did arrive, Valerie had already scoped out the show and the other gallery-goers and was chatting with our friend, artist Katherine Crone. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought Valerie had dressed to match Nancy MacKenzie's wall hangings, one of which is visible in the background.

The exhibition, which features 250 "Mingei-sota" works made by legendary studio potter Warren MacKenzie, has moved to gallery gen's Long Island City location through November 30th.

The selection of his work was vast - from small serving plates and yunomi (Japanese teacups) to large platters, jars and vases and his famous drop rim bowls.

These shots give you an idea of the very different shapes that Warren produces as well as his color palette.

These two photos give you an idea of the designs on and colors of some of his plates.
They work equally well in functional table settings and as wall art.

Nancy MacKenzie, Warren's wife, is a fiber artist who weaves colorful fabric, metal wire, yarn and found objects into her one-of-a kind wall sculptures.

The couple lives on a farm in Minnesota, which is the source of much of the material she incorporates into her art.

This triptych of pieces made from woven twigs, twine from packages, and other pieces of flowers, plants and fabric, looked decidedly native American to me. Nancy MacKenzie includes and transforms everyday objects in her work.

Here I am in front of one of Nancy Mackenzie's fiber art pieces, showing off my new Trippen boots, or what I like to call "Lady GaGa for old ladies" footwear.

Valerie says: I LUV these shoes, and I at least want to try on a pair for myself and see how my feet react. The very original sole, which appears to have little support in the middle, is apparently actually quite strong, AND raises your whole body by a couple of inches without forcing you to totter around on your toes. They're platforms for the 21st century. You can't see it, but on the bottom of the other shoe is the Chinese character for 'good fortune'.

Over two hundred additional works by five other prominent ceramicists from the Midwest were also exhibited: Robert Briscoe, Richard Cooter, Paul Dresang, Maren Kloppman and Jeff Oestreich. This six piece wall installation from another female American artist, potter Maren Kloppman, looked like nothing else in the show. The almost translucent matte finish varied across each of the pieces. Two other wall installations and her recent tableware were also included in the show.

Potter Dick Cooper studied under Warren MacKenzie. His work, shown here, was beautifully displayed. My photo doesn't do it justice. The depth of color and the shiny, glassy glaze on the work highlighted and complemented the shapes beautifully.

No gallery gen opening is complete without the tea ceremony. In addition to the simplicity and serenity of the traditional ceremony are the wonderfully creative bean paste sweets, homemade by Mary Beth Welch who, along with Rumi Okada, serves them with matcha, a traditional frothy green tea.

I tried one of the two-layer, two-toned square sweets whose bottom layer was made of sweetened chestnuts. The taste was subtle, not like the blast you get from American sugar and flour cookies.

Valerie and I play a game when we go to openings, fashion shows and craft fairs. We always ask, "if money were no object, what would you pick?" I think these two large MacKenzie serving platters were my favorite pieces in the show.

Valerie says: I walked up to Carol Weiss because I loved absolutely everything she was wearing, from her necklace of yellow airplanes to her black boiled wool jacket with fabulous zipped breast pockets (invisible in my photo) to her yellow felt bag, and quizzed her nosily about all of it. (More about the yellow airplanes in a future post.) Turned out she was going to be selling quilts (and so many other intriguing things) at the Pier Antique Show, so we promised to see her there.

After the show, Katherine, Valerie and I stopped for cocktails and a nosh at the bar in the Crosby Street Hotel. I had butternut squash soup (delish!) and a tequila-based cocktail with candied ginger, framboise and lime (terrif!). After our light repast, before splitting up for the evening, we checked out the ladies' room decor. It was through a doorway, to a hallway with a polar bear-shaped mirror, down a flight of stairs with padded flannel-covered walls, to the beautifully marble-tiled loo. You can quote me: It was well worth the trip. Valerie says: I had warm dates wrapped in bacon, which were yummy. My cocktail was passable but not memorable. (We are on an occasional holy grail-like search for the perfect cocktail since Tabla so Rashly Removed its Remarkable frozen Mango Margaritas from the Menu.) [Wow! Look at all that alliteration! Spiro Agnew was way better at it, but this is pretty good for amateurs, don't you think? And besides, Spiro had help from somebody much smarter than him.] And I want to know why a restaurant would pad its staircase, but not think to pad its main hall, so its dinner guests could communicate without shouting at one another. It's just not conducive to good conversation. Jean is right about the loo: it is a must-see. I generally frown on reading in the WC, but the cotton-candy-pink arm chair was so comfortable that I felt right at home, and whipped out the book I've been reading lately on the train (Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture).

Philadelphia Museum Craft Show 11/11/10:
Jean says: Valerie and I and our friend Becky, who deals in ethnographic art and artifacts, took a 9 am bus from the Lower East Side ($20 round trip!) that dropped us off in Philadlephia less than a block from the convention Center in under two hours. There were hundreds of peope in line when we arrived. It was obviously the place to be. When we got inside, we made plans to meet at 1 pm and then split up. I was struck by the numbers of women in our demographic who dressed for the occasion. Here are just the first three I encountered.

Peter Malinoski makes "art guitars". Although these beautiful instruments look great displayed on the wall, they do actually work and are meant to be played. (

Before our appointed meeting time, I ran into Valerie at our favorite milliners' booth: Ignatius Hats. We had a blast trying on wonderful hats and trying to decide which ones we liked best. Of course, our elimination process drew quite a crowd as we tried on various pieces and showed 'em how it's done. One woman tried to buy the vintage hat I'd worn that day. Needless to say, both Valerie and I made purchases. Here are the designers Ignatius Creegan (left) and Rod Givens posing with our boxed hats. Valerie says: Mine makes its first appearance later in this entry; Jean can't possibly show you hers just yet, because they're both white (well, natural) straw, and it's after Labor Day. Sorry! (

A little later in the day, we met Lynda Mounts wearing her newly purchased Ignatius straw hat with black and white feather butterflies. Valerie says: it's so true that hats start conversations. We walked up to her because we recognized her hat - it had been on the hat rack that morning. We had a great time talking about hats, and the conversation progressed from there.

I purchased this lovely poplar pin from New Mexican artist Juanita Girardin who is known for her uncommon textiles. She makes beautiful felt vests and jackets and fashions striking pins to secure them. It is about 3" x 1" and is so amazingly light, it feels as if it's made of balsa wood. (

I ran into New York artist Daniel Levy at his booth. Our mutual friend Kirsten Hawthorne introduced us several years ago at his studio. I love his work and own several of his serving plates and dishes. (

What I didn't know until last Thursday is that we have another mutual friend, artist Dorothy Black, pictured here with one of his porcelain pieces.

Korean designer Chunghie Lee lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and makes exquisite garments from felt, silk or wool that range from vests to kimono-shaped jackets to coats. Her display area featured lots of red. Like the orange color in fast-food joints makes people hungry, her scarlet colors made me want to buy. ( Her daughter is a textile artist whose wall hangings appeared in an adjacent space. She utilized extremely color-saturated fabrics, including felt, in her works.

We ate lunch at Reading Market, conveniently located across the street from the Convention Center. We had crepes at Profi's and dined under the glow of the neon Eiffel Tower. Becky wore a hat in our honor!

Local artist Don Miller (left) does furniture/sculpture ( He and his partner posed with his folded up tea table. When opened, the table top rotates. If I had a patio, I'd fill it with his clean,light, white, airy furniture.

Lynda Mounts' friend Diane Eichner (pictured in red in the middle) is involved in the Smithsonian Craft Show set for April 14-17, 2011. As we were talking to Diane, my friend Laurie Feinberg and her husband Jerry from Washington, D.C. stopped by to chat (pictured far right). They are serious fine craft hounds, very familiar with the artisans and their work, and quizzed Diane about the panel for the Smithsonian's juried show.

Diane's sister (wearing her newly-purchased Ignatius broad brimmed straw hat) and her friend joined me and Valerie and Lynda for one last photo before we headed home.

Valerie adds: Jean has neglected to mention it, so let me point out her new glasses, the dark mystery woman version of Philip Johnson's iconic spectacles (shown here with Mr. Johnson and a model of his AT&T Building, inspired by a Chippendale chair). She found them on a recent trip we took to Fabulous Fanny's, and waited with fevered anticipation for days while the lenses were fitted. Now when we visit Johnson's Glass House next spring, Jean will be ready to pay homage to the master in an appropriate manner.

I used to work in Johnson's Lipstick Building, where he had an office, and more than once found myself in the elevator with him. Finally I gathered up the courage to ask him "And how are you today?" He astonished me by answering he didn't know yet. I had to challenge that (politely), unable to imagine how anyone could not know how they were, and Johnson explained to me that it was too early in the day to tell. How refreshing! The Lipstick Building, in crowded midtown Manhattan, is impossible to photograph in such a way as to explain the origin of its name, so here is a picture of the model, which clarifies everything.

The Pier Antiques Show and Fashion Alley 11/13/10:

We rounded out the week at Stella Show's Antique Show at Pier 91 on 55th Street and the West Side Highway. Staged in a massive steamship pier on the Hudson River, the show is enormous and is divided into sections devoted to Classic and Formal Antiques (Asian antiques, clocks and watches, porcelains, Tiffany silver and lamps, bronzes), Americana and Decorative Arts (quilts, folk art, garden antiques, maps and pottery), Modern (Art Deco, Moderne, 1940s, 50s, Fiestaware, Radios). We tend to focus first on Fashion Alley, which features vintage clothing, shoes, eyewear and our favorite, hats!

Valerie says: We saw Jean Stella, who runs the production, at the entrance, and soon after we were stopped by the Stella Management video team, and were interviewed for their website. So keep an eye out for us!

Our first stop was at Carol Weiss's booth (photos here and above, with Jean and Off Broadway doyenne, Lynn Dell). Carol was wearing a whole new set of interesting clothes, including her dealer uniform, including a smock shirt with huge pockets. Jean immediately zeroed in on a set of macabre wooden children's blocks she had, telling, shall we say, a grim fairy tale. At the same time, we ran into Julie Dale, proprietor of the ever mouth-watering Julie Artisans Gallery on Madison Avenue. Julie's friend (in the red coat which you really need to see from shoulder to ankle to appreciate), was wearing fabulous Clic reading glasses, the left and right lenses of which are joined at the nose magnetically, and at the back by soft tubing, so they can lie around your neck on your collar bone when you don't need them.

Here we are with our friend, designer Tim John.

Here is one of our favorite vendors who gets into the spirit, Lulu of the eponymous "Lulu's Vintage Lovelies". For those of us of a certain age, Lulu's hat brings to mind the old cigarette commercial in which a bellboy (off stage) sings out "CALL FOR PHILIP MOOOOOOOORRIIIIIIISS".

Valerie says: This coat was like a million little neon lights, squished between countless other vintage clothes on a rack. But in the little space it had, it flashed its presence as well as any Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I fell in love with it immediately. It's composed of two-toned faux fur circles on a black net foundation, with the net showing through as part of the design. I thought I'd look like a pimp in it (and I suppose if I were a guy, that's exactly what I'd look like), but I was quite suprised by how fabulous it looked on, and very taken with it. If we were playing the 'price is no object' game, this is what I would have taken away with me. Not sure where I'd wear it, but I'd think of something. Jean says: Valerie "pimped out" was a sight to behold. This coat was a showstopper ... as was her new Ignatius hat. She looked fabulous and was just tall enough to carry it all off.

Oh, dear. Look at that expanse of flesh between where the booties leave off and the pants begin. How tacky is that? We passed by this arm chair with the illusion of speed, and I just HAD to sit in it. I was stunned at how buttery soft the leather was, how I just SANK into it, and how it conformed to me and cradled me completely. LOTS of really handsome chairs at the show, but in so many comfort took a back seat, so to speak. This chair was made not just to be sat in, but luxuriated in. The odd look on my face should be read "OMG - I can't believe how comfortable this is", with a parenthetical "Who would have believed that something so visually powerful could also be so utilitarian and so physically welcoming?" Folks, you have to also take a look at the lights on the chair, taken from motorcycle fenders. And they work! So you can read by fenderlight. Or just sit in the dark, feeling very, very cool in chrome and black leather.

New York jewelry dealer Sheila Strong (Fool's Gold) had on these three gorgeously graphic bakelite bangles that I positively drooled over. The red one in the center is actually the outline of a face. (Valerie echoes: Yes, they were marvelous!)

The Pier space was enormous. I felt like I only saw about one third of the vendors. We got a glimpse of Lynn Yeager shortly after we first arrived but she was in such a rush, we never even got the opportunity to take her picture. Iris Apfel was supposedly there, but we never even got a peek. Jetiques had this fabulous wicker top hat from the former Yugoslavia that REALLY tempted me. Unfortunately, this is the one that got away. (That is, says Valerie, Jean invoked her inner husband: "Nothing comes into the house unless something else goes out.")

Luckily, this pair of antique Japanese geta didn't get away! (Catch the clever word play???) I bought these little orange wooden sandals as a surprise Christmas gift for my grand-niece who lives in Pittsburgh. She takes ballet lessons, loves pink tutus and getting dressed up, so I hope she loves them one-tenth as much as I do (and doesn't break her ankle wearing them)!

Valerie says: Jean spent a gazillion dollars in Philly, so she was on her best behavior at the Pier Show, and the geta were her only purchase. (Jean says: We insert little comments like this from time to time to see if my husband ever reads the blog!) We both drooled over a vintage Mexican silver bracelet in the form of an articulated prawn. Big as a real prawn, if ten times the weight. A true conversation piece, one wonders how long it took the designer to perfect it. The tail joined the head by means of a masterful clasp. SO sorry we didn't take a picture of it!

As for me, I bought yet another hat (above) - an unlabeled lush gray velvet vintage number with a soft bristle brush of white feathers all around the brim. As soon as I got it home, I put it in a ziploc plastic bag and then in the freezer, where it will live for a month, just in case. I'm very happy with it, but now that I have close to a million hats that fight for closet space, I had to ask myself the question they're apparently all asking on Twitter: WTF? How many hats does one woman need? I think the answer might be that although it's hard for me to find pants and suits and skirts because of my unconventional size, it's never hard for me to find a hat that fits, and that alone can revitalize an outfit. I suspect that if I could always count on finding, say, a Thierry Mugler suit to fit my wallet AND my waist line, I'd have far fewer hats. Not sure how to test that theory...

Home Economics Lesson / Post Script
Valerie says: The next day I went to the One of a Kind Show (a neat craft/gift show) on my own, while Jean was out getting exercise. The outfits we wore at the Pier Show went over really well, so I decided to practice home economics, and wore exactly the same thing the next day. As long as the venue is entirely different, I can get more mileage out of these clothes, I thought. So for those of you who think we wear something different every day - we don't. Although we don't tend to talk about it...

Valerie is wearing:
At gallery gen: the famous basket hat, Ungaro red and black velveteen jacket from a thrift shop, black bustier from H&M, black linen skirt by Ilaria (from Century 21), and Frye boots from a consignment shop.

In Philly:
Vintage gray fur felt hat with black and gray pyramid pin by Danielle Gori-Montanelli (who sells at the Show every year), black cotton/lycra H&M camisole, gray boiled (?) wool shirt with a million snaps by Jill Anderson, Oska gray corduroy pants with contoured legs, and Blowfish booties. Black neckpiece.

At the Pier Show: newly minted black felt hat by Ignatius, purchased at the Philadelphia Craft Show, gray wool jacket by Barami, black H&M bustier, Jones NY pants, bracelets from Matsuya Ginza, toeless and heelless booties by Blowfish. Black neckpiece, about which more in a forthcoming post.

Jean is wearing:
At gallery gen: Aiaka Nishi black and white orb earrings from Red on East 7th Street; Ronan Chen skirt, Smartwool turtle neck, Trippen boots from A Uno on West Broadway in Tribeca, Moss Lipow eyeglasses.

At the Philadelphia Craft Show: vintage black felt hat, black Kyodan peplum jacket, Brigitte harem pants, vintage bakelite black and white dice earrings, charm necklace, black patent customized Dansko clogs, black bakelite and resin rings, round matte black "Mr. Moto" Revue "Oath" Italian sunglasses.

At the Pier Show: vintage black straw cap with bakelite mah jong tile pin, black blazer by Bora, black harm pant-skirt by Brigitte, vintage black and red plastic earrings, red bakelite and resin rings, black patent customized Dansko clogs and Revue sunglasses.

Recent first-time visits from Ghana, Tasmania and Lapland. We know, we know, Tasmania and Lapland are not countries. But they are unique entities unto themselves, so we're tipping our hats to them anyway. Thanks to all three places for visiting!

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