Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Sanctuary For the Human Spirit - Wharton Esherick Museum

Tucked away in the hillside around Paoli, Pa., The Wharton Esherick Museum is a treasure chest of  inspiring artistic masterpieces.  Wharton Esherick began his career as a artist and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In was customary for artists to carve the frames for their oils so Esherick acquired a carving set and soon found himself fascinated with working with wood.  As Esherick became known for his carvings, sculptures and furniture, he became less involved with his painting career. This evolutionary process creates  a very inspirational journey when you tour this prolific artist's studio/residence that is now a museum.

The Studio began as the stone portion in 1926, the same year his last child, Peter, was born. In 1940 he constructed a two-story frame addition that included a dining room and a bedroom for Peter.  The spiral staircase pictured on the left was created to go from the dining room into the bedroom above.

Around 1965, he added the curved tower which he called the silo. Withn the silo he added a kitchen with a curved cherry countertop and a undermount copper sink with an indent for a cutting board. I found the whimsical nature of the hand carved utensils and a carved face as a pan handles an absolute delight.

As a kitchen designer there are two elements in the kitchen that really stood out.   In 2014 when I attended the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Vegas. Mick deGiuilio was there introducing his fabulous multi-tiered undermount stainless steel sink with grooves that allow for a cutting board or a utensil tray. Designers loved it for its versatility and its functionality. And they knew it would allow working in the kitchen to be less time consuming for their clients.  I had absolutely no idea that in 1965, Wharton Esherick had designed what I would consider the prototype to that sink. I looked at that copper sink with its insert and thought 'WOW".

The second eye-catcher was the base cabinet with a light in it.
Now, the light isn't up to our standards today for cabinet lighting, but in 1965 this was not something that was being done.  One of the most pronounced design features when  I was at the EuroCucina Design Show in Milan, a few years ago, was lighting in all drawers and base cabinets in the kitchen.  So again, Wharton was ahead of his time.

There is so much more I can say about this prolific artist. The museum is filled with beauty in sculpted forms - such as the Oblivian,  unique furniture, oil paintings, and hand relief carvings.  If you would like to book a tour please contact them via their website:

If you go, enjoy the journey.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Think, Build, Live

A lively crowd attended the Garden State Woodworkers Show in Somerset, New Jersey last week.  The theme of the show was Think, Build, Live and evidence of those elements were enthusiastically displayed throughout the day. Log cylindering and sawmill equipment demonstrations held outside the convention doors created a crowd attraction before entering the woodworking world within.

Woodworkers from around the country were at the event to share tips and learn the secrets of their trade from the show exhibitors. It was  a wonderful display of creativity as well as an exceptional display of lumber and tools of the trade.  As an amateur wood carver and scroller,  I was  inspired by the workshops I attended and very much enthralled by conversations with the various vendors and other attendees. It was a great place to network with DIY trades women and men, and with other small business owners. 

As a media artist I've dabbled in artistic elements that can be created through hand carving, using a scroll saw or using a band saw. A scroll saw is necessary for intricate work.  It can create an art form such as the little animals in this picture.

A band saw is used to cut curves even in thick lumber but it can't do the intricate work, so depending on the project, both tools may be required. The small boxes in the picture on the left is an example of a piece of art created using the band saw.

I have a few projects in mind that require both of these tools so I am eager to get back to my studio.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What About Those Old Photos?

When I was a kid riding the trolley in Philadelphia, I would often miss my stop because the person sitting beside me was telling me a good story.  I am easily fascinated by people's stories and even today one of the best parts about being a writer and a designer is talking to people and hearing their stories.
Project Picture Board - Two Kitchens

 It takes at least five working sessions with a client before the kitchen/bath design phase of a remodeling project is complete.  As those design details are being worked out, I am often privileged to be a part of their family conversations. I get to see old pictures and hear about their best vacations or the Dad that was a war hero.  And almost always the topic of clutter comes up.  Clutter is a real issue.  I have helped several clients go through cabinets and closets to dispose of items they never use.   But, the hardest part of clutter for many people is often those old pictures that tell the history of who they are and how they have come to be the persons that they are today.

After I complete a remodel I create a project board using before and after pictures of the remodeled space. And years later when I look at the board I can still place myself at their table and relive the telling of those family stories.  Those stories are priceless, yet, there is a very good chance those old photos will be thrown away and their history erased from memory.  This reality started me on the path to help people preserve their stories.

Getting rid of photos is very difficult but you don't need every photo to keep a memory alive.  You need to keep the most heartfelt ones, the ones that grab the person's personality and you need to join it with other symbols of that person's life to make the story complete.

In my story making plaques I use wood plaques and work with old photos.There is a risk in working with aged photos, especially glossy ones.  The sealers could streak it a little too much or may highlight any discoloration present in the photo.  I tend to take a picture of it before I work with it.  Many multi-media artist will reproduce the photo onto cardstock and work with that way rather than the glossy photo.  But I use the photo and keep the pic on digital incase I have to reproduce it for some reason during the process.  However, since de-cluttering is a part of this endeavor, the only physical photo is on the plaque.  I work on solid wood so it can be hung on a wall or it can sit on a shelf. The sides of the wood are painted black.

I am currently working on a demo for my P.E.O Sisterhood.  And probably in the fall I'll have a  workshop on the tools necessary and the preparation involved in creating wooden wall plaques. Plaques are more time-consuming then you may think.

The plaque on the right is about my beautiful sister Mary who died a few years ago.  That's my favorite picture of her as a young girl.  She was my oldest sister and was born in Cape May so I put the Cape May light house on there along with other references that speak to her life.  She was pretty amazing.

If you have photos where you just want to highlight the picture then just painting or distressing the wood as I did on the left may be what you want to do.  I don't like frames so I have a variety of ways to display my photos.

Other methods for preserving memories are scrapbooking using acid free products and creating a board as a poster then protect it with plexiglass.  I have used this method with old photos. Another way is to just put everything on digital software. 

Whatever method you choose, preserving memories is always worth the effort.  Enjoy the process.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

The DIY Designer - Insulating the Attic

As a do-it-yourself designer I often work with clients who also want to do the work themselves.  They sometimes just need someone to work out the design, help with product selection, guide them in the process and keep the project moving.  Although I am predominantly a  kitchen and bath designer, I get a variety of questions from my DIY clients.  Questions range from How can I get more use out of this spare room? and How do I paint my kitchen cabinets? to How can I get rid of  all this clutter? and How can I soundproof this room?.  Last year one of my clients asked me about insulation.  From a builders presentation at KBIS, I had some current knowledge about insulation but  I still asked a builder friend of mine before passing on any information to my client.  Well, Saturday morning we worked on blowing insulation into the attic, so I got to use some of my own advise and leaned more in the process. It took about an hour and a half.

While Al was in the attic with the hose blowing in the insulation, I was breaking up the cellulose insulation and filling up the blower.  It's messy work, hard on the back but I wouldn't classify it as hard work.

When we built our house sometime ago we used panel insulation.  It was a bit overwhelming because bits of fiberglass would cling to my clothing and would find their way to any exposed skin I had forgotten to cover up.  But this process was a whole lot easier.

Setting the blower up was easy but you have to do it correctly for it to work efficiently.  The bigger  gauge(wire) and the shorter cord seemed to work better.  The blower will shut itself off from time to time if something isn't connected correctly.  Or it may not start at all, depending on what is wrong with the connection.

Once you are up and running, the process is simple - just keep everything moving and never put your hand down in the blower. You will have to stop from time to time though to sweep up the fibers that got away and to drink some water.

The blower works better when you break up the cellulose into small pieces, the bigger chunks take the blower longer to process.  This fiber material is not the old fiberglass material, this is an 85% recycled material made from newspapers that includes a fire retardant.  However, you still need to wear protective clothing - gloves and a breathing mask for sure. You do not want to breath in this stuff.  I don't think I would do this if I had asthma or any respiratory issue.   As with any project you endeavor always read all the instructions first.

So, that project is done.  Onto the next one.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends and clients.

I have always preferred making my own cards to buying them, but it's such a time consuming process that I rarely have the time.  This year I made time for it.

Thank you for all your support over the years.