The brilliant problem solving futuristic innovation of young international designers rests comfortably on the knowledge and style of classical harmony and balance, and still the love of natural materials and skill in the crafts delights all. My next project is beginning to emerge at the drawing board.
Last year I had the great honor to care for one of Ringo’s original sculptures, namely the Peace and love hand. It is eight feet tall and weighs 1800 pounds of bronze. We wish for peace and love in the world! This is now placed in Ringo’s garden and we have the master copy ready to duplicate on request.
Following that, we made him a very special coffee table to use in his main study room.
This is a massive slab of oak set upon two super heavy pieces of I beams. It looks remarkably simple, but I assure you, it is complicated to accommodate wood movement and other forces. We fumed the wood with ammonia which gives oak such a remarkable color, and the gorgeous texture created by chisel only with no sanding, is rubbed and burnished with beeswax. The table seems to have a life of its own.
When I was on the hunt for the magnificent board of oak, I saw a collection of walnut burls on the ground in the lumber yard. I sent a quick text photo to Ringo, and he told me to get two to do something with. I sculpted two of them to be extremely comfortable stools, chair height, and sculpted with the form of the tractor seat. This shape for a chair is known to be the most comfortable. They certainly are and Ringo and everyone who sits in them loves them. The incredible grain and figure of walnut burl shows beautifully in this free form sculpture, and the French polish created a remarkable extra level of luxury.
Anything is possible when you have the worlds finest team of craft people. Masters of the arts of wood carving, carpentry and joinery, masters of marble sculpture and inlay, and masters of ceramics Sculpture and glazing all collaborated with me on this one. A gazebo as a focal point in a magnificent garden
overlooking the golf course of the Los Angeles country club. It is a stopping point on a walkway by a cascading steam, overlooking a pond.
This is a little quote about Gazebos from Wikipedea.
The gazebo is very common in landscape architecture. Gazebos include pagodas, pavilions, kiosks, alhambras, belvederes, follies, pergolas and rotundas. Such structures are popular in warm and sunny climates. They are in the literature of China, Persia and many other classical civilizations, going back to several millennia. The word origin is unknown and has no cognates in other European languages. False etymologies are proposed, such as the French Que c’est beau (“How beautiful”) and the Macaronic Latin gazebo (“I shall gaze”). L.L. Bacon proposed a derivation from Casbah a Muslim quarter around the citadel in Algiers. W. Sayers proposed Hispano-Arabic qushaybah, in a poem by Cordoban poet Ibn Quzman (d. 1160).
All great landscapes must have vistas and destinations for repose. All great landscape must have special features that entice with beauty and intrigue and cause the visitor to wander around and appreciate the plants and the tress on the way, and then have places to sit and enjoy the view.
The Gazebo serves just that function. It could be a mini Tudor cottage with attached roof, It could be a thai pagoda or a sunken grotto with rococo caves. Gazebo, some say its the shakespearean word for the Videbo. The latin word for the the thing to gaze at. These are the places that are designed to take the person out of the tomfooleries of life and into a state of playful fulfillment of the senses. These are garden temples for enjoyment only. Some are follies, all of them are an art form of architecture.
Inside we would duplicated the fantastic Guanyin figure that is the center piece of the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas City. The carvers went there to study that masterpiece from the Song Dynasty, and then using the most even grain of woods called Jelutong, they carved this piece in full 3 dimensional format over a period of several months. As a background to the figure, we produced a sculpted landscape mural.
Within the design of an ancient canoe prow there lies the essential thought of the people for whom it was created. The curves and frills of the surfing waves inspired those artists from Oceania of South East Asia. From the same region the stopper for a magic potion bottle portrays an entire aesthetic of communion with a spirit world. Earrings of worked gold from the island tribes portray shapes that have evolved beyond the reach of Euclidean geometry and European obsession with Realism. The art of the ancestors of the Asian southern sea are freed of such restrictions, and exude the playful humor of a life in a long house village in the jungled islands. The freedom in art of this region, left me with a deep sense of inspiration. I made doors and screens and furniture with this mood which I call the Jataka collection, a word borrowed from the sanskrit, meaning tales of past lives. I used papyrus, and burnished pine with wax finish, which kept the island feel, and yet fitted perfectly with modern style. All the woodwork in this collection is brushed and burnished with a raised grain texture and patinated finish. There are more pieces to come.
After reading the extraordinary book “the Ragged Edged of the World’ by Eugene Linden, which portrays the wonderment of the still unspoiled yet endangered area of the Ndoki jungle teeming with wildlife in the Congo basin, I am inspired to post this about one of my earlier collections of furniture relating to the art of Africa.
In 1992, when I read about the Perls collection of African art, immortalized in the book “The Royal Art of Benin” and now at the New York Metropolitan Museum, I was astonished at the intricacy, the gorgeous dignity and power of the artwork that was recovered from the devastation wrought by the British upon the ancient city of Benin in 1897. Before that time , the people of Benin had built the giant city in the jungle stronghold over several centuries, beginning in 800 c.e . Although Benin perpetrated slavery, they were remarkably civilized with a police force, fire brigade, and a royal court fashioned of exquisite timber, tipped with intricate bronze finials and ornament. Their city was larger in size than Venice at the time, and their people were greatly renowned for metallurgy and casting in bronze. After the British set fire to the great city, tore down the walls, and scattered the people far and wide, they brought the surviving bronze and other artifacts back to Britain. This vast treasure filtered into private collections around the world. The raw and bold abstract impressionism that is the art of Africa in general became an important inspiration for the Picasso generation. For me, it became the inspiration to make a unique collection of furniture and fixtures. I tried to capture the essence of that dignity and power that I saw in African art in a subtle way. Perhaps to honor the artists of that ancient tribe and produce a level of luxury and intrigue fit for a king today. Here you can see the reference to actual pieces from the Met, a few of my own sketches inspired by them and my collection of handcrafted furniture called the Oba collection.
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One event very close to my heart happened recently. Someone who had stayed at the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, inquired if it was feasible to make one small pair of cabinet doors in the Anasazi blanket style. for a home in the South of France. Instead of being asked to design the next giant project, we were being asked to produce one tiny piece from the old catalog! I was thrilled about this. We made them to order with a very short turn around, sculpted new hardware cast in bronze, and shipped them off to France! Almost immediately our dear new customer requested more items from our catalog, and a small collection is in the works. So we really can do the massive all inclusive projects, but also with great joy we can make one unique item. I love to imbue the same sense of style and care into the smallest order or the largest.
They ordered 3 pieces from some of my favorite early creations.
When I first came to New Mexico, I quickly discovered the vast wealth of the art of the First Nation Americans. I studied the Navajo blankets, Lakota costumes, Aztec headdresses etc. and felt this was a resource as important to the world of design as the Egyptian archeological finds were in the 1920’s. In the first picture you can see the effect of Egyptomania, and how it informed the entire art deco movement.
Egyptian art inspired several generations and freed modern design from the constraints of the Victorian era.
Wonderful jewelry, costumes, furniture and architecture flowed from the many artists during the period and became extremely popular in North America.
I wondered if the same force would drive the Southwest art into the mainstream.
These Doors styled after blankets were created for the Inn of the Anasazi. Santa Fe. With a special hand planed textured surface the wood took on the feel of textile.
With a similar admiration for Native American art, I made doors that looked like blankets, to emulate the Anasazi who hung blankets over their doorways, and beds adorned with carved headdress to emulate the high level of ritual art. This led me to produce a whole collection of furnishings and details that played off this vast resource. This was my first homage to the wonderful artists of the First nation. From the Pacific North to the Southwest, I found the common thread of playfulness with outline, eye dazzling color, and deeply impressionistic symbolism.
A cabinet styled after the Haida tribe ornamental shield.
This corner display cabinet is derived from the art of the Hopi, who were true abstract impressionists.
The central motif is of the eagle, as if looking from the eye of the eagle.
From the Northern forests, across the central plains and the southwest deserts, the art of the First Nation people formed a great inspiration for me.
I formed a company to preserve and pursue the decorative arts. I created a system to train apprentices up to the level of master crafters, and sought out accomplished masters who are the best in their field.
Somehow I always had a profound respect for all natural materials and I admired the dignity of the artisan, his manner of developing skill and pride in execution of the work.
I inherited the tools of my Great Grandfather George Daglass, who was one of the principle craftsmen in the building of London’s great late gothic train terminal at King Cross/St. Pancras.
There is a beauty in hand worked things of all kinds. This was instilled in me by the late Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who was still adding to his masterpiece of Portmeirion Village in Wales when he hired me as his assistant. He was 90, I was 19.
Sir Clough was an eccentric, fantastic old man, very enthusiastic about his ideas. He constantly exclaimed things like, “Vistas, cleverly arranged direct the viewers sensibilities all the way to the horizon” Once he pointed to the dry stacked stone walls around the fields of Wales he said” See how handsome stonework is, resting in the weight of its own gravity” When he was explaining Vistas, he pointed down the great tree lined avenue in his garden of Plas Brondanau. He spread his arms in satisfaction and simply say “Look… how we frame the view of Cnicht”. This was one of the mountains in the Snowdonia range.
I looked up to this great master with enormous reverence. I think Sir Clough taught me how to see, and appreciate the whole composition of buildings and gardens. Later when I inherited the farm in Tuscany, I had to ask for his blessing to leave him and go operate a farm in Italy, with great joy and understanding Sir Clough said “Italy! the history of architecture will be before your eyes”
It was Italy that a deep connection with artists through the ages grew in me, and where I began a lifelong study of architecture and the decorative arts. From the magnificent composition of all the classical buildings, and the incredible detailed work in marble, wood, metal, glass, I knew I was looking at some of the great achievements of human endeavor, and I determined to honor the traditions of the crafts, and keep this alive in the world.
After many adventures and much study of different cultures and styles, years later I settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and opened my business designing and making doors and furniture. This grew very quickly into a major operation with projects all over the world. The arts and crafts are alive and well.