Four years ago this month, the architect, designer and academic, Professor Michael Graves died aged 80.
In Britain, he’s probably most famous for his iconic bird whistle kettle, made by Alessi with his signature mid blue handle and maroon red bird flying out of the spout. Designed in 1985, this has consistently been one of Alessi’s best selling products for thirty years,. He had become Professor of Architecture at Princeton university in 1962 and held that post until 2001 and last year was honoured when the Michael Graves School of Architecture was established at Kean University in New Jersey. Continue reading →
You may remember seeing a film clip of a young man running across a road and violently pushing an elderly lady in the back and forcing her to the ground. At first you think she is being mugged but then the camera pans upwards and you see a grand piano falling from a crane. Far from attacking her, the young man is saving her life. Not only does this demonstrate that things are not always what they seem, this is also a clear example of how we want to see the bigger picture beyond the frame. It also gives us the opportunity to highlight specific details.
Much of life today is seen solely within a frame. Pictures, photos and mirrors are obvious examples and televisions, cinema and computer screens, tablets, and smart phones all show us the world within a clearly defined frame. There are now so many instrument panels, dashboards, video entry systems and, of course, cameras that we can barely escape from seeing the world unframed.
A couple of months ago we all shared in the celebration of Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday. She became a national treasure during the war. Her heart felt songs brought hope and joy to the military at home and abroad as well as civilians in Britain pondering the fate of their loved ones on stationed overseas.
She retained her enormous popularity with records, on radio and in concerts and eventually fronted her own television shows, airing initially in 1969. By that time, she was a true matriarchal English icon, loved, respected and admired.
In her programmes, she sang alongside or sat upon a high bar stool. This was also an international icon of modern furniture design, created by Harry Bertoia in 1952 and still manufactured today by Knoll International. Continue reading →
Once in a blue moon, a really good piece of furniture design hits you in the face. It’s even more rarely that you come across a truly great piece of design. The “CH22” lounge chair designed by Hans Wegner is one of these “greats.”
Back in 1950, when the chair was originally designed, Hans Wegner was already established as both a renowned furniture designer and a master cabinet maker and craftsman in wood. He had started to work with Arne Jacobsen in 1938, designing furniture for the City Hall in Aarhus and during the 1940s, he also worked with many other leading Danish architects and manufacturers. He set out to create a Continue reading →
Quite soon after The Wall Street Crash, in 1929, Herman Kamen was recruited by Walt Disney to find new ways to promote Mickey Mouse merchandise. By 1932, he had hatched a plan with Ingersoll to produce a Mickey Mouse wrist watch which was launched at The Chicago Exposition entitled “A Century of Progress.” At the same time, queues of thousands lined up outside Macy’s Department Store in New York and within two years, over 2 1/2 million watches had been sold.
This not only saved the Ingersoll Watch Company from financial ruin but also established a new marketing phenomenon using cartoon characters (and later human celebrities) to decorate or endorse every day, household products. The relationship with Disney lasted for almost forty years and in 1957, after several design changes, the 25 millionth Mickey Mouse watch was presented to Walt Disney himself.
The Mickey Mouse watch was also the first novelty watch in the world and a year after its launch, a British version was introduced in 1934. It was virtually identical to its American counterpart but inscribed on the face “FOREIGN MADE” because it was manufactured in the U.S.A.Originally costing 15/- (75p), this is now a highly collectable, much sought after Continue reading →