Monday, March 26, 2012

A Few Thoughts about what we are trying to do with this Blog.....

I am trying to learn about the furniture designers of the 20th century.  Lewis first became aware of the furniture designers of the 20th century while he was studying at VA Tech.  He spent time in the Architecture Library looking at and studying the Architect Designers of the 20th Century.  He is very lucky in that he has a photographic memory.  Once he has seen a piece, he files it away somewhere in his brain, and is able to pull it up when he sees a piece that is similar.  His favorite class at Tech was the History of Art in the 20th century.  He majored in Art and Design at tech.  I on the other hand went to Old Dominion College in the 60's.  I also majored in Art History and Studio Art.  But alas I knew very little of the designer Architects of the period with the exception of Frank Lloyd Wright.

We felt the need for information about these exceptional men who were on the frontiers of design in the early modernist period.  Lewis who studies all the time would mention a name of an artist, designer and I would not know anything about the person mentioned.  After all we are in business as partners,  I should be able to keep up.  So basically I've been educating myself and trying to put some good information out there for you to read up on these remarkable men, and a few women, that have made such marks in Architecture and Modern Design.  Every time I write a blog about another 20th century designer, I am learning something and I hope that you can benefit from this too!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ben Seibel Designer

A 1950's Articulated Floor Lamp by Ben Seibel

I'm Leigh Trimble, co/owner of Lewis Trimble Decorative Art and Antiques and Lewis' Mother.   We are accustom to getting all sorts of varied comments from the people who come into our shop.  Some people don't understand the vintage design pieces.  Others just love them and sometimes people say that they remind them of things that saw when they were younger.  We usually take comments with a grain of salt.  One couple came in yesterday and kept saying that our things reminded them of things that were in their uncles home.  Finally Lewis said who was your uncle?  They said Ben Seibel.  Wow, Lewis was impressed.  Ben Seibel the Designer?

Pair of Chairs by Ben Seibel 1956

Ben Seibel, 1918-1985,  was born in New Jersey a brought up by a single Mom, who made a living by sewing and designing jewelry.  The family moved to New York City where their Mother opened a shop selling her  designs.  Ben inherited her creativity. He began his studies at Columbia studying Architecture. Served time in the Air Force during World War II, came home and resumed his studies at Pratt.

Ben Seibel floor lamp 1950
Best know for his bookends that appear as miniature sculptures, he also designed china, flat ware, lamps, and furniture.  He was comfortable working with metal.  In his furniture designs he often combined steel, metal mesh and wood in his upholstered pieces.  This gave him the ability to exaggerate the lines of his designs.  He designed tables using birch plywood tops and wrought iron legs at very affordable pricing. 

 "We've been in a functional design straitjacket for too long...I think we're ready to stop making furniture just because it's practical and has six tea trays in its belly.  From now on I think furniture is just going to be something good to look at." Stated Ben Seibel in 1956.

The Enchantress Chair 1956

Friday, March 23, 2012

A View to the Future

Joe Colombo sitting in his Elda Chair

Joe (Cesare) Colombo 1930-1971 was fascinated with the future and how people would live in the up coming modern world.  Having grown up in the !950's and 1960's myself, I noticed the fascination for things of the future.  I remember reading about what the world should look like 50 years or so into the future. Many people played around with the idea of the future, but Joe Colombo actually took the future design seriously.

Roll arm chair and foot stool 1962

Joe Colombo first trained as an artist.  He was a painter and a sculptor,  joining the Movimento Nucleare, but quickly switched to design after creating the ceiling for the Milan Jazz Club in 1953.  Before going into design while still an artist, he started playing around with sketches of Futuristic "nuclear city".  Once into designing he made it his business to do something about bringing that futuristic ideal into being.  He made great steps in developing completely unique pieces of furniture to fit into his idea of future modular compact living. He experimented with all the new materials of the 20th century.  In 1963 he designed and produced the largest fiber glass molded chair ( the elda).  He developed the first stackable plastic chairs (the universale chair1965).  He loved bold, folding, curvaceous forms and disdained straight and sharp lines.

Colombo's Boby Trolley

He saw himself as "creator of the environment of the future". He predicted that our life styles would change allowing us to study at home and carry on our activities there.  It is fascinating  how intuitive his imagination was. The internet has allowed this to happen.  He designed everything from outdoor lights that doubled as seats to serving trays fitted for airplane travel. He designed  "habitat of the future" in which  an entire house was contained in a series of mobile elements. .His design career was cut off short with his untimely death on his 41st birthday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not all Mid Century Furniture is the Same

Having lived through the 1950's and 1960's and seen some of the "modern" furniture of the time.  I was a little taken back when Lewis said originally that he wanted to change our focus to the 1930's through 1970's designer furniture.  The first  thing that popped into my head was some of the massed produced furniture of that period by Drexel, Lane, and some of the less expensive danish furniture.  I was not aware of the finer furniture of the same period.

The finer pieces particularly those designed by architects were made with some of the same precision and attention to detail as the finer pieces of the 18th and 19th century.  These were not made for the masses.  Sometimes in order to have the appropiate furniture for a particular early modern building, the architect would design everything that was to go into it.  Frank Lloyd Wright was known for doing this here in America and Gio Ponti did this in Italy.  This makes a lot of sense when you consider the use of clean lines and materials in the building. this is not to say that all mass produced furniture of that period was cheaply made. Widdicomb, Dunbar, and Henredon produced high quality designer furniture of the period.

The mistaken opinion is that some of the furniture found in you local thrift shop, or in grandmother's attic is  what mid century is all about.  Occasionally, yes, you might walk into a thrift shop and find a treasure waiting for you, but the odds are against you doing this.  If this were true you would not be seeing the auction results that designer furniture of the mi Twentieth century brings.

Auction prices on pieces by Paolo Buffa, Italian architect designer, have sky rocketed in the last few years.  We have seen sets of dining chairs go from a modest six to eight thousand for a set of eight, recently sell for in excess of $60,000. 

Still we have people, who are not educated in the field, thinking that we are running a used furniture store.  These are people who can not discern the difference in quality, or those who want a piece that is out of their range financially, and can not understand why a certain piece is priced the way it is.  Some people will say, "wow, you have a lot of retro furniture". This is a mistake.  Retro refers to pieces that resemble pieces from the past. In the case of furniture, it implies that pieces are currently produced  and look similar to those made years ago. You can have a retro hair do, but the same hair do in a photo from the 1960's was of the period and not retro.  So much for my pet peeves.  I hope this helps with a better understanding of architect designed pieces done mid twentieth century.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Proper Behavior at Antique Shops and Shows

We just had an incident in our shop, where a woman stepped on a piece of furniture pushing her way through an area that was congested.  When caught in the act she immediately denied her action, and then backed herself up by saying that it didn't look expensive. Finally she put up such a fuss that we asked her to leave.....and she still fussed.

French Modernist Bench in Madagascar Ebony 1960's
This confrontation led us to discuss manners in Antique shops and shows.  A shop is not public property.  No matter how the shop appears, the merchants that own the shop, work hard to find the pieces and love those pieces.  They don't want people to belittle their items.  They have both their money and time invested in the items in their shop. It is not up to the customer to make any value judgement unless they are buying the piece.

It is rude for a group of people entering a shop to make light or fun of the pieces that they clearly do not understand.  If you think the pieces are over priced (out of your price range) do not state as much to the dealer. Do not  pick apart an item and then turn around and ask the best price on same item.

Shop owners deserve as much consideration as anyone else.  If a customer really wants an item and can not afford it most dealers will be willing to work something out with them.  We have several people using a lay away style of payment.  It is so much better to say, "I really love your things, I wish I could afford them."
If you do not understand a piece do not make fun of it.

Talking on a cell phone the whole time one is in a shop is very rude.  The people behind the counter do not want to hear your side of the conversation.  Unless it is really juicy.  Step outside to finish the call.  There is a Blog talking about this in more detail.

We wanted to share this with you so you won't become one of them.  I can think back with real embarrassment on my own mistakes as a young person.  After a blunder my Dad, who was an art dealer, took me aside and set me straight about opening my mouth and saying something I should not have said.  Fortunately I was very young now, I am older and much wiser.  We assume that adults have this training, but alas it is not always true.


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