Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jame Victore's Dinner Series Is Incredible

Do you have an extra $6,000? I don't, but if I did, I know what I would do with it. I would sign up for James Victore's couragefaithandcocktails series. The idea is this: spend 5 days working in the studio with renowned designer James Victore, then have a private dinner created exclusively by a famous chef, and at that dinner, be joined by some of the greatest design thinkers in the world, like Debbie Millman and Hillman Curtis. Sounds too good to be true right?

From Victore:

This is basically the craziest idea I could come up with. My intention with the Dinner Series is to create the most hot-headed, creative atmosphere possible—a party that lasts 5 days—a total immersion in the highest level of inspiration calling on our senses of art, literature, humor, poetry and humanity. It’s a gathering of people, each with a small spark, that when brought together will create a bonfire to be seen miles away. I can’t possibly tell you every detail about what will happen on this sweat and wine-fueled week— this will be the first, who knows what will happen. The party will be made by you—your energy, your experiences and all that you are willing to bring to the table.

It's really happening this October in New York City. A great idea that is actually being put in reality - sounds alot like Victore's work doesn't it?

Register (or at least check it out) here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hero Hillman Curtis Brings The Inspiration

We all seem to find mentors for our creativity at different points in our lives, people that enter at just the right moment and point you in a new direction or give you a boost when you need it. When I was younger and first learning about design, I found Hillman Curtis' book MTIV. This book proved vital to me, emboldening me to feel like I could do this work, this work that seemed so impossible to achieve. It made me believe I could be a part of this great legacy or thought. It was the right influence at just the right time.

Curtis is fearless as a creative. And this spirit has definitely face my own artistic fears through the years. Recently Curtis sat down with the 99% to discuss the need for reinvention in good work. It is great stuff, and will give you a lift.

Read it here. Buy MTIV here. Superb.

Hammarhead Industries' Triumph Film Takes Me Back

Pier 18 from Hammarhead Industries on Vimeo.

When I was a boy, I had an elderly neighbor lady across the street who I became quite good friends with. Her name was Mrs. Fredericks, and her house was like another world. The rooms were dark and mysterious, filled with old world curiosities like Napoleonic-era antiquities, heavy patterns, and a terrifying/transfixing Medusa painting. The attic and basement were full of old, strange, and wonderful paintings left behind by the previous homeowner, who apparently was an artist and schizophrenic who spent years shut in, painting away. The entire house smelled of unknown, European spices. It was a wonderland for the imagination of an 8 year old boy like me.

Mrs. Fredericks' son John was in his 40's and worked for the US government as a tank factory inspector. He was divorced and didn't have a house anymore, so he would stay with his mother whenever he was in the US, which was maybe twice a year. Being a tank factory inspector is an unspeakably cool job to an 8 year old, and I loved hearing all about the profession. Everytime John would come home he would bring me something that sent my young mind reeling: books about tanks with lots of photos, a t-shirt from the pyramids (which I still wear), or just amazing stories about places I'd never heard of, like Sri Lanka - where he intended to retire. It was a connection to the larger world outside the city, somewhere I began dreaming of.

But the best present he ever gave me was an early edition (1887) of the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe. It was small, had a leather cover, and the pages were wafer thin and gold on the edges. I devoured it whole that summer, the summer I turned 9. I stayed up late every night, enthralled with the Gothic environments and macabre twists. I remember being crazy about a certain story - Buried Alive - that gave me nightmares and fueled a serious phobia to this day. The strange atmosphere I found in Mrs. Fredericks' house seemed to be described perfectly in Poe's gloomy prose. Formative experiences to be sure.

Another major formative gift from John was that in the garage there was a 1972 Triumph motorcycle. I had seen and sat on my Uncle Carl's Honda, but this was different. John would take me through the whole history of British motorcycles, explaining their distinctions and significances from their American and Japanese counterparts. When he wasn't around I would sit on that beautiful piece of steel, imagining that I was barreling down country roads, jumping over hills like the Duke brothers. It set a hook in me very deep for British motorcycles.

Over at Jivan Dave's essential blog, I spotted this gorgeous little video from the awesome Hammarhead Industries that features my all time favorite bike, an old school Triumph. Watching it, I was taken back to those long days in the garage, dreaming. Another great remembrance on a Tuesday morning.

From Hammarhead Industries:

Hammarhead Industries creates motorcycles that are simple yet modern, inspired by the iconic bikes of the 1950s. Each design is executed with an eye towards repurposing, recycling and efficiency.

Check out Hammarhead here. Check out Jivan here. Thanks Jivan for the heads up and flood of memories.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Type Hero Hoefler Interview Is Informative

Jonathan Hoefler, one of half of dynamic duo Hoefler & Frere-Jones, recently gave an interview with the superb Design Bureau. Hoefler covers several topics, the most exciting of which is what the guys are working on currently.

Do yourself a favor and spend two minutes with this type genius. Find it here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Speak A&D Goes Twitter

OK folks, I finally caved and moved into a realm of social media after I dumped MySpace and Facebook accounts back in the mists of time, otherwise known as 2008. I've been enjoying it so far, though I haven't totally figured out how to use it yet. It's good for dropping random thoughts and inspirations, without the full articles of Speak Art & Design. Plus it seems like everyone from The Wire is there, and it has been great to catch up with what they are up to.

Alright, come on over and follow me. You can find me here!/timspeaker

Saturday, July 9, 2011

First Modernist Studio In America Is For Sale

Michigan born architectural genius Ezra Winter built the first modernist home and studio in Connecticut in 1931. Now those landmark buildings are on the market.

From Design Observer:

Born in Michigan in 1886, Ezra Winter studied at the Chicago Institute of Fine Arts, and won the Prix de Rome in 1911. He spent the next few years in residence at the American Academy in Rome, returning to the United States after the First World War. Winter went on to receive a number of prestigious commissions, including the Cunard Building in New York, the North and South Reading Rooms at the Library of Congress, and the monumental stairway mural at Radio City Music Hall. Working with a local builder in the early 1930s, Winter designed a modernist home and studio for himself in rural Connecticut where he lived and worked until his death in 1949. Later, it became the summer studio for the Lathrop sisters — Dorothy, an illustrator, who won the first Caldecott medal in 1938, and Gertrude, a metal sculptor who studied at the New York Art Students League with Gutzon Borglum — the artist perhaps best known for creating the presidents’ heads on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Go here to see alot more beautiful images of the property. Gorgeous.

Hamilton Type Joins Target For Cool Never Fades

The brilliant, long running woodtype foundry the Hamilton Type Museum has had a busy couple of years. Open since 1880, the museum spent many years floundering, barely keeping the flame going and the doors open, the subject of which became the superb documentary Typeface. Following the release of Typeface, many changes have taken place - first in the form of new ownership and operations from the great Moran brothers, who brought fresh blood and vision to the struggling museum.

It seems that the Moran brothers resurrection is now going at full swing. Hamilton has now partnered with Target to create a clothing line for Fall. It is so cool to see old woodblocks, some over a hundred years old, used for a contemporary fashion line. This is living typography, living history in the true spirit of the museum itself. Awesome.

From Steven Heller:

Target's goal, however, was not to make wood type fashionable—"we just found the fashion within wood type," said Alexin, who asked designers to make hand-pressed prints at the museum, take them home, and then toy with scale, layering, and color, and after injecting wit, create the "eclectic collection of vintage graphic tees, hoodies, and more." Target's fall campaign, based on the conceit that "Cool Never Fades" and what was cool 25 or even 50 years ago will be cool again, builds on the notion that the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum "speaks to this growing affinity towards heritage and a resurgence of retro among our younger guests," Alexin said.

Check out Hamilton here. Check out Heller's full article here.

PS - Thanks Kelly for the heads up.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tree of Life Is Awe Inspiring

The Tree of Life is the newest film from genius Terrence Malick. It recently won the Palme d' Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but even there it was polarizing. Apparently somewhere between 5-10% of filmgoers have walked out of the film, calling it too long and boring. Honestly, I feel bad for these people, including ChicagoNow critic Mark Shuster - I hope he isn't paid for his opinions, because they are exceptionally shallow and meaningless.

Instead, I would like to include this snippet from Roger Ebert's perfect distillation of the film:

Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life's experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer "to" anyone or anything, but prayer "about" everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.

Truly, I am not surprised that some moviegoers would walk out on this film, as their chief complaints - that it's too long, it's too quiet, it's non-linear structure doesn't give obvious answers - are all accurate. But those aspects are not negatives, rather they are strengths. Most people do not want to "think" about any form of media they are consuming - they simply want entertainment. This desire has caused all forms of art to become cheapened, to become fast food for the senses. Why do you think that Fast & the Furious 5 made over 100 million dollars?

Sadly, most people simply lack the fundamental taste to be able to approach challenging art forms. They would rather not learn or grow through interaction with artistic mediums merely because those acts can be (and usually are) challenging, and require active mental participation on behalf of the viewer. This effort is flatly not given by most consumers - even "film critics" like Mark Shuster. And this fact is enormously depressing to me, as those un-participative viewers never gain the fruits of the labor of the artist. As an artist I cannot understand this rejection of intellectual dialogue - it makes me feel like what I do is forfeit. But as a thinking human being, it makes me exasperated with the human race.

Go see this film. Go see it in the theater. Expect it to be long. Expect it to be quiet. Expect it to be beautiful, and transformative, like all good art is. Don't expect it to be like other films. Let it wash over you, don't fight it.

Let it wash through you, like a prayer.

Triboro Design Is Sneaky Good

Triboro Design is an incredible firm from NYC. I ran into their brilliant, Godard/French New Wave inspired typographic design for the Stella Artois Cidre campaign today, and was knocked out with the beauty of their typography. It turns out that I have been impressed with Triboro for years without know it was them. They are also responsible for the GQ Style Manual from last year (which is one of the cleanest, most gorgeous designs of the past decade) as well as TAR Magazine (I purchased the $20 magazine on the cover alone).

They are so, so great - check them out here. For a great rundown of Jean-Luc Godard's usage of typography from the great Steven Heller, go here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quote of the Day: Samuel Beckett

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
– Samuel Beckett

NY Times: Detroit Is The New Tribeca

Last year the New York Times referred to the city of Detroit as "the new Berlin" for the influx of artists to the city. A new article now refers to The D as "the new Tribeca". Really?

From the New York Times:

Recent census figures show that Detroit’s overall population shrank by 25 percent in the last 10 years. But another figure tells a different and more intriguing story: During the same time period, downtown Detroit experienced a 59 percent increase in the number of college-educated residents under the age of 35, nearly 30 percent more than two-thirds of the nation’s 51 largest cities.

These days the word “movement” is often heard to describe the influx of socially aware hipsters and artists now roaming the streets of Detroit. Not unlike Berlin, which was revitalized in the 1990s by young artists migrating there for the cheap studio space, Detroit may have this new generation of what city leaders are calling “creatives” to thank if it comes through its transition from a one-industry.

Very exciting news all around. The return of the magnificent Broderick Tower is a huge boost to the downtown area. Great article here. Support the D.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kornrumpf's Emroidered Art Is Enlivening

Artist Daniel Kornrumpf creates portraits in an unexpected through ancient medium - embroidery.

From Good magazine:

For many the term "embroidery" conjures images of tacky pillows or treacly wall-hangings that say things like "Home is where the heart is." For Pennsylvania artist Daniel Kornrumpf, however, embroidery has become a powerful medium. For a recent series of evocative portraits, Kornrumpf took the stereotypically drab art form and made it all his own, depicting the faces of attractive young people with thousands of patiently strung threads. The works are fantastic, and they're made all the more great by the fact that the embroidery at times looks like paintbrush strokes.

Check out more of his phenomenal work here.

Jim Morrison, Inspiration of My Youth, 40 Years Dead

When I was growing up in Saginaw, MI I essentially did all the normal things a kid would do. I went to Catholic school, I played lots of sports both in organized leagues (baseball, basketball, soccer, football, track) and on the streets and back alleys (hockey, rugby, badminton, etc). That was what I spent most of my time doing. All my heroes were from the world of sports - George Brett, Wayne Gretzky, Larry Bird, etc. That was my life.

But in junior high I found something else. I found The Doors, and that changed everything. Soon enough I was skulking the halls writing the lyrics of Jim Morrison on my books, listening intently. The Doors were my first musical obsession. They dominated my junior high and high school experiences. I spent hours reading his poetry, but also reading about him - if you caught me as a high school senior you would have found me able to answer virtually and trivia about Morrison - I devoured every detail of his life and work, of his history. I started dressing like him - black pants (because I couldn't find real leather), black t shirt, jean button down, wrap around sunglasses. Even his death was shrouded in the mythical - I spent many hours debating the various conspiracy theories after reading Danny Sugarmen's seminal No One Here Gets Out Alive.

Oliver Stone's controversial film The Doors was released my freshman year of high school, and the impact that film had on me was nuclear. Though the film was scrutinized by the critics, torn apart by the press, for me it was transitory. It was extremely important to me in terms of understanding and interacting with mythology and the mythical realm of rock and roll. While that may seem like hyperbole, that film represented an exemplary view of revolt, of the need for questioning the world around you, that rebel spirit that only seems to flame in youth. My brother LaPorte and I stayed up all night watching The Doors over and over, becoming fired to go out and take on the world. We would be so electrified by these repeated viewings that we would go out in the middle of the night, not really going anywhere, only understanding that we just needed to move.

His oft-critcized poetry was a revelation to me. When I was extremely ill my sophomore year of high school and was off to be in the hospital for weeks at a time, it was a copy of Morrison's The Lords and New Creatures given to me by my friend Bonnie Kahn that stayed on my bedside table. Somehow his words connected me to mystery of the world, the unexplored territories, that I imagined from my bed that kept me dreaming of when I might re-enter the world. But the larger, more important thing was that it kept me dreaming.

But there was another, more important influence Morrison had on me. This was in the pre-internet days, when the only way to to find influential art, music, film, or literature was through a friend, an older brother, a trusted source you might read in an old interview from Rolling Stone. And for me, Morrison was the king of references. He first connected me to finding Arthur Rimbaud's A Season In Hell, which I had to special order from the awful Mall bookstore that only had the NY Times Best Seller list generally. Finding Rimbaud literally changed my life in the most fundamental ways possible. This spark led me to Baudelaire, Mallarme, Verlaine - all the French Symbolists, the group I would later make the focus of my undergraduate studies. It was like a domino effect - he branched me off to Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre, all the existentialists. Then he pointed over to the Beats - Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs. It was like a whole world had suddenly opened before me, and invited me to enter and find this great artistic legacy that I am driven by to this day.

Eventually I grew past him. Since he acted as a catalyst for searching, for the endless eternal quest that the artist goes on, it was inevitable I suppose that I eventually move beyond his grasp. I found so much more in myself and in my own artistic spirit through his push. It was Morrison who opened these doors for me (no pun intended). It was Morrison who sent me off to Europe; it was Morrison who gave me the impetus to start writing poetry which led me to a degree in literature; it was Morrison who allowed me to make sense of so much darkness and brooding within me; it was Morrison who was the lightning rod who broke through (again, no pun intended) so much banality to show me that there was a larger world out there for me if I could only get there; it was Morrison who kicked the first dominoes over, that led to me finding my artistic voice, led me to see the world around me totally differently.

Thank you Jim Morrison, for being the inspiration of my youth. I would not be who I am today without your influence.

Side Note: it just occurred to me that from the time of Morrison's death to my discovery of him, is about the same amount of time between Kurt Cobain's death and today. This makes me feel so, so, so old that I cannot even believe it.