Monday, June 19, 2017

Karl Blossfeldt: Superb Pioneering Botanical Photographs

Karl Blossfeldt made many of his incredible botanical photographs with a home-made camera that could magnify the subject up to thirty times its size, revealing details within a plant's natural structure. 

Appointed for a teaching post at the Institute of Royal Arts Museum in 1898 (where he remained until 1930), he established an archive for his photographs. 

Blossfeldt never received formal training in photography. The ingenious artist developed a series of home-made cameras that allowed him to photograph plant surfaces in unprecedented magnified detail. This reflected his enduring interest in the repetitive patterns found in nature's textures and forms.

Frances Glessner Lee: Deadly Dioramas

I ordered a copy of this fascinating book to see what's what...

"The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death" offers readers an extraordinary glimpse into the mind of a master criminal investigator. 

Frances Glessner Lee, a wealthy grandmother, founded the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard in 1936 and was later appointed captain in the New Hampshire police. In the 1940s and 1950s she built dollhouse crime scenes based on real cases in order to train detectives to assess visual evidence. 

Still used in forensic training today, the eighteen Nutshell dioramas, on a scale of 1:12, display an astounding level of detail: pencils write, window shades move, whistles blow, and clues to the crimes are revealed to those who study the scenes carefully. 

Corinne May Botz's lush color photographs lure viewers into every crevice of Frances Lee's models and breathe life into these deadly miniatures, which present the dark side of domestic life, unveiling tales of prostitution, alcoholism, and adultery. 

The accompanying line drawings, specially prepared for this volume, highlight the noteworthy forensic evidence in each case. Botz's introductory essay, which draws on archival research and interviews with Lee's family and police colleagues, presents a captivating portrait of Lee.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Richard Haag: Landscape Architect

From yee Wiki: 
Richard Haag (b. 1923) is a Landscape Architect, famous for his work on Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington, and on the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. 

He is also noted for founding the Landscape Architecture Program at the University of Washington, and for holding multiple design awards. His designs call to mind the current trend of being one with and improving the environment. 

The social movement that created the hybrid car also demanded sustainable design, and Richard Haag provided it in the most distinctive and astounding ways. Richard Haag's Modernist and Minimalist ideals set the tone for Northwestern Landscape Design and has placed the Northwest on the road towards ecologically-minded design.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

On the Reading Table: "Against the Grain" by Richard Manning

On the reading table, amidst all the Design tomes:

"Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization" by Richard Manning
In this provocative, wide-ranging book, "Against the Grain," Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human -- at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of our past 10,000 years.

The evolutionary road is littered with failed experiments, however, and Manning suggests that agriculture as we have practiced it runs against both our grain and nature's. Drawing on the work of anthropologists, biologists, archaeologists, and philosophers, along with his own travels, he argues that not only our ecological ills-overpopulation, erosion, pollution-but our social and emotional malaise are rooted in the Devil's Bargain we made in our not-so-distant past. And he offers personal, achievable ways we might re-contour the path we have taken to resurrect what is most sustainable and sustaining in our own nature and the planet's. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cliff May: Iconic Western Ranch House Pioneer

Cliff May, a native San Diegan, has often been dubbed the "father" of the iconic Ranch Home. 

While never trained formally as an architect, he was prolific in designing and building homes throughout Southern California from the early 1930s through the late 1960s. 

Although the majority of published work about him focuses mainly on the homes that he designed in the '50s and '60s, it was his earlier work  -- a more rustic look of a "hacienda-style" home with which he blessed Coronado, California. 

Currently, there are seven homes in Coronado having been identified as "designed by Cliff May." There are most likely a few more waiting to be registered, as his style is seen in other homes in the area. 

Indeed, the San Diego Historical Society's Cliff May ledger includes numerous addresses throughout Coronado and San Diego. 

While his architectural style evolved from the "California Adobe Rancho" to the Modern and clean-lined look of the iconic '60s "Rancher," he stayed true to his roots -- indoor-outdoor living, central courtyards, and simple hand-crafted details.

Elsa Schaparelli: Fashion Designer

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars.

Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli's designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her couture house closed in 1954.

Elsa Schiaparelli’s design career was early on influenced by couturier Paul Poiret, who was renowned for jettisoning corseted, over-long dresses and promoting styles that enabled freedom of movement for the modern, elegant and sophisticated woman. In later life, Schiaparelli referred to Poiret as "a generous mentor, dear friend."

Schiaparelli had no training in the technical skills of pattern making and clothing construction. Her method of approach relied on both impulse of the moment and the serendipitous inspiration as the work progressed. She draped fabric directly on the body, sometimes using herself as the model. This technique followed the lead of Poiret who too had created garments by manipulating and draping. The results appeared uncontrived and wearable.

Whilst in Paris, Schiaparelli -- "Schiap" to her friends -- began making her own clothes. With encouragement from Poiret, she started her own business but it closed in 1926 despite favorable reviews. She launched a new collection of knitwear in early 1927 using a special double layered stitch created by Armenian refugees and featuring sweaters with surrealist trompe l'oeil images.
Although her first designs appeared in "Vogue," the business really took off with a pattern that gave the impression of a scarf wrapped around the wearer's neck. The "pour le Sport" collection expanded the following year to include bathing suits, ski-wear, and linen dresses. Schiaparelli added evening wear to her collections in 1931, using the luxury silks of Robert Perrier, and the business went from strength to strength, culminating in a move from Rue de la Paix to acquiring the renowned salon of Louise Chéruit at 21 Place Vendôme, which was rechristened the Schiap Shop.

"Or give me a new Muse with stockings and suspenders
And a smile like a cat
With false eyelashes and finger-nails of carmine
And dressed by Schiaparelli, with a pill-box hat."
-- Louis MacNeice, "Autumn Journal," stanza XV, 1939.

Colin McDowell noted that by 1939, Schiaparelli was well-known enough in intellectual circles to be mentioned as the epitome of modernity by the Irish poet Louis MacNeice. Although McDowell cites MacNeice's reference as from "Bagpipe Music," it is actually from stanza XV of "Autumn Journal."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Vintage Ben Cooper Marvel Superhero Costumes

From yee Wiki:

Ben Cooper, Inc. was a privately held American corporation which primarily manufactured Halloween costumes from the late 1930s to the late 1980s. It was one of the three largest Halloween costume manufacturers in the U.S. from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. The company's inexpensive plastic masks and vinyl smocks were an iconic American symbol of Halloween from the 1950s to the 1970s, and Cooper has been called the "Halston of Halloween" and the "High Priest" of Halloween.

Founder Ben Cooper was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1906. Although his father was a restaurateur, Cooper studied accounting and briefly sought a career as a songwriter before founding a theatrical costume business in 1927. Cooper designed costumes and sets for the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem and several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies.

With live theater becoming rarer in the 1930s due to the Great Depression and Halloween becoming a more popular holiday, Cooper established Ben Cooper, Inc., in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. The firm assumed control of A.S. Fishbach, Inc. -- which had a license to produce costumes based on characters owned by The Walt Disney Company such as Donald Duck and Snow White -- in 1937 and began selling Disney costumes under Fishbach's Spotlight brand. The two companies formally merged and incorporated as Ben Cooper, Inc., on December 8, 1942. 

By the late 1940s, Ben Cooper, Inc. was one of the largest and most prominent Halloween costume manufacturers in the United States. Its costumes were generally very thin fabric with a silk-screened image on the front that sold for less than $3.00. The company began selling its costumes through large retailers such as J. C. Penney, Sears, Woolworth's, and five-and-dime stores. 

Costumes often sold for $1.25. At the time, the most popular costumes were traditional Halloween figures such as devils, ghosts, skeletons, and witches. In the 1950s, television characters such as Davy Crockett, Superman, and Zorro were more popular. As parents became more concerned about safety in the 1950s, the company responded by creating its "Glitter Glo" costumes, dresses, and jumpsuits with large amounts of blue glitter glued to the front (which would reflect the headlights of oncoming automobiles). The company banked heavily on the popularity of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, but had to destroy thousands of masks after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Ben Cooper, Inc., was one of the "big three" Halloween costume companies, along with Collegeville and the H. Halpern Company (Halco). The company became known for licensing popular film and television characters and getting their images onto store shelves quickly. For example, it licensed Spider-Man, a virtually unknown character at the time, in 1963. The company also licensed the Batman character in 1964.