The Wire Chair

The birth of the wire chair’s popularity can easily be traced back to Charles and Ray Eames’s wire side chair released in 1951. This iconic object for everyday use fit right along with their fundamental principle for its use of new material. Wire rods were by no means new material in that era although their use as a structure for seating certainly was. As is the case when it comes to iconic forerunners, this simple side chair was not the only one of its kind. Beyond this side chair by the dynamic Eames duo, Harry Bertoia’s 420 side chair is just about the only iconic wire chair recognizable by name to the modern enthusiast.

A designer, engineer or architect has much to think about when concocting a chair from this rigid, yet flexible material. The chair needs to hold up to the weight of the average human body, needs to to be functional as a chair (subsequently, a chair’s many uses), all the while maintaining its shape – must we add it should be comfortable? Designer’s like Russel Woodard, Verner Panton and Harry Bertoia have produced real-life visions that embody all of these aspects and often is the case a cushion is needed to address the matter of comfort.

The contemporary wire chair of today knows only the limit of a designers computer software and the available funds to produce the project. Take Verner Panton’s iconic plastic cantilever chair – a first in its field for being molded from a single mold of plastic, virtually indestructible for daily use and naturally produced in its bold colors. Now, from a CAD computer program’s wireframe rendering those curvaceous lines and shapes of this plastic chair can be produced through the process of meticulously bending each rod of chrome-laden wire to intersect just right – mirroring the chair itself. It is any wonder how the Bertoia and Eames chairs of their day were executed without the aid of a computer. Contemporary masterminds such as Brodie Neill blew the minds of furniture and design lovers in 2011 with the release of his Reverb chair. This spherical vortex of wire mesh reminds one of  a theoretical wormhole – have a seat in the center and take a load off!

For collectors

Reproduction of a Harry Bertoia Side Chair – click to view detail

Wire chairs are hard to make. Production costs can easily outweigh the benefits of selling at an affordable price. Therefore it is usual that the best of the best (and easiest to produce) designs are sent to the open market. Chairs by Warren Planter, Verner Panton and most contemporary designs are a safe bet as far as authenticity are concerned. Chairs by Charles and Ray Eames and by Harry Bertoia don’t have that luxury. To some imitation is the best form of flattery, so it is left to the consumer to decide whether or not to buy authentic or to buy a reproduction. For the most popular Harry Bertoia side and diamond chairs, take a look at their main outermost structural elements. You’ll notice that on the originals there is one wire holding together the structure with the mesh of structural wired welded to this one. Now, take a look at an inexpensive knock-off. The eye instantly sees the two wires holding the structure together around the entire chair and back of the seat. These pieces of lesser quality are designed in this fashion to allow a manufacturer to use a thin gauge of wire – not as Harry Bertoia had originally planned.

The Pantanova and Planter chairs – as with the more complex designs – are usually out of reach for the beginning consumer. A Pantanova Chaise can run between 4000-7500USD with the wormhole-like Reverb chair (created in a very limited production) costing 25,000USD. Our best bets are to find the chair (or chairs) you love and research! Then, stalk! Original Bertoia and Eames wire side chairs can be found at your local mid-century dealer in the 175-400USD range. As always, check the web and eBay. If you miss out on a bargain, never fear, there will always be another chance as millions were produced for the global market. On the higher end if you find what suits you best, never be afraid to ask a dealer if they can come down on the price. Even the most high end of dealers will consider a slight discount if they know they will receive a certain sale. Whatever your choice you’ll find that a wire chair will bring a unique linear openness to your space – making these useful structural objects a great addition.

Theresa Poulton – Painting and Sculpture

Theresa Poulton is a hard-edged, abstract geometric painter who makes works which fluctuate between the historical tradition of canvas painting and ‘painting in the expanded field’.

Theresa’s boldly coloured canvases, painted objects and installations give a nod to Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Henri Matisse.

Contemporary influences include Biatriz Milhazes, Katharina Grosse, the designer Emilio Pucci and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The importance of colour is evident within Theresa’s paintings. The science of colour, including the research of colour theorists Johannes Itten and Josef Albers is acknowledged however her work is not rigid it is intuitive, she responds as the work evolves.

I am not trying to represent any sort of reality, the colours are not meant to represent anything, the colours are fantastical and the painting is a fantastical journey.

Big Orange is a large scale, open formed, work of differing abstract layers. Collectively creating a sense of depth and illusion, brightly coloured hard-edged abstract geometric forms float on the surface of a contrasting vibrant  expressionistic colour field.

Coloured pencil lines cut across and connect the geometric and the expressionistic elements.

Originally shown as part of a site specific painting installation, the work expanded from the canvas onto the gallery wall in response to her other works, the light, shade and architecture of the space.

Theresa creates illusory environments of contrasting colour, distorting perspective with line, shape and form, exaggerating the implied sense of depth and space.

Big Orange Installation re sized

Big Orange – Installation View

Big Orange is a resolution of past and present forms of abstraction within my practice an intuitive balanced work where the expressionist elements are off set against the hard edged abstraction of the opaquely painted geometric forms.

Paint applied flatly in opaque colours from her custom palette contrast in appearance and form with experimental colour often mixed directly onto the painted surface.

There is a preliminary with these works, there was a drawing, then I distorted it and altered the colour digitally, imagining how it would work on the canvas. The distortion of the image is me looking at it and seeing how I can resolve it, no, there is a moment when I know it’s right, the search for that moment is the excitement for me.

The painting process is laborious, quite controlled, I like that, but it’s a puzzle to me also. The work, while I am making, seems quite chaotic, in my mind I feel very uncontrolled, it feels like the ‘idea of the painting’ is out of control…

Theresa makes no apologies for making controlled, precise works, she refutes the fact that they are about perfection,

..they hang on a wall, they become part of the wall and they occupy the space in which they stand.

Geometric abstraction can appear deceptively simple, Theresa has many tools in her armoury to engage those who look a little beyond first glance.

I tease the perception with non-existent forms, depth created through contrast of colour, suggestive perspective and illusory canvas edges.

As her process has developed the works are becoming sometimes, busier, constantly appraising her methods and materials means the works are always fresh though the Theresa thread is evident. Working with changing media brings differing challenges and experimentation.

The decision to stop painting is so ambivalent; I am often in danger of overworking it because I am so lost in it at times. Not knowing exactly how it’s going to come out is a big part of it for me.

Some of Theresa’s latest works are objects and assembled multi-media miniatures, allowing the works to be viewed from all sides, a development of her edge painted canvasses and a desire to make the illusory depths real.

Theresa also creates painting installations, carrying into them recognizable assets of her canvas paintings, these works she describes as immersive environments, distorting the perspective of the space which they occupy instead of the illusory environments within her canvas works.

In the same way that I compose my paintings, I construct the mixed media assemblages and site specific installations, space, line, shape, colour and form are all considered.

Visit her website and view more work.

Cassandra C. Jones – Multi Media Artist

It is no wonder why we are instantly attracted to the work of Cassandra C. Jones. Her bodies of work are composed of borrowed and collected imagery that has been deconstructed and constructed in numerous compositions that allow the viewer an opportunity to experience the work on multiple levels. Jones presents the viewer with her own iconographic style where further inspection often leads to delightful surprises, but more so down a path of investigation into our on common cultural habits.

Cassandra currently lives between Brooklyn, NY and Ojai, CA.  On top of the dual home base situation she travels a great deal and over that last 7 years has fostered a practice where she considers her laptop and wherever she can find a WiFi signal to be her main studio.  Everything she produces starts there – searching for and collecting thousands of other peoples snapshot photos from stock photography agencies, eBay, public domain archives and every image exchange known to Google.  She then compiles these photographs in groups of like subject matter, from lightning bolts to every possible increment of a horses gallop.  She then organizes each lot in various ways (via video, print or installation) that tell stories about human observation and the power of photographic imagery in our snap-happy contemporary lifestyle.

“My photography archives and the works I create from them are documents of a banality that have emerged from an over-abundance of common imagery.  Led by a desire to create a counter to convention, I am attempting to liberate specific visual clichés by embracing them.  I draw connections between theses images to demonstrate that the most prevalent scenes we are compelled to capture, somehow link us.  Alone, these photos have diverse meanings but when linked together they reveal much larger stories of history, ritual, desire and innate human aesthetics, regardless of author.”

Flamingo Flowers

Rara Avis, meaning “strange bird” or “something rare”, is a series of projects made from Jones’s collection of bird photography.

This includes wallpaper and prints composed of photographs taken of real pink flamingos that are discernibly reminiscent of their retro plastic counter-part, the lawn ornament.  Through collecting these photos she discovered that one of the most common snapshots taken of a wading flamingo, indeed, to be the profile of the bird’s long, soft, curved neck and down-bent bill. This particular collection led her to ponder whether it is possible that an item of now historical kitsch might influence the picture taking of the real, live thing?  After all, Americans are much more familiar with the nature of the stylized, florescent version, than the actual bird itself.

In Rara Avis, Cassandra speaks to the relationship between Americans and nature; how nature is commonly brought into the home in safe and often artificial ways such as lawn ornaments, floral wallpaper and media reproductions of moving and still imagery.  This body of work also relates to the tendency of taking and viewing photographs as a safe replacement for actual experience.

Lightning Drawings

In a nod to traditional mark-making techniques, the series entitled “Lightning Drawings” connects photographs of lightning bolts, end to end, to create continuous lines that are distinctively bold, thin, feathered, overlapping and/or meandering.  She then uses this approach of “line quality” to make large-scale drawings of urban animals in mid air.  These animals exist within a pile of arranged photographs – dogs and rabbits appear to be leaping through time, space and different rural and suburban locals. This has become an analogy for the way she navigates through the sea of photos in her massive collection.

One finds it very interesting that Cassandra works in these sets and series. These at first disparate and disconnected visual mash-ups achieve spatially expansive visual planes successfully attractive as they are a call to further inspection.

Memphis Milano: The Dennis Zanone Collection

Dennis Zanone’s Malabar Room with Various Memphis Collections

The Memphis group comprised of designers and architects (mainly Italians) who created a series of influential products in the 1980’s. They challenged the idea that products had to follow conventional shapes, colors, textures and patterns. Expensive elements such as granite and marble were paired with materials such as plastics, plywood, laminates and Formica. Often was the case that color and pattern were saturated beyond many observer’s level of comfort. Form followed function – or did it?

The Memphis group was founded in 1981 by Ettore Sottsass who called Memphis design the ‘New International Style’. Among its members were Alessandro Mendini, Martine Bedin, Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Shiro Kuramata, Matteo Thun, Javier Mariscal, George Sowden, and Marco Zanini

Certainly ground breaking at the time, the creations – which ranged from small housewares to entire buildings – were a stark contrast to the chrome-laden black and brown leather creations stemming from the much earlier Bauhaus School and mid 20th century modernism. They took this approach to the “redefinition of design” and soon began exhibiting clocks, lighting, furniture and ceramics created by internationally famous architects and designers.

The work of the Memphis Group has been described as vibrant, eccentric and ornamental. Art Deco, Pop Art, and Futurism were some design inspirations although the work coming out of their group were certainly unique creations.

Sottsass dismantled the group in 1988 and although Memphis may no longer exist it has certainly influenced many and designers in all fields to this day.

The Memphis Milano collection of Dennis Zanone

Dennis Zanone is a photographer and avid Memphis Milano collector living in Memphis, Tennessee. With over 20 years of investment it would be harder to believe that any individual (or museum) has a larger and more comprehensive Memphis Milano collection – even though the likes of MOMA and even Karl Lagerfield  have/had also caught the Memphis bug. We are very fortunate that Zanone meticulously documents and shares the pieces on his Memphis Milano Flickr stream and shares the love and knowledge via his Memphis Milano Facebook Page.

Exploring The Bentwood Chair

Typically, when one thinks of wood, the mind does not wander into the realm of sensual, curvaceous lines – certainly not an element for bending and molding. This is not the case when exploring the world of the bentwood chair.

Until the mid 19th century the bentwood chair was held to the rustic constructions that were just as likely to be uncomfortable for seating as much as they were to give you a splinter. Thanks to the trials and tribulations of German-Austrian Michael Thonet (1796-1871) we now have several additions who have made their impact on the modern household, as well, some have become design icons.

Michael Thonet was an independent cabinet maker who tried for several years to concoct a way to produce chairs and other furnishings out of glued and bent wooden slats. Displaying some of these new designs at the Koblenz trade fair in 1841 he caught the attention of Vienna’s Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich who invited him to join the Viennese court where he had the resources to improve and produce his many designs. A succession of world trade fair medals and successes allowed him to open his own factory Gebrüder Thonet. It was here that he (and later his sons) were able not only to improve the quality of the bentwood chair but also to innovate upon its design.

Throughout all of this, perhaps the most important innovations were the use of laminated pieces of birch plywood and the improvements made in bending pieces of wood with steam. His iconic and simple Chair Number 14 had production numbers of over 50 million making Thonet one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world. Soon, the company began producing pieces for designers and architects in both bentwood and tubular steel – always keeping up with the design aesthetic of the time. Thonet produced everything from bentwood and cane settees for the Victorian age to the chrome and black leather productions coming from the Bauhaus School. The company is still around today producing mostly contract an commercial pieces for business and public interiors.

20th Century Bentwood Chair Innovators

Charles and Ray Eames picked up on the work in bent plywood products where Thonet started to loose market power. Many people don’t realize that the Eames duo got their start as furniture innovators with their DCM lounges from a government commission to make bentwood leg splints and gurneys for soldiers in the war. It was this understanding of steamed and multilayered plywood veneers that lead to the evolution of this once seemingly rigid material into a strong, yet sensual and warm material with which to work. And that was just in the United States. European (specifically Scandinavian designers) were producing mind-boggling pieces that the markets snapped up as quickly as they could be manufactured.

Other famous architects and designers making masterful chairs out of bentwood: Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, Joe Colombo, Bruno Matthson, Eero Saarinen and Hans Pieck (to name a few). Today’s designers know only the limits of their imaginations. They do need to keep in mind structural integrity and how the material will withstand use over time. Keep your eyes peeled for contemporary editions to the bentwood chair by such names as Grete Jalk, Ron Arad and Frank Gehry.

Adrian Pearsall Ranch of a True Craftsman

House of a Craftsman: the Adrian Pearsall Ranch

by Sarah Disney

This time last year I was e-mailing a complete stranger some suggestions for what he could do with his father’s home. I am not usually so forward. But I care deeply about the future of this particular house. It’s a one-of-a-kind modern ranch and an incredible piece of American design history. The home of an icon:Adrian Pearsall –  Adrian Mount Pearsall (1925-2011).

This story begins in the early 1950’s with a healthy dose of American grit. Like so many millennials today, Pearsall decided to leave a stagnate position in the field of his professional training (architecture) and try his own thing.

When Adrian told his wife Dorie that he wanted to begin making furniture in their basement she responded with an announcement of her own. She was waiting for the doctor to confirm her first pregnancy. After a negative result on the first pregnancy test, Adrian quit his job. Then, in a subsequent test, the rabbit kicked the bucket. Adrian’s new endeavor had to be a success.

And it was! What began as a two-man production team quickly grew into the Atomic-era manufacturing house of Craft Associates. You might recognize the space-age lines of their long, low gondola sofas, the organic look of their walnut and glass tables, or the dramatic silhouette of their high-back chairs.

An advocate for affordable, quality design, Pearsall produced hundreds of unabashedly bold pieces during his half-century-long career. But to this admirer, his artistic values were most fully expressed in the 1962 home of his own design.

The Pearsall home celebrates the collocation of diverse materials and a connectivity to the natural world. The sprawling, 10,000 s.f. Pennsylvania ranch is an eye-pleasing patchwork of concrete, marble, stone and mahogany. Several walls are constructed of local stones, which were field-selected and hand-placed by Pearsall himself. Light-filled atriums, multiple courtyards and floor-to-ceiling glass walls promote a sense of coexistence with the landscape.

Particularly stunning are the water features in the home. Most notably a curvy indoor swimming pool (reminiscent of Pearsall’s kidney-shaped glass table designs) and a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired pond, complete with stepping-stones, to border the dining area. The home originally included a running waterfall, which was removed for making diners feel they constantly needed to use the facilities.

This masterpiece doubled as childhood home to the Pearsall’s three children: Jim, Cindy and Jed. Jim remembers the home as a lively, creative environment where the family gathered – in leather beanbag chairs, no less – to play music and sing together. Jim’s favorite feature? The built-in soda fountain and ice cream bar, of course! Everyone preferred a different flavor and the bar accommodated all…holding up to 15 gallons of sweetness at once.

Members of the family were encouraged to entertain. The children invited friends over for homework sessions and TV time. And the adults hosted galas with up to 500 attendees and live music playing in multiple rooms.

Pearsall’s son, Jim, was also the stranger I e-mailed last year about turning his father’s home into a museum piece of “livable art” – something I’ve had a taste for since a weekend at the Louis Penfield house in Willoughby, Ohio. Jim graciously reminded me that a home of this magnitude requires much maintenance and upkeep. And that my dream of transforming it into a getaway for weary modernist design-lovers was tilting towards the grandiose.

Still, I cannot help but hope that the right buyer will want to both care for this home and share it with others.

See it for yourself! Get a visual below.

Is the Pearsall house out of your price range? Consider collecting an original piece of his furniture. There’s also a partial catalog of his work online at

Gonked Glooked Slurped – Two Mega-Collectors

Valery and Tony: Two young creatives  presently residing  in Georgia, USA – invite the world along as they collect, curate and explore the many items in which they choose to surround their lives. The newlywed duo continues to build their collections at their mid-century ranch simultaneously tackling the chore of renovation. Together they operate the blog Gonked Glooked Slurped where they share their passions with a wider audience.

Clearly a design conscious couple, there is no element of snobbery and certainly no reductionist  sensibility impeding the never ending assortment. Furniture, records, electronics, ephemera, visual art in all forms and formats  live here. A body of objects seemingly recognizable from our past – yet probably most of us neglected to hold onto – live, play, perhaps go to war when no one is watching (there is a Viking army after all).

Little Miss No Name belongs here (a very sad looking doll with a big plastic tear permanently about to fall from her right eye) as do several high end original furniture pieces. Taking just a glimpse of the couple’s collection one could feel overwhelmed and misunderstand the intimacy going on in just about every square foot of every room. A play of color, light, form,  personality and frivolity culminate into a storyline here. It’s anyone’s guess as to that story’s plot – obviously an intense journey through Indie and Pop culture continues to be written – the sentence about form following function was completely erased and continues down its path of redefinition.