Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

6.19.2011

The Human Touch

[My own image of a page from Leslie Williamson's Handcrafted Modern showing a vignette in furniture designer Vladimir Kagan's Park Avenue apartment. Click to enlarge and see the details.]

One of the great things about reading Gail Levin's book, Lee Krasner: A Biography, is that it presents design and art world rock stars -- women like Ray Eames, a fellow Hofmann student and lifelong friend of Krasner's -- before they were icons and names in our text books. Levin's mention of Charles and Ray Eames and their move to the West Coast, along with the High's current design exhibition, put me in the mood to revisit Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-Century Designers (Rizzoli, 2010) written and photographed by Leslie Williamson.

If you've yet to flip through this book because you're assuming you've seen this territory before, you've had your fill of mid-century modern, or perhaps 20th-century design is not your favorite era, I suggest taking a peek. Interesting layers of color and form abound here.

Williamson herself once found Modernism -- as it was initially presented to her in school -- a bit pristine and inaccessible. This volume, in contrast, shows the very human side of modern design, right down to the bobby pins left on Ray Eames's bedside table. 

[Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-Century Designers open to Williamson's photograph of Vladimir Kagan's tiled shower.]

Personal passions are definitely the core of the book. Using primarily natural light, Williamson captured on film fourteen private domains of architects and designers including Eva Zeisel, Jens Risom, Walter Gropius and George Nakashima, keeping the focus on their everyday lives. We see their books, the art and objects they collected, and their work spaces. Ray Eames, in particular, was an enthusiastic collector skilled at layering. For me, the book is all about the warmer, earthier aspects of modern. It's also terrific summer reading for the visually oriented because it's heavy on inspiring images accompanied simply by Williamson's brief essays. She says upfront that she is not a design scholar and describes herself instead as a fan. I'd add very informed fan with a fresh perspective.

2 comments:

La Maison Fou said...

Modernishly Mod.
Luv it.
L.

Janet said...

I picked up a copy of Handcrafted Modern when we were at Fallingwater a couple months ago. Love it!