writing about my collections has turned out to be something altogether different than i thought it would be. what i thought was just modernist books and ephemera evidently encompasses just about everything. much to my displeasure, actually. i thought of myself as a focused and discerning collector, but now it seems i am all over the place. here is a perfect example: two spoons from the 17th century. three-hundred-year-old spoons. why spoons? i don’t have any others. have your ever seen jasper morrison’s book, spoons? these hand-carved pieces were such perfect examples of beauty and utility that i couldn’t resist. purchased in an antique shop in stockholm. they are delicately light but durable. beauty in simplicity. an admirable trait. these same attributes coincided in the launch of glutton for life, a new blog by my good friend laura silverman. she also contributes to amassblog. i have known laura for nineteen-plus years. she is a remarkable and talented individual who has been my studio’s copywriter for everything. she has been able to make the mundane exciting and the obscure clear. i have counted on her for many things. here is one particular instance: we received a call from a prospective client on a friday afternoon and were asked to submit a presentation in a very short time. the first thing i did after hanging up the phone was call laura and tell her to come in on sunday. i had no concept, no visuals and no idea were i was going with this project, but i knew whatever i pulled together she would make sense of it all. i worked feverishly until sunday afternoon and of course laura was able to weave a wonderful story line through the project. it turned out to be one of which i am most proud. However, what excited me most was that the next day laura received a call from another studio to work on the very same assignment. needless to say, calling laura first was my best creative decision. please enjoy her blog and maybe you will get from it some of what i have gotten from her over the years. fresh ideas, wonderful inspiration and, most of all, sincerity. certainly worth more than a spoonful.
great typography speaks for itself. i expressed that i did not collect tobacciana. well, it seems i was wrong. as i dig through my collections, i discover piece after piece of cigar- or cigarette-related items. here is just one example of a wonderful package of tobacco: mac greennock’s. I love the phrase “point to point cut.” black and orange. beauty at its most simple. attending flea markets and paper fairs has always been something i have found interesting, although i never fully understood this passion until i was in one place for an extended length of time. new york city has afforded me such a time period. this past september marked my twentieth year in the big, hard apple. before moving to new york, i dated my wife during the summer of ‘89. i had finished yale and was interviewing in new york. before i moved to the city, i invited her to stay with me in new haven and we visited the connecticut countryside. our first sleepaway weekend was to pittsville, mass. to visit the handcock shaker village. i had never been and i saw it as an opportunity to drive up route seven, check out the myriad antique shops and eat local food. it was poking around in one of these shops that i discovered this package. fifty cents was the right price. a wonderful inspiration that made it to my shelf but was completely lost on my “date.” I learned a lot on that trip up route seven, and i’m still learning from this package.
i have always loved corporate identity. now they call it branding. when i started out, i was the letterhead guy. someone designed the logo and it was given to me and i applied it to everything: letterhead, business card, envelope, brochure, signage. that was my job and i loved it. still do. however it has been a couple of years since i designed a letterhead. that rectangle never bores me. (though i prefer the a4.)
when i was kid, ibm meant the ‘international brotherhood of magicians.’ (i spent most saturday mornings at myers magic shop in downtown birmingham.) but i quickly learned it also stood for something else since my uncle worked for big blue. i collected coins, hot wheels and broken bones (mine). it was not until years later that i discovered my passion for ephemera. while studying graphic design at indiana university, i applied to a design program that was run through kent state (later through yale) in brissago, switzerland. the program’s highlight was to study with armin hoffman and paul rand. i was ready to go but the cost was prohibitive. having become interested in design, i switched from studying art history and had enrolled in a couple of graphic design courses. happily, one of my classmates was the first runner-up for miss usa. a tri-delt that didn’t know i was alive. it was in this class we were given names of individual designers to research. i was given bradbury thompson. i believe this assignment led to my interest in collecting design ephemera. this collection of ibm materials designed by paul rand was bought mostly on ebay. my favorite piece of course is the letterhead for the chairman. international business machines corporation is set in script. the contrast is rich and unexpected. i just love it. i miss you, mr. rand.
just in case you missed me this past weekend. that’s my daughter using ichat to pass the time. she sold some wicked chocolate chip cookies.
it’s apparent i collect many things, but i don’t purchase all of them. here is a series that numbers close to two hundred or so pictures of found gloves. walking new york affords many wonderful visual opportunities and the chance to happen upon many things. i have been taking pictures of gloves for more than ten years. i use an automatic contax film camera and am quite obsessive about where I get my film developed. in paris, no less. my wife used to take regular trips and I would have her drop off the film once a year or so. she has not been in some time so i have about twenty rolls that need to be developed. patience is a virtue.
a many years ago in the new york times, the editorial page published a pictorial of found gloves. this was way before flickr and fffound and the countless online image banks, so to see that someone else shared “my” collection was disheartening. i have learned over the years that nothing is your own. so much is in the air. i have enjoyed spotting the odd glove and am now happy use my iphone to capture them when i don’t have my film camera. whereas not long ago i had to have my camera and all the elements needed to be just so.
this past weekend i was at the beach and the weather was bright, clear and cool. snuggling under the comforter and having a chat with my nine-year-old daughter was a wonderful thing. the conversation was about conventions. not a doll convention but about what i have come to believe about the practice of life—conventions or customs. i told her about my custom of only using my film camera or of always wearing a tie to church. i asked if she’d seen many other men wear a tie. she said she always wears a skirt, is this is a convention or a custom? and i told her that many conventions that i abide by are no longer the norm. shining my shoes for instance. so few people do this themselves, much less have shoes that need to be shined. i wanted her to understand that the customs and rules we follow are changing everyday and she should be aware of this. i tend to talk to my daughter like she is eighteen. I remember visiting the whitney to see the john currin exhibition. she was three or four and we had a discussion about one of his paintings. she doesn’t understand a word you’re saying, my wife said. is that bad? I hope not. i do know she felt it even if she didn’t understand it.
i make books out of scraps. does that make them scrapbooks? i suppose they are. at the very least, it’s my way of keeping things that come across my desk, making compositions that look interesting. green is a good color, but orange is even better. numbers: what graphic designer doesn’t like numbers? is it a pattern that holds everything together, or is it the repetition? all I know is that I find it endlessly interesting to stare at a page and make relationships with color, shape and form. this page dates from 2005, but then again, the pages are never really finished. i come back to them again and again. and again. please visit the daily scrapbook and see some of my other pages. also, thank you jessica for your kindness and friendship over the years.