Things We Like: Best of Summer 2014

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So, at 10:29 PM on Monday, the 22nd of September, summer officially came to a close. Fall is here and with it comes a litany of preview lists from every publication and every blog, usually filled with all the same stuff in a different order. But you rarely see anyone compile a greatest hits list of the season that just wrapped. That’s where we come in. While the so-called tastemakers hunt for “the new” like the crowd at a Black Friday piñata party, we’re content to just hang back and—once the dust settles—collect and savor those truly great moments. So without getting too wordy, let’s get to it:

MoMA
That’s right, not one exhibit, but the whole thing. We were there for the Sigmar Polke retrospective (and the stellar permanent collection, of course), but MoMA was stacked top to bottom with solid exhibitions. We totally hit that sweet spot where the start and end of various shows overlap for a week or two. Good news, because we were able to take in other surveys on our short list like the Lygia Clark retrospective and Christopher Williams’ “The Production Line of Happiness”. And yet the the museum just kept on giving: a Robert Heinecken show, Toulouse Lautrec prints, and an experimental photography survey were rounded out by the Design Department’s short review of classics by faves like Anni Albers and Massimo Vignelli.

Oh, yes, and our apologies to Ray. Sorry we missed you. It was late, we were tired and they really didn’t make it easy to find you.

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Jeff Koons
Love him or loathe him, this career survey—Koons’ first in New York—delivered with cheap thrills and high production values. Bursting at the seams with day-glo colors, industrial sheen and naked bodies, the Whitney’s Breuer building buzzed with cheers, boos and a lot of head-scratching. Unlike some critics, though, we choose to buy-in and accept the premise. Why resist when the results are so ridiculously satisfying? To suggest, as some have, that Koons is not an artist because he doesn’t act like one seems completely short-sighted and missing the point. Or that his work doesn’t count because the subject matter is fluff (Did they miss that “what is art?” discussion in Art History 101? Somehow sleep through the 1960’s?). Yes, the work is flashy and intoxicating (and the artist is flashy and intoxicating), but that doesn’t mean that it’s/he’s lacking in substance. Why, all of a sudden, are the critics so willing to take a work at face value? Koons is complex and his work is complex. Scratch below the surface and you’ll find lots to love, lots to hate and much to debate.

Empanada Mama
Tasty pockets of fried goodness jam-pack the menu at this shoebox of a restaurant. And the watermelon lemonade was pretty tasty, too.

The High Line
Abandoned rail line turned urban oasis delivers on its promise to offer a quiet, contemplative experience with a new view of the city.

Hatch Show Print
A meet-up with the family in Nashville let us indulge in a trip to this legendary print shop. We’ve hosted Hatch for lectures and exhibits, bought their books and prints, and basically know their work inside out, yet we’ve never made the pilgrimage to the source—until now. Though the shop is now housed within the confines of the sparkling Country Music Hall of Fame, it still burns with an unvarnished, youthful energy as they continue to crank out prints repurposed from their historic archive of vintage wood type, dingbats, and hard-carved artwork.

 

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This House in Strathmere
We happened upon a new modernist beach house while on a bike ride through Strathmere in July. “Pure” and “simple” are not words that typically come to mind when you think Shore architecture, but this minimal, compact beach retreat (by Ambit Architecture) feels right at home amid the stark, severe landscape of sand, sky and water.

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Youth Code
A little late to this party, but, hey, better late than never. This electro duo shocked the withering soul of industrial back to life with a confrontational style and minimal aesthetic that owes more to Belgian EBM greats like Klinik or Vomito Negro than guitar-obsessed icons like NIN or Ministry. Pardon the cliche, but “electro-punk” does sum it up pretty well. And they’re hot with the kids, so if YC can turn indie-inclined Crystal Castles fans onto EBM classics, all the better.

Aphex Twin – “Selected Ambient Works II”
This is an oldie that somehow saw a lot of play this summer. Odd, not only because it’s been sitting dormant on my shelf for quite some time, but also because it has more of an introspective, autumnal vibe than a loud, pumping (if somewhat abstract) one you associate with summer. Maybe it was a reminder from deep within that AFX’s first album in 13 years, Syro, arrived in September. In any case, it’s packed with somber electronic goodness perfect for dreaming or dozing.

Suita Sofa Chaise Lounge by Antonio Citterio (in Yellow)
Our new favorite sofa, even if it’s an old design for Vitra. At NeoCon 2014.

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HBF Textiles – Chicago Showroom Redesign
2×4 reimagined the HBF showroom as a cozy, intimate studio. Less glitzy showplace and more residential library, it feels like the perfect place to really focus and get to work.

More NeoCon 2014
Clean, simple and arguably pretentious experience and product design from Arper,  new rugs by textile masters Maharam,  and the poppy, geometric Wallace Sewell collection for Designtex.

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Knit Progress: A few more hats

I think I broke a personal record for hats knit in one week! I managed to knit eight hats from the balls of scrap yarn I created last weekend. I was having so much fun pairing the colors, I couldn’t stop. The hats above are the last 4 I created at the end of the week. The last two pictures are of the same hat. I like the subtle color transitions in some of them – the gray one stands out to me especially, but I also like the vibrance of the teal and green and the purples & reds.

I also purchased a few more skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino to round out my glove inventory. It took a while, but I finally settled on three colors that I call Apple Harvest – a golden “Topaz”, a beautiful deep red “Burgundy”, and a granny smith shade of “Lettuce.” I’ll be working on gloves for the next week or two and then it’s back to holiday presents!

Knit Progress: Yarn Scrap Hats

I’m still working away at creating a bunch of things for the arts festival and trying to work from my existing yarn stash to maximize materials. Out with the old to make way for the new! After finishing up the last round of gloves, I had a small bag filled with scrappy little balls of yarn that I was saving to make pinwheels out of later.

I pulled the bag out and organized them by color into a rainbow of little balls and decided to Russian join them into larger balls by color to use in hat projects! The hats above are what they’ve turned into so far, combined with my stash of sock yarn leftovers to create highly textured and completely one-of-a-kind color combinations.

Its been so much fun to pair the yarns and see how it will all come out. I still have enough yarn to make a few more., stay tuned!

Ready. Set. Go.

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The workshop is cleaned out, cleaned up and ready to go. Artwork has been selected, paper’s in, color choices are becoming clear, and a schedule is in place.  That last one is a first. I usually have so many ideas and then tend to get seduced by the latest sketch (which then sends me off course), that I thought I’d try implementing a schedule. Buckling down and charting a course that includes a select number of favorite ideas might lead to some interesting results. Or maybe just more results. That’s the thinking, of course.

Conversely, I’m trying to loosen up a bit more in terms of working method. I was a little too rigid in the spring and therefore was unable to get as many prints out as I would have liked. I’m going with more forgiving artwork and compositions than in seasons past and will adopt a more go-with-the-flow attitude—even it it requires some reminding now and again. Embracing the process and embracing more of the mistakes this time out.

I have one edition under my belt so far and the process seems to be working well. I’m very much looking forward to more. Here’s hoping you are too.

 

Yarn Love: Malabrigos’ Silky Merino

Fall is just around the corner, which means kicking the knitting into high gear for the Cherokee Heights Arts Festival and Holiday presents! When I started my stash busting/inventory building this summer I had a few skeins of Malabrigo’s Silky Merino that were perfect for making some fingerless gloves. I was knitting with size US5 needles and found that after blocking, I loved the lighter, looser fabric that the yarn creates, as well as the beautiful sheen and softness perfect for gloves. I fell in love with the combination and bought a number of other colors and can’t seem to stop!

The gloves above will mostly be given away as presents (except the teal pair which I made to match my fall sweater coat), but I’m making a few more pairs for the festival. I’ve found that I can get one and a half pairs of gloves from one skein, so I am combining the remnants of two colors to make a third pair. That’s a pretty good return for a moderately priced, but luxurious-feeling skein!

Fall Knits: Centripetal Sweater by Lauren Dahl

After knitting the cardigan for my mom, I wanted to knit a sweater for myself. I really like long, warm sweaters for the fall and winter that I can wear in the office kind of like a coat. I found the Centripetal Sweater by Lauren Dahl and fell in love with the simple design and beautiful detailing of the cables around the back and collar. It looked a little short for me, but found that by adding a stitch at the middle and end of each repeat of the circular body to the middle and then decreasing back up the other side, I was able to add length through the whole bottom section. I also decided to add a little color work to the innermost cables for a pop of color with a beautiful skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino Chunky I picked up on my trip to NYC (the body is Bernat Alpaca in Ebony, the better to hide kitty hair). Note that because the yarn I used was pretty fuzzy, the pattern isn’t as crisp as some of the examples knit by others on the project page. The cables are even more beautiful with a yarn that has better stitch definition.

I usually avoid knitting with chunky yarn, but it is perfect for the design and makes it a relatively quick project. I also found the directions to be pretty simple to follow and the description of the short row technique easy to pick up as I hadn’t done it before. I’d definitely recommend this design.