Thursday, June 30, 2011


Home. And the little creatures who make it that way.

I grew up with the German version, which is Heinzelmännchen. They are little dudes that come into your house while you are asleep at night, and help with chores, fix things, clean things and are generally helpful. Funny, compared to the examples from other cultures below, the German one seems the most downright practical. Efficient little Heinzelmännchen:

The "official" story goes more like this (wikipedia) "The little house gnomes are said to have done all the work of the citizens of Cologne during the night, so that the inhabitants of Cologne could be very lazy during the day. According to the legend, this went on until a tailor's wife got so curious to see the gnomes that she scattered peas onto the floor of the workshop to make the gnomes slip and fall. The gnomes, being infuriated, disappeared and never returned. From that time on, the citizens of Cologne had to do all their work by themselves."

These guys below are Scottish, and they are called Brownies. Wikipedia says "Brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts or food. Among food, they especially enjoy porridge and honey. They usually abandon the house if their gifts are called payments, or if the owners of the house misuse them. Brownies make their homes in an unused part of the house."
Here they are:

The Tomte: The Swedish version, or Nisse (Norway and Denmark). These guys also came by night, to the houses of farmers to watch over their homes and children. This illustration of a Tomte is from 1539:

The Domovoi: the Slavic version of the houseghost. Not so cute. But very loveable. One could get attached, as I think they do too.

Here is what wikipedia says about them: "The main purpose of a domovoi is usually that of a household protector from "the evil eye", although this often varies from tale to tale. Domovois are masculine in nature and typically resemble small, bearded and haired old people, often with anxious faces...Some tales describe them as being doppelgangers of the household masters while others either give them a completely monstrous appearance, or none at all. The actions performed by a domovoi vaguely resemble (but are not limited to) those of poltergeists from Western European mythology in description, although they are not necessarily harmful. The same can also apply to pets or even certain household objects."

The incarnation of the home from a different culture, here is Hestia, the Greek Goddess of the hearth. I wonder which of these tales is older - that of the Goddess or that of the houseghost.... Here she is, tending the fire:

Hestia is not the most glamorous of deities. Talk about taking a home for granted: "Hestia, first daughter of Cronus and Rhea is the virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family. She received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household. She sat on a plain wooden throne with a white woolen cushion and did not trouble to choose an emblem for herself."

Not sure why this image snuck in's of the Norse Goddess Frigg, wife of Odin. Probably becasue she is an ur-mother and home-maker. In this picture she is spinning clouds:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A visit to the ICFF - Chapter 1: Shame on you, Austria

(In case anyone reading this is not aware: I am Austrian. That's why I care a lot about this tiny Alpenland, and that's also why I'm allowed to have abrasive opinions on anything pertaining to it, becasue I care. And becasue Austira needs my help!)

So here is my question, dear Wirtschaftskammer Österreich: what were you smoking when you decided it was a good idea to bring back the work of the self-titled Sandmann for (at least) the second time???
The only people who think this is cool are the dudes standing right infront of it. I mean, those turn-overable sand pictures are cool. I've marveled at them myself. When I was twelve! This is beyond tacky. And I like tacky. This is upsetting, even infuriating, because there are many awesome designers in Austria and this is a slap in their face! That's right, I hope you're all offended, designers of Austria, although I am offended enough for all of you.

This isn't new, this is old. This isn't art or design, it's something I can buy in Chinatown. This isn't going to impress anyone. People who see this will experience an uncomfortable feeling of vicarious embarrassment. This is a fair for the New York design community not a gift shop in Florida. Oh dear, please tell me you didn't bring this set-up to Milan.

So let me rephrase: Dear Wirtschaftkammer Österreich, please help me understand how this happened. No, let me rephrase again: next year, you should let me do this.

To be fair, there was perhaps 20% of non-dusty, same-old, behold-the-good-old-days fare. My favorite work was by WOKA, a small-scale lighting manufacturer. They do mostly early 20th century reproductions (how else would they end up in this booth!) but they also carry some newer stuff including these classy chandeliers:

Then there is Lichterloh. They have a beautiful storefront in Vienna and as it turns out they don't deal exclusively in designer antiques, they also manufacture some new products. This piece might look Eames-era, but it's from 2008, folks. Way to trick the Wirtschaftkammer!!!

The oh-so-modern designs from Galerie Suppan get some points for being oh-so-modern. Personally, I'm not a big fan, but at least it wouldhave made Franz Josef gasp. Turns out however, that the reason the name "Suppan" doesn't ring any design-bells is because it's an art gallery! What? Not a single piece of furniture on the website except these - oh yeah - sculptures.

And then there's the usual suspects: Wiener Werkstätte, Lobmeyr, Augarten Porzellan, and the Wiener Silber Manufactur. The latter gets half a point for not being as horribly obvious as the other three.  Some of these companies have worked with contemporary designers, even some contemporary Austrian designers, but they are one and all bastions of conservatism. Fine crystal, fine porcelaine, fine silver - nuff said.

I know the last thing my treasured Alpen-peeps like to do is shock anyone, but this is playing it too safe. We don't need to prove to the world that we have superior, age-old, k&k approved craftsmanship. I applaud that the above companies have pulled of collaborations with contemporary designers but these are the token exceptions to the rule. They are not on the forefront of design in Austria, and they don't need an introduction either. It's a shame to waste this opportunity to show compelling work and support talented young people. This doesn't make me proud to be Austrian, in fact its having the opposite effect. This could be so much more awesome. And that's why next year I should be in charge.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Darn, sometimes I wish I was a potter.

Skip the electricity and the injection molding. This is the ur-product. You make this with your hands, you fire it, and then you have this real thing. Sure, there's tons of chemistry involved, but it seems so simple.

Atwatery pottery.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dancing Potatoes

 This is the potato music box:

Juliette Warmenhoven of NL created this project to showcase the beauty and spectacle of plant growth. Juxtposing sprouting potatoes or bonsai trees with various shades of seafoam-colored plastic pleases me greatly. It has that doughy, silicone, Matthew Barney feel.
Note: Though she was inspired by found plastic objects, she made all of the components herself out of liquid plastic and fiberglass.

germination station:
If that's no enough, she also made these vases, inspired by insects and the meant to mimic their coatings with these custom glazes:
found on sightunseen, where you can read more about this project.
Her site, where you can see the book from whence these images came.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I can't stop staring at this photograph (by Cyril Rusoo on the National Geographic site).

It also reminds of a book that blew my mind, called Monkey Portraits, by photographer Jill Greenberg. I won't try to explain - you have to see for yourself (below).

Oh, and one is snuck in just for being a redonculously adorable buddy with no underlying points about our ancestry.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The Viennese design duo Mischer'Traxler has had interesting projects popping up all over the place lately.
A cake decorating machine, beautifully colored casts of vegetables, the Rumkugelbahn - this new project really goes to show they're no one-trick pony.

Relumine is a bit more product than scultpture for a change, but maybe that just stems from the self-prescribed use of standardized, industrial components: the low-energy lightbulbs. They tackle the reality that the EU has recently banned incandescent lightbulbs, and while this light sculpture doesn't create a replacement for the soft light of a glowing wire, it makes a bold statement about energy and about bringing our 20th century perceptions of a lamp a labored little step into the future.

I apologize for the lack of sounds effects, but when you look at these, you can probably hear
the zzzzzweaurr of a light saber in your own head.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fake Snow

From the book Fake Snow Collection by artist Heidi Neilson.
I especially like the aurora borealis storm in the fourth picture. Imagine looking out your window and seeing that blowing about the branches.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fiberglass Chairs - something of how they get the way they are

I would much rather shell out for one of these vintage pieces now that I know a lady with rhinestoned Gary-Larson-glasses was involved. And now that I've seen how poisonous some of the steps look.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

cargo cult

drawing by Ryan Leigh from here.
read what a cargo cult is on wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011