Patent Leather Perfection is the name of my latest handbag discovery. In fact, it came about completely by accident. I was looking for details about a pair of hot pink Oka b ballet shoes.
Somehow I landed on Pinterest after searching on Instagram and there they were. Not the Oka b hot pink ballet shoes but a whole new collection of handbags.
Pink + Orange Matched to perfection, of course because I love pink. On Pinterest, I found a purse that fits into Patent Leather Perfection. Actually it’s a perfect match to the pink Oka b slip ons.
Green + Pink Jelly Couture Pink Meadow Limited Edition Then I found another bag not only with pink but also in my favorite, popular color combination of green with pink.
Arcadia and Furla Round Bags Not only am I partial to certain color combinations but I also adore certain brands and shapes of handbags and shoes. Yes, Arcadia is one of them and Furla is the other. Both are unique to their brand. They’re round and both are part of patent leather perfection.
Speaking of Furla I found the most outrageous Furla bags on Pinterest. I adore them. In fact, I wish I could afford them. There is no coincidence that Furla named this style their jelly and candy collection.
My pocketbook passion started about 30 years ago. Each year, I would buy myself a beautiful, popular, designer purse. To start my collection, I purchased numerous Dooney & Bourke bags, Coach bags, and then some Kate Spade bags.
My Passion and My Search
I began my journey searching for and purchasing the most attractive Dooney & Bourke ‘All Weather Leather’ bags.
Since the Internet was not yet a means of advertising and purchasing, items were available from beautifully designed mail order catalogs.
In fact, this is where my passion for pocketbooks began. The handbag at the left is very similar to one of my first purchases.
FAST FORWARD: Outlet Malls and The Internet
Over the years, the technology for shopping has become more sophisticated, appealing and convenient. If I want to make a purchase without leaving home, the Internet has become the place to go. If I want a feast including entertainment and purchasing delights, destinations like the Tanger Outlets are the ideal place to go
INTRODUCING: 21st Century Shopping – POSHMARK
There is no end to what I have been able to find online, at upscale mall shops and at mall outlet stores. But isn’t that the whole idea of retail shopping today? The possibilities are endless.
Here’s a video about the fascinating story of the immensely successful online social marketplace community known as Poshmark.
One brand, in particular has become my favorite vintage pocketbook passion, Italian made ARCADIA. This brand is one I recently discovered from the gangbuster technology for feeding my passion, online search and research. In fact, my favorite place to ‘window shop’ and purchase is on Poshmark. It is the hottest spot of them all. I visit almost daily.
The Evolution of How to Go Shopping
There is an evolutionary path to this search for collecting both new and vintage handbags. Collecting new handbags started with mail order catalogs and stayed there for many years. Then as technology was embraced, it evolved into the Internet.
Out of curiosity, I have even visited one of the Tanger Outlet Malls I had heard so much about. Of course I made a purchase. The mall was an appealing, well designed shopping village. In addition, it had a movie theatre so no parking space was wasted when shopping hours waned.
Three Primary Venues
At present, three venues have become my primary sources of feeding my pocketbook passion. They are online discount sources, like Poshmark, online company websites, and thrift stores.
Decorative Art & Crafts was a division of Art & Design was one of a hand full of major disciplines I was immersed in as an entrepreneur. I thought that this creative endeavour had come to an end. I discovered otherwise.
Begun in the early 1990’s, Decorative Art & Crafts lasted until very early in the 21st Century. Several other ventures intervenes. Then about 3 months ago, in the beginning of the scorching summer of 2018, I resumed indulging in this passion. Since it was too hot for me to engage in outdoor activities, this was the perfect hobby for indoors. I took of like a rocket bound to experience the heavens. And I have been doing just that.
Decorative Art with A Twist
Originally Decorative Painting by Alison Gilbert, my decorative tools were primer, paint and a protective coating. In revisiting this discipline, I introduced some new tools, duck tape and contact paper.
‘Recycled with Love Collectibles’ Revived
The decorative tools are the same and then some. Previous collectables only had primer, paint and a protective coating. Now, I have introduced all different kinds of trinkets and accessories. So far these have included:
• cloth flowers
• glitter medium
• contact paper
• broken jewelry pieces
Making them is really fun and the results are very exciting. Look below for the results. There will be more to show here as pieces are completed.
Part Five was written by me, Alison D. Gilbert, The New York Graphic Design Examiner. It was published by the Examiner.com on January 22, 2012
THE CHARRETTE NEW YORK CHRONICLES
The articles previously published here about The Charrette Corporation in NY detailed its history starting with its humble beginnings by architectural graduate student, Lionel Spiro and later, with Blair Brown an underclassman. It literally began in a supplies closet at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (HGSD). The inspiration behind its beginnings was one of necessity. At that time, there was no single store in the Boston area where a design student or design professional could acquire all the supplies needed for a project.
Since it was the nature of design work projects to be done in ‘charrette’ (working until a last minute deadline), time was always of the essence. So the idea occurred to entrepreneurial Lionel, to gather the needed materials in bulk and sell them to the other students. To say that the idea caught on is an understatement.
Neither Lionel nor Blair had ever intended to become anything but architects. Lionel graduated ahead of Blair and got a taste of the life he thought was his calling. But time proved otherwise. So when his friend Blair graduated from HGSD, Lionel asked Blair if he wanted to go into business with him. Again, the idea was a natural since no single store still existed to serve the needs of designers.
Lionel found that he could be of greater service to his beloved field of architecture serving the designers themselves than potential architectural clients. It seemed like a good idea to Blair, as well. Thus Charrette came ‘out of a supply closet’ to become a full-fledged business.
OUT OF A CLOSET AND INTO A STORE
It started small but before long the founders realized how wide spread the need was that they had identified as students. What to call the company was a ‘no-brainer. ‘Charrette’ said it all to any design student or professional who needed a design supply or tool, right away. Their first retail destination was Boston.
After a short time, Lionel decided to take on the NY Design world. This covered graphics, architecture, interiors, fashion, theatre, etc. Any discipline that needed a straight edge, a drafting board, tape, markers, Letraset or any of the top quality supplies that could be found in the Charrette treasure chest.
CHARRETTE COMES TO NEW YORK
Charrette’s New York beginnings were humble architecturally, two consecutive stores in midtown on the East side. Neither was a show place but the clientele were the glitterati of New York. There was a constant stream of Broadway and film stars to add to the crème de la crème of the graphic design, architectural, interiors, fashion and other types of design firms in and out of their doors.
NEW YORK LOVES CHARRETTE
Such a clientele needed the right setting, backdrop, environment to reflect not only who they were but what Charrette represented and what there was to see and purchase. The store needed to be set up more like a Tiffany’s displaying Charrette’s tools like fine jewelry behind glass. Each customer would be greeted, often by name, by a sales person escorting him around and waiting on him or her from start to finish.
THE CHARRETTE NEW YORK CROWNING JEWEL
HGSD classmate and native New Yorker, David Paul Helpern, was chosen for the challenge of creating the NY Charrette Crowning Jewel, the ultimate NY Charrette store. Everything was custom made, the woodwork, the special cabinetry, the floors, the ceilings and the lighting. All were made from the finest materials and to exacting specifications. The store could be used for nothing else. Everything was retrofitted for the superior line of design tools that Charrette fashioned and sold. The entire store was designed like a ‘last’ for custom pairs of designer shoes.
THE CHARRETTE OPENING WAS GRAND
The store had a catered affair for the Grand opening. Charrette’s NY Crowning Jewel was featured in several magazines. It is possible that the entire Charrette culture became a template for other chic boutique style stores that followed by selling things that would not normally be displayed this way or offer the kind of service that was offered for what others might have designed and considered mundane. But there was never anything mundane about Charrette.
THE FOUNDERS AND THE ARCHITECT
It is with extraordinary gratitude that this author has had the opportunity to interview primary sources for this entire series. My utmost thanks go out to both founders, Lionel Spiro and Blair Brown for their time, patience and even samples of Charrette supplies, materials and catalogs.
Also, a special thank you goes to fellow New Yorker and architect, David Paul Helpern for sharing his memories as the architect of the Charrette NY Crowning Jewel built at the corner of the East 30’s and Lexington Avenue in New York.
THE CHARRETTE STAFF
There are also countless staff members who worked in the retail stores, at the headquarters in Massachusetts and in the field on the commercial side in numerous states. Art directors, who created the immaculate design materials and displays that always arrived at each store with very specific instructions on how they were to be assembled, shared their stories. Interviews have also been held with former customers whose memories and memorabilia, were lent, sent and photographed for this series.
THE FIRST CHARRETTE STORY LINK
Although I have not mentioned any of the staff by name for fear of leaving someone out accidently, each knows who he or she is, as my thanks continue to go out to each member for the joyful experience of sharing stories. But I must mention one person who, before this series could begin, was found on a Google search for Charrette. He is Stephen Dill, a former employee. I found him on LinkedIn. Charrette was on his resume as a job link. Thanks to him, every person in this story, including the founders, was able to be located. Thank you, Stephen.
THE LINKEDIN CHARRETTE ALUMNI GROUP
A LinkedIn group was set up by and for Charrette Alumni. It is open only to this group of former employees. My thanks also go out to Jack Skidmore and Mark Levitan, its founders, for allowing me to become an honorary member and for their fond memories as well.
It has been an honor and an experience of a lifetime to spend a period of many months compiling all the materials and interviews that have gone into these articles. May they in some small way pay tribute to an outstanding NY (graphic and other types of design) institution and be part of the legacy that Charrette contributes to the NY design scene.
LINKS TO THE CHARRETTE CORPORATION CHRONICLES: PART ONE THROUGH FIVE
Part Four was written by me, Alison D. Gilbert, The New York Graphic Design Examiner. It was published by the Examiner.com on February 21, 2011.
THE CHARETTE NY CREATIVE CULTURE
The historical digs for the Charrette NY stores unearthed an abundance of artifacts and details. The process leading to the creation of their flagship store at 33rd & Lex, and the story since make it apparent that this chronicle needs and deserves to include every gem encountered along the way.
From interviewing several primary sources, a single article has evolved into a series with no sign of wanting to end. Unlike Charrette NY, which did conclude after 20 years as the premier place to purchase design supplies, its story is very much alive. There is even a Charrette Alumni Group on LinkedIn, with many members yet to be interviewed.
Stephen Dill was the first Charrette Alumnus discovered and interviewed. He arose from a ‘Charrette’ search on LinkedIn. He led the way to co-founder Lionel Spiro.
Mark Levitan started with Charrette straight out of school and rose through the ranks of almost every department over his 29-year tenure. NY architect, Rand Rosenbaum, AIA, worked in the NY stores in high school and then while at Pratt. He continued to order Charrette supplies from Cornell. Art Director, Johanna Bohoy, created award-winning graphics some of which are in the Cooper Hewitt Museum in NY and the Smithsonian in DC.
With each of these and interviews to come, Charrette NY jewels emerge. They provide a unique perspective adding color, charm, and even panache to the stores, staff and customers. A creative culture was born within the NY design scene that became a template for chic, boutique style stores that catered to a select group and are a NY signature.
The list of clientele was a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of NY architects, graphics and all kinds of designers. It included a cast of celebrities and glitterati that make the Charrette NY story sound more like a Broadway event than a retail business. (To this day, that list remains buried like other artifacts were. It may never be unearthed.)
There is no doubt that place, time and cast were intimately woven together to create a shimmering fabric. It was a cloth that stretched from Boston to NY and down the East Coast to DC, and out to the Midwest.
The Charrette NY family history and genealogy still ache to be documented until every detail of its glorious life has seen the light of day. This creative culture was home to thousands of people who all played a part in its magical, rich and on-going tale.
LINKS TO THE CHARRETTE CORPORATION CHRONICLES: PART ONE THROUGH FIVE
Part Three was written by me, Alison D. Gilbert, The New York Graphic Design Examiner. It was published by the Examiner.com on February 4, 2011.
THE BIG APPLE
It was not long after its official birth in 1964 that the owners of the Charrette Corporation, a well-established New England design supply institution, realized the opportunity to spread its wings and expand. The need for their multi-dimensional approach to the sale of design supplies was not limited to architects or its Massachusetts borders. Between 1968 and 2002, Charrette opened a total of 26 locations in 16 states, as far west as Chicago and Detroit and as far south as Washington, DC. The need that co-founders, Lionel Spiro and Blair Brown, had identified as students and started in a Harvard Graduate School of Design closet, was not exclusive to architectural students but was viable for designers and students everywhere.
According to Lionel, who came to be in charge of the NY stores, “In 1967, the first NY store opened. It was located on the second and third floors of 139 East 47th Street. After a short time, the need for a better and larger location was apparent and the store moved to a brownstone building at 212 East 54th Street.
“Its showroom/store area was on the main floor and some storage was in the basement. By then, Charrette ran a truck from Boston to New York every night which enabled customer orders and store restocking to be done from its 125,000 square foot warehouse containing 36,000 different items. This enabled Charrette to accept telephone orders from customers in NYC up to 5:30 and deliver the orders with a 96% fill rate, the next morning.”
When the parcel of land containing the Charrette store on East 54th Street was demolished to make room for the ultra-modern ‘Lipstick Building’, the store had to move once again choosing a larger space at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 33rd Street.
The establishment of Charrette’s permanent New York home necessitated the skills of an architect to design their very own showplace from a barebones office space in the design district. For this task, Lionel turned to one of his Harvard Graduate School of Design classmates, New York based architect, David Paul Helpern. Mr. Helpern is still practicing and it was possible to interview him to learn more about the design and building of the showplace that was Charrette’s home for 20 years. Upcoming articles in this series will include excerpts from that interview and more about Charrette’s NY graphic standards.
LINKS TO THE CHARRETTE CORPORATION CHRONICLES: PART ONE THROUGH FIVE
Part Two was written by me, Alison D. Gilbert, The New York Graphic Design Examiner. It was published by the Examiner.com on January 14, 2011.
BORN IN A HARVARD CLOSET
Charrette did not enter the New York scene until a few years after its birth. It was actually born (although not yet named) in a closet at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The idea was to house in one location all the supplies design students would need. This eliminated the need to take the time to travel to a dozen different locations to gather all the materials required for their projects.
As strange as the name Charrette sounds, anyone who has attended design school or has worked in a design office knows what a ‘charrette’ is. When students and professionals (particularly) in architecture stay up all night to meet a deadline, they say that they are “en charrette” or they are “charretting”.
The term came from the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, which in the 19th century was the leading school of architecture in the world. When deadlines arrived, a CHARRETTE, the French word for wagon, would be pushed through the building and students had to place their drawings on the “charrette” or they would not be accepted.
Many students would actually sit or straddle the wagon as they signed their work or put down the last few lines. Students came to study in Paris from all over the world. When they graduated and returned home, they used the term “en Charrette” to define the last effort to finish a design project. This description applies primarily to the architecture and planning fields.
According to Lionel Spiro, since he and Blair Brown, the founders of Charrette, only planned to supply architects, they chose the name that they felt had special significance to their targeted market. However within a short time, Charrette was discovered by a succession of design professionals who used many of the same products.
Eventually manufacturing companies such as Raytheon, Ford, GM, and Chrysler eventually turned to Charrette for the majority of their design and engineering drawing needs. In addition, Charrette was discovered by hundreds of relatively small design offices within much larger government agencies in Washington.
Also included were structural, mechanical and civil engineers and later other engineers including electrical and electronic engineers. Commercial (graphic) designers, product designers and other creative people working at ad agencies, media firms and even television shows like Saturday Night Live became regular users of Charrette products as regular New York customers.
LINKS TO THE CHARRETTE CORPORATION CHRONICLES: PART ONE THROUGH FIVE
These chronicles of The Charrette Corporation first appeared on the Examiner.com, written by me, Alison D. Gilbert as the New York Graphic Design Examiner. This story includes primary research, most importantly interviews with the founders, Lionel Spiro and the late Blair Brown. In addition, many former corporate staff members, store employees and even customers all graciously gave their time to tell me their experiences and so many wonderful stories.
Examiner.com ceases to exist this month, July of 2016, five and a half years after I started writing for them. The Charrette Chronicles and other posts would perish without transferring them to my own blog. The Charrette Chronicles appears here as a series of five posts. This introduction, Part One, was originally published on December 10, 2010.
No story about Graphic Design in NY would be complete without at least mention of the establishments, new, old, and gone that have supplied the design industry with the many, unique tools it required primarily BC (before computers) and through the transition to AD (age of digital). In compiling a list of them, one store stood out so distinctly that it deserves an entire article, if not series of articles about it, Charrette.
So much research for this designer supplies institution has been accumulated that there is an entire ‘back story’ to this examiner.com series. It details the process of using the Internet to unearth materials and people. Many of them have been extremely generous in coming forward to share their experience and memories about this wonderful but extinct designers supply company that was founded in Cambridge Mass in the mid 1960’s.
This story is an attempt to go back in time and capture the years of glory Charrette held in the industry, in general, and in NY, in particular. It will include facts about its lifespan of several decades and some of the key players involved. It is a very moving story and one that any author can only hope to be worthy of writing.
Since the materials that have been so generously donated, lent and found on-line are still accumulating, this piece will serve simply as an invitation to the graphic memoir of Charrette, It had stores at three NYC locations. First it was on 47th Street, then on East 54th Street (before the brownstone building it was housed in was torn down to make room for the ‘Lipstick’ Building, Finally it was relocated to its homage to modern design, a frontage of glass and red metal in the design district, the East 30rds. How fitting a stage upon which to continue this story.
LINKS TO THE CHARRETTE CORPORATION CHRONICLES: PART ONE THROUGH FIVE
This series of blog posts about KNOLLING is dedicated to Andrew Kromelow who coined the term ‘knolling’ in 1987 and to Tom Sachs who expanded on the concept of knolling to ‘Always Be Knolling’.
I first heard the term ‘knolling’ around a month ago. I was fascinated by the term and started to research everything I could about it. I became somewhat confused because I could not discern if it was a systematic method of organization or an artistic technique also called flat lay photography or flatlays.
It seems to have started as the former and morphed into the latter over time. ‘Flatlays’ or ‘flat lay photography’ has nothing to do with knolling as a systematic method of organization. But from the way I understand these terms, they can be used as a record of knolling a set of objects. It can also be an art form of pleasantly laid out objects. It is presently and widely used on Instagram, tumblr and Pinterest. The purpose of using these social media applications is a popular means of graphic design layout or brand marketing as shown below. Instagram photos used in an article on Business Insider called, Everyone’s obsessed with ‘knolling’ their stuff and putting the photos on Instagram
The focus of this fourth blog post is to analyse the original process of ‘knolling’ used as an organizational tool. Specifically, it is about the process which I believe that Andrew Kromelow used to ‘bring order out of chaos’ in Frank Gehry‘s furniture fabrication factory where Kromelow worked. That resulting order prepared the staff for the continuation of a project or the starting of a new project.
I am finding that knolling is also a catalyst for creativity. This is my experience and what I would like to share. Just to clarify, the following video is not what I am writing about. My focus is not on flatlays or flat lay photography. But for information sake, this video, Making a Flat Lay Collage for a Campaign, Brochure or Magazine from StyleShoots by Matt Brasier, explains those terms and their current use.
The following video, Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs, does focus on knolling in great detail.
In my second blog post, I asked the question, KNOLLING: Can It Help Organize My Costume Jewelry Collection? In a word, YES. It can and it is helping a great deal. I am in the process of creating four boards so far:
• a board for my bracelets that holds 48 bracelets laid out in color order as an additional organizational system
• a board for about 2 dozen necklaces, again using color order as an additional organizational system
• a board for earrings
• a board for pins
I am also working on layouts for my hat collection and my purse collection.
The next things that happened was a spontaneous inspiration. Once I had created order out of chaos and could see my things neatly laid out in front of me, I experienced an epiphany. I felt the desire to commence making jewelry. I am not ever sure what the thought process was or if there even was one. I do have lots of broken pieces of jewelry which I hoped to repair some day. I also have a new piece that was missing some stones that needed regluing. The next thing I knew, I had retrieved my jewelry storage boxes from my shelves. I got out my glue and I started creating. I have already created two pieces of jewelry out of one piece and have plans for quite a few other pieces.
In reflecting on the points which are detailed in my second blog post and summarized below, I concluded that I had a grasp on knolling and that I had created organizational templates using materials at hand to knoll. My solutions are working very well for my bracelets, decorative pins, earrings, purses and shoe box collections. Where it has not worked as well is due to a lack of space and the proper materials to lay out all my hats. But the system of knolling itself has held up to every one of my challenges. In retrospect, ‘Always Be Knolling’ is a great approach to facing my challenges of organizing my favorite personal items for quick, methodical access.
THE CHALLENGE AND THE SOLUTION
To summarize, my challenge had been to see if knolling, as coined by Andrew Kromelow and defined by Wikipedia, worked. The steps I took worked. They were:
• to design templates with materials on hand that could organize my vintage accessories collections
• to determine if knolling using these templates could solve my fashion accessories challenge by making my collections easily accessible to select what to wear
I feel it is safe to say that it worked. What do you think from observing the photos, or ‘flat lay photographs’ I took to share the results?
KNOLLING, SOCIAL MEDIA AND FLAT LAY PHOTOGRAPHY aka FLAT LAYS
One question remained. Where did ‘flat lay photography’ which came to be known as ‘flatlays’ in the social media world fit into knolling? My next step was:
• to confirm what Andrew Kromelow’s meaning was when he coined the term knolling
• to determine if knolling had other practical uses pre or post Andrew Kromelow’s coining the phrase and to ‘Always Be Knolling’ (ABK), as Tom Sachs suggested
• to find out if ‘flat lay photography’ which came to be known as ‘flat lays’ enhanced knolling the way I had come to understand and use it
ANDREW KROMELOW’S DEFINITION
Andrew confirmed that his coining of the term, knolling was directly attributed to the clean, simple parallel and perpendicular designs of Florence Knoll’s furniture designs. But he added that knolling was a system used for years, as an example, in a medical operating room and other areas where the lay out of tools could make a difference between life and death.
Before moving onto social media and knolling, I would like to provide a few samples of both present day and historical uses of what knolling was coined as, an organizational system. To emphasize, it could even mean the difference between life and death. This concept was emphasized by Andrew Kromelow.
SOCIAL MEDIA TAKES ON KNOLLING
Let’s examine what social media has done with knolling by examining the following samples.
Knolling is a technical, even scientific systemization that has a specific dynamic function. On the other hand, unless they are a record of a knolled exercise, flatlays are a static, artistic event that is meant to be pleasing to the eye usually as a commercial tool. These kind of flat lay photos have become very popular in the design layout and products marketing world. Such is the evolution of things.
What started out as a scientific system for ordering tools evolved into something pretty and commercial, in other words, an advertising/marketing tool. That is the nature of invention. It is not bad. One has the choice of using knolling for either or both purposes. In my opinion, the essential element is to remember knolling’s origins and its inventor. Then one can truly enjoy its metamorphosis without forgetting the inventor or limiting the invention.