Wendell Castle, a Legend of the Furniture and Design Worlds, Dies at 85

Wendell Castle, a Legend of the Furniture and Design Worlds, Dies at 85

Since the morning of Sunday, January 21, design Instagram has been awash in images of sinuous objects that defy easy categorization. A silver chair looks as though it could be the tongue of a colossal human figure; a massive white seat resembles nothing so much as a gigantic, gleaming back tooth. Candy-colored neon lamps sit on bases that resemble sturdy elephant’s feet. In some of these images, a slight, silver-haired, bespectacled man looks at the camera, seated on a wild creation with three legs, or at the edge of a sculptural object comprised of curvaceous cones and scoops. Happily reclined, as though he had made himself at home in a craggy, natural rock formation that was never meant for human comfort, Wendell Castle often had the look of a friendly genius who didn’t quite know what all the fuss was about.

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The Worst McMansion Sins, From Useless Pilasters to Hellish Transom Windows

The Worst McMansion Sins, From Useless Pilasters to Hellish Transom Windows

If the current leader of the free world is, as Fran Lebowitz described him in an interview with Vanity Fair last October, “a poor person’s idea of a rich person,” then the houses Kate Wagner dissects in her blog McMansion Hell are a particular sort of middle-class person’s idea of great estates. There are turrets, balconies, grand foyers, wrought iron that isn’t actually wrought, crystal chandeliers that are probably made of glass, and spiral staircases galore. But inside and out, these houses look more like architectural Mad Libs than the products of a well-thought-through, cohesive design. 

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A Western Cultural History of Pink, from Madame de Pompadour to Pussy Hats

A Western Cultural History of Pink, from Madame de Pompadour to Pussy Hats

Visitors to the official website of the Pussyhat Project are welcomed with an exclamation of color and joy from founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman: “We did it! We created a sea of pink!” And indeed they did. The Women’s March on Washington, D.C., and the 600 allied marches across the United States and the world, drew between 3.3 and 4.6 million protesters, making it one of the largest single-day demonstrations in the nation’s history. Suh and Zweiman launched the Pussyhat Project in advance of the march with the goal of having one million hats on hand, and their website includes PDF patterns for knit, sewn, and crocheted versions, which have collectively been downloaded more than 100,000 times. The resulting sea of cat hats caused a run on pink yarn across the country and quickly became a powerful visual shorthand for this particular swath of anti-Trump protest movements.

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“Hands to Work, Hearts to God”: A Post-Election Craft Manifesto

“Hands to Work, Hearts to God”: A Post-Election Craft Manifesto

Reading the post-election commentary from my vintage-furnished stop in the Acela bubble this week, I have felt a kind of nausea and dread that I had not experienced since I nearly lost my stepfather, who worked in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, on September 11, 2001. He survived, but none of us has ever been the same. I knew then that I would devote my life and abilities to the community I love: people who make things, people who enrich others’ lives by teaching and mentoring, people who shine light on injustice through their artwork, who help us find connection with each other. I didn’t know then what shape this would take (or even which graduate school I would apply to), but I knew that the shortness of our time here made it imperative that I lead with my heart and gut, even when my brain tried to exert executive orders.

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‘Back to the Future’ 30 Years Later, or Riding in Cars with Millennials

‘Back to the Future’ 30 Years Later, or Riding in Cars with Millennials

One of the greatest pleasures of teaching design history to college students — apart from watching their reactions as I play excerpts from grouchy interviewswith the legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams in class — is time travel. Not the actual temporal kind, but the generational kind, where you realize that you’re the only person in the room who remembers the 1980s, and everyone else in the room is really curious about that.

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Cracking Open the Seductive History of Porcelain

Cracking Open the Seductive History of Porcelain

Of his extensive collection of ceramics, Oscar Wilde once remarked: “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.” What Wilde felt he was increasingly failing to “live up to” was probably the sort of bourgeois respectability that is often symbolized by a set of good porcelain — something, he was surely aware, to which even a spectacularly talented gay man in Victorian Britain could never hope to aspire. It is a sign that Wilde was onto something that most people only deploy “the good china” a few times a year, on major holidays; the rest of the time, we keep it neatly tucked away so that it won’t get broken. When we move, each piece must be individually protected in bubble wrap. It’s exhausting.

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