Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Faience, Tut, Tut, Tut

King Tut has descended on Baghdad By The Bay and, in all its glory, the show still goes on. I first saw the King Tut exhibit at the “original” De Young when it was here in the 1970s. I also spent numerous evenings in the Egyptian Wing at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, albeit more for the swanky cocktail parties than for the culture at hand, but that’s another story. Tut has always been fabulous – centuries ago, decades ago, and even now.

An Egyptian "Lotus-form" Cup in Faience from The Metropolitan Museum web site

Moving right along…As time goes by; many of us realize that we somehow have this ability to connect the dots in our lives. Mind you, these dots are small, but who would have thought that when I fell in love with Faience in France last year that I would suddenly realize, in the midst of an afternoon at the DeYoung, that my Faience, my beautiful white pottery, was made in the same manner, with the same materials, as many of these ancient Egyptian artifacts on display; amulets, tiles and small statues.

A statue of Isis & Horus in Faience from the Metropolitan Museum web site

My Faience is the real deal –fired in ateliers just outside the village of Moustiers-Saint-Marie in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. I was there on a visit with friend, who had moved with hubby to Provence just weeks before, and my terribly chic cousin, herself a Decorator in London. Shopping simplified itself as one of us (not me, alas) spoke beautiful French - so much more comfortable doing business in the native language!
A "Cherry Leaf" bowl in Faience Blanche.

The three of us spent a spectacular day attending a local truffle festival, exploring the Gorges deVerdon, and arriving in Moustiers mid-afternoon. It is a beautiful place; magical really, steeped in history and the center of the pottery trade, especially faience, for centuries. They say that there is a pink light there at twilight that I would have loved to have seen, but Moi missed it. Next time.

The reverse side of the "Cherry Leaf" bowl in Faience Blanche.

We poked our heads in and out of shops, had a drink in an odd little establishment and settled on a small shop with an exquisite window displaying gorgeous pottery. I was immediately drawn in and found myself lingering over the beautiful hand made pieces, each one more interesting than the other. Initially I decided to purchase one piece, and then I added another, and then, I decided that I wanted it all. I purchased many place settings and some small decorative plates and had it shipped home. Done. Fabulous.

A set of the Faience Blanche plates with Salt and Pepper vessels.

My beautiful Faience Blanche. I love it every day. I love the way it looks, the way it’s made, the history of the pottery, and, most importantly, the history of the purchase, with my dearest friends, on a wonderful day in France that I most probably will never forget.

Barbara Ashfield

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Love the “Nightlife”

The new California Academy of Sciences opened last fall to much fanfaire here in the Bay area, and rightly so because it is San Francisco’s new must-see spot that’s been over a decade in the making। I’ve stayed away from the new facility due to the overwhelming crowds for the better part of a year, but I was anxious to go in person and see what all the hoopla was about.

The Rainforest dome looking up to the “Living Roof”
The new building serves the same functions the old building did as a natural history museum, planetarium and research facility except it has shed it’s Beaux Arts shell (mostly) in favor of a new, innovative and “green” building that has become world renowned.
The path through the Rainforest dome with “Nightlife” revelers.
Looking down from the Rainforest dome into the aquarium.
A few months ago the Academy started a weekly event called “Nightlife” every Thursday evening. The idea is simple: Re-open the facility at 6pm, sell food and cocktails, let local DJs play music and allow those 21 and older to enjoy the museum in a lively setting (sorry no kids allowed). Tickets are a very reasonable at $10 for the general public and $8 for members (much less than a normal admission). As with most events, VIP tickets are also available.
A DJ spinning in the midst of the Evolution exhibit.
There has been a huge amount of buzz about “Nightlife” with people exclaiming: “THIS is the way to see a museum!” I dropped in last Thursday and I was blown away। The event was fantastic! I couldn’t believe all the people, but the Academy staff somehow managed to make it quite civilized. Since it was my first time at the new museum we managed to see all the big attractions with the exception of the planetarium (they were having technical difficulties) and hear some great music! Seeing the new “Living Roof” at dusk was a definite highlight.
The “Living Roof” observation deck at dusk.
We capped off the night with a meal at the Moss room, which is a beautiful, world class restaurant just downstairs from the museum। The food was amazing and it was the perfect ending to a delightful evening.
The Moss Room restaurant downstairs from the museum.
I strongly encourage everyone in San Francisco to check out “Nightlife” first hand। You can buy tickets in advance online and it makes a great venue for large groups।

The “Africa Hall” which is housed in a part of the former Beaux Arts shell with the original animal habitat dioramas was host to a chocolate tasting.
Learn more about the California Academy of Sciences here.
Buy tickets to Nightlife click here.
Learn more about the Moss room here.

David Hansen

Friday, July 10, 2009

Local Treasure Part 1: Allied Arts Guild

A sign welcoming you to Allied Arts Guild

As David and I embark on our latest “Local Treasure” series, I am compelled to share with you a place that holds a warm place in my heart…. and that is Allied Arts Guild. Allied Arts Guild, on Arbor Road at the edge of Menlo Park, is a visual palette of landscape and architecture steeped in history adorned by the local flora and fauna so abundant there.

The front Arched entrance to Allied Arts Guild with sign in Spanish tiles.

The Guild itself, once a parcel of a much larger property, was developed in the late 1920’s by Mr. and Mrs. Werner, both of whom were aficionados of the Spanish inspired garden and accompanying colonial architecture. The couple, both devout followers of the craftsmen and artisans of that period, had a dream of constructing a place where these artists could work in an environment dedicated solely to beauty and serenity, a place to which their inspiration and work might be inspired.
The fountain in the "Courtyard of Abundance"

A view looking into the "Courtyard of Abundance".

From the moment you arrive at the ornamental iron gates emblazoned with the capital letter “A”, you have arrived at “Zanzibar”. This beautiful property, once photographed in its entirety by famed California photographer Ansel Adams, you immediately recognize the sense of calm that the Werners sought to achieve. It is a sanctuary steeped in another era, and each time I visit, I am continually drawn to another time and place, that of early California and the elegance of Spanish culture.

A beautiful mailbox handcrafted in metal emblazoned with "AA".

My first experience of Allied Arts came in the mid 1960s as a little girl when I made frequent visits with my mother and grandparents’ annual sojourn from Vancouver. The highlight of our visit was always having tea on the patio, and in my mind’s eye, I can still see the blue tables and hear the trickle of the little fountain in the courtyard. I will never forget the repertoire of toast soldiers smothered in butter and jam, of cucumber and nasturtium sandwiches and the assortment of sweets that accompanied such events. The highlight was always the tall sugar rimmed glasses filled with iced tea with the proverbial mint garnish. My Grandfather later recaptured the gardens in watercolour, although sorry to say, those pieces were lost along the way.

Detail of a metal grate covering a window.

I was at Allied Arts just this past weekend, and now, some 45 years later, the place still evokes a memory of sunny afternoons with my mother. How warm those memories still are.

One of the many walkways on the property...Consumate California!

To learn more about Allied Arts Guild visit their web site here.

Barbara Ashfield

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Introducing...Local Treasure!

The San Francisco Bay area as seen from space from

Barbara and I would like to introduce a new series here at Design Squared entitled “Local Treasure” which will profile places or organizations that promote creativity here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are fortunate to have so many unique resources at our disposal. Look for profiles on some of our favorite haunts. Enjoy, and thank you for reading Design Squared.

David Hansen

An interesting take on the Bay area from a 1938 Cartoon Guide to California by Reg Manning.