Thursday, July 30, 2009

Swank Lighting Artist Joe Cariati!

If you’ve been to before, you’re no doubt familiar with the gorgeous glass lamp designs of Joe Cariati, one of our main modern glass lamp artists. Looking at the quality, color and style of his lamps on our site, it should come as no surprise that Cariati’s background is impressive and his other work amazing!

Joe Cariati started out in glassblowing quite by accident. While studying at the San Francisco State University in 1992, he saw someone blowing glass, and thought he should try it! According to Cariati, he picked up the art quickly and has been working with glass for over 17 years now. A good fit from the start, he says his personality and glassblowing go together well, describing the art as “a cross between calculated control, with an element of risk (in relation to making it or breaking it) topped off with a physical engagement (sweating).”

Along with glassblowing, Cariati also creates urban-inspired paintings. When asked when his love of urban art began (as it is evident in viewing his work that he’s a graffiti and street art fan), he admits it began with the 1982 NYC graffiti artist documentary “Style Wars”. Going to high school in Santa Monica, he also befriended other graffiti artists his age who helped show him the ropes. As he puts it, “mostly, as I found out later, I was interested in 'place', not necessarily the action of graffiti, but the surrounding detritus and activity of the urban landscape. Ultimately, this phenomenon is what my painting is about.”

So when did his hobbies of glass blowing and urban art translate into a career? Cariati confesses he didn’t quite start trying to make money until he was already a bit in debt (characterizing himself as a typical “idealistic young adult”), but after 9/11, he had his first solo painting exhibition (though he didn’t quite sell anything). After a review in ArtWeek, his work began to get noticed, but still no sales. He took a chance with glassblowing soon after, debuting a line of wine bottles in opaque colors. As he calls it: “This was about the time the new modern 'look' was running rampant, and I saw a void in the market and filled it. I snagged ten accounts in the Bay Area and LA and started making some money.” He says he now has over 50 accounts that carry his work, from major stores like Barney's to smaller boutique stores like OK in Los Angeles.

Like many artists who work in different media, Cariati doesn’t choose a favorite between glass blowing and painting: “Glassblowing is "high tech". It requires a ton of money per day, a crew of 3-4 people. It's noisy, dirty and very physical. It's extremely stressful at times if things aren't going your way. Painting for me is the polar opposite: it's "low-tech". Painting is an affordable, quiet, very forgiving medium that you can get lost in by yourself.”

His current line of glassware is stunning, both in its form and its style. Delicately transparent with sharp edges and shapes, yet also equally curving, his decanters and vases have exaggerated forms, and it’s their contrast with their backgrounds that really set them apart from other glass work being produced at this time. More than just pretty forms, his work has a great concept: some of it’s inspired by pure forms derived from the cylinder, sphere and cone, and connected to the important influence of Cubist paintings.

This type of research into Cubism was born out of a residency I had in the Bay Area, I think it was the first time that I was looking at another medium entirely (paint) for influencing my glass work. It was exciting and carried over into a lot of work I made during that time. Lately, I've referenced the look and flavor of American Glass in the 1960's, the decanters are born out of an interest to uphold and improve upon a legacy of American Glass designs...back to basics.”

As for the future, Cariati is looking forward to meeting with Swank Lighting in April to talk about a new line of lamps that will be more similar to his new line of glass. He’s also working on another, more “low-tech” lighting project: he’s developing a line of candle holders that are reminiscent of wine and liquor bottles used as candle holders. He also continues to teach the art of glass making, stressing the hand skills, experimentation and material exploration, research, drawing, writing, and professional practices that have characterized his 17 years of successful glass work. You can learn more about Cariati on his website,

Bond and Bowery, An Online Marketplace for Antiques, Art and Accessories!

As few as 50 years ago, when you wanted to find that perfect piece of furniture, you could either travel far and wide yourself or trust that your local antiques dealer knew what they were talking about. Nowadays, the world is at our fingertips, and one online website is working at making finding the perfect antique, piece of art or gorgeous design easier than ever.

Launched in July 2007, was established to “provide a web-based global marketplace for the highest quality antiques, fine art and design”. By pairing up dealers, designers, artists and buyers, Bond and Bowery is taking out the guesswork on whether or not you are purchasing the right piece for your home. The name Bond and Bowery refers to the intersection of two important roads in an antiques district of New York, and owners Ben Spaisman and George Evans thought to themselves: why not offer online showrooms at one of the best addresses in New York City, letting every qualified dealer have an exclusive New York online address at a very nominal cost? Not satisfied with the sites that were out there, Evans and Spaisman felt the industry needed a clean, all business antiques website.

Bond and Bowery gives visitors to the site multiple ways to search for the perfect addition to their home. The main tabs along the side of the website feature obvious choices, like furnishings or objets d’art, but other categories, like creators/period help you search for objects when the only thing you know you want is something from the 18th century. You can also go straight to your favorite designer or artist directly by clicking on a tab. You can even narrow down results by price, year, category, even country of origin. Again, all these options are presented in a graphically clear and understandable way.

Another great feature to Bond and Bowery is their “My Portfolio” feature, which is a “powerful personal management system stored in a personal folder accessible only by the user.” In other words, don’t worry about cluttering your “bookmarks” section, you can store your favorite items in a private folder on the site accessible only by you. And if you’re worried about the quality of items found on Bond and Bowery, rest assured that “all merchandise on the site is fully reviewed by experts for authenticity, and validated according to artist, creator or period”. Because new merchandise is posted weekly, you’ll never get sick of seeing the same items again and again.

Unlike other antiques websites available today you really see a difference in the type of website the owners of Bond and Bowery are trying to run, expressed best by what Evans had to say about their site and their business:

Were committed to being an exclusive website dedicated to representing the finest antique and fine arts dealers in the world. My main goals are to introduce the buyer and seller with an easy no hassle transaction so that one doesn’t have to spend countless hours searching for what they want! Bond & Bowery is a clean and non-cluttered site, one that is merchandise focused and not loaded with annoying ads and overwhelming content that distracts a client from making a purchase. We encourage our dealers to offer their best merchandise at the lowest price—so we don’t need to have sales; our items are already priced very reasonably. Bond and Bowery’s focus is customer and dealer centric, always continuing to build strong relationships. We know that our visitors come to buy goods as opposed to reading articles on the site.”

According to Evans, Bond and Bowery is growing fast, and doesn’t show signs of stopping. They plan to maintain both their cutting edge technology and their high level of customer service all while keeping merchandise pricing in line with the economic times. A recently launched feature of the site is DealerDirect, which enables buyers to submit requests for specific items they are looking for and have been unable to find on the site or elsewhere, allowing busy designers to tap into the larger inventories that many dealers possess but can’t always show at once. Other great features are in the plans to continue making the shopping process easy, less time-consuming and enjoyable!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Mixed and Inspiring Glass of Caleb Siemon

We talk a lot about the past here on the Swank Lighting blog, and with good reason! Past designers like James Mont, Gio Ponti, Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames as well as others have influenced current design immensely and still remain a source of inspiration to design lovers and homeowners alike. We also talk a lot about current designers making waves in the field too, like Jonathan Adler and Nate Berkus. Well, we came across a contemporary glass artist whose art has clear influences from the past, but also a definite eye towards the future.

Caleb Siemon’s work doesn’t look futuristic or alien, but there is something so simple and postmodern about his hand blown glass pieces, that it’s clear Siemon is working on a new mix of old and new in his designs. Officially established as a glass blowing studio in 1999, Siemon’s talent has quickly propelled him to an international stage, gaining him attention from artists of all media.

As many talented artists usually begin, Siemon showed signs of excelling in art and creative endeavors at an early age, first dabbling in ceramics and jewelry. At a summer camp one year he was introduced to glass blowing, and it was obvious he had found his passion. He studied glass blowing at the Rhode Island School of Design starting in 1993, and soon was traveling the world studying the art in countries like New Zealand, Japan and Scotland as well as around the U.S. and Hawaii. He graduated with a BFA in glass blowing and a strong knowledge of contemporary glass blowing from many cultures.

After graduating he got the opportunity to apprentice with world famous master glass sculptor Pino Signoretto in Italy, and there began not only learning about the old ways of glass blowing, but genuinely appreciating and being inspired by them. With that love of the old art techniques he opened up his studio United Glass Blowing in 1999, to be an Italian inspired glass blowing studio that revered and learned from the old methods while continually working on discovering new ones. Famed artisans like Loris Zanon and others continually visit his studio, sharing their techniques of the old art and inspiring Siemon to translate them into new ideas.

Looking at Siemon’s 2009 line, it’s obvious he’s taken a note or two from the past. You can see in his work the influences of past glass artisans like perhaps even Anzolo Fuga, who he shares a love of color and patten with. There’s a familiarity to characteristics like the curves of his vases and bowls. But looking at the colors he imbeds into his pieces, there’s a deep layering that could remind you of perhaps geological strata in rocks. And just like geologists look at the layers of the earth to view our past and consider our future, so too can one view Siemon’s work to see both the past and the future of glass blowing and glass art.

Siemon’s new and old glass translations have garnered him attention and accolades from around the world, like in 2001, when he was recognized by the Italian studio Salviati by returning him to Italy to design a limited edition series. He also gets attention from television, newspapers and magazines, like Interior Design, Esquire, Luxe, and House Beautiful---to name a few. You can see the full list of his press, as well as information on the galleries, stores and museums you can view his work in person on his website

This Week's Top 5 Favorite 1stdibs Items: Dynamic Shelves!

Perhaps one of the most underestimated pieces of furniture in a space is the shelf. Ridiculously useful, the shelf can hold books, accessories, art or a delightful arrangement of all three. While a simple piece of wood bolted to a wall can do the trick, finding a shelf that speaks for itself will add volumes to a space. We've found five shelves that would add a lot more than just storage to a room.

1) Pair of Rare Paul Evans Cityscape Shelving Units An interesting shape, coupled with two really unique materials and combined with the fact that there are two of them, these shelves from the 1970s would make an awesome statement to a space, and probably hold some neat things, too. Huge and self-standing, these two shelves are not to be underestimated!
Price: $18,000
Full House

2) Pair of Orange Metal Industrial Shelves From the Mid-Century era, these gorgeous industrial shelves would make an amazing addition to a space. Adjustable, they are flexible enough to handle any of your storage needs. And their awesome orange color means they'd be a statement themselves!
Price: $5,600
Andrew Spindler Antiques

3) 19th C. White-washed French Pine Vaisselier You don't have to have an ultra modern space to be able to have an awesome shelf for your room. A rustic room or a room with many wood antiques would benefit from this gorgeous piece. In fact, a shelf doesn't even have to be called a shelf to add storage to your space, as evidenced by this vaisselier.
Price: $4,250
Wirthmore Antiques

4) Paul Evans Chrome & Brass Cityscape Console With Mirror Not to pick two items from the same artist, but Paul Evans knew how to make a shelf! This one is a wall-mounted console paired with a mirror and combined with an unstoppable pattern. You wouldn't even have to put anything on this shelf to make an impact in a room.
Price: $4,800

5) Vintage White Secretary Cabinet If you've got a Hollywood Regency styled space and have been on the lookout for a gorgeous and imposing storage piece, this is the one for you. White, glossy and with sumptuous details, this would be a great way to display all sorts of treasured home decor items.
Price: $5,850

Don't forget to check out the rest of this week's listings from 1stdibs, where you can find more fabulous, one-of-a-kind show-stopping pieces, as well as a number of other great pieces!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Whimsical Works of Faith Schexnayder

When you take a look at the work of local painter, sculptor and mosaic artist Faith Schexnayder, your first thought may be that you could never afford any of her creations. It's true her client list is intimidating: she created the Lance Armstrong Parade Float of 2000, designing, sculpting and painting the float of Lance on his bicycle passing under the Arch de Triumph, which went on to be featured in newspapers and television news programs around the world. Also in 2000, she created George Bush’s acceptance speech stage, which she designed and painted to duplicate the granite walls of the Capitol building. Schexnayder is even responsible for those whimsical sculptures of “Frosty and the Armadillos” in front of the GSD&M headquarters that are displayed each Christmas since she created them in 1998. While her resume of clients might be a bit overwhelming, if there’s anything Schexnayder wants you to take away from her work, it’s the affordability of it.

Schexnayder states right out that she loves what she does. Creativity is in her blood: she’s a third generation painter and hails from a long line of artists in her family. Born in Austin, Schexnayder always wanted to be an artist, and considers herself quite lucky to have achieved her dreams. Of course, it’s not luck that’s helped her achieve them, but her wonderful talent and skills! Schexnayder never wanted to become one of those overly priced artists, however; she believes that form follows function, and works tirelessly to get at the heart of a client’s design needs. Most importantly, she offers her services affordably and quickly, completing projects within reasonable time frames and budgets.

Schexnayder works in all sorts of media and art genres, like painting, foam sculptures, metal sculptures, mosaic tile and architectural carvings to even logos and house remodeling. Not content to keep all of her talent to herself, Schexnayder also works to spread her knowledge of all these great art forms through online tutorials, like the videos on Expert Village and articles on

If you are wondering what Schexnayder could do for you, the answer is most likely anything! Her long client list includes the likes of GSD&M, Eichenbaum Desplays, 503 Coffee Bar, Pieces of the Past, Halbert Antiques, City of Austin Trail of Lights, Blue Genie Art, Austin Museum of Art and Brent Gaither Interior Design and even the owners of our very own Swank Lighting, who have recently commissioned Schexnayder to complete a personal sculptural project for their home of their dog Peabo, who (the statue) will be positioned to look over their front wall. Whatever your artistic dreams, Schexnayder is committed to helping you acheive them! If you’d like more information on how you can get Schexnayder to work on a custom commissioned piece for your home or business, visit her website at

The Eclectic Spaces of Nate Berkus

Last week we posted about Jonathan Adler, a contemporary designer making waves in the design community for his design talents and philosophies. Adler loves fun, colorful and eclectic spaces that could best be described as a mix of modern and Hollywood Regency. If his style didn't quite inspire your own tastes, we'd like to share with you another famous designer whose sophisticated, layered and gorgeous interiors might give you ideas for your home. Nate Berkus, successful Chicago interior designer, writer and frequent Oprah show guest has such great tastes, he's even purchased a pair of Swank Lighting Lamps for a project! Read on to learn more about Nate, his style, and those Swank lamps.

According to his own website, Berkus has shown great interest and talent in interior design since he was a kid, claiming to have been rearranging his mother's furniture while in grade school. If that's not evidence enough, he also says he used to spend all of his allowance money on home items for his bedroom! This love of design sustained all the way through school to college, where he attended Lake Forest College, near Chicago, graduating in 1994.

His first official job in the design business landed him a position at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, where he learned the ins and outs of auctions, antiques and how to find the best pieces for design projects. He also picked up great tastes and more antiques knowledge at an internship for Dominique Aurientis in Paris, France. Never one to take it slow, Berkus formed Nate Berkus Associates in 1995 at the age of 24, and it's been a wild success ever since. Working on high-end commercial projects like Wolfgang Puck's Spago and a number of private residential homes, Berkus really hit it big when he appeared on the Oprah show in 2001, as a featured design expert.

Not content to only give good design advice to his clients, Berkus published his first book, Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live into a Place You'll Love in 2005. In 2006, he premiered his radio show, The Nate Berkus Show on XM's, "Oprah & Friends" channel, where he talks to other experts in the design field and takes on caller's questions. 2008 was a big year for him as well, working on the prime time show "Oprah's Big Give" and with his debut of his new home line on the Home Shopping Network.

The Berkus style and philosophy can best be summed in the first words that appear on his website "Love walking through your front door." Really understanding the connection between a homeowner's happiness and how much they love where they live, Berkus has worked tirelessly to create a business where he gets to the bottom of what a client really wants and needs in an interior space. In this way, homeowners looking to gain inspiration for their own homes from Berkus should take his advice to find out what they really love, from researching design magazines and books to shopping and exploring different home design stores. And of course, it wouldn't hurt to check out Berkus' book, videos and articles on the subject of home design. Such resources can be found on the Oprah Winfrey Show website.

And lest you think we've forgotten, Berkus purchased a pair of the Emerald green Rock Candy lamps for a project. Perhaps channeling the inspiring design of Nate Berkus could have you start by purchasing your own Swank Lighting Lamp? For more information and inspiring photos, check out the Nate Berkus website.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Visionary Furniture of Pierre Paulin

Many designs of the Mid-Century era were way ahead of their time, but none so than those of the French furniture designer, Pierre Paulin. Combining visionary ideas, unique materials and new construction techniques, Paulin's body of work is exciting, revolutionary and above all the epitome of modern design.

Born in Paris in 1927, Paulin grew up during an exciting time for modern design. Even though he would become known for his furniture, Paulin actually started out studying stone carving and clay modeling at the Ecole Camondo in Paris. It was here he gained the skills and thought processes of a sculpter. In the 1950s, he began experimenting with furniture design, using his skills and knowledge of sculpture to assist him in his building of pieces. He first worked for Thonet, known of course for bent wood furniture.

In 1958 Paulin became a member of the Artifort Design Group, and this membership afforded him many opportunities to experiment with furniture making, which he really explored using his background in clay and sculpting. When his work first hit the scene, many considered it to be far too visionary for Paris, even the world.

He often experimented with things like wooden furniture shells pressed under high frequency and tubular frames and covered with things like canvas cotton, foam and fabric. Because of his revolutionary ideas, his furniture began to take on a more sculptural and artistic appeal, and he has since amassed a huge following for his work of design lovers all over the globe.

In 1968, Paulin collaborated with Le Mobilier National and began taking on commissions for important government projects, including both the furniture and interiors for the Elysee Palace in Paris. Also at this time, he began experimenting with other media, such as creating and designing home appliances. He was finally becoming recognized as an amazing talent in the design world, but still his designs were way ahead of their time.

Homeowners looking to add a little Pierre Paulin into their homes would best benefit from adding one of his many chair designs to a space, of which you have many to choose from. Though his catalogue of work is prolific, some of his most recognizable designs are the Tulip and Little Tulip chairs, Globe and Little Globe Chairs, Ribbon Chair, Mushroom Chair and Tongue Chair. Characterized by neat shapes and soft, almost plush covered frames, Paulin's furniture designs are easily recognizable, and comfortable too!