Friday, March 11, 2011

The Nature of Design

I remind myself when I stall the rusty replacement cargo van with NO creature comforts, that travel is transformative. I got my priorities and a trip to pay for (was that mom van really me? Ok miss upholstery, power windows/locks). I could whine about the rain, ice, snow and the dirty cliffs the plows have carved, but that week on the green mountain, the ocean and the magnificent Gehry Guggenheim museum, were brain food and did I ever need that, and the promise of Spring. I've been working textures and contrasts around in my mind ever since and I find myself looking for them out my own window and in my store.

That shift from the rolling green hills all bucolic and sunny to the sudden draining of warmth and color at the cliff's edge, repeated itself when I stepped out of the airport in Detroit. Shades of gray, dark to white and cold ocean spray greeted my face with a sharp slap. The giant white waves were coming in with force and speed. Like a high-powered hatchet by the looks of those cliffs, that nasty edge menacing like concertina wire, not to mention the near vertical 50' drop. Though in some places it looked brittle as slate, the horizontal layers of shard were solid and I wished I had better climbing shoes. The palette from putty to mustard and dove gray, are the colors of linen, weathered wood and paint that put to mind classic French design. With their border just an hour away, it's clear this timeless landscape is the inspiration.

In some places the stone had the texture of dark bark in vertical striations, the smooth areas like patinated sheet steel. That visual memory resurfaced as I walked through the mammoth Richard Serra sculptures at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Now that I'm home, I see all these colors and textures on buildings, in the yard, in the studio, in the objects I'm drawn to.

The shores were striking by their differences. One was piled with black boulders, making trance-inducing sound as the waves pushed them on top of each other. You can't help but pick up the smooth small stones, work them in your hand, how it calms your brain. Ha! it's those tumbling stones in barrels at the shop! I watch as people unconsciously grab a handful, feel of them and drop them back, that sound. What a sensuous feeling to walk bare foot on smooth stones. Someday I'll install the tumbling stones in a floor and recall this ancient beach!

On the other side of the you-aren't-welcome cliff that marked this short beach was something else entirely, and breathtaking. I nearly killed myself climbing down a hillside trying to get there. "It doesn't look that far/steep from here (famous last words). I can do it, the dumb sheep do it..I work out!" Helps to have A. 4 legs B. lower center of gravity C. type B or C personality. The lounging chefs had a good laugh when I came home covered in mud and scratches.

I wasn't the first "enthusiast" to hike down, someone fastened a knotted rope to climb all the way down to the ocean, brilliant! What looked like a mass of solid stone with grooves dug by a giant fork from up high, ran below the water's surface with the shards turned 90 degrees or more. Hey! it's a foot hold, wait, no…. Kathunka! it's a diving board. Somewhere sheep are shaking their heads. Think I'll save the swimming for a heated pool, ponder those materials while I'm at it.

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