June 16, 2011
Neocon wrapped up yesterday. It’s mostly a show for the contract side of the business but we did get to reveal some of our new releases in the Classics range. Above is the Eames Lounge Chair with a white ash veneer and white powder coat base and back frame, and yes, that is the Noguchi coffee table. The legs are in same white ash we use on the lounge chair. Both pieces will be available in September. Sign up for our email newsletter and we’ll send you a note when they hit the store.
For more on Necon check out the slideshow David Foster put together for Discover here.
February 16, 2011
We’ve written about Discovering Design before – it’s a great collection of pictures, stories and video from the Herman Miller archives. I was particularly taken by the story behind Isamu Noguchi’s glass-topped table. I didn’t know he’d spent time in an internment camp or that there was an early version of the table that existed before George Nelson stumbled upon the design in Noguchi’s studio. Below you’ll find Noguchi’s words excerpted from his 1968 autobiography, A Sculptor’s World, which was rereleased in 2004.
“I went to Hawaii in 1939 to do an advertisement (with Georgia O’Keefe). As a result of this, I had met (T.H.) Robsjohn-Gibbings, the furniture designer, who had asked me to do a coffee table for him,” Noguchi remembered. “I designed a small model in plastic and heard no further before I went west.”
Noguchi with his wife Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi on the veranda of their house and his studio, Kita-Kamakura, Japan, ca. May–December 1952.
Noguchi was Japanese-American and going west refers to his internment in the Poston, Arizona, concentration camp during World War II. While he was interned, Noguchi said he was surprised to see a version of the small plastic model he had done for Robsjohn-Gibbings published as an advertisement for the English designer. “When, on my return, I remonstrated, he said anybody could make a three-legged table,” said Noguchi. “In revenge, I made my own variant of my own table.”
Noguchi and his wife standing outside Charles and Ray Eames’ house.
The “variant” Noguchi designed was used to illustrate an article, written by George Nelson, called “How to Make a Table.” Nelson had seen the table some months earlier at Noguchi’s studio. Dropping in to see his good friend, Nelson found him working on a piece he intended to give his sister for her birthday. Noguchi had cut a piece of scavenged glass for the top and made a base using two identical pieces of wood fitted together by a single pin. Nelson liked the organic shape. By 1947, the table became part of the Herman Miller product line. It reflects Noguchi’s belief that “everything is sculpture. Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space I consider sculpture.”
“To limit yourself to a particular style may make you an expert of that particular viewpoint or school, but I do not wish to belong to any school,” he said. “I am always learning, always discovering.”
The Noguchi Table with a cherry base.
Photo credits top to bottom: Noguchi at work via Vitra. Noguchi coffee table via Herman Miller Discovering Design. Noguchi and his wife via Unframe. Noguchi outside the Eames house via Architectural Ruminations.
January 27, 2010
Sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi and George Nelson, Herman Miller’s first director of design, were long-time friends. Once, Nelson wandered into Noguchi’s studio just off Washington Square in New York City. He found the designer hard at work on a birthday present for his sister. Nelson liked the organic shape that Noguchi had cut from a piece of scavenged glass for a top, and the table base—two identical pieces of wood fitted together by a single pin. Nelson suggested that they take the design to Herman Miller, which has been producing the table for over 50 years.
December 21, 2009
Designer Todd Oldham has come up with the perfect child’s gift – a craft book (Ammo Books) that engages all of us. And best of all it is inspired by some of Herman Miller’s favorite designers. I asked Todd about Kid Made Modern…
In Kid Made Modern you’ve got over 50 craft projects for children inspired by designers like Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Noguchi – all of whom have a strong connection to Herman Miller. What draws you to these designers? When we started out conceptualizing the book we knew we wanted it to be equal parts of how-to projects, art technique essays and love letters to our favourite artists that contributed to the mid- century aesthetic.
I am not terribly interested in the idea of nostalgia or vintage notions but what I do find fascinating about this group of artists is the spectacular communication of their ideas and the desire to connect. They were real artists exploring new ideas that resonate still today.
We chose a cross section of artists from different mediums like Alvin Lustig, Luis Barragan, and Calder as well as better known heros like the Eames and George Nelson. One of the main points I wanted to share with the book was how to be a fan, be inspired, but do not copy – a serious problem in modern society.
So in the instance of the Eames we did a stop animation film inspired by their kaleidoscope films. With Noguchi we made origami paper cubes that slip over twinkle lights and a poster board sculpture that examines form and function.
We have just made a fun new website for the book – kidmademodern.com - that has film. We finished a sweet and a little bit creepy stop animation for Alexander Girard and a psychedelic tribute to Verner Panton.
Which is your favorite project? I like them all fortunately but I have a real soft spot for anything to do with duct tape. I have made most of them and I have seen someone make all of them so they are indeed tested with functioning directions. I did want to write the directions in a precise enough way to follow but with room for personal interpretation and I think it worked
What are you giving for Christmas this year? And what’s on your wish list? I am making my Christmas presents this year, as usual, and if I told you i might ruin a few. I am a very lucky guy and I don’t really have a wish list.
Photo credit: © 2009 Todd Oldham/Courtesy www.ammobooks.com