i was fortunate to meet a wonderful client who asked if i would make some pillows for the house she owned at the time. i heard mumblings that the house was fabulous, but i was left with a dropped jaw when i went to visit it for the first time. located in the santamonica mountains, this particular moderne masterpiece is commonly known as the gibbons house or the doloresdelrio house, built just before 1930. it is documented in tim street-porter's wonderful book "the losangeles house." i wish i had taken more photos of the interior and exterior, although there may be some that surface at some point. it became such a wonderful commission, and larger than i had originally thought. the client handed me a few bolts of the most luxurious j. robert scott metallic silks i had seen up to that point. she needed me to do roughly 30 individual pillows of various size (pictured above) for the living room and library area, but i did go on to do pillows and cushions for other areas of this gorgeous house. being a big fan of art deco and moderne architecture, interior elements, furnishings & textiles, i was fortunate to spend time in such an awe-inspiring landmark of california architecture.
this past year i have been soaking in a lot of goldfrapp, taking in the previous albums i missed when i was not clued in to their music. even though the words to "clowns" are not totally clear, the ethereal vibe takes me back a bit to cocteau twins. thought i'd share.
early on working in the antique business and starting to design things on my own, i learned the payoff of sticking with your instincts. from our buying trips to france we had at our disposal draperies, linens, brocades, tapestries, trims, tassels, definitely enough to stir up my dust allergies from time to time! i began combining things in different ways, and somehow i think i was trying to make some of these things which were often over a hundred years old, look fresh. i was not juxtaposing colors and patterns a la christian lacroix by no means, but combining french 19th century tapestry fragments with a fabric from the 1940s just gave it a cleaner look, and i thought, i hoped, that our customers would see it the same way. with the pillow above, i just knew that there was no other way to sell a tapestry fragment that must not have been bigger than 6 by 8 inches, than to border it and make it larger.
we had just opened our shop in 1992 in the then design area of melrose avenue, and my pillowmaking was going ahead full speed. i had to learn thru trial and error the tricks of the trade. in between the custom orders we were getting we were also making things to sell in the shop. when the small tapestry fragment somehow joined the salmon sanderson solid, something just clicked. i found a piece of wide flat french trim with salmon and green and the combination to me just felt right. my aunt thought the combination was weird, and that the direction of the pillow was more a vertical than a horizontal rectangle, i could tell she thought i was wasting my time. when the pillow sold for $500 i just laughed to myself, that was the best revenge, the best "ha!" follow your instincts, go ahead with something that just feels right.
i found myself in a very interesting place, learning about restoring antique furniture and more importantly learning about fabrics. because my uncle's wife was french (they have been divorced for about 12 years now), the focus of the business was french antiques and textiles. buying trips to france were very educational, traveling across the countryside and going to smaller flea markets and shops off the beaten path. in all of this i gained an education in many kinds of fabrics--silks, embroideries, linens, brocades, trims--mostly from the 19th century. there were smaller pieces and fragments of larger damaged pieces, and these i incorporated in my early pillows for the business. i taught myself how to frame a smaller piece with a solid or a stripe to make a larger pillow front, how to back a piece that had the potential to tear or unravel. because a growing number of clients were custom ordering pillows, i had to learn much more in a short amount of time, simply because i had to. the pressure was on, and often it's amidst the pressure that moments of creative force appear. it was during this time i also learned something very valuable, something i would have to learn to better myself at: making a buttonhole.
we'll go further back later...i'm from hawaii, love my family. after graduating kamehameha in 1986, i went to uc santa barbara and studied art and art history, from early on felt a lot of creative juices flowing through me. great art history program there, i learned a lot about art from many different times and places, and i'm thankful to have gotten that educational foundation. after graduating i lived in santa barbara and had a great time. nothing too wild and crazy, only just starting to think about who i was as a person. i had visited l.a. several times, my uncle and his wife lived here, and in 1991 they invited me to move and work with them in the beginnings of their antique business. there are certain element i'd rather not spend too much time reflecting on, such as waking up super early to work the weekend flea markets; that combined with clients coming to their house to look at items was how we did it in the beginning. at least i can say with a chuckle that i did it, waking up in the pitch of night to head to the rose bowl is no picnic.
it was at this time that i discovered sewing. the unusual element to my aunt & uncle's business was that she was from france and not only knew a lot about french/european antiques, but also about antique textiles and fabrics. little did i know then but it would open up a whole new world to me. i had mentioned somehow to my grandmother back on maui that i would be interested in learning how to sew, and it was at this same time that she bought me my first singer machine. i had no idea at the time how i was going to learn other than jumping right into it. that i was learning about and being exposed to antique fabrics at the same time created the perfect opportunity to learn how to sew. it started with very simple pillows working with scraps of 1950s fabrics (which i love!), and led to, well, you'll see... we're talking 1991, so wow this will be all sorts of crazy "flashbacking" over the last 17 years. this will i think, also be a good starting point to 'put myself out there.' as we are building our business i'm thinking that doing a blog at the same time will share what i have designed and made over the years. i hope for it to gain attention across the web and connect other creative minded people to us, and to what we have to offer.
my next several posts will revolve around my picasa portfolio of my designs. these are separated into six major categories:
you can preview the portfolio here by clicking each category, and i will also go over each one in the following posts. keep in mind that this is a major sampling of what i have both designed and made, from all the sewing and tiling and upholstering etc. lovers of antique textiles will hopefully find some of this interesting, and i'll talk about several other very special projects as well, including an amazing shellwork commission!
i have been staring at the screen on and off for hours now - doesn't make a swell first impression. i guess it's because there's so much waiting to be unleashed, and i've been holding back, not only on starting a blog, but also SERIOUSLY going after all that's available out there to become a success. or even more of a success i should say. so here goes...
i hope that this blog will help me, by "putting it out there," to make clear exactly how i see the future from this point on going. after 16 years co-owning a business and shop with my uncle, it's finally time to, as mentioned before, unleash. my partner of 10 years, keith webb, and i have an opportunity now to take full advantage of what we have and the chance that we have been given to create our niche. we have a very small circle of supporters (u know who you are!) i will, however lead into it by talking about the things that i have designed and made for the shop i had in los angeles as well as custom-made items for clients. i realize that in the beginning i will primarily be talking to myself until people start tuning in!