Monday, October 14, 2013

Beautiful Yet Functional Art for the Table: Annieglass

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Genius in Glass

I will never forget the moment I discovered Annieglass. It was love at first sight when I stumbled across these unique dishes, coveted and collected by too many celebrities to name, and used in some of the finest restaurants in the world.

Designed and created by glass artist Annie Morhauser, they’re utterly breathtaking and very difficult to photograph. Even the pictures in this article do not do justice to their incomparable beauty.

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I was beyond thrilled to tour the Watsonville factory with Annie. It’s positively stacked with her gorgeous tableware, which is painstakingly crafted with exacting standards. Below, an employee assembles a cake plate in Annie’s warehouse.

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I don’t remember where I first found my Annieglass–maybe it was Neiman Marcus, maybe Gump’s San Francisco, or possibly the Annieglass store in downtown Santa Cruz, all vendors of the product–but what I do remember is the sensation. It was utter awe. Magic. I really have never seen or felt anything like Annieglass before or since. Over the years several styles have been imitated, but never duplicated.

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The pattern that won my heart was the B.C. Dinnerware, above, with the bubbly warped glass and pebbled texture that is a trademark of many of Annie’s dishes.

B.C. Dinnerware stands for Before Christ Dinnerware–“because it looks like it predates Christ,” Annie tells me. The dinner plates are like relics from another place and time, all with a cunning asymmetry that is distinctly Annie’s own. They’re at once antiqued, yet infinitely modern. Glossy aquamarine wonders of rippling glass that look organically beautiful, they also feel beautiful. The underbelly has the texture of velvet.

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Above, Annie stands beside the two-ton sheets of durable architectural glass from which her pieces are fashioned. Commonly used in skyscrapers, the glass has the aqua tint from the iron in the glass, and the velvety feel is due to the uncommon process of sandblasting the bottoms of each piece. This contributes to the milky paleness that is undefinable, simultaneously translucent but also opaque.

But first the glass is “slumped” over plaster molds, below, revealing each one’s unique beauty through its imperfections–imperfections that make every piece an original, a treasure.

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I mix my B.C. Dinnerware with other pieces, especially the Shell Series, below, which has a prehistoric elegance–vessels shaped with the gentle silhouettes of fossilized seashells. They’re where art and artifact collide. Highly respected in the art world, two of the designs from the Shell Series reside in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

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Tipped with your choice of 24 karat gold or platinum, or simply non-trimmed, every piece bears the studio signature, and Annie herself signs limited editions. Her name is etched on the bottoms of the pieces.

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There are many patterns of Annieglass, such as the classic Roman Antique Gold and Platinum, above and below, which I also collect. This is the first collection that Annie launched, 30 years ago. I love the look of an Annieglass table, where mixing and matching collections is not only common, but de rigeur.

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas on its heels, I encourage you to discover your own inner awe as you look at these iconic creations, like the elegant Handkerchief Votives below.

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A significant advantage to these ethereal pieces is, oddly, their practicality. For something that looks so delicate and fragile, Annieglass can stand up to the most challenging circumstances; they’re dishwasher safe; and they look equally at home with any mixture of their Annieglass siblings, as well as fine China, limoges, or pottery.

You can add just one stunning piece for a real wow factor, or mix and match til your heart’s content. Either way, no two Annieglass tables will ever look the same. Your choice of linens, placemats, and of course flatware and accessories will define the table’s vignette. I love an Annieglass table set with twigs, bamboo placemats, stones, and other natural elements.

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Annieglass is perfectly appropriate for any circumstance–be it a Thanksgiving feast, a baby shower buffet, a New Year’s dinner, or Valentine’s day. Here, Annie holds a lovely heart-shaped dish that’s ideal for hors d’oeuvres or dessert.

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The pieces are multifunctional. Use one of Annie’s pedestal Slabs, above, to present fruit…or cheese…or a whole poached salmon.

Annieglass looks equally appropriate in the bathroom, due to its aquatic esthetics, holding decorative soaps or guest towels…cosmetics, sea sponges, and the list goes on and on.

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“Every piece of Annieglass can be, and should be, used for a variety of objects,” Annie says. “Ruffle cake stands make just as exquisite a resting place for dark chocolate velvet cakes as they do brie cheeses…and a salad plate makes a charming display for a bottle of wine or a candle,” she adds.

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Surprise a coworker with a sectional dish for olives or foil-wrapped chocolates, perhaps, like the one below from the Ruffle Series.

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A fabulous wedding gift is Annie’s stunning deviled egg platter. The perfect housewarming gift, a piece of Annieglass is a gift one would consider a ‘lifetime gift’ because Annieglass pieces are heirloom-quality creations that will stand the test of time via both form and function.

You need not save this art glass for special occasion only; Annieglass elevates even take-out to an art form. As I mentioned, the glass is incredibly strong, chip-resistant and dishwasher-safe. Annie tells me an interesting story. After Hurricane Katrina, she got reports from customers that their Annieglass survived the disaster. More than one person had their china cabinet washed away in the floodwaters and it was found down the street or a block away with all the Annieglass still intact, unbroken. “They just needed to be hosed off,” Annie said.

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Pieces from the Dew Drops Collection, above and below, are seductively punctuated with Swarovski crystals. Mere photos can’t even capture the detail…

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…and I love the hand-chipped pedestal on the new cone-shaped Edgey bowl, below, which merges seamlessly with Annieglass classics.

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You can see how Annieglass is created and discover the craftsmanship that goes into every piece at their lively and informative walking tours of the Watsonville factory. Call for reservations 831.761.2041 ext. 21.

In addition, wine tastings are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., pouring Santa Cruz and Monterey County wines.

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Above, the sunny Watsonville gift shop that’s adjacent to the warehouse is brimming with countless exquisite creations–the autobiography of a genius in glass, Annie Morhauser.

Click here to find an Annieglass retailer near you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ray Villafane’s Pumpkin Carvings for Halloween 2013

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Our Halloween favorite, Ray Villafane is back, and he and his gourd-geous jack-o’-lanterns will appear at the New York Botanical Gardens October 19 and 20.

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We learned about Ray from a savvy friend back in 2010, and since that time his pumpkin-carving business has, literally, exploded!

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Using traditional clay ribbon loops to painstakingly shave features into these ordinary gourds yields extraordinary results in the hands of Ray Villafane. Other tools, such as paring knives and x-acto knives are used for deep gouges and detail work, respectively.

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Ray first began carving pumpkins as a lark for his art students in a small rural school district in Michigan. What started as a whim turned into a career as Ray’s videos went viral, unleashing his inner passion for pumpkins! Read what Beauty Shall Save the World has to say about Ray in these articles from our archives!

Halloween Pumpkin Carvings as Art

Ray’s website illustrates, step by step on a real pumpkin, how he concocts the eerie faces.

Halloween Weekend Project 101: Carving Your Pumpkin

Magnificently menacing, ghoulishly grand, or absolutely absurd, Ray’s creations are infinitely imaginative and make a great weekend project!

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Have a hauntingly hilarious Halloween this year with the help of Ray and his team of elite carvers!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taste and Tribute and Other Things of Beauty

Hi guys, I’m back from a little birthday vacation and I’m so excited to share with you the best birthday present I could possibly imagine.

As you know, I love beautiful things, and I can think of plenty I’d like to have, from perfume or jewelry to clothes or cosmetics, but the gift I am most anticipating is attending the sure-to-be fabulous Taste and Tribute gala in San Francisco this Friday, November 16.

I cannot wait for this event, which benefits the Tibetan Aid Project. The Tibetan Aid Project is an organization dedicated to preserving the human rights, art and literacy of the Tibetan people, who are recognized for their quiet beauty. Unfortunately the people and their culture are in jeopardy due to their communist neighbor, China. It’s been a long and ugly struggle for these peaceful people.

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The twelfth annual Taste and Tribute is held in the grand ballroom of the Four Seasons hotel, and features 22 top Bay Area chefs as they prepare four-course meals table-side for those in attendance.

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Dinner is followed by both a live and silent auction with fabulous prizes, such as beautiful Tibetan art, or my dream prize: a trip for two to Italy with luxury accommodations.

Tickets are $350 a plate. I really hope you’ll join me for this selfless cause. For more information contact Judy Rasmussen, executive director of the Tibetan Aid Project at 510.848.4238.

If you can’t make it on Friday, consider sending a check made out to the Tibetan Aid Project. Their address is 2210 Harold Way, Berkeley, California, 94704.

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It’s a noble way to contribute and another example of how beauty shall save the world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Virtual Tour of Living Green With Owner Davis Dalbok

Living Green is an enchanted showroom in the design district of San Francisco, California. When you enter, it is much like traveling to a distant utopia, furnished with exotica at every turn, all contained within brilliant walls of celadon green.

It’s not just a store, it’s a world–“a laboratory for design and for select beautiful objects,” said owner Davis Dalbok.

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Bursting with striking art and alive with foliage, I can best describe it as a lustrous bizarre sanctuary that reminds me of the surreal and exquisite Hieronymus Bosch painting, Garden of Earthly Delights–a place where art and artifact collide.

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The two-story, 9,000 square-foot space is drenched in beautiful natural light and brimming with a collection of curious desirables. Here are a few of my favorite things at Living Green.

The lounging buddha above, $50,000, was originally made for a Burmese temple. Conceived between the 1920s-1950s, it still has its original paint.

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Davis is pictured above with his favorite piece, a giant gold buddha, which is part of his personal collection. “It’s really not for sale,” he said. “I would consider letting it go but it would have to be the right situation…some day I will be taking it to Hawaii where I am designing a home.” The house, he told me, is being designed around the buddha.

Literally larger than life, the buddha is 7-foot tall–sitting–and that’s not including the pedestal. Created from papier maché and adorned with real gold leaf and black lacquer, it is, surprisingly, extremely lightweight.

“Upon my demise the buddha will go to a buddhist sanctuary to rest forever…I think it’s important to return the piece to its origin,” he stated.

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The outer courtyard, above, is furnished with four Chinese musicians carved from Vicenza stone. From a private collection, they date from the 1700s and cost $18,800 for the set.

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The pair of monumental stone-carved male caryatids above are priced at $48,800, and are from a private collection.

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I love the Indonesian banyan tree root chaise, $6,500, and the modern fine art piece titled “Unquiet,” in bronze with a black patina, $30,000, by Kristin Lindseth-Rivera.

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The Hindu elephant God Ganesh above, $35,000, “was cast in the 1920s in Cambodia for a French industrialist who was building a garden estate in the Northern part of Cambodia,” Davis told me. “He commissioned two bronze Ganeshas, and this pair of them flanked a giant waterfall in his garden,” so hence the beautiful patina.

“That’s nearly 100 years of monsoon that created that beautiful color,” Davis said.

“It took my supplier many years to convince the heirs of this estate to let go of this pair of Ganeshas,” he added. “To think that there’s a pair available makes it even more amazing.”

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The table above is a mosaic of semi-precious stones with marble and costs $3,500. The doves were commissioned pieces for a Burmese temple. Carved from wood and gold-leafed, they are $1,800 each.

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The églomisé dragon painting above, $7,500, is by Bay Area artist Jane Richardson Mack, and is flanked by black slag glass candlesticks, $1,800 for the pair. Bright tangerine citrine geodes, $1,300 and $1,800 and a Vietnamese crane on the right, further enhance the visual vignette.

You can also find the stunning wire sculptures by artist Kué King at Living Green.

If you seek the unique, Living Green is a must for your shopping experience. It’s beyond exotic.