Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Robert Lewis

I was in LA last week, and spent some time with lighting designer, Robert Lewis.                                     

Robert and I go way back. He lived in NY for many years and we shared a studio for a short time. In 2001 we worked together on a lighting project for Ikea (for which I designed the Kila lamp). He is thriving in LA, working on a variety of projects. I brought Tanja Solci, a friend in from Milano, with me to visit Robert's home/studio in West Hollywood. She took all of these pictures. 

Robert works in many mediums, and makes much of what he designs. I have always admired his work with Mica. One of his Mica boxes hangs in my living room in Bedford, but he takes Mica to a whole new level with this soccer ball shape ...

... and this asymetrical construction.

His home and workspace are a feast for the eyes.

He says his work is "not pretty," but I find it beautiful on many levels. He promised me this raw little bulb construction.

His web site is being developed as we speak, look for it in a few weeks at: www.robertlewisstudio.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Design Life: What can I Say It's a Gift

See Harry's interview with Lisa Roberts of "My Design Life" tonight on Ovation at 8pm!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Also Seen at the Corning Museum of Glass

Waffle making went great last week, and I had time to wander around the Corning Museum of Glass. They have a very impressive collection. Some of the highlights were Frantisek Vizner's minimal forms - they almost look like plastic.

Robert Rauschenberg's glass tire - very REALITY. Apparently he dreamt about it. 

Karen Lamont's dress. Karen made a slumped tray for my Living Systems furniture line back in the early nineties when she worked at Urban Glass in Brooklyn. She has gone on to have an amazing career making these hauntingly beautiful life-size glass installations.

Finally, a crave item for me is this Tom Patti glass block. I'm not sure how they are made, or why he makes them, or why they are so expensive (of course the Museum pieces are not for sale, but I have seen others at Heller Gallery in NYC), but to me they are amazing. So much energy and life contained in a block of glass.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Project Waffles 4

Yesterday we made glass waffles:

The process was pretty simple by glass-making standards. In fact, it worked so well, that it was sort of anti-climactic. We cracked a few of the "molds" - someone commented on how waffle irons were just not made to withstand 2000 degrees - and we had some sticking problems this morning. When the mold gets too hot the glass sticks, but these are all issues that can be worked out in production. The waffle maker that worked best in the end was a cheap, modern two-part model.  Some of the vintage models had more interesting patterns, but everyone agreed that the grid pattern was the most recognizably waffle-y.

The result was beautiful. Here are the pieces we made yesterday:

I certainly did not need such a talented team of glassblowers to bang these glass waffles out. Special thanks must be made to Eric Meek and his team of very professional glassblowers, and to Rob Cassetti and Steve Gibbs for inviting me up to Corning in the first place.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Project Waffle 3

I Arrived Corning, NY yesterday morning by way of the Corning corporate jet!                           

Most of my waffle irons have arrived. I went to check out the glassblowing stage where we will be making waffles tomorrow:

I did some sampling with master glassblower, Eric Meek, with whom I am working on this project. We have to wait a day to see the results, but we basically proved that one can cast glass in waffle irons.

I then roamed around the Corning Glass complex.  The complex houses Corning Inc., Steuben Glass, and The Corning Museum of Glass, which has an amazing collection of historic glass objects. The Museum is thriving - tourists poured in all day. Corning has invested in some amazing architecture over the years. This is the main building designed by Harrison and Abramowitz in 1954. It is an all glass, modernist gem: 

The industrial Steuben Building, attached to the Museum, features a huge Robertson Ventilator on the top. 

The original Museum building was designed Gunnar Birkerts, an Eero Saarinen disciple. This building also features a glass facade and a reflective baffle that diffuses the light entering the galleries.

I then wandered into town for lunch, bought a large vintage Griswold waffle iron at an antique store, and wandered into the Pure Design store where to my surprise I found a bunch of REALITY products!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Color Report: Reflective Pigs

This season we have gone hog wild with the colors on our Bank in the Form of a Pig:

It all started with a Christmas-ball red limited edition by Toby Wong as few years back, but it has been hard to stop. This week at the New York International Gift Show, Areaware had this colorful group of colored chrome piggy banks on display. The combination of our standard chrome and gold pigs with and an array of Limited Edition colors made a big impression. Not sure how we will follow this one up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Project Waffles 2

I'm busy buying waffle irons for my glass waffle making session at the Corning Museum of Glass.                                                                                                                                        
As with most of my REALITY projects the research and hunt of the master has proven very interesting. These projects are less about design and more about collecting. My concept is to use cast iron waffle makers to make glass waffles. I think they will make useful trivets and coasters and maybe even nice components for lighting, etc. I anticipate the waffle pattern in glass will be beautiful and refract light in addition to referencing the beloved waffle. Of course, I brought the project up with my mother this weekend and she assured me she would not buy glass waffles, which to me is the sign of a good idea!

I got online and started to look at "cast iron waffle makers" and it turns out it is a very active category on ebay. To cast glass one needs cast iron molds with no coating, no new-fangled aluminum with teflon, and just my luck there are some very active vintage-waffle-iron collectors out there. I also realized that there are many different waffle patterns too. The first one I bought was this one, it is new, but it is cast iron and has a classic waffle pattern.

The next one I saw was this one, and I wish I had gotten it. Interestingly it went for about $50 and was promptly re-posted for about $450 as a "Pilgrims Waffle Iron," or something like that. It has a very nice radial pattern that I think would look great in glass:

Then I bought this one with holes in the shape of hearts and diamonds. I'm not so sure about it, it lacks a strong graphic pattern, but one never knows what it will look like in glass:

And then I got this one. OK, I'm obsessed, but the more patterns we have on hand, the more interesting the project will be, and I think production will go pretty fast:

Don't tell Shirley, my office manager, how many of these I bought! This one got away, maybe for the best. It has a very desirable Heart/Star pattern which I'm sure is adorable at breakfast, but it might have just been too cute in glass.

Then I got these two miniature irons for a song, I think they might make some nice coasters:

And finally, last night I found this one, a very nice graphic pattern:

I'm done buying for now. All are on their way to Corning for our big day of glassblowing on Thursday morning, the 18th. (I hope they make it in time.) Full report to follow next week. And again, if you are in the Corning area on Thursday, 8:30-11:30 am we will be making glass waffles!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Prototypes 4 Sale

Prototypes and first production pieces by Harry Allen and Brunno Jahara for sale:

Eclipse 1: $300
Also available in white.
By Harry Allen
Eclipse 3: $400
By Harry Allen 

Neorustica Mini Closet: $3,830
By Brunno Jahara

Neorustica Side Table: $1,200
By Brunno Jahara

LOT Coffee Table: $5,000
By Harry Allen 

All of this furniture was on display at our show Black River Fever last May during Design week. Now we must clear out the showroom, so make an offer! Contact: office@harryallendesign.com.

Monday, August 8, 2011


On August 18 I will work with the Corning Museum of Glass glassblowing team on a new project.                                                                                                                                                                       

I do not normally blog about ongoing design projects, but since this one if self-instigated, based on a fun premise, and involves some skillful glassmakers, I thought it might be fun to share. If you are in Corning area on August 18th, 8:30 -11:30 am, you are welcome to come watch. We will be making glass waffles!

REALITY is my line of goods that are cast from existing objects; most of the products are made by Areaware, but recently because of my work with Steuben and Glasslab, I have been thinking about how to make REALITY products out of glass. It is difficult to give glass a truly realistic form. There is a very labor-intesive process called Sag casting, which is how I made my Sticks and Stones decanter set for Steuben. The other way is to make a metal mold - which is very expensive. The difficulty forced a search for a pre-made mold, anything made of steel that could be used to give a realistic form, and lead me to the waffle iron. It was just there for the taking - a waffle iron is basically a two part mold.

I have a love of waffles that goes back to my childhood. It was the breakfast that my Dad made, I love their texture and taste, and it is associations like this that make for good REALITY products; they are more about ideas and less about just being pretty. Ultimately, however, they need to function too, and it seems to me that a glass waffle will make a very useful trivet. In addition, I am hopeful that glass waffles will look amazing, like a reflector, or cut glass. So I brought the idea to my friends at the Corning Museum of Glass and they invited me up for a waffle making session as part of their Hot Glass Show on August 18th. 

Making a REALITY product is not traditional product design, and it is never a sure thing, it is more about finding the right thing to cast and coaxing it to be a new product. Making glass waffles trivets will be a fun experiment, and you can follow the process here. Look forward to a few more postings before the big day, and of course a full report on the glass fabrication  - maybe even a movie or two. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Core 77 Best Product Design


Harry was part of the team that judged Products/Equipment for Core 77 Awards. They named the Load Carrier for Labour (as seen in images above) as the winner.

The designer was inspired to create a comfortable device that would help workers transport goods on foot. The most common way for workers to carry loads in India are either on the head, back, or by pushing/pulling. Vikrahm created a clever device that would be a solution for all three methods!

Read more about the project on Core77.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Color Report: GREY BUG

I spotted this fantastic vintage VW Bug on the Bronx River Parkway last week - it was primer grey.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

I know, I know, no photographing while driving, especially in the Bronx, but I had to capture it for this color report. The bug was almost entirely grey, including some of the original chrome details. I say spray all the chrome grey.

Maybe this car is headed for restoration, or maybe this guy took his auto paint repair into his own hands. I've seen more than one spray-painted matte black car in NYC, and I love the concept. In this age of the super-sleek finish, a matte car is a breath of fresh air. 

In addition to the color, I just like the whole notion of extending the life of our consumer goods. Of hacking them, and re-thinking them and extending their life rather than sending them to the trash heap. 

Of course this is my blind interpretation, no interviews were conducted while driving. The guy behind the wheel might have a very different tale to tell, but he looked pretty happy in his grey bug.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gilbert Lesser

My friend Tim, in Ptown, had an Equus poster on his wall. Reminded of Gilbert Lesser, it's creator, I went to Strand and bought this book on his work:

In the late 80s, I was introduced to Mr. Lesser, before I even had a design degree. He was a friend of my friend Henry Baker, and Henry arranged for an informational interview. Lesser was heading up the promotional department at Life magazine, and I think I still have a Life tote bag he gave me in a drawer somewhere. 

I have always admired his clear bold vision. He went for the jugular; distilled his subjects down to the essential and present it boldly. He died too young, in 1990, at the age of 55.

The book is from a show of his work at the Louvre that concentrated on his theater posters. It was a pleasure to reacquaint myself with his amazing graphics - like the Equus poster (I think I need one for my "collection"), the Elephant Man poster (which I saw with David Bowie in 1980), and the logo and invitations he designed for Studio 54. His work embodies 1970/80s New York, yet looks so fresh today. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hand Hooks in SoFo

Our Hand Hooks featured in Swedish magazine, SoFo!