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Step Inside Magpie

Christine Liu, decor8 contributor, is back with a review of Magpie. This post contains so many great links, you won’t want to miss it. Drum roll please…here’s Christine!

As Holly has already confessed her love for their paper goods, I went on task to do a thorough look-see of Davis Square gem Magpie, shiny things for your nest. I’ve visited this haven of hip crafts, local art, and vintage collectibles’ only once before, but one visit is clearly not enough. Not only would it be impossible to absorb all the featured items at once, but also the in-stock items constantly change as the roster of artists evolve and as one-of-a-kind originals are sold and replenished. Part quirky boutique and part curated gallery, Magpie is a charming art spot that exudes with creative style and handcrafted energy.

The store, located at 378A Highland Ave in Somerville (just over the Charles from Boston), is a quick walk from the T subway station, and welcomes you from the sidewalk with a flock of friendly (what else?) handdrawn magpies. They encouragingly beckon.

Look for it carefully, as the space is carefully tucked away in a nondescript stretch of neighborhood. However, the moment you enter you find yourself enveloped in a warmly inviting room with all things cute, cozy, and colorful. Everything from retrofitted wall-hangings to painted bread plates happily coexist in this handmade heaven.

One of the five owners of Magpie, Dave McMahon, was running the place on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t have been more passionate about featuring the works of independent artists and fostering a strong local community. He and his wife Leah Kramer (the founder of Craftster) and fellow Magpies Simone Alpen, Emily Arkin and Dave Sakowski are also the core that run the Bazaar Bizarre, a modern craft fair that began in 2001 in the Boston-area but has since spread out to include LA, Cleveland, and San Francisco (next event April 22 + 23′ 06). Dave eagerly showed me around (the room is small but holds a lot!) and pointed me towards some interesting works.

First stop: paper goods! Handmade cards are conveniently located right in the front of the store and are coo-worthy spectacular. Dave mentions that the store gets new paper goods almost on a continuous basis, and I find the designs as perfect and delectable as cupcakes. Just a handful of the featured stationery include designs by 1201AM, sugarlily, poppycock, sewing stars, boygirlparty, scraps of paper, and the paper princess. There’s everything from colorful illustration to quirky gocco prints to cards packaged with pages from real vintage recipe books. (My personal favorites are from Susie Ghahremani at boygirlparty, and the pudgy bunnies of sewing stars.) If you’re looking for unique, well-made, and head-turning stationery, Magpie is the place to be.

I’m already tickled pink at the paper goods, though there’s plenty more to see. Moving toward the rear of the store, I espy some cleverly designed dinnerware and ceramics.

I’m completely smitten with these dining accessories by neutrino designs. (If you’re not proximate to Magpie, you can also purchase them online at Art Star.) The clean white lines and simple silhouettes of the pieces are adorned with sporadic geometric details, bold and delicate in fine-tipped orange. At once mod, scientific, and abstract, the design of the series wins on so many levels. I love how the butter dish is constructed so that at first it appears to be a normal white holder. Only until you consume enough butter do you uncover the bright orange designs. A gradual and satisfying reward that makes eating that much more fun.

I still remember these hand-etched glasses from my first visit. Each set hosts an amusingly complementary pair of messages, such as Beauty/Brains, Wild Turkey/Cold Duck, and RBG/CMYK (my pick). They’re beautifully minimalist, with the clear frosted glass and bold, sans serif lettering. Designed by Cambridge-based artist Sandra Salamone, I could definitely see them as a fancy vintage cocktail vessel, or for housing a colorful votive candle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the artist took requests for custom messages… now who’s the creative one? :)

Here’s Dave, looking super happy and modeling one of the hand-painted sushi-themed ceramics by Suzaluna. (How delish to eat sushi atop of sushi!) By the way, he was a great sport and let me take all these pictures for decor8!

When encouraged to pick a personal favorite, Dave was excited to feature the hand painted birdhouses by Ryan O’Rourke. The birdhouses are constructed by Ryan’s grandfather, and then painstakingly designed and decorated by Ryan. Dave adds, “I’m a painter, so I really admire his work. The details…the colors…” The designs are intricate and layered, filled with small illustrative narratives all over the tiny wooden structure. “I love these for so many reasons, but there’s something about the fact that he paints these things that are made by his grandfather. The familial connection, and the handmade process. They’re great!” The birdhouses are fantastically designed, and other than sprucing up your pad in style, they may also become a super-luxe bird loft for your favorite feathered friend if you choose for it to be. Here’s one, smiling back at you.

Perhaps coincidentally, though cheerfully appropriate, there are plenty of bird-themed goods within Magpie. I found the metal rooster sculpture striking in its modern interpretation and recycled materiality. It comes from the hands of Anna Johansson of Anna Built, also active with an indie rock band, the Pee Wee Fist. Anna also creates beautiful jewelry recycled from bits of beer can metals and stunning stained glass. It’s impressive to witness her strength of inspiration from everyday objects.

If you’re in Boston, be sure to drop into Magpie! As I told Dave, one of the best reasons of mine to support local and independent artists is that I feel it’s better to acquire a small number of objects that are meaningfully precious than a large number of generics that are facelessly mass-manufactured. You can definitely sense that philosophy in Magpie, where every object can be traced back to a creative human being. And in a modern world, that’s a beautiful thing.

:::note from holly:::
If you see anything in the photos that you’d like to inquire about, please contact Magpie directly. They are happy to accept orders over the phone with a major credit card.

Magpie also sells my favorite soap dishes in the world by Ambrosia Porcelain. Read what decor8 had to say about them here.

A special thanks to Dave at Magpie!

(photos + text from Christine Liu. Great job, Miss Liu!)


Posted in Arts + Crafts, guest bloggers, Shop Tours, shopping, travel on March 30, 2006

Dot Kite

Thomas contacted decor8 to let us know about his newly formed brand, Dot Kite, where design is reimagined. After peeking at his website, I had to post about it because the designs are graceful, fluid, sophiticated…but at the same time functional and durable. Very Elle Decor and Vogue. Posh. I can imagine these in those nineteenth century apartments with high ceilings, ornate crown mouldings, hardwood floors and lots of flokati rugs. Thomas has this to add about his collection:

Introducing the CrossLink collection from Dot Kite.

Maia inaugurates a new generation of seating for the Dot Kite Collections in a fun and unorthodox way. Low and wide, Maia is informal and highly versatile, for relaxing in a lounge or for the night zone. Maia, with its elegant and sophisticated form adds value toevery SoHo environment. The construction technique has enabled a very strong and resistant seat to be obtained, making it also a perfect small armchair for outdoors. It is available in the colour chalk white.”
Design care, refined sections and ergonomic precision. Sweet curves make the
essential lines of Iride sinuous. Perfect for the night zone of every SoHo
environment. Iride, enables the users to have a special emotional feeling
with the surrounding environment.

(partial text from Thomas Mylonas at Dot Kite. images from Thomas Mylonas)

::Core77 also wrote about them last month; read it here::

Posted in uncategorized on March 30, 2006

coffee + cre8tive [mar 30 06]

Meg over at Designer’s Library wrote about the most amazing art nouveau illustrations by Liselotte Watkins of Sweden. I have a huge crush on these prints, aren’t they beautiful? The stunning colors, luxe eyelashes that look like lovely fans, juicy pursed lips… and great fashion!

You’ll love watching her illustrations come alive in this animation . Turn the speakers up, the music is the cutest!

(images from Art Dept)

Posted in uncategorized on March 30, 2006

Follow Function by Jeff Benzenberg

Jeff Benzenberg from Follow Function wanted to contribute to decor8 so after zero arm twisting, I readily replied, Yes! Yes! Yes! Allow me to introduce Follow Function.

“I graduated with a BS in Industrial Design from The Ohio State University in 2004. I spent the spring of 2005 designing cell phone cases for a consulting firm in Columbus, but that summer I sliced open my right hand pretty good. Unfortunately, I needed surgery to repair an important nerve and that sidelined my sketching abilities for a few months. While recovering, I called up my old college chum, Steven Schranz. Since graduating he had built a successful ecommerce business called Lighters Direct. I sent him a link to a beautifully designed light fixture that shipped flat and blossomed into a chandelier when the user folded the petals up and down. He seemed to dig it, so we put together an extensive spreadsheet of all the products and designers that we admired. We eventually narrowed the list down to the most attractive and clever designs. Thus, Follow Function was born. As a student, and later a professional, I found that when I told people I was an industrial designer, they had no clue what that meant. Was I an architect? An engineer? Did I design industries? I am not really sure how one could go about designing, say, the shoe industry, but that?s not really here nor there. With Follow Function, we want to educate our customers on the definition of good design. We feel the way to accomplish this goal is by giving people the story behind the design. If you know the story, our products immediately become conversation pieces in your home, or as we like to call them: extremely functional works of art.”

Bendant Lamp from Mio Culture:

A few weeks ago, we got the chance to meet Mio?s designer, Jaime Salm, at his studio in Philadelphia and learn even more about this amazing design. Mio Culture is about as green as a company can be. They call their philosophy ?Responsible Desire, but its really just common sense.?

The Bendant Lamp was born from the desire to create a product that wasted as absolutely little material as possible. Jaime took a thin, square sheet of steel and began slicing, folding, and sculpting until he made an incredible chandelier.

But the real genius of the product was not in the final aesthetic, because that, Jaime decided, would be left up to the consumer. He wanted to ship his product flat and include a fixture with a cord and a switch.

It is up to the users to sculpt their own beautiful artwork. Bend all the petals down and project the light to a certain spot. Buy a bulb with a metal lining on the bottom, fold the petals up, and admire the shadows dancing on your ceiling. Or come to a compromise in between, but be sure to tell your friends that you designed it.

?Hug? Salt and Pepper Shaker from Mint:

Mint is a collective of three well-established and unbelievably talented product designers. ?Hug? was their very first product under the Mint banner. Although Mint wanted the royalties that came with designing a successful product, they did not want the risks that came with manufacturing a product themselves.

Instead, they took their design to major manufacturers of modern design (like Umbra) hoping that they would make it, sell it, and give the royalties to Mint. Unfortunately no one was buying. They all said that the ?Hug? design was too cute, and did not fit with their ultra-modern, too-hip, product lines.

But Mint was undeterred and decided that they believed in their designs enough to take the risk, and manufacture their product line themselves. Eventually they impressed the right people at the Museum of Modern Art gift store, a leading retailer of contemporary design. The folks at MoMA liked most of the line, but were not too sure about ?Hug?. Mint told them that if they wanted the rest of the line, then they would have to take the Salt and Pepper Shaker as well.

As it turns out, MoMA was quite lucky that Mint was so insistent, because ?Hug? quickly became their number one selling item.

What some decision makers failed to understand was the level of sophistication implied by the Mint designs. Yes, ?Hug? is cute, but it also is a beautiful form that actually tells a story. And the story is what people are responding to.

The same theory can be applied to Mint?s ?Salad Song? Oil and Vinegar Cruets. Alone, one of these vessels is a pretty cool form because of the way it bends and the interesting way a liquid would flow from it. But together, the cruets tell a story. Together, they are a choir, serenading you at dinner.

Zumi Stool from Offi:

Shuichiro Koizumi was a struggling product designer working at a retail store in Tokyo when he dreamt up the Zumi Stool. The store sold modern furniture from some of the top manufacturers from around the world. One of them happened to be Offi.

Shuichiro showed his boss his design, and his boss was so impressed, he sent the design to Offi. Offi was so impressed they immediately began manufacturing it. Now Shuichiro can buy his own design at the store where he once worked. Pretty cool.

The brilliance of the design is that it is really just one, simple ?L? shaped form repeated three times. When you order it, your receive a box much smaller than the stool. In it there are three pieces of molded plywood. Assemble them in about three seconds, throw on a couple of short screws using the provided allen wrench, and you?re done.

What I love about stools is that they are so multi-functional. Need some quick seating with guests over? Need a cool end table for magazines and miscellaneous pieces of paper (even if you don?t need it for magazines and miscellaneous pieces of paper, you know that?s what?ll end up there)? Or most importantly, do you need a place to put your feet up? Never underestimate they joy derived from putting your feet up.

Thank you Jeff – What a great contribution to decor8. We all really appreciate your insights and short stories describing these beautiful products.

(photos and text from Jeff Benzenberg at Follow Function)

[:::quick blurb::: my buddy Adriean over at designbot told me someone had pinged him about follow function so he’s posted it on his site too. Check out Adriean’s post here.


Posted in Objects on March 29, 2006


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