Saturday, June 14, 2014

AX REVIVAL: The Cool Tool of the Day

Image: Paul Bunyan Fine Art
The ax is a classic symbol of survival, industry, and strength, and I thought it was an appropriate subject for a father's day blog. Though my dad's tool of choice was a sewing needle, at 78, Sheldon Zane Myers still has a sturdy 6'1" physique which I'm sure would lend itself to ax wielding. Come to think of it, I think he may use a hatchet to wack the tougher weeds in the garden.

Axes -- useful, hardworking, and sleek -- seem to be enjoying a revival. Brought to the forefront by entrepreneurs and media, here are a few axes that have gotten my attention.

Peter Buchanan Smith's Best Made Co. axes - natural or hand painted.

Images: Best Made Co.
The outdoorsy Buchanan Smith values the axe like no other tool, so he sought to make his own. "You put an axe in someone's hand and they feel empowered," says the Canadian farmer turned urban tastemaker and ax designer.

Cassandra Smith's Painted Hatchets

Images: Cassandra Smith
I once wrote about Cassandra Smith's painted antlers and I had a sixth sense that she might be applying her skill to tools. Bingo! Cassandra chose hatchets because they were more affordable than axes and easier to find. But she couldn't stop at the handle. The patina on the metal heads was far too compelling to be left unaltered.

Campfire Cologne's ax-appreciative philosophy and graphics
Image: Campfire Cologne
Recreating the joyfully nostalgic feeling of being around a campfire is definitely ax-related because you need one to chop the wood for the fire. The ax, therefore, in addition to other tools,  made it onto the packaging and also into Campfire Cologne, the movie.  Made in Portland, OR. Burn anywhere.
Estwing's black matte axe
When you give your man the axe, he will be thankful. Image: Estwing

Estwing’s Special Edition solid steel 14" Sportsman’s Axe features a non-reflective matte black finish and genuine leather grip. Since1923, the Estwing family manufactures comfortable and attractive striking and struck tools in Rockford, IL.

The "Ax Men" Cometh
 Loggers kick ax. Images: History Channel

The History Channel's current ode to the timber industry, Ax Men, naturally has its own merchandise to sell. This bright summery tee features am overused play on words. Though these modern-day loggers have an arsenal of high-energy power tools at their disposal, the ax is still quite relevant and symbolic. Log on!

Ax in a Box

Image: Moran Woodworked Furniture
At the ICFF show in May, Michael James Moran or Moran Woodworked Furniture, had a few shadow-boxed tools on display. I love the idea of framing a beloved trusted worn tool under glass. Tools, thoughtfully designed implements, have a very sculptural quality and look amazing on display whether it's one special tool or hundreds. Check out the photo, below, from the Grassroots Tool Museum in Nevada City.
 Image: Afar

Axe in a Bottle

AXE Peace was developed with the basic idea that there is no room for aggression in a love-filled space - the reincarnation of "Make Love, Not War". They are showing their support for Peace Day, creating awareness, and allying with the non-profit Peace One Day. "With a shared vision of bringing young people together to make the world a better place" AXE is encouraging fans to upload kisses (#kissforpeace) to Instagram.
I could not do this ax round-up without including AXE, the scented product line that took the adolescent world by storm. As the parent of two teenage girls, AXE is what we buy all the middle school boys who are still having birthday parties. My daughters will spend a good deal of time in the aisle at Target sniffing the various AXE fragrances. Watching the resulting euphoria is quite amusing for me.

In SLATE, Dahlia Lithwick wrote a hysterical article about AXE. She used the 3-in-1 shower gel one day when it was the only soap in the shower. I just LOVE her discovery:
"I smelled like teen boy spirit. I smelled the way an adolescent male smells when he feels that everything good in the universe is about to be delivered to him, possibly by girls in angel wings. I had never smelled this entitled in my life. I loved it. I wanted more."
While I am sure that there is a population of ax-toting women, this classic American tool, spelled with an "e" or naw has definite ties to manhood, both established and impending. Image: Amazon
While an ax is definitely a cool gift to receive, perhaps a more experiential "gift" is what you truly desire. If this is the case, "ax" and you shall receive....hopefully!

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

ICFF: a somewhat belated review

Mood lighting: Delightfull's iconic floor fixture is on the money.
I had not been to the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) in 10 years, so when I went to the 26th Annual Fair in May, I was impressed by its growth and diversity. While my heart responds to shape and color and texture, the most remarkable aspect of this show, is the passion and skill of the makers. As a category, lighting blew me away, but there were plenty of other gems scattered about. Overwhelming and lust-worthy, I found more than enough beauty to furnish my dream casa.  From floor to ceiling, here's an ICFF rundown. 

a great light fixture adds so much style to a room. Check out the oversized globe hanging in Boulud on Broadway. It makes the bar and defines that space.

From giant orbs to galactic style...Recalling Alexander Calder's mobiles, geometric structures, and space technology, here are some fixtures lighting me up.

Moooi's Raimond Suspension Light reminds me of the Hoberman Sphere
New brass pendants from  James De Wulf

Glassblower Jackson Schwartz of Hennepin  Made honed his craft in Australia.

 Michele Varian lace-up copper cone pendant fuses industrialism with Sherwood Forest chic.
Shapely and soft: UK designer Naomi Paul's pendants feature an exclusive made-in-Italy cotton yarn woven around a powder-coated framework.
Oh, those witty Brits...Mineheart puts a curious playful spin on lighting.I love the mini-chandi encased in glass.
Supernova is just one of the looming beacons of light created by Brooklyner Andrea Claire..
Also worth mentioning: Manifold's sleek barely-there Piccolo table lamp, Ilomio's simple and colorful enamel pendants (below), Graypants's flexible cardboard-shade Kerflights, and Gabriel Scott's blown glass Harlow fixture that's like deco diamonds in the sky.

Endless spectrum of delicious colors. photo: ILOMIO


Katherine Yaphe of Oliver Yaphe had seen enough boring hallways and came up with a line of patterned rugs that made the journey from room to room more exciting. Her biz is named after her dog.

Stomping on a masking taped floor. Easy on, easy off.
Judy Ross textiles in back of a Laurie Beckerman steel bench.

Eskayel's faded inkblot-meets-ikat aesthetic calms the most boisterous of bohemians.
Loved the throwing stone pile-up at Igloo Play, as well as...

Igloo Play's dense foam lounge chairs are designed to be more kid-sized rather than me-sized.

Gem-like results on reverse glass and acrylic  painted furnishings via Sublime Living.

...and the classic drum revisited.
Uhuru's Brass Stoolen makes a nice sturdy base of drinks.

From Offsite @ Site Unseen: AMMA Studio tables combine concrete with organic materials such as salt, silica, and coffee.
And for the garden, my personal favorite,
The most posh hose and its equally chic holder from Garden Glory.
and also good-looking metal furniture

LOVE the folding tables from Scout Regalia (image: Scout Regalia)
Racy style: The perforated Lami chair from Marka Moderna.


Design visionary Stefan Hengst turned a photo from a street market into a glamorous wall covering.
House Jewelry: Divine hardware from Philip Watts Design. I can only imagine what it feels like to grasp the wing and open a door.

And I cannot end the recap without mentioning artist Mallory Griggs doing her chalk thang at the Watermark booth. 
if you go to Watermark's Facebook page you can see fun time lapse videos.

Chalk graphics had been on my mind recently and to watch Griggs in action was a treat. Watermark's Elan Vitale design-it-yourself faucet was equally a big hit as visitors were encouraged to build their own
 That was my basic ICFF experience. Better late than never!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tales of a Substitute Teacher: End of Year Summary

Fruit of knowledge.
As the Broward Country public school 2013-2014 year ended yesterday,  I was reflecting on my time as a substitute teacher. I like being a part of the education system. I relish the intellectual and creative interaction with the kids (if given the opportunity), welcome the chance to refresh my knowledge about taxonomy or Romeo & Juliet, and of course, I enjoy checking out the decor in each classroom and the art projects (or lack thereof) hanging in the halls.. And, I also welcome the reliable, albeit disproportionately low, paychecks. (FYI: Substitute teachers in Fort Lauderdale make $11.27/hr. and subs in Long Beach, CA make $22.34/hr).

Notice Column 1's "Spending Time" response on this middle school project
This year I subbed at 9 different schools, for about 30 classes, and got a bunch of hugs, some respect, and the finger. Here are some random thoughts about my year as a substitute teacher...
The sneaker parade never ceases to amuse me.
  • You can learn a lot about fashion while subbing. 
The little things matter.

  • I so wanted to LOVE teaching middle school, but most middle school kids LOVE having a sub so they can especially goof off. Consequently, I fell back in love with teaching 2nd-4th grades. In those classrooms, I get hugs, notes, free art, and respect.

  • Lucked out one day while subbing at West Glades Middle. There was a special anti-bullying assembly starring Brooks Gibbs and he drove home the "sticks and stones" message really well. When he said, "Words are just words," Jane the writer's ears pricked up in a "Oh, really????" kind of way as I thought about all of those times I carefully selected just the right word. But I get what he meant in the context of his presentation.
  • I was totally unaware that "I don't feel like doing this" was an option. One day while subbing for an 8th grade science teacher, I handed out worksheets about skin cancer and most 8th graders handed them back incomplete before the end of class because they simply weren't in the mood.  
  • Yo, teachers, this can be a lifesaver: When a unisex name and an androgynous appearance have you confused as to the gender of a student, refrain from using pronouns and simple call that student by their proper name. I once used "he" when referring to a girl...and trust me, you do not want to suffer through making that error.

Dream rooms on display
  • They have Interior Design 101!!
  • Some science classrooms have a backdoor which opens to a common faculty area where there is a near-private clean bathroom. If you have ever subbed at West Glades Middle, you know what I am talking about. This year I had a renewed enthusiasm for subbing science.
  • While subbing for 9th grade English, I discovered that the answers to worksheets are readily available on the internet and that if not watched closely, students will access the answers and cheat.
  • Keep your iPhone in your pocket or out of site.
  • In middle and high schools, cell phones are a clear obstruction to learning even though kids will tell you music helps them study and that their teacher says it's ok.
My favorite gifted drawing yet.
  • Kids always try to guess my age. Most guess younger, much younger, and I am flattered. Middle schoolers have referred to me as "the cool surfer sub" and a third grader has drawn me as a sprightly young thing. 
  • There are silver linings even to the most challenging substitute teaching gigs. While the morning that an 8th grade student at Forest Glen Middle School told me to basically "F--- off" was a tearful disaster, later that day, one of my students played the violin for me. That was also emotional, but I did not bawl. So, clearly, the day ended on a high note!
  • I have come to realize that I still suck at deciphering traditional poetry.
Subbing high school English on V-Day was a visual treat.
  • The student body can be a wonderful source for socio-cultural enlightenment. Not only am I there to teach, but I come to learn! Hence..."The Vocabulary Lesson".
Let's just call this: Embellishing History.
  • If you teach middle school, you will undoubtedly meet Mr. Dick Page, and just know that during class, when a student discovers a drawing of a penis in a text book, there will be 5-10 minutes of unruly behavior that follows.
While my year as a sub has ended, my interest in education continues and I will be doing little things throughout the summer that will make me a better sub next fall. I already found one article on replicating Van Gogh's ear that can be an interesting addition to a discussion on genetics or 3 D printing (7th grade and higher). I believe that even a sub can improved the quality of education and am doing what I can to support my theory!

happy summer y'all.