Six Degrees of Accessorizing: Local Designers Play Tag With Their Own Favorites

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TUSK collaboration with Chad Kouri

Tusk collaboration with Chad Kouri

By Isa Giallorenzo

1MaryEleanorWallacePROFILEMary Eleanor Wallace of Tusk
Inspired by: loosely woven fabrics, ceramics and Lucite.
Preferred materials: woven ceramic pendants and large Lucite pieces. She also recently did a line of necklaces with Chad Kouri which incorporated her hand-built ceramic pieces with colorful wooden blocks. Her next project is with Ogechi Anyanwu of Eye Of the Sun. They are going to do a line of leather-pouch necklaces combined with some of Mary Eleanor’s ceramic pieces.
Retails at: Tusk (3205 West Armitage)
Price range: $48-$100
Her pick: Sarah Shikama, because her work is bold and sculptural. Read the rest of this entry »

Get Wood: RX Made One Offers Another Reason to Not Do-It-Yourself

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By Krisann Rehbein

There is nothing sexier than giving—or getting—hand-crafted wood products for the holidays. RX Made, the store within the ReBuilding Exchange’s Webster Street warehouse, is stocked with gifts ranging from a $6 set of coasters up to $50 for a large cutting board. In one visit, you can hit everyone on your gift list. Pick up a rolling pin or a trivet for the baker in your life. Candle holders for Mom. Get a set of wall hooks for your man who keeps throwing his clothes on the floor. Grab a stylish beer carrying case so that six-pack you bring for the hostess stands out. Their latest product, a set of stackable record boxes called Vinyl on Vinyl, are made from maple slats from the floor of a roller rink on the South Side with a square of colorful vinyl floor squares on each end. The slats interlock to allow you to create a tower of records. They make it easy to buy thoughtful gifts, made from repurposed materials. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Thanks for Good Poutine and Good Design

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By Brad Lynch

"Little Women" alludes to the American ideal of independence gained through hard work

“Little Women” alludes to the American ideal of independence gained through hard work

Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, in what would later become part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving in the fall of 1621 after a winter of starvation and privation. Reportedly, all of the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans shared a feast that happened to include four wild turkeys. Almost one hundred and seventy years later, George Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1789. It was not until the middle of the civil war that Abraham Lincoln—upon the urging of feminist, editor and writer Sarah J. Hale—created the national holiday of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November beginning in 1863. In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt pushed to make the third Thursday in November the official holiday, but it was in 1941 that Congress passed a joint resolution to make the fourth Thursday in November the law.

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Design Love-In: Deborah Sussman at the Chicago Design Museum

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Colorful pillars, or "sonotubes,"served as temporary wayfinding at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Photo: Laure Joliet Photography

Colorful pillars, or “sonotubes,”served as temporary wayfinding at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Photo: Laure Joliet Photography

By Jessica Barrett Sattell

“Los Angeles makes nonsense of history and breaks all the rules,” quips British architectural critic Reyner Banham in the opening of “Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles,” his 1972 documentary about that city’s car culture. He professes that he loves LA “with a passion that goes beyond sense or reason” as title credits appear not as familiar superimposed text, but as a shot of a psychedelic yellow billboard emblazoned with saccharine hearts and puffy pink type. Banham commissioned local designer Deborah Sussman to imagine that eye-popping presentation, a testimony to her talents in applying unabashedly bold graphic design to shape public space in Los Angeles into optimistic, larger-than-life destinations.

“Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles!”, a retrospective on view at the Chicago Design Museum through the end of February, spans the designer’s first job in 1953 at the famed Eames Office through her career highlight of designing graphic identity for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. The exhibit, which originally ran earlier this year at Woodbury University’s WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles, suggests that Sussman found her voice early, and that it only amplified with time. Read the rest of this entry »

A Clean, Well-Lighted Track: Designer Duo Reimagines Wabash

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Image: Wabash Lights project

Image: Wabash Lights project

By Troy Douglas Pieper

Public art need not always be a touchstone of civic pride. But Chicago has a long tradition of art that is as democratic and accessible as its El trains; now, a proposed project may enter that tradition with art programmable by anyone with access to the Internet.

When Chicago filmmaker Jack Newell went to New Orleans in 2011, he was overwhelmed by that city’s vaunting of its own culture. Its citizens, he says, seem to wear civic pride on their sleeves. Riding on the city’s historic streetcars Newell thought, “What if we could celebrate Chicago and its iconic infrastructure?”

When he returned to Chicago, Newell met with Seth Unger, design strategist at the architecture giant Gensler (and occasional contributor to this magazine). “Chicago pride is strong, but we wanted to catalyze it,” Unger says. After casually surveying friends, it was clear that the train tracks for the city’s El, the more than one-hundred-year old transit system, are its most iconic structure. “A lot of people think it’s kind of ugly, but we think it’s beautiful, and we want to embrace that,” Newell says. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Somebody That Shines

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IMG_6454Internationally acclaimed French blogger and illustrator Garance Doré was being honored with the inaugural Fashion Inspiration Award at the Museum of Science and Industry.

How would you compare French and American style?
French style is more understated, it’s more about who you are, your own style and body, what looks good on you. And then once you have that down, that’s your thing, you won’t change it so much. Americans like to explore. They like shopping, they like color, they make bolder choices. If you ask me, I prefer New York, because there is more expression. Paris is nice, but all French kinda look the same.

How would you define your own style?
Trying! Read the rest of this entry »

The Man Behind the Bunny: Art Paul and the Power of Pop

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Photo: Suzanne Seed

Back cover of Playboy, July 1954

By Matthew Messner

For a good portion of Art Paul’s career, his most recognizable work could be found, often by worried mothers, hidden in the sock drawers of American teenagers. And no wood-paneled den and rec room of middle America was complete without at least a few of his works. Art Paul may not be a household name, but his impact on commercial art is undeniable. As the first art director of Playboy magazine, one of the most widely circulated periodicals in history, Paul would help define the taste, look and direction of contemporary art for decades to come.

As part of the 25th Chicago Humanities Festival, James Goggin spoke to a full house at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Cassidy Theater about the man behind the Bunny. Goggin, former director of design for Museum of Contemporary Art, first came in contact with Paul while looking through decades of MCA’s publications. Paul’s name appeared on the board list alongside scores of notable Chicagoans. It didn’t take much more digging to discover that Paul, who is a kind of cult figure in midcentury graphic design circles, was alive and well—in an apartment located a stone’s throw away from the MCA. Goggin dropped in unannounced. He would eventually have access to Paul’s home and his archives; these materials, spanning seventy years of ceaseless activity, formed the basis of the CHF talk. Read the rest of this entry »

Shacking Up: The Vernacular Architecture of Chicago’s Food Stands

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Photo: David Witter

Photo: David Witter


By David Witter

This is an architecture story, but it does not highlight the proud glass spires, barrel-vaulted ceilings and marble facades by Chicago’s famous architects. This is a story about structures lit by dim fluorescent bulbs and built with plywood, aluminum, cinder blocks, glass, plastic and linoleum. Tilting, sinking, bulging and lurching at odd angles, they are the architectural hybrid of Nelson Algren’s “Neon Wilderness” and John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.” They are Chicago’s hot dog and ethnic food shacks.

Some of them, like Fat Johnnies at 7242 South Western, have received national attention from Anthony Bourdain and National Geographic. Others, like El Cubanito with its mural of a voluptuous Latina, are neighborhood landmarks. But, like Johnny O’s, where you can get a hot dog, half pint, lotto ticket and a pack of cigarettes, or Susie’s, where you can get taco cheese fries at 4:30am, most of them are known only to loyal locals. From teens to construction workers to early morning revelers sopping up their stomachs, these shabby bastions of individualism have managed to thrive in a city increasingly polarized by fast-food franchises and fine dining.

The people who run these places are as hardy as their businesses. Individualistic, creative, and dedicated, these old-school entrepreneurs focus on personality, not portion control and profitability. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Looks: Attitude Makes It Work

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Darlene Schuff was at the Gene Siskel Film Center to watch “Advanced Style,” a documentary about fashionable ladies of a certain age produced by Ari Seth Cohen based on the eponymous street style blog he created.

What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion to me is all about fun, smiles and feeling great. I love to stir the pot a bit–sometimes my outfits amuse and even surprise me! I love wearing my clothes; my clothes do not wear me.

What did you love about the movie?
Oh my. Where do I begin? Well, Ari Seth Cohen loving his grandmothers, appreciating their styles and then capturing new fabulous women and putting them on film. I so hope he continues with more wonderfully stylish women here in Chicago!

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The People’s Architect: Landon Bone Baker’s AIA Honor Recognizes the Importance of Building for the Less Fortunate

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By Krisann Rehbein

A housing development in Chinatown, Archer Courts is updated with a modern curtainwall and bright doors. Photo:  Landon Bone Baker Architects.

A housing development in Chinatown, Archer Courts is updated with a modern curtainwall and bright doors/Photo: Landon Bone Baker Architects

Landon Bone Baker Architects was founded by Peter Landon, along with partners Jeff Bone and Catherine Baker, on the premise that everyone deserves access to high-quality housing. The firm’s buildings are sensitive to the context in which they are sited. Its work responds to the needs of clients—and of broader social good. And on top of that, it’s a firm of genuinely nice people. And now the word is out as the AIA Chicago Firm of the Year Award goes to the people’s architect.

Even if you don’t know Landon Bone Baker’s name, you likely know its work. Across the city LBBA has designed everything from single-family houses to entire neighborhood developments that elevate basic materials through a vocabulary of modern design. The firm’s clients are mainly affordable housing developers, community-based organizations and the Chicago Housing Authority. But when you look at LBBA’s buildings, you can’t tell. That’s because the architects at Landon Bone Baker know how to wrest good design out of the tight confines of local and federal low-income housing regulations. Read the rest of this entry »