Posts Tagged ‘steel’

C. Jere

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

stone and metal tree sculptureCurtis Jere made lamps, mirrors, and table sculptures in the 1960s and 70s, but was probably best known for its metal wall sculptures. Like some of the other “designers” mentioned on Absolute Galore recently, C. Jere, as many of the works were signed, was not an actual person, but the design team of Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels.

The pair became successful enough that they began bringing in other artisans to fabricate their designs. Many of the wall sculptures are kitschy, sentimental landscapes, others are great mid-century decorative pieces. The lamps mostly have an air of  high 70s chrome or brass glam. I picked up this table sculpture for five bucks at auction years ago. It’s unsigned, and although I do not believe it’s a C. Jere, it’s certainly “in the style of,” as I’ve seen similar silver dollar tree sculptures with the Jere designation. In any case, it’s the kind of mid century piece that fits well into an eclectic environment.

Jerry Fels passed away two years ago in November according to his son, sculptor Peter Fels. He was 90, and hit a hole in one the year he died. (Although Wikipedia lists his death as October 2008, several other sources in addition to his son site November 5, 2007.) Like the stories of Georges Briard and Catherine Holm, the full tale of C. Jere remains to be told. Artisan House, the company Fels and Freiler created in 1963 and sold in 1972,  still makes wall sculptures. In China, of course.

Monkey Wrench

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

monkey wrench miniThis little five-inch wrench is a bit of a rare thing, a true monkey wrench,  not to be confused with a pipe wrench. It’s one of those odds and ends I of course do not need and never will, yet it has too much of a presence for me to discard it.

I may eventually incorporate it into a sculpture (thanks James) but the wrench is such a beautiful object as itself that would almost be sacrilege.

Pack Mule

Monday, September 14th, 2009

town bikeNot only do different bicycles have different road feels, the intended mission affects the ride qualities as well. Although you are still on a machine with two wheels, your mindset imparts a particular flavor to the overall experience.

I first got into riding as an adult in my late twenties. I rode recreationally, then got into racing, which means lots of training rides.

On a training ride, it’s all about how your body is feeling. Are the legs flat or punchy? Do I have the deep base that lets me breath steadily even as I up the wattage? Should I attack this hill?

At the time, I lived in the city, and eventually I came into possession of a bike suitable for commuting. Riding to work was different than riding to train. And it isn’t just the bicycle or the clothing.

Riding to work is more about the morning air, about getting into the groove of the city’s traffic beats. It’s noting signposts along the daily route, the centered feeling of arriving under my own power, free from the constraints of crowded subways or slow buses.

I got a deep satisfaction riding to work every day, ticking off the various sections of the city from my starting point at Amsterdam and 106—the Central Park loop, the dip back into traffic and the rush downtown, cutting across Bleeker (On Bleeker after a snowstorm one day, I thought my big tires could take me through a high snow patch. I fell, landing in front of a slow-moving NYPD patrol car. A  kitchen helper who had been standing in the doorway of a restaurant came over and offered me a big cloth napkin as I got to my feet, inviting me inside to clean up. Already late for work, I politely declined his hospitality, brushed the snow from my clothes, and hopped back on the bike) and onto 7th, across Canal and arriving at my office on Varick Street.

These days my non-recreational riding mostly consists of shopping in town for groceries, but in the summer I get to ride a few miles out to Stonykill farm to pick up my CSA share every Friday. And now I also belong to a fruit share. The pickup is at the same location, every other Monday. These trips give me a feeling of purposefulness that changes the tenor of my ride. It’s similar to the commuting feeling, but  different enough to be a distinct experience—maybe the difference between a good root beer and a good cream soda. It might have something to do with arriving empty and returning full, that sometimes useful feeling of being a pack mule.

When I was operating the Iron Fish, I moved a decent number of vintage bicycles. One day I traded a customer a Schwinn Suburban for this Trek 730 and some cash. I found out later the 730 was a popular model with touring companies. A hybrid with 700c fat tire clearance, a triple compact crank, cantilever brakes, fender eyelets and front and rear rack braze-ons, it made for a great back country tourer. Mine is an early model, lugged steel with a unicrown fork.

I converted it into a city bike using an upright stem, Albatross bars, bar-end shifters, cork grips and a basket from Rivendell, fenders, a dynamo light system and shopping panniers from Velo-Orange, tires and brake levers from the new bike shop in town, and the Brooks B17 saddle from that old Manhattan commuter. I sprayed over the lime-green Trek decals and painted the fenders to look like a classic European town bike.

Today was the perfect September day in the Hudson Valley to head over to the farm and pick up this week’s offering, a bag of Cox’s Orange Pippins, for me and Steph and our friend Kate, who is splitting a share with us. On the way back, I stopped to visit another friend, Nancy. She was out, but I chatted for a bit with her daughter-in-law. When I got home, I put the apples in a compote, but not the one featured here a few weeks ago. Although you can never have too many bikes, if I write about another compote tomorrow, that will be a challenge.

Red Raleigh Red Raleigh

Friday, August 28th, 2009

red raleighCan a single 3-speed bicycle be the agent for taking a new turn in life? In July of 2001, about to accept a job I didn’t want and feeling the need for drastic measures, I  left Manhattan after 17 years and moved in with my mother down on the Jersey Shore.

Moving back in with the people responsible for your existence was part of the zeitgeist of the time. As a chronic potential entrepreneur, I bought the domain name livingwithmom.com. Livingwithmom.com was catchier than livingwithparents.com, but the site would welcome those who lived with both units or, in rare cases, just dad. While I pondered the income possibilities of a website for adults who move back in with their parents, I worked for a bike shop and cruised around on my Schwinn Suburban.

Realizing this moving back home thing was probably a trend without legs (and a bit worried about the impact glorifying my situation would have on my self-esteem), I started a site called bicyclewire.com instead, and I began to think even more seriously about what to do next and where to do it.

In the fall a friend of my mom suggested the up-and-coming Hudson Valley river town of Beacon, New York. Around that time, my brother Joe decided to ride to work in the city and asked if I could keep an eye out for a decent bicycle. As fate would have it, a blue woman’s 3-speed was listed on ebay for $9.99. The seller welcomed local pickup—in Beacon. My brother said he didn’t mind riding a girl’s bike.

I borrowed mom’s car and made the two-hour drive to Beacon, where I met Nina and Walter, owners of Blackwell’s Gallery, dealers of used furniture, jewelry, serial killer art, weird antique medical instruments, shrunken heads, and bicycles, all out of a 300-square-foot shop facing Mt. Beacon on the eastern end of the city’s mile-long Main Street.

I picked up the bike and quizzed them about the town. They thought I should move to Beacon and open a used bike shop slash junk store. I was not into bad art by mass murders, but we decided to stay in touch via email. I became their bicycle consultant guy.

In February they called to say they were moving to a larger space, and did I want to take over the lease. I bought a Ford Econoline van for $200, filled it with some old furniture and a few bikes, said goodbye to mom and headed to Beacon to open the Iron Fish Trading Co, purveyors of vintage furniture, lighting, art and bicycles.

I’ve sold other 3-speeds, but Raleigh 3-speeds are the ultimate working man’s machine. While I had the Iron Fish I was temporary custodian of some fine examples, including a his and hers set in classic black in great shape, with the leather B-72  saddles. I always liked the greens, too. Not crazy about the blues. I got my partner Stephanie a mint one in brown just before I closed my doors in the spring.   I never did come across a red Raleigh.

Every couple of years, Joe would come up from the city and grab another bike, the previous one having been stolen or the steel rims having met with one too many New York City potholes. (His were 3-speed off brands, Columbia or Sears, not Raleighs. Hey, you get what you pay for.)  So when he called a few weeks ago looking for a new ride and this crimson beauty popped up on craigslist soon after, I jumped on it.

It’s a fine red Raleigh LTD. But I doubt any bike will lead me over new horizons like the $9.99 blue 3-speed I won on ebay eight years ago.

What’s in a Bowl

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

green metal bowlI grabbed this olive green bowl from the top of a kitchen cabinet yesterday to hold some dark purple grapes. Mostly it sits up there high above the stove with two other bowls, one black and one dark brown. All three are the same shape, all made of enamel-coated metal.

On the other set of cabinets I have three more enameled bowls, one the same shape but white with a mushroom pattern, a smaller one in red, and one bigger and not as steep in black with a white lotus pattern.

All the bowls except the last were designed by Kaj Franck for Arabia Finel of Finland. The lotus-patterned bowl is from Catherineholm. Catherine is not a person, but the name of a Norwegian company. These familiar designs are the work of Grete Prytz–sort of.  Although she came from a family of well-known enamelists in Oslo, and became the chief designer at the Catherineholm factory, the in-house lotus pattern was added to her collection without her approval. Apparently she never liked the design.

As a rule I’m not a fan of things stuck on top of kitchen cabinets. Baskets on cabinets I don’t like. Random cookie jars, fake deli meats, old steins with (or without) lids, plates with farm scenes—somebody likes these things on top of their kitchen cabinets, but not me.  These bowls, however, look great. And when I take them down the cabinets look naked.

I’m not sure why I should like my bowls so much. Bowls are containers, and many people enjoy collecting containers of one sort or another–jars, boxes, bowls, teapots, piggy banks, the aforementioned baskets and cookie jars. I don’t know why. Maybe because vessels allow us to hold and possess and squirrel away things. And of course, many of these containers were skillfully designed and crafted and are beautiful objects themselves.

Though they are in excellent condition my bowls are not relegated to a purely decorative existence. Enameled bowls do have limits, because they scratch easily and can lose enamel at the edges. Still, I would use them even more if I would remember they are up there when I need a bowl.


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