Monday, May 11, 2009

White House goes Target

I have finally found something to complain about the Obamas: what is this nonsense about Pottery Barn? In the White House? I mean, really? Here is what designer Jerry Helling, creative director of Bernhardt Design, has to say about Pottery Barn's contributions to the American design scene:

... mass retailers like Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn. These are publicly owned companies, which in order to survive have to cater to Wall Street. They have to sell a great deal of product, and that usually means embracing the Hollywood factor: It’s about opening weekend box office and pleasing the masses with the least risk involved rather than trying to create something good.

Hundreds of thousands of designers young and old, and craftsmen with skills handed down generations, are suffering in this economy and the main US manufacturer getting a White House boost is Mitchell Gold, who is already doing just fine? Michelle! You support up-and-coming American clothing designers! Go indie on the furniture! Celebrate the best in American design, current and past. Get an exquisite chair or eight by Tripp Carpenter, son of the late, inimitable Art Espenet Carpenter, for crying out loud. Explore the oeuvre of Sam Maloof, who at 93 is still creating work of a pure, timeless genius - freehand, with a band saw. (Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both commissioned Maloof rocking chairs.) Get a crazy piece of furniture art from John Cederquist, or a jewel-like table by African-American creative powerhouse Cheryl Riley. Get a decorator with an indie sensibility as well as a sense of history and American craftsmanship. Get Sheila Bridges. She did Bill Clinton's Harlem office. (I hope that's not what is keeping the Obamas from hiring her.)

American design gets dissed by Europeans all the time - yet there is interesting, fresh work being done, and who better to showcase it than the president in his own home?

And since when is Pottery Barn "affordable"? Let's not be ridiculous. Ikea is affordable. Target is affordable. A lot of quality, independent work is just as "affordable" as Pottery Barn.

Also, while I'm logging opinions, for the second term, let's see the White House go solar.

Illustration: Sheila Bridges' wallpaper Harlem Toile de Jouy.


Jenn said...

Great links to some fantastic artisans - I've always wanted to have furnishings like that but my furnishings are more Craigslist/Freecycle/curb than anything else...

I loved Maloof's stuff - but I didn't see any prices on his pieces. I'm afraid I'll never have a house/home that is nice enough to hold such pretty furniture - much less afford such furniture. *sigh*

Sussu said...

Yeah - bespoke stuff is expensive. I get pretty much everything in Craigslist, in the hopes that once in a while I can splurge on good stuff. My clothes are mostly second hand, too, and occasionally I can afford something nice.

And Maloof: yeah, a genius. I will never be able to afford his work, it's definitely more on a presidential budget. But there are tours of his house and workshop where I plan to go worship the great craftsman.

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