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New Dutch Masters

Posted on: Sunday, October 29, 2006

I am in love with Dutch design. I want to wear wooden clogs until the Dutch-belted cows come home.

Two Dutch design forces of the moment: Piet Oudolf, the planting designer for the High Line project in Chelsea and Droog Design, the uber-innovative design collective currently featured in an exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design on West 53rd Street in Manhattan.

As a native of the Netherlands, Oudolf was one of the first planting designers to introduce large-scale perennial plantings into public landscaping projects. He is a complete maverick in the exquisite attention that he pays to the plant life cycle as well as the seasonal transformation of a scape over time. His naturalistic design plans for the High Line were informed by the persistent palette that resulted after 25 years of native growth and self-seeding, post-train traffic.

"Simply Droog, 10+3 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion" is a fantastic round up of the dry-wit and tongue-in-groove designs of Droog proper. "Droog" (pronounced droch as in loch) means 'dry' or 'direct' in Dutch. The group never meant to design products that would go on the market after their 1993 debut at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. Since then their low-cost but high end design precept has nudged their products into the trendy markets of the mainstream. Might Droog's non-militant attitudes towards sustainability in design ultimately build the bridge to a 'cradle-to-cradle' world while also humoring us to death en route?

For more information on the Highline Project and Piet Oudolf's plantings:
go to

For information on Droog Design:
go to

The above furniture images are of Droog's garden bench and shady lace parasol.

Simply Droog is on exhibit at The Museum of Arts in Design until January 14. 2007:
go to

Building an Ark with Arcology

Posted on: Monday, October 23, 2006

image: Soleri's cosmological bubble diagram

Paolo Soleri received the Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Museum Lifetime Achievement Award this past week. Soleri has crafted his entire life and body of work around the formerly utopian concept of fusing architecture and ecology, or ‘arcology’ - a visionary bubble of today’s green design movement.

Arcosanti, Soleri’s urban laboratory in Arizona’s high desert, is poking through the soil of our building practice psyche. No longer a hippie concept of the past or the marginalized undertaking of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s star pupils, ‘arcology’ is taking root in graduate design schools as the next wave of young architects hone their vision and craft.

Many refer to Soleri as a living visionary, but the architect himself is weary of this term and its delusional undertones. At his lecture at Parsons Architecture and Design School last Friday evening, Soleri clarified his thinking on this front and stated, with a mischievous twinkle, “the practical is often the opposite of the real.” He wants us to adopt “the lean alternative" and abandon our completely unsustainable love affair with the automobile. As an Italian who has been living in the US since 1956, many of his prototypes for urban communities seem reminiscent of the colonized hill towns of Italy or the barnacle-like adobe communities of the southwest.

Soleri views most architects to be orchid makers, designers focused on crafting gorgeous stand-alone structures that are completely inefficient when it comes to the community as a whole. He encourages us to consider having our energy systems collaborate with the morphology of the built system.

This is not utopia. This is our reality. And perhaps we are finally willing to listen to an old desert wiseman who might know a few things about good design and constructing an ark that will actually float once we are within.

For more information on Arcosanti, go to

The Good Blair Witch Finds Her Coven - Rants and Raves for Friday the 13th

Posted on: Friday, October 13, 2006

Tsia Carson’s Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle was released this week – just in time for Halloween projects and the long winter days and nights ahead.

Want to learn how to crochet a skull? Upholster a lone tree stump? Brew up some marbleized paper in a churning tidal pool?

My fiber–crochet-vegetation work is featured in Craftivity as one of several 'inspirational showcase’ projects. I am kindly referred to as The Good Blair Witch – a rather apropos tagline.

All of this timely-craft-hysteria got me thinking about my recent residency at THE LAND and my ritualized daily activity and the eco-spells that I attempted to cast on unsuspecting objects at the site.

Who or what exactly was I trying to bewitch? Was I channeling something? Was my fascination with the ‘aesthetics of connectivity’ also an attempt to transport myself to the other side? Did nature even give a hoot?

I recently came across this late 19th century photographic image of "The Medium Eva C. with a luminous apparition between her hands." It reminded me of my first exploratory day at THE LAND and my phantasmagoric attempts to weave wool roving through the locks of tall grasses and desert vegetation. This new thread of investigation led me to witch’s hair (alectoria sarmentosa), a Northwest lichen frequently used by traditional cultures to create bandages, baby diapers, and even ponchos and footwear.

Who’s to say that the supernatural does not exist in one’s own backyard? Up one’s craftily embroidered sleeve, or in the company of a virtual craft-coven?

Craftivity, the book and its editor, will make you feel as if you have the resources to be connected in ways that you never imagined. Tsia emphasizes in her heartfelt introduction that we tend to craft “because we can” not necessarily because we know the formula or have the ultimate recipe.

Craftivity: 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle (Harper Collins Publisher) and all the frighteningly cool contributor projects within, is available from

Tsia Carson is also the editor and founder of

Important to mention that the hand-dyed wool roving and some of the handspun fibers that I used during my residency at THE LAND were created by Tamara Lepianka at Houndscroft Farm in Glendale, Kentucky. I love that Tamara’s exquisite work reflects her art-farm-life so darn seamlessly.

Go to to see Tamara’s offerings and to sign up for her newsletter.

Many thanks also to my fiber artist/handspinner mother, Abigail McEnroe, who was home-brewing goldenrod and lichen dye vats for her handspuns long before I could say, “Wow, that’s hot.”

Return to and from THE LAND

Posted on: Sunday, October 01, 2006

THE LAND/an art site, located near Mountainair, New Mexico, is approximately eighty miles southeast of Albuquerque in the pinon and juniper-scented foothills of the Manzano Mountains. As an invited artist-in-residence, I completely immersed myself for seven days in an attempt to interpret and decode the complex environmental and aesthetic qualities of the site. Forty acres is a vast data-land-base when surveying desert terrain for just one week under the shifting weather canopy of the central New Mexican skies.

I arrived in Mountainair during the last week of September after a summer of considerable rain and pervasive moisture. The color of the vegetation was unusually brilliant and spiked with accents that animated the terrain and groundcover at every conceivable bend.

Though I was offline and out of range with no signal at the site, I felt instantly connected to a wealth of unanswered messages that seemed to be waiting for me upon arrival. The atmosphere at THE LAND is charged with opportunities for observation and dialogue that stem partly from one’s being completely immersed while also being suspended in a zone that slows one’s internal rhythms and response time.

Perforations in the atmosphere, be they sound, light, soil, or wind-generated, allow for a steady stream of events that surround and wire you in a way that networks or enclosures in the outside world do not.

Tumbleweed fibers create a winding path, an untraceable method for bundling and storing your restless thoughts and desires.

Connectivity might ultimately be the silent portal that one creates as a method of seamless interface and simultaneous perception.

As the week rolled on I came to believe that being ‘nowhere’ might ultimately allow for being 'everywhere' at once. A declaration perhaps to the importance of sensing more and being less in an environment that offers genuine intimacy and the opportunity to redraw one's shadows in the shape of something more communicative and boundaryless in signal.

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