Saturday, January 7, 2017

...about good news, bad news, Trad, SCAD, and Shadow: the design best of 2016, part 1.

It was, to put it mildly, for me and many, a roller coaster of a year, a Fun House often sans the fun, even as some economic markers pointed upward and took a bigger piece of the pie chart. It had its shocks and jars, as the world lost some light and made some odd selections, Brexit-ing, sexting, false-newsing and Twittering our way through decisions that made even the sketchy choices we made in college seem Nobel-Prize-worthy. It all felt like the inside of a Far Side cartoon, one big looped Mercury-in-retrograde Groundhog Day. 

But, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and 2016— design- and otherwise— had its share of the good stuff, too, even if this year’s Oreo was one of those weird thin things, and not a Double Stuff. 

To wrap it all up so we can officially move this year to the archive file (or trash bin), here’s my unofficial, totally random-ordered list of things that caught my eye, made news, or deserved a marker, for me or others, for better or for worse... because just as Time magazine taught us, “Person of the Year” doesn’t so much mean “role model,” so some of the year’s most notable moments weren’t really winners, either. Hey, let’s start there!!

New Trad Design Competition
Close, but no Cohiba. In what seemed like a never-ending quest for daily votes (Because it WAS, Blanche. It WAS), I got dangerously close to becoming a “New Trad.” That’s the winning designation in Traditional Home’s annual contest search for under-the-radar design talent working in the “refreshed traditional” style of their wonderfully produced (but under-read) Trad Home online publication. Trad Home is like the hip Gay uncle to their more staid print great aunt (although that great aunt got some work done this year, with an energetic makeover, and she’s looking better than ever).

I have to thank a wonderful group of friends and Facebook fans and Followers who never lost patience or hope, for DAILY voting during the run of the contest, and I only lost one Facebook friend over my daily reminders to vote (well, only one that I know of). Because of the ones I didn't lose, and most notably, a group of creative ladies (and a few gents) I’ve come to know through a past Hallmark Facebook community, I sailed through to the Finals, and ended with the second most votes of all the Finalists, only to then get passed over by the official judges. (Sad trombone effect here.) 

It was super disappointing, but as they say, everything happens for a reason. But, um, let’s hope 2017 reveals the reason, shall we? Until then, I’ll just sit here weeping softly, in my bridesmaid dress they PROMISED me I’d be able to wear again if I just took up the hem, while still unable to quit Traditional Home in total Brokeback Mountain fashion.
SCAD & Traditional Home Design Incubation
Despite the New Trad near-miss, Traditional Home also saw another REAL highlight for me in 2016, when I was asked by their staff to be the interior designer on a panel of judges in an exceptional group venture among the publication, the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) and the venerable fabric house Fabricut, in the Traditional Home Design Incubation contest.
In Fabricut's second such venture (the first with my alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design) SCAD students joined into teams to conceptualize and conceive textile collections which the winners (Team Darlene, pictured above, from left: Morgan De Paoli, Brittany Reidy, Jessica Amsberry, Hannah Golden and Celeste Buck) saw produced and sold (in 2017! Stay tuned!) under Fabricut’s Stroheim line. 

From initial mood boards culled from Pinterest and Instagram, with inspiration gleaned globally and from family heritage, Islamic geometries, Cuba then and now, painterly technique and romantic patina, the geometries of nature and the nature in geometry, to fully realized collections, the students in all teams wowed at every step of the way. The work squarely put an end to my fantasy of being the bitter and bitchy Simon Cowell of the judging group (which also included Fabricut Vice President and Creative Director Nina Aronson and Traditional Home’s Doris Athineos.) It was all good, and fault was hard to find.

The level of polish of the final designs (woven, warped, wefted, jacquarded, screen printed, named, logo’d, packaged, and pitched) over the course’s semester-long run was staggering, and the whole thing, and the giant crush I developed for the entire SCAD community and operation made me feel like I was cheating on RISD.

As a sole proprietor, I don’t get away much, so a HUGE part of this highlight was my very first visits to the city of Savannah. We were charmed, instantly, by this living grid of American heritage, dripping with Spanish moss and dotted with history, jolted to life by SCAD’s energy and some many visits to Savannah Coffee Roasters. 

I have special thanks to give to Doris and Traditional Home's Lori Sheldon for going to bat to get me this gig... and for the folks at Fabricut, who took a shot on this formerly non-Fabricut shopper.

Benjamin Moore Color of the Year – Shadow 
Benjamin Moore, in the library, with cater waiters: those were the clues we were in for a good time when paint purveyors and color experts Benjamin Moore pulled the lid off their sophomore (but NOT sophomoric) Color of the Year choice for 2017.

Things took a darker turn from last year's "Simply White," with a deeply sophisticated and HIGHLY usable “Shadow.” As the best colors always are, it is almost impossible to describe... a smoky aubergine, a deep charcoal tinted with pure purple, and a gender-fluid crowd pleaser, all as ethereal and mercurial as the name implies. 

Their party— always one of the best— was held in the just-revived gallery spaces of the New York Public Library, itself worthy of a 2016 Design Highlight. You’ll read more about the New York architectural scene and its own highlights, in Parts 2 and 3.

Buckle up! We're just getting started! Stay tuned for Part 2!

Photos, SCAD: courtesy Traditional Home. Photos, Color of the Year, courtesy Benjamin Moore.

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