Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Full frontal womb chair, courtesy Museum of Design Atlanta

Full frontal womb chair, courtesy Museum of Design Atlanta

I took Saturday off. Perhaps I was procrastinating cleaning up my garage, or maybe I was just resting my eyes. I ended up in a sweet spot for a future minimalist: the Eero Saarinen exhibition.

Think tulip chair, womb chair, St. Louis Gateway Arch, TWA’s International Terminal at JFK.

St Louis Gateway Arch, courtesy MODA Atlanta

St Louis Gateway Arch, courtesy Museum of Design Atlanta

Here’s a Saarinen quote on his one-legged tulip chair.  “I wanted to clear up the slum of legs… I wanted to make the chair all one thing again.”  He thought the “undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes a confusing unrestful world.”

Saarinen said his job in designing airport terminals at Dulles and JFK was to “design a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and specialness and excitement of travel… a place of movement and transition.” With today’s pack-em-in philosophy of air travel, we could use some of that specialness now.

Interior, TWA Terminal at JFK, Courtesy of Museum of Design Atlanta

Interior, TWA Terminal at JFK, Courtesy of Museum of Design Atlanta

Some of the Saarinen Team’s innovations that are now standard: Baggage is taken at ground level while passengers proceed to boarding gates for departure, and passengers on arrival get their luggage from moving carousels. Saarinen died in 1961, young at 51, a year before the Dulles and JFK terminals were completed, and before the construction of the Gateway Arch was even begun.

Nostalgia:  There’s no way to count how many times I flew in and out of the TWA terminal at JFK, back when Bob and I worked for the airlines.  Was it jet lag that kept me from photographing it? Or maybe, if I organize those boxes of slides I’ve stockpiled, I’ll find I have some after all. I studied the model in the exhibition, remembering the first sight of the sweeping roofline when landing, and walking on the curving ramps inside. TWA’s president wanted a building that captured “the spirit of flight.”  It occurs to me now that TWA once had a lock on the first passenger flights to the moon.

Something new:  We’re often told that Eero Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910, the son of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, but here I learned that his mother, Loja Gizellius Saarinen, was a sculptor and textile artist.

So what’s this doing on my hoarder-blog?

It’s a design-for-living thing. That quote about drama and specialness and excitement hit home, literally. In this “confusing unrestful world” we can’t control much (especially the lack of specialness in air travel; that won’t come again). What we can control are the rooms we live in, and by paring down and keeping just what’s useful and special, we express the “drama and excitement” of what matters in our lives. Anything more is just clutter.

If you live in the Atlanta area or are traveling soon, check out what’s coming next at MODA.  See you there?

Exit through the gift shop:  MODA has a fine one. Too bad I’m in de-acquisition mode.

MODA gift shop window. My photo:

Love the pigs. (hoarders could put coins there)

A parting look:

Saarinen Womb Chair and Tulip Table IMG_3167, My photo:

Saarinen Womb Chair and Tulip Table in the MODA window.

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The exhibition showed video by Charles and Ray Eames, produced in 1958, proposing innovative airport design. I found it here:

As for the Gateway Arch, I visited once on an Art Department trip in college. There were too many of us to go up the elevators at one time, so we went in separate groups. While our friends looked out the observation windows up top, we on the ground decided to arrange ourselves to spell a message for them. I think it was something significant like “HI” – yeah, undergraduates. Here’s a youtube link to another film, also shown in the exhibition, documenting the building of the arch, with a “railway to the sky” to transport materials up:

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Selling Used Books on

Hanging Stones Cover

Now out of print

Every time I sell one of Bob’s books I wrap it up to go, and think Why didn’t I read this first? Look how distinctive this one is. How many Appalachian-Stonehenge fantasy novels have you read?  None, you say? That’s what I thought.

I’m mailing it out today and I want to say a few good words here for selling on Amazon. I’ve tried selling books on eBay too, but with little success. Amazon takes what seems like a hefty commission, but the books stay listed until they sell, and the process is straightforward and professional. Not many books find an immediate buyer; I’ve recently sold a few that I listed on Amazon over a year ago. For a small seller like me, continuing an eBay listing that long gets expensive, and it’s far too much trouble.

The Hanging Stones back cover IMG_3145

A closer look at the cover art and copy.

Here’s what I like about the process of sorting books: I can stumble upon a great retro cover…

Retro Cover Homo Ludens 1968, Johan Huizinga IMG_2913

Homo Ludens (1968, when else?)

Poul Anderson dust jacket photo from Three Hearts and Three Lions IMG_1380

Poul Anderson (November 1926 – July 2001)

… or I can read bio’s like this one of Poul Anderson as a young Sci-Fi writer, here from Three Hearts and Three Lions (1953)  – and just look, his glasses are back in style. The dust jacket for his book Avatar (1978)  tells us he won a knighthood for prowess in medieval combat in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Note that this one tells us he was active in the Elves, Gnomes, and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society.

When this book sold I wrote a note to the buyer telling him how hard it was to part with. He must have thought me mad.

When sorting Bob’s books, I get to wonder: Where did he get this, and when, and why? What was he like back then? They’re not all science fiction. Here are some others recently found:

Errors of Observation and Their Treatment

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

The Large Scale Structure of Space Time

God and Golem, Inc: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion

The Hobo, book coverAnd there’s The Hobo: the Sociology of the Homeless Man (1967). What was he doing with that? I sold it last November, but The Best Hobo Jokes is still available if you’re interested.

I sold 5 books last week — the best week I’ve had since I started in January 2012.  Yes, I still have boxes left to unpack, but the number diminishes. I enjoy looking through them, and book sorting is quite productive for a procrastination job (something I do when I should be doing something else). I make a little money, and the books get a good home. Does it get any better than that?

Three Hearts and Three Lions IMG_1376

One more look at Three Hearts…

Plastic Free July is almost upon us!

I’m re-blogging this Plastic-Free July challenge from “Treading My Own Path” — quite a challenge for me, but even if I just make it for two weeks I know it will help reduce some of the “too many recyclables” I’ve complained about on past posts. Anyone else in the US up for this? Let’s go then… and don’t forget to pack your re-usable coffee mugs. (Oops, no more yogurt cups, I’d better dust off that Yogomatic too. )

Treading My Own Path


This year’s Plastic Free July challenge is almost upon us, with just a little over two weeks to go. Plastic Free July, in case you don’t know what it is, is a challenge that runs every year which encourages people to give up disposable plastic for the month of July. (If you think that sounds too hard, you can also commit to a week or even one shopping trip instead.)

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Four Things That Shouldn’t Have Been in my Kitchen Cabinet

My leaking garbage disposal won the “Mess of the Week” prize last week. I had to stop everything I was doing, clean up under the cabinets, and get a new disposal. There’s a lot of space there that hasn’t been emptied out in years >blush< maybe a decade. At that overly meticulous time in my life I fitted the vinyl shelf liner the length of the cabinet, carefully cut around the pipes and other obstructions, 8 feet long, 2 feet deep, all one piece. To take up the liner and dry out the cabinet, everything had to come out.

What’s this doing in my kitchen cabinet?  — more colored glass.

bottles IMG_2998

A couple of weeks ago I took colored glass bottles to be repurposed by Songbird and Twig at the local Artist’s Market. (here’s that post) Now, back in the corner of the kitchen cabinet, I found more colored bottles. The taller blue one is yet another kind of fancy water that Bob bought so I could have it for my bottle stand. The green fish bottle is a mystery – I know it has a story that I’m right on the edge of remembering, but not yet. I packed up the bottles and several berry boxes, also found in the cabinet, to donate on my next trip to the market.

Vintage fish shaped wine bottle, green glass.

I can’t resist adding a closer picture of the fish bottle. (love the fin)


What is this doing in my kitchen cabinet?  — a bottle of Machu Picchu Punch.

machu picchu punch IMG_3121

Apple, guava, papaya, and passion fruit. Is that at all Peruvian?

This one’s all my fault. Not that I remember keeping it, but I’m sure I did it for love, for the absurdity of the name, and because I used to buy it at my favorite grocery store back in Kansas City in the good old days B.C. (Before Cancer). That store was Clearly Nature’s Own: I still have one of their shopping bags. Now, the little store at 43rd and Main is no longer CNO. It was bought by a chain, years ago. My punch has gone dark, and there’s no more available; I googled.

What is this doing in my kitchen cabinet?  — my Yogomatic.

yogomatic IMG_3117

Back in my Machu Picchu Punch days, it wasn’t so easy to get good yogurt, so we dedicated ‘gurt heads made our own. This little device kept the milk and culture at the right temperature. It made a quart, and it wasn’t half bad.  Ebay, I see, knows nothing of Yogomatic, nothing of Machu Picchu Punch (though there might be a market for those 4 cans of JR Beer I found in the basement last week).

What is this doing in my kitchen cabinet?  — a pig-shaped cutting board.

pig cutting boardIMG_3116

He’s made from formica countertop material.

This one I recognized immediately – Bob’s dad made this. He made beautiful furniture, like the walnut bookshelves Bob left me, but he also made pig-shaped cutting boards. Apparently I wasn’t as keen on the pig as I was on the bookcase, and I squirreled it away in the back of the cabinet. Now, what to do with the pig? I’m OK getting rid of the other things, but it’s hard to let go of stuff that came from family.

Ending on a bright note: here’s something I’m glad I kept. I still use it, and it’s nice to brag that even though we had embarrassing hair-do’s, we did know enough to have re-useable grocery bags. Oops, just remembered, one of these days I’ll find my European string bags from the ‘70’s.

CNO canvas grocery bag

My CNO canvas grocery bag.

CNO bag IMG_3110

… and the reverse side.

ok, maybe that last one isn’t really related, but I couldn’t resist

Highlights from the Modern Atlanta Homes Tour – 2013

We went on the Modern Atlanta homes tour yesterday. You may think that touring beautiful modern (presumably minimalist) homes is needlessly painful for someone who’s got as much de-cluttering left to do as I have, but for lovers of architecture and design, it’s worth it.

This thoroughly modern pooch was not concerned by visitors tromping through his home.

home tour - modern dog sleeps through the tour

Maybe he was tired out by yesterday’s tour?

Inside, it was barefoot or booties, especially on the white marble floors like this. The rains came while we were in this house, so I sloshed back to the car barefoot, to keep my sandals dry.

home tour shoes - quite a pile left in the foyer

Modern pool table inside, juxtaposed with modern lap-pool outside. There’s no standard green felt here, just glossy white and creamy gray.

Sleek modern pool table, and view outside to the lap pool.

When I saw the pebble-filled pool around the entrance to this house, I wished for koi.

Shallow pebble-filled pool around the entrance step.

I got my wish at the next house we toured:

Koi pond and patio

home tour book shelf - wall of books.

This bookshelf is in a home/studio.

Bookshelves. I’m still a book lover with my own wall-o-books at home, so I loved it when I saw full bookcases in at least three of the houses. Two had floor to ceiling bookcases with their own ladders. Too bad I hadn’t yet thought of photographing them. Modern library ladders are sleek metal versions. (want)

What did we like best? — The Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home seemed to us the most livable, with comfortable niches and porches and getaway spots in the yard, yet just as “modern” as the sleek industrial-style homes on the tour.

homes tour Wright-ish IMG_2962

Homes tours rarely disappoint. I don’t suffer from envy — if a home is on a tour, it’s probably beyond my means anyway, and even if I could afford to spend that much on a house, I wouldn’t.  If the places are beautiful, then I’m inspired and I come home energized. If they’re over-decorated and not to my liking, well, I just come back with the thinking “there’s no place like home.”

Wright inspired IMG_2963

Was there a lesson learned from this tour? You betcha: Sunday wasn’t enough. We only got to see 6 of the 12 properties; next year we’ll start on Saturday.

Do you have a tour to recommend?


Appreciating the Local Art Market and Farmer’s Market: Re-using is Still Better than Recycling

Glass bottle serendipity:

I have a thing about colored glass and window light. When my back porch plants got too big for my thift-store plant stand, I re-purposed the stand as a bottle-tree.

bottle tree with blue and green glass bottles and hyacinth vases

The hourglass-shaped hyacinth vases are for starting bulbs in water.

Bob liked it too, and I remember when he brought me home that tall blue bottle on the left  – it was some fancy kind of water that he bought just because he knew I’d like the cobalt blue bottle. He was right, and it’s been on my bottle stand for years now, along with my colored hyacinth vases and some other bottles I found in the basement. When I found that basement trove of empty (but interesting) bottles, I took some to the recycling center but saved the rest, hoping some other uses might present themselves.

Then I noticed the local Art Market /Farmer’s Market has a booth selling wind chimes and other things made from melted bottles.

repurposed bottles at market IMG_2861

Cool, I thought, maybe that’s who’d like to have my bottles. I asked, and the answer was yes. So I got my bottles gathered up and delivered. I even gave up the tall blue bottle. It’s one more thing I’ve been hanging on to when I should be letting go.

bottles to deliver to the Market

Here’s what I donated.

Songbird and Twig Market Stand

Thank you Songbird & Twig, for using the bottles!

For those of us into re-purposing, a local market is also an opportunity to take back berry boxes and egg cartons for re-use. That’s something you can’t do at the grocery store.

Now, what to do with my extra hyacinth vases? I don’t start as many bulbs indoors as I used to. Come September, when they’ll be useful, how about I have a give-away on this blog? Anyone interested?

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