Manhattan is in the full bloom of spring and its avenues and parks, large and small, are a splendid mix of color and composition – very uplifting after a long, gray winter/ a wonder to behold. Central Park is an oasis of tranquility and beauty, reawakening with a profusion of pink flowering fruit tress, daffodils and the riotous colors of tulips. Madison Square Park, our neighboring green oasis in the Flatiron District, recently hosted the opening of a public arts installation by a very creative textile artist, Orly Genger, whose monumental textile sculptures add unexpected undulating walls of color and texture to the tranquility of a lovely urban square.
I was recently in Italy working on new collections for introduction late summer 2013 and beyond. I have also been reminded that 2014 will mark my 30th anniversary in the luxury linen business, which is hard to imagine.
Since I am presently working on new jacquard patterns, I thought it might be interesting to share photos of the Italian jacquard looms that weave our designs, including the new one to be introduced this coming August. For those of you less familiar with textiles, a jacquard – or damask – is a fabric with an intricately woven pattern. The weaving process is fascinating and high-tech and the “sheds” where our fabrics are woven are very noisy and, by necessity, very clean. Large suspended vacuums move on a track above each row of looms to remove airborne lint and dust that might otherwise get woven into the cloth in production.
The entire process, from design development to finished product, can take as long a one year to bring to market. In addition to the design, color, scale and yarn size need to be confirmed, yarns in custom colors need to be dyed and the warps prepared. Many of our original jacquard designs were done on older looms with punched cards, similar to a player piano, that controlled the design. These looms were slow and could weave only 100 mt or so per day (a picture of the punch card format follows below).
The newer looms are much faster and the designs (now in disc format) are driven by computer. In simplistic form, the program controls the raising or lowering of the harness, which guides the vertical warp thread so the weft (horizontal) yarns that run side to side across the width will lie over or under the warp yarn, creating the pattern.
I received a surprise call this May from my long time friend and colleague, Former White House interior designer Michael Smith, inviting me to a gala he was co-hosting with Margaret Russell, Editor and Chief of Architectural Digest, for the President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. Michael had selected our Eleanor’s Ribbon linens for the White House master suite, making the President and First Lady our esteemed customers. (I remember the call well, a week before the Inauguration. Timing was tough.)
The gala – an elegant affair – took place in mid June at the Plaza Hotel in New York. It was a decidedly designer – driven event, attended by luminaries from the world of interior design and architecture, including trade magazine editors and writers and a myriad of textile, furniture and accessory designer / owners.
I was seated at Margaret Russell’s table and had the pleasure of sitting next to an admired colleague, the very talented architect Calvin Tsao and his partner Zack McKnown of Tsao & McKnown. We had lots to catch up and reminisced about favorite collaborative projects. At the same table were Lisa Kravet of Kravet Fabrics and Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Michael Smith sat at the adjoining table with an equally fascinating group.
It was an honor and delight to meet the President and First Lady, who were both elegant and extremely gracious. When I told the First Lady that I was the designer of their bed linens, her face lit up and she gave me an unexpected, spontaneous hug. This was not only gratifying, but certainly made the evening particularly memorable.
After visiting friends I had an early go this morning and walking along a slumbering harbor to reach the first ferry, I was struck by the beauty and tranquility of dawn by the sea in early November. There was a heavy mist, blanketing sound and diffusing the first morning light. Quite enchanting.
Ode to my Father:
He was a physician, a psychiatrist – a bright and complicated man with
a great love of family, the arts and the harp. But in his heart of
hearts he was a gentleman farmer. He loved nothing more than to
putter around his property, taking the tractor for “a spin” or hiking
down to the pond to feed his swans and koi and chase off interloping
mallards and raccoons. He kept sheep, tended to sick and rejected
lambs every spring and added bells to the necks of some ewes so he
would always know where they were. The tinkling of those sheep bells
is an enduring memory. (As is the streaming tail of a peacock roosting
in the tree outside my bedroom window on summer nights.)
to mention, each breed with its own stories and all named and part of
his flock. We helped Dad as best we could -sometimes
enthusiastically and sometimes not – with the possible exception of
bottle feeding baby lambs in a box in my parents’ bathroom, with our
mother taking the after midnight shifts.
In later years when we were older and wiser we worried along with our
mother over his tendency for high adventure and tried to curtail his
solo “spins” on the tractor on steep hillsides or to pull stumps out
of the pond. He suffered many injuries over the years as a result of
this abundant enthusiasm, but he was never bowed.
It was a sad day when the tractor had to be retired permanently to the
barn. Once or twice he rode down in his gator to “turn it over” for
old times sake, hopefully respecting the family edict to not climb the
6+ feet up to its seat.
So this is a pictorial ode to my father and some of his favorite
things – the simple outdoor ones that gave him freedom and joy and
allowed his heart to soar.
My second trip was at the end of August to New Hampshire and VT to deliver my son to his freshman year in college. I stayed with a cousin in VT who lives at the top of a mountain, again with sweeping views – but of mountains rather than ocean. It is an idyllic spot and their gardens were beautiful and inviting. A very New England feeling through-out.
I’ve been on quite a number of trips. I a visited San Francisco for a friend’s wedding celebration followed by visits to customers in the SF and Bay area. My friend’s celebration was at her father’s lovely home in in a small coastal town south of San Francisco called Pacifica. His house sits on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with sweeping views of the coast and the distant ocean fog banks – the view filtered through characteristic west coast cedars.
The show house, called Nirvana, is located in Bedford Corners, NY and benefited the Cerebral Palsy Organization of Westchester. The room will be featured in the October editions of two publications this Fall: Connecticut Cottages and Gardens and Westchester Cottages and Gardens.