COLLECTING: LETTUCE WARE AND OTHER VEGETABLE WARE

 

 

6B673BA9-F89B-4CE7-880D-EBA07408211EAn exquisite tureen handcrafted by Dodie Thayer, the extraordinary Lettuce Ware artisan.

I have mentioned that I do two monthly posts for the Randolph Street Market  one on  fashion the other on collecting/collectibles…Sally Schwartz, Founder of RSM has given me permission to repost when I feel they would fit into my blog.  The following is one of my recent favorites….hope you enjoy it.

        COLLECTIBLES EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE RANDOLPH STREET MARKET
                 LETTUCE WARE COLLECTIBLES (AND OTHER VEGETABLE

Happy Spring and the earth’s rebirth. I was originally thinking I would do an Easter post…you know wonderful little bunnies, perfectly dyed eggs, tulips, wonderful tablescapes and the bounty of the Spring holiday feasts…but how cliché. Yes, I know we all love these signs of renewal but since these posts are about collectibles let’s go a bit outside the box and talk about an area of collecting many of us don’t normally think about….Lettuce Ware and other vegetable ware collectibles.

We can, of course, relate to collecting fabulous pieces of Majolica in the form of vegetables but I am concentrating this account on more modern collectibles…we will save Majolica for another time.
Dodie Thayer (who passed away at age 91 in 2018) cast her life-like pieces, each vein shaped by hand, in her home in Jupiter, Florida. During the 1960’s through the 1980’s the pieces were in demand by Palm Beach Society. C.Z. Guest was a major collector and her collection was sold in 2015 at Sotheby’s for $35,000, original valuation, $3,000.

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Dodie Thayer looking very Mid-Century Modern with a display of her wares.

 

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Some of the C. Z. Guest collection.

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From one of my favorite blogs The Glam Pad, a C. Z. Guest table setting

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A bit about CZ Guest’s Collection in this fabulous book.

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You would have found these charming pieces in the homes of Brooke Astor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Duchess of Windsor among many others.

From the Tory Burch Collection in this cheerful table setting.

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Having purchased a huge collection from renowned interior designer and collector, Todd Romano, Designer and Lifestyle guru, Tory Burch, became a friend of Thayer that friendship led to a collaboration and Dodie authorized reproductions for the first time. We love when these things happen. Now we can find the beauty of this artisan at non-auction prices. To me this is the perfect subject when you are collecting (of course, at RANDOLPH STREET MARKET), lucky you will be to find an original piece but now you can find the continuation of the work of a true innovator in a 21st century line, which is also now collectible….everything old is indeed new again!!!

More from the Tory Burch Collection.

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Let’s look at a few more pieces and display ideas….from Thayer….

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A collectors dream…..

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Gorgeous Thayer…..

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Now let’s look at a couple of Majolica pieces…yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to do Majolica but couldn’t resist….sorry (not sorry!)

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Other veggies…these from Boston porcelain artist, Katherine Houston, glorious…
Let’s look for something from her at RSM….

 

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From my own collection, this charming Katherine Houston pea pod (4”) signed and dated 1997, a Christmas gift that year from a dear friend, Martin Gapshis, miss him terribly….great taste and style!!!

Another gift from Martin this cauliflower small covered bowl (long before the popularity of the veg!) late 1990’s from Vietri, Italian Majolica.

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Oh, alright, a couple of bunnies……enjoy Spring!!!!!

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For more information check the comprehensive article in the Wall Street Journal on Collecting Lettuce Ware by Alexa Brazilian July 19, 2013.

                                                
                        LETTUCE SOUP FOUND ON EPICURIOUS.COM
Wouldn’t that be glorious served in a Lettuce Ware bowl…I say yes!

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Makes 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME
25 min
TOTAL TIME
35 min 
INGREDIENTS
    • 1 cup chopped onions, scallions, and/or shallots
    • 1 garlic clove, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 3/4 cup diced (1/3 inch) peeled potato
    • 8 cups coarsely chopped lettuce leaves including ribs (3/4 lb)
    • 3 cups water
          PREPARATION
    1. Cook onion mixture and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add coriander, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in potato, lettuce, and water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potato is very tender, about 10 minutes.
    2. Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) and transfer to a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring soup to a simmer, then whisk in remaining tablespoon butter and salt and pepper to taste.

All photos, with the exception of the two pieces from my collection, from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

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BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: MISTRESS OF THE RITZ

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I was reluctant to read another book based on World War II, and there are so many, as well there should be, knowing we must never forget the horrors of war and especially WWII. The reason I didn’t want to read this was I needed something not as heavy but I succumbed to the pull of The Ritz Hotel and how it played a major roll in the Nazi occupation of Paris and actually served as its headquarters in Paris.  Being a historical novel written by the amazing story teller/historian, Melanie Benjamin it was a no brainer as I have enjoyed all her writings….and, a bonus, I was able to obtain an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) from NetGalley.  Having recently read and reviewed on my blog (see the Archives) Ritz and Escoffier, which I really loved, I was interested to learn more about how The Ritz survived this horrific period in history.

The story revolves around the Ritz French General Manager, Claude Auzello and his American wife, Blanche.  Beginning with their whirlwind courtship, and his advancement as a hotelier it then follows them through the intrigues of living with and serving the enemy in their Hotel.  Becoming an important part of the Resistance evolves and using historical facts Benjamin keeps the story moving with intrigue, love affairs, behind the scenes hotel stories as well as how everyday citizens respond to crisis in order to survive.

Obviously, wartime at the Ritz was one of the darker chapters in the hotel’s history. When they arrived in Paris, the Germans used the hotel as a swanky headquarters for high-ranking officers, Hermann Göring among them. The Nazis took over half the hotel, allowing the other half to remain open to guests. Gone were the halcyon days of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Porter and the romantic thoughts of Proust….instead the uniforms and boots of Nazi’s filled the lobby, bar and rooms of the legendary hotel.  The hotel staff ate well from the leftovers of the invaders and, of course Claude and Blanche lived on site.

I felt the story told us more of Blanches role as she became more independent of her husband in trying to find her way in a hostile environment, to help those in need, as well as a more self sufficient woman.

Having done extensive research on Paris Haute Couture, I do know quite a bit about how the French Couturiers survived, some are briefly mentioned, and of Hitler’s desire to move Couture to Berlin, not mentioned in the book but worth your while to research if you are interested, it is a fascinating story.  I did enjoy the encounter, in the book, between Blanche, who is wearing a Schiaparelli dress, and Mademoiselle Chanel’s comments to her.  Chanel and Schiaparelli were arch enemies and this sentence conveys this animosity perfectly.

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Chanel in her Suite at The Ritz

Gabrielle Chanel plays a minor role in this novel but her presence is definitely there and she makes an occasional appearance. It was while she was staying at the Ritz during the war years that she had a romantic liaison with Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German officer and spy. She also took care of him in her home, Villa Pausa on the French Riviera, after the war.  There is much speculation about Chanel and the Nazi’s….was she a collaborator, was she a spy for the British…for more on this story I recommend reading Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War. 

I know you want to know if I recommend reading this book….by now you must know I don’t review books I don’t like so the answer is yes, read it….and guess what Ms. Benjamin will appear at my Independent Bookseller of choice The Book Stall in June, be sure to check it out, I hope to attend.

Melanie Benjamin, Author

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nenasnotes THE FASHION BOOK CLUB

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A portion of my fashion library.

I am almost giddy with excitement, why you ask….I am celebrating a year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and what a year it has been. Meeting each month with bubbles and bites, door prizes, goodie bags and give away books with a great group of regular members, their guests and new attendees it has been something I look forward to.  Meeting in an elegant Private Club, in my opinion, just adds to this special series.  We spend a half hour mixing and mingling with each other, then an hour of discussion.  I’m working on taping the conversations so I can share them with all of you….stay tuned.

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Our signature bubbles…..

I thought it would be a bit of fun to review what we have read so far and what is on the calendar for the rest of this year, I’ve left some dates open to slot in new releases.  I have, so far, only done new releases as close to publication as possible and most months I am in conversation, via conference call, with the authors, leaving time, of course, for Q & A.  In addition, I always have the current book and the next month’s selection on site for purchase and work closely with my Independent Bookseller,  The Book Stall

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Some of us at one of the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club meetings.

Let’s take a look at what we read and a peek into the upcoming books that will be featured this year….

MAY 2018

A book I highly recommended…I recommend all of the books we have studied.  This is a highly researched, detailed account of Loulou de la Falaise and Yves Saint Laurent….great conversation with Christopher Petkanas and here is my Amazon review…

JUNE 2018
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Not a new release, in fact out of print, I thought a fun tie-in to the out-of-town preview of The Cher Show and I could talk a bit about my experiences working with the amazing Bob Mackie (fingers crossed that he wins the Tony award for best costumes….how could that not happened!!). A stunning book loaded with very glam photos and I love the typesetting…totally unique just like the designer.
AUGUST 2018
It is unimaginable that this is the first monograph on the quintessential designer, Norman Norell and it is glorious. Written by Jeffrey Banks, a designer himself and extraordinary author with many illustrations by the amazing Michael Vollbracht.  A must for your fashion library.  Jeffrey is a brilliant interview and gave us so many insights into Mr. Norell, I was so fortunate to have fine many shows with him.  And the cover of the book with the iconic Suzy Parker, probably my favorite of the first group of super models.  A profile of Jeffrey can be found in the nenasnotes Archives.
My Amazon review…
“I have approximately 1000 books on fashion. I must say this extraordinary first monograph on one of the most important fashion designers, Norman Norell, by the talented designer/author, Jeffrey Banks, now tops my list. Each page MUST be devoured slowly, each iconic photograph and each brilliant Michael Vollbracht drawing only add to the beauty of the book. I had the great pleasure of working with Mr. Norell and his exquisite 4 models, Claudia, Claire, Denise and Yvonne (along with four local, Chicago, look alike models) on several fashion shows. The book took me back to the days when everyone dressed magnificently and everyone (me included) coveted a Norell specially a sequin mermaid gown. His talent, his creativity, his humble personality are all emphasized in NORELL. I am beyond thrilled that two of my favorite world class designers have now been immortalized in their long over due books…first, a couple of years ago, Bonnie Cashin:Chic Is Where You Find It by Stephanie Lake and now Norell: Master Of American Fashion, both iconic designers who led the emergence of what we now know as American Fashion. Bravo Jeffrey Banks. I encourage all interested in design, beauty and the history of fashion to hit the buy button immediately!!”

SEPTEMBER 2018

Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It yet another long over due monograph written by the keeper of the Cashin Archives, Stephanie Lake (I have written several nenasnotes post on Stephanie check the archives to sample her lifestyle and that of her husband,  Cory and daughter Odette).  Stephanie sent charming take always and book plates for the attendees.  A fabulous in depth conversation that could have gone on for more that the allotted hour but that is true with all my authors.

OCTOBER 2018

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A brilliant book part Dior biography and part the story of his homes in collaboration with just as talented interior designers.  Loved this book unfortunately I could make the schedule work with author, Maureen Footer…she has promised to talk with us with her next book….let’s look forward to that in the near future.

Yet another of my Amazon reviews….I seem to dwell on my collection….ah well…

“I own over 1000 fashion books (my goal to own all published!), did I need to add another on Christian Dior, the answer is YES, when it is this extraordinarily researched and elegantly presented book by Maureen Footer. It is perfection and gives the reader a different slant of one of the most original and iconic of all fashion designers. Dior’s love for creativity in his fashion extends to his homes and salons and love of his gardens. Given the background of the elegant creators he worked with and Dior’s vision it becomes an intriguing story and the accompanying photographs are the icing on the cake. Adding to that icing an exquisite forward by another iconic influencer, Hamish Bowles. I do a monthly Fashion Book Club and this was a highlight of the series. Get this for yourself and for gifts, you will not be disappointed.”

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Door prize box of Dior goodies and a goodie bag for each attendees

NOVEMBER 2018

Another designer I had the pleasure of working with, Carolyne Roehm, who reinvented herself as a brilliant writer, I am obsessed with each of her books, they are glorious as is this one.  Look at this stunning cover, the photographer non other than our own uber talented, Victor Skrebneski!  You will find more of this geniuses work between the covers.  So much to say about this look at creativity at its very best.  Loved her designs, love her homes, love her floral talent and adore her books.

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DECEMBER 2018

i have admired Valerie Steele forever and have heard her speak on many occasions.  Her work as Director of the FIT Museum is exemplary and her books must reads and have in your library.  I was beyond excited that she immediately agreed to be in conversation, and, by the way, will be back with us later this year with yet another exhibition companion book.  We had a fabulous chat and the group was so enthralled that they didn’t make a sound, I had to ask them to say hi so she would know there were others in the room not just me!

Yes, another Amazon review….

“Book Review and other thoughts on pink in fashion and our lives: The book is brilliantly written, edited and illustrated. Giving us insights into a color that has been in fashion for centuries. I particularly like the layout of the book taking us from the courts of Europe when pink was worn by as many men as women through Haute Couture Collections to Punk to Red Carpets to Pussy Hats to Real Men Wear Pink to pink ribbons fighting breast cancer. We learn about the introduction of Shocking Pink by Elsa Schiaparelli to the iconic Yves Saint Laurent black gown with wide shocking pink bow, a garment, that Steele shared with us in conversation, that was a major exhibition coup and one she was especially excited to include. It is a MUST for your fashion library, but then all of Valerie Steele’s books are meant to be included there.

I have had the fabulous good fortune to have many brilliant authors join me in conversation for the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club and I must admit Valerie wasn’t an exception, we all learned so much! I hope she enjoyed the hour as much as I did and the attendees were in rapt attention, I might even say in awe with her at ease conversation in sharing her expertise which, in my opinion, knows no bounds. Bravo Valerie and thank you….here’s to the next book!”

FEBRUARY 2019

Another author who immediately agreed to be with us and sent me an autographed copy of her book right away….what a joy to talk with the brilliant yet very down to earth, Caroline Weber, who is working on a sequel and will join us again upon its publication.  While some might find M. Proust a bit of a challenge Caroline’s wit and wisdom and beyond extraordinary research discussing the women who influence his writings made all of us rethink delving into his works yet again.

MARCH 2019

I had to reschedule our January meeting due to inclement weather but was very anxious to talk with the amazing Hutton Wilkinson, I have worked with Hutton when he did his first book Tony Duquette as well as when he visited with his fine jewelry collection, also documented in a book…Dawnridge is as unique as both Duquette and Wilkinson are….nothing remotely like either gentleman nor their creativity exists to my mind’s eye….believe me when I say this conversation took on its own life….great fun.  You can find his profile in the nenasnotes archive.

A book review…here you go….

“The beginning of the book gives us a detailed understanding of Tony’s life, and, of course how Hutton became his creative partner. The book is then organized by the three main houses and the elaborate grounds. Hutton takes us through the painstaking process of repurchasing many of the “lost” treasures of the home, the detailed drama of “reinventing” the original concept and not only enhancing it but bringing the dream into the reality of the 21st Century with its modern technology while keeping the essence and tradition of the original rooms, buildings and grounds in their transformations. The photos of the original rooms and new ones of the reinvented spaces are masterworks. I would go so far as to say an exquisite Phoenix has risen from the “ashes”. I could live in any of the spaces since my motto is definitely more is more and my most favorite color is green, let alone all the Malachite, and the chandeliers, and the layering, and…………totally dreamy!”

APRIL 2019

It seemed fitting to end the first year of nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club as we began with a book on Yves Saint Laurent…another scholarly tome, heavy both in content and heft of the book and one not to be read casually (I do have two novels scheduled for this year, both with designers as their subjects!). It is the first on YSL written in English and not translated from French.  The research is extraordinary.  Yet another for your collection.

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MAY 2019

When we think of Vogue Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington immediately come to mind, well there was a third critical eye with Tonne Goodman whose vision complimented and completed the iconic magazine’s editorial content.  Balancing Coddington’s whimsy with more straight forward, yet visionary, photographs….and photography is what this book is all about.  And the photography is just beyond….I particularly loved the pages of Vogue covers.  Very little text but lots and lots and lots of fabulous photos by all the well known and not so well known photographers of our era….fabulous book!

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JUNE 2019

Another monograph, this time Dawn Mallo, the genius behind Bergdorf Goodman’s revamp and the discoverer of many designers…think Michael Kors and the force who brought Tom Ford to Gucci during her tenure there. John Tiffany brings his investigative reporting to this sensational book with much the same vigor he did with his book on the doyenne of fashion Eleanor Lambert…can’t wait to have John in conversation….it will be awesome.

 

JULY 2019

Our first novel and it’s about Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli….wow, should be  fabulous.  Can’t wait to hear what author, Jeanne Mackin has to tell us about her research.  It is my favorite type of novel, one based on fact…yes, historical fiction..love it!

 

OCTOBER 2019

Who knew one of my favorite male models (actually mad for all my male and for that matter female models….but) Marcellas Reynolds has written his first book and what a book it looks to be…and I’m hoping he will actually be with us in person, he is a Chicago guy…fingers crossed.

 

It’s been quite a year and lots more to come….I’ll, of course, keep you updated and let you know when I can share the nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club conversations with you…we just have to figure out logistics and get the author’s permission to tape them….stay tuned!!  In the meantime you can read along with us, I post here and on Instagram upcoming selections.

More of my fashion library….

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FRIDAY MUSINGS: IT’S A VINTAGE GARDEN PARTY

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By now you know I look forward to the end of each month when the Randolph Street Market appears on my calendar and I must admit the May Market, (which begins the outdoor season, though September), is my favorite month of all (please don’t tell the other months they will be jealous!).  It not only gives us the feeling that Summer is almost with us but also dramatically enlarges RSM, of course, the chock a block three floors of Plumbers Hall are with us year round.   Celebrating its Sweet Sixteen year the outdoor season kicks off with a vintage garden party, not only will you find the most amazing vintage one of a kind treasures, but you can eat and drink to your hearts content while listening to music all day (the Market is open from 9 to 5 each day), great people watching and you can shop, shop, shop…that is the point my dears!  This May you can also get gardening tips, plants and supplies whether you are a seasoned gardener or a novice.  As with all the dealers, be sure to engage them in conversation to learn more about collecting, styling yourself and your home and now your garden.  Looking to expand your collections from books to mirrors to paintings, to furniture, to refurbished bikes to artisan crafts to jewelry and clothing for women and men (there is Father’s Day to think about!!) and items you didn’t even know you needed or wanted….look no further it is all at RSM. By the way, do you know I do two monthly posts, totally different from this blog, on the RSM’s blog…one on collectibles and one on fashion…be sure to check them out, this month I featured Lady Head Vases and Trench Coats.  If we are all into sustainability and recycling, and we should be, we need to think VINTAGE!!!  

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Now I wanted to share the dynamic RSM newsletter with you…it will give you many more details and was impossible to replicate so I am giving you the link.  By the way this is not a paid endorsement just information I want to share with you dear readers so you can enjoy the Market as much as I do.  It is there rain or shine and you will enjoy a day out in our wonderful Chicago!  Happy hunting!

Randolph Street Market May Event

BB73D3B5-218F-44A8-9AAA-15DB0B229886Our inspiration, Sally Schwartz, Founder of Randolph Street Market.

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: WATER STREET STUDIOS

F1F5255C-3973-4867-B59D-F6AD84E41B21Nena with Danielle Hollis, Executive Director, Water Street Studios, Andrea Reynders, Designer and Exhibition Curator pictured in exhibition space. Here you can see the natural stone of the building….I am obsessed with art against natural material such as brick, wood and stone in my opinion, it becomes an artwork itself.

I recently had the great pleasure of being invited by my dear friend, Andrea Reynders  who curated the exhibition, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER…Artists Explore The Theme of “Transparency”, to speak at a gathering at WATER STREET STUDIOS in Batavia, Illinois.  My talk was to be in conjunction with their exhibition of mixed media art including extraordinary wearable art.  Keeping with the theme of “transparency”, I did a Power Point presentation featuring some of the designers I have worked with through out my career, beginning with Bonnie Cashin and ending with Christian Siriano, just a small sampling of the over 200 designers and fashion influencers I did shows and events with from the mid-1950’s to today.  Of course, I did a running commentary with some enlightening tidbits.  The guests had great questions and I throughly enjoyed the evening most especially the incredible creativity of the artists work.

Let’s look at some of the work and read Andrea’s statement about the exhibition.

The Baptism…..DAWN ZALKUS
“I am a river, soft, inviting, nourishing, transparent. I cleanse away your demons and invite you to my shores. Drink from my waters. I can grant safe passage, or rise up in rage. I am powerful. Mountains move beneath my current. Whole ships are devoured by my abyss. As I invite you to swim in my pools know you may drown in their depths. Gaze into my pellucid surface. Let me enchant you with the rhythm of my tide. Bathe in my waters, refreshing, renewing, shimmering, mesmerizing. I am a river. Materials: Wax paper, quartz, tulle, canvas.”

Crystal by SUE & KATIE HOLZKOPF
“The experience of being under water physically surrounded by an intimidating clear expanse while simultaneously adopting a calmness and peace of the mind is what inspired our design.”
Materials: Paper quills, paint tarp, iridescent cellophane, plastic baggies, zip ties.    Sue is photograped with the garment that she and her daughter, Katie created.

Curator’s Statement….

“Eye of the Beholder is an exhibition dedicated to the art of clothing as a second skin. With this year’s theme of Transparency we expanded the opportunity for artists working in various media and across scales and dimensions.

Transparency: n., transmission or admission of light –a clarity–crystal clear—sheerness, gauziness. V. to show through. Adv. see-through, revealing, lucid–clear, thin, gossamer, filmy.

Artists were challenged to clarify and translate what Transparency meant to them and to create a work that is either worn or observed. From garments that capture emotions we cannot readily share, moments that capture chrysalis transformation, to paintings that capture light in transparent layers of color, the work included here bridges the divide between poetic reflection and political comment and from dynamic movement to quietude.
The results are both serious and whimsical—an amazing cross section of personal interpretation. From sophisticated couture and hand crafted assemblages to paintings –all as a response to the idea of Transparency.
Come and be transformed.”  Andrea Reynders

Fish Need Clean Water, Citizens Need Transparency by KATHERINE KRATZER
“This rallying cry, after a chemical dumping in the seawaters off the coast of Vietnam, should be a rallying cry for all citizens of the world. Corporate polluters, government ineptitude, business greed, poisoned humans and an unforgivable disregard for aquatic life and environments is threatening us all.”
Materials: Tyvek, assorted papers, watercolor.                                                        Katherine photographed with her imaginative piece.

The Unveiling by CLAUDIA CANON
“In a marriage, both parts need the ability and the willingness to see the true inner self and the responsibility to be transparent before committing to each other. The goal with my wedding dress is to enable the viewer to see the beauty of the exterior and also view the interior where the “truth” often exists.”
Materials: Japanese rice paper, tissue paper, tyvek

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Translucent by MORGAN DONOHUE
“This dress captures the fragile balance between wanting to be understood, while also having a constant fear of failure in the back of your mind. Once we become see-through, we become vulnerable and sometimes invisible. The feathers emphasize how delicate the whole process can be, but also remind us that we have the potential to soar.”
Materials: Fabric, seeds, feathers

Childhood Transparency by PRESTON WILLIAMS.                                                       ”This piece to me is about growing up and defining who I am.  Using my boldness as a strength then growing into a person who can be open and transparent.”                     Materials: Rice, bike tires & tapioca pearls

I asked Danielle Hollis, Water Street Studios Executive Director, to give me detailed information on the Studio and Gallery so I could share it with my readers.  I know you will be as impressed with the concept and the space as I am.

The WATER STREET STUDIOS story…..

“In 2007, a group of interested community members, artists, a property owner and the City of Batavia started developing a plan for artist studio spaces. In the spring of 2008, a group formed Batavia Artists Association (BAA), what we now know as Water Street Studios (WSS)

The Batavia Artists Association at Water Street Studios incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit arts organization in the state of Illinois in 2009. Our mission is to help make the arts accessible to the Fox Valley area and beyond. Our vision is to be a cultural hub in the Midwest. Water Street Studios is committed to maintaining a welcoming and safe environment for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, or disability.

Our Art Education program provides high-quality art classes for all ages in a variety of mediums including drawing, printmaking, painting, ceramics, metal-working, jewelry-making, and more. We serve hundreds of students from 35 surrounding towns through our paid programming including Aurora, DeKalb, Naperville, Joliet, Rockford, and more.

Our Art Outreach program provides free art instruction for under-resourced families and schools in the area to help make the arts more accessible to those in need. Last year we provided over 2,000 free art sessions by partnering with key stakeholders in our community such as public schools, libraries, senior centers, and more.

We are in our third year of providing our Ripple Effect program to the Fox Valley area. Ripple Effect is a free, weekly STEAM class that focuses on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math with art. During this 3-week course, students between the ages of 8-12 learn about dendrites and fractals in nature and in math. This program is generously funded by the Dunham Fund.

We have 26 artist studios for emerging and professional artists to work in a highly creative and collaborative environment. The Artist Studios at Water Street Studios come with a wide variety of benefits to support artists including: subsidized rent, opportunities to exhibit and sell artwork, exposure to thousands of visitors every year, opportunities to be employed as an instructor, connection to a vibrant arts community, and more.

Our Gallery and Events program draws many new visitors to our facility to experience the arts. We provide 24 exhibitions and exhibit over 100 artists annually in our two premiere galleries, The Dempsey Family Gallery located on the first floor and the newly named Chicago Capital Gallery located on the second floor. Every month we host a Gallery Opening Receptions, Live Art Series events, Waterline Writers events, and other community events as scheduled.

Water Street Studios is the only nonprofit community arts center in the area that provides all of these services to the Fox Valley area and beyond through high-quality arts programming. We are able to make the arts accessible to our community through high-quality programming because of the dedicated efforts of our staff, board members, donors, and volunteers.”

For more information about Water Street Studios please visit their  website at www.waterstreetstudios.org

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Mammie’s Window by LISA YOUNGDAHL
“Mammie’s Window” is a colored pencil painting of my great-mother’s house in Kentucky. No one has lived in the house since 1963, and the owner has kept the house just as it was when my great-grandmother lived there. There’s even a filled cookie jar still on the counter. To the viewer, the windows are the eyes of a home. Through those eyes we see inside the tattered remains of a house abandoned over 50 years ago. We can only guess why it has been abandoned, but we see a bit of its history.”                                                                                                                                           A Nena’s note….love this painting….but then I was gobsmacked by the talent, creativity, diversity and materials used by all the uber talented artisans.

I was beyond impressed with WATER STREET STUDIOS…two full floors of exhibition space filled with impressive works of art, artists studios, communal spaces, teaching areas….extraordinary and well worth a day in the country, a quick trip from Chicago and any suburb, make a day of it in Batavia and visit the other charming “sister” cities Geneva and St. Charles, where you will find antiques✔️interesting shops for clothing, home, one of a kind finds✔️restaurants✔️charming places to stay for a weekend or longer✔️seasonal activities✔️and more✔️.

I was lucky to have my BFF, Tom Mantel, with me.  We had been at Lyric Opera for the outstanding production of West Side Story….amazing in all aspects.  My host, the always generous and gracious, Tom Hawley, who kindly includes me in the Lyric’s Musicals as well as the Goodman season…always great to be with Christine, Elenor, Earl and Ralph.  Fortunately the highways weren’t too hectic and we arrived at WSS in time to do a tech check.  I had made reservations at Atwater’s the restaurant at The Harrington Inn in Geneva to have a late supper after my presentation.  I have stayed there on several occasions, love it, need to go back soon…..  We arrived around 9 and found ourselves to be the only guests in the dining room, strange for a Saturday night!  Neither the food nor the service suffered, in fact both exceeded my expectations and were perfection.  Do try both Atwater’s and The Harrington, you are in for a treat.

The Harrington, Atwater’s and our insanely delicious chocolate “yum-yum”!!!!  Photos from Pinterest credit unknown.

All other photos taken by me with my iPhone.

FASHION FLASHBACK: SAKS FIFTH AVENUE CHICAGO…THE STORE CELEBRATING 90 YEARS ON THE MAGNIFICENT MILE

I first published this in 2017…..I am posting again to celebrate Saks Fifth Avenue’s 90th year in Chicago on the Magnificent Mile.  I am adding a couple new features as I look back on my first day at the Store on May 18, 1956…..a lifetime ago, yet just a blink of an eye….so much has happened to me, the City and the World since then but I guess as the Sondheim song (and my theme song goes )…I’m (we’re) Still Here!!!!!

CB69D379-C038-4923-816C-60F9D8226EDCNena with Kay Walsh Dobson, 1957….Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives Columbia College Chicago.

I asked the current Vice-President/General Manager, Matthew Brown, to give me his observation of today’s SFA….thank you so much Matt.

”Our 90th anniversary in Chicago is a true reflection of this remarkable company that is Saks Fifth Avenue. Our store has been a symbol of stylish shopping on the city’s most elegant avenue, Michigan Avenue, and we’re thrilled to be celebrating such an impressive milestone.”

There is a new restaurant, ALTHEA By Matthew Kenny….fabulous new concept generating lots of press, check it out!!!!

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Then take a trip to the CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM to view the new Costume Collection Exhibition SILVERSCREEN TO MAINSTREAM, where you will see many wondrous garments including this extraordinary gown purchased from the Salon Moderne in the New York flagship Saks Fifth Avenue.  It and a pair of peek toe shoes credit Saks.  My photos.

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And now back to our original story………enjoy!!!!!

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Pine Street and Erie early 1900’s, courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia Collegte Chicago,.

imagePhoto courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

Michigan Avenue looking North from Ohio Street (Lake Shore National Bank now Chase!) after 1924.  The tall building is the Allerton Hotel which was built in 1924 (now the Warwick Allerton Hotel) and was one of the first high-rises in Chicago and built as a Men’s Club.  For more information on this Hotel please go to www.warwickhotels.com/allerton-hotel-chicago/history. In 1923 the City passed its first zoning ordinance and North Michigan Avenue became a commercial use district.  It still maintained brownstones and vacant lots…a Nena’s note, when I started with the Company there were still brownstones and vacant lots…this was in 1956.

imageThe entrance to Saks Fifth Avenue on Fifth Avenue in New York City in the 1920’s the company opened it’s doors on September 15, 1924.  The first out of town store was in Palm Beach, Florida which was a seasonal store opened to accommodate the store’s “carriage trade” clientele when they were vacationing in Florida.  The second “full line” store (out of New York) was opened in Chicago in the Spring of 1929.

imageOh, my goodness, Nena did you put this photo in by accident….you are after all an AT&T gal and you are showing the facade of the Verizon flagship store on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Chestnut Street! No dear readers, this is the first location of  Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.  It was a five-story building (it has had many, many different looks over the years) and is now into the technological age we live in.  No one can explain why after occupying this space for about 5-6 years the decision was made to relocate to 669 North Michigan Avenue in 1935 when an addition was added to the original Blackstone Shop Building. In 1929 this building had been leased to Stanley Korshak, the architect was Philip B. Maher who also designed the landmarked Woman’s Athletic Club building on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Ontario Street.

imageCourtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

The image on the left is the original building and its addition.  The image on the right is the building where I started my career.  If you look directly to the east, next to the Saks logo on the top of the 5 story building, you see windows, those two sets of three windows looked South on Michigan Avenue and were at the end of my department, Debutante Sportswear.  The one story building, by Holabird & Root, was erected in 1944.  Since it was built during WWII it couldn’t be a substantial structure and was built using surplus bricks due to the War effort.  When I started in May 1956 that short building housed the children’s departments from Layette to teens both girls and boys, we did a huge children’s business.  Each building opened into the other and several floors in the St. Clair building (the building where the Corner Bakery is now) were part of Saks, housing the general offices including mine when I moved into the fashion office in 1957.  This building was accessed via a bridge over the alley.  The bridge also by Holabird & Root was erected in 1937. The nine-story addition was added in 1966 and was also Holabird & Root.  Each floor, through the fifth floor, was expanded and the Executive Offices etc. moved from the St. Clair building to the top three floors, the ninth floor housed electrical equipment, air conditioning, etc.

imageArchitects rendering of the final 669 North Michigan Avenue building.  Courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

You may have heard an Urban Myth about apartments hidden away behind the Store (the building that Cole Haan occupied until recently)…guess what it isn’t a myth, they do exist!  They are now in total disrepair.  Malabry Court consists of 6 apartments or pied à terre surrounding a courtyard.

imageTaken from Lynn Becker’s article from November 2009 you are looking down on the elegant courtyard.  Ms. Becker’s article is absolutely fascinating  I advise you to read the entire piece, please GOOGLE…Michigan Avenue’s forgotten secret: What’s lies behind this innocuous facade?

Let me tell you a little about them since I saw the apartments through the years. When I was in my early teens a couple of the apartments became available.  My parents had friends who lived in one of the apartments and told my Father about the upcoming openings…there was usually a waiting list of about 5 years.  We had visited their friends and had fallen in love with the European charm of them.  They were very French, very small and each had wood burning fireplaces.  Needless to say we all fell in love with the idea but quickly realized that three adults wouldn’t work in what really added up to a studio apartment in square feet.  When I started at the Store they were still occupied and I really longed to live in one, alas it wasn’t to be.  In the mid-1980’s we came up with a plan to cover the courtyard with a glass skylight and do the indiviual apartments as shops to feature our gift assortments and use the courtyard as a restaurant.  They had a separate entrance on Michigan Avenue with an elevator so we could have done dinner as well.  Obviously, this didn’t happen.

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Time moves on, space is no longer available for expansion so what do you do, you move.  The idea of another vertical mall was appealing and so that was the decision to work with a developer and create Chicago Place.  If you stand across from the building you will see three different facades, the center arched building houses the main mall with glass elevators, escalators, elegant columns and at least 20 types of marble for the main floor and other areas.  The stylized motif is based on the Native American word for wild or smelly onion and was used throughout the Mall in the railings etc.  The food court at its beginning was quite wonderful huge live trees, interesting colorful birds (real) flying around and appealing food vendors…this unfortunately didn’t last long and it became a run of the mill food court, oh well.  In addition you would find unique stores but unless you were going to the food court you probably didn’t even know the rest of the Mall was outside the Saks door.

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The architects rendering of the building courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA good look at the main floor of Chicago Place Mall with the mezzanine.  You can clearly see the different marbles use in the interior.  Photo courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageThe free standing Men’s Store across the street from Chicago Place.  The Men’s Store is once again housed in the main building.

The fashion industry is built on obsolescence and MUST always reinvent itself, retail is no different…it is where fashion is shown.  Saying that it is very important not to lose your idenity, your brand.  What is the Saks Fifth Avenue brand, it is service without peer, it is giving it’s clients the best the world has to offer and the newest most exciting brands available without losing its panache!  Has the Store changed over the years, of course it has…you can see that the company believed in the strength of Chicago…just another Nena’s note, Saks Fifth Avenue is the only retailer (other than Sears!) who has been in Chicago since its beginning here in 1929.  It isn’t going any where.  Do stop by and see all the news and you can now even have a bite to eat, and I must add a delicious bite to eat at Sophie’s the 7th floor restaurant with a view like no other in the City. (By the way this, as always, is my opinion and not a paid indorsement, just saying!!!!)

imageSophie’s at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago with Executive Chef Ron Aleman.  You will often find me there enjoying Chef Ron’s ever changing menu, he is fantastic!  It is one of my top 10 restaurants in the City.

imageThe view from Sophie’s window looking North…what was there when I began in 1956, in view only “Palmolive Building” and the iconic Water Tower, I think a hint of The Drake Hotel, no Hancock, no Water Tower Place, etc. etc. etc. amazing, isn’t it!!!  Photo Courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.