Thursday, July 31, 2014


It was a little iffy, trying to convince my daughter and sister into going to the Circus World Museum Parade in Baraboo. We were looking for a way to spend a Saturday afternoon before my sister was to return to Saudi Arabia. Both daughter and sister are huge animal advocates. The risk was a big part of the parade might include a of bunch of caged animals looking ill-fed and angry or worse yet comatose from boredom.
I was counting on clowns in lieu of tigers even if the clowns can be scarier than the most depraved animals. On the promise that we could leave if there was even a hint of any kind of animal cruelty, they took me on my promise and we were on the road.
The expedition to Baraboo involved taking Route 113 north from Madison. One of the joys of taking this route is going through Merrimac and taking the Merrimac Ferry that traverses the Wisconsin River carrying people and cars back and forth between Columbia and Sauk counties. Ferry operation has been going on at this site since 1844. It's progressed from a human powered tug-of-war pulling the ferry from one side to the other to a series of under water cables that now drag the ferry over the waves and wakes of passing jet skis. It's about a seven-minute trip each way. The frustration comes with the wait to get on the platform boat. The ferry holds a maximum of fifteen cars. It can take almost an hour before you get your turn to board. The ferry runs 24/7 from April through November or at least until the ice on the Wisconsin river becomes too thick for the ferry to get across.
Once on the other side it's a short drive to Baraboo. We were late on getting started so we missed the start of the parade and with that the tiger carriage. Had we started out with that I fear we would have had to turn around and head back before we got to see any of the other wagons I had come to see.
Our tardy arrival meant we had to stand about six back but most people up front either sat on the pavement or in lawn chairs making visibility okay if distance from the action was a little far. In my case that's what they make zoom lenses for.
Baraboo was home to the winter residence of the Ringling Brothers Circus, originating there in 1884. Why a circus that I associate with warm weather would want to winter in the north woods baffles me still, but as you walk the streets of Baraboo you can hear stories from circus performers who have stayed in Baraboo deciding to spend their golden years in knee-high snow.
The parade is a chain of painted horse drawn wagons pulling the world's largest collection of circus wagons in the world.
The original purpose of the wagons was to haul animals and performers through the streets of America notifying residents that the circus was in town.
The ornate nature of the wagons made a stunning statement for the circus as it rolled into town.
Pre-television the nation's circuses and carnivals was a major source of small town entertainment.
Music played a major part in the wagon history. The sound of a full brass band decked out in regimental costumes or a calliope's pipes whistling out tunes as steam spurts in the air was an invitation to
the exotic world of flying trapezes, bearded ladies and two-headed animals.
We managed to hold on as the giraffe wagon passed by. The girls gave each other an expression of disdain but stayed in place as the giraffe wagon inched its way along, the giraffe's head and long neck barely missing the overhead power lines.

Having no idea of how much of the parade we had missed we stayed until the last wagon made its turn into the final blocks of the parade's route
and the street sweepers cleaned the remaining bits of leftover horse poop off the pavement.

Albino Sword Swallower, 1970
Diane Arbus, photographer
Represented by Fraenkel Gallery

Friday, July 25, 2014


The term book-matched is used by designers, architects, and others obsessed with having to know everything about everything. It refers to stone or wood that is heavily grained or veined that is then cut and polished on alternating sides so that the grain or veins when put side by side mirror themselves. The slabs unfold like a book and that is where the name comes from.

You're not going to find book-matched marble at your local flooring store. You'll find tiles which are nice but not the slabs I'm talking about.
You've got to really want the look and you've got to have pretty deep pockets or the willingness to sell one of your kids if you're going to do some book-matched designing.
When it comes to marble and after you've bit the bullet, if that's what you're going to do, the next thing is to source out a marble supplier. Most cities will have an importer with marble stock but to find one who will have stock in book-matched is going to be rare. Local marble suppliers are supplying their stock to contractors building kitchen and bath countertops. You'd be lucky to find a couple of slabs of the same batch let alone enough to clad a room or complete a wall.
After you've found a marble source and selected your slabs it's off to the fabricator to have the stone cut and prepared for installation.
Once it's hung or laid the beauty of book-matched is stunning.
The same holds true for using wood with book-matched grains. Primary uses for book-matched wood is in wall paneling and in furniture.
Using the book-matched can make a wall sing.
It can also do the same for furniture. Our manufacturer, Black Wolf Design, has added the book-matched aspect to the pieces in the Mendota collection we launched at ICFF.
Book-matched designs can go either way. It can be overpowering and way too fussy or it can be beautiful.
Here are some examples of where it worked.

Identical Twins, Eoselle, New Jersey, 1967
Diane Arbus, photographer
Represented by Fraenkel Gallery

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Our rustic cabin for the week sits nestled in among the pine groves surrounding Catfish Lake. The main house was built strong in the early 1920's.
It sits on a flat patch of ground just before the land falls to the shore and the dock pointing out into the lake like a finger testing the water.
A smaller sleeping cabin for guests and generations past, present and future, a garage and a carport complete the compound.
The ground is layered with the needles shed from the statuesque pines turned that cinnamon color that seasons the North Woods of Wisconsin.
Babbles of moss add an emerald sheen to the velvet carpet of lawn fluttering down the embankment and lapping at the shore.
The shore, in return, echoes the undulation of the land and meets in a kiss of water and mass.
It's our second visit to the cabin on Wooded Lane. Here time loops around as the next door neighbor with his captain's hat slowly motors out into the lake with his wooden Chris Craft
only to have time turned back around by the buzz of the neighbor two doors down landing his seaplane on his way back from work.
Here where eagles fly in groups gliding on currents of time held in check, where the air is always crisply scented with pine, where deer play in your yard seeming fearless and forgetful of the coming hunt, here is where I can touch my solitude and regain my direction.
July still requires stoking the fireplace. Temperatures struggle to reach the seventies during the day and fall well below fifty at night.
The howl of the wind whips through the night yet dawn is eerily quiet. Not even the birds seem to wake remaining huddled in their aeries miles above our resting heads.

As dusk rolled in Rick sat in the amber light Buddy happily nuzzled in his lap.

Every Monday between Memorial Day and Labor Day the Community Park in St. Germain is the site of a flea market. This is not your parking lot variety flea market with stalls marked out by the size of a parking space. The St. Germain market winds through a pine forest of needle packed trails under the branches of a forest canopy. From nine in the morning until three in the afternoon the meandering paths are packed with bargain seekers rummaging through vintage, antique, and craft goods from vendors who travel the uplands market circuit.
One vendor specialized in 1950's pinball art salvaging from the sides of an old pinball machines like the Strike Zone or Derby Dash.
These panels represent a moment in the continuum of graphics between art deco and graffiti. Thank god someone had the forethought and the discerning eye to salvage these pieces that can now be classified as art.
Light filtering through the canopy of the coniferous trees and spilling onto the pieces of history for sale puts them in a context far more enchanting than sitting on a plastic folding table in someone's driveway back home.
Ceramic vases, clutch purses and marble candlesticks spread out on a vintage tablecloth are made all the more appealing given this North Woods setting.
Pieces so iconic of the territory hang from trees.
Taxidermy deer heads mounted and ready to hang were available for those unwilling to make the kill or for those unable to bag their own but looking for bragging rights with made-up stories about the ten-point buck shot at a hundred yards in a blinding snow storm with a single bullet.
A faux trunk probably purchased at a gift store takes on a history far greater than its actual lifespan when placed in a setting so complimentary to its fictitious history.
We had taken E. L. Doctorow's Loon Lake along with us as one of the books we wanted to keep us company while we sat in front of the fire on those cool northern nights. We didn't expect to see such a literal doppelganger of our reading material and Doctorow's imagination pop up on a table in the woods.
Even the crafts displayed had a North Woods aura about them. A very sweet older man explained how he collected objects like doorknobs and yardsticks and turned them into hall hooks. We were impressed with an old crocket set he had re-envisioned turning it into a whimsical side table.
Another vendor sold only birch bark baskets supposedly woven by local Indians.
A group of women made mittens from recycled woolen sweaters that had either lost their style or worn out in places that couldn't be repaired. We almost walked out with this pair. We have a hard time resisting anything that comes in grey and orange.
What we couldn't resist was this metal watering can sitting amongst a bedpan, spittoon and two boxes of 7.62 mm cartridges. It quenched our thirst for a purchase and it will help quench our backyard flowers for a long time to come.
Food was also in plentiful supply and regional rather than generic. The German Sausage Hut provided brotwurst, wine kruat and Cheese-Kransky. Set among the towering branches of Community Park it was like a slice of Bavaria cut off and plopped in the Wisconsin woods.
Entertainment wasn't on the agenda as far as I could tell but this little guy was in full swing as he walked the paths along with his dad. How cool is this.
The market is no match for Brimfield or Madison-Bouckville in size. It doesn't span acres or boost a field of hundreds of vendors but the setting is so magical the spirit of the event far surpasses any trip we've made to the better-known markets of the continental United States. There's a European feel to the event. Similar to the weekly markets that travel from town to town throughout Europe where you can buy fresh produce and meat for that evenings dinner, a new outfit for the weekend or a piece of local history.

Parc de Jeurre, Morigny-Champaigny, France, 1999
Lynn Geesaman, photographer
Represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery