Archive for February 2009

A world of talent!

February 27, 2009

When we started this blog, my brother and I wanted to talk about our thoughts on design, and also talk about how we got to this particular place in this particular time. We have been lucky to meet some amazing people along the way. Those people have inspired and helped us get through some great and not so great times.

We are privileged to know these amazing talents, and would like to share some of their stories with our readers. We will be introducing these people to you every so often, and we encourage you to take a look at their work. We think; like us, you will enjoy getting to know these fascinating people.

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Emily Gallardo – Greeting Card Maker Here is Emily [2] along with her cousin, Joann [3], and friend [1].
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Christopher: It is so exciting to introduce my friend, Emily Gallardo, to our readers. We met while working at an advertising agency and design group, in Boston a long, long time ago. She is an amazingly talented woman, a meticulous designer, and one of the most patient people that I have ever known.

As anyone who has worked at a young and busy agency, they will know that we worked with the most stressful deadlines. We worked late, didn’t eat well, slept little, and laughed hard about the situation we were in. While I was more of a temperamental sort, Emily was unflappable. She was calm, funny and wise, and was always willing to chip in and do the dirty work without a moan. In an advertising-world full of prima donnas, she was a rare wonder! While the clients may not have cared much about the art of advertising, Emily loved typography and good design, and always cared about the little details that sometimes get through the cracks. Mediocrity is not part of her vocabulary.

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Emily as fashion model Emily [1], and her sisters Ellen [2], and Effie [3] at Fort Santiago in Manila.
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C: I was so excited to hear when Emily had started her own (handmade) greeting card business five years ago. I have watched her grow her business while not sacrificing her quest for quality and beauty.

In Boston, we lived in the same neighborhood (The South End), just a block away from each other, and now that we are much to far apart, we still keep in touch. I am proud to know Emily, to know of her work, and be her friend.

C: Since I can remember you have always been interested in crafts, and hand-made objects… I remember you working a hard day, and then going home to work on some kind of project. Do you still knit?

Emily: I still knit, although not as much as before. I also learned to crochet and quilt. I’ve been working on a lot of blankets lately. I’m probably going to do more cross-stitching and needlepoint as it gets warmer. I’ve started a US Presidential Series – portraits of US presidents done in single-color cross-stitch. It’s basically working with tactile pixels.

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Greg and Christopher love these! Emily’s latest craft project — single color, cross-stitch portraits of the US Presidents. George [1] and Barack [2].
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Greg: How did you get started in crafting?

E: Looking back, I think I got into crafts because working in advertising produced a deep, unmet desire to work with my hands. When I came into advertising, the industry was on the cusp of going digital, but most of training was more hands-on: hand-painting letterforms, pasting up layouts, drawing from life, etc. As digitization hit advertising and art direction, it got rid of a lot of the tedious and repetitive tasks, but it also became less tactile. Immersing myself in crafts was a way to get back to working with my hands.

C: Were you always artistic as a child?

E: I have always been interested in art — some of my earliest memories are of drawing and painting. When my sisters and I were children we weren’t all that interested in the toy section of a store — we would always find the school supply section. I have very intense memories of looking longingly at a ream of blank 8.5 x 11 inch bond paper (as it was called back then). I think I actually got a ream of paper for my birthday one year.

G: What did you do with the paper when you got it?

E: I think I just looked at it for a long time. And then I drew and I drew and I drew. It was so great to draw on that white blank page. I was used to drawing on pulpy newsprint.

C: Do you have any specific memory or moment when you knew what you wanted to do when you grew up?

E: I don’t have one defining moment where I thought — hey, I’m an artist, deal with it. It was more like a series of events over time. I definitely liked making things with my hands. To a certain extent my mom encouraged my talents but she always stressed being “well-rounded.” I don’t think she wanted me to become an artist because all the artists she knew or had heard about were troubled, poor, or distraught — sometimes all three. I was interested in a lot of different things so I had no problem going along with being “well-rounded.”

In high school I remember opening the back of a history book and I saw a colophon for the first time. It identified the typeface used to set the book and it also identified the designer of the typeface and maybe two or three biographic sentences about the designer. I had never heard of such a thing — a typeface designer. I stored the information away for future reference.

The closest I have to a defining moment was probably my decision to go to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). I had applied to a bunch of different schools for college — mostly liberal arts. I thought, maybe I’ll become an art teacher or an English teacher. Maybe I’ll teach history — maybe even art history. I thought maybe I’d manage to keep doing art on the side, like a hobby.

C: That was exactly my plan also! I didn’t think anyone could make a living at art.

E: Looking back, I was pretty delusional because if I couldn’t do art or design for a living I would probably lose my mind. When I got the acceptance packets from the schools I knew I had to go to RISD. The liberal arts schools had very amateurishly designed brochures representing their art departments while RISD had beautiful photos, intriguing examples of student work and professional printing. I knew right there that I wanted to develop my talent while I was still young — I somehow knew that art would never be a hobby for me, something to comfort me into old age. I had to try and take a stab at making art (or design as it would turn out) into a living.

But getting my parents to let me go to art school… that’s a story for another time.

G: What was the incentive or moment that you decide to design cards?

E: I’d been designing cards since I was a kid. I had a lot of family members who lived abroad so my mom and I were always engaged in some card project or another. Later when I was working as an art director, I always had the most fun when I had to design invitations for client events or design thank you notes to send to their customers. I even had a ball with the company Holiday card – a hive-inducing project for most of the staff.

In 2001, I had been playing around with the idea of designing cards with three-dimensional elements. One day I was shopping in Freeport, Maine when I came across a button store. I ducked in and bought about $60.00 worth of buttons and beads — materials I was reasonably certain I could adhere onto paper. That evening I started drawing images incorporating my recently purchased items.

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Some of Emily’s earliest button cards. Baby Carriage [1], and Pig [2]
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C: So how did you take these cards to a business?

E: I worked in a very hip, upscale part of Boston (Back Bay and the South End) with lots of boutique stores I would often frequent during my lunch break. I started showing my cards to sales clerks, store owners, anyone who was willing to look at them. My first sale was a consignment at a small baby boutique. Over time I sold more cards to more boutiques and finally worked up enough courage to cold-call larger stores.

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One of Emily’s designs for custom letterpress invitations. In these samples she used character names from Jane Austen novels. She “took great care to pick couples who seemed well matched and I hoped would have happy marriages. (After my 7th set, I started to run out of Jane Austen couples and I started to look around for other literary couples. I wound up using names of characters I thought should have gotten married to each other.)”
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C: Emily, we met working together at an ad agency, and worked together for a number of years. Do you miss anything about the ad world?

E: I miss the specialization — you know, account services, accounting, planning. As a small business owner, I do everything: design, production, accounting, marketing, shipping, custodial services. Thank God for Quickbooks. I’m always amazed at how little I know about running a business.

Most importantly, I miss the people I worked with closely. I don’t miss people in general — I miss particular people, like you and the team we worked with. Decades later, I am still in touch with quite a few of them. I miss the camaraderie most of all.

C: It also was a wonderful moment in my life. I also stay in touch with those people.

E: Also, I miss the access to state-of-the-art copy machines!

C: Oh, yes! I would love to have them at my studio.

G: Do you have any advice for someone starting a business like yours?

E: Don’t be afraid to start small and with very little information. You can always get more information by doing research and asking questions. Get your prototypes made, because until they exist, all you have is talk and ideas. People want to see the thing you are trying to sell.

C: What are your inspirations for your work?

Nature, for sure. I love going to the Boston Arnold Arboretum year-round — it’s like nature only friendlier. I am also a frequent visitor at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. They have old school displays — it’s like stepping into the 1950s — birds, primates, quadrupeds, some fossils. They also have an excellent collection of hedgehogs. Sometimes I’ll spend an afternoon in there sketching animals — those taxidermy animals make the best models.

C: Can you tell me a bit about your studio.

E: My studio is located around the corner from where I live here in the South End. I’m very lucky to have a studio in this (mostly) artist building. Twice a year we have Open Studios and all the artists’ studios are open to the general public. I think the building used to be a sewing machine factory. I like to think that I am continuing what’s left of American manufacturing.

I have an assistant who comes in to help me for a few hours twice a week. He helps me fill orders, get mailers out, make cards. Mostly it’s just me rattling around in my studio.

C: Besides my friends, the South End neighborhood is what I miss most about Boston. It is a very inspirational place.

E: The South End is a great neighborhood for artists. It feels very neighborhood-y by that I mean most of the residences are brownstones or townhouses and there is a profusion of small business — giving the South End a very intimate feeling. In a lot of ways it’s a lot like living in a small village – you recognize people on the street and befriend shop owners.

C: Do you ever look for trends to help you determine what you design.

E: Ugh, trends. It’s fine if you can start one but a real bummer if you feel like you have to design to address a trend. When I go to the National Stationery Show, I am torn between wanting to see all the “hot” designs and just wanting to put blinders on. I want to design based on my vision, not based on a trend. I don’t want to cloud my vision (which is constantly in need of focusing and shaping anyway) to be clouded by other designers’ and artists’ vision. I make a compromise: I look up designers’work that I admire in the spirit of healthy competition — I don’t want to replicate their efforts. The rest, I try to ignore.

The one thing I do pay attention to is business trends. It appears that the greeting card business is shrinking – more and more people tend to send e-greetings. This past holiday season, I had a corporate account choose to opt for an e-card instead of a traditional card. I’ve made a business decision to do more custom work – this involves personalized stationery, wedding invitations, birth announcements, etc.

C: How about any artists that you look to for inspiration?

E: I try to expose myself to the works of fine artists whose work may not necessarily translate into card designs. Take for example Ellsworth Kelly. What’s with all those shapes and colors? I look at his work and it reminds me to keep my aesthetic simple and to the point. I look at the fine craftsmanship of Japanese lacquer-ware and kimonos and am astounded by their simplicity and the harmony. I look at the stained glass windows at the (Boston’s South End) Cathedral of the Holy Cross and marvel at the thousands of separate pieces of glass coming together to form a unified, awe-inspiring effect.

I look at steel grates around trees on the sidewalk and think — that might make a cool quilt design.

I take visual inspiration wherever I can find it.

C: What is it one thing that you would like people to know about yourself?

E: I love making things. I hope the satisfaction and fulfillment I feel when I make a card transmits itself to the person who buys the card and the person who finally receives it. I feel so privileged when someone purchases my cards and invitations because I get to help them celebrate the special times in their lives. I get to be a part of people’s lives at their most thoughtful, most civil moments. It’s very humbling.

C + G: It has been so much fun hearing about your experiences and look forward to your future designs. We wish you continued success and happiness. Emily has a few places that you can see her designs, including: gallardoworks.etsy.com, and gallardoworks.com. Her custom invitation and announcement site is emilygallardo.squarespace.com. And, don’t forget to read her blog!

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Design Brothers News:
Christopher’s dinnerware can now be seen (above photo) at Hall’s in Kansas City, and the Tea Shop in Woodstock, NY. Also, his encaustic paintings can be seen at 13Forest Gallery in Arlington, MA.

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We hope you visit next week.

—Christopher and Greg

The Jagmins’ Big Adventure!

February 20, 2009

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Hawaii 2007 Not everyone in the family was able to attend, but, [1] Janine, [2] Greg, [3] Cindy, [5] Jeff, and [6] Christopher all went to the island of Oahu to see our niece, [4] Jessica graduate from high school.
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When we were all kids, we remember our parents waking us up out of bed at 4 or 5 in the morning. Still in our pajamas, rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, we would walk like zombies to our Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, pile in the back, and go back to sleep. With the seats down, and blankets and pillows laid out, we would all nap for a few more hours, in a big pile, like a pack of dogs.

Disoriented, we’d wake up driving on a highway or country road, miles from home. We were going on a trip! Our mother would pack up a cooler full of food and kool-aid, our clothes, games, and blankets. The back of that station wagon was a dressing room, a picnic area, a game room, and a bedroom.

Our family could not afford many big trips, and we stayed close to home for the most part. When we did go out of town we would always stay with relatives. We don’t remember ever staying at a hotel, and our father was not an outdoorsman, so we were not ones to set up a tent.

It didn’t matter how far away we went, being on the road was a great adventure. Our mother would sing in the front seat with the radio, while we all would wait for our favorite songs, so we could join in. Sweet Caroline! In the Year 2525! Indiana Wants Me!

The journey to our final destination was sometimes the most memorable part of the trip!

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Destinations 1962-1976 [1] South Bend was the starting point for all of our exciting trips. We would go to [2] Chicago about once a year for a big city adventure. During the summers we would often go to [3] Lake Michigan, the zoo at Michigan City, and many of the [5] pristine lakes in Southern Michigan. For our big trips, we would travel to [4] Cadillac, MI to visit our Uncle Chuck and Aunt Trudy (in all of our memories, the best of times and the longest time spent on any of our vacations). My father loved going to the [6] Ohio border to pick up fireworks for his annual Fourth of July party at our house. Once in awhile we would tag along with our dad down to [7] Indianapolis, when he had to travel there for business.
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Two Coasts. Three Days.
Travel has certainly changed for the two of us, and sometimes the journey is not as fun as it used to be. Bland, unexciting airports, or traffic jams on the highway have taken the fun out of getting to those final destinations, wherever that may be.

Over the Presidential holiday weekend, Greg and Christopher traveled to different cities. Greg flew south to Miami Beach, while Christopher drove west to San Diego.

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Miami’s new terminal opened about a year and a half ago, which has interesting fish sculptures on the walls and skeletal reliefs on the floors.
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Although both cities are very unique, they are also very similar. They are both beautiful ocean side cities with a vibrant urban and chic feel. Miami is one of the trendiest places in the US, while San Diego has more of a casual and laid-back vibe. San Diego is a perfect getaway for Arizonans looking to get away from the desert and see a bit of sand and surf. The scenery is very different compared to the desert, and it was nice to see rain while there.

Christopher went up to San Juan Capistrano. While too early for the swallows to return, the long drive was worth the trip. At the mission, he attended a Spanish mass service at the Mission Basilica, where a group of wonderful musicians played guitar and sang. The Spanish style architecture and painted walls added to the feeling that he might be in Mexico.

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Mission Basilica [1] San Raphael in the middle of a painted wall. [2] A repeated painted image on opposite walls.
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With beautiful gardens, fountains, and the oldest buildings still in use in California, this old Mission is a very inspiring place, to say the least.

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A quiet small place at the Mission away from the tourists.
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Of course, Christopher enjoyed some great inexpensive food at some of San Diego’s culinary landmarks. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in Little Italy was a great place for simple, good Italian fare. We waited for over an hour in a line that ran out the door, but met some funny people from New York, and Phoenix (of course). He also ate at Harry’s Coffee Shop in La Jolla for breakfast, and had the best tangerine juice that he’s ever tasted! Even though they are located all over Phoenix, on the way home, he had to stop at In-N-Out Burger. The vacation wasn’t over yet! Remember to enjoy that journey.

While Christopher was enjoying the rain on the California coast, Greg was soaking up the sun in Miami. The Everglades, just outside of Miami, is an amazing piece of real estate. Greg had fun biking through the Shark Valley Trails. Alligators were very evident on the 15 mile bike ride; close enough to touch in some instances. The alligators were a little frightening, strange, and incredibly beautiful creatures. Greg enjoyed seeing the lush swampland against the backdrop of a crystal clear blue sky.

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A new friend along a path through the everglades, although Greg did not stay to introduce himself.
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Later that evening Greg was lucky to meet one of the co-owners of Grass Restaurant, and the club, “The King is Dead”. She gave Greg a private tour, and Greg couldn’t help but notice the faux alligator floors in the restrooms (So cool! And no animals from the morning’s journey were injured along the way!). In addition, the incredible variety of tropical flowers throughout the restaurant, were simply amazing. Greg’s favorite inspiration for his indoor spaces is the outdoors, so he was very excited by this restaurant.

You can’t help but think how perfect nature balances itself, when you see the white sandy beaches against the blue-green water. We just love it when the sun hits the water and the colors glisten like jewels.

Greg also visited the James Deering Estate, which has been meticulously restored, after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew devastated the area. This 444 acre estate is home to some of the most beautiful plant life indigenous to the Miami area. The home also has access to Biscayne Bay, where manatees swim close to the shoreline.

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The Estate itself is a work of art, with craftsmanship you rarely see in homes today. The natural breezes flow through the home, from balconies to provide constant cooling, while the concrete walls help maintain this cool air. Very good design indeed.
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Invisible Design?
For many, it is getting harder to find pleasure in the journey these days. Traveling can be tiring and uninspiring. As we both traveled this past weekend, we found design everywhere. Whether we realize it or not, be it good, bad, ugly, or beautiful. It is defined by the eye of the beholder. It is in nature, on the streets of the city, below you, above you, and in your home. Even at the airport! It is taken for granted, and often times overlooked. We tend to notice badly designed spaces more often than a place that works well.

And, while we miss those bygone days when airports were smaller, when roads were narrower and a little more wandering, we can’t imagine a world without clean bathrooms, paved roads, and good signage. The next time you travel stop and think about finding your way through an airport to the baggage claim, to your choice of transportation, to your hotel, and finally, to your room. Was it easy? If you have to stop and spend time to think about the next step, there is something wrong.

We have a problem with public places where signage is missing, or not easy to find. If you can find where you are going without much difficulty, you have an incredible sense of direction, or more likely, have been moved along by smart designers.

Take a moment to notice the other things that make the trip memorable. Christopher and Greg rarely go anywhere without picking up a shell, a rock, a twig or just an idea to inspire our next project. Trips are a great way to recharge your mental and physical “batteries”. and they also leave indelible images in our heads; memories. Put these mental images to use in whatever you do, and especially when life is coming at you at 120mph. Shut your eyes for a few moments, and think of those places. You might be surprised by your newfound creative energy.

Wishing you all wonderfully safe travels.

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Design Brothers News This Week: Christopher’s Baja plates were mentioned in two blogs; the absolute materialist, and apartment therapy.
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Oh no. Another Friday.

February 13, 2009

Another blog!
Immediately after The Design Brothers blog comes out each Friday, there is a moment of panic from both us. What will we write in next week’s issue? Will anyone want to read about our thoughts, and our lives? We never know, but we’ll give it another Friday.

We try to be timely, and talk about our interests, and of course, talk to the two words that make up the blog’s name… design and brothers. We try to talk about what is going on with the two of us, and how we got to this point in our lives, with design as a backdrop.

So tomorrow is Valentines Day
Love, Amour, Amore, Sustantivo, however you say it, it all means the same. Oh, how we all love to love, and be loved too!

In this blog, Greg & Christopher get a chance to talk about the things they love, the design they love, and our families, our partners, our extended families, and the friends, (including, Mr.Jinx, Greg & Brian’s cat) that we love. We can’t get enough of hanging out with them on trips, or at home… dancing, and playing bocce ball or wii, … the list can go on and on.

It seems silly that we have to designate a day solely for the purpose of telling someone that you love them, but it is a great chance to remember those people that make us want to get up every day, and face the world again. So to you Mom, and the rest of the family, Cindy, Janine, Kelly, Beth, and Jeff, Larry, Amy, Kevin, Jessica, Alex, Abby, and Zoe, too. And also… Brian, Jack, Sue, our aunts and our uncles, to cousins and friends; we love you all!

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Happy birthday! We want to have a special shout out to our [1] Aunt Trudy (Valentine is her middle name!), who’s birthday is on the 14th. Shown in her old back yard with [2] Greg.
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The Jagmins love food!
We are very lucky to have all these fantastic people in our lives, and there is one thing that brings us all together. Food! We love to talk about it, we love to plan it, we love to make it together, and we love to eat it. When the Jagmins get together, it is all about cooking together, eating, cleaning up, and starting all over again!

We just think there is nothing better than having our family around the kitchen. We kind of all know where we belong there. All of us like to cook and do something well. Greg loves to make anything Italian, chicken parmesan, meatballs, and lasagna. He also makes adventurous ice creams. Christopher can make a mean soup… spicy butternut squash, white bean, and chicken noodle are some of his current favorites (from his homemade stock, he might add).

Cindy who is very organized, keeps time, and knows when the main course is perfect. She also can put together a meal from anything found in the house. Coming from Seattle, Jeff is the expert on fish. It is always the freshest, because he probably caught the meal, himself. Kelly makes an amazing breakfast. Her biscuits and gravy are to die for! Beth is the baker (her dream is to start a bakery, someday), and that is a good thing, as we all have a sweet tooth.

Janine is very important, as she is the best kitchen prep around. Our “Girl Friday”. It is funny, because she is an amazing cook at her own home, but she likes to let us do our thing. Our mom then keeps it all together. We are found often calling her on the phone for a recipe that we used to love.

Food for the masses!
We feel for our mom who had to cook daily for seven hungry and picky children. Dinner seemed to be a compromise. Our father hated spaghetti and chicken, but loved meatloaf. Greg didn’t like beet soup (but, then, who did?), Christopher didn’t like potatoes or meatloaf. Janine loved tomatoes, and not much else. The list was long and complicated.

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Barbecue in the park Mom [2] with our grandmother (our dad’s mom), Bella [1]. Good eating ahead!

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While some of had sports practice to attend, some of us worked at jobs (Greg and Christopher both worked in restaurants through high school!). Our father traveled from South Bend to Indianapolis during the week, when we were very young. So, we all ate at different times. We ended up with imaginative meals but were often hard pressed to find communal love.

Don’t get us wrong… our mom could cook well. Sunday dinners were usually amazing! We all loved her fried chicken, pork chops, city chicken (amazingly enough, there no chicken in this recipe!), and roasts. Her gravy was the most perfect combination of onions, cream and mushrooms.

Desserts were rare around the house. Jello was a treat which we got on the weekends. In the summers we would have watermelon, and occasionally ice cream. But, when my mother made a pie, she would use the freshest strawberries or cherries that we all picked in Michigan. Those pies were all made from scratch, and still make our mouths water.

Vegetable Desire
Looking back now, it seemed that our vegetables grew in cans. Very strange. Growing up in Indiana, one would assume that fresh vegetables were in abundance. We saw corn growing everywhere, and we were lucky when we got to have them grilled in the summer. But, the rest of the vegetable family didn’t find their way to our house very often. When they did, they were cooked within an inch of their existence. We assumed all vegetables were salty, limp, and kind of brown. From what we hear, it seems that a lot of our friends who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, experienced those same mushy veggies.

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Here are the results from our first Jagmin Family Survey. Artichokes and bananas won the hearts and stomachs of our family, as our favorite fresh foods.
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Designer Food?
We just think there is nothing better than having our family around the kitchen. It is funny, because the meal is almost secondary to the work to get to the table. The eating doesn’t take that long in our family. Sometimes the meal can take all day to make, and the meal itself can seem so short.

Dining is an art. We remember our mother placing a centerpiece of some kind on the table. Gladiolas were our mother’s favorite, and each Friday, our father bought them for her when they were in season. We remember that the gladiolas were very tall and dominated over the weekend table, but by Tuesday or so, they were cut short, and only the remaining flowering tops were placed in a little bowl of water.

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Sushi for 2 [1] Using his boy+girl plates, and found things around the house and yard, Christopher keeps this Valentine table simple, and inexpensive. Three small vases from Ikea for soy and hot sauces, center a bamboo table runner from Target. He usessimple porcelain cups that he found in San Francisco’s Japan Town, along with little butterfly wine glasses from Italy for drinks. A wooden bowl he made, along with a black glass plate made by his friend, Jane Tivol hold edamame and sushi rolls. [2} He wrote the words, “you” and “me” on two tags from Office Max. Votives, with rocks (for chopsticks) and leaves from his yard complete the table.
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Here are some tips that we try to bring to our kitchens.
Believe us, we don’t always succeed.

1. A well-designed kitchen runs much smoother. If everything has a place, it is essentially easier to find. Figure out how you work, and the items you use the most. Then put them all closest to the workspace. It saves a lot of time and effort.

2. Don’t panic! Things get lost, and tip #1 doesn’t always apply. Things run out. Food burns. Calm down, and think it through before starting to modify your recipe. We have ruined more meals by trying to salvage it, without thinking it out.

3. Buy the best of everything. Without good quality items, a good meal can go south rather quickly. It may cost a bit, more, but the food will taste better. A fresher egg, fresh basil, and just-ground hamburger tastes better than the alternatives. Have fun at the grocers. Squeeze that grapefruit! Smell that fish! It can be fun, and worth the effort.

4. Have balance. It helps to have a menu with compliments. Try something crispy, with a soft accent. Add some heat to something normally sweet. Surprises inspire conversation.

5. Presentation is underrated. If the table looks predictable, or uninspired, your guests may not want to try your food, even though it could be delicious. Keep it simple, but use things that are unexpected. Use branches or rocks from the yard. Find toys or family treasures around the house for a conversational piece. Hide notes under the plates, for an after dinner conversation.

6. Make sure the mood is set for the food. If you are having a romantic meal, candles need to be lit, and lights need to be dimmed. If you turn on the ipod, turn off the shuffle. You want interesting, but calming music. Leave Britney for your workouts.

7. The setting must be comfortable! We hate hard, or uncomfortable chairs! Put a cushion or small pillow on the chair. It will make your dining experience last longer, and not so painful.

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This dining room inspired by the colors of the the outdoors, is a work in progress for Greg’s client. Notice the calming, elegant, yet understated feel. [2] Italian chandelier vintage 1940’s, [1] 1920’s vintage Belgium sconces, [5] Dining tabletop custom wrapped green “Shagreen”, and [3] original Jansen Louis Style dining chairs. [4] Gold gilt mirror through Greg Jagmin Associates.
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A meal at your home can bring a little beauty to your day. Make up our own rules, make every meal an event (especially if you are eating alone!), and enjoy your food, friends and family at your table.

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This week: Christopher was mentioned on the blog: The Lacquered Peacock.

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Oxen and Groundhogs. Oh my!

February 6, 2009

Happy (Lunar) New Year! The Chinese Year of the Ox began on January 26, and the celebrations will continue until Monday, when the moon is at its brightest, and the Lantern festival concludes this holiday. This is good news for all of us, as this animal represents qualities that are much needed this year. The ox year represents a dependable, prosperous, and calm season. It is not a year to be outrageous. Those days are over for now. But, like the hard-working ox, good things can be achieved through sweat, patience and diligence.

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Lucky red. While in New York, Christopher stayed with his good friend, Susan. Her house celebrated the New Year of the [4] ox, with good luck representations. A [2] powerful, and sacred dragon dominates, surrounded by [3] red envelopes (with a single money note — so that the amount given is not known). These all ward off evil spirits for the lunar year. [1] Tangerines are symbolic of good luck, oranges represent wealth, and candies welcome guests and relatives.
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Another animal making his appearance is Punxsutawney Phil. He saw his shadow on Monday, which means that there will be six more weeks of winter. We, as a rule, do not follow this wise groundhog’s sightings, but the news of more winter doesn’t sit right with us (especially for Greg, who is located in icy Chicago!).

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Sunshine and shadows. Here we are at Deer Forest again. Not too happy this time. [1] Greg, [2] Cindy, [3] Christopher, [4] Pan, filling in for Jeff (still the baby of the family), [5] Kelly, [6] Janine, and [7] Beth. Looks like an exciting place, doesn’t it?
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This is where the ox can help. In general, the ox can be a stubborn character, but one who continues to work through extremely tough environments. So, this extra long winter shouldn’t be that tough for those who can be patient, and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Welcome to the reality of 2009, and the year of the ox. Spring is coming!

More signs of the times? We hope not!
Sometimes design and beautiful things are regarded as unimportant in the world, and so we were very sad to hear that one of our country’s great, small museums, and one of our favorite magazines are closing down because of financial problems. The Rose Museum, at Brandeis University, is a small jewel, and in our minds sets this university apart from others. Also, Domino Magazine has decided to fold after four years of promoting outstanding design because of a lack of advertising. It is one of our favorite design sources, and we are proud of the fact that Christopher’s plates were featured in the February, 2009 issue. We hear that in both cases, there is talk about keeping these two institutions running. It doesn’t look good for them but let’s hope that such inspirational sources can survive somehow. Beauty is even more important these days.

Steady as she (he?) goes!
Christopher has returned from the New York International Gift Fair. It was a very long, hard trip preparing for the week, and he is very glad it is over. Customers were more cautious on purchasing items, as the state of economy remains an unknown for most.

With the launch of his new business, Greg, understands the need for patience and perseverance. Getting and keeping clients that are more than satisfied, and over-delivered to, is always his goal. In these times, clients expect even more, and keeping them happy is even harder, and as always, very important.

Greg: Not knowing much about the Chinese New Year I “googled” it to learn a bit more. I learned that people who were born in this year are some of the best people one can have as colleagues in the work place. They are believed to possess strong work ethics and display their creative side as well. They are especially good artists and decorators. Some well know “oxen” are Vincent Van Gogh, Walt Disney, and Charlie Chaplin.

People born of any of the twelve Chinese signs can learn from years gone by, but can also learn from the other animals of the Chinese calendar. They are not set in their “sign”… they can adjust to accommodate the here and now.

The same premise holds true when approaching design, whether working on your own home or on the design for a client, as I do on a regular basis. You must look back to what has worked and what has not. Over the years I have learned to look beyond the immediate past. I take the preconceived notion of what something looks like now, and try to find its hidden potential. Like the ox, one must be patient and willing to find the hidden potential in all things, while applying those lessons learned from the past.rams-head-chair-2………………………………………………..
These photos represent a flea market find that was in horrendous shape. The paint job on it was chipping and poorly done, a leg was broken and the fabric falling apart. [1] Here is the half-way point of the process. The chair was stripped, ready to be stained, and reupholstered. [2] We think it turned out magnificently!
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G: Tell me how was the trip overall? What sort of people were at this years’ event?

Christopher: The traffic was slow, and cautious. Not as many people traveled to the show, as they did last August. But as always, the people I met were really fantastic, and there was amazing design found all around.

I was fortunate to meet Julie Belcher of Yee-Haw Industries. I have admired Yee-Haw’s work for many years now, so it was an honor to chat with her and see the new work. They are expert letterpress artists, and they design beautiful calendars, cards, and posters. They also do a lot of handcrafting of these pieces for a final unique look.

I also chatted with Patch NYC’s, Don Carney — a truly talented and nice man. He and his partner, John Ross, make beautiful illustrated pieces and put these images onto pillows and other home goods. I loved that both of their mothers, made some of the handmade embroidered pieces at the show. I am always attracted to simple handmade pieces, and these two exhibitors really stood out for me.

In addition I spent my five plus days across the aisle from the booth of an amazing Columbian company, Galena Orfebres. Aida, the company designer, has a beautiful collection, which is all produced by local Columbian craftspeople.

These shows can be exhausting. But when you can meet such talented, interesting and nice people, it is a lot easier.

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Items from the show
[1] Various ink drawings from Don Carney
at PatchNY, [2] Water pitcher from Galena Orfebres, and [3] letterpress mini prints with envelopes from Yee-Haw Industries.
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G: What about your work. How was it received?

C: I was lucky enough to have some pieces selected by the New York Fair to be presented downstairs in the special “Sustainable” section. This was a selected exhibit of earth-friendly pieces, shown in the lobby of the Javits Center. The display of my recycled plates brought a lot of curiosity seekers to my booth, and helped me to get them to see my other work.

I also introduced my new Silhouette plates for the first time and they were well received. The Newark Museum one of my new customers, is the first store to carry them.

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New little Silhouette plates from Christopher Jagmin Design Some of the new character plates include: [1] Miss Dee, [2] Holly, [3] Spike, and [4] Rico.
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My booth worked out very well. I talked a bit about it last week in this blog, and I frankly was a little worried that it was too wacky. It was that and more. But it made people smile, and got them to stick around awhile to talk with me. My booth stood out especially as exhibitors were being very conservative this season. Frankly, usually interesting some booths, were a little on the boring side this time.

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Booth 3645 A view of the booth in New York City.
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I have learned that it helps to have a powerful environment, but to be careful about not overpowering the product. I’ll be the first to admit that it might have been a little distracting. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, but I am glad that it worked as well as it did.

G: I think that is a problem with homes too. Too many powerful pieces can distract.

C: Oh, I agree. It is such a fine line. Those big ideas are so tempting, and you want them to work out so much, that it is hard to see where you went wrong.

G: My advice to anyone who is looking to make changes within their home is to stop and take a breath before they begin. The biggest mistake people make, is to buy the first thing they see and fall in love with. What inevitably happens is that the room is designed with a piece that is the wrong size, the wrong color, or looks completely different once it gets home. Be patient, and take your time to get a plan together so that you avoid mistakes that may cost you more money than they are worth.

Hopeful
Many great things are happening for both of us, but it is not new found success. It has taken many years, many missteps and a myriad of errors. We preserve, because we love what we do and love sharing it with people around us. We make mistakes but have learned along the way to act more like the ox, and keep pushing forward, as we know if we give up we fail. Failure is not an option! Look beyond your shadow, and have a great week!

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We had a good week with some blog mentions: Chicago Home Magazine, Mrs. Blandings, Neutral Dwelling, Semigloss Chic, and Design Champagne all noticed us! Cool.
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Christopher & Greg


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