The false Don S. Shoemaker biography exposed

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Furthermore to the unfortunate Don S. Shoemaker exhibition of fakes, forgeries and attributions at the Mexico City Museo de Arte Moderno, I will share with you some anecdotal occurrences that I discovered when I went through the reading of the exhibition catalogue:

Among many pages of boring, mediocre and irrelevant data combined with an obvious lack of knowledge about the designer´s life and his oeuvre, the curator & writer of the catalogue presents a bizarre fabricated biography, misrepresenting events and misleading the reader completely about our designer´s personality and his spirit. I have picked some extracts from the biography (literally translated into English from the Spanish text), with my comments to each paragraph:

“Don Stanley Shoemaker Lohr (Nebraska, U.S.A., 22.01.1919 – Morelia, Michoacan, 20.05.1990) studied Art at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, with the help of his uncle Edwin Perkins (creator of the famous flavored beverage KOOL AID, one of the first soluble powders in the commercial food industry ambit). Later he enrolled into the Navy, to the 15th Engineer Combat Battalion; he was part of the historic Battle of Normandy at the Beach of Utah, one of the bloodiest fronts in the war, experience that would leave a lifetime mark on him. He was made prisoner by the Germans and sent to a Concentration Camp in France; by the end of 1945 he was liberated by General´s George Patton 3rd regiment. He was awarded with the Purple Heart and the Victory Cross.”

Historical WW II events:

  • Don was captured by Nazi Germany while serving in France, but the POW camp where he was sent to was not in France, it was located in Germany. George S. Patton on the other hand, set up in March of 1945 a secret and controversial task force called “Task Force Baum”, which was given the task of penetrating 50 miles behind German lines and liberating the POWs in camp OFLAG XIII-B, near Hammelburg (close to the camp where Don was held POW). Controversy surrounds the true reasons behind the mission, which may have been simply to liberate Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters, taken captive in Tunisia in 1943. The result of the mission was a complete failure; of the roughly 300 men of the task force, 32 were killed in action during the raid and only 35 made it back to Allied-controlled territory, with the remainder being taken prisoner.

Verified historical data:

  • Don was not liberated by George S. Patton´s 3rd regiment. Don received the Victory Cross, which was granted to all American WW II soldiers, however, he never was awarded with the Purple Heart Medal.

The biographical research work made by the MAM´s curatorial team was less than professional, historical events were deliberately distorted. Was the idea to write an entertaining novel or is it just a literary forgery with a fabricated biography of an artist, presented as a fact?

Text: “An unavoidable first question to make is: ¿How does Don Shoemaker arrive to Mexico and why he settles down in Morelia? By the end of the war Edwin Perkins inherited the stocks of KOOL AID to him, at the time that it was sold to GENERAL FOODS. This would allow him in the future to keep re-investing stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses (from General Motors to Opal Mines in Australia), but above all, at that moment Shoemaker was able at last to dispose of sufficient capital to embark upon his dream of traveling through Latin America. Although he would not get too far, because same as happened to many other travelers in our country, like Edward James or Frank Kyle, he felt in love with Mexico and very soon settles down in Morelia together with his wife Barbara. By 1947 he established a wood button factory.”

The historical evidence:

  • The Perkins Products Company & Packit Envelope and Bag Company were exchanged for nearly 250,000 shares of General Foods stock in 1953. After the General Foods sale, Edwin and Kitty Perkins (Kitty´s maiden name was Shoemaker, she was Don´s aunt) established foundations for philanthropic purposes. After Edwin E. Perkins death in 1961, the family suffered through a challenge to the probate of his estate. However, this unpleasantness was settled out of court by the family, and Mrs. Kitty Perkins took over the reins of the philanthropies.

The coming down to earth reality:

  • Don did not inherit any Kool-Aid stocks, nor did he re-invest stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses. He made the SEÑAL, S.A. company from scratch through hard work and sacrifice. Aunt Kitty however helped Don in the 1960’s with the funding for the purchase of a state-of-the-art factory equipment.
  • Don and Barbara arrived to San Miguel de Allende, Gto. in 1947, not to Morelia.

Note: the writer has very little knowledge on when and where Don and his wife Barbara settled down when they arrived in Mexico. The MAM vehemently claimed that the field investigation performed by their curatorial team was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on an IMMENSE photographic archive that the family owns, and also supported by a far bigger archive, which evidently was useless, right? As I have already stated in my previous post on this issue, the immense photographic archive that allegedly the curator´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalogue flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A.

Text: “Towards 1950 Shoemaker founded the SEÑAL, S.A. factory and starts to experiment in furniture design and manufacturing, although, due to a workers strike in 1955 he closes the factory and temporarily moves to New York. In 1960 Shoemaker comes back to Michoacan, to settle down for the rest of his life in Santa María de Guido, by that time a far suburb of the City of Morelia. There he re-assumes the furniture production, also he will start the production of complex marquetry wood floors; he began taking control over the early chain of production of the sawmill, and he takes advantage of it to export tropical hardwoods. This is the consolidation point of his most emblematic work: he designs furniture non stop, increasing his sales catalogue at the same time that he improvises the quantity of unique pieces, he creates the Sling Chair, his most iconic piece and starts using the wood remnants to manufacture the gifts line and smaller utility objects (like office articles, kitchen utensils, jewel boxes, ashtrays, buttons, etc.).”

“For several years the sawmill (part of the factory) prepared complete trunks and planks of precious tropical hardwoods for delivery to other parts of the world, like ongoing lots of cocobolo to Japan.”

Not actually the case, quite another story:

  • Don and Barbara arrived in Santa Maria de Guido in 1951, however, the company SEÑAL, S.A. was not established until 1960. Shoemaker never used his sawmill for mass hardwoods export, the sawmill´s purpose was to provide the woods supply used for the SEÑAL, S.A. furniture production only.  Don never exported any tropical wood planks and or trunks around the world. In fact, he always had a hard time trying to get the necessary hardwoods (specially cocobolo) for his studio line furniture designs. Sometimes, there was a scarcity of almost a year for the supply of tropical hardwoods, so, why would he sell entire lots of planks and trunks to Japan???

Our lousy biography author did not understand at all the furniture production process at SEÑAL, S.A. and its daily challenges.

Text: “Until the end of the 1970’s he is consumed by his work, while every day at 16:00 hrs. sharp he paints, (his heirs keep about 70 paintings, almost all of them in a medium size), practice that until the late 1980´s he exercised as a dilettante, at the same time as the serigraphy; the copies where on sale also at the SEÑAL, S.A. store (his family keeps at least 18 different proposals or graphics between lithography and serigraphy, besides some drawings). Compared to his furniture designs and his wood sculptures, most of Shoemaker´s paintings do not show any personal style nor do they carry any distinguishable evolution, it seems that his production was more hobby oriented and was inspired from other artists or movements to the point to imitate them openly, although generating an eclectic corps of paintings, they reveal a very cultivated curiosity for the painting history. This is how he made his version of the surrealistic “Vasos Comunicantes” from Diego Rivera or reinterprets the “Three Graces Myth”, being able to transit from a maternity of impressionist execution to a lyric abstraction, going through very naive mystic scenes, abject monstrosities, geometric-sized vegetable patterns, religious scenes of strong expressionism or picturesque landscapes.”

The closer truth:

  • Among many other activities, Don had been teaching painting & drawing for years at the “University Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo”, Mexico.

Our false biography writer notes that Don´s painting production was hobby oriented. Mmmmm. We should not forget about the fact that Don studied painting at the Fine Arts Institute in Chicago. However, our writer completely overslept that part, he only discovered that Don studied “Art”.

Text: “When Don Shoemaker died of an hearth attack in 1990, (even though he suffered from Parkinson for a long time before, which explains why his signature was not always the same), his son George gave continuity to the factory (to whom, together with his grandchildren Stanley and George Jr. he had already donated since 1988 the company´s stocks). George would produce new series (although limited) from old prototypes of his father, he would re-adapt some others in format (for example armchairs that Don had conceived for 1 person, George would develop the 2 and 3-seater versions) and he would design a few new objects himself, many of them marketed under the label “Arrendadora Shoemaker”, which specifies “Produced and/or designed by Shoemaker”, besides the complete address of the factory in Santa Maria de Guido. George died young in the year 2005, and even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion.”

The absolute truth:

  • Don did not suffer from Parkinson´s disease, nor did he die of an hearth attack. That story was invented by the writer to explain certain signature differences on some of the drawings, after I presented the evidences to the INBA Director for all Museums, as well as the Secretary of Culture in Mexico, the MAM Director and the involved curator, of course.
  • Back in 1988 Don´s two grandchildren both were under-aged. When Don passed away in 1990 the SEÑAL, S.A. company was donated to his children and business partner.
  • George R. Shoemaker, Don´s only son, took over the business after Don passed away. Some time later, the SEÑAL, S.A. company was liquidated and George R. Shoemaker continued producing many of Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs under the ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER label. George did not re-adapt Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs into 2 and 3-seater versions, he deeply respected his father´s furniture designs.
  • Interesting confession: “even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion. Isn´t this explanation a clear acceptance to the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture?

Again, here we have some remarkable biographical inconsistencies and misinterpretations of the truth. The “field investigation” or even better, “field day” investigation performed by the MAM curatorial team shown at its best! Besides all the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. published in the catalogue, we also have been graced with a false Don S. Shoemaker biography.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker at Museo de Arte Moderno 2016 vs. Museo de Arte Moderno 1975

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Cover of the 1975 MAM catalog “Exposición Retrospectiva y Prospectiva de Diseño Mexicano”Beloved Don,

After more than 20 years of hard work, in the year 1975 you finally made it to Mexico´s Modern Art Museum (MAM) with some furniture pieces in the collective exhibition “Exposición Retrospectiva y Prospectiva de Diseño Mexicano”. 41 years later they have become iconic design works and proof of a beautiful mind; at the time it was already a legacy to the world and to the handcrafted and industrial design. During the next 15 years you kept developing restlessly new designs that nowadays we know as your heritage to humankind. In 1975, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico (MAM) was Fernando Gamboa, first historiographer in Mexico and he has also been judged by history for his impeccable work (your lives were almost parallel, you both passed away in 1990 and he was 5 years older than you, furthermore, you two shared a real passion for honest work and perfection and were pioneers in your area of expertise and most relevant, none of you were affected by a pressing need of fame). You as well as other designers were fortunate enough to work with him like your partners in this exhibition: Po Shun Leong, Genaro Alvarez, Pal Kepenyes, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Horacio Durán, etc. and many other artists through his life.

View of the exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1975

Good old days in which the IMCE (Instituto Mexicano de Comercio Exterior) and other institutions were involved in funding this type of exhibitions and the Secretaria de Educación Pública was interested in promoting the work of different artists as their final goal, and not making obscure alliances with commercial purposes like the ones we are witnessing in our times.

Unfortunately the news that I bring to you today are bad, but as you can remember since we met for the first time, the deal was to tell you the truth even when I did not like one of your sketches for a piece of furniture, jewelry or any other object.

So here we go:

MUSEO DE ARTE MODERNO 2016 “Don S. Shoemaker Diseño Artesanal e Industrial

Invitation Museo de Arte Moderno to the Don S.Shoemaker exhibition (2016)

I will try to explain as succinct as possible the development of the wrong doing of the “family”.

In my website (launched in 2010, as you know) I started to denounce forgeries, attributions and copies like the “X-Chair”, some “Diamond” desks, two “Day Bed” models, and several tables of the “Parsons Line” (the “family” and the curator do not even know that this particular design, the original one, is a table, not a desk, and that it belongs to the Parsons Line) which by the way, one of them, a relative uses as her desk and commercialized it under that category.

During the last 7 years they have been trying to remain in a comfort zone in which a lot of people know who is producing all these abject monstrosities so I had been busy consulting different auction houses, 1stdibs.com, etc. and I have tried to maintain the Don S. Shoemaker furniture market controlled and away from many other things that the “family” have been producing lately, that, of course, these pieces do not belong to the SEÑAL, S.A. catalog.

In 2014, Iñaki, curator for the Modern Art Museum (MAM) in Mexico City contacted me to ask if a small piece of wood that he called an “abstract sculpture” that carried a fake “Don S. Shoemaker” label was original. I explained to him the motifs and reasons why it was a fake and in return, he decided to contact the “family”. Of course, they authorized the piece as “an original” and there began the great expectations of both parties. The same offer that Iñaki made to me of an exhibition at the MAM, that I refused, was made now to them. Iñaki with the purpose of self-glorification becoming THE DILETTANTE curator of Don S. Shoemaker and the “family” finding a way to authenticate the trash they have been selling.

In 2015 during the month of June, the DS exhibition was announced to take place concomitant to the DESIGN WEEK MEXICO event in October 2015. I had a brief conversation with the MAM´s director and she decided to postpone the exhibition to a future date. I guess at this moment they did not have the back-up of the patrons of DESIGN WEEK, whom by the way own a furniture and interior design showroom named BLEND.

In 2016, a leak of information about the programming of a DS exhibition at the MAM concurrent with DESIGN WEEK MEXICO 2016, enlightened me of the pieces that they were already preparing to show as “DS original production”. At that very moment I decided to contact the Secretary of Culture of Mexico. I prepared more than enough evidence to proof the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and unfortunately lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture that they claimed were originals, prototypes, unique pieces, numbered pieces, signed and limited editions, and many other appellatives that in conjunction with Iñaki and his curatorial team were ready to authenticate and present at this exhibition.

So my pilgrimage started with the Director of International Affairs at the Secretaria de Cultura de México. Then the INBA Director; she set up a meeting with the Director of all Museums in Mexico, including the MAM´s director and Iñaki. By the way, I have the recordings of all the meetings in which they claimed that the field investigation performed by Iñaki was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on the immense photographic archive that the family owns and preserved in perfect condition, and supported by a far bigger archive of I do not know what, because evidently it was of no use. I told to all these people that the immense photographic archive that allegedly Iñaki´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalog flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A., now on display at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the museum. I coined the term “field trip investigation” to refer to the work of Iñaki. I was right!

At that moment I thought that with all the evidence that I presented, among others: letters of collectors outraged by the flood of forgeries, fakes and attributions, treasure hunters who instead of treasure witnessed the production in 2010 and 2012 of different furniture pieces (now on display at the MAM), and letters of people who bought for example the so called “X-Chairs”, claiming that they were deceived, some others from galleries that had to return the money to their clients, etc. and sustained by all the respect that I had for the Secretaria de Cultura, in my candidness, I thought that they were going to evaluate the situation and realize that after being exposed Mr. Iñaki the way I did, and after having exposed the dates, models and recent production of the “family” I was going to get a favorable verdict and that the name of Don S. Shoemaker and his legacy would have remained unspotted, far from the mud and more important, unrelated to all the felonies, lies and stupidity of Iñaki and company. Of course, the issue of the MAM´s involvement as a main player in the launching and marketing of the heir´s plagiarism designs was a main discussion theme with all the Secretaria de Cultura people and time gave me the reason. SO SAD…

So sad, because the exhibition of what was supposed to be your work opened last Wednesday October 5th with full endorsement from all the people of the Secretaria de Cultura, and to my deepest and sincere discomfort I was right, from all the furniture pieces shown at the MAM maybe there are 4 or 5 that were produced by SEÑAL, S.A. And the worst part is that with no credentials at all, the grandchildren (I do not know if you remember them, but they are the little kids that you saw time after time), using the line “my grandfather was Don S. Shoemaker”, now they made it to show some pieces with the help of Mr. Iñaki, who is far from being a reliable curator to the point in which I will quote his words:“se habló con ex trabajadores que aún viven, que trabajaron con Don que ayudaron a fechar y a deducir los tipos de madera exacta de los muebles en las fotografías”. That´s what the Secretaria de Cultura called an academic investigation!???? At least, Iñaki mentioned on the Exhibition´s Acknowledgement List the name of the only ex-worker who helped him to date and deduce from a photography the exact wood species used in the depicted piece of furniture, and by extension, of course, the newly made ones.

New desk showed at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the MAM (2016)

The X-Chair exhibited at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the Modern Art Museum, Mexico City (2016)

But guess what, today you can see an “interpretation” of Don S. Shoemaker´s Sling Chair on sale at BLEND store made by Stanley, that’s what I call appropriation! You will also find at the MAM´s DS exhibition a “desk”, the new “Sling Chair” and the “X-Chair”, as well as the “Diamond Desk” that I denounced and many pieces produced in the last 5 years that carry a description card like the one that describes the chair used for the wallpaper and the invitation to the exhibition in which you can read: “Don S. Shoemaker, Silla Años 1960 (ensamblada en 2016 con partes originales, tapizada en 2016) Granadillo. Colección Familia Shoemaker. Esta pieza fue revisada por técnicos especialistas del CENCROPAM y de la Escuela de Artesanías del INBA en Septiembre, 2016”

Depicted chair on the invitation - shown at the exhibition (2016)

I have a question for you, Mr. Iñaki: if the grandson of a novelist publishes under his name exactly the same text of one of his grandfather´s novels but written only in capitals, how would you call it, a reinterpretation or a simple and clear appropriation? Or is this one of the liberties that you can indulge yourself, that of course Mr. Fernando Gamboa would never have approved. But I have a confession to make to Mr. Iñaki: I am a little bit jealous of his exhibition because during the last 7 years, as I said, I have been unsuccessful to make this overwhelming exposé of the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. that you have been able to put together under the roof of the MAM. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You managed to orchestrate the perfect exposé and I give you all the credits.

P.S.: Please tell George Richard that due to his absence (how convenient), now he is being blamed for all the recent production, for example the “Salas Elefante”, sold in auction in 2010 and most of the reproductions on display at the MAM´s exhibition. Hugs and kisses for you two guys as always!

Warm Regards,

Karin

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

ZONA MACO visitors captivated by Don S. Shoemaker designs

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ZONA MACO Salón del Anticuario 2014 first edition was presented in Mexico City last month. I happened to be visiting the city during those days and I decided to check on this new Antiques Show. My adventure definitively paid off! Even tough the exhibition area was rather small, my attention was immediately captured by one of the participating galleries who had an amazing collection of Don S. Shoemaker´s furniture pieces and accessories on display.

Don Shoemaker´s overwhelming presence at Zona MACO

Don Shoemaker´s iconic furniture as seen at Zona MACO-Salón del Anticuario 2014

Modernist Don Shoemaker’s stole the show in Zona MACO with this Bar Set

I also found this sample of William Spratling’s superb work in silver from the 1940’s, a wooden box containing these 12 silver goblets, intact, never used, with its original wrapping paper…

An amazing set of 12 William Spratling Silver Goblets (1940’s)

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.
@donshoemaker.com

Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 4

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William Spratling was an American-born silversmith and artist, best-known for his influence on 20th century Mexican silver design. He established a model for the artistic development and growth of the silver industry in Taxco and deserves the title “Father of Contemporary Mexican Silver”.

Spratling visited Mexico for the first time in 1926. He returned for summers over the next several years, and in 1929, he finally moved to Mexico. He quickly integrated himself into the Mexican art scene and became a friend and a strong proponent of the work of muralist Diego Rivera, for whom he organized an exhibition at the MoMA in New York. Using money received from commissions he organized for Rivera, Spratling purchased a home in Taxco, southwest of Mexico City. In 1931, the US Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow, suggested to Spratling that the city of Taxco had been the site of silver mines for centuries, but had never been considered a location where jewelry and objects of silver were designed and made. Subsequently, Spratling hired an experienced goldsmith from Iguala who moved to Taxco and created silver jewelry of Spratling’s design. Other craftsmen joined Spratling’s shop and produced tin ware, copper items, textiles and furniture – all designed by Spratling. These earliest designs were based on pre-Columbian motifs as well as simple themes utilizing rope borders, strap designs and other such basic ideas. He often adopted the stylized animal motifs found in Mexican pottery and incorporated native materials such as amethyst and rosewood into his designs. The workshop grew far beyond Spratling’s expectations… By 1940 Spratling employed 300 artisans and Taxco had become a major tourist destination for those seeking silverwork. He began to export silver items to U.S. department stores including Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Saks. Ironically, the 1940’s boom in Taxco silver production ultimately led to the downfall of Spratling’s company “Spratling y Artesanos”, which by 1946 went out of business. In 1951 Spratling founded a new company—William Spratling, S.A. and continued to work throughout the 1950’s and ’60’s. His designs were also produced by the Conquistador Company in Mexico City for a couple of years.

When talking about Spratling´s highly appreciated furniture designs, Marilyn Monroe was among the celebrities that purchased his furniture pieces. Spratling’s silver designs have always been copied but now, perhaps because of the higher prices Spratling’s name commands I have seen an increasing number of William Spratling attributed furniture pieces.

Don S. Shoemaker is in my opinion the most remarkable representative of Mexico Modernism furniture design. Don and his wife Barbara settled down in Santa Maria Guido, Morelia in 1951. Don began producing wooden items, including jewelry pieces, hand carved bowls and decorative accessories, as well as some early rustic furniture designs made from hardwoods grown in the local mountains. The first couple of years were less than easy and in 1955 the Shoemakers were forced to leave the country; their small enterprise became a cooperative which soon after was closed. Their life project continued when the Mexican government invited them to return to Morelia and the furniture workshop SEÑAL, S.A. was founded.

Don left us an unrivaled aesthetic legacy through his furniture designs; he developed his very own identity and style which remained evolving throughout his whole career maintaining the principles of high quality hand-craftsmanship and the intensive use of native Mexican exotic woods. His organic forms were unmatchable by any other furniture designer of his time. During his more than 3 decades of dedicated work Don designed a significant number of iconic furniture masterpieces, all produced in hardwoods, which he favored for their inherent strength, durability and magnificent beauty:

•Organic designs: the most unique “Scissor” Sling chair (an armchair with folding braces), his “Sloucher” and “Swinger” Sling chairs.

•Rectilinear designs: the “Parsons Line” including suites for every room.

•Coffee table designs: the “Cuerno”, “Sling” and “Descanso” coffee tables.

•Dining room set designs: the “Sling” dining room set, cabinets and sideboards.

•Lounge and living room designs: the “Descanso” set and the “Pernos” Lounge set.

•Progressive designs: the famous stack-laminated “Diamond” desk and tables.

Below are some pictures from my personal Don S. Shoemaker collection, a look into the Shoemaker mood when you have a home completely furnished by our master:

Don´s heir, George R. Shoemaker, takes over the company in 1990, after Don passed away. However the decision was taken to liquidate the company SEÑAL, S.A. and George formed a new firm with the name “ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER”. George continued reproducing Don´s designs under this new label; he improved some of Don´s furniture lines and he developed some own new furniture designs. One of George´s masterpieces are his iconic Bar Sets produced in cueramo, he only made a limited edition of 5 of them. However, I will not present at this time any pictures of this magnificent Bar Set to avoid future forgeries.

Unfortunately, George´s health declines extremely fast and production activity goes to almost zero. George passes away and the workshop finally closes in the early 2000’s. Many George R. Shoemaker furniture pieces are copied and sold as “Don S. Shoemaker originals” not recognizing George´s talent and contribution to his Dad´s work. He was a great designer by his own right. He had a restless mind and he also experimented in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and even English XIX Century styles.

Po Shun Leong is an artist, former architect, sculptor and furniture maker. Of Chinese origin, Leong was born in London and lived in Mexico for 15 years. He arrived in Mexico in 1964. For several years, he practiced architecture, designing a series of large furniture stores, residences and commercial exhibitions. He developed many furniture designs and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Knoll International Furniture Competition, 2 Gold Medal Awards for fiberglass furniture in the IMCE, (Mexican Export Competition) and two 1st prizes in the low cost furniture competition.

In the early 1980’s the Leong family immigrated to Southern California. He set up a studio in his garage to produce prototypes and taught himself woodworking. He became known since the late 1980’s for his highly intricate and inspiring one-of-a-kind wood boxes that have been enthusiastically acquired and are in many museum collections. Po Shun has created at least a 1000 boxes and one-of-a-kind furniture objects. Lately he has been experimenting with bent plywood forms to produce affordable furniture.

I already published some posts on Po Shun Leong’s stay in Mexico, and his friendship with Don S. Shoemaker (see Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong Parts 1 & 2 and Mexican Design exhibition at the MAM in 1975 – Part #3).

…to be continued in part # 5

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker: A Craftsman’s Legacy

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Don passed away in May 1990. He left us an unrivaled aesthetic legacy through his remarkable furniture designs, now becoming modern classics sought after by collectors, galleries, auction houses and individuals worldwide. Apparently the intrinsic value of the woods used in the production (some of them now extinct) is something that they are starting to realize and evidently is sparking the boom of this search not to mention the value of the design, production and hand-craftsmanship compared to prices that have reached pieces from novel designers of stack-laminated wood, sold in $ 7,000 USD for a centerpiece making Don´s production of solid wood so attractive to them.

His furniture designs from the 1960’s and 1970’s are becoming important examples of 20th century design. He developed his own identity and style which remained evolving throughout his whole career maintaining the principles of high quality hand-craftsmanship and the intensive use of solid native precious woods. Don´s work has been included in many national and international art and design exhibitions held at renowned galleries and museums like the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) in Mexico City.

During his more than three decades of dedicated work Don designed a significant number of iconic furniture masterpieces, all produced in exotic hardwoods, which he favored for their inherent strength, durability and magnificent beauty:

  • Organic designs: the most unique “Scissor” Sling chair (an armchair with folding braces), his Sling “Sloucher” and “Swinger” chairs.
  • Progressive designs: the famous stack-laminated “Diamond” desk and table
  • Rectilinear designs: the “Parsons Line” including suites for every room in your house
  • Unmatchable coffee table designs: the “Cuerno”, “Sling”, “Elephant” Lounge and “Descanso” coffee tables.
  • Dining room set designs: the “Sling” dining room set, cabinets and sideboards
  • Lounge and living room designs: the “Descanso” set and “Pernos” Lounge set

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Shoemaker´s work at Zona MACO 2011

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I was busy in Paris checking out a wonderful desk from my favorite 20th century French Art Deco designer, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann when the Mexican Contemporary Art Fair Zona MACO 2011 was taking place in Mexico City from April 6-10, 2011. Of course, I counted on my readers to keep me informed on the highlights of this event and I was amazed by the great amount of comments on the exhibition and pictures that I received on furniture pieces displayed by Mexican and international design galleries in the “ZonaMACO Diseño” pavilion. Interestingly, Don S. Shoemaker´s work was represented at 3 out of the 10 participating galleries in this pavilion…

My attention was captivated by these rare Don S. Shoemaker Lounge chairs that were exhibited by one of the participating galleries:

The “Pernos” Lounge chair was one of Don´s experimental chair designs from the 1960’s when most designers of the time were using welded steel–rod body and frame like Harry Bertoia, Herman Miller and some others became fond of plywood beginning with the Eames passing by Sori Yanagi, Carlo Mollino and last but not least the extensive use by some other designers of fiberglass. As a matter of fact he used to try to find answers in wood to BAUHAUS designs in tubular steel or aluminum. (He also developed an interpretation from the De Stijl, the famous zigzag chair of Garrit Rietveld). Don´s innovative “Pernos” lounge chair had a complicated and very precise assembly process, each chair´s manufacture was personally supervised by him; they were produced during a limited period of time in small quantities. He was not necessarily extremely fond to linear designs, these chairs became exclusive collection pieces to his passionate followers.

Some of Don´s classic Sling furniture pieces were nicely presented by other galleries as well, unfortunately I also recognized a new copy that I had already brought to light last year in my post “AAD – Appearances are deceptive“, related to new Don S. Shoemaker copies. For those of you who visited Zona MACO 2011 you will discover the unlucky copy right away!

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Mexican Design exhibition at the MAM in 1975 – Part #3

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Po Shun Leong´s story (Part #3) on his acquaintance with Don S. Shoemaker in Mexico since the 1960’s and how this friendship impacted his career.

So, how did Po Shun Leong come to Mexico? Here is his humorous narrating:

“It was a serendipitous accident. Actually I was not sure where the country was, as it was not part of the former British Empire. We were mostly taught about the British colonies then. My (high) school in England was run by Quakers. They were involved in many social projects. After college the American Friends Service Committee asked me to volunteer in constructing a community building for the Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine. I replied “Send me anywhere else but Maine.” So they sent me to Mexico to live in a remote village in Tlaxcala on the side of “La Malinche” mountain. There was no water, electricity or road. I lived for a year with the volunteers, helping to build a 110 meter deep well by hand, a library, a bridge, veterinary services. The local priest called us communists in his church sermon and the police did a raid in search of drugs, but none of us smoked or consumed alcohol and the villagers supported our presence and taught us some Nahuatl. I became padrino to several children. This experience was THE introduction to Mexico.

I worked in the Cultural section of the Olympics. I was assisting Susana Esponda, Director from the Festival de “Pintura Infantil”. Children from participating countries came to Mexico to paint large murals that were exhibited along el Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Pedro Ramirez Vazquez took a close interest in this event. We used to practice painting methods and display in the patio of the architect’s home in El Pedregal with guidance from the muralist Jose Chavez Morado.”

And here are some interesting images from the Exhibition of Contemporary Furniture that Po Shun Leong helped to install with Prof. Alfonso Soto Soria in the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) back in 1975 whilst living in Mexico.

Side by side Po Shun Leong and Don S. Shoemaker presented some of their furniture pieces at this 1975 “Exposición de Diseño Mexicano” in the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM), Mexico City. Here you can see Don S. Shoemaker´s wood furniture and some of Po Shun Leong´s contemporary fiber-glass chairs:

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong–Part #2

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Po Shun Leong´s interesting story (Part #2) on how he met Don S. Shoemaker in Mexico since the 1960’s and how this friendship influenced his career:

In 1981 we left Mexico and settled in California just before the deep recession began. It was as though life had stopped still. I lost contact with Don.

In California I began making little functional band sawn boxes from off-cuts or locally found wood, like Don’s “Organic Design Box”. We spend many a weekend selling our handicrafts in local craft fairs. Gradually with more confidence, the work evolved to beyond being merely functional becoming dramatic in expression as one-of-a-kind objects, inspired from the legendary places of the world such as Uxmal, Machu Picchu or Rome.

Two of Po Shun Leong´s fantastic boxes are shown here:

The Ancient Ruins Box:

The Landscape Box:

Thanks to Don’s earlier encouragement and direction it only took a few short years to become a completely independent studio furniture maker in the Los Angeles area. My work has been shown in the top shows, galleries and is in various permanent museum collections.

The Pasadena  Console:

In 1989 or 1990 I was exhibiting my work in a show organized by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC when an elderly man in a wheelchair came into the booth, accompanied by a woman, his daughter. He looked around and saw my name on the wall and remembered me from years back. Not long afterwards he passed away. His daughter purchased one of my art furniture pieces in his memory.

Last year I had the opportunity to participate in the “Vida y Diseño en Mexico” exhibition with some of my furniture from Mexico and was especially honored to be in the same place as Don.

Po Shun Leong

http://www.poshunleong.com/ptang.html

P.S. I remember Don saying that he was good friends with the Cardenas family, especially Lazaro Cardenas. I used to be in friendly contact and work with Doña Amalia, wife of the ex-president and her sister Virginia. They had a home in Tacambaro. Doña Amalia headed a charity program in Oaxaca which she visited every year and I had designed and made hundreds of children’s furniture that she donated to the nurseries. I accompanied her in those trips. When I hurt my leg they gave me a walking stick to get around on. I still keep the stick in my car,  just in case.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong–Part #1

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It is an honor to present my guest writer, the world known artist Po Shun Leong and his interesting story how Don S. Shoemaker inspired him to start his career in woods craftsmanship over 30 years ago.

Po Shun Leong, former architect, sculptor and furniture maker, known since the late 1980´s for his highly intricate and inspiring one-of-a-kind wood boxes. The “Landscape” box, a constantly evolving series since 1983 – more drama than box – is architectural in character and built up of many different woods in their natural colors, inspired from ancient or legendary civilizations. The flamboyant sense of shape, surprise and presentation combined with his initial struggles in Mexico has created a following for his art worldwide. He keeps his studio in the garden of his residence in California and he continues to make elaborate wood objects and a line of  sculpturally-inspired furniture pieces.

Po Shun Leong´s remembrances on his wonderful friendship with Don S. Shoemaker since the 60’s while he lived in Mexico are described here:

Don S. Shoemaker was very influential in the way my career turned out. His work inspired me to break free to become an independent wood artist in California thirty years ago. It was a pleasure to see Don’s creations again on your web site”.

In 1967 when I was working with C.A.P.F.C.E. the Mexican Federal school construction program in Morelia, Michoacan, I rented a small apartment at the Villa Montaña, in Santa Maria de Guido. As an architect, I designed 27 primary schools in places like Apazingan, Caolcoman, Aquila, Patzcuaro etc. and traveled on horseback over the remote mountains of the Pacific coast before there were any roads.

Since I was a near neighbor to Don S. Shoemaker’s SEÑAL company at the top of the hill, I was able to make friends with him and his wife Barbara and also get to know the factory and their designs. Don was the first person who I had ever met whose furniture set off my mind into the possibilities of what to do and where to go in the future. It had to be furniture. He had a large showroom with many samples. I could only afford a couple of objects, a rectangular tray of inlayed wood which I still treasure here in California. The other was a donkey stool for friends who had a little boy.

Don’s work was an inspiration for me especially in the design of functional objects, many of which were free from the constraints of traditional styles and methods of construction. I especially appreciated the way you could tell that the hands of makers were expressed in the shapes and surfaces and the efficient use of machines that enabled the products to be available at reasonable prices. We talked mainly about making furniture, machines and wood; just practical things.

When I began to make furniture independently in Mexico City in the early 1970’s, I sought a more distilled and purer form, some of which were handmade whilst others were mass produced. I made wood dining chairs, sling chairs and even plastic ones all in a contemporary style and received awards from the government and in the Knoll International Furniture Competition.

Here are some of Po Shun Leong´s wood furniture pieces made in Mexico during the 1970´s:

The Tulum leather set from 1974

The  Chamela chair from 1975 The Hacienda Set 1976

And the Duveen dining chair from 1979

 

to be continued….in Part #2

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Another decade goes by…

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The 1940’s:

  • Don´s adventure in Mexico started in 1947 in San Miguel Allende.

The 1950’s:

  • In 1951 Don and Barbara settled in Santa Maria de Guido, Morelia.
  • By 1955 the Shoemakers fled to the U.S. overnight. Their company became a cooperative and soon went broke.

The 1960’s:

  • The Shoemakers are back in Santa Maria de Guido, Michoacan.
  • Production started for several SEÑAL, S.A. furniture lines.
  • Don keeps developing new furniture designs.

The 1970’s:

  • They had to face devaluation and inflation.
  • The Puerto Vallarta store was opened and survived only a few months.
  • The “Diamond” desk becomes a “must have”.

The 1980´s:

  • Don searched for new markets and opened showrooms in several cities in the U.S. and exported to different countries in the world.
  • Don had to face constant devaluation and inflation.
  • Consolidation of the “Sling” and “Descanso” lines, the “Executive” and “Diamond” lines, the “Parsons” and “Perlman” lines, “Deco” line, etc.
  • Unfortunately Don passes away at the end of the decade.

The 1990´s:

  • Don´s heir, George, takes over. The company SEÑAL, S.A. is dissolved. George formed a new company with the name ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER.
  • In 1995 George has to stand another blow, courtesy of the Mexican economy.
  • George develops new designs and improves some of Don´s furniture lines.

The 2000’s:

  • George´s health is declining extremely fast. Production activity goes to almost zero.
  • George passes away and the company has to close.
  • The most underwhelming attributions to Don S. Shoemaker started flooding the market.
  • The most outrageous examples are the ones shown at Miami Design 2009.
  • In 2010 the website about Don S. Shoemaker was created to provide information to the public and to create awareness of the huge amount of attributions, copies, forgeries and fakes offered in flea markets, auction houses, galleries and the web, some of them featured in specialized magazines.
  • At the end of the day, of the year, the decade and the century, the work of the Shoemaker´s will endure and will be enjoyed and remembered by the owners of these remarkable furniture pieces.

P.S.:  The  2010´s:

  • Soon the book about Don S. Shoemaker, his work  and his furniture designs will be published to provide required information to the “Shoemakeristis” and keep fighting piracy, also to prevent further most underwhelming attributions.
  • Most important: to honor a person who arrived to an impoverished neighborhood and thanks to his vision, drive and endurance brought well being to the village of Santa Maria de Guido in Morelia, Michoacan.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

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