Don’s Modernist Mexican Butaque Chair interpretation

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continued from part # 5

As described in my previous post series about the Mexican Butaque, we have seen several samples and interpretations of these emblematic chairs coming from different regions and designers in Mexico. Considering all the information and research data that I have gathered in the past years, it is without a doubt that William Spratling is the true Father of the Mexican 20th Century Butaque chair rebirth, not Clara Porset, as many have tried to argue. Clara Porset as well as many other designers from that same period of time basically followed Spratling. Using his designs as an “inspiration” or just plagiarized and mass-reproduced the chair in cheaper woods with minimal changes.

When Don S. Shoemaker arrived to Mexico this small charming chair also called his attention, but our master had his own ideas… He envisioned the Butaque chair from a modernist point of view: the design had to be organic and it had to be made with dark and heavy tropical woods. On this basis, instead of using the typical arch that conform the legs of a butaque chair, he presented us with a beautiful organic composition of his chair legs. Moreover, he gave the flair of a sling chair using softer black leather instead of the traditional “vaqueta” leather that his predecessors had been employing. And of course, he did not attach it to the lateral body of the chair, and instead of using the round head rivets for this purpose on the top and low rail he developed a system that today is his trademark of fixing the leather to the hardwood: his iconic leather “sunflowers”.

Bronze rivet (19th Century) and Don’s leather rivet (1960’s)

The Sling “Sloucher” Chair was one of Don’s very first chair projects. The result: a very unique interpretation of a modernist Mexican Butaque! By 1960 he introduced the chair as we know it today:

Sling "Sloucher" Chair by Don S. Shoemaker (1960's)

The Sling “Sloucher” Chair is Don’s flagship, these chairs were an essential part of his SEÑAL, S.A. furniture catalog together with the Sling “Swinger” Chair and the Sling “Suspension” Stool.

Sling Casuals Catalog page (1960’s)

As we have seen, the exotic Mexican Butaque Chair has a long history in furniture design; Don’s modernist Butaque was the last evolution of this graceful chair, no other designer in Mexico has succeeded in the attempt to create a new form for the last 50 years.

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

@donshoemaker.com

The versatile Parsons Line – Tables for table freaks

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The Parsons Line is probably Don S. Shoemaker´s most rectilinear and functional furniture design line. This time he overlooks the charms of nature in favor of a rigorous abstract approach to design. While there were significant changes in the manufacturing techniques of the post-war time like aluminum casting and bonding wood, this industrial furniture production brought back the concept of built-in obsolescence or disposable furniture. As a response to this movement Don maintained the principles of craftsmanship and use of precious woods that are evident in this line which most purely expresses immutability, strength and vastness. He kept loyal to his principle of beauty and handcrafted furniture.

This line included everything that his passionate followers and collectors could think of to have their homes or flats completely furnished á la Shoemaker: coordinating suites of furniture for living room and dining room, matching cabinets and sideboards, all kinds of table sizes, service carts, office as well as bedroom sets, etc. I will try to present all of them to you within a reasonable period of time.

I will start with the Parsons tables, as there were a total of 11 different sizes to choose from! No other of Don´s design lines had this versatile number of table sizes and shapes.

The vintage SEÑAL, S.A. catalog page above shows us three Parsons table sizes: a rectangular dining table, a side table and a square coffee table. The design of these tables is pure and rectilinear. All of the Parsons tables came with a clean parquetry top and were produced in rosewood. Here we have a pair of Parsons tables coming in different sizes:

These tables were meant to fit in your living room, your dining room, your bedroom, your office, or any imaginable space to keep your home impregnated with the unmistakable Shoemaker style! Personally, I prefer Don´s organic design lines, but a significant number of his clients favored these furniture pieces.

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

@donshoemaker.com

Linear designs – The Diamond Line

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Many of my readers have asked me to write about Don´s “Diamond Line” designs. You may recall that I already published a post on the renowned diamond desk, which became a legend as one of Mexico´s most prominent newscasters, Jacobo Zabludovsky used to broadcast the daily news sitting on his diamond desk. I also called on your attention to the brand new unlabeled diamond desk copies that I have found on sale at auctions and galleries. (Check my posts “AAD – Appearances are deceptive” and “New Don S. Shoemaker copies – the diamond desk”).

The “Diamond Line” or sometimes referred as to the “Z Line” was the result from Don´s experiments during the decade of the 1970´s with linear designs, these furniture pieces were superbly crafted in laminated exotic woods, some of which I will introduce to you below.

Diamond Line dining or conference table. This spectacular stack-laminated table could be used for a dining room set or a conference room.

Matching dining/conference table ZigZag chairs. This is Don´s reinterpretation from the De Stijl, the famous cantilevered zigzag chair designed by Garrit Rietveld. The pictures below show samples of ZigZag chairs from different periods, although I have to point out that the traditional Shoemaker black leather upholstery that comes attached to seat and back is missing on two of them.

Don´s ZigZag Chair

Don Shoemaker´s Zig Zag Chair with black leather upholstery

• George Shoemaker´s ZigZag Chair

Diamond side table. Very stylish, the perfect complement for a Diamond dining room set. As seen in a Mexico City gallery.

Of course, there are more geometric designs to show from this line, but I will keep some of them for a future occasion!

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

For the most demanding clientele – Don´s Sling dining room set

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Many of my readers have asked me about Don´s dining room sets with combining cupboards and cabinets. For this week I have decided to write about the Sling dining room set, the favorite among Don´s devoted customers:

The Sling dining room was the most exclusive dining room set within Don´s repertoire. The complete set consisted of a rectangular dining table with parquetry top handcrafted in cueramo hardwood, 8 or more Sling dining chairs (with and without armrests) in solid rosewood and a matching cabinet available in three sizes. The dining table´s shape has the unmistakable “Shoemaker” style:

The leather upholstery of these Sling dining chairs could be ordered in different colors as displayed in the vintage catalog page above, however, most Shoemakeristis preferred the traditional black leather…

The shape of the Sling cabinet remained always the same, but depending on the size of the dining room or the amount of different things that you wanted to display, the cupboard started with a 2-door display cabinet, the next version had on one side a 2-door display cabinet and shelves on the other side, and finally the largest model had a 2-door display, open shelves and a small compartment with door in the middle and another vertical display row on the opposite side. The separate sideboard had 1 drawer with 2 doors for the smallest version, 2 drawers with 4 doors for the medium size and 3 drawers with 6 doors for the large model. I have included a picture on the large Sling cabinet, a very impressive piece of furniture in your Don S. Shoemaker dining room.

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

@donshoemaker.com

A game table design from the late 1950’s

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When Don and his wife Barbara settled down in Santa Maria de Guido in the early 1950´s they started making wooden buttons and bowls. Within a short period of time Don became very familiar with all the exotic hardwoods grown in the southern mountains of the State of Michoacan and the “hot country”, “la tierra caliente” for the locals (the mountains close to the ocean) and he created his first chair then followed by other furniture designs that with time became his distinctive style.

Don experimented with different tropical woods species in his early furniture designs; he once mentioned that over 150 varieties of woods had come through his woodworking factory. Today I will share with you one of Don´s early table designs from the late 1950’s and its evolution in the 1960’s.

This Don S. Shoemaker game table from the late 1950’s is made in granadilla tropical wood with a leather table top. The design looks rather simple at first sight, but in reality the table´s assembly work  is very elaborate since wooden dowels hold it together. Also pay attention to the elegant continue line of the table stretchers.

In the 1960’s Don decided to use different materials and the design matured. Now the game table was produced in rosewood and the table top was made in marble. George R. Shoemaker continued reproducing the same game table in the 1990’s, but he updated the design by replacing the marble table top with parquetry.

This recently detected forgery lacks completely the subtle refinement of the original design. Pay attention to the table´s top support (very small) and the table stretchers, which look like borrowed from another table…

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

@donshoemaker.com

The unique Sling Swinger Chair

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I received several requests from my readers to write about Don´s famous Sling Swinger chair, so here it is:

The “Sling Casuals” furniture collection together with the “Elephant Lounge Set” limited edition (which I already described in a separate post) from the 1960’s are Don S. Shoemaker´s most accomplished organic design achievements. Although, the output of the “Sling  Line” lasted during three decades, the “Elephant Lounge” remained an exclusive special edition of only 5 sets. The Sling “Swinger” chair and the Sling “Sloucher” chair are well known to collectors and galleries.

The Sling Swinger chair is of timeless elegance, the perfect integration of form, function and exotic woods. The production of these harmoniously sculpted chairs in solid tropical woods was only possible thanks to the highly sophisticated manufacturing equipment and special tools that Don had at his workshop. Shoemaker´s favorite tropical woods used for the production of these attractive swinging chairs were granadilla, cueramo and cocobolo, combined with black or brown leather upholstery. Besides the wide arms model a second version was available with narrow arms, an alternative for smaller living spaces. Below a  Sling Swinger chair from my personal collection in heavy solid cocobolo tropical wood:

Another unique feature about Don´s furniture designs as I have already noted before is that he excelled in developing systems for link and joint, he tried to avoid no matter what the use of screws and nails in his work. These chairs are assembled to perfection, easily dismountable for an uncomplicated transport to any place in the world. A different Sling Swinger chair from my private collection is shown here, this time in solid granadilla tropical wood:

And finally, here is a picture of one of my Sling Swinger chairs with its matching ottoman with black leather upholstery. The classic combination. Both pieces bear the Don S. Shoemaker decal studio label.

 

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

@donshoemaker.com

Descanso Line – “Descanso” Coffee Table and Lamp Tables

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When going through the literature on American furniture designers from the Mid-Century I found interesting similarities between the lives of Don S. Shoemaker and Wharton Esherick, known as the “Dean of American Craftsmen”. Both started their artistic careers as painters, both were designer-craftsmen pursuing their own unique visions striving towards perfection in craftsmanship in a time when this was already considered to be a relic of the past. Both chose to establish their studio/home in remote areas, Wharton in the Pennsylvania hills, Don in a small uphill village overlooking the city of Morelia. Despite an isolated existence both  were always up to date on what was going on in the world and absorbed influences from emerging movements into their designs. As Wharton Esherick did, Don also developed over the years a following of devoted customers who became addicted to his work, returning year after year for another piece.

During the late 1950’s and the 1960’s we saw the upraising of Brazilian furniture designers Sergio Rodrigues with his “Poltrona Mole” and Jean Gillon with his “Jangadá”. Don´s “Descanso Set”(*) was highly estimated by his Brazilian counterparts, as long as he was an absolute perfectionist and went even further by adding to his “Descanso Line” a matching Descanso Coffee Table and a pair of Lamp or Side Tables:

(*) Also check my post on the “Descanso Set” from 2010

The Descanso Coffee Table with its two Lamp/Side Tables was produced with parquetry top in solid cueramo hardwood, Zebra wood or for the more demanding tastes in cocobolo. The cocobolo Coffee Table depicted here belongs to my personal collection and I use it together with a cocobolo “Descanso” Lounge Chair and Ottoman.

Another interesting feature about these Coffee Tables and Lamp and/or Side Tables is that the table top is detachable. I have included a close up on the table´s legs for you, a delightful design.

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

@donshoemaker.com

Carved Chest from Don´s Colonial Line

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Don used his state-of-the-art equipment installed at SEÑAL, S.A. to produce a commercial line of colonial style furniture pieces in volcanic pine wood. This very decorative chest with capriciously carved flowers was part of Don´s colonial production. They came furnished with a stand to keep them off the floor thus enhancing their beauty.

You may also want to check Dick Shoemaker´s video from 1986 about Don S. Shoemaker and SEÑAL, S.A. in Santa Maria Guido, Morelia. The video shows a few shots on the production of these beautifully carved chests.

Access: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVSv64jN_eg

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

@donshoemaker.com

From the “Sling” Line – A stylish dining room set

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Very few furniture designers achieved that magical combination of style, strength and practicality. The distinctive Shoemaker style has its very own trademark: timeless, clean and simple and yet with a strong sense of solidity; Don´s sculptural furniture designs made with the finest tropical woods combined with thick black leather still proudly furnish selected wealthy Mexican villas, haciendas as well as elegant weekend homes after more than 40 years. It is very unlikely that you will get bored or tired of Don´s furniture pieces, most of the Shoemaker collectors that I know around the world have kept their pieces for over 2 generations and would not consider selling them!

Let´s review today the “Sling” round dining table with its combining “Sling” dining chairs in solid rosewood and black leather upholstery, a set that Don designed in the 1960’s. The round dining table was produced in tropical woods (“cueramo” and other local rosewood species) with a marquetry top  and 2 different sizes to choose from for either 4 or 6 Sling dining chairs. The design was also meant to be multipurpose and the set was offered within the “Executive Line” with the tag: Club conference table with chairs for smaller office meetings.

The Sling dining chair design is very unique. Pay special attention to the underside finish.

This table was available not only as shown in the vintage catalog above, for an extra cost you could buy it with solid tropical wood panels as the one pictured below from my private collection. This particular round dining table has a perfectly polished parquetry top made in a rosewood species extinct over 30 years ago.

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

@donshoemaker.com

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