Collecting Don´s wooden sculptures

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Collecting Don´s sculptures in wood can be very exciting and entertaining. Through the years I accumulated quite a few pieces and I enjoy very much having them around. Don inspired himself from Mexican folklore and designed remarkable pieces that would represent bats, scorpions and other symbolic animals from the Mexican Pre-Hispanic period. These works of art were made with different kinds of woods from the region, sometimes inlaid with colored stones, sometimes just nicely carved.

 Don´s box designs from the “Animal” Series were also quite unique. Some time ago, in one of my posts I already showed you the “Owl” box; here we have a nice sample of his “Hippopotamus” box:

 Don´s imagination and creativity was also inspired by organic forms, female curves and hands:

All of the above pictured pieces carry the decal studio label. There are of course many other interesting works that I could present from Don´s sculptural creations, however, I have only selected a few examples to prevent forgers from trying to copycat his designs.

 

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

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

Treasures for your dinner service from Don´s Gift Line

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There always was this magical atmosphere in Don´s studio/home, it felt like being a child in a big toy store every time we visited him. To resist his delightful Gift Line collection was virtually impossible, no matter how, the discovery of a new piece or gadget that could match with something I already had at home came in the way. The following 1980’s vintage Gift Line catalog page with Don´s image on it brings great memories back to life!

I recently described in my posts “Home Bar Essentials” and “Accessories for every occasion” some of Don´s tropical woods trays, chopping and cheese boards, coasters, salt & pepper shakers, etc. This time I want to point out on his gourmet designs which were particularly charming and definitively making the difference when decorating your dinner table. Here two of my favorites…

For many years I have enjoyed serving my meals with these Don S. Shoemaker Pyrex holders produced in solid cueramo tropical wood:

We love Mexican cuisine but we also enjoy very much Asian food, chopsticks are a must for fine tableware. This set of 6 chopsticks with chopstick rests were made in solid cocobolo tropical wood, the set is absolutely gorgeous:

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

Don´s Gift Line – Home Bar Essentials

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Sometime ago I already mentioned in one of my posts that Don had an extensive and very creative “Gift Line”. This Gift Line included all sort of articles for any thinkable occasion: presents, boxes, toys, sculptures, games, bar and gourmet accessories, desk utensils, organic designs, decorative objects, painter tools, jewelry, etc. You would always discover and buy something for yourself or for someone else when looking around the shop. Most of the times when we visited Don in Santa Maria de Guido I carried wish lists from my relatives with all the goodies I had to bring back home from SEÑAL, S.A.

One of Don´s specialties were his Bar and Gourmet Accessories. He would argument that no matter how you serve drinks and cocktails there are some essentials that no well-stocked home bar, no matter how idiosyncratic, should be without. The Shoemaker equipment in any serious home bar should include: at least one or two cut boards, napkin holders, a salt & pepper set, two sets of coasters and many ashtrays among others to make your guests feel very comfortable. (Don also designed a complete bar furniture line, but I will address this subject some time in a near future).

So, I have made a selection of some the Shoemaker gadgets that I use in our home bar for you:

  • A cut board and a cheeseboard made in solid tropical woods (striped design including white mahogany, cueramo and other local rosewood species):

  • Salt & Pepper Set – “Elephant model. Don designed several salt & pepper sets, this was our choice made in cocobolo tropical wood:

 

  • Napkin holder made in solid cueramo, cocobolo and other local rosewood species:

  • Matching set of 6 coasters made in cueramo tropical wood and mahogany, a cocobolo ashtray and a set of teabag holders:

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

Chairs – The iconic “Sling” folding chairs

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Don S. Shoemaker did not follow the same path as the other famous designers of his era like Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, etc. Don developed his very own style, completely independent, classic and timeless.

The “Sling” folding chair design dates back to the 1960´s, produced in solid tropical woods (rosewood and cocobolo) with black leather upholstery and a seat adjustable to three different positions. These chairs were available in 2 versions:

  • The Scissor “Sling” dining chair
  • The Scissor “Sling” parlor chair

Don´s Scissor “Sling” chairs are easily recognizable: the chair folds to a straight position and it has folding armrests, a feature almost impossible to find in any other chair design. In the book “1000 Chairs” by Charlotte & Peter Fiell, ed. TASCHEN 2005 I could not find an armchair with folding braces.

The Scissor “Sling” dining chair had a straight back for a comfortable seating at a “Sling” dinner table and the Scissor “Sling” parlor chair was designed in a lower position for a more relaxed environment.

Below is a picture of a Scissor “Sling” dining chair in cocobolo tropical wood from my personal collection. Pay attention to the straight back.

The pictures below are also from my personal collection and show a Scissor “Sling” parlor chair produced in rosewood. Notice the difference between the two models, this version has a lower more relaxed back.

Pay attention to the folding armrest, a very unique feature created by the master. The armrest articulation allows the user to fold up the armrest and leave the table in angle, an action almost impossible to perform in an armrest chair.

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

Bookcases – The “Perlman” Bookcase

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Trends were changing rapidly in the 1960´s towards smaller living areas and Don spent many hours imagining how roominess could be improved in apartments without having to sacrifice on comfort. He created many furniture pieces that would combine practicality with functionality. The “Perlman” bookcase is a perfect example: a four-sided rolling bookcase with an exceptional storage capacity, which he believed was ideal for small flats. I have included the vintage brochure page used by SEÑAL, S.A. to advertise the “Perlman” bookcase, produced in rosewood with a nicely finished parquetry top.

With time the “Perlman” bookcase became also very appreciated as the perfect side table. In fact, my “Descanso” set is furnished with 2 of these bookcases which I comfortably use as side tables instead of the traditional “Descanso” lamp tables. I read a lot and books have to be handy!

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved

@donshoemaker.com

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