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

The revival of the Butaque Chair in Mexican 20th Century Furniture Design – Part 4

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continued from part # 3

American designer William Spratling frequented prominent artists and personalities that were active within the Mexicanismo movement during that time, and many of them decorated their homes with his furniture. As a result of the success of William Spratling’s furniture designs, the Butaque fever started in Mexico and following the saying of silversmiths “the tin is the poor man´s silver”, in the 1940’s Clara Porset decided to introduce industrial low-cost series of butaques with only minimal changes to Spratling’s designs produced since the early 1930’s at his Taller de las Delicias. The conflict between Spratling and Porset became well known, and as a consequence, they never talked to each other again. Porset also approppriated an old art-crafted typical caned butaque of Veracruz and the famous Miguelito armchair from Jalisco, of course in cheap woods like pine, etc. Someone coined the saying: “A Porset is the poor man’s Spratling butaque”.

Low cost Butaque Chair designed by Clara Porset (1949)

Armless Butaque version designed by Clara Porset (1956)

Armless Butaque Chair by Clara Porset (1960´s)

Clara Porset´s Living room with a variety of Butacas

Pair of Miguelito Armchairs designed by Clara Porset (ca. 1947 + 1950’s)

Now we will witness how the fever of the butaque chair was propagated:

Everybody knew each other in the Mexican architectural and design world and one thing lead to another: Clara Porset collaborated on many projects with prominent Mexican architect Luis Barragán and by the mid 1940’s Barragán presented “La Butaca” designs in his furnishing proposals. At this moment the butaque fever reached its peak and the cloning virus was more vicious than ever; please check on the pictures of the typical Jalisco Miguelito chairs and the identical butaques produced by Barragán and Clara Porset; miraculously, one particular chair created by Clara Porset for Barragán looks identical to the caned Butaque chairs from Veracruz from the early 20th Century. (See my posts: Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part #1 & Part #5 + ¿What is the difference between a Mexican Campeche Chair and a Butaque? – Part #2)

I would like to remark however, that some of Luis Barragan’s and Clara Porset’s dining room chairs remind me of William Spratling’s designs as well, but we will talk about those appropriations in future posts.

Butaca Chair designed by Luis Barragán (1945)

Caned Butaque Chair from the state of Veracruz (early 20th Century)

A Luis Barragán Miguelito Armchair

A typical Butaca from Jalisco (Miguelito Chair)

Pair of Miguelito Armchairs by Luis Barragán

I also have to mention Mexican architect and urban planner Juan Sordo Madaleno, active during that same period of time. Architecturally, he settled initially by the Bauhaus style and influence of Le Corbusier. Notable examples of Sordo Madaleno’s work are his own house (1952), the Cinema Paris (1954), with its surprising structure and composition, and the Seguros Anáhuac Building (1958). He significantly influenced the design of hotels in Mexico and he was among the pioneers to introduce a new type of large-scale commercial center, such as the Plaza Satélite (1971) in Mexico City. Juan Sordo Madaleno collaborated with Luis Barragán, Serrano and Ricardo Legorreta, among others, and he worked with Clara Porset on several projects like the Club Campestre Churubusco in Mexico City.

Here are some interior views of Sordo Madaleno’s house in Mexico City, including Butaca chair models designed by him – very similar to those presented by Luis Barragán and Clara Porset:

Butaca Bench by Juan Sordo Madaleno (1950’s)

Miguelito Chair by Juan Sordo Madaleno (1950’s)

A Luis Barragán Miguelito Armchair

to be continued in part # 5

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

@donshoemaker.com

 

The revival of the Butaque Chair in Mexican 20th Century Furniture Design – Part 3

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The comeback of “El Butaque” in Mexican 20th century furniture design came with American designer William Spratling, “Father of Mexican Contemporary Silver”. Spratling was not only well known for his creations in silver, but also for his emblematic furniture designs… All of Spratling’s furniture pieces were handmade by local carpenters under his direction, and they represent the essence of pure Mexican craftsmanship. Bill redesigned the butaque chair in a unique “ranchero style” and started to produce his iconic “butaquitos” at his firm Spratling y Artesanos in Taxco in the 1930’s. (See my post: Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 4). Both, larger and smaller butaque chairs were produced, with and without armrests:

A William Spratling Butaque (ca. 1940´s)

Butaque Chair designed by William Spratling (ca. 1940’s)

Butaquito designed by William Spratling

Pair of William Spratling Butaques

Hectór Aguilar began his career as the shop manager for William Spratling’s Taller de las Delicias in 1936. Aguilar then left Las Delicias in 1939 taking a number of silversmiths with him to found the Taller Borda, with the financial support from his wife and several friends. By 1948 he formed a new company, Talleres Borda, S.A. de C.V. which quickly became one of the premier retailer silver outlets in Taxco. Taller Borda sold a full line of sterling jewelry, hollowware, flatware and furniture pieces, all produced at the Aguilar workshops. The firm prospered for many years until its closure in 1962. Below I have included a butaca armchair produced by the Héctor Aguilar workshops:

Butaca Chair designed by Héctor Aguilar

Another outstanding Mexican artisan and designer who started his career in Taxco, at Casa Grande, is Antonio Frausto. He became famous for his highly successful Mexican Colonial designs made in juniper, pine and exotic wood species from the state of Guerrero. Frausto designed complete furniture sets for the interiors of Mexican Modernism architects Francisco Artigas, Manuel Parra and Max Cetto, just to name a few. His emblematic Mexican Colonial furniture pieces can be found at Haciendas and Ranches of Mexican Presidents, politicians, celebrities and wealthy businessmen; even today, you may recognize Don Antonio’s furniture designs at prestigious Mexican Colonial hotels and restaurants. His workshop, Artesanos de México, S.A. produced furniture lines including all sorts of cabinets with attractive ironworks, office furniture, dining and living room sets, bedrooms, chairs, tables and benches. My favorites, Don Antonio´s “bargueños” are without a doubt his personal trademark, but these will be described in another post dedicated to furniture from the “Mexicanismo” movement.

Since the 1950’s Don Antonio’s workshop produced a complete variety of “butacas” in juniper wood and “vaqueta” leather. Regrettably, most of his furniture production does not carry any label or signature; his creations are very often mistaken for designs attributed to William Spratling, Francisco Artigas, Luis Barragán or even Clara Porset.

 

A Butaca Armchair from the Artesanos de México catalog (1967)

Butaca Armchair designed by Antonio Frausto (1960’s)

Butaca Armchair designed by Antonio Frausto (1960’s)

Small Butaca Chair by Antonio Frausto (1960's)

to be continued in part # 4

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