We had a whole lot of fun helping our buddies at West Elm celebrate the opening of their exciting and comprehensive new store at 870 Broadway last week. About 700 people came by to say hi, have a drink, admire the new digs, and generously bid on a silent auction of objects we created out of the store’s packing and catalogue waste to benefit the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
The idea was hatched over drinks one night last summer when Alex Bates, West Elm’s amazing Senior Vice President and Creative Director, described to me how much refuse was unavoidably part of opening a store. What a shame, of course, but also . . . WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY! We both looked at each other and said, “Let’s make something out of it!”
We created a 10 foot tall lamp from larger packing boxes to command the ground floor window space at 870 Broadway and to beautifully complement West Elm’s natural furnishings. The faceted design emerged when no single box side was large enough to satisfy our desire for scale. Necessity breeds invention, right?!
Although our lamp lit up, I thought it would be fun to have an oversized cardboard plug curled to its side. The artist Claes Oldenburg often did this too. The plug below was the “tail” of his “Giant Soft Fan.”
On the second floor, nestled within West Elm’s chic vignettes, we filled a gallery with our hand crafted objects, works that straddled the line between house wares and sculpture. Some pieces were entirely hand-made, while others were made from laser cut cardboard and then hand assembled. Some pieces were functional, and yet others merely fun.
900 retired West Elm catalogues were utilized to make the above chair, ottoman, topiary, and lamp.
My all time favorite piece of art is Felix Gonzalez-Torrez’s “Perfect Lovers” (above) in which two clocks, starting in perfect synchronicity become out of step with each other over time. Our “Recycled Perfect Lovers For Felix” plays homage to this piece and the artist. (below)
“Perfect Lovers” led to all kinds of other clocks -- some laser cut, some out of scraps, but all fun . . . AND ALL SOLD!
There was also a wide array of other goodies – from giant cacti to a humble tissue box, we had something for everyone. (wink!)
The auction would not be complete without a cardboard homage to Magritte’s famous “This Is Not a Pipe.” Ours wasn’t a pipe either, but if push comes to shove, it was probably my favorite piece in the show. I wish I had bid on it and won it back.
So how did this all happen? I met Alex Bates 18 years ago when she was the big boss at a Macy’s private label fashion division. I was pinning things onto presentation boards as a young free-lancer, helping out my dear friend Marcia who also worked there, and years later, the Cooper Hewitt brought us back together in a very different capacity, working hand-in-hand on their National Design Awards. Not only is that project very near and dear to my heart, but I am LOVING being reunited with Alex and our ongoing friendship.
Congratulations Alex, Dave, Patrick, Lee, Barclay, Abigail, Meredith, Tricia, Mark, Paul, Parker and everyone else on the fabulous West Elm team. The store is super chic, you guys outdid yourselves, and we are honored to have been part of the festivities. Let’s clink (cardboard) glasses and toast your new home!