Upcoming EventsMaking MAKKO Powder Incense
Monday, June 10th
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Waxing Gibbous Moon
9 days old
We have been eating really, really well in Japan, thanks one night to Mike-san Abelson-san of Postalco, who shared a lot of critical information with us. For example, about the sanitary face mask situation round here: Since a flu epidemic in the early 20th century, sanitary face masks have been like sunglasses for your face. OK on a date. Worn both to protect oneself from germs and allergies and as a precautionary courtesy to prevent others from obtaining your sickness. Unlike every single other thing here, they are never bedazzled.
Also Nile has been spraining her neck bone major throwing up the peace claws, just like a local. Blast times! Thanks Mike!
A large selection of our vintage books will be 25% off from Friday, May 3 – 6 . Come by the shop, take a gander and take home something special.
TODAY IS THE FULL MOON! Today is also our shop’s fifth birthday. Mahalo for shopping and for doing all the other things that happen at Gravel & Gold. And a very special thanks to all the ladies and Dustin and Gary who help make it all happen.
I am flying into town this morning and I would also like to especially thank my sister-partner-co-owners Nilie & Lili. We will being drinking champagne and eating cake all day long until we close so that we can go spoil ourselves someplace else. Please come by and party with us! xoxo
Orange Form, then Fiesta, and Alice at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.
Alice Kagawa Parrott grew up in Honolulu, the youngest child in a large Japanese family. She studied art at the University of Hawaii and went on to study weaving with Marianne Strengell and ceramics with Maija Grotell at Cranbrook, one of the best art schools anywhere at the time. Her long journey to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Cranbrook is located, was her first trip to the mainland.
Here is Alice in the weaving studio at Cranbrook and pottery she was made while a student there from 1952 to 1954.
While she was at Cranbrook, she interviewed to teach at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and lodged that possibility in her mind. After completing her first year, Alice taught in Michigan and had a short stint winding warps for Jack Lenor Larsen in New York over the Christmas holiday.
She enjoyed her time at Cranbrook very much and didn’t have much notion of what do afterward, so she just accepted the New Mexico job offer to teach weaving and ceramics and made her way down South and West. This proved to be a good move.
Dry, dusty New Mexico was a completely unfamiliar landscape for this Honolulu girl, but Alice took to it right away. She visited nearby Navaho reservations, where she learned to card and spin yarn, traveled and studied in Mexico. The summer after her first year, she also went up to Pond Farm in Guerneville, California, and did ceramics with the great Marguerite Wildenhain for a month (more on Marguerite to come soon).
Alice met her husband Allen Parrott on a field trip with her students to the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe where he was a curator at the time. They were married the day after the semester ended, in 1956.
About three months after the wedding, the couple moved into their home on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, where they lived the rest of her lives. Alice set up a shop out of their living room where she sold her woven fabric and solicited commissions, like the one to make a whole bunch of ponchos for the ushers working at the Santa Fe Opera. These are ponchos I wish I could see whilst enjoying an evening I would like to experience. Also, she had her babies.
Over the winter of 1971-1972, Alice was an artist-in-residence in Puunene, Maui. While there, she took on a couple large public commissions and she taught workshops to high school teachers from several islands. She also got a nice juice up of the Hawaiian shave ice colors she loved—the great blue sky, flowers, the ocean turquoise—which always show up in her work.
Back in Santa Fe, Alice kept teaching, weaving, and radiating happy contentment.
Her work was well-admired and she began showing in the mid-1960s. At the same time, she kept her day job working on making wearables and small things like eye-glass cases for her shop, which eventually found it’s own home out of her home. I admire this high-low smartiness.
These two beautiful shots of Alice weaving were taken by Nina Leen for LIFE. And the orange shawl in the middle is one that Alice wove—one of many handwoven items she made available at her dreamboat shop, The Market, in Santa Fe. Droolola….
What I wouldn’t give to be able to shop at this marvelous shop! Just like Sam Maloof and his beloved wife Freda used to do. Alice met Sam at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where they were both exhibiting with the American Craft Council. Alice had brought these weavings, among others:
And Sam was no fool! After meeting Alice, he’d ask her to make wool shirts for him to wear and fabrics to cover his chairs.
That’s a pile of Alice’s pillows on a sofa Sam built in the 1950′s and kept for himself. Below, Freda is wearing one of Alice’s shirts. Photos via Esoteric Survey.
The top image of Alice weaving in an amazing striped muu-muu (always with the stripes!) was taken in Maui in the mid-70s. The detail is from a hanging with wool warp, weft of maguey strings, hand-spun wool, and silk. Published in Craft Horizons, May:June 1964. Via Cathy of California. And the bottom image is Alice in her studio in Santa Fe.
How sparkly is this lady?! It’s been a real delight spending some time digging around for information and pictures of her, always flashing that beautiful smile. There doesn’t seem to be too much information out there about Alice and I for sure would like to know more. Thank goodness (again) for the foresight of the Smithsonian Archive and their brilliant oral history initiative.
Unless otherwise noted/linked, the lion’s share of these images come from a wonderful page set up by Paul Kagawa that has lots more family-style pics of Alice and examples of her work. What a very, very lovely-seeming woman and a true inspiration.
When was Frida not working? That’s what I’d like to know. She worked through a great deal of pain, illness, and her recoveries from never-ending surgeries.
By all accounts—her own included—she was a true blue born artist. There are pictures to prove this.
Here she is at 18 with her sisters, photographed by their father Guillermo Kahlo in 1926. Come on—the droopy hankie at 18! This is not a Christmas card sesh; she is working.
Just like this is not a smoke break. This cannot be what a smoke break is! Come on! This is working, in that it takes a lot of work to be the one to come up with this whole lewk that the rest of us have been trying to copy for the next century.
Also not a smoke break. That is a mustache, though, which has been copied by fewer folks than some of the other elements of this ensemble. And sadly those majority imitators don’t seem to understand that the unibrow and the stache make the lewk, totally!
OK, these two pic might actually be smoke breaks for real. But still, so chic and so beautiful—more beautiful in a way. Pet hawk, hair flowers, uh huh. And who knew cowboy boots looked perfectly wonderful with pajamas? So now let’s copy that too!
Jay was, like, the hottest Beat chick on the San Francisco scene. She co-founded Six Gallery, which hosted Allen Ginsberg’s first reading of Howl in 1955, and was an original member of Bruce Conner’s Rat Bastard Protective Association. Her own work, combining unorthodox materials into hybrid sculptures/drawings/collages/paintings, positioned her among the vanguard of the Abstract Expressionists. Five of her paintings hung alongside groundbreaking work by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella in the important Sixteen Americans show at MoMA in 1959. She was on top!
One work that was requested for the MoMA show was a painting Jay had recently begun that was then called Deathrose. It was the concave, darker sister to another painting, The Jewel, that she began at the same time, working on “an idea that had a center to it.” Jay declined to include it in the show, but the MoMA curators knew that she was on to something and included a photo of it in an early stage in the exhibition catalogue.
Here’s Jay at work on The Jewel—
Jay DeFeo (1958) Photo by Jerry Burchard
Working on The Jewel at 2322 Fillmore Street, SF CA. 1959. Photos by Jerry Burchard
The Jewel, 1959
Jay took two years to reach a place with The Jewel that pleased her. Deathrose, which was later retitled The White Rose, and finally The Rose, took nearly eight years to complete, from 1958, when she was 29 years old, to 1966. She installed the canvas in a large Victorian bay window and worked up a tremendous surface of oil paint, carving it, adding mica chips, hacking at it, sometimes scraping it back altogether and starting again. There was broken glass in the window and no electricity in her studio, so both she and the painting were totally vulnerable to the damp. She worked by the daylight that steamed in from smaller side windows and against the tightening and loosening of the canvas that occurred as the seasons changed. (“Seasons” is hers. Isn’t it lovely?)
Photo by Burt Glinn, 1960
The painting went through many forms which Jay associated with the different cycles of art history from Primitive, to Classical, Baroque, and back to Classical. There is a wonderful collection of images documenting these changes on The Jay DeFeo Trust website, and here’s some I especially like:
Jay full on with The Rose, then a still from The White Rose, and a nice clear shot of the finished painting by Ben Blackwell.
Jay was made to call a truce with the already legendary painting in 1966 when a rent increase forced her from her studio. By then, The Rose had grown to nearly 12 feet high, up to eight inches think in places, and weighed over 2,300 POUNDS—far too large to fit out the studio door. It took sixteen guys a full day to cut out the window and some of the wall of the building, mount the painting to a larger canvas, and lower it down two stories with a forklift onto a flatbed truck. Bruce Connor documented this in The White Rose (1967), a film I’d like to see.
From San Francisco, the painting was transported to the Pasadena Museum of Art, and Jay went with it to keep working at it for another three months. When she really was done she dropped out to Marin and didn’t work at all for three years….
It was only after The Rose was briefly shown in 1969 at the Pasadena Art Museum, then traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMoMA) the same year, that she began painting again.
Unable to find a permanent museum home for her great work, The Rose ended up in a conference room at the San Francisco Art Institute. Conservators there estimated that it would take over 100 years for the thick oil paint to fully dry. In 1974 they applied a protective coating to the surface as that was intended as a temporary measure. The next stages of the planned conservation never happened, and in 1979 a false wall was built in front of the painting. There it remained, out of view, until 1995 when the Whitney Museum acquired it and took on the huge job of restoring it. By then Jay had been gone for six years.
The real nudge for our Philly road trip last week was to finally make it to the stripey shirt motherland in rural Pennsylvania, a place I have believed in and described many times over these past five years selling R.P. Miller shirts, but had never seen. I was thrilled to finally meet Gary and Scott Pleam, the current generations of the Hornberger family to run Mohnton Knitting Mills, fresh outta Mohnton, PA.
Our first order of business was to get the pronunciation of their fair town down once and for all: It’s like “Moan-ton” – “Mohan-ton” – Mohnton. Good!
The mill dates back to 1873, when Gary’s great-great grandfather Cyrus Hornberger added a water wheel to a pre-Civil War riffle foundry at 22 Main Street. As Gary put it, “We built this building and the road”, and they’ve got the timber beams to prove it. Aaron Hornberger started a hat factory there in 1878 and later added clothing. Over the years, with the Hornbergers continually at the helm, the mill evolved to specialize in the T-shirts we now sell at the shop. When Scott joined the company in 1997, he became the sixth generation in the family business.
It’s wild to see mounds of stripey shirt fabric and to think that these guys have the power (machines + know-how) to knit it from thread. The mill buys cotton yarn grown in South Carolina and knits the fabric at their factory nearby in Shillington. The fabric is washed and, if necessary, dyed in their Shoemakersville plant, then comes to the Mohnton factory that I visited to be cut and sewn into garments and shipped out.
This is Beverly. She’s worked at the mill for 46 years. She did have one other job before this one—in high school, she worked a switchboard for two days, earning $1 per day. Otherwise, she has always worked at Mohnton Knitting Mills. And man, could she pop out some neck binding and attach some tags. Zow! She was fast!
When Beverly began working, the mill was at the top of its game with over 100 employees. Sadly, despite the great quality and completely reasonable price of their products, the mill has not been immune to the hardships of U.S. manufacturing. They are now down to just 20 employees and sell a hefty chunk of their T-shirts to Japanese customers who seem to understand what it is they’re getting. We understand too! And we want to buy and sell zillions of these shirts and keep the Hornbergers in business!
Here’s Scott pointing out his relatives in an old shot of workers at the mill.
Thanks so much, Gary and Scott! I hope to come back and visit you guys again soon! And next time, I’m bringing Lisa, Nile, Holly, Tessa, Em, Rachel, Emmy, Abby, and all the other girls!
A few years ago, Joan Gardner advised that I learn about Isaiah Zagar’s work by passing along his son Jeremiah’s beautiful and intense film, In A Dream. To see the Magic Garden in real life feels the same way. Thank you, Joan.
How come people only medium suggest going to The Barnes Collection? The Barnes is fantastic! Even with all the blowsy Renoirs, even on a Friday night when they have a guest African dance-a-long performance blasting from the atrium, it’s still fantastic! Part of the fun here is imagining what this fellow Dr. Albert C. Barnes was thinking when he collected all these paintings, sculptures, ancient artifacts, early American furniture, Navaho chief’s blankets, late 18th century iron door hinges, and other things he was into and then assembled them as he did, all together. I also found myself anxiously thinking of what all the anxious conservators were thinking as they measured the dimensions of each room of his home and his arrangements before transferring the collection and replicating the whole deal in the city down to one-sixteenth of an inch. That job and these three images reminded me of my friend Nile.
Two sweet drawings by Lenna Glackens (here’s the other one) especially got me thinking about this oddball Barnes. I like them and I really like that he included them in the mix along with many painting and drawings by her father, William James Glackens, who helped Barnes form the collection. From one oddball to another, the clothing on, clothing off deal reminds me of Goya’s naked vs. clothes Mayas and the bottom figure reminds me of Wyeth’s Christina’s World. Lenna was 9 when she drew these minxy sphinxes.
“A Montrouge”–Rosa La Rouge
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Also a Wyeth woman foreshadow. This one, Helga.
Meeting of Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate
Hans von Kulmbach
According to Chelidonius: “Overjoyed Anne threw herself into the arms of her husband; together they rejoiced about the honour that was to be granted them in the form of a child. For they knew from the heavenly messenger that the child would be a Queen, powerful on heaven and on earth”. I gather that lots of expectant parents feel this way, and so did the Virgin Mary’s folks. To me though, Anne has got that labor look. Maybe she was one of those mysterious mamas who didn’t realize she was pregnant til her water broke and she’s having to break the news and deliver her baby all at once. But what do I know?!