Amazing resemblance between two chair designs

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The Chamela chair was developed and manufactured in Mexico for several years from 1974 and sold through LOGADO, S.A. a top contemporary furniture design shop when Po Shun was living there. http://www.poshunleong.com/seat2014_1.html
With a minimum of natural materials, a great deal of comfort came from the seat sling. The Mexico City Museum of Modern Art (MAM) exhibited the chair in a design show that included the works of other designers such as Don S. Shoemaker, Pedro Ramirez Vázquez, Clara Porset, Oscar Hagerman, etc.

Chamela Chair by Po Shun Leong (1974)

Mexico City Modern Art Museum (MAM) “Diseño en México” 1975 exhibition

In later years the Museum of Latin American Art and the Palacio Iturbide also put this design on display.

Po Shun came across a similar design from Europe called “Fionda”, designed by Jasper Morrison in 2013. http://www.jaspermorrison.com/html/55491911.htm
Produced by Mattiazzi, Italy. http://www.mattiazzi.eu/products/fionda/
Morrison wrote: Thank you for your mail, I can understand your impression that Fionda owes something to your chair, it’s a remarkable coincidence and I think I like your chair more than Fionda! Actually Fionda was inspired by a Japanese camping chair. Perhaps the Japanese camping chair was inspired by your chair! The photo similarities are even more extraordinary, but again it is a coincidence,…

Design comparison Fionda Chair vs. Chamela Chair

So amazing, that this new contemporary chair design from 2013 by Jasper Morrison has such a remarkable resemblance to Po Shun´s Chamela chair presented in Mexico over 40 years ago, isn´t it?

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 designs.

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 Sling “Sloucher” and “Swinger” 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

Mexican Design exhibition at the MAM in 1975 – Part #3

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Po Shun Leong´s story (Part #3) on his acquaintance with Don S. Shoemaker in Mexico since the 1960’s and how this friendship impacted his career.

So, how did Po Shun Leong come to Mexico? Here is his humorous narrating:

“It was a serendipitous accident. Actually I was not sure where the country was, as it was not part of the former British Empire. We were mostly taught about the British colonies then. My (high) school in England was run by Quakers. They were involved in many social projects. After college the American Friends Service Committee asked me to volunteer in constructing a community building for the Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine. I replied “Send me anywhere else but Maine.” So they sent me to Mexico to live in a remote village in Tlaxcala on the side of “La Malinche” mountain. There was no water, electricity or road. I lived for a year with the volunteers, helping to build a 110 meter deep well by hand, a library, a bridge, veterinary services. The local priest called us communists in his church sermon and the police did a raid in search of drugs, but none of us smoked or consumed alcohol and the villagers supported our presence and taught us some Nahuatl. I became padrino to several children. This experience was THE introduction to Mexico.

I worked in the Cultural section of the Olympics. I was assisting Susana Esponda, Director from the Festival de “Pintura Infantil”. Children from participating countries came to Mexico to paint large murals that were exhibited along el Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Pedro Ramirez Vazquez took a close interest in this event. We used to practice painting methods and display in the patio of the architect’s home in El Pedregal with guidance from the muralist Jose Chavez Morado.”

And here are some interesting images from the Exhibition of Contemporary Furniture that Po Shun Leong helped to install with Prof. Alfonso Soto Soria in the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) back in 1975 whilst living in Mexico.

Side by side Po Shun Leong and Don S. Shoemaker presented some of their furniture pieces at  this 1975 “Exposición de Diseño Mexicano” in the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM), Mexico City.  Here you can see Don S. Shoemaker´s wood furniture and some of Po Shun Leong´s contemporary fiber-glass chairs:

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

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong – Part #2

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Po Shun Leong´s interesting story (Part #2) on how he met Don S. Shoemaker in Mexico since the 1960’s and how this friendship influenced his career:

In 1981 we left Mexico and settled in California just before the deep recession began. It was as though life had stopped still. I lost contact with Don.

In California I began making little functional band sawn boxes from off-cuts or locally found wood, like Don’s “Organic Design Box”. We spend many a weekend selling our handicrafts in local craft fairs. Gradually with more confidence, the work evolved to beyond being merely functional becoming dramatic in expression as one-of-a-kind objects, inspired from the legendary places of the world such as Uxmal, Machu Picchu or Rome.

Two of Po Shun Leong´s fantastic boxes are shown here.

The Ancient Ruins Box:

The Landscape Box:

Thanks to Don’s earlier encouragement and direction it only took a few short years to become a completely independent studio furniture maker in the Los Angeles area. My work has been shown in the top shows, galleries and is in various permanent museum collections.

The Pasadena Console:

In 1989 or 1990 I was exhibiting my work in a show organized by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC when an elderly man in a wheelchair came into the booth, accompanied by a woman, his daughter. He looked around and saw my name on the wall and remembered me from years back. Not long afterwards he passed away. His daughter purchased one of my art furniture pieces in his memory.

Last year I had the opportunity to participate in the “Vida y Diseño en Mexico” exhibition with some of my furniture from Mexico and was especially honored to be in the same place as Don.

Po Shun Leong

http://www.poshunleong.com/ptang.html

P.S. I remember Don saying that he was good friends with the Cardenas family, especially Lazaro Cardenas. I used to be in friendly contact and work with Doña Amalia, wife of the ex-president and her sister Virginia. They had a home in Tacambaro. Doña Amalia headed a charity program in Oaxaca which she visited every year and I had designed and made hundreds of children’s furniture that she donated to the nurseries. I accompanied her in those trips. When I hurt my leg they gave me a walking stick to get around on. I still keep the stick in my car, just in case.

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

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker and Po Shun Leong – Part #1

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It is an honor to present my guest writer, the world known artist Po Shun Leong and his interesting story how Don S. Shoemaker inspired him to start his career in woods craftsmanship over 30 years ago.

Po Shun Leong, former architect, sculptor and furniture maker, known since the late 1980´s for his highly intricate and inspiring one-of-a-kind wood boxes. The “Landscape” box, a constantly evolving series since 1983 – more drama than box – is architectural in character and built up of many different woods in their natural colors, inspired from ancient or legendary civilizations. The flamboyant sense of shape, surprise and presentation combined with his initial struggles in Mexico has created a following for his art worldwide. He keeps his studio in the garden of his residence in California and he continues to make elaborate wood objects and a line of sculpturally-inspired furniture pieces.

Po Shun Leong´s remembrances on his wonderful friendship with Don S. Shoemaker since the 1960’s while he lived in Mexico are described here:

“Don S. Shoemaker was very influential in the way my career turned out. His work inspired me to break free to become an independent wood artist in California thirty years ago. It was a pleasure to see Don’s creations again on your web site.”

In 1967 when I was working with C.A.P.F.C.E. the Mexican Federal school construction program in Morelia, Michoacan, I rented a small apartment at the Villa Montaña, in Santa Maria de Guido. As an architect, I designed 27 primary schools in places like Apazingan, Caolcoman, Aquila, Patzcuaro etc. and traveled on horseback over the remote mountains of the Pacific coast before there were any roads.

Since I was a near neighbor to Don S. Shoemaker’s SEÑAL company at the top of the hill, I was able to make friends with him and his wife Barbara and also get to know the factory and their designs. Don was the first person who I had ever met whose furniture set off my mind into the possibilities of what to do and where to go in the future. It had to be furniture. He had a large showroom with many samples. I could only afford a couple of objects, a rectangular tray of inlayed wood which I still treasure here in California. The other was a donkey stool for friends who had a little boy.

Don’s work was an inspiration for me especially in the design of functional objects, many of which were free from the constraints of traditional styles and methods of construction. I especially appreciated the way you could tell that the hands of makers were expressed in the shapes and surfaces and the efficient use of machines that enabled the products to be available at reasonable prices. We talked mainly about making furniture, machines and wood; just practical things.

When I began to make furniture independently in Mexico City in the early 1970’s, I sought a more distilled and purer form, some of which were handmade whilst others were mass produced. I made wood dining chairs, sling chairs and even plastic ones all in a contemporary style and received awards from the government and in the Knoll International Furniture Competition.

Here are some of Po Shun Leong´s wood furniture pieces made in Mexico during the 1970´s:

The Tulum leather set from 1974

The Chamela chair from 1975

The Hacienda Set 1976

And the Duveen dining chair from 1979

to be continued….in part # 2

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

@donshoemaker.com

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