Frame-worthy Houses

One of the appeals of living in North Buffalo, or the city in general for that matter, is being immersed in the beauty and charm that comes with the 100+ year old houses.

We truly love our 1910 house with all its history and character and curb appeal.

So last year, when our friend Julia sent us a holiday card with a drawing of her house on the cover, we were impressed (and maybe even a little envious). Obviously, at that moment Karen and I both decided it was imperative that we have a drawing of our house done at some point as well.

Here’s where the funny part of the story comes in. I acted quickly and enlisted the services of Karen Matchette, the artist who drew Julia’s house. Our house on Saranac was precisely drawn, double matted, framed and wrapped in August – a solid four months ahead of Christmas! Surely a record for me.

Fast forward to last week, and Karen starts snooping around for the same person’s contact information to have the same drawing done for my Christmas gift.

We are sooo soulmates aren’t we? It was definitely cute that we both had great intentions for the same holiday gift, but it did add an element of stress. In Julia’s frantic attempt to preserve my surprise while staying a loyal friend to both of us, she did the only thing she could do and lied to my wife. Mysteriously, as the story went, the artist upped and moved of town last month.

Yea, not really, but it seemed plausible.

Karen didn’t let it stop her and she immediately reached out to another artist in town who does similar work in her own style – Dana Saylor. Given that I knew Karen was hot on the trail to get this gift for me I pulled an audible and gave her the intended Christmas gift on her birthday Friday. Here’s how it turned out:

Drawing 1

She loved it. We love it. Then we laughed about our parallel journeys toward getting this done. Then we immediately reached out to Dana with an apology and a request to rip up the check she’ll soon be receiving. Then we hung it up. Then we wrote this blog.

In the end, we have a permanent commemoration of our first home that will hang on our wall for years to come. Should we ever leave this old, beautiful house, it’s great to know that, through this picture, it will always be with us no matter where we are. And you as a reader, now have two wonderful references should you wish to have this done for your house!

Drawing 2

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Room Buffalo, dominating.

You may say this is old news or I’m late in posting this (it’s a whopping three days late). My apologies – it’s been quite a busy month for me!

But regardless, I wanted to put this out there, and in case you missed it, let you know that it was a pretty amazing month for Room BuCelebrating-10-Years-room-buffalo-michael-p-design-buffalo-ny-hertel-avenueffalo.

In addition to celebrating ten years of great success, the high-end Hertel Avenue interior design shop, and specifically, Michael P. as designer, was featured on HGTV’s House Hunters Renovations.

You can read much more detail about it in Buffalo Rising’s article, here.

I just want to offer my public kudos to Michael P. and Room Buffalo for taking their creativity, style and expertise to the national stage and representing North Buffalo so well. Pretty damn cool if you ask me!

I also learned that August 9th was deemed Michael P. day in Buffalo. If I was mayor Brown, I would’ve done that too. Congrats again to them, keep up the good work! And for all of you, stop in and peek around – I’m sure your decor can use an upgrade!

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House: Beyond The Architecture

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The drive to Parkside, Buffalo’s first suburb designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a hop, skip and a jump away from Hertel, is bound to leave you astounded. And rightly so, because the sight is one of magnificent opulence. Pardon me, “organic” magnificent opulence.

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For it is in this historic neighborhood, at the conjuncture of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue that Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated Darwin D. Martin house stands in all its glory.

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Completed in 1907 (yes, nineteen-o-seven), the six historic structures spread over a sprawling 29,000 square feet exemplify Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy about organic architecture, and his now-famous quote “form and function are one.”

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But there is more to the Darwin Martin House than meets the eye. Behind this perfect-prairie facade lies the dedication and hard work of volunteers – almost 400 of them. They could be serving as your docents or chaperones, helping you pick out a souvenir from the beautifully curated pieces of the museum gift store, or simply fluffing the cushions in the main living room (Frank Lloyd Wright cushions, pretty big deal!).

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As a new volunteer at Darwin-Martin House myself, I can first-handedly vouch for the appreciation that the board and the staff has towards all of their volunteers. Be it the Director of Volunteers agreeing to chat with me for the blog, proudly beaming when telling me that her volunteers are the face of this organization and the most rewarding aspect of her job; or the Director of Retail Operations giving me a tour of the gift shop, narrating the story of every single art piece or souvenir that he offers in the store – it does not take long for one to realize why 400 people devote their time to this Buffalo monument (after all we do have a lot of options).

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So next time when you are on the tour, look beyond the architecture. Stop by the museum store to chat with the retail-store volunteers, ask your chaperones and docents for their stories. I promise you will not be disappointed!

Special thanks to Angela Laviano-Hamister and Joseph Incao for their precious time and cooperation.

Pictures: DarwinMartinHouse.org

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House is currently in Phase V of an expansive restoration project estimated to cost $50 million, out of which $40 million has already been raised.

Fire the Kiln to Cone Five

Circa 1998,
Manhattan, New York City

Three hundred and seventy three miles away from home, wandering about the trendy SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan; amidst the buildings that are higher, streets that are wider, and steaks that are thicker; amidst all this commotion; a young man discovers his passion for creation; his passion for pottery.

January 2014,
Hertel Avenue, Buffalo

7Sixteen years later, it is in this Little Italy of ours, in a newly expanded space, flanked by beautiful red and black awnings, adorned by art from over sixty different fine craft artists; that I meet Greg Link, Ceramic Artist and Owner of Cone Five Pottery.

When asked about his formal training, his answer is “almost none”. A six week class was enough to tell him that he was a natural at pottery. But being natural was not enough for this perfectionist artist, so he shut himself in his studio on Rhode Island St. for almost three years, his only companions being several books on the subject and a potter’s wheel. In his own words “I would end up smashing pretty much everything I made”. The laborious efforts paid off, and soon Greg saw himself moving from his old studio to a work studio-cum-gallery space on Allen followed by Elmwood, and eventually finding its current home on Hertel.

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His attention to detail and finesse is demonstrated as soon as he brings out a ceramic cone to explain the meaning of his gallery’s name (the temperature of the kiln is determined by these ceramic cones. When the fourth cone is completely bent and the fifth cone starts to slump, the temperature of the kiln has reached 2120 degrees F, perfect temperature the kiln is fired to).

13While being a business owner, creating and selling your art might be enough for most, Greg did not stop here. After establishing himself as a master craftsman, he decided it was time to give back to his community. So he went out of his way to support as many local artists as he could, by providing a home to their art, be it ceramics, glass, wood, metal or jewelry, in his gallery. Another aspect of his work is the embodiment of Frank Llyod Wright’s mantra of “Form Follows Function”. This artist wants people to incorporate his art, his pottery in their daily life activities. Enter very clean and tastefully done bowls, vases, sconces, platters and what not.

So here it is, another gem in our lovely neighborhood.  And if pottery does not happen to be your thing, how does the idea of owning something that is one-of-a-kind, lovingly, thoughtfully, painstakingly and proudly made in Buffalo sound to you?

Worth a shot, isn’t it?

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The Story Behind the Design

I can’t be alone. Among the thousands of pro-716 “BuffaLOVERS”, I think many of us have an unexplained affinity for the standing buffalo. An odd choice for a favorite animal, sure.  Especially for one that has no confirmed credit for the city of Buffalo’s name. But yet it’s slapped all over everything we love, from sports teams to street landscapes. So of course when Karen and I moved to the city, we immediately needed to adorn our new house with the burly image.

Enter New Buffalo Graphics, the standing buffalo capital of Buffalo.

The first piece that caught my eye looked like a pack of camel cigarettes. Closer inspection revealed creative detail with a purpose unrelated to smoking altogether. References to camel were replaced by buffalo both in writing and graphically. Cigarettes became clarinets and the subhead of Jazz & Geography Blend Clarinets brought it all together.

But what’s better is how those elements came about.

I inquired with Hertel Avenue shop owner and designer, Michael Morgulis (who I note is a former award winning Ad Club member), about his inspiration for this wildly interesting piece, and also (politely) demanded an explanation on how it related to Buffalo. He was happy to oblige, and went on to tell me about his days in the late 70s and early 80s where he would develop posters for the Just Buffalo Literary Center. Each poster announced an event, usually a poetry reading or other literary happening. In this case, poets and musicians from many geographical points around the country were coming to perform in Buffalo. It was sort of a rock concert, but with poetry and jazz.

He went on to tell me how the stars aligned at the 11th hour.

“So, there I was trying to meet deadline, up all night, drinking coffee and smoking one Camel after another, struggling to come up with the right combination of words and images. And then it was time to take my daughter to the Community Music School for her clarinet lesson. As usual, she complained that I smelled bad from smoking so much. So, I decided the only right thing to do was to listen to the wisdom and quit smoking then and there. All at once the elements of that moment coalesced. The sun came out from behind the clouds, the air was clear and I knew that the clarinet/cigarette rhyme and the “make music, not smoke” message was going to somehow be on the 17×22 piece of paper on my drawing board. I crumpled the pack of Camels with 3 cigarettes left, meaning to dump it forever… and then, in a double-take, uncrumpled the package, flattened it out and looked at it in an all new way.

I finished the poster in time and never went back to smoking. It was 1985.”

28 years later, it’s in my living room.