Ettore Sottsass, Olivetti, Thrift Stores and Me
Those who've followed BarryBlog, especially through the three years of rather regular postings from Fall 2006 until Winter 2008, know that I have a rather informed design eye, combined with a consistent thrift store routine, which gives me a great deal of opportunities to find important design items at thrift store prices. As an example, one afternoon I came across a rare Olivetti Praxis 48 typewriter by famed designer, artist and architect Ettore Sottsass. Just to rub it in for my fellow thriftsters, it was $4.99. It just so happens that Sottsass is one of my long-time favorite designers, since I cut my design teeth in the late 80's, right about the time Sottsass founded The Memphis Design Movement. During this formative time in my young design career, Memphis was at full stride and had influenced the design thinking of Mark Johnson and Lauren Ciesa at JCI (JohnsonCiesa) – the design firm where I worked at in East Lansing Michigan. During this time, the bold, whimsical colors and shapes where a complete departure from the bland work being done in Corporate America, where the archetypal color combination was burgundy and grey. Lauren always sprung for great office lighting, modern decorative arts and high end furniture, and that passion for well design items made a lasting impression.
Though Sottsass’s iconic Valentine typewriter has eluded me, I do have a couple other fine examples of his work in the form of the Olivetti Lettera 36; Olivetti Lettera 32; and Olivetti/Underwood 319. The Praxis 48 is among my most prized items in my growing collection of important design. I keep hoping I will come across a piece of his incredible pottery, but that would surprise me considering they routinely go for $5,000 on up.
So this afternoon, savoring a newly sore throat and achy body, I came across this great Sottsass film by his last collaborator, Enesco Corporation. Ettore’s design fire was not extinguished until his death at the ripe old age of 90.
If you have any stories of Sottsass, or have any of his design work in your collection, do share it here.
I am not certain if these last two recent posts are a sign of things to come, but for some reason I am feeling the desire to contribute, and realize how I still have plenty to add to the conversation. We’ll see.
Labels: decorative arts, designer, Enesco, Ettore Sottsass, Furniture, JohnsonCiesa, Lauren Ciesa, Lettera 36, mid century modern, Olivetti, Praxis 48, Product Design, typewriter, Underwood 319, vintage