Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good Housekeeping/ Roasting

I can't tell you the amount of "Roasting" stories I have had to do in my time in the U.S in particular, Next to "Grilling" It's a popular subject matter for food shoots, for obvious reasons. I know myself, I like to roast, there is nothing better than a roast on a Sunday night, It reminds me almost of a bygone era, at least for me, living in New York, It's probably going to be more like home delivered Chinese and a Beer, but nothing beats the smell of something roasting in the oven though I am sure you would all agree.

For this shoot I had to make sure I found the right roasting pan especially for the opener, For this particular roasting story for "Good Housekeeping" it was important to get the right type of pan. The idea was that everything in the story could be roasted on the one pan and you did not have to go out and buy a whole lots of new things to do it. Of course on the shoot we had new pans, old pans, square pans, rectangle pans, think lots of pans! The one chosen I think was nice, It has a vintage feel.

The story was shot once again by the talented Con Poulos. This is only a small selection of the story published.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food Network/ Con Poulos

Every month in Food Network magazine they have a regular feature called "Weekend Cooking" I have styled this section with Photographer Con Poulos a couple of times so far. For the February issue, we shot the images above. The story appears on spreads but have different themes. This months themes were "Comfort Food", "Chophouse", "Dressed up Salmon" and "Mexican Feast" Of course they are all very different so it's important that they all have a different flavor but run together as a complete section. Linking the colors is important and while it maybe subtle, special attention is given to doing it in a way that does not look cheesy but aspirational.

We shoot this story over 2 days. What a lot of people don't realize is that it takes a lot longer to shoot food than what you may think. The art of the "Food Stylist" is one I highly respect, what may look great served up at your dinner party at home I hate to say may look like a "dogs breakfast" under the camera. The camera never lies so they say and with food it is so true, every slosh, even misshapen potato shows, there is no room for slapping down the dish and see how it goes! A good Food Stylist is a sculptor with food, they understand how food will translate under the camera, they know how to choose just the right piece of meat, just the right placement of garnish and just the right look on the rim of a drunken beer, every detail is taken into consideration.

On this shoot the Food Stylist was the very talented Jamie Kimm,, check out his work on his website. Jamie was Photographer Annie Leibovitz's personal chef for 3 years and has recently authored his first book with another great Food Stylist Alison Attenborough called "Cooking for Friends"

Hope you enjoy the shots!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Murals.. not in a Museum, It's out there!

Sometimes I just feel like writing a bit of a random post, All this serious work stuff can be a bit mind bending. While I don't necessarily think the art of murals are frivolous, I do like there unexpected nature of turning up in all sorts of places, often with a light heart and humor. I am lucky in New York to have these spontaneous moments happen at many corners. In playgrounds, On the side of shops and even on garage doors.

Garage doors seem to be a running theme in this post, I love the warped looking Marilyn's on a garage door on the drive out of Province town, Massachusetts, every summer they always make me smile, In Montreal a naive, innocent landscape of a tree and rolling hills brightens up a boring alleyway, In Minneapolis, a whole side of a building is painted in diagonal stripes looks strangely 1980's.

What has this to do with Styling, I am not sure, although I do know I have had to paint many a set in the same fashion. I am always handy with my camera and I am always finding moments of inspiration, here are some I would like to share.

Here's a big hand to those people dangling off ladders, cranes or scaffolding creating often huge pieces of art, some stay a long time and others disappear almost overnight, that is why I like to record them because you never know when someone with little imagination decides its time to homogenise the cityscape once again with their beige mentality!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring has Sprung/ BH&G's March 2010 cover

One of my regular client, "Better Homes and Garden" recently asked me to help them produce their covers. Of course I have had quite a bit of experience with this in the past, having produced all of the "Real Simple" covers while I was there between 2006 and 2008. I also have also worked on many Australian magazine covers prior.

There is a process when it comes to covers, the approach to them can be quite different then a regular feature. The magazine for obvious reasons is highly scrutinized and deliberated by all. Often focus groups can even be called upon to determine the outcome of which cover will run. Therefore a lot of options need to be produced to make sure every angle is covered, Often 2 ideas or more will be shot in many different ways and then it is left to the higher powers or the readers to decide. There are a few rules to follow: often the cover needs to reflect the season it is coming out on the new stands, It needs to also be an "easy read" and jump out. The choice of colors is important, I find the choices of colors are really what drives a covers success at times, but of course the image also.

To give you an idea, "Better Home and Gardens" is the nations third largest magazine in paid circulation and sells 7.6 million copies per month in the U.S.A. As they claim "Better Homes and Gardens delivers more potential buyers than Country Living, Architectural Digest and Martha Stewart Living combined" It's average age of it's reader is 49 years old and 78% of them own their own home.

With such a large circulation, It is very important that the right image is chosen. My approach is to start the process by working with an existing theme in mind, Often the magazine will give me a few words like "Eat Healthy Kitchen" , "Spring Clean" or "Summer Entertaining" to work with. Sometimes they have a clear idea of what they want to represent this and sometimes they look to me to come up on a fresh take or new ideas all together. In these images represented on this post, you can see an initial pull of 4 out of 6 different ideas that I sketched up. These are reviewed and then I move forward with reworking the favorites or even sometimes a whole new idea. I will then sketch a further 12-16 new ideas and eventually 2 will be chosen from the presentation. I then work through the colors by presenting color chips and when these are also approved, I then go propping. In this post you can also see here some ideas with actual props beginning to formulate at one of the Prop Houses.

With this cover we wanted a quick easy centerpiece or decorating idea that the readers could do with flowers. The cover comes out at the launch of Spring so the flowers and colors reflect that. My idea was to use an eccelectic collection of cups and saucers that most people have even perhaps in the back of their cupboards and stack them on top of each other to form different heights and shapes. The idea also alludes to a "Garden Tea Party", common in Spring. As a second option we also shot a version with cylinder vases combining vegetables and flowers. The cup and saucer version was however chosen and then it was liked so much that an accompanying story was published inside with some of the overs from the shoot which was great as many times the other options are never seen.

In the end the image chosen was by coincidence most peoples favorite who worked on the shoot, It was very exciting to see it on the new stands when it came out last week, I hope you enjoy the nod to Spring, especially when a lot of us are knee deep in snow.

This cover was shot by the wonderful Kate Mathis, who I have the pleasure of working with quite often, She insisted on doing a version backlit on this set up which ended up being the one that ran, It was a good call as the lighting is beautiful, I am sure you would agree.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Instant Glamor, We all can use some!

I first stumbled across my first piece of Syroco at Sydney’s Bondi Markets; it’s actually a rare find in Australia. I discovered these elongated flying seagulls and had to have them, At first I thought they actually were 100% carved wood but then I discovered after some research, they were in fact not at all 100% wood. Syroco products are actually made from a mold. These molds also featured a wood grain within the mold, allowing for a more detailed aesthetic. The recipe of wood flour, waxes, and resins combined with compression molding created an inexpensive, but high quality product.

The Syracuse Ornamental Company, also known as Syroco, was founded in the late 1890's by an Austrian woodcarver named Adolph Holstein. Initially the company produced ornamental carvings for the embellishment of coffins and furniture as well as the interiors of fashionable homes.

The Syracuse Ornamental Company became Syroco, Inc., in the 1930’s. By the1940’s, other companies such as Multi Products were producing Syrocco products. The Syracuse Ornamental Company produced many products for the home including ashtrays, decorative architectural moldings and very sought after cork screws."

During the 1950's Highly stylized wall mirrors, sconces, and decorations became the company's focus In 1953, Syroco introduced a process for obtaining the finish on these seemingly gilded home accessories, called "metalgold"; a process, as the catalog states, "...wherein real metal is deposited on the object and toned and shaded by skilled hand operations."

When I came to the States, I started to see them everywhere, particularly in the Flea Markets, from a distance they look like intricately carved architectural pieces from A French Chateau or Japanese Temple, but on closer inspection you realize they are in fact stylized replications, sometimes in plain wood finish, sometimes hand colored and sometimes gold gilded. When I started to watch Mad Men, I saw them on the walls of the offices of Sterling Cooper, Don and Betty’s home and even in their neighbors. The factory was in upstate New York so it makes sense that much of it can still be found locally and that they were probably in fact in many homes around that time.

I have to admit, A lot of it can be on the tacky side and an overload of it is not recommended, but the occasional piece will add some instant glamour at a decent price tag, They are lightweight too so they won’t come crashing down onto the floor. I also use the all the time on shoots, as you may have seen on this blog already and I rotate quite a few in my own place. It helps to have a sense of humor when decorating with these pieces, they certainly make me smile!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New York International Gift Fair

One of the duties of being a Stylist is to attend as many trade shows as you can fit in, Of course you have to be selective!, There are many you can attend, Internationally and locally. The NYIGF in New York City occurs twice a year. Held in January and August in New York City at the Javitz Center, The Fair claims to “showcase the very best lines across the home, lifestyle and gift spectrum”. The show is a great resource to see what’s new and what’s happening amongst suppliers. For me it’s an opportunity to reconnect, meet and show (or feign) interest in as many new potential suppliers as possible, but also show your regular suppliers you are still interested in what they have to offer in the marketplace and thus can end up on the pages of magazines and blogs.

The configuration of the show can be similar each time, For instance Jonathan Adler will always be in the same place so it’s easy to navigate, Speaking of which for me this booth is always a highlight, With Jonathan there is always something new, This years booth reminded me or Alexander Girard on steroids. Chilewich,, who do great woven vinyl mats have some really sophisticated takes on place mats and runners, there booth was very simply styled but had impact. Bob’s Your Uncle,, from Boston, A husband and wife team had some great new melamine plates that have a nautical theme, always a favorite of mine, I love the one with the whale. LBK Studio, whose founder Laura Kramer does amazing products with glass, I loved the glass capsules that had tiny still life miniatures inside each one. Another favorite is always Areaware,, A New York based manufacturer renowned for unique design products with an emphasis on forward thinking technologies and original expression, There “Fauna Pillows” are not exactly new but they do have some new designs including a panda who I fell in love with, who wouldn't?

The show is extremely tiring, chatting, absorbing, carrying bags of heavy literature, It’s not for the faint hearted! Aisle after aisle there is another 20 suppliers to chat to, Sometime’s it feels like it’s never going to end! To be honest I can never get through the whole thing, to do so would mean dedicating at least 2/3 days, a day is enough for me!

Regardless of it’s exhausting nature, I never regret attending, So many suppliers really pull out of their design hats the greatest, some booths feeling like you have entered a whole new mini world, For me it’s like shopping in a very big supermarket filled to the brim with more things to own, admire and inspire!

I have not mentioned everybody in these pictures, I will continue to elaborate on specific products, themes and trends in future posts, for now enjoy a small but tasty morsel.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ya gotta love it!

Well folks, Its that time of year again and love is in the air, For me Valentines came early when on a recent trip to Des Moines I found in a second hand store a lovely heart shaped vase by The Blenko Glass Company. Blenko is a well know brand founded by English born William J. Blenko in Kokomo, Indianan 1893. The company has had a long history in the U.S but it’s work that received critical acclaim occurred in the middle of the last century receiving the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design Awards in 1950, thereby ensconcing Blenko as a leader in modern American glass through the 1950s and 1960s. Blenko's historic period began in 1946 up to 1974. Recently like many companies Blenko as a company has come into financial unsteadiness, lets hope they can find a way out of it, unlike the demise of other companies like Waterford Wedgwood. My piece is a later piece, I can tell by the cellophane label that only came out in later years.

It’s a strange thing but after finding the vase and with Valentines Day approaching, I have begun to see heart shapes everywhere and love for that matter, Ah how sweet love is! I was only wandering down 6th Ave the other day when I rediscovered the LOVE statue by American artist Robert Indiana The image was apparently originally designed as a Christmas card for the MoMA in 1964, and first exhibited as a sculpture in New York City in 1970. The LOVE design has been reproduced in a variety of formats. Likewise, the sculpture has been recreated in multiple versions and a variety of colors, every time I see it, it makes me happy!

On one of my fave websites an online journal of “Purl” (A NYC shop in Soho devoted to beautiful materials and tools for knitting, sewing, quilting, and other crafts), I spotted some cute felt pin cushion hearts. I love the way Purl Bee photograph their crafts in simple colorful compositions that even inspire someone like me who personally is not into crafting at all.

And then in that old fashioned way I still love called snail mail, I received the cutest wedding invite ever from my friend Nina Exharos, a very talented Interior Designer in Australia, check out her and Genevieve Hromas, her business partner’s website on and of course there was that heart again! To top it off today I opened my mail again to get a beautiful letterpress card from Elephant Props, Isn’t love a beautiful thing!

For a Hallmark holiday that celebrates a concept that few of us really understand. Love is a word that is certainly bandied around, but one things for certain for all us “love” means something different, typographically I love the way “love” looks, stylistically I like the many ways it can be applied as a symbol, nothing reads quicker than the shape of a heart, etched into a desk at high school or on a Moschino bottle of perfume!

Happy Valentines Day all you love sick fools!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Frame It!

Many would not know that I used to be a head librarian…in grade school that is! Age 9, It was at my desk positioned, stationed near the door where I would sit feet dangling off a tall stool, rubber stamp at my reach and a copy of Tintin in my hands. Kind of ironic that the head librarian was reading comics, but there was something mystical and adventurous about them that spoke a sophistication to a 9 year old, after all Tintin was a Belgian globetrotting reporter who visited everywhere from China to the moon!

My grade school had every Tintin comic available, double copies at that, I soon learnt at an early age I was not meant for the playground, I much preferred delving into my own world of make believe then falling on asphalt. Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, Snowy and my favorite Bianca Castafiore, the famous Opera Diva became my friends in adventure and I idolized Tintin even wearing my hair trying to replicate his famous quiff with some 80's hair gel.

What intrigued me was furniture in Captain Haddocks mansion, the tribal artifacts, inside the rocket ship but mostly the inside flaps that featured a series of frames on a candy striped wallpapered wall, I thought it was genius how it illustrated all the characters in different styled ornate and plain frames, I liked the way the frames where all irregular, some where cock eyed, I use to study it for hours.

This fascination with frames has been a reoccurring theme to my work as a Stylist; I in fact produced a story for Real Simple, that I shot with the very talented Sang An,, which revolved around the whole concept of reusing and decorating with empty frames. In a story that I shot with the wonderful Hallie Burton, on my former apartment, we shot a series of frames on the wall that I had subconsciously arranged just as it appeared in Tintin.

Of course this theme is not an uncommon one in decorating, A few years ago, Artists Taylor and Wood designed an interactive wallpaper for English wallpaper company Graham and Brown, called “Frames” (Of course!) The purpose of the wallpaper is that you decide what you want it to be: whether you want to put up your child's art, paint directly into a frame, or put up family photos, I quite like it with nothing on it at all!

The thing that topped it off for me this week that inspired me to finish this post is I discovered an old English toffee tin at a thrift store in NYC, It was manufactured by George W. Horner and Co Ltd, probably from around the 1940’s that had exactly the same theme that has fascinated me for years, how uncanny, I had to have it, Isn’t it amazing how the smallest things amuse and inspire!