COOL + CULTURAL
As December approaches, we begin preparing for winter and making plans to enjoy the season. The Danish – who are also accustomed to long dark winters – embrace a concept called “hygge,” which cannot be translated directly into English, but is a term that generally embodies coziness. Candlelight, homemade food, and the warmth of friends and family, these things reflect the spirit of hygge. Dark cold nights outside make the warmth of a fire and the glow of friendly faces extra special. As the holidays approach, I hope that you are able to enjoy the inherent coziness of the upcoming season.
I recently visited Lisbon, Portugal for a conference with the Leaders of Design Council. The people in Lisbon were especially friendly, and about one in four spoke English. It is a visually beautiful city with a unique charm that is less formal than many other major European cities. Below I’ve included a few of my favorite highlights.
• The Oceanário de Lisboa is a beautiful facility in a breathtaking location; it has been rated one of the best aquariums in the world.
• The National Coach Museum is a very interesting and cool space. One night we enjoyed dinner at a single table set for 140 people!
• At the Museu de Artes Decorativas we saw magnificently preserved decorative arts, including beautiful passementerie, or detailed trims and fringe.
• For lodging, I would recommend the elegant Four Seasons in Lisbon.
• A must-see is the São Jorge Castle, as the views from this ancient Moorish landmark are extraordinary.
• Another favorite stop was the restaurant Kais. The food is fabulous and the space is spectacular; the giant warehouse features original worn brick and beams as well as gigantic burning candelabras.
• Tuk tuks are frequently available in Lisbon. They are a fun mode of transportation and provide a unique way to experience the city while on the go.
As I’ve traveled through Europe over the years, I have often been inspired by the unique multipurpose layouts I’ve seen in many interiors there. For example, a large table in a living room can serve as a work surface, a dining table, a display table, and also a cocktail serving area for entertaining. More and more I find that people want to get as much use out of their space as possible. In order to accomplish this, it’s often helpful to start with all of the desired uses for a room, and then work to find elements that will suit all of these purposes. To this end, daybeds often work well work well, as they are by nature very flexible. It can be challenging to get out of the mindset of traditional and expected layouts, but ultimately it’s a process that can make a space as valuable and interesting as possible.
How does your creative process unfold?
I try to keep an element of play and improvisation in everything that I do. Discovery is the thing that excites me most, and that race towards completion of a project is the thing that fuels the creative process for me. I often find that the first iteration of something that I make is the best, maybe because I really don’t know what I’m doing. You are learning how to make something each time you do it, whether it be writing a song, or making a bell or an ink drawing.
When I start working on the ink pieces, I usually set up some sort of grid with old geometric print blocks. This gives me some sort of framework within which I can work. Ink is an amazing medium, because you can put it on anything and transfer that shape or texture to the paper. I spend hours combing the flea markets around Chicago looking for interesting tools that have fallen by the wayside. Using various implements to make marks gives me a variety of vocabularies that I can use at different times. I like the structure that the tools provide since I’m not a trained artist. I couldn’t draw an accurate portrait of somebody, but I can dunk some perforated steel strapping in ink and press it on the page, or cut the head off of a giant bolt and make it into a textured roller; those are the processes that I enjoy.
How did you become interested in working with bells?
I’ve been interested in bells since I was very young. My great-grandmother gave me a few tuned Swiss cowbells when I was a kid, and I’ve always loved the sound of pitched percussion instruments. I’ve been collecting bells from my travels for many years. My first job was working in a tool and die shop and so I became comfortable working with metal when I was still in high school. It’s a skill that I didn’t anticipate being a big part of my life, but it’s proven useful. I would work in a metal shop in Brooklyn sometimes when I wasn’t on tour and it provided me with a space to start experimenting with new musical instrument ideas.
I have been making electric kalimbas and steel bells for many years now, and the cast bronze sound vessels are another extension of my love for sound and art. My process is fairly experimental and each bell is a unique piece with its own sound. I don’t do much to manipulate the pitch once they are cast. I hope that people who end up with my bells get joy out of them. The sound is rich and the material is beautiful, so people are reminded of the elemental beauty that surrounds us.
What is your philosophy on life?
I’m trying to find a way to put love at the center of my actions. Especially in personal interactions, but also in art making. Love for the materials, love for the subject, love for the history and the community of people making art around me, and love for my audience. People need love in all different kinds of ways, and hopefully my art can serve some sort of purpose and inspire others to create.
I’m working on several different records right now, and also a number of sculpture projects. I’ve been melting down bullets and guns and making peace bells, and hopefully that project will find some new energy in the new year. It’s a pretty difficult process logistically, physically, and even emotionally. I’m hoping to do some more large scale standing bell trees in the next few months. I’ve always got a few projects brewing, and I’m just trying to stay organized, disciplined, and productive.
New rugs are one of the easiest ways to update a space, making it warm and welcoming for holiday guests. More often than not, I think people tend to underestimate the right rug size. A rug defines the perimeter of a space, so a larger size often translates to a space that feels bigger. Bear in mind that antique rugs can sometimes be on the smaller side, so you may need to layer multiple antique rugs, or layer an antique rug over a natural rug such as jute or sisal. I tend to gravitate towards rugs from Caucasus and Iran, and I also especially like 19th century Turkish rugs. Antique rugs are warm and weathered; their imperfections add interest, especially when the patterns are not consistent and the worn colors are muted in tone.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
TWO FAVORITE RECIPES
In closing, I’d like to share two favorite holiday recipes with you. The first is a prime rib recipe that my family has been making for decades. It is a big crowd pleaser! The second is a festive holiday punch, which can be made as a single cocktail but is well suited for a large batch, as it is also often a hit. Hope you enjoy!
SALT ENCRUSTED PRIME RIB
4 pounds prime rib roast
2 cups kosher salt
1 tablespoon seasoning salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 210 degrees. Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with kosher salt. Place the roast, bone side down, on the salt. Season the roast with ground black pepper and seasoning salt and then cover completely with the rest of the kosher salt. Roast for 4 to 5 hours. Remove the roast from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Remove all salt before serving.
WINTER SPICE HOLIDAY PUNCH
2 parts vodka
1 part fresh lemon juice
1/16 part Angostura bitters (or to taste)
1/4 part winter spice simple syrup (or to taste)
To make the winter spice simple syrup, boil water and steep mulling spice tea bags as you would make tea. (Mulling spice tea bags are commonly available at grocery stores and easily found online.) Once the bags are fully steeped, after about 5 minutes, remove them and add about as much sugar as there is water.
To make the punch, determine the desired number of servings and then mix the ingredients in the proportions as listed. Serve over ice.