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Margaret Esherick House: A Louis Kahn Design for an Independent Woman

 

Margaret Esherick House (photo courtesy Craig Wakefield)
Margaret Esherick House Designed by Louis Kahn (photo courtesy Craig Wakefield).

I could not find a photo of Margaret Esherick(1919-1962), but I found many photos of the house she commissioned in 1959 to be designed by Louis Kahn, who had designed her Uncle Wharton Esherick’s Worskhop.  Margaret Esherick owned a bookstore in Chestnut Hill, and she was a single woman.  Appropriately, the  house had built-in book shelves and one bedroom.

Margaret Esherick House Bookshelves. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.
Margaret Esherick House Bookshelves. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.

The kitchen was designed by Wharton Esherick, with his fine woodworking. Look at those swooping counters and shelves!  Visiting Wharton Esherick’s home and studio in Paoli, PA, mesmerized me with the beauty of his craft: drawers that illuminated when opened, a carved spiral staircase, copper sink in the kitchen.

Margaret Esherick House Kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.
Margaret Esherick House Kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick. Photo by Jon Reksten via Flickr.

There are only scraps of Margaret Esherick’s story.  She had enough money to have a house built for herself.  She died of Pneumonia at age 43 before she had a chance to see the house fully completed.  The story speculated is that she was a Christian Scientist and believed the physical body is not “matter” and that traditional treatments, such as antibiotics, were to be refused.  

What Life is Like in Louis Kahn’s Esherick House

Photo Essay by Todd Eberle on the Esherick House

NOTE: In the process of researching Margaret Esherick’s house, I discovered that her property is along Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill, an endeavor of George Woodward in 1915, which involved him donating land on the condition that the City of Philadelphia condemn some 30 homes, many belonging to Italian stonemasons, who worked on many of the buildings in Chestnut Hill, and also residences of African Americans. Woodward also built the Water Tower Recreation Center that has a craft show we did for a few years.  

In an Orange Room with Margaret Olley

Margaret Olley Still Life with Mandarins
Margaret Olley, Still life with mandarins, c.1975
oil on board, 76 x 122 cm, Private collection

Margaret Olley caught my attention with her orange tones which occurred again and again in her still life paintings. Orange walls, orange objects, oranges.  To my delight I discovered she had an orange dining room, and often painted there, as well as a yellow living room and a green kitchen.

Steven Alderton, Early Morning at Margaret Olley's Home
STEVEN ALDERTON, EARLY MORNING AT MARGARET OLLEY’S HOME 2011 [DIGITAL PRINT ON ARCHIVAL PAPER 158.85CM X 67.5CM] COPYRIGHT: STEVEN ALDERTON
Mandarin oranges are one of the few fruits I remember fondly from growing up in Edmonton, AB.  We would buy a crate at Christmas time, and the thin leathery skins were easy to peel with just a bit of pressure from your fingers.  I made a dollhouse from one of the wooden crates.

Margaret Olley: Australian Artist with Rooms of Her Own

Portrait of Margaret Olley in her Paddington studio by John McRae, 2011
Portrait of Margaret Olley in her Paddington studio by John McRae, 2011

Margaret Olley(1923-2011) is another artist  I discovered because I was searching for Margarets.  In Australia, she is well known. I had not heard of her, and it reminds me of when I left Canada, and all the artists, writers and musicians who were invisible in the United States. 

Margaret Olley / Susan with flowers 1962 / Oil on canvas / Gift of Finney Isles and Co. Ltd. 1964 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAG
Margaret Olley / Susan with flowers 1962 / Oil on canvas / Gift of Finney Isles and Co. Ltd. 1964 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAG

As one article title summed her up, Margaret Olley, last of the Bohemians, she lived in an old hat factory, with colorful walls, and a sculptural array of objects on every surface.  Her house was her “lifelong installation,” and a source of creativity and subjects for her jewel toned still life paintings.  In fact, she donated 1 million dollars to create The Margaret Olley Art Centre, where her rooms are recreated piece by piece.  Margaret Olley’s life was a mixture of being an art student, designing theatrical costumes, and an unerring sense of what Sydney properties she could buy and transform(but no beige paint) and sell at a profit.  She was frugal, didn’t own a car, didn’t marry or have children, and donated 130 artworks to the Art Gallery of NSW including Degas, Picasso and Cezanne. 

Margaret Olley's Portrait wins second Archibald

Her story made me think of Albert Barnes, well known in the Philadelphia area for his Impressionist and Modernist art collection, arranged in a specific order in a mansion he had built to house the work, and from which he never wanted it parted. After his death, through much legal wrangling, the collection was moved to a brand new building  the Ben Franklin Parkway, although still arranged in Barnes order.

Olley remained herself through and through, independent and eccentric.  Still life and interiors were often dismissed by art critics, but Olley persisted in what she wanted to paint. She had no children and evades the United States narrative of “feisty grandmother.” She mentored many Australian artists, and left a legacy of philanthropy.

Margaret Monday

A Wedding Gift in Dark and Lovely Colors

Eggplant and Navy Log Cabin Quilt Trivet by Margaret Almon
Eggplant and Navy Log Cabin Quilt Trivet by Margaret Almon, glass on wood, 8×8 inches, $76. SOLD.

 

This is the second of a trio of Asymmetric Log Cabin Quilt Block Trivets. The first two were wedding gifts from a sister to siblings, and the last was turnabout Gifting the Gifter from one of the recipients. Shades of eggplant purple and navy blue were some of the most challenging to find.  These colors tend to either look black or have too much pastel tint.  Some colors are elusive.  Here’s another I made with some of the same tones.

Commission your wedding gift.

Open Studio and Open Heart: May 7th and May 8th, 2016

Open Studio 2016
Open Studio: Open Heart at Nutmeg Designs.

Stratoz and I invite you to come to our Nutmeg Designs Open Studio: Open Heart on May 7th and 8th, 2016.  Prepare to be delighted, find mosaics and stained glass gifts, and if you bring 5 food items for donation to Manna on Main Street, the opportunity to enter a drawing for a hope stained glass design in your favored colors.

Look for the orange chairs on our polychrome porch!

imagine@nutmegdesignsart.com

Orange Chairs on the Porch of Nutmeg Designs
Orange Chairs on the Porch of Nutmeg Designs

Switch Plate in Art Deco Orange and Copper

Art Deco Switch Plate in Orange and Copper by Margaret Almon
Art Deco Switch Plate in Orange and Copper by Margaret Almon. Duplex outlet and single toggle, $55.

 

A switch plate to be set into a newly painted orange kitchen backsplash was a commission made for my orange-loving heart and suited to the geometrics of Art Deco.  Switch plates and their kin, outlet covers, and the various combinations they come in make for numerous configurations. Each type has its own character.  This one had a single toggle, or single-gang switch, combined with a double outlet for plugs.  Of course it was different than the others I’ve made!

Switchplate as Mosaic Tapestry with Millefiori(single toggle)

Art Deco Inspired Switchplate(double toggle)

Add another combination to the repertoire and send me an email if you are searching for your own light switch or outlet cover.

Margaret Mellis(1914-2009): Hunting for Scraps of Color

 MARGARET MELLIS: PAINTINGS AND RELIEFS
MARGARET MELLIS: PAINTINGS AND RELIEFS. Published by: London: Austin / Desmond Fine Art

Margaret Mellis(1914-2009) is a kindred spirit of scraps and color.  Her work begins with painting, and moves into sculpture and driftwood collage, the latter which she began in her 60’s.  She describes her concern:

‘I wanted the colours to find the kind of strength which would simultaneously let them work at full strength and integrate with themselves and the shapes of the structure.’  (National Galleries Scotland)

Mellis eventually was acknowledged as at the beginnings of British Modernism and she had a Circle of artist friends at Cornwall. I remember taking a class as an undergraduate at Hampshire College called, “Mary Shelley and Her Circle” and being taken with the idea of the constellation of friends all being part of the story.

The driftwood constructions reminded me of the Laura Petrovich-Cheney exhibit I saw at the Michener in November 2015, of sculptures in wood from Superstorm Sandy.    Ian Collins describes Mellis’ materials as “combining beachcombed finds of vividly coloured bits of boats and beach-huts, kippering boards and medieval timbers gouged by deathwatch beetles into honeycomb.”

The Transformed Total: Margaret Mellis’s Constructions

The Oceanic (1994) by Margaret Mellis
The Oceanic (1994) by Margaret Mellis via Leo Reynolds on Flickr Material: Driftwood construction

Harbour by Margaret Mellis
Harbour by Margaret Mellis via Leo Reynolds on Flickr

Harbour by Margaret Mellis
Harbour by Margaret Mellis, detail, via Leo Reynolds on Flickr

 

An excerpt from Margaret Mellis: A Life in Colour


Margaret Monday