Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro

Arnaldo Pomodoro is an Italian sculptor known for his "Sphere within Sphere" series that graces locations around the world, including the Vatican Museum, Trinity College in Dublin, UN Headquarters, the Guggenheim in NYC, and the Columbus Museum, among others. 

I had taken this picture of one of his huge, bronze sculptures in front of the Banca Popolare di Milano building, not realizing that I'd visit his studio the very next day!


Yes, this is yet another artist we learned about on my recent Made in Italy art and design tour through Smithsonian Journeys (I cannot say enough good things about this tour...we saw and did so much! As evidenced by the fact that I'm still blogging about it two months later...)

On the second-to-last day of the trip, we visited the Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation at Vigevano 9, an exhibit space originally set up to document and archive his own work, but now also showcases the works of others.


The installation on view the day we visited was made especially for the space by artist Loris Cecchini. Part of it, called "Module and Model," was made up of hundreds of small steel modules assembled into large 3-dimensional sculptures on the wall and floor. 


The other part, called "Wallvave Vibrations," consisted of sculptural carvings in the walls themselves. I neglected to take a photo of those so I've included one here, taken by Carlos Tettamanzi and appearing on the Foundation website; in it, you can see nearly the full installation (note the carvings on the back and right walls):

Wallvave Vibrations
Photo by Carlos Tettamanzi

Interestingly, the pieces have a nature-inspired feel to them, despite the austere colors and materials. And despite it's small size, the Foundation offers a great little gallery for viewing contemporary sculpture by international artists.

Antonio Marras + Daniela Zedda

Browsing through a recent issue of InStyle Magazine today, I was overjoyed to see a reference to  Antonio Marras (even though his wild animal runway look was deemed over the top for anyone but a street-style star).

Antonia marras

Last month when I visited Milan, I had the chance to visit Antonio's concept store, Circolomarras - and meet the Sardinian-born womenswear designer himself - in the heart of Zona Tortona, on via Cola di Rienzo, 8.


His studio/concept store is absolutely gorgeous, and one of the most memborable visits of the trip. In true Milan fashion, it sits back off the street, through a gate and a secret-garden of sorts.


Inside an old factory workshop with vaulted, unfinished ceilings and walls is a stunning collection of Antonio's designs, mixed in with antique furnishings, books, and gobs of fresh flowers. 


It's a warm, inviting space, which is how Antonio likes to live and work:

I have always liked, as a child, the idea of ​​having a space that was not my room or my house, an enlarged and private space, confidential, to stay with friends and unleash our energies. Back then it was the garage, the attic, a small barn in the countryside. As an adult, a huge space, a loft, a multipurpose space, a place not exclusively tied to exposition and sale. A comfortable place, private and open, welcoming, “hospitable” in the sense that this word had in ancient Greece, in Sardinia, in the Mediterranean area, where the stranger, the guest, was sacred and it was considered a crime to violate the laws of hospitality.

- Antonio Marras


Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the space is a collection of dresses hanging from the rafters, their hems tented out over bicycle wheels, and outfitted with lightbulbs to create an enormous, ethereal chandelier:


All of Antonio's clothes are made by hand in his home/studio/workshop back in Sardinia, and can be found at retailers like Saks and Shopstyle. From 2003-2011 he served as artistic director at LVMH's Kenzo fashion house, and over the years he became known for his hallmark "ligazzio rubio" (or, “red thread”).


There was a buzz of energy in the space when we were there, as Antonio's team was feverishly assembling racks of clothing for Fashion Week.


Back outside through the lush garden, we toured an adjacent exhibit by portrait photographer Daniela Zedda. Her collection "Aldilàdelmare" contains eighty-eight pictures of Sardinians (she is from there as well) who have left the island to find new opportunities. Her portrait of Antonio Marras is prominently featured at the entrance to the exhibit:Image

Inside is a cavernous, unfinished studio space where the art is the focal point.


Her portraits are amazing. I was particularly taken with this one of editorial consultant Colomba Rossi in front of street art by Kenny Random at Torre della Specola, Padova.


Here it is nearly 8 weeks later and I still haven't shared all of the sites and stories from Milan! But seeing reference to the people and places I encountered there gives me a little burst of creative energy. Good way to start the week.


Foundazione Achille Castiglioni

We headed over to Piazza Castello to visit the studio of industrial designer Achille Castiglioni (1918-2002), considered one of the greatest designers of the 20th century. Image

He worked in this space for nearly 60 years, and the rooms remain exactly as he left them, packed floor-to-ceiling with all manner of knick-knacks, memorabilia, sketches, books, magazines, models and films.



His heirs entered into an agreement with La Trienniale di Milano to create a foundation and keep the studio open for archiving and tours.

We were lucky enough to have Achille's daughter, Giovanna, as our tour guide, and she shared wonderful stories about her father and what led him to design several of his most popular products.


MoMA's permanent collection in NY hosts fourteen of his works, and many of his designs were produced by leading companies like Alessi, B&B Italia, Flos, and Kartell.

What's interesting is that he was inspired by everyday things, and used a minimum amount of ordinairy materials to create forms with maximum effect.


Most of his products are now considered design classics, and many are still in production.


Giovanna spent about an hour walking us through the cluttered rooms and explaining the genesis of a variety of products: a collapsible tin cup, the Mezzandro portable stool borne out of a desire to sit while talking on the hall telephone, an ashtray inspired by a Slinky.


A 1968 light switch designed for electrical component company VLM that is still in use today:


His famous Arco floor lamp with the long, curved arm extending the light out from a heavy marble base (Giovanna's holding up his original sketches), now prominently featured in the Flos store window near our hotel:

And this ingenious resin spoon for jars, perfectly designed to scoop out the last dollop of peanut butter, mayonaise, or jam. The red version is only available in the studio, and I bought two - one for me, and one for my Mom.


This was another fantastic visit. I just love seeing the work spaces of these creative people. So inspiring.

Mario Trimarchi

On Wednesday morning we went to Mario Trimarchi's multidisciplinary design studio FRAGILE. Mario is one of Allessi's design collaborators that we heard about the previous day.

Like most places in Milan, the studio on via Ariosta sits behind a large wooden door and through a courtyard, secluded from the noise of the busy city street. The courtyard is lush with flowers, yellow mosaic walkways, and pale pink, paisley walls. Image
The studio entrance is at the top of an ornate marble staircase, and opens up to a bright office with high ceilings that, according to Mario, "let you fill the room with ideas from the top of your head." Image
He is an animated man with round glasses and frequent hand gestures. His passion and energy for his work is apparent as he tells us, "we are not eternal, but most of the objects we design are," and, "some of the best designs use humor" (another theme for the week). Image
He shared several of his designs with us, explaining how they went from concept (which he comes up with and draws by hand) to production (which is done with the aid of a computer and his Swiss assistant, Didier) and package design (which he also has a hand in). By way of example, he explained how as a boy in Sicily he was fond of playing cards. When the Scirocco winds blew off the coast of North Africa, they not only deposited Sahara dust on everything, they also caused his cards to flutter through the air. This image led to the "La Stanza Dello Scirocco" collection of stainless steel, geometrically irregular items like the below fruit basket: First he sketches his ideas. Image
Then they design a prototype with the aid of a computer. Image
The design gets manufactured. Not only is it functional, but it's a thing of beauty, where even the shadows it projects become part of the design. Image
Lastly, packaging is designed with the same level of attention as the product itself. Image
This was another great example of how everyday items can be beautifully designed. And how visually interesting work spaces can provide a lot of creative energy.


Tuesday afternoon (yes, that is only as far as I've gotten with these posts because we have done so much I can't keep up!) was the trip that most of us [women] had been waiting for: a tour of the Missoni factory and talk with Angela Missoni herself.

We drove to Varese where all of their iconic knitwear is made in a pair of low buildings surrounded by towering white birch trees and other greenery. The main office appears to be in a rather unassuming building, until you get close enough to see the enormous vase sculpture out front, covered with their signature zigzag pattern. Image
Funny story: Angela's parents, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, started the business in 1953. In 1967, they were invited to show at the Piti Palace in Florence, and Rosita asked the models to remove their bras because she didn't like how they showed through the thin knits. When the lights hit the models, it created quite a sensation and the Missonis weren't invited back! Thankfully Diana Vreeland, then editor of American Vogue, was a big champion of the label and the business went on to great success.

Angela took over the business in 1998. She was great - so warm and funny, and willing to take photographs with us and to share anecdotes about her family and business - from its modest beginnings to the 2011 Target collaboration that sold out in 24 hours and caused Target's website to crash. Despite their commercial success, Missoni has purposely stayed small (250 people at this factory). Matriarch Rosita still lives next door, and Angela's daughter Margherita is now an accessories designer at the firm.  

Their workspace is colorful and elegant, as you would expect. This is a large family tapestry (needlepoint) that hangs in the entryway, commemorating all of their milestones (e.g., marriages, births) - Angela provided the backstory on each one. Image
And check out the bathroom! Image
We walked through the factory next door and witnessed all steps of the production line, from pulling individual threads off of spools into a mechanical loom, to the resulting swatches of zigzag knitware, to huge bolts of the fabric in a variety of colors, and all of the men and women piecing items together by hand. Image
I took some amazing behind-the-scenes photos, but they asked us not to publish them because they are next season's designs and they fear copycats. Suffice it to say, theirs is an incredibly colorful and energetic work space, with heaps of fabric, jumbles of sketches and swatches, half-finished garments, whirring machinery, and smiling workers intently marking measurements on mannequins and hand stitching the final pieces. I will share the detailed photos with those of you I see in person; it was really a remarkable operation.

Lulu, Alethea, Monkeys, and Banksy

Today's musings:

1) If you happen to see my French Bulldog Lulu, wish her a Happy Birthday. She turned 10 today.


2) My friend Alethea Black, an immensely talented author and speaker (I love her her collection of short stories, I Knew You'd Be Lovely) has done it again with this incredibly inspirational story she told at the Moth GrandSLAM (a storyteller's collaborative):

3) The bewitching hour is upon us. Send your loved ones a cute Halloween e-card, courtesy of Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled.
4) Graffiti artist Banksy again disses the Advertising industry (my industry!) while simultaneously showing he's a master at brand building.
5) If you have money to burn, check out IfOnly, a "marketplace for experiences" that just raised $12 Million to continue offering its members unique and memorable experiences with top sports/film/music/lifestyle luminaries (think dinner party for 12 with chef Michael Chiarello at his Napa Valley vineyard).  For every item or experience sold, a donation is made to the charity of each luminary’s choice.

6) I finally finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and I really enjoyed it. Now I'm itching for an adventure. And want to write a memoir.



There's an ambitious new start-up in Boston that I'd like to share with you: Peanuts4Peanuts. It's the brainchild of my colleague Kendra Wilkins and her roommate Lizzie Faust, pictured here:


Lizzie is an economic consultant who spent time in Haiti recently and was moved by the plight of malnourished children there (shockingly, over 80,000 of them die annually). Her travels included a trip to a medicinal peanut butter operation, where she learned that peanut butter provides hungry children with vital nutrients to support growth and a healthy immune system. In fact, after 6 to 8 weeks of treatment with medicinal peanut butter, 85% of children recover (compared to the 25% recovery rate with older, milk-based treatment methods). Peanut butter is known as Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food because it does not require water or preparation, key to adoption in developing countries.

Eager to help get this medicinal peanut better into the hands (and bellies) of more hungy children, Lizzie and Kendra have borrowed a page from the Toms Shoes social enterprise playbook: for each jar of Peanuts4Peanuts peanut butter sold in the US, a malnourished child in Haiti will receive a 3.2 oz. serving of medicinal peanut butter.

Here they are explaining the program themselves:

Kendra and Lizzie already have some local stores lined up to sell their product, they just need some additional funding to make it happen. So they are using the popular the crowd-sourced funding platform indigogo to raise money to support peanut butter production here in the Boston area, as well as product labeling, storage, transportation, and marketing materials.

They are just $3,270 and 5-days shy of reaching their campaign goal of  $16,000 by September 13th (the campaign only receives funds if it meets its monetary goal by that date), so please consider supporting them by making a donation (and getting some swag!), liking them on Facebook, following them on Pinterest, or simply spreading the word.

Later this month, Kendra and Lizzie will embark upon a 7-week entrepreneurship program at Draper University in Silicon Valley, a boarding school created by venture capitalist Tim Draper to encourage proactive entrepreneurship among 18-24 year olds. There, they'll receive mentoring and coaching from experts, plus an opportunity to pitch for funding from Silicon Valley VCs. It's a fantastic opportunity for two young women that are doing a fantastic thing. Good luck, ladies!

Barry McGee

Over the years, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston has hosted shows by different graffiti artists, most notably Shepard Fairey and Os Gemeos. Their latest exhibit in this genre is from San Francisco-based Barry McGee, who got his start in the late 80's under the tag name "Twist."

Last Friday night I attended the Opening Night reception for McGee's new show, which included a cocktail party in the ICA lobby (a beautiful space overlooking the Boston Harbor) followed by a talk with the artist and a 20 year survey of his work.

Barry McGee (5)

The talk was bizarre - McGee is painfully shy and was visibly uncomfortable being in the spotlight. He repeatedly asked for the lights to be turned down (taking the focus off of him) and encouraged audience members to talk so that he wouldn't have to. I found this so interesting because his work is very bold, infused with bright colors, hard lines, and a fair amount of social commentary/activism. But I guess the man prefers to stay in the shadows, letting his paint cans do the talking.

Barry McGee (7)

McGee admits that now that he's 46 and a father he has lost interest in tagging, but continues to bring urban installations into art spaces and galleries. From the ICA write up:

"At once humorous, political, and difficult (especially for those who see private property as an inalienable right), his art underscores the complexities of life in early twenty-first-century America, a country in the midst of wars, a financial crisis, unemployment, class stratification, and the ever-cheerful exhortation to keep consuming."

He's decidedly anti-consumerism and anti-establishment, remarking,

“If I live in an urban center — in a city — with constant advertising, I feel like I have every right to partake also. I don’t feel like it should be limited to corporations that can buy ad space. I just always assume that anything written on the wall was the authentic thing to me. The real voice.”

Barry McGee (13)

The market value of his work rose considerably after it was included in the 2001 Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art show in Italy. Today, much of his San Francisco street art has been stolen (although I did hear in his recent NPR interview that some work can still be found in and around Boston). And he just created a new [sanctioned] piece on the back of the House of Blues building while he was in town last week.

Unlike other cities that are known for their graffiti - areas of Buenos Aires, Old San Juan, San Francisco, and Venice Beach come to mind - Boston doesn't have much elaborate street art. Just last month, local artist Cyrille Conan was hired to paint a 14'x17' mural on the old Boston Herald building in the South End, but it was purely to drive publicity of a new mixed-use housing and commercial complex (dubbed The Ink Block) that is going up there. The Herald building - along with Conan's work - was demolished just a few weeks later (but not before I captured the shot below).


The best-kept graffiti secret in the city might be at my office. We have several walls that were painted years ago by some local teens who got caught tagging and were sentenced to community service - which included coming in to our space and putting their talent to good use. Take a look:

Barry McGee (3)

Barry McGee (4)

Here is the photo set from McGee's exhibit, which is at the ICA through September 2nd.

Where Hash Rules

You all know how I love a good meal, and a good bit of Boston history, so I was delighted to find a marriage of the two in George Cuddy's book, Where Hash Rules. It's the story of Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, a landmark in Boston's South End since 1927.

Where-Hash-Rules-Cuddy-George-Aaron-EB2370004341637Simultaneously a rich historical account of a city block, and a love letter to the people who made history there, the book is full of personal anecdotes,  newspaper clippings, photos, recipes and blog posts that tell the story of the Manjourides family and their restaurant over the course of 85 years.

In that time, Charlie's has borne witness to a wildly diverse neighborhood that has played host to criminals and celebrities alike. Prostitutes and mobsters, politicians, performers and athletes – everyone from Sammy Davis Jr, Duke Ellington, Joe Lewis and Whitey Bulger, to Tom Brady, Nomar Garciaparra, Robert Urich and Al Gore - have dined at this 32-seat shop. It's cash-only, and offers communal tables, both telling attributes of the no-frills, genial experience you are likely to have there.

In its early days, Charlie's was the only restaurant in town that would serve African Americans. The Pullman Porters  -  men hired by George Pullman to work on the railroads as porters on sleeping cars  - established their Boston headquarters above the restaurant and admitted original owner Charlie Poulos as the only non-black member so he could play cards and shoot pool with them.

In the years since, all sorts of characters have crossed the threshold, including Cookie the bookie, Chapman the peeper, Richard the storyteller, and Biggie the bulldog. They've all contributed to Charlie's vibrant history.

But central to the story are the four beloved proprietors and siblings, Arthur, Marie, Fontaine, and Chris, who have been slinging hash – and stories – for decades.  Their immigrant father Christi was Charlie Poulos' first employee, starting out as a line cook and then through some shrewd business dealings becoming a partner in 1946.  This family's story, their hard work and dedication to the business as well as their community, has all the tenets of the American Dream.

Though I’ve yet to visit Charlie’s in person (despite living here for nearly 20 years…the shame!), I feel like I know them all. And like the author, I feel slighted that I missed out on so many of the memories.

And what of the food? Charlie's consistently gets rave reviews for its great meals at great prices, and it won the prestigious James Beard Award in 2005. I am dying to try the cranberry pancakes and the raspberry griddle cakes. And of course, the famous turkey hash.

You can purchase Where Hash Rules (ebook) at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, read more about it on and Bon Appetit, and stay up-to-date with restaurant happenings via their Facebook page.

And perhaps I'll see you at one of their communal tables one day soon.

D-Day and the Ghost Army

Time to take a break from chronicling my personal battle to remember one of great historical importance. Today is the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the World War II invasion of Normandy, France, by the Allied forces.

I had the opportunity to tour the beaches of Normandy back in on the 59th anniversary, June 6, 2003. It's a remarkable and moving experience, even if you're not a history or WWII buff. And whenever I think of that trip - as I did today when I heard reference to the anniversary on WBUR - I think of our chance encounter with a group of British vets who were part of the 6th Airborne Division. These guys were the paratroopers who glided in to secure area bridges in order to limit German counter-attacks during the invasion.

We were driving home to our place in Honfleur, when we randomly came across Pegasus Bridge, where 181 men from the 6th Airborne Division/7th Parachute Battalion glided in on the night of June 5, 1944. We stopped to check it out and were enchanted to find a group of those very men celebrating the anniversary over beers. They were so delightful - and so eager to share their experiences - that we ended up visiting with them for hours, even following them back to their inn to share dinner and a homemade bottle of Calvados. They were full of life and remarkable stories, like how they reunited at the bridge every year since the War, and in the early years they would get drunk and dig up old grenades that they had buried upon landing. When the War ended in Europe, some of them went on to fight the Japanese in Burma. These were incredibly tough guys. And the bridge was actually named in their honor - it was originally called Caen Canal bridge but later renamed after the Pegasus emblem that adorned their uniforms.

Here I am with Wolfie (top) and Jim (bottom). I'm sad to say that after exchanging Christmas cards for a couple of years, we lost touch.



But turning back to WBUR - today they interviewed Lexington filmmaker Rick Beyer, who is working on a documentary about the Ghost Army of World War II, a top secret group of men who used "trickery and artistry" to fool the enemy. It's absolutely fascinating - many of them were artists who would later become famous (e.g., fashion designer Bill Blass, photographer Art Kane <- this is an awesome site, btw), and they used inflatable tanks and sound effects, among other tactics, to fool the enemy in Normandy. It was a group of 1000 men who would set up camp on the front lines, making it appear as if they were a group of tens of thousands. The interview is worth a listen, or you can get the full backstory on the documentary at where Beyer is soliciting donations to help fund its completion (Rick: if you read this, you should consider setting up a Kickstarter campaign!). And if you want to see more, the Ghost Army exhibition is on display through the month of June at the Beverly Historical Society.