Monday, November 23, 2009

They All Lived In There

Can someone tell Ringo to move his "ride"?  It's blocking the delivery truck.


These props are used in water treatment plants in the Ile-de-France region. They are, quite literally, big shit mixers. So, next time you sit down and consider how much you enjoy both the luxuries of modern toilettes and of clean oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams, remember that somewhere, in an anonymous warehouse outside of town, there is a team of highly skilled craftsmen and craftswomen hand moulding precision designed equipment to deal with all that you flush away.

Foam Big, Glass Heavy

For the last few weeks I've been working for UFACTO on an exceptionally large project. So large that it is being built in a workshop about two hours outside of Paris at Poly 2000, a studio that specializes in large, functional fiberglass structures like propellers for the Paris region water treatment facilities, 30+ foot boat hulls, and apparently the odd submarine.

The piece is by Francois Roche, a Paris-based architect, and can best be described as a branchy, apartment-sized, fiberglass asteroid-cave. It is made of polystyrene foam carved mostly by a CNC and by hand in some functionally sensitive zones, wrapped in fiberglass roving and laminated with a special polyester resin that won't dissolve polystyrene foam. It will be painted a glossy white after all the required sanding is done; then it will be shipped in a few containers to Japan where it will stay in sculpture garden. David Toppani carved a slightly smaller one by hand a few years ago for an exibition in France. Quite impressive considering the forms are computer-generated, and quite specific despite the random feel of the form. The above photo is of one of about 17 blocks that fit together to form the final elongated cave which is about the size of a two or three bedroom boxcar apartment with 18 foot ceilings. It will be equipped with a large, flat-screen monitor inside, embedded in a stalactite, and a LED enhanced skylight.

The yellowish color is the filler that gets sprayed over the fiberglass to fill in the fibrous texture before painting. The splotchy green is the fiberglass before the filler is applied. Not very attractive colors at this stage, especially considering the mucousy shape of the thing.   I think the white will improve the overall look of it in the end, but I will probably still think it is not totally my kind of thing. However, I remain thoroughly impressed with the scale and extremity of the design.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Corner Pocket

The top-floor, corner window is what I look out of when I'm in my bathroom, mostly when I'm hanging laundry or spying. If there was a second floor balcony, this would be a thoroughly typical Haussmann style building. Maybe because it sits along Rue D'Avron, a significant eastern entry and exit of the city, they held off on the low-floor balcony. As ridiculous as it feels to write the following phrase, here are a couple quotes about the Haussmann style from Wikipedia,

"Neighbouring buildings had to have their floors at the same height, and the façades' main lines had to be the same. The use of quarry stone was mandatory along these avenues. Paris started to acquire the features of an immense palace."

Also from Wikipedia, these are the basic guidelines for the Haussmann facade, floor by floor,

"-ground floor and basement with thick, usually street-lateral, load-bearing walls;
-second, "noble" floor with one or two balconies;
-third and fourth floors in the same style but with less elaborate stonework around the windows;
-fifth floor with a single, continuous, undecorated balcony
-eaves angled at 45º."

There is a lot to criticize about the Haussmann renovations (disrupting the social order, bowing to the wealthy landowners, etc.), but he and Napoleon III (an elected emperor) managed to disinfect, beautify, and rebuild an entire capital city! I try to imagine the mindset with which one sets out on such a project, and it seems like a combination of insanity, megalomania, social responsibility, trepidation, and fearlessness (both of pissing people off, and of biting off more than you can chew).

(Photo by Molly Tuttle.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Looking Through

Sneak peak of the Glass Slipper.

Good Shape

This is a desk I made for Odile, my neighbor in Paris. She wanted something "efficace, fonctionnel, et jolie": efficient, functional, and pretty. It also had to accommodate the fact that she is left handed. Because she is the director of restoration at the Louvre, I put a lot of time and attention into sanding and varnishing the single piece of wood. It is 44mm plywood with Okoumé veneer on top, just one big shape to fit in the alcove between an old marble fireplace and the slanted wall of a top-floor apartment.

Our apartment building is a classic Haussmann from 1907 (the architect's name and the date of construction are engraved on the outside): not very old at all by European standards, but from a very crazy time in the city's history. Napolean III had the whole city of Paris renovated between 1852 and 1870, with construction continuing into the early 20th century. The Seine prefect, Georges-Eugene Haussmann presided over everything from architectural style, to urban planning, to shuffling the city's map to create large, efficient (then) boulevards. The palacial air of the city, the cafe culture at big intersections, and neighborhood feeling in each of the city's 20 arrondissments are largely due to the Haussmann renovations. It was fun to anchor one of my own pieces in a building with that kind of history.

7 coats of water-based polyurethane varnish, with much sanding in between coats. It's not my ideal finish, for eco minded reasons. Aside from that, it is resilient, pretty, and workable.

Odile is happy with her desk from all I can tell. In related news, she is Jacques Dutronc's cousin and visits him and Francoise often.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Sweat the Technique

My bud Ronan helped me out for a while today on some drawers that will go in an armoire I'm making for Imelda and Francesca. He busted out a clamp-free method of laying up the drawers that is so ingeniously simple it made me feel like I overcomplicate everything I do to the point of chaotic pandaemonium. These are the breaks:

First, you need to precisely cut all your drawer sides and bottoms with mitred corners, and the bottom needs to be grooved in there. Then you get all your sticks organized on a flat table alongside some glue and packing tape.

Then you line up your sides, edge to edge. Make sure they are groove side down, not like in the photo.

Here is the rad part: you simply tape each edge together, tight.

Then you flip the whole strip over, notch side up, and ease a noodle of glue down the bottom of your little mitre valleys.

Roll all the sides up and tape the final joint...

Slide the drawer bottom into the groove to keep it all square...

And finally, stack up all your perfect, taped-up drawers and let the glue dry over night.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where I Get My Craft On

UFACTO is the name of the furniture studio where I work in Paris. Architectural models, prototypes, sculptural things I'm still trying to figure out, and furniture, of course, are all part of the daily work flow. Many designers, mostly French ones, have their things made here. The pieces are one-of-a-kind or small-edition only, usually no more than 12. Big, famous, celeb designers who have contracts with gigantic, fancy pants manufacturers like Vitra, Cassina, Kartell, and Ligne Roset, often have their gallery pieces and prototypes made at UFACTO. Even though much of the workshop's output has an industrial feel, it is truly an artisan establishment. There are usually no more than 10 people working in the shop at any given time. David Toppani, the owner, master craftsman, and fabrication genius, is a very nice and quietly great man. So nice, in fact, that he let's me use the studio and all of it's fantastic tools to work on my own projects.

Here, working on a coffee table designed by Mattias Bonetti, is the man himself, David Toppani. He is really into traditional Blues and Native American culture. His motto is "anything is possible", but in French. Anything, that is, except wearing non-denim clothes.

These mini-bars were for Ricard, obviously. Toppani prototypes a lot of bar glasses for them, as well as for Perrier and Courvassier. He carves the glasses out of plexiglass, from which the actual glass factory molds are made. The dude in this photo is Morgan, a talented airbrush painter. He is really into Radiohead.

This glacier-looking coffee table was designed by my friend Erwan. It's design was actually inspired by the rice paddies of Thailand, not glaciers. Erwan was the one who originally referred me to UFACTO, thus changing my life.

Erwan also designed this lamp, or, part-of-lamp. Karl Lagerfeld may or may not have purchased one of these for 40,000 euros.

I don't know who designed this mushroom stool, nor is it my favorite thing in the world (though it is very comfy for sittin' on). But I like the light in this photo; it says to me, " this is a pleasant work environment". And it is.

Friday, July 24, 2009

From The Pelican's Beak

I gave the Glass Cube recording studio's website a little refresher; text and links for now, more very soon. I particularly recommend checking it out for the graphics by John Minardi. Otherwise, for now, it's basically the "website" version of this site's sidebar.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summerberry Jam

Summertime in Europe means lots of music festivals, album releases, pre-release listening parties, and friends from CA touring over here. Because I just moved here in June, I haven't yet wrangled a core crew of musicians to play with. That, coupled with being in the middle of the European musical frenzy of summer, means I've been feeling sentimental for those past California summers spent playing outdoor concerts, recording on lazy Sunday afternoons, and meeting up with friends at a barbeque after. And I miss the jams; having the right group of bros, and the shared will to wander into uncharted musical forests, deep blue waters, or outer galaxies. Here are a few videos: one for the jamming, two for the vibe, and three for the summer of 2005.

The masterful Mulatu and a host of groove masons. This one really tightens up around 2:47.

Audio paradise...

Brown Rainbow: my old band with Dan Judd and Sam Grawe. It was kind of a pick-up band at first, then we ended up playing a season of great shows. Those two are now Windsurf, one album and a few singles deep. There has been talk of a BR recording session at Glass Cube in Mexico. Yet to be confirmed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Corners of the Cube

Where one chills during mid-session breaks. Well, one of the places...

The desk in the control room, with the first gear drop. (Doesn't everyone need an eight channel Mackie now and again?)

The magic of glass bricks. These shells were soon dwarfed by a mountain of picks, adaptors, shakers, and Pacificos.

Simply hanging.

Backpacker in repose.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ye Olde Beginnings, Fall 2007

I found a couple ghost posts from almost two years ago that I did on my wife's blog; also some great portraits she did of WBA. Below are some photos of the protean Cube. It was, indeed, an incredible Fall: days of carpentry and masonry, taco truck in the driveway at 11am everyday, listening to the WBA workshop the new songs in the living room, waves at dawn and then at dusk.
ghost post 1
ghost post 2
Rubi WBA portraits

Let the sun shine in


Quadruple window view. Sgarzi looking "tan".

Nentwig in the attic

Math: 1 satellite dish plus 1 skilsaw = 2 moveable walls for sound separation.

Next time, photos of the studio as it is now...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

White Noise

Before any more time goes by, and before I talk about anything else, I need to mention the album, Rules, by the quartet, Whitest Boy Alive. It is out now, and it is the first album recorded at Glass Cube, my recording studio in Nayarit, Mexico. They helped tremendously in the construction of the studio, and I am very proud to have been involved in the creation of such a great record. Regardless of my personal ties to the album, I think it's one of the best to come out in recent times; it's like hearing the late-seventies Police play 90's house music on a tropical jungle beach, while Ice Cube cruises by with a metal detector. Or something. Here's raising a glass of tequila reposado to Erlend, Marcin, Maschat, and Daniel: well done, Amigos!

Drawing by Geoff McFetridge
Photo by Danielle Rubi