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Sara Baldwin Designs Blog

James is the Man

My friend James Stuart Duncan is a truly talented product developer who works with New Ravenna. It’s one thing to be a good designer, it’s another to not drive your manufacturers nuts while they are developing product with you. A true gentleman, it’s always so easy working with James–a quality of his that is very much appreciated.

The son of Cambridge professor, James’ room-mate and best friend in college was Thom Filicia and James worked with Thom out of his Chelsea loft in New York for several years before deciding that a warmer climate was where he wanted to raise his beautiful children. Now, he and his gorgeous wife Miriam run James Duncan, a source for furniture and rugs of James and Miriam’s designs.

No design slouch herself, Miriam grew up in Morocco, where her mother worked for the architect to the king. She and James speak to the children mostly in French, Miriam’s first language, and have lived in Asia, Africa, and Europe in addition to Key Biscayne, Florida where they now reside. James’ blog, “A Well Traveled Aesthetic” is featured here on Decorati. Tile and bath aficionados will find last month’s post particularly interesting because it’s on the history of the bathroom. He also wrote a wonderful blog on the history of mosaics here.

Tucker Robbins of furniture design fame introduced me to James at the New York antique show, and weimmediately hit it off. Before long he was ordering carpet samples using some of my patterns, and New Ravenna had translated several of his rug designs into a line of mosaics. Here is one of his rugs (“Twiggy”) featuring a blown-up tree-of-life motif:

If you think this is attractive, you should see it in person. It’s a knock-out. We translated his tree-of-life into a seven foot tall stone mosaic panel that we recently showed at “Coverings” and ICFF:

Can you imagine this on the floor of a bathroom or in a foyer?! And what a classic, profound motif–it won’t ever go out of style. We’ve never sold it in stone, probably because there are only a couple of sample boards out there, but I’m dying to obtain installation photography because it’s so graphic. Any ideas?

I know you’re probably sick of me saying “we can make it for you in any size or colors you like” but, there you go, I’m compelled to mention it just in case you don’t know us at New Ravenna very well yet.

Here’s another pattern we developed with James–it’s called “Ikebana” and is based upon a classic Japanese print of pine needles which, Georgia O’Keefe-like, he again enlarged:

For “Indus” below, we experimented with bronze inlay:

“Indus” was used as radiator covers in one of the rooms at Kipp’s Bay this year (through Studium, a terrific distributor of ours in New York) but I didn’t get to see an installation photo :(

More fabulous designs, but they’re scans and don’t do the textures justice–simple, understated, and sophisticated:

Above is “Eden Rock” and below, “Vela”. All of James’ mosaics employ what we describe as “hand-chopped and tumbled” tesserae as opposed to mosaics originating with perfect squares. Extremely labor intensive, mosaics employing this process have a more organic, hand-made, authentic feel.

We used our water-jet capabilities to combine solid elements with a striated mosaic background in “Simone”:

The actual rug shows how one can group several sets of birds to create interesting compositions which of course we can make in mosaic as well. It also causes me to wonder what our mosaic version would look like in more of a tone on tone colorway:

James is not only easy to work with, he’s a lot of fun too. Recently we asked him and Miriam to partner with us on an entry in a product design contest for a local non-profit-applicant called “Central Green” (which Tucker Robbins started). Central Green is an “active model of sustainable living”, and includes rural economic development in its roster of initiatives, along with green energy, agricultural best practices, etc. James designed a long, low coffee table that we fabricated for him out of water-jet cut glass:

Based upon an Indian prayer rug, in my humble opinion the translation into glass is pure genius. Thank you James. Here’s to more synergy in the future!

6 Responses to “James is the Man”

  1. Paul Anater says:

    Just beautiful, as always Sara.

  2. Sara,
    Your work is stunning! Every time I see your creation, it makes me cry because it is all so beautiful. I am dying for the day we can work together on a project.
    Paula Grace

  3. Indeed both of them are a very talented artist. I love his work it’s so beautiful.

  4. His work is stunning! Gorgeous, simply exquisite, the patterns are remarkable.

  5. Sara Baldwin says:

    Thanks so much guys. Paula, just let me know when–I'd be delighted to work with you anytime!

    • Marc Szafran says:

      James is a true talent. His designs are special, unique and beautiful. Michael S Smith is a true fan, and we carry the James Duncan collection in the flagship Jasper Showroom in Los Angeles. I also know James and Miriam personally, and they are a wonderful, interesting and extremely talented couple. Love the Duncans!

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About Me

Sara BaldwinSara Baldwin

Exmore, Virginia, United States

New Ravenna Mosaics founder and Creative Director, Owner, Sara Baldwin Design, Bass guitar player, Envisioner, Appreciator of the Sublime and Ridiculous.


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