And you may ask yourself, “How did I get here?”
Recently I had some of the best adventures of my life (see above)–but I’ve been having trouble editing everything down into cohesive posts that make sense in relation to each other. I finally settled on the mundane but dependable chronological order method…which means that lately I’ve been reflecting a lot on the “Sliding Doors” aspects of living. Let me explain–many magical events in my life can be traced back to unpredictable synchronicity and coincidences. Which brings me to the topic of this post, and after several posts will eventually clarify how I ended up kissing a camel in the deserts of the UAE.
One of my dearest friends is the renowned furniture designer and showroom owner Tucker Robbins.
If you are a designer, you probably already know a fair amount about this monk-turned-furniture-designer, but for a fairly comprehensive look at Tucker’s history, click here (for a Metropolis article).
Basically, Tucker’s passion is “bringing the spirit and craft from the tribal cottage industry into contemporary life.”
He has spent the last fifteen years or so traveling to remote, off-the-beaten-path places as diverse as the highlands of the Philippines and the jungles of Sri Lanka and Cameroon, attempting to salvage both indigenous crafts and raw materials, and inspire and sustain the craftsmen and women whose skills are in danger of becoming extinct.
From the recycled and re-purposed wood that he collects and ships back to the states, he fashions one-of-a-kind beds, tables, chairs, case goods, and accessories in his Long Island City studio.
Years before Hudson Furniture and BDDW, he almost single-handedly ushered back into our consciousness the Nakashima inspired furniture that we all know and love today. “His furniture is very comforting”, says Clodagh. “It reminds us of the past. If you own technology, it’s already out of date. This stuff is never out of date. There’s a continuum about it.”
Tucker’s incredible showroom is located in Manhattan in the New York Design Center, 200 Lexington Avenue. Although lovely, these photos from his website only hint at the beauty of the space and furnishings.
So how did I meet Tucker? We seem to always be answering that question. In the Spring of 2001, New Ravenna exhibited at Hospitality Design Expoin Las Vegas. Somewhere towards the end of the show, I was able to carve out a few minutes to speed-walk around the floor and focus on fellow exhibitors’ wares.
After rounding a corner somewhere in the never-never land that is the Sands Convention Center, I spied an interesting booth. Inhabiting it were the sorts of pieces that are illustrated here–plus an egg shaped stool carved from Acacia wood here, a Spider’s Nest
(who knew what a spider’s nest was in 2001?) there. I was instantly transfixed–nobody else was showing anything remotely similar.
I was especially drawn to some Macassar Ebony pieces–I’d never seen that particular variety of wood before. I couldn’t believe how luminescent it was–it seemed to glow. Because the show was soon ending, the nice English-accented woman who helped me, Dede, offered me wholesale pricing (half-off) on anything exhibited. She explained that they refer to his style as “modern primitivism”.
You have to understand, at this point in time, I had never bought a new piece of furniture in my life. Ever. My own personal furniture collection consisted of whatever my ex-husband had in the house when I moved in, plus occasional thrift-store finds. Before that, it was only beat-up family antiques and second-hand furniture. It was a very novel experience for me to be considering spending money on any piece of furniture, much less on a $1250(wholesale price) stool.
But somehow I convinced myself that I couldn’t live without it, went back to pick it up, and that’s how I met Tucker (but that’s not the end of the story). He was back in the booth with Dede, ready to trade his stool for my cash. However, Ebony is a very dense,very heavy wood. Because my new stool’s weight was similar to an anvil’s, Tucker offered to carry it back to the New Ravenna booth for me.
We made small talk on the trek across the floor, and Tucker distractedly looked down at the check I had just given him, studying it, probably wondering if he should ask for some sort of ID.
Suddenly he looked up, surprised, and queried, “You’re from Exmore, Virginia?”
“Yes”, I said…puzzled by his interest in my studio’s location in the relative boondocks of the Eastern Shore.
“I have a house 15 minutes from there!” he exclaimed.
And that is the story of how I met my friend Tucker– one of the most wonderful synchronicities I’ve been lucky enough to experience. We’ve kept up with each other ever since, and see each other whenever I come to New York or he comes to Virginia. And Dede? She now lives on the Eastern Shore–she just bought a house here!
To be continued…
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.