Thursday, April 29, 2010

A New Blog!

Another unidentified piece from a photo album. Where is this from?

Yesterday I had a brainstorm while on my treadmill (perhaps I should get on my treadmill more often). Why not launch a blog about great-grandfather's work? I will still continue to post about my discoveries on this blog, but the new blog will be solely concentrated on his work. Don't want to inundate you all with every piece of information I find!

Still have a lot of "tweaking" and adding to do to it, but thought I'd share the beginning stages with you.

Take a peek here if you'd like!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action!

designed and fabricated bus stop for a San Francsico photo shoot

I just stumbled upon this San Francisco-based company, Scene 2. I think it was this photo above of a Grey Poupon bus stop in the middle of San Francisco that caught my attention.

The young hipsters at Scene 2 have a full service design studio that specializes in 3-D media. From small scale models for a photo shoot, to large scale installations for music festivals and concerts, these people are very talented indeed!

Do you like a carnival? Mister Gnogiurzauchshoff’s Traveling Midway of Curiosities and Delights has been traveling the dusty roads of America’s great carnival past. Conjuring up memories of the traveling circus and images of America's small towns, transformed by the arrival of the carnival.

Check out M.T. Pocket's 2009 tour (above) that traveled from San Francisco to Austin, Texas!

If you're looking for set building, model making or custom fabrication, be sure and check these folks out!

Scene 2

1335 Yosemite Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94124-3319
(415) 822-2020

photo credit: Scene 2

Monday, April 26, 2010

Endless Inspiration: Fiona Richards

I've been obsessed with Cartolina Cards for a long time now. This line is designed and produced by the talented British Columbia-based graphic designer, Fiona Richards. And, I have quite a large stash of her cards in my drawer, ready for the next occasion!

Fiona's designs are influenced by exotic curiosities that surrounded her growing up in Scotland with her grandparents in their 300 year old stone house, filled to the brim with strange and curious mementos from their lives as textile dealers in old world India.

The odd collections of things that filled her home were items that her grandfather brought back from India and South Asia. Everything from books & pictures, to silverware and ornaments. Since childhood, Fiona was exposed to a world of curiosities that have influenced her design work.

Fiona's family photographs are a bizarre collection of elephant riding, pith helmet wearing, and family swimming in the Indian Ocean wearing pointed grass hats.

Elephants play a leading role in imagery for Fiona's cards. They are always a favorite for buyers.

(above) A couple of Fiona's favorite pieces of ephemera that her grandfather collected from India and Asia.

These old French letters sit in a glass jar next to Fiona's computer. The handwriting inspires her every day...

Fiona's studio is filled with artful treasures and design relics she collects on her travels to the markets and shops nearby and abroad. She has amassed quite a collection of vintage items that give her endless inspiration such as her "favorite little tins."

She loves their typography and handpainting...

Curious collections of Fionas include these 2 miniature drawings from Switzerland from a local farm sale, hand-carved wooden boats found in the walls of a Victorian house; tortoiseshell eyeglasses; extra-long paper scissors; rubber stamps

Ancient patterns, colors, exotic images and textures make Cartolina Cards one of my favorite lines...And they're printed on recycled paper of the highest quality!

Even the back of the cards are so beautifully detailed...

Cafe Cartolina cards can be found in shops all over the world, from the U.K. to the U.S. Or, you can purchase them online here at Modern Paper Goods.

Wait! Did I mention that Fiona has one of the most beautiful blogs? Cafe Cartolina is a feast for the eyes. Join Fiona on her latest quests from travel & collecting to design & fashion.

Thanks Fiona for your endless inspiration, and for giving me a reason to visit my local gift shop frequently!

photos from Cafe Cartolina & Cartolina Cards

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Work of Sam Berger Part III: Grace Cathedral

The exterior of Grace Cathedral, late 12th and early 13th century French Gothic in inspiration

As part of an ongoing exploration of my great-grandfather's wood carving, yesterday's visit was to the landmark Grace Cathedral, atop Nob Hill in San Francisco.

I had previously posted some early photos of Sam in the studio with the magnificent organ covers, but had never actually visited the church.

Renee on the steps before entering the cathedral

My friend Renee and I started out early in the morning with an appointment for a private tour with Michael Lampen, the church's archivist. Michael has been with Grace Cathedral since the 1950's, and is a wealth of knowledge. He even had information in his office about my great-grandfather and family.

"The Doors of Paradise" --main cathedral doors

The main cathedral doors are gilded bronze replicas of originals make for the Bapistry of the Duomo Cathedral inn Florence, Italy

Unfortunately, it was a dark, rainy day and my camera didn't work too well. I'm going to have to return with a professional photographer and add to this post.

Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church, is nothing short of awe-inspiring, from its concrete exterior and gilded bronze cathedral doors, to the massive high ceilings and stained glass-laden sanctuary. It is the third largest Episcopal church in the United States.

carving by Sam Berger

Michael spent almost two hours with us touring this magnificent church, from special back rooms to the breathtaking sanctuary. He went over every detail including important artists' contributions such as Benjamin Bufano, Dirk Van Erp and Charles Connick.

In addition to the larger work, small pieces of Sam's work are all over the cathedral such as this detailed piece above.

detailed doors carved by Sam...

and some additional doors in the back of the cathedral...

Organ covers that Sam carved

I gasped as I looked up at the massive organ covers that my great grandfather carved. Speechless, I could hardly take out my camera. I can only imagine what these look like when the sun is gleaming through the 68 stained-glass windows and the cathedral is bright.

early photo of Sam in the Pacific Manufacturing Studio, S.F. where the carving was done

"An often overlooked aspect of Grace Cathedral's great organ are the two spectacular English oak screens (1935), designed by cathedral architect Lewis Hobart and carved by Romanian-American master carver Samuel Berger. Weighing a total of 14 tons and assembled without metal nails or screws, they rise on either side of the choir, enclosing the two organ chambers. Carved detail includes robed figures holding songbirds, angel musicians playing instruments, dragons, and a profusion of foliage wreathing the upper portions of the screens." - Michael Lampen

another archived photo of Sam and crew in front of the organ covers

So, that was our day at Grace Cathedral. Breathtakingly beautiful to say the least! Definitely going back for more photos. Special thanks to Michael Lampen for the most fascinating tour.

If you're visiting San Francisco, I highly recommend you going to see Grace Cathedral. It is truly magnificent! Again, thanks for joining me!

Grace Cathedral
1100 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 749-6300

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

Isn't this a gorgeous photo from "flowers by Bornay?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yes or No?

If you're familiar with my website, you may have seen the vintage bus/destination signs that I sell. Well, just popped opened May's House Beautiful to see these signs above. It's inevitable. A trend gets reproduced and mass-produced.

Left to right;

a. replica of New York subway sign, price: $495 (yes, that's right...for a repro)

b. custom-made sign - from $295

c. 1950's Hong Kong Bus Sign $3,000 (yay, it's vintage!)

So, what do you think? Would you buy a repro for $495? Do you like the custom-made? Has this trend gone to far?

photos from House Beautiful (a. Restoration Hardware, b. Watson Kennedy, c. Liza Sherman Antiques

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sneak Peek: The Vintage Table

a most elegant table setting - Lucy & Tony Torres' home

Boy was I excited to receive my copy of the recently released book, "The Vintage Table," by Jacqueline de Montravel and the editors of Romantic Homes Magazine.

This book is a compilation of table and kitchen vignettes that are inspiring to say the least. Everything from old & new, to crisp & clean, family heirlooms to time-worn treasures, are compiled in such a manner that make you want to start planning a tea or dinner party just so you can set your table!

my dining room table (usually not that dressed up!)

I'm humbled to be included in this book! Better yet, to be alongside my friends Janet of FrenchBlue & Co., and Lucy Torres of My Paris Flea Market. And of course, the other amazing people with scrumptious homes and treasures!

a little more about me...

page 146 has my tips on collecting hotel silver...

I love this photo of Janet's collection of Laduree candy boxes under her gleaming chandelier...

...and Janet's prized Hotel Le Meurice cafe cup...(love it!)

How beautiful is Lucy's deck which overlooks the ocean in Southern California? The colors so soothing...the hanging whimsical!

So, if you want to see the entire 224 pages of this book, you can purchase it here or here. Believe me... the photos are exquisite, and there are some wonderful tips on entertaining.

A BIG thank you to Jacqueline at Romantic Homes for coming here and patiently shooting my house!

photos from The Vintage Table

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Work of Sam Berger Part II: St. Cecilia

This is the second in my series of posts about the wood carving done by my great-grandfather, Samuel Berger. Sam Berger's work has not been recorded, and this is my attempt to chronicle some of his work in a series of postings. I'm hoping that this will be a helpful resource/reference for my family, as well as anyone interested in California/San Francisco history or wood carving.

This post is a little long (lots of photos), so bear with me as I go through!

Exterior: St. Cecilia Church, San Francisco

My Great-Grandfather, Samuel Berger emigrated to San Francisco in 1904 from Bucharest, Romania, where he learned his trade as a second generation wood carver. I was fortunate enough to have known him; he died in 1970 when I was ten years old. He was the sweetest, most humble man.

Sam's woodcarvings grace some of California's most beautiful public and private buildings. His works can be found in many churches in San Francisco including, Grace Cathedral, Basilica of Mission Dolores, St. Peter and Paul's, Star of the Sea, St. Anne's and St. Brigid's, to name of few. Some of his crowning achievements were at Hearst Castle at San Simeon where he did most of his wood carving. Sam collaborated with the renowned architect, Julia Morgan, on much of his work.

church exterior
Thursday's journey began with a visit to St. Cecilia Catholic Church in San Francisco. My friend Renee and I took the day off, and what a treat it was to see this church in person. It was spectacular! We were greeted by the lovely Mary Scanlan, a longtime staff member, who shared stories with us, such as the altar of the church being a smaller replica of the Basilica of Rome.

St. Cecilia church saw many different locations in San Francisco. The current St. Cecilia, Colonial Spanish in design, is breathtaking in person. Its construction is reinforced concrete and cast-stone trim, with a roof of variegated Spanish tile, random-laid. We were told that much of the church design was influenced by France and Italy.

main church interior

We were introduced to Alvin Martin, Parish Manager, who was so very helpful in showing us around and identifying some of my unidentified old family photos of Sam's work that matched with some of the pieces in the church. Being Jewish, I'm not that familiar with some of the names of the pieces and what they represent or symbolize. Alvin was quite helpful in explaining. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.

It was overwhelming to see and touch the magnificent work that my great-grandfather did. I can't even imagine...all hand carved.

Early photo of Sam Berger next to the crucifix that would later be on the altar at St. Cecilia

Another photo I located of Sam's carving of the Baldacchino (canopy) and crucifix located on the main altar of the church

The magnificent altar. The Baldacchino, crucifix, ceilings and altar railings, all carved by Sam Berger.

These are amazing in person. Such intricate carving.

Sacred Heart of Jesus before being painted
This Sacred Heart of Jesus was in one of my photo albums, among many other random photos of Sam's work. I had no idea that this piece was from St. Cecilia Church.

Sacred Heart of Jesus after completion
Our Blessed Mother before completion

Our Blessed Mother after completion. Isn't she beautiful?

The main altar railings, also carved by Sam Berger
Church pews
notice the detailed carving
The Ambon

He also carved all of the Stations of the Cross

Magnificent confessionals carved by Sam

close-up of confessionals

stained glass windows grace the interior of the church

The Lady's Chapel outside the main chapel - so ornate in person. Sam carved much of the work in the chapel, including the magnificent ceilings...

It's difficult to show just how incredible the carving of these ceilings are in person. It's truly overwhelming.

I can't imagine how many months, years (?) it took my great-grandfather to carve these...

The Baptismal font with Sam's carving on the back wall, and quite possibly on the font itself

Renee and I outside of St. Cecilia

Exterior of St. Cecilia School

There is even an ocean view from the church (can you see it in the background?)

What a glorious day it was at St. Cecilia's. One I'll never forget. Next week we're off to Grace Cathedral to see more of Sam's work. Thanks for joining me on my journey!

St. Cecilia Church
2555 Seventh Avenue
San Francisco, California 94116

photo credits: most photos, Lynn Goldfinger, Ambon & Stations of the Cross: Peg Harrison, black & white photos: family archives