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Showing posts from 2011

Arbuck Style No. 76 by Paul McCobb

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In a recent conversation with Mike Pratt, a fellow mid-century design researcher and the author of Mid-Century Modern Dinnerware: A Pictorial Guide (Schiffer 2002) he mentioned to me that one of the things he had learned doing his research is that we are getting newer, better information all the time and that what we publish, when we publish it, is really only an encapsulation of the state of our research at that moment in time, that there is every chance, given time, more will be revealed. Truer words could not have been said. Case in point:
Back in September I got an e-mail from Wright asking for information authenticating the above items which would ultimately appear as Lot 177 in their October 2011 Modern Design auction. Their request was for "information regarding the manufacturer and date of production" but what they really needed was confirmation that the table and chair in the above image were by Paul McCobb as they had been unable to find any historical reference to …

The Anatomy of a Paul McCobb Lamp

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Time and again I have seen the most spectacular misattributions when it comes to the Paul McCobb lamps. Some are entirely figments of an overactive imagination and as such are easily discounted, others being of very similar design to the actual lamps are the far more difficult to debunk since the three blind men and the elephant principle applies. Partial information almost always leads to incorrect conclusions.

So let's pose the question: What makes a Paul McCobb lamp a Paul McCobb lamp? Are there any specific design features which separate out the McCobb lamps from all the others on the planet? Not surprisingly the answer is yes... the greater portion of the McCobb lamps manufactured by Northcraft Lighting and Excelsior Art Studio had specific and unique design elements which are not repeated anywhere else in the centuries long canon of lamp manufacture.


First off no McCobb lamp for Northcraft Lighting and/or Excelsior Art Studio used a lamp harp to hang the shade. There are no la…

The Real McCobb

Here's a link to an article by Larry Weinberg of Weinberg Modern in the July 2011 issue of Interior Design magazine which I contributed to.

The Real McCobb: Mid Century's Paul McCobb is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Pomona Tiles' Distinguished Designer Series

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The earliest reference that I have to the Distinguished Designer series is in the June 1957 issue of Art & Architecture where a two page Ponoma Tile ad announces the forthcoming release of their new "Distinguished Designer" tile series. The following text is quoted directly from this ad:
"Working under special assignment from Pomona Tile Manufacturing Company, five distinguished contemporary designers —Liebes, McCobb, Bass, Laszlo, and Sheets — have opened the way for scores of beautiful new uses and applications of decorative tiles for both residential and commercial construction. The project was an interesting challenge. The results...as usually happens when the true artist applies his talent to a new medium of creativity...are totally unexpected and unprecedented. And this inspiration, in turn, should beget a great new school of ideas, from architects, decorators, and builders. The first in the series will be introduced, in full color, in the forth-coming issue o…

Los Angeles Modernism Show 2011

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Los Angeles Antiques Show 2011

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Los Angeles Antiques Show 2011, a set on Flickr.

Digging through the crates

When I was asked for a quote from Paul McCobb to put into the brochure for Reform Gallery’s Paul McCobb/Directional Design exhibit at the Los Angeles Antiques Show I figured that it wouldn’t be too difficult finding something appropriate. I wasn’t exactly hard pressed for material after all. McCobb was interviewed frequently during the 50’s and 60’s and I have literally thousands of articles to choose from. The challenge was to find something simple, succinct and to the point. 
As it turns out much of McCobb’s interviews are not at all about design or process but rather tend towards giving helpful hints to homemakers. In fact there is an entire series of articles doing just that, making suggestions to homemakers about how to go about decorating their homes; tips and tricks to aid in providing a “light, airy and spacious” home in a time of shrinking rooms and diminishing scale of the household environment. Great stuff from a historical standpoint, but not exactly sexy. 
McCobb was also a…

Tables by Lane

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Over the past few years I have become increasingly aware of the necessity for context in research. At the very beginning of this project I was so narrowly focussed on getting information about Paul McCobb that I ignored anything else that wasn’t about McCobb. For instance, when I scanned the 1962 Lane catalog I entirely ignored the rest of it, only scanning those pages which dealt directly with Paul McCobb’s work. I later regretted this decision but there was really nothing to do about it as the catalog was in California and I wasn’t.

Fortunately life has conspired to make it so that I can finally right this egregious oversight, Gerard O’Brien of Reform Gallery (the fellow who has the Lane catalog) having decided to show select pieces from his Paul McCobb collection at the upcoming Los Angeles Antiques and Los Angeles Modernism shows at the Barker Hanger this April has called me in to work with him co-producing these Paul McCobb retrospectives, which means that once again I find myself…