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Mad Women

28 Nov

You all know about my affection for Mad Men and for advertising.  Well, I have a little news.  While most of you know that I have been working as a marketer in the video gaming space, I have decided to make a shift back to my roots.  I have taken a job as the Managing Director at the Seattle agency Copacino+Fujikado.  Yes, that’s right.  Madison Fourth Avenue, here I come.  I am off to be a Mad Woman again.

And to celebrate, I bought myself the book Mad Women as brought to my attention by a reader, Angela.  (Thank you!)  Below is the AdAge article on the launch of the book.  I loved the stories Jane tells about her days as a Mad Woman in the 60s.  I also loved her thoughtful commentary on the challenges of being a working mom both then and now.  Enjoy!  And if you read it, let me know what you think!

If Don Draper or Roger Sterling were to write a tell-all, it wouldn’t be hard to guess what it’d say — something along the lines of “I cheated on my wife with so and so and I drank way too many whiskeys.” But if Peggy Olson or Joan Harris were to spill all their secrets, wouldn’t it be more enlightening?

That’s the thinking behind a book scheduled to debut just ahead of the long-awaited fifth season of “Mad Men” next year. “Mad Women: the Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond,” is the latest work of creative legend Jane Maas.

Back in the golden days of Madison Avenue, Ms. Maas was a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, working on clients such as General Foods, S.C. Johnson and American Express before moving on to Procter & Gamble and the “I Love New York” campaign at Wells Rich Greene. In the late ’80s, she was named president of the New York office of Earle Palmer Brown, one of the first female execs in advertising to achieve a top post. Prior to “Mad Women,” Ms. Maas co-authored the book “How to Advertise” and penned an autobiography, “Adventures of an Advertising Woman.”

In Ms. Maas’ words, her latest book is the “true story of what it was like for women in advertising in that era of rampant sex, three-martini lunches and overt sexism.” We can expect plenty of colorful anecdotes, such as an annual Ogilvy boat ride that Ms. Maas remembers as a “a sex-and-booze filled orgy.” There’s a sober side too, one that deals with the injustices women faced at the time. They were rarely promoted to roles beyond a secretary, suffered unequal pay and female executives were discouraged from having children.

 

Voices in the book, which is published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, include Mary Wells Lawrence, founder of Wells Rich Greene; Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy and former McCann creative Laurel Cutler, as well as the newer generation of adwomen. Oh, and Ms. Maas spoke to a few men too.

Ad Age: What can we expect from “Mad Women”?

Ms. Maas: This book has two aspects. First, it’s funny. Chapter Two is called “Sex in the Office,” and Chapter Three is “Get the Money Before They Screw You.” [The late] Shirley Polykoff [former Foote Cone Belding exec and creator of the Clairol tagline Does She … Or Doesn’t She?] gave me some advice one day and she said ‘Get the money before they screw you like they screwed me,’ she said [referring to] the men who run the agencies. Other chapters are about drinking, smoking and drugs. Second, in the midst of all the fun and games, there’s a very serious message about women’s roles in advertising and in women’s business in general.

Ad Age: What are some of the ways in which working in the ad business 50 years ago is different than it is today?

Ms. Maas: I’ll tell you first what is most similar. When I talk to women who were working mothers in the ’60s and when I talk to the working mothers today in 2011, they sound the same. They use exactly the same words. They say, ‘I’m torn, I’m not being a really good mother, I’m not being a really good wife, and I’m not being a really good professional.’ Women who have kids are just as torn as we were back then. The biggest thing that’s changed is that women are not accepting of being second-class citizens anymore. When I was a junior copywriter at Ogilvy, a man who sat next to me went into the boss and announced he was getting married; it was a great thing and he got a raise. When women announced they were getting married they were warned they had to leave if they got pregnant. Well not if, it was when — back then everybody expected they were going to get pregnant. And, there was no maternity leave. No one was expected to come back after having a baby because women who had children under the age of 16 did not work in those days; it was socially unacceptable to have young children and work. And if you did, everybody at the office thought you were married to a real deadbeat, that your husband must be a drunk, otherwise you wouldn’t be there. You don’t see working moms hanging around at the Mad Men agencies.

Ad Age: Do you think Mad Men is accurate in its portrayal of women?

Ms. Maas: Yes, I do. For instance, Peggy Olson has a career path very similar to mine; she started off as a secretary and then got to writing copy by pleading, and then writing copy on nights and weekends until finally she was promoted to a copywriter. Still, a lot of her ideas are met with poo poo because the men think they know better. I think that’s very realistic in terms of how women copywriters were treated in those days — they were only allowed to work on certain types of products like baby food and things like that.

Ad Age: Are there any details about life in advertising as a woman that the show misses out on?

Ms. Maas: The only thing I think it gets wrong is that once a woman was promoted to being a copywriter, she wore a hat in the office. At Ogilvy, at Y&R — everywhere — it was a symbol that you achieved new status. Secretaries did not wear hats in the office. A number of women copywriters, predating me in the late ’50s, told me that they wore their hats even when she went to the ladies’ room.

Ad Age: In 2011, you think that the status of women in the ad business at executive levels is where it needs to be?

Ms. Maas: There’s a long way to go to resolve that terrible conflict that women who are working and mothers have, but that has nothing to do with advertising. That’s a gender problem that women will have to solve and men are going to have to help them solve it. The advertising industry has recognized women widely and wonderfully. There have been so many women in top creative roles and so many women running agencies. I’m sure the flaming feminists would say onward onward, but I think we’re doing very well.

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You have to read George

24 Nov

I have a thing for George Nelson.  If you asked me who my favorite MCM designer is, I would be hard-pressed to decide between him and Eames, but I think he would win.  He has always struck me as a little more philosophically grounded than the fantastic Mr. Eames.  And I get practically school-girlish about his bubble lamps. 

So imagine my elation at finding out his writings trump his designs, according to the piece below from the Design Within Reach blog, Design Notes.   As a woman of words, any man with a higher than 10th grade vocabulary makes me swoon.  And the bravado of the intro to his book which basically says, “You don’t like me?  Put this book down then.” is my design-nerd idea of the charming rebel.

You have to read George.

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George Nelson posing for Herman Miller advertisement “Traveling Men,” ca. 1954. Courtesy of Vitra Design Museum Archive.

At last week’s Yale symposium about George Nelson, one message was clear: You have to read George. In other words, George the writer trumps George the architect, George the designer and George the teacher, combined.

For two days, scholars, design nerds, editors and Murray Moss (there is no label to define him) talked about the legacy of this American icon. Known mainly for his furniture and design work for Herman Miller, Nelson also wrote and edited for Architectural Forum, Fortune, Pencil Points, Life and McCall’s, and co-authored the bestselling Tomorrow’s House with Henry Wright.

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Cover of November 1959 issue of Architectural Forum, where George Nelson was associate editor (1935-1943) and consulting editor (1944-1949).

Nelson’s unapologetic, unflinching style is immediately clear in Tomorrow’s House, which begins: “This book has a point of view which may seem strange to you. What it is will be made pretty clear in the first few pages of this introduction. If, after reading that far, the viewpoint seems not only strange, but unpalatable as well, put this book aside and forget it, for what we have to say will not be for you.”

He continues, “Today’s house is a peculiarly lifeless affair. The picture one sees in residential neighborhoods the country over is one of drab uniformity: pathetic little white boxes with dressed-up street fronts, each striving for individuality through meaningless changes in detail or color. The reason today’s house is so uninteresting is simply that it fails to echo life as we live it. Expressed in another way, it is hideously inefficient. Less honest thought goes into the design of the average middle-class house than into the fender of a cheap automobile.”

According to professor John Harwood of Oberlin College, Nelson’s fascination with design extended to other areas, and he even hosted an ABC television program called “How to Kill People.” I did a quick search for archival materials and quickly discovered that “how to kill people” is not something you should google – especially at work – so you’ll just have to take Harwood’s word for it. Worth noting, even in this program, Nelson’s concepts were said to have been expressed with brilliance, wit and verve.

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As for the exhibition, George Nelson: Architect, Writer, Designer, Teacher is worth the trip to Yale. It’s also a treat to explore the Yale School of Architecture building designed by Paul Rudolph.

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Paul Rudolph Hall was completed in 1963. The Yale campus also includes buildings by Louis Kahn and Marcel Breuer, and a hockey rink by Eero Saarinen.

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The interior and exterior walls of this Brutalist building are made of hammered concrete aggregate, creating an interesting, and oddly soothing, textural pattern. The layout of the rooms, however is a bit choppy and, perhaps due to later renovations, there is a lack of intuitive flow from one space to the next.

George Nelson believed that a space is successful when it’s done with love. I don’t know if Rudolph’s heart was aflutter when designing this building for Yale, but the passion expressed inside its walls makes up for the possible indifference.

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The curious appearance of a martini glass on the ledge. Perhaps Nelson, who was a Yale graduate and a fan of martinis, still haunts these halls…

I wish I could say we were seated in Womb Chairs, shown here in the student lounge, but our interest in George Nelson was tested by the brutal seating in Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist building. Described beautifully by author Ralph Caplan, who said, “One of the pleasures of speaking at this symposium is that you get a chance to get out of these seats.” (You also have to read Ralph, but I’ll save that post for another day.)

A gift for you: I found an online version of Nelson’s Tomorrow’s House through Open Library. Enjoy!

Thrifty Orla Art

6 Mar

I travel to the UK a fair bit for my job.  (Yes, I have a real job, believe it or not.)  And I am not complaining about the travel because London is one of my favorite cities in the world and one I am certain I will someday call home.  You know, as soon as we finish raising this gaggle of girls and all the renovations on this house.  Probably right before we leave.  Life is funny that way.

Well, during my last trip to London, I made a pilgrimage to my personal mecca:  the Orla Kiely store in  Covent Garden.  The clouds parted, the sun shone and a choir of angels sang as I entered.  It was heavenly.  Oddly set up with two storefronts, one housing purses and accessories and the other housewares connect by a basement full of her clothing and Etc. bags.  (I will also say I visited the New York store shortly after and it wasn’t nearly as fun.  It seemed a little too precious in its layout and staff.)

Orla Kiely, Covent Garden, London

While I was there, I picked up a lovely bag in her Olive pattern on sale and some mugs.  Waking up every morning with my tea in an Orla stem print cup is the best way to start my day.  I also saw some of the wonderful Orla wallpaper all over the store.  Now, you all know how I feel about wallpaper. (Even more about it here.)  It is from hell and I will never ever ever never have it in my house after spending so much time taking down the stuff already on our walls.  However, I really love the prints and tried to think of how to integrate it into our décor.

I noticed they had a small piece of one of my favorite patters, the gray flowers with the green center as featured on the cover of Orla’s recent book, Pattern.  (Exact same green as the family room.) I asked what it would cost to have the piece to which the sales lady responded…’Oh, that’s a sample, you can have it.’ Bingo!  I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  Frame it.  Orla art.

Then I saw the roll with the classic stem print and cagily said, ‘I am not sure which I like more.  Could I please have a sample of that too?’  But, of course!  I went home with two carefully rolled swatches of (free) Orla wallpaper and carried them on the plane like little precious babies so they wouldn’t get crushed.

Yesterday, when I was on my photo and art hanging frenzy, I got around to this little project.  I knew the perfect frame for it was sitting in a pile of dusty frames in the living room that I had yet to know what to do with.  It was a chocolate brown, which would match the wood in the family room.  I thought black would just be too matchy-matchy for the wall paper.  This was so easy.  I wrapped the wall paper sample around the back of the frame, trimmed the edges and then locked it into place.

I hung it in the family room next to a beautiful photo of all four girls and a rubbing Maeve did for me of the tile on our Batchelder fireplace in our old house before we moved.  The paper lamp is from IKEA and, of course, the books is my Orla Kiely Pattern coffee table (or in this instance bookcase) book.  I am pleased with how it all turned out.

I still have the stem wallpaper to frame and that will go in the living room.  Stay tuned for that post soon.

Weekend Show and Tell

22 Jan

We are finally climbing out of snow and slush here in the Northwest. While I had spent all of December bemoaning the fact that we had unseasonably warm temperatures and no holiday white stuff, let’s just say I am ready for it all to melt and go away. And despite the fact that we did not have any internet access for a lot of the time, I still have some goodies for you.

As many of you know, I dream of a wall of books in our living room, our own little library with real books. Made from paper. Remember those? And in my fantasy library, we would have a George Nelson built-in wall unit, but alas those are hard to come by and pricey. Even more pricey, but a gorgeous head-nod to George are these furniture systems by Atlas Industries. Sigh, maybe someday.

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This photo from Houzz has one of my favorite mid-century items, a flokati rug or ‘a big white shaggy carpet thing’ as Maeve said. Flokati rugs are handmade shag wool rugs. The natural color of a flokati rug is off-white, but they may be dyed different colors. After the rug is woven, it is placed in the cold water of a river (or a mountain waterfall as some Greek import sites will claim) to fluff the shag. They continue to be handmade in the mountains of Greece. They aren’t cheap, but then they aren’t prohibitively expensive either. A 7×10′ averages about $600-700, which is less than what you’d pay for a machine-made wool rug from West Elm.  (Apparently IKEA sells a 6×4′ flokati for $79.99.  Of course.)

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The other thing in the photo above that I love is the Arne Jacobsen womb chair. It is a classic mid-century piece and I see it everywhere in a variety of colors and fabrics, including leather below.

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Okay, so I am still a little obsessed with having a pool. Folly in the Northwest, I know. But I grew up with pools and there is something to be said for having one in the backyard to jump into. However, I am noticing a trend lately for narrow reflecting-type pools, like this one in Adelaide, Australia courtesy of Dwell Magazine.

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Or this one with the in-ground firepit that makes me drool (courtesy of Pursuitist), the Wissioming Residence designed by Robert Gurney Architects.

And finally because I am a total nerd and can’t wait for the new season of Mad Men (or of Downton Abbey…yes, we cheated and watched all of Season 2 already), I took the ‘Which Mad Men Character Are You?’ quiz. Guess which one I am?  Take it and tell me who YOU are!

Creating a Library

14 Dec

As many of you know from previous posts (some obsessive to the point of concerning), we are big on books around here. Of course, some of us still read them on paper and have yet to make the leap to electronic versions. This is the same person that wants a phone that just calls people. Why do we have to complicate everything? (And this is the same person that works for a major technology company, but that is beside the point really.)

Nevertheless, the topic of books is coming up again as the living room begins to take form in my imagination. The entire design centers around my imaginary sofa from Perch (mentioned here and here and I am sure in multiple others). 

My first thought was sofa against the wall with end tables and some kind of fantastic art work from Pool Pony on Etsy above it (like this).

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I would surround the sofa with some cool end tables and a coffee table and maybe add one of those arching floor lamps in the corner. This lovely tableau would be cushioned by a nice shag area rug and faced with the refinished and reupholstered chairs I picked up from the Mercer Island Thrift Store. The wall to wall windows would be to one side and the huge open hearth fireplace (once we remove the wood stove!) would be to the other. Perfect, right?

That is until I considered what to do with the stacks and stacks of books next to said fireplace. And since this is still in my imagination and not yet imminent and the living room is actually still full of kitchen cabinet doors, I wasn’t too concerned about it. Then I was in the car chatting with Ainsley about it one day and she said, why not make that room into a library?

Huh. A library. In my own house. Oh fantasy of fantasies. Bookcases upon bookcases in a room with a fireplace even. How lucky are we to even have a room to transform into a library! It seems that books as decor are still a big topic, having just seen on Apartment Therapy this morning Lindsey and Stephen’s Book-Filled Apartment.

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She kept describing it and I kept trying to resist. It didn’t help that Maeve kept saying it was the most brilliant idea EVER! I had become attached to my idea of the living room based pretty much on my love of the artwork I had also imagined and the image of it hanging over that glorious sofa. But flexibility in life is key and I began my mental rearranging of furniture. If I put Gracie (the name for the sofa…from Perch…not from me. I’m not that weird. Really…) over here, and the chairs over here, I could actually fit a huge wall bookcase there!  Eureka. Let the internet shopping begin.

I found a few. In this case size and style were the key. I wanted something at least six-feet wide to dominate the wall. And if funds were unlimited…and I mean totally unlimited…the natural choice would be a George Nelson wall storage wall.

GEORGE NELSON COMPREHENSIVE STORAGE SYSTEM (CSS)

But alas, funds are indeed limited.  Ideally, I would like something that fills up most of the wall and is possibly modular to refigure as needed. And of course something that looks very mid-century. For our library. Man, I like the sound of that.

Font of Knowledge

6 Dec

Remember these? I spent hours…(nerd alert!)…I mean hours pouring over these books.  They sat right next to the World Book Encyclopedia, the source of all knowledge for school reports before the internet, in my grandmother’s house. (Yes, I will be able to tell my grandchildren I was born before the internet and blow their precious little minds.)

They are called ‘Childcraft: The How and Why Library’ and they are wonderful.  All 15 of them. (Okay, 14 because I bought the set without realizing the number 8 was missing.) I had been watching them at the Mercer Island Thrift Store. The first time I saw them, I was brought back by the smell and the wonderful mid-century illustrations. I walked away and went home with these gorgeous babies I wrote about here instead.

The second time I didn’t find anything good and pouted about it. I consoled myself by looking at these books again before I left. I had a moment of ‘Should I buy these? Should I?’ Nah. I don’t need them. I don’t really. But they bring me back to a room with a Nelson built-in, smoky gray marble flooring and wood paneling. It was my uncle’s room and it also had a full sized poster of Jimi Hendrix on the closet door, but that’s neither here nor there. They were the EXACT ones. The exact color and edition in my grandparent’s house. They even smell the same.

I said to myself that if they were there the next time I went, still sitting sad and lonely and unappreciated on that bookshelf, I would buy them. I mean at $15…a dollar a piece…it’s a deal. (Actually, it was a little more than that because #8 was missing but whatever.)

And guess what? Today, they were still there waiting for me. And guess what else? I couldn’t resist. (I also couldn’t resist an awesome piece of MCM furniture, but more on that later.)

My glorious 15 volumes (minus 1) are:

1. Poems and Rhymes

2. Stories and Fables

3. World and Space

4. Life Around Us

5. Holidays and Customs

6. How Things Change

7. How We Get Things (And the era of conspicuous consumption begins…)

8. About Us (and missing! Tried Ebay, no luck.)

9. Make and Do

10. What People Do

11. Scientists and Inventors

12. Pioneers and Patriots

13. People to Know (I always thought I would end up being one of these.)

14. Places to Know (I dreamed of going to all of these.)

15. Guide and Index

I am totally geeking out looking through these and having memories flood back both from the photos, words and the smell. I swear these books are responsible for my love of learning and my total over the top nerdiness. It’s fascinating to me to see how so much of the mid-century mentality pervaded these pages. Expect to see more postings from these pages in the future. Luck you!

Weekend Show and Tell

4 Dec

Yep, folks. It’s all Christmas all the time from now until the 25th. I am sure there will be some non-Christmas projects thrown in, like the cabinets. At least some that I can manage myself as Brett is still pretty laid up in bed and will be for a few more weeks. (The one thing I know I am good at is shopping, so he better watch out. Better not cry…you know the rest.) So for Weekend Show and Tell, it’s still holiday cheer, both projects and presents.

From Babble, a wonderful MCM Christmas stand made of a tree trunk. Mid-century atmosphere completed with shag rug and Eames chair.

Ummm…what can I say about this? I know I have jumped the shark on the Peanuts stuff. I know I am guilty of becoming one of those old women that wears the Peanuts equivalent of denim shirts with Winnie the Pooh embroidered on it. I just can’t help myself. There is now an app for mobile phone, tablet, iPhone or Android device that includes the option to decorate your own Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, participate in the Lights and Display Contest to unlock rewards, play Schroeder’s piano, finger paint with the gang, go carolling with the Peanuts choir and much more. Does it bother anyone that this commercialization of The Charlie Brown Christmas is what the cartoon was railing against? Yeah, me neither. (Apparently not available on Windows 7 phone. Bummer.)

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Not holiday, but could be a great present from a very rich relative, a chair surrounded by books. Like being enveloped in a wonderful literary blanket. Not sure how comfortable the chair is, but I am just in love with the idea.

Bibliochaise Home

Because you all know about my Scrabble thing, I poached this idea from Pinterest. Clever Scrabble tile ornaments. Though, Faith, Hope, Love and all that aren’t likely for me to use, I do think the girls names would be a great idea.

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On the other end of the price spectrum, re-using and homemade things are totally the mid-century ethos. Check out this homemade lip balm in recycled mint tins. These would be great gifts for office friends or the girls’ school buddies. Lovely.

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