With the presidential campaign now officially a two-man race, the all-American crystal maker Steuben Glass has taken a bipartisan stance. The Corning, N.Y., company is offering two Political Animals suitable for polarized desktops.
There's a feisty-looking donkey for Democratic supporters and an elephant with trunk raised in salute for GOP stalwarts. Both animals look absolutely victorious.
The creatures have been sculpted in sterling silver and perched on star-etched crystal balls. Each $1,500 keepsake measures 51/2 inches high.
The century-old glass company has supplied White House gifts of state since the Truman administration. Administrations of either party have appreciated its reliance on American artists and craftspeople to produce objects of elegance. The latest addition to the family of artisans is the SoHo jewelry designer Ted Muehling, whose naturalist-inspired collection for Steuben has just been launched with vases shaped like stalks of bamboo and giant faceted bowls inspired by the shell of a tortoise.
The designer of the Political Animals, James Houston, has worked with Steuben for 42 years. He is best known for crafting Inuit fishermen on crystal arctic ice floes. With the donkey and elephant, he says, he was attempting to "celebrate the energy of politics American-style."
Sorry, no crystal Terminator yet.
Tour the Mini-Mansion
Do not mistake "The White House: A Pop-Up Book" for child's play.
Any aspirant to the highest office and best address in the land can learn from this vibrant new volume by designer and artist Chuck Fischer (Universe/Rizzoli, $35).
The grand mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. does pop up. But that's not all. Miniature histories unfold in full color. Historical maps pull out. And the Oval Office and Blue Room make three-dimensional appearances. A classic fan opens across two pages to reveal portraits of selected first ladies. Modern spouses are easy to identify, but vintage portraits may test a few readers.
The charming artwork comes from Fischer, a decorative painter who has designed gift wrap for Caspari, china for Lenox and wallpapers and fabrics for Brunschwig & Fils and F. Schumacher & Co.
The book opens with an invitation from Neil W. Horstman, president of the White House Historical Association, to learn more about the executive mansion at WhiteHouseHistory.org.
In this heated campaign season, Democrats may not be pleased to find no space on the First Ladies Fan for a successor to Laura Bush.
The Museum of Modern Art has long served as the country's foremost arbiter of design. As the New York museum prepares for the November opening of its expansive headquarters, MoMA is publishing a definitive Design Encyclopedia to spread the modernist story.
The 832-page, $65 volume covers 130 years of industrial design, decorative arts and craft. Innovations in furniture, lighting, fabrics, ceramics, glass, metal and other objects are offered in concise nuggets, along with mini-profiles of designers, craftspeople and important manufacturers. There are 3,600 entries dealing with styles, periods, people and materials. Seven hundred illustrations enliven the fundamentals of functionalism, rationalism, modernism and the Industrial Revolution.
The book, an expansion of a 1990s effort, took design historian Mel Byars 15 years to complete. A scan reveals wonderful tidbits, including who dreamed up the hourglass-shaped Chemex coffeepot and how Ligne Roset, the French maker of sexy sofas, was founded in 1860 to make bentwood walking sticks and umbrellas.
Terence Riley, MoMA's chief curator of architecture and design, compares the project to Diderot's 28-volume extravaganza published in the 18th century. He also notes somewhat wryly that compiling such a historical account consigns modernists to a past they sought to leave behind. But after more than a century of feats, the movement has created a rich history. The Design Encyclopedia allows it to be savored.
Shedding Light on the Subject
Beginning yesterday, passersby may notice a strange green fluorescent glow emanating from the National Gallery of Art. It comes from a 120-foot light sculpture, which will be visible day and night from Pennsylvania Avenue to herald the coming of "Dan Flavin: A Retrospective" on Oct. 3.