Green Moss Pop on Black Pika Pika Yakisugi

Dragonfish - Moss and Box wall panel

Dragonfish – Moss and Box wall panel

One new aspect at Dragonfish Asian Cafe was upping the look of the private dining room. Recently enlarged, it had no art or presence. After designing a special ‘Green Wall’ panel for the entry, it made sense to bring some of the same elements to the very rear of the space, this time propping it with various objects that would bring down the scale and add some Asian touches.

Dragonfish - Private Dining, showing both green panels against yakisugi planks

Dragonfish – Private Dining, showing both green panels against yakisugi planks

The idea was to nestle some cedar boxes into a composition of moss and ferns and finding a few totem objects that would speak to the Dragonfish flavor. Working with Michelle Marquez and Marta Piasecki at Seattle’s Botanical Designs, we came up with a fresh take on the concept.

It might be a stretch to call the panels ‘living’ as the different types of moss used have been dried and preserved, as well as the fern fronds, so no water is ever needed on this one, not even a spritz of water.

Objects that were incorporated include a wood yokogi fish from Japan, as well as an old ceramic sake bottle. Two contemporary handmade teacups are from an artist who works in my building, Ernest Hilsenberg. Also included are two objects provided by co-owner Yuko Abe, a black mask from SE Asia and a decorative cast resin piece in a yellow-green (left side panel).

Close up of one of the green art panels at Dragonfish Asian Cafe

Close up of one of the green art panels at Dragonfish Asian Cafe

The panels are mounted to planks of yakisugi from Nakamoto Forestry, out of Portland, OR. Using the ‘pika-pika’ treatment, the firm chars the face of the planks then uses wire brushes to bring out the grain of the wood before sealing with a penetrating oil. More typically used on exteriors, it makes for a dramatic and highly textural backdrop for the bright green mosses.

Dragonfish - private dining (sml)

An early rendering of the panels on the yakisugi wall

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King Cole mural by Maxfield Parrish

King Cole, flanked by jesters, in center of the mural

King Cole, flanked by jesters, in center of the mural

On a recent visit to New York City, I looked up as my wife and I were walking late at night on E. 55th St. and saw a blade sign for King Cole Bar. It took a second but I realized what was there and we dove inside. Wending our way through the empty dining room to get to the smallish bar tucked in the corner, there was the storybook mural by Maxfield Parrish, the commission that reputedly launched his uber-successful career.

His pipe and bowl on the way ...

His pipe and bowl on the way …

The mural dominates the small room and is quite stunning. Thirty feet wide, it takes up the entire wall above the back bar. Parrish painted it in 1906 for a bar in The Knickerbocker Hotel, when he was in his early thirties. It was later moved to the bar in the St. Regis, when the Knickerbocker was demolished. Cleaned and restored about a year ago, it’s wonderfully vibrant.

Kings Guard with quizzical expression

Guard with quizzical expression

Studying some of the faces, they struck me as oddly photographic. Reading up on him a bit afterward, I find that he indeed made abundant use of photographed models, projecting their images on to the canvases. Makes total sense when you view them, the expressions are the sort of thing that you would have a hard time getting any other way.

The hotel itself is steeped in NYC history. Among many other things, it has served as the temporary living quarters for Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock and John and Yoko. And in Ian Flemmings second Bond novel,  ‘Live and Let Die’, James Bond stays there and visits the King Cole Bar for a drink with his buddy, Felix Leiter.

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Dragonfish – Painting Action Shots

 

Dragonfish - folding screen painting 1

Dragonfish – folding screen painting 1

One of my daughters dropped by the studio while I was working on the new 6 panel ‘folding screen’ painting for Dragonfish Cafe. I asked her to take a few shots of the process while doing the big fat dry brush strokes that are essential to the composition.

A brief pause to examine the effect

A brief pause to examine the effect

The final 20-foot wide painting will be mounted in the main dining room of Dragonfish, against a tile wall with low articulation between each panel, suggesting an almost flattened folding screen. This addition to the restaurant is one of the last pieces of the art suite that I’ve designed for the place over the past few month. Other pieces include custom noren banners, living green wall panels, a lantern wall, and many lighting changes.

Father and daughter together (Stella Davis photo)

Father and daughter together (Stella Davis photo)

As yet untitled, the piece is inspired in part by the work of various Northwest modern masters of the 20th century, with various nods to Guy Anderson, Paul Horiuchi, and George Tsutakawa.

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LunchBox Skunk Works

Testing the lighting for the pony wall displays

Testing the lighting for the new pony wall displays

Each new LunchBox Lab location has unique opportunities and at the upcoming Green Lake store in Seattle with three tiered spaces, it’s the pony walls that divide the levels where we’d like to try something new. The practical purpose is creating greater privacy between the levels, but it’s also a place to add some special lighting.

Today I took a visit to Industry Graphics in Auburn, who’ll be fabricating the units I designed to study the lighting. James Kaul and the tech crew there had a rough box mocked-up and a wide choice of LEDs strips to play with. The challenge is to light the unit but not so much as to annoy the diners who will be sitting close to these things. The SPAM box, which just happened to be handy, has embossed lettering which catches the light just right.

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New Lunchbox Lab – warning signs …

LBL GL - retro chum shot (sml)

Pop science lunch boxes are my favorite find for this project

It’s a sure sign of an imminent new Lunchbox Lab when the corner of my studio starts to fill up with 60’s and 70’s pop science kitsch and my eBay bill spikes. Using old Gilbert Chemistry set boxes for the first time on this one …

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