“The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: Sometimes, placing one work of art near another makes one plus one equal three.
Two artworks arranged alchemically leave each intact, transform both, and create a third thing.”
~ Jerry Saltz
Deb and I met years ago, through my clothes, and then her jewelry. She was looking for a jacket to wear to her opening at Manika Gallery on Maiden Lane in San Francisco, and I made her one. Since then we have become close friends. We share a similar philosophy of life and living, a deep love of Italy and we try to maintain a balance between raising a family in the Bay area, in particular our daughters, and conveying to them our passion for doing what we love ~ taking raw materials and sculpting them into beautiful, wearable things, that have become our individual businesses over time.
Deb is a jeweler, an alchemist in many ways ~ and one of my favorite pieces I have of hers is a simple black choker, that is half made with black spinel. As with much of my jewelery, it has accumulated power and significance depending on where and when it has been worn in my life. And that necklace traveled to Italy and Germany with me three years ago. To this day, that necklace when I where it here, brings me back to those moments walking through Dorsoduro in Venice, where I used to live, re-discovering Verona and Berlin. This is the power of those things we put on our bodies and have acquired meaning by the experiences we infuse them with.
Deb understands that language and its power, but she also understands collaboration and social alchemy ~ and it was through our dinner that we co-hosted together that also marked the 2 year anniversary of my very first salon dinner on 4th street, that we really came together and created something truly beautiful as an experiential feast.
To discuss the parameters, guest list, and menu for the dinner, we met at Bartavelle in Berkeley. We both decided that would be a perfect evocation of what we were trying to do with the dinner, especially since for both of us, it reminded us of our favorite cafes and wine bars in Italy, and how that daily ritual is woven into one’s life. The idea became Edible Orgasmic and happened on Saturday February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day, two years to the weekend of my first dinner called, simply “Red”…
On naming it, Deb recalled ~“I suggested the name as a paean to the brilliant food manifesto EDIBLE SELBY, a creation of the inimitable Todd Selby, photographer/author/illustrator extraordinaire. The intention was to create a mood that would impact and delight all of the senses ~ taste, sight, touch, smell, sound ~ as Todd so beautifully does in his book!”
Below a collage of “ingredients,” and philosophy of social alchemy ~ notes about and images from the dinner, and then an interview with Deb who has been honing the craft of metal-smithing over the years and currently collaborating on a LIGHT project to celebrate her 50th birthday later this year.
Above, left ~ Salon Dinner #1, Feb. 18th 2012, with guests: Deb, Heike Liss, Beth Ann McFadden, me, Christopher Willits, Cecelia Fernandez, David Sullivan, Racheal Matthews. right ~ Reading Robert Hass‘s “The Problem of Describing Color,” which started the tradition of an opening toast/reading.
Above ~ Deb, on hospitality design ~ “It is all about theater. importance of sense of arrival, procession, presentation…for the decor ~ placeholders, set on gold squares of joss paper, ceremonially traditional to honor the dead. (nod to the memory of David Sullivan). candle-lit red lanterns; silk rose petals strewn about the set table, with deep red square candles floating the length of it. “…My reading that evening, Kim Addonizio’s What Do Women Want?
Above, left ~ Dinner #41, Feb 15th 2014, with guests ~ Deb Durant & Matthew Winkelstein, Amy Cranch & Marc L’Italien, Patrick Hooker & Joan Ellis, Tom & Barbara Pridham, Noel Castellanos & Tim Molak, Ben & Leilia Peake, Mad Dog & Anne Smith Rainey, Angelo Garro, Stela Jelincic, Christine Sullivan, Racheal Matthews, Marcy Lauer, Suzanne Drexhage & Stanislaw Sobolewski, and Amy Louise Murray. right ~ menu designed by Deb.
Deb, on the philosophy behind the dinner ~ “The goal is to create social alchemy.. since the role of host is part match-maker…the spirit ~ abbondanza (abundance)! ~ but put your attention on the importance of balance ~ wabi sabi ~ perverse beauty, deliberate imperfections…there should be mystery, a promise of adventure…the menu should be playful, with memorable references like 9 1/2 weeks ~ 9 1/2 courses to tempt and tantalize you ~ and red wherever possible… gougers with mimolette, a salt cod riette risotto, meringues inspired by Fusebox’s Bergamot meringues, and for the finale, Matt’s frosty-creamy kumquatcello shots.”
“Desire begins in the mind. It’s wanting that keeps us alive…” ~ Paola Franco, Dangerous Beauty
Deb Durant, Interview #28, FLOWERLAND on Solano, Albany, CA. Wednesday April 30th 2014
On her background ~ “I was born on the North Shore, Boston an idyllic, drunken seaside hamlet. When i was 5 we went to Marlborough,MA which was decidedly more suburban. I’ve always lived on water and always preferred the periphery, could never live inland. These things would be true eternally.”
From illustration at SMU, a detour to Newport, RI, interior design at New England School of Art, then Mass College of Art and Art Institute of Boston for jewelry design, with a stint waitressing at a fancy restaurant in Providence Rhode Island ~ Lucky’s… Deb remembers ~ “I sucked at waitressing but it formed a seminal reference for me getting interested in fine dining coming from a background in canned vegetables and dinner in a box. “ground zero for me.” I wanted to take classes at RISD in interior design and then moved to Boston.. This MO is something I believe in as a life course. I like the idea of always being a student and always learning something new. It’s important to always have some sort of “beginner mind….Furthermore, I am extremely adaptable and adaptability is something I feel is a really important skill set. It doesn’t necessarily lead me down the path to the result i’m looking for but it’s the way to get there.. but i love the idea that it’s not possible to always get things right all the time. mistakes, frailties, give us humor and humility which are two qualities that are lacking this day and age.
On making jewelry ~ “In my 20s i was always drawn to creating ceremonial jewelry which right from the start included wedding and engagement rings ~ creating for a sense of ceremony was important for me. I love the connection between the creative process and making something that symbolizes the celebration. I feel like what I do for a living is such an honor because I get to be a small part of the most important events in peoples’ lives…I love working with fire. I love torching, burring, shaping, melting, forging. I love the physicality and especially love working with gold itself. Gold is like no other metal. It’s non-corrosive. You can make something that if you leave it buried in the ground for 1,000 years it will look exactly the same. The elements can’t touch it or corrode it. Working with a material that physically has such durability and lasting quality is the perfect material to represent stability ~ same as the diamond and gem stones ~ both figuratively and literally precious objects from the earth. For me the thing that makes them most interesting is their impurities. Colors inside the gems and interesting little specs or inclusions, I think are much like people. It’s the scars, birthmarks that make us interesting. And people choose gems that look like them. We surround ourselves with ourselves. All relationships are a mirror. Jewelry and gems historically have been a way to show the world who we are… I focus on unusual and uncut diamonds. Before the 1920s they were cut by hand, with a candlelight glow and sparkle. Modern diamonds are blinding fluorescent light and I adamantly prefer incandescence. I would take a candle over a light bulb any day…
Above, left ~ hammered platinum and briolette diamond ring. center~ Industrial diamond necklace w/suede. right ~ honeycomb necklace/earrings
On loving ITALY ~ “The summer after I moved to California I attended a film event at the Pacific Film Archive called “The Realm of Enchantment” (6/97) hosted by PFA film curator, Russell Merritt. The event was comprised of numerous showings – Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette animation Palace of The Arabian Nights; the short film Inspirace by Karel Zeman – a few minutes of pure animated wonderment, a silent, tiny love story told in glass – followed by a mint condition Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et La Bete (which Sadie and watch and rewatch every year). Here is where my fascination with Italy/Venice began: I approached Dr. Merritt after the filming, expressed my deep appreciation for the films, and he agreed to make me a copy of the Zeman and Cocteau masterpieces. We became friends and I visited him and his wife Karen many times over the next few years. He shared his love of film and adventure, describing his annual trek to the Venice film festival, insisting I must find a way to go – that it was a magical city, unlike any other. Three years later I would find myself there for the first time – getting married, spending my wedding night at the 14th century palazzo-turned-Hotel Danieli and exploring Italy for the next 8 weeks. We returned just before our (non-legal but fully attended) “wedding” back at Matthew’s childhood house, the house Ansel Adams grew up in. We were married in the living room – which he had built for himself and his new bride, a room intended to be a salon, to host his many gatherings. The words inscribed in the mantel, inspired by Edward Carpenter, were a favorite of Ansel’s ~ “Oh joy, divine of friends. To hold within the circle of one’s arms More than the universe holds: So sweet, so rare, so precious beyond words, The god so tenderly mortal! Not kisses only or embraces Nor the sweet pain and passion of the flesh alone; But more, far more, To feel (ah joy!) the creature deep within Touch on its mate, unite, and lie entranced There, ages down, and ages long, in light, Suffused, divine ~ where all these other pleasures Fade but to symbols of that perfect union!”…
WE GOT MARRIED OCTOBER 4TH 2000, YOU AND LLOYD SEPT 14TH 2000, 50 MILES AWAY AND WE DIDN’T KNOW EACH OTHER YET ~
Above ~ Venice images and a point of overlap between Deb and I… Me wearing one of my favorites chokers of Deb’s, made of black spinel…
On STORY restaurant, in LONDON ~”I literally flew to London to go to this restaurant. I googled the most fabulous restaurant in London and found it. Before I got there I imagined this stuffy, nostalgic shelves of books brought by customers and it could not have been more different. Beautiful, spare, elegant environment tucked in to a tiny grass way at the intersection of 3 busy streets at the foot of London Bridge; and when this fellow/chef was walking around from table to table and I said I was pleased to be here and flew in especially to eat here, he responded “Are you the jeweler?” ~ which nothing about the reservation indicated he could have known that. I asked how could you know that and he said “I know everything” in a humorous, sly way, not arrogant at all. What impressed me the most about STORY was that the answers were only revealed if you happen to ask the question ~ Why are the forks upside down? They would tell you the story which was a nod to a time when silverware was “tine side down.” There was a candle made of animal fat and it melts. Then they bring out a loaf of bread and say dip it in your candle. So you experience something for 1/2 hour before the gravity of what it means becomes clear. It’s manipulation that is incredibly effective. It makes you realize that anywhere at anytime any simple thing could become transformative. And the food ~ like the dill granita ~ whatever he did to it was the most incredible savory delectable thing. It’s all about transformation and edible alchemy.. He took the simplest elements and turned them into heaven. A pureed potato dolloped onto a puddle of coal that’s basically embellished coal.”
Above ~ STORY, London: menu, chef Tom Sellers, interior and Three Bears Porridge (and Lok Ming Fung’s ceramics)
On Revival Bar and Kitchen, in Berkeley ~ “I added strings of tiny outdoor bulb lights to the center court of Revival to give the effect of el fresco dining (like in Italy). to temporarily suspend your disbelief that you are outside but inside. I installed it for a party and we left it up… I like trying to trigger a pleasurable memory…
On her 5050 LIGHT PROJECT ~ “The project is meant to be a celebration of what it should be, a woman turning 50, on Oct 12th. It’s a celebration, not a lesser state and not something to feel diminished by. It’s a moment of acknowledgement of your accomplishments, the community you’ve built and the work you’ve done and embracing the next phase. My desire is to surround myself with friends and artists that represent the 30+ years of my artistic life and the people who’ve been a real part of it. The subject LIGHT was chosen because it’s universal, everywhere around us and everyone has a connection to it and can easily create a work of art about it. It’s completely accessible and it’s also fantastically expansive and can run a wide gamut of experiences. Metaphorically turing 50, a moment of enlightenment ~ light being a force of good and a sense of higher ground.. and probably the most massive dose of serotonin in my system is stimulated by particular light. If I think of moments that feel religious to me and moments that have impacted me greatly purely on a visceral level, they are exposures to light ~ Burning Man 1998-99, sunsets in Newport, RI, reflections in the window. These have had a huge huge effect on me. As a young girl, seeing the city lights of Boston at night and any and all massive congregations of holiday lights thrill me to my core. I am obsessed with it.”
WHERE: everywhere, YES.
LOVE: whole heartedly
SWEAR: I’m part sailor. I have so many ~ Bastages (SNL). For Matt, Jackass. I swear a lot. It’s hard to choose and I thoroughly take pleasure in swearing. When I hear Kate Winslet swear it sounds fabulous but young actresses in their 20s, I feel for their mothers. There should be judicious proper amounts of swearing.
On BOOKS ~ “Peter Matthiasson’s Snow Leopard that I read in my early 30s was a huge influence. It’s a beautiful reflective story, a travelogue. He’s an anthropologist who goes through the Himalayas in search of the elusive snow leopard. And they don’t see one. It’s a perfect example of the journey being more desirable than the destination. And the journey of how they fail is fascinating. My guest bathroom is wall-papered with the novel, a signed copy. First page to the last page was what was needed to fill my bathroom. My intention was to read it and every word but of course as a wallpaper you only have one side. He actually died a couple of weeks ago.
On FILMS ~ Being There. I think it is a blueprint for so much. For stunning inspiration, Naked Lunch. For pure visual artistry, Dreams by Kurosawa. I live very much more in my mind and film’s eye than in reality; and reality itself is utterly subjective. The three words I think are most important are CLARITY, BALANCE and TRUTH. Those are the three things that are my litmus.
On MUSIC ~ What is the soundtrack right now for your life? ~ “Andrew Bird, Dustin O’hallaran, Steven Reich, Crowded House, and Glenn Gold/Goldberg Variation/Bach. I play it on loop thousands of times in a row because music is math is precision is good for metal smithing. Math is nature. It’s beauty, it’s architecture. Math is everything and everything is math. Everything is patterns and it’s all about connectivity.”
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads,
our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
― Herman Melville