Crafted by Hand

Designing a World: Bears,
Children, Wonderment
and Michele Clise

Ophelia’s World
[Ophelia, showing above]

Now and then, you get a chance to work on a project, or a succession of them,
that might be reaching out to the edge of
“what’s that, you’re looking for what?”

Michele Durkson Clise had
an extraordinary store,
just off the Pike Place Market,
world-known, called Bazaar Des Bears.
It was not a common retail retelling.
Clise’s uncommon world was laden with curiosities orchestrated,
horror vacui, mingled throughout a fabulously decorated shop,
a cornucopia of imaginings of bear-made journeys to far-off locations and adventures.
More like a museum to teddy bears,
a celebration, twas.

The star, Ophelia:

Crafted by Hand

What I found interesting in her work
as a retail stylist, she —
the Merchandising Matrix —
was her ability to tell a story in a retail environment, from the street, inwards.
Early on, I was captivated by retail holism — NYC, Tokyo, Moscow, London; which leads to another angle of contemplation: and in another story,
the work of NYC shop window mage, legendary designer, Robert Currie
was storytelling, detail and interiors.

I worked with and
learned from both of them:
Michele and Robert.
Both designers, both retail thinkers,
both amazing style strategists.

Michele is a consummate retail storyteller, mingling wonderment, spectacle and amazement in an incredibly small place. Robert’s skill was in the layering of objects of, and in, unexpected dimensions, materials and textures in installations that were, at once, Zen-like installations of spectacle, merchandising drama. He was an extraordinary stylist. Geraldine Stutz, who I met one night during one of Currie’s installations, for her, at Henri Bendel’s, later hired him to act as display director for her store, in her role as President of Bendel’s.

They fit together, Michele and Robert, and surely range high in my ladder of respect and admiration —
design, storytelling, retail retelling and
extravagant luxuriation of theme,
the shaping of content.


To Michele and I, I think that we might’ve met through photographer Marsha Burns, who we’d worked with in the past, designing portfolios for sale, bound to archival standards for her “Dreamers,” series, a collection of 12 silver gelatin prints, boxed by a museum fabricator with printing, to our design, by Hampshire Typothetae, letter press printed on hand made paper. In the Rare Book Library at Girvin,
you can see that and other printed folios of
photography that Girvin designed,
including Graecism by Richard Misrach.
Marsha plays a big part in this retail storytelling, retold.

Working with Michele, her request was to design a string of highly customized books for Clarkson Potter, a publisher in San Francisco. It wasn’t about design, alone, but working with her and Marsha Burns on a layering of installations, in tableau, that would tell the stories of Ophelia, a prize Teddy Bear, later immortalized by Steiff, an international teddy bear manufacturer.
What that would also involve is creating “handwriting” by each of the bears, in their journeys, communicating with other bear companions.

A gallery follows.
Welcome then,
to Ophelia’s World.

Her logo:
Crafted by Hand

Ophelia’s Steiff Box, side panel:
Crafted by Hand

Book jackets, pages,
spreads and details:

Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand
Crafted by Hand

The nature and presumption of hand-writing is,
that written by hand, it would act as evidence of
the personality of the draughtsman.
In that manner, I crossed over to the other side of
humanity, beyond —
to bears.

In partnering with Michele and Marsha,
perhaps one of the more fascinating collaborations in my history,
and listening to these tellings, the Bear’s worlds, it was
a matter of creating a handwriting that
listened to each, and
spoke to many.




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