|Topic of the Month: Artistry in Stone |
When most people think of stone, the image may be one of simplicity, merely involving muted colors, earthy tones and a cool, solid surface. However, when an artist thinks of stone, endless and infinite possibilities arise from the core of a creative spirit and suddenly new objects of beauty and ingenuity are born. This is how Ilene Lush of Chelsea Arts Tile & Stone in New York City sees and works with this wonderfully versatile natural material.
As the only woman in the country who has built a fabrication plant, there have been challenges as one might expect, but due to Lush's smart business sense coupled with her background as a visual artist, business is thriving and the company is a truly unique one. With twenty-two years in the industry, the last ten of which were spent building and growing Chelsea Arts Tile & Stone, Lush has continued to push boundaries with the types of services and products that are offered.
It all started on February 6, 1989 when Lush saw her first piece of stone. She had been working at Bloomingdales as a demonstration coordinator in the home department giving cooking classes when she decided she wanted to do something different. That's when she got a job around the corner from where she lived working with stone, and as she puts it, "I got into it. It was amazing - nature in its most perfect form. I felt like Elizabeth Taylor at the jewelry counter. It's beautiful and it's wonderful and there are nine thousand quarried stones, each one of them with their own provenance, their own changes and expectations. I wasn't raised with this stuff, I was raised with linoleum and other things. In a short amount of time I opened up my own architectural showroom because I love the work, I love the materials and I am never bored. I think that loving what you do and realizing it's a career is a blessing."
Lush not only has an exciting career that puts all her creative sensibilities to use, but through her work she is also able to affect people's lives in a very personal way. "We work in the most intimate aspect of someone's life besides their kids. We do the thing that people save their money for, such as the marble in the foyer, the fancy spa bath, or the beautiful new kitchen, and knowing that, I decided that I was never going to try to figure out how to sell something to people who were going to have to figure out how to buy it. I only wanted to work in materials where, when people walked in, they knew what it was and pricing was only a small part of the process."
When asked how Lush chooses which products to have in the showroom, she explains, "When I go shopping for products and stone, I follow market trends and fashion trends. That way you get a sense of what's going to be happening. For example, I know that the hexagon is the only natural repeating shape in nature. I also know that Morocco is on the tip of everybody's tongue from The Real Housewives of New York to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. So putting all of that together, about a year ago I began to bring in oversized octagons, hexagons and Moroccan patterns. I look at what the museums are doing. I look at a lot of colors in advertising and my business partner Alison Weber and I have different tastes, which is great because it makes everything more well rounded. If you spend five years where everything is flat and gray and square, you know that people are going to start to do something more, to add something more, to have something else happen, and you have to be ahead of that. We really try and do that, so we keep looking for nicer and nicer things."
Aside from granite, limestone, slate, soapstone, onyx, and the other stones that Chelsea Arts Tile & Stone carries, they also stock Glacier Blue® Devonian Stone products. Lush says, "Devonian is right on the money. The color is perfect, the sizes are perfect and the technique of working it is perfect. I passed it onto an architect to develop a tile line that will include intarsia work and possibly inlaid metal with some patterns, so we can use the raw material in these other ways. I also would like to use Devonian with a ceramic glaze on slab material that can be used in kitchens, like the ones they make in France, Spain and Italy. I'm looking at a wall right now where I have pebble setting resin countertops, a cast pewter countertop, and patinated copper and zinc. I have all kinds of properly grown wood countertops along with a lot of local things, like ice stone. We do glass and I have cork and countertops made of U.S. currency, newspaper and magazines, and all of them are a perfect complement to Devonian Stone. There's not a person who comes in here who I don't feel in some way can use this material on a project, and architects love it. It's a wonderful base for all kinds of new things."
"We've also been collecting green products since I opened the showroom in the city. We have rubber flooring, cork, glass terrazzo, reclaimed terracotta and natural stone, bamboo, leather tile, among others. It was just a natural trend. I know in Europe there were demands for it. At one point I was getting up and reading eight or nine international newspapers before I got to work so I would know the market trends. Fashion does push a lot of other things. Politics push a lot of other things. During downturns in economy you'll notice fashion changes, and mostly it changes to cheer people up. There are all kinds of things that effect what people choose."
"When somebody comes in and takes a look around my showroom, they can have anything they want. We're not like everybody else. We are a showroom, but it's not always pristine because it's also a studio and a workshop, so you might come in and we might be building a mosaic for a client because we want to have more control over the way it's going to be built. Many times we have built mosaics or custom pieces that people want, and that way we know exactly what we're getting. We also do full slab bookmatched stone, etching, water jet cutting and we do inlay with metals and precious gems. We do whatever the client can imagine. I love the work."
|Helpful Links for Architects|
AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community
The AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community provides leadership and expertise to practitioners of interior architecture and design, working cooperatively with its members and other interiors organizations to address relevant, timely practice issues, markets, and trends, such as licensing, liability, environmental, and technological considerations. Through the Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, important links are maintained with allied professionals, service providers, and manufacturers. If you wish to become a member of the AIA Interior Architecture Knowledge Community, call AIA Member Services at 800-242-3837, or visit: http://www.aia.org/practicing/groups/kc/AIAS076039
Architect Online's Continuing Education Center
Architect Online's Online Continuing Education Center gives professionals a convenient way to earn necessary continuing education credits without having to set foot in a classroom. The courses listed, sponsored by the companies noted, are accessible from anywhere you can establish an online connection. Just register, read the required material, and then take the test, either through a downloadable mail-in form, or free via a secure online connection, depending on the course. You'll be able to maintain your professional credentials, at your pace, and at a location that works for you. Visit: http://www.architectmagazine.com/industry-news-section.asp?sectionID=1018
Architectural Record Continuing Education Center
Architectural Record magazine has a free Continuing Education Center where architects can earn AIA Continuing Education Credits online. Visit: http://continuingeducation.construction.com
Architectural Record Discussion Forums
The McGraw Hill Construction Community, publisher of Architectural Record, has provided architects with a forum to express ideas, opinions, suggestions, and gripes. The discussion forums are open to all, and include topics such as Green Building Projects, Virtual Design, Practice Matters and a forum for younger architects. Visit: http://construction.com/community/forums.aspx
CORA - Congress of Residential Architecture
CORA is a grass root organization that encourages our members to participate in the dialog of improving residential architecture in a way that suits them best. The purpose of the CORA is to provide a
continuing forum for advocating and enhancing residential architecture by all
individuals, both professionals and non-professionals, that share a common
interest in improving the quality of the homes and communities we live in. Visit: http://www.corarchitecture.org
The Green Meeting Industry Council
The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) is a non profit
501(c)(6) membership-based organization. Their goal is to encourage
collaboration within the meetings industry toward the development of
green standards that will improve the environmental performance of
meetings and events on a global basis. The GMIC is the only
professional green meetings organization that is a member of the
Convention Industry Council. For more information visit: http://www.greenmeetings.info
The World Architecture Community
The World Architecture Community invites all architects to create a free profile on their website. The World Architecture Portal is a unique comprehensive international directory and catalog of contemporary architecture where all architects, scholars and institutions may submit their work and links to share with colleagues from around the world. For more information visit: http://www.worldarchitecture.org
We hope you enjoyed our informative monthly e-newsletter. For questions, comments or more information, please e-mail or call us today.
Liz Benton, Editor
Glacier Blue® Architectural Topics & NewsDevonian Stone of New York, Inc.
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