Imagination, Passion Add Holiday Cheer

Eichler lights
Holiday lights add cheer to a neighborhood, and no holiday season has been more in need of cheer. These lights brighten up a corner of Joe Eichler's Monta Loma neighborhood in Mountain View. Photo by Dave Weinstein.

Rarely is home as important to our lives as during the holidays, especially during a pandemic when leaving home is an increasing challenge. Maybe it’s time to bring some beautiful modern things into your beautiful modern homes.

Maybe it’s time to reflect on how you’re enjoying life, how you could enjoy it more. Maybe it’s time for a few laughs.

We can find all these things by wandering the web from the comforts of home or, for those bold enough, by venturing into what passes today for the real world.

Everything starts of course with the click of a mouse or a scroll on your iPhone. Looking for cool modern décor for your Eichler home?

What pops up first but Eichler’s Religious Objects and Gifts, with its main emporium in Coney Island. Check out the Yair Emmanual collection, for Hanukkah menorahs with a modern touch. There is no relation to Joe Eichler, that we know.

A very simple menorah is the work of David M. Bowman, a metal artist for many decades. Courtesy of David M. Bowman

Now let’s take it local. The stores that make our towns so walkable and inviting are suffering; some are closing. Indoor shopping is limited, but possible at this writing; in some cases you can order online and pick up in person.

When asked about modern menorahs, the San Francisco Judaica shop Dayenu sent a called to David and Reed Bowman, master father-and-son metal smiths who live side-by-side in West Berkeley and recently built by hand side by side backyard studios.

Menorahs from David M. Bowman are handmade by David and Reed, working without assistants, and are simple, functional, beautiful, and varied. And you can display them as works of art all year because they are about more than holding candles.

“These menorahs are their own beautiful forms even when they are not in use with candles,” Reed says. He adds, “We want each piece to be its own visual statement. It should look great just as an object on the shelf.”

The patina is an important part of the work of David and Reed Bowman, as seen in this tree-shaped ornaments. Courtesy of David M. Bowman

The pandemic has been hard on the Bowmans. “There have been no (craft) shows all year. A lot of our shops have been closed or mostly closed. At least one shop finally gave up,” Reed says.

But like a true passionate craftsman, Bowman wouldn’t be doing anything else.

“Creating every aspect of it from scratch is a big important thing," he says of his designs, which include wall art, tables, and more. “It means I’m in charge of my own work to a degree that is pretty rare. I value that. I can’t imagine not doing it. I can’t imagine not working with my hands.”

Another dedicated local craftsperson is Kristen ‘Bucko’ Sinn, who creates amazing jewelry, much of it inspired by mid-century modern styling, in her studio at her modern A-frame home in Fairfax.

  Cocktail ring
Kristen Sinn crafts marvelous jewelry with modern flair, including this space-age cocktail ring. Courtesy of Kristen Sinn

“I’m kind of stuck in that rut for now,” she says of the retro look. But is it a rut or a glide path to beauty?

She sells online, but has focused on her work with the Marin Jeweler’s Guild, whose store is in the usually lively downtown of San Rafael.

How is Bucko getting by as COVID hospitalizations rise and the governor tightens restrictions?

She’s enjoying her family, she’s enjoying her work. “Making stuff cheers me up for sure, making jewelry,” Kristen says. “I have a couple of kids, and they’re both home from school. And I have a cute dog. I’m doing a lot of texting with my friends.”

This jaunty chain by Kristen Sinn uses freeform shapes that suggest some mid-20th century designs. Courtesy of Kristen Sinn

Meanwhile, we find Krys Melo, a self described  “vintage loving photographer, interior stylist, and design consultant living her best life in Palm Springs, California."

Her website and Instagram feed are filled with marvelous creations – how about that flyer saucer over Bill Krisel’s Elvis Honeymoon house? But the one that struck us most for Christmas was the Astrodeer.

And you don’t have to buy it. You can make it. “I went full-on atomic space age for my home office," Melo writes on her website. “I had to do a few DIYs to make it exactly what I wanted it to be, but my favorite is probably this astrodeer!”

She writes on her site: “This project required some Frankenstein-style surgery, but I’m really thrilled with the way it turned out.”

Krys Melo's Astrodeer can be found on her website, along with instructions for making your own. Courtesy of Krys Melo

Yes, the Astrodeer is kind of a kick, pulling Santa's sleigh all the way from Mars. But if we’re talking laughs for the holidays consider Charles Phoenix, who makes his living using vintage Kodachrome photos, endless enthusiasm, deep knowledge, and quick wit to entertain people who appreciate vintage high jinks.

His Holiday Jubilee performance happened live on Zoom at the end of November – but you can watch it now on demand. In the words, of Charles, “I Know!”

“All I want to do,” Charles has said, “is pay tribute to our culture – the gems of it.”

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