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68 Gaansevort Steet
Meat Packing District Design Weekend

Written by Julia Sirmons
Photographed by Amy Davidson

(Opposite: Chandelier by Lindsay Adelman)

The hall of mirrors at Versailles, illuminated by thousands of candles for one of Marie Antoinette’s fêtes. A Bollywood matinee idol swinging from a chandelier, serenading the object of his affection. A myriad of disco balls spinning and glittering in a darkened room, evoking the halcyon days of Studio 54.

These are the sort of fantasies that pop into the heads of interior design enthusiasts with overactive imaginations when they’re invited to an exposition of lighting design. Unfortunately, the lighting show at the chi-chi design boutique emporium Karkula (located at 68 Gansevoort St.) proved to be something of a disappointment, not only for its lack of exuberance, but also for the dearth of lighting features to look at.

New York Cool photographer Amy Davidson and I cautiously entered Karkula, an interior design boutique specializing in moderately avant-garde mid-century modern furniture and appliances. It’s a cramped and narrow space, more suited to a used bookstore in Paris’ Latin Quarter than a shop stocking sectional sofas. We gingerly maneuvered through the emaciated store, sampling gorgeous but uncomfortable lawn furniture and gingerly avoiding jostling into a $1400 dollar hand-crafted mirror, a replica of a design by renowned Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí.We looked at all the lamps we could find, most of which were no more innovative than anything you’d find at Design Within Reach. We bumbled around, sticking out like a pair of non-ergonomic sore thumbs. We searched as discreetly as we possibly could, closely examining every light bulb in the place, wondering, in the words of Miss Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”

"Orchadia" by Rodger Stevens and Mark McKenna

Karkula’s staff, dressed in a well-tailored Saville Row style that didn’t seem to jibe with the shop’s mod merchandise, made a show of being too busy assisting the well–heeled clients to talk to us. After a long time staring at various filaments, a particularly strait-laced and obsequious assistant, resplendent in charcoal gray, approached us with a slight cough and asked if he could be of assistance.

He was most distressed to inform us that the exhibition wouldn’t be in full swing until the opening cocktail event later in the weekend, (While this was a disappointment from a journalistic point of view, on a personal level I found it relieving that the stacks of Peroni Nastro Azzuro were there for a utilitarian purpose and not actually a highly-priced installation piece. Although, on further consideration, there’s probably a sizeable market for a well-crafted beer bottle chandelier)

We asked him to tell us about a large, stunning piece that had caught our eyes. It was the Edison chandelier, designed by Lindsay Adelman. The Edison had an appealing, globular shape that simultaneously invoked a hanging bunch of white grapes and a model of a molecular structure. Adelman took slightly warped, goldfish-bowl-like globes and filled them with simple old-fashioned light bulbs. Holding the whole thing together was a skeletal structure of burnished metal, with industrial-style joints and knobs. The result is an elegant, understated yet utterly fascinating piece that seamlessly blends organic and early industrial influences.

Since we’d already been labeled as the underlings of the fourth estate, I decided to go ahead and be gauche.

“The price?” I asked.

Another slight cough; the sort of thing you’d expect to hear from your butler when you’ve selected a particularly offensive tie to wear to tea with a duchess.

“!5,000,” Jeeves replied.

Quite a bargain, actually considering that each of the glass globes cost $1,000 to produce. I hope that was an exaggeration, since Adelman’s blog states that the Edison consists of 15 globes (unfortunately I was too afraid of accidentally breaking an $800 “white glass form” to count them myself) and I’m starting to worry about how she’s putting ramen noodles on her table.

Luckily we were saved from the irony of simultaneous sticker shock and depressing thoughts of starving artists when Jeeves gently shuffled us toward the exhibitions pièce-de resisitsnce, “Orchadia” a collaborative design piece made by wire sculptor Rodger Stevens, who designed the metal components, and industrial designer Mark McKenna, who handled the mechanical side of things.

“Orchadia” is such a unique, quirky and stunning piece of art that it’s difficult to do it justice with words. The best description for it that I’ve come across – provided by online shop -- is that of a “mechanical mobile light.” At first sight, it looks like a traditional mobile, with hanging metal forms of circles and droplets accentuated with tiny lights. Then, as one stands, admiring the beauty and simplicity of the shapes, they suddenly begin to move mechanically, slowly changing the structure and silhouette of the piece, giving the spectator something entirely different to look at, filling her with an almost childlike sense of awe and wonder. McKenna, explaining “Orchadia’s” lighting technology, comments: “You won’t believe how beautiful a Printed Circuit Board can be.” With this whimsical yet elegant design, McKenna and Stevens will turn even the most confirmed Luddites into believers.

According to Karkula’s website, it seems “Orchadia” will be on display there until May 31st. So head on down to Gansevoort St., tiptoe past the suits and the glass forms, and be sure to take a look at this stunning creation.

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