Tuesday, June 09, 2009

REAL CLIFF STERRET FURNITURE!

I don't know how many times I've heard cartoonists say that they wish they could live in a Cliff Sterret house. That's Cliff Sterret's work above, and I too would like to have a house (or at least a room) furnished like that. Come to think of it, I almost did.



In the early 80s there was a serious attempt to sell Cliff Sterret-type furniture. It started with a design studio in Milan called "Memphis," headed up by Ettore Sottsass. That's his studio's work above. Not everything in the photo is his best work, but you get the idea.

I remember thinking at the time that this comic-strip furniture wouldn't last forever, and that I'd better buy some stuff before it disappeared. Real Memphis furniture was out of my price range so I waited for cheaper knockoffs, but when they came the quality was lacking. Not only that but Memphis didn't always hit home runs. I kept waiting for knock-offs of the better works but they were a long time coming. Memphis took a big hit because of the timidity of furniture manufacturers, and Memphis's distaste for comfortable furniture.  



The Sterret influence was obvious to cartoonists, but I don't remember any art critic pointing it out. Critics were probably ignorant of cartoon styles. 



Try to deny that this vase (above) was influenced by Sterret!



Here's (above) some Memphis teapots. In this case the influence was probably Picasso or Picabia. It's funny how teapots are always on the front line of new design movements. I guess prototype ceramic pots are easier to make than steal cutlery.



This is my favorite Memphis design...the futuristic antler bookshelf painted with kid colors. I'd still like to have a shelf like this.



This sofa (above) would look great in a comic strip. I wonder why no newspaper artist of the 1980s  attempted to parody modern furniture styling in a strip. I mean parody it the way Sterret used to. Of course by the 80s the newspaper strips were almost as tiny as they are now. Maybe there was no room. 

Also, it looks like the sofa is made of cheap plywood with fabric stapled onto foam. Memphis had good ideas but you get the feeling that no one with real furniture know-how worked there. 



The designer of this table (above) must have channeled Sterret!



Sterret liked to design the patterns in draperies and chair covers, and so did Memphis. That's their work above.



Like I said, Memphis didn't always hit home runs. The chair above looks pretty uncomfortable. It would have looked great in a comic strip or a cartoon, though! 


19 comments:

Sean Wiig said...

The first sofa and that bookshelf are awesome! I would love to have that. Cliff Sterret is cool! It's like cubism, without the cubes! That chair he cowers in is funny. I hardly know any of the awesome things from this past century.

lastangelman said...

Memphis furniture would be great on an eccentric psychedelic children's TV program or in a crazy pastiche movie with Marx Brothers sensibilities

Michael Sporn said...

That couch is to dream for. I wasn't aware of Memphis desing artifacts. You're right about the teapot thing. When designers want to get eccentric they pick on one of the least necessary items. Maybe it's the chance to put a spot of color in the kitchen.

Craig said...

At the time, I felt that PeeWee's Playhouse owed a great deal to Memphis style. I wonder if it was just the sensibility of art that was in the air . . .

Niki said...

These are pretty freaky. To a point, it feels like they inspired the dark furniture fashion from Beetlejuice and Mortal Kombat.

Zoran Taylor said...

Of course, all of this eventually went way too far and dispensed with basic design principles. See John K's posts labelled "wonky" if you're not sure what I'm getting at....but THANK YOU Eddie for pointing out yet another fantastic artist who's work I had never seen or heard of before! Now I'm gonna research him....

thomas said...

I think Memphis was more influenced by 50's Deco, like automoble design,ie. tail fins, and Miami; although you don't have any examples. they used alot of pink and turquoise.
They basically wanted to debunk the international style, by taking geometry and making it fun and more human. You can see alot of anthropomorphism in the pieces you show, especially one in partcular.

Jenny Lerew said...

Some things are much better in 2D. I'd choose furniture and visuals that are both fun and confortable. It's possible to get comfort from illustrative style, too. For instance I think you always wanted a Carl Larsson house, right? As would I! That's as far from this as you can get!

Sterrett's comics universe is wonderful, but to actually live with those patterns and edges would be exhausting and bearable only by someone crazy...or probably cause insanity. After about 20 minutes. I could never work or daydream in a studio like that or with even more than a few of those kinds of pieces. It's just too intense. It screams at you nonstop visually.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I remember in the early 90s people having that kind of stuff in their house- usually single dad's hahaha.

I like your book pile style! Having books everywhere is a kind of style.

Hans Flagon said...

"I wonder why no newspaper artist of the 1980s attempted to parody modern furniture styling in a strip"

Because they couldn't draw?

I'm a bit harsh on newspaper cartoonists after Walt Kelly died, but maybe I have something there.

BUT, I would hazard to guess that Bill Griffith made some mention of Memphis Style, or Modern Furniture in some capacity, during the 80's and 90s in Zippy. Not sure when he started getting relatively mainstream newspaper distribution., and halfway expect some of the editors ordering Zippy thought they were ordering Ziggy.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: You're right, a whole house like that would be too much...but it would make a great room!

Trevor Thompson said...

This guy could've designed 2015 for Back to the Future Part Two.

lastangelman said...

Craig said...:At the time, I felt that PeeWee's Playhouse owed a great deal to Memphis style. I wonder if it was just the sensibility of art that was in the air . . .

Excuse me, Gary Panter is an original. He won three Emmy's for his work on that show.

William said...

Didn't know where else to put this, so...
http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/wp-content/uploads/webmail.jpg
Not only is this 1934 Chicago Tribune cartoon relevant politically, but lookit that arting! I almost think it's time for another contrast/compare past/present political cartoons post...

Anonymous said...

The Memphis School stuff owes as much to cold postmodern design as it does to the spirit of Cliff Sterrett. The formalist, austere works of the late 1960's/early to mid 1970's were utterly devoid of humor. Memphis marked a starting point to a humanly accessible direction, but more commercial people like Gary Panter and even Disney's Toontown technicians, better understood fun.

Jack G. said...

Cliff Sterret's my favorite golden age newspaper comic strip. From the look to it's pantomime sequences are just wonderful.

Any cartoonist/artist that makes me look at the world differently has my respect.

Don't think I'd like to live in Sterret's world - I couldn't relax with that kinda eye candy distracting me.

Anonymous said...

I like it but the color scheme is too 80's for me

zane said...

Casaodern.com has one of the largest selections of Kid Furniture on the web so check it out.

meh said...

meh