Sugar Coated Advent 2012: Day One

Sugar Coated Advent 2012, Day One, Q. Cassetti 2012Well, its that time of year…and as I have been silent and bumbling around all year trying like hell to get a groove on, keeping on trying, keeping on reading, keeping on waiting to no result. However, after stuffing myself with Kawaii, decoden, Japanese Yokai tales, and making these tiny little  pins that have gone from little studies to outright psychodelia that are being sold now in soon to be two retail establishments— I am now ready to plunge back into the world of letting my illustration push me around a bit. I am pleased to say, that I have found my groove and it is in this candy coated advent calendar journey we will be taking together this month.

I must admit that the original intent of this project was to focus strictly on gingerbread houses—but as I have been working with this concept, I am finding it morphing into something else which I am just going to go with. We will keep the candy keep the pattern, keep the holiday themes but I am going to see where it goes.. There will be gingerbread houses and fantasy. There will be gingerbread men and ladies—but why limit it as the palette can become tedious and germanically tedious/ponderous. I hit a patch yesterday that had me silently squealing with delight and am in a race to find more time to whale on it. Lets just say, 25 days to jump start next year! Yippee!


a beautiful Monday in June

Lake blooming Peony, Q . Cassetti, 2011Kitty and Rob blew out of here early for a meeting in Utica and a “quick swing” to Croghan Island Mills to pick up a pair of doors we have had made for the back breezeway. Croghan Mills is a water powered mill that does beautiful millwork albeit not the closest…its an enterprise worthy of supporting.North Country Public Radio did a story on this mill>>

We had a busy day yesterday with lawnmowing and trumpet vine/tree pruning at the lake. My single peony of the season uneaten by the deer was there, waxy and lovely…bidding me to take its likeness. The lake was beautiful and balmy.  The trees are all filling out. The tulip poplar blossoms are there all cream and orange…such a striking and primordial flower. It was great just doing chores in such a blissful surround.

Then off to buy shoes for Rob as he is getting ready for a trip to NYC for work and then off for a longer engagement. His shoes were shot, so we had great results at Fontanas!  He is ready to start counting the underwear and socks, lining up the teeshirts and getting his phone charger.

Alex’s Concert at the Presbyterian Church with the Community Chorus along with the Swamp College Brass Quartet was very nice and nicely crowded. The voice lessons are paying off. Alex is finally opening his mouth and doing a bit more projection. He is coming on strong with all of his music enterprises and interest. It is wonderful to see him opening up and the happiness that surround it.

Our Sweet Land CSA starts this Friday! How exciting!




The Adirondacks charmed me with snowshoes. First, there was the grazing, amazing, big rabbit at the Great Camp Sagamore which our friend and guide, Beverly, pointed up that he changes color--brown to white for the winter and then vice versa in the spring. His big feet keep him above the snow. This rabbit was happy to let us watch while he snacked on the grass amongst all of us people. Then, at the Adirondack Museum, there was a remarkable collection of images and ideas around the snowshoe--from the various shapes and weaving, Different fasteners and photos of people using them. My absolute favorite snowshoe was the one on Rutherford B. Hayes' iced cream plate he had in the White House (see pink plate with a golden snowshoe). Hayes, as an aside, showed his pride in the Adirondacks through his table service and had a treed bear on a charger that was part of this look and feel....but the snowshoe...!

I have been musing over Mr. William West Durant and his loves, specifically, his visual loves. This is a man who, like friends of ours, are part of the "I love wood" group. This love is manifested in detailled architectural screens from the mosaic work of the lovely little Sunset Cottage to the bark panels at the Sagamore to the linear rails and and porch details of Pine Knot (now owned and run by SUNY Cortland as Camp Huntington).

"Camp Pine Knot was built by William West Durant and sold to railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington in 1895. In 1947, Huntington’s son, Archer, and his wife, Anna, presented to the College the original 201-acre site and historical buildings in the memory of Collis P. Huntington."

From my brief reading, Pine Knot was where it started. WW Durant built this place for his parents and used it as a showcase to show his friends and possible clients what an Adirondack Camp was about, and didn't they want to share in this adventure. This was just a glimmer of the force of Durant's talent, desire to decorate and work with wood, wood bark combined with architectural inspiration from Germany and Switzerland. The idea of a rusticated way of living for those who inhabited the large marble palaces in Newport and Manhattan was such a jump in comfort and concept it really must have been quite a sales job to get them on the train, on the boat and on a carriage to get them to Pine Knot to see and experience the wilderness Durant was inflamed with.

We are busy putting a bunch of holiday images to bed...and finishing. Ahhh. So, new things can slip into their place on the desktop. The Tropic wine and the images for the Hangar are in the roster to move onto the live lists. Alex is running a lot. Rob is working a lot (lots of work at the office, lots of projects coming to close here. Kitty is doing the school improv and has been cast in two of the five performances. All we need to do is finalize a lot of the college stuff--we had a good talk last night about that. I am busy and a bit wild..and would like a lull to get back into my little drawings about Fraktur.

Sunset Cottage [details]

On William West Durant from the NY State Archives:
William West Durant was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1850, the son of Dr. Thomas Clark and Heloise Hannah Timbrel Durant. Durant attended Twickenham School in England and Bonn University in Germany and while living in Europe, Durant traveled extensively. Following his return to the United States, Durant took a position as Supervisor at the Equitable Loan and Trust Company. Durant first came to the Adirondack Mountain region of New York State in 1876 to assist his father in managing the Adirondack Railroad Company. Durant served as secretary and later as president and general manager until the company was absorbed by the Delaware and Hudson Company in 1889. After the merger, Durant continued to sit on the company's board of directors. Later, he worked as a General Land Agent for the Adirondack Company, which was owned by his father. At its peak, the company owned half a million acres in the Adirondack Mountains.

In 1884, Durant married Janet Lathrop Stott and the couple had three children. Following the death of his father in 1885, Durant continued to purchase land in the Adirondacks and began to develop transportation lines and to build homes and resorts. He established the Forest Park and Land Company, of which he was president. Durant built a road between Raquette and Blue Mountain Lakes and established a line of horse–drawn coaches from the terminus of the North Creek Railroad to Blue Mountain Lake. In 1878, he established the Blue Mountain and Raquette Lake Steamboat Line and built several dams to facilitate water travel. He built hotels to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the region and designed, built, and decorated many of the first “great camps” in the Adirondacks. He built Camp Pine Knot in the 1880s, which he took as his home. In 1895, he sold it to Collis P. Huntington. Durant built Camp Uncas for J. P. Morgan, the Sagamore for Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, and also built Camp Kill Kare. He established the Adirondack, Lake George, and Saratoga Telegraph Company as well as the first post office on Long Point, Raquette Lake. He raised funds and donated land to build two churches, the Episcopal Church of the Mission of the Good Shepherd and St. William's Catholic Church. He also built a store on Raquette Lake. In 1900, he built the Marion River City Railroad and oversaw completion of the Raquette Lake Railroad along with fellow investors including Collis Huntington, J. P. Morgan, William Seward Webb, William C. Whitney, John A. Dix, Charles E. Snyder, and Edward M. Burns. Between 1899 and 1900, he built the Eagle's Nest Country Club & Golf Course on Eagle Lake in Hamilton County.

In the early 1900s, due to several poor business deals and difficulties in the settling of his father's estate, Durant lost much of his fortunes. He was divorced from his first wife and married Annie Cotton in 1907. To earn a living, Durant performed title searches for land in the Adirondacks for Charles E. Snyder, a Herkimer, N.Y. attorney and former business partner. Durant died in 1934. In honor of his contributions to the Adirondacks, the lake located between the Village of Indian Lake and Blue Mountain Lake was named for him in 1936.

early color

Saturday we started very early--with Rob and Kitty taking TJ off to the vet as he had a swollen, sore leg. We dropped Alex off for the bus to Baldwinsville (outside of Syracuse) for their annual XC invitational. We packed up and left for Baldwinsville for Alex's event. We dropped off Rob's rental on the way and actually made the meet on time. He bested his time by 30 seconds. He came in 4th for our team. We waited for him for an hour or so and then packed up to drive north through Utica to spend the night at the Great Camp Sagamore, Alfred and Margaret Vanderbilt's great Adirondack camp. Rob spent the week there with the Upstate History Alliance and was so taken with his experience, he wanted us to see it too. So, about two and a half hours from Syracuse, we arrived at the Sagamore (outside of Racquette Lake) this beautiful, tranquil lake with a little Adirondack Swiss/German village sited in this country. There were deer grazing and big, snowshoe rabbits grazing on the lawn--with a wonderful grouping of buildings...some of them for sleeping, some for eating, some for play...and a bowling alley! There was a manicured croquet green with a lovely boathouse with a floating dock for canoes.

Nothing plugged in. No wireless connection. No television. No telephones. No room service. Back to basics. Comfortable accommodations, breakfast/lunch/dinner for 1 hour each upon the clanging of the dinner bell. There were camp fires outside at night, and fireplace fires at your pleasure in the living rooms in the various sleeping these lovely, massive stone different from the next...with some (you cannot use) in many of the rooms...

We heard a lot about Alfred Vanderbilt and his wife/and steward of Sagamore, Margaret. We heard about the history, the families and village (essentially) that kept this magical place up...but what was missing was a lot on Ww. Durant, the man who conceived, designed, built and lost Sagamore and many of the other Great Camps in the Adirondacks. There is some work there for me to better understand this man, this stylist, this visionary who saw this opportunity, envisioned it in his work and projects and squandered his railroad based fortune on this vision. There was a delightful cottage at the Adirondack Museum (I highly recommend...its a treasure and jewel, sited on Blue Mountain Lake to be a mini Shangri La). Sunset Cottage is a magical jewel...and really was a small crystallization of the Adirondack Style. If Saul Steinberg was an architect, this little inlaid cedar cottage might have flowed out of his pen nib.

I could go on and on..and may continue tomorrow, its just that work awaits followed by dinner and organizing for the XC meet tomorrow.

Sunset Cottage, Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake NY.
From the signage outside this adoreable little building (designed by the Adirondack Design Star! WW Durant):
This building, covered on all sides decorative split spruce limbs, is named Sunset Cottage after the radiating pattern on it's gables. Sunset Cottage was built as part of Camp Cedars which was designed by William West Durant for his cousin, Frederick Clark Durant (1853-1926). It was located on a 30 acre tract of land at Forked Lake, north of Racquette Lake. The Durants used the cottage as sleeping quarters. A wrap around porch on the building protected the twig decoration from wather fo many uears. The builder of the cottage is unknown, although there is speculation that Andrew Fisher, a carpenter-guide-caretaker in the 1880s might have produced this finest surviving example of rustic twig work built on an architectural scale. Twig work is made by nailing split sticksor rods of various sizes to flat surfaes in geometric mosaic patterns. The central Adirondacks-- Blue Mountain, Long, Tacquette and their neighboring lakes was the center of mosaic twig work for furniture and architecture.

Home at last

Mixup leaving LA (scheduled the ticket for 11 and remembered it as 11 though the time changed to 9 a.m.--and didnt reconfirm....bad me) so we got off later and then had to spend the night in Philadelphia versus our other choice, the red eye (no thanks). So we killed an hour or two at the Theme Building--the former air traffic control building now restaurant. After a whole retro week of seventies, sixties and otherwise, it was dead on and very interesting. The restoration looks pretty bang up--so hopefully we will see a "new and improved the next visit. The next visit Rob proclaims must be soon as I just found out that I got 4 pieces in the Society of Illustrators West Coast show. Those pieces are the newest raven, the boston terrier with the green background, the Glimmerglass wine labels and the willow head that just got into Society of Illustrators NYC.

We spent the night last night in Philadelphia at a Four Points by Sheraton--having a drink at Sheraton's newest, a Loft hotel (the commercialization of the Boutique Hotel approach we just experienced at the Palomar (Kimpton) and the Standard Hotel (Downtown). This morning we ran the gauntlet at Phl with the bagcheckitis, and then the gate to Gate F complete with the vomit inducing busride to the remote gate (which we tried to walk to and was chided as we would have to go through security yet another time). R calmly chalked it up to just being Philadelphia. I was losing it.

Now back to the previous day. We spent the bulk of New Years Eve Day in Pasadena after breakfasting on sushi at another one of those fun Famima stores. We jumped in the car and from downtown was in Pasadena in about thirty minutes. It was a perfect thing to do. The Huntington has wonderful galleries (if you like english painting> a la Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney and the like you are in for a treat). Their best known paintings are Pinkie and Blue Boy. We got a dose of that which was amusing as I could make K and A laugh talking about the paintings and doing a little comparative discussion about compostion, approach etc. And, they actually were paying attention! We looked at drapery, composition, color, brushwork and tightness of the painting, what the light was doing and how it was telling us something (or was it). It was great.

K and I found ourselves in heaven first seeing cartoons and then the final Bourne-Jones stained glass window for the family chapel (created by the William Morris Studio) to find at the top of the stairs a gallery with great examples from Walter Crane (Peacock), William Morris (fabrics including the Strawberry Thief) and some tile examples of the same period and an amazing library case of the same style/thinking. We had to be dragged out. (I was threatening to kick and scream but the gardens are so great). We took in a small but very dense show about the Green and Green brothers architecture with plans, line drawings for details and decoration combined with custom decorative arts and furniture created for these houses. I found the work (15 years later) a bit more ponderous than before and I wasn't as delighted as the first time.

Then to the Children's Garden at the Huntington. My goodness! They spent a ton of money.  But as you know, you can spend a ton of money and have something stupid or spend a ton of money and have magic. The Huntington Children's garden is absolutely sublime as it is all very high level, very respectful of children and how they play--not the usual crappiness  that many of these places have where it is more about adults thinking about what kids would like versus what they really like. The water elements are designed among and through the garden with mazes, full sized topiary buildings (with even furniture elements being topiary) complete with growy windowboxes, doors, windows, and surrounded by other tiny topiary. Every touch is delicate from masses of blue plants, to these wonderful little pots of all heights filled with water and some with sculptural koi inside them. These pots were placed strategically by a hole in the ground that would shoot a single bullet of water into the air which would land with a plop into the vessel next to them. So there were littles playing in the water, surprised by the little water shot...or littles trying to catch the water.... There was a room made of hedges that surrounded a semi circle of black columns which intermittantly would fill with mist that K and A likened to being in a cloud. Now, K and A are 16 and 15, cynical, wisenheimer kids who were as charmed as the 4 year olds (maybe even more so)-- There were all sorts of fruit and flowers from roses and rosemary to pomegranates, lemons and oranges. And the world of the chlldren's garden was a new day of living in and with nature for all ages. Truly, we could have spent the day experiencing the mist, the little popping pools, the topiary and the vibrating fountain that made our fingers tingle. We could have touched the succulents, engaged the silly fat bottomed palms, and the feathery grassy enclosures that changes the world and the way you see it. The traditional, beaux arts/ versailles inspired gardens are awe inspiring--but this world for the young inspires awe in the simple and magical.

The (new for us) expanded Japanese gardens are spectacular with bridges and ponds filled with enormous, happy koi with graceful, "real thing" japanese buildings and stone sculpture. The snacks (japanese dumplings, japanese candy and dried squid, and no end to interesting teas) are sold from a graceful wooden japanese tea building that was awesome in it's design, producttion and the lovely courtyards (paved with stones on end much like patterns you make with beans). These were some small selections from all the wonderful things we saw--and the collection of reference builds! I am thinking the garden of eden in context to all of this. We had to leave around 3 to have lunch (at the"Best" according to Team Cassetti)-- The fabulous In and Out Burger!

They have a simple menu: Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, something called a double double, fresh made french fries, shakes and sodas. Thats it. The burgers are just the right size, not the ginormous ones that the big boys put out--and they are sublime. A waxes romantic as these things are devoured. We love the foood down to how the sandwiches are wrapped (and at the restaurant served on these cute plastic trays). People were buying paper boxes of these things with big bags of the fries hustling out the door to get the food to their friends as fast as possible. We always ask ourselves why we go anywhere else because these burgers are the top of the culinary heap (though now that I am shack centric that may change!).

Then, off to Palos Verdes to the High School to meet " the twins",, Devon and Jenna who wanted to do a glass demonstration for us and show off their wonderful teacher and the shop they have. Amazing all the way around. I want to go to High School with these driven sisters who are funny, opinionated and quite skilled. If this is the future, bring it on!!

Pizza and family New Years Eve with me being in bed around 10. Couldn't keep my eyes open--with the youngers hanging with Gloria and Jenna until a bit later. It was a wonderful day.

Our Girl

K comes back from France today. From the two emails we got from her, the trip was more than she expected and she loved every bit. The deal with her peers from school was not an issue by the time she got to O'Hare and by the time she was in the air to Charles DeGaulle, she has some new best friends. So, that is that (and I gloat because I knew it...and told her so!--). So, we are up to Syracuse to pick her up--and will be thrilled to see her though my guess is that she will be planning and plotting for how she can get another ticket to get to France sooner than later. While we are at it, buy A a few pairs of what he thinks is stylish, pants. I just hope we can convince him to have them at least close to his waist size albeit nothing else looks as if it fits. He pulls it off...but it's teen fashion and you never know how you can get it wrong until you do. Additionally, we will see fixures and tile for the bathrooms in the works.

Dare Daniels (don't you adore his would adore him too), the Mason To The Stars has been "at it", with the laying of stone and prepping the ground to have a ton of cement poured (my guess Monday/Tuesday of next week)to get the garage right and tight (and done) along with some stairs etc. Dare is amazing. He is heads down, don't get in my way--a very private man who is extremely motivated and very introspective about his work. We are thrilled to have him as he is a gem of a person and an amazing craftsman who takes the time to do the job right. So things are moving forward with our house projects.

Shady Grove is delighted to be at the lake. She opens the door and lets herself out to sun on the ground, or to guard us on the porch. She has had her spring shearing, so she looks much younger, much puppier and surprisingly cute. With her bangs cut, catching a pinecone is artful...and nary a drop or fumble.

As an aside, got an interesting call from an art director who is located in Interlaken. She was looking for resources who are designers, illustrators, artists for a possible project she has yet to be rewarded. I googled her and found quite a bit--that is very real with very real clients who value quality. She was quite nice and fun--and even if nothing happens, I look forward to meeting her...but if something does happen, it could be a tremendous vehicle to get my work out there in an entirely new venue beyond print. I hope I can say more later>>

Salem Yesterday

We left our hosts and hostesses early on another perfect seaside day and decided to go to Salem to walk around and see what's what. It reminded me of Baltimore with the big captains houses with the widows' walks...not little salt boxes but big houses that are the oceanside town version of the posh brownstones. Henry James on the water. There was a lovely quadrangle surrounded by these glorious things that led us to the water--and the National Park presence--highlighting certain houses and the way of life in the 1700s. It was great to see the way the water interfaces with the land and the living--and how one drove the other--very Bath, England etc. I can imagine that there was a great deal of society and living that happened here...far wilder than the scene in Nantucket. We learned a bit about the pirates, the privateers and all that terrific Jane Austen/ Horatio Hornblower lore that is so rich and thanks to those books and movies, so visual (at least for me). It was a very quiet morning in Salem so my imagination had a bit of space to go...which I would think might be hindered with the tourbuses and interested parties coming just for the witches, which have historical relevance--particularly in best understanding the culture and people at the time...but the wax museums? and palmistry centers? and witch gear seems to abuse something that was a sad colonial moment of people maligning and mistreating other people out of fear and greed. It is not about Harry Potter, or witchcraft or fairies or spells ( you get the idea)--so that end of the tourist trap of Salem is unfortunate (but thankfully, not overwhelming).

We visited the House of Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorns birth house and toured them. Interesting but not really impressive colonial architecture (unlike Philadelphia)--but interesting none the less. The lady that rennovated the House of Seven Gables put her spin on the property and installed (among the real features) a cent or Penny Shop which I had never heard of. It was impressive how this establishment preserved other buildings and with their profits support community outreach in Salem. Additionally, the Peabody Essex Museum is a must we did not attend. Looks spectacular--and along with the Museum, they own and operate many grand houses in it's neighborhood which to my thinking is inspired in many ways (ownership, maintenance, taxes, control to name a few).

I love the all red houses (detail shown of the Hawthorn birth house), the all black houses and the severity beyond that of colonial brick or clapboard structures. Imagine entering under this bold eagle and terrific lettering--up the steps and into the custom house--a way to enter America--dead smack on the center of the water access. It's impressive now...imagine 300 years ago before illuminated signage and strip malls.