Monome: Ten Years of Amazement & Hollow Moon Rings Like Bell

I am constantly amazed by our friends Brian Crabtree and Kelli Cain, for their tremendous creativity and unparalleled generosity. I am so grateful to have them in my life, and ecstatic to be surrounded by their beautiful wares every day here at Better; for Living. 

Ten years ago Monome.org was founded as a tiny operation making minimal and versatile instruments based upon a number of Brian's (Tehn's) personal experiments. While their arsenal of instruments has grown, their staffing most definitely hasn't; everything is still made by hand by Brian in their barn at their incredible house in the Catskills. More impressive yet than their barrier-breaking instruments, is the community that has grown from their fervent belief in transparent processes and the power of the community. Now |||||||| has outgrown the Monome.org website and expands so far beyond the realm of Monome that it is a venerable wealth of support, creative endorsements, and ideas in the digital music scene worldwide. 

Brian and Kelli, thank you for being some of the kindest and most driven people I have ever met, so generously bringing me into your fold of barn parties, DIY manufacturing, and tech gadgetry, and creating this incredible thing that has since come through its years of bumbling awkwardness with flying colors, and is now prepared to amaze us in ways we didn't even know were possible. 

We were fortunate enough to host Brian and Kelli on their west coast tour performing a set dubbed "Hollow Moon Rings Like Bell" (which is also available for download here) and ecstatic to open our doors to the Monome/|||||||| communities in Bay Area. Special thanks to Fabian and Maya of The Understory for filming the set above. We hope that you all enjoy it. 

Koto Tsuchiya is Made of/Makes Dreams

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We are fortunate enough to be on great terms with all of our vendors; most of them are actually good, long-lasting friends. A more recent addition to our "Friendor" list is Koto Tsuchiya --the craftsperson and lady-boss behind HARRYS Glass. We're pleased to have her in our creative ranks, and even more pleased that we can share  the interesting specifics of her process and personal history.

Better; for Living :  When / how did you start working with glass?

Koto Tsuchiya :  I started working with glass at 19. Until then, I was only generally interested in art. After graduating high school I went to a normal (non-art) university, but nothing I learned interested me. So, after three months, I quit university and was on NEET [Not in Education, Employment, or Training] for a while… like for a year? I was so sorry for my parents. They were really mad at me! Ha. One day, I saw some glass artists on a TV show, and at that moment I thought that "I have to do GLASS!" --that TV show changed my life!

The artist at work.

The artist at work.

B;fL :  In what way did you begin --was it immediately your desire to make jewelry, or are you also interested in creating vessels? 

KT :  I had no experience in glass, nor any other material.  I didn't learn art history, or know how to draw, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into an art university easily. So, I found a school specializing in glass (no entrance exam necessary!) and spent the next 6 years learning and practicing.

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I used to make big art pieces and vessels, but am no longer able. My dream of becoming a glassblowing artisan (for vessels) ended when my pelvis was crushed in an accident 2009.  Heavy machinery fell on top of me, almost crushing my spine. I had to spend about 6 months lying down in bed. It's miraculous that I am still able to move my arms & legs!

During my hospitalization I thought about quitting glass work, but I decided to continue glass torch work, which I could do sitting down.  While recovering from my injury, I started to work on my "lace technique" more seriously.  

B;fL : What was your first project? The first one you were willing to share with others? 

KT : My first project was a leaf made of glass lace.  I started exploring my lace technique after I found a leaf, which only had veins left. This leaf made me realize and appreciate the beauty that plants hold, even after death. I was captured by the beauty of nature.

I also started focusing on making precise shapes (i.e. the BONBON: sphere and CIRCLE necklace). I strongly believe in the importance of my own technical skill, and I have practiced to perfect my techniques.

PART TWO.

B;fL : What would you consider as "themes" in your work? What inspires you, visually?

Dandelion seed by Koto Tsuchiya

For both my products and art pieces, I consider the beauty of the nature (structure, color, texture etc…) as themes in my work. I'll take a walk and look out for beautiful natural objects, or search the internet and through books.  Although humans have developed so much technology and make many beautiful things, we are still no match for the beauty of nature.

For my products, I place high importance on technical skill and versatility of the design, shapes, and uses.  For my art works I forget the conditions that I mentioned above; instead I experiment, challenge myself, and play. I make what I want. 

 

B;fL : Where do you work? Do you have a studio setup? What's it like?

KT : I have a studio in my parking space.  I live in a rented house, so everything is temporary right now [emphasis ours].  I want, one day,  to have my own house and studio --and have it the way I want!

B;fL : Where do you stand in terms of the use of color? Have you experimented much (or any) with it? 

KT : I usually use transparent glass, simply because I like it the best [so do we].  But it doesn’t mean that I won’t use color.  I’ll use color if it enhances a piece --though some colors aren’t suitable for the subtle, detailed process of lace making.

 

 

B;fL : Art or artisanship? Do you see any difference?

KT : There’s a lot to the ART v.s. craft/artisanship issue, but to be honest I don’t really care.  Nowadays, anyone can call themselves an ‘artist’ or their work ‘ART’, no matter their technical skills.  I strongly believe that having a high technical skill is very important.  Deep knowledge of a material gives us more opportunity and possibility for creation.  Whatever we call ourselves, we must always challenge ourselves to improve.

LV(ejas)MH Prize 2016

Photography Rachel Chandler, fashion Tom Guinness.  All clothing by Vejas Kruszewski (far right).

Photography Rachel Chandler, fashion Tom Guinness.  All clothing by Vejas Kruszewski (far right).

It's astounding who we meet and what we can do --and how fast, too! --when we are passionate, deliberate, and open.  As we mentioned previously, we had that singular honor of providing our unique candles for Vejas' Paris Fashion Week excursions: they were showing at the LVMH Headquarters last week, and are wrapping up their own personal showroom alongside the end of AW16 Fashion (Week) Month.  Fresh from their feature in the Dazed 100, Vejas is at it again.

Behold: the cocktail reception of the LVMHPRIZE showroom 2016 (and see our new friends at 00:11 seconds in, and additionally at 00:47). 

We hardly have time to ponder the why and how of it all; but the state of things as they are is that we are now fast friends, and prouder than punch of their hustle.  Today the LVMHPrize announced the Top 8 Finalists and, naturally, Vejas made the cut.  To us, this comes as no surprise: though they are young, the Vejas team is passionate, driven, and incredibly talented.

 

 

Bravo, Vejas. here's to a meteoric rise!

Candles: A Love Story

Nobody would ever guess that our super-cute best-selling candles started out as a performative joke we dubbed ‘Chapstick Mountain.’ We started making candles as a break from drywalling and painting while renovating the store; --when looking for a use for some twenty pounds of unfiltered beeswax they sort of just happened. We dabbled in a few other shapes and wick layouts, but we realized that what we wanted to make was something small, affordable, unique, fun.  What we have created is a beautiful conduit for wax flow —since nobody doesn’t like playing with wax.

Our dear friends at The Understory caught us candle-making last month, and we've been beaming since we saw the results. Fabian, Maya, thank you.

 

We use beeswax because it’s simply the best, it’s natural [not a petroleum distillate or agriculture crushing mono-crop], burns the cleanest, and (allegedly) negatively ionized [we are skeptical]; we use linen wicks because they’re free of heavy metals, flat woven, unwaxed, and made of entirely organic fibers; we scent and color with natural herbs and oils because we believe in a holistically healthy and honest product. We strive to make a product that we ourselves want to use.

better <3 vejas

We never would have guessed that we would have spent last night rushing a special suite of candles to our new friends at Vejas for their Parisian showroom at LVMH headquarters (where they are shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH prize)... but then again, all things seem possible when you work diligently and do what is needed.  Here's to afterthoughts that become staples. Here's to making things (Better). 

vejas candles lvmh better for living

Candles are available in store, online, and now at The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, NY. 

Marieyat: Athlingerie for All

AS THE WORLD CELEBRATED VALENTINE'S DAY, WE BROUGHT YOU BETTER'S FIRST FORAY INTO INTIMATES: AMERICA, MEET MARIEYAT.

A bold new underwear label that we can only describe as athlingerie has been creating quite a stir across the internet. Featured recently by Dazed Magazine --and additionally seen alongside Better "friendors" Eckhaus Latta in a Fader editorial --the brand is a burgeoning powerhouse of understated elegance.

We know that that simple, pared-down pieces have the most impact; as firm proponents of corporeal honesty (eg: no dramatic photoshop) and loving one's body, we agree with Marieyat's founder when she says, “Ultimately, we believe empowerment comes from the mind and being honest to yourself.

 

WE ARE PROUD TO BE THE AMONG THE FIRST STATESIDE STOCKISTS OF MARIEYAT, ALONGSIDE OPENING CEREMONY'S NEW YORK LOCATION.  IF YOU'RE IN THE BAY AREA LOOKING FOR A UNISEXY FIX, COME ON BY.  FOR EVERYONE ELSE, SHOP ONLINE (WHILE THEY LAST)!

Creativity in the Catskills

Nestled in Delaware County, in New York's Catskill Mountains, Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree live a contemporary dream.  Makers, doers, and friends, their talent is only matched by their warmth (especially in the coldest season).

As if to reaffirm their incredible hospitality, they opened their cozy farm home --they built the entire place themselves, by the way --to photographer and fellow Better buddy Sasha Lytvyn and Berta Bernad for a Woolrich campaign that was later featured on Vogue.es.

As Kelli and Brian travel West to escape the last of the Delhi winter, it feels apropos to feature some summarily summery prints by Sasha on the walls for our next Better; Gallery event. Because beachy photos and coastal California is about as West Coast as it gets.

Friday, February 19th: Brian and Kelli play a live set at Better. Be there.

Monome Makes Music

For our next installment of the Better; Gallery series, we’re doing something completely different. Again. Because routine is the mother of creative death, and we want to live forever. Through our work. Sometimes.

We’re having another sort of show --musical, in fact.

Multi-disciplinarians Kelli Cain and Brian Crabtree --the power couple behind Monome --are making their way Westward, taking respite from their idyllic Martha-Stewart-approved abode to play music and adventure in their family van. On Friday, February 19th, we will have a live music set by the makers of the digital music scene's favorite interfaces.  The treasured go-to for Daedelus, Four Tet, deadmau5, and everyone in between, monome is always impeccably made from the finest hardware.

If you're curious about the grid --or what you can do with any of the monome offerings --look no further. Come see them in action, next month at Better.

Eckhaus Latta: Cool, Young, Sexy.

Forbes' 30 Under 30 Highlights Eckhaus Latta

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In almost any industry imaginable, it's as much who you know as what you know.  As a select shop focused on creating a unique and memorable aesthetic, this is especially the case.  Lucky for us, then, that we are lucky to have such supportive and innovative friends as the designers at Eckhaus Latta.


Forbes has included Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus in their 5th annual "30 Under 30" as young, daring pioneers in art and design.  Innovators in both textile design and construction, the duo have been notable stars on the fashion scene, season after season.  Favorites of the New York TimesVogue, and anyone with a pulse, they simply can do no wrong.

 

eckhaus latta forbes 30 under 30

 

"Bicoastal design duo founded fashion label Eckhaus Latta in 2012. Their work has been dubbed youthful, edgy and sexy. Zoe also founded textile design company Prince Ruth, whose clients have included Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and Calvin Klein."

 

 --Forbes' 30 Under 30, Art and Style

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We congratulate our amazingly talented and incredibly supportive friends on their truly constant creativity and impeccable talent.  If you'd like to share in the glamour, come admire their dedication to design and craft in person (or up on our online shop) --we've some great pieces from last season, and many more to come!  Be sure to come by soon and see what we (literally and colloquially) have in store.

Waterfall, waterfall; and Osmogenesis

We thank everyone who came out for the opening of Tyler Eash's debut show Waterfall, waterfall at Better this 18th of December. The art, music, company, and food were all uniquely beautiful, and we could not have asked for a better evening. 

I am without weight. An attempt at flight, jump off a cliff and become mist, to be missed. Waterfall, waterfall.
Waterfall, waterfall is not a performance.
Tyler Eash attempts to imbue inanimate objects with a soul. Waterfall, waterfall questions whether it’s possible to document the presence of the human body with objects of familiarity. It’s an idealistic realm in which absence becomes the subject. Formalist art conventions transform familiar objects into voids. By exploiting the inherent reverence of the art realm, Eash blurs the conceptual content of a work with the idea of a soul. Elements of the body are abstracted into objects, further transposing identity between the animate and inanimate and creating visual depictions of aging and sensuality. Waterfall, waterfall attempts to elevate the mundane into a higher power.  
Eash, Gaito, Ott - Odor of Sanctity

Eash, Gaito, Ott - Odor of Sanctity

For this show, Better and Eash came together to create two new works: The Odor of Sanctity, and Osmogenesis. Both are perverse phenomenological forays into papal lore and...odor.   

Eash, Gaito, Ott - Osmogenesis

Eash, Gaito, Ott - Osmogenesis

The show will be up through February and is as much Eash's solo debut, as it is our own. Waterfall, waterfall is the first show in the Better; for Living gallery. Future shows will be bimonthly and feature both independent works of the featured artists, alongside collaborations between the artist and us at Better. 


Tyler Eash - American Classic ( 1 )

Tyler Eash - American Classic ( 1 )

For inquiries about either the current show or future submissions, please contact boy@betterforliving.co 

Don't Call it a Gift Guide

We are flattered to have been invited to partake in Cultured Magazine's holiday piece 'Don't Call it a Gift Guide.' It is fun to be featured alongside fellow makers, doers, shakers, and movers like Oliver Pelle, Wardell Milan, and Sabrina Buell.

Oliver Pelle's 'Folly' soap set (available on his site above)

Oliver Pelle's 'Folly' soap set (available on his site above)

As a mix of designers' various wish lists, favorite gifts, accolades, and ongoing projects, the article succeeds at avoiding the played out holiday shopping list in lieu of something eclectic, personal, and beautiful (not unlike the respective processes and products of the aforementioned designers). 

Photographer: Anastasiia Sapon

Photographer: Anastasiia Sapon

Our wonderful portrait (that was chosen to be the banner image for the article) was taken by Anastasiia Sapon here in the back studio at Better.