More About the Author
(From Designers Don't Read)
How the Saarinen Family Saved Me From Becoming the Sausage King
It almost seemed like manifest destiny: I was born for meat-related greatness. My grandfather, my father and his three brothers, their wives, my cousin, nephew and two half brothers all worked for the family business, Economy Sausage--at one time quite the going concern in Canada. My father, Alfred Howe, was the one who wrote their amazing tagline that graced all manner of trucks, playing cards, ashtrays and pencils: The sausage that made little piggies famous. Yup. That's the kind of genius DNA that I inherited. And I would have inherited a whole lot more if I had decided to go into pork products instead of advertising and design. My only sibling also managed to escape by becoming a corporate attorney.
There it was: the whole sausage world open before me and yet my only fascinations at age seven and eight--much to my father's consternation and concern--were Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67 on the Marc-Drouin Quay in Montreal, the Monsanto House of the Future at Disneyland (which I was constantly drawing), redline Hot Wheels (the purple Silhouette, in particular), certain advertisements (which I would clip out and file or hang on my bedroom wall), and, for some odd reason, Eero Saarinen's Tulip Table and Chairs. There was also some weird obsession with royal blue carpeting (which I finally convinced my parents to let me have in my room), but I'll leave that to a professional psychotherapist to figure out.
These things--particularly Habitat, the House of the Future and the Tulip Table and Chairs--completely captured my imagination. I didn't think of them as being products of "modernism," because I wouldn't even process that term for several years. There was just something about those fluid, playful-yet-fully-functional forms that rocked my world and haunted a small piece of real estate somewhere in my psyche right up until this moment. But it was a happy haunting, because somehow Eero Saarinen's voice spoke through his design directly to me, saying, in effect, "There is this beautiful, perfect vision out there, that will bubble right up out of your personality, and it will have a lasting impact."
You know the Saarinens' story, I'm sure. Finnish, emigrated to the United States in the 1920s, architect dad Eliel taught at Cranbrook, where Eero studied sculpture and furniture design alongside Charles and Ray Eames, and where he befriended Florence Knoll. Eero went on to study architecture at Yale and eventually opened his own practice. In addition to projects like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the TWA Flight Center at JFK, he collaborated with Knoll on a number of furniture projects--including the Tulip Table and Chairs in the late fifties. The iconic table and chairs are still in production, and, in my humble opinion, are still as "fluid and playful-yet-fully-functional" today as they were when they were first introduced and when they first showed up on my radar. (Check them out at Design Within Reach.)
The point (in case you were worried that I didn't have one): your work--maybe not all of it, but the best of it--speaks. And it can speak over decades. It can speak into the life of an eight year old boy, and capture his imagination in such a way that it literally changes the course of his life. It can make him turn his back on "the sausage that made little piggies famous" and pursue a beautiful, perfect vision that bubbles right up out of his personality and (hopefully) has a lasting impact.