Posts filed under ‘ceramic tile’

Janet Bennett: A Life in Design

Janet Bennett“Are you the artist Janet Bennett?” Bennett is a striking and elegant woman who looks quite at home in the colorful surroundings of Robert, the restaurant housed within the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. But perhaps the question should have been, “are you the artist who designed the iconic tile murals in the Los Angeles Airport?”

The murals have been widely attributed to Charles Kratka who was Bennett’s immediate supervisor. “When I found out about the obituary for him in the L.A. Times which said that Charles Kratka was the designer of the LAX murals, I freaked out.” By her own admission, she’d never claimed credit for the murals which were installed in 1961, when she was working for the architectural firm of Pereira & Luckman.

Mad Men Mural

LAX MURALS” Mad Men Promo Image. Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Her assignment, given to her by Kratka, was to design a mural that would distract people from how long the tunnels were. The 2007 L.A. Times obituary mentions that Kratka told his children that the changing colors of the mural were to reflect the changing seasons, but Bennett said that actually her concept was to express the changing terrain as seen from a transcontinental flight, “from ocean to ocean.”

“I started with blue on one side, then green, then into earth colors, then,

Janet in Blue

Janet Bennett

in the middle, I had one red element; then the colors reverse. My idea was that you’d see the same colors going from the ocean to the middle of the country, over the prairie, then back to the ocean.” The mural has been featured in both film and TV, from The Graduate to Mad Men. “It’s been used as a vehicle to show people coming in and out of Los Angles; it’s an ideal background because of the procession of colors.” Overall, Bennett created mosaic designs for five terminal buildings found in the airport.

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A Janet Bennett Painting

Bennett grew up in Detroit; her father was a painter. He discouraged her from becoming an artist due to concerns about making a living. “He had been successful as a painter, but there came a time when he had to think about money, so he went into automobile design. For him, (designing for automobiles) was like interior design for me. He was okay at it, but he didn’t have a passion for it because he was a painter, as I was a sculptor, and am now a painter.”

JB Paint wave

Janet Bennett

Bennett studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art which is known as one of America’s leading architecture and design schools, with its graduates and faculty being described by the New York Times as having a “profound effect on the physical environment of this country.” Bennett majored in sculpting and upon graduating, came to New York City to work on commissions, one of which was a bronze sculpture for the department store B. Altman & Co. Once completed, she was called to Madrid for further study before finding herself back in the states, working in architecture.

“It was an ideal job for someone like me.” Her work took her to Los Angeles, San Salvador, “I love anything Spanish,” San Francisco, Honolulu, and back to New York. “My sculpture commissions were always in different mediums, using different materials – whether it was steel, or

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Janet Bennett

plastic, or wood – I really had to learn as I was doing. I’ve gone to a couple shows at this museum (The Museum of Art and Design) and I’ve thought, ‘I’ve done that once, but this artist has made a whole career out of it.’ If I had stayed with one thing, people could look at it and say, ‘that’s a Janet Bennett.’”

In addition to the LAX murals, Bennett was one of the contributors to San

Brio Blends

Modwalls Brio Blend Glass Tiles

Francisco’s BART stations in the late 60’s and early 70’s when a panel of art professionals commissioned murals and other art for nearly all of the then newly designed stations.“The tiles for the San Francisco murals were ceramic, as opposed to the Italian glass used at the airport.” When she wasn’t doing mural work or designing decorative art, she worked in interior design. “That’s where I ran into some restrictions. When I was doing the commissioned artwork, I pretty much had full reign. With the murals, there were no influences other than driven by theme.”

JB Dogs

Janet Bennett

At 83, Bennett is now working in acrylics. “I like things that are malleable. That’s what I like about oils. Mixing them; they’re nice and squishy.” She works both in New York City and “on the Island” (Long Island) and finds inspiration everywhere.

“Artists are much more observant. I walk my dog in the park and things are happening. A big crane is taking something down, a people thing is happening, and no one is looking. I’m always looking. If you have an artistic temperament, you’re sort of a voyeur.”

I ask her if she’s tried to contact the airport about receiving credit for the LAX murals. ”Anytime I try to follow up, they say, ‘can you document it?’ It was so many years ago; I’ve lived in so many places, thrown out files, or books, or photographs. Everyone I worked with was older than I, and they’re not around anymore.”

Mosaic Tunnel

Bennett is quick to point out that she wouldn’t have minded if the architecture firm had been credited. “Working for an architectural firm is like working for a fashion house – you can design it, but it goes out under the name of the firm.” The discomfort that Bennett feels is in having another person receive credit for a design she conceived. She sighs, “I never thought about publicity. I remember a magazine contacting me (after creating the mural) but I was busy with something else.”

Janet Bennett with daughter

Janet Bennett with her daughter

Bennett has been creating art for over sixty years and is still evolving, still exploring design, color and texture. Perhaps, if you find yourself passing through the midcentury mosaic tunnels in LAX, you’ll find yourself thinking, “I know what that is. That’s a Bennett.”

Micheline Auger is a playwright and freelance writer living in New York who loves art, color, and all things Modwalls.

December 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment

Craftsman Detail = Simplicity, Quality and Passion

semihandmade tileJohn McDonald is the owner of Semihandmade which is an innovative company that makes one-of-a-kind doors for IKEA kitchens, bathroom, closets and media cabinets. Modwalls spoke with John about how he started the company and the best way to incorporate craftsman touches in your remodel.

“I had been in LA for about 13 years working freelance in the film biz doing writing and production (mainly waiting tables).  At 34, I started buying old furniture, refinishing it and selling at swap meets. Then I moved on to making custom furniture and cabinetry.”

John transitioned to making doors from IKEA cabinets about five years ago and because of the demand, his company expanded to include 30 employees. The concept is simple and brilliant. You want that IKEA kitchen but not so crazy about the doors that come with the cabinets? What do you do? Simple:

“You don’t have to buy them,” says John. “All you do is just buy the boxes and hardware and we’ll make the amazing fronts, panels and tops so you get a really custom look for less.”

Rex Rox Lunar SemiHandmadeJohn’s philosophy when it comes to design is to keep it as simple and clean as possible. “I can’t stand precious and overly thought-out.” He’s passionate and opinionated about what he does, which has made his company a success within the industry and a favorite among clients.

“I always make it a point to seek out other companies I like. Modwalls makes a clean  tile product that is really well-made with great colors and excellent customer service. We’ve used their tiles at different design shows to compliment our booths. We also recommend their stuff to clients we think it will appeal to. Some of their new stuff is really amazing!”

So what do you do if you want to incorporate craftsman touches but you’re on a budget?

“The key is trying to have a few nice things you’ll hopefully have for a long time, then building around that.  The fact that IKEA is our platform says all you need to know about us. They’ve got a great system, really solid bones, and they are genius to let people compliment things as they like.”

Teal Agate semihandmadeSo whether it’s colorful ceramic tile or semi-handmade zebrawood cabinets, pick a product you love, a company you believe in, and have fun. Anything else?

“Remodeling is a marathon. Be prepared for that!”

Have a Modwalls’ design question? Ask and we will answer!  www.modwalls.com

 

December 19, 2014 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

Shiny Happy Yellow Tile

“How wonderful Yellow is. It stands for the Sun.” – Van Gogh
#tile #livewithcolor #buytileonline           Modwalls.com

November 23, 2014 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

Modwalls’ Newsworthy & Colorful American Made Chevron Ceramic Tile

We are such fans of food in general and Food & Wine magazine specifically. It’s a thrill to find our new Kiln Ceramic Chevron tile in Milk and Chartreuse in the pages of this month’s Thanksgiving edition. We are thankful to You, Food & Wine for the great recipes and for noticing what we’re doing.
Shop the tile here at Modwalls.

November 16, 2014 at 3:04 am Leave a comment

Modwalls’ People: A Kitchen is More Than a Room.

“He’s learning his colors here.”

Donna Jewell’s kitchen is where her two-and-a-half year old grandson gets to practice his colors.

Clayhaus Ceramic Tile

Clayhaus for Modwalls Ceramic Tile

“He loves the kitchen. He asked me, ‘where did you get all these tiles?’ He points to color and knows the name. He’s getting really good!” Donna’s Georgia home was built in 1983 and she likes to keep it current. Every room has a different feel and style, and she finds inspiration everywhere.

“I have some help, but it’s my own vision. I read a lot and look at a lot of magazines, and in the last few years, I just like colorful things.”

Last April, Donna’s mother passed away and she wanted to honor her.

“She was a home economics teacher and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I have many fond memories of her here, so when I saw the Modwalls’ tiles in an article in Cooking Light magazine, it just hit me. They were so bright and cheery. I thought, ‘This is it. This is what I’ve been looking for.”

She called Chris at Modwalls who sent her samples and helped determine how much tile she would need and how long it would take.

“She was fantastic. She helped me from beginning to end. I thought it was going to take much longer but one day, I got a surprise phone call saying, ‘Donna, your tile is ready,’ so it was much quicker!”

As Donna puts the finishing touches on the room, she envisions using Modwalls’ tiles to make picture frames to hang on the wall.

“The whole experience with Modwalls was pleasant and fun. Everybody just comments on how wonderful it looks, bold and bright, playful yet classy.”

And what does her family think?

“My husband says it feels like a Florida kitchen. It has a bright and airy feeling. And the other day, I thought, my mother would love my kitchen.”

Do you have a Modwalls’ challenge? Do you have a home project that needs some special attention? Tell us your Modwalls’ story.

November 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm Leave a comment

New Shape In American Made Ceramic Tile: The Wedge By Modwalls

THE WEDGE IS HERE!
Our exclusive new American made addition to our Kiln Ceramic Tile collection. The Wedge is available to order in 24 glossy and matte colors. In stock now in the 4 colors shown:
Milk, Splash, Limoncello and Brine.
Buy online or order samples at Modwalls.
“Live With Color”

October 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Modwalls Makes it Easy to get Tile Samples Online

We’ve updated our website to offer a sample on every product page.  Samples are in stock and ready to ship via USPS Priority Mail at nominal cost with free shipping.
Check us out at www.modwalls.com
We’re here to help you to “Live With Color”!

September 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

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Rebecca Lonergan


Founder and Creative Director of modwalls.com, a designer of modern tile with an online showroom at www.modwalls.com. Modwalls are colorful tile designs with a uniquely modern sensibility in a wide range of materials.

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