29 November 2011

Real design stars and a concrete counter guy

During my travels last fall, I had some incredible opportunities to meet some people whose work in the design world I admire greatly.

Everything started at Cersaie in Bologna last September. Endless thanks to Chris Abbate, Novita Public Relations and Tile of Italy for making it possible for me to meet and talk with some people whose work I've long admired.

In order of appearance, I met Patricia Uriquiola,

Philippe Grohe

and the Bouroullec brothers, Ronan and Erwan, all in the same day.

I've written about these peoples' work quite a bit over the years. I shower with a shower that Ms. Uriquiola designed and Mr. Grohe brought to the market. It was great to be able to tell them how much I appreciate their vision and hard work in person.

Later in London for BlogTour 2011, I met such notables as Nicky Haslam,

Barbara Barry

and Lee Broom.

There were more people whose work I admire during those weeks on the road but I don't want to be too much of a name dropper. BlogTour 2011 dropped me into the middle of the London Design Festival and were it not for BlogTour I'd have never been there otherwise. So thank you.

But out of the entire who's who of the world design scene I met, none can compare to a man I had the pleasure to meet in San Francisco last month.

I'd been brought to San Francisco by Zephyr to attend a design event at their spectacular showroom in San Francisco's Design District. One of the night's speakers was Fu-Tung Cheng, the man who brought the decorative and functional possibilities of concrete to the world's attention.

There were at most 30 people in attendance at Zephyr's event and most of us knew one another. It felt more like a dinner party than it did a formal function.

After Fu-Tung spoke, he mingled with the everyone as if he were just another guest at a party. Never mind that there was a stack of his books by the door.

Here's a little back story. In 2002, Fu-Tung Cheng published his first book, Concrete Countertops; Design, Form and Finishes for the New Kitchen and Bath. I was a relative newbie to the kitchen and bath industry then and his book was nothing short of a revelation. It gave rise to a new aesthetic in my work but far more than that, his first book showed me that I could forge my own way and that I could create a career for myself. All I needed to do was channel my passion and my energy as tirelessly as I was able.

Concrete Countertops was far more than a book about a new idea in surfaces, it was a wake up call for me and it challenged me to strike out and make a place for myself in the world. Fu-Tung Cheng's generous spirit jumped off the page as I read his words and I realized that my making a place for myself wasn't a matter of my ambition. A career of my own making could only happen if I could be of service and use to other people.

Part of me knew that already, but Cheng's book about concrete drove home that point and sent me on my way. I'm not kidding when I say that his first book changed the trajectory of my life.

Fast forward to October, 2011 and I found myself in the same room with the man who'd had such an impact on me. I walked up to him and told him essentially what I just wrote in the previous few paragraphs. He was as gracious as he was grateful to hear that he'd impacted me so positively.

We ended up having a longer conversation and later, exchanging business cards when the event was breaking up for the night. And in a final gesture, he inscribed his latest book, Concrete at Home for me.

I'm a fortunate, fortunate man. I say that all the time and I mean it. I have opportunities extended to me on a regular basis that make my head spin, not the least of which are numerous opportunities to meet some of the  people I admire. So thanks Zephyr for a great event and thanks for allowing me to complete another circle.

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