Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lives Touched

The father of my dear, dear friend and colleague Stacie passed away quietly this morning after a fairly long period of illness. Since Stacie's mother died, just a couple of years prior to my mother's death, her dad was never really the same. With so much loss this week, I have been more contemplative. It moves me to be grateful for the countless blessings in life that are too easy to take for granted. I am more conscious of how delicate and precious are the people we love. It is so easy, day to day, to be confident that our loved ones will always be a part of our lives, but it is false confidence, too easily shattered. Parting can happen suddenly and unexpectedly or it can be a long process of erosion, bit by bit, with little awareness or even with carelessness. For a while, perhaps, I will remember to be more careful; more mindful; and to relish and treasure the people who have been woven into the tapestry of my life. But, it is so easy to fall into comfortable habits, to devote more time to tasks than to treasures. I am not speaking of worldy treasures, but the only real treasure - cherished life moments engaged with my husband, my son, my father and brother; and my much-loved friends who I have come to consider as family - like Stacie and several other long-time friends. Even when months have passed without contact, we can resume our connections as thought no time was lost. I am touched by the grace of their presence. And, though I know it is in my nature to fail, I am reminded to make more time for what counts - people, not tasks.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


What a distressing week!! Sunday morning at church, Mike learned that our beloved and crusty choirmaster Ron Shirey had a massive heart attack and passed away before services. The entire week was colored with his loss. How can our church choir endure without his presence? How can TCU ever fill his shoes? He touched thousands of lives through directing choir performances from Carnegie Hall to Nova Scotia to Europe and back. His footprints are left on the paths of his students as they scatter to the winds of the world and in the souls of anyone who listened to the UCC choir on Sunday mornings. It's a cliche - but truly - things won't ever be the same without him. His memorial service was yesterday afternoon and University Christian Church was filled with people like me in the sancutary and people like Mike in the choir, honoring his life. The angelic music filled and rang inside the church in fitting tribute to our teacher and choirmaster. I will remember him most as he processed into the church, often with Mike by his side on Sunday mornings. He is sorely missed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Design & Technology Conference: ACADIA

Wow ... incredible is the word. I was inspired and motivated by the presentations that I saw at the ACADIA conference. And, I really love Chicago. It is the cleanest, big-city I know. I met some facinating people - so many of whom had ivy league educations. I was honored to meet and mingle with so many who had so many accomplishments. It was my first experience at a conference that had an academic focus rather than an emphasis on practice. I enjoyed the variety of theoretical precepts. Ask me sometime about fritting. I saw some amazingly simple actions that could create movement in designed surfaces. Multiple layers of glass, perforated metal, or plexi appliqued with felt dots could be rotated to form rhythmicly changing patterns and levels of transparency. Really beautiful use of technology. Other technologies use sensors and actuators that allow architectural elements to respond to human activity. I was already somewhat familiar with smart textiles - clothing that can record vital sign data and report information back to a physician. Next, architecture could do something similar and respond to climactic data and evolve to become self-controlled like a mega-thermostat. The possibilites make my head hurt.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Packing for Travel

I took a class this week in REVIT Architecture, I learned so much!!!. I was so mentally and physically tired after three days of sitting in front of a computer that I now want to avoid it all together. I better get ready, because I am about to do it all over again this coming week, but in Chicago instead of Dallas. And, I freely admit it, I have never figured out how to travel light. But, this trip is going to be different. I think that I have finally reached the point where I care more about having to lug stuff about than looking fabulous under all possible circumstances (even though it isn't possible anyway). The other problem is that I love clothes. I started working at the age of 15 in order to buy clothes, and now my closet is stuffed to the brim. How is it that my closet is full of lovely clothes, but I never seem to have just the right combination for the circumstances??? I have yet to discover this. I leave next week on a simple trek - to a conference in Chicago to learn how other professionals and educators in the design fields are approaching technology in architecture. I don't expect that I will need extra special attire - just comfortable and presentable. I expect rain - that's the clencher. I have a basic trench coat, but somehow it seems tired and unfashionable. I have a casual wind breaker, but maybe it is too casual?? I have a great black leather jacket with a zip out lining - but it doesn't seem flexible enough. The decisions are gut wrenching. But, I am vowing not to buy anything new to cram into my closet except for a better umbrella. Thank goodness for Eileen Fisher. Her clothes always work for dressing high or low - now to choose. . .

Friday, October 2, 2009

ACADIA Conference

I am gearing up to attend the ACADIA conference in Chicago later this month. ACADIA is the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture. The image above is an image that I created in Rhino software for a conceptual project. I am looking forward to the conference. I looked at a preview of the papers being presented and they sound very scholarly. I was planning to take the REVIT workshop while at the conference, but they have cancelled it, so it looks like I will enroll in a local workshop instead. I am going to be teaching computer graphics in two studio courses next semester, and I imagine that the conference will be full of people with amazing ideas for CAD education. My friend and colleague that my husband Mike and I know from our work at Fallingwater will be there, Aron Temkin. He is in charge of the digital media courses in the school of Architecture at Florida Atlantic University, and I have already learned a great deal from him just by association. I am already working hard to prepare my classes for next semester at TCU. My students this semester are excited about learning and enthusiastic in their work. I am exceptionally proud of them. I look forward to what they will bring to the design profession.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Color, Pattern & 3D Space

It has been an exhausting, yet exhilerating 2 weeks at TCU. The week before school started was filled with faculty meetings, receptions, dinners, orientation sessions and the like. I came away with an amazing sense of awe and respect for TCU as an institution. TCU has a heart and they are striving in an inspiring way toward a better future. The first week of school was more challenging but still inspiring. Of course there were the problems of getting everyone in their proper places, the forms & paperwork, and general upheaval that takes place at the start of every semester. But, I am excited about my new students. The freshman class is wide-eyed and anxious to learn. The sophomores are a bit more grounded, but seem just as enthusiastic about learning. My seniors are thoughtful in considering their future - anxious to enter the world and ready to set it straight with their knowledge and skills. And I am watching them all. Not as a passive observer of their efforts, but in the humbling goal of helping each of them succeed in the way I think is best. That is not an easy burden either. I don't have foreknowledge of what the future holds for any of us. But, I am confident that each of them will be led along a fascinating and adventurous path.
I have featured the work of 2 students from last fall. Many more in their class deserve recognition as well. So take a peak at what they have done. Applaud the efforts of everyone who seeks to learn and improve themselves - even in small steps.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summer Ends

My son Alec starts the eighth grade on Monday. Did you notice his beautiful big brown eyes? Here he is with my Dad at a Fort Worth Cats Game a couple of summers ago. Summer is just about over for all of us. I begin teaching at TCU on Monday also. I have been working all day today revising my syllabi for class - I imagine my students will enjoy reading them just about as much as I enjoyed creating them. The university requires that we put so much into them to cover any imaginable situation, and we still experience situations that no one can foresee.

I look forward to working with my new students and continuing with last year's group. Each student is such a unique realization of nature, each packaged with their own talents and dreams. I see myself in a few of them - so anxious to enter the world and set it on fire. I only now realize how hard that fire is to set ablaze. I hope they each become inspired by some aspect of the design field, and continue to find inspiration - just like my own dreams that I still nourish. I also like to ponder my son Alec's dreams for his future. At the moment he wants to be one of the first explorers of Mars. He attended TAG (talented and gifted) this summer at SMU and earned 3 hours of college credit. I am so proud of the B he made in mechanical engineering as an 8th grader - what possiblities are available to this generation that weren't available to me???

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Mother's Dishes

When I was growing up on the far west side of Fort Worth, my mother's dishes weren't something that I gave much thought. Now, somewhere along the way, I have become a collector of mid-century modern dishes. Several years ago I was in Dishes from the Past on Montgomery Street and spotted a group of dishes that I fell in love with designed by Ben Seibel for Stubenville in the 1950's; Contempora in the color charcoal. They are almost black in amorphic shapes with rows of wiggly lines across the bodies. I continue to look for them whenever I can and search for them fairly regularly on ebay.
The synchronicity is that my mother's everyday dishes that I grew up with, and thought of as tired and old fashioned in my teens, I discovered were also designed by Ben Seibel. Seibel is now a sought after commodity among those who collect modern dinnerware. My mother was ahead of her time and I hadn't given her due credit. Her pattern was Bridal White, solid white, by Iroquois China. My mom passed away in 2003, but she still had a few of those original dishes in her cabinets.
I look on those dishes today with combined amazement and nostalgia. How could I have ever have considered them so pedestrian? The dishes are the same, but I have come full circle. They are fresh and hip once again, and I will continue to seek them and add to the partial set in Dad's kitchen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What I am Reading

I'm reading two books right now - each at a different pace. One is for recreation and the other for personal growth. I just finished Gone For Good by Harlan Coben and State of Fear by Michael Crichton. State of Fear was better, but Gone for Good was a quick read, a page-turner with lots of twists; good for the beach if you have the chance.
The first book that I am reading now is The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. Depending upon how well I like this one, I might read his The Poe Shadow. I like Poe's writings. So far, The Dante Club has been pretty gross; that's a word I used a lot in middle school, but it seems to be the best, most fitting word in this instance. The plot is beginning to become intriguing, though, after wading through the "gross" part. It is now becoming more about Longfellow, Lowell, and Holmes and I like pondering about their intellectual capabilities and their lofty, classical educations. It is fascinating to envision them in the middle of a murder plot.
The time I spend reading the second book depends on my daily fancy, and I am reading it slowly and thoughtfully. It is about removing my own self-imposed mental blocks that prevent me from living my own life in balance. This one definitely takes more effort and thought, so I read it in small parcels, giving it time to sink in and mellow. I have dreamed of creating a balanced life for years. Creating one that isn't so lopsided in terms of work; one that allows me more time for friends, for exploring my own artistic pursuits, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I love my work too much to abandon it - I can't imagine ever really retiring - but I think that I will spend some time and serious effort to design my life with as much care as I take in the design of an interior space that is for another person. Maybe some time reading at the beach . . . or better yet, Taos.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

L U X E Magazine

Watch for our latest project publication to appear in the pages of LUXE Magazine in October. We are very excited that one of our more traditionally designed residences will be featured in their upcoming fall issue. Even one of my own photographs is slotted for the article!!

Studio Salubre

Mike Shannon has begun a new business.

Most of you know that my husband Mike began a new career in 2001 after 27 years in his family's funeral business, Shannon Funeral Chapels. Mike returned to school and earned his Master of Architecture degree from University of Texas at Arlington. Now, after several years of working for retail and residential architecture firms, Mike has launched Studio Salubre LLC. His new firm will focus on the design of smaller, yet thoughtfully and intelligently designed sustainable residences that don't sacrifice aesthetic appeal.

Both, Mike and I believe in the impact of good design; that the integration of beauty and function doesn't mean large and expensive. Small is often more human in scale and intimacy, and it allows for higher quality in the finishing touches. Design sophistication is just as important in a modestly scaled building.

Watch for more news about our new venture - and perhaps we will even offer sustainable luxury home products, too!!

Fallingwater 2009

Mike and I (Gayla) just returned from Frank Lloyd Wright's seminal house Fallingwater. We were in residence at a nearby summer house on the High Meadow adjacent to the Fallingwater grounds. We always come back inspired - and this time was no exception. I am full of ideas to use in my TCU courses.

I have been working hard all summer - along with our professional interior design projects - in preparation for the fall semester at TCU. I am very excited about starting my full time position as an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in interior design!!

Fallingwater is a very inspiring place. While Wright's personal life and character may be less than stellar, I admire and respond to his architecture in many ways. He was a master at influencing behavior and creating positive experiences within space.
We had the opportunity to act as teaching assistants for two sessions of the high school residency offered by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. We worked with two outstanding architects/educators; Aron Tempkin of Florida Atlantic University and Peter Goldstein of Skyline High School in Dallas.