Make yr crib 73.3% more popping w/ rare Ellen Van Dusen wisdom
The home-goods wizard behind Dusen Dusen shares Mach 3+ intel
Ellen Van Dusen — pictured here with a bunch of her creations and 10/10 pupper Snips — has been a BLACKBIRD SPYPLANE HOMEY since 2010, when she launched her apparel line Dusen Dusen. BBSP co-pilot Erin spotted Ellen’s stuff, deemed it fly, hollered at her & they wound up doing a line of hand-painted wool coats together called DUSEN WYLIE — the collection consisted entirely of slappers, which u can read about in this 2010 story at The Cut. Unsurprisingly they sold the f**k out because BLACKBIRD SPYPLANE NEVER MISSES, IN ANY OF ITS FORMS…!!!
Since then Ellen has expanded into home goods & a ton more collaborations. She sells towels & blankets thru Design Within Reach and MoMA; collaborated with Keds on sneakers & with UNIQLO on t-shirts; put out some killer chairs with designers Brendan Timmins (below left) and Eric Trine (right)…
…. and she made a cool sweater that Harry Styles wore on SNL last fall while pretending to be a dog??
Now, 12-53 times daily we get desperate messages from readers saying, “PLEASE BLACKBIRD SPYPLANE HELP ME SPYPLANE THE CRIB.” Since we are the No. 1 source across all media for “unbeatable recon” into dope-under-the-radar joints, and since Ellen is a CERTIFIED HOME-GOODS GOD, we asked her to tell us about some of her own rare & cherished CRIB GRAILS and to share mathematical tips on how to get yr own home’s “popping quotient” 73.3% more higher…
She sparked things off by sending over pictures of some wild-flames FLATWARE:
Blackbird Spyplane: Most ‘designer’ flatware looks wack as hell but these are great — what’s the deal?
Ellen Van Dusen: “I recently got into exotic silverware, which is too bad because exotic silverware is not cheap. My all-time favorite is David Tisdale’s multicolor picnic flatware, above left, which I think they only sampled 30 years ago and never put into production. There’s a set at the Cooper Hewitt, but I don’t think you can purchase it anywhere.
But I was able to get my hands on an all-blue set. Honestly it isn’t the most ergonomic — it’s kind of flimsy and the screws protrude more than they should and you can feel them in your mouth sometimes, which is terrible. It can’t go in the dishwasher, which I learned after putting it in the dishwasher, and they are not comfortable to use at all. Regardless, I still love them and use them for special occasions.”
Anodized aluminum David Tisdale salt-and-pepper shakers, coppable via Blackbird SpyMall
Blackbird Spyplane: Real ones know that sometimes u have 2 sacrifice function when the form’s this good. We put a bunch of links for ppl to buy vintage Tisdale joints (like the anodized S&P shakers, above) at the BLACKBIRD SPYMALL. What did you pay for yr set?
Ellen: “I got a deal because I think they’re a little damaged — I found a set on eBay with 8 pieces of every item asking $600, and I offered $300 and they took it. There’s also a great Instagram account for silverware called @knifeforkspoon.co that people can check out. I’m actually looking at it now and, damn, they have my blue set on there…”
“I also recently got a set of this Maarten Baas silverware, and the knife cracks me up — I bought it on the strength of that alone. It’s got some heft — feels good in your hand, and on the fork, each tine is different. I think Baas drew a picture freehand and they used it to actually make the silverware.”
Ellen’s house, in Bed-Stuy, which she designed with her parents, includes kitchen cabinets engraved with her “Arc” pattern — inspired by an infinite fractal first described by NASA physicist John Heighway in the 1960s — & black-and-white bathroom tiles laid out in a “hidden code” that translates to friends’ phone numbers…
Blackbird Spyplane: One of the many things that jumps out about yr house is that you like small things rendered at super-jumbo scale, like that tulip next to the bookshelf…
Ellen: “I found the tulip up in Hudson — I’m always on the prowl for big stuff. There’s a fantastic website called Great Big Stuff that I check often. They have some cheesy giant push-pins that I thought could be a cool coat rack by the front door. There used to a be store in NYC in the ‘90s called Think Big! that had the same concept. It was in Tribeca and sold oversized everything... ”
Think Big! catalog from 1987 & a giant tulip Ellen schlepped from Hudson to Brooklyn
Blackbird Spyplane: You are a pattern wizard well-versed in mystical arts. How do you recommend ppl bring patterns into their homes in a way that doesn’t look messy and/or goofy?
Ellen: “Start with something small and movable, like pillows, and if pattern-matching is scary for you, but you want to try it, get 4 different pillows in different patterns that are in the same color and see how u feel. Have you ever played the game SET?”
Blackbird Spyplane: No…
Ellen: “It was a staple in my house growing up — I think it’s a matching game that architects’ kids play. There are cards printed with 3 shapes, 4 colors and different ‘fill patterns’, and you have to make sets across the cards. To create a set, each element needs to be completely the same across the cards, or completely different.
Dusen Dusen towels & pillows…
“So I think about patterns matching as, like, the SET theory. Everything needs to be the same or everything needs to be different, or else it will be off: The scale of the print all needs to be exactly the same, or different at varying intervals. Like, if you have 3 small prints and one big one, the big print will look off.”
Bridget Riley and, at right, a piece by Yaacov Agam
Blackbird Spyplane: You studied neuroscience and art-history at school — who are your big visual influences? Bridget Riley?
Ellen: “Yeah, I named my own major as a dumb 19-year-old: ‘Psychology of Design.’ I do love Bridget Riley. I love all of the op-artists from that time. Yaacov Agam, I looove. Julio Le Parc. Frank Stella. I love all the color guys. Oh, and Ellsworth Kelly.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You also sent us shots of these “On the Rocks” tumblers. We f**k with a pun as much as the next rare-joints newsletter, so please tell us more.
Ellen: “I had these growing up and thought they were very clever. I spent years looking for them and eventually figured out the manufacturer’s name and reached out — they still had some of the parts available, so they sourced similar rocks and made a small run for me to carry in my shop. I sold through them pretty quickly and kept re-ordering until they ran out of parts. If I wanted to get more at this point, I would need to order something like 50,000 cups, so it’s eBay from now on…”
Blackbird Spyplane: Who are some other small makers doing good home-jawns?
Ellen: “Jolie Ngo. She does these 3D-printed ceramics and they’re so cool. I think she just graduated from RISD. I don’t have any of her stuff yet because when she puts it up, it’s gone.”
Intro photo of Ellen by Scott Bleicher
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