March 11, 2013

Robert Bliss's Cradle For A Young Viking Or Viqueen


Except for some chairs he made while studying at Black Mountain College, modernist architect Robert Bliss, didn't really get into designing furniture until after he retired as dean of the University of Utah's architecture school, in 1986. In 1990 he introduced a very planar furniture collection, Mobilita, which includes at least two kid-sized designs.


One is a child-sized version of his Deep Cradle Rocker [above], a sort of pared down, hammocky response to Corbusier's LC4. It's not clear how many of these molded birch ply rockers have been made, but several adult-sized Rockers exist in bent aluminum and leather, which is nice. Though I imagine it's the kind of chair that will always bring out your guests' inner Woody Allen.

The other, and the reason we're all here today, is the Cradle for a Young Viking/Viqueen [top], a sculptural cradle that is as beautiful as it is impractical. Cradles are a dubious investment under any circumstances. So it makes sense to consider them first and ultimately as objects of design--which stake a tenuous claim to usefulness for a few weeks of a baby's life.

The thin birch slats of Bliss's cradle are fanned and clipped into the ship shape that gives it its name. [At least the Viking part. Bliss totally made up the Viqueen part himself.] It hangs from a matching brass chain, or rests on the little brass stand, both of which are similar to a ghodiyu, a traditional cradle/sling from India. In true Viking tradition, I imagine you're supposed to line it with a pelt of some kind.

It seems unlikely to me that Bliss would launch a post-retirement furniture design venture with a brass cradle. Which makes me think that his little grandviqueen or grandviking is all grown up now, and looking to pay for grad school. Godspeed you, Young Viking/Viqueen! May your auction meet your ambitious reserve!

Mar 23, 2013, Lot 268: Robert Bliss: Cradle for a Young Viking or Viqueen, est. $3-5,000 [wright20]

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