I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

My (funnier) twin separated at birth

Self portrait by Kalman on right.

Illustrator, designer and artist Maira Kalman has long been a heroine of mine.  If you have kids you might recognize her children’s books like Max Makes a Million.

If you read the New Yorker, you already know her covers.

If you are up on your industrial design history, you know she founded M & Co. with her late husband Tibor, and they created these watches:

And these paperweights:

The San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum is exhibiting the first-ever show (of thirty years) of her work. Because of that, and because the man in the cafe just gave me a free Coke, this is my new favorite museum.  I have been trying for a week to get here, taunted by the brightly colored !!Maira Kalman Exhibit!! banners flapping from virtually every lamp post in downtown San Francisco.  When my Bay Area trip got unexpectedly extended a day, I made a beeline over the museum, even catching the once-weekly docent tour of the Kalman work.

I knew I loved her but I was getting positively creeped out at the oddities and affections we share:

  • We have both created a piece of art from onion rings.
  • She says, “The best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is on foot.”
  • We both collect string, rubber bands, old boxes, and she collects ladders, which I would if I had that kind of space.
  • She says she finds 500 things to draw or write about on a simple walk.  So do I.  And let me tell you I am pretty frustrated not to be her and to get paid to actually do it.
  • She irons sheets.  (OK I admit it.  I used to do that when I had time.)
  • She loves Abraham Lincoln, stationery stores, Saul Steinberg, Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeleine books) and Gertrude Stein.
  • She loves being an entrepreneur and once ran a store called Milton that changed every day.  THAT CHANGED EVERY DAY.  I did not even know that.

OK, admittedly this is a list that many designers would share, so perhaps we are not uniquely soul mates.  But I wrote this in her guest book anyway:

Maira,

You are my (funnier, more creative) twin separated at birth.

Except I have neater handwriting.  I changed it when I turned 40.  I had to.

The ligatures were killing me.

jules @ dailygrommet . com

I deliberately left my email as my signature.  I hope she contacts me and offers to work together.  Stranger things have happened to me.

5 Responses to “My (funnier) twin separated at birth”

  1. Sally

    We are in san fran this weekend for a wedding and will definitely visit here. I love the max books

    Reply
    • Jules

      Sally…you will not regret the visit. Superb show that she personally curated.

      Reply
  2. Jane Childs

    A month ago I bought the M&Co Scratch watch. I love it.

    Still pondering the art made from onion rings…

    Reply
    • Jules Pieri

      Our onion ring art was virtually identical. Rows of onion rings mounted for posterity in a simple grid pattern. The only difference was that Maira’s were preserved and golden crispy rings (decades old), recognizing Tibor’s love of the fried snack.

      Mine were lopsided, black, burnt-to-the-crisp mistakes that I assembled as a joke, when my roommate attempted them for the first time (and failed). I did not hang onto that masterpiece like Maira did.

      Reply
  3. dlweinreb

    Wow, that’s amazing. Definitely meet her; I’m sure it’ll be lots of fun! — Dan

    Reply

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