From the editor – Los Angeles: Monterey Park, Bill Stem’s pottery and chairs

From the editor – Los Angeles: Monterey Park, Bill Stem’s pottery and chairs – Editorial

Kit Rachlis

SOON AFTER I ARRIVED IN LOS ANGELES YEARS ago, I received a phone call from a friend of a friend. He was going to spend the following Sunday exploring dim sum palaces in Monterey Park. Would my family and I like to join him? Monterey Park is the first suburb in the United States with an Asian majority; he explained, and if you’re interested in food, this can only be a good thing. There’s not just Hunan, Cantonese, and Szechuan but Islamic, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Hakka, and Chiuchow. All this was expressed with a certain amount of awe but also a touch of pride. The implication wasn’t just You don’t know what you’re about to discover but also You don’t know what you’ve been missing.

Los Angeles is such a daunting place that no matter how long you’ve lived here, you need a guide–probably more than one. Bill Stem, the friend of a friend who wanted to go dim sum exploring, has been my principal guide for more than 14 years. He has convinced me to get up at a shockingly early hour on a rainy Sunday to go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market. He has called at odd hours to rhapsodize about buildings, country roads, and of course, restaurants. Among his friends Bill is most famous for his collection of California commercial pottery He recently wrote a wonderful book on the subject, California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism, and he has curated an exhibit of the same name, which is coming to the Autry Museum next year. Seeing Bill’s collection for the first time that dim sum morning was a revelation, a new way of seeing the city. Until the ’60s L.A. was a center of commercial pottery. Companies like Franciscan and Bauer employed hundreds of people in neighborhoods like Atwater and Lincoln Heights. There before me–in deep blues and corn yellows, in jade greens and flaming oranges, in bowls and platters, in teapots and creamers–was a vivid expression of Los Angeles, an expression that tends to get drowned out amid all the hoopla surrounding the entertainment industry.

It’s easy for things to get drowned out in L.A. In this issue we celebrate the city’s extraordinary contribution to design–which extends way beyond pottery Our “Hall of Fame,” compiled by senior editor RJ Smith, has what we think are the finest examples of L.A. design. Senior writer Dave Gardetta profiled two generations of designers to see what they have in common–and what they don’t. Architecture critic Greg Goldin tracked down car designer Harry Bentley Bradley to deconstruct the Porsche Boxster, the quintessential Southern California car. Writer-at-large Ed Leibowitz sought out all the places where you can find the good stuff. And of course, there had to be a piece by Bill Stem. “100 Years of the L.A. Chair” is another revelation. Los Angeles, Bill explains, has been turning out one amazing chair after another for more than a century When he proposed the article, Bill had the same look on his face as when we first met. You don’t know what you’re about to discover. It’s all I needed to know.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Los Angeles Magazine, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group