Snowman Ornament – 2015 – Part 1

For each of the past twenty-three years I crafted a Christmas ornament for my wife, Robyn. Because of this, for twenty-three years I haven’t had to go to the mall and buy her a REAL gift (I bet you guys wish you had thought of this scam)! 😉 Let me tell you, she’s been waiting a long, long time for that new vacuum cleaner.

I admit it, I also proposed to her on Valentine’s day and married her on an even decade (1990). One less anniversary to forget and an easy calculation to remember. So, there!

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2003

The ornament is always a snowman – small (about the size of an egg), artistic and at times a bit off the wall. Typically, I craft it from wood, but occasionally metal or clay. The one shown above is a Santa snowman from a prior year.

Sometimes the ornament is locket-like with a picture inside. Sometimes it commemorates an important event or zeitgeist of the past year. Sometimes it is imbued with symbolic meaning, and sometimes it is SO DEEP the significance even escapes me. 😉 No worries though, I can usually come up with some cogent nonsense, after the fact, about how the inherent symbiotic prose creates a duo didactic metaphor for the tacit and disparate struggle between paradigms. Got that?

Anyway, some are just fun and elicit smiles. Some still cause me to tear up – like the one I made from the beads of a favorite necklace my mother wore before her passing.

This year’s snowman is old-school once again. Robyn prefers the timeless, handcrafted wood ornaments. Yet, this one is an experiment in minimalism, as well. With it, I was determined to resolve, once and for all, the question always on everyone’s mind when the snow falls, and the cause of too many sleepless nights, “What is the very essence of a snowman? How much can one strip away from a snowman and still HAVE a snowman? Conversely, and more importantly, what is the LAZIEST you can be when building a snowman?” Apparently, very lazy. Hat. Eyes. Buttons. Scarf. All gone. Listen up kids! Yep, a single ball with a carrot is still a snowman! You will thank me when you are older for all the time you saved in your youth. Now, go back inside to your video games.

Some would call this ornament simplistic, but I think it is cool! The real question is, will Robyn like it?

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

The anticipation was palpable on Christmas morning when Robyn began opening the snowman-sized present (it’s sort of a Pavlovian response after so many years). She was probably mumbling under her breath, “What did he do THIS year? PLEASE let it be… normal. Please. Please. Please…”

Pulling the ornament out of the box, she looked at me with eyebrows raised as if to say, “You surely can do better than THIS. I’d rather have a vacuum cleaner.” Of course, she didn’t actually say that, but we all know she was thinking it. She wasn’t mollified at all when I explained that this is what Apple would do if they designed a snowman ornament. You love your iPhone, right? Instead she asked, “so, where’s the body?” Good thing I made more than one ornament for her this year.

When my son, Beck, handed her the second snowman-sized box to open, she was relieved that she was getting another. “Is this the body?,” she asked before ripping open the package. Obviously, I have not done a good job managing her expectations over the years.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Turns out it was the second in a series of minimal snowman, except this time with a conical-shaped body. Snowmen don’t need to have round bodies, right?

“It looks like a chicken,” she said.

I replied somewhat stoically, “After 23 years, I’m evolving beyond my snowmen phase, right past my blue phase, and into my chicken phase. Nothing says Christmas like chickens.”

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

She was excited, though, when she turned it over to see the family picture. She loves those. “Why is there a bow between us in the picture?, ” she asked. “Seems a bit festive for a minimalist chicken.” To which I explained, the photo was taken at Santa’s Workshop and, as luck would have it, there was a giant donkey’s ass (or is that an ass’s ass?) right between us, so I thought a pretty bow would cover it up nicely. I guess I should have chosen a better place to take the photo.

The third ornament got her smiling. “Aw, that’s so cute! It has a propeller hat. You replicated our entire family with snowmen ornaments this year! This one is Beck, the conical-shaped one is me in a dress, of course, and the first one, the simple, tubby, round one is you.” “Yours looks like a chicken,” I said. O.k., that conversation never really happened, but you know we were all thinking it.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

I consider the fourth snowman in my minimal series an abject failure, being neither minimal nor well ornamented. It falls in between and lacks the conviction of either. I call this soft contemporary. I will speak no more about it.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Upon unwrapping the final snowman, Robyn said, “Now, this is more like it! I love it!” She didn’t know why, but she instinctively knew there was meaning behind this one. Or, at least it didn’t look like a chicken! I couldn’t hold the tears back as I explained its significance. It is quite personal for me. You see, our son Beck turned nine this year, and for the first eight years of his life he was a fixture on my shoulders. We went everywhere together that way. This snowman represents his passage from a child to a boy who is rapidly becoming a man. Not much longer will his dad be able to carry him or will he even want me to. It probably won’t happen until he turns thirty, but I got a head start on the ornament, anyway.

The ornament begins with Beck on my shoulders, then the top portion spins around to show us on our own… alas, forever. I will miss those days, dearly.

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

Tim Bjella - Snowman Ornament 2015

See some photos in progress here: The Making of a Christmas Ornament

Read part 2 here: Snowman Ornament – Year 23 – Part 2

My Favorite Cartoon Duck

Bjella Floor Emblem

Designing anything unique has its pitfalls. Sometimes unexpected things happen, don’t work correctly, or a cartoon duck shows up! The design of this stone tile floor emblem is a great example. Most people never see it (I didn’t until a couple of years after the fact), but if you look carefully (o.k., casually will do), you may see my favorite cartoon duck (no, it’s not Donald). Of course, once you see it, you can never un-see it.

Designed to be elegant, now it’s an elegant conversation piece. Thankfully the homeowners appreciated the humor and wouldn’t change it now if they could.

Bjella Floor Emblem

Daffy Duck

Bjella Floor Emblem

Bjella Floor Emblem

This floor art was painstakingly crafted for us from granite, slate, limestone, marble and stainless steel by the artisans at NVR Surfaces (Formerly Warner Bros. Studios).

See more of my work at Bjella Architecture.

Cantilevered Glass Dinette – Los Angeles, California

Cantilevered Dinette

Designed on a hillside in southern California, this house features a cantilevered glass dinette. Even the floor is glass. With the ground falling away beneath your feet to the distant lights of the city below, it’s the next best thing to flying (except the food is better)!

Cantilevered Dinette

 See more of my work at Bjella Architecture.

Rothenburg via Pencil

Traveling along the Romantic Road in Germany many moons ago, Robyn and I came across the very essence of picturesque. A town that almost oozes character. From this place you can imagine what medieval towns were like 1000 years ago. You may recognize it from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Rothenburg was also used as a backdrop for some of the Harry Potter films. It was not, however, the town shown at the end of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That was Nordlingen (I can’t believe you even thought that). 😉

A nice place to while away the afternoon with a pencil.

Rothenburg, Germany

Tim Bjella Sketches - Rothenburg

Tim Bjella Sketches - Rothenburg

Rothenburg, Germany

Tim Bjella Sketches - Rothenburg

Rothenburg, Germany

Tim Bjella Sketches - Rothenburg

Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg, Germany

 

http://www.bjella.com

Chasing Ghosts – A Minneapolis, Minnesota Modern Kitchen Design… and Re-design

Vent Hood Retrofit

Zoinks!!! It’s not often a kitchen demands an eight foot long vent hood to whisk away the smoke from a cooktop. Naturally, you don’t just walk into The Home Depot and purchase a beast like that, so we custom designed one. Not a very good one, though.

Turns out the vent hood didn’t work. Oh, the unit turned on just fine and looked fantastic! It just didn’t draw smoke out of the kitchen. Two out of three ain’t bad, right? … maybe if you are listening to Meatloaf, but not if you are cooking it.

What went wrong? I immediately suspected ghosts, of course. What else could it be? We had meticulously designed the perfect vent hood for this modern kitchen, accounting for everything down to the tiniest detail. We even specified a roof-mounted blower with the capacity to suck up a small child (although we never actually tested this). We figured we were pretty safe. The homeowners would just have to watch their children. 😉 We thought of everything. Almost.

Vent Hood Prior to Retrofit

When the homeowners finished coughing and wheezing they called the Bjella Special Investigations Team (we’re thinking about getting a van like Scooby-Doo). You can imagine mag-wheels squealing and sirens blaring, the team scrambling to set up specialized computer equipment, drawing diagrams, frantically analyzing algorithms, referencing technical manuals and finally wandering around the kitchen with hand on chin saying things like “hmmm” and “very interesting”. Instead we just lit the burner and watched the smoke rise.

Long story short, I suspected a creepy looking ghost dressed like a man, or visa versa, and wanted to set a trap for it – and possibly have a chase scene. Robyn was skeptical. Cooler heads prevailed. The culprit was, anticlimactically, the house ventilation system. By lightly blowing across the center island, it was short circuiting the air flow from the cooking surface to the vent hood. Yet another reason to place cooktops against walls instead of on center islands (but that’s a topic for another day).

Fabricating a brand new hood would have been costly. We needed to come up with a fix like NASA had for the Hubble Telescope, except significantly less expensive… I take that back. We needed a fix NOTHING like NASA’s.

Because you are undoubtedly on the edge of your seat, sweat on your brow, the solution was simply to extend the hood and create more capture area on the side where the smoke was leaking out. In other words, we put a bill on the hat. Tada! It worked like a charm and, happily, looks even better than the original (oh, and we captured the bad guy. Turns out it was just a dude in a costume. Who would have guessed?).

Shown above is our certified kitchen and cardboard specialist, Robyn (Daphne) Bjella, affixing and testing the mock-up prior to fabrication of the stainless steel retrofit (I mostly sat around taking pictures and eating Scooby snacks – and watching for ghosts).

Vent Hood Retrofit After-2

Vent Hood Retrofit - After

Read more about this Minneapolis, Minnesota modern kitchen by Bjella Kitchen Designers in Trends Magazine.