An Eppich Search For An Artful ChairFriday, September 07, 2012
|Alex W-H sitting on an Arthur Erickson/Francisco Kripacz chair |
owned by Hugo Eppich
September 7, 2012, Scotia Dance Centre
Mamiya RB-67 140mm lens, Ektachrome 100G
The above photograph of yours truly which I took today, is the end result of a progression of photographs that did not begin in 1992 when I photographed Arthur Erickson in his garden sitting on a Richard Schultz chair. I had taken many photographs of Erickson before and subsequently. The sequence may have begun in 1988 when Business in Vancouver (I was the first photographer who took pictures for this Vancouver business weekly) dispatched me to photograph Ebco industrialist Helmut Eppich. In Ebco’s Surrey plant, a cavernous building, I saw Boeing airliner wings being fabricated and being assembled. My guess is that Eppich, in the third photograph, is holding what I would call an airplane wing rib.
A week ago on Friday August 31st, the very day of my 70th birthday, this obsolete photographer was called by a local arts weekly to take pictures of artists for their fall arts issue. The theme was to be “an artful chair” which was to have a concrete wall as backdrop. The artists were to sit or whatever.
|Arthur Erickson on an Eric Shultz chair, 1992 |
Mamiya RB-67 140mm lens, Ektachrome 100
But it didn’t take me long to think of Arthur (Art? Nobody that I know ever would have dared called him that.) Erickson and the Eric Schultz chair. Even in 1992 those chairs were in a sad state of disrepair.
The idea of borrowing one of them (the very chair where Erickson once sat, and consider that I special situations I do believe in ghosts and spirits) gave me goose pimples! Unfortunately the president of the Arthur Erickson Foundation, Simon Scott, who manages the Erickson garden where the chairs are stacked on the side of the house, never returned my calls. I did not find out until a bit later that this was to become a blessing in disguise.
I was ready to give up when I remembered Helmut Eppich. He has a beautiful Erickson designed house in West Vancouver. I called him up. He told me that he did not have any Richard Schultz chairs like the ones in Erickson’s garden but that his twin brother (who also lives in an Erickson designed house) would probably satisfy my needs. I called up Hugo Eppich who in a most friendly manner told me he would lend me a chair.
I would like to interrupt my narrative here to mention that the Eppich brothers have manifested an unusual appreciation for houses and things Erickson. In fact Hugo had Erickson look at several lots in West Vancouver in the mid 80s until they both agreed on the one that was the perfect one. Then Hugo gave Erickson full control to build the house as he saw fit, design the furniture, the lighting fixtures and even landscape the garden with the professional supervision of landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander (Robson Square). And because Ebco fabricated and dealt with steel, the Hugo Eppich house became a steel house in which the steel was fabricated to Erickson’s requirements.
Shortly before Erickson died Hugo Eppich had him design a studio to be built at the end of the property. The studio is about to be finished by Erickson’s partner, Nick Milkovich.
When I went to pick up the chair with my friend Paul Leisz who has a bigger car than my Malibu we were given a tour and it became most evident that the Eppich brothers have an unusual respect for Erickson as an architect, as a man, as a thinker and as an artist. Perhaps only Frank Lloyd Wright was another of the few architects given complete carte blanche when building a house. As we toured the house I knew that every door knob, every hinge, everything, was chosen by Erickson. Eppich’s wife had a couple of requests. In the late 80s, when the house was finally built, the Eppichs had small children. She wanted to make sure that when she was cooking in the kitchen or ironing in another room that she could see what her children were doing. The result is a soaring house of steel and glass.
We were shown the chairs. I was let down. The chairs were not the dull gray I remembered. These had been restored and painted white. And when I asked Eppich if Erickson had ever sat on any of them he said, “No.”
|Helmut Eppich, 1988|
Mamiya RB-67 140mm lens Ektachrome 100
Eppich noticed my blatant disappointment and said,” You haven’t seen the chairs in the living room.”
When I saw the apparitions in chromed steel with blood red upholstery (that's what they were!), I rapidly remembered that I had been in that house before (a fund raising campaign for the Erickson Foundation) and I had seen the chairs.
“These chairs," Eppich told me with obvious pride, “were designed by Arthur and Francisco Kripacz who was an interior designer that Erickson worked a lot with.” Eppich did not have to confirm my suspicion that one of the chairs was the prototype and that his firm Ebbco had fabricated it.
It wasn’t too long a journey for me to take, that the artful chair would be placed by the concrete wall on the roof of the Erickson designed Scotia Dance Centre on Davie and Granville.
I have taken my pictures and they will grace next Thursday’s Georgia Straight. The photographs are very good, perhaps better than some that I have taken in the past. I can only assert that if that is the case it is because I had lots of help from the man whose taste was impeccable in life (in spite of those flip-flops on his feet) and whose ghost was surely assisting and inspiring me in my task.