Alexander Stadler is like a kid in a candy shop, and all the confections are of his own making. No matter which medium — the artist/designer works in many — playfulness is a running theme. His scarves, with their bright color combinations and slightly off-kilter patterns, are expressions of glee rendered in the softest Italian wool.
The title canine of his book, What Willie Wore, prances across a mural in Joan Shepp's Walnut Street boutique wearing duds by Dries van Noten and Issey Miyake.
This fall Stadler added "curator" to the mix when he pulled together Alex Stadler/Modus Operandi, a one-man show of his books, art, and design at Drexel University's Pearlstein Gallery (through Dec. 9). He also organized Philadelphia Produces Original Design (P.POD), a pop-up mart inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Museum Store featuring local designers (through Dec. 31). The pop-up is inspired by risd|works, the shop showcasing work by alumni and students at Stadler's alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design. From $30 to $12,000, everything — even a seven-foot crocheted squid— is for sale. "The best way to learn about art and design," says Stadler, "is to live with it."
Consumed by: Stadler's Graduate Hospital home is a backdrop for many collections of paintings, drawings, ceramics, and textiles, but he is most taken with the baker's dozen of pin-felted doughnuts created by his friend Philadelphia artist Heidi Bleacher. Bleacher was one of the first people Stadler met when he moved to the city in 1993. She gave him the plain doughnut as a Christmas gift, and he immediately commissioned 12 more.
Sweet spot: "I loved doughnuts as a kid," explains Stadler. "Dunkin' Donuts had this doughnut shaped like a clown that was basically the greatest reward I could get." He also loves artist Wayne Thiebaud's bright still-lifes of sweets. "To me, these are like a three-dimensional Wayne Thiebaud."
Perfect recipe: Stadler is a fan of technique, and Bleacher's doughnuts are impeccably rendered. To make them she bought a dozen from Dunkin' and worked from life. Stadler points out the pale band encircling the cake doughnut where the oil didn't fully saturate during deep-frying. "I love the humor," he says. "When something can be funny and impeccable at the same time, that's the ideal combination."
Friends and neighbors: Bleacher's lifelike pastries are for sale at P.POD, as is the work of other friends and acquaintances, some of whom Stadler met at his neighborhood coffee shop. The most expensive item is a motorcycle by Hammarhead Industries, which Stadler heard about from Fergie, his favorite barman. He is happy to partner with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose exhibitions have been a constant source of inspiration. "The [Elsa] Schiaparelli show [in 2003] was a real benchmark for me," he says. "The combination of elegance and wit in her work — that really changed something in my head about what was possible."
Caroline Tiger is a design writer in Philadelphia. Visit her blog at design-phan.com.