Famed textile, pattern and interior designer Alexander Girard was known for his colorful work across many disciplines, but perhaps his most personal project was his displays for the International Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, his home for decades. The home for his thousands of toys and folk art pieces, Girard designed every aspect of the museum, bringing to life the colors and collectibles that were his passion. Containing more than 100,000 pieces from more than 100 countries, the space is a child's wonderland, and while many kids have visited, only a select few who were grandchildren of the designer had the luck of getting private tours on a regular basis. During a Design Week event at the Vitra store in New York earier this month celebrating the launch of the new Girard accessories collection, Aleishall and her brother Kori Girard — grandchildren of Alexander, designers themselves and members of the Girard Foundation, the family's effort to help preserve their grandfather's legacy —both talked about their experiences with him and his work. Curbed spoke with Aleishall, who got to know her grandfather over the last 12 years of his life, about her relationship with him and her unique vantage point on the life and work.
Proper, But Playful
"Based on both my grandparents's physical age and the way that they carried themselves, they were considered very proper. He had a great sense of humor, and was very soft in many ways, and playful. My grandmother ran a tight ship. You were expected to sit up straight. If I had to go to the bathroom, I would have to say "Can I go to Paris?" But even things like that exhibited a sense of humor."
Grandpa Gave Pretty Cool Gifts
"He made us a cubby at our level, so we could play with whatever toys we wanted to. He carved a wooden box for us that had a monkey skull inside. It was endlessly fascinating. You could see where the brain fit into the skull, this beautiful carved piece of wood; we still have it. For our birthdays, our grandparents sourced from the best local toy stores from around the world. But they were never those wooden dolls; our grandfather made them as a bit of a test, and then put them in storage. My brother actually found them stored in the archive and then we worked to have them reproduced."
Field Trips Were Fun
"My grandfather doesn't t like driving very much, he liked to be driven; it was ore of a European thing, there was always a drive to take him where he wanted to go. Plus, he'd rather doodle in the backseat. His biggest labor of love was the Folk Art Museum. It was his passion to travel the world and travel and collect toys, so to being able to design every aspect of the installations, to pull a thread through all these cultures … it's only now as an adult that I realize how amazing it was to have that building as part of my regular routine."
His Influence Was Subtle
"This is something my brother and I have discussed a lot. His influence, it was a lot of subconscious infiltration, living with folk art, design and color always surrounding us. I've never been afraid of mixing colors. Nobody sat us down and said, this is what your grandfather does. My father and mother carried it on in their own ways, too—my dad built old-style adobe homes around Santa Fe and built every home we lived in. My grandfather was very humble. He moved to Santa Fe, the middle of nowhere in the '50s, it was a lot of dirt roads and nobody else around in terms of design. He wasn't about notoriety, he just wanted to be close to Latin America, one of his biggest inspirations."
· More Alexander Girard posts [Curbed]