Altadena Public Library: Jewel of the Foothills

by Pasadena Adjacent

Several years ago I visited the Altadena Public Library for the first time. Although mesmerized by this fine mecca of mid century modernism, there is one detail that escapes it’s most adamant admirers. The woodwork. I’m not talking stacks and chairs but those gems of bio-morphic abstraction; the tiles that grace it’s other circulation desk. Based on two patterns, they’re not stamped nor cast, but hand carved mahogany. And each tile shows slight variations in the carving.                                                                Head over heels smitten, and coming off a series of tiles based on bio-morphic pod forms, I decided to do a riff off the library tile patterns. Note the jazz term “riff” its a nod to African woodcarving. Something I also sense in these patterns. My tiles are ceramic; 8.5 x 8.5 Black Mountain stoneware, copper oxide and a limited color pallate. Enlarge and admire                                                                                                                                                                                        Last weekend, with the assistance of Altadena’s finest (librarians), we were able to track down the original paperwork to the artisans who made this library what it is. Enlarge – some of them are still in business, and if not, they hold court in the pantheon of classic modernist design. But another surprise awaited me. The discovery of  more carved tiles in the children’s section.

Again – “smitten”

In conclusion, a nod to the other artist whose work occupies the grounds of the Altadena Public library. The 7’x14′ water sculpture at the main doorway “Tree of Life” (no longer in operation) and the “Owl Tree” on the south entrance, is by Altadena artist David Green. The “Owl” in the children’s section and “Lady” in the fern garden is by Armenian sculptor Nishan Toor.

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