Mid Century Designer Artifact

Collectible Autographed and Dated “Whistling Bird” Teakettle by Michael Graves (1934 - 2015) | Mid Century Artifact



Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 8-1/2”dia x 9-0”h

Michael Graves, one of the twentieth century's most renowned architects and product designers designed three teakettles. Grave was brought to Arizona State University, School of Design to lecture in 1988 and to present his original sketchbook concepts and then move the design student body, and invited guests through his entire design process, including studies of various kettle details (spout, whistle, handles, etc.), color studies, dimensional drawings, renderings, study models, prototypes and finally, production pieces. The Eminent Scholar Lecture program established by Professor Wolf was intended to give the design majors a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the design process from original concept to production pieces ready for the consumer market. 

This original Alessi teakettle, (#9093) in 18/10 stainless steel has a blue handle and red bird-shaped whistle in PA resin at the end of the spout. This celebrated kettle sings when the water has boiled. This teakettle was a great success when it was introduced in 1985, and the focus of a meeting of design students in which he shared his philosophy on mass production methods, a combination that Michael Graves worked hard to achieve, applying his personal visual code which fused influences from Art Deco to Pop Art, and even the language of cartoons. In this offer to sell are included the following items (see images presented at the left of this page):

  • Signed and dated (etched) TeaKettle
  • The original box (commensurate with age)
  • CD of the pre-interview w/Graves
  • One pencil-signed poster announcing Graves's presentation.

Condition: The teakettle is in excellent, original condition with etched signature on the bottom of the piece. It is in its original box, (slightly tattered from age). The other items are in workable and visually excellent condition.

NOTE: Biographical Information on Michael Graves

Michael Graves was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1934. He received his training in architecture at the University of Cincinnati and at Harvard University. Michael Graves was an American architect, designer, and educator, as well as principal of Michael Graves and Associates and Michael Graves Design Group. He was a member of The New York Five and the Memphis Group – and a professor of architecture at Princeton University for nearly forty years. In his private practice, Graves has completed a variety of projects including residences, multiple-family housing, medical facilities, museums, cultural facilities, and town plans. Following his own partial paralysis in 2003, Graves became an internationally recognized advocate of health care design. 

He was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1960 and studied at the American Academy in Rome for two years. Graves is a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1962. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, the University of Houston, U.C.L.A., and the New School for Social Research, and has lectured on his work throughout this country and Europe. He won five PROGRESSIVE ARCHITECTURE design awards, for his Rockefeller, Snyderman, Crooks, and Graves Houses for his Chem-Fleur Factory Addition and Renovation. In addition, he won the 1975 National Honor Award of the American Institute of Architects for his Hanselmann House. His work has been presented at the Museum of Modern Art in three exhibitions: “The New City”, in 1967; “The Architecture Studies and Projects,” in 1975. His drawings have also been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Museum and the Drawing Center. Graves was one of the six architects selected to present the United States at XV Triennale in Milan, Italy in 1973. His work has appeared in many periodicals as well as in several recent books: Five Architects, Architettura Razional, GA Houses, and The Language of Post Modern Architecture.

Additional Shared Experience: Published ICON Article and Background Information Documenting the TeaKettle Offered is the following article which is quoted as it appeared in ASID ICON Magazine, Summer 2015, and written by Dr. Beverly K Brandt professor emerita of Arizona State University.

My Dinner With Michael

Sitting next to Michael Graves at a banquet for graduating seniors in May 1988 was a highlight of my first year of teaching at Arizona State University. My department chair, Robert Wolf, had invited Graves on behalf of the Arizona Design Institute Eminent Scholar Lecture Program to serve as keynote speaker. His speech, titled “Symbolism and Its Relationship to Artifact,” was apropos. He had created his iconic teakettle with bird whistle spout a few years earlier and, in the process, had begun to revolutionize household products.

No longer content with spare, abstract modernism, Graves wanted to return the element of storytelling to building, interiors, and their contents.

Wolf had purchased one of Grave’s teakettles, and he brought it, along with an electric engraving tool, to the banquet, hoping for an autograph. Graves obliged but confessed that the whole process was a bit awkward because he’d never before tired to write his signature on metal. He autographed posters and programs for a crush of students before and after his talk.

Graves had had a connection with Wolf being educator colleagues since the early 1980s and asked two of his students Lisa Hodge and Dixie Johnson conducted a telephone interview with Graves. This article relies in part on that interview, which was supplied by Wolf. Then, in 1985,  Wolf asked Graves to meet with ASU faculty and students for which several product design students asked Graves to autograph their personal sketchbook, and Graves obliged with a fantasy drawing being published here for the first time.

Graves seemed to enjoy his visit to speak at ASU in 1988, commenting that he had lectured previously only at “private architectural schools.” That widening of his sphere of influence – from the rarified atmosphere of Princeton, Penn, Columbia, and Yale to the more common tier of the public institution – marked a parallel shift in his career. The 1980s was the decade in which Graves was designing for a large corporations and institutions. In the next decade, he launched a line of affordable products for the home, including his toilet brush for Target.

To democratize good design, Graves abandoned the modernist adherence to “design by subtraction” and embraced a post modernists’ preference for “design by addition.” Anything the modernist had removed, the postmodernist restored. This led to t he reintroduction of bright varied color, decorative motifs and patterns, myriad materials and faux textures, irregular shapes and those influenced by historical precedent, details borrowed from advertising or cartoons, and witty elements. 

Grave’s embrace of a broader audience might be what drew him to collaborate with the Memphis Design Group – the impish, international collective of architects and designers – that held annual exhibition in Milan in the 1980s and turned the modernist design canon on its head. For Memphis, Graves produced his Plaza dressing table (1981), a combination of tiered art deco skyscraper., Hollywood starlet’s vanity, and comical startled face.

At the time of our dinner conversation, I was still a child of modernism, having been taught by academics who exposed the Miesian imperative “less is more.” I found Graves’ work to be fascinating and a bit appalling. It was only years later that I cam to appreciate his bold colors and patterns, quirky shapes, historicist references, and wit. Love it or hate it, postmodernism hits you in the gut. It made me re-evaluate every design theory and principle I held dear.

What do I remember most abut my conversation with Michael Graves? We joined our dinner companions at the head table, the first course arrived, and I asked him a question: “What projects are you working on right now that really excites you?” At that point the dialogue ended, and my dinner partner launched into an hour-long monologue, barely stopping to breathe or eat. He regaled me with tales of his current projects, which included his metropolis master plan for Los Angeles (never build), the Tajima office building (Tokyo), and Disney’s Hotel New York (Marne-la-Vallee, France.) 

For my part, I smiled and urged, “tell me more” in between dainty bites, carefully not to dribble on my evening dress. I hope that Michael Graves had a wonderful time. I know I did. As soon as dinner concluded, he stood up and strode to the podium to deliver his lecture. He spoke of projects finished, those underway, and ones he hoped to tackle in the future. He wished to work on projects that were “neither urban nor rural” but those that occupied a “middle ground.” He hoped to transform workspaces in the strip mall and the office park, to develop multi-use complexes, and, perhaps, have an opportunity to design a church.

Each of these projects would expand his work beyond his portfolio for large corporations and institution by enabling him to reach inhabitants of the work-a-day world. An he planned to continue to design” chairs, tables, rugs, lamps, and silverware.” These are, he stressed, “just a difficult to make (as architecture), but the gratification comes sooner” given the ease and speed of production.

He said “ the brain is a mixing bowl,” and I wonder if he realized that he’d evoked the homely metaphor of the kitchen – the place where so many of his new products resided. He advised students, “to read, to look, to study history, to draw ideas, and to know the language of (contemporary) society” to fill their own mixing bowls. The desire to connect with contemporary society and to meet the needs of everyday client and customers drew Michael Graves out of the ivory tower and into the aisles of Target and JCPenny. His work reflected the eclectic combination of ingredients within his missing bowl of a brain, and his discomfort in emulating a single theory, model, or person enabled him to find delight in aspects of everyday life. His work is an expression of pluralist tendencies at their best.


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Customer Reviews

One of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years

I recently purchased one of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years. The information you provided was excellent, the piece is in mint condition as advertised, with a subject matter I did not have in my collection.

— dbl

Delightful and well written book

Just downloaded my ebook on Sosaku Kokeshi. Excellent and so excited to see that you transposed the hardbound version. Exceptional large color images with great descriptions and details. It is so nice to have a copy I can carry when touring and when I am on-line shopping for Kokeshi. Also nice not to have to pay for international shipping.

— Author's name

A great doll

As always, a carefully packed order arrived this morning. This Sosaku Kokeshi – Takeda, Nori Aki Kaze is a great doll. Her large attractive head and maple leaf pattern, along with the vibrant colour make this doll very intriguing. Another copy of your new book that I have ordered for my friend will be a great Christmas Present for him. Much appreciated. I have also enjoyed furthering my knowledge of Japanese Antiques and Collectibles through your website.

— Kathy

You did the subject justice

Vintage Kokeshi and its history is absolutely a topic thats close to my heart, so Im pleased that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject justice bringing the history of these creative artifacts to light. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know the way to present the subject in a way that individuals will wish to read far more. Im so happy to know a person/site like you exists on the internet. I understand you are writing a book on Sosaku Kokeshi artists. That will be high on my list for there is nothing in English on the subject, and I am worried that the craftsmen and their creations will be lost as Japan becomes more western in attitude. Doomo arigato gozaimasu from Japan.

— Misugi

Truly opened my eyes

I recently purchased your book on Kokeshi and what a find after collecting for over 10 years with no information to base my purchases on. Now I have YOUR ILLUSTRATIVE BOOK and it has truly opened my eyes. All the associated stories and folk tales give such light to my collection. A curator at the Japanese American National Museum in LA told me about this great resource. Your book happens to be astonishingly precise although I can understand why someone else has not written a book on the subject, because all the artists producing Kokeshi remain obscure and little information available has not been translated. Your book truly did switch the light on for me personally as related to Japanese folk art.

— John G

Detailed textual information & beautiful photographs

We just received your new book, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition. Let us be the first to congratulate you on this superb follow-up to Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan. Your comprehensive text with its notes on the artists and the beautiful photography create a work that any collector of Kokeshi should have if they wish to develop an understanding of and knowledge about this Japanese folk art. We don’t know which is better (Does either have to be better?), the detailed textual information or the beautiful photographs. Both insist upon and rightfully demand spending time to enjoy and appreciate them. Thank you so much for adding to our appreciation of Kokeshi.

— Masakazu & Keiko Ota

Another great Kokeshi book edition

Another great Kokeshi book edition. I was thrilled to see many of the Kokeshi in my collection in your book. I even found a few that I still had not been able to identify, it was nice to finally know the artisans behind my wonderful collection.

— M. Molina

My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to

Whether you are a kokeshi doll collector like I am, or exploring Japanese folk art for the first time, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition is a wonderful, informative resource for collectors and a lovely visual introduction to Sosaku dolls. I just purchased a copy of the book, and I could not be more pleased! With its beautiful colour photographs, signatures and profiles of the artists along with titles of the dolls, it is a well-researched, comprehensive resource. While some dolls featured in the book were familiar to me, I was also introduced to artists and dolls that I have never seen or heard of before.

These two books have helped me to learn so much more about kokeshi dolls, and influence my thoughts on the process of doll selection. My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to. These two books have become an extension of and just as much a part of my collection as the dolls that sit on my shelves.

— Karen W.

WONDERFUL exposition.

The artwork on each doll is literally like a unique painting historically recording the Japanese culture. Thank you for your fine work and this educational experience.

— TM

After we purchased the first one, we fell irresistibly in love

We started collecting Kokeshi only a short time ago with the expert guidance of Michael and Robert. Beginning with a goal of three or four dolls for each of our granddaughters, we almost immediately changed our goal after we purchased the first one and fell irresistibly in love with this Japanese folk art.

We have amassed a small collection that we display proudly.

In spite of our limited background and only a little research to support our evaluation, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition is a magnificent work on the subject of these wooden dolls which make up a segment of the folk arts of Japan. The detailed background materials on the artists and the notes on the dolls can be an invaluable part of one’s collection. The marvelous photography is an excellent complement to the text, as we re-viewed the images many times, envying the owner of each doll.

— Koigirl

I love my new jewelry box!!

Just want to say MAHALO — love my new jewelry box!! I wanted this tobacco box to hold my modest collection of jewelry. I tend to march to the beat of a different drummer most of the time, and I often repurpose items. When I saw this lovely Japanese box you were selling, I thought “bingo!” — perfect!! So, many thanks… and I hope to occasionally purchase an item now and then now that I know about you!

— Kristi

Delightful Kokeshi book

I received your delightful Kokeshi book, and I am very grateful to have discovered this beautiful publication. The photographs are singular elegant portraits. It is wonderful you have included the calligraphy kanji signature of the craftsman, as important as the beautiful painted dolls. Your book gives provenance to my small treasured collection and a guide in my search for more. Exciting to also discover a few of mine already in your book. Many thanks again for gifting this special kokeshi edition and I hope to continue to share the joy.

— Tania

Oh my goodness! She has arrived and she is divine!

She was beautifully packed and arrived safe and sound. She is so gorgeous and I thank you so much for all that you have done along the way. You provide such a professional yet also personable business and it was a delight dealing with you.
Thank you for bringing such gorgeous items to our attention – these Kokeshis are ‘works of art’ and we are lucky to be able to purchase them and bring them into our lives and homes.
I had to send you a photo of her with her new family and I have to say, as you predicted, she fits in beautifully.
I shall keep an eye on your website for further ‘treasures’.

— Karen, the lucky owner of ‘Pigtails’ by Ishihara, Hideo

Mingei Arts can't be beat!

Thank you for your attention and guidance to a new mingei collector. Both your publication and mingei are outstanding, your packing is perfect and shipping prompt.

— Brenda

Really beautiful.

Got the vase over the weekend. Somehow this medium really speaks to me, at least the objects where most everything is in different shades of brown. Very appealing. Yes, too bad I missed out on the ginger jars you had for sale. Ah well, it’s all OK in the universe. And what clever use of materials for safe packing!

— Da-Shih

Shopping through the items in this store is like treasure hunting, without the hunting.

I have several items from Robert & Michael’s collection now and they all hold a special place in my home and warm my heart when I see them. Something about the art from Japan just makes me feel at peace and also comforted.

— Jessie

I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi

Your time and personal attention was gratefully appreciated. I could not be happier with my three new Kokeshi – I have them displayed where I pass by often so I can stop and look at them – they always bring a smile to my face! They make me HAPPY! I also love your book and eBook. Thank you so much!

— Barb

Opened my eyes to the diversity and beauty of an amazing art form

It wasn’t until I got your book that I realized what I had been missing these past years! Now I am totally addicted.

— B

Great spinning top

I purchased a vintage spinning top for a gift, and I absolutely love it! The ordering process was fast and easy, and the item was in the condition described on the website.

— Carmela

Thank you for sending this book to me

It is beautiful, so informative and stunning pictures. Well done to you both for producing this. Any wonder so many people around the world love it. I  will love using it as my reference book. You have both been so lovely to deal with……I look to you both as experts in all things Kokeshi and Japanese art, and look forward to our continued friendship across the world.
🙏🏻🐨💐🥂👘🌎🌏🍱 🥰

— Karen