Jack Lenor Larsen

Internationally known textile designer, author and collector, Jack Lenor Larsen, is one of the world’s foremost advocates of traditional and contemporary crafts with an active interest in ceramics. Larsen’s East Hampton home, the LongHouse Reserve, which became a non-profit museum in the early 1990’s, houses his extensive collection.

Harry Dennis: In your fabrics you have sought a certain irregularity and even attempted to manufacture a handmade aesthetic. How important is the human touch to the design process?

Jack Lenor Larsen: Organic randomness is very desirable in today’s world. Most of the surfaces around us are monotonous, without broken color and texture, or the kind of psychic relief found in nature. On a subliminal level, irregularity now appeals to us.

Dennis: Is your love of Asian art partly tied to their embrace of imperfections?

Larsen: East Asians, particularly the Japanese, have more acceptance of imperfection. The West did too, until the Industrial period. Commercial white bread and white sugar are examples of over refinement and the quest to eliminate variants. Now we’ve learned to like bread without refined flour because it is more interesting, tasty, textural and nutritious!

Dennis: In the 1970’s you were trying to give urban professionals the design equivalent of a calming walk on the beach. What do you think people need in their designs today?

Larsen: Most importantly, they need to reinforce their personal identity. Today we need as many tastes as possible; we need pluralism. I feel strongly that everyone being standardly tasteful would be a great mistake.

Dennis: Regarding works in your own art collection, you’ve identified a common denominator as “objects existing outside the conventions I knew.”

Larsen: I buy avant-garde art in various media, but even here the aesthetic still tends to be old and within a long tradition. Pieces that are understated and unpresumptuous attract my eye.