Visitors on tours around Taliesin West see the dragon fountain repurposed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s third wife, Olgivanna, to breathe fire.
However, there was nothing that represented it in Taliesin West’s gift shop.
“I thought it was a shortfall because it was such a popular item on the tour,” said Mark Johnson, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s hospitality services director.
The thought led to a collaboration with eight local and international artists for gift shop and online store pieces. Representing all of Taliesin West, the new products have been designed to celebrate the renowned architect’s influence and heritage in Arizona.
“I really wanted to do a T-shirt and I envisioned this tattoo, flash-style artwork of the dragon,” Johnson said. “As it turns out, one of the nation’s foremost Japanese tattoo artists is right here in Old Town Scottsdale.”
The artist, Josh Carter, agreed to create a design for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The T-shirt turned into a best-selling item.
“Most museum stores today have an area where they showcase local products, but there’s not many where you’ll see actual collaboration with those artists and the museum,” Johnson said.
“We wanted to change that because it seemed to follow our foundation’s mission best.”
More than half of the artists featured in Taliesin West’s new collections are local to Scottsdale or the Valley. One of the most popular items are scarves made by local art and design studio director Blaise Danio, of Buhlaixe Studio in Phoenix. He also paints murals throughout the Valley.
Another standout is Teri Welsch of Scottsdale, who designs rain chains inspired by Wright’s stained glass work. They feature stones from the Sonoran Desert.
Cosanti jeweler Jason Catlin of Paradise Valley designed jewelry inspired by Taliesin West’s Cabaret Theatre.
While these are just a few of the featured artists, the local collaborations are available at Taliesin West’s gift shop and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s website.
“It has been really rewarding working with all these artists,” Johnson said. “They are honored to have their work associated with Frank Lloyd Wright’s name and we are thrilled to be a part of that.’
The collaborations were mutually beneficial for the artists and for Taliesin West, he adds.
“When people were at home, they were nesting and wanting to buy beautiful things for their homes,” Johnson said. “So, our website really took off and created a need for these products. And for the artists, many of whom did not currently have a venue due to the pandemic, it helped them maintain their artistry and livings.”
The sales help Taliesin West, too, as tours are limited due to the pandemic. Retail has become the main source of revenue. He encourages art lovers to not only visit to appreciate the local artisans, but to take in the cultural and artistic heritage of Wright in Arizona.
“There is a longstanding legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in the community, and I think that is something to be celebrated. Through working with artists, I think it’s really furthered the foundation’s goal of preserving that culture, but also expanding it to include other art in the Valley.”