Tell me a little bit about the Devenish Group and how it all started….
I’ve been teaching for 24 years at Parsons and NYU on the subject of furniture and decorative arts. I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the students. They were all telling me that now a lot of them have got good jobs with their own companies doing interior design, but they miss some kind of camaraderie, getting together, sharing ideas about business, and they also miss the education and being on top of what’s new and what’s going on in the design world. They didn’t want to go back to school because it was too time consuming. A lot of them have got families now or other responsibilities, but if we had something now and then where people could get together that had an educational aspect to it would be great.
And you call these events Salons?
Yes, it’s a revival of things they did in the 18th century. It’s where people just want to talk, they want to ask questions, they want some information, yes, but they don’t want too much of a lecture. They want to interact. That’s what makes a salon different from a panel discussion or the like.
What were you doing before the Devenish Group? How did you end up working in decorative arts?
I’ve always been a teacher. I started as a Kindergarten teacher. I think that did a lot for me because it taught me to get through to young kids, 4 or 5, and it’s the same thing to get through to somebody at 50!
After my teaching I got married to one of the best antique dealers, I would say, in the country at that time. My husband had a fabulous store on Madison Avenue and he was always in the big antique shows, I began to learn from the best. He had an impeccable inventory, beautiful things, and I used to do a lot of the research while he was off buying. I got to know the general public, the other dealers, the entire business.
What is your favorite part of putting together a Salon?
I love connecting people, I think that’s what I’m good at. The other thing is that I love learning myself. Just because of my age and the fact that I stayed in the business all these years, I have so many connections, I am able to bring together experts and young designers and clients. It’s very, very rewarding because you meet great people and it keeps you young– you’re increasing your skills, you’re getting smarter because nobody knows it all!
Some favorite Salon topics from previous years?
Last year I did a huge thing on exotic woods and I got a totally different crowd than usual. I’ve done one on silver and I’ve done one on lacquer. I just take a topic and I go with it and I try and find the smartest people in the industry that I know.
Any advice to people starting out in decorative arts or design fields?
Whatever you’re doing with your life, be passionate and share the passion. I think that’s what that’s all about.