What’s Good in Seattle: Black Magic, October 13, 2014

Posted on October 13, 2014, 7:08 pm
8 mins


Black flatters everyone, and it’s everywhere you want to be in Seattle this month, from fashion to food to art. Here are some magical things about black this week and beyond.

Blackbird’s Accessories for Fall/Winter

The closing of Blackbird’s brick-and-mortar operations in Ballard was a blow to many fashionable men in town. I’ve seen broad, strong shoulders sag in defeat every time it is mentioned. What some of these men didn’t know is that Blackbird lives online—and in the occasional pop-up shop—and its small but super-stylish selection of accessories remains strong.

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The scarves are sumptuous and though the devlishly handsome Demonmail one is sold-out at the moment, the Midnight Duelist is a versatile, rugged wrap—5-feet long with raw edges, pure black on one side and black and grey-striped on the other. In most cases, we in Seattle don’t bother with umbrellas, but for when the mist gives way to a deluge it is best to have one, and the angular, aerodynamic Senz umbrella is made to fight the wind that comes blowing in from the sound through the urban canyons. And in the coming short, grey days and long nights as a little darkness creeps into one’s thoughts, the rugged, glass Wōr Beads are a modern rosary—or a strong, statement bracelet. This is more than retail therapy for the SAD-afflicted. It’s an individual totem that combines modern minimalism and primal symbolism.

Black Ink Paintings by Pan Gongkai at The Frye Museum

The word “magic” actually doesn’t do justice to the paintings by established artist and scholar Pan Gongkai at The Frye Art Museum. The works attain a mystical quality and are steeped in centuries of tradition, but their roots are in the natural world expressed through Gongkai’s personal style, which was hard-won in a country that has been hostile at times to expressive work that carried no political agenda. Pan’s father, Pan Tianshou, was also an artist and faced terrible persecution for embracing the aesthetic philosophy that his son now continues.

Moon Fall by Pan Gongkai

Pan Gongkai. “Moon Fall,” 2005. Ink on Paper. Courtesy of the artist.

The show’s title, Withered Lotus Cast in Iron, nods to the austere floral forms present in the works, meditations on time and tradition, and the Pan’s style, which alternates between beautifully gnarled and smooth lines, intense black and placid white. There is so much more to say—I am saying it in a longer review—but for those who don’t need the full story to be inspired just now: You ought to go see these paintings.

Black Licorice at E Smith Mercantile and Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt

Not everyone cares for licorice. Some poor, twisted souls cannot appreciate the bittersweet wonder that is licorice. If you, like me, are a licorice aficionado, then there are two oases worth knowing downtown.

One is E Smith Mercantile (208 1st Ave S). The cozy, crafty space in Pioneer Square is a great spot to grab lunch, a craft cocktail and any number of locally produced dry goods and lifestyle goodies…but they also have jars full of delightful candy to satisfy a sweet craving in small doses. Among the options: rich licorice caramels and piquant licorice chalk. I love both, but the caramels are individually wrapped and are therefore easier to carry and harder to overeat. The struggle is real.

In Pike Place Market, behind the fruit stands in the lowest level of the Corner Market, look for Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt. Seattle’s first frozen yogurt stand, Shy Giant has been in the biz for almost three decades and their tangy yogurts and smoothies are delicious, but they also carry locally-made Snoqualmie Ice Cream—including small batches and flavors you don’t find in most stores. That includes licorice, which might make even diehard licorice fans raise an eyebrow.

I was hesitant the first time, wondering if I could eat an entire scoop. I could actually eat two, it turns out. The dark grey goop is a wonderful, smooth and not overwhelming licorice flavor. It pairs surprisingly well with other rich flavors. My favorite combo: Licorice with Cherry Amaretto. It sounds bizarre…and maybe it is, but don’t knock it until you try it.


Bonus Round:


For the fashionistas: Jonquil & Mr. Black by designer Jordan Christianson and Lovewell Couture by milliner Brenda Bryan host an installment of the event series Cocktails and Couture: HEAD+HAND+HOOF at Roq La Rue Gallery (532 1st Ave S) on Saturday, October 18. The designers invite you to pre-func with them starting at 7 PM, with jewelry designer Kristina Cullen and footwear designer James Grow. The designs will be modeled, drinks will be served, and all by the backdrop of the intricate collages of Handiedan and—on theme for this post—the rich, black, bewitching ink drawings of local artist Sail Uselessarm. See more on the Facebook event page.

Put on Your Black Tie: Pilchuck’s Black Tie Gala and Auction is on October 24 and RSVPs were requested by October 11, but as of this morning the site is still accepting a few late RSVPs online. If you forgot and and want to attend, do it ASAP.

Bye Bye, Black Coffee: This is the last week that Black Coffee Co-op will reside on Capitol Hill. Some are not too broken up about it leaving. And by some, I mean most everyone within a 4-block radius, or anyone (including myself) who was routinely slurred when passing by. If you are a fan, here is a reminder to pay your respects. If you are not—only one week left to endure it.

Rumblings of Black Mountain: A new music venue in Belltown is under construction. Vanguard readers may have seen mention of it before, but now it is quite official and we are all quite excited, as this is a new development that promises to be true to Seattle’s local character. It’s called Black Mountain, and it won’t be far from another, beloved Belltown music venue. More to come!

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.