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What Artist Peter Shire Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked artist Peter Shire — the only American member of the MEMPHIS design collective, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year — about the head scratcher, sex oil, and watch he can’t live without.

It has these things that look like little raindrops on the end and you can just kind of squeeze it on your head. It looks like a whisk and your head feels like whipped cream. I do it to myself but it’s really great when someone else does it. It’s like sex: It’s good both ways, but it is more of the real thing with someone else. If I’m getting headachey from being on the computer for a while or I’ve been on a phone call that got me worked up, this relieves me. But it’s good at any time of day. Sometimes Donna, my wife, will do it to me at night. She’ll sneak up on me in bed.

I use these for normal pencil-type things, like taking notes. But they really come in handy when I’m making stuff — like if I’m working on glazed ceramic or glass or marking metals for cutting, things like that. They’re a totally different thing than, say, a Prismacolor pencil — for some reason, they write on everything. And they have the best-looking back, where the eraser would be. Plus they come in lots of colors. Art supplies have their own power. They have so much potential, it’s like the Degas lurking within you.

We use tons of this. It’s a really nice sexual enhancer — smooth and silky with a very light scent that is reminiscent of a mountain meadow crossed with an exquisite rendezvous. It turns me into an animal. Luckily I’m married to a lively 76-year-old. The guy that makes it has this crazy house up on a hill in the middle of Eagle Rock. You wouldn’t believe this house. He’s got the whole hill and this pink house, which he calls Flamingo Estate, that was formerly a porn studio. We met at a dinner party he invited me to before he even knew me and have been friends ever since.

Laila Gohar and Duncan Hanna, both of whom I met through the profoundly missed Jim Walrod, introduced me to this vest. The company is based in England. I have it in red, but it also comes in white and sort of a khaki brown, which are both really groovy. I dribble too much to wear white and brown is too elegant for me. Keeping your core warm is a good cold-weather trick. Sometimes you can wear a winter coat in California, but it’s not like New York. Plus, even when it’s cold, I have to be able to move my arms. I wear it on special days — days when I know I’m not going to get mucky — but my dream would be to have ten of them and not care if I caked up clay all over one.

Wow this knife is sharp. It’s bitchin’. The Japanese believe that different types of steel impart different types of flavor. The great thing about this is it’s stainless, so it won’t rust. And you don’t have to worry about the wood handle getting messed up in water because it has some kind of protection so it can stay wet for a little longer. I don’t want to say, “Leave it in the sink.” But someone else might.

Canyon Coffee Trio Box
$55
$55

It’s roasted in Echo Park and produces a crema, which a lot of American coffee — most, in fact — does not. My coffee routine is partly nostalgic, it brings back the habit of having it at six every morning in Murano and going to the glass factory. People aren’t really in the shops first thing in the morning in Venice, but the coffee machines and their aromas are up. So their smell is coupled with the smell of Venice. That’s just the spirit there, and if a coffee doesn’t have crema, I’m not having it. I’ll go into a coffee shop and say, “It doesn’t have a crema. It’s not really what I wanted.” And the employee will go, “Well, no one else complained.” I’m like, okay, good for them.

I would love to have a $20,000 watch or even a $10,000 watch. But I think it’s a little bit like having a Porsche, which a collector once let me borrow for a week. She gave me this list of stuff that I had to watch out for, like people following too close behind me and paying attention to where I parked. If you’re driving an expensive car, you’re kind of a target — having a fancy watch also falls into that category. There’s none of that with a Timex because it’s sort of working class. This one lights up in the dark. Who would spend $20,000 on a bloody watch that doesn’t light up in the dark? What’s the point?

I’m constantly buying brushes to see which ones I like, but this is still the best one. No. 7 is the top of the line and it lasts the longest. With a watercolor brush, you want that spring, you want it to bounce back when you lift it off of a page. I do a lot of watercolors while I’m watching TV.

Photo: Courtesy: Peter Shire

They used to make these cloths out of linseed oil but now they’re all vinyl. The cloths are made in Mexico, but I mostly get them from my brother’s store, Wacko, or from a woman over in Highland Park who sells them wholesale. You can get all sorts of prints, like fruits and flowers. But I like stripes. I use the cloths for everything. They make great drawer liners. We use them as tablecloths, which is a really classic use, and I’ve used them to make colored panels on sculptures. You can also use them for upholstery or to make a sensational door covering.

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What Artist Peter Shire Can’t Live Without