Late Tuesday afternoon I received the sad new that Erica Wilson, Vladimir Kagan's amazing wife, had passed away from a stroke. Erica Wilson was a legend in her own right, known as the foremost expert of needle-work. She is credited with the mid twentieth century rebirth of needlework in the US, but to hear her tell it, as I was lucky enough to, all that was a bit of an accident. I remember her telling me that she came to the US for a teaching job and found herself "teaching the Rockefellars and all the society ladies how to cross stitch". I thought about Wilson years later when I shot the Miller House and found out that Xenia Miller did all the needlework on the cushions of her custom Saarinen Tulip chairs. I wondered if she had taken one of those classes.
When I walked into the Kagan's apartment for the first time to shoot their apartment for Handcrafted Modern, I will admit I had no idea who she was. She was just so incredibly sweet and welcoming to me that I instantly liked her. The funny thing is, when I talked to my Mom that first night, I mentioned who Kagan was married to (my Mom is an avid needlepointer) and she was so excited about my meeting Erica Wilson (Valdimir Kagan? she had no idea who he was.) Throughout the two days of my shoot at the Kagan's apartment, Erica would pop into the room I was photographing and check on me. She told me some great stories, too. There was one wood stool in the living room that was rather organic and rough. It was a departure from most everything in their apartment so I asked her about it. She told me that it was from one of her old boyfriends. "Way before Vlady..." she clarified. Apparently this old beau was Norwegian and very handy with the woodworking. He like to give her gifts...and who wouldn't? It was obvious she was quite a hottie and she had one of those accents where you almost lost what she was saying because her accent was so intriguing and enticing. It is always rather interesting to me when two legends are married to each other. The Kagans are the only pair I have ever actually met in person. I feel privileged to have been able to do so and to know Erica just the little tiny bit that I did. She made an impression on me.
Read more about Erica Wilson here.