Gifts from the heart!

A Vitra Anecdote

Susan and Alexander Girard in their living room, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1960s.

Alexander Girard approached the giving of gifts with the same enthusiasm and attention to detail that he devoted to all his work. Sharing his love and appreciation of colour and presentation, Girard took gift giving seriously and imbued each holiday, anniversary or birthday with his infectious sense of joy. Following is an anecdote by Aleishall Girard, granddaughter of Alexander Girard, and her memories of how he not only loved to give gifts, but also to create them.

While my grandfather Alexander Girard indeed took great care when creating hand-drawn cards and gifts for others, his most intricate and intimate offerings were reserved for my grandmother, Susan. Their love for one another weaves its way through all of his work, and the practice of creating the most unique gifts for all occasions is no small part of his legacy. A wooden cabinet faced with colourfully painted glass doors, custom brass handles and secret drawers; an oval gold bangle engraved with a special message in a bold yet delicate custom font; small paintings; water-coloured books; decorative pins; and so many boxes…. Boxes made from stone, wood, brass, bone, cardboard or some combination thereof. They came in many sizes and sometimes even had a smaller box inside. Each one was different but always bearing a message of love and devotion along with my grandparents’ special symbol, the double heart infinity.

Wooden cabinet with colourfully painted glass doors, custom brass handles and secret drawers designed by Alexander Girard for Susan Girard.

For us as grandchildren, Christmas Eve was the most magical time. Stacks of boxes robed in sheets of white tissue, each one bound with a different, vibrantly coloured ribbon. Tiny paper cards with the familiar round handwriting indicating which package was meant for each of us. Seeing these gifts gathered round the base of the tree and the anticipation of what might be inside almost outweighed the excitement about the actual gift within.

Girard saw gift giving as an opportunity rather than a social or familial obligation. For him it was a chance to take the time to honour the recipient in a significant way – no matter the size or value of the offering.

Various gift boxes and items that Alexander Girard designed to give to his wife Susan Girard.


Publication Date: 24.11.2016
Author: Aleishall Girard
Images: Photo by Charles Eames, © 2016 Eames Office (eamesoffice.com), LLC; Girard Studio, LLC.