Holler & Saunders, Ltd. was founded in 1979 by Edward Holler and Samuel Saunders, purveyors of Spanish Colonial furniture and decorative arts from Mexico and South America. Later, they journeyed to parts of Asia looking for pieces that were influenced by Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese colonial trade routes in use from the 16th to 19th centuries.

What started as a hobby collecting prime examples of Mexican Colonial and Folk Art, evolved into a full blown “look” that encompasses a sumptuous and exuberant expression of maximalism, grandeur, scale, symmetry and bravado always exposing the finest qualities of their original intention of seeking out the best of Latin American Colonial furniture and decorative arts.

Recently these interests have led them to emphasize more Spanish Colonial Revival styles as well as pieces of their own designs which are produced by master artisans in Mexico and South America. They have also developed a more minimalist approach to their maximalist philosophy.

The encounter of European empires with the native civilizations of the Americas and the subsequent colonization created a steady yet tumulus development in what came to be known as Colonial America.

Colonial art, architecture and furniture evolved in the 16th through 19th centuries from the indigenous interpretation of European styles introduced in to the Americas. The combination of European designs, exotic American woods and the influence of native craftsmen with the power of their heritage behind them and their own sense of form and color is what makes colonial art, architecture and furniture unique.

They are constantly following this colonization of the world, looking for examples of art, architectural components and furniture to add to their large collection which can be experienced in Nogales, Arizona.

An Introspective Understanding of Holler & Saunders
Written by C. Michael Diaz

They always said that there are no rules.

It is impossible for me to explain Holler and Saunders.

Believe me, I have tried to do just that so many times, and to absolutely no avail.

To consider them primarily as antiquarians of a Spanish Colonial tradition, I cannot. Their scope of interest is greater than just that.

As designers? No way! Design is an ineffective exercise to achieve such results.

As aesthetes? They are beyond that. They separated themselves from established style and aesthetics long ago.

So are they visionaries? No. From where they stand, create, from that self imposed exile in the hinterlands of Nogales, Arizona, they do not race to any particular end.

It just IS!

They have been operating at such a different level, from a completely distinct, aloof point of view.

They have been concerning themselves with such different outcomes; therefore, with great irony, ascribing themselves a whole other set of rules. These are rules that they have had to write out themselves.

That is why there is no suffcient explanation to what they do.

These rules require a different set of components, elements, relationships. A different vocabulary to be implemented in order to play the Holler and Saunders game.

What a game it IS!

The first rules are the basic; the classic ones. Symmetry is of primary importance. Establishing symmetry in a particular space, starting on the floor, from the floor upward, up the walls, up the ceiling, as far as they can, vertically and horizontally. This is all stressed with the use of pairs and even multiples of furniture and objects. Sometimes up to 16, REALLY!

Once this symmetry is erected, it has to be emphasized to it’s highest level by the use of LARGE, GRAND, and EXAGGERATED SCALE. Holler and Saunders are the masters of this, precisely. LARGE SCALE is the most essential, as a rule. SCALE clarifies the intended effect. SCALE creates the basis for the DRAMATIC, AMPLE, GENEROUS, even EPIC situations that are necessary for layering in the components.

I remember Sam would tell me that it takes seven layers to build up the ideal situation. Sometimes I recall more were used, sometimes less. Once even one single layer……giant spheres crammed into a courtyard! This layering is what lends that theatrical atmosphere to their endeavor.

Next, considerations must be made as to what components need to be assigned to fulfill this layering process. With such strict symmetry and SCALE requirements, and theatrical effects, nothing common can fit the bill. Also, multiplicity of objects is essential to create a rhythmic pattern that further coordinates the order that has been set in place and emphasized by the first rules.

For the novice, at this point, the Holler and Saunders game proves terribly difficult; but when one is writing out ones’ own rules, and has mastered them consecutively, there comes an ease in the tweaking and manipulating of the next rules. That is the genius and the assurance of the victory, and what gives IT that authentic Holler and Saunders effect.

Each piece of furniture, object, painting, mirror, sculpture, chandelier, chair, any given element, as I stated before, that is to be used in any particular situation of theirs, has to be chosen never by a conventional scrutiny or by typical judgment. The rules for these elements and components have been stressed by SCALE and multiplicity. Once that SCALE and musical pattern have been accelerated, an entirely different sensibility for proportion must be adopted. The change in proportion leads to adaptations and reinventions of profile and variation, a mutation, of positive and negative space.

To tweak the positive and negative, there is beefing up, an elongation of profile, there is a reinvention of form, with contentious and opposing qualities. This is exactly where their penchant for Spanish Colonial or derivative styles, thereof, come into play.

There has been a great tradition of these deviances and preoccupations in aesthetics for centuries, in Latin America and parts of Asia, where Colonization had taken place, from approximately 1520-1820, resulting in interpretations and further reinterpretations of European styles by the Indigenous craftsmen, resulting into a rich Folk-Baroque style of varied degrees, ranging from the highly academic to the naive and primitive, from the opulent ecclesiastic and viceregal to the sober civil, from almost identical facsimiles of European ephemera and motif, to those retaining the traditional Pre-Hispanic, and everything in-between. These styles prove great inspiration for Holler and Saunders to refer to constantly.

Such great traditions have given them vast examples and ingredients for the endeavor, and they know with great facility; exactly, which of these are needed, how they are to be used, and where to source the BEST of them! With such access to the uncommon, rare, extraordinary, ridiculous, the eccentric, sensual, and the beautifully exotic,the magic starts to happen. Relationships and juxtapositions occur in which everything must hold up in unison, nothing is taken for granted, and everything in these final acts must MUST relate to the previous, all the way to the first, each aspect coinciding with great intention to another. From beginning to end, and vice-versa.

The concerns for color and lighting are of equally extreme importance when one is a lancing such aggressive components of quality and theater. The attention to this beautiful expression must be properly accentuated. That is how it further comes to life.

As colorists, the rules are not complicated. Just never to use half-assed colors. When great quality is available, everything will match. Regal combinations are ABUSED. Cobalt blue with white, oxblood red with gold, amethyst with silver, emerald green with black, and so on.

Lighting must extend the theatrical effect. It must be laid out in the same symmetrical rigor as all material components. Even the shadows must engage in CINEMATIC symmetry! When possible, equal parts downlight to uplight. The reliance on schmaltzy decorative lamp bases with silly lampshades is omitted. This is an example of the Holler and Saunders sensibility. One realizes, out of common sense, just how ridiculous some common decorative tricks are, no matter how ubiquitous or common. What an absurd way to dress up a lightbulb!

There is a definite growing and living quality to EVERYTHING Holler and Saunders does. IT ENCOMPASSES YOU. Things attain an animation, a character, a life they never previously had. If things were already emitting at 100% before the fact, they will emit at 1000%, 10,000%, 100,000%, exponentially, once they participate in that Holler and Saunders game! There is no explanation for this. Once the dialogue between all aspects is created, the new rules write, others broken, the game is won, and to the victor, the spoils.

I come back to that point. There is no explanation.

The effect is so great, magical, surreal, that the mere task to even photograph it is in vain. Holler and Saunders is not photogenic. You have to be there. In it. It is the only way to grasp that kind of power. Then you can get it, and if you don’t get it then, there is probably something severely wrong with you. Something elemental is missing. You are possibly thinking with the old, boring, inapplicable rules. Exactly the ones you need to unlearn.

Even the most savvy, aerodyte or erudite, sophisticated types will be stumped to grasp any classification for their blogs, tweets, and glossy magazines. Chicness is revealed as a petty condition, and the attempt to analyze them intellectually will go absolutely nowhere.

Again those rules do not apply. Their ideal holds no regard for or respect for the aspirational or the vulgarity of “luxury”.

Eddie and Sam have the best word for all of their efforts and their effects.

They call it DRAMA.

Where does all of the drama come from?

Certainly, Holler and Saunders have a story, a history where past conditions, experiences, and influences have shaped the resulting DRAMA effect. The story is equally surreal as the work, but it is insignificant. Eddie and Sam are the first to express an absolute disinterest in the past. They are more interested in the present work at hand. They are more excited about what the future holds.

Well, I got to take part in this game, I witnessed it, I learned it. I had the two best let me in on it. It is something that has effected everything I do in ways I cannot explain. It is tremendous to live up to, to say the least. In what I do now, I have had to write some my own, new rules. That is the best lesson I got. I learned that kind of confidence, bravado, that they have.

I am very grateful they shared all of this with me……that GRAND, SENSATIONAL, STRANGE DRAMA!!!!!

To go all the way, and to take it all in with great humor and seriousness.

There are some people that make life just so much better with their work and imagination.

Eddie and Sam are exactly that!

I come back to that other point……….

……….there are NO rules!