Seb Hamamjian: In Memoriam of a True Guide

Left: Artist, Gustavo Ramos Rivera     Right: Seb Hamamjian


It is with a heavy heart to announce the passing of Seb Hamamjian on April 3rd, 2013.

Those who knew him would agree that Seb Hamamjian embodied strength, wisdom, integrity and elegance. After acquiring his first gallery and frame shop in Cupertino in 1978, Seb spent the last 35 years exploring the intersection of art, craft and design.

In 1989, Seb purchased his second gallery in Menlo Park where his sister JoAnn Edwards join in partnership.  Shortly there after, Seb opened the first of three Tercera Gallery locations in Los Gatos, which they sold in 1994 and moved the gallery to Palo Alto. In 1999 they opened Tercera Gallery, San Francisco.  JoAnn and Seb co-founded the Museum of Craft and Design in 2004.  With a need to focus on the museum they closed Tercera Gallery in Palo Alto in 2009. In the same year and with a strong desire to continue the relationships he cultivated, Seb launched Hamamjian Modern an art, design and consulting company.

Seb approached life and business with dignity, an open heart and a creative mind.  With Hamamjian Modern, Seb hosted a number of private art exhibitions at his Santa Cruz home and San Francisco flat. Offering a more intimate art experience, these exhibitions included works by artists such as Garry Knox Bennett, Paul Gibson, Kara MariaClive McCarthyGustavo Ramos Rivera and Harry Siter to name a few. In conjunction with the private shows, Seb worked closely with the Hampton’s Expo Group in 2011 to organize the installations at the San Francisco Fine Art Fair (SFFAF). After SFFAF, he took Hamamjian Modern on the road and exhibited local artists on the national level.

Linda Deppmeier and Seb at SFFAF

A creative in his own right, Seb’s interest in art and design began at State University of New York Oswego where he graduated with an Industrial Arts degree in 1974. Believing all elements of a space should integrate seamlessly, Seb designed custom furniture pieces that blended with the architecture of the space.  From the start, Seb carried a reputation for having a high standard for quality which was exemplified in his vision and impeccable skills as a craftsman.

Between coordinating exhibitions and consulting, his time was spent in his wood shop; with open doors (of which he made) in the warm Santa Cruz air, working with his father’s tools to build custom furniture pieces for his homes and the homes of friends and clients. Guided by color and texture, Seb sought out everyday materials that could be re-appropriated, pushing material and aesthetic boundaries.  He created exquisite pieces which include a white leather couch (image above), three bed frames with headboards, a bench, a desk, kitchen and dining room tables (image above), numerous coffee tables, stunning sliding closet doors, the garage doors of both his homes, bookshelves, and an entertainment system table to name a few.  He will be remembered for his sharp wit and keen eye.

Seb Hamamjian installing Spare+Austere at Diego Rivera Gallery, 2009
Seb Hamamjian installing Spare+Austere at Diego Rivera Gallery, 2009

In my experience, it is rare to connect with someone with the same depth as family or long shared history.  Seb and I crossed paths in 2008 when I began working at his gallery in Palo Alto.  From the first day of my first gallery job, Seb was there as my teacher and my guide. It was early on that I realized I never worked for Seb rather, I worked with him. This respect was the basis for our relationship.

Among many things, Seb taught me to never burn my bridges, that business is personal,  how to have and uphold high standards, how to speak up, to ‘align-full’ all writings, never eat brownies after 3 PM and always wear nice shoes (an ongoing process). He stood with me during my most pivotal moments and was integral in conceptualizing BLOCK Gallery.  It is with this gallery that I will continue what we started. Before he passed, I was able to tell him he taught me well and as an insight into some of our adventures, here are a few moments (captured by a camera) that I am eternally thankful for.

Install of Spare + Austere at Diego Rivera Gallery, 2010
Install of Spare + Austere at Diego Rivera Gallery, 2010
Seb pouring wine at the start of Clive McCarthy's opening.
Seb pouring wine at the start of Clive McCarthy’s opening
Spare + Austere at SF City Hall  Artist: Jon Kuzmich Photo credit: Alan Bamberger
Spare + Austere at SF City Hall, 2010 Artist: Jon Kuzmich Photo credit: Alan Bamberger
Sidnea D’Amico’s artist reception in Seb’s San Francisco flat.
Seb at recent private party.
Seb at recent private party, 2012

This post not only serves as a tribute to Seb but also as a reminder that we all learn from someone.  Give thanks to those who have contributed to your successes and stood with you through the fumbles and failures.  Who would you say ‘thanks’ to?