INSIDE & OUT : Figuratively Speaking


Cartoonish shapes and painted faces bring to life the tables, mirrors, earthenware and other objects from the studio of husband and wife team of Katherine Ruth-Bender and Robert Bender.

The Benders, Orange County natives who live in Leucadia, use ambiguous yet narrative figures to bring humor to their work. Their joint venture in painted ceramics and furniture is called Karob.

Bender, who attended Newport Harbor High School, has a construction background and is responsible for the form of each piece. For the ceramic pieces, he cuts the clay from slabs.

Ruth-Bender, who grew up in Garden Grove, scores the pieces to give them texture, then paints on Karob's signature figures and faces.

The figures and faces are "figments of my imagination," said Ruth-Bender, who uses lots of bold colors--red, yellow, purple and orange.

She applies paints to every space possible.

"She paints the inside, the outside, the front and the back of every piece," Bender said.

The couple met about 15 years ago in a life drawing class at Orange Coast College and began a partnership that evolved into Karob.

"We started out painting signs, murals, letters and figurines," said Bender, "but we were always painting."

For information on Karob platters and vessels ($200 and up), earthenware bowls ($90 and up), mirrors ($180 and up) and occasion tables ($1,750), call (619) 632-1450.

Keeping Tabs

Could you use a personal assistant to help you get your household organized? Keep tabs on your teens? Gather menus and recipes, write shopping and to-do lists, balance the checkbook?

The makers of Newton MessagePads say they can do all that and more.

These state-of-the-art personal digital assistants, sized to fit your hand, manage information, stay in touch by fax, e-mail and paging and exchange information with your computer.

The MessagePad, which runs on batteries, also has handwriting-recognition capabilities. Which means it can transform your handwriting into typed text, letter by letter or word by word--a boon for those who are electronically challenged.

Other built-in features include calendars, address books, to-do lists and note pads. You can even expand the MessagePad with software and other accessories for peak efficiency.

As if all that weren't enough, Newton, a division of Apple Computers, is also introducing MessagePad 120 (1 megabyte capacity about $600, 2 megabyte capacity about $700), which can be hooked up to several on-line services.

Newton MessagePads are available throughout the county at computer and consumer electronic stores. For information, call (800) 365-3690.

Affairs of the Heart

Two ways to indulge your sweetheart: heart-shaped tart pans and chocolate Craftsman tools.

The tart pans from Williams-Sonoma, made of tinned steel, are ideal for berry and custard tarts or, if you have a chocolate lover, brownies and chocolate chip cookies. A detachable base keeps your delectables damage-free when coming out of the pan.

The large pan ($10) is 10 3/4-inches-by-1 1/4-inches high; the individual ones ($16 for a set of four) are 5-inches-by-1-inch high. They are available through the Williams-Sonoma catalogue, call (800) 541-2233, or stores at the Brea Mall, MainPlace in Santa Ana and South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa.

If tools of the trade are more to your taste, consider a set from Craftsman made of milk chocolate.

The 14-ounce sampler (about $18 plus shipping and handling), which comes in a decorative tool box, includes a ratchet, chisel, hammer, caliper wrench, pliers and two wrenches. The tools, the only ones made by Craftsman not guaranteed to last, are available through Feb. 28 in the Craftsman Power & Hand Tools catalogue by calling (800) 377-7414.

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