Friday, 29 February 2008

Through the keyhole

Living room seen as a reflection in an Aesthetic Movement mirror

Detail of Blanc de Chine and tin glazed ware

A Chinese export games table used in lieu of a tea table

As Loyd Grossman would say, " Who lives in a house like this?"

Thirteen years ago we did. Before I was fired from the fashion magazine and before I got my first decorating commission. A two bedroom apartment in an Art Deco building in North London. The rooms were painted a wonderful taupe called 'Osprey'. The central hallway was painted a much darker shade. Sisal covered the floor throughout and white linen hung at the windows. Nothing was planed, it just happened.

Now playing: Otis Redding - Sitting On the Dock of the Bay
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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Another bright idea

Andrea Branzi
Wireless illuminated shelf
designed 1996, produced in an edition of 20 for Design Gallery, cherrywood with illuminated paper forms and rechargable mechanism for illumination.

Andrea Branzi, architect and designer, lives and works in Milan. From 1964 to 1974 he was part of the group Archizoom Associates, the first group of avant-garde known internationally, whose projects are now stored at the Center of Studies and Archive Communication of the University of Parma and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Since 1967 has dealt with experimental and industrial design, architecture, urban planning, education and cultural promotion. Also a Professor of Architecture and Industrial Design at the Politecnico di Milano.

Now playing: Will Young - Light My Fire
via FoxyTunes


Ruth Francken
Homme Chair
originally designed 1971, re-edited in 150 examples in black, 150 examples in white by Gallerie X, 1988, lacquered polyester and tubular steel.

Now playing: Billie Holiday - My Man (Mon Homme)
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Janine Janet

The Paris apartment of M and Mme Janet, 2000.
The portrait of Janine Janet is by her husband Jean-Claude Janet.

Sphinx, one of a pair, gilded bronze.

Euriydice aux Enfers, gouache on paper, 1951.

Wooden figures with iron nails, created for Balenciaga in 1959.
Ensembles from the autumn collection photographed outside of the windows of Balenciaga's avenue George-V salon in 1962.

Maquette for L'Ange Noir, commissioned by Pierre Arpels.

Bust in jet and coral for Balenciaga, 1958.

Detail of a bathroom door panel, commissioned by Alberto Pinto, 1981.

All images from Janine Janet: Metamorphoses

Janine Janet was a sculptor who brought nature to life. Her language was that of mythology; mythology that has now seemingly been forgotten. How sad it must be to see her work and not actually see all its many facets.
Recognised and lauded by the great creators of her time, yet seemingly lost to the subsequent generation of mimics.
How can they possibly understand a language they do not speak?

Now playing: Cocteau Twins - Lorelei
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Aschers to ashes

Scarf designed by Jean Cocteau

Inspiration for the English Eccentrics Fairy Tale of London - Autumn/Winter 2006 Collection

Scarf designed by Picasso for the 1950s World Youth Convention

Scarf designed by Jean Hugo
Both from rennies seaside modern

Papacha hand tufted mohair dress fabric
Designed by Zika Ascher and Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1964

'Zika Ascher is an innovator, the man who introduced the mohair cult, and the flowered prints launched by Christian Dior.'
Vogue, January 1962.

Zika Ascher came to England from Prague in 1939 and established a small textile business in London with his wife Lida. During the 1940s the Aschers commissioned leading artists such as Matisse and Henry Moore to design a collection of headscarves to brighten up the dull postwar British wardrobe.

From 1946 Ascher supplied fabrics to the international fashion industry. They opened their own printworks and became known for lively screen printed designs. Ascher textiles, especially the artist designed ones, now feature regularly in exhibitions and at auction.

Years ago, David Gill (one of the greatest proponents of the applied arts) had some of the last remaining silk screens from Ascher's vast archive. They told a sad tale of neglect. Even though they should have been preserved as a national treasure they were allowed to deteriorate. This was in part due to Ascher's prickly nature, and a general lack of interest in the applied arts at the time. Had Ascher worked in France, I suspect the archive would have survived.

Now playing: Blondie - Rapture
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Monday, 25 February 2008

While we are on the subject of hornbills

Hornbill Ivory

Hornbill Ivory Brooch

Hand-Carved Hornbill Ivory, 19th Century

A Finely Carved Hornbill Skull, Chinese. Late 19th Century

The Chinese first encountered the material in the 14th Century and it soon became an important trade item with Brunei. During the Ming dynasty, hornbill ivory was valued above true ivory and jade.

The casques were carved into works of art, made into snuff bottles, or made into jewelry for high ranking officials. The Chinese call hornbill ivory ho-ting, which is said to be an approximation of an indigenous name, but in fact means "crane head". Thus, many Chinese erroneously thought the substance came from cranes rather than hornbills. It has also been called golden jade.

While one can not imagine many rushing out to start a collection of golden jade, it must be stressed that the Great Helmeted Hornbill is now an endangered species. Any examples must be antique, anything less would be unconscionable.

Now playing: Ryuichi Sakamoto - The Last Emperor
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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world...

they walk into mine. The update.
If anyone had told me there would be an update, I would have never believed them.

Just when I thought the weekend would conclude without incident. I get an email. An email from the Doctor's Wife:

I just happened upon your blog re my return of the rhinoceros hornbill skull. I DO have one, in addition to many other hornbill skulls, and did not purchase another for a lesser price elsewhere. We did say we would pick up our money and naively thought how nice it was that you delivered it to our hotel.

I’m sorry you feel this way, especially since I was so enthusiastic about visiting your shop and looked forward to seeing you again our next trip to London .

I understand we have a mutual friend, (name deleted), an old and dear friend of my daughter, who has known me for over twenty-five years and will vouch for my integrity.

I apologize for incurring your anger – it was not intended.

Now, this has provided my other-half with grounds for, "You see, what did I tell you..." and a great deal of guffawing.
In spite of my initial glib remark of, "well at least she knows why I haven't responded to her previous email", I must admit I too see the funny side. I mean really, how in the hell could one just happen upon this? Evidently, by searching for Emma Hawkins at Dover Street Market on google.

My Grandmother used to also say, "Dear, one cannot be wrong, and strong." Clearly, my cynical scenario was wrong. However, I do take exception with the "naively thought how nice it was that you delivered it to our hotel" part. It was nice. In fact it was bloody nice. Though, at the time I was only concerned with doing the right thing. Hence the refund.

Now playing: Duran Duran - Nice
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Amber Room at Last?

Published: February 21, 2008
Could it be that more than 60 years after the end of World War II, the Amber Room has been found? Long-lost amber panels backed with gold leaf were stolen by the Nazis from the Soviet Union during the war. Now it appears they may lie in a man-made cavern 60 feet underground near the village of Deutschneudorf on the German border with the Czech Republic, Spiegel Online International reported. The Amber Room, below, created by German and Russian craftsmen, was a gift from King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia to his ally Czar Peter the Great of Russia in 1716. The possible discovery of an estimated two tons of gold was made over the weekend when electromagnetic pulse measurements found the cavern near a long-abandoned railway station. Heinz-Peter Haustein, the mayor of Deutschneudorf and a member of Parliament who led the search, said, “I’m well over 90 percent sure we have found the Amber Room.”

How exciting is this?

Now playing: Breaks Co-Op - The Sound Inside
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 21 February 2008

The root of modernism

Picasso And Africa
An exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

"When I discovered art nègre, forty years ago, and painted in what is called my Epoque nègre ['black period'], it was to question what was called 'beauty' in the museums. For most people at that time, an African mask was no more than an ethnographic object. When I went to the Trocadéro museum for the first time with [Andre] Derain, a smell of mould and neglect caught me by the throat. I was so depressed that I would have chosen to leave immediately. But I forced myself to stay, to examine these masks, all these objects that people had created with a sacred, magical purpose, to serve as intermediaries between them and the unknown, hostile forces surrounding them, attempting in that way to overcome their fears by giving them colour and form. And then I understood what painting really meant. It's not an aesthetic process; it's a form of magic that interposes itself between us and the hostile universe a means of seizing power by imposing a form on our terrors as well as on our desires. The day I understood that, I realised that I had found my path.
And then people started judging these masks in aesthetic terms: now, everyone repeats that there is nothing more beautiful, and they no longer interest me. If they are only aesthetic objects, then I prefer Chinese objects. Moreover, this thing from New Guinea frightens me. It must also frighten [Henri] Matisse, and that's why he wants so much to give it to me. He probably thinks that I will know better than he does how to exorcise it.
" - Pablo Picasso

Taken from Vivre Avec Picasso by Francoise Gilot and Carlton Lake.

Left, Beautiful high backed chair. Jimma. Ethiopia
Right, Rare form of four legged high backed chair. Ethiopia

Two beautifully shaped small early 20th century chairs.Oromo,Ethiopia.
Chairs from Tribal Gathering, London.

Very important stool of a Chief of the Ashanti tribe. This stool belonged to Chief Nana-Otumfuo Osei Tutu
Twiga Gallery, San Francisco.

In order for modernism not to appear soulless its roots must be acknowledged and referenced.

Now playing: Odyssey - Going Back to My Roots
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Out of Africa

The Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa's Omo Valley as photographed by Hans Silvester in his book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa. Sublime.

Now playing: Kate Bush - Hello Earth
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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Have you heard of Van Der Hurd?

One of my favourite designers is Christine Van Der Hurd. Not least of all because she adjusts her palette for each specific region where her rugs are available - London, New York and Los Angeles. ''People enjoy stronger colors where the light is darker, which is here,'' she said regarding London. ''In New York, people tend to be not quite as adventurous with colour.'' For Los Angeles, her rug and textile colours are ''chalky, with some iciness.''
Add that to the fact her work is mainly limited to editions or bespoke - what's not to love?

Hand woven silk fabric

Rug: Dewdrops

Christine Van Der Hurd's top three tips for choosing a rug from House Beautiful, September, 2005.

1 Go with your gut feeling when choosing a carpet. I think colour is more important than design; if you don't love the hue, the pattern, however pretty, won't matter.
2 Consider whether you want your carpet to be a focal point of the room, or to blend in unobtrusively. Highly patterned, brightly coloured carpets obviously belong in the former category.
3 If possible, choose your carpet before deciding upon paint, upholstery, and curtains. The colours in your carpet can provide inspiration for the colour scheme of an entire room.

Christine Van Der Hurd was commissioned by Adam Bray to redesign the flooring for Annabel's.
photographs by James Mortimer

Now playing: Blue Magic - Sideshow
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