Friday, October 03, 2008

A chocolate a day keeps the wolves at bay...

Having recently opened a new banking account after worries over the wobbling American economy, these little six inch-high banks caught my attention. Were that banking was as simple - and enjoyable! - as it used to be for children: drop in your coin, open the drawer, and presto magico - a "délicieuse friandise" is waiting for you. And forget all that stuff about sugar and cavities, according to **these** banks chocolate is "un aliment sain et fortifiant"... a healthy food, a tonic!

Coin operated chocolate bank, "La tirelire des enfants sages" (or, The Moneybox of Wise Children)
Germany, for the French market, circa 1910
€ 950


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Heavy Mettle

Finally, a feline my boyfriend might appreciate: an early 13th-century brass aquamanile in the form of a courageous lion with a finely engraved main and decorative details. The handle of the vessel takes the form of a dragon (to ward off evil) and though its got a few later pieces added and some old repairs, its still expected to fetch 80,000—120,000 euros (about $112,000 to $168,000) at Sotheby's Amsterdam sale later this month. The aquamanile is North German, probably from Brunswick, and comes from the collection of Cologne-based banker and art collector Dr. Richard von Schnitzler

Aquamaniles were designed to hold water for hand-washing and were originally used in the church, though by the late 12the-century they were often found in houses of the nobility. Water is poured into a hinged opening at the lions back and then issues from the lion's mouth.

They can be found in museum collections around the world, but none can top the example purchased by Varya and Hans Cohn and given to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992. Its the absolute finest example.

Northern Germany, Lower Saxony, Hildeshiem (?)
Aquamanile (Ewer), circa 1250
Metalwork, Brass (copper alloy)
10 1/2 x 11 7/8 x 3 7/8 in. (26.67 x 30.16 x 9.84 cm)
Gift of Varya and Hans Cohn (AC1992.152.100)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Small Companions

Janice Jordan's tiny, little needle-felted desktop doggies.

4" high

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

With joy, Felix Doolittle

Felix Fu, a Hong Kong-born artist now living in Newton, Massachusetts, creates what might be some of the dearest stationary I've ever seen. Each design is a beautifully rendered watercolor, sometimes of a particular ornament, animal or detail, but what speak to me most, and most naturally, are ones that include elements of home.

A collection of bookplate designs include a tabletop with a whisky glass and cigar, a peacock on the terrace of a country house, a comfy chair and nearby cat. Their usefulness, never mind their wide array of images suited to every personality I know, makes them likely candidates for this year's stocking stuffers.

5 lables, 2 3/4 x 4 inches, $10.00

Friday, July 25, 2008

Winds of Change

Slowly its been coming over me... an ever increasing need for ocean, fresh air and trees. Maybe its the middle of a long summer in a gray city. Maybe its the way my office neighbor repeatedly slams her desk drawers shut, rattling our shared wall... and my nerves. Maybe its aging and feeling the need for a quiet, contemplative spot in which to review decisions made over the last ten years; a soft place to sit and make new plans, new lists.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mannerism of a Different Sort

Boucher and Chardin: Masters of Modern Manners is a new exhibition developed by the Hunterian in conjunction with The Wallace Collection, London.

Opening at the Hunterian Art Gallery in September 2008, this ground-breaking show focuses on two of the greatest French paintings of the eighteenth century: the iconic ‘Lady Taking Tea’ by Jean-Siméon Chardin (above) and François Boucher’s ‘Woman on a Daybed’.

Chardin’s ‘Lady Taking Tea’ comes from the Hunterian collection and was recently voted one of Scotland’s most popular paintings by readers of The Herald newspaper. On display in Britain for the first time in 70 years, Boucher’s ‘Woman on a Daybed’ is on loan from the renowned Frick collection in New York (below).

Through approximately 30 exhibits which include paintings, drawings, prints and decorative art objects, the background to the two works will be examined from a number of perspectives beyond traditional art history. Both paintings prominently allude to the new interest in eighteenth-century for scenes from everyday life ultimately inspired by the growing taste for Dutch and Flemish cabinet pictures, and to fashions comparatively new to Europe; the drinking of tea and the taste for chinoiserie.

These themes recur in several of Boucher and Chardin’s depictions of women in their private worlds and become the dominant thread weaving through the second part of the exhibition. The inclusion of works by British artists and decorative art objects, some from the Hunterian’s own collection, will provide an opportunity to address underlying social history themes, such as the artists’ attitudes towards the consumption of tea and the contemporary fashion for the Far East in both France and Britain.

Boucher and Chardin: Masters of Modern Manners
12 June until 7 September
The Wallace Collection, London

Boucher and Chardin: Masters of Modern Manners
24 September - 13 December 2008
Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
82 Hillhead Street
Glasgow G12 8QQ
Open Monday - Saturday, 9.30am - 5.00pm, admission free

Friday, June 13, 2008

Knot Your Average Door Stop

Right in line with my new fascination for all things beachy, a rope doorstop from Plumo, made of knotted fishing rope.

Size H26cm

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pass the Gerber, Please

A tiny turtle with articulated limbs climbs up and down the twig-like stem of a sterling silver-baby spoon by Tamar Kern, $155

My mother recently gave me my sweet little set of American Colonial-style baby silver.

Her wildly blatant hint aside, I'm absolutely thrilled to have the pieces in my cupboard. But having stumbled upon metalsmith Tamar Kern's designs, I'm inclined to round out the set with a new addition. (Should there be an addition of another sort.)

Kern's beautifully crafted, 5 1/2-inch long spoons come in several styles: the turtle, a butterfly and a snail. Each possess a clever mechanism that allows the little critter to slide up and down the spoon, making each bite of mushed veggies a terrific delight.

Kern's spoons can be ordered through her website,, or through, her Alma Mater's online store for it's graduates' designs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fire, mushrooms and an uncommon raccoon

Fired Up campfire tealight from Fred, $12 (matches and tealight included, 2.5" x 4")

Hosting the book club reading of Thoreau in your cramped city apartment? Desperate to cast your gaze on something other than the red-brick outside your window? Reset the tone of your urban dwelling with a few funny items from the Curiosity Shoppe, a San Francisco store front full of all sorts of amusing finds. The crackle of the candle won't down out the sirens, but a focused push to complete Claus the raccoon, your new woodland companion, just might.

Camping plates by Caroline Wolfe, $60
Set of four 80inch diameter glass dessert plates, dishwasher safe (top rack only)

Porcelain log vase, $40 (2.5" x 7.75") and a couple of Parasol and Panther Cap mushrooms (2.75” x 4.75” and 3” x 2.5” respectively)

Claus the raccoon, a Let's Stitch kit from egg press, $26
Screen printed on canvas, includes sewing instructions and name tag (approx. 11" x 8")

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Groove is in the Art

Frank Stella's 1970 Flin Flon
Synthetic polymer and fluorescent paint on canvas
NGA (Australia) 2002.294

Fantasizing about Modern art for your walls, but can't quite make the stretch to a Stella or a Noland? Consider a focus wall with one of the many fabulous finds at Interior 1900, a Swedish online retailer of wonderful papers (circa 1890s-1980s) with a primarily Scandinavian - and Modernist - bent.

Wallpaper no: 476
Production period: Early 1970's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 26
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper.
Both rolls sells together, price is for one roll.
Available items: 2
Price: 700 SEK
Price: 118 USD, 80 EUR, 60 GBP

Wallpaper no: 1193
Production period: Early 1970's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 58
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper. Both rolls sells together. Both rolls sells together.
Available items: 2
Price: 750 SEK
Price: 126 USD, 85 EUR, 64 GBP

Wallpaper no: 1091
Production period: Late 60's or early 1970's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 63
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper.
Available items: 5
Price: 650 SEK
Price: 109 USD, 74 EUR, 56 GBP

Wallpaper no: 1409
Production period: Late 60's or early 1970's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 59.5
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper.
Available items: 11
Price: 700 SEK
Price: 118 USD, 80 EUR, 60 GBP

Wallpaper no: 1403
Production period: Late 60's or early 1970's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 26.5
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper.
Available items: 5
Price: 600 SEK
Price: 101 USD, 68 EUR, 52 GBP

Wallpaper no: 1575
Production period: Late 60's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 13.5
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper.
Available items: 3
Price: 650 SEK
Price: 109 USD, 74 EUR, 56 GBP

Wallpaper no: 1578
Production period: Late 60's
Width, cm: 53
Length, meter: 9.6
Design repeat, cm: 23
Picture above show 20x30 cm of the wallpaper.
Available items: 8
Price: 600 SEK
Price: 101 USD, 68 EUR, 52 GBP

Magnus Karlsson
Skogsv. 8
532 32 Götene
tel +46511-341100

Monday, March 31, 2008

Time and Space

An installation photograph from (In)discrete Objects, the 2005 exhibition of works by Timothy Horn organized by the Knoxville Museum of Art, Tennessee.

When I started this blog several years ago now, I suppose I already had a pretty clear sense of the kind of objects and artwork I respond to... clever appropriation of historical designs (like Jo Meester's vases in the previous post), or contemporary interpretations of long-forgotten fads (like Barbara Uderzo's succulent rings).

In that same vein is Timothy Horn, an Australian-born artist working in the United States. Horn's remarkably strange and curious pieces are based on antique jewelry designs, but blown up to such an enormous scale that they create a unnerving distortion, as if one has looked through someone else's glasses. Horn's fascination lies at the intersection of the intimacy of ornament and the vulgarity of beauty. There, the subtle decoration of an 18th century hair comb becomes a glittering, indulgent and discotheque-like wall sculpture.

I Want Candy, 2001
Nickel plated bronze, cast lead crystal, easter egg foil, 35.5 x 25.5 x 4 inches

I Want Candy, detail

More recently, Horn has turned to antique furniture, particularly the designs of Thomas Chippendale, for inspiration in the appropriation game. By digitally distorting Chippendale patterns, Horn created "new" designs that he then carved in wax. The wax designs were then used to make molds, from which he could cast replicas in rubber. The wobbly pieces, seeming all the more surreal for their honey color, can then be mounted on the wall... and wiggled or manipulated by curious viewers. In the words of the Albany University Art Museum, who organized an exhibition of his work in 2006, Horn's furniture sculptures turn "tasteful sources [into] objects that creep, ooze, and dangle down the walls with a libidinal force all their own." The intersection of intimacy and vulgarity has proven a fruitful place.

Silk Purse (Sow's Ear), 2005
translucent polyurethane rubber, 47 x 34 x 6 inches

Silk Purse (Sow's Ear), detail

Mutton Dressed as Lamb, 2005
transparent rubber, 40 x 30 x 9 inches - edition of 3

Mutton Dressed as Lamb, detail

Horn's work will be featured in three US exhibitions opening this summer: solo shows at the ICA in San Jose and the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and a group exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe. He's represented by Hosfelt Gallery, which at the moment has more information than his own developing website,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Erasing to Reveal

Look closer... what at first appears to be a 19th-century still life is actually a photo-studio shot of Dutch artist Jo Meester's manipulated vessels.

Meester, who graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2001 and established his own studio last year, recently began exploring ways to create objects that blend historic design and historic techniques with modern aesthetics and technology. He works in all media, but I'm most intrigued by the Ornamental Inheritance series that uses old (but not antique) delftware vessels. The pieces are carfeully sand-blasted in such way that a horizon develops around the body of the form. What Meester leaves, in these relief-like carvings, are "silhouettes" familiar in contemporary life: modern architecture, smoke stacks, windmills (turbine, as well as the old-fashioned kind) and fast-food signs like the Golden Arches of McDonald's. Birds and airplanes fly overhead.

Pieces from the series will be included in Object Factory: The Art of Industrial Ceramics, on view May 15 – September 7 at the Gardiner Museum in Ontario, Canada. The exhibition is curated by ceramist Marek Cecula.

Meester's work is difficult to find outside the Netherlands, but his website includes a list of retailers, primarily design museum shops in the major Dutch cities.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A drink precedes a story

White-brass alloy and aluminum Guinness cuff by Oregon-based designer Renée Christopher

Friday, March 14, 2008

Betting on Bidding

Next week Christie's South Kensington will hold one of its Interiors sales - a terrific opportunity to snap up interesting antiques. They're not museum quality - they're not meant to be. They're simply good old pieces that have been lived with and used as they were intended. Its wonderful 'fear-not' furniture... pieces that will stand up to the dog, the over-indulgent guest, etc. Already a few hundred years old, furnishings like these will continue to outlive their contemporary, mass-produced counterparts. They're proven.

I decided to do some comparison shopping, just to get a sense of what similar items bought new would cost. And its no surprise, really -- they're either comparable or infinitely more. They do offer the convenience of point-and-click purchasing, but buying at auction (if you can't get to the location) is equally simple if done by phone bid. Or by absentee... you need not even be there.

A late-19th century giltwood pier glass, with classical urn foliage and wheat ear cresting
£400-600 ($800-1,200)

Williamsburg phoenix mirror, Carvers' Guild, price upon request

A late-17th century oak chest, with triple-panel front carved with foliate motifs and roundel decoration
£500-800 ($1,000-1,600)

Nassau Long Dresser, Williams & Sonoma Home, $4,950

A Louis XV beech fauteuil by maître Antoine Bonnemain, circa 1775
Together with a similar Louis XV beech fauteuil, mid-18th century
£600-1,000 ($1,200-2,000)

The Brissac Bergere. Pierre Deux, $1,295.00

A Regency mahogany bowfront chest with brushing slide
£500-800 (about $1,000-1,600)

Atwood 5-Drawer Dresser, Restoration Hardware, $1600