Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Testament of Cressida

Cressida Bell's 2008 Christmas card design

If one is lucky enough to be born into a family where granny is Vanessa Bell, pappy is Clive Bell, great-auntie is Virginia Woolf, and father is Quentin Bell, I suppose an artistic life should come quite naturally. And certainly it did for artist and designer Cressida Bell. Clearly inspired by her childhood spent amongst the Bloomsbury group, Bell's self-described "meticulous and highly decorative" drawings led her to establish a studio of her own some twenty-plus years ago, and she is now producing not only paintings, but a range of accessories, as well. A number of the designs for fashion accessories and housewares are special commissions created for organizations like the Geffrye Museum in London, her grandmother's house-turned-museum, Charleston, in Sussex, and the Art Fund, which aids in the acquisition of artworks for museums throughout the United Kingdom.

The illustrations on her note papers are easily my most favorite.

Announcements and note cards:

Christmas cards:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Precious Mettle

"Merchant's daughter" earrings

Brigitte Adolph (b. 1975, Fulda, Germany) is a goldsmith not only by training, but by genetic disposition. Adolph spent much of her childhood at her father's atelier and became familiar with the tools and processes of the trade long before her formal studies in jewelry design. She enrolled in programs that took her to Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Switzerland, before finally settling in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Shown here are two examples from Adolph's "Spitzen-Schmuck" collection, which grew out of her longtime fascination with antique lace and embroidery. In 2002, she began transforming fragments of family heirlooms into elaborate gold "lace" jewels. Although primarily based on historic designs, a number of her pieces have a remarkably modern quality - an almost 60s, Pucci-esque appeal. But what I find most fascinating about Adolph's designs, is the element of surprise - their delicacy belies their strength.

"Orient" earrings

Toil in the Soil in Style

Gardener's tool set, £24.00

Leave it to the folks at the V&A to apply one of William Morris's most celebrated fabric designs to gardening tools. Cray, designed in 1884, was the most expensive pattern produced by Morris & Company as it required 34 different printing blocks. Most designs required only a fraction of that -- many of them as little as two. But despite its high price, Cray became one of the firm's best-sellers and was produced in numerous colorways.

Secateurs, £18.00

Thursday, November 29, 2007

All Features Great and Small

Monet, Marilyn, Hitchcock and Winston... anyone who was anyone. Or for that matter, anyone who just wanted to feel like someone, all stayed at the Savoy, one of London's most famous hotels. On the eve of a monumental - $200 million, plus - renovation project, Bonhams will auction off nearly every bit and bob to be found in the rooms, restaurants and corridors. Being the very last person to take a spin on Perino's dancefloor in situ at the famous Los Angeles restaurant, I adore this kind of sale. Practical, enchanting memorabilia.

A few of the highlights:

Lot No: 67†
The Thames Foyer
A five panel specimen wood marquetry screen made by David Linley, inlaid with architectural designs, the timbers including thuya, oak, burr oak, Maccaser ebony, maple, yew, sycamore and stained fruitwood, each panel 61cm wide x 213cm high
Estimate: £3,000 - 5,000

Lot No: 68†
The Thames Foyer
(Detail) A pair of large mid 20th century painted tole and ceramic twenty four light tent and bag chandeliers applied with green painted tole leaves and white painted ceramic wild roses
Estimate: £10,000 - 15,00

Lot No: 145†
Stairs outside River Room
A pair of Art Deco circular birch and satinwood wall mirrors
Diameter 121cm (2)
Estimate: £600 - 800

Lot No: 152†
Lancaster Room
A large oak parquet dancefloor consisting of hundred sections, each section 92cm wide x 92cm deep
Estimate: £400 - 600

Lot No: 240†
Room 209
A bronze model of a dog signed V. Cremia, on black marble oval base, 17cm high
Estimate: £300 - 400

Lot No: 245†
Room 209
A beech side chair in the Regency style
Estimate: £40 - 60

Lot No: 252†
210 The Royal Opera House Suite
A pair of gilt metal and glass Corinthian column form table lamp bases together with a lacquered brass table lamp base 53cm high (3)
Estimate: £200 - 300

Lot No: 1325†
3rd Floor Corridors Hotel Side
A walnut, burr walnut and ebony strung breakfront bookcase
the ogee moulded cornice above a fluted dentil frieze and open shelves, the lower section build as a radiator cover with gilt metal grilled panels; made by David Linley in 1996 235cm wide x 265cm high
Estimate: £2,000 - 3,000

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tactile Twist

With each uniquely-designed vase or bowl, London-based artist Ian McIntyre tells both sides of a material's story: the material as manipulated by man and the material left to its own natural tendencies. "Process led design," as he calls it, allows the chosen material (either pewter or clay) to permanently reflect a choice made in an instant. By changing the force with which a mould is spun, or by shattering the mould altogether, McIntyre takes control by releasing it. The resulting designs, whilst complex in creation, are, in the artist's words, "simple... with little pretence."

The Slush Cast Bowl is made of recycled pewter. While molten, the material is swirled around a bowl-form mould to create a thin layer of metal, smooth on the exterior and left rough on the interior. Bowls are produced in a series, but no two are alike.

The Broken Vase is made of porcelain, with a clear glaze on the interior. The cylindrical moulds, made of plaster, are each broken around the pour hole by McIntyre, then cast and glazed at a local manufacturer.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fostering a Love of Finnish Design

Ameba Design, the self-described "smallest design house in the world" is, as stated, a very tiny shop. The roughly one-room gallery is located in the southeast corner of Helsinki's design district - a bustling section of the city's center that developed as part of Finland's Design Year 2005 program and now spans 25 streets and includes over 170 stores and artist studios.

The shop is run by Samuli Simula -- not your average dealer. Many of the pieces in the gallery are, as one might conclude simply by the nature of the establishment, for sale. However, Simula seems to have rather a difficult time in parting with his most beloved objects. And thus, a great many of them are not for sale, but for rent. Call it seller's remorse. Call it separation anxiety. Call it charming.

Granted, rented often enough the pieces pay for themselves... and if a portion of the stock is always rotating there's no need for storage... and a tiny space means a tiny overhead.

Call it genius.

A round-up of objects, either for sale or rent, from Ameba Design:

Prototype chair designed by Kukkapuro Yrjö and manufactured by Avarte, 2000 (for rent) and a pair of Paavo Tynell-designed wall sconces for the 1950s movie theater, Kinema, in Tampere, Finland (for rent)

Orchid vase, Timo Sarpaneva, 1953 (for sale)

Custom-designed 18k gold-and-amethyst brooch/pendant and earrings designed by Björn Weckström and manufactured by goldsmith V. Kalevi Piirainen, 1962 (for sale)

Chair No. 41, designed by Alvar Aalto for the Paimio Sanatorium, 1932 (for rent)

Sculpture, Glass Forest, by Oiva Toikka, circa 1969 (for rent)

Brass chandelier designed by Paavo Tynell, 1950s (for rent)

Two signed sketches by Tapio Wirkkala (for sale)
Top: Northern Lights, silver cigarette case
Bottom: Reindeer-motif silver pendant

Korkeavuorenkatu 27

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sacher tortes *and* design shopping?

A few cool finds from Lichtereloh, a 15-year old shop in Vienna devoted to 20th century decorative arts:

Ceiling lamp, Italy, circa 1970
Glass on chromed plated base
Dimension: h 45, d 19 "

Table, Italy (Parma), circa 1950
White lacquered wood, brass rods, glazed top, original condition
Dimension: l 78, d 35, h 30 "

Dining Chair (model: Einpunktstuhl 7-050) by architect and industrial designer Hans Bellmann, Switzerland, 1952 and
manufactured in Horgenglarus, Zurich
Chromed base, birch seat plywood
Dimension: w 16, d 18, h 17/32"

Ceiling lamp, Austria, circa 1950
Brass frame with acrylic glass
Dimension: h 39, d 26

Safari Chair (model N° 4979) by Carl Auböck, Austria, circa 1965
Nutwood frame, leather seating, brass hardware
Dimension: w 22, d 22, h 13/30 "

Bench designed by architect and magazine editor Oskar Riedel, 1957 and likely manufactured by Payer Dekor, Vienna
Cowhide, replaced upholstery, brass feet
Dimension: w 72, d 28, h 16/30 inch

Lichterloh: design, art and antiques
Gumpendorferstrasse 15 - 17
1060 Wien / Austria
Tel +43 (1) 586 05 20

Friday, September 28, 2007

Château de Caladroy

The Languedoc–Roussillon region of France runs along the Mediterranean coast, from the Pyrénées along the southern border with Spain, to the Rhône and neighboring Provence in the east. The area is blanketed with some 170,000 hectares of vineyards and produces nearly a third of the country's grapes. It is a region that has been producing wines - some of France's best wines - since vines were first planted in the 5th century B.C.

Near the town of Perpignan, in the arid hills of the southernmost part of Roussillon, lies Château de Caladroy, once a 12th-century fortress on the kingdom of Majorca's frontier and, for roughly a hundred years now, a small and relatively unknown winery. The château, begun in the late-19th century and built within the fortress walls, functioned as a tiny, self-contained city, with separate living quarters for estate workers, stables, a school and a chapel.

In about 1920, Château de Caladroy began bottling its own wines, but a devastating fire in 1923 essentially halted all production, delaying success by decades. The structures have long since been restored to working condition, but only recently have they been given a more worthy renovation, thanks to owner Michel Mezerette and estate manager Serge Maurin. Today the site serves as a unique example of a layering of medieval-through-modern architecture, constructed as needed in order to remain operable for nearly a thousand years.

Prior to the fire, the château extended along the hilltop above the olive orchard. In the distance is one of the 12th-century towers of the original fortress.

The château, nearing completion, 1902

The fall harvest, 1903

With its prime location on the Fenouillèdes hills, nearly 1,000 feet above the Mediterranean, Château de Caladroy's vineyards are continually buffeted by the warm Tramontane winds that sweep down from the mountains. The resulting wines have consistently earned high marks for their intense fruit flavors and subtle, herbal nuances. This January, Wine Spectator wrote of the 2004 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Cuvée Saint Michel, "Ripe, rich and concentrated, with lovely raspberry, dark plum and cassis flavors. Fine-grained tannins, with luscious spice notes. Balanced and structured with a lilting finish of granache and thyme. - 88 points" Not bad for a vineyard whose wines run about $12 a bottle.

Today the vineyards have been extensively replanted, primarily with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre grapes, but with yields of only about 25hl/ha, they remain far below the allowed 45hl/he. In 2001 the cellar was completely renovated, enabling vintner Jean-Philippe Agen (one of a recent influx of young winemakers to the region's estates) to make some terrific wines -- from Les Schistes to the Syrah-based La Juliane, to Le Saint Michel, a Mourvèdre-based cuvée. To round out the estates overall production, they also sell olive oils and jams made from (you guessed it) grapes.

But of all the treasures and surprises at Château de Caladroy, the chapel, which survived the 1923 fire, is by far the most charming. Built at the end of the 19th century, it is a quirky, if not awkward, composition of popular styles: Its Romanesque Revival exterior features low, heavy brick arches and double windows; the marble balustrade and altar are carved in a Renaissance Revival style and the wood paneling in the apse is Gothic Revival. The most modern flourish was the decoration of the stained glass windows, done in stile floreale, Italy's answer to Art Nouveau.

At Château de Caladroy, visitors will find lessons not only in vinification, but the Mediterranean climate and geography, and thousands of years of history, architecture and design. What they'll also find is a lesson in survival and the spirit of endurance, which has reigned so long at this tiny, frontier vineyard.

Château de Caladroy
66720 Belesta de la Frontiere

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Queen's Belongings

Marie-Antoinette and the Petit Trianon at Versailles:
Contents of the Queen’s Private Retreat on Display
at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco
November 17, 2007–February 17, 2008

Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842) Marie-Antoinette "a la rose," 1783. Oil on canvas. chateau de Versailles

Mysteries, myths and legends surround Marie-Antoinette. The stories of her extravagances and excesses, many of them half-truths or exaggerations, ultimately unseated the French monarchy, imprisoned the royal family for years and finally sent them to the guillotine. An exclusive exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor uses the contents of the Petit Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s private residence, to look behind the 200-year-old myths and discover concrete evidence of the personal preferences of Marie-Antoinette and how they led to the creation of some of the finest decorative arts of the 18th century. This is the first time the contents of the Petit Trianon have been shown together in an exhibition outside of France. The Petit Trianon is being restored and remodeled, allowing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an American museum to stage this kind of an exhibition.

Entrance front of the Chateau de Petit Trianon

The Petit Trianon is a small château on the grounds of Versailles that served as the queen’s private retreat. Here, the queen could relax in her own home, far away from the constraints of her regimented life. At the Petit Trianon she could choose objects and decorations that reflected her personal style, rather than opting for the taste imposed by the social demands and traditions of the royal court at Versailles.

The Interior of the Petite Trianon

The interior of the château reflects the personal taste of the queen with its reoccurring floral motifs in furniture, fabric and porcelain. Marie-Antoinette was often connected with the love of flowers, and she chose the images of roses (symbols of her Austrian Hapsburg family), pansies (representing royalty), and cornflowers (her favorite flower at the Petit Trianon) to decorate the royal dinner service at the château.

Chair from the Belvedere Pavilion, 1782, Francois Foliot II (1748–after 1808), carved and gilded beech, modern upholstery, musée du château de Versailles

Plate from the “Pearl and Cornflower” Service made for Marie Antoinette, 1781 Royal Porcelain Manufactory, Sevres, porcelain, musee du chateau de Versailles

Her private study, with its famous mirrored shutters designed to keep out prying eyes, was lined with delicately carved and painted paneling showing white trophies hanging from ribbons on a pale blue background. “These panels are the essence of the style associated with Marie-Antoinette: restrained in form, yet rich in detail, and executed with consummate craftsmanship,” says Martin Chapman, Fine Arts Museums Curator of European Decorative Arts and of the exhibition.

The Cabinet of Moving Mirrors, Petit Trianon

Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom was called the “Trellis Bedroom,” named for the distinctive design of the furniture, some of the most original ever conceived. Bonnefoy du Plan oversaw the creation of the pieces featuring painstakingly painted or carved trellis and basketwork, floral forms and rustic garlands. The furniture is called “wheat-ear” furniture, named for chairs decorated with lily-of-the-valley, pinecones, and ears of wheat. A mahogany table made by Schwerdfeger is adorned with a frieze of sunflowers and thistle leaves. Dogs’ heads, representing the Queen’s pets, add a charming detail.

Armchair from the “Wheatear suite” from the queen’s bedroom, Petit Trianon, 1787, Georges Jacob, chairmaker, carved and painted walnut, Desfarges, Lyons, textile manufacturer, linen embroidered on cotton, musée du château de Versailles

Dressing Table made for Marie Antoinette at the Tuileries Palace, 1784, Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806), marquetry of satinwood and kingwood, gilt bronze, musée du château de Versailles

Bed from the King’s Bedroom, Petit Trianon, 1775-1785, giltwood and modern silk lampas, musee du chateau de Versailles

As elaborate as these objects seem, these designs were of the more modest scale and simplicity befitting a country house and, for the most part, not as grand as the highly gilded furniture and objects created for public, royal palaces. There are notable exceptions, including the famous Trianon lantern. Lanterns were important in the main rooms of the Petit Trianon because they kept the candles from extinguishing when windows were opened in the summer months. This grand lantern is decorated with paste diamonds and is exquisitely finished in the minutest detail with Cupid’s symbols of love: arrows, bows and a quiver.

The salon de companie at the Petit Trianon

The Gardens of the Petit Trianon

Carle Vanloo (1705–1765), Madame de Pompadour as a gardener, oil on canvas, musée du château de Versailles

Marie-Antoinette’s husband, King Louis XVI, gave the Petit Trianon to her in 1774. Shortly after, she began an extensive refurnishing and landscaping project to tailor the existing building and the grounds to her taste. The royal architect Richard Mique (1728–1794) led the effort to transform the landscape and build structures to create gardens dedicated to pleasure. The botanical gardens became fashionable, English-style gardens full of winding paths, hillocks and streams imitating a natural landscape.

View of the Chateau de Petit Trianon from the French Garden

The French Pavilion in the Gardens of the Petit Trianon

The decorative buildings included a chinoiserie merry-go-round, the classical Temple of Love, and an elegant jewel-box of a theater where the queen participated in amateur plays. The ultimate garden structure was Hameau, a model village of Normandy farmhouses and thatched cottages built around a man-made lake. The landscape artist Hubert Robert assisted in the creation of Hameau, ensuring its picturesque composition with its cottages’ artfully dilapidated rustic exteriors. Although pains were taken outside to maintain an air of cultivated rusticity, the queen’s private rooms at Hameau were luxurious. A pair of beautifully designed firedogs in the form of goats eating grapes reveals the high standards of design and attention to finish and detail that became hallmarks of the queen’s style. In the exhibition, paintings and drawings bring the long-lost gardens to life.

The Belvedere and Rock in the English gardens at the Petit Trianon, Photo ©Christian Milet

The Mill at the Hameau in the gardens of the Petit Trianon

The Marlborough Tower at the Hameau in the gardens of the Petit Trianon

The details add up to a picture of one woman’s taste and how its secrecy and expense became a political issue. No matter what a visitor thinks about the Queen’s spending and lifestyle, few would disagree that her personal taste was responsible for objects of great beauty.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Établissement Public du Musée et du Domaine National de Versailles and supported in part by Dr. Kathy Nicholson Hull and Mr. Bill Gisvold.