Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

What will it hold?

Below, a mounted trio of Parisienne tarot cards, circa 1800-75, at the British Museum.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Soolip: Starting the New Year in style

The new jewel box-sized Soolip unpacks and gets comfy

I'm certainly not the first to blog about Soolip Paperie & Press, Los Angeles's most famous stationary store, but perhaps I'm the first to blog about its new location.

We've been on the hunt for J. Herbin writing supplies, so early on Saturday morning we stopped into Soolip's new (and I mean brand new) store at the Pacific Design Center. They were still unpacking but the lovely owner, Wanda Soolip Wen, kindly showed us the new digs, and even took us upstairs to their studio for a peek behind the scenes. The first thing we saw? A late-19th century press. Soolip's the real thing, and has a genuine love for the history and art of writing.

It was tremendously fun to see the stationary Wanda unboxed for us upstairs -- invites and note cards of some of the city's most famous residents (and I mean famous residents) -- but it was equally wonderful to learn that the store is truly available to all people. Designs range from digital to hand-drawn and the paper selection is vast, which means that prices vary and beautifully designed, custom papers don't have to cost a fortune.

With that, a few images of Soolip 2.0!

Soolip has no shortage of fantastic cards for the season (I'm partial to the fauteuil and deer, naturally!) but I loved that they had New Years cards, for those of us who don't quite get ourselves together in time...

The circa 1890s press and a few hand-designed invitations

A little clue to the celebrity couple behind this Christmas card: The Wild Dolphin Project

For more on Wanda and the bustling event side of Soolip, visit A Soolip Wedding. Or follow Soolip online with Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Carol for Children by Ogden Nash

Prayer candles, St. Peter's Church, Salzburg, Kevin Tangney/National Geographic

A Carol for Children

God rest you merry, Innocents,
Let nothing you dismay,
Let nothing wound an eager heart
Upon this Christmas day.

Yours be the genial holly wreaths,
The stockings and the tree;
An aged world to you bequeaths
Its own forgotten glee.

Soon, soon enough come crueler gifts,
The anger and the tears;
Between you now there sparsely drifts
A handful yet of years.

Oh, dimly, dimly glows the star
Through the electric throng;
The bidding in temple and bazaar
Drowns out the silver song.

The ancient altars smoke afresh,
The ancient idols stir;
Faint in the reek of burning flesh
Sink frankincense and myrrh.

Gaspar, Balthazar, Melchior!
Where are your offerings now?
What greetings to the Prince of War,
His darkly branded brow?

Two ultimate laws alone we know,
The ledger and the sword --
So far away, so long ago,
We lost the infant Lord.

Only the children clasp His hand;
His voice speaks low to them,
And still for them the shining band
Wings over Bethlehem.

God rest you merry, Innocents,
While innocence endures,
A sweeter Christmas than we to ours
May you bequeath to yours.

Ogden Nash, circa 1936

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pomanders: a whiff of history

In honor of my attempt at pomanders (below, with our initials), a look at their history through the collections of some of my favorite museums:

Pomander (from Fr. pomme d'ambre), a small metal container, usually silver or gold, designed to hold aromatic spices or herbs, such as ambergirs (whence the name), musk, or civit, and worn suspended from the neck or girdle as protection against infection and noxious odors. As fashionable jewelry in the late Middle Ages, pomanders were luxury objects, and often embellished with gems or enamelwork. In the late 16th-century, the traditional spherical shape was divided into segments, like those of an orange, in order to accommodate a variety of exotic powdered spices such as mace, nutmeg or cinnamon (spices that were more valuable than precious stones). Pomanders were replaced in the 18th and 19th centuries by vinaigrettes, and in the 20th century by the clove-studded citrus, still popular today.

Not just for the ladies: Portrait of a Man from the Weinsberg Family, Bartholomaus the Elder,  c. 1538-39, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Portrait of a Young Woman from the Slosgin Family of Cologne, Barthel Bruyn the Younger, 1557, Metropolitan Museum

Lady with a Pomander, Wenceslas Hollar, 1640, at the University of Toronto's Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

A 16th-century gold and pearl (some missing) pomander, made in England and, incredibly, dug up from the Thames River in the 19th century, The British Museum

A 17th-century silver pomander from Italy, Metropolitan Museum

A mid-17th-century example with enameled decoration, from either Germany or the Netherlands, Art Institute of Chicago

Monday, December 10, 2012

Collecting Christmas: the Victoria & Albert Museum

Turns out it's not just Christmas celebrants like myself who have boxes of holiday items stored away for most of the year. So does London's V&A!

Below, a peek at a few of the holiday-related objects in their collection.

Pieces from the Christmas Pudding series designed by English artist Eric Ravilious for Wedgwood in 1938. Ravilious, a highly respected illustrator, was sought out by Wedgwood for not only this series, but several others, as well as the design of a mug for the coronation of Edward VIII. Each of his designs became hugely popular, and remained in production through the 1950s.

Marionettes of the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge, made by Frances and Peter Grant circa 1979-80 and used in their puppet performance of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

A bauble, or Christmas ball, believed to be German, circa 1880-1900. The ornament, which is made of  blown yellow glass that has been silvered on the inside, originally entered the V&A's collection in 1916 as "a Witches ball."

The Nativity (detail), from a lavishly decorated prayer book by the French miniaturist Jean Bourdichon. The book, which dated to circa 1498, is believed to have once belonged to Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England and third wife of Louis XII of France.

A Louis XIV-style table made by the French firm of Edouard Kreisser in 1855, was ordered by Queen Victoria as a Christmas present for her husband, Prince Albert. The table also served as a souvenir of their 1854 visit to Paris, a trip that took them to the Exposition Universelle and introduced them to Emperor Napoleon III. It is made of tulip and other woods, with mounts of silvered and gilded bronze. The frieze is set with a porcelain plaque that carries their intertwined initials, V and A. The table (along with a matching cabinet) were used in the Small Drawing room at Osborne House, the royal family's home on the Isle of Wight. 

A printed velvet evening dress with a machine-lace skirt and tulle petticoat, designed by the British firm Idol for Liberty & Co.'s 1995 holiday window display at their Regent Street shop in London. The dress was inspired by Medieval and Renaissance costumes but detailed with Uzbekistani-style beadwork.

Monday, December 03, 2012

"O Christmas tree, Much pleasure dost thou bring me!"

 A 19th-century German engraving

It dawned on me this morning that I thought I always chose small, table-top Christmas trees because of my apartment situation. Small trees are infinitely easier when it comes to elevators and, during my single years, they were definitely easier to carry! What I realized though, as I looked at our twinkling tree over a cup of coffee, is that, in fact, I've been choosing them as much for their charm.

Our apartment is large -- bigger than many homes in the area -- so we can certainly fit a good sofa-size tree. Yet, when we went to the lot yesterday, we both gravitated right to the 3-4 foot group. Yes, there's the price difference... $30 versus $300... but an enormous tree, while glorious (I did stand among them for a while), just isn't us.

There's something old fashioned, something humble, about a small tree that speaks to the nature of the holiday, or the holiday as I see it. I don't want to feel dwarfed. I don't want to feel overcome by drama and showy decoration. I need my tree to be a bit more meditative. Yes, I need sparkling lights and shiny ornaments -- it's a celebration, after all! -- but really what I really need is peace, and the sense of family and history that a simple small evergreen provides.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Welcome, December

Winter landscape painted on a folding fan by an unknown artist, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Metropolitan Museum

I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold,
I see that now the window's bright again.
Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick,
I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.

Bai Juyi (China, 772846)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving, Dorothy Draper-style

I couldn't resist pulling 365 Shortcuts to Home Decorating (Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1965) off the shelf to see what Mrs. Draper had to say about my most favorite holiday. I'll be thankful for a few things more meaningful than housewares this year, but I get what she's saying: Make your home your happy place, and be grateful for every single aspect of it.

"Around the House at Thanksgiving Time

Even if you live where the only place you can see a pumpkin is inside a grocery store, you can feel the frost in the air and know that in some lot, complete with scarecrow, the 'frost is on the pumpkin' and Thanksgiving is just around the next cornstalk.

And while you're looking to see what 'blessings you can count' and give thanks for, let's just stop a moment and see how many things around the house we can be thankful for this year.

I'm grateful, for instance, for the new cabinets to house the hi-fi and stereo equipmentfor the beautiful new wallpapers and murals that give a room the illusion of foreign shoresfor the new hobnail bedspreads that come with their own knee-deep ruffle on three sidesfor the rainbow palette of towels available today that would make any insignificant bathroom sit up and take noticefor all the magic of accessories that may be chosen in the heady colors of today: citrus green, curry, Bristol blue, tangerine, amethyst, and cranberryfor the daring new area rugs in a variety of definite hues to match your most colorful whim and in a variety of designs to charm a Michelangelofor the chance to set a Thanksgiving table with a big new block plaid in colors of pumpkin and white with a centerpiece of a mammoth real pumpkin, hollowed out and filled to overflowing with ripe fruit and a garland of sugar-frosted purple grapes, and low country goblets of shiny pine-needle green glass with inexpensive green glass ash trays at each place for an added green accent. Yes, it's time to give thanks for all that bounty available to the person of good tasteyou!"

Friday, November 09, 2012

Holiday sparkle at Rolling Greens

Last night, Rolling Greens hosted a holiday kick-off party at their Beverly Boulevard location in Los Angeles. It's one of my favorite stores throughout the year (I've blogged about them before), but it's extra special during the holiday season.

I'm normally a bird girl when it comes to Christmas ornaments (I tend to do woodland-type trees), but I absolutely loved the little cloche jar ornaments -- some of which had Santa and some of which had snowmen. They reminded me of childhood snow globes, and I admit to being a sentimental fool from early-November to New Year's Eve.

If you're into funny dog ornaments, this is definitely the place. From poodles to yorkies to spaniels... they've got canines covered!

Stop in for a good a dose of cheer. I can't guarantee that they'll be offering Mason jars of white sangria, as they did last night, but I can guarantee that you'll leave feeling happy.

I'm clearly not the only one in love with the store -- they recently opened a new location in Costa Mesa. How great is it to see a company thriving? Like them on Facebook to keep up with the latest happenings, and follow their blog for seasonal inspiration. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Hermès & Kneedler Fauchère: a double dose of luxury

Sophisticated and whimsical. Masculine and feminine. Regal and relaxed. Classical and downright groovy. Apparently you really can be all things to all people... or at least Hermès can!

Take a peek at some of the new textiles and wallpapers on view at the Kneedler Fauchère showroom in Los Angeles last night. It's a clever range of designs (from horses to monkeys to the famous "H") in wonderfully sophisticated colors. But one wouldn't really expect anything less from a firm that's been trading in luxury goods for 175 years, now would they...

Interior designer François Jantzen of Modoo Modoo and Rocky La Fleur of Kneedler Fauchère playfully consider the options for Couverture et Tenues de Jour, a bold fabric featuring parading horses. The pattern is based on the iconic Hermès scarf designed by Jacques Eudel in 1962.

A handy take-away last night was the small but handsome seasonal catalogue, which -- and kudos to Hermès for this -- identifies each designer by name wherever possible. You have to love a firm that doesn't hide their talent behind the company curtain, so to speak, but celebrates them with full credit.

Ottoman, cotton and viscose
The formality of herringbone meets the delicacy of grosgrain ribbon to create this tailored, but not stiff, stripe.
Equateur, printed cotton
A jungle scene imagined by Robert Dallet, the naturalist painter, in 1988.
Meow: A detail of Dallet's rosy-nosed leopard.
Finish, printed cotton
Designer Jean-Louis Clerc perfectly captures the rush of racing in a quick, sketch-like scene.
Bibliothèque, printed cotton
A fabric after my own heart: Hugo Grygkar's trompe l'oeil design inspired by the many equestrian tomes found in the Hermès family library.
Fil d'Argent
The equine theme continues with Henri d'Origny's bridle-inspired pattern (seen here as a wallpaper), a nod to the founding of the Hermès brand, which began as a saddlery firm for the nobility.

For more information on the Hermès fabrics and papers, click here.

If you're in Los Angeles, visit Kneedler Fauchère at the Pacific Design Center. Just don't be surprised if you find a dozen other things that you'd like to take home! It's a beautiful showroom.

PS: Kneedler Fauchère will be launching their Web site early in the New Year. Keep an eye out for it!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

From the Getty to Venice in a single turn: Giberto Arrivabene's newest glassware

Sometimes discoveries don't come from a museum's art galleries, but from its library. While visiting the Getty last week, I stopped into the GRI to see a friend and read through a few of my favorite art and design magazines. Flipping through Ville Giardini (it was a fast flip, I don't know more than a few words of Italian), I stumbled upon the most glorious etched glassware by Venetian artist Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga.

The magazine photographed the glasses on the balcony of the main salon at the Palazzo Papadopolithe family home where Giberto spent much of his childhood, and now a hoteloverlooking Venice's Grand Canal. The etched designs are taken from six of the most decorative palazzo facades in the city: Grimani, Ariani, Ducale, Spinelli, Ca' d'Oro, and, quite sweetly, Papadopoli. The glasses can be purchased individually or as a set of six (one of each design, as below), and are available in either a clear crystal or a darker "antiqued" crystal.

Think a little Carpano sipped from one of these would vastly improve my Italian?

The Ca' d'Oro glass, and a detail of its pretty design.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"To be happy at home...

is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution." 

Samuel Johnson, The Rambler (No. 68), November 10, 1750

Sunday, October 21, 2012

T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, my hero

This could very well be my new all-time favorite image of Palm Springs: the Thomas Davis residence, 1957.

Architect: Eggers and Wilkman
Interior Designer: T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings
Landscape Architect: C. Jacques Hahn

Color me happy: Gräf & Lantz's Bierfilzl coasters

For nearly two years we have searched for attractive and absorbent coasters. Hallelujah, we found them yesterday!

We were in downtown Los Angeles strolling through the Chinatown art galleries, when we decided to pop into 5th Floor... I admit, largely because there was an irresistible Beagle-mix (?) pooch sitting in the doorway.

The shop has all sorts of fun home objects, but spying the wool-felt coasters made us lose track of everything else. They're made by the Hollywood-based firm Gräf & Lantz, and come in a fun array of brights and neutralswe opted for the later, in ash brown. 

Felt coasters have been in use in German pubs since the 19th century. They absorb the condensation, protect the table and serve as a handy glass cover, lest any critters from the beer garden should fall in while you've stepped away. It's genius; felt is durable and natural. For more info on the coasters, click here

The coasters are as suited to frosty mimosas as they are to hot coffeethey either absorb the water or disperse the heat. (That's Norah, below.)

And, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Olivia, the sweetie that lured us into the shop, spent the rest of our visit lounging happily on her Shaggy Shank. Yes, Shaggy Shank. How cute is that!?! A steak of one's own, made of chenille, faux fur and corduroy. Learn more about the clever design by Andrew Armstrong, here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Palm Springs Art Museum's beautiful addition to Palm Desert

Last month I visited the new outpost of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the former Palm Desert Visitor Center now completely revamped, modernized and LEED-certified. This branch of the museum, officially called the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, is still taking shape, particularly when it comes to the garden behind the building. Summer's simply too hot to try and wrangle large outdoor sculpture, but there were markers in place for what's planned. (Can't wait to return!) The outdoor space is named for the late landscape designer and horticulturalist, Eric Johnson, who was well-known throughout the Coachella Valley. The garden features waterfalls, palms, cactus-dotted dunes, and a pathway inlaid with glass tiles, evocative of a gentle stream. The entire setting is lovely. It's a fantastic way to spend a few hours.

Because it was vacation, I didn't follow my normal routine of shooting the gallery labels; I was just lazily exploring the space and playing with a new camera phone. So, no object info. But, you can read more/see more on the exhibition, Rodin to Now: Modern Sculpture, by clicking here.