Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Of salt and water, and poignant design

Tear catchers have existed for thousands of years and are most widely associated with the Romans, whose mastery of glass-blowing enabled them to produce small, decorative vials perfect for collecting the delicate drops. Capturing tears was a way to honor the dead, and the tear-filled vials would accompany the bodies of the mourned to their graves.

The practice fell from fashion for centuries but returned under Queen Victoria, who so publicly mourned the loss of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. The practice also experienced a resurgence in America during the devastating years of the Civil War. Sometimes the vials were buried with the body; sometimes they were worn as necklaces and emptied at the grave site on the first anniversary of the death.

So many years later -- thousands of years later -- we're still coping with the same sorrows, the same pain, the same fears. What's changed, though, is the way in which tears can be captured. Dutch designer Roos Kuipers, a 2009 graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven (the Department of Man and Well-being), has created a new way to approach the ancient art.

Based on the belief that tears shouldn't just be dried with a tissue and discarded, Kuipers has designed a collection of tear catchers made from glass and bamboo. The glass rings, by their very nature, imply fragility, while the bamboo-fiber pieces take a more utilitarian approach: the material is three-times more absorbent than cotton and is anti-allergenic, making it gentle on sensitive eyes.

The charm of Kuipers's designs, which range from practical to playful, comes in the act of using them. Be they needed for tears of joy or tears of sorrow, the designs are as integrated with the body as tears are with life. 

When the water of the tears caught on Kuipers's glass rings has evaporated, a delicate pattern of salt remains.

Each of Kuipers's rings are meant to be worn two ways, either visible to all or turned into the palm for privacy.

The bamboo-fiber puff necklaces come in a variety of lengths.

A traditional handkerchief made of ultra-soft bamboo.

Kuipers's bamboo-fiber glove features an extra pad for the index finger, making it doubly absorbent. The idea is based on the Dutch expression "een traantje wegpinken," or "to brush away a tear."

For more information on Roos Kuipers, visit her Web site and Etsy shop. Prices range from about $80 to $130.

There are loads of images of antique tear catchers online, but this Pinterest board offers a handy collection.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's isn't just for grown ups...

I'm utterly smitten with this sweet little heart dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was designed by Pierre Cardin in 1960, manufactured in France, and sold through luxury retailer Neiman Marcus. Its target audience? Little girls of about age 4. Or more accurately, their mothers. If only they were still being made!

To read more about the dress, click here.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Harbingers of spring

The first day of spring doesn't arrive until March 20th this year, but I think I'm starting to see signs of it already. Yesterday, I watched a little bird hop all through the bare tree outside our kitchen window, as if looking for the perfect nesting branch.

In her (his?) honor, below are a few of my favorite avian finds spotted over the last few weeks. For those of you who know me, and make fun of my bird obsession, this post will surely come as no surprise!

Etruscan Revival micromosaic earrings depicting doves, circa 1885, at A La Vieille Russie in Manhattan.

Take Flight I and II, made of Scottish willow, by contemporary British artist Lizzie Farey.

A circa 1925 silvered-bronze sculpture designed by André Vincent Becquerel, at the Antwerp antiques firm Deconamic

And, for a little more fun, a short film on the making of Alexander McQueen's Bird's Nest Headdress for the Autumn/Winter 2006 collection: