Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Something Beaded and Something Blue

[Lacey wrap by Etkie at Beyond Buckskin Boutique. Details follow bellow.]

For a while now, Karen Kramer seems to have had some interesting pieces to consider: there's the still-incredibly-chic, circa 1948 long-fringed crepe dress designed by Gilbert Adrian for Taos-transplant Millicent Rogers; contemporary bead artist Jamie Okuma's collaborations with Christian Louboutin; and Isaac Mizrahi's Totem Pole Dress (the eye-popping embroidered one donned by Naomi Campbell on the cover of TIME in the 90s). The connecting thread here is that each item was heavily influenced by Native American style, with California-raised Okuma's work drawing directly from her own heritage (Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock). As PEM's curator of Native American Art and Culture, Kramer is weaving together objects for a very timely -- and perhaps fairly large -- 2015 exhibition, Native Fashion Now.

[Julia cuff from Etkie. More below.]

Designs by Native Americans will be key to the show but work from non-Natives like Mizrahi will be part of the story, too. Kramer is focused primarily on the past five decades and, as mentioned in her related blog post, is exploring all-things Native from street to haute, tradish to cutting edge.

Hopefully a lavish catalogue will accompany the exhibition. In the meantime, here are some finely made goods you can admire (and wear) right now: hand-beaded on a traditional Navajo loom with seed beads, the pictured cuffs and wraps were crafted by Native American women living and working just outside Albuquerque. Learn more about the enterprise, Etkie, here.

[Ceramics images by Jeffery Cross, courtesy Heath,]

Also handmade in the U.S. is Heath Ceramics' latest collection inspired by Lake Tahoe and the intense blues -- seen in both water and sky -- surrounding the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

Bowls, vases, textiles and more are scheduled to be available early October. A look back at 1940s Heath here.


Plant Oneself Well

[Detail view: Bamana mud cloth pictured in The Silence of the Women. Credits and full view follow below.]

Whether spied on a Pinterest board, at Urban Outfitters, or at the Smithsonian's site, hand-dyed, intricately patterned mud cloth (bògòlanfini) made by the Bamana people in Mali, West Africa is now a very familiar sight in the U.S.

But before it was, Sarah Brett-Smith, professor of West African art and culture at Rutgers, was very busy studying the textiles. From her scholarly beginnings in the 70s, she has focused on the women behind the patterns, interviewing Bamana artisans well-versed in the most traditional techniques. Historically, women were the ones to design and paint the cloths, and Brett-Smith is fascinated by the ways in which their geometric patterns served as a sort of private visual language. In fact, in her just-released tome, The Silence of the Women, she likens the carefully hand-painted patterns to poetry. She also feels that the designs could be viewed as abstract art rather than craft.

Today's highlighted cloth comes from the book. Originally intended to serve as a woman's wrapper, it's from the 1920s, features a painted motif known as "plant oneself well," and today belongs to Musee du Quai Branly. Brett-Smith says that the stippled design in the large squares with Xs might have been inspired by the look of peeled leather.


More African Style

[Click to enlarge]
Don't scroll down too fast and miss the beaded, multi-color tassel on FEED's new Heritage Makindu bag. It adds a hint of regional flair to the internationally classic form, which in this case has been handcrafted by Kenyan artisans. All of the Heritage bags provide school meals for children in Kenya; this example happens to provide 200 and comes in a kitinge cloth bag.

[Murals at the home of Esther Mahlangu, May 19, 2014. Photo: Richard B. Woodward.]

[Contemporary artist Esther Mahlangu via the VMFA.] 

The vibrant color mixes traditionally spotted in South Africa, specifically Ndebele style, can currently be seen in the U.S. at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Esther Mahlangu just began an artistic residency there and she is painting free-hand two 9- by 15-foot works that will ultimately lead into the museum’s African Art Gallery. Mahlangu's larger-than-large geometric pieces relate to the style with which Ndebele women have long painted the exteriors of their houses. Catch her completed project October 8 or onward, or stop by to see the work in progress now.


Yards of Style

[Screengrabs and stills from Half of A Yellow Sun.]

A few weeks ago, I finally noticed that Half of A Yellow Sun is now available to rent through iTunes.

If you don't already know the story, it's a 1960s epic set in post-colonial Nigeria with a plot focused on chic, young, English-educated Nigerian twins Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose). Chiwetel Ejiofor from 12 Years a Slave plays Newton's lover (and ultimately husband), the revolutionary academic Odenigbo. From a visual perspective, it's hard not to be mesmerized by the film's abundance of prints, patterns and vibrant, saturated colors.

Via interiors, architecture and clothes, contemporary 60s styles mash-up with more traditional, regional looks.

Historically Nigeria has been known for its own indigo-dyed cloth as well as strip-woven textiles, and of course eye-popping "Wax Hollandais" patterns have long favored in the area, too. Combine those traditions with the fashion-forward nature of the twins, and it makes sense that nearly every scene is infused with yards of style -- a phrase I wish I'd thought of on my own. But actually I snaked it from the Fowler's somewhat related new exhibition, Yards of Style, African-Print Cloths of Ghana.

[Image via the Fowler Museum at UCLA.]

This show explores factory-produced printed cloth found for sale today in West African markets, encompassing goods made in Ghana, other areas of Africa, China and Holland. The exhibition continues through December 14, 2014.  


Graphic Design

When the postcard first spilled out from between various fall catalogs in my mailbox, I saw just a bit of the birds' bodies and thought, "Oooh, slightly Glaser-esque."

While the creatures do have that psychedelic feel of late-60s posters and album cover art, they were actually embroidered 300 years ago in Gujurat.

And they are joined by other silky chain-stitched birds, animals and flowers on a bed cover (or possibly wall hanging) that was made in India for export to the West. Today, the piece belongs to the V & A. The museum says that it was likely done by professional embroiderers (men, in this case) using a tool called an ari which was strong enough to embellish leather belts and shoes.

Other small but incredibly graphic details from the antique cotton textile have been used as a different sort of cover art: a magnified repro of the flower unfurls across the back of Rosemary Crill's Indian Embroidery.

BTW: Another fascinating Glaser illustration, less famous than the Dylan poster yet displaying those characteristic undulating lines and eye-popping color, is pinned here.  


Textile Scout™

[From Blithfield and Co.'s Peggy Angus collection of wallpapers and fabrics based on Angus's early-20th-century hand -blocked designs. Above, Willow; Below, Persian Leaf.]  

Furlongs, the cottage Peggy Angus rented in the English countryside, might have once rivaled Charleston in terms of its unconventional decoration and ability to attract artists, says author James Russell. Textile-designing Angus decamped there for approximately six decades beginning in the early 1930s but few of us are very familiar with this artists' hangout or the main occupant's work.  

For the past few months, though, an exhibition at Towner in Southeast England, Peggy Angus: Designer, Teacher, Painter, has been helping to shed more light on her career. There are just about three weeks left to catch the show, and Charleston is participating in the celebration by offering a special walk with Penny Fewster and Angus scholar, Carolyn Trant, that will retrace Peggy's old stomping ground. Russell's new book is available on both sides of the pond.



[Images courtesy Anthropologie.]

It's back: the Anthro fall catalog devoted solely to all things domestic.

Scheduled to hit mailboxes (old school, three dimensional mailboxes) on September 15th, this new 72-page print edition House and Home journal will highlight ceramics by Louisiana artist Rebecca Rebouché, Bamileke Stools by artisans from Cameroon, and Folkthread Chairs by the UK's Kit Kemp, among other goods. In the meantime, be on the lookout for a video peek at the catalog shoot offered over at Anthro's blog.

If you're engaged and thinking about registering for housewares, now Anthropologie is an option. Launching online September 17th will be a new service aptly named The Registry. Actually, the service is designed for all sorts of celebratory occasions. And if you happen to live near Beverly Hills, Chicago, New York (Soho), Seattle, Southlake, Texas or Wayne, Pennsylvania, you can pop in select brick and mortar shops to make selections in person.


My Horst Photo

[As seen in Flower's September/October issue: Horst's photo of Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech, 1980. Copyright Conde Nast. Click to enlarge.]

The V & A has issued a little Instagram challenge. It's kind of intimidating but nonetheless a good way to exercise those creative muscles: the museum's #MyHorstPhoto competition invites participants to take shots inspired by one of Horst's famous images. Since he captured rooms, gardens, fashion, travel and the human form, the possibilities are endless. Personally, I'd like to recreate the scene in YSL's walled garden, taken decades ago for Conde Nast but currently published in Flower to celebrate the V & A's soon-to-open fall show, Horst: Photographer of Style.

That said, I'm also drawn to his incredible close ups of plant-life. Recently, thanks to an assignment from Flower, I had a chance to learn more about a lesser known chapter in Horst's career -- his Patterns from Nature series. If you're interested, you can check it out here. Maybe you'll get some new ideas for your Instagram feed. The V & A challenge extends through November 13.


Traces of the Past

[Central Anatolian village carpet, LACMA. Composite ultraviolet reflectance photograph documented by Yosi Pozeilov and published in Hali, winter 2007.]

Several years ago we looked at X-rays, not of skeletal systems but of things: upholstered furniture belonging to the National Trust and an Anatolian carpet from LACMA's collection. In some ways, these intriguing images were as compelling as the objects themselves. 

Along slightly similar lines, I think, LACMA is currently inviting visitors to look at an entire group of textiles from an unusual angle. Fragmentary Tales: Selections from the Lloyd Cotsen "Textile Traces" Collection, on view through October 26, is an exhibition that shows how remnants of cloth have their own particular allure and tell stories, too. In this video, LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan explains how textile fragments can serve as a sort of index to the whole Museum.


Textile Network

[Image via Textile Hive]

Caleb Sayan, founder of the previously mentioned online resource, Textile Hive, will be in L.A. (at UCLA, specifically) on Friday, September 12th to participate in the Textile Society of America Symposium. His focus, appropriately enough, will be digital knowledge bases and ways of connecting textile collections -- topics that mesh well with the themes of this fall conference: innovation and change, past and present.

A wide range of textile scholars are scheduled to make presentations during the five-day event, using cloth as a jumping off point while covering the globe from Africa to Asia to the Americas.

[Photo by Ryan Bush and Aaron Rayburn] 

But back to Sayan and the website he developed in part to highlight the 40,000 + textiles gathered over the years by his mom, Andrea Aranow: He reports that his five and a half years of work to bring the pieces to a broader audience will soon culminate with an early September launch offering database memberships. So stay tuned.



[At left, 18th-century woven Kashmiri sash from Karun Thakar's private collection; At right, "Persia" linen-cotton by Elizabeth Hamilton.]

Lately I've been spending a lot of time looking at Elizabeth Hamilton's collection of fabrics and wallpapers, specifically her "Persia" design. Hand silk-screened in Massachusetts and available in multiple colorways, it's a large-scale print.

[At left: 19th-century Kutch embroidery; Silk on stamped Chinese silk.
 Thakar's personal collection.]
When a swatch of the "Ocean" option brushed up against an open book on my desk, Indian Textiles: The Karun Thakar Collection, I saw pairing potential. Here are two examples.


Textile Scout™

[John Robshaw's Surin Walnut]

[Detail: Robshaw's Maha Walnut

In the States, ikat may now be just as familiar a term as toile or crewelwork. Maybe even more familiar. For a while, Western designers have been channeling the textiles of Southeast Asia (think Indonesian sarongs and Thai wovens), with one of the most recent examples being John Robshaw's Siam collection. Another favorite of decorators is China Seas' linen/cotton Ikat II in Sienna Negre Tint.

 [Photo ©Julia Lynn. Design by Angie Hranowsky.]

This fall, curators at UCLA's Fowler Museum -- home to what is reportedly one of the world’s most significant collections of Timorese textiles -- will help spread the word about the varieties of weavings specifically made by Timor's women. Although considered to be spectacular, these cloths are often less recognizable on this side of the globe.

[Mau; Atoin Meto peoples, Amanuban, West Timor, mid-20th century; Commercial cotton yarns; warp ikat; 107 x 214.5 cm. Fowler Museum; Gift of Elizabeth Lloyd Davis.  Photo by Don Cole and courtesy Fowler Museum at UCLA.]
[Mambae peoples, attributed to Ainaro, Ainaro District, Timor- Leste, pre–World War II; Cotton, silk; warp ikat, slit tapestry; 208 x 130 cm; two panels. Fowler Museum; gift of E. M. Bakwin. Photo by Don Cole and courtesy Fowler Museum at UCLA.]

Opening September 7 and continuing through January 4, 2015 is Textiles of Timor, Island in the Woven Sea, an exhibition of fifty brilliantly colored cloths from both West Timor (today part of Indonesia) and Timor-Leste (aka East Timor). A companion book will be available, too.

BTW: Programming related to this show will be a highlight of the Textile Society of America's 2014 Biennial Symposium in L.A., September 10 through September 14. Details here. LACMA also plans to have a strong presence during the event.

In the meantime, one last Thai-inspired print by Robshaw.


On the Wild Side

[Photo of Schuyler Samperton at home by Tula Jeng. Note the planter below the window.]

Imagine an avant-garde 20th-century room. Maybe looks by Le Corbusier or even Syrie Maugham come to mind? But not necessarily Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, right? The funny thing, though, pointed out by Christopher Reed in Bloomsbury Rooms: Modernism, Subculture, and Domesticity, is that the latter two were also taking a walk on the wild side when, nearly a century ago, they started painting with abandon the walls (and doors and mantles and furniture) in their farmhouse, Charleston. The style certainly wasn't sleek or minimal, still Reed says, at that time, it was a whole new way of living.

[Samperton's dining room photographed by Tula Jeng. Click to enlarge.]

Similarly, a few years ago, Los Angeles-based designer Schuyler Samperton felt compelled to try a truly less expected approach. She explains, "I just wanted something crazy in my dining room, so I decided to recreate the [Bloomsbury-inspired] window I originally did for [the fundraiser], Legends of La Cienega."

[Window courtesy Samperton.]
Just as she had done for the window installation, decorative painter Kate Golden covered Schuyler's dining room walls with Vanessa Bell's bold take on the paisley motif -- free-flowing, daisy-strewn forms that seem to mix Bell's combined passions for Indian textiles and modern art.

The vintage red fabric used for the curtains and dining chairs was found at Hollywood at Home.

[Another view of the dining room captured by Tula Jeng.] 

"I first learned about Charleston in college through my ultra-cool brother, Kyle," says Schuyler. "My dear friend Beth Jewett and I quickly became obsessed, and she painted everything from beds to chests of drawers to these amazing ceramic pitchers and platters. We also made some amazing needlepoint pillows based on the designs. In school I was studying Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell and Lytton Strachey, so it was fascinating to me to connect their intellectual points of view with their aesthetic points of view."

[Edie Campbell photographed by Jason Bell via Vanity Fair.]

[Click to enlarge. Inspiration board by Samperton for Style Court. Background fabric: Peter Dunham's Kashmir Paisley. Image at left, again Campbell photographed by Jason Bell via Vanity Fair. Trench and hand-painted bootie via Burberry.]

"I also love the Bloomsbury Group's wild, exuberant way of mixing patterns and their crazy color combinations," she adds. It's no shock then that Schuyler is enjoying Bloomsbury's current fashion moment.

[From Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden. Photography by Alen Macweeney.]

If you're interested in learning more about the history behind Burberry's Bloomsbury-inspired fall prints, or just want a virtual escape to Charleston, Schuyler recommends these books: The aforementioned Bloomsbury Rooms and Charleston by Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson. Plus there's this past post.

[Queen Mary fabric image via the V & A.]

We've also talked before about Bell's and Grant's abstract printed fabrics designed in the early 30s for Allan Walton. These prints are looser and more organic than their pre-1920s Omega looks. For inspiration, Schuyler is partial to Duncan Grant's circa 1935-36 Queen Mary fabric created for, you guessed it, the ocean liner named after the royal, although never actually installed on board. Re-edition cotton-linen yardage is available through Charleston's gift shop. Proceeds benefit The Charleston Trust.

Fittingly, one of Vanessa Bell's early paintings that attracts Schuyler is titled Still Life: Wild Flowers, a circa 1915 oil on canvas dominated by blue and ochre. And speaking of capturing garden blooms, Charleston is offering this upcoming workshop. Unfortunately, The Young Bohemians mini summer school is sold out (and caps off at age twelve), otherwise I think many of us would've liked to sign up for a creative retreat.