Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


A Blue-and-Green Summer

The official color forecast may call for yellows and plums, but I predict my summer will be filled with greens and blues. In June, Monet Water Lilies opens at the High. A lot of us grew up seeing so much of Monet's work reproduced on umbrellas, note paper -- yes, maybe even jigsaw puzzles -- that we forget how edgy the paintings were back in the day. Especially the abstract water lily series done at the end of his life. As the museum explains, most of the work stagnated in Monet's studio long after his death, unappreciated until MOMA's founding director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., brought the work to the public. Once the paintings were understood, they had a significant impact on Modern art.

One of my favorite curators, Dr. David Brenneman, will talk about this on Saturday, June 6 at 2 p.m. Click here for details.

In addition to hanging out at the High, I'll also be recovering a small bench with Peter Dunham's "Fig Leaf" -- finally. If you've never seen the fabric in person, there is a wonderful pale blue shade mixed in with the greens that brings a dimension not always so apparent in magazine features.

Something to wear to David's lecture, the "Charlotte" necklace shown at the top is from Atlanta-based Turq Jewelry. The beads are olive green faceted Czech glass on silk thread with faceted navy agate nuggets, and the length is adjustable from 16 inches to 23 inches. (BTW: Turq Jewelry can be found at the High gift shop.)

Top view of Monet's Water Lilies is via
L'Orangerie; image three is courtesy Allie Caulfield

This Kate Spade ad via Inside the Loop perfectly captures blue-and-green summer in the city.


Giving: Lisa's Style

A refreshing presence in the blogospehre, Lisa Borgnes Giramonti has enchanted many of us with her calming prose and candid pictures of her soulful L.A. home. Apart from being a talented writer, she is a self-taught embroidery artist with an edge. Above all, though, she's an adventurous spirit.

Not too long ago I asked Lisa if she gives her friends and family handmade gifts. Here's what she had to say:

"Over the years, I've come full circle when it comes to making handmade presents for friends. When I was just starting out in advertising in NYC and had a limited budget for gifts, I usually made things for friends and family: everything from knitted ski hats and sweaters to needlepoint pillows. Sure, it took a lot of time, but every stitch was a record of a moment well spent. When life got busier and my job became crazier and the Age of Excess landed fully upon us (roughly the time period of Sex and the City), I lost myself a little bit to consumerism...didn't we all? It wasn't about making things anymore, it was about buying (aka 'the thrill of the hunt.') One holiday, I ordered Dean and Deluca gift baskets for everyone; another year, it was monogrammed Land's End bags and personalized jewelry. It was time-efficient, it was hassle-free but looking back, it was slightly soulless."

She adds that now, with the New Recession, her thoughts are turning back to handmade presents for a myriad of reasons:

1. They come from the heart.

2. There is a simplicity and honesty to a homemade gift that can't be achieved through a purchase.

3. She misses the sense of connection and personal fulfillment that comes from making something with her hands.

4. Even though they are not necessarily easier on the wallet (a homemade sweater costs much more than one you find on sale at Loehman's), the bang you get from your buck lasts much longer.

Lisa continues, "That being said, my embroidery pieces take anywhere from one to four months to make and so, obviously, I am limited in the time I have to make them for people. But knitting something doesn't take very long. A knitted messenger bag takes only a day or two to make, and a hat can be whipped up in a night. I also have a seven year old son who can't remember ever seeing me with a pair of knitting needles in my hands (I stopped when he was a baby) and I'd like to remedy that, too."

All images of thread are via Selvedge. To learn more about Lisa's piece above, Apartment in NYC, 2005, embroidery floss on linen, click here.

Lisa is a huge fan of London's V & A so I don't think she will mind if I tack on this fun video with Sir Paul Smith in the museum. Click here to watch. (Or here if you have trouble with the first link.) Don't miss the Cecil Beaton chair.

Update: 4.29.09
Looks like Sir Smith is on 1stdibs today.


Summer Reading

Hennessey Ingalls is offering 20% off new arrivals. Look for titles including The Whimsical Work of David Weidman (remember this artist is one of Angie's favorites) and Liberty & Co. in the Fifties and Sixties: A Taste for Design. For more on David's work visit

Giving: Vicky's Style

Vicky is another huntress who always seems to be finding interesting old planters or other containers for flowers. (Stop by her online shop Tuesday, April 28 to see a great array of vases.) And as most of you already know, she is a talented artist.

[Shown above is a detail from one of her interior watercolors, available here.]

Recently I asked Vicky if she gives her friends and family handmade presents. The answer? An enthusiastic "Yes, I love to!"

She added, "I used to have my own line of handmade jewelry and accessories which I always gave as gifts to close friends. I think all of my girlfriends own a piece of jewelry or [one of my] huge fabric flower beach bags."

"Way back in the day when I had a press available to me, I used to give prints as Christmas and birthday presents. I would make a limited serigraph, woodblock or etching series to give to friends and family, or a monoprint if I had someone specific in mind. That special someone might get a personal artist's book. I once gave my husband one in the shape of a PBJ sandwich -- his favorite."

But Vicky is careful to only give handmade things to those who like her work or who are very dear to her. "Since art work is quite personal, I don't like to put them in an awkward situation were they might feel obliged to display my work. I'm a bit shy when it comes to that." Lately she has become interested in needlepoint pillows and tiny paintings.

All vases pictured here are from Vicky's shop. The baby printing press is available at Madison Art Shop and the needlepoint thread is from Past Times.


Giving: Coleen, Caitlin and Tyler

Over the weekend I finally caved and temporarily joined the Twitter party just so that I could enjoy behind-the-scenes peeks at Grace Bonney's Savannah wedding preparations. (If you checked in too, didn't her hair look great? Love gardenias.) It was fun to share her day in a small way. Her guest blogging for Martha Stewart Weddings these past few months has also been entertaining. I really related to Grace's fanciful line about how the movie-version of her everyday life includes a huge slush fund created to support her fresh flower addiction.

Why don't we get in the habit of giving friends homemade flower arrangements (or just one bloom) in a hand-picked vase to acknowledge a small triumph or a rough patch, or to celebrate a birthday? The Found girls, Caitlin and Tyler from San Francisco, do this. And Coleen Rider likes to collect things along the way -- small old porcelain urns, hand-painted cache pots -- and give those as gifts.

She says, "To be honest, I don't give handmade gifts unless I'm baking around the holidays."

But an object painted by someone else long ago, like the tiny circa 1930s Japanese urn shown at the top, can become an ideal present for one of Coleen's friends. "I picked it up when I was out and about shopping for the store. At four inches tall, it's just big enough for a single flower. This makes it perfect for the work desk or bedside and it only takes a minute to snip a bloom from the front yard. Buying antique and vintage for a friend or family member is difficult, but if you choose something that relates to the person in color or style, and make sure it's an item that doesn't have to be set out every day -- so they don't feel obligated to include it in their decor -- it will never fail to delight."

Caitlin and Tyler enjoy "rediscovering" pieces with interesting forms such as the small vintage green vase above. Then they pair flowers with the container. "We often make flower arrangements as tokens of affection for our nearest and dearest," says Tyler. Below are samples.

BTW: If you are a Chloe Warner fan, I think you will enjoy visiting Found.

Images one and three courtesy of Coleen Rider; All other vases above courtesy of Found San Francisco.

If you are looking for more inspiration, don't forget L.A.-based Lily Lodge. The 1920s glass vase above is a sample of their upscale recycling.


Giving: Amanda's Style

Right off the bat, I have to say the pairing above was done purely for fun. It has little relation to this post except for the fact that it is festive and the piece on the right is New-Orleans based artist Amanda Talley's untitled mixed media on paper. (The image on the left is pure J. Crew.) Amanda sometimes gives her art as wedding presents for very close friends but rarely as birthday or occasional gifts.

She told me, though, that she does make many of her own presents: "Lately I have been giving a four-hour disc mix that I made up for Art for Arts' Sake. It starts off with Louis Armstrong and moves into some O'Jays and then by the fourth hour it has settled into pure funk. It is perfect for friends to download to their iPod for the ultimate party."

"Last year I filled mason jars with brown sugar, grapeseed oil, lavender, and eucalyptus to make homemade body scrubs. I bought a bunch of shells called 'donkey ears' to tie around the top as scoops," she remembers.

"I have also been known to whip up a mean batch of my version of Cowboy Cookies for birthdays. They are oatmeal chocolate chip with toasted coconut, toasted whole almonds crushed, and dark chocolate hand-hammered. I use wheat flour and cranberries. It makes people crazy! I like to wrap them in butcher paper and tie them up with twine and a piece of greenery," explains Amanda.

Hope this served as a little light fare for the end of your week. Credits and sources follow below:

The cookie image is via Martha Stewart; Bell'occhio sells the twine; Seashell World carries the donkey ears; and the jars are available at Walmart.

Update: 4.24.09
Dallas designer Mary Elizabeth Canon selected Amanda's piece and used it in this terrific grouping, as shown above.

Update 9.23.09
See Amanda in action here.

Reminder: Faulkner-Wisdom Competition

Jamey Hatley, the 2006 Faulkner - Wisdom Creative Writing Competition winner for her novel-in-progress, sends a friendly reminder to everyone that the deadline for this year's entries is May 1. The Competition is for previously unpublished work. Categories include: Novel, Novella, Novel-in-Progress, Short Story, Essay, Poetry, and Short Story by a High School Student. Entry fees for the High School, Essay, and Short Story categories range from $10 to $30. Detailed guidelines are available here.

Shown above is Antoine Bootz's lovely photo of Faulkner House found in one of my old notebooks.

To learn a bit more about the current owners of Faulkner House, Rosemary James and Joseph De Salvo Jr., visit Bayou Contessa. And be sure to click here to learn about Faulkner House Books.
In this shot, writer Jamey's entrance wears colors similar to Faulkner House.

Artist Susana Raab has done a series on the homes of masterful Southern writers. Shown above is Eudora's Garden, Jackson, Mississippi, 2007. (That's Eudora Welty, in case you were uncertain.) Susana sells prints on Etsy.

Coming Soon

Last week Annie Butrus told me that when she was little she made all sorts of gifts for friends including "pillows" which were two drawings stapled together and stuffed with tissue. Her memory made me smile; I'm not a talented professional artist like Annie, but I did similar things as a child. Tin foil animals being among the worst. She piqued my curiosity about other artists and designers. As adults do they give handmade items to their parents, in-laws and closest friends? For thoughts I turned to a familiar group of favorites (by favorites I mean I personally have had a positive experience buying their work). You'll hear from them in the next few days.

Although I've never commissioned anything from her, embroidery artist Lisa will be in the mix simply because she is such a cool person.

Shown above, David Douglas Duncan's photograph of nine-year-old Paloma Picasso making art with common garden leaves. Visit the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin to learn more about Duncan.

It's a treat when Annie's smaller, more modestly priced work is available.


Shopping Around

Before turning to news of a more remarkable sale, I want to quickly share a very humble find: shells made into pill boxes. Priced under $10 at Terra Cottage on Atlanta's Westside, these might make a terrific Mother's Day present. (I've still got natural curiosities on the brain thanks to Amelia Handegan.)

Decorative treasures and books from the estate of Doris Duke -- including some pieces created by Tony Duquette -- will be auctioned next month at the Morristown Armory in New Jersey to benefit the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Millea Bros. is handling the sale, and you may browse the catalog online. Just for fun, and perhaps to learn something new, I've begun to study it. One thing that has grabbed my attention is a 19th-century portfolio of Southeast Asian costume studies. It includes gouache drawings in an embossed leather binding, as shown above.

Also, look at this great Japanese lacquer tableware and these books on Chinese furniture and decorative arts.

Here are the dates for the preview and sale:

Thursday, April 30, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Friday, May 1, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday, May 2, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 3, 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.

430 Western Avenue, Morristown, NJ

John Robshaw is gearing up for another sample sale on the 6th Floor at 245 West 29th Street, New York, NY. I'm told by his friendly team that shoppers can look forward to seeing his artisan bedding, decorative pillows, tabletop linens, shirts, scarves, and more reduced as much as 75%. Here are the dates:

Thursday, May 14, 10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Friday, May 15, 10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 16, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

And Leontine Linens wants everyone to know that there is still a little time left to order a monogrammed present for Mom.