Style Court

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


Summer Mood I

[From the top: Lee Krasner with nieces and nephew in her parents' garden in Huntington, Long Island, circa 1934-36 from Gail Levin's Lee Krasner: A Biography; a Krasner serigraph promoting an exhibition in 1974; Jennifer Ament's butterfly print; kantha pillow from Jayson Home.]

[Mossy pots, also Jayson Home & Garden; paint-splattered brushes via]

[Banda indoor/outdoor ottoman.]

I love the picture of Lee Krasner outdoors with her nieces and nephew. To be honest, until I started reading Gail Levin's book, Lee Krasner: A Biography, I knew very little about Krasner and her life before Jackson Pollock. I didn't know that during her Cooper Union days she took Ethel Traphagen's Costume Design and Illustration course, acquiring a new respect for clothing designers, or that in her youth Krasner was known for using style -- for being very fashion forward. Always in-tune with nature, she also enjoyed other illustration work, such as studies of hands, butterflies, beetles and fossils.  

In fact, the book highlights all sorts of interesting things about art education in New York in the early 20th century and the jobs open to women in the creative industries. Levin's story is definitely unvarnished and not romanticized, but nonetheless it's hard not to have a few thoughts of an idyllic little beach-side artist's shack.  

Here are some things I'd take with me.

[Dish towels and soap from Basic French.]

[Yellow McCoy bowl.]

And any one of these sets from Green & Stone of Chelsea. I know I post some sort of G &S set every summer but I wanted an excuse to mention the venerable shop has added a video tour to its site.

BTW: John Marin's Watercolors: A Medium for Modernism opens at the High June 26. Marin's work had a significant impact on the Abstract Expressionist movement and this exhibition explores the groundbreaking impact of his watercolors specifically. Of special note is a group of 40 watercolors from the collection of Alfred Stieglitz. Learn more here.

Blue Star Museums

[A military child examines a Rembrandt. Photo by Regina Galvin via the Blue Star blog.]

Again this year, I'm thrilled to help spread the word about a terrific summer program: Blue Star Museums.

 [Image via LACMA.]

More than 1,000 museums across the U.S., including the Cooper-Hewitt, the Met, LACMA, and the High, are now offering free summer admission to active duty military personnel and their families. This initiative lasts through Labor Day, September 5, 2011. Click here for details.


Color Field

The textile equivalent of a luscious strawberry field. Another stunning image from Pauline van Lynden's Rajasthan. (Click to enlarge.)

Kate Headley Dispatch from the Field

 [Photo courtesy Kate Headley.] 

Thanks, Kate Headley, for the vicarious adventures. First it was the trek through India and last night Kate was on hand for John Robshaw's lecture at the Corcoran in D.C.

Although Kate is a professional fine art photographer specializing in weddings, not a textile designer, she related to John as a fellow artist. She told me it was a lovely and inspiring presentation:

"I was impressed when I learned how long he'd been studying and tinkering with Asian print-making. [Robshaw] showed snapshots of what he finds inspirational around India along with pages from his journal, and then he shared samples of related work he created. I enjoyed hearing how he approaches his brand -- to create a unique product that people like -- which is how I also approach my brand."

[Not from the talk: A photo I love from Pauline van Lynden's Rajasthan. ]

[Photo courtesy Kate Headley.] 

Kate especially got a kick out of John's reference to the Hotel Diggi Palace.  "He had given them fabric -- I recognized it immediately because [months ago] I had coincidentally taken a photo of his print on a chair!"

One of the reasons I wanted to share Kate's picture, above, is that I'm hoping to start a chair makeover this weekend. It won't be painted like the scroll-y example here, but I do want to sand it down to a mellow, natural, almost blonde hue. And, for garden furniture upholstery, I'm loving the richer summer berry shades as an alternative to the Palm Beach brights typically seen on patios. Remember John's rustic outdoor gathering?

I know some of you want a peek at the furniture highlighted in Garden Mania: the Ardent Gardener's Compendium of Design & Decoration.

I'm working on that, but in the meantime here's a look at another dressed-to-the-nines elephant walking through a late-19th-century cast-iron gate at the palace of the Maharajah of Kapurthala by A. Marcel (from the chapter on enclosures in Garden Mania).

And West Coast friends, don't forget Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts is headed to  San Francisco's Asian Art Museum in the fall. The exhibition will be on view October 2011 through April 2012, and then make its way East to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, running May 2012 through August 2012.


Art World Couples

Last summer it was Francoise Gilot and Picasso; this year I'm planning to delve into the letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. But while I wait for GOK and AS, I think I'll finally make time to learn more about Lee Krasner, an important 20th-century artist who was also married to Jackson Pollock.

Receiving great reviews, author Gail Levin's Krasner biography brings the painter out of her husband's shadow. This relatively new release happens to be available in digital format, so I opted for instant gratification and downloaded a copy. See how stunning the color reproductions are? That was the one thing I was concerned about.  Much of Krasner's abstract work is nature-infused. Even in this tiny image, you can see a bit of her admiration for Matisse.

Later, I'll share my impressions but I wanted to quickly post a link to the WSJ review with a sneak peek in case you too are thinking about summer reads.

BTW: Only a few more weeks remain to see the blockbuster exhibition that pays homage to Sonia Delaunay, groundbreaking artist, textile designer and wife of Robert Delaunay.

Related past posts: That Necklace Again and On the Way to a Post.



African menagerie themed notepads and journals from Kate Spade have inspired me to do a riff on past gift pairing posts.

One of my favorite things to give babies is still Sophie the Giraffe. Apart from her charm and African/French associations, she's truly useful. Next time I'm invited to a baby shower, though, I might also tuck in a handy set of Spade notepads  for mom.

Remember Zarafa? The amazing journey of the first giraffe ever seen in France is chronicled in Michael Allin's 1998 book, Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story. In light of Sunday's post, it's worth noting that the adventurous tale encompasses history of le Jardin des Plantes and the menagerie. In cased you missed it, there's a very interesting excerpt over at NPR.

[Le Jardin over at Vimeo.]

Anyway, for a grown-up friend with an early summer birthday, I'd now pair a copy of the book with the set of petite journals. All in all a more affordable option than some of my past pairings.

An alternative to the journals would be these olive wood skewers handmade in Kenya.


Do-Over Cake?

 [Photography by Noah Sheldon from Sarah Magid's mouth-watering Organic and Chic.]

Reading about one of the Corcoran's free summer programs for kids, Edible Color Wheel, I flashed back to past cake decorating experiences.

Around 2001, my preschool-age niece watched again and again a recorded Martha Stewart Living episode -- the Barbie Party Cake show. At the time, this was a bit of a departure for Martha. Incorporating an actual Barbie into a dramatic ballgown-shaped cake veered a bit toward kitsch but a soft palette kept the confection within Martha's realm and little girls thought the end result was absolutely magical. (Keep in mind this was before similar cakes became available at the grocery store bakery counter.)

[Photography by Noah Sheldon from Organic and Chic.]

We had plans to give it a go ourselves using a homemade mold to shape a base as grand as the one in the picture. (As I recall, the original instructions suggested using a bowl as a partial mold.) Along the way, though, another family member with the best intentions picked up a look-a-like mold at a craft store. Unfortunately, when our cake came out of the oven, it resembled an over-sized banana muffin and would've been a better fit with a pint-sized Chelsea® or Courtney® doll. Still, the real problem was the sweltering Georgia heat and humidity which caused the icing to run, leaving Barbie partially unclothed. 

I had a little more success with the handbag cake. We made the malted ball handle ourselves without any glitches (looked just like beads) but opted to order the cake from a local bakery known for their ultra-soft icing colors and scrumptious goods. This cake withstood the high summer temps, however, sadly did not really resemble the shape I requested. Nonetheless, the girls were pleased so I wholeheartedly recommend the Martha project. A couple years later it was Williams-Sonoma's sandcastle cake that wowed the adults.

[Photography by Noah Sheldon from Organic and Chic.]

I'm thinking this might be the summer to try one of the simpler cakes in Sarah Magid's book, Organic and Chic. You may recall she favors buttercream over fondant and has a designer's sensibility; I imagine we'll have fun experimenting with color and line.

The great thing about summer lists, as opposed to New Year's resolutions, is that they're typically carefree. To Try lists rather than To Do. This may also be my summer of the DIY upholstered headboard but I'm keeping that loose. For now I'm still making my way leisurely through Victoria Finlay's Color: A Natural History of the Palette. (Yeah, still!) If you're in the mood for more color history, checkout A Perfect Red , or if you have a personal favorite on the subject, please let me know.

Speaking of Corcoran happenings, don't forget John Robshaw will visit the Gallery this week, Wednesday, May 25 at 7 p.m., to discuss his past adventures in India and Asia, and explore how travel impacts his textile designs. General admission is $15. Details are available here. A complete list of summer lectures and courses can be found here.

I receive no freebies, discounts or compensation for mentions of John Robshaw products and events. Wares that appear in my pictures are my own purchases.


Parks and Recreation

 [An early-19th-century print of a helter-skelter in a Paris park from Garden Mania.]

I must have purchased Garden Mania: the Ardent Gardener's Compendium of Design & Decoration a few years ago during a phase when I had big plans to explore the history of gardening. Or maybe at the time I was simply interested in the illustrations of garden chairs. Whatever the case, I'm having fun revisiting it now.

[18th-century swinging seat under chinoiserie tent from Garden Mania.]

Of course, the section on furnishing the garden is right up the alley of any design enthusiast (think follies, organic looking tables, urns and tents) but another really interesting chapter in the 400-page compendium deals with entertainment.

[Wood frame ferris wheel with wicker-work seats circa 1800 from Garden Mania.]

This wooden ferris wheel is from Jane Austen's era. I can't decide if the wicker seats give it a kind of charm or if it's just a little scary. (The guys responsible for all the pulling that causes the passengers to go round certainly don't look happy.)  It's the images of swings that really captivate.

[French fashion plate of 1920s from Garden Mania.]

Maybe it's because I'm so anxious to see a certain new summer movie, or maybe I'm in the mood for a crisp alternative to the famous frothy Fragonard painting, but this French fashion illustration from the book caught my eye. I thought it might inspire some of you event planners to do a riff on the park-themed party or wedding reception complete with classic iron benches. (BTW, The World of Interiors, June 2011, offers a terrific roundup of garden seats; below is my own Jayson find.)

  [Image via Jayson Home and Garden.]

[Click to enlarge. Photograph of bubble in garden by Devil's Advocate. Flowers by Todd Fiscus and Raegan McKinney.]

More inspiration pulled from a past post: Southern Accents' wedding feature with flower balls suggestive of children's beach balls. (These remind me of the ever-popular summer pastime, blowing bubbles, too.) Another great flashback is Matthew Robbins doing amazingly wild, trailing bouquets at Wave Hill for Martha Stewart Weddings.

[Screengrab from Sheryl Crow's Summer Day video.]

Related past posts: A Pleasant Thing, Free Association and Orlando Part II.


Textile of the Day

 [Detail view: Italy or Spain, Cover, circa 1650, textile, silk and metallic thread lace, 53 x 69 1/2 in. Costume Council Fund (M.87.112.6) Costume and Textiles Department, LACMA.]

Despite the rash of lace-related posts, I have ambiguous feelings about the textile. Well, not really conflicted thoughts about the textile itself, but about how it's used. In terms of fashion, in the hands of Oscar, Ralph, or of course Sarah -- dressed down, haute hippie or incredibly refined -- I love it. And I can appreciate it on certain bed linens. Still, it's not something I'd typically think to decorate with.

[Clockwise from the left: espadrille Ralph Lauren ; magazine image clipped by me, source lost -- Tokyo Jinja, who also saved the picture, says it is from a story produced by Carolyn Sollis and photographed by Jean Pagliuso; Lauren Bush photographed by Douglas Friedman wearing Ralph Lauren, Harper's Bazaar May 2011; video still from Bazaar UK.]

In an old Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin article, dated 1958, curator Edith Appleton Standen wrote that lace was once valued as something grand rather than girlie or granny (more specifically she  noted that lace later came to be perceived as sweet and trifling and associated with elderly ladies). To make her point about the change in attitude, she illustrated her article with an Old World portrait of a man clad in knightly armor and a lace scarf, and she referenced Grinling Gibbons' 17th-century carved limewood cravat.

[Image courtesy Tokyo Jinja, photography by Jean Pagliuso.]

I guess the fussy association is stuck in my brain, too. The reason the relaxed picture of the two little girls keeps appearing in my posts is that I have nothing else quite like it -- breezy, beach-y, timeless, not too precious (and yes, probably cotton crochet).

Today, though, I came across a piece of lace which was a revelation: a multicolored 17th-century cover, in LACMA's collection, believed to be for a bed or table.  

I also think Michele Brody's Arbor Lace installation is interesting.  In June, as part of the 2011 Celebration of Textiles and in conjunction with the Textile Museum's exhibition: Green: the Color and the Cause, Brody will install a living sculpture like the piece above.

And an update to my Royal Threads post, courtesy Janet and Thistle Threads. See the team behind Catherine's lace here.


Oprah, Ralph, and Some Stripes

[Chief’s-style blanket, first phase, circa 1800-1850, catalog No. E-1200, Arizona State Museum.]

Earlier in the day I received an alert about Oprah's coup: the one-hour special with Ralph Lauren filmed at his family's Colorado ranch, the RRL. The show is scheduled to air tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) but I couldn't resist stopping to look at a preview. Glimpses of regional textiles in the background inspired me to track down a few really stellar antique Native American pieces with connections to current trends.

You probably thought I was going to focus on fringe again. Actually, some first-phase chief's blankets, made by the Navajo in the 19th century, caught my eye. Curators and dealers describe these finely woven wool textiles as the purest of the pure. The are no diamonds or other geometric forms in the designs of these early blankets -- just simple stripes and bands of deep indigo paired with brown-black and white. The combination of blue with almost-black reminds me of the navy-and-black stripes we've seen in fashion this season.

Seven years ago a very rare early Navajo blanket turned up at the Antiques Road Show. There's a video clip here, and more detailed background at PBS's companion page. Also, Arizona State Museum offers a helpful overview with nice images.

Related past post: South by Southwest.


Symphony in White

[Top row, from the left: Ralph Lauren lace dress, spring 2011 via Harper's Bazaar UK June 2011; my freshwater pearls on white denim; Drum-shaped bottle with decoration of rows of dots, Korean, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910); mid-15th century, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Treasure no. 1423, SL.9.2011.1.33, from Poetry in Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

Second row, from the same exhibition: Flask-shaped bottle with peony decoration, Korean, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910); second half of the 15th century, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Treasure no. 1388, SL.9.2011.1.27; an upcoming release from the V & A, The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions; and my jasmine vine.]

I'm still making my way through Victoria Finlay's Color: A Natural History of the Palette and just finished reading about white. So here you have my visual mix-tape of blanc shades. But what I really want to highlight is The Met's new iPad app for Poetry in Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art.

I gave it a test drive and, considering that the app is free, was very pleasantly surprised by the breadth of information and array of images. One of the best features: multiple views of numerous objects. And I mean many more angles than would typically be seen in a traditional exhibition catalogue. Video of curator Soyoung Lee is also included. It's the next best thing to being in the galleries. Poetry in Clay  remains on view through August 2011.

Be on the lookout, too, for a new summer release from the Victoria & Albert's Textiles and Fashion department, The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions.

Further reading: Lace from the Victoria and Albert Museum and the V & A's book list. For fun, a video.

(Read my past post on the Korean ceramics exhibition here. More lace here, here and here.)

I receive no compensation of any kind from Apple for iPad mentions.