Style Court

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


From Books to Lace: Fine Craftsmanship in All Forms

I knew about Zarafa, the early-19th-century Parisian sensation, and how she inspired Charlotte Moss, but until this weekend I wasn't familiar with another pop star, an elephant named Suleyman, and his decade-long, roughly 9,300-mile international journey which took place centuries before Zarafa came along. A book about Suleyman's remarkable life is new to the V & A gift shop.

[Alexander gift, Victoria and Albert Museum.]

Of course, discovering the book inspired me to look at some of the elephants in the V & A's collection. Here's what grabbed my attention. Above, a circa 1775-1850 Japanese inro. It is worn wood with grey and gold lacquer and glazed pottery. (More about inro here.)

A beautiful hand-colored engraved children's board game from 1822.

[Given by G.D. Hornblower, Esq. The V & A.]

And an Earthenware Egyptian filter (from a water-jar) with pierced and incised decoration dated 11th-12th century. This delicate lace-like pierced detail reminds me to mention a recently opened exhibition, The Royal Wedding Dress: A Story of Great British Design, on view at Buckingham Palace through October 3, 2011.

 [Screengrab, The Royal Wedding Dress.]

I'll sidestep the "headless bride" debate and just point out the helpful microsite podcast with Royal Collection curator Caroline de Guitaut. The feature, along with the online image gallery, offers new details about the fabric and craftsmanship of the dress.

You might also like:

Textile of the Day

Symphony in White

Vogue's View: A Royal Wedding in 1960


[Image via John Alexander.]



 [Image via Cover vs. Original]

Unlike Irma Thomas, time has not been on my side this week but regular posting will resume shortly. In the meantime, if you're not familiar with Thomas's cover of the song, it's absolutely worth a listen.

Don't forget the Birmingham Museum of Art's First Thursdays Rockumentary series, in conjunction with Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present, continues August 4. As of this posting, it looks like the clock is counting down to only three hours until iTunes' free full-length anniversary viewing of 1971's The Concert for Bangladesh, to benefit UNICEF.

You might also like Good Morning Sunshine.


Pencilled In: Bob Truby's Amazing Collection

As a follow up to the previous post, I leave you with a little daily eye candy from Bob Truby's vast antique and vintage pencil collection. The wild grouping at the bottom may evoke the 1970s but these Lovelies by Empire are actually World War II-era. BTW, pencil and art supply manufacturer Faber-Castell celebrates its 250th anniversary this year. Click here to see an extraordinary carpenter's pencil from the archives.

You might also like Paintboxes, Tools of the Trade, and August Rush.

Faber-Castell anniversary edition set.


Blue Crush

 [Screengrab Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer.]

As much as I love a freshly sharpened bouquet of pencils (not to mention fall boots), all those back-to-school commercials make me feel a little low. More reminders that summer is coming to an end way too soon.

[John Robshaw fall catalog 2011.]

Intrigued by the title and critical praise, I decided to rent Bruce Brown's iconic documentary, The Endless Summer. Shot with a 16mm camera in 1964, the film trails California surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel across the globe -- from North America to Africa to Australia to Tahiti to Hawaii -- literally following the summer season in different hemispheres (hence the endless concept). So, it's about surfing and chasing the perfect wave but it's also about something more: the splendor of nature and the thrill of travel, to begin with.

Some of the narration caught me off guard; often it reflects a Mad Men era world view in keeping with the times in which it was made (or, as Roger Ebert writes in his thumbs-up review, "that of a wide-eyed fraternity boy"). That said, it seems to me Brown is mainly exploring universal themes related to youth and the international spirit of summer. With its breathtaking photography, I may be renting it again come winter.

Mostly I'm thinking about subtle ways to use design to keep that summer spirit lingering. Also, the other day I noticed that every year about this time I tend to do indigo blue or deep green themed posts. This week back in 2006, I mentioned Walter B. Denny's Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics. And Turkish ceramics (specifically indigo with coral and white) pop up in the intro to John Robshaw's fall 2011 catalog. Here the designer describes how his adventures in Istanbul informed the new collection.

[Robshaw's underwater inspired Diving pillow]

[John Robshaw fall catalog 2011.]

I'm drawn to the season-less quality of deep blue with coral-red. It evokes the ocean and swimming pool tiles yet feels warm and rich when the weather turns cold. Below are a few of my favorite Turkish and Moroccan ceramics from Doris Duke's collection. If you have plans to travel to Honolulu, explore Shangri La online beforehand because some of these are on view in Duke's house while others may be at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

[Photo by David Franzen. Turkish dish circa 1580, Ottoman period. Courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.]

Duke purchased the 14th-century Ottoman piece above at auction in 1962. Curators of her collection explain that Chinese-blue-and-white was highly prized by the Ottoman court (1281-1924). So much so that local potters in Iznik began to create similar ceramics:

"The potters experimented with design, shape, color, and materials, ultimately producing a unique ceramic tradition known as Iznikware, which itself came to be imitated in Europe and elsewhere."

Her foundation adds that Duke actually began her Ottoman Iznik pottery collection in 1937 with the purchase of over 1000 tiles from a dealer in Venice, Italy.

[Photo by David Franzen. Turkish (Iznik) dish circa 1580, Ottoman period. Courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.]

[Photo by David Franzen. Late-19th-century Moroccan ceramic. Courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.]

Interestingly, the British Museum and the Benaki Museum have extensive collections of Iznikware. You might also like A Summer Breeze.


From Simple to Intricate

[Click to enlarge. Anthro July 2011 window detail, Lenox Square, Atlanta. Photos my own.]

[Below: Central Asian Suzani,19th century, cotton or linen, silk and metallic threads. Courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.]

If the previous post gave you the feeling that something about surfer chic is on the way, you sensed correctly -- I think. Just rented The Endless Summer.

[Classic Velzy board via Waveriders Surfboards.]

For now, here's a graphic Anthro display composed of masses and masses of solid-color-filled embroidery hoops paired with my textile of the day: an intricately embroidered example from Doris Duke's suzani collection. Very much ahead of her time, in 1935 Duke purchased nine suzanis while traveling through India as part of her world-tour honeymoon. Although, this suzani she bought at auction in the 1940s. It is notable for its 18 different floral sprays scattered on a ground densely embroidered with metallic thread in small chain stitches -- threads which today have a dulled patina.

BTW: A noteworthy textile exhibition, The Invention of Glory: Afonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries will soon open at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Four monumental recently-restored Gothic pieces (the Pastrana Tapestries) will be on view together for the first time in the U.S. from September 18 through January 8, 2012. Considered to be among the finest Gothic tapestries in the world, the textiles were done to commemorate the conquest of two strategically located cities in Morocco by the King of Portugal, Afonso V (1432–1481).


Visiting Both Coasts

[Doris Duke with surfer and musician Sam Kahanamoku at the entrance to Shangri La, circa 1939. Photo copyright The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.]  ]

Coleen Rider's beautiful 1940s hand-tinted photograph of Diamond Head has me daydreaming about Hawaii. So I decided to flip through my copy of Doris Duke's Shangri La.  Remember this pretty book? Back when I was preoccupied with Duke's suzani collection, I seemed to mention her Hawaiian digs, Shangri La, every other day.

Inspired largely by art and architecture the 22-year-old Duke saw in India and the middle east during her 1935 globe-trekking honeymoon, the house is a highly personal blend of styles from the East Coast, Hawaii, and the Islamic world. And it was continually refined by Duke, a passionate and original collector, over many years. Today, it is a cultural center open to the public.

[Photo by Shuzo Uemoto copyright Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.]

Although the collection housed inside is most notable for its old Islamic and Southeast Asian pieces, I thought on this steamy July day it would be fun to highlight Duke's vintage, circa 1940, locally hand-painted barware from her Playhouse kitchen. Activities depicted include surfing and hula dancing.

Over at the Honolulu Academy, I noticed a newer book, Extraordinary Vision, about Duke's preservation work in Newport, Rhode Island -- one of the largest preservation projects ever completed in the United Sates. In 1968, she founded the Newport Restoration Foundation, a group credited with saving 80 historic early buildings. Bonus features of the book include an illustrated glossary (helpful in understanding house styles and architectural elements) and a removable map for neighborhood walking tours.

[Gucci boots and surf board images via Dressed to Play: The Sporty Style of Doris Duke.]

Her 1968 Gucci riding boots and Velzy Surfboard, circa 1960 (made of then-revolutionary foam polyurethane and fiberglass) are currently on view in Dressed to Play: The Sporty Style of Doris Duke. The show can be seen in the galleries at Duke's East Coast house, Rough Point, through early November 2011. Duke enjoyed using the innovative board at Shangri La,  and according to exhibition curators, the creator, Dale Velzy, is believed to have opened the first conventional surf shop in California in 1949.


Not for Sale

 [One of Coleen Rider's favorite finds: 1940s hand-tinted photograph of Diamond Head in Hawaii published in TradHome, July 2011.]

Earlier this year I had a lot of fun quizzing dealer/designer Coleen Rider about her favorite possessions. People who sell antiques and vintage things are usually known for living with a revolving door -- constantly parting with certain objects while bringing in new treasures too. So I wondered what she's held onto the longest. TradHome recently published Coleen's responses to my questions. Click here to see the unexpected room that holds her treasures and learn about the piece that jump-started Coleen's passion for Greek Key. Thanks TradHome for the terrific assignment! 

Final Days: Ruan Hoffmann at Anthro

[All ceramic work shown here by Ruan Hoffmann. Images courtesy Anthropologie and the artist.]

There's still time to catch the exhibition of one hundred ceramic plates, Much Love Me, by South African artist Ruan Hoffmann, currently on view through July 28 in the gallery at Anthropologie’s Rockefeller Center location.

Hoffmann is a painter and he approaches his ceramics as he would a canvas.

Some of his pieces, to me, resemble ripped patterned textiles while others have the faintest suggestion of iconic Wedgwood or old Asian pottery.

His abstract work also emphasizes the fragility of ceramics, with rims like deckle-edge G. Lalo paper (just my own analogy).

[Taikkun Yang Li, Underglazed porcelain cola bottles via Pagoda Red.]

Related past post: Delicious and Refreshing.


Worth Exploring: When Art Meets Science

 [X-ray of painting on panel. ©National Trust/3DX-Ray]

Earlier this week, Treasure Hunt's Emile de Bruijn shared more of James Young's stunning x-rays of decorative objects. Helping National Trust conservators assess the condition of furniture, paintings and other pieces at Knole, Young has been capturing the inner workings of the objects. (Young is with the company, 3DX-Ray.)

[X-ray of seat. ©National Trust/3DX-Ray]

Again, Emile writes eloquently about the intersection of art and science, so the post is another must read. It inspired me to return to LACMA’s Conservation Center for the latest happenings there.

[Screengrab from LACMA conservation video]

Right now, a significant conservation project -- the ongoing restoration of a rare scroll, Buddha Shakyamuni Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak -- may be viewed by the public in LACMA's Korean Art galleries. It's highly unconventional for conservators to do sensitive restoration like this in a very public setting, and apparently kids have been especially captivated by the team's work. This video offers an overview. If you have plans to be in L.A. anytime between now and September, 2011, you can get a glimpse of the undertaking in person.

Related past post: A Closer Look.


Summer is Where You Find It

[My own image: Tiffany & Co. window, summer 2011.]

Recently,  a seven-year-old and I had our own modified version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Summer is racing by, so I'm trying to revisit the High's exhibition Modern by Design as often as possible before it closes August 21.

On our way up to see the 20th century furniture and small household objects, we spent time with ever-popular Abbey the robot. Part of Joris Laarman's related installation, Digital Matter, you may recall, she is programmed to build high-definition, digitally ornamented Rococo-like tables using thousands of tiny building blocks (voxels).

And since Lee Krasner: A Biography is the only book on my summer reading list that I can honestly say I've finished, I had to stop by the permanent collection galleries to gaze at the High's 1938 Krasner work on paper. (More on that piece to come. BTW, many other groundbreaking women artists will be featured in the Gibbes's fall exhibition, Breaking Down Barriers.)

In the spirit of appreciating what's right there in your own backyard, we cut tropical-looking blossoms and brought some seashells out of storage (Krasner also experimented with shells, incorporating them into mosaic tables). Dense paper leaves in Tiffany's window caught my eye, too; the younger explorer decided to paint a palm tree.

That remnant of Ralph Lauren's hemp/cotton Cap Ferrat stripe scored a while back at Modern Fabrics in North Carolina will remind me of summer -- and Casa Tua -- all year long (more on the textile salvage company here).

[Image via Bell'occhio.]

Pineider's yellow hand-bordered stationery screams summer to me. San Francisco's Bell'occhio makes the luxury item a tad more attainable by offering a single card with envelope (in case you want to spend $6 for the indulgence). Complete sets are available as well.

More little luxuries (all $25 or under) can be found at Atlanta's own Ann Mashburn on the Westside: African clay beads; brilliantly colored Caran D'Ache pens; and Strunk & White's hardcover, illustrated The Elements of Style.

For summery scents, Mitzi & Romano on North Highland is well-stocked with Tocca.

You might also like Sanctuaries. For more Ferris, see Faces.