Style Court

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


Mixing it Up

A grocery store sign that reads "novelty flower" doesn't typically win me over. I'm usually partial to more natural things. But before the sign caused me to hesitate, I found myself drawn to the summery, 70s vibe of what looks like the chartreuse love child of a dahlia and a daisy. (My hydrangea on the left is a little sparse but distinctly home-grown.)

[Ivory chair, carved and painted, India, about 1785, Museum no. 1075-1882. V & A.]

A much grander hybrid is the V & A's 18th-century carved Indian chair. Handcrafted in Murshidabad, it represents a remarkable fusion of eastern and western styles. Some perceive it to be classic while others find it flamboyant. The museum recorded a great conversation about the piece, available here.

And more reminders about some southern happenings: John Folsom's exhibition, Summering at the End of Empire, a show that explores contrasts on Georgia's Cumberland Island, is in its final days at the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art. (Click here for more.)

In Birmingham, the party is just getting started. There was a tremendous turnout for last week's premiere of Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present at the Birmingham Museum of Art. And Starting July 7, the BMA introduces First Thursdays, offering visitors a chance to explore Rock & Roll, Faces of India, and all of the galleries after hours from 5 to 9 p.m. Admission to the permanent collection will be free on these nights, so this is a terrific date activity.


Blue Gold and a Competition

[Products from Bleu de Lectoure.]

Selvedge, issue 41, takes an in depth look at the plant-based blue dyes and pigments known as indigo in the east and woad in the west. Some of the interesting resources highlighted by the magazine include Bleu de Pastel de Lectoure and The Academy of Arts and Sciences of Woad.

After doing some exploration of my own, I noticed that woad specialist Denise Lambert is scheduled to visit California's French General in the fall. Although her October Woad Workshop is currently sold out, you can click here to see images from a previous event and here for a podcast with Lambert. Above are two fun items I spotted in the Bleu de Lectoure shop. For woad in the movies, check out 1997's The Serpent's Kiss.

Selvedge also reports that the British Museum is releasing this summer a new edition of Jenny Balfour-Paul's Indigo: From Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans. (More on Balfour-Paul here.) And in other textile news, the magazine is offering illustrators an opportunity to be published. As part of the Fabric Swatch competition, editors ask that you choose an unusual textile and illustrate it. Details and past examples can be found on page 83 of issue 41. The deadline is September 30, 2011.


On the Borderline Again

This was going to be (at long last) the summer of the DIY headboard.

But after numerous attempts to reconfigure the furniture in my small office/craft area/guest room, it became clear that the room functions the best and looks the most pleasing with the bed positioned in front of the windows, sans conventional headboard blocking natural light. The bed actually looks really nice simply framed by floor-to-ceiling curtains. 

[Towels available at The Society Inc.]

So I'm playing around with linen, burlap (love Angie Hranowsky's burlap curtains) and Ralph Lauren's low-key cotton Umbrella Fringe. Yesterday, the idea of a curtain inspired by Sibella Court's Hamman towels came to me.

[Screengrab of Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau. Set decoration by Susan Bode-Tyson, production design Kevin Thompson.]

For now, at least I can share the type of headboard I would've made. Inspired by Elise's headboard in The Adjustment Bureau, I planned to avoid complicated shapes. The straight, unfussy lines of her piece show off the asymmetrically placed Indian fabric border to its best advantage.

[Screengrab of Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau. Set decoration by Susan Bode-Tyson, production design Kevin Thompson. More on the set design here.]

Since we're already in an imaginary realm, I'll add that my far out fantasy was to have made custom fabric based on an antique textile in the V & A's collection. Below are some examples. I love the cotton most but wanted to mix other options into this post for fun. In nearly each case, a border along the bottom would need to be adapted to mimic the side placement of the movie headboard.  The lone border-less pattern would need some sort of contrasting fabric. 

[Sash, woven silk and silver-wrapped thread, Mughal, circa 1700 ©Victoria & Albert Museum.]

[Sari, woven silk and gold-wrapped thread, Central India, circa 1850-60 ©Victoria & Albert Museum.]

[Skirt cloth, silk embroidered with silk thread, Kutch, Gujurat, circa 1880 ©Victoria & Albert Museum.]

[Skirt cloth, silk embroidered with silk thread, Kutch, Gujurat, circa 1850 ©Victoria & Albert Museum.]

 [Page from a book of floral designs, Northern India, late 18th century ©Victoria & Albert Museum.]

 [Sash, printed, painted and dyed cotton, Deccan, 18th century © Victoria & Albert Museum.]

All V & A images are from Rosemary Crill's book, Indian Florals, from the V & A's Pattern series. You might also like London Calling.


Postcards with an Edge

 [Pichhavai (detail) Sharad Utsava, cotton, Painted and stencilled. Deccan, late 18th century. Poster size: 12"x14.5". Calico Museum of Textiles.]

It's been over a year and I'm still debating whether or not to order a bunch of postcards (specifically repros of antique hand-blocked prints, embroideries, court fabrics, etc. with interesting borders) from India's Calico Museum of Textiles. And even though museum gift shop posters aren't my usual thing, this mini-poster, above -- a gorgeous repro of a late 18th-century hand-painted textile -- is calling out to me too. I'd use it on an inspiration board or maybe mix it on an office wall with framed photographs and original drawings.

[Screengrab of Emily Blunt in The Adjustment Bureau. Set decoration by Susan Bode-Tyson, production design Kevin Thompson.]

Up next: inspired by the vintage Indian textiles covering this headboard in The Adjustment Bureau.


Source Material

So far this summer I'd struck out numerous times trying to see the weighty tome, My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, at a local brick-and-mortar bookstore but today I finally spotted it at the High.  Because of Steiglitz's and O'Keeffe's connection to John Marin, the book is displayed near the Marin exhibition catalogues (spectacular show, by the way).

I also wanted to help spread some Design Library news: the textile resource is scheduled to soon visit California with new acquisitions. Jacky Brown is headed to L.A. and the Bay area July 18 through 21. Contact the Library to schedule an appointment.

Beautiful on the Inside

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

This isn't a summer re-run.  I'm just quickly popping in this morning to direct your attention to a really fascinating post over at Treasure Hunt, and to compare and contrast a scientific ultraviolet photo of an Anatolian carpet taken during investigations at LACMA’s Conservation Center (previously posted here) with the National Trust's stunning 3D X-Rays of furniture at Knole. Read all about the latter here.

[©National Trust/3DX-Ray]


On Stripes

[Please click to view full screen. Credits clockwise from the top left: striped walls via Ralph Lauren; bedroom by Peter Dunham as seen in HB, photo by Victoria Pearson; Ruthie Sommers's dressing room photographed by Ngoc Minh Ngo for InStyle, spring 2007; Carolina Herrera photographed by Jonathan Becker, as seen in domino, September 2006; Lisa Fine's Parisian flat photographed by Miguel Flores-Vianna for Lonny; bedroom by Amelia Handegan originally appeared in Southern Accents, July-August 2003, photo by Pieter Estersohn.]

Tomorrow I'll have my first opportunity to see John Marin's Watercolors: A Medium for Modernism (previously mentioned here) and will probably leave the High with a postcard or two. Ideally, I'd like to have an entire room with striped upholstered walls so I could tack up random found images wherever I pleased. At the moment, though, my plans simply involve recovering a chair seat with Ralph Lauren's hemp/cotton Cap Ferrat stripe. Like I said the other day, the casual fabric captures this vibe and even reminds me a little of the fringe-trimmed umbrellas seen toward the end of Chocolat.

[Borderline's Bamboo Stripe. Photo by Sean Myers for The World of Interiors.]

The mix at top is a look back at some favorite examples of art and other pictures set against striped walls. For another great example of an upholstered backdrop, click here, and for striped wallpaper, check out The World of Interiors, July 2011.

Find stripe paradise at Ian Mankin.


Project Season

[Image my own.]

For me, project season officially began yesterday. No tables this summer -- not enough space. Although, I've been reading about Lee Krasner's improvisational mosaic tables composed of shells, costume jewelry, glass, coins, pebbles and keys.

 [Photo by Matthew Hranek, styling by Helen Crowther, Town & Country, December 2010.]

And I've been revisiting Steven Gambrel's custom, collage-like, marbled-paper-covered sawhorse desks from the Designer Visions Cinema Style apartment. (Last year, at the request of Town & Country, Gambrel imagined a 21st-century art-filled home for characters in the 1990s movie, Six Degrees of Separation -- art dealer Flan Kittredge and his wife, Ouisa.) Avoiding predictable sofas, Gambrel placed two large twin tables in the living room because he pictured the couple spending their time spreading out big books, reading, working and dining. If I had not finished my own table before I saw Gambrel's design, I would've been tempted to try layers of paper.

You can see full views of Gambrel's tables, along with his mammoth custom bulletin board, in the December 2010 issue of T & C, via the showhouse virtual tour, or at the designer's site in the press section. Visit Paper Mojo to see marbled options available this summer.   


The Human Touch

[My own image of a page from Leslie Williamson's Handcrafted Modern showing a vignette in furniture designer Vladimir Kagan's Park Avenue apartment. Click to enlarge and see the details.]

One of the great things about reading Gail Levin's book, Lee Krasner: A Biography, is that it presents design and art world rock stars -- women like Ray Eames, a fellow Hofmann student and lifelong friend of Krasner's -- before they were icons and names in our text books. Levin's mention of Charles and Ray Eames and their move to the West Coast, along with the High's current design exhibition, put me in the mood to revisit Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-Century Designers (Rizzoli, 2010) written and photographed by Leslie Williamson.

If you've yet to flip through this book because you're assuming you've seen this territory before, you've had your fill of mid-century modern, or perhaps 20th-century design is not your favorite era, I suggest taking a peek. Interesting layers of color and form abound here.

Williamson herself once found Modernism -- as it was initially presented to her in school -- a bit pristine and inaccessible. This volume, in contrast, shows the very human side of modern design, right down to the bobby pins left on Ray Eames's bedside table. 

[Handcrafted Modern: At Home with Mid-Century Designers open to Williamson's photograph of Vladimir Kagan's tiled shower.]

Personal passions are definitely the core of the book. Using primarily natural light, Williamson captured on film fourteen private domains of architects and designers including Eva Zeisel, Jens Risom, Walter Gropius and George Nakashima, keeping the focus on their everyday lives. We see their books, the art and objects they collected, and their work spaces. Ray Eames, in particular, was an enthusiastic collector skilled at layering. For me, the book is all about the warmer, earthier aspects of modern. It's also terrific summer reading for the visually oriented because it's heavy on inspiring images accompanied simply by Williamson's brief essays. She says upfront that she is not a design scholar and describes herself instead as a fan. I'd add very informed fan with a fresh perspective.


French and African II

A quick follow-up to last Sunday's post: another of Jayson Home & Garden's antique French chairs upholstered in African Kuba cloth. The woven raffia is rich and velvety but unfussy, so it makes an interesting counterpoint to the formal frame. This piece happens to be from Jayson's Flea, and there's a related special event coming up soon.

Apart from The Textile Museum, a great place to explore Kuba cloth is LACMA.  In case you missed the video the first time, curator Sharon Takeda, head of LACMA's Costume and Textiles department, explains the aesthetic behind the woven material here.

Also of interest: Inspiration is Free and Very Last Century.


Summer Mood II

[Chair at top via City Issue; lantern from Anthropologie; table linens from Aleta and picnic basket from Target.]

I'm crazy about this vintage chair from locally-owned City Issue. For me, it's all about the leather straps. On one hand, it makes me think of the "warmer side of Modern." Two weeks ago, in her presentation about the High's new show, Modern by Design,  Juliet Kinchin talked about the mid-20th-century shift from harder-edged chrome to earthier materials. (Video of Kinchin here.)

But the chair is also a cousin to older, very chic and portable campaign pieces. Unfortunately I don't have an extra inch to spare for a new chair (even a folding one). If you have room, though, you can learn more about it here.

Whether City Issue's find conjures images of Colonial Brits or outdoor concerts in the U.S., I've got two related reminders: Birmingham Museum of Art's must-see summer exhibitions, Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present and Faces of India. The latter just opened and Rock debuts June 24. Click here for more on all the accompanying events.


Delicate Intensity

 [Image via Sri Theads.]

Our textile of the day is an old Japanese hand-woven cotton from Sri, the Brooklyn-based gallery. In his recent post, dealer Stephen Szczepanek describes the floral cloth as having a "delicate intensity" similar to batik. It seems implausible, but it feels rich yet kind of "soft-spoken" to me, too. The 19th-century dyes used include indigo, an earthy bengara (Stephen explains that this is an iron-oxide-based dye) and a grey-ish black dye. I've read that the term bengara most likely relates to iron oxide originating in Bengal, India. See more and read all about the Japanese piece here.

Related reading:

Japanese Art and Design (new edition)
Blue Nankeen
Sari to Sarong


Silks and Stripes

As promised, one of the latest in the V & A's very affordable and beach bag-friendly series of pattern books, Spitalfields Silks by Moira Thunder, is now available in the U.S. This edition explores the lively, very British, and still-fresh-looking silk textiles woven during the 18th century in Spitalfields, London. Designers may play around with the museum's patterns included on the accompanying CD.

[Image via the V & A.]

Thunder will offer a free Spitalfields Silks talk and tour at the museum on Wednesday, July 6. Click here for details.

[Click to enlarge Christopher Drake's photo of Michelle Joubert's house in Provence from French Country Living.]

Shifting to far more rustic fabric,  I've been thinking a lot about stripes again.  In an attempt to translate the vibe of Robert Capa's famous photograph into a room, I just bought a few yards of Ralph Lauren's hemp/cotton Cap Ferrat stripe, and I'm thinking about his Umbrella Fringe too.

Flipping through Caroline Clifton-Mogg's French Country Living, I came across more wonderful stripes and a new contender for best outdoor space (in my head it's always Jennifer Garner's garden, outfitted by Peter Dunham and photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue Living). If you're looking for vintage French stripes, try Elizabeth Baer or Vintage Weave.


Good Teacher (Scholarships and More)

 [Legends of La Cienega window display at Pat McGann designed by Peter Dunham. Photo by Savage Winn via Elle Decor.]

When I come across them, I save examples of pictures -- framed or unframed, loose sketches, paintings or photographs -- set against patterned walls. This weekend I finally added to my files another one: last month's Matisse-inspired, Peter Dunham-designed vignette for Legends of La Cienega, the special benefit that raised over $24,000 for The Art of Elysium. This nonprofit group harnesses the talents of working musicians, artists, and actors to provide creative programming for kids coping with serious medical conditions.

[Dunham's Sheba linen.]

Many of you already know that, in keeping with Elysium's spirit, a host of acclaimed L.A.-based designers created displays -- blissful spaces -- inspired by their favorite artists. With Dunham's own new African-inspired textiles in the mix, I had no trouble seeing his Matisse connection.

[Henri Cartier-Bresson's image from Matisse, His Art and His Textiles with Matisse in the foreground and his collected Kuba cloth in the background on his bedroom wall, Vence, 1943-44.]

Seems like I just posted this image with news of the major African textiles exhibitions happening in 2011. But that was around New Year's Day.

Weaving Abstraction: Kuba Textiles and the Woven Art of Central Africa opens in a few months (mid-October) at The Textile Museum, kicking off with the Washington, D.C. institution's annual weekend symposium. If you are an undergraduate or graduate student hoping to attend, ten scholarships are available. The deadline is right around the corner -- July 1, 2011. Click here for details.

BTW: Matisse is headed to Atlanta this fall (same week, actually) with the High's' next big show, Picasso to Warhol, October 15, 2011 - April 29, 2012.

[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.]

See also: Summer Mood I.


Elizabeth Baer Textiles and Unexpected Impact

 [Flemish linen from Elizabeth Baer Textiles.]

My favorite observation of the week comes from architect Stefan Hurray in a post about the striking shadows created by one of the Met's decorative objects, a malachite urn. He comments that sometimes the impact of an object is as great, or greater than, its conventional purpose:

... and if you look past the obvious, sometimes you find something even more interesting.

An example that pops into my mind is the way a very plain, sheer white linen curtain or a humble bamboo roller shade might play with light more beautifully than an over-the-top taffeta creation. I'm also reminded of antique and vintage textile maven Elizabeth Baer's find: top quality surplus Flemish linen sleeping bag liners. She recently salvaged a bounty and sells them to decorators who reinterpret them in different ways. In this case, their original purpose was vital. Still, as the liners weren't being used, recognizing their visual appeal and recycling seems inspired.

[Image courtesy Rizzoli.]

On a related note, I've been savoring a sneak peek at the updated edition of Francoise de Bonneville's The Book of Fine Linen, scheduled to be released in the fall. I can't say much until then but it's wonderfully comprehensive, offering a very detailed history of household textiles. Recently we've been talking about lace; well, the book's up-close views of lace, crochet, and of course embroidery are exquisite. In addition to the photographs, art history fans will appreciate the use of old paintings. Sumptuous visual fare. Stay tuned for more.  

Artists' Palettes: Terry Rosen

[All images in this post courtesy artist Terry Rosen.]

Since I began the Artists' Palettes series back in 2009, we've seen many different interpretations of the traditional paint-splattered boards. Today, Terry Rosen, an illustrator, textile/surface designer and fine artist is sharing with us her "paper palettes" and passion for the medium.

A life-long artist who started her formal training as a child at the Y, Terry earned her B.A. in art history from Cornell University and went on to work as an advertising illustrator for Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Later she found herself designing prints for Nicole Miller and Oleg Cassini. (I happen to be drawn to her illustration below.)

But more recently, Terry has developed a serious affinity for collage.

She explains:

In "The Graduate" when someone advised, 'Plastics, Ben,' it was so sage. Most wrappers, labels, stickers are now plastic. Paper is rare street detritus, so finding it is like finding an authentic treasure. Because of its materiality, paper decays, mutates, discolors, fades. Abandoned and windswept paper has its own mottled, organic beauty. Perhaps I identify with it, or find a nobility in rescuing orphans of commerce.

Plucked from urban landscapes, my latest collages are street-to-table. I continue to prefer it to making collages digitally, which is much more forgiving, immediate and infinitely abundant. The search for the pieces on the internet is similarly serendipitous, but lacks the hunt with its smells, dirt, tactility, physical context and reward.

Like my idols Kurt Schwitters and John Evans, I am inspired by paper that is transactional in nature -- ticket stubs, airport claims, raffles, coat checks -- or institutional: membership stickers, temp ID cards. Each location yields different shards, revealing the anthropology of the site. I’m also attracted to pieces that are illustrative, or have unusual type treatments like foreign mint wrappers. The papers I save are artifacts of contemporary culture, and memories of my own experience. The collages I make are stories of time and place.

Sometimes the paper for me is the paint, and my pieces become color studies. The process of taking what is scattered carefree on streets to make something with an order, meaning and beauty is the collage. The paper fragments are tiles I find to complete tessellations. Their textures, missing letters, partial imagery are mysterious—waiting to have another context, a puzzle solved over time.

Initially, I made collages to then be able to draw them, like this piece. Composed of all the tickets from cultural events I had attended, I made a collage and then drew and painted it with watercolor. The collage became a textile design. Lately, using hybrid technologies, I have been building collages, photographing them and printing them, sometimes directly onto fabric.

Collecting and working with paper is legacy, or congenital. My father kept all kinds of texts, papers, note pads, matchbooks, x-ray paper. He taught me to have a reverence for paper as he thought all materials were precious. As a child, I made crayon drawings on the orange Kodak x-ray paper he brought home, and unwrapped presents slowly, carefully slicing the conjoined edges with a knife to be able to savor the decorated paper. Now my collections of paper are pasted or floating in notebooks, in little piles on my table or in boxes.

Learn more about Terry's work here.