Style Court

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


Paper Trail

[Photo by Gemma Comas. Pictured a blast from the recent past: circa 2007 bedroom of Paul and Sara Ruffin Costello with Flowering Quince from Clarence House.]

Just to be clear, this picture is not in the book I'm currently reading, The Backstory of Wallpaper by scholar Robert M. Kelly. But Kelly's engaging intro made me think of these flowering branches covering the walls of the Costellos' bedroom from the 2000's.

Kelly begins in 1741, in Hannah Shaw's Dublin home, where a glue-pot bubbles on the fire and shears are clicking. He describes rolls of wallpaper that cascade onto a table, captivating Shaw's family, particularly 10-year old Linna Shaw who is entranced by the paper's bold red flowers. Now she'll see flowers all winter.

[Design by Barrie Benson. Image via domino.]

With the reemergence of wallpaper in those not-so-distant 2000s, Kelly's history feels very timely. Ultimately he takes us way, way back, even before families like the Shaws purchased rolls of paper, so that we can better understand the early allure of the portable, highly-decorative element.

  [Click for full view. Design by Kevin Haley. Photo by James Waddell for House & Garden, October 2004. Wallpaper by Gracie.]

If your shelves are already filled with surveys of surface design, Kelly's compact but incredibly detailed edition could be a nice companion; it's primarily a resource for those who want to understand more about the origins of wallpaper and the paper-hanging trade in the West. He deals with how it was produced, who sold it, who bought it, how it made its way to the Colonies, and who installed it.

[Via Anthro.]

That said, on the artistic side Kelly does devote a chapter to printmaker and member of an illustrious French manufacturing family, Jean-Michel Papillon. He also explores chinoiserie and provides a helpful glossary. I'll report back with more in the coming weeks.

Following up on a past announcement, the long-awaited catalogue penned by Emile de Bruijn, Andrew Bush, and Helen Clifford, Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses, is finally here. A free download is available, or soon you should be able to purchase a hard copy from the NT shop. The authors manage to convey a complex, sweeping history in a really succinct, accessible way. And as anticipated the 50-page book is lushly illustrated.

[Melanie Acevedo photo of Erica Tanov not from the aforementioned book. Just another contemporary example I pulled.]

One of the most interesting sections, titled Winning Softness, deals with chinoiserie's feminine associations. Apparently 40 percent of the included wallpapers were in bedrooms, roughly 35 percent in dressing rooms, and approximately 25 per cent in drawing rooms.

Not to turn this post into a shopping guide, but both highlighted books would make a great graduation gift pairing for an aspiring wallpaper designer, museum educator, or curator etc.

Update: 6:17 p.m.
Read about the NT book launch over at Enfilade.


Compare and Contrast

[Photos directly above and below by Terri Loewenthal for Erica Tanov. Click for full view.]

Whether she's designing clothes or bedding, Berkeley-based Erica Tanov typically creates her own dynamic prints and woven patterns. Her spring 2014 collection, for example, is infused with the Book Print series she based on vintage bindings. One indigo-colored geometric is comprised of myriad intersecting lines on a sort of grid.

[Via The Met]

Just a little bit like this early-19th-century dark blue wool and undyed cotton coverlet from West Virginia, I think. Note the super-stylized pine-tree border? And the natural fringe? It seems fitting that the design is called Virginia Beauty; the coverlet is particularly timeless. Seeing it out of context, not in a period room but against this clean white background, really puts the piece in a different light. If it didn't belong to The Met, I'd love to see the coverlet in a California Modern house, having been hypothetically brought out West by a Southern transplant who inherited it.


Design by Hand

[Indigo bud vase by Heath.]
It's been ages since I first announced The Cooper-Hewitt's series of public programs centered on iconic brands and craftspeople, Design by Hand. But at long last the events focused on Heath Ceramics 
are just around the corner. This May, college students, high school students, and adults will be able to work side by side with Heath designers in workshops at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center. Programming for students is free; adult general admission ranges from $10 to $50, depending on the happening. Family workshops led by museum educators are free. Registration details here.

[Heath works with textiles too. This pouf is made in the U.S. with Otomi Mexican hand-embroideries.]
Also planned is a panel discussion about Heath's history; this public talk is scheduled to take place Thursday, May 8 at 6:30 p.m. On hand at the WNYC Greene Space (44 Charlton Street, New York) will be Catherine Bailey, creative director; Robin Petravic, managing director; and Tung Chiang, San Francisco studio director. Those of us not in New York can catch the live webcast. If you missed last fall's Marimekko talk, the video is available here.


Follow Up Finds

New to The Loaded Trunk is a hand-stitched block-printed indigo kantha aka Indian coverlet. (Traditionally kantha refers to an embroidered quilt made with recycled remnants from old clothes; if you missed it on the first go round, check out this gorgeous explanatory podcast with the Philadelphia Museum of Art's curator of Indian and Himalayan Art, Darielle Mason.)

But I'm not posting the contemporary kantha as part of a textile primer. Today it's all about the blue. Well, and the pattern too. In terms of hue and 1970s spirit, this coverlet would have been great to include in last year's Almost Famous Blues.

[All images are my own screengrabs except for the picture of Russell and Penny on the bus, which is via Tumblr.]

Also a nice fit: this 19th-century Qashqai rug with cobalt ground from Owen Parry. The rug dealer happens to be among the exhibitors in the upcoming London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair, opening April 3rd.

[Details: Nurata suzani also from Owen Parry.]

Virtual visits to the booths are possible for all of us who won't be in London next month. LARTA officials say that the strongest pieces from each Fair dealer will be shown here beginning at 6 p.m. on opening day.


Pattern and Play

[Images via Taschen's Indian Interiors.]

In my next life I'm living Blue-Lagoon-style, on a remote tropical island. But for the design of my hut, I'm mixing up the cultural influences and drawing inspiration from the lace-like floral rice-paste wall paintings traditionally done by the women of Orissa (today this east coast Indian state is known as Odisha).

And the hut will need a living room swing patterned after this one at Amet Haveli in Udaipur.

Speaking of waterfront living, don't forget Gauguin: Metamorphoses on view at MoMA through June 8.



[Screengrabs from A Model for Matisse]

In my Barefoot in the Park post I mentioned fictional newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter's Matisse poster, wondering if framed exhibition posters were just coming into vogue for interior decoration when the movie was released.

Now Tate is offering a repro of an early 1950s poster that promoted The Sculpture of Matisse. It's just one of the new museum shop wares celebrating Tate's big spring show, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, opening April 17. Featuring more than 120 of the artist's "paintings with scissors," Tate says the exhibition will be the most thorough look at Matisse's paper cut-outs ever organized.

A lot of creativity went into the graphics for this 2014 show, too. Tate's Senior Graphic Designer, Jon-Ross Le Haye, talks about his own cutting and pasting here.

[Jon-Ross working with origami paper. Image via Tate.]



[Jane Birkin via Vogue. Franco Zefferelli photographed by Horst as seen in Horst Interiors. Geo 
Patch pillow by Rebecca Atwood.] 

Next month a new MFA, Boston exhibition will show antique American quilts in a different light, comparing the brilliantly colored, typically geometric textiles to Abstract Expressionist and Op Art works. This survey of pieces collected by artists Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy  -- what grew to be among the most distinguished quilt collections in the world -- Quilts and Color will be accompanied by a 144-page book previewed here.

When it comes to patches of cloth stitched together, personally I gravitate to indigo. Anything that makes me think of Jane Birkin's jeans.
So, it's no surprise that I'm drawn to the Gee's Bend quilt, above. In the mid-1960s, Loretta Pettway created this using denim and cotton. (A reminder for art teachers and design students: Auburn University's Women's Studies program created a site loaded with resources related to the Freedom Quilting Bee and the history of Gee's Bend, Alabama.)

[Detail view via MFA, Boston: Cotton plain weave, wax resisted and printed. 2004. Ghana.]

In contrast, this contemporary African cloth looks like patchwork but it's actually a print comprised of dense blue floral and geometric segments arranged in pinwheel-like shapes.

Related past post: The Grafton Chair.


Crossing Over

[Unless credited otherwise, photos are my own. Screengrabs are from the High's video.]

Flowers, butterflies, and aesthetic mash-ups: Cross-polination was a reoccurring theme in last night's conversation with ceramicist Molly Hatch -- creator of the High's enormous new piece, Physic Garden -- and Sarah Schleuning, the Museum's curator of decorative arts and design.

[Molly Hatch's design for the High Museum of Art]

Schleuning, who originally asked Hatch to riff on two circa 1755 botanical Chelsea Factory plates from the High's acclaimed Frances and Emory Cocke Collection of English Ceramics, hopes the bold new installation will serve as a bridge between the Museum's traditional and contemporary holdings.

[18th-century Hans Sloane-style Chelsea Factory plate from the High's Cocke Collection]

In short, to get the modernists up in the galleries rethinking the precious old floral ceramics (wares that often have great-granny associations but in design terms are actually rather sensuous) and to encourage the antiques enthusiasts to take second and third glances at the 21st century works.

[See the time-lapse video of the install here.]

For her part, Hatch is excited about the blurred boundaries between studio pottery and painting and drawing. In fact, she considers her piece to be a "plate painting." The familiarity of a nine-inch dinner plate makes it an accessible medium, she feels, in contrast with say a painted canvas or even glazed tile, and she hopes the glossy circles draw visitors in. Up close, the individual plates read as abstract paintings but from afar a representational fruit and flower picture emerges. (The fresh, graphic impact of the whole thing makes me think of the Brodys' midcentury commission.)

As we covered last year, Hatch has long been inspired by 18th-century textiles and decorative arts, as well as Naturalist art, encompassing Chinese Export lacquerware, Blue Willow plates, printed toiles and patterned silks from the V & A's collection. But this is her largest undertaking to date.

FYI: Throughout her entire process, not a single plate broke. In the end, Hatch used 456; the remaining unpainted plates have been donated to the High's teen outreach program, and this weekend Hatch will lead a workshop for the students. Later, their creations will be auctioned during the Museum's Wine Auction. In the meantime, if you're in Atlanta, head down to see Hatch's masterpiece in person. The surface textures and dimension really need to be experienced in the flesh.  



[Photo via Vogue]

Look at this arrangement of African masks in Barbara Bush's NYC apartment. Some how they feel more alive, displayed loosely like this, than statically affixed to a wall or placed on a stand. Right now at the High, there's an exhibition of western and central African pieces, African Mask/Masquerade: More Than Meets the Eye, a show that explores the role of costume in traditional African culture, so I've been thinking about Bush's collection. And this cabinet.

With its trellis-like, open work doors, it reminds me so much of design from another continent:  Indian jails.

[Image via Cistanthe]

Which brings me to more new hand-blocked fabric from Cistanthe. Shown above is Harlequin Ajrakh, created with a 16-step process of dyeing and printing. There are other wonderful geometrics in this line, too, such as Serpentine and Gingko.

[Detail view: Jali from Delhi-Agra, Jahangir period, c. 1605–27. Included in Francesca Galloway's exhibition, Red Stone.]


True Blue

[Henri Matisse, printed silk square, Écharpe No. 1, 1947, designed for Zika Ascher.] 

This design by Matisse is currently on view in Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol at London's Fashion and Textile Museum through May 17. With designs by many other modern masters including Alexander Calder and Sonia Delaunay, the show looks at how fabrics for fashion and the home made Abstraction and all of the 20th century isms (think Cubism, Fauvism) more accessible. You can get an enhanced glimpse of Matisse's blue square over at Cooper-Hewitt online.

But what's especially helpful at CH's revamped collection site is the color coding. For example, below this Matisse there are four related blue samples. Click any one to go down a rabbit hole of color: 1,082 objects with at least a bit of light steel blue; 70 pieces connected to slate blue; 523 lavender-ish items and so on. Everything from 18th-century printed florals to embroidery to ceramics pop up in the mix.


So Happy Together

Today's mash-up includes a new piece, a relatively recent fabric design, and a vintage (or possibly antique) textile from San Francisco's Asian museum.

We've got John Robshaw's ever-versatile handprinted linen, Lanka Oyster, Anthro's just-out-for-spring striped linen pillow in whisper soft pink, and a deeper-than-deep Thai silk ikat that could be circa 1900 or later 20th century. The latter is not currently part of a special exhibition but there are a few textiles to be spied in the old Indian paintings included in Yoga: The Art of Transformation. (Many look a bit like fore bearers of Lanka.) This traveling show is the first major exhibition to delve into yoga, specifically from a visual perspective. Yoga will be on view through May 25.


Way Back Wednesday

[Detail: Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG.]

Yesterday I stumbled across a Horst image from a past post (the one that also includes Franco Zeffirelli's wild pants and Indian cushions). It should've been added here or mentioned as a follow up to the orchid pot story.

[Photo by Horst, 1973 as seen in Horst Interiors.]

Compared to the director's pants, Enid Annenberg Haupt's three-dimensional still life may seem tame, but it actually holds a lot of interesting juxtapositions: the lines of her luminous Rothko are repeated on an earthy, unpretentious piece of pottery, and both of these are starkly contrasted with the exuberant twists and turns of her Louis XV console and prized orchids. Using a magnifying glass, I make out slits in at least one of her terra cotta orchid pots. And the roots seem to be enjoying their freedom.

The pictured Rothko, Orange and Tan, was later given to the NGA.


Looking at Poems

[Detail: Kris Iden, Hortus Conclusus (Anatomy), 2013. Mixed materials and beeswax. Click for full view.] 

Critics have likened Virginia-based artist Kris Iden's ethereal prints and mixed media drawings to visual poems. Some of her pieces literally incorporate text while others do not, but the relationship between words and images is a topic she'll explore in a special workshop, Saturday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at Hollins. It's a program offered in conjunction with Iden's spring exhibition at the University's Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, and during the event participants will learn how literature can be a jumping off point for visual art. Details here.


Channeling Rothko

[Images via Frances Palmer]

Mark Rothko's classic paintings -- his floating rectangles and abstract, moody bands of color that emerged in the late 1940s -- are such a part of our visual vocabulary. Before reading the name that potter, gardener and art historian Frances Palmer has given her contemporary ceramic hand pitchers, we instantly think of the pioneering 20th century painter.  

But if you're a little hazy on how Rothko arrived at his iconic style, the NGA offers a great online primer. Click through to learn more about the Russian-born immigrant, his journey toward abstraction, and the many nuances of his color-washed works of the 50s and 60s. The Museum also has online a short documentary (like less than 10 minutes),  produced in conjunction with the past exhibition, In the Tower: Mark Rothko.