February 20, 2012

Cabinets of Curiosity

I've been unpacking personal treasures, items hidden away in storage. They recently have hit the light of day after several years of being stored due to changes in my life. Why the sudden reveal? My friend Mary was doing some redecorating. I always coveted two of her display cabinets partly because I loved the items she stored in them, but also because I longed to have an opportunity to store my treasures like she did... and like my mother and grandmother. I sensed the day would come that I'd have these cabinets and sure enough they arrived... empty... but hungry to be filled with someone else's history.

So, like a modern-day archeologist, I dug around in my boxes, unwrapping objects one by one, brushing away dust and revealing my past. Some items from travel, some just inspiration, some being examples of nature preserved, others being gifts from friends and some being relics belonging to relatives long past. I was finally able to have my own cabinet of curiosities. More accurately, two of them.

What you may not know is that the term 'cabinet' originally meant an entire room. So the curio cabinets we know of originated from something much larger.

From Wikipedia: "A cabinet of curiosities was an encyclopedic collection in Renaissance Europe of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were also known by various names such as Cabinet of Wonder, and in German Kunstkammer ('art-room') or Wunderkammer ('wonder-room'). Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities. 'The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theater of the world, and a memory theater. The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patron's control of the world through its indoor, microscopic reproduction.' Of Charles I of England's collection, Peter Thomas has succinctly stated, 'The Kunstkabinett itself was a form of propaganda'..."

So without further ado, welcome to my visual theatre... my cabinets of curiosity...

January 22, 2012

In with the New.

Chinese Dragon watch from Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz.

I always wanted to ride a dragon myself, so I decided to do this for a year in my imagination. —Cornelia Funke, German illustrator.

Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival as it's translated) is based on the first day of the first month of Chinese lunisolar calendar. It's filled with tradition... at least 15 days of them... filled with food, passing of red envelopes of money to small gifts. So as my gift to you, an assembly of dragons I personally love.

Happy New Year and a year of luck and good fortune to all of you.

Scalamandre's Chi'en Dragon in Lacquer Red, Green On Taupe.

Chiang Mai Dragon, from F.Schumacher, was derived from
a 1920's Art Deco era block print.
[wallcovering shown in Alabaster colorway]

THG's bath fixtures featuring Daum glass dragon accents.

From Gumps, a painted chinese dragon pillow.

A quick look at a Chinese vase ornamented with a dragon.
Click here to see the video featuring Gibson Antiques.
[video from www.valuemystuff.com - youtube.com]

January 7, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Yxtaholms Castle.

Last night I saw the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was startled when I recognized the castle that was home to the movie's Vanger family. In Stockholm for a wedding a few years ago with my friend Johan, we drove about an hour (or a little more) outside the city as he wanted to show me the property. In the movie, it was just as I had remembered... elegant, serene.

One of the outbuildings considered to be a 'wing' of the castle.
There's another on the other side and
another building behind these two structures.

A historic aerial view of the island.

Located on an island (just like the movie) in Sörmland, Yxtaholms Castle, the wings and the stables were built in 1753 by Baron Gustaf N. Clodt.

To give historic perspective, this was the same year of the establishment of the Swedish Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities as Sweden. Sweden was also under Parliamentary rule as it wasn't until nearly 20 years later in 1772 Gustav III of Sweden staged a coup d'état, becoming almost an absolute monarch. In the United States, the French and Indian War began in 1754. In 1756, the Seven Year War in Europe.

At that time the primary influence in Swedish culture was Carl Linnaeus, the Father of Taxonomy, who actually came up with the systematic way of classifying plants. Here in St. Louis, the oldest surviving greenhouse in the United States west of the Mississippi, and housed in the Missouri Botanical Garden, is dedicated to Carl Linnaeus and is called Linneaus House or The Linnean.

The façade of the castle in 1908.

Façade of the building in 1920.

A reworking of the garden is apparent by the removal
of the sculpture that appears in the previous photo.

A vintage postcard. The stables are on the right
with a foot bridge in the foreground.

The stables now the conference center.
I would live there in a minute.

Since the 18th century the castle has been owned by multiple families and is now owned by female Polish millionaire Iwona de Jong who bought the property for $35M in 2010. Although run as a hotel since the 1940s, it's been updated and run as a hotel and conference center (the conference center now located in the large stable building). It has 79 rooms and is about an hour and a half drive from Stockholm.

You'll love it if you visit. I certainly did.

A current guest room with a kakelugn stove.

A lovely modern bath.

Boating anyone?

Dining room set with Swedish Rococo-style chairs.

December 31, 2011

Annus Recentissimus - 2012

"May your days be painted in gold.
May your life be filled with diamonds.
May the stars shine bright on your world.
May you have a fun-filled year.
Happy New Year."

-Written and given to me by a friend.

A brand new year...may 2012 be one to remember!

December 25, 2011

Images of the Season

A place setting I created for FEAST magazine.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

With the holiday season upon us I wanted to thank all of you for reading my blog. Below are some images taken from events surrounding my holiday season I wanted to share. May all of you find peace, joy and love in the new year.

The tree at the Old Courthouse, downtown St. Louis.

I was featured this month in Feast Magazine.
The take-out containers are made from Japanese wrapping paper.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

Waterford and Limoges.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

I love candles on a table at Christmas.
[photo by Michael Jacobs]

An arrangement I made for a client.

It's not just Christmas we should honor...
This lovely Menorah elegantly celebrates Chanukah.

This boxwood wreath I assembled for my own door this year.

A very personal mantle for a client.

A lot of new things to learn, teach and show in 2012 and Design Guy University... I can hardly wait!! Stay tuned!

November 27, 2011

My Favorite Things

Since 1965 the song My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music has dominated the holiday music line up along with countless lists compiled by editors, hollywood stars and the likes of Oprah. So following suit with what might be a cliché during the holidays, I'm sharing my favorite things. (no, the audience will not receive the gifts at the end of the blog).

Cliché or not... here are my favorite things this year:

1. Cyclopedia. A Complete History of the Bicycle with a forward written by fashion designer Paul Smith: You will love this book filled with interesting factoids about the bicycle. Its expertly designed and curiously, the the play on names is appropriate. 'Cyclopaedia' was the name of what was the precursor to the Encyclopedia. [please buy from your local bookstore].

2. Eduardo Garza's lucite boxes. I just love his accessories. This one is a black lucite box with Amethyst and gold accent. His new collection incorporates real skeletons dipped in gold.

3. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by Alice Walton, it opened this year on 11-11-11. A series of 8 buildings connected together via bridges over the creek beds original to the site. Among it's holdings of American Treasures: J.Howard Miller's painting: We can do it (commonly referred to as Rosie the Riveter) and Charles Wilson's Peale's portrait of George Washington, c 1780-82.

4. Missoni fabric. NOT THE ONES FROM TARGET, this is from Missoni Home in Italy. Perfect look for all year round.
5. Preserved boxwood rings. Used for everything from table settings to adoring mirrors and doors, these rings are perfect for every occasion. Because they're preserved you can keep them year round. Available in all sorts of sizes, you can tie them to a large kraft bag for that perfect holiday gift.
6. Small Kota votive by my friend Kim Siebert. New for the season, these votives are so festive and fun. The line also includes a larger candle holder, wine coaster, picture frames, and a set of bowls.

7. Mercedes CL600 in Pladium Silver metallic, black interior. I collected Matchbox cars while growing up and would dream of the new ones Santa would bring on Christmas day. Now that I'm all grown up, I need to get a much larger stocking in hopes that this one would appear this year.
8. Polar Bear Big Eraser. How could you not 'bear' to give this gift for the holidays.

9. Converse Tennis Shoes. Classic. Any guy would love these... this year they're available in Christmas plaid.

10. Brookstone oversized towel warmer. It easily accommodates oversized towels or a robe or blanket. You just plug it into a normal outlet.

November 11, 2011

Initial Impressions

Monograms. When I was growing up my grandparents had monogrammed everything. Napkins, silverware... even the glasses had the engraved KFA (my mother's parents Kenneth and Freda Adams)... and when you went to the cabinet for a drink (back then it was milk) I wanted one of those glasses and one of those linen napkins that matched, just like the adults. My other grandparents opted for the single letter T on antique linen from 100 years ago and the single letter on the silverware. Although you see the single initials popular today on napkins or on doormats (easy automation of non-custom details) you don't see elaborate, custom monograms very often... or if you do, they're pretty standard and not very wonderful.

I was tooling around online a few years ago and I located and met Caroline Brackenridge of Monogram Inc.... she does amazing work. I reconnected with her recently and we talked about her creativity, her business and about Phoebe...her dog.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Long Island, Vermont and Bermuda. I moved into NYC and worked various jobs: Town & Country Magazine, Grey Advertising, as a studio manager/assistant to a fashion photographer, and eventually for the largest commercial film production company in NY as a production manager for many years. I currently live in NYC with my Bernese Mountain dog, Phoebe.


How did decide to start your monogram business?
I was on vacation in the Caribbean. We were staying in a house where they had the most beautiful hand embroidered antique linens. It occurred to me that no one was doing this anymore and it might be time to take advantage of bringing this beautiful craft back to life again in a more modern way. When I returned home I did some research to find that there actually wasn't anyone out there that did this anymore. So I collaborated with some embroidery companies, found linen suppliers and taught myself how to draw in this very strange and precise kind of way. I quit the film business eventually and devoted myself to creating beautiful monograms that were representative of the heirlooms that I have always admired. Hand embroidery, or hand-guided embroidery were the only methods back in the day, but modern technology has given us the opportunity to digitize the monogram for the embroidery machine. This enables us to re-size according to the project and it comes out the same every time. We can change colors for different environments, etc.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

You just don't do monograms, you also do heraldic crests and create other art… what are some of your favorite examples.
I like to take a client's crest and combine it with their initials underneath. There is a great deal of elegance in this and the combination creates a nice balance. Sometimes a client will have an obsession with their dog or something else in their life that is important. I love the challenge of developing the something that represents their love of life.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

Say that I would want a personal monogram, what would be some questions you'd ask me as part of the interview to draw up the design?
I ask my clients to go onto my website. If there is anything there that appeals to them, this will give me a place to start. If a client wants to incorporate another element whether it be their favorite flower or something else then I try to accomodate that request. I draw up some preliminary drawings. We discuss these and I make the necessary revisions. The customer then decides to move on to embroidery on linens or camera ready artwork for stationery. All jobs are a new challenge and love creating a design that is very personal to the customer.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

What haven't you done that you'd love to do?
To spend hours and hours in bookstores in Europe looking for inspiration. Everything inspires me, but I am always hungry for more and usually have a camera with me.

Knowing that you have your monograms applied expertly to everything from linen to crystal ( I heard your engraver is retired from Tiffany&Co.), what would you say is the most unusual application of your monograms to date?
Most of my clients are traditional. They prefer beautiful linens, stationery and sometimes engraving on silver or etching on glass. I continue to work with the best artisans in the business and we are all proud of our work. If I don't do the actual work for them, then I really don't know how the client intends on using it. Hopefully the monogram will not be over-used and always in good taste.

Click on photos to enlarge.

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?
I am thankful everyday. When my feet hit the ground every morning I consider it a great day! I'm also thankful for my friends & family and especially my 94-year-old mother who is in good health.