Friday, January 29, 2010

Going for Baroque.....

As many good things often do, Baroque architecture originated in Italy...early 17th century saw the beginning of a new, lavish ornamental style......

I always think of Baroque when I see a Margaret Braun cake! Her designs are so over the top, every inch treated with ornamental decoration.

Sanssouci Palace

Cathedrals were treated as  large, lavish cakes, frosted with gilded plaster ornament. No surface was ignored.

Sanssouci Palace

Ceilings told ornate stories in chinoiserie themes, with lots of lattice, flowers and cherubs.

The blending of painting and opulent architecture were characteristic of the Baroque era as seen here in the Sanssouci Palace, home to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.

Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin, the largest surviving royal palace, was designed by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorf.  Knobelsdorf studied in Paris and Italy and came back to Berlin to create Frederickian Rococo.

This Rococo style was a continuation of the Baroque influence.

Every surface was treated as a potential canvas for decoration.

Elaborate scenes were carved from plaster and gilded spilling over from walls to ceilings.

Palm fronds and trellising were also common subject matter.

The shell shaped curves were also seen in porcelain with gold edging many times over a mirrored background.

Baroque artists gave us glorious detailed ornaments.  Adding beauty though dimensional carved ornament and using piping bags to create vines, flowers and trelliswork, they were the cake decorators of  Baroque architecture. 

All photos (except the cake) are courtesy of the Berger Foundation.

Friday, January 22, 2010


This piece of jewelry is as fascinating today as when it was made in the late 1800s.
Intricate braiding and weaving of human hair became fashionable in the mid to late 1800s -the Victorian era.

The watch chain shows that jewelry pieces were not made just for women.

Endearments of love, hair weaving became a common parlor activity along with crocheting and knitting in Victorian times.

It was common for mothers to have a brooch containing the hair of their children . Have you ever wondered why baby albums have a place for a lock of hair? This is a vestige of the ornate practice almost lost after the turn of the 20th century.

But often, the jewelry was made as a reminder of the loved one when separated due to war or death.

Some people kept hair albums. This one belongs to Marlys Fladeland. Hair from loved ones would be intricately braided and kept in book form. Typically, when married, husband and wives hair would be braided together.

All pictures shown represent human hair work, you can still find artists today working with human and horse hair.

Other endearments preceding hairwork included the "lovers eye" jewelry. This piece is modern made by artist Tabitha Vevers.

Endearments ...reminders of someone removed by time or distance made into works of art. Both lover's eyes and hairwork were worn close to the heart for sentimental reasons. These pieces are the results of art and passion intertwined just as the strands of hair were intertwined  to make intimate endearments. What endearments do you have that have been handed down through your family?

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Art of Ebru....

Ebru, turkish for cloud, is a word linked to the ancient beginnings of marbling. The process of floating ink on water and manipulating to form intricate patterns is the definition of marbling.

For twenty years I have been a marbler and have collected marbled books and other related ephemera for the same amount of time.

I have personally marbled textiles ,wood, leather and paper used for lampshades and bookbinding.

Marbled books are predominant on my bookshelves. Most of the leather bound marbled books are from England or Italy where the art is still very popular.

This small chest was created by the Italian marblers of Il Papiro in Florence where the ancient art still thrives.

After purchasing these lithographs in Paris, I marbled paper to add to the matting before framing.

Here, I am demonstrating the process, using acrylic paints floating on a bath of carrageenan (Irish sea moss)which thickens the water and allows the paint colors to float separately without blending.

The circles of paint are coaxed with chopsticks and feathers into intricate patterns with names such as Icarus wings, Spanish moire, get-gel and nonpareil.

I love the way the pattern wraps around dimensional objects. Wooden eggs, spheres, apples and pears take on kaleidoscope designs when immersed in the marbling vat.

When transferring to paper, the process becomes a monoprint. Offset paper is often used after a layer of alum is applied with a sea sponge to prevent bleeding of colors.

When my husband gave me this wonderful murano glass bowl, I filled it with spheres I made marbled in a nonpareil pattern.

It is rare to find books with marbled pages as well as the covers. They were much harder to produce, getting the pattern to print on just the edges without ruining the print inside.

Small collections look fabulous set on marbled books. This is a cloisonne collection I have set on a pattern of Spanish moire.

Old ledger boxes covered in stone patterns make me giddy! I think the art of marbling adds a nice touch of history and artistic design to any home.  Does anyone else share my passion with the art of marbling? Do you own any forms of this ancient art?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Beetles are coming....

Ok, not the "fab four".....I mean beetles....insects...the Royal Palace in Brussels is literally covered with them.

The chandeliers, inset panels on the walls and ceiling are covered with beetles that were collected from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesian restaurants ...where they are a delicacy.

In 2002, 1.6 million Thai jewel beetles were glued to the ceiling by Belgian artist Jan Fabre to create Heaven of Delight.

In the spring of 2008, Fabre exhibited other beetle encrusted pieces at the Louvre in Paris.

Beetles have been used for centuries for adornment.

Fabre is not the only artist fascinated with beetles.....

                                  Photo from Christopher Marley's Pheromone

Christopher Marley , an Oregon based artist works with the real thing, he takes specimens of beetles mounting them side by side to make fantastic collages of color and shape.
He collects beetles from all around the world and mounts them into groupings.
The colors and patterns of beetles are art in themselves!

I love the  violin beetle's body with it's rich woody shades...

Contemporary artists Connie and Randy Cotita created this custom furniture finish inspired by the beetle. Layers of cool colors and iridescence aged patinas mimic the insect's shells. They even painted one on a cabinet door!

The chiton shells of the beetle have been used in textile adornment for centuries. This incredible work is contemporary by a wonderful  textile artist in Texas, Michael Cook. you have "beetle-mania" yet?  I do!  I can add this to collecting lichens, taxidermy and other odd curiosities I find addicting! What odd hobbies or collections do you enjoy?

Here is another wonderful link to the use of the shells in textiles.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tools of the Trade...

Many artist's studios can look like a mixture of alchemy and chaos!
 Recycled glass jars filled with leftover glaze, custom paints and solvents.....dented coffee cans stuffed with brushes and grainers.....

...but not all tools of the trade are so abused.....

Some tools are works of art in themselves....boxed brush sets in satin lined boxes.....sticks of ink with wonderful embossed designs for calligraphy....

Specialty brushes of fox, badger and squirrel fur with lacquered handles of bamboo or exotic woods....

These fabulous brushes I picked up from the Fortuny Museum in Venice and have the distinctive Fortuny pattern on the handles.

Well, those fabulous brushes need something to rest on while painting.....

I love the turquoise multi brush holder I found in an art gallery but also think older ash trays(especially of the "rat-pack" era) work great to hold a wet brush.

The Ming Dynasty elevated art tools to fine art. This scholar's brush cup is an intricately carved root base.

Another Ming dynasty brush cup with detailed stand carved to mimic the shape of the root.

Artist palettes can be made of exotic woods with exaggerated curves to fit against the body for long periods of time without tiring the arm.

But most tools of the trade end up covered in drips of paint and solvents creating a mosaic design of past experiments and projects.

These tools allow me to do what I do...create!
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