Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beautiful Butterfly Bounty: Thibaut and Others

Recent visits to butterfly exhibits at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History just confirmed what wonderful additions butterflies are in the garden.  And seeing so many got me thinking about their decorative use in our homes.
Butterflies bring movement, color – bright and iridescent, whimsy and a sense of exoticism to our lives.  They exude happiness and optimism… not to mention a little mystery and elegance.  But there are so many pretty butterfly accessories… one can get overwhelmed!  So I thought I would only share products I love, that really capture the multi-faceted nature of butterflies, from companies and designers that understand the beauty and innate symbolism of butterflies.  Too much to ask of a wallpaper or chandelier?  I don’t think so.

Despite the French-sounding name, Thibaut is an American company, first established in New York City in 1886 by self-starter Richard E. Thibaut, when he was just twenty years old.  Known for their gorgeous palettes and painterly quality, Thibaut is usually the first place I look for wallpaper and fabric in lush, no-holds-barred floral and faunal patterns.

The slightly tropical Lillian, seen here in blue, and its coordinating trellis Margo epitomize Thibaut excellence.
Lillian wallpaper and fabric in blue
Margo wallpaper in blue
Lillian comes in six colors, in both fabric and wallpaper, and Margo is available in the same colors but only as wallpaper.
Detail of Lillian in white
For a less “decorated” look, I can imagine a cheerful room with one wall papered in Lillian, all the soft furnishings slipcovered in tailored white linen or raw silk and Ingo Maurer’s Johnny B. Butterfly pendant light.  Can’t you?
Charming Gwen, a wallpaper from Thibaut’s Great Estates Collection, comes in five colors.
Gwen wallpaper in white
Pair it in blue with Cyan Design’s Garden Settee.  Add a fat seat cushion, with a full length skirt, in lichen velvet to play up the garden feel and keep everything from getting too saccharin.
Detail of Gwen in blue
I suppose most people would use Ladybug in a young girl’s bedroom.  But I think it’s sophisticated enough for a home office or foyer.
Ladybug wallpaper
Splurge on a pair of Hermoine lamps from Charlotte-based Carson and Company.
Hermoine lamp
Or really celebrate pink and green with their stunning Palm Beach lamp, recently featured in House Beautiful.
Palm Beach lamp
Carson and Company also offers fabrics based on their historic decoupage designs.  Roman shades or an upholstered screen in Barbara, in dark chocolate, or Kelsey, in citrus, would be amazingly over-the-top and absolutely perfect with Thibaut’s Ladybug.
Barbara fabric in dark chocolate
Kelsey fabric in citrus
A printed wallpaper with the texture of grasscloth, Butterfly Garden is one of my all-time favorites.  Your dining room would shimmer both day and night with Butterfly Garden in metallic gold and the Gemma Chandelier from Made Goods.
Butterfly Garden in metallic gold
Large Gemma chandelier
Include decoupaged, glass paperweights and trays from John Derian’s marvelous collection and set your table with Anna Weatherley’s Amber Leaf porcelain dinnerware.
Brown Moth paperweight
Dark Green Butterfly glass tray
Green Butterfly Luna Moth glass tray

Small plate from Amber Leaf pattern
Medium plate from Amber Leaf pattern
Purple isn’t usually my first color of choice, but Butterfly Garden in eggplant really shows off the complexity of the design.
Detail of Butterfly Garden in eggplant
Plus it complements Anna Weatherley’s Exotic Butterflies so wonderfully.  And instead of large hurricane globes, adorn a sideboard with a pair of Butterfly Orbs by Global Views.
Dinner plate from Exotic Butterflies pattern

Butterfly Orb adds a little metal to a traditional room.
The truth is… you can add beautiful butterfly accessories to just about any room.  These little touches transport the garden and meadow indoors and remind us of sunnier days and sultry summer evenings.

Butterflies Live! is a seasonal exhibition in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Conservatory in Richmond, Virginia.  It includes mainly tropical and subtropical butterflies and runs until October 14.  Admission to the Garden is $11 per adult and $7 per child and includes entry to Butterflies Live!.  The Butterfly Pavilion is a permanent exhibit within the NMNH in Washington, DC.  Of course, admission to the Museum and the related exhibit Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution is free, but touring the Pavilion costs $6 per adult and $5 per child.  So, go be inspired yourself!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Building Your Collection: Thumbtack Press

Thumbtack Press is an online community of illustrators and artists.  Based out of Chicago, Thumbtack’s organizers seek out creativity from, literally, all over of the world, and I appreciate that the artists they represent tend to be more experimental than those exhibiting at my hometown galleries.  The scope and diversity of Thumbtack’s collection makes them feel like a gallery, marketplace and art festival all rolled into one.

Like 20x200, Thumbtack Press keeps art affordable by offering giclee prints on archival paper or stretched canvas.  You can customize the size of your print, to a certain extent, and ask Thumbtack to frame it in-house.  Most prints are open edition, but it’s my understanding that they are produced at the time of each order.  Sometimes, an artist will collaborate with Thumbtack on signed, limited edition work, usually between 25 and 100 prints per piece.

Thumbtack’s goal is to support up-and-coming artists and to make art collecting a reality for “the rest of us”.  Artist profiles usually provide biographical information, creative statements and links to artist websites.  Over the years, Thumbtack has introduced me to several artists and motivated me to track their work on Thumbtack and other virtual shops, watch for new illustrations in magazines and books and seek out exhibitions of their art in “real-life”.  Thumbtack actually serves as a gallery and launch pad.

My Thumbtack favorites include Gianluca Foli, Kate Pugsley, Liza Ferneyhough and Marcela Cardenas.  In some ways, these artists have a lot in common.  They continually test new media and bring an element of assemblage or collage to even their smallest pieces.  And yet their work is distinctive and, I believe, highly personal.

Born and bred in Rome, Gianluca Foli is perhaps best known for his drawings and graphics for clients Alfa Romeo, Fendi and Mondadori, but he has also illustrated children’s books like The Bear with the Sword and Il Leone Mangiadisegni.  Gianluca’s ink and watercolor creations are at once delicate and humorous and are obviously influenced by Asian brush painting and calligraphy.
Gianluca Foli's charming Soya and Tofu
Me, Sushiii original watercolor is available as a print from Thumbtack Press.
Gianluca is available for freelance work.  So keep an eye out for his art in your monthly magazines and consider hiring him for your personal project or publication.

Kate Pugsley grew up in Ohio, trained at RISD and now lives in Chicago.  Her prints and paintings capture a familiar everydayness that is just a bit askew.  The relative physical and emotional flatness of each of these scenes is alleviated by pattern, either painted or drawn or applied with paper.  The outcome is quite unique with each image expressing a mood, a feeling… something very close to peace and pensiveness.  I can only liken it to viewing a vintage photograph where you recognize both the subject and his thoughts.
Poppy, Kate Pugsley's original oil painting.
Little gocco print entitled Snorkeler
Kate’s original oil or gouache paintings are incredibly affordable.  But she also creates tiny silkscreen and gocco prints you can own for next to nothing!  And you can commission her to paint a portrait of your beloved pet.

Liza Ferneyhough currently lives in San Francisco but spent her younger days in Asia, England and… maybe not what you were expecting… Texas.  Liza is an illustrator and works in a variety of media: ink, watercolor, pencil, screenprint and acrylic.  I especially enjoy her paintings on tea-stained paper.
This original painting on tea-stained paper celebrates the flora, fauna and food of Malaysia.
It is available in print form at Thumbtack Press.
Gerber Daisy Trike postcards were developed from one of Liza's paintings.
Liza really has a thing for insects and moths, birds and the night sky, and bicycles and flowers.  And her work is fanciful and fun.  Liza also designs custom stationery, logos and signage.

Marcela Cardenas’ creations are absolutely exquisite.  Based in Medellin, Colombia, she takes inspiration from nature in every form, even when it has been reduced to household ephemera.   It is amazing how Marcela juxtaposes the traditional with the trivial and explores our perpetual, if often overlooked, interconnectedness with plants and animals: seemingly antique etchings of elephantine pitchers and teddy bear accessories and, most recently, simple, conventional objects in porcelain… entwined with animal hair.

Marcela’s work is also so very striking because of its fineness and skill, no matter what the medium: pencil and watercolor, oil paint, ceramic or cut and perforated paper.  Her Domestic Landscapes, in sugary palettes of acrylic paint, elevate kitchen tins, collectibles and toys to almost heroic status.  The scenes are both still-lifes and allegorical landscapes, with the figurines and packaging logos populating the story.
Domestic Landscape 2

Domestic Landscape 1
Marcela Cardenas' still-lifes actually remind me of landscapes like
Winslow Homer's Dad's Coming! from the National Gallery of Art.
So check out Thumbtack Press soon.  It might inspire you to start a new collection!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Building Your Collection: Art Star Philly

In addition to 20x200, there are several online galleries I regularly visit on the hunt for interesting artists.

Art Star is a relatively young, brick-and-mortar gallery devoted to craft and innovative art.  They are open every day, but Mondays, in the Northern Liberties (NoLibs) neighborhood of downtown Philadelphia… just north of Center City.  Art Star often collaborates with other institutions, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and their Craft Bazaar, held each spring, has grown into a regional event and influenced similar markets throughout the nation.  Art Star also maintains a great website where you can peruse their curated collections of housewares, jewelry, clothing, stationery, and of course, original art.

I discovered Eleanor Grosch and Julianna Swaney, several years ago, through Art Star.

Eleanor Grosch is an artist and illustrator based in Philadelphia.  She has designed everything from concert posters, exhibition materials and book covers to messenger bags, bed linens and Keds.  You can ask her to develop an identity for your new business or a “save-the-date” invite for your special day.
Eleanor worked with the American Museum of Natural History
to create materials for their current Creatures of Light exhibit.
But Eleanor is perhaps best known for her images of animals and birds.  And her work is often compared with bird illustrations by American modernist Charley Harper.
Eleanor's Owl Birches notecard
I’m a big fan of her series from Aesop’s Fables.  These are hand-pulled silkscreens on heavy-duty rag paper.  And while the images may look rather slick here, they definitely have a hand-crafted feel.  The colors are thick but slightly muted and remind me of traditional textiles like Hawaiian sleeping kapa and quilts.  I especially like the intricate, retro-Regency or -Chinoiserie silhouettes she adds to create depth and a sense of movement, transparency and whimsy.
The Crow and Vase

The Fox and Stork
Are the polka dot patterns in her new Australian prints inspired by Aboriginal bark and rock paintings?
Eleanor’s silkscreens are signed and numbered and amazingly affordable.  I own two myself and have given two as gifts.
Eleanor's work in my friend's son's nursery.
You can order Eleanor’s greeting cards and mugs from Art Star or shop for original prints, t-shirts and accessories directly from Eleanor.
Gingko Green notecard
Julianna Swaney now lives in Portland, Oregon.  But she grew up in the woods of the Upper Midwest and her art and illustrations seem drawn, literally, from these memories and her own early imaginings of folk stories and fairy tales.
Night Migrations
Delicate, nostalgic and slightly surreal, Julianna’s pen drawings with watercolor are reminiscent of faded, antique embroidery and pressed flowers.  They are like grown-up versions of the pictures of my childhood, especially Garth Williams’ illustrations for the Little House books, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web.

Light in the Woods
Like Eleanor, Julianna does a lot of commission work.  And you can request that she create a logo, sign or specialty announcement for your personal endeavor.  She also reproduces some of her original pieces as giclee prints and postcards.  Original or replicated, her work is reasonably priced to give as presents to others or yourself!
Set of Julianna's "Winter" Postcards
You can purchase Julianna’s card sets, prints and jewelry from Art Star or the same, plus original drawings and wonderfully Victorian brooches, from Julianna’s online shop Oh My Cavalier!
Two Rabbits Necklace from Art Star

Chickadee Brooch with brown, velvet ribbon
Art Star also represents popular artists Kurt Halsey Frederiksen, who usually just goes by Kurt Halsey, Jen Corace and Laura “George” Berger.  If you’re in Philadelphia sometime soon, definitely check out their gallery in person.  But you can visit them electronically any time, any day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Two Sisters, Two Bedrooms

Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to help sisters Hannah and Sarah redecorate their bedrooms.

Do you remember the bedroom of your youth?  If you were like me… and Hannah and Sarah… your bedroom was used for much more than just sleeping.  It was probably the place you read and studied, completed your homework and daydreamed and played, dressed and primped, entertained friends and hoarded all your stuff!  It was a haven… a little escape from parents and other siblings.  And it was probably the one space in the house where you had some control over décor.

Hannah and Sarah’s parents wanted to provide them with more organized rooms that could serve all the functions listed above, reflect the girls’ individual spirits and be stylish enough to last for many years.  The sisters needed significantly more storage, display areas and lamplight.  And we hoped to redecorate rather quickly, so we sourced sturdy, flexible furniture and accessories from affordable companies like West Elm, Pottery Barn and IKEA.  Instead of shopping for only “kids” or “teen” gear, we looked for adult furniture with simple lines and a smaller scale and relied on hand-me-downs that had already worn well.

Hannah’s Room
Hannah has the smallest room in the house, and the goal was to make it feel larger and calmer by introducing symmetry, defining tableaux within the room and offering a variety of storage options.  We centered Hannah’s new bed on the only uninterrupted wall and flanked it with small, matching storage chests and petite lamps.
A tall wood bed from West Elm is much more durable than a metal frame
but without the confines of a three-sided daybed.
A wicker trunk from Mom’s single days serves as ottoman or coffee table but can be moved easily if friends want to sleep over.  The coordinating chest of drawers still looks great and stores a ton of clothes.  It is surrounded by cherished family photos and new bulletin boards where Hannah can post other photos and mementos.
Hannah’s Parsons desk is positioned in front of her large window to take advantage of natural light and a view of the garden.  Fringed burlap draperies frame the scene.  A Parsons shelf fits perfectly in the space between her bedroom and closet doors.  Hannah used to have to store her collectibles and trophies in the closet!

Hannah is interested in nature and Asian cultures, and as we worked on her room, I kept thinking about the colors of a sunny day… clear blues and greens, soft yellow, all grounded by earthy browns.  We chose Benjamin Moore’s Bird’s Egg for her walls.
Bed linens and decorative pillows, some hand printed, are organic cotton that remind me of vintage kimono fabrics.  A favorite lamp from her grandmother lends a little history.

Although there’s a lot of pattern, it’s texture that dominates the décor: the lacquer-like finishes of painted furniture contrast with soft cotton, rustic cork and burlap, crinkly paper lampshades and thick wicker.  The room is at once cheerful and peaceful, chic without being trendy.

Sarah’s Room
Sarah’s décor was kind of stuck in “little girl mode”.  The furniture was too small to serve her needs and she lacked a workspace.  She had compiled inspiration pictures of pretty Swedish bedrooms… very white and silvery, but she was also drawn to bold graphics.
Before we started, this was Sarah's only drawer space and table surface.
Instead of traditional white-washed walls, we chose Benjamin Moore’s Spring Iris for a soft, slightly shimmery cocoon.
We upgraded Sarah’s twin bed to a full, and as in Hannah’s room, placed it on the least-interrupted wall to create a focal point.  An upholstered headboard from Ballard Designs gives it a more finished look.  And a slipcover extends the life and usability of the headboard: it can be easily cleaned when dirty or replaced if she wants an update.
Sarah’s wish list included a chandelier over her bed, and this tiny one in metal and crystal adds humor and glamour.  Plus the extra light is vital for night time reading and studying.  The chandelier is simply hung from a plant hook in the ceiling.  A regular lamp plug was attached to the chandelier’s hardwiring and a silk cord cover dresses up the long stretch of cord.
New bed linens include a washable silk quilt in muted gray.  And a double dresser and desk, handed down from Hannah, were freshened up with glossy paint in a much paler, hazy-cloud-gray.  The new shelving units, stationed on either side of the window and desk, provide much-needed storage and display space.  The window is actually off-center, so we had to find coordinating bookcases in two different widths.  At a glance, they look like twins.

Floral fabrics and accessories, in purple, orchid, charcoal and black with white backgrounds, are simple and strong, and take inspiration from almost deconstructed Art Deco patterns instead of the blousy, sunwashed florals typically used in bedrooms.  Once again, white textiles and blond wood are used as accents to pull everything together without looking too precious.

I think the bedroom we created successfully combines everything Sarah wanted.  It is feminine but not frilly.  It contains a few grown-up elements but is still practical enough for heavy, everyday use.
Admit it, you'd love a microphone in your room as well.
It was great fun to help Hannah and Sarah redecorate.  But we must say a “big thanks” to their mom and dad who tracked down accessories, dealt with online orders and assembled furniture to make the rooms wonderful and witty in a very short amount of time!