Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Slice of Life

This little tidbit should come as great news to readers living in the UK but will likely frustrate Matisse fans everywhere else: Tickets are now on sale for Matisse Live from Tate Modern, a special 90-minute film to be broadcast in theaters (cinemas, if you prefer the regional parlance) throughout Britain and Northern Ireland on June 3rd. The screening will offer viewers a virtual tour of Tate's monumental exhibition, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, but also provide a peek at the mounting of the museum's new show and a look at less frequently seen footage of the artist in his studio.

If similar happenings are planned by MoMA, when the show travels to NYC in the fall, I'll keep you posted.

Shown above is the hardcover exhibition catalog sold by Tate with the iconic Blue Nude on the front; the book should become available in the U.S. end of May

Hands On

Alive with energy, Mary Mulcahy's new designHailey Indigo, is blanketed with sunburst-like, flower-ish forms.

Part of her latest Traditional Kalamkari collection, this cotton print's sense of movement seems fitting because Mulcahy says that the line is all about human energy, from the hands that carve the printing blocks based on her original designs to the feet that pedal the sewing machines. Another of the physically demanding steps involved in creating Kalamkari is the fabric softening: in keeping with age-old Indian techniques, naturally sun-bleached cloth is beaten with rocks, boiled and dried all before printing begins. (BTW: The results are highlighted in a beautifully-styled hardcover catalog available to the public for $15.)

Flipping through the pages, longtime fans of Mulcahy's artisan textile house, Les Indiennes, will notice that the designer has expanded her repertoire.

[Click to see full screen view. Images courtesy Les Indiennes.]

In the past, she's stuck with monochromes -- one color on pale, naturally bleached grounds -- but her kalamkaris combine multiple hues on darker antiqued grounds. The look is very much rooted in historic Indian styles. Cases in point: Therese, with its lineup of leaf-like shapes known as "boteh" or "buta" in India but more commonly called paisley in the West, as well as her intricately bordered Julia.

Rich red and indigo dominate the dense floral, Bianca, pictured below. 

Besides this tangle of stylized blossoms, or the flock of birds flying across another print (appropriately named Birds), Mulcahy writes that she sees something less literal in the patterns: the skill of her master craftsman and business partner, Srinivas Pitchuka. So the latest line, more than any other perhaps, is her ode to him.

In total, the team has produced 24 prints, several to be available in multiple colorways, Find more of the offerings, including tablecloths, napkins, quilts and pillows, here.


Up Next: Kalamkaris

[Photo my own]

Sneak a peek at one of the fabrics from designer Mary Mulcahy's latest adventure: Hailey Indigo, a traditionally handcrafted kalamkari by her boutique textile company, Les Indiennes. Later this week we'll explore the collection. In the meantime, revisit a few antique kalamkaris at The Met online.


More Lines on the Horizon

[My own inspiration board. All Navajo textiles via the de Young: from the left Serape, ca. 1865; Serape, ca. 1850; Poncho serape, ca. 1830. Vogue images shot by Mikael Jansson, February 2014 issue.]

From Paris to San Francisco, Native American style is in the spotlight right now.

Indiens des Plaines continues through July at Musée du quai Branly and, as mentioned here back in February, the de Young's exhibition, Lines on the Horizon, debuts in roughly two weeks.

So the catalogue is now available for pre-order online. And beginning this week, special related talks with curators and visiting textile experts are happening. At the de Young, expect to see mid- to late- 19th-century and 20th-century Navajo textiles as well as Plains ledger drawings and Native American ceramics. This show will run through January 4, 2015.


Compare and Contrast

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

Scattered with a regiment of peacocks, this late-19th-century embroidered silk originally appeared in my "Adjustment Bureau Headboard" post. Maybe the stylized feathered creatures and characteristically Kutch border make it most memorable. Or maybe it's the rich combination of colors.

Either way, I thought about the antique when I came across this: new to John Robshaw's Souk is an embroidered pillow with a similar look. The ground color is purple, so the orange threads outlining the peacock cousins really vibrate against it.

For more on Indian embroidery, check out V & A curator Rosemary Crill's book.


Follow Up Finds

Following up on the post about posters (Matisse posters, specifically), here's a peek at some of the ceramics commissioned by Tate for the museum's gift shop wares offered in conjunction with the much-anticipated show, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Color is primarily what links the new pieces to the 20th century master. Sue Ure's orange bowl, pictured above, is characterized by softly gradated shades of orange.

To me, these gradations recall the hand-painting on Matisse's scissor-sculpted forms.

But the color-blocked Jansen + Co. mugs suggest Matisse's famous juxtapositions, notably green with blue and pink with orange.

 [From TASCHEN's Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs- Drawing With Scissors.]

New Week, New Work

[©Sarah Hinckley, dances unfold, watercolor on paper, 15" x 10"]

Critic Lilly Wei describes Sarah Hinckley's watercolors as diaphanous, " if everything solid melts into air."

The artist's work is also informed by her passion for music, as we talked about last year, and by horizon lines. Later this week, new small works on paper from Hinckley will be available through Littlejohn Contemporary in Chelsea.

One Man's Folly

[Book open to photo by Rodney Collins. All images in this post are from One Man's Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood, Rizzoli, 2014.]

India? An Anglo-Indian-style folly on a vast English country estate? The first time I saw this view through fretwork framed floor-to-ceiling windows -- a slightly different angle that I initially spied on photographer Paul Costello's site -- I assumed I was looking at some far away place.

[Photo by Paul Costello]
But the trellised dining room, aka "glass room," is actually in my home state, in Americus, Georgia,  just a few hours south of the city where I live. Part of a re-imagined carriage house, the soaring, wondrous space is the creation of Furlow Gatewood -- a man described by Bunny Williams as "… one of the most talented and influential members of America’s design community—and one that you have likely never heard of."

[Photo by Rodney Collins. ]

[Photo by Paul Costello.]

One Man's Folly: The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood, a new book from Rizzoli penned by Julia Reed with her trademark wit, explores this under-the-radar, self-taught architect/designer's private world -- an unexpected compound comprised of the Barn, the Peacock House, the Cuthbert House, the Lumpkin House, and in Reed's words "a succession of jewel-box-like outbuildings."

BTW, apart from the Barn, which began as a restoration of sorts, Gatewood created the entire peacock-and-dog-filled oasis when he was in his eighties. He is now ninety-something.

[Photo by Paul Costello.]

Although the hand-crafted compound is layered with antiques (the raison d'être for the multiple structures is really Gatewood's unstoppable habit of picking up beautiful old objects and architectural remnants -- in short, he needed space to house his finds), the rooms feel exceedingly fresh. There are beautiful fabrics (think Robert Kime and note, too, the authentic Indian block prints layered on the daybed as well as the framed toile), but they are never used at the windows. Gatewood prefers his windows left spare, and his palette is generally clean: an abundance of white, classic blue-and-white, and soft gray.

He has a penchant for Gothic lattice and gingerbread, however, in his hands, Southern Gothic isn't dark, it's light, airy and welcoming. I think, since Mughal elements and Gothic design sometimes have lines in common, and maybe because Gatewood's place is sprinkled with forty or so live peacocks along with multiple pagodas, not to mention assorted acquisitions from India and other far flung destinations, there is this wonderful sense of "Where am I? Wherever it is, it's someplace out of this world." Dreamy light captured by photographers Paul Costello and Rodney Collins adds to the feeling of escape.


Virtual Visit

[Detail view courtesy LARTA]

Friendly reminder: the London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair opened today and exceptional pieces from each Fair dealer, such as this deep pink embroidered wool Pardah -- a type of curtain or hanging -- from Joss Graham Gallery, are highlighted for virtual visitors here.


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.