COLLECTIONS: TERRA COTTA

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imageEach month at the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com I search for blogging inspiration and I always come across something that entices me.  These pots were no exception!  I found them at the Randolph entrance to RSM at Cosmic Girl Goes Home’s booth along with many other fascinating objects.  The proprietor, Robin Sweeney, doesn’t come every month, she travels from Ohio, but you will be greatly pleased when she is there, I love her ecstatic!  You can find her at her Instagram account @cosmicgirlgoes or on Facebook at cosmic girl goes home.  What I liked about these terra cotta pots is that they are already weathered.  Yes, you can do this yourself or perhaps you have some in your garden shed but if not you are in luck…I love the patina.

imageimageA couple more shots from the booth.  All three photos I took with my iPhone.

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Let’s look at some ways to use them in the garden or in your home….all the following photos were found on Pinterest photo credits unknown.

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A garden arch of terra cotta pots as well as pots for all the blooms.  I want to live there!

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Am I the only person who misses Martha Stewart’s original programs….I simply devoured them and really learned so much.  Perhaps they can be streamed somewhere…can’t you stream everything!!!!  One series she did was with Guy Wolff and it was absolutely fascinating.  Here are a couple of photos of his wonderful work www.guywolff.com.  There are several very interesting Guy Wolff videos on YouTube.

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imageOf course, I have to share his book….what would nenasnotes be without a book recommendation!!!!

The history of terra cotta (earthenware) takes us to ancient times and could be a very long post, instead, I thought I would briefly bring up Emperor Qin the first Emperor of China’s terra cotta army.  Thousands of the terra cotta soldiers were found buried with the Emperor, each with a different face.  I was mesmerized by them when many of them were on exhibition at the Field Museum last year.  You will want to read the entire story here are two sites to give you lots of information, The Smithsonian Museum Magazine www.smithsonianmag.com has a great article as well as National Geographic www.nationalgeographic.com  Check YouTube for in-depth videos on this unique view of history.

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No recipe today, don’t have too much I can do with terra cotta, although you could think up something with fresh clean pots….hum, let’s think about that!!!!  Martha where are you when we need you!!!!

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY

I have been letting you know I have had major technological issues the last few weeks, I finally got myself into the AT&T flagship store on North Michigan Avenue and after several hours (I must say very pleasant hours!!!) with my new friend, Dario, everything is sorted…I have new play things!  The only issues are that I have to reprogram many things, redo passwords, etc. etc. etc.  I am still using my “vintage” PC to write nenasnotes, I will eventually get a keyboard for my iPad and other gadgets, I do love gadgets!!!  PS to that story, I am a creature of habit and a person who worked with a company where the “S” not only stood (and stands) for Saks but also for Service, and that is always what I get from AT&T.  It doesn’t matter whether I am on the phone with questions and/or a problem or in person at their American flagship, I wouldn’t change for the world!

Now you may well ask, “Nena what does this have to do with the old Bell Telephone Company”, let me explain. I was at an event several years ago at the Chicago History Museum and met the AT&T Store Manager and their Visual Director who told me they were to have a “museum” at the newly opened flagship.  This peaked my interest and I mentioned to them that my Father had done the illustration for the front of the Bell Telephone book.  You may recall that he was a commercial artist as well as a fine artist and did may commercial projects, many of which were company logos as well as posters for The Columbia Exhibition (none of which bare his signature, they were, afer all commercial pieces!). They both expressed interest and that was that.  Time went by and I found myself in the store, I think I was upgrading (the last time) to a new phone and the young man (forgive me for not remembering his name, bad Nena!) saw me and come  over and said “I checked with our archivist and he verified the illustrator was indeed your Father!”  The original is housed elsewhere, probably at the AT&T headquarters in Dallas, but it is Daddy’s without doubt.  I was beyond excited and thrilled since I had grown up with that image with great pride.

The image which you will see below was taken from The Spirit of Communication, “The Golden Boy” that was sculpted by Evelyn Beatrice Longman and was, at the time, New York City’s second-tallest sculpture next to the Statue of Liberty, at 24 feet, it was cast in bronze and covered in gold leaf!  It was completed in 1916 and resided at the top of the Bell tower in Lower Manhattan until the 1990’s.  In the early 1930’s the Spirit of Communication logo appeared on the front of the telephone book.

imageTaken from Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

imageIsn’t he glorious.  He graces the lobby of AT&T in Dallas.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

This brings us back to last week when I am seated in the middle of the AT&T flagship waiting for Dario, I turn on my stool and lo and behold what is behind me but a replica of “The Golden Boy”…I was gobsmacked!

imageHere he is for all or us to admire in Chicago.  The staff were quite intrigued with my story and I happened to have a photo of Daddy’s illustration which I shared.  And now I share it with you……

imageIvon’s illustration for the Bell Telephone Book from early 1930’s to early 1950’s.

And here is the artist’s photograph, signed to his beloved wife, Ruthy,my Mother, taken at the time of the illustration, early 1930’s.  It is my most favorite photo of him and one that I cherish.  I wish you all could know him he was a very special gentleman, talented, funny, a super sportsman, everyone’s friend, a respected artist (I would say respected as a human being!) and totally devoted to his family, we meant the world to him.  I will share more of his art with you in future posts, of that you can be sure!

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This, by the way, is in no way a commercial for AT&T….rather the story of recognizing ownership of an iconic commercial image!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COLLECTIONS: INSECTS PART 2

imageWSome wonderful prints, dated 1809, from Paper Patty’s booth at Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com

I ended last weeks posting with bees and am moving on today but my friend, Gloria Groom, (if you didn’t read Gloria’s profile that I did several months ago, please do so and be sure to see the Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist exhibition through September 10th at The Art Insitute www.artic.edu sooner rather than later!) called my attention to this glorious paperweight from The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection…isn’t it amazing.  You know me and books so I am including a book on Paul J. Stankard’s extraordinary contemporary creations.

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imageIs this a fly or a bee, I’ll let you be the judge.  It is embroidered on a Schiaparelli Haute Couture dress.  Stunningly beautiful.

imageA botanical of beetles.

imageI posted several photos of the beetle wing embroidered gowns last week…here is a close up of the delicate work.

imageIsn’t this the most beautiful insect pin you have ever seen (there is another one further along in this post) it is by Faberge and is from a dear friend’s jewelry collection.  Photo courtesy of the owner,

imageI do hope none of us encounter any creepy crawlies this size…a bit of English humor.

imageA jeweled beetle minaudiere from Judith Leiber www.judithleiber.com

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Here a scarab mounted in stunning fashion from Stephanie Lake’s talented hands, www.stephanielakedesign.com.  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lake

imageThe cochineal insect gives us the natural dye, carmine, and is used for fabrics and in our red cosmetic products most particularly lipstick. Who knew!!!!

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imageNot the actual beetle but I thought an interesting illustration.

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imageA couple of photos on dragonflies…I have always been fascinated with them and you don’t see them too often.  This marcasite and enamel pin from Carrie’s Fabulous and Funky booth at the Randolph Street Market.  My photograph.

imageA beaded pillbox with a three-dimensional dragonfly from Judith Leiber.

image A miniature vase by Jay Strongwater  www.jaystrongwater.com  from my signed collection.  We did so many events with this creative genius at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago.  You can be sure there will be a post on him in the near future!

imageThe second pin from my friend’s jewelry collection….a Faberge spider, this will cure anyone’s fear of the little creatures, don’t you agree!  Photo courtesy of the owner.

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imageInsects captured in amber.

imageI love this watercolor of insects, do you agree?

imageThe back of a jacket by Gucci.  Love it!!!!

ALL PHOTOS UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED ARE FROM PINTEREST PHOTO CREDIT UNKNOWN.

I have to do a recipe using honey….there are so many suggestions, you can most certainly add honey to your barbecue sauce for the Fourth of July, or perhaps top your peanut butter sandwich with it (one of my favorite ways to eat peanut butter) or add to your avocado toast, yum yum…I have chosen to give you a recipe for baked brie that you can serve year-round.  Enjoy.

BAKE BRIE WITH HONEY AND ALMONDS

Ingredients

  • 1 wedge of brie, about 12 ounces
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1 large French baguette

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brie in a baking dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle With toasted almonds. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve with thick slices of French bread.

 

 

 BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: ISADORA

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I have a confession to make, I am not doing a review on this book today.  Why, you ask…well, I started reading it with the intention of whizzing right through it…not the case.  It is an extremely well written, in-depth study of a very complex woman, Isadora Duncan.  It will take more than a day or even two to really absorb its content.  If you want to read along with me, you can do that otherwise give me a bit of a break to really get into it and I will give you my opinion in a week or so.

I might let you know that I am not a fan of modern dance, not at all.  It just isn’t my thing, but learning about such an independent woman during the early 20th Century is a true education.  I am finding so much of what I am reading lately talks about independent women and how they fought to be recognized.  It makes fascinating reading. I am, most certainly, well aware of the restrictions on women of that time, but am finding more and more information and therefore, insight into their journeys.  Perhaps a bit easier when in the Arts, but was it really!!??  As you already know, I adore novels written about “real people” using fact and incorporating them into to fiction…one can only speculate which is which.

Thank you for baring with me this week on my book post!

COLLECTIONS: INSECTS PART 1……IN FASHION

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I’ve been seriously thinking about bees and how their demise will effect our beloved Earth, we MUST protect them and see that they continue to exist!!!  It got me to thinking about how insects, in general, are always with us and how they turn up in fashion, beauty, interiors, art, books…etc., etc!  I have gathered so much “stuff” that this will be a two-part post this week and next week.

As I was preparing to do this post I was drawn again to A. S. Byatt’s book, Angels & Insects.  I actually saw the film before I read the book.  I found both beautifully detailed, the 1995 film, in particular, was visually stunning, (I love Kristen Scott Thomas in anything!) but also disturbing.  If you haven’t seen it here is the trailer https://youtu.be/bdqnz-FtIog to wet your appetite.

imageFrom the film Angels & Insects, one of the main characters in costume.  No, it isn’t for a costume party it is a day dress but why, one would ask, would you want to look like a bumble bee???!!!

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imageA Lasage gold embroidered bee that was created for an Haute Couture garment. Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA truly magnificent gown and hat from the genius of Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.  I am obsessed with the faux tortoise shell detail scattered with gold and tortoise bees. The gold honeycomb and bees are all embroidered by hand.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageThe Lesage embroidered, on net, sleeve of a Chanel Spring 2016 Haute Couture gown.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageA jeweled honeycomb minaudière from Judith Leiber, I mean seriously…what a work of art!!! Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I’ll do a Fashion Flashback story on Judith Leiber in a future post.

imageA needlepoint chair seat on an antique chair at a private club in Chicago.

imageNapoleon adored bees and used them in many forms.  Here is a woven piece.  Perhaps I should adapt it for my logo!!!???  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageBee hives on the top of a downtown Chicago building.  All new commercial roof tops must have green space.  Many older buildings such as City Hall have gone green as well. Bravo Chicago.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

The following is taken from the absolutely fascinating website The Honeybee Conservancy www.thehoneybeeconversancy.org  You can sponsor bee hives and learn so much about bees and their place in history as well as today.

“Although he was never a beekeeper, Napoleon used the honey bee as one of the most important symbols of the power and prestige of his empire.

There seems to be two schools of thought of why Napoleon’s government chose the honey bee as part of its iconography.

One school of thought says the honey bee is representational of the Merovingian kings, the founders of France, with whom Napoleon sought to align himself.

Or...

“When Napoleon moved into the Royal Palace at Tuileries he refused to spend money on new decor. However, he could not allow the drapery – with its embroidered fleur-de-lis (the French Royal emblem) – to continue to hang in the windows of the palace. His solution was to have the rich and elegant drapes turned upside down. The inverted symbol of the overthrown monarchy looked like a bee.  From then on, the tenacious bee became the emblem of Napoleon Bonaparte.

imageI took this photo at last month’s Randolph Street Market at Carrie Homann’s booth, on the Second Floor in the Ballroom, from a collection of insect pins. Isn’t the golden bee especially fabulous!  Carrie always has some insect jewelry at the Shows, but she has so many other collections I would suggest you check her out each month (I’ll be posting more from her especially her Bakelite pieces) and remember if you see something you like, at any of the booths, buy it, it many not be there later that day nor the next month.  When you find something you like be sure to ask the dealer if they have any other treasures you might be collecting, they will be happy to let you know what else they might not have brought that month. www.randolphstreetmarket.com

imageA close up of a silver bee pin from Carrie Homann’s jewelry collection.

imageA magnificent necklace (I may need to make this my own, love it!) from the unbelievably talented Stephanie Lake (you remember the week of posts, the week of December 12, 2016, I did on Stephanie, her book on Bonnie Cashin and how she and her husband entertain) www.stephanielakedesign.com  Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lake Design.

Let’s switch from bees to beetles….a fascinating story about beetle wing embroidery this amazing phenomenon was brought, along with the site infomation, to my attention by my friend and Columbia College Chicago Faculty member, Virginia Heaven (you have seen some pieces from her vast collections of objects in past posts).  I, of course, needed to do some research on this and found a couple of photos on Pinterest photo credits unknown, that I am sharing with you.,

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The following excerpt is from the scolarly journal,  Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide www.19thc-artworldwide.org  It is an absolutely fascinating site.

The earliest form of insect-adorned Western dress derived its inspiration from beetle-embridroidered fabric from India imported by England in the 1840’s and 1850’s.”

Next Thursday we will continue to explore the world of insects in fashion, beauty and home…don’t freak out, we will look at some more beetles and the sheer beauty of the webs spiders spin.  I think you will be interested, and perhaps educated, I know I have been, in how they are used in ways you wouldn’t consider, and no, I’m not doing any recipes using them!!!!!

I leave you with a man and his suit……image

 

 

FASHION FASHIONBACK: A VERY DIVERSE WEEK IN FASHION

Yet another off-kilter bit of fashion…a very diverse week in fashion from a beautiful wedding to an interesting award show to an annual celebrity festival all have offered an unusual look at the fascinating world of fashion  I may or may not give you my comments and let you decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t  My blog isn’t meant to be a “fashion blog” but rather my reflections on my experiences in this exciting, challenging, and always changing phenomenon called fashion! This week gave us lots and lots to look at and think about.  I would love to hear your thoughts on what I am sharing and what you would have listed.

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Here goes….Peppa looked glorious in her exquisite lace gown ( loved the heart back and the fit was flawless) by English designer, Giles Deacon* (who, by the way, hopes he won’t only be known for wedding gowns, don’t think that will happen his garments are truly Couture in feeling let’s watch as he progresses now that the world has heard his name), and Kate looked perfect in her face powder peach dress from Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen (an excellent choice since Sarah did the Duchess’s wedding gown!) and hat, by Jane Taylor.  And the adorable pageboys and bridesmaids were perfection, even if little Prince George got scolded!

*A brief Giles Deacon Bio:

After graduating from London’s Saint Martins in 1992, Giles Deacon worked with Jean Charles De Castelbajac in Paris for 2 years. From 1998 until 2002 he designed at Bottega Veneta and the Gucci Group.  May 2010 Giles became Creative Design Director at Emanuel Ungaro in Paris.  He is also an accomplished illustrator. His Couture Collection was launched in 2017.  Such a short bio on a designer who has so many accolades to his credit.

The very next day The Billboard Music Awards happened…I have already discussed, in my Wednesday post, why I watched the show and talked about Cher but also mentioned Celine Dion.  Two major talents and both have been around for what seems like forever…and I guess “Our Hearts Will Go On” with them!!!!  Sorry, I had to do it!!!!  Can it be 20 years since The Titanic movie came into our lives…seriously!  Celine’s performance was quite dramatic as was her gown.  My thoughts, a bit too much sleeve, were we trying to look angelic, very couture, or what.  When you see the photo of the gown in the actual fashion presentation it seems to be a bit more subdued but no matter it certainly grabbed out attention.  The gown is by French designer,  Stéphane Rolland,  most certainly not a newcomer but let’s see if this elevates him to the front of our list of designers that are mostly unknown to the general public and become superstars.  He was the youngest person admitted to the Chambre Syndicale.

Stéphane Rolland Timeline
1966  –  Born in Maisons-Alfort, France
1982  –  Graduated from École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne
1986  –  Appointed as Creative Director at Balenciaga
1990  –  Under Balmain license, he created apparels 
1997  –  Appointed at Jean-Louis Scherrer Haute Couture
2007  –  Established House of Stéphane Rolland
2008  –  Became a full member at Chambre Syndicale
2013  –  Launched his ready-to-wear collection 
 
imageThe Gown
imageI just don’t get this outfit on Halsey….did she forget her top…the skirt and sandals I quite like but if we are going in our bra let’s make it an interesting one!!!!
And now on to The 2017 Cannes Film Festival.  It is always THE place to see and be seen and I can’t even imagine how one packs for all the black-tie premieres and parties throughout the day and evening.  If you are superstars your designers along with your stylists take care of the garments but still….. There were lots and lots of very high split gowns for lovely legs to shine and then there were some quite unusual ensembles….I  have only chosen a couple to share with you, it could be pages and pages of photos, the Festival goes on for two weeks after all!
Let’s start with two that the girl of the moment, Kendall Jenner, wore on two different occasions….
imageI really liked this by Giambattista Valli (I did a show with him with him several years ago with his ready-to-wear collection, he was a delight to work with, very shy and OMG so very talented) The gown is young, very fashion forward and, in my opinion right on trend to attract a new Couture client or for that matter any fashionista. How one is going to handle the trains (lots of them on every red carpet this season) heaven only knows.
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 This one, not so much, looks like a fashion design student project gone wrong…I’m fine with the mix of taffeta (or peau de soie) with denim, actually love that combination, but in my opinion, this doesn’t quite work.  From what I have read Kendall added the jean shorts with Swarovski crystal trim to the dramatic crop top which is from Alexandre Vauthier Haute Couture.
Now let’s look at Elle Fanning and how this young amazingly talented actress chose to style herself for Cannes….
imagePure movie star glamour by Gucci.
imageAnd wearing Vivianne Westwood’s  handpainted “Unicorn” gown. We have seen Elle grow up on screen now we are seeing her make the red carpet her own with great aplomb!
imageI don’t know the actress nor the designer, but interesting none the less, obviously making a MAJOR statement, how does one sit in this!!!
imageAnd we end with this and why not…Fun or Freaky.  I tend to Fun…from Maison Margiela and worn by Li Yuchun.
Well, that was quite a week to be a fashion voyeur wouldn’t you agree.  You might not agree with the looks but you can’t say that fashion isn’t fascinating, fun and often frustrating!
A postcript….a major Balenciaga exhibition, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion (of course there is a catalog!!) just opened at the V&A in London (though next April) and guess what our very own Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum has two garments featured…how exciting is that…here they are…
imageBalenciaga evening dress with cape in silk gazar 1961 a gift of Mrs. George Connor, 1985.
imageAn iconic piece, evening coat in wool gabardine and silk taffeta, 1950.  Gift of Mrs. Kathleen Catlin (Fashion Director at Marshall Field’s) in 1985. Both photos above courtesy of the Chicago History Museum Costume Collection.
imageAs photographed by Irving Penn for Vogue.  Be sure to see the Irving Penn Exhibition to celebrate his Centennial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through July 30 (you can visit it and the Rei Kawakubo Exhibition at the same time….you will definitely need wine and a sit down after!!! And, of course, get books on both exhibitions, you know I will!!!)
All photos, unless otherwise noted, from Pinterest and photo credit unknown.
www.chicagohistory.org
www.vam.ac.uk
www.MetMuseum.org
www.festival-cannes.com
www.BillboardMusicAwards.com

COLLECTIONS: FERNS

imagePteridomania: the Victorian fern craze probably from 1837 to early 1900’s.  A magnificent solarium in a Victorian home with ferns and palms.

I caught the fern “illness” years ago.  I have always loved the look of them and usually have one in my handpainted rattan fern “basket” which actually sits right behind me as I write my posts.

imageA closeup of the detail on my fern stand.

imageA fern fossil, they have been on Earth for over 300 million years, imagine!!!!!

The only problem is that they shed and the clean up is a full-time job!  Since I’m not a Botanist I won’t try to go into the details of ferns I will leave that to you, my readers, to explore for yourselves if you want more information.  I would, however, recommend the following book for your enjoyment, it is quite wonderful.  I am going to fill this post with wonderful images most of which I got from Pinterest without photo credit others I will credit.  Enjoy….

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imageCovers of two vintage books on ferns. The covers alone are display worthy.  Look for special vintage books at Randolph Street Market this Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.  In addition, the Printer’s Row Lit Fair is Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11.

imageFiddlehead ferns, see the bottom of the post for a fiddlehead fern recipe, no longer in season, but have at the ready for next year or you can substitute asparagus!

imageThe beauty of nature in a fern frond!

imageFerns in the garden photo taken by Tom Mantel this week, glorious.

imageA beautiful closeup from the same garden also a photograph by Tom Mantel.image

imageTwo photos of another variety from the same garden and same photographer.imageThe Chicago Garfield Park Conservatory Fern Room.

imageFrom Carolyne Roehm’s garden, she is a genius with decor and gardens and thankfully shares her expertise with us in her many books…love everything she does!

imageImage from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageAnother photo from Pinterest…love this variety.

imageWallpaper image also from Pinterest photo credit unknown.

imageAnd a fern botanical fabric also Pinterest, photo credit unknown.

imageI am mad for this image…so much so I am using it as my screen saver on my iPhone!

imageAnother solarium, let’s move in!!!

imageA silver wine caddy, yes, please!

imageOr pearl handle fern engraved flatware.

imageOr perhaps a handpainted piece of Limoges…

imageOr a beautiful Majolica pitcher.

imageA wonderful Philip Tracey hat, yes, I know a bit of a stretch….

imageA Vogue photo of John Galliano Dior Haute Couture Fall 2006 (I saw that Collection in Paris, it was magnificent) next to another fern variety, isn’t it a beauty!

imageNot necessary fern botanicals but a look you can emulate when you collect your prints.

imageFrom my collection of Botanical prints (along with other “paper”) that I collect from the Randolph Street Market vendor, Paper Patty, located on the Third Floor, don’t miss the vendors up there, it is the first place I stop each month!  My photo.

imageMy favorite of all, it looks like lace!  Again from Pinterest credit unknown.

Recipe from The New York Times Cooking App (if you don’t have it get it you can save all your on-line recipes on it as well as see all their recipes, I love it, one of my favorite apps!)

Cassolette Of Morels, Fiddleheads and Asparagus
by Jennifer Lang

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: Six first-course servings
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/8364-cassolette-of-morels-fiddleheads-and-asparagus

www.randolphstreetmarket.com

www.printersrowlitfest.org

www.amerfernsoc.org

www.ebps.org.uk

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: RARE OBJECTS

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I had this book on my to be read list for a year,( it was published in 2016)  don’t quite know why I hadn’t read it nor why I decided to read it now, never mind, I did read it and here are my thoughts….

First, let me tell you about the plot… our protagonist, Maeve Fanning, a first generation Irish immigrant, is born and raised in Boston, in a poor Italian neighborhood by a single mother.  She takes secretarial courses and moves to New York City to “better” herself.  It is in 1931 and she becomes enamored with the wrong men and bootleg gin and ends up in a psychiatric hospital (you need to read the novel to find out why she is there) where she meets and befriends a strange young woman.  When she gets out she returns to Boston to start over.  She bluffs her way into a position at an upscale Antiques Shop by changing her name to May and dying her naturally red hair platinum blond (she is told by her former secretarial school teacher, who also runs a placement agency, that she won’t get a job not only because it is the Depression but also because she is Irish!)  The owner of the shop has her deliver an extremely important purchase made by a nouveau riche family to their home, upon her arrival she discovers the daughter, Diana Van der Laar, is the young woman she met at the hospital and the story goes from there, throwing “May” into a world of extreme money and the excess it can buy and the lifestyle she thinks she can live.  There are many twists and turns as we take the journey with her.

What is my take away from the novel…actually many things.  Obviously, no matter how much money one has it doesn’t give peace of mind, happiness, nor freedom.  But to May these are the out of reach goals she seeks and feels she will find by being “accepted” into Diana’s circle. May’s mother works in the alterations department at R. H. Stearns in Boston (it became a Federated Store and one that, like Marshall Field’s, lost its name and became Macy’s) and longs to become a salesclerk, that is a position she never gets.  Her work is exemplary (probably why she isn’t moved into a selling position) and she remakes many items for May to present herself properly at work and socially.  It is extremely important to her mother that she always be “correct” in looks and manners.  The book takes us to the world of antiques and how the owners of the shop educate May, (who, by the way, is not only smart but a very quick study and eager to learn about the items she works with as well as the culture the world has to offer) it takes us into the world of buying art and antiques as a way of making a name for oneself in society (the purchase that May delivers to the Van der Laar family is donated to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and put in pride of place in the hall of antiquities!) certainly nothing new there, but interesting to have it outlined in such a detailed and informative manner.  She learns that she doesn’t quite fit into the life she left behind when she left Boston for New York and in the end, most certainly not with the damaged Diana and her “friends” and family!

It is told in the first person narrative, which I think worked well and, to my mind’s eye, it is a coming of age story (although she is in her mid-twenties) filled with an almost Dickens flavor, poor girl strives to better herself, fails, meets wealth hopes to succeed, fails, finds love, fails, seeks friendship, is betrayed, and in the end is transformed into a more understanding, and most certainly, a more informed participant in the way of the world…in other words an independent woman.  I did enjoy the book and would suggest you read it for yourself.  I would love to hear your thoughts after you read it.  I enjoyed Kathleen Tessaro’s thoughtful and insightful look at a time quite different from today (or is it!!!)  I must, however, admit I preferred Ms. Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector. I have not read any of her other books but definitely will put them on my TBR pile, The Debutante looks particularly interesting.

www.kathleentessaro.com

 

 

PROFILE: FLEUR COWLES

imageFleur Cowles, as I remember her, pictured at home.

Today’s Profile is a bit different from my other Monday posts.  The person I am profiling did not fill out my usual questionnaire but rather it will be a reflection of an artist, a unique creator whose vision took us to a wonderful world of her imagination, that incredible person was Fleur Cowles.  I had the extraordinary experience of meeting and working with her many years ago when she visited Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago’s Gift Shop to introduce her book, An Artist’s Journey.

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As usual, as with all our visits, I spent the day (or more) with her and had the opportunity to learn more about her fascinating career so these recollections will have to pull my memory back in time (this was long before the days of instant iPhone technology of photos, videos and recording conversations, more the pity!!!) Why, you might ask, am I doing this post today.  I was reading one of my favorite lifestyle magazines, The World of Interiors current issue and was literally drooling over photos of interiors when I caught my breath I wanted to see whose home it was…it was Fleur Cowles and it was perfection!

I had first become aware of Ms. Cowles many, many years before our encounter in the Store.  It all began at the beginning of the 1950’s when my Father started collecting Flair Magazine. It was a publication like no other then or now and only existed for one year.  It was so expensive to produce that her husband, who was the publisher, pulled the plug, much to the regret of all the followers of the magazine.  Each month was themed and had a cut away cover to allow you to “peek” inside.  As a young girl who as obsessed with fashion and the creative process I was fascinated with each issue, but I think my favorite was the Rose issue which Ms. Cowles insisted be scented (mind you this was long before the scent strip came into being!)  Of course, the painting was by Fleur.

imageIsn’t it glorious….the bouquet is cut away to reveal the charming portrait!

Not only was the art enticing (from Ms. Cowles but also Dali, Dubuffet, etc. etc……) but the stories were written by all the authors and critics of the day, all personal friends of the Cowles.  Not to carry this story too far, several years after my Father had passed away we had a flood, our hot water heater exploded, no one was hurt but the water damage destroyed all my yearbooks, all my childhood dolls, all manner of memorabilia and ALL of Daddy’s art magazine collections and on and on.  All the Flairs were gone!  I have since started collecting them again.  I have four of the thirteen published as well as the yearbook.  But that is the fun of collecting and why I always adore my monthly Randolph Street Market, www.randolphstreetmarket.com, visits (Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28 from 10 to 5, the first outdoor Market of the season, yay!!!!) I may come across one or two treasures that might be a Flair I don’t have!

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imageOne of my favorite covers.

Don’t always just look at book vendors at RSM, I think the Flairs I have found there have been with vendors who have multiple collections (remember the Printer’s Row Lit Fest is approaching as well as the annual Newberry Library Book Fair, you can fill in your magazine and book collections there as well!!!!)

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My copy of the Flair Annual, I have also found this at Randolph Street Market and given it to a couple of my friends who appreciate the unique!

My next experience with her was with the publication of her book Tiger Flower, which I fell in love with.  My assistant at the time was a superb artist, actually trained in the Fashion Design Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she copied the cover for me to needlepoint.  The rendering is exactly the same as the Cowles painting and I think my needlework did it justice.  It is hidden away in storage so I couldn’t get it out to show you, you will have to take my word for it, sorry!

imageIt is a charming story and the art, amazing!

My most recent acquisition was given to me last Christmas by a dear friend….who knows my love for flowers and for Fleur Cowles (mad for her artwork)…a perfect present!

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Now for the story of our meeting….I had just gotten back from a trip to London, by now you know I am a major Anglophile, and Ms. Cowles was intrigued by my love of England.  We were discussing the places I had visited, I adore all Museums so that became our main topic.  She told me that the BBC had asked her to be filmed for a series they were doing on British notables favorite places (as I recall in London) and she chose The British Museum.  The hairs went up on the back of my neck and I told her my story of my first visit to the museum.  I have long been an admirer of Egyptology, Chicago, as you know, has a long history with Egypt excavations and has many artifacts at The Field Museum as well as one of my favorite museums, The Oriental Institute.  I have visited them countless times and also was fortunate to see the Tutankhamun Exhibit when it visited Chicago, exquisite! Now back to the British Museum….on my visit I took myself directly to the Egypt wing and went from room to room, when I entered one of the very large galleries that housed many mummies, I sensed something very uncomfortable, I really couldn’t then nor now explain the feeling but it was one of extreme sadness, a feeling of trespass, if you will.  I immediately left the room and the Museum and it took me many years to return on one of my visits to the UK.  So what you say…well as I was relating this to Ms. Cowles, she looked at me in a very strange way and told me that was wing she wanted to be filmed in and when they got to that exact room, she felt the same sensation I had had.  She asked the guards if there was anything strange about that gallery and they said they felt it as well and the guard dogs would never cross the threshold!  I guess I do believe in the problem of disturbed spirits at least I did in that room and actually felt a bit better knowing I wasn’t alone!

Ms. Cowles lived a very long life, she died at 101 years of age, after creating beauty that we can treasure to this day…lucky us and very lucky me that I had the opportunity to visit with one of my Father’s and my idols.

imageFleur Cowles in her Studio.

imageAnother view of the Studio now that is what inspiration should look like!  All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown.

www.randolphsteetmarket.com

www.printersrowlitfest.org

www.newberry.org/newberry-book-fair

COLLECTIONS: LILY OF THE VALLEY PAINTINGS

By now you are aware that I love and collect anything Lily of the Valley and since this is the first week of May and the flower is a treasure coveted in France this week (also in Russia, I might add), I thought it would be appropriate to post a couple of my Lily of the Valley paintings.  Not much verbiage today just pictures…..

imageThis is an oil painting by the English artist Deborah Jones.  It was commissioned by my Mother as a gift for me many, many years ago. We met Ms. Jones when she was making a personal appearance at Marshall Field’s in their Fields Afar Shop which had a magnificent art gallery.  We purchased a large piece from her and Mom asked if she would do a piece especially for me, this is the result.  I wake up to it each morning and it starts my day on a truly beautiful note.

imageHere it is close up….the flower is difficult to capture but I think she did it perfectly.  The Lovebirds add a charming touch.

image A watercolor on wood, a vintage piece again by an English artist.  It is on one of the shelves in my breakfront which I have featured in earlier posts.  I must admit I don’t remember where I got it.

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I’m crazy for this piece as it features both my and Mom’s favorites…my LOTV and her violets.  It is a watercolor on a plank of wood.  I got this at an Art Fair.

imageI am so fortunate to have so many wonderful remembrances from my dear friend, Mark Heister, this piece a watercolor he did for a Birthday several years ago, it holds pride of place in the breakfront. The man is beyond talented, no end to his creativity….love, love, love it!!!