Friday, August 17, 2012

The Skinny: International Deco Part I

We love Art Deco, so we've decided to spend a couple of posts on the movement as it evolved on each of the continents (except Antarctica, where for some reason, Art Deco never really took off...). This segment will focus on European and North American versions, and next Friday's post will discuss Art Deco in South America, Asia, Australia, and Africa.

Erik Magnussen, 'Cubic' coffee set or 'The Lights and Shadows of Manhattan', silver - Bing Images
Erik Magnussen, 'Cubic' coffee set or 'The Lights and Shadows of Manhattan', silver - Bing Images

Art Deco began in 1910, following fast on the heels of the Art Nouveau movement. It was originally known as Moderne (and variations on that term). In fact, the term Art Deco wasn't used until 1966, long after the movement had fizzled. It reached its European peak in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, usually just called the "Paris Exposition." Its grand finale took place at the New York World's Fair in 1939, and the movement declined through the 1940s. We happen to adore the influence that Art Deco had in the world of jewelry and fashion. Cartier, anyone?
Cartier, 1936  The Deleuse Jewelers Blog | Birthstones

Drawing influence from many art styles, including Cubism, and nations such as Egypt, Greece, Japan, and China, the Art Deco movement created a perfect balance between hard and soft. Tamara de Lempicka, one of the premier female Art Deco painters, managed to make silk look jagged, and her women appear both rugged and delicate at the same time.

Tamara de Lempicka, "Girl in a Green Dress";

The geometry of the art, paired with the use of precious metals, enamels, marble, and exotic woods, made Art Deco the ultimate representation of wealth and modernity. It was especially important in Europe and America, who suffered from two world wars and a major economic recession during the years of the movement. The style crept across both continents to establish itself as the grand ideal in  architecture, housewares, clothing, accessories, and film. Manhattan became the poster child of Art Deco in America, which is clearly illustrated by the Chrysler Building, one of the most iconic architectural interpretations of the movement.

In 1929, the stock market crash resulted in a very necessary decrease in the usage of expensive materials, and ushered in the phase of plastic, aluminum, and chrome items.  This phase of the deco movement also shows a transition from the harder, more geometric lines of the early years, to what was known as "streamlined" design. This was meant to represent the marriage of efficiency and luxury, despite the actual dollar amount in someone's bank account.

After World War II, however, the western world was struggling to recover from war-induced rationing, and Europe was desperately attempting to clear away the rubble of battle and rebuild. This directly caused the style transition from the luxe look of Art Deco to the more minimalistic streamlining that became the Mid-Century Modern movement. We say change is good, because Art Deco and Mid-Century happen to be our two favorite styles.

*What? Did we say that Art Deco didn't go to Antarctica? Then how do you explain this?!?!

auguste bonaz 30s french galalith rare penguin pin

Information obtained from Craft Arts International. 2003, Issue 59, p84-87. 4p. 16

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the Radar -- The Ring's the Thing

Marlene Dietrich and her cocktail ring
I have to say that my favorite piece of jewelry is a ring.  I absolutely cannot leave the house if I don't have one on.  And usually, the bigger it is, the better!  Which is good for me this season, because you're going to continue to see big, bold cocktail rings everywhere. 

My ring of choice is a large, rough cut sapphire ring in sterling my mom gave me a few years ago.  It's so big, most people ask me if it's a weapon.  But, you know, it gets people's attention -- and it makes me feel like I have something special on, something extraordinary.  Something as simple as a statement ring can change your day from ho-hum to humdinger!

Versace Crystal Cocktail Ring

The history of the cocktail ring is rooted in the idea of booze and parties.  Flash and fun, daring and dangerous.  During Prohibition in the 1920s, flappers started the statement ring craze, matching huge rings with their fun, flirty ensembles.  They made themselves stand out to others while holding their glass of illegal gin. Want to be the baddest girl in the speakeasy?  Wear the biggest ring! The bigger the ring, the bolder you were.

After Prohibition lifted, starlets of the 1930s and 40s adopted the large baubles, making them the highest of glamorous accessories.  Whether real or faux, cocktail rings were the must have accessory.  Want to show how successful you are in Hollywood?  Have the studio take your picture in full-on glamor mode, ring firmly in place on your hand, visible to all of your adoring fans. 

Later, in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, cocktail rings became a symbol of post-war comfort and women's rights.  In the 50s, the cocktail hour became de rigueur, and no cocktail dress or ensemble was complete without a ring.  As time went by, cocktail rings became a item purchased by women for themselves -- to make the statement that "I make my own money, therefore I can buy my own jewelry."

Today, celebrities still make a statement with statement rings.  And since we've been seeing more and more popping up everywhere, you can bet this trend will be sticking around.  But remember, it's not just for the super glamorous.  Etsy's a great place to search for handmade new rings, or great vintage pieces.  Go to an antique store and check out the glass showcases, you never know what you might find.  If you want a ring on a budget, you can find interesting rings at Target or Claires.  It doesn't matter if it's real or not, what matters is if you like it, and if it makes you feel good.  Whether you go vintage or buy something new, give a cocktail ring a try.  Trust me, it'll get you noticed!

Vintage Cocktail Ring from hawaiibeads2 on Etsy

Monday, August 13, 2012

Junk Love Monday: Be Prepared

Although the Blackbird girls are always on the lookout for great things, sometimes an unexpected junk find brings more joy than a day's worth of carefully sought out pieces. However, those unexpected finds are often fickle little fiends. You see it, that perfect item, across a dimly lit thrift store. Your heart pounds. You hear harps and twittering birds as you leap in slow motion toward it. And then you realize that it won't fit in the car. Or you have no way to wrap it so that it doesn't disintegrate on the bumpy drive home. You. Can't. Buy. It.

Don't let this heartache happen to you! Be prepared for your junk. Here is our little survival guide, a list of things to keep in your car (for those spontaneous lunch hour trips), or in a bag by the back door (for those pre-planned buying trips). Follow these tips, and you could be a Junk Master (similar to a Jedi, but with much less fighting).

1. Canvas drop cloth with plastic lining--These are relatively inexpensive at a hardware store, and just as important, can be folded and stored in almost any nook in your car (wheel well, door pocket, under the seat). Canvas cloths are great for wrapping around framed items, furniture, small pieces of concrete, or rusty metal items. It protects what it needs to, and is durable enough to not be punctured by sharp bits on your item. You can also use these cloths to protect your car if you buy dirty things. Just lay the cloth flat, and put your items on top. A couple of bonus uses: lay down on the ground if you are changing a tire, or use it as a picnic cloth when the grass is slightly damp. The plastic lining will keep you dry.

2. Blanket--This should be a blanket that has thoroughly lived life, but doesn't have large holes. Like the drop cloth, you can use it to wrap framed items and furniture. You can also use the blanket as a barrier between items so that they don't rattle against each other. Drape it over the legs of a chair so that they don't scratch or dent something when you take that corner on two wheels. Lay it over the edge of your trunk or rear hatch so that your car doesn't get scratched or dented when you're maneuvering items in or out. Blankets are also handy for tire changing, picnics, or when the heater breaks in the dead of winter and you're 800 miles from home.

3. Flat head screwdriver--Why a screwdriver? You can avoid a lot of heartache by taking things apart before trying to fit them in the car. Once, on the last day of a buying trip, we decided to stop at one last place (just to stretch our legs--promise!). Twenty minutes later, we were in the parking lot, furiously unpacking the car all over the asphalt so that we could figure out how to fit our newest find in with everything else. Most of the time, a little rearranging is all you need. But this time, it was a no-go. Until I remembered that the never-used Car Care Kit under the back seat included a tiny set of screwdrivers. We took the item apart, repacked the car, and were on our way within minutes. Most older items with screws are going to require a flat head screwdriver. It is best to have a small and a medium, but if you have to choose, go with the medium. If something has tiny screws, it is probably small enough to fit in the car without taking it apart. A medium screwdriver, with the right finesse, can be used on large screws as well. HOT TIP: If you need to remove large screws, and your flat head screwdriver is at home on the kitchen table, use a dime. I recently removed the hinges from an old door with a dime (believe it or not, those hinges were all that stood between us and a perfectly packed car).

4. Phillips screwdriver--Well, sometimes you need a Phillips. This screw style is newer, so you are less likely to encounter these on old items. But, sometimes you find a newer item that you love. I have also been in the process of dismantling an item, feeling cocky as I'm turning that third screw, only to find that some yahoo replaced the fourth screw with a Phillips. Yes, one little screw can ruin a perfect plan. While it is possible to use a small flat head screwdriver on a Phillips screw, it is also really really possible to ruin the screw head so that it can't be removed. Ever. Just save yourself the anger and stock your screwdriver stash.

5. Newspaper--Keep a small stack of folded newspaper for those dish-buying emergencies. A lot of thrift stores don't keep paper on hand to wrap your purchases. They will drop everything into a thin plastic bag and send you on your way. If you have newspaper under the seat, you can wrap your delicate items before the trip home.

6. A box--Depending on the size of your car, this can be a plastic tote, a milk crate, a cardboard box (broken down and flat, if you like), or an old suitcase. When you find yourself standing in the parking lot, wrapping your own dishes (see #5), it's nice to have a place to put them so they don't roll around. This is also good for lamp purchases.

7. Bungee cords--For strapping things down so that they don't shift, or for securing something to the luggage rack. If I have to lay down my back seats, I like to weave some bungee cords from the right to the left (attached to the rear seat belts) so that things don't come flying into the back of my head if I need to hit the brakes with some urgency.

8. Tape measure--Really good for making sure that something has even the hope of fitting in your car (and also fitting in your house when you get it there).