Friday, August 24, 2012

International Deco Part II

Artistic movements tend to do exactly that--they move. Some travel with lightning speed; others creep along at a glacier's pace. But in any case, as Art conquers new lands, as it absorbs the spice or essence of some new culture, an evolution occurs. It changes in ways too subtle to quantify from one day to the next, but as years become decades, and certain elements gain fame as "iconic" examples, the pattern of transition becomes a little clearer. And so we're back to Art Deco.

Last week's post introduced Deco as the pinnacle of early 20th century style and luxury in Europe and North America. This week, we continue the tour around the globe.

Nothing reaches the shores of South America without absorbing a certain percentage of Latin flair. And no place on that continent has more flair than Brazil, particularly Rio de Janeiro. The city is a mecca for Art Deco architecture enthusiasts, and it also happens to be home to the world's largest Art Deco monument: Christ the Redeemer, completed in 1931.

Africa's Art Deco legacy begins with Egypt. The geometry of the architecture, paired with the angular figures of tomb art, and the rounded and sharp lines of hieroglyphs, made Egypt a perfect source of inspiration for Deco artists and designers.

Art Deco Egyptian Revival boudoir lamp with skyscraper shade.

The discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 was the icing on the cake. Egypt Fever spread worldwide, and in addition to a renewed interest in tomb treasures and mummy feet, Egyptian Revival jewelry and furniture hit the market (though not for the first time).

Cartier scarab buckle brooch;

Much farther south, in the politically tense Union of South Africa (think Apartheid), Art Deco became an obsession. Like several other regions of the continent, South Africa was attempting to elevate itself above the stereotype by emulating some of the more "modern" nations of the Western world. Add to that the fact that the 1930s race for luxury increased the worldwide demand for gold, and South Africa had plenty of it, and you have the perfect opportunity to maximize your best assets by advertising luxury with luxury. Cape Town is still one of the best destinations for Art Deco aficionados.

Market House, Cape Town;

Much of Art Deco's appeal was its exoticism, both in materials and style. Asia played an essential role in the progression of the style, both because of its artistic influence, and in the way so many of its cultures fully embraced the Art Deco trend.

China was particularly influential in the realm of furniture design, with its history of simple, linear pieces. There was also the matter of a color called "jade" (which really covers a lot of ground when it comes to the green spectrum, but the 1930s were a decade of green). Money is green. So is envy. And that's Art Deco for you.

Ma Bell Building;

Of course, architectural evidence of the movement is everywhere, from Shanghai to Tokyo. But my favorite Asian deco is of the paper variety. Japan's lithography offers some delightful examples, so many that the Japan Society in NY City recently hosted an exhibit full of them.

Asian influence also manifested itself in jewelry design. Dark lines, diamonds, and red enamel are a perfect combination!

Not to be left behind, Australia is home to some great architectural and sculptural examples, and their Art Deco Society is dedicated to the preservation of the style from coast to coast. Here are some really fantastic buildings:

British Medical Society;

*Information obtained from:;;;;

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the Radar -- Bamboo

Vintage Bamboo Purse from Ravenous Creatures
We Blackbird girls have always loved Asian influenced design.  Its simplicity, functionality, and respect for natural materials, when added to a culture rich in storytelling and symbolism, makes for an endless supply of inspiration.  Of the many things from Asian design that could be reinterpreted and reinvented, bamboo is probably one of the most common -- and most exciting.

We've been noticing bamboo for awhile now, and we think we're about to see even more.  Bamboo is a highly renewable resource in a planet that is running low on resources.  It grows quickly, and can be used in widely varying applications.  Bamboo textiles are all over the marketplace, from towels to t-shirts.  It can also be used for flooring, decking, and fencing.

From by Lotte van Laatum

What's most exciting to us, though, is the different ways people are mixing bamboo items into their decor or fashion.  Whether you go ultra contemporary, with some of the clean lined furniture pieces that are being made today, or 1930s-40s glam with vintage pieces, bamboo will add a touch of unexpectedness.  Just like when we talked about navy and bright colors, adding a touch of bamboo will be the piece de resistance to any room or outfit.

Indochine Headboards by Red Egg, from
Think about painting your bamboo to make it more dramatic.  In Ohio, we found a great vintage tray made from natural bamboo. It was large, sturdy and had a great shape, but we wanted color!  We needed it as a display for some clear glass decanters, on a table with a barkcloth tablecloth.We decided on a vivid lime green (an accent color from the cloth), and spray painted it.*  What a difference!  The tray looked better than new, and the bamboo-ness still came through.  And the decanters...well, they looked fab on it!

Check out the shop to see our vintage blue umbrella with a faux bamboo handle! 

Sky Blue Umbrella from our shop!

*We spray paint ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Junk Love Monday: Collection of the Week

They're round, and blue (usually), and sometimes bumpy. They come in all sizes, from 1/2 an inch to 18 inches in diameter. Sometimes, they are metal. Others are paper over cardboard. They have rust, and dents, and smudges. But I love every single one of them, so today I take the opportunity to wax poetic about the Great Globe Collection.

 I have over forty globes, all vintage. Some are school-used globes. Around half of the collection consists of tin litho globe banks in various sizes. I have a tiny vintage dollhouse globe (it spins!), and a 1950s globe pencil sharpener.

One is a German game component (the axis is a spinner).

The all-tin globes have different bases, including a zodiac theme, the planets, and various modes of transportation. I have a West German tin litho spinning globe (not a bank) with a beautiful cream base and axis.

I have a giant globe with no axis, rescued from a Goodwill on one of our buying trips. And one of them, the one that is not quite like the others, is not of the Earth, but of the Moon (another Goodwill gem).

Why do I love globes? I have no idea. I suppose it gives me a glimpse of human nature, or human history, and the link between the two. The study of geography reveals an interesting dichotomy. Its dynamic nature shows shifting borders, renamed cities, expanding and shrinking empires--basically, man vs. man. But the static aspect of geography is far more comforting, and perhaps a perfect illustration that forces beyond man's control will always win. Regardless of the current war, the Rockies will always be in the same place (unless you delve into the particulars of tectonics, which I think is an unnecessary and rude interruption to our current conversation). The Mediterranean does not care who owns the beaches. The shape of Africa does not reflect the size of some bloody dictator's ego.

But I guess, in the end, it really comes down to this: I like the look of them. I like their roundness, and the colors of the oceans, and the uneven mountains, and the little ocean currents. I love to find a tiny little cruise liner out in the Pacific, or a plane on its way to Paris. I love the bases and the Art Deco or Mid-Century axes that show me degrees of latitude. I like to spin them, and nestle them together in my house. I have, out of necessity, become more selective when purchasing globes. But I am always mentally devising Plan B (or C , or D), so that the next time I fall in love, I WILL find a place to put it.

P.S. That lovely green fellow gazing longingly up at the sky is a masterpiece from our favorite potter, Leanne Pizio. His name is Max.