Friday, January 4, 2013

The Skinny -- Fornasetti

Piero Fornasetti
You probably know his work even if you don't know his name.  Piero Fornasetti's art is instantly recognizable and graphically stunning.  He was not only a painter, but also a sculptor, interior decorator, designer, printmaker, and engraver. He created more than 11,000 products from his art, ranging from furniture to ceramics to wallpaper. 

Born in Milan in 1913, Fornasetti attended, and was expelled from, Brera Academy, where he studied drawing, in the first two years of the 1930s.  A year later, in 1933, he exhibited his very first piece of art in a student exhibition at the Milano University.  Fornasetti also designed a group of silk scarves, printed with newsprint and architectural motifs, exhibited at the Milan Triennale. 

He was conscripted into the Army during WWII, but instead of fighting, he was given the task of painting the regimental barracks in the Piazza San Ambrogio.  He was exiled to Switzerland from 1943 to 1946 to avoid more military service, but continued to produce his art throughout this time.

In 1940, Fornasetti met Gio Ponti, an Italian architect and designer, and designed ‘The Lunar’ illustrated Calendar book for him.  He worked continuously with Ponti until his death in 1979.  They collaborated on designing art, products and furniture, as well as interiors, such as the complete interior of the Casa Lucano, the ocean liner Andrea Doria, and the ballroom of New York's Time-Life building.

Fornasetti's most important contribution was the joining of design and art through furniture, interiors, and products.  He was one of the first to develop the idea of "branding" himself and serially producing his art for public product consumption.   

His work includes constant use of black and white, the sun and time. His style is heavily influenced by Greek and Roman architecture.  His most famous work is, without a doubt, his illustrations featuring the face Lina Cavalieri, an operatic soprano.  Fornasetti found her face in a 19th century magazine, turning the black and white image into an iconic representation of his work. It was known as the “Tema e Variazioni” (theme and variation) plate series.  He said:
“What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman? I don’t know. I began to make them and I never stopped.”  

Tema e Variazioni

Fornasetti's work faded in popularity throughout the 1970s, but with the opening of the design store, Themes and Variations, in London in 1980, interest was reawakened. He published a book in 1987, a collaboration with Patrick Mauri├Ęs that illustrated his collective works.  Piero Fornasetti died in 1988 at age 75.  His son, Barnaba Fornasetti is continuing his dad's legacy by continuing to produce his work.

Covered Latte Cups from Barking Sands Vintage on Etsy
*Information from, wikipedia, and

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On the Radar -- Crystal Clear

Stella McCartney, Spring 2013
Fact: the Blackbird girls love Lucite.  Any kind of Lucite.  Fortunately, it's pretty clear to us that Lucite has inspired lots of people lately.  (Sorry, I have to say that pun was intended.)  Stella McCartney, Valentino, Givenchy...just to name a few.

It's not just Lucite that everyone's crushing on, though.  Plastic, vinyl, glass -- it could be anything.  It just needs to be clear, shiny, and sparkly -- and POOF! Instant glamour!  Instant pizazz! 

(Just make sure what's inside that clear purse is just as pretty as the outside.  And no unmentionable items, please.  That could get embarrassing.)

Valentino jacket, Spring 2013

Givenchy, Spring 2013

And it's not just fashion that's in love.  Home decor's jumping on the bandwagon, too.

Jonathan Adler, Bel Air Test Tube Vase

And as I always say, go vintage, young one.  It's always the cooler choice.  (And usually cheaper!)

Vintage Sunglasses from Green Flamingo Vintage on Etsy
1970s Lucite Ice Bucket from AtomicDog67 on Etsy

Monday, December 31, 2012

Junk Love Monday: It's Personal

We've established a reputation for loving a lot of junk, in many shapes, colors, and styles, but one feature that elevates our junk love to near-ecstasy is the presence of a monogram on the piece. It can be clothing (especially on the silky lining of a vintage fur piece), jewelry, plates, linens, cigarette holders, vanity sets--as long as it has a pretty letter, we are all for it.
So can you actually collect monograms? Of course you can. We consider the monogram an almost-lost art form. Modern versions are never as good as the ones from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
1930s monogram letters, from

Our pieces represent many styles and stories, even if they originally belonged to other people, and we love them all. The newest additions are a pair of engraved plates from a jewelry store, with samples of different styles that were available for a customer's initials. We plan to frame them:
Engraved monograms on copper .
Engraved monograms on copper .
Some of the old monogrammed jewelry is gasp-worthy. We buy lockets and watches, in particular, but love pretty much anything with great initials.
Antique Rose Gold Locket Monogrammed
treasurebooth on

from victorianbuttons on

Dior brooch,

The thing that changes a $50 fur from "I don't really need it" to "Help me find a place in the back seat" is a beautiful monogram in the lining. We're suckers. It's true.

We always swoon over monograms in the movies. Robes, sweaters, smoking jackets, dresses...we'd die to have them all. Katharine Hepburn can often be seen sporting her character's initials in a bold way:
 And we can't leave out these beauties:
1950s Ethel of Beverly Hills Black Knit Monogram D Bolero Sweater
thegetupvintage on
Vintage MONOGRAM 1950's Black Polished Cotton Shirt Day Dress
20thCenturyFoxy on
Vintage 60's 1960s Red Dress Wiggle Monogrammed Embroidered sz m
redangora on