Nov 27, 2009

Comfort and beauty at home

Mary Jane McCarty has been producing beautifully hand-crafted pillows, soft furnishings and decorative objects for the home for almost 20 years. Well-known in the interior design community, her creations are sold in upscale stores and boutiques around the country.

Sumptuous pillows of antique fabrics have been the base of her business, but Mary Jane also creates lampshades, framed fragments of antique textiles, textile-covered picture frames, unique Christmas stockings and decorations and much more.
Visit Mary Jane at for information on where to buy her creations or to discuss custom work.  And, if you live in the Philadelphia-New York area, email to get an invitation to her amazing semi-annual studio sale. The next sale will be held on December 2, 3 and 4, 2009. You can never have too many pillows!  Here are a few photos that speak for themselves.

Nov 20, 2009

Beautiful French leaves for fall color

Sometimes less is more in textile design ... sometimes a simple pattern is just what is needed. The French fabric prints of the late 19th century and early 20th century used a myriad of themes and motifs. One of my favorites is the use of the simple leaf as the focus of the design. Color, movement and scale of the leaf motif can all affect how this most basic natural element can be incorporated into a decor.
This unusual chintz uses a lovely blue oak leaf pattern incorporated into a simple meander. In this case, the background is a very pale gray, printed to mimic a woven silk pattern, ca. 1840 (click on any image to enlarge.):

The next three motifs, all from the second half of the 19th century, use varied shades of color and gray to give a three-dimensional look. The first of the three is tropical in inspiration and uses several types of leaves in one pattern. The second also has a tropical feel with stylized ferns and dense foliage. The third fabric uses leaves more common to northern Europe in a cleverly-designed central bouquet pattern.

The next two motifs use pink and brown as the main colors. The first is a sensational pattern of closely-packed leaves. The second fabric features a stylized leaf with a meandering branch in the background.

The next two motifs are both from the late 19th-century, although the red background with pink leaves is the more traditional design, despite the unusual color scheme. The orange and green leaf fabric uses opposites on the color wheel in a pattern inspired by the traditional tree-of-life motif.

And, even as the 20th century rolled in, leaves as the primary motif did not lose their charm. The black background with pale shaded green leaves is from the 1920s and the fabric with the scrolling leaf sprigs is from the 1930s. 

Nov 13, 2009

Lovely medieval town of Puisserguier, France

In 2002, when a local businessman in Puisserguier started to build a car wash on the edge of the village, the backhoe uncovered an Iron Age cemetery. The archaeologists heralded it as one of the most important Iron Age sites in France. Under French law, the government was able to claim the land temporarily so they could devote many months to completing an archaeological dig. Finally all specimens were removed to Paris for study and local construction resumed.
Puisserguier is a charming village with more than a thousand years of written history. With the archaeological discovery, the villagers can now claim an even more ancient ancestry than they'd previously bragged about.  
Here are a few photos. 
Below is a photo of the medieval chateau that dominates the hill on which the town was built, taken last July in the early morning.

The village seen from the nearby bluff that harbors the church of St-Christophe, the patron saint of Puisserguier.  The patchwork of fields are vineyards:

And here is the church of St-Christophe, sheltered in tall pine trees. St-Christophe is the saint that protects the vineyards and the residents of Puisserguier and this is his local home. Every June, ceremonies are held at the St-Christophe church to ensure another good year of vines and wine.

Nov 6, 2009

Empress Josephine loved Roses

Although roses have been cultivated for many centuries, it was only in the latter part of the 18th century that the rose began to be cultivated for its bloom rather than simply for use in perfume or in medicinal extracts.
Josephine Bonaparte, who loved to create lavish landscapes and gardens at her homes in France, became entranced with the beauty of roses and obsessively collected every type. She managed to obtain many rare English hybrids, even when France was at war with England. She gave financial support to several exploratory expeditions in exchange for the promise of new cultivars for herself. The rose garden at her home at Malmaison was famous for its more than 250 types of roses. Cuttings and root stocks were generously sent to parks and towns throughout France, creating rose gardens in all parts of the republic that we can still enjoy today.
The general public in France closely followed everything done by Napoleon and by Josephine, even after their divorce. Josephine's rose garden created a huge demand for roses and for motifs using roses in porcelain, ceramic and in textiles.
(Click on any image to enlarge.) 
The three images immediately below are early to mid-19th century depictions of roses, done on glazed cotton. The first, on a pale blue-green background, depicts a large central bouquet of fresh roses mixed with other flowers. The second is a classic French pattern of delicate climbing roses that was reproduced in endless variations; this one is unusual with the color choice of red and faded tan. The third fabric uses a striated pale gray background with a foreground of gracefully climbing delicate baby roses. This particular motif reflects the popular oriental style that was influencing design in that era.
One of my favorites from that same era was the top of a quilt that I showed in a previous post. This lovely pattern in blue and dark brown uses intertwined roses, tassles, wreaths and coral sprigs:
The botanically correct rose was always popular and was very much favored for use in textile design. The next seven images are all French textiles from the second half of the 19th century. Some of these renderings depict roses so real one can almost smell them! My favorite is the first one below with what looks like a tea rose on a pale, pale yellow background, but all of these are exceptional in the details - the excellent engraving of the roller, the choice and subtlety of colors and the fine printing techniques.
Stylized interpretations of roses were also popular motifs during the second half of the 19th century - less realistic, but allowing more leeway in artistic interpretation:
The Art Nouveau period and the 1920s produced some interesting and very stylized representations of roses:
A next fabric, also from the Art Nouveau era, is one that I find to be rather schizophrenic. It uses a beautiful botanically correct motif of roses in a 19th century style but pairs it with stylized Art Nouveau semi-transparent white climbing flowers. A most unusual design!
During the 1920s, one begin to see more abstract and deconstructed motifs as well as the very streamlined Art Deco motifs inspired by the 1925 Paris show - Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The next four pictures illustrate a few of the wide variety of styles that emerged during that era.
The very stylized Art Deco rose from the 1920s has an orange and gray striped background.  Almost as an after-thought, it throws in a few tiny songbirds and birds of paradise as accents, seemingly to lure those who don't like the extreme modern decorative look:
And, a no-holds-barred beautiful Art Deco rose in a screen printed cotton from the era. Magnifique!
In the economically lean pre-war years of the late 1930s, printing was often simplified to save production costs. This was done by reducing the number of colors used or simplifying the overall intricacy of the design.
But, roses were still emminently popular: