Five Mutable Arabesques

ar·a·besque
Fine Arts. a sinuous, spiraling, undulating, or serpentine line or linear motif

Timurid Tile, late 14th century; Print by Zuhair Murad; Reflection in Cobalt Teal by Shira Toren
Handmade items to buy (clockwise): Pickup Truck Print by Chey Anne Sexton; Necklace by Frank Ideas; Landscape Print Set by Eve Sand; Cuff by Soul Azul; Earrings by Kristin Perkins; Desk Clock by Sea Lamb Glass; Necklace by Niknaz; Tote by Mery Bradley

1) The curved head of the streetlamp watches its stiff body sprout into the laughter of two girls, who tie a threadbare rope around its waist and take turns pushing off the curb. Suspended in a loop of their own making, they catch last drops of daylight before the lamp begins its fatal beat, accompanying the rhapsodies of insomniacs.

2) A flock of starlings ripples in continuous transformation, each pair of wings adjusting to the tilt and direction of its seven nearest neighbors.

3) I open the back door and just as I’m about to follow the staircase, a spiral folded neatly beside a cobbled street curved in the same direction, a man on a bicycle pedals past the last turn, which leads down into the wine cellar. Maybe today I won’t go down to retrieve a bottle.

4) Artemis begins the thought, which travels down marble flesh relaxed in contrapposto and twists with crossed legs, leaping from her bare ankle to the loafered toe of a guard, off duty, resting his foot on her pedestal and finishing the thought on the margins of a discarded brochure.

5) I wait in line for the water fountain in Central Park, avoiding eye contact with the caricaturists eager to poach their next victim, when my well-rehearsed “no, thank you” encounters a question ill-suited to its brevity: “what’s your favorite way to get through the park?”

Five Fleeting Labyrinths

Meticulously, motionlessly, secretly, he wrought in time his lofty, invisible labyrinth.
- Jorge Luis Borges

Bowl, 10th century, Samarqand; Photo by Guy Cohen; Fashion by Carolina Herrera
Handmade items to buy (clockwise): Ring by Leander D’Ambrosia; Necklace by Ksemi; Necklace by Birken Knits; Bracelet by Sid Kassidy; Vase by Manos; Necklace by Hypho; Monks by Manjuzaka; Ring by Monica Hirsch

1) The peach, split, drips down my thigh, wandering through the thin layer of dust built during the hours I spent next to the open window of a train snatching particles of sandstone on its way through a landscape startled out of sameness only by the station surrounded by crates of overripe peaches.

2) The lotus root dips its parched skin in pale grey water and dissolves, now into ink flowing from the pen of a madman, now a Roman widow weeping, now oil spilling poisonous tendrils from a ship, before coming back up for air as a lotus root.

3) The cinnamon I tap into the bottom of my cup before pouring on coffee resurfaces, after a few sips, just below the inner rim; I wipe it with my finger and reach for the pot to pour a few more sips of coffee, hold the cinnamon.

4) The eyebrow of a man in Alicante invites me to follow the melody of six hands poised in a gesture of relaxed intimacy, but as I try to find evidence of touch, the points of contact, fingertips on palms, palms through coarse hair, remain elusive, dissolving into habits that, to passing strangers, appear as abstractions anchored by an eyebrow.

5) The bicycle wheel, wet with the last drops of my ice water, rolls through the gas station and leaves a mark that mimics cracks in the pavement before it falls, the sun erases its brief, glistening flirtation, and I roll it back into the shadows harboring a pile of other, useless wheels.

The Bridge

On the glassy surface of the water float lilies, those extraordinary aquatic plants whose large leaves spread wide and whose exotic blossoms are curiously unsettling.
– Maurice Guillemot

Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1903; Faience Wall Tiles; Fractured Blond by Ken Holden, 2008
Handmade items to buy: Studs by Juliane Blank; Scarf by Hartig Originals; Scarf by Kitten Whiskers Knits; Monet Bag by Marilynn; Vase by Art Seymour; Tote by Marieke Jacobs; Napkin by Rasa; Mug by Becca Grogan

When Maurice Guillemot came to visit Monet’s home in Giverny in August 1897, he spent the morning in his floating studio on the Seine and the afternoon relaxing near the water lily pond. His remark that the “colors are fluid, with marvelous nuances, ephemeral as a dream” articulates Monet’s interest in painting the same landscape elements multiple times. His brushwork floated between the tangible and evanescent, the morning mist or play of light that seems too fleeting to be real. In a broader context, his work floats between the Impressionist occupation with the observable landscape and the move towards abstraction.

Claude Monet, Morning on the Seine, Giverny, 1897; Eventide by Michael Abrams; Obstructed View (Boulderstone) by Axel Antas;
Handmade items to buy: Wide Open Spaces by Tara Sinclair; Nunofelt Scarf by Pure Silk; Scarf by Klara; Back to You by Blue Algae; Scarf by Ksavera; Ghosts of Yellowstone by Victor; Landscape by Amy Theiss Giese; Scarf by Ayelet Iontef

Guillemot’s comment on the mutability of Monet’s world is, oddly enough, fitting for these faience wall tiles that date back to the third millennium B.C. What could be more different than morning mist and material kept in a pyramid for thousands of years? And yet the tiles could be little snapshots of Monet’s paintings. Both have a nuanced surface of green, blue, and specks of white. Faience was made by applying glazes to crushed quartz, a complex process of layering much like Monet’s own brushwork. The funerary apartments these tiles inhabited lay between this world and the afterlife – a bridge, so to speak.

Pussycat

Cats have been a viral sensation since Ancient Egypt. To add fuel to fire, we’ve put together a diverse group of feline incarnations.

• When Andy Warhol was working as an advertising illustrator in the early ‘50s, he lived with a lot of cats. At one point, there were twenty one inhabiting his brownstone apartment. And yes, they were all named Sam, except for one called Hester. 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy was a book Warhol published himself and gave out to clients and friends. He printed each cat with the blotted line technique that was the trademark of his advertising work and earned him commissions from all the top magazines at the time. The “d” missing in the title was a mistake that Warhol kept because he liked it.

• This Fan by Zhang Yugong depicts an inky cat stalking its prey.

• This Cat dates back to the Ptolemaic Period of Ancient Egypt, when depictions of the goddess Bastet changed from lioness to domesticated cat. She became a viral sensation, earning her own cult and thousands of figurines.

• Chris Wrinn’s Pendant is made of pure silver with a gold foil heart.

• Pamela Staker’s Sitting Cat has loose, dynamic outlines in paint, pastel, and colored paper.

• Yaci’s Rings wrap your finger in a sleeping cat’s head in black or silver.

• Dheeradj van der Geest’s Ring is made of sterling silver sanded in the shape of a stylized cat.

• Bri’s Whiskers has newsprint fur covered with colorful stripes of paint.

• Mai’s Neko Ring is made of silver curving into subtle cat ears.

• Carl Harris’ Clowns Boots depicts Catboy, the boy who has the shadow of a cat.

• Denise Payne’s Cats are all sitting in a row, no doubt watching birds, with their fur in an intricate pen-and-ink pattern.

Inhale Exhale

Slow down and relax. We’ve put together some items to help you get into a meditative state.

• Wang Zi Won’s Buddhas are made of slick and separated limbs that move in a repetitive motion. Rather than seeing technology and spirituality at odds, Wang visualizes their coexistence. In a way, obsessively checking your phone or whatever social network you’re addicted to is a ritual. Not praying to the minimalist ethos of Apple is unthinkable.

• This Buddha could not be more different. It dates back to late 4th century China, just when Buddhism was starting to pick up there. Once covered in gold, the statue is now worn enough for the bronze to show through. The deliciously speckled effect is reminiscent of Tawaraya Sotatsu’s poem cards, which had loose brushstrokes of ink on gilded paper.

• Ran Hwang’s Empty Me is an eagle and hen made from thousands of white buttons, beads, and pins, held together by thread. She likens the long and repetitive process of making these works to meditation. By taking ordinary objects associated with the hectic and ever-changing world of fashion, she creates an ironic contrast with the final image.

• Jackson Willow’s Zen Garden is made of cherry wood and comes with a bag of sand that you can rake for some healthy distraction.

• This Incense Holder by Mozak na paši has a floral motif imprinted on its warm golden surface.

• This Lamp by Light the Earth is a piece of honeycomb calcite that emits a golden glow when lit.

• WiL Labelle’s Wine Cups is made of wheel thrown stoneware covered in loose spirals and circles.

• Jesse Meyer’s Fish Garden Sculpture is designed to look like there are metal fish swimming among your bushes and flowers.

• These Candles by Rincon del Caracol are made of pure beeswax and are perfect for meditation.

Mosaic

Mosaic is one of the oldest forms of art and has changed relatively little in over five thousand years. Here are some ancient and modern variations.

• This Mosaic Floor Panel dates back to the second century and was excavated at Daphne, a resort destination in Turkey for wealthy and powerful Romans. The central figure is Spring, an eternal reminder that summer days are still ahead.

• This Mosaic Glass Bowl looks modern but it actually dates back to Hellenistic Greece, around the mid 1st century B.C. The network of loose spirals in opaque yellows and greens was meant to imitate onyx.

• Haroshi’s Cat Plant is a skateboarding feline made out of skateboards that are carved, painted, and polished into a tweed-like finish.

• Sirli’s Bowl is lined with a crisp mosaic of golden yellow tiles and mirror pieces.

• Debbie Martens’ Mirror has a wide rim densely packed with vintage jewelry, sea shells, and gems in golden tones.

• Rachel McKenna’s Wall Mosaic replicates part of the ancient mosaic Bird de Rinceau so that it meanders through slabs of elm. The wood varies in thickness and placement, giving the illusion that the mosaic comes alive in snake-like movement.

• Irene’s Ring is made out of uneven gold-plated circles, inspired by the mosaic floors found in Greek ruins.

• Alice Garrett’s Table covers the top of a mid-century table with interlocking mosaic plates.

• Natalie’s Candle Holder is made of stained glass pieces in golden earth tones which become even warmer when candlelight shines through.

• Jasmina’s Bowl has a mosaic pattern in bright orange and green squares.

• Maria Slojewska’s Mosaic is made of tiny golden ceramic pieces that suggest the faint outline of a face.

Persephone’s Feast

According to Greek myth, eating pomegranate seeds trapped Persephone into returning to the Underworld each year. Here is a visual feast of pomegranates that you can indulge in with no consequences.

• David Wiseman’s Matchstick Holder takes the shape of a pomegranate in polished bronze. Wiseman takes elements from nature – tree branches, seed pods, honeycombs – and integrates them seamlessly into household objects.

• Sakir Gokcebag’s Pom is a photograph of pomegranate seeds arranged in a perfect circle. Take a look at his other series of fruits presented in simple, graphic compositions.

• This Pomegranate Pendant dates back to the reign of Amenhotep III, around 1350 B.C., but it has lost none of its juicy luster.

• This Terracotta Pomegranate dates back to Classical Greece, around 5th century B.C., when the fruit was associated with funerary rites.

• Henriette’s Pomegranate is a small container with a cross-section of seeds on it’s glossy glazed surface.

• Yael Falk’s Pomegranate is crocheted from fine metal wires.

• Teresa Ponte’s Pomegranate Bowl is divided into compartments on the inside like the interior of the fruit and glazed a deep red color.

• Tevfik Türen Karagözoğlu’s Pomegranate is raku fired to create a complex surface of coppery reds and greens.

• Zina’s Temari resembles a pomegranate with embroidery and criss-crossed threads in shades of dark red.

• Gazit’s Black Earrings suspend oxidized sterling silver pomegranates, while her Silver Earrings each have three garnet pieces dangling from the bottom.

• Boline Strand’s Necklace frames red precious stone seeds in an oxidized silver pod.

This Chocolate Pomegranate Tart looks mouth-watering, but if you don’t have the time to do anything fancy, here’s the best way to remove the seeds from a pomegranate – submerge the whole thing in a big bowl of water, cut into chunks, and pick out the seeds, which will conveniently float to the top.

Dragonwell

Relax with a cup of dragonwell tea, observe the serpentine forms of steam, and enjoy these selections of dragons in their ancient and contemporary incarnations. 

• Sayaka Ganz’s Fortune is a dynamic dragon made entirely out of recycled plastic objects like forks, knives, and other kitchen tools. Her work gives new life to discarded materials by creating various animals out of recycled plastics and metals, and reflects the Japanese Shinto belief that all objects have their own spirit.

• This Lacquer Box dates back to the Southern Song Dynasty and is carved with dragons so elegant that they seem almost indistinguishable from the wispy clouds. Dragons were thought of as creatures who spent the winter in rivers and flew into the clouds to bring spring showers.

• This Jade Pendant dates back to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty and perfectly illustrates both the strength and serpentine quality of mythological dragon.

• Belle Forge’s Door Knocker is hand-forged from silver in the shape of a dragon’s head.

• Kazem Arshi’s Teapot has a berry-colored glaze dripping over its deep brown unglazed surface.

• Diana Taylor’s Bracelet forms a dragon from an intricate network of linking wires that resemble chain mail.

• Melissa’s Pendant is a sleek interpretation of the ouroboros, the ancient symbol  of infinity depicted by a dragon eating its own tail.

• Julia’s Teapot is made of low-fired raku clay with a dragon for its handle.

• Chris Mueller’s Ouroboros is another example of the timeless symbol cast in the lost wax process.

• Simon Kemp’s Necklace intersects three dragons at their heads, while two of the tails extend to join the chain.

• Nancy Adams’ Teapot has a black dragon carved on its surface and a twisting tail for a handle.

Paradise Lost

The Buddhist lotus rises its pure petals above murky waters, signifying rebirth and enlightenment. We wanted to explore the less-than-perfect, and slightly more interesting, side of the lotus with selections that interpret its shape in metals, wood, and ceramics.

• These Tables by Sandback, a family-owned furniture business based in New Hampshire, are embedded with over five thousand nails that make up a subtle lotus design.

• This Gilt Bronze Lotus dates back to Tang dynasty China. The symmetrical petals are covered with a range of peeling gold, rust, and lichen. The uneven surface and upright posture resembles a torch still lit more than a thousand years later.

• This Lotus Ornament with brittle bronze petals dates back to twelfth century Cambodia.

• Marta Sanchez’ Earrings are stylized sterling silver lotuses with gold stems, evoking the Ancient Egyptian belief in the lotus as a symbol of the sun and rebirth.

• Mocahete’s Earrings mix bronze and sterling silver to create flared out lotuses inspired by Ancient Egyptian designs.

• Derek Smith’s Wall Flower has petals made of reclaimed cedar and oak and a brass finial center pod.

• Cheryl English’s Lotus Bowls have an intricate lace pattern imprinted on their surface.

• Rebecca Tracey’s Lotus Perfume has floral notes of tuberose and orange blossom.

• Becky Wofford’s Pendant recreates the porous shape of a lotus seed pod in sterling silver.

• Gina Callender’s Necklace suspends a mother-of-pearl pendant, etched with a lotus, from a string of wire-wrapped stones.

• Shae’s Bracelet is made of sterling silver and copper, hand-stamped with an intricate pattern of vines, lotuses, and birds.

Year of the Snake

To celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Snake, we’ve put together some reminders of how the serpentine form has slithered through the centuries, from ancient Greece to the present. 

• Mark Laita’s series Serpentine captures the shimmering silver coils of the mussurana snake, native to Central and South America.

• This Coiled Stone Rattlesnake dates back to the Aztecs in the fifteenth century.

• This Limestone Relief comes from the early Hellenistic period (late 4th-3rd century B.C.) and depicts a small dolphin under a coiled snake.

• Marcus Berkner’s Ring is a continuous band of scales carved from sterling silver.

• This Ring by Taitaya Forge is a thin silver snake that wraps around your finger three times, a style found in Ancient Egyptian and Roman examples.

• This Pendant by OroSpot looks like a snake ready to strike.

• Polkadile’s Ring has a sculpted shape and scaly surface that resembles a snake in motion.

• Claire’s Ouroboros Ring represents the serpent eating its own tail, an ancient symbol of cyclicality and immortality.

• Whitemetal’s Necklace suspends a highly polished, elegant snake from a delicate silver chain.

• Richard York’s Cuff has a hammered, rock-like surface and serpent’s head.

• Ann Drewing Beck’s Ring is a coiled snake resting on a silver band.