Flappers and Monks

Let’s have some fun, break the rules. Wipe our asses with dollar bills. Stop by the whorehouse after a trip to the fish market. Pick up gonorrhea from a movie star. Stay up all night drinking sake. Harass shy girls by pretending to be their lesbian lover. Had enough yet? No? Keeping up with flappers and monks requires an appetite for excess and contempt for hypocrisy few possess. That’s why there’s only one Ikkyu and one Tallulah Bankhead.

Kansai Yamamoto at the V&A; Tallulah Bankhead in a feather headdress
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Ring by Pamela Argentieri; Necklace by Jenniflair; Resin Bangle by Mr. Crap; Earrings by Craft Fields; Bracelet by Polina Belenki; Earrings by Catherine; Necklace by Frank Ideas

The term “basara” emerged in mid-fourteenth century Japan, when the country was split between two imperial courts at war. The ruling elite that came out on top included a group of military men who behaved and dressed in an extravagant and carefree manner, with the implication that it was often vulgar and destructive. It’s an old story: men who get money and power fast like to show off. Ikkyu was born two years after the warring period ended. He was a Zen Buddhist monk who gave the middle finger to organized Zen, frequently calling other monks lazy hypocrites. He was his own brand of basara, writing verses about his fondness for drinking and sleeping around. Not afraid to smash things, both as a child and old man, he proved that tea bowls need to be broken before their cracks become valuable. Ikkyu’s iconoclastic approach to Zen set the groundwork for the wabi style of tea, which rejected the ostentatious displays of basara for a weathered, ordinary, less-than-perfect aesthetic.

Kansai Yamamoto at the V&A; Louise Brooks in pearls
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Brooch Pin by Tomo & Edie; Bowl by 01 And Many; Purse by Mayko Bags; Tea Cup by Sheila; Scarf Wrap by Converte; Skirt by Miss Fancypants; Scarf by Rose Quartz; Tote by Sarah Joy

No one thinks of Tallulah Bankhead as a flapper (just as no one thinks of Ikkyu as a monk), but she excelled at all of the term’s most scandalous transgressions. Cocaine and sex fueled a prolific output of one-liners rivaled perhaps only by Oscar Wilde. Like Ikkyu, she was a flashy hedonist, a rare bird before her behavior became today’s typical Saturday night. It’s a good thing these two lived five centuries and thousands of miles apart. Any contact would have certainly caused a nuclear reaction.

Pinned in Place

Her polished eyes are of delicious metals,
And in this strange, symbolic nature
Where virgin angel meets with ancient sphinx,
Where all is only gold and steel and light and diamonds
There shines for ever, like a useless star,
The cold majesty of the sterile woman.

– Baudelaire, Fleurs du mal

Edmund Tarbell, The Three Sisters, 1890, Hats by Philip Treacy
Handmade hats to buy (clockwise): Fascinator by Corina Haywood; Fascinator by Fridavolor; Fascinator Clip by Alice Hart; Fascinator by Vanessa Cunningham; Headpiece by Boring Sidney; Cocktail Hat by Maynard; Hat by McCool Design; Cocktail Hat by Ronit

Baudelaire fashions a woman made not of flesh but of the precious materials she adorns herself with, almost like her jewelry has seeped into her skin. His words, first published in 1857, would echo throughout the following decades as women really did become consumed with being consumers.

It all started with the hat. Chanel’s hats, in particular. Hers were the beginning of the end because she toppled a whole silhouette, and, with it, a whole identity.

Look at these three sisters relaxing on a June afternoon. The painter’s wife wears a red hat with a child in her lap. Her two daughters sit on either side, one on a kitchen chair dragged out into the garden. It’s 1890, just when the Gibson Girl was solidifying into the national ideal. She was born as an illustration: a woman of the upper class with a body in an s-curve that ended in a slender neck and hair piled on top of her head in loose curls. She was athletic and independent but not involved in politics and perfectly happy managing a household and socializing. Pretty dull, pretty impossible. But at least she could shop! Banish her boredom in a new hat.

Frank W. Benson, Lady Trying on a Hat, 1904
Hats by Philip Treacy
Handmade hats to buy (clockwise): Fascinator by Desiree Ferraro; Saucer Hat by The Headmistress; Tilt Hat by Chasing LuLa; Cocktail Hat by Mind Your Bonce; Cocktail Hat by Greer McDonald; Gator Hat by Jasmin Zorlu; Saucer Hat by Maria Marcus; LP Hat by Philippe Borg

Frank Benson’s Lady Trying on a Hat is like the photographs we see now of ideal homes, filling Pinterest boards that daydream of an impossibly perfect life. Except it’s 1904 and she has a Chinese vase filled with roses and a mess of pearlescent fabrics lying around. The hat is a black tornado that obscures her eyes but they’re not important. She is an object of beauty to be bought, possessed, and exhibited just like her vase, hat, and clothes. Baudelaire’s woman but cast in a softer light.

So, across the pond, what did Chanel do that placed this lady in another era? Chanel wanted to simplify what she saw as “enormous loaves” and create a more simple, streamlined look. Her hats were not that radical compared to contemporary designs. But she build the social connections that placed her hats on the heads of the right people and in the magazines the wealthy women were reading. Her own unconventional lifestyle reflected the spirit of the hats and she became a personal brand.

Even if they weren’t that original, Chanel’s hats toppled the s-curve. A less extravagant hat soon lead to proportions that didn’t require a restricted waist and skirts that covered the ankles. If all Chanel’s customer could do was shop and lunch, at least she could do so in comfort.

Side note: Long hair and big hats had their advantages. You could take out one of the hat pins needed to keep everything in place and stab the eye of your attacker. Convenient, just a little messy.

All Tied Up

These bows and bow ties are more for the flamboyant dandy, not the wallflower.

• Anna Bilińska’s Portrait of a Young Girl depicts her with a creamy white bow tied around her neck, almost like an extravagant present. The bow does all the talking. Her eyes gaze passively, or pensively, to the side.

• This Valentino Blouse, with its sheer sleeves, and leather skirt is the perfect balance of prim and edgy.

• Maria Pergay’s Ribbon Pouf makes stainless steel look like soft folds of fabric.

• Biliana Borissova’s Fascinator is a flamboyant side bow made of cherry red stiffened straw.

• This Bow by Monocircus is 3D printed in plastic with a lattice pattern.

• Leanne’s Necklace suspends a ceramic black bow – no tying necessary.

• Pink Iguana Co.’s Bow is neatly folded from brass.

• Bethany’s Bow Necklace is a sophisticated combination of lucite beads, black cotton, and gold leather inspired by African dandies, the Sapeurs.

• The Fredrick by Two Guys Bowties is made of rosewood and striped suit fabric.

• The Tabasco Bowtie by Dandy’s Bow Ties is made of flaming orange silk woven with a tabasco sauce logo.

• Ann Marie Faulkner’s Bibi is a mini beret finished with a playful polkadot silk chiffon bow.

Leopard Skin

When in doubt, look to the big cats.

• This Leopard Head dates back to the seventeenth to nineteenth century and was used as part of a masquerade costume by a high-ranking chief of the Owo group. The skin is made of ivory with spots of inlaid coconut shell and dark wood.

• The Jean Paul Gaultier Fall 2013 Couture Collection was inspired by big cats and David Bowie, turning potentially tacky sources into sublime displays of texture and print.

• This Foot Warmer would have traveled with a wealthy French woman in her carriage or automobile.

• Steve Riley’s Ring is made of gold with black rhodium spots.

• Morado’s Clutch is made of leopard print leather and has a removable brass chain strap.

• Umpie’s Carpet Bag is covered with leopard print tapestry and lined with linen chintz.

• Eden Tran’s Cuff is a peyote stitch of seed beads and crystals in a leopard print.

• Maynard’s Hat is a large leopard print saucer embellished with a black quill.

• Victoria Varga’s Cufflinks frame silver leopard print inlaid with coppery pigments.

• SwedArt’s Bracelet weaves a braid of silver and crystals through a band of leopard print leather.

• Luna’s Evening Bag has a leopard print surface made entirely of crystals.

Nomad

If you’re going to cross the desert, do it in style.

• Patrick Caulfield’s Pitcher depicts the object with the least amount of flat areas that still suggest three dimensionality. As a Pop artist, he stripped familiar objects of their sensuous qualities and transformed them into emblems. In this case, the pitcher is almost like a mirage seen in the desert, teasing us with the idea of solidity.

• The KTZ Spring 2013 Collection belongs to the desert gangster – think Arabian Nights with a dose of heavy metal.

• Ben Kafton’s Perspective Architecture is a screenprint with intersecting grids in black and red ink.

• Su’s Earrings are oxidized silver polygons tied to ear wires with red linen thread.

• Foxy’s Nomadic Necklace strings together half-moons filled with geometric enamel patterns.

• Toni’s Linocut is block printed with a geometric abstract design in black, gold, red, and terra cotta.

• Edu Barba’s Geometric Issue overlaps red and black triangles with different transparencies.

• Sarah Loertscher’s Earrings are architectural structures constructed from silver wire.

• B Kelly’s Tuareg Rings are inspired by the ones made by West African nomads.

• Kate Moore’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond is a color-blocked constellation of white lines.

Sicilian Summer

Before going to bed Don Fabrizio paused a moment on the little balcony of his dressing room. The shadowed garden lay sunk in sleep, below; in the inert air the trees seemed like fused lead; from the overhanging bell tower came an elfin hoot of owls. The sky was clear of clouds; those which had greeted the dusk had moved away, maybe toward places less sinful, condemned by divine wrath to lesser penalties.
– Lampedusa, The Leopard

• Andreas Achenbach’s Sunset After a Storm on the Coast of Sicily exemplifies his dramatic style of landscape painting, which depicts nature as a sublime force that overwhelms man. The sailors are barely visible against the rocks and crashing waves illuminated by golden light.

• This Coin dates back to the late fifteenth century and bears the imprint of Alfonso of Aragorn, King of Naples and lover of classical literature.

• The Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2013 Menswear Collection weaved the figures of Zeus and Apollo through their prints inspired, as always, by Sicily and its myths.

• Solsken Design’s Earrings are small gold coins suspended from hoops and have a textured surface that reflects light.

• Kyle Chan’s Pendant frames a snake set with champagne diamonds on a golden surface.

• Gili Forshmit’s Ring has a fossil-like design on a matte gold coin.

• Ayala Vitkon’s Bracelet has a gold coin and labradorite gem attached next to the clasp. Her Hoops suspend tiny gold coins imprinted with trees.

• Maya Rolc Majeric’s Bracelet has a small coin imprinted with a personalized initial.

• Salomea’s Ring frames a pearl in gold vermeil, inspired by ancient Roman style jewelry.

Flora

When your flowers start to melt, are you hallucinating?

• Nick Knight’s Flora series includes still lifes of roses that appear to be melting as the petals bleed into one another. He spent three years sorting through the six million plant specimens in the Natural History Museum’s herbarium, selecting and photographing floral compositions only to mess with their precise forms. The painterly effect is the result of a unique method of manipulating heat and water during printing process. Night’s work follows in the footsteps of 17th century Dutch vanitas still lifes, which depict luxurious arrangements with symbolic reminders of their impermanence. Here, the decay is more palpable in the petals, as if it were happening before your eyes.

• Max Gimblett’s Painted Moon is a quatrefoil shaped canvas splattered with gold leaf.

• The Vivienne Westwood Anglomania Fall 2013 Collection included magnolia prints as a nod to the Covent Garden Flower Market.

• These Earrings by Small Joys Studio are small red enamel flowers lined in black.

• Irena Orlov’s Poppies blend together in a field of watercolor layers.

• Claire Jauregui’s Radiate depicts clouds and machine cogs in sunset colors.

• Enchanted Planet’s Earrings suspend real pressed rose petals in clear lucite.

• Klara’s Scarf is hand painted with a red flower in a vase against a green background.

• Mollie Brotherton’s Bowls are covered with a harvest inspired by summer in the south of France.

• Topaz Turtle’s Bangle is made of red-orange resin embedded with loops of copper wire.

• Dikla Levi Harel’s Clutch contrasts leather with brightly colored canvas.

Blurred Lines

How much can you play around with the grid, keeping its basic structure but messing with the edges and proportions?

• Sol LeWitt’s Serial Structures reflect his interest in the work of late 19th century photographer Edward Muybridge, whose studies of motion spread out over grids. Lewitt takes the grid, a static and purely functional element of Muybridge’s photography, and builds structural variations in the same way that a body completes movement.

• Wolfgang Laib’s Unlimited Ocean is a sprawling grid consisting of piles of white rice.

• The Ochne Titel Fall 2013 Collection included mathematically precise grid prints, becoming smaller near the waist for a slimming effect.

• David Ballinger’s photograph of a Glass Building in Paris captures a rich landscape of black and white geometric planes.

• Melissa Hudson’s Pendant is a sterling silver grid that’s also a symbol used to tell other hobos if a town had a jail.

• Keren Asaf’s Pendant suspends an open ended grid inspired by the sleek lines of De Stijl.

• Brett Eichmann’s Grid is a sculpture made of interlocking planes of douglas fir.

• Ben Kafton’s Grid Landscape is a screen print depicting a fragmented collage of grids, rivers, and marbled surfaces.

• Rita’s Ring is made of sterling silver etched and oxidized into a detailed grid.

• Brett’s Pendant is a deep, three dimensional grid made of polished sterling silver.

• John and Catherine Andrews’ Jatoba is a print of a smudged grid that has the rich complexity of a individual fingerprint.

Shattered Vortex

 This looking glass reveals a landscape of fragments, facets, and folds.

• Robert Smithson’s Four-Sided Vortex is Narcissus’ worst nightmare. Looking down the fragmented mirror pieces, you can’t see your own reflection. If there is someone standing next to you, you’ll see theirs. It’s a space that destroys focal points and perspectives with each look down the rabbit hole.

• The MOCA Cleveland Building is a bit like Smithson’s Vortex turned inside out. The facade is covered with mirror-finish stainless steel, which reflects its surroundings and subtle changes of light and weather.

• The Donna Karan Pre-Fall 2013 Collection featured graphic, sculptural silhouettes with black-and-white prints that echoed the fluid rhythm of New York’s buildings.

• Timothy James’ Kinetic Ring is faceted sterling silver made using a combination of 3D printing and traditional casting.

• Alia’s Cuff is an architectural structure 3D printed in Polished Alumide, a light and flexible material with a bit of sparkle.

• Rachel Dhawan’s Ring has a chunky faceted form made of blackened sterling silver.

• Krista Peel’s Earrings suspend faceted wood from sterling silver wires.

• Rebecca Peacock’s Earrings form diamond structures from oxidized sterling silver.

• Delphine Leymarie’s Band has a subtle faceted surface made of sterling silver. Her Necklace suspends an irregular slice of silver like a sophisticated take on a dog tag.

• T.’s Necklace is a long faceted point made of bronze and hung from a silver chain.

Fireflies

Me, change! Me, alter!
Then I will, when on the Everlasting Hill
A Smaller Purple grows -
At sunset, or a lesser glow
Flickers upon Cordillera -
At Day’s superior close!
– Emily Dickinson

• Yume Cyan’s long exposure photographs of Fireflies in the forests around Nagoya City capture the traces of their bioluminescence as if they all lit up in synchrony. Reminds you of a fairy tale forest, doesn’t it?

• Pippin Drysdale’s Tanami Traces evokes the curving veins of leaves, rivers, and sand dunes found in the Australian landscape. Take a look at the complex process of creating these seemingly effortless surfaces.

• The Manish Arora Fall 2013 Collection included several neon green pieces that resembled insect armor, complete with a muti-focal black masks.

• Janice Bauer’s Jar is a ball of green fur, hand-built one clay hair at a time.

• Forest Lady’s Glorious Greens is a wall hanging made of green yarns in various shades, textures, and lengths.

• Cheryl Frances Cameron’s Scarf is crepe silk hand painted with a pattern of lime green moonflowers on a dark green background.

• Annie Lesperance’s Earrings set green felt wool in sterling silver bezel like little patches of green grass.

• Perle’s Necklace strings together green jasper stones with uniquely marbled surfaces.

• Cinne Worthington’s Silk Scarf is printed with an emerald green pattern reminiscent of stylized seaweed.

• Beckie Sims’ Handbag is made of luscious, kelly green leather and lined with floral print fabric.

• Erin Kathleen Donohue’s Nesting Bowls are white on the outside and light lime green on the inside.