Thursday, July 12, 2018

How it's Made: Handcrafted Leather Chicago Map Mementos

While we travel the world to bring you unique and beautiful objects, sometimes there's nothing we want more than a perfect piece of home.  Enter the talented leather smiths of Tactile Craftworks, our neighbors to the north based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our handcrafted leather Chicago accessories are part of their Atlas design series, inspired by a reoccurring conversation regarding the concept of place. Specifically, designers Sarah and Anna are interested in the paradoxical pull many of us feel towards travel and adventure, while we also crave continuity and community. Read on to learn how this concept manifested in maps, in this edition of "How it's Made."

With backgrounds as theatrical craftspeople, both Anna and Sarah have a keen interest in historical artifacts and ephemera. Their maps felt like a natural fusion of their conversations and interests. The Chicago map is a Rand McNally design, honoring the work of Sarah's grandfather at the Chicago company where he worked for 40 years. 

Sarah and Anna begin the production process by laser etching designs on unfinished crust-side leather. As certified 80/20 US company, 80% of their materials are made in the USA, and their leather is tanned in Milwaukee and Pennsylvania.

The ashed design is then sealed with a custom coating and left to dry. When the drying process is complete, the leather is hand glued, stitched and dyed. 

The final step entails finishing the leather edges with a beeswax sealant. While they strive to create the most durable product possible, Sarah and Anna love to see their items well-used, with a visible patina demonstrating someone has taken Tactile's work and made it their own.

Like the terrific team at Tactile Craftworks, we love hearing our customer's stories about how our items become treasured keepsakes.  Please drop us a line anytime and tell us how you're using your Chicago map mementos or any of our unique, handmade gifts!

To view our entire assortment, visit the Museum Shop online:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just in! New Frank Lloyd Wright® for Summer 2018


Freshen up with Frank!

Our summer 2018 collection has arrived and it's Wright up your alley. From architecture-inspired fashion accessories to home decor, our Frank Lloyd Wright® (American, 1867-1959) inspired items are brand new, yet every bit his signature style. Adorn yourself or your home with our latest by one of the greatest today!

To view our entire collection of unique gifts, visit the Museum Shop online:

Proceeds from all purchases support the Art Institute of Chicago's many programs.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Charles White: A Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago

 Love Letter III, c.1977

"Paint is the only weapon I have with which to fight what I resent. If I could write, I would write about it. If I could talk, I would talk about it. Since I paint, I must paint about it." - Charles White

Join the Art Institute of Chicago this summer in celebrating the life and work of artist Charles White (American, 1918 - 1979). Open now, Charles White: A Retrospective is the first major museum show in over 35 years to feature works from the gifted draftsman, painter, printmaker, muralist, teacher and activist's four-decade-long career.  Get a glimpse here and then come see for yourself!

 Love Letter I, 1971

 Born in Chicago and educated at the School of the Art Institute, White was an integral participant in the city's Black Renaissance of the 1930s. Throughout his career, he continually eschewed fluctuating artistic trends while maintaining a commitment to depicting dignified African American lives with in a representational style.

 Gospel Singers, 1951

 Despite being labor intensive, his technique and stylistic realism simultaneoulsy enhanced the expressiveness and accessibility of his work, bringing White both domestic and international acclaim. 

 Frederick Douglass, 1950

White believed in art as an agent of social change, saying that “Art must be an integral part of the struggle. It can’t simply mirror what’s taking place. It must adapt itself to human needs. It must ally itself with the forces of liberation. The fact is, artists have always been propagandists. I have no use for artists who try to divorce themselves from the struggle.” Subsquently, White used his work as a medium through which to explore questions of race, history, identity and politics that are just as relevant today as during his time.

Charles White: A Retrospective exhibition catalog.

Charles White: A Retrospective is now on view at The Art Institute of Chicago through September 3rd.  Learn more here: Charles White: A Retrospective

Visit the Museum Shop online where you can find the exhibition catalog.

All purchases support the museum's various programs.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Just in! New Hand-Painted Textiles by Joanna Alot

 Just in! Our brand new collection of hand-painted silks by staff and customer favorite local designer Joanna Alot has arrived. With scarves featuring bright, beautiful botanicals and super sophisticated graphic ties, you're certain to be "just-in"spired. 

To shop our exclusive assortment of Joanna Alot designs click here: Silk Scarves and Ties.
 To learn more about Joanna and her process, read our past profile here: Artist Spotlight: Joanna Alot.

To view our entire collection of unique gifts, visit the Museum Shop online:

Proceeds from all purchases support the Art Institute of Chicago's many programs.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Happy Birthday America! Just in: New Fireworks Jewelry

Join us as we celebrate everything made in the USA! Our Fireworks Jewelry collection adds a pop of intrigue to any outfit. Now by popular demand, the earrings are available as posts! Handmade in lovely Los Angeles, these explosive accessories are hand cast in sterling silver and then oxidized for ultimate impact.

We all know someone who is a "real firecracker." Show them how much their incandescent personality is appreciated! You can purchase our Fireworks Jewelry here.

To view our entire collection of unique gifts, visit the Museum Shop online:

Proceeds from all purchases support the Art Institute of Chicago's many programs.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Georg Jensen: Scandinavian Design for Living at the Art Institute of Chicago

"...silver has this wonderful shine like moonlight ... a light taken straight from a Danish summer's night. When covered by dew, silver can look like magical mist." - Georg Jensen

This summer, all that glitters is silver at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1904, Danish silversmith Georg Jensen founded his eponymous company, the continual evolution of which has helped define Scandinavian design. An exemplar of quality craftsmanship and timeless aesthetics, the brand had come to be known globally for its disciplined integration of form and function. Join us in celebrating the icon in the first major museum presentation of Jensen silver tableware to underscore the company's salient contribution the language of modern design and interiors.

In addition, you can find your very own piece from our assortment curated exclusively for the exhibition.  Visit the Museum Shop in store or online to grab the catalog or select your beautiful, functional object today.

To view our entire collection of unique gifts, visit the Museum Shop online:

Proceeds from all purchases support the Art Institute of Chicago's many programs.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

How it's Made: Modern Hand-blown Glass Art from Epiphany Studios

April Wagner, "Rabbit Lives at Claire's House"

We came for the color and stayed for the handmade. Welcome to the Midwest, where the folks are friendly and the artisan glass is gorgeoous. Today we are in the Pontiac, Michigan, studio of April Wagner, artist and founder of Epiphany Studios, to learn more about the creative process behind her delightfully dazzling glass designs. You're in for some inspiration and education in this edition of "How it's Made."
  April in the studio, photos by Sebastian Sullen

Initially, April designs each piece with careful consideration of form and function. The designs are then fabricated by a team of at least two people in her studio. This process involves solid sculpting the object in front of a 2400-degree reheating chamber using molten clear glass. Next, colors comprised of minerals and metallic oxides are mixed in to create the layers and patterns, followed by a clear glass overlay. 

April has been creating paperweights for over 20 years. Her signature style is showcased in both the Rainbow and Sea Urchin paperweights, evocative of underwater creatures or flowers and shapes found in nature.  

Color in glass is not like color in paint. For example, mixing blue and yellow does not make green;  copper, depending on the elements it is mixed with, can be either green, red or blue. April has spent many years honing her expertise in color theory and technical abilities associated with her craft. By mixing multiple colors, she creates vibrant, layered objects that are beautiful to behold. 

When fashioning her Heart Paperweights, April puts playful color into a resprentational shape. By manipulating both contrasting and complemetary colors, the idea is to evoke the dynamic emotional intensity of love.

A passionate animal lover, Aprils affection for her two rescue cats inspired these sweet slumberers.  Using a mix of colors in a cute curled shape, the Black Glass and Calico Cat Paperweights are a daily desktop reminder of the joy animals bring to our lives. 

April Wagner, "Primary Fete"

For even more info on April's adventures and her production process, watch her video here.

To find your perfect paperweight today, shop now: 

To view our entire collection of unique gifts, visit the Museum Shop online:

Proceeds from all purchases support the Art Institute of Chicago's many programs.