Monday, March 20, 2017

How It's Made: Queen Anne's Lace Pillow and Coasters for Spring!

Ah, spring. The days are getting longer and lighter and there is air of vitality and renewal everywhere. Spring is the time for celebrating nature and our artist Jessica Hollander's work embodies this reverent sentiment. Jessica has created a line of home decor that lets you bring the light and levity of the season into your home and she's given us a sneak peak at her process here!

The designs are derived from oil paintings which are painted outdoors, inspired by the nuance and beauty of nature.  In this case we've selected the Queen Anne's Lace motif which symbolizes sanctuary and solace. With the canvas renderings under way, they are transported to Jessica's studio in Brooklyn, New York, for finishing touches. She considers each painting to be a portrait and hopes that they convey the healing energy of the dialogue between artist and subject.

When a painting is complete, she photographs sections of the canvas to determine areas that are most interesting from a design perspective. The composition and color are then adjusted so the design can be applied to decorative items for the home, pictured here.

The amended designs are then printed onto textiles, marble and paper to become part of someone's home. The ultimate intent of the artist is to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside, thereby elevating the energy of the space. We'll think you'll agree: these wondrous wildflowers will breathe fresh life into your sanctuary.

To learn more or purchase:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How It's Made: Handmade Beaded Egg Ornaments

Beaded Egg Ornaments
Just in time for your Easter decorating yet with versatility and visual interest for any time of year, our hand-beaded egg ornaments are here.

From the banks of the Tugela River in South Africa, a group of 100 Zulu women handcraft these beautiful, sustainable, collectible works of art. The images that follow show the eggs at different stages in the production process.  Please note photography was provided directly from the South African village and is not high resolution. 

First, a raw egg is bandaged with selotape and surrounded with a network of copper wire. The artisan begins weaving, applying just enough pressure to keep the egg intact while creating intricate patterns. Only a very few women possess the technique required; if the egg is broken the work cannot be salvaged. 

When the egg is nearly enclosed with beading, a piece of wire is used to pierce a circle in the shell through which the contents are removed to be consumed. Finally, the shell is scraped away from the interior and the hole is woven shut. These exquisite and unique keepsakes then commence their journey to destinations throughout the world.  

Every time an egg is purchased it helps promote The Fair Trade Federation which guarantees fair wages, equal opportunities, safe working conditions, and long term relationships built on mutual respect. Each one-of-a-kind egg includes a hangtag signed by the artist. Your egg purchase may just have been created by one of the wonderful women pictured here.

Thank you for supporting The Art Institute of Chicago and fair trade artisans everywhere!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Breen is Back!

The newest collector's ornaments from our long time collaborator Patricia Breen have arrived! We have not one, but TWO brand new exclusives and they are the Breen Monet Egg and Breen Seurat Egg ornaments.

Artist Patricia Breen designs and creates original museum-quality collectible ornaments. Produced in limited quantities, each glass ornament is mouth blown, hand-silvered and exquisitely hand-painted in Breen’s studio in Krakow, Poland. Patricia is involved with every step in the creation and production of her designs, which is greatly apparent in the quality and detail of every single Patricia Breen ornament.

Over the years, we have proudly sold exclusive Patricia Breen ornaments made for the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Get them before they're gone!

Our spring 2017 exclusive Breen ornaments:
Breen Monet Egg Ornament/Breen Seurat Egg Ornament

See our entire collection of Patricia Breen ornaments here: AIC Patricia Breen

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Good Reads: New Literary Arrivals

Calling all book lovers! Brent the Book Buyer is at it again, curating a compelling collection for your enjoyment. If you've been craving a new work of literary art to peruse or adorn your space, our new spring assortment has something for you. Refresh your collection and perception! Get your book on below....

PLANT: Exploring the Botanical World

This fresh and visually stunning survey celebrates the extraordinary beauty and diversity of plants. It combines photographs and cutting-edge micrograph scans with watercolours, drawings, and prints to bring this universally popular and captivating subject vividly to life. Carefully selected by an international panel of experts and arranged in a uniquely structured sequence to highlight thought-provoking contrasts and similarities, this stunning compilation of botanically themed images includes iconic work by celebrated artists, photographers, scientists, and botanical illustrators, as well as rare and previously unpublished images. Plant

John Derian: The Picture Book

John Derian’s home goods empire reaches far and wide—in addition to the four John Derian stores he owns in New York and Massachussetts, his products are sold by more than 600 retailers worldwide, including Neiman Marcus, ABC, and Gump’s in the United States; Conran and Liberty in the UK; and Astier de Villatte in Paris. It all started with his now-iconic collectible plates decoupaged with 19th-century artwork sourced from old and rare books, a process that credited him with elevating the decoupage technique into fine art. Over the past 25 years, the brand has expanded greatly to include home and general design gifts and products. Now, for the first time ever, comes the book John Derian fans have been waiting for. Culled from the thousands of images that have appeared in his biannual collections, here is an astoundingly beautiful assortment of more than 400 full-bleed images in their original form. From intensely colored flowers and birds to curious portraits, hand-drawn letters, and breathtaking landscapes, the best of John Derian is here. The result is an oversized object of desire, a work of art in and of itself, that brilliantly walks the line between commerce and art, and that is destined to become the gift book of the season. John Derain

Building Chicago: The Architectural Masterworks

Building Chicago presents the best of this country’s first city of architecture. Colloquially known as America’s "second city," Chicago is widely regarded as this country’s crown jewel when it comes to architecture. The roster of masters who have helped shape its skyline and streetscape stands as a who’s who of the architectural pantheon from the last two hundred years, from Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Frank Lloyd Wright to Mies van der Rohe and Frank Gehry. Lavishly illustrated, this volume compellingly displays the masterworks of Chicago architecture—from the Chicago Tribune Tower (1925) and the Rookery (1888) by Burnham & Root to the Trump International Hotel and Tower (2008) by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the residential skyscraper Aqua (2009) by Jeanne Gang. It features the city’s beloved masterpieces by Wright, including the Robie House, such milestones as the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Building, Gehry’s Pritzker Bandshell, as well as a wealth of little-known treasures from Chicago’s early days culled from the vast collection of the Chicago History Museum. John Zukowsky is an architectural and design historian, author, and the former longtime curator of architecture for the Art Institute of Chicago. Building Chicago

The Art of Beatrix Potter

Published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth, this magnificent collection celebrates the artist behind The Tale of Peter Rabbit and numerous other beloved children's books. Brimming with famous images and rarely seen gems—ranging from character sketches and notebook pages to watercolor landscapes and natural history illustrations—this monograph explores Potter's artistic process and reveals the places that inspired her timeless work. Organized geographically and featuring more than 200 images from the artist's oeuvre, The Art of Beatrix Potter includes illuminating essays by Potter scholar Linda Lear, illustration historian Steven Heller, and children's book illustrator Eleanor Taylor. It is the definitive volume on one of the world's most influential authors, a woman whose artistry, until now, has not been fully celebrated. Beatrix Potter

Les Diners de Gala

“Les diners de Gala is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste … If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.”—Salvador Dalí
Food and surrealism make perfect bedfellows: sex and lobsters, collage and cannibalism, the meeting of a swan and a toothbrush on a pastry case. The opulent dinner parties thrown by Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) and his wife and muse, Gala (1894–1982) were the stuff of legend. Luckily for us, Dalí published a cookbook in 1973, Les diners de Gala, which reveals some of the sensual, imaginative, and exotic elements that made up their notorious gatherings.

This reprint features all 136 recipes over 12 chapters, specially illustrated by Dalí, and organized by meal courses, including aphrodisiacs. The illustrations and recipes are accompanied by Dalí’s extravagant musings on subjects such as dinner conversation: “The jaw is our best tool to grasp philosophical knowledge.”

All these rich recipes can be cooked at home, although some will require practiced skill and a well-stocked pantry. This is cuisine of the old school, with meals by leading French chefs from such stellar Paris restaurants as Lasserre, La Tour d’Argent, Maxim’s, and Le Train Bleu. Good taste, however voluptuous, never goes out of fashion. In making this exceptionally rare book available to a wide audience, TASCHEN brings an artwork, a practical cookbook, and a multisensory adventure to today’s kitchens. Les Diners de Gala

Browse our book collection in its entirety at the link: AIC Spring Books

Finally, another fond thank you to Brent the Book Buyer for his diligence, indubitable good taste and enduring humor!

Friday, March 3, 2017

On Trend: Pillow Talk

Let's talk pillows. Spring is on the horizon and you want to revitalize your interior while avoiding a complete overhaul. What's a savvy decorator like you to do? Accent pillows to the rescue!

Simultaneously on-trend and timeless, our handmade kilim pillows add worldly sophistication to your favorite lounging spots. Vintage kilim carpet remnants in a kaleidoscope of colors are re-imagined and reconstructed as pillows by skilled artisans in rural Turkey. Our pillows are limited-edition, and rich in the depth and texture imbued by this traditional flatweave technique. Choose from Chevron, Floral, or Aztec design motifs to add a rustic yet stylish comfort and visual interest to your interior space.

Learn more about the kilim technique here:

Love this look? Bring your inside out and incorporate these beautiful, artisanal fabrics into your wardrobe. Check out our tapestry tote and and messenger bag below!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How it's Made: Gold Botanical Jewelry


Encompassing evocative design and modern vision, our photo etched jewelry is wearable art conceived by Venezuelan light artist, Claudia Bueno. While experimenting in 2007 with digital and aerospace engineering technologies to use in large-scale installation art, the artist discovered that her intricate designs could be produced with incredible accuracy on stainless-steel sheets. What started as a fun side project to make jewelry for family and friends evolved over seven years while living on four continents, eventually becoming a Made in USA product.

In today's edition of "How it's Made", we get a sneak peek at her process from concept to completion. Here we go!

Claudia begins by developing a series of watercolors and drawings inspired by a lifetime of international exploration. Both cultural influences and nature's diversity are reflected in her linear and elegant designs.

Pushing the limits of raw materials and technology, her designs are digitized and given form using a process called photo etching.

The art is then electroplated in .999 silver or 24k gold and hand-assembled by a young team of local artists, musicians and rock climbers. 

Each limited-edition design reflecting her artistic vision is a unique blend of nature and culture.

For a dynamic look at the artist's large-scale installations, check out the video Fiberspace  shot in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

In Focus: Audrey Hepburn

“I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.” – Audrey Hepburn
We witnessed her grace in Roman Holiday, her charm in My Fair Lady, and her elegance in Sabrina.  With the Academy Awards this weekend, it’s a fitting time to remember one of the classic Hollywood’s brightest stars, Audrey Hepburn.

Winning an Oscar at age 24, Hepburn’s breakout role was co-starring opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. Playing a runaway princess who gets entangled with an American journalist in Rome, Hepburn proved to have a larger than life screen presence. Catch a glimpse of her screen tests for Roman Holiday in the footage below.

Capturing the hearts of audiences everywhere, the actress continued to have a versatile and interesting career. As celebrated as Audrey Hepburn was in her youth, her generous charitable work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in her later life should not be overlooked. Because of her charitable contributions, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

A new addition to our book collection is Audrey Hepburn Photographs 1953-1966. Film fans new and old will appreciate photographer Bob Willoughby’s snapshots of Hepburn at the start and height of her acting career. Click here to purchase or learn more.