Friday, August 10, 2018

How it's Made: Sublime Shibori Scarves by Cathayana

Tactile tucks of lightweight silk help you float through the day looking absolutely fabulous. 

You may be familiar with the shibori method of fabric dyeing that is having a moment in the fashion scene.  However, you likely have yet to experience the truly artful execution of the technique by Min Chiu for her Cathayana line of textiles. Min's playful patterns and combinations of colors elevate this traditional craft, taking it from admirable to exceptional.

Min (left) and an associate in her studio

Shibori is a resistance-dye technique that has its origins in Japan around the 8th century, but Min makes it modern in her Midwestern studio near Troy, Michigan. A single piece of silk is hand-dyed with a background color and then hand-pleated. The pleats leave a pattern in the resistance. This pattern is then overlaid with additional hand painting to attain a richer, more complex polychromy. 

According to Min, she derives inspiration primarily from natural phenomena such as sunrises over lakes in China, her country of birth, and sunsets in Sedona, Arizona. These sources are definitely discernable in her designs.

As a final step, the colors, pleats and pattern are heat-fixed, to ensure the textile maintains is vibrant, textured integrity.  We think you'll agree: each is like a carefully composed canvas, awash in color and movement. 

Go ahead, make your own day and explore our assortment of Cathayana textiles:!/products/c/3/t/2?sort=2

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

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Happy Birthday Andy Wahol!

You need more Andy in your life! Pop art pioneer Andy Warhol (American, 1928 - 1987) would have loved his current ubiquity and apparent immortality.

Already a successful commercial designer, in 1962 Warhol broke into the fine art world with his now infamous "Campbell's Soup Cans." By depicting everyday objects, he instigated a departure from his predecessors, the Abstract Expressionists, and ushered in the era of Pop Art. Throughout the rest of his career, Warhol consistently and simultaneously exemplified, glorified and criticized commercial consumption with his innovative work.  

Today, we're celebrating all things Andy Warhol with a collection inspired by this work. Scroll below to learn how you can Andy up!

This art-historically significant combination will energize your environment. French Limoges porcelain is applied with pop art pattern on our Andy Warhol Flowers and Marilyn Plates. Wall mount them or display them on your shelf to create conversation in any room!

Host a Pop Art patio party with our Andy Warhol Wooden Dominoes set. The psychedelic colors of this set make it perfect for play or display, and fun for everyone!

Like Andy himself, these candles are scent-sational. Each quirky candle has a signature fragrance contained within his iconic images, rendered in 3-D. 

Warhol Soup Can Salt & Pepper Shakers / Andy Mug

Get your kitchen in on the action! Give it the Andy treatment with our Warhol Soup Can Salt and Pepper Shakers and Andy Mug. They're a recipe for fun.

Finally, Andy covers our book Edlis / Neeson Collection: The Art Institute of Chicago, documenting one of the most significant major gifts in the history of the Art Institute, of which Warhol's work is an important part.  Add some Andy to your bookshelf or coffee table today!

Explore our assortment of Andy Warhol inspired items here:

To view our entire collection of unique gifts, visit:

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Sneak Peek: New Arrivals for Fall 2018

In anticipation of a bountiful season, we're bringing you a preview of our fresh fall assortment! We are so excited to unveil our new fall 2018 collection. You'll find artful accessories, innovative design and welcome whimsy to delight and inspire during this transitional time. Scroll down to view select favorites, and for the entire collection, click here.

Navy and Lime Cashmere and Silk Dream Scarf  / Magenta Shibori Scarf / Slate Cashmere and Silk Dream Scarf

Take a sensory journey with our latest tactile textiles, featuring wraps that feel as rich as they appear. In luxurious silk and cashmere, these shawls will create conversation and be essential to your autumn aesthetic.

Buddha Charm Necklace  / Rosemary Earrings / Swing Earrings
Ash Leaf CuffAsh Leaf EarringsTrapeze EarringsKatsura Necklace
Pay homage to art wherever you are with breathtaking new baubles. Art meets fashion in statement-making pieces you're sure to fall in love with.

Where the heart is...the art is! Our new assortment of home decor fuses form and function and is perfect for all your fall fêtes. 

Set off your aesthetic with signature Japanese style. Practical, whimsical and patterned to perfection, theses accessories are inspired by the museum's distinguished Japanese art collection.

Frank Lloyd Wright® Coonley and Saguaro Ornament Set  / Piet Mondrian Lozenge Tote and Cosmetic Bag / Frank Lloyd Wright® Coonley Mug

Finally, fall is not too soon to start thinking about gifting. Be prepared to please with our latest selection of artist-inspired items. Featuring enduring favorites like Frank Lloyd Wright® as well as newcomer Piet Mondrian, you've got every opportunity to get your artful gift on. 

To see our complete collection of new arrivals click here:

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

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

Inside the Artist's Studio: Handmade Jewelry by Claudia Vallejo

Perhaps you've seen an accessory so striking its nearly stopped you in your tracks.  In Claudia Vallejo's line of handcrafted, laser-cut jewelry you'll find plenty of such uniquely stylish stunners. The line both reflects and embodies the ideas and intentions of Claudia, the multifaceted artist at its helm. Today, journey with us to Vallejo's Bogotá, Colombia, workshop for a sneak peek at her creative process.

Skilled artisan's inside the jeweler's workshop
An anthropologist, mother and jeweler, Claudia has a broad experience from which she draws inspiration. She and her team design then handcraft each earring, necklace or bracelet from sturdy steel. The piece is laser-cut, polished and manipulated into shape by folding and bending.  Finally, it is polished again or powder-coated with a paint, according to the designer's objectives.

Designs in progress

Claudia explains that her "life and work are one...a continuous expression of experiences, thoughts and feelings." Part of what differentiates Claudia and her distinctive designs is that although she went to art school, she has no formal training as a designer. This has kept her creative process independent, guided by passion and intuition. Each abstract piece simultaneously demonstrates dynamic engergy and subtle serenity.

A family affair: Claudia's daughter helps at a photo shoot

Always adhering to a fair trade philosophy, Claudia strives to use only responsibly-sourced, sustainable materials and employs local craftspeople in her workshop. Fair trade principles ensure proper pay, safe working conditions, ongoing training and education, no child labor, and respect for the environment.

The designer at a market

In this way, Vallejo's jewelry helps fashion a better world. Now that's some fine design!

Triple Double Oval Necklace / Double Oval Earring

For more details on Claudia's jewelry:

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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How it's Made: Graphic Glass Designs by Case Island Studios

Both nostalgia and innovation and form and function converge in our Bauhaus-style vases by Case Island Glass Studio. The fusion of fluid movement and creative color combinations characterize these handcrafted conversation pieces.

Working out of her family-owned glass studio in Flint, Michigan, our designer draws inspiration from mid-century design and memories of her mother's 1960s tablescapes.

Each vase is hand cut from large pieces of glass using diamond-edged etching tools. Next, smaller pieces are hand cut and stacked on the base. Caution must be exercised with colors which can change subtly during the firing process. This entails multiples passes through a 1,500-degree oven and can take up to 12 hours. 

After the pieces are fused and while the flat glass is still malleable, it is placed on a mold to give it shape as a bowl, dish, or another functional object.

Finally, each unique vase is prepared to become a playful part of a contemporary tablescape! Fill it with flowers or let it make a stand-alone statement, either way it's sure to help create new memories!  

Learn more at the Museum Shop online:

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 16, 2018

Abstract Expressions: Artful Hand-Painted Scarves from Thailand

Art is ready-to-wear this summer at the Museum Shop! Our exquisite new handcrafted scarves are more than just accessories: they are wearable art! Created in a workshop in a remote Thai village, each piece is a "canvas" for skilled textile artisans to hand-paint using traditional techniques. From versatile pastels to dynamic brights, this collection has something for everyone in artfully original abstract designs.

Elevate any outfit today at the Museum Shop online!!/products/c/3/t/2?sort=2

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, 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: