MARION REYNOLDS - Interview with the Fashion and Interior Designer who has styled young Kardashians and Diddys.
Fashion Designer turned Interior Designer - Marion has styled the children of royals and celebrities like Kim Kardashian, P. Diddy, Angelina Jolie and Sarah Jessica Parker. We ask her why fashion designers create great interiors.
You have had a stellar career in the fashion industry - what would you say were the key ingredients of your success?
Determination and hard work. Be a trendsetter, not a follower. The creative industry is a busy place and in order to be seen you need to have the ability to surprise and take risks.
You recently wrote: ‘When Fashion designers collaborate outside of their familiar catwalk, something magical happens. How has your career in fashion translated into interior design?
This describes me very well. I am from a fashion background that has transitioned into interior. I have not been trained in the boundaries, which gives me the freedom to create and daring to take risks. Moving into interior was a natural step for me. Design and interior has always been my passion. To surround myself with beautiful objects and interior is a part of my identity.
You have lived and worked in London, New Delhi, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Oslo, USA and Denmark - what draws you to embed in various cultures?
Living and working in so many countries has influenced me in many ways. Leaving behind what is familiar to settle in the unfamiliar comes with it’s own challenges. Everything is new, the job, colleagues, city, streets, culture, house and food keeps you on your toes. How you deal with this is what makes you grow as a person and enriches your life. This is a lifestyle. I find it more difficult to come ‘home’ where you feel everything is as you left it. This is when I feel my creativity stagnates. I find different cultures incredibly fascinating and always learn something very valuable from my interactions with people at all levels, from street vendors to Bollywood directors.
Your work in fashion and interior design strike me as ‘eclectic influences meet uncompromising refinement’ - How would you describe your style in your own words?
Thank you; I think it is easier for people on the outside to define my style but if I were to try,
I would describe my style as opulent but also nostalgic, I love the diversity in elements and expression. My style will always have a subtle undertone of lux.
You finished top of your class at the prestigious French Fashion Design University, Esmod – how did your education help to future-proof your career?
I remember my first day, on the notice board it was a list of suggested vitamins to take. I thought it was odd at the time but a month in, it made perfect sense. It was French teachers and discipline all the way. My first meeting with the teachers left me thinking what have I signed up for. The information was clear, there were no excuses not to deliver a project on time, the class would reduce to half after 6 months and for the next 3 years the word vacation would be a vague memory.
I would say these are the key points that has shaped me as a designer:
Be a trendsetter, not follower.
Always keep to the deadline, always!
Change – you can never fully prepare yourself for it but the understanding that when you think a collection is complete; it never is.
Work ethics and discipline.
You have a vast amount of sourcing knowledge – ranging from Rugs by Dianne Von Furstenberg to Petrified Wood Furniture from Indonesia – how do you work with clients to gently expand their horizons?
The key for me is the understanding of the client and their needs. Whether it’s a new restaurant to open, a private home or a property going on the market. Only after understanding the client’s needs, can I influence and use my esthetic knowledge. During this creative process it’s vital to keep within the clients universe and to bring them along on this creative journey as then they will be more receptive to change and design they would not naturally have embraced themselves.
Part of your proposition is deep knowledge of the local market – why is it important for design consultants to also be property investment consultants?
We can see the potential in the property. Having the ability to see past the renovations, clutters or decoration is a skill not everyone processes. It’s our job to help the client see past this and present them with the opportunity and the potential that is in front of them. This allows the client to make a fully informed decision in their buying process. At the end of the day it all comes down to one thing, sales. With property it’s all about getting one more bidder in the auction. It’s my job to attract the client to the property by creating a visual universe they can see themself living in.
In your online shop you curate ‘carefully selected treasures’ that are affordable – why is it important for good taste to be accessible?
The world has become very small, which means the choices of things people are faced with are huge! My Grandparents would visit their local store and choose from the stock they had but now it is difficult to know what options are available to you. Part of my passion is keeping up with not only the latest trends in interiors but also what vintage items will mix well with them. When selecting my treasures, I like to keep a balance of style and quality.
You have focused on styling young girls in the past – is the furniture industry missing out on high quality products for that group?
I feel in Scandinavia we have focus on children’s furniture, quality and design. Having said that, many are led by trends and price over quality, no different then from the fashion industry. There is amazing design furniture with heirloom qualities for children on the market but the market is unfortunately led by quick purchases in volume at lower cost. Comparing the two industries the interior industry is less volatile.
What are your biggest all-time and current creative influences?
Hotels. On my travels over the years I always prioritized staying in good hotels. I can make my itinerary around a hotel, so the Hotel sets the destination. It’s the perfect illusion and stages were I can be the most creative.
You settled in Helsingborg to raise your daughter – what was it about this town that makes it a great place to live?
Had you asked me 10 years ago if I would ever live in Sweden, my answer would be no. It was never on my list of places to live. Some times life has its own plan for you. We moved here from London setting up our design company with the intention to move back. During our first years here we traveled a lot so it was nice to return to a place where the pulse was a few beats down from New York and Shanghai. This gave me the calmness to create new collections. We live 100 meters from white sandy beaches with the same distance to the forest; an ideal place to raise our daughter. We are on our 7th year and are enjoying a more laid back lifestyle, for now. When I get a big city urge I take the car and we’re in Copenhagen in an hour. Having everything within reach is amazing.
What local furniture brands and artists would you recommend we check out?
Scandinavia has so much creative talent and difficult to limit the list. I have favorites within the different design houses, and not the range as a whole. Here are a few: Bruno Mathsson, Arne Norell, Eric Sigrfid Persson, Overgaard & Dyrman, Poul Kjærholm, Verner Panton, Arne Jacobsen, Hans J. Wagner, Preben Fabricius, Gubi, OX Denmark, Sigurd Resell, AYTM, Smaelta, Louise Roe Copenhagen, Menu, Skultuna.
Credits – Pastiche
ANTONIOLUPI PRESENTS CONTROVERSO
Controverso springs from a thought, from action and transforms the product into an experience. Controverso is a proposal that comes from respect for nature shared by the designer Paolo Ulian and antoniolupi. Controverso is a marble monolith of geometrical shape, squared, which is processed to detonate all its inherent strength. A strong and delicate gesture at the same time, an interpretation of the creative act that meets production, a sink that fits into contemporary environments but also in different contexts.
FLOWER EVOLUTION FROM GLASS DESIGN S.R.L
Freestanding washbasins born from the passion and commitment to create more than just a simple washbasin, but rather a real sculpture from the ground up. This essential product is embellished by exclusive colours and finishes making it a true protagonist of its environment.
Designed by the architect Marco Pisati, FLOwer Evolution is a free standing washbasin inspired by the world of nature. The project is rooted in the desire to create a washbasin of soft and enveloping shapes, which can gently fit into the modern bathroom environment. Designed by Marco Pisati
We talk to the Founder and Creative Director of MYA ROSE about contrasts, soft and sophisticated feminine styling, business, family and Devon.
What does MYA ROSE do for the woman that wears it?
Mya Rose is aimed at women who are interested in art, design and culture, who value beauty, style and intelligent design and want to express this in the way they dress and present themselves. They don’t want to wear the same as everyone else, instead taking pride in finding something unique and crafted. But that uniqueness cannot come at the cost of elegance. The garments must always be flattering and luxurious. Mya Rose enhances the woman, rather than overpowering her. Attracting attention, not by shouting, but with a sophisticated originality. The woman is at the core of the brand and it is important to me that the clothes are comfortable and flattering to wear.
Contrasts are a key theme in your work – what are your design inspirations?
I have always been interested in two very different areas of design. A directional, contemporary look from designers like Chalayan and Philip Lim. But also designers like Valentino and Nina Ricci who bring a femininity I find irresistible. The Mya Rose perspective came from bringing these very different points of view together within the context of the season. Modern architecture is something I am very drawn to, from the uid, curved lines of Zaha Hadid to the neo-futuristic style of Santiago Calatrava. I like to combine graphic lines and structure with texture and fluidity, exploring the contrasts in form and fabrication. I also like to look at vintage fashion for inspiration, particularly the way garments are cut and constructed. There is an intelligence and craft to creative pattern cutting, which is more prevalent in vintage pieces.
You named your debut collection Abstract Equilibrium – what’s the meaning behind the name?
It describes the process of bringing together abstract and contrasting elements to a conclusion that is harmonious, while maintaining the character of the opposing themes. The debut collection needed to be an introduction to the brand and to express the identity of Mya Rose, so the challenge was to represent the contrast between the architectural, contemporary styling and a wearable femininity. I took inspiration from abstract architectural photography, which frames only a cropped shape or detail from a piece of contemporary architectural design. Being out of context of the building, the image becomes like a piece of contemporary art. The pieces have personality and a unique style, which I feel is both flattering and directional, which is what I wanted to achieve.
Your creations are handmade with a fastidious level of attention to detail?
I do the pattern cutting and toiling of garments myself, because I enjoy it, and because for me it’s an extension of the design process. When your drawing comes to life on a mannequin you see it from a new perspective and it gives you the opportunity to move around the body and explore the design in a more sculptural way. I can spend days working on the design of each piece in this way. Then the sampling process begins, cutting and sewing multiple samples, adjusting the fit and detailing until I’m happy with the result. Even then there is still a lot of work getting the luxury finish inside the garment. Whether it’s lining, binding or hand finishing
the internal construction, these details that are generally unseen are just as important to the woman wearing it, and in complex styles it can take a surprising amount of problem solving. Once all of the sampling is complete and patterns graded, the process of hand making the piece for a customer is done by a skilled seamstress in England. Instead of sending it to a factory, where each machinist makes a section of the garment, before sending it down the production line to the next, Mya Rose pieces are carefully cut and sewn, from start to finish by one skilled seamstress who can give that piece the love and attention a luxury product deserves.
You have worked at exciting brands such as Bora Aksu, Chris Liu and Temperley London – when/how did you realize that you were ready to launch your own brand?
It was something I had always wanted to do, but there was a time last year when it suddenly felt that all of my experiences so far, and even things that were beyond my control, were leading me to this point. I temporarily moved from London, back to my countryside home of Devon with my young family, and loved bringing the girls up here. I had also been working freelance as the sole designer for a new womenswear brand, and working in a very small team gave me an insight into much more of the business. I gained so much more experience and belief in myself, it showed me that I already had a very good grounding, and that the business areas that were newer to me were things I could take on and learn. I felt empowered and realised that instead of this just being a fanciful dream, it was a chance for me to combine my professional and personal life in a way that allowed me to take control of the career I love while also allowing me to be there as a mother to my girls.
What makes a product luxurious - how do your customers discover luxury in your creations?
In simple terms, as a product category, luxury is mainly de ned by the price, which in turn gives it a sense of exclusivity. But the high price of luxury is a result of what has gone into the product, from materials to manufacturing. This positioning then has to be justified on an emotive level, it has to look and feel special and of exceptional quality. For Mya Rose, it’s luxurious because of the whole design and manufacturing process, as well as the fabrication, which is important to making the garments look and feel special to wear. It’s the attention to detail that goes into the design, construction and the way each piece is handmade and nished internally.
You come across as having huge passion for both design and business - what are your aspirations for MYA ROSE?
I do genuinely enjoy both the design and business elements of the brand. This was another realisation that helped me to take the plunge and start the company. So many designers are nervous of the business aspect and I felt that having that entrepreneurial desire as well the love of designing had to be a good sign! Naturally, I want to see Mya Rose grow to be a recognised luxury brand with a selection of well-matched stockists, and to grow the collection to include a wider offering, four times a year. However I think there are great benefits to growing steadily and organically, so rather than rushing I want to focus on developing a core collection that I believe in, and can deliver beautifully made pieces in partnership with quality suppliers and manufacturers. My main focus right now is to make the business sustainable and secure the privilege of being able to do what I love every day.
What is required to make a designer a good businessperson?
I think they are two very different things and take very different mindsets. The biggest problem is separating your creative vision from the commercial considerations, or how to make the two work together. It can be easy for a designer to get wrapped up in what they want to create, and believe that if they just make something good enough, people will buy it. But you have to think a lot harder than that. You have to be true to your creative vision, or there is no point adding another brand to the already over-saturated market, but you need to consider how to make it different to everyone else, how it fits into the market and who your customer is. What does she want, and how can you get it to her? It’s a difficult balancing act between the freedom to be creative and analysing the collection for commercial balance. Are there enough tops / day dresses / fitted dresses / pieces with sleeves? Do you cater to a range of body shapes? Can it be made to a range of price-points? You have to be free to explore your vision but then think commercially and make dif cult editing decisions. This can be hard for a designer because it’s so personal, but if you get it right it’s rewarding, and personally I enjoy the challenge of working like this.
You have mentioned that your mum (who took the risk to make feature films) inspired you to go for your dreams?
My family are the biggest inspiration, they have never followed the traditional path. As you mentioned they are now making feature films, which my Mum writes. But before that they made success of ventures including writing, organising entertainment events and running a family attraction, going back to my grandparents who ran a circus in Australia! When one business ran its course, instead of looking for a traditional job, they would come up with a completely new business idea and plan how to make it work. This independent, open-minded approach to business and life showed me that there is no set path, and that we really are in control of the life we lead. My husband also has his own business and is hugely supportive of what I’m doing. We are both very driven, and I love that at the end of the day we sit down together with a glass of wine and enjoy talking about our businesses and bouncing ideas off each other. Having your own business is all consuming and being able to share that experience is fantastic.
You recently moved back to Devon with your husband and daughters Mya and Rose. Why is it a good place for creativity?
I find the openness of the countryside gives me room to breath and the clarity to focus on my work. It suits me better than the city. We also live just a few minutes from the sea, and when
I need to work something out I just walk down the road and along the beach. The sound of the sea on the sand is so calming and always allows me to think things through clearly and return to work with a renewed focus. Devon is a beautiful part of the country made up of many contrasts. Lush, green rolling hills, the dramatic scenery of the moors, beautiful rivers and woodlands and both northern, and southern facing coastlines. There are charming historic villages, buildings and castles, rural market towns and coastal resorts. The pace of life here is relaxed and the people are friendly. The varied landscape inspires artists and encourages people to enjoy the outdoors with activities like sailing, surfing, hiking and horse riding. It’s a place known for fresh shing and farming produce, cream teas and seaside holidays. It is not particularly known for fashion, but who knows, perhaps that will change!
Visit the Website: www.mya-rose.com
MIRIT WEINSTOCK - interview with the triple threat: fashion designer, jewelry designer and artist who lives and works between Tel Aviv and Paris.
Your Facebook page features the motto: “The less fashion she wears, the more beautiful she is”?
I liked this quote by Armani that I found years ago. I think it is about staying true to who you are instead of trying too hard and becoming a fashion victim.
You are a triple threat of fashion designer, jewelry designer and artist - where does one begin and end?
All those three elds in uence and inspire one another. In my jewelry there are details and inspirations from fashion, while the jewellery are often referred to as “art pieces or small sculptures”. In my art works I use materials that I initially used in my jewelry and fashion such
as eyelashes, embroidery, porcelain etc. This creates a versatile body of work that explores not only questions inside fashion, jewelry or ne art but also the dialogue between them.
You described your collection as: ‘dreamy, poetic and slightly humorous, drawing inspiration from childhood memories and souvenirs to create a surrealist nal showcase.’ How do you distill the above into polished luxury offerings?
I’m fascinated by materials; mostly ones that possess a poetic aspect in them such as origami boats, eyelashes, sparkling ornaments etc. I play with them in the studio and transform them into jewelry by dipping them in silver or gold and later designing a completely new and surprising jewelry combining them with pearls, stones and other motives from the classic jewelry world. I think “Luxury crafted ne jewelry” is the best title to describe my jewelry, given by Colette when the collection was launched there in 2011.
You honed your skills alongside Alexander McQueen and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin – what was that experience like?
It was 13 years ago when I decided to travel to Europe and nd internships in fashion houses.
It was my dream after graduation! I was lucky to have the opportunity to work in those masters’ studios. At McQueen I worked mostly on hand made pieces like a shoelace dress and
a pompom coat – two beautiful pieces that ended up on the runway! At Lanvin most of the internship period I was the only intern in the studio (!), which allowed me to work quite closely with Alber Elbaz. He included me in many studio activities: I did research for the new collections, helped the design team, was part of things and helped towards the runway shows. It was magical, inspiring and stressful like fashion is...
How tricky was it to forge your own style while working for such big names?
I was too honoured to even think about my own style. I admired both McQueen and Alber Elbaz so much! Of course I hoped that one day I could be as amazing as they are / were. When I decided later to launch my own brand I realized how much the experience in uenced my style. Maybe even too much in my rst collections
What are your abiding memories of Alexander McQueen?
The way he did tting, it was like watching magic... a piece of fabric suddenly became a sculpture on the model’s body.
You launched your ready to wear collection for women in 2004 - how do you maintain your super-enthusiastic energy?
My RTW collection is a capsule collection, produced in-house and sold only in Israel. Although it is not sold internationally like my jewelry, and is rather small it is a precious creation for me because fashion is my rst love, and I guess that is what keeps me enthusiastic. In my collections I focus on two big loves: romantic dresses and vintage pieces that I nd in ea markets around the world and later hand work on them.
M♥W is a high-end luxury crafts jewelry collection - Tell us about your new jewelry collection for fall?
For Fall/Winter 2017 jewelry collection I present “Tatamu” – “to fold” in Japanese. The collection is inspired by Japanese paper arts, translating the paper textures, creases, folds and structures into jewelry. I’m presenting sparkling pieces with a 1980’s inspiration spark, focusing on geometric shapes such as hoops, circles, and holes.
What is your creative process for Jewellery?
My creative process is all about exploring materials and transforming them into completely new objects. I look at a shuttlecock ball and see jewelry. I search and play with materials constantly: eyelashes, whistles, party ornaments, dry owers, papers, origami, balloons, small plastic animals, cocktail straws... All are potential jewelry for me. When I visit a 100yen shop I get dizzy from ideas. It is such a creative, fun, playful and surprising process and it is endless as there are so many wonderful materials around us.
Your work has been exhibited at top boutiques around the world such as Joyce HK, Galeries Lafayette Beijing, Maryam Nassir Zadeh NY etc. - which other countries would you like to expand into?
I’m so honored that my jewelry are exhibited in those boutiques and many more! Since 2015 my jewelry sales are expanding in Japan. This is very exciting and I have since had the chance to visit a few times. With each visit I’m more and more fascinated by Japan’s culture, crafts, style, art and design. I would de nitely want to expand my brand visibility in Japan, show my art works there and spend more time in this inspiring country.
You completed your Masters of Fine Arts Degree in 2013 - why would a fashion designer need to study art?
I was flirting with the fine art world for years before applying to the MFA program. I felt that I wanted to go deeper in to the art world, explore new ways of thinking and medias to create in. It was such a journey! Very different from design; I did use in my art works my skills as a fashion and jewelry designer but it is a whole new approach and thinking to create works that have only a symbolic meaning rather than a functional one. In my MFA I started doing video art and sound works, text works and photography.
Your first solo exhibition “Love Does(nt) Exist” You were inspired by a curious linguistic phenomenon in an Azerbaijan traditional language, Juhuri, in which there is no word for ‘LOVE’??
I was speaking with my friend Mark about his girlfriend and their love story. He replied that he doesn’t think about it that way. Mark explained that his parents are originally from Azerbaijan and in their language Juhuri the word love doesn’t exist. I thought that was quite fascinating and weird at the same time. Two years later when I started working on my solo exhibition I began exploring and interviewing immigrants from Azerbaijan to learn more about their language and the use of the word love. They explained that each love is different, so they express it in different words and don’t refer the single term “love” to everything they love from a lover to child to food. This raised many questions about the use of the word love in English, French and Hebrew (the languages I speak) such as why do we use only one word to describe such different emotions? Why do we use this word so often, almost without thinking about its meaning..? That was the beginning of my exhibition. Later, inspired by Juhuri I invited writers, poets and philosophers to write a text about the thing they love the most without using the word love. I chose 11 texts and created 11 art works, each work referring to a text. A small book with the texts was exhibited alongside the works.
Are you participating in any exhibitions currently?
Yes I am, and for the rst time in a museum! I’m showing “My Sad Houses” – paper sculptures dipped in silver and gold in the Israeli Paper Biennale “On The Edge” at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. It is a wonderful show that will exhibit until the end of summer to: It is a wonderful show that will exhibit until the fall.
You’ve established yourself as a leading fashion brand, jewelry designer and artist - what type of creative collaborations are you potentially interested in?
I would love to collaborate with fashion houses I love such as Simone Rocha, Ashish or Mui Mui creating a jewelry collection for them. I would also love to expend my collaborations with boutiques that carry my jewelry and collaborate with them in the eld of ne arts. I’m dreaming about site-speci c installations in those boutiques amazing spaces, that will create new dialogues between fashion and art.
You split your time between Tel Aviv and Paris - What’s the TA fashion scene like? How does it differ from Paris?
TA fashion scene is much more experimental than the classic established fashion we see in Paris. I think TA is full of energy and talent. It is quite difficult to be a designer in Israel as it is a small country without much government support for designers and the production industry. Many designers own small shops and produce their collections in-house. In the past years we see more and more Israeli designers that show and sell internationally which makes me very happy! Marketing is key - the romantic approach of an artist that only sits in his atelier and creates doesn’t exist in our era, and I wonder if it ever did. Good marketing requires creativity too and can be quite interesting sometimes.
Credits - Mirit Weinstock
ALEXANDRA SCHÄFER - the network of VELVENOIRś art consultants dedicate themselves to creating unique and authentic hotel experiences through art.
Creating unique and extraordinary experiences with original art for hotel properties around the world. Increasingly, travelers appreciate unique hospitality brands with strong personalities that are both working environments for urban nomads and places to meet people and enjoy interesting experiences. The discerning guest wishes to feel like they are experiencing something that has been carefully designed and considered, with meticulous attention to detail. Together, these elements constitute the overall hotel ‘experience’. They want to feel like they have found a hidden gem that they can recommend to other discerning travelers, which in turn will re ect their own criteria for unique and one-off hotels and serviced apartments.
VELVENOIR recognise and understand the future changes that will take place within the luxury hotel market. Working with our international network of experts, we bring industry know-how and a global scope that allows us to offer a tailored and authentic guest experience.
Expectations are on the rise, and it is crucial to differentiate the hotel brand from all others through a developed art concept which complements and re ects the individual values, philosophy and design of a hotel company. Due to the rapidly growing luxury hotel market, hotels are now seeking a way to distinguish their business from the competition, by creating a clear brand identity and offering a truly unique guest experience. Building a carefully curated and engaging art collection with VELVENOIR can help achieve this. Selected artworks would serve as both an aesthetic and nancial asset, but would also generate marketing and publicity for the hotel through clients sharing images and locations via social media.
Times have changed, and guests are always on the look-out for something new, unique and authentic that matches their lifestyle. Therefore, it is essential for hotel owners, developers
and interior designers to acknowledge the importance of acquiring one-of-a kind artworks, that not only accompany the interior design concept but also have an individual story to share. The guest can participate and be inspired by this narrative in the interior, by strolling through the hotel and exploring the art collection. Some boutique hotels have already discovered this concept and displayed provocative pieces of art, which designers have incorporated within the hotel to de ne a mood or tailor the experience based on the target audience. Whilst other boutique hotels have taken this idea a step further and purchased artwork to house in their own galleries, which in turn has provided a ‘must see’ attraction and another reason for guests to visit. Likewise, public areas in these hotels are a unique space in which guests can experience large art installations, and re ect on their abstract concepts. A stay in such a hotel
is not only very special, but allows guests to participate in the process of artistic exchange and critique.
How does an international network of art and hospitality experts assist developers in completing this vision?
VELVENOIR has selected the best in class to work on each project to achieve an aesthetic of understated luxury and engagement with art outsourced from international career artists. The network assists interior designers and project managers from budgeting and concept planning, to procurement and installation. Together, the team aims to develop and execute a well-conceived and fully realised art collection, tailored to each hotel and their guests.
Boutique hotels are created for a reason. Guests no longer want to simply ‘stay’ in a hotel. Instead, guests want to play, work, enjoy and experience a thoughtful hotel concept together with elements that inspire and engage them. It is here that ne art and interior design feature to transform the hotel experience. However, individuality is a key component that has to be incorporated to the design and art concept. As a living art space, the hotel should offer its guests the chance to enjoy its site-speci c collection in an exclusive, relaxed and unrestricted manner. A collection should grow organically over a period of time, and integrate with its environment.
“Collaborations are key for VELVENOIR. Together the network is able to access a broad spectrum of various mediums from international artists to create tailored experiences where the art re ects the richness of the property, interior design concept and the person living or visiting. With a strong network of partners, we are able to offer a service that goes beyond our clients’ expectations. We are delighted to share the same vision and mission with our partners in showing clients how original art makes a difference in residential, commercial and even hotel projects.” – Alexandra Schafer
As each hotel is a unique project for the VELVENOIR network, we are keen to develop a concept that strives to engage with guests, so they make an emotional connection with the hotel and its staff from the rst moment they arrive at the hotel. This “emotional luxury” also relates to the ideas of authenticity and heritage. Therefore, we seek to develop and execute an art concept that inspires and engages guests with each hotel brand, with an authentic artistic connection that invites guests to experience the rich cultural heritage of surrounding areas.
As with many hotels, the network proposes a concept that merges a traditional yet contemporary, local yet global art collection, which will blend the culture of the country where the hotel is located with a wider vision in keeping with the philosophy of each hotel concept. The design itself will capture the essence of the hotel brand, speci cally created by various interior design rms – VELVENOIR brings in regional artworks, installations and commissioned artworks to tailor a truly unique guest experience.
Credits – Velvenior & Art Consultany Partners Merten Riesner
A mixed media artist from Poland – lived in Britain, Switzerland and Spain. We find out how it all comes together.
You are a mixed media artist working with a variety of materials – how do you achieve harmony between such vastly different elements?
I started experimenting with mixed media at university, particularly within my figurative work where I would regularly use pastels and acrylics together. Since registered as a full time self-employed artist I have really dedicated my practice to refining my style and developing my own techniques, in particular with the inclusion of gold leaf. I’ve found out that each technique has it’s own impact and interactions with the others. There is always an element of randomness in each of my works where I will allow the medium to temporarily dictate the direction that the painting will take. For example, in “Exploration 4” I used an acrylic base to create the underlying structure of the landscape then allowed the watercolours to flow as it chose in order to capture a sense of natural liquidity.
Your figurative works demonstrate your interest in representing female expression?
I consider myself to be an abstract expressionist artist and am most fascinated in attempting to represent individual moments of experience and capturing a sense of the mood of the subject. I am not trying to achieve hyperrealism and although I regularly paint nudes, I rarely work on paintings that I would call erotic. My figurative paintings tend to be quite personal and whilst they are certainly not self-portraits in the traditional sense, they usually represent some aspect of myself. I began working on figuratives at university. This was a particularly difficult and turbulent period for me and my figurative paintings from that period are consequently quite dramatic and in some cases also quite dark. The faces of the women that I painted during this time were always covered by a streak of white, representing bandages covering my personal internal wounds. My recent figurative works have lost their bandages and are far more positive and uninhibited and hopefully appear more mature and refined.
Land and seascapes also form a part of your portfolio, alongside flowers and portraits?
I am very aware that having a recognisable style is essential in the art world. I enjoy maintaining a presence in both the abstract landscape and figurative genres as it allows me the creative freedom that I need and feel that my style in both areas is unique. The diverse nature of the subjects means that there are different audiences for each but I have found that my core audience appreciates the variation. In short, the variety of subject matter is essentially a historical artefact due to the manner in which I have trained and developed as an artist. I am proud of my earlier work and still happily paint the occasional floral or maritime scene for a commission, but my focus is no longer on these subjects and I always try to draw attention towards the direction that my current work is taking me.
You are from Lublin - what are your greatest Polish artistic influences?
I feel that my art has been strongly influenced by two particular aspects of Polish Art. On the one hand, I love more the traditional, representative art yet on the other hand I also love non-traditional media, textures and use of colour. Polish pre-expressionism, from the late 19th and early 20th century was a movement that began to shift away from highly traditional representative painting, allowing the artists the freedom to express themselves whilst still maintaining a sense of reality. Paintings from this period tend to use stronger, more expressive colours and bolder brush strokes. Wojciech Weiss and Jan Stanislawski are two of my favourite artists from this period. Art from post Second World War Poland, especially the 1950s/1960’s began to move away from traditional painting techniques and media and started to include much more in the way of sculptural form and textures. As a textile artist, this obviously resonated with me whilst I was studying at college and gave me a degree of confidence about incorporating unusual mediums into my work. Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930 – 2017) was a Polish artist/sculptor and fibre artist, known for using textiles as a sculptural medium. One of her most recognizable works is a 3 dimensional fibre work called Abakans and also her figurative and non-figurative series called Humanoids. I have found her work inspiring ever since I was in Art College studying textiles as she was merging textile art and sculpture.
You have lived in England, Switzerland and now Spain. What is the experience of an artist in a new land?
When I first moved to Cambridge in 2005 I barely spoke a word of English. I had never tried selling my own paintings before and had high expectations of instantly being able to make a living as an artist. I quickly learnt that dreams and reality can take rather longer to coincide and that the contemporary art galleries in Cambridge were, for some reason, not particularly interested in representing an unknown, unsolicited, uninvited and often quite damp and bedraggled artist wondering in off the streets clutching a nicely decorated album of photographs of my paintings.
With the help of my husband, I managed to secure a few local exhibitions before being introduced to the Nantais Gallery by a friend. All of this was happening at the same time as the arrival of our first child and I even managed to find time for a graphic design and advanced computer art course and English lessons at the local training centre. It was a difficult period for me in many respects, but it boosted my confidence about my language abilities as well as providing me the opportunity to continue to be creative whilst trying to figure out the complexities of being a first time Mum in a foreign country.
After my husband received an irresistible job offer in Switzerland, we packed up and moved
to a small town near Zurich. This time I was slightly more prepared for the language change, although German will always be something of a mystery to me, and after a bit of settling in to the new environment, I found time to get the paints out more and more regularly. History repeated itself and in 2011 I found myself nursing my second child in another foreign country. I continued to paint for the Nantais Gallery and also for myself and my work began to take on a more abstract form, possibly influenced by the quite noticeable Swiss trend towards minimalism. With the help of a close friend who had been a curator for the Henry Moore Foundation, I held a well-received exhibition focussing on my figurative work. Just before Christmas 2014 we found ourselves choosing between staying in Switzerland or heading somewhere more suited to our dreams of living a self-sufficient and artistic lifestyle, so we headed to central Spain. It was supposed to be a temporary stopping off point whilst we figured out exactly where we wanted to be, but as these things tend to work out differently from how we imagine them, we’re still happily here.
How has knowledge of various countries impacted your work?
Every country has left its indelible mark on my work. Each has it’s own unique cultural idiosyncrasies, artistic preferences and heritage and I’m very aware that I only scratched the surface of what each country has to offer.
My work in England was very much influenced by the weather and landscape, with blue being a particularly dominant colour, especially with flower paintings.
Switzerland imparted a far more abstract feel to my work and set me on the path towards being more restrained with my choices of colour for an individual painting.
Spain’s influence is by far the most noticeable in the contrast between my works of different periods. We love exploring remote areas and have experienced some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen in our regular trips into the various Spanish mountains. The incredible cool turquoise waters of the Alto Tajo, quite literally took my breath away as we all plunged in for the first time. The tranquillity and spectacular scenery of Asturias, on the northern coast, provides a never-ending source of inspiration. And of course, the sunshine. My use of gold leaf in most of my recent work is in no small way due to the need to try to represent the sunshine that dominates the land I now live in. Culturally, Spain’s surrealist history also plays a strong part in my figurative work. Whilst there is a strong hyper realistic art movement at work here, the enduring influences of Dali and Picasso provide a wonderful framework for enabling artists to experiment with alternative forms of representation and I have found that my figurative work has much support here.
You are featured in the Saatchi Art catalogue – must have been a boost?
When I first went full time, I hadn’t realised just how hard it would be to get noticed. The small successes that are visible on social media are dwarfed by the phenomenal amount of effort it takes to achieve them. I have been lucky enough to have work regularly included in RiseArt’s curated collections and that always helps to raise my visibility but being featured in the SaatchiArt Catalogue was undoubtedly one of the largest boosts my career has had to date. It was an honour to be selected for the catalogue and it has started something of a chain reaction as I have now also been featured in their New This Week series and am scheduled to be included in their forthcoming Artist of the Day series. SaatchiArt’s Instagram post of my painting “Blush” attracted over 3000 likes, which definitely helped!
What types of Interior Design projects are you looking to get involved with?
Whilst I am always delighted to work on any project, I love getting involved in larger projects, as it tends to compliment my natural way of working where I’ll work on a number of related pieces concurrently. My paintings are generally quite organic and peaceful and also a little luxurious; I think that this combination of qualities may find particular relevance within the healthcare, real estate and hospitality industries. I would like to think that my work brings a peaceful sense of the natural world into a space. I hope that it offers designers the opportunity to incorporate something familiar yet also highly contemporary and a little exotic into their projects and that my work can be used to accentuate their designs with a joyful yet considered sense of playing with colour and light. I believe that my work can provide an attractive focal point without being too overbearing or demanding.
What exhibitions do you have coming up?
I have actually just about finished a pretty intense period of exhibitions all over Europe, including Cambridge, Florence, Marbella, London, Madrid, Alkmaar and Cologne.
A selection of my work is permanently on display at the Darryl Nantais Gallery in Linton, near Cambridge, England, Corte-Real Gallery in Paderne in the Algarve, Portugal and by the time this goes to press, also in Galeria Retxa in Ciudadela on the island of Menorca.
I’m currently in discussions with galleries in Lisbon, Madrid and Cuenca regarding exhibitions later this year and early 2018. I shall also be exhibiting at a solo stand (24) at Malaga Contemporary Art Fair from June 30th – July 2nd and will be represented by the Darryl Nantais Gallery at the Edinburgh and Cambridge Art Fairs, both in mid November this year.
What are your favourite places in the four countries you have lived in?
I have many fond memories of Cambridge, but Jesus Green stands out particularly as I used to walk there beside the river every day with my daughter. My favourite place in England is West Dorset; I love the rolling hills and Jurassic coastline and have spent many weeks there staying with my husband’s parents.
My hometown of Lublin has a lot of history and I still love the cobbled streets and vibrant atmosphere of the old town. My favourite spot, however, is about 30km East of the town, beside the fishponds sunk into in the gentle hills where I used to spend my summers as a child. I still take my own children there as often as I can. Switzerland is renowned for it’s spectacular scenery, in particular the central line of the Alps, however, my favourite spot has to be the tiny fishing village of Gandria, located in the Ticino region in the south, on the edge of Lago di Lugano. Exploring the maze of narrow streets with an excited 5 year old and husband was a wonderful experience!
I adore Spain. Whilst I do enjoy the occasional day on the beach, there are spectacular hidden gems all over the country that I definitely prefer. The mountains north of Cuenca, to the East
of Madrid, hold some of the most beautiful river scenery that I’ve ever seen and there is something absolutely magical about floating in the almost deserted turquoise waters of the Alto Tajo on a hot summer day. The other area that I fell in love with immediately was Asturias, on the northern coast. After crossing the mountains heading north from Leon, there’s a moment when Asturias simply unfolds before your eyes. The mountains gradually become orchard covered hills that could almost be mistaken for a slightly more extreme version of Dorset, if it weren’t for the palms and banana trees! Keep travelling north and you reach some of the most amazing coastline I’ve ever seen, with a mix of sandy and rocky beaches, caves and cliffs. I hear that it’s busy during the long Spanish summer holidays, but if you manage to go in early September, the weather and the water are still easily warm enough for swimming and there’s no-one else there. Bliss!
This article is the first in a series resurrecting an approach to understanding art, first introduced by the famous New York furniture dealer Israel Sack (before anybody reading this but me was born). I will pick a different maker and form every three months. If there is something you would like to have included here, please write to me directly.
“Good, better, best” should read exactly as it sounds. Today we’re looking at three levels of coffee tables by the famed New Hope, Pennsylvania designer George Nakashima. As many of you know, Nakashima is the man who first popularized “free edge” furniture, working from the late 1940’s until his death in 1990. His daughter Mira, a formidable designer in her own right, carries on the tradition through today.
Nakashima made furniture of every stripe but he is best remembered for his coffee tables, the prices of which are supported by a world-based market. As Mira once noted while giving a lecture at my auction hall, her father used roughly hewn, “flitch cut” pieces for his creations because they were inexpensive cast-offs. When given lemons, make lemonade, and so rich a tonic was never produced with such vitality and distinction.
Good: Slab coffee table, New Hope, PA, 1973; Figured walnut; Signed with client name; 14” x 53 1/2” x 22 1/2”
Sold for: An elegant, basic Nakashima coffee table - The base, or support structure, is simple and more typical of George’s work from the 50’s and 60’s rather than this later date. As we shall see, the idea evolved into more architecturally complicated and pleasing. The wood used for the top board is interesting enough, though it lacks the intensity of his best work. The edges are relatively restrained, and there are no butterfly joints reinforcing in gaps at the top.
Sold for: $9,375
Better: Fine Minguren I coffee table, New Hope, PA, 1975; Figured walnut, rosewood; Unmarked; 15 1/2” x 77 1/2” x 32”
A better table in several ways - First, the top board is clearly more organic and exciting, yielding to an asymmetric edge. Further, the gaps and weak points in the board are secured in several places by Nakashima’s use of butterfly joints, usually of a contrasting material like rosewood. Additionally, the base structure, “Minguren 1” is a radical departure from his earlier work, more in line with traditional American furniture. This is a very strong piece of Nakashima.
Sold for: $30,000
Best: Exceptional walnut burl and East Indian laurel Conoid Long Coffee Table, 1966; Provenance: Toby Royston, Folly Cottage, Exton, PA, copy of original invoice available; Unmarked; 15 1/4” x 82” x 22 1/2”
Nakashima studio, at the risk of oversimplifying his work, produced three levels of furniture. The first are fairly simply, functional pieces, either mild or straight edge. Most of his padded lounge chairs, sofas, and ottomans come to mind. Next, like the two pieces mentioned above, are one-offs of fine quality but typify most of his production. The third level seem to be pieces made for friends of the family, or at least people with whom George had a deeper relationship. These have at least one of the following: Rare wood type, extraordinary free edge, numerous structural details, and unusual function. This table made for a friend of Nakashima who lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house “without a right angle”, is a “one in a hundred” piece in several ways. The piece of wood used for the top was both rare in Nakashima’s work and posed an unusual problem in making a compatible base. Nakashima made a sleigh base for this table, one of a small percentage found on his coffee tables. The scale is also atypical, longer and thinner, serving more as a piece of sculpture than a functional table. I am sure there is something else like this out there, but I haven’t seen it.
Sold for: $146,40
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