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Samoan Bark Cloth
The ancient craft of creating bark cloth is shared by numerous cultures around the world. In Samoa, this textile tradition has been passed down for generations and is an integral component of gift exchange. The textile we see here is a prime example of a siapo tasina, a type of bark cloth (siapo) that has...
Getting Better
This poster designed by Seymour Chwast for Herman Miller Furniture Company is all about the details. Chwast skillfully packed a bustling city scene overflowing with conversation into the poster’s vertical format, requiring the viewer to look closely and engage with the design’s dialogue as though reading a comic or storybook animated by the designer’s careful...
When a Tile is Not a Tile
This paper fascinates me, which explains why I acquired it for the museum collection. It is an inexpensive, Depression-era paper, but it packs a lot of punch. The design is reminiscent of ceramic tiles which makes it a less than formal pattern and gives it more of a functional aesthetic. While this certainly could be...
Playing with Modern Design
The Wobblies show their wobbliness, which is cleverly illustrated on their box by faint wavy blue lines. Interestingly, there are two definitions of the word wobbly. The first is “inclined to wobble; shaky.” A Wobbly (capitalized) is also “a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, an international, revolutionary industrial union founded in Chicago...
Behind the History of Chinese Ornament
Examples of Chinese Ornament Selected from Objects in the South Kensington Museum and Other Collections (figure 1) was written by Owen Jones (1809-1874), one of the most influential English architects, designers, and design theorists of the nineteenth century. Jones selected 100 full-color plates sourced from the motifs of Chinese ceramics, cloisonné works, and carpet designs,...
Return of the Native
This frieze by the New York-based Robert Graves Co. is an excellent example of the use of Native American motifs in American design at the turn of the century. Though this was an age that saw an unprecedented suppression of native culture, Native American art itself saw an unprecedented wave of appreciation and praise, particularly...
To Be Frankl
Opened in the early 1920s, when major museum exhibitions on contemporary American design were highlighting period revival styles, Frankl Galleries aimed to give direction to contemporary design in America, “particularly as it relates to industry.”[1][2]  Showcasing an innovative selection of furniture, decorative arts and interior design, Frankl Galleries inaugurated a new wave of Modernism in America, one which...
“All Kirked Up: Tiffany and Co. Pitcher”
During the second half of the nineteenth century, there was burgeoning interest in the designs of the Middle East, Japan, and China. This passion for all things that were “exotic” in the eyes of Americans led to a craze for objects inspired by these international decorative arts. At the time, much of the silver created...
Reclaimed Wool: Brown’s Beach Jacket
Historically wool was one of the first fibers to be reclaimed.  The fiber’s inherent properties made it easy to recycled. In the United States, demand for this material started to exceed supply in the early nineteenth century, which promoted the development of a recovered wool trade. At the time most of the recycled product was imported from Britain....