Saturday, July 23, 2011

Elevate Yourself at Penland School of Crafts!

Well, the heat is on, and if you want to elevate yourself and increase your coolness in more ways than temperature, go to Penland School of Crafts in the Great Smokey Mountains, near Asheville North Carolina. American craft work in textiles, silver, paper, metal, ceramics, photography--you name it, has been going on here, since the turn of the 20th century. It is a great story, of the right person at the right time. Initially, Penland was an Episcopalian mission school for the industrial arts, training and educating the neglected population. Miss Lucy Morgan arrived to teach, after studying weaving at Berea College, and shifted the emphasis to the traditional craft work of the area. Inspired by the Craft Revival Movement, Miss Lucy taught the mountain folk how to weave, actively marketing their goods at resorts and fairs, Miss Lucy dramatically changed lives by creating cottage industries in the region.  Miss Lucy embraced the gifts of her new, impoverished community, relishing, honing and preserving their skills. She arrived with respect versus reform. It is a life lesson for all of us.
Miss Lucy is shown with Edward Worst of Chicago. Worst was a prominent member of John Dewey's Progressive Education movement, and believed that handicrafts taught as experiential education was an integral part of mental development. Fueled by reactions to the industrial revolution, the Arts and Crafts movement, instigated by William Morris and John Ruskin in England, flooded unexpected tributaries in America. To me, these kindred Pre-Raphaelites lived in a time where rules were broken and individuality  reigned.  The Impressionists were turning Royal Academies upside down in Europe. Frank Lloyd Wright was changing Architecture in America and Miss Lucy was training mountain folk and consumers. She was singular, creative and confident, while persuading the Episcopalian bishop to continue to back an entirely new enterprise.
You have got to love this woman as a complete force of nature for her cause. This is her traveling log cabin that she took to resorts, the Chicago Exposition, and many state fairs selling the arts of her burgeoning collective of teachers and artists, on consignment. The beauty of it all, is that her emphasis on hearth work, allowed women to supplement their family incomes while staying at home, creating handicrafts of their own designs, as artists in their own right. Today, the area surrounding the school is a vibrant artists' enclave, many of whom have been associated with Penland, with many studios open to the public. There are many others in the surrounding counties which may be visited by appointment. The gallery staff can provide you with maps and information about these artists.
I was lucky enough to watch some of the classes in progress. My favorite was the pop-up book making class, taught by Colette Fu
My nice guide Marie shepherded me around. We lingered in glass blowing for awhile. 
The gallery exhibits the work of Penland instructors and regional associated artists, where you might discover the next big collectible, or just find something that makes you happy. 

Burnsville, N.C. 
Session Two Instructor Fine Metals
Session Two Instructor: Flameworking
Floral Goblets
$200.00 each
Penland is a very cool place to visit or study. I'm thinking of a photography course. The countryside is breath taking, and if you are up for an event, the food, fresh from the school's vast vegetable garden is scrumptious!  There is great music in the area, and Asheville is a beautiful city, with stunning old spa hotels. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fantastic HGTV Freebie Friday Giveaway

Today, Dovecote Decor is excited to participate in the HGTV Freebie Friday blog. We selected one of our favorite introductions during the High Point April market. These great looking coffee or side tables are brightly lacquered and mix well with any design scheme. Light-hearted sophistication, with a fun 60's vibe, is how the designer describes her popular new line of Asian themed occasional tables. The giveaway starts this morning at 9:00 and lasts through Monday, July 18th at noon. You can link to the contest HERE.Leave a comment to be eligible with your e-mail address. Retailing for upwards of $500.00, the winner may choose any color. Good luck and tell your friends!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New York City: Out and About with My Girls

My girls live in New York and we love stalking the elusive bargain, meal or objet. I am convinced that if I lived here, I would be thin like everybody else. When I raise my hand to hail a cab, the girls berate me: "Mom!! it's only 20 blocks!" Needless to say, I have blisters. I've managed to clock months here, thanks to the kindness of family and friends, so I want to include a round-up of some of our favorite haunts.

One of our favorite outings was to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and hit the DUMBO flea market. Brooklyn Flea, now has multiple locations, based on season and is no longer under the bridge. We have scored many a hot item there, not to mention some highly collectible art pieces, for a song. The Sloan Kettering Thrift Shop, on the Upper East Side, is a consistent source for prints and excellent quality vintage couture clothing and accessories. I have added several Kipp's views to my collection, nicely framed for under $300.00 each. 

Johannes Kip (1653 - 1722) Dutch draughtsman, engraver, and print dealer who was active in England.
Leonard Knyff (1650 - 1721) Dutch draughtsman and painter, who collaborated with Johannes Kip to produce views of country houses and gardens for the publications, Britannia Illustrata, 1708. 

I love these prints and buy them colored. To authenticate them, take them off the wall and tilt them in the light. If the paper has visible tiny ridges, that is the old paper and not a reproduction. What makes them interesting, is the accuracy and scale of the spectacular English Seats, in their milieu.  These "Bird's Eye" views were done 80 years before the invention of Hot Air balloons, which makes them all the more ingenious. Some are poorly colored, avoid them. The Arthritis Foundation Thrift shop is two doors down. It is not as reliable, but worth a twirl. Walk down to Housing Works on 77th just East of 3rd Avenue. We have purchased stunning furniture there.  It is counterintuitive to think there is serious bargain shopping in NYC. The volume is so high, if you pay attention, and regularly shop the fleas and thrift stores, you can build a fabulous collection--ask Eddie Ross.  Moving along, the flower shops of New York are spectacular. The flower district and the florists, while expensive, are inspirational. There are several favorites in the East 50's.

ZeZe Flowers rules, as the #1 florist in New York. The space, flowers, exotic plants and accessories are an uber stylish mix of old and new. My father would say: "Train your eye, dear." I certainly do. 

Don't go to buy, unless you have an unlimited budget. Go for inspiration, but definitely eat at Ze Cafe around the corner, on East 52nd. The food is sublime, the intimate carriage house space lovely, and we were charmed by the still demure, Gloria Vanderbilt, lunching in a straw hat, elegant white sheath, with bright red sandals to match her signature red lips. Anderson Cooper inherited her inscrutable eyes. 

Manhattan’s century-old flower district occupies little more than a block of West 28th Street, between Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue, and is shrinking like a puddle in the sun. Delightfully lush, it is a verdant riot of color and fragrance. Go early, or pay retail and bring your business card. 

Threading throughout the city, numerous parks punctuate the architecture. Madison Square Park is a current favorite, due to the astonishing Jaume Plensa sculpture. Seriously, babies in strollers look up, wave their arms, wiggle and coo at the astonishing Echo . It is Located between Fifth and Madison Avenues, at 23rd and 26th street, in the Flat Iron district.  

Echo is a heart stopper, and a crowd experience, as people helplessly gravitate in her direction. Monumental at 40' high, the sculpture fools your eye. While she looks like a flat, photographic image--she is not. Beautiful Echo is so grand, she invites conversation among strangers, while she dwells within herself.  This is the most gorgeous sculpture I've ever seen and is right outside Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world. This fantastic gourmet emporium is the collaboration and dream of visionary foodies:  Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and her son Joe.  Oh dear God!! If you don't go, don't tell me. 

Formerly the old Toy building, 50,000 square feet of repurposed space devoted to food, conquers any craving you could conjure. They will even wash and chop your vegetables for you. If you've seen most New York kitchens, it makes perfect sense.  To feed our souls, we hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If I lived in New York I would go every week and be a brilliant (and thin) connoisseur. There is no such thing as having "done" the Met. There are always more, new ways of seeing art. On the way over, I can never resist a stop at Bardith. 

When the girls finally pull this Taurus out of the china shop, we agree to visit the historic rooms--again. The lines for Alexander McQueen were prohibitive. If you want to go, go early, or join the Met to skip the line.

My third daughter is a francophile, so we wandered through the elegant Wrightsman rooms. We were transported to one of the rare, great eras when the confluence of money, style and craftsmanship flowed seamlessly through the enfilade of daily ritual. The cavernous public spaces in New York provide first class people watching and the ultimate theatre, as far as I'm concerned. 

Caspar David Friedrich (German 1774-1840)

Take a spin through the romantic Rooms with a View exhibit. Then, if the weekend looms, and you need to get out of town, our favorite day trip, is a visit to the antique stalls in Stamford. We took the express train out of Grand Central, and walked up to Hiden galleries. 

There is plenty of good mid-century loot for those longing for their inner "Mad-Man" swanky modern schemes.

This is a great spot to knock out furnishings for a new country or beach house--negotiate!

Eclectic urbanistas can quickly layer a room, evoking generations of diverse phases. Hamptons House and Gardens has a great collection of vintage Jansen. For dinner, grab a cab to Greenwich and watch the Real Housewives of Fairfield County take drinks on the water at the charming Hotel L'Escale. After bargain hunting, its fun to view your bizarro opposite. 

Hotel L'Escale

My new favorite restaurant this last visit is: 
This eye rolling, swoon worthy meal is so good, you don't mind making a scene. Order different dishes and share. The heirloom tomato salad will bring tears to your eyes. All the pastas dissolve in light puffs, with tasty sauces that will levitate you out of your seat. The skirt steak is the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. The four of us split one order. The restaurant is small and loud. If you are deaf, eat and talk later. Plan your flight around this reservation. Dinner for four is under $300.00, if you go easy on the wine. 

We had a delicious lunch at Morandi, but the most exciting thing was the company. We joined John Berendt and Sean Strub. John signed a copy of his new children's book, which my neighbor loves. 

For those of you with little friends or children, I whole heartedly recommend this sweet journey of baby Blue Jays growing up in NYC. You can buy it here