Happy New Year!
The Antique And Artisan Gallery: What does a “Lisa Hilderbrand project” look like?
Lisa Hilderbrand: I am very aware of what my other projects look like and what other designers are doing. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself and have the same look from house to house. I don’t want one project to look like another. I want people to wonder: ‘Did Lisa Hilderbrand do this?’ And buying antiques is a big part of that. I have a strong background in antiques…. I worked at Christie’s in the city (New York) for 8 years in carpets, European furniture, estates and appraisals. So I was exposed to fantastic things…. I got to see great English furniture, Continental furniture, Asian furniture, art, sculpture, tapestries-all the time.
AAG: So apart from your knowledge of antiques and design, what do you “bring” to a project? What “informs” your design? What makes up the “Hilderbrand arsenal of decorating?”
LH: Listening to the client is foremost. Asking them: ‘How do you want to use this house? How do you want to live in this space?’ is the most important. I really like to collaborate so that the house works really well, and also feels very personal. At the same time, my clients have hired me for a reason. They have seen my work, and there is something about it that they like. So they are paying me for my eye, my taste, and expertise… I really sweat all of those details. Big things and small things….I care about every tiny detail.”
AAG: A lot of new homeowners don’t buy antiques, and don’t want furniture from their parents or grandparents. They want to quickly go to Restoration Hardware, point at a room vignette, and buy it. Do you find antiques are being abandoned by Gen-Xers and Millennials?
LH: What I often find is that my clients love unique pieces. They don’t want the exact same thing as their friends or what they see in the design stores in town, and antique are oftentimes the answer. But they are often intimidated by antiques because they don’t know about them, don’t know where to buy them, who to trust, how to judge the pricing, or they are turned off because they have a picture in their mind of antiques being “Granny” or “old fashioned,” so they avoid them altogether.
But antiques are classic and can still be youthful, if you know how to work with them. I often open my clients up to a new world of furniture: beautiful woods, rich patina, lustrous gilding, glittery old mirror plates, intricate, carving…fascinating histories. Maybe a piece comes from a place they love to travel-like an Italian mirror or a Japanese screen, or maybe it’s just unusual-like a funky Mid-Century game table, or maybe it’s an adventure and we buy something at an auction. I see it all the time…a new appreciation for pieces, rather than just ‘that looks nice.’ Once that door is open, furniture from a catalog* isn’t the same.
And I think what’s appealing is that antiques still hold their value…They’re not ‘trendy,’ they’ll never look dated”
AAG: Do you have a favorite school of aesthetics when it comes to antiques?
LH: I love the whole idea of the Grand Tour. I love English furniture with Asian objects and screens, and obelisks, and Neo-Classical pieces, antique carpets, but balanced with restrained modern pieces and clean lines. It’s exotic and timeless. It’s so fascinating and beautiful to me. That’s what I love about antiques, the history, that they are enduring and unique and one of a kind.
Make sure to get the December 2016 issue of Connecticut Cottages and Gardens to Lisa Hilderbrand’s take on classic holiday decor!
*LH: Don’t get me wrong-I buy plenty of new furniture, and furniture from catalogs too.
Back to the Future celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its release in 2015. In 1985 most people didn’t expect that the households of the future would have a century jumping, souped-up DeLorean. But maybe by the time the millennium rolled around they could expect to fly on a hoverboard in a pair Marty McFly’s self lacing Nike Mags.
Though hydraulic kicks and Doc Martin’s inventions may still be fiction, there is no aspect of contemporary human life unaffected, unmodified, simplified, or in some cases complicated, by advancements in technology.
We live in an age of machines, and the Met’s latest foray into fashion, Manus x Machina asks the viewer not to dismiss these changes but to reconsider these “advancements.” This dynamic collection, highlighting some of fashion’s most legendary designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, and Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, seeks to marry the labor intensive world of haute couture with the rapid precision of new technological processes, such as 3D printing and laser cutting.
Manus x Machina is sartorial time line tracking innovations in fashion design and production from the early 20th century to the present. Bolton’s belief that fashion, quality, and creativity need not suffer from the incorporation of technology or technology aided designs is evident throughout the exhibit.
With each garment, of which there are over 170, the viewer is asked- is the machine simply another tool? Another extension of the designer’s creativity? Or has the machine simplified the fashion trade?
The Costume Institute and Bolton’s position is clear. There are more subtle examples, such as Issey Miyake’s “Flying Saucer Dress,” the futuristic heir to the artistic pleats of Mariano Fortuny’s “Delphos Gown” from 1907. The simple, yet striking pleats of the silk fabric are playfully echoed in Miyake’s “Jetson-esque” ensemble.
Fashion’s innovative and historical parallels are displayed confidently on simple monotone backgrounds, devoid of any tech-heavy gadgetry or distraction. Broken up into categories: pleating, embroidery, artificial flowers, featherwork, lacework, leatherwork, each piece is a separate case study tracking the succession of fashionable materials and craft-work.
Audience favorite, Karl Lagerfeld’s 2014-15 wedding gown acts as the fashionable focal point for the entire exhibit. Sitting atop a raised dais, the viewer is immediately confronted by Mr. Lagerfeld’s neo-Baroque, scuba knit synthetic creation. The sequined train, an elaborate repetition of a pixelated brocade pattern is the ultimate amalgam of the machine made and the hand made. This gown is the innovative heir to the simple yet painstakingly created lace flowers of the 19th century Irish wedding dress displayed later on in Manus x Machina.
Viewers are given space to ponder under endless yards of scrim, which the architects from OMA have utilized in a stark homage to the basilica structure within the belly of the Met building.
Manus x Machina is a delight for the eyes, but the exhibit lacks the pizzazz and theatrical opulence museum-goers have come to expect from previous fashion exhibitions like China: Through the Looking Glass and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Like hemlines of many of the Iris Van Herpen frocks, Andrew Bolton’s Manus x Machina is perhaps a little too skimpy when it comes to providing visitors with information about the respective crafts of the fashion metier.
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk
Gilding, covering a surface in a layer of gold, has ensnared the human imagination for millennium. Traces of beaten gold have been found in weather-worn papyri of Old Kingdom Egypt, and in artifacts from cultures and civilizations as disparate as Ancient Rome to the “Far East.”
Since these early forays into gold plating, gilding has been used to decorate all manner of items from furnishings, signs, manuscripts, book covers, and the canvases of the finest paintings. In contemporary culture however, most associate gilding with the patinated frames and mirrors found in historic homes and museums.
But do we really see these gilded beauties? Unfortunately the answer is often no. Despite the very dear cost which these gilt creations can garner, in price, time, and labor, frames are often seen merely as a “finishing touch,” what John Peder Zane of the New York Times would dub“the Ginger Rogers” of art. It is only in the last two decades that these pieces have been elevated from a sort of artistic garnish to items requiring the same amount of craft as the paintings, drawings, and pastels which they house.
Like any craft, gilding requires the patience and labor of a skilled artisan. Water gilding, the technique most often utilized for frames, is made up of many intricate steps.
First a layer of glue is applied to the “bare-bones” of the frame (having been previously carved and sanded). Then several coats, sometimes more than a dozen, of gesso are applied, sanded, and polished. Gesso is a mixture of gypsum (also known as plaster of Paris), a rather chalky material, and animal glue (usually rabbit skin). Atop the gesso, several layers of bole (a reddish combination of clay and glue) are added and smoothed to create a perfectly even surface to apply the gold leaf. Each leaf can be up to 1/250,000th of an inch thick and are so light and feathery that the artisan must take great care not to let it simply fly away from their work surface. After these precious layers are added, the final step is to burnish the frame. This is done with an agate stone tool, or with the traditional tool which is tipped with a smoothed dog tooth. Passing the tool across the surface of the gold leaf leaves the frame with a truly brilliant shine.
A process like this means that these frames can be nearly as costly, if not more so, than the art they enclose. Recently, a frame by Eli Wilner & Co. for a Van Gogh took over 200 hours of labor and sold for $48,000. This same company constructed the 3,000 pound basewood piece which now frames the Met’s 21 feet by 12 feet Washington Crossing the Delaware . An undertaking that required 12,500 pieces of gold leaf, and cost upwards of 500,000 dollars.
The astronomical amount of labor, and the accompanying price tag, needed to complete one of these frames was true for earlier framers as well. When Sandro Botticelli’s Virgin and Child Enthroned was encased in a gilt frame the patron, Giovanni de’Bardi, paid both Botticelli and the framer the same exact commission.
Take a look at some of our favorite gilt frames here and our website!
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk
As co-owner of The Antique And Artisan Gallery, collecting is quite literally Mari Ann Maher’s business. When not combing the Gallery to find that “perfect piece” for a client’s collection she has slowly and surely been adding to a very special “trove” of her own.
Transferware- blue, brown, black, or the elusive yellow, has been a favorite of collectors since its initial production. When these artistic ceramics first came into vogue during the 18th century, hostesses sought to beautify their tables with pretty transferware scenes of landscapes, rural amore, and chinoiserie motifs.
Now, hundreds of years later the popularity of transferware endures with 21st century collectors like Mari Ann.
A special thanks to Gail Geibel and Mark Brown and Tim Sublette of Seekers Antiques for their research for this article.In the photo of Mari Ann and this post’s “banner”, the following is the information regarding those plates and platters featured:
Upper corner, from left to right:
First Row– “William Penn’s Treaty” platter by Thos. Godwin or Thos. Green followed by several Canova plates, most are Thos. Mayer.
Second Row– “Millennium” by Canova, “Beatrice” plate by Wedgwood and Company, Millennium–Beatrice, platter by Canova, square sauce tureen by Canova.
Third Row-“Fisherman” red and brown plate by E.Wood & Sons
Final Row– “Bosphorus” platter by James Jamieson, Canova plate, followed by “Fountain” plate by E. Wood & Sons, and “Burma” platter by Grindley.
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk