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pig topiary

As everything around us seems to be getting bigger, we are feeling the pinch and reminded of the inherent virtues of smallness.  Doing more with less continues to be a powerful idea–and an admirable choice for those who can well afford to have more.  Artists from far and wide and then and now have shown us, over and over, the magic of small productions.

Alexander Calder, best known for very large sculptures in front of very large buildings in very large cities, never lost sight of the special charm of small work you could hold in your hand intended for a small audience.

calder small pieces gift414-1024x803This set was made by Mr Calder as a gift for a friend.

Glass is a perfect medium for making hold-n-your-hand-sized sculpture.Glass figures Amsterdam thumb_IMGP2868_1024These little creatures made of glass are on display in a gin joint in Amsterdam.

The glass menagerie below was dreamed up by Kiki Smith and the critters were made by Venetian Pino Signoretto.  It is at home at the Corning Museum of Glass in NY.   Glass KikiSmithFull

But this devotion to smallness is not an invention of our time. We humans–all over the world– from our earliest days have dedicated time and talent to making small versions of ourselves.

terra cotta Denmark thumb_2017-08-05 05.09.31_1024

terra cotta 2 Denmark thumb_2017-08-05 05.09.14_1024Each just a few inches tall (the wall behind them is made of standard sized bricks), these ancient little men are captivating to modern eyes.  Conceived long before the electric light or glass shelving, they are now at home in a Danish museum.  Meanwhile, in Canada, visitors to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts can have their mood swiftly elevated by the little man below.

Smiling figure Montreal IMGP2736

Small scale also works wonderfully for two dimensional art.  In 16th century England, the Kings, Princes, and their pals, who could afford just about anything, any size, found they had a deep attraction to the smallest of paintings–miniature portraits.holbein jane small v & AMiniatures7That’s the eighth king named Henry, no Tiny Tim he, and a woman fittingly named Jane Small.  North Americans in the 18th century took to the same notion, not just Kings and their social circle this time, but plain proud people wanting a keepsake. This is Lottie Hills aged 15 painted by Rufus Porter, “inventor”.

miniature Rufus Porter Fig10

Stamps!  Engravers, mostly anonymously, spend their working lives and eyes to give us this to put on our envelopes for delivery near and far.  From the 20th century, however, the artists were more frequently acknowledged.

Stamp LacaqueMonaco-1119-LittleRed-Perrault-MG-11-8-78-PLambertStamp LarriviereMonaco-1116-PussBoots-Perrault-MG-11-8-78-PLambertStamp JumeletMonaco-1121-TomThumb-Perrault-MG-11-8-78-PLambertThese three above were all issued in 1978 by Monaco to celebrate Conte de Perrault who collected and published versions of these famous ‘children’s stories.  Artists top to bottom are Eugène Lacaque. Jacky Larrivière. and Claude Jumelet depicting tiny boy Tom Thumb.  Stunning images found here.

Wow, this love song to small is getting more than a little long.  Out of respect for the theme, we’ll stop here for now and pick it again after a small break.

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2017-08-06 09.48.26Look, up in the sky…

2017-08-06 07.22.182017-08-06 07.18.29

Look, there’s people.  Up in the sky.  Walking around and round inside a coloured ring2017-08-06 06.04.41Don’t worry, it is only–ONLY!–a work of art from Olafur Eliasson, this time in Denmark where where was born, this time in the city of Aarhus.  It is called Your Rainbow Panorama.

This is the same artist who put a waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridgeolafur waterfalls01

And managed to get another one to fall out of the sky at Versaiilesolafur-eliasson-waterfall-versailles-designboom-10

So maybe creating a rainbow you can walk inside on top of an art museum wasn’t such a stretch for him.  But he seems all alone (to us, anyway) in his capacity to astonish so many people from all over the place, time after time, with ‘public works’–open, visible, engaging to anyone.  Water, light, colour, always unexpected, always accepted.

Will we ever see another like him?  Is that even worth thinking about?

Olafur E Model for a Timeless Garden IMG_MDA107810_1600pxAbove Moments from a Timeless Garden, water fountains, made to freeze in mid splash.

Truth is, maybe, some things only come along once.  So get used to it and make sure you don’t miss any part of it.  Wherever you go next, Mr O, we’ll be watching.

With thanks.

poster Dubonnet-550x275

poster dubonnet winter
Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him.  On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.

poster funny little man
As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.

You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.

It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.

chaplin

The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work

campari_featureimage
Ads for the Italian herbal aperitif Campari have used a weird little jester/devil of a man in a body stocking wrapped in an orange peel.   Nothing about Campari is ordinary.

campari-poster_1526670a
The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.

 

cointreau

Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically

cointreau pierrot
and ceramically

 

german-matchbox-beem-cigars
If you, man or woman, drank aperitifs in European bars in the 1920’s, chances are you lit up a cigar at some point. This little German guy was the guy to call.

 

poster dutch radio
But if you wanted music with your beverage, at home, you’d ring up Little Mr Disquehead  shown in this Dutch design for record players, disques, and radios.

 

poster dolus
Yes, you can say this is not a little man at all, but I don’t think we should exclude the hard-working fella just because he is red and has a trunk.

 

For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin.  Salute.  Santéchaplin

These days, not many of us stop and take note of what we are walking on or where we stand.  But over the years, lots of talented people have been putting lot of thought and creativity into the stuff that goes under our feet.

Treat your feet and feast your eyes: Viva Terrazzo…..

floor terrazzo cuba-decoro-holguin-sq        floor terrazzo puerto-rico-hatillo-decoro-sq

floor terrazzo puerto-rico-ponce-decoro-sq        floor terrazzo terrazzo-710852-200-720352-sq

floor terrazzo tradizionale-decoro-armida-sq        floor terrazzo tradizionale-decoro-assonometria-sq

floor terrazzo tradizionale-decoro-i-pagliacci-lineare-sq        floor terrazzo-710401-200-720460-sq

floor terrazzo-710332-200-720260-sq

Above is just a peek at the bedazzling variety of patterns produced by the terrazzo process–part construction part sculpture pure elegance that lasts a lifetime

Found here.

If your two feet happen to prefer wood to stone, but you still want the visual variety of Terrazzo, you need to budget for Parquet wood floors.

Floors Parquet types

Above selection, tip of the parquet iceberg, found here

The idea certainly appealed to the folks at the St Petersburg Winter Palace–the Hermitage, nice photo from here. 

But what do you do in 2015 to satisfy the floor fetish in your own contemporary home?

Well here’s one idea:

Grey wood is all the rage.  It seems we now favour a neutral background for our lives and ourselves, a bare stage on which to strut our stuff.

Floor my foot new floor

But what does that say about us and how we value ourselves relative to the things around us?  Have we lost a step or two in always clambering to be the centre of attention? If Princes and High Priests were willing to share their habitat with the likes of this…

Duomo, Siena
floor duomo Siena

or this….

Santa Maria della Salute, Venicefloor santa-maria-della-salute

Why can’t we just suck it up and give ourselves a floor worth dancing on?

 Sicis-Neoglass-Wheels-Mosaic-Glaze-Crystal-Mosaic-Red-Crycle-Floor-WallFloor Sicis-Neoglass-Wheels-Mosaic-Glaze-Crystal-Mosaic-Red-Crycle-Floor-Wall-font-b-tile-b-font

But, hang on, you don’t have to run out and replace your floor;  what a waste. The truth is you can dramatically raise the creative temperature of any room by covering parts of it with a piece of hand-woven cloth.  Oh yes you can…

floor zoe sixmomoment 1

Zoe Luyendijk gets it and she’s got it, woven by hand in silk and wool to slip nicely between your foot and the floor while your eyeballs explode.  Fall in love here:

Surely we are ready to revive the art of the floor.  Why should fridges, counter tops, and faucets get all the attention.  Look down, imagine the possibilities.  Imagine your personal terrain.

Floor of San Giorgio Maggiore,  Venicefloor san giorgio maggiore venice katie5-2

Don’t stand for anything less.

And what about that ceiling?

cocktail lots of bottles cocktail-menu-cover-1

Gotta thirst at the end of a day?  Well, there is no shortage of colourful, solutions to be concocted–by you yourself or by a licensed professional (image from here).   Cocktails are back.  Lucky us.

Cocktails in a row

The mixed drink for adults that goes beyond the quick and simple rye and ginger, rum and coke, scotch and water, tequila and tequila is very much in favour just now and shows no sign of retreating any time soon.

cocktails best-cocktails-300x169

It’s all about variety, visual panache, and finding the ONE for you.  You’ll find plenty advice, history, images, recipes, stories at your fingertips, e.g at cocktail builder  or imbibe.

Funny how things come and go.  Not so long ago, the thing to do was to keep everything simple, including your brain buzzing beverage of choice.  Open the bottle, pour a healthy slug, add something a child might drink, and repeat as necessary–or just make a giant jugful.

cocktail rum and coke

But now, it’s all about multiple ingredients, hard to find, mixed in just the right proportion, requiring some care and skill, served in a special glass, beautiful to look at.

cocktail_party_header

They say the cocktail craze started way back before we let television in the house.  Almost a hundred years ago, people of means and money looking to fill the void between the afternoon nap and dinner decided the thing to do was to have friends over for drinks, real drinks, stiff drinks crafted with expertise made from hard-to-get components, just like their hats and furniture.

cocktails flight-cocktail-party

Great design above by Beverley Nichols found here.

Invitation to a cocktail party circa 1925

Invitation to a cocktail party circa 1925

cocktail party roaring-20s-party-700x300

Actually, the invitation looks more fun and interesting than the party (photo from here; you can acquire the invitation here)

Those who looked into it seriously say the cocktail hour was born sometime between 1917 and 1924, somewhere between London and America, moving inevitably from houses to bars, cafes, nightclubs, fund raisers…

cocktail america 2prohibition

The bunch above are slurping their cocktails during prohibition in America, meaning you needed a password to get in and you had to lie to your mom when you got home. From this article.

cocktails Berlin transvest

This crowd is on the town Berlin at a time when, it seems, nothing was prohibited (and just before just about everything was prohibited).

cocktail Gable-C.+Bennett+1935

Wherever you are, the cocktail seems to be best consumed in the presence of someone you think is swell.

cocktail i penn lima 1949

Or at least someone you used to think was swell.  This is a fine photo by Irving Penn was taken in Lima and found at this eye-opening site.

cocktail-hat-vintage

Then again, some gals just like to put on their best cocktail hat and go it alone.

 

OK, so back to the here and the now.  Below is the bar at the Brasserie NYC in the one and only Seagram’s building where, we can tell you, you will not go wrong in acquiring a satisfying cocktail, New York style: big, quick, yummy, and served by someone who won’t make you feel like you don’t deserve this.

cocktails brasserie_v2_460x285

If you find yourself near NYC or just thinking it, it would be a fine occasion to have a Manhattan cocktail.

coctail manhattan

Recipe here; image from (yes) Booze & Yarn.

Wherever you are, spare an hour late in a day to seek out seat at the bar somewhere in your town.  Give the bartender a chance to try something new on you–or challenge him/her with something little known.

cocktails late new york image

At the r of l, our official cocktail is the negroni.

cocktail negroni Milan-s-favourite-aperitivo-cocktail-a-history-of-the-Negroni

Why?  it tastes really good in any season and any time of day, it only has 3 ingredients, and it goes very well with any activity, whether you are being quiet and reflective (wondering where you put that note reminding you to do something) or hosting a gathering of 20 friends and neighbours in celebration of the fact that you have 20 friends and neighbours. (Image above, History, and more from Swide)

Find your cocktail, find your reason to sip it.

 

 

 

 

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