When I see Christmas in my head, I don’t see green and red. I prefer combinations of deep purple and electric blue. Which is why the Moorish Palace at Tivoli (1853) in the entertainment gardens of Copenhagen gives me an extra thrill at Christmas time.
Or this season’s Christmas packaging at LeNôtre fine foods in Paris, where the glossy paper bags are mini works of art and the tea comes in hot pink tins.
Inspired by the season of rich tones, I recovered our Danish teak couch (originally upholstered in a boring oatmeal colour) in a deep purple. Velvet seemed the only option. What do you think???
Actually, because the velvet shifts from purple to burgundy to pink depending on the sun and the way the plush moves, I’ve decided to rename it our Mark Rothko couch.
Nobody does deep purple and electric blue like the great American painter Mark Rothko. Possibly Henri Matisse, but not with the kind of endless meanings floating out from abstraction. I just saw a fantastic play in Toronto about Rothko called Red. There was paint flying, and clouds of pigment when the passion of making art went sky high. Whenever I’m in Washington my first pilgrimage is to the East Building at the National Gallery to see the colour-drenched Rothko’s hovering there. Luckily, I have a Rothko right here at home. It’s a fridge magnet. I think I got it for Christmas.
Bloom is a luscious magazine published out of Holland. More than that, it’s a changemaker that predicts design trends beginning with its “horti-cultural view”. That may sound quirky but Bloom is considered a bible among fashion insiders, starting with thread designers. Thread designers read it to help project new colours and textures for the future. Their output of thread influences fabric designers who, in turn, catalyze new fashion trends. One season after the release of Bloom, the vision of the magazine turns up on the walkways of the world’s most illustrious fashion shows.
Bloom’s feature on the British wallpaper designer, Marthe Armitage, describes how her intense, lushly coloured designs were an attempt to bring the plant life of the outdoors inside, to clamber up the walls of her friends. She’s been making her lino-print papers for more than fifty years and only works with two or three colours at a time: like this one, “bushes” (1992) in which she layers turquoise with aqua blues and steely greys.
I admired the subtlety of her designs, but was reluctant to put wallpaper up on our walls. Instead, I asked a painter to create three stencils of florals and layer various colours of blue over the wall in our Canadiana room. At a quick glance, the wall looks intensely blue – eventually, though, you can begin to make out the leaves and petals painted there.
My friend, Olivier Beriot, is an amazing costume designer based in Paris and he’s the one who gave me several issues of Bloom. He designed the costumes for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, that masterful film by Julian Schnabel that shifts between the unthinkable and sublime fantasy. Whenever I gaze at the mesmerizing plants and foliage in Bloom, I think of the blooming of Olivier’s creations, and the promise of thread design.
Autumn is all about the moshing up of layers and textures and weaving of cultures. This Renaissance girl with a crown of braids – or is she a Greek god or a Wall Street activist ? – greeted me in the front yard today. That got me thinking…about artful weavings…
These textiles are like talismans to me. i brought them home from Kuala Lumpur. They’re called Kebayas and the Malaysian Airline stewardesses wear them for their elegant uniforms. Deeply coloured and heavy to carry, these fabrics left a trail of golden silk threads behind when I carried them outside to be photographed against a black oak.
This sari might have been woven out of these Japanese maple leaves. But it was actually created by the amazingly talented sari weavers – unsung artists every one of them – in the muddy slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Young architects took me there one afternoon during my trip to Dhaka to review the stunning National Assembly parliamentary complex by the great American modernist Louis Khan. It was there, in a shanty room barely sheltered from the rain, that I tried on my first sari, and, later, back home, (in a very different world) wore it to the Maharaja gala at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Another one of my most beloved saris from Dhaka hangs like a luminous veil in our rustic Canadiana room. The pain-staking weaving of gold and silver brocade called Jamdani is unique to the Dhaka sari weavers. The patterns of geometric flowers follow a 2,000-year old tradition and are created entirely by memory. Now my Jamdani takes up pride of place in my home in Toronto, a city that embraces a healthy mosh-up of world cultures.