Friday, March 15

Why In Design column: Not For The Birds? bird-motifs in design staying strong

Birds, Birds, Birds...
As the author of a blog named Nest by Tamara it should come as no surprise to learn I love birds.  The reference to a bird's nest is the logo and cornerstone of my philosophy here on the blog.  A nest suggests a cozy space where one can cuddle up, find respite.  My daughter took this photograph of a nest in our travels, which I used to create my logo.  The speckled blue eggs crowded together on a straw bed, to me, is symbolic of my childhood spent with my two, sweet brothers.  But, what is surprising about this bird story, is that it has taken me five years of writing blog posts, to finally tell my readers how much I appreciate bird motifs in design.  

mourning doves (Carolina doves) by John Audubon

While attending a charity auction in NYC over ten years ago, I spotted this over sized Audubon print from a limited collection, and one of John Audubon's most famous works.  I had been enamored with this beautiful piece for years, and loved it's extra large size, the colors, the details and the gorgeous birds.  I like how the pair seems happily in love.  The work was originally made in the 1800s.  Well, two glasses of chardonnay later during this live auction, let's just say my hand went up one time too many.  I became the proud owner of this beauty, and an added bonus it came with a  beautiful gilt wood frame.
John James Audubon (Jean-Jacques Audubon) (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats.   Wikipedia
How is an authentic Audubon print different than a copy?
my Audubon hanging in my dining room 

Some of the original hand made works are still in books preserved in museums.  
I took my print to an appraiser and learned a bit about the process.
 Audubon illustrated these works for his books, then later made limited quantities of each, which were copper-plated engravings that were hand colored with water color paint.
some basic authentication tips: 
look at the paper up close to assure it's not from a modern day printer by looking with a magnifying glass.  Does the paper have small dots from modern printing.  Remember, a hand colored watercolor will have some imperfections and bleeding. 
My Audubon is from the R. Havell collection in London who hand-colored many between the years 1826-1838. The Audubon Havell Edition prints are aquatint copper-plate engravings.  Each print has a plate mark and a watermark when held up to a light and a plate number on the right hand side (mine is XVII).   On the left hand side is the series number, usually between 1 and 6, mine is 4. 

a quirky wood panel piece I found at a flea market with a bird painted on it,
and also in my dining room

My print's aesthetic compliments the other items well in my small dining room with Charlotte Moss wallpaper from Brunschwig & fils, English company's Vaughn chinoiserie sconces, a Swedish dining table, antique French rush-seat chairs, two antique convex mirrors and some other unique pieces of art.  
Also, serendipitous to note  both of my children were completely enamored with Audubon's books when they were small, which morphed into a long-standing interest for both of them in science and nature.  
My kids were fixated on the glossy pages of marine life and bird encyclopedias filled with scientific terminology and gorgeous illustrations of nesting, mating and habitats of birds, sea creatures and other wildlife.
Audubon's book, The Birds of America (written in the 1800s, mind you) is a wonder to behold.  One part Naturalist, Ornithologist and other part artist, Audubon captivates with his hand-colored prints, made from large engraved plates.  Some of the birds he archives are now extinct.
 another one of my finds:  
four small Audubon-like hand painted illustrations
set in antique mahogany frames 
from Beall & Bell Antiques in Greenport, NY

 antique dealer, Lisa Whitney, exhibited this red finch print at the Mulford Farm Antique Show in East Hampton a couple of years ago.  
Set against the orange frame, well, this was one that got away.   
 Lisa Khan's bird sculptures from her new collection over at Chelsea House - seen at Highpoint Furniture Market - shows the increasing popularity of birds in design
this unique art of incorporating cut paper, maps and a bird design - seen at 100 percent design in London - shows birds in modern interpretations.
I profiled this fabric on Nest about my visit to Pearson showroom at Highpoint Furniture Market.  The bird and thistle fabric is reproduced and sold by Bruschwig & Fils fabrics
 from the 
Winterthur museum historical collection
bird motifs in design can be seen in almost every size, shape and form.  
Hermes has gotten into the "bird" action 
and I own this collection of  pretty dessert plates

And, lastly using bird motifs can be fresh and modern when pairing in
the creative manner designer Katie Ridder did for clients in 
a colorful Arkansas home
from Southern Living magazine
 photograph credit Eric Plasecki
 bird prints by Swedish naturalist Olof Rudbeck 

Happy Nesting XO