Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tony Duquette

A friend at work recently emailed me some photos from a fashion shoot that was in Vogue Italia in 2000.  It wasn't the bikinis he was pointing out, but the fantastic location. (You can see the rest of the shoot at Make the World a Prettier Place).
The Sun Room

By coincidence, the most recent issue of Vogue Living has an article about this very place.  It was the residence of the interior designer, set designer and artist Tony Duquette (1914-1999) who built the house (named 'Dawnridge') with his wife Elizabeth in 1949.  It is decorated in the most amazing Asian-Baroque fusion, but somehow instead of looking cluttered it just looks amazing!

 The drawing room

The house is now owned by Duquette's long-time business partner, Hutton Wilkinson, who purchased it after Duquette's death in 1999. He and his wife re-decorated the drawing room in 2000, but retained the Duquette style.

Reproductions of some of the furnishings, such as this rose chest and the marchasite fabric hanging behind it, are available to purchase from the Duquette website.  Be warned though, the marchasite fabric, which I love, is $138 a metre!

 The master bedroom

 This photo shows the Duquette's bedroom. (If you click you can see it twice as big).  I love the Chinese pagoda style canopy over the bed, so exotic and cosy at the same time.

 This is an alcove in one of the bedrooms, with a little sofa and a mirror which reflects the wild garden outside.

 The Green Dining Room

 The dining room has a mirrored tile ceiling, and a leopard-print tablecloth, divine!

Duquette grew up in Los Angeles, and received scholarships to both the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and the Yale School of the Theatre.  In the early 1940s, he met Lady Elsie de Wolfe Mendle, an famous socialite and interior designer, who became his patron.  With her backing, he became one of the leading designers in Los Angeles, creating costumes and sets for Fred Astaire musicals with Vincente Minnelli at MGM. He also designed sets for operas and ballets, and created interiors for the rich and famous, including Mary Pickford, Elizabeth Arden and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Duquette  was a talented painter, sculptor and jeweller.  He created many stunning pieces of jewellery for Elsie de Wolfe, and in the 80s he designed jewellery for Tom Ford at Gucci.  He was the first American to be honored with a one-man show at the Louvre in 1951.

 Dawnridge was not the only house the Duquettes created.  'Sortilegium', high in the Malibu mountains was another stunning residence which they purchased in the 1950s and spent the next 30 years renovating and decorating.  Unfortunately it was destroyed in the fires of 1993, although you can see photos of the interior and gardens here.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gennady Spirin

The next in my little series on my favourite illustrators is another Russian.  Gennady Spirin was born on Christmas Day, 1948, in the small town of Orekhove-Zuyevo, near Moscow.  He studied at the Surikov Art Institute at the Academy of Arts in Moscow, and also the Moscow Stroganov Institute of Art.

Spirin has illustrated over 30 children's books, and won four golden medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York, as well as several other awards. He moved to the US in 1991 at the invitation of two publishers, and settled in Princeton, New Jersey, as that was where his editor lived.  He has a wife and three sons, speaks almost no English, and is a practicing Russian Orthodox Christian.   Apart from that, I cannot find any other information about him!  No Wikipedia entry, no official website, nothing!

His illustrations are watercolours, very delicate but at the same time full of rich colours and incredible detail.  I first came across his work in the illustrations he did for one of Madonna's children's books, called Yakov and the Seven Thieves. The story, a tale of an Eastern European couple in the 1700s who try to help their ill son, is rather trite, but the illustrations are divine. Apparently, Spirin never met Madonna, and had no contact with her, dealing only with the publisher, and his name was not included on the cover of the book, appearing only on the title page.

Spirin has illustrated several traditional Russian fairy tales, such as in The Tale of the Firebird, where he combines the tales of the Firebird, Baba Yaga, and Koshchei the Immortal.

 I love all the border decoration, this is exactly the kind of stuff I would love to do if I had the talent!  The costumes seem to be well-researched too, always a plus in my book.

Spirin has also illustrated more well-known fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  His bears, dressed up in lavish Tudor costumes, are just gorgeous!  You can see more illustrations from this book here.

The Little Mermaid

I'll leave you with some random images from some of his other books, all very lush and yet ethereal at the same time. Beautiful.

The Princess and the Pea

Thumbelia (I presume!)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The White Wedding Dress

On Sunday Mr. Macska and I went up to Bendigo with some friends to see The White Wedding Dress exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery.   Well, actually, they boys went and looked at other things while Alice, Kat and I went to the exhibition.

 The exhibition, which is from the V&A, covers 200 years of wedding fashions.  The first dresses were some lovely examples from the first half of the 1800s, when it began to be more common for wedding dresses to be white or cream, and lace veils and orange blossom were traditional accessories.  An example is this embroidered muslin dress, worn in 1834.  The detail is exquisite, all that plumpy embroidery!

 During the second half of the century, weddings were increasingly conducted in public in a church, rather that in private homes, and society weddings were reported on in the press.  It was during this time that a whole industry centering around weddings sprang up, as weddings became more and more elaborate.  The dress above, which was one of my favourites, was actually quite restrained for the time, although still fashionable.  It was worn by a Quaker bride in 1874, and is made of striped silk gauze.

 In the early 20th century, picturesque wedding gowns that took inspiration from earlier times were popular, such as this Liberty's dress from 1907, with its medieval-inspired long train falling from the shoulders, beaded and embroidered collar and pendant girdle.  I adore the Art Nouveau-style pearl embroidery with its dog rose motif.

This glorious dress was designed by Norman Hartnell for Margaret Whigham, who married the American amateur golfer Charles Sweeney in 1933, when she was 21.  Margaret was a prominent British socialite, and her dress was so publicised that crowds turning out to catch a glimpse of it blocked Knightsbridge for three hours! 

The whole dress is appliqued with stars outlined in beads, including all around the 12 foot train.  A team of 30 seamstresses worked on the dress for six weeks, and it cost £52 (a year's wage for a young working woman at the time).  The stars around the neckline are appliqued onto cream net, so when worn, it looked like she had on a collar of stars (you can see that better in the photo above, same dress, it just looks white here). There was some footage of the couple coming out of the church, and two men struggling to carry the enormous train through the huge crowds of onlookers.

Margaret actually ended up being married three times, the second time to the Duke of Argyll.  Their divorce in 1963 was a scandal at the time, as the Duke accused his wife of having affairs with 88 different men, and also provided Polaroid pictures of her naked except for her signature three-strand pearl necklace, fellating an unidentified man!

Alice and I also admired this cunningly constructed dress which was created by Charles James in 1934 for Baba Beaton's marriage to Alec Hambro.  Baba was the sister of Cecil Beaton, and he orchestrated the whole wedding.  The dress, of silk-satin, was cut on the bias and had no fastenings - one had to slip it over the head.  The train was split into two points, and the bride wore a choker of wax orange blossoms, and a wimple-like headdress designed by her brother.

Speaking of celebrity weddings, the pièce de résistance for me was the wedding dress of Dita Von Teese.  Designed by Vivienne Westwood, it is a giant Scarlette O'Hara type dress of the most amazing purple shot taffeta (synthetic not silk, interestingly).  Her tricorn hat with mink pompoms was by Stephen Jones, and her purple t-bar shoes with purple diamantes down the front were by Christian Louboutin.

Also included was Dita's corset and peignoir from her wedding trousseau.  The corset, by Mr Pearl was so miniscule, it looked like it was made for a child!  The peignoir was by Nina Ricci and was like a black spider's web, so fine and delicate.

Well, there were many more fantastic dresses, but if you want to see them, you should go to Bendigo and have a look at the exhibition, it really is worth it.  The weather was divine, and Alice and I had fun posing like idiots in the garden in our matching houndstooth outfits!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Turin Horse & The Woman - MIFF 2011

 The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) just finished, and I only managed to see two films.  I always try to get to one Hungarian film on the program, and in the past I've seen some really great films. 

This year's Hungarian film was The Turin Horse (A Torinói Ló) by Béla Tarr, starring Erika Bók and János Derzsi.  In 1889 in the Italian city of Turin, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche witnessed a hansom cab driver whipping his horse, which was refusing to move.  Nietzsche was so overcome that he threw his arms around the horse's neck, sobbing. This incident was rumored to have caused his subsequent mental breakdown.

The Turin Horse follows six days in the life of the aformentioned cab driver, his daughter, and the famous horse.  They live a life of abject poverty in a one-room peasant house, following a monotonous routine of household chores and meals of a boiled potato each.  A couple of times attempts are made to hitch the horse up to the cab, but the horse is obviously ill, and refusing to eat, and the pair never leave the environs of their house.

The entire 146 minute film is shot in 30 long takes, and in black-and-white, and contains almost no dialogue.  It was simply the most excruciating film I have ever seen, incredibly monotonous, and with a dirge-like score.  But somehow, about an hour into the film, I found myself caught up in the story.  What a pity a whole selection of crazy house lights at the Forum Theatre came on in the last half hour of the film, including a bright orange spotlight right on the screen, totally ruining the mood!  Apparently it was caused by a faulty dimmer switch.

My friend and I contacted the MIFF box office to complain, and they offered us free tickets to any other session, which was nice of them.  Lots of things had sold out by then, so in a bit of a panic, I got tickets for us to The Woman, an American horror film by director Lucky McKee.  Neither of us is at all into horror, so we thought we might be in for a bit of an excruciating time.

Well, we were pleasantly surprised! The plot follows a seemingly upstanding small-town lawyer in rural Maine, who comes across a feral woman living in the nearby woods.  He captures her, locks her in the basement, and with the help of his bewildered family, sets about civilising her.

Pollyanna McIntosh is incredible as the title character, completely bestial and quite terrifying, but in the face of her captor's increasing aggressive and perverse behaviour, and his wife and daughter's passive inability to stop him, we come to sympathise with this most un-human-like character.  Rather that straight horror, The Woman is a rather clever black comedy and social satire, while exploring issues such as domestic violence, and the notion of "civilisation".  Although it does have some pretty gory scenes, there's nothing too gratuitous, and it's got a great soundtrack too. The Woman is screening soon at the Nova as part of Cult Cravings, so if you can stomach a bit of gore, check it out.

Friday, 5 August 2011

More of my Hats

I posted back in March about my cousin's new shop Edgeley, for which I have been making some amusing hats.  One of them even made it into the lookbook, shot by the incredibly talented Jo Duck.

The hats are called Lorax hats, after the Dr Seuss book, you can see why!

I even got a commission for a custom-made version of the Lorax hat for my friend Jesse, who has displayed this hat rather nicely under a bell jar, like some sort of exotic creature!  It's a modified version of the hat I made for Alice for the opening, with a houndstooth stem, ostrich feather plume, and a ruffled base of black net, some of which is trimmed in black satin, the rest of which has been distressed with pliers and (very slightly) set on fire.

For spring, we are making more Lorax hats in deliciously bright colours.  They have ostrich feathers at the top, and the stem and net are bound in silk georgette.  Very classy.  My favourite is the hot pink one, which sold only days after I made it. (Apologies for the fuzzy iPhone pictures.)

The most recent one is this one in green, and there should be some more colourful ones coming along soon!