exhibitions

London Trend Alert: Foxes
October 13th, 2013
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fox-hackett

I’ve recently had the good fortune to visit London for a few research trips, and one visual motif has silently padded into each exhibition hall, or retail space I’ve visited. Nearly ten years since England banned foxhunting, the wily red fox has turned the tables and taken over London design. (Above, a detail from the Hackett store on Regent’s Street.)

fox-topdrawer

September’s Topdrawer London, the pre-eminent gift show in the city, included a veritable forest of squirrels and hedgehogs, as on these pillows, but the fox was always the star.

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At 100% Design, the UK’s largest design trade event, a dominant color trend was pairing neutral organic colors against vivid brights — for example, this scarlet side table anchored by walnut legs (above). And naturally, a red fox, adorning this logo, was right at home. (Treat your eyes and check out Young & Norgate’s gorgeous collection of handmade furniture here.)

fox-decorativefair

A month later I was at the Decorative Antiques and Textile Fair in Battersea. A treasure trove of unusual statement pieces it is a must-attend for London decorators. This mounted fox (above) was one of several I saw that day (though admittedly he looks none too happy about it).

Fortunately, it seems like the fox has cross-atlantic appeal, because one of our bestselling birthday cards at the moment just so happens to feature … a fox (see below).

jfalkner-fox-birthday

All that Glitters at the Dallas Gift Show
January 24th, 2012

If it is your first time at one of these gigantic gift shows (the above hall is just one of several) like the Dallas Market Center — as it was for us this weekend — you might find yourself with more questions than answers. Such as:

Where do all these shiny plastic handbags actually come from?

Is there a remaining surface that does not carry the cheerfully stoic British WWII slogan ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’?

Might the population of small decorative birds now outnumber those found in the wild?

Ok, yes, we’re being a little naughty. Because underneath all the crazy color combos and bedazzlement, there is a fascinating range of products to be found, and it’s truly impressive to see first-hand the gears of American consumerism grinding away, despite the economic insecurities.

But there is one serious question we want to answer immediately: why were we there? We are delighted to announce that — drumroll — J. Falkner Cards have been signed by a very prestigious sales rep group, Daniel*Richards. Starting with this show in Dallas (and also one in Chicago), we will now be represented by their sterling group of sales people in approximately a dozen states, from the Midwest through to Texas.


It was a thrill to see our cards (above), beaming under the bright lights in Daniel*Richards chic, airy showroom. And we were privileged to meet a wonderful group of reps that will be out on the road, shopping our wares.

Daniel*Richards have a great roster of paper lines, from Lifeguard Press (home to the Jonathan Adler and Lily Pulitzer lines), to retail favorites like smock paper and Bella Ink. And now … J. Falkner!

Some snapshots from the show: A beachy color palette from Two’s Company (above) appealed to us. It made us wonder if maybe a white sailfish could be just the thing for our office, too.

If it’s Christmas in January, it must be a gift show. But somehow all this Christmas cheer — and imagine hallways full of displays like this (above) — makes us feel a little hungover.

But what’s not to like about the vivid charm of these handcrafted items (above)? And that, we suppose, is the spirit of adventure to be found at these shows: row upon row of obvious merchandise, and then spots of the sincere and charming.

Four Fab Things in New York
November 3rd, 2011

With some time to spare in Manhattan last week, we took a cultural spin around midtown. Even in a single day, the jolt of shows and stores in New York gave us a fresh new perspective. Here are four things that particularly captured our attention.

1. De Kooning’s Colors. (above) The blockbuster art show in New York this Fall is unquestionably this enormous retrospective at MOMA. Frankly, for us, a little bit of carnivorous women paintings goes a long way. Instead, what impressed us about the show was how, over a very long career, de Kooning returned time and again to the color pink (often complemented by a mustard yellow). It’s this color that gave his paintings a consistent sensuality. As de Kooning himself said: “Flesh was the reason why oil painting was invented.”

2. Elie Nadelman in the MOMA Sculpture Garden. We can’t believe we never spotted this wonderful Nadelman bronze before. (One of his drawings, above right, takes pride of place in our personal collection.) The graceful stance is pure Nadelman, and how charming is the whimsy of the bowtie, sitting like a butterfly on his chest?

3. Organic shapes at Museum of Art and Design. The show itself — Flora & Fauna, MAD About Nature — was a little lackluster, but we were intrigued by Ted Muehling’s “Thorn Necklace”. (See more of his lovely pieces here.) The way the shapes interlock is striking, but then we noticed a single coral pendant, nearly hidden among the thorns. This made the whole piece that much more arresting. Perhaps the thorns had drawn a drop of blood?

4. Cheap clothing, fantastic stores. Just enough time for a retail dash along 5th Avenue. Forget about Gucci and Armani, the most sensational stores this Fall are the new Uniqlo (above left), with its Blade Runner light show, selling cashmere sweaters for $49.90, and the sleek video cube minimalism of the Hollister store (right), which features $25 sweatpants.

Marvelous Maira Kalman show!
August 25th, 2011



Last month we caught the Maira Kalman show in New York, and though it’s now closed, we’re such huge fans of her work and it was such a lovely show that we had to share our enthusiasm with those who might have missed it.

Maira Kalman achieved fame with her now-iconic New Yorker ‘Newyorkistan’ cover, and then further renown with her illustrated coverage for the New York Times of the last election. There is also an ever-growing band of us that pass around her inspirational book ‘The Principles of Uncertainty’ like samizdat. (We’ve given so many copies as gifts, we’ve had to start a list.)

Maira Kalman’s first plan was to be a poet, but, with characteristic honesty, decided her poems were terrible. Instead she found poetry in everyday objects, and now her illustrations lead us to find bursts of joy in items we might otherwise not notice. She opens our eyes to the delightful way duvets are folded in an Austrian hotel (lower right), or the rather poignant simplicity of Le Corbusier’s sink (top right). The exhibition also has a room full of the actual objects that she has collected and painted over the years, and these are marvelous to behold (middle left).

What also inspires us about her work is her rich use of color. Our favorites: her vivid chartreuse (check out Edith Sitwell, middle right), lush vermillion and pulsing pink — often used together in the same piece. But she also has a beautiful milky white and beige that serve as counterpoint.

The exhibition is informed by her modesty and sense of wonder, which brings a sense of charm and intimacy you rarely find in an exhibition. As Kalman says, “Good things come of incomprehension”, and what fresher way to celebrate the world than that?

Sources: Kalman has several books that are widely available, and you can follow her fabulous blog. Whigby also do a great range of cards with her illustrations. And of course there is www.mairakalman.com.

* Maira Kalman, Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World), Jewish Museum, NY, exhibit now closed. www.jewishmuseum.org

McQueen Sensation at the Met
July 30th, 2011


Fashion shows, at their thrilling best, are about a moment — and about movement. Yet fashion exhibitions are rarely able to capture this energy. Unless you’re the kind of person who gasps about a Fortuny pleat or a St Laurent shoulder, you’re left wondering what all the fuss was about. But this show — with its spectacular staging — sets a new standard for what a costume exhibit can be. To see it is to experience the thrill of a truly sensational fashion show.

McQueen shows had a reputation for the theatrical gestures, but the clothing itself was always underpinned by exquisite details and a genuine inquiry into how women should dress. This is why his talent was so compelling.

What resonated for us is his ability to chose a small detail and consider it deeply. For example, a simple feather was a regular source of inspiration to him. But he took it further: what about a bird could be interesting in dressing a woman? The lightness and movement of flight? The menace and strength of a hawk?

The exhibition also recreates one of McQueen’s greatest runway moments: when the last look of one collection was delivered as a hologram. A swirling Kate Moss materializes, and then evaporates again into the cosmos. The effect is haunting and astonishing. We wanted to applaud at the end of it. (We didn’t, but we really wanted to.)

For those who weren’t able to see the show, there is an equally exquisite catalogue. Beautiful chocolate brown cloth binding, a lenticular cover (that flashes between a skull and a McQueen portrait), and photography by Solve Sundsbo that brings the mannequins eerily to life — a slightly unnerving effect McQueen himself would surely have enjoyed.

There’s also a great feature with extensive photographs and video on the Met website.

* Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Metropolitan Museum, NY. May 4-August 7, 2011.

Stunning Sonia Delaunay Show in NY
June 5th, 2011

The exhibition posterA detail shot to see the vibrant color play

Before I left New York after the Stationery Show, I ran uptown to catch the Sonia Delaunay show at the Cooper Hewitt. It was revelatory. All those beautiful pulsating colors. Delaunay was a Russian artist who settled in France and whose most popular medium was in textiles. She adored color and believed it was ‘the skin of the world’. A principle of her art was ‘Simultaneity’ … which was the sensation of movement caused by putting certain colors together. Sounds complicated, but look at how her patterns come to life and you immediately see what she was getting at.

Personally I was struck by how modern & unexpected her color combinations were: lime & grey – royal blue, black & red – deep navy with lime and orange accents. 80 years ago she was right on today’s trend of color blocking in fashion. Truly inspirational stuff – so don’t be too surprised if you see some Delaunay-worthy color combos popping up in our next collection of cards!

If you miss the show, there’s a great book you can amazon – Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay.