Monthly Archives: July 2014

Grounded in Tradition: the Surprising Connection Between Cave Art and Chanel

In 1983, the legendary House of Chanel was in trouble.

The brand had been established in 1909, when Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel opened a millinery shop in Paris. Her timeless designs and fragrances had withstood the test of time for over a century, and sartorially, some of Chanel’s designs derived from the military uniforms made prevalent by World War l. Chanel became synKarlonymous with gorgeous fabrics, simple elegance, and of course, the fragrance Chanel No. 5.

But in the early eighties, Chanel was still languishing in the wake of Mademoiselle’s death in 1971, subsisting largely on sales from its best-selling fragrance, Chanel No. 5. Faced with the challenge of reinvigorating the house, chairman and part owner of Chanel,  Alain Wertheimer, made an unexpected move – he offered the job of chief designer to Karl Lagerfeld.

Lagerfeld showed promise as a designer from the age of sixteen, when he submitted a series of sketches and fabric samples to a design competition. He ended up taking first place in the coat category.  Soon, Lagerfeld had full time work with French designer Pierre Balmain for the next three years.  Lagerfeld became known in the fashion industry for his innovative, in-the-moment styles. But Lagerfeld also had an appreciation for the past, and he often shoped in flea markets, finding ld wedding dresses to deconstruct.  By the 1980s, Karl Lagerfeld was a major star in the fashion world. He was a  favorite among the press, who loved to chronicle his changing tastes and social life. Lagerfeld kept company with other major stars, including his good friend Andy Warhol.

Lagerfeld had plenty of other options, and his friends and advisers told him to steer clear of Chanel. He recalled:

“Everybody said, ‘Don’t touch it, it’s dead, it will never come back.’ But by then I thought it was a challenge.”


And he seized the challenge with both hands: he swiftly began to reinvigorate the brand by sifting through the house’s archives, incorporating such signature Chanel details as tweed fabrics, pearls, gold chains, and the double-C logo, but showing them in a sexy, youthful, and—most importantly—irreverent way.

In his revival of Chanel, this most innovative of designers succeeded by blending the old with the new, not by abandoning tradition, but reinvigorating it.

An Almost-Lost Art

glassblowingThe art of blowing glass by hand is an almost-lost art.
The costs of producing handblown drinking glasses and other objects are so high that collecting them is left to those who have disposable income. Most of us purchase glassware that is mass produced; because of that, it is an “almost-lost” art, along with hand lettered invitations and hand-engraved stationery.

Two modern masters of glassblowing, Paul Marioni and his son, Dante Marioni are continuing from a tradition that dates back to 37 BC, as they create vessels of uncompromising quality and beauty.  Paul has passed down the tradition to his son and now Dante teaches the art around the world.

Paul Marioni


Paul Marioni has been an internationally recognized glass artist since the 1960s whose work is about human nature and is often inspired by his dreams. His son, Dante Marioni, first blew glass at the age of nine when, along with his father, he visited Jay Musler’s studio, where he was given a pipe and a small “gather” of glass. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dante MarioniIn 2004, as a glass artist, I attended Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Pilchuk was founded in 1971 by legendary glass artist Dale Chihuly. I had the distinct privilege to watch Dante Marioni blow glass, and  saw him destroy a number of drinking glasses he was unhappy with; many would accept his work as beautiful, but it was not up to his level of artistic craftsmanship. He was poetry in motion!

My own relationship with artistic traditions

Reflecting on my own art, I realize that I am part of a lineage of painters dating back centuries, but more recently, to work by artist Hans Hofmann. Hofmann’s art work is notable in the way he creates structure using spatial illusion and color relationships. In my work, I investigate the division of space using contrasting colors and edges that overlap and bleed into each other.

His completely abstract works date from the 1940s. Hofmann believed that abstract art was a way to get at the important reality. He famously stated that “the ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” To learn more about Hans Hofmann, go here.

Terpsichore   Hans HofmannRipe 36x24








Hans Hofmann, Terpishore, 1958                                                           ©Aryana B. Londir, Ripe, 2014


Many of my influences come from the artists of the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field movements, as evidenced in the above piece. The bright patches of vibrant color and how they are arranged create so many opportunities for personal expression.

Those connections were really brought home to me after viewing a documentary by Werner Herzog on the hidden cave paintings of the Chauvet caves of Southern France, discovered only ten years ago. Those paintings are from over 30,000 years old, yet are in pristine condition. Even then, humans were expressing themselves and documenting their feelings about the world surrounding them!


chavet horsesIt was quite exciting following the first footsteps of the group as they explored the cave.  To conserve the integrity of the cave, they were allowed to only walk on metal walkways put in place prior to their viewing, along with hand held cameras lighting. The pathways were so narrow that it was possible for them to through in a single line.  I had no idea that I would be following in the footsteps of pioneers when I settled in to watch what I thought to be a simple, possibly boring documentary. What a lovely surprise to discover the cave as these explorers did!


Your relationship with tradition

How do you relate to the past?

Have you carried forth any traditions in your work?

In your family? In your personal life? Please let me know in the comments!

Aryana B. Londir is an abstract painter who has been fascinated by style in all of its incarnations throughout her life. For more of Aryana’s thoughts on the origins and impact of style on our lives, and to be the first to see her new art, please sign up here.


The Beginner’s Guide to Steampunk Style

steampunk fashionWe all know the term steampunk, but what does it really mean?

Although many works now considered seminal to the genre were published in the 1960s and 1970s, the term steampunk originated in the late 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk. It seems to have been coined by science fiction author K. W. Jeter.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.

Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century.

Many of the visualizations of steampunk have their origins with, among others,Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, including the design of the story’s submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew’s underwater gear; and George Pal’s 1960 film The Time Machine, with the design of the time machine itself.

Paris train station2

In 1994, the Paris Metro station at Arts et Métiers was redesigned by Belgian artist Francois Schuiten in steampunk style to honor the works of Jules Verne. The station is reminiscent of a submarine, sheathed in brass with giant cogs in the ceiling and portholes that look out onto fanciful scenes.

In 2013, IBM predicted, based on an analysis of more than a half million public posts on message boards, blogs, social media sites and news sources, “that ‘steampunk,’ a sub-genre inspired by the clothing, technology and social mores of Victorian society, will be a major trend to bubble up and take hold of the retail industry.” Indeed, high fashion lines such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Chanel and Christian Dior had already been introducing steampunk styles on the fashion runways. And in episode 7 of “Project Runway: Under the Gunn” series, contestants were challenged to create “steampunk chic” looks.

Are you a steampunker?

Because of the popularity of steampunk, there is a growing movement of adults that want to establish steampunk as a culture and lifestyle. Some fans of the genre adopt a steampunk aesthetic through fashion.

So, are you a steampunker? A few clues…

Do you include elements of industrial design in your home décor?

archway This is an archway in my home, built by artist/sculptor Kit Carson.

Lady Racine raven

Do you accessorize with  vintage watches, such as this necklace by jeweler Kit Carson?

(Sterling silver and gold necklace with vintage watch face.)

Do you live in, or desire to live in a Victorian home?

Do you revel in the atmosphere of  Alice in Wonderland or Sherlock Holmes?

Guess what? You are a steampunker.  Welcome to the club!

How I use steampunk style in my art

multi bar layout w metal



As a visual artist, I have incorporated elements of steampunk in to this new three-dimensional wallpiece. Using gears, hardware and rusted metal create the steampunk connection in my abstract art. These elements are old rusted bits and pieces from farm implements, garden tools or machinery. The channels in the center of the wood bars will be filled with colored encaustic paint and more hardware will be added to the sides and front.





Future Past2





This is a wallpiece I created in 2007 when I worked in fused glass and mixed media.  Elements from this piece are incorporated in the new work above; the metal gear, and the wood bar with the channel here is fulled with fused glass.  Encaustic paint will fill the channel in the new work. Piece shown is 48″ x 18″ x 1″.


Your steampunk style

How do you see steampunk fitting into your life?

Have you adapted any of the elements to your style of dressing, work or home? Please let me know in the comments!

Aryana B. Londir is an abstract painter who has been fascinated by style in all of its incarnations throughout her life. For more of Aryana’s thoughts on the origins and impact of style on our lives, and to be the first to see her new art, please sign up here.



Jump on it!

man in jumpsuit

The term “jumpsuit” originally referred to the utilitarian one-piece garments used by parachuters/skydivers, but has come to be used as a common term for any one-piece garment.

The original skydivers’ jumpsuits were simple garments designed to insulate the body from the cold of high altitudes and minimize risk of covering important handles and grips.

Aviators and astronauts sometimes wear insulated, fire-retardant jumpsuits or flight suits where other types of clothing can potentially float or flap about in zero gravity or during high-G maneuvers.

Drivers in motor racing wear jumpsuits for protection against fire and (in the case of motorcycle racers) leather suits for abrasion.

Competitive skiers and speed skaters wear skin-tight jumpsuits to provide freedom of movement while minimizing air resistance.

Prisons in the United States and Canada frequently use bright orange jumpsuit uniforms for inmates for ease of identification and high visibility.

Starting in the 1960s, the jumpsuit has made occasional appearances in common and high fashion (particularly in the 1980s). They retain connotations of the future because they have been frequently featured in popular science fiction.

Jumpsuits have often been used as stage costumes in stage productions and by various singers and bands. A black leather jumpsuit is part of Suzi Quatro’s image. Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, The Who, Freddie Mercury, Feeder, Alphaville, Goldfrapp, Aaliyah, Britney Spears, Pink, Devo, Polysics, Spice Girls, Korn and Slipknot, for example, have all performed in flamboyantly-designed jumpsuit-like garments. Catsuits, or skin-tight jumpsuits of shiny fabric, have also been popular on stage.

Bruce Lee wore a yellow-and-black jumpsuit in Game of Death and it has become something of a trademark for the actor.

David Sugalski, also known as The Polish Ambassador, is an electronic music artist that makes use of a vintage neon-yellow Swiss jumpsuit during his live shows. How could we forget to mention Devo?


And of course, the amazing and gorgeous Patrick Stewart wore one too!

patrick stewart

Me? Sure! I have had many jumpsuits in my life, and who knows…there could be more.

women in jumpsuits

How about you?