Friday, February 29

Ali Cockrean

'Loose in London' acrylic on canvas

'Sailing In Sydney' acrylic on canvas

'Manhattan Magic' acrylic on canvas

The one thing that I love the most about writing my blog is the chance to learn more about the people I admire. Most always I find the answers to my questions both humbling and inspiring. British-based artist Ali Cockrean is no exception. I am mad for her cityscapes and her answers to my questions are honest and though provoking.

What artists, historical or contemporary, do you most admire?
There are so many I admire for different reasons it’s really difficult to choose. But those in historical terms that have influenced me the most in my own artistic development are Turner, Picasso, Miro, Pollock and Rothko. Equally, there are many contemporary artists I admire.

Some I know personally, others I appreciate from a distance like Kurt Jackson and Neil Canning. Generally they all have the same things in common; a natural and effortless talent, an overwhelming passion for the subject and an invincible determination to succeed.

What inspires your art and ideas?
All sorts of things can stimulate ideas. It is usually an emotional response to something going on around me. Sometimes it can be very simple, such as a song, a few lines in a film that makes an impression, or a particularly beautiful landscape. Other times it can be truly life-changing experiences like the loss of a loved one.

Many of my prompts are generated by my relationships with other people. Intimate moments shared with friends or family. Maybe just a look shared between two people or an understanding unsaid, but fully appreciated by both parties. I’m someone who is very much in sync with my emotions and comfortable with most of them, even the negative ones. I’m an analyser and my mind is always full to overflowing with potential subject matter for paintings.

What is the one thing in life you can’t live without?

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
Producing and raising my son, who never ceases to delight and amaze me as only children can.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To be genuinely content and at peace with yourself. Possible, but very difficult to achieve.

Who are your favourite heroes of fiction?
I don’t have any heroes of fiction. I prefer to reserve my appreciation for real people with real achievements and accomplishments.

What books are on your bedside table?
Currently a Taschen art book featuring Mark Rothko’s work and a book called “Art for Dummies” which intrigues me because I have yet to find a book that can explain art simply and directly. Making art accessible to people is a subject I feel very strongly about. There is still too much pretension in the art world. It all comes down to interpretation and opinion at the end of the day, both of which are totally subjective.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy the freedom to follow my own path. However the biggest buzz I get is seeing the pleasure my work can bring to those who enjoy it. There have been occasions when the reaction to my unveiling a commissioned piece has literally been tears of joy and that is quite overwhelming for the artist as well as the buyer. To enrich someone’s life like that is priceless.

Profile by Ronda Carman
Art: Copyright Ali Cockrean

Wednesday, February 27

Interview: Charlotte Moss

Stylish, articulate, elegant and organized are only but a few words to describe designer, entrepreneur, author and philanthropist Charlotte Moss. I feel beyond privileged to profile one of my style icons and to be among the first in the blogging world to give you a glimpse of Charlotte’s new book A Flair for Living, set to be published by Assouline in May 2008.

A Flair for Living seems like the perfect title penned by a woman who still runs a highly successful interior design business; has eponymous collections of china and linens; and is major supporter of the Parrish Art Museum, UNICEF, Operation Smile and the New York City Ballet, among others. “I chose the title because a flair for living is the ultimate goal. Learning how to really live, to cultivate a flair for living in all you do is a lifelong process. Now doesn’t that add a sense of urgency to what you are doing right now?”

A Flair for Living is arguably her most sophisticated and personal book to date, offering a lavish photo tour of every component of the home. From the bedroom to the breakfast room, Charlotte shares her ideas on living graciously and entertaining.

All obvious reasons aside I have always been drawn to Charlotte’s quick wit and sensibilities. A Southerner by birth and upbringing, Charlotte was born in Richmond, Virginia and knows a thing or two about hospitality. “I like to think more in terms of the atmosphere the room exudes—a feeling of invitation and hospitality, a room that makes you feel at ease.” She has also lived in New York long enough to adopt a no-nonsense approach to the important things in life. A perfect combination in my opinion.

A few of my favorite Charlotte Moss quotations:

“There’s just no excuse for bad housekeeping. Cleanliness is something that doesn’t cost anything. It’s about self-respect.”

“There are people who are get-it-done people, and there’s no bitching or moaning about it. Then there are people who think they are doing you a favor, and I can’t handle that. If you’re going to stand out, you gotta do something, and it’s called work, W-O-R-K!”

“I can tell you bedrooms where I know there’s no good sex going on. The room looks like an afterthought, as though nobody cares. Old lampshades, dusty and dirty things…it’s there even in some of the finest properties in New York.”

The spectacular dining room in Charlotte's Upper East Side townhouse. Image - A Flair for Living

Image - A Flair for Living

Q & A:

What inspires your creativity?
Time alone in my library, walking the streets in market towns, a walk on the beach or in someplace sublime, like the Palais Royale.

What is your most prized possession?
My home and my health

What is the one thing in life you can’t live without?
A sense of humor

How do you define style?
Someone with curiosity, authenticity, generosity, discipline, a sense of humor and passion.

Charlotte's portrait wall of her favorite women

Who are your style icons?
My nieces, Charlotte and Margaret, they keep me au courant. Audrey Hepburn and Tina Turner forever; for their strength, grace and joie. Fleur Cowles; because she has flair and created a magazine with the same name, FLAIR. It’s a big list…

Charlotte (center) with her nieces, Margaret Moss (left) and Charlotte Moss (right)

What is your idea of earthly happiness
Being here on earth makes me happy

What books are on your bedside table?
The Importance of Living, by Lin Yutang; The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe; Basic Black by Cathie Black; Making it New, The Art and Style by Gerald and Sara Murphy by Debra Rothchild

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
With Edith Wharton, (we have the same birthday) visiting gardens in Italy in an open touring car with our journals, digital cameras and a well stocked picnic hamper.

How does your new book differ from others you have written
It’s a photo essay on design and more about life after decorating.

What is your favorite indulgence?
Taking a helicopter to East Hampton on the weekend.

What is the one thing people would be so surprised to learn about you
I like to drive fast (I have a 1960 220SE Convertible). I bought a Skip Barber Racing School package at a charity auction, I can’t wait to go!

Interview by Ronda Carman

Who's Counting?

I have often said, and I honestly believe, that all the best does not always equal the most expensive. Just look at Maybelline Great Lash mascara, arguably one of the best on the market and by all counts it’s a steal. I am hoping that many of you will weigh in on this topic and this post won’t ruin my reputation for coveting all the best.

Most things in my life I obsess over—shoes, handbags, paint, tableware, hotels, wine, art—you get the picture. But when it comes to bed linens I am a novice and quite honestly I just don’t get $2,500 for a set of queen sheets. I am more than willing to admit ignorance in this area. Perhaps if I were to sleep on a set my whole perspective might change.

I have a birthday coming up in April and my mother has asked me to get my wish list to her very soon. I am thinking of asking for new bedding. I feel that perhaps I am missing out on something very special and since statisticians estimate you will spend about 30 percent of your life in bed, why not indulge?

I am of course familiar with E. Braun & Company, Léron, Porthault , Pratesi and Leontine, but I cannot tell you with any level of certainty which of the aforementioned has the best bedding. I have been doing my “bedding research” for the past few days and think I have found what I believe to be a suitable choice for my taste and budget. I am going with Saxon by Sferra in chocolate brown and white. Lush and exquisite embroidery, 406 Italian Egyptian cotton percale and winner of the Textiles Industry Award for Best Luxe Design. I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

Saturday, February 23

Shopping on Saturday

I love estate jewelry. Not only for its uniqueness, but the stories and history that accompany such pieces. One of my favorite online shops to browse is Fay Cullen. I could spend hours surfing and daydreaming.

One bracelet that caught my eye was this antique Victorian tortoiseshell bracelet complete with the original heart padlock clasp in 15ct yellow gold. It seemed especially appropriate given that our son is studying the Victorian period in school and we listen the Vile Victorians Horrible Histories CD regularly!

The bracelet is most likely an example of Victorian mourning jewelry considered suitable for 'half mourning' or the second year of mourning the death of a loved one.

The mourner would only be allowed to wear black clothing and accessories for the first year following a loved one's death while the somber yet appealing color of tortoiseshell jewelry was considered appropriate for entering the second official year of mourning. This rare bracelet is an extraordinary example of Victorian era artisan's creativity and workmanship despite the restrictive parameters of the day.

Friday, February 22

Tracy Porter

I will admit that when I think of Tracy Porter I tend to think of interior design and home furnishings, not jewelry and shoes. Wrong! I have spent half the morning drooling over at her website, unbelievably gorgeous accessories!! She also has a great blog. You must checkout the adorable interview with Tracy and her husband John.

Thursday, February 21

Thank You

Many thanks to fellow Houstonian and blogger Carolina for awarding me the "You Make My Day" award. I love writing All the Best each day, so it’s quite gratifying when someone extends such a kind gesture.

There are so many blogs that I read each day that it is almost impossible to narrow it down to just five blogs, but that is the task I have been given. So here they are in alphabetical order:
Brilliant Asylum
Easy and Elegant Life
Melissa C Morris
pve design
The Peak of Chic

Pass this along to five bloggers that make your day. And of course thanks to all of the bloggers and reader that make me smile every day.

OK, me being me, I can't just limit it to 5 blogs! There are more that 5 that make my day each day! This is my blog after all, so I am adding the other blogs that I read religiously!
Absolutely Beautiful Things
Cote de Texas
Girl Meets Glamour
M.A. Belle
Patricia Gray Interior Design
Pigtown Design
Pink Wallpaper
Studio Annetta
Style Court
This is Glamorous

Shades of Grey and Red

The porcelain-skinned, auburn-haired Julianne Moore and this gorgeous photo were the inspiration in my search for fabric last evening. Having just painted our hallway a beautiful shade of grey, I am now quite obsessed by this color.

Perhaps it's because it pairs so well with many different colors and it can go from soft and subtle to dark and dramatic. I have always loved the color red, but only in moderation. In our previous home I painted our dining room red and I hated it, even though I LOVE it in other peoples' home. I then papered over the red walls of the dining room in a red and cream toile and loved the results. For me I needed the cream to soften the red tones. I think a red and grey combination is quite stunning and I especially adore the Schumacher fabrics below.

Let's Dance - Appliqué and embroidery give a modern geometric pattern a handcrafted look. The bold colors from a graphic black and white combination.

Squiggle Velvet - Sinuous curves form a bold ogee pattern in this viscose velvet and cotton fabric.

Moonpennies - A stunning metallic grey from the Avant-Garde collection.

Beckman Counterpane Embroidery - A charming embroidered cotton inspired by a linen needlework counterpane (bedcover) in Colonial Williamsburg’s archive collection.

Wednesday, February 20

Genevieve London

Hat designer Genevieve Weaver arrived in London in 1953 and started a small shop in 1963 on King’s Road in London to sell furniture and accessories she found on her travels.

In 1963 Genevieve’s shop was at the “wrong” end of the King’s Road and the rent was £7 per week. Today it is a much different story and the shop is very much on the “right” end of the street. King’s Road boasts many great art galleries, restaurants and interiors shops.

Now run by her two sons Kevin and Marc Weaver, both travel around the world several times a year to source unique furniture, accessories and textiles for the home. Their journeys take them to North Africa, the Indian sub continent, Continental Europe, Southeast Asia, the Americas and Australasia. Guinevere has an international, loyal following of private collectors and interior designers.

My favorite finds this week:
Pair of Italian painted carved wood wall sconces, c. 1930

Pair of French floral glass & silvered tole sconces, c. 1940

Mahogany folding coaching table, c1850

Chinese green glazed earthenware garden seats early 20th century

Tuesday, February 19

Restrained Drama

A beautiful Paris apartment designed by Nye Basham. I love the sophisticated grey-green color palette mixed with coral, golds and browns.

Various period pieces, including a 1950s chair from a Los Angeles hotel and a pair of Egyptian stools blend perfectly with the ornate French architecture.

The adjacent dining room exemplifies good proportion, drama and balance.

I adore homes that are well edited, yet exude comfort. Similarly I am drawn to interiors that are dramatic, but display a cerain level of constraint. Not an easy task. Each day I think of the words of Chanel, "Look in the mirror and take one thing off before you leave the house." I think this simple rule easily translates to design and it seems to be the guiding principal in Suzanne Trocmé’s book Classic Chic: The Little Black Dress of Decorating. Don’t you just love the name.

Trocmé is a writer and journalist specializing in interior design, architecture, art, and fashion and is a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and French, German, and Russian Architectural Digest. The book is filled with beautiful homes and well written text. It’s a great addition to any design library.

While writing this post I witnessed the above photo. Our darling wee Izzie, a miniature black Schnauzer, seems to have little restraint when it comes to standing on the table and is certainly not lacking in the drama department.

All Nye Basham interior photos from Classic Chic by Suzanne Trocmé

Friday, February 15

Making Progress

Our hallway is coming along, slowly but surely. It took the whole week to tape off and paint. I underestimated the time and labor involved in this project, but it was well worth it! It really looks great and the color is just what I hoped it would be—subtle, yet rich in depth.

In the end I tested 9 paint samples and I am so glad that I did...I love the end result!

The winner of the paint sample competition went to Farrow & Ball's Shaded White. Despite the name it's not white at all!

Today the electrician is coming to put in small recessed downlights. Yes, I am still keeping the chandelier! It’s great for ambiance and was a birthday gift from my husband. It’s still one of my most prized possessions, however, it does not give off great light in a large hallway, especially if displaying art. We have acquired two more pieces to add to our collection. It is going to take a lot of time and money to fill this hallway, and unfortunately it seems that right now I have more time! Now I just need to start shopping for new carpet…

Oil on canvas by the lovely and talented Czech artist Jana Prchalova

Lithograph by Enzo Cadorin

Thursday, February 14

14 February 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day. It has been fun and wonderfully hectic this week writing for my blog and guest blogging for Design*Sponge. And, just to make the week really frenzied, I began painting our hallway and started French lessons. The downside of course has been my lack of communication with readers and fellow bloggers. Thank you to everyone who has sent emails this week—I promise I will catch up over the weekend! Also, please know that I am still reading all of my favorite blogs, even if I am not posting comments.

Tonight I will steal time away to have a wonderful dinner at home with my husband and son (my two favorite men) and have a glass of bubbly! I hope you all have a wonderful day and as always thank you for your kind words and fun exchanges each day.

Do be certain to read my Design*Sponge post today about the wonderful artist and up-and-coming animator Jana Prchalova.

ps - Thank you Patricia for my lovely blog header!

Photo: Flickr

Wednesday, February 13

Hetty Rose

I love shoes and I am especially crazy about the bespoke line of shoes by Hetty Rose. These gorgeous works of art are the antithesis of mass-market bargains. Each shoe is crafted using recycled vintage materials, primarily vintage Japanese kimono fabric.

Hetty Rose, the designer and founder of the company, is not only passionate about bespoke footwear, but has a clear design philosophy—make an environmental statement in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Hetty graduated from the London College of Fashion with a degree in Footwear Design & Development. She hand selects all antique fabrics to create original, unique handmade footwear.

Tuesday, February 12

Profile: Ewan Gibbs

London’, 2005. Pencil on paper

New York’, 2006. Pen and pencil on graph paper

I am fascinated with the work of British artist Ewan Gibbs. His ink on graph paper and linocuts are exactly executed, yet quietly stunning. Perhaps it is the love and appreciation I have for the linocuts in our home, imaginatively crafted by my husband’s grandmother that draws me to Ewan’s work.

Circular and linear marks on grid paper create fascinating pixel-like images. Hundreds of tiny marks are hand drawn into each grid in varying shades of black and grey. Up close, they appear vague, yet at a distance, they are transformed into meticulous, detailed drawings of cities, landmarks and interiors.

Ewan graduated from Goldsmiths College, London in 1996. Other famous Goldsmiths alumni include Lucian Freud, Mary Quant and Damien Hirst. Ewan has exhibited in both the UK and the US. Recent solo exhibitions have included Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, Texas and Paul Morris Gallery, New York. In London the prestigious Timothy Taylor Gallery represents his work. You can view more of Ewan’s work on the Timothy Taylor Gallery website. The computer of course is an invaluable tool, but it is not a perfect substitute for viewing the actual artwork.

If you are stateside you can view Ewan’s upcoming exhibit ‘Pictures of Pitchers’ at the Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin from 8 March – 19 April.

'Ewan' 2001. Portrait of Ewan Gibbs painted by artist and friend Alessandro Raho.

What artists, historical or contemporary, do you most admire?
Historically I would say, Bonnard, Mattise , Van Gogh, Atget, Brassai, Seurat. Also Patrick Caulfield and Roy Lichtenstein. In terms of people working today, Vija Celmins, Richard Artschwager, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Chuck Close, Bernd and Hiller Becher and On Kawara.

What inspires your art and ideas
In terms of developing a technique, the major inspiration was a book of knitting and crochet patterns that I came across on a market stall in Brick Lane in 1993. I was excited by the patterns use of a grid as a structure or scaffold to hang a picture on. The patterns were also made up of a variety of symbols such as circles, crosses, diagonal lines etc. These marks differentiated between the different colours to be used when knitting or crocheting the pictures, a similar logic to painting by numbers.

I adopted this language to initially translate images of hotel interiors from holiday brochures and have gradually reduced the marks down to either circles or diagonal lines over the last fifteen years. I now work from both found images and my own photographs.

‘San Francisco’, 2006. Lino cut on 225g Zerkall 902 paper

‘New York’, 2006. Pencil on graph paper

What is your most prized possession?
I do not really have many prized possessions but if the house was on fire I would try and save our family photographs and my photographic record of the 200 plus drawings I have made so far.

What is the one thing in life you can’t live without
Enough sleep.

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
I once shot a hole in one on a short par 3 but that was more luck than judgment. Apart from that, on the work front I am proud of a 46ft x 7ft mural I was commissioned to paint when I was 18. It took me about nine months and I was paid £2000 which at the time made me feel rich. I suppose it also made me a professional artist of sorts.

On the domestic front, I looked after our seven month old daughter Lillian for four days a week for the two years before our son Arthur was born. Going from the solitary, self absorbed life of an artist to entertaining a child for eleven hours a day was quite a challenge and a major culture shock.

What is your idea of earthly happiness
I’m sure it is much the same as everyone else’s.

Who are your favourite heroes of fiction?

I don’t tend to make time to read fiction or watch movies. I have however watched Mary Poppins with Lillian about fifty times over the last few months. So I would have to say that Mary Poppins is a hero as she keeps the kids entertained and is practically perfect in every way. Bert has also become a firm favourite. He never seeks to press his advantage with Mary and as a pavement artist he draws what he likes and he likes what he drew.

What books are on your bedside table
I am currently re reading ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom. The last fiction I read was a book called ‘The Manny’ by Holly Peterson. I heard her interviewed on the radio and although aimed at female readers the book intrigued me as I had done a bit of childcare and I was about to go to New York and stay with a friend who lived on Park Avenue.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love sitting down on a Monday morning with five days of drawing stretched out in front of me. Putting on my headphones and listening to an album that I have fallen in love with but not yet played to death. (Current flavours of the month are Kate Nash’s ‘Made of bricks’ and Neil Young’s ‘Chrome dreams 11’) If I am in the middle of a drawing that is going well then that’s all the better.

Art/Photos: Copyright, Ewan Gibbs; Courtesy, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Profile by Ronda Carman

Monday, February 11


The lovely Grace Bonney - founder of Design*Sponge

This week I will be a guest blogger over at Design*Sponge. Many thanks to Grace Bonney for inviting me, it's a huge honor. I will continue with my regular posts, but do visit me over at Design*Sponge where I will focus on the art and design world in Scotland, especially Glasgow.

Photo The New York Times