The basis for this collection comes from my interest in the historical act and display of collecting things. As the English empire grew across foreign lands, the Victorians became fascinated with the collection of specimens from the natural worlds of far flung places. While colonization may be abhorrent to our modern sensibilities, there is something romantic in the notion of traveling to new places and discovering cultures other than our own. Taking something home from these voyages became the first souvenirs. This is the part of the Victorian era that I’ve called upon for the Linnaeus Collection. To jog your memory from junior high biology, Carl Linnaeus was the guy who created taxonomy, or the biological classification that categorizes the natural world into kingdoms, orders, species, etc. Only my interpretation has some unexpected commentary on the original art of collection display. On the tray, for example, there’s the black and white background that is reminiscent of the detailed wallpaper found in the wealthier Victorian homes. Many people filled their walls with portraits of family members in elaborate frames. Here, I’ve played with the notion of the reverence a family has for its lineage by replacing one of the subjects with an animal and giving the man his own set of antlers. The moths that are flying across the tray reference the specimens that someone might have collected and displayed in a glass shadow box, but here they are free to roam around the room. Another group of objects that would have been popular to collect were feathers, as referenced on one of the frames. I’ve put them in a garden urn in homage to the pastime of gardening, which was also seen as an act of classifying nature at the time. The coasters continue the theme by once again using portrait frames for images of animals rather than people, and these animals would have been considered exotic or “big game” to the Victorians, and therefore, of great interest. The act of displaying collections as objects d’art has made a sort of come-back in the modern home. The best examples are probably found in bookcases whose interiors might be painted a vibrant color with a mix of books and objects (shells, horns, trophies, etc) arranged in a way that is pleasing to the eye and act as a sort of mini gallery space. Choosing something from the Linnaeus Collection would be a wonderful way to start your own arrangement of things that interest you visually…on a bookcase, atop a buffet or anywhere you might have a kind of mantel piece to display your own aesthetic.
I have to admit that I am drawn to all things nautical from a décor perspective. I’m a sucker for images of anchors or whales and would love to use those giant balls of rope with the handles as door stops. I have always, always dreamed of owning a cottage on the shore and filling it with blue and white striped pillows, lobster pots and a fireplace surround made out of oyster shells. However, after years of collecting various sea-themed objects and storing them away for my future oceanic abode, I’ve come to realize that I’m a little bit tired of the typical beach décor of the starfish and lighthouse variety. I mean, how many pillows with an image of a crab on them do we need??? So I’ve tried a new tack. I’ve created some collages that still capture the colors and imagery of the sea but offered them slightly askew. The tray shows a military man, perhaps some sort of naval admiral, riding a fish, rather than a ship, with a mushroom held over his head to shield him from the sun. The coasters showcase examples of watercraft taken from a children’s book of stamps and placed in ornate frames the way one might have paintings of ships hanging in a beach cottage….or, let’s face it, a fried clam shack. The frames, too, are a bit cheeky rather than taking themselves too seriously. Oh, and the reason I’ve called the collection “C.A.N.O.E.”? It stands for the “Committee to Assign a Nautical Origin to Everything,” which I think is hilarious and should be a reminder to all of us: Once you start decorating a beach house too, well, beach-y, you’ll soon have people showing up with gag gifts like singing fish and dancing lobsters that really, no one should actually display in their homes. My advice? Take one of these trays or frames and make your nautical statement…and then leave it at that.
I’ve been using birds in my work since I started Zeal five years ago. I love the intricate patterns on their feathers, the variety of colors across species and, of course, their enviable ability to fly. From a design perspective, I love using images of birds that one might refer to as “old-lady-ish” and put them against a modern backdrop so that we might appreciate the creatures in a new light. I’m calling this collection “Winifred” in honor of Winifred Cavendish-Bentinck, the Duchess of Portland and first president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In 1899, the Society’s charter opened with the following requirement: that “Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted.” Poor ostrich.
Many of us love to travel and I’m no exception. I also love seeing things around my home that remind me of my favorite trips. With this collection, I am showcasing my visual interest in slightly vintage imagery, referencing the Golden Age of travel where people went places purely for pleasure and delighted in self-directed education of the iconic, must-see tourist attractions before they became too tacky to stomach. I’ve selected a few destinations that are meaningful to me and will continue to expand to other cities as I am inspired by maps and other ephemera that I find in my own travels. If there is a particular place that you’d like to be reminded of, let me know! I have had great experiences working with clients on creating one of a kind trays for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduation gifts, life changes, mid-life crises…you get the gist.