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Step Inside Magpie

Christine Liu, decor8 contributor, is back with a review of Magpie. This post contains so many great links, you won’t want to miss it. Drum roll please…here’s Christine!

As Holly has already confessed her love for their paper goods, I went on task to do a thorough look-see of Davis Square gem Magpie, shiny things for your nest. I’ve visited this haven of hip crafts, local art, and vintage collectibles’ only once before, but one visit is clearly not enough. Not only would it be impossible to absorb all the featured items at once, but also the in-stock items constantly change as the roster of artists evolve and as one-of-a-kind originals are sold and replenished. Part quirky boutique and part curated gallery, Magpie is a charming art spot that exudes with creative style and handcrafted energy.

The store, located at 378A Highland Ave in Somerville (just over the Charles from Boston), is a quick walk from the T subway station, and welcomes you from the sidewalk with a flock of friendly (what else?) handdrawn magpies. They encouragingly beckon.

Look for it carefully, as the space is carefully tucked away in a nondescript stretch of neighborhood. However, the moment you enter you find yourself enveloped in a warmly inviting room with all things cute, cozy, and colorful. Everything from retrofitted wall-hangings to painted bread plates happily coexist in this handmade heaven.

One of the five owners of Magpie, Dave McMahon, was running the place on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t have been more passionate about featuring the works of independent artists and fostering a strong local community. He and his wife Leah Kramer (the founder of Craftster) and fellow Magpies Simone Alpen, Emily Arkin and Dave Sakowski are also the core that run the Bazaar Bizarre, a modern craft fair that began in 2001 in the Boston-area but has since spread out to include LA, Cleveland, and San Francisco (next event April 22 + 23′ 06). Dave eagerly showed me around (the room is small but holds a lot!) and pointed me towards some interesting works.


First stop: paper goods! Handmade cards are conveniently located right in the front of the store and are coo-worthy spectacular. Dave mentions that the store gets new paper goods almost on a continuous basis, and I find the designs as perfect and delectable as cupcakes. Just a handful of the featured stationery include designs by 1201AM, sugarlily, poppycock, sewing stars, boygirlparty, scraps of paper, and the paper princess. There’s everything from colorful illustration to quirky gocco prints to cards packaged with pages from real vintage recipe books. (My personal favorites are from Susie Ghahremani at boygirlparty, and the pudgy bunnies of sewing stars.) If you’re looking for unique, well-made, and head-turning stationery, Magpie is the place to be.


I’m already tickled pink at the paper goods, though there’s plenty more to see. Moving toward the rear of the store, I espy some cleverly designed dinnerware and ceramics.

I’m completely smitten with these dining accessories by neutrino designs. (If you’re not proximate to Magpie, you can also purchase them online at Art Star.) The clean white lines and simple silhouettes of the pieces are adorned with sporadic geometric details, bold and delicate in fine-tipped orange. At once mod, scientific, and abstract, the design of the series wins on so many levels. I love how the butter dish is constructed so that at first it appears to be a normal white holder. Only until you consume enough butter do you uncover the bright orange designs. A gradual and satisfying reward that makes eating that much more fun.


I still remember these hand-etched glasses from my first visit. Each set hosts an amusingly complementary pair of messages, such as Beauty/Brains, Wild Turkey/Cold Duck, and RBG/CMYK (my pick). They’re beautifully minimalist, with the clear frosted glass and bold, sans serif lettering. Designed by Cambridge-based artist Sandra Salamone, I could definitely see them as a fancy vintage cocktail vessel, or for housing a colorful votive candle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the artist took requests for custom messages… now who’s the creative one? :)


Here’s Dave, looking super happy and modeling one of the hand-painted sushi-themed ceramics by Suzaluna. (How delish to eat sushi atop of sushi!) By the way, he was a great sport and let me take all these pictures for decor8!


When encouraged to pick a personal favorite, Dave was excited to feature the hand painted birdhouses by Ryan O’Rourke. The birdhouses are constructed by Ryan’s grandfather, and then painstakingly designed and decorated by Ryan. Dave adds, “I’m a painter, so I really admire his work. The details…the colors…” The designs are intricate and layered, filled with small illustrative narratives all over the tiny wooden structure. “I love these for so many reasons, but there’s something about the fact that he paints these things that are made by his grandfather. The familial connection, and the handmade process. They’re great!” The birdhouses are fantastically designed, and other than sprucing up your pad in style, they may also become a super-luxe bird loft for your favorite feathered friend if you choose for it to be. Here’s one, smiling back at you.


Perhaps coincidentally, though cheerfully appropriate, there are plenty of bird-themed goods within Magpie. I found the metal rooster sculpture striking in its modern interpretation and recycled materiality. It comes from the hands of Anna Johansson of Anna Built, also active with an indie rock band, the Pee Wee Fist. Anna also creates beautiful jewelry recycled from bits of beer can metals and stunning stained glass. It’s impressive to witness her strength of inspiration from everyday objects.

If you’re in Boston, be sure to drop into Magpie! As I told Dave, one of the best reasons of mine to support local and independent artists is that I feel it’s better to acquire a small number of objects that are meaningfully precious than a large number of generics that are facelessly mass-manufactured. You can definitely sense that philosophy in Magpie, where every object can be traced back to a creative human being. And in a modern world, that’s a beautiful thing.

:::note from holly:::
If you see anything in the photos that you’d like to inquire about, please contact Magpie directly. They are happy to accept orders over the phone with a major credit card.

Magpie also sells my favorite soap dishes in the world by Ambrosia Porcelain. Read what decor8 had to say about them here.

A special thanks to Dave at Magpie!

(photos + text from Christine Liu. Great job, Miss Liu!)

****

Posted in Arts + Crafts, guest bloggers, Shop Tours, shopping, travel on March 30, 2006

coffee + cre8tive [mar 27 06]

I enjoy this ‘electric’ painting by Minnesota artist Jennifer Davis. I thought it was a nice way to begin the week because it evokes feelings of wild abandon, joy, even relaxation, something we all need on a Monday morning yet rarely feel.

It also makes me think about how much I love to dance, to be caught up in the feeling, to experience total freedom on the dance floor. When you look at this painting, what thoughts come to mind?

Creative freedom perhaps? Energy?

(photo: Jennifer Davis)

Posted in Arts + Crafts on March 27, 2006

MIT Visual Arts Center: America Starts Here

By Christine M. Liu, Contributor, decor8

As a student of the media lab at MIT, I literally spend each day sitting on a goldmine. And that, dear friends, is the List Visual Arts Center, a gallery for contemporary art lovingly curated by Bill Arning, directed by Jane Farver, and coordinated by Hiroko Kikuchi. The List is located on campus, in the Weisner building E-15; if you’re in the vicinity you should stop by for the current exhibition America Starts Here, works by Kate Ericson and Mel Zeigler.

MIT Media Lab, Wiesner Building, Cambridge, MA

No one can describe their work better than Bill; however, I can introduce Zeigler and Ericson as a duo who focus on public works, giving new interpretations of everyday life, public space, history and memory, home and family, and the human experience. The works mostly approach the idea of american identity through domestic media like paint, glass, and construction materials. the house as home focus establishes the psychological space of safety, comfort, and ritual.

A favorite piece of mine incorporates a full set of china dinnerware that is elegantly decorated with gold flourishes and script letters. Only when you look closely do you realise that it’s not your typical fancy plating; the gilt words on the Dutch china spell out the names of industrial compounds from the central chemical factory in the origin town. It’s an amusing cognitive tingle, to imagine resting your dessert fork on the tetrachloronickelate lettered rim…

Camouflagued History, 1999

The strikingly painted house (the cover work for the exhibit) was produced in response to reinterpreting the colors defined by the neighborhood council to be acceptable for residences. The artists, in conjunction with the owner of the house, painted the exterior of the house with a camouflage pattern (a real design commissioned from the U.S. Army) composed from all the permissible colourings. The official names of the shades were printed as well, their descriptive names shedding a subtle dimension of the neighborhood and the intrinsic history embodied within.

The partnership of these two artists as lovers and as producers permeates the pieces with emotion and strength. An additional dimension to the exhibition is the fact that sadly, Ericson suffered from a brain tumor and passed away in 2005 (with Ziegler still alive today), giving a sense of her spirit finding new life in the exhibition of their work. More works from the exhibition:

Hollow Oak Our Palace Is, 1989

America Starts Here, 1988

I had a bit of a challenge finding some of their works documented online, though here is an feature that I found on one of their objects, Sift Before Measuring. Inside a dry sink, they placed numerous jars, each filled with flour and etched with the names of traditional american cake recipes.

And don’t forget the small room adjacent to the main gallery, which features an extensive slide presentation of more of their public works and performances. There’s even a picture of them dining on the Dutch dinnerware! :)

[photos above from LVAC]

Graham + Brown

Individually hand painted acrylic on canvas starting at $25 can be yours at Graham & Brown. Offering an extensive range of art from artists and designers, along with thier own in-house design studio, they churn out a range of unique canvases that will add that extra pizzazz to your space. It is possible to have a creative decor on a budget. It may not be by-way-of [insert fine art gallery here], but budget shoppers need not sacrifice stylish interiors!

They also offer one-of-a-kind wallpaper that you can paint yourself (must see the Wood and Taylor ‘frames’ wallpaper), Lovely Hemingway and whimsical Kate Larsen wallpaper, $25 ceiling medallions, and nature-inspired digital murals that are oh-so-realistic!

(images are all from Graham + Brown)

Posted in Arts + Crafts, walls on February 28, 2006

Books:

Some of my books...

Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.

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