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Turkish Delights & Ideas for New Motifs

I had such a lovely evening on Monday night. May I tell you what I did? I visited the studio of Petra (see a tour of her place here) and spent several hours with her, some clients, and my friend Esra who just returned to Germany after vacationing in her native Istanbul. Esra brought with her a very special gift for me, would you like to see?

Handmade ceramic bowls in the most beautiful shades of purple, with a raised tulip pattern, can you see the tulips? Isn’t it a pretty design? This is very typical from the tulip era in Ottoman history that has influenced design there for ages from tulips on palace walls to embroidery on clothing and hand painted onto ceramics. The Dutch have this period to thank for the tulip bulbs that made their way over to Holland hundreds of years ago.

Seeing this beautiful floral pattern made me think about all of the popular motifs that exist out there and how so many have a deeper meaning than, “it’s cute”, “I think I’ll design a print with a ___ one it because it’s popular right now”, “it sells”, etc.”… Not this lovely tulip. It stems (pun fully intended) from a very important place in history that people living hundreds of years from now will (hopefully) always remember thanks to books and families passing on tradition. Same with many of the ethnic prints and patterns, folk art, etc. that you find often while traveling or through the pages of popular design mags.

Seeing traditional patterns from other cultures is a window into a new world? and it’s a very exciting view. The bowls that Esra gave me inspired research and so Tuesday morning I spent 4 hours reading all about the Tulip era and the Ottoman period to refresh my memory from past world history classes. It was so fascinating to learn about this tulip pattern because now I appreciate these bowls even more. I know I’ve mentioned this several times already, but try to read Selvedge magazine out of the UK, “The fabric of your life: textiles in fashion, fine art, interiors, travel and shopping,” if you can because it as a magazine worthy of your time and money. Each issue is like a book, the writers are polished, accurate, obviously well-traveled, and keenly interested in world culture (and the fabrics! ah!) and unlike any magazine I’ve ever read, I walk away learning so much about what goes into the making of textiles, the tradition behind patterns, and so much more. Each issue is like a mini textiles class, I value Selvedge so very much.

After being so inspired by these tulip bowls I thought about all the patterns out there that have saturated the market and I wonder if perhaps a few of you would be daring enough to start a new wave in the indie design world. Why not try to consider the local culture or bring in something more meaningful to you personally into your next illustration or design? I think many of us are looking for some bright, innovative designers to show us something different. While I really enjoy the popular ones, from birds to faux bois, little houses, and deer… Why not wander off the path a bit and dig really deep to challenge yourself to design something that is a bit like the Turkish tulip — that has to do with your culture, what you’re all about, where you came from, an important period of time to you. Perhaps you are part Polish and could research what your ancestors make in Poland and think of a way to modernize that motif a bit? Or if you are from a certain state see what your state flower or bird is and if you can pull inspiration from that.

This is one thing that I absolutely appreciate about J Hill Design in Boston and her business, “Places I Have Never Been”. Her designs are based on how she imagines a place to be like after conducting extensive research on it. Isn’t that an interesting way to design? I’m sure with each design she feels really challenged and excited! Just? some food for thought in case you are feeling stuck in a design rut lately as one of my local friends told me that she feels very caught up in a sea of popular designs and would love to expand but isn’t sure what exactly to do next. Hopefully this will encourage you if you have been wondering…

So that was what I did on Monday evening — relaxed in a colorful atelier around layers of raw silk, IKAT, vintage ethnic fabrics, beads from Morocco and Istanbul, silver linens, tassels and sipping ceylon cardamon tea from London, eating double pistachio Turkish delight from Istanbul… yes, inspiration truly comes from nature for me, especially the two-legged variety — human companions. Developing meaningful friendships, and learning from others (including the popular motifs from their native country) can really inspire.

Now go made things, decorate, be creative! :)

(images from holly becker for decor8 and selvedge magazine)

Posted in inspiration on October 29, 2008

Be Made Ceramic Works

Have you heard of Be Made Ceramic Works? I was reading the Turkish Elle Decor a few nights ago and found them there for the first time. Wow, beautiful, modern, quirky, and not what I’d expect coming out of Istanbul as when I think of Turkey I usually envision very ornate and colorful objects. Clearly I need to start reading Turkish Elle Decor on a regular basis!

Be Made Ceramic Works is a young design duo, Ekin ?zbi?er and Berra Alkan, graduates of MUGSF (Marmara University Faculty of Fine Arts). I really like their bowls with the town along the rim, especially the way it must cast shadows on the wall… So beautiful to look at. I think we aren’t exposed to modern Turkish design in the western world as much as we should be.

This makes me laugh. You can serve your ex-boyfriend his tea in this mug. Or your Devil Wears Prada boss.

In addition to the bowl, this ceramic conversation bubble for the wall has to be my 2nd favorite. I absolutely adore it.

My friends from Istanbul and those who have visited there tell me there is quite a scene of emerging young talent there which makes me what to visit even more. I’d really like to see Be Made Ceramic Works up close and personal… but for now, blogging about them will have to do.

(images from be made ceramic works)

Posted in ceramics on October 29, 2008

Bedroom Inspiration Anyone?

I totally need bedroom inspiration today! What about you? Are you also sleeping in a boring room like I am? Currently my walls are white, curtains are white linen, bed is white, bedspread is white, it’s too safe in there. It feels like a hospital. Of course, I just moved in but that was in August and we’re in October so the “Just Moved In” excuse is starting to no longer work. I’m always looking to paint my bedroom, at least the wall behind the bed, a gorgeous gray not because everyone else seems to be hot on gray lately but because it’s been the one consistent wall color in my dozens of inspiration books and folders that stands out for me.

For the bedroom, I thinking cozy, warm, relaxing…

This is the current state of affairs. It’s total hospital chic, am I right?

Frankly, I am overwhelmed with ideas! I’m also still very unsure as to where to shop in my new country… in Germany, I have about 5% of the decor options as I do back home in America where you can zip over to a myriad of stores to find exactly what you fancy in a single day. Not that I like that kind of “design in a day” mentality but the point is that it’s there if you need it. Here, shops take 8-10 weeks (or more, sometimes 12 weeks) for furniture orders, they tend to carry 10 of the ‘standard’ brands that are in all of the little boutique shops and though they are lovely, they are expensive, and I really want a few select items that I just cannot find here for the life of me. For instance, I’m still having a horrible time finding kilim rugs for my apartment, they are either too big, too new (I only want a vintage one from Anatolia), or over 1,000- Euros for standard 5 x 7 — and that my friends is just nuts. My Turkish girlfriend told me tells me that you can fly to Istanbul from here in a few hours and find these rugs everywhere for 1/4 of that price (or less!). You can pretty much get a rug and a trip to Turkey for the price that you’d pay for just a rug if purchased in Germany. Um… Maybe this calls for a flight to Istanbul? I digress. Back to the bedroom…


I have been trying to find fabric to match the paper in the upper right corner for months and I found it shown on the left side. Love this fabric, perfect for a little something in the bedroom. Maybe a small cushion?

I think my decor folder is too large so now I’m starting to go through the process of elimination. These photos show what my coffee table looks like today. I keep adding and subtracting images and colors, the process of elimination is a beautiful thing.

I want to incorporate a gray accent wall perhaps with some large scale subtle geometric pattern on it stenciled in a very pale silver, rich texture, some pattern but mostly stripes (think men’s suits) for the bed, black, beige, white, wood tones, faux grey fur throw, maybe some aged leather to warm it up… I have white linen drapes so I may add a border along bottom in velvet, perhaps a border I can remove for Spring? Let’s see where all of these ideas lead me For now, I have my mood board together… I’m putting it out there. Now it’s time to execute. Give me a month and I’ll be back with the results (sometime before Turkey Day).

How are you doing with your bedroom decor? Does it need help? Is it boring like mine or are you satisfied with it?

(images from holly becker for decor8)

Posted in bedroom, inspiration on October 27, 2008

decor8 in jan 06 and today

This is amazing, how did they find decor8 in Jan ’06?

Posted in uncategorized on October 27, 2008

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