Monday, September 20, 2010

Create Uncommon Beauty From Common Things

The Victorians loved domes and used them as encasements to protect items that were cherished and of sentimental value.
[Photo: Roy Inman]

Sometimes it’s the common objects that turn my head. Not because they are common, but because of how they are presented. Think about the last time you were tooling around a gallery or museum. Lighting, placement, groupings and context are the essence of grabbing your attention.

On the other side are curators who have been deliberate about the artwork and objects they have selected for your viewing pleasure. This is not an uncommon approach in retail, either. Shop owners and merchants alike have narrowed in on a story they want to tell you — it’s called merchandising. Some do it well, some do it even better. The best merchandising practices are now carried into the home.

I am a fan of fewer and more meaningful things in my life. I like order, balance and cohesion. Here are some ways I accomplish the effect.

Glass domes have been around for centuries. The Victorians loved them and used them as encasements to protect items that were cherished and of sentimental value. Everything from locks of hair to a child’s christening gown.

Today these antique domes are being repurposed with new content. They become fascinating with almost any arrangement: books, religious relics, medical implements or sea life.

Another element that brings visual interest to collections is the use of stands. The key to execution is to do groupings; I prefer odd numbers. Stands can be repurposed from architectural elements like finials and decorative orbs from the tops of old iron fence posts.

I’ve even seen a set of vintage marble ink wells that were used as the base for antique gilded architectural fragments from Italy. These would have been tossed in yesterday’s garbage but now have become an instant collection of art. Fabricated bases also can be custom-built, and I recommend using a professional installer, as weight and scale are important to the overall support of the object.

Framing artwork is really meant to set off the art, but often the frames become the art, too. I never hesitate to buy an empty frame because I know it will soon serve its purpose. I love the idea of framing something completely ordinary with an over-the-top frame.

Let’s take my children’s artwork for example, which quickly piles up. I’ve taken an assortment of drawings, paintings and works in various mediums (like construction paper) and have created a wall of outsider art with multiple individual frames that are easy to swap out.

Nothing creates focus like lighting, and there are many options when it comes to using illumination on art and objects. Gallery lighting and ceiling cans are particularly good, but there are other solutions to consider where the lighting becomes art itself.

I like to use antique apothecary lamps and vintage task lamps to call attention to an arrangement of objects. Using a low-watt bulb, such as 15 or 25, creates a glow and brings visual attention to an object.

Read more in the Kansas City Star.

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