Saturday, May 30, 2009

Musical Interjection - "The Carnival is Over" by Dead Can Dance

I discovered recently that someone had posted this video, to perhaps one of my most favorite songs ever by one of my most favorite groups ever. Dead Can Dance is made up of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard. I discovered them in the mid-80s when I heard their vocals in the musical collective known as This Mortal Coil, with which Cocteau Twins were also involved. Haunting music, it hits me in that introverted soul-searching sort of way.

Helpful Hint: Using Square Tiles on a Round Table Mosaic

In doing mosaic tables over the years, whether they be small side tables or a kitchen dining table for two or three, my main objective was to maintain as much of the integrity of the vintage tiles I was using. Of course color coordination and pattern were important, and I made sure the design I came up with 'felt right,' but i wanted to keep as many of the old tiles whole as possible, even when the table base was round.

These are all tables that I have made in the past. In each case working with these antique wrought iron bases, the top of the frame would have a lip that I cut plywood for, enough to sit just inside that lip, inserting screws from below which where drilled into either the metal lip or the crisscross metal supports.

On the plywood I drew in pencil crisscrossing diameter lines and mark the center where they crossed; this is my starting point. I then worked my way outward until I could no longer fit a whole tile into the remaining space, and either cut that tile down to have as close to a whole tile as possible, or just take a hammer (and protective eye wear) and break up the tiles into smaller pieces in order to arrange them into the remaining spaces.

When the finished design is grouted (I'll do a tutorial on tiling down the road), what I always enjoy seeing is that when you are able to join the corners of four tiles, what you immediately notice is that the intended design extends way beyond the four sides of each tile -- the design continues beyond, and I find that fascinating.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Inspiration: 19th Century Garden Statuary

Since I was first exposed to architectural decoration of the 19th century in Art History classes way back when, and especially work done in France, I always find myself fascinated in researching such things as gargoyles and elaborate ironwork, stone carving, bronze furniture fittings, drapery hardware, representations made in everything from buildings to antique French fabrics. My most recent source of "oohs and ahhs" has been selections from a garden statuary auction being held by Sotheby's in June. I love planters, finials, scroll designs, Bacchus heads, and this auction seems to bring all these images together. Enjoy: most of the pieces here are indeed French 19th century, and all primarily made of limestone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Linocut: My First Attempt, Part 1

I have been interested in trying my hand at linocuts for a while now. This is the technique of making an image by first drawing it in reverse on a linoleum block such as the one below. I purchased at the art store a few blocks to experiment with, in the same size as the cards I will be printing on for the upcoming website, 5 X 7 inches. I also picked up a set of linoleum/woodblock cutting tools, although after watching the videos at the end of this post in addition to others on YouTube, the one that seems to work the best to cut fine lines was not in my set of tools.

The idea for a greeting card that i have been tossing around for a while now was to have a cherry tree with cherry blossoms, and have a golden birdcage hanging from the tree. Sitting on the branch above would be an origami folded crane. I reversed the sketch I had come up with and drew it in pencil directly onto the linoleum block. I then carefully dug out all the spaces in between my drawing. I found that a steady hand comes in handy. I was, however, having to try all the tools to find which dug out larger areas better, and which ones enabled me to get into very narrow areas, or areas that came to a point.

So this is how my first linocut block came out. I thought to myself that printing would surely show the several times my hand slipped, or that I was struggling to cut out fine lines. When it came to printing I realized a couple of things: first, that I did not have pink paint for the flowers, nor did I have brown for the tree. And how was I going to have several different colors in one print? Then i realized that the pros had one separate block for each color. For the tree, everything but the tree would have to be cut out, then everything but the cage would be cut out, and so on. So I printed out a few using black and gold, trying to apply paint with my fingers, but also using a Brayer. So that's why this is Part 1, I have to get the right colors and perhaps clean up more off my design, etc... I'll be back!

Below is a great depiction of the process of making a linocut. Chris Ridenour is an artist that has put several videos of his linocut work on YouTube. I browsed YouTube mostly to find any tips that might make the cutting process shorter, but other than using the right tools and having a steady hand I did not experience any sort of divine enlightenment. It is, however, very helpful to see these videos and be able to watch other artists in action.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Peter Callesen: Paper Genius

Peter Callesen, Fall, 2008

After giving kudos to one artist working wonders with paper, I just wanted to also mention Peter Callesen. Peter is a 41 year-old Danish artist/paper cutting wizard who creates mind-boggling large scale installations. He cuts an image or a series of images out of paper, and then a three dimensional piece is created out of the cut out pieces. Some of the installations take up an entire room, and the effect of viewing his pieces must be very impressive. I suppose in a small way I feel a sort of kinship to an artist like Peter or Katsuya Kamo in the previous post in that they take something almost nondescript - such as white paper - and envision something so creative that it takes the particular object above and way beyond its original purpose. Making a bold statement. Thinking outside the box.

Peter Callesen, Big Paper Castle, 2004

Please see more of Peter's work on his site.

Peter Callesen, White Diary, 2008

Peter Callesen, White Diary, detail

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paper as Couture: Katsuya Kamo

I have been thinking about paper the past few days: folding origami cranes from colorful Japanese paper for a greeting card idea that's stuck in my head. This is followed by my search on YouTube for more intricate and impressive paperfolding. This then reminds me of Katsuya Kamo, a brilliant artist & paper wizard recruited by Karl Lagerfeld to turn the Spring 2009 Chanel Couture show into a spectacle in white. What Kamo and his assistants created for this show was nothing short of breathtaking - all white flower hair and head pieces for a couture collection itself almost completely white. These intricate assemblages of flowers are made out of PAPER, paper. Incredible.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Paisley Shawl, Part 2

Throughout my years of experience I gained an appreciation for not only these shawls but for all antique fabrics in general. There were only two reasons for me to even consider cutting into one of these shawls: if a client purchased one we had in the shop and asked me to design and make something with it, or if one was damaged in sections but there was enough in good condition to make pillows or a lampshade or perhaps even recover an ottoman.

Pictured above and below are some of the actual pieces i custom made for clients using pieces of paisley shawls.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Paisley Shawl, Part 1

Pictured above is a 19th century handwoven shawl from the North India region of Kashmir. In my 16 years working with antique fabrics we bought and sold many of these shawls. Because they were woven with wool, many unfortunately had moth holes. These, however, I was able to put to great use as will be described more in the next post. Many incorporated the design element of what was called the "boteh" which was a teardrop shaped design that itself had ancient origins. Because the original shawls were originally intricately handwoven, they were worn by people of very high ranks.

The story goes that Napoleon brought back one for his Empress Josephine, and they became highly regarded possessions for women of high status. Below is an oil painting of a woman wearing a shawl.

Because of increased trade between Kashmir and Europe in the 19th century, these shawls had also found their way to England where they were highly regarded as well. An inventor in the Scottish town of Paisley devised a loom that could effectively weave different colors at the same time, thus allowing the manufacture of a machine version of the handwoven shawl.

*Sources: J.H. Terry Gallery,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yasue Gold Leaf Museum Kanazawa, Japan

This is very interesting! I'm a big fan of gold leafing...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

La Maison Picassiette, A True Inspiration

I will be mentioning this house repeatedly in the future, because La Maison Picassiette is an incredible example of creative expression reaching and surpassing the point of obsession. Located in Chartres (yes, the cathedral), about 50 miles southwest of Paris, this very quaint house was owned by built in the 1930s by Raymond Isadore for himself and his new wife Adrienne who happened to be a widow 10 years older than him and with 3 children. In the later part of the decade he began decorating the house with mosaics of broken pottery, glass & china. Over the next 20 years he would leave not one spot of the house uncovered with his art: tables, chairs, beds, the stove, the walls, everything. For me it seems clear that this was some extremely strong religious calling, since there are crosses and religious imagery everywhere, and the garden includes an amazing depiction of the town of Chartres, complete with the cathedral at the top of the hill. Amazing.
*Source: The Joy of Shards site.

Handmade Nation

I was just rewatching the preview of Handmade Nation and decided to investigate when it will be screening in Los Angeles. I went to the official website for the film and discovered that it will be showing at a Felt Club event August 15th and 16th, but no further information was given so I'll have to keep up to date and hopefully see the film, which looks very entertaining. It will be great to see how people connect with each other across the country, across the world in fact, all because of things made by hand. It should offer an illuminating insight how creative people everywhere turn their passions and talents into a business, how they might have to reinvent themselves as a result of financial hardship, and how they might find the creative voice to fully express themselves. Please follow their blog too, and see you at the movie!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

David's Ideas For A Nursery

These photos show a nursery I designed, and is an example of how great a few coordinated elements can come together to create a clean yet fun atmosphere for the family's new addition. The clients expressed that they liked blue and white, and wanted a fabric that had some sort of animal theme depicted. I searched new fabric houses and this animal print jumped out at me, and I thought the fact that the names of the animals written underneath would eventually become a learning tool.

Here I had a very small budget to work with, and when this is the case the most important thing to remember is to do as much of the prep work yourself. I took an existing chest of drawers, repainted it white and found some simple ball finials, and recovered an antique rocking chair from the mom-to-be's mom and recovered it in a solid royal blue canvas. There were two windows on opposite walls from each other, and we decided to have 2 different types of window treatments. For one I had two roller shades made with blackout liner, and on the opposite window I painted a wood dowel, finials, brackets and rings all white, and pleated the curtain panels which were also lined with blackout.

Measuring the inside of the crib, I created a quilted bumper with cotton filling and ties for the corners. As accents to bring everything together I made a set of six pillows, each with a different animal, framed in the same solid blue canvas as the chair. The couple was very happy with the results, and I was pleased another 'little one' would grow up sleeping amongst and learning the names of such cute creatures!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Perfect Pairing: Altar Cloth & Gothic Revival Chair

I saw it and knew we had to have it in our shop: the French silk, hand embroidered altar cloth pictured below was not something my uncle was at all interested in purchasing. He, like myself, had gone to the same Catholic school on Maui, and was quite familiar with the symbolic imagery embroidered on all the altar cloths and priest's robes etc. This one was not too old, probably from the 1950s, definitely from France, as it was in the midst of a larger shipment of antique textiles that had just gotten in from there. I convinced him of the novelty of and interest in religious textiles, and in no time I found a client and use for it.

It was at this same that another one of my favorite clients came in with a Gothic Revival chair on which the upholstery had shredded and exposed the inner fillings. The arch and trefoils on the back of the chair whisked me back to my Gothic Architecture class at UC Santa Barbara, and after trying to he predictable combinations of red velvets, it suddenly dawned on me to suggest to her with sincere enthusiasm none other than the altar cloth. She completely agreed that it would make quite a statement, and she liked that. All I had to do on my end was to remove the embroidered appliques as well as all of the trim. That left me with a good sized piece of embossed silk, lots of trim, and 4 good-sized hand embroidered appliques.

I restuffed the chair back and seat, upholstered the chair using the cream silk (centering the design, of course), hot glued the trim, and hand sewed 3 of the 4 appliques to the chair. The fourth applique I centered on a pillow i made with the same fabric and trims (not pictured). The client was overcome with excitement and extremely pleased with the results!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fabric Can Drastically Change A Window, And A Room...

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! Looking through my portfolio again, and looking through my collection of antique fabrics coordinating various pieces for my upcoming collection of purses and totebags, I came upon some photos I took at the residence of Sandy, one of my favorite clients from over the years. Helping her rework some of the draperies I had made out of various French fabrics from the time of Napoleon III, I created this window treatment for her bedroom. I consider her bold in her love for those French fabrics that incorporated both reds and blacks, very typical of this time period. I would say that there are a total of five different fabrics in this treatment, and the combination is a sophisticated statement which I love. All I really did here to make the drapes and swags from her previous house work here was to lengthen the side panels and add on to the swag fabrics. I installed 3 French curtain brackets above the window and set on it a faux tortoise bamboo pole, the antique finials on which ended up the only elements visible. I worked my swagging magic to create as much of a sense of symmetry as possible, using hidden saftey pins to hold my arrangement in place. Using antique French corded tassles that had previously been used as tiebacks, I hung them from the bamboo pole as decorative accents that altogether resulted in a richly colorful window treatment the client was extremely happy with.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Since it takes weeks for us to receive a letter by horse and carriage, we have developed a number of other ways to communicate with one another. These are currently the modes in which I am making my presence known to the world, so please stop by and say hello:

My Blog - You are Here!
@Twitter @dkahauolopua - connecting with lots of creative folks!
Our site, launching
My YouTube channel - I follow everything inspirational & delicious, & will be posting too!
On CraftStylish
On Craftster also, although I have not posted anything as of today, but soon!

A Shell-Encrusted Set of 2 Entry Tables & 2 Wall Sconces For A Home In Palm Beach

I just joined a site called CraftStylish
which seems to be a site resembling Crafster. My first posting on CraftStylish was about a borderline overwhelming and dream job project, involving covering a pair of antique Chinoiserie tables and a pair of French 1940s sconces entirely in shells. Follow the link to find a bit more about the projects, and here are a few photos. In the future it will be great to post a tutorial on creating on a much smaller scale a shellwork project of some sort, and I'll also post down the line some before and after pictures of this particular job.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tropical Mosaic Table

This is a mosaic table in which I was allowed to create the design myself. I have a fondness for those clients in the past that have such a faith in one's talents that they just say "create something, anything..." All the information I was given was that she loved tropical flowers, and the colors red and yellow. No blue, no birds, and basically that was it. We found the extremely heavy antique iron base from an antique dealer, the top of which was four feet across, the perfect size for the breakfast nook in her house. With her color suggestions in mind, I chose four well known flowers - hibiscus, bird of paradise, plumeria, and anthurium - and arranged them 'in the round' so that no matter where one sat at the table, he or she would still have a flower pointing in their direction. Combined with various greeneries, I thought it came out quite well, don't you? I'll cover various aspects of my mosaic process as well as techniques I learned along the way in future posts.