Earlier Aesthetics


Roseville Monticello Two-Handled Vase with Navajo-Inspired Decoration (LEO Design)


In the world of design and aesthetics, rarely is anything truly new.  Designers, staring at their empty sketchbooks (and, perhaps on-deadline) have been "borrowing" other artists' good ideas since the Mesopotamians (and maybe before that).  And this is not a bad thing. In my book, novelty is never as important as taste, beauty and craftsmanship. Appropriation—of dress, cuisine, architecture or artwork—is acknowledgement of someone's else's good choices.  

In the Arts & Crafts period, for example, designers and artists around the world sought local references from the artists (and the culture) which came before.  Part of this was to honor the culture in which the (contemporary) artists were working.  Additionally, Arts & Crafts designers were attempting to "go-back" to an earlier (purer?) time and place.  In England, chivalrous knights and medieval heraldry became part of the British Arts & Crafts aesthetic.  In Scandinavia, fairies and Vikings were "revived" and referenced. German Jugendstil employed Gothic touches: riveting, raw steel and hammering.  And, in the United States, Native American influences and themes became part of the aesthetic vocabulary of the American Arts & Crafts movement.

The vase above, made by Roseville in the 1930's, reminds me of a Southwestern Native American aesthetic.  Although it was made in Ohio, probably by European descendants, it certainly offers a tip-of-the-hat to Navajo or other indigenous potters that came before. And this would not have been accidental.  A vase like this would have complimented the furniture and furnishings of an American Arts & Crafts interior—though, by the Thirties, the Arts & Crafts movement was already going out of fashion.  But, in America, there has always been a market for Native American art and style and a Roseville vase, like the one shown here, was probably easier for an average American consumer to afford, acquire and use. 

When artists from one country (or culture) strive to emulate the artworks of others, it is rarely, if ever, authentic.  But, sometimes, the process of being reinterpreted through a different pair of eyes produces a creation that is different and interesting and beautiful in its own new way.  Such is the vase shown above.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com)

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248