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Dante Banished

On this day in 1302, the poet Dante Alighieri—Italy's greatest and one of the World's most important writers ever—was condemned to banishment from his beloved Florence.  Dante found himself on the losing side of a fierce Florentine political battle.  When his side, "The White Guelphs," lost the struggle, Dante was banished from his home city on pain of death.  He moved to Ravenna, about 75 miles away, where he lived-out the rest of his days.  And, by the way, it was in Ravenna that he wrote his most important works—works that changed the face of Western literature and influenced our perception of Heaven and Hell.  Dante was buried in the the cemetery of  the Church of San Pier Maggiore.

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Know Jack?

Jackrabbits are a variety of hare which lives in the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico.  The fact that they are hares—not rabbits—is an important distinction. Rabbits are more socially gregarious than hares, and their naked babies are born in underground burrows, called "warrens." Rabbits have been successfully domesticated, both in farming and as pets.  Hares, on the other hand, tend to live more independently (sometimes in pairs).  Babies, called "leverets," are born fully-furred, in above-ground nests, and they are mobile (and can defend themselves) almost immediately after birth.  Their mother does not stick-around much beyond initial nursing.  And hares have not been known to be well-adapted to intimate life with humans.

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Hop To It!

This "Rabbit of the Year" is scampering to center stage, ready to fulfill his starring role: "I'm late!  I'm late!" This stoneware bas relief plaque, made in California, is finished with an aqueous  aqua-green glaze.  Fitted with a hang wire, the tile is ready to hang in just-the-right spot.  He'll be a reminder to all—and especially to those born under the Rabbit—to scurry now, relax later.  Good advice, indeed. Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome sculpted decoration.   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...

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Another Bunny

    The Lunar New Year festivities last for two weeks (and, of course, The Year of the Rabbit lasts all year).  So let's share a few more rabbits over the next few days. This adorable bunny—a silver-plated wind-up music box—is haunched in concentration, licking his paws or planning what to do next.  He plays "Rock-a-Bye, Baby."  While the music box is meant as a gift for an infant, it's been even more popular as an interesting desk item for grownups (perhaps, especially, those born under The Year of the Rabbit). Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our...

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The Year of the Rabbit

The New Moon "emerged" on Saturday at 3:55 pm (Eastern Time)--ushering-in the Lunar New Year and The Year of the Rabbit.   A "New Moon" is the opposite of a Full Moon—that is, the time when no illuminated disk is visible (to the naked eye) from Earth.  In fact, during a New Moon, the Moon is positioned precisely between the Sun and the Earth.  When the Sun and the Earth are on opposite sides of the Moon, we on Earth cannot see the illuminated side of the Moon (which is facing the Sun). It takes 29.5 days for the Moon to circle (orbit) the Earth, during which time the Moon completes its cycle of "phases": from New Moon (invisible) to...

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The Queen is Dead

Victoria Regina died on this day in 1901—after a 63 year (and 216 day) reign as Queen of England.  Hers remained the longest reign in British history until Queen Elizabeth II, who died last year, surpassed her (at 70 years, 214 days).  The death of Victoria ushered in the reign of her oldest son, Edward VII, and the modernizing Edwardian Era. The world changed so much during the Victorian Era: the Industrial Revolution, the expansion of modern empires (and the accumulation of power and wealth which came with it), advances in science and medicine, and the growth of travel by increasing numbers of people.

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Hit Those Books!

I've been taking classes at Carnegie Mellon University through the Osher Lifelong Learning Program.  Bernard Osher, a San Francisco businessman, left an endowment to create continuing education departments at various universities across the country.  The Osher Program is now represented at 125 American Universities (spanning the country)—and provides quality, affordable continuing education (and intellectual and social engagement) for people over the age of 50. The new semester began a couple of weeks ago and I'm already behind on my reading!  I'm taking a class on Shakespeare in which we are reading, studying and discussing Henry V (amongst other plays). While most of the courses I've taken at Osher do not require much (if any) reading, one cannot really study Shakespeare with...

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On-Track for Spring

True, we are still weeks away from Spring—precisely two months from today—but tiny signs of that blessed season occasionally emerge before us: a muddy squish, an earthy smell, the tender, emerging daffodil buds (already!).  Therefore, eager for the promise of Spring, we present this exceptionally sunny Art Deco vase, made in the Thirties by Stangl of Flemington, New Jersey.  The form is inspired by Ancient Greek amphora—the bulbous form, corseted neck and flaring rim, punctuated with drooping acanthus leaf handles.  And the deep yellow glaze seems to radiate sunshine.  Displayed with or without flowers, this vase is sure to be a happy reminder of lovely days—Spring and Summer especially.

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Guarding American Democracy

On this day in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union was founded in New York City.  For 103 years, the ACLU has lobbied and litigated for the fair and equal application (to all people) of the rights and liberties guaranteed by the American Constitution.  The organization takes direct legal action in some cases and it also advises and supports the legal actions of other civil rights advocates.  The ACLU weighs-in with amicus briefs, when appropriate, and communicates with lawmakers as to the constitutionality (or not) of their proposed legislation.  Some people believe that the ACLU is a liberal organization, however, its history proves otherwise.  The ACLU has long advocated for free speech rights, even for right wing organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and and...

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And Even More Light

This lamp, sunny even when turned-off, is positively luminous once turned-on.  The ceramic body, made in the Sixties or Seventies, is decorated with high-texture, dripping organic orange and brown glazes.  It has a particularly comforting presence—and is useful for illuminating your home.

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More Light

The dark days of winter make us crave more light.  And, if we cannot find the real kind, we will seek the "homemade" variety.  This Aladdin brass oil lamp was made in Chicago in the 1910's.  It was such a well-designed lamp, it won the Grand Prize at the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. Today, it provides nice, warm light in little corner or atop a table.  The curvaceous milk glass shade softens and spreads the light throughout the room.

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Martin Luther King Day

Today we honor the legacy of one of America's greatest leaders—indeed, one of the World's greatest leaders—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   That Americans—leaders and followers alike—would more closely follow his enduring example of seeking non-violent (but overdue) change.  MLK remains the finest illustration of Christian Love seeking Social Justice.  May the holiday be one of rest, relaxation and reflection--with, perhaps, a measure of service to others. And, speaking of fine illustration, I am so very impressed by this 2008 portrait of Martin Luther King sketched by Chinese artist Mei He.  Born in China, she was trained in Sichuan after which she attended the Savannah College of Art and Design.  In a world where hand-sketching often is neglected, even in...

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Altar Sticks

For centuries, church architects and designers have looked back upon older "schools" of design for their inspiration when building new churches.  The Gothic and the the Romanesque were two favored movements which continued to animate church design in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries—long after those particular design eras had ended.  It was believed that by using familiar, time-tested design styles, the Church was reinforcing the notion of its timelessness and permanence.   With the growth of Modernism between the wars (Bauhaus, Art Deco, the International School, and Brutalism), the Church (both Roman Catholic and Protestant) began to experiment with the new, Modernist design.  Church buildings and interior objets were designed in the new look.  This was especially true in audacious Germany—although...

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The Cypress

Cypress trees are the tortoises of the plant world; they grow very slowly and some can live 600 years.  They seem to get-by despite harsh conditions with meager sustenance. Cypresses comprise a broad family of Conifers—that is, "cone-bearing" evergreens.  Their leaves have a rubbery, scaly, needle-like appearance, with a "braided" effect, which makes them suitable for arid climates.  Leaves like this tend to conserve water, unlike broad, flat leaves which encourage faster rates of evaporation.  And the plants emit a clean, piney fragrance. Cypresses run the gamut from ground-covers to shrubs to tall trees.  Mediterranean cypresses are tall, narrow and pointy, often lining a roadway or property line.  Monterey cypresses appear windswept, stunted and hunched--found clinging to harsh and rocky cliffs along...

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Mirror, Mirror

What once might have been (a little?) flamboyant, is now made very handsome with 140 years of age.  The stately oak frame is embellished with a "rusticated botanical" gilded trim and finished with a gilded chain-form fillet.  When I found the frame, its mirror (or print or painting) was long gone.  So I replaced the mirror—springing for a deluxe one inch bevel.  Now assembled, it makes for a very attractive package.  It is currently hanging vertically, though I would happily change the orientation for you—just ask.

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A Time for Light - IV

Let's end our parade of lighting with this special brass lamp—one which provides a little extra "oomph."  A handsomely tapering brass shaft, with a vertically ribbed base, is lashed with brass lacing and punctuated with brass studding.  This "laced and studded" embellishment does not push the design over-the-top.  Instead, it provides just the right textural enhancement to an otherwise classic table lamp silhouette.  The "laced" finial, atop, adds the final perfect detail to a handsome, timeless lighting fixture. This lamp, made in New England, is one of a handful offered in my on-line store.  

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A Time for Light - III

Don't let the slender profile of this lamp, shown above, fool you.  It is heavy, solid and stable, indeed.  For many years, one of these lamps has stood on the corner of my cash wrap desk—secure against bumping, modest in its footprint, and providing ample light (with handsome style).  Note the exceptional, pointed finial—evidence that this lamp was designed and produced with great attention to detail.  It would have been very easy for the lamp maker to throw a nice, generic finial atop the fixture.  Instead, the lamp maker designed a custom finial for this lamp alone—which adds the crowning touch to this exceptional light fixture. This lamp, made in New England, is one of a handful offered in my...

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A Time for Light - II

Sometimes one needs nice light in a narrow space—say, atop a mantelpiece, on a small bedside table, or upon a sideboard or credenza.  A candelabra lamp, like the one shown above, provides plenty of style despite its modest dimensions.  It would even work well in the center of a library table or partners' desk.  The base has a spare 5" x 9" footprint and the shade is just a few inches bigger. This lamp, made in New England, is one of a handful offered in my on-line store.  

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A Time for Light - I

Though the days gradually are getting longer, this time of year is still a season of darkness. People want more light!  The holidays—Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years—all do their best to brighten-up this darkest time of the year, often by adding cheerful light.  It's also a time of year when merchants see an uptick in their sales of lamps and other lighting. The heavy, columnar brass lamp, shown above, will certainly contribute a healthy measure of "clubby gravitas" to any home, office or business.  In fact, one theatrically-gifted Anglophile fashion designer's decorator bought a dozen of them from me for the company's (then new) supper club in London.  They were placed atop banquet seat dividers and looked wonderful (they sent me...

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Old Folk, Sunday Best

I have never been overly charmed by folk art.  Folk craft, yes, sometimes.  But I always have preferred a little more academic rigor in the paintings and drawings I have collected.  So, when I purchased this picture some twenty years ago, I bought it solely for the gilded Nineteenth Century frame—not for the painting.  I intended to use it to reframe a (preferred) painting or print some day.  I stored-away the frame (and its picture) amongst my collection of frames-in-waiting. For the past few years, I have been one of forty dealers at the Antique Center of Strabane, in Canonsburg, about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.  Being more-removed from urban life (and closer to West Virginia), the clientele seems to prefer a...

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Chair Pair

In 1866, brothers George and Oliver Colie opened a business in Buffalo, New York which would eventually become the Kittinger Furniture Company.  From the start, they insisted upon the finest design, materials and workmanship.  Their attention to detail—and their talent at reproducing older, period styles—brought them to the attention of important historical organizations.  Today, Kittinger furnishes "bench-made" (that is, high-end) period reproductions to the White House, the US Senate & Congress, the Supreme Court and to historical groups like Colonial Williamsburg.  They have also reproduced older styles for sale in their showrooms.

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Epiphany

The word "epiphany" derives from the Greek "epipháneia"—a manifestation or an appearance.  Today, common contemporary usage tends to think of an epiphany as "a realization; a sudden clarity of thought," and this is not incorrect.  But the original meaning includes a physical, visual connotation which is an important element to not forget.  An epiphany, in the original sense, is seeing something which leads one to believe something. The Christian holy day of Epiphany is celebrated today, 6 January.  In the Western Church, the Epiphany is associated with the story of the Magi who visit the newborn Jesus.  The "Wise Men,"—all Gentiles—see the baby and they experience an epiphany: God is now present on Earth, here in the form of the human...

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Moorish Beauty

The term "Moorish" is neither precise nor very specific.  Through history, it has been used (often by Westerners) to refer to the people, the culture and the art of North Africa and the Middle East—combining-as-one the broad spectrum of varied Muslim and Arab civilizations.  As Muslims conquered and expanded into new territories, they brought with them their art and architecture, adapting it to suit (and blend with) the existing architecture of the subjugated lands.  Even outside of the Islamic world, Moorish aesthetic culture has influenced greatly the design of Western aesthetics (for many centuries).  In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, European architects used Moorish design elements to add theatrical flair to their buildings—seeking a new, dramatic flavor which was not as commonly-used as the Gothic...

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Top Shop Dog

My little Benji—one of the top loves of my life—turns ten today!  After years of "guarding" the LEO Design cashwap counter at 543 Hudson Street, he has adapted well to worklife behind a couple of antique shop counters in the Pittsburgh region.  After a bit of initial exploration and expectation, he usually crawls into his travel crate where he can nap the afternoon away (as he did in Greenwich Village).  When I'm working at home, he curls-up under my worktable, occasionally inserting himself into one of my merchandise photo shoots—and always remaining ready to announce furiously the rattle of the postal slot.

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Fit for A King (Edward)

I have a real soft spot for the British Edwardian Era.  It is remembered as a time of modernism, optimism, liberated fashion, and a leap forward in the arts—the fine arts, the decorative arts and the performing arts.  Both the Arts & Crafts and the Art Nouveau Movements flourished during this period.  It was a time of rapid invention: Marconi transmitted "wireless" communication across the Atlantic; recording technology was changing at-home entertainment, electricity was becoming more common in (upperclass) homes, and the Wright Brothers were taking to the air.  And one of the largest, most advanced passenger ships in history, the Titanic, was being built for her notorious maiden voyage.

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Clean Sweep

Christmas is behind us and we are squarely into the New Year.  Time to clean-up, re-organize, get sorted!  Perhaps the hearth needs a little attention—so active was it during a season of Holiday entertaining.  This Victorian English fireplace brush is a handy and stylish way to make quick work of the mess.  A soft horsehair brush is concealed within an embossed, heavy brass sleeve.  Retract the brass cover and reveal the brush within.  It will stand upright in a protected spot (as long as one does not bump it).  And the decorative brass work will provide handsome punctuation to your fireplace 365 days a year.  

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New Year's Day: A Fresh Start

The changing of the year always encourages a fresh start.  Quitting bad habits.  Turning new leaves.  I always like the stripped-down freshness of January.  Once the Christmas decorations (as much as I like them) are gone, the spare, angular shape of rooms returns.  Space is broadened.  Everything looks cleaner. A collection of matte white pottery has a spare, clean look, quite suited to the January chill.  The Art Deco vase, shown above, was made by Stangl in New Jersey. Happy New Year!

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Farewell, 2022

Normally—for the last few years, at least—I've been all-too-eager to turn-the-page on the passing year.  I've desperately repeated the mantra, "Next year has GOT to get better..."  Now, on the cusp of 2023, I discover that I'm not hating 2022.  At least not as much as I've hated 2021.  And 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016. Admittedly, in 2022, the world has endured numerous difficulties.  Most dangerously, Authoritarianism is on the rise—worldwide—and too many people seem to be tolerating it.  The Ukrainian Invasion has greatly disturbed fuel and grain markets, causing international shortages and inflation.  And our capitalist system has not (yet) been able to mend its pandemic breakdowns, specifically, its failed duty to maintain sufficient employment and manufacturing to ensure supply chain delivery (a...

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Glimmer of Gold - IV

For centuries, Florentine bookbinders would hand-craft luxurious, beautifully decorated papers to use as "endpapers"—inside the front and back covers of their books.  Dollops of oil paints (some gold) were floated in a pan of water and swirled to create fantastical designs.  The paper would then be laid upon the water's surface, transferring the colorful designs onto the paper.  Once dried, it could be cut down and bound into the books.  Sometimes the bookbinders would use the same technique to decorate the three exposed edges of the book's pages.

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Glimmer of Gold - III

In Europe, where even a basic table wine can be oh-so-good, one is reminded that wine is not a special, rarified indulgence.  At least, it doesn't have to be.  Opening a modest bottle at dinner (or, maybe, lunch) can be a normal part of everyday living.  No pretentious stems required.  No analysis of the legs.  No pontificating on the "varietal."  Just pour it into a simple tumbler—like one does with water or juice—and enjoy the fruit of the earth without the ostentation. These six wine tumblers—though far from plain—keep the refreshment down-to-earth.  

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Glimmer of Gold - II

Sometimes bold simplicity can make the strongest statement.  This set of eight double old fashioned rocks glasses are simply decorated: frosted panels punctuated with tasteful 22 karat gold linework.   And, being a set of eight, they will make a nice impact sitting on your bar cart—or on a tray as drinks are served.

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Glimmer of Gold - I

This "Golden Period," between Christmas and New Year's Day, can be a time of rest, rejuvenation and merriment.  Family might be in-town.  Friends have time off.  It's a great time to see a couple of new films.  It is also a great time to entertain.  The pre-Christmas rush is finished and many have a little extra time to prepare light celebrations and gatherings with friends and family.  This week, we'll be sharing some of our handsome glassware which is decorated with gold.  The warm glints of the precious metal adds a festive and luxurious dimension to an otherwise ordinary beverage. Shown here, a set of six single old fashioned rocks glasses, made in the 1960's.  Unlike the larger double old...

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Boxing Day

Back in the old days—when Middle Class families had live-in help—the servants were expected to serve their masters on Christmas Day.  It wasn't "a day off."  Servants would have the next day off, 26 December.  And, on this day, they would come-by the house to receive their Christmas gift from their employer—their "box"—thus it became known as "Boxing Day."  Today, the servants are long gone (at least in Middle Class households).  But the holiday remains—an official "bank holiday" in Britain and some British Commonwealth countries. The desk box, shown above, is simplicity itself.  Handsome quarter-sawn oak is assembled with dovetailed joinery.  A simple hook keeps the lid closed.  It's the perfect box for keeping special letters, a bit of jewelry,...

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Countdown to Christmas - XII

When I was a Greenwich Village shopkeeper, we kept LEO Design open until 10:00 pm on Christmas Eve.  We didn't do a ton of business after 6:00 pm, though we did entice a few relaxed and cheerful souls—ambling home after a nice dinner and a few drinks—and we were able to clean-up the shop after a busy Christmas week. At LEO Design, we had another Christmas Eve tradition: we would clear the window of all merchandise and install our pair of polychromed Italian terra-cotta angels, modeled after the pair standing vigil at Saint Domenic's tomb in Bologna, Italy.  Michelangelo carved the original male angel.  I had bought these angels from an Italian import showroom in 1995, our first year of business....

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Countdown to Christmas - XI

Germany was the birthplace of Modernist church design (both Catholic and Protestant) in the Twentieth Century.  In the Twenties, through the end of the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), Germany took-the-lead in building new religious spaces with a radical, Modernist look.  Before World War One, the Church looked-backward for its design inspiration.  By emulating older schools of design—principally the Romanesque and the Gothic—the Church believed it was reinforcing the continuity between the modern Church and all that had come before.  But, for a few years, German church designers moved in the new, Modernist direction—until the Nazis (who abhorred any Modernist expression) came to power.  With very few exceptions, the Germans were quite alone in this early modernization.  Modernism would not become popular in churches...

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Countdown to Christmas - X

Admittedly, I bought this item for the frame alone.  I can always use a nice Blackforest picture frame.  I thought I might use it (some day) to frame a period photo, a print or a watercolor. The print, itself, was just a little too saccharine, for me.  On closer inspection, however, I concluded that the print has some value, too.  It's indeed old—from the Nineteenth Century.  And though the subject is not compelling (to me), it wears a nice patina of time.  So I decided to list the piece.  Either I will sell it with the print, as found, or I will use the frame when the right print comes along.

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Countdown to Christmas - IX

Whether you're fresh-in from the slopes, or have spent the whole afternoon sipping cider in the lodge, a nice Christmassy ski sweater always fits-the-bill.  This little fellow, made of faux mohair, has felt pads for paws and jointed, posable limbs.  And, of course, that jolly, red snowflake sweater paired with black velour shorts.  Add him to your Holiday guest list.

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Countdown to Christmas - VIII

Christmas is rumbling toward us!  It's only five days away! One can nearly hear the clatter of hooves, the rumble of the coach, and the shouts of the coachman reverberating off of this print, made in London in 1898.  It was first hand-carved as a woodblock print by Sir William Nicholson, RA, who then re-printed it with the "more modern" lithographic technology.  Tinted highlight color would then be applied by hand.  It was published as one in a portfolio of prints—one for each month—called An Almanac of Twelve Sports.  Different "sporting" activities were depicted, accompanied by text written by Rudyard Kipling.

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Countdown to Christmas - VII

Rosewood is a tropical hardwood grown in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Madagascar, China and Southeast Asia.  Actually, rosewood is fifty different hardwoods, 40% of which are varieties of the Dalbergia family.  It is known for its tight, handsome grain, wonderful reddish-brown coloration, and the telltale sweet smell (like roses) which the fresh wood emits (sometimes for years). Rosewood was first imported to Europe in the 1700's.  It was limited in quantity, precious and, therefore, very expensive.  It was used in high-end furniture, paneling, flooring and for making other decorative objets (pool cues, chess sets and jewelry).  It was also used for making musical instruments, most notably guitars, marimbas and some woodwind instruments. The most sought-after variety was Brazilian...

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Countdown to Christmas - VI

It is not only one week 'til Christmas.  It is also the first night of Hanukkah! Hanukkah—the eight night "Festival of Lights"—celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple by God's People of Israel.  The Books of Maccabees relates a story that only one night's worth of lamp oil could be found—and yet—the lamp burned for eight nights. Hanukkah menorah have eight candles, one for each night of the celebration, plus the "shammash" or "attendant" candle which is placed higher (or lower) than the other eight.  This shammash candle is used to light the other eight candles—one each night. The Modernist bronze menorah, shown above, is ready for the Holiday Season. Click on the photo above to learn more about it....

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Countdown to Christmas - V

American post-war exuberance charged right into the early Sixties.  It was a time of growth, optimism, new energy and a swaggering belief that "America was On Top."  Of course, not everyone felt permitted to swagger.  And the early Sixties would soon become the late Sixties—when America's blind optimism would be challenged, especially by the young and the disenfranchised.  But, while the good times lasted, Americans celebrated in uniquely buoyant fashion. Once sitting atop a Sixties Christmas bar cart were these six 12 ounce highball tumblers—complete with cheerful green garland, red bows and candles, and 22 karat gold lanterns.  They capture beautifully the happy idealism of the time—no longer the staid Fifties but not yet the rebellious Sixties.  Use them to serve mixed drinks...

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Countdown to Christmas - IV

When I was a kid, I was a member of the 4-H "Horsemanship Project" on Kauai.  I had a horse, "Chiquita,"  who required daily care.  I hadn't even heard of "stabling"—and my family would certainly not have paid for it.  Instead, every day after school, I'd head for the pasture, feed and groom Chiquita, and fill her bathtub "trough" with the gallons of water which we had to transport with us (no running water at our remote pasture).  Most days I would ride; some days I'd have a riding lesson.  And, if there was not enough grass for her in the pasture, I would go out with my sickle and cut for her a small truckload of long (itchy!) "elephant" grass....

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Countdown to Christmas - II

Can one really have too many biscuit tins?  Use them to present your Holiday baked delights.  Or use them to store any manner of treasures: buttons or sewing supplies, travel soaps, Christmas ornaments.  A 1950's Santa waves from the cover of the tin.  

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Countdown to Christmas - I

Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949) was a British artist.  He began his commercial career as a graphic designer and printer, working with his brother-in-law, James Pryde, in a company they called The Beggarstaffs.  He is best known for his wonderful woodblock prints which he reproduced with the relatively modern lithography.  He produced four series of prints—published as bound portfolios—including one called London Types (1898).  The print of the Flowergirl, shown above, is from that portfolio. Nicholson carved the original printing blocks in wood.  After printing-up a good copy, he used lithography to reproduce it for the final prints.  Some of the litho prints were also hand-colored before binding.

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Mixed-Use

Chairs—especially sets of chairs—have always been a nightmare for me as a merchant with a tiny shop.  Though everyone needs and uses chairs, they never seem to sell quickly—and, in the meantime, they take-up lots of space.  Unless you hang them from the ceiling moulding, they become a tripping hazard and consume more floorspace than they deserve. I find children's chairs, on the other hand, interesting and quite useful.  They are often charming.  They never seem to come in sets.  And, until they sell, I use them as a merchandising fixture—to elevate and showcase other products.  Sometimes I leave the chair on the floor, more often I place the chair upon a table.

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Two Cute

Before I founded LEO Design in 1995, I worked for eight years at a large clothing retailer, a company which designed and manufactured its own products.  My final position was working in the design offices, where I oversaw the Men's Shirting category.  During the customary "show-and-tell" meetings—where each product manager would share his or her latest creations—if my female colleagues would say, "Ooooh, that's cuuute!," then I would know that I had done something wrong.  My intention was not to create "cute" outfits for men.  "Sharp" was fine.  "Nice" was, well, nice.  And "Handsome"—that was the gold standard.  But their "cuuute" was too conventional, too trendy, too (can I say it?) girly.   Even now, three decades later, I still resist acquiring any product which one...

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Tandy Flashback

When I was a kid, in the Sixties and Seventies, lots of boys wore leather belts with their names embossed in the leather along the back of the strap.  The belts came pre-printed with scrolling Western botanical patterns, meant to be "carved" (or embossed) by the hobbyist, after which he would stamp his moniker—letter by letter—at the center back of the belt.  Leather working kits were popular and boys might receive the kit at Christmas or for their birthdays.  I recall the kits were sold by "Tandy," a mail-order company which had some mysterious connection to the uber-nerdy "Radio Shack."

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Transition

A "school" of design—like the Aesthetic, the Arts & Crafts, or the Art Deco Movements—do not begin and end on one specific day.  In fact, sometimes these movements are not even named until well after the period is underway (or finished).  The term "Art Deco" was not used in print until 1966, when the first museum retrospective of the Art Deco Movement was held in Paris.  Prior to the late Sixties, the Art Deco aesthetic was commonly referred to as "Moderne." Schools of design begin organically—sometimes slowly—always while an earlier period is currently en vogue.  And there is no Central Organizing Committee which mandates what is going to be in-fashion (and on what date that will begin).

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Looking-Back for Inspiration

One of the signature features of the Arts & Crafts Movement—no matter where in the world it occurred—was the "revival and employment" of important cultural references from the local past: aesthetic elements, literary or folkloric references, historic milestones, or other relics of that specific culture's past.  In England, the Arts & Crafts Movement sometimes incorporated Medieval Literary themes: knights in armor, heraldry, "Olde English" phrases.  Scandinavian countries would utilize Viking ships, shields and other elements.  And the Scots & Irish would freely apply Celtic design motifs—crosses, knots, thistles or shamrocks—into their Arts & Crafts designs.  When designers "touched-back" to the culture's past, they were seeking to imbue their works with the patina of time—back to the culture's fundamental origins, back to...

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Arts & Crafts Modernism

In some cases, the Arts & Crafts Movement can be viewed as the early stages of Modernism.  Simplicity of design and an aesthetic of functionality can be seen in many Turn-of-the-Century Arts & Crafts objects—such as the oak book trough, shown above.   Of course, the Arts & Crafts Movement spanned a wide range of countries and aesthetics (with each contributing a different "vocabulary" of design features and styles).  But the mission of "honest simplicity" which informed the Arts & Crafts Movement was clearly carried-onward throughout the Modernist school. This "book trough," made of thick planks of oak, is simplicity and elegance itself.  Six screws—three on each side—are the only joinery or decoration to be had, save the handsomely cut...

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This, Too, Shall Pass

God willing—by tonight—the 2022 Senate Election will have been concluded.  The Great State of Georgia holds its Senate run-off election today.  I'm hoping for a decisive win by a wide margin.  Please, no more "eleven thousand . . . seven hundred . . . eighty" vote differentials.  With this election wrapped-up, the Senate can get back to work.  And we can all look-forward to 2024 (or whichever year that campaign kicks-off). The wooden donkey toy, shown above, has articulated joints, wheels-for-feet, and its original curdled black paint.  I'm not sure if his expression is a smirk or a grimace.  But I do know that your favorite Democrat will display him with pride.  

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A Jolly Acquisition

Just in time for Holiday decorating, I've acquired a small collection of vintage, strung, multicolor mercury glass Christmas beads.  They were made in the early Twentieth Century, likely 1900 - 1910's.  The strings vary in length, bead shape and bead size.  But they are all colorful and will provide a touch of vintage Christmas cheer.  Each bead is like a small glass ornament.  Several beads probably were blown together in a long, multi-bead mould—then separated into individual beads.  Hang them on the tree.  Or wind them around a wreath.  They look nice in a bowl, draped over a mantel, swagged upon the arms of a light fixture, or incorporated into a center piece.

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Fair Winds & Following Seas

Over the years, I've bought and sold a fair number of barometers—mostly from England (and most of those using imported German mechanisms).  I never gave much thought to whether they were accurate or not.  I always assumed they had already been "sprung," to coin a term.  In truth, I didn't really have a method of accurately measuring their accuracy except when extreme weather happened to come around. So, when I purchased this nautical "ship's wheel" barometer, I assumed the status quo would endure.  But now I have an iPhone—with a fairly sophisticated local weather app.  Over the last two weeks, I've been monitoring the accuracy of this barometer (two or three times a day) and, I must confess, I've been...

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Hand Feel

I love vintage glassware.  And when I hunt for glasses, I keep a few parameters in-mind. Simplicity is key: embellishment must be handsome and understated. Sets must have at least six glasses (except when I find exceptional sets of four—and I can't manage to walk away).  Age-appropriate condition is important.  And the elusive (hard to define) "handfeel" makes all the difference in the world.  I do not get precious about only acquiring "high-end" glassware (that is, glasses which were expensive on the day they were first sold).  I am happy to pick-up more common, "middle-class" glassware—as long as it fulfills the other requirements, stated above.

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Tea Time!

Tea is the national beverage of the United Kingdom.  The British have elevated the serving of tea to an art form.  Perhaps only the Japanese have managed to outperform the Brits in staging "the theatricality of the tea service." These days, tea is enjoyed from end-to-end of the UK socio-economic spectrum.  I've seen (very beat-up) electric kettles steaming-away within the dingy security kiosks at the gates of British construction sites.  But, once upon a time—when tea was an expensive, foreign luxury—the mistress of the house was likely to keep the key to her locked tea caddy tucked snugly within the folds of her bodice.  An Eighteenth Century servant might only sneak a few sips from an unfinished teapot or from the bottom of an abandoned teacup. Tea was...

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Welcome, December!

December is here—the final month of 2022!  Before you know it, the New Year will have raced to take its place. December brings the shortest days, the Winter Solstice, and, of course, Christmas.  It also brings Winter Sports on snow and ice.  Shown here, a print titled "Skating" by Sir William Nicholson, RA.  It's the December offering from his "Almanac of Twelve Sports" (published in London in 1898).  The image depicts a woman—fully and beautifully dressed—learning to ice-skate while supporting herself with a chair.  Nicholson began these prints as carved woodblocks.  But, once the blocks were created, he would make an initial woodblock print and then use the more modern method of lithography to print-up the final works.  After Nicholson...

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Tlingit Beauty

The Tlingit People is comprised of numerous tribes of Native Americans who live along the Pacific Northwest—in the areas now called British Columbia (Canada) and Alaska.  They are a matrilineal society; hereditary roles and property (which once included slaves) passed from mother to daughter.  Genetically, they have relatives from Siberia, Russia, though older DNA shows a link to the Japanese Ainu people. Even before I knew much about the Tlingit Peoples, I was mesmerized by their stunning graphic works—carvings, textiles and paintings—utilizing bold, stylized animals (often in reds, whites and blacks).  I found the aesthetic bold, original and timeless; age-old designs look fresh and modern today.

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Face-Off

The world, today, finds itself in a very tentative place.  Amongst the big worries is the hair-trigger relationship between the United States and Iran, specifically Tehran's potential nuclear capability.  Meanwhile, the streets of Iran are packed with young people demonstrating their dissatisfaction with their country's strict religious authoritarianism.  Naturally, I feel supportive of Iranian youth struggling for freedom, human rights and modernity.  Alas, many are paying a horrific price for their activism. It goes without saying, therefore, that today's big football match—the US vs. Iran—bears more weight than your typical Tuesday afternoon sporting match.  In their first match at this World Cup (vs. England) the Iranian team remained silent while their national anthem played.  They refrained from singing the lyrics.  This act...

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Cyber Contrarian

It's "Cyber Monday."  Of all the manufactured "holidays," this one seems particularly crass, to me.  Particularly manufactured. Particularly self-serving.  And, although I do make (part of) my living by selling on-line, I cannot bring myself to cheerlead the event. Instead, I will find and present the oldest, "least-techie" toy in my possession—no screens, no electricity, no internet connection.  It's an early 19th century wooden cradle, made to hold a little doll, fastened with old, square nails. Which makes me think: how many modern toys last 200 years?  I have mobile phones and laptops which are obsolete after 15 years! For those who cannot help themselves, have a Happy Cyber Monday.

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A Silvery Shiver

This winsome Christmas tree ornament—sculpted and cast in pewter—will add a cool and wint'ry folk art touch to your Holiday decorating.  It was hand-made in California and also could be used as a stylish (and seasonally appropriate) candlesnuffer.

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And We're Off!

We officially have entered the Holiday Season.  Perhaps you're not quite ready to plunge into the retail fray.  But you may be up for a little festal decorating.  A jolly parliament of owls is ready to alight upon your doorstep.  These endearing ornaments—each one has a distinctive personality—are hand-crafted from natural gourds.  Artisans draw, paint, flame (burn with a candle) and etch the gourds by hand—all before attaching a little beak and a golden hanger.  Each gourd varies in shape (round, pointed, fat or slim) and the artist's decoration contributes to a one-of-a-kind appearance.  They will provide a happy pop on your Christmas tree or look good (all year 'round) hanging in your window.  They'd make a nice little gift...

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Black Friday

It's Black Friday.  And it's one month 'til Christmas.  Time for action! Many moons ago, when I first began my retail career, the term "Black Friday" seemed to be used solely within the industry—by the people who worked in the shopkeeping business.  All retailers (then and now) hope that Black Friday, which marks the start of the Holiday selling season, will be the day when the shop's ledgers will be transfigured, like magic, from red to black (from loss to profit).  While it's true that November and December enjoy greater sales than most other months, Black Friday rarely marks a definitive turning point—the precise moment—when the bookkeeper dips his quill into a different pot of ink. Today, the term Black Friday commonly is recognized and used by...

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Gratitude

To cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" is to make the best of life.  It certainly makes a person more attractive.  And it may even improve one's health.  It certainly makes one feel better! For what am I thankful?  My faith.  My health.  My family, husband and dog (Benji).  And the loyal LEO Design customers who have allowed me to pursue this unique and wonderful vocation—seeking and acquiring Handsome Gifts and home furnishings which bring pleasure and beauty to my customers' homes. Tomorrow is Black Friday, the traditional start of the Retail Holiday Season.  I will continue to share more new items with you—as I find them—and endeavor to ship promptly to get them to you in-time for the Holidays. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Just in the Nick of Time!

After three weeks of building-out my booth space, I am ready-to-go!  Just in time for Black Friday and the Holiday Shopping Season.  I look forward to holding more merchandise, naturally, but I am also keen to restart my acquiring of furniture, artwork and lighting.  Please stop by, should you ever find yourself in Canonsburg, PA.

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Expansion Plans

When I closed my Greenwich Village shop in January of 2017 (nearly six years ago!), I never imagined opening a replacement store—least of all in Pittsburgh.  Well, I haven't.  And I do not plan to.  Not really.  Instead, I am in the process of expanding my space within the Antique Center of Strabane in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh).  For the past five years, I've rented a small showcase in this multi-dealer antique shop.  When a booth became available, I decided the time was right to "upgrade" to a bigger space.  It's been five years since I've bought larger items—furniture, mirrors, lighting—and I am looking-forward to getting back into this business.  Of course, the space will be much...

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Kickin' Ass!

Today is General Election Day 2022!  I will be spending a healthy sixteen hours at my home polling site—the Soldiers & Sailors' Memorial Hall—where I am a volunteer poll worker.  I am to report-in at 5:45 am.  Then I'll be home by 10:00 pm, ready to flip-on the telly. Pennsylvania, my new home state, will be the pitch upon which America's political contests will be played-out—possibly with national consequences.  May the better team win! These glass tumblers, from the 1950's, show a Pennsylvania donkey kicking and "Rarin' to go!"

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November is Here

Welcome, November, and your birthstone the Citrine. The Citrine is a pale yellow variety of quartz. It owes its sunny color to the presence of iron within the chemical structure of the gemstone. And Citrine's sunniness was not lost on Greeks—who first used the stone around 300 BC—who believed that the gemstone could help alleviate depression. At the time, Citrine was very rare, thus expensive, opulent and luxurious. As larger deposits were later discovered and mined (notably in Brazil), the gemstone became more common and fell within reach of more and more admirers. 

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Last Few Minutes at the Beach

Today is our last day in Hawaii and, naturally, we spent a few hours at the beach.  In the town of Kailua—on the Windward side of Oahu, near my hometown of Kaneohe—sits the small, quaint beach called Lanikai.  It's a tiny little spit of sand (with even less parking) but it has the gentlest, most beautiful water imaginable.  Across Kailua Bay one can see planes taking-off and landing at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station.  And a little island, 100 yards off shore, tempts one to swim across to it (though I never have).  What this beach lacks in solitude and spaciousness, it makes-up in atmosphere and loveliness.

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The Backdrop to My Youth

I grew-up in two Hawaiian towns:  Kaneohe, on Oahu, and Kapaa on Kauai.  I moved back-and-forth during my school years: from grade school to middle school to high school.  Oahu (where one will find Honolulu and Waikiki) was, by far, the more developed island. At the time, 80% of the state's population lived there.  And although Kauai was generally quainter and more beautiful, Oahu was home to one of my favorite mountain ranges in the world:  The Koolau Mountains. Today, the Koolau Mountain Range stretches 37 miles long, along the Windward (Northeastern) Coast of Oahu, and tops-out around 3000 feet high.  Although it seems large and dramatic—deep crevices run seemingly vertically from ground to summit—what one sees today is only...

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Good Morning, Pacific Ocean

Different people have differing ideas of what makes a beautiful beach.  Some people love the bustle and people-watching of Miami Beach.  Others like the cold, rugged beauty of Cape Cod.  Mediterranean beaches can be nice, too.  As for me, I like three things: 1. Being able to see the water and a steep mountain backdrop at the same time.  2. Seeing minimal evidence of human building or encroachment.  And 3. To be (mostly) alone at the beach—just me and my loved one(s).  With these criteria in mind, my favorite beaches in the world are to be found on Kauai.

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Back Home

After three long years, I've finally made it back to Kauai—to my family home.  It's nice to see my 87 year old father; I value every moment we share together.  And it's great to see my younger brothers and their broods of children—now growing into young women and men. I love the view, shown above, of the distant mountains as seen from my brother's front deck.  On the left, Mount Waialeale, called "the wettest spot on Earth."  On the right, Makaleha, Waialeale's younger sister.  Even in darkening light, I always try to take-in this view as soon as I land on the island.  It takes me back to my middle school years, when I lived on this spot.  Today my father...

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Welcome, October

At one time, back in the Ancient Roman Period, October was the eighth month of the year.  This is readily apparent because the prefix "Octo-" refers to the number eight.  At the time, the year had only 10 months.  September was seventh, November was ninth and December was tenth.  Then, around 713 BC,  January and February were added to the calendar, in an attempt to lengthen the year—to better represent the actual length of time required for the earth to encircle the Sun.  (This "elongated year" at 354 days, was still incorrect. It takes 365.2422 days for the Sun to complete its Solar circuit.  This is why nearly every fourth year is designated a "Leap Year.") Those born in October—mostly Libras and...

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Bevy of Brooches - IV

People who follow my journal writings know that I repeat often the founding precepts of the Arts & Crafts Movement.  One such tenet was the "revival" of ancient cultural elements—aesthetic, historical or literary references which had resonance for the people in that community, at that time.  Another principle was the elevation of beautiful, common materials to the aesthetic equal of more precious elements.  This English Arts & Crafts brooch ticks both of these boxes. The brooch shown here was made in the very early Twentieth Century.  Its silver-fronted face is embellished with meandering, Celtic-inspired graphics.  Set within the brooch's face are five art glass cabochons—crafted with the appearance of Persian Turquoise.  

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Bevy of Brooches - III

Queen Victoria's beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861.  The Queen still had four decades left in her reign—a long period during which she remained in-mourning.  Queen Victoria wore black every day for the rest of her life.  And while her jewelry needed to be attractive, it also had to be appropriately understated—if not melancholy.  The Queen set the fashion for the rest of the nation; for forty years, the entire nation observed some measure of mourning alongside their Queen.  Thus, the English jewelry from the last third of the Nineteenth Century tended to be stately, serious and handsome—not whimsical, sunny or frivolous.

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Bevy of Brooches - II

Simply put, a "cabochon" is a plain, domed "stone"—without faceting—which is rounded and polished on the top and (usually) flat on the bottom.  The term refers mostly to gemstones, shaped this way to be mounted into jewelry.  But, during the Arts & Crafts period, craftsmen made cabochons out of glass or glazed ceramic to be used as decorative elements (embedded in metalwork or woodwork).  One of the aims of the Arts & Crafts Movement was to elevate the beauty of simple materials.  In this case, a beautifully glazed, hand-crafted ceramic rondel could be appreciated as much as an expensive, precious gemstone.

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Bevy of Brooches - I

When I travel on buying trips, I am always looking for nice cufflinks and other masculine jewelry.  But I am unable to avoid crossing paths with lots of women's jewelry.  In fact, most jewelry dealers carry far more women's jewelry than men's jewelry.  Given this reality, I frequently find myself picking-up some nice pieces for women.  But my taste leans to the "handsome" more than the "girly".  When I do buy a piece of women's jewelry, it tends to reflect a more robust taste: a bit heavy, a bit stoney, a bit serious, a bit dour.  Late Nineteenth Century—Victorian Mourning Jewelry—always appeals to me.  But I do try to step-out of my little lane, every now and then.

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And Then There's Boxing Day

With a touch of alarm, we noted that yesterday marked the three month mark before Christmas.  And, as surely as Christmas will come, Boxing Day will follow 24 hours later.  Boxing Day is widely celebrated in Britain and much of the Commonwealth.  It is the day after Christmas, originally recognized as the day-off for the servants (back when people had servants—who were expected to serve their employers on Christmas Day).  Boxing Day was a festive occasion, when servants would receive a box—their Christmas gift—from their masters and mistresses.   The box above, made by Hickok in the Art Deco Thirties, is cast of marbled Bakelite—an early, heat resistant plastic.  Bakelite was invented in 1907 in Yonkers, New York, by Belgian immigrant,...

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Three Months 'til Christmas

Though Summer has barely left us, a glance at the calendar reminds us that Christmas is a mere three months away!  Let's get ready!  No time to waste!  Here's a set of four cheery Christmas Double Old Fashioned "Rocks" glasses.  They are decorated with a stained-glass effect salutation—Seasons Greetings—and are topped with a 22 karat gold rim.  This metallic enhancement looks nice but, more importantly, it protects the delicate glass rim from unexpected chipping.

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Back-to-School - Part XII

Over the past several days, LEO Design has shared some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. Let's end our parade of offerings with this sweet idea: an Early Twentieth Century shop counter cracker jar, complete with metal lid and metal stand.  In Mom & Pop Stores before World War Two, jars like this would have been commonplace—for crackers, cookies, candy, or other foodstuffs.  Most times, the metal stand would be long gone, broken or lost.  And the stand's design is interesting.  It allows the jar to be tilted at numerous angles, as desired.  In a dormitory, it would be a wonderful depository for candies, cookies or other treats which need protection.  In...

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Back-to-School - Part XI

It happens to most of us.  At 45?  50?  55?  We start to notice that all the font sizes have suddenly shrunk.  Inexplicably, someone down-sized all the print!  Add to that: all those Twenty-Something tech wizards—who think they will never age—design the world's electronics and packaging and graphics with the assumption that "old folks" aren't interested in adopting their technology.  Hence more teeny-tiny "buttons," micro-links and fine print to scrutinize.  Well, sometimes old-time solutions will still solve new-age problems!  Thus, one can never have too many magnifying glasses scattered around the house.  In the bathroom for reading bottles.  Near the TV for reading the PBS guide.  Or in the glovebox for checking receipts.  (Those mundane tasks which populate the pursuits of...

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Back-to-School - Part X

Sometimes an ordinary paperclip will do.  In fact, most times the classic clip will suffice.  But—every now and then—an extra splash of style is required.  For these moments, may I suggest these Italian spiraling paperclips, called "Chiocciola" (which is "snail" in Italian).  A tin of these in your desk may provide that little extra element of interest to your resume package, note to an important customer, or proposal to a prospective client.  They also look great sitting in a little bowl upon the desk—awaiting their next assignment.

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Back-to-School - Part IX

All work and no play makes any scholar a dull student (or so the saying goes, approximately).  So take a break, a moment to relax and re-focus with this heavy brass puzzle, made in Brooklyn.  Solid brass rods are finely machine-turned—engineered with exacting precision—which assemble into the three dimensional cruciform sculpture, shown above.  Weighty enough to be functional as a paperweight; handsome enough to be a decorative conversation piece on the desk.

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Back-to-School - Part VIII

For the last several days, LEO Design has been sharing some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. Style meets Function with this Edwardian English brass and oak letter rack, circa 1905.  Simple swirling metalwork stands atop a wooden plinth, finished with a moulding edge.  It's sized just-right for holding a supply of stationery and envelopes, bills and documents to be processed, or to do lists and other reminders.  A small measure of sculpted motion means just the right amount of visual interest.  Otherwise, the piece exhibits pure Edwardian utility.  

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Back-to-School - Part VII

While these sleepy Medieval Scholars might channel the soporific mood of late night study sessions, don't worry, it's not contagious!  And we really should cut these monks a little slack; they've been trying to stay awake for 100 years.  "Science" and "Study" personify the themes of age-old academia.  They are sculpted in bas relief fashion upon the faces of these heavy, cast iron bookends from the Twenties.  The monks, themselves, are dressed in a golden bronze finish.  The body of the bookend itself is finished with a classic, chocolate brown bronze patina.  They were made by Bradley & Hubbard (Meriden, Connecticut) the metals foundry which made so many handsome objects for Middle Class homes of the Victorian and Edwardian Ages.

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Back-to-School - Part VI

So much for "the paper-free society."  There is nothing as durable and conspicuous as a hand-written note posted in a prominent place.  To do lists.  Reminders.  Addresses.  Good wishes.  Having a small piece of notepaper at-hand is always convenient and efficient—including in a productive dorm room.  This polished pewter notepad holder was designed by Erik Magnussen (Danish, 1940-2014) for Royal Selangor.  The 4"x 4" replacement notes can easily be purchased on-line or can be cut-down from recycled copy paper.

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Back-to-School - Part V

Over the past several days, LEO Design has been sharing some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. In terms of sheer indulgence, this Arts & Crafts wastepaper basket wins the "Dorm Room Makeover Challenge."  Made of slats of quarter-sawn oak, it is finished with rawhide lacing at the corner tops.  It's the handsome, finishing touch beneath that built-in dorm room desk.  (Or under that costly Stickley writing table.)

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Back-to-School - Part IV

It's been said that "Time is Our Most Precious Commodity."  Each day is allotted only a fixed number of minutes—and as each moment passes, it is gone forever, never to return.  More time cannot be purchased at any cost, regardless of how rich one is.  And further complicating things: though each of us possess a "bank" of time left on Earth, none of us knows his bank balance.  Wise people think about and plan the use of their time. If a high school senior does not, yet, appreciate the value of her time—and the challenge of managing it—a college freshman will soon be made aware.  Packed course schedules, layers of projects with varying due dates, and all those enticing extra-curricular...

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Back-to-School - Part III

For better or worse, some Americans cannot (or will not) separate their favorite academic institutions from the institution of American Football.  The Autumn—with its sweaters, crisp temperatures, and crackling leaves—means Back-to-School and the start of Football season.  Tailgates, marching bands, gambling brackets.  Some schools (and student bodies) are better known for their American Football prowess than they are for their academic achievements.  Personally, I'd prefer a world where educators prioritized educating—and sports games were just a casual, weekend distraction.  But such is a minority view amongst the concepts of conferences, school budgets and broadcast rights. Shown above, a Japanese crystal American Football sculpture, made by Sasaki.  It could be used as a paperweight on the desk or an interesting conversation piece in...

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Back-to-School - Part II

Who can't use a little more organization at the desk or in the dorm?  Or office, kitchen or craft room?  This Edwardian English oak stationery rack, circa 1905, is meant to hold a supply of writing paper, envelopes, cards and letters.  But it's a very handy place to organize your paper-in-motion.  I use mine to hold paid bills (checks written, envelopes stamped and sealed) while waiting for the correct day to mail them.  Documents, brochures or articles which need attention also call to me from their oaken stand.  In large families, it might be a good place to leave member's mail—or, perhaps, provide a little "in-box" for intra-family communication.  The organizational uses are many.  And the stand looks so handsome...

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Back-to-School - Part I

The school bell has rung!  Pupils to their desks!  While college freshmen may have encountered wistful parental partings, grade school returnees likely perceived their parents breathing a muted sigh of relief.  Such is the annual tide of school-going: students flow in and out of their institutions with seasonal regularity.  Like water, the droplets are always changing though the tides themselves remain regulated.  Over the next several days, LEO Design would like to share some interesting Back-to-School offerings—ideas to help organize, cheer and distract as students push-on through their matriculations. I've sold dozens of English bells over the years, many of them styled like the one shown above, a Late Victorian Aesthetic Movement design from the 1880's - 1890's.  This one, however, is the...

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Forever Fresh

When I visit any good art museum, I always spend a few extra minutes standing before the Van Goghs.  I never fail to be moved by his work.  His composition, his style, his brushwork (perhaps knifework), and his use of color are enchanting to me.  I know of his difficult life and tortured soul—and I attempt to "feel" his spirit, radiating-out from the canvas, communicating across the centuries.  I feel a sadness that he knew so little happiness in his life.  That he never sold a single piece in his lifetime.  And that he would never know how much joy and beauty and emotion he would bring to so many admirers, all around the world, for so many decades.  But...

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Twenty-One Years On

A prayer for the souls who perished. And gratitude for those who rushed-in to assist.  Surely everyone will remember where they were that day.  As awful as the attack was, I will always be thankful that I was home, in my beloved New York City, that day.

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21 Years Ago Today

I opened my first shop, at 413 Bleecker Street, in 1995.  Within three years I had expanded to a second space, LEO Design Studio at 28 Jane Street.  This allowed me much needed space to buy and sell more furniture and other big pieces (including the occasional container from London).  It also provided storage and workspace for us to clean and prepare merchandise for sale in the original (and much smaller) shop.  But, with two monthly rental payments, more employees, and duplicate insurance, telephone & utility bills, my "monthly nut" became much harder to crack.   One of my customers, a woman who lived just around the corner, happened to be an astrologist.  She and I would talk about the name...

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Made in China

At the tail end of the Chinese Qing Imperial Dynasty (1636-1912), this handsome brass cloisonné box was created.  It features a tasteful floral decoration set against sophisticated oxblood enameling.  A field of "meandering" brass metalwork provides handsome texture to the ground color.  Inside, the box has a lovely turquoise blue enameling.  And, atop the box, sits a hand-pierced and hand-carved jade medallion.  Such a box was likely made for foreign visitors to China at the Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century—traders, diplomats or military.  It might have also been made for export for sale in shops in Europe or America. Cloisonné is the French name for this type of enameled metalwork in which colored material is laid within discrete resevoirs (called "cloisons"), separated by strips...

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God Bless the Queen

Although we all knew it would happen—some day—it still comes as a shock.  Today Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96.  Her passing ended a 70 year reign—the longest in British history.  While scholars and historians and advocates will argue endlessly about the roles of England and Empire and Monarchy, today I am only thinking of the enormous and powerful presence which radiated from this tiny, reserved, proper and dignified woman.  She was a model of deportment.  She was a model of behavior.  And she was a model of self-control and propriety.  Oh that more of our world's leaders would emulate her example.  Truthfully, we could all emulate her example. And let's not forget that she was a woman....

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The Badger Warrior

Dachshunds are consistently amongst the most popular of dog breeds with pet owners.  They are lively, devoted and fiercely protective of their masters. The origins of the breed, however, are somewhat clouded in mystery.  We know that they were developed in Germany as "scent hounds"—to hunt badgers and other burrowing mammals (say rabbits or foxes).  The early German name, Dachs Krieger, means "badger warrior" and is found in-print from the 1700's.  The American Kennel Club contends that the breed was established in the 1500's.  The long body (and snout) allows the animal to crawl down into holes, in pursuit of prey.  Loose skin prevents the dachshund's skin from tearing if caught on the walls of a burrow.  Long, drooping ears keep dirt...

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But is it Modern?

When did the Modern Age begin?  I suppose it depends upon whom you ask—and the specific context of the modernity under analysis.  Literature?  Medicine?  The Decorative Arts?  Even within a narrowly-focused subject, you're likely to hear conflicting answers to this provocative question—and I will not attempt to answer that question here. But I will point-out an observation of early Modernism—and not exactly where you might expect it.  The Victorian gold-filled cufflinks, shown above, were made in the Late Nineteenth Century, probably in America. This is a period usually considered pre-Modernist.  A highly-sculpted golden "bead" with swirling ribs and tapered ends, sits at each end of a gently curved center bar.  The back bead is, naturally, a bit smaller so that it will...

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