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United Nations Day

On this day in 1945, the United Nations Charter was established and this anniversary date declared “United Nations Day.”  It’s a day devoted to making known—worldwide—the aims and achievements of this great body and appreciating the importance of its mission. In 1971, the U.N. further resolved that United Nations Day be an international holiday and […]

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Heading Out . . .

Today I’m off on a European buying trip:  first stop, London.  I never know what I may find but I’ll post periodic updates from the road (or is it “the air”).  Keep checking-back.

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New Merchandise Arrives

I seem to have tapped a nautical vein on my most recent buying trip—to the Midwest, of all places! Here’s a pair of highly-sculptural, cast iron bookends, the ship’s prow plunging into the roiling sea before it.  One can almost feel the motion. Click on the photo to learn more about them.

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Just Back. . .

I’ve just returned from a productive buying trip to Western Pennsylvania and “The Near Mid-West.”  Included in my cache is a collection of 1950’s “Fostoria” stems—champagne, wine, sparkling wine, and water glasses—blown with a tinge of blue.  Additionally, I’ve bought several new sets of champagne coupes, tumblers and a few wine glasses. I often find […]

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Sculpture or Vessel?

Normally, it’s a straight-forward matter to decide whether an object is a vase or a piece of sculpture.  Occasionally, however, it’s not quite so simple.  Take the West German piece above, made in the 1960’s by ceramicist Rudi Stahl.  One could put a flower stem (or two) into each little spout.  Would that do the […]

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The Biscuit Barrel

To live graciously in the time of Downtown Abbey, one would best understand the rubrics of society—and follow them closely.  One rule:  biscuits are served with tea, not cookies. Another rule:  biscuits are presented in a barrel, not the plastic wrapping. Above, a biscuit barrel—England’s version of the classic American cookie jar. Imagine the […]

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Art Finds a Way

While borders may change and territories expand and contract, art continue to press on. Art—a fundamental expression of human creativity—is challenged by conflict, sometimes changed by conflict, but rarely killed by conflict. The piece of art pottery, pictured above, was birthed in a time and region of tremendous conflict—and has survived beautifully. Having been made […]

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The Repp Stripe

When Americans think of the Repp Stripe, they think of the classic Ivy League necktie with colorful, diagonal banding.  But the history of the Repp Stripe goes far beyond neckties. In the British Isles—where group association is flaunted through heraldry and tartan plaids—Repp Stripes signify one’s membership in a specific group: a military regiment, a […]

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The Isle of Man

The triskelion shown on the enameled cufflinks (above), are the ancient symbol of the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea, halfway between Ireland and England.  Settled some 6500 years BC, it has been invaded, conquered, and influenced by many. It retains, nevertheless, a rugged, independent—and perhaps defiant—individuality. Myth abounds on the island. […]

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Moss Agate Impressionism

Ancient warriors believed in Moss Agate.  It was considered a “strength stone,” enhancing concentration, persistence, endurance, and success—the attributes desired of any good warrior.  Today, New Age believers will recommend Moss Agate to let go of anger or bitterness and to help balance emotional energy.  As an “abundance stone,” Moss Agate is also thought to […]

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The Pelican in Symbolism

The pelican has a long and interesting history in folklore and symbolism.  The Ancient Egyptians associated the bird closely with death, the afterlife, and as a mode of transport from one world to the next.  In other ancient mythology, it was believed that, during times of famine, a mother pelican would strike her breast—thus drawing […]

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Henry Hudson

On this day in 1609, Captain Henry Hudson began exploring the river that would one day bear his name.  At the time, the area was yet-to-be settled by Europeans.  The Native Americans, however, had experience interacting and trading with whites in the past.  It was Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano who had discovered the mouth of […]

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Happy Birthday, Rin Tin Tin

The year was 1918 and World War I was underway.  U.S. Army corporal Lee Duncan was sent ahead to the French village of Flirey, recently-cleared of German occupiers, to find a suitable air landing strip.  What he found was a bombed and abandoned German kennel, recently used to provide dogs for the German military.  Most of the […]

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A New Scots Queen

On this day in 1543, nine month old Mary Stuart was crowned Queen of the Scots.  She had inherited the throne at the age of six days—being the only legitimate surviving child of her father, James V of Scotland—and began a life of tumult and heartbreak.  Most of her childhood was spent in France, where […]

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Harvard at 377

Happy Birthday, Harvard! On this day in 1636, Harvard University was founded by order of the Massachusetts legislature, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.  It is arguably the most prestigious school in America and amongst the most important in the world.  Named after its first benefactor, John Harvard (an […]

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No White Elephants Here

Legend has it that the King of Siam would present courtiers—specifically annoying or obnoxious ones—with the royal gift of a White Elephant.  Despite the gift’s incredible rarity, the animal was such a burden to sustain that the unpleasant courtier would be ruined financially just trying to keep the animal fed and maintained. Today, the term […]

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Autumn Wedding Season

With the crisp fall weather, so comes the popular autumnal wedding season.  Whether black tie or less formal, cufflinks provide just the right punctuation in a handsome groom’s ensemble.  Many a bride-to-be has purchased from us a nice dress set for her fiancé to wear on their special day.  Similarly, many future grooms have purchased […]

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Baltic Amber

Amber is the ancient, fossilized resin of pine trees.  80% of it is found in Northern Europe, along the Baltic Sea—that large body of water surrounding (and beneath) the Scandanavian countries.  Scientists believe it was produced some 44 million years ago.  Because the resin was originally soft and sticky, amber pieces sometimes display “inclusions” of […]

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September: Morning Glory

We welcome September and its birth flower, the Morning Glory. With its cordate (heart-shaped) leaves and climbing vines, the Morning Glory comes in many colors—usually blues and purples but sometimes in reds or oranges (like those which decorate the hand-painted English Arts & Crafts frame, above).

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Art and The Ballets Russes – part three

Nijinsky in Les Orientales (1910), costumes by Bakst (Photo: Druet) For all the acclaim and artistry of The Ballets Russes, the centerpiece of the company—on stage and off—was the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.  Born in Kiev (at that time a part of Russia) to traveling Polish ballet dancers, young Waclaw Nizyinski, was trained in dance from a […]

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Art and The Ballets Russes – part two

Leon Bakst:  Costume rendering of Nijinsky in “Afternoon of a Faun” (1912) After relocating the company from Russia to Paris, The Ballets Russes continued to grow in fame and ambition.  Its captain, Sergei Diaghilev’s genius was in identifying and recruiting exquisite talent (dancers, composers, choreographers, and designers) and pulling from them new, wonderful, and (sometimes) shocking […]

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Art and The Ballets Russes – part one

Georges Barbier: Vaslav Nijinsky in “Afternoon of a Faun” (1913) Yesterday, in Washington D.C., I had the great fortune to see a wonderful exhibit at the National Gallery:  “Diaghilev & The Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music.” Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929) sampled many fields—law, music, art, publishing, art curation—before he discovered his great […]

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Remembering a Dream

Fifty years ago today, a 34 year old Georgia preacher mounted the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, took the microphone, and—before a crowd of more than a quarter million people—fixed his place in American history.  The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the most important—and successful—orations in […]

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The Dog Days of Summer

Summer’s end is nigh, the dog days come and gone.  But it’s been cool in LEO Design where these French Art Deco Great Dane bookends wait patiently.  Come visit them and see our new shipments—arriving in mid-September. Click on the photo to learn more.

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George Stubbs: Equine Genius

On this day in 1724, British artist George Stubbs was born in Liverpool to a leather “currier” (finisher) and merchant.  He worked with his father until he was 16, at which point he was apprenticed to a local painter and engraver, a position which didn’t last long—Stubbs did not like the repetitive copying which was […]

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Smoke and Ash

It was just an ordinary day in Pompeii: 24 August 79 AD.  People were going-about their regular business, bustling-along the marble-clad streets and roadways of the ancient Roman city.  Then, without warning, Mons Vesuvius—five miles away—exploded, sending molten rock and poisonous gasses straight up, over 20 miles into the sky. When the dust settled, Pompeii […]

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Guilloché

In the decorative arts, the French term Guilloché (pronounced: Ghee-o-shay) refers to the technique of engraving very precise, very intricate, repetitive patterns, usually on metal. When produced using a “Turning Machine,” such mechanically produced guilloché work can achieve much finer, much more accurate, and much more closely spaced lines.  Often such guilloché work is enameled-over, […]

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Out with a Roar

Today is the last day of the sun sign, LEO. Our Lion Rampant, above—hand-tooled on copper, in Belgium—bears us a regal farewell:  “See you in eleven months!” Meanwhile, LEO Design (the shop and the web site) will continue to serve—throughout the zodiac calendar. Click on the photo to learn more.

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The LEO in Art – part four

To wrap-up this little series on “Leos in Art,” let’s return to Venice—the city of St. Mark and his lion. Last month, my partner and I  ended our summer holiday with a few days in Venice. Having been there a couple of times previously, we steered-clear of the well-worn “highlights,” choked with summer tourists (including […]

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The Year 1812

On this day 1882, under a tent in Moscow (next to the construction site of The Cathedral of Christ the Savior), Russian composer-genius Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky premiered his masterpiece The Year 1812—more popularly known as the 1812 Overture.  It had been commissioned by Tsar Alexander II to commemorate Russia’s brave defense of the motherland (and […]

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The LEO in Art – part three

Lions are among the most-widely used creatures in heraldry.  After all, “The King of the Forest” is associated closely with royalty and—for centuries—we have invested him with the traits we wish to see in our leaders (royal or otherwise): strength, bravery, majesty, beauty, beneficence.  Lions often are viewed as strong and gentle—at the same time—something […]

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The LEO in Art – part two

In the “modern” world, the lion has maintained pride of place in art and architecture. St. Mark, the evangelist, is usually depicted as a winged lion.  He is the patron saint of Venice (at least since the Venetians smuggled his remains out of Alexandria, Egypt in 828 AD), therefore lions—winged or otherwise—are plentiful in that […]

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The LEO in Art – part one

As the sun moves-on—next week into Virgo—we have a final chance to showcase a few more Leos in art. Lions have been portrayed in some of the oldest artwork known to historians.  For years, the oldest were the Cave Paintings of Lascaux, France (15,000 years old) which depict a pair of lions mating.  Since then, […]

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Barley Twist

The attractive carved design element known as the “Barley Twist” enjoyed a revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (as shown in the wooden candlesticks, above).  But the use of this design element is thousands of years old.  They were originally called “Solomonic Columns” and are believed to have been used in the […]

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Hammered Metals

Craftsmen and artisans have been hand-hammering metals for thousands of years, working them into shapes both useful and beautiful.  Decorative metalwork reached its zenith of precision during the Renaissance through the Age of Enlightenment (18th century). During this period, delicacy and refinement were en vogue.  A piece was considered finer if it had no sign […]

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The Louvre Turns 220

On 10 August 1792, the “Storming of the Tuileries Palace” effectively brought an end to the French monarchy (later restored in 1814).  Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were arrested and locked away—later to be killed. This bloody chapter in French history was followed, exactly one year later, with the official opening of the […]

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Peacekeepers’ Day

On this day in 1974, nine Canadian peacekeepers were shot down and killed while flying over Syria, the largest number of Canadian peacekeepers killed while doing their important work.  Since then, 9 August has been designated “Peacekeepers’ Day” in Canada, usually observed on the closest Sunday to this date. In an earlier time, a WWI […]

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My Favorite American Artist

Scuola di San Rocco (c.1902-04) by John Singer Sargent   In my opinion (for what it matters), “Art” is the accomplished manipulation of a medium. Some artists manipulate paint, others marble; some artists will manipulate words, while others manipulate vocal notes.  Great artists—by definition—are great at doing it.  On Sunday I witnessed a Master’s Class […]

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The First Item I Ever Sold

This is the first item I ever sold, in my first store, on my first day.  It’s a Mortens Studio Saint Bernard sculpture.  After selling it, I came across another two years later.  I had to buy it—paying three times more for the replacement than for which I had sold the first!  Since that day, […]

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A New Start For LEO

Today is a landmark day. Today we launch our new (sales-capable!) website and journal. Today we’re grateful to be starting our 19th year of business. And today I celebrate my 50th birthday! Furthermore: Today is the first day of my favorite sun sign, Leo. 1995 seems like yesterday. I remember—very well—awaking on my birthday that […]

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