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Classic Men’s Bath Collection

Perfect for Father’s Day: a collection of classic men’s Musgo Real products from Claus Porto, Portugal.  He’ll start in the shower with the body soap, shave next with the luxurious shave cream, and finish-off with a splash of the aftershave.  These products will help make his mundane morning ablutions a little less tedious, a little […]

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Countdown to Father's Day

Father's Day is just over two weeks away—and we'd like to share some Handsome Gifts ideas for dads.  Please visit our on-line store.  And check our homepage, where we've highlighted a handful of great gifts suitable for a man who means a lot. Shown above, a pair of American Art Deco cufflinks, from the Thirties, with white-enameled bezels.  Their iridescent black mother-or-pearl faces make them an easy match with almost any color shirt: blue, pink, grey, green, black, peach, tangerine, lavender (and, of course, white).  This makes them a particularly good choice for a man who doesn't have a large cufflink collection.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them—and peruse our large collection of handsome cufflinks...

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For the Love of Travel

Summer is nigh and my travel itch is needing a scratch! Travel has always fascinated me—as it has captivated centuries of people before me. And, despite my mother’s warnings before I take flight—"The World today is just crazy!"—I still believe crossing oceans is safer today than it was 150 years ago.  Take, for instance, travel from New York to Hawaii, where I visit my family once or twice a year.  Nineteenth Century Boston missionaries might spend 8 or more months at sea, heading south around the tip of South America and then thousands of more miles across the Pacific.  I’m not sure how they ever hit the right (rather small) spot!  And, no doubt, at least one soul would perish...

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The Lincoln Memorial

On this day in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated and opened to the public on the National Mall in Washington D.C.  In attendance was the 16th President’s only surviving child, 79 year-old Robert Todd Lincoln. Begun in 1914, with funds approved by Congress, the Beaux-Arts, Greek Doric Temple was designed by architect Henry Bacon […]

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English Armor

Shields serve a purpose: to protect its bearer from harm be it arrows, lances or clubs. Functional, utilitarian shields should be strong and light, making them portable and effective.  The less embellishment they have, the more practical they become.  With decorative dress shields, however, the goal is to impress—with wealth, style or military might.  Dress […]

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The Armada Sails

On this day in 1588, Spain’s Grande y Felicísima Armada—the “Great and Most Fortunate Navy,” the “Invincible Armada”—set sail from the port of Lisbon, en route to The English Channel and the (planned) overthrow of the British monarchy. The Armada was so large (130 ships, 30,000 men) that it took three days for the entire […]

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Science and Study

It's graduation time!  And—whether you're leaving high school, college or medical school—it's nice to commemorate the achievement.  How about a pair of bookends?  Handsome and practical, they will remind you of this special milestone—not to mention, the generous person who presented them to you. This pair of heavy cast-iron bookends were made in the 1920’s by Bradley & Hubbard (Meriden, Connecticut).  Despite their drowsy appearance, these monks are fully able to hold up the heaviest of text books—while continuing their science and study.  Please click on the photo to learn more about them.

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To Go Boldly . . .

I loved this vase—with its extraterrestrial, otherworldly glazing—the moment I saw it.  To me it looks like some far-away, gaseous, yet-to-be-discovered planet. Made by Ruscha (West Germany) in the 1960’s or 1970’s, it could easily be a set model hanging in the background of a Star Wars sky.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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Wisdom

Owls have long been associated with wisdom, knowledge, vision and judgement.  The ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena (after whom Athens is named), often was depicted with a little owl.  The same is true of Minerva, Athena’s Roman version. And, in ancient times, an owl spotted during a time of crises was considered a very […]

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Queenly Substance

Until recently, England’s Queen Victoria had been the longest-reigning monarch in British history.  Some of England’s greatest achievements (and changes) have occurred under a woman’s crown. Each of the “Big Three” (Elizabeth, Victoria and Elizabeth II) enjoyed long reigns and it’s fascinating to contemplate how much the world (and their country) changed during the course […]

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King of the Jungle

Let the countdown begin!  Two months 'til LEO! The day this noble beast followed me home, I photographed him and  popped him right onto the website! Beautifully sculpted—and, alas, so much better-looking in-person—this bronze-clad sculpture captures the confident strength (and muscles) of the King of All Animals.  Made in the 1920's, he's based on the original design by Antoine-Louis Bayre, the French anamalier extraordinaire from the Nineteenth Century.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about him.

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To the Joust!

Noble steeds strain against the bit—eager for the tournament to begin.  Atop them, mounted knights gird themselves for the battle, lances in-hand.  Let this pair of bronze-clad bookends add a bit of majesty (or at least a little pomp) to your desk, den or library.  Made in the 1920’s, they still retain an impressive portion […]

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Gouda You Do?

Gouda is a city in The Netherlands, well known for its cheese and for its hand-decorated art pottery.  Most of the Gouda pottery which I buy is from the 1910’s and 1920’s—and hews more closely to the “typical Gouda style” with colorful, swirling, exotic botanical motifs.  When I found this piece, I did not know […]

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A Hail of Talent

Every few years, I attend a week-long trade show in Frankfurt, Germany.  Often derided, Frankfurt is (I have found) a city rich in history and culture.  It is home to the world's largest book fair and I've seen many wonderful exhibits at their art museums.  I've visited Goethe's home (and birthplace) and found a fair number of nice antiques in the city.  Nevertheless, on every trip I try to take one day off to explore another close-ish city.  One year it was Nürnberg. Prior to my visit, my only knowledge of the city was the Judy Garland movie “Judgement at Nuremberg.” What I found was another German city with a remarkable artistic past—home to (arguably) the greatest German artist of all...

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Eagle Post

I love letter racks!  Perhaps it’s my ambition to impose organization upon my desk . . . someday.   Perhaps I like the combination of antique style and present-day practicality. Or, perhaps, I just like possessing the relic of an imagined, distant, more-orderly time. Shown above: a Nineteenth Century Victorian American letter rack with a […]

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Wendelin Stahl

Wendelin Stahl was born into a family of great ceramicists in a city best-known for its ceramics.  Some might argue that Wendelin became the greatest ceramicist of them all.  Born in Höhr-Grenzhausen in 1922, Wendelin studied ceramics at art school and worked in his father’s studio.  After World War II, he and his wife, ceramicist […]

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Precious Pups

In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, England was crazy for all themes Asian—tea, ceramics, wallpaper, even light opera.  Apparently the infatuation continued through the Twenties and Thirties, as evidenced by these English cast brass Pekingese bookends. Crisply cast—from two separate “mirrored” molds—the sculptor artfully conveyed the “entitled personalities” of these precious pups.  Please […]

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Art and Islam

There’s a long and impressive history of fine metal-tooling throughout the Middle East and North Africa—especially on seemingly utilitarian objects like trays, pots, lanterns and table tops.  Since much of the Middle East and North Africa is Islamic, local craftsmen observe the strictures of their religion (to greater or lesser degrees) when it comes to […]

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A Reflection on the Jacobean

King James of England and Scotland inherited both of his thrones from women.  He became James VI of Scotland, at 13 months of age, when his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate.  Some 36 years later, when Queen Elizabeth of England died without an heir, James became the King of England and […]

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Blue Agate

I’m always hunting for cufflinks at LEO Design; they are the perfect “Handsome Gift.”  But, as much as I enjoy hunting-down cufflinks,  I don’t want to ignore the women.  On my recent buying trip to England, I bought a dozen brooches—mostly Victorian and Edwardian pieces—which I hope will please the ladies (or the men who […]

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Happy Mother’s Day

A special Mother’s Day wish for all moms—and for all the women who give selflessly of themselves for the benefit of others.  Thank you! Shown above, an attentive mare relaxes and grazes while her inquisitive foal heads-off exploring.  Cast of bronze, the mare is $95 and the foal is $68.  Please come into the shop […]

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A “Nouveau Leaf”

For some years, we've proudly carried a line of European “water gilded” gold leaf frames, including the Art Nouveau-style frame pictured above.  Made in Eastern Europe, the wooden frames are first assembled, then carved (here with the intertwined “whiplash” bordering), then painted with gesso (to smooth-out the wood, build-up any voids, and provide a suitable surface for the gold leaf).  After this, thin sheets of 22 karat gold leaf are laid over the frame and affixed with a special binder.  Before the binder dries, the gold leaf surface is “burnished” with brushes, fingers, rags and various rubbing tools to create a smooth surface on the object—which can give the appearance of being made of solid gold.

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Tray Bien

Another English Arts & Crafts brass tray—part of our ever-expanding collection—is shown above. Made by Joseph Sankey & Son, it looks across the English Channel for inspiration from the French Art Nouveau.  Please click on the photo to learm more about it.

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Russia’s Great Léon Bakst

Lev Samoilovitch Rosenberg—later known as Léon Bakst—was born on this day in Grodno, Russia (which is in modern day Belarus).  He grew-up in Saint Petersberg where his grandfather was a skilled tailor whose service to the Tsar was rewarded with a large house and generous wage.  Though his middle-class parents didn’t encourage it, Léon was […]

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Tray Beau

Here's an exquisite gift idea for Mother's Day—as beautifully executed a piece of metalsmithing as we’ve ever had.  A scrolling, Art Nouveau botanical motif is repeatedly rendered in each quadrant of this octagonal brass tray.  Not only is the design beautifully voluptuous, it is executed crisply and with great precision—obviously the work of a master craftsman.  This tray typifies the “more-formal” dimension of the British Arts & Crafts movement, though it would also be sensational (and useful!) in either a highly-modern or rustic country milieu.

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Tray Chic

I've assembled a collection of handsome English Arts & Crafts brass trays from the turn-of-the-century.  Though each is crafted of hand-hammered brass, each is quite different, indeed. Over the next few days, I’ll share three of these trays with you. Shown above, the work of an accomplished metalsmith.  Intertwined shamrocks, thistles, and Tudor roses—representing Ireland, Scotland, and England—bloom along the oval track of this brass English Arts & Crafts tray.  Please come into the shop to appreciate it in-person or click on the photo above to learn more about it. Another tray tomorrow.

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The World’s Greatest Music. Ever.

On this evening in 1824, with his musical score positioned before him, composer Ludwig van Beethoven stood at the edge of the stage of the jam-packed Theatre am Kärntnertor in Vienna, Austria.  The audience was abuzz and the largest orchestra ever assembled for the composer was at-the-ready, prepared to debut Beethoven’s newest (and final) work, […]

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Holding Court

A regal lion holds court from this handsome pair of cast iron bookends, made in the 1920’s. Newly in-store, they’d be a great gift idea for your favorite Leo (which begins less than three months from now)—or person of any sun sign.  Please click on the photo to learn more about them or come into […]

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Mama Bear (and Her Cubs)

This sweet trio of bears—Mama, First Born and Second Born—is cast in bronze then hand-finished, patinated and buffed.  Individually or as a group, these little critters will remind Mom of her cute little cubs.  Mama: $38.  Cubs: $28 each. Please come into the shop to see them or call for further information. More Mother’s Day […]

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May the Fourth be with You

Today is “Star Wars Day,” a day on which sci-fi geeks and film buffs celebrate all things Star Wars.  The date, May 4th, was chosen because it sounds like the iconic phrase “May the Force be with you.”  The first organized celebration was held in Toronto in 2011.  Activities included a trivia game show, a […]

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Queen for the Day

Serve your mother Tea and Scones (perhaps in bed) with this handsome and functional English butler’s tea tray.  Lined with rose-printed tiles, the heavy walnut tray is finished with brass handles.  Handsome and pretty at the same time—and sure to put your mum into “Queen for the Day” mode. Please come into the shop to […]

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Maggie the Cat

On this day in 1955, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by playwright Tennessee Williams.  The judging committee, comprised of four critics and one academic, had always been subject to override by the Pulitzer organization—and, in this instance, Joseph Pulitzer, Jr. lobbied hard on behalf of Tennessee […]

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Welcome, May!

Welcome, May, and your birthstone: the Emerald! There are only four precious gemstones—and emeralds are one of them, making them highly valuable.  And because emeralds are so susceptible to flaws, a perfect emerald is extremely rare. For this reason, emeralds traditionally are graded with the naked eye (not high magnification) which creates a little extra tolerance for the beautiful green gem.  Like other gemstones, color is paramount; great emeralds have a deep, bright color.  But clarity is also very important—more so than with most other stones. Emeralds are a variety of Beryl and its green color is due to chromium "impurities" within the stone.  They were mined in Egypt as early as 1500 BC. They've also been found in the New...

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Steeling the Past

The worldwide Arts & Crafts movement—Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Secessionist, Mission—shared many similarities, including the revival of earlier historical or aesthetic elements.  One of the classic touchstones is The Gothic. This pair of German Jugendstil bookends are made of hand-hammered steel, punctuated with riveted steel edging.  Their thin profile makes them well-suited to a book collection with limited space for a thicker, heavier bookend.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Straddling the Divide

 I've had this piece a handful of times over the years—in white, green, turquoise and carmel gold.  In fact, I had one in-stock on the day I first opened my Bleecker Street store in 1995.  I like its combination of crisp handsome paneling with its no-nonsense simplicity.  And I like that it easily straddles both schools of Arts & Crafts and the Art Deco. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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International Workers’ Memorial Day

Begun in Canada in 1984, International Workers’ Memorial Day is celebrated to remember those who have perished at work and to highlight the often-preventable nature of such incidents.  In the United States, 12 people die every day in work-related accidents. Worldwide, a worker is killed every 15 seconds. Advocates continue to push for safer working […]

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Arbor Day

The first Arbor Day was held in Villanueva de la Sierra, Spain in 1805.  The local parish priest, Father Ramón Vacas Roxo, was “convinced of the importance of trees for health, hygiene, decoration, nature, environment and customs” and decided to plant trees, giving his town “a festive air.”  His congregation was enthusiastic.  After Mass and […]

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An Undersea Garden

A happy fish swims by—solo—in his undersea Garden of Eden.  Made in Edwardian England (c. 1910), it will bring a touch of stately whimsy to your desk or hall table.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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France’s Call to Freedom

On this day in 1792—in the midst of the French Revolution against their monarchy—Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote his stirring call to arms.  Eventually called La Marseillaise, after the troops from Marseille who sang the song in the streets, the song was adopted as The Republic’s anthem in 1795.  To this day, it is […]

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Mucha in America

Alfons Maria Mucha (1860-1939) was born in Moravia, today a part of the Czech Republic.  He went to high school at the "Gymnázium Brno" while he pursued his passion for drawing.  He made money by singing in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (in Brno) where he was artistically inspired by the church's Baroque interiors and he befriended the great (future) Czech composer, Leoš Janáček.  He took jobs as a decorative painter, mostly painting theatrical scenery.  Eventually he was hired-away to paint stage scenery in Vienna—the cultural center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mucha studied in Munich and Paris—where he stumbled upon a lucky break.  While visiting a Paris print shop in 1894, he learned that the play Gismonda, staring...

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Shakespeare’s Death

On this day in 1616, William Shakespeare, perhaps the world’s greatest-ever writer, died at 52 years of age.   It was  one month after signing his will—which began with a convincing proclamation of his vigorous health.  While we don’t know how or why he died, one written account (half a century later) describes a night […]

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Chinese Inspiration

For centuries, China held-tight the secrets of sophisticated ceramics-making—and they weren't about to share them with prying Westerners (who were enchanted with these beautiful and "exotic" works of art).  Amazingly, the Chinese achieved remarkable effects with fairly low-tech equipment: brick or mud hut kilns with little windows and doors through which fuel wood, heat and air could be added or released.  No gas, no gauges (like thermometers).  Ceramics-making is an art form which succeeds or fails with the tiniest changes in material, temperature and time.  And, if a ceramicist wishes to replicate an effect, she better know (and have written down!) the precise glaze ingredients, firing time and temperatures used at various points in the process. Form is rather easy to "steal"—and...

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Buon Compleanno a Roma!

On this day in 753 BC (or so the story goes), twin brothers Romulus and Remus founded the great city of Rome.  Happy Birthday, Rome!  But the story before this founding is as wild and interesting as anything that came after it. Romulus and Remus were the grandsons of Numitor, King of Alba Longa (along […]

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Welcome, Taurus

From William Shakespeare, Harry Truman, and Queen Elizabeth II, to David Beckham, Penelope Cruz, and Cherilyn Sarkisian (aka: Cher), Taureans have long been pushing-forward, holding-the-line, and making the world a more comfortable place.  Known for their determination and sensibility, Taureans are also quite aesthetically-minded.  They like comfortable—though not necessarily grand—surroundings and value words, music and […]

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Craftsman Copper

I really love hand-hammered copper—and this pair of American Arts & Crafts bookends really scratches that itch.  Made around 1910, they boast varying hand-tooling techniques and are finished with a hand-painted emblem.  Signed "Craftsman."  See them in our on-line store by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Where the Buffalo Roam...

A pair of dramatically-sculpted bison will stampede across your bookshelf in this handsome pair of bronze-clad bookends, made in the 1920's.  Enormous herds of bison roamed the American grasslands until the Nineteenth Century, when they were hunted to near-extinction. Today, small herds have made a comeback—mostly in National parks.  Weighing upwards of 2,200 pounds, the animal is the largest "bovid" in the world and the largest wild land animal in the Americas. Please click upon the photo above to learn more about these bookends.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook:...

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Gouda You Do?

Gouda (pronounced "How-da") is a Dutch city some 35 miles south of Amsterdam.  It is best known for its famous cheese.  But it did have another highly-recognizable craft export: hand-painted art pottery.  Shown above, a small two-handled pot with hand-painted blue morning glories.  It was made in (and is dated) 1923 and more can be learned about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris is one of the World's great cathedrals.  The name means "Our Lady of Paris" and refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Construction was begun in 1163 and continued for the next 182 years.  It was built in the "new" French Gothic style on the Île de la Cité—a natural island floating within the Seine—which was the defensible center of Medieval Paris.  The building, including its many gargoyles and chimera, was originally colored though (after 800 years) the paint has mostly worn off.  And the structure is the first building in the world to employ "flying buttresses"—the arched ribs which hold-up the cathedral's walls. Two bell towers stand at the front of the church.  In the Southern...

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Restful Blue

The year was 1912.  The Arts & Crafts movement was in full flower and it was two years before the World-changing events of The Great War.  It was also the year when this handsome English Arts & Crafts vase was crafted.  Glazed in a dappled, saturated jewel tone blue, the bulbous base and perfectly-flaring trumpet mouth create a harmonious look—and a calming and satisfying object on which to center oneself.  Made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian and dated 1912.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram:...

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Lincoln’s Last Night

On this day in 1865—at 10:15 pm—beloved president Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot by actor, racist and Confederate patriot John Wilkes Booth.  Lincoln died the next morning at 7:22. Five days earlier, Confederate general Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Union general Ulysses S. Grant, thus ending the Civil War.  Booth was bitter over the […]

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America’s First Elephant

On this day in 1796, America’s first elephant arrived in New York City.  Captain Jacob Crowninshield purchased her in India and sailed from Calcutta.  The captain bought her on speculation—for $450, including transit—expecting he could profit from exhibiting her. And exhibit her he did!  For more than a dozen years, she was trundled from New […]

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Barley Twist is Back

What we now call the "Barley Twist" has an ancient pedigree.  It is believed that such a form was used in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem—thus the shape is sometimes referred to as "Solomonic Columns."  Gian Lorenzo Bernini's grand 17th Century Baldacchino—which stands over the main altar (and the tomb of Saint Peter) in Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City—employs four enormous twisting bronze columns to support the massive bronze canopy. The term "Barley Twist" is common in England.  At fairs in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, children might enjoy a sweet treat (made of barley sugar) which was presented in such a twisting form.  The shape became popular in the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Centuries—in architecture, furniture and other decorative objets. The...

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Thinking about Spring

Rodin first created "Le Penseur" in 1880 as part of a larger sculpted grouping called "The Gates of Hell." The work was based on Dante's The Divine Comedy.  It wasn't until 1904 that the first large stand-alone casting was made—and the broad public got its first exposure to a work which perfectly suited the times.  Psychology increasingly was viewed as a legitimate science and the public was intrigued with the human mind and the theories of Sigmund Freud.  "The Thinker" became an icon of the Turn-of-the-Century zeitgeist. The bookends shown above were made in the 1920's—when "The Thinker" was still a relatively recent novelty.  First, an artful and accurate model—which captured the spirit and energy of Rodin's original—had to be sculpted.  From this...

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Henry Bergh’s Mission

Henry Bergh was the son of a wealthy shipbuilder and, as such, enjoyed a life of privilege, art and leisure.  While in London, he studied The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and committed to starting such an organization in America. On this day in 1866, Bergh founded the ASPCA in New […]

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Spring Green

Is Spring finally here?  This American Arts & Crafts matte green jardiniere bursts with verdant energy.  And it brings me back to the springtime of my "merchant youth"—when I opened my first shop on Bleecker Street in 1995.  At the time (and though I did not know what "Arts & Crafts" was), I started building a nice collection of this type of pottery.  As the style was (then) very popular, I had a hard time keeping a sizable collection intact.  In time, it became increasingly difficult to find nice and affordable pieces. For the last ten (or so) years, I've had no more than a couple pieces at a time.  I found this piece not long ago—and it brought back memories...

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Sipping ’Round the World

Another recent acquisition is this set of six Mid-Century rocks glasses, decorated with an Old World map—plus a healthy dose of gold embellishment.  Straight out of “Mad Men,” these six glasses share their in-store display with a matching set of eight Old World map highball glasses (which can be found in the On-Line Store). Please […]

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Peking Meets Pollock

Here's an unusual and compelling "statement piece."  Made in the 1960’s or 1970’s, it displays an interesting blend of the Classic and the Modern.  The shape comes directly from classic Chinese ceramics of the previous 500 years.  The glazing, however, is a radically exuberant “splattering” of textured chocolate-black over a base of glossy red.  Think Peking meets Pollock.  At nearly 16 inches tall, it would make a substantial backdrop to a collection of smaller pieces.  It would also function beautifully on its own—with or without flowering branches. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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A Monk Reading

Reginald Guy Cowan was born in 1884 in East Liverpool, Ohio—at the time an important center of American ceramics production. His father worked as a pottery designer.  While Cowan was still a boy, his family moved to Syracuse,  another pottery-producing center. Cowan was trained at the New York State School of Clayworking and Ceramics, a […]

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Soviet Bornholm

The quant and beautiful island of Bornholm—floating in the Baltic, untethered to its Danish motherland—had a remarkable World War II history of invasion and occupation.  Prior to the war, the island was the site of crafts-making and a place for quiet retreat during the long, Northern summer days.  But it was also strategically situated and,thus, […]

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For the Dogs

The first dog show was held in the United Kingdom in 1859 and they became increasingly popular as the Nineteenth Century progressed.  Participants could find the competitions frustrating, however, as there was little consistency from show to show:  no governing body, no breed standards, no consistent show rules.  Dog breeder and enthusiast Seawallis Shirley assembled […]

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Monkey Business

Amongst the finest pieces of ceramic sculpture I’ve ever had is this Danish stoneware monkey by Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen. Sculpted in the 1920’s, it captures a most-dramatic scene of a (howling?) monkey threatened by a coiled snake, ready-to-strike.  The gorgeous sang de boeuf glaze adds drama—and a bit of Orientalist mystery—to the timeless […]

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International Children’s Book Day

Today is Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday—as well as International Children’s Book Day. Begun in 1967, the day is dedicated to promoting books and reading amongst young people. Each year a different country is asked to “host” the celebration;  that country picks a theme, organizes events, and selects a local author and illustrator (who designs that […]

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Easter Greetings!

  A joyous Easter to my Christian customers—and a wonderful Springtime to all! This little jackrabbit is ready to hop off to your desk, bookshelf or mantelpiece.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about him.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop location, please visit our on-line store which continues to operate  (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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“The Potteries”

Stoke, Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall, Langton, Fenton—these are all town names familiar to collectors of English Art Pottery.  On this day in 1910, these six Staffordshire towns unified into a single “conurbation” now known as “Stoke-on-Trent” or “The Potteries.”  A “conurbation” is a region composed of a number of smaller towns forming one, continuous urban-industrial area. […]

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National Doctors’ Day

On this day in 1842, Georgia physician Crawford Williamson Long, M.D., became the first doctor to use ether for surgical anesthetization.  In 1990, Congress declared 30 March “National Doctors’ Day,” a day on which doctors are honored and their contributions to society are recognized.  Around the world, different countries honor their doctors on different days […]

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Nya Sverige

In the mid-Seventeenth Century, Sweden was quite the world power.  Its European territory included Sweden, of course, plus Finland, Estonia, and parts of modern-day Russia, Germany, Poland, and Latvia.  And so, when the riches of the New World began glimmering across the Atlantic, Sweden was loathe to leave the riches to the French and English. […]

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Italians in Sweden

Two Italian brothers, Josef & Benito Marcolin, learned the art of glass-making on the Venetian island of Murano, Italy, long-regarded as one of the world’s top art glass producers.   They moved to Sweden and, in 1962, opened a little workshop in Ronneby—the picturesque “Garden of Sweden” on the southern tip of that peninsular country. […]

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World Theatre Day

Today is World Theatre Day, celebrated each 27 March.  Each year, an internationally-recognized theatre luminary is selected to compose and circulate an International Message, reflecting on the importance of theatre to the world and human culture.  This year’s Message is written by Polish stage director Krzysztof Warlikowski. As theatre luminaries go, who could top The […]

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Farewell, Beethoven

Ludwig von Beethoven—perhaps the world’s greatest composer—was born to a family of musicians in Bonn, Germany in 1770.  Both his father and grandfather were singers and musicians.  Ludwig’s father, Johann, was his first piano teacher and, by all accounts, a strict one.  Johann recognized his son’s performing genius and attempted to exploit his talent as […]

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Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when Christians recall and reflect upon the Passion and death of Jesus.  Palms are blessed,  held aloft during services and often taken home and displayed until the next Palm Sunday.  It is also one week until Easter—the single most important day of the Christian calendar. Palm motifs—stylized or realistically […]

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Listen, my Children, and You Shall Hear. . .

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on 27 February 1807 in Portland, Maine.  An industrious and able student, with a love of books and a talent for writing, he mastered Latin while still a young boy.  At 15, he started at Bowdoin College where he befriended Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was to become a lifelong friend. While in […]

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J. C. Leyendecker

If one artist is responsible for “inventing” the image of the American male in the early Twentieth Century, surely it was Joseph Christian Leyendecker, born on this day in 1874. Leyendecker was born in Montabaur, Germany and his family immigrated to Chicago when the boy was eight.  In time, he got work in an engraving […]

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Purple Day

Nine year old Cassidy Megan, living in Nova Scotia, Canada, suffered from epilepsy—a frightening and unpredictable neurological condition which causes seizures.  If her condition had not been depressing enough, it was compounded by the public’s misinformation on the subject.  Add to that the sense of isolation an epileptic might feel. An estimated 65 million people […]

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On This Day, Twelve Years Ago

On 21 March 2006—twelve years and a lifetime ago (to some)—Twitter was inflicted bequeathed upon an unsuspecting world.  Since then, in as few as 140 (make that 280) characters, fortunes have been made, careers have been ended, and proper grammar, punctuation and spelling have been tossed out the window. Well, let the Twits keep their Tweets!  As for me, I prefer my twitter-ing from the songbirds in the trees—perhaps the most pleasant sound of all. Speaking of Tweets, please observe the Danish Modern ceramic plaque, made by Beth Breyen for Royal Copenhagen in the 1960’s or 1970’s.  Please click on the photo to learn more about it. 

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Trumpeting His Arrival!

With a trumpet blast, this handsome tusker makes his recent arrival known!  Though going-on ninety, he’s no worse for wear—in fact, he’s developed the wonderful patina of time. And he’ll work as hard as ever, holding-up your favorite books with style and confidence. Please come into the shop to see him in-person or click on […]

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Modern Time Zones Established

On this day in 1918, Congress established U.S. time zones and Daylight Savings Time. In the Nineteenth Century, once clocks had become widespread, every city, town, or village would keep its own time—much as it always had—based roughly on the sun’s passing overhead.  Usually a town hall or church would establish the time and everyone […]

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Denbac Pottery

In 1909, in the small village of Vierzon, France (some 130 miles south of Paris), Monsieur René Denert began making pottery with the local, grey clay.  His beautiful, Art Nouveau forms were glazed with  satisfyingly-velvety drip glazes—the result:  delicate shapes cloaked in rustic colors. In 1921, he was joined by Monsieur R. L. Balichon.  The […]

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A Day for the Wearing of the Green

Top o’ the morning and a Happy St. Paddy’s Day to all! Though made in England in the 1920’s, this oval brooch is crafted of Irish Connemara marble from the windy Western coast of The Emerald Isle.  Its sterling silver setting—edged with a sharp, rope border—adds a crisp finish to the more-unfettered, creamy randomness of […]

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A Link to The Emerald Isles

As we continue the countdown to St. Paddy’s Day, we present a handsome pair of shamrock and white enameled Art Deco cufflinks.  Though not Irish (probably American), they would be just perfect on your cuff sleeves tomorrow.  Or the perfect gift for your favorite Irishman. Please come into the shop to see them for yourself—or […]

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Natty Norwegian

I have a nice collection of Norwegian Art Deco cufflinks by jewelers Nils Erik Elvik (like the pair shown above) and Aksel Holmsen.  Peruse the on-line store (under “Cufflinks”) to see some of them.  Made in the 1930’s, they express a particular “flavor” of Art Deco Design. The pair above are enamel on  gold washed […]

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White Day

In Japan, as elsewhere, 14 February is Valentine’s Day.  The difference, however, is that in Japan it is customary for a woman to give the gift—usually chocolate—to the male object of her affection.  Handmade chocolates are most appreciated since they imply sincerity, effort and commitment on behalf of the maker. Today, one month later, it is […]

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Pick of the Litter

Look who scampered in today!  With the all the character—and the energy—of the real thing, this sculpture slouches perfectly on a desk, coffee table or bookcase.  He could even be used as a bookend or doorstop. Please come in to visit (and, perhaps, adopt) him or click on the photo above to learn more about […]

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This is What I’m Talking About!

While some may see un-alloyed Modernism in the vase pictured above, I see strong references to the Arts & Crafts.  For starters, the utilitarian shape may have been “lifted” from some ancient utilitarian vessel, possibly unearthed in a hot and dusty archeological site. Arts & Crafts designers often exhibited references to their ancient history—literature, design […]

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Reflections of Glasgow

I love visiting Scotland.  And I love most things Scots—especially the Scottish Arts & Crafts. Therefore, I’m thrilled to have acquired, from turn-of-the-century Glasgow, a handsome, hand-hammered, brass-framed “looking glass”—embellished with a rich border of stylized, scrolling, sinewy botanicals. The Scots are a hearty lot; life eeked-out on the rocky, windswept land is not for […]

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A Steep Climb to Royal

Pilkington pottery did not enjoy an easy inception.  Its story began in 1889 when a Manchester coal mining company began drilling pits in what should have been a good spot. Alas, too much water (and not enough coal) was discovered and, eventually, mining attempts were abandoned.  The four Pilkington brothers took over the pits and […]

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Who Was Charles Eastlake?

“Eastlake” is a term thrown-around rather frequently—often by Americans who don’t know to whom the name refers.  Charles Locke Eastlake was born in Plymouth, England in 1836. He studied architecture and designed some furniture, although, since he was not a woodworker, any such pieces were produced by others.  He is most well-known for his book […]

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More Aesthetic Movement

As discussed yesterday, the late Nineteenth Century Aesthetic Movement was much-influenced by Japanese art and design—re-packaged, of course, by Western artists for a Western consumer.  The style affected the design and production of a wide variety of manufactured objects:  furniture, lighting, wall paper & textiles, metalworks, woodcraft, pottery & ceramics, and all manner of beautiful, […]

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The Aesthetic Movement

In the final third of the Nineteenth Century, the West—and Britain in particular—became fascinated with the art and craft of the Japanese (who recently had ended 250 years of self-imposed isolation from the West).  For the first time in generations, Japanese-made objets were available in the West, at least to those who could afford them. […]

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“Il Divino”

Only one person can be “The Best Ever” and, in the world of art, that person is Michelangelo Buonarroti. Born on this day in 1475, Michelangelo was in the right place at the right time. Or, perhaps thanks to Michelangelo, his time became the right place and the right time. A sculptor, painter, architect, engineer and poet, […]

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Knights in White Armor

We continue our procession of cufflinks with this rather choice offering: a pair of sterling, Art Deco shield-form links, with machine-turned guilloché work, finished with crisp white enameling.  Very handsome, slightly serious, they make a statement without pretension. Please come into the shop to see the complete range of cufflinks or click on the photo […]

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Sir Henry Raeburn

“The Skating Minister” by Henry Raeburn (1790’s) Nat’l Gallery of Scotland On this day in 1756, Henry Raeburn was born in a small Scottish village, now a part of greater Edinburgh.  Orphaned very young, Henry was supported by his older brother for a while until being placed in Heriot’s Hospital, an orphanage founded by goldsmith George […]

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The Musk Ox

Musk oxen are an Arctic mammal, found in Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, Northern Canada and parts of Northern Scandinavia.  They travel in small packs of 8 – 12 animals which, during the June and July breeding season, consist of a dominant male (“bull”) and several females (“cows”)—plus their offspring.  They have extremely thick coats—which protect them […]

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From Way Across the Pond

The Pilkington Royal Lancastrian potteries were located outside of Manchester and, though they were not the biggest producer, they always made a higher-quality product.  Some of their intricate, hand-painted, “artistic” pieces now fetch tens of thousands of dollars.  The more simply-glazed items are still within the reach of most casual collectors.  But don’t let the solid green glaze fool you; the jade green glaze is actually a complex blend of green, blue and yellow, creating a “shagreen-like” texture to the piece.   There's still time to order this as a wonderful Saint Paddy's Day gift.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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The Martyr’s Stone

Bloodstone (also called Heliotrope) is usually dark green and flecked with spots of red due to its high iron oxide content.  Ancient Babylonians carved the stone into seals and amulets.  In the Middle Ages, bloodstone was sometimes called the Martyr’s Stone as it reminded Christians of the spots of Christ’s blood at Golgotha. Today Bloodstone […]

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Pewter

Pewter is an alloy—that is, a “mixed metal”—of mostly tin and a little copper, plus antimony (a hardner) and bismuth.  In old pewter, sometimes lead was used, though today’s pewter is usually lead-free (especially for food-related items).  Additionally, sterling silver is sometimes included (especially on pieces with complex designs, where a bit of sparkle is […]

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Equirria

In Ancient Rome, the New Year began with March.  To celebrate the end of the old year—and to honor the god Mars—Romans marked 27 February as Equirria, a day of horse racing in the Campus Martius (“Field of Mars”).  In a sense, every New Year was a “Year of the Horse.” Mars—the God of War […]

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Enameling

Like so many of the things I love, enamelling has ancient roots, beginning with the early Egyptians. The word, enamelling is adapted from the Old German “smelzan,” which means “to smelt” (that is, to melt—a rock, usually— to extract any precious metals within it).  In the case of enamelling, glass powder is sprinkled over a […]

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Repoussé Work and Chasing

“Repoussé” is a French adjective meaning “pushed up,” derived from the Latin “pulsare,” which means “to push.” In metalwork, it refers to the process of hammering a malleable metal from the reverse side, creating a low relief design on the front. After “Repoussage” (the noun form of repoussé) has been achieved, the design on the […]

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Matte Green

I've always loved matter green pottery.  Perhaps it's the leafy complement to my other love, quarter-sawn oak.  The piece above was made by Weller around 1910. Weller Pottery was founded in 1872 in Fultonham, Ohio by Samuel Weller.  It was a humble beginning with one log cabin, one kiln, and one man doing everything: digging the clay from the ground, mixing it to achieve proper consistency, throwing the pieces on a pottery wheel, glazing and firing them, then driving them to market, hoping to sell them.  In the early years, Weller concentrated on rather pedestrian “Utility Ware” items, including crocks, kitchen bowls, water coolers, jars, jugs, and pipes.  Within 17 years, Mr. Weller had built-up a modest business and moved...

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Science and The Art Nouveau – Part Three

“All beautiful works of art must either intentionally imitate, or accidentally resemble natural forms.” – John Ruskin,  The Stones of Venice,  1851 Another newly-expanding “world of science” at the turn-of-the-century was that of Neuroscience. Two scientists, Jean-Martin Charcot and Hippolyte Bernheim, made great strides in the understanding of the human brain, dreams, hypnotism, and mental disorders. […]

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