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Countdown to Mother's Day - part III

The windswept island of Iona, off the Western coast of Scotland, has a long (and sometimes mysterious) reputation as a place of remoteness, solitude and tranquility. Saint Columba founded a religious community here after arriving from Ireland in 563. From here, Christian missionaries moved further into Scotland. The island is the home of Iona Abbey, still a locus of monasticism and spiritual retreat. And Iona is considered (by many) one of those places that just feels holy—imbued with an intangible sense of spiritual energy.  The Scottish agate brooch, shown above, was made on the island of Iona. A red and white striped agate cabochon is mounted within a scrolling botanical setting of sterling silver. Please click on the photo above to...

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Countdown to Mother's Day - part II

Why give Mom a vase of flowers when you can give her A Vase Of Flowers—with beautiful blossoms which will last another 123 years? This French Aesthetic Movement vase was made by Revernay and is dated 1896. Stylized, hand-painted dandelions (French for "tooth of the lion") encircle this heavy stoneware vessel. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above. More Mother's Day gift ideas tomorrow...   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to...

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Countdown to Mother's Day - part I

Mother's Day is on the horizon (12 May).  It's never too early to get prepared!  Shown here, a cast pewter photo frame, handmade in New York City. A crisp basketweave pattern pops from the 5" x 7" frame's profile. And there are many other frame options to be found on our website.  Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome frame—always a perfect gift for Mom (especially if it holds your photo!). More Mother's Day gift ideas tomorrow...   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at...

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Out, Out Brief Candle!

On this day in 1616—precisely four hundred and three years ago—the world’s greatest poet and playwright died in his home town of Stratford-on-Avon, England.  While there is some mystery surrounding Shakespeare’s death, we do know (or think we know) a few things.  He had returned to Stratford (and his family) after 20 years of working in London.  His day of death may have also been his 53rd birthday (though we don’t know his precise birthdate, only the day of his baptism).  And he was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church, whose then vicar, John Ward, was a fan of The Bard.  The cause of Shakespeare’s death has been debated.  The Reverend Ward wrote in his diary: “Shakespeare, Drayton and...

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Greek Sophistication

Fretwork. Meandering. Greek Key. These are varying names for the type of geometric, continuous decorative element shown on the pewter frame, above. Although the Greek Key was used in the decor of many different cultures, its popularity on painted Ancient Greek ceramics has forever linked the handsome repeat with Hellenic art and architecture. Learn more about the frame above, made of cast pewter in New York City, by clicking on the photo.   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique...

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Happy Easter

Wishing a Happy Easter and Happy Passover to my LEO Design customers.  May the renewal of Spring remind you that, yes, things do get better!   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts" 

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Paul Dressler

Two of Paul Dressler's signature treatments is the use of mottled gunmetal glazes and a hand-incised "webbing" which gives the piece a "recovered archeological" look. Dressler was amongst the most important German Modernist ceramicists between the wars.  To learn more about this vase, made in the 1960's, please click on the photo above.   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us...

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Good Friday

Today is the most solemn day on the Christian calendar—the day when Jesus endured His Passion, was crucified and laid into the tomb. Coming after Lent, a long period of atonement and reflection, this darkest of days will soon be followed by the most joyous of Christian events—Easter and the Resurrection.   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram:...

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Vienna Calling - part II

German brothers Friedrich and Karel Rudolf Ditmar moved to Vienna in 1839 where they began selling metal oil lamps.  Within a few years, they were manufacturing the lamps. They struck gold when they designed a lamp mechanism which better-moderated the oil flow to the wick—and soon this type of lamp fitting was selling worldwide. But the fashion in oil lamps was changing—favoring ceramic lamp bodies which offered more color, style and aesthetic options. So the brothers opened a ceramics workshop across the Czech border in a town called Znojmo. Their sole intention was to make ceramic bodies for oil lamps; in time, however, the workshop was producing porcelain dishes, majolica, steins and "sanitary ware" (sinks, water coolers, tubs). In 1919...

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Vienna Calling - part I

Vienna was the crown of the expansive Austro-Hungarian Empire—and, as such, became the tastemaker for the rest of the realm. In turn-of-the-century Vienna, Secessionism (Austria's contribution to the larger Art Nouveau Movement) was all the rage, and the Movement spread throughout the rest of the Empire. But production of the decorative arts was not limited to Vienna (or Austria) alone; talented artisans in the "satellite" countries also contributed to the manufacture of Secessionist objets.   The vase here, made in the mid-to-late Twenties, was made in (what was then) Czechoslovakia. The swirling "rosettes" on the handles could have come right off a Gustav Klimt painting. And the bronze gunmetal glazing gives the piece a suitable gravitas, like the handsome Secessionist architecture which still...

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Glowing Red

This bowl won't let us forget that Iceland is a volcanic island-country. The boldly-textured "lava" around the outer walls still seems to be glowing red-hot!  It was made by Glit and is a stunning counterpoint to a collection of larger, red ceramic pieces. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us...

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Gorgeous Rose

Pink may be my least favorite color—at least within my living spaces. And, yet, I could not stop picking-up this pitcher when I discovered it. In truth, it's more of a "rose" than a "pink." And the glaze is so wonderfully curdled—fashioned by organic happenstance—that the color became almost secondary to my aesthetic appreciation. The piece was made by Otto Gerharz, under his own pottery label, Otto Keramik.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Postscript: As I type this, I glance-out upon my garden, surveying my labors of the last several, 65° days.  I see dozens of plantings, many promising an abundance of blossoms—in several variations of the color . . . pink. Maybe I don't hate...

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Minerva

I'm not sure what this Ceramano vase has to do with the Roman goddess, Minerva, but the design is named after her. It wears triangular "armor" over its tapering neck and a rich, curry glaze.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom, handicrafts, the arts, medicine, commerce, poetry and war. Over the years, her importance within the pantheon of Ancient Roman gods expanded—making her one of the top three Roman deities.  Her Greek counterpart was Athena, and, like her, Minerva was famously chaste. A famous statue of Minerva was installed in the Temple of Vesta, the architectural remains of which can be seen today in the Roman Forum. This circular...

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413

The number 413 will always be special to me. It was at 413 Bleecker Street—in the Summer of 1995—that LEO Design was born.  We opened our doors in August (naturally, during the sun sign LEO) at a time when Bleecker Street still teemed with interesting, unusual and creative Mom & Pop shops. This storefront was our den for 15 years. During that time, we saw the street change—and we pined as the small and unique stores were replaced by large corporate-owned chainstores (many of which have since left when they realized that their sales did not justify the inflated rents). In 2010, it was our turn; we were booted-out and replaced by a large, corporate-owned, blue chip "brand." Needless to say, they...

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Crème Brûlée

How can something so simple—and unpretentious—as a crème brûlée be so utterly delightful. And who doesn't love making the first crack? I guess it's the purity, the simplicity—and the contrast of a crispy burnt topping with a creamy, cool vanilla custard. Heavenly! The piece above, made by Scheurich in the 1960's or 1970's, reminds me of a crackled, layered crème brûlée. Multiple glaze levels, probably all applied before firing, react differently to the heat. The top glaze crackles, curdles and spreads while the underglaze says mostly-intact, pooling just a little in the crevices of the top glaze. Find it on our website by clicking the photo above.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive...

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Hand-Built Beauty

Though simple in form, this 10 inch hand-built vase is very handy anchoring a collection of ceramic vases, urns or bowls.  It was made in Art Nouveau France (c. 1910) by Gilbert Méténier.  The Nineteenth Century family pottery studio was run by Gilbert until the Germans began to take France—at which point he destroyed his moulds and closed-down the operation before the Nazis could take it. He and his family then disappeared; what became of them has not been widely known. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.   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...

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Baked Clay

I've always been more intrigued by ceramic glazes than I have by their forms. Perhaps there's an inner-chemist within me, dying to open a ceramics studio. Thus, a new and unusual glaze will always catch my eye—like that upon this West German vase by Scheurich. A "burnt honey" glaze is splattered with a contrasting, yeast-like overglaze. The effect reminds me of a European baked treat; perhaps a pretzel or a loaf of bread. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic...

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French Accent

Here's a sweet piece, made in Art Nouveau France (c. 1910's).  This little "cabinet vase" is dressed with flowing mustard, caramel and metallic pewter glazes.  It would provide a wonderful (little) counterpoint to a collection of larger ceramics. It would likewise suit a vignette of metallic objets, lamps or sculpture. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh...

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A Distant Moon

I have a fondness for interesting glazes—especially those which resemble distant moons or planets (real or imagined).  This piece, made in West Germany by Tena Studios, has a pocked, high-texture surface, glazed with shades of blue, brown and grey.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow...

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Pont des Vernes

In the late Eighteenth Century, Frenchman Pierre Langeron was commissioned to dig a canal in Pouilloux—located about two-thirds of the way between Paris and Lyon. While excavating, he discovered a high-quality white clay. By 1818, Langeron had opened a ceramics workshop near the bridge ("pont"), an important local landmark.  Over the years, he (and his family) expanded the operation, starting with basic "utilitarian ware" (like hot water bottles) and adding decorative objects in time.  The company, eventually named Pont des Vernes, continued from 1818 through World War Two, eventually closing-down in 1957. The vase above, made around 1910, boasts an exquisitely tapered neck and blue and tan glazes which drip down its sides.  Learn more about it by clicking on...

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Beautiful Blue

Every now and then, I'd see a customer silently perusing the boxes, urns and covered bowls in the shop—and, when asked, they would sheepishly admit that they were seeking a vessel into which they could inter a beloved pet's cremated remains. I would assure them that this was nothing to feel awkward about—and that, in fact, I had helped several customers select a repository for their larger loved ones as well. We would always look for something dignified, properly-sized, and aesthetically pleasing.  Sometimes the piece even suited the physical or intangible characteristics of the deceased—a Celtic carved wooden box for a Scotsman, a floral motif to suit a gardener, or a Viennese hand-tooled brass box to suit an Austrian.  This French...

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Gouda You Do? - part III

Let's end our little parade of Gouda vases with this diminutive "cabinet" vase, made in the 1920's or 1930's.  It is hand-painted with an unusual mustard-yellow glaze—punctuated with green, cobalt and burnt orange coloration.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design -...

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Gouda You Do? - part II

Here's another Gouda vase: a two-handled design, hand-painted with stylized botanicals and serpentine graphics. It is dated February 1921. "Gouda," by the way, is pronounced "How-dah" (not Goo-dah). Remember that the next time you buy a piece of Dutch ceramics.  Or cheese. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

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Gouda You Do? - part I

Gouda, in the Netherlands, is known for two things: cheese and hand-painted ceramics. Three things are were needed to establish a successful "pottery town": clay, a fuel source for the kilns (in this case, peat), and an easy means of transporting the finished goods away from the factories (in this case, canals and waterways). This piece, made in the 1920's or 1930's, is hand-painted wth a wreath of autumnal leaves which rests on the vessel's shoulders. Please click upon the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found...

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Grosgrain

When I first opened my store on Bleecker Street in 1995, I had little money to spend on luxuries.  And yet, I wanted to have gift-boxing which befitted the moniker "Handsome Gifts." Wrapping paper was out of the question—too expensive, too wasteful, too impractical and too time-consuming at the cash desk.  So I searched for alternatives and settled on a plain kraft gift box—embellished with a copper LEO Design "hot stamp" embossment (which did cost a little something)—tied-up with black grosgrain ribbon. Though not very jolly, this gift-boxing was easy, inexpensive, non-seasonal, non-denominational and (most importantly) distinctive—no one else was doing anything like it. Several years in, all's going well, and Marc Jacobs opens his first (of many!) stores on Bleecker...

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Welcome, April!

Welcome, April—and its birthstone, the Diamond! The phrase "A Diamond is Forever" comes from an ad campaign for DeBeers, which, until fairly recently, was undisputedly the world's largest diamond seller.  Perhaps "forever" is an overstatement; regardless, diamonds are an impressive work of Mother Nature. They are the hardest known natural substance, making them suitable for industrial uses (in addition to decorative applications). They are incredibly old: most natural diamonds were formed deep within the Earth (90 to 500 miles down) 1 - 3.5 billion years ago.  More recently (hundreds of millions of years ago), the Earth's volcanic activity moved some of them closer to the surface where they were discovered by man. Some diamonds were also formed by the heat...

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Earthy Greens

As the weather crosses the 45° mark I begin to venture-out into my garden. Having lived for three-plus decades in apartments, I'd have never guessed how much I like working in my little patch of nature. Right now it's (very) early Spring, the time to clean-up: collecting twigs, rearranging the stones, pulling the early weeds. And, naturally, planning what I'd like to do to keep prodding my garden in a particular aesthetic direction. The ground provides a certain "squishy" sensation at this time of year—and an earthy, mossy smell accompanies it.  I find it intoxicating. The muddy blend of green and brown is so satisfying to me. Perhaps this explains my long-term affection for green ceramics—especially earthy, organic, natural greens, like...

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Wine-Country

Lunch or dinner, a jug or bottle of good wine is always on the French table. And what I admire about the French attitude towards wine is that "it's no big deal"—just one part of a simple, well-considered meal. Americans tend to fetishize wine—and its accoutrements—employing long-stemmed, obscenely over-sized crystal goblets, perhaps a different shape for different varieties of grape. In France, a good (though not costly) table wine is served in simple glass tumblers—another example of France's practical relationship with vin.  Shown here, a late Art Nouveau wine jug made by Denbac in the 1920s. A "pinecone" bas relief is finished with a microcrystalline brown glaze, topped with a dripping dose of caramel. A piece like this might have sat...

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One More Taste

Here's another piece of Denby English Arts & Crafts "Orientware" with a bamboo-inspired cylindrical vase form. Like its line mates, it has a unique plum overglaze and an Iznik blue undercolor.  Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"...

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A Taste of the Orient

The West has long had a fascination with "The East"—and, I suppose, the East has had a reciprocal enthusiasm.  Perhaps its a human interest in things that are new, exotic, different or rare. While some people accuse the West of "cultural appropriation," I view it as curiosity and fascination with "the greener grass" across the fence. Since the 1600's, wealthy Europeans have been buying and collecting Asian objets. Additionally, the West has tried (with greater or lesser success) to emulate Asian design and figure-out their production techniques—especially in the field of ceramics. At times, the Western artists would simply copy Asian items. At other times, they would "adapt" Asian designs, "re-interpreting" them for a Western taste. While these efforts may have resulted in...

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Edward Steichen

The Pond—Moonlight (detail) by Edward Steichen (1904) On this day in 1879, Éduard Jean Stiechen was born in Luxembourg.  Éduard would eventually become an American, changing his name to Edward and would make tremendous contributions to the field of art photography.  His photo, “The Pond—Moonlight” (detail shown above), shot on a friend’s property in Mamaroneck, NY, would […]

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Crisply-Cast

Although quite traditional, the thinness of this frame—not to mention its crisp casting—gives it a timeless, even Modern appeal. It would suit a traditional or contemporary setting and will (rightly) keep the focus on your treasured photo. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on...

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More About Morris

Though William Morris designed and produced many different types of home furnishings, the public best remembers him for his wall paper.  Morris & Co. made nearly 100 patterns, half of them designed by William Morris himself.  Additionally, patterns were sometimes offered in several color ways.  Funnily enough, Morris didn’t really like wall paper!  He considered […]

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Happy Birthday, William Morris

William Morris, probably England’s most-influential Nineteenth Century designer, was born on this day in 1834.  With two other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood—artist Edward Burne-Jones and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti—William Morris started the design firm that would one day become “Morris & Co.”. Morris & Co. designed homes and churches, plus they designed and produced […]

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A Little Something

Sometimes smaller is better. When you need "just a little something" with which to remember someone special, perhaps this little oval frame will do? Made of cast pewter (in New York City), it features a heavy, swirling rib which runs around the frame's perimeter. It's discreet and won't take up too much room on a busy work desk. See it at LEO Design by clicking on the photo above.   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane...

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And Even More Spring

Just one more glimpse of Spring: an Art Deco Thirties fan-form vase by Van Briggle.  Made in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it is clearly hand-crafted (compare the slightly differing handles) and is finished with a graduated ombré glaze of aqua and blue. Perfect holding flowers, standing alone, or punctuating a larger collection of vases, plates and bowls. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to...

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And a Little More Spring

Here's a bit more spring—for those looking-forward to the season. This Roseville Art Deco fan-form vase was made around 1928. It's fitted with "Moderne" botanical handles and is finished with a dappled aqua and grey glazing. Imagine it with a bouquet of white flowers—or bounteous heads of hydrangea, come Summer. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh...

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Welcome, Spring!

Spring springs today—at 5:58 pm, Eastern Time!  It's the Spring (or "Vernal") Equinox, a word which means "Equal Night."  It's the date (and time) when day and night are exactly the same length. From this point forward, the days will be longer than the nights (that is, until the Autumnal Equinox on 23 September). We will also be treated to a concurrent full moon—and a "Super Moon" at that. Slightly closer to the Earth, the full moon will appear larger and brighter than usual. The last time we enjoyed a full moon during the Vernal Equinox was 38 years ago (20 March 1981—and I was a Senior in High School). This Art Deco vase, made by Stangl in the 1930's,...

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Time Flies - part III

Three hours comes fast when you're exhausted and have just gone to bed. But we were living on adrenaline and wanted to get to our house before the moving van did. We hit the road hours before sunrise. It was 7:00 am when the phone rang—we were crawling through Pittsburgh rush hour—and it was the house seller, telling us that the Verizon man was waiting for us. It turns-out, she hadn't moved-out when we thought she had—and we were suddenly relieved that we had not shown-up at three in the morning, terrifying her while trying to get into the house! Within an hour the moving vans (plural!) showed-up. It seems I had under-estimated the number of book boxes they would be...

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Time Flies - part II

In the last installment of this story, you found Bob, Benji, Lucky (The Hurricane Parakeet*) and me squeezed into a Pittsburgh-bound rent-a-car with our "carry-ons" (stuffed into every crevice of the vehicle, window-to-window). Naturally, it was rush hour—which means it took an hour to get down to (and through) the Holland Tunnel. The drive usually takes us about seven hours, eight hours when traveling with the pup, and we really wanted to make it in one go. The seller had just moved-out and we wanted to sleep in our new house! But we were exhausted—and faced an equally big day tomorrow. Alas, four hours in, we surrendered to Prudence (rather than Passion) and decided to break our journey en-route. Midnight,...

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Wearing of the Green

It's a great day for the Irish!  While I've always known that I am part Irish, every six months (or so),  23 & Me re-distributes my ethnic proportions (which today stands at 63.5% Irish). I'm proud of my heritage (not just the Irish part) and have not forgotten the desperate circumstances which compelled three of my grandparents to leave their homelands. I'm also proud of my birth country—especially when she acknowledges (and celebrates) the immigrants who have chosen to become Americans (now and in the past). I like to remind myself that almost no one immigrates to America when everything is great back home.  On the contrary, people have always come to America for a better life.  There was no brass band...

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Time Flies - part I

Two years ago today—has the time passed that quickly?—Roadway Movers rang the bell at my Chelsea apartment and started loading a mountain of boxes onto a large, double-parked truck. It was my last day as a bonafide New Yorker. Were it not for the whirlwind of packing "24 Years of Apartment" (immediately after packing "23 Years of Store"), I'm sure I would have been Desolation's Poster Boy. But I didn't have the time. I pushed my exhaustion into one of those expensive wardrobe cartons and assumed supervision of a pleasingly well-oiled moving crew. Within eight hours, all that remained was the four of us: Bob, Benji, Lucky and me—with Lucky's squawky chirps echoing off the now-bare apartment walls and floor. We lugged...

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Art Deco Style

Here's another handsome pewter photo frame, likewise hand-made in New York City. A quartet of four scalloped corner emblellishments punctuate the Art Deco style of this handsomely crafted frame.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook: "LEO Design - Handsome Gifts"

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Greek Key

The Greek Key—sometimes called "meandering scrollwork"—is amongst my favorite decorative elements.  It's crisp, mathematical, architectural and oh so handsome. It's masculine yet elegant—a winning combination of traits!  This 2.5" x 3.5" frame is hand-cast in New York City. It is decorated with a border of precise Greek Key scrolling. Let it give a lift to a favorite photo of yours. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of...

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Silhouette Perfection

Don't let the simplicity of this Rookwood two-handled pot belie the complexity of its inspiration. It's an Arts & Crafts piece (dated 1915), though one can see just a trace of Art Deco, still distant on the horizon. A band of Celtic bas relief rests on the sloping shoulder of the piece. And the perfectly-formed silhouette—from the exquisitely delicate foot to its crisply-sculpted handles—reveals a touch of Ancient Egyptian inspiration. To me, those influences add-up to silhouette perfection. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can...

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Richly Crafted

Here's a handsome and versatile photo frame—adaptable to a Modernist, Arts & Crafts or Traditional interior. Chocolate brown leather is hand-wrapped around the wooden frame. It adds a rich touch without overpowering your treasured photo. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook:...

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Desert Swirl

The swirls of glaze which spiral down the sides of this Jasba Modernist pitcher remind me of a sun-bleached desert landscape. Mustard, caramel and white provide a warm, daytime effect—like that of a high-noon sun. Though the desert is not my invigorating environment, I find this piece—and its wonderful coloration—to be cheerful and optimistic. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to...

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Aesthetic Discord

Rarely does one associated hammering with ceramics. Which makes this German Modernist vase, made by Fohr in the 1960's or 1970's, so unusual. The appearance of all-over planishing is reminiscent of a hand-hammered brass or copper vessel. To top things off, the piece is then glazed in a rich caramel glaze—which drips down the sides and pools within the "hammer-mark" crevices. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center...

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Ancient Allure

Lidded ceramic pots always take me back to the Ancient World. I think of spices, incense and precious ointments—contained and, perhaps, dignified in a beautiful covered jar.  This one, made in Art Nouveau France, is decorated with sculptural botanical swirls, perhaps hanks of pine needles. It is finished with an organic dripping glaze in caramel, rust and brown—lifted by the light sparkle of a gold dust glaze. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece.   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 Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla &...

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Perfect Form

This hearty egg-form vase—reminiscent of an ancient Egyptian "Canopic Jar"—was hand-made in Mid-Century England. Its perfect shape is softened with a dappled, multiple blue glaze. And the classic shape makes it a perfect accent in nearly any period decorating scheme—from Victorian to Mid-Century Modern. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

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Midnight/Blue

Buying "Studio Ceramics"—that is, those vases, plates and bowls which were handmade in a small artist-run workshop—is an interesting endeavor. First of all, one almost always must buy with his eye and buy with his taste. Because the makers are usually a mystery, one needs to trust his senses when selecting such a piece. Attracted, as I am, to glazes, my evaluation of studio pottery always begins with the color and finish. I also look for tell-tale signs of handwork—like the spiraling finger marks that indicate a piece had been hand-thrown. Substantial weight is a favorite feature and I like to see exposed areas (usually on the bottom) which reveal a chunky, earthy stoneware clay. The piece above, made somewhere...

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Mite Makes Right

Prayer, fasting and alms-giving are universal practices in many of the World's religions. Usually viewed as pathways to redemption, holiness or enlightenment, such acts of charity and self-denial—observed with sincerity and purpose—can have a cleansing and centering effect on one's life, attitude and spirit.  Christians begin the 40 day period of Lent today.  It's Ash Wednesday and we are reminded "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Christians learn that we have been formed "of The Potter's clay" and we shall return to the Earth one day. The Edwardian English "Mite Box," shown above, was likely in a British church at one time. Made of mahogany around 1905, it would have been used to collect coins for charity....

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Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras—translated "Fat Tuesday"—the final day before Lent. For Christians, Lent is a period of prayer, fasting and abstinence in preparation of Easter some 40 days later. And Mardi Gras is a day (sometimes a week) of celebration before the abstemiousness begins—a time to use up all the fat in the larder (not to mention the chocolate and other sweets). The pitcher, above, is "fat" in every way.  It's heavy. It is fitted with a thick, strap-like handle. And it is dressed in a weighty dripping-rust glaze. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where...

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Czech, Please.

While Vienna was the artistic heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia might be considered the Empire's glass and ceramics workshop. This "Amphora" piece—an intriguing juxtaposition of bone-dry tan glazing and luscious hand-painted cabochons—was made in Czechoslovakia but was following the Viennese trend, au courant. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

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Danish Farrier

Every few decades (at least in the past), artists and designers would remember and celebrate "The Workingman"—those men and women who labor physically with their hands and bodies. Think of the French painter, Jean-François Millet, with his paintings of peasants reaping grain in the field. Or the pair of Art Deco limestone sculptures by Michael Lantz which grace the Federal Trade Commission building in Washington, DC. Similarly, the 1960's and 1970's enjoyed a revived appreciation of handcraft—and the people who executed it. Danish Modernist artist Karl Otto Johansen created a series of "tradesmen" plaques for Bing & Grøndahl around 1970. This example shows a farrier—a blacksmith who shoes horses—dressed in a leather apron, hammering furiously upon his anvil. The piece includes a...

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Danish Plumber

A plumber—dressed in his blue jumpsuit—strains against his wrench on this Danish Modernist stoneware plaque by Karl Otto Johansen for Bing & Grøndahl. It was made around 1970 and includes a metal eyelet (on back) with which it can be hung on a nail. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

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Welcome, March!

Welcome, March—and its birthstone, the Aquamarine. Though not an aquamarine, I admit, this vase is the closest (new) piece I have that resembles the March gemstone's vivid color. Aquamarine is a variant of the stone called Beryl (a family which also includes Emeralds). Although Beryl is naturally colorless, the "impurities" within imbue various colors to the gemstone—green, blue, yellow, white and red (the rarest). Aquamarines (and other Beryl variants) are mined in Brazil, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Africa & Madagascar, the Russian Urals, and in the American West. Once believed to be the "treasure of mermaids," they were carried by sailors as a good luck talisman. They are also considered the stone of eternal youth & happiness and are believed to...

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Modern Orange - part III

An earthy combination of textured "orange peel" glazing curdles around an unexpectedly complimentary grey counter-finish. Such a spontaneous and organic glaze combination provides stark counterpoint to the otherwise minimalist cylindrical vase, made in the 1960's or 1970's. 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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Modern Orange - part II

Though a made a couple of decades before the "Mid-Century," this English Art Deco vase is nevertheless progressively Modern. The simple ball-form vase is sculpted with softly rippling shoulder ridges—sending a strong Modernist signal. It's finished with a mottled glaze of two oranges. 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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Modern Orange - part I

Lest we think (incorrectly) that all Modernist design was made on the other side of the Atlantic, here is an American piece, made in the 1960's. Like the more forward-thinking German mass-production workshops, Royal Haeger, in Illinois, hired talented avant garde ceramicists to keep pushing the company forward. Shown above, a simple long-necked ball vase with a teal and orange peel glaze treatment by Alrun Guest. It was attempt by the ceramics factory to keep fresh and keep relevant. 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...

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Hold My Horses!

I bought this wonderful bronze seahorse bottle opener in England—just outside of Oxford—some seven or eight years ago. For that entire period, I kept him tucked away in my desk drawer, so loathe was I to part with him. My hope was to have him recast in bronze (multiple times, of course) which I could sell as contemporary items. I even flirted with keeping him for myself, permanently. Well, six years passed and so did our precious time in Greenwich Village.  I packed him up for our move to Pittsburgh two years ago—and he sat deep within a box for those two additional years. He was finally unearthed last week and I decided that, if I were going to duplicate...

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A Modern Classic

Those who know me are aware that Ruscha is one of my favorite Mid-Century production-scale ceramics makers.  Typically it is the glazes—often by Otto Gerharz—that excite my senses. But Ruscha was also known for its interesting shapes, too, especially the Modernist classic "313" pitcher by Kurt Tschörner. It was designed in 1954 and proved so popular that the artist was asked (in the 1960's) to "modify" his design, just a bit, as a concession to the realities of mass production.  The original design had a more forward-leaning appearance and a sharper inner joint where the handle met the spout. Getting the original pitchers out of their moulds proved difficult and the rate of loss was unacceptably high. The example shown...

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Sophisticated Handcraft

Folkcraft sometimes finds itself at the heart of beautiful design and aesthetics—and it provides meaningful inspiration for creative adaptation in the future. Designers have referenced, for instance, the decorative elements of textile works (like embroidery or lacemaking), carving (like that of Alpine Europe) or basketmaking (from Africa or the American Southwest) when creating new objects, often in a different medium. In the Swiss hand-painted plate, shown above, I am reminded of decorative "folk" embroidery—previously seen, perhaps, on the cuff of a blouse or along the hem of a skirt. It is in this "recycling" (and perpetuation) of local historical design aesthetics that different regions and cultures become associated with certain patterns and motifs.    LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is...

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A String of Pearls

Pearls are one of Mother Nature's perfect creations. Their shape, their sheen, their modest flawlessness—no other "gem" achieves such majesty so effortlessly. And, until the 20th Century, they were so costly that they remained solely in the possession of emperors and monarchs. With such characteristic merits, it is no surprise that pearls have been used as decorative motifs—in architecture, painting, sculpture and the decorative arts. One contemporary example is the cast pewter frame, shown above.  On it, a string of pearls—lined-up like soldiers—provides a delicate yet stately framework for your precious photo or paper memento. 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...

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"Studio-Ish"

Yesterday, we discussed the difference between "studio" pieces and "production" pieces. The example above, made by the large-scale producer Jasba, is clearly a production piece—though it has tried hard to emulate its studio siblings. Jasba started by getting the shape just right. Notice that the simple globular form is compressed-downward, as though a gentle force were pushing upon the top of the spherical body. This conveys (aesthetically) a sense of dynamic tension—imbuing the piece with an energy that a perfect sphere does not convey. The little foot, at bottom, elevates the piece, presenting it with an enhanced sense of importance. And the jug's handle is perfectly-sized: not too big, not too small. When a company engages in large-scale production, it...

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Countdown to Lent

With Ash Wednesday just two weeks away, it's time to start clearing the larders and thinking about the "spiritual cleansing" that the Lenten period offers. In addition to prayer, fasting and abstinence, charity is one of the cornerstones of the Christian (and other religions') seasonal practice of religious "re-calibration"—a striving for holiness. Alms giving is an age-old practice and a Mite Box, like the one shown above, was used to collect donations for the poor. This example is English, made of mahogany, and probably was used in a church. 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...

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Studio Ceramics

The term "studio ceramics" can be a nebulous term and is sometimes used to imbue clarity of provenance to a piece of work which is otherwise a mystery. Admittedly, I have used the term many times myself. In its most basic sense, the term "studio ceramics" differentiates those pieces which are made in a small-scale workshop—usually by hand—as opposed to "production" pieces which were made in a "mass-produced" factory environment. The term "studio" implies a more artful, thoughtful, careful and rare piece—although aesthetics and quality are always in the eye of the beholder.  Most often, the term "studio vase" is used when the merchant or collector does not know the name of the ceramicist. If he did, he would quickly drop...

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Double Feature

This frame (and its on-line siblings) is a bit of a happy miracle. Beautifully designed, expertly crafted, it was made right here in the United States. And in New York City, no less! It's proof that quality manufacturing can survive in our otherwise service-oriented economy. It's a pleasure to support such local industry which does not attempt to plumb the lowest common denominator. As such, this frame is not trendy, it is not disposable, and it is not cheap. Instead, it is a one-time purchase which will last a century or more—physically and aesthetically. And it's reminiscent of a time when Americans were willing to pay more for something that would last a good, long time. Please click on the photo...

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Italian Time

Italy is my favorite travel destination—and I easily could spend every remaining vacation of my life exploring (and absorbing) a new Italian village or city. So I am well aware that Italy shines brightly in certain respects (style, atmosphere, attitude, design) and is (ummm...) less highly-regarded in other areas (precision timing, prompt shipping). I keep this in mind while considering this handsome and stylish pewter sandglass. While the sand-cast metal is beautifully designed and crafted, it is less-effective as a precision timepiece: sometimes it hits the thirty minute mark, sometimes it will add or subtract a minute (or two, or less) to that timing objective. Che importa?  Who cares? In keeping with Italy's age-old experience with time, you'll find a...

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Aluxes

Aluxes are mythical Mayan "elves"—not unlike Irish Leprechauns or Hawaiian Menehune. Though usually invisible—or, at least, unseen—they can take the form of knee-high dwarves. And they are known to be mischievous. But their mischief-making does not carry an evil intent; instead, they will sometimes create chaos while attempting to protect their territory. In recent years, while a bridge was being built in Mexico, it kept collapsing, inexplicably. Local residents of Mayan ancestry explained that the builders had failed to ask permission of the little aluxes before commencing work. The engineers rectified the situation by creating a little house under the bridge—so that the aluxes could continue to live in the area, undisturbed. The small house can still be seen (under...

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Age Old Sand-Casting

This handsome old-world beaker was made in contemporary Italy in the age-old sand-cast method. Used since mankind first started casting metals (in the Bronze Age), sand-casting remains a low-tech and wonderful technique for creating rustic and satisfyingly naive metal objects. First, an "original" (that is, the item to be duplicated) is pushed into a tray of sticky sand. Once lifted out, a depression is left in the sand—into which molten metal (in this case, pewter) is poured.  Once the cast piece has cooled and solidified, the piece is taken out, chased (that is, cleaned of burrs and other major irregularities), and polished. Although an accurate duplicate is created, this "unsophisticated" method allows for plenty of idiosyncrasies and the hand-crafted sensibility of...

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Anglo-Egyptian

This mid-century studio art vase was made in 1950's England. Its stoney, mottled blue glazing is as irresistible as is the strangely-"canopic" form silhouette of the vessel. For centuries, canopic jars were used as part of the Ancient Egyptian burial ritual. Different organs were kept in each of four jars and interred alongside the deceased's body. The earliest vessels had plain lids. In time, the lids became more elaborate, and eventually were carved bearing the heads of humans or Egyptian gods. Although canopic jars have a grisly association, one must admit that their voluptuous form is sheer perfection. The vase above seems to swell—as if by an inner force—and is capped with a satisfying rim. Please click on the photo above...

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Love Notes

A love note for your Valentine? Sometime's the sweetest surprise is that unexpected token, tucked-away in a purse or wallet. And with this handsome note holder, you'll always be ready to write. The polished pewter piece was designed by Danish Modernist artist Erik Magnussen and made by Royal Selangor. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Happy Valentine's Day!   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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Aged to Perfection

Given time and the right environmental conditions, all metals will "patinate" (that is, "tarnish"). Some metals, like silver, tarnish very quickly. Others, like copper, take decades to develop a rich, dark patina. Pewter needs several years (and dry conditions) to develop a dark, rich grey finish like the French Art Nouveau vase, shown above. Brass falls on the middle of the "tarnish continuum." And some metals, like bronze, are often purposely patinated at the time of manufacture to give them a certain look—for example, antique gold, chocolate brown or verdigris green. In the world of decorative arts, the condition of a metal's finish can often make-or-break the value of an item. Although tastes vary, the general rule is: the longer...

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Heavy and Light

Can something be heavy and light? If so, I guess this Roth vase proves the phenomenon. Heavy, stone-like taupe glazing is dressed with a dash of foamy blue—a kiss of sky and clouds on an otherwise earth-bound piece. Learn more 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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Architects Attempt Sculpture

Though clearly Art Deco—in period and style—these 1930's bookends foreshadow the "Brutalist" aesthetic to come two decades later. Brutalism was a design ethic which swept worldwide architecture in the third-quarter of the Twentieth Century. Coming on the heels of the Second World War, it sought to overturn the (so-called) "frivolous" aesthetic of previous human generations, and, perhaps, to shock the world with its defiant rejection of grace. Brutalism is known for its brazen angularity and a lack of any concern for "fitting-in" to the existing community of buildings. Though it is often described as the expression of "function over form," it is more often perceived as an insolent disregard for traditional conventions of beauty. The new, post-War generation of designers...

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In a Peddler's Wake

In days of yore, well before Amazon, a traveling salesman would stop by your office to sell you screws, springs or hosing—or whatever your industry required. And he would usually leave a little something behind; something handsome and useful and likely to remind you to place another order. This spring-form letter holder and pen rest was made of cast iron around 1910. The advertiser's name, "K Diamond" prominently (though tastefully) featured on each side.  Over the past 24 years, I have found three of these—one in a far away Shanghai flea market! 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,...

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Painted Desert

While this vase was made miles away from the American Southwest—many thousands of miles away—it still reminds me of our North American rustic desert landscape. The soft blue skies, marbled with clouds, layered atop sand and clay, a mountain ridge in the distance, even the hand-incised drum-like "fluting" near the bottom somehow transmit an "Out West" sensibility. In actuality, the vase was hand-crafted on the Baltic island of Bornholm, a possession of Denmark. The pottery workshop, Michael Andersen and Sons, was productive during the Danish Modernist movement. This piece was made in the 1950's. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.   LEO Design's Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed.  While we contemplate our next shop...

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The Temple of Concordia

The Tempio della Concordia in Agrigento, Sicily, is the best preserved Doric Order temple in the world (alongside the Parthenon in Athens). It was built around 440-430 BC when the pre-Italian island was an important part of the Greek world. It was later named after the Roman goddess of harmony. It is surrounded by 20 foot tall fluted columns—six along each short side and 13 along each long side—topped, naturally, with Doric capitals. Each column tapers subtly near the top and swells gently in the middle which gives the column a dynamic tension—as though the column were straining to bear the weight of the roof. The temple was converted to a Christian Basilica (of Saints Peter & Paul) in the...

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Pinched Pot

Bretby—the English ceramics factory—was active from 1882 until 1933. During this period, they produced Victorian designs, Aesthetic Movement wares, Arts & Crafts ceramics and Art Deco goods. With such a broad range of styles, the company was always interested in exploring new ideas and new trends. This piece, from their strangely-named "Nurtenware" line, was always curious to me. Though cast in a mould, it resembles a piece that was hand-formed and manipulated—squeezed, in fact. Perhaps the designers at Bretby were taking a cue from the highly-Modernist American ceramic works of George Ohr, the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." Ohr developed an interest in ceramics at the age of 22 (in 1879). His wildly designed and crumpled pieces (many with metallic glazes)...

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Picture This

We've just added a number of handsome pewter frames to our on-line shop.  And there are many more to be shot in the weeks to come.  Shown above, just one example: an 8" x 10" cast pewter frame with a crisp "rope" design. Learn more about it (and its siblings) 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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Kung Hei Fat Choi!

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2019 is The Year of the Pig.  It's the final (twelfth) character of the cycle—since the Pig was the last guest to show-up when summoned by the Jade Emperor. People born in the year of the pig are down-to-Earth, focussed on their work and tenacious about sticking to their goals. Because of a disciplined work ethic, they are likely to become financially secure (in time), even if born to a poor family. They don't stand out in a crowd and will never be accused of being "all talk, no action."  Pigs also tend to be gentle and quiet. Their patience and desire to be helpful makes them great teachers or coaches. Though pigs are careful...

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Ten Days to Go...

A gentle reminder . . . Saint Valentine's Day is less than a week and a half away!. And, since time is our most precious commodity, perhaps this Italian sand-cast pewter sandglass will be a reminder of time's fleeting nature. Spend your precious time with the one(s) you love. 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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The Horse Tamers

In the Art Deco period, "heroic" human figures—like this "Trojan Horseman"—would be used as decorative elements in the architecture of the day. Usually, the sculpture was designed to represent some intangible element of a robust society: commerce, labor, agriculture. A walk through central Washington, DC will present many such examples—on Thirties buildings which manage and guide the various important agencies for the nation. The theme of "Horse Tamers" in artwork is one that goes back to Rome with the monumental sculptures of Castor & Pollux (and their horses) standing near the Baths of Constantine on Quirinal Hill. A pair of sculpted Horse Tamers by Baron Peter Clodt von Jurgensburg (plus two more by a different artist) grace the Anichkov Bridge...

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Parti, Without a Trace

Gilbert Méténier was born in the small town of Gannat, in central France, in 1876.  His father, Louis, purchased a tile factory in 1916—a curious time, considering that this was during the middle of World War One—and he established a ceramics studio there. The early works were mostly unsigned and little documentation of that work exists. In 1920, Gilbert took-over management of the family business. Under the son, the workshop grew, eventually employing a dozen workers. The pieces were now signed and sold in smart Parisian department stores and in French "spa towns" along the French Riviera. In 1940, with the Germans approaching, Gilbert Méténier closed the workshop—destroying the moulds, lest the enemy get them—and escaped, possibly to the South...

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Amethysts for February

Welcome to February and its birthstone, the amethyst. Although these sterling silver Art Deco cufflinks do not bear the actual gemstone, they are dressed in a handsome, amethyst colored enamel—and would make a lovely gift for any February birthday.  Learn more about them by clicking on the photo above. Up until the Nineteenth Century, amethysts were very precious; they were considered one of the rare (and expensive) "Cardinal Gemstones"—alongside rubies, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds.  At the time, they were only to be found in Austria and Russia (where the most beautiful, deep-purple amethysts were found). Medieval monarchs—especially in England—adorned themselves with the royal amethyst. Even today, Anglican bishops wear an amethyst in their episcopal rings. This is due to the...

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Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's most famous buildings and a designated National Treasure.  Principally built between 1593 and 1594, it soon became the home of the "Matsumoto Domain" during the Tokugawa Shogunate of the Edo Period (1603-1868).  It is within the Nagano Prefecture, some 40 miles south of Nagano.  Built of wood, atop a stone base, Matsumoto Castle is unusual in that it was not sited upon a hilltop or on an island. Instead, it is a "flatland" castle, protected by a wide man-made moat (which, in turn, is surrounded by cherry trees). The six story building is sometimes called "Crow Castle" due to its black coloration and gracefully upswept eves. These cufflinks, probably Japanese, are silver decorated with striking...

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Japanese Bamboo

Can you hear the wind passing through the bamboo—a satisfying rustle of leaves overhead? These sterling silver Art Deco cufflinks, made in the 1930's, are probably American, not Japanese. Nevertheless, they capture a popular theme during the 1930's, "the exotic Far East." Actually, it was a time when most Americans couldn't imagine making such a long trip—nor could they afford it. But a small, alluring indulgence, like these cufflinks, might afford its wearer a  moment of romantic glamour, a modest experience of enjoying the larger world. 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...

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My Deer

This gentle little deer—a fawn, perhaps—is both relaxed and a little alert.  Did he hear a twig snap? He'd be happy to sit on your windowsill, bookshelf or desk.  He'd even look good next to a little bonsai. He was made in 1969 by Danish ceramicist Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen. 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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Saw it Through the Grapevine

Art Nouveau craftsmen—whether they be in England, Austria, Scotland, France or the United States (and whatever they called their local Arts & Crafts movement)—often "recycled" decorative elements from their cultural or national pasts. English artisans often tapped Medieval themes (from literature or heraldry), aesthetic motifs from their ancient past (including Norse or Celtic elements) or significant design styles from the past (though centuries old).  And the hand-crafted nature of Arts & Crafts production leant itself to the rustic work methods of earlier times. The English Arts & Crafts frame, shown above, was made around the year 1900. Nevertheless, it has a style and design of something from the Tudor or Jacobean period, up to 400 years earlier. Even the manner...

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Erik Magnussen - part II

Here's another offering, designed by Danish Modernist artist Erik Magnussen (1940-2014). A covered sugar bowl and beaker-form creamer are cast in pewter and polished to a high shine by Royal Selangor (founded 1885).  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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Erik Magnussen - part I

  Danish artist, Erik Magnussen (1940-2014), is amongst Denmark's preeminent Modernist designers. Trained as a ceramicist, one of his earliest jobs was working for Bing & Grøndahl. Later, he was hired to design items—furniture, lighting, hardware, tabletop wares—for quality manufacturers and retailers around the world. His works are exhibited in museums worldwide. The salt and pepper shakers, shown above, were designed by Magnussen for Royal Selangor (founded 1885). They are cast in pewter and polished to a high shine.  Please click up 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...

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This Bear was Made for Walking

You'll enjoy watching this stoneware bear—relaxed and happy—stroll across your desk, bookshelf or mantelpiece.  He was designed by Danish sculptor Knud Kyhn and made by Royal Copenhagen.  Click on the photo above to learn more about him. And see many other Knud Kyhn pieces in our on-line shop.   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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Royal Mail

Store your mail in style.  This English Arts & Crafts oak letter holder is clad with hand-tooled brass plates—which show stylized botanicals and a snarling, reticulated dragon.  At top, a glass amethyst "turtleback" cabochon punctuates the entire design.  Suitable sitting on a desk or hanging on the wall from its brass hook.  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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Twinkle, Twinkle!

This silver-plated amphibian, when wound, will play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The English lullaby, based on an 1806 poem, is set to the popular French children's song "Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman" ("Shall I tell you, Mother" - 1761). The tune became even more popular when a 25 year old Mozart composed twelve variations on the theme. Although the music box, above, is meant as a child's gift, it has proved just as popular with adults—due to it's realistic, warty sculpting and the irresistible childhood tune. 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...

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Easy Green

When I first opened my store in 1995—and before I even knew what the Arts & Crafts movement was—I knew I really liked these rich green ceramics.  Most were vases, others were bowls or jardinieres—but it was a strong collection and I loved it. As the months passed, I would sell a few pieces, buy a few pieces and try to keep the collection going.  In time, however, it became too difficult (and expensive) to add new pieces.  In more time, my collection waned (except for the handful of pieces I had at home!). Well, I've renewed my efforts to build-back my collection of green ceramics—like the piece here, finished with a semi-matte green glaze.  Because they are early (mostly from...

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Nouveau German

Like most regional Art Nouveau movements, the German Jugendstil used naturalistic elements as decorative motifs.  Here a copper tray is embossed with a pattern of leaves, berries and whiplash-form vines. Perhaps the berries were meant to echo the glasses of berry wine, possibly carried on the tray. It is finished with brass handles and ball feet.  It was made by Württembergische Mettalwarenfabrik, also known as WMF, during the 1910's. 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...

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Art & War

War has been described as hours of crushing tedium, punctuated with moments of fierce and life-altering intensity. For this reason, soldiers and sailors have long found ways to pass the time—perhaps handcrafting a simple gift for a sweetheart left back home. And necessity dictates using the supplies at hand, in this case a bronze artillery shell casing. The metal shell has been crafted into an ashtray, from which a stag leaps from the pediment at center.  It was made at some time during World War Two—by an unknown artisan, for an unknown loved one. It's a bit of naive folk art, combined with the history and pathos of a person at war. Please click on the photo above to learn more about...

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From Across the Sea

"In the old days," ultramarine blue was amongst the rarest—and costliest—of pigments.  It was made of ground lapis lazuli, carefully mined in Afghanistan and hand-carried all the way to Europe.  Even the name, "ultramarine," implies exoticism: "from across the sea." Today, ultramarine blue is not as difficult to procure—and, thus, a lot cheaper. But it is every bit as beautiful as it ever was. This vase, made by Ruscha, was glazed by master ceramicist Otto Gerharz.  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...

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Peterborough Cathedral

Some 85 miles north of London stands Peterborough Cathedral, one of the great churches of Britain.  Principally built between 1118 and 1237, this English Gothic masterpiece stands on the site of an earlier church, founded in 655. Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew look down from the three central gables, appropriate as the cathedral's official name is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew. The church was originally a Catholic house of worship. When Henry VIII "dissolved the monasteries"—thus stripping the churches of their precious objects and banning Catholic worship—it was converted to an Anglican cathedral. But Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had already been buried in the church—and remains there to this day. Later, the Scottish...

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