JOURNAL RSS



Sun Baked - part III

In the 15th Century, Europeans developed the "blast furnace" which could reach even higher temperatures and maintain them consistently. This allowed for the large scale production of metalworks, glassmaking, and the mass production of ceramic items—and marked the (very) early start of the Industrial Revolution (which would peak some 400 years later). With this advancement, ceramic objects no longer had to be a labor-intensive, luxury item. Indeed, certain ceramic objects could now be produced cheaply, making them practical for mundane, technical applications (like electrical insulators, first produced around 1850). In the second half of the Twentieth Century, after World War Two, highly sophisticated ceramics manufacturing contributed to specialized uses in electronics, medical science, automotives, aeronautics, and the space exploration industries. Even...

Continue reading



Sun Baked - part II

Yesterday we paused our ceramics history lesson around the year 9,000 BC—when ceramic food vessels were becoming widespread.  At this time, earthenware tiles and bricks were also increasingly produced. Up to this point, all ceramics were made of stoneware and formed-by-hand. The invention of the wheel (for ceramics making!)  around 3,500 BC, allowed ceramics vessels to be "thrown."  Although still hand-crafted, the new technology allowed for faster production, more symmetrical uniformity, and more sophisticated execution. For the first time, ceramic vessels reached the level of an art form—and were further embellished with complex and pleasing decoration. The Chinese pioneered another ceramics advancement: the improvement of kilns which could reach higher temperatures and maintain those temperatures consistently. Around 600 AD, the Chinese began...

Continue reading



Sun Baked - part I

At some point in mankind's past, "ceramics" were invented—or, more likely, discovered. Some clever soul, walking alongside a hot, long-dried riverbed, noticed that the once-moist clay had hardened under the sun: "Hmmm.  How could this be useful?"  Initially, simple decorative (or religious) clay objects were formed and (probably) simply dried in the sun. The earliest discovered ceramic object is a statuette of a woman, made around 28,000 BC, unearthed in Brno, Czech Republic. Sculpted animals were also found from around this period. Utilitarian objects, like pots, have been discovered in China, dating to 18,000 BC.  It is believed that such ceramics production then spread to Japan and Asian Russia.  Around the year 9,000 BC, ceramic food containers (to hold grain...

Continue reading



Plummy Planter

  English pottery maker Denby made this line of "Orientware" ceramics ware in the 1920's and 1930's. It was the tail end of the Arts & Crafts movement and meant to satisfy the British Middle Class taste for "all things Oriental." In this case, Denby understood "Orient" to mean the Middle East, not the Far East. Hence the Iznik blue glazing and the mysterious earthy plum finish. This vessel was made to hold a five-inch planter pot. 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...

Continue reading



Riveting in Person

Some items are just so difficult to photograph well! This could be thanks to an uncompelling color. Or perhaps a small detail that cannot be captured well in a single product shot. Or, it could be the item's shine—the bane of a product photographer's workday. This piece ticks all three of these boxes. Yet, in person, this vase is sublime! Made by Barse-Backshamn in Denmark (c. 1960's), the vessel is dressed in a delicious ultra-rich, black coffee colored glaze. And the sweetest detail—three little ceramic rivets on each side—appear to "staple" the two strap handles to the side of the vase. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still...

Continue reading



Red Ahead - part III

Here's another piece by Rhein-Ruhr, made in West Germany in the 1960's or 1970's.  It has that terrific—oh so Italian—red, popular on firetrucks, sports cars and stiletto heels. 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" 

Continue reading



Red Ahead - part II

Where's the meeting point of red and orange?  I call that place "Chinese Red." And, when the vermillion color decorates a little temple-form vase, it reaches its potential. This piece, made by Übelacker in the 1960's, is now on our website. 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:...

Continue reading



Red Ahead - part I

With the Fourth of July just a few days behind us, I am still thinking of Red, White and Blue. Over the next few days, I'll share a couple of red pieces, currently in-store at LEO Design. This piece, though made in West Germany, seems to have a bit of Italian blood—evident in the rich, cherry red glazing.  It was made by Rhein-Ruhr in the 1960's or 1970's and can be found in our on-line store. 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...

Continue reading



Secessionism

Secessionism is the Viennese interpretation of the broader Art Nouveau Movement. Like other Arts & Crafts "schools," Secessionism relied heavily on handcraft, stylized botanical motifs, and warm naturalism to create pleasing objets—items intended to enhance architecture, furniture, lighting and other elements of the decorative arts. And, like with L'Art Nouveau (aka: "The New Style"), Secessionism sought to "secede" from the prevailing, traditional norms of domestic and environmental design. Concurrent with this international new style—starting roughly around 1890 or 1900—was a growth spurt in the World's middle classes (especially in Western cities). As families moved from the peasantry (or labor class) into the middle class, they often sought to surround themselves with small luxuries (and had a little extra money in...

Continue reading



Always Popular

Why are Teddy Roosevelt Bookends so difficult to find? While Lincoln bookends are somewhat commonplace, TR bookends are quite scarce—and, therefore, costly. I have a few ideas of why this might be. First of all, factory-produced bookends are an early Twentieth Century phenomenon—and really reached their production zenith during the 1920's and 1930's.  Before the Twentieth Century, few people who could afford to assemble large collections of books (only the wealthy). Working people (who made up the bulk of the 19th Century US population) might own a small handful of books—a Bible, perhaps a cookbook and a few books of poetry—thus, mass-produced bookends were not really needed. Wealthy collectors had rooms, shelved libraries, to protect, organize and store their tomes. Roosevelt's...

Continue reading



Art Deco's Long Tail

Unlike the Arts & Crafts movement—which was rather short-lived, and mostly killed-off by World War One—the Art Deco movement left a much longer and very influential mark on the history of aesthetic design. The "look" coalesced in the mid-Twenties, was put onto the back burner during World War Two, and came roaring back for parts of the 1940's and 1950's. While the Arts & Crafts school was labor-intensive, thus expensive, and a bit avant-garde in its day, Art Deco was well-suited to mass production techniques and could be applied to any manner of consumer product. Thus, the Art Deco style was found on everything from electric toasters, soda bottles, Bakelite radios, eye glasses, tea kettles, automobile fins—even lamp plugs and...

Continue reading



Jugendstil

The German name for Art Nouveau is Jugendstil—literally "The Youthful (or Young) Style." Like other movements under the Art Nouveau or Arts & Crafts umbrella, the Jugendstil references voluptuous, natural shapes, simple (beautiful) materials and lots of evident handcraft.  This vase, made by Carl Fischer around 1900, boasts an organic glaze which drips down the softly-sloping sides of the vessel. Learn more about it 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...

Continue reading



A New Symbol is Flown

On this day in 1978, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker debuted the rainbow flag which he had created for the city’s Gay Freedom Day parade.  The original, manually-sewn flag consisted of eight colored stripes.  But when the flag proved popular—and people wanted to purchase one for themselves—Baker reduced the number of colors to six.  Removing […]

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  I see sculpture all around me: in carved-stone buildings, in carved-stone fountains and in carved-stone monuments. Let's end our Summer Roman Holiday with one of the oldest surviving buildings in Rome, with the fountain in its piazza, and with the ancient obelisk which punctuates that fountain. The Pantheon was built around 120 AD under the Roman Emperor Hadrian and it was used to honor the pantheon— that is, all of the many Roman gods. One enters through a classical "portico" (like a front porch) and into a large, circular room. It is topped with an enormous rounded...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXIV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Change is eternal—and in The Eternal City, that change has been happening for a long, long time. The building of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva was begun by the Dominicans in 1280. They thought that they were building over the ruins of an earlier (50 BC) pagan temple to the Roman goddess Minerva, therefore the name "sopra (over) Minerva." In truth, they were building over an ancient temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis, a fact archaeologists did not discover until the name "Minerva" had become firmly-rooted in the minds of Romans. The original Gothic church had...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  There are thirteen ancient obelisks decorating Rome—eight Egyptian, five Roman. Procuring them was quite a feat, no doubt. First they had to be taken (Looted? Purchased? Spoils of war?). Then they had to me moved up river on barges and sailed across the Mediterranean Sea in larger vessels (ever so carefully, lest they break or sink the vessel). Once in Italy, they had to be transported inland (even harder than sailing!) to the Roman capital. Imperial Rome had a great fascination with the symbolism of the earlier Egyptian Empire—and they spared no expense to acquire, transport and mount these...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Between the Piazza del Popolo and the Scalinata di Spagna stands an unassuming church with a very interesting history: Sant'Andrea della Fratte ("St. Andrew of the Woods"). The first church was built on this site in 1192 when this area was the wooded outskirts of Medieval Rome. The basilica minor which stands there today was built between 1604 and 1826. For a time, it was designated as Rome's church for Scotsmen as it was nearby the Scots College (a seminary for Scottish priests). Eventually the Scots embraced Protestantism and abandoned their formal relationship with Rome. On 20 January...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Rome is full of fountains—some grand, some quite plain—and it is important to remember that they were not strictly decorative.  They carried fresh water into the city and were intended to be used by residents as their water source. Even today, they carry fresh water which (some people say) may be drunk. But, in true Italian style, even a pedestrian utility can be elevated to the beautiful. The Piazza dell Popolo literally means "The Plaza of the People" although the square was originally named for the poplar trees which lined a part of the piazza. The square...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XX

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Can one have a favorite basilica in Rome? Can one choose a favorite child? I suppose Saint Peter's will always be my favorite (how could it not be?)—though the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano would have to be in second place. It is the cathedral seat of the Pope (as "The Bishop of Rome") and is the oldest and highest-ranking of the four basilicas major. And just look at that massive, deeply-coffered ceiling! Consecrated in 324 AD, it has been renovated and redecorated numerous times through the centuries. Francesco Borromini (1599-1667) reworked the main central space (the...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XIX

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  I have had a difficult time finding information about this lovely Twentieth Century marble sculpture in Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It was commissioned to commemorate the end of World War I (in 1918) and bears the title AVE-MARIA-PACIS ("Hail, Queen of Peace). She holds her son in her right arm while her left hand is elevated—is it a blessing or is she saying "Stop!"? Her serene face and the drape of her garments are reminiscent of Pre-Raphaelite or Belle Epoch (Art Nouveau) sculpture from the 1880's to the 1920's, which is very modern in a basilica begun...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  The great Baroque "Renaissance Man," Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was kept very, very busy by Pope Urban VIII, his great (and free-spending) patron. When that pope died in 1644, Bernini found his workshop strangely underemployed—for the new pope, Innocent X, did not favor him. Suddenly, mere cardinals could now jockey to engage the lauded artist (of course, for a princely sum). Venetian Cardinal Federico Cornaro jumped at the chance to hire Bernini to build his tomb (1647-1652) in the modest church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. What resulted is considered one of the great masterpieces of...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  A handsome—though somewhat overwhelmed—token of relaxation stands at the center of the hectic Piazza Barberini in Rome. It is Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) carved in travertine marble, a commission from Bernini's great patron, Pope Urban VIII (who was a member of the Barberini family). A kneeling "merman" kneels atop the uplifted tails of four dolphins—and he blows a stream of water through a conch shell. The pope's Papal Crest is centered beneath the muscular figure and the classic "Bernini Bees" alight upon the dolphins' tails. It was carved by Bernini in 1642-1643, and...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Not far from the tomb of Saint Peter—above which the Papal Altar, Bernini's baldacchino and Michelangelo's dome rise—sits this bronze sculpture of the first pope, Saint Peter, clutching the keys to the kingdom close to his breast and raising his right hand in blessing. For centuries, the faithful have venerated the sculpture; in the Middle Ages, pilgrims (on their months-long walk to Rome) would petition the saint to help them make it home from their journey. Christians have traditionally kissed or touched the sculpture's extended right foot—which is now worn-down to a nub. For years, it was...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  This animated dragon decorates the monument of Pope Gregory XIII in Saint Peter's Basilica. He died in 1585 and the monument was completed over 100 years later (1715 - 1723) by late Baroque sculptor Camillo Rusconi. Despite this delay of honor, Pope Gregory XIII had an illustrious reign—for example, replacing the inaccurate Julian calendar with the better Gregorian calendar (which we still use today). Gregory was a church reformer. Under him the papacy grew in strength at the expense of (a sometimes corrupt) College of Cardinals. He put into effect the Council of Trent, covened (1545 - 1563) to address the Protestant Reformation....

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XIV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Once the "new" Saint Peter's Basilica was constructed, it became time to design and install a fitting marker over the Papal Altar and tomb of Saint Peter, the Church's first pope. Enter architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, engaged by then Pope Urban VIII of the wealthy and influential Barberini family. The canopy over the altar is technically called a ciborium—although the broader decorative term baldacchino is more commonly used instead. Bernini designed and oversaw its production between 1623 and 1634. It is a massive form, assembled of individually cast bronze pieces, stands some 95 feet high, and...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  At the age of 23, Michelangelo Buonarotti was hired to carve a funerary sculpture for the eventual tomb of French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères. What the young artist created—between 1498 and 1499—is amongst the most beautiful of all sculptures ever carved. In the 1700's, it was moved from the Cardinal's tomb and given pride-of-place in the first side chapel on the right as one enters Saint Peter's Basilica.  Pietà means "The Pity," and this arrangement—of Jesus in his mother's lap—was previously unknown in Italian sculpture. The idealized yet naturalistic composition conveys the sensation of weight and substance. It...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  While Michelangelo is my all time favorite artist, perhaps Gian Lorenzo Bernini is my second-favorite sculptor. He was born 34 years after Michelangelo's death and his work defines the motion (and emotion) of Italian Baroque marble sculpting. But Bernini was also an architect. He is responsible for creating the "welcoming arms" of the Piazza San Pietro—the two colonnades which line the sides (and define the shape of) the Basilica's massive front square. A church has been maintained on this site since the early 300's AD. From 1506 to 1626, Saint Peter's Basilica as we know it was...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  The bridge crossing the Tevere (or Tiber River), shown above, is called Ponte Sisto. It connects the Jewish Quarter (where I stay) to Trastevere, the new "Williamsburg of Rome."  It was commissioned by Pope Sixtus (hence the name), and was built from 1473 to 1479.  What's most important about the photo, however, is the beautiful dome glimmering in the background. It was designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti—the world's greatest sculptor—in 1547 and work was begun under his supervision. At the time of Michelangelo's death (in 1564), the lower "drum" had been completed. Pope Sixtus assigned Giacomo della Porta to...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part X

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Saint Michael, the protector, is one of the three Archangels recognized by the Catholic Church (alongside Saints Gabriel and Raphael). An enormous bronze statue of him stands guard above his namesake Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome—a fortress overlooking the River Tiber. The sculpture was modeled by Flemish artist Peter Anton von Verschaffelt and installed in 1753. He is shown sheathing his signature sword, commemorating the end of the plague in 590 AD. The Castel itself has a much older history. It was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family (between 134...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part IX

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Rome is "The Eternal City," and I never get tired of visiting her. What more dramatic symbol to mark my arrival than the Roman Colosseum? But, as beautiful a work of sculpture as il Colosseo remains, it does have a sordid, disturbing history.  The Colosseum was built between 72 and 80 AD, and underwent various modifications in the century after that. Constructed of travertine limestone, volcanic tuff, and brick-clad cement, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built. Unlike typical Greek or Roman amphitheaters which were usually built-into a hillside, the Colosseum is a completely free-standing, oval structure....

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Lucca is a handsome, human-scaled Tuscan city, still encircled by its original Renaissance era brick wall. It is also the birthplace of composer Giaccomo Puccini (1858-1924) who wrote popular operas including La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot. Puccini was one of nine children and he was raised in a family with music in its blood.  His father (and grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather) was the "Maestro di Capella" at Lucca's Cathedral of San Martino (since the Middle Ages, an important stop for pilgrims working their way to Rome). Little Giaccomo probably would have followed in his forefathers' footsteps...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  My time is Genova was wonderful—a surprisingly interesting time in a city bustling with a rich, muscular energy. Although the city is not one of Italy's "top draws" for tourists, there is certainly plenty to see: a generous helping of "aesthetic evidence" of Genova's multiple centuries as a top player in the international world of shipping, finance and trade. Walking the streets of the city, one realizes that Genova did not develop itself through high-minded callings like academics, religion or artistic patronage. Genova built itself through hard work and industry. As a visitor, I felt like I...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  If ever sculpture and architecture were to marry, an "Atlas" would be their progeny. An atlas is an architectural support structure—like a column, pier or pilaster—presented in the form of the male figure (usually his top half). In Greek mythology, Atlas is the character who was required to forever hold-up the sky on his shoulders. The plural form is "Atlantes" and Romans called them "Telemon." They were first utilized in Greek Sicily and Southern Italy. Later, during the late Renaissance, they were revived, this time with Mannerist (twisting) or Baroque attitudes. Atlantes were almost always at least...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part V

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Genova was amongst the World's richest and most powerful port cities during the 1400's - 1600's, resulting in no shortage of beautiful and impressive architecture dating to this period.  Genova's cathedral, dedicated to San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence), was a beneficiary of the communities wealth—specifically the largesse of wealthy trading and banking families. Although it was built in the 12th - 14th Centuries, wealthy patrons continued to "update" the interiors in later years. Shown above, a detail of stonework framing one of the front doors. A mix of colorful, exotic materials all work together to create a harmonious...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part IV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Genova—called "la Superba"—is a muscular and bustling port city along the Northern Mediterranean coast of Italy. From the Middle Ages, Genova profited from brisk International trade within the Mediterranean (and eventually beyond) and, as a result, became a World center of banking and finance from the early 1400's. Though the city saw continued industrial growth into the Twentieth Century, the city is replete with landmarks and shrines to its previous world-dominating wealth. Even today, the port of Genova is Italy's busiest and also the most important on the Mediterranean.  Iconic seamen, Christopher Columbus and Andrea Doria, were...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part III

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Sorrento is a seaside town, built on the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast, on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Lemons are to be found everywhere and numerous small shops sell limoncello and all manner of soaps, potions and foodstuffs made from the tangy citrus fruit. While not quite as fancy as Taormina (in Sicily), Sorrento has nonetheless been popular with European visitors since the Nineteenth Century, hosting the likes of Lord Byron, John Keats, J.W. von Goethe, Charles Dickens, Richard Wagner, Henrik Ibsen, Friedrich Nietzsche, Enricco Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti. The beautifully carved stone lion head, shown above, anchors the...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part II

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  We sailed from Athens to Sicily, an interesting route considering how important the island was to the Ancient Greek Empire. Due to its considerable size (it's the largest island in the Mediterranean) and strategic position, many conquering armies came and went over the centuries: the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish, Neapolitans and, eventually, unified Italy. The city of Syracuse—enriched by trade under the Greeks—rivaled Athens in size and beauty. The doorway pictured above, on the side of the Duomo di Taormina, could certainly be called "sculpture." The cathedral, named after Saint Nicholas, was built around 1400, over...

Continue reading



An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part I

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  We landed in Athens (which, yes, I know, is not in Italy) to spend a couple of days re-visiting some of our favorite sites. Athens (and the whole of Greece) had a tremendous impact on Roman culture and aesthetic sensibilities. Much of Ancient Rome's best architecture and sculpture was inspired by (if not a copy of) earlier Greek masterpieces. The photo above shows the Acropolis of Athens—truly a "Shining City on a Hill"— as seen from atop the Areopagus, (known as Mars Hill). The word "Acropolis" combines the root words for "highest point" + "city." Although this...

Continue reading



Bon Voyage!

LEO Design will be on an Early Summer Holiday through 18 June. Any purchases made on-line will be filled on the 19th.  Happy Summer!   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" 

Continue reading



Pre-Summer Blues - part VI

Summer afternoons bring to mind relaxed al fresco dinners—with their crisp white linen tablecloths juxtaposed to the ever-wild verdancy of a well-planted French garden. And no French dinner (or lunch) would be complete without a jug of table wine—such as the one shown above.  Made by Gilbert Méténier in the 1910's, it exhibits the Gothic Revival variant of turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau, and is glazed with organic, dripping brown, blue and green glazes. 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"...

Continue reading



Pre-Summer Blues - part V

Here's another example of a Denby "Orientware" English Arts & Crafts ceramic piece, made in the 1920's or 1930's. Like its siblings in the product line, it is finished with delicious Iznik Blue and Plum glazes, intending to bring an interpreted Eastern aesthetic to Western households. This piece might hold a small pot, a full (but short) handful of flowers, or several dozen lucky pencils on an architect's desk. 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...

Continue reading



Pre-Summer Blues - part IV

A constellation of rose glaze "freckles" spans the impossibly blue sky of this Rookwood Art Deco vase, made in Cincinnati in 1934.  Imagine three abundant peony heads resting upon the incised shoulders of this handsome piece, made between the wars. Click upon 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 us on Instagram:...

Continue reading



Pre-Summer Blues - part III

Variegated streaks of blue enliven this French Art Nouveau two-handled urn by Pierrefonds. Made around 1920, the classical form becomes modern with movement and color. Sensational anchoring a collection of blue ceramics, it has the gravitas to stand alone as a statement piece. 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...

Continue reading



Pre-Summer Blues - part II

Though it's only a touch, the blue on the rim of this French Art Nouveau vase still makes a strong statement.  Made by Gilbert Méténier in the 1910's, this vase is the perfect size for a small flower arrangement or an extra special pencil cup. 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...

Continue reading



Pre-Summer Blues - part I

As James Joyce aptly noted, "Summer" and "Afternoon" have always been "the two most beautiful words in the English language." Well, summer is four weeks away and I'm already dreaming of blue skies & blue seas. Over the next few days, we'll share a collection of ceramics that celebrate the up-coming season—naturally, in shades of blue. The English Arts & Crafts ceramic ashtray, shown above, was made in the 1920's by Denby for their "Orientware" line. Using Iznik Blue and plum glazes, "Orientware" attempted to capture exotic Eastern design—which was very popular in the West—for customers who could not afford to travel to Asia or invest in precious Oriental ceramics. Consider this piece as a handsome thank you gift for...

Continue reading



Fit for a Scholar

It's the Graduating Season and sometimes an uplifting gift is in-order. Amongst the world's best writers—and, certainly, Italy's greatest writer—is Dante Alighieri, scholar, poet and author of The Divine Comedy. In the Late Middle Ages, when Dante was writing, it was customary for serious literature to be written in Latin. Dante ignored this convention, writing in the Italian language (and, what's more, in the Tuscan dialect of his beloved Florence).  Since his death in 1321, Dante has influenced numerous writers, right up to the current age. Dante's relevance to the modern age is not confined to his writing—but concerns his politics.  It seems he found himself supporting the losing side of a political scrum in his home city of Florence. Alas,...

Continue reading



Eastern Inspiration - part III

We've been discussing "Aesthetic Adaptation," specifically the use of foreign design elements in another country's craft. But sometimes designers and craftspeople lift ideas from an earlier time in their own culture's past. One example happened during the Arts & Crafts period, when earlier Gothic elements were reinterpreted and utilized some 800 years later. Like with cross-cultural adaptations, the aesthetic needed to be modified and translated for a contemporary taste. The piece above is one of several in our collection by George Clewes.  It was made during the late English Arts & Crafts period, around 1920. The "Indian Flame" decor is hand-painted in a sophisticated craft-like style. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich...

Continue reading



Eastern Inspiration - part II

"Aesthetic Adaptation" almost never involves precise replication. Sometimes just the spirit of the foreign aesthetic is utilized—or just certain specific elements are interpreted, while others are neglected. As such, a degree of "artistic interpretation" comes into play—a foreign aesthetic is "translated" for a new audience. Take the vase shown above.  It was made in the 1920's by George Clewes (England) for a line he called "Chameleonware." The hand-painted flame-like design was an interpretation of an Indian aesthetic—perhaps from textile works or the coveted Indian miniature paintings from the Middle Ages. 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...

Continue reading



Eastern Inspiration - part I

A recurring theme at LEO Design is my interest in "Aesthetic Adaptation"—when the artists and craftspeople of one country emulate the design aesthetic of another country's artists and craftspeople. In recent years, critics have labeled such "interpretations" as "Cultural Appropriation." I do not judge it so cynically.  Through the years, I have purchased many beautiful objects that were inspired in one part of the world by the artisans in another part of the world. Most times, the catalyst for such an "appropriation" was a sincere admiration for the aesthetics, the craft, of the other time and place. But there was another compelling reason why these adaptations sometimes occurred: affordability. Ceramics from remote places—say, the Far East or the Middle East—were...

Continue reading



In Vino Veritas - part III

"It doesn't matter if the glass is half-empty or half-full—there is clearly room for more wine!"   -   Anonymous A corseted, "triple gourd" form ceramic wine jug is finished with sophisticated microcrystalline tan and olive drip glazes.  Serve your guests their vin with élan  using this handsome and unusual piece. 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...

Continue reading



In Vino Veritas - part II

"A meal without wine is called breakfast"   -   Anonymous Another handsome French Art Nouveau ceramic wine jug—perfect for your summer entertaining. It was made in the 1920's and you can learn more about it 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 (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...

Continue reading



In Vino Veritas - part I

"This is one of the disadvantages of wine: it makes a man mistake words for thoughts"   -   Samuel Johnson Gothic "bosses" punctuate the perimeter of this pair of French Art Nouveau wine jugs made by Denbac, c. 1910's.  An earthy, mottled tan finish is topped with an organic, dripping olive glaze. Wine jugs such as these were de rigueur on any French lunch or dinner table. Revive the tradition at your summer table al fresco. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   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...

Continue reading



Tea for Two

A regiment of stylized repoussé tulips stand sentry around the border of this modestly-sized English Arts & Crafts copper tray.  It sits on four brass ball feet and is perfect for a teapot and two tea cups. It would also be well-suited as a dresser tray (holding a collection of perfume bottles and other elixirs) or as a cruet tray on a dining table.  Or consider three heavy, pillar candles aligned along the center of the tray—a stylish centerpiece on a coffee or entry hall table. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome piece.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store...

Continue reading



Crystal Green

Pierrefonds, the French Art Nouveau ceramics workshop, really made a name for itself with its fascinating, effusive and spontaneous crystalline glazes. And, though LEO Design has been collecting these works for years (and many pieces will be found in our on-line store), never have we come across a verdant, Spring green glaze like the piece shown here.  It is heavily crystallized and has an extremely dry "hand-feel." It's color is intriguing, sophisticated and uncommon—quite atypical of most Pierrefonds production.  I have often wondered if Fulper (the American ceramics studio), which began producing sophisticated "artistic" glazes around the year 1910 (under the leadership of Martin Stangl), found inspiration in the French Art Nouveau wares made by Pierrefonds (which began this type of...

Continue reading



Bronze-Clad Beauties

These tenacious tuskers will really put their heads into keeping your books upright. Nicely modeled elephants are clad in a skin of bronze and finished with an antique patina—resulting in a handsome pair of bookends from the 1920's. They'd be right at home on your bookshelf, mantelpiece or holding-up reference tomes on your desk. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.   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...

Continue reading



Beat Back the Cold!

Brrrr...it's gotten cold again! Don't let the Spring Chill get you down!  Flu-Nips, to the rescue.  This English Art Deco glass apothecary jar is topped with a Bakelite lid and promotes its contents in bold black and red graphics. 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"...

Continue reading



Happy Mother's Day

Thank you to the women who raised us, taught us, set-us-straight.  The women who encouraged us, fed us, gave us life. Your sacrifice, heartache and unconditional love can never be repaid. Happy Mother's Day!   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" 

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part X

We end our little parade of handsome cast pewter frames with this delicate beauty, hand-made in New York City. A thin trail of stylized florals encircles the 2" x 3" image—the size of a wallet photo or small school picture. Learn more about this frame 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 (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram:...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part IX

This large 8" x 10" photo frame is the perfect stage for your treasured vintage wedding or graduation photo. With styling reminiscent of the 1940's—a scalloped profile and four corner caps—it will really bring your heirloom photo to life. Made in New York City of cast pewter, it can be found in our on-line store. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part VIII

A heavily ribbed profile (like a tightly-coiled industrial spring) surrounds this 8" x 10" photo frame. While substantial, the metalwork is well-proportioned, given the large format of the frame. And it will sit either horizontally or vertically. It is but one of many cast pewter photo frames now available in the LEO Design on-line ship. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this frame. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part VII

A sculpted bas relief "garland" of flowers encircles this 2" x 3" cast pewter photo frame, hand-made in New York City. Perfect for a daughter's (or granddaughter's) school photo, you can learn more about it by clicking on the photo above. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow us on Instagram: "leodesignhandsomegifts" Follow us on Facebook:...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part VI

Though small, this handsome cast pewter frame packs a big punch!  Made in New York City, the diminutive frame (only 1.75" x 2.25") is surrounded with a heavy spring-like ribbing. Click on the photo above to learn more about this frame—and to see other options in different sizes and styles. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part V

Rich with Forties Style, this little (2" x 3") photo frame is perfect for showcasing your vintage photograph. A repeating scalloped profile is punctuated with corner fleurs-de-lys. Made of cast pewter in New York City.  See it (and many ofter styles and sizes) by clicking on the photo above. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part IV

Two 5" x 7" cast pewter photo frames—comprised of a crisp "rope" design—are hinged together, presenting a perfect setting for a pair of precious portraits. This is but one of many cast pewter frames (both singles and doubles) now available in our on-line store. Please click on the photo above to learn more about the frame. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part III

The heavy ribbing on this frame—like a tightly-coiled industrial spring—boldly punctuates this 5" x 7" cast pewter frame, made in New York City. It will bring a sense of gravitas to any photo which has the fortitude to push back. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part II

A crisp basketweave bas relief surrounds this little (3" x 4") photo frame, hand-made in New York City. Classic and just a little masculine, it's part of a larger collection of such frames, now to be found in the LEO Design on-line store. Please click upon the photo above to learn more about this frame. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom...

Continue reading



A Parade of Frames - part I

We have a large and nice assortment of contemporary cast pewter photo frames, hand-made in New York City.  See them in our on-line shop. This version, an 8" x 10" frame, is surrounded with a course of pearls. While it helps your favorite portrait "pop," it won't distract from the important focus of the photo itself. Learn more about it by clicking on the photo above. Another hand-cast pewter photo frame 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...

Continue reading



Welcome, May!

Welcome, May, and your birthstone, the Emerald.  Called "The Jewel of Kings," emeralds have a long and illustrious history. Egyptians mined them from 1500 BC and legend has it that Cleopatra decorated her body and her palace with the gemstone. They have been mined in Austria and India since the 1300's and, in 1535, were discovered by Spanish explorers in Columbia (which remains the largest source of emeralds to this day). Emeralds have been credited with increasing fertility, providing immortality, conferring riches, power and eloquence, strengthening memory, counter-acting poisoning or infection, and empowering its wearer to predict the future. Emeralds are a variant of the gemstone Beryl and their green color is due to the chromium within the stone's structure....

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - part VII

Here's a Mother's Day gift that will not soon be forgotten. Made in the year (and dated) 1912, this English Arts & Crafts globular vase is decorated with hand-painted "palmettes"—giving it a handsome Middle Eastern mien. It was made by Pilkington Royal Lancastrian and would take pride-of-place in nearly any Traditional, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco or Mid-Century Modern interior. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. 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...

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - part VI

Spread a little sunshine your mother's way with this English Art Deco ceramic platter by Crown Ducal, c. 1930's. Hand-painted orange trees encircle the rim and offer a stylish, sunny way for mom to feed her brood. Click upon the photo above to learn more about this piece.  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 arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248 Follow...

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - part V

This hand-painted beauty has "Mom" written all over it.  Made in Gouda, Netherlands around 1910, it is decorated with handsome Art Nouveau graphics and tulip blossoms. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. 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 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...

Continue reading



Countdown to Mother's Day - part IV

Your Mom will feel like "Queen for the Day" when she's served her breakfast on this English Arts & Crafts tray. Four transfer-printed tiles—each effusive with rose blossoms—form a beautiful and practical surface for holding serving pieces, hot, cold or otherwise. The whole is framed in walnut and fitted with two brass handles. Made around 1890. Please click on the photo above to learn more about this piece. 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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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" 

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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:...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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 -...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading



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...

Continue reading