Meet the King of Kitsch, Vladimir Tretchikoff

Yesterday, while rummaging around in a mid-century modern vintage store, Refind, I found a fabulous painting of a magnolia branch by an artist I had never heard of before, Vladimir Tretchikoff, the King of Kitsch.  It’s actually a print with an added pencil signature by the artist.  The painting is called ‘Pink Magnolias.’

magnolia croppedThose who know me know that I have a thing for kitschy Tiki, Hawaiian and Asian objects of art. I love vintage Hawaiian postcard, I throw tiki parties, love the cocktails and will wear a Hawaiian shirt without any hesitation.

50s kitschHowever, I have never delved into the world of kitsch paintings. Perhaps in my mind the prohibitive image of black velvet paintings is too strong.  This all changed when I went to an open house in Los Angeles a few months ago. I was so inspired and taken aback by the collection of vintage Hawaiian paintings, hanging in the master bedroom, that looked so elegant and stylish, and totally complimented the aesthetics of the room.

Silverlake vintage paintingsI realize it took a certain amount of panache to combine so-called real art with the flagrantly low culture pieces.  But this was done, not for Kitschy irony but for the simple beauty afforded by the combination of colours and imagery. Read my blog post here.

My husband said to me yesterday just before we bought the painting “You have to be pretty confident in your design style to hang this kind of stuff.” Well we decided we were, so we bought the signed print, replete with its original frame.

close up of the magnoliasignaturecloseup magnolia 1I am so pleased we did because it is amazing! I haven’t decided where to hang this gorgeous piece so, in the meantime, I decided to do a bit of research on Vladimir Tretchikoff.

It turns out I may be the only one in the world who hasn’t heard of him. Tretchikoff was a self-taught artist who painted realistic figures, portraits, still life and animals, with subjects often inspired by his early life in China, Singapore and Indonesia, and later life in South Africa. “His work was immensely popular with the general public, but is often seen by art critics as the epitome of kitsch (indeed, he was nicknamed the “King of Kitsch”). He worked in oil, watercolour, ink, charcoal and pencil but is best known for his reproduction prints, which sold worldwide in huge numbers. The reproductions were so popular that it was rumoured that Tretchikoff was the world’s richest artist after Picasso.” (Wikipedia)

girlsanother girl with magnoliasThe Magnolia and other tropical flowers, as well as, women from the Orient and Africa seem to be common themes in his paintings. “Arguably the prints had a populist appeal for being representational not abstract, yet they were also intriguingly exotic and enigmatic with their unfinished backgrounds, unconventional use of colour and Far Eastern or African subjects.” (Flashin’ on the 70s)

more flowers

vladimir-tretchikoff-chinese-girl-1384999207_org

The Tretchikoff painting above, called ‘Chinese Girl’ (popularly known as “The Green Lady”), is one of the best selling art prints of the twentieth century. Recently, the original sold for nearly $1.5 million in London. The model for the painting was Monika Sing-lee who was around twenty at the time and was spotted by Tretchikoff working in her uncle’s laundrette in Cape Town.

monika


This short Youtube video explains the interest in the painting.

young folk

The Chinese Girl painting has appeared in numerous famous depictions of popular culture. For example the painting can be seen hanging in the background of an animated living room in the music video for the song Young Folks by Peter Bjorn & John.

frenzy-barry-foster

It can be seen adorning the living room of Bob Rusk, the killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Frenzy in 1972.

alfie-1966

The painting is seen in the apartment of Ruby, Shelley Winters’ character, in Alfie (1966).

david bowie

It is featured in his living room in the 2013 music video for The Stars (Are Out Tonight) by David Bowie.

As I always knew, exploration of junk stores leads to discovery and education. So next time you see a kitschy oil painting remember that these iconic pieces have their own stories and are touchstones of their period in time. Tretchikoff was interesting and his stuff is appealing – even with the layer of nostalgia and kitsch. Remember It’s OK and even pretty darn cool to combine disparate pieces – high and low art – Let’s not forget Mr. Warhol! It shows confidence and leadership – instead of waiting to see what might be cool – you go with your instincts and have confidence in your taste. 

Finally, don’t forget to drop in to some open houses because you can learn from touring real estate and seeing other peoples Mojo.

I decided to hang my Vladimir Tretchikoff, Pink Magnolias painting in my entry foyer next to my blue West German vase.

final hanging spot

Some of the images above were found on google images. If these photos are yours and you have concerns about their usage on this blog, please contact me and I will remove them. Thanks!

Vancouver Evening Style

bette

Recently, I was at a friend’s birthday party at La Pentola Della Quercia in the OPUS Hotel Yaletown, when I looked up and saw something SPARKLE.

bride shoes

At the bar was a beautiful bride and her groom having a nightcap in full wedding attire. The bride’s retro style was very evocative, and evidently she had designed the beaded, low-back gown, accentuated with jewelry and sparkly shoes.

Seeing this bride, just dripping with glamour, I got a distinctly nostalgic feeling. The look is such a welcome departure from the conventional, puffy or ‘puffless’, strapless wedding dresses that seems to dominate the wedding scene.

bride in bar

This Gatsbyesque style dress by contrast is not only glamourous, it’s practical.   A bride, according to traditional wedding designer Reem Acra, “…wants the glamour, but she wants the flowy dress — so she can move — the sexiness and the embellishment,” she said. “All these elements, in my mind, are saying ’20s.”

Jenny Packham, an evening wear and bridal gown designer in London, comments, “It was a wonderfully liberating time for women, to wear modern no-fuss clothing.” There’s a “strong contemporary relevance,” she added.

You don’t want to overdo it though and risk looking like a period piece.  Instead, like this bride, update the look by focusing on the Art Deco embellishments and dress cut. The long reverse pendant necklace is playful, and accentuates the bare plunging backline of the dress.

adjamamda

Back to the party……cousins with style.

 

Style: From Runway to Room

My birthday was August 14 and I spent the day with my daughter who is visiting from Los Angeles. We took a walk down Main Street, in Vancouver, which has become a funky, hip neighbourhood with many boutiques, antique and vintage goods, cafes, and recently, home decorating shops.

me at vancouver special

Here I am sitting on a sofa in Vancouver Special, at 3612 Main Street (read more below). My daughter took this picture and it made me realize the vintage dress I was wearing was perfectly matched to the decor in the shop. This brings me to two points I want to share with you. Firstly, my dress is awesome and it goes to show you what you can pick up for next to nothing at a vintage store. And secondly, fashion now, more than ever, is one of main predictors of upcoming home decorating trends.

fashion to room

Photo from Freshome.

The styles, patterns and colours that graced the runways of Milan, New York and Paris are soon strutting down the pages of glossy fashion magazines and then end up in our closets. Yet people’s home decor would rarely reflect the fashions that they wore. (from Freshome)

blue fashionPhoto from Sourceable.

However, this is changing. What is happening in Fashion will often predict and inspire the latest looks in interiors. In recent years, the world of interiors has seen about a 2 year lag from runway to living room. Given the speed of information transfer now that time will only shorten. Fashion is not only about clothes and shoes anymore. Trends in the fashion industry have a direct impact on interior design all around the world.

So what exactly was I wearing on my birthday?

details of birthday outfit1. I am a big fan of vintage tiki and Hawaiian fashions. I found this dress recently at Community Thrift and Vintage, 311 Carrall Street. Cost $29.00. The dress is made of  colourful heavy cotton in immaculate condition. 2.  Shoes bought on sale for $50 from Madewell. 3. Silver charm bracelet handmade by Joan Scarabelli Jewellery Design. Each charm is a shoe based on the designs of Peter Fox Shoes and Manolo Blahnik Shoes.

Vancouver Special is a retail store offering a carefully curated selection of contemporary furniture, sofas, design objects, household accessories, and art and architecture books.’

Vancouver Special is a term used to refer to houses built in a particular architectural style in the period from roughly 1965 to 1985 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and its suburbs. The Vancouver Special house style has had a bad reputation because of its proliferation, its cheap materials, bland forms, kitschy decorations, ease of permitting and the fact that it was designed for two family occupancy. The Vancouver Special will be a topic of discussion in a later blog post.

Local Is The New Black

Bruce Nassbaum, in his book Creative Intelligence, talks about the new ‘maker movement’ that is happening. He talks about how Generation Y has seen the negative effects of globalization and ‘throwing your lot in with a big corporation that has no loyalty to you’. Craft, is popular again, as we can see from on-line commerce sites like Etsy. Individuals can now put out their own music, make their own movies, and sell their home-made goods in a variety of ways. This is making.

etsy

We all have a need to create things, and we want real, tangible, authentic goods.  HGTV television has shown us we can make through DIY projects. We recognize that organic or locally produced foods are better, and we love when our table is made from found materials. We are moving towards a climate of what I call, ‘local is the new black.’ In other words, GoLocal is the new Global. By buying recycled or used items (and locally made items with no transportation costs) we can realize some of the savings that were only to be had by exploiting underpaid foreign workers in unregulated environments.

final granville islandGranville Island Markets, Vancouver.

My husband’s theory on two key contributors to the decline of Rome, (and comparable to our own experience) and relevant to mention, are:

  1. Mercenaries doing the work of Romans so the ‘locals’ forgot how to make, and therefore, became lazy, relying completely on others expertise.
  2. Decline in technical innovation – how do you innovate when you stop designing and making?

So who is making a difference?

gild divanA lovely new shop, called Gild & Co, has opened my neighbourhood. The store is where ‘Modern meets Vintage’. As a collector of vintage goodies I have a real soft spot for what proprietor Bonnie is trying to do.

Bonnie explains her philosophy:

“Each piece at Gild & Co. carries a unique story; where it came from, how we found it, and why we brought it into the store. Our collection of inspired modern furnishings and embellishments is rounded out with revamped vintage gems, fusing classic forms with modern inspiration.”

gild template

She breathes new life into furniture that was manufactured at a time when high quality was the norm.  With our tendency to over-consume, and when so many of the products of western culture ends up in landfills, it is exciting to know that buying vintage reduces the need to manufacture new furniture and harvest new materials. It is the ultimate in recycling because there is something very nostalgic, evocative and connective in rediscovering the classic artifacts of our shared past.

3 gild 2templateMy friend Bette bought these beautiful Mid-Century Modern Chairs from Gild & Co to go with her new L-shaped sofa in a relatively small room. The chairs are the perfect scale, and are so comfortable and well made. It goes without saying, that it’s likely no one else will have these chairs! They are originals!

trayBeyond the great collection of furniture and embellishments, Bonnie is doing something for the vitality of our neighbourhood. It is not an easy neighbourhood in which to run a business. I have seen many businesses come and go, but as a designer and collector of modern furniture and cool stuff, I really want Gild & Co to be successful.

So please go out and support the local businesses that keep our cities vibrant!

Home Tours: Oak View Drive, Encino California

A serendipitous trip to LA allowed us to take part in the Dwell Magazine home tours of the LA Canyons and Valley. This Valley house was built and designed by Ray Kappe in 1964. Mr. Kappe is one of Los Angeles most celebrated Architects, and was the founder the highly regarded architecture school, SCI-ARC, in Los Angeles. Designer Sarah Rosenhaus’ recent restoration of this LA modernist classic shows a refined sensitivity to the spirit of Kappe’s original design. The house is now furnished with a mix of custom and vintage mid-century furnishings.  Here it is……..   IMG_7916IMG_7921IMG_7925IMG_7932IMG_7934IMG_7965

 

Encino house detailsIMG_8013IMG_8028IMG_8018IMG_8019Encino housedetails 2IMG_7967

Getting Inspired

Nothing inspires me more than travelling. For some reason, I open my eyes wider when I am in a new place. As an example, during these past few days in Los Angeles I toured some remarkable Canyon and Valley homes, took a blogshop course, and got to see some extremely cool restaurants and shops.

My point: It is amazing what you can learn and absorb by just looking around a new place with fresh eyes. Particular pieces will resonate with you and you just have to stop and ask yourself why it moves you. It definitely gives insight into your own feelings about design and style. Here are a few things that inspired me this past week.

The Dwell On Design Modern design event at the LA convention Centre

trubridge lightingcopy[pinit]
David Trubridge lighting. David Trubridgeconsiders himself a “Cultural Designer,” one whose designs encourage sustainable living while also nourishing people spiritually and culturally. Each design is manufactured on site in New Zealand using sustainable practices throughout the process, from the harvesting of sustainably harvested timber to the use of non-toxic oil-based finishes to shipping each finished piece as a compact kit set for low-energy (and low-cost) shipping. (A beneficial side effect of this practice: Needing to assemble each piece at home makes the owner part of the cultural design process and serves to enhance the bond between the two.)

Pygmy Hippo Gift Store

emee

Meet Emee. Emee has a lovely shop in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles. The shop is tiny, not more than 60 sf but is full of all kinds of interesting finds. From vintage books and cards, to jewlery and ‘zines’. Meeting Emee is worth the visit alone. Have a look below at some Emee’s stuff: hairpins in the shape of records, vintage squirrels and state plates. Emee is doing what she loves. This is inspiring!

pygmyhippo goodssqirrels

Street Life

These trailers were parked across the street from where I was staying. Not only did they look out of place, but the fact that there were two of them, made me wonder what their story was. Why?vintage trailers Who? What? The stories your mind can create with the right stimulus….

Vintage Love: Modern Table Lamps

Just bought some vintage new Mid Century Modern Bubble Beehive tripod lamps made of white molded plastic and teak. I wanted to see if I could find out more about them and discovered some variations that are equally beautiful. Sometimes they are referred to as Tiki Bubble Lamps, and seem to come in a variety of colours.

In 1947, George Nelson became inspired by a self webbing material used to moth-ball ships in New York and he convinced himself it would be perfect for lighting. He made a metal frame, tracked down the source of the webbing material and by the next day he created a big glowing sphere and the Bubble Lamp was born. You can see two examples of the George Nelson Bubble Lamp below in white.

 

Vintage Love: Cheongsam Style

The traditional Chinese Cheongsam was a loose fitting dress designed to de-emphasize and conceal the figure of the wearer.

The modern version of the cheongsam was first developed in Shanghai around 1900, when the Qing Dynasty came to an end and people were looking for a more westernized style of dress. This modernized version of the Cheongsam was more form fitting and designed to accentuate the female figure, in sharp contrast with the traditional styles.

Vintage Photos from Cultural China Tours website.

I bought this Cheongsam style dress from Woo Vintage in Vancouver.  It was the colour that drew me to it, and the fact that it wasn’t too shiny or cheap looking.  On the contrary, the colour was a turquoise blue and the fabric has a subtle pattern of gold and silver. I have always loved these Asian style dresses and was thrilled to find one that met my strict criteria.  I have worn this dress open as a jacket many times.  I wear it ‘for good’ because I feel really special when I wear it.  I had the pleasure of attending an Asian themed party recently and was very happy to have an excuse to pull out my Cheongsam.

Photos by Paisley Yasmine Creative

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and After: My Garden

We have lived in our English Cottage style house for 15 years. Redoing our front garden was a longstanding dream that has only recently been realized. The garden design was a collaboration between Smith Architecture and DB Gardens. The stonework was done by Organic Matters Landscaping. The planting is still new but the transformation is dramatic and extremely gratifying.  We are so happy with the way it turned out.

Our recent purchase of the vintage metal table and chairs definitely influenced the direction of our garden design.

The masterful stroke of the design was that it harmonized disparate existing planting, fence and trees in a way that made them all work together as a cohesive, attractive and organic whole. In other words it feels like it was always meant to look the way it does now.

Before photos taken by Veit Hillebrand, of Organic Matters Landscaping. Lower right after picture is by Bruce Edward Statham, of Yellowcamera Photography.
Photo by Paisley Smith of  Paisley Yasmine Creative

For special events, nothing makes your garden sparkle more than tealights.  Go crazy!