Editorial Correspondent Renée Bennet talks about natural materials at the New York International Gift Show.
There was no apparent aesthetics revolution in new offerings at the winter New York International Gift Show. But between the lines, a quiet evolution was in the works. The bar was raised on quality, palettes showed their softer side, unusual materials inspired creativity, and function and form fused with a sophisticated edge.
Earth’s bounty—animal, vegetable and mineral varieties—served as a prolific and powerful backdrop in this cornucopia of global treasures. Given the environmental realities of today’s world, it’s a sure thing that getting back to our roots—quite literally—will have tremendous impact on the shape, the look and the feel of products we use and live with through the end of this decade.
To begin with, nature’s textures were intensified. Sometimes rough and ready, sometimes smooth as stone, these contradictions played out like the yin and yang of our universe (that opposites attract will remain an important concept in materials and media through 2008). In New York, these contrasts inspired textures taken straight from nature as well as products that, while also crafted of earth elements, represented another natural material.
For example, real bark took the shape of vases and planters at Oly while Match featured wood-grained chargers made of pewter. Tucan Trading’s solid mahogany chest featured hand-carved drawers, each with a different look. In a contrasting approach, Michael Aram’s copper table and chairs had twig shaped legs and his aluminum lamp base represented stacked and polished rocks.
Shape had as much to say as texture. This was especially true when it came to leaves, market’s statement du jour in both form and surface design. Leaves were embraced in Kiln Enamel’s over-sized stained glass over copper lotus leaf bowl. Digitally enhanced botanicals by photographer Neil Seth Levine for One Red Circle made a dramatic wall statement. So did larger-than-life framed individual leaves at Longstreet Collection. Meanwhile, underwater flora surfaced in John Derian’s “Seaweed Collection” of decoupage glass plates.
The market continued to mine the earth’s mineral rights, digging deep for inspiration. Whether interpreted as a metal or a hue, copper and gold strengthened for in furniture, tabletops and decorative accessories, pushing the warm metals trend ahead. One of the best new uses of warm metal came from always-innovative Jonathan Adler. In his Chroma Collection of vases and bowls, bands of color revealed a chic underglaze of a real gold finish. Also of note in New York:
• Endangered species themes took a backseat to exquisitely rendered bugs, butterflies, frogs, fish, fowl
• Real leather and suede, creatively colored, helped move the luxe trend forward smartly
• Crocheted details looked right in toss pillows
Real silk cocoons—cut, cleaned and intricately hand-wired—became an amazing lampshade at Kenshoma. Meanwhile Mendong, an Indonesian grass, was loomed with nylon thread and woven into a textile to create Via Motif’s coasters, placemats, table runners and bath accessories.