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Category: Artists & Artisans

22 May

Portrait of an Artist: Causer + Lai

 A few years ago, I read an incredible four-part series on the artistry of Benjamin Lai and it was easily one of the best interviews I’d ever read with a decorative painter. Fast forward a few years and I meet the hugely creative designer Alison Causer by chance on Twitter and find out that she and Mr. Lai are partners in Causer + Lai! Kismet. They are based out of Brooklyn, NY and working as a team of Designer and Master Painter, they create unique and exclusive, decorative finishes for a variety of surfaces within private residences and commercial interiors. I hope you enjoy this feature on their beautiful collaboration and artistic work.

Benjamin Lai finished the highly acclaimed Van Der Kelen in 1995 and was immediately immersed into the high end residential sector after returning to his hometown NYC. He spent the better part of his career continuing to fine tune his skills, learning about the other aspects of decorative painting, job management and also adjusting and creating new techniques. Alison had gone from wanting to be a fine art painter to majoring in Interior Design at The Columbus College of Art and Design. Alison continues, “Soon after graduating I had a successful career in Ohio and even garnered several awards for my interiors work, but working for a large firm was wearing thin and moving to NYC was enticing.” She then worked with a few designers in NYC as well as doing independent work.

Alison shares their fated meeting, “Ben and I crossed paths via NYC Craigslist! He placed an ad to meet creative people, chat and hopefully collaborate on an experimental level.” Of all the intriguing personalities that he met, one person stood out: Alison. After many cups of coffee, Alison and Benjamin knew that there was a unique connection between them. Meaningful design and philanthropic resolutions were the initial subjects that inspired the two, but also the realization that the unique skills and ideas of both could translate into a great combination.

Alison and Benjamin spent more than a year developing samples, concepts and ideas. During this time they were able to collaborate on several jobs together by bringing each other onto their own jobs. This helped them to really establish the logistics for their working relationship and fortify their beliefs in each other. Now Alison is the Creative Director for Causer + Lai and Benjamin, the Technical Manager.

 

Where do you see decorative painting headed?

Decorative Painting is a very misunderstood field in America. In Europe, decorative painting is a skilled trade and there are very serious schools that teach it. I think the widespread understanding of it is basically whatever sells in Home Depot. It’s amazing how even a lot of interior designers and architects don’t really understand what it is. Most people think that it’s this weekend craftsy thing that can be done by most do-it-yourselfers because of all the ready-made stuff. I think that there will better exposure and understanding in years to come. The trend will incorporate much more complex modern color themes and active layering techniques.

Some of the intricate work that goes into the decorative painting process.

 

What is your personal artisan philosophy?

Surface Design Collectivism! We love collaboration. Every job is an extension of not just us but the client as well. Art is a form of expression and our roles are pretty well defined when clients hire us, but it is this need to express that a client feels when desiring to redo their home. Our projects and spaces are shaped by this type of social environment. Working together, respecting and understanding each others ideas is our philosophy.

What are your favorite go-to materials?

All of our techniques vary a lot but you would be amazed at what we could create with metallics, some beer and shellac!

A few of the gorgeous finishes created by Causer + Lai.

What is the best professional advice you have received?

We believe strongly in Clean. Clean. Clean.  I first got this advice while studying with Monsieur Van Der Kelen in 1994. Monsieur’s smock was always pristine and white. All the student’s smocks, on the other hand, were filthy from paint. One day he told me that my smock was a reflection of who I am as a professional.

The majority of our work is in private homes. We like to treat their homes with respect like our own homes. We arrive in clean clothes, work neatly, clean up and organize at the end of every work day. Our tidiness is a reflection of who we are as professionals.

What is your ideal job for a month?

We would love to do a boutique restaurant or hotel in a Biedermeier style. Or really any style… We would also really enjoy working on a job that is giving back to the community such as a whole shelter, with murals and texture work.

Professionally, who are some of your inspirations?

Klimt, Picasso, Clyfford Still, Graffiti as a movement, Katsushika Hokusai or anything during Edo Period, Sol LeWitt, Mark Rothko, Imi Knoebel, Pollock, Chuck Close.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at an innovative, forward-thinking studio that still respects the disciplines of artistry.  You can see more of the work of Causer + Lai on their website as well as their Tumblr, Facebook fan page, Twitter account and Pinterest boards.  I thank both Alison and Benjamin immensely for their time and for sharing their projects as well.  Hope you have an inspired day!

01 Apr

Spring Inspiration!

Spring is here! I actually feel like humming the holiday song “It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year….” as soon as I wake up. Trees are growing leaves again, flowers are blooming, bees are visiting our garden, birds are singing and the sky is a sunny blue. (I understand it may not be this way everywhere, but it is the current experience in Florida. I don’t have the pleasure of seeing snow during the Winter and so I guess it all evens out, no?)  I thought I would share a few images with Spring in mind…

We kick off with a colorful and fanciful canvas by New Orleans artist Gretchen Weller Howard.  This particular image was feature in the book Big, Easy Style by Bryan Batt. Her earliest works included graphic design and decorative painting.

This striking mural in polystyrene is in an attic apartment and mimics the exterior foliage.  Just so amazing and I love it in black & white. Do you? It was was featured in Livingetc.

Wall & Deco is one of my favorite wallcovering lines. They have such inspiring and creative works! This one is called Poppy.

The shadow mural of the bird on the branches is just so sweet! I think this dresser is adorable — and perfect for a spring-inspired guest room!  It was finished by the studio of Gypsy Barn. They didn’t do a reverse technique while masking the design. Instead, they chipped the finish off to showcase the mahogany underneath. Very cool.

Aren’t these gorgeous? LOVE them! They gigantic graphic flower mural is the work of Metro Finishes in Orlando’s Suite B Lounge. Below is a closer look.

I spied the picture below a few years ago in House & Garden magazine and have always enjoyed it…

I love how elegant and simple this sgraffito finish is — especially when paired with its inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our welcome to Spring with birds, trees and flowers!  I look forward to sharing more ideas, inspiration, artists and information with you as well.  Have a beautiful day!

21 Dec

Foyer Ceiling at Ca’ d’Zan

I have quite a few decorative painting pics to show you from some of my mini-vacations! This one is from a quick jaunt to Sarasota, FL, where a visit to the Ringling Museum was a must on the list.  We’ve previously seen their gardens and a bit of the Ringling family home, Ca’ d’Zan (Part 1 and Part 2).  This is actually a very special ceiling in the Ca’ d’Zan foyer.

To give you an idea of its space in the home, here is an image from the living room (an interior court). The foyer itself has glazed walls and Moroccan-inspired arched windows.

Here are a few close-ups.  According to archive records, the “ceiling beams enclose areas of canvas painted with conventionalized foliated motifs in red and gray. That decoration…[was] created by Robert Webb“. Mr. Webb was an artist who studied under John Singer Sargent and he mastered gold leafing and mural work while assisting him.  After a few years and solo projects on his own, he moved his family to Florida. It is said that while Mr. Webb was working on the grape leaf design on the foyer ceiling, his client John Ringling said, “Webb, hurry up! I’m running out of time and money!” to which Mr. Webb immediately put down his brush and said “I’m finished!”. The panel to this day remains uncompleted.  Here’s a few close-ups.

Grape tree close-up (above) and within the panel (below)

Do click here to see a visual tour — walk straight ahead and you’ll run right into the foyer. It is interesting to note that the artist, Robert Webb, had a daughter named Thelma who wrote his biography and filled it with his life story, experiences and anecdotes about his peers and projects. She called it Tramp Artist. I’ll be needing to purchase that.

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18 Dec

Holiday Sponsor Love: Faux Design Studio!

We love, love, love our Sponsors and I just want to extend a HUGE thank you to them for helping make Fauxology possible!  I’m always super happy to learn of the of the new things they have going on and share them with you — and Sheri Zeman of Chicago’s Faux Design Studio has PLENTY!  Sheri is one of my fave teachers and I’ve learned some of my favorite — and most popular — finishes from her directly.  She has an incredible knack at producing contemporary finishes that are so in tune with design today.

NEW CLASSES & STENCILS

Looking ahead to 2013, Sheri will continue to teach finishes that look very complex and multi-layered but actually use minimal product and are done in 2-3 layers.  Gotta love that!  Her studio’s goal is that you produce incredible finishes for your clients, whether residential or commercial, all while ensuring your profitability and time.

The above are some of the samples from the Signature Series workshop and below is a peek at her stencil line and studio.  She’ll be adding new designs to the Loft stencil collection soon.  You can check out their full class schedule on their site.

NEW PRODUCT OFFERINGS

Do note that the studio also sells the formula along with a sample piece and instruction sheet for some of their most popular Signature Series finishes for the low price of $85.

Sheri will also be introducing a fabulous new cabinet finishing product as well as two new glass colors.  Glass is an ideal embellishment for stencils and custom decorative finishes. Below is a sneak peek of new cabinet finishing samples.  Her Chicago studio will also have a few “free” product update classes in the new year for artists to learn more first-hand.


We’ll be sharing more very soon from Faux Design Studio!  In the meantime, do keep up with them on their Facebook fan page where they share their news, fab samples, amazing projects and even a free recipe or two!  Many thanks to Sheri and Faux Design Studio for their support!

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13 Aug

Portrait of an Artist: Annabel Armstrong

There are certain artists you correspond with that you immediately feel a connection to and one of those, for me, is Annabel Armstrong of Surface.  I enjoy the way she perceives the world and once I saw her artistry, I also knew I had to share it on Fauxology.  She has a beautiful touch with her projects – they are both soft and strong at the same time.  She has strengths in decorative painting for many surfaces, including glass. We travel to Boise, Idaho to meet Annabel and chat about her work.

Artist Annabel Armstrong

Sometimes, our careers choose us. “I didn’t come to the decorative painting profession until my early thirties, after spending more than a decade floating around between various universities and continents,” Annabel explains. “At that point, I made use of a great opportunity to train under a few well-known decorative painters in the San Francisco area for a few years before moving to Boise, Idaho, to start my own studio.”  Annabel Armstrong founded her decorative painting studio, Surface, in 1997.  Even so, collaboration brings her quite a bit of joy. “Even after all these years of running my studio and working for myself,  I find that I always appreciate the chance to work for other decorative painters. There is always something you can learn from another artist, and the collaboration benefits everybody. Hence, I’m looking forward to a mural project in India later this year where I will be working alongside several artists, including Kaveri and TJ Singh of Los Angeles.”

(above) A painted motif with acanthus and oak leaves was designed to emphasize the architectural shape of the groined vault. Annabel shares (below) that all of a room’s finishes, colors, and textures are taken into consideration when creating a decorative painting concept.

Annabel, what are your favorite design and/or finish styles?

For a long time, my passion has been working with paint and gold or silver leaf on the back side of glass, a technique popularly known as verre églomisé. Ever since I naively tried to pick up a fragile leaf of gold over 15 years ago—and watched it crumble and disintegrate into nothing in my fingers—I have been in love with this delicate medium. Getting a crazy-thin leaf of gold to adhere to the slick surface of glass is a magical process that surprises me every time.

Verre églomisé is so-named because an 18th-century Parisian art dealer named Jean-Baptiste Glomy was known for selling prints with gilded and painted decorative borders on the back sides of the glass under which the prints were mounted. The term is a bit of a misnomer because it implies that the process was invented by Glomy, when in fact the technique is much older than the monsieur and not even French.

(above) Square columns in a restaurant were clad with glass for a verre églomisé project. Antiqued silver leaf and mica powders were used to incorporate the restaurant’s logo.  This project was in collaboration with Cathy Conner of Studio C in Seattle.

Verre églomisé, sometimes just called reverse painting and gilding on glass, has precedents in Roman glass, but it wasn’t until the medieval ages that Europe began to see a lot of reverse painted and gilded glass. Italian artisans seem to have been the first to work with this art form (at least in Europe—reverse painting and gilding also has traditions in Turkey, Syria, Persia and India).  Nuremberg and Augsburg in Germany also became real centers for reverse painting and gilding. A lot of glass-work came out of the Murnau area, near where my mother was born and raised in the Bavarian Alps, so I like to think that it’s in my blood. There’s a wonderful little museum called Schlossmuseum Murnau, which has a substantial collection of works on the reverse of glass.

(above) 23-karat and 12-karat gold leaf, aluminum leaf, collage, oil and acrylic paints, polyester plate lithography on the reverse of nine glass panels. To see them individually, please click here.

What are your favorite websites, blogs, and/or message forums on Internet?

The Textile Blog is a great resource and inspiration for decorative painters. The blog provides insight into not only textile design but all forms of design, decoration, and craft. This on-line resource has a massive yet consummately organized library of images with everything from examples of 16th century lace to 1890s wallpaper design. The video library is equally broad-based: if you look under Tile and Mosaic Design, you can view a video about Portuguese azulejos one moment and in the next you’ll be learning about Escher’s mathematical approach to design. “Like” the Textile Blog on Facebook, and you’ll never run out of interesting links.

What I appreciate about the Textile Blog is its broad-based approach to design, something that’s needed by today’s decorative painters. Too many of us are caught up in capturing a painted effect or in perfectly imitating something such as leather, without asking ourselves why we are painting that in the first place. Decorative painting has to interact with a space, and importantly, it also has a profound effect on anyone interacting with that space. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. Decorative painters should be actively studying design and thinking about it in broad terms, not just about our little niche. Our work needs to be an integral part of the design process.

(above, below) Grottesca ceiling project completed on canvas with Nicola Vigini of Vigini Paint & Design. He let me do quite a bit of the design, but more importantly, I had the opportunity to work with a brighter palette than the one I gravitate towards on my own projects.

What are the most inspiring spaces you’ve seen that had decorative painting?

This spring in Germany I visited the Würzburg Residenz palace, famous for the Tiepolo frescoes but also for its Spiegelkabinett. A Spiegelkabinett is essentially a room of mirrors, usually consisting of panels with inset mirrors and carved stucco or wood ornamentation, and can be found in numerous German baroque and rococo palaces. The Würzburg Spiegelkabinett’s floor-to-ceiling mirrors on all four walls incorporate reverse painting and gilding in a Chinoiserie style. The room was built and decorated in the 1740s but was destroyed—along with most of the palace—during an air raid in 1945. Based on a late 19th century watercolor of the room, numerous photographs of the original interior, and just one surviving mirror fragment, the Spiegelkabinett was meticulously restored in the 1980s. The restoration of the gilded stucco ornamentation alone required 2.5 kilos (more than 5 pounds!) of gold leaf!

(above) Handpainted papers created by Annabel Armstrong and (below) is a detail of a powder room mural with the client’s favorite bird, the red-breasted nuthatch, in a tree, followed by a gorgeous crackled plaster finish in ochre.

If you could write a book about any subject, what would it be?

It would be about bacteria, if only for the chance to create the illustrations. Bacteria are such weird little things that come in wacky shapes. And bacteria fascinate me because they represent a vastness that—although literally right under our noses, covering both the insides and outsides of our bodies—goes by mostly unnoticed.

I’ve read that there are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in a milliliter of fresh water; in all, there are approximately five nonillion (what does that even mean? is nonillion a real word? you can’t even wrap your head around this stuff) bacteria on Earth. I love the fact that they form much of the world’s biomass and can be found just about anywhere, including deep underneath the Earth’s crust.  They’ve evolved along with our digestive and immune systems for millions of years, and shaped their environment to create a better bacteria nirvana. That means: not only have bacteria evolved in order to adapt, but we have actually evolved to provide a better home for them. It makes you wonder who’s in charge here.

The mural in the image above was inspired by the frescoes in the Villa Livia in ancient Rome.  It’s the first work I saw of Annabel’s and it still thrills me.  I hope you have enjoyed today’s profile — please be sure to visit her website, Annabel Armstrong Surface, to see more of her artistry.  I thank Annabel so much for her time and for sharing her projects.  I hope they were a beautiful way to start your week!

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20 Jul

Kitchen Week: Ashlie Bickford and Kindra Benge

Culled from submitted entries, Kitchen Week focuses on five artists with extraordinary projects.  For the first time ever, each artist and five readers are receiving prizes for their beautiful artworks. Look to the end for today’s sponsor and your chance to win! Our Kitchen Week concludes with yet another old friend of Fauxology, Texas-based Ashlie Bickford and Kindra Benge of Texas’ A Fabulous Finish.  They were previous featured during our Column Week series. Today, they showcase a beautiful traditional kitchen with cabinet refinishing, wonderful metallic faux finishes and stenciling.

This was a wonderful project in Houston, Texas. We did beautiful finishes in the entire home, but the kitchen was one of our favorites.  The walls were lightly textured and painted with a very soft cream tone and then glazed with color and cream.  The breakfast area had a round inset that was also created by layering Modern Masters metallics to coordinate with the groin ceiling.

Wall Glazing and a Layered Metallic Finish on round ceiling inset.

The cabinets were painted a few shades darker than the walls and glazed to create a deeper, richer effect.

Pitch-perfect cabinet refinishing that looks like it was created in a high-end factory!

(above) In addition to the cabinet refinishing, panels were stenciled with Modello Ornamental Panel (OrnPan118) vinyl stencils on the refrigerator to create dramatic interest. (below) The groin over the island was huge and layered with Modern Masters metallics. The bronze and gold tones were woven into each other to create a smooth, rich finish.  The four corner stencil designs were the Modello Ornamental Center pattern (OrnCen193) painted in with Champagne Lusterstone.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed Ashlie and Kindra’s work.  Please do see their company site, A Fabulous Finish, which is based in The Woodlands in Texas.  Do also keep up with them on their Facebook fan page. There’s some great talent in Texas!  I also do hope you’ve enjoyed Kitchen Week!

For their winning submission for Kitchen Week, Ashlie & Kindra will receive a signed copy of the book Marrakesh by Design and a special stencil surprise from Royal Design Studio.  Would you like to win this prize as well? Scroll right below or click here!

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19 Jul

Kitchen Week: Gina Garner

Kitchen Week: Culled from submitted entries, the week-long series focuses on five artists with extraordinary projects.  For the first time ever, each artist and five readers are receiving prizes for their beautiful artworks. Look to the end for today’s sponsor and your chance to win! Our Kitchen Week continues with another old friend of Fauxology, Gina Garner, who paints Italian-Renaissance inspired ceramic pieces.  We have profiled her fou our Faux-cus on the Pros series.  She created some for her own home as well as doing a few paint finishes and textures…but let’s let Gina tell her story.

A sampling of Gina Garner's ceramic artistry

We lived in the big city but spent weekends in the country in central Utah, in a small artist community.

After we retired we decided that we liked living in the country.  We have visited the Veneto region of Italy many times and especially liked the smaller country villas of that region.  Most often those that were designed by 16th century architect Andrea Palladio.  We found a beautiful piece of property and built our house right in the middle of a very large Alfalfa Field.  Our house, and for only minor details, was  finished in 5 months.

We designed the kitchen.  We laid floors and installed handpainted ceramic tiles.   I painted my kitchen cabinets a celadon green.  It actually has 4 layers of glaze applied, each different color adding to the whole.

These hand painted plates are not just for show…they get plenty of use.  Having everything handy and ready to use.

The Kohler artist line, Lavabo, serves as a second sink. I also painted the Delft-inspired ceramic wall.

I finished the walls with joint compound into which I added builder’s sand and straw.

Making preserves from fruit grown on our land is a yearly activity.

 

And in another corner of the kitchen is a table which most often is used as my “corner studio” where I paint my ceramics.

We built our house in this particular spot because a very deep spring feeds this pond year around.

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Hand-painted ceramic tiles, cabinet refinishing and uniquely textured walls — isn’t it wonderful to be able to incorporate your given artistic talents in your own home?  Gina’s ceramic works have been featured in museums, magazines such as House Beautiful and she travels the world to be inspired and learn more of her craft.  She also teaches classes in her lovely studio.  Gina maintains a wonderful blog, Art and Alfalfa, where she chronicles her beautiful country life, her travels and her ceramic artistry.  One thing!  Gina has advised that she would prefer if you not pin her images and thanks you for honoring her wishes.

For her winning submission for Kitchen Week, Gina will receive a Cabinet Refinishing Kit of her choice from Star Scenic.  Would you like to win this prize as well? Scroll right below or click here!

 

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