Posts Tagged design history

Let’s take a moment to talk about : forks!

A coral and gold fork, c. 1590-1610, via larsdatter

All of your comments have had me thinking about composting of all kinds lately, and I am working on a longer post about indoor worm bins. But in the meantime, I ask you to consider the fork.  I was thinking about it this morning precisely because neither of my children care to use them. Spoons are cool, but forks? Not interested (granted, they are 5 and 8).  We make a point of sitting down at the table for almost every meal (eating is important to us, after all) and no matter what cutlery is made available to them, they just want to dig in with a spoon or – better yet – their hands.  When we asked them recently what they have against forks, my oldest responded by questioning why forks are even necessary.   Of course, we all know the obvious answer to that, but as it turns out, Medieval Venetians felt exactly the same way!  Forks are a relative newcomer to the table and you can read about their fascinating history in the recent Apartment Therapy Retrospect column, “Fork This: A Quick History of Forks” by Anna Hoffman.  Her regular column on design history is my favorite part of AT, so if you are not already familiar, check it out.  And if you are a regular AT reader, what do you think of the new design?  Personally, I’m glad they streamlined it and so far am a fan.

Now, back to the decomposition of vegetable matter. Happy Weekend!

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Put an owl on it!

A detail of a carved wooden door designed by Yelena Polenova at Abramtsevo in the 1890s, at the Abramtsevo Museum. (Via AT)

Something that fascinates me about the current enthusiasm for the handmade and local (knitting, crafting, canning, homesteading!) is how participating in these activities is a form of protest against large-scale globalization and industrialization. By making something yourself, you are opting out (perhaps only symbolically) of the general cultural obsession with consumption.  This pendulum seems to swing back and forth periodically and there is much about our present era that echos the reaction against industrialization in the 19th century as exemplified by Art Nouveau and the Arts & Crafts Movement.  William Morris and his circle are probably the most well-known example of this, but a renewed emphasis on folk arts and handicrafts was prevalent in most European countries as well as the United States during this period.  Last week’s Retrospect column on Apartment Therapy covers the two little-known centers of Russian Art Nouveau.  Did you ever wonder where the Russian nesting doll came from?  Take a look to find out!

it is interesting to see the recurrence of certain visual themes that connect people to craft and folk art.  I loved seeing the carved wooden owls designed in the 1890’s in Russia and how perfectly they would fit into any hipster craft fair today.

When we see owls today, we tend to think of the retro trend back to the 1970’s, not the 1890’s, but this folk-art derived motif has been around for a long time and has been having a definite resurgence in the past few years. I would love to know more about owl iconography, as the theme turns up in so many culture’s artistic traditions.

Were owls the universal symbol of hipster craftiness in the 1890’s? Were they, too,  “putting a bird on it” to make it art?


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