The Curse of “The Great Omar”

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The luxurious but cursed Great Omar version of the “Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.”

There once was a time when bookbinding was a craft and an art form, not a mechanized process at the end of a press run. This tale of such bookbinding is fraught with the unrelenting pursuit of perfection, passion, tragedy, perseverance, and plain old rotten luck.

Our story begins in 1901 with the renowned British bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe, who resurrected the Medieval art of binding books with intricately inlaid multicolored leather set with real gold, jewels, and gems. As fortune would have it, their services were sought out by Sotheran’s Bookshop in London, who asked them to create opulent binding for the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” which soon became known as “The Great Omar.” The only instructions from Sotheran’s manager were that “it has to be the greatest example of bookbinding in the world…. put what you like into the binding, charge what you like for it, the greater the price, the more I shall be pleased; provided only that it is understood that what you do and what you charge will be justified by the result.” Read More »

Contemporary Art Show for Dogs

More Th>n, a UK-based company that insures cars, homes and pets, commissioned British artist and inventor Dominic Wilcox to create the world’s first interactive art exhibition for dogs. In addition to paintings and drawings created in a dog’s color spectrum, primarily yellow, blue, and gray, the show features the “Cruising Canines” exhibit, giving visiting dogs an interactive open window car experience; “Dinnertime Dreams,” an oversized 10-foot dog bowl filled with hundreds of “food-colored” balls, and “Watery Wonder,” an arrangement of dancing water jets that jump from one dog bowl to the next.

The exhibition was created as part of the #PlayMore campaign to encourage dog owners to give their pets more quality attention. More Th>n invited owners to take the #PlayMore Pledge to spend 15 minutes more time daily playing with their pet, and promised to donate £1 to the RSPCA if they do. That’s more th>n any other insurer has offered.

Origin of Obsessions No. 2

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The newest edition of Kit Hinrichs’ and my “Obsessions” book series is on the arts and crafts made by Japanese Americans held in U.S. concentration camps during World War II. All That Remains is a sequel to my 2005 book titled The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942–1946. While working on that book, I spent many hours reflecting on why people banished by their own country to barrack encampments fenced in by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers with rifles pointed at them would take up art with such a fervor that it became an obsession to them. They scrounged for scraps of paper, bits of lumber, empty bottles and cans, and cardboard packaging to use for their art projects and scoured the desert terrain for stones, driftwood and shrubs to carve into new forms. Art served a need far beyond the aesthetic. Although two-thirds of the 120,000 ethnic Japanese forced into camps were American citizens, the older immigrant generation especially, who were in their 50s and 60s, embraced the creation of art as a lifeline. Given less than 10 days notice to turn themselves in and told they could only bring what they could carry. the adults knew their businesses, homes and all their possessions would probably be gone when they were freed to return to the West Coast. In fact, that turned out to be true.

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An Apple a Day Inspires the Muse to Play

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Even successful graphic designers like Ken Carbone of Carbone Smolan Agency in New York City aren’t at liberty to do whatever they please on an assignment. Corporate clients dictate marketing objectives, brand parameters, visual subject matter, point-of-view, deadlines, budget, and a myriad other criteria. Ultimately, the client has to sign off on what you create, and the verdict on how wonderful your work is hinges on ROI, market results, elevated brand visibility, etc.

It’s not unusual to hear of designers who wrap up a long, hard day at the studio by creating for their own personal satisfaction. Designer/illustrator Jessica Hische assigned herself the task of drawing a Drop Cap a day and posting it online. Pentagram partner Paula Scher has devoted her off-hours to painting intricate maps of the world as she sees it. Ken Carbone has just concluded 365 days of creating one apple art piece every single day. Curious to know why, we sent him a list of questions. Here are his answers.

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Famous Handwriting Typefaces

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These typefaces won’t make you as psychoanalytical as Freud, or as brilliant as da Vinci, or as artistic as Cezanne, but they may allow you to channel their creativity while you work.

Harald Geisler, a typographer based in Frankfurt, Germany, raised funds through a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite turning Freud’s handwriting into a digital font. P22 Type Foundry in Buffalo, New York, is also creating digital fonts inspired by the handwriting of famous thinkers. His latest Kickstarter appeal is for developing an Einstein font, as explained in the video here.
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What Famous Artists Serve on Thanksgiving

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Imagine that you have been invited to Piet Mondrian’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. He’s doing all the cooking and food styling. What would he serve? That’s the fanciful musing of San Francisco-based artist Hannah Rothstein, who created her own impressions of dinner by famous artists. Her interpretations are being offered as 16”x20” signed, limited edition prints. Only 25 copies were produced and the prints are available at $75 each, with 10% of the profits going to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. Order here. Happy Thanksgiving.
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And You Thought That Paper Was Just for Printing!

Even standing up close, Beijing-artist Li Hongbo’s sculpture of Michelangelo’s David looks like it is made out of marble or porcelain, but when it is gently pulled up, the bust stretches out beyond recognition, and when released, springs back to its original shape like a Slinky toy. The raw material that Li Hongbo uses for his sculptures is paper, thousands and thousands of sheets of paper. His average classical busts require gluing more than 5,000 sheets of paper together in a honeycomb pattern, using pressure to hold the sheets together. From there, he saws, cuts and shapes the huge block of glued paper to arrive at a rough sculpted form. Li Hongbo then shaves in the finer details and uses sandpaper to smooth the surface.

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