Historical Abundance

Historical Abundance

Published on Sunday, September 14, 2014. This article appears in the October/November 2014 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
History Of Design Decorative Arts From Afar

History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000

Mark LaFavor

History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000
Edited by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber
Bard Graduate Center, $80 

How long does it take to compile 600 years of global design history into one textbook? Ask the editors of History of Design and they’ll tell you: nearly a decade. What began as a few introductory texts for Bard Graduate Center students blossomed into 700 pages illuminating the vast, rich history of decorative arts and design. Allotting balanced consideration to East Asia, India, the Islamic world, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, the volume proceeds chronologically, with regionally color-coded pages, making it easily navigable. Special attention has been paid to cross-cultural connections, a detail that was surely a challenge given the 27 contributing writers. An abundance of beautifully reproduced images completes the package. Educators, as well as those looking for a primer specific to the expansive category of decorative arts, will welcome this labor of design love. ~Jessica Shaykett 

On Body and Soul: Contemporary Armor to Amulets
By Suzanne Ramljak
Schiffer Publishing, $45 

“Much jewelry serves as a type of mental battle gear, preparing us for power struggles and symbolic skirmishes over rank, wealth, or sexual prowess,” writes Suzanne Ramljak, longtime editor of Metalsmith magazine, in the introduction to this handsome volume. On Body and Soul features the work of metalsmiths who create not only jewelry but also survival gear (helmets, chastity belts, chain mail, and the like) to theoretically equip people to withstand the threats of the modern world. Following the insightful 14-page introductory essay are photographic portfolios of contemporary amulets, defensive body extensions, armor, and wearable weaponry. Dozens of artists are featured, such as Jennifer Trask, Kiff Slemmons, and Robert Ebendorf, along with an array of materials, including hypodermic needles, animal parts, Kevlar, and handgun triggers. ~Monica Moses 

Bartram’s Boxes Remix
By the Center for Art in Wood
Schiffer Publishing, $50 

Creativity flowers within parameters; that’s one takeaway from this pleasing catalogue of works created for a collaborative exhibition. In 2010, severe weather damaged Bartram’s Garden, a historic arboretum founded some 280 years ago by Pennsylvania Quaker John Bartram, whose legacy also includes the inventive boxes he made for botanical specimens. Inspired by the fine fallen trees, the Center for Art in Wood partnered with the garden to bring in dozens of artists, including Jack Larimore, Satoshi Fujinuma, and Hilary Pfeifer. The resulting works are inventive remixes of the raw materials (13 kinds of wood were available) and the garden’s history; their presentation in this volume is enhanced by excellent photography, insightful essays, and curators’ statements. ~Julie Hanus