Wallpaper in Bloom

1972-42-202-a Matt Flynn

This lovely sidewall is an exceptional example of the art and craft of wallpaper. Made in France during the mid-nineteenth century, it was block printed on handmade paper, and represents the high end of Victorian wallpaper production. Bouquets of pale pink and yellow roses tumble down a satin, mint-green background along with blue morning glories, peach-colored blossoms and tiny buds in lilac and lavender. Pale grey shadows of vining flowers create a nice secondary pattern that gives the design more depth. To successfully achieve this impressively realistic and three-dimensional look, the design was printed with approximately twenty-two different colors. Each of the flowers required five to six different shades of the color to create this degree of realism. This means the manufacturers had to carve at least twenty-two separate blocks and exactingly align each one to properly produce the image.

As wallpaper manufacture was elevated to an art form in the late eighteenth century, highly naturalistic patterns gained precedence over earlier, more rigid floral papers derived from textile design. Even with the growing popularity of the British Reform movement beginning in the 1840s which promoted two-dimensional designs for wallpaper, the demand for these realistically rendered floral papers continued. An increased interest in horticulture upped the demand for floral wallpapers, by far the largest category of wallpaper designs. As illustrated by this particular sidewall, roses were a popular choice of subject in naturalistic papers. The inspiration came from the many hobbyist and professional gardeners that were constantly creating new and interesting varieties of roses. Dahlias and hydrangeas were also favorite subjects. Whatever the species or variety, wallpaper designers made sure to depict every blossom at the height of its glory, allowing homeowners the luxury of a perennially perfect garden that flourished indoors.

Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department



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New Jersey Nouveau

1956-42-101 lo res

In 1905, the same year that influential architectural theorist Adolf Loos sounded the modernist rallying cry against ornamentation, a small-town New Jersey designer named Albert Ainsworth decided he was going to go ahead and design a highly ornamental, floral wallpaper anyway.
Floppy, mustard-yellow poppies grow from spindly fronds of the same color. A muted, green background of vertical bamboo shoots sprout symmetrical tufts of leaves and form a sort of scaffolding for the precarious poppies. The design was machine printed on yellow oatmeal paper, which was utilized to outline the flowers. Oatmeal paper is unfortunately not made from delicious cereal, and gets its namesake lumpy texture from little bits of rag and wood particles mixed into the paper pulp.

Of the designer, Mr. Ainsworth, nothing is known other than that he once lived in Hackensack. Judging from this wallpaper, however, it can be assumed that he was familiar with English reform designers such as William Morris and Walter Crane, whose work was incredibly popular and influential in the last decades of the nineteenth century. These English designers believed that wallpaper patterns ought to appear two dimensional, and rejected designs that attempted to realistically portray three dimensional objects. This poppy design is very large-scale, with the flowers extending most of the width of the paper, which is very typical of American art nouvewau designs. While the poppy is fluidly drawn to allow recognition it was designed without a great degree of depth. Morris, in particular, preferred wallpapers that featured highly stylized botanical patterns reminiscent of medieval tapestries. The flat, Art Nouveau look of Mr. Ainsworth’s paper was clearly inspired by the work of these better-known designers, and it quietly took a stand for the tradition of ornament in the first years of the modernist era.

Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department



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Happy Hour

1991-89-107 lo res

The maker and designer of this 1950s American wallpaper are unknown, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome. Pineapples, chickens and coffee pots mingle happily with martini glasses, menus and big tuna fish. An assertive group of cherries, lemons and limes reoccur frequently, and a self-satisfied sea lion balances a cocktail on his nose. The whole scene is set against a pink background, with blue splotches and red, green and blue triangles framing the animals, fruits and cocktail accessories.

According to Lencek and Bosker in Off the Wall, suburb-dwellers in the 1950s used wallpaper as “celebrations of middle-class domesticity” and “yardsticks by which residents measure their resemblance to the prototypical…model of the ideal family…” In this wallpaper, the family has distilled activities that occur within the home into simple objects. Usually hung in functional rooms rather than rooms for entertaining guests, the design of this paper seems equally appropriate for a kitchen or bar area.

Judging by the particular objects represented on this paper, it looks like the family who would have hung it was having a pretty good time. Martinis garnished with fruit followed by a meal of chicken or fish and after-dinner coffee does not seem like a bad way to spend the evening. Especially if a sea lion who drinks cocktails appears as a guest.

Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department



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Scenic Wallpaper and the City

1991-89-145 lo res

The rapid industrialization and urbanization that occurred in the United States during the mid-20th century made many Americans feel nostalgic for a more bucolic way of life. Landscape wallpaper was a cheap and easy way for people to bring a bit of country living to the city. Equally eager for glimpses of nature were the many young families plunked down in the ever-expanding suburbs and recovering from painful memories of WWII.

With this serene landscape paper, the J.C. Eisenhart Wall Paper Company did a commendable job of channeling the desires of contemporary American homeowners. Although machine printed, the design hearkens back to the traditional block printed papers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tall leafy trees and serene grassy bluffs frame a lazy river that flows peacefully beneath a blue sky and puffy white clouds. No people or buildings interrupt the pleasant scene. The traditionalist style of the art and tranquil subject matter would have provided a brief respite for the busy mid-century viewer, allowing them for a moment to feel connected with an idealized past. No specific production date is known for this paper but it was most likely produced post-war to meet the needs of returning veterans and their growing families. Having its roots in the 18th century is proof that wallpapers with landscape scenes have struck a lasting chord with consumers.

Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department



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Meet the Staff: James Reyes

Can you explain the type of work you do with the Cooper Hewitt?
I support School & Tour and Professional Development programs, each of which encompasses a few programs. For Professional Development, I work on technology with Arts Achieve, the multi-partner i3 grant that brings iPad technology to NYC arts classrooms. I also worked on Cooper Hewitt’s Smithsonian Design Institute by completing the back-of-house financial paperwork, travel, and logistics for 30+ participants from across the country.

For School & Tours programs, I have been working on Design in the Classroom, our big school outreach program, for which I do the scheduling and reporting. Lately, with the Museum opening soon, my role with Tours has fast become a larger role. Together with Kimberly Cisneros (School and Tours Manager), I am working on the planning for public, private, college, and school tours with the docents and our contracted educators.

What was your background before coming to Cooper Hewitt?
Prior to Cooper Hewitt, I had worked at the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art and School of Art, where I taught art to college students. That’s where I also received a MA Art Education. Before that, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru and had other museum experiences at Fresno Art Museum and the Uffizi Gallery.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Interacting with the teachers and the students. Design is about people, so interfacing with the people, teaching them, and helping them come to a positive conclusion makes me most happy.

What has been your most memorable moment at the Cooper Hewitt?
I think instead, for me the best memories of Cooper Hewitt involve the friendships that have been fostered with colleagues. These relationships that have taught me a lot.

How has the renovation either opened new doors or posed new challenges for you?
The renovation has definitely opened new doors for us. With the Museum closed, we’ve had to be creative in where and how we hold our programs. Design in the Classroom is a direct product of the renovation, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

What are you most excited about once the museum reopens?
All of my museum experiences have always involved being on the floor, with the students, teachers, and artists, so just being in the museum will be exciting. I began working at the Cooper Hewitt during the renovation, so I’m eager to experience the halls full of exhibitions and to hear the many languages of our visitors.

How would you describe good design? Bad design?
We teach that good design is about the user. When we look closer at the brainstorming process of designing in consideration of a user, the nugget that most resonates, fascinates, and attracts me is empathy. When a designer has lived and experienced the needs of their client, the programs/products/ideas that s/he designs for that group of specific users are essentially by one of those specific users. With empathy for the client, the end-designed product can be more than successful—it can become meaningful. Good design is often seamless to one’s life; it can even be unnoticed because it is so integrated and effortless. Bad design wastes resources, poses additional challenges, and requires more exertion.

What is your favorite Cooper Hewitt exhibition to date? Why?
The Design With the Other 90% exhibition was particularly significant to me. The stories behind the exhibition illustrate the ways design can permeate one’s daily life. Every Peace Corps volunteer experienced the daily balancing act of teaching the importance of efficiency and updating practices whilst maintaining cultural integrity and traditions. By sharing new technologies, you were a witness to the betterment of another’s life. This exhibition holds personal meaning and relevance to me because I have lived through it.

Finally, if you could redesign anything, what would it be?
The man’s suit. If we look at the history of men’s clothing, not much has changed in the last couple centuries. Although a “suit is classic,” I’d be curious to see how the future might enable a redesign. Perhaps this might require a concurrent redesign of the social acceptability and expectation of men’s fashion…



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Like Art for your Walls, in Repeat

1997-16-2 lo res

Arguably the most iconic pattern to come out of the English sister-design team Collier Campbell, Cote d’Azur has become popular the world over. Originally intended for textiles, the pattern won the Duke of Edinburgh’s Design Prize in 1984, making the sisters the first women to achieve the distinction. This incarnation is a slightly different colorway than the original, and was screen printed on paper in 1992 by Imperial Wallcoverings, Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio. Stubby blue palm trees and the black profiles of birds in flight float atop a colorful background of abstract, interlocking bungalows. The piece reads like a surrealist view of its namesake Mediterranean coast.

Sarah Campbell has described the print as “hardworking,” meaning that Cote d’Azur has been loved for many years in the homes of many consumers. Perhaps this lasting success can be attributed to the sisters’ staunch commitment to designs that retain the hand-painted quality of the original piece throughout the process of mass production. The late Susan Collier once said “I was politically motivated to produce beautiful cloth for the mass market.” A quick glance at Imperial’s commanding and jovial Cote d’Azur sidewall proves that she and her sister have succeeded in their goals.

Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department



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DISEÑO | FASHION

Join us to hear fashion luminaries Maria Cornejo, Francisco Costa, and Narciso Rodriguez speak with NBC’s Natalie Morales about their influences, process, and inspirations.

DISEÑO is a partnership between Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and El Museo del Barrio. This program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.



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Tomitudes

Uncle Tom's Cabin

As a graduate student at the Cooper-Hewitt, I experienced a textile collection containing some of the most beautiful and valuable fabrics in the world. But the object I found most intriguing was a mass-produced cotton handkerchief (c.1853) printed with scenes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Known in its day as a “Tomitude”, the kerchief is a spin-off product from what is considered history’s first blockbuster. Published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, struck a profound emotional chord with its readers, becoming the bestselling book of the nineteen century after the Bible.
Capitalizing on the deep feelings and unprecedented sales generated by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, marketers created and sold objects for a profit that evoked the emotional experience of the book. These “Tomitudes” were commodities that transformed the drama of the novel into goods that could be part of the reader’s daily lives. ln an era when spin-off products were unheard of, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became a massive cultural industry, spawning a dizzying explosion of Tom-themed merchandise in every imaginable form.
The machine-printed handkerchief provided a fashionable and affordable talisman through which readers could publically demonstrate their sympathy for the cruel plight of Southern slaves. The images on the textile, drawn directly from illustrator Hammatt Billing’s original designs for the novel’s lavishly bound Christmas edition of 1853, can be read as reenacting the sentiment at the heart of Stowe’s storyline.
In this simple object of nineteenth-century material culture, we can see the genesis of today’s mass-market society in which spin-off products from popular narrative works, such as books, movies and video games, spur the production of myriad secondary commodities.
The relationship between the kerchief and the novel reveals the interdependence between texts, images and objects that became the basis for modern consumer culture.



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Personal Health Device Spire Wins 2014 People’s Design Award

COOPER HEWITT'S 2014 NATIONAL DESIGN AWARDS GALA

Spire, a wearable personal health-tracking device, took home the trophy for the 2014 People’s Design Award at Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards gala in New York Oct. 9. National Design Awards jury member Bruce Mau announced the winning design and presented the award to Spire CEO Jonathan Palley and designer Zhao Zhao. Spire analyzes an individual’s emotional and physical state with the goal of improving people’s daily lives through greater health, balance and productivity.

“With an emphasis on transforming people’s lives through regular feedback about their health, Spire truly captures the essence of the People’s Design Award—revolutionizing our everyday experiences through innovative design,” said Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. “Increasingly, the noise and distractions of daily life have the potential to keep us from being productive and healthy, and the selection of Spire by the American public shows the importance of keeping stress levels in check while also inspiring new ways of maintaining a healthy balance.”

Designed by Zhao Zhao, Spire is worn on the hip or torso and determines patterns of breathing, movement and activity through a group of sensors that provide feedback in real time to a user’s smartphone. Based on set personal goals and the data it collects, the device sends messages throughout the day to shift one’s state of mind to improve mood and reduce stress, or inspire activity if one is sedentary. Described as a “mini yogi in your pocket,” Spire was introduced to the market in October 2014 after three years in development with a team from Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab.

This year’s contest, organized by Cooper Hewitt and Smithsonian.com, invited the public to vote for their favorite design from a pool of 20 works. From Sept. 10 to Oct. 6, more than 20,000 votes were cast from across the country. Nominees included inventive consumer products (Drift Light, Lumio, Soma Water Bottle), medical devices (Cue, Stick-On Circuit Board), eco-friendly construction materials (Mushroom Building Blocks), emergency tools (SAM Junctional Tourniquet) and design solutions for improving human and environmental problems (Deka Arm, Ecozoom Stove). Previous winners include Pack H2O Water Backpack; Marianne Cusato, designer of the Katrina Cottage; Toms Shoes; the Zōn Hearing Aid; the Trek Lime Bicycle; the Braille Alphabet Bracelet; and Design Matters, a show about design and culture.

The People’s Design Award was the final award given out at the 2014 National Design Awards Gala, which was held at Pier Sixty in New York and recognized recipients in 10 categories, including Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar for Lifetime Achievement, Witold Rybczynski for Design Mind, and Etsy for Corporate and Intitutional Achievement. (View list of all winners.) Aaron Koblin, on accepting the award for Interaction Design, dedicated his award “to anyone who has contributed to an open source project,” while Narciso Rodriguez, after being presented with his award by Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo, noted the difficulties in pursuing a creative career but that “it also comes with great rewards, such as tonight.” An esteemed group of presenters included Milton Glaser, Kurt Andersen, Ben Stiller (via video), Scott Stowell, and Walter Hood. During the evening, guests, including Anna Sui, Maria Cornejo, Clodagh, John Maeda, and Celerie Kemble dined at tables decorated with 3-D printed Carnegie mansions, before heading to a performance area to watch an excerpt from Locomotor (2014) by members of Stephen Petronio Company, who wore costumes designed by Narciso Rodriguez. View photos from the gala in the Press Image Gallery.

National Design Week is made possible in part by the sponsorship of Target.

National Design Awards are supported in part by Procter & Gamble and Design Within Reach. Additional support is provided by Facebook. National Design Award trophies are created by The Corning Museum of Glass. ndagallery.cooperhewitt.org is powered by Behance. Media sponsorship is provided by Smithsonian magazine.

National Design Awards and National Design Week professional supporters include AIGA | the professional association for design, American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, American Society of Interior Designers, American Society of Landscape Architects, Council of Fashion Designers of America, Industrial Designers Society of America, Interaction Design Association and International Interior Design Association.

ABOUT COOPER HEWITT, SMITHSONIAN DESIGN MUSEUM
Founded in 1897, Cooper Hewitt is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum educates, inspires and empowers people through design, presenting compelling educational programs, exhibitions and publications. International in scope and possessing one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence, the museum’s rich holdings range from Egypt’s Late Period/New Kingdom (1100 B.C.) to the present day and total more than 210,000 objects.

Cooper Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. The museum is currently closed, and will reopen to the public Dec. 12, following a three-year renovation project.

For further information, call (212) 849-8400, visit Cooper Hewitt’s website at www.cooperhewitt.org and follow the museum on http://ift.tt/1xPp14h and http://ift.tt/1xPp14n.www.cooperhewitt.org and follow the museum on http://ift.tt/1xPp14h and http://ift.tt/1xPp14n.



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Design by Hand | Public Lecture with Heath Ceramics

Join us as Catherine Bailey (Creative Director), Robin Petravic (Managing Director), and Tung Chiang (San Francisco Studio Director) of Heath Ceramics talk about the history and inspiration behind the iconic American brand.



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