Artist & Author: Paul Klee

Artist & Author: Paul Klee

Paul Klee (German: [paʊ̯l ˈkleː]; 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was a Swiss-born German artist. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionismcubism, and surrealism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually deeply explored color theory, writing about it extensively; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are held to be as important for modern art as Leonardo da Vinci‘s A Treatise on Painting was for the Renaissance.[1][2][3] He and his colleague, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture in Germany. His works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

Klee was at the peak of his creative output. His Ad Parnassum (1932) is considered his masterpiece and the best example of his pointillist style; it is also one of his largest, most finely worked paintings.[53][54] He produced nearly 500 works in 1933 during his last year in Germany.[55] However, in 1933, Klee began experiencing the symptoms of what was diagnosed as scleroderma after his death. The progression of his fatal disease, which made swallowing very difficult, can be followed through the art he created in his last years. His output in 1936 was only 25 pictures. In the later 1930s, his health recovered somewhat and he was encouraged by a visit from Kandinsky and Picasso.[56] Klee’s simpler and larger designs enabled him to keep up his output in his final years, and in 1939 he created over 1,200 works, a career high for one year.[57] He used heavier lines and mainly geometric forms with fewer but larger blocks of color. His varied color palettes, some with bright colors and others somber, perhaps reflected his alternating moods of optimism and pessimism.[58] Back in Germany in 1937, seventeen of Klee’s pictures were included in an exhibition of “Degenerate art” and 102 of his works in public collections were seized by the Nazis.[59]

Klee has been variously associated with ExpressionismCubismFuturismSurrealism, and Abstraction, but his pictures are difficult to classify. He generally worked in isolation from his peers, and interpreted new art trends in his own way. He was inventive in his methods and technique. Klee worked in many different media—oil paintwatercolorinkpasteletching, and others. He often combined them into one work. He used canvas, burlap, muslin, linen, gauze, cardboard, metal foils, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint.[65] Klee employed spray paint, knife application, stamping, glazing, and impasto, and mixed media such as oil with watercolor, watercolor with pen and India ink, and oil with tempera.[66]

Source: Wikipedia

Artist: Eugène Séguy & the pochoir method

Artist: Eugène Séguy & the pochoir method

Emile-Allain Séguy, professionally known as E.A. Séguy, was a French designer during the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the 1920s. He primarily created patterns and textiles inspired by the natural world. Because of his particular fascination with insects, he has been confused with Eugene Séguy, a French entomologist active during the same time period. However, it is Emile-Allain who created the popular Papillons and Insectes books, filled with illustrations of vividly colored butterflies and insects made using the pochoir—French for “stencil”—technique.

Simply stated, pochoir is the French word for stencil.  In the 1920’s and 30’s Art Deco era, the color  application process of the stencil was rejuvenated by the French, bringing color illustration processes for books and prints to new glorious heights.  This interest in exploring the stencil process came in reaction to the proliferation of machine printing and the poor quality of color reproductions in publishing.  With pochoir printing, the hand application of layers of pigment created dazzling effects that the camera or printing press could never replicate.  Earlier stencil works, typically used for decorative surface ornament were quite primitive, with applied color areas outlined by the supporting cutout framework.  New experimental techniques in pochoir refined the process using multiple layers of color applications for a single print.   Pochoir printing was also easily combined with images made by lithography, woodcut, wood engraving, line drawings, or etchings, thus turning a decorative technique into fine art.  Jean Saudé was one of the foremost artists to explore and promote pochoir techniques and his treatise, Traité d’Enluminure d’Art au Pochoir, published in 1925 did much to further this art form.

POCHOIR: technique

pochoir costume designs by Sonia Delaunay

With pochoir, a hand painted fashion plate, decorative or interior design, or illustration to be duplicated was carefully analyzed to determine each color layer.  Often, but not always, an outline of the image was printed as a black and white lithograph and served as a base layer, especially in the design and fashion portfolios.  In many interior illustrations, a line drawing or even a half-tone photograph was lithographed as the base layer.  Each succeeding layer of color was then printed over the black and white litho layer.  Depending on how intense the lithograph layer was, it would either be incorporated fully in the final image or be invisible and serve only as a guide to the image layout.  

Separate stencils were cut, sometimes in thin sheets of copper, zinc, or aluminum, for every color component.  Later stencil materials were made of celluloid or plastic and contemporary stencil materials are made of coated paper or acetate.  Each successive color layer, using watercolor or gouache, was applied to the stencil with a brush called a pompon.  Pigment on the brush could not be thick or runny, as paint could easily slide underneath the stencil and change the shape of the image. Therefore, it was necessary to really blot the pigment on the brush before applying it to the stencil and in the case of watercolor images, this was even more critical. Skilled printers could achieve incredibly subtle details using gradation and stippling, spattering or even simply drawing additional details with a small brush on the final layer.  Sometimes as many as 100 stencils were used to recreate a single image, and the resulting print was surprisingly rich and detailed.  

Entirely non mechanised, pochoir was both an intensive and highly luxurious way of producing images, one which suited perfectly the elegance and extravagance of the Art Nouveau and Deco fashion journals that were the source of its enormous popularity from the early 1900s to the glistening Jazz age. Artist-cum-designers, such as George Barbier and Sonia Delaunay, published their costume and textile designs in rich, luminescent pochoir folios, lending a lavish air of the haute couture to each new illustration, while everyone from bespoke furniture and wallpaper producers to high-end architects produced catalogues of exorbitantly expensive products for their endlessly wealthy clients.

Seguy produced eleven albums of nature themed illustrations and patterns, drawing inspiration from papillons and other insects, flowers, foliage, crystals and animals. Seguy was one of few artists that successfully combined both Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles in his work. His brightly colored geometric patterns were intended to be used as inspiration for such decorative items as textiles and wallpaper.

Dover Publications reproduced Seguy’s albums in a book entitled Seguy’s Decorative Butterflies and Insects in Full Color. The publisher had this to say about Seguy: “His aim was to make available dozens of examples of extremely colorful exotic animals that had been unjustly neglected by occidental decorative artists because of their rarity in life and in illustration. It is interesting to note that Seguy, while confident that butterflies would be readily accepted, made the special plea for the other insects that were constructed like wonderful machines and were thus entitled to the same consideration as an airplane fuselage, an ocean liner or locomotive; nature was a successful industrial designer!”

Seguy’s albums were created using a unique printing process called pochoir, which was popular in France at the turn of the 20th century. Pochoir is a process that utilizes the method of applying pigment to paper through the use of stencils. First, the artist created an image in watercolor or gouache. The design was then analyzed to determine the necessary colors and number of stencils needed. The stencils could be cut from any number of materials, including copper, zinc, oiled cardboard, or celluloid. The paint was applied through the stencils by brushes or pompons. The prints were produced entirely by hand assembly line style, and each one was individually examined and approved upon completion.

While simple in concept, pochoir could become quite complex in practice, with some images requiring the use of 100 or so stencils to produce a single print. The technique was regularly used to produce plates in French fashion journals as well as being used to illustrate industrial design, textile, interiors, and architecture folios.


L’Ornement polychrome & Albert Racinet

L’Ornement polychrome & Albert Racinet

Albert-Charles-Auguste Racinet (1825–1893), himself an accomplished artist, is best known today for publishing two major pictorial works on the history of design — Le costume historique and L’Ornement polychrome — while engraver and artistic director at the Parisian publisher Firmin Didot et Cie. Published in ten instalments between 1869 and 1873, the first iteration of L’Ornement polychrome (Colour ornament) is a visual record in 100 plates of the decorative arts from antiquity to the eighteenth century. The work was such a huge success that in 1885–7 Racinet brought out a second series, this time of 120 plates, and updated to include designs of the nineteenth century as well. The imagery presented in both series is drawn from a wide array of various mediums, including woodwork, metalwork, architecture, textiles, painting, and pottery, and from cultures all over the world.

Although based on past masterpieces of design, the fantastic reproductions in L’Ornement polychrome, carried out by a number of skilled commercial artists of the day, can be considered works of art in their own right. Indeed, for Racinet, the purpose of such a compilation of past design excellence was not only to celebrate the masters of the past but also to inspire an improvement of decorative arts in his own day and age.

The images featured here come from an excellent set of scans by RawPixel from their own 1888 edition of the first series. You can also leaf through the work in book form (again the first series) over at the New York Public Library.

The Public Domain Review

the ANTI-HOLIDAY Collection

the ANTI-HOLIDAY Collection

The Holiday Shop is open. Yay.

We hate this season as much as you do, we get it. So, here’s the anti-holiday shop where we’ve created specific products that mock, disregard or otherwise slander Santa’s name.

It’s getting to look a lot like Christmas! And it’s not just sweater weather. It’s Ugly Christmas Sweater weather!

Holiday office parties and family gatherings are looming. You’re looking for unique Christmas gifts. Fun Christmas gifts. You want to impress family, friends, and co-workers.

The Jesus themed ugly Christmas sweater sweatshirt is a new take on a holiday classic. Jesus IS the reason for the season, after all. So this Christmas, go ahead and ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”

Of course he’d ring in the holiday with an ugly Christmas sweater! In the festive tradition of ugly Christmas sweaters, you’ll turn heads in this inspirational and humorous novelty holiday sweatshirt.


  • Secular
  • Non-toxic (mostly)
  • Recommended for sensitive skin
  • No hidden costs
  • Endorsed by a few D-List celebrities (kinda)
  • You do not have to leave your house to get it
  • Pre-screen for fundamentalists/zealots is a Santa Monica-based independent designer who is exploring ways to expand their business using print-on-demand and fulfillment strategies.

Follow their Etsy store as they roll-out new, inspired designs for modern lifestyles.

NOTE that the items listed here are designed, produced and shipped by

other heretical ideas:

next-level gift wrapping

next-level gift wrapping

Giftwrap has been around since the invention of paper itself, which has been around since at least 105 A.D. in China.

The Japanese (and Chinese and Koreans) take their gift wrapping seriously. Like most East Asian arts and crafts, the level of attention and skills required is an extension of the creator’s emotions and thoughts behind the object being given

When giving gifts or sending presents in Japan, it is customary to show special care not only to the contents, but to the way a gift is wrapped and the wrapping itself. In Japanese culture, gift wrapping can be as important as the gift, where the gift is viewed as a form of communication between the giver and the receiver. The chosen gift wrapping serves an important role in shaping the messaging associated with the gift. In short, the wrapping is considered as part of the gift itself and should reflect both the gift being given and the emotions behind the gift.

The distinction of a gift being wrapped is an important one when it comes to receiving a gift. Except among close family members, gifts must not be unwrapped in front of the donor of the gift. The recipient should wait until later to open the gift.

There are many rules and customs of associated with Japanese gift wrapping, many of which imply how you feel towards the person and the the message behind the gift. The gift wrap color choices are one of ways that this communication takes place. Also, the wrapping of the gift is not necessarily meant to hide the gift, but to accentuate it — with gift wraps designed to reveal some items while concealing others. A couple of other methods of symbolism that can be used…

  • Pleating — providing an odd number of pleats in your wrapping symbolizes joy
  • Yin & Yang — combining two different materials symbolizes the yin-yang that represent the interconnected and interdependent forces of the natural world
  • Asymmetry — asymmetry is considered more visually appealing in Japan culture

Tsutsumi or Origata

One style of Japanese gift wrapping, called tsutsumi — which means to cover, conceal or wrap — or origata uses paper and fabric to wrappings for gifts, presents and packages. The unique aspect of this technique is that the paper and/or fabric is never cut. Instead it is pleated, folded and tied. Ranging from the simple to the sophisticated, this technique traditionally uses handmade paper (washi) to express beauty, etiquette and culture and often employs techniques seen in origami.

The intent with this wrapping style is not to conceal the gift, but to enhance it’s shape and to give some clue to the contents. This style allows the gift itself to be exposed. For example, high quality tea leaves are often given as a present in Japan. When wrapping black tea (known as ko-cha, or “red tea”), red paper inserted in a slit on the top of the package, then overlaid with a film to provide a glimpse into what is in the package.

A sophisticated system of rules has been created for origata wrapping. The style depends on the gift recipient, the occasion, and even the season.


furoshiki is the technique of wrapping a gift with fabric. This style is perfect for birthdays, holidays, weddings, or everyday marketing and shopping and was originally used to carry clothes to the bathhouse. Made in a variety of sizes, the cloth is extremely handy and can be folded up after each use to wrap or carry something else. It ‘s very flexible as a wrapping technique and lends itself to various shapes and sizes of packages. There is even a way to wrap and carry two bottles together.

The Japanese Ministry of Environment has been promoting furoshiki to promote recycling, as the cloth can be reused for different occasions, helping to reduce the wasting of paper.

Thanks to for the info!

sashiko, kimonos & history

sashiko, kimonos & history

Textiles say so much about the culture in which they are worn and used.

Clothing can immediately identify who we are and what our history is. One can tell eastern v. western, wealthy v. impoverished, northern v southern. Clothing also tells us about the society that created it.

A recent BBC Culture story by Bel Jacobs: The 300-year-old Japanese method of upcycling explores the method of sashiko.

Kimono screen
Seventeenth century screen by Iwasa Matabei (via Wikimedia Commons)

Sashiko emerged through necessity, particularly in poor rural areas, during the Edo period. “Cotton came late to the north of Japan,” explains craft and design writer Katie Treggiden. “So the only way people could get hold of it was as tiny rags of fabrics, that were either passed around or bought from tradesmen from the south. Sashiko – literally, ‘little stabs’ – was a way of connecting all those little pieces into a quilted fabric, known as boro, that would keep them warm.”    

The Surprising History of the Kimono

The first ancestor of the kimono was born in the Heian period (794-1192). Straight cuts of fabric were sewn together to create a garment that fit every sort of body shape. It was easy to wear and infinitely adaptable. By the Edo period (1603-1868) it had evolved into a unisex outer garment called kosode. Literally meaning “small sleeves,” the kosode was characterized by smaller armholes. It was only from the Meiji period (1868-1912) onwards that the garment was called kimono. This last transformation, from the Edo era to modern Japan, is fascinating.

In the early 1600s, First Shogun Tokugawa unified Japan into a feudal shogunate. Edo, renamed Tokyo in 1868, now became Japan’s chief city. The resulting Edo Period (also called the Tokugawa Era) spanned 264 years. The years 1603 to 1868 are known as the last era of traditional Japan. Japanese culture developed with almost no foreign influence during this time. And the kosode was one of the key elements of what it meant to be Japanese.

(Source: Gabrielle Berlinger via

A fisherman's jacket – or donza – created in the Meji Period is a stunning example of sashiko craftsmanship (Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)