More ornamental Eye candy from Twemlow’s essay: Prada wallpaper, stoner wallpaper, and the Holland Festival

More eye candy referenced in Alice Twemlow’s essay, The Decriminalization of Ornament

An important theme echoed in Twemlow’s essay is that ornament IS contemporary and relevant to our time. While Adolf Loos’ diatribe on ornament claimed ornament was backwards, degenerate, and useless and that the lack thereof represented progress and truth, Twemlow argues for intention and and meaning contained within ornamentation used today.

She ruminates that, “The decoration we’re seeing today is particular to the time we live in. In many way it is dystopian. There’s the inclusion of urban, dark, and ironic themes, as evident in Geoff McFetridge’s attitude laden takes on patterning in three designs titled ‘Red Dawn’, ‘Stoner Forest’ (see eye no. 47) and ‘All Yesteday’s Parties’. ”

An article in the Stranger, a Seattle weekly, aptly subtitled this work as “The Patterns of Stoner Surburbia”.

The article’s author, Eric Frederickson keenly observes the juxtapositions within McFetridge’s work: “…general pattern with specific incident, abstraction with representation, decoration with social content.” (italics are mine)

Within these 3 patterned works, expect to see images of sasquatches roaming, long-haired surburban kids biking or gettin’ it on, and beer cans and cigarettes interspersed between the prints, amongst other things.  There are social narratives & themes delving underneath the surface of contemporary ornament, as opposed to the strict “beautifying” of object role  that ornament played during the Arts & Crafts period.

Stoner Forest” wallpaper by Geoff McFetridge, his studio, and his wallpaper

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Arts + Crafts live on ….through wallpaper

Although we live in a society that loves bare, simple, midcentury modern dwellings and furnishings, the Arts and Crafts spirit of William Morris lives on –  through contemporary wallpaper. We need the wallpaper as a warm contrast to our stark, minimalist, modernist furniture from Herman Miller…I mean Ikea.

Judit Gueth is a designer from Toronto, specializing in creating designs for wallpaper and rugs. Her style is very reminiscent of the arts and crafts era due to her use of simple, graceful “natural” designs, but also has a contemporary feel to it. Check out her website at http://www.juditgueth.com

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The Origins of Thinking about Ornamentation

Initially, I was intrigued by the concept of “ornament” and “ornamentation” in graphic design while reading Seymour Chwast and Steven Heller’s Graphic Style – From Victorian to New CenturyWhile reading about the Arts and Crafts movement in England (the mid 1800s-early 1900s) and the Bauhaus school in Germany (1919-1933), it was interesting to note that they both held similar ideals and were reform movements, but with different visual outcomes. Both schools (perhaps initially for Bauhaus) strived to remove the boundaries between craftsmanship and art. The Arts and Crafts movement in England was a reaction against the negative, poorly made goods produced in the industrialization era. This movement set to bring attention to creating beautiful, handcrafted functional works, often decorated with organic flourishes. Stylistically, it is less ornate and fussy compared to the typical Victorian aesthetic of the time, but much more embellished in appearance compared to Bauhaus. On the other hand, Bauhaus was initially modeled after William Morris’ art and craft workshops, fusing together fine arts and crafts. While initially not having a uniform style, Bauhaus’ output leaned more in a stark, unadorned and geometric direction, which laid a major foundation for the modern movement. The initial intent of both movements may have been similar, but the visual outcomes seem completely contrary.

A few examples of works from the Arts and Crafts movement in England:

The Nature of Gothic by John Ruskin, printed by William Morris (1890s)


Strawberry Thief Textile design by William Morris, 1883

Poster for Bauhaus Exhibition by Joost Schmidt, 1923

Herbert Bayer’s Universal alphabet, 1925