Monday, February 21, 2011

buttons, a tea brunch and the jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels

The jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels. Images from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

On Saturday morning I took the train into New York to meet up with my friend Carolyn to see the exhibit, Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels and a day of galavanting around in style. Our first stop was Tender Buttons.

I stepped in alone as I was the first to arrive. The walls stacked with boxes in neat rows, exquisite buttons in frames hanging on the wall. I immediately knew I was in over my head in the best possible way. I wondered how many could I bring home with me, where to look first. I had come with an idea of a wooden dutch hand painted button but, that was not there. No worries, I will find that another time because surrounding me where beautiful collections of glass, rhinestone, vegetable ivory, asian, wood, enamel and metal and buttons for children. I didn't have projects that I needed buttons for but, as a woman who will build an outfit around tights I knew I could build a knit or sewn piece around a button.

The first set I chose I actually forgot to purchase and it was a wooden city and country mouse. I do hope my little mouse will still be there next time I pay a visit. My children are very fond of mice. I wanted to buy some brown vegetable ivory buttons for myself but held back on those for some more spontaneous choices that are both beautiful and whimsical.

Here are some of the buttons I chose:

Those cats! That blue!

We had originally planned on going for tacos but, Carolyn informed me we that we were very close to Alice's Teacup. I did not hesitate on this idea as the idea for a tea brunch sounded fun and it was. Again, I had not been here before and I most certainly must have a date with my daughter one day here as the girls get sprinkled with fairy dust and are given wings to wear while they eat. Dolls and playing cards were inside our glass top table.

We shared a Mad Hatter's Tea for two. Our brunch included and we selected
*three scones- buttermilk, lemon blueberry and pumpkin
*two sandwiches- cucumber and watercress, carrot and goat cheese
*two pots of tea- chocolate mint and a rooibos blend which was chocolate caramel with a bit of spice
* 5 cookies and a chocolate mousse

Quite decadent and delicious. A big sugar rush for sure though dessert was bagged up for us after only a few nibbles. We lingered and sipped a lot of tea. We were surprised that we even were able to start working on the second pot.

Our next stop was the Cooper Hewitt for the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit. The wind was so strong on Saturday. I had to 'hold my hat.' We came accross a yarn and needlepoint store called Annie and Co. Needlepoint that I had not heard of but, was quite impressed by. There was a nice selection of Noro yarn but what most surprised and delighted me was the amazing selection of Madelinetosh. I had never seen a selection this big in person and the colors are so pretty and they had what seemed to be all of them but, maybe not. I had to summon all my willpower to not purchase anything as I had already splurged on buttons. The yarn has been lingering in my thoughts.

We then went to the jewelry exhibit. I don't know what words can convey my feelings about this show other than this jewelry is truly art and it produced giddy bubbly childlike feelings within me. It was a stunning exhibit and artfully curated.
My favorite pieces were the Art Deco ones and anything with rubies and/or diamonds. Carolyn suggested that the rubies look like candy. It's true they do. Are those emeralds really real we wondered? I also loved examining the drawings behind the pieces. All of the standard jewelry items; earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets, pendants, watches are here however, also you will find cigarette lighters, clutches, compacts, a tiara, a nécessaire and more.

Words from Cooper Hewitt's website about the exhibit:

Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in Paris in 1896 by brothers-in-law Alfred van Cleef and Salomon Arpels with the latter’s wife, Estelle van Cleef Arpels. Both families had long been in the diamond and colored-stone markets in the Netherlands and Belgium. Almost immediately after the new company moved into the place Vendôme in 1906, an international clientele flocked through its doors, drawn by VC&A’s creative design, avant-garde forms, and high-quality stones and settings. The recipe for making an exquisite piece of jewelry is akin to haute cuisine: masters employ special techniques to mix and adorn top-quality ingredients, creating something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. This approach permeates the essence of Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewelry.

Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, the most comprehensive exhibition ever organized of Van Cleef & Arpels’ masterworks, is divided into six themes which resonate through the history of the firm: Innovation, both stylistic and technical; Transformations; Nature as Inspiration; Exoticism; Fashion; and Personalities. This unprecedented assembly of 350 pieces from VC&A’s collection and international private collections, augmented by never-before-seen drawings from VC&A’s design archives and by related objects from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s permanent collection, illustrates the firm’s celebrated history and places its contributions to design in a broader context.

Standout pieces for me included all the art deco jewelry which predated the term, the peony mystery brooch, all of the mystery set pieces, a bracelet worn by Marlene Dietrich in Stage Fright (which she apparently hid behind a cupboard after wearing it for the movie and it wasfound after her death), convertible jewelry that comes apart or can be put together to form separate pieces and the entire nature section.

It was a perfect day trip and always wonderful to see you Carolyn.


Dacia said...

oh that sounds just lovely!!

jenn said...

that sounds like such a perfect, dreamy day!!

Amelia Plum said...

i could desperately use some bling right about now. sounds like a perfectly lovely way to spend the day.

Carolyn said...

It was great to spend the day with you, and lovely to relive it on your blog. I hadn't realized you forgot to buy the city/country mice. Guess a return trip is in order.... xx

stevewckrt said...

This sound is quite interesting.
Antique jewelry, a term applied to jewelry over a hundred years old, is now a favorite with the prospective brides, too.

melissa said...

i can't tell you how jealous i felt after reading 'on saturday morning i took the train into new york...'
wow. thank you for the details of cafe food and buttons, etc- i love stuff like that!