The dragons at Kew Gardens have been reborn

Dragons have always been fascinating creatures of myths and legends. They appear across all cultures, from the winged wonders of the West, to the benevolent protectors of the East. Hence, it is no wonder that they frequently make an appearance on mankind’s great works of art from visual arts to literature. 4918Such is the case of The Great Pagoda at Kew Garden, where eighty dragons have recently made a reappearance as part of the pagoda’s restoration.

The Great Pagoda, designed by Sir William Chambers in 1762, was the first significant Chinese-influenced structure in Europe. It was made as a gift to Princess Augusta the founder of Kew’s botanical gardens. The octagonal tower which stood ten storeys high was so unusual at the time it was built that people did not believe it will stand the test of time, only that it offered the best bird’s eye view of London.the_pagoda_at_kewBut it did stand the test of time. Two hundred fifty six years this year, to be exact. What didn’t stand history’s wear and tear, though, were the eighty dragons perched on its roofs, guarding the pagoda silently as their gold-gilded wood slowly rotted away.d8cb8a3c66c01a428ee014Thanks to the restoration project, however, the dragons have been reborn. Clad in their brilliant colors, they have reclaimed their perches as guardians of The Great Pagoda and a secret—that 72 of their dragon brothers are 3D printed, and that only eight of them (those perched at the lowest roof) were hand carved from cedar wood. Apparently, eighty hand-carved wooden dragons would be too heavy for the existing structure, and doing so would have required conservators to reinforce the existing structure with steel rods. _E8A6507While some people might find these new dragons looking quite kitsch, conservators assure us that the design was very true to its history. This is really how chinoiserie dragons looked like back in the 18th century, and how Chambers would have wanted them to look like. SWNS_HRP_KEW_047With the installation of these dragons, the £5m restoration project which took two years is now complete and The Great Pagoda will be open to the public again. Visitors can now book tickets starting July 13.


Into the Floating World of Clarence H. White

There’s something quiet about Clarence H. White’s photos that captivates the calm within all of us. The simple, almost unscripted scenes of everyday life are so masterfully done that almost everyone can relate to them in one way or the other.

cri_000000008274White is probably one of the greatest influencers in photography of the early twentieth century, not just because of his works, but also because he was considered as one of the most important photography teacher of the time. A lot of his students became notable in the field as well, names you might even find more familiar than their master’s: Dorothea Lange, Ralph Steiner, and Margaret Bourke-White just to name a few.Caption from LIFE. "At 76, the Mahatma is in good physical condition. He weighs 110 pounds, but he is not so frail as he looks."White was attuned with his contemporaries as well, and was one of the founding members of the art movement Photo-Secession, a movement which daringly pushed the limits of photography and turn them into almost painting-like works of art during a time when photographic images were taken as direct and factual representations of real life.

He was one of the forefathers of photo manipulation—not as the same way as how we perform photo manipulation today with the help of various digital photo editors—but much more organic, done within the confines of a dark room, manipulating light as if it were liquid on film.

Clarence H. White, The Mirror, 1912. Varnished palladium print. George Eastman Museum
Those who want to view White’s work first hand may visit an on-going exhibition of his works, “Clarence H. White and His World” which will run from June 22 to September 16, 2018 at the Portland Museum of Art. It will not only contain his photographs but also a lot of memorabilia and curious ephemera—including an interesting condolence letter from another Photo-Secession founding member, Alfred Stieglitz addressed to White’s widow. The two had an unfortunate falling out in 1912 on the account of Stieglitz’s overbearing ego.x1983-496Fast forward to today, we now see their names side by side again, under the collective label of pictorialists. Photographers whose works transcends the representational. White’s most notable works himself, echoed Japonisme and ukiyo-e prints, in particular. Ukiyo-e, which is defined as “pictures of the floating world”, can also directly translate to “pictures of a sad and troublesome world”…and don’t they capture the very essence of White’s work in entirety? Photos that look as if trapped in time, in a world of floating existence, while also pouring out emotions of quiet melancholy. His works, truly, are dream-like, and definitely something worth seeing.


Travel Back in Time to Ikea’s 75 Years of Furniture Design

When you think about furniture, it’s difficult not to think of Ikea. That’s how iconic the brand is when it comes to furniture design. And why wouldn’t it be? This furniture giant from Sweden has been influencing the world of design for 75 years now!  ikea-vintage-gratulera-collection-design_dezeen_2364_hero-1-852x609Yes, that’s right. This year marks Ikea’s 75th anniversary, and they are releasing an anniversary collection made up of their most iconic pieces. Aptly named “Gratulera” (which is Swedish for congratulate), their collection will have three separate launches, or sub-collections: 1950s to 1960s, 1970s to 1980s, and 1990s to 2000s. The first one, 50s to 60s, is set to be released this August. The next one will be around October. And of course, the final collection will be released in December along with the holiday season. So be sure to mark those calendars!3f9dfc3cdce9fc6c6196a1167105b02239ca8e5eGratulera will not only include their most iconic furniture, but will also feature lighting and tableware collections. One such piece is the LÖVET table (now known as LÖVBACKEN), which is the company’s first knock back product. This collapsible concept was apparently brought into life when one of their employees dismantled the LÖVET’s legs to fit it into his small car. Fast forward to today, almost all of Ikea’s pieces are flat-packed and can simply be assembled at home for convenience. This very concept, catapulted Ikea to furniture design fame, making it almost impossible to imagine that this giant furniture company started by just being a small post order business ran by a teenager. ikea-vintage-gratulera-collection-design_dezeen_2364_col_9-1704x1278 The 70s to 80s collection will be just exciting as the company will relaunch the original Klippan sofa, which we have seen grow and adapt throughout the years, along with other Retro-inspired items.ikea-vintage-gratulera-collection-design_dezeen_2364_col_32-1704x1278Finally, the 90s to 00s collection will include Thomas Sandell’s sculptural furniture, such as the iconic small bench with wheels, which was another game player in the world of furniture design. Ikea announced that each design will be released in limited edition, so be sure to plan your purchases wisely.