04 December 2014

Harry Heissmann on Christmas... Tree Stands


Editor's Note: I am delighted to invite you all to a selling exhibition of Harry's famous collection of vintage and antique Christmas tree stands, opening December 11 through December 23.  They will be displayed in the most gemutlich of settings, the Philip Colleck historic townhouse on East 58th Street.  This is one of Eerdmans Fine Art's first ventures - I so hope to see you there!

By Harry Heissmann

The days after Christmas, particularly January 6, which is when most people dispose of their Christmas tree, are sad days for me.  I’m not sure why I get so nostalgic, but the piles of dead trees, most of them dry and with lots of needles on the ground is just such a pitiful sight.

When I moved to the United States in 1995, I learned that many people put their tree on the sidewalk with the stand still attached, as they will just buy a new one with the tree for the next year.  This would of course not have happened in 19th Century Germany, when the novelty cast iron Christmas tree stands were very expensive and could only be bought by wealthy families. The first model the company Roedinghausen cast was offered in 1866. At the turn of the century a cast iron Christmas tree stand would cost the same amount you had to pay for a whole box of Christmas ornaments.  The stands became family heirlooms and would be kept in the attic or the basement to be used again and again. Today, recycling being so important, there are services offered to have your discarded tree transformed to mulch but few keep the stand – usually a red and green metal or plastic model of unspecific design.

To me it is most fascinating to imagine the families delighted by the tree stands and of course much more importantly – the actual Christmas tree.  The trees were mostly table top trees and times were apparently much different, as ornament was used on everything that was made, even on the Christmas tree stands.  

Their origin, however, is of course much simpler.  The earliest mention of a decorated Christmas tree is in a handwritten document from 1604. The decoration was of paper roses and ‘wafers’(?) and a wooden square is mentioned for the attachment. Maybe it was a hole in a square piece of wood or one of the wooden fences which became fashionable later on. But the earliest stands definitely were made from wood, such as the wooden ‘crosses’ even still around today.  Sometimes buckets were filled with wet sand and even ‘futterrueben’ were used in more rural areas in Austria or Northern Germany especially after the Second World War.

And to tempt you, a few of the stands which will be available online soon on Philip Colleck's 1stdibs page:


A large cast iron Christmas tree stand, made by ‘Holler’sche Carlshuette’, circa 1910.
This stand has wonderful ‘Jugendstil’ (german equivalent of Art Nouveau) floral leafy decoration,
the original screws and old paint, which has tarnished to a wonderful ‘verdigris’ patina.


A wonderful large cast iron Christmas tree stand, made by ‘Eisenwerk Roedinghausen’, circa 1950’s.



Rare cast iron Christmas tree stand, Germany circa 1920’s.
This stand features wonderful vignettes of ‘modes of transportation’, a car, a sailboat, a train and most importantly a blimp, or ‘Zeppelin’, as well as a toy soldier, a doll and a snowman, etc. Original paint, accented in gold and silver, original screws.


Wonderful ‘ round ‘ Christmas tree stand,Germany, circa 1920’s (very Hollywood Regency!)
This stand features Christmas trees and star decor, as well as star shaped screws, original paint in green and silver. It is marked underneath ‘KT’
   
Exhibition details:
11-23 December, Monday–Friday 11AM–4 PM
Philip Colleck, Ltd.
311 East 58th Street
New York, NY


All photos by Josh Gaddy.  

02 December 2014

The Bunny Effect


"I don't want to hear one more word about that sale," said my friend's partner upon hearing our topic of conversation.  Indeed the Bunny Mellon auction is STILL a subject of conversation - mainly what we didn't win - and has unleashed a passion in many of us for ceramic vegetables and painted fauteuils (a market on which Mrs. Mellon seemed to have a monopoly).

If you viewed the sale, you couldn't have missed the ginormous five-tier etagere arranged with all manner of porcelain cabbage, asparagus, and lettuce, faithfully replicating how it was in her Virginia house*, as seen above.

One of the many interesting things about Mrs. Mellon is that even though she could have lived in the most ducal surroundings, she preferred things rustic and light.  She wasn't afraid to paint a bronze Giacometti white or let it rust out in the garden, and she didn't think twice about whopping off the Chippendale Gothic cresting...


of that etagere, which she purchased from Colefax and Fowler, as seen in this 1964 photo that John Fowler sent Mario Buatta.

* Not the Georgian style red brick house her husband built with his first wife.  Apparently it was too formal and stiff for the 2nd Mrs. Mellon who used it instead as a walk-in closet.

30 October 2014

First Act: All the World's a Stage...


The 2014–15 Decorators Club Education Fund Lecture Series is a celebration of the ephemeral.  Whether on stage or film, at a party, or in the dining room, some of the most inspiring, joyful, fascinating, and unforgettable design moments are fleeting and doomed to disappear.  The series features four major design talents of the 20th century who created many such moments.

The premiere lecture is this Wednesday, November 5,  and features the legendary Tiffany & Co. Design Director Emeritus John Loring speaking on Joseph Urban.

Perhaps you've never heard of Urban, one of the Metropolitan Opera's first scenic designers and William Randolph Hearst's preferred architect (among many other things).  This is precisely what the series is all about and why you need to come.  I hope to see you there!

Tickets available here.





17 September 2014

Thursday Book Signing Extravaganza at Potterton Books

Please join me, fellow authors Maureen Footer, Alex Papachristidis, Vicente Wolf and a host of others for a massive book signing event to inaugurate the new location of the city's best design bookstore, Potterton Books.  

Details: 
Thursday, September 18th
2:30pm – 4:30pm
Fourth Floor of NYDC, 200 Lexington




07 August 2014

H.H.H. Reviews…The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation


Another candid review from Amazon all-star Herbert H. Highstone

Dimly Printed Pages Are Almost Impossible To Read
One Star

I'm sorry to report that this book, or at least the copy that I encountered, is very badly printed. Perhaps it's one more symptom of the decadence of the paper book, but the printed pages in this volume are so difficult to read that I threw it aside in disgust. You really need to look through the book before buying it to make sure that your eyes can handle an extremely inferior print job with a tiny typeface. I also hated the heavily doctored picture of Nietzsche on the cover that makes him look like a bewildered shopkeeper.