Sunday, November 14, 2010

simple harmony

SOMETIMES,  simple is better. I've always had a hard time with that though. The more I do, the more I realize that simplicity is not as easy as it looks. The broad brushstrokes of simplicity can be made up of layers of meaning even as it speaks to our most basic needs and instincts. Somehow simplicity harmonizes with nature and our place within it.

COMMUNICATION  was propelled into the future with the printed word and left us with a recorded history. Printing, or the duplication of images, started in Mesopotamia around 3,000 B.C.. China and Egypt led the way with small stamps for seals that led to larger printing blocks. Printing moved from silk and other cloth to papyrus scrolls in Egypt. Movable type was first created in China from porcelain, but was rarely used because of the enormous Chinese character set. Metal movable type was first created in Korea. Fast forward to 1439 and Johannes Gutenberg developed the first movable type printing technology and the European age of printing on paper began about 10 years later.

IN  OUR  increasingly digitized world, it seems we are moving away from the printed word and becoming more and more disconnected from one another to distraction. Maybe it was meant to be that the printed word was to be experienced as well as seen—and that involves certain tactile qualities like turning the page or experiencing the texture of paper. As I write this digital version of what I wish to someday become a book or a magazine, I realize that today's accessibility of information on the internet is crucial to the way our society now works. But is technology and industrialization of everything threatening to destroy our physical library of knowledge? Or is it an opportunity to become more in tune with our collective consciousness?

DIGITAL  VERSIONS  of information may, or may not become actual printed pieces. I do think the revolution that is happening in publishing is exciting and can be even more interactive in some ways (see the new iPad publication of Boundless Beauty from Martha Stewart for an example). But there is a definite connection to our basic nature when you curl up with a book—even if it is only because paper is made from trees, which in turn (physical) books are made from paper. There's a certain ancient wisdom that comes from that fact alone. For when you commit something to paper, you want it to be accurate and you want it to be lasting. It has become something that is less and less accessible for the everyday person to have something printed the old-fashioned way, so our memory for what we had is replaced with what we have. I'm not sure that is always good. History is always doomed to repeat itself if memory is short.

THE  TREE  I decorated for this post (see product information below) is laser cut from a thin piece of Poplar wood supported in a wooden block. The garland is made up of paper circles with text printed on some of them sewn together with metallic silver thread—which represents a quality  Smythe sewn book. The bird (that doesn't Tweet) is decoupaged with the same printed paper. The globe underneath the tree is made of porcelain and is subtly etched with the outlines of the continents and meridian lines. The German wooden stars placed in the branches are reminders to our ultimate tie to the cosmos and our insignificance in its vastness.

MAYBE  IT  is important that we don't forget or destroy our collective history, which seems to be more and more malleable as information is more easily changed and "updated." The largest and most significant ancient library was the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and functioned as a major center of scholarship until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 48 B.C. A great deal of history was lost in the destruction of that library. 

THESE  DAYS, a lot is lost in translation to the digital world. Less importance is placed on the accuracy of information because it can be so easily updated and changed. Publishing is screaming in new directions out of necessity, but would be well-served by remembering the how in how far we have come. Information is a precious part of the way we communicate and there should be a certain kind of reverence to its long and fruitful history. 

REAL SIMPLE | (Top and above) This Alpine Centerpiece Tree is laser-cut from Poplar wood and slides into a white wooden base (from Design Ideas in Springfield, Illinois). Available at Nandina Home & Design and at Star Provisions in Atlanta (sold in several sizes this season—this being the X-large size). Evocative of the holiday season evergreens to come, my tree is simply decorated with natural-finished German wooden stars from my collection and a garland sewn together from textured silver paper and printed paper circles with silver metallic thread (from the current David Stark Collection at West Elm).

TWEETY BIRD | You can't reduce what this bird (top and left) has to say to 140 characters (including spaces) as Twitter does! This adorable decoupaged paper mâché bird is also from the David Stark Collection at West Elm.

GLOBAL  REVOLUTION | (Above) This porcelain globe from my collection is subtly traced with the outlines of the continents and global meridian lines. I thought it would be good to include as a reminder of how small our world has become because of the print and digital revolutions. I hope it also reminds us to not forget the complexity of our place within it, even as it seems simpler to communicate, nature is still a formidable presence in all of our lives.

WHITE-ON-WHITE | (Above) These white blown glass ornaments with translucent lines are simple and elegant (from tag).

©2010 DARRYL MOLAND | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland.


  1. This is a lovely tree Darryl! I love the wooden stars particularly. Your comments about it being hard to live simply really hit home for me. We have far too much 'stuff' and I really wish there was less of it.
    The wordy bird is beautiful. I checked it out, and what a bargain! Nothing like that on this side of the pond.

  2. This is brilliant. It has the simple charm of a tree from the tree lot in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special with a twist of something new and modern. This is reinventing christmas!