Jazz Fest Crafts: Kate Beck

This weekend marks the opening of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for 2008. There is so much to experience: of course the music and the food, and the weather and the people, but one of my favorite parts of the Jazzfest is the crafts exhibit.

This is a nationally recognized showplace of artists displaying and selling handmade fine arts and crafts. Each weekend offers a different array of acclaimed craftspeople representing the best of Louisiana and the United States.

There are many accomplished exhibitors and the array of crafts is vast- so I have chosen to focus on those who produce their pieces here in New Orleans. I will be profiling several artistsans during the 2 week duration of this wonderful event.



Kate Beck, whose studio is in the Fauborg Marigny, utilizes an artform called "Shibori" whereby she manipulates and dyes textiles, producing richly textured, even sculptural pieces of fabric.



Shibori is a traditional Japanese art form of embellishing textiles by shaping, tying and securing the cloth before dyeing it. The result is cloth with a three dimensional form. Sometimes the fabric is folded, sometimes it is wrapped and even pleated and sometimes stitching is employed. Regardless of the exact technique used, Kate Becks Shibori pieces are sumptuous, richly colored pieces of very wearable art.



The technique Beck  most often employs is called arashi (storm) shibori. The fine pleats and patterns suggest rain driven by a high wind. This elegant pleating is achieved by wrapping and compressing the fabric around a cylinder; a hot dye bath then sets the pleats.


These pieces not only satisfy and excite the eye, they are also very soothing and comfortable on the body. The experience of these is sensual and intense.


These pieces are so organic and so suggestive of the wind and weather which Kate says is her chief inspiration. These two wraps remind me of tornadoes.


The Shibori technique produces a wide variety of results. Pleating and ruffling are two of the outcomes of this method.

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The fabric Kate works with is 100% silk and the dyes used are permanent. To retain the beauty of a pleated piece, they must be stored carefully and protected from moisture. Pleated shibori pieces may be professionally dry-cleaned.

Kate Beck is a great talent in the field of textile arts. We are lucky to have her living in our city and even luckier to be able to see and purchase her wares at this year's Jazzfest.

If you are unable to attend the Jazzfest, please visit Kate's website.

Please stay tuned for more Jazzfest craft features in the coming days!

Sherwood Cox and A Few of My Favorite Things

I recently had the pleasure of spending the better part of a day with the very talented photographer, Sherwood Cox. He was sent by the Times-Picayune , our local newspaper, to take some photographs in conjunction with a little article they are doing which profiles some of my favorite things.


The first thing Sherwood shot was this fabulous vintage chair which resides in my living room. It is circa the 1940's or 1950's and though French inspired, I found its exaggerated, almost throne-like details irresistible. When I purchased the pair of these, I fully intended to have them reupholstered, but when they were delivered to my very neutral-toned house clad in their regal purple velvet with the nailhead trim, they became the stars of my show and had to be left just as they were-which was perfect. The only appropriate addition was that of a handpainted silk pillow.


Of course, Sherwood, being the gifted photographer that he is, recognized a portrait opportunity when this one presented itself, and he didn't waste any time capturing my mischievous cat, Ella on film, proving that the only other accessory appropriate for this wonderful chair is an absolutely adorable cat.  For more examples of  Sherwood's talent for portraiture, check out his website, which features many fine examples of his work.


The next piece we photographed was my Sennod necklace from one of my favorite shops, Febe. This necklace is my favorite because the beautiful coin pearl pendant is actually removable and can be interchanged with other pendants which the designer makes to fit on the front clasp . I love the coin pearl because it looks good with everything, but I also have several others which I change out every now and again.

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This painting, by Adam Farrington, is one of my favorite things that I love best.

It sits over the mantle in my parlor. This room is painted white and almost everything in the room is white, so the fresh colors and the beautiful brushwork make this the centerpiece of the room. Adam is one of my very good friends and in addition to painting, he is primarily a metal sculptor. He has his own gallery and studio here in New Orleans, and he shows in several other galleries around the country. See more of his work at his website.


If you want to see more of my favorite things, you'll have to get a copy of the next edition of the WISH  section of the Times-Picayune, because the remainder of this post features the outstanding photography of Sherwood Cox.


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In addition to loving the wonderful pieces in this interior shot, I think this photo shows such an eye for  composition.



This kitchen photo is outstanding because the room itself is gorgeous, but also because in addition to being an amazing photographer, Sherwood is  an accomplished cabinet maker and he built the cabinetry for this room.

The picture below shows his treatment for the front  of a refrigerator in this award-winning kitchen.

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This amazing piece of cabinetry that Sherwood built brings new meaning to the term "camouflage." In fact, this kitchen was a winner in a Sub-zero design contest.




More shots of the award winning kitchen by the multi-talented photographer.



I love this use of antique doors to camouflage a refrigerator. Beautiful photo, and another example of Sherwood's handiwork.


Another shot of this beautiful kitchen which appeared in New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles.


Sherwood's eye for composition is so evident in his juxtaposition of curved and straight lines, rough and smooth textures, and light against vivid.


Another example of interesting and engaging composition.


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I love the staging in this photo as well as the use of the reflection in the mirror which is a perfect example of the attention to detail that Sherwood is known for.



This powder room shot shows how effective lighting is in interior photography.


This exterior shot employs a symmetrical composition to support the portrayal of the architecture. This is another example of Sherwood's talent with lighting for effect.


Another light-filled, off-center compostion which portrays the easy elegance of a New Orleans family room. Typical New Orleans decorating details: requisite French chair, lots of windows which bring the outdoors in and light natural color scheme.

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Another archetypical New Orleans interior lovingly photographed by Sherwood Cox.

I think it's a pretty intriguing fact that Sherwood was led into the world of photography because he was interested in taking pictures of his own furniture and architectural millwork pieces. His talent for architectural photography is greatly informed by his understanding and experience of creating the pieces which he sought to photograph. His attention to detail and his sensibility to the nuances of such things as lighting and composition make him a force to reckoned with in the field of architectural photography. His art photos and his portraits are just as outstanding. Visit his website for more.

I am the owner of Julie Neill Designs in New Orleans where we create beautiful custom lighting. This blog is my love letter to the unique people, places and happenings which make New Orleans the amazing place it is.

Please visit my website to learn more about my lighting and our fabulous shop on Magazine Street.


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