Photo courtesy FlickrSeattle’s Asian Art Museum has had a standing display of snuff bottles literally as far back as I can remember. Every now and then I stop by to say hello, and the bottles that looked fresh in the Fifties still look as if they just came off somebody’s bench.
Like looking at type faces, studying variants of one application is an easy way to teach oneself about form. Ben Shahn discusses this basic question in Form Is the Shape of Content, and any exercise class or etiquette book will fill in details about good form outside the workshop.
Now and then I think about what I’m wearing. Several years ago, I wandered downtown to the spectacular new library and looked through old issues of Vogue magazine. Vogue’s legendary editor Diana Vreeland had commented that the fashions of the Twenties were much stronger than those of the Thirties, so I concentrated on that decade.
The pickings were so rich I only looked through a few issues around 1925. I went shopping armed with visions of garments that looked as fresh and relevant post-9/11 as they did when women were first driving cars. I kept the clothes that matched that vision and acquired a few new pieces to expand it. My wardrobe shrank by half and became four times as useful and current.
Looking at the history of a given area of design allows one to distinguish between true innovation and fresh ribbons on an old hat. Research is a very good investment, especially when scouting used things.
-30- More after the jump.