EST. 2009

April 18, 2019

That Floral Fix

AMONG ART'S FAVORITE MUSES, FLOWERS HAVE BEEN A PROMINENT SUBJECT of artistic works across history. From ancient Egyptian ceramics, to medieval tapestries and impressionist paintings, flora features heavily in precious and iconic works. “It is maybe to flowers that I owe becoming a painter.” said Claude Monet, who is famed for his Water Lilies series.

In more contemporary times, flowers inspire an even wider range of artistic applications. Andy Warhol's Flowers is a quadriptych of silkscreen prints in kaleidoscopic colors. Jeff Koons' Large Vase of Flowers is a polychromed wood sculpture of a Renaissance-style bouquet.

Monet's Water Lilies, Andy Wharhol's Flowers, and Jeff Koons' Large Vase of Flowers

Still life depictions of flowers, however, continue to be one of my favorite floral genres. Its simplicity places less of a focus on concept, and more on composition, color, light and the quality of flowers as they are painted or photographed.

I'm currently feeling Britta Walsworth's fresh, fashionable floral designs. Looking elevated from the commercial bouquet without being avant-garde, her compositions have a tousled vibe to them while comprising sprigs and blooms in immaculate condition.

Floral design by Britta Walsworth,

March 30, 2019

That Super Siesta

A SINGLE DAY FEELS LIKE AN ETERNITY IN VALLADOLID, where time seems to stand as still as it has since the city's colonial era. Cobbled roads are lined with pastel-toned, Spanish-period edifices, built literally with stones from demolished Mayan structures. No modern buildings to be seen here.

The locals are unhurried. The pace is languid. Take your time especially since most everywhere is a leisurely walk away. The city center is conveniently compact, with roads arranged in a neat grid intersected only by Calzada de los Frailes: a quaint street where where the multicolored facades house both boutique shops and hotels so high in style.

Hacienda Montaecristo is one such, working with 30 local tanners, weavers and embroiderers who use ancient Mexican techniques to produce textiles and leather goods. Caravana also has its roots in the Yucatán, aiming to preserve Mayan culture in creating "neo-artisanal" pieces. Part shop, part hotel, Coqui Coqui lists Valladolid as one of its locations, housing a spa, perfumery, guest rooms and a plunge pool.

In and around the town square, the Iglesia de San Servacio is Valladolid's postcard attraction, with its two towers standing alongside symmetrically-arranged palm trees. The Museo de Ropa Étnica de México displays a small, colorful collection of regional costumes. The Casa de los Venados is in fact a private home, which opens its doors to visitors for guided tours around its folk-art-filled rooms.

A few hours suffice for a culture fix in Valladolid, leaving plenty of time for long lunches, and even longer siestas.

With no beach, limited landmarks, and a sensible night life, Valladolid visitors usually treat the sleepy city as a base for exploring the rest of the Yucatán. I too ventured out but mostly stayed in town to simmer in the languor I can never have in London. Poolside under the Mexican sun is never a bad place to be.

Tresvanbien, Calzada de los Frailes, Hacienda Monteacristo, Casa de los Venados, Iglesia de San Servacio, La Casona Valladolid, Hotel Casa del Mayordomo, Valladolid.

February 20, 2019

That Morning Routine

KOBAYASHI IKKI'S SERIES OF POSES convey states including dignity and drunkenness. They elevate the stick figure with superb composition, effortless lines, and a minimalist restraint. The weightlessness reminds of Alexander Calder's mobiles.

At a glance the poses make me think of morning yoga, which I have practiced more or less regularly for the past ten years. I dedicate minutes to sun salutations, but even that makes a notable difference to how my body feels the rest of the day. It seems only natural to stretch after sleep, which is why animals do it instinctively.

Kobayashi Ikki is a Japanese graphic designer whose work is inspired by traditional Japanese emblems and graffiti. He works with pen and paper to create hand-crafted prints, at once clean and playful. “I like to make a work as if a child is playing, they make funny ideas that adults can not imagine so I always want to keep that feeling in my work.” Ikki shares with It's Nice That.

I would also like my morning routine to feel as if I were a child playing.

Prints by Kobayashi Ikki,

January 22, 2019

That Stolen Snooze

A 1957 TECHNICOLOR ADVENTURE FILM SET IN TIMBUKTU, Legend of the Lost sends John Wayne, Sophia Loren and Rossano Brazzi on a treasure hunt in the Sahara. The plot plays out in comedic, telenovelic proportions, with a love triangle and countless mishaps occurring to the trio.

There are enjoyably exotic flourishes in the film’s music, set and costume design, in spite of the outdated casting and directorial decisions. What is indisputable, and helps to overlook the camp, is Sophia Loren’s ravishing beauty as a moorish thief. From her very first dusky-skinned, pale-eyed appearance, Ms. Loren captivates.

Here, a behind the scenes snap of the actress napping on set in Tripoli. Glamor!

Sophia Loren in Legend of the Lost, 1957. Image from

December 20, 2018

That Cave of Wonders

THERE ARE NO ACTUAL ELEPHANTS IN GOA GAJAH, the site of a man-made cave misleadingly called Elephant Cave. Its intricate doorway depicts a giant menacing face surrounded by various forest and animal figures, none of which are elephants. It is suspected that the cave’s name derives from a series of inaccurate translations over time.

If not elephants, what’s there to find? Numerous stone steps below street level, the site is a complex comprising the cave, a pool with seven statues, a temple, and a rock garden, all nestled among lush forest greens. Palms tower overhead, fresh water runs below. Beyond are small farms and the postcard rice paddies of Bali.

Goa Gajah’s location was considered sacred by its founding people, who built the complex on a hillside where two streams met to form a river junction. Dating as far back as the 11th century, it is but one of many archeological sites in Bedulu, once the capital of a great kingdom ruled by the Balinese king Dalem Bedaulu.

Pop by for a wander around, sweaty climbs up many stone steps, and if you're lucky, prepare to be literally blessed.

Goa Gajah Elephant Cave, Bedulu Bali.

November 15, 2018

That Physicality

RODIN BELIEVED THAT AN INDIVIDUAL'S CHARACTER was revealed by their physical features. As such, his work deviated from Greek idealism and Baroque beauty, giving way for a much more natural aesthetic considered radical, even controversial, for his time. His The Thinker was fashioned so that every part of the body speaks for the whole. The subject's rigid back and gripping toes exhibit that the Thinker, in Rodin's words, "thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes."

When a marble version of his sculpture The Kiss went on display in 1913, it caused an uproar and needed to be draped with a sheet. The Age of Bronze was thought to be so lifelike that Rodin was accused of having cast the work from a living model. He made his subsequent sculptures deliberately larger than life since.

Beyond sculpture, Rodin drew in chalk and charcoal, and painted in oils and watercolors. The human body continues to be a prominent subject in these works, carrying the same naturalist style while celebrating character and physicality.

I am intrigued by his female nudes, which feature unconventional poses not usually seen in traditional academic postures. It is said that Rodin preferred his models to move naturally around the studio, where he studied them from different angles, both at rest and in motion.

The resulting drawings carry awkward and erotic touches that feel as fresh today as when they were created in the early 1900s. Outstretched limbs, standing upright, bending forwards or backwards; I imagine the models to have been quite relaxed, and the studio to have been warm and spacious. With limited lines and colors, Rodin masterfully infused his drawings with the same physical presence exuded by his more famous sculptures.

Drawings by Auguste Rodin,

October 11, 2018

That Angelou

"PERFECTLY IMPERFECT IS HARD TO ACHIEVE IN PRODUCTION, but I’m always trying to show our partners what I mean by using nature as a visual metaphor." shares Jasmin Larian Hekmat with Forbes, where she's been listed in 30 Under 30 for art and style in 2018. Indeed, while her label found its success with handbags made of materials from warm climates, such as straw, bamboo, and rattan, other pieces in synthetic still carry the brand's natural aesthetic.

Created in 2012, Jasmin Larian Hekmat's Cult Gaia produces heirloom pieces recognizable by their sculptural style. The handbags, shoes and accessories are first objet d’art, and secondly functional, so they are purposely designed to turn heads. The half-moon-shaped Ark bags were a fashion phenomenon in 2016, taking over fashion editorials and celebrity feeds. The Babe takes the form of an actual piglet with shoulder straps.

Cult Gaia's Babe, Ark, and Lilleth bags in bamboo and straw:

My current pick is the Angelou, which is essentially a giant tassel braided around two rings. Like most other Cult Gaia bags, the Angelou is delightfully impractical, as objets d’art are.

How to wear it? Travel someplace warm, potentially coastal, attend a dressed-up function either by day or night. Fashion is really only partly about items, and mostly about lifestyle. Design a life, and the right things slot in.

Cult Gaia Angelou, Babe, Ark and Lilleth,