Sunday, February 23, 2014

Carol Markel's Open Studio

We were thrilled to receive an invitation to Carol Markel's Open Studio 2014, where she promised to show new hats, beads and drawings.  She also said she would premiere her exciting new Hat Shop In a Box, designed by architect John Buonocore.  What's not to love, right?  (Actually, truth be told, Jean is hilariously fascinated by how much Carol's photo of us makes her look like an expectant whale, and has decided to go with an Orca look this spring. It will go swimmingly with Valerie's angry squid earrings!) We're posing in front of the aforementioned Hat Shop in a Box in all its glory.

Carol greeted us in one of her newest hand-painted wooden necklaces that matched her gorgeous sequined top.

Carol's husband, artist and professor Richard Cramer, presided over the Open Studio with great charm.

As an artist, Carol surrounds herself with inspirational objects, photographs and images, all arranged neatly and artistically on the walls or on shelves in an all-white wall unit. This little diorama on one shelf of the wall unit is just one of many intriguing examples.

How many people do you know with luminscent red flooring in their home? Carol and Richard thrive on color, and Richard is one of the few men we know who gravitates toward colorful clothing. A terrific role model for men everywhere!

Here is Carol in front of her "Hat Shop In A Box" . Click the link for her story about its design, evolution and production.

The landscape at their home is constantly changing and evolving. This time, we found a wonderful picture of Carol and Richard on their wedding day. We didn't want to disturb the pictures, so there's a bit of glare - but so much warmth in the photos.

For St. Valentine's Day this year, Carol posted on her blog Femme et Fleur about her courtship and wedding to Richard in an entry entitled "A Tale of Two Scarves and a Wedding".

A picture from the same period. Carol was already into hats. The photo is black and white, but you can see Carol was in bright colors, too.

One last picture from the same time. Richard was a professional weaver, and taught university classes in Philadelphia. Here he is at his loom.

Here is a close up of one of Carol's latest short necklaces. Each piece in this collection is named after a flower.  In some, placement of the colored wooden orbs is symmetrical (like this one) while others appear more random.

This asymmetrical necklace is a longer version with thirteen instead of nine balls, changing the way they complement the face and neck.

Carol gets such wonderful colors and finishes by using sign painter's paint on each of the wooden balls. She strings them on velvet with a gold fastener. Don't you love how this one is displayed?

This shot not only displays several of the necklaces and fragrant roses on the table but also hints at Carol's wonderful sense of organization, as evidenced by her stacked, neatly labeled storage boxes. That Jean's husband taped the CBS Sunday Morning news segment on hoarders and then replayed it for her during dinner this evening was yet another subtle hint that she needs to take a page out of Carol's book -- and soon!

Valerie and Richard chatted while Carol prepared flutes of Prosecco.

This year's Open Studio was an opportunity to meet Carol's family, whom we'd read about in her coverage of her niece Sarah's wedding to Damon in June 2012.  Here's the lineup from the left: Damon and Sarah, her brother Jack, Carol's friend Barbara (who, when we ran into her outside on the street, immediately discerned that we must all be going to the same place!), and Carol's near mirror-image sister Jeanne (mother of Sarah and Jack).

Carol's latest collection of felt helmets, designed to resemble the famous bobbed hairdo of "It Girl" Clara Bow, also features antique buttons.

Here is a closeup of the back of the hat.

Valerie couldn't resist trying it on for size!

One of Carol's drawings features a femme in a cloche hat with a wonderful necklace of colored balls. Reminds us of someone, if we could just remember who ...

We both admired this black and white helmet in its perch in the Box, next to a necklace with not one but two different shades of yellow beads.  Of all Carol's hats, this was the only one not in blazes of color.  Carol said she made it with Jean in mind.  What caught Jean's eye (besides the domino color combination) was the large black bakelite button on the top between the two white circles.  She had the match to that button in her late mother's button box.  What are the chances of that?

Here's a shot of the other side of the hat.

Like a moth to a flame ...

That button was boring a hole through the felt into Jean's brain with a message:  "take me home".  Doesn't this hat positively scream "Orca"?

The back of the hat almost looks like an array of planets from the button solar system.

Stay tuned to see when Jean takes it out for a spin in public. We're sure an opportunity will present itself sometime soon.


  1. Well, Jean and Valerie, you sure did a great job of capturing the essence of my Open Studio. Merci! And Jean, my apologies for the Orca look in the photo -- I hope I don't find you swimming in the frigid waters off Vancouver. Wear the Nuit et Jour hat in good health. And thanks for coming, Jean and Val!

  2. A glorious review of Carol's Open Studio. The black and white hat is perfect for Jean. Can't wait to see it out on an Idiosyncratic spin!

  3. I received an invitation to this but alas, there was no jetting off to NYC for the day, so thanks for this lovely review. Carol's necklaces are so delightfully gumball-like! That hat is most definitely Jean all over. I had to laugh that JR taped the hoarder's show for Jean - we need to start a support group ;)

  4. I'm not surprised that Carol is organized. Her work has a cleanliness of line and, although it's not minimal, it's clearly precise and focused. I'm more true to my namesake Jean. ( I'm struggling with my hoarding tendencies as we speak.) Now is not the time for her to downsize though, if that means that hat doesn't go home with her!! It's amazing and looks fabulous on her.

    I always enjoy seeing pictures from the past, a lovely couple then, and lovelier now. What a pleasure to be in the presence of love and art. Doesn't get any better. XXOO