Since today marks the beginning of Women’s National History Month I thought I would write about a woman in design history. To say that I was never a history buff would be a massive understatement! Being dyslexic memorizing dates, names and battles were not my strong suit, to say the least. That all changed when I was able to connect a medium I found interesting to history – architecture and furniture. I will forever be indebted to my amazing History of Styles 1 & 2 professor, Freya Van Saun at the New York School of interior design. She opened my eyes to a completely new way of looking at history through the style of furniture and architecture.Luckily enough for

Luckily enough for me the inspiration for which woman to write about came to me in the form of an email for Jonathan Adler’s new Berlin Collection.

The expression “what goes around comes around” is one that not only applies to home decor but defines it in many ways. Furniture design has evolved over the decades to answer the needs of the people during the times in which they live. And while it is forward thinking it often looks to the past for inspiration.

I was reminded of this when I opened the email from Jonathan Alder. His retro meets palm beach or palm springs meet glam is a favorite of mine, his pieces have a wonderful sense of joy to them.

Gorgeous isn’t it? Jonathan Adler’s website describes the pieces as

An elemental exploration of mixed metals, Wiener Werkstätte austerity, and futuristic glamour.”

To give you a little bit of background Weiner Werkstatte was a company of designers, artists and craftsmen in Vienna founded in 1903.  Their mission was to create an environment where the craftsman and the designers worked together,( previous to this the craftsman were not treated well) to create pieces of the highest quality only using the finest materials.(fincially this did not end up working out) Their aesthetic was based on geometry and simple shapes or forms.  It was part of a growing movement developing all over Europe at the time of collective type groups, countering the Art Nouveau(lots of s curves and whiplashes) style that had been so prevalent. These groups were rejecting the intense ornamentation of the Art Nouveau.

Josef Hoffman was the artistic director and one of the most prolific designers of the Weiner Werkstatte.  He used many mediums one of which was metal.  This tea service below is one of his works.

I can see the references  to Weiner Werkstatte in Alder’s new Berlin Collection, and Weiner Werkstatte precedes the image that immediately popped into my mind when I saw the Berlin collection. Which was the Tea Infuser Marianne Brandt created during her time at the Bauhaus.

This image is from the New York School of Interior Design. 

 Do you see the similarities in the base, obviously the metal, and the smooth rounded shape?  Would you ever know from looking at these pictures that these pieces  were created almost 100 years apart? .

 I think another reason this image of the tea infuser stuck in my head was because of the extraordinary talent and perseverance Marianne Brandt had to have had to be able to overcome the obstacles for women of her time.

So to celebrate Women’s History month and remember a pioneer in interior design. I thought I would geek out a little( or a lot depending on your perspective) and write a little about a very talented woman in design history.

Marianne Liebe was born on October 1, 1893 in Chemintz, Germany. Her early career was focused on Painting. She married Erik Brandt, a Norwegian Painter in 1921. Her first exhibition was in 1918 at the Galerie GerstenbergeMarianne Brandt enrolled at the Bauhaus in 1924 and studied under Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. 

The Bauhaus had a very interesting history and one that included both Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe amongst many others. It is definitely worth exploring, but not one I will get too far into. To sum it up the Bauhaus after several false starts and names really comes together after World War I in Germany under the helm of Walter Gropius. This a very difficult time, many of the men had died, the people left had either fought in the war, survived it or their lives had been torn apart by it. The designers at Bauhaus wanted to bring something optimistic to the people. In order to do this they felt they must reject the past and embrace a new vision of the world – modernism. This symbolized breaking away from all things that divide and embracing unity. The schools directive was to educate students who would be working for industry (enabling their work to be more accessible to the masses both in quantity and cost.) under a manifesto that rejects all historicism. The first course would be about elements then students would go to studies of materials, then  they would specialize in an atelier(designers workshop or studio, I kind of love that word for some reason) In the ateliers the students were taught by a master of the trade. 

It was  Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s recommendation that Brandt study industrial design in the metal atelier, they had only accepted men previously. Brandt approached her work from a functionalist perspective, function over form. The simple and clean lines of her her work reflected the modernist influence of her mentor. Though she created an amazing quantity of everyday items, including ashtrays, teapots and coffee sets, her lamp designs were outstanding, particularly the Wilhelm Wagenfield Table Lamp that is till in production today.

Brandt also worked with photography at the Bauhaus, taking photographs that featured unusual angles. In 1926 Brandt left the Bauhaus with her husband to spend nine months in Paris. She began experimenting with photomontage, collages of images and text cut from mass media sources. She made some 45 photomontages. Brandt’s photomontages often depicted the role of the “New Woman,” the liberated, more independent women living in cities. Parisian Impressions (1926), for example, a free spirited collage of personalities and scenes of the city, it shows a number of women in various states of undress.
Brandt returned to the Bauhaus and served as the deputy head of the metal workshop from 1928–29. She also participated in creating the landmark “Film und Foto” exhibition in Stuttgart in 1929. She then began work on furniture production and interior design projects at the Berlin firm of architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Later that year Brandt became the head of the design department at the Ruppelwerk hardware factory in Gotha, Germany until 1933 when she was forced to move to her parents home due to financial hardships. She and her husband had been separated since 1926, they divorced in 1935 per her husbands request. The years Brandt spent living with her parents created a gap between Brandt and her art world friends, one she was un able bridge. She spent a number of years working as an independent artist and teaching art and design in Berlin and Dresden then lived her last decades as a painter, weaver, and sculptor in Chemnitz. She died at 100 years old.