A Tour of Designer John Derian’s Studio
The famed antiques artist lets us into his wondrous NYC workspace
All of John Derian’s pieces — housewares, kitchenwares, officewares, any kinda wares — are gorgeous, and feel like they’re from a different era. Venturing into his studio, which is like stepping into a 19th-century time capsule, is pure joy. The cozy, lamp-lit, garden-level atelier brims with sketches, swatches, books, buttons, binders, paintings, plates, brushes, boxes, bins, tins, tchotchkes and treasures of all types. (And a big photocopier/printer. Hey, dude’s gotta make some modern concessions for business!) It was like being inside an antique-collecting genie’s bottle. Or just a really cool artist’s really cool work space. Enjoy. -NPH
(1) I find and love a lot of natural history and scientific stuff. This is a chart from around 1890 or 1900 that comes apart. You can peel back the pages, and there’s more behind all those body parts. This was probably used in a school or college from the late 1800s. It did have the top layer of the face, but it fell off — I tried to make a plate out of it, but it just didn’t print very well. I’ve got it in an envelope somewhere.
(2) This is a Currier and Ives print, 19th century. Currier and Ives prints are interesting because they’re classic Americana — not quite Norman Rockwell, but sometimes a little edgier, and darker.
(3) This is my great aunt, Liz Bredin. She was 4’7” and lived to be 102 years old. She had lots of stories. She was super sweet, and also psychic — she was a lady who had visions. She could read your tea leaves. Her son-in-law was a police officer in Massachusetts, and one day she woke up and told him, “Don’t go to work today.” Later that day, he had a heart attack. Luckily, because he listened to Aunt Liz, he was at home when it happened, and he survived. If he was on the road, maybe he would’ve died. Aunt Liz was 1 of 8 children, and when her siblings died, they came to her…. Their partners would call to share the news of their passing, and Aunt Liz would be like, “Oh, yes, I know.”
(4) I wouldn’t say I’m psychic, but I do have a connection to things. And images. All of this stuff has some kind of meaning to me, and it’s all in my book. We did a sticker book version of the book, too. I started collecting all this stuff in the ‘80s when I was in college at MassArt in Boston, and I remember I basically started skipping school and started going to the North Shore of Massachusetts, where there’s a lot of antiques, and there’s a flea market in Salem. The guys who worked there were super sweet, and would share all the information as we bought things.
(5) This is a surprise box — never opened. A surprise box is wrapped with tissue, and there’s a gift inside, kind of like a Christmas cracker. There’s a place in California called Tail of the Yak, and they have them every Christmas. I just couldn’t resist…hopefully this one doesn’t have food inside. I hope there’s no worms in there.
(6) Right now I’m collaborating with a company with some of these images, which I found in a flea market in Paris. With a lot of pre-photography art, particularly from the late 1700s and early 1800s, artists went by written materials to describe things. And a lot of the eyeballs on animals in those days tended to be human-like — as with these fish. I think it’s kind of funny. I might be doing a series of plates with some of these images.
(7) This is an 18th-century frog dissection. It’s funny, sometimes I end up loving things that are not popular with my audience…. These frogs could someday be made into a decoupage plate or tray or paperweight or something, but black and white imagery isn’t the most popular, nor are dissections. But I might make it for the store, and somebody could be happy seeing it.
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