This all sounds eccentric, peculiar and quirky, like we had dropped into an Alice-in-Wonderland story. In reality, John Derian is a celebrated decoupage artist, along with other unique distractions. These so-called distractions have led to his discovery of past illustrations, etchings, rare reproductions and other printed materials that become his muse for plates and platters, trays and paperweights, coasters and bowls; pieces are functional in the home as well as objects of art.
Poring over John Derian Picture Book is like following the artist into a dusty corner of an antique bookstore and uncovering a treasure – image after jewel-like image, each beautiful, silent, nostalgic, mysterious, like something from a dream – from the introduction to the Picture Book.
Back in 1983, while wandering through a flea market in Salem, Massachusetts a young artist stumbled on a box of nineteenth-century books. Turned pages revealed vibrantly hued prints which sparked an obsessive curiosity. In the beginning John used the motifs to make collages and decorate boxes and furniture; then came decoupage, the art of cutting and gluing the images under glass.
Today, John Derian designs, and oversees the hand-crafting of more than 600 pieces which are treasured by collectors around the globe. You want to touch them. You want to hold them. His pieces draw you in; you want them.
Signature objects are made in his New York studio. In collaboration with Astier de Villatte (another of our favorites), John deftly places images on black terracotta dishware that is glazed in milky white.
I’m particularly taken with the Picture Book. The illustrations are part whimsy, part botanical, part ancient in feel. It would be a splendid housewarming gift or coffee-table read. I know it would be just wrong, but part of me wants to frame the pages.