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June 6, 2019

Fabergé Potato


Caroline Scheufele, artistic director of Chopard, had this to say to Melanie Grant of 1843:



In March this year I was at TEFAT, an art, antiques, and design fair in Maastricht.

I was wandering around when I saw this antiques shop from New York called A La Vieille Russie.

They specialize in Russian artefacts and always have unusual objects on display.

And there, sitting on top of a pile of real potatoes, was a potato carved from pinkie-brown agate.

It turned out to be by Fabergé, and I fell in love with it.

Peter Carl Fabergé, of course, is famous for his eggs.

Alexander III, the tsar of Russia, first commissioned him to make one for the Empress Maria in 1885 as an Easter present, by which time he was already restoring jewellery for the Russian royal family.

But his clients were people who decorated their horses with emeralds and had diamonds the size of marbles.

In other words, they were used to ornate design.

In order to satisfy their desire for novelty he resorted to whimsy, creating pieces in the form of fruit and vegetables.

As far as I know, this is his only potato.

It's not clear when it was made — it is signed with his name, but not dated — but it's probably from the 1890s, when he began to produce table objects, including an incredible snail made out of jade and enamel which is in the Fabergé museum in St Petersburg.

Recently I went to the museum on the hunt for more information about the potato, and I spoke to the curators there.

They laughed at me and said they didn't know what I was talking about.

They even wondered how I knew about the potato in the first place — it’s not registered.

But of course they don't have everything.

Its story remains a mystery.

The potato is a fine example of Fabergé's simplicity.

It's humble and lavish at the same time.

I mean, what kind of artist makes a potato this beautiful, with a gold-mounted hinged cover and a fleur-de-lis clasp?

His first eggs had the same calmness of design.

Only later did they become elaborate.

The one that impresses me most, his Hen Egg, is in the museum.

The outside is opaque white enamel and looks just like the real thing.

When you open it a beautifully crafted bird is perched inside next to a ball of golden yolk.

The way he incorporated nature and animals into his work has inspired me to create my own collections of creatures at Chopard.

I have designed everything from gem-encrusted king prawns to a peacock cuff whose blue and green tail twists down the arm.

A highlight was making 150 unique animal pieces for our 150th anniversary, celebrated at the Frick in New York in 2010.

The architecture of his work also resonates with me.

We often work with enamel using ancient techniques, which include carving a piece of jewelry as if it were a sculpture, and often combine unusual materials like aluminum and titanium with gold and precious stones.

It was with techniques like this that Fabergé managed to turn a simple potato into a piece of art. 

June 6, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

A question of readability

Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 6.48.04 AM

Here's a question which only you — the reader(s) — can answer.

Since 2016 I've been reformatting articles and descriptions from their original paragraphing such that they appear here 






I also format my own writing this way.

I do this because it seems to me that they read more easily that way, especially on a phone or tablet.

Do they?

Up top is how it looks with the original paragraphing.

Should I stop reformatting?

Being the lazy person I am, I'm all for doing less whenever possible.

But, making boj a better reader experience always takes precedence over my sloth.

I solicit your emails or comments on this subject.

June 6, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Nubian Pyramids of Sudan

From ZMEScience:


We've all heard of Egypt's pyramids, but what about those of Sudan?

They've survived in the African desert for 3,000 years and they're absolutely spectacular.

These pyramids were built by Nubians, the rulers of the ancient Kushite kingdoms situated in today’s Sudan. 

Approximately 255 pyramids were constructed over a period of a few hundred years to serve as tombs for the kings and queens of the area.

They are much smaller than the Egyptian pyramids.

All of the pyramid tombs of Nubia were plundered in ancient times and all of the jewelry and valuable possessions stolen; however, archaeologists have discovered bows, quivers of arrows, archers' thumb rings, horse harnesses, wooden boxes, furniture, pottery, colored glass, metal vessels, and many other artifacts which helped them date and frame the pyramids into a historical context.

Said National Geographic Society engineer and drone pilot Alan Turchik, "I can fly over and gain this connection between all the other burial sites, between the pyramid and the temple, and get an understanding of what that is from the air."



[via National Geographic]

June 6, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"What do I want in a doctor?" — John Steinbeck


From Letters of Note: "In 1964, following the retirement of his regular physician, 62-year-old novelist John Steinbeck was asked by his new doctor to complete a routine medical questionnaire for his records. Steinbeck did exactly that, and on reaching the last of its many pages, the 'Grapes of Wrath' author discovered, and left blank, a small space reserved for 'any other data you think may be of importance.' Instead, he wrote a letter [above]. Steinbeck passed away four years later."

June 6, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Russian-style EDC


Like homies of my ancestors (both my parents were born in the U.S.S.R.) said to a Wall Street Journal reporter in an article that appeared decades ago about injuries incurred after a horrific crash while they were out four-wheeling across the Siberian taiga: "Spit on it, blow on it, and away we go."

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In that spirit, then, I present to you this nifty tool, discovered deep in the recesses of eBay in the wee hours of the morning of January 28, 2013 by my Crack Research Team®©.

Q. yo joe: Is it ®© or ©®? You seem to use them interchangeably. 

A. It's whatever appears.

But I digress.


This multi-tool does not seem destined for your EDC — though that serious handle ring would play nicely with a carabiner on your belt — unless you're Russian but then, that's OK too.

I like the seller's description:

Vintage Russian Multitool Opener No Corkscrew Driver Ax Nail Puller etc. RARE

This nice item will come complete as pictured in this listing.

Adding to its street cred — not that any more is really needed: I mean, look at this puppy and try to imagine where it's been and what it's done — is the fact that it ships from Budapest.

I mean, if it was out of Bradenton or Charlotte you'd have to raise at least an eyebrow, what?

The starting bid was $19.99; the auction ended January 31, 2013.

Someone somewhere sleeps easier as a result.

June 6, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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