John Derian first came into focus when I wandered into his marvelous home goods store in the East Village many years ago while staying at the Bowery Hotel. I had originally read an article about Derian using and reviving decoupage, which was a popular art in 18th century Europe. Decoupage is the art of cutting and pasting paper images onto glass. John was creating platters and plates and lamps. Cutting and pasting images, to be used as everyday one of a kind functional art, I was fascinated.
Since then I have come to love Derian’s Old World sensibility and “eye”. His store is a treasure trove of decoupage, paperweights, beautiful textiles for the home and ephemera as well as a furniture line. His mini empire has grown to twin stores, one filled with small goods and furniture and one more about home textiles. The thing about Derian’s selection of products is that all together they are highly individual and “curated” (a word that I doubt John would use!).
I was really excited Saturday to meet the actual John Derian in Chicago at Jayson Home and Garden on Saturday as he was signing his just published book of images. For anyone who loves images, John’s work and his sensibility is amazing. Objects and images often refer to nature and slower living times. He works with a small group of New York artisans and uses color reprints of 18th and 19th century images from his private collection and puts them under glass along with reproes of antique calligraphy. The patina of aging is everywhere. John is attracted to objects and images that are timeless. My favorite kind of afternoon would be to sit in his store in New York, turn the pages of his new book and ask him to tell me stories of where he found the images he included, what meaning they have for him, and how he developed his design “eye” that is so unique and particular to him.
In this time of big box stores, where even Manhattan is filled with them, John Derian really stands out as a one of a kind business owner and artist. His love of creating by hand and sharing artisans and their work is captivating. Even after all these years, I love to visit his store and now I’m happy to have this book so I can think about what it takes to create an individual vision and share that vision with other lovers of artisanal functional art.