The Basilica of St. Francis, as seen from below

It Is Time to Experience More

Currey and Company Stage for Design Bloggers Conference 2016
Currey & Company’s Edward Wormley Collection created the backdrop for a host of speakers during DBC16.

Experience more. It sounds like a simple directive but how many of us really take the time to savor what is happening right in front of us? I consider it a blessing that, as a writer, I live my life steeped in curiosity and engaging the world with heightened perception, and I feel fortunate to be creating sponsored content for a company that exhibits the same level of creative awareness.

It Is Time to Experience More

Cynthia Rowley interviewed by Anna Brockway of Chairish during the Design Bloggers Conference
Cynthia Rowley interviewed by Anna Brockway of Chairish during the Design Bloggers Conference in Atlanta earlier this month. Image © Melissa Sheets.

I’m speaking of Currey & Company, a busy brand of late with its sponsorships of events like Adam Japko’s Design Bloggers Conference, which took place in early March; a slew of new product releases; and the expansion of its High Point showroom, as well as a new space in Las Vegas. The High Point project will be completed by the next market, which takes place from April 16th through the 20th. I’ll share details later because I want to highlight the #DBC16 sponsorship first, an undertaking that segues seamlessly with the mantra “experience more.”

Design Bloggers Conference

Saxon Henry and Cheryl Draa cop a pose at #DBC16.
Saxon Henry and Cheryl Draa cop a pose at #DBC16.

Currey & Company provided the chic mid-century modern furniture and luscious orchids for the stage set that served as a backdrop for a lineup of stellar speakers. Among my personal favorites were Cynthia Rowley, whom I interviewed during High Point Market last fall, and India Hicks, who spoke about her life and her evolving eponymous brand India Hicks Style. I also had the thrill of presenting during a set of pre-conference workshops, the generosity and attention conference-goers gave me humbling me as I discussed tips on how to make writing sing. It was a remarkable hour during which I experienced a surge of energy that has buoyed my work since.

Perceptive Designing and Writing

The Currey and Company furniture on the DBC16 Stage
The Currey & Company furniture helped presenters and keynoters relax as they wowed the crowd with their knowledge and their stories.

During my presentation, I spoke of creating a unique platform that gives bloggers who are looking to gain traction in the oversaturated world of online content a leg-up. One of my maxims—find a community of historically significant heroes and heroines to use as springboards for a deeper dialogue with readers—is my jumping off point for the literary slant of this design adventure today. I am excited that I am the first to introduce a number of beautiful new products that Currey & Company will release at Spring Market, which I am amplifying through the words of one of my literary idols, Henry James.

John Singer Sargent's sketch of Henry James
I came across this sketch of Henry James by John Singer Sargent when combing through Edith Wharton’s papers at the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

I’m not presenting James as you likely know him—the writer of the great sweeping novel that inspires blockbuster films such as The Wings of the Dove starring Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott and Linus Roache; I’m going to dip into his legacy as a travel writer, and I believe you will see why a particular essay of his is such a fabulous fit for a pairing with a number of Currey & Company’s new releases given the visuals of this remarkable example of Italian architecture that James is exploring, the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

The Basilica of St. Francis entry to lower church
The Basilica of St. Francis as seen from its connected piazza looking toward the entrance to the lower church; image courtesy WikiMedia.

The first product below—Shannon Koszyk’s Temple mirror, which echoes the storied architectural details dotting the stately façade of the Basilica—gives you a taste of what’s to come once you’ve enjoyed a Jamesian jaunt through the cathedral.

Currey and Company Temple Mirror
The Temple mirror in The Shannon Koszyk Collection, a new release in spring 2016 in all its Gothic glory.

Henry James Travel Writer

I’ve known about James’s travel writing since I came across two volumes titled Collected Travel Writings a few years ago at the Strand bookstore, which were published by the Library of America. One covers The Continent and the other features his essays about travels in Great Britain and America.

Henry James Wrote from Bittongs Hotel
For much of his life, Henry James was on the move, his letters to Edith Wharton from disparate ports of call proof of his travels, so it’s no surprise he would record his impressions and publish them.

The writing in them requires a touch of patience because it springs from an earlier time, the essays crafted between 1861 and 1900, but the observations recorded by this man illustrate he was a being who embraced the declaration “experience more” with gusto.

The cover of The Century Magazine by Louis John Rhead
Cover of The Century Magazine by Louis John Rhead (American, born England, 1857–1926, the lithograph dating from 1894. Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the artwork purchased through The Lauder Foundation, Evelyn H. and Leonard A. Lauder Fund Gift, in 1985.

These slipcovered volumes include illustrations by Joseph Pennell, who created original black-and-white and color works of art for many of these collected essays first published in magazines such as The Century, which was renamed from Scribner’s Monthly Magazine when Charles Scribner died.* The Continent holds three sections—“A Little Tour of France,” “Italian Hours,” and “Other Travels.” I found the descriptions of James’s visit to the Basilica in the “Italian Hours” section, nestled in an essay titled “A Chain of Cities.”

Joseph Pennell illustration of Perugia for Italian Hours
One of the illustrations Joseph Pennell created for James’s collected essays titled “Italian Hours,” this one of Perugia. Image courtesy WikiMedia.

The Italian Hours of Henry James

The author begins the chapter by remembering a trip from Rome to Florence that didn’t leave him enough time to visit Narni, Spoleto, Assisi, Perugia, Cortona and Arezzo. “I turned away with the impatient vow and the fond vision of how I would take the journey again and pause to my heart’s content,” he wrote. And this he does, beginning the excursion with his tour of the sprawling church, its first stone laid by Pope Gregory IX on July 17, 1228, the day after the canonization of the saint after which the Basilica is named.

The Basilica of St. Francis, as seen from below
The Basilica of St. Francis, as seen from the valley below; image courtesy WikiMedia and Roberto Ferrari.

Upon checking into the same hotel where the esteemed Karl Baedeker, who produced his famous travel guides at the time, had stayed when it was newly opened—“cheek by jowl with the church of St. Francis” in James’s words—he wrote, “This view embraces the whole wide reach of Umbria, which becomes as twilight deepens a purple counterfeit of the misty sea.”

Entrance to lower Basilica of St Francis of Assisi
The side entrance to the lower Basilica; image courtesy WikiMedia and Georges Jansoone.

About the Basilica, he notes, “This twofold temple of St. Francis is one of the very sacred places of Italy, and it would be hard to breathe anywhere an air more heavy with holiness”—a point that is made in the video below. He explains that this is particularly the case if you happen to arrive after a visit to Rome where “everything ecclesiastical is, in aspect, so very much of this world—so florid, so elegant, so full of accommodations and excrescences.”

He celebrates how the cathedral was sited as the elevation holds the Basilica at Assisi aloft like a prospector would raise a newly found rough-cut gem to the heavens. And he congratulates its long-deceased makers: “they were brave builders who laid the foundation-stones. The thing rises straight from a steep mountain-side and plunges forward on its great substructure of arches.”

The lower chapel of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi
The interior of the lower church of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi with its murals by Giotto and Lorenzetti.

He also applauds the thirteenth-century architects for piling “temple upon temple,” adding, “One may imagine them to have intended perhaps an architectural image of the relation between heart and head. Entering the lower church at the bottom of the great flight of steps which leads from the upper door, you seem to push at least into the very heart of Catholicism.”

Maestà with St. Francis, by Cimabue at Assisi
“Maestà with St. Francis” by Cimabue; image courtesy WikiMedia and Starlight.

He calls the lower church a gorgeous cavern with a penetrating chill enhanced by the splendidly somber and subterranean atmosphere. “The tone of the place is a triumph of mystery, the richest harmony of lurking shadows and dusky corners, all relieved by scattered images and scintillations.”

St Francis preaches in the presence of Pope Honorius III, a fresco by Giotto;
“St Francis preaches in the presence of Pope Honorius III,” a fresco in the Basilica of St. Francis by Giotto; image courtesy WikiMedia.

The images he references are frescoes by Giotto and his artistic contemporaries during medieval times, the former’s paintings illustrating important events in the life of St. Francis. James singles out four that are painted on the ceiling above the altar of the lower chapel to proclaim how completely the artist was “in proportion to his means, a genius supremely expressive.”

"Isaac rejects Esau" by Giotto
“Isaac rejects Esau” by Giotto, one of the murals he painted in the Basilica of St. Francis; image courtesy WikiMedia.

The author goes so far as to declare that if Giotto had lived long enough, he might have given Michelangelo a run for his money as the king of painterly religious illumination! In closing his tour of the Basilica, James says of Giotto’s frescoes of St. Francis, “The great reality of Giotto’s designs adds to the helpless wonderment with which we feel the passionate pluck of the Hero, the sense of being separated from it by an impassable gulf, the reflection on all that has come and gone to make morality at that vertiginous pitch impossible. There are no such high places of humility left to climb to.”

A 14th-century Madonna dei Tramonti by Pietro Lorenzetti
A 14th-century Madonna dei Tramonti by Pietro Lorenzetti on canvas, one of many works of art in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi; image courtesy WikiMedia.

I would like to thank Mr. James for allowing me to experience the Basilica as an armchair traveler, as I would love to visit it someday but may never have an opportunity to do so. I feel fortunate, at least, to have had access to it through the travel writing of such an accomplished observer.

The courtyard of the friary at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi where one can experience more
The courtyard of the friary on the grounds of the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi; image courtesy WikiMedia and Georges Jansoone.

Spring 2016 Currey & Company Introductions

And now for a bit of product eye-candy that reflects similarities to the architectural and painterly attributes of this famed religious gem.

The Sava rug in Stone by Currey and Company
The Sava rug in Stone, a new release by Currey & Company for Spring 2016.

The intricate patterning of the Sava rug in Stone reflects the same elemental hues of the sunbaked exterior of the Basilica as well as the motifs blanketing the interiors of the lower chapel.

Large Nador Mirror by Currey and Company.
The Large version of the Nador Mirror, a Spring 2016 release by Currey & Company.

The large Nador Mirror has a wood trim stained in a dark mahogany finish, the shape of which could have sprung directly from the motifs that frame the picturesque frescoes within the Basilica.

Vinton chair from Currey and Company
The Vinton chair made of wrought iron in a gilt bronze finish has a muslin cushion. New this spring from Currey & Company.

The seemingly random geometrics of the back of the sexy Vinton chair epitomize as artful a composition as the bricks enveloping the Basilica and its adjacent convent—even the passage of centuries not able to compromise the beauty of the church’s building blocks.

The Nador folding screen, a Spring-2016 release by Currey and Company.
The Nador folding screen, a Spring-2016 release by Currey & Company.

The beautiful patterning that makes the Nador folding screen so lovely to observe is as dexterous in its movement as the scrollwork climbing along the vaulted ceilings of the Basilica.

Large Charisma Lantern by Currey and Company.
The large version of the Charisma Lantern, a new product by Currey & Company.

The Charisma Lantern made of wrought iron with a French Black finish could be just as at home in the nave as it would be in the favorite room of your home.

Nador console table by Currey and Company
The Nador console table, one of Currey & Company’s new products for Spring 2016.

The style of the Nador console table with its glass top and its dark mahogany finish crosses from past to future—as great design does, melding the time-honored and the contemporary seamlessly.

Currey & Company Expands Its High Point Showroom

If you are attending High Point market next month, you’ll be able to see these new products in person. They’ll hold court in the newly expanded showroom, the setting designed by Currey & Company’s talented creative team. Those of you, like me, who have made it a favorite destination in the past, never fear: the manufacturer will be in the same location as they have been. You can look for a repeat of the fabulous programming and fare you have found there in the past but with a bit more elbowroom.

Plans for Currey and Company High Point showroom
The plans on the page are morphing into something special in High Point as this entry goes live!

How much more? The former showroom will grow by 4,400 square feet to a bodacious 16,000-square-foot space when the construction is done. Talk about experiencing more!

Construction on Currey and Company HP showroom
Don’t doubt that this work-in-progress will be a thing of beauty by the time Market opens on April 15th.

“All of us at Currey & Company are thrilled to be able to offer our customers a new experience at the upcoming High Point market,” remarks CEO Brownlee Currey. “While we don’t think everything needs to change, we are delighted to have the space to allow our customers and our product a little more breathing room. The added space and renovations should allow us to let the product speak for itself, while making our customers comfortable.”

Currey and Company renovates at High Point
Someone’s getting a head start on the celebrations as the new Currey & Company showroom takes shape.

I’ll be there to see how Cecil Adams and his team have gussied it up so I hope you will say hello if our paths cross during the insane time we hashtag as #HPMkt. I can’t wait for the parties to begin!

Footnotes and references:

* The Illustration of the Master: Henry James and the Magazine Revolution by Amy Tucker.

Soon, I’ll share a bit more about this lauded writers background, including his American birth, vagabond upbringing and his influence on literary thinking during his time, which is presented so brilliantly in Robert M. Crunden’s book American Salons: Encounters with European Modernism 1885-1917, which presents America’s early salonnières and the legacies they left us.

The Modern Salonnière and this DesignLabs entry, It Is Time to Experience More, © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, poet and SEO strategist. Her books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns.

2 Replies to “It Is Time to Experience More”

  1. Another great post Saxon! Thank you so much! We are really excited to show off our renovated High Point showroom with more than 200 new products to showcase. See you in April!

  2. It’s a thrill to write about the exemplary products Currey & Company produces, Bethanne, and I can’t wait to see these beauties in person in April!

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