More than a year ago, Museum curatorial staff got together with The Met Store team to talk about a new line of decoupage designs to be produced by John Derian. Based in New York City’s East Village, Derian and his workshop are widely celebrated for their fine, hand-blown glass decoupage objects. Femke Speelberg, associate curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, chatted with us about this special partnership.
When did you first get involved with The Met x John Derian collaboration? We first discussed the possibility in the spring of 2018. We later organized a viewing day in our Print Study Room, to see works from the collection and identify objects that could inspire ideas for John Derian’s designs.
Were you familiar with John Derian’s decoupage work prior to working on this project? I had seen some objects here and there, but I had no idea about the extent of his work and the range of objects they make.
Did John Derian visit your department personally? Yes, we had a great time showing him and his team works from our collection in our Print Study Room. We have an enormous collection of over 1 million works on paper, so there is a lot to see!
Have you had the chance to visit his East Village studio? I went to the studio with colleagues from the merchandise department to look at existing collections and learn more about the decoupage process.
How many objects did you consider for this program? Eventually I created a list of roughly 100 possible candidates for the team to work with more closely, and from which they eventually chose the motifs for the collection.
The John Derian decoupage pieces feature a compelling range of works from The Met: book illustrations, engravings, playing cards, lithographs—even a watercolor by Edouard Manet. Can you tell us about some of the images that were chosen? What is interesting to me is that the chosen works illustrate so clearly that there is an enduring interest in certain subjects. The John Derian collection contains many images derived from the study of nature, whether it be flowers, butterflies and other insects, or Manet’s apples. They represent almost 400 years of artistic practice and cultural consumption.
Some are scientific, others are combined into an attractive pattern—but at the end of the day, they were all made for people to look at and admire. The fact that we still enjoy looking at something that was made hundreds of years ago always makes me feel closer to the people that came before us. These objects keep that connection alive.
Were there any restrictions on what we could adapt from Drawings and Prints? Many of the artworks in our department are available through Open Access, meaning they can be freely adapted for research and commercial purposes. However, more modern works by artists who have died within the last 75–100 years, or those who are still alive, are usually protected by copyright.
The Favorite Cat and The Statue of Liberty are Met Store customer favorites. Do you have any preferences among the pieces? I personally really like the adaptations of the small insect print by the German artist Georg Herman. It was made with a special technique, known as blackwork, which is essentially the application of techniques for enameling to printmaking. It was popular for a relatively short period, from about 1580 until 1630, and was almost exclusively practiced by goldsmiths.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? I hope that seeing the John Derian decoupage designs will induce people to take a look at the full Drawings and Prints collection database on The Met website—and that they’ll seek us out during their next Museum visit!
Shop these and other charming new decoupage designs at The Met Store.