Sitting Amongst Grasshoppers, Peacocks, and Tulips

Ellen Surrey is a Los Angeles-based artist and designer. As a child, she watched her dad, a Disney animator, work and carefully studied the tricks he taught her. She now finds inspiration in cool old things, particularly mid-century designs. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.

In this collection of illustrations, she revisits some classic chairs in a subversive way. U2’s Bono was once asked about his band’s rendition of the song “Helter Skelter.” He replied, “This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.” In the same way, illustrator Ellen Surrey is stealing back the inspiration that drove Grupo Austral (the Butterfly Chair), Harry Bertoia (the Bird Chair), Eero Saarinen (the Grasshopper and Tulip Chairs), and the traditional artisans of the Philippines who first wove wicker peacock chairs. In her work, all of these chairs—so familiar from living rooms and other interior settings—are reunited with the natural world that inspired their creation.

Surrey’s whimsical illustrations suggest the vibrant colors and stylized shapes of printed fabric. In the waning days of summer, each scene serves as encouragement to take our reading (or our laptops) into the yard or onto the porch.

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