Bernard Maisner reveals the story behind his sculptural window display for Bergdorf Goodman.
If you know Bernard Maisner’s work, it should come as no surprise that the artist is in possession of not two, but three famous hands. How else could one account for Maisner’s prolific body of work, spanning fine art painting, bespoke lettering, social stationery production, and now, luxurious leather embossing? Maisner’s hands–the pair attached at his wrists–have even stood in for Johnny Depp’s digits in the 1999 Gothic horror film, Sleepy Hollow.
Maisner insists, however, that there are no tricks to his trade. Underneath the sweeping flourishes that we might call “Maisnerian,” is a lifetime of practice and even more passion. Yet in 2014, Maisner pocketed the ultimate fantasy for any calligrapher: a spare hand. The creative team at Bergdorf Goodman, a stockist of Maisner’s retail stationery line, approached the artist with the concept of creating a holiday window dedicated to the art of calligraphy. BG offered Maisner a blank canvas in the form of a larger-than-life sculptural hand that, once adorned, would be the focal point of the display. Standing over two feet tall and decorated with Maisner’s iconic script, the giant hand has become an embodiment of the stature to which the artist’s humble hands have propelled him.
Recently, the hand has found a second stage: a feature of our photography campaign for OM with Bernard Maisner. Its scale and gesture, along with the delicate calligraphic pattern, are complements to the structural grace of our designs and the ethereal quality of our collaborative leather embossings.
In his own words, Bernard describes how The Hand came to be and what it means to him:
HOW DID THE HAND ORIGINATE AND HOW DID YOU APPLY YOUR CALLIGRAPHY TO THE HAND?
A dream come true - Bergdorf Goodman was giving calligraphy a dedicated window on Fifth Avenue during the holiday season! The plaster hand was provided to me by David Hoey, senior director of visual presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. David, who works with Linda Fargo, invited me to take on this holiday window project. We discussed how it would appear in the 2014 Fifth Avenue holiday window for which it was to be used. Writing directly onto the hand was not technically possible (as the ink would become absorbed into the plaster), so I decided to write out words, photocopy them onto rice papers, cut them into little squares - sort of flexible mosaic tiles - and then apply piece-by-overlapping-piece in a decoupage method, glued on and glazed over.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO CONSTRUCT?
About two weeks for the hand and the standing calligraphy panels that provided it’s backdrop.
WHAT WAS THE CONCEPT FOR THE WINDOW?
The concept was to celebrate calligraphy and writing, and also to feature some of my holiday stationery items available in the store. The three side walls of the interior of the window were filled with calligraphed words - words all about writing - such as: Quill, Penmanship, Vellum, Splatter, Scribble, Ink, Spencerian, Ascender, Descender, etc. Some of these words appeared on the hand mosaic as well. The writing featured a lot of flourishing and pen play, meant to be a delight for any pair of eyes that were walking down Fifth Avenue.
WHAT DOES THE PIECE REPRESENT TO YOU?
Calligraphy, translated literally as “beautiful writing,” is essentially the blending of invisible human thought, transformed into written language made gorgeous. I love lettering and writing, always have. This miniature room of writing, filled with the sculptural hand, was an offering to the street viewer of the glory of thought and beauty combined. It was a small little world to get into, to ponder for several minutes during one’s busy day in NYC. This piece represents immersion into the world of imagination, a jumping off point from which to move forward.
The Arts: Calligraphy; “Inspired Gifts,” Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows, 2014;
Images courtesy of Bernard Maisner.