I created a set of 15 cards, each of which focus on a different mansion of the Gilded Age, and the bizarre shows of wealth put on by their owners. The cards are printed on metallic paper cardstock, hand-gilded, and housed in an elegant black slide box.
This project began with a mood board, filled with images that inspire me, or related to subjects I am interested in. When I was putting it together, I didn’t think about how they all related, but looking at it as a whole afterwards, it was easy to see connection between them. Themes, like history and delicacy, carried across multiple images, and helped me to organize my thoughts as I came up with a concept for this project. The observations of my peers helped me to draw out other connections would not have noticed otherwise.
As we began to determine the subject of our set of cards, I wavered between themes of history, or opulence. I was drawn to opulence as a signifier of quantity, and thought it might be interesting to subvert people’s expectations of what opulence is. However, I was still drawn to history, and all the different stories I could tell, or dualities I could explore, in the format of a card. In the end I decided to create a set of cards that highlight different mansions from the Gilded Age, and the stories of people who lived within them. This idea combined my interest in opulence and history, specifically my fascination with the obscene, baffling amount of money that people spent on their homes
I settled on a visual language rather quickly once I finally solidified my subject matter. I played with different ways to layer images of each mansion I chose to highlight. I was drawn to the combination and layering of different perspectives of the same house (different photographs of the facade, taken from different angles, etc). I wanted the outside of the card to show the beautiful exterior that was shown to the world, and then the ‘inside’ or back of the card would highlight a story about the person who lived there, often focused around odd things they did with their money. The research process, to find both photos and information about each house and its occupants, was really fascinating and engaging, which definitely helped me continue to push my project further.
During critique in class, my peers suggested adding gold foil to my cards to further emphasize the opulent aspect of the mansions. I really loved this idea, and while I was hesitant about the labor involved, I did some research and figured out it wasn’t as hard as it might seem. I went about gilding my cards, which really added a beautiful interactive element (as the gold changes in different lights), and encouraged people to interact with my cards.
After the project was over, I also remade my box, so it had a stronger construction, and added a gold-foiled pull tab. Overall, I really enjoyed this project, and learned a lot about how I can combine my own interests with my design practice! I think my interest in history has started to peek through into my work, so I’m really excited to see where it goes, especially in capstone next semester.