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Birds of Luxury

April 30, 2014

On a 2012 trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University, Roberta Gruber, Fashion Design, Product Design & Design & Merchandising Department Head, and Sandy Stewart  Associate Dean for Academics and Professor of Graphic Design, were struck by the elegance of John James Audubon’s hand-colored engravings of The Birds of America. This inspiration launched a design process resulting in a set of limited edition silk scarves that pay homage to the five volumes of life-size prints. Recently, Gruber and Stewart designed the second installment of the Audubon Series luxury art pieces, which are now available for purchase online and will be featured in the d&mShop in the URBN Center Lobby (3501 Market St.) during its May pop-up hours: May 5, 12pm-3pm; May 6, 4pm-7pm; May 7, 9am-11am; May 8, 3pm-6pm; May 9, 10am-2pm.

“We thought the images were far too beautiful to be kept in the pages of a book. We wanted to transform and translate them, making them available to wear and display,” said Roberta Gruber. This second set of 100% silk scarves depicts in rich hues the Mangrove Cuckoo, a slender bird found in the mangroves along the southern coasts of Florida, and the Black-Billed Cuckoo, a secretive forest-dwelling bird.

The naturalist Audubon’s masterwork of images is widely considered one of the most influential books on birds ever created. The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University houses its prized holding—a double elephant folio edition containing 435 life-size engravings—in their Library’s rare books collection. It is one of less than half of the 200 original surviving sets. The Academy hosts a daily page-turning of the mammoth work at 3:15pm every day.