• Alla Maniataki

Wellbeing at home: art

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

Today, we explore another aspect of wellbeing at home: art.

Alla Maniataki, founder of Vincent & Frida, fabulous art history courses for children, tells us more about the importance of art in our lives and give us some valuable tips on how to choose art for our homes.

Do you have art in your home? If yes, what is it? Is it something you bought because it caught your eye, your child’s picture on a fridge, investment piece or maybe it is something that was passed down to you from your favourite grandma? No matter what kind of art you own, it probably evokes a feeling in you. It may be nostalgia, pride, pain, joy, curiosity, content, but there will be a feeling because that is what art does, it helps us to pause and to experience feelings. If you happen to have artwork that does absolutely nothing for you at all, please sell it or take it to a charity shop as soon so possible as life is too short to be surrounded by art that leaves you totally cold.

I am an art historian and now I cannot imagine my life without art. It is an integral part of me and it is always around no matter if I work or if I rest. This is actually a rather surprising outcome as I grew up in a working-class family where art did not have a space. My parents provided a lovely childhood full of discoveries in nature and spending time with friends and family, but we did not go to art galleries or museums.

As for our home, we did not have any art or photography books and there were no paintings on the walls. Our home was a very functional and easy place to live in.

However, there was an unlikely place I was visiting often where art and beauty was everywhere. It was my grandmother’s house in the village.

My grandmother was a milk maid from Ukraine, barely able to read or write. She moved with her family to Latvia where she spent the majority of her life looking after 6 children and 10 grandchildren who would come and stay with her every weekend. My grandmother was a very busy lady, waking up at 5.30 am to look after farm animals, tend to the vegetable garden, to cook and look after all those visitors. It took me years to realise that despite all of these time-consuming physical tasks she had, my grandmother also always made time for beauty in her life.

My grandmother had a beautiful huge flower bed, which she lovingly cared for, she had embroidered all of her bedding with beautiful flowers, she decorated window seals with handmade paper flower displayed that she changed yearly and she often sat down to draw more flowers with a simple ink pen. Just a few years ago, I realised that art and beauty enriched my grandmother’s life more than anything else. Despite hard work, constant emotional demands of dealing with everyday dramas in 6 children and 10 grandchildren’s lives, my grandmother had a quiet passion that brought her joy. She died when she was 83 years old, in her beloved house surrounded by the beauty she brought into her own life.

This is my grandmother’s legacy that I would like to share with you: art at home can enrich your life.

However, as simply going out and buying art objects for placing them around may not bring desired results, I would like to share with you how I approach buying artwork my own house.

1. Joy is a must

I strongly believe that we should feel happiest at our homes. Yes, we may have been spending a little too much time in our homes in the last year or so, but nevertheless, our home is our castle, let’s treat it like one. Art in our homes must bring joy; no matter if you are looking for a stylish piece to match overall décor, or you are decorating your child’s nursery – art must be a joy to look at. If it does not either calm you, make you smile, inspire you or thrill you, don’t waste space and your energy on having it.

2. Art to decorate

It is never shallow to want to surround yourself with beautiful things. While everyone’s idea of beauty may be different, if you find your definition of it and strive to have that idea of beauty in mind, you will end up with space that suits your taste. It is true that sometimes you may have an empty space that you will want to fill with artwork. Choices are endless, so first try to narrow down if you want a piece of unique furniture, painting or sculpture. After that consider size, lighting and overall colour scheme in the space. Then have fun attending local art fairs, art galleries and searching online. If you can buy original artworks vs commercial mass production, it will always bring you more joy as you will know the exact artist you are supporting.

3. Investment

One day a desire to invest in art will come up. I can only give you one advice. If you don’t know much about art world and don’t have trusted advisor, don’t invest in art. It would be wise to start with following a few auction houses results, visiting local art galleries and large art shows like Frieze and have as many conversations as you can about where the best place to start would be. In such conversations don’t focus on money side only, handling, storing and caring for art are all important too. Take your time to make sure that you are getting the most promising art for your cash.

4. Art and Photography books

In my opinion, such books should be found in every house. You can pick up great books in art museums or book shops, but equally good books can be found in second-hand stores, charity shops and fairs. Even two or three books will provide endless hours of entertainment and opportunities for mindful moments.

5. Art of every day

If you buy something and you have an option to buy the same item, but handmade or beautifully done, go for the latter. Match boxes, candles, spoon rests, blankets, hotplates, garden cushions and other practical items all can be found as a plain functional item or a thing of beauty.

Art is a mirror of who we are. It helps us to be braver with expressing ourselves to the world or even to ourselves. I hope that you will look around and find an art object that makes you smile. And if you haven’t got such object yet, now you know what to look for, make sure you get one very soon.