Saturday, 28 February 2009

I'm Sorry Matthew

In anticipation of a deliciously new episode of Brothers & Sisters, Gabriel and I chose to gather some fitting edibles from the shop around the corner. However, our corner shop is a little beyond the self-consciously in-vogue Electric House - an exclusive beehive buzzing with thin hot things, each hyper-aware of their contribution to the fashionable epicenter of the capital. Striding along past the line of mingling smokers, we lock eyes with none other than the incredibly suave and well put-together Matthew Williamson. I feel Gabriel squeeze my shoulder, and it's then that it dawns on me - I am excruciatingly underdressed in the most disproportionate outfit I have ever worn in public, which is bad enough, except now he's gazing at us rather too much longer than is normally considered polite! By the time we reach the safe harbour of Buy Best, we're cackling uproariously as we take stock of my (borrowed) black Crocs, an enormous (borrowed) knitted poncho, with a (borrowed) scarf slung not only around my neck but also around that of Gabriel's. And for those of you who aren't aware of what we look like, I am rather tall and Gabriel is considerably shorter. All in all, an odd duo.

Just to show you all why I am convinced I will not be the inspiration for Williamson's latest collection, here is a small taster from his Spring and Summer 2009 offerings. Yum.

Unfortunately, these photos do not show just how gorgeously saturated his colours are, but especially this fuschia and scarlet ensemble is glorious in full technicolor. See at

Friday, 20 February 2009

Natural Fashion

We've just started a new module at university titled 'The Body Adorned'. We haven't been given an incredibly detailed brief yet, but I immediately thought of this book that I fell in love with recently titled Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester. It is an intriguing example of the kind of creativity that springs from humanity living in abundance and simbiosis with nature. The Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa live near the busy streams and rivers that cut through the dry savannahs of the Rift, allowing for a bounty of fruit trees, grasses, flowers and papyrus to flourish. Especially before the arrival of the rain season, the hot weather encourages families down to the cooling shades of the water, where the inspiring raw materials for their creations lie. As Silvester notes; 

"For Westerners, any such activity might demand great intellectual effort - which branch, what colour, how and where should they be arranged? - and the whole process could seem laborious... but here people make their choices spontaneously but firmly... They live so closely to nature that they also act naturally..."

The Rift Valley is blessed with a rich paint-box of minerals and earth pigments. Red, ochre, shades of white, yellow and light grey - with the exception of blue, the tribes have access to concentrated colour that contrast beautifully with the coppery tone of their skin. The painting also has the practical property of protecting them from sun exposure. The pigments dry within seconds, which give the artists a spontaneous incentive to act in bursts.

What I find so fascinating is Silvester's thoughts on the up until recent absence of mirrors in these tribes. Even the rivers are too silty to provide a clear reflection, leaving the response and reaction of others as a measure. Since your self-image is determined through the eyes of others, the practice of body-painting and decoration is rarely done alone, and often in teams.  

Surely what we are seeing is one of the very first art forms - more than likely far far older than cave paintings and other recordable varieties. This close interaction with nature requires a knowledge of the properties of each material, leading to a tactile understanding and instinct for the environment. Perhaps this enjoyable way of learning was intrinsic to our survival - and how apt that this very human instinct to create and touch should still thrive in what is often referred to as the 'Cradle of Humanity'.

And just quickly (that was quite a big sentence I wrote up there), a slightly less spontaneous example of our rather more studied approach to dressing up... 

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Fairy Tales from the Fifties

To celebrate finally getting a television (even if the arial is not co-operating), a small package from dear old Amazon turned up this morning with Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon and White Mane. Though I had bought it for the more well known The Red Balloon, I actually loved the story of the wild horses and little fisher-boy set in Camargue, France. 

In both, Lamorisse captures two young innocents seeking escape from a world of corruption and brutality via their chosen mediums - a beautiful independent horse and a magical red balloon. Both keep the boys company in their harsh settings, each ending in mysterious manners that allow the two to return to the supposedly more fair and understanding worlds of their companions - one swims out to sea and to "a wonderful place where men and horses are friends, always", and the other is transported high high up above Paris by a whole cohort of multi-coloured balloons. Lamorisse was formerly a documentary-maker which is evident in his style, and this ability to portray with 'realism' is in harmony with the fairy tale nature of the stories.

Alain Emery, who plays the young boy Falco, had to learn how to ride and for most of the film he seems to be galloping bareback! For the scene in which he is dragged by White Mane through marshes and onto the beach, Lamorisse himself did the stunt double.

White Mane 1952

The Red Balloon 1956

Truly recommend both films - very inspiring and beautiful. Visually, White Mane is stunning as the arid, bright seaside marshes are brought to life in black & white, while The Red Balloon is a colour-saturated feast for the eyes.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Cobalt Seas and Westerly Winds

Is it just me, or is there a waft, a mere hint, that spring is springing nearer with each day? No? Ah well, the new spring/summer collections by Toast are enough to convince anyone that it simply MUST be getting warmer. Now i'm off to water my geraniums before I go and take my morning dip in the warm turquoise sea beneath my little whitewashed home. Byeee!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

My Valentine's Note

"Did you know that St. Valentine is also the saint of epilepsy, the plague and beekeeping?" asked Julia.
"Um, no."
As it turns out, our Valentine was a patron of many important things such as fainting and travelers, the above, and of course love, young people and the betrothed. Really, his link to romance was pressed upon him many hundreds of years after his death, but still the legends insist that he sent a love note to his jailer's daughter on the eve of his execution signed "from your Valentine." The good old romantics of the 19th c. exchanged pretty hand-written notes, before card making became popular. See below:

We three housemates had a lovely morning - English breakfast at Tom's, then an enthusiastic perusal of the market. Now here's the good bit; there I was, browsing away at a nice man's stall, inspecting mustache curling tongs and matching mirror, an old bright red spud gun, antique monopoly counters and much much more, when there, shining and beckoning lay a miniature molten gold-glazed tea set and tray. Perfect. Intact, with each lid in place.
"The glaze really does have gold in it," said the man, and I choose to believe him, though I must say, the amount of times I've heard "I know it's an original. If I could prove it, it'd cost yer four hundred quid, but as it is you can have it for a fiver" is unbelievable, not to mention small labels with "real gold" followed by "maybe" beneath in brackets and tiny font.

"My mother had a habit of asking 'But is it Limoges?'" (my favorite quote of the week) said a fellow stall keeper. Quite right too, but anyone can see that this set is fit for a queen faerie sprite. So I wrapped my midas wares in spare coffee napkins, and took it home to gaze at it in rapture.
"I would actually DIE OF ECSTASY if I tracked down a life-size version" I exclaimed with passion. The plot thickens. This time, Gabriel, Ian and I ventured out to the far flung and somewhat more peculiar regions that begin after the bridge towards the Golbourne Road. And there, shimmering like a beacon, calling like a heavenly golden siren, the stuff of angels, was my very own life-size magical MOLTEN GOLD TEA SET.

That's right, my most random dream came true, and all for a tenner. Six coffee cups and saucers, a cream jug, a sugar pot and a coffee jug too. They will forever more remind me of Valentine's Day and love and epilepsy and the plague, not to mention wishes and pink roses.

Laurel and I later headed out to see the very funny and clever 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour', written by Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn at the National Theatre. It was really extraordinary, set in a Soviet asylum and staged around a full orchestra. It was hilarious, violent and sinister all in one blow, with music, dancing and solid acting. We also had surprisingly good seats which helped.

Afterwards, we headed outside onto one of the many balconies and up above us, projected onto a vast facet of the theatre was a final scene from "Shakespeare in Love", also written by Stoppard. We headed up onto the roof to find a multitude of huddling couples wrapped in blankets, transfixed by the enormous heads of Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow. So SO much more romantic than a constipated dinner for two, AND it was blissfully FREE of charge. It felt very British somehow and wonderful to watch it on the South Bank, the Thames at our backs and the sites of many of Shakespeare's galavanting escapades a mere minute away.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Fairytale Otherworlds

This is some of the incredibly atmospheric work of the Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco. I can't help but appreciate his use of light and dark, and all of his images have an alluring quality that seem to pull you head first into their worlds. He has had a lot of success particularly in fashion already, and he is very good at keeping his online portfolio updated, so it's definitely worth a look every now and then...

That's me in Lapland after I leave Uni. Just me, the sleigh, and a bunch of nice reindeer hides thank you very much.

Surely faeries exist...

Scrap that last post, THIS is my new bed of choice.

Whot? Everyone needs the odd husky in Lapland. 

Special Corner

Just a little mood board if you will - or simply lovely rejects I accumulated from the last post that were misfits for the theme. So here they are in their own special little corner, for special things. Aw. Special.

The kitten child. 

I actually happen to own this (deeply smug voice). Well, ish. I picked up a 60s copy last saturday at Portobello Market; got a good deal as the equally tasteful Elizabeth got one portraying a succulent red rose for her mother dearest. Now where to put it...

Bell jars and gilt frames, 'nuff said.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sleeping Beauties

I've decided that my little guest bedroom is crying out for some attention. It has finally been graced with a fully-functioning-if-squashed-in mattress sleigh bed and i've gotten some hotch potch floors sanded in there, all of which is highlighting the horrendous 'tarrow root' shade of the walls as unforgivable. So, where to start? Right here of course! Ha!

I love this disheveled little Indian-inspired day bed. Especially the photograph positioned on top of the wall hanging - another nifty way of making a cosy nook.

This bedspread is by Emery & Cie, and they currently have some spellbinding wallpapers and textiles. I don't know if i'll be able to exercise my resisting powers...

This is a little grander, and a lot French-er. Lord only knows i'd do it if i was blessed with parquet flooring, but i'm not, so perhaps i'll stick to the rank of my room and go for muslin rather than full-on glorious silk satin. 

Sighhh... bed genius. What child/adolescent/adult would NOT absolutely LEAP into that warm haven? My only concern is I might have to sleep diagonally, but worth it for the carved panelling and curved ceiling...

A bedroom from the fabulous Mildred's Lane. 

 A more laid back and shabby french take on the above - love the fabric type.

This gypsy-like glory reminds me of something I would have created if I'd been allowed to run riot in the house, picking out choice fabrics from the cupboard and only the best chairs from the kitchen! 

According to the National Sleep Research Project, the pre-electric eras got an average of 10 hours of good sleep a night, with adaptation to the seasons - much like our fellow cousins the chimpanzee. It's now considered good going to get 8 hours. As for those between 18 -25, we're far more affected by sleep deprivation, and the internet is considered one of the worst influences... gosh, it's getting late... off to Bedfordshire... Zzzzzzz zzz zzzzzz...

A Little Food for Thought...

The Five Languages of Love

Unhappiness in relationships, according to Dr. Gary Chapman, is often due to the fact that we speak different love languages. Sometimes we don't understand our partner's requirements, or even our own. We all have a "love tank" that needs to be filled in order for us to express love to others, but there are different means by which our tank can be filled, and there are different ways that we can express love to others.

Complete set of results

Physical Touch: 12
Quality Time: 7
Words of Affirmation: 6
Acts of Service: 4
Receiving Gifts: 1

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Pink Sapphires and Green Rubies

Ok, now I know most people aren't delighted at the thought of a snake coiled around them, but if you remember that they were worn as protective amulets (the healing snakes of Asclepios, the Greek god of medicine) of the ancient world, it's really not so bad. And then you can really concentrate on their alluring beauty and the detail of each and every scale... I went to the V&A jewelry exhibition a while ago, and I really recommend it. And it's free. They were donated a magnificent collection of rings that have been displayed in a spiral, showcasing the vast variety of colour spectrums of each precious stone and mineral. Really quite astounding. Who knew rubies could be a shocking shade of green? A sapphire such a deep pink?
Now this astronomical compendium is in a whole league of its own... not only is it a mini sundial with which you can measure the hour by day, but one can also place it front of the eye and look towards a pointer star in the constellation Ursula Major and find the time at night. Oh and it's a compass. And it can tell you the phase of the moon. And the position of the sun and the moon in the Zodiac with its rotating discs, cogs and magical pointers. And its the definition of mechanical perfection and beauty.