Saturday, 23 July 2011

Un-lucky bag

This morning, as well as the latest Postman's Knock card, came the new issue of Uppercase magazine which I'd ordered from Magazero.This would not be a big deal at all -- loads of people are into Uppercase -- apart from the fact that when I was making the order, I spotted that they offered a lucky bag deal where you could get a surprise selection of their magazines for much less than the cover price, presumably an imaginative way to sell off overstocks.

     I've always loved the idea of lucky bags, big glossy bags with who knows what treats inside -- but wasn't it nearly always the case that the big shiny bag disappointed once opened? If I think back to my childhood, I fear this was almost always the case -- the sad sweets, the bent paper puppet, the feeble comic. And so it proved to be in this case too.
    I thought I had been very clever by adding a little message to my order: "Please, if possible, can I have design/craft/art mag/s in my Lucky Bag? Thanks!" Does that message not speak of eternal childhood optimism? Obviously, what I should have put was, "Dear Magazero, I am an English woman in early middle age. I am not interested in 'Asian pop culture and beyond' nor in graffiti-style sticker mags. Please send a selection of gentle, whimsical publications on collage, collecting and, at a pinch, crochet (radical only)".
     This is what I got:
Not interested in pimped-up trucks

I had to laugh. And acknowledge that for all my avowed 'eclecticism', it seems I'm pretty narrowminded after all. At least I still have lovely Uppercase.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The House at Green Knowe

The Manor, Hemingford Grey: Green Knowe
Last Sunday I had a magical experience: I walked inside one of my absolute favourite childhood books: The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston.
Some of the Green Knowe books
In fact I loved, and still love, all of the Green Knowe books but the first one is extra special. Lucy M. Boston lived in the Manor at Hemingford Grey, a very pretty village near Cambridge and at the weekend I went to see it with two friends. We were shown round by Lucy's daughter-in-law Diana Boston (whose late husband was Peter Boston, Lucy's son and the illustrator of all the books) who was extremely likeable and certainly seemed to exist almost wholly in the service of the amazing house, which is the oldest inhabited house in the country -- the first parts of the house were built in Norman times.
You couldn't take photos inside the house so this picture and the next are borrowed from the Green Knowe website which also has details of how to visit. This is the sitting room upstairs, at the heart of the oldest part of the house. The gramophone that you can see still plays, beautifully, with bamboo needles and we listened to part of one of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. During the Second World War, Lucy Boston invited airmen from the nearby RAF base to come and listen to her classical music records. She sent the invitation via the padre on the base and she expected that one or two might like to come. The padre sent word back that a bus would be coming with 36 men! Lucy had to hurriedly construct seating for them all out of mattresses and car seats and these are all still in situ. The men came on Tuesday and Fridays from 1941 onwards. There was a lovely painting in the house by Elisabeth Vellacott of the airmen sitting listening to that giant papier mache horn, and while the music was playing I thought of them going off on missions from the base and perhaps not returning.
Elisabeth Vellacott is a not so well known 20th century artist who lived at the Manor with Lucy Boston during several periods. Many of her pictures and some of her textiles are still in the house. Here's a very interesting account of her life.
The house is overflowing with textiles, including some fantastic patchwork curtains dating from 1801-3. They inspired Lucy Boston to start making patchwork quilts herself, initially during the War when they needed covers for the beds (it's freezing cold there in winter) -- she first made these using teatowels, tablecloths and other utilitarian fabrics. She was a prodigious patchworker and often made one or two quilts each winter. She was very adept at using patterns in her fabrics imaginatively and could get several completely different panels out of one pattern. There was a bed in the house piled high with quilts and we were shown each one in turn -- they just seemed to get more and more interesting.
'Tolly's bedroom'
We went up through the house until we got to the attic bedroom which is the setting for Tolly's room in The Children of Green Knowe. Everything was there as it is in the book, right down to the netsuke mouse who comes alive in Tolly's pocket and the cage where the finch used to hide from the owls. It really was magical. The item that I felt the most thrill in seeing was the nameboard of Feste the almost mythical horse. Tolly leaves a sugarlump on it out in the stables and it disappears every day (but maybe Boggis is just putting it in his tea?).
The gardens were absolutely gorgeous too and afterwards we went for a late lunch at The Cock and that was fab too -- but you need to book. You couldn't ask for a nicer day out and I already want to go back again.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


The Beslie cards I still have
When I was a child -- I'm talking about the first half of the Seventies -- I was a keen collector of cards and gif tags from Gallery Five, including those by Beshlie. Beshlie's exquisitely pretty and imaginative countryside scenes were entrancing as well as botanically accurate. She obviously had an intense love of nature. Beyond what could be inferred from her illustrations, I knew nothing else about her.
     Amazingly, through a work connection, I'm now in direct contact with Beshlie and receive delightful letters from her every so often. How strange when different parts of your life link up like this -- and how lovely.
Beshlie Heron by Augustus John
Beshlie was painted by Augustus John at least twice, towards the end of his career, and she has sent me this reproduction of one of his portraits of her. I believe it's in the National Gallery of Wales.
     I sent Beshlie some printouts of all the nice things people were saying about her work online (she doesn't use the internet) and she's asked me to say on here that if anyone wants to get in touch with her, they can write to her c/o Cottage Books, Gelsmoor, Rempstone Road, Coleorton, Leics LE67 8HR.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Mini collection 50

Victorian scraps
That's enough little 'collections' for now! If this exercise has brought home one thing, it's that I'd be much happier if all things that are 'the same' were in the same place, but somehow I don't think that's ever going to happen.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Mini collection 49 -- paper dolls

I've been meaning to blog about my paper dolls for ages but they take some photographing. The ones top left in the photo above are from the Twenties, I think and are on thick glossy card.
     The ones on the right are printed on very flimsy crepe paper and seem very old. Some of them have been cut out and made into much more substantial outfits by the addition of complex paper under-dresses.
     The girl in white underwear with ringlets has articulated limbs but no clothes.
More girlies. I like the teenage girl best. For some reason I stuck the Ice Skater girl's clothes in a book a couple of years ago -- naughty of me:
You couldn't have a paper doll collection without some Shirley Temples. These were my mum's when she was small and she absolutely adored them, hence the missing feet and sellotaped joints. The dolls have backs as well as fronts.
fantastic box
A few -- less common -- guys to go with the dolls. Could've had these two cowboys yesterday!
A kickass cowgirl to boot
Finally, these are the paper dolls my mum made for me when I was little, so they must date from the late Sixties. I loved these so much.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Mini collection 48

a few kitsch cowboys
This pretend matchbook was brought back from Japan in the mid-Eighties -- inside it has greetings and a place to write your phone number. Very handy at the disco!
Don't give this guy your phone number
This one, yes -- adorable

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Mini collection 47

Royal Doulton "Celebrity collection" character jugs
This isn't the sort of thing we normally collect, but we got Groucho first and then it was just too tempting not to try to complete the series. But Clark Gable is missing because his jug was taken out of circulation almost immediately (his estate didn't like the likeness) -- so if any come up for sale they cost thousands. And apparently there's an early version of Groucho which has Chico and Harpo peeping round Groucho's cigar, but it was simplified as that version was too difficult to produce. That, too, is a real rarity.
      They are Jimmy Durante, Louis Armstrong, Groucho Marx and Mae West.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Mini collection 46

Sorry for the break in the collections -- life got a bit busy. Normal service hopefully resumed.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Gina Ferrari's Open Studio

Yesterday afternoon I went to see Gina's open studio. Gina is part of our Postman's Knock postcard project. She's a wonderful textile artist and it was a real treat to see all her work. I specially liked her pieces where she draws with stitches, using machine or hand stitching as a means of mark-making. But the biggest treat was the opportunity to look through Gina's sketchbooks which were absolutely fantastic and inspirational -- they were really everything that sketchbooks can be, showing the working through and deepening of ideas and that intense level of thinking where an artist pushes through an idea and breaks out on the other side to something really wonderful.
    You've still got next weekend to see Gina's work: Saturday and Sunday 16 and 17 July, 11am to 6pm, 49 Hay Street, Steeple Morden, SG8 0PD.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Mini collection 45

I've blogged about broken-pottery mosaic before but I've taken some new pictures, including one of our umbrella stand, a mosaic-ed drainpipe. It's so heavy you have to wheel it along to move it! Also a necklace and a bracelet that use found shards -- I love them.
Aunty Winnie's heirloom table -- mine for £50!
Scraping the barrel now? Trying to make it to 50 collections...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Mini collection 44

seaside postcards
 This is actually a 'real' collection in the sense that I've gone out looking for very specific postcards to add to it and have invested time and (a small amount of) money in it.
     They are postcards on a seaside theme, carefully chosen with art projects in mind, so a lot of them have people in the foreground:
I especially love these washed out looking ones with many people wandering around:
There are subsets of Butlins cards, shading into 'seaside structures' and 'bright lights', also Blackpool. I love both the popular culture of the seaside and the idea of people captured unawares, so these cards are a very rich source of imagery for me.

Ooh, makes me want to head for the edge of the land... Here are a couple of my (big -- A1-size) pictures based on postcards:

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Mini collection 43

Some advertising cards and assorted packaging
The cable car on this Tobler box slides up the lid

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Mini collection 42

oldish pop-up books
Camp cowboys
In this version of The Wizard of Oz you view the Emerald City through magic glasses and secret messages appear
Alice falling down the rabbit hole

Monday, 4 July 2011

Mini collection 41 -- My treasures

This is the first collection I ever made. It's my 'treasures' from when I was a very small child. I've kept them all this time, but mostly without looking at them, and now if I find them again (which I did by chance yesterday evening), I wonder at the strangeness of these ill-assorted objects. They meant everything to me from when I was about six or seven onwards. I would obsessively sort through them and scrutinise them, particularly any 'jewels' which I would hold up to the light and look through for hours. Honestly, it was very strange. I specially loved anything with iridescence.
     So this is really the birth of me as a collector.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Mini collection 40

Bit of a delay in posting today's little collection but that's because I was actually collecting it. It's not a collection in the sense that the previous 39 have been, but I collected these bits of detritus and driftwood on the beach at Tankerton near Whitstable this morning. I love them and have been dreaming of going back there to scavenge ever since I first walked along the beach in the drizzle about two years ago and realised how much pebble-rubbed plastic and wood (and assorted other stuff) there was. I'm sure many beaches are exactly the same, but this beach took on special qualities for me after that day, so when I had the chance of a weekend away I chose Whitstable. Which of course is lovely for many other reasons apart from its colourful beach scrap.
Tankerton beach
We had dinner at the Sportsman, which was completely fantastic -- can't recommend it highly enough but you have to book ahead.

If I make anything with my scavenged bits, I'll try to show and tell.