1. I popped into the exhibition ‘At Home with the Days’ at twentytwentyone in Islington today, a display of furniture and objects from the late designers Robin and Lucienne Day. Everything’s up for online auction, and I may be having a hopeful flutter on a few items.
2. I went to cat-themed art show over the road from my house last weekend, it was pretty great,
3. I loved these little ceramics fellas, spotted at the LDF Hay popup shop in Selfridges.
4. Yes, this desk clock please.
5. I’ve had my eye on this Charley Harper knit fabric to make a frock for ages. Might have to invest soon.
6. A cute Kickstarter, sticky page markers which create a little city skyline through your book.
I went to the V&A on Monday with my sister, ostensibly to check out some of the London Design Festival installations and exhibitions. But, box of wonders that it is, we ended up having a good root around some of its other corners – there’s always something new to find and admire.
My sister works at the V&A so it’s especially great to visit with her and be given a guided tour of some of the more hidden areas and her personal favourites.
I love Cornelia Parker’s work; ‘Breathless’, an arrangement of flattened brass instruments, sits in a double-height circular space allowing you to view it from above or below.
A 16th century ‘soundboard’ complete with a dazzling array of semi-precious stones.
Beautifully ornate floral chair
Canova’s Three Graces
A collection of puzzle jugs nestled in the ceramics galleries. I like how the V&A isn’t all priceless and important antiquities, there’s plenty of quirk in there too.
The contemporary ceramics gallery; many contenders here for my favourite game of ‘what would I take home with me given the choice’. I think today’s winner would be those gorgeous geometric vases or the perky pigeons.
Here’s some of the actual design festival stuff. I liked how it was dotted throughout the museum like a treasure hunt, with most pieces thoughtfully playing off the permanent exhibits nearby.
‘Ama’ by Michael Anastassiades, a tribute to Japanese pearl-diving women.
‘Double Space’ by designers Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, two huge reflective structures resembling plane wings which slowly rotate around the ceiling of the Raphael Gallery, reflecting the vast cartoons.
‘Candela’ by Felix de Pass, Michael Montgomery and Ian McIntyre; a hypnotic rotating disc with light projections set up in the dim tapestry gallery.
Zaha Hadid’s ‘Crest’ across the garden’s pool.
We spotted Paul Smith and Terence Conran posing outside ‘Paul’s Shed’ by Nathalie de Leval. Cate has some pics of the inside of the shed.
1. We’ve just booked to go to Mexico (DF and Oaxaca) for Josh’s 30th next month and I am SO. EXCITED. Reading my chef-crush Rene Redzepi‘s impressions of the food in the NYT only fuels it further.
2. My very favourite Soho fabric shop, Cloth House, is now selling online. Gulp goes my bank balance.
3. Love this marble-print bedding from H&M – and it’s on sale! But would I keep it for the bed or harvest the fabric to sew with, hmm.
4. I’ve fallen for this sweet collaged pigeon print by Pui.
5. I love Artemis of Junkaholique’s hand-woven textiles. I really don’t need yet *another* hobby, but now a tiny weaving loom is calling my name…
To get me out of a bit of blogging-block, I thought I’d share some random things from around the Internet that have made me smile lately.
1. Stacking ceramic beakers with logos inspired by Communist Poland. Surprisingly lovely.
2. I just want everything cat print from Paul & Joe Sister.
3. Bunting washi tape, ideal for making a quick handmade card or perking up an envelope.
4. A little playground near my home has been planted with poetry, thanks to Ministry of Stories.
5. Historically-accurate brass paperclip shapes: just pick your year and get a beautiful box of ten.
A couple of weeks ago now, we went up to Alexandra Palace to take a history tour, which we quickly booked up after joining the email notification list. Perched atop a big hill overlooking North London, it’s not far from us though quite a shlep on a couple of twisty bus routes to get there. You’re rewarded with quite a lovely view from the surrounding park though.
The tour promised never-heard stories from Ally Pally’s very interesting history as well as offering behind the scenes glimpses into the parts of the palace that are rarely seen by the public. In its time it’s been a Victorian theatre and entertainment venue, BBC TV and radio studio, railway station, exhibition hall, concert venue and ice rink amongst quite a lot else.
Our guide explained that the palace is in the process of securing funds from the council and Lottery to restore and make public even more of the palace to bring it back to its original function as a wide-reaching entertainment venue.
The tour started in the old Victorian theatre, which was definitely also the highlight of the tour. The theatre was amongst the first to use mechanics to move scenery and allow for special effects like actors ‘disappearing’ into the floor. A project to restore the machinery is currently underway; there are also long-term plans to level out the sloped floor to allow the space to be used for a wider range of events.
We wandered down some fairly spooky back corridors, passing the artists’ entrance where bands show up to play concerts.
The old railway station is at the back of the building. Sadly just a few weeks after the palace and railway station opened in 1873, a fire destroyed nearly the whole building and the railway services stopped. Restoration work began in the 30s, but the war stopped it again and the line was eventually made defunct. (Part of the same disused line makes up the lovely Parkland Walk now.)
The final stop was the Great Hall, where concerts and exhibitions take place – from All Tomorrow’s Parties to the Knitting and Stitching Show. This part of the building also burned down in another fire in 1980, so the grand organ and its surrounds are all new but reproduced as they would have been.
The tour was okay: I felt like we didn’t see all that much that wasn’t open to the public anyway. I would have liked to have seen some of the old BBC studios as well, but they are apparently unsafe to actually be in and are awaiting restoration funds. But it was worth it to see the old theatre and to have an ice cream in the park on a nice sunny day. You can sign up here to be notified of future tours.
I’ve been using the Headspace app for the last week or so, and thought it deserved a bit of a write up as I’m really loving it. Have you seen it? – it’s a charming and simple app to get you into the practice of daily mindfulness meditation. As a freelancer and working for myself, I’m usually juggling a few clients and projects at once so often find my thoughts getting jumbled and overwhelming. I especially find myself prone to over-analysing about what might or might not happen in the future, which is a sure-fire recipe for needless anxiety.
The ‘Take Ten’ program, which the Headspace app offers for free, is a simple introduction to mindful meditation which takes just ten minutes out of your day. From the beginning I found the app warm and encouraging, with sweet interface design and animations to introduce the techniques you’ll be using in the program.
I’ve been doing my ten minutes right after waking up – a much healthier start to the day than immediately checking in on emails or twitter. From the first day I could feel it working wonders on my brain and body. Taking a few minutes just to sit still, breathe, and do a quick once-over of your body and mind feels incredibly valuable and I always look forward to the next session.
My favourite part of the exercise is where you go from concentrating on counting your breaths to just letting your mind loose to wander free and settle on whatever it wants to. On a good day I completely zone out at this point and think about absolutely nothing, which feels pretty blissful. The app encourages you to not worry if you do feel thoughts and anxieties creeping in: the point is to notice when that happens and try to draw your attention back to your breathing. You’re encouraged to notice noises, sensations and even smells around you to heighten awareness of your physical presence in the here and now.
The only minor issue I’ve encountered so far is that I’ve started feeling so relaxed and focused on single thoughts that I’ve been letting semi-important stuff get neglected as it’s no longer a source of anxiety for me! I think when you work for yourself you do need to maintain a slight level of tension so that you actually get stuff done and don’t let people down. It’s no good being so laid-back that you can’t be bothered to work or deal with people. I’m interested to see if this is addressed later on in the Headspace program. As my ten day trial draws to a close I think I will pay to subscribe to the ongoing program, which costs the equivalent of £3.75 a month.
Just one week of Headspace-ing has already had quite a profound effect on me. I haven’t had nearly so much work-related anxious baggage rattling round my head, and I’ve even become more focused on doing some personal projects that are working towards how I might want my career to go some day. I really recommend giving the app a go if you suffer similarly with low-level anxious thoughts and lack of focus.
(Do you like my suitably calming photo selection? Not sponsored by the way, I just really liked the app.)
I was treated to a preview of the V&A’s new Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition last week. It opened to everyone at the weekend, so here’s a peek at some of my favourite things on show.
The ground floor charts dresses from the 18th century up to the mid-20th century. You can clearly see the styles changing through the years and the influence that factors such as wealth and location had on the dress a woman chose. Above, some elaborately hand-worked 18th century dresses.
I love the print of this humble cotton dress, worn by a farm labourer in the 1830s.
A steam-moulded Victorian corset to be worn under a dress – yikes.
A century later, the influence of eveningwear on bridalwear became apparent. This beautiful gown with a ridiculously long train was worn by a socialite in the 1930s.
Another stunning 30s dress, bias cut silk with a slightly more subtle train, again worn by a society lady.
A silver lamé bridesmaids’ dress for a Jewish wedding, from just up the road in Stamford Hill.
Not every dress is white: a purple coat dress handmade by its wearer in the 1890s, and a gorgeous red shirt dress from the 30s.
The show is interspersed with little personal touches: fabric swatches, shoes and floral crowns and real quotations written on the walls, which makes it feel intimate and personal. This show really celebrates the bride herself.
Moving upstairs, this section covers the 1960s onwards and contains most of the star draws of the exhibition. Firstly, Kate Moss’s dress from her wedding to Jamie Hince.
The Galliano dress is even more stunning in the flesh as it was in the photos at the time: it’s got over a quarter of a million gold sequins as well as pearl beads and paillons which took over 700 hours to complete.
Another Galliano creation and one of my all-time favourites, Gwen Stefani’s dip-dyed dress. Great to see all the punk-influenced lacing and strapping on the back. Ugly shoes though!
Dita von Teese’s typically retiring shimmery purple gown
Modern dresses with influences from the 60s and 30s.
A pretty 60s tea dress, designed by its wearer
A modern Ghanian wedding ensemble in traditional wax prints. I thought the show was a little too Western-orientated overall – it would have been nice to see more dresses from other cultures.
Interesting and beautiful craftsmanship techniques: roses applied to the veil with rubber, and the Duchess of Cornwall’s handpainted silk coat.
Even if like me you don’t have much interest in weddings, there is plenty to be enthralled by here. The changing fashions through time, the craftsmanship and the social and historical influences are all fascinating and make this show well worth a visit. The exhibition runs at the V&A until next March; you can find out more and order tickets here.
Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:
Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.
Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.
Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.
I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.
Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.
Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.
You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.
This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.
I almost didn’t do my usual photo round-up this year (hence the last-minuteness!) because in a lot of ways this has been a very hard, unhappy year. We’ve had all sorts of upheaval from Yoni getting sick to family illness, relationship breakdowns and deaths. But looking back through my year of photos was actually a positive experience. Despite some really crappy low points, I did manage to fit in four holidays, a lot of crafting and sewing, gigs, more work on the house and plenty of other fun things. Still, I can’t say I am sad to see the back of it and hope that 2014 is altogether calmer. Anyway, here are my favourite photos from each month.
January: a chilly but lovely weekend in Brighton for my birthday. (For my birthday this year we’ve just booked to go to the slightly warmer Tel Aviv, so excited!)
February: A dressmaking class at Ray Stitch which kickstarted an absolute passion for sewing that’s lasted all year.
March: BARBADOS. Without a doubt the highlight of the year, a simply amazing holiday with my lovely family.