Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Valentine's Room

Jack and Therese think I've gone way over the top with this one - perhaps the quilted bed for the knitted dogs is a step too far, but it seems only reasonable that in addition to day-wear, dear Valentine needs a nightgown and a comfortable place to rest her weary wooden head.

I made her a pretty nightgown from an old linen tablecloth and added lace trim to the neck and hem.

The bed is made from six old clothes pegs, painted brown (four for the legs and two for the headboard), a sturdy shoebox lid, and a piece of corrugated card, which is secured to the bed base with a couple of wooden skewers. 

Add a stuffed linen mattress, a crisp white sheet, a plump pillow 
and a colourful quilt, and Valentine's cosy bed is complete.

For the bedroom furnishings I painted a small box and glued the four bishops from an old wooden chess set to the bottom so that they became turned legs. A birthday candle fitted perfectly into the candlestick and I added a water jug and a cup to Valentine's bedside table.

An old jewellery box found in the basement has become a slim wooden chest at the end of the bed that holds Valentine's clothes. Four pawns from the chess set have been glued to the base, which means that the dogs get to sleep at Valentine's feet in their own little bed.

Now really, I ask you, how is that over the top?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Out and about with Valentine

So now you can see why I've been gathering small things lately!

Anyone raised in the 60s and 70s like me will be familiar with the stop-motion animation of The Magic Roundabout and Bagpuss. What a nostalgia trip it has been to rewatch a couple of episodes of these old series and remember the six weeks I spent at home with hepatitis when I was seven, lying on the bed that mum had made up for me in the lounge, and immersing myself in the adventures of Bagpuss the saggy cloth cat and Dougal and friends in the Magic Roundabout.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Introducing Valentine

This Victorian Penny doll, aptly named Valentine, was a lovely gift from Jack. 

She's a bit battered, with one leg that doesn't bend, and one arm that needs to be reattached, but all in all she's not doing too badly for a 120+ year old wooden doll. Being Victorian, she's not terribly keen on being photographed in the nude, but all she was wearing when she arrived yesterday was a pair of nicotine stained crocheted bloomers which quickly went into the bin. 

I'm not a doll collector by any means, having seen far too many horror movies about sinister dolls over the years, but ever since I fell in love with Rumer Godden's book The Dolls' House (1947) when I was little, I have always wanted a penny doll of my own. I've written about another of my favourite Rumer Godden Books Miss Happiness and Miss Flower here. The detailed description of putting together a Japanese dolls' house captivated me as a girl.

The star of  The Dolls' House is a tiny Dutch farthing doll called Tottie. She's very calm and wise, having lived for such a long time, and she looks after her family of mismatched dolls, the Plantaganets.

What I love about this book is the way Rumer Godden has managed to craft a gripping story, ostensibly about a group of dolls who long for a home of their own, that tackles subjects like the British class system, snobbery, human cruelty, the post-war economy, and the true meaning of family. If it's still in print, you should definitely read it yourself and read it to your kids. I won't include any plot spoilers, except to say that Tottie's nemesis is a really excellent baddy. 

Anyway, back to Valentine and the problem of her nakedness...

That's better! Firstly, I wiped her face and refreshed her hair with a coat of black acrylic paint applied with a fine brush. Then I knitted a tiny shawl, tied at the back like the woollen shawl Fanny Brawne's little sister Toots is wearing in a scene from Jane Campion's film Bright Star. Lastly, a simple linen skirt with a pretty floral trim. 

Now that Valentine is dressed, I sense that she's feeling much better about her lot and that she might grow to like her new home and owner. Perhaps there'll even be a smile on that serious little face of hers before long.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Found in Orewa

There's a great Hospice shop in Orewa and last time I was there I found this lovely little oil painting by Yvonne Paine. A note written in pen on the back says that it was hung in the Academy of Fine Arts exhibition in 1967. Sellotaped to the back there was also a photocopy of a newspaper article about a gift made by the artist to the Tauranga Art Gallery of a painting called Windy Day.

Three works by Academy women have made their way into my collection now and I plan to keep my eye out for more.

Friday, February 10, 2017


More tiny things. 
A wooden duck smaller than my thumb and 
two little Branksome china jugs.
I do have a plan in mind.
More soon...


Monday, January 30, 2017

The art of the "tablescape"

As a general rule, I have a strong aversion to the latest word trends. For instance, I want to run screaming from the room whenever I hear the word "granularity" applied to a discussion of student essays, and I loathe the word "iteration" applied to travelling art exhibitions. Funnily enough though, when I encountered the word "tablescape" in the interior design book the stuff of life by Hilary Robertson, I didn't find it as abhorrent as I thought I would. In fact, I found it quite appealing. 

A tablescape, in case you're interested, is a changing display of visually interesting objects that you've bought or found. Such an arrangement can include pictures and photos, ceramics, flowers and foliage, or random bits and bobs that have come across your path. Roberston has a designated table in her apartment for her changing "still life" arrangements, and an important element of the tablescape is that it is frequently refreshed so that your eye is continually delighted by the sight of new compositions. A good tablescape should also reflect the interests and personality of the homeowner. Here are a few examples from Robertson's gorgeous book with photographs by Anna Williams:

 A still life in the home of a florist.
 A display shelf in the apartment of a landscape designer
 A shelf above the bed in the home of the owner of a vintage emporium

Inspired by the ideas in the book, and looking for a new home for my three vintage rolling pins (see last post), I tried a small tablescape of my own. The rolling pins are segregated on their own woven mat, which sits alongside a group of ceramics and a vase of flowers.

 The monkey dish, bought during our trip to Shanghai last year, is one of my favourite ceramics.

A "shelfscape" in my office features my two favourite toys: a sweet felt dog bought 20+ years ago from an op-shop and a gorgeous old wooden cat puppet (named Topper) that came from an antiques store in Whangarei. They sit looking cheerful alongside a framed postcard by Grant Banbury, a couple of pots from Freedom Furniture and a drawing of Merope by Emma Smith. 

Here's a close-up of Topper's lovely face. 

But of course, all the visually stimulating tablescapes in the world pale in comparison to the  ever-changing "sofascape" that is this small furry marvel! 
Why would you want to look at anything else?

the laws of attraction

Once a week, Jack and I jump in the car and head off on a spontaneous road trip. No packing - no organisation - just get in the car and go. On Saturday, we took advantage of the glorious weather and headed to Helensville, an historic town on the Kaipara River at the southern edge of the Kaipara Harbour (above). Our first priority is always to sample the homemade tucker from local bakeries en route. On this occasion, the Helensville Bakery at the extreme end of the township (across the road from the old Regent Theatre) provided a sublime Sally Lunn and one of the tastiest mince and cheese pies I've ever eaten. 

Our second priority is to keep an eye out for interesting books (Jack) and curios (me). We never know what will end up attracting our attention.

Jack spotted The Voices of Silence in the window of John Perry's cluttered shop in the old Regent, which John very kindly extracted for him. It was quite something to watch him delicately tiptoe around the objects in the window to reach the book. I guess when you surround yourself with that much clutter, you must get pretty adept at being able to maneuver around things with minimal breakage.
Fortunately, a sale was made, and Andre Malraux's 1953 history and philosophy of art made its way home with us.
My eye, on the other hand, was drawn to a tub containing three vintage rolling pins in an antique store in Huapai.

Aren't they gorgeous!
Now I just need to work out how best to display them.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

the star of the show

I don't often blog about what I cooked for dinner, but I felt compelled to let you know about a recent discovery. For pottery lovers, the star of the show above might be the Brendan Adams cups, and let me tell you that chilled water tastes unbelievably good from these vessels. Others might favour the sage green Poole plates, which were my mum-in-law's wedding china in the late 50s. But for me, the star of the show is the humble coleslaw, made super-special by chef and food stylist Anna Jones.

Who would have thought that a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of brown rice vinegar, and a tablespoon of maple syrup (the real stuff) scrunched through two cups of shredded red cabbage would taste so flamin' scrumptious! Try it.

All I can say is that everything I've made from this book so far has been delicious, so I really do think that you should buy a copy immediately and get cooking.

Fooling with clay

I'm a fan of hand thrown pots, so these six lovelies made their way home with me after a visit to the perfectly named warehouse/shop Junk and Disorderly in Northcote.

 Here they are in situ at home:
Fooled you! 
They're actually tiny pots to add to my growing collection of miniature tea sets.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy New Year

My collection of handbags welcomed a gorgeous new addition on Christmas day when I opened a package containing a Geranium handbag by Vita Cochran.

Isn't it splendid! My wonderful husband Jack picked up on the many hints I'd been dropping and secretly liaised with Anna Miles Gallery to buy it for me. Meanwhile, I'd been sneakily organising a gift-to-self of another felt piece by Vita:

A petal scarf from Ng Boutique. Throughout summer I'll drape it like a lei over Karl Chitham's drawing of Calypso in the hallway, and in the winter I'll wear it as a scarf. How's that for a multi-functional piece! My year is off to a great start. I hope your year is too.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jack's Christmas Special 2016


The picture is sepia-toned
like the not-too-far-distant war

the need to stay silent at mealtimes
so her father can hear

every radio news report
the need to pose paramount

in the stiff lines of this schoolgirl
reaching out a tentative hand

to the strangest of beasts
in the latter stages of dementia

my father removed her photos
replacing them with snaps

of his militaria
I don’t think she understands

what we see in this picture
the meekness before authority

the gentleness of the pose
the dark fringe of trees

in a faraway world
where my mother

has just been told
to pretend to feed

a wallaby


For Jack's special handmade Christmas gift this year I'm working with this gorgeous poem he wrote recently in response to the photo (above) of his Mum when she was a little girl.

I made fabric covered frames for the poem and image.

I printed the poem on thick, acid-free watercolour paper and hand-stamped a border around it. The felt frame and the stamped design were loosely inspired by two more images by Margaret Preston (see last post), this time of Aboriginal motifs. Jack's mother is Australian, so that explains the choice of design.

I mounted the two pieces in simple wooden frames from Factory Frames. All I need to do now is screw a narrow hinge between them so that the piece can be free-standing like this. I had planned to make a quilted frame for them, but I much prefer the pair of joined wooden frames.

I plan to spend the next few weeks writing, sewing, snacking and snoozing, so I hope you have something similarly indulgent in mind too.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone.