Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Graphic re-design

It gets to a point where art starts imitating life, life starts imitating literature I’ve read and I’ve now got to the point where I’d like to sink into the graphic design of our work/home in my very image. It is clichéd to wish for a graphic make over but essentially that is what I’d like. I’m lucky in the respect I have the Summer to prepare for another academic year, and every Summer I try to immerge for a chrysalis of drudge to start a fresh, from ducking to erm…….mid-century modern swan.

Etsy! Etsy! Etsy!

Exciting News! We are about to launch our very 1st Etsy shop. Check back for the details soon…..

A return to Clarke

I think I’ve already eluded to the fact the 'Art-man' and I have a lot of books, many of these are on the subject of cooking. Whilst I/we enjoy cooking I’m conscious of not becoming too curvy, something that seems to have happened recently…so action needs to be taken.

A nutritional ‘fairy godmother’ I often turn to is nutritionist, Jane Clarke.  Clarke’s take on food/diets/complaints is akin to that of a gentle friend, observing the situation and stating the last thing we need to do is panic- just nurture. To do this common sense and gentle exercise is the key-obvious but often hard when you are not happy with the skin you’re in.

Check Jane out, and begin to breathe:  Love you Jane!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

This weekend, a ‘Bank Holiday’ weekend in the UK, we decided to pop into Oxfam Books for a mooch and I stumbled upon a book which this Blog post is dedicated to. “Living well is the best revenge” is the memoirs of Gerald and Sara Murphy, champions of the ‘Lost generation’ writers.
Upon a recommendation we recently saw Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ and it ignited a forgotten teenage interest in: Hemmingway, Stein and the Fitzgeralds’ crowd. The book title was a beacon in a collection of ‘arghhhh’ moments this month.

The advent of social networking sites has wormed its time-sapping way into my mind. I like to catch-up with friends/colleagues’ news but I often find that the time I’d like to be dedicating to creative pursuits is marred by update reading. This fascination with other people’s lives often leaves me feeling, ‘Blimey, they’re achieving so much, travelling to so many places, experiencing a life that I’m not conscious of.’ This acknowledgement is sometimes shocking because it makes me question my own life in comparison.

The ‘Art man’ and I live a good life, a quiet but good life. We enjoy theatre trips, eating out in exquisite restaurants, reading, talking, creating, seeing good friends sporadically and we’re both very close to our families. In a time when we’re trying to streamline/minimalise our creative endeavours, our social/familial life is there already.

So perhaps the Murphy’s title is fitting and something we’ll endeavour to continue to do in the face of such ambitious activity online…..

A room of one’s own (to fold)….

The nature of platonic/modular origami means stepping, although tentatively, into the world that is mathematical formulae. I may have hinted in a previous post that this is an unknown and often confusing land that I can’t seem to relate the pleasurable act of folding with.  I often look at a new model (paper form) for quite a while before starting, re-reading the images and miming the folds with ghost paper between my fingers. I do find doing this eases the frustration when attempting it in real time, as do the little notes I annotate new instructions with.

I remember reading an article written by Nigella Lawson about how she was left her Grand/Mum’s old recipe books when they’d died.  A recipe book is as much a social commentary as any found in the Lancet: finance, frustration, families etc. but all the more accessible as it is written in a familiar hand.   I am a natural cook. I suppose that instinct comes from learning by mistake; there have been a number of inedible meals produced by these origami-active hands that for want of a better phrase have to be put down as an experience.  Now I like the challenge of producing a meal fit for the ‘Art man’ out of fridge remnants. I enjoy that. In much the same way I enjoy forming paper modules for bits of paper that arrive in the slipstream of junk mail that arrives daily. I separate the paper/envelopes into 3 piles:
1st: Urgent post to be dealt with 
2nd: Crap to be recycled 
3rd: Crap but with potential to be folded into something beautiful.

The only issue with the art of Origami is just that, appreciating it as an art as opposed to a craft. After a productive day I’m left with a plethora of forms that just sit there on our table looking unkempt. The ‘Art man’ can produce a painting and as it sits on the coffee table in its noble sketchpad there is almost an arty/elevator soundtrack to accompany it. Uber-cool!   My paper forms look as if a German designer has opened his Dyson and stuff has fallen out.

So, I plan on solving this dilemma. I like the form of hung origami (think 1000s of cranes) or paper tessellated quilts, strung across a wall. I’m lucky in the respect that I have near enough carte blanche to display work in our home, really the walls would be better if I did. But my idea is to decorate with folded wallpaper on the walls or generic landscapes turned into the leaf/tree design the paper started off from.
Wish me luck… 

Below the water's surface.

There are a collection of quotes in Du Maurier’s:  Rebecca relating to postcards:

“I did not answer him, for I was thinking of that self who long ago bought a picture postcard in a village shop, and came out into the bright sunlight twisting it in her hands, pleased with her purchase, thinking "This will do for my album. "Manderley", what a lovely name.' And now I belonged here, this was my home.”

“I leant back in my chair, glancing about the room, trying to instil into myself some measure of confidence, some genuine realisation that I was here, at Manderley, the house of the picture postcard, the Manderley that was famous. I had to teach myself that all this was mine now, mine as much as his, the deep chair I was sitting in, that mass of books stretching to the ceiling, the pictures on the walls, the gardens, the woods, the Manderley I had read about, all of this was mine now because I was married to Maxim.”

“There was a postcard of the Lake of Geneva leaning against it. The Bakers had friends in Switzerland”

At the same time I listened to ‘Rebecca’ on an audio book my Dad bought me a postcard collection of seascapes. I love this book of seas, from calm to stormy-scapes each one felt as if it would start leaking sea water if I was to move the postcard too quickly. The love of these postcards materialises in my love of looking for these singular pieces of card in films, paintings and especially the post-box.
The paintings of Samantha French are so evocative I often find myself looking at them during a work break to refresh my work weary eyes, often resulting in a desire to plunge my head underwater to activate the inner reset button.


In the past I have made inspiration-week postcards. One week’s inspiration making up a collage inspired postcard. Ironically I vary rarely post these cards, instead I archive them to remind me of, ‘the week that was’ if you like- I like the tactility of these cards in much the same way I liked flicking through photographs from the family box. Those prints from the Eighties now have an eerie orange glow to the images, as if every Birthday party or trip to the zoo was back lit by Ziggy Stardust.

So I challenge you, create a postcard from everything that has flittered into your mind over the last 24 hours.  The percentage you accord to each image is as telling as the image itself.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Salad Days

I’m lucky in the respect I like the proverbial ‘diet’ food: Salad.

Whilst at primary school my request for a salad as opposed to the ‘chicken nuggets/chips’ caused such a ruckus in the staffroom that my parents were telephoned. Partly because of the memory of this salad has therefore always seemed a bit rock and roll, the forbidden food.
I like the colours/texture and formation of a salad on a plate, it looks like a small wilderness ready to be ransacked by my eager fork. But, I have one proviso- it has to be an ‘exciting’ salad. None of your limp lettuce leaves, squishy tomatoes etc. it has to zing in my mouth.
It is possible to roll a number of leaves together (cigar style) and taste the ghost of a dressing just by the leaves alone. Lettuce varies as much in size as it does flavour, therefore it is possible to get the component tastes of a French dressing by combining lemon/pepper/unctuous flavoured leaves together on one plate.  
My recent Amazon order has included a couple of salad books to inspire my palate, so excited to become inspired again. Caravaggio Caesar anyone? 

Found in translation

I fold paper. I love to fold paper and when I choose the paper I like to do so as if I’m choosing fabric for a favourite dress. To continue this analogy, origami pieces in their purest form are a collection of pockets and I try not to ever buy a dress without pockets. My default stance is to incline, hands in pockets quite often re-finding a piece of origami I’d forgotten about in the said pocket. The firm texture of the origami piece is as reassuring as neatly folded washing piled in our tiny airing cupboard. Tight, bound, and re-strained.
I like to fold a collection of modular pieces of origami to interconnect into a larger piece often looking like a mathematical model. This makes me happy. I struggled with Maths as a child, I’d much rather cup my arm around my head and write a story. Mathematics didn’t make sense until I had a lovely teacher in Prep school. He was so quiet and measured that there was a process to what he taught and for once it made sense. Whenever I click the final segment into the end unit I think, yes this is my offering to the Maths teacher who eased the knot in my stomach regarding algebra.
This is where I get my love of solving puzzles. Although frustrating, I enjoy trying to crack a hard origami piece and this is often more taxing when the instructions are only in photographs.  I sometimes search for pieces on Japanese websites and although the instructions are a mystery to me, there is a delicious enigma to be found in the images.
To crack this and insert the final piece in the model is exquisite. I’ve always liked the idea of sourcing scrap paper to build a model and recycle the waste paper that ends up on my desk. It feels permissible to fold occasionally at my desk. Unlike many hobbies it’s unobtrusive and I consider it a healthy ‘smoking’ allowance time.  Five minutes here and there…..

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What’s your mood: board?

There is a wonderful scene from Amélie (2001 romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and if you haven’t seen it, I implore you do so without further ado, where Amélie’s parents empty their respective hand/bags, vacuum the inside and then repack them. It’s a beautifully captured scene and one I understand completely. I think there is a fascination regarding what people pack in their everyday bags etc. To line the contents with military precision and then photograph it has become a micro-version of keeping up with the Jones’
Whilst this idea does tick a few of my nosey boxes, it is the idea of artists/illustrators/writers mood boards or walls that does it for me. Whilst growing up my parents were generous enough to allow me to paste inspirational pictures/quotes/letters/slogans onto my bedroom wall. Over the years the wall updated with different artist’s postcards or exhibition invitations. I’ve always liked the idea of slicing through a section of this wall, not unlike sawing a cross-section of a tree trunk, to see the interwoven and progressive images- as akin to my DNA as my genetic disposition.
A designer I greatly admire is: Victoire de Castellane, well I admire her wall. The colours and combinations of kitsch and Dior style often leaves me as excited as the creational result itself.  I think like this, I need to process by placing ideas, concepts on a large wall. The great achievements in my life have come from kernels borne of a mood board.
Maybe this is the idea of a ‘book prescription’ again, but a more visual example. To bring together visual representations of what it is you need is a more immediate form of literary enlightenment.

Orig. (ami) sightings:

One of the reasons for this blog was to chronicle my desire to start making modular origami. My love of origami exploded when I was a child and even now, I feel calm whilst I have a small piece of paper between my fingers to fold. In the previous blog I questioned what my identity was, origami is a definite part. A lasting legacy will be she was good with paper….an epitaph me thinks. Or maybe light the touch paper and run….ok enough now.
A sneaky love is looking out for origami pieces captured in the background of films, this makes me squeak with excitement to the point to ‘Art man’ has to cup his ear for fear of deafness.  
But I’d like to link a beautiful piece of animation which makes my point more clearly than I can. The animator Joaquin Baldwin’s film is exquisite in its origami philosophy (the soundtrack ain’t bad either):  

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The importance of being Wallis

It’s a fact that I am, have been, surrounded by very strong women.

These women are touchstones for every aspect of my life: home, academic, style, philosophy and love etc. I don’t make this statement as a detriment to the men in my life just I look to these women as beacons to compare my own life with, especially as I start to realise I’m doing alright.

As I’ve mentioned before in this Blog, I’m still searching for a style niche. I’m regarded as being fashion aware and if someone I work with was to describe me they’d say: “funny, glam, stubborn and booky” (I’m not conceited, I just asked a work colleague and that is what he bravely said-from the other side of the desk). However, if I ever have to do something official, important or difficult I have a guise that I don. Black, red lips/nails, pearls and/or bling. This is me, as much as Earl Grey tea, listening to Billie Holiday, scrawly handwriting, over usage of the word ‘lovely’ or love of dusty bookshops. The women I look to and return to for confirmation are pictured above, each unique and terribly glamorous. 
I sometimes sit at my dressing table methodically brushing my hair only to say to the ‘Art man’ if only I looked like Wallis/Blow/Coco. To which he’ll respond: ‘they had money and other people to do things for them’ whilst this is true and I thank the ‘Art man’ for his truth, I still wonder what I can do to rub a little of their magic on me. So I’ve found a compromise….Ms Hepburn.

Simple in her taste and style; kind with her words and loving to her family. Now that’s the role model for me.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Head(ing) to Spaghetti Junction:

I find it very difficult to state what it is I am defined by these days. I look around and loved ones seem to have it sorted, granted not all of them are overly happy in a portion of their life triangle (work, home, life) but they are reliably them no matter what time of day. The Art man can be found more often than not blogging/drawing/listening to bizarre music, my Mum preparing work for her role as a teacher/reading about the latest techie piece or edgy fashion; my Dad is systematic in his actions rather than specific action. When I was living at home still I liked the sound of my Dad at work, albeit the muffled radio from the garage whilst he was tinkering, the Bob Dylan music on a Saturday morning with ad hoc ‘sirtos’ dance moves or even now the ‘wipe down’ of the kitchen work surfaces makes me feel everything is well in the world.

The latter practice is something I adopt when feeling stressed. Needless to say, I’m not sorted- far from it. I have an idea and whoosh it’s the next best thing and I’m flying with the hope that this new ‘fad’ will change my life and it’s the thing I’ve been searching for all my life. Just this weekend whilst The Art Man was on one of his many constitutionals ( Note to reader, both the art man and I are Welsh and as such, wherever we are we have to walk to the highest point to survey and get our bearings. In Cheshire this is more of a challenge but ambitious molehills often suffice) and I decided to minimalize (again) my possessions. I say mine because I don’t have either the strength or gin supply to contemplate the Art man’s paraphernalia. So with the ambition to create organised calm I attempted to don Dad’s organiser superpowers. The result was far from perfect and I ended up lying on a milieu of clothes not unlike Alice after she’s tumbled down the rabbit hole unto a pile of debris. To add insult to injury our adoptive cat, Pickle, sort to either comfort/patronise me by further by curling up on top of the mountain of clothes and falling asleep facing away from me.
Heaven for me would be to have wall to wall kitchen cupboards with their own little boxes (individually labelled of course) with everything in its place. But maybe I should look at individually labelling me first to understand why, to use our feline lodger’s name; I get into such a pickle myself….answers on a postcard and all that. 

Friday, 30 March 2012

I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.....

Red sparkle shoes……

At the age of 22 I bought some red shoes, some red sparkly shoes akin to those worn by Dorothy in ‘Wizard of Oz.’ These beauties helped me through hours of Law Degree cramming, an experience that left me certain of one thing: A don’t have a head for law but I do have feet for Oz!
I was thinking, no strike that, I was pining for my old shoes one morning this week and I thought how often are we wanting to incorporate something from our childhood into our adult (and often mundane) life?
The Art man and I love all things retro and consistently start conversations with each other with: “Ooooh do you remember…..” Whilst he was a child of the 70s and me a decade later we often look blankly at each other but interested nonetheless in what the other has to say.  I wonder why it is I need a ‘talisman’ of a time past with me every day. Today it is a collection of rather nice bags sporting a polka dot design, that I swung gaily walking into work but another day it could be Chanel-ish pearls, vintage hairclips, bright red lipstick etc.
Do we have to keep one foot in the past to consider a change? I know I do and find my logic in what I remember my Grandmother would do, in a very different era. Maybe that’s where my love of the 1940s comes from, comfort in the knowledge that warming the teapot, as she did, has the potential to re-create her environment of calm. I’m not going to change it now and I know for certain if she had seen my red sparkle shoes she would have loved them.