Exhibition – Unconcious Landscapes

This week I visited Hauser & Wirth in Bruton to see an exhibition of female artists, with works shown from the private collection of Ursula Hauser.  She has collected these over the past thirty years and they range from artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Maria Lassnig, Meret Oppenheim and Roni Horn.   The exhibition celebrates female artists, often overlooked in contemporary art in the past.  For a detailed review of the exhibition, Rachel Campbell‑Johnston has written a great review in The Times.

I was so excited to see Meret Oppenheim’s work in the flesh.  These gloves are wonderful, and a prime example of her surrealist art.  The painting was a surprise as I had always associated her with 3D and sculptural pieces,

From paintings to sculptures, the works create different moods and reactions.  There was a lot of work by Louise Bourgeois, and I am not personally a fan of the spiders due to my own arachnophobia, but I suppose a visceral reaction is a key element to the pieces.  She also made these long legs below which I loved, they conjured up ideas of giants, myths and fairy tales.

A lot of the work was very textural, and these pieces by Sheila Hicks we’re probably my favourite in the exhibition.  The textures and colours are beautiful:

The other element at Hauser & Wirth which is wonderful to see is the garden, designed by Piet Oudolf, with the serpentine pavilion by Radic as a permanent installation.  I had not seen the gardens before at this time of year, and they were in full bloom.  The planting is in drifts of tall perennials which float in the wind, very worth visiting.

In the Roth Bar & Grill, (a welcome part of the site, delicious food…), they have the original design of the garden.  It is interesting to see the initial sketch to the final result.

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So for anyone in that part of the world, it is definitely worth a visit.  The exhibition runs until September the 8th.

Design Trip – Denmark

I recently returned from a design trip to Copenhagen, where the Interior Design department visited many museums, galleries and buildings to develop our practice.  What I noticed on the trip was how I have started to question design in relation to my visual cultural studies since starting the academic year.

In relation to areas in which my practice is specifically connected, I found that there is a real hierarchy of design ‘owners’, in that a small number of people have classed items as being of importance, and to that end the rest must follow suit in agreeing and accepting those definitions.  In terms of design history that makes absolute sense, eg: The Bauhaus changed ornamentation into form follows function and delineated all items, and given the age in which it happened it connects to social and economic change.   I do love modern architecture, especially Brutalism and post modernist hard lines, as it visually inspires me, but every item has a subjective reaction.
Continue reading “Design Trip – Denmark”

Photography Excursion – Lourdes

Last week I travelled to Lourdes in France with a band of local pilgrims.  I went along as a) it was the sort of thing I would never do and I want to push my boundaries, and b) I was generally just curious to see it.

A bit about Lourdes…

Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is part of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitanie region in south-western France. Prior to the mid-19th century, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its center.

In 1858 Lourdes rose to prominence in France and abroad due to the Marian apparitions claimed to have been seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized. Shortly thereafter the city with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes became one of the world’s most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism. Today Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important center of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land.

I took along my trusty Canon E0S as I knew there would be interesting photo opportunities, and although I wanted to respect the privacy of people there I knew I could get some good documentary type shots.

I am a born and bred ‘intermittent’ catholic, (although my local priest calls me a ‘have a go catholic’ – i.e. I just pick the bits of doctrine which I like and ignore others), so I went with some scepticism if I am totally honest.  But I can convey that is a great place to visit, and not a bastion of the Catholic Church itself in terms of rules and regulations, but one of Faith, pure and simple.  The atmosphere was amazing, and what I liked most was that ill and disable people were treated with the utmost respect and courtesy.  They were not the invisible as in so many places, but instead the most focused upon and respected.

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The town is set at the foot of the Pyrenees, and I went up the funicular on the Pic du Jer to get a birdseye view.  This is a very high hill overlooking the town, and the funicular was so steep I had to shut my eyes going up, but once up on the top you can see snowcaps in the distance even in the summer.  It is simply beautiful.

Around the Basilica and Grotto in the town were a multitude of people;  Religious, Medical Staff, Pilgrims and Volunteers.  I loved just watching them all go about their business, whether it was praying, talking or just moving through the town.

The town has stations of the cross set on two levels, low and high.  I climbed up to the high ones which are life size and cast in bronze, to get a set of photos for a pilgrim I was with who could not make the steep walk.

The statues of Saints and Angels around the Basilica are amazing.

It really is an inspirational place and I recommend a visit for anyone, religious or not, to see such kindness to the sick and disabled.  I bathed in the waters at the Grotto, and it was an incredibly experience and very humbling.

There are bits of Lourdes that have lots of shops selling religious souvenirs, some tasteful and some very garish, but it’s all part of the experience just to see how many different statues and types of water bottles you can count…!

So if you are ever in that part of the world, I really recommend a visit.  It puts life into perspective a bit more and was a very calming experience.

The Influence of the Bright Young Things

I have a huge obsession with early 20th century literature, especially authors like Evelyn Waugh, Somerset Maugham and Nancy Mitford.  They describe an age of elegance, beautiful houses, artistic endeavours, privilege but also the advancement of social mobility and change.  The books are bitter, funny and sharp.

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In real life, a group of people emerged at the start of the 1920’s who were dubbed ‘The Bright Young Things’.  Evelyn Waugh pronounced the best definition: ‘There was between the wars a society, cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts, well-mannered, above all ornamental even in rather bizarre ways, which for want of a better description the newspapers called “High Bohemia.”

The press could not get enough of these people who tended to be the younger sons and daughters of the aristocracy and their middle-class friends by association, it was the first sign of celebrity being documented in it’s own right.  Lurid stories of wild parties, wealth, promiscuity and convention-flouting were reported and the public lapped them up.

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This photo was taken, under Cecil Beaton`s direction, by “William the footman”

The Bright Young Things included writers, artists, society women and rich club members memorably satirised by Waugh in Vile Bodies (1930).  It was acceptable within the circle to be homosexual, which still as considered illegal in Britain at the time.  In Nancy Mitford’s novels, the most eccentric characters are also allegedly based on real people of the time; who can forget Lord Merlin dying his doves to match his party decorations?  This character was supposedly based on the real-life Lord Berners, an eccentric party-giver whose dogs wore diamond collars as they roamed his grounds.  Or there is a woman known as ‘the Bolter’ as she kept running off from her husbands to marry someone new.

But from this group of Bright Young Things also emerged creative figures in their own right like Oliver Messal, Noel Coward, Stephen Tennant, Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler and John Betjeman to name but a few.  Although frivolity and frippery was the order of the day, a strong literary development and aesthetic developed and some of England’s most highly regarded artists emerged.  Through literature, documents and photography there is a wealth of information available about these people and their times which I find fascinating.

Some of the interior design from this age as spectacular; money was no object and the aristocracy had started marrying into the US millionaire families bringing great wealth for them to modernise their homes.  You can still see interiors designed by some of these dazzling talents:

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This is the tent room mural painted by Rex Whistler at Port Lympne, in Kent.

 

The Art Deco bathroom at Upton House, Warwickshire
Lady Bearsted’s bathroom at Upton House – a dazzling modernist boudoir of red, black, silver aluminium leaf and streaming natural light. It was designed for her by Morley Horder.

Oliver Messel is best known for his lavish set designs for the theatre, ballet and opera, but later he also worked as an interior designer, mainly in the Caribbean for the wealthy and famous.  His interiors are beautiful, and his signature tone of green is now commonly known as Messel Green.

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By the 1930’s the Bright Young Things’ popularity fizzled out.  Socially England was changing dramatically, the aristocratic families were breaking up their estates due to huge taxes, and their excesses were seen as distasteful to the press and public.  World War II would draw the final line under this social scene, but it is still such an exciting group of people creatively to draw inspiration from.

Music to work to: BBC Radio 6 Music ❤️

Diverse, eclectic and always inspirational… BBC Radio 6 has become my constant companion when I am either working or mooching about at home.  The breadth of music is really diverse, there are no repetitive playlists, and I learn about new artists all of the time and from all over the world… no hierarchy, snobbery or commercialism… just music that inspires the DJ’s.

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Take today for instance, I was unpacking my shopping and gyrating to Gilles Peterson’s Saturday afternoon rare grooves, whilst later on I nodded my head in time as I typed away on a website article.  The latter article was relating to financial information, but PJ Harvey suited the typing speed, and now when I read it back I can hear 50ft Queenie in my mind – definitely not what the readers will hear as they read my FinTec news.

In a way it’s a bit of an addiction. I miss it when I am in the car and have to substitute another radio station to listen to.  I pine for Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe & Maconie and Tom Robinson’s dulcet tones.  If I have to listen to Jenni Murray on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, I end up enraged and comparing her to Cerys Matthews, and the latter wins hands down.  If I try Radio 1 it just seems so noisy and inane in comparison.  It’s got to the point where I’ll just plug in a podcast instead, and I am loving The Leisure Society series at the moment (from, you guessed it… BBC Radio 6).

I find that I am more creative when I listen to music as I work, and this information that follows proves my point:

Scientific research has uncovered that listening to music can actually be beneficial while you work. Although, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

A study by Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, looked at how listening to various types of music affected different types of thinking  compared to working in silence.

Their study found that happy music enhanced participants creative ‘divergent thinking’. However they found it had no impact on ‘convergent thinking’, which is problem-solving.

In their study, Ritter and Ferguson split 155 volunteers into five groups, which were then given tasks to complete. Four of the groups did so while listening to classical music aimed at stimulating different moods, such as Holst’s Mars and Vivaldi’s Spring. The fifth group worked in silence.

They found that the groups working to music they considered positive generally came up with more original ideas.

Ritter and Ferguson said: “The current project aimed to shed light on the potential association of music listening for optimizing divergent and convergent creativity, and demonstrated that listening to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music that elicits positive mood and is high on arousal) is associated with an increase in divergent thinking, but not convergent thinking.”

 

The upshot being, if you need to be creative with your work, then you should stick some uplifing music to help get the cognitive juices flowing.  But if you’re trying  to solve an problem, you’re better off opting for quiet solitude.  (Telegraph, Sept 2017)

 

As I don’t do problematic maths problems for work, I think I’m OK to continue….

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Organizing For Your Lifestyle

ORGANIZATION

Being a pretty obsessive OCD organizer, (mainly due to a lot of ‘stuff’ in my home which if I don’t control results in chaos within hours), I can happily spend hours sorting, catagorizing and decluttering areas. I find this a really calming thing to do, whereas to others it might seem like hell.

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I always thought that this was my own personal madness, as I can get itchy when I see clutter.  But I recently read a new book by Jane Stoller called ‘Organizing Your Lifestyle’ that delves deep into the psyche behind organizing, and which explains what the benefits are as a whole to your life.  With the clutter controlled, there is more time to actually ENJOY YOUR LIFE!  I don’t usually read self-help books, but  ‘Organizing Your Lifestyle’   is a really useful hybrid as it offers both practical advice as well as explaining the psychological benefits of organization.

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Plus it is a realistic book, as I do not have the patience to look at everything I own and murmur in the latest fashion ‘But do I really love it?’  Of course I love it, I love all of it and am never, ever going to be a minimalist!  But I can be a tidy and organized maximalist, and this book has excellent tips on how to evaluate what you have and how to look after it all so you have more quality time on your hands.  It also makes you look hard at things so you can let some of them go without regret.

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Some of the tips are really useful, I loved the wardrobe section on how to store and look after items.  Like most ladies, I own more clothes and shoes than I realistically have cupboard space for.  There are great tips on how to look after and store things so they are not creased, crumpled and hence last longer.  If you think of the hefty financial outlay that we females spend on clothes, it makes sense to make them last.

Traveling away?  The book has great ways to make packing less stressful, and without the dreaded over-packing that I usually do so I end up with a massive suitcase full of clothes I don’t even wear on the trip.

The book breaks down areas of organization, so it can be something you can ease into this is a new process and makes you shake in your boots.

You can follow Jane on Twitter where she has motivational tips to keep the spirit going.

 

 

Dream Living Room Plans

I have been looking at a fabulous website called Arhaus who are based in the USA, and am seriously wishing they would open a shop in the UK, (hint, hint….).  Their collections are really beautiful, very classic, and I would snap up a lot of their items, especially the furniture, in a flash to use in interiors.

I have based the room around artwork by Fin DAC, who produces huge scale street mural artwork around the globe.  I love this image, and used it as the inspiration for the room.  It would look amazing as a huge piece on one wall, and he sells via online galleries so I am after one now… although I may have to save up a bit….

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Having recently completed a grey, black and orange dining room, I am still slightly obsessed with these colours and was immediately drawn to the sofa and daybed in the Clancy range, they are both traditional with the buttoning but have lovely sleek modern lines as well.  Plus, (and this is key for me), I really hate plumping up base cushions of sofas, so this is a dream design for me!

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Continue reading “Dream Living Room Plans”

Most Hit Posts of 2016

Today I have been looking back at last years blogging, sometimes done a bit intermittently I must admit, and noticed that the most popular posts always seem to be the DIY ones, so here is a round up of the ones that still get the most hits, and I only hope that as a result there are many Ikea hacks, Plaster Flowers and No-sew curtain pelmets floating out there now!  More DIY ideas coming soon as I tackle a spare bedroom in the coming  months.

Click on the photos to take you to the posts and tutorials…

DIY Plaster of Paris Flowers

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No-Sew Curtain pelmets

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Ikea Hack Bookcase

 

 

Slate Effect Painted Fireplace

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Moppe Drawer Makeovers

 

 

Hatfield House – the best ceilings in the world ever…

This week I was near London with the eldest child whilst she was performing as part of the Hatfield Chamber Music Festival.  We had an hour free afterwards, and although this was not much time at all, it seemed madness not to go into the house and have a peep.

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Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. The Estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. Superb examples of Jacobean craftsmanship can be seen throughout the House. I got very over-excited looking at the wonderful portraits, all of my history lessons at school, (and I was a bit obsessed with the Tudors), came to life again as names and faces appeared.

 

 

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It is an iconic building in British architectural history.  Thousands of hand thrown bricks in red clay, and a lot of glass leaded windows.  The turrets are also very similar in style to Hampton Court and the Tower of London.  It is also famed for its beautiful knot gardens and parkland:

But is THE CEILINGS which amazed me.  The most ornate plaster work, pargetting, gilding, embellishment and decoration is pretty much in every main room of the house.

Continue reading “Hatfield House – the best ceilings in the world ever…”

Kitchen Inspiration

The Fixer-upper continues…

I am going to re-name this house’ The House of Onion’.  Two weeks of stripping back layer after layer of wallpaper, only to find some areas had wood chip paper stuck onto unplastered plasterboard.  AAAH!  Major replastering was expected as there will be a re-wire, but even so I just hate that paper!

But I digress… After stripping out the hideous kitchen that was, I have been planning the new kitchen.  I need the best look for the best price, and am going on the following sort of vibe: shaker-but-industrial-but-not-clinical if that makes sense.  The kitchen also needs integrated appliances as there is not a separate utility room.  The tones are mushroom,soft grey and white.

I used the following images for starter point ideas:

Some additions of black and dark grey in the room really punch it up a bit too.  I think a slate grey dark worktop and dark grout will ground all the neutral tones.

So now that the look had been sorted, I went down to hunt for reasonably priced cabinets ate various suppliers.  I tried Howdens, Ikea, Magnet and Wickes etcetera.  All were actually quite expensive when you added in the appliances, feet, plinths, and extras that are needed.  The best price was from B&Q, and they also drew up my layout for me so I know what to order.  The plans don’t do it justice, but I can see in my mind what it will look like at the end, however it gives an indication of what goes where.

So from this….

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It will go to this:

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But it will be better in the flesh!  I have picked a range called Brookfield in a tone called Mussel which has a wood grain.  The worktop is double thickness 50mm and matt.  The tiles will be metro bevelled with dark grey grout.  Hidden away in the cupboards are also a dishwasher, boiler & washing machine.  The double oven and hob are ultra modern black glass and chrome to keep up the punches of black needed in the room.  The sink is square stainless steel and the cooker hood is also the same material  The door and drawer handles will be cup ones, again in stainless steel.

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Still umming and ahhing about what floor to put in as it will be across the whole ground floor including the kitchen.  I am thinking maybe a pale grey to keep it light, but I also do like wood, and dark grey… any thoughts gratefully received!