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.

Sometimes, you just should say ‘no’ – The Before

Silence from me as of late, but for very valid reasons.  On top of general life, work, running a late night parental taxi service and so on, I have been preparing to sell my house (it sold in a week), and then I got myself in a total pickle with the local church.

I was chatting to a parishioner, who mentioned that they had been let down by decorators as the church was long overdue for a repaint.  He then told me the quote they had been give, which was shockingly huge.  And then, more fool me, the worlds shot out of my mouth ‘oh I can get it done for you for far less and immediately’.  As the words came out, his face lit up and I was pretty much hired on the spot.

Now this church is not small.  It has 13 meter ceilings, huge cross beams running throughout and needed to be used every weekend between painting.  It was also black with 10 years of soot from candles.  The photos below show how grimy it was.  Once upon a time this was pale pink.


Before I knew it, I had booked myself out of other work for 2 weeks, pulled in a fellow female whizz with the paintbrush, hired a cherry picker, had a moveable scaffolding erected and sorted out hardcore industrial insurance.

We attempted to wash the walls, but the soot just spread around.  So they were sealed first with a PVA bond, so that the paint would take, and then the HUGE task of painting started.


Look at the beast of a cherry picker!  Every time we needed to do a new area we had to move dust sheets, pews, sometimes the altar and so on.  Plus at weekends it had to be cleaned and shifted back into being a working church.  My muscles are aching, and I managed a spectacular topple off the cherry picker (while it was grounded) which resulted in a torn ligament in my knee and trip to the osteopath.  But as a plus I also got a huge, wide roller to speed things up, which is amazing.  I shall never moan when I have to paint a normal sized room again, or even a ceiling.

We are up to over 160 litres of paint so far.  The sacristy end of the church was so sooty that it needed 3 coats of paint to give a crisp and clean finish.  But we have done it all in 2 weeks as promised.

Here is my partner in crime Angelique on the cherry picker.  She is such a whizz that I have renamed her Davros after the Dalek leader as she shoots about on it.


So we have a day left before I can do the final reveal, just some woodwork left to finish and tweaking.  But it has been monumental, and I will now think before I speak next time.

An evening event at Anthropologie

anthropologieI will be at the Anthropologie store in Bath this week on 22nd September, where there is an event showcasing Bath design businesses, ranging from food to drink to decorating to arty crafts.  There is also late night shopping, a glass of fizz, plus food and drink tasters.

I teach art and craft courses through The Workshop Cabin, and we will be highlighting what craft activities and sessions will be coming up in the autumn and spring. There are some great ideas, like workshops for Hen parties who often come to Bath, where they can make table decorations and wedding favours for the Big Day whilst sipping some Prosecco, (always a plus!).  Plus there are courses in paperwork, plaster, sculpture, photography, wood carving and more.

The Workshop Cabin is also offering new event design services for any size of gatherings; weddings, parties, special occasions, dinners and so on.

Tickets are available here which are reedemable against any store spend over £20.

 

Plaster Workshops

Plaster Dipping and Plaster Sculptures

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Over the past two weekends I have been teaching some classes for The Workshop Cabin in Bath in the wonders of plaster, (cue large amounts of hand cream as it is pretty brutal on the poor mitts).  The Workshop Cabin put on really cool workshops, ranging from painting to photography to bookbinding and many more.  Definitely check out their site for inspirational activities… I have my eye on the Pyrography workshop already.

Anyhow, over two Saturdays we built, planned, mixed, dipped, wrapped, made a mess, painted and mounted various works.  The results are pretty great and I think that the participants were pleased with their results – the sculptures were especially amazing.  An added bonus was that it was just before Valentine’s day, so the plaster flowers were put to good use as gifts for some lucky recipients.

All Photos courtesy of Heidi @ The Workshop Cabin

Everyone beavering away with their plaster

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Plaster flowers drying

Happy Valentine pressies

Sculptures in progress

The final sculptures…

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Final sculptures with bronze paint effects, and some very happy punters…eat your heart out Alberto Giacometti….!

A cracker of a busy few days….paint, weddings, exhibition and more makeover paint.

This weekend I have been buzzing about all over the place.  Distressing samples for mirror makeovers, going to a lovely wedding, then going to my first gallery exhibition opening, and ending today with a gargantuan task of upcycling the biggest mirrors I HAVE EVER SEEN!

PAINT EXPERIMENTATION:

On Friday, with my friend and accomplice-in-paint Claire, we tested out loads of samples for some huge mirrors that need to be revamped.  They are for a lovely shoe and boot shop Ted&Muffy who are launching in Bath, London and Edinburgh very shortly, and the designers asked for some samples with combinations of blues, greys and whites.  They asked if we could come up with a crackle glaze finish on very ornate carved mouldings.    We started by testing the two colourways on a plain frame with chalk paints; Napoleonic Blue with Old White on top, and Anthracite with Original white on top:

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To do a crackle glaze, you paint your base colour first, and then when it is dry you paint a coat of glaze on top of that.  After 30 mins when it is seemingly dry/a tiny bit tacky, you paint the top coat on top of the glaze.  This has to to be done in one coat/brush sweep only or the crackle glaze sort of mutates and fails.  It is great on flat planes of wood etcetera, and the results show immediately.

So, this all looked good.  BUT….. we were going to try and have to do the one sweep motion on really heavily carved frames, and so we tested a more ornate frame to see how it worked… it was really quite depressing!

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So, the conclusion was that the glaze cannot work in any ornate areas, as if you work the paint into the mouldings then the sweeping one pass motion is lost/impossible and the paint looks like it is curdled, not cracked.

CHIN UP! we thought, in a very British gung-ho fashion.  So I decided to do some samples using rubbing back distressing rather than crackle glaze on some more mouldings.  Even when I got a bit clumsy and this happened, I kept my stoic British face on…

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Chalk paint on deck, that was a bugger to get off….

The next mouldings again used the same colour combinations but I did the typical 2 coats, sand back method with the chalk paints, and wax to finish them off…, and I did a variety to send off the the shop designer to see:

So off the samples went, and I got changed and went to a….

WEDDING!

I love weddings, and this one was for my friends the lovely Aaron and Jenny in the most beautiful location of Priston Mill near Bath.  It is an amazing place with a choice of venues, all hidden in a valley reached via wiggly lanes.  The sun was out, and it was one of those beautiful English evenings.  We sat in a beautiful garden to start, with the most amazing herbaceous borders.  The wedding had sunflower themed floral decor everywhere  There was a brilliant self-photo booth with a polaroid camera, props for the models and a pin board to mount them onto.  Little signs were everywhere, and it was just perfect…

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EXHIBITION LAUNCH

The next morning my family and I headed down to Cornwall for the launch of Art & The Map of Cornwall where I had a piece in a group exhibition at POP Gallery.  This is a great gallery which has very cool street art.  All the artists showing were given a very old map of Cornwall and asked to go away and turn it into something new which referenced Cornwall.  The launch exhibited the original artworks, and limited editions of them are available from POP gallery.  I did a piece called the ‘Great Wave of Cornwall’, mentioned before in this post, and the original painting had already sold by the time of the launch.  There are prints for sale via POP gallery, and they are all hand-finished.  I also sold another large print that night, so it was a great start to the show for me!  Here is the final original artwork piece…

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There were some amazing pieces from the artists and everyone had such different ideas….  Here are some of my favourites:

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We them stayed in Cornwall for the night, and meandered back yesterday after a lovely Brunch in Wadebridge.

BACK TO THE MIRRORS….

So this morning I headed to Ted&Muffy’s store to start work on the mirrors.  The decision was made to not crackle glaze as it just was not working in the corners and on the mouldings, and to paint the mirrors in a very similar shade to the walls of the shops which are all being totally redesigned.  I had a bit of shock when I saw them in the flesh…

Gulp... really quite huge
Gulp… really quite huge

There are 4 mirrors, and they are at least 7 feet tall!  The moulding is even more intricate than I expected in the flesh, (although I had seen photos), so I was really pleased we were going with a simple decorative scheme.  I cracked on and had mixed up Dulux eggshell colour code 10BB83014 which is a really pale, pale grey and suits the decor of the shops.  As it is an eggshell, it also needed a primer to go on first to the frames.  I took the precaution of masking out all the glass, as eggshell is really runny to work with compared to chalk paints which I usually use, and I thought I might make a bit of a mess otherwise…

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Before and after priming

It is the MOST fiddly painting to do, serious dabbing and stabbing to get into all the nooks and crannies, and there is also a beading around the frame almost like pearls on a string which took ages to get the paint behind.  However, here they are primed:

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Masking tape and newspaper to protect from splashes, all primed now

The primer has definitely saved me a lot of time, and the first coat of eggshell went on next:

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Those are REALLY fiddly to paint but starting to look good

I will finish them tomorrow, and when the shops are launched I will post up how they look in their intended scheme.

But for now I shall be having a night off to rest as it has been really hectic but really fun over the last few days.