Mail Art – The Return

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I promised Katie, As Petals Fall, some mail art at least two weeks before I was able to get round to it.Neglectful indeed.

I do have some excuses. I’m in the process of moving house, across London to Mr Moll’s flat in West London. It’s been going on for a rather long time now, the moving process, because it’s coinciding with re-doing and re-decorating the flat. As I write, a new green carpet is going down – the final stage after re-d0ing the kitchen and painting everything (including doors and window frames) white. I am mainly excited about a couple of things; the possibility of having wall space and therefore being officially allowed to buy new prints to put on walls. In fact this is unlikely, as we already probably have too many already.

Secondly, I am excited about having a window sill to grow things on. I have already bought some herbs from Colombia Road and some big green plant pots. The 99p shop round the corner has huge bags of compost for, surprisingly, 99p and lots of kits for growing tomatoes and salads and other edible plants too. I’m not sure if I’m going to be too late for starting things this year, or even if the window sill is right for growing. I have never been particularly green fingered or found the whole process very interesting. This is probably a wanting-tasty-food based sea change, but a change nevertheless; I phoned Mr Moll this morning to make sure he watered the herbs – distinctly unheard of.

So, the mail art. I sent Katie a paper rose badge, a notebook covered with vintage paper, a fairy tale character greetings card and a colouring book of people, in a decorated envelope. The decorated envelope caused the woman in the post office to check I had actually written the address on the envelope (yes thank you), but she seemed a bit sceptical it would ever arrive.

I was very excited about sending the lovely Katie the colouring book of people. I bought it from a little shop in Brooklyn, in September last year.

We had arrived in the evening, knackered from the journey but forced ourselves out to eat and wander around the neighbourhood. We ate in a little Brooklyn institution, Bamontes, just behind our hotel. It was a proper old world, 1950s Italian American restaurant with black tie waiters, large round tables and enormous pepper grinders on offer. About 6 months later, we were watching The Sopranos, only to see someone get whacked in the very same restaurant.

After dining, we went for a wander and found a shop that could have been designed for me. Desert Island has prints, fanzines, comics, doodles, t-shirts, bits of writing and a glorious paper-based window display. It was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel, and benefited from my business on a regular basis over the next 5 days. I bought many things, including a copy of Bust magazine (when will there be a UK equivalent?), a couple of prints and the little colouring book of people. I am so pleased to see it continue it’s journey, especially as mail art; there’s something similar about the feeling of excitement when you receive an exciting bit of post and when you wander into a shop that seems built for you, and feels like home. I think it’s because you know you’re about to discover something brilliant.

I couldn’t mention our trip to New York without saying that any visitor going there shouldn’t leave without kayaking on the River Hudson for free, for 20 minutes, under the shadow of the Empire State Building and visiting the Bowery Poetry Club on a slam night. Do those, eat beigels and all will be well.



Vintage 2011

I had a very difficult time trying to decide whether it was possible to be at Vintage 2011, the current blaze of vintage glory over South Bank.  It’s a  three-day vintage extravaganza, the market area alone bringing together the great and the good from UK vintage sellers, headed up by the big and busty retailers, Benefit (swoon) and Cath Kidston. Sat on the river Thames, overlooked by the London Eye, it’s Wayne Hemmingway’s piece of Goodwood in London. What’s not to love? The market area of the festival is free and open to the public. There are an amazing range of events going on inside too, if you have a ticket.

Being unable to set up stall myself, for various reasons – small things like time, money and other commitments – I was in the happy position of having to visit for market research reasons…well that’s my story anyway. What a terrible time – walking around an enormous and exciting array of vintage goods, chatting with stall holders and talking to them about my flowers. Can you imagine?

I fell in love with so many and various things.  I purposefully didn’t fill my purse up before I left, because I knew the dangers. Given half a chance my hands will spring up on a lovely item – a satchel, a dress, a ridiculous hat – and hand over the dosh for it before my brain has had a chance to blink.

And what a lot of lovely items they were. Word on the stall-holders’ lips was that the punters today were the hardcore and committed – those who want to grab those bargains with the honed skills of years of experience, before the weekend dawdlers and part-time vintage wearers arrive.

Never one to avoid a good excuse for dressing up, as well as the purpose of advertising, I wore one of my paper rose fascinators and carried a bouquet of paper roses too. I took a photo of myself on a bit of South Bank street furniture for you to see. Do you like my awkward photo face? Nice. One of the traders suggested I should have had a basket full of roses to walk around and sell – a reimagining of ‘Who Will Buy’, which unfortunately I don’t have the voice for.

The idea was to pop along to the vintage market and have a look, and speak to a few people if possible. And so I did. A plan that worked – hurrah. I spoke to so many lovely stall holders and vintage market customers about my roses. The lovely ladies at Cath Kidston got very excited about them. I loved speaking to Bobbin and Bow, and admiring her handmade vintage lace jewellery, Butterflies and Hurricanes and Joan Pressley Hats. I loved jewellery by Frilly by Lily, and if I’d had a bit more money on me, then I would have one of her necklaces around my neck right now, that or one from Abilu creations.  June Nevin doesn’t have a website that I can see, but she definitely has my favourite business card – mocked up as an old identity card with an old school photo. Others had used lovely images on their business cards too – Bobbin and Bow uses old photos of her mother and grandmother. Really touching.

The products I really fell in love with, were earrings, cufflinks and other jewellery made from old typewriter keys. Really simple and beautiful. They also make similar items with old pencils. Have a look here.

I was really impressed by the value of things at the market; I assumed that the priciest stock would be out and it would be precious one -off evening dresses all the way. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The market feels like a market; you can get something for £1 or £2, you can rifle through bargain suitcases and spend a fiver on a vintage scarf. If you have the funds, there are some glorious one-off pieces, furniture and tea sets too.

In the end, I did part with a small amount of money for a pretty art deco plate from  Vicky Loves Vintage.

It’s funny. Since ploughing my money into this venture, and not wanting to chuck it about willy nilly on throw away clothes, by attitude towards buying has become rather bizarre. I cannot justify a new piece of clothing or a new pair of shoes to myself, but instead have started spending a few pounds a week on something utterly useless. Last week, at Hoxton Hall, my money went on a green teapot and a massive vintage radio. The radio is the definition of utterly useless – not just because of the upcoming digital switchover, nor just because it doesn’t even have FM, but because it doesn’t even have a plug. So there we have it – a lovely time at Vintage 2011 – recommended – and this week’s useless buy.

Paper Rose Fascinators

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Wedding season has definitely hit. I haven’t had much a wedding season this year, apart from obviously the wedding of the century, but friends, housemates and family seem to be gallivanting all over the countryside in hats and shiny shoes, ready to drink, smile and sing hymns on cue, get merrily drunk and find themselves in a middle of a field, miles from their hotel. Glorious.

Also attending a wedding this weekend was the lovely Hannah. We work in the same studio space, each, and many others, squirreling away individually at our desks, only temporarily distracted by the dog from downstairs wandering up or making cups of tea. (That sentence rather sounds like the dog was making tea doesn’t it? I shall keep it for that very reason). Hannah’s currently out of the studio, in rehearsals for a play that is previewing in London this weekend and will go on to Edinburgh. You should check it out.

During one of those distracted from work moments, Hannah spied my new product in development – paper rose fascinators. She, it’s fair to say, pounced. I spent last week making several different types of hairpieces- grips, fascinators, hair bands and clips. Some of those went to Diamond Dolls, and some went back to the studio, for Hannah to look through and choose. She chose a fascinator made with book and map, not completely covered with roses, but with some paper at the front, and she wore it beautifully. I was very chuffed to see  it packed off (in a tea box unusually), and to it’s first wedding outing.  It’s like thinking about my cards; I sit at my desk making them, falling in love with a particular few. I get excited when they’re sold, and that’s even before I’ve thought about the fact that someone is going to receive them. The cards will be in people’s houses, on their mantlepieces, in their piles of paper and tucked into books.

Wish you were here

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I haven’t allowed myself to go to Spitalfields for a while now. I have been working through my own pile of magazines, and avoiding buying more. This doesn’t mean I don’t love the ones I’ve been working with, nor that the images aren’t as beautiful, but there’s something extra exciting about using something you’ve just bought. It’s like wearing a new piece of clothing; you get to see if it looks as good as you hoped it would, when you parting with your cash.

So, with only a couple of magazines left, I thought it was a legitimate time to go and scope out some new ones. As I’ve mentioned before, they can be difficult to get hold of – it’s usually not a good idea to wait until you’ve run out before frantically searching for new ones. It somewhat undermines the gentle and shuffling and pottering nature of looking through piles of papers that I so enjoy. On the plus side, I’m getting better at bartering – I now have an actual limitation on what I can spend and it’s genuinely not worth spending anymore, so I can convincing state my price and then go to walk away. It doesn’t always work at lowering the price, but I am able to walk away; I’ve stopped spending too much money at the market, and I quite often see something great a couple of minutes later, that is worth it’s price, to cheer me up.

So, I didn’t manage to find any magazines. That’s not unusual – Spitalfield’s antiques fair isn’t normally a goldmine for those. But I did find a lovely collection of postcards. I think they’re beautiful. I love the tinted colours and beach scenes. It makes me want to go and sit on a beach in blustery weather and eat vingrey chips until my nose and fingertips are pink. An unusal impulse for July perhaps, but in keeping with the recent weather.

They’re also always worth reading. Some of the handwriting is incomprehensible, most of the cards are blank, but some contain some gems. George sent a postcard from The Waterfall, Gilsland, saying  ‘Am having/ a good time not quite as good as last year tho’/Nearly got another wife but/Remembered in time you know.’

I would love to receive a good few similarly frank and intriguing postcards. Who wouldn’t?



Busy Times

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I spent the weekend just gone bounding about London, strapped with boxes, cards, table cloths, floats, cheese sandwiches and display boxes. One of the display boxes disappeared from the top of my bag near Kings Cross – an unprecedented break for freedom. I’m sure it will it happily confuse any passers-by that come across it. And the reason for this cross-London unofficial tour? I was selling at four different markets, skipping between Of Cabbages and Kings in Stoke Newington, Mile End and down to the Corsica FLEE at Elephant and Castle, with the help of Mr Moll and the magnificant Andy (TM).

In between times, between market number one on Saturday and markets two, three and four on Sunday, I took a little time for a drink and a sit down, and to be blasted by glorious waves of sound by the magnificent Rumour Cubes.

By Sunday evening, I was exhausted. I was beyond exhausted; that type of right to the bone tired, where the only choice is collapsing into a heap and weeping gently or bed, or perhaps both. Preparing for four markets at the same time had definitely tuckered me out.

A few positive things came out of it though- who doesn’t want to take their weekend on Monday when most people are having their worst day at work? Especially when it’s sunny, there’s a garden and a salad of green beans, potato, egg, crunchy lettuce, tomato, and griddled sweetcorn on offer. And not forgetting the Ottolenghi classic broccoli salad, which is popular with all the members of my household at the moment.

The other positive thing about having markets booked in advance, is the way it focuses your mind and forces a little innovation here and there. You may have a vague sense of work you need to get done, or even a tick list, but it’s all too easy to let the list or idea sit idly by while you get on with something else. Or even to become all consumed by the first point on the list – unless, like me, number 1 on the list is always ‘make list’. Then it really looks like you’re doing well in a day.

Having a set day on which you’re presenting your goods to members of the public and other traders, makes you really look at what you’re doing, and solutions to purely practical problems can be surprisingly creative. I developed my gift box range because I had lovely papers that were too big for a card, and because I wanted levels and heights for my stall. And because I love boxes with a love that is pure and true and bright.

So, talking of excellent innovation, I have started to frame some of my favourite images too, for selling. They’re the photos at the top of the blog. I’m so glad I did – I think they’ve turned out really well. I’m going to be framing some more this weekend, ready for a stall on Hanbury Street, just off Brick Lane. The rain foiled my attempt to photograph them in the garden. Can you see my kitchen in the background? It’s a real retro find – one we came across in a house we happen to rent, not that we put together painstakingly from Spitalfield’s market. The kitchen tiles are brown and orange. Need I say more?

If youdo like one in particular, they’re up for sale. They’re only £9.00 (plus p&p) each.  Leave me a message or send me an email and we can arrange a paypal payment. Or come along to Brick Lane on Sunday.