Thursday, 27 September 2012



Arthur Rackham (19th September - 6th September 1939)

I cannot allow September to leave us without paying tribute to Arthur Rackham who was born and died in this misty month. In England September seems to be more than just a month, it's a Season of it's own, in between Summer and Autumn. English Septembers are wet, chilly, windy and yet also warm. Occasionally enfused with a bright light which seems to penetrate the mist. It's not quite dark, not October, it hangs on the threshold, like Twilight, just hinting at the spooky things that will come later.

Last night our village was bathed in a thick fog that the few street lamps just penetrated. The trees on the village green, nearly bare now, took on a twisted and gnarled appearance. Shapes scuttled about in the dim glow of the lamps. The light in the windows of the old Inn on the main road looked inviting and figures hurried along towards it's safety.

This was the world which Arthur Rackham inhabited and which I have always loved.

Everyone has their favourite childhood books, stories read to them by their elders and illustrations looked at again and again. Some prefer the 'kind Faerie' sweet countenance of illustrators like Margaret Tarrant or Molly Brett to the 'scary Faerie' world of Arthur Rackham.  But not me.

When I was a child Disney was all the rage. Children's books were modern, brightly coloured and suitable for those of a nervous disposition under the age of six.

The images were flat and one dimensional. There was no one to be frightened of, the Wicked stepsister,  Queen or Witch simply wasn't wicked. Nothing was hiding under the bed, in the wardrobe or behind that tree. It was safe to go down to the woods. But I missed the Wolf.  It was as if the world of Faerie which I had come to know from the old, tattered and dusty books from the school library had been censored and tamed.

It was the old books which enchanted me, made me respect Fairy Tales and look deeper into their meanings. They were often the last thing I put down at night and the first which was picked up the next morning. They filled my dreams, and yes, nightmares. But they gave me a grounding for the terrors and triumphs of real life too.

Several illustrators captured the characters I shared the twilight hours with in the way that I imagined them - or, did I imagine them in this way because those illustrators gave me the visions? I'll never know, but for me Arthur Rackham was The Master Enchanter.

And it seems entirely appropriate that other artists have also fallen under the Rackham spell. Illustrator Nicola Bayley lived in the studio at the top of his North London house when she began her career and remembers it as all black wood and leaded windows.

The Mousehole Cat illustrated by Nicola Bayley. This is the Great Storm Cat.
Nicola and her husband shot by Mercer Design.
mercer design

Today the same house is owned by Film maker extraordinaire Tim Burton and his beautiful and eccentric wife Helena Bonham-Carter. I'm sure Arthur would have approved very much.

The Wiki page for Arthur Rackham

Friday, 21 September 2012

SEASONAL ~ The Autumn Equinox

Young girl with a posy by Margaret Tarrant

So, Summer is really over. Farewell then. It's been a strange wet one which yielded few flowers and even less fruit and vegetables. It will be a sparse Winter to follow.   The few weeks of sun which we had were intense, fragile as they were. I love this portrait by Margaret Tarrant of this perfect English Rose with her flower posy. It so evokes an English Summer for me, delicate, pale and shimmering in the blue and violet hue that threatens to envelop. It's probably my imagination but I am sure that I can catch scent of the wild primroses and violets that she is holding. It was rare for Margaret to do portraits as her usual sphere was Faerie. I wonder who the little girl was?

Arthur Rackham's illustrations are immediately recognisable and impossible to copy. No one else could ever give a tree or a twig so much definition and subtle but rich colour. He has long been our favourite whatever the subject and this one by him is called 'Joy of a Fallen Leaf'.  

Having divided my life between America and Britain I have always wondered why Autumn is called 'The Fall' in the US? Is it because the leaves are falling?

The Autumn Goddess, artist unknown

I look forward to the Autumn Equinox as a way to mark the end of summer and begin to yield to what I call the 'nesting' phenomenon. Our family have birthdays fairly distributed between Spring and Autumn which gives us additional cause to celebrate the seasons changing. It was not the case when I was a child but I discovered on a visit to America a few years ago that many people decorate their homes for the seasons. This is a nice touch and an easy way to change how your home looks without major upheaval or expense. People in Europe do not knowingly do this and decorations are not available in such variety from the shops. Instead Europe mainatins the age old tradition of ringing the seasons and Harvest by bringing in fresh flowers, seashells, leaves and twigs from the garden or wanderings through the woods or on a beach.

Living in the countryside you are closer to nature and do feel the seasons more keenly, which is what drew us to change from a city mouse into a country mouse. Country Living Magazine featured the return to a 'nature table' a few years ago which was a wonderful idea that my science teacher encouraged when I was at school and which should not have been lost with modern pristine decoration.

I love leaves and am planning to make this for our fireplace.

Idea from Martha Stewart Living, instructions on how to make and photos
from Apartment Therapy : Here:

I like the way that grand houses change soft furnishings according to the season which can give a room a totally different look. In our humble cottage we may change a few of the paintings or prints we have on display and swop round little objects of delight, cushion covers are changed from flowery faded prints to tapestry and velvet ones and much to the delight of the cats we bring out old soft wool throws which they immediately bury themselves in! But we do not have enough storage to keep many items. I dream of converting the attic to a dressing room and linen cupboard.

Cabbages and Roses summer room from the book by Christina Strutt
Living With The Country
Cabbages and Roses online

The Winter look from the amazing 'Odd',
the Donkeys do not come with the sofa coverings!
Odd online

Our cottage is in the Arts and Crafts style and suits William Morris prints and tapestries but I have a small collection of American crafts and love the locally made items you can pick up throughout America. The best ones are hand made either by local craftspeople or yourself and your family. Of course Halloween is huge in America and not so big over here, but more on that in October.

I LOVE this Fall owl soft sculpture on Etsy, by:
jjoycedesigns on Etsy

Whatever you are doing, whereever you live best wishes for a colourful Autumn. These are a few of our favourite images. We have credited where known.

Autumn Crossing, Hancock, County Maine

Autumn in Devonshire, by Sensuelle
Maple Tree, Lake District, Cumbria

The Apple Orchard, Carl Larsson
The Fairytale Wood, Molly Brett

Thursday, 20 September 2012

DESIGN ~ The Call of the Wild

Handmade by French designer, Frederique Morrel

The tapestry stag head at Amy Nicholas

Last season major design hits were stags, antlers and owls. I resisted the call of the wild and did not purchase any of them. I now regret it as Autumn is upon us and Winter is waiting in the wings.

For some reason when thoughts turn to making a cosy nest for winter it is nice to bring some of the outside in. I guess it is akin to having fresh flowers all Spring and Summer, instead we have fallen leaves, seed heads, pine cones, a wood pile, Stags, Owls and those Black Forest fairytales Hansel and Gretel and of course Little Red Riding Hood.

I really really love the one off tapestry heads of Frederique Morrel but there is no way us mere mortals can strecth to the price tag (a mere £1,500.) on them. Even though they are handmade and worth the small fortune. I ought to finish the studio being built in our back garden and then perhaps I can experiment with the huge pile of vintage fabric I have until I figure out how to make one.

On clear nights we have a Tawny Owl calling outside our bedroom window, much to the consternation of the nesting Jackdaws and the cats who curl up tight on the foot of the bed. Our tiny cottage is full of Owls, the husband has collected them since his Winnie The Pooh Hundred Acre Wood days spent with Wol and Christopher Robin.
The one kind we lack is a lamp. It would be nice to have one solemnly lighting up one of the dark spooky corners.

Of course because I did not buy one when they were about they seem to have mostly vanished now, and I even let that great vintage one escape at the The Emporium, Hungerford when it was right under my nose!

Here are some of my favourites, many of which are sadly no longer available.

Fierce and stately Owl from Graham and Greene

Some particularly nice pottery ows which were on Etsy,
but they would not have worked on UK electricity. 

The most perfect little Owl lamp
but no idea where he is being sold.
Fabulous design by Scusi, available through London store Mint,
Mint London

I suppose I could paper one wall with some fabulous Owl wallpaper to cheer me through winter while I continue the search for an Owl lamp and wile away the time stabbing myself with pins trying to make a Stag head from scraps of vintage velvets and carpet.

Paper by the fantastically talented Abigail Edwards
Her website
This gold bramblewood one is my kind of 'Whoooooo', a little scary and definitley asking for some resepct,  but she also does another one called 'Owls of the British Isles' which I quite like as well.

Wall paper design by Abigail Edwards

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

SEASONS ~ Autumn Amethysts

Master conjuror of cats - Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen

Early last night we heard the owl calling in our garden. After a glorious weekend of sun and scent from the final garden blooms Autumn really is upon us.  No more gentle happy chirping from the Swallows and House Martins. They are gone. We send them on their way with Hope that they make it there and back again. Our hearts soar when they arrive in Spring and a little bit of us goes with them on their long and dangerous journey. Life is uncertain and none of us can ever know if we will see them again. But we can always have Hope as they do.

The last dusky blooms on our favourite Clematis viticella "Purpurea plena elegans" and a beautiful web spun by a master weaver, the stripey garden spider. It's very small flowers look ancient and rose-like.

We always look forward to the russett glory of a Virgina Creeper on a wall.

It makes you long for patterned velvet throws, soft cushions and a soft mohair blanket in the misty hues of heather strewn moors in Scotland. Grab a good book and create a nest to wrap yourself in for the winter. I'm sure that in a previous life I hibernated.

Mrs Black and her Kitten are sleeping more and have become very affectionate. Less time hunting and playing outside when the weather turns.

There are still those swirling leaves to chase though.....

Dark moody jewels have a fire in them that can light winter. Three great loves of ours are crowns, purple and amethysts. This fabulous crown charm is currently on ebay with estate1920 who have some truly magical items for sale from time to time. It's remarkable and must have a wonderful history if only we knew! It is from the 1920's but I can imagine it having a life much further back in time. It's perfect for the watch chain of the White Rabbit, or hanging glittering from a long gilt belt on the waist of Elizabeth I. I so want this! But alas! It must go to someone else for this month we have the bills to pay. Sigh.

They say about this most desirable piece:


CIRCA ~ 1920'S



~ SIZE ~

NORTH TO SOUTH ~ 40.42 MM (1.591 INCHES)

EAST TO WEST ~ 32.45 MM (1.2775 INCHES)





Amethyst Charm on ebay

Saturday, 8 September 2012

PLACES ~ London Five of the best terraces and courtyards

This amazing looking seating area is on the Ombrellini terrace at Aqua Nueva, the rooftop restaurant overlooking central London. It recently had a makeover by Italian design wizards Missoni. The new look is right on retro target and is really stunning.

The British Airways magazine BA High Life featured their top five terraces and courtyards in London in their August magazine. They are all lovely, but this one is my favourite. Have a look at them here:

BA High Life article

Late summer is decadent. It fills your senses with colour, scent and tastes. It always reminds me of the end of a great love affair.

You are not quite ready to let it go, clinging on to moments past, gathering the scent of faded blooms and letting the feel of the warmth on your skin envelop you, one last time.

Late summer is a time of indulgence,  embracing family, friends, pets and food, making the most of any last minute sunshine and late night light.

Celebrate what is left of your summer, wherever that you are.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...