Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Botanic Garden

Introduced in 1972, you could be forgiven for thinking that Botanic Garden was the only design Portmeirion produced such was it's popularity for at least two decades. It was charming. Delicate illustrations of garden delights in feminine hues with Moths and Butterflies recalled the then highly sought after Victorian and Edwardian botanic drawings. The shape of the china was beautiful too.

But this well known design is only one of the many wonderful collections produced by Portmeirion.

My favourite era for the pottery is the 1960s when founder Susan William-Ellis had just begun to design shapes.  Everything about her early designs scream 60s from the astonishing shapes, colours and magical glazes.  I love the raised patterns she borrowed from native American Indians on Totem, hence the name she gave it.

Totem coffee set

Totem was produced in amber, olive green, dark blue and white. The white items are hard to find today and considered rather rare. They produced coffee and tea sets, dishes, bowls and cheese and serving dishes.

The coffee set was iconic but proved not all that practical with it's tall pot and thin handle and spout. Many were broken, but the glaze held up and although examples may now be crazed it is usually superficial. They are such beautiful designs that even to have them to look at is a joy.

Coffee cup in the dark blue glaze

Totem tea pot and cup
From here:
Totem plate, canister and tureen.

They say copying is the greatest form of flattery and copied it was. This is my own teapot, a Scandia design. I love it, it's short strong silhouette, glaze and raised decoration recall Totem, but I do long for the real thing which is so much more refined. 

My teapot
Another look-alike, this one is by Lord Nelson Pottery.
It is nice .... but still not quite Totem.

Portmeirion Village, where it all began.

For those who do not know, Portmeirion Pottery was founded in 1960 when pottery designer Susan Williams-Ellis (daughter of Clough Williams-Ellis the creator of Portmeirion the fantastic fantasy holiday village where The Prisoner was filmed) and her husband, Euan Cooper-Willis took over A.E. Gray Ltd,  a small pottery decorating company in Stoke on Trent.

Susan had been commissioning her designs with A.E. Gray in order to produce items to sell in the gift shop at Portmeirion Village.  In 1961 Susan and Euan expanded when they bought Kirkhams Ltd, another small pottery. This which allowed them to manufacture pottery, and not just decorate it. Having previously only designed surface pattern she now began to design her iconic shapes as well.
These two businesses were combined and Portmeirion Potteries was born.

Susan Williams-Ellis' early Portmeirion designs include Malachite (1960) and Moss Agate (1961). In 1963 Susan launched Totem. Totem's bold, tactile and abstract pattern coupled with its striking cylindrical shape propelled Portmeirion to the forefront of fashionable design. they stayed there for many years to follow.

In the latter half of the 60s she remained right on target with her visions. In the era of hippies, pschedelia pattern and colours fuelled by the trippy drug culture her designs had a fairytale air about them.

Magic City

The original design was sketched while at the 'Monte Sol' hotel in Ibiza,
the 'Marrakesh' colourway with its striking lime green colourway appeared a few years later, 1960's.
From Flicker Here:

Susan died in 2007 but her great talent lives on in much coveted pieces she designed which are still being copied even today. 

Further reading:

Portmeirion Own site

Retro Wow site

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

OBJECTS OF DESIRE - DoGoo Contemporary Clay Idols

Dior 1950s. Sparkly, yes. Gorgeous, yes.
And yet I would not buy this.  

I like to share the work of artists I admire. Like most ladies my eye is attracted by a bit of sparkle but I've never been a great beauty and do no justice to ostentatious adornment - and real jewels just do not fit into my lifestyle.  These days to hold my attention and make me part with hard earned monies items need todo more than sparkle. Much more.

What I really love are things which sparkle AND tell a story. This skill is known to a few wordsmiths, painters, and the magic hands that can bring life to a lump of clay. What these artists create are my Objects Of Desire.

I have always been interested in folklore, the telling of it and how it came to be. My dream home would be in a wood. We live close but not quite in among the trees. I need a pale hound to walk beside me while I ramble. I have caught sight of many beasts therein, some real, some imagined. Some timid as this Roe Deer, some clever like a Fox, some fierce like the Wolf.

A Roe Deer in the woods by our cottage

I think that wild things beckon to us because we see something in them which we have lost or hidden deep inside ourselves. I have Native American ancestors whose beliefs enthralled me while growing up. I was alternatively fascinated and frightened by Totem Poles and the ancient carvings of beasts you see all over Europe remind me of them. I like the stories that lie within the images of Totems and Idols.

So it is no surprise that I am attracted to the work of certain fairy tale artists of old, my favourite being Arthur Rackham. Today there are also very gifted artists and illustrators who can spin anew characters of old, or give life to untold tales and characters we may have only dreamed. I admire the work of many,  Ruthie Redden, Jackie Morris, Jessie Lilac, Rima Staines, Joanne May, and Karen Davies, to name just a few.

There is something very romantic and magical about working with your hands whether it be with wood, paints, jewels or clay. Today I am featuring a sculptor,  Midori Takaki of DoGoo Contemporary Clay Idols. She creates items which tell a story and has the discipline required to produce a perfectly shaped traditional bowl or jug and yet she can also give her imagination free flight to create items of fairy tale and mythic origin. On her blog Midori shares wonderful photographs of all the animals who inhabit her life including the dogs Pearl and Topaz and the Hen named Pumpkin.

I especially love this most perfect little milk jug adorned by the rabbit on the handle and a paw mark at the lower end of the handle.

I am enchanted by her interpretation of the story of Red Riding Hood and The Wolf which she has shared with us on her blog. I hope that she will not mind me posting this here.

Red Riding Hood plaque by DoGoo Contemporary Clay Idols

I think what she has written on the profile of her Etsy shop perfectly captures the spirit of her work and explains her strong tie to nature and the world around her which she has great love and respect for.

"I make ceramic figures inspired by nature, fairy tales and myth. I was fascinated by metamorphoses in Greek myth, and love the world of Narnia.

My figures usually have stories behind them. When I make faces, they often start talking to me and they build their own characters from there. Although I make shapes for them, I don't feel I create them. I just help them appear. The deep almost unconscious dialogue that I have with the subjects is the source of my joy of making them.

My work will bring smile to those who see them. That makes me happy.

I also make tableware too. They are inspired by plants, especially flower buds and leaf buds.

I am taking an MA course in Applied and Fine Arts in Canterbury Christ Church University as a part-time student. I used to work as interior designer in Tokyo. I had my first exhibition at Artists' Open Houses in October 2011.

I have studied sociology and anthropology for BA and MA, and interior design at a professional level. My most favourite place to visit is V&A, and the place I have liked to visit most is Hermitage at St. Petersburg.

I live with the husband, three parrots, two dogs, one finch and one chicken in a beautiful old city in Kent.

I love life, feel optimistic and lucky. I am sometimes too imaginative for my social reputation!"

DoGoo Contemporary Clay Idols blog

Midori's Etsy Shop

Red Riding Hood meets a wolf, by Arthur Rackham
My favourite Red illustration which graces a wall in our cottage.

I keep meaning to write a post about Little Red Riding Hood but my love of this tale is so great that I am frightened of not doing it justice. Where to begin? Where to end? While I continue to collect, dissect and mull it over in my mind and eye, Kristin over at Tales Of Faerie has posted this recently about Red Riding Hood and werewolves in Europe, and it offers another bit of information in the unraveling of the story.

Friday, 10 May 2013

ENCHANTED - Edinburgh


The dark and gothic Edinburgh skyline

It is impossible to be in Edinburgh and not think of gothic horror stories. The skyline is hopelessly romantic, all dark tracery cut into stone towers jutting out over the city. Just being there sets the imagination off.

The Scott Monument, a Victorian Gothic monument
to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott
The Frankenstein Pub pays homage to Mary Shelley's classic gothic horror story


You can see that Harry Potter might have been very different had JK Rowling written it in a cafe in London or Dublin instead of here.

The Elephant House cafe, beloved of authors, where Harry Potter was born.

Diagon Alley is Edinburgh more than any other place. Potter is here!

Diagon Alley in the Potter films

Edinburgh is an enchanted gothic wonderland full of arches, crowns, Stags, Unicorns
and spooky gates that beckon you inwards - if you dare.

Doctor Who is represented in Edinburgh too

I fell in love with the city.
There are evenancient pink timbered houses!


Wednesday, 1 May 2013


The Maypole by Peter Miller

It is a glorious day today. The sun is shining, Bluebells are blooming in the woods, Swallows and House Martins swoop overhead, bright Brimstone Butterflies flit amongst the May blossom in the hedgerows and the children at the school in the back garden have celebrated the first day of May.

The old ritual of dancing round a Maypole would not be with us today had the Puritans had their way for they banned this ancient tradition of paying homage to Nature and to the feminine in particular.  When the throne was restored under Charles II he was more tolerant of merry making (he was known as The Merry Monarch!) and the day was celebrated all over Britain. According to Tradamis, 'a notable one was in the Strand. This was 134 foot high (41m) and stood there until Sir Isaac Newton used parts of it as a base for his telescope!'

Alphonse Mucha
Nature Sculpture 1899-1900
Mucha Museum, Prague, Czech Republic

We can credit the Pre-Raphaelite John Ruskin for the Maypole as we know it in the present day. He was very keen on Nature and believed that along with learning to read and write children needed to  take exercise. He thought this should include being out of doors and learning to dance.  In 1881 while at Whitelands College (a training college for teachers) he initiated a May Festival for which he created a series of dances. His idea was embraced by the teachers who passed them on, and carried them with them on their teaching assignments.  By the time of Ruskin's death in 1900 this vision  he had was looked upon as tradition. 

Some of these early Maypoles survive on village greens and are still used today for festivities. I love these countryside traditions and they are quite wondrous to see knowing that people have enjoyed them for centuries. 

The Bluebells at Queen Charlotte's Cottage in Kew Gardens

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