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A Very Talented Woman

 

Meet my friend Amanda, a super cool woman and great friend to have.

Back in the 80’s when I was a fashion student at Jacob Kramer art college in Leeds Amanda was studying fine art at Leeds Poly.  It was decades later when we actually met, when our kids were all at primary school together. The first time Amanda came to my home she saw a piece of her art work that I had bought years before.  Kind of cosmic  I think. Our kids were not in the same classes, we just met through other friends and here we are many years later happily walking our dogs and sharing our interest in creativity often over tapas in Tooting Market, London.

Like many working mum’s, getting the work life balance is not even a consideration when the kids are young. There really isn’t time to think about what you might do for yourself when you have to do so much for everyone else. But much to our surprise we slowly start to reemerge from under the pile of laundry and washing up, post exams and teen angst to observe that the little people have become bigger and better versions of themselves and can more or less get on without you doing it all for them.

I was thrilled when Amanda started to re-connect to her natural creativity and carve out time to work on her own art again. I know from my own experience that brushing the dust off  our previous life is exhilarating but it can also be scary. No matter how successful we have been in the past, and with all that life experience that has brought us to this present moment, we will invariably feel vulnerable starting out again and putting ourselves on show.

I have seen Amanda go from creating small pieces and gift cards to bigger canvases full of colour and texture. Paintings that demand you stop and immerse yourself in the moment, taking time to experience the enjoyment of engaging with something original Something that someone has taken time to create.

In our world of instant fixes, works of art can be reproduced quickly and can be a colourful accessory to a room, picked up cheaply in the supermarket without much consideration to any aspect of where it has come from.  For me original art is there to enhance my need to be connected to colour, texture, themes that excite me and to be motivated by. Original art holds the energy of the artist even if you never know who created the work you will have a visceral connection to it. The art work that catches our attention takes you on a journey, it evokes memories and cultivates desire.

To live with anything less than that would be foolish.

We might not be buying but we can enjoy, most artists that I know love to share the inspiration behind their work. I hope you enjoy Amanda’s, she can be found here.

https://www.amandablundenart.com

Thoughts on sharing. To blog or not to blog

 

I am returning to blogging after a bit of a break. My relationship with blogging seems to be similar like that of any other relationship. It brings up issues around what to reveal about myself and share and what not to.  My thoughts about healthy engagement with social media is to be discerning and to make positive choices around what is relevant to our life at any given time. That said I don’t intend to use my blog as a sounding board for the world that we are living in but to use my blog to pick up from where I left off and the share stories as I would with friends and colleagues based on what is inspiring me in my work and life, be that art, making, designing or just observing on my travels and what I find at home here in London or the UK.

So these shots are taken on the beach at Dungeness. It’s a favourite place of mine and I was thrilled that my friends equally loved it. Dungeness can be a bit of a Marmite experience in that you either love it or hate it. Even though it is a recognised as a place of nature beauty, for some a long stretch of pebble and single beach scattered with an array of disused and broken machinery and old boats is the polar opposite of their idea of a stunning location.

The back drop of two  nuclear power stations only add to its charm, yes you read that correctly. The landscape is like a something from Mad Max, perhaps a setting for a dystopian future. Its surreal, the light is stunning even on a more typical British  grey day.

 

Forget the future though, how about the present. The Fish hut serves up the most delicious variety of snacks and meals, freshly caught on the day.

Going back to sharing, this is the life for sure, great friends by the sea eating lovely food and feeling the love, that quality of energy that comes from being with like-minded people who want to share their time with you.

You can find everything you need to know about the area on any google search, here is the wiki page

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeness_(headland).

But for now my joy is in sharing the images, the colours on the weather battered disregarded industrial items set against the natural beauty of the beach and the bright blue sky. You will  have to go there to enjoy the tranquility and the sounds of silence intermittently broken by the sounds of the gulls and the waves greeting the beach.

 

VINTAGE TEXTILES – reworking prints

I love to live with pattern, print and colour. Layering patterns and textures is visually stimulating but also draws out our desire for being tactile. The love of touch and feel. The print’s that I collect are genuine vintage and most are archived in museums. For me they are an art form from the past, they are a direct link to a time and era. I rework the prints to offer clients and mid-century collectors  accessories that complaint their furniture collections. The fabrics are in good condition, having not been used before. I do not rework something that has been a former curtain but do have a small stock of curtains which are often used in back drops and set designs. I have a shop on Etsy where you can see what I have in stock. https://www.etsy.com/shop/FabulousNelly

I CAN’T RESIST AN AUCTION

One of the things that I love about buying at auction is the preview days where you have the opportunity to handle some fabulous garments. Many vintage clothes shops don’t like you touching the items much where at auction you can try it on and get a feel of the era as well as understand the structure in detail. I don’t know anywhere else where you can get such a detailed close up of period clothing. This can be from Victorian frocks heading to a museum, garments that you are unlikely to see on the open market again. Famous people’s clothes, clothes that have contemporary value from designers as recent as the 1990’s, punk garments from the 1970’s along side clothes from glamorous eras and movie stars.

My love for clothes holds no time, I tend to collect garments that I can wear, sell on or just enjoy. Some of my garments are used for props in film and TV.

There is a thrill of buying at auction and getting to know other collectors are buying. My collection is somewhat random, I tend to get a look in on more eclectic lots as I am up against  collectors who are going to buy certain designers whatever the price is so therefore there is no point pushing the price up over what they are likely to pay.

Here are photos of some of  my collection, it changes over time. Some pieces are for sale and some are often on loan. Please email me for any info @ lisaaskem.me.com

I also source garments for clients.

 

 

Everything but the Dog

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Everything but the dog is the name of this is a very cool new venture started by Hannah and George along with their dog Billy a very handsome Shar Pei who sits in the shop window bottom. Whilst I was there he attracted a crowd of young people outside the shop, which is always a good advertisement for any business. Hannah and George have an eye for a good piece of mid-century furniture, ceramics and lighting. They recently took over a shop space on Chatsworth rd, Hackney, London E5 and have created a clean Scandinavian vibe to show their wares.

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I can never resist a shop selling mid-century wears and I just happened to be passing by the weekend that they had opened. We were greeted with an enthusiastic welcome and I am not surprised that things were selling fast. They have some interesting pieces dated from the 1960’s and 70’s alongside some new items, pieces that are made locally but fit in with their scheme. This seemed like a great opportunity to introduce my vintage textiles re worked into cushions and I am thrilled to say these are now accessorizing their re- upholstered Ercol furniture. Feels like a meeting of like-minded souls but I am also keen to see this shop thrive.

Over the past three years Chatsworth rd  has changed. Like many areas in this part of London the gentrification is obvious but here the owners of the shops, cafe’s and restaurants here have lifted a shabby and run down street into something vibrant for the local community to enjoy. And they do. The restaurants are full and the Sunday street market is rated as one of the best markets that’s Londoners go to. There is always a new pop up shop happening. New food outlets, no big names, just locals nurturing the area. The old and the new are making a living side by side. The street is under the radar of magazines such as Elle decoration and is featured in time out.

I buy interesting gifts from here, made by local product designers, along with handmade soap, cheese, bread, and of course cake. Which London market doesn’t offer cake? The restaurants are great value and full of energy. There is often a pop up art exhibition in what’s known as the dentist shop. A recent addition is the Hackney draper which for me as a textiles geek is heaven. Offering curtain making, haberdashery and selling fabric along with some home accessories and African textiles.

The street is a friendly creative hub, highly recommended for a Sunday stroll. Sometimes your stroll will be accompanied with live music, and a lot of laughter.

Doing the Funky Kitchen

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Part of my down size from a Victorian family house to a small 1930’s apartment meant that I had to trade in my large kitchen, breakfast room which opened out to a sunny garden for a tiny kitchen which opens onto a fire escape. Gone was the large fridge freezer, dish washer and long banks of worktops. Gone too was the endless feeding of small children, having grown now up and living more independently. My initial  anxiety of wondering how we would cope with a small fridge, no dish washer and little space was replaced by embracing the local community extensive choice of food shops, cafe’s and restaurants. The down size was also about buying less food. , reducing waste. I acknowledged that my needs from a kitchen had now changed, what did I need and want? I decided to create something fun. Once again considering the nature of the apartment block which was built for the bright young things of the 1930’s to enjoy this new lifestyle, isn’t this what I was doing?  My mind went towards cocktails and tapas.

I found this glass light fitting at ID furniture and lighting in Crystal Palace, south-east London. This area is great for a weekend mooch. Lots of mid-century retailers here along with the enough little cafe’sconsider any purchases over coffee and cake. Refreshingly this is not a hipster destination, it’s a much more discerning crowd, genuine interest in collecting and enjoying the environment.

Back to the kitchen design.  Rather than have a central light fitting I had this hung over a work top. It instantly makes the kitchen feel less functional and more sensual. I have a lot of down lights under  the wall cabinets which provides much-needed brighter light for cooking when we need it.

The color scheme is 70’s inspired. Lots of time was  spent  looking at shades of  brown and yellow and lots of frowning from people who thought painting a small room in a dark color was mad. That said there is as much white from the units to balance this. The room doesn’t feel cramped  even though its small. The sun pours through the windows late afternoon therefore the Venetian blinds create much-needed shade without compromising on the light. In the evening when the blinds are closed the mustard yellow creates warmth.

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Cute ceramic finds, Lord Nelson salt, pepper and mustard set, found again in Crystal Palace at Crystal Palace Antiques. This is a treasure trove which houses a mix of antiques over several wonky floors in an old warehouse. Mid century finds are all in the basement. I came across what  I thought were matching espresso cups at Mid Century Modern, Dulwich College, south-east London. However this set is by Villeroy and Boch, design Acapulco, both made in the 1960’s both very similar. Purchased from Haji&White, I have a few pieces from them, they are always worth checking out and seeing what they have.

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Design-Detective

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Tin Horn Holiday by Saul Steinberg

Bermondsey street in London is always a joy to walk along. There are fashion designers, interior shops, good restaurants  and cafe’s On Fridays there is an antique market and the street is home to White Cube Gallery. Enough for an afternoon out which blends into an early evening tapas followed by a stroll up to tower bridge, london bridge or a view from the shard.

Its vibrancy is the perfect location for the Fashion and Textiles museum, a regular haunt of mine,  show casing small exhibitions of great designers.

Last year (Jan – May 2014)  they held and exhibition, artists and textiles.  The exhibiton showed examples of fabric designed by prominent artists for mass-produced dress fabrics in the 1950’s era.  Also representing  key European and American  art movements, enabling ordinary people to have access to  modern art. The post war era was an exciting time for manufacturing. These fabrics were mass produced for ladies wear and home furnishings. For many of us to (and to this day) it’s an opportunity to own something created by someone as great as Picasso, Matisse and Warhol. We tend to think of these artists only in the big world of art,  accessible in museums and or with a high price tag. Therefore its interesting to see that these big players were happy to be part of the new design revolution.

Garyson Perry would be an example of producing work today for all price points. From a tea towel or scarf to a museum piece.

I was looking at a version of the Tin Horn Holiday, by Saul Stiengberg,  featured in the exhibition and thought how great it would be to own a piece like this, where do you find it?  There was over 200 rare pieces in this exhibition, most have never been on show before. So you can imagine my excitement to see this full size skirt length in excellent condition on ebay, yes that’s right.  The seller says its a rare survivor and would make a wonderful framed wall panel (which it would) or an important addition to any collection or museum, which is my intention. Happy to show and tell and lend to interested parties.

Saul Stienberg was an artist and illustrator and worked for the New Yorker magazine. In 1946 he was exhibited in the critically acclaimed “Fourteen Americans” show at  MOMO and had a  retrospective in 1978 at the Whitney Museum of America, followed by a posthumous one at the Institute  for modern art in Valencia, Spain.

This piece shows both humor and satire. Illustrations depicting holidays in Palm Springs, of girls in cars wearing funky specs, rodeos and ‘weekend’ cowboys.  Neon signs, Very smart and sophisticated.

For more insightful reading to this fabric I highly recommend this blog by thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com

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Mirror in the Bathroom

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Orbit mirror designed by Rodney Kinsman RDI designed in 1984 and available to buy through his company OMK. That said I came across this one at the shop Two Columbia rd, London. Situated closer to Shoreditch high St, but only a short stroll along from Columbia rd flower market on Sunday. Two Columbia rd is a fantastic shop and a treat to visit, however it’s top price, absolutely no bargains to be found here but it’s all high-end and genuine. Along the stroll from the flower market (Sunday’s only) you will pass the impressive Leopold buildings which are a gem of a previous era Victorian flats built for the poor and now looking spectacular.

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I digress, but each find has its story.

The mirror has a revolving double-sided smaller mirror set in a revolving frame around the large mirror. I just felt that this would be perfect for a small space, along with my impending  need for a magnifier.

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I wanted to create a contemporary space in this tiny room (140 cm x 210 cm) but also to capture the original sense of the period, flats built at this time (1938) were all about a new era, and something glamorous.

I kept the bath and laid cubism art deco style tiles in grey. Replaced the sink and went for new chrome fittings The walls are tiled in sage metro tiles and above the tiles the walls are painted in a compliments eggshell acrylic paint.

I had a narrow shelf made to run underneath the boxed in boiler flue from the adjacent  kitchen. The shelf is just deep enough for three down lights on a dimmer, bright for over the mirror and dim for a relaxing bath. A little bit of space for storing essential oils and other small items.

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How Did I get here?

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Two years  ago I had the random idea to sell our family home. The idea came from nowhere but it was inspired. It was time for a change, I was approaching 50 and having created a working life based around my family needs, my family needs had changed, the kids were becoming independent and I had time on my hands. I didn’t want to change my work commitments but there was a gap of time that only so much dog walking could fill. Not quite a mid-life crisis but a need to change. I began to think about how I wanted to live and what I wanted to do and then how I could create all of this. There is a phrase ‘pre retirement’ it seemed to tick the box. People who aren’t ready to give up work but are reducing their commitment to work and making time for something new. Time I have realised is a luxury and it was the thing I had the most of. I Wanted to re connect to the passions of my younger years whilst I have the energy to be that passion. These being my former career as a designer, vintage collecting of fashion and textiles, traveling and being involved in the arts. Communicating and engaging in a world outside of school routine, work and family commitments. It’s a liberating thing to let go. When I moved from our family house of 17 years I had edited my life to a few boxes of memories,  and the things that I needed. My daughter was about to leave home and my son who at 14 wasn’t ready to give up on his childhood and  brought the most with him. We downsized from a Victorian London house into a 1930’s period apartment block, that bit sounds cool. Our apartment though had not been cleaned or changed since 1975 (40 years). And so the story begins.

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog.

Fabulous Nelly is a mid-century girl, collecting and reworking mid century textiles. Inspired by city living, fashion, interiors and the arts.

Living in London, always on the look out for new finds, from vintage to contemporary design for interiors and  happy to share the experience of sourcing and re working the finds.

Lucienne Day Apex print for heals Lucienne Day Apex print for heals  (Found in Edinburgh a 3m piece unused in perfect condition). Reworked  into cushions.

On the move to other European cities (and beyond) always searching and enjoying meeting new people who are doing something interesting and creative with their time.

My aim is to share my finds, sourcing and experience from trips.

Keen to collaborate with other designers or interested parties.