Friday, 10 July 2015

Queen B

 I awoke yesterday morning in my mum's home. It's always a delight to stay there. The aroma of fresh coffee wafts up the stairs and there is always a delicious healthy breakfast waiting on my arrival downstairs. The weather was so beautiful yesterday morning that we decided to breakfast outside. I took the time to catch up on a little writing. It was all quite delightful and calm. That was until a distinct hummmmmm irrupted. At first I thought it was a motorbike, or perhaps the refrigerator inside.  However, it quickly became apparent that it was something altogether more wonderful- a hive of honey bees swarming to find their new queen! Although we had a hive living in a roof of an old home I had never actually witnessed Honey Bees swarming, it's quite a sight. They move in a beautifully choreographed way searching for a spot to land and rebuild their hive. It was quite a start to a Thursday morning. They eventually settled in a field next to my mum's home (if you should encounter any swarming bees telephone BBKA and they will collect them). 

They couldn't have flown in at more opportune moment; my mum and I have been enthralled recently by a house in Real De Monte, Mexico called The House of Honey. Isn't it the most intriguing name?! We are on a quest to find out more about it, and it's residents, the Honeys' who all travelled to Mexico from Chacewater, Cornwall to set up a silver mine. Coincidentally the colour of the bees, yellow & black, are colours frequently associated with Cornwall (you can read about why here).

All these bees made me feel rather queenly so I donned an ensemble worthy of a Queen B and did as a Queen B might do; lounge on a makeshift chaise lounge, eat gilded grapes and buzz about looking faintly peeved. If I learnt anything at Central Saint Martins it was how to bitch face. It comes in very handy when being a Queen B. 

The spirit of this outfit was inspired by the Queen of all B's, Dorothy Parker: 'The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue'. She really was the best at witty but extremely cutting comments. 

Dorothy Parker in a Hungarian blouse
Source: 1

The outfit I'm wearing is what I imagine she might of worn to drink cocktails in a Palm Court, perhaps a little like this one:
Palm Garden dining room, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, circa 1902
Source: 2
My favourite book in the world is Photographs of New York City Interiors at the Turn of the Century. I remember discovering it on my mum's bookshelf as a teenager and spending hours pouring over the beautiful black & white photographs of palm courts, plush dining rooms and tiled bathrooms. Then when she moved it got misplaced, we couldn't find it anywhere. I came home from London to Cornwall for a few days and we did our usual charity shop trot around. What should we discover in Oxfam? Yes there it was, propped up waiting for us! I was delighted. On opening it I got a shiver down my spine it was inscribed 'To Penny'- my mum's name! We snapped it up and it has remained on my bookshelf ever since. It was more recently joined by The Opulent Eye: Late Victorian and Edwardian Taste in Interior Design which I picked up for 10 Euro in Charlie Byrne's, my favourite second-hand book shop in Galway (if you ever find yourself in Galway don't miss it!)

Both books are filled with the perfect locations for a Queen B to inhabit; I can just imagine Dorothy Parker swanning through them dropping lines like 'beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone'. 

It's incredibly hot here in Cornwall. Hence why I look a little flustered in some of these pictures. I have a completely empty house this weekend, free from boys (I live with two). It's a delight, I hardly know where to start with all the activities I have planned. I'm currently making myself a delicious Vegetarian meal of homemade pitta breads, falafel, salad and Chermoula Aubergine. I lived on my own when I was first in London,  it taught me that spending time on your own can be such a great thing creatively. I always feel a hundred times more inspired and talkative after I've spent a few days alone. I hope you all have wonderful weekends, enjoy the sunshine and smile!

Outfit Details

1930s yellow satin dress - belonged to my mum
1930s lace up boots - a Christmas gift
Black silk sarong - Monsoon many moons ago
Gold leaf necklace - East
Victorian embroidered silk apron - a gift from my mum (it really needs mending...!)


Monday, 6 July 2015

What's Underneath: Week 1

I have followed StyleLikeU for nearly 4 years now. I discovered them in my first year of university and proceeded to watch their entire back catalogue of short films (if you haven't ever scrolled through their website get to it now!) Their films are short but sweet portrayals into various people's experience of clothing and more specifically style. They launched their What's Underneath campaign last year and it's gone from strength to strength. Having secured kickstarter funding to make a film about the project they are now reaching out through instagram to ask what's underneath.

As part of their campaign I was contacted by them recently and asked what does your style say about you and what assumptions do people make about you based on your style? so here is my response. You can share your own story via Instagram using the #IAmWhatsUnderneath tag.

I have always dressed in a expressive way. As a child I favoured exotically patterned and coloured items: leggings dotted with fish, a jumper with brightly coloured diamonds, spotted pink swimsuits. My mum always encourage my brother and I to dress up. We had an elaborate dressing up box filled to the brim with the remnants of various members of her friends' wardrobes. Including Sari's,  1930s ball gowns and medieval costumes. I was fascinated by the embroidery and texture of the garments. My style now is really just a continuation of that early love. Studying fashion history at Central Saint Martins only furthered my love for history, textiles and clothes. I remember on my first day wearing an outfit inspired by the Russian Tsars. The reference was lost on almost everyone but to me that doesn't matter. I dress for myself, the pleasure of putting the garments together into a story or character is enough. It's taken me a long time to reach such a comfortable place with dressing this way. As a teenager I spent years trying to conform. I wore all black for about 7 years, which seems so crazy now but I was so scared to stand out that I thought that was the only way I could survive at school. I dyed my hair and wore clothes which now make me recoil but at the time I was terrified that my upbringing filled with colour and art made me weird and unapproachable so I gravitated to the extreme opposite. When I left school I started to realise that conformity didn't equal comfort. People are often horrified by my style. British people are particularly scared of 'too much' colour or print; it's deemed garish and unrestrained. Equally I have as many people tell me that I've brightened their day. I see wearing colour as uplifting. I've struggled with depression in the past, colour has been the single most useful thing in changing my outlook. I don't just extend it to my clothing but my home too. All I hope is that my use of colour will touch one person and make them have a more cheerful day; even if it's just for a second. 

Outfit Details

Two piece suit - made by my mum using vintage fabrics, Penny MacBeth

Printed top - years old Topshop

1970s wooden hand-painted beads - Charity Shop

Turquoise tassel earrings - Heather Finn Knitwear

Felt hat with faux flowers - Penny MacBeth


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Cults & Communes

I've been fascinated with communal living for a long time; in particular communal experiments of the late 1960s early 1970s. It began when I was an early teen watching re-runs of The Good Life with my brother after school and coming across Lloyd Khan's amazing Shelter book. More recently I've discovered Andrew Rigby's Communes in Britain- a complete steal on amazon and a very interesting read (although there are sadly hardly any photographs).  The Modern Utopia by Richard Fairfield is a truly wonderful book but very sadly out of print and tricky to get hold of, if you ever see a copy grab it! It has the most fantastic selection of pictures and lots of wonderful accounts from communes.

Communal living of course has encountered many problems over the course of it's history. How does one bring up children? How to share tasks? Do you let others join the founding members? etc etc. So many brilliant communes went down the pan only a few of years after having started. A particular favourite of mine is Drop City in the Californian desert, it was extremely pioneering in it's use of solar energy and of course it looked great.  It started in '65 and lasted under a decade. A victim of it's own success, too many people wanted to descend on it and it caved due to uncontrollable numbers.  

Drop City, California
Source: 1

Utopian vision's are hard to sustain. A method that communes have often opted for is the use of religion/spirituality to keeps members in check. The Source Family headed by Father Yod, is one such experiment that's gained a lot of recognition of late thanks to a seminal documentary of the same name. The Source Family are a fascinating bunch, bizarre and beautiful in equal measures. Father Yod started one of LA's first health food restaurants (he owned health food restaurants both during and pre his foray in to religion), and he also headed Ya Ho Wha 13, the commune's band (listen here!)
Source: 2
The Source Family borrowed iconography and customs from so many other spiritual methodologies; they used tarot cards, practised yoga, engaged in mass meditation. 

Father Yod
Source: 3
Salvation Mountain created by Leonard Knight, although not a communal cult, is another project which engaged a utopian vision in the hope of converting others. Aesthetically the mountain is extremely pleasing with it's stripes and naive flower shapes. I'd love to visit one day. Leonard Knight died several years ago and it seems the future of the mountain is in question so I better get there quick! Have any of you been? I'd love to know more about it.

Salvation Mountain, Colorado
Source: 4
Salvation Mountain, Colorado
Source: 5
My photographs were heavily influenced by the high colouration and psychedelic nature of both The Source Family and Salvation Mountain. Although I do not count myself as religious, I am a spiritually engaged being and I often meditate in the mornings; I find it extremely helpful in centering myself for the day ahead. When I was writing my undergraduate thesis I got very interested in Buddhism and Hinduism, and for a while thought about studying theology (I realised quickly that it might not be for me.) I'm still very interested in it's uptake in the 50s, 60s & 70s and in particularly the ways in which artists, writers, musicians and poets used it within their disciplines, people like: Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Christopher Isherwood etc. There has definitely been a return of interest in the use of spiritual symbolism of late. The blog Prism of Threads run by Traci Conti McCarty and the work of Alia Penner are just two amongst many who make use of it in their work. 

For extra high colouration I hand-tinted these photographs, it was a very lengthy process but one that I am increasingly drawn to. I like the process of having a printed image and editing it manually rather than digitally. 

 In a similar vein I wanted my outfit to reflect the the patterns and colours of 60s & 70s communes. It's almost entirely crocheted. I've just learnt how to crochet, after years of being useless at it I turned to youtube and forced myself to learn! I wish I could say I crocheted this frock but alas it was from a charity shop on Finchley Road. It appeared in a post on here several years ago but I felt it needed another outing. 

In news aside from communes my ADULTS zine is now available to purchase through my shop in either PDF or Paper format. 

The next zine  I'm compiling is on Green Living. If you have any thoughts on the subject, drawings, writing or ideas for content please email me. I'm interested in content on all aspects of being green, so think outside the box. 

It's crazily hot in most places in the UK today, luckily for once Cornwall seems to be having a break from the heat, it's only 20'! In London it's 35', I'm pretty glad not to be there right now. Hope you all stay safe and hydrated. 

Linking up with Hat Attack over on Judith's blog Style Crone.

Outfit Details

1970s rainbow crochet dress - Charity shop

Waistcoat made from crochet doilies - Penny MacBeth

Floral headdress - Penny MacBeth

Crochet gloves - Dents

Crochet & felt choker - Penny MacBeth

1990s red shoes - Hobbs via my mum

Giant badge with crochet picture - Car boot