Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Peas Please Me

Here are some component parts of deliciousness. Embellishments may be added as desired.

Peas and broad beans are two of my favourite vegetables. And they're so well packaged too. I love that soft spongey lining underneath the broad bean skin. They look very safe in there. Podding peas (if you've time or help) has to be one of the most satisfying tasks.

Do you like cheese? I can recommend the one above. It's called Gorwydd Caerphilly and it's lovely. Especially with some nice crackers.

The strawberries, by the way, are a variety called 'Christine'. Fragrant and sweet they were.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Nature, Science & Art

The year is 1843.

A remarkable book has just been published in England by a botanist called Anna Atkins. It is called 'Photographs of British Algae' and will be the first publication to use photographic illustrations using the 'cyanotype' technique. This process - which relies on the light sensitivity of iron salts to produce the distinctive blue colour - has been invented by the eminent scientist and friend of Anna Atkins, John Herschel. Mrs. Atkins will be considered by some to be the first female photographer.

Illustration from 'Photographs of British Algae' by Anna Atkins 1843

By the mid nineteenth Century, John Herschel is a celebrated mathematician, botanist, astronomer and scientist. He has discovered infrared, sailed to South Africa to study astronomy in the southern hemisphere and will have named seven of the moons of Saturn. He will be the person responsible for coining the term 'photography' and have been involved in several scientific advancements related to this medium.

We move forward now to 1863 and a woman has been given a camera by her daughter for her forty eighth birthday. Over the following eleven years she will immerse herself in the 'art' of photography and produce work that will receive both criticism and high praise. Her name is Julia Margaret Cameron.

Mrs. Cameron will become a prolific artist and will be known for her photographic illustrations of historical stories and also for her striking portraits of famous intellectuals, artists and thinkers. Some of her subjects will have been members of an exclusive artistic salon presided over by her sister Sarah Prinsep. Sarah's daughter Julia will become the mother of Virginia Woolf.

Photograph - Julia Jackson
Julia Jackson by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1867 via here

And amongst many others who sit for Mrs.Cameron will be Charles Darwin, Edward Burne-Jones, Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson and her great friend and supporter - John Herschel.

Photograph - J.F.W. Herschel
John Herschel by Julia Margaret Cameron via here

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Home Baked

Below is a blueberry muffin from the batch I baked on Friday for the school fair. 

Muffins are a new addition to my (narrow but reliable) cake/bun baking repertoire. At the moment this includes a very delicious but rich - usually saved for special occasions - chocolate brownie recipe and a basic but reliable one for cupcakes which can also be used for making a Victoria sandwich. 

Having been wedded to - but also enjoyed - the traditional yet occasionally slow creaming and folding method of making cake batter all my life, I'm thrilled to have discovered that the ease and different-ness of making muffins has broadened my offerings within the baking department.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


I'm going to be taking more photos with this: It's a Pentax K1000 and is a really great camera. It's fairly ancient - probably mid/late 1970's - and will require the purchase of film and a more careful approach to taking pictures. 

Let's see what this (old) puppy can do.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Gallery Guide: Quilts & More at the V&A

I've been wanting to visit the Quilts exhibit at the V&A and finally went with a couple of friends yesterday. It was actually a bit of a challenge to get a decent view of some of what was on display as it was extremely busy. Here's some of what else I saw whilst at the museum - the quilts will be at the end of the post.

The two puppets above are
'March Hare' & 'The Duchess' from Alice in Wonderland
and were made by Pelham Puppets Ltd between 1950-55. 
They were bought for the V&A's 
Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. They just looked
so great floating in their glass cabinets with those
nonchalant expressions. Adorable outfits too.

A 1931 afternoon dress (above) by 
Paris couturier Madeleine Vionnet.
This dress, which is made up of carefully
pieced sections, looked as if it were made yesterday.
So feminine.

The gown beneath the jacket (above) is called
the 'Delphos' dress and is by
Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny c.1920. 
The piece is constructed from panels of pleated silk 
which make the fabric elastic and allow it to follow
the contours of the body. This classically inspired 'free form' released
women from the constraints imposed by corsets and
was popular with the avant garde, artists and
intellectuals of the late 19th and early 20th Centurys.
Amongst those known to have worn Fortuny's 
gowns were Isadora Duncan and Sarah Bernhardt.

This sweet linen sailor dress c.1912-14
reminds me of Jenny Agutter in
'The Railway Children'.

Ah - the practical yet elegant
Claire McCardell. The wool evening gown
(above) from 1955 is an example of how this 
designer combined everyday fabrics 
with a modern silhouette. Perfect for
a drinks party at the Eames's.

Shoes With Character

Woven silk shoe, British 1720-30

Satin shoe, French or Italian 1770-85

Stencilled leather shoe, British c.1800

Striped cotton boot, British 1812-20

Satin shoe with appliqued ribbons & rosette, c.1860


The more I think about this exhibition the more I want to return and take a closer look at what was on display - to think again about the people who crafted the quilts, the stories woven into them and the love and time invested in their making.

Some of the pieces were simply very moving either because of the context in which they had been made or because of the sentiment expressed within the finished piece. One of those which stood out for me was the quilt made by twenty young girls who had been prisoners during the second world war. 

The Changi Girl Guides - named after the jail they were in - produced this remarkable piece as a gift to their guide leader adding to it with whatever scraps of fabric they could get hold of and finally embroidering their names upon it. The very touching story of this quilt and its makers is written about here.

 Changi quilt detail via here

'Scenes from a Love Story' 1875-85 via here

Coverlet detail by Ann West, 1820 via here

'Liberty Jack' quilt by Janey Forgan, 2008 via here

I love the contrast of the multi-coloured stars bordered by plain navy hexagons here.

Bold and beautiful orangey-red and blue stripes.

Homely and traditional - a lovely bed covering.

If this is your cup of tea there are only a few more days to visit this exhibit - it closes on July 4th.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

One Lump or Two?

Tea - the drinking of - is important in this house. We are fairly brand loyal and are pretty routine about consumption. A typical day (tea-referenced) at Sensible Towers:

1. Morning alarm which could be any of the following: child/pet/clock.
2. Request for tea in bed. Not from me.
3. I don't get up. It's not my turn. And anyway, I don't want tea in bed.
4. Tea is brought up to me by The Kind One and I promise I'll make it tomorrow.
5. A decent second cup from the pot is unlikely as (only a theory) hard water doesn't hold the heat.
6. It's coffee after 9am and tea again after 3pm.

It's quite clear from the above that we are suffering from an acute case of habit-bound die-hardedness. There is no known treatment.

I'll pop the kettle on.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

John Hedgecoe

John Hedgecoe, who died at the beginning of June, was a photographer, writer and educator and was the first Professor of Photography at the Royal College of Art. He was also responsible for one of the world's most reproduced images - see above. 

In the 1960's Hedgecoe was commissioned to take a photograph of the Queen for use on British and Commonwealth postage stamps. This portrait by him was subsequently used by artist Arnold Machin to produce a plaster sculpture which was re-photographed by Hedecoe to become the final stamp image. 

Hedgecoe's famous books on photographic techniques are credited with bringing photography to a wider audience and inspiring generations of photographers both amateur and professional. Any of his titles would be considered standard-issue texts for students of photography.

Amongst his best-selling publications are 'The Photographer's Handbook' and 'The Book of Photography: How to Take Better Photographs'. Although the cover of this 1976 edition of the book (and some of the images in it) look a bit dated now - try to ignore the soft-focus/wet shirt shots - it's a really helpful guide to the practical elements of taking pictures, is copiously illustrated with photographs by the author and is a fantastic example of his enthusiasm for teaching this subject. 

Friday, 11 June 2010

Poster Post

I've been doing some research for a couple of small design jobs and came across some great vintage and contemporary posters. Thought it would be nice to share.

The first three images are by a British designer called Daphne Padden some of whose poster designs were recently discovered during escalator removal work at Notting Hill Gate tube station in London. To see more of what was found there take a look here.

all via here

They are all just so cheerful - definitely from a bygone era. 
Interestingly Daphne Padden's father, Percy Padden, was also 
an artist and he too produced some truly distinctive images. 
Here's an example of one of his: 

And now for something contemporary. 
These three are from General Pattern 
which is the website of artist James Brown. 

I really like the idea of adding 
the NATO phonetic alphabet to my skill set.

Here's some work by New York 
based design company Onetwentysix

The next trio are from the website of Jon Contino who
is part of the Onetwentysix team. I'm an absolute sucker for
some hand drawn or artfully arranged lettering.
 If this sort of thing is your cup
of tea - rush over to see some of his beautiful work. 

And that concludes tonight's poster presentation. 
I shall be back with more very soon. 
Do enjoy the weekend -
and here's to hoping we have some fine weather for it.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Self Help & More

Sometimes it's nice to have help. But when there isn't anyone else around to assist in chivvying things along, a motivational phrase can be very encouraging. You may want to conquer the world or just sort out a pile of papers. Or perhaps you just want to gaze at a favourite font. Here is my own text-based support:

It's a screen print by Richard Roberts (check this out too) and was bought for me from a great little shop/gallery in Ludlow called Material. I had it framed by the wonderful Pure & Applied of Bermondsey Street. Which is where, incidentally, I found the map below (dated 1870) for the cycle-loving one in our home.

The map's pouch

Map detail - click on it for a better view

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

We Are Stardust

My learned friend suggested a trip into space at the
Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park.
I was only too glad to tag along as I hadn't been before.

Honestly, it was one of the best things ever.

We sat in ever so slightly reclining airline style seats
in a dark auditorium so that we could look up at the
AV presentation of the night sky above us whilst a
(very funny) Royal Astronomer narrated.

It was mesmerising and poetic and made me:
a) want a telescope and
b) want to read something by Carl Sagan.