Long ago I read a book called Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder. It was based on an out of the way place in LA that was around way before cabinet of curiosities reached the resurgence of coolness it now enjoys.
I have since wanted to visit the museum but to no avail for various reasons- until a recent 30 hour stint in La La Land.
An unassuming facade on Venice Boulevard, Culver City, it is a shade of green with an old brass buzzer engraved with its name, lovely and old school.
Due to my limited time & excuse of my next book, I made an appointment to view this enigma. The size of MJT is deceiving. We were greeted by Rachel who informed us that she would be leaving at 3pm with apologies. I was noon and the place appeared to be made up of just 3 rooms! Well, were we in for a surprise.
The museum is made up of two floors & roughly 20 rooms (I lost count so don’t quote me on that). Each room is intimate, dark & encourages you to look into, touch, listen or read. It is a realisation of one man’s (& his wife) vision.
The rabbit warren of rooms: part carneval, cabinet & curios, sideshow, history, circus, museum, gallery & exhibit. As you can see, it is impossible to categorise.
Each display is different with dioramas, holograms, microscopes, 3D glasses & listening devices installed for you to experience each installation in its own way. The installations are strange, intriguing & curious- but one wonders if these are historical or if they are fictional characters that have been created, philosoph-ied & imagined. Regardless, the experience is of marvel, joy, wonder, curiosity & mystery.
There is a big surprise on the top floor. You come out into a Moroccan Oasis of light after being in the dark for so long. It’s like your mind is being cleared from the huge amount of information intake downstairs and here you are cleansed and able to process all the wonderful things you have seen. There is a subtlety of colour, a bird singing in a large aviary and it is airy & light & lovely & white.
Note to self: leave plenty of time, hours disappear here.
Ah the beauty of social media! I meet like-minded people, shopowners, designers & everyone in between from around the world & hatch lovely friendships with them this way. 3Potato4 is one of them. I orchestrated my recent roadtrip to include visiting Stu & Janet at their 3Potato4 barn just on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
Although running hideously late (that is after it closed at 4pm), Stu & I shot the breeze for a couple of hours over our mutual love for the curious & ‘the find’ as old friends. His aesthetic is right up my alley: oversized theatre props, macabre props, handtooled stencils, maps, signs, books, spindle backed chairs, old packaging, flour sacks & all those other irresistibles.
He has made promises of letting me tag along to local fleamarkets & auctions on my next trip to Philly.
NB: Stu suggested The Dandelion for dinner & it was fantastic! Make sure you look at all the different levels, the interiors are super cool!
On my recent roadtrip through PA (that’s Pennsylvania, USA), I stopped at Terrain- this had been on my list for a long time. It is one hours drive from Philadelphia & well worth hitting around lunchtime- make sure you book a table at their internal cafe, Styer’s.
The shop & cafe are surrounded by gardens, a greenhouse for the more sensitive plants, an open wood fire pit, trees, wood walls, grasses, produce, seedlings & other gardening essentials and after recent snowstorms in the East coast region (I know- snow for Halloween!)- it looked all magical & Narnia-esque.
As you meander toward the cafe: books, twine, gardening tools, lights, furniture & uber-cool products are for sale plus great storage & display ideas are a-plenty ie jars of honey & it’s own comb casually displayed on a window (heaven!).
The cafe is a conservatory of zinc potted green walls, overflowing log shaped planters, floating string balls (you know the ones with the trees), all light & bright & split bamboo shaded. The food is seasonal, local, fresh as it should be & feel free to BYO champagne or a drink of your choice as they are yet to be licensed but happy to pop your cork.
Even the bathrooms are considered & inspirational. NB: take your camera!!
On arrival into Amsterdam, we headed straight to Pont 13 (our taxi driver found it a challenge): a restaurant on a boat, on the water, on a pier in an industrial area- I’m sure there are lots of shipwrights around!
This place is fantastic. A truly original space, not gimmicky or theme-y, but all nautical, rope-y, teak, brass & round metal riveted windows.
The bar curves with oversized industrial lighting, more beacon in style, suspended from above. A metal spiral staircase leads to a tiny office that looks over the restaurant which is laid out with long tables of teak & paneled like a boat. Knotted & slightly frayed rope acts as a screen for the bathrooms. This place is more ship than boat with lots of heavy ship metal painted dark blue and a creamy white painted hull. Even the heavy sail canvas, leather & stormy blue velvet curtains (that keep the cold winds at bay that whip off the water) rocked my world- or boat haha! In the summer months I heard they BBQ & spit roast on the outside decks. I am soooo coming back on my bicycle.
We battled hightide & navigated our way over bridges & waterways in Venice (who knew the canal seeps over the walls & intrudes straight into the streets!) to arrive at Helene’s house. A high ceilinged apartment with terracotta tiled floor displaying her own hand-painted silks, cottons & linens acting as curtains, cushions, lampshades & artwork, complemented in colour with her husbands oil paintings of Venice.
Her husband was her mentor. He worked largely with geometrics and his paintings line & brighten the walls of her home, as Bach is playing in the background.
She explains that creating is like the movement of dance for her, like music & its rhythm. I can see this in her long hand-painted panels. Her fabric appears as stained glass panels (but more beautiful & not religious) as the light shines through her circles & visible brush-stroked lines; inkiness with a free hand; loose with movement as colours merge & blur. Her shapes mimic jellyfish and anemone, then dragons, glowing paper lanterns, feathers, the wind & movement of the watery canals which surrund her. You could look for hours and see different colours & shapes.
Helene works downstairs & outside in the Spring & Summer months only. Like me, she hibernates for the Winter (perhaps she is also part bear). She is seasonal in her colour & creativity. When I met her she was dressed head to toe in indigo, her own work manipulated into a scarf tied around her neck, a Japanese Shibori bracelet & loose gypsy pants in blue- she is a French Venetian version of my bestie, Sally Campbell, red hair & all!
Along with the Anthropologie home team of Keith Johnson, Mitzie & Tamara, we were escorted around Eindhoven by the knowledgable & talented Leslie Oschmann.
I met Leslie about 4 years ago, when Anthroplogie held an exhibition of her works at The Rockefeller Centre store (yes, the same place I had ‘Into the Lighthouse’) where she showcased her wares. The display was memorable with an old giant rolidex with the names of pieces & her working title, Swarm configured from nails hammered into the wall at different lengths.
Leslie reworks & upcycles vintage paintings of fauna & flora, portraits, still-lifes & landscapes found & sourced from Belgium & Holland onto chairs. Each one individual & amazing. You can buy one as a statement piece, or buy 6 to surround a table.
She now also remakes them into bags & clutches: she embraces the idea that the artworks will live on in their new formats, and as they show signs of wear & tear with use, their stories will live on too.
Yesterday I visited her house & studio which is a converted Oma flat, out back through a courtyard garden, in Amsterdam by bicycle. I had the fortuitous opportunity to experience first hand, her work space & inspiration.
Although it is the beginning of winter, and the Virginia Creeper has dropped its leaves- Nasturiums were a-tangle and the former summer glories reminiscent in memories of Japanese Windmill, Wisteria & Magnolia.
A spread of breakfast: berries, yoghurt, muesli, croissants & strong coffee was grazed over as I listened & watched Leslies show & tell of paintings, and local finds & treasures. As her wired haired fox terrier, McDuff looks on (but he has a fear of lighting & storm- & it was threatening- so was keeping to himself).
I am the lucky one, for I am now the very proud owner of a landscape & part floral still-life bag and an amazing clutch that will be rocked this summer in Sydney.
If you would like to see them when visiting the shop, we can pull them out for you to view and pre-order.
I am going to be selling these at The Society inc., but in the meantime you can buy online at swarmhome and get it shipped to you.