This theme represents a love of natural dyed and hand loomed textiles from Asia & Europe: Japanese Boro, Korean Rami, Chinese Minority Hill Tribe batik, hand dyed thread from Uzbekistan ready to weave into rugs, crunchy French monogrammed linen sheets & the pin-point accuracy of shabori from both Japan & India. Indigo is a blue dye obtained from various plants, especially of the genus Indigofera, or manufactured synthetically.
Call it serendipity or coincidence but it seems just about every colour to which I’m drawn has a textile alter-ego. Indigo textiles have origins rooted in the Ancient times of many Asian countries, in particular Japan, as indigo dyes from the flower of every species of plant were one of the easiest to source and most inexpensive natural colourings available.
My favourite of these are Boro (that’s why there’s two!)- the repeatedly mended rags worn or used for bedding by rural peasants in Japan. Often heavily stitched & patched, the shades of blue give them a depth & history that is irresistible. As well, the variations of indigo used in traditional textile printing techniques and the western version of indigo textiles: good old utilitarian denim!
Foundation can mean the basis or groundwork of anything; the moral foundation of both society and religion; the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests; the lowest division of a building, wall, or the like, usually of masonry and partly or wholly below the surface of the ground. This palette is as its’ definitions suggest: a solid colour base for any interior. If you’re a gardener, consider it the fertile soil, sunshine & rain; if you’re a cook, think of it as the flour, eggs & sugar.
I like to think of my home and shop in the same way as a set (for acting, drama, dance and music)- each room provides the backdrop for my latest obsessions or ever-changing needs & wants. Foundation is the palette that you build on. A beautifully neutral set of colour that literally go with anything, designed to complement every fleeting phase in your life. To be dressed up with the other palettes or left alone, refined.
The colours are based on some of my favourite things: pencils sharpened with knives, gypsies and pirates, French mustache chairs, the base felt of a yurt, sails made of cloth, white chalk on repaired slate boards and above all else brown paper: self stripe, tied up with string, patterns, grocery bags & boxes. With the right foundations anything is possible.
I love the word ‘Atelier’ and all the images & scents it conjures up. Atelier is another word for an artist’s studio or shop. I stumbled across a man named Julien Tanguy and as I began to delve into his story I was quickly hooked.
Known as ‘Pere,’ Tanguy owned a shop on Rue de Seine, St Germaine from the late 1800s. As a purveyor of artists’ materials, he supplied the likes of Cezanne, Gauguin, Seurat & Van Gogh, who painted his portrait in 1887. I can just see his shop filled with apothecary jars full of ochre’s, aquamarine, pomegranate rinds, crushed up shells, cochineal, matta, indigo, snail ink, gold leaf, shellac, brushes, gesso, plinths, stools that twist, bottles of linseed oil.
He ran a small gallery on the side and often traded paintings for pigments which jammed packed his walls alongside his collection of ukiyo-o Japanese prints, a salon of its day-a place of conversation & ideas over a couple of glasses of absinthe.
My colours for ‘Atelier’ were inspired from this story in deep Damascus reds, copper, ochre tones with an anchor of caramely canvases, woods of artists easels and Japanese lacquer black.
Who cannot be enchanted by sea tales & myths: mermaids & mermen, serpents, sea nymphs & sirens, Ulysses, wooden worlds, treasures & deep sea cities.
Stumbling across the story of Jurate’s Castle sums up the romance & shimmering beauty of the sea in all its magic, depth & moods: moontides, tempests, south winds, white horses, rare sea-mists & fogs, & starry nights. For Jurate, the Goddess of the Baltic Sea, fell in love with a mere mortal fisherman (who was very good-looking). Out of anger, her father Praamzis, God of the Sky, Earth & Sea, had her castle of white amber, doors of gold & windows of diamonds to be destroyed. This is why when there is a fierce storm the sea tosses up pieces of amber to be collected along the shores of the Baltic Sea.
Up from the depths & on the seashore, I’ve loved Pablo Neruda’s poems written whilst staying at his Casa Isla Negra. A Captain’s fantasy of loveliness as the bell tolls from a driftwood structure.
Ode to the storm:
‘Last night she came,
the tempest with her hair of water,
eyes of cold fire-
last night she wanted
to sleep on earth.’
Paperwhites is a combination theme stemming from my love of paper ephemera & beachcombing. My first memory of collecting comes from being about three or four, wearing pink bikini bottoms with navy & white ties and on my hands & knees beachcombing the sandbar for the beautiful kelp shells that were washed up in huge rifts. They were all shades of pink from dusty grosgrain to rich aubergine, patterned with stripes, zigzags & solids. I would then take home the shells and find places to store them.
These days those same shell collections are safely packaged in the multitude of small cardboard boxes I own, filled with all of my other oddities and curious notions. Often alongside the paper ephemera that I’ve collected over the years: postcards, love letters, certificates, shelf liners, doilies, patty pans, the backs of botanical plates, flashcards, wrapped sugar cubes, and matchbooks. I am a long-time admirer of paper, it’s tones & finishes, from reams of standard snow-white copy paper to gorgeous crepe, onionskin, glassine, vellum, tissue, & tracing varieties.
The palette and texture that emerged from these two great loves of mine created this range of creamy whites through to soft whispery silver & golds, to barely there pinks and dirty purples. Think vintage Mother of Pearl, sea urchins & lovely old crunchy crepe papers.
Inspired by the exploration and discovery by such characters as Charles Darwin & William Dampier. Tradewinds is my own fascination with the period from 1750-1850, a critical period of scientific enlightenment when old notions were being challenged by new questions & ideas. In particular, the establishment of The Royal Society and its encouragement of exploration by these individuals as well as the increased fascination with all things curious and exotic.
Picture John Mawe, expert shell collector & collector, scouring for new & exotic shells on the coasts of the countries surrounded by the South Seas, adding to his collection & learning how to best care for them on their long trips back to England (packed securely in a box of sawdust or sand). The Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific academy and its’ members are the most renowned and prestigious of scientists- and they’re called ‘fellows’!
Tradewinds are any of the nearly constant easterly winds that dominate most of the tropics & sub-tropics throughout the world, blowing mainly from the northeast in the Northern hemisphere, and from the southeast in the Southern hemisphere. These men lived in a time when their expeditions were navigated by the tradewinds, into unknown territory, in the name of research & science. This palette can be calm or wild, depending on how you like to sail the seas.