‘Following a walk marked by an intangible mist of bloom that followed the white border stones she came to a space overlooking the sea where there were lanterns asleep in the fig trees and a big table and wicker chairs and a great market umbrella from Sienna, all gathered about an enormous pine, the biggest tree in the garden. She paused there a moment, looking absently at a growth of nasturtiums and iris tangled at its foot, as though sprung from a careless handful of seeds….’ By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
This theme is seaside summers & hot Februarys with the backdrop of the garden and all its elements. The bright deep greens of grapevines, passionflowers, Virginia creeper & tendrils galore, kitchen gardens & salad foliage provide the background for the watermelon pink of Rosa Ragosa (grown at port stops by sailors for its fat rosehips- full of Vitamin C and needed after a long voyage) & warm spectrum of Nasturtiums’ edible flowers and the shock brights of Geraniums. As a child, my brothers & I would look for cicadas hoping to get our hands on their beautifully veined wings (if a bird had not already got the better of them!!!). We knew all the names: Cherry Nose, Black Prince, Greengrocer, Yellow Monday, Tom Thumb, Double Drummer, Flowery Baker, & the all illusive White Nurse.
To finish the picture the beautiful Rorschach element of Monarch butterflies & the floating magic of dragonflies as they just so lightly touch the waters surface so their wings don’t catch on fire!
Think of a time of exploration when the French, Dutch and English were in a race to conquer & colonise the world. The flags that flew & tattered through strong winds, relentless storms, high seas and all the wildness of the ocean. The sailors & buccaneers lived on these ships, known as wooden worlds, as voyages of discovery & exploration lasted years, if not a lifetime. A world of sea shanties, sailmaking, mapping of uncharted coastlines & new lands, portlands & pirating.The colours are inspired by these characters, vessels, stories & the flotsam & jetsam of all of it. Rope & canvas are the neutrals: Staysail, Fairweather & Figure-of-eight; the glossy red of Bunting to frighten all the seafaring birds; & the deep, saturated blues of Oceania & Atlas. I love the Rime of The Ancient Mariner and the images of the untameable ocean it conjures up:
“And now the storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.
With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And foward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled…”
I’ve long been curious about old-fashioned last names that described the ‘owners’ trade: Cooper, Fletcher, Smith, Turner, Wright, Tailor etc.
This curiosity led itself to these trades that are now somewhat obsolete, but oh so romantic sounding. Sadly, many of these trades are only survived by their surnames- the world has changed greatly causing many of these occupational surnames to fall into disuse. For me, these forgotten skills are apparent in the technique, sensitivity & material at the hands of my favourite modern day sculptors: Barbara Hepworth, Noguchi, Brancuzi, Andy Goldsworthy. These artists work as one with their materials, as I imagine the past tradesmen once did, when their days were filled with moulding & shaping & manipulating & transforming their material-of-choice. Now we have technology to do what was toiled over in days past, these trades live on in the work of those who prefer to do things the hard way, for the love of creating & working hard & making use of their toolbox.
The colours are inspired by cut stone, wood shavings, lichen, arrow feathers, braided leather, waxed linen, handmade paper & brush bristles, wood plates & objects, felted blankets, b&w photography, balls-of-string, giant sea-sponges, leathers & hides and all things natural moderne.
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.