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.
This palette is dedicated to my mother & her love of colour. It is based on two influences. Firstly, Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in Paris during the early 1900’s. Diaghilev collaborated with modern Artists of the time to create the ground-breaking costumes and set design: never-seen-before paint driven, oversized graphics and colour, both in the use of fabrics paper & paint. I was lucky enough to see the Ballet Russes exhibition in Canberra recently and was overwhelmed to see history in front of my eyes. It transported me to all the different shows over the decades, represented by the huge variety in the costumes. Their never-seen-before paint driven, oversized graphics and colour, both in the use of fabrics, paper & paint.
Secondly, travelling with my Mum in Central Asia and her textile collections. My Mum specialized in Islamic textiles from Central Asia. She traveled the world to find out all she could about textiles and she instilled a similar passion in me. When we were traveling I fell in love with everything that filled the markets along the Silk Road and always imagined the characters you once would have met here: fortune tellers, puppeteers, knife throwers, camel drivers, letter writers & storytellers, caravan menders, tin smiths, gypsies & shamans, gold merchants, dance troupes & acrobats, falconers, & pilgrims.
In my latest book ‘Nomad’, I have created a beautiful photographic collection of travel shots & styled spaces to show how to bring your travels home in the most unexpected of ways. It will sit comfortably beside ‘Etcetera’ and is brimming with decorating tips and inspiring pictures. I globetrot-ed and treasure hunted to Syria, Mexico, Italy, India and Japan. I was influence by everything from door knobs and street signs to roadside shrines and household brooms- many things that often go unnoticed. I use the ideas, photographs and mementos from my travels to inspire room settings in stunning private residences through simple, practical and surprising ways showing that any decorative background can be restyled with travel touches. My philosophy is about adding and subtracting, rearranging and recycling, transforming and rethinking a space to reflect your personality, lifestyle and adventures. Make it organic & sustainable! You do not have to recreate your entire interior for that special reminder of your trip. ‘Nomad’ will help open your eyes to what’s around you and fuel your imagination long after the suitcase is unpacked. Plus there’s a reference list in the back of all my fav shops, books and hotels that I found & used along the way!
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