Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Reclaimed: In Different Ways

This post is going to have a reclaimed aspect to it, as some of my recent activities and buys have had a re-use and recycle theme to them.

Firstly though, is that I landed the exciting opportunity to write a feature about enamel signs for Reclaim Magazine. This magazine is relatively new and I came across the third issue of it last year and was instantly hooked. Each issue focuses on interiors that have a strong sense of style through using vintage and antique furniture and also features people within the reclamation trade; an aspect that's close to home as its an area my Dad used to be involved with.

Luckily I had some photos I had taken previously of enamel signs in-situ on my travels, including those in my collection such as this recent purchase that now lives on the bathroom wall.

But writing the feature also gave me the excuse to make a field trip to Ross-on-Wye to photograph the frontage of the amazing Gwalia shop with its enviable collection of signs. I particularly love the Palethorpes' sausages sign.

After writing and re-writing my drafts, the feature's copy was emailed off to Reclaim last month and now a few weeks later its included in the current issue of the magazine. 

So, what else have I been up to?

Well, it was fab to finally meet up with fellow blogger Emma aka Ivy Black Chat, last month. We met up in Stroud and naturally I had to show her some of the best bargain haunts after having a long gossip in one of the town's many cafes. Check out Emma's blog here for some pics of our day out together.

I've also been busy making Monkeychild's outfit for her school's World Book Day event. The sewing started off fine, but had me swearing like a trooper by the time I finished it. Monkey wanted to go as Violet Baudelaire from the Lemony Snickert books, 'A Series of Unfortunate Events', so to make the outfit I turned to my trusty 1970s Simplicity 9848 girls dress pattern that I originally used for last year's Alice in Wonderland dress.

I used the pattern to make both the grey dress and the laced-up bodice, and luckily found enough lengths of spare fabric in my stash to sew the majority of the outfit. Monkeychild was well chuffed with it, so all my efforts paid off even though its been the trickiest outfit to make.

When it comes to secondhand stuff, I haven't brought much recently apart from a Fair Isle cardigan during mine and Emma's charity shop trail in Stroud, and a pair of patent DMs and a Ghost jacket from eBay.

These were absolute bargains; the DMs have been broken in thank goodness, which makes it a lot easier for the backs of my heels! I used to wear a lot of Ghost stuff back in the early '90s and still have most of them tucked away. Their black dresses looked very gothic and were ideal for clubbing.

Finally, as I started off with a reclamation theme, I'll end with one too. 

I've been keeping my eyes on my neighbours' skip whilst their builders strip out next door. This has paid off as the other day I noticed a set of cupboard doors taken off and left outside, which were original to the house (1900) along with lengths of skirting, door frame architrave and metal door hooks. I asked the  builder if I could take them and he said "Take all you want mate" - so I did!

He even knocked on my door later to ask if I wanted another pair of cupboard doors - too right I did!

This morning I had another knock on the door, but this time it was from a friend, Pollie Math, who had spied the stoneware sink that the builders had also ripped out. She's setting up a local artists' studio and was on the look out for a studio sink and this matched the bill. So, cue her and me (wearing bright pink rubber gloves for grip and steel-toe boots) this morning in the rain and mud, attempting to roll said extremely heavy sink from next door's garden into mine. I think the parents on the school-run outside the house thought we were a total pair of nutters - and they'd be right!

Note polite notice to other skip scavengers in the locality!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Brontë Country

After watching the BBC's superb bio-pic about the Brontës, To Walk Invisible, back in December last year, I decided that when we were next in Lancashire we would nip across the county-line into West Yorkshire and visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

Well, that's what we did during last week's half-term holiday and I was so pleased that we went as its a place I've longed to visit, especially after reading and re-reading all the Brontë sisters' books ever since my teens. 

Haworth Parsonage - the Brontë's family home between 1820 and 1861 - was sold after the death of the Reverend Patrick Brontë, with all the family's possessions and furniture also being sold off soon afterwards. Although the parsonage was modernised by a later nineteenth century inhabitant (including Charlotte's earlier remodelling of some of the rooms), it essentially remains the same structurally since the Brontës. Luckily, the parsonage was brought for the Brontë Society in 1927 by a benefactor and has been run as a museum ever since. Over the decades, the Society have been able to acquire a significant amount of the Brontës' fascinating personal effects and furniture, which are all on display.

Once inside the parsonage, we were allowed to take photos but only without the flash, which explains why some of my photos are a bit grainy. 

The above is the dining room where the Brontë sisters did most of their writing at the table pictured, witnessed by its scratches, ink stains, a candle burn and Emily's initial carved into it.

These photos were taken on the stairs with their worn stone steps; including a niche where a longcase clock is positioned. This is the original clock that Reverend Brontë used to wind up each night before going to bed.

Upstairs are all the bedrooms, including a little room (above left) which was known as 'The Children's Study' before it later became Emily's bedroom. One wall still has pencil marks on it from when the sisters and their brother Branwell, were children.

The blue-coloured room was Charlotte's bedroom (she also died here) and is painted in the exact same colour as when Charlotte used it. It also contains lots of displays showing Charlotte's possessions such as her shoes, letters to her friend Ellen Nussey, her wedding bonnet and drawings.

From this we went into Bramwell's dark and tiny room and then into a larger room, which housed more exhibits including first edition copies of the sisters' novels, their art and needlework boxes, paintings, sketches and even the brass collars worn by their dogs, Flossy and Keeper. 

A letter signed by 'Currer Bell' aka Charlotte Brontë

Also on show was a brooch containing Anne's hair, a lock of Charlotte's hair and a spotted handkerchief belonging to Anne, which was stained with her blood - probably from her TB.

Afterwards, we made our way down a cobbled lane past the churchyard, which was crammed full with gravestones.

I'm glad that the weather was drizzly and very misty during our visit as it made the parsonage and graveyard so atmospheric. 

Haworth itself is a pretty village with its period stonework buildings and it didn't seem to be too 'touristy' either - probably because we made our visit in the winter rather than the summer! 

It has some lovely independent shops too like The Cabinet of Curiosities, which sells soaps, bath salts and lots of other fabulous things all housed in an amazing apothecary shop interior.

Not forgetting Monkeychild's favourite shop of all...

...Mrs' Beighton's Sweet Shop crammed full of sweets - I chose the liquorice torpedoes!

This is what I imagine Stella Gibbons' 'Cold Comfort Farm' to look like!

On our way back to Preston, we had a few stop-offs to admire the wild moorland landscapes, which are truly beautiful and have left me feeling inspired to paint them.

P.S. Do you have a favourite Brontë novel, if so which one?

I think mine would be 'Wuthering Heights', closely followed by 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall'.

Monday, 13 February 2017

A House Where Time Stood Still

Its great when you have wonderful neighbours, but we've sadly waved goodbye to ours as they've recently sold their house, which has been in their family since 1928. How amazing is that?

Their house was like stepping back in time to the 1940s or earlier; full of brown furniture and plenty of original features like this wall paper:

But, as our neighbours spend most of their time abroad, they only wanted to take a few select pieces of furniture with them, not a complete houseful. So as a "Thank You" to us for keeping an eye on the house over the past few years, they asked us to take whatever we wanted before they sold it off. 

Seriously, I couldn't believe what they said and kept asking if they were sure. Their reply was that they'd rather us have the things that we liked as they knew it would be treasured and wouldn't be far from its original home. 

Husband was particularly happy with his choice of a dis-armed hand grenade, which was originally kept on a bedroom mantlepiece; cue lots of 'pull out the pin' jokes!

There were so many lovely pieces of furniture like marble washstands, a chaise longue, chest of drawers etc., but we couldn't fit it all in our house and I didn't want to take things just for the sake of it. So, we settled on some smaller objects, like the Staffordshire flat-back watch stand above, some Union Jack flags to add to our collection...


I reckon these must be from the inter war period, as the large one is printed linen, whilst the bunting appears to be rayon.

The large flag lives in this old iron umbrella stand, which stands in the same place in our hall as it did in our neighbours'...

I'm going to black it up with grating polish once I get the time. Doesn't the owl look lovely?

We didn't take much furniture either; only this mahogany what-not that fits in neatly beside my craft table and makes a handy place to store my art equipment, and a stick-back chair; the cushion cover is a recent sewing project. The arms of the chair are well-worn and as its surprisingly comfy, I'm sure this was once someone's favourite seat.


However, I did find wallspace for this Victorian pastel of a Romany boy. I'd always admired this picture and the boy's face reminds me of a friend's son. Its such  beautiful picture and his eyes follow you around the room, but not in a freaky way though, more of an inquisitive look.

To give you an idea of how much of a timewarp the house was, these are some of the newspapers that were scattered about...

...these date from 1916!

Our neighbours also asked Husband if he could clear out their sheds for them too, which hadn't been touched for at least twenty years. That'll be another blog post, but Husband did find this marmalade jar in one of them that only needed a good scrub up to be as good as new...

 It makes the ideal vase don't you think?

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