I love books, so I wanted to make books one of my fours, and I decided to share some of my design books. It’s hard to pick favourites, so the ones I’ve chosen are the most well-thumbed, the most familiar. I know each page, and I’ve pored over the pictures many, many times. Consequently, these are some of my older books.
The one I’ve had the longest is The Penguin Book of Comics (bottom left). I have loved comics since I was a child, and I got this as a teenager. It was a great introduction to the history of comic strips, and introduced me to some classics.
Living with Folk Art (top right) is one of my most treasured books, and has been an endless inspiration to me. During the 1990s, it made me want to live in an adobe house in New Mexico, surrounded by kachina dolls, Day of the Dead figures, and religious icons. Or maybe in a classic townhouse full of African art and artefacts. Or a country cottage full of Indian textiles. I’m still dreaming…
The V&A book of Fifties Furnishing Fabric (top left) just makes me drool over the spare but beautiful designs of Lucienne Day et al. It’s been reissued more recently, with a different cover, but the cover of this copy is printed on matt paper, and is lovely to hold.
Matchbook Art (bottom right) was an unexpected treasure. I picked it up by chance in a cut-price bookshop in Monmouth, and then spent ages looking at the mini-masterpieces of commercial art.
These four books represent some of my most important visual passions – textiles and surface design, folk and ethnic art, and vintage graphic design and illustration, and all make me very happy.
An odd collection, this. In fact, not really a collection at all. Just a few things that I picked up and haven’t quite decided what to do with.
The nail varnish came from my late mother’s things, and I liked it because of the tall tapered lid. All nail polish used to look like that, didn’t it?
I can’t remember where the ‘eye gloss’ came from, but I like the Mary Quant logo and package design.
The little metal lipstick must be very old (1940s?), and I got it ages ago at a jumble sale or something.
Last but not least, my favourite is the roll-on lip gloss, which is my own that I had as a teenager in the 1970s. I didn’t keep it all this time, but found it in my mother’s house. It is lemon-flavoured gloopy stuff, which I used to wear all the time. I thought I was pretty sophisticated.
I find old cosmetics very nostalgic, as they make me think of playing with my mother’s things as a child. Although my mother didn’t wear a lot of make-up, she never went out of the house without putting on lipstick. When I look at the old adverts and packaging now, they remind me of my yearning to emulate that adult femininity. There was (and often still is) a desirable glamour about cosmetics. As a teenager, I always found make-up fun, and I although I might question the gender politics of it now, I think I still do.
I collect vintage china, and over the last thirty years, I have amassed quite a lot of it. If I had the room, and could afford it, I would have even more. As it is, I often have to restrain myself from lugging home a dinner service, which we could never use.
These are just odd plates, and I believe they all date from the 1950s. The one at top right was designed by Terence Conran for Midwinter, the others are anonymous.
Several years ago, I started picking up shopping lists that I found discarded at the supermarket. I’m not entirely sure why. I like the idea of found art, but I don’t often find interesting objects.
But I find shopping lists. And I find them interesting. They offer a glimpse into the life of strangers - rather like looking at the contents of someone’s trolley and making assumptions about how they live. But these strangers are never actually seen. Instead, I have these handwritten notes about some of the minutiae of their daily lives.
The orange one specifies ‘Love Life chicken’ (Love Life is a Waitrose brand), but no other brands. The one on the right wants olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. The one at the bottom seems to have split their shopping into two parts – some from Iceland, some from elsewhere, and the large one lists all the meals for the week, and some very specific ingredients (“700g bottle of passata”, “fillets cod (frozen) not battered”), which makes me wonder if it was written for someone else to do the shopping.
These are just the most recent four, so entirely random. Some of the others I stuck in a book, and then I started sticking in my own too. I think I kept about a year’s worth, but as I don’t always write a list, that’s not as many as you might think. Long before I started collecting them, my husband and I started to write joke items on our shopping lists. For some reason, ‘plankton’ and ‘krill’ became regular items on the list. At other times, greed takes over and I write something like ‘a lot of nice cake’. I also add doodles while I’m thinking. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve ever found one as idiosyncratic as my own.
I have to admit it, this is just a fraction of my clog collection. I picked up my first pair of souvenir clogs at a car boot sale last year, and then I just kept finding them everywhere.
They are almost invariably from Holland, as you would expect. But the pair at bottom right, inexplicably, are from Swanage.
I think the Indian graphics on these boxes are fabulous. You can click on the image to see more detail.
I love vintage toys. You might already know that.
I had already taken this photo of elephants, when I went to Peter Blake’s exhibition ‘A Museum for Myself’ in the Holbourne Museum last week. One of his collections was of elephant ornaments - ceramic, wooden, plastic, shell, painted, jewelled, carved -about 100 of them. They looked splendid all arranged in a glass case, and the exhibition made me want to organise some of my collections into cases, etc.
Sir Peter Blake is a definite role model for all artistic hoarders!