A trip to London Town

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V&A EXHIBITION 2015

SHOES EXHIBITION at the V&A

Good morning my lovely Sages,

It has been a busy week. Last Wednesday, under a clear cerulean sky, I braved the autumnal nip in the air AND public transport to visit the gorgeous V&A.

Over the past little while, I have been hearing great things about the Shoes exhibition. Shoes are a subject close to my heart, causing me both extreme pleasure and pain. I was clearly not made for striding out in 4 inch stilettos, favouring a felt topped Birkenstock or handmade Marsell shoe of exquisite craftsmanship and a price tag to match. Gulp. So in a moment of self indulgence I decided to clear a day to take a trip up to Londontown to see if the exhibition was worth all the hype.

After a fabulous trip to Fenwicks (more of which in my next post), and a delicious sushi lunch, my husband and I jumped in a taxi to fully enjoy London in the sunshine. Greeted by the most wonderfully enthusiastic lady at the V&A desk, we passed tantalising indian prints and artworks calling for us to visit again another day. But first. Shoes. What a visual feast!

Terry de Havilland Shoes
Leather, snakeskin and PVC platform Sandals, by Terry de Havilland, early 1970’s V&A Magazine

Displayed behind glass cases, like slick skinned pouting night workers in Amsterdam windows, the shoes lie as jewels tumbled on red sheets. A visual riot of colour and texture and sexy as hell. Gilded and incised leather and papyrus sandals from Egypt (c.308BCE-300CE) juxtapose and enhance green feathered Jimmy Choo heels of dreams. Silver and Gold wedding toe-knob ‘paduka’s’ from the 1800’s sit proudly as forebears to Vivienne Westwoods purple mock crock platforms, famous for Naomi Campbell’s tumble in 1993. It’s astonishingly curated.

The detail in a shoe is magnified and elevates it to artwork status when displayed in such a manner. Cultural, anthropological, and clearly expose the fetishes of the day. Feet just a hundred years ago were absolutely tiny, slight. Narrow and of childlike proportions. (Or, as my husband pointed out, maybe the smallest sizes weren’t sold and therefore preserved perfectly for us to pass comment and judgement on 100 years later). Either way, the care and attention paid to footwear that wouldn’t even be necessarily seen, covered as they may have been due to the long lengthed fashions of the time, was jaw dropping. Tiny jewels, exquisite shapes and patterns, hand stitched silks, stretched and dyed to the perfect colour.

Leather and lace platforms, by Nicholas Kirkwood, 2011. V&A magazine. Photo by Jaron James.
Leather and lace platforms, by Nicholas Kirkwood, 2011. V&A magazine. Photo by Jaron James. V&A Photographic Studio.

We took all the shoes in slowly and greedily, every one of them gorgeous and interest-laden in their own way. I delighted in spotting shoes I have owned and still love. A black patented Salvatore Ferragamo pump, beautiful with its silver accented bow, remains one of my most precious possessions. Comfortable and polished, it elevates any outfit. It looked as stunning confined behind that glittering glass as it does on my party foot. And that, I think, is the whole point of the shoe.

Salvatore Ferragamo patent pumps
Salvatore Ferragamo patent pumps

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One of the most interesting displays was of a collection of trainers, a ubiquitous collection of a mundane shoe, but still imbued with craftsmanship and comfort. I thought of my beloved Stan Smiths at home, and felt proud to be in the tribe. Cool meets culture, and I feel like I belong.

My husband was strangely drawn to a pair of David Lynch/Louboutin designed glass soled fetish shoes which you were unable to walk upright in. These shoes were solely made for crawling, the soft underside of the foot displayed for private viewing. “Twistedly sexy” was his conclusion after much careful consideration. I moved hurriedly along.

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David Lynch/Christian Louboutin Fetish Shoes

Flamboyant as always, I myself was particularly drawn to the brightly coloured bird like creations of Sophia Webster, artworks for the feet that look like they may take flight at any minute. One day I will own a pair. Not the David Lynch/Louboutin ones I hasten to add. Sophia Webster and her flights of fancy are more my personal style.

Sophia Webster Chiara Fuschia Butterfly Sandal
Sophia Webster Chiara Shoe http://www.sophiawebster.com

There was also a beautifully shot installation video marking the end of the exhibition. Cocooned within a high wall of brown shoe boxes, it was transfixing. I delighted in hearing a selection of designers explain the process and thought behind producing the one item of fashion that can actually change your walk, your posture and your whole outlook on the day. I yearned for the skills and passion to produce such items of beauty. Maybe another skill to add to my craft led repertoire…although perhaps I shall master felting first.

Patent leather
Patent leather “Tribute II” sandals, Yves Saint Laurent, 2014. Photo by Jaron James V&A Photographic Studio

I loved this exhibition and I urge you to catch it if you haven’t been. Shoes in all their forms are the bedrock of many fables, (which, my faithful followers, we all love!) and the implied narrative of the well worn shoe whispers and presses against those glass confines of the display panes. The story of the wearer of such a shoe draws me inexorably in.

Fabric & leather Stilettos by Casadei for Fausto Puglisi, 2014. Photos by Jaron James, V&A Photographic Studios
Fabric & leather Stilettos by Casadei for Fausto Puglisi, 2014.
Photos by Jaron James, V&A Photographic Studios

In conclusion my sweet Sages – be more selective and take more joy in choosing your footwear investments in the future. They are not fashion items, but miniature sculptures for the feet, supporting, beautiful and the perfect mix of form with function. I feel a trip to London coming on again soon!

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‘Parakeet’ shoes, by Caroline Groves (1959)
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Handmade Fair

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Hello my lovely Fables,

I am sitting here, listening to the rain pattering outside, sipping my favourite Teapigs Liquorice and Peppermint tea and happily surrounded by the fresh scent of Green Tomato Leaf, the most delicious Jo Malone candle. I am thinking about my fabulous weekend, full of crafty delight, which I thought I would share with you here.

Intrigued by the tents popping up on Hampton Court Green, peaked and as enticing as a cooling batch of whipped meringues, I discovered to my delight that the Handmade Fair was coming to town. Not knowing anything about the fair, I decided to go along and take a peek on Friday, accompanied by my lovely and equally craft minded mother in law.

To our utter surprise, it was a tardis of a fair, full of delight around every corner. There were two enormous shopping ‘Villages’, an Artisan Market Place, high quality pop up food offerings, and three large tents in which to learn a variety of arts and crafts. Overwhelmed at first, we pored over the individual classes that were on offer, and chose Leather Jewellery in the Grand Makes tent, run by the cheerful Johnny Tidd, and Papercut Horoscopes in the Skills Workshop, by the gorgeous Poppy Chancellor.

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Our feather earrings, made out of buttersoft suede, were surprisingly simple and easy to make. The suede was malleable and tactile, the metal attachments cool and smooth as contrast. It was tremendously satisfying. The paper cutting was therapeutic and intricate and Poppy a clear instructor. This is definitely a craft I would like to explore more. Any activity that requires full concentration yet monotonous and slow to bloom is clearly my thing!

The shopping villages were true meccas of loveliness. All the exhibitors were friendly and helpful, and there was so much to marvel and look at.

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One of the first things I picked up were a couple of intricate hand carved wood blocks from Bazaar. Printing is another activity I would like to explore, but the blocks themselves were so lovely and tactile I had to have a couple. They are currently ornamenting my desk as I type and instilling joy every time I catch sight of them.

IMG_4421  IMG_4420 IMG_4458TOFT – Crochet instruction book and Alpaca Wool

The next stall to catch my eye was a lovely area full of gorgeous crocheted bears and birds. It was a riot of colour and texture, teeming with fair goers cooing and cuddling the lovely little creatures. Of course I had to snap up the stunningly produced books, and also bagged myself a fat ball of Alpaca wool in Medium, a warm nutty brown. With this wool, I shall make a Bunny.

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Rabbit Kit by Hawthorn Handmade

Further along, to my joy, another stall to catch my eye was in a tiny little alcove, bursting with dear little felted animals. Felting is also another craft that appeals to me greatly, (is there no end to my crafting greed?) but I was concerned about the level of skill required to make something that looks so wonderful and artisanal. The warm friendly lady reassured me greatly, and demystified the process with a quick demonstration.

I left beaming, clutching another Bunny kit under my arms, this is the one activity I cannot wait to get started on. My home will be overrun with woollen woodland creatures in no time, and all the better for it.

Food

Hungry from all the shopping and crafting, we stopped at a gleaming silver pop up, offering Gluten Free pies. ‘NO G. Too Good to be Gluten Free’ was a true revelation! I chose a Steak and Ale pie, the filling was rich and delicious and the pastry was buttery and crumbly, the perfect pastry texture. My companion proclaimed her quiche to be equally satisfying, the perfect size for lunch and I think both a bargain at £2.50. I have become quite excited by this brand, and on further searches have discovered that Ocado stock them, and I will most definitely be purchasing some for freezable emergency lunches. http://www.toogoodtobeglutenfree.com

Everything was a feast for the eyes, but the jewellery on offer at the Handmade Fair was particularly stunning. I spent many happy minutes chatting and laughing with the lovely owners of Me Encanta Jewellery, http://www.meencanta.co.uk, and after trying on every sparkling gemstone on the stall, was lucky enough to be gifted an early christmas present of a teardrop shaped silver ring encircling the palest green amethyst stone by my fair companion. Precious it is indeed.

All in all, we had a wonderful day, despite not glimpsing the Queen of the Handmade Fair, Kirstie Allsop. There was so much to see and do, and really we could have spent longer there as there was so much to delight and entice. I will definitely be returning next year, to meet new crafty souls and arty artisans. I shall update you with my lovingly made creations inspired from visiting the fair as they emerge!

Have a wonderful week, lovely sage peeps. x

Comfort in Crochet

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Good morning my sweet Sages,

It is early, a quiet Saturday morning, and I am feeling as pleased as punch.

Sipping my first cup of tea, black, sweet and as nourishing to the soul as a warming hug, I am snuggled under my largest finished crochet piece, a beautiful throw knotted lovingly from the finest British Rare Breed wool.  It fizzes with the memory of springtime frolics in rolling fields, twisty strands still studded through with tiny sticks of tangled hay. The smell and texture is so warm and woollen, I feel as if I am cuddling a dear little silver green lamb on my lap.

I have loved every moment of producing this comforting throw. From flicking through Erika Knight’s excellent ‘Crochet Workshop’  book (pausing over every tasteful and stunningly crafted item before plumping on this gorgeous project), to choosing the perfectly toned wool at the shop. My joy was further deepened with the discovery that the shop had the exact number of woollen skeins I needed in stock – I was therefore able to start my project immediately, safe in the knowledge they were all of the same batch and therefore the same colour. These are the sort of subtle hued matters that clearly preoccupy the would-be crocheters mind.

Rowan puerile British Sheep Breeds Chunky
Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky

Even my new crochet hook is perfect, a smooth wooden stick swirled through with reds, greens, blues and yellows, as appealing as the most enticing candy cane. It’s gorgeous.

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I knotted and twisted and inhaled that woolly scent for many nights, the slide and pull of the hook creating magical bumpy fabric that seemed to rise from under my finger tips. Ridges and furrows were created, evocative of the ploughed fields hosting the original woolly coated owners of those roughly spun strands. The unique approach necessary for successful crochet projects, that of monotony and deep concentration, calmed my busiest mind. The mental whirling that is my defining characteristic was somehow miraculously transferred to my fingers, productive and meditative and so utterly soothing for my soul.

Crochet is something I taught myself, poring over Erika’s fabulously clear instructions and illustrations, producing wonky face cloths and half finished cushion covers galore. If you haven’t yet tried crochet, dear reader, I can heartily recommend it. So easy to pick up, in all senses, and a wonderful way to while away some time when the spirit is restless and the urge to produce is strong.

I’m so looking forward to these forthcoming autumnal evenings, whirling, twirling and twisting towards another soul soothing creation in front of the crackle of my wood burning stove, all toasty under my sage hued throw.

Have a fabulous weekend xx

Aesop

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Aesop in Richmond

Aesop – a premium skincare range surely targeted at a story-loving lady like myself. I discovered this 28-year-old brand one autumnal morning down a quiet side road in Richmond, enticed to the shop door via a beautiful font, trace of scent and inky exterior. A red haired beauty quietly welcomed me, a chic plait reaching halfway down her back, its auburn glow texturally offset by perfectly cut dark linen. Her accent when she spoke was hard to trace, perfect English with a Scandinavian lilt, conjuring up a perceived heritage of exquisite taste. I felt like I had been invited to an exclusive art event, and I was the only guest. I hushed my tone and stepped on in.

It is, in truth, a fairly austere aesthetic. As an interior architectural representation of Aesop, this brand’s brief has been filled. It is fully immersive. The environment exactly echoes the product. You feel as if you have stepped into an Apothecary of days past, rows of amber hued bottles labelled with precise stripes of black and old white, visually juddering against the organic backdrop of roughly hewn timber floor planks. The walls are the perfect shade of heritage. The rug distressed, warm and the right touch of faded grandeur and luxury. The potions within the bottles are natural and delicious sounding, botanical and unisex. Parsley seed, Geranium, Camellia Nut. All aromatic and enticing, grounded by words intended to reassure you of their efficacy. Anti-oxidant Hydrator, Exfoliant Paste, Cleansing Masque.

My taste curator (no mere sales person, as it was now apparent), asked me if I was familiar with the Aesop brand, in her intriguing soft voice. I was clearly here for an experience, and my auburn plaited Toast model was here to guide me. I peered closely at the various products. Beautiful badger hair bristle brushes for whipping up silky shaving oils into unfathomable lathers in shiny silver bowls. ‘Reverence Aromatique’ Exfoliating hand washes, ‘Rose’ Hair & Scalp moisturising masques, an elegant botanical treatment oil called ‘Breathless’. Not too much choice, but all deeply desirable.

The bewildered look on my face prompted my taste curator to fully take me under her impeccable wing. Perhaps a body cleanser, she enquired gently. Turning on a stunning copper tap, rising fountain-like from a circular ornamental basin placed the middle of the large elegant room, she rolled up my sleeve and with a cool hand expertly dropped nectar like liquid into my cupped palm. She indicated with a smile that I should wash my bubbling fingers under the perfectly warm running water. Taking an immaculate flannel from an artfully placed ladder against the pillar beam, she dried my freshly washed hands as if I were something precious and fragile. For that moment, I loved her. I inhaled the lingering scent on my skin. I wasn’t leaving without it.

Following her to the stunning glass topped counter, I watched her bring out a large drawstring muslin bag, beautifully branded. She held it out at arms length and spritzed it with the Aesop signature scent. She carefully placed my Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser brimming with Mandarin and Bergamot Rind in that scented bag, along with eight carefully selected sachets of complimentary oils and creams that she chose from tiny drawers in front of her.

My taste curator then came out from behind the counter to present me with my Aesop bag with a graceful warmth. No barriers between us. I  was now part of the Aesop clan. I left the shop with a smile that lasted all day. Pushed to the back of my mind was the fact that I had spent an astonishing £31 on some soap, and I was left only with the memory of the most wonderful retail experience. If only all shopping could be as pleasurable.

Every morning, my sage souls, as I stand in a cloud of geranium and steam, I re-live a secret sliver of the delight I felt that day. By the mere use of this delicious product, I am exclusive. I am tasteful. I am transported back to that dream interior space and I am living that fabled life.

Abundance

Marrow, Green Beans & Courgette
Marrow, Green Beans & Courgette

I arrived home recently to find a crisp white bag suspended from my door knocker, as chubby and enticing as a beaming swaddled baby swinging from a stork’s beak. Nervous, not expecting a delivery of any sort, I peered inside.  A flash of green satisfied me that it wasn’t an unsavoury surprise (rarely do bad things come packaged in such verdant tones) so trustfully I cradled the white bag across the threshold and gingerly unpacked it on the kitchen table.

The most stunning vegetable I have ever had the pleasure to meet. The textured exterior with striations of intricate pattern displayed perfectly against the backdrop of rosewood. It was as if I had accidentally stumbled upon a Deliciously Ella photoshoot. Before me lay a magnificent marrow. Or a supercharged courgette. I’m not sure which, but all the while impressive. I unpacked his brothers, little speckled green soldiers lined up beside him, punctuated by a surprising yellow fellow – slightly smaller, but all the sweeter for having retained his sunshine hue. Twisted snarls of long green beens tumbled out on top of them, delightful in their furry texture and sword like, snappable length. I gazed at the personable vegetables, I practically gave them names. I loved them.

No note, no explanation. But I knew instinctively they were green gifts from my neighbour, a quietly busy lady, her front garden a riot of scarlet splashes and deep purple streaks. According to local legend, her back garden is full to overflowing with Good Life goodies: apples, tomatoes, corn, beans. I can’t keep a humble spider plant alive, so am in total awe of anyone who can actually sustain themselves with the alchemic magic of rain, seeds and sunshine. I dropped her a grateful note on a beautiful card. She smiled graciously next time I saw her, and told me she was pleased someone could use and enjoy her glut of produce. The next day, a brown paper bag bursting with beautiful tomatoes sat like a bountiful buddha on my Welcome mat.

Abundance, my sage friends. A word normally attributed to nature. My shy neighbour and her garden overspill has blossomed into quiet contentment and a peaceful sharing of neighbourly friendship that I feel will continue to grow. A rambling riot of abundant good feeling that will last long past this summer and its kindly vegetable offerings.

Welcome to Sage & Fable

Hello my fellow sage souls and welcome!

I am a mother of contradictions, bookworm, and aspiring aesthete based in west London, and this is my little space to muse about things I truthfully know very little about, but love very much. Interiors, books, food, fashion – my aim is to record anything jolly, moments or experiences of beauty that cause me to catch my breath.

So this is Sage & Fable, a sweet place to swing by to gaze at things that bring joy.

It is a series of thoughts on celebrating beauty, in all its unexpected forms. It would be heavenly fun to revel together in the artisanal, the crafty and the delicious. It is also probably a place to try and capture the tiny significant moments that are peppered throughout life. In case we forget.

Shall we immerse ourselves in colourful stories, marvel at the wise counsel of others and wonder at general gorgeousness? Let’s.