Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Ebay - love it or hate it - broadens one's horizons as well as one's posterior. Over the past couple of weeks I have sold and sent curios to Germany, China, Italy, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the American states of Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, as well as to places nearer home.

This antique watercolour painting of a girl knitting woollen stockings is now 
winging its way to Boreray, a small island in the Outer Hebrides with a single croft and a population of one...

Photos by Alasdair Watson.

...if you don't count the flock of feral Hebridean sheep, whose wool is sent down to Makepiece of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire to be knitted into fairy tale dresses.


This pretty Georgian flame-stitch reticule recently found a new home in a place I'd love to visit sometime - Dennis Severs' House in Spitalfields in the East End of London. 

Inside, the rooms have been arranged in an "historical imagination" of what life might have been like for a family of Huguenot silk weavers, as if they are still in use and the occupants have only just left. Each room is a "still life drama". 

Photo James Brittain.

I wonder what drama my little woollen purse will be part of? Will it hold a lover's billet-doux, a stolen jewel, a widow's last few pence?
Folk Art and its associated traditions are another passion of mine so I was thrilled the other day when Simon Costin of The Museum of British Folklore fame decided to give a home to this 1930s jig doll or limberjack. (I'm sure he's Fred Astaire!)

These traditional wooden jointed dolls are puppets who dance on the operator's knee, accompanied by a jolly folk tune. We met Mr Costin with his travelling museum a couple of years ago. Will Fred accompany him in his retro caravan, around the British Isles - to quote from the museum's manifesto - promoting, celebrating and revitalising the folk heritage of Britain?


I do my best to ensure that our Ebay offerings have a safe journey wherever they travel.

I hope this Chinese bowl has arrived home safely,

and that Catharine Susan is dancing around her new home in California...

...and that this Victorian cushion cover will soon be plumped up and gracing someone's office chair in Australia.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Around a hundred years ago, in the years just before WW1, Great Britain was anything but calm. This country was in turmoil - working people were unhappy with their standard of living and went on strike in their thousands, suffragettes were causing havoc and Fabian Society members were wringing their soft, uncalloused hands in dismay. 
This was known as The Great Unrest.
In the smoke-blackened city of Leeds teachers, students, including Herbert Read and the Whitby-born novelist Storm Jameson, forward-thinking businessmen and eager, artistic young ladies concerned themselves with huge changes in art, politics and society. Schoolteacher Alfred Orage (orage by name, tempestuous by nature) founded the Leeds Arts Club in 1903. This was an iconoclastic group that mixed radical socialist and anarchist politics with the philosophy of Nietzsche, Suffragette Feminism, the spiritualism of the Theosophical Society and modernist art and poetry.

An unlikely mix for this conventional Northern city, as George Bernard Shaw noticed. In one of his lectures he encouraged his audience to burn Leeds down and build a better town;
"Art is the thing that can finally make you believe that Leeds as it exists is a very intolerable place, that it is a place where no decent individual ought to live...
Unlovely Leeds

...and that you individually have no right to be alive at all. It even has the power, finally, of driving you, under certain provocation, to burn down your town."
This statement caused the art-critic of the Yorkshire Post to refer to him thereafter as George Burnhard Shaw. 

In the years just before the Great War, Arts Club members Frank Rutter, Director of the Leeds Art Gallery, and Michael Sadler, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, organised ground-breaking exhibitions of new art, showing paintings by Cubists, Vorticists, Futurists.

For some life was changing fast, before the war to end all wars interrupted their uneasy idyll. Provincial young women like Storm Jameson went to university, had careers, stayed out late at night and even thought about free love. Sleepy corners of Britain housed artistic communities, who chose to retreat from the turbulent new world outside - living alternative, scandalous lives...
 ... as they did here at Ditchling, West Sussex, with its community of artist-craftsmen. This is the newly refurbished Museum of Art & Craft and everything is beautiful.

But there is an elephant in the room - a lurking danger (Eric Gill, actually). 

And so it was in the world outside, in 1913.


Ditchling Beacon 2013


Saturday, 9 November 2013


It was an unusually quiet day today - good! I could tidy our bedroom, sort out some bits for Oxfam AND start pricing and packing for our next fair.

Here we go - lots of stuff to be bagged up!

Then I found a pile of these...

...and I downed duster - I was lost, in another world.

Here's Augustus John's daughter, artist Gwyneth Johnstone - inspirational...

...and here is wonderful  Peggy Angus, read about her here.

Could I have been creative like these women if I hadn't been so weak and feeble, so easily distracted and - inferior? Do any of you share my fatal addiction to magazines?


Friday, 1 November 2013


I think Dungeness is like Marmite.

We love it, but many hate it. We folk with a taste for it are rather smug too. We think we are a bit superior, a little more sophisticated than the rest of you. We visited the other day - what a treat!

The wind blows all the time and picturesque wrecks wait their turn to feature on arty greetings cards...

     The light changes in a moment in the shadow of the nuclear power station.

Be prepared for something to happen at Dungeness. It never disappoints.