Monday, October 31, 2011

In the Library

The National Art Library, situated in the V&A, might just be the best place on earth. It has everything a library should have - dark wood, endless shelves of distractedly interesting books, busts of distinguished looking gents, floods of natural light, and ever-patient, helpful staff. The fact it is in a building full of incredible objects and a cafe with amazing scones doesn't hurt either!

I could have spent the full six weeks I had in London at the National Art Library. If only all the stuff I wanted to look at could have floated into their collection! 

I am no expert on the Library's collection. It is a vast art library and the books I was interested in were just a tiny tiny part of its holdings. I was looking at what might be considered '19thC art textbooks'. These are copy-books, full of figures (shapes and simple objects) for children to copy and practice their drawing. The NAL has heaps of them, including a bunch aimed at the accomplished gentleman of the late 18thC. I am still working my way through the bazillions of photos I took (I like to photograph everything, just to be sure it will be there if I need to refer back to it. Luckily, the NAL allows you to take photos for private use. Some other libraries don't). If you'd like to hear more about these books, let me know and I will devote a post to them. Otherwise, just enjoy the pretty pictures!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sydney Swing

I got really into Swing dancing while I was in London. It was the perfect thing to do each evening to shake off the dust of the archives. 

This week Swing Patrol's twice monthly social dance night hosted a live band. So Ian and I shined up our dance shoes for some Sydney Swing. We were in such a rush to get out the door (I am always in a rush to get out the door - how do I always run so late?) that we only took a couple of shots in the garden. But they give you the general idea!

It was a really great night. Ian proved to be a most wonderful dance partner (remembering steps we haven't practices in months!) and I also got to twirl around the dance floor with some new faces. I still find social dancing just a tiny bit terrifying, but each time I go, it gets a little easier.

 Outfit Details:
dress worn as top - EIIE (a gorgeous little rockabilly shop with made-to-measure, that has sadly closed down)
skirt - Tulle
shoes - Aris Allen
hat and card - vintage

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prim in purple

One afternoon after wandering through the National Gallery, I was approached by a Polish photographer, who asked if he could take my photo. I was pretty chuffed - not the sort of thing that happens everyday! I am really excited about the results! Thank you to Konrad for sending me the photos. I would love to have a professional photographer follow me around and make me look this good all the time!

I am wearing one of my favourite summer dresses and my new '50s half-hat from Absolute Vintage.

All photographs by Konrad-

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the Archives

I have had a few requests for posts about my time in the archives. So here we are! The Victoria and Albert Archives, at Blythe House in Kensington. They actually hold a number of different collections, but the section I was interested in here, were the institutional archives of the museum from the time it was known as the South Kensington Museum (1852-1899). At this time the museum had an important educational role and its associated school provided training for teachers and designers.

I find visiting archives is always a bit odd. Every place has their own slightly different set of rules (no water, no pens, no bags, etc), and their own method of assisting researchers access the collection. I always feel like the first day or two at a new archive is a period of learning a new "archive speak".

The V&A archives were particularly odd when you first arrive. I have never been to an archive with such intense security! You get buzzed in and checked off, then buzzed through a series of doors and corridors before finally getting to the reading room. I think it is the space where a lot of conservation takes place, so they have objects that need to be kept secure. The building is a little strange too - like an old American high school with great wide corridors, but with all the added security measures it feels a little like a mental asylum (which is, perhaps, quite fitting?)

The actual material I found was incredible. I spent several days sifting through folders of correspondence from 1875-1881, between Australia and South Kensington. Most of this related to the international exhibitions that were held in Sydney (1879) and Melbourne (1880). It was mostly logistical organising, but gave great insight into the way a great big international event was organised before the world of rapid communication. Being a colony, they also needed officials from England to act on their behalf. So not only were they trying to organise a conference, with contributors from all over the world via snail mail, but they needed to appeal to the folks in London at every step along the way! Kind of mind boggling in these days of the inter-web! I also found some very exciting material about one of the Sydney Superintendents for Drawing: F. W. Woodhouse.

I fell a little bit in love with the "red-pen man", an archivist probably back from the turn of the century who annotated and summarised many of the documents. By my 3pm lull each day I found myself skipping to his summaries to see whether it was worth struggling through a letter or note in messy handwriting. He (and yes I am assuming it was a man...) was even so kind as to decipher difficult signatures - check out the letter below - such a champion!

The archivists at the V&A were completely amazing. I ask a bazillion questions, and requests stacks of material, often discovering it isn't what I hoped it would be, and send it back, so I think I could get rather annoying. But these guys were super patient. One gentleman in particular (whose name I have forgotten!) was beyond amazing, even finding references for me at other archives!

Now I know many of you will skip this post and come back when I have more pretty pictures - but I want to do a few more like this for those who are interested. If you have any questions, or want me to focus on anything in particular, please let me know. I am no great expert, but can tell you  as much as I know!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


 I am home! Back to sunny Sydney and back to work and deadlines and friends. I still have loads to share from my travels - so I hope you won't mind as we continue dipping into the past (although my whole life seems to be to be about dipping into the past, so it shouldn't be anything new really!) To celebrate my return I took my trusty photographer to the park to play with the Australian wildlife (yep - that little springy guy I am standing on is supposed to be a Koala). Like any truly great park, this one has a statue of Mary Poppins too- a monument erected in honour of P. L. Travers who used to live in the area.

Outfit details:
Skirt & belt - vintage fair
blouse - Mr. Stinky vintage 
shoes - Melissa
Cardigan - Primark 
bag - ESPE

And yay for being back with my love, my wonderful photographer and the parasol minding extraordinaire, Ian! (complete with newly acquired beard - cool hey?)

Monday, October 17, 2011

All Light All Shadow

I am so so excited to tell you about ALAS and the release of their first collection! You may remember I posted about Betony and Kelly's exhibition of sustainable up cycled designs at Gaffa a few months ago. Well the lovely duo have taken their commitment to sustainable and ecologically friendly design and developed a collection of pyjamas, pretty enough to be worn by day as well as night.

It is so exciting to see Bet and Kelly transform their dream into a reality. They have worked so hard - juggling day jobs, social life and artistic careers with this new venture, fuelled by their passion for great sustainable design. It is really heart warming to see that there is such interest contemporary design that is committed to preserving our planet.

I know many of you became interested in vintage clothing as a way of cutting down your carbon footprint. But many of us find it impractical to wear 100% vintage, 100% of the time. So if you've been looking for some soft cotton night-things, be sure to check out their shop.

All photos from ALAS

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tower twilight

After a day out around Berkeley (including an extremely fruitful visit to Mars Mercantile), we went up Sather Tower at twilight. The view was really stunning and the light was a photographer's dream. We watched the fog roll in along the horizon, and the sun slowly sink behind the hills. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Be a bear

Way back at the start of my trip, I spent a brilliant day with my brother exploring Berkeley. I think the pictures really say it all - it was a wonderful day.

I wore my favourite summer dress that you have all seen before, with my new Naot sandals. These shoes are THE most comfy things in the world. Seriously - pure magic.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A London Summer Day

 When the sun is out in London, so are the people it seems. This weekend was as sunny as they come, so I rustled up a little stubbie of Aussies (Surely stubbie is the collective noun for Australians right?), and went out to London Fields for a picnic.
 We ate masses and masses of delicious food from Broadway Market.
 Picnicer-in-crime - Evin, looking just as you should after eating a luxury brownie.
 And ever-lovely Beth.
 This was me post-picnic - ready to burst! So so so much food!
 There were a few others there too.
I love the smoke from all the mini BBQs.
Then we wandered away past some sweet street little art (fork is for scale).
 And a Klezmer duo.
 A boat-bookshop
 complete with cat.
 Everything was just fine and dandy.
 Untill wolverine just busted in out of nowhere!
 So we ran and ran...
'Till we lost him, then strolled into the sunset.