Wednesday 19 December 2012

I dream of........

I like to dream....dreams are visually exciting. Thats why I love photography. The photographs you take act as prompts to where you would like to be and where your dreams and subsequent ideas can take you. They refresh colours and textures in your minds eye. This is particularly apparent with places that you have travelled to.  I often subconsciously think in colour palettes. You didn't always dream them up. If you look back at the photos you have taken of the places you have all becomes clear. Here are some of the images from the past year that have inspired my dreams.

Friday 26 October 2012


East of India ribbon in the shop.

Haberdashery is just one of those words. The type that make you giggle, the one that gets you a little tongue-tied. Its a little bit of a menace when it comes to fitting it in to things as its a bit on the long and gangly side. When I first opened the shop it even proved a bit controversial with a local retailer getting the hump with the fact that there was 'haberdashery' in the name. But to me the word has many meanings and connotations beyond threads and ribbon and needles. It creates an old fashioned atmosphere, an aroma of past times.

Old shop interior (google images)

Haberdashers were traditionally peddlers of small wares which did indeed include the above mentioned sewing articles. Here we associate it with someone selling sewing notions, in America a haberdashery sold mens clothing articles. There is hot debate among language historians as to the origins of the word.  Did it stem from the German 'Habt ihr das' - have you this? or the French 'Haber d'acheter' - to have to buy. Or maybe from the word Hapertas, a medieval Anglo-French word denoting pretty wares or a specific type of fabric of the time.

Chinese street vendor (google images)

Needless to say it is the most wonderful word. It is happy and fun and is always a talking point. It conjures up perfectly the contents of my little shop. I feel like a peddler most days. I open my little box of wares and hope that within its confines people will find the items that they need or don't need. All is useful, all is pretty. 'Habt ihr das'? I probably do.

Jar of trims.

Friday 19 October 2012

Its mine......all mine.......

Have you ever come across an object that you just had to have, that you would go to any lengths to own? Whether it is as a result of good old fashioned nostalgia or just plain covetous greed.

 It happened to me three years ago, when I walked through the door of my grandparents old farmhouse, and I have not stopped thinking about this object and the logistics of how I will get it home. You see, in a dusty old attic in Slovenia, above a now dishevelled and decaying farmhouse, I stumbled across the dressmakers dummy that belonged to my grandmother or Stara mama as I have always known her.

I loved this object from the moment I saw it, covered in a fine layer of age old dust, its wooden stand ravaged by woodworm, but its beauty and integrity intact along with the tough cotton fabric covering its torso.

I instantly connected with it and felt sad that it had been neglected and left, knowing that it had served in providing food for a family of 10 people, of whom my mother was one. My grandmother had not only brought up 8 children and worked the farm but to raise extra money sewed for the local community.

Now, I am one of countless grandchildren and therefore took for granted that I would inherit very little of what belonged to them. I have a few rare photos of my mother as a barefoot peasant girl with dirty face and shabby clothes and one of my grandfather in Army dress. But when I focused in on that decrepit, wood worm ridden dummy in the corner of the disused attic, my heart skipped a beat and I had to have it at all costs.

So here I sit, once again contemplating its journey to its new home, thanks to a very understanding Uncle and Aunt who granted me my wish. But why so important? Well, I am the only one who followed vaguely in my grandmothers footsteps; her ability with a needle, of making, of hoarding; hers of course by necessity, mine of pleasure. There was always a connection between us as we sat eating sweets together in the farmhouse kitchen, her chuckling and me smiling. I spent every summer with her as a child, often following her dark-clothed figure through the forest as she foraged for mushrooms. I feel I understand. I need to rescue and perpetuate her life's challenge of make do and mend. Its there in my blood, you can't ignore it.  It will be mine, eventually. Thank you Stara mama.

In loving memory of an amazing woman
Marija Podrzaj
21.8.1909 - 19.10.1983

Saturday 13 October 2012

Tales from The Old Haberdashery

So, I have a shop. I am a shop-keeper at heart. I love the smell as I open the door of a morning. The strange odour of yarns and textiles from India, the distinctive smell of brown Kraft paper bags, the colour of everything against the backdrop of white. But most of all I love my customers. I love the tales they have to tell me. You learn a lot about people by owning a little shop and they teach you a lot!

For example, the 'broody hen' basket. To me its always been the basket like the one Stara Mama had, the ones made in the former Yugoslavia, until one day a gentlemen informed me of its ulterior motive. But of course what better way to deal with a broody hen then to confine her to said 'broody hen' basket. You only have to look at the shape of the design to see it instantly. Genius.

And then there's carnival glass. It has a very distinctive pearlescent effect and always reminds me of the 40's and 50's. It is fun and flighty in a 'look at me' kind of way.  I have been told that it was once given as prizes at fairs instead of the soft toys you so often see today. A practical prize with a bit of glitz. Now where's the harm in that.

But as well as customers, it is the very objects themselves that often have the most poignant tales to tell.I have things that tell the story of someone's life and even though they are not here to tell it themselves, I glean snippets of their lives from their objects. 

Not long ago a lady brought me a bag of patterns that had belonged to a friend. They ranged from baby clothes to teenage dresses from the 70's. They all belonged to one woman, who had tirelessly made all her girls clothes. When put in sequence they told an endearing tale of a mothers love and pride, keeping her children clothed and showing her skill in being able to do so herself.

Most poignant of all is the photo album. I bought it not to make money from it but because it was lost and needed a home. It visually depicts a time in someones life, in the 1940's, the joy of a seaside holiday with a group of people, a journey by train with tightly packed suitcases all captured in black and white. People react very differently to it. Some love that it captures a very specific period in time and others hate the fact that it has been parted from its real inheritors.  

Maybe I watched too much Bagpuss as a child. Emily was always rescuing the lost and the forgotten and finding new homes for them. The stories that objects carry with them is long part of our culture. You only have to look through any museum to realise that.

My shop is not a quiet place, it hums not only with the sounds of people past, but also with the excitement of those in the present as they connect with an object from someone else's past.

Thought for the day

Creative ideas flourish best in a shop which preserves some spirit of fun, but that does not mean there cannot be fun in business
— Leo Burnett