Birds On The Brain

May 25th, 2010 comments 0

birds are all around as it’s been another week of gardening bliss. Yesterday was a holiday in France and a nearby vide-grenier sale unearthed these vintage treasures. Of German origin, these scrolls were once used in schools to teach bird species. They’re double sided, printed on a heavy beautifully aged paper with a small black half round wood moulding bordering the top and bottom. Each side shows 8 different vignettes. The individual images are lovely. I can see the 4 scrolls lining a stairwell or hung vertically one above the other on a tall wall. The hardest part would be deciding which side of the scroll to display! Where would you hang them?

Understated Elegance

May 19th, 2010 comments 1

Last weekend’s favorite vintage find… for those of us who crave glamour AND clean lines. I’d like to see this one in a kitchen.

Where To Sit This Summer?

May 18th, 2010 comments 5


I’m loving the Manutti above and the Vincent Sheppard below…. how about you?

top 3 photos Manutti, bottom 3 photos Vincent Sheppard

The Blank Stare

May 16th, 2010 comments 0

I have a thing for vintage French porcelain inkwells: their pleasing shape, their patina and their charm when used as a mini vase holding a single bud. I wasn’t aware of the cultural memory they held until the other day, when I stopped by to see my friend Catherine. Stacked neatly on the living room table were small bound notebooks, carnet as they’re called in French, workbooks from Catherine’s elementary school days. We sat and looked at a few of the books. I was in awe. Her penmanship as a young child was a work of art. “I loved writing with a feather, didn’t you?” she reminisced.

There are moments as a foreigner when you’re met with the blank stare. I’m all too familiar with that look (like yesterday when I visited the local garden center looking for steel edging to border my garden beds). It’s a look that says that whatever you’ve just attempted to communicate is so incomprehensible, that you must be an alien. I’m sorry to say that this time around, that stare came from me. A feather? I thought I had misunderstood the French. “What do you mean a feather?” I said. The blank stare was mirrored back to me. “You didn’t learn to write with a feather?” she asked. My mind raced back to Septembers past and the smell of freshly sharpened #2 lead pencils, then kept rewinding all of the way back to our founding fathers and images of the signing the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson holding a feather pen. I was trying to make sense of it all since Catherine is my age and we’re not THAT old!

“Oh, I understand,” I said “a fountain pen?” But no, not a pen, not a pen tip, it was a feather… or more accurately a quill. She explained to me that their desks had ink wells on each corner (we see these slant topped desks at the brocantes), one for the black ink and one for the lavender. She preferred the lavender (and still does). A certain level of proficiency was required before graduating from feather to fountain pen.

Catherine said she thought that it was a better way to learn because it demanded focus and concentration before committing feather to paper. Nowadays, she felt, students can too easily erase their answers and start over. Absolutley erase, I thought to myself. Mistakes are a natural part of learning and the sooner we figure out a better solution, change it and move on, the better.

We had stumbled on an interesting cultural difference and we talked more about it. It seems the French system favors a stricter approach with a harder line being drawn when a mistake is made. My cultural upbringing embraces a try and try again philosophy. The effort being encouraged and rewarded along with the accomplishment.

Exploring and understanding our cultural programming and motivators is one of the most fascinating things about living in a foreign country. However, foreign can also refer to a group of un-like minded individuals within our own cultures. I think we build better communities and a better world when we engage in a dialogue about our differences and then allow room for them to coexist.

As for me, I think I’ll stick with my trusty #2 and it’s worn down eraser, but I plan to honor my friend and her feather pen by placing a rose filled-lavender stained inkwell next to the dinner plates on our summer table because, let’s face it, a pencil would never have the same effect.

Linen Lust

May 13th, 2010 comments 8

when I think of linen I think of Provence. We use linen for our curtains, our upholstery and slipcovers, draped over beds, tables, anywhere and everywhere we can. For those of you who experience linen lust as I do, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite European linen lines. Today it’s De Le Cuona.

De Le Cuona is a UK firm, known for it’s extensive range, luxurious softness and in their own words, floppy hand. The weight and drape of their fabrics is sublime. They also produce a collection of paisley’s inspired by antique Kashmir designs. The color ways and  weaves are absolutely incredible. I can’t say enough about these fabrics. You’ll find their distribution network on their website or you can visit Provence and I’ll introduce you to my friend Catherine who represents the collection in our area and you can experience their splendor firsthand.

above images courtesy the De Le Cuona website

My tapissier (upholsterer) just delivered this 18th century armchair which I had re-upholstered in De Le Cuona chevron linen.  It has a fantastic slubby texture and a mat finish, and I think it plays well with the sober rustic style of the chair. What do you think?

Every Girl Should Have One

May 11th, 2010 comments 2

I received an email asking if I had any antique saint’s crowns in my inventory. Unfortunately not at the moment, but I’ve worn had quite a few over the years. I said that I would post a few photos from my archives to give her an idea of what she might find. A single crown placed on a stack of books, displayed in a bookcase, or nested in an arrangement of found objects adds that bit of sparkle we love. A very clever friend of mine built a niche into a wall and stacked a jumble of these beauties. I keep mine in the kitchen.

A Mother’s Nest

May 9th, 2010 comments 2

Colorado Robin's Nest

Although I’m a nest builder, I’ve never paid close attention to the birds that visit our garden, until this spring. So far we’ve had the wayward pigeon (read about Ms. P here), and a pair of nesting doves and their friend, the loner. Doves mate for life so I feel sorry for the loner. He befriended the pigeon but now that the pigeon’s flown the coop he’s alone again. We have a pair of Great Tits (my husband thinks that’s pretty funny) that are nesting in a hole in one of our stone walls. There’s been a good luck visit from the Hoopoe (pronounced hoopoo) of Egyptian hieroglyphic fame and today a flock of fantastically colored European Bee-Eaters stopped by.

They’re all attending to their nests this time of year. I feel an instinctual connection to these busy birds because the nest I’ve built and care for as a mother has been the most important thing I’ve done in my life and has also been life’s greatest gift to me. Birds, like mothers, build nests only to watch their babies fly away. And the flying away is the hardest part (on the Moms that is), but I know that if the nest is built of love it will never be abandoned and our babies will never really leave.

I treasure each and every nanosecond I’m able to spend with my son and daughter. Our non-traditional life has allowed us to be a part of each others lives in a very special way. Our daughter flew off to Colorado just a couple of weeks ago and our son flies off to Brazil at the end of this week. Even though we’ll once again be separated by physical distance, on this Mother’s Day the thing I’m most thankful for is the love and friendship we all share and for the invisible nest that keeps us together, wherever we are in the world.

A very Happy Mothers Day to my own Mom and to all of you lucky nest builders out there.

Great Tit - European Bee Eater - Hoopoe

Graphic Greatness

May 8th, 2010 comments 7

i can’t get enough of these vintage cement tiles I find at the local salvage yard… poussière compris (dust included). I want to silkscreen the patterns on fabric, use the images in a collage, paint a frieze, embroider a border on a linen skirt, knit the patterns, make a tile top table… not to mention re-tile several rooms in my house….. What would they become in your hands?

Thinning The Excess

May 5th, 2010 comments 0

It’s time to thin the fruit on the apricot tree. I dread this simple garden task. Who am I to edit nature? I stare at the freshly plucked potential in the bottom of my bucket and I’m overcome with a sense of remorse.

Gardening in our area of Provence resembles a form of vegetal warfare. If you’ve ever seen a plane tree hacked to knarly nubs or the local fruit trees awkward skeletal frames, you understand the severity from which we coax “appropriate” growth. I have to wonder about the natural world’s willingness to reward such intervention with a beautiful canopy not to mention a sweet crop. Even the formal French garden design I admire relies heavily on taming and shaping the otherwise wild.

Weeding, pruning the dead wood, thinning the excess fruit, all necessary and beneficial, but in my hands these chores have more of a 60’s live and let live vibe. Come to think of it, there’s a tie die T shirt in my dresser drawer and I remember my daughter saying something about it being good gardening attire….

Swedish Meets French

May 4th, 2010 comments 2

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