Sunday, 4 March 2012

Nothing (ad)ventured....

Been a busy few days with a few good developments for Project Wonderland :)

Just got back from Manchester where I attended the Tattoo Tea Party (see here) - a loosely Wonderland themed convention of tattoo artists.  Many stalls had played along with the theme and there were sweets, cupcakes, beautiful picture frames and even some white rose bushes splattered with red paint which made me smile.
I was a little disappointed at the lack of tea itself - the readily available beverage was beer, beer and more beer - but enjoyed the room full of buzzing needles and watching people trying to look cool whilst being indelibly marked.  They all kinda failed really but bless them for trying!

I also very much enjoyed the work of this lovely lady who was perfectly dressed as Alice herself and had a gorgeous array of handpainted crockery that made me long for a nice slice of victoria(n) sponge cake and a good sit down in a comfy chair.

Better get on with it then!!

Below are a couple of photos of the Holy Trinity church I talked about a little while before.  There are also a couple from the beginnings of the chair wrecking - my fabric has arrived so I have begun to strip the old piece down to it's basic frame.  It's not hard work really but takes a little brute strength with the stanley knife and pliers - I'm taking it slowly though as there is much work to be done before the rebuild and this has got to be perfection itself.

The blue plaque I saw from the bus which first sparked a real interest in the local links of the story

 A moody moi outside of the Holy Trinity church in Southwick - it is a lovely spot with a nice view of the river

The original chair - old, loved and battered but still strong

My cat, Bootsy Collins, inspecting my first bit of work

Soon I plan to upload some sketches of the original design for this chair and some more technical drawings on how I plan to rebuild it....but patience, beautiful things take precious time 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Glorious Sunday

Hunting through markets is something of a hobby of mine and I can often be found at Tynemouth station on a weekend rooting through costume jewels and bits of china for that tiny hidden treasure I have coveted in my mind for some weeks.  I dragged poor Sterl along on the promise of pancakes at the excellent Porter's coffee house and he revealed to me that we had £20 of winnings from the lottery to use in the day's bargain hunting.
Tally Ho then...

Lot's of tat and the usual dubious Nazi memorabilia stall accompanied homemade cakes and soaps and 'shabby chic' furniture (which I am beginning to understand means little more than "painted matt white and overpriced").  I enjoyed sifting through the 50p buttons but none were too my taste - I'm more a £1 girl ;-)  Found some real beauties made of greenish glass and some gilded faux pearl that will do quite nicely for any studding I have to do.    Tiny teaspoons evaded me as they all seemed to be decorated with the coat of arms for Majorca or somewhere equally irrelevant to my project.  But Sterl pointed out two teeny tiny glass bottles - still containing traces of potent womanly scent - for £1 each.  His haggling attempt failed but I tried again later and shaved off enough for a bag of aniseed balls and some haribo jelly babies....winning!

The find of the day though came as a lovely surprise - I had spotted a tremendously large and beautiful hunter style pocket watch on the stall of one of the more regular antique dealers and enquired as to it's cost.  It was heavy, French in style and still ticking away merrily but at £35 was a little out of my budget.  So I chatted away about the project and asked for even any broken watches he may have in supply that I could pick apart for my wonderland needs.  he produced for me the most delightful little pocketwatch - an Omega spherical with added chains and domed glass.  Perfectly weird and wonderful and I got it for tenner less than the lady whispered he should charge thanks to my superhuman hearing and puppy dog eyes :-D

Still waiting on the fabric to arrive but project wonderland is looking more go than ever.....

Thursday, 23 February 2012


The links between Lewis Carroll and the city in which I was born (and still reside near) give this whole project a new history to be explored.

On my route to work, the number 26 bus passes an important landmark to Carroll. I always liked to take this bus as it goes the longer route and I could look at all the houses and people rather than just a road or two.  Noticing one day a blue plaque affixed to the wall of Holy Trinity church in Southwick, I discovered that this was where our friend Carroll had often visited during his time in the area.
It is also rumoured that he based his nonsense rhyme "Jabberwocky" on the tale of the Lambton Worm, a famous story in County Durham featuring the same kind of old fashioned language and colloquialisms familiar to this area.  He is said to have written this part of the book whilst staying in Whitburn - jolly good show, I adore Whitburn and can imagine in his time it was much more beautiful.

Bryan Talbot enjoyed the link so much that he wrote an entire graphic novel about it, Alice In Sunderland, mirroring areas of the city with places in the book.  Although it is historically said to be set in Oxford, Talbot believes the copy could be transposed to this area just as easily.  His book explores the history of the area alongside dream imagery and examining the story of Alice herself - he describes it as "not an academic read.  It is subtitled entertainment"

I am inspired to take a short tour of locations in Talbot's book and perhaps use photographs of these as inspiration.  Either way, it feels nice to live somewhere so inextricably linked to such a wonderful story and my excitement in beginning is growing like Alice eating mushrooms!

Postman called again bringing me a beautiful boxed wooden chess set and a decal of one of the original John Tenial illustrations....getting closer to beginning and it's feeling good.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Well HELLO Mr Postman :-D

Objects of wonder(land) started to arrive today and I am getting pretty anxious to get started whilst in this positive frame of mind.

Beautiful buttons, assorted feathers of many colours and a beautiful Victorian ink well - the ink well is especially good.  I plan to set this into the arm of the chair, so that it can be used.  Storytelling and handwritten manuscripts - we've lost so much of this in our digital age and I would love to perhaps inspire someone to get their ink on and compose a thing of beauty.  I will have to ask my friend Sarah Mc for advice on inks as I know she is fond of a good violet pigment or two.

Sketched up a few more basic shapes for the upholstery padding and am looking into the practicalities of using old duvets instead of forking out for the real stuff.  I will get more flexibility from this and also get a softer finish, making the chair super comfy and overstuffed.  But I do worry the shape won't last so may have to look at constructing a foam frame to wrap with duvets - saving money on foam but not losing the shape I require.

Off to get creative on my head right now...shaving parts of my hair off makes me happy :)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Late night ponderings...

Having spent the past four hours or so trawling ebay, gumtree and all manner of intriguing bits of crap sites I have concluded that everyone has too much stuff lying around that they aren't doing anything with.

I am probably guilty of this myself but I am allowed because I constantly give my stuff away (I'm sure many of you reading will have experienced my odd style of philanthropy..."Go on, just fill this'll suit you better/I never use it/but you'll love it so much").

So what do you have that you don't need? If you put it on ebay, would you be happier than if you donated it to a friend or to charity?  You might be richer in money but not richer in the heart.
If you have something you love but is sat unused or unappreciated, what could you do with it/ to it?  Repaint it? Restructure it?  Dye it?  This is my task for the next few days as I wait impatiently for all the essentials to arrive for Wonderland to start taking shape...what else can I fix?

I constantly use fabric dye to change things I never liked the colour of - a dress that suited me perfectly in shape but was such an identical shade of dusty pink to my own fair skin that I felt a vibrant, tropical blue!  A pair of faded, greying old curtains were dyed with not quite enough maroon but left a glorious sunburst of several shades of rose for my bedroom windows to enjoy.  An old pair of brown floral ones were dyed with a mix of red and navy to create a rich, purple tone that aside from a few patchy bits, look pretty damn good.
So really, you don't have to be very good at things to try them...I guess that's my point.  If you made it, you will love it and that should be what matters.

I have been eyeing up the glass fronted cabinet in the corner of my living room tonight - it's a beautiful piece of furniture with an art deco sunburst design in silver on the glass and the original velvet striped burgundy backing paper behind the delicate glass shelves.  It has housed many memories for the years of my marriage and now that this has ended, I feel it is perhaps time to take the monument down and create a new memory...for me or somebody else.  I love it's contents - dried flowers from romantic moments and friend's weddings, an art nouveau address book, an Arthur Rackham illustrated edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, small statues of Egyptian gods, a beautiful wooden box from Poland, some peach infused vodka bought on honeymoon in Krakow, various beautiful hardbacks of my favourite Russian classics....personal, beautiful things that I will keep and rehouse elsewhere.  But perhaps the cabinet could be another project worth considering...

Also, a stunning dark wooden sideboard/dresser I bought for a mere £15 is sat out of place in my dining room.  It's a great piece with lots of character and will be one of those things that gets passed down through generations (providing the next few of them have any taste).  But maybe it needs a more personal touch.  The curves are gorgeous and the handles a filigree triumph but the varnish is worn and stained and the interior is shabby.  I may yet have to flex my creative muscles on more than just Alice's chair....Wonderland Living Room anyone?


Beautiful layering of fabric and gorgeous use of colours...some of the techniques here interest me

A beautiful Victorian inspired stripe - I love the fairly muted colours and the sophisticated feel
A card I found on that kinda summed it up nicely. The best thing in life IS adventure...
Photocollage - kinda makes me dizzy but I like the curves
Some preloved furniture decorated with a simple cut and paste collage
Oh man....the ultimate buttons!!

The time has come....

The Wonderland project is a chair. An old, very much loved, high backed armchair. It is in a sorry state these days and needs someone to breathe life back into it...

*puts up hand*

I am not an artist. I am not a furniture designer. I am not a DIY master.
But I have a vision and I think it is a beautiful one so I am embarking upon a project that will teach me many new skills and potentially lead to greater things.

Incorporating the skills of my good friend and creative ally, Deanamus Prime, we will attempt to turn this sad old chair into a functional piece of art.

Imagine a land full of roses and playing cards, where flamingos frolic with grinning cats and a little girl takes tea with a dormouse...yes, I'm talking about Lewis Carroll's masterpiece "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland".

Published in 1865 and written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym) after a day boating with his friends young daughters, his impromptu storytelling session soon became a classic piece of literature and was loved by both Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde and generations of children and adults alike.
Full of nonsense verse, Latin wordplay and fantastical characters - it seems only right that nearly 150 years after publication, the world of art, literature and cinema are still just as obsessed with Alice as ever.

But how about furniture?

I wanted to build something that incorporated that same sense of wonder, discovery, storytelling, secrets and playfulness we see on pages and onscreen, whilst being a fully functional piece of furniture. Inspiration has come from many areas - decoupage, Victorian upholstery fabrics, ornate mirrors and picture frames, ink wells and tea services, hobbies and crafts...endless hours of fascinating research into the book, the period in which it was written and the influences behind it.

I never thought I'd ever manage to afford the materials to build this beast, even after years of scouting charity shops and markets for the right bits and pieces to bring it to life. But I was overjoyed to be offered a financial hand by a much honoured friend to complete the project. The budget is still small when you consider the cost of fabric but it has been enough to help me gather over 75% of the materials needed. Much love to Chris Sterling for his support and baffling belief in my abilities.

I will be teaching myself many new skills - sewing, upholstery, framing, decoupage, collage work...all manner of things! Excited for my parcels to start arriving and for the building to begin :-D

Mood board to follow...I hope you will enjoy the process as much as I will and do not hesitate to get in touch if you are interested in potentially purchasing the completed article.