Wednesday, 31 December 2008

On the Eve of a New Year

Happy New Year to you all!

I am now suffering with the same cold that Mr Kitsch had last week. (If he had man-flu, can I have 'lady-flu'?) Funnily enough I had flu this time last year, and had to welcome in the New Year chimes with nothing more than a glass of Lemsip. I feel a bit better today, so I'm hoping I can have a jollier time tonight. Maybe a glass of Ribena!

Whatever I have in my glass, I can tell you that I shall be wishing for a good new year with all my heart. 2008 has not been the happiest year. My sister had to have two operations, my mum also had an operation when she broke her hip, and has been in poor health, and I've had a few problems too. And it's not just me - other friends have suffered illness, depression, financial difficulties and marriage break-up. It's been extraordinary that there's been so much bad news all round.

So although it's just a date on the calendar, I want to use the New Year as a chance to look forward to more positive times.
I'm really, really hoping for a Happy New Year! And I hope it's good for everyone!

Builders from Hell - Part 2

The day before Christmas Eve, I came downstairs to discover this little disaster. My poor building work on the chimney had taken its toll, and resulted in a complete structural collapse!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

It's official - I am 'normal'

Well, I hope you all had a fun time at Christmas! Our holiday was unexpectedly quiet, as Mr Kitsch had a bad case of man-flu, and so we didn't have Christmas with his family in Somerset as planned. Instead, we had a quiet, but enjoyable time, with him under a blanket on the sofa and me taking the opportunity to relax. No, I did look after him as well, but I also did a fair bit of snoozing!

I think the tiredness was a reaction to how I had been feeling before Christmas. I had got myself stupidly depressed on and off. I think a lot of it was because of a health scare I had, which had been hanging over for me for a few weeks. I had a bit of trouble in my 'Downstairs Ladies Department' (as Cissy and Ada would say). The doctors were being extra careful, I think, as earlier this year my sister was diagnosed with endometrial (womb) cancer (all now resolved, we hope). No reason to be alarmed, but it could be hereditary, and I had certain symptoms which could be a bad sign, etc. So I had a series of tests, ending up with a biopsy (not a pleasant experience!). I couldn't believe the number of people who ended up having a look around 'down there'! I had to wait a couple of weeks for the biopsy result, but I finally got a phonecall on December 23rd (bless them for that). It was "normal", as were all my other tests. Hoorah!

Of course some people might dispute that I could ever be 'normal', but I now have proof!

Monday, 22 December 2008


As ever, here at the Kitsch Kottage, style and taste are our watchwords. And never more so than when it comes to seasonal decorating. None of that nasty natural greenery when there's plastic and foil to be had!

Nothing says Christmas like a little pink birdie...

..or a very cheap snowglobe.

It must be Christmas - we've started the Christmas Radio Times and I've nearly finished shopping. Yay!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Moomins in Winter

My good intentions of daily blogs, with lots of fun things to show you, just won't happen. I think it's the lack of daylight. However, despite my inability to function during winter, I find myself drawn to snowy scenes and wintriness, and that whole Scandinavian thing of mysterious dark woods.
I put it down to the Moomins.

I'm not sure I ever read more than one Moomin book when I was young, but I rediscovered them several years ago, mainly because I was drawn to the illustrations (by the author, Tove Jansson). The Moomins are sweet, delightful characters with a wonderful philosophy of life. Then, a few years ago, the comic strips that Tove Jansson created, started to be republished in book form. I think I like these even more than the novels. They are beautifully drawn. Just look at this strip below, with the flower stem creating the break between panels, and Moomintroll's tail breaking out of the frame. I love all those flowers and grasses!

And look at this strange, reindeer-like animal, with floral fur! Isn't he beautiful?

I would love to be a Moomin (just look how beautiful their house is!). And very sensibly, they hibernate. (Occasionally they've broken the rules and stayed awake in winter, though.) When the first snow comes in November, Moomins know it's time for their winter sleep. Moominmamma tells them all to fill their tummies with a last meal of pine needles and to put their woollen knickers on. "Then everyone crept into his bed and making a cosy nest for himself, pulled his blanket over his ears and thought of something nice..... Outside the snow fell, thick and soft. It already covered the steps and hung heavily from the roofs and eaves. Soon Moominhouse would be nothing but a big, round snowball. The clocks stopped ticking one by one. Winter had come."

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Mr Blob by E.V. Rieu

This poem was in a book called "A Puffin Quartet of Poets", which I was given when I was little.

My heart went out to Mr Blob the moment that we met,
And the manner of his coming is a thing I can't forget.
It fell upon a Sunday in the merry month of June,
Between a rainy morning and a rainy afternoon.

He didn't use the window, and he didn't use the door;
He never took his hat off and he never touched the floor;
He didn't look as if he'd grown, like us: he just began,
And stood before us there, a simple English gentleman.

He wasn't very dandified or dainty in his dress,
But the absence of his trousers seemed to cause him no distress,
For the smile upon his features was a marvel to behold,
And underneath that buttoned vest there beat a heart of gold.

He wasn't long among us: all too little had been said
When a heavy hand descended on his inoffensive head,
And a Voice delivered judgement; 'Mr Blob is far too stout;
He's a silly little fellow, and I mean to rub him out.'

He didn't seem offended, but I think he must have heard,
For he rose up from the paper and he went without a word.
His boots and buttons only lingered on a little while,
And the last of him to vanish was the vestige of a smile.

O Mr Blob, the world would be a very pleasant place
If everyone resembled you in figure and in face.
If everybody went about with open arms like you
The stars would all be brighter and the sky a bluer blue.

My heart went out to mr Blob the moment that we met,
And the sorrow of his going is a thing that haunts me yet;
For often when the clouds are low I sit at home and sob
To think that I shall see no more the face of Mr Blob.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Toby Twirl

One of the books I picked up on Saturday was Toby Twirl Tales No.5, which was a strange coincidence, as I had already decided to share my Toby Twirl memories with you in this blog. I don't think he's a very well-known character, but I have such strong memories of the pictures in the book I had as a child - Toby Twirl Tales No. 4. The illustrations (by E. Jeffrey) are lovely - with beautiful soft colours. Toby is a pig, but humanised like Rupert the Bear, and the stories are very similar to Rupert stories.

The first story in this book is about a sea wizard, and I was always struck by the long staircase leading into the sea.

Greedy child as I was, I was even more drawn to the second story, as Toby and his friend Pete the penguin visit Candytown!

The pictures of the candy houses and street furniture are wonderful - I could eat that treacle pump! Unfortunately, Pete the penguin has the same idea and eats a bit of chocolate from a door. The sugary residents of Candytown are horrified, as "If he eats sweets, he might eat us", and they put Pete in jail.

Toby, and his friend the Marzipan Man, sneak in to the jail and rescue Pete, who was actually quite happy, eating the walls of his cell. They make their escape, but are pursued, and the liquorice soldiers fire at them from the town walls.

Such sweet memories!

Weekend fun shopping

Here's my haul from an indoor car boot sale (a.k.a. a table-top sale) at a local school, that I went to on Saturday. We were a bit late (getting up is not our strongest event!), but there was still lots of fun to be had. I got even more books than shown in the picture - lots of lovely illustrated kids books and a 1983 Sindy Annual (loving the pictures!). Mr Kitsch had to go and have a sit-down, while I went round again and rummaged in boxes. The pic also includes a couple of things picked up in charity shops last week- the china bunnies and these bee dancers
Their happy faces make me smile every time I look at them!

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Advent of Builders from Hell

Not another reality horror show, exactly, but 'Builders from Hell' seems to describe the standard of my gingerbread house construction! When my friend was visiting last week, we bought a gingerbread house from Ikea, and decided it might be a fun activity one evening (Oh yeah, we know how to show our guests a good time!). I was the designated builder, and we all had a go at decorating. In the view you can see here, Mr Kitsch was responsible for the pictures on the roof and my friend did the end wall. Lovely work, I'm sure you'll agree! (I did the chimney that looks as though it's going to collapse, and you can see the icing slopping out of the side of the wall where I put it together so nicely!)

So it's starting to get a bit more Christmassy here at the Kitsch Kottage. Behind the house, you can see our advent calendars. (Yes, we ARE adults, NO, we don't have children.) For years, we'd ended up with chocolate advent calendars. People buy them or you have them in the office as a treat, etc. Then last year, we decided to go back to the traditional ones with just pictures. And it was so much nicer! We open the windows at breakfast each morning, and it's good silly fun to see what the picture is.

I've decided I'm going to share some special treats for advent in my blog, in the run-up to Christmas. Not necessarily Christmassy things, but illustrations, poems & stuff remembered & loved from my childhood, that I think are worth sharing. (I wish I had the time to do one for every day of December...)

I hope it makes the run-up to Christmas as exciting as the Blue Peter Advent Crown always did! (If you're unfamiliar with it, you can find out about Blue Peter here and the Advent Crown here and if you're very keen, the instructions are here!)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Slightly strange dolly animation

Came across this - a track by a local (Bristol) singer, Hazel Winter, with animated kewpies, my little ponies and other dolls. Slightly strange, but very cool, I think.
(The pic above isn't embedded video, just click on the link to open the movie in a new window.)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Oliver Postgate

I know lots of my blog contacts are fans of vintage children's illustration and the like, so I'm sure many of you will be as sad as I am to hear of the death yesterday of Oliver Postgate, the creator (with Peter Firmin) of so many wonderful children's TV programmes. Most news reports (like this one) concentrated on Bagpuss, The Clangers and Ivor the Engine.

But my favourite is Noggin the Nog, (seen here with his arch-enemy, Nogbad the Bad). The stories were a Norse Saga, wonderful, atmospheric tales of the frozen North, with dragons and mountains, and a sort of tame cormorant called Grakulus.

Postgate also created Pogle's Wood, another strange series from the 1960s, with a haunting atmosphere, which I can only just remember, but I know it transfixed me for some reason, when I was little.

On his website, Oliver Postgate wrote various opinion pieces on modern life, including this one, which laments how commercial corporation thinking has caused the loss of creativity in children's television.

You have to wonder if anything quite like Noggin the Nog could be created today...

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

My messy life

Good grief. (In a Charlie Brown voice.) I just discovered I'd been sitting on a chocolate raisin, and I have chocolate smears all over my (black) office chair. Nice.

I've just spent two days tidying up my workroom. OK, not two solid days, but many hours of both days. My room is tiny, but packed full of stuff, and I'd got to the point where I couldn't move. I didn't even have much space to work any more. I don't know why, but I've got a bit carried away by dolls this year. I've been collecting what I call 'my dollies' for a few years, but I used to limit myself to 'grown-up' dolls. Kachina dolls, Day of the Dead dolls, Indian folk art, various figures & art from around the world. I still love these, but then then earlier this year, I started buying vintage plastic dolls on ebay.

I spotted a few dolls I used to have, and decided to give in to that irrational, childish desire to have them. Then I found more and more appealing old dolls, and relatively cheap too. I realised that if I bought collections of dolls, I could get them cheaper, and I started to use them in my art/craft work. I also discovered that some dolls were worth reselling, and started to do that. (To be honest, it's not my best idea, as money-making schemes go, but it's fun.) So now I have boxes and boxes of dolls, and every shelf in my workroom is covered with dolls and kitsch. It's great, but it's getting in the way. I feel like an addict whose addiction is messing up her life!

One of the things I also started, earlier this year, was a blog on myspace about dolls. I started off with Doll of the Day, but soon changed it to 'Doll of the Week'! It's usually inspired by whatever doll I've been photographing, whether from my collection, or a doll I was selling. Anyway, I've now transferred it to blogger. I'm using blogs from the archive for this month, and then I'll start all-new entries in January. It's often quite silly, but I hope you have a read.

So believe it or not, these photos are the 'After' pictures in my workroom. I've now had a big tidy-up and a sort-out. I feel better for it. I'm going to make an effort to sell off lots of the dolls I don't need. Watch this space.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Christmas Rat

Just a warning before you start, this story doesn't have a happy ending... (However, the happy pic above is a lovely card by thelittlechickadee on etsy.)

Last December a rat appeared in our garden. Mr Kitsch decided he was 'The Christmas Rat', and so, instead of being vermin, he became just one of the friendly visitors to our garden. (My vague memory now is that he was wearing a santa hat and a velvet waistcoat, but I may just be imagining that...)

All the creatures in the garden have names. Sammy (and sometimes Sally) Squirrel, Mr and Mrs Blackbird, Robbie (the robin), Maggie (Magpie), Jay-Z (1st jay) and Jay Vydelingum (2nd jay), Tommy (one tit), Babs (for a pair - yes, we watch too many Carry-on films!), Donald the dunnock, Charlie the crow. And then there are the wood pigeons - Limpy, Little Limpy, Lieutenant Pigeon, Young Un and Ledgy (who only eats peanuts off the window ledge). The names just attach themselves, as good names should.

The Christmas Rat came and went. We live in the suburbs, near woods and wild spaces, so you're bound to get the odd one. I don't mind them at all, so long as they stay in the garden. Then last month, another rat appeared in the garden. The Christmas Rat has come early, we thought. But this time, she brought her family. She (I'm sure it's the mother) must have had a nest, and soon six little baby rats appeared on our lawn. They were actually very sweet, but seven rats in a small garden is a bit much. Our neighbour was very unhappy about them, called in the rat man and put poison down.

We went and got a humane/cage trap, but the rats wouldn't go near it. We changed the location, still nothing. We tried to hide it where they normally ran, they ran a different way. We put it right outside where we thought they were nesting and cleverly disguised it with old fabric. They steered clear. We put a trail of nuts into the cage. They ate all the nuts as far as they could without setting off the trap. We put some cardboard inside, in case it was the wire bars putting them off. They pulled out the card and ate that. We were starting to feel like Wile E Coyote setting Acme traps for the Roadrunner.

So we gave in and called the rat man. By the time he came on Friday, we had already found one dead rat, who must have eaten the poison from our neighbours garden, and we hadn't seen the others for a couple of days. The rat man gave us lots of advice, but basically the only thing you can do is to put down poison. We gave in and agreed, very reluctantly. I'm very sad about it. I feel like a murderer...

Saturday, 6 December 2008


On Thursday, I managed to spend over 12 hours asleep. I have no idea why - I wasn't ill. My best theory is that my friend's mum fed me some drugged fruitcake.

My friend had been visiting Tuesday/Wednesday. She lives in London but comes from Bristol originally, and we drove her to her parents so that she could finish her stay there. Whenever we drop her off, we get invited for tea and get given sandwiches and homemade cake (sometimes we even get given a jar of homemade jam or marmalade - brilliant!). Mr Kitsch doesn't like fruitcake, so he didn't have any. He was fine, but I couldn't wake up in the morning. In the face of this incontrovertible evidence, I can come to no other conclusion, but that I was actually heavily sedated by fruitcake!

Or I may just have been tired. We went for a walk on Wednesday through the local woods. Most of my walking recently has been in town, so maybe I wasn't used to so much fresh air.

It was a lovely day and all the berries looked Christmassy.

And talking of Christmas... (Smooth link, huh?) The day before, we went shopping, and I found these kitsch-cute chenille robins.
I got a whole box, so I have some for sale in my Etsy shop. You might think it's a bit late for Christmas, but there's still time!!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

North Bristol Art Trail & Christmas Fairs

On Sunday, I went to a few venues on the North Bristol Art Trail. Didn't have a lot of time on Sunday afternoon, so as I went last year, I just went to some of the places I enjoyed then, to see what's new.

The Derby Road Studios are always good. I particularly like the work of Jane Ormes and last year I bought one of her sets of rabbits.Here they are sitting on my shelf. They're made of balsa wood (I think) and they slot together. Simple, but so lovely.

Last year I was also very impressed with the mosaics of Toni Burrows. She incorporates all sorts of 3D ceramic pieces into her mosaics - ceramic birds, flowers, hands, figurines, etc. Her new one this year was equally amazing - on a huge scale, it took up one wall of her bedroom, and portrayed Icarus flying into the sun.

Just picked out a couple of favourites as I didn't see much.

Also at the weekend (Saturday), I went to a couple of local Christmas Fairs. And another fair yesterday at our doctor's surgery. (It's also an alternative therapy centre, and they do all sorts of things there.) I bought a lot of homemade cakes and secondhand books. I was a bit peeved that our local church fair on Saturday cost £2 to get in! To be fair, that did include a minced pie and a glass of mulled wine, but as I didn't want either, I felt a bit cheated at first. However, I think I got my money's worth on the tombola. Three goes for a pound and I won twice - a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and a big box of M&S cookies. Not bad, huh?

I'm starting to feel festive...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Healing Power of Shopping

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that shopping, correctly executed, can lift a woman's mood beyond all reason. (I'm pretty sure that's what Jane Austen wrote.) It's a running joke with my girlfriends that shopping makes us feel better. We're all reasonably intelligent women, not especially shallow or materialistic, we know it shouldn't be that simple, but, like children bribed with a lollipop, we are ridiculously happy with a new pair of shoes or a pretty thing for the house.

So when I went shopping this week, it was a refreshed and happy Kitsch Elaine who returned with bags of booty. My first purchase is scarily pink and cute. I'm not entirely sure about this now I've got it home, but IT WAS IN A SALE!
I might take the crystals off and de-bling it!

Also not sure if I am brave enough to wear these shoes every day, but they are fab. And the lovely girls in Shrinking Violet helped me to try on every pair of shoes in their lovely shop, so I definitely recommend them!
They look a bit pink in this photo, but they are pillar-box red. If I'm not brave enough to go out in those, I also got some more 'grown-up' boots.

You're wondering who the cutie in the boots is? No, not me, it's a lovely designer vinyl doll called "Lil' Leona Leopard" by Lisa Petrucci. I love her paintings inspired by Kiddle dolls (not so keen on all her pin-up girls). This little cutie was also in a sale!

If you've read my previous blogs, you'll know I enjoy shopping in Indian and Chinese supermarkets in Bristol. Well in St Nicholas Market, there's a South African shop - Kalahari Moon. I enjoyed browsing, but only bought some sweets.

Christmas cards. Year after year, I feel guilty because I know I should make my own Christmas cards, but I never get around to it in time. And I know I should be promoting handmade cards, but look how cute these cards from Oxfam are! And they are for charity...

Last but not least, I'll also show you my charity shop haul.

I seem to be collecting kitsch china birds now. I do like them. No idea what the plastic tiles in the bag are, but I'm sure I can use them somehow....

Well, that's show and tell over for today!

Friday, 28 November 2008

I saw Bill Oddie on a Zebra

Yesterday, I saw Bill Oddie on a zebra!

No really, I saw him on a zebra crossing, near the BBC in Bristol (where they make all the wildlife programmes). I was possibly a little over-effusive when I said hello, and as it was lunchtime, he was probably keen to get to his lunch. Whatever the case, he said something I couldn't make out and walked swiftly on. Fair enough I suppose. At least it gave me the chance to do a silly drawing.

(My American readers will have no idea who he is. Don't let it worry you.)
(Oh and you may not know what a zebra crossing is, either...)

Thursday, 27 November 2008


A Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!

I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I thought I should take the opportunity to be thankful for the good things in my life. Especially as my blog has been a bit miserable and whiney of late!

I'm just going to mention two. Firstly I'm thankful every day for Mr Kitsch (ahhh!), who is so loving and supportive.

Secondly, trees.

Shall I leave it there? If like me, your heart lifts every time you see a tree against the sky, you don't need any further explanation.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

I'm in an Etsy Treasury!

Hoorah for Tracey at paperdollsforboys! She featured two of my vintage dollies in her Etsy treasury.

I love all the wooden dolls she's chosen. I'm proud that I'm in such good company. Thank you Tracey!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Big Nit and The Big Knit

The Big Nit is me. I managed to get myself all depressed at the start of the week. Partly because of what I said in my last blog (feeling I can never make a living doing what I want creatively), but largely because of being a bit stupid and not doing what's good for me. I get a mild version of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and I hadn't been getting out in the daylight enough. Nor taking enough exercise, nor eating healthily, nor doing enough creative things to keep me happy. D'oh!

So on Monday, I felt I could have stayed in bed all day. However, I did get up, I did go for a walk in daylight, and I did feel all the better for it. And I did eat/drink some healthy foods, kickstarted by having to have one of these Innocent smoothies from Sainers.
For the last few years, Innocent smoothies have got people to knit little hats for their smoothie bottles in order to raise money for old people's welfare. It's called the Big Knit, and is such a fun idea. I was SO pleased to find a little dolly in there. I had to have it. Mr Kitsch chose a blue and white one, for his friend who's a Bristol Rovers (Football Club) fan. (Bor-ing!!)

Sadly, my little dolly only has one eye. I don't think I'll fix it though. I'll just accept her slight disability. I hope the person who knitted her knows she's gone to a good home.

You can check out more photos of these little hats at the Big Knit Flickr group too.

So, knitting, dollies and smoothies - I'm not depressed now!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Commercial Purposes

Several things have got me thinking about making money this week. And when I say 'making money', I say it with a hollow laugh and a wistful look in my eye.

Firstly, I had a warning from Flickr that I was not to use my account for commercial purposes. As far as I can tell, this was based on my having links to etsy on my profile. (I've been discussing the details with Renee on her blog.) I can only think that Flickr have a very limited knowledge of what Etsy is all about. Does anyone make much money from Etsy? Oh sure, there must be some, but even when I look at shops that have loads of sales, they're often all small value sales. Each sale takes a fair amount of time, even if you can just repeat the listing. If you sell vintage and one-off handmade items, like I do, every listing is different and you have to spend time on it. So when I look at the amount of time I spend on it, I don't even make minimum wage. Most of the time that doesn't matter - I do it because I want to, and the rewards are more than monetary.

However, in an ideal world, I would like to make a living from stuff like this eventually. I gave up my job a couple of years ago, and used my redundancy money to buy a period of ... um...I'm groping for a phrase here that doesn't sound as naff as 'self-discovery'...let's call it 'dithering'. I've managed to extend that time by selling our house (oh yeah, Mr Kitsch doesn't have much of an income, either) and we're living off the capital (mostly). In my best moods of self-belief, I KNOW this is the right decision, and I'm very happy about it, but at other times, well... you know.

My belief in the money-making potential of art was also threatened by a conversation we had last weekend. Mr Kitsch invited some friends over who are in a very good indie band. They were telling us about their plans, and although they know their band is good, they are also convinced that they can never make much money with it. They cited their many musical heroes, who have fantastic reputations and are well known in the indie world, but who still can't make enough money to go on tour.

The music business is changing in all sorts of ways, good and bad, but I think it's basically just about art. Does art sell? Does the ability to sell music, art, craft, kitsch vintage tat on the internet mean that lots of people go out there and flood the market? Are people like me just deluding ourselves? And if I type lots of unanswered questions in a blog does that make me sound like Carrie in Sex and the City?

OK, heavy stuff here. Take a deep breath and then let go. Feel better? No, neither do I.

Here's a picture of a nice doggy - hope it helps.

Oh by the way, this picture is available on a card in my Etsy shop Buy now!!!!

Kitsch Fun!

Too many blog thoughts, not enough time...
So I'll just quickly show you some pictures of some wonderful new kitsch additions to my collection. First, part of a lovely parcel I got from the ever-wonderful and very generous Gretchen from Shop66 -
I'd been meaning to order those cute little cat brooches ever since I saw them, and I'm glad I did - they're even smaller than I thought. So cute.
Next some groovy items from ebay
It's a poodle - IN A HAT!!! How brilliant is that?

Nothing says Christmas like a demented plastic reindeer with glitter on his antlers!