Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Death and Textiles

Had a quick trip into Bristol just before Christmas for a teeny bit of shopping, but mostly to visit Death - The human experience, an exhibition at Bristol Museum.  As ever, I was drawn to the textile and tribal pieces like this Igbo dance costume.

And this Aboriginal 'coffin' (a sort of urn for bones)
The exhibition tries to show artefacts relating to death in various different cultures, but lack of space (and presumably resources too) meant that the choices seemed a bit random. But there were plenty of interesting items, including this spectacular lion-shaped coffin.
I intended visiting over a month ago, but was thwarted by a particularly nasty and lingering cold that everyone has been enjoying like it was the latest fashion. So I was very pleased to finally get there.
The day was made even better by discovering a rather wonderful vintage textile shop on our way to the museum.
I remember this shop from many years ago, when it was one of those tantalising places that never opened, but through the window, you could see overflowing cabinets of vintage haberdashery, sparkly jewellery and general loveliness. Now somebody else owns the shop, but the cabinets are still in there, and there is a lot of loveliness. There was also a very chatty and friendly gent, busy at his sewing machine, who welcomed and entertained us as we browsed.
It was altogether a lovely experience, especially as I bought four vintage hankies and a small piece of fabric for the very reasonable price of £3.50! So if you're a textile enthusiast and find yourself anywhere near Lower Clifton Hill in Bristol, I recommend a visit.

Friday, 11 September 2015


Guess where I've been? Unless you've been under a a very large rock wearing a blindfold and noise-cancelling headphones for the last few weeks, you will recognise that this is Dismaland, Banksy's new exhibition at Weston-super-Mare.
Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross
Weston is the next town along the coast from where I live, so I was extremely excited when the news broke about this. I loved the exhibition he put on in Bristol in 2009. (Funnily enough I never blogged about it at the time. I think I wrote something and never published it, although I did put some photos on Flickr.) I love the fact that Banksy still does these big events out here in the provinces, and doesn't forget his hometown.

In fact I was all geared up to try to go the locals' free preview, but as well as being a resident of North Somerset, I discovered you had to have a special coupon from the Weston newspaper, so I had to just buy a ticket like the rest of the known world.
Although the dismal 'bemusement park' concept is Banksy's, and there are several large works by him, the majority of the work is by other artists. These other works complement Banksy's, because they fit the concept and/or share his political/satirical stance. (They include Damien Hurst, David Shrigley, Julie Burchill, Jimmy Cauty and many more.) So essentially we got treated to a major exhibition of contemporary art - in Weston!
Work by Maskull Lasserre
And thousands of people bought tickets and queued up to see all this art. This is another thing I love about Banksy - he makes work that people want to see. It's funny and provocative, and not too subtle. In this interview, he compares it to music, and I think that's really valid - not everything has to be highbrow.

But at the same time as being popular, he has a subversive stance. All the nice middle-class visitors to Dismaland get to see the 'Comrades Advice Bureau', with stalls promoting Strike Magazine, Acorn, and selling tools to hack into bus shelter advertising. I think it's brilliant that he gives these non-profit organisations a massive opportunity to promote themselves.

I didn't get photos of everything, so what I'm showing you is a little bit random. Predictably enough, some my favourite pieces involved textiles. This is cross-stitch embroidery on a car bonnet.
Take a closer look -
Extraordinary work by Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė from Lithuania, referencing traditional embroidery from her region.
I liked this, but at the same time I'm a little bit unsure. Is it a bit too gimmicky? Not sure of the relationship between a car wreck and embroidery. I think I preferred the domestic reference of her embroidery on irons - more controlled cross stitch too.
I really liked the colour and vigour of this large-scale painting by Barry Reigate.
But some of my favourite things were not artworks at all, but the dilapidated old children's rides that were dotted about the place. (Trust me to choose vintage tat over everything else)

Outside the galleries, I found the air of dilapidation and misery a bit depressing at times, which I suppose was the general idea. It didn't help that I was a bit tired, and I'm never too happy in big crowds, but there did seem to be something a bit sad about hordes of people enjoying themselves in a crumbling concrete enclosure, with crappy sideshows, where the overall message was about what's wrong in this world.

Having said that, I did enjoy it, especially when we had a ride on the scarily-old and creaking ferris wheel ('Safer than Alton Towers', as one of the 'Notional Trust' guides told us). Definitely the best day out in Weston-super-Mare I've had for a long time! (And that includes the day we went on the pier and bought sombreros). Recommended. (The next batch of tickets goes on sale on the 16th.)
Happy, happy, happy

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Who is Elsie? What is she?

I have just revived my Elsie Jones Etsy shop, with a batch of handmade felt brooches, above. (What do you think of them?) I've decided to stick with my 'nom de plume' of Elsie, which as some of you know is not my real name. I'm actually Elaine, but Elaine Jones is a pretty common name and there is a rather good artist by that name, so when I set up a website for my art, I decided to call myself Elsie. This enabled me to get the domain name of and I've stuck with it.

Around the same time, I started using Facebook, and because I was convinced I would only use it for promoting my work and networking with other artists (obviously that only lasted about 5 minutes!), I used Elsie as my Facebook name. That has become just a personal account, so now I've just set up an Elsie Jones Facebook page for my artistic endeavours. (I'd love to get more 'likes' there, so if you'd like to see my work in progress and textile art of all sorts, please visit/like/share etc.)
I still have my Kitsch and Curious shop and FB page for selling vintage stuff, but that might go on the back burner for a little while.

Instead, I'm going to concentrate on making things.  I'm really enjoying working with felt, and making small wearable items. I've tried needle felting now, which is great fun, although any craft that involves someone as clumsy as me me stabbing away with a viciously sharp needle is probably not ideal.

I'm also loving the opportunity to use vintage kitsch buttons from my stash. I have a huge stash of trinkets and knick-knacks, frippery and gimcracks and am trying to use them in various assemblages. Here's one I did a while back, which will be in my shop soon.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Felting, Melting, Feeling, Healing

So this is what I've been up to today. I'll be honest, wet-felting is not the most fun you can have on a hot summer afternoon. Rubbing bits of wool in very hot water and detergent makes you sweaty and tired, but I love the hot weather and I'd rather be melting felting than chilling quilling! I'm making these felt 'buttons' as the basis for brooches. The technique I use is a basic one for making felt beads, but I flatten each one slightly, to get a sort of 'Smartie' shape (or is it more like a Minstrel? And why are my analogies all chocolate-based?) But they do look a bit edible, once they're all laid out to dry.
 Here's one I made earlier, after I've sewn some beads on.
My plan is to start a new shop on Etsy for my 'makes', once I've got a few more designs finished. I know, I've been muttering about this for a long time, but as some of you know, I've had a few distractions lately. Ten days ago, I had an operation to have my gallbladder removed. It's a fairly routine op, normally done as day surgery, but unfortunately I had a very infected gallbladder, and had to stay in overnight. The stay in hospital seemed longer, as I'd already spent the day before in a hospital cubicle, waiting for surgery and then had to go home when they ran out of time.

I'm guessing they may have run out of time for some of the patients after me, as the surgeon told me my surgery, which should have taken 40 minutes, actually took three hours. As ever, I'm extremely grateful for all the lovely NHS people who looked after me.

I'm also grateful for Mr Kitsch, who ran round after me once I got home. He's a treasure. And now I'm nearly back to normal ('Normal!', she laughs.)

Yes, this is exactly how I looked right after the op. (It's actually work by Freddie Strickland, from the Falmouth Uni Degree Show.)

Embroidery seems especially appropriate as an illustration, as I've been thinking today about the links between surgery and needlework - they both involve cutting and stitching, invisible mending and sometimes patchwork. I just hope I don't start fraying!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Cornish Treasure

The door-knockers of Penryn
Sometimes things work out rather nicely don't they? Mr Kitsch and I had no thought of going on holiday this year, when a friend asked if anyone fancied looking after her cats while she went away. And this friend just happens to live in a cottage in Cornwall. Suddenly we had the chance of an ultra-cheap getaway, and doing our friend a favour at the same time. Win-win!

So at the very end of May we set off for two weeks in Penryn (next door to Falmouth), and we had a brilliant time! I'd forgotten just how gorgeous Cornwall can be. There were wild flowers everywhere, and the sea was blue! Now, some of you may not be amazed by a blue sea, but those of us who live near the Bristol Channel are used to the sea being permanently brown, as all the silt flows out of the River Severn. So golden sands and blue seas are a rare treat for us.
We also benefited from the - ahem! - use of a pair of National Trust membership cards that were very kindly lent to us. Now before you 'tut tut' at this, you have to realise that without the cards, we wouldn't have visited these places at all, and we did buy a cup of tea or an ice-cream at the three places we visited. Two of them were gardens - Trelissick and Glendurgan.

On our last full day, we went to St Michaels Mount, (the third NT place). The sun shone its socks off all day, so the views across the bay seemed positively Mediterranean. It didn't feel quite like that though, as there was a violent wind blowing all day too. The climb to the top was pretty challenging - stumbling up over a steep uneven rocky path with my hair blowing across my eyes, and my knees in a sorry state from all the other walking we'd done. But it was a place I've wanted to visit for a while, and I'm so glad I got there. I loved the huge variety of succulents in the gardens - so sculptural.
Windows in St Michael's Mount
This travelogue stuff is all very well, I hear you cry, but what about the important stuff? Did I buy any kitsch? Did I? Oh, you know the answer to that, don't you? Penryn and Falmouth both had marvellous car boot sales, where I got a bit carried away. Yes, that is a teacup FULL of mother of pearl buttons in the picture below! (Gloat, gloat!)
And there were really good charity shops, where I got some wonderful bargains - (a pile of vintage knitting patterns and magazines for £1? I think so!). I really had to restrain myself, and I didn't spend more than £1.50 on anything - most of it was a lot less.

The knitting pattern ladies display a variety of 'natural' poses.
 Amongst a stash of cards from the 1900s to the 1940s, I picked up a few old photos including this formidable-looking old lady. I think the caption says she's 'Aunt Eliza'.
All-in-all, I had a lovely time with sun, sea and frugal vintage shopping. It reminded me that you don't need to spend lots of money to have fun - but it really helps to have such lovely friends!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

North by North Somerset

Art = Happy
Last week was North Somerset Arts Week.  I didn't visit many places, but did go to see an exhibition by the Embroiderer's Guild. I'd bumped into a very friendly lady who was a member, and she'd told me about their workshops and the exhibition in the village hall in Cleeve. The standard of work there was amazing. Some of the stitching was teeny-tiny. I had to get my reading glasses out! (Yes, I am that old.)  Unfortunately I didn't get my camera out, so no photos, but there are obviously some very talented local members.

I am always drawn to textiles of all kinds, so was delighted to discover there was another textile exhibition in Cleeve - this one of weaving. (I really want to try some weaving, and was given a small loom for Christmas, but have yet to get to grips with it.) The extra-added-super-bonus was discovering it was attached to a small wool shop there that I didn't know about! It's called AlterKnit Universe and is utterly charming - full of lovely recycled yarn, locally produced alpaca and cute accessories. Their website is well worth a look.
Dodgy phone photo - yes, that IS my finger, top left.
They even have a yarn swap basket, where you can bring in a ball of yarn and swap it for a different one out of the basket. This might be just what I need, as I have a mountainous stash of yarn, and cannot possibly justify buying more.

My friend Rebecca was also exhibiting as part of the Arts Week, but unfortunately I didn't get as far as Loves Cafe in Weston-super-Mare to see her work. Her quirky prints combine the cute and the strange in a wonderful cartoony style.
Girl and Fawn by Rebecca Weeks
So who needs the big city for art and culture?

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Hello? Is anybody still there?

Now, where was I? I just popped away from my blog for a minute, got distracted, and now it appears three years have gone by. How does that happen?

I'm not really sure. I've posted occasional weirdness on the Kitsch and Curious Facebook page, and I have pinned like the very devil on Pinterest, but I just haven't really been in the mood to write much.
A few finds I just couldn't resist.
But now I'm here again, and I suppose I ought to keep you up to date. Well. a few things have changed since my last post. I've moved house, for one thing. Mr Kitsch and I decided to leave Bristol, and move a few miles away, to the lovely seaside town of Clevedon.  Well, I say 'seaside', but to be more accurate, the dull brown water we can just see from the window of our flat is actually the Bristol Channel. But Clevdon has a beach and a pier and seaweed and gulls and ice-cream, so I think that counts as the seaside. And it has great sunsets...
When we moved in 2013, my plan was to give up selling vintage and concentrate on handmade craft makings. Yes, well...somehow, that didn't happen, as I kept going through my endless collections and thinning them out. The local charity shops received a lot, but I've also sold some too. My Kitsch and Curious Etsy shop has waxed and waned depending on how ruthless I was feeling.

Our flat is small, and I don't have room to keep much stock, so I still intend to wind down the vintage shop eventually. I'll never be a minimalist, but as well as a lack of space, a lack of funds has made me reconsider some of my collecting habits. Paying for a storage unit, as we did for some time, makes you think long and hard about the value of keeping some bits of vintage kitsch, just for the hell of it.
No, I'm not totally reformed...
So, although my shelves are still loaded,  I've reformed my vintage-collecting ways a fair bit in the last couple of years. But when I was feeling hard done by because I couldn't go vintage shopping, I received wonderful random things from people's attics or fabric stashes. Both from friends in blogland and in real life. You know who you are and I thank you.

I'm also immensely grateful for all the other support from family and friends in the past couple of years. Our financial situation has been up and down and is still a bit precarious, but we're still afloat. In some ways, I quite like the simplicity of not being able to spend money - there are less decisions to make. And we're not starving (far from it - as evidenced by my expanding waistline!).

I've been making textile jewellery and some other craft pieces, and I plan to have a new Etsy shop for those very soon. This photo is of some of the prototypes I made last year, but I think the newer ones are better.
So now I feel ready to share my collecting and making again. But is there anybody out there to share with? I'd really appreciate a quick comment or 'Hello', if you've found this blog.