Editor’s Letter ngland has to be the most quirky of countries. When I look around, people are be-
having in a bizarre manner everywhere I go, and yet this quirk is the norm. There are objects, patterns and ornaments which are instantly recognisable as British. It is a beautiful and interesting thing that people associate so many clichés with this small island. When dealing with the interiors of England, one has poetic licence to use a bit of tack! Whether it be pattern on pattern, wallpaper clash, inappropriate furniture for our cold weather, or completely ironic tiki-hut living rooms, this magazine explores how NOT to dress your home! I have focused on the living room in particular, as it is perhaps the most important room in an English home; the room in which we watch four hours of television a day, our family room, the room we show guests into. If any room is going to show our personalities and present part of ourselves, it is the living room.
England is a homely, cosy country, because of its long winters, dainty country cottages
and hard work spent on farmland. Therefore I had to make a magazine which was relatable, honest and humorous, exploring the themes of interior space and the recycling of objects. For me, making this magazine truly relatable to the audience, it had to endure time spent on detail and had to include personal touch. I used real logos from the back of the willow plates used in the shoot, and even a scan of one of the plates I broke. I also used real pricing labels from items I had bought from charity shops. When it came to the ‘Burberry’ shoot, it was team Grandma all the way. We picked up a few meters of fake ‘Burb’ and whipped up some gentlemanly outfits. I love the background story behind the brand, which is highly prestigious in every country, yet in Britain, the nova-check is regarded as chavvy and tacky. They work so hard on their advertising, and the tarnished stereotype remains.
The editorial set in the charity shop was styled completely from clothes within the
shop itself, which I thought was an important touch, adding to the theme of recycling. I love the idea of something being previously loved, and the chance to be re-homed again.
Moving on with recycling, from my research I have learnt that England will donate
absolutely anything. A collection of dead squirrels, false teeth, sex toys and soiled underwear were some of my favourites, and of course that familiar unidentifiable item that pops up every now and again. I eventually came across my own, discovering a strange dome item with a rose floating in water, missing all but one leg. What the point of this object was, I will never know, but I do feel like England would rather donate than chuck away, either out of convenience or
the lack of ability to physically throw anything away. Emotional attachment? Or perhaps after enduring two world wars and having the rations drilled into us, we are unable to see anything go to waste. Also the current demand for genuine retro items has seen uncovered attic items get dusted off and circulate new owners once again.
During my project, I have ensured that each object I have accumulated has been
recycled in some way (especially the taxidermy!) finding itself previously owned, creatively re-used and soon to be donated again, however hideously beauteous it may be!
One of my favourite editorials to create from start to finish was ‘Summoning Brew’,
the story of the tornado made up of a whirlwind of hair, who destroys tiny villages and leaves trails of destruction in her wake. I wanted this article to be completely organic, humble and pure, bare foot on the earth! I did not want a big production team, just myself and the model (who is actually my little sister) out in the fresh air. All the hair pieces I made myself using real hair and carefully selected doll’s house pieces hidden in them. I was inspired by the idea of women keeping secrets in their hair. I wanted the model to become the tornado, and connect to her surroundings. There are theories about hair dating far back, speculating on the ideas of hair being used for evil. “Witch” bottles (used for casting spells) have been discovered with human samples of hair and nails in them. No wonder people were terrified of letting any of their hair escape outside, for fear of who might find it, and therefore be able to cast spells over them. I adore the magic that surrounds the meaning and politics of hair is a debate that continues on even today.
As I was researching, I discovered a beautiful little book on ancient English supersti-
tions in my local library. Within the book, I discovered an old diary entry describing a young girl’s experience of covering up all the shiny objects in her home with white lace in preparation for a storm. I felt inspired by this, and therefore added to the story using my imagination, which would then be my text for the article. It was believed that anything reflective would encourage lightening into the home, and anything left uncovered was an invitation to have the house visited by the storm. It was also custom to cover all photographs, paintings and ornaments when someone in the family had died. This was my reasoning for using lots of shiny doll’s house objects, such as jugs, spoons, mirrors, windows, pales and candlesticks, and keeping them uncovered. I wanted to imply that the storm has been summoned- that she had been attracted to this particular place for a reason unbeknown to us. I particularly wanted to focus
a lot on mirrors- perhaps the most reflective of objects. I discovered a beautiful quotation from the book on superstitions “breaking a looking glass betokens a mortality in the family” which is a romanticised way of describing the omen of death. I wanted my editorial to anticipate the death from the storm. Superstition and old folk tales have us believe that if a portrait in the house falls down, this is an omen for the person in the portrait, who will shortly meet their end. I wanted to show this in my work using detail, which is why I photographed and placed a portrait of one of the dolls hidden in the model’s hair. This also helps the audience to connect more with the story, as they can look into the face of the victim and therefore feel more poignant towards the destruction of their home.
Looking at the aftermath after a storm is always the most poignant realisation. It is
perhaps the most important part of the storm, when the victims have to re-adapt and rebuild their lives. Therefore it was very important for me to show the storm in motion but also the aftermath. Again, helping the audience to connect to the story and showing them emotive visuals, I used a china doll’s limbs laid down in the destruction. I wanted to personalise the shoot, and used objects relatable with children, such as rocking chairs, stuffed toys and even a baby dressed in white lace. I got this inspiration from the lullaby ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’, whose lyrics imply that the wind causes “the fall” of the baby asleep in its crib. Using visuals inspired by this, I have linked it in to the quite frankly disturbing children’s lullaby, whose origin has caused various speculation. As if the storm wasn’t cruel enough, I had my model capture some of her victims in glass jars, keeping them hostage and toying with them. I filled the jars with earth and reflective objects from around the home.
My final touch was to have the font as small as possible, so that the reader has to really
engage with the story by holding it up to their face. The idea behind this is to have the text “doll size”.
Over all, detail, personal touch and time spent have been the only rules I have kept
to throughout, in order to create something original and personal to me, to which others can relate instantly, using the overall themes of interiors, objects, recycling and of course, England.
Loo Loo Rose
Bleu et Blanc
Summoning Brew In a thunderstorm, shiny or reflective objects or surfaces could attract lightning, and so must be covered or put away. At the first sign of a thunderstorm, Momma had taught us to cover up the looking-glass and the water jug with lace and cloths, otherwise it was a direct invitation to have the house struck by lightning.
I remember Momma taking off her wedding ring in a panic. She looked down at it and hesitated; it was the first time she had stopped all morning. She hastily threw her only piece of silver, Grannyâ€™s locket, into her jewellery box and slammed it shut. She threw a lace doily over it just to be sure and handed it to me, pushing it hard into my chest. I saw her hands were shaking. Being the eldest, I knew what to do. As I slid it under the bed, I heard all the other hidden metal objects collected from around our home. All of our worldly possessions would live in the dark tonight, right underneath our trembling bodies.
We laid together, all of us huddled in Mommaâ€™s bed. Baby David, my three sisters, Momma and me, waiting for her to blow over. Momma made us say our prayers twice that night.
Momma blew out the one candle left lighting up the room. Darkness. “She’s coming...” whispered Momma, so faint I almost thought I had imagined it. And as sure as that, we heard her first movements. We didn’t need candle light after that, as the sky opened up and flashed! In just a second of incredible light, I saw all of Momma’s bedroom furniture, all covered in a ghostly white lace, like a graveyard of woodwork. Momma has already started the hand-me-downs of old lace for my bottom drawer for when I marry. I started trying to imagine what it would be like to be a grown woman. As the light flashed again and disturbed my thoughts, I caught sight of the corner where the dressing table stands, with its huge mirror that has always reflected us so faithfully. But not tonight. One more flash, and I could see why the lace was so familiar looking; Momma’s wedding dress.
She makes your hair stand on end, and hair can be used for good or evil.
Hours passed. Still, she hadnâ€™t settled. She had stopped her spectacle outside, flashes and bangs, and replaced it with harsh drones and pain-filled howls, so full of sorrow, so wretched, it almost beckoned you outside.
The storm had been brewing for some time. She rattled at the window endlessly, tormenting every window pane in the village. I pulled the covers over myself, when suddenly the walls shook abruptly, but it was a crash inside the room that awoke everyone around me. Davidâ€™s portrait, in his crisp christening gown made from some of Mommaâ€™s wedding lace, had slid down the wall and smashed onto the wooden floor. I watched Momma, fixated on her sleeping baby. He would be the only one who got any peace that night.
A love affair with Elizabeth
“How much is that doggy in the window?”
lizabeth Mary Jones welcomes me into her busy shop, ‘Just Looking II’. On the way into the back room I am introduced to her husband, Frank and some elderly volunteers. Elizabeth, or Liz, as she insists I call her, ushers me into a cluttered room filled to the brim with boxes of things an random treasures. I immediately want to dig through it all. Liz is a friendly woman, who calls everyone ‘Darling’ (a woman after my own heart). She is also very short and has a huge smile painted with red lipstick. She also has the wonderful ability to make you feel like she has all the time in the world to talk. Today I am interested in one thing only; her charity shop. Which charities do you support? Well we like to keep it like a community shop in that we like to support local charities but there are one or two that are particularly close to my heart. All in all we support seven charities. How is the charity fund split between the charities? What I’ve done is I’ve set up direct debits and every month they get the same amount each and it runs into hundreds overall, it runs into about £500 a month. How did you go about starting up the shop? I didn’t start it, it used to belong to somebody else and she unfortunately became very ill. I used to pop in here I got to know some of the ladies. When the owner became very ill and had to give up the job, a couple of the ladies that I had befriended knew I was in-between jobs said ‘ooh would you just do it for a short while until we find someone else?’ And 5 years later I’m still here! How do you compete with other charity shops in the area? I don’t try to, to be perfectly honest. If anything I’ve got a very good rapport with them. There’s two on this side of Petts Wood and we are actually great friends! We are forever running in and saying “have you got...” if someone has a request for something you know. Frank, Liz’s husband hurries into the back room we are sat, “Tap shoes... How much, Liz?” he asks,
flustered. “There was a price on them, they are very expensive to buy from shops... ten pounds,” Liz replies. She looks at me, “I often have to think on my toes!” Perhaps she needs some tap shoes of her own. Have you noticed a rise in interest in charity shops? If so, how has it changed? Well there must be! There must be a rise in charity shopping or we wouldn’t have so many open up in Petts Wood and in general I think.
nodding at me. “Erm... I saw a similar thing at gay pride!” I say, perhaps too honestly. She then picks up a leather crop top from ‘Morgan’ and asks again. “Is this fashionable?” “Young girls would certainly wear that!” I replied. She seems pleased. Describe your typical customer. I would say the age range is from about 35-70 and
Have you noticed over the years that you have more young people coming in than before? Yes! Oh yes. All the time. Do you think that has something to do with the rising fashion trend of retro? That is one factor, I do have people come in who adore vintage and retro, but also we have quite a lot of young fashion that comes in. At this point her son walks in. Liz greets him happily. “Hi Darling!” He smiles and looks at me with my pen and note pad. Liz refers back to my question about a rise in charity shop interest. Does he agree? “Yes with the recession of course, less incline to go to fashion designers because of the price. The retro and vintage line helps a lot being a huge trend at the moment. Mainstream shops are trying to follow. Especially with that thrift shop song coming out!” Liz gets distracted and turns to pick up a very small pair of cammo shorts. She waves them at her son. “Are these not fashionable?” she asks, head on one side. “Ask her she’s the judge,” he replies,
I would say 50/50 of that range. But then you’ve also got the other 30% where it’s young people like yourself. But in general, it’s women it’s female. I don’t think men are that drawn to charity shops to be perfectly honest. And I think they rely on their wives to get things for them, clothes and shoes and so on, they’re not great shoppers men are they, in general? There is a stereotype that only old ladies shop in charity shops. What are your thoughts on this? No that is not true at all. It may have been in the past but it’s certainly not now, absolutely not. Where does your stock come from? Donations. All of it is donated it’s not sourced from anywhere else. Are you fussy about what you take in? Yes.
Is there anything you won’t or can’t accept to sell on? Electrical items... large electrical items but if we’re talking about hair straightners or a lamp that’s fine but not large. I prefer not to in case a customer blows himself up. I won’t be responsible. We also don’t take baby car seats, even if virtually brand new. anything that can’t be tested regarding baby things like swimming arm bands and paddling pools I just don’t do anything like that. I don’t take any helmets at all. We don’t take videos because nobody uses them anymore. Large items of furniture, I don’t have the room darling. What is the strangest item you’ve ever had? Oh gosh can I think about that one? What I class as strange is not necessarily what other people would class as strange. I can remember a very funny incident when someone had this massive big dog and they tied it to my clothing rail outside and this dog decided to run after another dog and was pulling this rail behind it! All my clothes were all over the street in fact the dog ended up wearing half of them! So little things like that can be quite funny. We do get very quirky customers come in, very quirky. But you tend to just let them get on. “Frank what was the strangest item we’ve had would you say?” Liz calls out to her husband, to which we get a muffled reply as he is buried in a pile of clothes. “Flippers? Or a wet suit?” We’ve had a couple of objects come in and we honestly haven’t been able to fathom out what they are. So we’ve gone and stuck an inflated price on them and hope that somebody would come in and say, “good God you can’t charge £3.99 for this, this is all it does!” and that actually tells us
what it is! What was the ugliest? She giggles. Well, what’s ugly to me, you know it could be quite quirky and beautiful to someone else! The ugliest item? Oh gosh I don’t really get very many ugly things. Well I had something well I’ll show it to you, I think it’s gross! She leads me to another small room and picks up a large potato sack. What’s lurking in here? Things like this! Oh, just horrid! She pulls out a large, gangly stuffed toy giraffe with wonky eyes. I mean look at its face she laughs. Erg so basically we don’t really get very many ugly things come in, but it depends on your taste really. I mean someone can donate a picture to me and I think it’s absolutely horrid and other people think it’s beautiful you know. I mean I hate, I hate with a passion tapestry pictures, needlework type pictures but people seem to love them! For some reason.. but anyway. Do any items go to waste? Oh that’s a very good question! Having said that, no because we do have a recycling company that comes and any material donations as in clothes, any shoes, handbags, they all get sent to this recycling company and then they take care of it. Bric-a-brac that’s probably the only time that there might be waste because we tend to throw away bric-a-brac which is broken, like a broken vase or a broken cup. Now what one does about that, there’s not an awful lot you can do! Again, the recycling company take it away so I don’t know what happens to things like that but I would classify it as waste. Books get recycled all the time! We have someone that comes and collects them and they get sent out to various countries that need books so that’s another way of recycling things. Repeat the question again darling? I do, and she ponders it. The answer to that darling is no, unless they’re damaged. What happens when you can’t sell something? Then we give it to the recycling company and that applies to the clothes as well. We get lots of old books, without the dust jackets which means they’re not worth an awful lot. What happens with things left outside the shop
through fly tipping? Well it does happen occasionally, I personally keep a notice up saying please don’t do it. One of two things; we have to drag it into the shop and a lot of it can be very rubbishy and they were too embarrassed to bring it in, but not necessarily some of it can be very nice. But an awful lot of it gets taken away, and it happens a lot throughout Petts Wood, by a band of people that just go and steal it from outside the shop! I don’t know who they are but I’ve been told “you had four black sacks out there last night Lizzie” and I think well they weren’t there this morning! So obviously people are helping themselves. How do you feel about people who steal from charity? That upsets me terribly, it really does. Yes, I mean to be honest I find it unbelievable that someone would do that. Do you ever get items that make you question where they came from originally, and why they came to be in the first place, such as really hideous things? No because if it’s a really hideous vase from the 30’s I could really sell something like that! I mean people love quirky things, yeah, I mean a hideous vase from a year ago... again we’ll put it out but not for an awful lot of money. In comes her son Richard again. “Where is this so called box of shoes then?” he asks Liz. “Do you know what I really am upset about? Do you remember you had a really really nice pair of running shoes?” “No.” is his blunt reply. “You did! We spent hours trying to find a shop in Swansea were we could buy them..” says Liz. “The ones from a thrift shop in America?” “No, no! But, I’m bringing those home,” She points at a pile of old trainers piled up on the corner of the desk we are sat at. “Those aren’t mine!” he protests. “They are darling!” Liz says. “I think they’re for women!” says
Richard. “They’re not! The top pair might be but those others aren’t.” Liz insists. “They’re a child size/women’s size mum,” says Richard. “Funny though that they’re exactly your size and have got Richard Jones written on the inside,” continues Liz. “I’ve never seem them in my life!” Richard laughs. Liz stops to question me about my own family. Have you noticed any attachment with people donating their items? I think people enjoy donating. It gives them a feeling that they’re helping charity. The only time that people actually talk about the items they’re donating is to say look this is actually worth something, like a picture or like a vase, I don’t know a lady’s hat or something. They will say to me oh by the way this might be worth something so put it out for a good price. In wanders Richard at this point. “I just wanted to say you’re probably not supposed to be selling that in the shop...” He is carrying a box with a picture of an almost naked woman on the front wearing a silky red scarf tied up in a bow around her breasts. I hear Frank in the background, “it’s a scarf!” “It’s not a bloody scarf, that’s insane why would they put it in that box?” said Richard. Liz replies, “It’s a boob tube I think that’s what they call it, but it is a bit of a naughty picture. Perhaps I should keep it for myself!” she laughs. “Oh Richard darling can you have a look through these?” She hands him a pile of mobile phone boxes,
“stolen goods!” she jokes.
Do you get a connection to objects yourself? No. I Just want to get rid of it. I mean it’s very easy to like a lot of things that come in but to be perfectly honest I’ll end up on one of these programmes about hoarders! I wouldn’t be able to get into the house if I took home everything that I thought was nice and I liked, so I just don’t do it darling, I chuck it all out! You know when you get so much coming in and going out on a daily basis, it would be hard to build an attachment to each item. It would be unhealthy. You have to just see
them as things. If you liked an item in the shop, would you ever take it home? Oh occasionally I do, clothes for the kids not so much as they both won’t wear clothes that come from here. Clothes for me very rarely because they don’t come in my size. My husband doesn’t like the clothes from charity shops so it’s just the odd thing like my son is a perfect example. He was in desperate need of a pair of running shoes and a pair came into the shop so I took them home, threw them into the washing machine and off he ran! But very rarely to be honest. Your shop is very loud and filled; is your home the same or the complete opposite? No mine’s the opposite. Loud in volume having
both my son and daughter living with me oh volume rise yeah! But in regards to being cluttered absolutely not, no. I can’t do it because it’s so cluttered in this shop I need to go to some refuge where there’s hardly anything in the house. I can’t go from one cluttered environment to another. How much of your stock belonged to someone who has passed away? A lot of it is. I would say honestly 50%. Does this change how you handle, sell or feel about the objects? For me, no but I don’t know how the customers would feel about it. Nobody’s ever mentioned the fact that they’re dead men’s shoes, put it that way. But it’s got to be pretty obvious they are because they’re virtually brand new, and six pairs have come in etc etc. But to be perfectly honest, I think when it comes to getting a bargain people don’t really care where it’s come from. It’s just the nature of people. It’s not just a case of them getting a bargain but quite honestly, if they can’t afford to buy things themselves at the original price because they’re not earning enough, then why not buy a couple of men’s’ suits, for a fiver each? And does it really matter where it’s come from? They need it. How do you feel about items that have been handmade, such as embroidery, where time and love has been spent and you have to slap a price on it? If the truth be told... if they felt that it wasn’t worth keeping after all the effort they’d put into making it, then should I really lose sleep over the fact that I’ve sold it for 50p? Describe a typical box of donations- what’s in it? Most of our donations are clothes, men women’s’
brand names like ‘New Look’, ‘Primark’, loads of ‘M&S’, and those 3 are the ones you tend to get an awful lot of but then of course you could open up a bag and it could be full of expensive designer clothes. I mean here is an example, Morgan now I don’t know how much that retails in the shop, quite pricey, but I’ll put that out for £1.99 which I think is pretty good. French connection is another one we get an awful lot of. So it’s more clothes brands that pop up rather than objects.
and the pressure from adverts etc to buy things? Advertising... [she ponders] Funnily enough if you stop to look at the adverts over say, a period of 4 hours in the evening, I would say a very small percentage of that is advertising clothes. It’s all cars and beers and various other sort of gadgets, you don’t see ‘Karen Millen’ advertising you don’t see ‘Laura Ashleigh’. The one time you might see a lot of fashion ads is for sales. But apart from that!
Do you ever have any accidents in the shop and do you expect the customer to pay for the damage? Oh breakages do happen but to be perfectly honest, it’ really not worth charging them for it because it’s fair to say that the shop is quite cluttered and if someone did accidently move their handbag and a vase toppled over, who is to blame? Me for not having enough space to display it safely or them for being a bull in a china shop? So no I never charge.
Charity shops are a mostly British thing. Do you get mostly British items donated? Yes. I would say 70% is British such as tea sets.
Do you think we living in a materialistic world? Very much so we do, very much so. A lot of that’s to do with peer pressure of course, when we’re young.
Do you ever get any taxidermy? Never! Absolutely never, Darling! I just don’t think people would donate something like that. Not even mounted fish, no. No. No, the closest we get to anything furry are coats or scarves they have real fur. I don’t like to sell them.
What happens when you have a really expensive item or possibly an antique? I don’t do eBay, a lot of charities do I just haven’t got the time. I’m here 24/7 and then I’ve got the family of course to look after. What I might do occasionally is look up the item on eBay and get a rough idea of what it’s going for and price it accordingly.. and hopefully sell it. How do you decide on pricing the objects? Guess work. To be perfectly honest it really is guess work. I mean sometimes I over price things, and sometimes I under price things. I had a lady come in yesterday who was pleased as punch, it was some sort of ceramic baking plate that was new and I had it up for £1.50 and she took great delight in buying it and then telling me that they retail for about £40 in the shops! But I didn’t know for me it was just a baking tray. Did you feel guilty? I felt a bit miffed. I thought ‘NO I’ve got it wrong again!’ But it must be hard to keep track of every item? Oh you can’t do it darling you just have to close your eyes and jump in. I mean I sold a dress that was worth £300 for £4.99 and again they love telling you just to make you feel even more depressed, so it can happen darling, it can happen. But I’ve learned quite a bit now and I know roughly, certainly about clothes and what they retail for in the shops. What do you think of overconsumption of buying
From working here have you noticed how people behave and react around certain objects; do you think objects are important to people and why? I think there is an element of excitement because it’s cheap. It’s difficult really, some objects are if they’re collecting them and it makes up part of their collection, they can get very excited about that. People just get excited as I say about getting things much cheaper. Sometimes they really get carried away with the price and buy for the sake of buying, when they don’t really need it.
Finally, can you tell me any stories or anecdotes about the shop, regarding objects or customers? Gosh, you know it happens so.. we have a lady! She comes in regularly, in fact every day and she insists on looking through every single handbag, all the pockets, all the zips, she does that religiously so we just let her get on with it. We’ve got a young man that comes in and goes through all the ladies underwear... but he doesn’t buy anything just looks at it (and that’s not my son!) We have customers that come in that obviously have an obsession for things, I mean again we have a young man that comes in, he’s just obsessed with buying gadgets! Calculators, phone chargers, and erm.. oh gosh little radios and it’s obvious he’s not going to use them ‘cos some of these radios are for deep diving and he just hunts for little gadgets all the time. I’m looking around the shop actually. We have obviously dealers that come in and just look at all the pictures, all the bric-a-brac that
What’s it like day to day here? I do get very frustrated with customers sometimes, they forget they’re in a charity shop and not Harrods. The other thing that I find is that they tend to have their own opinion of the type of people that work in charity shops that we’re all impoverish uneducated and that isn’t the taste at all they don’t know me at all or what my background is, and yet they treat me as if I’m extremely working class! And they come in with a Harrods attitude and there have been occasions when I’ve said I’m sorry you’re not in Harrods! Well they get a little bit up themselves but I laugh. Quite a bit of rudeness I get. Have you ever asked anyone to leave? Just one chap, who had been coming quite a long time and it was obvious he was stealing so I just said look I’m sorry I’d rather you didn’t come into the shop anymore. He said “oh why’s that?!” I feel that things are going missing every time you come in. He didn’t argue the point at all, which for me is the admission of guilt. If he hadn’t been taking things he would have got really cross but it turned out that he had been banned from a lot of other charity shops in Petts Wood which I didn’t know about! I do remember one time, I was hugely embarrassed when I took on a new volunteer, a woman about my age, she’d only been in the shop for about half an hour. She insisted on wearing latex gloves as she was worried about pulling things
out of bags which weren’t very clean and I have o say we have been so lucky in that 99% of things that have come into the shop have been washed and even ironed. I said this to her, I said that’s not necessary nobody gives us things that are not clean, most of it’s been pressed. The first bag she opened u she pulled out this dirty filthy old man’s jock strap! I said no! No! This doesn’t normally happen! So that was a funny incident but do you know it only happened that once, maybe we are haunted! It’s never happened since so I took it home, washed it and my husband’s wearing it now! See, nothing goes to waste! (she throws her head back and laughs).
All Vanity is Over
Deep in the dirty South East You won't want to spend the night around here
Daphne The Best Woman I Know D aphne Wood is sitting opposite me at the kitchen table in her very English Tudor home. We are currently looking through some dusty old frames that have lived in the loft for years until now. Looking through things from the loft is always an education here, as an old news paper cutting about the Nazis drops out from one of the frames. “War is such a dreadful thing.” she says to me. “On the other hand, war put this nation through a lot, it showed us what we were made of, men and women. My siblings and I are extremely close, we always have been, we got evacuated together. That makes you realise what you have.” The woman sitting across from me is my beloved Grandmother, and the solider in the frame is my Great, Great Grandfather. Granddad is forever watching documentaries about the war, “I know it inside out” he tells me. Worried that he has become a stereotypical old person, I jokingly tell him to “get over the war”. Actually, I often feel sad thinking that soon this entire generation of soldiers and people that lived through the war will be gone, and we won’t be able to ask them anything first-hand. They will be a real part of history and we can only hear about them in books and through second-hand information. As I think about how lucky I am to have such grandparents in my life, I tell my Grandma “I feel sorry for you, because you don’t have a grandma like I do, everyone should have a you! You need a twin.” One day, I had asked her to help me make some props for a shoot, and she loyally obliged. It occurred to me, she had never seen any of my work at that point, yet she was willing to give up her time and effort to help me. When I asked her about this she said “well you need to be encouraged, I wouldn’t like to dishearten you”. This is one of those days, where I escape the real world and reside in the comfort of Grandma’s kitchen. We are currently working on framing some images for a set.
“Tea is good for a hangover, Dear”
Nowadays, Grandma is the first person I turn to when I have an outrageous idea for a shoot and
need it turning to a reality. I trust her completely to share my very private ideas with, away from judgement and bad intention. Grandma is my favourite person on my team! Granddad is at the sink, washing up some willow pattern saucers. Grandma turns to him and says “You’re part of our team, sometimes.. when woodwork is involved.” My Grandfather has a talent for woodwork indeed, and also can make just about anything. Grandma tells me, “you would play for hours with the doll house Granddad made, you’d come into the house and go straight upstairs to it. After a while it got absolutely trashed, and you said ‘well I’ve done the best I can with the place!’” She then goes on to tell me how I used to chop all of my Barbies’ hair off and give them facial piercings with my compass. When I got older Grandma took my Barbie dolls to the charity shop and they said “what’s happened to their hair?! We can’t sell these!” I think it is amazing that one person has lived through so much and watched so much change over time. The progression of the telephone, the invention of the internet, decades of new fashion. I always ask my Grandma about the styling of certain periods and she would say “well we used to wear...” because she was actually there. She would go into anecdotes about my Aunts when they were young, one of which adored dressing up for parties. Amazingly some of these outfits have been kept. I look at my own generation, and wonder what I have witnessed; somehow countless upgrades of the Iphone don’t seem to compare. I can’t help but feel bitter that I was born too late. The world seems so complicated and technical now. We’re taught how to use a computer but not how to catch our own food or make our own clothes. It seems bizarre, perhaps why I am so inquisitive about my Grandma’s life. People of my Grandma’s generation have this amazing ability to create; if they want something they just make it and get it done. This is the woman who has taught me how to sew and knit, how to play cards, make cushions, bake cakes and is currently teaching me dressmaking. Not only does she have the skills but also the patience. “Oh I can do anything Dear, I built this house!” My grandparents built their own extension on their home, which my Grandmother designed. “We bought this orange floral wallpaper, rolls of it! We put it all up the stairs and on the landing walls. Once it was up I thought... Oh God, I don’t like it!” She throws her head back and laughs. To this day a small amount of that wallpaper remains on the wall. “I hope tacky never goes out of fashion!”
“They’re no trouble! They don’t get fleas! I don’t even like cats!”
e get further into the subject of the house. Grandma has so many robin ornaments! I saw a real stuffed robin in a taxidermist’s, I was going to put it in the collection and see if she noticed. I doubt that she would! There are also many plates displayed on the walls in this house, and when I asked my Grandfather why he said “It’s nothing to do with me, I don’t know where this stuff comes from!” Grandma explained “If I see something in a catalogue and I like it, I’ll order it! I’ve started up a few collections, plates, Toby jugs. For no real reason.” Grandma didn’t even realise how many fake cats she had laying around the house; a collection which was completely accidental. In fact she only realised how many she had when we put them all in one room. Her justification? “They’re no trouble! They don’t get fleas! I don’t even like cats!” “I have a thing for fabrics. If I see one I like, I have to get it. I think of something handy I can make out of it, but I never get round to doing it so they just sit in boxes piling up. I wear a lot of floral blouses because I like them, some are quite similar. My grandson said, ‘not to be rude but do you only have one shirt?’ The cheeky toe rag!” At this point my Grandfather came over and stood, hands in pocket, looking round the room. “This house is full of crap all lining up for its photo shoot!” he declared, as he looked up at the gnomes on the kitchen cabinet. I don’t like to imagine the house without all its kooky objects on display. Grandma commented “when I take everything down to clean the shelves, it looks very bare, I don’t like it. I suggested some of my theory ideas about the renewal of furniture through cleaning it. “People spend a lot of time dusting and polishing furniture, but it’s still the same piece, it doesn’t change! What a load of old rubbish! After a while you think, ‘oh, I can’t be bothered!’ As for talking ornaments, who needs them? Women tell each other things. I had this friend, she didn’t like how her lady parts looked, down below. I didn’t know what to say! So I said, ‘Stick a flower in it!’” As they sat drinking their afternoon tea in the conservatory, I overhear my grandparents discussing the shoot which is later going to take place. My grandmother is giggling “she wants me to paint my nails red!” They then discuss which garden chair and table set would be best to use. Without wishing my life away, I watch my Grandparents around their home, and that is the life I cannot wait to have. I look at them and I cannot wait to grow old. You can do what you want, freely, but also have a sense of security, relaxation and routine. “I sometimes think, when I get really old, I shall swear! And eat chocolate and cake, all with the same mouth!” laughs Grandma.
â€œOh I can do anything Dear, I built this house!â€?
rom the way they spend their evening in from of the box, to the way they drink tea, to how they sunbathe in the garden, to how they have decorated their house, there is something just so terribly British about my grandpaents!
“This house is full of crap all lining up for its photo shoot!” - My Grandfather
Dress-maker for The Queen At home with Jo Barbar
Everything is a beautiful shade of happy yellow. I am sat on a homely sofa, covered with cushions and crochet blankets of all colours. Whilst Jo’s soothing voice tells me countless stories, I can hear the steady metronomic tick of the huge grandfather clock that lives behind me. It ticks along steadily and faithfully, as if it were a part of her. It is really a rather romantic sound, one you would expect to hear in a film. “This thing belonged to John’s Aunty Nelly, who never married, oh I loved the bones of her!” Jo nods towards the alpha grandfather clock, taking such status in the room. “When she died she left us this thing and when we got it home we put it in that corner, I said ‘no,’ John then moved it to that corner, then he put it here, and he was moving it all on his own until finally he said “That’s it! It’s staying there, I’m not moving it anymore!” And it has been there ever since, I’m pretty sure my girls won’t want it, but it’s been a damn good clock. You have to wind it u every two days.” “Quality is in everything if you can see it. My home is like a museum of things, always good quality! I never buy rubbish, even the girls take after me, my daughters. If it’s not good quality it simply won’t last. I’ve dealt with fabrics all my life and my mother had the good sense to put me into ‘Norman Hartnell’ where the fabrics I was touching were the best in the world, coming in to be made up for selective clients. They had mannequins show off the garments and the clients all sitting in the horseshoe on fabulous armchairs, deciding what which garments they wanted, and they wanted them made up in the very best fabric possible, of course! There’s something to be said about something being beautifully made by someone, and being made with love. I’m still making things, I made this blanket we’re sat on! I suddenly looked in a bedroom wardrobe and there was just all this wool I had bought over the years, as I used to make all the girls’ clothes and knit them things. See the tapestries? I made the velvet framing, my mother made the design. She was always doing tapestry. I’m very particular, if you’re going to do a job do it one hundred percent, don’t pussy foot around it, get on with it. I think this is why my daughters have done so well. I used to make them make things, not buy toys. I’ve got a doll house in one of the wardrobes, they wanted to make toy furniture. So I went to ‘Russell and Bromley’ and bought six empty shoe boxes home and they built the house with little dolls and furniture, amazing. I was also making things at a very, very young age, so much so that my father had a bedroom built because he was fed up seeing me with scissors needles and threads. It did the trick! I had my sewing machine up there, I actually quite liked it on my own. My first job was at thirteen years old, in Liverpool where I was born. I was working on one of the machines, which I knew how to use as my father had bought me one to use in my little sewing bedroom. But the industrial sewing machines were so fast you’d lose ten fingers believe me! So I told them I didn’t want to be a machinist to they put me in the sewing room, and this is what started it, with all the handy work, so I was very happy. That paved the path indeed. I think woman’s job is never done. Women “My museum never stop working.
of a home: I’ve collected so much over the years. I look around and i think it’s madness, total madness!”
I taught in three leading art and fashion colleges. I left school at thirteen. I never found it difficult, I’ve always been very pleased to be doing what I was doing, especially with the teaching and I taught for many years. It started because my husband was an expert on the army’s rifle for the government, John. Oh you’d have loved John! And we had to move up to Newcastle and I thought “God, I’ve got to do something!” The girls were at school, “I must do something!” So I thought, something in fashion, you know, being ten years at Norman Hartnell since I was fourteen being surrounded by fashion, sewing - that was my mother’s doing! When I was fourteen she took me to Bruton Street where ‘Norman Hartnell’ was based, oh I’m so in love with London. We had to go in the back way, and I was working there within a week! I was absolutely in awe of all the beautiful fabrics that had been sent, because Hartnell did loads of fashions, designs, drawings, for what he wanted and it was a big concern, he had a ferier, two, three tailors, about four work rooms so I thought it was a bit of heaven! It goes back a long way. At first I was an apprentice, for Anne Olivant, then I became an assistant. And then I took up my own work and had four assistants working with me so I got a hold of the right job! I’m still friends with Anne Olivant after all these years, she’s well into her nineties now, she was a lovely looking girl. She put me on the right road to using my hands and I will never forget her, ever. I was upstairs with Mademoiselle when I was an apprentice, and I was asked to go to ‘Fortnum and Mason’, well I didn’t know where it was. They gave me directions to go, and Mademoiselle, I learnt so much from her, she was French. She would never use the patterns given to her she would always just cut fabrics free hand, she gave everyone such a fright! When you’re working you’re given a design and you have to build this pattern up out of calico fabric so the pattern can be used to make a fresh garment. So that’s what I was doing, I made a dress for the Queen. It was sort of taffeta, pure silk. My first few weeks in, I was asked to take this beautiful dress, a corded china blue long dress with beaded scallops on the front, and I’ve still got the scar here on my finger, which I cut when I was machining something. I was asked to take the dress down to the packing room as it was going off to the Palace. So I take it down, put the sheet over it and I caught my finger on the hook, the blood went right the way down onto the scallops. She was the Princess Elizabeth, she wasn’t Queen, and I just thought “I’m gonna die!” I started to cry, and what they made me do is to chew yards, in those days they had the big reels of white cotton, chew yards of it so that my saliva would rub and remove all the blood stains. Two doors down they had the special cleaner that Hartnell always used, and the garment came back and you wouldn’t have known anything had happened, and then it went off to the palace. But they never asked me to take anything down again! I died, I was so upset, I thought I would be sacked and I knew what my mother would say! She was a tough woman. She was a terrific lady, actually, but not to cross. She used to have an Eaton crop when she was young, and wear a top to flatten her bosoms, as that was the fashion then!
“Ten years at Norman Hartnell taught me about quality”
I’m a clear voyeur, but I can judge a person especially as I worked with hundreds of students the brand new Polytech in Newcastle first, then ‘St Martin’s School of Art’ was my latest. I liked all of the colleges, the students were damn good, eager to learn, I didn’t find teaching difficult at all. I was supposed to see this lady for an interview, I forget her name now, she said “I know about you, come in.” She had obviously heard about my career in ‘Norman Hartnell’. She asked if I would become part of the college. I started work the following week. But I was thrilled to bits I thought “gosh, I’ve arrived!” I can remember we were all in the staff room during the end of my first week. I said, “Mary, why are the machinists making up their garments?” “Well this is what they’re there for,” she replied. “How on earth is a student supposed to learn if they’re having their work done for them? They���ve got to know!” There was a deadly hush, everyone was sat there drinking their tea. She said, “Alright we’ll see to it,” and she did. So that was the start of my teaching career! My husband got moved back to London, and that is why I ended up teaching for ten years at the ‘London College of Fashion’. In a fashion college the students are starting working life and you’re putting them on the first step of their lives. I think I had it so encouraged as a very young girl that if you’re going to do something do it thoroughly. I had so many students and I had to mould them, literally. One student said “when can I work like you Mrs Barber?” I said “when you’ve done it for forty one years!” and it’s absolutely true.
“ There’s something to be said about something being beautifully made by someone, and being made with love”
I think I’m lucky. I chose this house as my husband had to move to be near his work in London at the time. My museum of a home; I’ve collected so much over the years. I look around and I think it’s madness, total madness! Well I think the first thing is the charity shops that were open- I couldn’t resist the bargains... sadly! I suppose I must present part of myself through my home, I look around here and I think ‘how in God’s name am I going to clear it out?!’ But John and I, we worked and saved and this is how we did it, we didn’t do it all at once we did it gradually. We turned it into a home. People have got time to hunt. I’ve found some absolute gems in charity shops and I’m quite honest about it. What first drew me in was how it’s cheaper! It took a while, to collect a home, to put it together. No, I wouldn’t be without the objects. John made me this table, he made those drawers and the chest in the corner. My mother was a great teacher; we were all ‘do it yourself’ kids, that’s for sure! I certainly don’t envy an only child, having siblings is a real gift. My brother was a monster. My friend gave me the most beautiful little doll made of china, and I cherished the thing! In those days we didn’t have carpets we had liner on the floor. I was in bed holding the doll, and he had hidden behind the wardrobe with a torch. I screamed and dropped the doll and I was so upset I could have killed him! John, he was a wow with the women, but he was very good to me, and the girls, he thought there was nobody like his daughters. We met when I was fourteen at a youth club. I was stood outside the hall and I heard this voice and I thought “who.. is.. this?!” and I fell in love with his voice, he had a wonderful voice. My mother said no courting at fourteen, but we got to know each other and we went on a hike. He started to sing ‘Jimmy crack corn’ and got everyone singing along! I once made him go up at a concert and sing it, I said “if you love me, go up and sing!” and he did. I miss him, even today, even after all this time. He was the one and only I’ll give him his due. I see him in my Joanne, she is his double. Tall, she has his eyes. John retired, I retired, and he looked at me and asked, “What in God’s name are we going to do now!?”
“It took a while to collect a home, to put it together. I wouldn’t be without the objects”
I knew ‘The Red Cross’ needed help with all the stuff that gets dumped there, furniture, you name it. So we started work there and we had the biggest queue in the car park and it went right out along the street. We raised quite a bit of money actually and then some wise person said ‘you can’t do this anymore’ so we didn’t have jobs but we ended up doing meals on wheels with a battered old van, so we did that for a couple of years together. I can remember, we lost him to Parkinson’s, and we went to visit him in hospital, Joanne my daughter came with me, he was always fast asleep. We actually saw him die, it was the most beautiful thing, I will never be afraid, truly. It was like a shadow! I was sat holding his hand and I said he’s going! And I just heard this little voice behind me say, “he needn’t have chosen my bloody birthday to go!” We were both crying and the tears were rolling down but we walked out of the hospital laughing, on the other hand he would have thoroughly enjoyed that as he was always full of jokes. He was a grand fellow. He was a lovely man, I will never forget those words. I just think with a human being there’s no two alike, therefore they’re wanting different things. Some are able to produce and make things. I mean these are the finest things! (At this point Jo shakes her hands at me.) These make and do what you want them to do, truly. They certainly have done for me in my working life. Imagine my life without these, my hands. Oh I would find a way. God forbid, when you think of it. I would just have to start learning, some use their toes. It’s not an awful thought because I have worked with the handicapped when I retired and it’s surprising what they can do, they use paintbrushes in their mouths. It was terrific to be with these children, it was great because we did achieve things with them. One girl said to me once, “I don’t feel like working today,” I laughed and said, “you’re damn well going to work!” They were driven in special buses so some of them couldn’t even walk. It was an education for me, I can tell you! When everything is all alright, you don’t think of the ‘not alright’. We do take it for granted, we do a lot. I overheard my father say to my mother once, “she doesn’t ask for miracles she damn well demands them!” he obviously knew me inside out. I had to retire at sixty, I would have gone on. I’m eighty now. I feel good, too. Age, I don’t feel it! I walk everywhere. I’m independent by nature, too cocky for my own good. Everything I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed. Even now. I look back and I think, ‘I did what I wanted to do.’ Always do what you really want to, it put me in the right direction every time. Life, go out and get it! So much has changed! When you travel, everyone is looking down at a screen, spending their evenings in front of screens. They’re not looking at the world. We didn’t have all that, we had to make our own fun. The world is still changing, isn’t it?”
Wonâ€™t Let Go
“Look, Dear! The neighbours are looking. You know you really should have worn a bigger sock”
Where Did You Get That Tat? Why the British love a vintage car boot sale
“It’s cheap and non-committal”
â€œThere is nothing more glorious than the English Summer because it is so rareâ€?
“Because objects make a home”
â€œThings that were previously loved can begin againâ€?
â€œBecause when I get it home I wonder what the hell I was thinking!â€?
“It’s a place for the whole family to spend some time together”
“It’s fun until it rains”
“I love a good rummage”
“I spend my morning trying to stop myself from buying from other people’s stalls”
“It’s just the way we are; we can’t stand waste”
“Who can resist a bargain?”
â€œBecause Britain loves to have a noseâ€?
Sandals & Socks
Somethingâ€™s Bugging Rosaline
alive at night”
KRISTIN BAYBARS Kristin Baybars’ Miniatures
â€œI think there is just something very very magical about something which is teeny tiny compared with its full sizeâ€?
“I’d feel very secure in a doll’s house”
“I don’t consider them to be toys I consider them to be art”