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This blog has been retired. I won't respond to any inquiries but have retained it in case it is still of interest to anyone passing by.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Clotheshorse of Memories

When I left S Africa and moved to Ireland in 2001 I packed a special box of all my most precious clothing treasures.  The box has remained sealed until this Spring. After 12 years I decided to open this little time capsule again and freshen up some of the items inside - and so I ended up with a clotheshorse of memories..

The box contains an eclectic mix of items.  The oldest are two beautiful 19th century christening robes and a taffeta Victorian traveling dress (yes really!) - all completely handmade.  The most recent is a dirndl I wore during a time I spent in Austria during my 20's (it was a gift.)  In between (amongst other things like my mother's wedding dress - that I used too) are seven little dresses I wore when I was a very young child.  These are what I have decided to show you today. 

When my mom passed away in 1999 I found these dresses as I was sorting through her things.  Only one has a label and was shop bought.  I think all the rest were made by my mom - and when I look at them today I marvel at how beautiful her work was (I can paint and write but I'm a useless seamstress!)

These dresses were not for special occasions but were made for everyday use.  Perhaps it is for that reason I can remember them all so vividly even though I was very young and it was such a long time ago (having photos also helps to keep memories alive!)

As you can see I got a LOT of use out of some of them.  Here I am as a very tiny tot, clutching a little lamb:

And here I am again quite some time later (in child's terms) strolling around a rose garden in the same dress:


The amount of detail in these dresses is amazing.  There are tiny ribbons to gather up the sleeves and little rosebuds embroidered everywhere.  My mom LOVED embroidering rosebuds - I can remember her sewing them onto anything from bookmarks to bed-socks right until she died.

With my grandmother's sister Elma

I'm not sure how my mom dressed me in some of these (it must have been like playing with a doll!)  There are no zips or anything like Velcro.  Instead there are tiny little buttons that I would find quite a challenge if faced with a living child!

I even have this cute little petticoat.  With gathers at the sides and those tiny buttons at the shoulder again.

This is the only dress with a label. It says 'handmade in Madeira in Portugal'.

The two photos above were both taken wearing the dress below.  Of all of these little dresses it is the one I remember the most clearly and I think wore the most often. 

I'm not completely sure but I think I might be wearing the same dress in this next photo.  I'm digressing a bit but I was surprised to discover while looking through my box of old photos how many sea voyages by parents went on when I was a child.  Always on the mail ships (every 'castle' from Carnarvon to Windsor!)  I'm afraid I did not get to enjoy the high life on the high seas as I was left at home and looked after by my grandparents.

With my parents and grandparents (Durban harbour)

I also couldn't resist including this next picture of my mom (on the right).  She looks so pretty and so elegant - I just love that dress!  (You can see Table Mountain in the background).

My mom with her best friend Sheila (& son Reginald)

Fast forward the decades and here I am today (literally - these were taken this afternoon).  No longer a little princess and nowhere near as glamorous as my mom - but at least I am happy!  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Introducing Alice

Made especially for Alice in Australia

Introducing Alice - I think my favourite of all the dolls I've painted so far - but Alice is also special for another reason - she is the first doll I've made for a real person.

Agman (Terence) at Aviator always leaves such nice comments for me whenever I post paper dolls and tells me how much his granddaughter Alice likes them - so I decided the next doll I made would be especially for her.  Alice I hope you like your namesake (Granddad as you probably already know has a full size scan of the doll for you).

I also sent a scan of Alice to OPDAG (the Original Paper Doll Artist Guild).  I knew that the doll did not qualify for any of their upcoming themes but Jenny from OPDAG has offered to include her in the Showcase section of the Studio magazine with a link back to this post - so that is quite an exciting prospect as well.

Alice - Original Sketch

 Alice is a companion doll for Clarissa and the second in a series of dolls I'm making based on the beautiful artwork of Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.  I've wanted to try my hand at making dolls in slightly more unusual poses for ages and so a young girl sitting playing not only gave me a subject that was interesting to paint, it also meant I could fit three dresses onto a single page.

I based the doll on this illustration of Curly Locks taken from 'A Gift Book of Nursery Rhymes' - one of the loveliest figures in the book.   

Although I included the blue dress she is wearing as a separate outfit, designing the other dresses allowed me to play around with different fabric techniques.  As much as they are inspired by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone they also owe a huge debt to artists such as Ron Embleton and Jose Ortiz who feature regularly in my blog and whose work I've tried to emulate since childhood.

The most fun I had while making this doll was thinking up different objects for her to hold.  Part of the challenge of course was fitting the object to the shape!

It was very rewarding making and dedicating a doll in this way so I think it will be nice to continue the idea with the next doll in the series (I don't know how soon that is likely to be as I've had the advantage of being on holiday for the last week - giving me lots of lovely time to indulge in the things I enjoy!)

However - if anyone reading this would like me to dedicate a doll to a special little girl, let me know by leaving a comment (and obviously her name) at the end of this post.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Woodland Reprieve

I have some time off work this week - so a rare opportunity to do some of the things I enjoy - and among them another blog entry!

A couple of days ago we decided to explore the area beyond the stream at the bottom of the garden.  The country lane we followed is privately owned and closed to the public with a gate, but the owner had said it was ok for us to wander around if we wanted to.  The road leads to a lovely old Georgian house at the top of the hill and although I photographed it and was tempted to include a picture here, I decided not to as it is a private home.    

We stepped back in time to a gentler age and found ourselves in a beautiful sylvan setting.  My son's first words were 'its just like the secret garden!'

But I'm showing you these photographs for another reason as well.  Everything you see here was destined for destruction a few years ago.  Although the owner of the Georgian house also owns the road, this area adjacent to it belonged to someone else.  It was sold to two well known Irish celebrities and property speculators and the intention was to build yet another housing estate on the land you see here.  (Ireland is currently littered with badly built ghost estates left over from the irresponsible building frenzy of a few years back.)

The land was sold as the boom was coming to an end.  The people who bought it failed to confirm first whether there was any public access and the owner of the road refused them permission to use it (just brilliant!)  To keep the plan on track the elderly couple who lived in the house where we are now were offered a million Euros for the property (way over the market rate even in those days).  The intention would have been to raze our house (even though it is a 300+ year old forge) and use the garden as a driveway.

The elderly couple refused the offer.  At their time of life a much loved home had far more value than any amount of money.  Not long afterwards they died - within months of each other - but by then the boom was over and the speculators were forced to move on.  Our house was put on the market and could have been snapped up for far less than a million, but those reckless days of over-spending were over.

 So this tranquil setting remains untouched (for now) -  gently casting its spell in the summer sun.  Butterflies and birds flit amongst the branches and leaves and ancient woodland guardians keep watch - the echoes of their protective magic reverberating through the air.

This cute little gatehouse stands at the point where the road crosses the stream.   It has clearly been renovated fairly recently and although empty at the moment would make a cozy home. 

Our garden is to the right of the road in this photo as you approach the gatehouse.

Roses on my gatepost.  I decided not to pick any of these as I think they look lovely tumbling over the way they do.

I'm probably mentioning something that is well known to the rest of the world - but I have just discovered a favourite new lunch!  A few days ago I picked some salad leaves and herbs to make a mixed salad and then my husband asked me to leave the few tomatoes we had as he wanted to use them for something else.  So I substituted strawberries for tomatoes.  This part of Wicklow is well known for its strawberries and I've managed to grow lovely sweet ones this year due to the exceptionally warm weather.  Now I'm hooked - especially when I discovered how nicely strawberries go with fresh basil.  So my lunches at the moment consist of strawberry salads, cheese and olives (I have to buy those) and a crisp fresh roll hot out the oven with butter and honey.  Yum!!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Flower Girls - Saalfield Artcraft

This is another set of paper dolls I rediscovered a couple of years ago that transported me right back to my childhood.  I've always loved this book - and I respond to it with the same delight and joy today as I did then - viewing it with the eyes of a child across the passage of time.

This is my favourite dress, taken from the original cut version of the set I played with as a child.  I think its gorgeous - and just as special today as I found it 50 years ago.  What I've always liked about this set is the light and airy touch of the artwork and the dainty feminine fashions.  Its a book that holds within it the joy of eternal youth and perpetual sunshine.

There are two dolls and four pages of clothes.  Besides the frilly dresses I also think the bathing costumes with their matching skirts are marvellous.

The full book follows:    

( I can remember trying to cut these dolls out it a way that would also allow me to keep their pretty petticoats!)

Isn't it funny - I spend my days planting all sorts of things in the garden - and then I end up liking the wild flowers most of all.  These foxgloves are effectively weeds in this part of the world but they are lovely.  I still think I might just find tiny fairies hiding in them!

PS - I'm still on borrowed internet time.  I was expecting to be able to buy a new laptop in the next week or so but we have had some unexpected medical expenses to deal with and I have to put off getting one for a while.  So my blogging activity will still be patchy and erratic.

With the lovely summer weather we have been having (by far the hottest I can remember since moving to Ireland 12 years ago) I must say I have been enjoying the chance to spend more time in the garden though!


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