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Sunday, February 23, 2014

London Design... the Museum

Well... disappointingly, it is still raining off and on here in London. I have tried to get outside by dashing to nearby museums in our area of London.
 Our neighborhood is Shad Thames which is on the south side of the Thames and runs east from Tower Bridge to St. Saviour's Dock and is mostly cobbled streets and comprised of converted warehouses.The warehouses were for coffee, tea, spices, grains and other commodities. The area dates to the 16th century when ships from around the world brought these precious items to London.

One popular museum right around the corner is the fabulous London Design Museum. Jim and I have wandered past and admired this museum many times as it is positioned right on the River Thames. Occasionally, we have stopped in for a cup of coffee and a visit to their wonderful book shop. On a particularly wet day I ventured out to visit on my own.

I was not disappointed. The featured exhibition was the Paul Smith Show, a famous British designer of colourful (the Brits like a 'u' in there) products.
 I was immediately inspired as I walked into the exhibition. The first display that struck me was a 3 metre (yeah... another Brit spelling choice) by 3 metre white cube representing Paul Smith's first store in Nottingham, England.
Inside it told the story of his beginnings and has some of the store fixtures that were in the original shop. It is now empty of merchandise, but I was struck by the small and humble beginnings of this now world famous designer.

I have so wanted to share these photos and story with Jackie because of her dreams of some day having a store. It is fascinating to see Paul's shop, even though it is tiny in the scheme of retail shops of today. My mind was whirling with 'ideas' of what could be done in such a small space! I hope Paul's beginnings in retail not only inspire Jackie, but anyone else out there who longs to express themselves in retail. Small can lead to big success!

I was treated to see a small collection of his framed pieces that usually hang in his office and basement. They were hung from floor to ceiling and were eclectic in composition. The common theme was COLOUR!
 From the wall art collection, I went into a dark room to watch a video on his 2014 Fall Men's Wear Collection. In the video he talked of his inspiration coming from everyday objects that he comes in contact with.
 The display of Paul Smith's office-workspace was an exact duplicate of his actual space. What an inspiration! A mass of organized mess! He says he has a large work table that is completely empty in the same room and when he starts to create he pulls from his massive collection for either colour, texture or pattern.
 They also had a display of his employee work stations and again you see a lot of Paul's character and colour.
 Paul has collaborated with some of the most well known corporations designing products with his distinctive style. A great display were his custom corporate designs for Mini, Evian Water Bottles, of course clothing, among other collaborations.

How fabulous is this wall of buttons? All selected for their bright colours and the repetitive size! A TV screen was showing his expansion into designing products for other companies.
After leaving this wonderfully colourful exhibit, I was struck by the black blandness that most people wear on the streets in London... apparently, these people haven't been to the London Design Museum and been inspired by Paul Smith. I sure left with a new appreciation for colour and how it lifts your spirit.
Just another clever inspiration, this one from the Tate Modern Museum, for Jackie...

Another small use of space that just gets your mind buzzing with all kinds of potential for a store. All the sides being equivalent in size and each side on all four sides opening like a door entrance. This box is made of particle board, but it could be made out of endless materials, old barn wood, glass, iron, to create a look one was trying to achieve to go with what they were going to be selling.......... just like Paul Smith, inspiration is all around us, if we just look........ Cheers, Beth

Monday, February 17, 2014

Not another rainy weekend...

Yesterday, I read that 48 states in the US had snow somewhere within their boundaries. In England, we've been having buckets of rain and high winds and many southern counties have horrendous and extensive flooding.

This has not stopped Jim and I from heading out. Sometimes we get lucky and end up with gorgeous weather and sometimes we get rain, hail and snow.

One such weekend we visited Cambridge, the ultimate University Town, actually a collection of several colleges, which lies along the River Cam, about an hour north of London. Our day began leaving from Kings Cross station in London.
An hour later we arrived in Cambridge, founded in 1209... yes, over 800 years ago! As the Brits say, there is a large concentration of brilliant and clever minds in Cambridge and it has a bit of character. That cleverness was first evident with the naming of the town... across the River Cam was a Bridge... hence, Cambridge!
What a gorgeous town, filled with collegians every where on cobblestone paths, conversing in coffee houses and riding their bicycles. Bicycles and walking are 2 key modes of transportation as car flow is limited, as is parking.
After a brief walk into the town, we thought that 'punting' would be a great way to start our visit. Despite what you may think, we weren't in a park kicking a ball around. Rather we were in a flat-bottom boat, with squared ends. We opted for a 'punter' who also was our guide... appropriately, his name was Noah! I said they are so clever.
Noah shared the history and pointed out the best views.

King's College Chapel, the chapel for King's College, started in 1446 and completed in 1531 (it spanned the rule of several kings and the War of the Roses). Once, again, the clever students admired the chapel and decided to hang a car engine from the spire on the right. The Dean was obviously not happy, especially when they contracted a scaffolding company  that took a week to construct the scaffold. But, on the evening before they were to finish the scaffolding, the 'clever' students, decided the engine belonged on the other spire!
Being so clever, to the right of King's College is... Queen's College...
Mathematical Bridge, a wooden footbridge that connects both sides of Queen's College. Built in 1749 entirely from straight timbers, despite the arch. The bridge had to be re-built in 1905 when clever students thought they could disassemble the bridge and reconstruct it without nails or pegs... it didn't work. Maybe not so clever!
Our Punt commands a magnificent view St. John's College
'Bridge of Sighs' connects 2 quadrangles of St. John's College. Since there is no glass, the wind blowing through the iron makes a 'sighing' sound. Historically, on 2 different occasions, 'clever' students dangled a car (1963 and again 1968) beneath the bridge.

Sidney Sussex College Chapel... the College is a smaller college (about 350 undergraduate and <200 graduate). Oliver Cromwell (English military, political leader and while never king, actually ruled England in the 1650's as a military leader) was among the first students but did not graduate, though his head is buried in the chapel.
As the day progressed, the weather turned windy, cold and rain, sleet and snow. So we tucked into Bill's a wonder English restaurant that started in Lewes, East Sussex, on the Channel coast. Bill's is a combination grocery, casual coffee lounge and restaurant.
We enjoyed this appetizer tray... the Halloumi cheese was a favourite...
Other features at Bill's includes Crispy Duck Salad - duck is such a WONDERFUL dark meat and is very popular in England... too bad it is less favoured in the US. Other items included Duck Pie, Fish Pie, Chorizo Scotch Egg and Eton Mess (Mango, Passion Fruit folded through whipped cream, mascarpone and crushed meringue.

After a quick run to the train in the driving rain, a warm train ride back to London was delightful to recall our day out.

All this blog about bridges....and I am reminded of the "bridge" across the pond that  has kept Jackie and I in contact for over ten years....good old fashion post and email. How thankful I am for those bridges so that our friendship continues even with the huge Atlantic Ocean between us. Clever people creating "new bridges"!!!! Beth

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tiny English Cottages & French Farmhouses
Just this past week Beth and I had exchanged a note where we shared our dreams of places we would like to live and homes we long to have. It was a moment between best of friends, sort of like the sisterhood of girlfriends. Don't you love to dream, especially with a friend or loved one? I sure do!

As you can imagine, Beth dreams about discovering another tiny English cottage. I can't wait until she finds it so she can share with us everything she does to make it stunning. (Have you seen our FMF Compagnie Pinterest Board that shows Beth's Cozy Cottage in the Cotswold area of England? Do check it out! It's more than charming and dreamy!)

Me, on the other hand, I have French blood from my dear grandmother, Madge Louise LaChapelle, and grew up in north central Wisconsin on my family's dairy farm. That alone should give you enough reason to believe I dream of that large white French farmhouse with a huge, comfortable porch, shutters hung by each window, a beautiful old barn, trees that touch the clouds (one must have a swing included!), rolling green fields, maybe some cows, and probably some chickens! 

I spent some time before Christmas back in the Midwest for my son, Nico Elwardt's graduation from Navy Boot Camp. I must say, what a blessing to see your children make excellent choices for their lives! I have always been a proud mom of Phillip and Nico (and my stepdaughter, Taylor), but now I get to add "Navy Mom" to my set of titles! I couldn't be more thankful.
Sr. Nico J. Elwardt
Jackie, Nico, & Phillip
(Sorry.......slight diversion.......but a very important diversion that was!)

So, back to the story......when I went to Wisconsin in December, I had the pleasure of seeing my sister Judy's chickens. They were living like queen hens and king roosters and all nestled in their little castle of a coop. Her chickens are particularly beautiful if a chicken can qualify for beautiful! I was so taken by them that I scrambled to take these photos on my phone.......suffice it to say, I wish they were clearer photos. However, I'm confident you get the idea!

One day, I will have some of my own and then I will hang out my shingle, "Farm Fresh Eggs for Sale"! I can't wait. I'm already designing their chicken coop!

I've also been busy working on some fun projects here.... in the city........sigh.........

I'm excited to show you the pillows that I made from some of the French floral fabric Beth sent.  Remember this?
Well, it turned into these......

Recently I made several pillows to fill a custom order and I hope to share more of those photos with you soon. These were only two of the eight pillows I made!

Then there was the piece of barn board hanging around in my garage for decades. I came across it again right before Christmas and immediately knew where I needed to use it.

I had monogrammed burlap sachets filled them with lavender and hung them from the board.......I have it hanging right by my front door to always remind me to speak with love. Isn't it fun? I have the burlap monograms in white also, and I can change it for spring. It's a one-of-a-kind, but if you are interested in having one, we could make a similar version for you.

I have to show you the railroad nails I found to use as the hooks on the barn board.  I used two more of them on the cushion you see below.

They are not spikes, but larger nails than I have ever seen, about 4" long, and each nail head has a number forged into it. Aren't they fun?!  

My little farm stool needed some refining, so, I made a rustic, lumpy cushion for the top and instead of your typical button tufting, I opted to nail right through the cushion with my most favorite ever ...railroad nails!

I can't wait to use it in my dreamy French Farmhouse one day! 

Here is another lovely project that Beth and I worked together on. This charming set of lavender-filled sachets and monogrammed pillows will become a wedding shower gift for a dear friend's daughter.

Aren't they precious! We have so many beautiful things that would make lovely bridal or wedding gifts on our Etsy site. 

Like most of you, when February rolls around, I find myself immediately jumping to the middle of the month, thinking about "Saint Valentin" or Valentine's Day! 

That has kept me busy sewing, photographing, and posting some sweet Valentine's gifts on our Etsy site. 

I'm off to finish some other fun projects while I keep dreaming of that huge white French farmhouse!

So, I leave you with a little reminder to use the next couple weeks before Valentine's Day to cherish those you love. 

Oh, and buy them a vintage linen sachet filled with fragrant lavender to mark the day from our FMF Compagnie shop!