The Stylist Alphabet: S is for…
S is for…
Ah, the variety. Like pushpins, safety pins come in many shapes & forms depending on the country of origin and the purpose. The Japanese version of the kilt pin is a favourite present, fine and in a gold finish. For my hardware range, I designed some based on the oversized laundry bag pins of the past and oversized fine kilt pins. A great invention that is both functional and beautiful. Shop some of my collection of pins here.
Samples & swatches
I opened a box at my storage space recently and found my samples of fake grass and fake snow. it reminded me of my years in NYC building sets, so I put the box back on the shelf and look forward to the next time I open it. I have lots of samples. I blame it on my job but I do love to see the colour or texture variations of the same thing in a small size.
Since the days of travelling salesmen, we have had sample & swatch boards. It’s always lovely to come upon an old bead, ribbon or lace one. At the indigo dyer’s house in Kyoto, he let me pore over his great grandfather’s indigo kimono sample books: mulberry paper, thick with fabric squares, and hand bound. This was extra special.
I have a thing for miniature things, not dollhouse things, but really small functional stuff: petri dishes, beakers, vessels, test tubes, funnels etc.
I have bought many a vintage scientific vessel from flea markets all over the world. I use them in my own interiors both on an everyday level as well as display. They are very much a part of my own Cabinet of Curiosities as well as making an appearance in my bathroom. Old apothecary jars house decanted vitamins, glass medical jars with labels like ‘tongue depressors’ house my cotton buds, bandages, cotton pads & other bathroom essentials and are a lot more sightly than the packaging of today.
From Vietnam, my great-grandmother’s pinking shears, tiny, tiny cord-covered Japanese ones, Chinese kitchen scissors – you name them, I seem to have acquired them. There is no reason why utilitarian tools should not be beautiful; these are for use and display. You can buy my makers’ scissors here.
These look great alone or en masse. I pick them up all over the world. They fold flat, come on a stand and are mostly round, oval or shield shaped. The original idea was as a travelling mirror to hang or stand alone on a dresser or convenient surface, such as a sand dune, side of a mountain, campaign table, train bunker, back of the door or tree branch, depending on your destination.
The other option is the freestanding kind, with an adjustable angle. Not as practical for adventures, but they look great standing against your existing mirror or in a dressing room, by a bed, a specially made shelf or the like.
I most recently found a round one about 25cm in diameter with a wonky wire stand, in a dusty antique shop in Ho Chi Minh City, slightly neglected, but lovely in all its tattered-ness.
The icon for my shop is a shield based on an old enamel school badge, similar to the one I used to wear. I have always admired the shape of shields and now that it is so synonymous with my brand, I use them liberally in interiors and logos I design, and even the jewellery I wear.
On the day I bought my shop, I found a rose gold shield ring, large in size and perfect for my thumb. I wear it to this day and it reminds me of the joy & accomplishment I felt in starting The Society inc. You may have a favourite icon that can be used in the same way.
Snapshots taken on overseas adventures should be more than just a record of the places you visited. I took this photo at the Summer Palace in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and constantly refer to it for inspiration: the rich and layered colour combinations, the textures and shapes on the walls and floor, and the furniture placement all have the potential to be part of my own living space. Flick through your old albums and see what interiors and architecture you fancy, then find ways to introduce those elements into your home.
Stamped & official
A girlfriend of mine once asked where I hide all my ugly stuff. I believe that nothing has to be ugly. I’ll keep an eye out for something old, well-made and so considered in its design and material over the quick buy. This applies to hole punches, receipt pins, string holders, tape dispensers and the like.
While looking for them, I keep coming across rubber stamps (although not always made of rubber). The irregularity appeals to me and they have become a staple at The Society inc. We do get some made, always the ones you use the inkpad with. In Hanoi, I watched a man carve my name & address out of wood in English, backwards, circular and about 2mm high for each letter. He presented me with the most beautiful wooden business stamp plus bright red ink & pad. I was very happy – it felt like an incredibly special gift.
I squirrel these out from country antique stores, flea markets, hardware and stationery stores. Many are old handmade metal ones, some are single letters & numbers, others the names or initials from working farms or a crude form of labelling or maker’s mark. An old-fashioned way of branding your logo. I find I use these in my own commercial designs as well as my house and shop.
To me they have dual functionality. Firstly, they can be a display piece in themselves, hung on the wall with small nails you can see (try to use hand-forged ones), either as a colelction or on their own as a piece of art.
Secondly, they can be used for what they were created for. With either a spray paint or a stipple brush, you can transform a simple piece of burlap by stencilling on an ampersand then stitching into a square. I have jussed many a chair by stencilling a number or word onto it.
While I’m perfectly content with throwing things into baskets, filling jars and inventing other ways of decoratively displaying my possessions, I’m equally devoted to finding practical – read neat and tidy – storage solutions. Look for second-hand shelving and cabinetry from apothecaries or industrial filing cabinets and drawers in a mixture of timber and metal.
Strange little paintings
I visited the isolated Nukus Museum of Art, Uzbekistan, with my mum. All these amazing Russian avant-garde artists whose works were banned by Stalin are on show in this incredible museum. Outside, there was a small exhibition of local children’s art. I bought a drawing of a blackbird. On a recent trip to Amsterdam, while visiting Moooi’s HQ, I picked up a discarded portrait with a green background and strapped it to the back of my bicycle. It now sits comfortably in my annexe with other such finds.
I like picking up flat things when travelling, and paintings fit this requirement, especially when small. Although I randomly collect paintings without a specific subject matter, it’s more about the place & trip for me; you could pick a theme and run with it, for example portraits, landscapes or trees.
And, of course, Silver
I think one of the best opening lines in a book is from Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson. It reads “My Mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal, part pirate.” I’m quite sure, having not met the author – until recently – that it was written just for me. These words jumped off the page from the moment I first read them, and inspired me to name my own daughter Silver, and precious she is.
The Stylist Alphabet:
A is for… B is for…
C is for… D is for…
E is for… F is for…
G is for… H is for…
I is for… J is for…
K is for… L is for…
M is for… N is for…
O is for… P is for…
Q is for… R is for…