P is for…
Paint instantly changes the mood of a room, and the bolder the colour choice, the more dramatic the transformation. And the beauty of paint: if you don’t like it or tire of it, you can start all over again. If you’re feeling super confident with a paint brush, try a two-tone wall. Click here for my painting guidelines.
The ghost of once was, the memory of times & people gone-by in an object; its history & past use revealed in its wear & tear.
One of the cheapest and most rewarding interior design options is paper and paper products. Stationery, envelopes stuffed with old letters, books, souvenir postcards and those bought at art exhibitions, posters, magazines, newspapers in a foreign language… wherever you go, whether it’s the local school fete or a market in a far-flung destination, look for paper in varying textures, weights and colours. Seek out quirky, handwritten items and printed matter with unusual fonts and typesetting. When you return home, the possibilities will start to present themselves as you begin framing, tacking and hanging them to walls.
Patterns & blueprints
These come in many shapes, materials and forms. At present I’m into old blueprints, which are more of an artwork for me. I’ve even seen some in brown.
I like the idea that things can be created more than once, each time with a different hand and perhaps ideal or set of skills. The product of someone’s decision-making process to create a template of all their thoughts and ideas – some kept, some rejected – to finish with a final pattern, mould or plan. I attempted dressmaking when I was young, but it was not to be. I was way more interested in the paper that the pattern was made from. A soft tissue with printing all over it, which is great for wrapping presents or papering a wall. I have since expanded on this, and love the more professional patterns of thick brown card that hold their form for multiple uses.
Hand-tooled, whittled & carved, each wooden peg has its own character and function. My mother once gave me a gypsy peg: split wood with a band of thin brass at the top and tiny nails to keep the pieces together. A peg is a utilitarian object that reminds me of a time when crafts were an everyday part of life. I imagine them travelling in an old chipped enamel bowl in a colourfully painted caravan, and used to peg up many layered skirts on a line strung between the trees by a river.
I have a bundle of pencils wrapped in brown paper, all identical, a supply for a far-flung isolated place, such as the South Pole.
On one of my first trips for an American magazine, I was sent to Little St Simons Island off the coast of the US state of Georgia. The story goes that, in the early 1900s, a pencil baron bought the island for the oak trees that thrived on the growing land (it’s a sand-shifting island that is constantly growing). What a treat for me, for once it became apparent that the oaks were too gnarly & windswept for pencils, the island was converted into a private residence & retreat for the family.
I write my notes with pencils sharpened with knives.
Pierce [things that]
Nails, pins, tacks, hardware & stationer stores on foreign shores fascinate me and I cannot help but peruse their aisles to see what the locals are using. Hand-forged nails from Baileys, T-pins from the States, brass-dome-topped tacks, upholstery tacks both decorative & functional, dressmakers’ pins, tiny bead pins, thumb tacks etc. Each has its own personality suitable for specific display requirements.
Eye patches, seafaring scoundrels, swordsmen, looters & wooden legs, parrots, ships & sailing the high seas. I feel like I’m part pirate, and celebrate that sailing spirit in my crockery range.
My paper obsession saw a new outlet when I began to collect porcelain versions of classic-shaped paper vessels. A strawberry punnet, a hot chip container, espresso cup: I love that something usually tossed away after one use suddenly has a longer life by being made of something precious. I first saw this approach by Australian artist, Nicole Lister. After buying her cups, I found other curious pieces in NYC, London & Paris. I stick to white, and let the pieces speak for themselves in their simplicity. I like the surprise element of the traditionally disposable becoming permanent.
Look upon stamps as miniature works of art with an historical timeline. Cut them from old envelopes – glue marks and all – or letters from international friends, or save a few from your own round-the-world-journeys. Stick the here, there everywhere.
Prizes, rosettes & other rewards
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to win an award of some description. I haven’t won enough in my life, so I have to improvise and make or buy my own. Although self-anointed, I still feel every bit the winner and suggest you follow my lead. Make your own brown paper rosette, award yourself a gold star and stick on your forehead, purchase a porcelain trophy and felt tip your name on it or tie a beautiful ribbon on your arm and write ‘you’re the best, chuck out the rest’.
Using what you have at hand to create vignettes and arrangements will make your interior unique. Here are some more ideas to get you started.
This improvised sculpture of rusted barbed wire – could art cost any less? – casts curious shadows on the wall. Consider not just the objects themselves, but the way they meld in with their surroundings.
For the win
An afternoon to be enjoyed lakeside. Instead of standard centrepiece selections, use an old chessboard as a trivet and scatter some of your gaming pieces among your glassware, not to use, just to look at. Your things will spark a memory, and conversation will be sprinkled with your stories.
Rethink your notion of what constitutes wall art – it’s not just frames and canvases. This kimono has been hung using a length of bamboo tied with twine. Colour and texture are drawn into your scheme via the elegant silhouette of an article of clothing.
All in the detail
Many people would not take a second look at forgotten hardware, such as this, but for me it holds as much wonder as a treasure chest. The spectrum of colours that springs from a basic mix of ageing wood and tarnished metal is a perfect example of my foundation colours and offers new ways of creating larger displays in your home.
Missed my other ideas on everyday styling? Check them out here.
Elise Cameron-Smith is a dreamer, and crafts whimsical wooden treasures to carry these dreams & stories into your homes. We were lucky to house her fleet of miniature ships at The Society Inc. warehouse earlier this year, and we always have some pretty copper foiled arrows on hand. Her little creations carry big ideas: new adventures, grand seafaring voyages, journeys, and quests into self-discovery. An avid reader, she is a wordsmith as much as a craftswoman, and here, she tells us her story.
Can you describe in detail your workspace and your location?
I’m really lucky to work in a shared workshop space with three incredible legends that I met whilst studying Fine Furniture Making at the Sturt School For Wood. We are right down the South end of Wollongong, on Swan Street and we love visitors!
Who or what keeps you inspired?
My beautiful friends and family are a real inspiration; all of them are so special and strong. I am extraordinarily lucky to be surrounded by such fantastic creative people. I find inspiration in fairy tales, pirates, parrots, explorers, daredevils, TED Talks, goddesses, mermaids, mischief-makers, costumes, monsters, and princesses…
I also go on a lot of short surf trips; I find I really need to remove myself from my home environment to fully switch off the work side of my brain. So just a night away, out in the bush, down the south coast is so rejuvenating and always heaps of fun. Then I can come back and go crazy and get heaps of work done! It’s a nice little cycle…
Does your location inspire your art?
I live in a little seaside suburb just North of Wollongong called Towradgi. I’ve just moved here and I’m still settling in but absolutely loving my new house. The ocean is where I draw a huge amount of inspiration for my work, but also where a draw a huge amount of happiness and general well being.
Describe your artistic process.
I make miniature boats that look a little bit like birds; they float on dreams and magic rather than water though… They are made from beautiful timbers, with rawhide sails and detailed with brass & copper rivets. Each and every boat is unique and has a name, story and spirit.
I also make arrows with recycled timbers, copper and feathers that I find on my adventures and travels. Again, each and every arrow is individual.
They both symbolise moving forward, on an exciting quest or new direction and I think this is what people really connect with.
Which Instagram accounts do you find yourself looking at every day?
I love Instagram, there are some seriously amazing and inspiring people doing awesome stuff, and Instagram gives you an opportunity to connect and vibe off these legends.
@shipwrightskills – For all things boat building
@tmogy – Amazing handmade animals
@_hamburglar – Sensational surf images
@kookslams – Good laughs!
@tasmania – My new favourite travel destination
@thereedsmith – Woven wonders and really beautiful story telling
@sa_rips – Oceans like you’ve never seen them
@marcoterenzi – Miniature tools, and seriously miniature…
@sibellacourt – Of course!
@juz_kitson – Awesome and unexplainable, you’ll have to look…
What is your earliest memory of your craft?
On my first day at Sturt where I was studied Fine Furniture Making, it was January 2012 and I was extremely overwhelmed. I had absolutely no experience in woodwork what so ever, and as the teacher was demonstrating the band saw I found myself slowing backing away from the machine with out even realising. It was all a bit scary, but I got on with it!
How do you greet the day?
I wake up super early, always before the sun. I’ll drink coffee and decide whether to surf before or after going to work…
What is currently on your bookshelf?
I’m always at Wollongong Library and usually reading a couple of books at once. I just finished ‘For The Term Of His Natural Life’ by Marcus Clarke. I really got swept away in the trials and tribulations of poor old Rufus Dawes… Think I need to read it again. I’m halfway through ‘The First Dismissal’ by Luke Slattery, which is all about Governor Macquarie and is super interesting.
In Zalanpatak and throughout our Transylvanian travels, it was so springy underfoot – I knew the buds & new growth were just about to explode! Where we were staying, there was a royal botanical painter ready to lead a class in two weeks when the springtime bloom revealed itself. The patterns on this bed linen are abstract floral for me.
A highly recommended read if you are visiting Transylvania, or simply want to be transported there from your armchair, is Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker. He talks of gypsy girls with ribbons and shells plaited through their hair and strung around their necks to ward off evil spirits. Create your own protection for your house to ward off the bad and invite the good. I have wrapped raffia around a found antler and hung it alongside threaded cowrie shells and mirrored jingle-jangle from Jaipur, India.
I encourage you to pick flowers, tendrils or branches from your local surrounds, the garden or the side of the road – whatever they may offer. If you go for flower markets or florists, don’t buy a pre-arranged bunch, but many individual flowers and greenery and loosely arrange them together. Imagine you’ve collected them as you traverse the Transylvanian countryside in the springtime, grouping them as you find them and popping them in vessels once home without another thought.
Tune in next week as I wrap-up my Transylvanian tour, with more interior inspiration as well as my tips for spaces & places to check out if you find yourself in that part of the world.
O is for…
An ordinary object, found. A strand of sequins, a hand-stitched flower, threads & buttons. Things discovered with pleasure, in a long-abandoned attic or at the bottom of a beaded opera purse; faded & frayed, pre-loved & glorious. Origin: France, found object.
I think the word ‘souvenir’ gets a really bad rap. I want to conjure up all the romance of travel and the idea of coming into the port of a place that was so foreign, the desire to take a piece as a memento was too strong to deny. Souvenirs were often made by local artisans for visiting tourists (also a word that gets a hard time).
Things like shell cameos from the Amalfi Coast, Native American beaded purses from Niagara Falls, pin cushions out of conch shells from the Bahamas. A little kitsch, maybe, but the set of bamboo-handled knives & forks with ‘Surfers Paradise’ hand-painted on each handle that my great friends Donna & WIll gave me many years ago have long been treasured many times used.
During my years of styling , I developed some strange habits (or were they always there?). I styled food shoots for many years, so was on the constant lookout for unusual table props. Travelling constantly, I began picking up wrapped sugar cubes and matchbooks from various nooks & crannies. As well as the souvenirs, I grew very interested in paper food wrappings, particularly vintage ones like tapas paper napkins, cupcake patty pans, foil chocolate wrappers, berry punnets and amaretto papers to incorporate into my photographs.
Old cardboard boxes hold the romance of days gone by. Not only because of the shop’s stamp & labelling that might be on them but also for the box’s specific shape & size, the quality & texture of the cardboard structure, the attention to the edge details and even the hardware that holds the corner. I upcycle old boxes when they come my way to house my own collections of ribbons, bulldog clips etc. Not only are boxes practical, but they look beautiful, too.
Bell’occhio, a favourite shop in San Francisco sells, among other things, handcrafted French papier-mâché boxes of fruits, nuts, shells and the like. I have one in the shape of an oyster. I love the romance of oysters, and have been known to ask the very obliging waitstaff at Balthazar to wash my dozen mini Kumamoto shells after a particularly pleasant lunch as a memento. The shape for me is iconic, irregular and one of nature’s naturally crafted vessels. The colour varies so much from shore to shore, and inspired, both in colour & patina, one of my paints, aptly named ‘Oyster Grey’.
You don’t have to shout to make a style statement. Here are four ideas for soft flourishes that add interest in a humble way.
Connect the dots
A garland easily constructed using oversized plastic dots stapled together demonstrates the impact of transient, inexpensive decoration.
A map/journal I found at a second-hand bookstore is colour photocopied and tacked on the wall. This could be divine for a celebration, or because you like it, semi-permanent or just for the day.
Reach for the stars
Brown sticky tape should be part of everyone’s styling toolkit, as it allows for instant installations, such as this star fashioned from ribbon, while the tape itself has its own humble beauty.
Improvisation can offer both low-budget and remarkable options for designing a room. In this loose interpretation of a wardrobe, clothes are hung on the back of an unused door left leaning against the wall. The wide steps of the ladder provide shelving, while the narrower rungs can be used for draping jewellery, scarves and other accessories.