B is for...
Beads & sequins
One of my early collections, along with ribbons & shells, was beads & sequins. As a child I loved to separate and organise, by shape & colour, the seed beads my mum would bring me back in packets from her South-East Asian jaunts. On our trips to the city (a time when we would have to dress up and catch the bus) we would head to the fabulous ballroom dancing suppliers, Photios Bros, which continues to thrive today. Although you are not allowed to peruse the floor-to-ceiling shelves of stencilled cardboard boxes, you can choose your desired strand of sequin, bags of beads, colours & things sparkly from the catalogue at the front counter.
Birds’ nests, eggs & skulls
I have always loved exploring in nature, and picking up treasures as I ramble. It’s a rare day to find unusual eggs and skulls but, after strong winds, an eagle eye can find a grounded nest. I often have nests perched on top of cupboards, on my mantel or just sitting on a block of wood somewhere. If your fossicking hours are limited, you can visit your local natural history museum for inspiration and make your own nest with twigs and sticks.
Blackboards & slate
I believe I was born in the wrong era, although I do love the liberation of technology! Ah, the romance of the time when you walked to your school and had your very own slate to write the day’s work on. I have collected some of the smaller slates bound in leather and wood, and one even has a name etched into it. I have created a range of 12 colours of chalkboard paint so you can put a blackboard on a wall or a piece of furniture anytime you please, in any colour you please.
Bones I love bones – not all bones, mind you. They have to be a certain shape, but I’m not usually fussy about which animal they are from: the fineness & fragility of seafaring birds’ bones found on the beach; the oversized thigh bone of a camel; or the dried-out vertebrae of a snake my brother gave me from his farm, which is a sculpture unto itself. If these make you slightly squeamish, there are beautiful porcelain cast bones that can be used in the same way, or even beautiful pencil drawings that can be stuck to your wall.
My collection of books serves to discredit the maxim ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. So many of the ones I own have been bought because of the linen or board with which it is bound, the ribbon bookmarks, or paper stock. Whenever I’m travelling I pick up cheap or second-hand books with unusual fonts or typesetting and especially seek out those with foreign lettering. If they’re faded, well-thumbed, or falling apart, well, that’s even better. All of them usually make their way into my home or shop, either as the catalyst for a colour palette or as parts of the many layers of styling. Shop from my library.
A friend of The Society Inc. lent me these beautifully built bottled boats made by a fisherman on Sydney’s northern beaches. ‘Impossible bottling’ is rarely seen these days, which in my mind makes these specimens all the more special. Keep your eyes open for objects made using dying trades and crafts like this and you will no doubt be rewarded.
One day (hopefully soon) I’m going to have my very own perfume & home fragrance range. When this happens, I have all I need on hand for inspiration. I have a vision that my perfect scent (possibly rose based) will hang on a beautiful chain lanyard or leather tie around the neck in a miniature corked bottle, on the ready for when you need some freshening up. In the meantime, I have many small bottles that I adore for their sheer tininess in their past lives: some held perfume samples, some Chinese medicine and others perhaps dosages of poison. The amber shielded bottles hold and air of mystery, and a hint of the exotic. Although they appear medieval, give them a new life and use them to house your things: rings, cotton buds, coins or even paperclips.
You always need brown paper for something. In the shop it’s a staple, and most drawers have some form of brown paper in them: envelopes of every size, letter paper, cards, rosettes, big rolls for wrapping packages, sandwich bags, tags and postcards. There’s something endearing and comfortable about it, making me think of an old-fashioned shop where you could buy canvas buckets, yardage, chandlery, stamps, ice and everything in between. Each purchase carefully brown-paper wrapped and tied up with string. Shop brown craft tape here.
Even before I had a paint range, I had a rather large collection of brushes that my antique-dealer friend Alan sourced for me. I think about the care that painters, signwriters and barbers take of their real-bristle brushes, treating them with respect so they last a lifetime. These are attached with small brass cup & eye hooks, easy to take down for closer examination and use. A couple of stores (New York Central Art Supply & Sam Flax) have brushes I can’t resist – specialised and handmade ones made from animal fur, feathers, bamboo, wood and other lovely materials.
A favourite of mine. It’s a lovely way to use any fabric swatches you’ve collected. This one has been sewn from an assortment of vintage Japanese indigo fabric, but yours might be fashioned from colours and patterns more suited to a child’s room or other favourite place.
I have a wooden box with compartments for my own buttons, sorted into colours; and easy to find when one has popped off my shirt or coat and is nowhere to be found. Although there are some very serious collections of buttons out there, mine is not one of them. It’s a hodgepodge of my own, my mother’s, her mother’s and her mother’s. A little timeline of history in itself in ways of fashion, new technologies and availability of materials. Of course today I like the leather buttons that look like knots, tiny, irregular mother-of-pearl ones, very plain calico-covered ones and the like.
Stay tuned, as I catalogue all the pieces of my cabinet of curiosities in weekly posts.
Missed 'A is for'? You can read it, here.