Saturday, 30 January 2010

Bicyclette aux fleurs

Every day as I walk down my street I am lost in admiration at this jolie bicyclette in the window of the local cycle shop. Looky - eco AND pretty:

I know. It's a BIKE. Trust me, no one is more surprised. 

To my eternal shame, I managed to fail my cycling proficiency test aged 10. Ever since, the thought of balancing on two wheels while tonnes of motorised metal hurtle within inches of my unprotected body has filled me with terror. Once, paralysed with fear, I even lost the ability to brake and rode straight into the back of a stationary car.*

However, if anything could persuade me to get back in the saddle, it is the Electra Amsterdam, with graphics by classic mid-century designer Alexander Girard:

Quite apart from the sheer barefaced gorgeousness, Electra bikes let you put your feet flat on the ground, rather than tippy-toesing down from the saddle and toppling gracelessly under the nearest truck. Sadly, they are also over £600. At my present income-rate, this means that it will be at least another 20 years before I am ready to retake that test...

*Mrs Pickett, you may remember this.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Vintage brooch

This yummy vintage bauble brooch was a pressie from Mrs H. She found it in the £1 section of our local antiques shop - quel bargain! It is the perfect accessory for my Zara coat:

Photographed avec my new Canon Powershot, which I LOVE. This was originally a Christmas present from the beautiful Egyptian, however being the clumsy ingrate that I am, I managed to drop it on its nose, breaking it irredeemably, within 30 minutes of unwrapping it. Long story short, the replacement arrived two days ago and now I am all about the photography. Oh yes.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Madame la Moue's fashion sale

Here is a lovely poster that Madame la Moue and I made last night for a fashion show/clothes sale that she is organising (you might recognise it as a riff on the swish invitation design):

So if you're going to be in Brighton on 25th March and fancy getting your hands on some fabulous high street fashion at rock bottom prices, why not come along? Grab your ticket now, because they're going like hot cakes!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Cockatrice on the telly

I promised ages ago that I would put a clip of the Tonight programme which featured my Freecycled flat on Paper Flowers, for which I'm sure you have all been waiting with bated breath... Well, you can exhale now, because, tantaran-tan-tan-tan-TA! here it is:*

Joy of joys, you also get a snippet of ethical-deco heartthrob Oliver Heath in a straw hat (believe me, this will have Madame la Moue drooling over the screen, short circuiting her laptop and slipping into a light coma with delight).

The other exciting news of the day is that I have started a Paper Flowers Youtube channel in anticipation of being plucked from obscurity and offered my own prime-time show about eco style (what? Isn't that what happens when you go on the wireless with pictures?). You can view or subscribe to it by clicking here.

*Thank you to the very clever Charles for helping me with the technical wizardry.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Save the planet mug and tote + sampler cushion

I was given this marvellous mug by my gorgeous friend Madame Pantalon. It says 'Save the planet: drink more tea, make more love'. It's a wonderful sentiment (even if the logic remains rather obscure to me):

Some time later, I was out shopping in Hove and snapped up this re-usable tote with the very same design at Bird and Rose, a lovely little shoppie on Blatchington Rd, full of antique bric-a-brac interspersed with vintage-stye bits and pieces. It's more book-bag than shopping-bag-sized, although I have been using it almost daily as both:

You can buy both of these online from dotcomgiftshop. I was just browsing that very site with the intention of providing you with links to them, when I came across THIS and promptly expired with lust:

Be still my beating heart...

I have a soft spot for embroidered samplers as my Mum collects them and has a beautiful one made by some ancient ancestor. It would be too, too tawdry to drop hints, of course... However, in the fortuitous event that anyone *happens* to be thinking of buying me a gift, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can you make it this?

In other news, I started my new interior design course today and most informative it was, too. Not the airy-fairy, swatches-and-mood-boards self-indulgence I had hoped anticipated, at all: I have actually been doing technical scale drawings, would you believe?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Hey babyface

Yesterday I was watching an advert for Maybelline Dream Creamy foundation. This is how it goes: 'Perfect looking skin? I want more.' What the WHAT? This is patent idiocy. What more could you want than perfection?  '100% baby-smooth-looking perfection', apparently. Hang on, let me get this straight: so it's not sufficient to aspire to the kind of perfect skin that very few women have anyway, now our aim must be to have the face of a baby? The kind of skin that, by definition, NO HUMAN, ADULT WOMAN CAN POSSIBLY HAVE? Well why don't you just shoot me now? If women buy into this ridiculous message, we are setting ourselves up for guaranteed misery.

100% Baby-Smooth with Dream Creamy

The very silly ad

Now I should say at this point that I haven't tried this foundation and it may be wonderful stuff for all I know. Neither am I saying that we shouldn't wear make-up (do you think I have gone MAD?).  No, what makes my blood boil are the idiotically unattainable standards against which we are encouraged to measure ourselves.

Even the gorgeous model with the 'miraculous' foundation doesn't meet these ideals: she has been airbrushed to within an inch of her life. But get this: SO HAS THE BABY. Yes, that's right, so unrealistic have our expectations become that not even a baby has 'baby-smooth-looking skin'.*

This reminds me of a BBC documentary I saw last year about baby models. Some cretinous picture editor was actually airbrushing the wrinkles off a baby. And - far more sickeningly - changing the skin colour to make a delicious olive-skinned infant more fair and rosy. Could somebody stop the world now, I'd like to get off please.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the interwebverse, Amy Merrick writes about the decor of Fantastic Mr Fox for her 'Living In' series on Design*Sponge. I fell in love with this film and its sets. If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you do so at the first available opportunity.

* For critical theory fans, this is what French philosopher Jean Baudrillard called the 'simulacrum' or the 'hyperreal' - the image that is more 'real' than reality.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Studio to chateau on a budget

Well Freecycle has come up trumps again. Yesterday I picked up a fantastic freestanding clothes rail, which will come in extremely handy for swishes. It was Freecycled by the lovely Ness, whom I met via Freecycle and have since got to know through clothes swapping - community eco-fabulousness in action.

One of the few downsides to Freecycle is that you don't get to see photos of anything before you decide. For those who don't like blind dates with their furniture, there is another option: Gumtree. You probably know about Gumtree already, but in case you don't, it has things for free and for sale, with photos. It doesn't just have furniture, either, but all manner of classified ads, with sub-sites in towns and cities all over the world.

I've had some stupendous bargains from Gumtree. To give you an idea of what's out there, I thought I'd trawl my local site (Brighton) and give you my pick of the past week's offerings.

As is this extendable dining table, which has a classic mid-century shape, and could look beautiful with the application of a bit of wire wool and beeswax:

In the for sale section, this fabulous vintage 1980s Ligne Roset tan leather sofa is just £75:

I adore this vintage dressing table chair, which is going for a song at just £20:

And finally, if you've got a bit more cash to splash, how about this di-vihne Regency sofa for £595? A swine to keep clean, but look how pretty:

Okay, this one's not pocket money (well not as far as my pockets go, anyway), but you only have to compare it to what you'd get for the same money in Ikea (not to mention one of those vile Furniture Village-type hellholes) to see that if you want chateau-style decor on a studio-flat budget, this is the way to go.

In other joys, Madame la Moue and I got some splendid new threads at Mrs Fitzpatrick's clothes swap (check out her wonderful afternoon tea party service here). I feel another fashion shoot coming on...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

How to have half-decent skin. Or not, as the case may be...

I was going to post part 3 of my 'How to have half-decent skin' series today, and I did actually start writing it. And then I stopped. The fact is, I was feeling like a bit of a fraud because today I don't really have half-decent skin at all. In fact, I am seriously contemplating refusing to leave the house or answer the doorbell for several days until a couple of particularly evil erumpent spotules have vamoosed.

I am not even going to dignify this with a caption

Here are a few of the things that go through my head when I spot a spot in the mirror:
1. Gah - gah - gah! I have regressed to pubescent acnedom, but now with the added joy of wrinkles.*
2. My arch-enemy, the evil erumpent pimple, has the power to undo all attempts at beautification through hair, clothes or make up, rendering me abhorrent to the human eye.
3. Those few golden years of half-decent skin were but a fleeting window in a life of unmitigated hideousness.
4. I must henceforth resign myself to a half life of despair, sans friends, admirers or social interaction of any kind.
5. Somebody shoot me now.
Now you may think I am exaggerating for effect. The reality is, I am not. For an allegedly intelligent woman, there is a remarkably large amount of silliness in my train of thought, but I have a sneaking feeling that I'm not alone in this. So I thought I would come up with a few alternative mantras to help me feel marginally better (and, just maybe, you too, dear reader):
1. Perfection is an unattainable fantasy: everyone lacks confidence in their appearance sometimes - even Angelina Jolie.** Why do you think A-listers have all that surgery?
2. You can have half-decent skin AND the odd spot. It is allowed.
3. This time next week the spotules will have vanished. You will still be alive.
4. Staying in and brooding only makes you feel worse. Step away from the mirror and go out dancing. At the very least it will distract you.
5. If your 90-year-old self could pay you a visit from the future, she would say: 'You think you're hideous now? Hell's teeth girl! When will you thirtysomething women realise that you are in your prime! Now pour me another gin.' (Because that is what I will be like when I'm 90, obvs).
This post was inspired by The Glamourous Grad Student, who writes with particular honesty about body confidence today. If you've ever felt the urge to take the battery out of the doorbell because you just can't face another human being (I can't be the only one... can I?), I recommend her post. 

Finally, I could not post today without including a link to the DEC Haiti appeal.

* India Knight calls this the 'teenage granny' look.
** My gold standard for beauty.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

In search of charm: the arts of sophistication

If you're a fan of vintage charm and etiquette guides I have a treat in store for you today in the form of a new Paper Flowers weekly series: 'In search of charm'. Yes ladies (and men - why not?), I will be offering you advice from the 1962 book of the same name written by Mary Young,* principal of the Mary Young Model School and Agency (surely every girl's dream academy? Hogwarts, eat your heart out). Some of it is surprisingly useful, some hilarious, and some downright outrageous.

Bizarrely, I was given this book by my doctoral supervisor, Deborah Cherry, while I was helping her clear out her bookshelves. Quite what a radical feminist art historian was doing with this guide to 'becoming [a] poised, enchanting young woman', one can only imagine...

So, dear internet, join me, if you will, on a journey to see how much of this advice is relevant to the woman of the 2010s.**

Today's pearl of wisdom comes from the introduction:
'Ladies,' said Mr Samuel Goldwyn, the famous Hollywood producer, 'if you want to be devastating, use all the arts of sophistication, but remain demure.'

Now the phrase 'the arts of sophistication' conjures up good grooming, elegant dressing, beauty culture in all its aspects, poise and grace of movement, good speech and a developed personality; 'demure' suggests that tenderness, sweetness and serenity without which no woman can be truly beautiful. And if this book tends to dwell on 'the arts of sophistication', it is because I can't stress too strongly that I feel the young woman of today should be that well-balanced person suggested by a wise Mr Goldwyn.
So is remaining demure really all-important to the 'devastating' woman of 2010? I'm certainly not averse to using a little strategic demureness myself, but is this a retrograde step which can only confirm the belief that women are the weaker sex, incapable of doing things for ourselves and in need of protection from men? Or is it just another weapon in the modern girl's armoury as she makes her way in a world that is still weighted in favour of those of the male persuasion in so many ways? What do you think dear readers?

More charming tips coming soon: highlights will include 'Are my gloves the right length?', 'Things to leave to, or allow, the escort' and 'Do I look unnecessarily short?'

* This is out of print and 48 years old, so I am taking the liberty of reproducing extracts here. However if you know better, please let me know and I will try my best to keep it legal...

** Photo by Paula Wirth. Check out her Flickr photostream for more fab vintage graphics.

Monday, 11 January 2010

H&M's ethical identity crisis

What to make of the recent behaviour of H&M? On one hand we have the shocking news, reported in the New York Times on Tuesday, that the Swedish company's New York store had been slashing unsold clothes so that they could not be sold or worn again. This kind of mindless waste makes me feel ill. A speedy PR response from H&M stated that their policy is to donate unsold clothes and that this would not happen again. Still, it does leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

On the other hand, H&M's Garden Collection, which will be available from March, is produced entirely using sustainable materials, including organic cotton, organic linen and recycled plastic bottles. And I have to say, it looks great: oversized painted florals fuse a summer-of-love feel with a bohemian Bloomsbury aesthetic.

So what to do to send H&M the right ethical message? Encourage the good behaviour by supporting the recycled collection? Or boycott them for failing to even cycle, let alone re-cycle what they already have? And whatever we do, is the message even likely to have any real impact? What do you think, dear readers?

Anyway, if you do decide to support H&M's sustainable range, here is my pick of the best from the Garden Collection:

LOVE this dress: the hand-painted print, the Fruit Gum colours, the swathed fabric avec perfect gathered waist. All divine. But most of all those KIMONO SLEEVES. I would wear this for swanning around, having afternoon tea and painting by the lake, while pretending I am a. a member of the Bloomsbury set; b. in an episode of Poirot; c. both. Best of all, it will be on sale for a bargainous £14.99:

Also really loving this look: small floral print dress avec bold floral contrast pockets (£12.99), given a sharper edge with a linen biker-jacket (£24.99). I would belt this with a magic belt from American Apparel (note to self: must post on the life-changing qualities of the AAMB asap):

Finally, I ADORE this simple jersey dress with ruffled shoulders. It would be perfect for any summer occasion: with heels and gold accessories for a June wedding, or flats for a casual lunch date. And at £19.95, it's a veritable steal:

In other news, Saturday was a whiteout here in snowy Sussex, which meant desastre for my plans to attend the International Day of Swishing with Madame la Moue. As MLM put it with inimitable eloquence in a message on Saturday morning: 'If we went to London today we would be MENTALISTS.' And so we would have been. *The heartbreak.*

Even worse, is now tweeting that someone got a CHLOE HANDBAG. If you are that someone, please leave now: you are henceforth banned from Paper Flowers. I'm sorry, I must break off now as the thought of designer handbags being given away without me is making me feel physically unwell...

H&M Garden Collection found via Oh Joy! and Refinery 29.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Heirloom fashion: Auntie Marjorie's scarf

One of my favourite Christmas presents this year wasn't strictly a Christmas present at all. It's this cashmere scarf, which belonged to my late Great Auntie Marjorie and which was passed down to me by my mum:

I find its buttermilk colour and soft cosiness infinitely comforting and quite perfect for snuggling up in during this arctic weather. It's not actually something I would have chosen for myself, but I love it because it reminds me of my Auntie Marjorie, who was quite a character in her time.  Here she is in 1931:

Isn't this outfit just fabulous? Note to self: must lay my hands on some satin hareem pants asap. And those upper-arm bangles: so inspirational. Do you have any 'heirloom' pieces that you treasure because of their history, family or otherwise?

Being less than youthful, however, the scarf has a couple of marks (which I suspect are hot chocolate stains). I'm too scared to subject it to stain remover, so if anyone has any tried and tested tips for cleaning cashmere, please let me know.

The other thing I am deeply excited about is tomorrow's International Day of Swishing flagship event in London. The only cloud on the horizon is a snowy one, as the British Isles currently look like a Christmas cake iced by a deranged patissier:*

Madame la Moue and I will do (almost) anything for free clothes and cocktails, though, including battling through blizzard and snowdrift. So if you're up for a challenge too, I'll see you there. Now where did I put those crampons...?

* This jaw-dropping photograph was taken by a Nasa satellite on 7th January 2010. Via BBC News.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Button bracelet

This charming bracelet was made for me by my gorgeous artist friend Rachael (a sneaky peek through the keyhole of Rach's amazing studio is coming soon to Paper Flowers). She made it entirely from recycled materials, including wire from the outside of wine bottles. How clever?

Bracelet photographed on an exquisite linen table runner I found in a charity shop in Brighton. For £1. £1!! Can you even believe it? There must be about a gazillion hours of work in it. And, even better, it perfectly covers the top of my favourite table, which I got for a bargain £23 because the top has been subjected to some form of indescribable torture involving burning objects. Hence the need for the runner.

If this has put you in the mood for a little wine-bottle-wire-related craft activity, why not make one of these super-cute champagne-cage bistro chairs? Full instructions on Design Sponge here.

And if you haven't got a couple of champagne (or at least cava) cages hanging around from Christmas and New Year, shame on you: you're obviously either far too abstemious or far too tidy. Either way, go and remedy the situation immediatement.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Recycled decor: Berry Red

The other day I baked these ginger biscuits using my Mum's recipe (for which clicky clicky here), but with one magic ingredient: I substituted one of the ounces of sugar for one of blackstrap molasses and then proceeded to faint with joy as soon as I tasted them. Good god, does ginger go well with molasses? This is also what gives them that lovely, dark gingerbread colour.

And don't you just want to marry this paisley baking paper? It was a Christmas present from my brother's lovely girlfriend Natalia.

It's made by Greengate and is available from Berry Red. Their website is full of lovely lovely bits for the home, many of which are recycled, including these frames, which are made from reclaimed wood by a charity in South Africa. LOVE THEM:

And these recycled notebooks with beautiful graphics, one of which I also got for Christmas (thank you Nat!):

The award for their top bargain, however, must go to this divine vintage cake poster at £2.75, which I am most tempted to order and frame to put on my kitchen wall (they also have a lovely vintage butterflies version):

The only question is which to try first, Macedoine of fruits with jelly or Tipsy cake?

Monday, 4 January 2010

How to have half-decent skin: step 2 of 4

After cleansing, step 2 in any sensible skincare regime is moisturising. Although here I must take a quick tangent on the subject of toners. And by toners what I mean is unnecessary bottles of expensive water and alcohol. Here is what those lovely cosmetic scientists over at the Beauty Brains say: 'a skin toner is kind of like your appendix: you have one but your body doesn’t really need to use it.' Read their post 'The Truth About Skin Toners' here.

But I digress. So. Moisturiser. I don't want miracles, just something that stops leprous flakiness in this freezing weather without bringing me out in hideous pustules.

I am a big fan of Bio-Oil. This is one of those products that have gathered a cult following through word of mouth, rather than through multi-million-pound advertising campaigns, which immediately makes me trust it more than more hyped brands.

It's supposed to be good for everything from scars and stretchmarks to dehydrated skin and wrinkles. Miracle worker? Maybe. All I know is that it's been a lifesaver when I've had dry skin and is light and easily absorbed enough not to give me spots when I haven't. And really, isn't that all you need for half-decent skin?

In other news, I am back at work as an eco-spy... going undercover in the supermarkets of East Sussex. The glamour.

Actually, forget I told you that, otherwise I might have to have you abducted, wipe your memory and leave you wandering the streets like Mike from Neighbours in that film where he has to get all those tattoos. And that's just not a good look.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

New year's revolution

Here is my first new year's resolution: to cut my carbon footprint by 10% in 2010.

It's all too easy to feel powerless when faced with the mind-numbing ineptitude shown by politicians in response to climate change. One way to stop apathy and paralysis setting in is to take matters into our own hands, stop waiting for governments to tell us what to do and just get on with it.

So I have signed up to the 10:10 movement started by Franny Armstrong, director of The Age of Stupid. I love the argument made in this film that instead of feeling helpless, we should all feel immensely powerful: previous generations didn't know about climate change and future generations will be too late to stop it. This makes us the most powerful people who have ever lived on this planet, as we are the only ones who have the power to save humanity. We're superheroes, people!

As Kevin McCloud pointed out at the campaign's launch: "If you all go out and get 10 people to sign up to 10:10 and get them to sign up another 10 people on Friday, then by next Tuesday the whole planet will have signed up and we will have won." They're doing pretty well, but there's a long way to go, so why not join Stella McCartney, Colin Firth and over 52 thousand others and sign up?

Finally, massive congratulations to Mr and Mrs H, who started the new decade in wonderfully dramatic fashion: little Harry was born four days ago after superhuman efforts on the part of Mrs H. Ouch. Could someone please tattoo on my forehead: never have babies. Or at least never give birth to them. Because I hear it can hurt a bit... Oh, who am I trying to kid? Those tiny fingernails? I want one NOW.

Don't you just adore these exquisite animal prints baby H has above his cot?

Happy new decade.