Tuesday, 29 November 2011

History Lover's Gift Guide: The Nineteenth Century

About this time last year, I blogged about eighteenth century themed gifts that would make perfect Christmas presents for fans of all things Georgian. This year, I'm skipping forward into the nineteenth century to offer up a selection of ideas for lovers of this period, from Regency elegance to Victorian decadence. Enjoy!

Victorian Key Brooch, £28 by Bena, culturelabel.com
This quirky antique key brooch would look great against a brightly coloured coat...
Gilbert & George Gin Brooch, £27 by Tatty Devine, culturelabel.com
....Failing that, there's this brooch - reminiscent of nineteenth century gin palaces.
Days of Decadence Ring, £11.50 by Storm in a Teacup, culturelabel.com
This cocktail ring is large and ostentatious enough to pass for Victorian...
Vintage Picture Set, £22.95, by I Love Retro, culturelabel.com

Hummingbird & Cage Cushion, £70, by The Natural History Museum
...While these botanical and wildlife prints and cushion - taken from nineteenth century encyclopaedia and catalogues - are as delicate looking as they are beautiful.
Be Silly Print, £25, by TAG Fine Arts x Stephen Kenny, culturelabel.com
Artist Stephen Kenny found a collection of nineteenth century sayings in an old printer's book of typography, turning them into a series of posters for a modern audience.
Victorian Style Birdcages, £129.95, by I Love Retro, culturelabel.com
These ornamental Victorian style birdcages might not be suitable for feathered occupants, but are striking enough on their own.

Blue Asiatic Pheasant Teacup & Saucer, £17.25, Burleigh
Blue Calico Chinese Bowl - Small - £15.25, Burleigh
Based on original early and mid-nineteenth century designs, Asiatic Pheasant and Blue Calico form part of a huge collection of patterns still in production at one of the last remaining Victorian pottery factories in North Staffordshire. 
Aubrey Beardsley 'Angel' Christmas Cards, £5 for 10, V&A Museum
Aubrey Beardsley Christmas cards show off the nineteenth century Aesthetic movement at its best...
Jane Austen Bust, £15, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath
...while a bust of Jane Austen could provide daily desktop inspiration.
'A Gaiety Girl' Print, from £25, V&A Museum 
'Mr Darcy Loves Elizabeth' Card, £2.50, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath
Posters and greetings cards look just as good as artist prints when framed, like this striking theatrical poster from 1895, and the Darcy-and-Elizabeth inspired card above.

Victoria & Albert Christmas Decorations, £9.50 each,
National Portrait Gallery
And finally, what better way to salute a love of the nineteenth century than with Victoria and Albert adorning your Christmas tree?!

Images courtesy of culturelabel.com, V&A Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Burleigh, The Natural History Museum and The Jane Austen Centre.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A State of Flux

Dinner Plates L-R: Bendot by Marcus Steel, Geometrix by Sarah Callard.
Daisy Chain by Amy Clarke, Novella by Marcus Steel & Rosette by Denise Moloney.
Daisy Chain by Amy Clarke.
Mugs L-R: Bendot by Marcus Steel, Splat & Geometrix by Sarah Callard.

Largest plate: Splat by Sarah Callard.
Smaller plates: Bendot by Marcus Steel.

Bottom plate: Willow Blues by Jenna Stanton.
Left hand plate: Spiro by Harry Davies.
Other designs seen and credited above.

Various designs, seen and credited above.

Assorted test pieces and idea boards.

Test pieces and design sketches.
A few weeks ago, I attended the launch of a new ceramics company designing and producing wares entirely in Stoke-on-Trent. Flux: Stoke-on-Trent was established last year at Staffordshire University; harnessing the creative power and technical knowledge of the university's MA Ceramic Design students and graduates in a fresh, exciting and innovative way.

Taking the classic and perennially popular blue-and-white colourway (take Spode's Blue Italian as an example), the Flux team have paid homage to the ceramic heritage of the city while producing designs that are strikingly modern.

There are various designs to choose from, and because they are all made using the same colours, buyers can either select matching pieces, or mix styles to produce a unique set.

The launch party was well attended, and there was a definite sense of excitement in the air. This is not production on a massive, industrial scale, yet perhaps in smaller, design focused companies like Flux lies the promise of a future for pottery production in Stoke-on-Trent, and I - for one- certainly hope so.

For further information on Flux: Stoke-on-Trent, visit their website, here.

All photos by me.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Autumn Colours

Hello! It's been far too long since my last post, but here I am. I'm not going to give a raft of excuses for my hiatus, but this blog - and, in turn, all the lovely blogs I read have not been far from my mind.
So, Autumn is here again and it's my favourite season. The most elegant of seasons, I always think - showy, yes, but with a touch of melancholy that signals the coming of winter chills and bare branches. Autumn is also my favourite season to take photographs, too. Not just for the contrast of colours, but also for the misty mornings and, for me, the most beautiful of sunrises to be found all year. 
This time a good few years back, I shot a series of photos at the theme park, Alton Towers. These days it may be home to famous roller coasters, but before any of that came into being, Alton Towers was owned by the Earls of Shrewsbury, who built a house there to be used as a hunting lodge. The house slowly grew in grandeur over the years, and by the 1800s, was a lavishly appointed neo-gothic residence with large, landscaped gardens.
As anyone who has visited Alton Towers will know, the house - the Towers - still stands, but is a gutted and derelict shell. Although listed by English Heritage, it stands in a pretty woeful state, but visitors to the theme park are still able to wander it's cavernous rooms and passageways. The gardens also remain, and it is here that I took my photos. Also listed, and still maintained, the gardens are a beautiful reminder of what once was. Victorian conservatories stand empty now; the statues crumble and fountains play on. A wander through the vast paths and avenues reveals surprise after surprise, as the screams of ride-goers and hum of the theme park disappear and silence abounds. 
It's quite easy to get lost in this garden-labyrinth, but that's no bad thing, for within the ghostly echoes of what Alton Towers once was, lies a beauty all of its own.

All photos by me.