Sunday, 28 September 2008

Fountains and florals

What a marvellously sunny day it’s been. Very unexpected for the time of year and almost warm enough to swim Brideshead-style in a fountain. I’ve already mentioned the incredible Brihi-Riachi wedding that I attended in the South of France a few weeks ago, but I thought you might like to see the beautiful floral arrangements … and the fabulous display of fountains.

Villa Ephrussi overlooks the bay of Villefranche, but it’s on a headland giving spectacular views out across the water in two different directions. The website says that ‘nine heavenly gardens are adorned with patios, fountains, ponds, flowered and shaded paths.’ There was also a sculpture exhibition on at the time, by an artist called Nathalie Decoster. Her sculptures of man and nature depict ‘souls balancing on the edge of time’ and lead us to question the headlong rush of modern life and ‘focus anew on the essential values of life’.

We arrived in this picture of perfection with its large calm and still pools of candlelit water, to strains of a jazz saxophonist and the distant popping of champagne corks. As guests were still arriving, I managed to take a few snaps – but, when modern life allows, I’d rather like to return and take some time looking around the gardens properly.

I walked through the stylishly set tables with their designer floral decorations to the main house, where I popped in to visit the ladies powder room (shame the French still haven’t mastered the luxury loo) – and when I returned everyone was saying “you missed the fountains!”

A wonder of gushing and burbling water had spluttered into life in my absence and enormous arcs of refreshing water were now dancing before me.

Ross mistook this for champagne.

Influenced by Ms Decoster’s curious creations, I took a moment to reflect on ‘man’s unequal struggle with time’. Yes, this is a location far from the realities of everyday existence where one can easily escape into a place that ‘hovers somewhere between lightness and awareness’. Better zip back to frenzied, fast-paced London life and get on with some work so I can afford to spend another moment in horticulturalists’ heaven.

You might even be inspired by our stylish floral designer vintage fashion to buy something beautifully unique from ShopCurious and help towards my next trip.

Will you?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Enchanted garden?

The other day I was fortunate enough to see a preview of the new Brideshead Revisited film. I don’t want to offend anyone, as I’ve neither read the book nor seen the TV serialization - but with fresh eyes and an optimistic outlook, I found it curiously insightful and brilliantly done.

Yes, the settings are beautiful, the actors rather cute, the 1920s and '30s style costumes and accessories are totally fabulous and having a glimpse into the quirky haute-boho life of lazy luxury of the British upper classes is somewhat amusing. But looking beyond the stylish fashion and glitzy surroundings, this production has much more to say:

Not only did the film fuel my own curiosity (I love deep and meaningful stuff that you can spend hours trying to get your brains around), but at the very core of this story is man’s innate curiosity and search for meaning. For instance, when the self-proclaimed atheist Charles is invited to a Catholic religious service he’s ‘curious enough to come along’. He seems equally curious in other areas – and unsure as to whether it’s Sebastian or Julia he wishes to bed.

Although his views are well formed in some fields ('photography captures the moment, but art reflects your feelings'), Charles still has a lot to learn about Catholicism and how sin can be offset by confession. He's told that the Italians are a lot better at accepting forgiveness for lapses in the human condition than the guilt ridden English Catholistocracy, whose resulting hang-ups provide plenty of material for this film.

Charles is totally fascinated with Brideshead, which becomes a symbol for the struggle with his own spirituality. He’s fallen hopelessly in love with the Brideshead lifestyle and has travelled a long and often baffling ego trip, until death strikes and the question of faith suddenly becomes all too relevant. Perhaps our own mortality, values and beliefs are worth a little more consideration?

Whatever your thoughts about the meaning of our existence, there’s one certainty in life and that’s why one of the curiosities featured on our website is an eco-friendly receptacle for human ashes. We’re not suggesting that you 'buy one now while stocks last', just asking that you appreciate the organic form, iconic design and practical purpose of the acorn urn – and remember that it’s available at ShopCurious.

Will you?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Fall foliage

Did you notice Google's logo today? It's to commemorate the first day of autumn. We're also celebrating the new season at ShopCurious.

Staying briefly with our feathered friends, this quirky vintage autumn feather hat is now available at our eclectic online store. The stylish design reflects the colours of fall foliage, using natural feathers to stunning effect. It's one of a small selection of unique accessories from 1940s and 1950s America to be found on our website... and more vintage feathered hats are coming soon.

Looking at these glorious red and orange leaves reminds me of the film Far from Heaven with Julianne Moore. It’s set 1950s Connecticut in the fall and is worth seeing just for the the cinematography, let alone the fabulous ‘50s fashions in colours as vivid as the autumn scenery. Better still, the visual feast is matched by a plot exploring controversial issues such as homosexuality, sexism and racism and their effect on relationships in post-war America.

As for gloriously autumnal shades, we’ve also several beautifully beaded vintage handbags in hues that superbly suit the season. These elegant, yet unusual creations will appeal to fashion lovers with distinctive, individual taste. The one-off pieces are intricately embroidered and embellished with gilt leaves and late flowering roses.

Why pay a fortune for a luxury designer handbag, when you could have a bag with original vintage style? Invest in a piece of stateside heritage that’s as collectable as it is covetable - if you take good care of it, you might even be able to pass it on to future generations.

Something to think about whilst you’re kicking your way through autumn’s golden gown...

Will you?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Birds and bees

A couple of weeks ago, I heard someone on BBC Radio 4 mention that birds are migrating early this year and that it’s something to do with global warming. The very same day, just before dusk, what looked like thousands of starlings flitted from roof to roof along the River Thames. They must be rather confused now that summer seems to have finally arrived - just a few months late, ("Come back Peter, come back Paul!" as the nursery rhyme goes...) Sadly, I haven’t seen my friendly goldfinch for about a week or so either – not sure what has happened to him. Do finches migrate too?

Talking of which, at ShopCurious we’ve an original vintage silk scarf in the palest of eau-de-nil greens with beautifully handpainted finches. This is something that combines tradition, heritage and an individual sense of quirkiness and is likely to appeal if you appreciate truly unique accessories. It would also make a lovely and rather unusual gift – suitable for young chicks and old birds alike.

As for the bees, apparently they’re also disappearing fast. Bee keepers have been up in arms and Defra has been called upon to launch some investigative research into diseases affecting bees. However, it may actually be(e?) a combination of stress and a mystery virus that is causing honey bees to die or disappear abruptly, due to something called ‘colony collapse disorder’. It’s all very important as bees don’t just make honey, they also pollinate plants and so are directly responsible for a large part of our agricultural production and much of the food (at least fruit and veg) that we eat.

Oddly enough, this year I’ve noticed loads more bees and lots fewer wasps. That’s probably as a result of having what looks like half of Kew Gardens palm house on my terrace. Thankfully, since last year, the bees now seem to have realized that the carpet in my bedroom isn’t honeycomb, though the design does look remarkably similar.

I’ve also been on the look out for curious insects. I heard that blue butterflies are on the wane, but I did spot one or two in Norfolk this summer, along with these beautifully colourful creatures that I believe – with the help of my insect book – are some sort of burnet moth?

These pictures were taken near the Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve – a veritable haven for birds and bees. The latest buzz is that this is one of the areas that the Government is going to allow to be naturally inundated as the sea level rises, rather than providing additional funding for improvements to flood defenses.

Has anyone who knows more about this (perhaps a person of influence) got a dicky-bird to say?

Do you?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Blushing bride

I recently attended a fabulous wedding in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. The reception was held in a spectacular pink palazzo: Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The gardens are simply stunning and make for one of the most romantic settings for a wedding party in the world.

Needless to say, I got a bit over excited (hence camera happy) and seem to have accumulated rather a lot of snaps (curiously, dozens of fountains - of which more later...) I'll spare the bride, groom and their families any blushes by not publishing any private photos of the very special and highly memorable occasion. But here's a curious phenomenon: with the arrival of dusk and and then darkness, the photographs from my camera became increasingly pink as the event progressed.

I think this may have been something to do the misuse of my camera rather than any strangely original lighting, or could it have had something to do with all that champagne ... was it pink? The resulting effect is curiously exotic. Talking of curious exotica, if you're a lover of unique accessories, we have some quirky new designer bags at ShopCurious. They're by Timmy Woods of Beverly Hills and have wonderfully stylish tropical flower designs carved and handpainted onto acacia wood. They might even come in handy if you're looking to make a fashion statement at a wedding - or even as a luxury gift.

Whilst I'm on the subject of pink faces and Timmy Woods, one might spot the odd blush at Harpers Bazaar. In their UK October edition, they've a feature on The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, where on page 350 they have a picture of my hand carrying another individual Timmy Woods bag - The telephone bag , which they kindly say has 'surreal appeal' and is 'fitting for an art event.'

However, I think Harpers may have slightly overlooked the exclusivity of this bag, which they attribute to Lulu Guinness. I did notice that Lulu's new lips bag looks a lot like another of Timmy Wood's creations, so maybe there's been a little confusion. I'm very curious... is anyone able to shed any light on this unfortunate mix-up?

Are you?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Plucked from the earth

In keeping with our nature theme, here are some natural materials in
the form of stone pendants, available at ShopCurious, photographed against tropical palm trees that curiously now grow rather well in central London. This one is an ammonite fossil - a stylish one of a kind piece that's a limited edition once in a lifetime find and a collectors' item.

To the right is a natural mixed wood sculpture, the sort of thing you can expect to pay oodles of money to have on display alongside your furniture in a stylish modern eclectic home. But if you simply go for a walk in the woods, or along the coast, you can appreciate the natural beauty of nature without paying a fortune - and you'll probably see all sorts of unique and fascinating curiosities.

Depending on which part of the world you're in, you might stumble upon labradorite - it's really unusual and rather overlooked - which means that it's not yet as expensive as some other stones. We have some extraordinary pendants made from this remarkably beautiful mineral - each an individually handcrafted work of art.

Labradorite was discovered in the late 18th century in Labrador in Canada and is sometimes called opaline feldspar, because depending on its type, it resemebles opal or moonstone in the way it reflects an array of colours: blue, green grey, purple occasionally even yellow and bronze. This unique iridescence is known as 'labradoresence'.

Labradorite is thought to have fallen from the Aurora Borealis. Eskimos believed that the Northern Lights were trapped in the rocks off the coast of Labrador, but were set free by their ancestors, who broke off the rocks with spears - however, some of the lights remained trapped in the stone (as labradorite). Labradorite is believed to be a protective stone and is said to help one 'hear the message of spirit guides'. It's also said to be able to help the wearer to realise and achieve his/her destiny. Whatever its properties, there's no doubt that this special rock has a very captivating appearance - and when fashioned into original jewellery pieces, the stone looks both stylish and highly individual.

As do these one of a kind natural wooden sculptures. You'd need to splash out quite a bit to have one of these in your sitting room. Alternatively, you could just camp out in the forest... and go and see what you can find.

Will you?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Purple rain

Well, we have been experiencing some very curious weather. I haven't seen any purple rain yet, but these stunningly beautiful alpines seem to flower in London for at least six months of the year - if not more.

Here are a few photos (taken on my terrace by Kurtay) of some of the unusual and amazing jewellery by Aris Geldis that's available at ShopCurious. What I love about these pieces is the use of totally natural materials, the fact that they're handcrafted, very individual and yet also completely wearable. This unique necklace looks like something inspired by art deco and the 1920s. It's handpainted and has the most extraordinarily clever design - I'm truly smitten!

These pieces of iridescent painted carved crystal have to be one of the iconic jewellery designs of the year. The fabulously original necklaces are artisitic and quirky, yet also highly collectable designer curiosities. A unique accessory like this would work equally as well with a dress for the Oscars as it would with a t-shirt and jeans. Simple, classic, timeless, naturally beautiful and inspirational are some of the words I would use to describe this very special pendant.

And for la piece de resistance, there's a limited edition super-stylish luxury version for lovers of beautiful things who can afford to look really different. Style with brains is one thing, but sometimes a little money helps too:

Take a closer look at the £20 note. First of all, it's purple. And secondly, it features Adam Smith - whose "insights into human nature, the organisation of society, the division of labour and the advantages of specialisation remain at the heart of economics", thus spake Mervyn King. Interestingly, Smith's major work was entitled An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Sounds like something we could do with today?

The new-style £20 notes, introduced in 2007, are apparently much better from a security point of view than the previous ones, with more ultra-violet features. Just as well - we've had enough rain in the UK, I'm voting for purple sunshine!
Are you?