Friday, 24 December 2010

Curious Christmas greetings

Forget the Adoration of the Magi, Christmas has become a time for all things kitsch and over the top. Last year we sent you Christmas greetings from Chelsea.

This year ShopCurious brings tidings of glad joy from wonderfully olde worlde Fulham. Yes, there was snow in London very recently, but as far as I’m aware, it’s never looked quite like this…

Other curiously quirky Christmas touches I’ve spotted recently include:

Crazy Christmas lights in the backstreets of Battersea.

A knitted nativity scene.

Timelessly thought provoking children’s art.

A stuffed stag's head decoration (from my guest loo).

A curious Christmas icon from Mexico (looks Christmassy whether it is or not).

My mother’s Christmas cake – purely ornamental and totally excessive as no one ever eats it, but she insists on baking one every year - and probably has several from Christmases past rotting in tins at home. And not forgetting all the peculiarly coloured festive drinks (read more about my experience of these over at The Dabbler).

Anyway, for those who are curious, I can confirm that Father Christmas didn't quite make it back to the North Pole - due to the snow he got stuck in Fulham.

Wishing you a fabulously curious Christmas Day wherever you are.

Are you?

Thursday, 23 December 2010

It pays to be curious

I just wanted to say a big thank you to all our lovely customers.

I hope that your visits to ShopCurious are always enjoyable, educational and time saving?

Incidentally, you were curiously clever if you found some unique Christmas gifts online - and you were also spared the mercenary mania on the cold, wet streets - especially this year in London:

And these photos were taken before the snow…

Thank you for being curious.

Are you?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Scents of the season

I was out in the snow yesterday, playing with my new best friend - Calum, the snowman. Don’t you love the sound of icy snow crunching underfoot? And the appearance of freshly fallen snow: that strange yellowy blue light from the snowy sky, and the curiously lunar-white landscape. The coldness and soft melting quality of snow to the touch is totally unique – it even feels and tastes rather lovely on the tongue. But there’s one thing that snow doesn’t seem to have… a smell.

I was trying to recall the scents that have stuck in my mind, if that’s where the sense of smell resides? Then I found myself wondering about the first thing I ever smelled. At what age does recognition of smell kick in? Why do young children sniff so many things up their noses (sometimes requiring medical intervention to get them out again)?

I vividly remember my grandmother’s smell. A sort of lavender talcum-powdery, bathroomy sweetness, not unlike the relatively recently created Agent Provocateur fragrance. Then there was my first trip on a school exhange to France, where it wasn’t so much the wafting aroma of fresh croissants and coffee, more the pungent niff of Palmolive soap used by my host family that stuck up my nose – or in my memory at least.

Nowadays I use Burt’s Bees shampoo. Partly because it’s made with natural ingredients and is hypo-allergenic, but also because I love the smell. It reminds me of the bedroom I had as a child. There was a big honeysuckle bush outside, and almost every morning I’d be woken up by the sound of a bumble bee coming in through the open window and getting stuck behind the curtain (ahh, the days of the open window..)

On another trip to France I visited a wonderfully plain and simple white-washed church, where monks sang Gregorian chant in a haze of incense. The sounds and the smells were equally divine, and the essential purity of the whole experience left a lasting impression on me.

If you love naturally beautiful perfumes and ingredients too, I can suggest nothing better for Christmas than the organic scented products from Zarvis London at ShopCurious. From exclusive Patchouli Baby and Lavender Crystal gift sets to home fragrances like the seasonal scents in this Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh tin, which are guaranteed to 'bring forth good cheer.' There’s something for everyone - and every occasion in this range… So long as you have a suitably discerning sense of taste and smell.

Do you?

Friday, 17 December 2010

Festive phone box art

Modern digital telecommunications have made the retro telephone box largely obsolete. However, some have been put to inventive alternative use.

Earlier in the year, it was reported that villagers in England had opened a grocery store inside a phone box.

Today, at The Dabbler, you can find out what Father Christmas was doing on top of this old fashioned telephone box in rural Cornwall.

Meantime, digital artists have come up with even more cleverly creative phone box functionality:

Curious Superhero

Curious Superhero by Thea Maia -

Introducing The Glamorizer 3000
Introducing The Glamorizer 3000 by april-busy

And, finally, how about this for an innovative, retro-progressive way of brightening up your Christmas: Finn Stone’s fabulous phone box lamp offers the ultimate in arty style for the uber-cool home, or garden... Available to order, at ShopCurious.

Will you?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Stocking fillers for a capital Christmas

The last minute rush is upon us. There’s more cold weather coming too... I suggest you sit back in a comfy armchair with your laptop, so you can pick up a few stocking fillers without even going into town.

Here’s my choice of curiosities from London via ShopCurious, all available in time for Christmas (last UK orders 22nd December):

To start with how about a retro London powder compact, perfect for a liberal dusting of old fashioned charm...

Zarvis London’s divinely scented ‘mothaway cones' make a curiously useful gift, especially if you happen to live in London, where there seem to be plenty of moths. Are there any your way? In any case, there’s a special offer for a pack of two eco-friendly cones, which are available at a 20% discount.

If you’re going for the shock factor, there’s always The Little Shop of Horrors’ anatomical curiosity – the innocuously named Ted and Eddy, a freakish two-headed teddy bear. Eek!

Or for the traditionalist, choose from a selection of curiously collectable royal commemorative tins, starting at only £8 – surely the least expensive heirlooms in town?

The quirky and characterful Someday diary has no fixed dates, making it a totally timeless gift – but also perfect with the New Year just around the corner. And only £17 a pop too...

Keep someone warm this Christmas with a classic vintage men’s silk scarf. At only a little over £20 this is arty style that’s surprisingly cheap.

Or choose from a range of charming, old-style brooches, some attached to a pretty postcard, that are both reasonably priced and perfect as unusual gifts for ladies of all ages.

There are plenty more curiosities and gift ideas on the website, but I thought a few mentions might help you on your way. Take a look around, anyway... you never know what you might find, without eating too much into your capital.

Will you?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Gifts, gowns and men's Christmas style

Have any of the men in your household asked for a dressing gown for Christmas? Dressing gowns started out as exclusively male garments, so it’s strange that more women than men seem to wear them today.

I carried out some research into this much loved item of clothing and discovered the following:

The first type of gown was a loose open fronted robe, belted at the waist, and called a ‘banyan’ (meaning ‘merchant’). It was introduced from the mid-17th century, based on clothing styles from Persia, Turkey and East India.

One of the earliest mentions of a dressing gown comes from Samuel Pepys, who wanted to be depicted in his portrait in a silk gown but couldn't afford one, and so rented one instead:

“Thence home and eat one mouthful, and so to Hale's and there sat till almost quite dark upon working my gowne, which I hired to be drawn (in) it—an Indian gown, and I do see all the reason to expect a most excellent picture of it.” Diary, 30 March 1666.

During the Crimean war, when smoking became fashionable, the smoking jacket emerged as an exotic alternative to the informal long robe. The smoking jacket was traditionally oriental in style, with quilted lining and/or lapels and extravagant twisted silk button hooks.

Then came the silk dressing gown, as popularized by Noel Coward, along with the wool, or cotton-blanket, and cotton varieties - with piped collars and tassel-trimmed or cord tie belts. Shorter designs were introduced when central heating became more common.

The modern dressing gown is often referred to as a ‘bathrobe’ and is usually made from cotton towelling, waffle fabric or thinner cotton poplin, though the retro look is making something of a comeback.

That just about covers the history of the dressing gown. However, what you really ought to know is what your dressing gown reveals about you. Men, if you’re brave enough, read The Dabbler’s official dressing gown guide to find out what your dressing gown says about your personality.

You’ll probably decide you want something else for Christmas, in which case we’ve an array of very original men’s gifts at ShopCurious.

Anyway, I sincerely hope that you, the family and the pets enjoy an appropriately dressy (and warm) Christmas without any undue sartorial embarrassment...

Will you?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas crustaceans and curious gifts

All things aquatic are suddenly in fashion. First there were flesh-eating fishes, as I discovered when I sampled the skin nibbling skills of rufa fish on my much-walked, swollen feet earlier in the year.

Now marine life is everywhere. John Galliano has even created an oceanic inspired Christmas tree at Claridge’s.

Not that I’m complaining, as I'm a great lover of seafood - shellfish in particular. But Christmas tends to be a time for feasting on poultry and game, along with pates, hams and other cold meats.

I was thinking how lovely it would be to have a nice plate of fruits de mer for Christmas Day lunch instead of the traditional, bog-standard turkey. Or, if it’s still bitterly cold outside, perhaps something a little more warming like a classic lobster thermidor

If you’re also tempted by alternative seasonal dining options, we’ve an appropriately unique retro lobster plate set at ShopCurious. Produced by renowned American ceramicist Brad Keeler, the serving platter features an enormous lobster in a curiously captivating dark coral red glaze.

And, whilst we’re on the subject of Christmas and crustaceans, we’ve plenty of other gifts worth shelling out on too. Our selection of jewellery made with natural curiosties includes this fabulously dramatic cowrie shell and silver bangle.

The smaller cowrie shell rings are also very striking and totally timeless. In fact, they're perfect for any occasion from a Christmas party to a New Year holiday in the sun.

Bet you’re by salivating now?

Are you?

PS For more curious Christmas gift ideas, visit The Dabbler.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Identifying the art in fashion

The GSK Contemporary exhibition at the Royal Academy – Aware: Art Fashion Identity, encourages us to think differently about fashion. I left with enough ideas to fill a book – though the accompanying catalogue does rather a good job of summarizing the metaphor and meaning behind the main exhibits.

The show runs until the 30th January 2011 and is divided into four sections. Storytelling considers the role of clothing as an expression of personal and cultural history; Building is about the concept of clothing as a form of protection – a sort of shelter from the changes taking place around us; Belonging and Confronting looks at notions of nationality and displacement – political, social and religious differences and the tensions associated with the assimilation of new cultures. And Performance highlights the importance of the roles we play in our daily lives.

Most of the pieces are by artists rather than fashion designers. The exhibits reflect a multitude of influences from globalization, cultural transformation and feminism to architecture, memories, class, environmental issues and rites of passage. And the show has as much to do with the study of psychogeography as it does the concept of identity.

This Alexander McQueen dress is from his 1998 collection, which was inspired by the story of Joan of Arc. The final scene featured a model wearing a beaded dress, encircled by flames.

Looking at it I was reminded that designers are very often the faceless front of fashion. They put huge emotional energy and incredibly long hours into producing collections that are presented in catwalk shows only a few minutes long, and have selling seasons that may last only a matter of weeks before products are marked down, or considered worthy of clearance.

To Andrea Zittel, clothes are very much functional objects. She rejects consumerism in favour of simplicity and sustainability by creating a few pieces of clothing every year, each to be worn for a several months. Her garments are handmade using traditional techniques and dyed with natural colouring, often employing old established methods to work in organic felt. In fact, this 1990s felt dress by Kazaski at ShopCurious is rather similar in style to Zittel’s eco-friendly tunic designs.

Anyway, there are contributions from thirty contemporary international artists, so there’s plenty more to look at and consider. And with a patisserie and café run by sketch, there’s lots of food for thought too. Oh, and the show is likely to be a sell out, so don’t leave it too late to cast a critical eye.

Will you?

PS To identify yourself in a curiously arty way, check out today’s post over at the Dabbler.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Curiosities of snowy London

These were the views I woke up to this morning. One of my windows was iced over – thankfully only on the outside. The terrace was covered in snow, though only a few inches.

Nevertheless, with a biting north-easterly wind, it was pretty cold outside... but I was still determined to have a little walk along the river to see if anyone was out and about.

As it happened, there wasn’t anything much going on in the park, and not one illegal barbecuer in sight.

Someone had obviously ventured down the riverside slipway, though there was no evidence of their tracks coming back up again.

It was altogether very quiet - perhaps everyone had cleverly stayed in the warm?

And then I noticed something decidedly odd…

What looked suspiciously like a body was dangling from a rope in the River Thames. I tried to get a closer look, but my hands were shaking so much from the cold I couldn’t focus my camera.

I inspected the curious corpse from above and considered my options. Should I call the police? Should I see if I could somehow climb down to take a closer look, or pull the hanging body out of the water?

I thought about it, but then spotted a sign on the neighbouring building.

Perhaps this was just down to some kids being ‘nauty’?

On the way back there were more signs of those intrepid enough to brave the icy conditions, but still no barbecuers.

Anyway, if you’re going out today, I can only suggest you wear something suitably warm.

These eco-friendly, ‘snow bunny’ sheepskin boot covers from Romp London at ShopCurious should keep your feet and legs curiously cosy.

Just be careful on the slippery pavements – and beware of children and boats.

Will you?