Saturday, 27 August 2011

Mark to marquetry

In recent posts we’ve featured cities and souvenirs – now here’s something related to both. This incredible olivewood, bone and mother of pearl model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is perhaps one of the earliest ever souvenir buildings – it was probably based on drawings by Bernadino Amico in the 1590s to record the rebuilding of the church. Models like this were made under Franciscan supervision as gifts for diplomats, as well as souvenirs of the Grand Tour.

We’ve previously mentioned that marquetry and mosaics are emerging trends. But if you want to ‘get the look’ for a lot less than the £39,000 this collectable item sold for at Bonhams auction house recently, we’ve got just the thing at ShopCurious.

Check out our selection of reasonably priced mother of pearl and bone inlaid wooden souvenir boxes. They’re great as unusual gifts – and they’re curiously useful too.

Are you?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Mirroring the metropolis

The world we’ve created for ourselves consists of cities in a state of constant flux. Buildings, streets - in fact, whole communities are monitored by 24 hour CCTV. Yet we still choose to live together, as a group, in places with towering buildings…and lots of other people around us.

Our ongoing love of the city is demonstrated in the recent resurgence of Art Deco-style, skyscraper inspired design. Read more about this, and the impact of the all-seeing eye of Big Brother upon the world of art and design, in ShopCurious's latest Curious Trends posts.

Meantime, here’s some information on a forthcoming photographic exhibition that also draws inspiration from the metropolis: Diemar/Noble Photography’s Land/City/Real/Imagined is a curated selection of work by leading photographers, with the city as its theme. Running from 25th August until 1st October, the show is divided into two sections ‘land’ and ‘city’, it even includes NASA photographs of the surface of the moon.

One of the more classic shots on display is Berenice Abbott’s 1936 portrait of the 'Irving Trust Building, 1 Wall Street' (left).

Also included is an awe-inspiring image by British photographer, George Rodger. Taken on the 102nd floor of New York’s Empire State Building in 1950, this coolly conveys the excitement of looking out over the great metropolis.

Colombian born, London based photographer, Manuel Vazques captures the surreality of our surveillance society in works from his ‘Traces’ project (see top right), carried out at Atocha railway station in Madrid, scene of the 2004 terrorist attacks.

Vazques' images bring to our awareness the curious paradox of public space, where anonymity and scrutiny co-exist. In a society full of prying eyes, we have the ability to be both spectator and actor…

Are you?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Travelling in arty Aussie style

The curious incident involving Monsieur Depardieu reminds me how much air travel has changed over the past few decades. An in-flight experience used to be the height of luxury (and politeness), but these days on board lavatories are just as bad as they are on inter-city trains. On my flight back from Spain this week, one loo had soap and no hand towels, whereas the other had hand towels and no soap.

Anyway, I’m glad to be back because I wanted to show you this rare reminder of the air travel style of yesteryear. I love the curiously arty design of this Qantas airline souvenir from ShopCurious. The vintage silk scarf is colourfully printed with bold images of tourist destinations from around the world. Funnily enough, the clashing colours remind me of the outfit worn by Australian nomad, Trudi, whose photograph appears in our latest Curious Trends article.

Talking of memorabilia, do have a read of my RetroProgressive post on the official merchandise for the London 2012 Olympics over at The Dabbler today – and let me know what you think of the uniquely contemporary designs.

Will you?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Slow-tech lifestyle shift?

I was reading Elle Decoration’s recent trend report, which seemed rather like a manifesto for shopping curiously – favouring nature-inspired pieces, along with "humble materials, upcycled treasures and… quilted fabrics."

If you’ve visited central London recently you may not have noticed any move towards frugality, but after the recent riots, we’ve begun to think in a totally different way.

ShopCurious has been pivotal in the shift towards vintage and recycling. We’ve been helping lead consumers towards a less wasteful, more meaningful future - from hi-tech to artisanal; from unnecessary extravagance to provenance…

Trends indicate that a lot more of us are starting to look back to a previous (more reliable) time, when the physical and tangible prevailed… But can we not combine the advantages of modern technology with our old-found knowledge of what works, and what doesn’t, to create innovative, contemporary solutions?

On that note, you may like this curiously quirky, collectable out of print book - Corey Ford’s Guide to Thimking (sic). With over 40 vintage cartoons and groovy graphics on the cover, this ‘humorous handbook for the machine age’ is the height of retroprogressive cool.

Are you?

PS My prescient predictions from September 2010 are also worth re-reading.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Charmingly deceptive...

ShopCurious had a sneak preview of Pierre Salvadori’s new film, Beautiful Lies. Described as ‘a quirky and hilarious love-triangle’, the curiously charming film stars BAFTA nominated actress Audrey Tatou, who incidentally is the face of Chanel No. 5 and August 2011 cover star of Marie Claire – you may also remember her from Amelie and Coco Before Chanel.

Audrey plays Emilie, the co-owner of a hairdressing salon in the sunny south of France, who receives a curious love letter from an anonymous admirer. Instead of binning the letter, she decides to send it to her mother, who’s still clinging on to the memory of her ex-husband, four years after the break-up of her marriage.

As the plot of the romantic comedy becomes ever more tangled, we suddenly find that we’re considering our own relationships with others – and with ourselves.

What I particularly like about this film is the clash of cultures. Computer keyboard tapping Emilie appears to have developed a fear of classical music, literature and formal education. How refreshing that a beautifully written, old fashioned love letter sparks the flames of passion – and maintains the twists and turns of the amusing storyline.

With so many misconceived exchanges between the characters, as well as the ever-changing trends in hair designs, it’s rather disconcerting that the only constant seems to be the enormous quantity of alcohol consumed by all involved – presumably to numb their real feelings.

Yet the most significant symbol throughout the film is probably the hairdressers’ mirror. We live in a world where appearances mean everything. We go to all manner of lengths to defy the natural aging process, often masking the very quintessence of our being. If Emilie’s salon is a reflection of society, her relationships are a reflection of herself. Ultimately, this is a film about self-love and self-loathing. It’s about trusting yourself to go with your instinct, to slow down and consider the things that really matter… like truth.

Beautiful Lies is in cinemas from 12th August. I hope you find some time to see it.

Will you?

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Capital of vintage soul

I’ve been immersed in music lately. Soul music in particular. Funnily enough, I found a photograph of the Soul Immersions dive boat that was used by the press at Antigua Race Week when I was writing my latest post for The Dabbler - the name seems curiously appropriate...

Anyway, I was totally won over by the Soul Revue at Vintage 2011 last weekend.

Ex-Rose Royce diva Gwen Dickey’s rendition of Love Don’t Live Hear Anymore was outstanding. And Percy Sledge’s performance of Lighter Shade of Pale was sublime – though a curious fact is that even he doesn’t know what the song's title actually means.

Then there was the Average White Band’s brilliant Hamish Stuart, who’s composed so many amazing tracks, mostly for other (more famous) artists… And the Flirtations’ shimmering rainbow dresses certainly added to the flavour of the ‘70s vintage soul vibe.

I’ve also discovered a fantastic new radio station recently. The Soul of London plays, as the name suggests, soul – along with R&B, funk, gospel and even a little bit of reggae. They seem to get the balance of old school and new stuff just about right – and they’ve got a great website too, with a useful selection of videos.

Talking of which, here’s a ShopCurious recording from the Vintage soul revue of Gwen Dickey singing Wishing on a Star.

Are you?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Hotbed of vintage colour

As the temperature in London rose dramatically over the weekend, Wayne Heminway’s Vintage 2011 at the Southbank Centre provided added rays of sunshine. I don’t think I’ve seen so many smiling faces at the Royal Festival Hall since Robert Mayer’s concerts for children many years ago.

On Saturday, there was a lovely juxtaposition of quirky retro style mixed with ‘60s Pop Art, ‘70s psychedelica and ‘80s disco. The result was a cacophony of colour - and trends indicate that this sort of effect is likely to be a big influence for the coming season.

From juke boxes to glitter balls, the vintage vibe was curiously colourful across the board. Even the 1940s styled Clore Ballroom (above left) looked ultra-fashionable. In some ways it was a natural extension of the exciting new wave of design unleashed at the time of the original Festival of Britain. But it was also a contemporary continuation of the unique mix of cultures and talents for which our British Isles are so famous.

I was intrigued by the way men and women dressed for the occasion. The 1950s male ideal of 'health and strength' (see below) didn’t appear to be in evidence, but there were certainly some uber-cool disco dudes on the scene...

Along with plenty of authentic retro fashion...

And I loved the old fashioned interiors, some of which were created using items from the Hemingways’ private collection.

Mr Hemingway was on fine form as he introduced the Soul Revue (more on this in a forthcoming post). Though perhaps he could have done with a little retro styling?

Skylon's bar created vintage inspired cocktails to celebrate the festival... I'll leave you with the wonderful view from Skylon at sunset.

By the way, gentlemen wishing to get the ‘hot vintage’ look might like the fabulously funky retro silk tie by Pierre Cardin at ShopCurious (shown above).

Do you?

PS See more vintage men’s fashion in my latest RetroProgressive post on swimwear at The Dabbler.