Sunday, 29 April 2012

DIY royal needlework

Did you know that The Royal School of Needlework helped Sarah Burton create the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress? I highly recommend a visit to the RSN at Hampton Court Palace…though be prepared to feel like you’re travelling back to a much slower time.

Early 20th century mothers would regularly spend their evenings sitting quietly in a corner, indulging in a little needlepoint. How much more enterprising and productive than swigging a glass of Chardonnay in front of reality TV…


Anyway, if you’d like to have a go at some curiously crafty embroidery yourself, the RSN has a special sampler kit to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The design is delicately embellished with Swarovski crystals, which are included in the kit, along with all the materials and full instructions.

And if you’re looking for an unusual needlework box, we’ve got just the thing at ShopCurious. How about one of our royal commemorative tins? These ones were produced as souvenirs of The Queen’s coronation in June 1953, and would make perfect Diamond Jubilee gifts – as well as accommodating all your pins, needles and thread.

Oh, and don’t forget to show us your finished work…

Will you?

PS excuse our layout as we acclimatise to the new version of Blogger...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy birthday Shakespeare...

And happy St George’s Day too!

As well as being Shakespeare’s official 448th birthday, today is also the start of the World Shakespeare Festival, part of the London 2012 Festival of events – the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, which will see artists from all over the world participating in a UK-wide festival this summer.

Much curiosity surrounds Shakespeare’s life. We’re not even sure which day he was born on, though he is thought to have been baptized on April 26th, so has been given the honorary birthday of 23rd April – St George’s Day - which, curiously, is also the date of his death.

Another strange myth about Shakespeare is that he was actually an Arab. In the Middle East, he is referred to as Sheikh al-Zubair, which apparently means Sheikh Prickly Pear... I wonder what the residents of Stratford-upon-Avon would have to say about that?!

Anyway, if you’re a lover of Shakespeare’s plays, you may be interested in a collectable piece of royal memorabilia at ShopCurious. This book was presented to guests attending an evening hosted by Prince Charles (as President of the RSC) at Buckingham Palace in 1993 to celebrate the work of William Shakespeare. It was a star-studded event, full of notable theatrical types, who are all listed, along with the names of the distinguished attendees. I’m sure it will be of great interest to collectors of vintage theatre souvenirs – and those curious to find out who was on the guest list…

Are you?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Fantasy fishing powered by human curiosity

Last night I attended a charity preview of the new British film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – in aid of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park... Not such a tenuous connection as you may think, as sculpture isn’t naturally associated with Yorkshire. In fact, you may be inspired to travel up north to experience the first major UK exhibition of Miro’s sculpture, set amongst 500 acres of Capability Brown style grounds that are probably unaffected by the hosepipe ban.

And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay, how about Holdsworth House, a rather grand Jacobean Manor - with curiously reasonable room rates.

Alternatively, you may decide to head off to Scotland, where there’s also plenty of water, to try your hand at some salmon fishing. Fly fishing gets a curious makeover in the new film based on the book by Paul Torday:

Having read the book when it first came out, I was expecting something a little more touching – even spiritual - from Lasse Hallstrom (director of the award winning Cider House Rules, amongst many other films and videos). The characters portrayed by the star-studded cast are suitably endearing, especially Kristen Scott Thomas as Patricia Maxwell, but the condensed version with its updated script seems somehow watered down. The book was compelling enough to read in barely more than one sitting, whereas the movie lumbers along like a salmon struggling for its life. Nevertheless, the ‘visionary’ sheik is convincing, despite his far-fetched ambitions. Though his natural powers of insight, presumably acquired from thousands of years of Middle Eastern philosophical tradition, are not conveyed nearly as well as in the book.

The positive message is that fishing is a great leveller, overcoming distinctions of class, colour and creed. Having a dream and the determination and ability to see it through are paramount – ie faith transcends purchasing power. And no amount of money will make a seemingly impossible project work if narrow minded civil servants don’t possess sufficient curiosity to look beyond the world they live in.

This story captures the essential conflict between scientific and human endeavour. The sheik’s wealth can’t buy something that’s not physically possible, but faith and a conviction in belief can go a long way towards getting anything imaginable done. The rest is pure luck. Or is it?

Anyway, if the film spawns a sudden salmon fishing frenzy, ShopCurious has just the thing – a pair of vintage fly fishing hook cufflinks. You never know, they may even turn out to be especially lucky.

Will you?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Vintage poetry in motion

Those of you who are curious may have been wondering which horse won the Grand National in 1953, the year of The Queen’s Coronation? I can confirm it was Early Mist, as pictured jumping a hedge in this photograph.

60 years on, and ShopCurious has some collectable cufflinks that are roughly the same vintage as this race. The best thing is that they don’t seem to have dated at all – in fact, they’re curiously timeless. So, men, if you’re looking for something unique to wear to the races, or perhaps for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, then look no further.

But before that, I’m looking forward to watching the race at 4.15 tomorrow afternoon. It’s pretty dangerous for riders and horses alike, so if you’re squeamish may I suggest some equine inspired poetry instead? Our poet in residence, Matt Bryden, has provided just the thing:


The eyes before opening let in
bird-song, the six different strategies
for approaching the day. Before ten

one is not mature mentally or physically.
Nice paces, though a slightly weak stifle.
There are ways and ways;

inside the house
don't wear a jacket, for example;
in pjs, walk the gelding from the stable.

I expect you’re wondering what collecting has got to do with horses…

Are you?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Collecting green glass

Bored with the monotony of mass production, Dutch designer, Klaas Kuiken, has developed a new technique for glassblowing, using a specially adapted oven and a compressor. With his method, glass bulges more where the bottle walls are thinner and less where they are thicker. This results in a totally unique shape for each bottle, using exactly the same raw materials and process.

Kuiken’s green glass collection, shown above right, looks even better when the bottles are lit from behind, producing a mysterious, watery reflection (left).

If you’re interested in starting your own glass collection, we’ve a rare curiosity at ShopCurious. This collectable malachite glass scent bottle, made in 1930s Bohemia, is something of a vintage treasure. The Lalique style flacon is beautifully moulded with a depiction of a young girl and a fawn.

The image and colour of the glass are curiously appropriate for spring. This would make a totally unique seasonal gift – as well as being a prized heirloom. And, like so many things, it looks even more beautiful in the sunshine…

I just hope we get a few rays over the holiday weekend.

Do you?