Category Archives: BLOG

Frida Kahlo

I don’t know when I first became aware of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo and, if I’m honest, I don’t know what I like more, her paintings or her image – because she was also a work of art – but I do know that I was thrilled when I learned an exhibition was coming to the V&A London and I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.

I remember my son coming home from school and telling me his class were studying Frida’s work and I remember telling my daughter how much I loved Frida’s floral headbands and months later her presenting me with a handmade headband to thank me for all the lifts backwards and forwards along the motorway to Uni.Frida catlo_Fotor_CollageI have two portraits of Frida, a ‘Frida Catlo’ pin (cats and dogs are another obsession), matchboxes and Christmas decorations all bearing Frida’s image.  My DVD “Frida” staring Salma Hayek has been played many times.  I believe I’m a little bit obsessed!  As you can imagine, I was quite excited about the exhibition, but then again, so were many others.

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We had lunch in a nearby restaurant and then rushed over to the beautiful Victoria & Albert Museum.  I didn’t have the confidence to ‘dress up’ in my Frida headband but I was so happy to see that other ladies did.  One lady in the gardens was wearing a pink outfit with matching pink hair and floral band.

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Inside the exhibition rooms lots of women wore pompoms, flowers or fancy headbands.  The spirit of Frida was very much alive.  It was in stark contrast to many of the exhibits which dealt with her disabilities;  polio as a child, the bus crash as a teenager and the subsequent operations that followed throughout her life.  French writer, André Breton once described her art as ” .. a ribbon around a bomb”.  I felt like this could also be applied to Frida.  She said of herself “I have enjoyed being contradictory”.

Her costumes and jewellery were exquisite;  seeing her make-up, perfumes and nail polishes was insightful, but I felt seeing her medicines was a little intrusive.  Her medical notes lay in a cabinet for all to see and I couldn’t help wondering if that was something that should have been kept private.  It felt a little like the exhibition was feeding the beast of celebrity and we, the paying public, were eating it all up.

I learned a little more about Frida Kahlo, her relationships and her life.  There are many, many books available telling her story but it really hit home seeing the prosthetic leg, plaster corsets and the body braces she wore.  The pain she felt must sometimes have been unbearable and yet she found the strength to paint, she dressed her hair with ribbons or flowers and her body in beautiful clothes and even matched her nail polish and lipstick.

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Photography was not allowed in the exhibition so I visited the shop and bought lots of postcards, a poster and some little Mexican figures and I came home with even more respect for the Mexican artist (if that’s even possible).

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Now I would like to have a moan about the exhibition, or should I say the curating of the exhibition.  At this point I would like to remind anyone reading this that these are my opinions and this is my little space on the internet, so I’m going to voice my thoughts.  Someone else might visit the exhibition and have an entirely different experience or point of view.  Don’t let my opinion stop you from going.

When we arrived at gallery 38, our tickets were scanned and we were allowed through the door – and this is where my disappointment began.   Just beyond the doors was an information panel outlining the exhibition which was being read by at least ten people, the small entryway was almost filled with people arriving, reading at different speeds and causing a bottleneck.   We then entered the first room which had framed images lining the walls with information panels that were printed in what seemed like font size 10.  To read the image details I had to stand about a foot or so away, but that was not always possible because virtually everyone there was of a ‘certain’ age and probably needed a larger font and was also trying to read up-close.  At one point a rather large lady even rested her breast on my arm in order to lean over and get a better view!  Bustling for space continued throughout the room so after a while we skipped ahead and entered the next room.  To add to the small font size problem, the lighting here was so bad it made it almost impossible to read the information.  Even with reading glasses on I still couldn’t focus on the writing.

I understand the need to protect the exhibits from light but I also think there must be alternative solutions.   If the flow of visitors were fed through the entrance at 2 or 3 minute intervals it would allow more time and space to study the exhibits.  The information panels should be printed on a

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and perhaps they could also be illuminated.  There also seems to be too many tickets sold for each 15 minute time slot because we were continuously jostling for space and needed to check we weren’t about to step on anybody when we moved along.

The Victoria & Albert Museum is light and bright with ceilings seeming touching the sky but the gallery where the exhibition was held was dark, claustrophobic and hot.  A few years ago I visited the exhibition “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” and I left with a terrible migraine, probably for the same reasons.

On a positive note, unless you are able to travel to La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, Mexico you may never get the opportunity to see Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up and if you are a fan that would be a terrible shame.

Venice Beach

Hiring bikes and cycling to Venice Beach was a must.  We picked the bikes up at Santa Monica Pier and set off, careful to avoid skaters and runners.  The dedicated road runs all the way along the beach which makes for a leisurely ride and, although the bikes were in pretty good condition, with sand on the surface it made the brakes a little useless – luckily we didn’t need them much!

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Taking a photo whilst cycling was a bit wobbly …… it felt a bit like the “can you pat your head whilst rubbing your tummy” kind of challenge!  But we made it to Venice Beach in one piece, so all good and after cycling along the boardwalk with all the street vendors and performers we stopped to watch the skateboarders.

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This little skater-dude was particularly impressive.

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Fotor_Collage !After returning the bikes to the hire shop we decided to head back to Venice Beach again so we explore some more.  We mooched around in a vintage clothes shop, walked along the boardwalk and took photos of the iconic VENICE sign (which wasn’t easy because you have to take it from the middle of the road when the lights are in your favour!)

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As the sun was about to go down we strolled past Muscle Beach outdoor gym (not feeling the need to pop in for a workout!) and along Ocean Front Walk.

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That evening we went for dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant (Forest Gump/Tom Hanks film) and had cocktails and delicious food.

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As soon as it began my holiday was over and I flew back home to Autumn in England.  We met some lovely people in LA and I’ll take back a journal full of notes, lots of photographs and many happy memories :)

Oh, for anyone still reading this far ……. I’m 99.9% sure I saw will.i.am at the airport!

Mosaic Tile House, Venice

Breakfast today was at The Cheesecake Factory.  As anyone who watches The Big Bang Theory will know, this is were Penny works :)   Today was the day that I tried American pancakes for the first time, buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, followed by a vanilla milkshake that was almost as big as me!   Although we were barely able to move after the gigantic portions, we headed off to the place that was high on my list of ‘things to do’ - THE MOSAIC TILE HOUSE.

Driving down Palms Boulevard you would be forgiven for thinking it was just another street.  With mainly bungalows and two storey houses you’d never know that you were about to walk into a riot of colour.  As we approached the house we could see from the mosaic fence that we were in for something special.

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We were met at the gate by Cheri, one half of the artist couple who created this crazy, crazy house.   Cheri and Gonzalo open their home to the public for tours for an hour every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Cheri makes and decorates the tiles and Gonzalo creates sculptural forms, breaks and lays the tiles – a perfect partnership.  The house and garden are covered from top to bottom – inside and out.

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AAA (381)The working kitchen.

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Fotor_Collage_Paintings 2Their devotion to each other is evident throughout the house.  Any area not covered in mosaic has a painted story, a love story.Fotor_Collage_PaintingsOn the tour of their huge studio Gonzalo explained that Cheri likes to paint him and the end result depended on what mood she’s in!

AAA (376)Gonzalo also paints and has artwork in each room and quotes on many of the tiles.Fotor_Collage_Inspo messages Fotor_Collage-Loo2

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I had to put my feet up before we left :)

Mr Abbot Kinney

Day three was all about a man called Abbot Kinney.

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Venice Canals was so serene.  Walking along the narrow paths which edge the gardens and canals, viewing the different architecture and design which vary from old California bungalows to sleek modern homes; crossing bridges from one side to the other, seeing the odd boat go by. Day 3 am Venice Canals (3) resize_Fotor_Collage 5

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It was good fun deciding which house we’d chose to live in!

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After much deliberation I decided that this would be my house :)

So, with rumbly tumblies we headed off to nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard in search of lunch and a ‘unique shopping experience’.Fotor_Collage 1

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Cactus shop GROW Abbot Kinney Blvd

Grow was probably my favourite shop, I could have bought everything in there but instead I only bought what I could carry!  Also BURRO had some great gifts and some incredibly cool hats and clothes.Day 3 pm Abbot Kinney Blvd (7)_01_Fotor_Collage 1It obviously helps to have a dry and warm climate, but it was so nice to see the ‘lounge’ areas and displays outside the shops.Fotor_Collage 4Fotor_Collage 2Rag and Bone BenchI fell in love with this bench <3

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So as the sun was about to set and we were back where we started, we headed back to our airbnb.   The trip back was so funny, our Uber driver was an ACTOR and he was hilarious.  We got talking about accents and I asked him where his was from.  He told us the story of how he was adopted at 2 months old and went to live in Virginia with an African-American father and Japanese mother.   We got out of the car with his business card and said we’d remember his name when we saw it in lights!

Santa Monica

“Oooh, I like your trousers.”

“Thank you. Well, I don’t like to name drop, but I bought them last week in Santa Monica!”

I had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles with my daughter for a week so I jumped at the chance. I’ve never visited America before so I was really excited to see as much as I could.

Day one in Santa Monica was all about finding our way around and shopping for essentials, one of which was a journal so I could document every moment at the end of each day.

It felt so cool to see signs for places from the songs of my life – San Francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair), California Dreamin’, Ventura Highway, Ocean Drive , Hotel California, All I wanna do (until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard);  songs I sing (badly) every day in my workshop.

On our second day we visited The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

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Please don’t let this be the moment it decides to move!

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It was a particularly hot day so after wandering around the grounds we went inside the museum for some much needed shade.  Unfortunately, the Rain Room exhibition ended in January which is a shame because we really needed cooling down.  ”(In this large-scale installation, approximately 528 gallons of water falls continuously but pauses when a person walks through the downpour.)”

Once inside we were treated to the works of Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Mondrian, Warhol and Lichtenstein, to name but a few.

After a quick stop at the cafe we took an Uber to Hollywood. The houses on the journey were incredible, all very individual – some in a Spanish style and some with turrets – they all looked very neat with pretty, well maintained gardens.  According to our driver Hollywood Boulevard had undergone a clean up in recent years, in particular the Walk of Fame.

We started walking down the boulevard on the shady side but it was still very hot.  I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of stars and the fact that some celebrities have more than one. We took photographs of every star that we recognised and when we got to the end we crossed over and began the walk back in the full sunshine, but those stars were harder to photograph in the sunlight.

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Anyone that knows me personally will know that my favourite film of all time is GLADIATOR so I was excited to find the stars belonging to the Director, Music Composer and main Actor.  It was also nice to see the stars of Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and other Hollywood greats.  If anyone wants to be emailed a photo of a star give me a shout, we probably have it on file :)

 

Mod Weekender 2017

August Bank Holiday weekend is usually a bit hit and miss weather-wise, but this year it was a scorcher and we decided to enjoy a day out in Brighton.

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Sea Gull

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After lunch and a stroll through the Laines we walked down to the seafront to see the Mods starting to gather.   I don’t think the Weekender officially started until the evening but plenty of Mods were already there enjoying the sunshine.  Their scooters were everywhere and looked incredible.

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Green scooter

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The Jam

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The shine on this chrome tank was unbelievable – not a fingerprint to be seen!

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The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone looked like they were really enjoying a day by the seaside.

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This man had stopped at the traffic lights and turned and gave me a thumbs-up.   I thought the whole image was brilliant but the background was so cluttered I decided to do a bit of editing.  I love the end result :)

Petersham Nurseries

I finally got to visit Petersham Nurseries this summer and I must say it was lovely.  The nursery is tucked away from the main road and could easily be missed, but once you negotiate the little lane it opens out into an oasis of calm.  I discovered the limited parking after driving down Church Lane and finding no spaces – at this point it started to rain and I had to do a 3-point turn in the tiny lane and park elsewhere.   But, determined to sample the tea and cake, I battled on.

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Garden collage

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Pot collage

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Cake collageThe flowers were exquisite and I took so many photographs.  I couldn’t leave without treating myself to a new cactus and even managed to buy a birthday present in the gift shop for a ‘difficult to buy for’ gardener.

England in Summertime

How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!    I’ve been so busy working on a new mosaic that I’ve neglected posting on here, but on Sunday I locked up my workshop and we headed out for the afternoon.   It was a beautiful sunny day and we met up with family for a stroll around quiet country lanes. followed by dinner al-fresco and a rich, indulgent chocolate fudge cake.

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The light bouncing off this wheat field was stunning.

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Surrey is very hilly so it’s a completely different vista in Essex, with mile after mile of flat land.

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Not a mutant horse!

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After dinner we walked back over to the wheat fields to watch the sun going down and take some more photographs.

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Just look at that beautiful sky ^

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Probably my favourite pic.

Back soon with an update on my latest mosaic :)

Glastonbury …. with drums

Waking up on Sunday morning to fog was a bit disappointing but we decided to visit Glastonbury Tor anyway.  At the start of the climb the tower wasn’t visible through the fog but we could hear the distant sound of drums and chanting.  The atmosphere was surreal.

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As we neared the top we could just make out a ceremony taking place facing east.  There were drummers, dancers and singers.  The sun was trying so hard to break through and then with a little more ceremony, this happened ……

Elsa Tor

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With the sun behind us, looking towards the west which was still foggy, we were able to make angel rainbow reflections!

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After spending some time taking photos and talking to other visitors we set off down the other side of the Tor.  And then, as if by magic, the sun disappeared and the fog returned.

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By now it was lunchtime so we found a pub that welcomed dogs and muddy boots and had a well earned Sunday roast.  The pub wall was covered in festival posters going back to the very beginning.  I saw one poster where tickets were £1 each, farm milk was free and The Kinks were headlining!

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After two nights we had left the cottage and now were going to check in to an amazing B&B. This magical place didn’t disappoint.  The Covenstead was adorned from floor to ceiling with incredible curios.

The Covenstead

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Incredible mural on the staircase.

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Our room, the Halloween suite!

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So, that was our latest adventure :)

 

 

Glastonbury ….. but without the Festival

It was early in December, it was drizzly and foggy – so, what did we do?  Instead of fighting our way around the shops looking for Christmas presents or writing Christmas cards at home, we had a long weekend in Glastonbury!

Even though I’ve travelled the A303 many times I still can’t contain my excitement when driving past Stonehenge and I have to photograph it pretty much every trip.

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When I was a child it was possible to touch the stones and wander amongst them, but not any more.

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We arrived in Glastonbury late afternoon and drove straight to the little cottage we’d rented. The next morning was drizzly so we headed into town to visit Chalice Wellone of Britain’s most ancient wells, nestling in the Vale of Avalon between the Tor and Chalice Hill.

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Surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards it is a living sanctuary and for over two thousand years it has been a place where people have gathered to drink the waters and find solace, peace and inspiration.

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Stone mosaic

Next we went to visit the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.

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Back at Abbey activity centre, I couldn’t resist doing a little brass rubbing :)

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The next day we were heading off to Glastonbury Tor – but that’s a whole new post!