Monday, December 31, 2012


I thought I'd get away without making a list of resolutions, (my procrastination being one thing I hope to conquer in 2013) but seeing some of my favourite bloggers making thoughtful posts, I'd like to give my two cents too before the year runs out in about an hour.

The last of the summer prosecco, Venice, September 2012

I won't elaborate on the "highs and lows". For the next year I want to be more consistent with my blogging (feel free to tell me to pull up my socks if I slack on this one!). I read à la garçonnière's comprehensive review of the year and found many of the articles she listed particularly inspiring, especially 'Real Talk: Am I living radically?'. It epitomises what I want to accomplish in 2013, the confidence to write radically, to listen, to learn and to be a better ally. I have spates of identity crisises with the blog, and as a personal space I want it to mean something, whatever I put here.

Another resolution: to live without fear.

I'm tired of being enclosed here. I'm wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears, and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart: but really with it, and in it. (Wuthering Heights, Chapter 15).

Musing over mosaics, Brussels, March 2012

I originally wrote 'try to live without fear', but that try part was giving me an escape clause. I don't want to try, I want to accomplish. I want to find meaning in everything I do. I want to be the best version of myself I possibly can be, to find happiness, to not shut people out. I want to live up to my potential, and find it in others.

Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, December 2012

Goodbye 2012!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mid-week Muse: Helen Hunt in 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun' (1985)

This was originally going to be the Monday Muse, so you can see how much I procrastinate! I watched this movie one autumn's day, wrapped up in a duvet. It was one of those evenings when you needed something so over the top, so self aware... that you immediately turned to the 1980s teen movie genre. Helen Hunt and Sarah Jessica Parker as a duo? In a film inspired by the Cyndi Lauper song? I needed no more convincing. Hopefully nether will you, dear reader, after casting your eye over these screencaps. My mid-week muse is Helen Hunt's character, but mostly just for her hair wear (if that's a word).

(That's all they really want!)

Globes with antlers? Sure why not.

These were baby dolls seated in what appear to be high heels.

So when I realised I ran out of Helen Hunt screencaps, I decided to tack these two on:

The 80s were a time when men were men, which meant by default it was acceptable to wear crop tops and white tuxes, *especially* when you were about to make a live tv appearance. And yes, that is a tween Shannon Doherty.

The movie features some brilliantly 80s dance sequences, complete with crafty stunt doubles and fade out sequences like the above.

"The film is basically interchangeable with any number of teen-steam/sports intrigue pictures from the era, complete with a hunky rebel (Lee Montgomery), a hip friend (Helen Hunt was hip?), a dorky friend (Jonathan Silverman, his generation's Jason Biggs), a snobby rival (Holly Gagnier), and a can't-stop-the-music aesthetic that feels like having an unfiltered dose of the '80s injected directly into your eyeballs." (Film Freak Central)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays everyone!

I hope you and yours are having a lovely Christmas, wherever you are. It's a difficult and stressful time of year for others, but you're never alone. I wish you all the best for 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shells Café, Strandhill, Co. Sligo

"We don't do fast food, we do good food fast" reads the manifesto above the kitchen of the charming Shells Café, located on the edge of wild Atlantic coastal townland of Strandhill. On the edge geographically, this 'on the fringe' mentality characterises Shells Café in Sligo itself. Beloved by surfers and locals alike, Shells unites a diverse clientele amongst the bustling four walls and chintzy tablecloths of the cosy café.

Get yer mitts around a hot cup of chocolate or the home roasted coffee (available by the bag to purchase) as you mull over the menu.

(How cool is that advent calendar?!)

Finn got the classic burger and chips, and boy, those chips! Home-cut and very crispy, as I like them! The specials are written on the blackboard, the soup changes daily, on this particularly evening it was curried vegetable, nice and warming for the cold evening.

They have a range of different specials every day, on my last two visits there I managed to miss the breakfast, which ends at 2pm. Their veggie breakfast is i n c r e d i b l e. See below, poor representation but I'm getting hungry just thinking at it, the homemade baked beans are out of this world!

As you go up to pay, I feel obliged to warn you that you are putting your wallet at further risk, as the tempting array of cakes at the counter are laid out, waiting for you to look over and make a selection.

The Shells Café cookbook is on sale at the till, or in all good bookshops. My dinner partner was so impressed he bought one as an Xmas gift.

Pictures thanks to Finn MacLeod!

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's not Christmas until you send your first card

Before I skipped off to university I used to make the family Christmas cards every year. Mostly nativity or twee winter scenes in watercolours. While I was an undergrad the motivation slipped away, my time was precious, any spare time was spent with my new college friends who 'got' me, at that particular moment in time anyway.

Now that I'm back home for the time being, my days are long, with few friends with as much spare time nearby. So five years after making the last Xmas card, I shook out my dusty crafting skills and plotted to make a card this year.

Cutting out a small piece of lino is tricky so I kept the design as simple as possible.

One the lino is cut out, it takes a few prints for the paint to fully adhere to the surface of the lino, to give a successful impression. (Printing while listening to Christmas music is the best way to go about it).

I then added some simple embellishment to the peacock to make it sparkle!

I then left them to dry overnight.

Then I wrote them up and posted them before the last posting dates for Christmas! As you can see I also printed a greeting on the inside with the leftover vinyl.

My design was inspired by a peacock decoration I bought in Liberty of London in October. The peacock was a popular symbol and decorative trope used by the Aesthetic movement and in Art Nouveau designs, I felt this tied in with my plan to lino print the image onto the card (the inclination to art & craft). I chose secular imagery because I'd be sending them to friends who didn't celebrate Christmas, or were agnostics themselves.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Santa baby...

The Cake Café Bake Book
My favourite café in Dublin have recently released a striking bakebook, aided by crowd sourcing funds through!

Bill Gibb: Fashion and Fantasy
A fascinating history and pictorial focusing on one of Britian's most innovative designers, the Scottish born Bill Gibb. Gibb was inspired by Celtic craft and design, and worked heavily in natural fabrics at his peak during the seventies.

La Double Vie de Veronique poster (Japan)
I've had this on my list for a couple of years, I dream of having my own place one day, and having this framed on the wall.

Black Victorians: Black People in British Art, 1800-1900
Jan Marsh is one of the foremost voices in academia on nineteenth-century art history, this text seems fascinating and highlights new directions in Victorian art history.

Star Wars Death Star Tea Infuser
Something I'd never buy for myself, but I like tea and Star Wars, so I love this.

Grace: A Memoir
The enigmatic Grace Coddington has recently released a memoir. Softly spoken, the creative force behind Vogue has a colourful past and I want to read all about it! Love the cover too, reminds me of **Cecil Beaton's series of memoirs** designed by himself.

Poetic Licence Women's Corporate Beauty Brogue, Size 6

Ográ Beauty Peat Face & Body Mask

Von Follies By Dita Von Teese Animal Print Set
This whole set, but mostly the suspender belt (UK 12!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giveaway: Pre-Raphaelite necklace by Ruby Robin Boutique

I have a treat for the ladies just ahead of Christmas, my blogger friend Khrystyna who runs the Ruby Robin Boutique has presented me with this beautiful locket of My Sweet Rose (1908) by John William Waterhouse to give away to a lucky reader.

Kay makes necklaces, earrings, brooches and beautiful hairclips, all packaged beautifully and to a high standard, you can see them all over at her etsy boutique Ruby Robin Boutique.

Kay lives and works in the rainy city of Cork in the South of Ireland with her boyfriend and four mischievous cats. She makes all sorts of vintage inspired jewellery and accessories in her bedroom studio, which is on the bottom floor of a wonderful old Georgian building overlooking the river and railway line.

As with any blog competition, there are a few rules to follow:

1. Like the facebook page for Ruby Robin Boutique.
2. Follow me on Google Reader/bloglovin' (over there to the right).
3. Comment below with your favourite item from the Ruby Robin Boutique!

This giveaway is open worldwide, and the closing date is December 7th.

Its Kay's dream to work full time selling her designs, so I urge you to have a look around her lovely Etsy Boutique and find something for that special someone (you!) this Christmas!

She is generously giving an exclusive 20% off to readers, so use code VAGABOND to get your discount!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant Garde, at Tate Britain

While I was in London last month I was lucky enough to catch the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain.

In contrast to previous Pre-Raphaelite surveys, this exhibition juxtaposed paintings with works in other media including the applied arts, showing the important role of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the early development of the Arts and Crafts movement and the socialist ideas of the poet, designer and theorist, William Morris (1834-1896). Bringing together furniture and objects designed by Morris‘s firm, of which many Pre-Raphaelite artists were part, the aim was to depict how Morris’s iconography for British socialism ultimately evolved out of Pre-Raphaelitism.

Some of the works I had seen at exhibitions previously. I was thrilled to see more of a female presence at this exhibition, including some previously unseen works by Elizabeth Siddal.

Cabinet Decorated with Scenes from ‘The Prioress’s Tale’, Philip Webb and Edward Burne-Jones. This cabinet, designed by Philip Webb and decorated by Burne-Jones, is made from oak and deal and painted in oil. Burne-Jones gave it to William Morris as a wedding present on his marriage to Jane Burden in 1859. This cabinent stood in the Morris' bedroom at Red House (that I also visited).

It was exciting to see examples of arts and crafts textiles in a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, showcasing the multi-disciplinary approach of the movement and its followers. I did get emotional over a bed though...

This bed is usually to be found at Kelmscott Manor, the pattern is "Kelmscott Tree" The bed pelmet, in this pattern, was designed by May Morris, and embroidered by Lily Yeats and Ellen Wright (1891-3). Lily Yeats worked for Morris & Co., under May Morris for six years, some of the most difficult years of her life. Her letters to her family mention May and her temper, the difficulty of working for her, frequently referring to her as a "gorgon". For me it was thrilling to look upon something that Lily had probably spent weeks bent over, there's something about the intimacy of a historic textile that really appeals to my senses and emotions.

One of the standouts for me was the female representation in the exhibit, though not significant it's inclusion is necessary. Seeing the women as creative individuals and not just the rigid catalyst for a man's creativity.

Lady Clare, Elizabeth Siddal, 1857.
This drawing illustrates Tennyson's Lady Clare, in which the heroine's natural mother begs her to conceal her humble origin, lest Lord Ronald withdraw his offer of marriage.

Lady Affixing a Pennant to a Knight’s Lance, Elizabeth Siddal, 1856

The Lady of Shalott, Elizabeth Siddal, 1853. This is the 4th version of the Lady of Shalott, and the only one done by a woman. Here, Siddal shows her at the moment she looks out the window. The woman is dressed simply, unadorned and unsexualised, a completely different perspective to the image of the Lady of Shalott we are acquainted with, like the Holman Hunt below.

Some of the above were purchased with assistance from Sir Arthur Du Cros Bt and Sir Otto Beit through the Art Fund in 1916.

The exhibition wasn't simply self-congratulatory, also included was some contemporary satire, courtesy of Florence Claxton (1840-79). Claxton was an English artist and humorist, most notable for her satire on the Pre-Raphaelite movement. She also wrote and illustrated many humorous commentaries on contemporary life.

Claxton's The Choice of Paris: An Idyll (c. 1860), a satire on the Pre-Raphaelites. (Click to enlarge)

Isabella and the Pot of Basil, William Holman Hunt, 1868 (completed).
The painting illustrates a poem by John Keats: Isabella, or, the Pot of Basil. In it, Isabella and Lorenzo fall in love. Her brothers kill Lorenzo. After searching for and finding his body, Isabella buries his head under a plant of Basil. Hunt used his wife Fanny as the model. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to their son in August 1866, but died in December of that year, leaving Hunt to complete the painting after her death. The juxtaposition of the representation of life and death in this painting twinges it with sadness.

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, Edward Burne-Jones, 1884
Taken from a Medieval romance which tells the legend of the prince Cophetua and his unorthodox love for the beggar Penelophon. Cophetua was an African king known for his lack of any natural sexual attraction to women. One day while looking out a palace window he witnesses a young beggar (Penelophon) suffering for lack of clothes. Struck by love at first sight, Cophetua decides that he will either have the beggar as his wife or commit suicide. Obviously Burne-Jones has included a (sheer) sheath of clothing for the sake of Victorian propriety in his depiction of the myth.

This psychedelic depiction of the Lady of Shalott by Holman Hunt was one of the penultimate paintings in the exhibition, it was absolutely stunning in scale and style. Seeing it I experienced one of those magical gallery specific moments where a painting renders you speechless, and in response you can only sit and drink it in.

The Lady of Shalott, William Holman Hunt, (begun in 1886 and finally exhibited in 1905) on loan from the Manchester Art Gallery.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott.

[Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott (1842)]

Some interesting further reading...
Letter from Rossetti to his brother while his “pupil” [Elizabeth Siddal] uses his studio
The Ballad of King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid
Pre-Raphaelitism and Illustration, Florence Claxton
The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood