Tag Archives: alice in wonderland

Dennis Severs’ House

Yesterday, I had a long time wish fulfilled. Wishes being fulfilled are magical in themselves, but this wish was extra special. For many, many moons I have wanted to visit 18 Folgate Street, the former home of Dennis Severs. Yesterday, as a glorious ending to our Thanksgiving weekend and as a start to our Christmas celebrations we headed out to Spitalfields, in the biting Sunday morning air and joined the already formed line waiting to enter behind those coal black doors.

You are not allowed to photograph inside the home; the image above is my only snap of this building. The house belongs to itself, it is its own person, it has its own soul. Yesterday, was their first Christmas opening day. The gas lantern outside was bedecked with pine boughs and red satin ribbons. Christmas trees stood guard at either side of the entrance. It was charming and felt very Dickensian.

You enter into the house in small groups. As you travel through the rooms, you make your way in silence. Your journey takes you through time. The fireplaces are lit with wood or coal. The only light sources in the house, come from a combination of natural light through the windows and the flickering glow of candles.

Each room is its own experience. The smell of a fire in the kitchen, intermingled with the heady scent from the bowls filled with raisins and citrus on the main table, soon to be turned into something delectable by the cook, no doubt. The tapping of the faucet in the sink was a cheery kerplunk, as vegetables waited in a strainer to be washed. There was fresh bread, a slice already cut off, ready to be stabbed with a toasting fork and held over the fire. A gingerbread man garland was strung above the fireplace, their faces smiling out at you from the candlelight glow around the room. It was cozy, it was warm and inviting after waiting outside in the cold, it was the kind of place you would want to come and have a cup of tea and a chat, or simply curl up by the fire in a chair.

As you made your way up through the house, each room had its own sights, smells and sounds. I was even lucky enough to spy Madge, the resident cat. Who was sitting so perfectly still underneath a chair with the white winter light streaming over her fur, for a moment, I thought she wasn’t real. But, her ears twitched and I bent down to rub her silky ebony fur and was rewarded with a long purr before she dashed down the hallway.

As you enter each room, it is as if the occupants of that room have just slipped out a hidden door and you are trespassing into their world. A letter half finished on the table, the ink still wet on the nib, a cup of tea going cold or the sound of carriage wheels going by. Every element in each space works to create the perfect atmosphere for it to exist within.

The house has a motto: Aut Visum Aut Non!: “You either see it or you don’t.” I saw it. This house spoke to me in such a way. I understood her. I was fascinated watching others travel through the house, who didn’t appear to get it. Or maybe to them, they were getting it. But I think they were seeing, but not really “seeing”.

Etched into the wall of one room in particular is a pyramid. If you didn’t stand in the right place, you might have just missed it. There was a hole in the wall above it and as I peered through a glowing eye was looking back at me. No other person seemed to take that in. They seemed to move about with quick glances. Maybe it is the art historian in me that makes me stop and study? Each room was like a painting. It told a story. It was a puzzle to dissect.

The final room on our journey was the Victorian Parlour and it was so gorgeously decorated for Christmas. The strawberry red velvet curtains against the heavy floral wallpaper were the perfect backdrop for the tabletop tree that was bedecked with ornaments and candles yet to be lit. A box of glass ornaments sat patiently by, waiting for their turn to be hung. A holly and pine garland was strung over the mantel and along the walls. The green leaves with twinges of white gave the room an even more inviting warmth.

As we left the room, I noticed Dennis Severs’ baseball cap sitting on a little corner table, it made me smile. We made our way back down the entrance hall, that from one wall to the other was strung across with boughs of pine and red satin ribbons, that would dance in the breeze every time the door opened. We thanked one of our gracious hosts and out the door we went into the harsh winter light and as the door closed behind us, the spell was broken. Like Alice, in reverse we had stepped through the looking glass back into our world, but I wanted to step back into the world of 18 Folgate Street.

We took a moment to don hats and gloves and then made our way to Spitalfields Market. Everything was too loud, too many people; I wanted to go somewhere quiet to sit and think about all I had just seen. This house spoke to me, I’m still pondering it this morning. I think I will be pondering the magic behind those doors for a long time to come. I am utterly enchanted.

See images from inside the house via their Instagram account.

18 Folgate Street {Wikipedia}

A Tea Party

On Wednesday afternoon for completing my first 1/2 term at my new school, I was invited to an afternoon tea with the principal. Which, I thought was a very charming British thing to do.

It was lovely, the table was laid with the most gorgeous trays of sandwiches and cakes and scones with oodles of clotted cream and strawberry jam to lavish upon them. There were also the most divine miniature coffee eclairs. After working away in the cupboard all day, all that wonderful sugar on offer was pure happiness!

It was all created by the students in the Home Economics department and they had worked tremendously hard. It was an absolute delight and, a pretty neat way to welcome in your new staff too!

(Image: A Su Blackwell piece)

Mid Act

Well, this past week has left me feeling like I have been caught mid-act! I can see the bar I need to grab and I am reaching out for it and going to hold on tight as I swing into week 2.  I have been busy every day tidying, organizing, assisting the department and finding new things to catalogue that I plan to photograph.

One of my faves this week was a something I spied behind the door of a colleagues room. It was a  commissioned piece she created out of an old book for a library. It was beautifully done and the way it was imagined and executed left me feeling like Alice about to tumble down into the “rabbit hole” of this book. This is a work of art that will feature on In the Art Cupboard and she has kindly agreed to let me discuss her work in a blog piece here on Jenny Wren’s, which I plan to do in the near future.

The gentle jazz crooning of Nat King Cole’s “Your Nobody till Somebody Loves You” is beckoning me into the kitchen to dance with Mr. Michie, while we make dinner and enjoy the last lingering drops of sunshine as evening falls…

P.S. I bought my first Fall item this weekend. A little pumpkin trick-or-treat bucket to put on my desk and fill with candy for my cupboard visitors, I can’t wait for October!

(“Breathless” by G. Elvgren)

Down the Rabbit Hole

It is late, it is very late, after 1am to be exact. I seem to be having another bout of insomnia, coupled with the lovely cold I seem to be getting! It is quiet this time of morning and very very cold so, I have wrapped myself up in one of my quilts. This one is an 1800’s quilt from the American Mid-West with a log cabin pattern.

I always stare at it when it is on me, looking at the fabric, wondering who made this, how long it took them to sew it, how long it took them to save the flour sacks or old dresses to have enough material to make this quilt? Was it the work of a young girl, practicing her hand at quilt making or that of a young woman for her wedding bed? A mother for her child? If only it could speak or was handed down to me from someone who knew its story…

Since, I am up I thought I would share with you a few more pieces of the wonderful Japanese illustrator Katogi Mari’s work. I used one of her illustrations in my Friday Post.

We saw Alice in Wonderland yesterday, it is all still sinking in. It was a kaleidoscope of color, fantastical, imaginative and it is amazing what a computer can create today with the help of many human hands and hours behind it.

I love the colorful yet simple designs, the clean yet detailed and whimsical nature of Katogi Mari’s work. This series sums up the fanciful side of Alice for me. And, I love the 1960’s Japanese-esque of it all.

I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole myself with all the bunnies I am stitching for RosaBlue and my sinuses are making me feel as if I am in a topsy turvy world, I am waiting for cakes with eat me piped onto them and pianos and books and chairs and teapots to come floating by my head.  I am now going back to stitch on more marshmallowy bunny tails, so they will have more hopping power to jump into their box when they are all sewn up!

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

I feel like Max this morning from “Where the Wild things Are” and I am ready for the wild rumpus of a weekend to start. There are still bears and bunnies to finish, Mother’s Day gifts to buy (they celebrate Mother’s Day early here) and my sweetie pie wants to see the new “Alice in Wonderland” film.

I loved reading the book as a child, what I loved most was that when I finished the first book, I had to turn it upside down to read the 2nd, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. I am going into this film with my 3D glasses on and an open mind, I am not so sure about, it looks almost too out there, which my cute ginger argues with me is the point, so we shall see.

There is also a menu to be plan. My friends laugh at me, but I plan my menus for two weeks, we don’t have a large grocery store in our town, so it is a ride down the rails for groceries with my hessian bags and red granny cart in hand.  I buy a few things to get us through locally as we need them, milk, bread, salad…

I am far from frugal, we eat very well and for the most part very healthy in our house, I don’t cook junk; I just don’t understand how they can randomly walk into a store and just see what they happen to find. One of my friends goes grocery shopping every morning and spends about £30-40 each time, that is insane!! I plan some meals for one nights, some will be leftovers some will have something entirely new made with their leftovers.

There will be a menu discussion in the house tonight, so far Aioli is on the menu one of my favorite pasta dishes and so simple, with oil and garlic and parsley; a mexican night with homemade bean burritoes, queso sauce and homemade guacamole; it is still very cold here so probably a stew maybe with dumplings and mashed potatoes on the side or just a hearty bowl with some buttermilk biscuits. Since we have had our first taste of spring, I really feel like either some homemade banana pudding or Nigella Lawson’s “Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake”.  This cake is a favorite in our house, it has been made for many a birthday. Although I do make a few changes, I half the required dark chocolate for the icing and mix it with milk or use all milk chocolate, since I found the dark at times became too bitter. (click on the photo to get the recipe)

But in all this sewing, movie watching, grocery shopping crazy filled weekend we will have, I want to make sure that we carve out a little bit of time to just be. I know sometimes I am guilty of trying to do too much in the space of 48 hours, I just need to remember to sit back and breathe!

What are you doing for your weekend?

(Alice in Wonderland image by: Katogi Mari)