Friday, 30 January 2015

OBITUARY

  This is just a short personal note to all my friends and contacts (many overseas) who might wish to know that my husband, Derek, died a short time ago after a serious illness in hospital and his funeral took place last week.  He was my beloved husband for 66 years and during that time we had four children, raised three grandchildren, restored 4 neglected period houses, re-made all the gardens and as a fun, retirement project, built up a French import textile business.  I  do not need any letters of sympathy but thought that all who knew and met him would like to know of my loss.

Friday, 23 January 2015

EAST TO THE WEST

      Some time ago, I went on a very long, long, journey to Southern France on the trail of some new and exciting stock - my stores were low, but everything seemed rather white, cream and bland and I felt the need to spice it up with the famous reds (rose madder dye) a few blues (indigo) and pretty mixed floral colours on long chateau- type curtains. By travelling to 3 big fairs (I have given up on the little ones which take too much time and diesel to visit) I managed with difficulty to find what I was searching for and in the quantities I needed - but at a price! The Euro makes it difficult to buy anything reasonably and the good stuff is most unreasonable! I was asked 1000 Euros for sets of curtains and didn't think I would have a chance of selling them and making a small profit, so I had to dig deep and accept some things that had small faults. After a lot of preparation, washing ironing, etc., I was  ready to spread my spoils at the the next three fairs.   I joined the  BISLEY VILLAGE HALL nr. Stroud two years ago  and it was an exciting introduction to the amazing colours and weaves and embroideries of the Orient and Africa, shown by the top experts in their respective fields. I have always thought that there was enough history and examples in France for one dealer to cope with, but with new demands by interior designers and decorators for colour and pattern, I feel the need to explore new continents.  Live and learn!   If you look at the top decorating magazines they are full of the exotic East and featuring sumptious decor, and that is what people are buying!   I have no difficulty in refusing the rush of cheap and rather nasty 'bazaar' style stuff, glittery, non-fast dye, shoddy market stuff which is beginning to flood the trade - I knew this would happen many years ago when the import tarrifs were reduced and sure enough it has crept up on us.  It is cheap and plentiful, produced by cheap labour in awful conditions.   Whether it is a good thing to buy, which means that the labour force earns enough to feed their families, is a very difficult thing to decide, but if the result of their labours is something shoddy and gaudy I do not have much trouble in passing it by, and hope the makers upgrade the conditions of labour and standard of workmanship for everyone's benefit..
  The best of the Eastern textiles, the susannis, the 'paisley' patterned magnificent shawls and wall hangings, the colourful striped tent linings, the palampores,  the mezzaras, the cashmeres, the alpaccas. all made from natural fibres and hairs and furs, are a wonderful source of rich beauty and amazing hand craft work and are used by the leading designers and decorators to  provide the colour and interest that their clients demand.   Used in moderation , they provide focal points and exotic interest to any scheme and should be valued and appreciated by us in the West!
A Chinese phoenix bird painted on silk  with modern bamboo frame,curtains repeat the colour mix as does the fairly modern mix on the fabric of the two squab cushion seats



 Famous mezzara design copied in Italy




Saturday, 17 January 2015

WORK AND PLAY STATIONS

  Because I have always worked from home and never had proper workshops or outbuildings for doing the work on my textiles, I have organised work stations in my houses where I can enjoy interesting spaces and views.  They are also places where I can get away from the phone, the computer and other distractions!  First and foremost is the laundry which sees most of my purchases from France.  Here, by incredibly good fortune, the previous owner of the house was a lady who had lived out in Hong Kong and had large American machines put in a small bespoke laundry, with a good oil-fired boiler which kept it very warm and dry, so I inherited a large industrial Whirlpool washer and a huge General Electric spin dryer, both of which could cope with the heavy linen and hemp sheets which I bought in hundreds in rural France.  I added a hanging rack (Sheila Maid) and put another much larger one in the garage next door, so I could dry 8 sheets at a time, and not disgrace the neighbourhood with a Chinese laundry look out in the garden.
   Next came the ironing and I invested in a Blanca Press ( not a roller) which is large, heavy and square and does a fantastic job of ironing sheets folded in four layers and threaded through the machine while I sit comfortably, listening to Classic FM,  and pull the levers.  This is in our beautiful atrium which overlooks the centre of the town and ancient buildings nearby and the sun comes straight in.  There is this Venetian window facing South and the banisters of our big Bath stone staircase are just behind me and I can hang the sheets to air on the balustrade!  Although the press was very expensive  (I know it is cheaper now) I was told that it was used by the Savoy Hotel Restaurant to iron their napkins and that was good enough for me and it still works perfectly after 15 years' constant use.  I do not use starch but this heavy press gives a wonderful glossy finish on damask linen
Blanca Press Iron with second-hand curtain background - shell and seaweed collection in the corner of the atrium

                                              two single Regency chairs with ticking squab cushions

      The next 'work station' is in the dressing room of our bedroom which  is next door.  The previous owner had had an enormous bank of cupboards put up from floor to ceiling and kept all her fabulous Chinese silk evening dresses, loaded with sequins and embroideries there,  and these spaces are incredibly useful for me to store stuff, repairs, cushions, etc., handy for my German sewing machine ( bought at Lidl for less than £30,  5 years ago!) in the window opposite that has two chests of small drawers on either side holding all the reels, tapes, buttons, etc. that I need for repairing, and creating.  There I can look out on our street which is full of pretty old houses, hanging baskets, lovely old lamp posts and the elderly residents tapping by to go to the shops which are two minutes away, so convenient.  On each table I have the necessary tools lined up, soft water spray for the ironing, scissors and de-fuzzing comb;  in my sewing room, clothes brush and pin cushion and needlework scissors by the Lervia machine. and I have a large and light white plastic garden table where I can cut out and spread sheets for repairs and alterations.   I pride myself a bit on the fact that I can make, repair, decorate and alter almost anything in my stock by recycling surplus and using old things in new ways - so I never need go shopping except for sewing threads.  I know the French housewives of old would approve as they re-made everything, mostly stitching everything by hand and stuff was used until it fell apart in rags.  

My handy little Lervia sewing machine  which has often gone on holiday with me to Tenerife for a sunshine break, well, I take my husband along too!  The curtains are VERY FRENCH, late 19th C., with romantic designs of garden tools and flowers, re-lined with 19c.crimson cotton linings.    
 
 Work stations continued

                                                   HANGING AROUND THE WALLS
  I was lucky to buy a big set of brass tapestry hanging rails, quite slim and narrow, in France and I had these placed high up in several places in my house so that buyers of my old vintage chateau curtains could see how they would look in their own houses, and this was very useful for them and also decorated big blank walls for me, where I had no pictures to hang and I  could regularly change the colour scheme and scenery.  The curtains have now all gone so maybe I need to buy a Welsh quilt from Jen Jones of  Lampeter, a very old friend, to hang in their place?  For me, this is all great fun, playing with colours and 'looks' and definitely not work.  My adult play station!
One room on this floor has been my sales-room for all the best linens and rarer costumes, but is now restored to be my French spare room for visitors, mostly  by courtesy of EBAY.   See POSTs Spare a Thought and also An Ebay Project

Toile de Jouy bed hanging, French tapestry poles with finials




 

Monday, 12 January 2015

ACCESSORIES TO THE FORE

  Now that we are all in an economical, recycling sort of mood both for our clothes and the furnishings for our houses, I thought it might be interesting to gather some ideas from others on how to make small changes that would re-fresh old schemes without breaking the bank!   I have drawn on an interesting article by an old colleague, Carole Roberts, who has done many great and lovely schemes in her work as interior designer based in nearby Bath.  She has tackled everything from tall houses in Bath to castles in Ireland, but is still helping people with more modest schemes and is full of sound advice.
  She wisely starts off saying that the pastel and neutral colours of current fashion (this was in 2008 but still applies) are the ideal canvas for fabulous accessories and will show them to best advantage.    She advises collecting photos and magazine illustrations of things you like and choosing a few main colours to give cohesion to the scheme - and decide if it is to be a working decor or something more relaxing.  Look at everything together with samples and with the chosen carpets and curtains.  All good sound advice and I think the article re-inforces my own experience with various clients who have difficulty in making decisions and are nervous of faux pas which they and family are going to have to live with;  it could be that a good interior designer can save you money as well as give you inspired ideas.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

MIND THE GAP!

I'm sorry but I cannot continue my blog for the moment as I am away in a nursing home caring for my husband who is very ill, and I cannot do it - I will return later,  Elizabeth Baer

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

BLOG AND FLOG!

  DEAR GINGER - YOU ARE SO CLEVER TO RECOGNISE THE HAND OF IAN MANKIN IN THE CHRISTMAS WREATH OF A PREVIOUS BLOG!  It happened because my two daughters Caroline and Susanna, opened a shop called Baer and Ingram in the Wandsworth Bridge Road and traded there for about ten years.  Next door was Ian Mankin which was a huge draw for all the young marrieds of Fulham, Wandsworth and Chelsea  The shop had great interest for me because he was the first to copy and improvise the stripes and checks of the old French bedding and domestic fabrics that I had long been selling second-hand in short lengths.  When I saw this pretty Xmas confection I telephoned the shop to know where it had been made and the lady assistant said quite casually, oh we just made it up from a few off-cuts and stiffened them up a bit so the petals stayed put.   I sort of adopted the design as my Christmas motto and have used it a dozen times and still think it shows 'home-made craft' at its very best!  but then I am a  fanatic admirer of these sort of fabrics and I think  Ian Mankin did a great job making them available to everyone at very reasonable prices. Elizabeth.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

FUTURE PLANS

    This is the time of year when business plans slow down, family gather round with plans for the Christmas holiday season and we are all thinking about how best to go ahead with Textile Fairs, newletters and other promotions.  We are now all aware of the limiting boundaries of high prices, especially car fuel, hotel charges, and meals out,  in fact everything to do with living in this country - there is no escaping the draining of funds and people are beginning to count costs very seriously.   With regard to T.forT. and its popular fairs which have always been well attended, and the stallholders, who have made reasonable profits, the new organisers, Linda Clift and Caroline Bushell,  are suggesting less fairs (cutting out those that might struggle to be viable) and limiting all fairs to one day -  The main idea of this is to cut the costs for the stallholders who attend all the fairs;  their rents have to cover the high postage costs of the programmes, the paperwork, inks and printing of invitations, emails, and newsletters.  We do not wish to charge entrance to any of our fairs unless they are specifically in aid of a charity, when we pass all on without deductions.   Our fairs have gained a high reputation for quality and reliability and we are determined to keep this going and hope you will all manage to come to as many fairs as possible to support us.  WE  HAVE BEEN OFFERED ONE VERY SPECIAL COUNTRY HOUSE VENUE WHICH WILL BE LISTED IN the next 2015 list of Talent for Textile events, an Email in the late Spring 2015 .
   My textile business is almost finished and I can no longer travel to France to buy and have now finally left the organising of  TforT  in the capable hands of Linda and Caroline - but I shall keep in contact and watch my baby grow year by year!
    Most of this was written last year, but for some unknown reason I did not publish - but I think it all applies to this year and I know there is a very special venue for a summer event again - country house owners know we get a very interesting lot of buyers and textile experts and are happy to open their houses and gardens
for us and their  own charitable causes.
Happy Christmas to all who read my Blog!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A WARM RECEPTION

Large scale 1880 woven Vichy bed quilt, ticking cushions, chequer cotton bonnet, striped red/white French peasant skirt on model, Irish ' Drunkard's Path' patchwork quilt, toile cushions in a cherry picking basket (Kent), lined in Vichy toile,  vintage 1880 prints on chair and pouffe, painted marriage armoire, Czech, 1830, ticking bolsters on top..  All now sold.The cushion on bed shows one of my ideas for using ticking in various ways, making geometric designs.  This was a typical view to greet buyers at my showroom at Freshford, " Pile it high, sell it cheap!"
   When I first started dealing from home in a rambling old house in nearby Freshford, I stacked all my goods in the disused basement kitchen that had a wonderful built-in Bath Dresser with massive cupboards and shelves, ideal for displaying my French brocante and kitchenalia. I then decided that the best way to sell the textiles and decorative pieces was to arrange them in a room setting. The old study with three garden outlook windows was ideal and I worked out a new colour scheme every two or three months. At that time I had quite a lot of London and overseas customers and so I sat them down in my sale-room with the cup of tea or coffee to discuss their wants and preferences. After a bit, I discovered that if the decor was distinctly in red patterns, they suddenly got quite energised and said they were keen to finish some project soon, and started choosing and buying in my other stores as well. If, on the other hand, the room was cool and pretty with lots of blue and white and greens, they were inclined to sit and relax and were not in any hurry to shop. Such is the influence of colour on our moods and I read an article all about this phenomenon, citing the psychological use of colour in canteens, restaurants, hospitals and prisons, and of course shops.
     Think about this when decorating, as it makes sense to have restful schemes in bedrooms and more dynamic contrasts in kitchens and playrooms!    The living areas of your home can do with some stronger schemes, and bathrooms, utility rooms and kitchens can have some really eye-catching decors with a bit of bling and zing which cheer you up when there is work to be done!