Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Felt work and applique

A cottage orne, A La Ronde, Devon  showing the works of the Misses P:arminter

My collection of 'pictures without paint' grew when I found a very rare felt picture which was made in Frant, Tonbridge Wells, showing an old postman and his donkey delivering a bag of letters, it was simple and graphic and there was a companion picture of his wife, an old crone. These pictures, made by a tailor, were rare then, and now they would fetch many hundreds, if you could find them. The other very collectable subjects were charming baskets of fruit and strawberries with real straw-work and little spots on the raised felt fruits to show the pips. There were baskets of flowers too with fancy stitching all in felt, and the occasional horse or dog or cat, always in great demand. The tinsel pictures of famous actors and figures have always been collectable and later figures were sometimes dressed with real silks and laces. Add to that, cut-work pictures done with sharpest scissors and scalpels, pin prick figures (often Continental) and pictures sewn with silk and real hair (with the very finest needles) you can see there was a wide choice of these ladies amusements and that is not counting cork pictures carved by P.O.W.s at Osborne house and Conway Castle and seaweed, dried flower and fern collages as well as shell and feather pictures. These ladies were very skillful and most artistic and made the most of their simple materials.  Prize examples of many of these crafts are exhibited in the famous sea -side Nat. Trust cottage orne called A La Ronde, Exmouth, Devon, all worked by the Misses Parminter after their Grand Tour of Europe in the late 18thC. it is a tour de force and full of decorative charm!

Monday, 17 February 2014


    Skimming through the previous rough notes on some of my past efforts and exploits, I am aware that I have been lucky enough to combine living at home in historic and lovely houses with my family around and at the same time doing lots of things that I enjoy and find interesting.  Starting off with a flower and garden business in two shops, with a garden nursery,  then working at the restoration of an old property and developing it to provide a decent income, followed by a period of searching for folk art antiques for a top London Art Gallery, all helped to drive me towards my final choice, dealing in vintage France and exploring its ways, customs and heritage.   Through all these activities I have been on the 'fringe' of many different worlds; architecture, design, theatre and film production, primitive art and finally the decoration of historic and interesting properties, including my own, and meeting many different people on the way.  If I have helped others to furnish and decorate their homes and that has given them some beauty and joy, then that makes me very happy and makes all the work and effort so worth while!  This is not meant to be any sort of ego-trip for me - I have just enjoyed remembering some of the things I used to get up to, the adventures and ups and downs of the various businesses and I now have a good store of happy memories; the problems are forgotten!
My present home period 1731  shared with 3 grandchildren


Monday, 3 February 2014


  A few years ago, I listed some ' savoir faire'  hints for buying antiques and bric-a-brac in France, whether on holiday,  just for fun, or for small scale dealing.   Since then I have learnt about a few extra  caveats, after hearing some sad travellers tales of losses at the big fairs.   Wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing.  There are several kilometers to cover on your feet if you do a thorough 'walk' and the big hangars can be very cold in the early morning in winter.  A torch is useful, also a measuring] tape.  If you are slipping in to the big trade fairs, take a business card with you to wave at the gate.   Arrive early to get the best bargains;  the dealers do not hang about and you may see their stickers on objects which means they are already sold!
   A friendly smile and a polite 'bonjour Msieur' or 'Madame' is always a good beginning in any country;  You can almost always get the price down a bit and explain you are from England, not a rich American!  It often helps!   Pick up the article if small or place your hand on it, if large, and then no-one can outbid you while you bargain-deal!  You will always have to pay in cash 'liquide' as it is known in France, and the ATMs are sometimes far away in another town.  Remember too that there are very adept robbers and pickpockets at all the big fairs who will slit back-pockets, cut cords and whisk away your wallet to ruin your day and holiday.  All cash should be kept in inner secure pockets or belts.  If you buy and leave goods with the seller, make a note of the stall no and position,  as the stand can look very different next time you pass by and the seller may have put his wife or friend in charge of the stand, who will not recognize you..One of those big plastic zipped bags (Hong Kong  variety) can be very useful, specially if you are buying textiles and linens.  You can hire a porter and barrow (at great cost) if you buy heavy stuff and your transport is a long way off -   Some porters are skilled, but others are rough and need watching.  There are commercial carriers at all the big fairs (Le Mans, Avignon, Bordeaux, etc.), who will deliver to your English address, but this is a major expense and you should calculate the extra cost when buying large and/or valuable lumps.The food stands sell greasy fry-ups and the coffee portions are v. small - best to buy a croissant or two from a bakery before you set out for the fair..