Wednesday, 15 April 2015


  One of my favourite bedside books!  To be dipped into when I have a little spare time and I always feel both refreshed and inspired with the photo pictures of  quaint objects, many beautiful and rare, but others as common and cheap as pebbles on a beach, which are the work of Olive Cook and Edwin Smith, a delightful couple. There was a restrospective exhibition of his photographs recently and she was the co-author with Edwin of a book called the English Country House through Seven Centuries that was one of the earliest coffee-table-sized such books and very attractive.
     They had great knowledge of  many British folk art items and were amongst the first to elevate them to  the 'collection' status - they immersed their small homes in this rich mixture and their enthusiasm and erudition on all subjects to do with buildings and their contents was very endearing to me.    They were friends of my Uncle Clough, architect, and we went together to visit Olive somewhere near Dunmow for strong black coffee with all the grounds in the bottom of the cup - my uncle told me I should make coffee like that in future, as he was staying with me, aged 90, while his wife Amabel, went off to India to learn more about Hare Krishna Religion, as a granddaughter had become involved!  Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of the hotel village Portmerion, was a very memorable character and much loved - we went to Bishops Stortford College to see about some of his urns that had been removed from a high gabled entrance block building, the first modern building to be given listed status, and all because of  H. and Safety concerns, which annoyed him greatly.  However they were later found in a local garden and re-erected so honour was saved and he went back to Wales very happy.
          The book I quoted was called Collector's Items from the Saturday Book, by Olive Cook and Edwin Smith 1955 Hutchinson pub.  It features several hundred objects, often small and primitive, covering pottery, needlework, carving, furniture, toys, pictures and much else, often taken in their original surroundings, mostly cottages and old shops but also circus, seaside, and often regaling their own mantlepieces.  When I look at all these illustrations, I get quite sentimental as they show so many of the things I used to see and buy in my forays into dusty old shops and junk markets, and I have kept a few examples for myself in my little groups for decoration and amusement.

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