29th May 2013
We’ve written about decorative artist Cressida Bell before, see here, as we love her work. We often buy her cards and recipe posters, always long for her rugs and furniture, and once saved up for two of her lamps. But honestly, for sheer decorative pleasure, nothing beats Bell’s latest project: a book of her cake designs. It’s utterly wonderful and utterly bonkers – the work of a total obsessive, with sentences in it like: ‘I have always loved the ceramic roundels made by Luca della Robbia in the 15th Century. They look to me as if they were made to be cakes.’ So, no, you won’t find swirls of pink buttercream icing here, or cakes that have been fashioned to look like other things – a tank engine, say, or a snail. These are cakes that look like what they are: absurdly beautiful, highly decorated, fantastically delightful cakes. On the other hand, Bell finds inspiration everywhere, whether it be in a detail of a painting by Klimt, a ’50s swimming cap, or a Bloomsbury flower painting (Bell is the grand daughter of Bloomsbury painter Vanessa Bell and the great-niece of Virginia Woolf). Talk about the tussle between creative and domestic pursuits coming full circle, and, in the pages of this book, being given such a witty, albeit one-off, resolution.
Of course, the book is more about inspiration than instruction (though the Allsorts cake, below, looks vaguely do-able), and Bell happily admits that most people don’t have the time or patience to spend hours sorting out silver balls into different sizes, never mind the skill of putting them to such inventive use – though she is particular about everything having to taste good as well as look lovely. To this end, the cake and icing recipes in the book are by the ever brilliant food and recipe writer, Rose Prince. But it doesn’t matter whether you plan to decorate your own cakes or not. Rather, this book is for anyone interested in design or decoration. And if that does indeed mean an actual cake, then help is at hand. Bell has made icing toppers that you can order from her website for £20. These are her designs, printed with edible ink onto a very thin sheet of icing, that you then drape onto your cake, thus transforming it. See her website for lots of examples. But if that’s not enough, then know that Bell can also be persuaded to make bespoke cakes. For us, we’re happy eating up every single page of the book.
6th December 2012
We are big fans of the designer, stylist and author Ros Badger, so are thrilled that she has just produced two new books in a series called Homemade. One, Sew, Knit and Crochet, is, as the title implies, full of lovely knitting, sewing and crocheting projects. We wish we could do any of those things but we can’t. But her other book, Homemade: Christmas & Festive Decorations, is just what the doctor ordered for folk like us, who want to make lots of lovely things, but aren’t very good at making. The book is full of great ideas – none of them twee or grannyish – and explains how to do all of them really clearly and well, listing just what you need and where to get any necessary supplies (much of the stuff, you’ll have already). We’ll definitely be sitting down with our kids to make Christmas card garlands, a Christmas wreath (have you seen how much shop bought ones cost?), cranberry decorations (so simple, so, so pretty) and are going to start a tradition of hand painting a Christmas plate every year. As well as specific projects, like these, the book gives you fabulous tips on how to make your house look generally more lovely. Bring on the Christmas tree! With chapters on Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Birthdays too, the good news is that this book is not, in fact, just for Christmas.
11th October 2012
Great book; great present for self or other. The authors, Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, who run Pedlars, a mail order company and shop that sells all kinds of things for your home, are well qualified about all things outside having brought up their six children in the Scottish countryside. Not that you need to have kids to enjoy this book. It’s a great guide and how-to for anything from an outside walk (among others things, it will help you identify common British trees, crops, birds and clouds), to more committed pursuits such as camping, foraging, and keeping livestock. It’s exceptionally good on stuff to do, especially with kids – lighting a fire, building a scarecrow, outdoor games (get it in time for Bonfire Night), and stuff to cook: the campfire recipes look so delicious we’re planning to cook them indoors. But turn to any page and you’ll find nuggets of wonderful information: where to buy the best whistle in the world, fab music for outdoors (as chosen by Rough Trade Records owner Nigel House), how to tie a clove hitch knot and so on – all of which makes for great arm chair reading. But actually, because it is written by two knowledgable enthusiasts, rather than professional beekeepers, say, or mountaineers, everything seems accessible, doable and and fun.
19th April 2012
We are big fans of writer Will Hobson and his Household Box, which you can read about in more detail here. In short it’s a box of delights to do with domestic life: quotes, signs, instructions, games, anecdotes, and other witty surprises. It’s playful, clever, singular, lovely to look at (it’s published by Redstone, so no surprises there), and very, very funny – much like Hobson himself, so don’t miss his ‘performance’ (words, music, moves, who knows what else) at Worlds End bookshop this coming Tuesday evening at 6.30pm. It’s free to get in, but do RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to make sure you get a place. Not surprisingly, Hobson has a cult following and it’s only getting bigger.
18th January 2012
The Hayward Gallery shop has been taken over by publishers Nobrow for the month of January. Nobrow are a small, independent press who work with graphic artists and illustrators to produce books and prints and other lovely things. Their magazines, with themes like ‘Jungle’ or ‘Gods and Monsters’ are entirely illustrated and really original. But everything they do is great. At the Hayward Shop, rechristened by Nobrow while they are there as, This Is Not A Pop-Up, I stocked up on wrapping paper, their latest magazine – Nobrow No. 6: ‘The Double’, and a slim little book, Ada by Gertrude Stein, illustrated by Atak, an artist from Berlin. The story is a love letter by Stein to her partner Alice B. Toklas, and Atak’s illustrations are heaven, as you can see, below. If you can’t make it to the Hayward shop before January 29th when Nobrow go home, do visit their website, which is excellent.
3rd November 2011
It’s hard to explain quite how brilliant this box of suggestions and anecdotes, signs and games is. It’s a great idea, of course: what’s not to love about a box of wordy and visual tricks that will magically brighten up the way you live your everyday, domestic life – but it sounds sort of impossible to pull off, at least with any lightness. And yet Will Hobson, the box’s author, has done just that and better than you could ever imagine. The glory of this box isn’t in its conceit, appealing as that is, but in its content and detail. Oh, it’s so funny. The box contains some relatively straightforward things, such as 20 ‘Notes to Self’ (great quotes), A Household Manual, and a red and yellow card – always handy for sudden misdemeanours in the home, but the more you read the more hysterical it gets. There’s a room service menu that makes us cry with laughter. So does the Visitor’s Contract. But it’s all so original and good. And as it’s designed and published by Redstone it looks great too. A perfect present, for self and others.
And if you like the Household Box – perhaps you can tell that we are fans – then you shouldn’t miss Will Hobson’s talk, titled Knock, Knock. Who’s There? We Are! The idiosyncratic delights of home, at the V&A’s Reading Rooms on November 10th. The talk is free, but booking is essential, which you can do by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. But email immediately if you want a place, as Hobson has many fans and the talk is bound to be as idiosyncratic, charming and funny as the box.
1st September 2011
3rd March 2011
We are big fans of Redstone Press and have been collecting their wonderful and original diaries for years. So we’re delighted with this book, The Redstone Book of the Eye: A Compendium of Visual Surprise, which brings together an amazingly varied collection of images, culled from Redstone’s huge and lovingly formed archive. The images range from movie posters and documentary photographs to Shaker ‘gift drawings’ and Russian illustrations, and all, in some way or other are about the eye. All too are either charming or intriguing or moving or striking, and some of the images are all of these things. The book is divided into sections, with titles such as The Artist’s Eye, The Mind’s Eye, The Satirical Eye and The Unseeing Eye, with accompanying short texts by art critic Mel Gooding and an introduction by artist David Shrigley. We love this book – really, you couldn’t not – and for that reason have managed to get our hands on three copies to give away. To win one of the copies, fill in the form below by 5pm on 19 September, and we’ll pick three winners to win a copy each at random.
Great news! Artist Cressida Bell has produced a new How To Cook Real Good Cheap Easy Food cookery poster. We loved her original version (see here for more info), so we’re thrilled she’s now made one for vegetarians.