Sunday, 24 June 2012

Antique barometer

I got this lovely little antique barometer from Bygone Times in Eccleston, which is well worth a visit if you’re into old stuff. It’s more of a junk and knick knacks place than real antiques though, and this was only about a fiver, so I seriously doubt it’s very old. I’ve been trying to find out more about it, but that’s pretty difficult with no maker’s name or brand on it. I’ve looked at loads on eBay, and similar ones are described as anything from Edwardian to 60s, so I’m at a loss. It might even be reproduction, but I still love it.

It seems to be mahogany with a painted porcelain face and brass trimmings. But what sets it apart from many others I’ve seen is that the first letter of each word is painted red, and one of the fingers that moves to point at the weather is blue, with a crescent moon at the end. However, I think what I like best about this barometer is that you can see all its insides through that hole in the middle.

My favourite antiques are the ones that ‘work’. That do something. Or at least, did something once. I like the idea of all those teeny little bits being precision-made and assembled and whirring away doing their job for decades/centuries. I like but also hate how obsolete these technologies have become – vintage telephones, clocks, record players, vintage cameras, even barometers, my house is full of beautiful bulky old things that are usually broken, and all their functions are now fulfilled by a smartphone that fits in my pocket. Being able to look through that hole into the cogs and screws within is like seeing into the guts of a dinosaur… it proves it really was alive once upon a time.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

More art nouveau posters

So, I know I’ve already waxed lyrical about art nouveau posters once in my blog about Henri Privat-Livemont. But now I’ve gone and found another poster artist that I think I love just as much.

Alphonse Mucha (or Alfons) was from what was to become the Czech Republic, but – quelle surprise – moved to Paris just in time for the belle époque renaissance in art and design. According to Wikipedia, his first job was a poster for a Sarah Bernhardt play in 1895; apparently the actress loved it so much she signed up Mucha to make all her posters for the next six years. Now that’s celebrity endorsement.

Although I would previously have thought Mucha and Privat-Livemont’s work is rather similar, looking at them side-by-side I can see the differences. Mucha’s women are entwined and encircled by all those curls and spirals – their hair, their dresses, even the leaves in the background, are sinuous and sensual. I think Mucha also uses more fleshy and warm tones, and I bet if gold paint/ink was easy to come by, he would have used plenty of it. I really didn’t think it was possible to find sexier art nouveau posters than those by Henri Privat-Livemont, but I think Alphonse Mucha just about cinches it. My favourite has to the vintage Moet & Chandon advert, which just oozes luxury, opulence and pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel like going out and buying some champagne…

Saturday, 16 June 2012

German style (aka I love Berlin)

Berlin Fernsehturm (TV Tower) Berlin traffic lights manLong time no blogs – I’ve been busy preparing for and recovering from a long weekend in Berlin, my second of the year so far. It has to be one of my absolute favourite cities, not least for its awesome party scene (sitting round a campfire watching the sun rise outside a night club will stay with me for a long time). But also, it’s just got this really unique character, which is both weird and wonderful – the city has seen times of affluence and austerity, repression and liberalism, glory and shame. It has streets that wouldn’t look out of place in New York, next to bits that look like a Soviet industrial estate. The green man who tells you to cross the road is wearing a hat.

Walking the streets, you’re struck by the sense of space; the average street is wide enough for about four lanes of traffic, bikes, parking, trees, and of course lots of people sitting outside cafes and bars. There are a ridiculous number of parks too, from kids play areas squidged between two buildings to sprawling woodlands you can easily get lost in. Then there’s the colour. I sort of assumed it would be a very grey city, but it’s one of the most colourful I’ve been in, where the buildings are all sorts of pastel shades and there is graffiti (of varying artistic quality) on every possible surface.

Then you go inside, and you never quite know what to expect. One nightclub I went to (Kater Holzig) was like a squat mixed with a pirate ship, while the one I went to in February was in a former power station, with scary signs and bits of generator still lying around. There are beautifully eclectic and classically cosy bars and restaurants like this one (Sophie’s Neck, weirdest bar name ever), where elements that would look incredibly tacky in a British pub (golden candle sticks and persian rugs) somehow just look good. And in all these cases, it felt so effortless and natural… just let it develop on its own into whatever people want it to be. Very Berlin.