Beyond the Pale

Modern Fairytales: The Whimsical Art of Chiara Santillozzi
September 26, 2012, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Art, Etsy, Fairytales | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ever the head-in-the-clouds romantic, I always fall for modern portrayals of Fairytale or mythological themes, so am quite naturally head-over-heels in love having discovered the work of Dublin based Italian artist, Chiara Santillozzi.


There is something to particularly admire in artists who convey characters while still retaining a modern simplicity, I think. That clean sweep of a brush or bold line can say so much in the right hands.


I especially like her use of mainly black and white with a great swathe of perhaps one vivid colour bringing the picture to life.


She really manages to capture personality, don’t you think? I really love this portrait of Frida Kahlo, proving that she’s equally able to portray people in the real world, as well as fantasy figures. Her work manages to be both gently humorous while poignant and completely conveys the mood of each scene or person within it.


They all look like they could be the illustrations from a lost book of Fairytales, I love them all and would certainly like to have some gracing my home. They truly are stunning, and at under £11 for an A4 print, I think they’re absolute bargains, too!


I definitely think this artist should be snapped up for all sorts of book covers and immediately commissioned to illustrate new additions of Angela Carter’s entire back catalogue, don’t you agree?


Chiara, though born in Italy and living in Dublin, has traversed afar, having also made her home in Venice and Japan. I really think she is very talented indeed, and am sure you’ll agree. You can see the work currently available in her online shop, Makissima.



Being an eclectic magpie by nature, one of the features I most like about Etsy‘s website is the ‘Add to Favourites‘ heart button. It basically serves as an “OOOOH! SHINY THING!” bookmark. Once you’ve registered, you can set about quickly building up a list of stuff you , with time to go back later and peruse at your leisure.

Recently, I took the [protoype] Taste Test and found a whole new batch of tasty morsels to smack my lips over.  I found the most successful way (after taking it a few times) was to keep hitting the option to “show different items” until I found something I loved, rather than just liked. It’s not fail safe, but I think it’s a fun way to browse and was really impressed with the choices it threw at me. I made a Treasury (curated selection) of some of my absolute favourites, and shall explain what drew me to them, below…

You Are My Favorite mini print in red, by Fifi du Vie: $9.00 (£5.77)

I often tell DT (the fiance) that he’s my favourite. And you know what? He really is. I think this would splendid over his desk, and would be something for him to look at, smile and feel grateful for every day. By the way, Fifi du Vie‘s shop has loads of great prints. I especially like the “Darling, let’s be adventurers” one.

Dalia jacket by Laura Galic: $120 (£89.71)

Just exquisite tailoring, very feminine shape but with a nod to masculine style – I was obviously going to love the Victorian inspired shape, but I also really like how they’ve styled it here. I posted a comment on Twitter that I wanted one of everything in Laura Galic‘s shop – and I do! Totally my cup of tea.

Ampersand Wedding Decor by Old New Again: $32 (£20.50)

Not only would this be cute at as a top table wedding decoration (in between the bride & groom) but this wooden ampersand could be put anywhere in the house for that shabby-chic style statement ‘not trying too hard’ look. On a shelf, in a window, hanging from a plate rack – I really like having letters/typography characters around. They have a certain geeky charm.

Juliet shoes by Palmy: $74 (£48.06)

These Juliet shoes by Palmy are sturdy but sexy. I love the retro look to them – quite 1940’s-ish I think – and the fact that they look comfortable. This is the major factor for me buying shoes these days, I’m afraid, dear hearts. Having been in retail for the last 15 years, and spent more hours than I can count on my feet, the ol’ tootsies aren’t at their best. Most of the styles at Palmy are made with heel and arch supports. Magic words to those of us who stand all day, I tells ya! Palmy is a talented graduate of the Footwear Diploma of London College of Fashion course, and I have added lots of their items to my favourites!

Hand Stitched Shawl by Crochetelle: $135 (£86.16)

This hand-stitched shawl is something of an heirloom for the future, though I would certainly wear it over a maxi dress or just slung over jeans and a camisole to add some instant elegance. Crochetelle learned to crochet when she was a little girl, then picked up the hobby again.

“I recently was living in a very stressful, dirty city and felt the need to create something beautiful and I picked up crocheting again. Basically, it’s like learning to ride a bike – you never forget it! And after searching around on the internet and seeing all the beautiful, modern patterns that are available now I plunged right into it again and have been going non-stop.”

The shop really has some really beautiful designs and Crochetelle also welcomes custom orders.

Vanitas print by Kate O'Brien Creative: $75 (£47.87)

Look closely at the above picture. It’s obviously inspired by Old Master’s still lives, but if you can believe it, it’s actually not a painting at all – it’s a photograph! I love everything about this photo – the lighting and the layout of the props just perfectly capture the mood of those old paintings. Kate O’Brien explains how the picture came to be:

“I got to thinking about the works of the Dutch masters and the kinds of fruit they used in their paintings. I live in a tropical climate, but for obvious reasons, they weren’t painting a whole lot of Mangoes and pineapples back in the middle ages. So I set off to my local fruit and veg store in search of some more “classical” choices. This image is the result of that trip!”

Kate is a professional photographer and stylist from Australia, and looking through the rest of her shop, I’m really impressed by Kate’s work, the way she uses colours and plays with historical imagery. Definitely a new favourite!

Waiting for You Necklace by Garden of Sypria: $24 (£15.32)

There’s something quite plaintive about the little bird waiting on a wire – you can put any picture you like in this circular glass locket, but I’d be quite tempted just to keep this one in it, it’s very sweet but sort of heartbreaking. There, that shatters my ice-queen image once and for all. Not that I had an ice queen image – I can be turned into a blubbering wreck at the drop of a hat and am really quite awfully sentimental. Hard to believe, I know.

Anyway, yes, this necklace by Garden of Sypria is very much my sort of thing and I like the battered looking silver frame, it looks like it has survived a few things. Maybe the bird has, too.

Heading Home print by Philippe Fernandez, philippesarts: $18 (£11.49)

I was immediately drawn to the style of Philippe Fernandez‘ work, it has that fairytale quality of being darkly foreboding yet simultaneously comforting – a soft-edged air that is often found in children’s story books, as, indeed, this picture shall be.

I painted this painting for a very special children’s book that I plan to be published late this year. This specific painting is when Ponteia found her dear Mr. Kats very weak. Ponteia knew something was wrong. “My goodness!” she exclaimed. Ponteia was outraged that anyone might of hurt him. “Who did this to you, dear Mr. Katz?” With great care she scooped the cat up. Very gently, she raced home with him snuggled softly in her arms.

Wicked Witch Bookmark by Ianscafe: $5.75 (£3.67)

This is one of those really simple ideas, beautifully executed, and it works so well. What an absolutely perfect little gift for a fan of the Oz or Wicked books, too. Your book becomes Dorothy’s house, and those iconic black & white striped legs and ruby shoes stick out helplessly, beneath. “Things just haven’t been the same since that HOUSE fell on my SISTER!”

Hyphae Ring 3D-printed nylon, by Nervous System: $28 (£17.87)

3d-printing is one of those jaw-dropping we’re-living-in-the-future technologies, don’t you think? I love that artists and designers are exploring the use of this technology beyond that of engineering, for which it was originally designed.

Nervous System is a design studio that works at the intersection of science, art, and technology. We create using a novel process that employs computer simulation to generate designs and digital fabrication to realize products. Drawing inspiration from natural phenomena, we write computer programs mimicking processes and patterns found in nature and use those programs to create unique and affordable art, jewelry, and housewares.

The studio consists of Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz who met as undergraduates at MIT where he studied math + computer science and she studied architecture + biology. They live together in a house by a stream in a forest in Western Massachusetts.

These pieces of jewelery by Nervous System are at once strikingly modern and very organic in design – like pieces of coral or the model of a cardiovascular system. The story of how the designers met and what they studied totally makes sense when you see these wearable pieces of art. It’s the symbiotic relationship of nature and modern technology. Gorgeous, I love them all. P.S: I’d just like to add how very well done their photography is, and how beautiful the model is! I want to look like her. 😦

Losing My Way skirt by The Simpson: $48 (£30.63)

There are so many designs of clothes I would like to own in this shop – they look so cool and comfortable, and all of them look to be partly inspired by historical designs, which I like very much, as you can imagine. These are simple, clean-cut pieces to wear and love every day, and this red maxi skirt is particularly appealing. I’d wear it just with a little silk chemise top and beaded sandals for the summer, and with Victorian style boots and velvet jacket in the winter. Something which is both very ‘now’ and yet trans-seasonal.

Vintage Eagle Industrial Lamp at Earth Sea Warrior: $120 (£76.58)

Now you might find this odd, but I am very drawn to rusty things. Slightly decayed looking salvaged items that look as though they have been pulled from a ship wreck. When these items are placed in the context of a modern setting, together with the comfort and clutter of everyday objects around them, they take on a certain beauty – like museum pieces placed on a breakfast table, but in reverse, if that makes sense? Their ugliness is made beautiful by the oddity of their surroundings. That applies to two pieces in my selection of new favourites – the industrial lamp (above), which I love because it looks like something from Bioshock; and the old wooden/metal drawer, below.

Vintage Wooden Metal Drawer at Glass Panic: $28 (£17.87)

This drawer is pleasing both for its battered exterior with mysterious wording “half surface” stenciled on the front, and the fact that it can still be jolly useful. I see this in a kitchen, enjoying its later years in the comfort of a home, used to store balls of twine, kitchen scissors, favourite cookery books or pots of fragrant herbs.

Ember necklace by Therapy: $55 (£35.10)

Now, this little necklace probably isn’t going to cut the mustard as a perfect bridemaid’s gift (depending on your choice of bridesmaid, of course) or something to hang on the Christmas tree for your future Mother in Law; but I happen to adore these pieces made from reproductions of old brothel tokens that would have been given to their best customers. Certainly a talking point at dinner parties, I think we can agree. 🙂

Vintage Printers Blocks at Salvage Nation: $87.50 (£55.84)

Again, my liking for these old printers blocks stems from my love of typography and to be surrounded by words and letters – appreciating them as works of art in and of themselves, not just the means to an end. These would definitely have pride of place on the mantelpiece, or on a shelf along with my favourite books.

Art Deco Inspired necklace by C Henry: $130 (£82.97)

This necklace by Caroline Henry is just breathtakingly beautiful – I gasped when I saw it as a suggestion in the results of my Taste Test – it’s just so perfectly balanced, simple, elegant yet with a real dramatic presence. I would certainly wear this on my wedding day – it is very Deco in design, but timeless, too. Totally lust-worthy, as are so many of the pieces in this talented designer’s shop.

Well, I do hope you have enjoyed this amble through my latest favourites – perhaps in exploring their shops, you may find some to add to yours, too…

If you want to see all the items grouped together in my Treasury selection for Etsy, please click on the pictures below to be whisked to that page.

Until next time, dearies,

Miss Nightingale


Subversive Crockery: Zombie Portrait Plates
October 4, 2010, 12:09 am
Filed under: Art, Etsy, Vintage, Zombies | Tags: , , , , , ,

Could there be anything more appealing than a pretty, if somewhat kitsch, antique plate made all the more desirable by the careful placement of a zombie portrait?

Lucy the Zombie Girl - Serving Platter by Beat Up Creations: $69

Well, can there?

I happen to think not. Well not much, surely, can compete?

Look at the close up of the serving platter…

Lucy the Zombie Girl Serving Platter Close-up

I am madly in love with the idea of serving cake to the vicar on such a platter, and the altered portrait picture slowly being revealed with each slice. I am also supposing the vicar wouldn’t come back to tea at my house.

Zombie Contessa - Beat Up Creations: $25

I suppose it might not be to all tastes, but this collection is very much my cup of tea. I love art and fashion which looks to be traditional and twee but, on closer inspection, turns out to be vintage with a definite twist in the tale.

Princess Hipster Altered Antique Plate - Beat Up Creations: $39

Beat Up Creations is an absolutely brilliant shop which I have just discovered, and already I covet many of their pieces. Many. 🙂

Tattooed Lady Circus Plate - Beat Up Creations: $69

It’s run by a lady called Angela, who rescues “unloved, thrown-out and abandoned” pieces which she transforms into delightfully quirky portrait plates.

Zombie Contessa Altered Antique Platter - Beat Up Creations: $69

I really like the idea of recycling orphan pieces of crockery, pottery and porcelain and having them re-made into items that new owners will love.

I’m especially fond of the vintage portrait series, as you can tell, but Beat Up Creations also create mad sculptures using broken & forgotten ornaments, art prints and fantasy terrariums.

The entire shop is well worth exploring. J’adore!

Diaghilev: Art Deco Glamour, Bottled, for the V&A
September 29, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Art, Decadence, History, Perfume | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Recently, I had the pleasure of being invited to the stunning Haute Parfumerie in Harrods, in order to gape open-mouthed at the wonders it contains (it truly is a must visit destination for any fragrance lover) and also to sample some of their latest wares, for an article I was writing for Fragrantica magazine.

I can honestly say that my favourite new perfume, introduced to me that very day, was the deliciously refined warmth of Diaghilev. Although I reviewed the fragrance for the article, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail that the length of the piece allowed.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon and Orange
Heart Notes: Rose de Mai and Jasmine.
Base Notes: Oak Moss, Orris, Patchouli, Vanilla and Vetiver.

Now that Autumn [my favourite season, hurrah!] is here – and the wonderful Diaghilev exhibition at the V&A this perfume was created for is now open – Roja Dove’s Diaghilev fragrance really comes into its own: a golden fragrance inspired by the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes.

Diaghilev is limited edition Eau de Parfum and the magnificent result of a fruitful union between Roja Dove and the Victoria and Albert Museum, paying homage to that Golden Age of the Ballets Russe, and in particular its founder, Serge Diaghilev.

Diaghilev’s extraordinary company, which survived a twenty-year rollercoaster of phenomenal successes and crippling problems, revolutionised ballet. As importantly, Diaghilev’s use of avant-garde composers, such as Stravinsky and designers such as Bakst, Goncharova, Picasso and Matisse, made a major contribution to the introduction of Modernism.

Portrait of Serge Diaghilev with His Nanny, by Léon Bakst (1906)

Diaghilev’s dramatic performances transformed dance, reawakening interest in ballet across Europe and America. Celebrating the company’s key period of activity, this major exhibition reveals Diaghilev’s enduring  influence on 20th-century art, design and fashion and includes more than 300 objects including giant theatre cloths, original costumes, set designs, props and posters by artists and designers including Léon Bakst, Georges Braque and Natalia Goncharova. These tell the story of a company which began in the social and political upheaval of pre-Revolutionary Russia and went on to cause a sensation with exotic performances that had never been seen before.

Roja has always loved Art Deco and was very much inspired by this period in his creation of Diaghilev. He explains that “the movement captured the changing views of society. This Chypre scent I have created, I hope, reflects all the sentiments of this time.”

Roja Dove’s Diaghilev also manages to pay homage to the great Chypre perfumes created during this period, the years between 1909-1929. And yet this perfume is not in any way a mere history lesson. Just like the Haute Parfumerie itself, Diaghilev is a balance between great respect for the past, and lively, modern interpretations.

The perfume is exclusively available at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods, and the V&A shop (which you can also visit online, here).

“One of the pleasures of working with one of the world’s most prestigious brands is finding others who lead in their respective fields, with whom to collaborate. Having worked with the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Betty Jackson and Paul Smith, Roja Dove follows in that tradition.” – Jo Prosser, Managing Director, V&A Enterprises.

Once my piece on the Haute Parfumerie was published in Fragrantica, I received a really uplifting email from a member of the Roja Dove PR team, telling me how much Roja had enjoyed reading my article.

I was thrilled, of course but, imagine how loudly I squealed with joy when I opened a parcel a couple of days later, only to find a thick cream envelope, sealed with wax, inside, a lovely thank you note in flowing, purple script from Roja Dove himself, and my very own bottle of Diaghilev!

Excuse the awful picture, taken on my phone! How kind is that, though? It really made my day.

I do hope you get to try Diaghilev for yourselves, I’m pretty sure you’ll fall headlong for it, as I did: love at first sniff. 🙂 I am so hoping to go to the V&A exhibition, it sounds amazing, doesn’t it? My mother would be fascinated to visit it, too, as she used to dance with the Ballet Rambert.

I should tell you that I had ballet lessons when I was a little girl, but let’s just say that I didn’t exactly show a natural aptitude, and I still can’t dance to save my life. ;p

Nesting for Spring: Chanel Russian ‘Matryoshka’ Dolls

I have always loved Russian nesting [also known as Matryoshka or babushka] dolls, but can’t quite pinpoint why, exactly.

Many designers have seemingly gone Russian Doll crazy, too, and I am currently lusting after Chanel’s range of Matryoshka accessories. Particularly this darling little necklace…

Chanel Russian Doll Necklace

…but the price is most distinctly not darling, and so, with a heavy heart yet a skip in our step, we shall seek out other darling designs we may actually be able to indulge in!

Matryoshka (Nesting Doll) Card by Letterpress: $4

Those be-rouged faces are certainly a popular theme this Spring/Summer – in fashions, homewares, stationary and art – all over the place…

Lavender bags, Matryoshka style by Beaky: $10 each (you choose the colour)

Perhaps it’s the naive folk-art cheeriness of their smiling faces that appeals so much to designers, or maybe the incredibly satisfying sensation or image of opening one to find another, smaller, nestling inside.

Russian Doll Alphabet Poster by Creative Neesh: $40

There is even a distinct childhood memory I have of the smell of the wood, the sound the tops made when you took them apart, the feeling that you had found a kind of secret treasure when you came to the smallest of the dolls.

Laptop Bag (custom sizing) by Track and Field Designs: $48

These Matryoshka dolls are very like the ones I had as a child, with their distinctive red lips (ha, maybe that’s where I get my love of bright red lipstick from?)

Matryoshka Dolls by Merchant of Kismet: $24

They can take many forms, however, and in recent history the design has also been used as a political or philosophical metaphor.

Darling Matryoshka Doll T-Shirt by Handmade Bliss: $34

I’m going to stick with the traditional, though, as it’s just so cheering and both the image and colours feel very suitable for Spring somehow.

Matryoshka Nesting Doll Fabric, 1 Yard, from Spice Berry Cottage: $14

I do hope you will enjoy browsing the rest of my hand-picked selection below, dear hearts!

Direct links to items shown, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Track and Field Designs, 2) Beaky, 3) Handmade Bliss

2nd Row: 1) Juju Treasures, 2) Letterpress, 3) Merchant of Kismet

3rd Row: 1) Mew Paper Arts, 2) Chickadee Supplies, 3) Paper Pumpkin

4th Row: 1) Spice Berry Cottage, 2) Naked Tile, 3) Creative Neesh

Thinking of Hester: Peacocks, Paris & Cupcakes

It is often around this time of year that we hear the phrase “It’s the thought that counts” bandied about. It usually takes the form of a cringing hand-over of shoddy gifts with seemingly no thought behind them whatsoever.

Here, then, I hope to include some gift ideas (last-minute, I grant you!) into which I have put a lot of thought… but as my revoltingly swingeing pay check currently restricts gift buying to immediate family this year; they must, alas, remain a lasting thought.

I have been inspired by particular people for this series of gift guides, and they are particularly inspiring!

The first in the series is for my dear friend Hester – a lady blessed with immaculate taste, a bawdy sense of humour, and the ability to make people swoon with her notoriously wicked chocolate cupcakes (AKA: “dirty, dirty porn cakes” *cough* – because of the sounds people make when eating them!)

Direct links to items shown, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Tilly Bloom, 2) Jade Rose Designs, 3) Dog Bone Art

2nd Row: 1) Revival House, 2) BeadzNBling, 3) Clutch That

3rd Row: 1) Teacup Design, 2) Mes Peintures, 3) Oak Hollow Primatives

4th Row: 1) Chris Smith 22, 2) Little Voices, 3) Jenny’s Bake Shop

Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Until later, cupcakes,

Miss Nightingale


Creepy Vintage-Style Illustrations to Treasure
November 28, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Art, Creepy, Etsy, Style, Uncategorized, Victorian, Vintage

WHY wasn’t I previously aware of the beautiful artwork of Madame Talbot’s Victorian Lowbrow? You are possibly aware by now that I am somewhat obsessed with most things Victorian – particularly the darker, seamier side of the period, and all of their fabulous posters fit the (forgive the pun) bill!

Laudanum Poison Poster by Victorian Lowbrow, $14.95

Mutter Museum Poster by Victorian Lowbrow, $14.95

This particular piece (below) reminds me of the type of illustrations found in the somewhat disturbing books of stories I so loved as a child. In fact, all of Toxic Ink‘s prints look like they have been plucked from a vintage Annual and are just waiting for their stories to be told.

Temptation Art Print by Toxic Ink, $20

Startled Art Print by Toxic Ink, $20

Sarah Blank‘s artwork is just heart-breakingly beautiful but still with that unsettling, creepy undertone I crave. I would love to look like the subjects in her paintings: all come-hither eyes, glacial composure and bee-stung lips. The descriptions she gives some pieces just add to their mysterious allure…

Seafaring Heart Print by Sarah Blank, $17.50

Seafaring Heart Print by Sarah Blank, $17.50

The Bumblebee Sisters Buy a Bird Print by Sarah Blank, $17.50

There’s a faintly sinister feel to some of Andrea Kett‘s burlesque, vintage fashion-illustration like artwork, but with a wry humour, too. I love the Fifties-esque feel to the first print below (and would totally love a dinner party with a dressed crab who was actually dressed in a tuxedo! This is likely why we don’t have more dinner parties…) Great leer from bunny-ears chap!

The second print has a definite Marie Antoinette costume feel to it – just divine. I really like the cruel twists to each picture that prevent them from seeming overly twee (the arrow through the fox draped around her shoulders, the fact she’s simultaneously smirking and smoking)…

Dressed Crab (6x8 inch) Print by Andrea Kett, $10

Arctic Fox Print by Andrea Kett, $28

These intriguing pictures by Swan Bones are very reminiscent of those blood-chilling little books of old fairy stories you are sometimes lucky enough to come across in antique bookshops.

Three Seekers Print by Swan Bones, $29

A Single Light Print by Swan Bones, $19

I want to gather together as many such prints & artwork as I can find, place them in mismatching, eccentric looking vintage frames and group them haphazardly together on the same wall.

Creepy? Possibly. But incredibly pleasing. Exactly the kind of style I like best. 🙂

Until later, kittens.

Miss Nightingale