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.


[NOT a Wedding Dress] Wedding Dress Ideas #2: Floaty silk chiffon maxi dress by Idea 2 Lifestyle

If wafting around in a floaty silk maxi dress, clutching your pearls and pretending you’re in some undiscovered Jane Austen novel or an overblown Gothic melodrama are your sort of thing – and frankly, if they’re not, you’re reading the wrong blog, sweet cheeks – I definitely think this next dress will appeal to you.


Designed and made by Idea 2 Lifestyle, I wanted to show it as part of my [NOT a Wedding Dress] Wedding Dress Ideas series, as it perfectly encapsulates the sort of thing I’m looking for: something that could be easily worn again, has the possibility of being styled in various ways and isn’t too $pendy, for the Bride on a Budget.


The dress is £64.10 in GBP, which I think is an absolute bargain, considering what some people pay for a dress that has that magical money-quadrupling word of “Wedding” attached to it! Idea 2 Lifestyle will also work with you to change the look of the dress slightly (making it longer, shorter, and to your size), which may incur a further cost, but that cost is $10 or so depending on what you want changed, so hardly anything to quibble over.


I love the silver-grey version as an alternative Bridesmaid dress, or even black worn with bright pashminas and flowers woven through their hair – so pretty! I like the loose, unstructured body of the dress, too. I think it would lend itself well to being worn with a really pretty under bust corset over the top of it for that Wench look, or perhaps a simple thin belt worn high on the waist, for more of an Empire line, all the better to woo your Regency gent.


I rather fancy myself in the white version, dancing about in a meadow eating homemade bread and cheese from a nearby farmhouse and proclaiming giddily over bunches of wildflowers while wearing my Marie Antoinette-ish huge straw ‘peasant’ hat… but we all know the reality would be me treading in a cow pat, being chased by by wasps, stung by nettles and noisily attempting to retrieve the blasted hat from the tree into which it’s been blown.


Ah well, a gal can dream… 😉

Perhaps it’s better – after The Big Day – to save it for wafting about in town on hot, sticky days (like today!) or with a roughed-up denim jacket and studded gladiator sandals for that off-duty rockstar look. Just not worn with cowboy boots while canoodling with someone else’s husband, okay? Because friends don’t let friends get mistaken for Sienna Miller.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Gift Ideas for Chaps
September 15, 2011, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Chaps, Etsy, Gaming, Geek, Gift Ideas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Mostly my blog is full of girlie whimsey and fripperies, I know this and I am not apologising for it because it’s my blog and I’ll post whatever I like (mostly whimsey and fripperies).

Very occasionally, though, I force my head from the clouds and cast my thoughts to wondering what the flippin’ hell I can get my delightfully geeky fiance for Christmas/birthday/Valentines/Hallmark Occasion du jour, and I scavenge through Etsy looking for things he might like.

I thought I should make a Treasury out of some of the things I found (most of which I want myself, so maybe I am purely selfish), and wanted to share it with you.

If you click on the word ‘treasury’, above, you can be whisked to the page it lives on and from there can click on pictures to be taken to get a closer look. Have fun exploring the rest of the items in the shops I’ve featured, too!

I usually type out the name of each item & shop and add links by hand, but today is just a quickie, m’dears, as I am Otherwise Occupied. Enjoy!


Wild Embroidery
July 10, 2011, 1:33 pm
Filed under: Embroidery, Etsy, Jewellery | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In a lazy Sunday morning browse, I came across a recently opened shop called Wild Embroidery, based in London and run by a very talented lady called Lu, who embroiders beautiful designs onto pendants, making them wearable little pieces of art.

Wild Flower Hand-embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £15

There is something very pleasing about their simplicity, and also for the fact you are wearing a little picture that someone has hand stitched, I think.

Fern embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £18

Pretty but not at all twee, the embroidered pieces are made to order and presented in chunky vintage-toned bronze frames and fob-like chains.

Daisy embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £12

I must admit to hankering after the daisy…I love daisies – and they happen to relate strongly to one of my favourite books ever: The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea. Oh! And the dandelion one, too. Daisies and dandelions represent two of the characters, and it calms me to see them. You can only really understand this if you have read the book. Sorry. 😉

Dandelion embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £16

Of course I also have a special liking for the Nightingale necklace, too (for obvious reasons). 🙂

“the nightingale is in love with the plum blossoms
she sings for them every night.
she can only peck once in a while, but never touch…
such is her punishment.”

Nightingale & plum blossom embroidered necklace: £16

Until next time, my lovelies,

Miss Nightingale



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


Giveaway: WIN your very own handmade designer Le Muse top!
June 20, 2011, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Competions, Etsy, Fashion | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I am very excited to tell you that up-and-coming European design label Le Muse (about whom I waxed lyrical in my previous post) are very generously GIVING AWAY one of their fabulous Asymmetric Tops – in any colour/size available that you choose – to one of my lucky readers!

Black Asymmetric Le Muse top

This competition is open to all readers, worldwide and now closes at 19:00 GMT, MONDAY 4th July. Continue reading for how to enter…

I happen to know first-hand how wonderfully comfortable and stylish these tops are, having purchased one for myself last month, having lusted after various Le Muse designs for simply ages and finally taking the plunge. I’m so glad I did – it’s one of the most practical yet unusual and completely cosy items I own.

Black Asymmetric Le Muse top

I plumped for black – ‘coz, y’know, it goes with everything but I would probably choose the Violet Muse next, as it’s such a gorgeous, deep colour. The catwalks were filled with deep reds, burgundy, purples and violets – all the rich berry hues (which I adore). Mouthwatering.

Violet Asymmetric Le Muse top

Each Le Muse piece is individually handmade by the designers, and can be altered to your exact specifications or you can choose from a range of standard sizes. This means they take a little while to arrive to you, but are absolutely worth every minute of waiting!

Violet Asymmetric Le Muse top

To enter this competition, I’d really appreciate it if you posted a link to this page on Facebook or Twitter, with the phrase: “WIN your very own handmade designer @LeMuseTweets top!” and simply say something (that can be anything from a description of your favourite Le Muse piece; how you’d wear the Asymmetric Le Muse top if you won it, or just saying “Hello, I’m [your name]!”), below, in the comments box, so I can put your name in the hat (so to speak).

Le Muse Official Website

The winner will be drawn at random & announced on here, Facebook & Twitter. Closes at 19:00 GMT on MONDAY 27th of JUNE. Good luck! And remember, even if you’re not lucky enough to win, it would be well worth your while to browse through their whole range – I think it’s a gorgeous collection and very good value for money, too, for handmade designer pieces!

Le Muse

Supreme comfort is, I think you will agree, very rarely combined with sublime sexiness; and yet that is exactly where fashion label Le Muse completely excel. I have lusted after several of their pieces since discovering them on Etsy, and finally plumped for the Asymmetric top as my first purchase.

Black asymmetic top by Le Muse: $65 (approximately £40.61)

I never thought I will start creating clothes for others, even though I made clothes for myself for ages. I guess I was influenced by my grandmother, who was designing and making clothes all of her life. And now I have started too. It all started with the fabric… I bought a wonderful cloth. It was so cozy and beautiful, that I didn’t need to do much with it. I started to drape it in different ways and I’ve noticed that it falls in wonderful waves. Every time I moved, it changed and curved adapting to the lines of my steps and gestures. I kept on wondering how could I catch those curves and flux of the fabric… Well, I believe I did it. And that’s how LeMuse was born. ~ Lina, Le Muse.

You can see the shaping a little better in the violet version of the asymmetric top.

Oh, my top is just fantastic – a heavy, fluid jersey that just drapes beautifully and everything cut & stitched to perfection. With Le Muse, simplicity is the key feature, along with fabrics which drape without clinging. You can wear it ruched-up as a top (and off one-shoulder or draped at the front), or pulled down to its longest length, it could certainly be worn as a short dress or as a tunic with leggings.

Black asymmetric Le Muse top

Hailing from Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania – Sophia & Lina are the talented duo behind Le Muse, and in my package I received a rather unique postcard: a handwritten message on the back of a large, foil-wrapped packet of flavoured loose tea, urging me to “…always feel the most beautiful & unique muse in the world!” which I think is utterly charming. 🙂

Forest Muse dress: $75 (approximately £46.86)

I tried it on as soon as it arrived, and only wish I had ordered from them months ago! Now, of course, I am making up for lost time by compiling a list of Things I Want To Order Next. Top of that list is, currently, the Forest Muse dress. I should also take a moment to mention the wonderful photography of some of Le Muse’s clothes – they just look so incredibly appealing and effortlessly elegant.

The front of Le Muse's Forest Muse dress

Now, who could possibly not want to run through fields with armfuls of magazines or drape oneself in the grass with a foamy pitcher of fresh milk, having browsed through their styles? I would certainly be throwing myself about with abandon in a meadow, were it not raining and were I not full of a Sunday roast.

Orange Tulip muse dress by Le Muse: $89 (approximately £55.60)

Every time a woman would dress in LeMuse, I would notice how differently it looked. It adapts to individual body and moves with that person in its own unique and beautiful way. ~ Le Muse

Front view of Orange Tulip muse dress

The styles on offer at Le Muse aren’t afraid to show a little flesh – a bare shoulder here, a daringly low-cut back there – but are gently provocative without leaving the wearer feeling naked or uncomfortable in that awful constant re-arranging frenzy that comes upon one if you happen to feel your dress is too short or too tight and so remain clamped to a mirror, pulling at bits of your outfit and constantly re-checking it throughout the day. That way madness lies, as many women will surely agree! Even if you think a lady looks fabulous in a piece, if she isn’t comfortable in it, you can tell immediately, and nothing is more off-putting than someone who obviously feels out of place in whatever they are wearing.

Black Silk muse dress: $125 (approximately £78.09)

This black silk open-back dress is just stunning, I love the fluidity of the silk – it looks like it would be a dream to wear against the skin, too.

Night Blues silk muse dress

This is also available in a deep blue – the colour of the sky at dusk, which is quite lust-worthy in and of itself.

Back view of Black Silk Le Muse dress

I also really like the fact that – as with many Le Muse pieces – from one angle it may look quite ‘proper’ and slightly subdued, but from another it can be quite racy, that sensuous swathe of open space at the deeply cut back. Gorgeous!

Roman statue depicting the Four Seasons

Le Muse use the natural curves of the body to drape their pieces in a manner that puts me in mind of Roman togas or the artfully gathered fabrics used in ancient Greece that, in turn, have influenced designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens.

Vivienne Westwood Anglomania 'Priestess' dress

Rick Owens draped dress

When you consider that each item of clothing is individually made for the wearer (there are standard sizes, but Le Muse can also tailor each piece exclusively to your requirements), I think the value for money is excellent. There is a little bit of patience involved, as your item is crafted for you, but they keep you up to date with the process and the waiting is definitely worthwhile!

I really think there’s something for most ages and sizes in Le Muse’s collections, they have a definite and recognisable style to them, but are quite diverse for all that. From tops to dresses, with some coats and jackets in the new range and all manner of coziness to snuggle into, or sensuality to swathe yourself in, you should definitely go and check out their full range.

Cozy Muse sweater: $99 (approximately £61.85)

Go to the Le Muse website to learn more about the label and to view the incredible collections in full, or to their Etsy shop – just click the picture below to be whisked there right now…