As the weather got warmer and my little studio heated up I longed to open the door and let in some fresh air. But as any Australian will attest, along with the fresh air come the flies and bugs, and in my case a grand old cat called Mr P.
I had always planned to do some ‘Capital Works’ in 2013 (I love a bit of jargon, especially when it is totally out of scale with my fledgling business) Initially I just thought id open the yellow pages and dial a basic, boring screen door.
But then it happened. I spotted a particularly lovely scroll-y wrought iron screen door on a local miners cottage that transported me back to hot Riverina summers with the hum of cicadas and the drone of a constantly dripping air conditioner on the verandah.
As the RRR radio sting used to say about Nick Cave dolls, I found myself wining to no one in particular “I want one”.
Ok so this may be a little out of my league, but you get the idea.
This little number is getting closer to both my means and dimensions. Although it looks quite modern and lacks the 70′s aura that I’m seeking.
So my search continues and my studio awaits its mini makeover.
Oh by the way, I still make hats, these little beauties are keeping the sun off the fair maids of Sovereign Hill as we speak.
I had the pleasure of attending Ladies Day at the Ballarat Turf Club last week. With my hats set up in front of large windows overlooking the race track it was the perfect setting for a champagne and a flutter.
Sharing the floor with me were some other Ballarat retailers including the lovely Clare Schreenan from Clasch Designs. Clare is wearing one of her own lovely dresses and as you have probably already guessed, a Cecily Davis Millinery headpiece. I was delighted for Clare when she was voted by an esteemed panel to be Lady of the Day. The ceremony included a brief parade on stage and very polite golf claps all ’round. Congratulations Clare!
Amongst the handful of non-ladies in attendance was this odd chap…Yep, Brian Mannix was called upon to entertain 200 lunching ladies and although the gen-x’ s may have been a twitter (not I) many of the elderly dames hadn’t a clue who he was. Despite this, he did an admirable job of singing a short acoustic set of two songs and then posing for photographs.
Brian aside, it was a spot on day of loveliness and relaxation for the guests attending and I shall be popping it in the diary for next year.
To be clear, a week in Paris is a week more than most people get to experience. For a milliner however, a week just isn’t long enough!
Like many artists and musicians before me I just had to take Paris piece by piece, exploring what was possible and leaving those opportunities that slipped by me for ‘next time’. You could go crazy trying to see everything and it is gloriously optimistic, not to mention romantic, to think that you will definitely return some day.
I have put this post off for a long time.
Because I want it to be perfect. I want to share every little bit of Paris that was so fascinating and wonderful. I want it to be specific so that if you were to go to Paris and use it as a bit of a guide, you could find the places I visited with ease. But I also want it to be a bit of armchair travel, enjoyable in its own right and without a hint of rubbing your nose in my good fortune to find myself in Paris for a week!
And so here it is……
My Top Five Paris spots for arty-crafty Farties (not culture vultures or high brow bookish types)
5 – Flea Markets (Brocantes)
These are all over Paris on various days of the week depending on each suburb (arrondissment) Many have a combined wholesale food/fruit/veg section and some are stand alone Brocantes. My favorite purchases include a few vintage French fashion magazines (1 of which is about 100 years old) some beautiful remnant lace and a handful of brooches/rings/earrings. I have probably listed these things in descending order of value but to me they are all beautiful reminders of my trip and I have already used some of the jewelry in my hats.
If you stay in Paris for a few days it’s worth finding out when the markets are in your area. We missed a good one on the Friday of our stay that I think was pure Brocante, next time…
4- Le Bonheur Des Dames
17 Avenue Daumesnil, 12 Arrondissement, Metro Bastille
This is a specialised embroidery boutique. They are located in an archway of the Prominade Plantee (an old railway bridge converted to a long garden park) Many of the shops beneath the prominade are creative studios of some sort. As well as linens, ribbons, threads and needles, Le Bonheur Des Dames also supply a mind boggling variety of cross-stitching kits. Now I have done my time with cross stitch and embroidery so I was not actually seeking this shop when I stumbled upon it. However, I would recommend it to anyone who has ever used a needle and thread for decorative purposes and vaguely enjoyed it. This place will reinvigorate your desire to stitch!
Most of the kits use a fine linen cloth that calls for tiny stitches. As a result the designs contain a lot of detail. The table cloths with garden or kitchen themes would have to be my favorite. I did indulge in a kit of modest proportions, a sampler of sewing equipment images (dress maker dummy, tape measure, scissors, pins etc) predominately red stitching on a natural linen cloth. If I manage to complete it within 2 years I might graduate to one of the tablecloths.
3- La Droguerie, 9-11 rue du Jour, 1st arrondissement, Metro Chatelet
There are a handful of these craft boutiques dotted around France but I can only speak for this one in a former butcher’s shop in the centre of Paris. Where Le Bonheur des Dames provided ready made kits, La Droguerie(established in the 1970′s) is like a craft hardware store. Rows and rows of shelves contain glass jars of beads (from the tiny glass shimmery variety through to walnut size wooden toggles) buttons both classic and colorfully modern, fastenings and clips for brooches hair clips etc, beautiful velvet/silk/linen/enamel-looking flowers, leaves and berries. Skeins of wool in every color of the rainbow hung from a row of butcher’s hooks. Then there were the ribbons, feathers, and thread!
It was enough to make a milliner/craft nerd hyperventilate. After a quick glance at the lolly shop of my dreams I had to reconvene with my mum and travel buddy Amie Sexton. I told them solemnly ‘I may be some time here’. They smiled calmly and began searching for their own little treasures. There were certain little rules about opening the jars containing all the goodies which had to be explained to me twice, first by a member of staff and then by Amie. One is allowed to retrieve flowers/leaves and berries from the glass jars but not beads and buttons Photography was also forbidden. But I can forgive all of these protocols because if I had a shop full of such cool stuff I would make damn sure that the hoi poloi were kept in line too!
2- Ultramod, 2-3 rue de Choiseul, 2nd arrondissement, Metro Quatre September
This little gem of a Mercerie (dressmaker and sewing store) has been in business since 1890. Whilst I’m no antique expert, the furnishings of Ultramod are old enough to confirm its long history. The two stores are opposite each other on quite a small but busy street. The smaller of the two stores houses all of the millinery supplies. It has that lovely old dusty feel. It’s softly lit, despite having two street frontages of windows. It felt like one of those places you could uncover some real treasures. Fortunately they were very happy to allow photography.Across the street in the other premises were the rest of the dressmaking supplies. Hundreds of buttons and ribbons with every possible motif, colour and design.
1- Legeron, 20, rue des Petits-Champes, 2nd arrondissement, Metro Pyramides
The studio of Monsieur Legeron was the highlight of my trip to Paris. The engraving above is a depiction of the Legeron workshop as it would have at the time of its foundation in the 1880′s. For 130 years they have been cutting, dying and shaping flowers by hand, for fashion houses such as Dior, Lacroix, and Ungaro.
The Monsieur Legeron that I met is the great grandson of the founder. For 2 days I was lucky enough to have with me in Paris, my friend Amie Sexton. Not only is Amie lovely company in her own right, she is also fluent in French. So at lunch on day 1 (a Friday and my second last day in Paris) I asked Amie if she might ring Monsieur Legeron and request a visit for that afternoon. I had heard on the grapevine (facebook/other milliners) that it was difficult to just ‘pop in’. Mainly because no English is spoken and the address itself, although central, is a bit tricky to find.
The gods were smiling on both accounts. Amie quickly established that we were welcome to call into the studio/showroom that afternoon and whilst wandering in the correct arrondissement we literally looked up and saw that we were outside the correct address. It is a large doorway into several studio apartments and ateliers so can easily be missed.
But once inside it was (cliche alert) like stepping back in time.
The studio also housed and extensive collection of colour dyes for achieving the perfect hue for each bloom. As well as fashion houses, Legeron also cater to brides and retailers and of course, milliners.
And there you have my top 5 Paris hot spots for craft nerds. I’m sure there are a lot more to discover and I would love to hear from any readers who have other places to add to my list for next time!
Finally, if you have enjoyed this post you will love this book,
Paris: Made by Hand, By Pia Jane Bijkerk. Published by Little Bookroom, New York.
It is like a beautiful Crafty Lonely Planet for Paris. I actually bought it as a little self-gift about 18 months before my trip (before I had any idea I might actually be going to Paris) So it is a great book for armchair travel, small enough for a cosy read in bed or on public transport. Thankyou Pia Jane Bijkerk, you bought Paris to me, before I took you to Paris!
The opportunity to visit Paris arrived under my Christmas tree last December. I was in shock until well into the new year. By Australia Day I had recruited a companion, someone who I knew could tolerate the highs and lows of long distance travel as well as withstand the distracted eye of a milliner in Paris.
My mum and I were like the antithesis of an Amazing Race team. Instead of madly dashing to cross things off a must see list, we created our own, more leisurely schedule.
In addition, we made no apologies if we didn’t feel like doing a a particular thing. For example, on our first morning in Paris we stood at the plaza area near Ecole Militaire and took the obligatory photograph of the Eiffel Tower.
I turned to mum and said “Shall we go up?” (the tower)
She replied “No I’m not really fussed love, what would you like to do next?”
I’ve no doubt the view would have been breathtaking. And I have no delusions that we were somehow extreme tourists who skipped the que at big tourist trap attractions because we knew that the view was just as good from the top of an obscure monastery in a Paris backstreet. We just felt no pressure to be anyone else except ourselves. Which I guess is the joy of traveling with someone that knows you very, very well.
It set the tone for a lovely week. We visited a lot of smaller galleries such as Musee de l’Orangerie which houses Monet’s cycle of eight enormous Waterlilies as well as a digestible amount of works by Sisley, Renoir, Cezzanne, Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani.
We did the museum equivalent of eating dessert first by spending an hour in the gift shop of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, before we had seen a single exhibit. (It was the establishment’s fault really for opening the gift shop half an hour before opening the actual museum- that’s my excuse)
About the only thing on mum’s must see list was the Musee Rodin. By her own admission my mum is a Rodin groupie.
Many years ago when I was technically backpacking and mum was taking a break between Trafalgar tours, we saw Rodin’s beautiful Kiss sculpture in an exhibition in Lewes, Sussex in the UK. It made a big impression on her and Rodin is now the standard by which she measures all other sculptors.
You wouldn’t think it to look at the photographs, but we ran through pouring rain to get to the Musee Rodin and arrived drenched. Happily we were able to dry out while looking at the many sketchbooks and marquette’s inside the building before heading outside and finding the garden in bloom.
I will post a second installment about the millinery related sights of Paris. But for now, we are squarely in tourist mode.
One of the amazing things about this trip was my incredible luck when it came to catching up with friends whilst in Paris. Very early in the planning stage I put out a call on Facebook to a high school friend of mine now living in London. I asked her for advice on accommodation as well as sight seeing, and threw out an invitation to come over and see us if she had some time.
She did have time and was more than happy to pop over on the Eurostar for a day of sight seeing. We talked all day, at times the tourist attractions just got in the way! (Well it had been 17 years!)
Tanya lead us in the direction of some quirky shops she thought I might like (I did) and to the theatre costume suppliers shops near Sacre Coeur. Tanya is a dancer and has been making her costumes for many years. So her knowledge of where to buy feathers and beads and the like was invaluable! Thanks Tan!
I also had the pleasure of two other reunions whilst in Paris, but I will explain those in the Paris millinery post.
And now for a little stroll through Paris
So that’s my overview of Paris, I hope you enjoyed the pictures.
I would have been hauled into the year level coordinators office to have a conference with the relevant teacher.
I would have been told that many families are on the waiting list and would love a chance to send their daughter to this school.
Despite scoring a big fat zero when it came to trouble making I heard this one a lot when I was at school. It always made me picture decent hard-working families waiting at the school gates in their horse and buggies, wringing their hands and praying that today a student would be busted smoking behind the music rooms and suddenly their child would be called forward to take her place.
Well… as I sit before you looking at my shoes and trying not to make eye contact- Gee is that an Interested in Science careers poster over there? But wait…when exactly is the Hobart Uni Open Day?
I am very sorry that I have neglected my blog for so long.
I actually have a LOT to tell you.
A Paris de-brief will be first, probably broken into two parts and for extra marks I will be including lots of lovely photos, because nearly everything is prettier in Paris.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to sign a contract thingy outlining exactly how I will be changing my behavior so that this situation does not occur again and those poor families at the gate in their buggies will just have to wait.
My final day making hats in Lucy’s studio was very satisfying. My initial goal was to make 2 felt hats, so I was thrilled to almost double my output.
I say almost, because for various reasons the other 3 hats remain untrimmed. A few days shopping in Paris should sort them out! (more about the Paris millinery shops soon)
We started class a bit later on this particular day to give us time to look around the Uzes market and shops. Such a colourful and beautiful array of stalls and displays.The following day we left Uzes to start the next chapter of our exciting trip, Paris!
So here we are in an extremely beautiful part of France. Are you ready for some eye candy?
We are staying in historic Uzes, in the south of France, 20 minutes west of Avignon. It is a rabbit warren of winding cobblestone lane ways with lovely shuttered windows and barely enough room for one lane of traffic. The central square is alive with cafes and I think we would need to stay for a month in order to sample each of the bakeries. It is carbohydrate heaven or hell depending on which way you look at it!
Although le pain chocolate does feature on my daily to do list I am here in Uzes for another reason.
Lucy Till is a very talented and friendly milliner who not only teaches her skills to holiday makers, she can provide the accommodation too. We are staying in her lovely apartment just off the central square and each morning she picks me up to take me out to her studio in her house to make hats. Take a look at her beautiful ‘hat room’
And if you thought that inside the house was beautiful, wait until you see where we had to dry the felts after blocking.
I’m really excited about how the hats will turn out, and not the least bit concerned about how I will get 3 or 4 hats home on the plane. You see I bought an extra head with me, my mum’s! That only leaves one or two in a hat box as carry on luggage, sorted!
The last few weeks have been a frantic blur of preparations.
As well as having a few orders to finish for beautiful brides and bridesmaids, I have been checking off my list of things to do before departure.
Departure .. to..where? I hear you say….
In a long awaited for journey I will accompany my mother Marjorie to Paris for 10 glorious days (including Mother’s Day, noice, special) I can’t wait to hear how the French pronounce both of our names, I sure it will sound very sophisticated.
Naturally, a lot of the preparation has been to do with my two little ones aged 2 and 4yrs. There has been much guilt baking, guilt sewing and even pay it forward little guilt gifts for the ‘postman’ to deliver in my absence.
And so the next time you shall hear from me I will be, as the French say,
oh who am I kidding I have no idea what the French say and even less idea how to say it!
It’s going to be a very steep learning curve
PS I am actually going to be visiting some milliners in France and hopefully a flower maker also, stay tuned to the blog for some armchair millinery travel.
It would be fair to say that in the last couple of weeks I have been doing a sizable amount of hob-nobbing. It’s not a rude gesture, a silly craze like planking, or dipping a certain British biscuit into your tea. It’s just a room full of consenting adults, who dress up a little, drink a little and talk a lot!
I have attended a Spanish themed dinner, a seminar for women in business, and a hoity toity dinner with guest speaker Ita Buttrose. And to each event I have worn one of my own hats or headpieces. It’s been fun, and for the first time (perhaps ever) I feel really comfortable wearing my own creations.
Anyone that knows me would be aware that I am a bit of a wallflower. I was born under the star sign of the shrinking violet (double Cancerian to be exact) But I have to say that wearing a hat or similar is a great conversation starter, beanies and baseball caps excluded. I no longer have to make small talk about the food or the venue or how far away I parked the car. My hat is the small talk and frequently opens the door to very fascinating big talk.
For example, at one function I got chatting to an author in the lunch queue. She said that she had a strong interest in vintage fashion and judging by my hat, thought that I would be a vintage leaning individual too. She was spot on.
I received a copy of her book for my last birthday!
It is on high rotation in my bedside pile of nice books (the ones you read just before bed to help erase tomorrows to-do list from your brain so that you can sleep)
The sliding doors take on all this is that if I had not revealed something of myself in my appearance, ie my hat, we may not have made this connection at all.
When have you struck up a meaningful conversation with someone, because of your clothing or accessories? I would love to hear about it, so why not introduce yourself and leave a comment. Wishing you a happy, hob-nobbing, week!