Spring Fling

Bubbly cocktails to make your spring pop by Laura Macfehin

It is that time of year when we emerge blinking from our winter cocoons of tv binging, woolly layers and pudding marathons (o.k. maybe that last one is just me) and realise that it is actually quite nice outside. The sun is finally shining, there’s pollen in the air and the trees are full of new foliage and birds hooking up. Standing at the window, tea in hand the thought occurs– “maybe I’ll drink this on the deck/porch/concrete area by the backdoor?”.

Later still when the seasonal frenzy has gotten into your blood and you’ve actually swept your al fresco living space and increased the ambience by moving the bin back round to the side of the house and picking up the sodden dog toys that have lain untouched in the weeds by the path to the washing line you think “it would be nice to have some drinks out here”.

Springtime is about a renewed enthusiasm for life. It’s about freshness and sunlight and the smell of freesias on the breeze. It’s about fooling ourselves into thinking we are looking forward to summer and don’t know that in fact it will a sweaty nightmare. That’s why you want drinks that reflect this (the fresh freesias part; not the sweaty nightmare part).

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60ml London Dry Gin

1 tsp superfine sugar

15ml lemon juice

145ml champagne

Add the sugar, lemon juice and gin to an ice-filled shaker and give it a good shake to dissolve the sugar. Strain into a glass and top with the champagne or sparkling wine.

Elderflower cocktail

60ml elderflower liqueur (like St Germain)

90ml sparkling wine

30ml soda water

Add the liqueur and sparkling wine to a glass and swizzle slightly, top up with a little soda water. You can also make a totally teetotal version with elderflower cordial, sparkling grape juice and soda water.

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60ml tequila

15ml lime juice

120ml grapefruit soda

Combine the tequila and lime juice in a glass with ice and give it a swizzle before topping it up with the grapefruit soda. Garnish wit fresh grapefruit and a sprig of mint.

I hope these help put some swing in your spring- let me know what your favourite springtime tipple is!

Win friends and irritate people

Laura Macfehin presents three simple strategies to make your flatting lockdown experience unforgettable.

O.K.  We’ve been in lockdown for several weeks now, and if you are in a flatting situation you may have noticed your housemates starting  to chafe a little at the circumstances.  They might be a little terser than usual with you, you may even have had some burst into tears when you enter the room.  These feelings and reactions are all perfectly normal, but if you are a go-getter who knows what’s best for other people you don’t have to accept them!

Not everybody has the brains or passion to lead a group of unwilling people to where you think they should go, but you do, so appoint yourself Chief Officer in charge of Morale and prepare to buck the living heck out your flatmates spirits.

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You probably exhausted your usual repertoire of games and japes early on into lockdown, or perhaps haven’t had the chance to suggest any as your flatmates kept to themselves and took to their rooms, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many opportunities to enforce a good time.

Putting fun back on the menu!

Do you have a cooking roster?  Then the next step is obvious– I am of course talking about re-creating a historical feast.  Pick an era (the medieval period is always popular) and the use that fantastic resource the interweb to find authentic recipes and decorating suggestions–  allowing your fellow house-pals to travel back in time with you via your culinary wizardry.  They have probably never heard of deer humbles, or even know what caudle is, so don’t hold back on educating them– there is no better sauce than un-asked for knowledge.  Of course this won’t work unless everybody fully commits, so feel free to insist on period details like only using the correct utensils for the era and refusing to answer questions unless they are spaketh in ye olde tongue.

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Of course with a lockdown larder to contend with you may have to make some substitutions– instead of a suckling pig baked beans; instead of pheasant pie, also baked beans.  Don’t forget to separate each course with a suitable musical interlude to extend the whole experience.  With sufficient compulsion your flatmates will soon be proclaiming you a fine fellow indeed!

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Panic stations!

Vibrant, interesting people like you and your flatmates will probably be missing the usual fun pursuits of the outer suburbs like indoor rock-climbing  and mandatory paint-ball afternoons.  Of course, you can’t recreate those sorts of team-building activities in your home… or can you?  One extremely popular fad can easily be replicated in a domestic setting and is sure to blow the minds of your flatmates.

Imagine the surprise on the faces when they assemble for the house meeting you have called only to find themselves in their very own Panic Room!  A Panic Room is an entertainment where a group of people are locked into a space where they have to listen to the loudest member of the group decipher what they think are clues, until either the event manager relents or someone throws up and they are released.

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In a residential context you have two choices when setting up a Panic Room entertainment– choose a room that already has a lock on it or do a bit of sneaky carpentry in the night.  In can be hard to convince folks that a flat meeting has to take place in the bathroom though, so really the trick is to install a lock after they have gone to bed.  Play some soothing music loud enough to cover the sound of your chisel and drill and the a new lock can be installed in a matter of hours!

After that all that is required is luring them in with a fake meeting agenda (re-use one from a past meeting– they never pay proper attention anyway) and shutting the door.  If your lock is sturdy and your clues oblique enough you can keep them entertained this way all day, by which time a lot of pent up frustrations will probably have been released.  Cathartic entertainment at its best.

 Be my Boo!

My final suggestion will certainly to the practical joker in you.  You may have heard the term ‘ghosting’ used in recent times.  To ‘ghost’ someone in this modern sense means to simulate a haunting in which you take on the role of mischievous spirit or poltergeist in someone else’s life.  The traditional pranks will suffice– moving or hiding their belongings, writing threatening messages on the steamed up bathroom mirror as they shower, making their walls appear to drip blood.

Focus on each flatmate for a couple of days before moving on to the next victim– the feelings of persecution and subsequent recriminations will really distract your fellow housemates from their lockdown malaise!

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Anyway, there’s not long to go now as far as lockdown continues to move through the different alert levels.  With a little ingenuity and no scruples about imposing your will upon others you can come through this as the one flatmate your acquaintances will never want to remember never forget!

 

Pussy riot: An interview with Caroline Moore from Fang & Fur

Fang & Fur founder Caroline Moore tells Natasha there’s no shame in being a crazy cat lady, why our feline friends deserve more than tacky plastic toys and how she’s always happy to be on the receiving end of a pussy pic!

Auckland purrveyer Caroline Moore has scoured the globe to curate her stylish range of products for cats and their human devotees.

Whether you’re after sleek, designer pieces such as the beautiful Bendo Cat Bowls, handmade quirky pieces or items with an edge such as the Purrvana Catnip range that delights in playing off the catnip/weed comparison, everything she sells is sourced from small companies and independent makers.

The longtime cat lady first launched her online business, Fang & Fur in 2019 after realising that New Zealand had a huge gap in the market for high quality cat products.

She soon built up a core following and loves nothing more than receiving photos of her customer’s cats  ‘meowdelling’ their latest Fang & Fur swag.

When she’s not slinging pet products on the net, you can find Caroline working in high-end jewellery retail, checking out a local band, taking day trips in her 1975 Datsun 120y or chilling at home with her cat (and her man).

Read on for a tour of her product catalogue, to hear about her Cats of the Lockdown competition and to find out how you can become a member of her pussy posse!

Caroline and Suzi Q on Seafoam Sheepskin
                                        Fang & Fur founder Caroline More and her muse Suzi Q.

What made you start Fang & Fur?

The idea came about after trying to find quality, leather collars for my cats Suzi Q and Django a few years ago. There was nothing available in New Zealand, but I found some really beautiful ones being made overseas.

This prompted me to assess what else was available for cats in New Zealand and I realised that it was pretty grim! It was mainly mass-produced plastic stuff and super tacky.

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About last night: One of the greeting card series featuring inebriated cats by Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa.

I’m sure everyone who has a cat knows what I’m talking about: nasty vinyl collars, plastic toys that look like they’d break after two plays – you get the drift.

For some reason there are lots of beautiful products available for dogs in New Zealand but there was a clear gap in the market for cats. This, along with the fact that New Zealand has a really high rate of cat ownership, got me thinking.

Hot under the collar: Cheshire & Wain’s Caviar Collection for cats who demand the finest things in life!

How did the business cope during COVID-19?

I’m very lucky to say that Covid hasn’t had much of a negative effect on the business. Obviously I couldn’t send parcels out during level 4 of the nationwide lockdown, but it did give me time to run the Cats of Lockdown Competition!

There were 4 categories: Best Cat Gone Crazy, Best Work From Home Helper, Best Snugglemuffin and Best Hygiene Freak. Comedian and SnapChat Dude Tom Sainsbury came on board as judge, and we received heaps of downright hilarious entries!

For the Auckland lockdown, I ran a Sexy Kitty Competition. You heard that right.

Strike a pose: Sexy kitty Monty shows how it’s done.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

As far as the product range is concerned, there’s a bit of a mix of aesthetics but I think it all ties in together well. There are sleek, designer pieces such as the beautiful Bendo Cat Bowls, handmade quirky pieces like the felt catnip toys, and a bit of a naughty edge with things like the Purrvana Catnip range that delights in playing off the catnip/weed comparison.

The fact that I’m a bit of a rock n roll gal also comes through! I’ve really wanted to keep things fun, I don’t get pet brands that are all beige, grey and white – it’s just so boring. Especially when you consider how hilarious cats and dogs are!

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                                     Portrait of the artist as a young cat: Frida Catlo greeting card

What makes Fang & Fur different from your average pet supplies store?

The main difference is quality. All the items for cats are made by small companies or individual makers from really good quality materials so they last. Another big difference is that Fang & Fur’s products are cool!

I always think generic pet supplies stores look like toy stores – everything is made from cheap plastic and covered with cartoony pictures. Another element that is really different is the ‘For Humans’ section which includes books, cards, t-shirts, bags, and other “hooman” accessories.

Cat Coven Magickal Protection Slouchy T-shirtCat coven: Kjersti Faret’s designs have a strong witchy aesthetic.

Can you talk us through your range of products?

Sure! The products for cats include leather collars and charmstoysbeds and housesbowlsscratchers and treats. All the collars are handmade and there’s also a range of really cool collar charms including some made from semi-precious stones.

The toys include beautiful wands made by a small Japanese company and handmade catnip pillows by Cat Coven. I’m really pleased to sell a selection of extremely luxe NZ sheepskins in dreamy colours, and for cats that prefer a more enclosed sleeping space, there are diamond-shaped houses in an array of designs.

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The bowls are by Australian company Bendo and are super sleek and cool, and a Melbourne-based maker creates the beautiful scratchers. The organic catnip range is by a Colorado company and includes titles such as Cat-O-Tonic and Get Soused!  

The pieces for humans are by a few different makers and companies. One of my favourites is Cat Coven which is the creation of a Brooklyn-based artist called Kjersti Faret who has a strong witchy aesthetic. Another is Monmon Cats by Japanese artist  Horitomo who uses a lot of traditional Japanese imagery and symbolism.

The brand that produces the most laughs is definitely Pussweek. It’s a series of publications ‘by cats, for cats’ that tackle important issues such as: what’s your licking style?, and which windowsill is best for your body type? Some of Pussweek’s more hard-hitting stories include: ‘My big fat gender identity crisis’, ‘My human says it’s my fault he touched my belly’, and ‘I lost eight lives in two weeks – the diary of a catnip addict’.

The store also stocks a great range of kitty-related gift cards and accessories, as well as books and magazines. I pushed the cat theme out a bit by stocking Jo Weldon’s beautiful Fierce: The History of Leopard Print.

Fierce - The History of Leopard Print by Jo Weldon

How has the brand evolved?

The biggest change of focus has been on having products made. This started with the Fang & Fur face masks – available in black and white leopard print, and a fun pink and yellow leopard design. Now, I’m in the middle of having cat collars made. I’ve found some dreamy leather and am working with a local leather craftswoman. Next year will hopefully see Fang & Fur cat toys and bowls too.

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Puss Puss in the lounge with diamonds: My cat proudly shows off her diamond cat bed from Fang & Fur.

Do you test drive the products on your own cats?

Absolutely!! There’s only one way to find out if the products are up to the job! Suzi Q is really, really into the Purrvana catnip blends – so much so that we have to hide them from her! She also loves her beautiful Kitska Scratcher which saves the furniture (some of the time). 
Unfortunately we lost our dear Django on New Years’ day which was really hard, but he looooved his Jet Sheepskin. He would always spend at least 10 mins kneading it with his toes outstretched before going to sleep, and it was a real comfort for him in his final days.

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The look of love: Suzie models her white leather Fang & Fur collar with Swarovski crystals.

Why are cats so eternally popular?

There are so many aspects to cats that make them irresistible to humans. Obviously they’re cute and cuddly (when they want to be), but I think humans also admire their aloofness and independence which gives them an air of mystery. Most cats have a life that their humans know nothing about – when they come in after a jaunt outside, we don’t always know where they’ve been, who they’ve met or what they’ve been up to.

Another element that humans seem to have always loved is the aesthetic pleasure they offer. The cat’s form is deeply embedded in human culture – from Egyptian hieroglyphs to ’50s kitsch and beyond. Having said all that, cats can also be big idiots and endlessly hilarious – there are so many things to love!!

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125558424_1262888787445169_8577423678331822380_oCat got your butt: Be reminded of cat butts wherever you go.

Where can people find out more and do some shopping?

Just pop over to fangandfur.co.nz and follow Fang & Fur on Instagram and Facebook!  Or join the pussy posse here

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I love you to death!

Laura Macfehin looks at the horror flicks that best fit your every Valentine’s Day mood.

OK, so I’m a little biased in that I truly believe every holiday is made better with a horror film, but I think that a very strong case can be made for horror being the perfect Valentine’s Day match. 

Sure on the surface a Rom-Com might seem more appropriate– but I think we all know that these are by and large a tissue of lies and un-meetable expectations that do nothing for real-life romance except set us up for at best disappointment and at worst the inability to differentiate between romance and disturbing stalker behaviour.

Horror, on the other hand delivers no matter what your Valentine’s needs may be.  For those in a new relationship there is nothing more bonding than sharing a scare or discussing how you would have avoided the slasher’s axe. 

For those jaded with romance or happily dating yourself in a world obsessed with hetero pair bonding, what could be more cathartic than seeing young love literally getting its heart ripped out. 

And for those soft souls in a committed relationship with their beloved only horror provides stories of romance that defy time and space to endure.

Scream if you want to go faster!

If you’re on the new relationship buzz one of the best things you can do is watch a good old fashioned slasher flick.  You’ll be jumping into each others arms in no time! There are obviously plenty to choose from but some that  that might work particularly well are–

Urban Legend (1998)

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Although it’s not specifically Valentine’s Day themed it is one of the best slasher films of the 90s.  Students at a New England university start popping off in ways that suspiciously mirror the eponymous legends. 

It’s got a bit of the meta po-mo self-reflexiveness made popular by the Scream movies but it is also just great slasher flick.  The formula was at its peak here and a good time via a nostalgic trip back to the simpler late 1990s is guaranteed.

If you want to see all those horror tropes in their original incarnations then you have to travel back to the early 80s.  My Bloody Valentine (1981) hasn’t been lauded like other films in the genre–  movies like Friday the 13th (1980) or Halloween (1978) but its a great little picture. 

Twenty years after a Valentines Day dance is turned into a massacre by a traumatised miner the town decides to party again… with deadly consequences! 

Sure it might not be that scary to our 21st century eyes but it is set in Valentines Bluff on Valentines Day so you can’t get more on theme than that.

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Also with an on-the-nose Valentine’s theme is Hospital Massacre (1981) aka X-Ray aka Be My Valentine, Or Else…  In the same ‘killer returns’ mode Hospital Massacre features a woman who in her youth spurns a would-be valentine.  Twenty years later and– you guessed it– he’s back and still wants to claim her heart!

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In a similar vein but as yet un-viewed by me are Lover’s Lane (1999) and Valentine (2001).  The latter stars David Boreanaz of Angel fame and Denise Richards, and both films look trashy as all get out which is a bonus for me– the trashier the slashier in my books.

Love is for losers

In more recent years we’ve had a bevy of horror features with a somewhat more cynical take on romance and dating, so if that’s your current feels there are some fabulous films supporting that mood!

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You’re Next (2011) is still one of my favourite horrors to come out in the past ten years.  Centred around the already fraught ‘meeting the parents’ scenario You’re Next makes the idea that love is a trap literal with stellar turns from aussie Sharni Vinson and horror icon Barbara Crampton.  If you’ve ever shouted at characters not to be so stupid you’ll find this flick a very satisfying watch!

There are more aussies highlighting the dark side of love in The Loved Ones (2009).  When troubled but spunky teen Brent turns down Lola Stone’s invitation to a dance (he already has a girlfriend after all) Lola enlists her dad’s help to make her prom dreams come true– with decidedly twisted results.  It may seem odd to call something so gut-roiling ‘refreshing’ but The Loved Ones really is, and not just because its a gender-flip on the usual spurned-dork-becomes-killer storyline.  They are thrills and gore a-plenty here.

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If you’ve had first hand experience with gaslighting, belittling and other bullshit behaviour then last year’s Midsommar (2019)  is for you.  An American college student tags along with her (obviously the worst) boyfriend and his friends on a trip to a secretive Swedish commune.  Yes there are a couple of shocks along the way but cartharsis is the name of the game here and sometimes you need a good slap in the face.  

See also May (2002), Teeth (2007), Jennifer’s Body (2009), and Get Out (2017) 

Gothic Romance

It’s not all romance gone bad in horror films though– in fact some of the most romantic storylines (in my slightly gothy brain anyway) are contained in horror scripts.  So if you’re a loved up softy then horror is still the greatest genre to with which to celebrate.

I may have been at a somewhat formative stage when Francis Ford Coppola brought out his version of Dracula (1992), but I still think Gary Oldman’s Count is the most romantic to have graced the silver screen.  You couldn’t be an angsty teen in the early 90s and not swoon when he says this to Winona Ryder.

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To be fair by the time Coppola made his gothic period piece my penchant for creepy re-vivified ancient lovers had already been established by Boris Karloff’s role in The Mummy (1932).  Everything in this film is beautiful, from Jack Pierce’s masterful monster makeup to the romantic love that would bring Imhotep back from the dead looking for his re-incarnated princess.

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Ok it may seem like I’m just sticking this last one in here because I like to put Poltergeist (1982) on every list I make, but I genuinely think of this as a very romantic film.  Unlike a lot of horrors in which a family is divided by a paranormal experience, the Freeling’s stick together.  Ultimately it is the strength of their love and in particular Steve’s confidence in his wife that allows her to rescue her daughter and protect their little family and, corny as it sounds, that seems really romantic to me.

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For other genuinely romantic films see also: The Conjuring (2013), and The Lost Boys (1987),

So what do think?  Is horror the perfect accompaniment to Valentine’s Day?  What will you be watching?

Playing Favourites (The Best Podcasts of 2019)

Laura Macfehin lists some her most recent favourite podcasts.

I’ll say it now– if I’m awake I’m usually listening to a podcast.  Perhaps because I work from home, perhaps because life doesn’t allow me to read all day but podcasts fill the need in my life for both company and a constant influx obscure information.  These have been some of my favourite this year!

Passenger List

Passenger List is an audio drama from Radiotopia– the podcast company that makes some of my favourite podcasts like Criminal and Radio Diaries.  It follows Kaitlin Le (played by Kelly Marie Tran) whose brother has disappeared along with the plane he was on.  Determined to get to the bottom of his disappearance and the truth of what happened to Flight 702 Kaitlin goes down all kinds of rabbit holes and intrigue to find answers.  If you love suspense and great audio production you’ll love Passenger List.

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Dolly Parton’s America

I will admit right now that I am a Dolly superfan; one of the greatest disappointments in my life was missing out on a phone interview with Ms.Parton (I may or may not have gotten celebratory mugs made in anticipation).  Dolly Parton’s America is a podcast that much like the Appalachian Angel herself has something for everyone.  For music nerds and superfans there are all new interviews and for people who maybe have always wondered about the phenomenon that is Dolly or why she brings such diverse people together there is an examination of why she is so beloved by everyone and why her music is for all.

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Forgotten Australia

If you love obscure history; if you go down rabbit holes scouring old newspapers and marvelling at the items that were big news but now have passed from our common consciousness then Forgotten Australia is the podcast for you.  The stories of Australasian history that had everybody talking a hundred years ago but are now largely forgotten.

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Visitations with Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah

Courtesy of the streaming service Shudder (that unfortunately for New Zealand horror fans is unavailable here) Elijah Wood and his producer buddy Daniel Noah bring an interview podcast that talks to some of the most interesting players in genre filmmaking and television.  They have unprecedented access to some amazing creative folk– people like The Rodarte Sisters, Panos Cosmatos and Guillermo Del Toro and the result is a fascinating collection of conversations about horror film that are a must listen for horror fans or anyone interested in the creative process.

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Hitman

In 1983 a book was published that purported to be a manual for hitmen– a book that wreaked havoc amongst the lives of families and caused many to question the meaning of free speech.  Jasmyn Morris has produced a very sensitive story following the history of a book and the real life people who have been affected by it.

 

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Dressed: The History of Fashion

As the hosts April and Cassidy tell us– we all have one thing in common; each day we all get dressed.  Dressed covers fashion history from the inside out– from the big haute couture stories to the history of jandals.  Absolutely a must listen for anyone wears clothes!

Other big mentions for the year are Ephemeral – which is like a passport back to the 90s when in the pre-digital age collectors were a special breed- if you love found footage, odd audio, the miscellanea of the past then Ephemeral is the podcast for you.  Retrogasm has a special place in Eclectic Ladyland’s heart– ‘retronauts’ D.D. Deluxe and Hettie La Bombe bring together everything vintage in New Zealand from muscle cars to music.  Family Secrets (as the name suggests) brings some heavy subject matter into the light– the content might be full on but the podcast is so gentle and real that it is relatable to all humans who have families.

What have been your favourite podcasts this year?  I’m always looking suggestions so give me yours!

 

Do you remember rock ‘n’ roll radio? An interview with Retrogasmic podcast host D.D Deluxe

Time to grab a cocktail, turn on the wireless and join D.D Deluxe and fellow Retrogasmic podcast host, Hettie La Bombe for a groovy trip back in time.

Think of it as your very own space-time portal to all things retro, vintage and kitsch. The Retrogasmic podcast, brought to you by New Zealand retronauts D.D. Deluxe (and sometimes the lovely Hettie LaBombe), beams you straight into a world inhabited by retro style, classic cars, B-movies, pin-up girls, vintage fashion, intoxicating music (think rare blues, rockabilly and even old punk rock) plus a selection of very, very cool guests.

There’s a regular vintage trivia quiz and a whole lot of laughs along the way. You can even hitch a ride as the hosts try to track down their elusive roaming retro reporter in “Where’s Winki??”.

The award-winning podcast (named “Top Vintage Podcast 2019” by Feedspot) was born in early 2019 when the hosts, fresh from touring the country with their rockabilly band Boom! Boom! Deluxe came up with the idea of creating a podcast to unite the different segments of the retro scene they’d encountered while on tour.

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You’re originally from the United Kingdom, how did you wash up in Aotearoa?

Born and bred in London, but in 2005 decided I was due for a change.  I’d been a professional musician most of my life but for the last few years of the 90s and early 2000s I’d somehow managed to get married (surprised anyone would have me LOL) and have a daughter so it was time to do a job that actually made some cash.

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I bought a bankrupt printing company, slowly turned it into a small advertising/branding agency and with a bit of luck managed to do OK.

However, there is only so long you can work 60 hour weeks so we sold everything, jumped on a plane and decided Auckland was a better place to bring up a child than the joyous suburban nightmare that was West London. Wasn’t an easy thing to do but have never regretted it.

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For those that haven’t yet tuned in, how would you sum up the Retrogasmic podcast in a nutshell?

Your very own space-time portal to all things vintage, retro and kitsch!

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How did the idea for the podcast come about?

Having toured New Zealand for a year in Boom! Boom! Deluxe Hettie and I were amazing at how many “retro” groups there were around NZ; Car clubs, Hot rods, pin-ups, burlesque, old movie fans, Rock n Roll and Swing dancers, vintage lifestyle/furniture people, vintage bakers even, but everyone seemed to be happy staying in their own little corner, no-one seemed to collaborate which seems crazy!

The odd event like The Very Vintage Day out, Beach Hop and Rockabilly Show & Shine temporarily gets a lot of these people in the same place but then it reverts to little pockets again.  We decided a podcast would be a great way to start letting everyone know about all the other aspect of Retro fandom going on and hopefully start building more of a NZ “scene”.

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How do you come up with the programme for each show?

Quite often we’ve found an interesting person to talk to, so the interview will be almost half the show, but we’ve had a music licence for the last year now so we always include a (we hope) great variety of music too, everything from rare blues songs from the 1920 right up to punk and funk from the 70’s. 

Our “era is basically post first world war through to the end of the 70’s.  We try to keep it fast paced and funny! We’ve also got a few recurring features like the vintage trivia and “Where’s Winki”, our lunatic roving reporter who somehow can just tells us what’s she’s doing there and then and is hysterical!

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How long does it take to put together?

Once the interviews are recorded, and all the songs are chosen, the editing, and production can take anywhere from 5-10 hours depending upon the content. We try really hard to keep the quality of each show as high as possible.

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What is your most popular broadcast so far?

Episode 4 features a great interview with my old mate Glen Matlock – former bass player and major songwriter with punk legends The Sex pistols.  We were in a band together for a while and both support the same football team so keep in touch and he was an obvious choice to talk to once the show started.

He’s a great lad and funny too – if you’re a Pistols fan have a listen because he tells some really funny stories about some of the stuff the band got up to that I’m sure not a lot of people know about!  That episode has had about 5 times the streams of any other!

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What is one of your most memorable interviews and why?

Hmmm, difficult because we’ve talked to so many incredible people.  The debut show featured the amazing Fran Robertson, who had just won Miss Viva Las Vegas pin up  – basically the Mss World of pin up competitions, and her back story was both heart-breaking and inspiring.

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We spoke to pin up Monique Sweet who was caught in the terrible Christchurch earthquake, literally buried, until a brave passer by risked his life to venture into the fallen building and start to dig her out.  Incredible.

We interviewed Bettie Page biographer Tori Rodriguez a few months ago as well as Bettie Page’s nephew Ron – that was fascinating hearing first hand what she was like and how she survived an incredibly difficult life. I could go on – we also chat to emerging bands from around the world that are playing retro inspired music so we’ve had some really cool music!

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What do you enjoy most about making a podcast?

Having an excuse to go up to really interesting people and say “can I talk to you for 20 minutes please?” And playing music that I love that quite often most people won’t have heard of – for example we did a show on ‘Group Sounds’ – late 1960’s Japanese psychedelic Rock, it’s brilliant!

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How do you promote yourself?

We ask nicely!  Every show has a sign off asking people to leave us a review or share the pod.  It’s hard because every show and band asks this, but people have been very supportive so far.  We occasionally run adverts if a show has a really niche theme, and we of course share the shows in the relevant retro groups on FB, Reddit etc. The promotion adds about another 20% in time to each show I guess.

We were really lucky that in 2018 we were awarded “Top Vintage Podcast 2019” by Feedspot a big podcast website – that almost doubled our listenership overnight, especially in the USA.  It’s great looking at the stats and seeing that people in the US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia japan and Norway all tune in regularly!  I often wonder if they can understand my cockney accent hahahaha.

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What are some podcasts you love to listen to and that inspire you?

I mainly listen to comedy podcasts like “Athletic Mince” or “RHLSTP” and I dip in and out of some of the science ones too. I find that some of the bigger American pods are full of adverts and the hosts tend to just waffle one, and it becomes more about them than the thing they are talking about. I figure if people have tuned into our show they want to be entertained while they commute or have a bath or whatever, so the last thing they want to hear is some cockney rattling on about what he had for breakfast or something!

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What do you do when you’re not making podcasts?

Wonder how I’m going to pay the bills, same as everyone else!  Seriously, the podcast isn’t cheap to produce – we’ve been very lucky to have http://www.Rosemary.nz, a lovely lady that hand makes incredible retro bowling shirts as our sponsor, she’s really helped, and a couple of other sponsors along the way including a few from America.

Apart from that we are pretty much constantly gigging around New Zealand with Boom! Boom! Deluxe – we released our second album of original material earlier this year and we’ve just dropped single number five from that record (available on Spotify, CD and vinyl folks!) so we’ve been crazy busy – gigs basically pay our bills.

Next year in May we are touring Japan and also hope to get over and play a few festivals in Australia too. Me and Hettie both teach a Japanese martial art called Aikido too, we have our own dojo here at Deluxe Mansions in Silverdale. Sometimes we literally don’t get a day off for months but at least we are doing things we love!  I’ll rest when I’m dead.

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Thanks for having me – your lovely readers can check out the podcast, for free at www.retrogasmic.com/listen-to-the-show

 

Death is not the end: an interview with Art of Death exhibition curator Rose Jackson

Art of Death curator Rose Jackson chats to Natasha about the inspiration behind the Metropolitan Clubs’ latest exhibition, why taxidermy is enjoying a female-led resurgence, and the life-affirming possibilities, often found in death.

​It’s the 21st century and taxidermy is back in vogue. Gone are the days where gentleman hunters were mounting the spoils of their morbid excursions, says Rose Jackson from the Metropolitan Club.

The Victorian art-form is currently experiencing a female-led resurgence that has a reverence for wildlife and conservation at its heart, she says.

A new multidisciplinary exhibition The Art of Death which takes place at rambling gothic mansion Highwic, delves into the renewed interest in taxidermy, and other Victorian art forms.

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Jaguar from the Auckland Museum collection, budgie on the nest table setting by Antoinette Ratcliffe and feathers and fruit table setting by Paola King-Borrero.

The exhibition, which runs until 27 October 2019 takes visitors from taxidermy of the past, with a display of historical pieces from the Auckland Museum’s archives including a jaguar, badger, wombat and sun bear as well as items from Highwic’s own collection, to the present, with room installations by artists Antoinette Ratcliffe, Karley Feaver, Hayley Theyers, Sophie MacDonnell, Jane Thorne, Paola King-Borrero and Kate Rampling.

Read on to find out more!

How did opening night go? 

It was fantastic! We had the artists and their supporters there, museum people, art people, press people, family and friends spilling out of Highwic, enjoying gin cocktails and admiring the stunning room takeovers by the artists Antoinette Ratcliffe, Karley Feaver, Hayley Theyers, Sophie MacDonnell, Jane Thorne, Paola King-Borrero and Kate Rampling. In this online age,  it’s nice to give people an excuse to get out of the house for a night!   

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Highwic, one of New Zealand’s finest Carpenter Gothic houses.

Tell us how the idea for the exhibition came about

Lots of different inspiration points came together to form the idea. The Victorian issue of Glory Days that we published back in 2015 was one touch point, as we got to delve into all the weird and wonderful things that the Victorians got up to… there was a lot of kink and strangeness under their buttoned up exteriors!

We used some of my friend’s taxidermy and her vintage store as the set in the fashion shoot for that issue and I really loved how alive all the animals appeared nestled among the china.

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Photography by Carlos de Treend for Glory Days magazine. Model: Tamsin Smith.

Then through working on the My Vintage Town guides, we also got to know many other stores around New Zealand that had fantastic collections, including Junk ‘n’ Disorderly who own many magnificent pieces including our favourite, Felicity the Fox. 

We also have a long and close relationship with Highwic, which was the perfect venue for an exhibition like this. I curated a vintage wedding dress exhibition there in 2017 and worked with the wonderful costume and textile historian, Angela Lassig.

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Photography by Carlos de Treend for Glory Days magazine. Models: Tamsin and Luke.

Back then we discussed the possibility of a taxidermy show but unfortunately, the timing wasn’t quite right to work with Angela again as she is currently in the middle of researching a new book. Highwic, however was still keen to pursue the idea as the previous exhibition was a finalist at the NZ Museum Awards and it had a really positive effect on visitor numbers and awareness of the property. 

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The previous exhibition run by the Metropolitan Club at Highwic, Til Death Us Do Part, 2017.

We discussed the concept with taxidermist Antoinette Ratcliffe, which through a series of happy coincidences led to the focus of the exhibition changing to encompass a number of Victorian art forms, rather than strictly taxidermy, which gave it a wider scope and broader appeal.

Not everyone likes stuffed animals but they might be into Vanitas still-life portraiture, bugs and insect specimens, Victorian death photography or gothic oil paintings that all feature in the rooms at Highwic. 

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Painting and dresser assemblage by Sophie MacDonnell. Photography by Peter Jennings.

Isn’t death quite a morbid subject to organise an exhibition around? 

To be honest, it’s the most certain thing in life but modern Western society has really lost touch with death and how to face it. The Victorians were very matter of fact about the subject. They used to prop up their dead relatives for photographs and do all sorts of things that we would be horrified about these days!

This exhibition is a gentle way to start exploring the subject, through a female gaze and given that both taxidermy classes sold out before the show opened, it seems people are keen to delve into it. 

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Fred the polar bear by Karley Feaver for Junk ‘n’ Disorderly. Photo by Peter Jennings.

What is it about Highwic that makes it the perfect venue? 

The Bucklands who were the original owners of Highwic had 21 children and most of them were girls, so it’s utterly fitting that it’s now been taken over by female artists. The family were also actively involved themselves in preserving their pets which was quite common in Victorian times. Their pet parrot was stuffed and now proudly sits in the hallway of the house. 

Highwic​ is also built in a ​G​othic style, which suits the artworks perfectly and up until the 1970s this was a functioning house filled with people and parties and social engagements. The more we can use these precious historic places as community gathering spaces to delve into some of life’s questions the better. 

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Photography by Peter Jennings. Wombat courtesy of Auckland Museum.

I love the stillness that exists in heritage properties, but unfortunately in an age where there is so much to distract people’s attention, they need to offer visitors new and innovative reasons to visit them.

Recontextualising them as exhibition spaces with experiential layers gives them a modern lease of life, that rather ironically takes them back to their original use – a house filled with activity and life and the rooms being shuffled about every so often. As well as a few gin fuelled parties thrown in for good measure! 

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Art by Jane Thorne. Photography by Peter Jennings. 

Why do you think that taxidermy is having a resurgence- especially with women? 

Most of us are removed from a connection with death in all areas of life these days and because we all eventually die there is a strong human drive to understand mortality and get comfortable with it.

There’s also a renewed appreciation of the beauty of nature that comes with the realisation that we are fast losing it, perhaps in part because of our disconnection with it.

Taxidermy allows people to anthropomorphise animals thereby connecting with them, appreciating wild nature close up and gaining a greater empathy with the animals and world around us. 

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Photography by Peter Jennings. Artwork by Antoinette Ratcliffe.

Interestingly, women have been involved since the beginning of taxidermy’s popularity, because during the Victorian era, it was not always driven by scientific research, nor was it all about the preservation and presentation of travel souvenirs or hunting trophies.

There was also a more ‘feminine’ aspect which is not always considered – taxidermy as a form of domestic interior decoration. It wasn’t all stags heads and big game.

Victorian drawing rooms and sitting rooms around the world, including houses like Highwic, would have been adorned with beautiful arrangements of birds and flowers under glass domes, often created by women. 

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Pleasure/ Pain by Paola King-Borrero. Photography by Peter Jennings. 

As for the modern resurgence, it’s that exact question that fuelled our desire to put this exhibition on. 

How did you choose the artists to feature in the exhibition? 

It was a fantastic example of serendipity and word of mouth. Once we agreed with Antoinette that we would curate the exhibition and agreed with Highwic that we could stage a ‘takeover’ of the house, we started being introduced to all these women doing interesting work in taxidermy or death/mortality related art forms. 

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Can you talk us through some of the highlights from the exhibition programme? 

We’re very excited about the Absinthe tasting and the Death Drawing, both of which are experiences rather than straight events. When you consider that people are entertaining themselves more and more at home, we as curators have to work harder to give people good reasons to leave the house and provide unique experiences that you couldn’t easily replicate in your lounge. 

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Photography by Peter Jennings. Artwork by Hayley Theyers Photography

We also want to connect this exhibition and Highwic’s beautiful garden with children, so we have artist and curator Jane Thorne running a bug hunting art workshop for them.

Kids aren’t scared of death and taxidermy at all, it just intrigues them and they love the exhibition – especially the huge wombat and jaguar that we got to borrow from Auckland Museum, they’re a hit. 

Find out more about the exhibition

Exhibition events: 

Death Drawing – 17th October 

Absinthe Obscura – 19th October 

Bugging Out Kids Art Workshop – 19th October 

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Art by Kate Rampling. Photography by Rose Jackson.

 

In the closet with Lady Lou Lou Bell

Buxom beauty Lady Lou Lou Bell tells Natasha Francois how discovering pinup has helped her live her best retro life.

A leopard never changes its spots. Just ask Emma Holden, aka Lady Lou Lou Bell. The Christchurch pinup is addicted to leopard print and her wardrobe boasts at least 20 items which walk on the wild side, however, she also has a love for green and classic black.

Lady Lou Lou Bell cuts a colourful figure on the streets of North Canterbury with her feline-esque winged eyeliner, her ever-changing hues of brightly coloured hair (right now it’s a tantalising tangerine shade, and before that, electric blue), and her bright vermilion lipstick.

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The mum-of-two proudly, who works as a hearing equipment technician, proudly describes herself as ‘fat, freckly and fabulous’. She’s even coined her own hashtag with the phrase. After her birthday in a few week’s time, she can add another ‘f’ to the list– forty!

“I grew up being teased for my freckles but now I embrace them, it cracks me up that they’ve become trendy so that people tattoo them on or draw them on with makeup.”

“It just goes to show the old adage stands that you always want what you haven’t got.”

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Emma fell into the Christchurch pinup scene several years ago after having her hair styled at one of the local car shows and being invited to meet some local pinups. She was instantly hooked. Now she’s a fixture at hot rod and vintage events and a member of the Southern Pinup Belles– a group of Christchurch pinups who put on events to fundraise for charities.

“The New Zealand pin-up scene is so accepting and varied,” she says. “I’m incredibly proud to have been a finalist of Miss Pin Up NZ 2018 and especially for walking away with the title of Miss Picture Perfect,” she says.

Dying to for a peek inside her wardrobe? Read on to see more!

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You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet?

Nobody is going to be surprised when I say leopard print, leopard print and more leopard print.  I honestly have to have at least 20 separate pieces with differing leopard/animal pattern. But there’s also lots of black and green.  I also have quite an extensive collection of cardigans.

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How would you describe your style?

It depends on the day.  Some days I feel more vintage 1940s, some days rockabilly 1950s, then there the other days when I’m in track pants and T-shirts at home with my kids and dogs.  That’s part of the fun of dressing the way we do, do what you feel like on the day, there are no rules. You do you.

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Do you prefer reproduction or true vintage, why?

Both, the accessibility and the inclusiveness of size in reproduction is fantastic,  but there is something very special about vintage pieces that may have survived several decades.  I love to know the history behind pieces, who did it belong to, was it made for a specific event etc.

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As a plus size lady, what are your thoughts on finding and wearing true vintage pieces?

I adore true vintage; the fabrics and the quality are always amazing.  But when I can find pieces in my sizes, they are very rarely in my price range! Etsy is always my go-to for true vintage. If you find it and it fits, it should be worn!

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Which are the most size inclusive labels?

Vixen and la Femme en Noir by Micheline Pitt. My wardrobe is very slowly filling up with more formal and casual pieces from those ranges. My only gripe is that I often have to look overseas to get my hands on the pieces that I lust after.

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What are some of your most prized pieces in your collection?

My most prized possessions are my heirloom accessories that previously belonged to both of my great grandmothers.  You can buy another reproduction piece, but once an heirloom is gone its gone forever.

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Any noteworthy recent purchases?

My Collectif Leopard trench coat that was a birthday present last year and my Vixen leather circle skirt are on high rotation at the moment.

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How did you first become interested in vintage style?

I have always loved vintage. I have a vivid memory of trying on my grandmothers vintage cocktail dresses when I was about 11 (sadly I didn’t inherit any when she passed).  My 6th form formal dress was a purchase from Tete e’ Tete from pre earthquake Christchurch.  I felt like it was as close to being Scarlett O’Hara as I was ever going to get.

Lots of gold and green – and Kaye from Kabella Baby suspects that it may have been originally made for a theatre production.  Needless to say Im pretty sure that I was the only one wearing vintage in a sea of shiny, short late 90’s dresses

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Emma at her first Very Vintage Day Out

What is it about vintage style that appeals to you the most?

Not looking like everyone else. Putting effort into creating outfits from top to toe.

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What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes?

True vintage 40s appeals to me the most.  I especially love the look of classic vintage when paired with the edge of tattoos.

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Where are your favourite shopping haunts?

I’m one of those horrible people that shop online.  But the world is an international market, and I’m fully prepared to buy from overseas if it means that I get a better deal or something that isn’t stocked locally.  Of course the government is probably going to curtail that with the taxes etc that they keep bringing in, but maybe it will mean I’m more selective with my purchases. Maybe.

 

What are your holy-grail pieces? Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?

A true vintage leopard fur coat in my size is my ultimate holy grail piece.  I know where there’s a few hiding, but I haven’t managed to have a play in Natasha’s wardrobe yet!

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Whose closet do you envy and why?

Definitely The Glambassador for her classic vintage style, her wardrobe (including the hats, bags and accessories) must be immense!

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The Glambassador

Who are some of your style icons and influences?

So so many – isn’t Instagram a wonderful thing to be able to find inspiration!  First people that come to mind would NZ’s own Soda Fontaine, and internationally would be Lady Kitty Hawk, Cherry Dollface and Mariza Seita.

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Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home décor, car, accessories and other collections?

I have 2 young children and 2 large dogs, so that’s why I cant have anything nice in my house lol.  But my dream home is a 2 storey art deco house.  One day it will be mine.

Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing?

Never say never but I’m not a huge fan of 1960s and 70s style.

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Follow Lady Lou Lou Bell on Instagram now!

Check out Lady Lou Lou Bell’s Facebook page

The Handmade’s Tale: Michelle Louise Finnerty

UK-based jewellery designer Michelle Finnerty tells Natasha about her kooky and colourful creations.

Whether it’s deco dames, pink flamingos, mid-century cats or kitschy cocktails, Michelle Finnerty draws them all in technicolour before printing them on plastic, cutting them out and baking them until hard. Once bent into the desired shape, they turn into another wearable piece of art for her handmade jewellery line.

Although Michelle (who trades under the Etsy moniker Rosie Rose Parker) has only been dabbling in jewellery making for about seven months, she’s a lifelong creative with a background in fashion design and fine arts.

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I first stumbled across her amazing handiwork while trawling Etsy one day and couldn’t resist buying a novelty bracelet adorned with mannequin lady heads.

It arrived in the mail a few weeks later, beautifully packaged,with a matching pair of earrings and a personalised name tag. I was instantly smitten with her work and dying to learn more.

Read on to learn more about Rosie Rose Parker, her inspirations, creative process and her penchant for Picasso!

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How long have you been making jewellery? Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster?

From being a child, I’ve always been an ‘arty farty’ it’s just something which came very naturally. My mother was a seamstress and very creative, so we’d send hours creating together. I took fine art at college and the did a degree in graphics design and then a Masters in Fine Art.

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Although I have worked in many corporate jobs – my creative juices have always been there lingering with a niggling feeling that’s that what I should really be doing.To be completely honest I’ve only been making jewellery professionally for seven months – before that I was a vintage dress designer and owned ‘Oh La Lovelies’ selling bespoke fitted dresses for all shapes and sizes of women.

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I’ve always been obsessed with Bakelite and 1950s jewellery and decided to try and find a way to create my own designs using plastics within the UK – with that I took pen to paper and created a set of brooches using just shrink plastics, I found the medium easy to use and versatility. My jewellery journey began there.

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How would you describe your aesthetic?

My designs I consider to be incredibly ‘retro’… ‘pretty’.. ‘kooky’ and unique. My statement bracelets I are like wearing a piece of art on your wrist, they’re very unusual… most people ask where I got mine from and I say ‘me’ !

What are your creative inspirations?

I love anything mid-century – I tend to base my designs from the 1920s to the 1980s and currently I’m working on an Carmen Miranda range, which I think is going to be such fun!

I adore colour so you’ll often find my pieces are very bright and slightly unconventional. One of my old time favourite artists is Picasso so you’ll often see influences of him through some of my brooches.

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How has your taste and work evolved?

My work I feel has become a lot more detailed and mid-century focused over the last three months or so…. and I am going to start adding much more personal touches in my necklaces and bracelets over the next year… so watch this space!

What’s the first piece you remember making?

My first ever brooch I made was from my painting called the ‘gossip bitches’… it’s an illustration of one of three ladies in the original painting. I didn’t think in a million years anyone would buy one – it was actually just a test piece… however I loaded her in my shop and it was a big hit! The piece is still up for sale and is one of my best selling pins.

Tell me about the process involved in making your pieces.

My process is detailed, and all my pieces take about two days to fully make. Bracelets and necklaces generally a little longer.

I create my designs by hand and the illustrate them in vector format in CS 6. When I like the overall drawn piece, I then create all parts of the set separately, I print and cut the designs on plastics and then bake them until hard. From that I bend them into shape before they’re fully hardened.

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Once hardened, I then gloss the pieces individually and wait for them to dry. Overnight, when the pieces are set, I hand compile the pieces to create the finished product. Lastly I package them onto my personalised backing cards or wrap them for my lovely customers.

What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

I use hard plastics – paints – different inks to create depth, and lots of shiny hard gloss! I use only the best jewellery making supplies and collect jewels to create my statement pieces. Each piece takes about 2-3 days to make from scratch.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I just love thinking about creating something beautiful to wear! I spend hours thinking about my next collection and the excitement of sharing them. I also love my customers and seeing the sheer joy and excitement of opening my packages and the thank yous makes me cry with joy. I couldn’t think of anything else I could be doing that would bring me this much joy… apart from owning a Pug farm!

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Have you always been a vintage jewelry lover/ collector?

My love for vintage has always been a bit of an addiction… it began as soon as I watched ‘Some like it hot’ with my nanna as a child. From then on I was obsessed with old movies and musicals. I just seem to feel like I belong in one of those films wearing fluffy slippers and dressing up outrageously every day.

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What do you do when you’re not making things?

When I’m not making – which is rare I must say!… I’m normally hanging out with my family and spending time with my little co partner in crime Joey the pug. I live just on the sea coast so you’ll see us pottering up the front with ice creams and watching the world go by.

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

My main focus is on Esty shop currently at ‘Rosey Rose Parker’ where you can find all my new collections, where you’ll find everything fabulous of course.

You’ll also find me at lots of vintage fairs such as Lou Lous Vintage this September and fingers crossed at next years ATOMIC UK where of course I’ll be having a good boogie to 50s big bands.

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Ghouls on Film!

Laura Macfehin

I’m not going to lie– I love spending time in haunted houses.  Not real ones, mind, but a vicarious thrill from the screen or page is one of my favourite things.  Because of this I’ll watch pretty much every haunted house film that comes my way, from the sublime (“Stay out of the light, Carol Anne!”) to the ridiculous (see 1988’s Ghosthouse, although that does have some of the creepiest music linked to a clown doll in cinematic history*).  There a far too many to make a list, but lets chat about them anyway, shall we, and I’ll share some of my favourite ways haunted house movies scare me.

In a dark dark wood…

…there was a dark, dark house, and in the dark, dark house there was… the perfect setting for a horror film.  When you say ‘haunted house’ the image that springs to mind is usually a creaky old mansion and movie makers were not slow to utilise this in the early days of horror.  The Old Dark House (1932) is not a haunted house film per se, but it did set the template for many films that followed.  Based on the hit book Benighted by J.B. Priestley it was one of the few early films that played spooks for scares instead of laughs, with the winning pairing of director James Whale of Frankenstein fame with Universal horror star Boris Karloff.  It follows the now familiar storyline of strangers forced by circumstance into spending the night in a spooky old mansion and the tension and atmosphere created by Whale and the excellent cast (as well as Karloff there are excellent turns from Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stewart and Eva Moore) means it still stands as one of the creepiest films around.

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Gloria Stewart looks apprehensive in The Old Dark House (1932)

Being forced to stay in a creepy old house is also the premise for one of my other favourite films– The Woman in Black.  But just to be pernickety I have to say that I prefer the BBC version from 1989.  Although the later Hammer version with Daniel Radcliffe was fine the TV version just seemed to capture the awful feelings Susan Hill was able to conjure a little better.  And although reading the book I always pictured Geraldine Chaplin as the titular dark-garbed lady, Pauline Moran (Miss Lemon from Poirot) gives a surprisingly freaky go at the role.

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Pauline Moran in The Woman in Black (1989)

One of my all time favourite haunted house films just about fits into the spooky mansion type, although with significant differences.  The Changeling is on just about everybody’s list as one of the best haunted house movies, and with good reason– it is almost the perfect ghost story on film.  George C. Scott is a bereaved composer who takes up residence in a beautiful but run down mansion only to discover it is not as empty as he had thought.   Funnily enough this movie also features Melvyn Douglas– who was the dashing young Penderel in The Old Dark House and plays the elderly scion Senator Carmichael in The Changeling.

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George C. Scott gets ready to hear dead people in The Changeling (1980)

Suburban Nightmare

Although The Changeling is definitely a story with a spooky house it also straddles this next category as well.  Part of what is so frightening about the 1980 movie is that so many of the scares happen in the bright light of day.  We all know about things that go bump in the night but there is something about the supposed safety of daylight that make daytime bumps even more scary.

This is part of the creepiness for me in films like The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist (1982).  Rather than strangers being stuck somewhere spooky these films bring the terror right into the comfortable family home.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve watched Poltergeist but it is the contrast between the cosy normality of the Freelings and what happens to them that still gets me every time.  And if you love Poltergeist as much as I do I suggest you check out Steven Spielberg’s 1972 TV movie Something Evil for spooky times in rural Pennsylvania.

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Zelda Rubenstein as Tangina in Poltergeist (1982)

Another film that does this is the under-seen based-on-a-true-story TV movie The Haunted (1991).  In this film the Smurl family move into a suburban duplex, only to become seriously bothered by spirits and demonic forces.  None other Ed and Lorraine Warren (of The Conjuring fame) have to step in and help them out.  I have heard that The Haunted is finally going to get a dvd/bluray release which could help it get the audience it deserves– although you can still see it at the moment for free on youtube.

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Sally Kirkland and Jeffrey DeMunn pray hard in The Haunted (1991)

The other true story haunted house movie I recommend at every opportunity is actually a mini-series– The Enfield Haunting stars Timothy Spall as the hapless Maurice Grosse who investigated the strange occurrences in North London in 1977.  Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm (The Killing) it came out 2015 and is the perfect antidote to those who found the treatment James Wan gave the same subject matter in The Conjuring 2 a little cheesy ( I should say I love James Wan and the first three quarters of The Conjuring are some of my favourite haunted house cinema moments ever).

A more recent and excellent example of the Suburban Nightmare is The Pact (2012) a tasty little film that makes creepy use of Californian afternoon sun and suburbs to highlight the hidden horrors of returning to your childhood home.

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Caity Lotz in The Pact (2010) 

Paranormal Period Pieces

Just because the I love ghosts in mundane and modern settings doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of love (a LOT of love) for Victorian/Edwardian ghost stories as well.  As a bit of a costume freak I love a nice period drama and if you whack some ghosts in there as well I’m in nerd heaven.  Which is why I have a lot of time for The Awakening (2011).  Rebecca Hall is a professional skeptic on a personal mission to de-bunk the psychic frauds preying on the bereaved after the first world war, only to have her own beliefs shaken at a spooky school for boys where there are funny goings on.  Dominic West in suspenders AND a ghost story– hello!  If you liked The Others (2001) then you’ll probably enjoy this.

 

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Rebecca Hall is having none of your nonsense in The Awakening (2011)

I’m Freaking Out, Man…

Another type of haunted house film I am particularly fond of is the slightly psychedelic, totally psychological haunted house freak out film.  The Haunting (1963) based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is a sterling example of this– strangers are brought together in a reputedly haunted house to capture evidence of the supernatural.  Their interpersonal dynamics and personality, as well as the trippy house itself are just important as the ghosts as sources of scares.  In particular the tenuous friendship between the very different characters played by Julie Harris and Claire Bloom, and the interior dialogue provided by Bloom’s fragile Eleanor Lance make this movie such a stand out for me.

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Julie Harris and Claire Bloom freak out

A film in a similar vein is the 1973 British feature The Legend of Hell House, based off the book by the same name by Richard Matheson (who wrote the screenplay as well).  Here it is full 70s victoriana as the sinister Belasco House seems ready to consume the paranormal investigators itself before they get a chance to probe its insides.  The saturated colours and psychedelic decor seem as much of a paranormal presence as the purported ghosts– victims of a six foot five Victorian serial killer.

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Pamela Franklin as medium Florence Tanner in The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The more modern version of this trope comes from the mini-series Rose Red (2002), penned by Stephen King and featuring our own Melanie Lynskey.  It is another ‘team of psychics’ film in which the house itself seems be the entity responsible for unearthly happenings.  It’s a ‘twisty hall’ story where the walls and rooms won’t stay put and everybody has to face their own personal freak-outs; something that King always writes well).

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Kimberly J. Brown as telekinetic teen Annie Wheaton in Rose Red (2002).

Are you a haunted house fan like me?  Let me know what your favourites are because I am always on the hunt for a new creepy mansion or spooky duplex to spend an evening in!

*see what I mean?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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