Classic Beach Reads to Revisit

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“Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay.” 
― Grace Metalious, Peyton Place

In 1956 the book that would spawn nine sequels, two movies, two television series and two made for television features came out and immediately shot to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List where it stayed for fifty-nine weeks.  The heady mix of lust, adultery, murder, incest and abortion set in the strait-laced New England town was an instant success, selling sixty thousand copies in the first ten days of its release.

Being regularly banned only helped secure its place as a guilty pleasure.  It has inspired everyone from Jacqueline Susann to John Waters.  Read it for the ‘good bits’ left out by the cleaned up film version, and because as Vanity Fair writer Michael Callahan puts it it’s “a cultural bitch slap at the duplicitous notions of proper conduct in the age of Eisenhower“.

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“I bet the pill is harder to get than drugs–which shows how screwed up this world really is!” 
― Beatrice Sparks, Go Ask Alice

Before your insta-chats and snap-webs, when phones were attached to walls and therefore couldn’t come to school with you, books like this were what got passed around at lunch time.  Published anonymously as the real diary of a TROUBLED fifteen-year old who falls in with a BAD CROWD and succumbs to DRUGS, Go Ask Alice was in fact penned by Mormon counsellor Beatrice Sparks.  Sparks published a whole slew of teenage diary books around issues like teen pregnancy, homelessness and eating disorders.  Read it for the nostalgia hit or if you’re parents just won’t stop yacking and listen to the kids for once, man.

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“Elaine Conti awoke in her luxurious bed in her luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, pressed a button to open the electrically controlled drapes, and was confronted by the sight of a young man clad in a white T-shirt and dirty jeans pissing a perfect arc into her mosaic-tiled swimming pool.”  ― Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

Jackie Collins, sister of Joan and queen of the trash (novel) got her big break with her ninth book Hollywood Wives in 1983.  The book, which looks at the lives of Hollywood hostesses, stars and starlets has sold over fifteen million copies and was turned into the most successful mini series of the 80s by super producer Aaron Spelling.

Read it for the glitz, the sex and to try to figure out who the who the real life inspiration for the characters are!

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“Nothing is whole, not for too damned long. The world is half night.” 
― Peter Straub, Mystery
Mystery is the middle volume in Peter Straub’s weird Blue Rose trilogy, a thriller series that hovers somewhere between detective fiction and horror and is like nothing else you’ll read.  Despite being published as a trilogy the books are all stand alone works that cross paths only tangentially.  It came out in 1990, won the Bram Stoker Award in 1993, and continues be one of his most popular books.
Set on the Caribbean  island of Mill Pond, teenage sleuth Tom Pasmore investigates a historic murder case with the help of elderly neighbour and ex-celebrated detective Lamont von Heilitz.  At over five hundred pages Mystery is the perfect book to fill empty days at a bach with– just add a hammock and you’ve got the perfect holiday read.

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“There were shadows in the corners and whispers on the stairs and time was as irrelevant as honesty.” 
― V.C. Andrews, My Sweet Audrina

The only stand alone novel in V.C. Andrew’s oeuvre, My Sweet Audrina is an insane (even by her standards) mix of rape, hauntings, multiple falling-downstairs-accidents (in fact the same stairs), diabetes and brittle bone disease.  No, seriously.

Although many V.C. Andrews’ books were ghostwritten, this 1982 masterpiece of trashtastic madness is definitely from her own hand.  Her hugely popular books make the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ kind of redundant– just embrace the magic and go with it.

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“Helen Lawson: They drummed you out of Hollywood, so you come crawling back to Broadway. But Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope. Now get out of my way, I’ve got a man waiting for me.” 
― Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls

It’s no secret that we at Eclectic Ladyland love Valley of the Dolls.  And we are far from alone– the novel was the best-selling book of 1966 and has since sold over thirty-one million copies.  Jacqueline Susann wrote what she knew– a stage and television actress she filled her books with show bizz types so familiar many assumed the book to be a Roman à clef .

Valley of the Dolls follows three friends through the trials and tribulations of Broadway and Hollywood and their increasing dependence on speed and tranquillisers– the eponymous dolls.  The book was adapted for the big screen in 1967 and the resulting film starring Patty Duke, Susan Hayward and Sharon Tate helped seal its place as a cultural artefact of high camp.

Fun fact— Jacqueline Susann had met Grace Metalious, author of previous trash hit Peyton Place when the latter was interviewed for television by Mike Wallace.  Minutes before the interview Metalious’s girdle broke and Susann who was working in the studio apparently helped her out– although exactly we may never know!

 

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“Which one of you bitches is my mother?” 
― Shirley Conran, Lace

 

That is the line that confronts the three central characters of Lace— Shirley Conran’s 1982 scandalous classic.  Filled to the brim with sex, bitchiness, and female desire the book has remained extremely popular.  It was adapted into a fabulous mini-series (with Phoebe Cates) in 1984 and was re-issued on its thirtieth anniversary, at which time The Guardian described it as a “feminist bonkfest”.

Read it for the high-class bitchery and remember how much it actually celebrates female friendship and sexual agency.

As always– one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and what may be denounced as low-brow entertainment in one era, can be another era’s celebrated classic.  Don’t feel guilty in your pleasures– literary or otherwise– whether you’re lazing on a beach or wishing you were.  As Shirley Conran once said– “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” .

Pulp Pictures: the erotic art of Margaret Brundage

Laura Macfehin takes a look at the startling art of Pulp illustrator Margaret Brundage.

Margaret Brundage’s art caused shock and consternation in her lifetime, as well as selling countless magazines of fantasy literature and inspiring artists like Frank Frazetti.  She also campaigned for free love, free speech and civil rights in a lifetime that encompassed an ongoing art practise and a commitment to a bohemian lifestyle.

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Sweet Home Chicago

She was born Margaret Hedda Johnson on December 9th 1900.  She was raised mainly by her mother and grandmother, both devout Christian Scientists, after her father died.  She attended McKinley High School in Chicago alongside Walt Disney (she graduated; he didn’t).

Upon graduating High School she immediately got work providing fashion illustrations for Chicago newspapers, and she continued her education at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where Walt Disney was again a fellow student (Disney later said that he had approached Brundage with a view for her providing design work for the animated feature Snow White, but that the distance between Chicago and Los Angeles precluded her involvement).  She did not graduate and later said it was due to her poor lettering skills, but she soon found a publisher for her work in the form of Weird Tales magazine.40136495_2073509642902297_5293789948673248270_n

Weird Tales

Weird Tales was established in the early twenties as a pulp magazine that focussed on pulp stories in the fantasy and horror genre.  They were early publishers of writers who would later become cult favourites like H.P Lovecraft and Seabury Quinn.  In the Cthulu mythos was first presented to readers in its pages with The Call of Cthulu being published in 1928.  Other genre classics such as Conan the Barbarian and the occult detective Jules de Grandin were also introduced to the public through Weird Tales.

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Brundage had already illustrated covers for pulp publications like Oriental Stories when she had her work accepted by Weird Tales.  Her vivid style, featuring highly eroticised female characters were an immediate hit with the consumers of pulp fiction.  Not all the authors concurred, some complaining that her covers had nothing do with the stories featured inside, but others, like Seabury Quinn were enthusiastic about her art and even began including scenes in their stories that they thought could play into her style of illustration.

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Bohemian Life

During the prohibition years, and at the same time as undertaking illustration work Brundage had also found employment at the infamous bohemian speakeasy The Dill Pickle Club, and it was there she met her husband Myron ‘Slim’ Brundage; a hobo/house painter who was heavily involved in radical politics.

Together they would have one child, Kerlynn.  Their politics and attraction to each other were strong but their marriage had a lot of stressors– largely his drinking and womanising; and they divorced in 1939.  Kerlynn was raised as Margaret had been, largely by his mother and grandmother.

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Deviant Art

In the late 1930s Weird Tales and other pulp publications came under a lot of scrutiny for their cover art.  Bylaws were passed in some cities limiting what could be displayed on newsstands.  Brundage had always published as ‘M. Brundage’ leaving her gender undisclosed, but in attempt to assuage critics Weird Tales now revealed that their cover artist was a woman.

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The affect of this disclosure was quite the opposite.  That these pictures had been produced by a woman was largely received as proving more deviance rather than less for under the perceived notions of femininity it was an outrageous that such images could be conceived of by a female.

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Rumours that lasted for years arose around Brundage– including that she used her own daughter as a model.  This being fuelled perhaps by the double fantasy that there existed in life a woman such as those featured in the pictures and that her deviancy included some sort of incestuous bent.

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At this time Weird Tales underwent a change of ownership, moving its publishing to New York.  The controversy surrounding Brundage’s sex had thrown a bit of a pall over her work for Weird Tales, but this move was largely its death knell.  Brundage worked almost exclusively in pastels on illustration board, a medium that did not travel well, and the New York publishers therefore looked for other illustrators to provide their cover art.

Brundage continued to produce fantasy art in pastels, as well as oils and pen over the rest of her lifetime, although she never found a regular publisher again.  Today her work is highly collectible and has been published in several coffee table books celebrating her unique and uncanny style.  She also continued to raise her son and be heavily involved in radical politics until her death in 1976.

Art Attack: Melanie Tangaere Baldwin

Laura Macfehin talks to Gisborne artist Melanie Tangaere Baldwin about her life and work.

A lot has happened in Melanie Tangaere Baldwin’s life in the last few years– two new people in the form of her beautiful babies, a move back to her hometown of Gisborne and a new vocation as an artist that is garnering her awards and plenty of deserved attention.  I asked her some questions about the whole thing.

Tell me about your current art practise — what media are you working in?  How would you describe the content?

I normally paint — build or sculpt stuff to paint on… but I’ve got two babies and it is pretty mad trying to stop my two-year old from touching my paints and messing with the brushes and I am still breastfeeding my little baby so I can’t really get into it without having to stop and feed or entertain them.

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Primitivo Charcoal and Acrylic on fabriano 2015

So I’ve recently started using my computer… taking studio photographs and making digital collages and animations.  I’m really loving the speed and freedom of the digital world — just figuring out how to present the finished product is my current dilemma.

All my work is pretty focused on telling Maori/indigenous stories.  I try to make my art accessible and relevant but always educational in some way.  I want people to be able to learn more about what it means to be us.

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PG Maiden #3 oil stick, shellac, acrylic on unstretched canvas 2018 (image by Laura Macfehin)

Your current show is a group exhibition at Studio One Toi Tu, in Ponsonby, Auckland — can you tell me about? 

It’s a show with my friends Riki Tipu Anderson and Sjionel Timu.  We wanted a show in Auckland that celebrated mana Maori, mana wahine, mana Takatapui and decolonisation.  Even though it’s a group show we separated the gallery into three spaces and all worked on independent but cohesive individual exhibits.

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Sunset Maiden Limited edition digital print 2018 (image by Laura Macfehin)

My works are based on Gauguin and his time in the Pacific and the perpetuated fantasy of the Pacific and the Dusky Maiden.  The paintings and prints in this show are my attempt at creating the anti-Dusky Maiden.

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PG Maiden #2 oil stick, shellac, acrylic on unstretched canvas 2018 (image by Laura Macfehin)

I get really worked up when I think of these Primitivists and adventurers and their fantasy stereotypes and how people like Gauguin are lauded for their painting skills, when in reality they were monsters spreading disease and religion and destroying families and ways of life.  The same goes for Cook and all those other heroes of colonisation.  So I included mokomokai of colonisers in the show — with their heads painted with the flags of the people they screwed over.

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Colonist mokomokai Clay and papier mache (image by Laura Macfehin)

Are you self-taught or did you study art (whereabouts)?

I learnt the basics of painting from my friends Elliot Stewart and Kristal Gallagher… things like you should wait for the first layer to dry before you paint on it.  It sounds cabbage but stuff like that I had never really thought about.

I had never really thought about myself as an artist until I moved back to the coast and lived at my marae at Te Horo (outside Ruatoria) for a few months in 2012.  I met these amazing weavers Jim and Kathy Schuster and they suggested I go to Toihoukura in Gisborne.  So I did and now I have a Bachelor of Maori Visual Art and am currently studying towards my Masters, which I should graduate with next year.

What have been some of the highlights for you in your art practise in the last five years?

Pretty much my whole life has changed in the last five years —  like I said I got my degree, and I’ve nearly got another one.  I moved home, met a babe, had two kids, moved to the beach.  I don’t think I made art before 2013 so there have been heaps of highlights.

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Nevermore paint, collage and sequins on board 2017

Manu Bennett (superstar orc leader from the Hobbit) bought a massive painting I did of Papatuanuku and Ruaumoko and commissioned one of Ranginui.  That was cool.  I won the Te Ha art award last year.  That was cool.

I’ve made and sold a lot of work I am proud of.  My family is proud of my work, which is really my only aim in life.  I’ve been in quite a few exhibitions with people I’m in awe of.  My art bought our couch and our carpet and our tickets to Grace Jones in Queenstown.  Art has been mean in the last five years.

Where do you make your art?

When I paint or make rugs it is normally in the sitting room so I can listen to the tv or nerd out to podcasts.  Now I sit in the spare room at the computer next to the tv for playing spacies.

Have you always been arty?  What were you like as a kid?

I was really obsessed with Archie comics when I was a kid and used to draw new characters all the time, that’s all the arty I can think of.  I took art in third form and my teacher said I had no appreciation for art because I made a really crappy mask.  So I didn’t take art again.

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Baldwin’s nanny Bessie Tangaere, Baldwin, her brother Stan and her cousin Jamie at Te Aute College

I was in a Vanilla Ice fan club called the Dolphins.  I used to think 2LiveCrew were really funny.  I used to love Married With Children.  Revenge of the Nerds and Commando were my favourite movies.  I used to get kutus heaps.

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Baldwin and her brother Stan and another kid outside Rakaitemania

My cousins were like my brothers and sisters and still are.  I grew up in Murupara and Botswana.  My holidays were spent at Te Aute College, Flaxmere and Te Kauwhata.  My childhood was awesome.  My brother would say I was a show-off.

Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from?

My mum’s parents lived and worked at Te Aute College when I was growing up.  The ceiling of the wharekai there is painted by John Hovell.  I grew up staring at the panels in that ceiling.  Trying to read and figure out the pictures.  He was a great friend of my Papa so they had one of his paintings in their sitting room that we used to sleep under.  I couldn’t understand what it was a picture of.  I used to stare at it all the time.  His paintings are beautiful and inspiring to me.

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Wharekai at Te Aute College

The most beautiful place to me though is Rakaitemania, our wharenui at Te Horo.

The art of wharenui is where I get most of my inspiration from.  To be able to sleep within wholly painted, carved and woven surroundings is a beautiful thing.  I don’t know why ceilings aren’t decorated in all buildings.  It’s such a perfect place to tell stories.  Wharenui are living and breathing whakapapa and stories.  I am always inspired by wharenui.  All wharenui are different.All the stories are different and told in different ways.  It is my ultimate dream to create a wharenui.

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Rakaitemania at Te Horo

All characters I paint use elements from the carved forms from my whare.  The Maori way of storytelling is both simple and terribly complex.  Traditional forms have specific meanings but everything is open to interpretation depending on context.  I love that.

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For God, For King, For Country Acrylic, Sculpey, Army helmet, Vinyl – 2015 (image by Tom Teutenberg)

In the digital prints in my show at Studio One – And So we Pray, Sunset, and Breadfruit – the model is my mum. I painted and photographed her before messing with it in on the computer.

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And so we pray – digital image 2018

Both my parents are hugely inspirational to me. My mum moved back to Ngati Porou 20 years ago and has dedicated her life to our hapu and our iwi – she works tirelessly for the betterment of our people.And she will also help me with my work at the drop of a hat.

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Lilian and Keith on their wedding day

And my dad works 48hrs a week (half of those night shift) as an ambulance officer in Ruatoria – and he also helps me with any construction work i need with my art. They are both awesome and give so much of themselves to our family and community – sometimes its embarrassing to just be an artist.

What is some of the other making you do?

I like making babies, but two is enough… I want to sleep again someday.  I also like making rugs, I find it really relaxing although tedious and time-consuming.  I used to make videos… but I haven’t been into that for a while now.  I like making crafty stuff.

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I like to think about making line drawn animations, but I never get past the first few frames.  I just like making stuff.

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

Look after the babies, make tea, do the shopping, hang out the washing, go for walks, go to the beach, see my parents… my life is pretty sweet.

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Mel’s beautiful bubs Aio Turere Waipuke and Toki Moana Ngahiwi

What’s coming up for you in the future?

I’m finishing my honours this year, so I have an exhibition coming up at the end of the year in Gisborne, then my Masters exhibition in July next year, then a solo show at Tairawhiti Museum in September next year… so that’s enough for now.

Also hopefully I will go for a holiday to see my cousins in Brisbane, and in my dreams a trip to Morrocco.

The Handmade’s Tale: Little M Creates

Welcome to the sixth installment of The Handmade’s Tale! This week Natasha meets British-based jewellery maker, Little M Creates.

Ever hankered for a brooch featuring Vladmir Tretchikoff’s iconic green lady? Or fancy having Bette Davis’ terrifying visage (circa What Happened to Baby Jane?) swinging from your earlobes?

If quirky statement jewellery is up your alley, you’ll be hooked on the whimsical creations of Michasia Stevens aka ‘Mimi’ of Little M Creates.

The UK-based jewellery queen describes her style as “DIY punk meets drag queen” and  her aesthetic’s all about camp kitsch for pop culture junkies!

“[My jewellery] is unisex, inexpensive and most importantly fun! I like to think that whenever someone wears one of my pieces they are smiling and having a bit of nostalgia trip!”

Mimi, who graduated from Plymouth College of Art in 2009 with a BA Hons fashion degree, has always loved fashion and is a self-confessed magpie.

The crazy cat lady (with no cats) loves nothing better than raiding charity shops for bargains, “honestly my house is full of figurines and random bits that take ages to dust!” 

Read on to find out more!

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

I’ve been making jewellery for as long as I can remember, me and my sisters were always very crafty growing up, we had a cupboard full of paper, pens and other bits and pieces and could usually be found drawing things or doing random projects.

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Originally fashion was always my thing, I was always designing and graduated with a BA Hons fashion degree in 2009 but never ended up pursuing it further as I kinda lost the passion and have no patience.

I’ve been making jewellery for a living for three years now which I still find quite unbelievable as I never imagined that it would take off like it has!

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How would you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic is camp kitsch for lovers of pop culture! Its unisex, inexpensive and most importantly fun! I like to think that whenever someone wears one of my pieces they are smiling and having a bit of nostalgia trip!

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The Bronte Sisters (minus Anne)

Why the fascination with glitter?

I just think glitter is fun! It’s a bit of a childish throwback and it makes the details in the drawings pop against different fabric so its functional too!

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Nick Cave on fluffiness- can’t go wrong really!

What are your creative inspirations?

I mostly draw on the old TV shows and movies my Dad used to make us watch; things like Hi-de-Hi, Dad’s Army, Allo Allo and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em which I think I hated at first but really learnt to love.

I’ve always loved ’70s and ’80s music too so that turns out some great ideas!

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How has your taste and work evolved over time?

I think the quality and size of my drawing has evolved, at first my pieces where simple block style but I’ve been getting better at mixing in more detail recently.

As with anything you learn as you go along and learn better processes/products to use. I think my confidence has grown too and I’m less afraid to try out new ideas.

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Fresh batch of Vampira pins!

I’m very lucky to have some great friends on Instagram that are always suggesting characters so they widen my horizons when it comes to new character ideas.

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Carmen Miranda necklace with gold chain.

What’s the first piece you remember making?

Oh, I love this story..and its basically how Little M started! My friend Debbie was having a really tough time with things and I wanted to do something to cheer her up, because no one likes seeing their bestie upset.

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Anyway, I happened to have some shrink plastic in my crafty bits so I decided to make her a pair Chas and Dave earrings (she’s a massive fan) as a bit of a joke to make her laugh, she posted a picture on Instagram and I got people asking if I could make them a set, she then gave me counter space in her vintage shop and it escalated from there!

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Are you mainly making brooches or do you make other pieces as well?

I make necklaces and earrings too, but brooches sell the most, I think its because they are so easy to wear.

It’s so easy to add a brooch to an outfit and I know lots of people who find earrings harder to wear so I always make the characters available in all styles so they can choose which one they prefer.

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Vincent Price pin

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Portrait of Diana Dors- the British answer to Marilyn Monroe.

A sneaky hint too is brooch converters! that way you get a brooch and a necklace in one!

What are your top sellers?

I get phases where certain characters are popular but steady top sellers are Rik and Vyv from the Young Ones, Patsy and Eddie from Absolutely Fabulous and Bette Davis from Whatever happened to Baby Jane? 

I think it’s because they are such iconic faces and they are known and loved around the world.

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Anna May Wong portrait brooch

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

I’ve found that custom orders are becoming a very important part of my business and the amount I do has increased since I started.

I genuinely love doing them too because most of the time they are people I’d never think of doing or people I’d never heard of so I end up learning something new! 

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I branched into portrait pieces and have even made a necklace to commemorate someones beloved dog which was a massive honor, to be asked to make something that important really did mean a lot to me.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Little M pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

Each piece varies in time and is totally dependent on the size and detail. Simpler monochrome designs take about an hour plus drying time for the resin, or the colourful pieces it takes about two, the glittering and filing stages are probably the most time consuming bits.

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The initial drawing stage takes a while but once I have that done its simply a case of tracing it onto the plastic sheets and adding all the detail, I think its this that makes my work so unique because I can vary each design or add different details so that no two pieces are ever identical.

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Custom designs usually take a lot longer because I research the character, find out if the buyer has a favourite image and send regular updates until they are totally happy with the finished result.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

It sounds really sappy but I love that people enjoy what I do and buy it! I never imagined that I’d have my own business and make so many friends in the process so that really is the best feeling in the world! 

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

I am such a crazy cat lady (with no cats) and love nothing better than raiding charity shops for bargains, honestly my house is full of figurines and random bits that take ages to dust! 

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I have a Sunday job working at my friends vintage shop in Margate which I absolutely love because I’m surrounded by beautiful clothes and accessories , it keeps me sociable and she stocks my pieces!

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

I have an Etsy shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/littleMclothing where you can find all of my designs and also enquire about custom orders.

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If you are in the Kent area you can find me at Madam Popoff Vintage in Margate or at Made in Ashford which is a pop up shop for makers in Ashford.
You can also find me on Instagram @little-m-creates

So, what do you think of Little M’s handiwork? Do you have a favourite character you’d love immortalised as a piece of  jewellery? Let me know in the comments!

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Freddie Mercury from Queen

10 top podcasts to put in your ears!

Laura Macfehin listens in and reports back from the land of podcasting.

If you’re not already familiar with podcasts you might ask “What the heck are they and why is that annoying guy at work always talking about them?”

Put simply, podcasts are free audio programmes that you can download and listen to whenever you want.  It’s like the radio, but you are your own station manager. 

Podcasting has taken off in a huge way over the last few years and it is possible to find a podcast on any subject you might be interested in (if there really isn’t one out there catering to your tastes you should be making a podcast). 

Podcasts can be found on platforms like iTunes or Spotify, or directly from the website of individual podcasts.  There are some production houses that specifically make podcasts  (like Panoply, Radiotopia, Parcast, Gimlet Media) and these have a baseline standard of production values that is quite high, and often podcasts of a similar vein so if you like one from a certain production house you might like their other ones too. 

There are also thousands of independent podcasters whose skills and resources vary considerably but amongst whom are some real gems!  I like podcasts because there are times when I can’t be reading or watching documentaries (like when I am cooking or sewing) but I don’t want to stop cramming information into my head.  I find it relaxing and allaying of loneliness to hear people talk about stuff, or to be told stories– especially when I don’t have to have clothes on or respond politely to have that company.

So what I have I been listening to?

Boo!

The first podcast I ever followed was rather unsurprisingly Real Ghost Stories Online—and I found it on YouTube. Ex-radio DJ Tony Brueski had put together calls from the Halloween specials he had done on the radio. He asked people to call in with new stories and eventually he was putting out a show a day (with an extra one on the weekends for subscribers). Sort of like paranormal talkback radio the show is addictive if you enjoy human nature as much as ghost stories—which I do—I find hearing what scares people and how they turn that into a story as fascinating as the stories themselves! (Plus there are literally hundreds of episodes available now so it is definitely bingeable). It’s a little bit cheesy but Tony and his wife Jenny take all stories at face value and are very respectful in their treatment of callers and their stories.

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Knock Once for Yes is a much newer paranormal podcast—again hosted by a couple—this time English pair Lil and Fitz. They also read listener’s real ghost stories, and relate their own but they also provide what they describe as ‘paranormal postcards’ which are very charming segments featuring haunted sites in Britain that they have visited. They give a run down of the place’s haunted history and describe their visit. Very pleasant listening if you enjoy ghosts plus stately homes!

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The drama!

Audio drama is one of the ways in which podcasts are stretching the boundaries and at the same time harking back to early days of radio. There are two main forms of audio drama in podcasting at the moment—there is straight fiction where the drama is presented much in the way a serial radio play would have been in the past, and there is the faux documentary style where the podcaster presents fictional content as if it were factual. My tastes, as you may have noticed, run to the creepy so most of my fave dramas are in this direction also—see Tanis, The Black Tapes, Limetown, et al. My two favourites of the last year have been Ghosts in the Burbs and The Magnus Archives.

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Liz Sower‘s Ghosts in the Burbs presents a series of stories highlighting the darker side of preppy Massachusetts town Wellesley. Stories that are told to her by yoga going moms on their way to pick up their children from desirable schools and real estate guys and ladies who sit on charitable boards. Sower’s lighthearted but deft skewering of this social strata only makes the chills when they arrive that much chillier—and boy do they arrive! This is a podcast that I listen to immediately when a new episode drops and selfishly offer regular prayers for Sower’s continued health and productivity.

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The Magnus Archives presents a chilling story weekly, in the form of testimonial being archived on tape detailing a strange or paranormal occurrence. Jonathan Simms writes and presents each story as the head archivist of the titular institute, helped by a cast of supporting players.  Singularly they are some of the best spooky stories I have heard in recent years– taken together they provide even greater thrills as an overarching mystery is revealed…

Historically Speaking

Nerds like me love information—especially that information that has only a tangential relevance to our current lives. That is one of the reasons history podcasts are so important to me—the other being that without them I could not treat my friends and family to tidbits of this semi-relevant knowledge on a regular basis. They love it when I say “I heard a podcast that was sort of about that the other day…”

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Illustration for the episode on the Historical Roots for Holiday Treats on Stuffed You Missed in History Class

My favourite history podcast is Stuff You Missed in History Class. The charming hosts Tracey V. Wilson and Holly Frey provide concise episodes on things and people who are often overlooked in ‘mainstream’ history—including the stories of marginalised and yet significant folks and true accounts of episodes you might have thought you knew about already. Their delight in history and the research that uncovers these stories is infectious and their writing and presentation is respectful to both subject and listener. Highly recommended.

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Artwork by Julienne Alexander for the episode on Carry A. Nation

My other favourite history podcast is Criminal. What’s that you say? That sounds more like a true crime podcast than a history podcast? That is because Criminal really defies categorisation, but it feels to me more like a history podcast with other elements involved. The mellifluously voiced Phoebe Judge (fun fact- Judge has my cat Watson’s favourite podcast voice) presents stories which hover around the central concept of criminality—sometimes this means old, cold or sensational crimes and sometimes it means stories focussing more on the concept of legality or stories that touch on social or personal issues created by criminal justice systems.  It is always fascinating, well researched and presented and the one that I listen to immediately when a new episode comes out.

Hollywoodland!

The history of Tinsel Town and its inhabitants is a pretty common fascination and I am certainly not immune.  For my money the two best podcasters on the subject are Karina Longworth and Adam Roche.

You Must Remember This is Longworth’s contribution and I truly believe everybody with any kind of interest in film should listen in.  Each season has a different theme– she covers the lives of actors, writers and studios with an unsurpassed depth of research and a feel for the subject matter that borders on the uncanny.  Her take on history eschews regular tropes and eviscerates the uncritically accepted version of events, so even if you think you know the subject matter well Longworth is sure to bring something fresh to your ears.

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Karina Longworth of You Must Remember This

The Secret History of Hollywood is film buff Roche’s generous gift to a most undeserving world.  Essentially some of the best texts put together about subjects like Alfred Hitchcock, Val Lewton, The Warner Brothers, James Cagney and more; Roche brings these stories to life with his beautiful storytelling and sound design.  This is the podcast if you want to be swept away to another time and place, with outrageous characters, their very human foibles and the contribution they made to film history.  If you don’t tear up listening to these you are a concrete shell of a humanoid.  You don’t have to take my word for it though– Mark Gatiss is such a fan he even lent his voice to the most recent season on famed auteur producer Val Lewton!

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Chit Chat

This is the genre perhaps best exemplified by pioneer This American Life– true life stories revealed in a self-reflexive manner by the podcaster.  Or as a university professor in one episode of Heavyweight dismissively describes them– ‘chit-chat’ podcasts.  My two recent favourites in this genre are both relatively new– two seasons a piece and have a similar premise– people exploring something from their pasts that has always bugged them.  In Heavyweight Canadian New Yorker Jonathan Goldstein examines everything from his own lapsed Judaism to his friend Gregor’s beef with musician Moby (yes they do travel to L.A. but you’ll have to listen to see whether they actually meet up with Moby or not).  Goldstein is very funny, the episodes are a little bit poignant but mainly very funny and seem to fit in perfectly with the length of time it takes me to make dinner.

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Family Ghosts despite its name is not a paranormal show– in a similar vein to Heavyweight it investigates questions that have niggled away at people, but in this case focussing on a family figure who has always been something of a mystery.  Sam Dingman and his subjects examine jewellery smuggling grandmothers, missing siblings, and uncles with double lives in this very compelling podcast.  If you are at all worried that your family might be a little unusual in its weirdness this is the podcast that will put those fears to rest!

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These 10 are just the tippy top of the podcast iceberg– I am always excited to hear about podcasts I might not have discovered so if you are a podcast fan please let me know what you listen to!

 

 

The Art and Work of Nick Rule

Laura talks to Nick Rule about his jewellery, sculpture and how he learnt to make tiny things!

I remember the first time I saw Nick Rule’s work– I was amazed that human hands could make anything so tiny and delicate.  It is no secret that we love miniatures at Eclectic Ladyland so I was chuffed to have the opportunity to talk to him about how and why he makes the things he does!

How did you get started making miniatures?

I started making them when I was studying jewellery at the Learning Connexion Art school in Wellington. Everything is on a miniature scale in jewellery and I wanted to make a cool gun for a sculpture of Furiosa I was working on.

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What are some of the other things you make and how did you get started doing those?

I make candles & figurative sculptures. I got into sculpture when I went to Cut Above Academy in Auckland, my teachers were making these awesome busts and things on the side and that’s what inspired me.

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I then got into candles by mistake after making a mould of Ludo from Labyrinth and realising I couldn’t afford resin, I found a candle and tried melting and pouring that instead and it turned out really cool.  I also like using wax because it’s better for the environment.

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How did you learn how to make all these different things?

I guess I learnt a lot from my teachers at Cut Above. I also worked at Weta Workshop for a little while which helped with mould making. The Learning Connexion was where I learnt jewellery, ceramics & wax to bronze sculpture which was really interesting.

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Can you describe some of your processes?  Do you start out with a drawing—where do you get your ideas from?

Yeah– I start with a drawing, then I get lots of references from different angles which makes it much easier, then I build a figure out of clay using wire armature, I make the ribcage, pelvis and head first then add muscles and detail after.

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Whereabouts do you do all your making?

At my house or at Workspace Studios in Wellington.

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What do you find inspiring?

I find tattoos, rockabilly stuff, 20s to 50s fashion, movies and WW2 inspiring.

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What is it about tiny things that you like?

I’m not sure, I always liked making tiny things.  It doesn’t take up loads of space & the engineering side is fun for me, like little moving parts and stuff.Soviet_submachine_gun02

What do you do with your time when you’re not making stuff?

I like building and riding BMX trails in the woods in my spare time, I also like hanging out with my girlfriend and my cat.

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What plans do you have with regards to making stuff?

I would like to make more jewellery and mini WW2 sub machine guns and just get better at making stuff!

You can find Nick’s work here–

-Etsy :

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ NickRuleJewellery

-Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ nickruleart/

 

Meet the Mad Monster Lady!

Classic movie monsters like the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Phantom of the Opera have had an ardent fanbase from their first appearances on the silver screen; probably because of their ability to evoke terror and sympathy in equal parts.  One such fan is artist Audrey Funk; and her renditions of these monsters on canvas are garnering her fans of her own!  Laura Macfehin talks to her about her process.

How did you start making art?

My grandmother was a painter, and when I was young I would go and stay at her house during the summer and we would paint. She started my love for art, and taught me so much.

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What is it about monsters that makes you want to paint them?

I’ve loved monsters since I was a little kid. I’ve always been drawn to things that are “dark.” Monsters have always appealed to me. I think what I love most about them is that they’re just misunderstood. Like the Wolfman isn’t “evil,” he was cursed. 

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What else in your life inspires you to make things and paint?

I suffer from severe anxiety, PTSD and depression, and having a creative outlet helps me on a daily basis to cope with these issues.  

Your painting of Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster is going to be featured in Famous Monsters magazine in October! Nice one! How did this come about?

Well, Famous Monsters had a contest at their Dallas Convention and I entered it and won for the horror category. Being in Famous Monsters has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. It’s very surreal to me that one of my pieces is going to be in the magazine.

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The iconic Famous Monsters of Filmland was started in 1958 by editor Forest J. Ackerman and publisher James Warren.  The magazine celebrated classic movie monsters and the creative people who made them– bringing back into the spotlight many (at the time) overlooked innovators like Lon Chaney Sr. and Jack Pierce.  The original magazine folded in 1983 but was brought back into circulation in the 90s in a less than satisfactory way that led to original editor Ackerman suing the new publisher.  In 2009 a new Ackerman approved editorial staff reinstated the mag, which continues with a huge and enthusiastic fanbase to this day.  Famous Monsters has inspired artists in all mediums– from Stephen King to the Misfits.

What are some of your passions outside of painting?

I am a high school art teacher, and I love what I do. I love connecting with my students, and love sharing my passion for art with them. I am the weird art teacher, who’s classroom is covered with monsters, and that’s ok. I show my students that it’s ok to be yourself and don’t try to conform to what society thinks is cool or “normal.” I provide a safe environment for my student to feel comfortable expressing themselves.

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 Do you have a favourite monster and why?

Frankenstein’s monster has always been my favourite, especially portrayed by Boris Karloff. He’s always appealed to me the most. When I was in the 2nd grade I did a book report on Boris Karloff.  Karloff’s representation of the monster will always be first and foremost in my mind. Frankenstein’s monster to me  just represents someone who is shunned from society because of what they look like. He does things that appear monstrous, but he’s not really a monster, he just doesn’t know any better. 

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Where do you do your art and making?

A lot of my art making is done at school. While my students are working, I like to paint. I think it’s a good teaching tool, because they can watch me and learn from what I’m doing. I share my own techniques with them as well. I think it’s important that my students can see that I myself am an artist, and that way they will be more likely to trust the advice that I have for their art.

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How else do you spend your time?

I love to spend time with my husband and my three young boys, ages 5, 6 and 7. It’s like herding cats when we go out but it’s so much fun! We love to take them outside and explore.   

My husband is my pillar of strength and my own personal cheerleader. He has helped me overcome so much and I am eternally grateful for his unconditional love and support. We love antiquing together, where I try to hunt for more monsters to add to my vintage monster collection.

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Do you have any new projects on the horizon?  What are you looking forward to?

I will have some of my work displayed for sale at the Local Boogeyman’s House of Horror shop in Los Angeles opening this fall, which is very exciting. I always have a list going in my head for new paintings and ideas that I come up with. I’m looking forward to expanding my Etsy shop to include more of my original artwork. 

 
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You can find more of Audrey’s work at her Etsy shop here and on her Facebook page
 
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