Sunday, October 28, 2018

Prinny the Maximalist and me - Royal Pavilion Brighton

Today I visited the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. I knew I would love it, and I did. I wasn't expecting to have such a profound connection to it however and this has moved me to write.
The ceiling of the Music room, with Lotus chandeliers that moved me to tears. More amazing photos can be found here, given one is not allowed to take photos oneself!
The Royal Pavilion is a Temple to Maximalism, but also to consumerism. Prince George (Prinny) let himself go bonkers on this building. More was never enough! It spoke directly into my heart on several levels.
The thought that struck me very early on in the tour was that people talk about Prinny creating the RP, but he didn't. He paid - or in many cases failed to pay - other people to create it for him. He never so much as stitched a stitch in a drape or gilded a cockel shell himself. He was the consumer. It reminded me of a wardrobe of designer clothes curated by a stylist - something that suits the wearer but gives them little agency in the process. No wonder he never found his "top end."  Hearing his story today, I could feel an almost visceral yearning from him to create something himself, that he never sated. But I doubt it would have ever occurred to him to get stuck in and have a go. Or if it did, the urge would be immediately suppressed. Was he ever that self-aware? Who knows. Being a royal at a time when class distinction meant that any kind of manual or physical labour was not for a royal personage would put a stop to that.
The Gallery, which is really a very posh hallway. Photo from link above.
And yet, he loved even the kitchen behind the dining hall, with its four gorgeous palm pillars, and had even dined in it. He seemed to be involved in appointing house staff especially the cook, and paid his staff many times more than the going rate. I hear in all of this a man wanting to connect. His parties where he preferred to be social than play cards, the dining tables laid out in exquisite edible mosaics that were swept away at the end of the night. He clearly had a respect or at least an appreciation for the people who created his world for him.
The Meat kitchen, directly behind the dining room, was a state of the art space for its time - unshown is the high ceiling with windows to let out the heat, and the palm leaves at the top of the four columns.
I have a strong connection to my surroundings at home. If I have curtains on my windows, I chose that fabric and sewed it myself. David and I would have worked out how to hang them, painted and papered the walls - all very hands on and while that is tiring and annoying sometimes, I know it is an expression of who we are. Without this visceral connection to my spaces, I think I would get bored and move on. The combination of knowing we did it ourselves and the daunting reality of the financial and time cost of changing it combine to keep me happy with my lot!
This dining room, with its dragon chandeliers, is beyond words magnificent.
Queen Vic's bedroom with the most beautiful wallpaper. She decided to strip and sell the Pavilion as it was in the city and too exposed, and too small for her tribe of children!
 Prinny's voracious appetite for sex, food, drink, company, beautiful surroundings, never seemed to be sated. He consumed but never really experienced satisfaction or contentment. I wonder what the same man, born into a different family in a different time, might have been like? A painter, an interior decorator, a rock musician maybe? What talents might he have developed if he had to DIY?
Prinny I feel for you.
I can't believe my luck in being here after the eight year restoration of the Saloon was completed.
The Saloon as it now stands, based upon the 1823 schema.
Here is a short video about the restoration. Upstairs was an exhibit showing samples of the originals and some of the processes gone into to make it happen. While the Music Room was hands down my favourite space, having this insight into the restoration process was so exciting. It made my palms itch - I would have loved to help make the gold tassels, or to hand gild the walls. I love me some of that.
So many feels. In the shop at the end of my tour, I bought many, many things. Tea towels and cards and stationery mostly, because these items of paper and fabric imprinted with details from the various spaces, seem to be the closest link to the painstaking creative work gone into creating and then restoring this very special building.
Thank you Prinny you bat sh!t crazy guy, for making this pleasure dome that was never built to last; but in a city so committed to being Extra, is held close to minds and hearts and will forever be preserved.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Brighton, I HEART you, and corsetry!

I am skipping across what happened between leaving Auckland and arriving in Brighton on the south coast of England. Short version: binge watching TV, officious airport staff, insomnia, tube stations and suitcases, kittens, trains.
And here I am in Brighton! What a place, it speaks directly to my heart as a Wellingtonian, but added value is AMAZING architecture everywhere. These are all from the street I stayed on my first night here.

I was laughing with my lovely friend Hester who lives here, how our kiwi eyes see so many details and think, how can that be allowed, it would kill someone in a quake! and then realise, no chance of that happening!
So far I have been on a tour of the pier, water front and some of the town, stocked up at Boots, drunk lots of good coffee, and finally slept for a few hours. Oh, and I had the most exciting experience that I could have, being me. Some of you will appreciate this!
I stayed in an AirBnB on the street shown, and my landlady mentioned in passing that a corsetry business was over the road, in a perfectly unassuming house! This business is Axfords and I was over there knocking on the door asking to chat to Michael the owner in two minutes.
 Michael was happy to talk to me, and the more I saw the more I was blown away. These guys make their own spiral boning, have coutil and cotton/viscose satin and other fabrics woven for them - they've been at it 125 years and in the cutting room (photo) I got to touch and coo and the quality of the garments is fantastic.
I love that this company started in 1880 making utility garments really, at a time when most women would be wearing a corset of some kind. And right through until corsetry evolved into a specific kind of garment for much more niche purposes. Michael says they make corsets for the theatre and TV, and the current production of Rocky Horror.They have three manufacturing locations as Brighton is a place where you have to work around the buildings not vice versa. Their HQ is 82 Centurion Road, where I found them, however...
...this is the other side of the house which is built into the hill so it appears a lot bigger from New Dorset Street that runs behind. The garment construction and boning making happen in two other buildings around the town. There's a big A bricked into the gable that you may be able to make out in the photo - this building was built for Axfords, pretty impressive.
Every corset is made from start to finish by the same corsetiere. Those of us who sew will appreciate what a difference this makes to the quality of the garment. There's as much engineering as sewing in a corset and controlling this is a big part of the quality and durability of the resulting garment.
And can I say that the cutting room smelled like it should? Like an Atelier should. Just magical.
Thank you Michael for letting this random kiwi fizzing with excitement and spouting nonsense in her tired state, into your business and talking to her. I couldn't think of a more fun thing to do - beats the Pier hands down!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Day one, the long flight

23/10 10.02pm. Auckland International Terminal.
Finally, departure day has arrived. After a day of finding things to occupy myself including dishes, ironing shirts and watching Hustle to get a feel for London, I finally go to the shop to meet David. Putting the smaller case on the shop scales confirms my doubts that it is more than 7kg. Off to the airport we finally head, and we have a teary departing at the drop off.
First things first – weighing bags, My large suitcase which could be 23kg and which I was convinced was close to that, weighs 16kg. What can I say, in spite of appearances, I am a weakling. The small one however weighs 9.5kg. So I remove 2.5 kg of crap from it and transfer the crap over to the big one. Sorted.
Then I try to check in at a kiosk. It will not read my passport. Uh oh. I take a look and there is my unsaggy 2011 photo. I had left home with my expired passport!
A quick panicky call to David and he is on the job; happily I am an hour early. The amazing woman at the desk reassures me it is all fine, checks me into the best seats all the way (as I discover later), we chat about grandparents and our childhoods and badly designed things and she labels my suitcase and all the things and soon my knight in shining Peugeot is back with the new, saggy face photo passport. (I don’t really mind it just amuses me!) He’s my hero! A bit anti-climactic after the teary farewell.
An uneventful flight north and a pleasant stroll through a cool, still evening from the Auckland Domestic to the International terminal and here I am, with three hours to kill and nothing to do but buy over-priced food or souvenirs. I buy a jaunty travel pillow festooned with pohutukawa flowers. The woman shop assistant whispers that she is afraid of another customer who appears to be under the influence of something – extreme tiredness, drugs, who knows. Luckily that customer follows me out rambling and wanders off. I feel like I have opened a window to let a wasp escape.
I finally pass through the passenger-only gates, abandoning the bottle of L&P I bought to wash down pills, and am faced with a huge concourse of booze and perfumes and makeup. The smell is overpowering, my sinuses are not happy. How ironic that we cannot bring more than 100mls of liquid into this space filled with tens of thousands of bottles. With my precious reserves of fund raised money, it just seems so surplus. Finally out the other side, I am sitting quietly in the departure area of my gate, with a handful of travellers. The flight is very under full and I hope to get a row to myself. Or at last an empty seat beside me.
I feel so very unprepared for this trip. I’ve never been apart from David for so long since our first year of long distance bonding. My comfort zone does not include solo travel, lugging suitcases, public transport, staying with people, and living with minimal clothes. For these reasons alone it is good that I am doing it. I desperately need a kick up my butt – performing was meant to be that but it comes too easily to me. I need my life shaking up.
I know that millions do this every day, but I feel like Bear Grylls taking on the Amazon.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Four more sleeps before the UK!

I am pinching myself - only four sleeps to go. A week ago the planning board was crammed with jobs to do, and now most have a black line through them. Very satisfying.
Packing is fun. I need day time clothes as well as costumes and all of the paraphernalia that goes into making hair and face look the part. But things are looking good for a two suitcase only situation, which will allow me at the other end to only need to take one anywhere with me at a time.
It's a plan anyway.
This cross stitch pattern on Etsy is designed by a Wellington based student teacher - I love his work!
So deep am I in the details, I have really only just started to realise what is happening - when people say, see you next week and they are in Brighton!
I have actual paid work to tackle before I go, and focussing is hard. But I feel like I've got the that moment when the stressy jobs are handled. Trains booked, travel hair dryer located, costumes vacuum packed. Roaming for phone sorted, netbook brought up to date, adaptor plug purchased etc.
I even made a money belt! I'm not posting about it until I've test driven it though!!
Wish me luck!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Eugenie knocks it out of the park!

 People I have made 1,000+ wedding outfits in my time. I got married in purple velvet. I am not judging on anyone's taste; as far as I am concerned, what you wear to your wedding is your call, you do you. As a designer and maker, it was my job to go through the impacts of designs with a bride and sometimes suggest an alternative approach. I've troubleshot dresses that don't work front to back, for example. That you can't move in, or breathe in, or that won't stay up! But also it was part of my job to get them to consider the impacts of the venue/s, photos, all kinds of factors. And together we would incorporate all of this into a dress that really expressed the bride's personality, and that PERFORMED. There's never any need to trade these off against each other.
Royal wedding dresses have a lot more performance considerations than commoner ones. Those huge venues, long shots, eternal scrutiny on display in a museum etc etc. There is absolutely no reason why these constraints should stop a royal bride from having a dress that delights her.
Well as far as I am concerned, I think Princess Eugenie nailed it. Her dress is simple, but majestic and beautfiully executed. Unlike her Aunt Diana and her Cousin Meg, both of whose dresses were made poorly. And like her Mother's dress and Cousin Kate's it fits perfectly, and the back is a nod to the back of Sarah's dress but executed in an up to date way.
I also loved her choice not to wear a veil, although I have nothing against veils at all. It was her choice and good on her for doing what she wanted. What I LOVE is that her dress looks good close up and far away, its scale suits the venue and occasion, I cannot say enough how well made it is - OMG that collar is a nightmare to get perfect and it really is. The underpinnings are perfect!

See how that skirt springs directly from her waist and then gracefully falls. That's magic!

Enough train to look good from all those wacky camera angles in the Chapel. Gorgeous from front AND back.
Look at the shape of that skirt! Honestly it is SO GOOD. And that collar is staying put - not easy with a V front and back and a heavy collar to work with. Technically this dress is the hardest one yet.
 I'd never knock the wearer for the quality of the product - and who knows why certain calls were allowed to get a pass, like Meg's short stubby train that just looked stupid under the hugely long veil from the overhead shots, when another 1.5m would have nailed it. And as for Di's, well I am sure they were all coked up or high on hair spray after all it was the 80's and who knows why the sleeves had to be so huge they enveloped a good half of the bodice? But to see a dress that truly realises the vision of the wearer (she was obviously very happy!) and the occasion, well that makes my designer heart very happy indeed!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Getting to the UK one Frida at a time

Hi all, I am on a plane in 14 sleeps and the big old whiteboard is covered in things to do! I arrive at Heathrow on 24 October and will be back in New Zealand by 16 November.
I am broke, cassé, skint, and in order to be able to eat, travel and have somewhere to stay while I am there, I've been fundraising. The gigs I have do pay, and for that I am grateful, but to raise the balance I have been making and selling Frida and Mary jacket patches. Frida outsells Mary by about 10 to one but that's to be expected!
It's actually really satisfying to be able to raise money by making things myself. And with these sales, sales of false drag lashes and performance fees I've raised enough to get by without having to rely on my credit card too much!
Other than that, I'm doing some free lance work, sewing for myself and others, and dealing with three massive things going totally wrong in my life all at once.  Two of them could be sorted by me getting a full time job or a longer term contract, and the third will probably come right faster if I did as well, because the stress of the situation would diminish a lot.
I don't want to go into details about any of them here, sorry to be vague but I'm in that weird place where pretending everything is OK is just not possible because it isn't, yet sharing the details is not a thing I can do right now either. Suffice to say that corporate greed and earthquakes are behind the troubles. One day I'll tell all.
In the meantime, I am blown away by the kindness of people!!! Friends and family who through small and huge acts of kindness just keep reminding me that life is worth persisting with.
On my to-do list is Fabricabrac this Saturday. The bi annual huge destash market that started in Wellington and is now happening all over NZ. I decided to use it as  chance to clear out my ridiculous stash of fabric in the shop store room and today Penny and I hauled out boxes and bins full of it!
This is a FRACTION of what we unearthed. It was crazy. I found stuff I forgot I had, had bought again, and generally realised that I am a HOARDER.
Anyway it's sorted more or less, scraps in colour themed bags, size and value sorted, everything. And I tell you I am not bringing stuff back. I kept back about a binful at most, the rest if it doesn't sell is going to a charity. But I think I'll be seeing lots of happy people walk out with it.
And thus will I make just a little bit more for my trip. :) In full knowledge of the money wasted on buying it in the first place. But to be honest I've not really added to my hoards much in the past few years, I've just dragged the stuff around after me. So by getting rid of it, it is an end of yet another era!
If you are in Wellington and love fabric, come to Fabricabrac - at St Anne's Hall, Emmett Street, Newtown 10am-2pm this Saturday 13 October. There's a huge car park and the church collects a gold coin donation for it. You can do your fruit and vege shopping next door too!
Update after Fabricabrac: I went with five boxes and came back with one small box! WIN!