15 Nov 2017

Bug Life

For a piece of visual entomology, look no further than Alex Wild Photography! Mirabelle has been following Alex's Twitter account for years now and this is one of my favourites: a Twitter perk that stands out from the Twitter mush!

There you get close with the bugs and once you magnify and get to their level, discover the beasts of engineering that they are: fascinating, awesome and pretty darn scary too!

Calliphora augur, Diamond Creek, Victoria, Australia

Myrmecia pyriformis, Yandoit, Victoria, Australia

Nesomyrmex wilda, Harlingen, Texas, USA

Nasute termite soldier, Yandoit, Victoria, Australia

Pogonomyrmex comanche, Red Rock, Texas, USA

Apis mellifera, Austin, Texas


The macro-photographic skillset of Texas-based American biologist Alex Wild plays its magic and his carefully-chosen
subjects are equally magical. The descriptives bear none of the generalist attributes that non-scientists like myself are guilty of using all too often when faced with unidentified small creatures: critters, bugs, insects, creepy-crawlies, flying things (ha-ha!) and other often-erroneous and somewhat disrespectful captions.

Here we dive deep into entomology territory, the taxa, order, genus, species and sub-species, and catch ourselves on a learning curve if we are serious enough about the views we entertain. This is how I found out, as a starting point, that myrmecology is the entomology branch related to ants.

When faced with the ingeniosity of life at its tiniest level, you cannot help but think about the Great Architect of the Universe and how none of this would have been possible without Him at the helm. Without politicising this post, I would venture the belief that atheists are deniers of God when you witness how the divine has engineered nature in a way that is humanely impossible to achieve.

Anastatus sp., Austin, Texas, USA

Ceratopogonidae forcipomyia, Cayó District, Belize

Hesperolabops gelastops, Austin Texas, USA

Tutelina elegans (male), Urbana, Illinois, USA

Chrysina lecontei, Huachuca Mountains, Arizona, USA
Tetragonisca angustula, Morretes, Paraná, Brazil

Alex Wild has managed to build a captive audience out of science proselytes like myself, and the macro-photographic journey amongst creatures of the tiny order is both captivating and humbling!

Source: All photography by Alex Wild Photography.

6 Nov 2017

Floral Sophisticates

You needn't be looking for beauty for it is all around you in the natural world if you care to notice and observe. Flowers have it in spades of enchantment... The art of the artist is to capture the beauty they notice but which might be going unnoticed by others, emphasise it and restitute it for it to be (finally) noticed, acknowledged and appreciated. Kate Scott is bewitched by the beauty of the floral kind and Mirabelle has too been spellbound by floral beauty for as long as I can remember.

Flower power has hit home! The curves, curls and swirls, the shades, hues and ombrés, the seemingly laser-cut petals, the detailing, the precision, the floral geometry, Fibonacci of sorts that ushers floral art into the sacred, the intricacies, fragility, ephemerality, the sophistication of flora at its paramount best that is bound to leave you speechless... All of this skillfully captured by Kate Scott. Welcome to the floral art world, a delicacy for the senses and an instant mood lift!

Gipsy, Dahlia (detail), by Kate Scott Studio
Grace, Dahlia (detail), by ibid.
Fleur, Ranunculus (detail), by ibid.
Blush, Ranunculus (detail), by ibid.
Frill Seeker, Hibiscus (detail), by Kate Scott Studio
Peaches, Roses (detail), by ibid.
Folly, Peony (detail), by ibid.
Amazon, Tulip (detail), by ibid.

"I have always found flowers bewitching. My aim as an artist is to capture the essence and soul of each bloom and present it in a way which cannot otherwise be readily seen. No camera is used in this process. Flowers are scanned at high resolution then digitally painted, pixel by pixel, capturing the tiniest of detail, often invisible to the naked eye. A single specimen which measures only a couple of inches across is transformed into a sensual landscape and in this way, each flower is reinvented and reborn. It is a painstaking process, often taking hundreds of hours to produce one large printed piece." - Kate Scott 

Source: All artwork digitalisation by Kate Scott Studio. Her exquisite limited edition flower prints are available to purchase directly from her online boutique. Printed on museum archival paper.

22 Oct 2017

Crumbling Châteaux

With modern times achanging, old money does not warrant stability and continuity: one way or another the estates it relates to likely meet their fate. Heating bills, maintenance and repair costs, and property taxes end up sealing the deal on one remorseless Winter night.

Passed down the generations, the estates increasingly turn into financial burdens (financial money pits!), unless pockets are deep and/ or resourcefulness (return on investment projects), DIY skills, family team spirit and general stamina are unequivocally high.

Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers (dating back to 13th century), Les Trois-Moutiers, Vienne, France

Maybe any land-related business attached to the estate (farming, winemaking, fruit orchards, garden nurseries, crafts, hospitality) which used to support or supplement its income ends up folding altogether due to high running costs and other expenditures - and the implacability of French taxation (so be said). The château lifestyle may then take a turn for the worse and bite the dust...

Likewise the French château dream may turn sour for those idealist buyers and unpractical investors who succumbed to the lure of a quick, cheap and fanciful purchase, only to find out that they are biting more than they can chew. And then the château lifestyle increasingly becomes a distant vision. 

Château de Maupas (built c.1580), Maupas, Dordogne, France

I have little knowledge about the history of the châteaux featured herein - and the reasons that led to their falling from grace. Regardless, my aim is not to blame or condemn. Mirabelle knows only too well how easy - very easy - it is for a property - grand or otherwise - to fall into disrepair, catch you off-guard, and for its maintenance costs to escalate beyond repair, especially when the property has not been consistently looked after or if you have been dealing with cowboy builders and other rip-off con artists from the associated building trades. Those elderly ladies made out of stone, brick, slate and wood require constant methodical TLC: choose to disregard or overlook it at your peril!

Château de la Boissière (dating back to 19th century), Edern, Brittany, France

Some owner-renovators and passionate volunteers are riding the wave high and proud and making a success out of their property venture, through blood, sweat and tears. First expect cold sleepless nights, spartan comfort, improvised dinners out of a camping stove, and chamber pots for toilets... Or best make a caravan your home while a modicum of comfort is being established in your property. All in all, keep at it and never lose sight of the reward at the end of the dirt track, beyond crumbling plaster and patches of dry rot!

Château de Coat an Noz (built 1870), Belle-Isle-en-Terre, Brittany, France

Source: (1-5) French château photography via Châteaux de France. (1) Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers (built 13th century), Les Trois-Moutiers, Vienne, photography by Pierre Mairé. (2) Château de Maupas (built c.1580), Issac, Dordogne. (3) Château de la Boissière (dating back to 19th century), Edern, Brittany, and (4) Château de Coat an Noz (built 1870), Belle-Isle-en-Terre, Brittany, photography by Morgan Corbet. (5) Château de Bonnefontaine (built 1818-1822), Altwiller, Alsace. (6) Château de Blancafort (built 1453), Sologne, Loire Valley. (7) Château de Meauce (built c.13th century), Nivernais.


Château de Bonnefontaine (built 1818-22), Altwiller, Alsace, France

Depressed about the château sorry state? Cheer up and read on...


Château Success Stories:

  • Adopte un Château, in partnership with Dartagnans, presents itself as an innovative crowdfunding scheme designed to bring together investing members of the general public willing to be involved in the rescue of a struggling château that has fallen into disrepair. The initial goal is for the investors to collectively meet the seller's asking price. By purchasing one or more shares (affordably priced at 51 euros a share), they become in effect one of the several owners who will be involved in the château's future, with its renovation funded by its conversion into a profitable business. This is exactly what is happening to our featured (1) Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers right now! Now whether the scheme has real potential for the safeguard of a château - or is purely utopic - remains to be seen, especially in the long term.
  • Push open the door to a successful privately-owned current château renovation scheme: Château de Meauce (built 13th century), set in Nivernais, the Central area of la belle France. The château is featured on the Adopte un Château website.
  • Follow the river and admire the quintessential châteaux of the Loire Valley: those are healthy and wealthy! And while you're at it, take a leisurely stroll through the grounds and the gardens
  • If your pockets are deep and you envision yourself as the proud owner of a renovated château in Sologne, within the Loire Valley, you are in luck! Château de Blancafort (built 1453 as a fortified stronghold) is up for auction... and already has your name on it! 
  • Purchased in 2015 by TV personality Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel Adoree, Château-de-la-Motte Husson is the star of a (British) TV home renovation series. The Loire Valley-located château (which finds its origins in Medieval times and was rebuilt 1868-1874) also hosts vintage weddings and other hospitality events under the umbrella of The Vintage Pâtisserie, Angel's hospitality company.
  • In the French Pyrenees village of Château-Verdun, Château de Gudanes (built mid-1700s) is too enjoying a second youth! Its new owners are a couple of  dynamic Aussies who gave up their home comforts from Down Under for a château life made up of cracks, leaks, drafts, overdrafts... and much joy! The château restoration is well underway now and paying off! In fact, each Summer paying guests are invited to contribute their skills in exchange for a slice of the pie

Château de Blancafort (built 1453), Sologne, Loire Valley, France
Château de Meauce (built c.13th century), Nivernais, France (pict source)

30 Sep 2017

Green with Envy

Rich Autumn colours of Burgundy and pomegranate reds, pumpkin orange, chocolate brown and aubergine purple are all well and good but when green ordinarily sends your heart aflutter, gives a spring to your step and takes nature indoors into a house party celebration of the bounties of life, there is simply no forsaking the colour green for a change of season.

There is not a more visual way to stamp personality onto a home than through wallcoverings and Style Libray is a worthy starting point. Now if green is your cup of green tea like it is mine, they have a sampled variegation of greens to explore at our leisure...

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

'Cashmere Paisley' wallpaper by Sanderson

As the largest soft furnishings group in the UK, Style Library operates a portfolio of six British brands, two of which of iconic, heritage status Sanderson  and Morris & Co. Sanderson, established 1860 in Islington, London, by Arthur Sanderson, was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1923 and then again in 1955. Morris & Co. was established 1861 by famed textile designer, typographer, poet, philosopher and political theorist William Morris (1834-1896). Mr. Morris is associated with the Pre-Raphaelites and the English Arts & Crafts Movement. His wallpaper designs translate naturalism through the Aesthetic style.

The other brands under the Style Library umbrella are luxury wallcovering creator and archive curator Zoffany, colour trend-setter Harlequin, Scandi-inspired and Mr. Fox prints Scion, and contemporary wallpaper designer Anthology.

'Verdure' fabric by Zoffany
'Strawberry Thief' wallpaper by Morris & Co.
'Caverley' fabric by Sanderson

Sources: (1-5) Style Library. (1) Rest assured: this frilly foliage is no fuddy-duddy! The 'Cashmere Paisley' wallpaper (colourway code: DART21680) is part of the aptly-named Art of the Garden botanical wallpaper collection by Sanderson. A fresh and dainty paisley design in a sage colourway that is more neutral than feminine, Cashmere Paisley will light up a North-facing room like no other. Pair with white-painted woodwork in satin finish and a quality sisal floorcovering to add warm texture. To make the room shine boldly, introduce a statement Murano glass floral chandelier in a contrasting coloured glass of pink or blue. Without a shadow of a doubt, that North-facing room of yours will start enjoying the bright side of life!

(2) For those of us who seek a heritage linen fabric that does not look like it belongs in the National Trust, 'Verdure' (colourway code ZAMW320465) by Zoffany is worth considering. Based on a late 17th century painted cloth, Verdure will take your windows on a wondrous wander across pastoral lands. With the church in the background and tea-time beckoning, the only question on your mind will be: 'More tea, vicar?' The design has a modern (Art Nouveau) quality to it and the teal green oscillates between turquoise and slate.

Green paint shades, top row from left: Misty Mint, Queen Anne Green Light and Green Shoot (all three by Sanderson); bottom row from left: Lime Cloud, Green Almond (both by Sanderson), and Fennel (by Zoffany).


(3) As an action-packed heritage wallpaper for a single feature wall contrasting with the other walls in a plain cream, 'Strawberry Thief' (colourway code DMCR216477) by Morris & Co. beckons. As the pièce de résistance to your dining room, it will be your conversation piece as soon as guests arrive and companion piece once they are gone. Originally a cotton fabric design, it was registered in 1883. One of the most popular Morris fabrics, it is now available as a wallcovering.

(4) For a bird theme that is less prominent than Strawberry Thief, combined with only a few hints of green supported by pops of floral pink on a mustard canvas (referred to here as Chinese Yellow), the 'Caverley' fabric (colourway DCAVCA202) by Sanderson does the trick. It resmbles a tapestry, with a Chinoiserie influence although the design is described as being 'typically English in style' despite its exoticity. It is based upon an early 19th century hand-block print.

(5) Green paint collage by Mirabelle. Paint shades, top row from left: Misty Mint, Queen Anne Green Light and Green Shoot (all three by Sanderson); bottom row from left: Lime Cloud, Green Almond (both by Sanderson), and Fennel (by Zoffany).

6 Sep 2017

Portraits of Bastia, Corsica

Landscape painting - including that of cityscapes and seascapes - contributes a valuable testimony to the history and geography of a place. If carried out meticulously and faithfully in relation to the original viewing, a painting captures and immortalises a scene as photographical evidence - without a camera in sight. This is when a painting becomes an intimate affair and its landscape a portrait. Those paintings relay valuable information to historians, ethnologists, city planners and to anyone interested in their locale.

'Vue du Port de Bastia en 1928', oil on canvas by Marc Bardon (1928)

My quest for period paintings depicting the Corsican seaside city of Bastia has taken me on a delightful journey! You could rightfully describe it as a labour of love. Unsurprisingly, the sea is captured by every artist whose oeuvre I am curating hereby. The sea is at the epicentre of the island city's historical, political and socio-economical structure. The maritime theme is strong and hardy and brings to each painting a unique colour representation!

*Put into context of the time period* Fish abounds and the sea feeds and builds the coastal communities. Voyage out of and to the island involves the vast expanse of water that surrounds it. Trade sails into and out of the island too. Let us not forget that danger lurks out from the sea (storms, epidemics, wars, invasions). The sea is a messenger, bearer of glad tidings and toller of bad news. The sea transports us.

'Corse, Bastia, le Vieux Port', oil on canvas by Marc Bardon (1939)

It brings a spectrum of mental states and emotions in tune with the aches and pains of our soul: solace, providence, daydream, hope, wish, desire, escapism, synchronicity, loneliness and desperation. It gets us to intensely scrutinise the horizon, seeking to pierce the secret of what lies beyond in order to satisfy the eternal life quest of curiosity. Ultimately the sea washes our bodies and absolves us of our sins. Ultimately the sea wreaks havoc and swallows into its watery grave lives, ship wreckages, antique towns and secrets aplenty. And when the calm finally settles over the climatic vicissitudes, the sea takes on a hue of contentment; it glitters in the golden sun, twinkles, bedazzles, spellbounds and bewitches us all over again.

I like to see the sea as a character all to itself: a whimsical, misunderstood friend or foe, according to its moods. It is ever-changing: undulates and scintillates, ebbs and flows, gently sways and then build up a crescendo, swelling up with the wind, then throwing itself at the shore in anger or desperation. It plays with the reflection of the sky always, composing as its mirror a captivating tableau that marries transience and a more permanent state of mind.

'Une Vue du Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on board by Hector Filippi
'Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on canvas by Léon-Charles Canniccioni (c.1927-30)
'Bastia, le Vieux Port et l'Eglise', oil on board by Rémy E. Landeau
'Vue du Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on canvas by Frédéric Bourgeois de Mercey (1839)
'Le Vieux Port de Bastia', oil on canvas by Léon-Charles Canniccioni
'Vue de Bastia, Côté Sud', watercolour by Jean-Jérôme Levie
'The Bombardment of Bastia, 6 November 1745', oil on canvas by Samuel Scott
'Vue de Bastia depuis Toga', oil on canvas by Louis-Auguste Lapito (1844), pict source
'Vue de Bastia depuis les Hauteurs du Cap Corse', oil on cardboard by Lucien Peri
'Bastia, Citadelle', acrylic and oil on canvas by François de Casabianca (2017)
Le Vieux Port de Bastia, as it stands today (c.2016), pictured from Hôtel des Gouverneurs

P.S: If you enjoyed the paintings of Bastia, you should view the postcards.

10 Aug 2017

Fresh, Crisp and Leafy

Mirabelle never imagined for one second that placemat and napkin sets would catch her eye, get her excited and get an article in the process with adjectives like fresh and crisp and leafy... When was the last time such adjectives were used in unison to describe those little accents of table linen?

Maybe placemats used to leave you indifferent too... until now! Because you and I hadn't yet crossed paths with the French luxury linen company D. Porthault, that's why!

Need a little convincing? Surely not as I can see you gaze admiratively at the exquisite artistic sets below... And since you're asking, Tempête Tropicale is my favourite. How about yours?

Tempête Tropicale
Anagramme Lilac
Mariage
Papyrus
Lilas Blue
Feuilles d'Olivier Soft Green

The sets represent only a tiny sample of D. Porthault linen collections: you really need to check those out for yourselves!

Always ahead of the game, The Glam Pad has just announced the imminent release of D. Porthault: The Art of Luxury Linens, a coffee table book showcasing those eponymous colour-rich home collection textiles, sure to brighten up our bedside cabinets as we move towards shorter days and longer nights. With such a book to hand, we'll naturally want to stay tucked up in bed just a little longer, flicking through the pages, enjoying the visual treats and redesigning our abodes! Sweet dreams and happy home projects to you!

Available to purchase from Gibbs Smith

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