I've been on several missions over the last few months, visiting some of my favourite people, in a manner of speaking. The most recent visit was to Virginia Woolf's summer cottage, Monk's House.
Nestled in a village close to Lewes and Brighton it's the perfect mini road trip.
First and foremost she was a writer and one that I read and re-read constantly. She was also part of the Bloomsbury group, a loose collection of writers, artists, academics etc. They were on the whole a fortunate bunch; talented, creative, solvent, and they've bequeathed us a great deal to enjoy. I read Virginia Woolf's diaries many years ago and the visit to Monk's House has brought all the characters and gossip to life. Their walks across the downs to Charleston, her sister's home, her gardening, visits from streams of friends and writing, writing, writing.
The house itself is full of atmosphere and has decorative Omega Workshop pieces, and an excellent collection of comfortable chairs. Beautiful printed fabric too, tapestry work, painted tiles and friends' paintings on the walls. My kind of interior! My absolute favourite bit though is actually outside. The Lodge. A summerhouse/writing studio with views across the countryside and the South Downs.
I last visited Charleston Farm House several years ago. If you haven't been there yet put it in the diary. It's a delight for all lovers of the decorative arts. Virginia Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell lived there with family and friends from 1916 for 64 years. It was the centre for the Bloomsbury set and Vanessa Bell's work sometimes gets overshadowed by that of her many talented friends and guests.
The wonderful Dulwich Gallery recently singled out her paintings and photography for exhibition and so I went to have a look. Surprisingly, lovely though her paintings and textiles samples are, it was the photographs that I found the most compelling. What would these people have made of Facebook, Instagram and all the other social media platforms?
Vanessa Bell took lots of informal pictures around the Charleston house and gardens and its great to see the ordinary stuff going on. Two talented women, two gorgeous homes, I recommend them to you.
My Vintage Signature Piece
Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell
This is such a special find! I hang around at car boot sales a lot and search for things that are rarely there, and then I unearthed this piece. I want to cut it up and wear it but can't bring myself to do it. It's a linen cloth covered in coloured signatures. Wroxall Methodist Church is on the Isle of Wight and I guess in 1956 they decided to make this. But then at some point they didn't want it any more or maybe the owner died and this piece went to house clearance. I'm going to have to visit and see if they want it back again, aren't I. It was such a lovely idea and so neatly stitched and members of the same family have put their names next to each other. Morris, Wheeler, Gentle, Whittington, Cotton, Hosking...
PS: Sample Sale
It's time to clear the decks again. My little pile of sample cushions has become quite big and I'm making them available for sale at a greatly reduced price. These are not seconds but one-off samples produced for magazine shoots or my own gallery. The price is £20 per cushion and this includes postage and packing. Please follow the link on the home page to find them.