Inspiring women: Lily and Lolly Yeats

First, a clause: I know I'm taking this post out of the oven way too early. But I'm impatient, you see, and pretty much caught up in the idea Lily and Lolly Yeats. And it may turn out, upon later investigation, that they served ground-up puppies to their dinner guests. In which case, not so inspiring. But at first, and even second, glance they seem like pretty cool ladies.


Second, a confession: Knowing the Yeatses comes with the turf where I'm from. W.B. is on our curriculum and poems are known not just by heart, but seemingly etched into our bones. Jack was always my favourite, though. I fell for his paintings the first time I visited the National Gallery and always visited them regularly. This was later compounded by knowing he and Beckett were friends and felt a great affinity between their work. But I had no idea about Lily and Lolly.

That's part of the story really, though. Odds, of course, are that all these men we know so well had sisters and wives. And it was only when reading Colm Toibín's intro to the Alice James biography (a story cut from the same cloth) that I really gave full thought to that. To all the women in the wings. To Woolf's sister of Shakespeare.


They were probably bright sparks too. They may not have had the same education, but just being part of those households and, in some ways, having more time, fewer expectations put upon them. Of course that was hugely limiting, but it also may have liberated them in a way it's not quite correct to celebrate, but may certainly be significant.

Still, now we find ourselves in sad the position of telling each other stories about how they ought not to be overlooked. So our stories start out defensively, couched in a depressing context of gender and time (times which unfortunately may not have changed as much as we think). So we sound immediately like we're trying too hard. And I plain hate that.


Instead, I'll tell you what I know of Lily (1866-1949) and Lolly (1868 – 1940). In their late teens the sisters were sent to the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin to study design. The Yeats family knew William Morris and his daughter May, who was responsible for the embroidery department of Morris and Company. She offered to teach Lily embroidery and by 1888 she employed her.

Returning to Dublin in 1900, Lily and her sister Lolly joined Evelyn Gleeson in the Dun Emer crafts studio. Dun Emer was a crafts guild started by Evelyn Gleeson, Augustine Henry, and Lily and Lolly Yeats in 1902. It trained young women to produce fine hand-made goods, such as embroideries, tapestries, prints, and books. Lily ran the needlework section.


Elizabeth (Lolly) Yeats managed the Dun Emer Press (later Cuala Press) from 1902. The Press was located at Runnymede, the house of Evelyn Gleeson and was was set up with the intention of training young women in bookbinding and printing.

Lolly took the remarkable initiative of studying to be a printer at the Women's Printing Society at Westminster. She studied composing, proofreading, basic business practice. As Dun Emer was to employ only women, she also learned to operate a hand-press herself. The Dun Emer Press produced limited editions of books, printed by hand. The texts it published were written or selected by W. B. Yeats.


Further reading: Alice James by Jean Strouse (intro by Colm Toibín)
The Yeats Sisters and the Cuala (I have not read)
The Yeats Sisters: A Biography of Susan and Elizabeth Yeats (I have not read)
Blog: Cuala Press posts on John J. Burns Library's Blog (here and here)

Image credits:
1. Embroidery by Lily Yeats, via The National Gallery | 2. Left: The Dun Emer Press in 1903 with Elizabeth Yeats working the hand press, via. Right: Cuala Press Frontispieces and Press marks, from the Cuala Press Printed Materials Collection. Photograph by Gary Wayne Gilbert via | 3. Embroidery by Lily Yeats, via The National Gallery | 4. Bookplates from the Cuala Press Printed Materials Collection at the Burns Library. Photograph by Gary Wayne Gilbert via | 5. Lily Yeats painted by her father, via Lissadell House

A poem for Tuesday

I got home last night and thought to myself, Carver. Sometimes on the walk home I think about what I'll have for dinner, other times I'm disciplined and focus on yoga first and thinking only of dinner when the instructor says, clear your mind. On certain nights, though, I'm hungry for poetry and I know exactly who will hit the spot.

On the weekend, I organized my bookshelves and thought at once how much I must like Carver, he is peppered across my shelves. But also how I want more of him, of his poetry in particular. Poetry is so easy to pick up and read and reread just while standing over the stove, stirring a skillet of tofu and corn, diced tomatoes and assorted spices. Thinking, there will always be paprika dust on this page from right now.

This is from Where Water Comes Together With Other Water.

Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In
You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of life, okay.

It was raining. The neighbors who had
a key were away. I tried and tried
the lower windows. Stared
inside at the sofa, plants, the table
and chairs, the stereo set-up.
My coffee cup and ashtray waited for me
on the glass-topped table, and my heart
went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,
or something like that. After all,
this wasn’t so bad.
Worse things had happened. This
was even a little funny. I found the ladder.
Took that and leaned it against the house.
Then climbed in the rain to the deck,
swung myself over the railing
and tried the door. Which was locked,
of course. But I looked in just the same
at my desk, some papers, and my chair.
This was the window on the other side
of the desk where I’d raise my eyes
and stare out when I sat at that desk.
This is not like downstairs, I thought.
This is something else.

And it was something to look in like that, unseen,
from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.
I don’t even think I can talk about it.
I brought my face close to the glass
and imagined myself inside,
sitting at the desk. Looking up
from my work now and again.
Thinking about some other place
and some other time.
The people I had loved then.

I stood there for a minute in the rain.
Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
Even though I felt violently ashamed
of the injury I’d done back then.
I bashed that beautiful window.
And stepped back in.

Aubin & Wills

I love the current lookbook from Aubin & Wills. Such sweet and easy looks! So many of the lookbooks have an 80's bent right now and I find myself turned away from pieces I might otherwise love. This one strikes a perfect chord for me.

Sunday best: Catching up

Yesterday, I got up early and went to the farmer's market. I bought duck and goose eggs from the Mennonite farmer and a scone from Nuala, the Irish baker. I was in one of my more pensive moods, but I enjoyed the chilly day and chatting to people around the market and at the coffee shop.


When I got home, I worked on my kitchen and cleaned the rest of my apartment. There's a lot of prep work involved with my old walls. But all my spackling and sanding is finally done and I'm ready to prime and paint. I don't think I'll get to that today though.

Today, I've got chores to do and friends to catch up with, which I'm looking forward to. In all honesty, I could really do with another day this weekend. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all that's going on right now. Even when it's positive, change can be hard for me. I tend to look for a rhythm in my days and when things are in transition, I find myself feeling on edge.

So, I'll keep today simple. Once my chores and visits are done, I'm looking forward to a big bath and Sunday TV shows (I couldn't care less about Oscars). I'll cross my fingers for a good sleep—they're usually elusive on Sunday nights. And then, just like that, the last weekend of February will slip through my fingers.

I hope your day is a lovely one!

Products: Aubin & Wills Emmerson cardigan from Net-a-Porter | Satomi Kawakita Diamond Bar Necklace from Catbird | Silk tank by Lauren Moffatt from Steven Alan | MiH Jeans Paris jeans from Net-a-Porter | Rachel Comey Mars boot from Gravity Pope | June nail polish from Chanel | Arrow ring from Odette | M.I.L.C.K clutch from ELA

Friday!

Sometimes, it takes me a while to get around to expressing things on my blog. I tend to mull, to stew, to macerate. So when ideas and feelings manifest, they're usually not bursts of expression, rather fully formed thoughts. In some ways, then, my blog is an escape from what's really going on in my head. Sometimes when it's light and frivolous, I'm in the depths of some thought or feeling I'm not yet ready to express.


And when I give expression to those deeper thoughts and feelings it often marks an emergence from my mood. I'm casting off the dregs of dark or complicated thoughts and giving utterance to things that I couldn't give utterance to when I'm feeling them too much.

In art, it's called the Intentional Fallacy; this idea that output represents how a creator is feeling as she writes or paints or that one must understand the artist's life to understand their work. People often infer I'm depressed when I'm not or think I'm rock steady when I'm at a tipping point. I don't always think the Intentional Fallacy is fallacious. But it can be amusing, this misunderstanding. There's a queer Beckettan absurdity to it.

But here we are on Friday and I can in all honesty tell you that as I write, after a topsy-turvy week, I feel pensive but happy. I got some good news this week. It will take a little while for the elements to drop into place, for me to figure out exactly what it all is. But things look promising and, after a recent disappointment, it's nice that a completely different and unexpected door has opened.

My weekend plans are pretty bare. I've got some work to still do on my kitchen, some photographs to make for a nice little project. I hope to get to the farmer's market for fresh eggs and to do some good reading too. My desire for a holiday only grew this week, so maybe I'll start to wrap some concrete thoughts around that too. Fall in California? Summer in PEI? Delectable options...

Have a good weekend, friends!

Coterie SALE!

I haven't blogged about my shop in so long! Oh dear!

But I do want to let you all know that I've recently added a SALE section. I have very few winter / woolly things left, but there's a nice sale price on what's left, including Newedist knits and Melin Tregwynt blankets (see a tour of the Mill here). I've also discounted some of my beautiful hand-turned rolling pins (this one is a favourite), made in PEI, Canada.

Happy shopping!

Young lady

I fell for this young lady on first sight and she is currently winging her way to me. That I love the grey tones will be no surprise to anybody who knows me in real life. But it's the slightly uncertain, nervous look in her eyes that really captured me. In all her splendour, there's a vulnerability to her.


This is turning into a week where I feel a little uncertain myself. So, I'll be glad when she's here to keep me company. You can find more beautiful prints and original artwork at Tush Tush on Etsy.

Oh, I know it's only Wednesday but I'm feeling midweek beat. Last night I thought I might give you a poem today. I suppose I had a poem in my head, one that I had not read yet. It's often like that. And I pull at books and read the first few lines until I feel the hook sink in. And I reel it in carefully, hoping it doesn't break free.

But I had no patience last night. I just wanted one big juicy one to swim up and jump into my net. And the more I read the more I thought about all those words, laboured over and just wasted on me in that moment. Until I felt like I didn't deserve to find a good one anymore. And I went to bed instead.

Update the basics

All the new collections pull my attention to colours and items that signify the change in weather, the allure of the months ahead. And I won't lie to you, little pops of pink and dusty rose have been following me home on still-chilly Toronto nights, finding a home in my closet and on my dressing table.

But what my wardrobe is really crying out for is a basics update. I lost some weight over the last few months (all that hot yoga!) and my jeans are falling off me, which is good, of course, but saggy-ass jeans are not a good look. Bulky winter knitwear got me off the hook for a while, but these concealment tactics won't work come Spring. So, new jeans are top of my list.


In happier basics, I need to buy a gazillion basic tees and tanks. I love Kain ones, they have such a lovely drape, great necklines and are super soft. I tend to layer a lot, so tees and cardis are my mainstay. I'll also be delighted to kick off winter footwear for once and all and get back into soft leather. I've been hankering for a pair of Dieppa Restrepos for seasons now.

The biggest splurge on here is the purse. I tend to like expensive purses, though I don't consider myself an IT-Bag girl. But I love a beautiful purse and care for them, letting them wear to the most sumptuous patina. And I've loved the PS1 for so long now. Will this be the year I invest? A girl can dream...

Products: Oxfords | Tee | Purse | Jeans

Grapevine Cottage

It feels like a long time since I went on a holiday that took me somewhere completely new. One that was accompanied by that feeling of discovery, but also nervousness; eyes searching at airports, maps hastily glanced at, locals tentatively approached. One that ended with a newly acquired sense of familiarity, of little spots staked out and made my own.


Mostly, of course, I go home when I can swing a vacation about every 2-3 years. And there are compelling reasons to go there—people to see, geography I hold close, familiar things oft-missed. And there's also a sense of responsibility to that trip: My parents won't visit me here, so we would never see each other if I didn't go home.


But I miss striking out to places new. I saw this cottage on Unique Home Stays. I've never had a holiday like this, staying at a beautiful house in a such an incredible setting. And I found myself fantasizing about it, trying to imagine really staying there.


I'm tired of simply overwriting old memories with updated versions of the same things. I feel like I'm too young to just beat that path back and forth between Dublin and Toronto. I used to relish discovery. And even this little fantasy felt liberating and exciting. Wouldn't it be lovely? Where would you go?


All images used with direct permission from Unique Home Stays.

Sunday best: Perfume and plaster

Yesterday, I got a brand new haircut and wandered around my streets. I had come home on Friday with perfume samples from Byredo and returned to Holts to purchase the one I fell in love with. New hair and new scent in one day; a lovely treat!

I went years and years with a single signature scent. But now I seem to want a range of options. Most days, I like decadent, dirty florals with citrus notes (Le Labo's Rose 31, Byredo's Rose Noir). But, the waterbaby in me can't resist scents that conjure salty beaches, like James Heeley's Sel Marin. Sometimes I spray it on my pillow so my dreams will be tangled up in seaweed.


Today, I'm working on my kitchen. Because I work in an office and on digital things all day, I relish this kind of work. Dad is one of those men who always did his own DIY and I was the little girl who wanted to be with her Daddy always, learning everything he was doing, handing him the right tools and remembering the difference between a Robertson and a Phillips.

I still relish that gradual progress; working in segments, eking results from slow repetitions of scraping and sanding. And I also feel that immediate and gratifying surge of pride when I step back and admire a job completed. It's not something I often experience at work, the beginning and ending is never so satisfactorily demarcated.

So that's my weekend really; flitting between perfume and plaster with the greatest of ease. And thinking about the me that was a little girl, how I often still feel so much like her and can see all those invisible threads through time. But also how I can't see her in the mirror anymore except in my eyes in certain moments when her candid hope suddenly returns.

Products: Stella lip gloss from Nars | Suno Melange Cardigan from La Garconne | James Perse tank from Net-a-Porter | Current/Elliott The Roller jeans from Net-a-Porter | Rose Noir by Byredo | Rachel Comey Derringer Oxford from Totokaelo | The Rose Garden by Maeve Brennan | Medium postman from M0851

Friday!

Hooray for Friday and a long weekend! I only found out yesterday that it's a holiday weekend... poor orphan immigrants like me don't have much use for Family Day, but I'll happily add another day to my weekend.


I came home full of nervous energy one day after work and ripped down my kitchen backsplash tiles. It's one of those projects I'd been mulling but hadn't landed firmly on. I would love new countertops and a tiled backsplash. But the wall needs spackling regardless and once that's done (with renter's reasoning) I'll probably just settle on paint.

It was a busy work week and I found myself unable to switch gears in the evening and do normal things. I so missed yoga! I'm hoping to go to lots of classes this weekend. And with my busy week, I also found myself behind on blog and book reading. So my weekend will have a healthy dose of both.

I did love these photos by Nicole Franzen this week. There are so many people doing amazing work in food and still life photography, I confess it sometimes melds together in my brain. But Nicole's work always carries a distinct and singular beauty all her own.

Margot wrote a moving post about interviewing and being influenced by Lillian Bassman. And I was also moved by this Irish Times story about David Kelly, who I had a huge soft spot for. I only wish I had seen his Krapp!

Can you believe February is already nearly over? You guys, it will be spring in no time!

Have a great weekend!

Biscuity

Ever since I watched the Clémence make-up video on Lisa Eldridge's site, I've found myself saying "mmm biscuity" whenever I'm confronted with beigey taupes. Mmm biscuity. You'll find yourself doing it too. Here are some things you can practice with. Biscuity goodness.


Photo of Clémence Poésy, via
Products: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

A poem for Tuesday

It's hard to know what to write on February 14th. I could tell you about notions of love, how I feel about certain people. I could tell you a story of sadness that ends with hope, or one of hope that ends with sadness. It all seems like a lot to take on. Instead, here's a poem I like very much by Mary Oliver.

The Dog Has Run Off Again
and I should start shouting his name
and clapping my hands,
but it has been raining all night
and the narrow creek has risen
is a tawny turbulence is rushing along
over the mossy stones
is surging forward
with a sweet loopy music
and therefore I don't want to entangle it
with my own voice
calling summoning
my little dog to hurry back
look the sunlight and the shadows are chasing each other
listen how the wind swirls and leaps and dives up and down
who am I to summon his hard and happy body
his four white feet that love to wheel and pedal
through the dark leaves
to come back to walk by my side, obedient.

Sunday best: Waiting for spring

I spent most of yesterday indoors, waiting for a furniture delivery (here's a peek!) while winter suddenly decided to hit Toronto. I usually like to get out the door early on the weekends, but it was actually nice to have a day indoors, to putter about, looking at paint chips for my kitchen and making cups of tea.


Today, with all my weekend chores done, I'll have the day to wander and sit around coffee shops, meet up with friends and read books.

February always strikes me as a cruel month (I feel that Eliot was wrong about it being April, at least if he was including Toronto). I'm always ready for spring when February hits, on the lookout for crocus buds and robins. But even this mild winter, it's too early and every day below zero seems like a cruel joke.

So, although there's snow on the ground, I can't bring myself to include snow boots in today's Sunday best (though that's what I'll be wearing) and because there isn't yet green on the trees, I reached for this blouse from Toast's new Spring collection. I'll probably find myself at the flower market today too, drawn to sunnier colours.

Wishing you a lovely Sunday!

Products: J Brand Denim 231 jeans from Net-a-Porter | Webb glasses from Warby Parker | Jil Sander Cashmere cardigan from Net-a-Porter | Mosaic top from Toast | Wild Bluebell Cologne from Jo Malone | Lip Glacé from Laura Mercier | Reed Krakoff Leather shoulder bag from Net-a-Porter | Archive leather boot from Madewell

Friday!

A rather disjointed five days - a little head cold threw me off my normal rhythm and left me feeling sensitive, feeling suddenly crummy about lots of different things and thinking too much about the past. I redeemed my week last night, though, going for a hot chocolate after work and then a long stroll. I walked fast up the hill, enjoying the exertion after two days of sniffles. Tonight, I'll go to yoga and stretch it all out.


I appreciate all comments on my posts, but I want to especially thank those who take the time to formulate responses to my more reflective posts, poetry etc. I know that it takes longer to wrap words around those kinds of ideas and I know (or at least I feel it when commenting on those kinds of posts other blogs) that it can feel like there's more pressure attached to those kinds of comments. So, I'm really grateful when readers take the time.

I also had a little guest-post this week over on (another) Jane's blog. She asked me to share 10 things I can't live without. I decided to focus on the micro, feeling like the big things are a given and that the little things that fill out our lives shouldn't be trivialized, even if they're pretty, material sorts of things. You can read the post here, and thanks to Jane for having me!

I want to congratulate Hila on her magnificent achievement this week: She finished her book and submitted it to her publisher and it has officially entered production. I can only imagine the sheer cathartic elation of this huge feat. Hila's blog is one I have profound respect and affection for, so I'm just chuffed for her in every way. I'm also chuffed for Anabela and Geoff, who worked on the latest Scout & Catalogue and did such a wonderful job. Their talent is boundless.

And that's me for the week. Have a good weekend, friends!

A poem for Thursday

I try to keep an eye on that fine line between enjoying silence and enjoying it a little too much. Without careful attention, silence can turn on you and quickly curdle into loneliness. And you don't know what happened, because you were happy up until that point and you think maybe it's something you lost, as if by accident, like dropping your keys or a ring sliding off your finger.

When you get really good at all of this, you can see it coming and push past your own resistance, out into the world. And I often wonder what it's like to be an extrovert and not crave that aloneness, to want to watch every experience bounce of walls and trees and people until it comes back to you, finally clear and comprehensible.

There's danger in all of it, so many ways to get hurt, of course. And the best you can hope for is some kind of balance, some kind of happiness in yourself and with others, finding the right ones to let in a little more than the rest. This is by Jack Gilbert.

Waiting and Finding
While he was in kindergarten, everybody wanted to play
the tomtoms when it came time for that. You had to
run in order to get there first, and he would not.
So he always had a triangle. He does not remember
how they played the tomtoms, but he sees clearly
their Chinese look. Red with dragons front and back
and gold studs around that held the drumhead tight.
If you had a triangle, you didn’t really make music.
You mostly waited while the tambourines and tomtoms
went on a long time. Until there was a signal for all
triangle people to hit them the right way. Usually once.
Then it was tomtoms and waiting some more. But what
he remembers is the sound of the triangle. A perfect,
shimmering sound that has lasted all his long life.
Fading out and coming again after a while. Getting lost
and the waiting for it to come again. Waiting meaning
without things. Meaning love sometimes dying out,
sometimes being taken away. Meaning that often he lives
silent in the middle of the world’s music. Waiting
for the best to come again. Beginning to hear the silence
as he waits. Beginning to like the silence maybe too much.

On mirrors and imperfect reflections

I've long been fascinated by lenses and optics, anything that bends and contorts, reflects and glows: Mercury glass, crystal balls, concave mirrors, prisms and lenses; the play of light and object, reflection and projection. Nowadays, we are surrounded by reflective surfaces. We inhibit most of them; the reflections from elevator doors and storefronts, from subway windows and car windshields. Still, even with all that, most of us don't seem closer to having an objective grasp of ourselves.


I'm always prepared to be surprised by my reflection. The lack of consistent feedback from mirrors can lead to utter confusion about what we really look like, about how we're objectively perceived. Mirrors mostly capture us unanimated and from a limited point-of-view. No wonder we're suspicious about how they hook up with reality. Of course, there are reflective surfaces in nature. But the first man-made mirrors were polished obsidian, dating back to 6000BC. This stone is black, so the reflection would have been somewhat obscured, like Narcissus' reflection.

Mirrors didn't evolve much beyond primitive pieces of glass until the pre-Renaissance. But by the 14th Century, convex mirrors were common and painters both employed mirrors to capture their subjects, but also featured them to show their skill, a sleight of hand like Van Eyck's famous mirror in The Arnolfini Wedding (Secret Knowledge by David Hockney is fascinating if you're interested in the use of lenses and optics in art).


In the 1600's, Murano was the heart of the mirror-making world. The technique was to apply tin and mercury to the back of glass. This was the best "objective" reflection a viewer had ever had and there ensued 100 years of espionage trying to hack the Murano formula. Louis XIV managed to lure a group of Venetian glassmakers to reveal their secret (they were then assassinated). But the cat was out of the bag - mirrors soon became ubiquitous.

In theory, a flat mirror presents a stable, exterior reflection of ourselves, not filtered through the perception of others. But we know too well that reflections offer no such objectivity, no such constancy. I remember when I was very young running inside from playing, I was breathless and giddy and had to change because there was mud on my dress. It was a rare occurrence to be upstairs on my own, and when I caught sight of my reflection in the dressing table mirror I was surprised. I looked calm, composed when I felt exhilarated and playful. I remember (and I must have been only six or seven) leaning in and look closer, to see if I could find myself in that reflection. And I remember crying when I couldn't.


We often seem to look to mirrors and reflections - literally and metaphorically - for a coherent narrative of self. If I've had a few glasses of wine I tend to do this, to see if my reflection matches my mood, or to look at my reflection for a clue as to what my mood really is. Perhaps we use the mirror, our reflection, as a talisman for introspection. I always think of Lizzy Bennett sizing up her reflection before blowing out her candle in the BBC Pride & Prejudice. Was that vanity or was she searching for a glimpse of her own mysterious inner world in her mirror image?

Siri Hustvedt: "Infants and most animals do not recognize themselves in mirrors. My dog Jack had no interest in his own reflection and had no idea that it belonged to him. At some moment in their development, human beings, some primates, elephants, and a species of dolphin are able to know they are looking not at others but at themselves. It is a privilege of the highly evolved. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan named this turn in human life the mirror stage (stade de miroir), identifying the moment when a child looks at her own reflection and sees herself as an externalized whole, as if she were gazing at herself through the eyes of another person. But most of the time we do not see ourselves whole. I see only parts of my body, my hands and part of my arm when I type, for example, or none of it when I stroll through the street taking in the sights and sounds and smells." (1)


But mirrors in all their multifarious manifestations are not the only reflectors; there are many other ways of viewing a reflection of yourself. Expressive art, certain writing, blogging all result in output that can be viewed as a reflection of self. Blogging is another way of holding up a looking glass to yourself. I'm always slightly surprised by the reflection that looks back at me from my blog. It's not fully me and yet it is wholly me. And I'm also aware of that narcissistic pull, of being drawn in too far, of substituting it for the real thing. And I'm sometimes guilty of doing that to other bloggers and artists too, falling for the smooth veneer of glass instead of inferring the much more flawed and complex reality.

Blogs aren't just reflections, though, they're also projections. Like art and conversation, poetry and theatre, they're a way of expressing something to others, not just staring at one's own visage. We send a part of ourselves into the world and others respond, a dialogue unfolds. Unlike mirror reflections, blogs and art remain once we've walked away from them, they have their own autonomy and are something in-of-themselves. They take on their own life independent of their maker, a life that sometimes grows beyond their maker's intention.


Is there such a thing as an accurate reflection? I'm not sure an objective external reality is any more fixable than a constant internal sense of self. David Hume: "Our thought is still more variable than our sight; and all our other senses and faculties contribute to this change: nor is there any single power of the soul, which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for one moment. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, repass, glide away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different, whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity." (2)

I'm inclined sometimes to think that the most accurate reflection of ourselves we see is neither in a mirror nor through introspection, but in the relational, the self you see reflected back in your most intimate friendships and relationships, the most frank and trusting kinds of exchanges. But those moments of being understood and understanding, of being fully revealed, unguarded and seeing one another can be fleeting too. We're constantly changing, aging, growing in and out of relationships and things. We refuse to be pinned down to one static self-portrait. So we mostly remain a mystery to ourselves, forever obscured from our own true reflection.


References:
(1) The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt, p. 49-50
(2) A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume, Book I, Part 4, Section 6 'Of Personal Identity'

Images:
1. Narcissus by Caravaggio (1597-1599), via Wikipedia
2. Obsidian mirror (c. 15th-16th C AD), from The British Museum
3. Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (c. 1524) | Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (Parmigianino), via Wikipedia
4. Detail from The Arnolfini Wedding (1434) by Van Eyck, via Wikipedia
5. Girl before a Mirror (1932) by Picasso, from MoMA
6. Self-Portrait with Leica by Ilse Bing (1931 and 1986), via Dieselpunks

Bedroom

In the next fortnight, I expect my bed to finally be delivered. It seems like ages ago that I went to Ethan Allen to help me make a final fabric selection. The fabric I settled on is the one you can see on this bench on their website. It's very neutral, but has a bit of sparkle with a metallic thread running through it.


My own bedroom, as the decorating cliche goes, is the room I tend most to neglect. When I purchase new accessories or artwork, I usually want them on show in my living room. And so my bedroom has never had the dedicated love it deserves. I hope this purchase will put me on the path to correcting that.

When I saw this bedroom on Skona Hem's website, I immediately felt cozy and relaxed and wanted to emulate the atmosphere of it. The books, the lights, the layered textiles all drew me in. And I love the touches of rose, my colour of the moment, as you all well know. This bedroom seems pretty and cozy without being cloying.

Image: Skona Hem

Sunday best: Colour pop

I had the loveliest day yesterday. It was the perfect Saturday; both leisurely and productive. I finally broke through that mental block I've had for the last few weeks and got a major task finished.

But there was also time to wander the neighbourhood and stop in all my favourite shops. At Nadege, I bought a pistachio pain au chocolat and my world changed forever. At Hollace Cluny, I daydreamed about cushions by Adam + Viktoria.


And I went to Gee Beauty to stock up on a few new products from the regime they prescribed me. Everywhere I went, people called me by my name and smiled and chatted. And I felt at home in the best possible way in my city.

This morning, I got up early and went to yoga. I'll spend the rest of the day reading, puttering and doing minor chores. I often go into weekends expecting too much from the two days and from myself; redemption and relaxation, productivity and unfettered joy. This weekend, as if by magic, I seem to have managed to have it all. I hope yours was similarly delightful.

In response to my colour posts, I often receive comments from readers saying they're drawn to the colours but always wear neutrals. Me too! Today's outfit seems incredibly colourful to me, but is in fact very safe and neutral. It's a good reminder that I can entertain that colourful purse or scarf or nail polish I'm suddenly drawn to and not feel like it means redefining my style from the ground up. The neutral / colour thing might be another example of when over-identifying becomes narrowing in the end.

Products: Girl by Band of Outsiders Crepe blazer from Net-a-Porter | ELA MILCK Clutch from The Code | MiH Jeans Paris mid-rise cropped jeans from Net-a-Porter | United Bamboo Border Knit Pullover from La Garconne | Etro Paisley-print linen and silk-blend scarf from Net-a-Porter | April & June nail polish from Chanel | Lewis collier pêche from Titlee | Honolulu Honey lipstick from NARS | Jil Sander Wave Flat from La Garconne

Friday!

Don't you feel better now it's February? I know I do.

January ended on a good note though; a pretty snow storm and an e-mail letting me know I've won a first prize Canadian Web blog Award for Writing & Literature, which was a very pleasant surprise.


The snow has all melted now (it evaporated that very same afternoon) and it's abundantly and alarmingly spring-like here. I have to say, earlier on I missed winter, but I'm rolling with this weather now - happy to think about frocks and flimsier shoes (there were lilacs for sale at the grocery store last night!)

I'm yearning for easy intimate days. But I've got bigger fish to fry with work that's hoarding my attention, leaving me spent most days. If I get through the next few weeks, hopefully I'll be rewarded with some of those sweeter days at the end of it.

The loveliest thing by far on my blogosphere this week was this house wedding on Miss Moss. If I ever got married I would like it to be this domestic and sweet with dogs on laps and pies in the oven. Also, if you liked Hila's new year poem as much as I did, you'll be happy to know it's been turned into a print. Get yours here.

I loved this post on Leslie Williamson's blog, not just because I share her love of Francesca Woodman (I always admired her small scale prints, that drawing you into a one-on-one exchange between artwork and percipient). But also because I was still thinking about identification this week after writing about Maeve Brennan. And I liked this take on it.

All this week I was too daydreamy and distracted to be much good to anyone, least of all to be productive in my free time. I seemed mostly to flip between escapist fantasies and fretful "shoulding", neither good productive places to be. I hope to get back on track this weekend, but also to buy flowers and spend a little time gazing out of windows.

Have a lovely weekend!

Rose

It started out innocently enough. I wanted the perfect shade of pink nail polish. Not one of those ballerina pinks; something with more presence. More of a dusty rose, just the pretty side of muddy. I found it at the Chanel counter and it's called Rose Confidential.


And then I wanted more. I went to the florist. It was easy to come by there. Then I thought of Bellinis and peach granita and the colour washed over me, mouthwatering and cold. And since this winter doesn't know whether it wants to be warm or cool, I think this is the perfect shade, because it's at once enveloping and refreshing, as well as clearly and unashamedly romantic... The perfect hue for February.

Products / image credits: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11

Inspiring women: Maeve Brennan

I've been thinking lately that I'd like to reread some of Maeve Brennan's stories. I went through a phase when I entirely loved her, perhaps over-identified her as I was trying to find a way to understand what I was doing with myself. It was a phase when I found it difficult to reconcile journalism with my aspirations as a writer, when I found myself wincing explaining to former academic colleagues that I now wrote about fashion and beauty.


I was clearly at odds with myself... on the one hand vigorously defending these things as important modes of aesthetic expression, as extensions of ourselves and ways of communicating our personality to the world. But I was also wary of the pure materialistic connotations, the shallowness of the style world, all the conspicuous consumption that goes with it.

I still have a tug-of-war relationship with fashion and decor in this respect, perhaps even more, as I age. I find myself filled with wonder that people can sustain those conversations for decades, beyond arriving at their own happy home and sense of style. My passion always seems so much more subjective and mutable.


Anyway, as I felt all these things I was drawn to Maeve Brennan. She worked at Harper's Bazaar in the 1940's but also wrote lovely wistful stories. Of course, we share a motherland and a North American migration, perhaps also heartbreak at a young age that drove us to strike out further than the rest of our family. It was an instant and obvious kinship that served a purpose when I was a certain age, at a certain time.

I don't identify with her in that way anymore. But I do still admire her writing. And I feel like she's sadly forgotten and uncelebrated. She had a little resurgence when the Bourke biography came out, but seems to have faded just as fast. It's easy to lead with the rumour that Brennan was the inspiration for Truman Capote's Holly Golightly. But she was also a serious writer striving to make her mark on the literary world of the 1940’s and 50’s. If you're unfamiliar with her work, it's worth taking a dip into.


Books: The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from The New Yorker | The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin | The Rose Garden: Short Stories (Scarcrow)
Biography: Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker by Angela Bourke

Images via Life Archive, here, here and here.