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Eau de Nil

I love to have Brocante finds and personal objects I love on my desk. I worked from home since 2001 and making a home office that felt comfortable and workable was important. We recently completed my accounts office and a studio above at the factory. Both have desks. One is a nod at my love of retro 1950’s; the studio is simply warehouse loft style with pallet parapet, cement block walls and metal stairs and furniture.

Tony’s desk
Paint in progress
The renovated old bookcase.
Pen holders – France and Jersey and the little pin dish
An antique French box iron

On a recent Brocante trip I found a jug and a pot in the turquoise green I love, a sort of eau de nil shade, very French from the meaning water of the Nile and borrowed from Egypt by Gustave Flaubert from the small boat he travelled on in 1849, on the ubiquitous young gentleman’s travels to the Orient. It’s a colour he found difficult to describe and it’s exactly this that appeals to me. Slightly grey, then green, but blue with yellow.

The name of the base is l’heronniere but I cannot trace a maker.

Napoleon also obsessed about Egypt and the colour reoccurs in many decorative pieces at that time and slowly developed into one of my favorite periods, 19th century Art Nouveau, also of French origin, with its heavily stylized plant images and pale porcelain faced women, using this watery Nile shade for backgrounds, highlights and to set off the bright jewel colours of jade, crimson, ultramarine and lemon. As the century progressed and pale greys and beiges took over, eau de nil became an accent colour instead.

Old bookcase. Wax finish over acrylic paint.

Reminiscent of pearls and twin sets on the 1950’s, Grace Kelly wore this in Rear Window, as did Tippy Hendren in The Birds and being a big fan of Hitchcock too, this colour I use as much as I can and where the studio could have become too stark with grey, yellow ochre and timber, this little watery green provided a soft pop of colour. Tony’s graphic drawings needed a soft background. Perfect. I needed a bookcase for objects I love. A perfect shade to adapt.

Back to my pots. Favorite colour and useful along with my other favorite material, pewter. Softer looking and less shiney than silver, and cheaper too, but easier to accommodate in interiors than say copper or brass which needs cleaning often and looks a little too rural, I grab any pieces I can. This was from an shop in Rochester back in England.

My little seahorses dish came from my mum. She went to Jersey just once and bought this from the Jersey Pottery Company. It sat on a radiator shelf for years. Then in the 1980’s banished to a drawer as old fashioned. Luckily it wasn’t thrown away and tidying up the house after she passed away, along with the 1960’s scissor wallet in blue tapestry, the little seahorse came to France.

The Jersey Pottery Company was founded in 1946 after the UK government banned the production of decorative ware in the UK but not in the Chanel Islands. It is still family owned and the decision to give factory tours in the 1950’s sparked a regeneration of interest in local homeware which teached its zenith in the 1970’s hippie movement. When so many manufacturers later turned to China, its good to see this little company reinventing itself so many times to match economic fallout. Their trademark sea images of crabs, fishes, seahorses and puffins are still popular and their Neptune service uses my favorite eau de nil shade too!

I even have this shade on my deck house.

Lovely Heff. Don’t trip on that string!

And finally my little box iron. These lovely irons wete filled with hot coals or iron pieces known as ‘slugs heated on the fire and with a little beeswax on the bottom, smoothed those starched French cotton sheets a treat. I have boxes of these sheets, from fine white with monogrammed corners, to heavy wide woven creamy cotton almost like sacking. The new generations want new or poly cotton. I am collected for making cusions and other products and for outdoors in the summer…sail type shades and hammocks and table runners. My steam iron is honestly useless. After five minutes of back and forth and pushing with all my effort down on the flimsy plastic and pressed steel body, I would have had more luck flattening it, by sitting on it for half hour with a tea and biscuits!

The iron is therefore going into action. I can’t see it being any harder. No stupid leads. I can use a damp hanky like my Nan used too for steaming and the slugs will stay hot enough in the oven to swap as needed.

I looked this little iron up on Etsy and was shocked to find sale prices of €75 to €125 as they became more ornate. I picked mine up for €4 along with two flat irons that act as paper weights.

Maybe I should sell irons? Too many irons in the fire maybe right now….but one IS on the horizon.

New business

With our factory completion late this year, 2021 is an exciting time for us. Having finally retired from accountancy and tax I am going back to design. Inspired by my little seahorse and the local hedgerows and my menagerie of feathered friends, we are pulling together a range of ceramic ware to sell online. With period hints of 1950’s through to 1970’s in the line up, it will be an eclectic mix of styles but with enough Francophile to fill a bon bon jar full!

Will update you with the trials and tribulations in due course.

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