Jane Flanagan


There is quiet in the city. It must be why I love the dead of night so much. A big dose of quiet soothes the lingering effects of a Monday with a few low notes. But let's end the day recounting the high notes.

1. I had fun compiling a new blog post for House & Home today. It'll be posted tomorrow so I hope you'll swing by the read it. Pretty sure the technology doesn't exist yet for me to link you to something that isn't even posted yet, so I hope your nose won't be too out of joint to find your way over there on your own.

2. I was very pleased to register today at englishdecoration.com to be kept abreast of all developments on the topic of Ben Pentreath's new book English Decoration. I have two thoughts: a) how did he manage to get the url englishdecoration.com - can't believe it was available. b) do I dare hope for a book tour with a Toronto stop?

3. I read some of Jane's blog today. An elegant and true voice, always.

4. I worked a 12-hour day at the office to try to get ahead on a few things and came home to a delicious dinner made, plated and ready. So lucky.

5. I had a lovely time exploring the work of Briggs Edward Solomon this evening. Many of the images familiar from Pinterest but several I had never seen before. The one above captures a state of mind I am striving for: bright, clean and uncluttered. I have been feeling the need to off-load lately. This morning I finally said goodbye to a favourite pair of silver flats that I've been wearing around the house despite gaping holes in each sole. Time to get rid of that stuff Margot! 

rest in peace lillian bassman


The world lost a great talent today. Photographer Lillian Bassman passed away at the age of 94.

I was so thrilled to have the chance to interview her about 12 years ago. Her work was truly the convergence of art and commerce: Fashion photography to sell and promote garments that seem an afterthought at best and are utterly undistinguishable at times. It's an observation made by National Post writer Nathalie Atkinson, who just reviewed Bassman's latest book, Lillian Bassman Lingerie, in the Saturday paper. It's an observation also made by editors at Harper's Bazaar when Bassman was shooting for the magazine in the '50s and '60s – and the fodder for many disagreements, as she told me. As a longtime magazine editor I considered Bassman's story a cautionary tale. I imagine the editors with advertisers breathing down their long fashionable necks, "Who is this you have photographing my dress. I can't even see it in the photo. How is my customer supposed to recognize it and find it at Saks?" And yet then there is the work – the utterly breathtaking work. Sometimes the art must come first, the commerce will take care of itself.

Bassman's art began with obviously incredible skill communicating with extraordinary models. I don't forget their role. She mastered light to get a shot, but the click of the shutter was far from being the completion of her task. Through darkroom manipulation and, later, Photoshop, Bassman explored every nuance of light, shadow, fabric, shape.

One of the stories Lillian Bassman told me that stuck with me over the years is that the rule of publishing at the time dictated that any model being photographed in lingerie, or any state of undress should have her face partially obscured in the interest of modesty. Look again at these photos. It's fascinating to do so once you know this. I recalled this story reading a post Jane Flanagan did a while back on Faceless photos. They are so dreamy and often a bit sad. And a variation on this idea, I also find Jen Gotch's defaced self portraits haunting.

But back to Lillian Bassman. I leave you with just a few of my favourites from her vast body of work. I just hope someday to own one. Someday.

I turned a version of the one above (notice how the model's neck is extended and chin up in mine) into a silhouette for my former apartment (displayed it with a famous Man Ray portrait of Coco Chanel that also got the silhouette treatment) PS. UGH, I friggin' hate that this was shot with the lamp on - forgive me Lillian Bassman!:

A postcard of this one – the promo for the exhibit which was the occasion for my interview with her – lived on my mantel for a time (notice that the image is flipped for the postcard):

rest in peace Lillian Bassman. Thank you for your art.


show and tell and more

'Memba the other day when I was telling you how much I'm loving orange? Well, here's a recent orange purchase I wanted to bring here for Show and Tell. So, get a load of the cuteness/coolness of this set. It's Japanese and I guess I would call it a coffee set. But man, those cups are petite -- back in the day when this was made (I'm guessing the '70s) they sure didn't swill coffee by the vente cup -- a vente likely wouldn't even fit in the pot. The 4 cups, pot and cream and sugar set me back all of $4. Can you believe? I found it at one of my fave thrift haunts: Hidden Treasures in the lovely village of Tweed, ON, where I spend as many weekends as I can. The place lives up to its name time and time again. 

And speaking of Hidden Treasures, I gave it a recco recently in the pages of STYLE AT HOME, along with the Bridgewater Trading Co antique co-op in Tweed and Funk N Grüven, an antiques shop in Belleville. This week I received a kind of a snippy handwritten letter from a reader from a town near Tweed. She felt compelled to remind me (on the piece of lined yellow scratch pad paper she chose as stationery) that Hidden Treasures is a thrift store that supports a charity and I really should have suggested that people make donations in addition to buying items there. Oy vey, a gal can't win! Mea culpa baby.

And 2 more topics for today:

1. The nature of blog content.

I don't want to get into the details, but between a very demanding work sched and some very important days spent at the hospital with my parents, I've experienced some blog ennui. So much of the goings on hereabouts seem just so very unimportant in the big picture. Who cares what 10 furniture items I hate? Who cares how cool it is to paint your floor white? Who cares what designers and bloggers are in the in-crowd? Who cares about seeing yet another shot from the Domino archive? Right now I don't care about many of these things. I also recently read Jane's post about keeping up with the bloggers here and overheard Jane and Chelsea on Twitter about the endless re-hashing of content and I kinda agreed. I'm certainly guilty (as recently as yesterday!) of this and would like to change things up a bit. I'm going to work on that. Ennui begone!

2. My photo above. 

Here's just a tiny step in the direction of offering something new here. The photo of my beloved coffee set is a shot I took while messing around with my iPhone. It's the Hipstamatic app with the Jimmy lens and Kodot film.