Photos Sources: Shirley Movie Poster
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be offered to watch a movie of my choice during the London Film Festival. I chose Shirley because I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the author Shirley Jackson, and it was. Plus, Elisabeth Moss shows her amazing talent once again. The movie is a biographical drama, not a documentary, so the events depicted are fictitious, but blended with true facts about the character’s lives. In any case, it made me curious and wanting to read more on my own about the mysterious and troubled author. I found this particular article very interesting!
Earlier this year, I listened to Shirley Jackson’s story The Witchcraft of Salem Village, as it was (and still is!) offered for free by Audible. I didn’t know much about it, so I found it very engaging, especially thinking that it portrays real events. This past weekend I decided to read one of Jackson’s most acclaimed books – The Haunting of Hill House – and although I can’t remember when was the last time I read a full book in a weekend, I think it was mainly my curiosity that drove me, rather than the story itself, which had a bit of an anti-climax for my taste.
Still, especially if you are a fan of the horror genre, I think it is definitely worth picking up Shirley Jackson’s work and I will most likely give We Have Always Lived in the Castle a go when a copy will come my way, to form a better opinion for myself.
I have always held a fascination for old buildings and I am still dreaming of my own Escape to the Chateau adventure which almost happened a few years ago. With that in mind, stumbling upon the concept of urbex, short for urban exploration, often targeting impressive abandoned houses, gave a name to my passion and helped me find a lot of content to feed it.
If you share my interest and would answer ‘Absolutely!’ to an invitation to break into, for example, an abandoned Italian Renaissance palace, just search for urbex on YouTube and be ready to spend more time than you will care to admit, admiring unbelievable abandoned buildings in which you would move in tomorrow, if given the chance. Or maybe it’s just me?
Photos Sources: Baile Herculane Abandoned Spa Resort, The Grand Hotel in the Abandoned Town of San Pellegrino (birthplace of San Pelegrino iconic sparkling water brand)
Villas in Italy and castles in France are my kinks, but you can find various types of locations in many places. If you are lucky, there is already a community of urbex enthusiasts where you are and they will certainly have a list! And sometimes the list includes entire iconic towns, spa resorts or party castles.
My Chatelaine Pen(cil)
Photos Source: Miss Onion
The chateau mood and sub-theme is still strong this week, and I wanted to share one thing I own and sometimes wear that makes me feel like a true chatelaine, with good reason, because it is actually a chatelaine pen. As far as I could find out about it, mine is a vintage/antique silver retractable pencil from the 20s, but the idea of a chatelaine as an accessory to be worn by the lady of the house to help her keep handy all sorts of useful small tools and trinkets (think sewing, reading and writing accessories, keys, coins purse, watches and more) is much older.
You can see here some amazing examples from the V&A archive, most dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and this one was bought by Queen Victoria herself. As the book pictured above highlights, chatelaines are at the same time useful and adorning, exquisite little ornate tools.
It’s compelling to think that my pen(cil) once hung among other similarly delicate objects, from the belt of a lady living in the previous’ century roaring 20s!
It might look strange today walking around with a pair of scissors, a magnifying glass, or a seal stamp hanging from one’s belt, but these have definitely been replaced by other items we wouldn’t mind keeping to hand and displaying while out and about – our phones, AirPods, port-cards, glasses and whatnot.
I think this accessory could be quite useful (especially for a mom who could always use to have both hands free) and I have been looking into some less ruinous options on Etsy and the like, but with not much success so far, to be honest. Maybe I just need to look at some separate pieces that would come together nicely, as I have seen a few very cool looking leather body harnesses.
Bonus exquisite find, if you are interested in fashion and style and like to have a look at the seasonal collections for inspiration and to spot trends (that’s what I do!) is to know that you can find these on Vogue, including menswear, resort, couture and haute couture, plus an archive going back to the ‘80s. You can see the full collections, as well as a gallery of photos of the details, which I always find rather fascinating.
Reading with a Pen
I mention my chatelaine pen(cil) above and I believe the images reveal its purpose and the reason why I find it so convenient (apart from uncommon and chic), and it is because I like to have it handy when reading.
There it is, I am obviously one of those people who don’t believe in keeping a book in pristine shape. On the contrary, I am rather committed to dog-ears and marking my books (in case the ex libris stamp didn’t reveal as much last week).
I love this post by Austin Kleon on Reading with a Pencil and how it might be getting a reader a step closer to becoming a writer. I am nowhere near that myself, I haven’t yet unlocked the marginalia hack, but I am a heavy underliner and user of punctuation marks on the side of the text, if that counts!
I often go back to some of my favourite books to re-read a passage that spoke to me, like this one! On a slightly different note, this is, in my opinion, the main downfall to audiobooks, the fact that I am not as invested in the text, but more in the narrator’s storytelling, and that there is no easy way to capture a quote even if I were.
Janet Hill Coven
Photo Source: Janet Hill Studio
All this talk about horror movies and books, abandoned grand mansions and chatelaines has made me think of the paintings of Janet Hill. I absolutely delight in her style, I have been a devoted admirer for years and I keep dreaming of buying one of her originals one day, although they disappear in seconds after she posts them and the only time I managed to catch a glimpse at the price my worst fears were confirmed, although there is no doubt about it being absolutely justified!
Her universe is a distinctive blend of whimsical, mysterious, surreal, yet tasteful and luxurious. I love the colours, the slight blur of the images, the unexpected details you discover with each new viewing. She is not only a painter and a writer, but also a brilliant fashion designer, decorator and landscapist for the characters, interiors, gardens and places she portrays. Impeccable taste, I would be happy to live in a world curated by her!
If you love her art you can buy her brilliant cards, her stationery, her art prints, as well as her exquisite books. She has a Shocktoberfest going on until midnight on Saturday, with 20% off of everything on her website and Etsy. She’s also on Instagram – a constant stream of the best kind of inspiration!
Of course, after all the Janet Hill inspiration, you will say that the best way to use an old (heavily) ornate frame is to display one of her original paintings, and I totally agree. Still, because frames are somehow easier to come by than amazing art, I bring you this really lovely idea for a large frame you might not know what to do with. How about a mood board or a real-life pinboard? I particularly like the first example and the creative use of leftover wallpaper, providing a vibrant canvas for other smaller works of art or inspiring images. But the second example would definitely bring out more the various elements pinned and is more practical if used as a ‘working’ space, rather than a decor element. Yet another prime DIY idea, to be sure!
If this letter has offered you a moment of inspiration, kindly forward it to others who might enjoy it too. And if you have been forwarded it, indulge in all previous Miss Onion’s Exquisite Finds and subscribe to the weekly letter.