I love Japanese clothes but in England they are hard to find, expensive and unless you are extremely petite, usually a little on the small side. Thankfully, I just found these great new books called Feminine Wardrobe: Twenty-One Beautiful Skirts, Dresses and Tops for You to Make, and Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops, so that I can now make my own! The books are part of a series of Japanese sewing books, all reprinted in English and published by Laurence King. They feature lots of very wearable clothes in simple shapes that have just the right amount of Japanese quirk to stop them being boring. The instructions come through a series of simple, step-by-step diagrams, as well as actual-size patterns included in the back so they are really easy to follow. I have my eye on several of the designs and hope to make a couple in the coming months.
I love Jon Klassen's illustrations in this new book by Lemony Snicket. The Dark tells the story of Laszlo, a lovely little boy who leads a strangely solitary existence and is scared of the dark. Klassen's nostalgic illustrations are delightful, embracing a warm rosy palette combined with the bold forms of the ever lurking blackness. If you have ever been scared of the dark, I thoroughly recommend you read this book!
I love these handmade cloth books by Victoria van der Laan. Victoria has been making things since 1976 and has an etsy shop selling her charming custom-made books for babies, kids and adults. I'm very impressed with her range of topics - there are books on science, dinosaurs, woodland creatures, musical instruments, fruit, mammals and transport to name just a few! Each book features interesting and non-traditional applique images as well as having a stylish typographic front cover. If you want a personalised book, Victoria can also embroider a child's (or adult's) name on the front, making a wonderful and very unique gift.
Iain McKell's photographic portraits of travellers exude a sense of family, community and freedom. These new Gypsies are here by choice, not heritage. Unrelated to the Roma, the movement began in 1986 when a group of Post-Punk, Anti-Thatcher protesters headed out of London into the English countryside. McKell followed these New Age Travellers to the West Country and over the years, watched them become a hybrid tribe - the new gypsies - present-day rural anarchists, living their subversive lifestyle in elaborately decorated horse-drawn caravans. Known as 'Horse-drawn', these new gypsies share a desire for sustainability, a love of self-reliance and a disdain for the trappings of contemporary life. To see more of McKell's romantic, strange and beautiful photographs, check out his book The New Gypsies.
Lucie Rie is hands-down my favourite potter. Her restrained elegance is something I aspire to (and fail miserably to achieve) in every pot I make. I love her bold use of scraffito - simple marks scratched through the surface of the clay - which highlight the form of each pot. However, my favourite pieces are her whiteware. Thrown, then altered, with the lips subtly dipped in manganese, these pieces are so simple and so beautiful that I could gaze at them all day.
I am currently reading Lucie Rie: Modernist Potter by Emmanuel Cooper. It is a brilliant biography and places her life and pots in context. From her training in Vienna to her exile in London through to the creation of her then 'challenging' modern style, she comes across as a wonderfully direct, hardworking and astute lady.