Sunday, 21 November 2010

Preparing for the chill

These photos were taken a mere five weeks ago, on the weekend before my operation. Yet how much has changed since then... On that particular weekend I felt the need to run around, cramming in as much as was creatively possible. During the course of two days I made my 'scoliodress', persuaded dad to take pictures of me in it, spent half a day styling and taking photos of my mum in a shoot yet to be posted, and generally rushed around in a squirrel-like manner - hoarding creative nuts for winter sustenance! However, it yielded some satisfying results, and the final activity on Sunday evening was wandering out into the Autumn light, among the leaves, to have these photos taken by my mum.

I'm not usually one for very short dresses or outfits (and I am wearing denim shorts underneath here!), but looking back I notice that even though I felt I was embracing the impact of the curve of my spine, I had perhaps started subconciously dressing to highlight the parts of my body that weren't twisted, or weren't going to change - ie, my legs. The further away I get from my operation, the more and more I feel like surgery was absolutely the right decision. The brain has an amazing capacity to ignore pain and discomfort if it can, but in retrospect I can see that I put up with a lot of back pain most of the time. And no-one could dispute the visual impact of the way my back looked. However, the funny thing is that I'm now wearing dresses that really should be classed as tunics, simply because I can - no rib humps or sticking out shoulders to stop me...

I'm also determined to get the creative impulse flowing again, and am working on sketching two more scoliosis inspired designs to ultimately create a triptych of dresses.

I bought the jumper featured in this post from a charity shop stall at the Big Chill music festival; there's something about navy jumpers that are always classic. I then added some patterned tights and high heels, both bought using my Next gift voucher. The necklace, made up of imperfect cultured pearls, is my mum's - another twisted nature reference. Each one has its own beautiful, distorted shape. The leather handbag belonged to my great grandma. The - er - leaf hair 'accessories' were found at the scene! I've always liked blue and yellow together... Expanding on what I said about missing autumn in the last post, I felt that as well as cramming in creativity on that weekend, I also wanted to try to experience as much of the outdoor season as possible  - like I wanted to saturate each of my five senses with Autumn in the knowledge that everything that came after would be a completely unkown quantity. Leaves always fall, seasons always change, but I didn't know what the next week held for me.

Back to mention of the Big Chill above, I thought I'd share a few photographs I took there of various singers. I've finally had time to sort through them, doing the necessary cropping and deleting of blurred shots... These are my four favourite images:

 The stunning Skye Edwards of Morcheeba, whose lilting voice was very hypnotic, as were the feathers on her dress that soared gently as she sang!

The beautiful Beth Jeans Houghton, who was my favourite new find of the festival - I subsequently bought her EP 'Hot Toast' on iTunes. She has an almost silvery voice, and her songs are intensely addictive. Last summer I had a feeling about Marina and the Diamonds (I was right) and imminent recognition, and this time it's Beth!

And finally, what was possibly the highlight of the Big Chill for me, the powerful Paloma Faith (apologies for all the alliteration here!) She is a very dynamic performer - oozing with stage presence! And as she so perfectly summed up her Quality Streets-esque chocolate wrapper outfit - "Life's a box of chocolates, then you wear one".

I'm having a very quiet Sunday evening after a wonderfully hectic two days, surrounded by very dear old family friends and delicious food. I even managed to perform in a short made-up play (involving a haunted lake! I'll say no more..) that all four children/ teenagers devised for the adults. I needed some time like that - it's nice to forget about the arduous recovery process for a couple of days. And I had an additional two big treats, in the form being bought a rust coloured Mad Men style vintage dress, and an Orla Kiely pattern book which I have been lusting over for a while.

The mummy's scissors necklace project is still moving forward, and I'm really enjoying seeing each new creation! As promised, here is the updated list of all those involved so far:

Please do let me know if I've forgotten anyone. Thank you again to every single, wonderful participant. And I can't wait to see some other versions that people have said they are planning/ making! Please do keep the ball rolling - I want to see how far this stretches!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Jumble sales and treasure troves

As you may be able to tell from the shorter length of my torso here, these photos were taken pre-op. Even now I'm still shocked sometimes by how out of proportion my body was - I suppose there was a certain state of denial, and it's easier to look directly at things like that in retrospect. As I said previously, I feel like I just want to show images of clothes on my 'new', untwisted shape.

I bought this pair of velvet trousers at possibly one of the most fruitful jumble sales I've ever attended. My brother and I had been at a local art workshop, and as my mum picked us up she mentioned that she'd seen a flyer. Now, in our area, jumble sales are like new Governments - they only appear every four years or so, and hardly ever live up to expectations. (Don't get me started on the rise in tuition fees to hit UK universities - for a girl who hopes to apply to Oxford or UCL to study English Literature, I am not happy.) However, this jumble sale was surprisingly reliable.
We walked in, I headed over to the piles of clothes scattered over table tops and started rifling. Slowly a growing pile of garments were slung over one arm: men's silk shirts, a welsh wool full length skirt, a reversible black and camel cape, belts, coats... Once I was ready to topple under the weight of  my finds, I figured it was time to pay. For fifteen-odd items? A little under eleven pounds.
As I was handing over what felt like a pitiful amount for the bulging bin bag of clothes, the elderly woman on the stall said, "Oooh, there's some nice new things here too!" Luckily, it seemed I was the only one there interested in the old. However, everything went home and into the wash before I could try anything on.

One of the treasures found that day were these brown velvet Jaeger trousers.Who had owned them in that rural village, I can't imagine, but I'm so glad they decided to donate them!
Here I turned up the bottoms slightly to make them 'ankle grazing' (a technique I like to use for slightly too short trousers - which is a bit of a recurring issue for me). I styled them with a khaki silk shirt given to me by my paternal grandma, and a Jaeger charity shopped belt. I bought the hat from a charity shop stall at the Big Chill, and the silk scarf tied around it is also 70s Jaeger. So. it makes this post is a bit of a Jaeger-fest. My love for vintage items from this British brand has not dimmed one bit, and the collection is ever growing. I'm also wearing my favourite owl necklace (the nearest thing I have to a lucky charm), a vintage leather watch and some charity shopped wedges. Only about another three weeks before I'm allowed to wear heels again... I'm told that they shouldn't be worn until at least six weeks after surgery, and luckily I'm not a walking-in-heels wearer anyway; they're strictly for the odd social occasion and for photos.

The patchwork bag also came from the incredible jumble sale. I noticed it as my mum and I jointly hauled out my bag of swag, and mum scrabbled in her purse for some remaining coins. Unfortunately there was also a rather delectable child's briefcase, and only being able to afford one, I chose the latter. However, we had a good search of the pockets, footwells and glove compartments in the car and managed to scavenge the requisite 80p to go back and purchase this one too!

My mum took the photos of me in September. I missed a lot of Autumn while I was in hospital, and then convalescing - the trees are now nearly all bare, and frost carpets the grass in the mornings. Great for winter walks, but I do miss those traffic light shades on the trees. I suppose there's always next year.

Recovery is a lengthy process. Slow and steady may win the race, but it sure does get frustrating along the way. I'm not naturally pre-disposed to 'taking it easy', and not being able to hold my camera for more than roughly seven minutes is hard. I'm finding going on the computer particularly difficult - as, if I sit up to type then my shoulders begin hurting very quickly, but if I lie down then the typing is arduous and strains my arms. It's a bit of a lose-lose situation for now, and it's the reason why I haven't been doing as much blogging, emailing or replying to really wonderful comments as I'd like to.
However, considering it's only a little over three and a half weeks since surgery, it's pretty good progress. And I still think every day how lucky I am that this operation has changed my future for the better. I'm enjoying home-schooling myself and getting to have lots of artistic time too.

I also have my giveaway to announce! When I thought about doing a giveaway, I didn't realise how hard it would be to judge. I had so many creative styling ideas and thoughtful interpretations to choose from - I wish I had more pairs to give away.
However, after a tricky decision process, I'm going to give the pairs to:

Adela of Pink Champagne who said she would style them with: "a full 50's-style black skirt with lacey black fishnet tights and 90's grunge boots, complete with a knitted gradma-chic black shawl and vintage fishnet mitts, and topped off with slightly teased out hair and a 40's black pillbox hat with a net veil. I would wear the scissor pendant around my neck, and call the look "Edwarda Scissorhands".


Nancy of the Sway Report who said she'd put them with "a silk floral printed dress, black tights, striking equestrian boots, and a black victorian jacket. If the dress was light enough, and everything else being black, then a striking color for the scissors like red or emerald green would really stand out!"

I will be contacting both of them direct, and Hope and Nancy, if you're reading this could you send your addresses to my email (at the top of the page, right hand side) so I can dispatch them shortly. Thank you so much to everyone who entered, and hopefully I'll be holding other giveaways in the future.

I spent ages putting up a list of links to all the new people who have created wonderful and imaginative pairs of mummy's scissors, but Blogger decided that not only was it not going to co-operate, it was also going to refuse to save the last half an hour's work on this post and delete it when I tried to put it up. So for now just please take a look at the original mummy's scissors list (a few posts down) which I will try to update, and I'll attempt to edit again tomorrow when I'm not feeling frazzled and annoyed with all things computer-related.

I'm off to watch Mad Men - it's slowly but surely turned into a family addiction. We're just about to start on the third series...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

She was never lovelier (Part 1)

My latest (well, one of the last ones before my operation) behind the camera venture was with the ever gorgeous Zoe. After poring over my well-cherished Richard Avedon and Irving Penn photography books, I decided I wanted to try something new - namely an entirely monochrome shoot. From there, everything slotted into place. I flicked through my moodboard book (invaluable for providing inspiration),  and found one I'd put together based on Hollywood Glamour. Couple this with a few recently watched vintage movies such as Top Hat and Sabrina, and the idea was born.
In fact, the title of this post is a referemce to a Fred Astaire film called 'You were never lovelier'. He was a mesmerising dancer. Having said that, so were Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor (not to mention Debbie Reynolds) in 'Singin' in the Rain' - my new favourite film!
 I took the idea of Zoe being a thirties or forties screen siren - beautiful clothes, a natural grace and classic looks. I really love working in black and white. It's an interesting exercise in focusing on lines, shapes and light rather than being distracted by colours. Although I don't feature them on my blog, I work a lot in doing black and white portraiture too. I will never tire of being fascinated by the human face - from baby to great-grandma. Most of my friends and family are now used to me whipping out my camera discreetly and hovering surreptitiously.

For the first look, I styled Zoe in a thirties black lace dress belonging to my mum, over a thrifted black body-con dress. Zoe had to gingerly climb over a gate in this ensemble, with me watching nervously, praying the nothing would happen to the fragile lace.. I added my favourite vintage belt (it belonged to my paternal grandma), a glass bead necklace from my maternal great-grandma and some charity shopped peep toe shoes.

Part of the second outfit already had an outing on my blog a long time ago, albeit in a much more colourful shoot (To the lighthouse). This absolutely amazing skirt was given to me by mum's second cousin. The swirling panels have been stitched together in such a way that it flares out at the bottom - perfect for twirling around in! To this I added a charity shopped black top, a crystal pendant that used to belong to my great-grandma, and some Mary-Janes I used to own and subsequently gave to Zoe.

The third (taken in front of some velvet curtains artfully draped over the tree house in our garden!) is a satin evening coat that was bought by my mum ages ago at a flea market, for fifteen pounds. Yes, let me repeat that - fifteen pounds!!Aren't the buttons amazing? She's also wearing an art deco necklace I've had since I was little.

The locations are all places surrounding where I live. Although you can't see it, in the first photo Zoe is actually posing inside a hollow tree. I chose very rural locations to contrast with the sophisticated style, creating a juxtaposition between landscape and subject. I doubt I will ever be bored of taking photos in fields and woods, or of using natural light for that matter... Talking of light, it was a perfect late afternoon (we managed to squeeze this in after school one day) for photography - neither too harsh nor too dull. I would call it sun-kissed if that wasn't cliched. Zoe and I finally finished as the sun set behind us, and we scampered back inside for some well deserved cups of tea and cake.

Note - I will be anouncing the winners of my mummy's scissors giveaway (along with what I hope will be an extended link list) in my next post. But in the meantime, do take a look at some of the gorgeous creations I listed in previous posts.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Wrapped in support (Giveaway still open!)

I didn't think I would be putting up my first post-op shoot so soon. Having stored up so many outfit photos ready to use during the recovery period, what is the first thing I do? Go out and pose for ten minutes among the leaves before retreating to recline melodramatically on a day bed and recover... The trouble is, having a new torso is like having a new camera - suddenly I don't want to post anything PS (Pre Surgery), with the old me. However, there were some great outfits, so they will be shown.

It feels great to get back to the old familiar formula of describing what I'm wearing and the location; a nice little sprinkling of normality.

Simple, comfortable clothes are all I can wear at the moment  - anything that is easy to put on! So this silk wrap-dress (worn back to front) appropriated from my mum has been one of the recent wardrobe staples. I love the bold, twenties style feel to it. . The brown lace up boots are also my mum's, and the hat is charity shopped Kangol. In one shot I'm wearing my favourite woollen cardigan - from a charity shop, as per usual. And I borrowed the pearls from my grandma's collection of jewellery.

I felt that me wearing a wrap-dress was also quite symbolic for the theme of this post. I've felt so surrounded (or 'wrapped') by support and well wishes - from the blogging community, to friends and family, plus hospital staff and neighbours. People have been totally extraordinary in their kindness. So once again, thank you. Also, my spine is being supported by its new metal-work  - I like to think of it as my scaffolding, holding up my fused vertebrae and keeping my back straight. My helter-skelter spine has now become a drop slide.

A little over two weeks on from the surgery, I can begin to reflect on the experience and its consequences. The surgery itself went well - I now have a lot of titanium metal work and rods screwed, hooked and bolted onto my spine, and have gained at least 2 inches in my torso due to the un-corkscrewing effect. I'm suddenly just under 5'11", which is another advantage (in addition to an obviously straighter spine.) However, as mentioned briefly in my last post, I had a really nasty (rare) reaction called 'cast syndrome' afterwards. When mum read my previous post, she was shocked that I referred to it as "slight." It's amazing how the brain covers up traumatic events; she's right, it was an absolutely horrible experience. I ended up feeling a like a pin cushion with the intravenous fluid drips, injections and blood being taken...

However, I was discharged on the Wednesday before last, and am currently recuperating in London before the long journey home. To complicate matters further, unfortunately I blacked out and collapsed against a wooden sideboard a week ago on Saturday morning (just after my friday post about how I was on the road to recovery), badly hitting my head and back. Voila, back in a different hospital for half a day - ambulance transfer and all. Luckily nothing else has happened since then. It'll take a while to get used to all that metal work in my back and for the pain and discomfort to gradually ebb away, but fingers crossed, it does feel like I'm out of the worst of it now. I'm really looking forward to when I can to tie my own shoe-laces again!
I'm also looking forward to the prospect of weilding my camera once more. Sadly, part of the recovery process is not being allowed to carry heavy things for some time. Good - in that when I eventually get back to school, apparently I have to have my bag and books carried for me (!) - bad for the weighty beast that is my Canon 5D though.

Fortunately, a lovely friend lent me a smaller camera a few days ago so I can still attempt some photography, which is great, as I was having a nasty dose of PWS: photography withdrawal symptoms!
The great thing about the height gain in my torso (and loss of rib humps and sticky-out twisted shoulder blade) is that I can suddenly wear clothes that were impossible to put on before. The possibilities of mid calf length Laura Ashley skirts are suddenly very alluring... Having said that, some of my mini dresses are now more like tunics. I think this calls for some much needed charity shopping to replace them once I'm better.

The mummy's scissors project has got off to a wonderful start, and I was overwhelmed by all the unique interpretations you lovely people have created. I'm really looking forward to seeing some more.

This incredible version, created by Kathryn held particular resonance for me. I felt that the encasing of metal in something else very solid drew a lot of parallels with the surgery I've just been through. She said that during the firing process the glass cracked and warped. Somehow I think this added to the effect - beauty in imperfection.
And generally, the whole idea of wrapping metal in soft fabric 'bandages' (as demonstrated so beautifully below) has been particularly symbolic of my recent experience. However, no bandages for me - I just had a very modern pressure dressing!

I will be putting up a list of links to all those who have been involved. Please see the previous post for the links to all the images featured above and the wonderful people who made them.

Note - My giveaway is still open until Wednesday the tenth, please see my previous post for the details. There are two pairs of Mummy's Scissors made by me up for grabs.
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