Mahl Stick

Winston Churchill painting with a mahl stick.
When I started painting in 2009 my dad gave me his Winsor & Newton mahl stick and it has been an invaluable tool ever since. It's designed to be long enough so that you can support your hand while painting to avoid smudging freshly painted areas. I use mine constantly.

Unfortunately in the move it disappeared and I struggled without one for the past couple of months until I came to the point where I couldn't successfully continue without the aid of this handy tool. I had a look online but all you can buy is a nasty piece of wood or metal with an untidy ball at the end; joyless creations built economically with utilitarianism in mind. 

I happily spend the greater part of my life in front of the canvas in a Victorian room I am filling with treasures. To me it is not enough that something works, I want it to be beautiful too. To that end I decided to try to make a mahl stick my own way and this is the result:

This mahl stick is composed of a broken parasol handle of varnished wood and what I can only suppose is bakerlite or possibly bone, tipped with engraved silver. I've made a leather ball from my leather craft supplies and finished it off with antique ribbon and leather cord. It's light, and as I picked up the broken parasol in a little English bric-a-brac store ten years ago, surprisingly cheaper than buying an online version and makes me happy to look at and use everyday.


A Delicate Confusion

My latest finished work 'A Delicate Confusion' is a miniature commission in the style of works from my last exhibition. It was a real pleasure to paint this piece, it makes me want to make more!


Coronation Cushion

A few months ago the History Channel showed a series of documentaries on the tragic love story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII. This unassuming cushion is a small memento of George VI's coronation and a poignant reminder of the turmoil the relationship caused within the royal family ending in Edwards decision to abdicate.  

I am going to seal the leather and then use this great item to construct a small painting seat, I hope it will live up to Keith Prowse's promise of being the "best seat." 


Tramp Art!

Last night I discovered Tramp Art! This piece was made in America around 1880, found its way onto ebay and is now winging its way to my door. I remember seeing wonderful examples of this style of work in the Victorian houses I used to visit as a child. I really appreciate all the work that must have gone into making such a piece and the fact that it has survived so well after its long life. 


Art Deco/Art Nouveau Japanese hand-embroidered silk kimono

I adore antique garments. They are things made in a world that no longer exists and to own pieces that were so personal to the people of that time is very special to me. Tonight I was lucky enough to come across this vintage 1920's/30's hand embroidered kimono from England. The colour is incredible and is reminiscent of the colours of the paintings in my last exhibition.

 'The Butterfly Gate' 2013 - Collection of the artist
'Sisters' 2010


What A Night

Last night New Plymouth was hit with rain and gale force winds. It sounded like the ocean was roaring around our house. The dogs needed constant attention and I was sure that at any minute one of the big trees right outside would come crashing down. We are on the top of a hill which didn't make things any better. The wind was howling and sometimes terrifying but this morning the air outside is still and we are lucky enough to have power but my heart goes out to those who spent a freezing night last night without it.

Extreme weather hitting much of the country has cut power to thousands of homes in Taranaki and caused the cancellation of flights and ferries in and out of Wellington.
Electricity provider Powerco says strong winds brought down trees over power lines in Taranaki, cutting power to 11,000 homes.
It says about 8000 homes are likely to have no power until Monday morning.
Areas affected include Kaponga, Kapuni, Opunake, Okato, Oakura, Omata, the eastern suburbs of New Plymouth, Waitara and Inglewood.
The Wellington and New Plymouth fire services received 150 callouts from midday to 10pm on Sunday, and one New Plymouth fire truck has been crushed by a falling tree.


Union Jack Curtains

Years ago I saw a pair of union jack curtains in the window of a store in Newmarket. They were huge and gaudy and I loved them to distraction but I couldn't have them. Life moved on and off to Australia we went. I never dreamed that many years later when we returned to NZ I would find them in a little store in New Plymouth. Today they became mine and I still can't believe it. I will hang them on the back wall of Nik's study with his carved desk in front. I love theatrical spaces and I can't wait for them to go up!



Pukekura Park

Pukekura Park Lake
I wish I could find the images of Edwardian ladies in their white lawn dresses and parasols and gentlemen in their day suits wandering around Pukekura park that are on display at this wonderful place. The best I could do was this postcard on Pukekura park's website www.pukekura.org.nz. I didn't have very much time this morning to take in the entire park but what I did see was impressive. The wet greens and towering tree ferns trimming the lakes and lawns were such a delight and I was surprised to discover such a large park in the center of this little city. I was told to seek out the fernery and it wasn't long before I came upon the series of glass houses connected by cave-like tunnels dripping with ferns. Within precious flora vie for dominance like too many jewels in a glass jewelry box and anyone who knows me knows that I can never have enough jewels! I can't wait until all my things arrive so I can go down and do some sketching. I'm sure the white orchids with their bright purple stripes and strange blue poker flowers will all make an appearance in my next collection of works.


Our New New Plymouth House

Sometimes you don't realize how much you love a place until you can't be there anymore. For my whole life I had taken New Zealand for granted. Growing up in such a beautiful place had in many ways blinded me to its charms but seven years ago I moved to Perth and suddenly I experienced the most severe homesickness. That feeling never really went away but recently we were able to move back and what a wonderful homecoming it has been. I can't explain the joy I felt to look out the window of our motel and see the waves crashing along the beach, the sky in a constant state of turmoil and the lush green of the New Zealand bush.

Next Friday is settlement for our new home in New Plymouth. I can't believe how lucky we were to be able to own the incredible Victorian villa. Many villa's these days have been so transformed inside that they look like they have come straight from an Ikea catalogue.  The period features have been ripped out and it seems these places have lost a part of their soul along the way. Luckily this house still retains much of it's original features. It is groaning with Rimu, even the skirting boards are 30cm high! The garden is enormous compared to our last house and it boarders onto a park. I can't wait to start working on the interior and Nik is excited about the prospect of many garden rooms!

Our House In Perth

We loved our house in Perth so much. It was our first house and a blank canvas on which to experiment with our garden and interior. It was incredibly hard to leave this wonderful oasis, each colour, plant and piece of furniture was painstakingly chosen to bring harmony to the overall scheme. It took five years to transform the house from an everyday 1960's brick and tile to a little slice of heaven in the heart of the city. We are very proud to have come so far with our knowledge of gardening and decoration and can't wait to move into our next house and see where our inspiration leads us next.

Front gate before
Front gate after
Front garden before
Front garden after
Patio before
Patio after
Living room before
Living room after
Kitchenette Before
Kitchenette after
Dinning Before
Dinning After

Bedrooms before

Bedrooms after


New Detash!

1 large antique Edwardian rose handmade applique large dress trim metal lace back gorgeous shade1 dozen flower  lovely vintage metal buttons pewter looking renaissance fair doublet trim intricate

I couldn't resist this Edwardian applique and these little silver buttons. Right now I am beginning to explore a new look which incorporates simple black dresses, boleros, applique and tribal jewelry. It will give me a chance to be a bit creative and enjoy the process of watching a piece develop. 


Antique velvet belt, black belt, boho, gothic, steampunk, beads
I just had to get this it's such a fabulous antique belt in great condition. Luckily for me it is a large Victorian size. I would like to embellish it a bit, I'm thinking some vintage metal trim and applique with a leather backing for support.
I really like chunky bracelets so I wrapped some vintage material around these two and embellished them a little. They look beautiful with the right outfit.

Antique Ottoman 1800s Red and Gold Embroidered Velvet Vest

Antique Ottoman 1800s Red and Gold Embroidered Velvet Vest Waistcoat

Antique Ottoman 1800s Red and Gold Embroidered Velvet Vest Waistcoat

I am so excited about my newest purchase. This antique vest was possibly part of a fortune tellers outfit! It is so beautiful that it doesn't matter if it wasn't. I love it anyway. 
(Gail if you are reading this it came from another Gail!)


A Place Of Beauty

Each of my works carries with it a piece of my life, reflecting the time and environment in which it was created. They are all incredibly personal and special to me and I am deeply honored when the work becomes a part of the narrative of other lives as well. It is with the greatest thanks to my dear friends Grant and Tasha that I am able to post this precious image of their collection. Their home is a monument to wonderful art, eclectic and soulful and completely reflects the warm and enthusiastic natures of their new owners. What a privilege it is to see these pieces happily situated and I'm sure very much loved.


On a summer evening I sat in our garden and wondered if Vincent Van Gogh might have seen something like this all those years ago.


Jeanne d'Arc & Le Mort d'Arthur

It was a very emotional challenge to read the last words of Joan of Arc or I should say Jeanne d'Arc. It seems callous in a way to use the anglicized version of her name when she loved France so dearly and was persecuted so horrifically by the English. It is easy to read her life as if it were a fairytale of sorts but it is incredible to think that this young woman actually existed, that places in France remain to this day which were important to her. 

Joan's birthplace is now a museum. The village church where she attended Mass is on the right behind the trees.

Now it is time for something a little different. Le Mort d'Arthur read in reverential memory of Edward Burne-Jones.


Thank goodness for the internet

Countess of Castiglione Skirt

It has been a very busy time for me over the past year with my preparation for my show. Sometimes my only release is to turn my mind off and press 'pay now.' I am therefore very glad that fantastic little shops like Boudoir Queen exist. I didn't have time to post when I was getting ready for my exhibition but I love my new acquisition this stunning one of a kind 'Countess of Castiglione' skirt.

Joan of Arc In Her Own Words

I am incredibly excited. I can't sleep and just finished a beautiful novel on the life of Edward Burne-Jones which I highly recommend. 

My first painting for my new collection is to be a small portrait of Joan of Arc in the Tudor style. I know a lot about her life already but if I am going to add a rich symbolic layering to the painting I will need to know her story down to its tiniest details. To that end I have just downloaded Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words to my kindle. How fascinating to hear her own interpretation of her life's work translated from her own trial transcripts. There is always so much that can colour an authors representation of their subject and I hope that this way of looking at Joan's life will give me a kind of insight that I just couldn't attain from any other source.