Saturday, 30 May 2015

Fleamarkets - Paris - St Ouen/Cligancourt

Believe it or not, there was once a time that I didn't have a clue what a fleamarket was! I think my first 'taste' of the thrill of the fleamarket was in Paris. I'd heard of this magical place called Cligancourt and was determined to go. As I didn't know what to expect, I was in raptures when I finally saw it.  It was like a world unto itself - a sort of village with little shops and stands all selling utterly intriguing things. That was many years ago, and I have to say, that the fascination I have for Cligancourt hasn't waned. What has changed however, is my tolerance for the crazy prices charged, and the arrogance of some of the dealers. I was stopped from taking pictures in some places even though I asked nicely, and I also found that the range of items on offer is not as exciting as it once was. So I'm going to cut to the chase and take you to my favourite place - Daniel et Lili, 128 in the covered Marché Dauphine (140 Rue des Rosiers).  By the way, to reach Cligancourt I suggest you go to metro Garibaldi and walk from there. That way, you miss out having to traipse through roads of tat before reaching Cligancourt proper.

Sadly a little too small for me!

This incredible place sells an enormous range of hair and other accessories from around 1930 to 1980.  There's lots of early plastic which I LOVE, and lots of old stock, so you get repeats of things. Whilst I was there there was a wonderful group of vintage-clad ladies searching for 1950's sunglasses of which there was a huge range, although a bit beyond my price-range (starting at around £35). 

As well as being a go-to place for the vintage accessory lover, I imagine that Daniel et Lili is also the inspirational hunting ground of certain designers. For example, I saw a brooch here that I think had also caught the eye of a certain Cath Kidston as I bought something pretty similar in one of her shops a few months ago - unless of course she'd also got hold of a stash of originals ? Here are a few things to give YOU some inspiration too!

As well as the main shop, there's an outside area which sells a range of cheaper things (some broken bits and pieces too which are a bargain if you're a dab-hand at fixing stuff). These beaded flowers start at around £3 for the small ones. I think they're used to create funeral wreaths in some countries - not that I care. I think they're beautiful!

By the way - I did get told off for taking photos - so either be sneaky, or ask and just hope they're in a good mood! 

Read my next entry for more Paris fleamarket tips!

Friday, 29 May 2015

On the road - Joinville

For the last few nights I've been in Joinville - a little town of about 5000 people on the way from Reims to Dijon. I'm at the free campervan stop here, which has helped make up for the ridiculous expense of Paris. By the way, did I tell you? I have no loo, no water and no electricity, so heaven knows when I'll next have a shower. Anyhow, wet wipes are a girl's best friend. I'll give you a peek of my domestic life on board The Mobile Makery at a later date, but shall we have some pretty photos first? Yes we shall! I have wifi at this spot as it's a 'halte nautique' for pleasure boats. Lovely little place to refresh my soul somewhat.

Anyone looking to get out of London (yep, people like me) can pick up a des-res like the one below for a song (well, to Londoners anyway). This six bedroomed house, with large garden, renovated in 2000, is on the market for 117,000 euros. Quite amazing eh?! And the town is very lovely - a bit quiet maybe after a while. But hey - all that space!

The kind man in the tourist office circled the brocantes goin on this Sunday in the region, several in fact. Hopefully lots of rich grannies clearing out their attics - stuffed full of treasures. Shall I go? Or should I head off South? tell me!

On the road - Reims

Look - I have to be honest, I'm going to skip around a bit here. I'm posting behind time, so although there's more of Paris to come - and one treat in particular to share - I want to bring you up to date. So far, I've been staying with friends, but now it's just The Mobile Makery (aka Bambi) and me heading off into France on our own. My first night away from society was not a huge success. I drove to Reims, only to find the campervan parking place locked for the night. There was an overflow on a lonely road near the sports stadium inhabited by scarey looking youths. I decided not to stay there but made a beeline for Reims centre and the beautiful cathedral. I parked in the public car park fully expecting to be moved on by police. But maybe someone was watching over me. It was a breathtaking sight. Being so close to the Cathedral in the quiet of the evening was amazing. I didn't feel very relaxed though and couldn't sleep for fear of someone knocking on the door!

The cheeky smiling angel is one of the most famous sculptures on the cathedral façade. You can't help but think of the many craftsmen who worked on the building. They must really have enjoyed putting personality into the stone. Maybe this angel took after the man's wife, or his Sister!

I had many curious on-lookers, including this chap and his lovely French bulldog. He assured me I'd be fine!

And how did I get on in the Reims carpark? Hmm.....!

La Forme - Paris

Another address I was keen to check out whilst I was in Paris was Lorenzo Ré who's been making hat blocks here at La Forme - a stone's throw from La Bourse, since 1962. Unlike my friends in Luton (Boon and Lane) who also make hat blocks in metal, Lorenzo works entirely in wood - Linden wood to be precise. He's behind the very imposing door you can see here on the Rue Paul Lelong, which believe it or not used to be home to four similar businesses. As recently as the 60's, Lorenzo told me, there were dozens of hat block makers plying their trade in Paris, but now, as in the UK, these craftsmen are fast-becoming a dying breed.

Lorenzo trained as a sculptor in Italy, as many of the French hat block makers did. Now he works for the most prestigious clients in the world. He made the hat block for this incredible Philip Treacy hat below - it weighed in at 100 kilos! In his spare time (not much of that) Mr Ré continues to sculpt - here are some of the 500 heads he made for a puppet museum. He came across as being such a lovely man, a real artist.

PS you have to make an appointment to visit La Forme. Mr Ré's assistant was somewhat suspicious of me. I think she thought I might be a fashion spy....if only! You need around £300 to buy into a Lorenzo Ré hat block. Start saving!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A haberdashery must-have Paris

If you're at all interested in haberdashery then Ultramod is a must-see if you're heading to Paris. It's been serving both the couture houses and the creatives of Paris for almost two centuries. At no's 3 and 4 on the Rue du Choiseul, it's worth calling before you make your pilgrimage to check its hours. To enter inside is, to coin a phrase, like stepping back in time. The shop is split in two, on opposite sides of the road, and my favourite is (of course) the half selling vintage millinery and other rare materials. You may have to get them to open up for you. 

Some of the hat-making fabrics are no longer available - once they're sold then that's it. Many came from a warehouse that burned down during the 1940's. What's on sale is the stuff that was rescued. 

It's not cheap. These straw millinery fabrics on the left are 60 euros a metre. But then they're unique. More affordable is the millinery petersham in a wonderful palette of colours. 

On the day I visited I spied bolts of vintage dressmaking fabric hidden under a dark cloth. The most mouth-watering shades of pink, nude and gold peeped out from beneath. The material was a sort of stiff net with flocked decoration on top - the type of thing you can imagine New Look party dresses being made up from. But where did it come from? Top secret. I'd love to know! They must have spies out all over Europe looking for old stock. But what a find!

On the slightly more mundane but still marvellous side of the road, you'll find a button for everything as well as a wide range of ribbons and silks. Go go go!

Macaron making in Paris

My Mobile Makery tour of Europe is as much about trying to make new things as it is about sharing what I already know, so it was wonderful to have a go at the art of making the most perfect macarons. It was less masterchef than I'd hoped - slightly more painting by numbers, but our English tutor was lovely, with just the right balance of salt and sweet in her presentation. If only I'd been allowed to sit down I would have been happier! Three hours is a long haul after 'doing Paris.' We made more macarons than Marie Antoinette could have scoffed in a day. And I've mastered both Italian and French meringue. How's that for a party-trick? Watch out London. It's macarons a-go-go when I get home! Click here for info.

Paris in pictures

Just a few pictorial notes of Paris. Why not?!
First night
Especially for Kim!

Hats off!

The hunting museum. I actually felt physically sick. I own a taxidermy woodpecker - but this was too much.
Bread - the most basic of foodstuffs is celebrated. Long live appreciation of the simple things.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A mite infestation & other woes

You know how some blogs only ever consist of shiney happy posts? Well l'm warts and all. So ladies and gents, I'm back on the trail after a setback involving a computer mite infestation after my trip to Paris. Hmmm. Yes. I mean real mites not virtual ones. Who'd have thought?! Anyway thanks to the support of lovely friends in Brussels who braved the bugs with me, I'm back on the road and will catch up with my posting soon. There's so much to tell you about - excluding the mites! In the meantime, here's a shiney happy pic to keep you (and me) going. I saw it sprayed on a wall at the Cligancourt flearket in Paris.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

And you thought a hair comb was just an old-fashioned beauty accessory!

When a friend told me she knew of a sculptor living in Brussels making work out of vintage hair combs I  really didn't know quite what to expect, but being utterly intrigued, I just had to check  out Jacqueline Lecarme. You won't find this incredible woman on blogs or websites because she keeps herself very much to herself. But to be honest, her name should be shouted from the rooftops - as what she's doing is so completely and utterly unique. 

Entering Jacqueline's home - a solid and spacious maison de maître - I immediately knew I was meeting someone special. Peering out from perches on every surface are brightly coloured sculptures resonating with personality. You'll find exotic birds bursting with colour, human likenesses both familiar and a little strange, and fantastical yet recognisable creatures.

Head to her studio up a dimly lit creaking staircase and there's even more to astonish and delight. A brocanteur's dream, you'll find draw upon drawer of vintage belt buckles, beads and buttons, combs of course, hair clips and dozens of other plastic domestic accessories - shoehorns, shaving brushes, anything and everything made from old plastics. Galalith (like bakelite but made of milk protein) is Jacqueline's favourite material, but it's getting harder to find, so she's always on the look out for other options. She generally needs lots of the same type of thing to make a sculpture as even a basic shape will require at least thirty combs as well as other bits and pieces.

Jacqueline used to paint and make jewellery until one day, something suddenly clicked as she was looking at a hair comb - yes really! She played with the shape, heating and cutting it - and lo and behold her new ideas started to emerge. Her work as a painter has ceased, but she still makes jewellery......vintage plastic buckles are key to these irresistible pieces.

That's all for now folks! You'll be hearing more about Jacqueline Lecarme if I have anything to do with it!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Dangerous Game

It was great to be joined in Brussels by my Brother Anthony who was in town for the screening of his film A Dangerous Game about environmentally damaging golf developments. Our friend Melissa came for the evening from Lille too. A chance for a few drinks in the sun before the serious stuff! 

My bro is a top journalist - so proud of what he's achieved!

Crazy Elvis tribute window Brussels

Monday, 11 May 2015

A sunny day popping up in Brussels

There were lots of curious looks from the crowds on Sunday as the Mobile Makery and I set up across the square from La Frenesie at the busy Jeu de Balle fleamarket in Brussels. What was this rather striking-looking van with the British number plate doing? Pretty simple really...spreading the word about my trip and inviting people to pop in and make a badge from old childrens' books! The idea was to offer a sophisticated arty workshop to creative types - but actually I soon found I was attracting a host of very young children all eager to have a go! Some just wanted to come in and have a quiet moment - which is fine by me!

When I worked in Brussels as a correspondent for the BBC I used to spend most of my spare time (which wasn't much) down at the Jeu de Balle fleamarket. So there was something really important about coming back here in my new incarnation!

And guess what?! I met another Mary Jane as well............!

La Frenesie Brussels

La Frenesie is a beautiful florist and vintage homewares shop run by the effervescent Caroline Moreau. It's on the site of the old firestation on Place Jeu de Balle which, when I lived in Brussels twelve years ago, was utterly neglected. Now the firestation has been completely renovated and is home not only to Caroline's stylish emporium, but also to La Mode - arguably one of Europe's best vintage clothes and textiles outlets. You can also find some great galleries and a café called Pin Pon (which I'm told is the sound that BELGIAN firetrucks make as they speed off to emergencies) on the square.

Anyway! Caroline very kindly agreed to sort out the necessary red tape to enable me to do a pop-up workshop in my Mobile Makery alongside her and the other traders.

This is just a taste of some of the beautiful things you can find in Caroline's treasure-trove!