Like many people, we began 2020 making plans and booking trips away for the year. The Sainsbury Centre was housing the ‘Art Deco by the Sea’ exhibition so a weekend in Norfolk was arranged with accommodation at the fabulous Control Tower, as well as an Art Deco focused trip to Devon later in the year, with a reservation at ‘The Grand Hotel’ in Torquay and dinner at Burgh Island on the itinerary.
But sadly, the global pandemic put paid to that, as (along with the rest of the country) we spent months in lock down. Many of those weeks were spent totally house-bound and apart, so what did the Tourists do?!
Here’s a little summary of how we kept ourselves busy.
To try to combat the cabin fever, and also give ourselves something to focus on other than home-schooling and housewife duties, we both got stuck into our fairly newfound hobbies. For Emma, this was cross-stitching, and Lara, knitting!
The first few months were very productive and very vintage themed!
Emma worked through a series of Claris Cliff style cross-stitch pieces, then moving on to a beautiful Art Deco sampler and further art deco project with beautiful gold thread.
Whereas Lara used her extra time at home to knit her first ever sweater using the easily found ‘1930’s 3 hour sweater’ pattern. It’s a really simple pattern and the large needles meant quick progress and a wearable result!
When VE Day came around, Emma designed a great cross stitch for a local project and, inspired by this, Lara tried her hand at making one too (although quickly went back to knitting after!)
We both found our crafting a therapeutic way to keep focused, occupied and also a way to create great vintage pieces that felt like a good link to the past.
2. Books, books, books
We are both avid readers and we regularly updated our Instagram stories page with the books we read during lockdown. Quite often we found that one book inspired the next one and so there is a clear theme throughout!
From the great fictional biography of Chanel by G.W. Gortner to the famous French Blue Bicycle book series by Regine Deforges…. And the fascinating ‘Travellers in the Third Reich’ by Julia Boyd. We escaped the confines of our houses through our reading and explored tales of the past.
We are planning a blog of our top ten reads for another time, but happy to give recommendations in the meantime – just leave a comment here or message us on instagram/facebook.
3. Online events/lectures/webinars…
Possibly one of the most interesting things to experience during lock down was the range of online lectures, talks and tours.
One of our favourites was an online talk about Lee Miller, hosted by Farley’s House and Gallery ‘Home of the Surrealists’ , where Anthony Penrose, son of Miller and artist Roland Penrose, along with his daughter and grandaughter, discussed the career of Lee Miller. Called ‘Witnessing Women’, it focused on her photo-journalistic career during the Second World War and was a tie in for the current ‘Grim Glory’ exhibition.
Farleys home and gallery hit hard times during lockdown and we both donated to the crowdfunding campaign they launched to try to keep it open. It was a place that we had planned to visit this year when it opened in April as we are both very interested in Lee Miller and her work. Fortunately, they raised enough to survive the crisis, and they currently have their gardens and galleries open. https://www.farleyshouseandgallery.co.uk/
Farley’s ran a second online event based on Lee Miller in Art which was equally fascinating – and linked Miller’s work to current female artists Maisie Cousins and Charlotte Edey in a discussion led by Katy Hessel.
The Twentieth Century Society also organised a series of free ‘Zoom’ webinars (in fact there are more in the programme still to come). We particularly enjoyed ‘Art Deco Britain’ led by Elain Harwood which gave us a fabulous overview of Art Deco architecture and gave us lots of ideas of where to visit in the future! The zoom seminar is currently available on the C20 website. https://c20society.org.uk/lectures/art-deco-in-britain-by-elain-harwood
Another interesting online event was a tour of the Marlene Dietrich exhibition section of the Deutsche Kinemathek museum – broadcast live via Instagram by the museum (and still available in their highlights) this brought back fond memories of our visit there in 2018. https://www.instagram.com/deutschekinemathek/
The Art Deco Society, to which we both belong, has also arranged online events, the first of which we missed but there are some interesting ones still to come. Events are available to both members and non-members. https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/art-deco-society-uk
All of the online opportunities helped take the sting out of the fact that we were unable to visit any exhibitions, galleries, museums, or attend any lectures live.
Added to that, for Lara particularly, the daily live radio shows hosted by Dave Dawes on 1940sradio.com gave a sense of contact with the outside world. Every week day at 8pm Lara would tune in and listen whilst knitting (and often requesting a track or two for a shout out!). The live shows have continued on Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays at the time of writing and we highly recommend a listen!
We didn’t need too much convincing to ‘Support small businesses’ and shop online during the lock down. We both commissioned 1940’s style sweaters and purchased accessories to tide us over until it was possible to shop at vintage fairs again! Lara found the House of Foxy Spring sale well timed to cheer herself up and chase the lockdown blues away, and Emma couldn’t resist some of their new stock!
Links to the above small businesses:
The lockdown gave us time to sort through our vintage and we ended up setting up a selling page over on Instagram @vts_for_sale to pass on our surplus vintage! https://www.instagram.com/vts_for_sale/
Looking back writing this, it is interesting to see how we managed to keep ourselves occupied and stimulated when most of the things we love were impossible. We will certainly never again take the trips out that we enjoy for granted.
In Part Two we’ll cover our tentative steps back into the vintage world as lockdown began to ease