Saturday, 15 February 2014


Dearest Emily,

Your photo that Daddy posted this morning prompted this weeks blog.

The bit that prompted my thoughts- wasn't what Daddy said about you reciting from a book entitled 'How to be a Good Husband', because I agree with him there- that is a bit strange Em.

It was that lovely POV shot that Daddy took of you- where he had caught you unawares, because you were so engrossed in your thoughts, you didn't notice him. Absorbed as you were with your book on your lap, reciting and dreaming...

You strike me as a bit of a potential dreamer Emily- how quickly you pick up on something, and if you like it- turn it into a part of your world. You notice a lot of things (like the noise when we were in Pizza Express and you heard a far off fire engine- put your hands to your face in great concern- and Mummy explained you had heard one recently- and she explained that this was a different story) and how for a while you insisted that we both put on fairy wings when we spoke to each other on FaceTime. How you amuse yourself into fits of giggles pretending you are a lion, and how you think everyone you know is in a book (partly my fault that one.)

Dreamers are as Dreamers do- and don't take any advice other than Mummy's and Daddy's sage wisdoms - and GiGi's too. For it takes a Dreamer to know a Dreamer, and the only thing I shall add is- learn to manage your own nature. Don't go against it, just have something of a sanguine approach that aims to keep your 'head in the clouds, with your feet on the ground'.

After all, Emily- where would the world be without its dreamers? Well, there wouldn't be Disneyland for a start (don't know if that's good or bad.) Neither would there be ANY art, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Van Gogh as just three condemned to asylums. There'd be no Eiffel Tower, MacDonalds, or Winnie The Pooh. No Chanel, no Eddie the Eagle ( ask Daddy), no Schiaparelli, no Shakespeare (just wait, and remember to be open to it, ) no poetry, no Gaudi whatsoever... I go on too much.

Whatever your Muse, my little one- I hope the enthusiasm of youth and the wisdom of age both bear fruit in your being in learning from others and being yourself.

For GiGi, the Muse has always been Queen. Aged 13, the tremendous Lou-Lou de la Falaise entranced my intellect, my teenage aesthetic fire, my simplistic aspirations to look like someone I admired. (Before this, it was Boudicea, and before that it was Queen Nefertititi and the Ancient Egyptians.) The Muse for me was sometimes female, and sometimes male, it didn't matter- it just- and still is- what it is....

I've been very lucky in having met and been further entranced by a good many of my Muses.

But in my Muse Museum right now- here, living on the edge of the Down, while the weather keeps on blowing a hooley, and many holes in our dream-house- there are two Muses that continue to inspire all my days here. They both lived here- and both were dear friends, and quite unique Characters.

You know quite a bit by now, about the extraordinary person that was Julia Margaret Cameron. A force of nature you are familiar with by now. And she lit the torch-paper to my mind, by her dreamer's commitment to Freshwater and her life here. The torch-paper was picked up by the young Anne Thackeray, who came here after her father died, brought by Tennyson,  and  taken into the bosom of JMC's benevolence, her very being was shaped further by her experiences and reflections here- that allowed her matriarchal influence on the later Bloomsbury set.

'My point being' (as Grumpa is so find of saying,) that you never know what path you are on- other than what 'feels'  right for you. Right now- that is undiluted, save for sensible parental and day to day existence rules. Trust your instincts always, and tangents may just be logical paths.

To bring us back to your picture, and a book. Here is Anne Thackeray Ritchie's Bookplate from the late 1800's.

Isn't it lovely? By then, it seems she had dropped the Thackeray bit of her name, leaving AIR as her initials. Blowing bubbles and dreaming, it sums up our discourse about you, with a book, reciting about 'How to be a Good Husband' (Still Strange..)

Anyhow, your Grandmother is still dreaming, and is too old to change,  A Dedicated Dreamer. In my current dreams, Dimbola continues to quirk- and slowly becomes it's heritage prowess. And me- I dream that 'aMuseum' of incredible people who were all drawn here for the same reasons we are today, can be told and re-told to inspire and instruct for ever and ever!

Night, night, my little tousled haired Grand-daughter, until next time...

Your ever-loving Grand-Mother, GiGi xxxx

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Shot by Julia Margaret Cameron...Henry Taylor and the Trend for Beards.

Dearest Emily,

Back at my drawing board, it's been a busy week. Two more ranges designed, and sampling under way, now I'm on to our in-house Dimbola JMC range for the Gift Shop.

So I started on mugs, and was trawling through my collection of amassed 'abilia'- and look what I found- I love this one;

Henry Taylor photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron
February 1864

It has set me a thinking Em. First of all- Mug-shots. JMC's Mugshots to be precise, and this one shall be the first. Henry Taylor, Poet and Dramatist 1800-1888. As a convicted Pogonophile (evidence Grumpa being persuaded to go ferral and grow his own scarf,) I've looked into his beard...
Henry grew this fine example in 1859, because following bronchitis, asthma and a spasmodic episode or two- he became nervous of holding a razor.
Great friends with the Camerons,  the Taylors were here at the Bay most Spring and Autumn for holidays in the late 1850's and early 1860's when Julia bought the two houses that formed Dimbola.
Henry says 'It was a house, indeed to which everybody resorted at pleasure, and in which no man, woman or child was ever known to be unwelcome.
Conventionalities had no place in it; and though Cameron was more of a philosopher than a country gentleman, the house might easily have been mistaken for that of the old English Squire, who is said to have greeted his friends with the announcement, kind though imperious- "This is Liberty Hall, and if everybody does not do as he likes here, by God I'll make him!'. *

Tennyson, another great friend of Julia of course, reputedly grew his beard in 1857, following dentistry that altered his mouth. Adopting a Wide-awake hat, it seemed a bit of a 'look' was starting.

Alfred Tennyson 'The Dirty Monk'
by Julia Margaret Cameron May 1865

So, we have a trend in beards, and wide brimmed hats, further adopted by Watts,Longfellow, Charles' Cameron and Darwin (though he preferred a hat of more Bowler brimmed proportion.) 

Watts, Darwin and Charles Hay Cameron all though Mrs Cameron's Looking Glass.

My poser for us today though Emily, goes right back to my doubts that Julia was not such a novice when she received her Camera from her daughter Julia Norman in Christmas 1863...
Here is what she famously called 'My First Success'. Anne Philpot aged 10 at Freshwater Bay, given to her Father on January 29th 1864.

So, Julia records her first success on the last day of January in 1864, and less than a month later she's up and running, and has evidenced above, photographed Henry Taylor (who by his own admission in his autobiography, was being much photographed at Freshwater in 1860-63.) No, Em, I think we read her success-story a bit wrong. I've said before that I think she was part of a group of photographers (Reijlander, Winfield, Dodgson, Southey and her Brother-in-Law Somers-Cocks) who all in turn experimented with her, taught her, and were her partners in her own photographic crime.
I think instead, that her first success- was to her- her first Artistic Success... A Woman driven to experiment with her own passion to arrest beauty. To look into the soul, to- in fact- take a 'snap-shot' ( a phrase attributed to her great friend and Mentor Sir John Hershel- prime mover in the invention of photography in 1853. )

So, her first success, was actually the beginning of achieving what became her 'style' for the next 10 years. Not the romantic experimentation with the Idylls, but her ground-breaking use of 'The Close-Up'.

I think Em, she was the first photographer to champion this, and I think that's quite important!

Good old Mrs C, she was said to impose her own spirit on all those she met. And she was quoted as having an innate sense of enjoying herself, and making others around her do the same!

Enough for now, lovely to do facetime with you this morning- even if most of it was to the back of your head! 

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

*Autobiography of Henry Taylor