Friday, September 28, 2012

Once Apron A Time

I was in Murwillumbah yesterday, which is a treat in itself.  Ornate Victorian, Edwardian and unspoiled Art Deco shopfronts stand shoulder to shoulder with later, stranger, examples of architecture like kids in a school photo taken on mufti day. My dear husband came out of the St Vincent de Paul Society op-shop, telling me that there were no cricket bats to be found there that day (and therefore, implicitly, it was barely worthwhile going in).  Somehow he had walked right by the front window and managed to avoid being struck motionless with awe.  

The entire, massive window was garlanded with vintage aprons.  It was a sunshiny morning so please excuse the reflections, but you get the idea - winsome florals with complementary or contrasting plain pockets and ties, gingham decorated with embroidery and threadwork, unapologetically psychedelic prints and - the one which held me transfixed - a mid-century apron printed with sailboats.

Now, the sad fact with which I had to come to terms, is that the aprons weren't for sale that day - but they would be available for sale in a couple of weeks time.  To someone else :(   

So I took some photos to remember them by, and gave more thought to aprons than I ever have before, pondering the hypothesis that, like dreams, aprons may sometimes work by contraries.

When I left the beachside village where I grew up, friends sent me gifts of kitchen textiles printed with shells and lighthouses which seemed to bring subtle breaths of sea air to the humid hinterland galley where I hung them.  So I wondered about the women who had worn these aprons when they were new - did the hands which worked these butterflies in green thread have the chance to tend a flower garden and watch the butterflies drift through it, or was keeping moths away from the cabbages as close as they came?

And my soul sister, whoever you were, keeping this beauty immaculately for so many decades - did you wake confused from dreams of the water, only to find yourself interminably becalmed in an inland life?  Was this apron the antidote to years of drought and a landscape without where ripples of blue never relieved the endless dusty brown or cloying claustrophobia of green?

I hope of course that I'm quite wrong, and that their lives were as colourful, charming and fascinating as their aprons.  I also hope that whoever is fortunate enough to be in town when these are offered for sale will appreciate them just as they are, and for what they are - which is, perfectly lovely.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Justifiable Coulrophobia

Rarely do I stumble across a vintage textile so hauntingly wrong that it begs to be shared. There are plenty of hideous prints out there - meh, glimpsed for a moment, easily forgotten. But, dear children, I have discovered the tea-towel which haunted your dreams, excused your terror of marching bands and explained your dread of clogs.

I can take or leave clowns, myself. I've been privileged to see some wonderful, genuinely hilarious clowns. But these . . . I think these are clowns. They have painted mouths, silly hair and oversized red noses. They have slipped into innocuous smocks and journeyed into a country far beyond sociopathia - they are bizarre, horrifying, inhuman, the toothy smiles pasted on to their faces are the smile the bully gives even as he snatches the beloved toy away.

Their nostrils are rimmed with the red of rage, their noses too frightening to bear deep contemplation. Their eyes look up to nowhere, listening to the voices. The front figure taps on a levitating marching drum, the straps of which dangle uselessly below it. The second figure is about to pipe others of their ilk out of their hiding places to join in some unthinkable clown junta.

And this is a tea towel! If I hung this in my kitchen overnight the milk would curdle, houseplants wither, the crystals along the window sill would shatter and my children would thrash and shriek in the grip of night terrors. Any dishes coming into contact with this textile of terror would slowly craze, and food served on them would leave an aftertaste of gall. Cutlery polished by this would curl slowly into supplicatory shapes. Yet someone at the Lehner company, back in the 70s or so, cast about in their repository of mental anguish and came up with this design as being suitable to drape over domestic rails - a dagger through the heart of the home.

And if the clowns themselves weren't quite unsettling enough, the spectral old lady in the background suggests a whole other dimension of sinister creepiness, unusual even for clown-related merchandise.