I’ve been collecting jet embellishments and gold coloured notions so putting together a spooky Halloween themed treasury wasn’t too tough. I just had to restrain myself from wanting to put everything in.


I found myself at a brocante in Bonnieux this summer, mesmerised by a box of old photographs, mostly portraits of couples. At first I laughted at how many couples, most just exiting the church after their wedding, looked absolutely miserable. But of course in this epoque smiling was very much not done, for the daguerrotype,  subjects had to stay posed for at least 15 minutes. Details: Tiny brass antique Limoges key estampe and antique velvet millinery flowers handpainted with gold, antique compass pendant and black jet and silk appliques.


An incredible long dagger shaped dress antique jet applique – so beautiful and handmade.


These recent vintage dolls face on linen finds are just the right amount of spooky special to be included, embellished with my collection of antique jet and cut steel buttons.


Love this tiny box of handmade gold sequin dress appliques just as much as the label on the container. Surrounded by an antique butterfly bobbin holder, a piece of 1900s gold lamé and a cut jet belt buckle.


This wonderful velvet millinery flower is very delicate but delicious! You can just see a peak of a beautiful 1800s Fraises Merley ribbon with ‘fil d’or’ embellishments.


Can you spot the beautiful haunting mourning portrait button, surrounded in age old chatons?


Buttons, velvet and Jet!


Look at that handwriting !

A beautiful handmade old box from Bon Marche, 1900, containing skeins of cut steel beads,



Death Becomes Her

by Ruth on October 25, 2014

in Exquisite Threads, Inspiration

Designer Peter O’Brien pointed me in the direction of this wonderful exhibition, “Death Becomes Her”, an exhibit of mourning attire from 1815 to 1915 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Recently, without realising it, another collection snuck up on me, a wonderful mourning button (as seen in my Halloween treasury) was found in Isle sur la Sorgue,  morsels of delicate black lace (it seems there is much higher demand for white lace so I can get lucky!) were found in Roque d’Antheron and intricate jet beading appliques and dress panels called out to me in Carpentras, Pernes les Fontaines & Puyvert, take me home they all whispered.  They are pieces that are intrinsically related to love, to the story of a loved one who is missed by those they left behind.


Racegoers at Royal Ascot in 1910, after the death of Edward VII. It became known as ‘Black Ascot’. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


Detail of a Victorian mourning dress. Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Actor Pola Negri (centre) is supported by friends at Rudolph Valentino’s funeral. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

metropolitan-museum-death-becomes-her-mourning-1861Image from Met Museum


The Wonderful Lynn Yaeger

Lynn Jaeger, who came to visit me in my pop up shop, finally had her wonderful collection of mourning jewellery recognised as museum  – collection – worthy and she wrote about it here on Vogue.

I loved her opening lines – they ‘consoled’ my collectors soul!

“If you are a truly compulsive shopper, there are lies you tell yourself about your addiction. It’s not just mindless buying, it’s curating a collection! You’re not just a consumer, you’re a connoisseur”


I am so happy to start off this new series on creative collectors with an interview with wonderful artist and jewellery maker, Kathleen Craig of ALTaeR.

I was drawn to her beautiful etsy shop by an image of one of her textile cuffs, I just love the way she reworks antique textiles, found objects, antique notions & jewellery elements to make something utterly unique and contemporary.

I yearned to ask Kathleen about her craft, her inspirations, to take a peak into her cherished collection and understand what made her choose to work with found treasures over new materials – so dive in with me to her creative world!


On collecting:

“As a child, I always loved the beautifully colored and intricate religious pictures that were in Sunday School books and projects- and we were given a cross when we “graduated”…there was something very special to me about wearing this symbol of love and protection. I also had a very early passion for velvet and all things “shiny” and lush!

My passion for collecting religious pieces and icons took a different turn when I purchased a huge collection from a nun’s estate in the Midwest about 14 years ago. I had boxes and boxes of -what was to me- a hauntingly physical representation of the spiritual world of a woman who had given her life to helping others. I was drawn to making these items into something that would continue her essence and history.

Combined with that, I have always adored and collected vintage and antique textiles; this has early roots for me in that for as long as I can remember, I had an almost physical reaction to beautiful fabrics and textiles…..for example, as a child, we had the most beautiful couch in our living room (the one only for formal events!) that was teal blue and olive green in a sort of complex almost paisley pattern. I loved that material! Probably why teal blue is my favorite color and paisley one of my most revered patterns.

I guess you could say I was always collecting!”


“When I was in school, I took many years of French – and we had a family friend who was from France. When he found out I was learning his language and the history of his country, he gave me several souvenirs and items from France- at the time I was overjoyed by the gifts and his generosity!”


Q. Is there anything that you can not imagine parting with, a piece of jewellery, a painting, a photograph?:

“Tough Question! I think most of us who love antique and vintage items have some special pieces that we cannot imagine being without! I would say all of the above and too many to detail!”


On what she looks for while treasure hunting:

“I am always looking for materials and found objects to work with and have an antique hardware store cabinet to put these in until they find their place in one of my pieces. Some materials I have had for decades! I look for complex textures, a feeling of history; sometimes a connectedness to something I have that needs a complementary element …..once the heart of a piece begins to be created it seems to have it’s own color scheme or theme and I am just the tool to it’s completion.”


On her creative process:

“For the majority of my pieces, I create the base of it long before it is physically put together…..when I go to sleep at night I think about what I am making or want to make, and I actually see myself putting it together – and when I do, there is always a sense that it has been made already. Other pieces begin with a special piece from my “stash” and it stays on my work table while I work around it….and somehow- with the magic of creation that all artists know- it begins to draw elements to it and finds it’s place as a necklace, a bracelet, a ring – or even in other art projects I do in furniture.”

jewellery detail (2)

Where Kathleen does her creating…

“I have an antique partners desk that has a huge workspace for me – and I am surrounded by relics and fabrics that give me a peaceful place to create. I have a project wall that I have hung several pieces in progress- but many times pieces are created from newly found objects that just have to come first! While I am working on layering necklaces right now, I also have a particular love for creating antique textile cuffs, and am working on a new mourning piece. I absolutely treasure the antique mourning textiles and the history (and quality) of the handwork.”making of

A delicious glimpse into her process …


On Inspiration…

“Inspiration at the moment is from music – I love instrumentals and my husband loaded a Chopin collection of Nocturnes that I really love in the background……inspiration in the past is hugely attributed to my mother – she is one of the most creative women I know, and has always re-purposed items and made them grander and more colorful!”



Her tips for dealing with creative block…

“I think balance is key to most of the issues we face as artists; too much of one element, one design, one place, one media can be stifling and unsettling….so I move on to something else and I am fortunate that I have been doing this long enough to know the fulcrum point will return. I will paint instead of work with jewelry, I will plant or work outside; anything that brings me into a different place or activity for awhile.”



On happiness…

“I am happiest when my husband and I are both creating – he is a writer and we are so content when we are both in that creative space – together.”


If you weren’t creating jewellery what might you be doing?

“I actually have another life I live in working with hospitals and helping them financially – but if I wasn’t doing that, I would probably focus on my furniture art.”

What is your favourite corner in your house?

“My workspace of course!”


Do you have any other collections you would like to share?

“I may offer my furniture art at some point – here are two examples of pieces I’ve created!”


Tips for other creatives:

Sourcing materials:

“I have several favourite places for sourcing materials that I am sure everyone is familiar with – Etsy (of course), Ebay, Ruby Lane – all the regulars….but I also peruse garage sales, thrift shops, consignment stores.”

Selling your work:

“I have tried several other venues; physical displays in other stores and galleries, but e-commerce (hands down) is the best way to get visibility to the entire world in sharing your art. I have had over 1,000 views in one day and that just isn’t possible in the standard brick and mortar retail world. Certainly there are the challenges of selling via photographs and words, but that makes us work harder at the display element of our craft.”


“My drive and motivation can best be back-dropped with the words of Lucille Clifton on my art cabinet:

“It Was a Dream”

in which my greater self

rose up before me

accusing me of my life

with her extra finger

whirling in a gyre of rage

at what my days had come to.


i pleaded with her, could i do,

oh what could i have done?

and she twisted her wild hair

and sparked her wild eyes

and screamed as long as

i could hear her

This.  This.  This.


Please visit Kathleens etsy shop, ALTaeR to discover her wonderful creations


Au Fil du Coeur

by Ruth on October 21, 2014

in Exquisite Threads, Inspiration


Sewing notions found on a recent textile treasure truffling adventure.


I didn’t realise until I had gotten home and sat unravelling and unwrapping my little notions that I realised I had subsconsciouly been brocanting with a colour theme in mind.


Autumn, rich jewel coloured leaves (originally destined for funeral wreaths but oh so pretty) and a perfectly intact beaded flower.


Metallic gold threads and fuschia silk on spools, deep shades of green grosgrain.


..and of course these delightful vintage wooden bead buttons, two antique sewing scissors (not sure they can cut paper we’ll see…) – and two magical bead strands that were wrapped within a nondescript paper sachet.

Now to let these colours inspire a new piece of jewellery!


Inspiration – Les Petits Bonheurs

by Ruth October 21, 2014
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Image of one of Kathleen Craig of ALTaeRs collection I find inspiration everywhere, textile artists, jewelers, weavers, book makers, sculptors, embroiderers, musicians, mixed media artists, potters, photographers, filmmakers and doll makers…I know I’m forgetting some! More recently I find myself naturally drawn to those that collect and create from found treasures, be it little pieces […]

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Open atelier day

by Ruth October 19, 2014
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So last week I welcomed me first large group of buyers into our home. It was slightly chaotic. Up until now I have only had one shop, Rubanesque to exhibit at open studio days and never to more than 6 guests at a time. So with two shops, Rubanesque and Exquisite Threads, and a combined […]

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Crépaux & Wydemans

by Ruth October 13, 2014
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I love the adventures I inadvertently embark on after opening up a dusty old box full of antique silk samples. The original salesman tag mark the ‘patron’ or pattern number and the company C & W Lyon, it’s a company I’m not familiar with…and so the adventure begins. I searched everyone online for a reference, […]

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This guy

by Ruth October 1, 2014
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…made me smile He is normally the village terror, peeing into unsuspecting handbags, gnawing on childrens bike tires, digging up beloved flower pots perched on village house steps After all his mistress has been known to spit on her sworn enemies that pass her on the Rue Basse, and yet today, bearing the cone of […]

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Truffling for textile treasures

by Ruth September 30, 2014
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Only one thing is motivation enough to make me set my alarm for 6.30am and to not hit the snooze button despite being woken up three times overnight…. a fabric fiends flea market… Three cups of coffee to kickstart the brain Focussed straight ahead, trying not to feel queasy as I drove around the precarious […]

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A soundtrack to take pictures to

by Ruth September 29, 2014
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