In this series, we explore the stories behind objects. We will be featuring the belongings of makers, designers and artists – asking them to let us capture an arrangement of the objects that together, tell the reader something about themselves.
To launch the series, we have curated a selection of objects that are important to us. These were shot on a mantlepiece in Nell's home. Below is a description of each object, from left to right ...
Nell: This woollen embroidery depicts a cluster of houses in various shades of brown, green and cream. It sits on my mantlepiece in north London and, when the back door is open, a breeze moves through the tassels. It was found in a bargain basket at an antique fair. My home is furnished with second-hand finds large and small. I hunt for interesting textures, neutral tones, strange shapes and stories. Before I had children, I would spend my weekends selling vintage homewares at fairs across London. The packing was labour intensive, but I loved the thrill of exchanging one-off objects.
Acorn salt and pepper pots
Nell: These kitsch salt and pepper pots were one of the first items I bought to sell, and Rachel was one of my first customers. There’s something cute and tactile about their form, but mostly I love that they have come to represent our shared appreciation for naff kitchenalia, and our friendship.
Rachel: At the age of 21 I went to live in Japan for a few years, intrigued by a country I had read so much about. I taught English to junior high school kids, riding past rice paddies on my route to work. In my spare time I explored Japan with my camera and spent all my wages on developing the pictures I took. It was a very special time and these ceramic cups are the most precious items I brought back with me. They were commissioned at the end of my stay. The ceramicist was the husband of a teacher I worked with. Japan really taught me the power of ceramics. Drinking green tea from one of these cups somehow really brings me right to the present moment.
Nell: My partner’s grandma died last year at the age of 96 and her house is slowly being cleared. This straw placement was an heirloom. I was told that it was something she picked up on holiday in either France or Spain, who knows how many decades ago. It’s a souvenir in more ways than one. We use it all the time for hot pans. It’s as beautiful as it is practical.
Rachel: This print (Girl With a Yellow Skirt) is by Nyssa Sharp, an artist living in Sydney. I saw the image on Instagram and instantly fell in love with it. I got off the bus, sat at a bus stop and ordered myself a print. I am an impulse buyer when it comes to art. With clothes and homewares, it takes me a long time to commit to a purchase, but with art I know instinctively if I want to have something in my home. Over the years I have collected art from photographers and illustrators I have worked with. This is one way of celebrating past collaborations and marking pivotal moments in my career.
Nell: This was a gift from my aunt, who is a great maker. She makes her own clothes and knits precious pieces – tiny shoes, waistcoats and shorts – for her grand-nieces and nephew. This is a paper sculpture she made from the pages of a dog-eared book. It’s been foxing gently in our house for a few years. I love the shape and tactility of it, and the idea that a forgotten novel can be given longevity as a craft object.
Arrangement of branches
Nell: These were gathered by my Mum from a garden in Kent. We spend a week in a house in the North Downs once a year and these are a little reminder of our time there, and a testament to my Mum’s long-established habit of bringing seasonal foliage inside: ivy and old man’s beard in winter, budding twigs and blossom boughs in spring. My Mum’s appreciation for foraged flowers and objects is long-standing and it’s definitely something she has passed on to me.