Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ville Rose

I'm in Toulouse for a couple of days before beginning our week at Chateau Dumas. Toulouse, known as the pink city - or Ville Rose - for it's distinctive brick architecture - is one of my very favorite cities - it's large enough to get lost in, but small enough to find your way back home if you wander long enough. I passed through the old winding streets and came upon an old mansion on Rue Velane which housed an antique shop owned by Laure Baudet. Filled with old gilt framed mirrors and pierced metal tables - this was a treasure trove of objects that had all been hand-picked by Laure over the past 30 years. Born in the house, Laure now occupies the mansion and fills it with whatever she likes - and she likes a lot! 18th century chandeliers, hand-carved Napoleonic beds and the occasional stuffed raven and crow. When I stepped into the foyer, I felt like I was home - as if I had just been absent for a very long time. Good antique shops do that to me - they make me feel like I belong - even if I am thousands of miles away from home.  I asked her if she had any old textiles and she told me to come back on Saturday - she would bring down a sack full of old materials that her grandmother used to sew with.  Somehow, someway I need to return on Saturday!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Anglet Flea Market

On Saturday, we drove about 45 minutes north of San Sebastian to the small city of Anglet, France and visited another great flea market - this was a combination market of some really old treasures mixed in with newer pieces. It was a bit of a deep dig, but I still managed to find some great old cotton convent slips, linen bed sheets with huge monograms and a trunk full of old ribbon and trim. I also found a dealer that had dozens of my favorite French wine glasses - the early 19th century heavy glasses that were originally used at the vineyards for tasting the local grapes. Here are a few photos of the day - be sure to check out our website soon where we will be listing all of our flea market finds.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Giuseppe and La Chavalilla

I have a very old friend, Giuseppe Avalon, perhaps one of the greatest period costume designers ever. I met him over ten years ago, when he dated a friend of mine. Last night, Giuseppe and my old friend, John, arrived in San Sebastian for a few days of sun and fun. This morning we headed over to my very favorite antique shop in town, and luckily - it was open! Open only by chance - I usually walk by everyday waiting for the small curtained door to sit slightly ajar. Owned by a 90 year old woman, known as La Chavalilla de Sunbilla, Angeles Ganboa was a servant for many years and now offers up 17th and 18th century treasures that her past employers have left to her. A tiny shop filled to the rafters with crystal chandeliers, linen bed sheets and religious tapestries, it is a diggers delight! As soon as Giuseppe stepped inside, he was mesmerized, and together, Angeles and him discussed every historical clothing detail they could get their hands on. Here is a photo of Seppe holding a 19th century opera cape, hand beaded with jet and fringed with ostrich feathers.
There is an upstairs loft at the shop - and, according to Angeles's daughter, no one has ever been upstairs in 30 years, except for Angeles. Every year I visit the shop I ask to look upstairs, just look, not even touch anything - and every year the answer is the same - no. I imagine there to be trunks full of old textiles, silk ribbons, and flowers, When I have exhausted Angeles, she usually climbs the staircase and digs around for a bit then descends the stairs with her arms full of old bits and pieces.
After an hour of looking, Giuseppe and I had made a small pile of special pieces. We were told to come back in a day or two after Angeles had thought about the prices. She then explained to us that it is not because of money that she sells these precious items, it is because of her love affair with the past. Giuseppe and I both knew exactly what she was talking about.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ahetze Flea Market

Sofia and I have been in San Sebastian for the past week. Lot's of family, food and walking on the beach. This morning a few of us decided to get up at the crack of dawn and shoot over to France for the monthly flea market in Ahetze - just 15 minutes northeast of St. Jean de Luz. Filled with over 200 vendors this market was a true vide grenier - the vendors had literally cleaned out their attics! The four of us split up and covered the whole market in about an hour or so - the prices were great and the selection was pretty good. Plenty of old linens, enamel and china - some old garden furniture, clothing and pottery.
My first conversation with a vendor who had piles of hemp sheets and towels went something like this:

Me: bonjour!
Monsieur: bonjour, comment allez-vous?
Me: bien - parlez vous anglais? (my lame Spanish and lame French mix well on the border towns)
Monsieur: un peu
Me: great - combien por la torchon?
Monsieur: oh, these torchons are very old, very rare
Me: ok - how much?
Monsieur: well, maybe 5 euros each
Me: ok
Monsieur: ok - not that much, I kid with you
Me: ok - so they're more?
Monsieur: no, no maybe 3 euros each
Me: great
Monsieur: how many do you want?
Me: all of them
Monsieur: mais qui - then they are 2 euros each
Me: even better
Monsieur: ok 10 torchons at 2 euros each is 20 euros
Me: ok - here you go (handing over the 20 euros)
Monsieur: no, no I charge too much - 10 euros total
Me: if you say so

And on and on our "dealing" went - until I almost walked away with a load of torchons for nothing. This was a very strange deal - I have never had the dealer give me back change after the final price. By the end of the morning I had bought almost all of his linens - I just couldn't pass up his deals - a few breakfast bowls, a couple of old floral prints and a an old red transferware tea set and I was good to go! I love the vendors at the markets in France - they are in it for the game and they love the deal.

Another week in San Sebastian and then I am off to Toulouse to meet up with 16 women who have decided to spend a week in France with me - our long-awaited Chateau Getaway happens the week of July 4th through the 11th at Chateau Dumas. A week of field trips and craft workshops, including a day of woad dying, a visit to an old hat factory, and a craft bag filled with everything from jewelry kits, needle felting, and fabric millinery flowers. Can't wait!

Friday, June 12, 2009


I bought a new pair of white Converse sneakers the other day. In the bottom of the shoe box, there was one pink shoelace. Sofia immediately grabbed it and laced up one of her blue Converse sneakers. I said, "That's cool - I'll have to find you another pink lace for the other shoe" - she said, "No mom - this is vintage."

Oh, I didn't know. I love it when she interprets something in her own way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Needle Felting

A few months ago, I took a needle felting class at Reform School - here in Los Angeles. I had no idea what I was in for. I learned that needle felting was a process originally developed for making industrial felt. To achieve this, you move a barbed needle in and out of loose woolen fiber to create a matted felt fabric. Everyone in the class was able to reach into their three dimensional mind and create small animals - I was so impressed. I ended up felting a small strawberry emory. I stabbed myself three or four times and eventually found myself getting into the sync of the process and learned to stab the wool instead - but not too hard - it's a light touch.
I am making up our chateau craft bags this week and have decided to add needle felting to the kit. I picked up some vegetable dyed alpaca wool and divided it up into small bags, included a few needles and a piece of foam. If all else fails on this adventure, at least we will have crafts to keep us company! For a quick giveaway - before I leave - I thought I would send out one of our needle felting kits. I was thinking this bunch of wool would make beautiful felted flowers or beads....what's your idea?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flea Markets of France

With just a few more days before I leave for my summer holiday, I spotted this sweet little book and just knew I had to have it. Filled with all sorts of off the beaten path flea markets - this is just the sort of guidebook I like to take along. Since I begin my holiday in Spain, in San Sebastian - I was particularly interested in the markets in the Pays-Basque region - the southwest area of France that borders Spain. There are flea markets in Bayonne, Ahetze, Anglet, Ciboure and Ascain - all within 30 or so minutes of San Sebastian. This summer I am committed to not buying anymore hemp sheets! Instead, I'll look for antique French fabric boxes, old mother of pearl buttons and, if I'm lucky, an old fabric sample book - that's all - just a few treasures.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Turning 12

We spent the past week celebrating Sofia's first dozen years on this earth. After twelve years, she's still the same little girl who laughs out loud, dances in public (in this case the Dodger game!) and dresses like it's nobody's business. She keeps us all smiling and reminds me everyday that I am lucky to be a mom.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Anatomy of a Move

About two years ago, we heard that Hollywood was hip again and developers were planning a massive construction in the exact area where French General was located. We went to community meetings, heard grand plans of saving the little pink house, tried to buy the property and finally realized...it was time to move out of the house and into a new space where we weren't waiting for tractors and cranes to arrive.  
So the search began - with one basic criteria: find a new location with an old soul.  JZ found the first place - even though it was the size of a small airport hangar, we thought we could carve out a special place. We passed when we saw the two overhead cell phone towers.  We continued to search for another three months, and finally, while zipping down to my dad's 75th birthday celebration, we spotted a small warehouse with a tiny For Rent sign hanging up near the roof.  We called and made an appointment for the next day.  Dawn, JZ and I walked in on Monday morning at 10am, huddled in the back for about 2 minutes and then said, "We'll take it."  When the owner finally decided we were the right tenants, he handed me his card and in an instant, I realized he was one of my dad's old friends - from thirty years ago.  At that moment all of the stress and anxiety of moving washed away and I realized we had found our new home.  So, if you can be patient, give us a couple of months, we will re-open on our regular Fridays with a new and improved French General - complete with regular Friday classes!